ACTS 1:8a-d

Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Summer 1997

Ac 1:8 Introduction

This text contains some of Jesus’ final words while bodily on earth. People’s last words have always been a cherished possession. John Wesley, “The best of all is, God is with us.” Thomas Paine, famous revolutionary and bitter atheist, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” The words spoken by 21-year-old Nathan Hale still thrill us, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” A Queen of England, “All my kingdom for a few moments of time.” Jesus’ last words to His disciples have always been especially precious to believers.

Ac 1:8a “But ye shall receive. . .”

Jesus said His disciples would “receive” power, not generate it. The kingdom of Christ allows no place for self-glory (1:1) or self-dependence. The power to witness is not manufactured from within, but received as a gift from without.
Witnessing requires strength beyond ourselves, power extraordinary. The power to evangelize is a unique, distinctive force that must be earnestly sought of God in prayer. There are no shortcuts. Each individual must do their own persistent praying, seeking power solely from above. We talk about getting up a revival, but might as well talk about getting up a thunderstorm. Revivals come down, not up. Heaven is in perpetual revival and we must pray for it to spill out onto us.

Ac 1:8b “. . .power,. . .”

Jesus spoke here of real power, an empowering of God which is explosive and changes everything in its wake. This anointing never leaves people in a sad, dreary, monotonous condition. When heaven’s energy falls, everyone knows it.
A woman kept telling Moody, “You don’t seem to have power in your preaching.” He asked her and others to meet with him every Friday at 4 pm for prayer. Not long thereafter, while walking a street in New York City, he felt an overwhelming power coming upon him. He rushed to his motel room and cried, “Oh, my God, stay thy hand.” Moody rarely preached another sermon without someone being saved, and for years witnessed to at least one prechristian daily.

Do not misunderstand. We are not speaking of a once-for-all-time experience, but rather of an event which sets in motion an ongoing process. To have an experience is no guarantee of keeping its results indefinitely. God never wants His power taken for granted. Even Moody had to admit, “I am a leaky vessel, and I need to keep under the tap.” We must remain near the Source for the flow to continue, but while the power is flowing, it is impossible to contain.
The power of God energizes us for His work. When we are tired, the power sustains us. We do not have to be in the best physical condition to work for God. Through the valley, the power can uphold us. We do not always have to have a ball of excitement to keep us going. When discouraged, the power can motivate us. When everything else inside us says quit, the power can enable us to hold on.
We need this invigorating power to stir our people. Many of our churches suffer from the mundane. Locked on the dead center once occupied by the disciples between the resurrection and Pentecost, their attitude is, “Whoever happens to enter the upper room can join us.” We need God’s impelling power to drive us out of our comfort zone into the combat zone.
The church is often like an army sitting despondently before a granite fort. We want to attack, but lack motivation and know-how. We are discouraged because we have no explosive power. Our cannon balls, when thrown by ourselves, do no damage to the wall. We ram our cannon against the wall, but to no avail. Powder thrown against the wall has only made it ugly, not weak. We have cannon balls, cannons, and powder, yet all the while the enemy is perched on the wall laughing. But wait! What have we found? A match. No one on the wall is laughing now. The fort is ruined. All we needed was fire to make an explosion.
Churches have machinery to attack Satan. We need the spark. We hurl sermons at him, ram him with Bible studies, and powder him with insults. He laughs on the wall until he sees the spark. When fire from God falls on our machinery, the same sermons, Bible studies, and taunts drive him back to his hellish home.

Ac 1:8c “. . .after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you:. . .”

The Holy Spirit, mentioned over forty times in Acts 1-13, became the dominant figure of the early Church. No major decision was taken, and no important step embarked upon, without guidance from the Holy Spirit. Once His will and power were manifest, the people pressed ahead, expecting powerful things to happen. They believed it was better to be looking for Him everywhere than nowhere.

Spreading the Gospel and being filled with the Holy Spirit are often placed together in Acts. Never try to separate them. We need a dread Champion to lead the charge against our dread enemy. Dr. Robert Garrett, professor of missions at Southwestern Seminary, reminds us we should expect resistance when advancing the kingdom. Spiritual warfare is especially intensified when we try to penetrate new cultures. Testing our commitment to the Lord is Satan’s God-allowed job.
Satan hits weak spots in our armor. He will use our own personal ambitions against us, and play on our natural insecurities. The devil does not play by the rules, he hits below the belt. Satan will even stoop to attacking us through weaker persons around us we love. Plan to see victims. War always entails carnage. Our only hope is to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to have Him fight our battles for us.

Ac 1:8d “. . .and ye shall be witnesses unto me. . .”

Our assignment is clear, be witnesses, bear testimony to what the Lord has done in and for us. Eloquence and finesse are not essential, nor is the power of logic of utmost importance. Winning arguments rarely wins souls. Few people are ever argued into the kingdom. If we are harsh and ugly in our presentation, the prechristian may be subdued, but not won. We may put them in their place, but they are still headed for Hell.
When rebuked by the Council, Peter and John replied, “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (AC 4:20). We are not required to relate things unknown by experience. We are able to testify of the things of God because we are witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus through the new birth. We are unable to explain everything, but can say, “This happened to me.”