Luke addresses Theophilus, to whom he dedicated his second volume. Jesus promises the Holy Spirit. He commissions disciples to go beyond Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. He ascends into heaven. Matthias is chosen to replace Judas.
As I will write in every introduction:
The translation and commentary are mine, just so I can learn. I also offer quick word studies. If you would like to see the verses in many translations, please go to biblegateway.com. And if you would like to study Greek with a short lexicon, go to biblehub.com, and click on the interlinear tab.
At the end of each passage and this post, I offer observations for discipleship. How can we apply these truths to our lives?
Links are provided for further study.
Preface and Dedication (Acts 1:1-3)
1 The earlier account I wrote up was about everything, O Theophilus, which Jesus began both to do and teach 2 until the very day he was taken up, after he instructed, through the Spirit, the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 After he suffered, he presented himself alive to them with many convincing proofs, by appearing quite visibly to them, before their eyes, for a period of forty days, and speaking about the kingdom of God.
Theophilus was a real person with a noble rank, probably of the equestrian order or procurator rank. He had a very cool name. It literally means “friend of God,” “lover of God,” “beloved of God,” or “dear to God.” But let’s not over-spiritualize it—it really was a man’s name, common enough over the centuries. No one wrote a dedication to a symbol. But see the final application, below, where I challenge you about being God’s friend.
Also click here:
Read the first four verses to find out more about Theophilus.
It is very important for Luke to establish the chain of authority from the beginning (cf. Acts 1:21-22). He keeps this theme of early discipleship from the beginning in the preface to his Gospel (1:1-4). This theme will be important when Peter leads the way to choose the next apostle to replace the betrayer Judas (Acts 1:12-26).
His replacement had to be a follower from John’s baptism to their current time. Paul, later called an apostle, who came late on the scene, would not have fit that replacement requirement. That’s why Luke wrote in Acts 1:1, “Everything that Jesus began both to do and teach”: And now he is about to continue to do and teach, but through his apostles (and now us). (See vv. 21-22 for more comments.) Jesus chose the apostles, and he chooses you too in your own service to him. A volunteer in children’s church? To stack the chairs? To be on the parking lot team? Lead a small group or bring refreshments?
“he through the Spirit instructed”: He commanded them through the Holy Spirit, and he commands you today through the Holy Spirit. He does this through Scripture, so daily or regular reading is essential, but he also does this through his still small voice to whomever has a still mind that does not race around but can calm down to receive his whispers. His sheep hear his voice (John 10:3). The Spirit can also command you through godly leaders as well, but those leaders must always conform to the clear teaching of Scripture. Personal words and counsel must always be evaluated and judged by Scripture with a humble heart.
Polhill: “And the same Jesus who taught them during his earthly life would continue to instruct them through the presence of the Spirit once they experienced the Spirit through the presence of Jesus. Formerly they had experienced the Spirit through the presence of Jesus. After Pentecost they would experience Jesus through the presence of the Spirit” (p. 81).
“convincing proof”: Appearing to the disciples alive is the best “convincing proof.” His divine mission was to carry on the kingdom after his resurrection. He is sealing his apostles and disciples with his mission, etching it in their minds that he was alive and was about to direct his church, even today.
“appearing quite visibly”: The good news is that his appearances have not stopped. Renewalists believe that he can appear to those whom he wills, in visions or dreams or personally. But we must be careful here, too, because Satan can appear as an angel of light and deceive people (2 Cor 11:14). His appearances must conform to his revealed teaching in Scripture. However, don’t let that warning paralyze you. It is a blessing that his appearances are still ongoing. The testimonies about this are numerous and real today.
“Forty days”: is not continuous, but in intervals. In other words, the sovereign Lord was not their roommate, but appeared to them whenever the Father and he willed it so.
Here are the basics about resurrection in the New Testament:
1.. It was prophesied in the OT (Ps. 16:3-11; Is. 55:3; Jnh. 1:17)
2.. Jesus predicted it before his death (Mark 8:31; 9:9, 31; 10:33-34; John 2:19-22)
3.. It happened in history (Matt. 28:1-7; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-8; John 20:1-8)
4.. Power used to resurrect Jesus:
a.. Power of God (Acts 2:24; Eph. 1:19-20; Col. 2:12)
b.. Christ’s own power (John 10:18)
c.. Jesus is the resurrection (John 11:25-26)
d.. Power of the Spirit (Rom. 8:11; 1 Pet. 3:18)
5.. Nature of Christ’s resurrection
a.. The same body that died was raised (Luke 24:39-40; John 20:27)
b.. It was a physical body
(1)) He ate (Luke 24:41-43; John 21:12-13; Acts 10:40-41)
(2)) He could be touched (John 20:27; 1 John 1:1)
(3)) It was a gloried body (1 Cor. 15:42-44; Phil. 3:21)
(4)) He passed through locked door (John 20:19, 26)
(5)) He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9)
c.. It was also a transformed and glorified body
And for a review of the basics, please click on this post:
You can also go to youtube to find out the evidence for it. Look for Gary Habermas or Mike Licona.
For a table of his appearances and other facts, please see:
“speaking about the kingdom”: Jesus spoke often about the kingdom of God. He ushered it in, and at the birth of the church in Acts 2 it is now about to expand beyond Israel. It is for everyone who receives him into their hearts and becomes his followers. When that happens, they enter into his light; receive clarity; enjoy an intimate relationship with the Father through Christ and the Spirit; live a consecrated life through his resurrection power and in the Spirit and by his power. And so the kingdom makes all the difference in the world—by creating a new world, a new world, and in it a new you, a new life.
1 Introducing the Kingdom of God (begin a ten-part series)
In the book of Acts, the kingdom seems more general (1:3, 8:12; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31), but it also can mean the kingdom of the new age (14:22).
Schnabel (comment on v. 3) insightfully points out that Acts ends with the kingdom of God (28:31), so the kingdom forms an inclusio or framework or two bookends for Acts. Therefore, God’s sovereign and gracious rule was preached throughout Acts, even if Luke does not always spotlight it in various verses.
Here is the introduction written by Jewish historian Josephus (lived c. AD 37-100) to his work Against Apion:
‘In my history of our Antiquities, most excellent Epaphroditus, I have, I think, made sufficiently clear … the extreme antiquity of our Jewish race … Since, however, I observe that a considerable number of persons … discredit the statements in my history …, I consider it my duty to devote a brief treatise to all these points … to instruct all who desire to know the truth concerning the antiquity of our race. As witnesses to my statements I propose to call the writers who, in the estimation of the Greeks, are the most trustworthy authorities on antiquity as a whole’ (Jos. Ap. 1:1–4).
No, Luke did not copy Josephus. Instead, the excerpt shows that Josephus was following a long tradition for introducing a book, and Luke was also following the same long tradition.
