Scriptures

Acts 1

Introduction

The Book of Acts tells us about the movement of the Gospel and Christianity from Jerusalem to Rome. The focus of the book moves from Jesus to the apostles.

Although Luke hardly tells us anything about the apostles or church order or organisation, the book is a historical record of the church in the first 30 years. Some call the book the Acts of the Apostles, whilst other call it the Acts of the Holy Spirit.

The Book of Acts and the Gospel of Luke belong together, together they record what Jesus began to do whilst he was in the flesh and continued to do in Spirit and so, Acts is the continuation of the Gospel of Luke.

The Book of Acts makes no sense without the Gospel of Luke and so, it was written with the Gospel of Luke in mind. Acts follows the Gospel of Luke but they are not the same. Luke deals with the physical activity of the Christ, whilst Acts deals with the spiritual activity of the Christ.

The Book of Acts helps us to understand connections. Paul to the Philippians helps us to explain the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. It helps us to explain the position of the Gentiles with regards to the prophecy and promises historical links.

It links the Life of Jesus to places like Rome, etc. It provides a needed setting, the background to the rest of the New Testament and it provides the historic background and setting. The Book of Acts brings the New Testament letters to life and the book is historicity.

In the 1900s the Book of Acts was under attack, some said that there was conflict between Peter and Paul, other said, that Luke wasn’t qualified enough to write it.

William Ramsay wrote the book called ‘St Paul the traveller and Roman citizen,’ and he thought the Book of Acts was inaccurate. So he went all out to prove the book wrong but instead he found it to be true. He visited all the areas mentioned in Acts but came across evidences that proves the Book of Acts to be accurate.

Author

Luke wrote the book and he is writing to a Roman official named Theophilus. The opening words of the Gospel of Luke and Acts both speak of Theophilus, which suggest that Acts and the Gospel of Luke are both written by the same person.

There are no less than 50 Greek words that are found in both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts which are not found anywhere in the rest of the New Testament.

Although Luke is never mentioned by name in the book of Acts, he uses the words ‘we’, and ‘us’ in the second half of the book, Acts 16:10, and the word ‘we’ implies that the person who is writing the book is there and part of the action. The ‘we’ and the ‘us’ in that verse are referring to Luke and Paul.

Luke was a travelling companion of Paul, he was there in Rome with Paul, Colossians 4:14 / Philemon 24 / 2 Timothy 4:9-12. We also know that he was a doctor, Colossians 4:14, possibly Paul’s personal doctor who went with him on his travels.

When we read Luke’s Gospel account, we can see that he had a very special interest in sick people and their diseases, Luke 4:38-39 / Luke 5:12 / Luke 6:6.

When Jesus was talking about a camel passing through the eye of a needle, it is interesting because when Matthew and Mark write about it, they use a Greek word which means a ‘household needle’, but when Luke records this event he uses the Greek word for a ‘surgeon’s needle’ in Luke 18:25.

Date

Paul is in Prison around A.D. 61-63, and the book ends with Paul in prison and so the book was finished around A.D. 63. The book tells us nothing about what happens to Paul after his release but we do know that he was executed around A.D. 67-68.

Theme

When we read through the Book of Acts we see God continuing to want to have fellowship with mankind. We read about the preaching of Christ, the power of the Word, when it is being preached. We also read about the growth of the community of believers, we see progress in spite of opposition.

We read about the inclusion of the Gentiles and the daily life of the community of believers. The biggest theme is the continued work of Christ in His people, they are all interwoven with each other.

Outline

The arrival of the Spirit. Acts 1-2
Early days in Jerusalem. Acts 3-5
Beyond Jerusalem. Acts 6-9
Enter the Gentiles. Acts 10-12
The Asia minor mission and its consequences. Acts 13-15
The Macedonian and Grecian mission. Acts 16-18
Back to Asia. Acts 19-20
The missionaries arrest and imprisonment. Acts 21-28

The Text

“In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 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.” Acts 1:1-3

Luke begins by saying, ‘In my former book’, in other words, he’s going to get our minds focused back to his Gospel account of Jesus Christ.

When reading any letter, we not only need to understand who wrote it but we also need to understand to whom it was written to. Who is Theophilus?

