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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Acts 1

 

 

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Verse 1

The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,

Introduction-Last Days of our Lord upon Earth (Acts 1:1-8)

The former treatise - `The first Account,' 'Narrative,' 'Discourse;' first being put for former [ prooton (Greek #4412) for proteron (Greek #4386)], as not unfrequently in most languages. [The apodosis to men (Greek #3303), instead of being expressed by the usual de (Greek #1161), is absorbed by the subject itself, as Bengel notes: Kuhner, section 322, 4; Donaldson, section 567.]

Have I made, O Theophilus - of whom see the note at Luke 1:3. This "former treatise" can be no other than the Third Gospel, of which the present History was designed to be the Sequel (see Introduction).

Of all that Jesus began both to do and teach - that is, 'of all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning;' as Bengel, Humphry, and others rightly understand this expression. It is pressed too far by Olshausen, and after him by several good critics, who consider the word "began" here [ eerxato (Greek #756)] as a hint by the historian, at the outset, that Christ's whole work on earth is to be viewed but as a beginning, while that in heaven is but a continuation of one and the same work; and that what is to be related in this book is not so much the Acts of the Apostles, as the Actings-through their instrumentality-of the glorified Redeemer upon earth. Nothing, indeed, can be more true and delightful than this view of Christ's present work in the heavens; and when Lange says that 'the reins of Christ's kingdom, of which the Acts of the Apostles relate the first and fairest part, are in the pierced hands of our blessed Lord and Saviour, exalted from the cross to the right hand of God,' he writes not more beautifully than correctly. But to draw all this from the word "began" here, is (as DeWette and Meyer justly protest) to strain the sense of that word. It is not, indeed, pleonastic, but means simply (as in a great many similar cases, where a course of continuous speech or action is intended) 'proceeded' to say or to do (Matthew 12:1; Luke 13:25; 2 Corinthians 3:1, and in this same book, 1 Corinthians 2:4).


Verse 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:

Until the day in which he was taken up , [ aneleemfthee (Greek #353)] - where, our historian says not, it being too familiarly known to need mention. His being taken up, or His 'Assumption' [ analeempsis (Greek #354)] - already used by this same writer in his Gospel (Acts ), and by Mark (Mark 16:19), for which Luke elsewhere (Luke 24:51) uses the equally expressive word "carried," or 'borne up,' [ anefereto (Greek #399)] - was one of those great notabilities among Christians, those dear familiar 'household words,' which to leave but half expressed by the mouth or pen was only the more vividly to call them up to the minds and send them home to the hearts of all that loved Christ's blessed name. Yet the Ascension and the Assumption of Christ are not quite same. The Ascension [ anabasis (Greek #305) = ana (Greek #303) + basis (Greek #939)] was His own act (see John 6:62; John 20:17; Ephesians 4:8): the Assumption was the Father's act, translating Him up from "the lower parts of the earth," to which He had descended, far above all heavens, to where and what He was before-only now in our nature-in all the mediatorial glory to which His finished work on earth entitled Him (John 17:4-5; John 17:24; Philippians 2:6-11).

After that he through the Holy Spirit had given commandments unto, [ enteilamenos (G1781), or 'had charged'] - the apostles whom he had chosen. This may either mean that Jesus, 'chose the apostles through the Holy Spirit,' or that the risen Saviour 'through the Holy Spirit charged the apostles' whom during His public ministry He had chosen. The former is the sense given to the expression by the two chief Syriac translators, and by Augustine, Beza, Olshausen, DeWette, Green, probably because nowhere else are such communications of the risen Redeemer expressly ascribed to the agency of the Holy Spirit. Humphry and Webster and Wilkinson incline to apply the statement to both acts-the choice at the first and the charge at the last-as both "through the Holy Spirit." But to us it seems far more natural to take the sense, with our translators, exclusively in the latter sense-that is, that it was through the Holy Spirit that the risen Redeemer gave His final charge to the apostles whom in the days of His flesh He had chosen. (So the Vulgate, Erasmus, Calvin, Bengel, Meyer, Stier, Alford, Hackett, Alexander.) No doubt Jesus, in the exercise of His public ministry, did everything "through the Holy Spirit," and it was for this very end that God 'gave not the Spirit by measure unto Him' (John 3:34).

But let it be remembered that after His resurrection-as if to signify the altogether new relation in which He stood to the Church-He signalized His first meeting with the assembled disciples by "breathing on them," just after giving them His "peace," saying, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit;" thus anticipating the great Pentecostal donation of the Spirit from His hands (see the note at John 20:22). And it is on this principle, we believe, that His parting charges are here said to have been given "through the Holy Spirit," as if to mark that He was now all redolent with the Spirit, and that what had been husbanded during His suffering work for His own necessary uses was now set free, was all ready to overflow from Himself to His disciples, and needed but His ascension and glorification to be formally dispensed and flow all forth (see the note at John 7:39). Chrysostom calls attention to the fact that it was while charging them in words full of the Spirit that He was taken up. The charge itself was doubtless just what is recorded in Mark 16:15-18 and Luke 24:44-49, particularly the great ministerial commission of Matthew 28:18-20.


