Elemental: The Sufficient Power

Can you imagine how the disciples felt after they saw Christ alive? I’m sure they were ready to go out and conquer the world. They probably wanted to tell everybody that Jesus was alive and that Christ through his death and resurrection had made it possible for man to be reconciled with God. However, in quite an anti-climatic fashion Jesus commanded them to do something strange: to wait.

That is what we find in Acts 1:4-5,

“And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.”

Remember that in the first few verses of Acts Luke is summarizing what he had already written in his first book. We find the original command in Luke 24:49, “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.”In both of these verses we find the phrase, “The promise of the Father.” They were to remain in Jerusalem until that promise was fulfilled.

So what was the promise of the Father? That God in the person of the Holy Spirit would dwell permanently in the lives of those that believed in Christ. (John 14:16-17) This would be a unique ministry of the Holy Spirit for New Testament saints. In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit empowered and enabled individuals for a particular task and then left them, but in the New Testament He ministers in and through us continually.

Now even though Christ’s command to his disciples that they wait until the coming of the Holy Spirit seemed strange it turned out to be the key to the church’s success in the first century. It has been correctly noted by many Bible commentators that the book of Acts is the record of the acts of the Holy Spirit through the apostles. We could have the best training available and all the confidence in the world but all of that is useless without the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The lesson is clear: We cannot complete Christ’s mission on this earth without the power of God. 

It would have been very easy for the disciples to think that the outcome depended on them, but Christ’s command for them to tarry in Jerusalem confirmed that the success of the mission is a God thing. We cannot save anyone. We can only do our part and faithfully preach the gospel. The work of drawing, convincing and regenerating is His. We completely depend on Him. We can’t even live out our Christian lives without Him. Thankfully we received all of the Holy Spirit the moment we were saved. We don’t need more of Him; He needs more of us. God has given us all that we need to accomplish the mission of evangelizing the world. We have the sufficient power to conquer the world with the gospel. We simply need to submit to the control of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We can do nothing apart from the power of the Holy Spirit. What’s wonderful about that truth is that when we see success in the ministry the glory goes to God and not to us. Next week we will discuss Christ’s blueprint for world evangelism.

In case you missed them, here are a few links to previous posts from this series: Intro, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3,  

Elemental: The Necessary Confidence

One doctrine that I believe is greatly overlooked in our twenty-first century churches is Christ’s resurrection and how it applies to our lives today. Sure, we preach about the resurrection on Easter Sunday but for the most part we don’t think about it or preach on the subject very often. Contrast that with the message of the church at it’s inception. Practically every sermon in Acts contains the truth of the resurrection. What gave impetus to the church in the first century was not a belief but an event. Of course, Christianity is based on certain fundamental beliefs which are essential for salvation but these beliefs do not exist in a vacuum independent of the reality of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If the resurrection did not occur in history as the New Testament declares than … “is our preaching vain and our faith is also vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14)

You see, one thing that greatly distinguishes Christianity from all other world religions and belief systems is that Jesus did not simply declare a message but instead he professed to be the truth, the way and the life personified and declared himself to be the Son of God and the great I AM of the Old Testament. When other religious leaders died their followers worked hard to “keep the flame alive” and continue to “spread the message”. Their deaths only served to stir the masses even more. With Jesus, however, it was different. He had boldly proclaimed that He was God in the flesh and the long awaited Messiah, (God with us). When he died, that was it. All hope was lost. His disciples, who had followed Him all through His earthly ministry now cowered in fear of the Roman officials and struggled with doubts as to the truth of His message. We know this is true because they wouldn’t have made up lies, which made them look bad, had it not been the case.

So, what is it that gave the disciples the necessary confidence to continue Christ’s mission on this earth?

That is a question that every skeptic must answer. What is it that caused these unlearned and ignorant men to have the confidence to boldly preach salvation in Christ in the face of incredible obstacles and eventual death? There’s only one logical answer to that question: THEY SAW HIM ALIVE.

