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Introduction to Acts – The First Christians (Part B)

Cross Reference Radio / Pastor Rick Gaston
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May 20, 2022 6:00 am

Introduction to Acts – The First Christians (Part B)

Cross Reference Radio / Pastor Rick Gaston

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May 20, 2022 6:00 am

Pastor Rick teaches from the letter to the Hebrews

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He says, "...of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach." Luke put a lot of work into the gospel of Luke, and he put a lot of work into the book of Acts.

And he's getting this word out. He's getting it to this man, because it is what Jesus began to do. Acts is the story of beginnings. Everything in Acts is the beginning of, for the Church, and the continuation of. Nothing is finished. It's an ongoing story for us. Today, Pastor Rick continues introducing the book of Acts in Acts chapter 1.

Thanks again, Vance Habner. The new hilarious brand of Christianity is only a better way to have a good time. Fun seems to be the objective, but wrestling with powers and principalities doesn't sound like much fun.

It's not. It's combat. It's a contest to struggle for real souls and real lives. And it's going to hurt. Your heart's going to break if you are a Christian. And fighting over lost souls and the work that Satan does.

But your heart will also rejoice over the victories and the presence of God in your life. The author, Luke, known as the companion of Paul, the beloved physician. That Paul would call him a beloved physician must have mean that Luke, first off, had no hypodermics.

To stick you with. I mean, he just was a beloved physician. He would just have philosophy of medicine, but never hurt you. I don't know about you.

Every time you go to the doctor, they hurt you more. So anyway, just a little humor there. Very little humor. Luke chapter 1. Luke wrote the book of Acts. He wrote the Gospel according to Luke. And the early Christians did not, there's not much to debate about that. When he wrote the book of Acts, he started out by telling everyone how much effort he put into looking into the facts that he was about to present.

The interviews that he conducted. And he says, it seemed good to me also, Luke chapter 1, verse 3, having had a perfect understanding of all things from the very first to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus. You see, this letter to this Gospel of Luke was addressed to a man named Theophilus. And so is the book of Acts. Now the name Theophilus means lover of God. And there are variations to it. And some believe, maybe it was sort of a code writing to just lover, Christians in general. But I don't take that position. I believe it was a man named Theophilus who was a part of Luke's life.

I'll come to this, back to it very quickly. But this man Luke, this physician, this medical doctor Luke, far as we know, he never saw the Lord Jesus Christ. He became a convert after. He wasn't around when the early chapters of Acts were taking place.

At least we have no evidence of that. We have evidence or the pointers that suggest that he was converted after. He wrote this book of Acts about 30 years after Christ ascended to heaven. And it covers a span of about 32 years. We have about 32 years of history from Acts chapter 1 to Acts 28. Acts chapter 29 is us. The book of Acts doesn't end. The Acts of the Holy Spirit and the actions of the believers are still going on through the believers down through history.

There's a nice parallel about that when you get to the seven churches in Revelation. These were troublesome times because of the transition. That transition from Judaism to Christianity, from looking for the Messiah and his arrival, his being murdered and his rising again and keeping Judaism out of Christianity was very difficult.

Physically, they were violent over these things. They would try to kill Paul on several occasions. Not only just the Jews who practiced Judaism but the Judaizers who tried to mingle Christianity and Judaism thereby reducing Christianity to a sect. As a matter of fact, when up in Antioch they came from James, as Paul later said to spy out our liberty, Peter and Barnabas succumbed to the Judaizers, to their influence.

And their influence was this. If you want to benefit from the cross of Christ, you've got to become a Jew. You've got to be circumcised. You've got to practice the Sabbath.

You've got to go down to the temple. And Paul stood up against all that. And when Peter and Barnabas were giving in to them and Paul stood, said this several times before, Christianity would have died that day had Paul not stood up to his beloved friends, Peter and Barnabas, and set them straight and not yield, as Paul said, for an hour. Which means we didn't yield for a moment. We didn't give in.

This is Christianity. We know what we believe. We believe what we know. And we're not apologizing for it.

