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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
Acts 1

 

 

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Verse 1

On the opening words of the Acts.’ ‘The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach’ (Acts 1:1).

There is a well-known Latin Fragment on the Canon, first published by Muratori, discovered in the library of St. Ambrose at Milan, in an ancient MS. which purported to contain the works of Chrysostom. The fragment in question claims to have been written by a contemporary of Pius, bishop of Rome, and must have been originally written not later than A.D. 160-170. In this most ancient work the Book of the Acts of the Apostles is mentioned as containing a record by St. Luke of those acts of the apostles which fell under his own notice. The writer of this most ancient fragment shows that this limitation must have been laid down by St. Luke, for he specially records how the martyrdom of Peter and the journey of Paul to Spain are both omitted in the history.(1)

This view, however, of the Acts by the writer of the fragment in question, on examination seems too narrow and purposeless. The universal and reverent reception or this book in all the churches from the earliest time points to some definite purpose and object for which the history was written, which purpose and object was recognised by the Church from the beginning. The position this book occupied from the very early days of Christianity in the teaching of the Church, leads us to conclude that it must tell the story of some peculiar and critical period in the Church’s history, that it must relate some all-important and vital developments of Christian practice and government,—developments sanctioned at least, if not originated by men who had received the commission of founding and organizing the Christian community from the hands of the Master Himself. It occupies a position of authority in the early Church second only to that filled by the Gospels. These especially relate the story of the commission of the Twelve from Christ. The ‘Acts’ is the sequel to the Gospels, and records how the Twelve carried out the great commission themselves, and handed it down to other chosen men of many lands and of many races. The ‘Acts’ is no mere memoirs of events to which St. Luke happened to be the wit-ness,—no mere history of the acts of a Peter or a Paul, except in so much as these distinguished apostolic leaders were the chosen instruments of Christian development and progress.

The first words of the Acts give us the key to the understanding of the object and purpose for which this book was written; for it is surely no arbitrary interpretation which sees in the opening words of St. Luke’s second treatise ‘of all that Jesus began to do and teach,’ a deep and far-stretching meaning. The writer of these Acts commences his memoirs of the early Christian Church by sharply distinguishing between the work of Jesus among men when He was in the form of a man upon earth, and the work of the same Jesus from His glory throne in heaven after He has been taken up.

St. Luke dismisses the first part of his work by a reference to his former treatise, known among men as the Gospel of St. Luke; which treatise related exclusively to our Lord’s ministry when on earth, and implies that in those memoirs which he was about to publish—known subsequently among men as ‘The Acts of the Apostles’—the continuation of the Lord’s ministry was to be related. In the mind of the writer of these opening words of the ‘Acts,’ a most close and intimate connection existed between the work and ministry of Jesus on earth and the work and ministry of Jesus in heaven. The Gospel completes the story of the first period—the work of Jesus on earth; the Acts commences the story of the second period—the work of Jesus in heaven.

These opening words with which St. Luke commences the ‘Acts’ throw light upon the whole book. They at once remove the first impression which leads men to view the Acts of the Apostles as detached memoirs,—or a recital deeply interesting containing inspired utterances, but on the whole as disconnected, without any set defined purpose. But this first verse we are now considering, when fairly examined, throws a new light over the history. The former treatise (St. Luke’s Gospel) relates all that Jesus began to do and to teach till He was taken up. What St. Luke was about to do in his second treatise was simply to take up the thread of his first, and to relate the continuation of the gospel story, to show how the now risen and ascended Lord still worked among men,—how, though unseen, He still guided the footsteps of His chosen servants.

Acts 1:1. Theophilus. Clearly a proper name. The Gospel of St. Luke is also addressed to him. There he is addressed as ‘most excellent’—a title of honour applied to high officials, as to Felix (Acts 23:26), and to Festus (Acts 26:25). He was, no doubt, a convert to Christianity of high rank. Nothing, however, is known respecting his story (see note on St. Luke 1:3).

