Study | Church Beginnings

Acts 1

Human leadership is important to grow the Kingdom of God

Luke wrote the book of Acts to directly follow the events contained in his gospel account. Keep in mind that Luke is not a disciple – he did some serious research and interviews in order to present his two books to us.

In Acts chapter 1, we pick up where we left off. Jesus is resurrected, and he’s making sure it’s known! He spends 40 days publicly presenting himself as alive, and speaking to crowds about the Kingdom of God. Beyond that, Jesus spends intimate time with the eleven (the original disciples sans Judas Iscariot). He tells them to stay in Jerusalem until the baptism of the Holy Spirit comes upon them. More on the Holy Spirit and Pentecost next week!

Jesus spends time with his followers focusing on bringing all nations into the Kingdom of God through the Holy Spirit. The Kingdom is not exclusive except that he, Jesus Christ, is the only way into right relationship with God. Membership in the Kingdom is not limited to Israel, but is for all tribes and tongues and nations! And this is all possible through the Spirit, who dwells inside each believer, uniting the community into one Kingdom.

At the end of the 40 days, Jesus ascends into the clouds. What a marvelous sight! An angel visits the disciples to reassure them that Jesus will return the same way he ascended, referencing the events to come when Heaven finally meets Earth for good.

From there, the disciples take action. The eleven along with women including Mary the mother of Jesus gather together and pray. Peter says that Judas Iscariot’s place must be filled. While Judas ultimately made terrible decisions, the Scriptures still speak about him and he did share in Jesus’ ministry.

Peter references Davidic Psalms 69 and 109 (which foretell the emergence of and victory over the enemy) in making his case for Judas’ replacement. This new leader must have spent time with Jesus and witnessed the resurrected Christ to strengthen his belief and testimony to others as the church is formed. This reminds me of 1 Timothy 3, where Paul makes a strong argument that leaders in the church should not be new believers but should be seasoned to help others in their walk with Christ.

At the end of this chapter, two nominees arise: Joseph (known as Barsabbas or Justus) and Matthias. After prayer and the casting of lots (as this is how people sought God’s will before Acts 2/the Pentecost when the Spirit began living inside believers as The Helper), Matthias is chosen.

Questions for discussion:

  1. Who is the Holy Spirit and why does Jesus emphasize his importance?
  2. What type of person did Peter and the apostles want to replace Judas?
  3. Why does Peter emphasize human leadership?
  4. How are you a leader in your home, workplace, and community?

Lady Luck

1:30 pm

Fortune. The mysterious Lady Luck. Tyche. Throughout the ages, mankind has seemingly survived on the graces and guidance of this woman. The woman men rely on in times of peace, and war. She, like the figure of Lady Justice today, is often depicted as blind—she is not biased, and can produce good or ill. She provides opportunities, but doesn’t indicate whether they are meant to be taken or forgotten. Fortuna is as capricious as life itself.

I don’t believe in luck. To me, believing in luck allows man to attribute meaningful activities and occurrences  to nothing. Luck gives no purpose; in fact, it strips the world of significance. If things are crazy random happenstances, then what’s the point of putting any effort into anything at all? Why try? It makes me uneasy to think that some mercurial power makes decisions a whim, shaping my life without the thought of consequence or the end result.

Oftentimes, God seems to be similar to this pubescent deity (or Joffery). He seems to make decisions without seeing the sacrifices His people must make in order to achieve His goals and pursue His purpose and will.

An example I recently came across was in Acts 16. The Apostle Paul, traveling and evangelizing with Silas and Timothy, was preparing to go into Asia to minister to those who had not heard the Gospel message. He was going to win more souls for Christ. He had a purpose, and planned to follow through with it. And yet, the Holy Spirit (the part of God dwelling inside each Christian who has accepted Jesus as savior) said, “Nope, you’re not going there. Yeah, the door, it’s open. But I want you to walk by and ignore the opportunity for now. Haha, joke’s on you!” God practically said, “Don’t touch the red button… Nope, don’t do it!” All that planning, all that hard work that Paul had put into preparing for the journey, was a waste.

But that wasn’t God’s point. He was proving that, as Charles Ryrie writes, “Need did not constitute their call.” Dang, check please. That was a whole meal in one bite.

Paul knew the people in Asia needed to hear the Gospel; God just didn’t have that path in mind for Paul at that time. God does have Paul go to Asia later in his life. In fact, Paul writes multiple letters to the churches there, showcased in God’s autobiography. The idea God was portraying was that He has His timing, and His purpose will prevail when He needs it to.

God is not like luck. He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He doesn’t just do things—have us do things—because He can. There is some reason, whether we understand it or not.

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out!”

Romans 11:33

And yet, we are sure that God works for our good. He doesn’t live to make us squirm.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose…

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

“…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:28-39

I refuse to believe that things just “work themselves out.” Yes, life can be temperamental, unpredictable, volatile. But that doesn’t mean that someone has lost control, can’t handle what’s going on.

All this does not mean that we will always win. I skated in various competitions for a decade, and I didn’t always come home with a medal hanging from my neck. I didn’t ace every test, no matter how much I studied and prayed. Other things work out. That big project that was due last week that I got in four minutes late? Accepted. And what a huge relief—that whole situation actually inspired me to author this post.

I tell you what. I choose to rely on God because He doesn’t turn a blind eye toward me. He doesn’t let me wander aimlessly through life. He guides me. Luck abandons people. Jesus never stops reaching. It may seem like God ignores us, wastes our time. But He always watches out for us. That doesn’t mean that life will be endless rainbows and unicorns and cupcakes. It means that He will work things out. It isn’t the universe just going around. God is actually in control.

God knows what matters. You matter. I matter.

You can sing like Marlon Brando, but Lady Luck could still ignore you. I don’t like those chances.