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We are to read the Bible in order to understand God’s message to us. He speaks to us in plain language but there are times we need a helping hand in what we read. Commentaries are not just for preachers or seminary students. They are for us all. The Ultimate Commentary Collection is designed to bring you a variety of thoughts and insights from theologians of high renown and reputation. Their study of the Bible is of great help to us. We are presenting to you the studies and thoughts of 6 of the Church’s greatest minds: Albert Barnes – John Calvin – Adam Clarke – Matthew Henry – Charles H. Spurgeon – John Wesley. Their commentaries will help you understand, enjoy and apply what God’s word says to you. In addition to these commentaries you will also find all of Spurgeon’s sermons on this particular book of the Bible. This volume is The Ultimate Commentary On Acts.
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Chapter Two - Albert Barnes
Chapter Three - John Calvin
Chapter Four - Adam Clarke
Chapter Five - Matthew Henry
Chapter Six - Charles H. Spurgeon
Chapter Seven - Sermons Of Spurgeon
Chapter Eight - John Wesley
Bible Study Guide
Acts Chapter 1
Acts Chapter 2
Acts Chapter 3
Acts Chapter 4
Acts Chapter 5
Acts Chapter 6
Acts Chapter 7
Acts Chapter 8
Acts Chapter 9
Acts Chapter 10
Acts Chapter 11
Acts Chapter 12
Acts Chapter 13
Acts Chapter 14
Acts Chapter 15
Acts Chapter 16
Acts Chapter 17
Acts Chapter 18
Acts Chapter 19
Acts Chapter 20
Acts Chapter 21
Acts Chapter 22
Acts Chapter 23
Acts Chapter 24
Acts Chapter 25
Acts Chapter 26
Acts Chapter 27
Acts Chapter 28
Bible Study Guide
Introduction to Acts
There is no evidence that the title, “The Acts of the Apostles,” affixed to this book, was given by divine authority or by the writer himself. It is a title, however, which, with a little variation, has been given to it by the Christian church at all times. The term “Acts ” is not used, as it is sometimes with us, to denote decrees or laws, but it denotes the doings of the apostles. It is a record of what the apostles did in founding and establishing the Christian church. It is worthy of remark, however, that it contains chiefly a record of the actions of Peter and Paul. Peter was commissioned to open the doors of the Christian church to both Jews and Gentiles (see the note on Matthew 16:18-19); and Paul was chosen to bear the gospel especially to the pagan world. Since these two apostles were the most prominent and distinguished in founding and organizing the Christian church, it was deemed proper that a special and permanent record should be made of their labors. At the same time, occasional notices are given of the other apostles; but of their labors elsewhere than in Judea, and of their death, except that of James Acts 12:2, the sacred writers have given no information.
All antiquity is unanimous in ascribing this book to Luke as its author. It is repeatedly mentioned and quoted by the early Christian writers, and is mentioned as his work without a dissenting voice. The same thing is clear from the book itself. It professes to have been written by the same person who wrote a “former treatise,” addressed to the same person, Theophilus (compare Acts 1:1 with Luke 1:3), and it bears manifest marks of being from the same pen. It is designed evidently as a continuation of that Gospel, since, in this book, the author has taken up the history at the very time where he left it in the Gospel Acts 1:1-2.
Where, or at what time, this book was written, is not known with certainty. However, since the history is continued to the second year of the residence of Paul at Rome Acts 28:31, Acts was evidently written about as late as the year 62 a.d. And, since it makes no mention of the subsequent facts in the life of Paul, or of any other event of history, it seems clear that it was not written much after that time. It has been common, therefore, to fix the date of the book at about 63 a.d. It is also probable that it was written at Rome. In Acts 28:16 Luke mentions his own arrival at Rome with Paul. Since Luke does not mention his departure from that city, it is to be presumed that Acts was written there. Some have supposed that it was written at Alexandria in Egypt, but of that there is no sufficient evidence.
The canonical authority of this book rests upon the same foundation as that of the Gospel by the same author. Its authenticity has not been called in question at any time in the church.
This book has commonly been regarded as a history of the Christian church, and of course the first ecclesiastical history that was written. But it cannot have been designed as a general history of the church. Many important transactions have been omitted. It gives no account of the church at Jerusalem after the conversion of Paul; it omits his journey into Arabia Galatians 1:17; it gives no account of the propagation of the gospel in Egypt or in Babylon 1 Peter 5:13, or of the foundation of the church at Rome, or of many of Paul‘s voyages and shipwrecks 2 Corinthians 11:25; and, it omits the labors of most of the apostles, and confines the narrative chiefly to the transactions of Peter and Paul.
The design and importance of this history may be learned from the following particulars:
1. It contains “a record of the promised descent and operations of the Holy Spirit.” The Lord Jesus promised that after he had departed to heaven he would send the Holy Spirit to carry forward the great work of redemption, John 14:16-17; John 15:26; John 16:7-14. The apostles were directed to tarry in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high, Luke 24:49. The four Gospels contained a record of the life, instructions, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. But it is clear that he contemplated that the most signal triumphs of his gospel should take place after his ascension to heaven, and under the influence of the Holy Spirit. The descent of the Spirit, and his influence on the souls of men, was therefore a most important part of the work of redemption. Without an authentic, an inspired record of that, the account of the operations of God the Father, Son, and Spirit in the work of redemption would not have been complete. The purposes of the Father in regard to that plan were made known clearly in the Old Testament; the record of what the Son did in accomplishing it was contained in the Gospels; and some book was necessary that should contain a record of the actions of the Holy Spirit. Since the Gospels, therefore, may be regarded as a record of the work of Christ to save people, so may the Acts of the Apostles be considered as a record of the actions of the Holy Spirit in the same great work. Without that, the way in which the Spirit operates to renew and save would have been known very imperfectly.
