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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Acts 1

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

1. The former treatise—Or narrative. That is, Luke’s Gospel.

Have I made—Rather, did I make.

Began—To this word Baumgarten, followed by Alford, assigns a meaning somewhat fanciful, yet pregnant with a rich truth. It assumes that the Gospel was Christ’s beginning of his mediatorial doings, and the Acts the great continuance: the former on earth, the latter in the heavens over the earth. The Gospel shows us Jesus terrene, the Acts, Christ celestial: the former as suffering, the latter as reigning. Hereby we see that our great Head, while allowing his Church to struggle amid trial and probation, does still overrule the whole; all to the good of his redeemed and his own glory. This brings into view the great number of instances in the Acts in which the transactions of the Church below are ascribed to the Lord of the Church above. So Baumgarten: “He it is, for instance, who again appoints the twelfth witness, (Acts 1:24;) who, after he himself has received the Spirit, sends him down from on high on his Church, (Acts 2:33;) who adds to his Church in Jerusalem, (Acts 2:47.) He it is who works miracles, both of healing and destruction, in testimony to his apostles’ preaching, (Acts 3:6; Acts 4:10; Acts 4:30; Acts 9:34; Acts 13:11; Acts 14:3; Acts 19:13.) To his dying martyr Stephen he reveals himself standing at the right hand of God, (Acts 7:55-56;) his angel speaks unto Philip, (Acts 8:26;) it is his Spirit that caught him away, (Acts 8:39;) he appears to Saul of Tarsus, (Acts 19:5; Acts 19:27; Acts 22:8; Acts 22:26;) his hand established the first Church among the Gentiles, (Acts 11:21;) his angel delivers St. Peter, (Acts 12:7; Acts 12:11; Acts 12:17;) his angel strikes the hostile Herod, (Acts 12:23;) he again it is who appears to St. Paul in the temple, and commits to him the conversion of the Gentiles, (Acts 22:17; Acts 22:21;) to him the apostles and brethren address themselves on the occasion of the first mission to the Gentiles, (Acts 13:2, cf. acts 5:47;) to him are the infant Churches commended, (Acts 14:23;) his Spirit prevents the apostolic missionaries from preaching in Bithynia, (Acts 16:7;) he calls them by the voice of the man of Macedonia into Europe, (Acts 16:10;) he opens the heart of Lydia and effects the first conversion in Europe, (Acts 16:14;) he comforts and encourages Paul at Corinth, (Acts 18:9-10;) he strengthens him in prison, and informs him of his journey to Rome, (Acts 23:11.) These interventions of Jesus, so numerous, express, and decisive, are a sufficient warrant for our regarding his ascension as essentially his really sitting on his throne. We are, therefore, fully justified in ascribing all to his influence, even in those instances where, without any express mention of his name, we are referred to the invisible world. In this way, therefore, we must consider the conversion of the Samaritans by miracles, (Acts 8:6-12;) the restoration to life of Tabitha, (Acts 9:36-42;) the vision of St. Peter, (Acts 10:10-16.) And in like manner in those passages, also, where the Holy Ghost is spoken of as the efficient cause, as, for example, Acts 13:2, we must bring before our minds the Lord himself, for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus, cf. Acts 16:6-7. And, also, in every mention of the name of God, as at Acts 27:23, we are to understand the person of Jesus, for, from Acts 1:22; Acts 4:30, we learn that God works by Him.” We recognise the fact thus beautifully expanded, but do not recognise it as implicitly embraced in this word began. Luke, we think, refers to this beginning as a great commencement; the continuance is implied in the word until; the termination is at the day in which he was taken up.

Do and teach—His miracles, and his discourses authenticated by his miracles.

HISTORICAL NOTE I.—As we have intimated in notes introductory to, and also upon, Luke 3:1, our Saviour was born under the reign of AUGUSTUS CESAR, who was succeeded, when Jesus was about seventeen years of age, by TIBERIUS.

