In reading through Acts several times lately in preparation for our current series, I’ve come to this personal conclusion: Acts – Luke’s volume #2 – is really the “coming to life” of Jesus’ promise in Matthew 16:18 when he assured Peter, “I will build my church.”
I laid this out as I closed my message last Sunday, and some asked afterwards if I had those final comments in print. Here they are, with the prayer that we will be evermore committed to Christ, the One who is forever faithful to his bride, the church.
“Yes, Matthew 16:18 is the summary prediction of everything we read in Acts concerning the church. Surely he began it at Pentecost. From a few hundred to a few thousand and all the way to other countries — wow! So unmistakably evident was the supernatural power of God’s church that, even after almost 300 years of persecution, Galerius, who was the final emperor before Constantine (the last in the 10 waves of persecution) and died in a manner similar to Herod Agrippa in Acts 12, said in his dying torments through what he called a decree of toleration, “Who can fight against the Almighty and prosper?”
The answer? No one! For God’s church marches on unhindered! There are tests, trials, and turmoil, but it is unhindered. People oppose it and men fight it, but it remains unhindered. Regimes try to defeat it and the enemy tries to squelch it. But it marches on unhindered! From Nero’s persecution of the church in Rome to the slaughter of Christians in current-day Somalia, God’s church, in life and death, is stalwart. Unwavering. Unimpeded. Unstoppable. Unhindered!
And no wonder – this is exactly how the Head of the church lived his life – unhindered! The Gospels tell us he “set his face” to Jerusalem, meaning that he knew why he came and was willingly yet determinedly moving to the cross to fulfill the Father’s will. It’s there he gave his life as our sacrifice, there he was raised from the dead, and there he ascended.
It should be no surprise, then, that his body of followers – the church – is moving in the same vein. Unhindered! And this strong wave of redemptive activity that God is orchestrating will one day culminate around the throne where the redeemed from every nation, language, tribe and tongue will gather to proclaim, “You are worthy!” Ah, the culminating refrain of Acts 1:8 and 28:30-31 being ultimately fulfilled – God’s chosen ones form Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the farthest parts of the world – gathered to glorify the Father through the sacrifice of the Son because of the power of the Holy Spirit. Hallelujah!”