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Empowered for a Spiritual Awakening

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Acts 1:6–26

We are called to take the gospel to a world that is ignorant of the truth and often hostile to it. It can seem like a daunting task, but like the apostles, we should approach it prayerfully and with the assurance the indwelling Holy Spirit will provide all the power we need.


The difference between the church in the book of Acts and the church around the world today is that today’s average church makes a lot of noise, while the church in Acts created a movement. It is one thing to have a lot of motion; it is another thing to have forward movement. Today we have many programs but little power.

And it is a shock for many Christians today to discover that the baptism of the Holy Spirit, promised here in Acts 1:5, was never intended to be the end in itself; rather, it was intended to bring about a spiritual awakening.

So, let’s join the early disciples as the resurrected Lord gives them some final words, here in Acts chapter 1 and verse 8:

But 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.”

According to this verse, the measure of a church is not the size of her membership but obedience to her mission. And the mark of maturity for every believer is not how much of the Bible you have learned, but how much of the Bible you have lived.

Now let’s back up here to verses 6-7, where Luke sets the stage for this promise of true empowerment:

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.

The disciples are asking a legitimate question here.

We are told in verse 4 Jesus’ disciples were gathered together in a room, but here in verse 6 they are gathered together on the Mount of Olives. And we know that because the Lord does not ascend through the ceiling, He ascends from the Mount of Olives (see verse 12). Verse 9 tells us, “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 Lord had taught them about His coming kingdom. Now they are on the Mount of Olives, and they are familiar with the prophecy of Zechariah about the Lord’s coming kingdom: “On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives . . . and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two” (Zechariah 14:4).

Well, here is the resurrected Messiah, and His feet are on the Mount of Olives. So, they ask, “Lord is it now?” They are right about the truth of the coming kingdom; they are just wrong about the timing of the kingdom.

You see, there was something God had not revealed to His Old Testament prophets—namely, that between the first coming and the second coming of the Lord, there would be the creation of something brand-new. That, of course, is the New Testament church and the age, or dispensation, of grace, when a bride would be gathered for the Messiah from every tongue, tribe, and nation on earth. This dispensation has now lasted 2,000 years.

While you will not read one word of rebuke from Jesus related to the future establishment of God’s kingdom, He does rebuke the disciples for trying to establish a date. That rebuke needs to be heard again today.

  • In American history, The Millerites in the 1800s (the forerunners of Seventh-Day Adventism), set date after date until they gave up.
  • I heard one evangelist announce to his television audience that the return of Christ for the church will occur sometime in the next twelve years. At least he was clever enough to give himself some running room.

People keep on predicting yet more dates, torturing some text of Scripture to get some clue that gives them the date. All the while they’re ignoring the Lord’s own words here in Acts 1:7—nobody knows.

But here is something encouraging: according to verse 7, God the Father is in complete control over all of human history. He is navigating it; He is steering everything toward the final destination of the coronation of His Son, our King and Messiah. And here is more good news: If God controls human history, He also controls your history—and your future.

Now Jesus continues by telling them something they can know with certainty—verse 8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”

They are going to receive power. The Greek word is dunamis, which gives us the words dynamite and dynamic.  He’s saying, “There is going to be a dynamic power operating in your life.”

Now do not misunderstand this, beloved; the Lord is not talking about an impersonal force; He is talking about an indwelling Person.

Jesus says the Holy Spirit will come upon the disciples. By the way, there is no period there—the sentence continues. What is going to happen then? “You will be my witnesses,” Jesus says. The Spirit of God will empower them to become witnesses on behalf of Christ.

Now that does not mean the Spirit of God is less important than the Son of God. They are equally God. It has nothing to do with essence; it has everything to do with function. The Holy Spirit will become the advertising agency for this new awakening through the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ.

Let me tell you, movements today that are focused on experiencing something from the Holy Spirit, pleading for more power in the Holy Spirit—they are missing the point. Here is the point—better yet, here is the priority: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (verse 8).

Jesus never called us to be His defense attorney, or a jury, or a judge. In the courtroom drama of human history, we have been called to take the stand as witnesses. What do witnesses do? They simply deliver personal testimony of what Christ has done for them.

Now after Jesus’ ascension and the disciples’ return to the city of Jerusalem, verse 14 tells us, “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer.” There could be no better preparation for being witnesses than this.

In verse 15 we learn that the group of disciples has swelled to some 120 individuals. Then in verses 16 to 20, Peter gives some further details about the suicide and disembowelment of Judas.

Frankly, these are sad and somber words. But then Peter quotes Psalm 109:8, which he applies to the need to select another disciple to round out the twelve apostles. They put forward two candidates: Justus and Matthias. The Bible says in verse 26, “They cast lots . . . and the lot fell on Matthias.”

In the Old Testament, casting lots was an approved method of discerning God’s will—remember, they did not have the completed Scriptures or the indwelling Holy Spirit. In fact, it is interesting that this event takes place prior to the Spirit’s indwelling and this will be the last recorded time that believers cast lots to determine God’s will.

With that, Matthias is chosen. But do not overlook the two qualifications for one to be an apostle, given here in verse 21. He had to have traveled with the Lord, being personally trained by Him; and he had to have physically witnessed the resurrected Lord.

By the way, these two qualifications cannot be met today, so anybody calling himself an apostle is stretching that title much too far.

Now some have argued that Matthias’s selection was a mistake. They argue that lots should not have been used or that the apostle Paul was God’s chosen replacement for Judas.

The Bible never rebukes the apostles’ actions, however. They all prayed together for some time before making this decision. And God never communicates any kind of objection. We are simply told, “The lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (verse 26).

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