TIBERIUS was the first of that line of imperial tyrants whose crimes hastened the downfall of the Roman Empire. It was during his reign that the manhood and ministry of our Saviour were passed, and in its eighteenth year took place the crucifixion. While his imperial crimes were contributing to the dissolution of society the Pentecostal Church was rising, destined by the Divine hand to reconstruct the modern civilization of Europe and of our own America. About the period of Stephen’s rise the hand of one of the court favourites relieved the world of the imperial monster, March 16, A.D. 36.

CALIGULA, his successor, ruled four years, signalizing his reign by a series of fooleries and cruelties disgraceful to history. It is a fact which curiously illustrates his character, that, while his real name was Caius, yet his nickname Caligula (Little Boots) became his permanent historical appellation. One of his freaks was a project of requiring worship to be paid to his statue throughout the Empire. This brought him into a fearful collision with the Jews, who were ready to sacrifice their own lives in mass rather than commit an act of idolatry so heinous. So intense was the concentration of their minds on this subject that for the time being they forgot to persecute the Christians, and the Church had a period of repose. This emperor fell by the hand of an assassin, January 24, A.D. 41, in the twenty-ninth year of his age. It was during the four years of this man’s imperial pranks that the most earnest man of any age, Saul of Tarsus, was passing through the solemn scenes of his persecution of the Christian Church, his conversion; his residence in Damascus and Arabia, and his return to Jerusalem. Such are the contrasts of history. (See Hist. Note II at Acts 9:31.)


Verse 2

2. He was taken up—The Rhemish version has it, he was assumpted; that is, into heaven by God the Father. So the ecclesiastical phrases, The assumption of the Virgins, the assumption of Moses, to express their supposed resurrection and ascension.

Through the Holy Ghost—Richly dwelling in himself; for in him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and through its power he rose and ascended.

Had given commandments—Such as contained in Acts 1:4.


Verse 3

3. Showed himself alive—Gloriously and repeatedly displayed himself in his resurrection nature.

Infallible proofs—As Christ is the great miracle, so in him the resurrection is the central miracle apparent to men; and it was important, therefore, that this miracle should be sustained by infallible proofs. The evangelists record nine appearances of Jesus. In regard to Jesus’ risen body, see note on Luke 24:36.

Forty days—Compare note on Luke 24:44-45.

Between the Passover (when Christ was crucified) and the Pentecost were, inclusive, fifty days; during forty of which the various showings of himself took place, and the remaining ten days were the those days of Acts 1:15. Forty, seventy, and one hundred and twenty are the three primal sacred numbers multiplied by the decimal. See on Acts 1:15. Forty days according to Wordsworth, on this passage, is the period indicating “a probation before some great event;” that is, the completion of some preparatory stage. Such was the fact with Moses before the giving of the law, Exodus 24:18; Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9; Deuteronomy 10:10; with Hebrew spies, Numbers 13:25; Numbers 14:34; with Elias, 1 Kings 19:8; with Nineveh, Jonah 3:4. And as the purification by the presentation of a male child in the temple required a period of forty days, so forty days was Jesus’ probation before he was presented, Luke 2:22; forty days his probationary temptation, Mark 1:13; and forty days his earthly resurrection stage before ascension. And this last forty days were the apostolic probation before the Pentecostal preparatories commenced.

Things pertaining—Doubtless fully and clearly as their advancement in knowledge allowed, yet not so successfully but that they asked the unwise question in Acts 1:6.

Kingdom of God—Not that a large body of new teachings was given, but the kingdom of God was the topic of all he did say.


Verse 4

1. The waiting at Jerusalem, Acts 1:4-5.

4. Not depart from Jerusalem—Though the disciples had already been in Galilee, and though Jerusalem was the most dangerous spot in the world for them, yet now they are there divinely imprisoned by the Lord’s word. And this for several reasons: 1. In Jerusalem Jesus had performed mighty works, had been rejected and slain, and just there it was fitting that his name should be first received and maintained; 2. In no place could the Pentecostal manifestation and other first displays of the power of the new religion so startle the attention of the nation as at its theocratic capital; 3.

As there the sacrifices had for ages been offered, and there the last sacrifice, namely, of the Lamb of God, so that was the true starting-point for the religion of the Cross. 4. All this accorded with the prophecy, Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.Isaiah 2:3.


