Dynamic Power – Acts 1:8
By: Alistair Brown
(Part 6 in a series on Acts 1.)
No one can be one hundred percent sure which words were the final words Jesus spoke on the earth. But, in Luke’s record in Acts, the words we come to now are those final words. This is what Jesus wanted the disciples to hear before he returned to glory.
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
What Jesus said that day put disciples to work on the greatest, most important, eternally significant task ever set before men and women. But his words must have seemed almost ludicrous when Jesus uttered them. He was speaking to good people but they were also very ordinary people who were terrified by what they had seen done to Jesus and who were still hiding from the Jewish authorities. It must have been overwhelming and almost impossible to believe Jesus’ words, for his message was that they would be Jesus’ witnesses right to the ends of the earth.
Impossible? Ordinarily, yes. But these were the words of Jesus, and they came with promises.
1. Jesus promised the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus promised the Spirit of God, the Spirit they had seen in Jesus day after day.
By the Spirit he had spoken words that changed lives, including theirs.
By the Spirit he had touched the sick and they had been healed.
By the Spirit he had commanded demons and they had gone.
By the Spirit he had used a child’s lunch to feed over five thousand.
By the Spirit he had brought the dead back to life.
By the Spirit he had challenged religious leaders with wisdom and authority.
By the Spirit he had lived a life of perfect goodness.
By the Spirit he had chosen his Father’s will over his own and gone to the cross.
By the Spirit he had been raised from the dead and now stood before them.
That same Spirit – the Spirit of the living God – was being promised to them.
And, said Jesus, that Spirit would come with power.
One Sunday afternoon Alison and I heard a sudden, massively loud, thunderous noise and our house shook. We looked at each other. “That’s not thunder,” I said. Alison kept the children safe while I went outside and just around the corner of our home. Less than fifty yards away should have been another house, but it wasn’t there. Not any more. There was only a large heap of rubble with smoke drifting up from the center.
A moment later a small boy – maybe ten or twelve – crawled out from the debris. He was blackened by the blast and scratched and bruised by the rubble, but physically unharmed. But he was shaking with shock, and thankfully minutes later an ambulance arrived for him. But not before he told us he had been the only one in the house. It had been unoccupied for months, and he wanted somewhere quiet to smoke a cigarette so had crawled inside. What he didn’t know was that there had been a gas leak in that house and for days the gas had been building up inside, and the moment he struck a match… literally the house came down all around him.
The truly amazing thing was that the little lad had come out alive, for the house was completely destroyed. Not one part of the structure was intact. The walls had blown out, the roof had come down, every fitting was torn from its place. Simply nothing remained as it had been. It was in pieces. He struck a match, and the power of the explosion left nothing standing.
The power Jesus promised would not be destructive but constructive for the work of the kingdom. But it would be power. Mighty power.
The Greek word we translate as power is dynamis, from which we get the word ‘dynamite.’ Even before it was associated with explosives, the word carried the meaning of huge power, power that affects everything around it. The Holy Spirit would be in them and would come with that kind of power. It was quite a promise.
Maybe it was strategic Jesus made that promise before they were told the size of the task ahead! Their mission would be completely beyond their ability but never beyond what the Spirit of God could accomplish. God never sends anyone to do his work with only their own resources. Disciples have the power – the dynamis – of the Holy Spirit.
2. Jesus promised that they will be his witnesses.
Sometimes a promise is that certain things will be true. They will happen.
On June 4, 1940, during the darkest early months of war against Nazi Germany, Prime Minister Winton Churchill gave a stirring speech in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Here are some of his most famous words:
“We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
Stirring stuff. That is how it will be, Churchill was telling the nation. This is what will happen.
Jesus promise was just as definite. He was saying to his disciples: “This is what will happen: you will be my witnesses.”
They’re not being invited to be witnesses, not even called or commanded to be witnesses. They will be his witnesses.
They had walked the roads with him.
They had heard his teaching.
They had seen his miracles.
They knew how he lived.
They now understood his message.
Therefore, they would be his witnesses. They could be good witnesses or bad witnesses, but they would be witnesses.
That is still true for all who follow Jesus. We are witnesses to what we know and what we have experienced. We can live well or badly. We can be half-hearted or whole-hearted. But we are Christ’s witnesses and people are influenced for good or ill by what we say and what we do.
The Holy Spirit is given so that witness can be good. We can be effective witnesses in the biggest mission imaginable.
3. Jesus promised they would take the gospel around the world.
It would start where they were, Jerusalem, and out it would spread through them around the country and to neighboring nations and eventually right across the world – Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. A pebble dropped in water creates ripples that reach right to the edges of the pool. The gospel will create waves, not ripples, and they will spread ever outwards until everyone across the face of the earth has heard. This was God’s mission – a mission to the whole world – and they would be his witnesses. And they must not and could not limit that mission.
- It was bigger than their vision. They would have to learn: God loves Israel but not only Israel. God so loved the world he gave his Son for the world that whoever, from any part of the world, believes in him shall have eternal life.
- It was bigger than their comfort. He’d take them places they did not want to go. He’d lead them to people they did not want to meet. He’d allow hardship and suffering they did not want to experience. Being his witnesses meant all these things and more.
Nothing has changed. The Holy Spirit is not given to disciples for their amusement or to make them feel good. The Spirit is the life-changing power of God, and high among God’s purposes in giving us his Spirit is so we can be his witnesses, clothed in his power, taking his gospel to all people.
There’s an old legend – and it is just a simple story designed to convey a simple truth – of Jesus being welcomed home to heaven by the angels, with great praise for his work on earth: his life, death, resurrection. Finally one angel asks: “Now tell us Lord, how many legions of angels shall we gather to take the good news to all people around the world?”
“No legions of angels,” said Jesus. “I’ve given the work to eleven people back on earth.”
Uproar breaks out among the angels. “But Lord, you know what people are like, how easily and often they fail. What other plan do you have if they fail?”
“No other plan,” replies Jesus. “Just them.”
That’s just a story, but it has a challenge. Thank God his mission comes with the Spirit’s power so we will not fail in being his witnesses to everyone everywhere.