Here is Josephus’ introduction to his second book Against Apion:
‘In the first volume of this work, my esteemed Epaphroditus, I demonstrated the antiquity of our race … I shall now proceed to refute the rest of the authors who have attacked us’ (Jos. Ap. 2:1f.).
The above brief introduction to Book Two looks a lot like the preface to the Book of Acts, the second volume to the Gospel of Luke. Once again Luke did not copy from Josephus (the chronology is off), but he is fitting in to a long-standing literary tradition.
Source: I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text. The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Eerdmans, 1978), p. 40.
GrowApp for Acts 1:1-4
A.. Jesus instructed, through the Spirit, the apostles. These instructions are found in the four Gospels. Name an instruction in one of them that has instructed you, in your study and listening.
The Promise of the Spirit (Acts 1:4-8)
4 While taking meals with them, he commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but instead to wait for the promise of the Father, “which you heard from me, 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit, not many days from now.” 6 Those who were gathered asked him, saying, “Lord, is this the time you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” 7 But he said to them, “It is not for you to know the times and seasons that the Father set by his own authority. 8 Instead, you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Here we have the Trinity in that passage: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We can have a relationship with all three, but in different facets. We need the Father to oversee all of creation and the times and the seasons. He is love, and he is authoritative. We need a Savior and mediator in Jesus. And we need the Spirit to immerse-baptize us to empower us for service and to reveal and glorify Jesus.
Jesus is the Baptizer in the Spirit; that is, he’s the one who sends the Spirit in his fulness into your heart.
For systematic theology:
Jesus met and ate personally with the disciples—face to face. The Greek word for “meeting and eating” is synalizō (pronounced soon-a-lee-zoh), which is related to “eat with salt.” How wonderful it would have been to sit down with the resurrected Jesus face-to-face and eat meals with him!
“promise”: it is the noun epanggelia (pronounced eh-pahn-geh-lee-ah), and it is used 52 times in the NT (and our word angel¸ meaning ‘messenger,’ is in it).
Let’s study this word more closely.
It primarily means that promises made to the patriarchs recorded in the OT are now fulfilled in Yeshua ha-Meshiach or Jesus the Messiah (here and Acts 7:17). Abraham would have many descendants (Gal. 3:14-29). David received the promise of a special descendant fulfilled in Jesus (Acts 13:22-23). Paul goes on to say the Jesus’s resurrection is proof of the good news that he preaches (Acts 13:32-33). John proclaims that the promise is connected to eternal life—which is begun to be lived down here and then never ending in heaven (1 John 2:25). All the promises in the OT are ‘yes’ and ‘amen’ in Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20).
Another use of promise is the gift of the Holy Spirit. In Luke 24:49, Jesus tells the disciples that he is sending the “promise of the Father” to them (Acts 1:4). And it is fulfilled in Acts 2:1-4, where the Holy Spirit descends on the 120 in the upper room. Peter tells his audience that this is the promise of the Father (Acts 2:33). Paul links the promise of the Holy Spirit to the blessing of Abraham (Gal. 3:14). And believers are sealed by the Holy Spirit of the promise (Eph. 1:13).
Still another use of the word promise is that it forms the foundation of righteous living. Paul appeals for purity on God’s promises (2 Cor. 7:1). Children are told to honor their parents because the Fifth Commandment has a promise in it (Eph. 6:2; Exod. 20:12). Paul writes to Timothy that godliness is profitable both in this life and the next because of the promise of life (1 Tim. 4:8). The author of Hebrews encourages believers to persevere (hang in there) because of God’s promises (Heb. 4:1; 10:36). Don’t doubt, Peter says, that God will keep his promise of the second coming, even though some mock (2 Pet. 3:4, 9) (Mounce, pp. 541-42).
Baptism means “total immersion.” John the Baptist was John the Dipper. He had a limited ministry and outreach when stacked up against Jesus’s ministry: water baptism / immersion. On the other hand, Jesus was about to baptize them with the Holy Spirit, which means immersion in the Spirit every bit as much as John’s baptism was immersion in water. The Holy Spirit drenches your spirit and your soul and body. It is not just your spirit that is touched. Some teachers say that when the Spirit fills you, your spirit is perfect, and your soul is not. It is true that your soul is not perfect, but neither is your spirit. You are on a journey to be like Christ (Rom. 8:29). You will never perfectly achieve that goal down here on earth, while you are in your body, and neither does your spirit achieve it. The Spirit immerses you inside out, even your mind and body (Rom. 8:11). It is a package deal, because you are a whole person.
Is the promise of the Father the Holy Spirit or the baptism in the Holy Spirit? Is the promise Spirit-conversion or Spirit-baptism?
Renewalists believe that the promise is the baptism in the Spirit, and this is distinct—or can be distinct—from conversion. Sometimes conversion and Spirit-baptism happens at the same time (Acts 10:44-45). And some sign of this baptism must be visible, like prayer languages. From here some Renewalists teach that prayer languages is the necessary and inseparable sign of Spirit-baptism, while other Renewalists believe that prayer languages is one of many optional signs of Spirit-baptism.
On the other side, some Evangelicals who downplay the baptism in the Spirit with power and prayer languages say that the promise is just to receive the Spirit at conversion. Or they say that Spirit-baptism is conversion or happens at conversion. Prayer languages might happen (but rarely if ever does), or they no longer take place today.
However, from the Greek they are connected: the promise is the baptism in the Spirit. It is incomplete to separate them. Yes, Spirit-baptism can be separate and distinct from conversion, but it’s a deficient idea to separate the immersion (baptism) in power and the Spirit and all the gifts—including prayer languages—from the promise. Now let’s not quarrel about what signals that the baptism in the Spirit has taken place, but it seems like Acts 2:1-4 is a strong place to start for the evidence of Spirit-baptism—prayer languages. The other verses that mention being filled with the Spirit will be covered when we get to them.
“know”: the verb is ginōskō (pronounced gee-noh-skoh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”). The verb is so common that it is used 222 times in the NT. (Its cognate epiginōskō, pronounced eh-pea-gee-noh-skoh is used 44 times). BDAG is the authoritative Greek lexicon, and it has numerous definitions of the verb, depending on the context: (1) “to arrive at a knowledge of someone or something, know, know about, make acquaintance of”; (2) “to acquire information through some means, learn (of), ascertain, find out”; (3) “grasp the significance or meaning of something, understand, comprehend”; (4) “to be aware of something, perceive, notice, realize”; (5) to have sexual intercourse with, sex / marital relations with”; (6) “to have come to the knowledge of, have come to know, know.” (7) “to indicate that one does know, acknowledge, recognize.” So we can know a person, a thing, a fact, an abstract thing like pure math. We can even know God personally or know about him from a distance, like a theological truth. It is best to know him personally. We can know all these things deeply or shallowly. Here the best definition is probably the first or second one.
