Acts: Chapter 1

Major Theme:

  • Ascension: The Ascension is often passed by Christians when thinking about Jesus’ redemption of humanity. We think of his birth, life, death, resurrection, and his second coming. But, a pivotal moment in the redemption of man was Jesus Christ’s ascension into Heaven. In the ascension the first human body was elevated into heaven, paving the way to God for mankind! Peter Leithart wrote on this saying, “It was common in the early church’s theology that Jesus took our humanity to the throne of heaven. The novelty of the ascension is not that the Son of God reigns. That’s as old as eternity. The novelty that astonishes the angels is the elevation of human nature to the throne of God. And the New Testament makes it clear that the members of Christ—his disciples who trust, love, and follow him—are elevated along with him. We, not just Jesus, are enthroned in heaven (Ephesians 2:6). Our lives are hid with Christ in heaven (Colossians 3:1).” Think on this while you read the entirety of Acts. Jesus has ascended, and he has brought humanity with him; you’re life is hid in him! Knowing this gives us the confidence to preach his gospel!

People:

  • Theophilis (vs. 1): “(friend of God) the person to whom St. Luke inscribes his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1) From the honorable epithet applied to him in (Luke 1:3) it has been argued with much probability that he was a person in high official position. All that can be conjectured with any degree of safety concerning him comes to this, that he was a Gentile of rank and consideration who came under the influence of St. Luke or under that of St. Paul at Rome, and was converted to the Christian faith.” Theophilis was himself a Gentile convert of the early church and in a way represents us. Luke is writing to Theophilus and by the Spirit is writing to us to build us up in our faith in Christ to the glory of God the Father! Luke wants us to see how the Spirit works in conjunction with the local church to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the love of God.

  • Peter (vs. 15): “The second period, from the ascension of Christ to the conversion of Paul, is more briefly sketched. After the ascension, of which Peter was doubtless a witness, he "stood up in the midst of the brethren" in the upper room in Jerusalem to counsel the choice of a successor to Judas (Acts 1:15-26). On the day of Pentecost he preaches the first gospel sermon (Acts 2), and later, in company with John, instrumentally heals the lame man, addresses the people in the Temple, is arrested, defends himself before the Sanhedrin and returns to his "own company" (Acts 3; Acts 4). He is again arrested and beaten (Acts 5); after a time he is sent by the church at Jerusalem to communicate the Holy Spirit to the disciples at Samaria (Acts 8). Returning to Jerusalem (where presumably Paul visits him, Galatians 1:18), he afterward journeys "throughout all parts," heals Aeneas at Lydda, raises Dorcas from the dead at Joppa, sees a vision upon the housetop which influences him to preach the gospel to the Gentile centurion at Caesarea, and explains this action before "the apostles and the brethren that were in Judea" (Acts 9:32-41; Acts 11; chapter 11).

    After a while another persecution arose against the church, and Herod Agrippa, having put James to death, imprisons Peter with the thought of executing him also. Prayer is made by the church on his behalf, however, and miraculous deliverance is given him (Acts 12). Retiring for a while from public attention, he once more comes before us in the church council at Jerusalem, when the question is to be settled as to whether works are needful to salvation, adding his testimony to that of Paul and Barnabas in favor of justification by faith only (Acts 15).

    ...Little more is authentically known of Peter, except that he traveled more or less extensively, being accompanied by his wife (1 Corinthians 9:5), and that he wrote two epistles, the second of which was penned as he approached the end of his life (2 Peter 1:12-15).”

  • Matthias (vs 23): (gift of God), “the apostle elected to fill the place of the traitor Judas. (Acts 1:26) All beyond this that we know of him for certainty is that he had been a constant attendant upon the Lord Jesus during the whole course of his ministry; for such was declared by St. Peter to be the necessary qualification of one who was to be a witness of the resurrection. It is said that he preached the gospel and suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia.”