2. This book is “an inspired account of the character of true revivals of religion.” It records the first revivals that occurred in the Christian church. The scene on the Day of Pentecost was one of the most remarkable displays of divine power and mercy that the world has ever known. It was the commencement of a series of stupendous movements on the earth to recover human beings. It was the true model of a revival of religion, and it is a demonstration that such scenes as have characterized our own age and nation especially are strictly in accordance with the spirit of the New Testament. The entire Book of the Acts of the Apostles records the effect of the gospel when it comes fairly in contact with the minds of people. The gospel was addressed to every class. It met the Jew and the Gentile, the bond and the free, the learned and the ignorant, the rich and the poor, and it showed its power everywhere in subduing the mind to itself. It was proper that some record should be preserved of the displays of that power, and that record we have in this book. And it was especially proper that there should be given by an inspired man an account of the descent of the Holy Spirit, “a record of a true revival of religion.” It was certain that the gospel would produce excitement. The human mind, as all experience shows, is prone to enthusiasm and fanaticism; and people might be disposed to pervert the gospel to scenes of wildfire, disorder, and tumult. That the gospel would produce excitement was well known to its Author. It was well, therefore, that there should be some record to which the church might always appeal as an infallible account of the proper effects of the gospel, some inspired standard to which might be brought all excitements on the subject of religion. If they are in accordance with the first triumphs of the gospel, they are genuine; if not, they are false.
3. This book shows that “revivals of religion are to be expected in the church.” If they existed in the best and purest days of Christianity, they are to be expected now. If, by means of revivals, the Holy Spirit chose at first to bless the preaching of the truth, the same thing is to be expected. still. If in this way the gospel was at first spread among the nations, then we are to infer that this will be the mode in which it will finally spread and triumph in the world.
4. The Acts of the Apostles contains a record of the organization of the Christian church. That church was founded simply by the proclamation of the truth, and chiefly by a simple statement of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The “Acts of the Apostles” contains the highest models of preaching, and the purest specimens of that simple, direct, and pungent manner of addressing people, which may be expected to be attended with the influences of the Holy Spirit. It contains some of the most tender, powerful, and eloquent appeals to be found in any language. If a man wishes to learn how to preach well he can probably acquire it nowhere else so readily as by giving himself to the prayerful and profound study of the specimens of preaching contained in this book. At the same time we have here a view of the character of the true church of Christ. The simplicity of this church must strike every reader of “the Acts.” Religion is represented as a work of the heart, the pure and proper effect of truth on the mind. It is free from pomp and splendor, and from costly and magnificent ceremonies. There is no apparatus to impress the senses, no splendor to dazzle, no external rite or parade adapted to draw the affections from the pure and spiritual worship of God. How unlike to the pomp and parade of pagan worship! How unlike the vain and pompous ceremonies which have since, alas, crept into no small part of the Christian church!
5. In this book we have many striking and impressive illustrations of what the gospel is suited to produce, to make people self-denying and benevolent. The apostles engaged in the great enterprise of converting the world. To secure that, they cheerfully forsook everything. Paul became a convert to the Christian faith, and, for that, cheerfully gave up all his hopes of preferment and honor, and welcomed toil and privation in foreign lands. Compare Philemon 3:4-11, 2 Corinthians 11:24-27. The early converts had all things in common Acts 2:44; those “which used curious arts,” and were gaining property by a course of iniquity, forsook their schemes of ill-gotten gain, and burned their books publicly Acts 19:19; Ananias and Sapphira were punished for attempting to impose on the apostles by hypocritical, professed self-denials Acts 5:1-10; and throughout the book there occur constant instances of sacrifices and toil to spread the gospel around the globe. Indeed, these great truths had manifestly seized upon the minds of the early Christians: that the gospel was to be preached to all nations; that whatever stood in the way of that was to be sacrificed; that whatever toils and dangers were necessary were to be borne; and that even death itself was cheerfully to be met if it would promote the spread of true religion. Therefore, this was genuine Christianity. This is still the spirit of the gospel of Christ.
6. This book throws important light on the Epistles. It is a connecting link between the Gospels and the other parts of the New Testament. Instances of this will be noticed in the notes. One of the most clear and satisfactory evidences of the genuineness of the books of the New Testament is to be found in the undesigned coincedences between the Acts and the Epistles. This argument was first clearly stated and illustrated by Dr. Paley. His little work, the Horae Paulinae, which illustrates it, is one of the most indisputable proofs which have yet been furnished of the truth of the Christian religion.
7. This book contains incontrovertible evidence of the truth of Christianity. It is a record of its early triumphs. Within the space of 30 years after the death of Christ the gospel had been carried to all parts of the civilized and to no small portion of the uncivilized world. Its progress and its triumphs were not concealed. Its great transactions were not “done in a corner.” It had been preached in the most splendid, powerful, and enlightened cities; churches were already founded in Jerusalem, Antioch, Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, and at Rome. The gospel had spread in Arabia, Asia Minor, Greece, Macedon, Italy, and Africa. It had assailed the most mighty existing institutions. It had made its way over the most formidable barriers. It had encountered the most deadly and malignant opposition. It had traveled to the capital (Rome), and had secured such a hold even in the imperial city as to make it certain that it would finally overturn the established religion and seat itself upon the ruins of paganism.
