New Beginnings In An Ongoing Story

The author of Acts is none other than Luke, the loyal companion of Paul and the author of the third Gospel account. Acts tells the stories of how the church started, and there are plenty of new events and activities that take place. New individuals like the Apostle Paul come on the scene, new cities like Philippi and Ephesus become homes for new churches and new leaders rise up to spread the news about Jesus. Amidst all this newness, though, Luke opens the Book of Acts with words that suggest not everything is brand new. In fact, something that already started, but that perhaps seems dead, is going to continue in a remarkable way. How do we know?

Luke starts Acts saying “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach” (Acts 1:1). These words seem straight-forward enough! But digging into the original Greek text underlying these English words suggests a different meaning. Luke isn’t simply referring to events that took place in the past. Rather, “to do and to teach” are present tense verbs in the original Greek. That means that Jesus is still carrying on – from heaven – the work and teaching He started 2,000 years ago with His first disciples! In other words, the book of Acts is not beginning a different story about the work of the apostles after Jesus’ resurrection. Instead, it narrates how the Church continued the work Jesus Himself was doing.

Just before Jesus ascended into heaven, He gave a command to “make disciples”. This isn’t a new activity, but is exactly what Jesus was already doing. This Great Commission is recorded in a passage of Matthew we have probably read many times:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy. Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:18-20 (emphasis added)

Notice that last line says that Jesus didn’t abandon us. Rather, He is still with us continuing the work of making disciples. The Bible narrates Him walking the earth, calling people to “follow me”. Now, He works in and through us to continue all that He started. We aren’t reading stale history when we read biblical narratives about Jesus and the early church. We are reading the beginnings of our very own story! In fact, even the Book of Acts itself doesn’t close by ending the story. Instead, where Luke’s pen stops at the end of the 28th chapter, the Spirit of God continues in our lives. Surely, the Bible is a completed book, but the story it narrates continues to unfold before our very eyes. We are invited into the narrative and God’s purpose includes you and me!

That’s why God gives us His Holy Spirit to empower us to do His work. Jesus told the apostles “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). That same Spirit now empowers us to live out God’s plans and purposes for our lives. He equips us to continue telling and showing others what God is doing in our world, many centuries later.

When you consider God’s activity in your own life, do you sense He is continuing a work started long ago?. He is not finished. And while Jesus did so many miraculous things while He walked the earth, He hasn’t stopped. As you contemplate a new year — and a new season — think how will your chapter of this story end? What will your unique contribution be to being God’s witness in your community, in your country, and to the ends of the earth?

1 Comment

  1. Mike on January 7, 2020 at 1:19 pm

    I can totally see how the story continues in all of us. It is captivating to think that the work of Jesus and the Spirit are empowering me and engaging me on a day to day basis to change me and change my world. “Lord help me to experience your presence and wisdom this morning so that I can make a difference for your kingdom today!” Amen

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