The In-Between Years - Part 2
Series: The In-Between Years
May 03, 2020
The In-Between Years - Part 2
We’ve just begun a new series called The In-Between Years: A look at the church in the book of Acts.
In the very first verse of this much-overlooked book, we unpacked the profound truths found in Luke’s simple summation of our Lord’s life: Jesus began to do and teach.
Last week we took a little detour to Matthew 16 where Jesus asked the disciples who they thought he was.
Peter declared he was the Christ AND the Son of the Living God. He wasn’t just the long awaited Messiah foretold in the OT, he was THE Son of God, equal with God. He was God in the flesh…
17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:17–18 (ESV)
We visited this text because it’s here the church is first mentioned in all the Bible, mentioned even before it ever existed. We saw how church is translated from a Greek word meaning “ones called out for an assembly or gathering.” This word was employed by the apostles and early disciples to mean the collective body of Christians, those called out of the world and into fellowship with God through Jesus. This requires us to view the church not as a building but people, people meant to gather locally, just like we are doing right now, albeit digitally.
The church — the people of God’s kingdom — was built on the witness and work of Peter and the other apostles according to Jesus.
Now that we’ve got things in order let’s jump back in to Acts and see if we can maybe get through the first five verses today. They set the stage for the whole book.
In fact, if Acts were a play, these verses might be the playbill, the little handout you get with information about the play, the actors and the venue and such. Or maybe the trailer, if it was a movie. Best part of going to the theater, by the way.
Speaking of movies, the all time best movies ever made were (I’ll give you a minute to post the answer in the comments)… the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Hands down. You don’t have to agree with that, of course. Everyone has he right to be wrong.
Each of the LOTR movies stand own their own.
Part 1 - Fellowship of the Ring
Part 2 - The Two Towers
Part 3 - The Return of the King
But you get more out of them and understand what’s happening better if you watch them all, preferably in order. And if you really want to be blessed, watch the prequels, The Hobbit movies.
I’d better get back on track today.
If Acts were a movie on its own, it would be the second installment in a franchise (like the Two Towers in Lord of the Rings) with the Gospel of Luke being Part 1. To understand Acts you need to check out Luke. Which is why there’ll be a flashback or two in today’s message.
Let’s read together…
1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. Acts 1:1–3 (ESV)
Here’s a perfect example of how watching the first installment — in this case reading the first volume — explains the second. Luke writes here that Jesus presented himself alive after his suffering. If I didn’t didn’t know better I might think he just suffered really bad and that’s it. But in Part 1 we learn Jesus suffered on a Roman cross, the most cruel, brutal, and terminal form of capital punishment ever invented. He died on that cross. And yet he presented himself alive and well after that, not just once or twice or in some small way, but many times to many people over forty days with many convincing proofs. Luke records a number of those encounters in part 1 such as the disciples who unknowingly meet up with Jesus on the road to Emmaus.
This climactic ending of Part 1 is the backstory driving all of Part 2 because the resurrection of Jesus is the very hinge on which all Christianity swings. The apostles were compelled to spread the good news of a risen savior who was also the new king of all creation because they had seen him come back from the dead.
That can not be emphasized enough, I think.
Verses 4 & 5 are where we’ll camp out for the rest of the message today…
4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:4–5 (ESV)
This is a flashback to a parallel scene in Part 1 — Luke’s gospel, chapter 24 to be exact — where sometime after the resurrection and before the ascension, Jesus commanded the disciples to wait specifically in Jerusalem for something that had to do with a guy named John, baptism, the Holy Spirit, and a promise of God the Father. Let’s see if we can figure out what that’s all about.
Let’s look first at John.
He’s is a player in Part 1 who didn’t have many lines, but was super-important to the story. We know him as John the Baptist. He had been chosen by God to prepare the way for his son, Jesus, to come on the scene like a herald announces the arrival of a king. He went around — you guessed it — baptizing people who expressed their repentance and devotion to God’s coming kingdom by being dunked in the Jordan River.
His teaching was so powerful and influence so great, people thought he might even be the Messiah, but he never pretended to be anything more than just the guy preparing the way for the true Messiah.
Flashback to Part 1, Luke 3:15…
15 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Luke 3:15–16 (ESV)
Now let me read Acts 1:5 again…
5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:5 (ESV)
See the close connection there? Of course the one mightier than him who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire is Jesus.
John handled the preparatory water baptism and Jesus would handle the coming Holy Spirit-fire baptism. That sounds not only mysterious but also possibly painful. Hopefully we’ll clear that up in a bit.
Now let’s figure out…
What is the Father’s promise?
… mentioned in Acts 1:4?
We know it involves his Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. Look carefully for the Holy Spirit in the Bible and you discover He’s involved in God’s work from A to Z.
He was present and active when God created the heavens and the earth…
2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:2 (ESV)
He was present and active when God entered into our story and became one of us to reach us.
