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The Acts of the Apostolic Church

Date: 12 February 2023

Speaker: Ps Luwin Wong

Sermon Text: Acts 1:1-26

12Feb23 Herald
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A few days ago, my phone was buzzing rather actively, and it was my Whatsapp group of my secondary school classmates. Someone had posted the news of ACS primary moving from Barker Road to Tengah. I studied in ACS primary back when it was located in 1 Canning Rise, right next to City Hall, and I remember we used to have our PE lessons at Fort Canning, there was no HDB estate around City Hall.

And then we moved to Barker Road when I was primary 3, and man, the campus was incredible for its time. We were told that we were the only primary school in Singapore that had a church, a clock tower, a sports hall and a swimming pool all within its campus. And again, there was no HDB neighborhood anywhere Barker road.

Which is why I always had to travel very far to get to school.

No HDBs. Look, we have Chancery Court, Barker Ville, Asimont Villas… Look at this one. Not even trying to sugarcoat it. Rich Mansion.

I remember going to my friends house one day, just a short walk from school, and asking him, “Eh, marble is for the floor what, how come you got marble for your walls?”

So the news reported that ACS primary will be moving to Tengah in 7 years time. Wait a minute. The HDB town Tengah? The you-don’t-have-to-be-rich-to-live there-Tengah? The heartland neighborhood Tengah?

What? What will become of ACS primary then? And when you read the comments online, some alumni were upset. It will dilute the student pool. It will turn ACS into a neighbourhood school.

One alumnus went so far as to create a petition to stop the move.

The petition states: This change would disrupt the traditions and culture built over years, and the passionate and warm feelings we have towards its heritage and location. This is why we should stop this change and allow the ACS tradition to carry on, not only it’s history, but also it’s location, which many of us hold dear in our hearts.

By signing this petition, you hope to stop ACS ( Primary )’s change of location and tradition, and maintain its heritage. The Best Is Yet To Be!

In two days, it has garnered over 3,000 votes.

In anticipation of such a reaction, the ACS management had told the press that this move stems from a desire, I quote, “to explore how ACS could "better serve the needs of the community in the heartlands" and "inject more diversity" into the student profile of ACS, especially at the Primary 1 intake.

"The motivation underpinning this desire is clear", the management said, highlighting that the school's founder, Oldham, established ACS in 1886 to provide education to an "under-served" community — local children.

The move to Tengah is to therefore strengthen ACS's commitment to its founding principles, missions and values.”

In other words, the school management is reminding any Old Boy who is upset by the move, that, this move is what ACS stands for. This is why ACS was established.

William Oldham, planted Anglo Chinese school, to provide local children, Asian children, immigrant children, with good education. He set up the school in colonial Singapore to serve, not the British kids, but the underprivileged, the working classes, the poor children in Singapore.

It's in our founding DNA. It's literally in our anthem:

Our students hail From China’s plains And the land of Rising sun We have many sons from India’s strand And the islands of the Main.

It’s for the heartlanders, the lower-class Asian kids. We sing it every week! How did we lose sight of it?

How did it become a school of the elite for the elite? Yet it did.

And just how the school’s management returned to the story of ACS beginnings to remind us of its aims and principles and mission, we turn to the book of Acts to learn from our beginnings, what it means to be the church, why was the church established, and what is it we here to do. We have to be reminded, because there is always the temptation to be inward-looking, self-serving and lose sight of what we’re meant to be about.

Three points for today’s Sermon:

  1. The church’s continuation. The church is a continuation of Jesus’ ministry on earth.

  2. The church’s commission. The church is on a mission to restore the kingdom of God in the world.

  3. The church’s constitution. The church is constituted as a people of witness, as a people who witness.

Let’s look at the text.

1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 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.

What Luke is referring to, when he mentions “in the first book”, is the Gospel of Luke. In other words, Luke isn’t done with the story he wanted to tell. The story begun the Gospel of Luke only finds it conclusion at the end of Acts. Because what we see in Acts 1, is not so much the beginning of a new agenda, but the continuation of the previous one – that is, the kingdom of God.

