New European Commentary

Deeper commentary on other chapters in Acts:

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Text of other chapters in Acts

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Deeper Commentary

1:1 The former account- Gk. protos logos. When John begins his Gospel with the idea of the arche logos, he is perhaps saying the same thing. The logos was the word or account of God's purpose in Jesus. Luke's Gospel was written for the purpose of preaching to Theophilus, who had already been 'catechized', taught by rote, one of the Gospels (probably Mark), but who wanted to have a more detailed and factual account (Lk. 1:3,4). Luke later describes his Gospel as his logos, his 'word' about all Jesus did (Acts 1:1 Gk.). The Lord seems to have foreseen this when He spoke of how "Wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, which this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her" (Mt. 26:13). There is evident connection with Christ's prophecy of how the Gospel would be preached in all the world (Mt. 24:14; Mk. 16:15). He seems to have seen the 'Gospel' that would be preached as a re-telling of His life and incidents in it, such as the woman's anointing of Him. It is significant that her anointing is mentioned in all four Gospel records. In Mk. 14:9 we read that wherever the gospel was to be preached, what she had done would be narrated in memory of her. So ‘preaching the Gospel’ is defined there as a narration of the events and sayings of the Lord Jesus in His ministry.

Regarding the initial intention of Luke-Acts, see on 21:19.

I made- This is the same Greek word used in the next clause, concerning all that Jesus began to make or "do". The work or doing of Jesus is continued through the written record of that work- that seems to be the idea.

O Theophilus- A case could be made that Luke’s account in his Gospel and in the Acts actually emphasizes how wealthy and middle class people came to the Lord- e.g. Joanna wife of Chuza, Cornelius the Centurion; Dionysius; Sergius Paulus, governor of Cyprus. Perhaps a reason for this was that he dedicated his works to the “noble” [Gk. ‘well born’, ‘wealthy’] Theophilus (Acts 1:1). Luke, it seems to me, was writing to Theophilus because he wanted to convert him. And so he gives other examples of wealthy people who had also converted. He was urging the middle class to allow the radical call of Christ to reach to them. Luke's address to "Most Excellent Theophilus" may be a reference to the Roman-imposed High Priest of Israel between AD 37 and AD 41, Theophilus ben Ananus.

Concerning all that Jesus began to do and to teach- Reading Luke and Acts through together, it becomes apparent that the author [Luke] saw the acts of the apostles as a continuation of those of the Lord Jesus. This is why he begins Acts by talking about his “former treatise” of all that Jesus had begun to do, implying that He had continued His doings through the doings of the apostles (cp. Heb. 2:3, Jesus “began” to speak the Gospel and we continue His work). See on Acts 2:6; 2:7; 8:40. Luke uses the same word translated ‘preach’ in both Luke and the Acts [although the other Gospels use it only once]. In Luke we find the word in 1:19; 2:10; 3:18; 4:18,43; 7:22; 8:1; 9:6; 16:16; 20:1; and in Acts, in 5:42; 8:4,12,25,35,40; 10:36; 11:20; 13:32; 14:7,15,21; 15:35; 16:10; 17:18. Luke clearly saw the early ecclesia as preaching the same message as Jesus and the apostles; they continued what was essentially a shared witness. This means that we too are to see in the Lord and the 12 as they walked around Galilee the basis for our witness; we are continuing their work, with just the same message and range of responses to it. Lk. 24:47 concludes the Gospel with the command to go and preach remission of sins, continuing the work of the Lord Himself, who began His ministry with the proclamation of remission (Lk. 4:18 cp. 1:77). Acts stresses that the believers did just this; they preached remission of sins [s.w.] in Jesus’ Name, whose representatives they were: Acts 2:38; 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; 26:18.

"To do and to teach" alludes to how at the close of Luke, the two disciples call the Lord "a prophet mighty in deed and word" (Lk. 24:19). Here therefore we have a rebuke of their earlier position, that the Lord had wonderfully done and said so much. But He was now dead and gone, and this was mere history. We can in fact have the same attitude. But the point is that He is continuing to do and teach, both directly and through His body on earth.

