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Acts 1

Hawker's Poor Man's CommentaryPoor Man's Commentary

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Verse 1


This blessed Record of Divine Truth, opens with the History of Christ's Ascension. Peter's Address to the Apostles. The Election of Matthias to be of the twelve, in the Room of the Traitor Judas.

Verses 1-2

The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, (2) Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:

The principal point which arrests my attention, in the opening of this Chapter, is, what the sacred writer hath here said, of the Lord Jesus having given his commandments to his Apostles, through the Holy Ghost. The Reader will recollect, that the history of the Church, at the Ascension of Christ, opens in a more immediate manner, with the ministry of God the Holy Ghost. The commandments of the Lord Jesus therefore were, to direct their minds to the expectation of the Lord the Spirit, in his coming. Some more visible, more open display of His Almighty presence and power, they were taught to look for. And not a foot were they to go out of Jerusalem, until this had been accomplished, Luke 24:49 . I would pray the Reader, therefore, to open this Chapter with the expectation of these momentous things. I would entreat him to be on the lookout, at every step he takes. The subject connected with the ministry of God the Holy Ghost, in his Person, Godhead, and Covenant offices, can never be too thoroughly understood, neither too closely regarded May the Lord the Spirit be our Teacher!

Verses 3-5

To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: (4) And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. (5) For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

It is well worthy our highest attention, that though we are told, the Lord Jesus remained forty days on earth, after his resurrection, yet he did not mingle with his disciples as before, in their daily intercourse, He was seen of them for forty days together: that is, from the first to the last. The morning of his resurrection was the first. And this, which was by appointment, was the last, being the fortieth day from his resurrection included. But though he manifested himself to them at times, both when they looked for him, and when they did not; yet the word of God gives no authority to conclude, that he was always with them: but rather on the contrary. He gave infallible proofs of his being alive; and of his being the same identical person as before his death; by eating and drinking with them, after he arose from the dead, Luke 24:39-43 . And beside the relation, which is given by the Evangelists, of the many separate and distinct appearances, which the Lord made of himself, upon various occasions, after his resurrection, Paul mentions, of five hundred brethren at one time, who saw him. 1 Corinthians 15:6 . So that, as this scripture asserts, he shewed himself to them alive, after his passion by many infallible proofs: and not the shadow of a doubt could remain, of the reality of the fact itself. Yet still it is worthy our observation, that Jesus did not mingle with them as heretofore. The same unbounded love, the Lord shewed them; and every act testified, that there was no change in his nature, nor in his regard to them: but there was a difference in his state. And might not this be intended, (I simply ask the question, and not decide,) to intimate to them, that when his people are quickened, from the death of sin, an holy solemnity should follow, suited to a risen state!

What more immediate subjects those were, which the Lord discoursed upon, between the interval of his resurrection and ascension, is not said, further, than that they pertained to the kingdom of God. But as the coming of God the Holy Ghost was at hand, and his office would be, to lead them into all truth, it is reasonable to conclude, that Jesus connected what he had told them before, concerning the Person, work, and grace of the Holy Ghost, with speaking of him now. And, as the whole efficient part of the Covenant, was to be, in a more eminent manner, distinguished by his ministry, no doubt, this formed a principal subject, in the Lord's discourses.

I beg the Reader, before he goes further, to observe the vast line of distinction, which the Lord Jesus draws, between the water baptism of John , and the spiritual baptism of God the Holy Ghost. Without entering into all the particulars included in this out-pouring of the Spirit, expressed under the term baptism: (indeed who is competent to describe, either the nature, or extent of the Lord the Spirit's operations:) we may justly conclude, that it was intended more or less, to imply, all the special offices of the Holy Ghost. And perhaps, in a yet more personal manner, the ordination of the Apostles to their ministry. But yet, not to the exclusion of the whole Church, in all other matters, of which the Apostles were the representatives.

