Look at the opening sentence of the book of Acts.
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach—Acts 1:1
This book was written by Luke, the same man who wrote the gospel of Luke. When he says “my former book,” he is referring to the gospel of Luke. Also, he is writing to someone named, Theophilus. His name literally means “loved by God.” Many people think he was a highly-placed Roman official.
Then we come to a very important statement. In referring to the gospel of Luke, he says that he was writing about “all that Jesus began to do and to teach.” We know that the gospel of Luke contains the story of Jesus from his birth until his ascension into heaven. It’s the story of what Jesus did and said while he was on the earth. But why did he add the word “began?” That’s an interesting way to put it. Does he mean that Jesus did many things he didn’t record in his book? That’s certainly true because John told us that if they tried to tell everything He did there wouldn’t be enough books to contain it all, but it doesn’t make sense in this context. So let me ask it another way: Why would Luke begin his second volume by saying he had written about what Jesus began to do? The answer isn’t hard to find. The gospel of Luke tells us what Jesus began to do when he was on the earth; the book of Acts tells us what Jesus continues to do through his church on earth.
Let me drop in a thought at this point. If you look in your Bible, it calls Luke’s second volume “The Acts of the Apostles.” But that’s not a very accurate title. Luke barely mentions most of the apostles. He reserves nearly all his comments for two men—Peter and Paul. Everyone else fades into the shadows. It doesn’t mean the others weren’t important, or didn’t fill an important role within the Church. They did, but Luke focuses on only two. So maybe a more accurate title would be “Some Acts of Some Apostles”—but that’s not very exciting. Let me suggest a better title. This book should really be called “The Acts of Jesus Christ Through His Church by The Power of The Holy Spirit.” Or more accurately, “The Continuing Work of Jesus Through His Church.” That’s really what it’s all about.
This is where we come in. Over 2000 years have come and gone since Christ walked on planet earth. Yet his work continues to this day through his people who make up his church. What he started back then, we continue by the power of His Holy Spirit.
Ooh, I saw you raise your eyebrows on that one. Yes, there could be one legitimate objection to what I just said. You’re probably looking at me and asking, “Didn’t Jesus finish the work of salvation when he died on the cross and rose from the dead?” Let me first assure you that I’m suggesting that his work of redemption wasn’t complete. Not at all. When Jesus cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:30), he meant what he said. Let me mention three things that are completely finished:
- The Incarnation is finished.
- The payment for our sin is finished
- Our Redemption is finished
Jesus completed those things when he came to earth the first time. Nothing we do could ever add to the value of what Jesus did when he died and rose again. As Robert Lowry’s song, “Nothing But the Blood,” says:
What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus
What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Nothing can for sin atone. Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Naught of good that I have done. Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh, precious is the flow that makes white as snow.
No other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus.
So let’s be crystal-clear about this. When I talk about the continuing work of Jesus, I’m not referring to his work of redemption. He completed that on a hill called Golgotha. Think of it this way. He laid the foundation in his earthly life (1 Corinthians 3:11). Now we are invited to build on it. Once the foundation is laid, you don’t need to lay it again. You simply build on it. No one can ever replace Jesus or go beyond what he has done as our Savior and Redeemer.
But there is an aspect of Jesus’ work that continues to this very day. It’s the work of spreading the gospel, the good news. A few years ago I used to hear people talking about the 29th Chapter of Acts. That’s clever because Acts contains only 28 chapters. What they meant was that you and I are writing the 29th chapter of this book every single day. You’ve heard of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony? Acts is the story of the Unfinished Work of Jesus Christ.