Commencing, Continuing and Concluding – Acts 1:1-2

We begin, this evening, a new study of an old book.

It is not that you haven’t studied the Book of Acts before,

But I hope that this one will be just a little bit different.

It is my intention to make this a series of informal “sermons,” including some questions and answers.

Hopefully we will spend enough time so that you understand the meaning of the verse and its words,

But I would like to reach beyond the text to consider the theological implications as it relates to the rest of the New Testament and the Bible.

At the same time I don’t want this to become too heavy or complex.

In other words, like this to be as delectable to our palates as it is to our minds.

This evening our first set of keywords are:

“Commencing, continuing,” and “concluding.”

And then we’ll compare “commanding” and “conveying.”

But first we have that enigmatic man “Theophilus.”

How many times is Theophilus mentioned in the Bible? Twice..

I’m not sure if Molly Little has named a sheep after him yet, or not.

Both Bible references are in Luke’s introductions – first in his gospel and then here in Acts.

And the name means “Lover of God.”

For this reason there are some people who think that Luke was playing games with us.

They say that he was writing to anyone, and everyone, who loved the Lord.

And while this is probably true I agree with the many commentators to who say this was a real person.

In Luke 1:3 Luke calls him “most excellent Theophilus.”

This was just the same way that Paul addressed “most noble Felix” and “most noble Festus.”

Those who believe that this was a real man also think that he was probably an important Roman official.

Other than that, there is little that we know, or even can guess, about the man.

But the Lord knoweth His saints, whether any of us do or not.

The word “treatise” is interesting.

It’s one of those fifty-cent words that are used only in schools of higher education. – or is it?

I think that any word found in the Bible ought to be as common as breakfast-table-talk.

How many times in the Bible is the word “treatise” found? Once

But actually the Greek word, from which it is translated, is found 330 times.

Anyone want to venture a guess as to what that word is?

“Treatise” is actually the word “word” – “logos.”

It is the same word which is translated “Word of God.”

It is the same Greek word which John uses to describe the Lord Jesus:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

“The former words have I written, O Lover of God, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,

Until the day in which he was taken up,

After that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen.”

Let’s think about the “Commencing, continuing,” and “concluding” of the Lord Jesus’ ministry.

What did Luke’s former treatise bascially contain?

The answer is: “All that Jesus began both to do and teach.”

Okay then, what does Luke chapter one contain?

Prophecies and fulfilment about John the Baptist.

And then we have the incarnation of the Son of God, His baptism and His temptation in the wilderness.

Most of the rest of the book of Luke deals with what Jesus “began both to do and teach.”

Then eventually we come to His betrayal, His arrest, His crucifixion, His resurrection and His ascension.

The Book of Luke is one of the four accounts of the earthly life of the incarnate Son of God.

But that former treatise contained only what Jesus BEGAN both to do and teach.”

And herein is our first tidbit of essential theology:

After Jesus’ “passion” (verse 3) he showed himself alive to many of his disciples.

We’ll probably come to the word “passion” next week, or the week after,

But suffice it to say that it refers to the work of Jesus on the cross.

After Jesus’ passion He encouraged the disciples just a little bit and then ascended into Heaven.

“And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld,

He was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.”

Today Christ is CONTINUING the work which He COMMENCED while incarnate upon the earth.

Even today, he that hath seen Christ by faith, hath seen the Father.

The Lord Jesus is still “the way, the truth and the life.”

Christ Jesus is no less the great Physician today than he was 2,000 years ago.

And He is still the great administrator and dean of the seminary of truth.

He is still the only mediator between God and men.

While on earth He was preparing Himself for His role of High Priest, which he is exercising on our behalf today.

He is constantly interceding for us.

And He is still the Saviour.

Just about the only thing that Jesus began on earth and finished on earth was what? His sacrifice.

And today we live in the expectation that “this same Jesus which is take up from us into Heaven shall so come in like manner as we have seen Him go into Heaven.”

“The former treatise have I written, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus BEGAN both to do and teach,

Until the day in which he was taken up.”

Luke’s use of the word “began” reminds us that Jesus is continuing the work that He commenced while on earth.

And you can also be assured, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:”

As we go to prayer in a few minutes, let’s take time to thank the Lord that He changeth not.

Let’s thank the Lord that there shall not fail any one of his great promises.

Let’s thank the Lord that Christ Jesus has not, nor can He ever be, defeated or thwarted as he carries out His great plan.

Like the proverbial mail man:

“Neither rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of night….”

Can prevent or hinder our Saviour from His work or His instruction.”

The 2nd thing I’d like to point out is the difference between Jesus COMMANDING and His CONVEYING.

“The former treatise have I written, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,

Until the day in which he was taken up,

After that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen.”

Working backwards, what do you suppose were the commandments that Luke was talking about?

What was basically the last commandment that Christ gave to His disciples and the church?

“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

In Luke 24, just before the ascension,

“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

Almost the last words of the Book of Mark read:

“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

The last thing that the Saviour commanded involved the preaching of the gospel.

But what do you think about that word “commandment”?

Christians, like to think of themselves as freed from the law and the commandments.

“Freed at last, freed at last.”

According to Luke, to whom was it that Jesus gave commandments?

Unto the Apostles.

And through the Apostles, the Lord gave commandments unto us.

What was it that I was saying last Sunday night about smorgasbord attitudes towards the exhortations?

Part of that attitude is the exchange of the word “exhortation” for the word “commandment.”

The brown stuff for the green stuff.

The other part is that although we may have ears to hear, we may not be listening.

Somehow Christians have gotten the idea that “exhortation” means “suggestion.”

Does II Timothy 4:2 say: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke,” and make suggestions “with all longsuffering and doctrine” ?

In II Thessalonians 3:12 Paul distinctly ties together the words “command” and “exhort.”

“Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ,

That with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.”

And now we come to my second theological note from these two verses:

“Jesus THROUGH the HOLY GHOST had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen.”

Jamison, Fausset and Brown says,

(Or is it Jamison, Fausset and Brown say…?)

“It is worthy of notice that nowhere else are such communications of the risen Redeemer said to have been given ‘through the Holy Ghost.’”

But at the same time it might be said of everything that the Lord Jesus ever gave us came through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Some suggest that Luke is referring to the giving of the Word of God today, now that Jesus is in Heaven.

Today the work of the ministry is really the work of the Holy Spirit.

And yet the Holy Spirit is doing the work of the Lord Jesus.

The book that we are beginning to study tonight has been given the name “The Acts of the Apostles.”

I have heard some preachers say that it should really be named “The Continuing Acts of the Lord Jesus.”

But at the same time it might be named “The Acts of the Holy Spirit.”

Getting back to what Luke says in verse two:

Doesn’t this verse say that even before His ascension, Jesus commanded us through the Holy Ghost?

“The former treatise have I written, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,

Until the day in which he was taken up,

After that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen.”

“The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

And even the Spiritual man must be taught by the Holy Spirit.

Might we not correctly say that it is the work of the Spirit which takes the commandment beyond the ear and conveys it into the heart.

What we see in this verse is the Holy Spirit empowering of preaching, whether by Christ, John or your pastor.

Even in the case of the Lord Jesus, the power was that of the Holy Spirit.

And it remains the same today.

I Thessalonians begins with the words:

“We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;

For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.”

This is therefore a second area of prayer brought to our attention from this scripture:

Pray for your preacher to be empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Pray that your own heart be opened by the Lord to the hearing of the Word.

And may the Lord so bless His word that the exhortation be considered the command of God, and the promise be considered the blessing of God.