Verse 3

To whom also he shewed 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:

To whom also he showed himself alive. As the historian is about to relate how "the resurrection of the Lord Jesus" was the great burden of apostolic preaching, so the subject is here fitly introduced by an allusion to the primary evidence on which that great fact rests-His repeated and undeniable manifestations of Himself in the body to the assembled disciples, who, instead of being predisposed to believe it, had to be overpowered by the resistless evidence of their own senses, and were slow to yield even to this (Mark 16:14).

After his passion , [ meta (Greek #3326) to (Greek #3588) pathein (Greek #3958) auton (Greek #846)] - or, 'after His suffering.' This primary sense of the word "Passion" has nearly fallen into disuse on ordinary subjects; but it is nobly consecrated in the phraseology of the Church to express the Redeemer's final endurances, when He "became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."

By many infallible proofs. The one word here used [ tekmeeriois (Greek #5039)] is well so rendered, expressing as it does more than mere 'evidences' [ seemeia (Greek #4592)], and being used by Aristotle to denote 'demonstrative proof.' (Beza renders it certissimis signis).

Being seen of them, [ optanomenos (G3700), an unclassical form, here only used, but twice used by the Septuagint] forty days , [ di' (Greek #1223) heemeroon (Greek #2250) tesserakonta (Greek #5062)] - properly, 'through (a period of) forty days.' (Compare Acts 5:19, Gr.) Chrysostom rightly takes this expression to mean that the manifestations of the risen Redeemer were not, as in the days of His flesh, continuous, but occasional; and it is to show through what a lengthened period those "infallible proofs" of His resurrection extended that the precise duration of His stay on earth is specified. It is worthy of notice that in the Third Gospel the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ are so connected that we could not have been sure from it alone that they had not both occurred on one day, while here an interval between them of forty days is expressly mentioned. But different objects were in view in the two works. In his Gospel the Ascension of Christ is viewed as the termination of His life on earth, and so is related in more general terms; in the Acts it is viewed in direct connection with the events which were to follow it-particularly those of the great Pentecostal day and the first gatherings of the Church-and so all the information on the subject which was possessed by the better informed, but is nowhere else recorded, is here communicated. Yet the two statements are regarded as contradictory by Strauss, Teller, and even Meyer; while DeWette thinks that Luke, while writing his Gospel, may have forgotten the long interval that separated the two events. This is just one of many proofs how insufficient mere critical acumen and learning are to throw light on the sacred writings, if not employed in sympathy with their deeper intent.

And speaking of (or 'discoursing') the things pertaining the kingdom of God. This reference to "the kingdom of God" - as the burden of Christ's last instructions on earth, as it had been of His very earliest teaching-will be observed with interest by those who, in addition to the truths which Jesus taught, would fain catch even His tones, and who love to cast themselves into the very mould of His teaching, tracing amidst its enduring elements its gradually advancing forms. When at the very outset He said, as did also His forerunner, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand," and when at a further stage He said to the Pharisees, "the kingdom of God hath reached you" [ efthasen (Greek #5348) ef' (Greek #1909) humas (Greek #5209)] (Matthew 12:28), it was only as "a grain of mustard seed" - in its most rudimental germ: now it was all ready to stand out in visible form, as eventually it is to cover the whole earth.


Verse 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.

And being assembled together with them - not, as in the margin, 'eating with them,' which is to be disapproved. This appears to have been His very last meeting with them.

Commanded (or 'charged') them that they should not depart from Jerusalem. Why? Because it was God's high purpose to glorify the existing economy, by causing His Spirit to descend upon the disciples at its ancient seat, and on the occasion of the very first of its annual festivals after the ascension of the Church's Head; so fulfilling the sure word of prophecy, "Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3, with which compare Luke 24:49).

But wait for the promise of the Father (or wait for what the Father had promised, meaning the gift of the Holy Spirit), which ye have heard of (or 'from') me. The historian here, in reporting what Jesus said, passes from the indirect to the direct form, in order to give the very words used; and this would have been sufficiently understood without the supplement, "saith he," of our version. The reference is to something said before that last interview, and so must be to those explicit promises of the Spirit which were made to the disciples at the supper table the night before He suffered (see John 14:16; John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7-11).


Verse 5

For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence.