Within 30 years, it had settled the point that it would overturn every bloody altar, close every pagan temple, bring under its influence everywhere the men of office, rank, and power, and that “the banners of the faith would soon stream from the palaces of the Caesars.” All this would be accomplished by the instrumentality of Jews - of fishermen - of Nazarenes. They did not have either wealth, armies, or allies. With the exception of Paul, they were people without much education. They were taught only by the Holy Spirit, armed only with the power of God, victorious only because Christ was their Captain, and the world acknowledged the presence of the messengers of the Highest One and the power of the Christian religion. Its success never has been, and never can be accounted for by any other supposition than that God Himself attended it! And if the Christian religion is not true, the change which was brought about by the twelve apostles is the most inexplicable, mysterious, and wonderful event that has ever been witnessed in this world. Their success will stand until the end of time as an argument for the truth of God‘s overall plan (see 2 Corinthians 13:8). It will always confound the infidel. And, it will forever sustain the Christian with the assured belief that this is a religion which has proceeded from the all-powerful and infinitely benevolent God.
ALBERT BARNES COMMENTARY CONTENTS
Acts Chapter 1
The former treatise - The former book. The Gospel of Luke is here evidently intended. Greek: the former λόγος logosmeaning “a discourse,” or “a narrative.”
O Theophilus - See the notes on Luke 1:3. Since this book was written to the same individual as the former, it was evidently written with the same design to furnish an authentic and full narrative of events concerning which there would be many imperfect and exaggerated accounts. See Luke 1:1-4. Since these events pertained to the descent of the Spirit, to the spread of the gospel, to the organization of the church, to the kind of preaching by which the church was to be collected and organized, and as the facts in the case constituted a full proof of the truth of the Christian religion, and the conduct of the apostles would be a model for ministers and the church in all future times, it was of great importance that a fair and full narrative of these things should be preserved. Luke was the companion of Paul in his travels, and was an eye-witness of no small part of the transactions recorded in this book. See Acts 16:10, Acts 16:17; Acts 20:1-6; Acts 13:10; 1 Timothy 1:16; James 1:2; Matthew 2:3; Matthew 3:5; Acts 2:5; Romans 11:26; Colossians 1:6. In each of these places the word here translated “all” occurs in the original, and means “many, a large part, the principal portion.” It has the same use in all languages. “This word often signifies, indefinitely, a large portion or number, or a great part” (Webster).
That Jesus - The Syriac Version adds, “Jesus our Messiah.” This version was probably made in the second century.
Began to do … - This is a Hebrew form of expression; meaning the same thing as that Jesus did and taught. See Genesis 9:20, “Noah began to be a farmer,” that is, was a farmer. Genesis 2:3, in the Septuagint: “Which God began to create and make”; in the Hebrew, “which God created and made.” Mark 4:7, “began to send them forth by two and two,” that is, sent them forth. See also Mark 10:32; Mark 14:65, “And some began to spit on him”; in the parallel place in Matthew 26:67, “they did spit in his face.”
To do - This refers to his miracles and his acts of benevolence, including all that he did for man‘s salvation. It probably includes, therefore, his sufferings, death, and resurrection, as a part of what he has done to save people.
To teach - His doctrines. As the writer had given an account of what the Lord Jesus did, so he was now about to give a narrative of what his apostles did in the same cause, that thus the world might be in possession of an inspired record respecting the establishment of the Christian church. The record of these events preserved in the sacred narrative is one of the greatest blessings that God has conferred on mankind; and one of the highest privileges which people can enjoy is that which has been conferred so abundantly on this age in the possession of the Word of God.
Until the day - The 40th day after the resurrection, Acts 1:3. See Luke 24:51.
In which he was taken up - In which he ascended to heaven. He was taken up into a cloud, and is represented as having been borne or carried to heaven, Acts 1:9.
After that … - This passage has been variously rendered. The Syriac translates it, “After he had given commandment unto the apostles whom he had chosen by the Holy Spirit.” So also the Ethiopic version. Others have joined the words “through the Holy Spirit” to the phrase “was taken up,” making it mean that he was taken up by the Holy Spirit. But the most natural and correct translation seems to be what is in our King James Version.
Through the Holy Ghost - To understand this, it is necessary to call to mind the promise that Jesus made before his death, that after his departure, the Holy Spirit would descend to be a guide to his apostles. See John 16:7-11, and the notes on that place. It was to be his office to carry forward the work of redemption in applying it to the hearts of people. Whatever was done, therefore, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, was to be regarded as under the unique influence and direction of the Holy Spirit. Even the instructions of Jesus and his commission to the apostles, were to be regarded as coming within the department of the sacred Spirit, or within the province of his unique work. The instructions were given by divine authority, by infallible guidance, and as a part of the work which the Holy Spirit was sent down to accomplish. Under the direction and guidance of that Spirit the apostles were to go forth; by his aid they were to preach the gospel, to organize the church, to establish its order and its doctrines; and hence, the entire work was declared to be by his direction. Though in his larger and more mighty influences the Spirit did not descend until the day of Pentecost (Luke 24:49; compare John 20:22.
Had given commandments - Particularly the command to preach the gospel to all nations, Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15-19. It may be worthy of remark, that the word “commandments,” as a noun in the plural number, does not occur in the original. The single word which is translated, “had given commandments” is a participle, and means simply “having commanded.” There is no need, therefore, of supposing that there is reference here to any other command than to that great and glorious injunction to preach the gospel to every creature. That was a command of so much importance as to be worthy of a distinct record, as constituting the sum of all that the Saviour taught them after his resurrection.
The apostles - The eleven that remained after the treason and death of Judas.
Whom he had chosen - Matthew 10:1-4; Luke 6:12-16.
He showed himself - The resurrection of Jesus was the great fact on which the truth of the gospel was to be established. Hence, the sacred writers so often refer to it, and establish it by so many arguments. As the fact of his resurrection lay at the foundation of all that Luke was about to record in his history, it was of importance that he should state clearly the sum of the evidence of it in the beginning of his work.
