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Acts 1:1-8 – Witnesses to the ends of the earth

Acts – Luke the Sequel. Luke had previously written about the story of Jesus from his birth to his resurrection. Acts continues the story with the first thirty years of the Church. Once again, he addresses himself to Theophilus whose name means “lover of God”. Since we also are lovers of God this will be a good reading plan for us as well.

Over a period of 40 days Jesus appeared physically teaching his disciples. A period of forty somethings is often a period of judgment but forty days was also a period when God would reveal himself e.g. to Moses and to Elijah and now to the Apostles.

The Apostles are told to stay and wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. The Old Testament had prophesied the pouring out of the Spirit who would open eyes (teach), change hearts (regenerate) and empower God’s people to live for him.

Jesus speaks of John’ baptizing with water. Water baptism pointed to the need for cleansing from sin that comes from the Cross. Spirit baptism is about being fundamentally changed into having a new heart, a change of nature.

The Holy Spirit’s coming will enable the Apostles to become witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. The background to this is in Isaiah 40-66.

In Isaiah all the nations will in the darkness of sin and ignorance of idolatry. God had purposed for the nations to live throughout the world as his image bearers and for his glory, instead the nations created images in their own likeness (imagined gods in their own character).

Israel was the one nation that was the exception to the rule but in Isaiah even Israel had blinded themselves in idolatry. God promised he would demonstrate the difference between himself as the living God and the mute, deaf and blind idols they served – by predicting the future because he knew what he would sovereignly do.

God would work to restore Israel – healing their blindness – through means of a particular servant of the LORD (Luke has shown how that servant was Jesus) – Israel, having become a witness of God’s saving power would then become the LORD’s servant preaching the good news to the Gentiles and opening the eyes of the blind.

The good news would ring forth first from Jerusalem, then Israel (Judea and Samaria) and then to the ends of the earth. Acts is about Isaiah’ program being implemented. Jesus, the ultimate servant, has opened the eyes of blind Israel. They have become witnesses to God powerfully fulfilling his purpose to save. Now, empowered by the Spirit they will be witnesses of the living God to the nations living in idolatry as they preach the good news about Jesus. In other words, this is that!

And this is the work all Christians are called to – having been cleansed by the cross and given the Spirit who has … we are to be a light to the nations – we are to be his witnesses.