Monday, April 16, 2018

God's Divine Plan for Muslim Immigrants

An interesting article from Christianity Today:

Sunday, April 15, 2018


The first recorded signs and wonders are worked by the Holy Spirit through Peter and John. They went to the temple to pray and encountered a crippled man. Some versions say “lame”, which is an older term for “crippled”.

This man had family or friends who brought him to the temple every day and laid him at the Beautiful Gate to beg from those going into the temple complex. (2) Since he was crippled, he could not work. Begging was the only way he had to get money.

Peter, however, had no money. So, when the beggar looked at Peter and John expecting alms, Peter did something else. He gave the man the gift of health. He healed him from his crippling disease or injury. And, he did it in the name of “Jesus Christ of Nazareth”. (6)
The man was healed instantly. He walked and leaped.

He followed Peter and John into the temple. He was walking and leaping and praising God. (9) You can imagine his joy. And, he was quite noticeable. As others tried to project dignity and piety, this man expressed joy without reservation. As people watched him, they recognized him as the man from the gate. And they were amazed that he had been healed. (10) He literally fulfilled Isaiah 35:6, “then shall the lame man leap like a deer”.

Peter’s Second Sermon

The miracle, or sign, accomplished by the Holy Spirit through Peter and John again brought attention to them. Verse 11 says they were utterly astounded. Many had likely known and seen the crippled man for years and here he was walking around, praising God. Others had seen him every day at the gate while they had been there for Pentecost. They all gathered at Solomon’s Portico, an area on the east side of the temple, bordered with columns.

The miracle provided another opportunity for Peter to preach about Christ, and he took it. He was quick to point out that the man was not healed through any special power of Peter or John. (12) Just as the miracles point to Christ, Peter’s sermon pointed to Christ.

Again, Peter declares that the Jews killed God’s Christ. Peter referred to God as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, a formula for naming God as the God who made a covenant with Abraham that made the Jews who they were, God’s chosen people. It was also the way God introduced himself to Moses in the burning bush. (Exodus 3:6) They were chosen to bear witness to the real and only God. Their God glorified Jesus (13), meaning he raised him from death and gave him glory in heaven. (14) Peter again says the apostles were witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus.

In speaking of Jesus’ exaltation, Peter referred to Isaiah 52:13-53:12, a passage about God’s suffering servant. God spoke through Isaiah, saying “he shall be high and lifted up and he shall be exalted”.

Look at the names Peter uses for Jesus: servant, the Holy and Righteous One, and the Author of life. Jesus served the Father by doing his will in life and death. He was holy, as he was fully God. He was righteous in that he never sinned. He is the author of life, both the agent of creation and the giver of eternal life to believers.

Peter declared that this Jesus, the Christ, healed the crippled man through faith in his name, meaning faith in Christ. It is Peter’s faith that he could do what Jesus told him he could do, not the crippled man’s faith. We see no evidence of faith in that man before he was healed. He simply wanted money from Peter.

The Jews bore the guilt of his murder because they denied him and delivered to Pilate and the Romans to be killed. (13-14) Jesus requires repentance, along with faith, for us to receive salvation. In order for a person to repent, he or she must understand that they have sinned. In order for a person to understand he or she has sinned, the preacher must point it out to them. Peter does that here, focused on their guilt in killing Christ. Once the preacher explains sin, the Holy Spirit convicts.

And Peter called for repentance. (19) He called for them to repent so that their sins could be blotted out and they could be saved. And the Father would later send Jesus for them at the second coming.

Peter continued to apply the Old Testament scripture to the situation. He said that God foretold through the prophets that his Christ would suffer, and God fulfilled that through the actions of the Jews. (18) So you see here that men sinned and God used that sin to fulfill his word and bring his plan to fruition. (18)

He also referred to Moses. The Jews revered Moses as leader of the exodus from Egypt, giver of the law and covenant, and prophet. Moses said God would raise up a prophet like him from their brothers and they must listen to him. Everyone that does not listen shall be destroyed from the people. (23) That is a reference to Deuteronomy 18:15. Peter shows them they are condemned by their own great prophet. He means that Jesus was the prophet Moses spoke of. They did not listen to him. So, they are in danger of being destroyed from the people of God.