Verses 4-26

I.—PREPARATORIES FOR THE PENTECOST, Acts 1:4-26.

From among the events of the forty days Luke selects those only now which are preparatory to the great manifestation at the Pentecost. For, just as the section of the Gospel immediately succeeding the introduction narrates the preparation for the advent of the Son; so this section presents the preparation for that great advent of the Spirit. Hence, we have here successively, 1. The command to wait at Jerusalem for the Pentecostal baptism, 4, 5; 2. The promise of the gift or charisma of power, 6-8; 3. The ascension, which was the necessary condition of the Spirit’s mission, 9-14, 4. The re-completion of the apostolic number, in order that the full twelve may receive the Pentecostal inauguration, 15-26.


Verse 5

5. And finally, together they must stay in order that together they may receive the one Pentecostal unction.

Promise of the Father—See notes on Luke 24:49; John 14:16-26, John 16:7-11. So called because predicted in the Old Testament as from God. See note on Acts 2:16; Joel 3:1-2.

5. Baptized with the Holy Ghost—Under the old dispensation it was the law, the type, the ritual, and the shadow that were prominent, and the Spirit was in the background; under the new, reversely, all these retreat into the background, and the Spirit is predominant. This is the dispensation not of the ritual but of the Spirit. Hence it must be inaugurated by a full and overwhelming manifestation of the Spirit, as the old was inaugurated by the physical splendour of Sinai. And if this dispensation be ever glorious in its realization, if it ever attain a latter-day glory worthy to be the antitype of which the Pentecost was the type, it must be by the power of the Spirit poured forth upon men of the advanced culture of the future.

Baptized— By a curious contradiction Lechler on this verse tells us that this baptism was an immersion, and yet on verse seventh calls it an outpouring. Now, no one would say that a shower, however copiously outpoured, immersed a man. Nor would the most inconsiderate reasoner say that the person was plunged into the Holy Ghost. The element is applied to the person, not the person to the element. Nor does the Greek preposition εν, in, reasonably imply immersion. Thus, the Greek Septuagint renders Ezekiel 16:9, “I washed thee with water, εν υδατι, and anointed thee in oil, εν ελαιω.” The Pentecostal baptism was certainly not by immersion.

Not many days hence—Though the days of delay of fulfilling the promise were to be not many, yet why so many? Why not the immediate charisma? The reasons may be several: 1. Their hearts must be trained by yet further experiences before they are fitted to become recipients of so wonderful an outpouring of the Spirit. Errors (like their question in Acts 1:6) must be corrected; trials like the last departure of their Lord must be endured; hours of earnest supplication (Acts 1:14) must be passed before their own hearts, minds, and wills are ready to co-operate freely, fully, and energetically with the Divine Spirit. 2. As we shall soon illustrate, the final departure of the Son was a requisite condition before the advent of the Spirit. 3. As it was at the Passover that the crucifixion was to take place, so the founding of the new Church must in the Divine order be placed at the Pentecost. An epochal event must have its epochal day.


Verse 6

2. The gift of power, Acts 1:6-8.

6. Come together—Not a second assembling different from Acts 1:4, but a furnishing of the apostles’ part at the same assembling.

Therefore—In consequence of his assurance that a stupendous blessing was in wait for them, they are stimulated to inquire unitedly whether the restoration of national sovereignty to Israel is included in it.

The kingdom—The independence and nationality which the Romans had taken from Israel. Unenlightened as yet by the Pentecostal illumination, the apostles speak more in the spirit of Jewish patriots than of heavenly-minded Christians. They have full faith that Jesus is the Messiah; they doubt not that he has power and purpose to render Israel not only independent of Rome, but make her head of the theocracy or new kingdom of God and master of the world, and their inquiry is whether he will do it at this time.


Verse 7

7. The times or the seasons—Without confirming, denying, or correcting their notion, postponing the right informing of their views to the Pentecost, Jesus gently reproves their impatience in regard to the time. He gives an admonition which Christians of all ages would do well to note. The attempting by prophetic calculations to fix the precise date of any future event reduces the Scripture to a mere fortune-teller’s manual. Few errors within the limits of Christianity have been more dangerous or disgraceful in effect either upon the credit of the Bible, or upon the mind of the individuals.—The word times here signifies the great current, and seasons the particular points or epochs of time.