The number of "days hence" (from the Ascension to the descent of the Spirit) we know to have been exactly ten; because as 50 days had to intervene between Passover and Pentecost (Leviticus 23:15-16), and 40 of these had already been spent by our risen Lord upon earth, there remained but ten more until Pentecost, when the Spirit was to descend. But Jesus, instead of telling all this to the disciples, uses the indefinite expression, "not many days hence" - doubtless to keep their expectations awake.


Verse 6

When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

When they therefore were come together, they asked of him , [ hoi (Greek #3588) men (Greek #3303) oun (Greek #3767) sunelthontes (Greek #4905) eerootoon (Greek #2065), not epeer of the Received Text] - or, 'They then who had come together, asked Him:' either way the sense is the same, the meeting being not a different and subsequent one, but the same one mentioned before.

Saying, Lord, wilt thou [ ei (G1487) = 'im (H518) in indirect questions] at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? By this time, no doubt, their gross ideas of "the kingdom" had undergone considerable modification, though to what extent it is impossible to say. At the same time, as their question certainly implies that they looked for some restoration of the kingdom to Israel, so they are neither rebuked for this nor contradicted. To say, as many expositors do, that our Lord's reply was so intended, is not to listen simply to what He says, but to obtrude upon His words what men think they ought to mean.


Verse 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.

And he said unto them, It is not for you (q.d., 'It is no business of yours') to know the times or the seasons , [ chronous (Greek #5550) ee (Greek #2228) kairous (Greek #2540)] - rather, 'to know times and seasons;' words by no means synonymous in the usage of the New Testament. By "times" [`itiym] are meant periods of some length; and here the reference is to the great epochs of prophecy and the intervals between them: by "seasons" [mow`


Verse 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 Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

But ye shall receive power (cf. Luke 24:49), after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me , [ moi (Greek #3427)] - or rather, according to the true reading, 'witnesses of me,' or, 'my witnesses' [ mou (Greek #3450) is read by 'Aleph (') A B C D, moi (Greek #3427) only by E and so Lachmann and Tischendorf].

Both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

We have here the true key to the plan of the Acts, which records the progress of the Gospel,

FIRST, "in Jerusalem, and in all Judea" - this in Acts 2:1-47 to Acts 8:4. SECONDLY, "in Samaria" - this in Acts 8:5, to Acts 1:25. THIRDLY, "unto the uttermost part of the earth" - of this we have a beautiful anticipation in Acts 8:26 to the end, and the preparations for it in Acts 9:1-43 to Acts 12:1-25; while the execution of it is recorded in Acts 13:1-52 to the end of the book. The Ascension (Acts 1:9-11)


Verse 9

And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud (as to which see the note at Luke 9:34) received , [ hupelaben (Greek #5274), 'withdrew' or 'removed'] him out of their sight.} It is not for nothing that the cloud is said to have received him "out of their sight;" for lest it should be thought that He had simply disappeared while they were looking in some other direction, the historian emphatically says, it, was 'while they were looking,' or 'gazing steadily' [ atenizontes (Greek #816)], that He was taken up, "and a cloud received Him out of their sight." On the same principle, the "double portion" of Elijah's spirit, which Elisha sought from him, was promised on the express condition that he should see him ascend: "If thou see me when I am taken up from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so." Accordingly, when Elijah went up, it is emphatically said, "And Elisha saw it" (2 Kings 2:11-12): See also the note at Luke 9:32, where of the transfiguration it is emphatically said that Peter, and James, and John "saw His glory, and the two men that stood with Him."


Verse 10

And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;

And, while they looked stedfastly toward heaven - following Him with their eager eyes in rapt amazement. This is stated as part of that resistless evidence of their senses on which their whole subsequent testimony was to rest.

Behold two men ... in white apparel ('white garments') [ en (Greek #1722) estheesesi (Greek #2066) leukais (Greek #3022), in the plural, is better supported than the singular of the Received Text, and is adopted by Lachmann and Tischendorf]. They were angels in human form: see Luke 24:4, where the same phraseology is used of angels.


Verse 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.

Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? - q.d., 'as if He whom ye love were now lost to you forever.'

This same Jesus , [ houtos (Greek #3778) ho (Greek #3588) Ieesous (Greek #2424)] - 'this very Jesus,' who, as the babe of Bethlehem, received at His circumcision the name of "Jesus," who by His friends from that time forward was so known, and even by His enemies was called "Jesus of Nazareth" - this very Jesus,

Which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. This most delightful assurance is couched in terms so emphatic and expressive as to demand special attention. First, two phrases are employed to express the close analogy which there is to be between the manner of His departure and that of His return: "He shall so come" [ houtoos (Greek #3779) eleusetai (Greek #2064)]. and "in like manner [ hon (Greek #3739) tropon (Greek #5158)] as ye have seen Him go" - that is, no doubt, as personally, as visibly, as gloriously. Next, the expression "into heaven" is thrice repeated in this one verse, emphatically announcing that the return would be just as corporeal and as local as the departure before their own eyes had been. By these exhilarating disclosures would these heavenly visitants signify to their wondering auditors that the joyful expectation of their Lord's return ought to swallow up the sorrow of His departure. And that effect it had immediately; because, as this same Evangelist tells us in his Gospel, "they returned to Jerusalem with great joy," as soon as the angelic messengers left them (Luke 24:52).

