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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Acts 1

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-3


The Establishment and Progress of the Church at Jerusalem (
Acts 1:1 to Acts 8:3)

The Acts of the Apostles] A more adequate title would be 'The Acts of Peter and Paul,' the Acts of Peter extending from Acts 1-12, and the Acts of Paul from Acts 13-28.


Verses 1-26


The Ascension. Election of Matthias

1-5. St. Luke's Introduction. He recapitulates the general contents of his Gospel, adding, however, this additional information, (1) that the appearances of the risen Lord were numerous, and (2) that forty days elapsed between the Resurrection and the Ascension. If we possessed St. Luke's Gospel only, we might possibly conclude that the risen Lord appeared only three times, and that He ascended on the very day of His Resurrection.

1. The former treatise] i.e. St. Luke's Gospel: see Intro. Theophilus] see on Luke 1:3.

Began] The Gospel records the work that Jesus began to do. Acts records its accomplishment. The chief agent in this book is the Ascended Christ Himself, operating through His Spirit, and performing works which were not possible while He was still in the flesh (John 14:12).

2 Through the. Holy Ghost] St. Luke represents all the actions of Christ's ministry as performed by the power of the Holy Spirit, which He received at His Baptism to consecrate Him to His office of Messiah: see Acts 10:38. Commandments] viz. to preach repentance and remission of sins to all nations beginning at Jerusalem, and to tarry in the city until they should be endued with power from on high (Luke 24:47.).

3. Many infallible proofs] RV omits 'infallible,' but the Gk. implies that they were reliable and convincing. The 'many' is important, for St. Luke records only four appearances, all in Judaea: see art. 'The Resurrection.'

Forty days] i.e. at intervals during forty days. The kingdom of God] Sometimes 'the Kingdom of God' denotes the inward and spiritual aspects of Christianity, sometimes Christianity as organised into a visible Kingdom or Church. Both meanings are here blended. The departing Lord doubtless wished to give the Apostles spiritual instructions to prepare them to receive the Holy Spirit, and also special directions for the future government of His Church: see intro. to Mt, § 6 (5), and prefatory remarks to Matthew 5.

4. And, being assembled] rather', 'and while sitting at meat with them': see RM and cp. Mark 16:14. The fact of the risen Lord's eating is attested also by Luke 24:42, where Jesus eats 'before' the disciples; and the sitting at table by Acts 10:41.

The promise of the Father] i.e. the promised gift of the Holy Ghost which was to be bestowed at Pentecost: see Luke 24:49.

5. Baptized with the Holy Ghost] There can be little doubt that the Apostles had already received baptism, not only from John, but also from Jesus Himself: see John 3:22, John 3:26; John 4:1, John 4:2. But Christian Baptism was not yet, in the full sense, a Baptism 'with the Holy Ghost and with fire,' because, Jesus being not yet glorified, the Holy Ghost could not yet be fully given (John 7:39).

6-11. The Ascension. Belief in the Ascension of Jesus follows necessarily from belief in His resurrection. If Jesus rose from the dead not with a natural, but with a spiritual body (and this is undoubtedly the doctrine of Holy Scripture), then it was impossible for Him to remain permanently on earth. The translation of His body to that sphere of existence to which it now properly belonged, was both natural and necessary. The Ascension is only described in detail in the present passage. The allusion to it in Luke 24:51, though probable, is not certain, and that in Mark 16:19 is not by the writer of the Second Gospel. The paucity of allusions to the Ascension in the NT. is probably due to the fact that it was not accompanied by any change in the condition of Jesus. It was on the first day of His Resurrection, not on the fortieth, that Jesus was glorified and invested with all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18); hence the event of Acts 1:9 was regarded by the Apostles as of secondary importance. In the Ascension, as in the Resurrection, Christ is the firstfruits of the human race, opening the Kingdom of heaven to all believers. He is also, as ascended, the high priest and intercessor of humanity, pleading on man's behalf, before the eternal Father, His completed sacrifice (Hebrews 7, 8).

6. They therefore] These words imply that at the common meal which the risen Lord shared with His Apostles (Acts 1:4), He made an appointment with them to meet Him on the day of His Ascension. The Galilean meeting described by St. Matthew (Matthew 28:16.), and mentioned by St. Mark, was also by appointment.

Restore.. the kingdom] i.e. make the Jewish nation independent of Rome, and dominant, politically and religiously, over all the nations of the earth. This was the current Messianic expectation of the Jews, and the fact that the author represents the Apostles as still entertaining it, is a mark of the historical truth of his narrative. It needed the Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit to teach the Apostles that the Christ's Kingdom is not of this world. The answer of Jesus implies that He will restore the Kingdom to Israel; not, however, to 'Israel after the flesh,' as the Apostles imagined, but to 'the Israel of God,' i.e. to Christian believers of every nation, by making Christianity the dominant religion throughout the world.

7. It is not for you] The Apostles were to be not so much prophets of the future, as witnesses of the past. Hath put in his own power] see on Mark 13:32; There is another possible translation of these words: 'which the Father appointed by His own power.'

8. Samaria, etc.] Jesus here revokes the temporary limitation of the mission of the Apostles to the Jews (Matthew 10:5-6). This passage is one of the many proofs that Jesus intended to found a universal religion.

9. A cloud received him] The visible and corporal Ascension does not necessarily imply that heaven is a place situated above the clouds. The object of the Ascension was not to indicate where or what heaven is, but to assure the Apostles by an unmistakable sign that Jesus had entered it. It is possible that heaven is not, strictly speaking, a place, but a condition.