Peter went on to say that all the prophets proclaimed this. He singled out Samuel as the beginning of this. The Jews considered Samuel the next prophet after Moses. The Jews were “sons of the prophets”. (25) Their ancestors heard the prophets speak. They wrote down those words and preserved them. Every Jew in Jesus’ time heard those words read in the synagogue on the Sabbath, heard to rabbi teach them, and memorized many of them. They professed to believe those words.

The Jews were also sons of the Abrahamic covenant. The took pride in calling themselves the children of Abraham. Peter recited the covenant promise to them, although they knew it by heart: in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed”. When Peter said “God, having raised up his servant”, he means Jesus is that offspring of Abraham that will bless all the families of the earth. (25) God sent Christ to the Jews first, before sending him to the rest of the earth through the apostles preaching. He did this bless them and turn them from their sin, that is, to repent, believe and receive salvation.

Paul referred to this promise in Galatians 3, pointing out that the promise was made to Abraham and his offspring. He wrote that this said offspring in the singular, not plural, and that offspring was Jesus. (Galatians 3:15-16) Paul also wrote that the gospel was for the Jews first, then the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

The signs of Jesus and the apostles pointed to Jesus’ divine power, testifying that he is the Son of God. They are also eschatological signs. They point to the time when Jesus will make all things new, when there will be no suffering or pain.

As God sent Jesus to the Jews for salvation, he also sent him to us Gentiles through the preaching of the gospel. If you have not done so, repent today, put your faith in Jesus, and receive eternal life.

Sunday, April 08, 2018


The Early Church

All those who were saved at Pentecost, along with the original disciples, constituted the New Testament church. Luke recorded how the earliest church operated. They devoted themselves to: (1) the apostle’s teaching; (2) the fellowship; (3) the breaking of bread; and (4) the prayers. (42)

Apostles Teaching

The Apostles taught what they learned from Jesus. They taught the Old Testament as it related to Jesus. Jesus had promised them that the Holy Spirit would teach them all things and bring to their remembrance all that he taught them. (John 14:26) This explains how Peter was able to preach the great Pentecost sermon.

And they taught the Old Testament as it related to Jesus. Jesus had “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45) Just as he did on the road to Emmaus. (Luke 24:27)

It is the same thing Paul did in the synagogue. (See Acts 13; 17)

The lesson for us is that we do not study or teach the Old Testament as a collection of unrelated stories. Rather, we teach it as leading to Jesus.

After Pentecost, the Apostles met with groups of new believers and taught them. That is part of making disciples, according to Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20: teaching them all that Jesus taught and applying it to their lives.

Today we have the teaching of the apostles in the New Testament scriptures. We continue the instruction of Jesus to teach his teachings to others, making them disciples.

The Fellowship
The believers were devoted to gathering together and sharing what they had. The word for sharing, in Greek, is “Koinonia”. They shared themselves, befriending and caring for one another. All of them were together. (44) They met at the temple and ate together in homes. (46)

They also shared their material possessions. They had all things in common, meaning they did not consider their property and possessions to belong to themselves individually, but to all. (44) Some even sold possessions and gave the proceeds to those believers who were in need. (45)

The Breaking of Bread

There is debate about whether this means simply having a meal together or participating in the Lord’s Supper. It could mean both, however. Looking at the example of Corinth, it appears that they had a meal together and also observed the Lord’s Supper. (1 Corinthians 11:20-22)

The Prayers

When the church gathered together, it prayed. We will see prayers in later chapters for specific needs. It could also be that they recited prayers from the Psalms.

There was a prevailing sense of awe among the believers as they did these things. First, because of the awesomeness of Jesus’ resurrection. In addition, the the Holy Spirit did signs and wonders through the Apostles. (43) Remember the prophecy of Joel 2, as quoted by Peter, said there would be signs on earth when God poured out his Holy Spirit. (19)

As Jesus’ signs showed his deity, these signs showed the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the Apostles. They were empowered to accomplish the mission that Jesus gave them. They were thankful (46) and they praised God. The signs were also, as Jesus said, signs that the kingdom had come, that a new age was beginning.

