“In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:1-3).
Usually death is viewed as the end; the end of life, the end of relationships on this earth, and the end of someone’s impact on this earth. Many times people’s legacies live on, even after someone’s life has been cut short. Amazingly, the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ were just the beginning.
Luke wrote both the book of Luke, and the book of Acts. Almost 23 chapters were spent detailing the life of Jesus, while the 24th chapter detailed the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Somehow after all of that, Luke began the book of Acts by saying, “I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach.” What a profound statement. The ministry of God through Jesus had just begun, and Luke was privileged to describe, in detail, the beginning.
So what did that mean for the rest of what Luke wrote in the book of Acts? What did it mean for the original disciples, for the early church, for Christians over church history; and then what does it mean for us today? What this means is that the gospels were just the beginning. God’s plan continued to be unfolded, as it did throughout the Old Testament, and beyond.
God’s plan was to send Jesus to earth to build into and equip the twelve disciples to take the message they had been taught while Jesus was on earth, and to spread that same message to the ends of the earth. Their command was clear at the beginning of Acts. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). In addition, we remember Jesus’ words to Peter when he said, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Who was going to build God’s church? The disciples were not; Jesus was! In addition to this, consider Paul’s words to the church in Ephesus when he said, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12).
What does all of this mean? What do all of these passages together, say? They teach very directly that God has called me to rally together the body of Christ to send them out to do the work of ministry as they share the Good News of Jesus Christ as witnesses for him. But the greater comfort in this is found in the passage in Matthew 16:18. It is not our responsibility to build the church! God promises that He will build His church. We are merely to be faithful as sent out ones to be his witnesses. As we are his witnesses, we are privileged to see God’s work continue even beyond what he had begun to do through Luke, and what he has begun to do in and through us. Lord, make me faithful to my calling, and cause me to be fruitful in it!