His name means ‘one who loves God’ but when Luke writes his gospel Luke addresses him in Luke 1:3 as ‘most excellent Theophilus’. Theophilus is obviously a follower of Jesus and he possibly helped Luke with finances.

When we look at other people in the Bible with the title ‘most excellent’, they are usually people who are a part of the Roman government.

In Acts 23 when the Jews were planning and plotting to kill Paul. Paul’s sister’s son heard about it and told Paul and so Paul then told one of the centurions, who then went and told his commanding officer. Felix was a Roman governor, Acts 23:26, and Luke addresses the Roman governor Felix as ‘most excellent,’ Acts 24:3.

When the apostle Paul was standing in front of Festus, giving his testimony, Paul addresses Festus and calls him ‘most excellent Festus’ in Acts 26:25.

Was Theophilus a Roman governor? We simply don’t know but because Luke addresses him as ‘most excellent’, he certainly has a position of high ranking of some sort. The beloved physician, as Paul describes him seems to have thought of Acts as a continuation of his account of the works and words of Jesus Christ.

In a very real sense, the works of the church could be described as the works of Christ. But the point is this, Luke wrote the letter of Acts because it gives his readers an overview of the workings of Jesus for the thirty years following His resurrection.

In other words, the Book of Acts lets us see the fulfilment of Jesus’ coming in the first place, Luke 19:10. And what we discover as we go through this letter of Luke’s is a detailed and pictured account of that happening.

We can’t read through the Book of Acts and not see Jesus saving people, we can’t miss seeing people choosing to remain lost in their sins.

On the Day of Pentecost for example we read that Jesus saved 3000 souls from their sins, Acts 2:41. In Acts 2:47, we read about ‘even more’ souls being saved by Jesus. But these figures also tell us that ‘many more’ people decided to remain dead in their sins.

Some commentators have estimated between 1 and 2 million souls were present on that day, but we just don’t know for sure, but we do know there would have many, many, many more souls who rejected Peter’s message and chose to remain dead in their sins.

5000 souls were added to the Lord’s church later, Acts 4:1-4, but how many chose to remain in their sins? We just don’t know. But the point I’m trying to make is that the Book of Acts not only shows us many people choosing to reject the Gospel and so remain in their sins, but the Book also shows us many people responding in humble obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What we see is a picture of Jesus seeking and saving the lost through the Holy Spirit’s working through the apostles.

Luke begins by telling us about the things which Jesus ‘done’ first, and then he mentions the things that Jesus ‘said’. This is significant to me that he would mention ‘actions’ first, and then ‘words’.

Unlike those of us who sin, Jesus’ actions were consistent with His preaching, 1 Peter 2:21-22, but not only were they consistent with His preaching, they underlined His teachings.

In other words, Jesus practiced what He preached, His actions and His words were completed on the day He ascended into the heavens to be seated on the right hand of the Father. And so, what Luke is doing here following the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he is setting the stage for the rest of the Book of Acts.

The point is this, you cannot truly understand the Book of Acts until you truly understand just exactly who Jesus Christ is. Because many people do not believe that Jesus Christ did exist.

But even more importantly some people, who do believe He existed, don’t truly understand just exactly who He was, Jesus Christ was God in the flesh, John 1:1-4 / John 1:14. He was there in the beginning of creation, Genesis 1:26.

I think this is important for us all to understand because when Luke refers to our Lord Jesus Christ, he’s referring to the same Lord Jesus Christ who was there at the very start of all things.

74 times the Name Jesus is found throughout the Book of Acts. 24 times the Name Christ is mentioned throughout the Book of Acts. 102 times the Name Lord in reference to Jesus Christ is mentioned throughout the Book of Acts.

I’m no Biblical scholars, but if our Lord Jesus Christ is Luke’s favourite topic, then we need to ask the question, why? If we know that Jesus was there in the beginning and we know He became human and walked among us, we also need to understand that He is going to be the One who will meet us when we die, Hebrews 9:27.

There’s a time coming when everyone on this planet past and present, every demon in hell is going to realise that Jesus Christ was there in the beginning and Jesus Christ was God in the flesh who walked among us, Philippians 2:9-11.

It’s not a question of ‘if’, it’s a question of ‘when.’ Jesus Christ is coming back, Acts 1:11, and a day has been set when Jesus will return and He will judge us everyone past and present, Acts 17:29-31.

