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Bible Commentaries
Acts 1

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I. THE CHURCH IN JERUSALEM (Acts 1:1 to Acts 8:4)

In this chapter are found Luke’s prologue to Acts (Acts 1:1-5), the ascension (Acts 1:6-11), the apostles and others waiting in Jerusalem (Acts 1:12-14), and a record of choosing a successor to Judas (Acts 1:15-26).

THE PROLOGUE (Acts 1:1-5)

The significance of the prologue with its introductory address to Theophilus lies in the fact that everything Luke said in the prologue to his gospel (Luke 1:1-5) applies with equal force here, Acts being, in fact, the concluding book in a two-volume work, both addressed to the same person, both produced with the most painstaking accuracy, and both being founded upon eyewitness accounts.

Verse 1

The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, concerning all that Jesus began both to do and to teach.

The former treatise … refers to the Gospel of Luke.

O Theophilus… This proper name has the meaning of "one who loves God," but there is no valid reason for understanding it as anything other than the personal name of Luke’s friend to whom he addressed both the Gospel and Acts. As Bruce said, "Theophilus was a perfectly ordinary personal name, being used from the third century B.C. onwards."(F1)

Concerning all that Jesus … This is not an affirmation that Luke recorded "all" that Jesus did and taught, but it has the meaning that "all" Luke wrote concerned those things. A basic truth evident in all the sacred gospels is that the things written concerning Jesus have recorded only a small fraction of his mighty works and teachings, this having been powerfully stated by John (John 21:25).

Began both to do and to teach … When Jesus bowed his head upon the cross and said, "It is finished," the reference was primarily to the personal ministry of our Lord. The great redemptive act was indeed finished; the law of Moses was nailed to the cross; Satan’s head was bruised; the sabbath day was abolished; and the foundation for human justification was forever established. Charles H. Roberson loved to tell how Handel bowed his head after writing the score of "The Messiah," saying, "It is finished." But, as Roberson said, "Only the score was finished. All would have gone for naught unless other hands and voices should take it up and sing it!"

Complete and final as Jesus’ atoning life and death were, even these were but the enabling achievements providing the grounds of salvation and setting in motion forces that would continue to bear fruit in all subsequent generations. As Boles expressed it:

God and Christ begin, but there is no ending in their working; Jesus began working and teaching in the Gospel of Luke, and he is still working through the Holy Spirit in the church.(F2)

The learned McGarvey took a different view of this verse, and was sure that:

It is a mistake to suppose that there is an allusion in this expression to the personal acts and teachings of Christ as a mere beginning of that which he continued to do and teach after his ascension.(F3)

In view of the fact that Luke frequently used "began" with various verbs to express simple action idiomatically as in the following reference from his gospel:

Begin not to say within yourselves (Luke 3:8).

He began to say this generation is an evil generation … (Luke 11:29).

Then shall ye begin to say, We did eat, etc. (Luke 13:26).

Thou shalt begin with shame to take the lowest-place (Luke 14:9).

All that behold begin to mock him (Luke 14:29).

and in the light of the further consideration that both Mark (Mark 6:2 and Mark 13:5) and John (John 13:5) used this same idiom for simple action, it would appear, therefore, that McGarvey’s view is preferable, especially as it regards what is SAID in this place. However, this is not to deny the truth of what Boles, Lange, Bruce, and many others have written about this.

Verse 2

Until that day in which he was received up, after that he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit unto the apostles whom he had chosen.

He was received up … This statement makes the ascension of Jesus Christ to have been something God did for Jesus, and not something that Jesus did himself. This corresponds with Daniel’s prophecy that "they brought him near before him" (Daniel 7:13), and also with the mandatory deduction from Luke’s parable of the pounds to the effect that Jesus did not "set up" a kingdom, but he "received" one as a gift from the Father. It is often alleged that only Luke and Mark mention the ascension, but this is not correct. John’s gospel has two references to it (John 6:62 and John 20:17), and Matthew’s record of the great commission, "all authority in heaven and upon earth," may be understood only in light of the fact of his ascension.

Commandment through the Holy Spirit unto the apostles … Here at the very beginning of Acts, Luke brought into view the work of the Holy Spirit which received such extensive emphasis throughout the book. The commandment in view here was given on the day Jesus was taken up, this commandment being in fact the enabling charter for all that the apostles were to do. This is a reference to the great commission; and, as McGarvey said, "This is the key to the whole narrative before us; and in Acts are recorded the counterpart of its terms and the best exposition of its meaning."(F4)

Before the Holy Spirit was given to the apostles, they were not fully capable of proclaiming the gospel of Christ, due to their misunderstanding of the nature of the kingdom; but after Pentecost, they were guided by the Holy Spirit into all truth.

