All Jesus Began to Do and Teach

Title: All Jesus Began to Do and Teach

Text: Acts 1:1-2

Date: September 2, 2007

Today we start a brand new sermon series on the Book of Acts. As you know, the Book of Acts is a history of the early Christian church, the early years of Christianity. Acts is important because it gives us today a glimpse of what true and authentic Christianity really is or should be. Think about it: it’s been 2000 years since the time of Jesus, 2000 years of Christianity, 2000 years of the Christian church. How do we know what we call Christianity today or what we call church today is what it’s supposed to be? There is only one way to know that: compare what we do today with the Book of Acts, early Christianity, the original and authentic church, and wherever possible bring today into conformity with what was taking place back then. We must make the assumption that since Jesus is the source of Christianity and the Apostles are the original heirs of the faith, that their faith, their Christianity, their church would be closest to what Jesus taught. So we need the Book of Acts as a standard by which to guide all of our Christian life and the life of the Christian church especially. Acts is no theoretical book; it not called the Thoughts of the Apostles, it’s called the Acts of the Apostles, because it emphasizes what early Christians did in living out their faith, as opposed to merely what they thought or believed. Of course, it also describes what early Christians believed too, because it’s impossible not to act on what one believes. In fact, the early church acted the way it did because it believed the way it did. So we can’t separate the acts and the beliefs of the early Christians. Today, unfortunately, there is a large separation between what people say they believe and what they actually do or act upon. Today, in most of the lands where Christianity spread the farthest, lands such as Europe, North America and South America, there is a widening gap between what professed Christians say they believe and how they live, or how they act. It’s even that way in many or most churches in these same lands, where the original moral and ethical standards of Christianity are many times forgotten or completely neglected, all the while the doctrines or beliefs of Christianity are affirmed in some intellectual way. That’s not how the early church lived their Christianity, as the Book of Acts describes. We can learn much from Acts, much that would help us all live true and authentic Christian lives. I expect that we’ll be moving through Acts up to the holiday season, where we’ll break to celebrate Christmas for a number of weeks, and then continue in Acts after that. Rather than talk about everything the Book of Acts describes I’d like to ask and answer a number of key questions that come up as we move verse by verse through it. It’s my prayer that by hearing what God says in Acts we could be more thoroughly Christian in our lives and in the church. We’ll start by looking at Acts 1:1-2 (read).

First, Jesus was both a teacher and a doer. Acts 1:1-2, “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach, until he was taken up to heaven.” Now we know that Luke was both the author of the Gospel According to Luke and also the Book of Acts because it says so. In Luke’s first book, the Gospel According to Luke, he described what Jesus taught and did until he was taken up into heaven. In Luke’s second book, the Book of Acts, he describes what the Holy Spirit does through the Apostles and early Christians. Now notice what Luke says about Jesus – that he taught things and he did things. He didn’t just teach and he didn’t just do other things; he both taught things and did things in his ministry. Now it’s pretty clear that Jesus taught things to the people because we can remember off the top of our heads things that Jesus taught. For example, he taught the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” etc. He taught the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father which are in heaven, hallowed by thy Name.” Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are filled with the teachings of Jesus. How the world would be empty without the teachings of Jesus. The Communists, when they were a world power in Russia and spreading their poison to as many other countries as they could, tried to eliminate the teachings of Jesus from the face of the earth. They tried to end all Christianity. They tried to destroy all Bibles. They tried to do away with all the teachings of Jesus, but they couldn’t. And neither can anyone, ever do away with the teachings of Jesus because they are God’s eternal truths which no man can destroy ultimately. If you think the world is bad today, think about where it would be if it didn’t have the teachings of Jesus. Profound things such as, “Love thy neighbor as you love thyself,” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Jesus taught many things and all of them are important enough to read and re-read, learn and re-learn. That’s why we study our Bibles, or why we should study our Bibles over and over again, so that we can understand and learn Jesus’ teachings for us. But Jesus wasn’t just a teacher, he was a doer, he did things too. Think of the many things Jesus did: healed the sick of all kinds, miraculous healings. Jesus cast out demons, he drove out evil invading spirits from countless individuals giving them mental and emotional, as well as spiritual health. He also performed many different types of miracles, such as calming the wind and the waves, raising the dead from the grave, turning water into wine, etc. Then of course he died on the cross for our sins, and rose from the dead. Yes, Jesus not only taught, he acted, which sets a pattern for all his followers.