1:2 Until the day in which he was received up, after that he had given commandments through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen-  The day the Lord was taken up, He gave one commandment to the apostles, related to their possession of the Holy Spirit: to go into all the world with the Gospel. But why does Luke speak in the plural, “commandments”? It could be that here we have one of many examples of Hebrew idiom being used by the Jewish writers of the New Testament, even though they wrote in Greek. There is in Hebrew an ‘intensive plural’, whereby something is put in the plural (e.g. “deaths” in Is. 53:9) to emphasize the greatness of the one thing (e.g., the death, of Messiah). Could it not be that here we have something similar? The one great commandment is to go into all the world with the Gospel. We are the light of this world. We, the candles, were lit so that we might give light to others. Our duty is not merely to inform others of our doctrinal position, but to gain, win or catch [as fishermen] our fellow men for Christ.

1:3 To whom, after his suffering, he also showed by many convincing proofs- Acts 1:3 says that the Lord showed Himself to be alive to the disciples "by many infallible proofs". The suggestion is that they simply didn't accept Him as He stood there before Him; they failed to grasp that He was for real. They gave Him food to eat to check Him out; and He again ate before them in Galilee on His initiative.

That he was alive, being seen by them for forty days, and speaking about the kingdom of God- The Greek is literally: 'Speaking about the things concerning the Kingdom of God'. And this is exactly how the content of the Apostolic preaching is described in Acts 8:12; 19:8; 28:31. Clearly what the Lord taught them became the basis of their teaching to others. They were a continuation of Him on earth, just as our witness should be likewise. It could even be that "the things concerning the Kingdom of God" became a technical term for a body of material which the Apostles taught, having heard it directly from the Lord during those 40 days.

1:4 And, being assembled together with them, he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem- Rendered by AVmg. and RVmg. "eating together". We can note the association between eating and proof of resurrection; and also the idea of fellowship together. In the first century, to eat together was to fellowship together. It would seem that the command to remain in Jerusalem was given whilst 'eating together', in instruction at the breaking of bread meeting. That meeting continues to be the place where we receive instruction from our Lord, if we approach it in that spirit.

But to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, you heard from me- Presumably referring to the promise of the Comforter made in the Upper Room.


1:5 For John indeed baptized with water, but soon you shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit- The implication is that they had all been baptized by John the Baptist; his work of preparing the way for the Lord succeeded with that small group, even if it failed nationally. The contrast is between with water and in Spirit. I suggest therefore that the baptism in the Spirit refers to something internal and psychological, the gift of the Spirit in human hearts promised as “the comforter” in Jn. 14-16, which in some cases in the first century was manifest by visible external signs.

1:6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked him- The imperfect means they kept on asking.

Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?- Once the Gospel is preached world-wide, then the end will come (Mt. 24:14). And so the Lord replied to the question: ‘When are you coming back?’ by telling the questioners to go and preach the Gospel (Acts 1:6,8), as if the preaching of the word and the timing of the second coming are related. Likewise in the Olivet prophecy, the Lord gave them some signs of His return but told them that firstly, i.e. most importantly, the Gospel must be preached to all the world (Mk. 13:10)- implying that it is spreading the Gospel world-wide, not looking for the fulfilment of signs, that will bring about His return. Surely this would associate the exact timing of the Lord's return- for which He and the Father are ever eager- with the time when we have satisfactorily spread the Gospel far enough. When the harvest is ripe, then it is harvested. The Lord has to delay His coming because of the slowness and immaturity of our development; in these ways we limit Him. And it isn’t enough to think that if we merely preach world-wide, therefore the Lord's coming will automatically be hastened. It is the bringing forth of fruit to His Name that is important to Him.

The disciples' request to know exactly when the Kingdom would be restored ('When will Ez. 21:25-27 be fulfilled?') was met with a promise that while they would never know the exact date, that was immaterial as they would possess the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit soon (Acts 1:7,8)- implying that what they would do with them would be a primary fulfilment of the Kingdom prophecies which they were enquiring about. 

