Acts 1:8
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.
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(8) But ye shall receive power.—The use of the same English noun for two different Greek words is misleading, but if “authority” be used in Acts 1:7 then “power” is an adequate rendering here. The consciousness of a new faculty of thought and speech would be to them a proof that the promise of the Kingdom had not failed.

Ye shall be witnesses unto me.—The words, which are apparently identical with those of Luke 24:48, strike the key-note of the whole book. Those which follow correspond to the great divisions of the Acts—Jerusalem, Acts 1, 7; Judæa, 9:32, 12:19; Samaria, 8; and the rest of the book as opening the wider record of the witness borne “to the uttermost parts of the earth.” And this witness was two-fold: (1) of the works, the teachings, and, above all, of the Resurrection of Jesus; (2) of the purpose of the Father as revealed in the Son. The witness was to be, in language which, though technical, is yet the truest expression of the fact, at once historical and dogmatic.



Acts 1:1 - Acts 1:14

The Ascension is twice narrated by Luke. The life begun by the supernatural birth ends with the supernatural Ascension, which sets the seal of Heaven on Christ’s claims and work. Therefore the Gospel ends with it. But it is also the starting-point of the Christ’s heavenly activity, of which the growth of His Church, as recorded in the Acts, is the issue. Therefore the Book of the Acts of the Apostles begins with it.

The keynote of the ‘treatise’ lies in the first words, which describe the Gospel as the record of what ‘Jesus began to do and teach,’ Luke would have gone on to say that this second book of his contained the story of what Jesus went on to do and teach after He was ‘taken up,’ if he had been strictly accurate, or had carried out his first intention, as shown by the mould of his introductory sentence; but he is swept on into the full stream of his narrative, and we have to infer the contrast between his two volumes from his statement of the contents of his first.

The book, then, is misnamed Acts of the Apostles, both because the greater number of the Apostles do nothing in it, and because, in accordance with the hint of the first verse, Christ Himself is the doer of all, as comes out distinctly in many places where the critical events of the Church’s progress and extension are attributed to ‘the Lord.’ In one aspect, Christ’s work on earth was finished on the Cross; in another, that finished work is but the beginning both of His doing and teaching. Therefore we are not to regard His teaching while on earth as the completion of Christian revelation. To set aside the Epistles on the plea that the Gospels contain Christ’s own teaching, while the Epistles are only Paul’s or John’s, is to misconceive the relation between the earthly and the heavenly activity of Jesus.

The statement of the theme of the book is followed by a brief summary of the events between the Resurrection and Ascension. Luke had spoken of these in the end of his Gospel, but given no note of time, and run together the events of the day of the Resurrection and of the following weeks, so that it might appear, as has been actually contended that he meant, that the Ascension took place on the very day of Resurrection. The fact that in this place he gives more detailed statements, and tells how long elapsed between the Resurrection Sunday and the Ascension, might have taught hasty critics that an author need not be ignorant of what he does not mention, and that a detailed account does not contradict a summary one,-truths which do not seem very recondite, but have often been forgotten by very learned commentators.

Three points are signalised as occupying the forty days: commandments were given, Christ’s actual living presence was demonstrated {by sight, touch, hearing, etc.}, and instructions concerning the kingdom were imparted. The old blessed closeness and continuity of companionship had ceased. Our Lord’s appearances were now occasional. He came to the disciples, they knew not whence; He withdrew from them, they knew not whither. Apparently a sacred awe restrained them from seeking to detain Him or to follow Him. Their hearts would be full of strangely mingled feelings, and they were being taught by gentle degrees to do without Him. Not only a divine decorum, but a most gracious tenderness, dictated the alternation of presence and absence during these days.

The instructions then given are again referred to in Luke’s Gospel, and are there represented as principally directed to opening their minds ‘that they might understand the Scriptures.’ The main thing about the kingdom which they had then to learn, was that it was founded on the death of Christ, who had fulfilled all the Old Testament predictions. Much remained untaught, which after years were to bring to clear knowledge; but from the illumination shed during these fruitful days flowed the remarkable vigour and confidence of the Apostolic appeal to the prophets, in the first conflicts of the Church with the rulers. Christ is the King of the kingdom, and His Cross is His throne,-these truths being grasped revolutionised the Apostles’ conceptions. They are as needful for us.