Luke uses the men … de (pronounced mehn … deh) construction, a sharp contrast, which shows knowledge of conceptual writings. So vv. 6-7 could be translated as “on the one side, when they came together … On the other hand, he said to them” …. (Bock, p. 61). Luke wants the characters in his history and his auditors (listeners) to draw a clear line between the mission to the world and the localized concern about their homeland, Israel. But clearly God has a plan for Israel, so it cannot be overlooked that Israel became a nation in 1948—not that this even was predicted by Jesus—but now God can do what he pleases with this nation. Our task is to fulfill God’s mission to the world.
“times and seasons”: The first noun is chronos (pronounced kroh-nohs; the second one is better) is where we get our words chronology and chronic. It speaks of a timeline, one event or moment after another. The noun kairos (pronounced ky-rohs) means “season” and has a nuance of “quality time.” In this context, it is combined with chronos, so both words together probably mean “end times” (Dan. 2:21; 7:12). The main point that Jesus drives home is not to obsess over the end times.
Think of it this way. Draw a line down the middle of a sheet of paper. Now you have two columns. In column A, write Bible verses that predict the end times. In column B, write out current events. Try to match them up. It is difficult and nearly impossible to nail them down, because as the decades roll on, the events change. Some events, like false Christs and prophets (Matt. 24:24), will be clear and perennial, but others are not so clear.
In vv. 6-8, Jesus submits watching the times and seasons to the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20).
“authority”: it is the noun exousia (pronounced ex-oo-see-ah), and it means, depending on the context: “right to act,” “freedom of choice,” “power, capability, might, power, authority, absolute power”; “power or authority exercised by rulers by virtue of their offices; official power; domain or jurisdiction, spiritual powers.” God has everything under his control, even though Satan has his own authority and jurisdiction over the kingdoms of humanity (Acts 26:18).
The difference between authority and power is parallel to a policeman’s badge and his gun. The badge symbolizes his right to exercise his power through his gun, if necessary. The gun backs up his authority with power. But the distinction should not be pressed too hard, because exousia can also mean “power.” In any case, God through Jesus can distribute authority to his followers (Matt. 10:1; Luke 10:19; John 1:12). Jesus will give us authority even over the nations, if we overcome trials and persecution (Rev. 2:26). And he is about to distribute his power in Acts 2.
Never forget that you have his authority and power to live a victorious life over your personal flaws and sins and Satan. They no longer have power and authority over you; you have power and authority over them.
“but instead”: it is the Greek word alla (pronounced ahl-lah), and it is a sharp contrast, so it could be translated as “however.” It stands in strong contrast to obsessing over times and the seasons just before the second coming.
“power”: it occurs ten times in Acts (go to biblehub to see the references). It means miraculous power to complete the mission. Jesus wants to fill you with the Spirit and power to be his witnesses. Power is the noun dunamis (or dynamis) (pronounced doo-nah-mis) and it is not absolute, because only God is all-powerful. But it creates such a change in you that it feels explosive. However, it is never out of control, as dynamite is. Your power depends on Jesus through the Spirit. Then you can do the works and signs and wonders that the apostles and even Jesus did (John 14:12), by the power of the Spirit!
Commentator Keener (p. 104) produced a table to show the continuity between Luke and Acts and the fulness of the Spirit:
1.. The Spirit descends on Jesus at his baptism (Luke 3:22), and Jesus baptizes in the Spirit (Luke 3:16).
2.. Both Jesus and his followers are praying when the Spirit comes (Luke 3:21; Acts 1:14).
3.. The Spirit descends (Luke 3:22; Acts 2:33)
4.. There is a visible manifestation with the Spirit (a dove in Luke 3:22; tongues of fire in Acts 2:3).
5.. The ensuing public ministries open with sermon that introduce these for the rest of the book (Luke 4:18-27; Acts 2:14-40).
6.. Hardship and opposition follow Spirit-empowerment (Luke 4:1, 14; Acts 4:7-8).
“witnesses”: it means one who witnesses something with his own eyes, like a crime or an execution (Acts 7:58). In our case, since we did not live 2000 years ago and witness the life, death and resurrection of Jesus in real time, we have to be witnesses or testifiers about the evidence for the resurrection and what he has done in our lives. Renewalists should not be afraid to study the evidence for the resurrection. Go to youtube and look for Gary Habermas for the evidence.
This clause comes from Is. 43:10, which also says, “You will be my witnesses.” Ancient Israel failed under the old and now obsolete Sinai Covenant. Now the new people of God will succeed, by God’s permanent indwelling power of being immersed by the Spirit.
“ends of the earth”: Jesus intended those words to conclude Gentiles (non-Jews). But it is guaranteed that these disciples at this time thought they were going to reach only the Jewish communities in the Diaspora (the great Dispersal) who had settled at the ends of the earth (Acts 11:18), even though Jesus said they would go to all nations (Luke 24:47). But the disciples must not have grasped the “all nations” meant Gentiles too. Or they might have, because of Is. 49:6, which says of the Servant of the LORD, “I will make you as a light for the nations that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (v. 6b, ESV). Yet Acts 10 and Peter’s vision prove that these Messianic Jews need to be woken up to the universal mission of God and his Son and the gospel.
The Ethiopian eunuch was either a convert to Judaism or his parents were Jewish because a colony of Jews settled there (Acts 8:26-39). Even when Peter went down to Lydda and Joppa, he reached out only to his fellow-Jews (Acts 9:32-43). It will take an angelic appearance and a vision and the Spirit falling on Cornelius that jars everyone loose from the Jewish community and reach everyone (Acts 10). However, if takes time for word to get around in those days. So when the Jews who were scattered after the persecution that arose in Jerusalem after Stephen’s martyrdom went abroad, they spoke only to Jewish communities (Acts 11:28). But all was not exclusive. Men from Cyprus and Cyrene—not Jerusalem and Judea—spoke to Gentile Greeks (Acts 11:20). So it is clear that things take time to change.
Schnabel (comment on v. 8) and Keener (p. 108) say that the ends of the earth goes beyond representative Ethiopia and Rome and Spain and includes the nation-states that the Romans annexed and even the trade routes. Then Schnabel lists some regions: west: Gaul and Germania on the Atlantic; north: Scythia and even the Arctic; south: Ethiopia (mod. Sudan); east: beyond India and the Seres (silk) people, that is, China. (See Paul mentioning Scythia in Col. 3:11 and Spain in Rom. 15:24, 28). The pseudepigrapha Acts of Thomas says Thomas went to India. Bock says Rome is at the hub and culminates Acts, so it is important, but he too says that nations go beyond it. Keener also lists the nations (p. 108).