We note that they asked this question just prior to the Lord's ascension (:9). But He had been teaching them about the Kingdom for 40 days; and surely this topic had arisen before and this question would have already been asked. Because it was the obvious question for them to ask: 'And what next, what now?'. And still they did not 'get it'. Again we see how the apostles continually reference their own weakness- in a book about their "Acts" of preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. They were patient with those slow to understand because they themselves had been so slow. And we see the lesson for ourselves.

1:7 And he said to them: It is not for you to know times or seasons- There is clearly a difference between them. Chronos, "times", is at times used to mean 'delay'; and chairos, "seasons", is also translated "opportunity". There would appear to be reference here to the variable nature of the Divine program; there are delays, extensions, and preconditions which must be fulfilled, and therefore opportunities for hastening or realizing the day of the Lord's coming. But by the same token, there is apparently no calendar date set for it.

Which the Father has set within his own authority- Or, power. The Lord made two statements to the disciples which he surely intended to be connected: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth... it is not for you (the inquisitive eleven standing on Olivet) to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power" (Mt. 28:18; Acts 1:7,8). But all the Father's power has been given to His glorified Son, and this therefore includes knowledge of the "times and seasons" of the second coming. In the exalted Lord "are hid all the riches of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:3); it is thereby inconceivable that the Father would still keep back some knowledge from the Son. The point of all this is that when the Lord Jesus said that "of that day and that hour knoweth (present tense) no man, no, not the angels... neither the Son" he was not laying down a general principle for all time. He was speaking of the situation at that time: 'You can't know now, indeed at the moment even I don't know; but these are the signs which will tell the believers when I'll come'. By implication he was saying 'You can't understand them, although I'm giving them to you, but in the future some will understand them, because these signs will accurately pinpoint my return'. This was exactly the spirit of what the Angel told Daniel when he too wished to know when Messiah would come in glory; he was basically told 'It's not for you to understand, but in the last days understanding of these things will be increased among God's people; they will know the time, but you can't'. There are so many connections between the Olivet prophecy and Daniel that perhaps it is legitimate to think that the Lord was alluding to the Angel's refusal to tell Daniel the time of Messiah's coming. That the Lord was primarily referring to the twelve when he spoke of them not knowing "when the time is" (Mk. 13:33) is confirmed if we appreciate that the Lord Jesus sometimes uses "the time" as a reference to the appointed time for his own death (Mt. 26:18; Mk. 14:35; Jn. 7:6,8). The disciples were fascinated with the time of his return, and the Lord was giving them the signs. But knowing his death was only days away, inevitably he had in mind "the time" of his passion. And he knew that as they didn't know the time of his return, so they didn't understand the time of his death. Having pointed out that they knew not "the time", in words surely reminiscent of his criticism of Jewry generally for not knowing "the time" of his coming and death (Mt. 16:3; Lk. 19:44), the Lord went on to tell the story of the man (himself) who left his household (the disciples) and told them to watch, with warnings as to what would happen if they didn't. Every one of those warnings, and some other language in the Olivet prophecy,  came true of the disciples in the next few days, in the context of "the time" being the time of Christ's death.

1:8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the remotest part of the earth- When the watchman of Is. 21:11 calls out “What hour of the night [will it come]?” (RVmg.) the answer is “Turn ye” (RV). This is when it will come- when Israel turn again in repentance. This is alluded to in Acts 1:7,8 and Mk. 13:28-33, where the answer to the question ‘When will Jesus return?’ is basically: ‘Preach to Israel; lead them to repentance. That’s when the Lord Jesus will return’.

The Gospel was to be preached for a witness to all nations (Mt. 24:14); and yet “you are witnesses... you will be witnesses” (Lk. 24:27; Acts 1:8). The preacher of the Gospel is the Gospel; the man is the message, just as the very same word / message was made flesh in the Lord. Israel of old were taught this. They were to keep and do the commandments of God, and this would be the witness of their wisdom and understanding to the nations around them- who would thereby be brought to Israel’s God (Dt. 4:6-8). The imparting of wisdom and understanding therefore didn’t come so much through specific doctrinal exposition, as through living out those principles in daily life. But marturion, “witness”, can simply be a legal term referring to testimony or witness in a prosecution. Perhaps the sense is that judgment will come upon all the world once the Gospel has been witnessed to them; it is their receipt of that information which gives them the knowledge which makes them responsible to Divine judgment. For once this witness has been made, then the end comes.

