The Book of Acts was written by Dr. Luke, the same Dr. Luke that wrote the Gospel of Luke. The very first verse mentions a previous book written by this author:
“The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach”. So if it helps you, you can think of the Gospel of Luke as the “First Book of Luke” and Acts as the “Second Book of Luke”. The first book is written on “all that Jesus began both to do and teach” leading up to and including His death and resurrection. The second book is written to cover the period immediately following His resurrection which includes the founding of the “church” and an account of the “Acts of the Apostles”, primarily focusing on Peter and Paul.
(Notice there was no “church” before the book of Acts, there was only the synagogue.)
Acts Chapter 1
Vs 1-5 The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 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, 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.
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, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Luke gives us a brief introduction and then summarizes the 40 days after His death and resurrection when Jesus prepares the Apostles for ministry. He instructs them to wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit (see The Holy Spirit and the Day of Pentecost).
Vs 6-8 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
This is a short recounting of the episode in Luke 24:36-53 when Jesus appeared to His disciples. He tells them that they will receive power from the Holy Spirit, but also that they will be witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth”. Here He is telling them that they will preach in their local city (Jerusalem), then they will expand the ministry to go beyond the city to the broader area (Judea and Samaria (a much larger area of Israel from the Dead Sea all the way to the coast) then they would also push even beyond that “to the end of the earth”. This they certainly did not only by way of their preaching and teaching ministry, but Peter and Paul both wrote letters which were passed among the churches and which also became a large portion of the New Testament of the Bible. So they literally did reach the end of the earth with their ministry. This is something we should also take to heart for our own lives.
Vs 9-11 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
All through the Bible, God’s presence is associated with a cloud. We’re not talking about a little raincloud, but rather a manifestation of God’s glory! A glorious cloud that receives Jesus, if you can imagine that. The the disciples “looked steadfastly toward heaven”. Can you just imagine them with their jaws wide open in awe, completely unable to look at anything other than the sky? Then these two angels show up out of nowhere and tell them that He will be coming back the same way they saw Him go.
Vs 12-14 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey. 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. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
(Me: Notice there is a Judas that is not Judas Iscariot, this Apostle is Judas the son of James.)
From David Guzik:
“Their obedience is notable: They returned to Jerusalem. Jesus told them to return to Jerusalem and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit, and that is exactly what they did. They didn’t forget the sermon right after they heard it, and they actually did what Jesus told them to do, even though He was no longer physically present with them.
Their unity is notable: These all continued with one accord. When we saw the disciples in the gospels, it seemed that they were always fighting and bickering. What had changed? Peter still had the history of denying the Lord; Matthew was still a tax collector; Simon was still a zealot. Their differences were still there, but the resurrected Jesus in their hearts was greater than any difference.
Their prayer is notable: they all prayed, and they continued in prayer and supplication. The idea of supplication is a sense of desperation and earnestness in prayer.
Already, we see three important steps in making godly decisions: The disciples are in obedience, they are in fellowship, and they are in prayer.”
Vs 15-20 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, “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; for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry.” (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.
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.) 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.’
So this prayer meeting is pretty big with 120 people there. Peter feels called to stand up and make the case that they now should allow God to choose a successor to Judas Iscariot. Notice that this is the first time in the Bible that we see Peter quote Scripture. He is now relying on the Word of God to steer him through ministry just like Jesus had demonstrated through His earthly ministry and had taught them to do.
Vs 21-26 “Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 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.” And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.”
And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
Guzik: “Even though we read nothing more of Matthias, we should not assume he was a “dud” as an apostle; except for Peter and John, none of the original twelve are mentioned again after Acts 1. Matthias was no more of a “dud” than Matthew or Andrew or Thomas or any of the others.”
We know that later, Paul counts himself among Jesus’ Apostles, but tells us He is unworthy to be listed among the twelve:
1 Corinthians 15:7-9 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
Paul knew he had done lots of wrong throughout his life. He calls himself the chief among sinners:
1 Timothy 1:15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
Yet Paul also knew that if we have chosen to accept Christ as our savior His free gift of salvation, Jesus washes us clean of our past sinful life. Jesus even washes us clean from our current and future sin! This is, in part, what it means to have freedom in Jesus. We are no longer bound by our past sin or even our present mistakes and choices. Our hope and our future is in Jesus if we choose Him. Praise God!
There are times when I really make a poor sinful choice and beat myself up over it. Yet when God looks at me, He doesn’t see the sinful choices in my life, even the one I just made. He sees Jesus in me. I’m forgiven! Hallelujah!