HIS SERVANTS' MINISTRY
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The Book of ACTS
THEME: Preparation for the coming of the Spirit
Another title for the Book of Acts could be: The Lord Jesus Christ at Work by the Holy Spirit through the Apostles. The first seven chapters reveal the Lord Jesus Christ at work by the Holy Spirit through the apostles in Jerusalem. The first chapter is the preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit, including a brief introduction; a continuation of the forty-day post-resurrection ministry of Jesus; His ascension and Promise of return; the apostles waiting for the Spirit, and their appointment of an apostle to take the place of Judas.
Acts 1:1-2 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 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: The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, (KJV)
The former treatise was Luke's Gospel, which also was directed to Theophilus, whose name means "lover of God." I do not think that just any lover of God is meant. Clearly Luke knew a man by the name of Theophilus, and without doubt, his name was correct, he loved God! Luke's Gospel brought us "all that Jesus began both to do and teach," (His miracles and sermons) and in the Book of Acts, Jesus continues to do and to teach. Today, Jesus is still working, and He will continue on with this present program until He takes His own out of the world (1 Thes.4:13-18).
Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost . . . just because Jesus was taken up into Heaven (ascension) does NOT mean He stopped doing and teaching. Today, from the vantage place of the right hand of God (Lu.22:69; Ac.2:33), Jesus continues to work through the Holy Spirit in us (Rom.8:9). The Holy Spirit operated through the apostles in the Book of Acts, and in today’s world, through you and to me.
Christ communicated the Holy Spirit to His disciples, after His resurrection, as He had not done before. In Luke 24:45, it is said that He opened their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures; and in John 20:22, that He breathed on them, and said, receive ye the Holy Ghost.
Forty Days Post-resurrection Ministry Of Jesus (Acts 1:3-8)
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: (KJV)
#1 was to Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary (Mat.28:1-9. #2 to the two disciples on their way to Emmaus (Luke 24:15). #3 to Simon Peter (Luke 24:34). #4 to 10 of the apostles, Thomas being absent (Luke 24:36), and John 20:19. (All of these four appearances took place on the day of His resurrection.) #5 to the eleven disciples, Thomas being then with them (John 20:26). #6 to seven of the apostles in Galilee, at the sea of Tiberias (John 21:4). #7 to James (1Cor.15:7), probably in Jerusalem, and when Jesus gave an order for all His apostles to assemble together, as in Acts 1:4. #8 when they were assembled together, and when He led them unto Bethany (Luke 24:50), from where He ascended to Heaven. #9 to Cephas, then the 12, and then to over 500 brothers (1Cor.15:5). #10 to Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1; 1Cor.15:8).
Jesus showed Himself alive by many flawless and reliable proofs after His horrific suffering and death on the cross. And that He was seen of Cephas (1Cor.15:5), then of the twelve: After that, He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; . . . More than 500!
His post-resurrection ministry, as revealed in His appearances, has a much more important bearing on the lives of Christians today than does the three-year ministry recorded in the Gospels.
We today, do not know Him as the One who walked on this Earth over 1900 years ago. We know Him as the Man in Glory. He is up there in Heaven right now, at God’s right Hand (Mark 16:19; Luke 22:69; Acts 2:33), and He is alive! Many lose sight of this fact. When we come to the living Christ and receive Him as our Saviour and Lord, He makes us children of Almighty God (John 1:12-13; 1 John 3:10). How wonderful that is!
The problem with the multitude of unbelievers today is not with the facts of the Bible . . . it is their unbelief. The facts are available to “whosoever.” Yet, there are millions today who say they do not believe the Bible. Where is the problem? The problem is in the heart, the unbelieving heart. There is a natural tendency for man to run away from God, just like Adam did. Man turns his back on God today. If you are an unbeliever, the problem is YOU. The problem is NOT the Bible. Jesus showed Himself alive by many infallible proofs. You can know the Truth IF you really want to know it. The problem is that most do NOT want to know.
A comment about the Resurrection. There is a verse which I think has been twisted and distorted. The Lord Jesus Christ said, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32). How was He lifted up? He was lifted up . . . from the dead. THAT is the message. No matter how much you talk about Jesus, or how good you say that He is, the message of the Bible is that He has been lifted up from the dead. He is risen! He is alive! The reason that more people are not drawn to Christ is that there is not enough preaching of a resurrected Christ. The Book of Acts puts the emphasis on the resurrection of Jesus Christ!