The Holy Ghost is the Founder and Architect of the Church, His it is, to arrange and order, to preside over, and govern, the whole building. And as He has founded the Church on Christ, so is it his to raise up the several departments from Christ, and form all the stones of the temple as living stones in Christ; for an habitation of God through the Spirit, 1 Peter 2:5 ; Ephesians 2:22 . Indeed from the beginning of the revelation of God, this had been his special work, according to the ancient settlements of the Covenant. The Holy Ghost from everlasting, was the Almighty minister, in the Church, And every ordinance and means of grace, were as much his appointment under the Old Testament, as under the New. This we learn from a single verse, most plainly and decidedly, (if there were no other,) in the Epistle to the Hebrews. For when Paul had related the particulars of furniture in the Jewish tabernacle, and the uses of the whole; he refers the appointment and design, unto the sovereign will and pleasure of God the Spirit: the Holy Ghost this signifying, said Paul. Hereby ascribing to Him personal being and agency, sovereignty and almighty power; and declaring his own eternal Godhead by expressly saying, that the priests, when daily performing those acts of worship, were accomplishing the service of God. I pray the Reader to read the whole passage, Hebrews 9:1-8 .

We shall have, in some measure, a right apprehension of faith, in relation to the Person, Godhead, and Office-characters, of God the Holy Ghost, in these Covenant transactions, by having these things in view; if so be, the Lord himself, (of whom we presume to speak,) condescends to enlighten our understanding. As God the Holy Ghost founded the Church, so it was his office, and he did it, to anoint, both the Head of the Church, and all the members of his mystical body, John 3:34 ; Ephesians 4:7 ; Psalms 45:7 . His office it hath been from the beginning, to give to the Church all her Prophets. For the Prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, 2 Peter 1:21 . His it was, to ordain all the ministers, as well under the Old Testament as the New. The Prophet Isa 1-66 with John 12:39-41 and Acts 28:25-27 . And as the ordination to the ministry was the office of God the Holy Ghost, before the coming of Christ, under the Old Testament; so we find him ordaining his ministers, and to his service, under the New. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Ghost said; Separate me Barnabas and Saul, for the work thereunto I have called them, Acts 13:2 . See the Commentary there. In short, it is the Lord the Spirit's work, to send out and to restrain, Acts 13:4 with Acts 16:6 , to teach in the word, and by the word, 1 Corinthians 2:16 with 2 Thessalonians 1:5 , to accompany the word from heaven: 1 Peter 1:11-12 , and to light upon the hearts of the people, while the word is preaching upon earth, Acts 10:44 . And in every instance of success Paul saith it ariseth not from the inticing words of man's wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit, and of power, 1 Corinthians 2:4 .

Verses 6-8

When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? (7) And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. (8) But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

This meeting, which was by the Lord's appointment, (see Matthew 28:16 ) and which it should seem, was not the same as that spoken of verse 5 (Acts 1:5 ); was the last farewell between Jesus and his Apostles, before his ascension. Everything in it, became interesting. The question which the Apostles put to Christ, plainly shews that their minds, notwithstanding our Lord's death, and resurrection, were still warped, with the same Jewish ideas, of an earthly kingdom. And I beg the Reader to notice this, the rather because it serves to confirm the blessed truth, that it is the office work of God the Holy Ghost, to guide into all truth, John 16:13 . Hence the Lord Jesus waved the question, by directing their minds to the expectation of the Spirit's coming, which he had just before said, would be not many days hence. And what a blessed promise the Lord Jesus closed up the whole conversation with, when he finished his parting discourse; in the assurance, of what should be the immediate result of the Holy Ghost's coming: Ye shall be witnesses unto me! Reader! though this gracious promise of Christ had a special respect to the Lord's Apostles, the ministers of his word, when God the Spirit had ordained them to the work: yet do not overlook the part, which all his people take in the same thing, when they have received also the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Every regenerated child of God, is a witness for God; not only to his Being as God, but to his being a God in Christ: and to all his Covenant offices, as they relate to the Church of God, in all ages. You and I are Christ's witnesses, if so be the Lord the Spirit hath regenerated us from the Adam-nature of a fallen state, and brought us from darkness to light, and from the power of sin and Satan, to the living God. We then can, and do, witness to the whole mission of Christ: and have the witness in ourselves, that Christ hath finished redemption-work, and is returned to glory; because, God the Holy Ghost is come down, and we know it agreeably to our Lord's most sure promise, before his ascension, Titus 3:3-7 ; John 16:7 .