From Acts 1:4 onwards the last interview seems to be narrated. Probably it began in the city, and ended on the slopes of Olivet. There was a solemn summoning together of the Eleven, which is twice referred to {Acts 1:4, Acts 1:6}. What awe of expectancy would rest on the group as they gathered round Him, perhaps half suspecting that it was for the last time! His words would change the suspicion into certainty, for He proceeded to tell them what they were not to do and to do, when left alone. The tone of leave-taking is unmistakable.

The prohibition against leaving Jerusalem implies that they would have done so if left to themselves; and it would have been small wonder if they had been eager to hurry back to quiet Galilee, their home, and to shake from their feet the dust of the city where their Lord had been slain. Truly they would feel like sheep in the midst of wolves when He had gone, and Pharisees and priests and Roman officers ringed them round. No wonder if, like a shepherdless flock, they had broken and scattered! But the theocratic importance of Jerusalem, and the fact that nowhere else could the Apostles secure such an audience for their witness, made their ‘beginning at Jerusalem’ necessary. So they were to crush their natural longing to get back to Galilee, and to stay in their dangerous position. We have all to ask, not where we should be most at ease, but where we shall be most efficient as witnesses for Christ, and to remember that very often the presence of adversaries makes the door ‘great and effectual.’

These eleven poor men were not left by their Master with a hard task and no help. He bade them ‘wait’ for the promised Holy Spirit, the coming of whom they had heard from Him when in the upper room He spoke to them of ‘the Comforter.’ They were too feeble to act alone, and silence and retirement were all that He enjoined till they had been plunged into the fiery baptism which should quicken, strengthen, and transform them.

The order in which promise and command occur here shows how graciously Jesus considered the Apostles’ weakness. Not a word does He say of their task of witnessing, till He has filled their hearts with the promise of the Spirit. He shows them the armour of power in which they are to be clothed, before He points them to the battlefield. Waiting times are not wasted times. Over-eagerness to rush into work, especially into conspicuous and perilous work, is sure to end in defeat. Till we feel the power coming into us, we had better be still.

The promise of this great gift, the nature of which they but dimly knew, set the Apostles’ expectations on tiptoe, and they seem to have thought that their reception of it was in some way the herald of the establishment of the Messianic kingdom. So it was, but in a very different fashion from their dream. They had not learned so much from the forty days’ instructions concerning the kingdom as to be free from their old Jewish notions, which colour their question, ‘Wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?’ They believed that Jesus could establish His kingdom when He would. They were right, and also wrong,-right, for He is King; wrong, for its establishment is not to be effected by a single act of power, but by the slow process of preaching the gospel.

Our Lord does not deal with their misconceptions which could only be cured by time and events; but He lays down great principles, which we need as much as the Eleven did. The ‘times and seasons,’ the long stretches of days, and the critical epoch-making moments, are known to God only; our business is, not to speculate curiously about these, but to do the plain duty which is incumbent on the Church at all times. The perpetual office of Christ’s people to be His witnesses, their equipment for that function {namely, the power of the Holy Spirit coming on them}, and the sphere of their work {namely, in ever-widening circles, Jerusalem, Samaria, and the whole world}, are laid down, not for the first hearers only, but for all ages and for each individual, in these last words of the Lord as He stood on Olivet, ready to depart.

The calm simplicity of the account of the Ascension is remarkable. So great an event told in such few, unimpassioned words! Luke’s Gospel gives the further detail that it was in the act of blessing with uplifted hands that our Lord was parted from the Eleven. Two expressions are here used to describe the Ascension, one of which {‘was taken up’} implies that He was passive, the other of which {‘He went’} implies that He was active. Both are true. As in the accounts of the Resurrection He is sometimes said to have been raised, and sometimes to have risen, so here. The Father took the Son back to the glory, the Son left the world and went to the Father. No chariot of fire, no whirlwind, was needed to lift Him to the throne. Elijah was carried by such agency into a sphere new to him; Jesus ascended up where He was before.

No other mode of departure from earth would have corresponded to His voluntary, supernatural birth. He carried manhood up to the throne of God. The cloud which received Him while yet He was well within sight of the gazers was probably that same bright cloud, the symbol of the Divine Presence, which of old dwelt between the cherubim. His entrance into it visibly symbolised the permanent participation, then begun, of His glorified manhood in the divine glory.

Most true to human nature is that continued gaze upwards after He had passed into the hiding brightness of the glory-cloud. How many of us know what it is to look long at the spot on the horizon where the last glint of sunshine struck the sails of the ship that bore dear ones away from us! It was fitting that angels, who had heralded His birth and watched His grave, should proclaim His Second Coming to earth.