God’s plan is global. Jesus was the beginning source, but we now need to go to the whole world. To continually obsess over Jerusalem, as many TV preachers do, to the neglect of the ends of the earth, is out-of-balance.
GrowApp for Acts 1:4-8
A.. Jesus was destined to baptize those who repent with the Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16). How has the Spirit touched your life and his fire purified it?
B.. What is the right balance between your waiting for the Lord to come back and your going out to spread the word?
Ascension of Jesus (Acts 1:9-11)
9 And when he said these things, he ascended, as they watched. A cloud took him out of their field of vision. 10 And as they were staring into the sky while he was going, two men wearing white robes stood by them. 11 They said to them, “Men! Galileans! Why are you standing and staring into the sky? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into the sky, will in the very same manner come back that you saw him going into the sky.”
This was Jesus’s ascension, which was visible. He will return in an equally visible matter.
“cloud”: In this passage it means a physical cloud, but who knows? It may also speak of a cloud of glory, so he was enveloped in his own glory. When he left their view, he entered another dimension and realm. Heaven is not a planet or any part of the space-time universe that God created. If it were, then where did God live before he made the heavens and the earth? When Stephen saw heaven open up (Acts 7:55-56), he did not look at a distant planet, but the veil was torn between his earthly existence and the heavenly realm.
Recall this verse in which Jesus described his Second Coming: “For just as flashing lightning shines from one end of the sky to the other end of the sky, so will be the Son of Man in his day” (Luke 17:24). The entire globe won’t miss it.
Polhill: “The ascension narrative evokes rich biblical reminiscences—the translations of Enoch and Elijah, the cloud that enveloped Mt. Sinai. Indeed, clouds are often associated with theophanies. One particularly thinks of the transfiguration narrative of Luke 9:28–36. The picture in Acts 1:9 is that of a cloud enveloping Jesus as he disappeared from sight, just as in Luke 9:34–36 the appearance of the cloud led to the disappearance of Moses and Elijah” (p. 87).
Bruce (1988) is excellent:
The ascension here recorded was not the first occasion when he vanished from his companions’ sight after his resurrection. He did so after he made himself known in the breaking of the bread to the two with whom he walked to Emmaus (Luke 24:31). Nor are we intended to suppose that the intervals between his resurrection appearances during the forty days were passed by him in some intermediate, earth-bound state. The resurrection appearances, in which he accommodated himself to the disciples’ temporal condition of life, even going so far as to eat with them, were visitations from that eternal order to which his “body of glory” now belonged. What happened on the fortieth day was that this series of visitations same to an end with a scene which impressed on the disciples their Master’s heavenly glory. (comment on v. 9).
The resurrection and exaltation were one continuous movement over a period of forty days. God vindicated his Son.
I like Peterson here on both the literal and symbolic ascension:
Although this language [going up into the sky / heaven] should not be taken to mean that heaven is a physical reality somewhere out in space, it should not be dismissed as purely symbolic or pictorial. ‘A bodily ascension fits the Jewish background, especially after a physical resurrection.’ The story is told from the point of view of the spectators on earth. As experienced by the witnesses (before their very eyes), the physical departure of Jesus on this occasion was different from his disappearances during the preceding forty days of resurrection appearances (cf. Lk. 24:31). There was something final and decisive about his going this time. … What happened on the fortieth day was that his series of intermittent visitations [resurrection appearances] came to an end, with a scene which brought home to the disciples the heavenly glory of their risen Lord. The ascension was not the beginning of his heavenly exaltation. It was the ultimate confirmation of the status that had been his from the moment of his resurrection.” (comment on v. 9)
Keener (p. 111) produces a table showing the similarities between the aftermath of the resurrection (Luke) and ascension (Acts):
|Luke 24:4-9||Acts 1:10-12|
|Two men in dazzling clothes (v. 4)||Two men in white robes (v. 10)|
|Question: Why do you look for the living among the dead (v. 5b)||Why do you stand looking up toward heaven (v. 12)|
|Explanation of Jesus’s absence: He is not here, but has risen (5c).||Explanation of Jesus’s absence: This Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come (v. 11)|
|They returned to Jerusalem (v. 9).||They returned to Jerusalem (v. 12).|
|Craig Keener, p. 111|
Why two angels? Possibly their number relates to Deut. 19:15, which says that from the mouth of two or three witnesses, every fact must be established, though Luke does not tell us why he reports that two angels were here. Other Gospel writers omit the second angel. Authors in the ancient larger Greek world and biblical authors are allowed to include or omit data points, per their strategy and purposes.
Here is a multi-part study of angels in the area of systematic theology, but first, here is a summary list of the basics:
(a) Are messengers (in Hebrew mal’ak and in Greek angelos);
(b) Are created spirit beings;
(c) Have a beginning at their creation (not eternal);
(d) Have a beginning, but they are immortal (deathless).
(e) Have moral judgment;
(f) Have a certain measure of free will;
(g) Have high intelligence;
(h) Do not have physical bodies;
(i) But can manifest with immortal bodies before humans;
(j) They can show the emotion of joy.
“staring”: it comes from the verb atenizō (pronounced ah-teh-nee-zoh) and also means “stare intently or intensely.” Luke is fond of it: Luke 4:20; 22:56; Acts 1:10; 3:4; 3:12; 6:15; 7:55; 10:4; 11:6; 13:9; 14:9; 23:1. Then Paul uses it twice: 2 Cor. 3:7, 13. They have to be shaken loose from their wonderment by angels and get back to the business at hand.
“sky”: it could be translated as “heaven.” You may do so if you like.
Schnabel says that the eleven no longer fear seeing two men in white robes, which indicates the angels’ glory or coming from the source of glory, God’s presence. “Like Jesus, believers no longer exhibit fear in visionary encounters” (in Acts) (comment on v. 10, Schnabel quotes another scholar John B. F. Miller).
“Men! Galileans!”: These men were not from Jerusalem and Judea. Many Jerusalemites viewed Galileans as country bumpkins. They had an odd accent (Matt. 26:73). But these country bumpkins and about to turn Jerusalem and the religious city-dwellers—in sight of the temple—re upside down before they go off to the ends of the earth.
Have you ever heard the expression, “He is so heavenly minded that he is no earthly good”? It applies to those disciples staring up at the stunning ascension. Let’s not blame then too much, because we would have done the same thing. But the two men—who were angels, possibly the same two at the empty tomb (Luke 24:4)—had to jolt them loose and throw cold water on their heaven gazing, so to speak. It was now time for them to get on with kingdom business. Jesus also calls all of us to kingdom business. He calls all of us to receive his power and authority. When we receive him into our hearts, we have those things, but sometimes we need a fresh touch and power surge. The 120 are about to receive it at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).
