Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,THE
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES
THE Church of Christ founded, as a Church designed for Israel and for the entire human race. (CH. 1 and 2)
A reference to the Gospel of Luke, as the first division of the whole work written by him
1THE former treatise [discourse]1 have I [indeed] made, O Theophilus, of all thatJesus began both to do and teach, 2Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom hehad chosen: 3To whom also he shewed [had shown] himself alive after his passion [suffering] by many infallible [omit infallible] proofs, being seen of [in that he appeared to] them forty days, and speaking of [and spoke concerning] the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
ACTS 1:1. a. The former treatise.—Luke applies this name to his Gospel, πρῶτος λόγος, the first discourse, not only because he had, in the order of time, written it previously to the composition of THE ACTS, but also because it presents the groundwork of all that belongs to the subsequent history of the Apostles and the Church.
b. All that Jesus began both to do and teach, as related in the Gospel. Where, however, is the continuation of such “doing and teaching,” as the word began implies, to be found? It may unquestionably at first seem to be Luke’s meaning that he had exhibited the successive acts and teachings of Jesus from the beginning, and had then, as it would be self-evident, continued the narrative to the close of the life of Jesus on earth. Still, he must have had a special reason for attaching weight to the conception of the beginning, and that reason can be the following only:—Luke distinguishes in his mind between the entire work of Jesus on earth, on the one hand, and his action after his ascension to heaven, on the other; he viewed the former as making a beginning or laying a foundation, in such a sense that Jesus himself, in his state of humiliation, began or sketched out the work which, after he had entered into his glory, he completed through the agency of the Apostles (Starke). This view of the word ῆρξατο (Olshausen, Schneckenburger, Baumgarten) is rejected by others, both as arbitrary in its character, and as ascribing to Luke a [modern] subjective view of the course of history (de Wette, Meyer). The latter are in error, for the entire book of THE ACTS, from the beginning to the end, presents the following view of the course of the events:—The exalted Lord operated in his Apostles, with them, and for them; thus he continues the work which he had commenced during his life on earth. The first chapter already exhibits “the lot which fell upon Matthias” as a visible sign of a choice made by the Lord, “who knoweth the hearts of all men,” Acts 1:24. The outpouring of the Holy Ghost is an act of the exalted Lord, Acts 2:33. When Stephen, “being full of the Holy Ghost,” saw “Jesus standing on the right hand of God,” and prayed: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” that prayer was, according to the book before us, one which obtained an answer, for the Lord Jesus stood there, ready to receive him, Acts 7:55, 59. These few instances afford sufficient evidence that those commentators do not obtrude upon the book a subjective view of the course of history, but only give prominence to the conception which really pervades it, when they regard the leadings of the Apostles and of the Church that are related in it, as deeds of the glorified Redeemer, and as the continuation of all that he began during his ministry on earth.
c. All that Jesus did and taught, Luke here says that he has already recorded. He maintains that his account of the life of Jesus is full and complete, without, however, claiming that every incident without exception had been related; such a detailed statement was given neither by the evangelist John (20:30) nor by Luke. Indeed, it would not have been possible, according to John 21:25, to relate all the deeds of Jesus without any omissions; neither was such a course necessary, since it is important to the Christian, not so much to know many things or all things, as, rather, to obtain a correct knowledge of all that constitutes revealed truth; that truth is found in the Gospel of Luke, in his ACTS, and, in general, in the Word of God.
ACTS 1:2. a. Until the day in which he was taken up;—at that point of time the Gospel pauses, and the history of the ACTS of the Apostles begins. The ascension of Jesus is not only the leading event which is common to both treatises, but it is also the turning-point of both. It was the glorious termination of Christ’s visible walk on earth, and also the beginning, alike momentous and rich in promise, of his invisible presence and his operation on earth. C. H. Rieger says: “The foremost places here assigned to the history of the Ascension to heaven, in order that we may continually remember that all that occurred in the visible world and that is related in this book, originates in the invisible world ‘whither the Lord Jesus is for us entered’ (Heb. 6:20). He who desires to understand aright the form which the Church of Christ assumes on earth, must continually bear the ascension of Jesus in mind, and the invisible process by which he took possession of his kingdom, as well as the future manifestation of that kingdom.” The phrase, he was taken up, describes the ascension as an experience of Jesus, that is, as an act of God the Father. At the same time, this term indicates that the event was not so much a local and sensuous exaltation from earth to heaven (although it is originally derived from such impressions made on the senses), as, rather, a spiritual and real event, in so far as Jesus then acquired a higher position and greater power and dignity.
b. The day of the ascension is, however, one of vast importance in the eyes of Luke, not only on account of the exaltation of Jesus, but also on account of the commandments which he then gave to his chosen Apostles. These commandments or commissions constituted the last will of the Lord, and the acts of the apostles, so far as they were really apostolical in their character, were simply the execution of that will. Luke indicates the importance of the latter by employing the words διὰ πνεν́ματος ἁγίου. Many interpreters (among the most recent, Olshausen and de Wette) combine these words with ον͂ς ἐξελέξατο, i.e. whom he had chosen through the Holy Ghost, but the order of the words in the original does not admit of such a combination, which would be forced and unnatural. The most natural and simple sense of the words is the following: Jesus gave commandments through, or, by virtue of the Holy Ghost; that is, Jesus, who was anointed with the Holy Ghost (Luke 4:1, 14, 18; Matth. 12:28), “in the power of the Holy Ghost” gave commandments to the Apostles to be his witnesses, etc., so that such commandments were given by the Spirit also.
ACTS 1:3. a. The circumstance that the Lord shewed himself alive to the Apostles, like the call which they had previously received, was both a preparation for the commission which he gave them at his departure, and also the necessary condition of its fulfilment. For how could he have given them the charge to be his witnesses in the world (1:8, 2:32), unless he had furnished them with the strongest evidence, and had most fully convinced them that he did live again, after having suffered and died? Now precisely such an assurance of faith, and such a strong conviction in the Apostles, as the appointed witnesses of Christ, whose testimony should proceed from their own personal knowledge, required as a basis proofs consisting of facts—not of one isolated fact, but of many (πολλὰ τεκμήρια). [“This epithet (‘infallible’) is not expressed in Greek, but is really included in the meaning of the noun, which is used by Plato and Aristotle to denote the strongest proof of which a subject is susceptible.” (J. A. Alexander).—TR.]. He gave them many signs and evidences that it was He himself, the Crucified One, whom they saw, and not another, and that He lived indeed,—evidences that appealed to the eye, the ear, and the touch.
b. Forty days.—It has recently been asserted that this verse, according to which forty days intervened between the resurrection and the ascension, contradicts Luke’s Gospel, Acts 24, in which, it is alleged, the ascension is represented as having occurred on the day of the resurrection (Zeller, in his Apostelgesch., [The Acts, etc., critically investigated], and Meyer, in his Commentary). This assertion is altogether unfounded, inasmuch as it is absolutely impossible that all the events related in Luke, Acts 24, particularly in the portion extending from Acts 1:13 to the end, should have occurred within the limits of a single day, as indeed Lange has demonstrated (Apost. Zeitalter, I. 84 ff. [The apostolic Age]). It is true that Luke does not furnish precise dates in his Gospel or distinguish particular periods of time from one another, and that, if we possessed no other account of the occurrences which took place between the resurrection and the ascension, we could never have imagined that the interval between the two events extended to forty days. Still, this circumstance cannot be termed a contradiction, particularly when, on a closer inspection of the Gospel (Acts 24:44, 50), we ascertain that the latter exhibits obvious traces of a transition from one incident to another, even if the dates are not precisely furnished.
c. Speaking of … the kingdom of God.—During the interval between the resurrection and the ascension, the Lord repeatedly appeared to the apostles, and thus firmly established their conviction that he was alive, as well as gave distinctness and strength to their consciousness that he was invisibly near them; at the same time he also initiated them more fully by word and doctrine into the mysteries of the kingdom of God [Luke 8:10] by speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.—This kingdom was the great subject of the teaching of Jesus both before his death on the cross, and after his resurrection; and the present discourses concerning the kingdom, which immediately preceded the ascension, furnished a foundation for all that the apostles themselves “did” and “taught” after his exaltation.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The first treatise of Luke was the Gospel concerning Jesus; the history of the apostolic church occupied the second place. In the whole circle of our personal knowledge of Christian truth, the knowledge of the Person of Jesus Christ must occupy the first or highest place. Christ, the God-Man, is the foundation that is laid; nothing can be permanent that is not built on him.
2. The history of the Church of Christ is the continuation of the divine-human life of Christ on earth. All that the apostles, and, after their day, other men of God have wrought, must be traced back to the continued action of the power of Christ. As he once came in the flesh, so he continually comes in the Spirit. This is the point of view indicated by the Bible, and the one which faith takes when it ponders the facts of Church History. He who desires to understand, not merely the first part, but also the whole, must survey with an attentive eye the operations of Christ in his Church.
3. The actions and the teachings of Jesus. To regard him merely as a teacher, is to divide Christ. Teaching was not even his first or chief office, but, rather, “he first performed himself that which he taught, and, indeed, spent thirty entire years in the most diligent practice of all the duties which he designed to prescribe afterwards to men.” (BRANDT: Apostolisches Pastorale). “Christ preached his own life, and lived his own doctrine.” (Chubb). His doctrine may be found substantially in his acts, to which his sufferings also belong. And, in general, works and words, doing and teaching, belong together in the ways of God, and illustrate and aid each other.
4. The Ascension of Jesus was his assumption (Acts 1:2, ἀνελήφθη; comp. 1 Tim. 3:16). The Eastern Church gave the name of Assumption-day (ἀνάληψις) to the festival of the Ascension. The eternal Son of God was again taken up; the Son of Man was taken up into glory. The Exalted One is, and continues to be, the Son of Man; the fulness of the Godhead dwelleth bodily in him (Col. 2:9), and where Jesus designs to be essentially present in his Deity, there, too, he designs to be present in his human corporeality. Comp. GESS: Lehre von der Person Christi, 1856, pp. 256 ff. [Doctrine of the Person of Christ].
5. The statement that Jesus had through the Holy Ghost given commandments unto the apostles, is intimately connected with the doctrine of the Holy Ghost: in the latter, the leading point of the mutual relation between God the Son and the Holy Ghost, involves many others which are still obscure.
6. Christ showed himself to the apostles alive: this circumstance indicates the high importance of the resurrection with respect to our faith; comp. 1 Cor. 15:14, 17 ff. The fact that “He lives,” is the principle of life—the punctum saliens—of Christianity; it is the main support—the heart—of all Christian faith, charity and hope.
