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Acts One

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

Acts 1:1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,

Theophilus. The “former treatise” is clearly the gospel of Luke, both books being addressed to “Theophilus” (a name meaning “lover of God”). If Theophilus is not a generic name for anyone who is a lover of God, then the reference is evidently to a Roman official (as indicated by the adjective “most excellent” in Luke 1:3) in whom Luke had special interest, either seeking to lead him to Christ or to build him up in his newfound Christian faith.

Jesus began. Luke's gospel contains the record of what Jesus began to do and teach. The implication is that Luke's supplementary treatise tells what He continued to do and teach through the apostles by the enabling power of His Spirit, whom He sent to indwell and guide them at Pentecost.

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 showed 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:

infallible proofs. “Infallible proofs” is one word in the Greek (tekmerion) and occurs only this one time in the New Testament. It emphasizes that the evidences for Christ's resurrection were not philosophical speculations but certain facts! It is appropriate that the word occurs only once, for no other event of Biblical history has been confirmed more certainly than His bodily resurrection. Not only His ten or more appearances to the disciples, but also the otherwise inexplicable evidence of the empty tomb, the remarkable change in the disciples, the development and spread of the church as a result of its preaching, the change to worship on the first day of the week, the age-long observance of Easter and the Lord's supper, all in addition to the testimonies of the writers of the New Testament, as led and empowered by the Holy Spirit. These all combine to make it certain that Christ died for our sins and rose again for our justification.

forty days. As Jesus was victorious over His forty-day temptation by Satan (Luke 4:2), so He witnessed to His disciples for forty days of His greater victory over Satan through His death and resurrection (Hebrews 2:14-15).

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.

baptized with the Holy Ghost. As John had “immersed” (literal meaning of baptizo) the disciples in water, they were shortly to be immersed in the Holy Spirit, in accordance with John's prophecy (Mark 1:8) and Christ's promise (John 14:16-17). He would henceforth immerse all future believers into the spiritual body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13), to indwell them, guide them and be with them always.

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?

at this time. That the Lord will, at some future time, restore the kingdom to Israel, is clear from the fact that He did not correct this idea (often taught in the Old Testament Scriptures) in the disciples' understanding. Note, for example, the further confirmation of this teaching in Acts 15:13-18. He did, however, indicate they were not to be concerned about the time of this future kingdom. They had other more immediate responsibilities.

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.

times or the seasons. This admonition is still appropriate today. No human being, no angel—not even Jesus in the limitations of His human incarnation—can know the date of His return to set up His kingdom (e.g., Mark 13:32).

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.

power. The “power” associated with the coming of the Holy Spirit on a believer is more than just a dynamic preaching style. It will also involve “boldness” and “great grace” (Acts 4:31, 33) in witnessing, centered in the wisdom of God rather than the wisdom of men (1 Corinthians 2:4-6) and manifestation of “the fruit of the Spirit” in one's life (see notes on Galatians 5:22-23).

shall be witnesses. This is not merely a command but also a remarkably fulfilled prophecy. Think of the apparent absurdity of a motley band of followers of an itinerant preacher, who only had a three-year career, setting forth to “be witnesses unto me … unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Yet that is exactly what has happened! The only answer to such an anomaly is the divine origin of the prophecy, implemented by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

Samaria. In a sense this also provides an outline of the book of Acts. Acts 1-7 describe the witness in Jerusalem, Acts 8-12 in Judaea and Samaria, Acts 13-28 in the “uttermost parts of the earth;” the account suspended at the point when Paul had reached the distant capital of the Roman Empire. The narrative focuses mainly on the ministries of Peter and Paul, but the others scattered into various other regions (Acts 8:4). Traditions tell of Thomas going to India, for example, and of others preaching in various distant lands. In any case, the principle still stands. The Christian witness is vital both at home and abroad.

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;

he went up. Jesus “went up” (as Elijah had long ago—2 Kings 2:11) in His physical body, ascending into heaven, where He then “sat on the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19). Thus heaven must be a real place in this physical universe created by God, not some ethereal dimension of time and space entered through a black hole or something of the sort.

two men. These “two men” witnessing the ascension may well have been the same “two men” at the empty tomb, and even the “two witnesses” who will prophesy in the last days (Revelation 11:3). See discussion on Luke 24:4.

