The four Gospels record the acts of Jesus Christ while he was physically present on earth in human form. Christ's primary ministry was to provide for the redemption of mankind through his substitutionary death upon the cross. A complementary ministry was to establish the method by which mankind may be informed of the redemption which is available so that they may make the choice to follow Christ and be born again.
Christ made it clear that witnessing for him was to be a responsibility of the believers. When he originally called his disciples he predicted that they would become, "Fishers of men." Mark 1:16-17. Jesus taught his disciples that after he left earth the Holy Spirit of God, the third member of the Holy Trinity, would take up the task of empowering and directing the believers as they witnessed for Christ. Acts 1:8.
The book of Acts is an historical account of the early days of the spread of the Gospel. It provides a template for us, the spiritual descendents of those early witnesses, as we continue the task of informing individuals worldwide of redemption and salvation which is available through Jesus Christ.
1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,
[The former treatise] The Gospel according to Luke. Because Luke was a physician, Colossians 4:14, his interest was attracted to the humanity of Jesus. His Gospel is replete with careful accounts of the physical aspects of Jesus' life on earth from details of his conception through his miracles, his death and his resurrection. For comparison, the viewpoints of the Gospels are: Matthew: Christ the King; Mark: Christ the Servant; Luke: Son of Man and John: Son of God.
[O Theophilus] The name Theophilus means "Friend of God." Some have taken this to mean that the Gospel and the book of Acts were written to the Christian community at large. However, since the name is singular, I believe that it refers to a specific individual, a respected friend or authority figure, or perhaps a person who was converted through Luke's testimony and was led by God to help finance Luke's travels alongside Paul. Since Paul often refers to his physical infirmities we suppose Luke the physician was a welcome travel companion. 2 Timothy 4:10-11.
[That Jesus began both to do and to teach] The Gospel According to Luke records the phase of God's plan for the redemption of mankind which was accomplished by Jesus' work on earth. The book of Acts describes the continuation of that work, believers witnessing under the direction of the Holy Spirit; first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles and the world at large.
3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:
[To whom he showed himself alive] Dr. C.I.Scofield identifies ten instances of Christ appearing to his followers during the time between his resurrection and his ascension.
[By many infallible proofs] Undeniable proofs of his physical resurrection.
4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.
6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
[Restore again the kingdom to Israel?] While Jesus was speaking to them about the Holy Spirit the minds of the disciples were occupied by another matter. The Jewish expectation of Messiah was modeled after the period of the judges. It was hoped that Messiah would cast off the Roman occupation and establish a political kingdom as promised in the Old Testament. Jewish religious leaders, who were comfortably in bed with Rome, were uncomfortable with that possibility and resisted Christ. John 11:47-48. Conversely, ordinary rank and file Jews were disappointed when Jesus did not promptly establish a kingdom so also rejected him as Messiah. Mark 11:7-10, Mark 15:12-15. Now, the disciples, who were thrilled by his resurrection, were experiencing a revival of their hopes that the kingdom was imminent. They had already exhibited private aspirations in this direction. Mark 9:33-34, Matthew 20:20-21.
7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
[Ye shall be witnesses unto me] Do not be too hasty. There is yet work to be done. The Holy Spirit will empower you to be witnesses unto me. In Acts we see the power of this witness. Believers devoted (and many lost) their lives to testifying to a hostile world of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and of the salvation which is available through him. The gates of Hell could not prevail in holding back the testimony of the church. Acts 2:47. Unfortunately, over time cooling has occurred. Many of today's "witnesses". are of the Laodicean pursuasion. Revelation 3:14-19. Rather than risk the ridicule of the world, a current idea of being fishers of men has declined to making sure that the fish are comfortable in their environment and that they feel good about themselves. The more bold among us try to manipulate the government to force Christian behavior upon an unsaved world. A waste of God's time! The church needs instruction in Christian behavior, but the world needs to hear the Gospel. "Be witnesses unto me". As people believe and are born again, the Holy Spirit will adjust their behavior to suit himself.
9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
[Two men stood by them in white apparel] Angels, messengers from Heaven. See also Luke 24:4-7.
11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
[Jesus ... shall so come in like manner] The angel answered the disciple's question regarding the kingdom. Revelation 1:7.
The list of Jesus' visible appearances was found in The New Scofield Reference Bible, 1967 edition, published by Oxford University Press, New Your, NY. A current edition may be obtained from Amazon.com
This page updated 08/27/2008Copyright (C) 2007,2008 Robert C. Denig. All rights reserved