The Theology of Waiting – Acts 1:4-5

Pretty soon, I’m going to stop referring to this as a “theological study” of the Book of Acts, but not quite yet,

Because this “theological study” is not coming from a “theological book.”

This is the fifth and last of the history books of the New Testament.

Generally speaking, if you want an open study of theology then turn to Romans or Galatians.

But obviously, mixed into this history there is both theology and practical instruction.

And we probably can’t find a clearer illustration of this than the subject before us tonight.

I’ve entitled this message, “The Theology of Waiting.”

The resurrected Lord Jesus “being assembled together with them (the apostles), commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father.”

We’ll get to that promise in just a minute, but we won’t deal with it much tonight.

Suffice it to say, at this point, that this promise of the Father has been fulfilled.

But the principle of waiting on the Father’s promises is just as important today as it was 2,000 years ago.

What can we learn about waiting?

I have three points for you tonight: Wait WHAT; wait WHY and wait WAY.

First, wait – WHAT.

Jesus commanded – in this case He didn’t exhort, encourage, recommend or suggest –

The Lord Jesus commanded the apostles to wait in Jerusalem.

We need to remember that the Holy Spirit hasn’t seen fit to given us a detailed chronology of events since the crucifixion.

In fact, I have to admit that I get confused looking at all the bits and pieces of information scattered across five, or more, different New Testament books.

Jesus met His disciples at various places during the last 40 days.

And that even included at least one meeting up to Galilee

But now they are back in Jerusalem.

There are a good many scholars who believe that the language in verse 4 seems to indicate that the disciples were keeping an appointment in meeting the Saviour here.

Jesus was “assembled together with them” when he commanded them to stay in Jerusalem.

It appears that they had been traveling, vacationing and resting for 5½ weeks,

But in another week and a half things were going to get really, really exciting.

Jesus had come out of the grave about how many days earlier? (40)

How many days were there between the Passover and Pentecost? (50)

The Lord Jesus commanded the apostles to wait in Jerusalem for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

We now know that this occurred on Pentecost.

We will probably have a message on the baptism of Spirit later, so we won’t go into detail now.

But we see the fulfillment of this promise in Acts 2.

I don’t believe that there are any more Spirit baptisms yet to be received,

So Jesus’ command to wait for that baptism no longer applies to us today.

But there are other Paternal promises still unfulfilled.

Even more important than the special coming of the Third Person of the Trinity, is the still future special coming of the Second Person.

There is still need for patience and the art of waiting.

And that brings us to the wait – WHY.

Why didn’t the Lord immediately immerse the church with the Holy Spirit at that very time?

Why was it so important to wait until Pentecost about ten days away?

Why wasn’t the promise of the Father fulfilled up there in Galilee?

I don’t have any authoritative answers to these questions, but I can make some guesses and observations.

When the day of Pentecost was fully come, and the promise of the Father was kept,

Peter stood up with the rest of the eleven and began to preach to the confused crowd.

He said, “This is that which was spoken of by the prophet Joel,” and then he quoted Joel 2:28-31 in Aramaic, but he didn’t quote the last verse in that chapter.

Let me read Joel 2, and you can follow along in Acts 2:17 if you like:

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:

And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.

And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.

The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.”

Notice the reference to mount Zion and Jerusalem there in Joel 2:31.

Zechariah 12:10 says, “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications.”

We aren’t the least bit surprised that the city of Jerusalem is THE place; it has always been THE PLACE.

That was the city of Melchizedek, that Old Testament representative of the Lord Jesus.

That was where Abraham offered up his son to God.

And that was where God offered up his son for Abraham.

That was the city of David, the representative of the Lord Jesus.

That was the focal point of centuries of ancient history.

Jerusalem has been the virtual center of the world since the days of the Patriarchs,

And Jerusalem appears to be the center of prophecy as well.

We aren’t surprised that the apostles are summoned back to Jerusalem and told to wait their for the promise of the Father.

That was the place where the shekinah glory of God filled the temple,

And that was the place where the shekinah glory of the Holy Spirit was going to fill God’s New Testament temple, the Lord’s church.

But why wait?

Here is where the lives of the apostles again intersect with ours.

We live in a world that tries to promise instant gratification.

