All About the Name

Acts 4:23-24 & 29-31
When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said . . . “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
N. T. Wright, Acts for Everyone (Part One)
[W]hen you come to speak or write about Jesus, about his cross, about his resurrection, about the new life which can break chains and set people free, there seem to be powers around the place which do their best to oppose what you are doing (71).

[T]he main triple thrust of the prayer is quite straightforward. Not “Lord, please cause them to die horribly” or “Please stop them being so unpleasant.” Not “Lord, let this persecution stop,” or even “Please convert the authorities so that your work can go forward.” Rather, quite simply, “Now, Lord, look on their threats; let us go on speaking boldly; and will you please continue to work powerfully.”

The church needs, again and again, that sense of God’s powerful presence, shaking us up, blowing away the cobwebs, filling us with the spirit, and giving us that same boldness (72-3).
Aaron Orendorff
The story in Acts 3-4, which begins with Peter healing a lame beggar just outside the Temple gates and ends with the church asking God to “look upon” (that is, to regard or to consider) the threats of their adversaries, is a story all about the “name” of Jesus. In 3:6, Peter tells the beggar, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” In 3:16, he tells the astounded crowd, “And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.” In 4:10, again Peter (in very similar words) tells the “rules and elders and scribes,” “Let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well.” In response to this claim, the council then commands Peter and John “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” (4:17-18). Lastly, in the verses now before us, the church concludes its prayer, “. . . while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

Why all this concern for the “name”?

Because the gospel isn’t really about healing for healing’s sake, it isn’t about wonders for wonders’ sake, signs for signs’ sake, boldness for boldness’ sake, nor even salvation for salvation’s sake. The gospel is ultimately about the name—that is, the person, work and reputation—of Jesus rebounding to the glory of God. It is staggering that the very people who were taught by Jesus to pray to God, “Hollowed be thy name,” have now devoted themselves to hollowing the name of Jesus.

Re-Reading Hedonism

I just finished re-reading the first chapter from John Piper’s Desiring God, “The Happiness of God.” By way of some background: I first read Piper when I was 18 or 19 years old deployed with the National Guard on the Sinai Peninsula. That was about 9 years ago now. Piper was the first real theologian I was ever exposed to. Up to that point, I’d spent most of my time reading with guys like Max Lucado and Charles Swindoll (not that I have anything against those authors; Lucado in particular provided me with much needed, good reading for the first two years of my Christian life). After that I was hooked and read just about anything else I could pick up by Piper, working my way from Future Grace to The Pleasures of God and then eventually to Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections.

What I’m struck by when I read Piper is how deadly serious he is about just about everything: sin, depravity, suffering, God’s sovereignty as well as His unwavering commitment to display His own glory and evoke praise from His people. Perhaps most striking to me (then as well as now) was how serious Piper is about joy.

It’s fun to go back and re-read, to see how much I missed the first time through and to laugh at how skillfully Piper “tricked” me into caring about both theology and joy by simply moving from Scripture to Scripture to Scripture.

Who Should We Obey?

Acts 4:17-20
“But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”
N. T. Wright, Acts for Everyone (Part One)
Peter’s answer . . . is theological, and forms the basis of all Christian resistance to the powers of this world form that day to this. We could paraphrase it like this: “You’re the judges around here? Very well, give me your legal judgment on this one! If we’re standing here in God’s presence, should we obey God, or should we obey you?”

Peter answers his own question. They can actually answer it how they like, but he and his friends are not going to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and about all the things which God has done through him (68).
Aaron Orendorff
Peter is clear in his response to the High Council: “we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” It is important to note that the church’s opposition to power—their refusal to obey an unjust law—is not rooted in that law’s opposition to an implication of the gospel; but rather it the law’s opposition to the gospel itself. This, of course, doesn’t mean that the implications of the gospel—defense for the defenseless, justice for the oppressed, care for the poor and so on—are unimportant or that they never deserve as strong a statement as “It’s either the law of man or the law of God.” What is does mean is that we must be very careful to distinguish between our causes and God’s causes. Are we speaking what we have seen and heard or what we think and enjoy? Are we defending the name of Jesus or are we defending our own?

