Being together with Jesus before his ascension into heaven, the disciples ask Jesus about the future coming of His kingdom on earth. They want to know if He’s going to do that now. In their question was the assumption that it would be the Kingdom of Israel. They might still not have grasped the idea that Jesus’ kingdom would be for the whole world. Jesus informs them that the times and seasons of His kingdom coming is not something in their purview. They should pay attention and focus their efforts on something else. In Acts 1:8, Jesus tells them, “But 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.” You won’t be able to see the future, but you will receive the power you need to concentrate on the mission God is giving you. They were called to spread the message of Jesus Christ right where they were and move from there to the rest of the world.

I’m worried about the understanding and often the preaching of this passage, which makes “power” the same as “might.” Since the days of Constantine, along with many of the following rulers, this has been misunderstood a lot. Boice recognized the danger of misunderstanding what Jesus meant. The problem is that we still struggle with the flesh and are often moved to think we can force the issue. He writes, “It is the temptation to think that we are to do the Lord’s work in the world’s way. We are to establish the kingdom politically—by law, by getting Christians into high positions in government, and by imposing our vision of society on the world.”[1] I’m not arguing that we don’t need good Christian politicians. Boice and I both agree that we do. It’s just that Jesus doesn’t commend us to “Jihad.” To force conversions with a sword. He even told Peter to put away his sword because those who live by it will die by it. If we understand the “last times” accurately, there will be a time when force is used, and all the wicked will stand before the Lord and face the consequences for their behavior. But Jesus does not call Christians to hold others accountable in that way today. He will take care of that when He returns.

The power that Jesus was referring to that was bestowed upon the disciples was not military power to coerce people to the faith, but the ability and understanding of sharing Christ in a way that might convince people of the truth of the faith. The Holy Spirit will instruct them on what to say and when to say it. More importantly, it will place the passion for seeing others come to faith, without which no one will be saved. Paul makes the importance of witnessing the central thing in the salvation of individuals. Pointing to Jesus as the savior of the world is what is done, and the Holy Spirit will apply the power to the preaching. Paul says in Romans 10:14-15, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Acts 1:8 is Jesus “sending” his disciples to tell others the wonderful, good news of having our sins forgiven and being made right with God. I like what Ogilvie says, “There are very few examples in two thousand years of Christian history of people becoming Christians with no direct or indirect influence from witnesses in whom the Savior communicated His love. Surely, many have made their initial commitment to Christ alone with their Bibles. But prior to that was the influence of individuals or the church, however misguided or inept they might have been. Augustine was alone when he gave his life to the pursuing Savior, but his mother, Monica, was praying![2]

[1] Boice, James Montgomery. 1997. Acts: An Expositional Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[2] Ogilvie, Lloyd J., and Lloyd J. Ogilvie. 1983. Acts. Vol. 28. The Preacher’s Commentary Series. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.