The Book of ACTS
James J. Barker
PRAYING IN THE UPPER ROOM
- After our Lord had ascended into heaven, the disciples returned to Jerusalem from nearby Mount Olivet (1:12).
- "A sabbath day's journey" (1:12) would be about one mile.
- Matthew Henry says a sabbath day's journey is "no further than devout people used to walk out on a sabbath evening, after the public worship was over, for meditation. Some reckon it a thousand paces, others two thousand cubits; some seven furlongs, others eight."
- The "upper room" (1:13) is the "one place" referred to in Acts 2:1.
- This could be the same place where the apostles kept the Passover nearly six weeks earlier (cf. Luke 22:7-13).
- Some say this upper room was in the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark (cf. Acts 12:12). We cannot be sure.
THE PRAYER MEETING LASTED SEVERAL DAYS
- According to Acts 1:13-15, there were about an hundred and twenty people at this prayer meeting, including the eleven apostles (Judas had already hung himself), and Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brethren.
- Roman Catholics pray to Mary. They worship statues of Mary. They have given her many strange and unscriptural titles.
- Catholics refer to Mary as the Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven, the “co-redemptress," the blessed Virgin Mary, and many other names but none of this is found in the Bible.
- Luke 11:27 says, "And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked."
- Our Lord responded to this foolish statement by saying, "Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it" (Luke 11:28).
- It is true Mary was "blessed." God chose her to be the mother of our Lord. But "blessed" does not mean she is a goddess or a "co- redemptress."
- In Luke 1:28, the angel Gabriel said to her, "Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women." ("Among women," not above women.)
- Later on, Mary went to visit her cousin Elisabeth, and Elisabeth said, "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:42).
- Elisabeth referred to Mary as the mother of her Lord, not the mother of God. There is a big theological difference! The eternal God has no mother. Mary is the mother of the human Christ, who left heaven to become a man in order to die on the cross for our sins.
- Isaiah 9:6 says, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given..."
- Our Lord said to the Pharisees in John 8:58, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am."
- The Roman Catholic Church has elevated Mary to the same level as God but this contradicts the Bible.
- According to official Catholic theology, Mary was born “immaculate” and was therefore sinless. She participated in the atonement of Jesus Christ by her agony at the cross and is therefore given the title “co-redemptress.” Since she bore the Lord Jesus Christ, she is given the title “Mother of God.” She ascended bodily up to Heaven and was crowned Queen of Heaven, and in this capacity she hears and answers prayers. But only God is sinless and only God can hear and answer prayer.
- There is nothing in the Bible about Mary ascending into heaven, and the title "Queen of Heaven" is pagan (cf. Jer. 7:18; 44:17-25).
- Acts 1:14 is the last time that ever any mention is made of Mary in the scriptures. If she were important to Christian theology it is strange that she is only mentioned this one time in the book of Acts, and she is not mentioned at all in any of the epistles.
- Mary is prominent in the Roman Catholic religion but not in the Bible. Christ is preeminent in Scripture, not Mary.
- Colossians 1:18 says, "That in all things he might have the preeminence."
- Furthermore, the RCC teaches that Mary remained a virgin even after she and Joseph were married. However, Matthew 1:25 says, "And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS."
- And here we are told our Lord's "brethren" were at this upper room prayer meeting (Acts 1:14). These brethren were not converted until after our Lord's resurrection (cf. John 7:1-5).
- The disciples were waiting for the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them, and so they continued "with one accord in prayer and supplication" (1:14; cf. 1:4, 5, 8).
- They prayed with one accord. This means that there was no discord among them. They were in agreement. Matthew 18:19 says, "Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven."
THE DEATH OF JUDAS ISCARIOT (1:15-20)
- Acts 1:25 says, "Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place."
- His "transgression" is the most infamous and treacherous betrayal in history. "His own place" is hell.
- Judas had been a very popular name (cf. 1:13b), but since Judas' transgression no one names their son Judas.
- Matthew 27:3-10 gives us the historical background to Judas' transgression.
- In his speech, Peter referred to three Psalms (Acts 1:16, 20):
- Psalm 41:9 -- "Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me."
- Psalm 69:25 -- "Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents."
- Psalm 109:8 -- "Let his days be few; and let another take his office."
- His office ("bishoprick" -- Acts 1:20) was that of apostle. After his death, the apostles had to select another man for that position so there would once again be twelve apostles, corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel. In Scripture, twelve is the number of perfect administration.
- In Matthew 19:28, our Lord said to his apostles, "Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."
- This means there will be twelve apostles sitting on twelve thrones.
- Revelation 21:14 says, "And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb."
- Certainly Judas' name won't be there!
THE CHOOSING OF A REPLACEMENT FOR JUDAS
- Peter listed certain qualifications (Acts 1:21, 22).
- The new appointee had to be a witness of the resurrection and a companion of the Lord during His entire earthly ministry -- from the baptism of John, unto the day that he was taken up into heaven.
- Two men were nominated -- Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias (1:23).
- Then they prayed for the Lord to show them who His choice was (1:24, 25).
- They gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles (1:26).
- In the Old Testament, the casting of lots was a legitimate way of discerning God's will. Proverbs 16:33 says, "The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD."
- It appears to be a matter of chance, "but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD." In other words, God overrules in order to guide and direct.
- Things changed after Pentecost. Today we have the abiding presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
- All throughout the book of Acts, we see the Holy Spirit directing believers. Acts 1:26 is the last time we see believers casting lots.
- William MacDonald says, "Today the complete Word of God gives us a general outline of God's will. When we need specific guidance in matters not covered in the Word, we learn His will through waiting on Him in prayer" (Enjoying the Proverbs).
- It is interesting that neither Joseph or Matthias is ever mentioned again in Scripture. But most of the others are not mentioned as well.
- Many people, such as the great expositor G. Campbell Morgan, consider the apostle Paul the one God chose, but this is not clearly taught in Scripture.
- Furthermore, Paul did not meet the requirements set forth in verses 21 and 22. G. Campbell Morgan taught the apostles were wrong to make these requirements and wrong to cast lots.
- Acts 1:26 refers to the eleven apostles, and Acts 6:2 refers to the twelve apostles. This indicates Matthias was accepted as the twelfth apostle.
- In Acts 1:24, the apostles prayed, and said, "Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen..."
- "Hast chosen" means God had already chose Matthias.