Through the Holy Spirit … All that Jesus did was "through" the Holy Spirit, for Jesus was in possession of the measureless gift of the Spirit throughout his ministry (John 3:34).

Verse 3

To whom he also showed himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing unto them by the space of forty days. And speaking the things concerning the kingdom of God.

Many proofs … It is regrettable that the KJV rendition of "many infallible proofs" was not followed here; for, while it is true that "infallible" is not in the Greek text, that meaning "is really included in the noun (proofs), which was used by Plato and Aristotle to denote the strongest proof of which a subject is susceptible."(F5)

The space of forty days … The teaching here is that at intervals throughout a period of forty days Jesus made frequent appearances to the apostles.

Unto the apostles … Significantly, Jesus never appeared to any of his enemies. "The testimony of them that knew him best would be stronger than that of mere acquaintances."(F6) Furthermore, the refusal of the Pharisees to believe, even after Lazarus’ resurrection, proved that it would have done no good for Jesus to have appeared to the wicked and self-hardened priests. Jesus himself said, "Neither will they be persuaded, if one rise from the dead" (Luke 16:31).

"This implies, obviously, much unrecorded teaching."(F7) Certain specifics, however, are clearly visible in what is recorded, such as: (1) that Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Luke 24:47; Luke 24:44-45); (2) that all men, including the Gentiles, were to be received into the kingdom through their faith and submission to baptism (Matthew 28:19-20 and Mark 16:15-16); (3) that Jesus would be with his church perpetually, watching over his followers providentially (Matthew 28:20 and Mark 16:17 ff), etc.

Concerning the kingdom … Not only here, but in Acts 8:12; Acts 20:25; and Acts 28:31, Luke identified the gospel in this manner.

Verse 4

And being assembled together with them, he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, ye heard from me.

Assembled together … The Greek text here may be translated "eating with them," and thus there were possibly many occasions when Jesus ate food with his apostles after he was raised from the dead. Luke also in his gospel mentioned Jesus’ eating with the apostles (Luke 24:43); and Peter referred to it in Acts 10:41. To be sure, the Lord needed to do no such thing, but it was important for the apostles to witness such a thing.

Not to depart from Jerusalem … Not until after Pentecost and the baptism of the Holy Spirit would the apostles become fully qualified preachers of the gospel, hence the command the Lord gave that they should remain in Jerusalem until they were empowered from on high by their reception of the Holy Spirit.

Wait for the promise of the Father … This has reference to a definite promise of God delivered to the apostles by Jesus himself ("which, said he, ye heard from me"), corroborating exactly all that John recorded in the five Paraclete passages of his gospel, and thus vanquishing the conceit that the synoptists knew nothing of such a promise.

Thus the apostles were to wait in Jerusalem because the promise of the Father was not yet given, and without it they were without power to accomplish their divine mission. Also, the prophet Isaiah had written:

Let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:3).

Thus it was foreordained of God that the gospel should begin in Jerusalem; and it is hard to imagine a more significant verse in the whole Bible. Religions which were launched from Boston, Rome, Salt Lake City, or anywhere else on the face of the earth except "from Jerusalem" cannot be identified with the "word of the Lord"!

Verse 5

For John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence.

The new birth is a dual thing, as Jesus said, being both "of the water" and "of the Spirit." The apostles had all been baptized with the baptism of John, hence the mention of it here; and the new birth in the Twelve themselves would be an actual reality upon their reception of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. It is a mistake to understand the outpouring of the Spirit upon the Twelve (promised here) apart from their having already submitted to John’s baptism.

Not many days hence … That is, within ten days intervening between Jesus’ ascension and the pouring out of the Spirit on Pentecost.

A further word regarding the baptism of the Twelve. Chrysostom said, "They were baptized by John"; but even apart from such ancient testimony, the deduction is mandatory from the fact of the apostles having aided in the administration of John’s baptism (John 4:2). It is impossible to imagine that they were baptizing others with a baptism to which they themselves had not submitted.(F8)

Verse 6

They therefore, when they were come together, asked him, saying, Lord, dost thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?