All of this lead them to have favor with others, even non-believers. And it led to others being saved daily. (47) Generosity is attractive. A loving attitude toward others is attractive. These attitudes draw people to you and allow you to lead them to Jesus.

This week, try to capture the sense of awe, the sense of gladness and the spirit of generosity that possessed the first believers. Then speak the gospel to those who are drawn to you.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Here is a guy doing what he is called t do with no glamour or recognition.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

The Ragman

by Walter Wangerin, Jr.

I saw a strange sight. I stumbled upon a story most strange, like nothing in my life, my street sense, my sly tongue had ever prepared me for. Hush, child. hush now, and I will tell it to you.

Even before the dawn one Friday morning I noticed a young man, handsome and strong, walking the alleys of our City. He was pulling an old cart filled with clothes both bright and new, and he was calling in a clear tenor voice: 'Rags!' Ah, the air was foul and the first light filthy to be crossed by such sweet music.

'Rags! New rags for old! I take your tired rags! Rags!'

'Now this is a wonder,' I thought to myself, for the man stood six-feet-four, and his arms were like tree limbs, hard and muscular, and his eyes flashed intelligence. Could he find no better job than this, to be a ragman in the inner city?

I followed him. My curiosity drove me. And I wasn't disappointed.

Soon the ragman saw a woman sitting on her back porch. She was sobbing into a handkerchief, signing, and shedding a thousand tears. Her knees and elbows made a sad X. Her shoulders shook. Her heart was breaking.

The Ragman stopped his cart. Quietly, he walked to the woman, stepping round tin cans, dead toys, and Pampers.

'Give me your rag,' he said gently. 'and I'll give you another.'

He slipped the handkerchief from her eyes. She looked up, and he laid across her palm a linen cloth so clean and new that it shined. She blinked from the gift to the giver.

Then, as he began to pull his cart again, the Ragman did a strange thing: he put her stained handkerchief to his own face; and then he began to weep, to sob as grievously as she had done, his shoulders shaking. Yet she was left without a tear.

'This is a wonder,' I breathed to myself, and I followed the sobbing Ragman like a child who cannot turn away from mystery.

'Rags! Rags! New Rags for old!"

In a little while, when the sky showed grey behind the rooftops and I could see the shredded curtains hanging out black windows, the Ragman came upon a girl whose head was wrapped in a bandage, whose eyes were empty. Blood soaked her bandage. A single line of blood ran down her cheek.

Now the tall Ragman looked upon this child with pity, and he drew a lovely yellow bonnet from his cart.

'Give me your rag,' he said, tracing his own line on her cheek, 'and I'll give you mine.'

The child could only gaze at him while he loosened the bandage, removed it, and tied it to his own head. The bonnet he set on hers. And I gasped at what I saw: for with the bandage went the wound! Against his brow it ran a darker, more substantial blood -- his own!

'Rags! Rags! I take old rags!' cried the sobbing, bleeding, strong, intelligent Ragman.

The sun hurt both the sky, now, and my eyes; the Ragman seemed more and more to hurry.

'Are you going to work?' he asked a man who leaned against a telephone pole. The man shook his head. The Ragman pressed him: 'Do you have a job?"

'Are you crazy?' sneered the other. He pulled away from the pole, revealing the right sleeve of his jacket -- flat, the cuff stuffed into the pocket. He had no arm.

'So,' said the Ragman. 'Give me your jacket, and I'll give you mine.'

So much quiet authority in his voice!

The one-armed man took off his jacket. So did the Ragman -- and I trembled at what I saw: for the Ragman's arm stayed in its sleeve, and when the other put it on, he had two good arms, thick as tree limbs; but the Ragman had only one.

'Go to work,' he said.

After that he found a drunk, lying unconscious beneath an army blanket, an old man, hunched, wizened, and sick. He took that blanket and wrapped it round himself, but for the drunk he left new clothes.

