by Bob Burridge ©2016
Proclaiming God’s Kingdom
Acts 1:1-5 (ESV)
I have many books on my shelf about what the church ought to be like. Some are very helpful in tracing the History of Christianity. Others compare the distinctives of the different denominations. Still others cover special topics like the church’s worship, leadership, evangelism, counseling, and teaching.
The books don’t all give the same advice for the church. You always have to keep asking yourself, “Is this idea soundly provable from the Bible alone?” and, “Does this tell me what pleases God, and is good for God’s people?” If it’s not consistent with, or supported by God’s Word, it needs to be decisively rejected. If it’s supported by God’s word, though it may be a difficult thing to do, it needs to be obeyed. There’s only one perfect book to teach us these things – the Inspired Word of God.
When I wrote computer programs one of my goals was to make them easy to use. It was not enough to just put a well designed program on somebody’s computer. The package needed to show them how to use it, and include help messages in the program. I usually wrote some kind of manual to go with it that reviewed the basics.
God didn’t leave his church to figure out on its own what it ought to be. He gave clear instructions in his Written Word.
The book was written by Luke. It was a sequel to the Gospel of Luke about the ministry of Jesus while he lived here on earth. We could call it Volume I, of “The Founding of the Messianic Kingdom”. As Messiah, he announced that God’s kingdom was about to take on a new form. He came to rule on the throne of David, and correct misunderstandings about the laws of God’s Kingdom.
By grace, and by his life and death Jesus accomplished all that was needed to transform the weak and wicked – into kingdom citizens.
In Volume II, the Book of Acts tells about the continuing growth of that kingdom after the death of Jesus.
1. In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach,
2. until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.
Luke was a Gentile, and he was not an Apostle. He was a physician. He sometimes uses special medical terms, and shows his good education. He did not travel with Jesus during his earthly ministry, and may never have met him personally. But as a scholar he gathered direct reports from those who saw Jesus. He studied the available documents, and as he wrote he was kept accurate by the Holy Spirit.
He did travel with Paul on his European missionary trips, and was with him during both his first and second times in prison. He was well acquainted with the details of the things he wrote about; the news of the day, local customs, and the complex regional political structures.
And Luke shows a very highly educated knowledge of the Greek language. The details and precision of his writings have fascinated literary and historical scholars for two thousand years.
Luke begins by addressing a man named Theophilus. “Theophilus” was a common Greek name then. It means, “God’s friend”. Luke also wrote his Gospel to him to set in order the things he’d already heard about Jesus.
The church was not going to be run by rules made up by people, or made to fit the politics and culture of the day.
Its standard would be the teachings of God’s word as clarified and expanded upon by Jesus. In the first verse of Luke’s Gospel he wrote, “… all that Jesus began to do and teach.” After his death, he spoke to chosen men through the Holy Spirit. The church is to follow the teachings of Jesus and his example, instead of the theories and rules of men.
It’s to be run by God-Chose Leaders who submit to God’s word. The leaders must be called by, led by, and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
In Luke 24:49 Jesus instructed his chosen leaders what to do in the days ahead, “I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
3. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
After his crucifixion, Jesus was resurrected, and appeared alive for 40 days. Paul gives a partial list of these appearances in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8; “… he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. ”
His appearances proved more than his victory over sin and death. Jesus made it clear that the church would never be without him. Even though he was crucified, Jesus continues to be the head of his church. He works by his word, through those appointed by him, and by the power of the Holy Spirit he was about to send.
During those 40 days, Jesus was …
3. … speaking about the kingdom of God.
God’s Kingdom was central to the main message of Jesus during his earthly ministry. It was the “good news”, the “gospel”, that God’s in control, and that by grace he brings us into that Kingdom through the work of our Savior.
Matthew 9:35 summarized the ministry of Jesus, “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.”
Luke 8:1 says, “Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him,”
Mark 1:14-15 says that after John the baptist was arrested, “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’ ”
The Gospel of the Kingdom continued to be Jesus’ message after his death. That’s what Jesus taught about during these 40 days. This extremely important idea dominated his teachings. In the New Testament there are about 129 references to this Kingdom. 107 of them are in the Gospels and Acts.
Many churches today have abandoned that “Kingdom Focus” of the gospel. It’s no wonder many of them are struggling, or compromising with the world. When the Kingdom focus is missing, people look for another foundation.
Kingdom thinking is the key Jesus gave us. Unless the Kingdom of God is central to our gospel, the key to understanding the Bible is missing.
The promise of the Kingdom of God, the rule of the King of all kings, links all the stages of biblical history.
In the earliest times (before Moses) God’s Kingship was represented by the heads of families and extended families.
