On the Acts of the Apostles.

Chapter 1:12-26.

Taken from The Bible Treasury Number 309 - February 1882

 

Τhus we have clearly set before us the position and expectation of the disciples in these early days. They knew, on the word of the Lord, that the promise of the Father was shortly to be fulfilled in the gift of the Holy Spirit. Instead of the restoration of the kingdom to Israel, they were to be witnesses of Christ everywhere to the uttermost part of the earth; and they were assured that the Lord Jesus, who had just ascended, should so come in the manner in which they beheld Him going to heaven.

"Then they returned unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day's journey off. And when they came in, they went up to the upper room where they were abiding; both Peter and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas Bartholomew and Matthew, James [son] of AlphŠus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas [brother] of James. These all with one accord continued stedfastly in prayer, with [certain] women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren " (Var. 12-14).

Thus did these saints spend their time in the exercise of continual dependence on God. They had been the chosen witnesses of the Word of Life, as He had manifested Himself here below and in Himself the Son had shown them the Father. And now they were waiting for that blessed Divine Person who was to be in as well as with them, as the Lord had prepared them for it "I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter." So now they all give themselves up with one mind to persevering prayer.

Believing women were with them. How different their place, even now, from that which Jews or Μοhammedans accorded them! from that of medieval flattery or superstition! There were others beside wives, and hence the general form of the phrase; and one was among them specifically named, to whom sinful folly was afterwards to bow down in worship, professedly subordinate to, practically more absorbing than, that paid to the Son or tin Father.

It is the first mention of Mary, in this the only sure and divinely-inspired history, that follows our Lord's departure to heaven. Highly favoured she had been blessed among women, all generations thenceforth calling her blessed; yet was she found in all lowliness of mind with other women, as the Apostles were with them all waiting on God for the gift of the Holy Ghost. From the cross she had been taken to the home of the belονed disciple. After the resurrection not a word implies an appearance to the mother of our Lord. Another Mary saw Him, she of Magdala, first of all, other women shortly afterwards; of any special appearance to His mother, Scripture is profoundly silent. She may have seen Him risen, as five hundred did at one time, but Scripture intimates not a word about it. So absolutely was Christ to be known no more after the flesh. He was dead and risen, and the glory of the Messiah born of the Virgin faded away in the brighter glory of the Beginning, the First-born from the dead.

It is the last mention of Mary. Chrysostom may well suppose Joseph to have died; the truth is that he had long disappeared. Of both we heard for the last time in the beauteous scene of the Lord at twelve years of age (Luke ii. 42-51). He, too, was not yet anointed by the Holy Ghost; yet was He perfect man and true God, the child of Mary, and subject not to her only, but to her husband—legally His father. But the incident brings out clearly His perfection as a. child feeding on the Word of God; but no less clearly His consciousness of being the Son of God (far beyond the thoughts of Joseph or Mary), and withal His subjection to them, " His parents," in that human place to which He had come down from divine glory in a love no less divine. When in due time, anointed by the Holy Spirit, He enters on His service and His presentation as the Messiah, Joseph is gone. This was as it should be. It was through Joseph He had direct claim as the royal Son of David; for Joseph came down from Solomon, and there lay the true line of promise to the throne Mary, too, sprang from David; but through Nathan, who could give no such title. Legally and naturally, He was descended from the King beloved of God, as He had a title in His own person above David as surely as above Joseph and Mary; He was God, Jehovah, the Lord God of Israel. Still the Word of God must be honoured and verified in every human particular which Divine grace had given and made known, for the exercise and the reward, the trial and the joy of faith.

Now Mary, according to Scripture, appears for the last time in the holy band of prayer with others, men and women, not prayed to but praying. That the upper room was in the Temple is the dream of Dr. Hammond. How strange, that grave theologians should conceive such crudities, and that they seem so destitute of kind and faithful friends to efface them, lest they might turn to shame or hurt! The last place where the disciples could have had such a chamber was the Temple. It was no doubt in a private house where they then sojourned; whether it was that large upper room furnished where the Lord and His disciples sat down to eat the last Passover, we know not, nor is it ˇf divine moment either, else it had been told us. But such rooms were common among the Jews, and, we may be assured, in Jerusalem especially, where God had His plans for blessing through His Son and to His honour.