And now I had to run to keep up with the Ragman. Though he was weeping uncontrollably, and bleeding freely at the forehead, pulling his cart with one arm, stumbling for drunkenness, falling again and again, exhausted, old, old, and sick, yet he went with terrible speed. On spider's legs he skittered through the alleys of the City, this mile and the next, until he came to its limits, and then he rushed beyond.

I wept to see the change in this man. I hurt to see his sorrow. And yet I need to see where he was going in such haste, perhaps to know what drove him so.

The little old Ragman -- he came to a landfill. He came to the garbage pits. And I waited to help him in what he did but I hung back, hiding. He climbed a hill. With tormented labor he cleared a little space on that hill. Then he signed. He lay down. He pillowed his head on a handkerchief and a jacket. He covered his bones with an army blanket. And he died.

Oh how I cried to witness that death! I slumped in a junked car and wailed and mourned as one who has no hope -- because I had come to love the Ragman. Every other face had faded in the wonder of this man, and I cherished him; but he died. I sobbed myself to sleep.

I did not know -- how could I know? -- that I slept through Friday night and Saturday and its night too.

But then, on Sunday morning, I was wakened by a violence.

Light -- pure, hard, demanding light -- slammed against my sour face, and I blinked, and I looked, and I saw the first wonder of all. There was the Ragman, folding the blanket most carefully, a scar on his forehead, but alive! And, besides that, healthy! There was no sign of sorrow or age, and all the rags that he had gathered shined for cleanliness.

Well, then I lowered my head and, trembling for all that I had seen, I myself walked up to the Ragman. I told him my name with shame, for I was a sorry figure next to him. Then I took off all my clothes in that place, and I said to him with dear yearning in my voice: 'Dress me."

He dressed me. My Lord, he put new rags on me, and I am a wonder beside him.

The Ragman, the Ragman, the Christ!

Sunday, March 25, 2018


Acts 2

The Holy Spirit Comes

This event occurred on the day of Pentecost. Pentecost is the Greek term for the Jewish Feast of Weeks or First Fruits. (Leviticus 23:15-21) It was a harvest cerebration. It was observed 50 days after the the day of the wave offering at Passover. Pentecost comes from the Greek word for 50 (pentecostos). Greek speaking Jews used this term for the Feast. This was the day chosen by God to send the Holy Spirit to the Apostles.

When the Holy Spirit arrived, there was a sound like a mighty rushing wind. It filled the whole house. (2) The sound of the mighty wind may have been to show that the Spirit was coming with power. It reminds me of Ezekiel commanding the wind to blow on the dead, dry bones so that they lived. (Ezekiel 37) It also reminds us of John 3, where Jesus spoke of the wind blowing as being like the Spirit regenerating a person. 

In addition to the noise, tongues that looked like flames of fire appeared above each one. Thus we have a fulfillment of the prophesy of John the Baptist that Jesus would baptize with the Spirit and with fire. (Luke 3:16-17) 

Fire often means God is present in the Old Testament. The most famous example is the burning bush of Exodus 3:2-5. There the “angel of the Lord” appeared to Moses in a flame of fire in the bush. The Holy Spirit is God, the third person of the Trinity.

The disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit gave them “utterance”, the ability to speak in other languages. (4) We know that the tongues were understandable languages by the reaction of those who came to see what caused the noise. They each heard the disciples speaking in their language. Luke records the countries these people came from, roughly east to west. They were mostly Jews who came for the feast, but Luke recorded that some from Rome were proselytes, who would have been gentiles who converted to Judaism. 

Thus the coming of the Holy Spirit reversed the curse of Babel, when God scattered the people and made them speak different languages because they united in an attempt to build a tower to heaven. (Genesis 11:1-9)

Notice what the disciples were saying in their various languages: they were proclaiming the mighty works of God. (11) They were not speaking incoherent sounds, but words in known languages that allowed the foreigners to hear the word of God.

The coming of the Holy Spirit if the fulfillment of Jesus’ words to the disciples Acts 1, that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit soon. (Acts 1:5) The Holy Spirit would come to empower the disciples to be Jesus’ witnesses all over the world. The tongues showed this to be true, as the Spirit came and empowered the disciples to speak to those who had come from all over the world they knew. 