Verses 9-11

And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. (10) And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; (11) Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

Reader! conceive with what astonishment the disciples beheld the ascension of Christ! What must have been their feelings! What their holy joy! How gracious was it in the Lord, not only to them, but for the sake of the whole Church, to send those two angels in human form, to explain to the wondering Apostles what they saw? Their minds no doubt, were absorbed in contemplating the glorious sight, which so beautifully corresponded to the predictions of prophecy concerning it (see Psalms 24:0 ; Psalms 47:0 ; Psalms 69:0 ), and probably some of them might recollect, what Jesus had said to Nathanael: John 1:51 , and to the murmuring Jews: John 6:62 . But be this as it might, the angels called off their attention, from attending to the mere splendour of the sight, to the blissful consequences of their Lord's ascension. And oh! how sweet the scripture which follows: This same Jesus which is taken up from you into Heaven, shall so come, in like manner, as ye have seen him go into Heaven. Reader! ponder well these words. Your God, your Savior, in the same identity of Person; divine, and human, as he left the earth: so now remains, and so again will return, when his feet shall stand again on the very same mount from whence he went up. See Zechariah 14:4 ; Acts 3:21 ; 2 Thessalonians 1:10 . And in the mean time, for the full scope of faith, in every need and want, we should never, no, not for a moment, forget, that the Son of God in our nature, is now in heaven, and there exercising his office, of an unchangeable priesthood, Hebrews 7:24 . So that his mercies towards his people, are the mercies of both natures; and are manifested in this double way, and through such a medium as could not have been shewn had he been God only. His mercies are indeed infinite, because he is God: and his human nature in communicating them to us, renders them endless and unceasing from that Almighty power. But at the same time, they are all in One of our own nature, and they flow to us in, and through this nature, with a sweetness to endear them to our hearts. And hence the Apostle's direction to go to him, Hebrews 4:14-16 . Reader! do you not believe this glorious article of our most holy faith? Do you not know, that our Emmanuel, God with us, God in our nature, is now in heaven? And do you not, if so, bring that belief into daily, hourly use? Are you not often at the heavenly court? And are you not, like the Apostles, looking for, and hastening unto the coming of the great day of his return? 2 Peter 3:12-14 ; Philippians 3:20-21 .

Verses 12-14

Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey. (13) And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. (14) These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

It is better to be conceived than expressed, what were the feelings of the Apostles, when hastening back to Jerusalem, from the mount after they had lost sight of Jesus, and the angels had called off their attention to the consideration of what was to follow. But I pray the Reader, not to overlook what is said, of their continuing in prayer. No doubt, the Lord inclined their hearts, to be in this waiting, praying frame, for the mercy they were now so earnestly expecting of the baptism of the Holy Ghost. It is always a sure sign, of some coming blessing, whensoever the Lord sets his people a praying for it. Prayer brings the promise, and the God of the promise together. And when any of the praying seed of Jacob can follow up Jacob's importunity, of wrestling with God, with an earnestness like him; very sure it is, that all the family soon find, as those Apostles did, a promising God is a performing God.

Verses 15-22

And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about a hundred and twenty,) (16) Men and brethren, this Scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. (17) For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. (18) Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. (19) And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. (20) For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishopric let another take. (21) Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, (22) Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.

The day here spoken of means one of the ten days in the interval from the Lord's ascension, to the descent of the Holy Ghost. I beg the Reader to notice, what Peter saith of the Holy Ghost's speaking by David. A plain proof, in confirmation of what hath been before remarked in this Chapter, both of the Person, and Godhead, and Ministry, of the Almighty Spirit, in the Old Testament dispensation. God the Holy Ghost was now going to make a more sensible, and open manifestation of himself, as God the Father, and God the Son, had done, in their office characters, as the next Chapter shews; but He had, it is plain, as the Founder of the Church, all along been presiding over the Church, and directing all the affairs of it, 2 Peter 1:21 . And I beg the Reader also to remark with me, what Peter saith of the needs be there was, for the fulfilling of that scripture concerning Judas. Yes! The decrees and appointments of Jehovah are sure and certain. But the infamy of the traitor is not lessened by the sovereign ordinations of the Lord. In all foul transactions, the sin is the same; though the Lord overrules it to the divine glory, Acts 2:23-24 ; Jude 1:4 . And I pray the Reader also to notice, what Peter saith of Judas having been chosen into the number of the twelve Apostles, and having obtained part of the ministry. In addition to what hath been already observed, respecting the appointment of Judas to the Apostleship, and the obtaining part of the ministry, I would just say further, that it is in my view the mercy of the Church, to have these things always in remembrance. The part of the ministry Judas obtained, and the being numbered with the Apostles, had not a single act of grace in the whole. He had no part in Christ, we are very sure, Neither was he ever numbered in the book of life. And he therefore stands forth, an everlasting monument in the Church of the Lord Jesus; never to judge of men by outward things, nor outward privileges. The only well grounded cause for joy, is when our names are found to be written in the book of life, Luke 10:19-20 .

