The In-Between Years Introduction
Series: The In-Between Years
April 19, 2020
The In-between Years
A look at the church in the book of Acts
When I was a kid one of the most popular series on TV was Happy Days. It ran for 11 seasons over 10 years. It was so popular, a number of spinoffs were made from it:
Laverne and Shirley
Joanie & Chachi
Mork & Mindy (it launched the career of the late Robin Williams and was my favorite)
I ended the incredibly long series God’s End Game two weeks ago. I’m starting a new series today, and guess what? It’s a spinoff of the end game series.
Those of you who were there when that series began over a year ago may remember the little graphics I used to illustrate the elements of God’ End Game plan.
1. In the beginning
2. The fall
3. The tower of Babel
4. Mt. Sinai
5. The major play: Jesus’ incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection
6. The ascension
8. The end
9. The new heaven and earth
Did you notice anything? There’s one big part of God’s End Game plan I left out. It’s the “?” following the major play.
That ? is the birth of the church. The church is the component of God’s End Game plan that fills the gap between Jesus’ first coming and second, when he sets all things to rights and the new heaven and earth appear.
The birth of the church, as well as its growth and what it was like, is recorded in the book of Acts, a book I think we sometimes overlook.
I have three daughters. My middle daughter, Chloe, swears she’s been overlooked her whole life. I can understand why she feels that way. The firstborn gets tons of attention just for being the first. The last born gets tons of attention just for being the eternal “baby” in the family.
Acts is kind of the NT’s middle child. Before it comes the Gospels, the accounts of Jesus’ life and and death and resurrection. They get lots attention. After Acts come the letters of Paul and James and John and Peter. They attract a big following because they tell us how to live the Christian life.
Acts has much to teach us about being the church, about what we’re supposed to do between Jesus’ first coming and second. So our new series is called…
The In-Between Years:
A Look at the Church in the Book of Acts
Today’s message is the introduction. It will prepare us for the journey. Now before you begin a journey, it’s good to ask a few basic questions. Who’s going? What are you taking? Why are you going? How will you get there? When will you leave? And stuff like that.
We need to ask and answer a few questions before taking our journey in this book of the Bible.
Who wrote the book of Acts?
From very early on, Luke has been credited with writing not only Acts but the Gospel of Luke as well. They’re a two volume set meant to be read together.
Luke was a traveling companion and friend of the apostle Paul.
Philemon 23–24 (ESV) — 23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.
We also know Luke was Greek (a Gentile) doctor.
Colossians 4:14 (ESV) — 14 Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas.
Why did he write his Gospel and Acts?
Look at the beginning of his first work…
Luke 1:1–4 (ESV) — 1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
We learn here that Luke had a benefactor, someone named Theophilus, who was most likely a wealthy and influential Christian interested in knowing more about the origins of his faith.
This text also answers the question…
What did he write about?
He chronicled the story of Jesus and the disciples and what they accomplished.
It also answers the question…
How did he write this story?
He did so in an orderly and accurate way using the recollections of eyewitnesses. We’ll see how he actually became part of the story later on.
When did he write it?
Probably around AD 62-64, which would have been 30 years or so after Jesus was resurrected.
We’ve tackled the who, why, what, how, and when, so for today, let’s just cover the first verse to get us started. It points back to the beginning of his gospel…
Acts 1:1 (ESV) — 1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach,
Six words in this verse really stand out to me”
Jesus began to do and teach.
Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway was once challenged by his peers to write someone’s story in just six words. As they watched, he scribbled on a napkin “For sale. Baby Shoes. Never worn.” They were stunned. Impressive whether true or not.
Inspired by the legend, in 2006 a magazine asked its readers to write their own six-word memoirs. They sent them in by the thousands. Those submissions became the best selling book Not Quite What I was Planning. And they keep coming in via their web site. It’s morphed from just having to do with a member to just life truths in general communicated in six words.
Here are a few favorites…
• I ate my weight in sweets.
• Lost my dog. Lost my wife.
• Maybe I’m on the wrong meds.
• Spending birthday with mom. Send vodka.
• Church is people, together or apart.
• Introverts are having a normal day.
These are the six words I want put on my tombstone or urn:
I lived. I tried. I died.
It’s hard to believe so much can be communicated in so few words, but somehow it works. Hemingway wasn’t the first to do this. Luke, in the first sentence of his second book, perfectly summed up the life of Jesus in just as few words (it’s actually five in the Greek):
Jesus began to do and teach
Jesus went about doing and teaching.