After his passion - After he suffered, referring particularly to his death as the consummation of his sufferings. The word “passion” with us means commonly excitement or agitation of mind, as love, hope, fear, anger, etc. The original means “after he suffered.” The word “passion,” applied to the Saviour, denotes his last sufferings. Thus, in the Litany of the Episcopal Church, it is beautifully said, “By thine agony and bloody sweat; by thy cross and passion, good Lord, deliver us.” The Greek word of the same derivation is rendered sufferings in 1 Peter 1:11; 1 Peter 4:13; Colossians 1:24.
By many infallible proofs - The word rendered here “infallible proofs” does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. In Greek authors it denotes an infallible sign or argument by which anything can be certainly known (Schleusner). Here it means the same - evidence that he was alive which could not deceive, or in which they could not be mistaken. That evidence consisted in his eating with them, conversing with them, meeting them at various times and places, working miracles John 21:6-7, and uniformly showing himself to be the same friend with whom they had been familiar for more than three years. This evidence was infallible:
(1) Because it was to them unexpected. They had manifestly not believed that he would rise again, John 20:25; Luke 24:19-24. There was, therefore, no delusion resulting from any expectation of seeing him, or from a design to impose on people.
(2) it was impossible that they could have been deceived in relation to one with whom they had been familiar for more than three years. No people in the possession of reason could be made to believe that they really saw, talked with, and ate with, a friend whom they had known so long and familiarly, unless it was real.
(3) there were enough of them to avoid the possibility of deception. Though it might be pretended that one man could be imposed on, yet it could not be that an imposition could be practiced for forty days on eleven men, who were all at first incredulous.
(4) he was with them sufficient time to give evidence of his personal identity. It might be pretended, if they had seen him but once, that they were deceived. But they saw him often, and for the space of more than a month.
(5) they saw him in various places and at times in which there could be no deception. If they had pretended that they saw him rise, or saw him at twilight in the morning when he rose, it might have been said that they were deluded by something that was merely the result of imagination. It might have been said that, expecting to see him rise, their hopes, in the agitated state of their minds, deceived them, and that they only fancied that they saw him. But it is not pretended by the sacred writers that they saw him rise. An impostor “would have affirmed this, and would not have omitted it.” But the sacred writers affirmed that they saw him after he was risen; when they were free from agitation; when they could judge coolly; in Jerusalem; in their own company when at worship; when journeying to Emmaus; when in Galilee; when he went with them to Mount Olivet; and when he ascended to heaven: and how could they have been deceived in this?
(6) he appeared to them as he had always done, as a friend, companion, and benefactor; he ate with them, performed a miracle before them, was engaged in the same work as he was before he suffered, renewed the same promise of the Holy Spirit, and gave them his commands respecting the work which he had died to establish, and the work which he required them to do - carrying out the same purposes and plans which he had before he died. In all these circumstances it was impossible that they should be deceived.
Being seen of them forty days - There are no less than thirteen different appearances of Jesus to his disciples recorded. For an account of them, see the notes at the end of the gospel of Matthew.
Speaking to them … - He was not only seen by them, but he continued the same topics of discourse as before his sufferings; thus showing that he was the same person that had suffered, and that his heart was still intent on the same great work. And as his heart was occupied with the same purposes which endued his attention before he suffered, we are taught by this that we should aim at the same great work in all the circumstances of our being. Afflictions, persecutions, and the prospect of death never turned him from his great plan; nor should they be allowed to divert our minds from the great work which God has given us to do.
The things pertaining to the kingdom of God - For an explanation of this phrase, the kingdom of God, see the notes on Matthew 3:2. The meaning is, Jesus gave them instructions about the organization, spread, and edification of his church.
And being assembled together - Margin, “or, eating together.” This sense is given to this place in the Latin Vulgate, the Ethiopic, and the Syriac versions. But the Greek word has not properly this signification. It has the meaning of “congregating, or assembling.” It should have been, however, translated in the active sense, “and having assembled them together.” The apostles were scattered after his death. But this passage denotes that he had assembled them together by his authority, for the purpose of giving them a charge respecting their conduct when he should have left them. When this occurred does not appear from the narrative; but it is probable that it was not long before his ascension; and it is clear that the place where they were assembled was Jerusalem.
But wait for the promise of the Father - For the fulfillment of the promise respecting the descent of the Holy Spirit made by the Father.
Which ye have heard of me - Which I have made to you. See John 14:16, John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7-13.
For John truly baptized … - These are the words of Jesus to his apostles, and he evidently has reference to what was said of John‘s baptism compared with his own in Matthew 3:11; John 1:33. In those verses John is represented as baptizing with water, but the Messiah who was to come, as baptizing with the Holy Spirit and with fire. This promise was now about to be fulfilled in a remarkable manner. See Acts 2.
Not many days hence - This was probably spoken not long before his ascension, and of course not many days before the day of Pentecost.
When they therefore were come together - At the Mount of Olives. See Acts 1:9, Acts 1:12.
Wilt thou at this time … - The apostles had entertained the common opinions of the Jews about the temporal dominion of the Messiah. They expected that he would reign as a prince and conqueror, and would free them from the bondage of the Romans. Many instances where this expectation is referred to occur in the gospels, notwithstanding all the efforts which the Lord Jesus made to explain to them the true nature of his kingdom. This expectation was checked, and almost destroyed by his death Luke 24:21, and it is clear that his death was the only means which could effectually change their opinions on this subject. Even his own instructions would not do it; and nothing but his being taken from them could direct their minds effectually to the true nature of his kingdom. Yet, though his death checked their expectations, and appeared to thwart their plans, his return to life excited them again. They beheld him with them; they were assured that it was the same Saviour; they saw now that his enemies had no power over him; they could not doubt that a being who could rise from the dead could easily accomplish all his plans. And as they did not doubt now that he would restore the kingdom to Israel, they asked whether he would do it at that time? They did not ask whether he would do it at all, or whether they had correct views of his kingdom; but, taking that for granted, they asked him whether that was the time in which he would do it. The emphasis of the inquiry lies in the expression, “at this time,” and hence, the answer of the Saviour refers solely to the point of their inquiry, and not to the correctness or incorrectness of their opinions. From these expectations of the apostles we may learn:
(1)That there is nothing so difficult to be removed from the mind as prejudice in favor of erroneous opinions.
