The Purpose of Power
Sermon Text: Acts 1:6-14
The traditional seven last words from the cross are not Jesus' last words on this earth. These words are to be found in this passage, and they give the church some definitive guidance.
After the Resurrection, Luke tells us in the first few verses of Acts that Jesus spent forty days instructing his apostles "speaking about the kingdom of God" (v. 3).
Their question to Jesus is all the more startling, for they ask, "Is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" (v. 6). When will the Kingdom come, and when will Israel be restored? The apostles simply didn't get it. In answer to the when question, Jesus said that that is God's business, not humankind's concern. As he prepared to leave them, Jesus offered them three things they would need: a promise, a purpose, and a preparation. We have those same things. I. We Have a Promise: the Power of the Holy Spirit
"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you" (v. 8). A disciple can expect to receive power when the promised Holy Spirit arrives. This Presence will bring comfort (Acts 9:31) to the believers but also power. Today, all across the land, disenfranchised people are clamoring for power. Jesus' last words to his followers are that they will get power. You can count on it. II. We Have a Purpose: to Be Witnesses
When it comes, it will be power with a specific purpose. When the power of the Holy Spirit arrives, the church will have been given power to fulfill God's plans on the earth: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you...[to] be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (v. 8).
Holy Spirit power is for the purpose of witnessing to others, not restoring the kingdom to Israel. Witnessing begins where you are now (Jerusalem), but from there it reaches out to Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. The structure of this book can actually be found here: "in Jerusalem" (chaps. 1-7), "in all Judea and Samaria" (chaps. 8-12), "and to the ends of the earth" (chaps. 13-28). The promised Holy Spirit power is for a specific purpose—sharing the Christian faith with the whole world beginning where you are now.
As the disciples heard these last words from the lips of Jesus, he ascended into heaven. As they "were watching" and "were gazing up toward heaven," two angels appeared and said, "Don't just stand there. Do something." Actually, they said, "Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?" (v. 11). Too often the church has been told what to do, and the church has settled for watching and gazing, instead of trusting and obeying. These disciples, however, had to be told what to do only once. They knew what they should do next, and they did it, much to the surprise of many in our modern church. III. We Have a Means of Preparation: Prayer
"All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer" (v. 14). The Acts of the Apostles begins with prayer. When told not to just stand there, but to do something, the apostles obeyed. They prayed. The apostles' response to instruction, to the promise of the Holy Spirit, to reproof, and to exhortation was immediate: they talked to God in prayer.
Ellen T. Charry pointed out, "Today money, sex and power...set the standards for achievement and status...looking for guidance from God is looked upon as a sign of weakness, or simply as an eccentricity. ...Our culture shapes [us] for a world shorn of God. Christians see power in the crucified Jesus; popular culture defines power as winning in athletic or commercial combat. A Christian learns about hope from the resurrection; our culture sees hope in a new-car showroom. The church is again called upon to rescue people out of paganism" (Christian Century, February 16, 1994). Could this be the purpose of Holy Spirit power?