Jesus preached the kingdom of God. His apostles preached the kingdom of God. In moving from Jesus’ preaching in the Gospels to the apostles’ preaching in Acts, we’re not really moving away from Jesus at all. Luke, the author of Acts, describes his Gospel as an account of “all that Jesus began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1). Acts is the continuation of the work of Jesus. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the risen Christ is working through his apostles.
The ministry of the apostles did not begin in a very promising way. For a period of forty days, following his resurrection, Jesus spoke to his disciples concerning the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). The apostles had been slow to understand Jesus’ message concerning God’s kingdom. They were still missing the point. They asked Jesus an irrelevant question: “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). Jesus had been speaking about the kingdom of God, but his apostles thought that he was speaking about restoring political power to the nation of Israel. They thought Jesus was speaking about Jewish politics, but he wasn’t. He was speaking about world evangelism. they were concerned about the future of one nation, their own nation, Israel. Jesus was interested in the whole world. Their concerns were political. His concern was evangelical.
Jesus said to them, ‘Don’t get bogged down in Jewish politics. I have a bigger and greater purpose of your lives.’ “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). They were to receive power – not political power but spiritual power, the power of the Holy Spirit. They did not need to wait until the political situation changed. Soon, they were to receive the power of the Holy Spirit – “before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5).
Why were they to receive power? Was it for the purpose of political change – to restore political power to the nation of Israel? No! The power of the Holy Spirit was given for a much greater purpose: Christian witness: “you shall be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8), this purpose of God was not to be restricted to the nation of Israel. The expansion of God’s kingdom was to be a worldwide expansion – “you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
The apostles were obedient to the Lord’s high calling. They didn’t get bogged down in Jewish politics. They committed themselves to their God-given task of world evangelism. It was because of their obedience, in their day, that we now have churches in our day. if they had not done the will of God in their generation, the church would never have got off the ground at all. What does this have to say to us today? Simply this – if we’re going to serve this generation and the generations to come, we must commit ourselves to being Christ;s witnesses in today’s world.
The expansion of the gospel, in Acts, was no human achievement. The gospel made progress as the apostles moved forward in the power of God. This is the key to the advance of the Gospel in every generation. we are not to stumble around in the weakness of the flesh. We are to move forward in the power of the Spirit. In Acts, we find two things going hand-in-hand. There was much prayer, and there were great advances for the gospel. What do we find in the church today? More often than not, we find that there is not much prayer and there is no great advance of the gospel. If we are to learn from Chris’s apostles, we need to be brought to our knees. There can be no progress without prayer. May God help us to pray for the progress of the gospel in our time, to pray for the progress of the gospel in this place. May God help us to be truly committed to being Christ’s witnesses here and now.
To be Christ’s faithful witnesses is no easy thing. It never has been, and it never will be. We must not give up witnessing for Christ because we find it difficult. Christ made it clear that his faithful witnesses will face many difficulties – “In the world you have tribulation” (John 16:33). This point was underlined by the apostle Paul in Acts 14:22 – “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Jesus spoke about tribulation. Paul spoke about tribulation. Tribulation is not, however, their last word to us. Jesus says, “In the world you have tribulation.” he, then, goes on to say, “but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Paul was honest with his hearers. He said to them, ‘In the life of discipleship, there will be tribulation.’ Paul spoke about tribulation, but he also spoke about the kingdom of God, about entering the kingdom of God.
What were the objectives of Paul’s ministry. Why did he preach?
– He “preached the gospel” with a view to “making many disciples” (Acts 1:21).
– He “strengthened the souls of the disciples” (Acts 14:22), grounding them in the faith of the gospel.
– He “exhorted them to continue in the faith” (Acts 14:22).
Paul’s ministry was directed towards conversion. It included follow-up. It went beyond conversion and follow-up. He was concerned to lead believers on to maturity.
– Conversion, follow-up and maturity – These were the Paul’s objectives when he preached the kingdom of God.
– Conversion, follow-up and maturity: These are to be the central features of the church’s work today.
– Conversion, follow-up and maturity – This is God’s way of progress in Christian faith and Christian living.
Where do you stand in relation to God’s great purpose for your life?
* Some of you have not even taken the first step: conversion. Have you been converted? The gospel question has been put to you many times, yet you refuse to come to Christ. There can be no growth in Christ, no progress towards maturity, until there is, first of all, conversion. Have you been converted? This the first question the gospel puts to you.
* Some have made an initial commitment to Christ, but haven’t really shown much interest in growing in Christ. Why are so many content to settle for a taste of the Word of God when they could be enjoying a feast of the word of God? There can be no real growth in Christ, no real progress towards maturity, unless there is a real hunger for the Word of God, a real commitment to moving out of a self-imposed famine of God’s Word and into a God-given feast of the Word of God. How is your hunger for the Word of God? This is a second important question which the Lord Jesus puts to each one of us.
* So few press on to maturity. Why? It’s because maturity involves more than hearing God. It also involves doing God’s Word. It’s one thing to God’s Word. It’s another thing to do God’s Word. Hearing must lead to doing. If the Word of God goes in one ear and out the other ear, it will not do you any good. Those who are pressing on to maturity are those who are learning to do God’s Word as well as hearing his Word. What about you? Are you pressing on to maturity? or Have you settled for second-best?
Conversion, follow-up and maturity – There is another word which must feature prominently in the life of the Christian. It’s the word, “witness.” We are to be Christ’s witnesses (Acts 1:8) How are we to witness for Christ? We can learn a great deal from Christ’s apostles.
In Acts 19:8, we learn that Paul “spoke boldly, arguing and pleading about the kingdom of God.” This is not a description of a single message preached by Paul. This was the pattern of his ministry “for three months “at the synagogue in Ephesus” (Acts 19:8), and then, after that, also in Ephesus, “for two years” at “the hall of Tyrannus” (Acts 19:9). This was not an incidental part of Paul’s life This ministry of God’s Word lay at the very heart of his life. In his two years at Ephesus, Paul spent five hours each day, preaching the Word of God in “the hall of Tyrannus” (according to other ancient authorities, he preached ‘from the fifth hour to the tenth hour.’). This was the daily pattern of Paul’s life in Ephesus. What a contrast with today’s church! Where is the hunger for God’s Word – the hunger that is so important if God’s people are to feed upon Christ and grow strong in their witness for him?
– How did Paul preach the Word of God? He preached with boldness, reason and passion. He used these gifts in the service of God’s kingdom, seeking to lead men and women to Jesus Christ.
– What effect was there when these God-given gifts were used in the service of God’s kingdom? “All the residents of Asia heard the Word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:11). Paul did only preach in the synagogue. He preached in the hall of Tyrannus. We must not just sit and wait for people to come to church. We are to take Christ to the world. Jesus said, “Go into the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
Paul’s ministry, in Acts, took him to Rome. He spent “two whole years” in Rome, “preaching and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and unhindered” (Acts 28:31).
Do you want the gospel to make progress? Do not be a hindrance to the advance of the gospel.