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. (KJV)
The first four verses are all one sentence! This is the end of the sentence. The apostles are to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Until that event takes place, Jesus’ told them to wait.
Acts 1:5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. (KJV)
Jesus evidently was referring to what was said of John's baptism, compared with His own (Mat.3:11; John 1:33). John is represented as baptizing with water, but the Messiah who was to come, would baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire. This Promise respecting the Messiah was now about to be fulfilled in a most remarkable way.
It is very important to point out that this is NOT talking about water baptism, but baptism with the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is real baptism. It is this baptism of the Holy Spirit which places a believer into the body of believers, which we call the church.
When we get to the second chapter, which tells of the Coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, we learn that they were filled with the Holy Spirit. That filling was necessary so that they might serve. It is the same with us (Rom.8:9).
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? (KJV)
The apostles were thinking as the Jews, about the temporal rule of the Messiah. They thought that He would reign as a Prince and Conqueror, and free them from the bondage of the Romans. Many instances of this occurs in the Gospels, despite all the efforts which the Lord Jesus made to try explain to them the true nature of His Kingdom. It is clear that His death was the only way which would change their opinion about His Kingdom. His death checked their expectations, and His return to life excited them. They SAW Him, they were sure that it was the same Saviour; they saw now that His enemies had NO power over Him; that He was a Being who could rise from the dead, could easily accomplish all His plans. They did not doubt now that He would restore the kingdom to Israel . . . their question: “Would He do it at this time?”
"Restore" = bring back; put in its former situation. Judea was formerly governed by its own kings and laws; now it was subject to the Romans. This bondage was severe, and the nation sighed for deliverance. The inquiry of the apostles evidently was: “Would Jesus free them now from the bondage of the Romans, and restore them to their former state of freedom and prosperity, as in the times of David and Solomon.
They understood that the Messiah was the One who would establish the Kingdom on this Earth. That was their hope. It is still the hope for this Earth. It was the Kingdom of God that they talked about, which involves the re-establishment of the house of David. These were the things Jesus talked about after His resurrection. In verse 3 He spoke of things "pertaining to the kingdom of God."
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. (KJV)
He let them know, at this particular time, that the Kingdom would not be established. Instead, He would call out a people to His Name (Christians), the church. In chapter 15 of Acts, when the apostles met for the first council in Jerusalem, James pointed out this very fact: "Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:14-18). This is what God is doing today. He is visiting the Gentiles to take out of them a people to His Name. That is, God is calling out of the world those people who will trust Christ, and the Holy Spirit baptizes them into the body of believers, the church.
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. (KJV)
This commission still holds for us today! And NOT just teachers and preachers! ALL who are TRUE Christians must be witnesses for Jesus! This is a very personal command to each every believer! This was given to these men even before the Holy Spirit had come and the church was started. It is a direct command for you and for me today. It is our business to get the Word of God out to the world. We can't sit back and let others do it or we shall be held accountable. Have YOU done your part? The all-important question is whether you are getting out the Word of God. Have you gone to the ends of the earth as a witness to the Gospel of Christ?
To get this Gospel out, we need power, we cannot do it on our own! But, since Pentecost, we have His Promise: "Ye shall receive power." We CAN receive power in the Holy Spirit. The question is: “Do you allow Him to work? OR do you quench the Spirit?” (1 Thes.5:19).
In Jerusalem . . . means our hometown. All Judaea . . . means our community. Samaria . . . represents the other side of the tracks, the folk we don't normally associate with. Even though we do not socialize with these people, we are to take the Gospel to them any time the opportunity arises. There are a lot of people who wouldn't want me around; I would crimp their style. But when we have the opportunity, we are responsible to get the Word of God out to people. The uttermost part of the earth . . . means we never should lose sight of the fact that this is the Lord's intention. He has told us if we love Him to keep His commandments. His command is personal. We cannot pass this off on the crowd, and say "The church is doing it; so I don't need to get involved." Are you involved, friend? What is your witness to Christ?
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. (KJV)
The ascension of the Lord Jesus is a very important and major miracle. The Lord Jesus simply took off! He just kept rising into the clouds until He was out of their sight! WOW! I wonder what they thought! He did NOT need a launching pad or a space suit or a missile. There was, I am sure, a special cloud to receive Him. What kind of a cloud was it? I think it was the same shekinah glory cloud that had filled the tabernacle (Ex.40:34-35). This cloud was a symbol of the Divine Presence. . . . Theophany = the glory of the Lord!