After the Exodus God’s Kingship was further represented by Israel’s Elders, Judges, and later the Kings. They were earthly symbols of God’s kingship over all things.
Finally Jesus himself came further revealing himself as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He was born into the kingly family of David at Bethlehem. He commanded demons, the forces of nature, even showed power over death itself. He rode into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey as the prophet said. He said, not once but about 5 times, “the kingdom is at hand.”
The Book of Acts begins at the climax of those promises. Jesus had just satisfied God’s justice on the cross. It records his ascending back into glory to sit at the right hand of the Father to rule forever. Here on earth, he set up his Church. There were no more rituals and sacrifices. God’s kingship became more clearly and directly revealed than in any other era.
If God isn’t seen as Sovereign Lord, King and ruler of all that is, then there is no confident hope. Our salvation would depend on our own decisions and faithfulness, or upon out of control circumstances. The gospel could be kept from us by evil beings; human and satanic.
And when God is not recognized as the ultimate King, society itself deteriorates. As we have seen; Humanistic Liberalism, situation ethics, and lust driven perversions become the moral standards. Personal achievement, military power, and financial wealth become the hope of a society where God isn’t King. We see violence, political power plays, and attacking others as the way of advancing self-serving goals. Liberal social policies, or advances in medical science become the religion of society. Confusion, fear, depression, and uncertainty devour the soul — when God isn’t recognized as King.
At its root, God’s Kingdom declares that the Creator is Sovereign over all his creation. This is taught so clearly in the Bible it cannot be denied:
Exodus 15:18, “The LORD will reign forever and ever.”
Psalm 115:3 “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”
Psalm 135:6, “Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.”
Psalm 103:19, “The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.”
This means the Lord is always king, whether we humans recognize it or not.
The daily news shows us the results of our sin sick world. We can’t hold back the tears when we hear about the thousands who turn in desperation to drugs, the hungry and sick in nations that refuse to care for their needy, children hurt or killed by their parents. We feel a sickening inward disgust when we hear about politicians who have lied to us. We are appalled at continuing abortions that show a low respect for human life, and there is that racial prejudice that exalts one group over another. It becomes an excuse for violence, injustice, and special privileges. Experiments in education and family that have given us a generation of illiterate children with no anchor for truth and morality. In their frustration many turn to drugs, violence, sex, suicide, and distrust of any authority.
That is what happens when society ignores or rejects the kingship of the King of kings. We fallen people want to think we determine our own future, and we can make up the rules, and define the church.
There are even churches that deny that God saves by grace alone! I’d say the majority of them. They take the credit for their decision to believe the gospel. They make the sinner sovereign over his future, and God only waits and responds with no power over us. God’s Kingly reign is changed putting God into to a mere advisory role. Proudly they cling to their illusion of independence, and change God the King into a beggar hoping we make his offer a success.
When the Kingdom isn’t seen in God’s people, the King disappears from sight. That is our modern tragedy! Pretending man has power over his own soul might attract a lot of followers. Fallen creatures love to be told they’re the lords over their own souls. But the church was called to make God’s kingdom visible. It’s not able to create its own version of the Kingdom.
If the church is to regain her identity today, she has to first recapture her soul. If we’re to find a real anchor to give us hope, confidence, and peace, God must be king. Nothing else will do.
4. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me;
5. for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Waiting is hard for us. We’re fallen creatures. Jesus never expected His church to become a kingdom on its own power, or by it’s own definition. When John poured water on those who came to him repenting, it illustrated the pouring out of the Holy Spirit that was to come. John the baptist said in Mark 1:8, “I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
The Book of Acts shows us that the Holy Spirit is our power too. He is present today, not only in church worship on Sunday, but also tomorrow morning, and all through the week! Jesus not only makes us a church, and shows us how we are to operate, he also gives us the power to accomplish it.
His earthly ministry was over, and he ascended back into glory. He had prepared a church ready to show God’s kingship to the world.
The study of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles helps us:
– to understand what it means to be citizens of the Kingdom of God.
– to evangelize biblically as we learn how to tell others about Christ’s promises.
– to support one another as a spiritual family.
– and to personally learn to live victoriously in a hostile world, and to appreciate the power and peace God’s promised.
In Acts there are living examples of real people being led to Christ. It shows them struggling, overcoming temptations, prejudice and hatred.
At the root of what we are told to do and to be, we need to trust in God’s sovereign kingship over his spiritual kingdom. and we need to tell others about the hope we have in the risen Christ.
Jesus is King of all kings, the Lord of all lords, Sovereign over all Presidents, Dictators, and Prime Ministers. Recognizing and honoring the King is the only hope we can confidently offer to our confused children, spouses, neighbors, and communities. We need to learn to live confidently – as children of the King.
(The Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)