THE ASCENSION (Acts 1:6-11)

Error always dies hard, especially that type of error which is deeply ingrained and fortified by human lusts and desires. An earthly kingdom was never, in the long history of Israel, or at any other time, contained in the purpose of God for Israel. Even the kingdom of Saul, David, and Solomon, which God permitted but never approved, was from its inception a rejection of God’s government of the chosen people (1 Samuel 8:7). Israel’s desire for the restoration of THAT kingdom blinded their eyes to the Christ; and here it is evident that even the sacred Twelve themselves were contaminated with the earthly kingdom virus!

McGarvey’s deduction from this passage is significant. He said:

The question shows unmistakably that Jesus’ kingdom had not yet been inaugurated; for, if it had been, it is inconceivable that these men, who were its chief executive officers on earth, knew nothing of the fact; and it is equally inconceivable that if it had been, Jesus would not have promptly corrected so egregious a blunder on the part of his disciples.(F9)

Verse 7

And he said unto them, It is not for you to know times or seasons, which the Father hath set within his own authority.

The kingdom in its present phase would begin very shortly; but Jesus passed over their ignorance on that point, fully aware that with the coming of the Spirit upon them they would have it brought to their remembrance all that Jesus had already taught on that question; but human curiosity is unlimited, and Jesus immediately warned his apostles that the final phase of the kingdom, including the resurrection and final judgment, would come at a time unknown to any man, not even to himself in his earthly limitation.

Bruce called this:

The last flicker of their former burning expectation of an imminent political theocracy with themselves as its chief executives. From this time forth, they devoted themselves to the proclamation and service of God’s spiritual kingdom.(F10)

Those interpreters who hold to the future conversion theory regarding Israel usually assert their conviction as related to these verses, as for example, Harrison: "This does not mean that God is through with Israel; Romans 11:26 says that all Israel shall be saved."(F11) However, the "Israel" in view there is spiritual Israel, not the hardened secular Israel. There is no New Testament teaching to the effect that secular Israel will accept Jesus Christ; but, on the other hand, it is indicated that they will remain hardened "until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in" (Romans 11:25), a time that may coincide with the coming of the end of the world. The future conversion of secular Israel is neither affirmed in Scripture nor denied as possible.

Verse 8

But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth.

This promise, addressed directly to the apostles, has been grossly misinterpreted. For example, Bruner said:

To be baptized in the Spirit is to become Christ’s. The baptism of the Holy Spirit joins men to Christ so that they become Christians … This promise is inclusive and not selective, which is another way of saying that it is gracious and not conditional. There are no conditions in Acts 1:8.(F12)

It is impossible, however, for such a view to be reconciled with Galatians 4:6, which states that "Because ye are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, etc." God’s Spirit was never given to any man to make him a son, but it may be received only by them that are sons and in consequence of their being so.

As for the affirmation that there are no conditions in this verse, there is no way for this to be true. The apostles had already complied with the requirement to be baptized (see under Acts 1:5); and since Luke quoted Jesus as saying that those who refused John’s baptism had "rejected the counsel of God against themselves" (Luke 7:30), it must be allowed that if any of the apostles had done such a thing, they never could have received the promised Spirit. This same teaching is even more clearly evident under Acts 2:38, which see. Since the apostles had already complied (through their baptism) with one of the principal prerequisites of receiving the Holy Spirit, Jesus naturally omitted reference to any conditions here, except, of course, that of their remaining in Jerusalem until the Spirit came.

To make the sending of God’s Spirit unconditional, while at the same time understanding it as that which makes a man a Christian, is to remove all responsibility from men regarding their salvation. The Scriptures do not teach this.

Jerusalem … all Judaea and Samaria … and the uttermost parts of the earth … As Harrison noted, "This verse is a table of contents of the Book of Acts."(F13) This is, in part, the outline used in this commentary. Jerusalem (Acts 1:1—8:4), Judaea and Samaria (8:5—11:18), and the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 11:19 to the end of Acts).

There were the most excellent reasons underlying Jesus’ command that the gospel should first be proclaimed in Jerusalem. First, there was the prophecy already noted (Isaiah 2:1-3). Again, as Root noted:

There was good reason for selecting the Holy City for the birthplace of the church, also for choosing the date of one of the great Jewish festivals for the time. On such occasions, myriads of Jews flocked there as they made their holy pilgrimages to worship God. The gospel could then be proclaimed to a waiting multitude of the faithful, who in turn would carry the glad tidings back to their respective homelands.(F14)

The amazing love of Christ is also seen as another reason. Not even his bitterest enemies who made up the ruling class in Jerusalem were to be denied their right to hear the gospel, either receiving it or rejecting it. Only the Lord Jesus had such love as this.

