In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit." 6 So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day's walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, "Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus -- 17 he was one of our number and shared in this ministry." 18 (With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19 Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 "For," said Peter, "it is written in the Book of Psalms, "`May his place be deserted; let there be no-one to dwell in it,' and, "`May another take his place of leadership.'

21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection." 23 So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, "Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs." 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.  Version: New International (British) Version

COMMENTS

General:

  • Introduction: Luke Volume II (vv.1-8).
    • This is Luke's second volume (v.1), the former book being the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:3).
    • During the period between his resurrection and ascension, Jesus remained on the earth for two purposes. First, Jesus wanted his disciples to be confident beyond all doubt that he had risen. Second, they still required further instruction.
    • V.4 matches Luke 24:49. Ideally Luke-Acts should be studied as a whole.
    • Whereas the baptism of John (v.5) involved water only, the baptism of Jesus adds a vital element: the Holy Spirit. For more on this, see my paper.
    • The apostles ask if this is the time the kingdom will be restored to Israel (v.6). While it is true that Jesus would ascend in order to receive the kingdom (Acts 2:30; see Luke 19:12), no political change would be taking place down on earth. For more on the nature of the kingdom, click here.
    • Jesus reminds them that they have a crucial role to play in the kingdom of God: taking the gospel to all nations. Verse 8 is the basic outline of Acts:
      • The ministry in Jerusalem (chapters 2-7).
      • The ministry in Judea and Samaria (chapters 8-12).
      • The ministry to the Gentiles (chapters 13-28). With the scattering of chapter 8 (see 11:19), the conversion of Saul (chapter 9), and the conversion of Cornelius (chapter 10), the way has been paved for the Gentile mission, which really begins with Antioch (the First Missionary Journey).
  • The Ascension (vv.9-11).
    • This crucial event takes place on the Mount of Olives, near (though not in) Bethany. See v.12, and also Luke 24:50.
    • Jesus has only now returned to heaven, whence he came (John 3:13). This must take place in order from him to accede to the throne (Acts 2:30) and give the Spirit (2:33). See John 7:39.
    • Just as Jesus ascended (in the clouds), so will he return. For more on the 2nd coming of Christ, click here.
  • Prayer (vv.12-14).
    • The disciples return from the Mount of Olives, across the Kidron Valley, to Jerusalem (v.12). They go to an upper room (v.13) -- possibly the house where they had celebrated the Last Supper with Jesus.
    • The prayer session involves the eleven faithful disciples and the women who often followed Jesus during his earthly ministry (Luke 8:2) and -- significantly -- Jesus' family members (v.14). At last his brothers believe! (See John 7:5; Mark 3:21). Notice too that men and women pray together (just as in 1 Corinthians 11:4-5); there was no prohibition against women praying in the assembly.
    • Their prayer is preparing them for the mission soon to begin (v.8).
    • Prayer is a major theme in Luke-Acts.
  • Judas is replaced (vv.15-26).
    • Peter addresses the 120 (v.15). This is not to say that there were no believers in Galilee -- there were easily 500, according to 1 Corinthians 15:6 -- but Peter is in Judea.
    • The apostles now understand from scripture that the Messiah was destined to be betrayed and, further, that the twelfth apostle must be replaced.
    • The parenthesis in vv.18-29 is not necessarily in contradiction to the account in Matthew 27. For more, click here.
    • In v.20, Peter quotes from the messianic Psalm 69. (See 69: 8,9,21,22-23,25.) Then he cites Psalm 109:8, which seems highly appropriate in application to Judas.
    • The replacement must be a long-standing follower, as well as a witness of the resurrection (v.22). See also 1 Corinthians 9:1. There are no further apostles today, since none can truly serve as eyewitnesses of the resurrection. (Paul, of course, was the conspicuous -- and unique -- exception.)
    • In v.26, lots are cast (a common O.T. practice, not supported under the new covenant, which will be inaugurated in the next chapter. See Leviticus 16:8; Joshua 18:6; 1 Samuel 14:42; 1 Chronicles 24:5; Nehemiah 10:34; Proverbs 16:33. The decision is not made by lot only; the group prays for wisdom.
    • Matthias is added to the apostles, once again numbering twelve (the number of true Israel, which consisted of the twelve tribes, from the twelve sons of Jacob).

Advanced:

  • Lest there remain any doubt as to the authorship of Acts, the writer is a traveling companion of Paul. Often his presence is implied in the "we" passages (like 27:1-2 or 28:14). Yet see 20:4-6; process of elimination removes such men as Timothy from consideration. And Paul's letters make it clear that other candidates, such as Silas or Titus, never went to Rome with him. Luke remains the strongest possibility.
  • Regarding v.3, the question may be asked, "Are the forty days literal days?" Throughout scripture we find plain numbers as well as symbolic ones. As for the number 40, see Genesis 7:17; Exodus 16:35; 1 Kings 19:8; 4 Ezra 14:23,36,42-45; Luke 4:2; 2 Apoc. Bar. 76:1-5. Whether it is a plain number or not, the forty-day period for the appearances and instruction fits the plan of Luke and what we know about the chronology of the events quite well.
  • Regarding v.8, "the ends of the earth" in the O.T. refers to the Gentiles -- those who live away from Israel. See Deuteronomy 28:49; Psalm 2:8; Isaiah 5:26; Jeremiah 10:13; Zechariah 9:10; Matthew 12:42; etc. Another relevant phrase is "far away" or "far off" (Acts 2:39; 22:21; Ephesians 2:13,17).
  • For more on Acts -- its structure and theology -- please study my N.T. Survey. Or check out my Bible overview.

Thought questions:

  • Considering the "many convincing proofs" we have about Jesus, his Word, and his Kingdom, am I convinced? Convinced enough to tell others?
  • In my personal ministry, do I rush ahead, or do I wait for God's timing?
  • Do I pray constantly (1:14 -- "continually" in 1 Thessalonians 5:17)?

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