7. The discourses of the risen Saviour respecting the kingdom of God. The Word is the true light. By his word the Lord enlightened his disciples still further during the forty days, and prepared them for the service of the word. Even as the heart of the men who were going to Emmaus burned within them, while he opened to them the Scriptures [Luke 24:32], so the Lord still imparts light and warmth to believers through the Word, as a means of grace.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
ACTS 1:1. The former treatise;—The Gospel concerning Christ, his Person, and his Work, is, and indeed always must continue to be, the first and principal subject of the instructions which a teacher furnishes (BRANDT: Apost. Past.).—O Theophilus; faithful servants of Christ watch over the whole flock with the utmost assiduity and zeal; but when they find a Theophilus in the flock, that is, when they find souls which earnestly seek God and their Saviour, they rightly devote special attention to these, and endeavor to instruct them in all things which belong to a perfect understanding of the way of salvation (Ib.).—Of all that Jesus began,—After the glorious beginning, a glorious progress follows. Theophilus had naturally addressed the question to himself; How did it occur that I became a Christian? How could the Gospel penetrate even to Rome? Luke now furnishes the answer:—Jesus, who ascended to heaven, sent the Gospel even to Rome. Theophilus, and all we who are Christians, belong as surely to the Lord Jesus, and are as intimately connected with him as the original disciples. He who in the beginning called his own, has also called us; for even as he began both to do and to teach, until the day in which he was taken up, so, too, he continues ever after to do and teach, as a Prophet, High-priest, and King in his kingdom. (BESSER: Bibelst.). It is not sufficient when we begin well; it is our duty to persevere in obedience to the end. (Starke).—To do and teach.—The doctrine and the life, the word and the walk, the revelation and the fulfilment of the divine will, were always combined in Jesus the Teacher, to whom no teacher is equal; he lived in accordance with that which he taught, and performed himself all that he commanded. He is therefore not only the divine Master, at whose feet we should sit in order to learn the will of God from him, but he is also our divine example; when we follow in his steps, we can always have the blessed assurance that we are doing the will of God. It is the duty of every Christian both “to do” and “to teach,” that is, he must be a Christian not in words only, but also in deed, Matth. 7:21. (Starke).
ACTS 1:2. a. Until the day in which he was taken up.—The Spirit of God has carefully provided that our knowledge respecting Christ’s state of exaltation should be as full as it is respecting all that occurred in his state of humiliation; he has thus taught us from the beginning that all those would commit an error of judgment who should deem the latter state alone entitled to attention. (Apost. Past.)—We cannot form a correct judgment respecting the peculiar appearance which the Church of Christ now presents on earth, unless we continually bear in mind, first, the ascension of Jesus; secondly, the fact that the mode in which he begins to take possession of his kingdom, is invisible; and, thirdly, the future manifestation of that kingdom. (K. H. Rieger).—The first treatise, or, the Gospel of Luke, commences with the incarnation of Jesus Christ, and concludes with his ascension, or his return to the Father; the latter is the terminating point of his visible walk, his doing and teaching on earth, but not of his operations in the midst of his redeemed people. That ascension is, rather, the condition on which Christ’s coming in the Spirit depends, and is really the commencement of this coming, by which Christ, who is now exalted above the heavens, uninterruptedly bears witness to his own kingly might and grace; hence Luke begins his history of the Apostles and of the Church by repeating his account of the ascension (Leonhardi and Spiegelhauer: Homilet. Handbuch zur Apostelgesch.).—All that occurs in the visible world originates in the invisible world; the apparently tangled threads of human affairs and of earthly events, meet above us, and are held by the hand of the holy and almighty Ruler of the world; so, too, in a special manner, that power which controls the history of the kingdom of Jesus Christ (of which history the Book of THE ACTS constitutes the first and most attractive portion), resides in the hand, once pierced, of our blessed Lord and Saviour, who was exalted from the cross to the right hand of God.
b. After that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen.—Here the apostles, whose history the book before us relates, are introduced. The Son did not return to the bosom of the Father [John 1:18] until he had effectually provided for the continuance of his work on earth, by commanding his chosen apostles to assume the office of preaching the Gospel, and by leaving with them the promise of the Holy Ghost. The selection and mission of the apostles, and the endowments which they received, constitute, in their combination, an act of the prophetic wisdom, the sacerdotal love, and the kingly authority of our Lord, of the importance of which we can never form too high an estimate.How could the kingdom of Christ have endured after his departure, unless these executors of his testament had been invested with full authority and power by him? We are distinctly informed in the text that Christ was taken up at the very time when he was giving instructions and commandments to his apostles; thus he taught not only during his life and at his death, but also at his ascension. Imperatorem oportet stantem mori, et verum ecclesiæ Christianæ doctorem decet docentem vivere, mori, coelos adscendere. (Apost. Past.).—Through the Holy Ghost had given commandments.—That which Christ has taught through the Holy Ghost, we must also receive and learn through the Holy Ghost. (Starke).
ACTS 1:3. a. To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion.—Those who behold the sufferings of Christ and suffer with him, shall also live and reign with him [2 Tim. 2:11, 12].—When men preach the Gospel, it is important that they should be competent to bear witness respecting his life, as well as his sufferings and death; in both respects the apostles were qualified to speak by their experimental knowledge. The same duty continues to devolve on the messengers of the Gospel. Unless they have been crucified and have died with Christ, as well by that faith by which all things are their own [1 Cor. 3:21], as also by following him and crucifying their old man with him [Rom. 6:6], they have no true knowledge of his life. (Apost. Past.).—Thousands in Israel saw the ignominious sufferings of Christ on the cross; but the great truth that He who was put to death in the flesh, was quickened by the Spirit [1 Pet. 3:18], is manifested on earth to those alone who have themselves been qualified by faith to receive the Spirit in which Christ lives bodily. (Besser).b.
Speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.—It is still the duty of religious teachers to exhibit a full and complete image of the kingdom of Christ on earth to their hearers, so that they may see it in its various aspects, and not be misled by false views. If we should describe that kingdom to them in pleasant terms alone, and refer only to the blessedness to which it conducts, they would afterwards be ready to take offence when dark clouds arise, and the kingdom of Christ appears in that form of which he has spoken to us prophetically in John, Acts 16, and elsewhere. (Apost. Past.).
ON THE WHOLE SECTION. The divine character of the Bible, proved from the wonderful combination of opposite qualities in the books which compose it: I. They relate to personal matters, and are, nevertheless, universally applicable. II. They refer to special circumstances and occasions, and are, nevertheless, suited for all subsequent ages. (The Gospel of Luke and THE ACTS were both written for Theophilus).—The sufficiency of the Scriptures: they present, 1. Not every point of general interest, but, II. All that is necessary to salvation.—Christ, our Prophet: I. In his acts; and II. In his words.—The commandments of Christ are spirit and life [John 6:63]: I. Inasmuch as he is himself anointed with the Holy Spirit; and, II. Grants the Holy Spirit to them that obey him.—The oneness of God the Son and the Holy Ghost.—“Because I live, ye shall live also.” [John 14:19].—The condescension and grace of the Lord, manifested in his appearances during the forty days which succeeded his resurrection: I. He appeared often; and, II. Furnished infallible proofs that He was alive.—The value of the evidence that Christ LIVES: I. It is the foundation of our faith; II. The anchor of our hope.—The course of the kingdom of God, and of the Saviour, is the same: I. First, the cross; II. Then, the crown. (G. V. Lechler).
The Gospel concerning the life of Jesus on earth, the first treatise: this descriptive phrase refers I. To the vast results which the Gospel has produced—it is the germ whence all the succeeding developments of the kingdom of God on earth have proceeded. The phrase indicates, II. The cheerful character of the contents of the Gospel—viewed as the most benign message which fallen man ever received. It exhibits, III. The very ancient origin of the Gospel—as the testimony of faithful witnesses of the truth, founded on their personal experience, (Acts 1:3,)—(as opposed to the negative assertions of a destructive criticism.).—The irrefutable testimony of Jesus Christ, the faithful witness [Rev. 1:5]: it is furnished, I. By all that he did as well as by all that he taught; II. By his sufferings and death, as well as by his glorious exaltation; III. By the mouth of his Apostles, as well as by his personal acts; IV. By the course of events in the history of the world and of his kingdom, as well as by the internal experience of true believers.—The deep religious significance of the interval of forty days between the resurrection and the ascension: I. For the Lord; it was a period in which he (a) found a holy, sabbatical repose after the completion of his redeeming work; (b) terminated the pastoral labors which he had performed for the disciples, and (c) joyfully awaited his approaching exaltation. II. For the disciples; it was a period in which they (a) arrived at the close of that blessed intercourse which they had enjoyed with their glorified Master; (b) searched their own hearts diligently (“Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?”), and thus (c) were fully prepared to perform their apostolical labors in the world. III. For us; it is a type (a) of that happy life of faith with Christ in God, which is hidden from the world, Col. 3:3; (b) of that blessed labor of love performed in the hearts of our friends in view of the approaching separation; (c) of our joyful hope of entering the glory of heaven.
[NOTE.—Where Dr. Lechler’s German version differs materially from the authorized English version, the variations, as far as the idioms of the two languages permit the translator to reproduce them, are also given, and inclosed in brackets.—TR.]
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.FIRST SECTION
ANTECEDENTS OF THE FOUNDING OF THE CHURCH
A. THE ASCENSION OF JESUS AN THE LAST INSTRUCTIONS, COMMANDMENTS, AND PROMISES ADDRESSED BY HIM TO THE APOSTLES. (Mark 16:19 ff.; Luke 24:48 ff.)
CONTENTS:—The last meeting of Jesus and his disciples; the command that they should remain in Jerusalem; the promise of the baptism with the Holy Ghost; the declaration that the Apostles, without knowing the time of the appearance of the kingdom of God, should be witnesses of Jesus, from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth; the visible ascension of Jesus, and the testimony of the angels that he would come again visibly.
4And, being assembled together with them,2[he] 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. 5For John truly [omit truly, μὲν] baptized with water; butye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. 6When they therefore were come together, [They who had come together now (οὖν)] they [om. they] asked3of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to [the people of] Israel? 7And [But, δὲ] he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons [periods or points of time], which the Father hath put in [determinedin accordance with] his own power [authority], 8But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you4: and ye shall be witnesses unto me [my witnesses]5both in Jerusalem and in all6Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermostpart [end] of the earth. 9And when he had spoken these things, while theybeheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up [departed], behold, two men stood by them in hite apparel [garments]7: 11Which [Who] also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into [towards] heaven? this same [omit same] Jesus, which [who] is taken up from you into heaven, shall so [will, ἐλεν́σεται] come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
ACTS 1:4. a. Here, again, Luke specifies neither the time nor the place of the meeting; the latter, as we subsequently learn, Acts 1:12, was Mount Olivet. The times of the several appearances of the Lord mentioned in Luke’s Gospel, Acts 24, cannot be defined with entire precision, and the same remark applies to the time of the present meeting; we may infer from Acts 1:2 ff., that it occurred on the fortieth day after the resurrection, provided that Acts 1:4 and Acts 1:6 both speak of the same meeting. The latter view has been controverted by Olshausen, who appeals to the parallel passage, Luke 24:49 ff., where the command that the disciples should tarry in Jerusalem until they were baptized with the Spirit, seems to precede the final meeting in the order of time. This argument has, however, but little force, since the passage, Luke 24:49, is obviously a very brief summary of the last words of Jesus; and, besides, even if we should adopt Olshausen’s view, the two passages, Luke 24:49 ff., and Acts 1:4 ff., would not be found to be strictly parallel; indeed, Acts 1:6 leads most naturally to the conclusion that the conversation occurred at one and the same meeting.
b. Being assembled together.—This final meeting of Jesus and his apostles is distinguished from all the others which occurred after the resurrection, by the circumstance that on this occasion the Lord desired the presence of all his apostles. The word σνναλιζόμενος signifies, it is true, not only, in an active sense, a gathering together of others, but also, in the middle voice, a coming together of ourselves: still, it indicates both the presence of all who were expected, and also the deep significance of this interview, for no term of the same class is applied to the other appearances of the risen Lord. The solemnity and significance of this meeting are not derived simply from the circumstance that it was the last of all, or that on this occasion the apostles should be witnesses of his glorious assumption, but are specially due to the fact that he now revealed his last will and intentions.