There were 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, and in that time, he spoke to the disciples about the kingdom of God. Which was the same thing he spoke about when he began his ministry.

Luke 4:43 he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”

The purpose for which Jesus was sent, did not end with his Jesus ascent. It continues. But how? How does Jesus continue his ministry, how does Jesus fulfill the purpose for which he was sent to earth, if he is no longer on the earth?

Well, in verse 2, Luke gives us a hint. He records that Jesus gave commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles. There’s a clue. He continues his ministry through the Holy Spirit by the apostles.

1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach,

Not what Jesus finished doing and teaching. The ministry of the ascended Lord Jesus continues, through the Holy Spirit and apostles.

Let’s see if this holds up.

4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?

What we see here, is acknowledgement that Jesus’ ministry agenda, the kingdom of God, has not been fulfilled. It remains on the to-do list. The box is not checked. So the disciples asked about it.

“Lord, the good news of Kingdom that you proclaimed, will you at this time restore it?”

It’s two questions in one.

First, the “when” question? Will the kingdom come at this time? Will it come now? Second, the “who” question. Will you be doing it? Will you be the one to restore it?

Jesus answers:

7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.
The “when” question? Don’t worry about it. It’s in God’s sovereign hand. The Father has fixed it, he has it covered, you don’t need to know.
8 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.”

The disciples asked “Will you at this time restore the kingdom? Will you?” Jesus answers, “You will receive power”, “you will be my witnesses”.

Jesus, in effect, is saying, “The kingdom will be restored, yes, but you will be doing it, by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

The church is not formed to do a new thing, she is called to simply to continue the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is, the restoration of God’s kingdom which began at Jesus’ birth, which was inaugurated by his death, resurrection, and ascension, is now to be continued by the church in the power of the Holy Spirit.

9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

The angels asked the disciples, why do you stand looking into heaven? In other words, there’s nothing to see here. Jesus is ascended to the heavens. He will return to consummate the kingdom, don’t you worry. But in between now and then, you have a job to do, and it is not to stand idly by and look at the sky, it’s to be the witnesses of Jesus to the ends of the earth. It is to continue his work of restoring the kingdom of God on earth.

And how is that to be done?

That is our second point: The church’s Commission.

Again, it’s not a new commission. It’s something we have seen in the first book, in Luke 24.

“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

It is repeated, thought for thought in Acts 1:4,8.

ACTS 1:4 4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father.

ACTS 1:8 8But 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.”

Three things I want us to note from verse 8 itself, regarding the church’s mission:

1. Mission objective: you will be my witnesses. That’s it. It’s not complicated, it’s straightforward. Tell people about the exalted King Jesus. Behold, in the Scriptures, who Jesus is and what he came to do, and then bear witness to what you have seen and have come to believe in. Be his witnesses. All of you. That is our mission objective.

2. Mission scope: Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Old Testament Israel did not exist primarily for Israel, it existed to be a light of the Gentiles, her temple was to be a house of prayer for all the nations. Israel was called to a blessing to the world.

The New Testament church, Mt Hermon does not exist ultimately for Hermonites. We are called to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world. Our focus here today, is not on simply on the people who are here. Our passion, our mission, our attention, is on the empty chairs in our midst. Every empty seat is a reminder is a to us that our job is not done. Each empty chair a reminder to us that there is soul to reach. Each one represents a person out there, made in the image of God, who needs to be in here, safe in the fold of Christ. When you see an empty seat next to you, do not rejoice and say, hey, I have a place to put my bag. Weep, for there are people out there separated from Christ, alienated from the kingdom, strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. And we are called to call them in, from every corner of the earth, and that includes your homes, your offices, your schools, your holiday destinations – everywhere your foot treads on this earth, is your mission field.

Mission objective: Bear witness Mission scope: Everywhere on earth.