(2)that such prejudice will survive the plainest proofs to the contrary.
(3)that it will often manifest itself even after all proper means have been taken to subdue it. Erroneous opinions thus maintain a secret ascendency in a man‘s mind, and are revived by the slightest circumstances, even long after it was supposed that they were overcome, and in the face of the plainest proofs of reason or of Scripture.
Restore - Bring back; put into its former situation. Judea was formerly governed by its own kings and laws; now, it was subject to the Romans. This bondage was grievous, and the nation sighed for deliverance. The inquiry of the apostles evidently was, whether he would now free them from the bondage of the Romans, and restore them to their former state of freedom and prosperity, as in the times of David and Solomon. See Isaiah 1:26. The word “restore” also may include more than a reducing it to its former state. It may mean, wilt thou now bestow the kingdom and dominion to Israel, according to the prediction in Daniel 7:27?
The kingdom - The dominion; the empire; the reign. The expectation was that the Messiah the king of Israel would reign over people, and that thus the nation of the Jews would extend their empire over all the earth.
To Israel - To the Jews, and particularly to the Jewish followers of the Messiah. Lightfoot thinks that this question was asked in indignation against the Jews. “Wilt thou confer dominion on a nation which has just put thee to death?” But the answer of the Saviour shows that this was not the design of the question.
It is not for you to know - The question of the apostles respected the time of the restoration; it was not whether he would do it. Accordingly, his answer meets precisely their inquiry; and he tells them in general that the time of the great events of God‘s kingdom was not to be understood by them. They had asked a similar question on a former occasion, Matthew 24:3, “Tell us when shall these things be?” Jesus had answered them then by showing them that certain signs would precede his coming, and then by saying Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” God has uniformly reproved a vain curiosity on such points, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2; 2 Peter 3:10; Luke 12:39-40.
The times or the seasons - The difference between these words is, that the former denotes any time or period that is indefinite or uncertain; the later denotes a fixed, definite, or appropriate time. They seem to be used here to denote the periods that would mark or determine all future events.
The Father hath put … - So entirely had the Father reserved the knowledge of these to himself, that it is said that even the Son did not know them. See Mark 3:32, and the notes on that place.
In his own power - That is, he has fixed them by his own authority, he will bring them about in his own time and way; and therefore it is not proper for people anxiously to inquire into them. All prophecy is remarkably obscure in regard to the time of its fulfillment. The reasons why it is so are such as the following:
(1)To excite people to watch for the events that are to come, as the time is uncertain, and they will come “like a thief in the night.”
(2)as they are to be brought about by human agency, they are so arranged as to call forth that agency. If people knew just when an event was to come to pass, they might be remiss, and feel that their own efforts were not needed.
(3)the knowledge of future scenes of the exact time, might alarm people, and absorb their thoughts so entirely as to prevent a proper attention to the present duties of life. Duty is ours now; God will provide for future scenes.
(4)promises sufficiently clear and full are therefore given us to encourage us, but not so full as to excite a vain and idle curiosity. All this is eminently true of our own death, one of the most important future scenes through which we are to pass. It is certainly before us; it is near; it cannot be long delayed; it may come at any moment. God has fixed the time, but will not inform us when it shall be. He does not gratify a vain curiosity; nor does he terrify us by announcing to us the day or the hour when we are to die, as we do a man that is to be executed. This would be to make our lives like that of a criminal sentenced to die, and we should through all our life, through fear of death, be subject to bondage, Hebrews 2:15. He has made enough known to excite us to make preparation, and to be always ready, having our loins girt about and our lamps trimmed and burning, Luke 12:35.
But ye shall receive power … - Literally, as it is translated in the margin, “Ye shall receive the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon you.” This was said to them to console them. Though they could not know the times which God reserved in his own appointment, yet they should receive the promised Guide and Comforter. The word “power” here refers to the help or aid which the Holy Spirit would grant; the power of speaking with new tongues; of preaching the gospel with great effect; of enduring great trials, etc. See Mark 16:17-18. The apostles had impatiently asked him if he was then about to restore the kingdom to Israel. Jesus by this answer rebuked their impatience, taught them to repress their ill-timed ardor; and assured them again of the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Ye shall be witnesses - For this purpose they were appointed; and to prepare them for this they had been with him for more that three years. They had seen his manner of life, his miracles, his meekness, his sufferings; they had listened to his instructions, and had conversed and eaten with him as a friend; they had seen him after he was risen, and were about to see him ascend to heaven; and they were thus qualified to bear witness to these things in all parts of the earth. Their number was so great that it could not be pretended that they were deceived; they had been so intimate with him and his plans that they were qualified to state what his doctrines and purposes were; and there was no motive but conviction of the truth that could induce them to make the sacrifices which they would be required to make in communicating these things to the world. In every respect, therefore, they were qualified to be impartial and competent witnesses. The original word here is μάρτυρες marturesmartyrs. From this word the name martyrs has been given to those who suffered in times of persecution. The reason why this name was given to them was that they bore witness to the life, instructions, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, even in the midst of persecution and death. It is commonly supposed that nearly all of the apostles bore witness as martyrs in this sense to the truths of the Christian religion, but of this there is not clear proof. See Mosheim‘s Ecclesiastical History, vol. i. p. 55,56. Still the word here does not necessarily mean that they to whom this was addressed would be martyrs, or would be put to death in bearing witness to the Lord Jesus; but that they were everywhere to testify to what they knew of him. The fact that this was the design of their appointment, and that they actually bore such testimony, is abundantly confirmed in the Acts of the Apostles, Acts 1:22; Acts 5:32; Acts 10:39, Acts 10:42; Acts 22:15.