Of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach. Not, as Wordsworth well says, that St. Luke narrated them all (see St. John 21:25), but those things requisite and sufficient for the object in view. Began to do. See introductory note.


Verse 2

Acts 1:2. Until the day in which he was taken up. The ascension of Jesus is the turning-point at which the gospel history of the work and teaching of Jesus on earth ends, and where the Acts, the story of His work and teaching from His throne in heaven, commences. The abrupt way of referring to the great event is noticeable—simply, ‘He was taken up.’ There was no need of adding ‘into heaven,’ the story of the ascension was so well known in the early Church.

Through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles. Jesus, who was anointed with the Holy Ghost (Luke 4:1; Luke 4:14; Luke 4:18; Matthew 12:28), in the power of the Holy Ghost gave commandment to the apostles to be His witnesses, and to wait in Jerusalem till they were endued with power from on high (see Acts 2, The Day of Pentecost). Some commentators would, in spite of the grammatical irregularity which such a construction would involve, refer the operation of the Holy Ghost to which reference is here made, to the choice of the apostles; but the last commandments of Jesus in reference to the sequel of the Acts were in St. Luke’s mind a point of great importance, while the choice of the apostles had already fallen within the range of gospel history (Winer, Part iii. sec 61).


Verse 3

Excursus on Acts 1:3.

‘THE FORTY DAYS.’

This is the only place where the interval between the resurrection and ascension is specified. It has been suggested (see Ewald, Apostelgeschicht. Ier Theil. 2te Halfte, pp. 56-61) that the ascension took place on the resurrection day, the first Sunday after the crucifixion, and that this hypothesis reconciles any apparent discrepancies in the several accounts of the ascension given by St. Mark, St. Luke, and in the ‘Acts.’

Upon this supposition Acts 1:4 must be read in close connection with Acts 1:2, and Acts 1:3 placed in a parenthesis, as telling of another and post-ascension period which lasted forty days, during which period our Lord appears at intervals to different disciples,—now in Jerusalem, now in Galilee, on the mountain side and by the shore of the lake of Gennesaret. These appearances are mentioned by St. John, John 20:26-29; John 21:1; John 21:22; St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:6-7. This ingenious hypothesis, although it in no wise weakens the evidence given by the resurrection-life of our Lord, is not necessary to explain St. Luke, Luke 24:49-50. Forty days may well have elapsed between the meeting of Jesus and His disciples (the closing words of which are contained in Luke 24:49) and the ascension related in Luke 24:50-51. The common opinion among the wide-spread Gnostic heretics was, that the resurrection-life of the Lord lasted eighteen months. See Irenæus, Adv. Her. lib. iii. 2, ‘System of the Valentinians;’ and again, Irenæus, xxx. 14, ‘System of the Ophites.’

Acts 1:3. After his passion—lit. ‘after He had suffered, viz. the death of the cross. See Hebrews 13:11, and 1 Peter 3:18. The term occurs thus absolutely in Acts 3:18 and Acts 17:3 (comp. also Acts 26:23), and is a striking usage. It arose probably out of the impression which the painful nature of Christ’s sufferings had made on the first disciples.’

By many infallible proofs. The Greek word, translated by ‘infallible proofs,’ occurs here only in the New Testament. It is used frequently by Plato and Aristotle, and denotes ‘the strongest proofs of which a subject is capable;’ ‘an irresistible proof.’ Bela renders it well, certissimis signis. The irresistible, incontrovertible proofs which Jesus gave to His disciples of His resurrection, such as talking with them, eating with them, walking with them, inviting them to look at and to touch His hands, His feet, His side, with the still visible print of the nails and the scar of the spear, are described in Luke 24:36-48; Mark 16:14; John 20:19; John 20:29; John 20:21. Comp. also John, First Epistle, 1 John 1:1-2.