“in the very same manner”: Longenecker reminds us that Jesus going up into the clouds means he will return in the clouds of his glory (Matt. 24:30; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27) (comment on v. 11).
GrowApp for Acts 1:9-11
A.. Have you ever been so heavenly minded that you do no good for suffering humanity? How would you correct yourself if you fell into this trap?
Eleven Apostles, Other Disciples, and Women in Prayer (Acts 1:12-14)
12 Then they did an about-face and changed course and left the hill called the Mount of Olives and went up to Jerusalem, about a Sabbath day’s walk away. 13 When they entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon the Zealot, and Judas (son of James). 14 They were all devoted to prayer in unity of mind and purpose, with women too, and including Mary, the mother of Jesus, and his brothers and sisters.
A Sabbath’s day walk was 0.7 miles or 1,120 meters. Any longer, and the trip may be construed as work, apparently. Jesus must have led them to open country rather than close to Bethany (Peterson, comment on v. 11). Bruce (1988) informs us that the distance was calculated from combining Exod. 16:29, which says that no one should leave one’s house, and Num. 35:5, which says that the Levites’ pasturelands are defined by a radius of 2,000 cubits (500 yards, 1500 ft. 457.2 meters) from any one of the six cities of refuge (comment on v. 12). You can what you please with this historical tidbit.
“Jerusalem”: it must be the epicenter of the birth of the church that was about to take place in Acts 2. God chose the city for his temple, and Jesus died just outside of it. God was about to build a worldwide temple—his church—from that city. But his church would not remain there, but go throughout the earth.
The one verb, hupostephō (or hypostrephō) (pronounced hoo-poh-streh-foh) fits the translation “to do an about-face and change course and turn back.” It can even mean “be converted.” The men (and women) were supposed to be there watching his ascension, but it was now time to move on. The angels shook them awake, so to speak. They had to change course, and more than that, they had to turn around 180 degrees. Yes, God has to knock us off our course sometimes and then do an about-face, as he calls us. Are you sensitive to it?
Mark 6:3 (// Matt. 13:55) names Jesus’s brothers: James, Joses, Judas, and Simon. 1 Cor 9:5 suggests they were an authoritative group which the church looked up to as examples. However, Mark 6:3 and John 7:5 indicate that they did not believe their brother was the Messiah—it would be difficult for you too, if your brother made the same claim! But they too saw him resurrected, and they too were in the upper room when the Holy Spirit empowered and gifted with the others (Acts 2:1-4) and received their Spirit-inspired language (commonly and archaically called “tongues”).
Peter heads every list. It is good to see him taking the lead, even after he had betrayed Jesus. And it is good to remember that Jesus is willing to forgive and restore anyone who repents.
It is great and reassuring to see men and women together in one place in total unity and persisting in and being attached and devoted to prayer.
“devoted”: The one Greek verb, proskartereō (pronounced prohs-kahr-teh-reh-oh) implies “persistently devoted and attached to” because kartereō means to “persevere” and “endure” (Heb. 11:27), and the preposition pros has a directional meaning of “towards.”
“prayer”: it is the very common noun proseuchē (pronounced pros-yew-khay) and is used 36 times in the whole NT. Its verb proseuchomai (pronounced pros-yew-khoh-my) appears 85 times in the NT, so they are the most common words for prayer or to pray. They are combined with the preposition pros, which means, among other things, “towards,” and euchē, which means a prayer, vow and even a mere wish. But Christians took over the word and directed it towards the living God. I like to believe that they leaned in toward him and prayed their requests fully expecting an answer. It is not a mere wish or heartfelt payer to a pagan deity.
Prayer flows out of confidence before God that he will answer because we no longer have an uncondemned heart (1 John 3:19-24; Rom. 8:1); and we know him so intimately that we find out from him what is his will is and then we pray according to it (1 John 5:14-15); we pray with our Spirit-inspired languages and our native languages (1 Cor. 14:15-16). But that’s what all believers should do; however, too often theory outruns practice. Pray! For a theology on how to respond when God does not answer our prayers, as when James was executed by Herod, see Acts 12:1-2 and the very last application section.
Prayer can be (1) for oneself, like overcoming sins and vices in your heart and mind or receiving wisdom from above (James 3:17) and not being double-minded about receiving it (Jas. 1:5-8), but (2) it is also for the needs of the community. It was coming under attack, so prayers were offered. Praying for boldness to reach out and spread the word is wonderful. We should do it more often. (3) Further, prayer brings down the manifest presence of God. God is omnipresent (everywhere) of course, but his presence can make itself felt and experienced. God showed up and shook the place where they were gathered.
Prayer can be visualized like a pebble in a pond, and the ripples go outward. (1) It starts with oneself and one’s needs; (2) then it goes outward to one’s own family and (3) to the Christian community (your home church). (4) It goes out to evangelism and the needs of the world around the community, (5) and finally to parts around the globe. But this prayer here in Acts varies the order, which you may do, if you like. Prayer is ultimately and most deeply a conversation with God.
“in unity of mind and purpose”: The Greek adverb is a compound, homothumadon (pronounced hoh-moh-thoo-mah-dawn). The first half is hom– and means “same,” and the second half is related to thum-, which means spirit and soul and heart, a lively spirit, much like a lion or hero in battle (in NT Greek it can be translated as “wrath,” even). It appears eleven times, and ten only in Acts (1:14; 2:46; 4:24; 5:12; 7:57; 8:6; 12:20; 15:25; 18:12; 19:29), and once in Paul (Rom. 15:6). The application is clear. God wants us persistently devoted and attached to prayer in unity, in a group. He wants us together. There should be no Lone Rangers, with just Tonto. When we are united in our minds and spirits, great things will happen, as great as the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the next chapter. We are in this together (Matt. 18:19-20; Ps. 133:1).
“The time before Pentecost was a time for waiting, a time spent in prayer undoubtedly for the promised Spirit and for the power to witness. There is no effective witness without the Spirit, and the way to spiritual empowerment is to wait in prayer” (Polhill, comment on v. 14).
Women were devoted to Jesus, and some were so wealthy that they could support him with their money (Luke 8:2-3; 23:49; 23:55-24:10). Rabbis, itinerant or otherwise, usually did not associate with women followers. Jesus was unusual in that regard. They followed him all the way to the cross and his burial and resurrection (Luke 23:55-24:10). They were the first witnesses of his resurrection and told the men, slow on the uptake, about it. Renewalists believe that women should be allowed as much ministry in the church as possible. “Be allowed”? No, they should just step up and do the stuff!
“brothers and sisters”: The Greek says “brothers,” but the term is often generic, as it seems to be here, and Jesus did have sisters (Matt. 13:56; Mark 6:3). But if you want to translate it conservatively, then go with “brothers.”