Verse 9

And when he had said these things, as they were looking, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

There had been at least ten appearances of Jesus to his disciples after his resurrection, and possibly many, many more; but this event was, in a sense, final.

What happened on the fortieth day was that this series of visitations came to an end, with a scene which impressed on the disciples their Master’s heavenly glory.(F15)

A cloud received him … There was such a cloud at the transfiguration (Matthew 17:5); Jesus spoke of his coming "in the clouds of heaven" (Mark 14:62); and in the Old Testament, a cloud was the visible token to Israel that the glory of God dwelt in the tent of meeting (Exodus 40:34).

Verse 10

And while they were looking stedfastly into heaven as he went, behold two men stood by them in white apparel.

Of course, "heaven" as used here merely means that they were looking upward, not that they actually saw Jesus entering into the heaven of heavens which is the place of God’s throne. And, as Bruce observed:

We need not be alarmed by suggestions that the ascension story is bound up with a pre-Copernican conception of the universe, and that the former is therefore as obsolete as the latter. Anyone appearing to leave the earth’s surface must appear to spectators to be ascending.(F16)

Two men … in white … These were angels, so identified from their dazzling apparel, as frequently spoken of in Scripture (Matthew 28:3; John 20:12).

Verse 11

Who also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was received up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye beheld him going into heaven.

The message of the angels to the heavenward gazing apostles has the spiritual effect of challenging every believer to be busily engaged in the service of the Lord, rather than wasting time by gazing into those things which are beyond all human knowledge of them.

Shall so come in like manner … This is a heavenly pledge that the Second Coming will be literal and physical as was Jesus’ departure. Also, the manner of his coming will be "in the clouds of heaven," as frequently stated in the New Testament.

Verse 12

Then returned they unto Jerusalem to the mount called Olivet, which is nigh unto Jerusalem, a sabbath’s journey off.


Bethany, on the eastern slope of Olivet, was fifteen furlongs from Jerusalem (John 11:18); and, since the distance from the site of the ascension to Jerusalem was a sabbath day’s journey (approximately 3,000 feet), the site would have to be about two-thirds of the distance from Bethany to Jerusalem (fifteen furlongs being about 9,100 feet). "Over against Bethany" (Luke 24:50) means "in the direction of" that village.(F17)

Verse 13

And when they were come in, they went up into the upper chamber, where they were abiding; both Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James.

The upper chamber … may not be certainly identified, despite persistent tradition to the effect that it was the place where the Last Supper was held, and that it was in the home of Mary, sister of Barnabas and mother of John Mark.

The list of the Twelve is given four times in the New Testament, in Matthew 10, Mark 3, Luke 6, and here. This list is like the others in that Peter, Philip, and James are recorded first in three groups of four each, of course, the name of Judas being deleted here. The mention of the apostles by name stresses that the Twelve (Luke would immediately record the replacement of Judas by Matthias) were on hand in Jerusalem, as Jesus commanded, waiting for the promise of the Father.

Simon the Zealot … There is no reason for writing "Zealot" with a capital "Z" and then identifying Simon as a member of some revolutionary party which bore that name in 66 A.D. Acts was written before that name was so used;(F18) and, besides that, "the name zealot can be used as a non-technical common noun."(F19)

If one really wishes to know what "Zealot," as applied to Simon, actually means, he does not need to search any further than the word of the Lord. In both Mark 3:19 and Matthew 10:4, this apostle is called "The Cananean"; and as Bruce explained, "Cananean represents the Hebrew and Aramaic words for Zealot, which is of Greek origin."(F20) Thus, Simon’s native title, "Cananean," translates "Zealot" in Greek, the language in which Luke was writing; and being, himself, a Gentile, Luke did not bother to use the old Aramaic form as did Matthew and Mark. People who wish to make a revolutionary out of one of the Lord’s apostles will have to find some other means of doing so!

Verse 14

These all with one accord continued stedfastly in prayer, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

As Boles noted, "There are four separately mentioned classes of persons"(F21) who made up this company. They were (1) the apostles, (2) Mary the mother of Jesus and certain other devout women, (3) the brothers of Jesus, and (4) certain other disciples (Acts 1:15).

In prayer … No better way of waiting God’s promise could be imagined than that followed here.

