Acts 1: While You Wait

Notes

  • (4-5) These instructions must have been given after they returned to Jerusalem, possibly for Pentecost. At any rate, I know I would find such a directive difficult to accept and implement. I get impatient.
  • (6) It would seem that the disciples missed that Jesus’ instruction implied that there was something more to come. Rather than wait for the Holy Spirit, they were looking for the kingdom to be realized immediately.
  • (7-8) Rather than see the immediate inauguration of the kingdom of God, Jesus tells the disciples three things:
    • Their primary concern is not when (or how) the kingdom of God is inaugurated. That’s in God the Father’s purview.
    • They will receive power (dunamin – power; carried the idea of both authority and ability) when the Holy Spirit came upon them. This implies that the Spirit would be with them in some new, much greater way than it has been in the past. And it implies that they will be granted special abilities and license to utilize them.
    • The purpose of that power will be to enable them to be witnesses throughout the known world. A witness tells people what he/she knows. The power is apparently designed to be the convincing agent.
  • (10-11) How often do we do the same thing the disciples did here? We encounter Jesus, and so we fix ourselves to that spot and never move on, expecting Him to return to us there. The angels’ comments clearly indicate that believers are not to be stupefied sky-watchers, simply waiting for Jesus to return. We have clear directives – things we must be doing – and we must set ourselves to doing them!
  • (14) While they waited, there are four things that I notice in this verse that they did.
    • They all joined together. Implies unity and inclusiveness. They each waited, but they waited together.
    • They did so constantly. Indicates continuity. They didn’t do this sporadically, or even for merely one hour per week, etc. And they didn’t do it just when it was convenient or expedient for their present purposes. They were together all the time.
    • They were united in prayer. Even when we don’t have clear direction beyond “wait,” we can spend time talking to God. But I suspect that a great portion of this prayer time was actually spent making themselves available for God to speak to them, i.e., listening for what God had to say.
    • They included the women, Mary, and Jesus’ brothers. This is significant for a couple of reasons. First, the women were not seen as second-rate members of the congregation; they were invited and even encouraged to pray alongside the men. And second, to our knowledge, Jesus’ brothers were, at best, recent converts, and yet they also were welcomed and included in this fellowship. The church must be open to all people, even the new ones.
  • (15-21) Peter and Luke certainly spared no punches when it came to dealing with Judas! They both told it like it was, as bad as that looked for the church. Bad things will happen in the church. When they do, there is little point in glossing them over or looking past them. Rather, we must confront bad things head on, acknowledging that they were wrong and aiming to fix them.
  • (21-22) Notice that, while anyone was welcome to join in the prayer time, there were very stringent qualifications to be a leader of this fellowship.
    • Have been present from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry to the end. Christian leaders must not be someday Christians, believers who follow Jesus and apply His teachings only when it’s convenient. They must be there the whole time, through the good times and bad, in the easy things and the hard.
    • Had to have knowledge – and application – of the whole gospel message. Starting from the moment when Jesus endorsed John’s message of repentance by being baptized to the instant He proclaimed that they would be His witnesses and disappeared beyond the clouds, this leader had to have a comprehensive understanding and commitment to Jesus’ teachings.
    • Be a witness of the resurrection. This person needed to have seen and believed that Jesus was indeed risen again so that they could – and would – tell others about it.
  • (23-26) The whole process of selecting Judas’ replacement is interesting. Notice that
    • we’ve never heard of Barsabbas or Matthias before and really never will again. Christian leaders don’t have to be the big names in the church, just the faithful ones.
    • there was no campaigning. In other words, this wasn’t about their personal charisma or platform.
    • there was no mudslinging. Insults and attack ads have no place in the church. We’re here to build each other up, not tear each other down!
    • their primary concern was the will of God. They didn’t worry about agendas or contemporary issues. Rather, they concerned themselves with the will of the Lord. We would do well to remember that leadership in the church isn’t a referendum on what we want or think, but on what God wants or thinks.
  • (26) I believe this was the last time the casting of lots (akin to drawing straws) was used to determine God’s will in Scripture. Commentator Charles Ryrie explains that the process, in this case, was that “two names were written on stones and placed in an urn. The one that fell out first was taken to be the Lord’s choice.” Ryrie also notes that “the occasion was unique, for the Lord was not there in person to appoint and the Spirit had not been given in the special way of Pentecost.” In other words, after Pentecost, the decision-making process focused on prayer and the Holy Spirit for clarity.

