E2 The Helper -- Book of Acts Series
For three and a half years Jesus has been hard at work.
The apostle Peter told a Gentile man named Cornelius,
“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” Acts 11:38
And Apostle John concluded his gospel account with these words, “...there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written”..
Jesus worked very hard during the time He was given.
The work that Jesus did was absolutely essential for the future of mankind. God created man with a free will. He had done the same with the angels that He created, but with one big difference.
We discover in Jude 1:6 And angels, who did not preserve their original rank but left their proper home, He has kept in everlasting chains under darkness, for the day of judgment, Williams translation
Redemption and salvation for fallen angels was not in the plan of God. Why not? Was God caught off guard, taken by surprise when the angels sinned? Of course not, He is the Almighty. Then why did He not have a plan in place to forgive and restore them if they were to sin? For the complete answer we will have to wait until we are in His presence, but we know there is no defect with God. He is completely Holy and wise.
But when it comes to God's creation of man it is a different story. God did put a plan in place for if and when man would sin. His plan included a specific time in history. We read in Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”
7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
What a wonderful plan and what a wonderful salvation! But how would the salvation plan of God, which came into being about four thousand years AFTER the creation of man, be of any help to those who had already lived out their lives as sinners and died in that condition BEFORE the plan was offered? Well, the plan of God included them too. God added a provision for all who would voluntarily come to Him and seek forgiveness.
But herein lies a very deep problem. Most of mankind does NOT come to God sorrowfully seeking forgiveness. In fact the very opposite is true.
The prophet Isaiah said in chapter 53:6 of his book, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned — every one — to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Our sinful nature results in ALL of us going away from God. As a person reads through the entire Old Testament you will read about the various ways in which God pursued sinners to bring them to repentance. One way in particular was through a nation that God created for the specific purpose of calling sinful people to repentance and faith. But that nation failed miserably. That nation we know as Israel.
God's method of gathering the lost sheep has changed since the coming of Jesus. He is no longer using a nation to reach out to a sinful world. He established a brand new group during his three and half years that he lived on this earth. He said, “Upon this rock I will build My church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18
And that brings us to the present. Jesus has established His church to be the ones to go into all the world, persuading people to confess their sins and turn to Jesus for forgiveness and become followers of Him. Jesus is saying in this passage that the church would be unstoppable.
But what a job! The population of the earth is getting up to 8 billion. And only a tiny percentage of them are followers of Jesus. Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction and there are many who go in by it. Matthew 7:13
The task is so huge it is actually impossible to do it on our own. There is a question Jesus asked that is a little hard for us to grasp. He asked, “Nevertheless when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"
It is as though He were thinking, “I am working as hard as possible to create a group of people to reach out to the lost and sinful masses of people … but will they be successful? Will they be successful AT ALL? At My return, will there be any at all who have faith?”
And yet, He prophesied that nothing would be able to stop the advancing of the church. These two thoughts seem to be opposites. Perhaps this shows us the human side of Jesus when He was here on Earth.
The task is huge and the obstacles are many. How can we, the church of Jesus, get the job done? Luke quotes Jesus in Acts 1:9… 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."
This is the answer. ‘You will receive power’. The obstacles, as I said, are many. To state the obvious, the world is a huge place. To get the gospel into all the world will involve travel. It will involve money. It will involve language barriers. It will involve cultural barriers. It will involve a plan. It will involve selfless caring for those who are perishing.
So just what is this power? By reading the above verse in a Greek translation (the language that Acts was originally written in,) we would discover that the word used for ‘power’ is dunamis. The word resembles the word dynamite and for this reason some people have described the power that Jesus was talking about as being explosive power. But that is not what the word means at all. For one thing, dynamite had not yet been invented, so ‘explosive’ was not in Jesus’ mind at the time when He said these words. The word means strength, power, ability.
One thing is sure, the power that the church would receive after the Holy Spirit would come upon them, would give them everything that they would need to break each of the barriers facing them.
As we proceed further into the book of Acts we will see this power in action. And we no doubt will wonder, can we do that today?
And as we proceed in the book of Acts we will see what happens when we attempt to do things for God on our own power.
But as we, the church, say ‘Yes’ to the task before us, we do well to refresh our minds on the words of Jesus regarding our commission.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. Jn 14:12-14
And He said,
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” Jn 14:15-17
He said these words to the small group of disciples that were with Him the night before He would be arrested and go to the cross. He was leaving them. The tendency would be to panic. So He said to them,
“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Jn 14:25-26
Being taught by the Spirit and having things that we have studied about Jesus being brought to our remembrance at exactly the time that we need them, is a tremendous help. But, as we will see, much more help will be available.
And so these early disciples are commissioned to go out and bear witness. And so are we, His church.
“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning. Jn 15:26
Jesus knew exactly what difficult days were ahead for this small group. Imagine for a moment, if you had been a part of that small group and heard Jesus say,
“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.
6. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.
I don’t know about you, but if I had been there, I think in my mind I would say, “No! How could it be to my advantage for You to go? Don’t go!”
But Jesus said,
7. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
13. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
As hard as it would have been for those disciples to hear that Jesus was about to leave, yet remembering these words later would be precious to them.
And they are precious to us as well. The writer of Hebrews says in 13:5-6 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
In the book of Acts, Jesus is about to leave. He has assigned to them an impossible task: evangelize the whole world. Speak to them all the things that Jesus had spoken to them … and do it in their native languages. Teach them everything that Jesus had taught them. Baptize them. … and expect hard times. Expect that some of you will be killed for speaking the truth.
Coming up we will see the church praying, conducting business and moving out in the power of the Spirit. We will see some tremendous victories. We will also see their ‘human-ness’. And in it all we will see what has not changed at all … we will see what difficulties, challenges and obstacles still remain for us today.
But we have with us … the Comforter, the Helper.
Some of the "helps" that Jesus gave to that small group are no longer needed in the same way, because a few of those barriers no longer exist. But many of the same obstacles still remain, so the "helps" for overcoming them also remain available for today.
Let's read on in Acts chapter one,
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. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."
What an incredible sight! Jesus did not suddenly vanish, but, in my opinion, rose somewhat slowly and deliberately so that this occasion would NEVER fade from their minds. And then, just as He disappeared from their sight, they hear someone speaking. As they turn to see who is speaking with them, two men are standing with them that were not there a moment ago. And they are dressed in brilliant white.
And what is it these two men are saying?
This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."
In their uncertainty, and perhaps fear, these are words of comfort. He will be back. But when? Right away? Soon? Imminently?
Do we say the return of Jesus is imminent? And by 'imminent' do we mean, at any second, without any sign or event having to precede it? If so, at what point in history was the return of Jesus looked at as being imminent .. At any second?
The early disciples would not have seen it that way. They have just been told two things … One, wait for a few days in Jerusalem until the Helper arrives. (They would not expect His return during that interval) and Two, they were instructed to go into the entire world with the gospel. That would not happen in just a few days.
The comforting words, ``This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.", was a promise. That promise is made to us, the church, for all time. He is coming back. Some of us will die first. Some of us may actually be alive when He arrives.
He will return the same way in which He left. He will come in the clouds. We who are alive and remain will rise to meet Him. We have this blessed hope! And we need that 'hope' because the world in which we live is very hopeless. Our task is great. Some obstacles seem impossible to overcome. But we receive comfort in knowing, He is coming soon, and in the meanwhile, greater is He that is in us, than he (Satan) that is in the world. I John 4.4