Some, of course, scoffed. They accused the disciples of being drunk. (13)

Peter’s Sermon

Explaining the Holy Spirit

The people in the crowd were amazed and perplexed by the disciples speaking in many languages. The apostles (the Twelve) realized an explanation was needed, so they stood together and Peter, their leader addressed the crowd. (14) He assured them the men were not drunk. It is actually a bit funny. He said they were not drunk since it was only nine o’clock in the morning (the third hour). (15)

Rather that wine, Peter said their actions were that of the Spirit. He launched into a sermon, using many Old Testament proofs for his Jewish audience.

First, Peter said, this event was the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Joel. (Joel 2:28-32) He quoted those words, where God, speaking through Joel, said in the last days he would pour out his Spirit on all flesh, men and women.  All of those disciples gathered together received the Holy Spirit and the languages, men and women. 

Joel called this time “the last days”. We often think of the last days as the very end of time, but Peter use it to mean the age of the church, the time from the arrival of Jesus to the return of Jesus end of the age. In 1 Peter 1:20, he said Christ was made manifest at the end of the times. 

The end of the passage says “it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”. (21) All who commit themselves to Christ in faith will be saved. Paul also referred to this verse in Romans 10:13. He said if you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. 

Explaining Jesus

Peter explained who Jesus was: a man attested by God with his miracles. (22) He also referred to Jesus’ mighty works, just as the disciples had proclaimed God’s mighty works in various languages. (22)These were done in their midst. Many of those present had seen Jesus perform miracles or heard about them. 

And Peter talked about sin, He reminded them that they had crucified him. They bore the guilt of his murder. 

But God was at work in this. Jesus was killed according to the definite plan ad foreknowledge of God. (23) God both planned and knew that Jesus would be killed. Jesus said the scripture said he must suffer and die. It could only say that if God knew and ordained it to happen. Romans 8:32 says God gave Jesus up for us all. And, just as God was sovereign over the death of Jesus, he was sovereign over his resurrection. (24)

To prove this point about resurrection, Peter went again to the Scripture. He quoted Psalm 16:8-11, written by David. David spoke of one who would not be abandoned to death. This did not apply to David, as Peter said we all know he died and was buried in the tomb that was present in Jerusalem.  

Rather, Peter said, David foresaw as a prophet and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ (Messiah), who would not be abandoned to the grave or to see corruption. (31) Part of the reason he knew this is that God promised he would set one of David’s descendants on the throne, referring to 2 Samuel 7:16 and Psalm 132:11. (30) 

Peter also added that he and the other disciples were witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. (32) That is the reason Jesus made so many appearances to the disciples. 

Peter did not stop with the resurrection, but went to to talk about Jesus’ ascension. He said God raised Jesus up and exalted him at God’s right hand. This, the Jews would have recognized, was a fulfillment of Psalm 110:1, “The LORD said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool”, which Peter quoted. Again, Peter pointed out this was not David, who did not ascend to the heavens but was buried in Jerusalem. (34) 

The ascended Jesus received from the Father the Holy Spirit who had been promised. He poured the Holy Spirit out on the disciples. And the Holy Spirit caused the language speaking the crowd had observed. (33)

Peter concluded with the fact that God made Jesus both Lord and Christ (Messiah).

And the Jews killed him. (36)

The Response of the Crowd

Hearing these words, the people were convicted of their sin. They were “cut to the heart”. They asked Peter what they should do to escape judgment for what they had done. 

Peter responded to them, saying to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. (38) Some have used this verse to claim baptism saves. But the idea here that one is baptized in the name of Jesus because one believes Jesus is the Christ, repents of his sin, and commits himself to Jesus. 

Baptism does not save, but it is a public profession of faith. And it is the first act of obedience. Many churches today diminish the importance of baptism and do not demand it. But, if you will not be baptized as commanded, it is hard to imagine you have indeed repented and turned to follow Jesus.

Peter also told them that, upon their commitment to Christ, they would receive the Holy Spirit. (39) All of us who have believed have received the Spirit. It is the gift of God to those who follow his Son. This verse is not talking about spiritual gifts, it is saying the Spirit is the gift. 