It was gracious that, in the moment of keenest sense of desolation and loss, the great hope of reunion should be poured into the hearts of the Apostles. Nothing can be more distinct and assured than the terms of that angel message. It gives for the faith and hope of all ages the assurance that He will come; that He who comes will be the very Jesus who went; that His coming will be, like His departure, visible, corporeal, local. He will bring again all His tenderness, all His brother’s heart, all His divine power, and will gather His servants to Himself.

No wonder that, with such hopes flowing over the top of their sorrow, like oil on troubled waters, the little group went back to the upper room, hallowed by memories of the Last Supper, and there waited in prayer and supplication during the ten days which elapsed till Pentecost. So should we use the interval between any promise and its fulfilment. Patient expectation, believing prayer, harmonious association with our brethren, will prepare us for receiving the gift of the Spirit, and will help to equip us as witnesses for Jesus.

1:6-11 They were earnest in asking about that which their Master never had directed or encouraged them to seek. Our Lord knew that his ascension and the teaching of the Holy Spirit would soon end these expectations, and therefore only gave them a rebuke; but it is a caution to his church in all ages, to take heed of a desire of forbidden knowledge. He had given his disciples instructions for the discharge of their duty, both before his death and since his resurrection, and this knowledge is enough for a Christian. It is enough that He has engaged to give believers strength equal to their trials and services; that under the influence of the Holy Spirit they may, in one way or other, be witnesses for Christ on earth, while in heaven he manages their concerns with perfect wisdom, truth, and love. When we stand gazing and trifling, the thoughts of our Master's second coming should quicken and awaken us: when we stand gazing and trembling, they should comfort and encourage us. May our expectation of it be stedfast and joyful, giving diligence to be found of him blameless.But ye shall receive power ... - Literally, as it is translated in the margin, "Ye shall receive the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon you." This was said to them to console them. Though they could not know the times which God reserved in his own appointment, yet they should receive the promised Guide and Comforter. The word "power" here refers to the help or aid which the Holy Spirit would grant; the power of speaking with new tongues; of preaching the gospel with great effect; of enduring great trials, etc. See Mark 16:17-18. The apostles had impatiently asked him if he was then about to restore the kingdom to Israel. Jesus by this answer rebuked their impatience, taught them to repress their ill-timed ardor; and assured them again of the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Ye shall be witnesses - For this purpose they were appointed; and to prepare them for this they had been with him for more that three years. They had seen his manner of life, his miracles, his meekness, his sufferings; they had listened to his instructions, and had conversed and eaten with him as a friend; they had seen him after he was risen, and were about to see him ascend to heaven; and they were thus qualified to bear witness to these things in all parts of the earth. Their number was so great that it could not be pretended that they were deceived; they had been so intimate with him and his plans that they were qualified to state what his doctrines and purposes were; and there was no motive but conviction of the truth that could induce them to make the sacrifices which they would be required to make in communicating these things to the world. In every respect, therefore, they were qualified to be impartial and competent witnesses. The original word here is μάρτυρες martures, martyrs. From this word the name martyrs has been given to those who suffered in times of persecution. The reason why this name was given to them was that they bore witness to the life, instructions, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, even in the midst of persecution and death. It is commonly supposed that nearly all of the apostles bore witness as martyrs in this sense to the truths of the Christian religion, but of this there is not clear proof. See Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, vol. i. p. 55, 56. Still the word here does not necessarily mean that they to whom this was addressed would be martyrs, or would be put to death in bearing witness to the Lord Jesus; but that they were everywhere to testify to what they knew of him. The fact that this was the design of their appointment, and that they actually bore such testimony, is abundantly confirmed in the Acts of the Apostles, Acts 1:22; Acts 5:32; Acts 10:39, Acts 10:42; Acts 22:15.

In Jerusalem - In the capital of the nation. See Acts 2. The great work of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost occurred there. Most of the disciples remained in Jerusalem until the persecution that arose about the death of Stephen, Acts 8:1, Acts 8:4. The apostles remained there until Herod put James to death. Compare Acts 8:1, with Acts 12:1-2. This was about eight years. During this time, however, Paul was called to the apostleship, and Peter had preached the gospel to Cornelius, Philip to the eunuch, etc.

In all Judea - Judea was the southern division of the Holy Land, and included Jerusalem as the capital. See the notes on Matthew 2:22.

And in Samaria - This was the middle portion of Palestine. See the notes at Matthew 2:22. This was fulfilled by the disciples. See Acts 8:1, "And they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria"; compare Acts 1:4-5, "They that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them." See also Acts 1:14; Acts 9:31.