Remarks:

(1) Often has it been observed that while the Ascension of Christ is seldom referred to in the New Testament, His Resurrection is a theme to which its writers are ever recurring. The reason is obvious. In addressing unbelievers, the Resurrection of Christ was the only palpable attestation of His Messiahship to which an appeal could properly be made; and as to believers, it was the resurrection of Jesus which was the beginning of that new life in our nature-stripped of the curse and indwelt by the Spirit-which He brought in for them by being "made a curse for them;" that resurrection, too, was only in order to His ascension, and was soon followed by it, heaven being the proper element of the new life and the natural home of its glorious Head; and accordingly, wherever the resurrection of Christ is brought up to the view of believers, it is to be viewed as necessarily embracing His ascension to the right hand of the Majesty on high, as the designed, understood, and fitting sequel to it.

(2) On 'restoring again the kingdom to Israel,' two opposite errors are to be carefully avoided. The one is, to understand our Lord's check upon the curiosity of the disciples as amounting to a denial that anything of the kind was ever to be looked for: the other, to hold that He here virtually endorses the Jewish views of "the kingdom," that a visible Jewish theocracy over the whole earth was eventually to be erected-only with Jesus as the King-and that He merely checks their curiosity as to "times and seasons." This latter extreme puts quite as much into it as the former takes out of it. Of the nature of the kingdom to be restored to Israel, our Lord here says absolutely nothing. For this we must consult the sure word of prophecy. That "the house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, when the Spirit of grace and supplication shall be poured upon them," shall yet, as a nation, "look upon Him whom they have pierced, and mourn for Him as for an only son, and for a first-born," and, as they come forth from the "fountain opened, for them for sin and for uncleanness," shall say, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord;" and that "so all Israel shall be saved:" - this much, surely, is plain enough.

And if Israel be God's first born "the root " of which the Gentiles are but the "branches;" if when "we are And if Israel be God's first-born, "the root," of which the Gentiles are but the "branches;" if, when "we are Christ's," we thereby become "Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise," while they, when brought to Christ, are but "graffed again into their own olive tree:" - will not this re-adjustment, by which "the Jew first" becomes a living reality, be in no mean sense a 'restoring again' of "the kingdom to Israel?" Yes, even although nothing beyond this be to be looked for now, and eventually realized. But should they, over and above this, come to "dwell in the land which He gave unto Jacob His servant, wherein their fathers dwelt, they and their children, and their children's children forever" (Ezek. ) - though in no respect distinguished from other Christian nations, except as being the original stock from which they will gratefully own themselves sprung, as the visible people and kingdom of God-this would be such a still more palpable 'restoration of the kingdom to Israel' as to meet all that Christians seem warranted to expect or desire.

Be this latter opinion, however, well or ill-founded, the one thing which comes manifestly out of our Lord's words here is, that the disciples were to get no light from Him as to the time of the kingdom; that they had something else to engross their attention than prying into "times and seasons;" that the Father, whose proper business it was, would see to that; and that their souls, as soon as the baptism of the Holy Spirit came upon them, would be so set on fire, and their hands so full of work, in 'witnessing for Him in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth,' that they would willingly allow times and seasons to develop themselves to thoughtful observers in the majestic course of events. Not that all inquiry into revealed dates is hereby discouraged, else why should they have been given? "Things which, are revealed belong to us, and to our children" (Deuteronomy 29:29). But this we may safely say, that on the eve of great and engrossing duties a prying curiosity as to times and seasons is unbecoming and injurious to the spirit; that in no circumstances can such studies be expected to issue in the definite and certain disclosure of what "the Father hath put in His own power;" and that the utmost we are warranted to expect from our most reverential and penetrating inquiries, even into revealed dates, is confirmation of what other scriptures direct us to look for, and a more definite conception of the future stages and arrangements of the divine kingdom.