c. Commanded them.—The last commandment given by the Lord to the apostles directed them to await the gift of the Holy Ghost in Jerusalem. It could not be obeyed without the exercise of self-denial on their part. For if they had yielded to a natural sentiment, which doubtless influenced them, they would have withdrawn from Jerusalem, and thus retired from the presence of men whom they dreaded, as well as have, in a certain measure, escaped their own painful recollections of the sufferings of the Lord, and of their previous unfaithfulness and faintheartedness. But it was the will of God that the law should go forth out of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:1–3)—that the foundation of his Messianic kingdom should be laid on this holy mountain—that, on the spot in which enmity against the Lord’s Anointed had assumed the most awful form, the superior power of grace might be revealed—and, that there the glory of the name of Christ should be displayed in the most triumphant manner by the effusion of the Spirit, by the conversion of thousands, and by signs and wonders.
d. The promise.—With this command, which was oppressive to the feelings of the disciples as men, a special promise, of preminent value, was immediately connected. For after the Redeemer who had been promised to the fathers, had come, the greatest and most blessed promise which remained, and which is now on the eve of being fulfilled, referred to the outpouring of the Spirit. Jesus terms it the promise of the Father, because God the Father had promised the gift of the Spirit through the prophets under the old covenant, e.g. Isai. 44:3; Joel 2:28 ff.; etc. And in this connection Jesus reminds the disciples of his own words: here there is a transition from the indirect to the direct form of expression [which the English translators indicate by inserting saith he; see, for other instances, Luke 5:14; Acts 17:3; 23:22, and for examples in Greek writers, WINER: Gr., N. T. § 63.2.—TR.]. The Lord’s allusion cannot, however, be to his words recorded in Luke 24:49, since his last conversation with the disciples is also there reported, but rather to passages like Luke 12:11, 12, and to the discourses found in John’s Gospel, Acts 14–ch. 16. The latter circumstance, viz.: that one of the Synoptists seems to recognize the existence of the Johanneic discourses, is worthy of special attention.—This promise of a full and complete baptism of the Spirit is in perfect harmony with the partial communication of the Spirit, which had already occurred, Luke 9:55; John 20:22.
Acts 1:5. a. Baptized with the Holy Ghost.—The gift of the Spirit is here termed a Baptism, and is thus characterized as one of most abundant fulness, and as a submersion in a purifying and life-giving element. The term and the image are both derived from the water-baptism of John, but not without an additional allusion to the witness which John the Baptist bore (Luke 3:16). The only difference which is found in the language of these passages consists in the circumstance that when John foretold the baptism with the Spirit, he described it as an act of Christ, which is not expressly confirmed in the present passage, since the exigencies of the case did not require the mention of the divine Person from whom the baptism with the Spirit would proceed, but only an assurance of the fact itself.
b. Not many days hence.—This statement of the time is wisely so framed as to produce both a joyful “hasting unto,” and also a “looking for” in faith (2 Pet. 3:12), and thus to exercise the faith of the disciples.
ACTS 1:6. The question proposed by the assembled apostles, was called forth by the Lord’s own words. They ask concerning the time, as he had referred to the near approach of the time of their baptism with the Spirit; they ask concerning the kingdom, as he had repeatedly spoken to them, after his resurrection, of the kingdom of God, Acts 1:3. They were also influenced by his reference to the approaching outpouring of the Spirit, which they were the more ready to connect with their conceptions of the Messianic kingdom, as his resurrection had re-animated the most exalted hopes in their souls. Hence they ask: “Lord, dost thou at this time establish the kingdom for (the people of) Israel?” All the ardor of patriotic men, to whom the liberty, the grandeur, and the glory of their nation were very dear, manifests itself in this question, combined with the devout hope that all the divine promises which had been given to the people of God, would be fulfilled. The kingdom which is the object of their hope, is a kingdom of Israel, a theocratic kingdom, deriving its existence and reality from the Messiah, and intended to give liberty, greatness and dominion to the people of Israel, who were at the time oppressed by a heavy yoke. The apostles believe that they are almost authorized by the words now pronounced by the Lord, to hope for an early restoration of this kingdom.—The interpretation of the question in the following sense: Wilt thou then restore the kingdom to the Jews who crucified thee? (Light-foot)—cannot, in our day, need a special refutation.
ACTS 1:7. It is not for you, etc.—The answer of the Lord, which has been frequently, and, indeed, in some cases, grossly, misinterpreted, exhibits as much divine wisdom as human tenderness; it is intended rather to instruct than to rebuke. He does not deny them the privilege of asking, but only the right to know the times or the seasons which the father, who alone possesses sovereign power, has appointed. The Son guards the royal prerogative—the divine reservation—the exclusive rights of the Father. It is, besides, instructive to notice the distinction which is indicated by Jesus between χρόνοι and καιροί; they are periods and epochs (seasons of greater and less duration, respectively), during which certain acts and purposes of God are accomplished; the knowledge of both, which are closely connected, is withheld not only from men in general, but even from the apostles also. The latter may be enlightened servants of God, and yet be as little competent to answer questions concerning the time of any of the developments of the kingdom of God as were the prophets of the old covenant, 1 Pet. 1:11. J. A. Bengel, it is true, supposed that even if it was not given to the apostles to know the times, it did not thence necessarily follow that such knowledge would not be given to others of a later day—that, in the divine economy, revelation was progressive—and that truths were made known in the Apocalypse of John, which were at this earlier period still hidden from the apostles. This excellent man, however, in whom, in many respects, a gift of prophecy dwelt, still made shipwreck concerning his calculations of the times and the seasons founded on the Apocalypse, and has thus furnished another striking proof that the words of Christ still abide: “It is not fitting that you should know periods or points of time.” [The author of the Gnomon had been led by his calculations, which he modestly submitted to the examination of competent judges, to assign the year 1836 as the commencement of the Millennium. TR.]. So far, then, the Redeemer spoke only of the time, which constituted the chief point in the question of the apostles. As to the fact itself, the coming of the kingdom, and as to Israel’s privilege with respect to the latter, they entertained no doubt; and the Lord was so far from disapproving of such an expectation, that he rather confirmed it by declaring that the Father had fixed the times. Now we know that neither a period nor an epoch can be affirmed concerning an event which is only imaginary.—Those interpreters have altogether mistaken the sense, who maintain that Jesus here entirely rejects the conceptions entertained by his apostles respecting the Messianic kingdom, for this is by no means the case. He did not deny that either their expectation of the appearance on earth of his glorious kingdom in its reality, or their hope of the glorious future which that kingdom opened to the people of Israel, was well founded; he simply subdued their eager curiosity respecting the time, and directed their attention to the practical duties which they were to perform at the present period.
ACTS 1:8. But ye shall receive power.—While it was not given to the apostles to know the times of future events, the duty to act or work at the present time was assigned to them; they also received the assurance that they should be qualified for their work by the Holy Ghost, who would come upon them. They “shall be witnesses,” i.e., they shall not merely bear witness but be witnesses in their own persons, and the divine power which is promised is itself the pledge of the truth of the promise. They shall be witnesses for Jesus with respect to his Person—their vocation itself is a witness. And where? In Jerusalem … the earth.—The apostles are directed to abide in Jerusalem and await the Holy Ghost; it was needful that their witness should be heard first of all in that city. But as the stone which is cast into the water creates circles which continually expand, so the apostolic witness concerning Jesus, first offered in Jerusalem as the central point, and in its vicinity, is designed to extend its influence continually, until it reaches the extreme boundaries of the earth. The term ἐσχάτον τῆς γῆςdoes not designate the limits of any country, as, for instance, those of the Holy Land, but the farthest points of the whole earth. The Son of man has a heart which beats for all mankind, even if his own nation lies nearest to it—even if salvation is to proceed from the Jews, and the word of the Lord is to go forth from Jerusalem (John 4:22; Isai. 2:3). The characteristic feature of universality which belongs to Christianity, or the divine purpose to offer grace to all mankind in Christ, accords both with the historical prerogative of Israel in the economy of God, and also with the law of gradation or the necessity of an advance from a lower to a higher degree.—That Acts 1:8 both contains the general theme of the whole book of THE ACTS, and also involves the principle according to which the materials have been arranged, is shown in the INTRODUCTION, § 4.
ACTS 1:9. And when he had spoken, etc.—Immediately after the Lord had spoken words of such deep import, embracing the whole earth, all mankind, and the whole succeeding course of Christian history, as if a celestial perspective were presented, his own ascension followed. No other passage of the Scriptures exhibits this event so fully and distinctly as the present. The ascension consisted of two parts: the Lord was, first, visibly taken up, so that the apostles could follow him for a short time with their eyes as he rose on high; then a cloud (probably a bright cloud, Matth. 17:5) passing beneath received him, and thus removed him from their view (ν̓πέλαβεν).
ACTS 1:10, 11. And while they looked, etc.—They were still steadfastly gazing toward heaven after the disappearance of the Lord, when already two men stood by them. That these were unquestionably angels, appears from the following three facts: the suddenness of their appearance, for no one had seen them approach; then, their white, shining apparel—a visible representation of celestial purity and holiness; lastly, the tidings which they brought to the disciples, being a message sent from heaven to the earth. For these heavenly messengers were appointed not merely to comfort and encourage the disciples by their appearance, but also to proclaim a certain truth (αῖ καὶ εὶ͂πον). This truth is twofold, including both a question and a promise. The question (“Why stand ye gazing up into heaven?”) gently rebukes the contemplative, inactive (ἑστήκατε) sadness and longing of the disciples, whose glances and thoughts were still directed upwards, as if they wished that it were possible to hasten after their Lord, and abide in his presence; their vocation, on the contrary, consisted, not in gazing inactively in the direction whither he went, but in zealously and vigorously doing his work on earth. The promise which the angels are commissioned to give, refers to the visible return of Jesus; it is precisely this prospect which encourages all “that love the appearing” [2 Tim. 4:8] of the Lord, to do his will with diligence and zeal.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The promise of the Holy Ghost is the most important communication which the Lord made to his apostles immediately before his ascension. There is a divine consistency in this course, since the love of God the Father, as well the grace of the Son and his redeeming work, alike refer to the gift of the Holy Ghost, and are consummated by it. The Holy Ghost is the absolute and perfect unity in the inner life of the triune God, and the communication of the Holy Ghost is the highest point in the progressive series of divine revelations. When the eternal Word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us, God came near to men in a wonderful manner; but the most intimate communion between God and men occurs in the Holy Ghost. The incarnation of God is the union of God with the human race in the Person of the one Mediator; it is a new, a holy, a more exalted beginning of the race in the second Adam; the outpouring of the Spirit is the union of God immediately with all the individual human souls that receive the Spirit unto themselves. The sinful race of men needs a purification and a deliverance from sin and guilt, on the one hand, and a new life, on the other, as well as an elevation to God, all of which can proceed from God alone. Christ, the God-Man, who was made sin for us [2 Cor. 5:21], has finished the world of reconciliation, assumed the sins of the world, and taken them away; but he is, besides, the way, the truth and the life, and by him we come to the Father. And it is the Holy Ghost from whom both our purification and our new and divine life proceed. These truths are involved in the conception of a “baptism with the Holy Ghost” which the Redeemer, while alluding to the water-baptism of John, here announces; for as in the material world water has the two-fold effect of cleansing and recreating or vivifying, so the baptism with the Holy Ghost has a two-fold operation: it purifies the soul, and also infuses into it divine life and power (Acts 1:8).
