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Delve into Acts 1:8—“You Shall Receive Power,” a critical passage in understanding the early Christian church’s mission. This article offers an exegetical commentary, revealing the context, meaning, and specific empowerment given to the apostles. Gain insights into how this verse sets the trajectory for the Gospel’s spread from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.
The verse Acts 1:8 is one of the pivotal texts in the Book of Acts, marking a transition and setting the stage for the unfolding narrative of the early church. Here’s an exegetical commentary on Acts 1:8, focusing on the specific question you raised:
Acts 1:8 Exegetical Commentary
Text: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in both Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”—Acts 1:8, Updated American Standard Version.
Acts 1:8 serves as a thematic statement for the entire Book of Acts. Coming at the beginning of the book, it outlines the progression of the Gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. It’s within the context of Jesus’ final instructions to His disciples before His ascension.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;”
- “But you”: The “you” in this context refers specifically to the apostles present with Jesus during His ascension (Acts 1:2). They were the immediate recipients of the promise.
- “Will receive power”: This refers to a specific empowerment that would equip the apostles for the mission ahead. It doesn’t refer to a general empowerment available to all believers but to a specific enablement for the apostles to perform signs and miracles.
- “When the Holy Spirit has come upon you”: This is predictive of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, where the apostles were endowed with the ability to speak in tongues and perform miracles as signs of their apostolic authority.
“And you will be my witnesses in both Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
- “And you will be my witnesses”: The apostles were chosen to be the primary witnesses of Christ’s resurrection, a role distinct from other believers.
- “In both Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth”: This geographical progression outlines the spread of the Gospel as recorded in the Book of Acts, from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria, and then to the Gentile world.
The Specific Question: Who is the “You”?
The “you” in Acts 1:8 does refer specifically to the apostles. It is in line with Jesus’ words in John 14:26 and what is seen later in Acts (not Acts 8:43, as this verse doesn’t exist). The apostles were given a special role as the foundational witnesses to Christ’s resurrection and the inaugural spreaders of the Gospel.
Application for Today
While the promise was specifically for the apostles, the principle of being witnesses to Christ’s resurrection extends to all genuine Christians. Today’s believers are not apostles, nor do they receive the specific empowerment mentioned in Acts 1:8, but they are called to bear witness to Christ through the Spirit-inspired Word of God and live in accordance with its truths.
Acts 1:8 is a programmatic statement for the Book of Acts, outlining the mission of the apostles. It’s specific to them, not a universal promise to all believers. The apostles were uniquely empowered to carry out their foundational role in establishing the church. Christians today, guided by the truths of Scripture, continue to bear witness to Christ in a manner consistent with their unique context and calling, without the specific apostolic signs and empowerment.