The possession of the Holy Spirit in the first century was possessing "the powers of the world to come" (Heb. 6:5), showing that at that time there was a foretaste of the coming Kingdom. Thus in answer to the question about whether He would then fully restore the Kingdom of God, our Lord basically said: 'When, exactly, you can't know. But you will receive Holy Spirit power coming upon you (Acts 1:8 AVmg.) and will spread the Gospel world-wide from Jerusalem; which is tantamount to saying that in a limited sense the Kingdom is coming right now, although when it will finally be fully established is not for you to know'. Further support for this is found in our suggestion elsewhere that Kingdom prophecies like Is.2 were fulfilled to some degree in the spread of the Gospel from Jerusalem in the first century.

The record of the Acts is a continuation of all that Jesus began to do and teach as recorded in the Gospels (Acts 1:1). The preachers were witnesses of Jesus (Acts 1:8). The logical objection to their preaching of a risen Jesus of Nazareth was: ‘But He’s dead! We saw His body! Where is He? Show Him to us!’. And their response, as ours, was to say: ‘I am the witness, so is my brother here, and my sister there. We are the witnesses that He is alive. If you see us, you see Him risen and living through us’. In this spirit, we beseech men in Christ’s stead. Just as the Lord strangely said that His own witness to Himself was a valid part of His overall witness, so our lives are our own witness to the credibility of what we are saying. 

When we read of how we are to be "witnesses" to all the world, a look under the surface of the text shows that the Greek word 'martyr' is being used (Acts 1:8). We're all martyrs. Augustine said that “The cause, not the suffering, makes a genuine martyr”. That needs some reflection and time spent processing that profound observation. In his play Murder in the Cathedral, T. S. Eliot defines a martyr as one “who has become an instrument of God, who has lost his will in the will of God, not lost it but found it, for he has found freedom in submission to God. The martyr no longer desires anything for himself, not even the glory of martyrdom”. We can all enter into the definition of witness / martyrdom in this sense, insofar as we are 'in' the suffering Christ, even if in practice we may never be called to take a single blow to our body as the result of our witnessing.

Samaria is perhaps mentioned specifically because of the earlier command not to preach there during the Lord's ministry (Mt. 10:5).

“To the remotest part of the earth” need not be a reference to the great commission. It could be that this prediction had a specific, one-time fulfilment at Pentecost, where the Gospel was witnessed to Jews from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to Jews from the very ends of the earth / land promised to Abraham. If we understand the "earth" in a literal, global sense, then the Apostles didn't achieve this. They were told that the coming gift of the Holy Spirit would enable them to make this witness, and the most comfortable fit for the fulfilment of this is to simply read on in Acts and learn how the gift of speaking in the languages of the Jewish diaspora was given to them. They indeed achieved the intended witness on the day of Pentecost to Jews from the very areas predicted here in 1:8.

1:9 And when he had said these things, as they were watching, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight– surely it was a cloud of Angels not water droplets. But so it looked to them standing on earth, and the record is written from that perspective. We find this so often in the Bible- the language of creation in Genesis 1 is an example, as are the references to 'demons'.

1:10 And while they were looking earnestly into heaven as he went, two men stood by them in white clothing- Of the 14 usages of the Greek word here used for “looking earnestly” in the NT, 12 are by Luke. This is what we would expect with Divine inspiration- the personality and word choice of an individual still comes through noticeably in the written word, the writers were not zombified; and yet the overall product also uses words chosen by the Spirit, and is the Spirit's work and infallible.

