Acts 1 Bible Study

Bible study of Acts chapter 1

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Acts 1 Bible Study

ACTS 1:1  1 The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,

What "former account" is being referred to above and who is "I"?
The "former account" is the Gospel of Luke, which was written by Luke to the same man, "Theophilus." The Gospel of Luke starts, "Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed." (Luke 1:1-5) The fact that Luke addresses Theophilus formally as "most excellent Theophilus" in the Gospel of Luke but simply as "O Theophilus" in Acts implies that Theophilus was a government official with whom Luke had become better acquainted by the time he wrote the latter "account" that we call "Acts of the Apostles" or simply "Acts."

Who was Luke?
The Apostle Paul mentions Luke at the end of this passage: "Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom ye received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him), and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me. Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you." (Colossians 4:10-14) So Luke was a "physician" and one of Paul's "fellow workers for the kingdom of God." And since his name is listed after Paul identified his Jewish ("of the circumcision") collaborators, Luke was a gentile.

Where did Paul and Luke meet?
Please pay close attention to the pronouns as you read the following passage from Acts 16:1-10. The first "he" refers to the Apostle Paul. "1 Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek. 4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily. 6 Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. 7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. 8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them." Paul and Timothy are referred to as "they". until their arrival in Troas in Acts 16:8, but the pronoun changes to "we" in Acts 16:10, indicating that Luke joined Paul and Timothy in Troas.

Where is Troas?
Troas is a port city near the northwestern corner of Turkey. Its ancient name is Troy.

How far did Luke accompany Paul?
All the way to Rome, where Paul wrote following words to Timothy: "Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica - Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry." (2 Timothy 4:9-11)

ACTS 1:2-5  2 until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, 3 to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. 4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “ye have heard from Me; 5 for John truly baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

What does "taken up" (Acts 1:2) refer to?
Jesus' ascension into heaven, which we will read about shortly.

How long did Jesus stay on earth between His resurrection and ascension?
"forty days" (Acts 1:3).

How many people saw Him during those 40 days?
"Over five hundred" as indicated in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6: "For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep."

What else did Jesus do besides appear to them during those 40 days?
He taught them as mentioned in Acts 1:3 above, walked with them (see 24-35), ate in front of them (see Luke 24:36-43), as well as with them, and even cooked them breakfast (see John 21:1-14). So He wasn't just some vision. He was with them physically.

ACTS 1:6-11  6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But ye shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do ye stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as ye saw Him go into heaven.”

What do you think about their asking, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel" (Acts 1:6)?
Even after Jesus' resurrection, they still don't grasp that He had come on a spiritual mission for the world, not to restore Israel politically. Despite Jesus' patient reminder, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority" (Acts 1:7), this is a disappointing question based on what they should have known by now and what Jesus already had said on this particular issue: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for ye do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore ye also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour ye do not expect." (Matthew 24:36-44)

What does this mean for the self-proclaimed prophets who have tried to predict the timing of Jesus' return?
All of their predictions have proven to be false, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this. And since false prophecies disqualify the prophet, all of them are false prophets. In fact, even just the attempt to time His return is a rebellion against Jesus, who said in clear terms, "But of that day and hour no one knows not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only" (Matthew 24:36-44). All we can say is that everything the Bible said will happen before Jesus returns already has happened or is happening now, which means that He could return tomorrow or in 10,000 years. For a 1-minute video clip on this point, click here.

What is Acts 1:8 commonly called?
The "Great Commission," which applies to Christians today as it did to the Apostles 2000 years ago.

Who were the "two men" mentioned in Acts 1:10?
Angels. The Greek word translated "white" in "white apparel" also means, "radiant" or "brilliant."

What finally opened the spiritual eyes of the Apostles? 
The Holy Spirit coming upon them, for which Jesus told them "wait" in Jerusalem (Acts 1:4).

ACTS 1:12-14  12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey. 13 And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James. 14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

Where is the "mount of Olivet"?
Mount of Olivet, also called, "Mount of Olives" is located directly east of Jerusalem.

Then why does Acts 1:12 say it is "a Sabbath day's journey"?
A “Sabbath day’s journey” wasn't the distance a person could cover by journeying for a day; it was just a unit of distance, equal to about 2/3 of a mile, that the Jewish leaders limited people to walk on the Sabbath, deeming walking any further to be “work". Acts 1:12 isn't saying that the Apostles respected this man-made law, but simply indicating the distance between Jerusalem and the mount called Olivet.

How many of the 11 remaining disciples were staying in the "upper room"?
All of them.

Who were the "women" in Acts 1:14?
They most likely included the "women" identified in, "There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome, who also followed Him and ministered to Him when He was in Galilee, and many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem." (Mark 15:40-41)

Who are "His brothers"?
At least two of the four sons, named "James, Joseph, Simon and Judas" (Matthew 13:55) that Mary bore after Jesus, with Joseph.

Doesn't John 7:5 say that Jesus' "brother did not believe in Him"?
Yes, but that was before Jesus' resurrection, after which "His brothers" may have been among the 500+ to whom Jesus appeared before His ascension. Later in Acts, we will learn that one of them, "James" became one of the Christian leaders in Jerusalem.

ACTS 1:15-19  15 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said, 16 “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus; 17 for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out. 19 And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.)

How many disciples were there?
"About a hundred and twenty."

How does Matthew 27:3-5 describe Judas' death?
That he "hanged himself": "Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!” Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself."

How do we reconciled this accounts in Acts 1 and Matthew 27?
The fact that he fell "headlong" yet "burst open in the middle" indicates that his body was bloated when he fell, which means he was already dead. Most likely, Judas hung himself on a tree, and eventually the branch or the rope broke, causing the mess described in Acts 1.

ACTS 1:20-26  20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘Let his dwelling place be desolate, And let no one live in it’; and, ‘Let another take his office.’ 21 “Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” 23 And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen 25 to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” 26 And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

What does it mean to “cast their lots”?
The names of the two men were written on stones, put into a jar, which was shaken until one of the stones fell out. The one that fell out was considered the one chosen.

Whose name fell out?

What role was he to perform?
“become a witness with us of His resurrection.”

What would becoming this “witness” involve?
Telling people who Jesus is, why He died, and what His resurrection proves.

Has that changed today?
Not really.

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