Put in his own power—A very striking expression, indicating that the Omnipotent reserves for his own decision the great events of the world, and especially the world’s “last things.” God is his own counsellor, and, like a wise sovereign, keeps his own secrets of state. Nay, more, the free actions of men being undecreed are intrinsically alternative, and able to proceed in either of diverse ways. See note on Matthew 11:23; Matthew 11:25, and Romans 2:1-10; Romans 8:29-30. Israel was able to accept Messiah-Jesus. And had all Israel been thus true to her national mission, the Pentecostal outpouring would not have been confined to the precincts of an upper room. The latter glory would have forthwith filled the temple and the nation, and such would have been its wondrous manifestation of splendour and of power that Rome would have bowed the knee, and the fulness of the Gentiles would have been gathered in. Christ would have even seen the travail of his soul and been satisfied. The consummation and the advent might have been hastened by centuries, perhaps by millenniums. The Father thus reserves the times and seasons in his own power, in view of the contingencies of the world’s future events and courses. (See note Acts 2:1.) This reservation by the Father is in striking harmony with our Lord’s declaration in Mark 13:32, where not only men and angels, but even the Son, is excluded from a knowledge of the day and the hour. (See our note.) This declaration of our Lord furnishes the key-note for St. Paul’s times and seasons, 1 Thessalonians 5:1, and other similar passages.

Bengel remarks, however, “The thing itself is true, otherwise there would be no time for the thing.” True, it may be replied; but what the true nature of the thing is—that is, of the restoration of the kingdom or nationality to Israel—our Lord stops not to explain. It may be that the true kingdom— the Church of God—is to be restored to the natural Israel only by his becoming a part of the true Israel. And this is implied by the universal spread of the Gospel, described in Acts 1:8. Thus much is certain, that the New Testament contains not one explicit literal declaration that the Jewish nation is to be so restored to the land of Palestine, or that Jerusalem is to be again the local head of the theocracy or kingdom of God. Neither Jerusalem nor the Jew is recognised as a distinct department or element in the new dispensation.


Verse 8

8. But—Although the kingdom of your carnal hopes should be dismissed from mind, yet ye shall receive power which shall be the very essence of the true kingdom. This power should be first personal. As the coming of the Spirit of the Lord (Judges 14:6) strengthened the lower faculties of Samson so as to make him mighty in bodily vigour, so this coming of the Spirit should empower their higher faculties so as to render them Samsons in soul. The power should, secondly, be organic, giving them the visible head-ship in the theocracy; placing them upon the twelve thrones of viceroyalty in the kingdom. Matthew 19:28. Such was to be the compensation in place of their vanishing visions of national restoration.

Witnesses—(See note on Acts 1:21-22.)

Jerusalem… Judea… Samaria… earth—Like the ever widening circles of water into which a stone has dropped, the Gospel should from its original center include the whole earth in its circumference. These names trace the enlarging advances in beautiful climax. And so Jesus at the beginning designed a universal religion. This was his last testimony before his ascension.

Uttermost part—Parts as yet unknown to that age, which future geography was to reveal, and the Gospel of Christ to cover.


Verse 9

9. Taken up—Lifted up as the commencement of the movement.

Out of their sight—The terminal fact.


Verses 9-14

3. The Ascensionthe necessary condition before the advent of the Spirit, Acts 1:9-14.

Compare note on Luke, entire § 156. We assume that on Olivet, about a sabbath day’s journey from the city, yet within the limits of the Bethany territory, took place this converse and departure.

How truly the ascension of Christ was the preceding condition to the sending of the Spirit, we, in fact, learn by turning from the writings of Luke to the Gospel of John. So do the different evangelists supplement and confirm each other. The narrators are several, the truth is one. See our notes to John 16:6-11.—”The ascension of Elijah,” says Baumgarten, “was as the flight of a bird, which none can follow; the ascension of Christ, as a bridge from earth to heaven for all who will to ascend.”


