Some of you (should you wish to admit) watched the royal wedding this past Friday. I confess, I did watch some of it in the morning, then my wife, my girls and I watched the follow-up (since the girls didn’t have a chance to see any of it live). In our democracy where our leaders are elected by the majority of the population, England’s system of government seems like a bit of fairy tale and a bit of antiquity. The separation of royalty and commoner is understood and accepted. And with all this, two billion people around the world tuned in. Why?
All of us, to one degree or another, are intrigued by the crowning of a king or a would-be king. Some say that Duke William (28) has been photographed more times in his life than anyone else because this man will one day, should he live any amount of time, be king. With Queen Elizabeth being 85 years old and her mother living until she was 101, she may well outlive Prince Charles (62). William could be the next king! And this enchants so very many.
Yet, for the Christian, there is a king who is reigning and will reign physically on earth at some point in the future—and this intrigues and enchants us. As we begin the book of Acts, we see that a new phase of the Kingdom of God. Jesus came to preach early in his earthly ministry that they should “repent, for the Kingdom of God has come” (Mark 1:15). Progressively, God’s rule is being established more and more, and with Christ’s coming, God’s fullness of his Kingdom has come with the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:4).
P.G. Mathew once preached,
The greatest need of the modern world is to have the gospel proclaimed in the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the final command the Lord Jesus Christ gave to his disciples before he ascended into heaven was that they should declare the kingdom of God to all nations. Yet today’s Christians are almost silent in terms of declaring God’s praises. Oh, they may vigorously praise God within the walls of a church, but most refrain from proclaiming the gospel to the world outside of the church.
The book of Acts put into motion that “greatest need” in having “the gospel proclaimed in the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit. Luke wrote two books found in the New Testament: one bears his name (the Gospel of Luke) and the other is the book of Acts. As a historian and physician, Luke gave some great detail as to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in Luke; and here he gets into the first generation of the early church.
Consider too how much of Luke’s writings take up: ¼ of the NT. At the end of Luke, Jesus gave the marching orders: “You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:48-49).
Luke notes that this is “all that Jesus began to do and teach.” In other words, what Jesus did in Luke during his earthly ministry was just the beginning. Now he would leave them but continue to work in them through the Spirit! Jesus spent 40 days with his disciples. While they may have thought this was the end, it was really just the beginning. A Christ-centered church is one with confident, Spirit-filled, Spirit-led disciples serving as ambassadors of King Jesus.
1. A Christ-centered church is filled with confident followers of Christ.
Christians are of all people on the planet the most confident. By confidence, I do not mean arrogant. Arrogance is egotistical, proud, big-headed. Confidence is one who is sure, certain, and convinced about their position. How did this happen?
In Acts 1:1-5, we see that Jesus presented Himself to His disciples. They were to be confident in the fact that Christ chose them. He commissioned the apostles, giving them marching orders. They were his cabinet. He filled them in on two particular items.
First, he gave them proofs about his resurrection. At the end of Luke, we read how they saw him along with the wounds of his hands and feet. They touched his wounds. And they heard him. This was a completely sensory experience. Stott expands on this, “Such an objective experience of the risen Lord was an indispensable qualification of an apostle, which explains why Paul could be one and James and why there have been no comparable apostles since and can be none today.”
Yet as far as the rest, what was the result. Some believed. Some “still disbelieved for joy and were marveling” (Luke 24:41). Some outright doubted (Matthew 28:16). But the fact is, Jesus gave them proofs. The evidence is there. And they needed to be there with him, so they could that confidence that their Lord really lives so they could take that elsewhere.
As an aside, I believe it also gives evidence to the brutality of the cross. They knew about crucifixions, but they also knew about death: no one defeats death, especially a crucifixion. The carnage that the crucifixion of Jesus was to such a degree that, as Isaiah prophesied, he was unrecognizable (Isaiah 52:14). They needed this time with Jesus so the Spirit could have their minds renewed to the fact that He is alive. He really did defeat death. And thus, he defeated sin.
Secondly, he spoke about the Kingdom of God. What does this mean? Go back to Luke 24:24-27, 44: He shared with the disciples on Emmaus Road and the other disciples later “everything written about” him in the Moses, Prophets, and Psalms. Not only was Jesus telling them about what they were to do, He spent a great deal telling them about who He was.
Over the last 100+ years, we have been bathed in this notion that we should focus on what we should do. Charles Sheldon wrote a book entitled “In His Steps” and that book was where we first saw the question, “What would Jesus do?” We hear church trumpet that they are not about doctrine (too divisive) but about service. Being clear and precise about doctrine is scoffed upon. So we find ourselves looking through the Scriptures to find a nugget about what we should do, that we do not want to dig into doctrinal issues about the nature and work that’s already been accomplished through Christ.
We know what Jesus spoke on the Emmaus Road and to the disciples—it’s fleshed out in the rest of the NT in beautiful ways, showing the continuity of the OT with the NT. The KOG is unlocked and girded by the gospel of Jesus Christ. They were to be ‘witnesses,’ ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). They were not there to draft a new constitution, to run His people their own way. They were ambassadors, sent to one country as representatives of another.
