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Bible Commentaries

The Church Pulpit Commentary

Acts 1

Verse 11


‘Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?’

Acts 1:11

The words contain a reproach. Christ had left His disciples not a barren legacy of sorrow and idleness, but an inexhaustible fund of joy and an inheritance of practical labours for His sake. And so with the angel’s words ringing in their ears they returned to Jerusalem and, after tarrying for the promise of the Holy Ghost, flung themselves into practical labours of Divine mission.

I. Gazing into heaven.

( a) It is possible to spend our energies in mourning over sin and in longing to leave the world in which God has placed us.

( b) We may regard heaven as a distant place, forgetting that God and Christ and heaven may be found here and in this life.

( c) We may spend our energies in thinking about heaven, forgetting the heaven that lies about us.

Men speak of the earthly and the heavenly life; but in this division there is the danger that men will forget God altogether.

II. The lesson of the Ascension.—Is it not expressed in the Collect ‘with Him continually dwell’? That is a prayer to enter heaven here and now. This can only be done by prayer and by realising His Presence more fully.

—Rev. H. G. Hart.

Verse 26


‘The lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.’

Acts 1:26

The lesson of the festival of Matthias is emphatically one of encouragement.

I. The electors.—First, note what a little band it was that gathered together to elect an Apostle in the place of the traitor Judas. The number of the disciples was about one hundred and twenty, and we are told by the historian Gibbon that the Roman Empire at that time contained a population of one hundred and twenty millions—just one to every million. It was enough to make their hearts sink when they thought of the work that had been given to them. ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.’ Surely their hearts must have failed them when they thought of that.

II. Not the men but the work.—And then notice, secondly, that of that little band—nay, of the inner circle of that little band, the chosen twelve, with Matthias among their number, how little we know of their individuality! If we take out of their number St. Peter and John, and perhaps Matthew, and St. Thomas, and St. James, we know little or nothing of the rest. Just a saying here and a saying there, and nothing more. Why is that? Is it not to encourage us—that the great thought is not the men but the work? The one great object they had before them was not to make a name in the world, not to hand down names that should be remembered and perhaps adored, but simply to give themselves up to the work of the Master.

III. The greatness of the work.—And then, thirdly, notice what a great and enduring work it was. Let us look back on the world as it is presented to us at that time—nineteen hundred years or so ago. There was one man who was lord of half the nations of the earth—in power none could vie with him; in the wisdom of this world but few. What is left now? Here and there a name, and here and there a ruin. But, at the same time, there issued forth a nation among the most despised of the earth, twelve poor men with no sword in their hands, and but scantily supplied with the stores of human learning. They went forth—north, south, east, and west, into all quarters of the world. They were reviled, they were trampled under foot; every engine of torture, every mode of death, was employed to crush them. And where is their work now? As has been eloquently said, ‘It is set as a diadem on the brow of the nations.’

—Rev. J. H. Cheadle.


‘There is in Westminster Abbey a well-known monument to the two greatest revivalists of old times—the Wesley’s, and on that monument are three sentences, taken from the arguments and the sermons of John Wesley. These three sentences seem to describe for us the three aspects of the great work of the Apostles and of the Church. When we think of it in the past we seem to think of it in these words: “All the world is my parish”—words which sound rather egotistical, perhaps, when referring to John Wesley alone, but words which express a great truth when we think of the workers in God’s Church. Thus runs the second sentence: “God buries His workmen, but carries on His work.” It is God Who is working in, and by, and through men, working out the salvation of the world. And the third sentence is: “The best of all is that God is with us.” Whether we look on the Church as a whole, and God’s work being done in the world; whether we look on that little part of it that we ourselves are privileged to do—whichever it be, this sentence rings true in our hearts, “The best of all is that God is with us.” ’

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Acts 1". The Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.