35 And the angel answered her (Mary), “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. Luke 1:35 (ESV)
He will be present and active at the very end, when God sets out to redeem us and all creation…
17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Revelation 22:17 (ESV)
And you find God’s Holy Spirit present and active in the in-between years, that time between Jesus’ ascension and return at the end of the age. And especially so in the first few chapters of Acts as it concerns the Father’s promise the disciples were command to wait for in Jerusalem. Look at a verse we’ve already touched on in the introduction to this series. Jesus said..
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 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 14:15–17 (ESV)
Pay close attention to the latter part of verse 17.
"He dwells with you and will be in you.”
In the OT and up until the coming of Christ, God’s Spirit came upon people, was with God’s people, but He was not “in” them in the sense that Jesus refers to here. Take David for example. He started out as a shepherd boy but ended up being set apart as King of Israel. Look at what happened at his anointing ceremony…
13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah. 1 Samuel 16:13 (ESV)
Many years later David was enjoying his kingdom when he should have been leading his armies in battle. One night, as he reclined on the palace rooftop, he looked down and saw Bathsheba bathing. The rest is a terrible sordid affair. The prophet Nathan had to confront him about this awful sin. When he did, David fully repented.
Psalm 51 is a song he wrote about how sorry he was. Look at these verses…
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Psalm 51:10–11 (ESV)
“Take not your Holy Spirit from me,” the same Spirit that rushed upon him at his anointing. The same Spirit who had been with him throughout his career as King and even before when he took down Goliath as a shepherd boy.
This had nothing to do with his salvation but everything to do with God being able to use him. Sin hindered the presence of God’s Spirit in his life. He didn’t want to lose that anointing.
Having God’s Spirit with you was amazing. But imagine having him in you, working from the inside, helping you overcome sin and be used fully by God. That was something OT saints could only dream about. The prophet Ezekiel foretold, though, that day would come…
26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:26–27 (ESV)
The promise of the Father in our text is that His Spirit wouldn’t just be with them, He’d be in them.
Jesus was God with them, but the Holy Spirit would be God in them! Luke tells us Ezekiel’s prophecy and the Father’s promise given through his Son, Jesus, is about to be fulfilled. Luke’s preparing us for the biggest, most important scene in his “movie”: the birth of the church in chapter 2.
But before he takes us there, there’s an important scene involving Jesus, the disciples, and two angels he wants us to see. And we’ll do that next week.
Conclusion: But before we go today, let’s see if we can figure out…
What does baptism have to do with all this?
Jesus and John both mentioned two kinds of baptisms: water and Holy Spirit. Water was through John and the Holy Spirit or fire baptism was through Christ.
John’s water baptism was a physical act with symbolic meaning just like the water baptism Christians participate in today. It pointed to a person’s repentance of sin and allegiance to the coming kingdom of God.
Jesus’ Holy Spirit baptism is, as you’d expect, spiritual. It’s something taking place in the unseen realm that’s just as real as the seen. Paul confirms this for us. Addressing the church, the called out ones, the ekklesia at Corinth, Paul writes…
13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:13 (ESV)
Paul identifies the uniting of all believers into one body — the body of Christ, the church universal — with the baptism of the Spirit.
One of my favorite NT scholars writes…
But how do people come to belong to this community of the Messiah-and-his-people? Here, as elsewhere (e.g. Romans 6:2–11; Galatians 3:27), Paul sees baptism itself as the means of entering the family. Sometimes people have taken his phrase ‘baptized in one spirit’ to refer to a special experience of being filled or equipped with the spirit, at some time after one has come to belong to the Messiah’s people (through the ordinary baptism in water). The only thing to be said for this is that sometimes in Acts the phrase seems to be used for a second stage of initiation, but this doesn’t seem to be how Paul is using it here.
Paul is precisely not talking about a special experience in which some Christians join a superior class, leaving other Christians behind. That was the danger he was anxious to avoid. He had stressed earlier on, in verse 3, that nobody could say ‘Jesus is Lord’ (the basic baptismal confession) except by the holy spirit. His point here is expressed in two parallel ways; Paul, as ever, is happy to mix his metaphors! First, the spirit is at work to introduce people into the Messiah’s family in the first place (‘by one spirit we were all baptized into one body’); second, the same spirit is at work to sustain Christians day by day in that membership (‘we were all given the one spirit to drink’). Plunged in the spirit to begin with, drinking from the spirit day by day: that is how Paul sees all Christians alike. And, again as in Galatians 3, he insists that this experience cuts clean across the great social divisions of his day, Jew and Greek, slave and free.
In other words, the baptism of the Spirit occurs when we come to God through Jesus, accepting like a gift him living the life we should have lived and dying the death we should have died. It’s when the Spirit of God isn’t just with us, he takes up residence within us because we’ve invited him in by taking him up on his invitation to save all those who call on him.
It’s the prerequisite for being part of the ekklesia, the church. If you haven’t been baptized by the Spirit — saved, come to faith in Christ — you aren’t part of the church.
Have you taken God up on his offer? Do you have God’s Spirit living within you?
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