(3) Would that Christians realized more vividly the delightful and soul-stirring identity between the crucified, risen, ascending, and returning Redeemer-that as that very Jesus who ate and drank, and slept and waked, and wept and groaned, and bled and died here be low, is He who rose again from the dead, was seen with men's eyes to go into heaven, and now wields the sceptre of universal dominion; so He will at the time appointed so come in like manner as He was seen to go into heaven! Would not this put substance in place of the shadows in which our faith of such truths is apt to lose itself; and, connecting earth with heaven in that glorious Person on whom our faith reposes, impart to our Christianity the solidity of the one and the brightness of the other? Nor let the promised presence of the Spirit-precious compensation though that is for the absence of Christ-dim the recollection that our only full consolation under that absence is the assurance of His Personal Return (see the notes at John 16:1-33, Remark 3, at the close of that Section); in prospect of which, instead of looking idly upwards, we learn with joyful alacrity to "occupy until He come." (See also the note at Luke 24:53.)

Return to Jerusalem-The Upper Room ()


Verse 12

Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet , [ Elaioonos (Greek #1638)] - a form occurring here only in the Hew Testament.

Which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey - a distance of 2,000 cubits, or between 7 and 8 furlongs, which tradition had long fixed as the proper limit of a Sabbath-walk. But Lightfoot's explanation of this from Joshua 3:4 - as if that established the practice of encamping in the wilderness at the distance of 2,000 cubits from the tabernacle, obliging the worshippers to walk that distance to attend its Sabbath-day's services-is not to be relied on. Here again the Tubingen assailants of this book try (after DeWette) to make out a contradiction between this statement and that of the Third Gospel, that it was from Bethany that our Lord ascended (Luke 24:50), 15 furlongs from Jerusalem, or double the distance here given. But this hardly deserves notice, because the Third Gospel merely says, "He led them out as far as Bethany" [ heoos (Greek #2193) eis (Greek #1519) Beethanian (Greek #963)] in the direction of it, and probably to that side of Mount Olivet where the road strikes down to Bethany (see the note at Luke 24:50). Even Strauss (as Lechler remarks) sees nothing in this objection. Chrysostom's conjecture appears to us objectionable, that the mention here of a Sabbath-day's journey was suggested to the historian's mind by our Lord's having ascended on the Jewish Sabbath. Still less to support it has Alford's addition to this conjecture, that it was intended to take off the offence of our Lord's having led His disciples so long a journey on that sacred day; for surely the Jews, who frequented Jerusalem at the festivals, would not need to be told the distance of Bethany from Jerusalem, and as for the Gentiles, such an explanation would be scarcely intelligible.


Verse 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.

And when they were come in , [ eiseelthon (Greek #1525)] - rather, 'when they had entered it,' that is, the city; not 'the house,' as our translators seem (with Beza) to have understood the expression:

They went up into an upper room , [ to (Greek #3588) huperooon (Greek #5253)] - rather, 'the upper room,' probably no other than that "large upper room" (Luke 22:12) where, as this same writer tells us, their now glorified Lord had so lately celebrated with them their last Passover and first Eucharistic Supper.

Where abode , [ eesan (Greek #2258) katamenontes (Greek #2650)] - not 'had lived,' but 'had for their stated meeting-place,'

Both Peter, and James, and John - `John and James' appears to be the genuine order of these names here; and naturally so, as Peter and John are so constantly together in this History. As to this catalogue of the apostles, see the note at Matthew 10:24, with the Remarks at the close of that Section.


Verse 14

These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

These all continued with one accord - knit by a bond stronger than death. The word [ homothumadon (Greek #3661)] "with one accord," is worthy of notice as a characteristic of Luke's diction, and of this book; being used by no other New Testament writer, except his own associate Paul, and by him only once (Romans 15:6); but by Luke eleven times, and all in the Acts.

In prayer and supplication - for what? In the first place, no doubt, for the descent of the promised Spirit, and for preparedness to receive the gift; then for courage to fulfill the high commission they had received, and for the success of it. These topics-about all of which there still hung that darkness which would only deepen their anxiety and quicken their cries-would suggest other topics; and as we can hardly suppose that they would pray on without interruption from beginning to end of each meeting, it seems reasonable to suppose that the intervals would be filled up by the free interchange of recollections and reflections on the great scenes of the life on earth of their now glorified Lord, and the encouragements thence arising. The sense of their own fewness and feebleness, in view of the great work that lay before them, would exercise a chastening influence upon their spirits, and drive them into more entire dependence upon that promised Spirit who was to supply their Lord's place. And thus would the great day of Pentecost, when at length it arrived, find them far better prepared for its high events than if the Spirit had descended upon them immediately after their Lord's departure.

`Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, all Shall feel the shower of mercy fall, And starting at the Almighty's call, Give what He gave, Till their high deeds the world appal And sinners save.' - KEBLE

With the women - those precious women whose love to their Lord our historian had himself held up once and again before the readers of his Gospel (see the notes at Luke ; 19:49,55; 24:10 ).

