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.
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
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.
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.