GrowApp for Acts 1:12-14
A.. The earliest Christian community devoted themselves to prayer and being in unity of mind and purpose. How do you apply this prayer devotion and unity in your own family?
Judas Went the Wrong Way and Is Replaced (Acts 1:15-26)
15 In those days Peter stood up among his brothers and sisters (the crowd of persons was about 120 in that place together) and said, 16 “Men and women, brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit had spoken beforehand through the mouth of David, concerning Judas, who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus, 17 and who was numbered as one of us and was appointed to share in this ministry. 18 He then acquired a field from the unrighteous reward; and becoming headlong, his abdomen burst open and his guts spilled out, 19 which became known to all the residents in Jerusalem, so the field was called in their language Akeldama, or Field of Blood. 20 For it was written in the book of Psalms:
‘Let his place be deserted, and let not be one who lives there’ [Ps. 69:25]
And ‘Let another be selected in his position’ [Ps. 109:8].
21 Therefore from the men who went with us all the time when the Lord Jesus went about with us, 22 beginning with the baptism of John until the day he was taken up from us—it is necessary that one of these be a witness with us of the resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two men: Joseph, who was called Barsabbas (and also called Justus), and Matthias. 24 They prayed, saying, “You, Lord, the heart-knower of all people, point out the one of the two you have selected 25 to take the position of this apostolic ministry, from which Judas defected and went to his own place.” 26 And they cast the lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias, and he was added to the eleven apostles.
They had to find the twelfth apostle because they had to sit on twelve thrones (Matt. 19:28 // Luke 22:30). See vv. 23-26, near the end of those verses, for more comment.
As noted, Peter took the lead again, after he had denied Jesus three times before the rooster crowed. It is now clear why the Gospel of John has the moving scene with Jesus restoring Peter, asking him about his love and telling him to feed Jesus’s sheep and lambs (John 21:15-23). Peter—even before he was baptized in the power and fulness of the Spirit in the next chapter—felt fully restored and reinstated. He now had authority to feed Jesus’s sheep and lambs.
Now for a worse betrayal, because it led to Jesus’s arrest and death. Judas died a bad death. Did Jesus forgive him? He never got the chance during his resurrection ministry. What if Judas had held on and not hanged himself? But Judas felt terrible at what he did, being seized with remorse (Matt. 27:3) and returning the thirty pieces of silver. Judas confessed, “I have sinned, for I have betrayed innocent blood” (Matt. 27:4). If that’s not repentance, then what is? What more does anyone require of him to show repentance? However, other verses, particularly in John’s Gospel, show that Judas was lost. Luke repeats this sad truth, here, as well.
Longenecker says that Matthew’s Messianic Jewish community understood that suicide was terribly wrong, so Matthew writes, simply, he hanged himself (27:5). Luke’s Gentile audience probably saw suicide as neutral, so Luke goes into more detail to spell out that Judas’s suicide was not neutral but a sign of a lost soul. (comment on vv. 18-19).
We should further note what Matthew’s version says of the death of Judas: “And after he threw the silver coins into the temple, he withdrew and went away and hanged himself” (Matt. 27:5). Acts actually says, “becoming headlong / prostrate / head first / forward” (BDAG). Matthew’s version describes the scene at the beginning of Judas’s suicide, while Luke describes the scene at the end, after the body somehow got detached from the rope. Deut. 23:21 says a hanging body should not be left overnight. It’s possible that someone may have cut the rope. Whether a cut rope or a snapped rope, Judas ended up in the field, on the ground. But would guts gush out after a fall (as the unrecorded gap in the process of suicide implies) or by some other means before he lay prostrate? BDAG, considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, cites an ancient source that says this internal spillage happened in another case. Therefore, two people walking by the sight at different times could have seen Judas hanging from a tree at an early moment in the gruesome process of suicide, and then the other person could have seen his body prostrate on the ground, with the blood and guts spilled out, at the end of the process.
Here is another way to harmonize the two accounts:
A major difference seems to be created by Matthew’s statement that Judas went away from the temple and ‘hanged himself,’ whereas Luke indicates that he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. TNIV’s there is not in the original, but the context may be suggesting that he died in his own field. If this is so, the two narratives can be reconciled by assuming that Matthew has foreshortened the time reference and that the hanging did not take place until the chief priests had purchased the filed. Luke’s description of the gory end of Judas can be related to the tradition that he hanged himself if we imagine that his fall was the sequel to his hanging in some way, with his body rupturing as a consequence. There is also a possibility that the Greek expression prēnēs genomenos [pronounced pray-nayss ge-no-me-noss, and the “g” is hard as in “get”] in v. 18 means “swelling up” instead of “falling headlong,” in which case we can imagine his corpse becoming bloated in the heat and bursting open while still hanging. Whatever the precise meaning, the sense of the passage is that this was a form of divine retribution for his evil betrayal of Jesus …. (Peterson, comment on vv. 18-19)
So in other words, Matthew abbreviated his account, as he was prone to do throughout his entire Gospel.
Now who bought or acquired the field? Matthew’s version says the chief priests and elders bought the field (27:6), while Luke implies that Judas possessed / acquired it (v. 18). This difference is not so difficult to reconcile. Matthew’s verb says “bought” (agorazō, pronounced ah-go-rah-zoh), the standard verb for “buy,” while Luke’s version says acquired / possessed (ktaomai, pronounced ktah-o-my). Judas did not buy the field; instead, the chief priests and elders bought it for him. The two words are not true and complete synonyms. And in both versions, “the field of blood” became associated with Judas throughout Jerusalem; in that sense, Judas, in Acts, possessed or acquired the field, by reputation. Matthew the tax collector was more precise about the financial transaction, while Luke was concerned with the aftermath of the process and Judas’s replacement.
So the two accounts are reconcilable. Different purposes from different angles, at different times, in the sad process of Judas’s demise.
HT: “Does the death of Judas tell us we cannot trust the NT?” at the website Psephizo (posted Oct. 4, 2021). Copy and paste the title and put it in Google to search the article.
Commentator Keener has produced a table showing the similarities of Matthew and Acts, on the topic of Judas and his betrayal:
|Matthew 27:5-8||Acts 1:18-19|
|Judas as the betrayer||Judas as the betrayer|
|Judas’s wages were used (by others) to buy a field (27:6-7)||Judas acquired a field as the “wage” of his injustice (1:18)|
|Judas died in an awful manner (27:5)||Judas died in an awful manner (1:18)|
|(Apparently the story remained widespread; (27:8)||Judas’s sorry end became widely known (1:19)|
|The occasion prompted naming the field “Field of Blood” (27:8)||This occasion prompted naming the field “Field of Blood (1:19)|
|The land became an impure burial plot (27:7)||The land became desolate, no longer suited for habitation (1:20)|
|Craig Keener, p. 118|
We don’t need to obsess over the tiny differences such that our faith snaps in two because it is so brittle. We know the gist or essence of the story, as seen in the table. Let’s celebrate the similarities.