In Jerusalem - In the capital of the nation. See Acts 8:1, Acts 8:4. The apostles remained there until Herod put James to death. Compare Acts 8:1, with Acts 12:1-2. This was about eight years. During this time, however, Paul was called to the apostleship, and Peter had preached the gospel to Cornelius, Philip to the eunuch, etc.
In all Judea - Judea was the southern division of the Holy Land, and included Jerusalem as the capital. See the notes on Matthew 2:22.
And in Samaria - This was the middle portion of Palestine. See the notes at Matthew 2:22. This was fulfilled by the disciples. See Acts 8:1, “And they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria”; compare Acts 1:4-5, “They that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.” See also Acts 1:14; Acts 9:31.
And unto the uttermost part of the earth - The word “earth,” or “land,” is sometimes taken to denote only the land of Palestine. But here there does not seem to be a necessity for limiting it thus. If Christ had intended that, he would have mentioned Galilee, as being the only remaining division of the country. But as he had expressly directed them to preach the gospel to all nations, the expression here is clearly to be considered as including the Gentile lands as well as the Jewish. The evidence that they did this is found in the subsequent parts of this book, and in the history of the church. It was in this way that Jesus replied to their question. Though he did not tell them the time when it was to be done, nor affirm that he would restore the kingdom to Israel, yet he gave them an answer that implied that the work should advance - should advance much further than the land of Israel; and that they would have much to do in promoting it. All the commands of God, and all his communications, are such as to call up our energy, and teach us that we have much to do. The uttermost parts of the earth have been given to the Saviour Psalm 2:8, and the church should not rest until he whose right it is shall come and reign, Ezekiel 21:27.
While they beheld - While they saw him. It was of importance to state that circumstance, and to state it distinctly. It is not affirmed in the New Testament that they “saw him rise” from the dead, because the evidence of that fact could be better established by their seeing him after he was risen. But the truth of his “ascension to heaven” could not be confirmed in that manner. Hence, it was so arranged that he should ascend in open day, and in the presence of his apostles; and that not when they were asleep, or were inattentive to what was occurring, but when they were engaged in a conversation that‘ would fix the attention, and even when they were looking upon him. Had Jesus vanished secretly, or had he disappeared in the night, the apostles would have been amazed and confounded; perhaps they would even have doubted whether they had not been deceived. But when they saw him leave them in this manner, they could not doubt that he had ascended to heaven, and that God approved his work, and would carry it forward. This event was exceedingly important:
(1) It was a confirmation of the truth of the Christian religion.
(2) it enabled the apostles to state distinctly where the Lord Jesus was, and at once directed their affections and their thoughts away from the earth, and opened their eyes on the glory of the scheme of religion they were to establish. If their Saviour was in heaven, it settled the question about the nature of his kingdom. It was clear that it was not designed to be a temporal kingdom. The reasons why it was proper that the Lord Jesus should ascend to heaven rather than remain on earth were:
(1) That he had “finished” the work which God gave him to do “on the earth” John 17:4; John 19:30, and it was proper that he should be received back to the glory which he had with the Father before the world was, John 17:4-5; Philemon 2:6, Philemon 2:9-10.
(2) it was proper that he should ascend in order that the Holy Spirit might come down and perform his part of the work of redemption. Jesus, by his personal ministry, as a man, could be but in one place; the Holy Spirit could be in all places, and could apply the work to all people. See note on John 16:7.
(3) apart of the work of Christ was yet to be performed in heaven. That was the work of intercession. The high priest of the Jews not only made an atonement, but also presented the blood of sacrifice before the mercy-seat, as the priest of the people, Leviticus 16:11-14. This was done to typify the entrance of the great high priest of our profession into the heavens, Hebrews 9:7-8, Hebrews 9:11-12. The work which he performs there is the work of intercession, Hebrews 7:25. This is properly the work which an advocate performs in a court for his client. As applicable to Christ, the meaning is, that he, as our great high priest, still manages our cause in heaven; secures our interests; obtains for us grace and mercy. His work, in this respect, consists in his appearing in the presence of God for us Hebrews 9:24; in his presenting the merits of his blood Hebrews 9:12, Hebrews 9:14; and in securing the continuance of the mercy which has been bestowed on us, and which is still needful for our welfare. The Lord Jesus also ascended that he might assume and exercise the office of King in the immediate seat of power. All worlds were made subject to him for the welfare of the church; and it was needful that he should be solemnly invested with that power in the presence of God as the reward of his earthly toils. 1 Corinthians 15:25, “he must reign until he hath put all enemies under his feet.” Compare Ephesians 1:20-22; Philemon 2:6-11.
A cloud received him - He entered into the region of the clouds, and was hid from their view. But two others of our race have been taken bodily from earth to heaven. Enoch was transported (Genesis 5:24; compare Hebrews 11:5); and Elijah was taken up by a whirlwind, 2 Kings 2:11. It is remarkable that when the return of the Saviour is mentioned, it is uniformly said that he will return in the clouds, Acts 1:11; Matthew 24:30; Matthew 26:64; Mark 13:26; Revelation 1:7; Daniel 7:13. The clouds are an emblem of sublimity and grandeur, and perhaps this is all that is intended by these expressions, Deuteronomy 4:11; 2 Samuel 22:12; Psalm 97:2; Psalm 104:3.
