After their Lord ascended into heaven, the disciples stared into the sky, having just have receiving instruction to remain in Jerusalem until they were immersed by the promised Holy Spirit. They had to wait for this, because in order for Christ to continue acting on the earth even though He was in heaven, He had to form His spiritual body. And He will do this by sending His Holy Spirit who will immerse His followers into His body.
In Acts1:12-13, we see the disciples obeying the Lord’s command by returning to Jerusalem and waiting there. Verse 12 states their return to Jerusalem simply as a matter of fact, but really, that action was quite remarkable. They obeyed His command despite the fact that might very well be persecuted once they got there. Consider the individuals in this list of those who obeyed the Lord. Every one of them had deserted the Lord at his crucifixion. One had denied Him. One had doubted. This whole list is a testimony to God’s grace and further highlights the fact that there is nothing remarkable about these men; it is Christ who will be acting through feeble servants in order to accomplish His will.
Yet this obedience marks the first of several noteworthy characteristics of these men who would be the founders of the first Church. Over the next few weeks, we are going to examine this passage and list those characteristics that marked these men — characteristics that should mark us if we want to be used in similar ways to further Christ’s Kingdom through our witness; characteristics that should mark us if we want to be a healthy body through whom the ascended Christ can act.
These characteristics are introduced in verse 14:
They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers (Acts 1.14).
This verse is the first of one of Luke’s characteristic “summaries” in Acts where he gives a generalized review of the activity of believers. He does this several times in the book where he says, “This is what they did” in a kind of summary fashion, and then the rest of the passage illustrates and describes further his summary. And so verse 14 begins his description of these characteristics that marked the founders of the first Church.
Now the remarkable thing about these characteristics is that they are not unique to this passage. Each of the characteristics of these men that we list emerges throughout the book of Acts as a pattern within the early church. In other words, these characteristics are not one-time occurrences, but are necessary qualities of those whom God will use to accomplish His purposes. And I think that is why Luke takes the time to describe what they did during their time of waiting — these are characteristics of people who will comprise a healthy body.
Now, I must note that God works how He wants and when He wants. He does not need us to be a certain way or act a certain way in order to accomplish His will. He uses all sorts of people, and He often uses those whom we would never expect. He used Baalam’s donkey, didn’t he? And the Scriptures are full of examples of God using sinful people to accomplish His will. So God can use you whether or not you exhibit these characteristics. However, from our point of view, we will not experience the blessings of God using us unless we do exhibit these characteristics.
So I want to focus for a few weeks on the subject of the characteristics of the founders of the first Church in order to set them up as a model of what we should be if we want to experience God’s blessings.
Next week we’ll look at the first of these characteristics.