I have grown accustom to my desk-top computer which has a cable connection to the internet.

Once in a while I am forced to look at Judy’s old lap-top computer linked to the internet via the phone line.

It is so slow that it drives me crazy.

Monday I was looking for something for lunch, and I discovered a chicken pot pie in the freezer.

I took it out of the box and put it in the microwave, but couldn’t find the microwave instructions.

I set the timer for 2 minutes thinking that I would take a peek at it and zap it for another minute or two if I had to.

The Lord graciously encouraged me to take a look after about 10 seconds, and I saw that my chicken pot pie was sitting in an aluminum dish.

It was never meant to be cooked in the microwave.

I had to warm the oven to 400 degrees and then cook my lunch for 30 minutes after that.

I was not particularly pleased.

Tuesday I had peanut butter sandwich which I warmed for 15 seconds in the microwave.

I live in a world of instant gratification, and I like it.

But I’m not sure that God WANTS us to like it.

He’s constantly stepping across and putting His foot on the break peddle.

And the Lord probably slowed things down for the disciples as a lesson for them.

Why did the apostles have to wait more than a week for the blessing of the Spirit?

I can’t tell you for sure, but it might have been a test of their faith.

They were to spend that time in Jerusalem, where the Saviour had been crucified.

We’re not talking about a decade later or even a year later.

This is about a month and half since the cross.

Many of the people who will hear Peter preach in the next chapter,

Had been visitors who had spent the entire time there in Jerusalem.

He will be preaching to the same people who were jeering at Christ hanging up there on the cross.

Generally speaking they don’t look like the best audience.

The upper room to which verse 13 refers may have been the same room which the disciples had kept locked for fear of the Jews.

They may have seen the resurrected Lord several times in recent weeks, but they are still in the process of being changed.

They are still timid, cowardly and somewhat afraid,

And will be until they are endued with power through the Holy Spirit.

So the question is: are they willing to make the sacrifice in order to receive the Father’s promise?

Are they willing to risk the anger of the Jews and the possibility of their own crucifixion?

Are they willing to leave their families for another extended period, in order to receive the promise of God?

Why do they have to wait for the promise of the Father?

Perhaps it was to test or strengthen their faith.

Perhaps it was to strengthen their Christian character.

And that brings us to THE WAY of their waiting.

How did they spend their time?

Look at verse 12: “Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey.

And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.

These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.”

What was the likelihood that God the Father would not keep his promise?

God CANNOT lie and cannot fail to keep a promise; it would be contrary to His God-ness.

“For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.”

But what if the disciples had disobeyed the Saviour and left for their homes in Galilee?

Would the Lord have sent the Spirit to Capernaum instead of Jerusalem?

No, it was essential that the apostles remain in Jerusalem.

But that was as sure as the promise.

The Lord was governing that as much as He was the coming of the Holy Spirit.

It is obvious that for God to guarantee the final outcome, He must also guarantee and control the details and specifics which produce that outcome.

That might be said of the fulfilment of prophecy.

It might be said about the salvation of a soul.

I think that the week which the church spent in prayer prior to Pentecost was as much a part of God’s plan as the events of Pentecost itself.

What if the church locked itself into a nice big hall stocked with food and drinks?

And what if they brought their playing cards, monopoly games, chess boards & backgammon games?

Or what if the church made that a week of camp, with games in the morning, swimming and fishing in the afternoon, and with a devotion time in the evening?

What if, instead of a week in prayer, they had spent a week in lesser, but still religious activities,

Would that have had any effect on the events of Pentecost?

I can’t say one way or the other, but I have my opinion.

I think that their prayers were as much a part of Pentecost as their waiting for ten days.

In fact, their prayer meeting was a PART of their waiting.

It was the way that they waited; it was how they waited.

And what do you suppose would happen to this church, if we took our prayer meetings as seriously as the first church did theirs?

What if we met every day for a week, both at 6:30 in the morning and 7:30 at night, spending just a single hour in prayer each time beseeching the Lord for His blessings?

What do you think would happen?

I am not looking for another Pentecost, but I should like to see some Pentecostal power.

The authority and ability to do the work of God is found in the Lord Himself.

And we need to learn to wait on Him for that power.

That is what this is all about.

This is one place where the theology of this chapter meets with the practical areas of our lives.