Looked stedfastly - They fixed their eyes, or gazed intently toward heaven. Luke 4:20, “and the eyes of all them in the synagogue were fastened (Greek: the same word as here) on him.” It denotes the intense gaze when we are deeply interested, and wish to see clearly and distinctly. They were amazed and confounded; what had occurred was unlocked for; for they had just been inquiring whether he would not, at that time, restore the kingdom to Israel. With this mingled amazement, disappointment, and curiosity, and with an earnest desire to catch the last glimpse of their beloved master, they naturally continued to gaze on the distant clouds where he had mysteriously disappeared from their view. Never was a scene more impressive, grand, and solemn than this.
Toward heaven - Toward the distant clouds or sky which had received him.
As he went up - Literally, upon him going up; that is, they gazed on him as he ascended, and doubtless they continued to gaze after he had disappeared from their view.
Two men - From the raiment of these “men,” and the nature of their message, it seems clear that they were angelic beings, who were sent to meet and comfort the disciples on this occasion. They appeared in human form, and Luke describes them as they appeared. Angels are not infrequently called people. Luke 24:4, “two men stood by them in shining garments,” etc. Compare John 20:12; Matthew 28:5. As two angels are mentioned only as addressing the apostles after the resurrection of Jesus John 20:12; Luke 24:4, it is no unnatural supposition that these were the same who had been designated to the honorable office of bearing witness to his resurrection, and of giving them all the information about that resurrection, and of his ascension, which their circumstances needed.
In white apparel - Angels are commonly represented as clothed in white. See the John 20:12 note; Matthew 28:3 note; Mark 16:5 note. It is an emblem of purity; and the worshippers of heaven are represented as clothed in this manner. Revelation 3:4, “they shall walk with me in white”; Revelation 3:5, “He that overcometh shall be clothed in white raiment”; Revelation 4:4; Revelation 7:9, Revelation 7:13-14.
Ye men of Galilee - Galilee was the place of their former residence, and they were commonly known by the name of Galileans.
Why stand ye … - There is doubtless a slight degree of censure implied in this, as well as a design to call their attention away from a vain attempt to see the departed Saviour. The impropriety may have been:
(1)In the feeling of disappointment, as if he would not restore the kingdom to Israel.
(2)Possibly they were expecting that he would again soon appear, though he had often foretold them that he would ascend to heaven.
(3)there might have been an impropriety in their earnest desire for the mere bodily presence of the Lord Jesus, when it was more important that he should be in heaven. We may see here also that it is our duty not to stand in idleness, and to gaze even toward heaven. We, as well as the apostles, have a great work to do, and we should actively engage in it without delay.
Gazing up - Looking up.
This same Jesus - This was said to comfort them. The same tried friend who had been so faithful to them would return. They ought not, therefore, to look with despondency at his departure.
Into heaven - This expression denotes into the immediate presence of God; or into the place of perpetual purity and happiness, where God especially manifests his favor. The same thing is frequently designated by his sitting on the right hand of God, as emblematic of power, honor, and favor. See the Mark 16:19; Mark 14:62 notes; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 8:1 notes; Acts 7:55 note; Romans 8:34 note; Ephesians 1:20 note.
Shall so come - At the day of judgment. John 14:3, “if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again,” etc.
In like manner … - In clouds, as he ascended. See the Acts 1:9 note; 1 Thessalonians 4:16 note. This address was designed to comfort the disciples. Though their master and friend was taken from them, yet he was not removed forever. He would come again with similar majesty and glory to vindicate his people, and to tread his enemies under his feet. The design for which he will come will be to judge the world, 2 Peter 3:4. It is right that he should defend his cause. Hence, the Lord Jesus will come to guard the avenues to heaven, and to see that the universe suffers no wrong by the admission of an improper person to the skies.
(4) the great transactions of redemption have been public, open, often grand. The apostasy was public, in the face of angels and of the universe. Sin has been open, public high-handed. Misery has been public, and has rolled its deep and turbid waves in the face of the universe. Death has been public; all worlds have seen the race cut down and moulder. The death of Jesus was public: the angels saw it; the heavens were clothed with mourning; the earth shook, and the dead arose. Jesus was publicly whipped, cursed, crucified; and it is proper that he should publicly triumph - that all heaven rejoicing, and all hell at length humbled, should see his public victory. Hence, he will come with clouds - with angels - with fire - and will raise the dead, and exhibit to all the universe the amazing close of the scheme of redemption.
(5) we have in these verses a description of the most grand and wonderful events that this world has ever known - the ascension and return of the Lord Jesus. Here is consolation for the Christian; and here is a source of ceaseless alarm to the sinner.
Then returned they unto Jerusalem - In Luke 24:52, we are told that they worshipped Jesus before they returned, and it is probable that the act of worship to which he refers was what is mentioned in this chapter their gazing intently on their departing Lord.
From the mount called Olivet - From the Mount of Olives. See the notes on Matthew 21:1. The part of the mountain from which he ascended was the eastern declivity, where stood the little village of Bethany, Luke 24:50.
A sabbath-day‘s journey - As far as might be lawfully traveled by a Jew on the Sabbath. This was 2,000 paces or cubits, or seven furlongs and a half - not quite one mile. See the notes On Matthew 24:20. The distance of a lawful journey on the Sabbath was not fixed by the laws of Moses, but the Jewish teachers had fixed it at 2,000 paces. This measure was determined on because it was a tradition that in the camp of the Israelites, when coming from Egypt, no part of the camp was more than 2000 paces from the tabernacle, and over this space, therefore, they were permitted to travel for worship. Perhaps, also, some countenance was given to this from the fact that this was the extent of the suburbs of the Levitical cities, Numbers 35:5. Mount Olivet was only 5 furlongs from Jerusalem, and Bethany was 15 furlongs. But on the eastern declivity of the mountain the tract of country was called, for a considerable space, the region of Bethany; and it was from this place that the Lord Jesus ascended.
Were come in - To Jerusalem.