In His high priestly prayer He had prayed: "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was" (John 17:5). When He was born into this world, He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. When He left this Earth, He was wrapped in glory clouds. This is the way He returned to the Father's right Hand.
Acts 1:10-11 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 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. (KJV)
While the apostles are watching, in amazement, two angels appear. They look like men, and they have an important message . . . . “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.” I believe they were referring to the Rapture (1 Thes.4:13-18). So, will Jesus come back in the clouds to the Mount of Olives at the Rapture? I do not know for certain, but it certainly sounds like it.
And too . . . it is the glorified Jesus who went up into Heaven and this same Jesus, the glorified Jesus, will return in like manner and to the same place after the Great Tribulation. Zechariah 14:4 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. (KJV) . . . Believe it!
Waiting For The Spirit
Acts 1:12 Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey. (KJV)
A sabbath day's journey. . . was less than one mile. In Luke 24:52, Luke tells us that they worshipped Jesus before they returned to Jerusalem.
Acts 1:13-14 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. 14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. (KJV)
Mary, the mother of Jesus, was there, along with His brothers (Mat.12:46; 13.55-56; Mark 3:31; 6:3; Luke 8:19-21; John 2:12; 7:3,5; Gal.1:19; 1 Cor.9:5). Matthew 1:25 says Jesus was Mary's "first born". Jesus had 4 brothers: James, Joses, Simon, Judas, and sisters (more than one). Believe the Bible. Do NOT believe what the Catholics say. Mary DID have other children!
The attitude of the apostles and the other believers was that of oneness, of prayer and of patient waiting. There is NO way that we could duplicate this period today. Remember that this is a special time period, between His ascension into Heaven and the Coming of the Holy Spirit. We do not live in that time period. We are NOT waiting for the Coming of the Holy Spirit; He came over 1900 years ago.
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,) (KJV)
In those days. . . is the time between our Saviour's ascension and Pentecost. Peter usually spoke for the apostles; but now especially so, to express his zeal and faithfulness to our Saviour, whom he had so recently denied, he being also the minister of the circumcision (Jews), which place he began now to execute. Peter was also the oldest of the apostles; and from his conduct we know that he was the most ardent. It was normal for him to introduce the business of the election of a new apostle.
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. (KJV)
Psalm 41:9 Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me. (KJV) . . . This needed to be fulfilled, but God's foreknowledge and prediction did not excuse Judas's sin. Judas was responsible for what he did. He was the one that took them to Jesus, and was director of their counsels against Him.
Acts 1:17 For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. (KJV)
Judas was chosen as an apostle by the Lord Jesus (Luke 6:13-16). This does not mean that he was a true Christian, but he was considered an apostle. Jesus knew that Judas never loved Him. Long before Judas betrayed Him, Jesus stated that he was a devil (John 6:70). Jesus knew Judas, inside and out when He chose him (John 2:25). So . . . why did Jesus choose Judas? Why was he made treasurer of the apostles? I would say that all prophecies had to be fulfilled.
If Judas knew anything unfavourable about the character of Jesus, he would have told the sanhedrim. If he knew of any secret plot against the government, or seditious purpose, he would have declared it. He had every opportunity to know it: he was with Jesus; heard Him talk; he was a member of His family. Yet even Judas could not be bought, or bribed, to testify against the moral character of the Saviour. Jesus was sinless (Isa.53:9; 2 Cor.5:21; Heb.4:15; 7:26; 9:28; 1 Pet.2:22-23). Judas was one of the twelve apostles, by the providence of God.
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. (KJV)
Purchased a field . . . Judas might have agreed for at that price, but the chief priests bought it (Mat.27:6-7), by a strange providence, leading of them to that purchase; eventually he bought it, as throwing back to them their money which paid for it (Mat.27:5).
Falling headlong, he burst asunder . . . How Did Judas Die?