2. The kingdom of God is one of those fundamental conceptions or truths which pervade the word of God, particularly the New Testament. A kingdom of God has existed ever since God has created and governed the world, but it has passed through different periods, experienced various developments, and exhibited manifold forms. When the apostles proposed the question in Acts 1:6, they thought of the kingdom of glory. Jesus withheld from them and from us a knowledge only of the time, but did not leave the fact itself involved in doubt. Not only the Scriptures of the Old, but also many weighty passages of the New Testament, establish the truth that Israel may look forward to a future condition which is full of promise, and to a certain prerogative in the kingdom of God. But it is a very different question whether we are competent to define in an intelligent manner the character, the extent, and the various relations of this future privilege of Israel. That question is not answered affirmatively by the manner in which Christ deals with the interrogation of his disciples,—his significant silence on the one hand, and, on the other, his weighty testimony respecting the fact itself. It is not without a deep meaning that he calls their attention (and our own also) to the present, direct, and practical vocation in the kingdom of grace; that vocation, which in its holy, comprehensive and honorable character, should now preëminently occupy their thoughts, authorizes them to be the Lord’s witnesses to the ends of the earth. It unquestionably exposes the Lord’s servants to many a painful conflict. The kingdom of grace often passes, in accordance with the divine dispensation, under the cross, and its motto is: Succumbing conducts to victory. The witness is often required to become a martyr, and, indeed, both conceptions are connected with the word μάρτνρρες. But the most vigorous growth of the kingdom of Christ is frequently seen precisely under the cross.
3. The Ascension of Jesus is both the glorious termination of his terrestrial, and also the glorious commencement of his celestial life. It was, partly, a visible, partly, an invisible, process. The gradual ascent of the Lord, until a cloud received him, was visible; but the Lord’s actual reception into heaven itself, or the true ἀνάληψις into the glory of heaven, was invisible. The fact itself was announced by the angels (Acts 1:11), and had also been foretold by the Lord previously to his sufferings. (John 14:2 ff.) He had himself repeatedly appeared to his disciples during the forty days which succeeded his resurrection, but on every occasion he had vanished out of their sight as suddenly as he had appeared; comp. Luke 24:31. But when he finally parted from the assembled apostles, he permitted their glance to dwell distinctly and continuously on his ascent to heaven; thus, they who were appointed to be his eye-witnesses, were perfectly assured by the testimony of their senses, as far as such could be given, that he no more belonged to the earth or abode on it, but had, when all was finished, gone to the Father from whom he had come. And, indeed, Jesus as man ascended to heaven; it was the same Jesus who had died on the cross and risen from the grave that, on this last occasion, assembled with his disciples, and then ascended.
4. The ascension of Christ and his second coming are to be viewed in their combination; they are connected in the most intimate manner in the message brought by the angels. The same Christ who went to heaven, will hereafter return; he who comes to judge the living and the dead, is the Son of man, the Crucified One, the same who was wounded for us, who was dead, but is now alive forevermore (John 5:27; Rev. 1:18, and comp. Acts 1:13). The heavenly messengers bear witness to a threefold truth; He will return; he will return as the same; he will return in like manner as he went, that is, visibly and in glory. The angels make no allusion to the precise time of his coming, even as he himself had declared that the times and seasons were secrets belonging to the Father alone.
5. The interval between the two events, the ascension and the return of Christ, constitutes that whole period of time during which the history of the apostles and of the entire Church, runs its course. During this interval the Lord reigns at the right hand of the Father, unitedly with the Father; but he reigns in the midst of his enemies also. When the eye of faith glances upward to that glory in which the Crucified One now sits enthroned, and when Christian hope looks forward to his return, new strength and joy are imparted to the believing heart.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
ACTS 1:4. a. And, being assembled together with them.—Before Christ can avail himself of the services of teachers in gathering men unto himself, he first gathers those teachers themselves under the wings of his grace, so that, after they are warmed and penetrated by his love, they may minister to him. Let him who is not gathered with others unto Christ, by no means assume the sacred office. (Apost. Past.).
b. Commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise.—The true disciple does not wilfully withdraw from his post, but waits until the Lord commands him to depart, even if those among whom he must labor, should resemble the occupants of the den of thieves in Jerusalem (Ibid.). Remember, O my soul, the weighty saying: “Go, when Jesus calls thee; hasten, when he draws thee; pause, when he restrains thee.”—The burden imposed by the command is alleviated for the disciples by the precious pentecostal promise connected with it. The yoke of the law is made easy and light by the Gospel. (Leonhardi and Spiegelhauer).
c. Wait for the promise of the Father.—No one is permitted to preach prematurely, before the day of Pentecost, else would he act in his own name, and the Lord would say: ‘I have not sent thee.’ A pentecostal shower must precede every sermon, in order that the latter may operate effectually and awaken men. (Gossner.).—The Holy Spirit promised by the Father is the Spirit of adoption. (Besser.).
ACTS 1:5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.—After Jesus had finished his work, having been baptized with water and with blood, the promise of John could be fulfilled: “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.” Luke 3:16. (Besser.).—The measure in which the Lord grants his Spirit to his servants is proportioned to the work in which he employs them. He had previously imparted the Holy Ghost to his disciples, (John 20:22), but now promises that he will grant the Spirit in a still fuller measure. O that we would receive and retain the gift with more devout earnestness! Then would an ever increasing measure be surely given to us [John 3:34]. (Apost. Past.).—Not many days hence.—Christ does not specify the day and the hour with respect to his kingdom. He desires that his people shall watch, pray, and wait. The believer is spiritually educated by patient expectation; but his heart is encouraged when he hears such words as these: “Not many days hence”—“a little while”—“behold, I come quickly.” (Leonh. and Spiegelh.).
ACTS 1:6. Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?—Although we well know that the kingdom of Christ always exhibits its most vigorous growth under the cross, and thus acquires subsequently increased glory, we are, nevertheless, inclined by nature to wish for tidings of its external prosperity and splendor, rather than of those trials which usually promote its growth so efficiently. (Apost. Past.).—At the same time, the sentiments which the apostles express in the question cannot be said to be of the class of those which prevailed among carnal Jews. They had been assured that, being baptized with the Holy Ghost, they should receive the promise of the Father. Hence they looked forward with joyful hope to Israel’s entire redemption; the peace of heart which they enjoyed would be imparted to their nation; and the kingdom, the blessedness of which they already enjoyed in spirit, would, as they trusted, be revealed in all its might and splendor. (Besser).
ACTS 1:7, 8.—It is not for you to know the times or the seasons—; but ye shall receive power.—The question of the disciples exhibited certain commendable features, such as a longing for the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven—a presentiment in their souls that great events were on the eve of occurring—and a recognition of the truth that now, when the King was ascending his heavenly throne, the power of his kingdom on earth must necessarily be revealed. The feature of the question which could not receive the Lord’s approbation was solely the impatience on the part of the disciples, which it betrayed; they eagerly desire to know the time and the hour; they presume to inquire respecting the manner, the place and the time of the coming of the kingdom of God, instead of humbly intrusting the Lord’s work to his own care, and of fulfilling their personal duties in meekness of spirit. That impatience the Lord mildly reduces to silence by uttering the words: It is not for you to know; of those personal duties of the disciples the encouraging promise reminds them: Ye shall receive power.—That power is designed to make them agents in hastening the approach of the time and the hour of the Messiah’s kingdom on earth.—No better remedy for a morbid tendency to indulge in unprofitable speculations can be found, than a spirited course of action on the part of an individual, both in his religious and in his secular life; such a procedure will not only enable him to dismiss painful and importunate questions, but also conduct him to a practical solution of his difficulties.—Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.—No region is so desolate and unpromising, that, when the Lord sends a messenger to it, and the messenger goes forth at His command and in the power of His Spirit, such witness should not produce fruit. (Ap. Past.).—Jerusalem, the place in which the Spirit was first received, was designed to be likewise the place in which the witness of the Spirit should first be heard; the land of promise [Heb. 11:9] was designed to offer the first congenial soil to the promise which is itself the fulness of spiritual blessings. Samaria, the missionary field, “white already to harvest” (John 4:35), is mentioned by the Lord as a region intermediate between Judea and the countries of the Gentiles. The uttermost part of the earth may possibly indicate Rome, for that capital of the world represented all the known nations of the earth. We shall find that the arrangement of the contents of THE ACTS strictly conforms to this arrangement of the witnesses. (Besser).
ACTS 1:9. While they beheld, he was taken up.—The interest and the affections of a large proportion of those who are styled Christians, are absorbed by the affairs of this transitory life; they seek after earthly objects, and give little or no heed to the fact that Christ has ascended on high. Here the Holy Ghost interposes and proclaims that Christ did not remain on earth, but ascended to heaven, so that while we dwell here below in the body, we may, nevertheless, lift up our hearts and thoughts on high, and not permit ourselves to be overcharged with cares of this life [Luke 21:34]. According to the rule which every Christian must adopt, the body and the old Adam may be occupied with temporal things, but the heart must seek spiritual and eternal treasures, even as Paul says: “Seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.” Col. 3:1. (Luther).—Christ, who ascended to heaven, is truly the Lord both of counsel and of action—the living principle of the history of the apostles. (Besser).—A cloud received him out of their sight.—A visible cloud received the visible presence of Jesus, but other clouds were advancing, of which we read thus in Isai. 45:8: “Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness.” A cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1) was ordered to diffuse a spiritual rain over the thirsty earth. (Ap. Past.).—Thus the clouds above us and around us are visible witnesses of the invisible Saviour, and like a light veil conceal the eternal High Priest from our bodily eyes. But as surely as the clouds are not only above us, but also around and among us, so surely is He who is enthroned behind the clouds, also among his people. (Williger).
ACTS 1:10. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven—behold, two men stood by them.—So, too, the servants of Jesus, in an especial manner, should fix their eyes and hearts on Him, in all their purposes and acts, in their struggles and their sorrows; then will the glance of Jesus meet their own; for while he dwelleth on high, he humbleth himself to behold the things that are below. (Ps. 113:5, 6). How faithful the Saviour is! He is scarcely removed from the sight of his disciples, before he sends two of his heavenly messengers in order to cheer them; it was a pledge that his great promise concerning the mission of the Spirit should be fulfilled (Ap. Past.).—The two men in white apparel, clothed in brilliant festive garments (Mark 16:5), and the men of Galilee, who are unknown or despised on earth, but well known in heaven, and mentioned with honor for the sake of Him who was called a Galilean [Luke 23:6], are now intimately united; a Mahanaim [Gen. 32:2], a double encampment of angels and of men—the holy Church—is now established on earth. (Besser).
ACTS 1:11. a. Ye men of Galilee.—After the Galilean Jesus occupied the throne at the right hand of God, no title of honor could be conferred on his disciples more glorious than the one which they here received. (Leonh. and Spieg.).—Why stand ye gazing up into heaven?—This language reminds us of the Easter-sermon of the angels: “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” [Luke 24:5]. (Besser).—The rapture with which the servants of Jesus gaze on his glory (and also their painful longing to be at home with him), can never justify inaction on their part, or forgetfulness of their office and calling. The joy of the Lord is designed to be their strength [Nehem. 8:10], when they labor in behalf of the souls of others. (Ap. Past.).—The ascension of Jesus has opened a way in which we can follow him to heaven. (Starke).
b. This same Jesus—shall so come.—“Occupy till I come!” (Luke 19:13). It is this commission, and no other, which his servants who are intrusted with the talent of the Spirit, are commanded to fulfil. He shall come—such alone are the words of the angels when they impart comfort and hope to the apostles, and the Church confesses the same hope, in simplicity of faith, in the second Article [of The Creed: “From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.” TR.]. (Besser).—Truly, he will come in like manner as he went into heaven; his glorified wounds, the marks of his humiliation, will shine forth on that day in the sight of his people and of all the world; then will his people be comforted, seeing that their Saviour has “obtained eternal redemption” [Heb. 9:12] for them; but unbelievers and all the enemies of his cross will be filled with terror; they shall look upon him whom they have pierced, and all shall mourn on earth. [Zech. 12:10 ff.]. (Leonh. and Spieg.).