A God of Resurrection

Acts 4:1-3

And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening.
N. T. Wright, Acts for Everyone (Part One)

Resurrection, you see, is the belief which declares that the living God is going to put everything right once and for all, is going (as we saw in he previous chapter) to “restore all things,” to turn the world the right way up at last.

And those who are in power, within the world the way it is [i.e., both political and religious power] are quite right to suspect that, if God suddenly does such a drastic thing, the (to put it mildly) cannot guarantee that they will end up in power in the new world that God is going to make.

[W]hat made them angry wasn’t just Peter’s announcement that God had raised Jesus from the dead. It was, as Luke puts it, a much larger thing: that Peter was preaching the resurrection of the dead, and announcing this revolutionary doctrine “in Jesus.” In other words, Peter was saying not only that Jesus himself had been raised, but that this was the start and the sign of God’s eventual restoration of everything (3.21) (63).
Aaron Orendorff

Resurrection is an impossible thing to manage. If God is in the business of giving “life to the dead and [calling] into existence things that do not exist” (Rom. 4:17), then God—the God revealed in and through Jesus Christ—is not a God who works within the structure (the “natural order of things”); such a God is not a God who acts in accordance with what is. Instead, a God of resurrection is a God who (to put it succinctly) does what he wants, how he wants, when he wants, with what he wants. Resurrection does not consult the dead and ask their opinion. Resurrections acts unilaterally to do not only what the dead cannot do for themselves but what is absolutely impossible for anyone to do or even to occur. Such a God is thoroughly unpredictable, thoroughly uncontrollable, thoroughly dangerous and thoroughly wonderful and worthy of worship.

Summing Up

Acts 3:18-21
But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.
N. T. Wright, Acts for Everyone (Part One)
Peter, you see, is claiming much more than simply a few random proof-texts . . . . He is understanding the Old Testament as a single great story which was constantly pointing forward to something that God was going to do through Abraham and his family, something that Moses, Samuel, Isaiah and the rest were pointing on towards as well. This great Something was the restoration of all things, the time when everything would be put right at last. And now, he says, it’s happened! It’s happened in Jesus! And you can be part of it (59).

Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, anyone who turns away from the life they’ve been leading and turns to God instead . . . anyone can know in advance the joy of being forgiven, of being refreshed by the love and mercy of God, of discovering new life and purpose in following Jesus (59-60).
Aaron Orendorff
Peter’s sermon (his appeal)—prompted by the miraculous healing of a well-known, crippled beggar just outside Temple gates—unfolds in three parts. First, the gospel proclaimed: Jesus died—that is, he was crucified, “denied . . . delivered over . . . killed” (vv. 13-15)—and was raised—“glorified,” Peter says, by “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Second, the gospel response: faith in Jesus as the “Holy and Righteous One . . . the Author [or Ruler] of life” and repentance—“turning every one of you from your wickedness.” Third, the gospel results: (1) the forgiveness of sins, (2) times of refreshing in the present and (3) the restoration of all things in the future.

“. . .you killed the Author of life . . .”

Acts 3:13-16
“The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.”
N. T. Wright, Acts for Everyone (Part One)
[T]hrid, Jesus is also “the prince of life.” The word “prince” here can also mean “the one who initiates something”: he is not so much the ruler over “life,” as the sovereign one who brings life, who initiates new life, who pioneers the way through death, decay and corruption and out the other side into a kind of “life” that nobody had imagined before. . . . Wherever [Jesus] went, he brought new life, the life which indicated that God was now in charge. This makes it all the more ridiculous, paradoxical even, that his own people rejected him and sent him to his death: they killed that prince of life! But, of course, God raised him up—the resurrection continues to be at the heart of the proclamation of the church and the explaining of why new life is now happening—so that his work of brining new life continues unchecked (55).

Power That Is Personal

Acts 3:4-8
And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.
N. T. Wright, Acts for Everyone (Part One)
Luke emphasizes [in v. 4] that Peter and John looked hard at the man. They stared intently at him. . . . Somehow there is something important about that deep, face-to-face contact: not only did Peter and John stare at him, but they told him to look hard at them, too. . . . What is about to happen is something that involves a deep human contact as well as a deep work of God (50).
Aaron Orendorff
In the regular operations of day-to-day life, power creates distance. Whether political, social, economic or even religious, power separates. The cult of celebrity (ubiquitous in our culture) creates two strata of society, two casts: the have’s power and fame and the have’s not power and fame.