2. A Christ-centered church is a Spirit-empowered people.
In Acts 1:4-5, Luke writes,
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which he said, “you heard 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).
In the OT, God the Father made a promise that he would keep in the NT: sending the Holy Spirit. Here, Luke goes back to what John the Baptist preached: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 3:16)—that is, for Christians there would be empowerment, and with that Spirit comes the fire of judgment when the Word that the Spirit inspired comes forth.
Yet, God promised in Joel 2:28-32
And it shall come to pass afterward,
That I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
And your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female servants
In those days I will pour out my Spirit.
And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.
This has been so often attributed to the very end times, but this place during Jesus’ crucifixion. And with “great and awesome day of the Lord” which is the resurrection, the Spirit is poured out once Jesus’ earthly ministry is finished.
In Ezekiel 36:25-27, we read:
25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
God even sent the Spirit at times in the OT, very evident in the book of Judges. The judges were the leaders of God’s people who were empowered by the Spirit for the purpose of conquest, judgment, and deliverance/rescue.
This foreshadows the Spirit’s work now. It would not simply be selective to a few leaders or a few people, but would pour out on all disciples, Jew and Gentile (Isaiah 32:15).
3. Christ-centered Christ has Spirit-led people.
 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.  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” (Acts 1:6-8).
Jesus not only broke through their perceptions about the effects of the crucifixion and death itself, but he also broke through their mindsets regarding the nature of His kingdom. This would not be a political kingdom based in this world, per se. This restoration of the Kingdom to Israel would not be accomplished by pushing out Roman rule. The Kingdom has a wider reach than that. In fact, the borders of Israel (the people of God in Abraham) would be extended to include both Jew and Gentile.
They will receive a new Kingdom, but do so through not through a political kingdom but a spiritual one. It would not come through nationalism (racial descendants of Israel) but through an expansion of the witness to where the True Israel would be the church, not simply racial descendants of Abraham. After all, Paul said in Galatians 6:16:
 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.  And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God (Galatians 6:14-16 ESV).
What is the ‘Israel of God’? Paul uses this term to describe the church, not simply a national entity. This is a spiritual entity brought about through Father Abraham who would make a great nation—not a nation based on race, but a nation based on grace through faith. The true Israel are all those who have received the coming Messiah, who have been grafted into that beautiful olive shoot to feast on the marrow of God’s grace (read Romans 11:11-24).
Plus, they thought this would be an immediate overthrow and instituting of a new order. Not so in that manner. Christ has claimed the victory over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:56-57) and has already proclaimed that victory to this world and even in the nether regions of the world (1 Peter 3:18-21). But during this interim between the resurrection/ascension and His return, Zion is marching forth as we His body, His temple of the Holy of Holies (the Holy Spirit) presses on.
God has made it clear that those who follow the apostles teaching (Acts 2:42), that is, followers of Christ are sent as ambassadors to testify as witnesses in a foreign country that Christ has won the victory over sin, atoning for sin and providing freedom through repentance and forgiveness. These ambassadors (us) are not around to draw up a new way of doing things—they are delivering the message entrusted to them by one who commissioned them.
One pastor from California shared his experience about visiting an embassy in a war-torn country. As he walked about this embassy, he noticed that this American embassy looked very … American. And there is a reason for that: that embassy by international law is considered American territory. This is why when in 1980 when those 52 hostages were taken by the Iranians from that embassy, the travesty was that they in essence invaded American soil, though they were surrounded by a foreign country with different ideals.
In essence, this church of Jesus Christ is, as one author put it, an embassy of grace. Although the church is surrounded by a foreign people with different ideals, we do not belong here nor do we operate by the way the world works. This is an embassy of grace established by Christ Himself, and we are His ambassadors to this war-torn world that is moaning and groaning for reconciliation to the way it was created (Romans 8:18-25).
In closing, dear friends, do you understand that if you are a follower of Christ then you are an ambassador of the Lord Jesus? As Christians, Acts 2:42 shows what the church should be and do: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and the prayers.” Are we devoted to the laws, commands, promises, and precepts outlined in Scripture and fulfilled by the One who purchased us with His precious blood? Are we making disciples who find their identity in the One sent to save them from their sin and, ultimately, will follow the Word of Christ?
If you have not trusted in Christ this morning, please know what the King of kings is up to—arming and equipping witnesses for conquest! As we go through Acts, you will notice that the majority of ‘sermons’ in here are making announcements about what Christ has already done. You cannot live by WWJD? You need to ponder, What has Jesus already done? And why did He need to do it? They preached the Word that is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword. The Word cuts and kills. The Word brings life. What is the Word doing this morning?
P. G. Mathew, The Mandate from the Master. Accessed 26 April 2011; available at http://gracevalley.org/sermon_trans/1998/Mandate_of_Master.html [on-line]; Internet.
John Stott, Acts, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990), 35.