Not only did Jesus come from Heaven to earth on a global rescue mission, He sent the Holy Spirit to fill the Church with His power to proclaim His message and continue His mission. From Pentecost to the present, the driving power force behind this global rescue force unleashed from Heaven is God the Holy Spirit through the Christian Church.
The historian of Christ and one of the first Christians is the medical doctor, Luke. The gospel of Luke was written to tell the history of the Spirit-filled Christ and Acts to tell the history of the Spirit-filled Christians. This insight is crucial in the same way that understanding a prequel movie is vital to fully appreciating the sequel.
Luke’s work is important because the Christian Church is more than philosophy or spirituality, as our faith rests upon historical facts like Jesus’ resurrection from death and the Spirit falling on the Church in power. Sir William Ramsay, a world-famous archaeologist who taught at Oxford and Aberdeen, was knighted for his service to scholarship, made an honorary member of almost every historical and archaeological association, and was awarded the Victorian Medal of the Royal Geographical Society. He began examining the writings of Dr. Luke in the New Testament with the express intent of disproving them as actual and factual history. In the end, Ramsay concluded, “Luke is a historian of the first rank…This author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.” [ENDNOTE #1] Dr. William Lane Craig concludes, “Given Luke’s care and demonstrated reliability as well as his contact with eyewitnesses within the first generation after the events, this author is trustworthy. [ENDNOTE #2]
Luke opens Acts saying, “‘In the first book [Luke], O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father…you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.”
The book of Acts is often called the Acts of the Apostles, but a better title might be the Acts of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was clear that the continuation of His message and ministry were impossible without the same Spirit who empowered Him. In this, we learn three tantamount truths:
- God works for you. This is Jesus’ life, death, burial, and resurrection for you to become a Christian.
- God works in you. This is Jesus’ life through the Holy Spirit in you growing you as a Christian to be more and more like Christ.
- God works through you. This is Jesus’ life through the Holy Spirit working through you as a member of the Church to help others become Christians.
- William M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1915), 222.
- William Lane Craig, “Rediscovering the Historical Jesus: The Evidence for Jesus,” Faith and Mission 15, no. 2 (1998): 20.