Monday, January 21
We’ve Only Just Begun
I wrote the first narrative, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day He was taken up, after He had given orders through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen. 3 After He had suffered, He also presented Himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during 40 days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 While He was together with them, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father's promise. "This," He said, "is what you heard from Me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." (Act 1:1-3)
Sequels tend to disappoint.
Mission Impossible 2. Ocean’s 12. Scarlett. Any Disney movie sequel.
Perhaps that’s why the book of Acts was never my favorite. After Luke’s first letter to Theophilus—which began with the wondrous birth of the Messiah, climaxed in His death and resurrection, and concluded with His ascension—Peter’s speeches and Paul’s travel itinerary seem…a bit disappointing. Interesting and encouraging, yes. Necessary, of course. But not as exciting as the acts of Jesus.
Yet, the first verse suggests something different. While those of us who memorized the books of the Bible in Sunday School refer to this book as “The Acts of the Apostles,” this title was not used to reference the book until the 2nd century, at least a century after Luke wrote the letter. Luke was writing a letter, so he didn’t give it a title; if he had, his title would not have been “The Acts of the Apostles.” In his opening line he penned “I wrote the first narrative, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day He was taken up. . .” To Luke, Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection were just the beginning of what He was doing. He had only just begun. In His earthly absence, the gift of the Holy Spirit continued the work he began. Through the apostles, but by the power of the Spirit.
Acts is not Luke’s less-than-stellar sequel, but the continuation of the story that began in the days of King Herod and will not end until King Jesus returns to this earth. It is The Two Towers of the Lord of the Rings. The Empire Strikes Back of Star Wars. Those classics built a franchise; Acts builds a Kingdom, and the Church today continues to live in and build that Kingdom. Acts is not the story of the early church. It is the story of the Church universal—of all people, in all places, at all times—who believe in their hearts and confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord. It is our story. The same Spirit who moved and acted 2000 years ago longs to move and grow the Church today, through us.
How have you viewed Acts in the past: boring history or Jesus’ continuing acts? Have you ever thought of this story as your story? How does this line of thinking change not only the way we read the book, but how we live our lives?
Lord, thank you for your Spirit that you give freely and generously for the good of your Church and the glory of your Father. As I study Acts, help me to remember that I am a part of this story, and the same Spirit still lives inside of me. Amen.
Pick Four More Activities
Listen and Worship.
Pray a Psalm.
Read a Book.
Retell the Gospel to Yourself.
Take Some Notes on Today's Devotional.
Pray for Yourself, Your Family, Your Church, and the Lost.
Memorize a Verse.
List Five Things You're Thankful For.