Peter emphasized the scope of the promise of salvation. It was certainly for them, the Jews, and their children\descendants. But is was also for the Gentiles. They were the ones who were “far off”. (39) Paul, in Ephesians 2, used this same language referring to the Gentiles of Ephesus as those who were once far off having been brought near. There is a reflection here of Isaiah 57:18, which says “Peace, peace to the far and to the near, says the LORD”. As Joel prophesied, “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”. (Joel 2:21) And everyone whom God calls to himself will call upon Jesus and be saved. (39) 

Luke summarized Peter’s sermon, but let us know Peter said many other things. (40) His preaching was effective: about 3,000 people were baptized and added to the church. 

The church, empowered by the Spirit, led by the apostles, had begun to fulfill the commission to make disciples.

Let us continue the mission! 

Sunday, March 11, 2018


Acts 1

Luke is the author of Acts. We can tell that by his address to Theophilus, as he did in his gospel. Luke told us in his introduction to the gospel that he “followed all things closely for some time”. (Luke 1:3) Additionally, it appears Luke had some personal knowledge of the events in Acts, having joined Paul in some of his journeys, shown by his use the pronoun “we” in relating their experiences beginning in chapter 16.

In fact, the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts are volumes 1 and 2 of a continuing history. Originally, the two books were kept together. However, in the early second century, the four gospels were put together and circulated as the fourfold gospel. Thus, the book of Acts was separated from Luke’s gospel. It is often, therefore, considered a stand alone book, a bridge between the gospels and Paul’s writings. It is that, but it is also a continuation of the history written by Luke.

The good thing about Acts serving as a bridge between the Gospels and Paul’s writings, is that one of the themes of Acts is a defense of the apostolic authority of Paul, shown by Luke’s record of Paul’s calling and service.

The theme of Acts is the record of the church’s obedience to Jesus’ command and commission to be Jesus’ witnesses.

The Prologue

Luke reminded Theophilus of his previous writing, his gospel, stating that he dealt with all Jesus did and taught until his ascension. (1-2) This is an introduction to volume 2, in a sense, an implies he will now tell what Jesus did and taught after his ascension through the apostles.

Notice that Luke said Jesus presented himself alive to those apostles by many proofs. (3) Luke presents the resurrection as a bodily resurrection attested to by many who saw him. Paul did the same thing when he listed a large number of people who saw Jesus after his resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:5-8)

Luke also recounted Jesus’ instruction for the apostles to wait in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit. Jesus called the Spirit the “promise of the Father”. Jesus had told them previously that he would ask the Father and the Father would give them another helper to be with them, and us, forever. He would dwell with them and in them. (John 14:15-17) Jesus identified that helper as the Holy Spirit. (John 14:25) Jesus said the Father would send him in Jesus’ name.

Notice the parallel between the inauguration of Jesus’ ministry and that of the apostles. Jesus began his ministry after being anointed with the Holy Spirit at his baptism. (Luke 3:22) The apostles will begin their ministry after receiving, being baptized by, the Holy Spirit.

This was a fulfillment of the prophecy of John the Baptist: “He (the Christ) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit…). (Luke 316) It was also a fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32, when the Lord said he would pour out his Spirit on all flesh on the day of the Lord.

The Disciples’ Question
1: 6-8

The disciples asked if Jesus would then restore the kingdom to Israel. (6) He had been resurrected, proving that he was God’s Anointed One. He had promised the Holy Spirit to come and help them. It seemed like a good time for the Jews to cast off the Romans and get their own kingdom back. They still did not have an accurate view of the kingdom.

Jesus first of all instructed them that the Father’s time table of events are fixed by him and him alone. And, he has chosen not to reveal it to us. (7) God is sovereign over the affairs of earth and humanity. But, being God, he reveals to us what he chooses to reveal and conceals the rest. As Deuteronomy 29:29 says “the secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law”.

