Acts of the Apostles 2017 Lesson 02

   Acts 1:1 In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught 2 until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; 5 for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the holy Spirit.” 6


When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. 10


While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. 13


When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. 15


During those days Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers (there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons in the one place). He said, 16 “My brothers, the scripture had to be fulfilled which the holy Spirit spoke beforehand through the mouth of David, concerning Judas, who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 He was numbered among us and was allotted a share in this ministry. 18 He bought a parcel of land with the wages of his iniquity, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle, and all his insides spilled out. 19 This became known to everyone who lived in Jerusalem, so that the parcel of land was called in their language ‘Akeldama,’ that is, Field of Blood. 20 For it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘Let his encampment become desolate, and may no one dwell in it.’ And: ‘May another take his office.’ 21


Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.” 26 Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles.


2:1 When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. 2 And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. 3 Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. 5


Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. 6 At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language? 9 We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, 11 both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.” 12


They were all astounded and bewildered, and said to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others said, scoffing, “They have had too much new wine.” 14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them, “You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem. Let this be known to you, and listen to my words. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.


No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17 ‘It will come to pass in the last days,’ God says, ‘that I will pour out a portion of my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. 18 Indeed, upon my servants and my handmaids I will pour out a portion of my spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will work wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below: blood, fire, and a cloud of smoke. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the coming of the great and splendid day of the Lord, 21 and it shall be that everyone shall be saved who calls on the name of the Lord.’ 22


You who are Israelites, hear these words. Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know. 23 This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him. 24 But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says of him: ‘I saw the Lord ever before me, with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed. 26 Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted; my flesh, too, will dwell in hope, 27 because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ 29


My brothers, one can confidently say to you about the patriarch David that he died and was buried, and his tomb is in our midst to this day. 30 But since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses. 33 Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the holy Spirit from the Father and poured it forth, as you (both) see and hear. 34 For David did not go up into heaven, but he himself said: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”‘ 36 Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37


Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, “What are we to do, my brothers?” 38 Peter (said) to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.” 40 He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41


Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day. 42 They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. 43 Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need. 46 Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.





This talk is by Jerre Roberts.

The ascension served as the sign of the end of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to his disciples.

Heaven is not part of our space/time universe.  It is the seat of God’s authority.  Beyond our understanding.

Acts 1:1-12 serve as the bridge between the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.  These verses contain a concise summary of Jesus’ ministry with the disciples after the resurrection and then a description of the ascension itself.  This sets the scene for Acts to build on.  A new era begins

Luke uses familiar biblical images, speeches, allusions to the Law and OT.  Jesus lifted up – as was the prophet Elijah.  (Hence – the double portion of the spirit was upon Elisha and on the apostles who were their successors.).

“He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during 40 days and speaking about the kingdom of God.”      Acts 1:3  (this is the only specified time provided in gospels or elsewhere)

Forty Days / Years:

  • Jesus in the wilderness / dessert
  • Israel in the wilderness after Egypt
  • Moses spent on Mt. Sinai
  • Elijah journeyed to Mt. Horeb (Sinai)


The ascension closes the gospel / Jesus on earth period and in Acts it opens the new era: serves as a prelude to the continuing mission of the Church in the world until Jesus’ return in glory.

Wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit.  The city of Jerusalem is the hinge point of the two books.

The apostles are the inner 12 within the larger group of disciples.  New Israel.  Restoration of the Kingdom?

HS / Mary over-shadowing is parallel to the HS / church

Pentecost (50 days) / Feast of Weeks was / is a Jewish pilgrimage festival.  “You shall keep the feast of Weeks with the first of the wheat harvest; likewise, the feast at the fruit harvest at the close of the year.”  Exodus 34:22   At the same time (and now the primary meaning) it celebrated the giving of the Law to Moses (which was accompanied by wind and tongues of fire upon the whole people assembled at the mountain).

Jeremiah 31:33

“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD.  I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”


Pentecost was on of the 3 pilgrimage festivals.  That is why there were so many from other countries there.

Acts 2:1-4 describes the coming of the HS. 

2:1 When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. 2 And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. 3 Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. 5


Sound of a mighty wind – tornado    Tongue as of fire (not fire itself)

The Spirit is like the wind: uncontrollable, mysterious, powerful, seen only in its effects.  Like the flame: it is cleansing, consuming, awesome, dangerous

“What is this new thing, then, that happened at Pentecost?  Let us be clear that Luke is not saying that the Spirit first came into existence on the Day of Pentecost.  His point is that the Spirit was given then in a way in which the Spirit had never been given before.  No one was more aware than the people of Israel themselves that the Spirit had not been given in any complete or final sense.  Never in their history was the Spirit poured out on all the people; only to the chosen leaders was the Spirit given.  And the gift was temporary.  When the immediate crisis passed, the Spirit departed.”   Albert Winn

Now they pour out onto the streets, compelled to share their experience and the good news of Jesus.