Verse 10

10. Two men—Men in form, angels in nature, or at least in office. So Luke 24:4, calls the two angels at the sepulchre men, which were perhaps identical with these. May they not have been the two men who were with Christ upon the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elias?

Stood by them—Without having visibly come there.

White apparel— Their unseen approach, their white raiment, and their heavenly words, attested their supernatural character.


Verse 11

11. Men of Galilee—Galilean men; a pathetic epithet now, sending back their thoughts to their origin and home.

Stand… gazing—After Jesus receded from sight they stood a long while gazing into the vacant sky, their eyes longing to recover that loved form now henceforth translated. The angels’ words rebuke their distrust and reassure their faith.

In like manner—This passage is an immovable proof-text of the actual personal second advent of our Jesus. It is the same personal, visible Jesus which ascended that shall come. The coming shall be in like manner with the going. A figurative or spiritual coming would clearly not be a coming of the same Jesus, and still more clearly not a coming in like manner. So in Matthew 24:30, “They shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven.” See notes on that chapter. Very natural was it for these apostles to infer, what was not said, that they should see him during their own day instead of the day of their resurrection.


Verse 12

12. Mount called Olivet—Luke’s language here implies that Theophilus was unfamiliar with the locality.

A sabbath day’s journey—About half a furlong less than a mile.

“It would appear from the Talmudics that it was no violation of the sabbath day, while in the desert, to traverse the whole camp, which is believed to have been twelve miles square; nor was it unlawful to walk through a city on that holy day, no matter how extensive it might be. But after the erection of the temple, sabbath locomotion seems to have been greatly circumscribed without the city. No one was permitted to go beyond the limits of the suburbs of the city on that sacred day—a distance of one mile—and this seems to have regulated a sabbath day’s journey. Some have estimated it as high as two miles, and some, by way of accommodation, as low as seven, or seven and a half furlongs; but there is no just reason to question the correctness of the ordinary estimate. The Jewish mile was composed of one thousand paces of five feet, or one thousand six hundred and sixty-six yards, and was therefore nearly one hundred yards shorter than our mile.”—Barclay’s City of the Great King, p. 69.

Why does Luke mention that it was a sabbath day’s journey? Perhaps to identify the locality. But Chrysostom thinks because it was sabbath day, and Alford adds, perhaps in order to obviate the offence taken at its being a longer walk on that day.


Verse 13

13. Come in—To the city.

Upper room. Probably the same as the room of the Pentecost. Not, as some have supposed, in the temple, for the Jewish authorities would not have permitted so bold proceedings on the part of the disciples of the lately crucified Jesus. (See note, Acts 2:1.)

It accords with ecclesiastical tradition, and seems in itself probable, that it was the same room where the Passover was celebrated, where Matthias was elected, where the Pentecostal effusion was bestowed, where the seven deacons were appointed, and where the first council of Jerusalem was held.

Abode—Rather, were abiding. That is, were customarily staying there as their special place of prayer. This no way contradicts Luke 24:53, which simply asserts that they also constantly frequented the temple.

On the catalogue of apostles which follows, compare Matthew 10:2-4 and Luke 6:13-16.


Verse 14

14. All continued—During the ten days to the feast of Pentecost.

Prayer and supplication—The word supplication, being wanting in some manuscripts, is of doubtful genuineness. Prayer is the more general term, including all sorts of uttered or mental worship, whether of simply thanks or petition. Supplication is simply the ardent expression of our wants.

With the women—Our minds naturally revert to the women from Galilee, who supplied the wants, watched the cross, and visited the sepulchre of Jesus. But as the phrase is simply with women, the article being omitted from the Greek, we cannot be absolutely certain that they are the same. It may simply mean that both sexes were present. Mary. (See note on Matthew 1:18.)

Brethren. (See note on Matthew 13:55.) It is perfectly clear from this passage that these brothers of Jesus were not the same with the apostles of the same name. The semi-scepticism with which they were animated in John 7:3 (where see our note) has passed away. The scenes, perhaps, of the cross and the ascension have sobered their spirit and deepened their faith.

