"In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen."
The first few verses of chapter one constitute an introduction to the book of Acts, giving us the key to the book. Here we have revealed the essential strategy by which Jesus Christ proposes to change the world, a strategy which is the secret of the revolutionary character of the church when it is operating as it was intended to operate. I strongly suspect that most Christians suffer from a terrible inferiority complex when we confront the world around us. We have bought the idea of many around that the church is quite irrelevant, a not-at-all-important segment of society. That view is absolutely false. The church is the most important body in the world today — far and away beyond every other body — because whatever happens in the world happens as a result of something that is, or is not, happening in the church.
Now, in his first statement here, Dr. Luke gives us the great strategy by which the Lord works among mankind. He says, In my former book...I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach... The Gospel of Luke is the record of the incarnation of the Son of God. Jesus, the man, came to begin something, to do and to teach, and the record of that beginning is in the Gospels. But, by clear implication, this second book is the continuation of what Jesus began to do. In a very real sense, Acts is not the acts of Christians, but the continuing acts of Jesus. It is an account of what Jesus continues to do and to teach. In the Gospels he did it in his physical body of flesh. In the book of Acts he is doing it through the bodies of men and women who are indwelt by his life. Thus, whether in the Gospels or in Acts, incarnation is the secret strategy by which God changes the world.
Whenever God wants to get a message across to men he does not simply send someone to announce it; his final way of driving it home is to dress the message in flesh and blood. He takes a life and aims it in a certain direction and, by the manifestation of his own life through the blood and flesh of a human being, he makes clear what he has to say. That is the strategy of the book of Acts. It is the record of incarnation; men and women, possessed by Jesus Christ, owned by him, and thus manifesting his life. That is the secret of authentic Christianity. Anytime you find a Christianity that is not doing that, it is false Christianity. No matter how much it may adapt the garb and language of Christianity, if it is not the activity of human beings possessed and indwelt by the life of Jesus Christ it is not authentic Christianity. That is the true power of the church, as we shall see in this book.
The book of Acts therefore is an unfinished book. It has never been ended, but is still being written. The book abruptly closes with an account of Paul in the city of Rome, living in his own hired house. It just ends there as though you might turn over the next page and begin the next adventure. This book is Volume 1, and we are writing Volume 20 now. It may well be the last volume in the series. I hope so.
Father, thank you for this insight into the way by which you do your work. Forgive me for my blindness toward this plan, and my failure to take seriously these words. But thank you for the excitement that is mine as I rediscover this power in my own age.
Life Application: In our fervor to adapt to cultural changes, have we neglected the fundamental principles both taught and empowered by the Lord of the Church?