And unto the uttermost part of the earth - The word "earth," or "land," is sometimes taken to denote only the land of Palestine. But here there does not seem to be a necessity for limiting it thus. If Christ had intended that, he would have mentioned Galilee, as being the only remaining division of the country. But as he had expressly directed them to preach the gospel to all nations, the expression here is clearly to be considered as including the Gentile lands as well as the Jewish. The evidence that they did this is found in the subsequent parts of this book, and in the history of the church. It was in this way that Jesus replied to their question. Though he did not tell them the time when it was to be done, nor affirm that he would restore the kingdom to Israel, yet he gave them an answer that implied that the work should advance - should advance much further than the land of Israel; and that they would have much to do in promoting it. All the commands of God, and all his communications, are such as to call up our energy, and teach us that we have much to do. The uttermost parts of the earth have been given to the Saviour Psalm 2:8, and the church should not rest until he whose right it is shall come and reign, Ezekiel 21:27.

8. receive power—See Lu 24:49.

and ye shall be witnesses unto me … in Jerusalem … in all Judea … and unto the uttermost part of the earth—This order of apostolic preaching and success supplies the proper key to the plan of the Acts, which relates first the progress of the Gospel "in Jerusalem, and all Judea and Samaria" (the first through ninth chapters), and then "unto the uttermost part of the earth" (the tenth through twenty-eighth chapters).

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you; not till then, not of their own strength, but of God’s grace, as appeared by Peter’s denying and the others leaving of our Saviour.

And ye shall be witnesses unto me, that I am indeed the promised Messiah; and of my doctrine, life, death, resurrection, and ascension, which ye shall testify to all the world by your preaching and holy living, working miracles.

Both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria; places where your testimony shall be most opposed. These words are both a command, to tell the apostles what they ought to do, and a prediction of what they should be enabled to do.

But ye shall receive power,.... From on high, with which they were to be endured, Luke 24:49 meaning the power of the Holy Ghost, strength from him to preach the Gospel, and work miracles in confirmation of it, and courage and greatness of mind, amidst all reproaches and persecutions, to face and oppose their enemies, profess the name of Christ, abide by his truths and ordinances, make their way through all opposition and difficulties, and spread the Gospel all over the world; for intend of enjoying worldly ease, honour, wealth, and riches, they were looking for, our Lord gives them to understand that they must expect labour, service, afflictions, and trials, which would require power and strength, and which they should have:

after that the Holy Ghost shall come upon you; from above, from heaven, as he did, and sat upon them in the form of cloven tongues, and of fire; upon which they were filled with knowledge and zeal, with strength and courage, and with all gifts and abilities necessary for their work:

and ye shall be witnesses unto me; of the person of Christ, of his deity and sonship, of his incarnation, his ministry, and his miracles, of his suffering and death, of his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension to heaven. This was to be their work, and what belong to them, and not to enquire about a temporal kingdom, and the setting up of that, and the times and seasons of it; their business was to testify of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that followed, and to preach a crucified Jesus, as the only Saviour of lost sinners: and this

both in Jerusalem, the "metropolis" of the nation, and there, in the first place, where such dwelt who had been concerned in the crucifixion of Christ, many of whom were to be called by grace, and converted through their ministry:

and in all Judea; that part of the land of Israel which was distinct from Samaria and Galilee, and from beyond Jordan; where churches were to be planted, as afterwards they were; see Acts 9:31.

And in Samaria; where Christ had before forbid his disciples to go; but now their commission is enlarged, and they are sent there; and here Philip went upon the persecution raised against the church at Jerusalem, and preached Christ with great success, to the conversion of many; and hither Peter and John went to lay their hands on them, and confirm them; see Acts 8:5.

and unto the uttermost part of the earth; throughout the whole world, whither the sound of the apostles, and their words went, Romans 10:18.