Yet here, in Peter and John’s interaction with a nameless beggar, power unites. As Wright points out, Peter and John do not stand aloof from the beggar, dispensing healing power from arm’s length. They look intently at the man and call him to look back. They involve themselves, deeply and personally.

Here then is a model for ministry, or perhaps better, a model for service. The power to help reaches out person-to-person, “face-to-face.” Jesus-power (power “in the name of the Messiah”) is power meditated through risky, unsafe and unavoidably personal human contact.

The Church and the Gospel

Acts 2:42-47
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
N. T. Wright, Acts for Everyone (Part One)
Acts 2.42 is often regarded as laying down “the four marks of the church.” The apostle’s teaching; the common life of those who believed; the breaking of bread; and the prayers. These four go together. You can’t separate them, or leave one out, without damage to the whole thing (44).

This shared life quickly developed in one particular direction, which is both fascinating and controversial. The earliest Christians lived as a single family (45-6).

And they had a word for this way of ordering their life, a word which we have often taken to refer to feelings inside you but which, for them, was primarily about what you do with your possessions when you’re a part of this big, extended family. The word is “love,” agapē in Greek (46).

When Jesus’ followers behave like this, they sometimes find, to their surprise, that they have a new spring in their step. There is an attractiveness, an energy about a life in which we stop clinging on to everything we can get and start sharing it, giving it away, celebrating God’s generosity by being generous ourselves. And that attractiveness is one of the things that draws other people in (47).

Aaron Orendorff
What was it that produced this remarkable and profoundly communal way of life? Strategy? Planning? Programs? Leadership? No. The simple (frighteningly simple) answer is this: the gospel. Acts 2 is about God launching a renewed, missional community through the outpouring of the Spirit by means of the gospel preached. The Spirit comes in power to make the gospel known, to shape people (not simply individuals, but entire groups) into conformity with the gospel and it is only as the gospel is clearly proclaimed and authentically received that real, deep change takes place.

If what we long for is an Acts 2:42-47 church, then what we must do is declare and embrace an Acts 2:14-46 message.

A Turned and Turning Life

Acts 2:38-41
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
N. T. Wright, Acts for Everyone (Part One)
This is, perhaps, the first beginning, the first small glimpse, of the church’s developing understanding of the purpose of the cross. . . .

You need to turn back. But the way to do that is to become part of the kingdom-movement that is identified with Jesus, part of the people who claim his life, death and resurrection as the center and foundation of their own. You need, in other words, to be baptized, to join the company marked out with the sign of the “new exodus,” coming through the water to leave behind slavery and sin and to find the way to freedom and life. You need to allow Jesus himself to grasp hold of you, to save you from the consequences of the way you were going (“forgiveness of sins”) and to give you new energy to go in the right way instead (“the gift of the holy spirit”). To do all that is to “turn back” from the way you were going, and to go in the other direction instead. That is what is meant by the word repent (42).

Aaron Orendorff
“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Mt 4:17),” reads the first of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, “he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” We ought to hear in Peter’s words a similar admonition. There is, of course, an aspect of repentance (particularly here where it is coupled with the initiating right of baptism) that is likewise initiating. We enter Jesus’ “kingdom-movement” (quite frankly) by turn from our own. We repent (to paraphrase the Lord’s Prayer) from hollowing our own names, from saying, “Our kingdom come. Our will be done.” But it is not as though, having turned “once for all” we then leave off the ugly and humbling work of repentance. To live a life of repentance means to live a turned and turning life. We are to be constantly about the work of feeling our hearts cut, recognizing our sin, acknowledging the reality of the gospel and turning again from our way of doing life to God’s. The beautiful truth of this lifestyle is that “forgiveness of sin” is never exhausted but is always new and always sufficient. We are never left to get by or get good on our own. Moreover, the work of the Spirit is meant not to fill us with sublime feelings and lofty thoughts but to ground us more and more in the grit of life, to reveal to us more and more who and what we are, to work in us the necessity of repentance and the freedom of life found therein.

