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Bible Commentaries
Acts 1

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-26

Acts 1:1 . The former treatise have I made of all that Jesus began to do and teach. St. Luke, a companion of St. Paul, here continues his history. It comprises a display of providence and grace in the first planting of christianity, and a striking comment on the ancient prophecies concerning the early call of the gentiles to the kingdom and fellowship of Christ. The evangelist kept a journal of all his labours and travels, which he published after the two years of Paul’s imprisonment at Rome; and prior to the partial burning of that city, which happened in the tenth year of Nero, and before the expiration of the sixty fourth year of Christ.

Acts 1:3 . To whom he showed himself alive after his passion. The certainty and assurance of the mysteries of our faith beyond all doubt and possibility of deception, being essential to our salvation, the Saviour gave the apostles, and all the chosen witnesses, full demonstration by many infallible signs of seeing, speaking, hearing, and handling the Word of life. And not for forty hours, as when he lay in the tomb of darkness, but for forty days, walking in the light.

Speaking of the thing pertaining to the kingdom of God. Such as the conversion of the jews, the formation of churches, the order of the ministry, the government and perfection of the saints; the observance of his resurrection day as the christian sabbath, and of their mission to the remotest nations of the gentile world.

Acts 1:5 . But ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost, as John had promised in the beginning of his ministry. This Holy Spirit, which testified his Godhead at the Jordan, testified also his accession to the throne of glory in the heavens, by his descent on the day of Pentecost. Divine work could not be done without divine power, nor could the apostles go forth into the world to preach a crucified Redeemer without a renewed commission. The Holy Spirit is therefore promised to burn in their hearts as a Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ, accompanied with all his sanctifying influences, like the ancient fire from heaven which accepted and consumed the sacrifices. The Holy Spirit was promised with all the powers and signs of miracles, with tongues, and courage essential to prove the resurrection of Christ, and command the assent of the age. And what are ministers but dead men, without some portion of this unction from above?

Acts 1:6 . Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? The kingdom described in the prophets, and in the general reflections at the end of Isaiah. So the disciples had no thought of his ascension. Our Lord’s caveat against a too curious enquiry into the time of the accomplishment of prophecy, and telling them what were their previous duties, implied a positive promise of the kingdom; but the time and the manner he reserved as a secret of providence.

No wonder then that the numerous calculators of the time when certain prophecies are to be accomplished, should have committed themselves in the eyes of all the church. It is not for apostles themselves to know these things. Our Lord would not tell them the exact year when Jerusalem should be destroyed, but gave them the signs only, because the safety of their lives so required. Peter Jurieu, Robert Fleming, and James Bicheno, whose calculations have apparently come near some recent occurrences in France, and in the hierarchy of Rome, have only happened to guess pretty well; and the guessers being so many, some one could not easily fail to guess aright. God will not lift up the veil of futurity far, nor expose his secrets either to angels or men. The exposure would interfere with our moral liberty, and with all the arrangements of a contingent providence. Hence also the French, the German, and the English prophets are to be regarded as in a state of religious error and insanity. They understand every passage of scripture which the holy prophets spake with awful deference; and the most rational arguments to reclaim them are requited by slander. They modestly tell us that we are cold, dead, blind, and accursed. I have never known but three arguments to have a good effect on this generation of men. The first was the emperor’s sword, when the prophets of Munster were modestly seizing the lands and riches of the unbelievers; the second was the lunatic asylum; and the third hunger. About forty years ago, two or three thousand people assembled on a mountain in Scotland, to meet the Lord, who had promised, it would seem, several of the more illuminated to come on a certain day. But as though, through mistake of the time, he did not appear, their faith held out against appetite till the third day, when they walked very quietly to their own homes.

Acts 1:11 . Ye have seen him go into heaven. Dr. Herschel has discovered a dark place in the Milky Way, which he thinks leads immediately to the empyreal heavens. But I wrote the Reflections on this subject, at the close of this chapter, many years before I became acquainted with this idea of our learned astronomer.

Acts 1:12 . Mount Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey. An exact distance known on the great roads by a post, which, as rabbi Maimonides says, was four thousand cubits, or more than two thousand paces. We find no law regulating walks in the city; but in case of journies on the sabbath, the presuming culprit was liable to thirteen lashes with a whip of three tails; “forty stripes save one.”

Acts 1:14 . These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication. Ministers must not meet and part without prayer.