10. Two men] certainly angels, as in Luke 24:4.

11. Why stand] It is fruitless to gaze. Go rather and labour, that when He comes again in judgment He may approve your work. In like manner] i.e. in glory, and in His human nature: cp. 'this Jesus' above.

12-14. waiting Church.

12. Olivet] lit. 'the olive-orchard'; called usually The Mount of Olives. This, the scene of Christ's agony and betrayal, is now made the scene of His triumph. A sabbath day's journey] i.e. 2,000 cubits, or 6 furlongs.

13. An upper room] RV 'the upper chamber,' probably that in which the Last Supper had been eaten; not, as some have argued from Luke 24:53, a chamber in the Temple. It may have been in the house of Mary the mother of Mark: see Acts 12:12. Peter, etc.] see on Matthew 10:2.; The brother of James] RV correctly, 'the son of James.'

14. With one accord] Unanimity and common action distinguish the Christian community in Acts. This characteristic expression (Gk. homothumadon) occurs again Acts 2:46; Acts 4:24; Acts 5:12; Acts 7:57; Acts 8:6; Acts 12:20; Acts 15:25; Acts 18:12; Acts 19:29, and nowhere else in the NT. except in Romans 15:6. In prayer] add (from Luke 24:53) 'and praise.' The women] viz. those which had accompanied Jesus in Galilee, and ministered to Him of their substance. Among them probably were Mary of Magdala, Joanna, and Susanna (Luke 8:2-3); Mary the mother of James and Joses, and Salome the wife of Zebedee (Mark 15:40); possibly Martha and Mary of Bethany; and almost certainly Mary the mother of Mark (Mark 12:12), who, perhaps, was hostess. Mary the mother of Jesus] The last mention of the Blessed Virgin in the sacred history. Of her subsequent life nothing certain is known. His brethren] see on Matthew 12:46-50.

15-26. The election of Matthias. As the Church was about to be established on a durable and permanent basis, it was necessary that the twelve foundations on which it was to rest (Ephesians 2:20; Revelation 21:14) should be made complete. Matthias, therefore, was chosen to fill the place of the traitor Judas; the twelfth Patriarch of the new Israel of God.

15. Peter] Peter, having been restored by Jesus to the office forfeited by his triple apostasy (John 21:15.), resumes his old rank as leader of the Apostles. This leadership was probably personal, not official: see on Matthew 16:18.

16. Must needs] RV 'It was needful that the scripture should be fulfilled.' Just as the scandal and stumbting-block of the death of Jesus was diminished by the discovery that it was foretold in the OT., and was part of the determinate counsel of God (Luke 24:26, Luke 24:46; Acts 2:23; Acts 3:17-18, etc.), so the scandal of the fall of an Apostle was relieved by the discovery that David had foretold it in the Psalms: cp. John 13:18; Matthew 26:24; Peter quotes Psalms 69:25 and Psalms 109:8; David really spoke of his own enemies, perhaps (in Psalms 109) of Ahithophel, but Peter regards the words as a typical prophecy of the treachery of Judas.

17. Part] RV 'his portion' (lit. 'lot,' Gk. klçros). In Patristic Greek the word designates the clergy.

18, 19. These vv. are, of course, a note by St. Luke, not a part of St. Peter's speech. For the historical difficulties see on Matthew 27:3-10.

20. Bishopric] RV 'office' (Psalms 69:25; Psalms 109:8).

21, 22. St. Peter names two qualifications of an Apostle, (1) to have followed Jesus from the day of His Baptism by John to the day of His Ascension; (2) to have been a witness of His Resurrection. The former of St. Peter's requirements excludes St. Paul, who had some difficulty on this account in establishing his claim to be an Apostle.

23. The Apostles might doubtless have added Matthias to their number on their own authority, but instead of doing so they consulted the brethren, thus introducing a popular element into the polity of the Church: see on Acts 6:3-6. Two] The disciples (probably because the Holy Spirit had not yet been received) did not venture to make a final choice, but left the decision to God. Joseph called Barsabas] RV 'Barsabbas,' i.e. Joseph, son of Sabba, is probably brother of the Judas Barsabbas mentioned in Acts 15:22. His surname 'Justus' is Roman, and was assumed in accordance with a not uncommon practice of the Jews at this time: cp. 'Marcus' (Acts 12:12), 'Niger' (Acts 13:1), 'Paulus' (Acts 13:9). According to Papias, this Joseph drank a draught of poison without receiving injury.

Matthias] lit. 'gift of Jehovah.' This apostle is not again mentioned in the NT.

24. They prayed] This, the first recorded Christian prayer, is probably addressed to Jesus Himself. For, (1) prayer to Jesus was no exceptional thing, but a usual practice of the Apostolic Church (see Acts 9:14); and (2) it was appropriate that He who had chosen eleven of the apostles should be invoked to choose the twelfth.

25. His own place] St. Peter speaks with merciful reserve, but probably means Hell ('Gehenna'). The same euphemism is found in rabbinical writings.

26. Gave forth their lots] RV 'gave lots for them'; RM 'gave lots unto them.' The two names were probably written on tablets, and shaken in a vessel until one of them dropped out. The use of the sacred lot (Urim) was common from the age of Moses to that of David, but afterwards it fell into disuse. This solitary example of its revival, occurring, as it did, before the descent of the Holy Spirit, is not to be regarded as a precedent.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Acts 1:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/acts-1.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, August 25th, 2019
the Week of Proper 16 / Ordinary 21
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