And Mary the mother of Jesus - here emphatically mentioned by herself, instead of her presence being assumed as one of "the women." But it is as one of the worshippers of the now glorified One that she is here introduced. This, it should be observed, is the last mention of her in the New Testament. The Romish fable of her Assumption is (as Alford remarks) void of all foundation even in tradition; still less foundation is there for the monstrous figment of her Immaculate Conception, now erected into a doctrine of the Infallible Church.

And with his brethren. These "brethren" of our Lord, whose names are given in Matthew 13:55, had serious misgivings as to His Messianic claims up to within a few months of His death (see the notes at John 7:2-5); but as we find them now among the disciples in the upper room, their difficulties must before this time have all vanished. Probably His resurrection and subsequent manifestations, crowned by His glorious ascension, dispelled their last doubts. On the vexed question, whether James the son of Alphaeus, and James the Lord's brother, were one and the same person, this verse and the preceding one have a most important bearing. It is difficult to see how they could possibly have been the same, when we find the apostles here enumerated, including the son of Alphaeus, as one of the classes that assembled in the upper room, while the "brethren" of Jesus (including "James the Lord's brother," we must suppose) are expressly distinguished from them as another class. We may, indeed, suppose that "His brethren" here mean only such of them as were not apostles (that is, however, three of them out of four); but this, surely, is most unnatural. Every reader of the words before us would naturally suppose that the Lord's "brethren," mentioned immediately after His mother, included all His family relations properly so called, and that they were a distinct class from the apostles.

The Vacancy in the Apostleship filled up ()


Verse 15

And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)

And in these days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples - `in the midst of the brethren' [ toon (Greek #3588) adelfoon (Greek #80)] is the true reading here.

And said - now assuming that leading position among the apostles to which he had all along been destined (see the note at John 1:42, and at Matthew 16:18-19). But for the beautiful reconciliation which took place in the presence of all the rest (John 21:15-17), he could not have ventured on such a step, nor could the others have deemed it quite seemly. But that scene-and perhaps others unrecorded-would pave the way for what he now did, and for which all in the upper room seem to have been quite prepared.

The number of names - that is, of persons, as in Revelation 3:4.

Together , [ epi (Greek #1909) to (Greek #3588) auto (Greek #846)] - not 'in all,' but 'in the same place,' or 'met together' (as the same phrase means in Acts 2:1; Acts 2:44; Acts 3:1; Acts 14:1; Luke 17:35).

Were about an hundred and twenty. Many, therefore, of the "five hundred brethren" who saw their risen Lord "at once" in Galilee (1 Corinthians 15:6) must have continued there: the number here, mentioned including only as many as were congregated with the eleven in the upper room, awaiting the promised descent of the Spirit.


Verse 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.

Men and brethren, this scripture , [ tauteen (Greek #5026) is to be regarded as genuine here, on the ground of internal evidence chiefly: see Tischendorf] Must needs have been ('behoved to be') fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus (The actual words of this "Scripture" are reserved by the historian until he has recorded the account which Peter gave of that wretched man, after which he brings them in at Acts 1:20.)


Verse 17

For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.

For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry , [ ton (Greek #3588) kleeron (Greek #2819) tees (Greek #3588) diakonias (Greek #1248) tautees (Greek #5026)] - literally, 'the lot of this ministry;' but the word came to be used of anything 'allotted' to a person, in whatever way.


Verse 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.

Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity. That this verse, and the following one, make no part of Peter's speech, but are a parenthetical piece of information, inserted by the historian, is the opinion of Olshausen, Bloomfield, Humphry, Webster and Wilkinson, etc. But the connecting particles and (as Meyer remarks) the rhetorical form of the passage seem to forbid this view-in regard to Acts 1:18 at least. Accordingly (with DeWette, Meyer, Alford, Baumgarten, Lechler, and Alexander) we regard these two verses as part of the apostle's speech; though some of the critics just mentioned take part of Acts 1:19 as information furnished by the historian himself-and perhaps justly. It my seem unnatural to suppose that the apostle would tell his hearers what 'every dweller at Jerusalem' knew. But Peter's object in this part of his address seems to have been-first, to call attention to the retributive providence which brought Judas to his miserable end in the very field which was purchased with the reward of his iniquity; and next, to point out the remarkable fulfillment of Scripture in his case.