3. Mission strategy: Our mission strategy is to rely on the Holy Spirit. To lean on him, depend on him, to be empowered by him. Our mission strategy is the Holy Spirit. It is to trust, that the work of salvation, of transferring people into the kingdom, is not ultimately dependent on us, but on the Holy Spirit working through us.

This is important because a lot of will listen to this sermon, and go back home and will not bear witness to Jesus, because you tell yourself, I can’t do it, I’m not eloquent enough, I don’t know enough. As if the success of the mission depends on how well you speak, and how much you know.

For everyone who thinks I’m not eloquent enough, stop saying that. That’s the excuse Moses gave, remember. God told him to speak to Israel and Pharoah.

Exodus 4:10-12 10 But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” 11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.

And still Moses is like, “no, no”. You read the passage and you’re like, “Moses what do you mean? Just do it man. God already promised he’ll be with you, give you the words. You think he’s setting you up to fail? Come on.”

Friends, Moses met with God face to face. But that’s as close as he got. If you think he’s privileged, think again. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, God now dwells in us, we are far better placed to speak than Moses ever was. Stop saying I can speak well enough.

Now it does not mean the Holy Spirit will help you speak more fluently, you may still stutter and stumble through your words. But your stuttering, stumbling words will work, because of the Holy Spirit.

For everyone who thinks, I don’t know enough, stop saying that. That’s the excuse Jeremiah gave.

Jeremiah 1:6-7, 9 God appointed him to speak to the nations. And what did he say?
6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.”
7 But the Lord said to me,
“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
9 Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.
And he says the same things to his disciples in Luke 12.
11And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

Maybe you don’t enough. So what? Who does? I don’t feel like I know enough, doesn’t matter. The Holy Spirit does. That’s what matters. I’m not called to win debates, or to answer every question thrown at me. I’m simply called to bear witness to Jesus, in dependence upon the Holy Spirit.

Out of the 27 books in the New Testament, the apostle Paul wrote 13 or 14 of them. He is probably the one guy in the history of the church, of whom we can say, he probably knows enough.

When he came to the city of Corinth, a culture fascinated with knowledge, enamoured with rhetoric and wisdom, do you know his mission strategy in that city? He decided to not know enough, he decided to be foolish.

1 Corinthians 2:1-5
1And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
So many of us, when we evangelise our fear is that people we speak to will think too little of us, Paul’s fear is that they will think too highly of him. That is the mark of someone who believes that mission is dependent on the Holy Spirit.

Friends, do you believe, really believe that the Holy Spirit will empower your witnessing? He is our mission strategy.

Finally, our Church’s Constitution. That is, the way we were constituted as a church.

ACTS 1:12-14 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

Luke takes the effort to list down the names of the 11 remaining apostles. Because the apostles will be the central focus of our remaining verses. And what we see them doing is devoting themselves to praying, which is significant, because they are not known for their prayer life in the gospels. What are they praying for? We’re not certain, but it likely had to do with God’s will for them while they waited in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit.

And what we see is that before the Holy Spirit came upon the church, God wanted to re-constitute the church by replacing Judas Iscariot and completing the 12 apostles, who represented the New Testament people of God – the church.

ACTS 1:15-17, 20b 15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.”
20b “‘Let another take his office.’

That’s the first thing to note. God is constituting the New Testament church by calling together the 12 apostles.

The other thing to note is the criteria by which the replacement apostle was chosen.

ACTS 1:21-23 21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias.

The selection criteria narrowed the apostolic candidacy down to two men – Justus and Matthias. What qualifications did they meet? They had to have been with Jesus throughout his earthly ministry, from his baptism to his ascension. Why? Because he had a job to do. He must be a witness to Jesus.

ACTS 1:24-26 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

The reason Luke records this replacement in such detail is to remind us of how and why the church was formed. It reveals to us our nature and our mission.

The New Testament church, built on the foundation of the apostles, is a people chosen by God to bear witness to him. The church is called together by God to call the world to him.

That’s what we’re about, that’s why we’re here. We are witnesses of Jesus in the power of the Spirit, for the kingdom of God.

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