Being seen of them forty days. A better translation would be: ‘Through (or during) forty days appearing (or manifesting Himself) to them;’ for St. Luke does not intend to convey the notion that our Lord continued visibly present with any of His disciples during the whole forty days, but that during that period from time to time He appeared to them, and then disappeared,—‘proving to them His humanity by eating and drinking with them, yet weaning them, by vanishing suddenly, from dwelling on His corporal presence, and instructing them in His Divine power and perpetual though unseen presence by unexpected appearances among them and disappearances from them’ (Wordsworth). There is also a note by this writer on John 20:19, where the mysterious question of the resurrection-body of the Lord is reverently discussed. On the period of ‘forty days,’ see a short excursus at the end of this chapter.


Verse 4

Acts 1:4. And, being assembled together with them. The translation given in the margin of the Authorised Version, ‘eating together with them,’ seems the more accurate one. Modern critics are much divided on the question of the true rendering here; the authority, however, of the Greek fathers Chrysostom, Theophylact, and CEcumenius, and also Jerome among the Latins, who understand the words in the sense given in the margin of the Authorized Version, seems decisive on such a question. The sense of the passage then is: ‘And as He (Jesus) ate with them; He commanded them,’ etc. No point of time specially distinguishes this meeting with the disciples when He partook of a meal with them. It was one of the ‘infallible proofs’ referred to in Acts 1:3, and may have been identical with the meal by the lake which St. John tells us of (Acts 21:12-13), or with that they partook of together in Jerusalem (Luke 24:41-42); but it seems with greater probability to have been a meeting when the risen Lord and His disciples ate together, not mentioned in the Gospels.

The promise of the Father refers especially to the promises given through the Old Testament prophets to Israel, such as Isaiah 44:3; Joel 2:28-29.

Which ye have heard of me. A memory of such conversations between our Lord and His own, as St. John related in his account of the night before the crucifixion (chaps, 14, 15, 16).


Verse 5

Acts 1:5. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. He reminds them of the strange prediction of the ‘Baptist’ (Luke 3:16; John 1:33). ‘His words which you all remember respecting a future baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire, you will soon yourselves be able to test the truth of.’ That fiery baptism of Pentecost with which they were so soon to be baptized. Calvin well calls the common baptism of the Church ecclesiae communis baptismus, ‘because it was a great representation on the whole Church of the subsequent continued work of regeneration on individuals’ (Alford).


Verse 6

The Last Interview with the Disciples, 6-8.

Acts 1:6. When they therefore were come together. This is a different meeting from that related above (Acts 1:4-5). That was in the house where they partook of a meal together. This is the last interview with the Risen One on the Mount of Olives, which was closed by the ascension.

Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? Whether or no they knew that the end of their earthly intercourse with their Master was come, is uncertain. They felt, however, that this was in some way a peculiarly solemn meeting together; hence their question ‘at this time,’ signifies ‘at once,’ ‘now,’ or perhaps it looks forward a little and takes in the lifetime—‘will it be restored in our lives?’ What they understood by restoration of the kingdom is not quite clear; perhaps they hardly knew themselves. Their old views respecting a return of the golden age of David and Solomon had received a terrible shock by the crucifixion of their Master; but the resurrection and His promise of the Spirit had inspired them with new and even grander hopes.


Verse 7

Acts 1:7. And he said unto them. The Lord’s reply in the 7th and 8th verses tacitly sanctions their expectation of a great restoration, but gravely rebukes the self-seeking impatience of His Jewish followers, and by His broad command respecting their preaching and work, sweeps away all exclusive Jewish interpretation of that restoration being only intended for Israel. The whole teaching of the Acts shows—that in the sight of God all men were alike, and might share in the same blessings—His witnesses were to carry the good news of salvation to the uttermost part of the earth.

It is not for you to know the times and the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power. In spite of this warning, many of the Church’s noblest servants in different ages, from the age of the apostles to our own days, have tried to fix these times; surely these ever recurring mistakes should call men back to consider the last words of the Lord whenever these vain attempts are made to fix times and seasons for the great restoration of all things. That day and that hour is known to the Father only.


