Acts 1 - Outline of Acts (MENU page)
This book is commonly called "The Acts of the Apostles."
A more accurate title would be: "The Acts of the Lord Jesus Christ working by the Holy Spirit through His Apostles."
While the apostles do play a very important role in this book, it is evident that they could do nothing apart from the power of Christ working in them. This essential truth, evident in the very earliest verses, is amplified as each page is turned.
1. The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus,
of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,
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:
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:
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.
5 For John truly baptized with water;
but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
the former treatise... - is the Gospel of Luke.
As we will see, Luke, the beloved physician, attended and accompanied Paul on his missionary journeys. He was an eye witness of most of the history which he records in Acts. He had ready access to contemporary witnesses, to confirm the details of events where he had not been present... and, in keeping with his profession, he was careful to record those details accurately. See Luke 1:1-4
Theophilus... - Luke addresses both of his writings to someone whose name means "lover of God."
It is possible that he had a specific man, by this name, in mind. But the Lord has preserved these words for all who have come to love Him because He first loved us (1Joh 4:19).
...of all that Jesus began... to do and to teach...- ie., the things recorded in Luke and the other gospels (eg., Luk 7:21-23; 24:19).
The work of the risen and glorified Christ continues beyond the four gospel accounts. The book of Acts opens where the gospels end. Each of the four gospels close with a unique emphasis. All four threads come together in the first few verses of Acts:
  • Matthew 28:1-20 - Christ's resurrection & commission to His disciples.
  • Mark 16:14-20 - Christ's commission to His disciples & His ascension into heaven.
  • Luke 24:45-53 - Christ's commission to His disciples & His promise to send the Holy Spirit.
  • John 21:15-24 - Christ's commission to Peter & His promise to come again.
until the day... he was taken up...- The phrase "taken up" refers to His ascension Joh 6:62; 16:28; 17:13; 20:17
the apostles... to whom... he shewed himself alive... by many infallible proofs...-
For a period of forty days, following His crucifixion and resurrection, the risen Christ showed Himself alive to a large number of people. Several such occasions are recorded in the four Gospels. But there were many more (1Cor 15:3-8). The phrase "infallible proofs" is from a single GK word {tekmerion} which means 'a sure sign,' 'a positive proof.' (eg., Joh 20:24-29).
     During this time, the Lord continued teaching His disciples...
...speaking of things pertaining to the kingdom of God...-
He had instructed them to pray for this kingdom to come, in fulfillment of prophetic expection (Luk 11:2). He had laid its foundation by His death and resurrection (Mat 26:29; Mark 14:25).
...commanded them.... wait for the promise... ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost...-
Although they did not understand the form that it would take, they were eager to get on with their role in His kingdom. They would not receive understanding of their role, and the ability to fulfill it, until the Holy Spirit would come upon them. Joh 16:12-15
6. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him,
saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
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.
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.
...therefore ...they asked... wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? -
Their question was in line with what He had been teaching them, during the past forty days (v.3). They were expecting the imminent fulfillment of prophecies which foretold Israel's restoration (eg., Hos 3:4,5; Jer 23:5,6). The kingdom will indeed be restored to Israel, when their Messiah returns (Mat 25:31f). But that time had not yet come. Rather than chiding them for their question, He gently began to correct their misunderstanding. The Holy Spirit would teach them more, later.
...It is not for you to know the times or the seasons...-
Since the day of their question, the Lord has provided us with more insight about future things, in several of the epistles and in the book of Revelation. But even so, the specific timing of things which must shortly come to pass (Rev 1:1) is hidden in His own counsels (Mat 24:36).
But ye shall receive power... after... the Holy Ghost is come upon you... ye shall be witnesses unto me...-
For the immediate future, their role in His kingdom would be: to proclaim the person and work of Jesus Christ to the world. They were to speak of the King, and leave the coming of His kingdom to His keeping.
     Like the OT prophets, the disciples were to trust Him, even when they could not fully comprehend His ways. The prophets had struggled to understand how the Messiah could be both the suffering servant and the conquering king (1Pet 1:10,11). Yet, they believed God and proclaimed the Word that He gave them. To the prophets, God had not revealed that the Messiah's first and second comings would be separated by the intervening 'church age.' It was a mystery hidden from them. But Jesus had taught His disciples about this "mystery" aspect of His kingdom (the period between the King's rejection by His people, and the establishment of His kingdom) through a series of parables in Matthew ch. 13. (For more, see the Book Notes at Matthew ch. 13.)
     Their role would be to bear witness to Him by sowing the seed of His Word...
in Jerusalem... in Judea and Samaria... unto the uttermost parts of the earth.-
Their witness would begin where they were, in Jerusalem, and propagate out from there in an every widening circle... next, to Judea and Samaria... and then, to the whole world. The progression of the Gospel into these three regions is clearly seen in the course of the book of Acts. (See the Outline of Acts.)
