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Bible Commentaries
Acts 1

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentZerr's N.T. Commentary

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Verse 1

1 The Greek word for treatise is Locos. The definitions in the lexicon are very numerous, likewise the word is translated by a great variety of terms in the King James Version. I believe it will be well to state the different terms, and the number of times it is so rendered by each, so the reader may form a general idea of the scope of the original. It has been translated by account, 8 times; cause, 1; communication, 3; doctrine, 1; game, 1; intent, 1; matter, 4; mouth, 1; rumor, 1; saying, 50; shew, 1; speech, 8; talk, 1; thing, 4; things to say, 1; tidings, 1; treatise, 1; utterance, 4; word, 208; Word, 7; words, 4; work, 2. In our present passage it means volume or document, since it refers to the Gospel of Luke. The salutation to Theophilus is the same as in Luk 1:3, which proves that one man is the author of both books. All of the writers in the Nicene Library, a work composed by scholars in the church in the first four centuries of the Christian Era, agree that Luke is the author of the book we are now studying, as well as the Gospel bearing his name. Referring to his former work (his Gospel record), the author says it was a treatise of all that Jesus began both to do and teach.

Verse 2

2 The preceding verse states something of the subject matter of Luke's former book, and the present tells of the event at which it concluded its narrative. Was taken up refers to the ascension of Jesus, recorded in Luk 24:51. These commandments pertain to the "Great Commission" given to the apostles, to go and preach the Gospel in all the world. (See Mat 28:19-20; Mar 16:15-16; Luk 24:47-48.)

Verse 3

3 Whom means the apostles referred to in the preceding verse, who were to be the witnesses for Jesus in the nations of the world. In order for them to be qualified as witnesses to the fact that Jesus had risen from the dead, it was necessary for him to show himself to them. Passion is from PASCHO, and Thayer's general definition is, "to feel, have a sensible experience, to undergo; to suffer sadly, be in bad plight." As Luke uses it, it refers to the sufferings and death of Jesus on the cross. Showed himself alive indicates how long after his death it was that he showed himself, namely, after his resurrection, since he was alive. Infallible proofs comes from one Greek word TEKMERION, and Thayer's definition is, "That from which something is surely and plainly known; an indubitable [unquestionable] evidence, a proof." A proof that was merely reasonably sure was not enough, but it must be so evident that it would be impossible to misunderstand it, and there were to be many of them. That would enable the apostles to say, "we know that Jesus lived after his death on the cross, for we saw him, heard him speak, and had this experience so often that it could not have been any delusion or imagination. And this kind of experience extended over a period of forty days, which would make it impossible to have been mistaken about it. Another thing that confirmed their recognition of the identity of Jesus, was the fact that he talked with them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, a subject that no stranger would have known anything about, especially if he had been an impostor.

Verse 4

4 This book reaches back over the last part of the Gospel record, which connects the line of thought regarding Christ. The assembling mentioned in this verse took place before Jesus made his ascension, at which event this book is supposed to begin. The promise of the Father was the bestowal of the) Holy Spirit to guide the apostles into all truth. That promise may be found in Joe 2:28-29; Joh 14:16-17; Joh 15:26; Mat 3:11. The apostles were not to depart from Jerusalem until they had received this Spirit, since it was necessary for their guidance in the work assigned to them.

Verse 5

5 When John predicted the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Mat 3:11), he also included that of fire. But he was talking to a mixed multitude, in which were some whom John knew would live and die in sin and finally be cast into the lake of fire. And there also were some in his audience who were destined to become apostles, and hence would receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. John's speech was addressed to the multitude as a whole. But when Jesus uttered the promise of this verse, he was talking to his apostles only, so it was unnecessary to say anything about the baptism of fire.

Verse 6

6 The apostles held to their notion that Christ was going to erect a temporal kingdom like the one the Jews had before, and deliver it to them as a restoration of their power as a nation. They had given up that hope for a time on account of the death of Jesus (Luk 24:21). But after his resurrection, they seemed to think they had been a little hasty in their despondency, and that now perhaps he would give them the kingdom, hence the question of this verse.

Verse 7

7 The specific time or date of the plans of the Father were not to be announced beforehand to the apostles. That is why they were told to tarry in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit, and then they would know all they needed to know to carry on the work for which they had been called.

Verse 8

8 Power is from DUNAMIS, which means might or ability. The Holy Ghost or Spirit was to impart this qualification to the apostles, so that they could take the testimony to the uttermost parts of the earth. The need for such power was the reason they were told to wait in Jerusalem for the descent of the Spirit as promised through the prophets.