Verse 8

Acts 1:8. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you. The Lord again referred to that new power which should descend upon them which He had before promised them, and told them how, armed with this new strength, they should be His witnesses not only in the city and Holy Land, but to the isles of the Gentiles—to the uttermost parts of the earth.


Verse 9

Acts 1:9. He was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. When the last words had been spoken, while in the act of blessing them (Luke 24:51), the disciples of Jesus saw their Master lifted up from the ground; and as He rose, a cloud passed under Him—the bright cloud of glory which overshadowed Him on the Mount of Transfiguration, and which, in the wilderness journeys of Israel, now like a fire pillar, now like a cloud pillar, sailed through the air before the people as their guide. On this ‘royal chariot’—as Chrysostom calls it—did the eternal Son of God ascend from earth to the heaven of heavens. ‘The ascension of Elijah,’ writes Baumgarten, ‘may be compared to the flight of a bird, which none can follow; the ascension of Christ is as it were a bridge between earth and heaven, laid down for all who are drawn to Him by His earthly existence,’


Verses 9-11

The Ascension, 9-11.

In three verses the story of the Lord’s ascension is told. St. Luke and St. Mark in their Gospels simply record the fact; they add no details whatever, with the exception of one beautiful and touching incident in St. Luke: Jesus was in the act of blessing them when He was parted from them; ‘He loved them unto the end.’ Now it has been asked with some show of reason why the great event of the ascension is not more frequently alluded to in the New Testament? The answer seems to be that the writers of the New Testament never seem to have regarded the ascension except as ‘a scene’ in the resurrection glory of Christ. On the resurrection they dwelt with deep earnestness, as the triumph of the Redeemer over death; they ever looked on the ascension as necessarily included in the exaltation of the glorified Jesus, of which St. Paul speaks in such passages as Ephesians 1:20; Philippians 2:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; 1 Timothy 3:16; and St. Peter in his First Epistle, Acts 1:21, Acts 3:22; and St. John in many passages of his Revelation.


Verse 10

Acts 1:10. Two men stood by them in white apparel. Ewald suggests these two were Moses and Elias, as in the transfiguration; but had this been the case, St. Luke would surely have referred to it: they were two angels, who probably had an especial charge connected with Messiah’s work on earth. St. John tells us of two angels in white who were keeping watch in the sepulchre where the body of Jesus had lain (John 20:12). St. Luke also (Acts 24:4) writes of two angels in the form of men in shining garments in the empty sepulchre.


Verse 11

Acts 1:11. Why stand ye gazing up into heaven? The angels, while comforting them with the solemn assurance He would return to earth again, still gently reprove these loving followers of Jesus, who remained gazing upwards, not without a hope He might reappear. Their duty now was not quiet contemplation and still waiting, but real earnest work; it is a reproof which belongs to all ages of the Christian Church.


Verse 12

Return of the Disciples to Jerusalem, 12-14.

Acts 1:12. From the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a Sabbath day’s journey. Our Lord (Luke 24:50) had led out His disciples from the city as far as Bethany, had blessed them and ascended into heaven; but Bethany was about twice a Sabbath day’s journey from Jerusalem. This discrepancy is, however, only apparent; for the suburb of Jerusalem called Bethphage, which lay between the city and Bethany, was legally counted as part of Jerusalem. So the distance for the Sabbath day’s journey would be reckoned from the point where the suburb Bethphage ended, to the spot on the Mount of Olives in the Bethany district where the ascension took place (see a long and exhaustive note of Wordsworth on ‘The Place of the Ascension’).


Verse 13

Acts 1:13. Into an upper room. Some have supposed this was an apartment in the temple, arguing from the words of the last verse of St. Luke’s Gospel, ‘And were continually in the temple praising and blessing God.’ It is hardly likely that the priests, bitterly hostile as they were to Jesus, would have allowed His followers the use of any room in the temple. It was very probably the same chamber in which the last Supper had been eaten.