We would love you to join it, but we're not joining you. And to this day, that is our message. And if you want to go out there and share your faith with somebody of another religion and you think that you can sort of mix them together, you've abandoned Christianity. Because it is intolerant of any other Savior or any other God or any idea about our God that does not come from Scripture. And so the Reformers, many of them who gave their lives, to say Scripture alone is our authority for our spiritual beliefs and our behavior before God. Scripture alone.

And hopefully you and I are upholding these things because they are true. We look at the book of Genesis and it tells us a story of how mankind came to be and how man established a relationship with God or refused, as the case might be. Well Acts tells a story of how the church came to be and how the Gentiles were brought into this relationship with the God of Abraham and the God of Moses and the God of Jeremiah and Isaiah and all of the Old Testament heroes. Acts tells a story of how the church came to be and how it is to remain and how the church is different, distinct, as I mentioned, from Judaism and Paganism and Heathenism and anything else that is out there. It tells a story of its relationship with the Holy Spirit as promised by God through Jesus Christ. We haven't even started on the verses yet.

It's just an overview from what's in there. And after all these years of being a Christian, I still get excited over the book of Acts. To preach it is an added benefit. This church, the church had Messiah and has Messiah. We call him the Christ.

It's a Greek translation of the Jewish word Messiah. The Anointed One. We have him. The synagogues of Paul's day did not. The synagogues today do not. They do not have the Messiah. They have missed him.

We have him. And the beliefs are irreconcilable. Though we've come out of Judaism's Old Testament, our beliefs are irreconcilable. Unless they accept Messiah, they don't have it. Judaism, as I mentioned, demands circumcision and Sabbath keeping to receive salvation and other things. The Gentiles just would not have received that.

It would have been a stumbling block for them. And God pointed this out to Paul. And Paul wrote documents. He documented this. Romans and Galatians and Hebrews.

He was fierce in his presentation. That's this transitional age that Luke is also part of. He was there through much of what Paul went through. And the first Christians, they realized this. And they began to listen and trust God. Maybe when you started out being a Christian, you were trusting God.

But as the years have rolled by and you've taken so many hits and hurts, that trust is not so hot anymore. I encourage you. Go get wood and put it on whatever fire you've got left. And stoke that fire.

And don't give in to your flesh that wants to come up with an excuse to have your faith die down because it's a lie. And your flesh will accommodate it. I fight just like you do. I have my moods too. And I try to get it so where I'm always in the mood to have the right mood. It takes a lot of work.

Sometimes I pull it off pretty good. Anyway, back to wherever it was that I was at in this trusting God. The birth of the church. It merged Jews and Gentiles together so thoroughly. So thoroughly were Jews and Gentiles merged together that you're not supposed to tell them apart. Humans may have, lost souls may have this distinction of Jew and Gentile. To the Christian, there's no longer Jew nor Gentile. Why is that such a hard concept for some people in Christendom? This is the work that Satan detests. He hates these distinctions. He wants this division in the church that there are class A Christians and class B Christians.

He wants to do a little dirty work like that. And we're supposed to be a step ahead of him. The Christians, they looked at the assembly of the synagogues, how they assembled, and they borrowed some of that. Then they refined it and they reformed it into how we assemble to this day in the church. All the while keeping themselves separate, which is what the word saint means.

The word means you're separated from the world and from the judgment to come through Christ. Christianity is not merely a true religion. It is a true religion.

But it is also a system of life and a system of action. And that's what we're getting out of this book and we get it out of our Bibles. The first Christians, they made converts from Judaism, from paganism, from heathenism, and from idolatry. And they just did it by being a witness of Christ with an inflexible message and a determined mission. So when we read this out of Jeremiah, we say, wow, we like that. Well, the New Testament church did it.

Here it is. Thus says Yahweh, stand in the ways and see and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it. Then you will find rest for your souls. Jeremiah says get back to the basics of your faith, the faith of your fathers. They weren't kooky.

You're not doing better than your fathers. Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, they understood God. Don't come along acting like, well, that religion is dead. We've got this new stuff.

No, you're dead. And what did they say to Jeremiah? We don't want to hear it. That's what goes on to say in Jeremiah 6 16, the age that he ministered in. Well, we face the same thing.

Flexible methods of assembly. You know, one church can do more songs than another church. You've got that right. But inflexible with the message.