1:11 Who also said: You men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven? - Why address them in this way? Surely we conclude that pnly the disciples were present. What was significant about them all being Galileans? We note that the Jewish audience of Acts 2:7 remarked likewise- "Look, are not all those who speak Galileans?", and Peter's Galilean accent could not be disguised in the courtyard. The records emphasize that the Lord was also considered a Galilean (Mt. 26:69; Lk. 23:6). Yet Galilee was despised. Perhaps the Angels were encouraging those men not to worry about their own inadequacy, lack of culture or erudition. Instead of just gaping at their vanishing Master, with thoughts of ethnic inadequacy arising in them, they were being encouraged to go out and make the witness which the Lord had asked of them. And the Angels were comforting them that their humble origins were full well known to God, and would not hinder them in their work for Him.

This same Jesus, who was received up from you into heaven- "This same..." is clearly alluded to in Paul's later assertion that Jesus Christ is "the same" yesterday, today and forever. Who He was in His mortal life is the same Jesus with whom we have to do now, and whom we shall meet at the day of judgment. He will not turn another face. The Jesus who bid us come to Him because He was meek and lowly of heart... is the same Jesus who shall return and judge us. We note the bald reference to "Jesus", without any title, not even "Jesus Christ". This is unusual. The Lord is nearly always described as something more than plain "Jesus". Especially as "Jesus" was one of the most common male names in Palestine at the time, as common as 'Jose' in Mexico or 'Mohammed' in the Middle East. It's as if the Angels wished to emphasis that indeed it will be "this same Jesus" whom they had known in His humanity who would return. We see the Lord labouring the same point by addressing the disciples as "boys" or 'guys' after His resurrection; and calling God "My father.... your father... my God and your God". He stressed, thereby, the continuity between who He had been as a man and who He eternally is now He has Divine nature. "This same Jesus" is literally "This Jesus". It is the same Greek term as was written on the cross: "This is Jesus..." (Mt. 27:37). The Jesus who died on the cross was the One who ascended and who shall return- with the same love and desire to save. This is why the returned Lord is still described as a lamb, not solely as a lion. He returns with the 'wrath of the lamb', not the wrath of the lion. Perhaps Paul had some appreciation of this when we read that "the Christ [had to] suffer and rise from the dead, saying: This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ" (Acts 17:3). Paul spoke of "this Jesus" as if he were referring to a person actually present amongst them. Paul's preaching was totally Christ centered. "This Jesus" who was presented by Paul at that point as alive, let's say in around AD50... was the same Jesus who had suffered and resurrected in AD33.

Shall return in like manner as you saw him going into heaven- The same Jesus who went into Heaven will so come again in like manner. The record three times says the same thing. The “like manner” in which the Lord will return doesn’t necessarily refer to the way He gradually ascended up in to the sky, in full view of the gazing disciples. He was to return in the “like manner” to what they had seen. Yet neither those disciples nor the majority of the Lord’s people will literally see Him descending through the clouds at His return- for they will be dead. But we will ‘see’ Him at His return “in like manner” as He was when on earth. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. The Jesus who loved little children and wept over Jerusalem's self-righteous religious leaders, so desirous of their salvation, is the One who today mediates our prayers and tomorrow will confront us at judgment day.

1:12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near to Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey- In obedience to the command to remain in Jerusalem until they were given the Spirit (:4). I suggested on Lk. 24:50 that the Lord’s ascension was from Bethany, and that perhaps they had gone out to the nearby mountain to see if they could still see Him.

1:13 And when they arrived, they went into the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James- The definite article suggests this was a well-known, specific meeting place. We note how Peter is always placed first in the lists of disciples. He, the most unstable and apparently least qualified for leadership, was the one chosen by the Lord as the leader of the pack. And He works with the same style today.