Acts 1:3 is such an amazing verse but I wonder how often we consider it’s implications. Check it out:

“To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”

Let’s break this verse down:

“To whom also he shewed himself alive…”

What an amazing claim! First, we need to realize that the one making this claim is none other than Luke, a highly educated gentile doctor, who wouldn’t have been predisposed to believing in supernatural events. What we often hear from skeptics is that first century people were very ignorant and highly gullible. What can they say about Luke? Luke wasn’t saying anything new since the news of the resurrection had been circulating from the very beginning of the church. What makes Luke’s claim so unique is that he wasn’t an eyewitness and like us had to depend on other people’s testimony for the facts about the resurrection. Writing only about 30 years after the resurrection and interviewing many eyewitnesses he came to the amazing conclusion that the first disciples really saw Jesus alive. He did His homework and wrote with extreme confidence knowing that His document could be easily refuted by the enemies of Christianity if false.

“After His passion…”

In other words, after His death. Why are those three little words so significant? Well, in order for his resurrection to be a miracle he had to have died for real. What’s curious is that nobody in the first and second century ever doubted his death. The enemies of Christianity had theories about what happened to the body but none denied the obvious fact of His death. It’s really sad and embarrassing to hear theories of Christ surviving His crucifixion and appearing to his disciples half-dead, resembling a zombie. Other theories exist but all are pathetic attempts to explain away Christianity. It’s amazing how people living centuries after the fact seem to know more about what happened in the first century than those that lived during that time. It’s almost as crazy as those that claim that Jesus never lived. First, we have no reason to doubt the historicity of the gospels, unless you have a prejudice against the supernatural. Second, all you have to do is read the testimony of secular men that wrote about Jesus to realize how messed up it is to deny His death. Here’s a couple examples from non-Christian historians from the first and second century that should seal the deal:

Flavius Josephus:

“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”


“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.”

We have no reason to doubt Luke’s testimony. Jesus really died and that’s what makes the fact that the disciples saw Him alive so incredible.

“By many infallible proofs…”

Not only did He die and appear alive unto his disciples but all of this was accompanied by very convincing proofs. The Greek work behind the Phrase “infallible proofs” in this text is tekmērion which means, any extremely convincing, factual evidence that helps to establish the truth of something. Again, let’s put ourselves in Luke’s place. Why would he use such a strong word unless he was extremely confident of the truth of his affirmation. The text gives us a couple of these proofs.

1. “Being seen of them forty days…”

The New Testament mentions 10 or 11 instances in which Jesus appeared unto his disciples (sometimes to one and sometimes to a whole group) during the forty days after his resurrection. He may have even appeared to them more times. What’s important to note is that regardless of the amount of time He spent with them after His resurrection, they were completely convinced by the time of His ascension to the point that they were willing to die for their testimony. While skeptics desperately try to develop theories to explain what “really” happened, what cannot be denied is that they believed they had seen the risen Savior. The purpose of this post is not to refute every theory against the resurrection because they have all been sufficiently refuted by men much more capable than I (I encourage you to study the overwhelming evidence). It sure is hard to convince a man that he hasn’t seen something that he believes to have seen. Check out Acts 4:20, “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” I believe the most amazing post- resurrection appearances of Christ were to Paul and His half-brother James. Here we have two men that didn’t believe in Him and after seeing Him alive they convert to Christianity and eventually die for their faith. No theory can explain or account for the multitude of independent testimonies of the resurrection. What’s even more amazing is that they convinced Jews (right where He had died) and gentiles and turned the world upside down in the first century, but that’s not all.

2. “And speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God…”

There could be no doubt that the person they saw was Jesus Christ himself. They knew because nobody could teach like Jesus. He was unique. When they heard him teach them as he had before His death they knew they were in the presence of the Messiah. No dream or hallucination theory can explain how the disciples ate with Him, drank with Him, touched his scars, and heard his teaching again. He had trained them well during his ministry and all they needed, apart from the Holy Spirit, was the confidence that the man in which they had placed their faith and trust was indeed the Son of God.

So, what is it that gave the disciples the necessary confidence to continue Christ’s mission on this earth?