"And in these days Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren, and said (and there was a crowd of names [or persons] together, about a hundred and twenty), Brethren, it was needful that the Scripture should be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who was guide to those that took Jesus. For he had been numbered among us, and received the allotment of this service. (This man then obtained a field from wages of his iniquity; and, falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the dwellers at Jerusalem, so that in their language that field was called Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) For it is written in the Book of Psalms, Let his homestead be made desolate, And let there be no dweller in it, and, His overseership let another take. Of the men therefore who went with us at every time that the Lord Jesus went in and went out among us, beginning with the baptism of John until the day in which He was taken up, must one of these become a witness with us of His resurrection. And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, Thou, Lord, knower of the hearts of all, show of these two one whom Thou hest chosen, to take the place of this service and apostleship from which Judas fell away to go to his own place. And they gave lots for them; and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles " (Ver. 15-26).

The hundred and twenty did not comprehend all the faithful in the land, but all in Jerusalem probably. To these Peter speaks with decision, but in the light and authority of Scripture. Power from on high had not yet come on him; but there was evidently an intelligence never experienced by him before the Lord died and rose. These two things may co-exist now; or spiritual intelligence may be found where special power may not be given, though the Holy Ghost is, and this to abide for ever. But here we learn the important fact of their distinctness, and so much the more plainly, because the Holy Ghost had not yet been poured out. But Peter applies Scripture with clearness. It shone in the light of the Lord's death and resurrection. It must needs be fulfilled, not in Christ only, but in antichrist; and such was Judas, who became guide to those that took Jesus. The Holy Spirit had deigned to speak of evil as well as good; and all must be fulfilled, though spoken by human lips. The unbelief of man may ruin him, but cannot make the written word of none effect; any more than the lot Judas received in the ministry of Christ exempted him from his awful sin and punishment. And the field got from wages of iniquity bore witness in characters of blood, after Judas passed sway from his forfeited place in service and apostleship to go to his own place of torment. No wonder then that, as God so solemnly marked His resentment now before all the dwellers of Jerusalem, He should speak before by the mouth of David of such a sinner against His own Son, as well as against his own soul Psalm cix. pronounced his curse, but called for a successor to his vacated office; and Peter lays down, for such as had gone with the apostles from the baptism of John till the Ascension, the essential condition of becoming with them a witness of His resurrection.

Here once more we see what an immensely important place the resurrection was to hold in the testimony of Christ and the gospel, and how it is interwoven with this Book of the Acts in particular. Nor can there be strength or clearness in preaching and teaching without it. In presence of it vain man is annulled; by it Christ is vindicated, God is glorified, and the believer is justified. But even in this book we may learn more of its power and value in the hands of the Holy Spirit, if we return to the practical use Peter made of the Psalms he had cited.

Two then were put forward, Joseph Barsabbas Justus, and Matthias, who, as far .as man could see, possessed equal qualification. Hence appeal was male to the Lord in prayer. It was His work that was in question, and it is His to choose the workman. So, in Matt. ix., He told His disciples to supplicate the Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers into His harvest; and then, in chap. x., He called unto Him His twelve disciples, and gave them authority, and sent them forth. It is the same principle here. Elsewhere, in what concerns the assembly of God, His God and Father may be sought most appropriately; but the Lord none the less, in what concerns His service and the instruments He may choose for it.

But there is a peculiarity to be noticed, the using of lets. It was in no way the will of man choosing whom he would, as some learned men have erroneously supposed, not without bias from their peculiar habits, nor unwilling to justify them from Scripture. Nor does the last term, translated "numbered" (var. 26), warrant here the notion of popular election, which is in principle foreign to Scripture, for the choice of servants in the word. The lot was, as it will be in the letterday, a distinctly Jewish mode of seeking divine direction; and so, in the choice of the twelfth apostle (Matthew xix. 28), it was fittingly resorted to here. For the Spirit's presence, the new power. which makes the assembly to be God's assembly, in which Jews and Gentiles are alike unknown, was not yet enjoyed. The Lord therefore was looked to thus; but lots were never cast after the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Nor is there just ground for Stier, as cited by Alford, to question the step of choosing a twelfth apostle, which seems to be thoroughly in keeping with the waiting posture of the disciples. Besides, Acts ii. 14, vi. 2, would to most minds imply the contrary, and show that Luke does afterwards speak of the Twelve. To suppose that Paul was the intended twelfth is rather to lower his true position and extraordinary call.