From the mount of the ascension, where their first dismay at the loss of Jesus was dismissed by the words of the angels, the apostles hasten with joy to the high place of prayer. Inspired with that measure of the Spirit once preparatorily breathed upon them by Jesus, instructed by the lessons of the forty days closed by the final ascent of the Lord, they now have attained a point at which they comprehend their position and joyfully understand their duty. They know how they are to tarry at Jerusalem for the great baptism of the Spirit and the gift of power. (Acts 1:5; Acts 1:8.) Then with what immediateness, continuity, and oneness of accord do they set themselves to prayer and supplication! When men object that the powerful rush of the Pentecostal Spirit implies an unseemly overthrow of the free agency of this holy company, they forget with what devout persistence in prayer their whole souls had been consecrated to the occasion, so that their clarified intellects, their inmost hearts, and their eager wills were ready at the moment to co-operate with the fulness of the Spirit, so that the most perfect freedom, both of God and man, united in the blessed work.


Verse 15

15. In those days—The ten days between the ascension and the Pentecost.

Peter stood up.—After his terrible fall, and his full restoration by Jesus himself, (see John’s account in the closing chapter of his Gospel,) Peter resumes his place as eminent among his equals of the apostolic body. He has, indeed, no popish power to elect an apostle or a bishop, but he is leader in the process of election by others equally with himself.

Names— For the persons bearing the names, which were probably enrolled upon some record. So Revelation 3:4, “Thou hast a few names (for persons) even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments,” where, doubtless, allusion is made to the Church record. (See note on Acts 3:16.)

About a hundred and twenty—The hundred and twenty satraps, says Grotius, of a kingdom much greater than the realm of Darius. (Daniel 6:1.) We rather think this number to be the apostolic twelve, multiplied by the Gentile or national ten: just as the seventy deacons were the sacred seven multiplied by ten, and the forty days (see note on Acts 1:3) are the sacred four multiplied by ten. So the beast of seven heads has ten Gentile or national horns; and the commandments for all nations are ten. We suppose that the number of Christians in Jerusalem was larger than this; and very probably this exact number was seldom present, but only about that named figure. Hence it is hardly too much to suspect that this about one hundred and twenty were an enrolled organic number hinted here by Luke to be symbolically representative of the whole Church of the Christian ages. (See on Sacred Numbers, vol. i, pp. 79, 105.) As such they received the pentecostal outpouring. (See note on Acts 2:1.)


Verses 15-26

4. The recompletion of the apostolic number. Acts 1:15-26.

On the apostolic number twelve, see our vol. ii, p. 81. As Jesus is now enthroned on high over the house of Israel, temporal and spiritual, so it befits that his viceroys (see our note on Matthew 19:28) should in their complete significant number receive the unction of the Pentecostal Spirit. Accordingly, we see (Acts 2:14) that the full twelve stand up on that occasion as the divinely recognised number. In this we recognise the full disproof of the opinion sometimes maintained, that Paul, not Matthias, was “the twelfth apostle.” If the apostles in this election acted mistakenly and without Divine guidance, it was an act of most officious impertinence, and it is utterly unsupposable that Luke should record it in full as among truly apostolic acts. His closing assertion that Matthias was “numbered with the eleven apostles” no doubt expresses the permanent acceptance of the Church, even after the day of Pentecost. We do not hesitate, therefore, to reckon it as one of the preparatories for the Pentecost that the organic number of the apostles should be complete.


Verse 16

Peter’s First Speech—that to the one hundred and twenty, Acts 1:16-22.

16. Must needs have been fulfilled—The divine foresight, anticipating what Judas would freely do, has provided for and adopted it into its plan for its own conduct. (See note on Matthew 11:25.) They must, therefore, accept it as no unexpected event, and act accordingly.

Holy Ghost… spake—The inspiring Spirit, perhaps, had a higher and broader meaning than David himself understood.


Verse 17

17. Numbered—Chosen, counted and registered as one of the sacred twelve.

Obtained part—Rather, received lot. Intimating that the apostolic office was no mere human choice, but a divine allotment.