They went up into an upper room - The word ὑπερῷον huperoōnhere translated “upper room,” occurs only four times in the New Testament: Acts 9:37, “She (Dorcas) was sick and died; whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber” (see also Acts 9:39); Acts 20:8, “And there were many lights in the upper chamber where they were gathered together.” The room so designated was an upper chamber used for devotion, or as a place where to lay the dead before burial, or occasionally for conversation, etc. Here it evidently means the place where they were assembled for devotion. Luke 24:53 says they were continually “in the temple” praising and blessing God; and some have supposed that the upper room here designated was one of the rooms in the temple. But there is no evidence of that, and it is not very probable. Such a room as that here referred to was a part of every house, especially in Jerusalem; and the disciples probably selected one where they might be together, and yet so retired that they might be safe from the Jews. The expression used in Luke 24:53, “They were continually - διαπαντός diapantos- in the temple,” signifies no more than that this was a frequent or customary resort; they were always in the temple at the usual seasons of devotion, or they were in the constant habit of resorting thither. “Even DeWette allows that there is no discrepancy.”
Where abode - Where were remaining. This does not mean that this was their permanent habitation; but they remained there waiting for the descent of the Holy Spirit.
Peter … - All the apostles were there which Jesus had at first chosen except Judas, Luke 6:13-16.
These all continued … - The word “continued” denotes “persevering and constant attention.” The main business was devotion. Acts 6:4, “we will give ourselves continually to the ministry of the word.” Romans 12:12, “continuing instant in prayer”; Romans 13:6, “Attending continually upon this very thing.” It is their main and constant employment. Compare Colossians 4:2.
With one accord - Greek: ὁμοθυμαδόν homothumadon- “with one mind.” The word denotes the entire harmony of their views and feelings. There were no schisms, no divided interests, no discordant purposes. This is a beautiful picture of devotion, and a specimen of what social worship ought now to be, and a beautiful illustration of Psalm 133:1-3. The apostles felt that they had one great object; and their deep grief at the loss of their master, and their doubts and perplexities, led them, as all afflictions ought to lead us, to the throne of grace.
In prayer and supplication - These words are nearly synonymous, and are often interchanged. They express here petitions to God for blessings, and prayer to avert impending evils.
With the women - The women that had followed the Lord Jesus from Galilee, Luke 8:2-3, Luke 8:23, Luke 8:49, Luke 8:55; Luke 24:10; Matthew 27:55. The women particularly mentioned are Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, the mother of Zebedee‘s children, Joanna the wife of Chuza, and Susanna. Besides these, there were others whose names are not mentioned. Most of them were relatives of the apostles or of the Saviour; and it is not improbable that some of them were wives of the apostles. Peter is known to have been married Matthew 8:14, and had his wife in attendance with him in his travels 1 Corinthians 9:5; and the same was doubtless true of some of the other apostles, 1 Corinthians 9:5.- Mary, the mother of Jesus, is here particularly mentioned, showing that she now cast in her lot with the apostles. She had, besides, been specially entrusted to the care of John John 19:26-27, and had no other home. This is the last time that she is mentioned in the New Testament.
And with his brethren - See the notes on Matthew 12:46. At first they had been unbelieving about the claims of Jesus John 7:5; but it seems that they had been subsequently converted.
In those days - On one of the days intervening between the ascension of Jesus and the day of Pentecost.
Peter stood up - Peter standing up, or rising. This is a customary expression in the Scriptures when one begins to do a thing, Luke 15:18. The reason why Peter did this may be seen in the notes on Matthew 16:16-17. It is not improbable, besides, that Peter was the most aged of the apostles; and from his uniform conduct we know that he was the most ardent. It was perfectly characteristic, therefore, for him to introduce the business of the election of a new apostle.
The disciples - This was the name, which was given to them as being learners in the school of Christ. See the notes on Matthew 5:1.
The number of the names - The number of the persons, or individuals. The word “name” is often used to denote “the person,” Revelation 3:4; Acts 4:12; Acts 18:15; Ephesians 1:21. In Syriac it is, “The assembly of people was about an hundred and twenty.” This was the first assembly convened to transact the business of the church; and it is not a little remarkable that the vote in so important a matter as electing apostle was by the entire church. It settles the question that the election of a minister and pastor should be by the church, and that a pastor should not be placed over a church by a patron, or by an ecclesiastical body. If a case could ever occur where it would be right and proper that one should be selected to exercise the office of a minister of Christ by the ministry only, the election of one to fall the office of an apostle was such a case. And yet in this the entire church had a voice. Whether this was all the true church at this time does not appear from the history. This expression cannot mean that there were no more Christians, but that these were all that had convened in the upper room. It is certain that our Saviour had, by his own ministry, brought many others to be his true followers. Compare 1 Corinthians 15:6.
Men and brethren - This is a customary mode of address, implying affection and respect, Acts 13:26. The Syriac renders it more appropriately than by the introduction of the conjunction “and” - “Men, our brethren.”
This scripture - This prediction contained in the writings of the Old Testament. Compare the notes on John 5:39. The passage to which Peter refers is commonly supposed to be that recorded in Psalm 41:9, “Yea, mine own familiar friend … hath lifted up his heel against me.” This is expressly applied to Judas by our Saviour, in John 13:18. But it seems clear that the reference is not to the 41st Psalm, but to the passage in the 69th Psalm which Peter proceeds to quote in Acts 1:20.
Must needs have been fulfilled - It would certainly be fulfilled. Not that there was any physical necessity or any compulsion; but it could not but occur that a prediction of God would be fulfilled. This makes no affirmation about the freedom of Judas in doing it. A man will be just as free in wickedness if it be foretold that he will be wicked, as if it had never been known to any other being but himself.
The Holy Ghost … -
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