Notes on Acts chapter 1      Next chapter            Back to Bible Studies 

The author of the book of Acts is Luke and the two books are often studied together, as the one takes up where the other  left off. It is interesting that Luke is the longest book in the New Testament and Acts the second longest. Does this tell us something about Luke?! At the end of the gospel of Luke we find Jesus instructing his disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait until they are 'clothed with power from on high'. It is striking that he does not say 'Now that I have taught you everything I know, you are ready to go and spread the word'. Of all people, one could imagine that these disciples, having been so close to Jesus throughout his ministry, would now be 'educated' enough to be able to handle the assignment of going and making disciples. However, Jesus instructs them to go and wait, for they needed to be clothed with power from on high. This is firm evidence that teaching and lots of information is not enough. Teaching, as good as it may be, is not that which equips us to do God's work. It does serve a purpose though, in that the Holy Spirit can call things to mind that we have read or learnt.

There is a second peculiarity in the actions of the disciples. Previously, after the crucifiction, Peter decides to go back to fishing and the others said that they would join him (John 21: 1-3). This is what they did before Jesus called them originally and so this is what they returned to. Contrast this now with the way they obey Jesus' instruction to go and wait in Jerusalem. Something happened to change these men fundamentally, so that now they simply went joyfully and waited and 'continually praised God' (Luke 24: 53) There is a dramatic change in the disciples. Their belief had undergone a transformation, starting with v 45 of Luke 24: "Then He opened their eyes so they could understand the Scriptures".

The word 'Witnesses' is used a total of 39 times in the book of Acts. In Luke 24:48 Jesus says to his disciples: 'You are witnesses to these things...' Let's take a closer look at what a witness is. Think of a courtroom scene - what is peculiar about a witness, that the judge calls the witness to come and testify? Is it that this person has studied the case carefully and must now give his/her opinion? Quite the opposite! - the person is called as a witness because he/she has first-hand information about the case. They were there, they saw what happened. This is very important to remember as we continue through Acts.

In reference to Jesus saying that they must be 'baptised' with the Holy Spirit, here are some notes from the original Greek:
    The Greek word 'Baptizo' (Baptism): 
       1. to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (sunk vessels)
       2. to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash one's self, bathe
       3. to overwhelm
Not to be confused with 'bapto'. The clearest example that shows the meaning of Baptizo is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C. It is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be 'dipped' (bapto) into boiling water and then 'immersed' (baptizo) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is temporary. The second, the act of baptising/immersing the vegetable, produces a permanent change. When used in the New Testament, this word more often refers to our union and identification with Christ than to our water baptism. e.g. Mark 16:16. 'He that believes and is baptised shall be saved'. Mere intellectual assent is not enough. There must be a union with him, a real change, like the vegetable in the pickle! This certainly gives us a different perspective on what it really means to be baptised with (pickled in) the Holy Spirit!

The latter part of the chapter concerns the appointment of Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot. It is interesting to note that this is the last time the casting of lots is used in the New Testament. This is significant and points us to chapter two where the Holy Spirit, who guides and directs from within the believer's heart, is poured out.

© 2011 Werner Schreiber

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