ACTS OF THE APOSTLES CHAPTER 1
Acts 1:1: The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,
Luke was the author of the Book of Acts as shown in the gospel of Luke addressing to the same person Theophilus.
Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. (Luke 1:1-4)
The Book of Acts is a continuation of the gospel of Luke addressed to Theophilus to equip him with the knowledge of the truth concerning the gospel of Christ and the Acts of the Apostles. The former treatise is a reference to the previous book written to Theophilus which is the Book of Luke. The gospel activities of the Lord are recorded in the Book of Luke while the activities of the apostles and disciples after the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ are recorded in the Book of Acts.
Acts 1:2: Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:
Acts 1:3: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:
The Lord Jesus Christ was busy after His resurrection. He spent forty days with the apostles and disciples. The Lord did not appear to all those who rejected Him and plotted His murder. He appeared only to His chosen few. Commandments were given unto the apostles to carry out the gospel mission after the work of the cross of Christ.
The apostles were chosen directly by the Lord. No man on earth ordained any of them. No one voted for these men to become apostles of Christ. The office of an apostle is not subject to man’s subjective criteria but the Lord’s approval. Unlike bishops or elders and deacons where spiritual qualifications are given to ordain these men into the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, the office of an apostle is not given in the New Testament. This suggests that no man is given the task to ordain any apostle and as such, there is no such thing as apostolic succession in the Church. In Fact, back in those days, the apostle Paul already warned believers of false apostles.
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)
It was fashionable to be apostle during those days and even in these day some are still claiming to be apostles of Christ. Christians are supposed to try those who claim to be God’s ministers by examining their fruits.
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matthew 7:20)
The practice of trying these ministers of Satan was practiced by the early church as well.
I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: (Revelation 2:2)
However, the carnal Christians in Corinth were going after the wrong person when they should be more discerning in exposing the ministers of Satan. They challenged the apostle Paul’s apostolic authority. So Paul defended his apostleship when some carnal Christians in Corinth questioned his apostolic authority.
Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 9:1&2) Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. (2 Corinthians 12:12)
One of the criteria to determine whether the man is called by the Lord Jesus Christ as an apostle is that he must have seen the Lord himself. This means that no man on earth today qualifies to be an apostle of Christ. An apostle is also a man chosen by the Lord Himself according to Acts 1:2. He must have apostolic signs to prove that he is indeed an apostle of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ performed miracles to authenticate His claim that He was the Son of God. Likewise, the apostles must have power to perform miracles to authenticate their claim as apostles of Christ. The apostle Paul warned the Christians in Corinth that he would not spare them and would use sharpness for correction according to the power given to him by the Lord if necessary.
I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second time; and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare: Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you. Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction. (2 Corinthians 13:2,2&10)
Before the ascension of Christ after His resurrection, the Lord appeared to the apostles and disciples forty days teaching them things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. It did not appear that these apostles and disciples were given specific instructions on the setting up of the Church on earth although it was earlier revealed to them concerning the Church which the Lord was building where the gates of hell would not prevail against this Church. The central theme was the Kingdom of God.
The resurrection of Christ is a theological and a historical fact. When Christ came back to life, He was seen by many chosen eyewitnesses where the Lord did many things with them and spending time to teach them concerning the Kingdom of God. The resurrection of Christ was not a subject of dispute in recent times. It was a contentious issue even back then where the apostle Paul had to deal with where some questioned the doctrine of the resurrection.
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. (1 Corinthians 15:1-8)
How could more than five hundred witnesses be wrong? Were they hallucinating on the resurrection of Christ? Christ had come back to life from the dead as seen by many who were still alive when Paul wrote. This is the infallible proofs that Christ is alive and not some rumour the enemies were desperately spreading that the disciples of Christ came and stole the body of Christ from the tomb.
Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day. (Matthew 28:11-15)
The King James Bible offers us Bible believers infallible proofs that our risen Saviour is alive while the modern perversions tell us otherwise. The NIV and the NASB offer us “convincing proofs” that the Lord is alive. Ask those investors who have lost their shirts for putting money with Lehman Brothers and see whether convincing proofs are good enough as sound advice for long-term investment. If the salvation of your soul is dependent on convincing proofs instead of infallible proofs, you are standing on shaky ground.
Acts 1:4: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.
Acts 1:5: For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
The apostles and disciples assembled together often. Such assembly was not a form and assembling for the sake of assembling once a week on Sunday. These were Spirit led men coming together for a holy purpose and not for social networking. They followed the Captain of their salvation. This was a special occasion where the Lord also assembled with them.