“had to”: It comes from the word dei (pronounced day), and in some contexts it denotes a destiny orchestrated by God, as it does here. (Compare the French il faut, “one must” or “it is necessary,” if you know this language.) The Greek verb means: “it is necessary, one must … one ought or should … what one should do” (Shorter Lexicon). In Luke it often means divine necessity; that is, God is leading things: Luke 2:49; 4:43; 9:22; 12:12; 13:16, 33; 15:32; 17:25; 18:1; 19:5; 21:9; 22:37; 24:7; 24:26, 44; Acts 1:16; 1:21; 3:21; 4:12; 5:29; 9:6, 16; 14:22; 16:30; 17:3; 19:21; 20:35; 23:11; 25:10; 27:21; 27:24, 26. Here God did not propel or cause Judas to deny Jesus, but God was not caught off guard, either. Judas’ bad decision still led to a good result.
In God’s kingdom, his confession and return of the money is enough to receive forgiveness, despite suicide. Note that Peter did not say Judas went to hell, but to “his own place,” implying Peter was not sure of Judas’s ultimate destiny. Peter said Judas bought land with the money, but this must be a shortcut way of saying agency—the Sanhedrin bought it, mixed in with Judas’s part in the conspiracy. Or Peter may not have known (cf. 1 Cor. 1:16), which explains why he said that Judas went, “to his own place.” Even if the idiom is translated “to the place that belonged to him,” Peter is still not definitive. Whatever the case, if Jesus can forgive the criminal on the cross (Luke 23:39-43) and Peter, then Jesus could forgive Judas. Suicide does not necessarily exclude anyone from forgiveness or heaven.
However, other texts indicate Judas was lost.
Scroll down to vv. 3-10 for more details on Judas’s ultimate outcome.
Schnabel says the traditional place of Judas’s suicide is now located near the Greek Orthodox monastery St. Onuphrius, built in the nineteenth century. The tomb of the high priest Annas was found there (comment on v. 19).
It should be pointed out that James, the brother of John, sons of Zebedee, and close follower of Jesus, was martyred (Acts 12:2), but no one filled his place with a twelfth apostle because Jesus had promised him a place in the new age (Matt. 19:28 // Luke 22:30). Judas was replaced because of his apostasy, not his death. James was not replaced because martyrdom acquires no blame or stain. He will sit on one of the twelve thrones. In contrast, though Judas would not be numbered among one of the twelve in the afterlife, it is possible that he is there now because of his repentance and God’s grace. I don’t know for sure, but for me God’s grace leaves the door open and offers hope for him.
It is remarkable that Peter, the fisherman and businessman, knew so many Scriptures, especially obscure ones like the ones he quoted. They must have popped into his head because he had read the book of Psalms, either recently or when he was a child. Scripture study is imperative. The New Testament and the Psalms are good places to begin. In v. 16, Peter (and Luke) have a high regard for Scripture, because David wrote this passage through the Holy Spirit. 2 Tim. 3:16 says that all Scripture is inspired of God. We too should have a high regard for Scripture.
“ministry”: it comes from the noun diakonia (pronounced dee-ah-koh-nee-ah), where we get our word deacon, but let’s not impose our modern meaning on the old Greek word. It meant those who did practical service, but this does not limit their service away from the Word, as we shall observe with Philip and Stephen. But it gradually come to mean those people at the church who did practical service (1 Tim. 3:10, 13). Here it means ministry, broadly defined. We could translate it as “apostolic ministry.” Acts 6:4 says that the apostolic ministry was the ministry of the word. They proclaimed Israel’s Messiah and Savior, Jesus.
Some have argued that Paul should have been chosen instead of Matthias, but as noted, it was important for Luke to establish the chain of authority from the very beginning in v. 22 (see Luke 1:1-4). Maybe Joseph-Justus and Matthias even witnessed Jesus’s baptism. No doubt they were part of the seventy-two who were sent out (Luke 10:1-24). Paul could not have filled the requirement.
The beginning of the baptism of John does not means that every disciple / apostle had to be there when John first opened his mouth. Not even Jesus was there at that time. Luke means here, instead, during the early time of John’s ministry, and this is a time period, not a precise moment. The point is that the right candidate cannot have joined the Jesus Movement during the middle of Jesus’ ministry or towards the end, but near the beginning, while John was still alive and baptizing.
“it is necessary”: see v. 21 for more comments, looking for the Greek verb dei. Here God is leading Peter and the others to choose the best man. Luke’s Greek in this sentence is wonderfully complex. The dei comes first, while the expected infinitive “be” or “become” (ginomai, pronounced gih-no-my, and then “g” is hard as in “get”) comes at the end. Parsons and Culy cracked it for me. The sentence in vv. 21-22 could literally be translated as “Therefore, it is necessary—from the men who went with us in all the time during which the Lord Jesus went about among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the very day he was taken up from us—that he become a witness of his resurrection with us.”
“resurrection”: it is the main point here. See v. 3 for a closer look. You can also go to youtube to find out the evidence for it. Look for Gary Habermas and Mike Licona.
“prayed”: see v. 14 for a closer look. We should not see the casting of lots as the Jerusalem believers acting in unbelief. Deciphering then Spirit’s will can be tricky, unless a prophecy is given, and even then we have to weight the prophecy. Prov. 16:33 says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD” (ESV). Prov. 18:18 says, “The lot puts an end to quarrels and decides between powerful contenders” (ESV).
Yet for discipleship purposes we must not fall into the trap of casting lots to find out the Lord’s will. We can go by the still, small voice and a God-given, growing conviction over time; there is also Scripture for general truths, as we see Peter quoting from verses in the Psalms for guidance in this case.
Peterson is right about their casting lots and us, after Pentecost:
It is important to observe that there are no further examples of such decision making in the NT. As those who were about to enjoy the benefits of the New Covenant, the apostles were using a practice that was sanctioned by God but belonged to the old era. It took place before Pentecost, when the Spirit was poured out in a way that signified a new kind of relationship between God and his people. From Luke’s later emphasis on the Spirit’s role in giving wisdom, guidance, and direction, it would appear that the apostolic example on this occasion is not to be followed by Christians today. Rather, we are to recognize and respond to the mind of the Spirit among the people of God, in ways that will be explored in connection with 5:3, 9; 13:1-2; 15:28; 16:6-10, and other passages. (comment on v. 26)
They cast lots so that democracy and a popularity contest would not take place. It had to be God’s decision.
