Audio Library

The Church that Grace Built (Part 2)

Second Presbyterian Church
Dr. George Robertson
October 8, 2017 

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 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. 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; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 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.” 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. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 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.”


We've said previously that there are at least three things that we must do to tap into this power of the continued mission of Jesus carried out through the work of the Spirit poured out on the church. First, we must wait. Waiting in this sense is not indolence or passivity, however. It is reliance. We rely on the work of the Spirit in saying, “you go first, and I will follow.” Secondly, we go. We put ourselves in the way in those places of mission, challenge, and opportunity and the Spirit in us goes with us, and we unleash him in the areas of mission where we would never have ability otherwise. Finally, we must hope.


In view of this hope that Jesus Christ is king and will return and make all things right, we ought to renew our calling and focus on the blessed hope


Renew Your Calling 

Why should we respond again to the gospel and put ourselves in a place of obedience where we will be stretched and where God might use us? There are three primary reasons. 


1) Jesus is Divine

We see this in the cloud. Certain objects and numbers have special significance throughout the whole of God's redemptive plan revealed in scripture. A cloud is one of them. It is ultimately pointing to Christ. This cloud reminds the reader of the shekinah glory in the Old Testament. When the Israelites saw the cloud, they knew that God was in their midst. God made his point that he was with them. As long as he is with us, he tells us not to be afraid but to be strong and very courageous. 


The Lord Jesus Christ ascends into a cloud in this passage. This would signify to the reader the Old Testament significance of the cloud as well as remind them that he is not going to leave us alone, and he is forever going to be with us. In fact, it's going to be better than the cloud because he will dwell inside us. The first reason we must hope is that Jesus is divine and he stands above the cloud at the right hand of the father and he is very active. Herman Bavinck said, "the ascended Christ has much work to do." Jesus didn't ascend to get away from us; he ascended to do even more for us.


2) Jesus is the Helper

As Jesus ascends, two angels appear. It is significant that it is two witnesses. In conformity to Old Testament law, everything must be certified by two witnesses. In this case, they confirm that Christ has ascended and that he is coming back. But there's another reason that the angels came. Those angels are sent to help us. John Calvin called angels the “fingers of God.” He stretches his finger out toward you, and angels are dispatched to do his bidding: to help, deliver, and strengthen us. Calvin said it's silly to think that each person only has one guardian angel, because each person needs a myriad of angels to get them through this dangerous world. 


Even the Lord Jesus taught us the importance of angels. As he is battling his way to the cross, the devil's opposing him; his disciples have abandoned him; he's discouraged; he's worried; he's afraid to the point that he's sweating drops of blood. He pleads, “oh father take this cup away from me,” and an angel is sent to strengthen him. Jesus didn't necessarily need an angel. He made himself dependent so that he could teach us how to live. He taught us how we are helped. 


3) Jesus is King

If you notice, the angels call these disciples “men of Galilee.” At the end of Luke, Jesus gave his disciples instructions to meet him in Galilee. They had a church service there, and he encouraged them and equipped them and he gave them the great commission. In this way, he's calling these men to go back to that commission. By calling them men of Galilee, he wants them to remember their commission at Galilee. Their temptation would have been to stay there at the Mount of Olives, looking up in the sky and waiting for him to come back.


You might say that Galilee represents the church militant - the way we are now - and the Mount of Olives represents the church triumphant - the way it will be when Christ returns and makes all things right. Our temptation is to escape to the Mount of Olives. We'd prefer, often times, just to wait until Christ has made everything better and seclude ourselves from it until then. Jesus says to us, “not yet; the battle is not over. Go. Wait on me, rely on me, and keep going.” 


Focus on the Blessed Hope

I say the “blessed” hope because that's the way the old saints used to describe our hope, which is a certainty that Jesus Christ is going to restore all things and he will bring his kingdom. When we talk about hope in scripture, we're not talking about wishful thinking, like “I hope it doesn't rain tomorrow” or “I hope that I get a college scholarship” or “I hope that I get tickets to the masters.” It's certainty. The blessed hope is that this same Jesus who ascended in the cloud will come that way to us again, and when he does, the last elect will be saved, he will put all his enemies under his feet, the last and greatest enemy, death, will finally succumb, and he will throw death and hell into the lake of fire. His kingdom will reign forever and forever. We will be perfectly conformed in Jesus Christ. Our bodies will be raised. We will live forever on a recreated earth. That is the blessed hope, and it is guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 


Finally, let's look at how the disciples knew that when the angel said he would come back that it was a certainty. The first place we see this is in Luke 21:27: “At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” We also see it in in Luke 24:52-53: “Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.” 


This is not just a hope that is wishful or positive thinking about the future. This is a focus on the blessed hope. The blessed hope means that Jesus wins. We are in a struggle now, with our besetting sins, with our deep wounds, with the challenges God has given us in our families, with the strife and suffering that's in our world, but we know who wins. We've read the end of the book. Jesus wins. He is the blessed hope that empowers us to attempt great things for him.