ON THE WHOLE SECTION.—The hope of the righteous man: it is, I. An exercise in obedience; II. The fruit of faith; III. A duty which is converted into gladness (Prov. 10:28). (Lechler).—Not depart from Jerusalem, Acts 1:4.—The duty of all faithful servants of Jesus to act as witnesses, especially in calamitous times: I. It imposes a difficult task; II. It is attended with an exalted promise.—The gift of the Holy Ghost, a baptism with the Holy Ghost, in so far as the Spirit, I. Cleanses the soul, as water cleanses the body; and, II. Recreates and strengthens the soul, as the bath renews the bodily strength. (Lechler).—Lord, when wilt thou restore thy kingdom? This question, which presents itself to the minds of disciples even in our day, is, I. An authorized question; when it proceeds from (a) a well-established faith, which awaits the coming of the Lord’s kingdom; (b) compassionate love, which desires the salvation of the world; (c) holy sorrow, produced by the distress of the times. But it is, II. An unauthorized question; when it proceeds from (a) a carnal impatience, which desires that the kingdom of God should come with observation [Luke 17:20]; (b) spiritual presumption, which attempts to ascertain that which the Father hath put in his own power, or reserved for himself; (c) religious sloth, which gazes at the clouds with folded arms, while the great vocation of all requires them to work diligently for the kingdom of God.—The true remedy for spiritual presumption: I. An humble waiting for the hour of the Lord; II. Alacrity and diligence in performing the duties of our particular calling.—The kingdom of God in its different aspects: I. Under the cross; II. In its heavenly glory. (Lechler).—Christ, our King: I. Wearing, first, a crown of thorns; II. Afterwards, a crown of glory (id.).—Faithfulness in that which is least, the pathway to greatness in heaven. (id.).—Christianity, viewed as a call to men to become witnesses: as such, it requires, I. Experience; II. Assurance of faith; III. Veracity; IV. Fidelity and perseverance, (id.).—Ye shall be witnesses unto me! Such is our vocation: I. In its glory—witnesses of the exalted King; II. In its lowliness—witnesses unto Him alone, not unto or for ourselves; III. With its trials—witnesses of the Lord in a hostile world; IV. With its promises—“power from on high,” [Acts 1:8; Luke 24:49].—The power of the Holy Ghost: I. Our need of it; II. The manner in which it is received. (Lechler).—The Ascension of Jesus: viewed as, I. The glorification of Jesus; II. The glorification of our human nature: III. The glorification of the whole earth. (Kapff.).—With what sentiments do we now look on our ascending Lord? I. With deep gratitude for the gifts and promises which he has left behind; II. With wonder and joy, awakened by the glory attending his departure; III. With a blessed hope of his return, which he has promised. (Westermeyer.).—In what manner are we to look upward toward our ascended Lord? I. By diligently searching his word; II. By earnestly seeking those things which are above; III. By a strong desire that he should draw us unto himself. (Starke).—Whither does the ascension of the Lord direct our glance? I. To the work which he finished—the blessings of which we are to extend to others; II. To heaven—into which he was taken up, and where he has prepared a place for us [John 14:2]; III. To his second coming unto judgment—which we are to await with a devout and submissive spirit. (Langbein).—The true mode of looking upward to our exalted Saviour: it consists, I. In a correct understanding of the importance of the ascension, namely, (a) the word concerning the kingdom, (b) the power of the Holy Ghost, (c) the visible event as an emblem of the truth that Christ lives forever; II. In a proper use of the legacy of our exalted Lord; (a) a proper application of the word concerning the kingdom, and reverence for the privilege of being admitted into it, (b) sanctification in the Holy Ghost, (c) joyful expectation of the return of the Lord. (Harless).—The results of the ascension of our Lord; he has ascended to heaven, in order, I. That we may have our conversation in heaven; II. That we may have peace on earth; III. That we may receive the gifts which will enable us to follow him. (Petri).—The promises of the Redeemer at his departure: I. “Lo, I am with you alway” [Matt. 28:20]. He is with us (a) in the Scriptures, (b) in the holy affections of our souls, (c) in the persons of those who bear his image. II. “This Jesus shall so come.” Even now He is already come again unto judgment, in so far as good and evil men are (a) alikemade known or characterized by him, (b) separated, and (c) conducted to the places respectively assigned to them. (Schleiermacher.)
Acts 1:4.—The reading συναλιζόμενος is sufficiently sustained by nearly all the MSS. [by A. (B. e sil), C. D. E. and Codex Sinaiticus], in contradistinction from συναλισκόμενος in Cod. D. or συναυλιζόμενος in Theodoret; the last is recommended by Griesbach. [The marginal rendering (Wiclif, 1380; Rheims, 1580): eating together with him, is an ancient explanation of the textus receptus, συναλιζόμενος, and is adopted in the Vulgate, convescens; it has been rejected as erroneous by the most eminent modern interpreters, except Meyer.—TR.]
Acts 1:6.—Lachmann, Tischendorf and others, have correctly preferred the simple form ἠρώτων [found in A. B. C. (original) and Cod. Sin.], to the compound ἐπηρώτων, which is a correction of the former, in Cod. C. [Alford retains ἐπηρ. with C. (second correction) D. E.—TR.]
Acts 1:8. a.—[The marginal rendering: the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you, (found also in the Vulg. virtutem supervenientis Spiritus sancti), is regarded by the best writers (Winer: Gram. N. T. § 19. 2), as less accurate than the version (Cranmer, 1539,) presented in the text.—TR.]
Acts 1:8. b.—μου in A. B. C. D. [and Cod. Sin.] is better supported than μοι in E.
Acts 1:8. c.—ἐν before πάσῃ [as in text. rec.], is undoubtedly spurious; it is wanting in A. and D., and was inserted in C. by a later hand. [Ἐν is found also in B. E. and Cod. Sin., but is dropped by Lach. Tisch. and Alf.—TR.]
Acts 1:10.—The plural ἐσθήσεσι λευκαῖς is to be preferred to the sing. ἔσθῆτι λευκῇ [of text. rec.]; the former was the original reading in Cod. C., but was changed into the singular by a later hand. [Alford regards the singular as the better reading; it is found in D. E., but Lach. and Tisch. adopt the plural with A. B. Cod. Sin., Vulg.—TR.]
Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey.B. THE RETURN OF THE APOSTLES TO JERUSALEM; THEIR CONTINUED INTIMATE UNION; THE COMPLETION OF THE APOSTOLIC NUMBER TWELVE, BY THE APPOINTMENT OF MATTHIAS AS AN APOSTLE
CONTENTS:—The Apostles, after returning from Mount Olivet, continued with one accord in prayer, with others, Acts 1:12–14; Peter proposes the appointment of a witness of the resurrection of Jesus, in the place of the traitor Judas; two persons are chosen; Matthias is numbered with the Eleven
12Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from [near] Jerusalem [, being distant] a sabbath day’s journey. 13And when they were come in, they went up into an [the, τὸ] upper room, where [they then] abode[,] both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alpheus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother [omit—the brother] of James. 14These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication,8 with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.15And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said (the number of names together were [there was a multitude of persons together,] about a hundred and twenty,) 16[Ye] Men and brethren, this Scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judaswhich was [who became a] guide to them that took Jesus. 17For he was numbered with [among9] us, and had obtained part [assumed the lot] of this ministry [service]18Now this man purchased a field [a piece of ground] with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.19And it was [became] known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as [so that] that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The [omitThe] field of blood. 20For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be [become] desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and, His bishoprick10 let anothertake.11 21Wherefore of these men which [who] have companied with us all the time thatthe Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be [mustone become, γενέσθαι] a witness with us of his resurrection. 23And they appointed [placed] two, Joseph, called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which [who] knowest the hearts of all men, shewwhether of these two thou hast chosen, 25That he may take part [receive the lot12] of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell [Judas turnedaside], that he might go to his own place. 26And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
ACTS 1:12. From the mount—This verse distinctly shows that the mount of Olives was the scene of the ascension. The narrator assumes that the reader already possesses a general knowledge of the place where the Lord ascended; when he expressly remarks that the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the mount, he describes the locality with sufficient precision. A sabbath day’s journey (2,000 cubits or 4,000 [German] feet [about three-quarters of an English mile.—TR.]) was the extent of a walk allowed on the sabbath by the rabbinic traditions; this approximate measure of the distance of the mount from the city is furnished by Luke simply because Theophilus was not acquainted with the Holy Land from personal observation. His statement, however, refers only to the general distance of the mount, and does not imply that such was the exact distance of the spot whence the Lord ascended. The remark in Luke’s Gospel, 24:50, that Jesus led the disciples out of the city ἔως εἰς Βηθανίαν, as far as to Bethany, does not contradict the statement in the present passage, as some commentators, de Wette, for instance, have intimated. For that passage in the Gospel does not assert that the ascension had occurred in the immediate vicinity of Bethany, nor does the one before us assert that Jesus, at the moment of the ascension, had been as near as a sabbath day’s journey to Jerusalem; the former passage merely states that the occurrence had taken place on the way to Bethany, which was situated on the eastern declivity of the mount [“at the mount,” πρὸς, Mark 11:1; Luke 19:29.—TR.]; even Strauss conceded that the two passages do not involve a contradiction.—As Bethany lay at a distance of fifteen stadia from Jerusalem (John 11:18), and as only six stadia are assigned to a sabbath day’s journey, the precise point from which the Lord ascended, must lie between these two extremes. (ROBINSON: Palestine, I. 253 f.; 275).
ACTS 1:13, 14. They went up into an [the] upper room.—When the apostles returned to the city, they did not disperse, but with one accord continued together, and diligently prepared, with prayer and supplication, for the promised outpouring of the Spirit. For this purpose they went up into the upper room, that is, a chamber in the highest story of a certain house, immediately below the flat roof, where, remote from the tumult of the world, they could devote themselves without disturbance to their holy occupations. It was not a chamber in the temple, as some earlier interpreters have supposed, but was one that belonged to the private residence of an adherent of Jesus; for the statement in Luke 24:53, that, after the ascension, the apostles were continually in the temple, does not necessarily imply that in the present passage the temple is again to be regarded as the locality; still less do the two statements contradict each other, as Strauss and others maintain. The words in the Gospel can only mean, in accordance with all the circumstances of the case, that when all the people visited the temple, namely, at the usual hours of prayer, the apostles invariably came thither also; the present passage informs us that at other intermediate times, they abode in the chamber already described.—The names of the eleven apostles are here given in full at the commencement of the narrative, for the purpose of placing those in a prominent position who constituted the central point of the Church of Christ and to whom personally the promise of the Spirit had been given. They remained with one accord together, for “in union there is strength.” Still, they did not vainly imagine that they possessed any strength of their own; on the contrary, they deeply felt their weakness and poverty, and earnestly prayed for the power of the Holy Ghost which had been promised.—They were, moreover, not led by pride of office to draw a line of demarcation between themselves and others, but, on the contrary, cordially united in prayer and supplication with all others who believed on Jesus. And here three groups of believers appear, besides the apostles: (1) The women who had followed Jesus; some of them had attended him from Galilee to Jerusalem, Luke 23:49; among these Mary, the mother of Jesus, is alone expressly named; she is not again mentioned in the New Testament. (2) The brethren of Jesus, who had formerly (John 7:5) been, not for, but against him, but who now unquestionably believe on him. It is, moreover, worthy of observation, that the brethren of Jesus are here, on the one hand, plainly distinguished from, the eleven apostles, and, on the other, obviously placed in a certain connection with the mother of Jesus: hence it may be inferred, first, that brothers, in the direct sense of the word, and not cousins of Jesus, are meant, and, secondly, that no one of them was at the same time an apostle. (3) For the other disciples, see Acts 1:15.
