According to Luke, his Gospel was simply an account of what Jesus began to do and teach. The story continued. Luke recorded what Jesus continued to do and teach in the companion book to his Gospel, The Acts of the Apostles (Book of Acts). Given Luke’s opening line, it seems it would have been more fitting to call the book, The Continuing Acts of Christ through the Apostles. Christ impacted a small group, a limited geographic region, and became noteworthy in a small section of the Roman Empire, but it’s what He did after Easter - through His Church and its leaders that turned the world upside down.
The Acts of Christ through His Church continue in the 21st Century. While none of us will ever have a role like the original Apostles (who were uniquely gifted and empowered), we should expect that the acts of Christ will continue to occur in our world and in our midst. Easter was the ultimate victory and validation of Christ and His Kingdom, but it also marked a new beginning. What principles can still apply to us now that Easter is over? If anything, the work of the Church didn’t fully begin until after Easter. Jesus provided a feast of information from which we will take note. How can you be an After-Easter Feaster?
Acts 1:1-8 NIV - In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But 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.”
3. Emphasizing the Empowerment of God’s Spirit. While those of us who are Pentecostal Christians celebrate and encourage all believers to experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4), it is possible we have misapplied this life-transforming truth somewhat. In times past, I have emphasized the baptism of the Holy Spirit (or the Holy Ghost, for those of us who started our journey with King James verbiage), as an event to which we needed to bring new believers as a destination. Spirit baptism was viewed as a destination, and speaking with tongues was the sign that one had arrived at that destination. While not all Pentecostals (myself included) believe that this Acts 2 experience is a requirement for eternal salvation in Christ, many of us inherited a view that it was similar to getting one’s “passport stamped” so he could indeed enter Heaven.
Some of my non-Pentecostal friends often neglected the power of Pentecost altogether, usually viewing this encounter with the Spirit as something unique to the early Church (or some other form of spiritual ‘cognitive dissonance’). However, as much of Global Christianity currently embraces the empowering baptism of the Holy Spirit, it’s a good time to re-emphasize this Biblical reality (even for Pentecostals). Paul rebuked the Galatians for beginning “in the Spirit” yet seeking to become more spiritually mature “in the flesh” (by reverting to the laws of Judaism). The balance is this… Christians must strive to love God with all our minds, meaning we must outgrow the anti-intellectualism of so much of Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Charismatic churches. We must police ourselves to avoid a flesh-driven faith, which could range from a church’s reliance on secular business principles to making embarrassing displays of spiritual weirdness. The fact is this: our ministry must come from the genuine flow of the Holy Spirit from our innermost being. We may be able to learn wise tactics and principles to reach a culture, but the empowerment of the Spirit can never be replaced.
I agree with the Apostle Paul who thanked God for how much he spoke in tongues (and instructed the Corinthians not to forbid tongues) while teaching the church to practice the power of the Spirit in a decent and orderly manner that was considerate and evangelistic for the visiting guest. For those Christians who have yet to seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit, I’d encourage them to simply ask God about it - and revisit the Scriptures. On the other hand, some may need to repent of making the power of the Spirit into a plaything or an end-all. Too many Pentecostals and Charismatics can venerate speaking in tongues while having little control over their mouths (or sin nature in general). At times, we have tolerated weird excesses that alienate people rather than draw them to Christ. In some instances, we emphasize the subjective “move of the Spirit” as our goal even though Jesus claimed that the Spirit would testify of Him to an unbelieving world. If it’s not leading people to the Jesus of Scripture, is it really a “move of the Spirit”? If it is not producing the character virtues (fruit) of the Spirit, is it truly the “move of the Spirit”? Finally, if we are to follow the example of the early Church, will we not have to step out in obedient faith when it comes to exercising supernatural demonstrations of the gifts of the Spirit? We cannot force God to act, nor does our excitement or volume equal true faith. When it comes to After-Easter Feasting, shouldn’t we return to the simplicity of the Upper Room? Shouldn’t we seek to live and operate as Christians who are reliant upon being “filled with the Spirit”? (In addition to Scripture, consider the following resource: “Surprised by the Power of The Spirit” by Jack Deere)
Acts 4:31, 33 NIV - After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly… 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all…
4. Missionary Identity (Witnesses). The baptism of the Holy Spirit is specifically taught by Jesus as that promise which will empower His followers to be His witnesses to the whole world. Again, without the intentional and active work of evangelism, the Acts 1 Spirit-empowerment promise doesn’t make sense. The overwhelming majority of American Christians (including those of us in vocational ministry) would do well to confess and repent of our lack of active witnessing. On the day after Easter, ask yourself - how many people did I invite or bring to church to hear the Good News? Who were the last unchurched people I shared the testimony of my conversion with? When is the last time I hosted or taught an evangelistic Bible study? On a practical level, do my daily expressions of hope, joy, and good works attract unchurched people to God?
Given how much the early Christians suffered, isn’t it reasonable to think God expects us to be missionaries even while we are going through difficulties in life? Try this: develop a prayer list of those in your life who need to know God and find freedom from sin. Pray every day that God would use you and others to reach them with the Good News. Approach your life as God commissioned you - as a missionary sent to be a witness who makes disciples of the Lord Jesus. Successful evangelism is addicting, especially as the power of the Spirit flows through you during the process! (In addition to Scripture, consider the following resources: “Questioning Evangelism” by Randy Newman and “Tactics” by Greg Koukl)
- Proclaim the Conquest of the King: Focus on becoming a polished persuader in terms of presenting the case for Christ’s resurrection
- Live the Kingdom Instructions: Re-examine what it truly means to seek and proclaim “the Kingdom of God”
- Demonstrate the Power of the King: Humbly seek and embrace (or recover) the power of the Spirit in your serving others
- Grow the Kingdom on Earth: Boldly and actively be a missionary, witnessing of Christ to your world
Easter wasn’t the end. It was a new beginning.
Easter 2017 is over. Now the work of our King’s subjects really begins!