Luke also tells us that Jesus gave His disciples instructions through the Holy Spirit. The apostles were the ones who received those instructions from the Christ. But why the apostles, why these guys?

It’s certainly not because they were more intelligent than anyone else, it wasn’t because they were stronger in the faith or better in debate than anyone else. Not even because they had seen Him alive after His death and burial because a lot of people saw Jesus alive after His resurrection. There were hundreds of witnesses who saw Jesus after His resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15:1-8.

The reason Jesus chose these guys was because they had spent a lot of time with Jesus while His work was being done here on earth. Jesus was teaching them the truth concerning His kingdom. For forty days, the resurrected King taught His chosen apostles important truths concerning the kingdom of God.

In other words, He was teaching them about the church. From the time leading up to Jesus’ death to the time of Jesus’ ascension, He spoke to His apostles through the promised Holy Spirit, John 16:12-13.

And so, in the truest sense, we can honestly see in the Book of Acts, the acts of Jesus Christ as seen in the workings of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the apostles.

“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. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:4-5

Luke now focuses on the days following Jesus’ resurrection and we know that Jesus appeared to His apostles on several different occasions. Luke records four convincing proofs in His Gospel, 1. On the road to Emmaus. 2. Eating with them. 3. He appeared in their mist. 4. Eating fish with them.

We know Jesus did eat with his disciples following the resurrection because Luke tells us in his Gospel, Luke 24:36-43. Jesus eating with His disciples isn’t the point here, the point Luke is making is that Jesus never promises something He never intends to fulfil.

Luke’s point is that Jesus instructed His disciples to remain in Jerusalem until the Father’s promise, about which he had told them, came to fulfilment.

And what was that promise? The promise is the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, or Helper, John 14:15-18. Remember all the apostles had been baptised by John in water at their repentance, Mark 1:4, but Jesus told them that the time was coming when they would be baptised with the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:5.

We won’t go into too much detail about being baptised with the Holy Spirit at this point in our study but we will note, in Acts 2:1-4, we find the fulfilment of that promise of Jesus’. We see the apostles being baptised with the Holy Spirit.

Let’s turn our attention to the Kingdom of God for a moment. Whenever people talked about God’s kingdom to God’s people they would have a different idea from what God had in mind. A way back in the days of Daniel, God prophesied through him that a kingdom would come, Daniel 2:44.

The apostles’ like many Jews thought that Jesus was going to establish a physical kingdom here on earth. They believed it would be an earthly kingdom that would conquer all of its enemies.

And they were itching to know when this great earthly kingdom was going to be established. Time and time again Jesus had to tell people that His kingdom was not an earthly kingdom but a spiritual kingdom, John 18:36.

“So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 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.” Acts 1:6-8

The disciples they wanted to get on with God’s work and one of the biggest lessons we can learn as Christians is that we are working on God’s timetable not ours, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. The disciples had to learn patience concerning the arrival of God’s kingdom.

But at the same time, it was also important for them to know and understand that what Jesus promised them that they were to receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them was going to happen in God’s time not theirs.

Because it was only when the Holy Spirit came, that they could get on with the work that God had planned for them to do. They were to be patient but notice also Jesus doesn’t leave them in the dark about what is going happen to them. He tells them what they have to do when the Spirit arrives.

Jesus says, stay in Jerusalem until you receive power from on high but once you have that power I want you to tell people all over Jerusalem about me, go to Judea and go to Samaria and finally I want the gospel of Christ to go all over the world.

The disciples should already be aware of what was going to happen. Time and time again Jesus spoke to them about things which was about to happen and they were fulfilled and Jesus ascending into heaven is one of those predictions.

Jesus Taken Up Into Heaven

“After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “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.” Acts 1:9-11

Note that verse 9 is the fulfilment of the Lord’s own prediction when He asked His disciples, “what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!” John 6:62.

And so having issued these final instructions, Jesus began to bless the apostles, Luke 24:50-51 and then at that moment, Jesus was taken up into a cloud. Before Jesus came to earth, He was with the Father in Heaven but the apostles saw Him begin His ascent back to the throne.

Can you imagine being there when Jesus was taken up into heaven? We can almost imagine the apostles standing there with their mouths wide open, looking up into the clouds where they had last seen the Saviour. What a sight that must have been.