Second, we are called to believe and teach what Jesus taught. Acts 1:1-2, “. . . Jesus began to do and to teach. . . .” Just as Jesus taught, we are called to believe what he taught, and to teach others what he taught. Truth must be a high priority in the Christian’s life. Unlike our culture today, Christians are to emphasize truth not de-emphasize it. Today, our culture is more and more embracing what is called relativism, that is, there is no final, absolute truth; truth is what we make it out to be, or what we feel it to be, but in no way is it fixed, absolute, and final. That’s what our modern culture teaches today, but it’s not what God teaches us. On the contrary, God, through the Bible, teaches us that the world was made by God, for God. We are creatures made by God to love and obey Him, yet our original parents, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God and led the whole human race into sin. The whole world is in rebellion against God to one degree or another. The sin and evil we experience in the world is a direct result of this rebellion against God. If left uncorrected, every single person will perish in their sins, face judgment before God, and be condemned to eternal punishment. But God in his love for us sent Jesus to live and die in order that we might be forgiven of our sins, and through faith in the gospel live to eternal life in heaven. So much of the Christian message depends on truth, that’s why the current, popular philosophy of relativism is so destructive. If people don’t think there really is any absolute, final truth, then they won’t take the message of sin and salvation seriously. And if they don’t take that message seriously, they won’t be saved. And if they aren’t saved, they will perish for eternity. So the truth of the gospel, and even the whole Bible both Old and New Testaments is essential. We are called to believe the truth of God and also to teach others the truth so that they might believe. Do you believe God’s truth? Do you believe all of it? Another popular misconception today is to think that we can pick and choose which parts of the truth of the Bible we want to believe, while rejecting other parts. But that’s wrong. We can’t just pick and choose which parts of the Bible we feel like believing and reject the other parts we don’t feel like believing. That’s almost as bad as complete relativism. Yet, we find that attitude even in some parts of the church today. Do you know what the gospel message is? Can you explain it to someone else? Do you know the doctrines of the Christian faith? Do you believe them all? Sadly, there are professed Christians here in Jamestown, even some ministers in some churches here in downtown Jamestown, that don’t even believe in the basic doctrines of Christianity. That’s wrong. We are called to believe the truth, the teachings of the Bible, of Jesus, and also to teach them to others so that they believe. Are we doing that?

Third, we are called to live and do the teachings and truths from God. Acts 1:1-2, “. . . all that Jesus began to do and to teach. . . .” Like Jesus, we are called to do things, not just believe and teach things. It’s interesting that under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Luke’s second book is called The Acts of the Apostles instead of The Beliefs of the Apostles or The Thoughts of the Apostles or even The Teachings of the Apostles. Isn’t it interesting that under the inspiration of God the Book emphasized the doing aspect of faith and not just the believing aspect? I’ve already talked about how important it is that we know and believe the truth. We can never let go of the truth. It’s like an anchor that holds us steady in a crazy, mixed up world. But learning and believing God’s truth is not enough; it’s only one-half of the equation of faith. We must also live out or act upon or do what we profess to believe. I don’t have to explain how it’s possible to profess faith yet fail to live that profession of faith because we all know that it’s possible to separate faith and works. The big challenge of the Christian life is to live what we believe. For example, I can understand and totally believe in the Apostle Paul’s teaching on love in 1 Corinthians 13. I can believe strongly that I should be a loving person, but that doesn’t guarantee that I will be a loving person; just because I believe in the teachings on love doesn’t make me a loving person. I must apply the teachings to my life and pray to God for the power to become a loving person. Someone once put it this way, “I’ve got to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.” Jesus not only taught truth, he lived out the truth in his life. That’s our goal: we’ve got to believe the truth and also live out the truth in our lives. Now some Christians think that once they’ve learned God’s Word and believed God’s Word, then they’ve arrived. But that’s not true. They are missing the final step – living God’s truth in life. We just got done studying the love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13. We learned a lot. Many of you probably could almost recite the whole chapter from memory. We probably all believe what we’ve learned about love, but now the big challenge is can we live that way? We not only need to pray daily, “Lord teach me your ways,” but also, “Lord, help me to live what you teach me and what I believe.” Luke reminds us at the very beginning of the Book of Acts that Jesus both taught and lived Christianity, and he reminds us that we are called to do the same. The early Christian church wasn’t perfect but they lived what they believed. But it wasn’t through natural human effort that they were able to live out their faith. It was through the power of the Holy Spirit, as we’ll see.

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