What is the meaning of Jesus’ words to the disciples in Acts 1:4-8?
Luke, the medical doctor (Colossians 4:14), wrote the gospel of Luke to a man named Theophilus (Luke 1:3) to teach him about Jesus Christ. The closing words of the gospel of Luke state that Jesus led the disciples to Bethany and while He was blessing them ascended to heaven. Then the disciples returned to Jerusalem after they worshiped Him.
And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God. Luke 24:50-53 (NASB)
The book of Acts was also written to Theophilus (Acts 1:1) and provides additional information about the final moments that Jesus had with the disciples before He ascended to heaven. Acts 1:4-8 records the final conversation. What follows is an explanation of Jesus’ final words to the disciples.
Wait For The Holy Spirit – Acts 1:4-5
Acts 1:4-5 tells us that Jesus and the disciples were together.
Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:4-5 (NASB)
We are told that while they were together Jesus commanded them to remain in Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them. This would be the fulfillment of the Father’s promise made earlier and recorded in both Matthew 3:11 and Luke 3:16.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit referred to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in each disciple (1 Corinthians 12:13). See “Should all Christians experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit?” for an explanation of 1 Corinthians 12:13 which describes the meaning of the baptism of the Spirit. Acts 2:1-3 records the fulfillment of this promise and on this occasion the apostles spoke in tongues.
Commissioning of the Disciples – Acts 1:6-8
Acts 1:6 implies that some time has elapsed since verses 4-5 when we read, “So when they had come together.”
So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Acts 1:6-8 (NASB)
Luke 24:50-53 helps us understand that Christ and the disciples were in the city of Bethany on this occasion. On this occasion the disciples asked Jesus a question about the restoration of the kingdom. They were wondering about God’s plan for the future. Jesus was leaving and the Holy Spirit was coming. So they were wondering about God’s plan for the future.
Earlier in Luke 19:11, the disciples had asked if the kingdom was going to appear immediately. Jesus had answered that the kingdom was yet future. Now they ask the same question using different words. Jesus’ reply was not now! Then Jesus told them the important truth that God the Father was in control of the future. In fact, Scripture teaches that He is the master planner in the Trinity.
The next event in the Father’s plan was to send the Holy Spirit. He would empower them for ministry which included the disciples spreading the gospel throughout the known world. They were to start in Jerusalem, move into Judea and Samaria, and eventually to the remotest part of the earth. The gospel of Matthew tells us what they were to communicate.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NASB)
The gospel of Luke also includes some additional statements that Christ made. He told them specifically what to say.
Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:45-49 (NASB)
Acts 1:4-8 records part of the final conversation between Jesus and the disciples. The emphasis was upon the Father’s plan to spread the gospel throughout the world by relying upon the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19-20 recorded the part of Christ’s command that applies to everyone. Every Christian is to go, to make disciples by sharing the gospel, baptize and teach them the Word of God in order so that they will be obedient. Luke 24:45-49 emphasized the content of the actual gospel. Therefore, the important question for each Christian to answer is, “Will you be obedient to spread the good news, the gospel, about Christ?”
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