But while they were looking, Luke tells us that two men in white clothing stood by and told them Jesus would come again in the same way they had seen him go. Now who are those two men?

I believe they were angels. I believe it is very likely the two ‘men’ who Luke says stood by the apostles are angels who appeared in the form of men, Matthew 28:2-4 / Luke 24:4 / John 20:10-12.

Matthias Chosen To Replace Judas

“Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 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. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” Acts 1:12-14

Those who had seen Jesus ascend went into the city of Jerusalem and assembled in an upper room but now there is time of waiting and it wasn’t a sorrowful time, it was a time of joy, Luke 24:52-53.

This tells me that the time of sorrow following the crucifixion of Jesus was over and now the apostles realised the events they had witnessed were a reason for rejoicing.

Notice there were women there, Mary, Jesus’ mother was there and Jesus’ brothers. Joseph, James, Jude and Simon, Matthew 13:55. This is the last mention of Mary. We know that Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe Him at first, John 7:5, but after the ascension they do.

What do we do while we wait for God’s timetable to begin? We do what these eleven did, we do what Mary, the Lord’s mother did. We do what Jesus’ half-brothers did, we do what these other unidentified disciples were constantly found doing. We wait patiently and prepare with prayer.

These guys prepared themselves for what was about to happen with prayer as they awaited the promise of the Holy Spirit. And it was sometime during that period of waiting, that Peter addressed a group of about 120 disciples to find a replacement for Judas.

“In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 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- he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.” (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. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)” Acts 1:15-19

If we ever wondered why Judas had to be replaced, I believe it’s simply because Judas had been numbered with them and had a part in the ministry the Lord had given to the apostles. During the days of Jesus, if anyone mentioned the place, ‘Field of Blood’ and the name ‘Judas Iscariot’ people would know exactly who and what you were talking about.

Remember after realizing what he had done, Judas threw the thirty pieces of silver down in the temple and went out and hanged himself. And according to Luke, we can conclude that either the branch he used to hang himself on or the rope itself broke and Judas’ body fell and burst open.

In the heat of the day his gases built up within him and he fell or was cut down and when he landed he burst open. Everyone in Jerusalem knew about this event. And so the chief priests didn’t feel blood money should be placed in the treasury, so they purchased a field in which to bury strangers as Matthew tells us, Matthew 27:10.

Everybody in that group who Peter addresses would have been acquainted with the facts surrounding Judas’ death and the purchase of the ‘Field of Blood’.

“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.’ 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, 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. They proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias.” Acts 1:20-23

And so, quoting from Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8, Peter told those who were gathered that the Holy Spirit, through David, had said the surroundings of Judas, would become desolate and another would be chosen to take his office. God knew that Judas was going to do it.

To choose someone to take Judas’ place, they couldn’t just choose their best friend or someone who appeared to be spiritually mature. They had to meet a certain criteria.

Whoever they were going to choose had to have been with the Lord from the time that John baptised Jesus, right up to the ascension of Jesus, but they would especially need to have witnessed the resurrection of Jesus.

Peter sets out the physical requirements for who is going to replace Judas but ultimately it is God who knows best, 2 Chronicles 6:30.

“Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles”. Acts 1:24-26

They addressed a prayer to the One who knows people’s hearts better than any of us. When we are faced with tough decisions in life, God needs to be our first protocol. Because when we pray for God to help us with any decision in life, we are doing two things.

1. We are inviting God to look into our heart and the hearts of others we are praying for because we know that He knows everyone’s hearts better than we do.

2. When we pray, we are expressing complete dependence upon God to help us make the right decision for us.

And that’s what these guys were doing in the upper room. They were acknowledging their own inability to see into the inward thoughts of others and they were expressing complete dependence upon God for making a correct decision.

They asked that the Ruler of the universe to guide the selection process so that the right man would be chosen. And Matthias was that man. God chose Matthias to do His work here on earth like He chose you and I do His work here on earth, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14.

And so the stage is set, God’s timetable is about to come upon them. Jesus’ spiritual kingdom is about to come in Acts 2 and it is going to be established and His promise to His disciples of the Holy Spirit is about to be fulfilled.

Go To Acts 2

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."

1 Corinthians 10:13

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