The Resurrected King

Acts 2:22-24 & 36
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”

“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
N. T. Wright, Acts for Everyone (Part One)
[T]he resurrection of Jesus demands to be explained, not as an odd, isolated “miracle,” as though God suddenly thought of doing something totally bizarre to show how powerful he is. The resurrection of Jesus is best explained as the fulfillment of specific promises made by God through King David. And they show that the one who has been raised from the dead is the true son and heir of David. He, in other words, is the rightful king of Israel (36).

[T]he meaning of Easter is: “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah” (37).

God’s plan of salvation, Peter is saying, was always intended to reach its climax with Israel’s Messiah undertaking his ultimate rescuing task. The anointed king would come to the place where evil was reaching its height, where the greatest human systems would reveal with greatest corruption . . . and where this accumulated evil would blow itself out in one great act of unwarranted violence against the person who, of all, had done nothing to deserve it. . . . God, knowing how powerful that wickedness was, had long planned to nullify its power by taking its full force upon himself, in the person of his Messiah, the man in whom God himself would be embodied (38-9).

The Last Days, the Spirit and “Being Saved”

Acts 2:16-21
But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
N. T. Wright, Acts for Everyone (Part One)
Up to this moment, God has acted by his spirit among his people, but it’s always been by inspiring one person here, one or two there—kings and prophets and priests and righteous men and women. Now, in a sudden burst of fresh divine energy released through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s spirit has been poured out upon a lot of people all at once. There is no discrimination between slaves and free, male and female, young and old. They are all marked out, side by side, as the nucleus of God’s true people.

This work of God is wonderfully inclusive, because there is no category of people which is left out: both genders, all ages, all social classes. But it is wonderfully focused, because it happens to all “who call on the name of the Lord” (verse 21). . . . All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.

“Being saved” doesn’t just mean, as it does for many today, “going to heaven when they die.” It means “knowing God’s rescuing power revealed in Jesus, which anticipates, in the present, God’s final great act of deliverance” (33-4).

Forgivness in Marriage

Dave Harvey, When Sinners Say “I Do”
[Forgiveness] releases the person who sinned from the liability of suffering punishment for that sin. To open this valve, the one sinned against must lay down the temptation to say along with the unforgiving servant, “Pay what you owe!”

[Forgiveness] requires the willingness of the one sinned against to absorb the cost of the sin. You received emotional pain over what she did. Will the pain end with you or will you return it? You endured a blow to your trust because of what he’s done over a period of time. Will your heart attempt to force him to pay what he owes? Or will you follow the footsteps of the master and demonstrate a willingness to absorb the cost?

[The trouble is] we fear God’s methods don’t work. The biblical response—the idea of completely, forthrightly, and permanently forgiving a spouse and releasing him or her from all liability—can seem not only impossibly difficult but less than fully just (107).

True forgiveness sees another’s sin for the evil that it is, addresses it, then absorbs the cost of that sin by the power of God’s abundant grace (108).

Mercy in Marriage

Dave Harvey, When Sinners Say “I Do”
Notice that Luke 6 is not a call to discrete acts of mercy, but something much broader—to a merciful disposition of the heart, to lovingkindness. Dwelling in the heart, lovingkindness preempts our sinful judgments. God doesn’t just dispense mercy. He is merciful (Luke 6:36).

Such kindness expressed to us makes a claim upon us: We are called to continue in the kindness we have received (Romans 11:22). We don’t wait to be sinned against and then try to respond with mercy. Rather, we adopt the posture of being willing to experience sin against us as part of building a God-glorifying marriage in a fallen world. Kindness says to our spouse, “I know you are a sinner like me and you will sin against me, just like sin against you. But I refuse to live defensively with you. I’m going to live leaning in your direction with a merciful posture that your sin and weakness cannot erase” (84-5).

Four Roads

Dave Harvey, When Sinners Say “I Do”
Progress comes when we slip our theology into gear and find out what it can do. Let me offer four roads you can practice on. I’m confident if you can drive on these roads, you can get about anywhere you need to go in your marriage (63-75).

First: In humility, suspect yourself first.