As to the statement itself, it has been selected as an example of manifest contradiction to Matthew 27:7. But if we adopt the causative sense of the middle form of the verb here used [ ekteesato (Greek #2932)], and take the meaning to be, 'was the occasion of purchasing' (Kuhner, section 250. 2; Jelf, section 362. 6; Donaldson, 432. (cc) and (cc1), the statement is quite consistent with that of Matthew, where the purchase of the field is ascribed to the chief priests, but with Judas' money. This explanation, as might be expected, is flung aside by DeWette as suggested by 'harmonistic caprice;' and Alford-who is too ready to make concessions of this nature-thinks the two statements, as they stand, and without more information than we possess, irreconcilable. But Beza, Fritzsche, Meyer, Olshausen, Ebrard, Humphry, Webster and Wilkinson, Lechler, etc., see no difficulty in so understanding the historian's meaning.

And falling headlong - the rope, probably, on which he hung suspended giving way.

He burst asunder in the midst - lighting, perhaps, on some sharp rock.

And all his bowels gushed out. The two accounts of the traitor's end differ only in this, that the details are here given from Peter's lips while they were yet fresh, whereas Matthew, writing long after, records the fact only in general terms.


Verse 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.

And it was (or 'became') known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue (that is, the Aramaic or Syro-Chaldaic tongue) Aceldama , [ Akeldama (Greek #184) = ch


Verse 20

For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.

For it is written in the book of Psalms (Psalms 69:25) - now we have at length the actual words of 'this scripture, which behoved to be fulfilled concerning Judas,'

Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and (Psalms 109:8) His bishopric [ episkopeen (G1984) 'office' or 'charge'] let another take , [ labetoo (Greek #2983), not laboi (Greek #2983), of the Received Text]. The language of two eminently Messianic Psalms is here combined, with a slight verbal variation in the former member of it, but with none in the latter. In both quotations, however, the plural is converted into the singular, for the purpose of singling out Judas from among all the predicted enemies of Messiah. For as the apostle discerned in those psalms a greater than David, so he saw a worse than Ahitophel and his fellow-conspirators against their rightful king.


Verse 21

Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,

Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us - in the close intimacies of a three years' public life.


Verse 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.

Beginning from the baptism of John - by whom our Lord Himself was baptized, and introduced to disciples of His own, gathered for no other end than to have them prepared to welcome Him.

Unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. Since twelve men had been solemnly set apart by the Lord of the Church for the work which now lay before them, the apostle deems it indispensable that their ranks, so mournfully broken, should be filled up before the time should arrive for the commencement of the work. No doubt the correspondence of that number with the number of the tribes of Israel (see the notes at Matthew 10:1-5, Remark 3) had been long before observed by themselves, in which case they would regard the lack of one as a serious, if not a fatal gap. The qualifications for the apostleship here laid down as indispensable are very specific, and should he carefully observed. It was not enough to have seen the Lord Jesus alive after His passion: the candidate behoved to have been His constant follower from the very first to the very last, that from his own personal knowledge he might be qualified to testify to that public life which His resurrection glorified, and those claims which it conclusively established.


Verse 23

And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.

And they (not the eleven only, but the whole meeting), appointed , [ esteesan (Greek #2476)] - rather, 'presented' (as the same word means in Acts 5:27; Acts 6:6); that is, put before the apostles as candidates for the vacant office,

Two - nor could manymore, probably, be found among these hundred and twenty, having all the qualifications expressly demanded.

Joseph called Barsabas - that is, 'son of Sabas;' who was surnamed Justus - or, 'the just.' It was not unusual at this time for Jews to have Gentile names (see Acts 13:9); but whether 'the just' was given, in the present instance, to mark his personal character, cannot be known. (This "Joseph surnamed Barsabas" - of whom we know only what is here stated-is not to be confounded with "Judas surnamed Barsabas," mentioned in Acts 15:22.) From the mention of these small particulars regarding the candidate who was not the object of the divine choice, Calvin ingeniously infers that he had been the apostles' choice; and he and others after him moralize on this selection being divinely thwarted. But there is no reason to suppose that the mention of these particulars had any other design than to distinguish this Joseph from some other or others of the same name.

And Matthias - of whom also we know nothing, except that the lot fell upon him in the present case.


Verse 24

And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,

And they prayed. If Peter was the speaker here also-as seems probable from the expressions used-the change from the singular to the plural is worthy of notice ("they prayed," not 'he prayed'); showing that, whereas before they were listeners to him, this prayer was the act of the whole assembly, only by one mouth.

And said, Thou, Lord, [ Su (Greek #4771) Kurie (Greek #2962)]. 'The word "Lord," placed absolutely, denotes in the New Testament almost universally THE SON' (as Olshausen correctly remarks); and the words, "show whom thou hast chosen," are decisive. For the apostles are just Christ's messengers-it is He that sends them, and of Him it is that they bear witness. Here, therefore, we have the first example of a prayer offered to the exalted Redeemer, furnishing indirectly the strongest proof of his divinity.