ACTS 1:15. a. About a hundred and twenty.—Besides the ἀπόστολοι, Acts 1:2, the γνναῖκες and the ἀδελφοὶ τον͂ ̓ Ιησον͂, Acts 1:14, a larger assemblage of μαθηταί appears before us, consisting of the whole number of those who received Jesus as their Master and Lord, and were willing to yield obedience to him. A meeting was held on one of those days, i.e., during the interval of ten days between the ascension of Jesus and the outpouring of the Spirit, at which about 120 individuals were present: this number doubtless includes the apostles, the brethren of Jesus, and other disciples; the last, of course, constitute the majority. This statement of the number has been regarded by some writers with suspicion, and been represented as inaccurate and unhistorical (BAUR: Paulus, p. 57; ZELLER: Apostelgesch, p. 117 f.), on the ground that it is in conflict with Paul’s words that Jesus “was seen of above five hundred brethren at once.” 1 Cor. 15:6. Two considerations, however, show that his words by no means contradict the present passage: (1) Luke does not at all intend to state in the present passage the precise number of all the disciples of Jesus in the whole country, but simply to report the number of those who were present at this meeting, the object of which was to appoint in the company of the apostles a successor to the traitor Judas. (2.) Paul, on the other hand, does not specify, in the passage just mentioned, the place in which the Lord appeared to the 500 disciples. This event may have occurred in Galilee, where the great majority of the disciples of Jesus resided; a comparatively small number dwelt in Jerusalem, in which city even the apostles themselves had remained only in consequence of the express command of the Lord; see LECHLER’S [the author’s] Apost. u. nachapost. Zeitalter. 2 Aufl. p. 275 f.
b. And in those days.—Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, addressed them, and made a certain proposition. It is apparent that “he is the mouth of the Apostles and their corypheus,” as Chrysostom says; and, indeed, he occupies the first place in the list of their names in Acts 1:13. Still, he does not himself regard his primacy in such a light as to assume the authority to supply the vacated twelfth apostolate, as if he possessed sovereign power; neither do the apostles believe that even they have, collectively, sufficient authority to fill a vacancy which had occurred in their number, by an act of their own, independently of the action of others. On the contrary, the apostles, in whose name Peter acts, submit this matter, which concerns their office and ministry, to the assembled disciples, in order that they all, as the Church, may deliberate, resolve, and act. Such a course was accordingly adopted; for those who appointed Barsabas and Matthias (Acts 1:23), who referred to the two latter in their prayer (ver 24), and who, finally, gave forth their lots (Acts 1:26), were, as it appears from the connection, not the apostles exclusively, but all the assembled disciples.—How different the conduct of Peter here is from that of his pretended successor in Rome! How readily he concedes liberty of action to the congregation of believers, at a time, moreover, when they had not yet received the gift of the Holy Ghost!
ACTS 1:16. Concerning Judas.—The address of Peter refers to two closely connected subjects: the departure of one apostle, and the necessity of appointing another in his place; he presents both in the light of the word of God. The circumstance that an apostle of the Lord could fall so deeply as to become a guide to them that took Jesus, and that he then died in so shocking a manner, might easily awaken grave doubts in the minds of others, and cause them to stumble. It was, therefore, of great importance that the whole subject should be placed in the proper light. This task Peter performed. He begins with the declaration that the circumstances must needs [ἐδει] occur; they are not merely accidental, but constitute the fulfilment of prophecies which the Scriptures contain (Acts 1:16 and 20). David had—he continues—spoken prophetically, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, concerning Judas and the desolation of his habitation, and also concerning the appointment of another in his place. In the 109th Psalm, which, in the early ages of Christianity, was called the “Iscariotic Psalm,” and also in the 69th Psalm, David, the type in the Old Testament of the Redeemer, after certain very painful experiences, pours forth all his feelings: in the course of his complaints he also utters fearful imprecations in reference to those enemies who treated the Anointed of God unmercifully. He says, for instance; “Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents.” Ps. 69:25. “Let his days be few; and let another take his office.” Ps. 109:8. And as Jesus was the antitype of the sorely persecuted and devout king, so Judas was the antitype of those earlier enemies of God and his Anointed; in Judas, accordingly, the curse and also those imprecations were necessarily fulfilled. As Peter is fully convinced that these words in the book of Psalms were fulfilled in him who betrayed Jesus, he changes the plural into the singular when he refers to the sense of the language occurring in Ps. 69; he does not, however, intend to assert that David himself had consciously and distinctly referred exclusively to Judas and his apostleship; for he does not say here that David had spoken of Judas, but that the Holy Ghost had spoken prophetically by the mouth of David (Acts 1:16) concerning Judas. This fact fully accords with the following view:—David expressed his own grief in those Psalms, and referred to his own enemies whom he well knew; but as he was at the same time animated by the Spirit of God, he uttered thoughts and words which would be actually fulfilled in the most perfect manner only in the experience of the Redeemer; hence Peter applies the words specially to the accursed traitor, of whose expulsion from office and horrible end any previous deposition from office would afford only a feeble image.
ACTS 1:17–20. He was numbered with [among] us.—In order to show that the prophecy in Ps. 109:8 was really fulfilled in Judas, Peter mentions, in Acts 1:17, the circumstance that the traitor had once been a fellow-apostle, without which the words could not be applied to him; and, in Acts 1:18, he refers to the property of Judas which had become desolate in consequence of his awful death. He establishes the former declaration by adducing the fact that Judas had actually been enumerated among the Twelve and had obtained the ministry, that is, the apostolate, as the portion belonging to him. When Peter (for it is he who speaks in Acts 1:18 ff. and not Luke in his own person) refers, subsequently, to the property of Judas, and then to his death, it cannot be denied that the words are so framed that, without the aid of the parallel passage in Matth. 27:5 ff., it would have occurred to no one that Judas had perished by committing suicide (“hanged himself”), and that the “field of blood” had been purchased only after his death. The words before us undoubtedly seem rather to convey the idea that Judas had himself purchased that piece of ground, and had afterwards been killed by a violent fall. Nevertheless, no reasons of sufficient weight exist to sustain the assertion that the two passages contradict each other, or to countenance the theory that two positively divergent traditions are here indicated. For it is quite possible that Peter simply expressed himself rhetorically, as if Judas himself had purchased the field, which was, it is true, purchased only after his death, but for which payment was made with the wages of his treachery; and that the manner of his death, as here described, (falling headlong, πρηνής, he burst asunder, etc.) can be easily reconciled with Matthew’s statement (suicide, by hanging himself) is well known [“by merely supposing what is constantly occurring in such cases, that the rope or branch from which he was suspended broke, and he was violently thrown, etc.,” (J. A. Alexander, ad. loc.) TR.].—A certain gloom, intended by the speaker, hovers over the expression in Acts 1:25, that Judas had gone to his own place; the words can convey no other sense than that Judas had gone to a place of condemnation, where an eternal curse and destruction are found.
ACTS 1:21, 22. Wherefore … must one.—As it is now established, in consequence of the fulfilment of the prophecies already mentioned, that a vacancy had occurred in the place and office previously assigned to Judas, it is essential that this vacancy should be supplied, and the number Twelve be restored. It was, besides, indispensable that one of those men should be added to the Eleven as a witness of the resurrection of Jesus, who had continually associated with the apostles during the whole period of the Lord’s intercourse with the disciples, extending from the first appearance of John to the day of the Lord’s ascension. Peter mentions only one of the qualifications of those who are suited for the apostleship, namely, an uninterrupted association with Jesus and his disciples during the whole period of the Lord’s ministry. He is here primarily influenced by the consideration that the individual who shall be chosen, must be a witness of Jesus, and should therefore necessarily possess a personal and direct knowledge of the Person and the whole life and work of Jesus, as both an eye-witness and an ear-witness. This qualification, however, to which Peter gives prominence, is not merely of an external nature, as it might, at the first view, seem to be; for the steadfastness of any man who, from the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus to his ascension, had attached himself permanently to the company of the disciples, was undeniably an evidence of his inward state; it proved that such an individual possessed the qualities of fidelity and perseverance so eminently as to justify the act of giving him with confidence a special call to labor in the kingdom of God, as far as that call proceeded from men. The sentiments of one who had adhered to Jesus so long and so faithfully, and had fully attached himself to the disciples, had been subjected to a sufficient trial; it could not be doubted that the guidance and influence of Jesus had imparted to him a treasure of religious experience.
ACTS 1:23–25. And they appointed.—The choice of the twelfth apostle instead of Judas, is partly a human, and partly a divine act; the former was performed by the entire assemblage of about one hundred and twenty believers. They were convinced by the address of Peter, that the place of Judas ought to be supplied by another, and they concurred with him in the opinion that the candidate should have attached himself to Jesus and his disciples from the beginning. In accordance with this view, the assembled believers proceed to action, but confine that action to the nomination of two persons among the whole number of those who were qualified; these two men, who were both present at the time, were then directed to stand forth in the view of all (ἔστησαν). The number—two—proposed by the meeting could create no embarrassment, since the qualification which Peter had mentioned and the meeting had acknowledged as indispensable, could be readily, and, indeed, unerringly recognized. Neither the New Testament nor history furnishes us with any other information whatever respecting the two persons mentioned in Acts 1:23, nor does either Matthias, who received the apostolate, or Joseph, the son of Sheba, who was surnamed Justus, afterwards re-appear. [Sheba occurs as a proper name in 2 Sam. 20:1, and de Wette, with others, thinks it probable that Bar-sabas is formed according to the analogy of Bar-jona, Matth. 16:17, or Bar-jesus, Acts 13:6, but no etymology that has yet been proposed, has been generally recognized as correct.—TR.]. The conjecture is not well supported that the latter is identical with Joses Barnabas mentioned below in Acts 4:36, since Luke does not there allude to the present passage, but rather introduces Barnabas as an individual who had not been previously mentioned.—The assembled believers did not regard themselves as authorized to take any additional steps, but submitted the ultimate decision respecting the particular individual to the Lord, because he was to be the Lord’s apostle. Hence, in the prayer which they offered to the Lord “who knoweth the hearts of all men,” and which was doubtless also pronounced by Peter as “the mouth of the disciples,” they besought the Lord to indicate by a sign, which one of the two men He had chosen. Commentators differ in opinion on the point whether this prayer was addressed to God the Father, or to the exalted Lord Jesus. Meyer, who adopts the former view, appeals to Acts 15:7 ff., where Peter repeats the term καρδιογνώστης and applies it expressly to God, of whom he also says: ἐξελέξατο διὰ τον͂ στόματός μον ἀκον͂σαι τὰ ἔθνη, etc.; this passage, however, does not refer to the choice of an apostle. The correctness of the second view—that the prayer was addressed to Jesus—appears from the following considerations; (1) In Acts 1:21, Jesus is expressly termed ὁ κν́ριος, to which αν̓τον͂ in Acts 1:22 refers, whence it. appears that κν́ριε in Acts 1:24 is naturally to be referred to Jesus also; (2) As the individual who was to be chosen was designed to be an apostle of Jesus, the choice was obviously to be submitted to Jesus also; (3) As the Lord Jesus himself chose his apostles on earth (Acts 1:2, τοῖς ἀποστόλοις - - ο*ς ἐξελέξατο; comp. Acts 1:24, έξελέξω), so, too, he chose on this occasion Matthias as an apostle by a direct act, although he had ascended to heaven, even as, at a later period, he chose Saul, Acts 9:15, 17. If we, besides, compare the terms occurring in Acts 1:17 and 25 respectively [in both the same words, τὸν κλῆρον τῆς διακονίας ταν́της.—TR.], we receive the impression that as Judas had obtained “the lot of this ministry” by the choice which Jesus made of him, so one of the two disciples now nominated would also receive “the lot of this ministry” by the special choice of Christ.