I hope the Reader will also pay suitable attention, to what Peter hath said, of the prophetic Psalm, concerning Judas; and which, on his account, is strikingly called the Iscariotic Psalm. What, but a spirit of prophecy could have spoken so pointedly to the person, and crimes of the traitor? The desolate habitation, or palace, is also mentioned in the 69th Psalm, 25th verse (Psalms 69:25 ). It is remarkable, that there should be exactly thirty specific curses in the 109th Psalm (Psalms 109:0 ), as if corresponding to the thirty pieces of silver, for which the traitor sold his master. But what is most to be attended to, in the Psalm, and the Apostle's application of it is, that Peter drew his conclusion from it, that it was the will of the Holy Ghost, another should take his office. His days in the office were indeed few, and soon it became another's, Psalms 109:8 .

In relation to what is said of Judas purchasing a field with the reward of iniquity, and falling headlong until his bowels gushed out: these things are not contrary to what is said of his hanging himself, Matthew 27:3-5 . For it was his ill-gotten money, with which the field was afterwards bought. And it is possible, that he might have fallen from the place to which he had hung himself, after he was dead, and perhaps hung long there, and such a consequence might have followed. But what an awful end! And what an awful character!

Verses 23-26

And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. (24) And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, show whether of these two thou hast chosen, (25) That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. (26) And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

The casting lots with an eye to the Lord, was agreeable to Scripture, Proverbs 16:33 . And the Scape Goat was chosen in the same manner, Leviticus 16:8 . But let not the Reader overlook what is said, of his going to his own place. For whether this refers to Matthias or to Judas, the doctrine is the same. Every man hath his own place. Hence, the Psalmist, describing the assembly of the wicked in hell, and the succession of characters for that place, saith: he shall follow the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light, Psalms 59:17 . And where is that? Like sheep, (saith he,) they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them. The old translation hath it: they lie in the hell like sheep. For the double death, is first in the grave, and secondly in hell. And hence David takes comfort, that God had re deemed his soul from the power of hell: for saith he, he shall receive me. Hence every man, both in life, and death, goeth to his own place. Reader! ponder well the striking subject! Oh! the vast difference, between the precious, and the vile: between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not.

Verse 26


Pause, Reader! on the very entrance at this sacred book of God, and mark well the blessed evidences here afforded of that most precious article of our faith, and hope; in the Lord's return to glory. Jesus! we hail thee, as our risen, and ascended Savior! Thou art indeed gone up on high: thou hast led captivity captive, thou hast received gifts for men: yea, Lord, in the manhood of thy nature, thou hast all grace for men, even for thy rebellious children, that the Lord God might dwell among them. Send down, O Lord, the choice effusions of thy Holy Spirit; and remember Lord thy promise, in which thou didst say: I will not leave you comfortless, I will come unto you. Even so. Amen.

Reader! let it be our daily exercise of faith, to make this article of our Lord's ascension, the constant subject of holy joy. There, would I say, as often as I consider the ascension of Jesus, there dwells the Lord Christ, in my nature, having accomplished redemption by his blood. The heavens must receive my God and Savior, until the times of the restitution of all things. And he is gone before, to take possession of the kingdom in his Church's name, that where he is there they may be also. Moreover, by my Lord's ascension, the justification of his whole redeemed is confirmed. Here, he offered his soul an offering for sin: and there, he presented it perfect before Jehovah. His sacrifice he made upon earth, as our Great High Priest: and in heaven, he still ministers, going in before the presence of God with his own blood. And by virtue of the everlasting efficacy of that blood, all heaven is perfumed; and the redeemed are sanctified. Hail! thou glorious, and ascended Savior! Send down Lord all thine ascension-gifts upon thy people!

Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Acts 1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pmc/acts-1.html. 1828.
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