While Luke's description of Judas's death is rather gory in Acts 1:18, it would not be a problem were it not that Matthew seems to have a different story (a contradiction?). Matthew 27:5 And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. (KJV) . . . Matthew also says that the chief priests used the money to buy the potter's field. Matthew 27:6 And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. (KJV)
It is clear that Matthew and Luke have different concerns in mentioning the incident. Matthew is more interested in the purchase of the field, which he sees as a fulfillment of Scripture. He combines Zech. 11:12-13 (the thirty pieces of silver and the potter) and Jeremiah 32:6-12 (buying a field).
Luke looks at it differently, in that Judas got what he deserved, a horrible death. (A similar situation is reported in Acts 12:21-24, where Luke tells the story of Herod Agrippa I's death.) Luke’s focus is not on the purchase of the field (which would have appeared a reward, especially to Jews for whom landowning in Palestine was important), but on Judas’ death in the field, which was horrible.
Both Matthew and Luke want to point out that the field was called "The Field of Blood," because of Judas’ deed. Luke wants to tie Judas's blood to his death, while Matthew ties it to the fact that the blood money paid for the field. It is not surprising that the same name might mean different things to different people.
Is there really a contradiction here? The two stories do raise questions about the events. But they do NOT necessarily contradict each other. One way I have always looked at this is, both Matthew and Luke say Judas’ death was suicide. If Judas did hang himself, as Matthew says, then someone would have eventually have had to cut him down. That being the case, when Judas fell, he certainly could have “burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out” as Luke says in Acts 1:18. I personally do not think there is a contradiction in the stories.
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. (KJV)
It was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem . . . the repentance of Judas, his dying testimony in behalf of our Lord's innocence, and his tragical death, were publicly known, as was also the transaction about the purchase of the field. All these things surely must have lessened the credit of the chief priests, and would have prepared the people to receive the Gospel of the Kingdom, when it would be preached to them after the day of pentecost.
Aceldama . . . the proper tongue was not Hebrew. Their “proper tongue” was the Syriac language used after the Babylonish captivity. “The field of blood” was really bought with the price of Christ's 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. (KJV)
For it is written in the book of Psalms . . . Psalms 69:25 Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents. (KJV) Psalms 109:8 Let his days be few; and let another take his office. (KJV)
Personally, I think the election to choose a successor to Judas Iscariot was conducted by Peter without the Presence and Guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had NOT yet been given. Matthias was surely a good man, and he met the requirements of an apostle, which meant he must have seen the resurrected Christ, BUT . . . he is only mentioned once more in the Bible (Acts 1:26), then no more is ever said about him, while Paul most certainly is!
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, (KJV)
There were to be twelve apostles in the Christian church, to answer to the twelve patriarchs and twelve tribes in the Jewish church. “All the time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us” . . . means in the close relationship of His three year public life.
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. (KJV)
When Christ was baptized by John in Jordan, His public ministry began. Must one be ordained . . . How clearly the office of the apostles are expressed: (1) to testify, from personal observation, to the one great fact of "the resurrection of the Lord Jesus"; (2) and to show how the resurrection glorified His whole previous life, of which they were constant observers, thereby establishing Jesus’ divine claims.
Acts 1:23 And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. (KJV)
The group nominated the two men, meaning not the Eleven but the whole company, of whom Peter was the spokesman.
Acts 1:24-26 And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, 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. 26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. (KJV)
Again, I do not think that this was the leading of the Holy Spirit, nor that it was God's leading in the casting of lots. I do not think that Matthias actually took the place of Judas. I think that in His own time, the Lord Jesus Himself appointed one to take the place of Judas Iscariot. We don't hear another word about Matthias. Absolutely nothing is recorded of his ministry. I think that the man the Lord chose was Paul. Do I have a reason for saying this? Yes! Galatians 1:1 Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) (KJV) . . . Paul is saying that he was chosen by God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The ministry of Paul certainly justifies the fact that he was the one to take Judas' place. I know that many Bible commentators disagree with me. But, this is what I believe.
Book of Acts
Ch.1 . . Ch.2 . . Ch.3 . . Ch.4 . . Ch.5 . . Ch.6 . . Ch.7 . . Ch.8 . . Ch.9 . . Ch.10 . . Ch.11 . . Ch.12 . . Ch.13 . . Ch.14 . . Ch.15 . . Ch.16 . . Ch.17 . . Ch.18 . . Ch.19 . . Ch.20 . . Ch.21 . . Ch.22 . . Ch.23 . . Ch.24 . . Ch.25 . . Ch.26 . . Ch.27 . . Ch.28