And Jesus did reveal to them his commandment, or law. He would not tell them when the kingdom would be consummated, but revealed to them what they were to do until it was. He said that when the Holy Spirit comes upon them, they were to be his witnesses over all the earth. (8) In other words, they were not to worry about the destiny of the Jews, but to spread the kingdom of God by witnessing, telling what they saw and heard when they were with Jesus.

The Ascension

After this final instruction, Jesus ascended. This occurs 40 days after Jesus’ resurrection. (3) That is why Ascension Day  in the church calendar falls 40 days after Easter Sunday.

The disciples saw Jesus rise until a cloud took him out of their sight. (9) This was a cloud of God’s glory as it has been in other passages. At the Transfiguration, “a cloud came and overshadowed them and they were afraid as they entered the cloud”. (Luke 9:34) Jesus said he will return in clouds of glory and power. (Mark 13:26)

They were watching him go into heaven. Luke ways they were literally gazing into heaven until Jesus was enveloped in the cloud of God’s glory. Philippians 2 states that God exalted Jesus to the highest place. This took place as he ascended to Heaven

Two men then appeared to them. The men wore white robes. Were they the same angels that appeared to tell the women Jesus was resurrected? The fact that there were two of them indicates they were two witnesses as required by the Old Testament, first to Jesus’ resurrection and then to his ascension. They had a message for the disciples: Jesus will return to earth the same way they saw him go into heaven. (11) He will return in bodily form, he will be visible, and he will come in power and glory.

From this point, Acts is the story of Jesus reigning from heaven and building his church through the apostles.

Choosing Another Apostle

The first thing done to build the church was to restore the Twelve. Since Judas succumbed to Satan, there were only eleven. Luke listed the apostles, listing Peter first and separated from his brother, Andrew, by James and John. (13) Peter, James and John had been the inner circle of the apostles. Peter was usually the leader. None of the other apostles but these three are mentioned again in the New Testament. When Luke used the term apostles, he meant the Twelve (with one exception in 14:4).

They gathered in the upper room, along with the women and the family of Jesus. Note that his brothers, who earlier thought he was crazy, were there. They were now believers. This may have resulted from Jesus’ post resurrection appearance to James that Paul recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:7.

All of them were devoting themselves to prayer. Jesus was praying as the Holy Spirit descended on him. (Luke 3:21) The disciples prayed as they waited for the Holy Spirit to descend on them.

Peter stepped up like the leader he is supposed to be. He told the the group of disciples that they needed to add one to replace Judas. He showed a remarkable command of Scripture. He said that both the betrayal of Judas and the need to replace him are matters of Old Testament prophecy.

Before getting to the process of choice, Luke inserted a note telling what happened to Judas. Verses 18-19 are not Peter’s words. They are Luke’s explanation that Judas bought a field with the money he got for betraying Jesus, but fell and was killed. We can see it is Luke’s explanations in that he gives the name of the field in Aramaic, explaining it was their (the Jews’) own language and then giving the meaning in Greek for his Greek speaking readers. Peter would not have needed to explain Aramaic to his fellow disciples who would also have spoken Aramaic.

Peter applied to verses from the Psalms to establish the destruction of Judas and the need to replace him. The first is Psalm 69:25 and the second is Psalm 109:8. Peter said these Scriptures had to be fulfilled. (16)

Notice how Peter described the Scripture. He said the Holy Spirit spoke through the mouth of David. David acted as a prophet giving the word of God, the Holy Spirit. (16) This is similar to Paul’s statement that all Scripture is “breathed out by God”. (2 Timothy 3:16)

Peter also set out the qualifications. The one chosen must have been with the disciplines from the time Jesus was baptized (the baptism of John).  He must also have been a witness to the resurrection.

Two men were deemed to meet the qualifications: Joseph Barsabbas (Justus) and Matthias. Evidently, there was no clear distinction between the two that choice of one preferable. So, they casts lots. The “lots” were marked stones. The lot fell to Matthias.

Although, the lots were used, it was not a matter of chance. Lots had been used in the Old Testament for the Lord to express his will. Also, the apostles asked Jesus to reveal the one he had chosen, just as he had chosen the other apostles.

Now that the group of apostles is whole, the building the church could begin.