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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary
Acts 1



Other Authors
Verses 1-26

BY ITS OPENING words the Acts of the Apostles is linked in the clearest way with the Gospel of Luke. The same Theophilus is addressed, and in the first chapter the story is resumed just at the point where the Gospel left off, save that a few extra details are given of the Lord’s words after His resurrection, and the account of His ascension is repeated in a somewhat different setting. The Gospel leads up to His resurrection and ascension. The Acts starts from those glorious facts and develops their consequences.

In the first verse Luke describes his Gospel as a “treatise... of all that Jesus began both to do and teach.” The word “began” is worthy of note. It infers that Jesus has not ceased to do and teach by reason of His going on high beyond the sight of men. The Acts tells us what Jesus proceeded to do, by shedding forth the Holy Spirit from the Father, so that by Him He might act through the Apostles and others. In the same way we discover by reading the epistles what He proceeded to teach through the Apostles in due season. Before He was taken up He gave necessary instructions to the Apostles, and that, “through the Holy Ghost,” though as yet the Spirit was not given to them. In his Gospel Luke had presented the Lord to us as the perfect Man, ever acting in the power of the Spirit, and in that same light we see Him here.

For the space of forty days He manifested Himself as the One living beyond the power of death, and thus abundant proof was furnished of His resurrection. During these contacts with His disciples He spoke to them of things concerning the kingdom of God, and directed them to await in Jerusalem the coming of the Spirit. John, who baptized with water, had pointed to Him as the Baptizer with the Holy Ghost, and that baptism was to reach them in a few days.

The Lord had been speaking of the kingdom of God; their minds however still ran on the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. In this they were like the two going to Emmaus, though now they knew that He was risen. Their question gave to the Lord the opportunity of indicating what was to be the programme for the opening dispensation, and we see again just what we saw in Luke 24:1-53; the Centre of the programme is not Israel but Christ. The coming of the Spirit would mean power, not that the apostles should be restorers of Israel, but “witnesses unto Me”—witnesses to Christ unto the utmost bounds of the earth. The four circles of witness, mentioned at the end of verse Acts 1:8, supply us with one way of dividing up the book. We begin with the witness in Jerusalem, and until the end of Acts 7:1-60 we are occupied with that city and Judaea. Then in chapter 8 comes Samaria. In Acts 9:1-43 the man to carry the Gospel to the Gentiles is called; and in Acts 13:1-52 the mission to the uttermost parts begins.

There appears to be a contradiction between verse Acts 1:7, and what Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2. But there the point is that they knew well what was going to transpire as regards God’s dealing with the earth: here that we may not know when, since that is a matter reserved by the Father for Himself alone. Our business is to render true and diligent witness to Christ. What that witness will effect is not plainly stated until we reach Acts 15:14.

Having said these things Jesus was taken up and a cloud—doubtless the cloud of Luke 9:34 —hid Him from their eyes. Two heavenly messengers however stood by their side to supplement His declaration of a few moments before. Their mission was to be witnesses to the ascended Christ; but their hope was to be His return just as He went. His going was not something figurative, shadowy, mystical, but actual and literal. His coming will be actual and literal in like manner.

Ten days had to pass before the coming of the Spirit, and the rest of the chapter tells us how those days of waiting were occupied. The number of avowed disciples in Jerusalem was about one hundred and twenty, and prayer and supplication filled. their time. There could be no witness until the Spirit was given, but they could take and maintain the safe place of utter dependence upon God.

And further, they could refer to the Scriptures and apply them to the existing situation, inasmuch as the Lord had opened their minds to understand, as recorded in Luke 24:1-53. It is remarkable that Peter should have been the one to take the initiative in this matter, seeing he himself had so sadly sinned only about six weeks before. Still it shows that the Lord had thoroughly effected his restoration, and he was able to piece together Psalms 69:25; Psalms 109:8, in this striking way. “Bishoprick” of course should be “office” or “charge,” as reference to the Psalm will show. It was the office of apostleship that was in question, as also verse Acts 1:25 of our chapter shows. Verses Acts 1:18-19 are evidently not the words of Peter, but a parenthesis in which Luke gives us further details of the fearful end of Judas.

An essential feature of apostleship was first-hand knowledge of the risen Saviour. The apostle must be able to testify of Him as having personally seen Him in His risen estate: hence Paul’s third question in 1 Corinthians 9:1. Paul saw Him, not during the forty days but later in the full blaze of His glory. However, from the outset there must be the twelve apostolic witnesses, and Matthias was chosen. They had recourse to the Old Testament practice of casting lots: guidance, such as we read of in Acts 13:2, could not be known until the Holy Ghost had been given.


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Acts 1:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 25th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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