1:14- see on Acts 2:42.
These all with one accord- There are a number of words and phrases which keep cropping up in Acts, especially in the early chapters, which are kind of hallmarks of that early ecclesia. “With one accord” is one such. We begin in Acts 1:14: "These all continued with one accord in prayer". Then 2:1: "When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place".  Now over to v.46: "Continuing daily with one accord... breaking bread... with... singleness of heart". And on to 4:24: "They lifted up their voice to God with one accord". Now to 5:12: "They were all with one accord in Solomon's porch". There is another example in 15:25 too. So it's quite obvious, then, that the fact the early ecclesia was "with one accord" in those early, heady days is stamped as a hallmark over this record. But this phrase "with one accord" is also used in Acts about the united hatred of the world against those early brethren and sisters. The Jews ran upon Stephen "with one accord" (7:52), those of Tyre and Sidon were "with one accord" (12:20), "The Jews made insurrection against Paul with one accord" in Corinth (18:12), and at Ephesus the mob "rushed with one accord" against Paul (19:29). The same Greek word is used in all these cases (and it scarcely occurs outside Acts). It's quite obvious that we are intended to visualise that early ecclesia as being "with one accord". But we are also supposed to imagine the world around them “with one accord" being against them. The difference between them and the world was vast. The world was actively united against them, and thereby they came to be strongly united with each other.  

Continued earnestly in prayer with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers- Mary is portrayed as somehow separate from the other ministering women. It would have been psychologically impossible, or at best very hard, for the mother of the Lord to hang around with them. The group dynamics would have been impossible. Likewise in Acts 1:14 we have “the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus”, as if she is separate from them. She followed Him to Cana, uninvited, and also to Capernaum. Next she is at the cross risking her life, but she isn't among the women who went to the grave. Why not? It was surely natural that she would go there, and that the other women would go with her to comfort her. But she was a loner; either she went alone, as I think I would have tried to, or she just couldn’t face contact with the others and simply hid away. And could it be that Jesus, in recognition of her unique perception of Him, appeared to her first privately, in a rightfully unrecorded meeting? But by Acts 1:14, she was in the upper room, as if His death led her to be more reconciled to her brethren, to seek to get along with them... although by nature, in her heart and soul, she was a loner, maybe almost reclusive. A struggler to understand. A meditator, a reflector, who just wanted to be alone, one of those who take their energy from themselves rather than from other people.  

1:15 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons) and said- Is that all the Lord's miracles and ministry in Jerusalem had converted? It was from that apparently slender response that Christianity was born. So paucity of response to our message should be no discouragement. The AV is more literally accurate here: "the number of names together were...". This phrase recalls the description of the numbering of Israel in the OT, especially in Numbers 1, where the phrase "the number of names" occurs many times. Here was a new Israel formed, and being numbered so that they could go forward and inherit the Kingdom. See on 3:7.

1:16 Brothers- The believers are addressed as "brothers" here and in Acts 15:13; and yet the same phrase is then used about an unbaptized crowd of people who were listening to the Gospel being preached (Acts 2:29; 3:17; 13:26,38). It is also used in addressing those who in no way believed the Gospel (Acts 7:2; 22:1; 23:1,5). We note that Paul was called "brother" by Ananias even before he was baptized (Acts 9:17; 22:13); and Paul's reasoning in 1 Cor.  8:7-13 seems to suggest that he saw "every man" as his "brother", and sought not to put a stumbling block in the way of any and every member of the general public, whom he also calls "brother". This was surely because the early brethren had learnt the lesson taught to Peter; that they were to see all men as potentially cleansed in Christ, seeing that Christ died for all, and individuals are to be invited by us to accept that cleansing- in Peter's case, through extending table fellowship to them. The simple picture is that the early church was not so hung up as we may be today regarding whom they addressed as brother.

It was necessary that the Scripture should be fulfilled- Peter is quoting here from the Lord's recent words in Lk. 24:44, that the Scriptures must [s.w. 'necessary'] be fulfilled about Him.

Which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David- A classic statement concerning the process of Divine inspiration of the Bible.

Concerning Judas, who was guide to those that took Jesus- The way Judas led the armed men to take or seize Jesus in Gethsemane was etched in Peter's memory; the shock of realizing Judas' betrayal would have been enormous.

1:17 For he was numbered among us and received his part in this ministry- Alluding to Is. 14:10 LXX, where the King of Babylon is described as a star which fell from the sky and is met by the kings of the earth, who comment that he was now "numbered with us". The disciples saw Judas as the "guide" or leader of those who killed Jesus (:16), and saw him as having left leadership amongst the Lord's people for a place of leadership amongst the people of His enemies. This helps us better understand how Judas is described as 'satan', the adversary, and how he is presented as personified evil.

