Thank you for joining me in this first installment of The Acts Challenge!
It’s going to be a wonderful experience, journeying through these words with the disciples and apostles. We’ll learn exactly what the New Testament Church of Acts was like after Jesus’ ascension, some of their struggles, and see ways they overcame all that was against them.
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(Vs. 1) The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,
The first thing I picked up on in this verse of Acts 1 is that “treatise” comes from the Greek word, “logos,” (Strongs G3056). It is also translated – in many other places actually – meaning “word”. In fact, it is translated, in the King James Version of the Bible, 218 times as word, 50 times as saying, 8 times as account, 7 times as Word/Christ, and 5 times as thing.
The actual definition is fairly lengthy. To give you a shortened version, it means, among other things, “a word uttered by a living voice, a decree, prophecy given by a prophet, the act of speaking as in instruction, an act of thinking, without speaking at all, and a cause.”
Theophilus means “friend of God” and Luke addresses both his Gospel as well as the book of Acts to this person. The New Testament only mentions his name twice and there is a lot of debate concerning his true identity. Some say a priest, some a lawyer, and many others, but I won’t attempt to subscribe to either of them as I have not studied that out.
The word “teach” (Strong’s G1321) means, literally, teach, mentioned 93 times and taught 4 times. There are no other translations, but this means “to teach, instruct, instill doctrine, expound, and explain”.
Acts, Apostles & Ambassadors
(Vs. 2) Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen.
Jesus chose his Apostles carefully. It all started when he first called Peter and Andrew, back in the Gospels (Matthew Chapter 4). Because of this choosing, many people think that everything that happened in the New Testament, and especially in the book of Acts, STOPPED with those Twelve, but nothing could be further from the truth.
The original Greek word used here for “apostle” is Strong’s G652: apostolos. It means “a delegate, specifically an ambassador of the Gospel, a commissioner of Christ with miraculous powers.”
We’ve heard the word “ambassador” before, haven’t we? In fact, I’ve spoken of it here on my blog previously.
Paul talks about it in 2 Corinthians 5:19-21 when he says, (19) To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. (20) Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. (21) For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
I love the part where he says, “As though God did beseech you by us…” This means that God works (worked) through those ORIGINAL Apostles to “beseech” (which means to invite or call, Strongs G3870) US into reconciliation to God. And if He could work through them, that means the WORK continues!
Infallible Proof & The Holy Ghost
(Vs. 3) To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:
The word here for “kingdom” is Strong’s G932 (from G935): basileia. This means, literally, “royalty, rule, or realm.” God had something in mind!
(Vs. 4) And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.
(Vs. 5) For John truly baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
(Vs. 6) When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
(Vs. 7) And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
One could break down Acts 1, verses 6 & 7 into enough detail to take up an entire blog post of their own. However, we’ll suffice it to look at the fact that the disciples were getting political in a sort of “last ditch effort.”
We know that some of the disciples had been “zealots” for Jewish theocracy. While they had originally expected Jesus to take care of their “situation” with the Romans, they realized that hadn’t happened. But that didn’t stop them from hoping it would still be accomplished in their lifetime.
Jesus only addressed their question by telling them it wasn’t for them to know the period of time nor the timing in general of something that was solely up to God alone. And the next verses focused on what He REALLY wanted them to concern themselves with…
Acts & Witnesses In Power
(Vs. 8) But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
This is Jesus speaking in Acts 1, verse 8, and this is His assurance of the coming Comforter. But, breaking down the word meanings, we see the there is so much more. Power, for instance, comes from the word “dunamis” (Strong’s G1411) which means a “force, miraculous power, ability, abundant might, and violent strength.”
This is exactly what comes to those who receive the Holy Ghost, which we’ll look at in greater detail in coming chapters. After the Holy Ghost came, He said, they would witnesses, in a very literal sense, into even the uttermost parts of the world.
Now, if Jesus were ONLY talking about those 12 disciples, how could they possibly witness for Jesus into “the uttermost part of the earth?” We will consider that question further as well.
Jesus Taken Up
(Vs. 9) And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
(Vs. 10) And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel.
(Vs. 11) Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
Can you imagine, watching Jesus taken up into heaven, into a cloud? But you know what’s interesting about this particular cloud? It is the same kind of cloud, according to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, that went before the Israelites through the wilderness! To me, that’s exciting!
Even more exciting is the fact that the “men” (angels) said that Jesus would return in the same way that these disciples watched Him go. In a cloud!
A Sabbath Day’s Journey
(Vs. 12) Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey.
Here’s something that I always just skimmed over and never thought about much until the Lord drew my attention to it. What IS a “Sabbath day’s journey”?
According to Oxford Biblical Studies, a Sabbath day’s journey equaled roughly three-quarters of a mile, or 2,000 cubits. This is how far a Jew could travel on the Sabbath. There is also some interesting reading on this found on the Bible History website.
In One Accord
(Vs. 13) And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.
(Vs. 14) These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.
I love the fact that they “all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication.” There was a kind of unity in that New Testament Church that you just can’t find easily today. Corporate prayer, the old fashioned “prayer line” and the family altar are all but gone. Few are preaching their necessity, and even fewer contributing to the actual walking out of these age-old traditions.
I have to wonder, what miraculous things could God do through a willing people who were obedient to seek Him in prayer regularly in the congregation? And more still, if all the people were IN ONE ACCORD?
Peter Speaks About the Acts of Judas
(Vs. 15) And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)
(Vs. 16) Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.
(Vs. 17) For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.
(Vs. 18) Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.
We all know the story of how Judas hung himself. But in reading this Scripture, I have to wonder how he purchased this field “with the reward of iniquity”?
Matthew Chapter 27 tells of how Judas “repented himself” and brought the money back to the chief priests and elders. When they wouldn’t take it back, Judas threw it on the floor, left, and hung himself.
I suppose it’s possible, according to how these stories play out in the Word, that Peter didn’t know the entirety of what happened. There’s no reason to believe that Judas’s return to the chief priests would have been noised abroad because the didn’t want people to know that they knew they had convicted and killed an innocent man.
More On the Death of Judas
(Vs. 19) And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.
(Vs. 20) For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.
Choosing A Stand-In
(Vs. 21) Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
(Vs. 22) Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.
This tells us that there were many more who had journeyed with Jesus and His disciples who did not receive recognition in the Gospels. We don’t always get “the full story” until we sift through the entirety of the Word, and this is just a great example of that.
(Vs. 23) And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.
(Vs. 24) And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou has chosen.
(Vs. 25) That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.
(Vs. 26) And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
Please feel free to share your thoughts below! And thank you for reading!
Ever In His Service,