Where abode, etc. This is the fourth catalogue of the apostles given in the New Testament. In this one the place occupied by Judas is vacant (see Matthew 10:2; Mark 3:11; Luke 6:14). Each of the four lists varies slightly in the order in which the names are given, and several of the apostles are mentioned under different names in the several lists. The reason for this last enumeration is evidently to introduce the subject of the election of Matthias to fill the place Judas vacated.


Verse 14

Acts 1:14. With the women. These words are specially worthy of attention. In the Jewish temple the women were not admitted to worship God with men, but they had their own court, ‘the court of the women.’ Among the silent changes which Christianity has worked in society, none is more striking than the alteration which it has brought about in the position held by women. In the old world, they occupied in every relation of life a very subordinate place. The state of perfect equality now enjoyed was only brought about by the teaching and practice of Jesus and His disciples.

In this number are included those devout women who are mentioned as following Christ, who were with Him in the last visit to Jerusalem, who looked on the cross and then watched at the sepulchre. The Gospels give the names of some of these—Mary Magdalene; Mary the mother of James and Joses; Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward; Salome the mother of John, James, and Susanna; and with these was Mary the mother of Jesus, who is here mentioned for the last time in the New Testament. Ecclesiastical tradition gives her no prominent place, represents her as exercising no peculiar authority in the Church of the first days. One account tells us she died at Jerusalem, another that she accompanied St. John to Ephesus and lived to an advanced age.

And with his brethren. ‘Neither did His brethren believe in Him’ (John 7:5). Changed by the resurrection, of which they were witnesses, from unbelief to perfect faith, we now find them throwing in their lot with the little faithful company who waited together till the Spirit promised their risen and glorified Master should come to them.


Verse 15

Election of Matthias into the Number of the Twelve, 15-26.—Address of Peter before the Election, 15-22.

Acts 1:15. In those days. The few days intervening between the ascension and Pentecost.

Peter. Various reasons have been suggested for this priority which St. Peter certainly possessed among his brother apostles. ‘He was the first called’ ‘(Cyprian).’ He was the eldest (Jerome). He earned this priority by his ready confession of faith in Christ’ (Hilary). But that it was only a priority he possessed, not an authority, over the rest of the apostles, the testimony of the early Fathers, Greek as well as Latin, most amply shows. Peter in the early Church, from this age, from the personal friendship he had enjoyed with his Master, no doubt occupied one of the chief positions; but he shared his rank with Stephen, the first great Christian orator, during that martyr’s short but brilliant career; with James, the Lord’s brother, who was undoubtedly the head of the Jewish Christians; and later, with St. Paul, to whom the great missionary work outside of the Holy Land was entrusted.

One hundred and twenty. St. Paul mentions 500 brethren who on one occasion saw the risen Lord. But this gathering of 500 took place some time previous to this occasion, probably in Galilee. Even if it had taken place in Jerusalem, the difference in numbers would be easily accounted for, as many of the Passover pilgrims from Galilee had no doubt before this left the city.


Verse 16

Acts 1:16. The Scripture must needs have been fulfilled. The Scripture referred to is Psalms 69 (LXX., Psalms 68) Psalms 26; and Psalms 109 (LXX., Psalms 108) Psalms 8. The quotations are freely made from the LXX. Version. The most important variation is in the first citation from Psalms 69, where in the original the plural instead of the singular is used,—their habitation, their tents instead of His.

Guided by the Holy Spirit, St. Peter finds in these words of the two Psalms this especially sad episode in the history of Christ plainly foreshadowed, and discovers in them an injunction to proceed to the election of another to make up the number of the Twelve.

His bishoprick let another take. St. Peter’s words here give us the clue to the right understanding of the terrible imprecations found in some of the Psalms. They are no curses pronounced by David or any other king or prophet; they are never the expression of a longing for personal revenge, but are, as Chrysostom expresses it, a prophecy in the form of a curse pronounced upon some enemies of God and His Church, hereafter to arise. They are judicial sentences one day to be pronounced as the punishment for some sin which, in the foreknowledge of the Almighty, would be committed perhaps ages later on in the world’s history. Augustine in his twenty-second sermon, writing of Judas, well puts this view of the spirit in which the Psalmist wrote his words: Infigura optantis, praenuntiantis mens intelligenda est.