I don’t know about you, but I’m with Christ. The reason the resurrection is so important is because it guarantees that Christianity is true and it gives us the necessary confidence to take the message of the gospel to the ends of the earth. I tell our church all the time, “I’m not a Christian because Christianity has solved my problems or because it makes me happy; I am a Christian because Christianity is true.” The resurrection gives me that confidence.

C.S. Lewis summed it up well when he said, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it can’t be moderately important.”

We need to stop teaching Christianity as simply a message and instead emphasize that Christianity is centered on a person. We preach Christ crucified, buried and risen again. It does matter if he lived, died and rose again because if so Christianity is the truth and Jesus is the only way to God. We need to stop acting like we have to apologize for being Christians. Jesus rose from the dead, what more do I need? What gave the disciples the necessary confidence to continue Christ’s mission on this earth is the same thing that must embolden our hearts and minds and push us to give our lives for His cause.

Elemental: The Proper Training

What was Christ’s priority ministry? What did He dedicate the majority of his time doing while on this earth? If the goal was to evangelize the world, did he primarily focus on evangelism? Was he a church-planter? The truth is quite evident when we read the gospels. He spent the majority of His time training the twelve. Even when addressing the multitudes He had his disciples in mind.

I know what you’re thinking, “Jesus was a unique case and we can’t model our ministries after Him.” The only problem with that argument is that Jesus expressly told his disciples to follow His model (Matthew 28:18-20). In those famous verses, which constitute the fullest expression of the Great Commission that we find in the gospels, Jesus basically told his disciples, “Do exactly what I did with you with others”.

Undoubtedly the goal is world evangelism and church-planting is essential, but what was Christ’ method to accomplish those goals? In the words of Robert Coleman, “Men were His method.” He personally chose twelve men to be with them and share His life with them and prepare them for their future ministry (Mark 3:14). Jesus was setting the groundwork for the expansion of the gospel.

So what were the visible results of His ministry right after His ascension? After three and a half years of ministry He had started one church with approximately 500 converts and only 120 of those went to church on Sunday. The results were not bad, but if we viewed His ministry through the prism of today’s church-planting experts His ministry wasn’t very impressive. However, just a few years after his ascension that small group of ignorant and unlearned men had turned the world upside down with the gospel.

Let’s read Acts 1:1 again carefully, “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,”

The immediate context indicates that His teaching ministry was directed primarily to the apostles.

“Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen.” Acts 1:2

Here are a few things we can learn from these verses. Nothing could be more basic. To complete Christ’s work of evangelization on this earth we must…

1. Receive the proper training.

If Jesus came to teach than it’s obvious that we need to be taught. How can we successfully be involved in Christ’s mission on this earth if we can’t properly articulate the gospel? How can the work of Christ be multiplied if nothing in our lives is worth reproducing? We must be trained. If someone asked you what the gospel is, would you be able to explain it to them in a way that they would understand? Would you be able to guide a new believer through the basics of Christianity and help him or her reach spiritual maturity? By the way, it’s going to take a little more than just going to church every Sunday Morning to be trained for the work of the ministry. Jesus spent hours pouring His life into His disciples. If you want to be trained than you need to find someone that would be willing to teach you and hold you accountable and help you become all that God have would have you to become. If you can’t find anyone in your church like that, why don’t you ask the pastor or his wife (if you are a woman) to teach you? If you are a pastor consider these verses:

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13)

God has given gifted people to the church to train the congregation for the work of the ministry. As a pastor, do the people in your church know that you are available to help them grow in Christ? Are you willing to make training men your priority ministry? The church should be the place where we prepare to do battle for Christ. Are you being trained?

2. Teach others.

Honestly, our goal shouldn’t be just to receive training and fill our heads with knowledge. We need to be transformed by the Word of God. What we learn must affect our lives and should be evident in our practice. Only genuine Christianity will make an impact in our world. That’s what we find in Acts 1:1, “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,” Jesus never asked anything of his disciples that he wasn’t doing himself. This, of course, set Him apart from the religious leaders of His day,

“Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.” (Matthew 23:2-3)

That is why it is so important to correctly teach unbelievers the gospel because only the new birth can produce these kinds of results. What we don’t need is moralism. The world will see right through us. That is why I believe that discipleship begins before salvation as we teach unbelievers the gospel and continues until we are all like Christ (we’ll have to wait until heaven for that). Before we can teach others we need to have been transformed by the gospel ourselves. We must be the Christians we ought to be before we can reproduce ourselves in the lives of others. That doesn’t mean we have to be perfect but we do need to have a life worth imitating as we lead others in their walk with Christ.