Verse 9

9 This verse corresponds with the closing ones of the book of Luke. Both places record the ascension of Jesus, but the present one only mentions the cloud; the other merely says he disappeared. The cloud feature in the ascension is significant, because Rev 1:7 says that He will come in the clouds. That agrees also with what will be stated in verse 11 of the present chapter.

Verse 10

0 Looked steadfastly toward heaven. The last word is from OURA-NOS, which is the only word in the Greek New Testament for the English word "heaven." Yet the inspired writers speak of the third heaven (2Co 12:2) which means there are a first and second. Hence we have three definitions of the word in Thay-er's lexicon, which I will quote in their order: "1. The vaulted expanse of the sky with all things visible in it. 2. The sideral or starry heavens. 3. The region above the sideral [starry] heavens, the seat of an order of things eternal and consummately [entirely] perfect, where God dwells and the other heavenly beings." Jesus finally entered the third heaven, but the one the disciples saw Him enter was the first. It was logical that Jesus went "up" to heaven, since that is the only direction that can be realized by human eyes. But the term is accommodative only, for literal directions as to altitude are based on the earth; "up" meaning away from the earth, and down meaning toward it. Were the earth and other material bodies destroyed, there would be no "up" or "down" as we use those terms. Whether Jesus left the earth at noon or midnight, he would still have gone "up" as we use the word. The two men in white apparel were the "angels" of Joh 1:51.

Verse 11

1 Jesus will come in like manner, which is why Rev 1:7 says he will come in clouds, and also adds that "every eye shall see him." That prediction explodes the heresy that Jesus has come to the earth in such a manner that only the self-styled "witnesses" can see him.

Verse 12

2 In Luke's Gospel record, he merely states (chapter 24:52) that the disciples returned to Jerusalem with great joy. In our present verse he states from where they made the journey, namely, from the mount called Olivet, which is the same as the Mount of Olives, a distance from Jerusalem of a sabbath day's journey, or about three-quarters of a mile. The law of Moses has nothing to say about "a sab-bath day's journey," but that was a tradition of the Jews, based on a strained interpretation of Exo 16:29 and Jos 3:4. Neither Jesus nor the inspired writers endorsed the tradition, but on account of its common use, the term came to have a secular meaning as to distance.

Verse 13

3 Where abode does not mean they resided there, as the word generally denotes, but that they were remaining or passing the time there. That was in obedience to the command of Jesus that they "tarry" and wait for the coming of the "power from on high" (Luk 24:49). The word both commonly denotes that two things only are being considered, but Thayer explains the Greek as meaning, "things are thus connected which are akin, or which are united to each other by some inner bond, whether logical or real." The men named were related to each other as apostles of Christ.

Verse 14

4 While waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit, the disciples were improving the time by religious devotions. These exercises included the women, for it says they continued thus with the women. This is the last time the mother of Jesus is mentioned by name in the New Testament; others are named of that term, but not His mother. His brethren means the children of Joseph and Mary; not his disciples, for they were already named in verse 13.

Verse 15

5 As usual, Peter was the spokesman on this occasion. The hundred and twenty disciples means the ones who were present in this assembly. In 1Co 15:6 Paul says that Jesus was seen (after his resurrection) by "above five hundred brethren," most of whom were living when the apostle wrote the epistle. Just where they were when the assembly was going on mentioned in the present verse we do not know, for only the apostles had been commanded to tarry at Jerusalem; the others were there by their own voluntary desire only.

Verse 16

6 The Holy Spirit had not yet come down, but the divine record afterwards indicates full approval of all the proceedings, hence we must conclude that what Peter and the others said and did was by the guidance of the Lord. Peter began his speech with a reference to Psa 69:22-25, pertaining to the conduct and fate of Judas.

Verse 17

7. This means that Judas had been included among the apostles. The verse also indicates that the purpose of the present session was to secure a man to become an apostle in the place of Judas.

Verse 18

8 Purchased a field refers to the "potter's field," mentioned in Mat 27:7. With the reward of iniquity. Judas did not personally have any part in purchasing this field, for it was done after his death (Mat 27:5-8). The phrase means the field was bought with the money that Judas had received as a reward for betraying Jesus. Falling headlong. If two statements seem to disagree, they should not be taken as a contradiction if it is possible for both to be true. The other record of the death of Judas says he "hanged himself." There were no "up-to-date" scaffolds available in those days, so Judas would naturally select a place, such as a tree near a precipice, for clearance of his body when he plunged from the footing under him. Then when his weight pulled suddenly on the limb (as the tradition reports it), his body broke it off and he was ruptured as he fell down upon the rocks below.

