Introduction: Jesus’ last recorded words have come to be known as the Great Commission, “You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (1:8). The Book of Acts, written by Luke, is the story of the men and women who took that commission seriously and began to spread the news of the risen Savior to the most remote corners of the known world.
While the apostles are mentioned collectively at several points, this book records mostly the acts of Peter and Paul. As a close traveling companion of Paul, Luke had access to the principle eyewitness for chapters 13-28. It is also likely that he had opportunities to interview such key witnesses in Jerusalem as Peter and John for the information in chapters 1-12.
Acts traces important events in the early history of Christianity from the ascension of Christ to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to the rapid progress of the gospel, beginning in Jerusalem and spreading throughout the Roman Empire.
Acts is a pivotal book of transitions; from the gospels to the epistles (history), from Judaism to Christianity, from law to grace, from Jews alone to Jews and Gentiles, and from kingdom to church.
Verse 1 – The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,
Verse 2 – until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen,
Verse 3 – to whom He also presented Himself alive after suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
Some believe that “Theophilus” was a seeker of God and that Luke aimed to explain Christianity to him. Others think Theophilus was a resent convert who required instruction in his new-found faith. Still others think he was an early church leader for whom Luke provided a summary of events surrounding the rise of Christianity. In any of the above scenarios, it is possible that Theophilus provided the financing of the Book of Luke and Acts.
Verse 4 – And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me;
Verse 5 – “for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
John’s baptism was a symbolic washing to purify and indicate repentance of sin. The baptism of the Promise, the Holy Spirit, would have a greater impact by indwelling the believers.
Verse 6 – Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
Jesus’ disciples knew that all of Israel did not belong under Roman rule. They still did not grasp that the kingdom Jesus was talking about was spiritual and would dwell in every believer through His Holy Spirit.
Verse 7 – And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.
Verse 8 – “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witness to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Power from the Holy spirit is strength beyond the ordinary! That power involves courage, boldness, confidence, insight, revelation, ability, and authority. That same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in each believer (Romans 8:11).
The Ascension of Christ
Verse 9 – Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of sight.
The disciples had spent 40 days with Christ learning. They were to stay in Jerusalem and wait on the promise; once they received the promise, they were to go throughout Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and all the world preaching what Christ had taught them. Only, now they would have the power of the Holy Spirit to preach, be a witness, and bless, and perform miracles, all according to Christ’ teaching.
Verse 10 – And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold two men stood by them in white apparel,
Verse 11 – who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go to heaven.”
The ascension took place on the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem. Angels are very direct when they speak. They wanted to know why these men were standing there gazing up to heaven as if Jesus was going to return immediately. What they said would also imply why they hadn’t left yet and returned to Jerusalem to wait on the Promise, like the Lord had instructed them.
Verse 12 – Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount of Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey.
Verse 13 – And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Phillip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the zealot; and Judas the son of James.
Verse 14 – These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
The resurrection of Jesus must have convinced His brothers that Jesus was who He said. Also, this is the last time Mary, the mother of Jesus is heard from. We have no idea how long she lived after this.
So, what do we do when waiting on God? We pray and think Him for the answer before we ever see it. God is faithful and cannot lie. He will deliver, right on time.
Verse 15 – And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty) and said,
Verse 16 – “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became guide to those who arrested Jesus;
Verse 17 – “for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry.”
Those privileged to be close to the truth are not necessarily committed to the truth. Judas received the same calling and teaching as everyone else. But he chose to reject Christ’s warning as well as His offers of mercy. Judas hardened his heart and joined in the plot with Jesus’ enemies to put Him to the death. However, this had to happen, as Peter said.
Verse 18 – (Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out.
Matthew says Judas hanged himself (Matthew 27:5). This money that was used to buy this field, was bought with the 30 pieces of silver that Judas threw back at the chief priest. They didn’t want to put the money that had betrayed Jesus in the temple treasury. Judas hanged himself, and perhaps the rope of the branch broke and Judas fell to the ground and burst open.
Verse 19 – And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.) (blood money)
Verse 20 – “For it is written in the book of Psalms: ‘Let his habitation be desolate, and let no one live in it’; and, ‘Let another take his office.’
Verse 21 – “Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
Verse 22 – “beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was then taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”
Verse 23 – And they purposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.
Verse 24 – And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen
Verse 25 – “to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.”
Verse 26 – And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
The casting of lots was an acceptable method for making decisions in the era before the Holy Spirit was given. The sovereign Lord ensured that the lot fell in such a way as to identify His chosen man.