At the beginning of any great expedition or military campaign, it is important to set up the lines of communication. The people on the front line need to keep in touch with those back at base. Napoleon is reputed to have said, ‘The secret of war lies in the communications’.
In our chapter, we discover four methods of communication between the Lord and the disciples:
Recall the principle we discussed in the introductory article: when studying Acts we need to distinguish between one-off events (which happened there and then, but would not happen here and now) and regular occurrences (which we should continue to experience today). In the list of communication channels above, I consider (1) the disciples’ conversation with Christ and (2) the message from the angels as special cases for particular occasions. I consider (3) prayer and (4) scripture to be the regular channels that we should use today. In this article, we will look at each of these items and learn how we can improve our lines of communication with heaven.
Here we see the relationship between the Lord and His disciples. In this conversation He commands, vv. 2, 4, He promises, vv. 4, 5, 8, and He gives them an answer, v. 7. For their part, the disciples only ask a single question. Since we have become His disciples, we must also show this same kind of reverence to Him. ‘One is your master, even Christ.’ Matt. 23. 8, 10.
Another important lesson is that the disciples were not all-knowing. Some divine truth was not revealed to them, v. 7. Once empowered by the Holy Spirit, they served God effectively without understanding all the details of God’s programme. This encourages us to serve Him faithfully and intelligently.
In several of the Lord’s most poignant moments on earth (which Campbell Morgan calls His ‘crises’1) angels are in attendance. As He is ‘received up into glory’, 1 Tim. 3. 16, the disciples glimpse two angels in the guard of honour for Christ. He ascends triumphantly to the place that is reserved for the one who is ‘so much better than the angels’ Heb. 1. 4.
The Greek word angelos means messenger. These two angels bring a message of hope to the disciples, with the promise of the Lord’s return. ‘This same Jesus ... shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go’. This is the guarantee of Jesus’ personal, visible and physical return to earth. When Paul explains more about the Lord’s return, he concludes with comfort, 1 Thess. 4. 18, and encouragement to labour, 1 Cor. 15. 58. I imagine the disciples felt similar sentiments as they returned to the upper room, Acts 1. 13, in Jerusalem.
The first recorded prayer meeting in Acts provides a good pattern for church prayer gatherings today. The believers are united, praying with ‘one accord’, v. 14. This harmony is a condition for God’s blessing, Ps. 133. 1. There is no inequality. Men and women, apostles and non-apostles, the Lord’s earthly family, and anonymous others all make up the group of 120. Peter calls them all ‘brethren’ v. 16.
The prayer is clear and definite. This is the force of the word ‘supplication’ v. 14. There is no unfocused prayer; the disciples have an obvious, immediate need for God’s guidance, v. 24. Notice also their determination, as they ‘continued’, v. 14. This attitude is in sharp contrast to the tired, prayerless disciples in Gethsemane. Now they appreciate the real power of prayer. May we do the same!
Peter quotes the OT scriptures accurately, extensively, and appropriately. This sets a good example for contemporary preachers. The lesson is that Peter takes the scripture passage and applies it to the immediate circumstances. He uses the word of God to determine the course of action. Further, it is challenging to see that Peter’s sermon is both preceded and succeeded by public prayer - another excellent precedent. Prayer and Bible study are closely associated. Both are essential for us today!
The twin themes of this first chapter are the anticipated activities of the disciples:
These responsibilities have not changed. Let us keep on witnessing and waiting, as the adventure continues!