What did he do?
He’d see blind or lame people and he’d heal them. He’d see hungry people and he’d feed them. He’d see children and he’d bless them.
Mark 7:37 (ESV) — 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
What did he teach?
He taught about the kingdom of heaven and how it was at hand and how people needed to repent. He taught about the way God’s people should live, how they should treat others.
Jesus began to do and teach.
Simple yet profound. There really is a lot packed into those six little words. There’s even more if you look for it.
Word order is important in a regular book, but this is God’s Word written ultimately by His Spirit. Note the word order here.
Jesus’ doing precedes his teaching in Luke’s summation of his life. That has to mean something.
What did Jesus do? He healed and blessed and fed people. This was more physical in nature.
What did Jesus teach? He taught about the kingdom of God and the need to repent. This was more spiritual in nature. The spiritual need was the greater issue for sure.
So you’d think Luke would have written:
Jesus began to teach and do.
But it’s the other way around. Study the gospels, and I think you might discover Jesus met physical needs to open the door for meeting spiritual needs.
Does the word order here imply doing is more important than teaching? No, it can’t. It’s not one or the other but both that make up Jesus’ life. But I do think it means what we do has to precede what we teach. In other words, what we teach about God’s kingdom doesn’t matter if we aren’t doing something for God’s kingdom first.
Christians and churches will always be known for what they do far more than what doctrines they hold to. The early church was famous for its radical belief in the resurrection of Jesus and all the teachings that went with that, but it was their demonstrated love for people that stunned the world and made them listen (the doing). It’s a tired old cliche but it’s true: people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Remember that as we explore the ins and outs of early church and how it models for us the way to live in the in-between years.
Could there be even more to glean from these six words? Surely not. Actually there is.
Luke wrote: Jesus began to do and teach.
If you think about it, he should have said…
In the first book, O Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught.
Jesus did, after all, ascend back to heaven thirty years earlier. But Luke purposefully use the word began with two verbs in the present tense, as if Jesus were still around doing and teaching. As if it were ongoing.
Go back to John’s gospel and look at what Jesus said in a section all about God’s Spirit and the role he’d play in the disciples’ lives…
John 14:16–17 (ESV) — 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
John 16:5–7 (ESV) — 5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
The Helper in these verses is the Holy Spirit. Jesus was going to leave but send back the Spirit in his place. Now back up to what Jesus said in…
John 14:12 (ESV) — 12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”
We’ll come back to this in a big way when the church is born in Acts 2, but for today know that this tells us Jesus is still with us through the Spirit who lives in us, doing and teaching through us, so much so that he predicted we would do greater things for God’s kingdom than him is some ways. What Jesus began to do and teach is ongoing through His followers today.
That’s bigger than our little minds can process!
Conclusion: The six word memoir of Jesus intentionally leaves everything open ended. It requires us as his followers to be active and present in the here and now as Christians, not just believe in Jesus so we can go to heaven when we die. This is just as much a part of God’s End Game plan as everything else we covered.
Christians, known collectively as the church, were never intended to just sit around waiting for Jesus to come back. We were given a job, a vocation, individually as Christ followers and as whole, and it’s more than just telling people about Jesus.
One Bible scholar nails it when he writes…
[Luke’s] opening sentence [is] one of the most important things about the whole book which is now beginning. It is all about what Jesus is continuing to do and to teach. The mysterious presence of Jesus haunts the whole story. He is announced as King and Lord, not as an increasingly distant memory but as a living and powerful reality, a person who can be known and loved, obeyed and followed, a person who continues to act within the real world. That, Luke is telling us, is what this book is going to be all about. We call it ‘The Acts of the Apostles’, but in truth we should really think of it as ‘The Acts of Jesus (II)’.
As so begin our new series.
Before we close today, though, I’ve got to ask. Where do you fit in all this? Have you become part of God’s church? Has nothing to do with walking an aisle or having your name put on a membership roll.
It has everything to do with whether or not you’ve come to God through his Son, Jesus, with faith and repentance.
All those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.
You can do that in just moment while I pray.
If we can be part your faith journey, please let us know.
 Wright, T. (2008). Acts for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-12 (p. 2). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
Content Copyright Belongs to Pleasant View First Baptist Church