Those that have been taught must teach. Evangelism is a must, church-planting is biblical and necessary but if we fail to train men we will accomplish neither. If you are interested in learning more about Christ’s method I would recommend Robert Coleman’s, “The Master Plan of Evangelism” and Bill Hull’s, “Jesus Christ, Disciple-maker.” Next post we will discuss the resurrection.

Elemental: Only the Beginning

The Book of Acts was written by Luke around A.D. 62 and is the second volume of a two-part series, which begins with the gospel according to Luke. Both of these books were directed specifically to Theophilus, most probably a high ranking Roman official. In Acts 1:1-5 Luke briefly summarizes what he had written in his first volume about Jesus. Verse 1 is especially interesting,

“The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,”

What immediately jumps out is the phrase, “Began…to do and teach.” According to the author what we read in Luke is only the beginning of the mission of Christ on this earth. He is still working through His church and that is what Acts is all about. Christ is not passively standing by as we struggle to fulfill His mission; He is actively working through us by the power of the Holy Spirit to complete what He began at Calvary.

Now you may be thinking, “But, I thought that Christ’s work was finished?” The answer is yes and no. His work of redemption was completed on the cross and proven at his resurrection (John 17:4; 19:30) but his work of evangelization continues.

Consider Luke 24:46-47:

“And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

It was necessary, according to Scripture and God’s sovereign plan, for Jesus to die and rise again on the third day. Nothing would impede God’s redemptive calendar from being fulfilled. In the same manner the gospel must and will be preached unto all nations. Nothing happened by accident, not his redemptive plan or his plan for world evangelization. Everything was prepared and planned out by God before the foundation of the world. He will fulfill His plan! What’s awesome is that He lets us be a part of it.

What does this mean for us? We need to stop trying to figure out new ways to complete Christ’s mission of World Evangelization. Before Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father He did everything to ensure that His work would continue and be fulfilled. Our job is to retrace the steps of the Master and use the tools that he gave us to finish the task. In the following posts we will discuss five elemental principles from Acts 1.

Elemental: Introduction

According to the dictionary when the word elemental is used as an adjective it describes something primary or basic. Nothing is more primary or basic to the life of the local church than what we find in the book of Acts. Several books have been written on how to grow your church or how to attract a particular demographic but many of the lessons contained therein greatly deviate from what is found in Acts. As a church-planting missionary to Spain I want to know what Jesus’ plan to grow his church looks like and I want to follow it to the letter. That is what I love about the book of Acts.

Certainly we understand that the book of Acts is a transitional book between the Old and the New Testament and as such not everything that we find in this book is normative for the church today, however the foundational principles remain and must be obeyed. If the book of Acts contains elemental principles for the church today, are we obeying them?

First, why is it important to review what is elemental? If what is elemental is basic and primary, shouldn’t we know all of these things by now? Well, unfortunately the reason we must review what is elemental is because it’s the first thing we forget. In football, or as some would call it “soccer” the principle is very simple: Get the round ball to cross your opponents goal line and score at least one more goal than the other team. To do that you must pass the ball, kick, etc. It never ceases to amaze me how many elite football players have forgotten the most basic principles that govern their sport. To fix the problem the coach has to take some of these guys aside and remind them of the basics.

George Orwell, the English novelist and journalist, said the following about the basic and elemental, “We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious has become the first duty of intelligent man.” Sometimes reviewing what is elemental is the first thing we must do if we want to move forward or as Bill Hull, the author of Jesus Christ, disciple-maker, said, “The obvious has become revolutionary”. Please join me as we study a few elemental principles from Acts 1.