Application

At the surface of it, there’s a lot of stuff happening in Acts 1, but when you really get down to it, the whole thing is about the people of God waiting for Him to move. Indeed, as frustrating as it may be, God’s timing is not always the same as ours. We may be rearing to go, but God says, “Wait!” And when that happens, it is our job to do exactly that. I notice, though, that waiting on the Lord did not exactly mean that the people were idle, and it’s on what they did (and did not) do while they waited that I want to focus.

They were obedient. More specifically, they were obedient to the last directive they had. Jesus had said, “Wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit,” so they waited in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit. How often, when things aren’t moving and we haven’t heard yet from the Lord, do we tend to decide to do things our own way? Like Saul in 1 Samuel 13, we get ahead of the Lord, and the results can be catastrophic. And how often, after we have heard from the Lord and are doing what we’ve been called to do, do we get impatient, expecting immediate results that may never be forthcoming? Like the disciples here, we demand to know when God’s kingdom will be established (when there will be mass conversions or miraculous effectiveness, etc.) and even go about trying to spur the process onward. In their obedience here, the disciples learned that God’s will often requires diligent patience and His directives don’t necessarily have an expiration date.

They weren’t idle. Jesus had commanded them to wait for the Spirit so that they could be His witnesses. The disciples, however, recognized that waiting did not mean merely sitting on their hands, doing nothing. On the contrary, they spent the time in diligent and concerted prayer. To be certain, this probably meant that they spent some time voicing their confusion, concerns and needs – I mean, their friend, teacher, son, and brother had just been crucified, resurrected, and then taken from them – but after that was done in the first hour or two, I am guessing that the next nine or so days was spent primarily listening. They asked the question, “God, what do You have for us to do?” And they waited eagerly, expectantly, for the answer. This was essential because, while we usually want God to reveal His will via a loud, booming voice, He often assumes the still small voice that confronted Elijah in the desert cave. While we obediently wait, we must be listening in prayer.

They prepared. While I suppose this could technically fall under the previous revelation, I think it merits its own point if only for a little more attention. You see, not only did the disciples pray as they waited, but they got up and started preparing for whatever God had for them to do next. Now, obviously, they couldn’t prepare completely. But they could do a couple of things that would prove essential in the coming days. First, they realized the need to replenish the ranks of leaders, and so they appointed a godly man to the task. The election of Matthias to the place vacated by Judas meant that the entire leadership team was in place and ready to respond the instant God’s will was finally revealed. Further, the selection of Matthias, who had been with Jesus throughout His public ministry and was committed to His entire gospel message, demonstrated that they were already committed to learning all that Jesus had taught them. In other words, they were already working on training the saints for ministry so that they wouldn’t have to start from scratch when they finally heard what they were supposed to do. How much more effective would our churches and saints be if, while we waited, we concentrated on building up the leadership and ministry team so that we would be ready the instant God moved!

They did not jump the gun. It’s tough to wait. Everyone knows that. And often, it’s tempting to think that we can just run up and do what we think is the next thing. Like Saul in 1 Samuel 13, we think we know what’s supposed to happen next, so we rush ahead of the Lord, leaving Him behind. Other times, it’s easy to simply give up and walk away. When the Israelites crossed the Jordan into Canaan, they were directed to purge the land of all of its inhabitants. Unfortunately, when that didn’t happen immediately and/or easily, they apparently decided that they would do something else instead. Notice the consequences of both of these instances. Saul was rejected as king just two chapters after his inauguration. And the Israelites compromised their culture and faith, allowing the remaining Canaanites to entice them into idolatry and sin until God finally exiled them from their promise land.

So there you have it. Sometimes, God doesn’t reveal Himself or His will immediately, the instant we think He should. It’s a fact of life. As believers, we must wait for Him, but that doesn’t mean that we just sit around doing nothing. While you wait for the Lord, make sure that you remain obedient to the last call or directive you received. Make sure you’re spending time in prayer, listening for what He would have you do next. Be certain that you’re preparing as much as you can for when He moves again. And don’t jump the gun by running ahead or wandering off to do other things.

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