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.

this same Jesus. When Christ returns, as He promised (John 14:2-3), He will be the “same Jesus,” still in His glorified physical body which the disciples saw and touched after His resurrection. He will also return to the earth “in like manner.” He was received up in a cloud (Acts 1:9); He will return in “the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 24:30). He ascended from the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:12); in that day, “His feet shall stand … upon the mount of Olives” (Zechariah 14:4). As He went up, “they beheld” Him going (Acts 1:9); when He returns to earth, at the end of the period of the great tribulation, “every eye shall see Him” (Revelation 1:7). Before He returns to earth in like manner, however, He must first come “in the air,” where all believers, both dead and living, will meet Him before He brings His judgments on the earth (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; 5:3-9).

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.

one accord in prayer. This is the first of at least thirty occasions of prayer mentioned in the book of Acts. The ministry committed to Christ's disciples is to bear witness of Him in all the world, but this must always be accompanied by “prayer and supplication.”

with his brethren. Not only Mary, who had been at the cross, but even “His brethren,” who had not believed on Him during His teaching ministry (e.g., John 7:5), were now among the disciples. Christ's resurrection had apparently convinced them, as well as the others, to believe on Him as Savior and Lord.

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,)

an hundred and twenty. The 120 disciples could be regarded as members of the very first local church. They had not yet received the promised baptism by the Holy Spirit and were, as Christ had instructed, tarrying in Jerusalem, waiting to “be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). However, most of them (perhaps all) had already been baptized in water, either by John the Baptist or by one of the eleven (note John 1:35-37; 4:1-2), and thus were ready to baptize the three thousand new converts on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41).

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.

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.

purchased a field. By comparison with the account in Matthew 27:3-8, it is evident that Judas “purchased” this field only indirectly. He threw down his “blood money” (the thirty pieces of silver paid him for betraying Jesus) in front of the chief priests, who used it to buy the field called Aceldama (Acts 1:19), or “the field of blood” (Matthew 27:8). He then hanged himself, apparently in the same field, but bungled the attempt, actually dying as described in this verse.

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.

Aceldama. This plot of land, “the field of blood,” had been purchased with blood money (Matthew 27:6), and was thus fittingly named. In a sense, however, this field may be considered as a type of the world, in which is being sown the good seed of the word of God. “The field is the world” (Matthew 13:38), and Christ is the Man who, searching for “treasure hid in a field … selleth all that He hath, and buyeth that field” (Matthew 13:44). The purchase price was the very blood of His life, which was shed so that we, dead in sins and hidden in the world, might be “purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).

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 bishopric let another take.

book of Psalms. The reference is to Psalm 69:25, which contains several other prophetic references to the future sufferings of Messiah (Psalm 69:8-9, 21).

bishoprick. The last clause is a free quote from Psalm 109:8. The word “bishoprick” literally means “overseer” and should be read here as “office.” Judas and his responsibilities needed to be assumed by another qualified disciple.

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.

baptism of John. This strongly implies that all the other eleven disciples had “companied with us … beginning from the baptism of John” (Acts 1:21-22), and therefore that all the eleven had originally been baptized by John. They had not been rebaptized when they left John to become disciples of Jesus, for “Jesus Himself baptized not, but His disciples” (John 4:2). In effect they already constituted a local church, even though the Holy Spirit had not yet come. The Lord Jesus, of course, had said He would build His church on the basis of Peter's great confession that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16, 18), and then shortly after had laid down principles for discipline in a church (Matthew 18:17). John the Baptist had already been preaching the great truth that Jesus was the Christ, the “Son of God” (John 1:26-34), and apparently his own disciples—at least those who left to follow Jesus—believed it. Although these facts seem to militate against the common dispensational teaching that the church began only at Pentecost, there seems no real reason why the 120 disciples (apparently with Peter in charge) should not be regarded as an organized local church before this, doctrinally sound but not yet empowered by the Spirit. The so-called “invisible church,” consisting of all believing Christians, presumably did begin at Pentecost, although there is no explicit Scripture stating this. The first mention of church in the book of Acts is Acts 2:47: “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” This probably refers to this same local church there at Jerusalem, although it had suddenly grown very large.

witness with us. Another requirement for being a member of the twelve apostles was that he must have witnessed the resurrected Christ. Note also 1 Corinthians 9:1.

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, show 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.

his own place. Although Judas had walked with Christ and the other apostles for over three years, he was out of place there all the time. He was actually “a devil,” according to Christ Himself (John 6:70) and the “son of perdition” (John 17:12), because he had allowed himself, via his cupidity, actually to become possessed and controlled by Satan (John 13:2, 27).

Acts 1:26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

lots. Casting lots after prayer seems occasionally to have been an accepted way of determining God's will in Old Testament times. “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33). With the coming of the Holy Spirit to guide the church, however, He is to be our guide, in accordance with Scripture. There are no further instances recorded of churches making decisions by casting lots.