The apostles received specific instruction to remain in Jerusalem. This was an order from the Lord. They were not supposed to go back to their fishing trade in Galilee or to return to their own occupations and reside in their own hometown. There was an important event coming their way concerning the promise of the Father that they heard. The beginning of the New Testament was heralded by John the Baptist, the forerunner in water baptism unto repentance. Another baptism was on its way where the medium is not water but the Holy Ghost. John the Baptist who baptized many promised them another more important Person was going to baptize them.
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: (Matthew 3:11)
The administrator of this baptism is the Lord. The medium is water. It must however not to be confused with baptism of fire which is the judgment of the world to come. Believers in Christ would be mad to pray for baptism of fire upon them. The baptism of the Holy Ghost was to commission the Church and empower the apostles and disciples to bear witness for the risen Saviour.
Acts 1:6: When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
This is a pertinent question for the apostles. It was relevant to them as they laboured night and day with the Lord for the express purpose of setting up the Kingdom in Israel. It was a political movement for them driven by a spiritual dimension with powers given from above where the sick were healed, blind received their sight, devils cast out and the dead raised. It was a mighty manifestation of power on earth during their days which had not been seen since the days of Moses and the prophets of old. Even during their earthly ministry with the Lord, they were already asking.
Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? (Matthew 19:27)
These men believed the Lord would become the King of Israel. They expected to reign with Christ. They did not follow the Lord to set up the Church. They had no inkling on what the Church was all about. That does not mean the Church was not already present though in embryo state awaiting the official opening, an outward commissioning with empowerment from on high not many days later.
They were only interested in the Kingdom in Israel and they eventually reigning with Christ. The main theme was still the Kingdom concerning Israel. The unbelieving priests and elders were also looking for deliverance from Roman bondage. They were looking for the Kingdom as well. The trouble with them was that they were looking for a Messiah whom they would approve to set up the Kingdom. There were trying to be Kingmakers. The apostles clearly believed the Lord was the Messiah. When the Lord was crucified, died and buried, their hopes of the Kingdom vaporized. But now that the Lord is alive, and hence the question is when will the Lord set up the Kingdom. The reply was not something they hope to hear though.
Acts 1:7: And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
Acts 1:8: But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
The timeline for setting up the Kingdom was still anyone’s guess. However by now, with their eyes beholding the risen Saviour, there would be very little reason to doubt the imminence of the coming Kingdom. They saw with their own eyes what life was after death. They saw the power of the resurrection and had a foretaste of the Kingdom at hand. This experience of the manifestation of the power of resurrection was the desire of the apostle Paul who later wrote:
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. (Philippians 3:10&11)
These apostles and disciples saw the Lord Jesus Christ conquered death. Hence, they were not afraid to die anymore. So their best bet was to remain in Jerusalem as instructed to receive power from on high concerning the coming baptism of the Holy Ghost. The purpose of this baptism was to initiate the second movement after the first baptism started by John the Baptist. From then, they would be witnesses for the Lord beginning in Jerusalem and spreading out to Judaea, Samaria and finally to the uttermost part of the world. Whether this mission really sunk in to them remains to be seen.
Acts 1:9: And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
Acts 1:10: And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
Acts 1:11: Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
With the establishment of the coming Kingdom still fresh on their minds, they saw the Lord ascended into heaven. The Lord came out of the tomb early on the first day of the week which would be a Saturday night after six in the evening.
In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. (Matthew 28:1&2)
The Lord was taken from them after forty days being with them after His resurrection and this would be either on a Thursday or Friday. Forty days signify a period of preparation and training for the task given to them soon after the ascension of Christ. Moses spent forty years in the desert to prepare for his ministry. Moses also spent forty days and forty nights with Jehovah God on the mount before giving the children of Israel direction and instruction concerning the setting up of the nation. The Lord Jesus spent forty days and forty nights in the wilderness prior to His earthly ministry. So these forty days of preparation for the apostles and disciples were necessary before they were commissioned to carry out a great work for the Lord. This probation culminated in their witness of the ascension of the Lord into heaven. This was the climax and grand finale of their training to equip them for the work ahead. This was the grandest graduation of all time.
How many people on earth had seen another man taken literally into heaven? Elisha saw Elijah taken from him into heaven and his life was changed. These men who saw the Lord taken from them into heaven would have their lives changed as well when they bore witness of the Lord Jesus Christ to the lost in their own country. Had the angels not told them to depart, they would have been rooted there hoping the Lord Jesus Christ would come back down to earth to lead them into the Kingdom.
The promise of the Lord’s return was now heralded by these two angels. The same Jesus would return to earth in the same manner He had gone up. The warning for believers in Christ is not to look for another Jesus on earth. The Jesus Bible believers should look for is the Jesus coming back to the earth from heaven. So no one must be deceived by anyone on earth claiming to be Jesus though he could perform miracles. They must look for the Messiah, the appearing of Christ from heaven not the anti-Christ on earth. The blessed hope for believers is to look for the Saviour from heaven and not the devil’s christ on earth.