The methods may alter a little bit, but not the truth. Those early Christians, the first Christians, they had to fight for everything. Satan would not take the church lying down. On the day of Pentecost comes as exciting as it's going to be, Satan didn't go, okay, I just better stop now.

They've got the Holy Spirit. No, he just adjusted his battle plan, and he's done a very good job. But it doesn't mean he has to do a good job. Matthew chapter 10, Jesus said, Do not think I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. Well, that didn't stop when Christ ascended. That characterizes the ministry of Christianity until he returns. In fact, when he returns, it's with a sword.

The sword of judgment. Another thing about this book of Acts that is very exciting and I think important to embrace, the application of this book is only for believers. The message is for the world, but the application is really about believers. And this is what we find in Mark chapter 16, go out into all the world and preach the gospel.

We find them doing that. But then look at verse 1. The former account I made Otheophilus of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach. This is coming for believers.

He'll develop it. We're going to depart from that for a moment. But Luke, having set in order a biography of Jesus Christ, a gospel according to Luke, he writes again in verse 3, It seemed good to me also, having a perfect understanding of all things, from the very first to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus. Well, the former account, as I mentioned, Luke, but he says, O excellent Theophilus. Here in Acts 1, he says, O Theophilus. In Luke, he addressed him as most excellent.

Well, that was a formal, official term. A Roman official received that title, most excellent. So Theophilus was likely an individual who had a high position in government, was a man of some means, and he knew Luke. Perhaps Luke was his physician.

You could have a lot of conjecture there. The point is, he writes him now, and he uses that personal pronoun, I, where he says, the former account I made, O Theophilus. This is indicating a warmer relationship because he's dropped the title, most excellent, and he just says, O Theophilus. There's a term of endearment in that. O Theophilus is a nearness, is a warmness, is a friendship.

What has changed? O Theophilus got the Book of Luke as we know it. That's who it was addressed to. That's why I just read again Luke 1, verse 3, where he says, I put an orderly account together for you, most excellent Theophilus, and now he writes a second account, the former account I made, Luke's Gospel, O Theophilus. Theophilus has become a believer. He's not caught up on, I am most excellent.

He's humbled now. We don't know what transactions occurred between the two, in between the writing of Luke and the writing of this Book of Acts, but there must have been some because there's a change in the tone. Why doesn't he still call him most excellent Theophilus?

Again, that would account for it. He says, of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach. Now, Luke put a lot of work into the Gospel of Luke, and he put a lot of work into the Book of Acts, and he's getting this word out.

He's getting it to this man because it is what Jesus began to do. Acts is the story of beginnings. Everything in Acts is the beginning of, for the church, and the continuation of, too. Nothing is finished.

It's an ongoing story for us. Leviticus chapter 6, verse 12, when I mentioned about the fire in the heart of the believer. This was the rule for the tabernacle of the Jews in the wilderness. The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it. It shall not be put out, and the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offerings in order on it. The fire's not to go out.

It is paralleled by the heart of the believer. The fire in our heart for truth, for God, for serving him, it's not supposed to go out. We're supposed to chop the wood and haul it. We're supposed to maintain the fire. He'll do his part. God will.

But we have our part, too. There is this unfinished work of proclaiming the finished work of Jesus Christ, the finished work of salvation. It's finished.

It's done. Of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, we are to continue proclaiming these things. Matthew 28 again, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. We notice in verse 1 that the doing comes before teaching. There are some that are just so eager to teach, but they're not doing. And one of the things they're not doing is waiting for the Lord to put them in a position of teaching.

That is a divine prerogative. What Jesus began, of course, was teaching us about God, about love, about grace, about truth, about judgment, doctrine. It sums up what he began. There's more. There are the details, and they're important details.

They're not insignificant at all. He practiced. Jesus did what he preached. The best preacher, the best pastor preaches better than they practice. No pastor can live up to the standard of Scripture. No Christian can. But it's the pursuit of that standard that knocks hell down. It's just chasing righteousness that makes the difference.

It makes all the difference. Just go to a place where it's not practiced. Go to a place where Christianity is not allowed. You don't see the pursuit of Christianity in North Korea, do you?