ACTS 1:26. a. They gave forth their lots.—The resort to the lot for the purpose of reaching a decision, was in conformity to the usage prevailing under the old covenant. Tablets, on which the names of Joseph and Matthias were written (but not dice, as some have supposed), were employed; these were shaken in the vase or other vessel in which they had been deposited, and the lot which first fell out (ἐπεσεν). furnished the decision; the best illustrations of the latter will be found in 1 Chron. 24 ff., and 25:8 ff. The lots were annually cast, under the old covenant, upon the two goats, when the day of atonement arrived, Levit. 16:8; Moses commanded that the land of Canaan should be divided by lot, Numb. 34:13; the command was subsequently obeyed, Josh. 14:2; 18:2. This assignment of different portions of the territory to the tribes of Israel specially occurred to the apostles as a type: the office of an apostle was, in one sense, the inheritance which a particular individual obtained—the lot that fell upon him (κλῆροι, Acts 1:17, 26).—But the apostles and the assembly of believers did not proceed to cast lots until they had themselves decided conscientiously in accordance with their personal knowledge, as far as any human decision could avail. It was only the final word—that word which required a previous glance into the heart—which they besought the Lord to pronounce through the lot. They were the more easily disposed to adopt this course, as the Spirit had not yet been poured out upon them; but after that event, the lot was never again employed. When all these circumstances are considered, no abuse of the lot can be justified or even be extenuated by an appeal to the present case.
b. And the lot fell upon Matthias.—It has been asserted by some writers that this whole procedure—the substitution of Matthias as an apostle in place of Judas—was premature and in opposition to the will of God, since Paul had been appointed to take the place of Judas as an apostle, although the call was actually given to him only at a later period. This view has again been advocated quite recently by Stier (Reden der Ap. 1861, I. 15. [Discourses of the Apostles, 2d ed.]), but no valid arguments whatever can be adduced in favor of it. Not the least indication is given at any time that God had signified his disapprobation of this election; for the circumstance that the labors of Matthias are not afterwards mentioned, as little proves that he was not a genuine and true apostle after the heart of God, as the silence observed with respect to the labors of several of the Twelve would prove that they, too, did not possess the true apostolical character. And with regard to Paul, the view referred to above [“Paul was, in place of Matthias, or, more accurately, of Judas, the true Twelfth apostle,” Stier, loc. cit.—TR.], is certainly erroneous; for Paul himself never claimed, on any occasion, that he was one of the Twelve, while, on the contrary, he makes a plain distinction between them and himself in 1 Cor. 15:5. He cannot, indeed, be enumerated among them, since his call constituted him the Apostle of the Gentiles; he is thus obviously contradistinguished from the Apostles of the Jews (comp. Gal. 2:9); he is “the Apostle of progress” (Lange), while the latter are those who presided at the original founding of the work.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The fulfilment of the Scriptures is the theme of Peter’s address; in such a light he views both the events connected with Judas, and also the necessity of supplying the vacancy which the latter made in the company of the apostles. He was doubtless influenced in adopting these views by intimations which he had previously received from Jesus. And his course was strictly correct. For Christ is both the heart of the old covenant, and also the foundation on which it rests; the most holy sentiments which characterized the spiritual life, the confidence in God, and the patient expectation of devout men of the old covenant, really referred to Christ as their great end, although such believers might often themselves be unconscious of this great truth. And, on the other hand, the most painful experiences of the servants of God under the old covenant, and their deeply wounded feelings, when they were misjudged, insulted, and persecuted, were only shadows and preludes of the sufferings of the Redeemer. When David, full of faith in the truth and the righteous retribution of God, denounced the enemies of God and of himself, his words were to be actually fulfilled in the case of the faithless man who betrayed the Lord. Even if David himself was not aware of this fact (which, indeed, Peter does not assert), still “the Spirit of Christ which was in him … testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ.” 1 Pet. 1:11.
2. Peter recognizes it (Acts 1:22) as the great purpose of the vocation of the apostles that they should be witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus; the latter was the decisive act of God. That event attested the Person and crowned the Work of Jesus; it constitutes the foundation of the Christian’s faith. Not only was it originally the great and pre-eminently glorious fact of the history of redemption in the eyes of the first disciples, but it is still regarded in that light by all believers. What results could the incarnation of God, or the crucifixion of Jesus have produced, without this resurrection from the dead? Comp. 1 Cor. 15:14–19. The resurrection of Jesus still affords a test in our day, whether, in essential points, an individual is in bondage to unbelief, or whether he offers his homage to the true faith. He who cannot prevail on himself to receive the fact of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead in faith, has not yet, even in a general respect, acquired a correct knowledge of the Son of God, for he does not know the living Christ.
3. While Peter demands, on the one hand, that the person who shall be elected, should have been regularly in the company of Jesus like the other disciples, from the baptism of John to the ascension, he assigns, on the other, certain allowable limitations of that personal knowledge of the life of Jesus which it is indispensable that an Apostle should possess. For if the thirty years which Jesus passed in calm retirement, undoubtedly contributed their share to the work of redemption, still, it is in the life, the acts and the sufferings of the Lord during the three years of his ministry that the foundation of our faith in him is to be sought. The fact that the narratives of the Evangelists refer almost exclusively to this period, and introduce only a few incidents belonging to that of the childhood of Jesus, fully agrees with this view.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
ACTS 1:12. a. Then returned they unto Jerusalem.—As the Lord proceeded from Tabor, the mount of transfiguration (on which Peter desired to make tabernacles), to the scene of his sufferings and death, so, too, the disciples, after gazing at the open gate of heaven, are directed to return to the hostile city, in which they were first of all to bear witness. And so, too, the Christian must often descend from the holy heights to which he had been carried by his devotional exercises, down to his earthly field of labor and battle. [Lange adduces weighty reasons in the first vol. of the present publication (Matth. 17:1) for rejecting the tradition that Tabor was the mount of transfiguration, as Gerok here assumes.—TR.]
b. From the mount called Olivet.—Not far from this mount the Redeemer endured his most awful agony of soul; but now he ascends from its summit victoriously to heaven; so near together, too, are the sufferings and the glory of the servants of Christ. Their battle-fields become the scenes of their triumph. (Apost. Past.).—Which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey.—As Mount Olivet was so near that the Jewish traditions permitted the disciples to visit it even on the sabbath, their continued abode in Jerusalem became endurable and even satisfactory. (Williger.).—In whatever spot the Christian now dwells, its distance from the mount of Olivet does not exceed a sabbath day’s journey; let him, therefore, daily go thither in spirit, especially when peaceful sabbatic hours visit him.
ACTS 1:14. These all continued with one accord, etc.—The ten days which intervened between the Ascension and Pentecost—between the departure of the Lord in the flesh and his return in the Spirit—constituted a memorable period of time; in some of its features it resembled the period which intervened between the death and the resurrection of the Lord. And yet the disciples now assemble under very different and far more happy circumstances. If they are again apparently as sheep having no shepherd, they are not filled with sadness and fear as once they were, neither do they weep for the Lord as for one who is dead. They know now that he lives, that he is enthroned in heaven, and that he is with his people alway, even unto the end of the world. They are again assembled in a secluded spot, but have not again shut the doors for fear of the Jews [John 20:19], neither do they tremble and flee as sheep when the wolf is coming. They are assembled together in calm expectation and with holy hopes in their souls; and they remind us of a group of children waiting in a darkened chamber on Christmas-eve, until the expected Christmas gifts shall have been duly arranged in the adjoining apartment. For in truth a season like Advent had now arrived for the disciples, in which they waited with blessed hope for the coming of the Lord in the Spirit.—What varied natural gifts, dispositions, gifts of grace, and spiritual tendencies, are represented by the names of these eleven Apostles! And yet the nature of each, however different the one may be from the other, is now sanctified and ennobled by the grace of Him who is able to employ each individual in his service to the praise of his glory. Even opposite features of character among them are beautifully tempered and associated in brotherly love under one Lord, so that they can exclaim: He is the Head, we are his members; He is the light, we are the reflection; He is the Master, we are brethren; He is ours, and we are his!—With the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus.—How well matured and purified in spirit must Mary be at this period, after the long and varied experience which followed the salutation of the angel! She whose soul was pierced through with a sword, was, nevertheless, blessed among women. [Luke 1:42; 2:35]. With what tender love and devout reverence must not only John, to whom the Lord on the cross had given her as a precious legacy, but also all others, have looked on, and ministered to, this mother of their Lord! And yet, how unassuming the manner is in which she presents herself on this occasion also, when she is mentioned for the last time in the Scriptures! Her name is here the last of all, and not the first of those recorded by Luke; she prays with the others, not for them, as a handmaid of the Lord [Luke 1:38], not as a queen of heaven!—And with his brethren.—They, too, who had not at first believed in the divine character of Jesus, but had remained far from his kingdom, have now learned to prostrate themselves before the crucified and risen Lord, as Joseph’s brethren in an earlier age paid homage to their honored and powerful brother.—The blessed commemoration: I. The appropriate application of the blessing received; II. The appropriate prayer for further blessings. (Lisco.).
ACTS 1:15. And in those days Peter stood up.—He who had fallen so deeply as even to deny his Lord, has, nevertheless, the courage to speak of the treachery and dreadful end of Judas before all the brethren. For he was conscious that his sins were forgiven, and was influenced by the Lord’s words: “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”—“Whenever I look at Peter, my very heart leaps for joy. For although I am a poor sinner, Peter also was a poor sinner; if I should paint a portrait of Peter, I would paint on every hair of his head the words: ‘I believe in the forgiveness of sins.’ O Peter, if thou hast been saved, I, too, shall be saved.” (Luther).
He who daily obtains a clearer view of the multitude and heinousness of his sins, but whose conviction that the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin, at the same time increases in power, will always stand forth like Peter, and avail himself of every occasion on which he can perform any work to the praise of the glorious grace of his Mediator and Redeemer. (Ap. Past.)
ACTS 1:16–20. Concerning Judas, which was guide, etc.—Peter speaks of the grievous sin and horrible death of Judas with the greatest earnestness and candor, but also with devout sorrow and with gentleness. He speaks, too, with earnestness and candor of the treachery and the suicide of his fellow-disciple, who involved himself and his brethren in disgrace by his iniquitous conduct. Not a trace appears here of that unworthy desire which, in such painful cases, sometimes prompts men to conceal the truth and practise deception for the sake of avoiding a loss of honor; not a trace appears of apostolic pride or priestly pride of station, as if no blemish could be permitted to be seen in the character of those who are invested with the sacred office, or as if they were not amenable to civil laws nor pledged to respect public opinion. Peter, on the contrary, refers with a holy earnestness to the divine judgment which had overtaken the wretched man, and shows that even this painful event promoted by its results the honor of the one true God; his punitive justice appears in its majesty, and the prophecies which his word contains, were most remarkably fulfilled; thus the case of Judas enables Peter to give a solemn warning to all succeeding ages respecting the self-deception to which sin conducts. And yet Peter speaks of this “son of perdition” [John 17:12] in gentle tones, and with a sorrow not unmingled with pity. Not a trace appears of those uncharitable judgments which are often pronounced in such cases—not a trace of that haughty, self-exalting spirit with which Christians often look down upon a miserable self-murderer; no other feeling is here revealed save that of holy sorrow for the soul that is lost. Peter’s language is characterized by moderation both when he speaks of the treachery of Judas (“he was guide to them that took Jesus”), and when he speaks of his eternal lot (“he went to his own place”). In such a spirit we should remember our own infirmities, in every case in which others incur guilt, and apply Nathan’s words to ourselves: “Thou art the man!”
