A Christian View of History
Alistair Begg contributes a section to this collection that ponders the mystery of a dramatic transformation that occurs after Acts, chapter two.
The first chapter of Acts presents the ascension of Jesus. Before He ascends, though, we are privileged to a conversation between Him and the apostles. They have a question. Throughout the Gospels there is a certain expectation of Jesus. His disciples anticipate the coming of world power to Israel. When Jesus speaks of a kingdom, they are hearing something much different from what He delivers. They desire to see Israel powerful as it was in the days of David and Solomon.
It presents no surprise then that the apostles inquire, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6)”
Alistair writes, “Now, this is actually the wrong question. It is wrong chronologically, and it is wrong geographically. It is surely understandable, but it is wrong. Jesus’ answer to this question establishes for them — and for us — the way in which the kingdom of God comes. It establishes for them the significance of what we are referring to as “the age of the Spirit.” The short answer Jesus gives them is that the kingdom comes through the preaching of the gospel, by the Holy Spirit.”
The dramatic change Begg refers to is seen in Peter’s life and in his preaching. He says, “In Acts 2, Peter begins to preach. And what does he do? He stands up with the eleven and tells the people that the men they have heard speaking in tongues are not drunk, as the people think, for it is only 9:00 in the morning. Rather, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel. Here he takes the Bible and brings it to bear upon the circumstances, circumstances about which he himself has been so phenomenally confused. And, as we read Acts 2, we discover that Jesus is the center and substance of Peter’s preaching.”
Alistair continues by describing the Spirit’s work in the mission of the Church. In Acts 1, remember the disciple’s were focused on Jerusalem. They desired to see its Temple restored to the magnificent days of Solomon. They desired to see all nations demonstrating honor and respect upon this great city. Begg states, “What does Jesus tell them? He says, ‘Actually, that’s not going to happen.’ Surely they wanted to ask Him, ‘Why not?’ Jesus essentially tells them, ‘Because you are going to go out into another world. That’s why I want you to wait until you receive the power of the Holy Spirit, so that you might do what the Spirit has been given to you to do.’ Jesus is going to leave them physically, but He is going to be present with them by His Spirit. He is going to send them out to the ends of the earth. Why? Because the church is a missionary church.”
The author doesn’t confine this dramatic change to the age of the apostles only. He defines “The Age of the Spirit” as the age that will remain until the Lord returns. He writes, “But you must also appropriate the Spirit in how you live day by day. This means that you look to Jesus for pardon and for power. He will give you both, through His Spirit. You will begin to see that power at work in your life… You will begin to see things change, simply by appropriating personally what the Holy Spirit has promised in His Word.”
Alistair Begg closes this chapter with the words from an old hymn.
“Come down, O love divine, seek Thou this soul of mine, And visit it with Thine own ardor glowing. O Comforter, draw near, within my heart appear, And kindle it, Thy holy flame bestowing.” Bianco of Sienna, “Come Down, O Love Divine,” c. 1434