Verse 18

18. Purchased a field—He did not purchase the field in his own person, nor intentionally. He did it through the priests, by setting agoing the causes by which it became purchased. He hoped to enrich himself; he only bought a burial-ground for refugees like himself. So often our human thought attributes an effect back to an earlier cause or agent. So Joseph “laid the body of Christ” in the tomb through others’ hands. Matthew 27:60.

(See note on John 4:2.)

Burst asunder—Matthew says that Judas went and hanged himself. Luke here adds that he also fell, burst asunder, and his bowels gushed out. It is impossible for objectors to make out any contradiction here, for all the circumstances may be true of the same person as successive items in the same event. Judas may have hung himself on some dizzy precipice, and the rope breaking may have let him fall, breaking himself asunder on some projecting point of rock and crushing him at bottom by the force of his fall. No one can say this was the method; but this hypothesis, at least, shows that there is no impossibility for both accounts to be true. (See notes on Matthew 27:5-8.) But, it is asked, Why does each omit what the other states, precisely as if he knew nothing of it? Matthew, we answer, like a rapid historian, intends only to mark his death by suicide; Luke, whose account evidently intends to be incomplete, presupposing an abundance of circumstances he does not narrate, is painting those opprobrious points in the traitor’s death which indicate the Divine abhorrence of his wickedness.


Verse 18-19

18, 19. These two verses we hold, in accordance with the opinion of Olshausen and others, to be not the words of Peter, but an explanatory parenthesis inserted in the speech by Luke. Peter’s hearers might know all the circumstances, but Luke’s readers might not. (See note on Acts 1:19-20.)


Verse 19

19. Known unto all—A bold appeal to public notoriety, indicating the full confidence of the writer in the public truth of the narrative. The crucifixion of Jesus, we infer, was no obscure event, but had made a wide and solemn impression on the minds of the people of Jerusalem.

In their proper tongue—The Aramaic, or Syro-Chaldaic. This was probably the very dialect in which Peter was speaking. He could not, therefore, have called it “their proper tongue,” for it was his own, nor would the name have needed translation. The words are, therefore, Luke’s, and intended for more distant readers. (See note above on 18, 19.)

Aceldama… field of blood— As bought with the price of Jesus’ blood.


Verse 20

20. For—Referring to David spake in Acts 1:16. The distance of the reference shows that Acts 1:18-19 are Luke’s parenthesis inserted in Peter’s speech.

Psalms—Peter here quoted Psalms 69:25; Psalms 109:8, both of which are considered by biblical scholars as Messianic Psalms. That is, Christ is represented in those Psalms by his great type, the royal David, the psalmist himself. The psalmist’s words are, “Let their habitation be desolate, and let none dwell therein,” where, probably, Ahithophel is really indicated under the plural them, which Peter explains by rendering it his.

So, habitation and tents meaning the same thing, Peter omits the last. In Psalms 108:9, the words in our English translation are, Let another take his office. The word bishopric is here capriciously used by our translators for the Greek of the Septuagint, επισκοπην, overseer-ship. But though the application of these words to Judas is to be admitted by every believing Christian, and served to guide the apostles aright on this occasion, yet this prophecy could not be conclusively used to convince a sceptic. Prophetic passages are divisible into two classes, namely, those which are explicit and demonstrative, and may be used to convince infidels of the divinity of the Scriptures; and those which can be used only within the Church, by her own interpretation, to guide her own belief and action. The clause in the last-quoted psalm, Let another take his office, was proof to the present assembly that a successor was required in Judas’ apostolate. The promise of twelve apostolic thrones was originally made to include Judas; but another was to inherit that promise in his place, just as Gentiles inherit the Abrahamic promises.


Verse 21

21. Wherefore—Since the place of the apostate must be filled.

Men… with us—The description implies that there were those besides the apostles, as, for instance, some of the seventy, who attended the ministry of Jesus closely enough to become apostles.


Verse 22

22. Witness—See note on Luke 1:2. And this description of the proper requisites for an apostle implies, externally, complete knowledge of facts and truths; and, internally, a firmness and faithfulness of adherence to Christ.