Mary the mother of Jesus … This is the last mention of the Blessed Mary in the New Testament; and, from the fact of her being here with the apostles, it is evident that John honored the Lord’s commission to receive her into his home and care for her (John 19:27).

And with his brethren … The brothers of Jesus were James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas (Matthew 13:55); and from the fact of their being mentioned apart from the apostles, it is clear that those apostles bearing some of these same names were not brothers of the Lord. As maintained throughout this series of commentaries, these brethren were the literal half-brothers of our Lord, being sons of Mary born after the birth of Jesus.


One of the most significant passages in the New Testament is this, wherein a successor to an apostle was chosen, the same being the only example of any such thing in the whole New Testament.

Verse 15

And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren, and said (and there was a multitude of persons gathered together, about a hundred and twenty.)

DeWelt is obviously correct in his observation that:

The apostles knew they were going to be baptized with the Holy Spirit according to promise and prophecy and that there should be Twelve in the group. Because of this Peter directed the selection of one to fill the vacancy left by the betrayal of Judas. This truth lends still more force to the thought that only the Twelve were baptized in the Holy Spirit.(F22)

Verse 16

Brethren, it was needful that the Scripture be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spake before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who was guide to them that took Jesus.

Here again, as invariably throughout the word of God, the prophets and writers of the Old Testament are represented, not as originating the words they delivered, but as receiving them from the Lord by means of the Holy Spirit. Thus it was not David who spoke, but the Holy Spirit. Jesus himself emphasized this emphatically (Matthew 22:43).

Verse 17

For he was numbered among us, and received his portion in this ministry.

This verse makes two statements, (1) that Judas was numbered with the Twelve, and (2) that he "received" his portion of the apostolic ministry. This means that Judas, at first, was a genuine apostle, he, not less than the others, being commissioned to cast out demons and to heal all manner of diseases (Matthew 10:1). This refutes the allegation that Judas was a devil from the beginning.

Verses 18-19

(Now this man obtained a field with the reward of his iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch that in their language that field was called Akeldama, that is, The field of blood.)

These verses, of course, were not spoken by Peter, but by Luke, as proved by "their language" in Acts 1:19. Peter would have said, "our language."

Matthew’s account of this incident (Matthew 27:7 f) has been alleged to contradict what Luke said here; but, in actuality, the two accounts are in perfect harmony. Judas hanged himself, as Matthew related; but his body also fell, as in Luke. We do not know whether the fall took place as a result of Judas’ bungling efforts at suicide, or if his body hung until it fell of natural causes. Tradition says that he fell while in the process of hanging himself. Johnson says:

He probably hanged himself on a tree projecting over the precipices of the Valley of Hinnom, and afterward, on account of the rope or limb breaking, fell headlong with such force as to burst his body open on the jagged rocks. This is the traditional account of his death.(F23)

Such alleged "contradictions" as skeptics delight to point out from such variations in the holy gospels are called "pseudocons," which means sham-contradictions, being, in fact, not contradictions at all but variations expected from independent accounts of events in the New Testament.

Another pseudocon based upon this event appears in Matthew’s statement that the priests bought the field of blood, whereas in Luke it is stated that Judas "obtained" the field. Judas provided the money, which remained his after his death; and therefore the field properly belonged to Judas, his estate, and his heirs (if any). Certainly, the priests refused to accept the returned money, either for themselves or for the temple treasury. Thus it is exactly true that Judas "obtained" the field. His money bought it. The priests, however, actually did the purchasing, hence the statement that "they" bought the field.

The diligence of those who cavil at the sacred text is apparent in a third pseudocon based on this same transaction. It regards the two reasons given for the name of the field, Akeldema, the reason assigned for this name in Matthew being the fact that the money that bought it was "the price of blood," and the reason in Acts appearing to be derived from the bloody death of Judas. Both reasons are true, either one of them being sufficient to suggest the name. Matthew’s mention of one reason does not deny the other, nor does Luke’s mention of the other deny the one. For more on this, see my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 27:10.

The apparent reason for this parenthesis was to show the desolation of Judas’ estate, that is, "The field of blood." Peter’s speech, which Luke immediately resumed, quoted prophecy with reference to that very desolation.

Verse 20

For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be made desolate, And let no man dwell therein: and, His office let another take.

The two passages from Psalms are Psalms 69:25 and Psalms 109:8, where certain unnamed enemies of the Psalmist are imprecated. Peter’s reason for applying these words to Judas appears to be this: since the enemies of David, who was only a type of Christ, were thus denounced, then certainly an enemy and betrayer of the greater Son of David would be the proper object of the same denunciation.