Culture:

Places:

  • Mount of Olives: “The Mount of Olives is a mountain ridge on the east of Jerusalem (1 Kings 11:7; Ezek. 11:23; Zech. 14:4), from which it is separated by the valley of Kidron. It is first mentioned in connection with David’s flight from Jerusalem through the rebellion of Absalom (2 Sam. 15:30), and is only once again mentioned in the Old Testament, in Zech. 14:4. It is, however, frequently alluded to (1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 23:13; Neh. 8:15; Ezek. 11:23). It is frequently mentioned in the New Testament (Matt. 21:1; 26:30, etc.). It now bears the name of Jebel et-Tur, i.e., “Mount of the Summit;” also sometimes called Jebel ez-Zeitun, i.e., “Mount of Olives.” It is about 200 feet above the level of the city. The road from Jerusalem to Bethany runs as of old over this mount. It was on this mount that Jesus stood when he wept over Jerusalem. “No name in Scripture,” says Dr. Porter, “calls up associations at once so sacred and so pleasing as that of Olivet. The ‘mount’ is so intimately connected with the private, the devotional life of the Saviour, that we read of it and look at it with feelings of deepest interest and affection. Here he often sat with his disciples, telling them of wondrous events yet to come, of the destruction of the Holy City; of the sufferings, the persecution, and the final triumph of his followers (Matt. 24). Here he gave them the beautiful parables of the ten virgins and the five talents (25); here he was wont to retire on each evening for meditation, and prayer, and rest of body, when weary and harassed by the labours and trials of the day (Luke 21:37); and here he came on the night of his betrayal to utter that wonderful prayer, ‘O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt’ (Matt. 26:39). And when the cup of God’s wrath had been drunk, and death and the grave conquered, he led his disciples out again over Olivet as far as to Bethany, and after a parting blessing ascended to heaven (Luke 24:50, 51; Acts 1:12).”

Cultural Background:

  • Women in Worship: Every Gospel book brings women into the central story of God’s redemption. The story of the Gospel is one of men and women as partners, as brothers and sisters. This is very important, because in the ancient world, women were not treated as equal partners but tools of pleasure and propagation. All gospel writers make this known, but none more than Luke. The Pulpit Commentary writes, “St. Luke, in his Gospel, makes frequent mention of the women who followed our Lord, and generally of things that happened to women (see Luke 23:27, 49, 55; Luke 24:10, 22, etc. See also Luke 7:37, etc.; Luke 8:23; 10:38, 42; etc.). We notice the same tendency in the Acts, here, and in Acts 2:17, 18; Acts 5:14; Acts 9:36; Acts 12:13; Acts 16:14, 16; Acts 17:4, 34; Acts 18:26; Acts 21:9; Acts 24:24; Acts 25:23; etc. Mary the mother of Jesus also appears as humbly joining in the prayers of the Church.” Luke wants the church to know that women faithfully stayed by Jesus’ side when he died, were the first to witness his resurrection, and were equal partners in the church and its growth. Women are essential to the story of mankind and its redemption. Women throughout the whole book will pray for, act on, serve, and teach the Gospel from Chapter 1 to Chapter 28.

Contemplating God:

Attribute:

  • A Covenantal God: Acts 1 is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel that he would pour out his Spirit over the earth. In Jesus’ death burial, resurrection, and ascension, God paved the way to send his Spirit back into Humanity. Humanity  lost the Spirit of God in the Garden of Eden by eating from the forbidden tree, and in Jesus’s death on a tree and his resurrection from the Garden tomb, he restored fellowship between God and man. Acts 1 teaches us that God fulfills his promises, and this gives us confidence to fulfill the mission he has given us here on earth. Amen!

Voices of the Past:

“But He came down to clothe the Apostles with power, and to baptize them; for the Lord says, you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. This grace was not in part, but His power was in full perfection; for as he who plunges into the waters and is baptized is encompassed on all sides by the waters, so were they also baptized completely by the Holy Ghost. Water during baptism flows round the outside of the body only, but the Spirit also baptizes the soul completely. Take an example from nature...If a fire is passing in through a piece of iron, it makes the whole of it burning hot, so that what was cold becomes burning and what was dark  is made bright orange with heat— if a fire can penetrates without any hindrance a piece of iron, how much more can the Holy Ghost enters into the very inmost recesses of your soul?” - Cyril of Jerusalem

Footnotes:

Leithart, Peter. “Ascent, Descent, and Human Destiny.” firstthings.com.

Smith’s Bible Dictionary. “Thephilus.”

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. “Simon Peter.” Second Period.

Smith’s Bible Dictionary. “Matthiass.”

Easton Bible Dictionary. “Mount of Olives.” http://eastonsbibledictionary.org/2780-Olves_Mount_of.php.

The Pulpit Commentary, Acts 1:14.

Acts Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. Acts 1:1-6. Pg. 6.

Peter Elliott