With the women: συν γυναιξι . Calvin reads, avec leurs femmes, with their wives; and he is followed by Beza, and Piscator. Peter and Philip were married, among the apostles; and it is likely that many of the seventy disciples had wives also. This text however does not treat of matrimony, but of the persons assembled together for worship, though it was usual for the jews to bring their wives to the feasts when they were able to travel. Tremellius has cum uxoribus, and he adds, in a short note, that their wives accompanied them in the dangers of their travels.

Mary the mother of Jesus, with his brethren. That is, his relatives in the flesh were all present in this assembly, joining in prayer and supplication, and waiting to see what the Lord would do. This is the first satisfactory evidence we have of the piety of these interesting persons, the brethren of our Lord.

Acts 1:15-26 . Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, comprising the twelve, the seventy, and other evangelical men, making the number about a hundred and twenty. In his address he most aptly cited the prophetic words against Judas, recorded in Psalms 69:0. and 109., and proposed a plenary witness and an apostle to be elected instead of the traitor. In this election they did not proceed rashly: the nominated individual must be a full witness, from the baptism of John till the day that the Saviour ascended, and able to attest his resurrection; else he could not authoritatively testify of Christ. By consequence, many besides the eleven were present at the Saviour’s ascension.

In this way the church purged the deep stains of a fallen man, and filled up his place by another. All the voices seemed to be for Joseph, perhaps Joses, the son of Alpheus; and the voices seemed much the same for Matthias, when his worth came to be appreciated, as a man of equal excellence. So they left it to the lot; and though Joseph, surnamed Barsabas, lost the lot, he took no offence. We still find him among the foremost in the work of the Lord. Acts 15:22. Many examples of the lot are found in antiquity, especially with regard to priests. David divided the sons of Aaron by lot into twenty four courses. 1 Chronicles 24:5. Virgil names Laocoon as inducted priest of Neptune by lot; but in his case, it was a lot ill bestowed.

Laocoon, ductus Neptuno sorte sacerdos. ÆNEID. 2:201.


Great was the joy in the habitations of the righteous, because the right hand of the Lord had done valiantly, and brought mighty things to pass; but the most sublime and encouraging transaction yet remained to be achieved. It was not proper for the immortal God, for whom all things were created, to fix his permanent residence in this sinful and temporary world. Therefore, on the fortieth day after the resurrection, he conducted his disciples to mount Olivet, not far from the garden where he sustained the dreadful conflict; and having given them final instructions, he stretched forth his hands and blessed them. Then the Conqueror of sin, and death, and hell, ascended triumphantly to heaven. The disciples beheld when their Master was taken up, and followed him with their eyes and hearts till a cloud received him out of their sight. They continued looking, with indescribable emotions, till two angels, who seem to have been left behind as their guardians, comforted them with the only promise which could comfort them; that their adorable and identical Lord should so return as they had seen him go into heaven.

Oh my soul, what a scene of glorious triumph is here presented to thy view! See the God the Man thy Redeemer, lead captivity captive, and cast trackless orbits of the comets, and all the celestial spheres far beneath his feet. See him attended with cherubim and seraphim, receiving the homage of myriads of suns and worlds as he rides through the starry heavens, which are but the dark concave of the purer regions, or the illuminations which surround the temple of uncreated glory. Hear this triumphant choir celebrate his victories with harps and trumpets, with songs and shouts. Hear his princely herald surprise the thrones of heaven with a voice of thunder “Lift up your heads, oh ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the king of glory shall come in. Who is the king of glory? JEHOVAH, strong and mighty, JEHOVAH of armies; he is the king of glory.” Psalms 24:7-9. See the entrance of our Immanuel into the glory he had with the Father before the world existed. See his immortalized humanity seated at the right hand of Majesty, and invested with supreme authority both in heaven and in earth, which is the pledge and model of our future glory, when he shall come again to receive us to himself. See all heaven attracted by his splendour, see them surround the throne to acquaint themselves with the theme of man’s redemption. See the sealed book of providence presented in the Father’s right hand, but no one is able, no one is worthy to take the book and unloose the seals. See, after a silence and a solemn pause, the Lion and Prince of Judah’s line, boldly take the book, and enter on his high functions of Mediator with God, and Judge of man. See all the shining crowds on the occasion prostrate before the throne, strike their golden harps, and make the vaulted heavens resound with the new song of redeeming love, in which every creature ascribes equal blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, to Him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever. Haste then, oh my soul, to join thy devotion to theirs. Haste to adore him on earth as he is adored in heaven, that thou mayest be counted worthy at his coming to be received into his eternal joy.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Acts 1". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/acts-1.html. 1835.
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