Verse 21

Of the men therefore that have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and went out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto the day that he was received up from us, of these must one become a witness with us of his resurrection.

If not even a successor to Judas could be named an apostle except from among those who were constant companions of Jesus from John’s baptism until the resurrection of Christ, how is it possible that any person in subsequent ages should be hailed as an apostle?

These two verses shed light upon two of the most important subjects in the New Testament, (1) the qualifications of an apostle, and (2) the purpose of an apostle, that of witnessing the resurrection of Christ.

It should be noted that death did not remove Judas from his office; it was his betrayal of Jesus that removed him. When James was executed by Herod (Acts 12:2), no successor was chosen. Moreover, Christ had promised the Twelve that "in the times of the regeneration" (that is, this present dispensation) they would reign concurrently with Christ, "sitting upon twelve thrones and judging the twelve tribes of (spiritual) Israel" (Matthew 19:28). Therefore, all of the Twelve except Judas are still in office, all thought of a successor to any of them being absolutely an error.

Went in and went out … This is an idiom. "It is a familiar Hebrew phrase for the whole of a man’s life and conduct."(F24) Luke used it again in Acts 9:28.

Witness with us of his resurrection … The prime function of an apostle was that of a witness of Christ’s resurrection; and, in the history of the world, there was never any such thing as a person not a witness becoming a successor to a witness. In the very nature of witnesses, there can be no such thing as a successor.

Also, here is identified the principal doctrine of Christianity, namely, the resurrection of our Lord. As Hervey noted:

The resurrection of Christ from the dead thus appears to be a cardinal doctrine of the gospel. The whole truth of Christ’s mission, the acceptance of his sacrifice, the consequent forgiveness of sins, and all man’s hopes of eternal life, turn upon it.(F25)

Verse 23

And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.

They put forward … Who did the putting forward? Is it to be supposed that the 120 disciples mentioned a little later did this? There is no evidence whatever that such a group had been disciples from the beginning of John’s baptism; and thus it is not reasonable to suppose that anyone participated in the selection of Justus and Matthias except the apostles. Furthermore, there is a strong inference in this passage that only two qualified men could be found, other than the apostles themselves. It appears that those two were equally qualified, hence the decision through casting lots.

Verse 24

And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show of these two the one whom thou hast chosen.

Lord … This could refer either to the Father or to the Lord Jesus. As Bruce said:

As the verb used in "thou hast chosen" (end of Acts 1:24) is the same as that used in "he had chosen" (end of Acts 1:2), it is reasonable to conclude that Jesus is the subject here as in the former place.(F26)

Verse 25

To take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas fell away, that he might go to his own place.

From which Judas fell away … is a forced rendition, the KJV being far better: "From which Judas by transgression fell." Those exegetes who would make Judas a wicked sinner from the very time of his appointment evidently influenced the rendition as in English Revised Version (1885). The Greek word [@parabaino], which means "transgression," is in the Greek text;(F27) and it should most certainly appear in the English, thus making it crystal clear that sin resulted in the fall of Judas from a spiritual condition and from an office, both of which he once possessed.

His own place … Hervey called this "an awful phrase, showing that every man has the place in eternity which he has made for himself in time."(F28)

The reticence of the New Testament writers regarding the fate of Judas is noteworthy. Their mention of him was in sorrow, nor did any of them embellish the traitor’s deed in any manner. Even here, it is not stated what the fate of Judas was, the same being merely inferred.

The circumstance of his death gave them little ground for hope in this regard, but they would not take it upon themselves to say definitely what "his own place" was to which he went.(F29)

Matthias … Eusebius declared that this man was one of the seventy mentioned in Luke 10:1, which is probable but not proved.

Some have suggested that the apostles erred in choosing a successor to Judas and should have waited for the Lord’s call of the apostle Paul to fill the vacancy, but such an opinion cannot be justified at all. Paul did not possess the qualifications in view here. He was a special apostle to the Gentiles, himself confessing that he was "not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God" (1 Corinthians 15:9); and, besides that, Paul mentioned "the twelve" as not including himself (1 Corinthians 15:5).

Regarding the casting of lots, as practiced here, it may or may not be significant that there is no New Testament example of such a thing being done after this occasion. The device of making decisions through casting lots was highly respected in the Old Testament.

The lot is cast into the lap; But the whole disposing thereof is of Jehovah.

Proverbs 16:33

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Acts 1". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/acts-1.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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