The Cutting Room Floor: The Spirit’s Kingdom Power
One of the greatest challenges for any preacher is deciding what not to say. Once we’ve taken the editor’s knife to our work, we’re left with a mess of material strewn about the cutting room floor. These posts are my way of sharing some of what couldn’t be said in Sunday morning’s sermon.
Today’s post follows our 2/9/20 sermon on Acts 1:1-5 – “What Are You Waiting For?” To listen, click here.
In Acts 1:2-3, Luke tells us that Jesus spent the time between his resurrection and ascension giving commands through the Holy Spirit, presenting Himself alive by many proofs, and speaking about the kingdom of God. We talked about Jesus’ living presence and the Spirit’s power in both his teaching and ours, but we didn’t say too much about His kingdom teaching.
The fact of the matter is, Luke doesn’t tell us exactly what Jesus had to say about the Kingdom during those 40 days. For that reason, many throughout Church History have laid claim to this bit of teaching. For the many-headed-hydra known as Gnosticism, Jesus spent this time doling out “insider knowledge” for the mystical elite. For others in a more Catholic vein, this was part of the unwritten tradition that would come to be an authority with and/or over Scripture.
Well, which is it? Traditionally, Protestants have opted for door #3. This isn’t an instance of “secret teaching.” Rather, Luke is calling up a major theme of Jesus’ ministry—really, the whole Bible—that the Church will take up as it preaches the gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
In the Old Testament, the people thought of God as their King (Ex 15:18) and believed His kingship to be especially manifest in Israel (Ps 147:20), but they also looked forward to the day when it would be established over all the world (103:19). They understood their own kings to be little rulers in service to the King of Kings. After Israel fell, though, they began to think about the kingdom in terms of a heavenly reality that would break in at the end of time (Dan 2:44; 7:13-14). The New Testament sees the expectation fulfilled in Jesus. The Kingdom has drawn near in His ministry (Mark 1:14-15) and has been released in power at his death and exaltation (Mark 9:1; Rom 1:3). When the disciples preached, they relayed the Good News about God’s Kingdom (Acts 28:23). Acts ends with Paul in Rome “proclaiming the kingdom of God” (28:31).
So, there’s no reason to think that Jesus spent those 40 days doing anything other than preparing His apostles to go out and preach about the Kingdom. As we unpack that preaching in the coming weeks, we’ll learn more about what He had to say to them.
The thing we can take from this, though, is the significance of the Spirit who enables us to receive Jesus’ kingdom teaching and reflect it out into the world. As we learned yesterday, the Spirit empowers us in much the same way He empowered Jesus. He doesn’t do that as a free agent, floating around and empowering people at a whim to perform a bit of healing here and spot of resurrection there. No, at every point, the Spirit is intentionally enabling people to experience the truth, goodness, and beauty of the heavenly kingdom that has drawn near in Christ. Throughout Acts, the Spirit’s miraculous work is all ordered toward that glorious end.
What does that mean for us?
It means that everytime the Spirit shows up powerfully in our midst, the Father is declaring to the world that the kingdom of His beloved Son has broken into our fallen world. Everytime…
- a prayer is answered,
- a loved one is healed,
- a sinner gets saved,
- a pattern of sin and addiction is broken,
- a marriage is restored,
- a child confesses her parents’ faith as her own,
- or any of the other ways in which God shows up in our lives…
God is saying to the watching world that Christ is risen, His Spirit has been poured out upon His people, and the words they speak on His behalf are every bit as living and active as Jesus is.
The kingdom is here! As citizens of that heavenly kingdom, we have been naturalized into a holy nation of royal priests. We have been saved by the blood of Jesus and sanctified by the power of the Spirit to go out and tell the world about our great and glorious King.
Through the Son and Spirit we have all been granted access to our heavenly Father. He will show up in all our lives this week. I pray we will have eyes to see and hearts to receive Him when He does. Most importantly, though, I pray He would give us lips to tell our friends all about it.