Polhill adds the right assessment on their casting lots for selecting the twelfth apostle:
Some have wanted to see Matthias selected by vote of the church, but the text points more to the ancient procedure of lot-casting. One should not be put off by the “chance” element. In the Old Testament the outcome was always seen to be determined by God. That was probably the consideration in this case. Before Pentecost, before the presence of the Spirit to lead it, the church sought the direction of God and used the Old Testament procedure of securing divine decision. After Pentecost the church in Acts made its own decisions under the direction of the Spirit. In this particular instance it was all the more important that the decision be the Lord’s, not theirs. Like his first selection of the Twelve, its constituency was his to determine. (comment on v. 26)
Keener says that lots were typically done by placing names or letters on small stones or pottery fragments into an urn or other container, then letting one fall out or having rivals blindly picking one (p. 120).
Judas went to “his own place” may indicate the field (land) or hell (Schnabel, comment on v. 25). Peterson: “The last expression is a euphemism for his final destiny, most likely death and judgment of God beyond that. Without being specific about the details, Luke offers an implied warning to apostates (cf. Heb. 6:4-8; 10:26-31)” comment on v. 25).
And Matthias’s selection brings us to Joseph-Justus, who was not chosen. We don’t know how he felt about not being selected, but at least he could not blame the eleven for not voting for him. Maybe that is why Peter decided on casting lots—no blame on them, but on the Lord. (And this method of receiving guidance should not be done today, since the circumstance was unique. This was the last recorded instance of its being done in the entire Bible.)
In any case, the eleven and Joseph-Justus and Matthias (thirteen) knew each other very well, after all, since all of them followed Jesus from the very beginning, starting with John’s baptism. Maybe some of the eleven at some time before the total unity in the upper room knew either Joseph-Justus or Matthias better than the other. Maybe each of the eleven had either candidate in mind. Maybe strife would have ensued, if a vote were taken. However, Peter put the decision in the Heart-Knower’s hands.
“Heart-Knower”: it comes from the Greek compound noun Kardiognōsta (pronounced kar-dee-ah-gnoh-stah, and the g is pronounced). It appears only here and in Acts 15:8 in the NT. It combines the Greek words kardia (heart) and gno– (know, and yes, we get our word know from this Greek word). In both verses Peter’s uses it, so this indicates the speeches reflect the individual speaker’s preferred word choices. It teaches omniscience or all-knowing.
When Joseph-Justus lost the lot, did he say, “Best two out of three!”? Did he ask what was it about his heart that the Heart-Knower saw that did not qualify him to be chosen? Did he get bitter? Or was it a relief? We don’t know, but the whole atmosphere in the upper room was electric with unity and prayer. No doubt he continued with the group because he had a close and deep relationship with Jesus. When the foundation with him is secure and unshakable, then disappointments don’t last long. Joseph-Justus likely ministered with authority and through firsthand knowledge of the resurrection. Even John the Baptist said of himself that he must decrease, while Jesus must increase (John 1:30; 3:25-30). Joseph-Justus may have felt the same. He might have believed that it did not matter whether he was part of the twelve; he was still called.
“apostolic ministry”: “ministry” comes from the noun diakonia (pronounced dee-ah-koh-nee-ah), where we get our word deacon, but let’s not impose our modern meaning on the old Greek word. It meant those who did practical service, but this does not limit their service away from the Word, as we shall observe with Philip and Stephen. But it gradually came to mean those people in the church who did practical service or deacons (1 Tim. 3:10, 13). Here it is designed to re-establish the twelve apostles.
“added to the eleven”: establishing the number twelve was important because they would sit on twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes (Matt. 19:28), and they could not know it at this time, but there are twelve foundation stones of the New Jerusalem bearing their names (See Rev. 21:12, 14). Clearly, then, the number twelve is governmental and foundational.
GrowApp for Acts 1:15-26
A.. Have you ever not been chosen for a team or a job, or more broadly, for a mission? How did you respond to this closed door?
Observations for Discipleship
The apostles and others have their mission. They will launch the rest of the book of Acts.
Now let’s get personal.
Have you betrayed Jesus, as Peter did? Jesus said that if anyone were to disown him before men, Jesus would disown him before his Father (Matt. 10:33). Apparently, however, that general warning allows for exceptions. Jesus reaches out to people in whom he sees potential, even after the worst sin one can think of—betrayal. So if you betrayed Jesus by your lifestyle and going backwards in your sins and addictions or with your words, then he still wants to restore you.
You have the Spirit. He is essential for you to be born again (John 3:1-5). But now you are getting ready to receive the fulness of the Spirit. It is promised. You can have him. We will read later in Acts that the earliest disciples were filled more than once, for service in the church and for outreach. This is not to say they lost the Spirit or he leaked out, but all of us need power surges and extra-anointing. The next chapter in Acts will reveal it.
On the name Theophilus, are you a friend of God? He wants to befriend or “friend” you. He wants to “like” your life, in somewhat the same way you “like” your friend’s posts in social media. Your friend presents himself in the best light possible. But God likes you even when you are not at your best. He accepts you the way you are, even at your worst. You are dear to him.
Also, you have authority and power over demons, your bad thoughts, and habitual sins. The fulness of the Spirit and Spirit-inspired languages (archaically and formerly called ‘tongues’) can empower you to overcome them.
Let’s return to Joseph-Justus not being selected. Have you ever been not selected? On a sports team? For a job? What if the lot never fell to you? On a personal note, thought I was supposed to plant a church, but through a clear leading of the Spirit—too personal to explain here—he inspected my heart and told me I was not a planter, but a teacher. I was not disappointed. I was a little relieved, to be honest. My mind and heart simply are not right to be a pioneering church planter, and not even a pastor. As the saying goes, “Disappointment is his appointment.” Trust God when you are not chosen for a mission. God has something else for you to do, tailor made just for you.
Bock, Darrell L. Acts. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Baker Academic, 2007.
Bruce, F. F. Acts. Rev. ed. Eerdmans, 1988. (I also used his earlier work Acts of the Apostles: Greek Text with Commentary, Eerdmans, 1951, 1952, 1990, 3rd ed.).
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger. United Bible Society, 2014.
Keener, Craig, S. Acts. New Cambridge Bible Commentary. Cambridge UP, 2020.
Longenecker, Richard N. Acts. Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. Zondervan, 2007.
Marshall, I. Howard. Acts. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Tyndale, 1980.
Parsons, Mikeal C. and Martin M. Culy. Acts. A Handbook on the Greek Text. Baylor, UP, 2003.
Peterson, David G. The Acts of the Apostles. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Eerdmans, 2009.
Polhill, John B. Acts. New American Commentary. Vol. 26. Broadman and Holman, 1992.
Schnabel, Eckhard, J. Acts. Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Zondervan, 2012.