This is the introductory installment of a four part series on the first chapter of Acts. This is a series by Joshua Taylor.
A REPEAT PERFORMANCE OF PENTECOST
William Wilberforce was responsible for abolishing the slave trade in England during the early 1800’s. What’s so striking about his situtation is that the moral climate of that place and time is very reminiscent of our country and generation today. In the midst of moral decay, Wilberforce still had hope.
As a matter of fact, he penned the following: “My own solid hopes for the well-being of my country depend, not so much on her navies or armies, nor on the wisdom of her rulers, nor on the spirit of her people, as to the persuasion that she still contains many who love and obey the gospel of Christ.”
Likewise, I believe that there is still hope for America today for the same reason. I see how greed dominates the marketplace, how sex drives the media, how economics divide the classes, how special interest groups run our politics, and how crime paralyzes our cities, but believe it or not, I think we should not in the least bit be discouraged.
Here’s why! The birthplace of Christianity was in at time that is a lot like ours and the early 1800’s of England. The Roman Empire was just as filthy if not worse than America or England. Do you know that some of the large cities were so unsafe that you wouldn’t dare walk through them? That in the times of Roman peace, there were 32,000 prostitutes in Rome? That emperors were infamous for wasting money on lavish parties where guests ate and drank until they became sick? That the most popular amusement of the day was watching the gruesome gladiator fights in the coliseum? However, in the midst of all of this, Christianity spread like wildfire!
Tertullian, an early church father, writes at end of the second century: “We are but of yesterday and yet we already fill your cities, island, your palace, senate and forum, we have left to you only your temples.”
Even critics of Christianity attested to the great gospel of Christ! Lucian, a second-century Greek satirist affirmed: “These misguided creatures (Christians) start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take quite on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property.”
We always point to our wicked culture as our reason for not proclaiming Christ, yet the record of the Church demonstrates that's when it's done best. What made the difference? What caused the disciples to go from Jerusalem all the way to Rome to make Jesus famous? How could that happen in a society so grotesque?
And more importantly, how can we do that today? The answer goes back to the very thing that changed the lives of those early church men and women: Pentecost. So, what is Pentecost?
Pentecost is described in Acts 2. In brief, Pentecost was when the Holy Spirit enabled the witnesses of the resurrection to go and extend the church according to the Great Commission. The Holy Spirit empowered believers to make Jesus famous in and through their lives, and that’s what we need today.
But how does that happen? The disciples had to prepare their own hearts before they could receive empowerment to go and carry out the Great Commission. Before ever looking to Acts 2, we need to examine Acts 1.
I see three truths from Acts 1 that we desperately need to rediscover in order to see the Holy Spirit come and move us out to reach the world for Jesus Christ. If He could do it in the Roman Empire, He can do it in America today.
...Joshua Taylor, College Student and Student Body Chaplain at Toccoa Falls College