Verse 23

23. They appointed two—That is, two were nominated, probably by common consent, and made to stand forth as candidates. Barsabas, the son of an oath; not to be confounded with Barnabas, a son of consolation.

Surnamed Justus—In compliance with the custom of having a Roman name in addition to a Hebrew one. Neither of these two candidates is elsewhere named in sacred history, a silence which they share with most of the apostles. Eusebius says, on the authority of Papias, that Justus drank a cup of poison without harm.


Verse 24

24. They prayed—Man proposes, but God disposes. The human part of the work was done in selecting candidates; the Divine work remained of electing.

Which knowest the hearts of all men—This phrase is a feeble rendering of a Greek single term, καρδιογνωστα, heart-searcher. Was this prayer offered to Christ? He claims the prerogative of searching hearts. Revelation 2:23. He was the true chooser of apostles. And he was customarily addressed, especially in Luke’s Gospel, by the title Lord, and is styled Lord Jesus in Acts 1:21. The probabilities, then, are that the ascended Jesus was here invoked. Note Acts 5:1.

Hast chosen—As if Christ’s choice were already made, and the lot only reveals it.


Verse 25

25. Part—The best readings would substitute place for part here. And then we seem to have a sort of antithesis. The new apostle elect must take place in the apostleship that Judas may go to his own place.

His own place—Of the different interpretations of this phrase (which may be found in Clarke on the passage) but one possesses the slightest probability. Judas had fallen from what was not his place to go to the place which belongs to final apostates, hell. Kuinoel abundantly proves this by examples from Jewish classic and apostolic authors. Thus, upon Numbers 24:25, one Jewish writer thus comments: “Balaam went to his own place, that is, Gehenna,” [hell.] The Targum on Ecclesiastes 6:6, says, “On the day of his death his soul descended into Gehenna, into the single place, where all sinners go.” St. Ignatius, in his Epistle to the Magnesians, says, “When things have come to an end, there occur two ways, death and life, and each one will go to his own place.” Clement, Bishop of Rome, says of Peter, “Having suffered many labours, and so suffered martyrdom, he went to the due place of glory.” Thus every person in this world of probation has his own place in the world of retribution; a place made his own by his own conduct and character.


Verse 26

26. Gave forth their lotsTheir refers to the candidates, as the lots were supposed to belong to those who underwent their decision. For a method of casting lots, see our note on John 19:24. Grotius says they put two tablets, inscribed each with a name, into one urn; and into another urn they put one tablet blank, and one inscribed with the word Apostle. They then drew one from each urn, and the concurrence of the two decided the case.

The choosing of rulers, both sacred and secular, by lot, was very customary in Pagan and Jewish history. In both cases it was doubtless done under the assumption that Divine Providence decided the lot. By lot David distributed the functions of the priests, (1 Chronicles 24:5,) and Moses assigned the inheritance of the twelve tribes, Numbers 26:52-56. Calvin says, “When magistrates divide provinces, and brethren their inheritance, the lot is a thing lawful. Which thing Solomon doth plainly testify: The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.” The Moravians use the lot religiously; and Mr. Wesley once adopted it from them.

Ordinarily, when a lot is deposited in a receiver, the train of events through which every lot passes is, of course, as truly controlled by a succession of natural causes as any event whatever. This train of causes is, indeed, immediately out of sight, and uncontrolled by any conscious human will. But as no divine interference is any more likely to take place because the process is concealed from our eyes, so the practice of deciding sacred things by lot is superstitious and absurd. It is only when, as in the theocracy or as in this case, the divine guidance is assured, that the sacred lot can be used. Then it is an act of committing the result to God, who, in his supreme wisdom, secures the event to accord with his will, either by overruling the volition or the motion of the depositor, or by some physical interference with the movements of the lot itself.

He was numbered—An arithmetical word. That the legitimate number was permanently considered as filled is certain from Acts 2:14; Acts 6:2, where see notes. Paul, therefore, was not one of the twelve, but singly and alone the Apostle of the Gentiles.

The preparatories are now completed, and the lapse of the due fifty days from the crucifixion brings the PENTECOST.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Acts 1:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/acts-1.html. 1874-1909.

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