While believing that the view above given represents the real meaning of the imprecations found in the so-called denunciatory Psalms, the writer of this commentary thinks it desirable to quote another and quite a different interpretation. ‘We find these prayers for vengeance,’ writes the Dean of Peterborough (Dr. Perowne, Hulsean Professor of Divinity, Cambridge), ‘chiefly in four Psalms, the 7th, 35th, 69th, 109th.’ ‘Are these anathemas to be excused as being animated by the spirit of Elias?—a spirit not unholy, indeed, but far removed from the meekness and gentleness of Christ. Are they Jewish only? and may they be Christian also?’ Dean Perowne apparently decides that they were Jewish only; ‘the older dispensation,’ he urges, ‘was in every sense a sterner one than the new. The spirit of Elias, though not an evil spirit, was not the spirit of Christ. The Jewish nation had been trained in a sterner school, It had been steeled and hardened by the discipline which had pledged to a war of extermination with idolaters. ... It is conceivable how even a righteous man under it, feeling it to be his bounden duty to root out evil whenever he saw it, and identifying, as he did, his own enemies with the enemies of Jehovah, might use language which to us appears unnecessarily vindictive. To men so trained and taught, what we call religious toleration was a thing not only wrong but absolutely inconceivable.’ See Perowne on Psalms 35, and General Introduction to Psalms, page 72.


Verse 18-19

Acts 1:18-19. Some commentators have supposed these two verses to be an explanatory clause inserted by St. Luke, and do not consider them a part of St. Peter’s speech. But the rhetorical style of these verses would seem to show that they are part of the original discourse.

The account here given of the death of Judas differs in some slight particulars from St. Matthew’s story of the same event. The first difference is easily solved. In the Acts, St. Peter says Judas bought a field with the money paid for his betrayal of his Master. St. Matthew gives, no doubt, the exact account of the transaction when he tells us the field was purchased by the priests with the money Judas earned. This by no means contradicts the statement in the Acts, where Judas by a common figure of speech is said himself to buy the field which his money purchases.

The second discrepancy. The manner of the traitor’s death is explained by the very probable suggestion that Judas hung himself from the branch of a tree on the edge of a precipice overhanging the valley of Hinnom; and that the rope breaking, he fell to the earth and was dashed to pieces. Dr. Hackett in his Commentary on this book gives an account of his visit to the supposed spot of Judas’ death, and states how perfectly satisfied he felt with this explanation as being so entirely natural.

The third variation is the difference in the reasons assigned in the Acts and in St. Matthew’s Gospel for the name ‘Aceldama’ given to the field. St. Matthew states it was because the field was purchased with the price of blood; St. Luke (in the Acts), because of the traitor’s violent death. There is nothing improbable in the hypothesis that both these reasons, one as much as the other, contributed to the awful title by which the field was afterwards known—Aceldama, ‘the field of food.’


Verse 21-22

Acts 1:21-22. The necessary conditions of apostleship were the having been an eye and ear witness of all that had taken place from the day the baptism of John until the day of the ascension.

The office of an apostle is briefly summed up in he statement, ‘He must’ ‘be a witness of the resurrection.’ This one event in the history of the Lord on earth is chosen as the central point round which all teaching respecting the life and work of Christ must cluster.


Verse 23

Acts 1:23. Joseph, called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. Eusebius, quoting from Papias (second century), relates of this Joseph that he drank a deadly poison, but through the grace of God experienced nothing injurious (H. E. iii. 39). He and also Matthias probably belonged to the number of the seventy disciples. Nicephorus writes of Matthias that he afterwards preached the gospel and suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia. Some apocryphal writings of little credit in the early Church bore his name.