Verse 19

9 There is nothing strange in the general knowledge of the affair of Judas. The suicide of a man prominently associated with Jesus could not escape the attention of the people. And the setting aside of a piece of land that ordinarily was discarded, would naturally bring forth many inquiries, and that in turn would suggest the title given to the place. Field of blood. Judas did not actually shed the blood of Jesus, neither did the crucifixion directly shed it. The law of capital punishment in Gen 9:6 says, "He that sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." Nobody would think this is restricted to cases where the veins of another were literally opened and the blood poured out, either in the act of murder or the punishment for it. Were that the case, a murderer could escape the penalty by merely using some other method of slaying his victim besides bloodletting. The origin of the term is in the declaration of God that the blood is the life (Gen 9:4). From this truth the term "bloodshed" came to mean any act of violence that would cause one to lose his life. Judas caused Jesus to lose his life by violence, and hence he was properly charged with bloodshed.

Verse 20

0 The quotation being cited is in Psa 69:25. Habitation means a house or place of dwelling, and to be desolate means that it was to be deserted. There is no information that the home of Judas was ever occupied by others, or that he left any family to take charge of it. Bishoprick is from EPISKOPE, and is the word for "office of a bishop" in 1Ti 3:1. Thayer defines the word as, "oversight, office, charge," which explains why it was applied to the apostle Judas. Let another take denotes clearly that the man who is about to be appointed as apostle was to take the place of Judas, and should therefore be regarded as an apostle after the Lord has indicated his choice.

Verse 21

1 One of the qualifications required in the man to be placed in office as an apostle, is that of constant association with the others and with the Lord Jesus. This idea of being "with him" is set forth in Mar 3:14.

Verse 22

2 The extent of time when this association was to have been had was from the baptism of John to the ascension of Jesus. Such an experience would qualify him to be a witness of the resurrection of Jesus, because the death and return to life of the Lord took place between those two events. The proper man would be ordained to the office of apostle. (See the notes on ordain at Joh 15:16.)

Verse 23

3 Appointed is from HISTEMI, which Thayer defines in this place, "To bid to stand by." It has the same meaning as our modern word "nominate," but not placed in any office as yet. They named Barsabas called Justus, and Matthias, who were to "stand by" and be ready for whatever might be determined upon.

Verse 24

4 As far as the apostles knew, each of these men named for the office left vacant by Judas' death was qualified. But the Lord could see defects that man could not, or could observe superior qualities of one over the other that could not be known by human beings. That is why they prayed to the Lord who knoweth the hearts of all men, to make the final choice between their candidates.

Verse 25

5 Ministry is from DIAKONIA, and its general meaning is "service." The word will apply to anyone and to any activity that is of service to the Cause of Christ. The apostleship was a specific service to be administered only by those qualified and authorized to do it. Judas fell from his position as apostle by transgression, hence was responsible for his actions. His own place meant perdition according to Joh 17:12.

Verse 26

6 The appointment of an apostle was such an important event, that I believe a full explanation should be made of the lot as a means of determining the selection. The word is from KLEROS, which Thayer defines, "An object used in casting or drawing lots." He than explains the performance, "which was either a pebble, or a potsherd, or a bit of wood . . . the lots of the several persons concerned, inscribed with the: names, were thrown together into a vase, which was then shaken, and he whose lot first fell out upon the ground was the one chosen." Fell is used figuratively, as it is used in Rom 14:4, where Paul uses the statement, "to his own master he standeth or falleth." This also is according to Robinson's definition for the Greek word for "fall" which is, "To fall to or upon any one, Act 1:26." A natural question would be why such a thing as a "game of chance" would be used in determining the selection of an apostle. That was still in the period when the Lord used "sundry times and diverse manners" (Heb 1:1) to communicate his will to mankind. When He was pleased to use the lot on any matter, he would see that the proper piece would come out. That is the meaning of Pro 16:33, and it is the reason the apostles prayed that the Lord would "show whether [which] of these two thou hast chosen." The inspired writer is the one who says Matthias was numbered with the eleven apostles, which he would not have done, had the proceeding not been in harmony with the divine will. Hence we must understand that Matthias was the man divinely selected to take the place of Judas, and to fill out the original quota of the "twelve apostles."
Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Acts 1". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/acts-1.html. 1952.
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