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.
Acts 1:8. ἔσεσθέ μου μάρτυρες, “my witnesses,” R.V., reading μου instead of μοι, not only witnesses to the facts of their Lord’s life, cf. Acts 1:22, Acts 10:39, but also His witnesses, His by a direct personal relationship; Luke 24:48 simply speaks of a testimony to the facts.—ἔν τε Ἱερουσαλὴμ κ.τ.λ.: St. Luke on other occasions, as here, distinguishes Jerusalem as a district separate from all the rest of Judæa (cf. Luke 5:17, Acts 10:39), a proof of intimate acquaintance with the Rabbinical phraseology of the time, according to Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life, pp. 17, 73. In this verse, see Introduction, the keynote is struck of the contents of the whole book, and the great divisions of the Acts are marked, see, e.g., Blass, p. 12 in Prologue to Acts—Jerusalem, 1–7; Judæa, Acts 9:32; Acts 12:19; Samaria, 8; and if it appears somewhat strained to see in St. Paul’s preaching in Rome a witness to “the utmost parts of the earth,” it is noteworthy that in Psalms of Solomon, Acts 8:16, we read of Pompey that he came ἀπʼ ἐσχάτου τῆς γῆς, i.e., Rome—the same phrase as in Acts 1:8. This verse affords a good illustration of the subjective element which characterises the partition theories of Spitta, Jüngst, Clemen and others. Spitta would omit the whole verse from his sources A and , and considers it as an interpolation by the author of Acts; but, as Hilgenfeld points out, the verse is entirely in its place, and it forms the best answer to the “particularism” of the disciples, from which their question in Acts 1:6 shows that they were not yet free. Feine would omit the words ἕως ἐσχάτου τῆς γῆς because nothing in the conduct of the early Church, as it is described to us in the Jewish-Christian source, Acts 1-12, points to any knowledge of such a commission from the Risen Christ. Jüngst disagrees with both Spitta and Feine, and thinks that the hand of the redactor is visible in prominence given to the little Samaria.

8. ye shall receive power] Something different from the profitless speculations to which they had just desired an answer, even “a mouth and wisdom which their adversaries could neither gainsay nor resist” (Luke 21:15). Thus would they be enabled to become Christ’s witnesses.

in Jerusalem, and in all Judea] To which district all the ministrations of the Apostles were confined till the death of Stephen.

and in Samaria] Whither the first who went with authority was Philip, one of the seven (Acts 8:5), and afterwards Peter and John.

and unto the uttermost part of the earth] Commenced by the preaching of Paul, Barnabas, Mark, Silas and Timothy, and regarded as placed on a secure footing when St Paul was once brought into the capital city of the world.

The writer keeps before him from first to last the promise contained in this verse, and leaves out of his narrative all that does not tend to illustrate its fulfilment. The work of every agent is followed so far as he is used to bring about this result and no farther. This will be noticed at each stage as we proceed, and it will be seen that it explains why among “Acts of Apostles” some works are included which were not carried on by Apostles, and why the histories of the chief agents are left incomplete.

Acts 1:8. Ἀλλὰ, but) The antithesis is between that which was the part of the disciples, or was not: as also between that which was about to be at that time, and that which was reserved for farther off times.—μάρτυρες, witnesses) by your teaching, and by shedding your blood as martyrs: it is not said. Ye shall be kings of the world; although the kingdom of GOD shall be propagated by that very testimony.—Ἱερουσαλὴμγῆς, Jerusalem—the earth) A gradation or ascending climax. See, for instance, the successive steps, ch. Acts 8:1; Acts 8:4-5; Acts 8:27.—Σαμαρείᾳ, Samaria) They had heretofore been hound [Matthew 10:5-6] not to enter the cities of the Samaritans. Without a doubt this now seemed strange to the apostles.

Verse 8. - When for after that, A.V.; my witnesses for witnesses unto me, A.V. and T.R.; Samaria for in Samaria, A.V. Ye shall receive power (δύναμιν); a word sped-ally used of the power of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 6:8). "Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit" (Luke 4:14; see too Luke 24:49); "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power" (Acts 10:38); "Through the power of the Holy Ghost" (Romans 15:13); "The demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (1 Corinthians 2:4); "Strengthened with might (δυνάμει) by his Spirit" (Ephesians 3:16); "The powers of the world to come" (Hebrews 6:6). My witnesses. This function of the apostles, to be witnesses of Christ, is one much insisted upon in Scripture. So we read in ver. 22, "Of these must one become ['be ordained,' A.V.] a witness with us of his resurrection." So again in Acts 10:40-42, "God... showed him openly; not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us.... And he commanded us to testify," etc. (see also Vers. 39 and 42 of the same chapter; Acts 13:31; Luke 24:48; Acts 4:33; Acts 13:31; Acts 22:15, 18, 20; Acts 26:16; 1 Peter 5:1; 1 John 1-3, etc.). Acts 1:8Unto me (μοι)

The best texts read μου, of me; or, as Rev., my witnesses.


Formerly they had been commanded not to enter the cities of the Samaritans (Matthew 10:5).

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