Second: In integrity, inspect yourself [i.e., get the log out of your own eye].

Third: Admit that circumstances only reveal existing sin [they never cause it].

Fourth: Focus on undeserved grace, not unmet needs.

My Biggest Problem

1 Timothy 1:15-16
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
Dave Harvey, When Sinners Say “I Do”
This ongoing need for the Savior is exactly what professing Christians must hang on to. The cross makes a stunning statement about husbands and wives: we are sinners and our only hope is grace. Without a clear awareness of sin, we will evaluate our conflicts outside of the biblical story—the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross—thus eliminating any basis for true understanding, true reconciliation, or true change. Without the gospel of our crucified and risen Savior our marriages slide toward superficiality. We begin to make limp justifications for our sinful behavior, and our marriage conflicts end, at best, in uneasy, partial, negotiated settlements.

But once I find 1 Timothy 1:15-16 trustworthy—once I can embrace it with full acceptance—once I know that I am indeed the worst of sinners, then my spouse is no longer my biggest problem: I am. And when I find myself walking in the shoes of the worst of sinners, I will make every effort to grant my spouse the same lavish grace that God has granted me (40-1).

Anniversary Week

Aaron Orendorff
All this week Amanda and I are on vacation at the Oregon Coast (well, not all this week, we’ll be checking out on Thursday . . . maybe Friday, if we decide to stay an extra night). The reason? Monday the 10th was our 8-year anniversary. Plus I finally have a job that gives me vacation pay!

While away, we brought two books with us (four books actually, we’re still learning to share): When Sinners Say “I Do” by Dave Harvey and Sex, Romance and the Glory of God by C. J. Mahaney. Great titles, I know.

We read and talk through the first two chapters of Harvey’s book yesterday and today and I thought I’d share a few of his thoughts.
Dave Harvey, When Sinners Say “I Do”
What we believe about God determines the quality of our marriage (20).

It’s a wonderful, freeing thing to realize that the durability and quality of your marriage is not ultimately based on the strength of your commitment to your marriage. Rather, it’s based on something completely apart from your marriage: God’s truth; truth we find plain and clear on the pages of Scripture (23).

[Marriage] exists for [God] more than it exists for you and me and our spouses. . . . God is the most important person in a marriage. Marriage is for our good, but it is first for God’s glory (25).

What if you abandoned the idea that the problems and weaknesses in your marriage are caused by a lack of information, dedication, or communication? What if you saw your problems as they truly are: caused by a war within your own heart? (29).

[C]ould it be that God already knows you are a sinners, yet gives you everything you need to build a thriving marriage anyway? God is completely, totally, enthusiastically supportive of your every effort to build a strong, God-glorifying marriage. He wants us to delight in marriage. He wants to make it strong, make it stick, and make it sweet (32).

Tongues, Babel and Abraham

Acts 2:5-6
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.
N. T. Wright, Acts for Everyone (Part One)
The whole question of Acts 1, you remember, was of how God would fulfill the promise to extend his kingdom, his saving sovereign rule, not only in Israel but through Israel, to reach the rest of the world. In other words, the question had to do with the challenge to see how God was going to fulfill what he had said to Abraham in Genesis 12.3: “In you, and in your family, all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Now Luke is implying, with the day of Pentecost [that the curse of Babel, which immediately preceded the call of Abraham] is itself overturned; in other words, God is dramatically signaling that his promises to Abraham are being fulfilled, and the whole human race is going to be addressed with the good new of what has happened in and through Jesus (28-9).


Acts 2:1-4
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
N. T. Wright, Acts for Everyone (Part One)
It is most significant, in the light of what we said before about the ascension, that the wind came “from heaven” (v. 2). The whole point is that, through the spirit, some of the creative power of God himself comes from heaven to earth and does its work there. The aim is not to give people a “spirituality” which will make the things of earth irrelevant. The point is to transform earth with the power of heaven, starting with those parts of “earth” which consists of the bodies, minds, hearts, and lives of the followers of Jesus—as a community . . . . The coming of the spirit at Pentecost, in other words, is the complementary fact to the ascension of Jesus into heaven. The risen Jesus in heaven is the presence, in God’s sphere, of the first part of “earth” to be transformed into “new creation” in which heaven and earth are joined; the pouring out of the spirit on earth is the presence, in our sphere, of the sheer energy of heaven itself. The gift of the spirit is thus the direct result of the ascension of Jesus. Because he is Lord of all, his energy, the power to be and do something quite new, is available through the spirit to all who call on him, all who follow him, all who trust him (22-3).
Aaron Orendorff
Two points of note:

First, Pentecost was an agricultural festival celebrated fifty days after Passover in remembrance of the giving of the Law at Sinai. During Pentecost the people of Israel would offer the “first fruits” of their yearly harvest as a way of acknowledging their profound dependence upon and thankfulness toward God. In keeping with the spirit of the day (pun intended), the Holy Spirit ought to be understood a “first fruits” of sorts (a “down payment,” as Paul calls is) of the full redemption (i.e., the harvest) that is to come. The presence of the Spirit now anticipates and points towards the day when God’s presence will be poured out without limit over the entity of creation.

Second, the Spirit is not the energy of God, but rather (as Wright says), the Person through whom Jesus’ energy (as the resurrected King) is made “available.” The Spirit’s work is to reveal, glorify and unite Jesus to his followers.

Restoring the Twelve

Acts 1:15-16 & 20-22
In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, “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. For it is written in the Book of Psalms, ‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’; and ‘Let another take his office.’ So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 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.”
N. T. Wright, Acts for Everyone (Part One)
There they were, the spearhead of Jesus’ plan to renew and restore God’s people—and there were supposed to be twelve of them. Only eleven were left. How could they model, and symbolize, God’s plan for Israel (and therefore the world) if there were, so to speak, one patriarch short of a true Israel?

As with everything else that happened in the early church . . . they went to two sources for instructions: to the word of God, and to prayer. . . . For them, the Jewish Bible (what we call the Old Testament) was not just a record of what God had said to his people of old. It was a huge and vital story, the story of the earliest part of God’s purposes, full of signposts pointing forward to the time when, further forward within the same story, the plans God was nurturing would come to fruition. . . . Here they found, not indeed a road map for exactly where they were—scripture seldom supplies exactly that—but the hints and clues to enable them to see how to feel their way forward in this new and unprecedented dilemma (17-8).

Aaron Orendorff
Scripture and prayer. What an arrestingly simple approach. I appreciate that, as Wright points out, “here they found, not indeed a road map for exactly where they were—scripture seldom supplies exactly that—but the hints and clues.” It’s true; seldom does the Bible provide a one for one answer to life’s dilemmas. What we find instead are patterns and principles, all of which are built upon one form or another of cross and resurrection, failure and restoration, death and new life. God is in the business of bringing back—here, bringing back both the symbolic as well as the relational community of the twelve. And yet, while scripture attests univocally to the reality restoration, it never downplays the pain of betrayal and failure.

The Ascension

Acts 1:9-11
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.”
N. T. Wright, Acts for Everyone (Part One)
The reality is this: “heaven” in the Bible is God’s space, and “earth” is our space. “Heaven” isn’t just the “happy place where God’s people go when they die,” and it certainly isn’t our “home” if by that you mean (as some Christians, sadly, have meant) that our eventual destiny is to leave “earth” altogether and go to “heaven” instead. God’s plan, as we see again and again in the Bible, is for “new heavens and new earth,” and for them to be joined together in that renewal once and for all. “Heaven” may well be our temporary home after this present life; but the whole new world, united and transformed, is our eventual destination.

Part of the point about Jesus’ resurrection is that it was the beginning of precisely that astonishing and world-shattering renewal.

Neither Luke nor the other early Christians thought that Jesus had suddenly become a primitive spaceman, heading off into orbit or beyond, so that if you searched throughout the far reaches of what we call “space” you would eventually find him there. They believed that “heaven” and “earth” are the two interlocking spheres of God’s reality, and that the risen body of Jesus is the first (and so far the only) object which is fully at home in both and hence in either, anticipating the time when everything will be renewed and joined together.

Jesus had gone into God’s dimension of reality; but he’ll be back on the day when that dimension of and our present one are brought together once and for all (12-3).