1:18 Now this man obtained a field with the reward of his iniquity, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out- See on Mt. 27:7. The way Judas "burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out" (Acts 1:18) may not be only a description of a bungled suicide. "Bowels” is elsewhere always used figuratively. One wonders whether it doesn't also describe how he fell down headlong, as Saul did when he knew his condemnation, and burst asunder within him, and poured out his heart in desperation, in the very pathetic little field he had bought for the price of the Son of God. In an utterly terrible figure, Ezekiel describes the condemnation of Israel as them being a woman trying to pluck off her own breasts (Ez. 23:34). This was and will be the extent of self-hatred and desperation. She will be alienated from her lovers of this world, and God's mind will be alienated from her (Ez. 23:17,18,22). The utter aloneness of the condemned is impossible to plumb.

1:19 And it became known to all the dwellers at Jerusalem, so much so that in their language that field was called Akeldama, that is, The field of blood- “What will you give me…?” suggests that Judas’ motive was partly financial. And all he could buy with it was a muddy clay field which became worthless, which nobody else wanted to own anyway. The suicide of Judas and the way he had bought or been given a field for his evil work became known to all. It was impossible for the Jews to disguise the fact that what they had done was known by all, and all their plotting had not been blessed but had come to an unpleasant and embarrassing end. They really had no option but to repent and accept the risen Lord; but their pride was too great. “Akeldama” has been linked to the name of the field where the young men of David and Saul died in their own blood when they tried to take the Kingdom immediately in the wrong way (2 Sam. 2:16). We note that the Aramaic “Akeldama” was the “proper tongue” of the Jerusalem dwellers. They would have claimed to be true Hebrews; but in truth they were part Gentile in God’s eyes, hence their true language is called Aramaic. It was the “dwellers at Jerusalem” who later repented and were converted by Peter in chapter 2; their consciences began to be touched by hearing of the tragedy of Judas, and how deeply unblessed was all connected with him.

1:20 For it is written in the book of Psalms: Let his habitation be made desolate and let no one dwell therein, and his office let another take - The condemnation of Jewry for crucifying Christ in Ps. 69:25 ("let their habitation be desolate") is quoted in the singular about Judas in Acts 1:20. What was true of Judas was also true of Israel in general; in the same way as the pronouns used about Judas merge from singular into plural in Ps. 55:13-15 ("a man mine equal... let death seize upon them"), as also in Ps. 109:3 cp. v.8.

Psalm 109 is a prophecy of Christ’s betrayal and death (:8 = Acts 1:20). The satans (“adversaries”) of the Lord Jesus which the Psalm speaks of (:4,20,29) were the Jews, and the specific ‘Satan’ of v. 6 was Judas. Psalm 55:13–15 foretells Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. It speaks of Judas in the singular, but also talk of his work as being done by a group of people – the Jews, in practice: “It was you, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together... let death seize them (plural), and let them go down quickly into hell” (cp. Judas’ end). Likewise the other prophecy of Judas’ betrayal also connects him with the Jewish system: “My own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread (cp. Jesus passing the sop to Judas), has lifted up his heel against me. But You, O Lord, be merciful unto me, and raise me up, that I may requite them” (Ps. 41:9,10). Thus Judas is being associated with the Jews who wanted to kill Jesus, and therefore he, too, is called a Devil. Both Judas and the Jews were classic ‘devils’ due to their surrender to the flesh. This is further confirmed by a look as Psalm 69. Verse 22 is quoted in Romans 11:9,10 concerning the Jews: “Let their table become a snare before them... let their eyes be darkened”. The passage continues in Psalm 69:25: “Let their habitation be desolate; let none dwell in their tents”. This is quoted in Acts 1:16,20 as referring specifically to Judas, but the pronouns are changed accordingly: “This scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas... Let his [singular] habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishopric let another take”.