Which knowest the hearts of all men. Compare with this the thrice-repeated words of Peter to this same Lord but a few weeks before, John 21:15-17 (a confirmation of our conclusion that this prayer was uttered by him); also John 2:24-25, and Revelation 2:23.

Show whether of these two thou hast chosen , [ hon (Greek #3739) exelexoo (Greek #1586) ek (Greek #1537) is the true order] - for though both possessed equally, perhaps, the qualifications demanded, only He who knew the heart could tell which was the worthier to fill so important an office.


Verse 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. That he may take part, [ kleeron (G2819 }, or 'take the place'] of this ministry, [according to what seems the preferable reading - ton (Greek #3588) topon (Greek #5117) tees (Greek #3588) diakonias (Greek #1248) tautees (Greek #5026)] from which, [ af' (Greek #575) hees (Greek #3739) is the true reading].

Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place - a terrific contrast (supposing the reading just given to be the true one) between the place which the traitor had filled, all uncongenially, and the place which was to prove not only his destined habitation, but his congenial element, here euphemistically called "his own place." One of the rabbis (quoted by Lightfoot) uses regarding Balaam the very same language.


Verse 26

And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

And they gave forth their lots , [ edookan (Greek #1325) kleerous (Greek #2819) autoon (Greek #846)] - rather, 'lots for them,' according to the true reading [ autois (Greek #846)]. Of this mode of decision we have some notable examples in Scripture (Joshua 7:14-18; 1 Chronicles 24:6; Jonah 1:17; Luke 1:6). But which of the several ways in which the lot was taken was adopted on the present occasion, is hardly worth inquiring.

And the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered , [ sungkatepseefisthee (Greek #4785)]. The word strictly means to 'vote down' or 'condemn;' but here it evidently means to 'vote in:'

With the eleven apostles - the whole assembly thus deciding that the broken Twelve had now been divinely filled up.

Remarks:

(1) It surely is not for nothing that we are told here of the "prayer and supplication" with which the disciples filled up the interval between the ascension of their Lord and the descent of the Spirit. Never, probably, has there been any copious effusion of the Spirit on any portion of the Church, or any portion of the Lord's vineyard, which has not been preceded, as here, by a season of special "prayer and supplication," and in most cases (it may be added) by active preparation for it.

(2) How touching is Peter's way of speaking of Judas here-as "guide to them that took Jesus;" who "was numbered with the apostles" (as if never of them); as "this man," the reward of whose iniquity perpetuated his deed in a field of blood; whose wretched end and vacated office had been held up of old in the prophetic Word-how touching is all this from the lips of one who himself had so foully dishonoured his Lord! But as Peter was from the first a very different character from Judas, so the "look" of Jesus and Peter's own bitter weeping were enough to show that both his sin and his sorrow were those of one truly and tenderly attached to his Lord; the meeting of the risen Lord and his broken-hearted disciple on the morning of the resurrection doubtless sealed their reconciliation and cemented them more closely than ever; and the public manifestation of this in the presence of the other apostles, with the renewing to him of the commission to feed Christ's lambs and sheep, doubtless completed all that remained to be done for his conscious and acknowledged restoration to the position assigned him from the first, as leader of the great work of the kingdom about to be begun. In this character, accordingly, Peter rises in the upper room to lay down what had now to be done; and in the discharge of this duty Judas is spoken of, not as a fallen disciple, but as from the first a dead branch on the Tree of life, a stranger in the Lord's house, an alien from the true commonwealth of Israel, as one never in "his own place," until by his own act and deed he "went to" it. And if there was one such in the selectest of all sacred circles, can it be doubted that in the great day there will be found many who have "eaten and drunk in Christ's presence" to whom He will say, "I never knew you"?

(3) How very far from a priestly attitude toward his fellow-believers is that of Peter here! He leads, indeed, but associates the brethren with himself-asking them to choose one or more candidates for the office of the apostleship; he accepts their nomination of two; and before the Lord he lays these two for final decision: here, also, acting only as their spokesman in prayer. And is it not in this humble spirit that we find him acting in all his subsequent recorded procedure?-so little ground is there for the lordly assumptions in his name of those who call themselves his successors, and for that ecclesiastical ambition which has proved the bane and blight of many who repudiate Roman pretensions. (On the extension of the apostolate beyond the limits of the Twelve, and its perpetuation in the Church under the form of a prelatical Episcopate, see the notes at Acts 14:1-28, Remark 8 at the close.)

Acts 2:1-47; Acts 3:1-26; Acts 4:1-37; Acts 5:1-42; Acts 6:1-15; Acts 7:1-60 - "YE SHALL BE MY WITNESSES IN JERUSALEM"(cf. Acts 1:8)

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Acts 1:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/acts-1.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, August 25th, 2019
the Week of Proper 16 / Ordinary 21
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