Verse 24

Acts 1:24. And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, show whether of these two men thou hast chosen. There is no doubt that this prayer was addressed to the glorified and risen Lord, for—(1) in Acts 1:21 Jesus is termed Lord ( ὁ ϰύριος), to which αύτοῡ, His (resurrection), in Acts 1:22 refers; whence it appears that ϰύριε, Lord, in this 24th verse is naturally to be referred to Jesus also. (2) The selection of the twelve apostles is always ascribed to Jesus Christ. Compare Acts 1:2; Luke 6:13; John 6:70; John 13:18; John 15:16; John 15:19. See also Liddon, Bampton Lectures, vii. ‘Homoousion.’

Against this view it has been urged (see Meyer and De Wette’s Commentaries on Acts) that the epithet ϰαρδιογνῶετα, which knowest the heart, is not one which properly belongs to Jesus Christ; but surely this can hardly be advanced in the face of such statements as are con-tamed in John 1:50; John 2:25; John 6:64; John 21:17, in which passages Jesus especially comes before us as one before whom all hearts are open, all desires known.


Verse 25

Acts 1:25. That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship. The word ϰλῆρος (clerus), translated ‘part,’ better perhaps ‘the place,’ signifies—(1) a lot, (2) anything assigned by lot; for instance, an allotment of land, or an official position. So Israel is termed the inheritance, the lot, or the portion of the Lord out of the tribes of the earth (Deuteronomy 9:29, LXX.). Jerome tells us that out of the whole body of Christians, God’s ministers were called Clerici, either because they are the lot and portion of the Lord, or because the Lord is their lot—that is, their inheritance. The early history and associations which cluster round the well-known terms clergy, clergyman, clerk, clerical, most be looked for, in the first instance, in the various uses and meanings of this word.

That he might go to his own place. These strange words which close the traitor’s gloomy story can convey no other possible sense than that Judas had gone to a place of condemnation. The phrase, ‘to go to one’s own place, ‘was a known and received phrase in the Apostolic Age, and signified a man’s going presently after death into his proper place—a state either of happiness or misery, according to the life he had before lived while on earth (see Bishop Bull’s Works, vol. i. Sermon ii.). Polycarp (Ep. ad Phil.) speaks of apostles and martyrs of that age being with their Lord in their due place. Clement of Rome writes of St. Peter, ‘Having suffered martyrdom, he went to his due place of glory.’ Ignatius (Ep. ad Magnes.) tells us how two things are together set before us—life and death, and every one shall go to his own place. A rabbinical work (Baal Turim on Numbers 24:25) interprets with the same mournful interpretation an expression used of one who, like Judas, had been placed in a position which connected him in a peculiar manner with God. ‘Balaam went to his place’—that is, ‘to Gehenna’


Verse 26

Acts 1:26. And the lot fell on Matthias. ‘The lots alluded to here were probably tablets with the names of the persons written upon them, and shaken in a vessel or in the lap of a robe (Proverbs 16:33), he whose lot first leaped out being the person designated’ (Alford, Com. on Acts). This asking God directly to interfere in the choice of an apostle by guiding the chance of a lot, was not unfrequent in the history of the chosen people, especially before the invisible but direct sovereignty of Jehovah was partially superseded by the election of an earthly king. The lot we find used for the division of land, Numbers 26:55; Joshua 18:10; in war, 20:20; for the royal office, in the case of the first King Saul, 1 Samuel 10:20-21.

In this solitary instance in the New Testament, to complete the number of the ‘Twelve,’ broken by such a strange and awful crime, the hand of God was thus directly invoked, but never again. The ‘Acts of the Apostles,’ a book to which in future ages the Church would often refer for guidance, contains no repetition of such an election, either in the Holy Land or in the Gentile countries. No church, from the days of the apostles to our own times (with the exception of the Moravian Church, Gloag, Com. on Acts), has ever attempted, in its election and choice of pastors, to follow the example of that first election in Jerusalem. The Church Catholic, while reverencing the unquestioned legality of the procedure in the choice of Matthias, has silently agreed to consider it as standing by itself in the history of the world, and as such never to be imitated.

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Acts 1:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/acts-1.html. 1879-90.

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Wednesday, October 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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