Ps. 109:8 is quoted in Acts 1:20 concerning Judas, suggesting that the preceding v.6 reveals Christ's thoughts about him: "Set Thou a wicked man over him: and let satan stand at his right hand", implying that Jesus prayed for the Jewish satan to help or co-operate with Judas (which is how the idiom of standing at the right hand is used in Ps. 109:31). This is tantamount to not praying that Judas would overcome the advances of the Jews which the Lord would have been aware they were making. But he could encourage Peter that he had prayed for him to resist these advances (Lk. 22:32). The whole of Ps. 109 is a prayer requesting the punishment of Judas, asking God to confirm him in his supreme apostasy: "Let his prayer become sin" (Ps. 109:7). The last section of the Psalm (109:22-29) describes Christ's sufferings on the cross in language that has many connections with Ps.22 and 69; and as with them there is a sudden breakthrough at the end into looking forward to praising God "among the multitude" (Ps. 109:30), as there is in Ps. 22:22. This may mean that it was on the cross that the enormity of Judas' sin was fully realized by Christ, although he had previously recognized it to some degree before the cross (Jn. 19:11; Mt. 26:24). 

1:21 Therefore, of the men that have been with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and went out among us- Only two men fitted the requirement. But we hear nothing of either of them in the Gospel records. That demonstrates that when we read of "the twelve" experiencing various things, being in the boat with Jesus, the breaking of bread, the feeding miracles etc., there were at least these two men also present- and probably many others at various points of the ministry, although only these two individuals were consistently present all the time.

1:22 Beginning from the baptism of John, to the day that he was received up from us, of these must one become a witness with us of his resurrection- This means that Joseph and Matthias were also present at the last supper; this is one of many reasons for rejecting the idea that the supper was a closed table strictly for the twelve. Without wishing to be unduly critical of the disciples at this point, it is surely so that a witness of the resurrection was all the same a witness, whether or not they were confirmed as such. One is a witness of what they have seen, regardless of whether they are officially appointed as such. This is one of several reasons for having some unease at the path taken here and the drawing of lots, to the point that I feel we cannot reliably also draw lots to decide whom to appoint.    

1:23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus; and Matthias- The problem with democracy and choices by lot is the selection of the candidates. “Put forward” is the word for “appointed”. They decided on the candidates. Perhaps they were the only two who fitted the criteria of :22; but it seems it was the disciples themselves who chose those parameters for choice. The whole incident seemed unnecessary; we never hear of these brethren again in the record. We do note however that Peter is described as “standing up with the eleven” (2:14), suggesting they stood as a group of twelve and therefore the replacement disciple stood with them at that point.

1:24 And they prayed, and said: Lord, you who knows the hearts of all men, show us which of these two is the one whom you have chosen- It could be argued that giving God a binary choice like this was as it were forcing His hand, and therefore the result was invalid. And we don't hear any more about Matthias, with the term 'disciple' and 'apostle' being used about a far wider community than the original 'twelve', as if the significance of having been in the 'twelve' was somehow lessened as the ministry of the Spirit developed.

1:25 To take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas fell away, that he might go to his own place- The contrast is with his "place" in the ministry mentioned at the beginning of the verse. The rejected have their own individual condemnation, because so much of the plain of it will be because of their own personal reflection on "the place" they might have had, compared to "the place" of condemnation and rejection. But the allusion is clearly to the description of Balaam in Num. 24:25 "And Balaam returned to his own place". The motivation of Balaam for his apostacy was clearly money; and we are thereby steered towards understanding money as being a significant factor in Judas' motivation. Again and again, we marvel that men can do what they do for the sake of the hope of wealth in this brief life. "What will you give me...", the way he began betraying the Lord after the incident involving wealth at the anointing at Bethany, the note that he was a thief and stole what was in the common purse and the way he cast down the coins into the treasury all support that understanding of Judas.

1:26 And they cast lots for them; and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles- As noted on :21,22 and :23, the whole process here seems somewhat lacking in solid Biblical and procedural support, and would in my judgment be unsafe to use as justification for using lots.