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God’s Word for You

Acts 1:2 instructions through the Holy Spirit

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, August 6, 2019

2 until the day when, after he had given instructions through the Holy Spirit to his chosen apostles, he was taken up.

In this verse, Luke reminds us that Jesus has now ascended, and he is about to give a much fuller account of the ascension (Acts 1:4-11). Why does Luke tell us that Jesus gave instructions “through the Holy Spirit”? Didn’t Jesus simply give his teaching and instructions directly? Consider what the book of Acts is all about. This is the continuation of the spread of the Gospel, the New Testament, throughout the world. It is the word of Christ. But Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, does not work apart from the Father or the Holy Spirit. In fact, he works in concert and in every way together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. When Jesus gave his instructions, it was indeed “through the Holy Spirit” because “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts” (Galatians 4:6).

This is how it was from the beginning. When God chose a skilled craftsman to make the decorations for the tabernacle, he first filled him with the Holy Spirit in addition to the other abilities he gave to him (Exodus 31:3, 35:31).

Sometimes the work of the Holy Spirit is broadly spoken of alongside justification and salvation (1 Corinthians 6:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). It is the Holy Spirit living in us that enables us to worship God with pure hearts. “We worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3).

The Holy Spirit is the author of the Bible; the one who spoke through the Apostles and Prophets (2 Peter 1:21). He used these men like clerks or scribes, writing down what they were given in visions, dreams, direct commands from God, or as the account of what took place with God’s people in Canaan, in Egypt, in Babylon, and other places. Their words and vocabulary, even their personal turns-of-phrase were put to use by the Spirit, who in humble obedience to the will of the Father and Son did not force anyone to use his precise words as long as the message was accurate and true. He allowed Moses to speak like Moses, David to speak like David, Isaiah to speak like Isaiah, Mark like Mark, John like John, Peter like Peter, and so on and on to the very last stroke of the pen of the last writer of Scripture. But where their words speak to us, we acknowledge that it is the Holy Spirit who speaks through them, just as when Christ speaks, it is the Father speaking through him. As Jesus said, “The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father living in me, who is doing his work” (John 14:10). Just as the Spirit was sent by the Father (John 14:26), he was also sent by the Son (John 15:26). This is what Jesus has told us, and what we still confess in the Nicene Creed: “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.”

Everything we have in the Scriptures, therefore, is the Word of God. Spoken by the Father, by the Son, by the Holy Spirit, or by the inspired writers given the message by the Spirit, it is all God’s word. It all gives to us the true gospel of salvation through Jesus our Savior.



The account of Acts spans thirty years of history, from Jesus’ ascension in 30 AD to the imprisonment of Paul in Rome that lasted from 59 until about 61 or 62 AD. Some of the dates below are conjecture, but a few verifiable dates help us to arrange things in a way that conforms to dates inside and outside of Scripture. The proconsulship of Gallio is one of these (51-52 AD), as is the date of Herod’s death (that is, Herod Agrippa I, who died in 44). Paul gives us some dates to help us along in Galatians, especially Galatians 1:14-2:14. Some dates are consecutive, that is to say, one event clearly takes place before another (such as Philip’s journeys taking place after Stephen’s death). In some cases, the Epistles of Paul give a few chronological details as well (1 Corinthians 16:6,8). An even more detailed account of some of the comings and goings of the workers in the church could be assembled (note, for example, the wealth of information in Colossians 4:7-17 and 2 Timothy 4:9-14), but let this suffice for now.

30   Jesus’ Ascension
30/31   Peter and John before the Sanhedrin
33/34   The choosing of the seven
35   Martyrdom of Stephen
Philip’s first journey (8:5-13)
Philip’s second journey (8:26-39)
Philip’s third journey (8:40)
  Conversion of Saul
35-38   Paul in Arabia
35/36   Peter goes to Joppa and Caesarea
37/38   Peter returns to Jerusalem (11:2)
38   Paul visits Jerusalem for two weeks
38-43   Paul’s ministry in Syria and Cilicia
40   Death of James the brother of John (12:2)
  Peter is imprisoned in Jerusalem (12:3)
43   Paul in Syrian Antioch
43-44   Paul’s famine visit
44   Death of Herod (12:23)
46-48   Paul’s first missionary journey (13:2-14:28)
48/49   Paul writes Galatians from Antioch
49/50   Jerusalem Conference (Acts 15:1-29)
50-52   Paul’s second missionary journey (15:40-18:23)
51/52   Paul before Gallio (18:12-17)
51   Paul writes 1 Thessalonians from Corinth
51/52   Paul writes 2 Thessalonians from Corinth
52   Paul returns to Jerusalem and Antioch (18:22)
53-57   Paul’s third missionary journey (18:23-21:17)
53-55   Paul at Ephesus
55   Paul writes 1 Corinthians from Ephesus
  Paul writes 2 Corinthians from Macedonia
57   Paul writes Romans from Corinth or Cenchrea
  Paul arrested in Jerusalem (21:27-22:30)
57-59   Paul in prison in Caesarea (23:23-26:32)
59   Voyage to Rome and shipwreck (27:1-28:16)
59-61/62 Paul in prison in Rome (28:16-31)
  Paul writes Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon
  and Philippians from Rome

  End of Acts

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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