ACTS 1:21, 22. Wherefore … must one, etc.—The term must [δεὶ] here refers not only to the necessity of supplying the vacant place of Judas, but also to the essential qualifications of the persons who shall be nominated. The levity and irreverence of the opinion that it is indeed an advantage when a teacher possesses the qualifications which are demanded in the Scriptures, but that these are not precisely necessary, since he may be an able pastor without acquiring them, are fully exposed by this divine oportet. (Ap. Past.)—Which have companied with us all the time, etc.—Two qualifications are here indicated: first, a certain measure of Christian knowledge; the individual who is chosen, must possess a direct personal knowledge of Christ’s Person and walk on earth; secondly, a certain measure of Christian fidelity; he must have faithfully adhered to Jesus during the whole period specified, without having ever gone back [John 6:66] or taken offence. Both of these qualifications are still required of those who are appointed to preach the Gospel and feed the flock of Christ—a living knowledge of the Lord, and sincere devotion to him.
A witness with us of his resurrection.—The testimony concerning the resurrection of Jesus comprehends every other important topic—his death, his life, and his doctrine; for without a statement of these points, the significance of his resurrection cannot be unfolded. And, further, that testimony constitutes the crown and glory of the preaching of Christ’s name; for while his doctrine is glorious and his life holy, and while his sufferings affect our feelings and his death deeply impresses us, still it was only when his resurrection occurred that he was declared to be the Son of God with power, and the Saviour of the world. [Rom. 1:4].
ACTS 1:23. And they appointed two, etc.—Both possessed the qualifications which Peter had particularized; the selection of either for the office would have consequently been judicious. But those really tempt God who nominate incompetent persons under the pretext that God will nevertheless so order the course of events as to lead to the selection of the individual who is acceptable to him. (Ap. Past.).—Listen to the unison of the three chords which are struck at this election of a bishop! The sacred office directs that election in self-denying humility; the congregation yields a voluntary obedience and presents two chosen ones to the Lord; He, who is the sole patron of his Church, is entreated to designate the individual whom He has chosen as an offering for the extension of his kingdom. (Leonh. and Sp.).
ACTS 1:24, 25. Prayed, and said, etc.—Teachers who have been given in answer to prayer, and whom devout prayer attended when they assumed office, enjoy the divine blessing, when they also themselves continue instant in prayer even to the end. (Ap. Past.).—Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts, etc.—It is cheering to the heart to survey the intimate personal intercourse which the disciples maintain with the exalted Lord Jesus, unmoved as they are by the circumstance that their eyes no longer behold him. The election of the twelfth Apostle was so ordered as to be the first work which they on earth, and He in heaven, would unitedly perform in the Holy Ghost. (Besser).—Thou … knowest the hearts of all men—a description of our God and Saviour, of which the teacher of religion should never lose sight. We may so labor in the sight of men that our praises shall be loudly proclaimed, “but the Lord looketh on the heart.” [1 Sam. 16:7]. (Ap. Past.)
ACTS 1:26. And they gave forth their lots. The disciples desire that their prayer: “Lord—shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,” should be answered through the medium of the lot. They ask the Lord to reveal to them his will, and, as in the case of the other apostles in Galilee, so, now, to call and choose himself the twelfth apostle in the place of Judas. The employment of the lot, although a familiar practice under the old covenant (as when the land was divided by lot among the twelve tribes. Numb, 26:55, of which the twelve apostles were designed to be the representatives), is not once repeated in the Scriptures after the day of Pentecost; for, after the fulness of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Church, the latter, in devout obedience, was guided by that Spirit into all truth. Now this “truth,” even in our day, is still no other than the revealed word of the Old and New Testaments. When we receive the word of God as a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path, we shall not walk in the night and stumble. When we humbly give heed to the leadings of the Lord, and in prayer commit our way to him, he conducts us in the paths of righteousness, and leads us by his Spirit into the land of uprightness. (Leon. and Sp.).
ON THE WHOLE SECTION.—Prayer, the weapon of the Church. (Starke).
Judas, an illustration of the deep guilt which an individual may contract, who begins well, but continues to yield obedience to a single sin. (Ibid.).
When may an individual be regarded as well fitted and prepared to assume the sacred office? I. When he faithfully adheres to Jesus and to his disciples; II. When Jesus himself dwells in his heart (Ib.).
The life of man, a journey to his eternal abode; I. There are two ways; II. Let us choose the narrow way! (Ibid).
The manner in which the welfare of the Church was secured at the election of Matthias; I. Whatever office an individual in the Church may receive, two points are of primary importance: Clear views of the divine will, and inviolable fidelity in the imitation of Christ; II. Among Christians, no election without prayer and the divine blessing; III. The lot justifiable as a means of excluding private influences, when both of the persons nominated were in all respects equal.
(Schleiermacher.). That the word of God is our only safe guide in difficult situations of life: I. It teaches us to consider even the most embarrassing relations in which we may be placed, as dispensations of Providence; II. It teaches us to form comprehensive and clear views of those circumstances which may aid us in finding the right way; III. It teaches us to pray in faith, and then submit the ultimate decision to the Lord himself. (Langbein).
The wages of sin, or, The awful death of Judas Iscariot: I. He should have remained Christ’s disciple; but he betrayed his Master; II. He should have administered a sacred charge; but he purchased the field of blood; III. He should have preached the name of the risen Saviour; but he committed suicide; IV. He should have received the Holy Ghost; but he was lost forever. (Florey).
The choice of Matthias by lot, an evidence of faith: a faith, I. Which even after painful trials confidently awaited the victory of the kingdom of Christ; II. Which fully recognized the lofty purpose and the significance of the apostleship; III. Which, conscious of its own weakness, in all things submitted the decision to the Lord. (Leonh. and Sp.).
The divine election: I. It proceeds from the free grace of God; II. It demands a mind and a walk of which God can approve. (Kapff.).
On looking upward to God, the Searcher of hearts; this practice, I. Humbles the heart; II. Strengthens the heart. (C. BECK: Hom. Rep.).
The disciples of the Lord, waiting for his Spirit: I. They obediently abode in Jerusalem, Acts 1:13; II. They remained with one accord together, Acts 1:14; III. They prayed, Acts 1:14; (Lisco).
The Christian, waiting until the Lord shall be revealed: like the disciples, who abode in Jerusalem, I. He obeys, for he is full of faith: II. He dwells with others in unity, for he is full of love; III. He prays, for he is full of hope. (id.).
That even the apostasy of those who had received a special call to the ministry, cannot retard the progress of the kingdom of God on earth: I. The fact that such individuals at times apostatize, Acts 1:15–20; II. The certainty that these occurrences cannot seriously retard the progress of the kingdom of God, Acts 1:21–26. (id.).
The devout spirit and the harmony of the first disciples, an example for all ages: I. A devout spirit perpetuates and sanctifies the harmony of brethren: II. That harmony communicates new ardor and elevation to a devout spirit. (Lechler).
By what considerations should we be induced to persevere in prayer? By those derived, I. From our urgent wants; II. From the precious promises of God. (id.)
The sources of Christian energy and boldness, (as illustrated in the case of Peter): I. Deep views of our own sinfulness; II. An experimental knowledge of divine grace and the atonement of Christ, (id.).
Judas and Peter, viewed as monuments of divine justice and grace. (id.).
In what mode shall we judge and speak of the sins and punishments of others?—I. With candor and truth; II. With humility and self-examination; III. With grief, flowing from Christian love. (id.).
The gradual advances of sin, illustrated by the history of Judas. (id.).
The love of money, the root of all evil. [1 Tim. 6:10]. (id.).
The proverb; Ill-gotten, ill-spent. (id.).
The word of God, a light unto our path, [Ps. 119:105]: I. It gives us right views of our experience of life; II. It makes known to us alike our general and our special duties.
The necessary qualifications of a teacher of religion: I. Accurate knowledge of the truth which is after godliness [Tit. 1:1]; II. Personal communion with Jesus. (id.).
The office of a teacher, viewed as that of a witness.
Genuine prayer; it is, I. Full of reverence and humility, as in the presence of the divine majesty; II. Full of faith and confidence, as a conversation with the friend of our souls.
The lessons taught by the truth that the Lord is the Searcher of hearts: it conducts to, I. Humble self-knowledge; II. Child-like confidence in God. (ibid.).
Judas lost, Matthias chosen; I. Judas lost, (a) not on account of an antemundane divine reprobation, but (b) on account of his own transgression, which necessarily demanded (c) the action of the punitive justice of God; II. Matthias chosen, (a) not on account of any merit of his own (for wherein was he superior to Barsabas?), (b) but by the free grace of God, to which, however, (c) he devoutly subjected his own will and his whole life.
Barsabas the Just, [Justus, Acts 1:23], and Matthias the Chosen One, or, My Grace is sufficient for thee! [2 Cor. 12:9].
Matthias, numbered with the apostles, an image of him who assumes the office of the ministry with the divine blessing; three conditions must here be observed: I. The spiritual fitness of the individual, Acts 1:21, 22: II. The regular external call, Acts 1:23, 24; III. The divine confirmation of the act, Acts 1:25, 26.
[The consultations of Christians: I. The spirit in which they are conducted; a spirit of (a) humble faith (prayer-hope); (b) brotherly love (forbearance); (c) humility (self-denial): (d) earnestness of purpose (deep interest); II. The action in which they result; it is distinguished by (a) a sincere concern for the honor of religion (choice of means); (b) disinterestedness (concern for the temporal and spiritual welfare of others;) (c) zeal; (liberality); (d) perseverance (not discouraged). —TR.]
Acts 1:14.—[The reading of the text. rec. καὶ τῇ δεήσει, after προςευχῇ, is found in C. (second correction), but is omitted in A. B. C. (original) D. E. Cod. Sin., Vulg., and is cancelled by Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Alford.—TR.]
Acts 1:17.—[Lechler’s translation indicates that he, like Alford, rejects σὺν of the text. rec., as found in most of the minuscules, and reads ἐν, in accordance with the best manuscripts, viz., A. B. C. D. E. Cod. Sin.; and this reading is preferred by nearly all recent critics.—TR.]
Acts 1:20.—a. [Lechler renders the original, ἐπισκοπὴν, by Aufseheramt, literally, overseer’s office; the margin of the English Bible presents the rendering: “office (Geneva, 1557), or, charge.” This translation strictly conforms to the original in Psalm 109:8, פְּקֻדָּה, comp. Num. 4:16. Peter here designates by the term, according to Meyer, de Wette, etc., the apostolic office.—TR.]
Acts 1:20.—b. [λάβοι, of text. rec., with E., “is a correction to suit the Sept.” (Ps. 109:8). (Alf.)—Lach., Tisch., Bornemann, and Alf. read λαβέτω, with A. B. C. D. Cod. Sic.—Tr.]
Acts 1:25.—[For κλῆρον, of text. rec., before τῆς διακ., with minuscules, but also Cod. Sin. Lach., Tisch., Born., and Alf. read τόπον, with A. B. C. (original) D. Vulg. (locum.)—TR.]