And many other places. And so it does matter. Don't be discouraged because you can't see. No soldier on the battlefield sees the whole battle. That's for the generals.

He sees what's right in front of him, and his position can be totally wiped out, and they still win. Don't be knocked out of the fight because it seems like you're not getting anywhere. Keep moving forward. That alone will just, it beckons the strength of the Holy Spirit in your life. Christ practicing what he taught, and what Jesus did and taught did not end with the departure of Christ to his Father. When he ascends to heaven, that's it. You guys are on your own. I gave you some rules now.

Just go do them. That's exactly what did not happen, and Acts is telling this story. Acts chapter 1, verse 8. You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to me. Now, the thought is, okay, I'm going to receive this power so I can get a new car. So I can get, and of course that's the prosperity teaches, which isn't very prosperous at all.

It's quite the opposite. This power is not to show off, oh, look at me. I can speak in tongues you can't, as some will like to do. This is power to be witnesses of Jesus Christ. That's the power I want. Would you rather lead ten people to heaven or show ten people you can speak in tongues?

It's a very simple thing. There's much joy in heaven when one sinner repents and converts, not when one Christian starts demonstrating he's got some power. The power that I want is the power over my flesh. The power that I want is to be like Christ. The power I want is that the Holy Spirit will be comfortable with using me. We read of God coming to visit Abraham, we don't read of him coming to visit Lot. Rescuing Lot, yes.

Dining with Lot, no. I want the Lord to be comfortable in my heart. And so, verse two now, oh, look at that, we made it. We're only getting up to verse three. He says, until the day in which he was taken up, after he, through the Holy Spirit, had given commandment to the apostles whom he had chosen. That phrase, taken up there at the beginning, until the day in which he was taken up, it occurs four times in this chapter. Three of them are the identical Greek word, all four mean the same thing. The emphasis is on the miraculous, that Jesus was alive and that he was miraculously taken to heaven as though he was God, because he is.

That's why. It was a demonstration, a further demonstration of his deity, thus the many infallible proofs. I mean, they were just getting one demonstration after another until their heads were spinning. The direct teaching of Christ ended with his ascension from the Mount of Olives to heaven, visibly before his apostles. But the Holy Spirit would soon be available to continue what Jesus began to do. This was his plan, so that when Jesus went to the Father, the work continued. John's Gospel, chapter 16, verse 8. And when he, notice the personal pronoun, the Holy Spirit is not a it, he is a person. When he has come, he will convict the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment.

How's he going to do that? Through the church, through the believers. Don't do that, well the church is anywhere. Yeah, there's the universal church and it is a wonderful thing, but there is the local church and it is just as wonderful and just as powerful. And it is exactly what Paul had in mind in Acts, chapter 20, when he talks about savage wolves coming into the church, not sparing the flock, the church that God bought with his blood. So when they start that backpedaling on the assembly, they're actually helping the devil because Christ ordained both. The universal church so that I can go to take a flight and I sit next to somebody from another country who's a born again believer and it's like we've always known each other when we start talking about Jesus Christ. We've never met before, we've never been in the same church, we'll probably never see each other here again. And then there is the local assembly, that's where the blood and guts are. Because see, when I get off that plane with that believer, I don't have to put up with him anymore.

He doesn't have to put up with me. When we go back to the church, now we have people who have meltdowns, we've got this problem, we've got that problem, but they still love the Lord, giving you a chance to exercise grace. You've been listening to Cross Reference Radio, the daily radio ministry of Pastor Rick Gaston of Calvary Chapel in Mechanicsville, Virginia. As we mentioned at the beginning of today's broadcast, today's teaching is available free of charge at our website. Simply visit crossreferenceradio.com. That's crossreferenceradio.com. We'd also like to encourage you to subscribe to the Cross Reference Radio podcast. Subscribing ensures that you stay current with all the latest teachings from Pastor Rick. You can subscribe at crossreferenceradio.com or simply search for Cross Reference Radio in your favorite podcast app. Tune in next time as Pastor Rick continues teaching through the book of Acts, right here on Cross Reference Radio.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-16 04:17:14 / 2023-04-16 04:26:27 / 9

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