Acts 1:12: Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey.
Acts 1:13: And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.
Acts 1:14: These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.
The location of Christ’s ascension is the Mount of Olives. Likewise, the landing place would be this mountain where great geographical changes will take place during the Lord’s future landing. This is called the day of the Lord in the Old Testament during the time of Jacob’s trouble prophesied by Jeremiah.
Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. (Zechariah 14:3-5)
So the apostles and disciples assembled together when they returned to Jerusalem. A Sabbath day’s journey based on the distance given is about a mile. They were not gathering on a Sunday where Christians in these days are fond of having assembly on such a day. If that day was a Sabbath day, it is definitely not on a Sunday. The focus was still Israel and Sabbath day was still their traditional day of assembly. They did not gather to preach to one another. They gathered to pray and to make supplication that included women as well.
Mary the mother of Jesus was with them. She needed to pray and make supplication as well. No one prayed to Mary and no one regarded her any higher than those disciples present. No one sought her opinion on anything and no one went after her to pray to Jesus on their behalf. Everyone had free access to God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ and that was why they were praying. No one needed a priest to go to God on his or her behalf and Mary was not the mediator.
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. (1 Timothy 2:5&6)
In fact, more than thirty years ago, Mary confessed that she was like any ordinary sinner who needed a Saviour.
And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. (Luke 1:46&47)
Mary was just one of the believers among the apostles and disciples waiting for the promise of the baptism of the Holy Ghost. She needed to be baptized by the Holy Ghost like everyone else during that time. She was not elevated above any other believers and she was subject to the apostles. Mary’s other children were present as well and so Mary did not remain a perpetual virgin. It is a joke to suggest that a woman is still a virgin after giving birth naturally.
Acts 1:15: And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)
Acts 1:16: Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.
Acts 1:17: For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.
Recorded here was the first business meeting after the ascension of Christ with a congregation of about one hundred and twenty believers. While Christ promised them He would come back in like manner as He went up, they would not know for how long they would have to wait for His return. Meanwhile they had to carry on with unfinished business waiting for the baptism of the Holy Ghost. But the original twelve apostles chosen by the Lord were short of one person as Judas Iscariot whom the Lord called a devil had killed himself after betraying the Lord. They needed a replacement to continue with this ministry. Additional information concerning the death of Judas was given where he was just mentioned to have killed himself as recorded in the gospel of Matthew.
And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:5).
Acts 1:18: Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.
Acts 1:19: And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.
Acts 1:20: For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.
The fall of Judas was prophesied in the Book of Psalm and his replacement from office was foretold as well. Hence, the apostles gathered to discuss the issue concerning the vacant office left behind by the departure of Judas. The mandate to be part of the Twelve was not to be decided by popular votes among the disciples and apostles. It had to be a mandate from heaven where recognition from all disciples would be unanimous and no dissension would be entertained.
Acts 1:21: Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
Acts 1:22: Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.
Acts 1:23: And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.
Acts 1:24: And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,
Acts 1:25: That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.
Acts 1:26: And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
The apostle Peter recognized the beginning of this New Testament ministry started with John the Baptist. Prior to that, they were still under the order of the Priesthood from the tribe of Levi. When John the Baptist showed up, things began to change. They were entering a new era in a short period of transition over less than four years. Since the Twelve were now short of one, someone must replace the fallen Judas Iscariot.
The criteria set were that the candidate must have companied with the apostles all those time implying that he must have seen the Lord Jesus and had been involved in His earthly ministry. The Twelve were chosen to be a witness of the Lord’s resurrection and this was the main theme of their preaching to those people in Israel. The decision to appoint one man was not unanimous. No voting was allowed and no one got to choose his favourite personality into this office as an apostle of Christ. So the usual way to determine God’s will was to cast lot.
The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD. The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty. (Proverbs 16:33 & 18:18)
The best way is to commit the outcome to the Lord and it requires faith to trust God with the outcome. That is why Christians must never gamble. They must never trifle with their conscience concerning taking chances of outcome to enrich themselves. There may come a time when a child of God has to cast lot to determine which of the two doors he has to walk through. Some may argue that a Christian must let the Lord impress him in his heart as to which door to open but how do you know the Lord has impressed upon you to open a particular door? Are you trusting on your own feeling concerning a particular door or are you making decision base on sight with which your eyes could see? Can you trust God with the outcome of tossing a coin where your heart has no control over which door you think should be an open door from the Lord come good or bad? Of course, this does not mean that a child of God has to cast lot every time he faces a situation where decision is required of him. Some common sense would prevail and the Holy Spirit is more than able and willing to lead the child of God to put God’s promises to test. Chapter one concludes with the set of twelve apostles and other disciples ready to bear witness of the resurrection of Christ.