     It is also true that the witness of any believer begins where he or she lives (eg., to family, friends, home town) and grows outward from there to less familiar and more distant hearers.
9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up;
and a cloud received him out of their sight.
10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up,
behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
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.
... a cloud received him out of their sight...-
No doubt, this was no ordinary cloud, but rather He was caught up into the glory cloud of God's Presence (Ex 13:21; 1Cor 10:1; Joh 17:5; Mat 24:30).
this same Jesus... shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.-
The two angels gave clear teaching concerning the return of Christ: He will come...
  • 'In like manner' - ie., visibly, bodily, physically, descending out of heaven, to the same place. Zech 14:4; Mat 24:30; Rev 1:7
  • 'This same Jesus' - Jesus warned us that many false 'christs' would come before He returns (Mat 24:4,5). The Bible presents the distinguishing characteristics of the true Messiah. We are charged to be discerning truth from error, and to be watching for Him (1The 1:9,10).
This same Jesus who was taken up {GK=analambano, take up, receive up, raise up}... -
The phrase 'taken up' refers to His ascension. v.2, 9, 11, 22; Mark 16:19
     The One who was previously 'lifted up' {GK=hupsoo, raised on high, exalted} in crucifixion (John 12:32,33) and who was 'raised up' from the dead {GK=anistemi, caused to stand, Acts 2:24}, was 'received up' into glory, from where He will come again.
     This is the constant message of the sermons in Acts and of the arguments in the epistles: Jesus, the Christ, who died for our sins, is risen from the dead, is ascended into heaven, and is coming again (Eph 4:8-10; 1Tim 3:16; Heb 6:19,20; 9:24; 1Pet 3:22).
12. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet,
which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey.
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.
14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication,
with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.
During the ten days that elapsed between Christ's ascension and the day of Pentecost,
the eleven apostles and those who gathered with them, 'continued' {ie., persevered} in single minded earnest prayer and supplication (entreaty for a need). They were obediently waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit, who would endue them with power from on high (v.4,5,8; Luk 24:49).
...with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.-
The death and resurrection of Jesus had profound effects upon his immediate family.
  • His mother's story concerning the virgin birth was vindicated. Jesus was indeed the Son of God. Luk 1:35; Joh 8:41,42; Rom 1:4
  • His earthly brothers, who previously had not believed (Psa 69:8,9; Joh 7:5), had come to faith.
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,)
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.
17 For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.
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.
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.
20 For it is written in the book of Psalms,
{Psa 69:25)
Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein:
and his bishoprick let another take.
{Psa 109:8)
21 Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
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.
23 And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.
24 And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all [men],
shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,
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.
26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias;
and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
Judas... purchased a field with the reward of iniquity...- Zech 11:12,13; Mat 27:3-10
In effect, Judas purchased the field posthumously, in that he had returned the price of betrayal to the priests, who then applied it to that purpose. Apparently, Judas' decaying body had ruptured when it was cut down, after being discovered hanging in that same field.
for it is written... let his habitation be desolate... his bishoprick {GK=episkopen, his office as an overseer} let another take...-
Judas had 'obtained' {ie., received} a part in the ministry of the apostles, in that he was chosen and appointed by the Lord (Mat 10:1-4; Joh 6:70,71). Whereas the Lord had appointed twelve apostles, there were now but eleven (v.13,26)
...wherefore of these men... must one be ordained...-
While Peter's understanding of scripture was correct, that a new apostle would be appointed to fill the place vacated by Judas. He went beyond what the scripture said, when he presumed that he and the other apostles must make that appointment. The means of selection was according to natural wisdom, prior to the coming of the Holy Spirit. Although Matthias was numbered among the apostles (as they saw it), he is never again mentioned in scripture. The Lord reserved to Himself the appointment of apostles (v.2b). In time, it would become apparent that He had chosen Paul to fill an apostolic role (9:15; Gal 1:1).
     This is not to imply that Matthias did not fulfill his role as a witness to Christ, or that he should be excluded from among the twelve. Paul refers to himself as an apostle, in many of his epistles. The book of Acts also applies this term to him (Acts 14:14). However, Paul was not regarded as one of the twelve (Act 15:2,22).
     An 'apostle' is 'one sent as a representative of another.' As we will see, the Lord Jesus did appoint Paul to a unique ministry of bearing witness for Him. If Peter had waited, perhaps Paul would have been numbered among the twelve.
...must one be ordained to be a witness with us of His resurrection.-
Peter does clarify the essential qualification for a New Testament apostle (a man with authority as a firsthand representative of the Lord Jesus Christ): the man must have been taught directly by the Lord Jesus, and must be an eye witness to the resurrected Christ.
     By this test, there could be no true apostles since the first century. The Lord's post-resurrection appearance to, and direct teaching of, Paul satisfied this requirement (Acts 9:1-9; 1Cor 15:8,9; Gal 1:11,12).

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