Spoke in foreign languages or in tongues?  Luke suggests tongues.  Tower of Babel is healed.

Peter speech (1 of more than 20); calls for an outpouring of the Spirit, fulfillment of prophecy.  Jesus is LORD.  Not Caesar.  He then reviews Jesus’ life as part of God’s plan.

“What are we to do?”  Acts 2:37

Peter responds: “Repent .. be baptized.”  “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”  Acts 2:38, 40

Repent meant:

  • Not being sorry but to change direction
  • To get a new sense of values


Baptism is now tied to an initiation rite which accompanied the forgiveness of sins and the reception of the Holy Spirit.


The disciples are transformed into faithful Witnesses for Jesus and the good news of the kingdom.


“Witness is perhaps the earliest term to designate the primary and essential function of the Twelve and the central object of their testimony is the Resurrection.”  Jerome Crowe






Kurz S.J. William S.  Acts of the Apostles.  Part of the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture Peter Williamson and Mary Healy Series Editors.  (Baker Academic, Grand Rapids MI, 2012).

Ryken, Leland and James C. Wilhoit, Tremper Longman III.  Dictionary of Biblical Imagery: An Encyclopedic exploration of the images, symbols, motifs, metaphors, figures of speech and literary patterns of the Bible.  (Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove IL, 1998).

Willimon, William H..  Acts.  Part of the Interpretation Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching series edited by James L. Mays and Paul J. Achtmeier (NT).  (John Knox Press, Louisville, 1988).



The Promise of the Spirit

Theophilus reappears and the author summarizes the gospel – “all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up”.

“John baptized with water, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit”.  These words, both here and in other places, are behind a perennial dispute amongst Christian denominations.  Our church holds that our baptism (infants and adults) is a baptism of water AND the Holy Spirit – whether you feel it or not.  You grow into it etc.   Some Protestant denominations (primarily evangelical) believe that with water baptism or not one MUST also be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a ‘born-again’ experience.  They then must begin to manifest some gift of the Holy Spirit – speaking in tongues, most often.  (This is what happens in Acts chapter 2.)

Acts then describes a 40 day period of post-resurrection instruction and appearances.

  • Mark has the ascension on Easter Sunday,
  • Matthew does not describe it explicitly nor give a time frame but suggests a short interval between resurrection and ascension and a locale of Galilee.
  • John also implies a shorter period than 40 days but is not clear, does not describe the ascension.

40 in the bible: days of the flood for Noah; days of fasting for Moses and Elijah; years in the desert for Israel; days in the desert for Jesus at the beginning of his ministry (time with the Holy Spirit) and more.  Ryken (and others) in Dictionary of Biblical Imagery note on p. 305: “The lack of numerical exactness explains why in the Bible three, seven, and forty appear with inordinate frequency: three is a few, seven a few more, and forty a lot more.  These numbers are approximations.  Matthew can even use “three days and three nights” for the time Jesus is in the tomb, from Friday evening until Sunday morning.  In accord with this sort of imprecision, forty days means a relatively long time.”


The Ascension of Jesus

IS THIS THE TIME?  Jesus responds – It’s not for you to know, and then gives them a mission.  For some denominations the thought is that once the gospel is proclaimed everywhere then the kingdom will come.  But Jesus, in this Acts passage, does not say that.

Jesus went up to heaven in a cloud, will return as Son of Man riding on the clouds (traditional imagery).  Here the ascension is described as taking place on Mt. Olivet outside of Jerusalem and the apostles have not left Jerusalem at all (i.e. – they did not go to Galilee).

Sabbath day’s journey – “within the neighborhood”.

The First Community in Jerusalem

The upper room of the Last Supper remains in use for them as a place to stay.  The apostles (12-1) are there along with “”some women”, Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers”.

The Choice of successor to Judas

At some point there are 120 people gathered.  He is selected by lot.  Most of the 12 are rarely mentioned, if at all, during the “Acts of the Apostles”.  Peter and Paul totally dominate the book, Stephen and Philip also receive a good amount of attention.

Willimon p. 8 – calls it the “Acts of the Holy Spirit”.

Willimon p. 23: “The number one hundred and twenty also figures prominently in the mission to Israel.  According to Jewish law one hundred and twenty males were required to form a synagogue with its own council –  already the disciples have enough people to form a legitimate community.  All is done in faithfulness to Judaism, says Luke.”

Matthew had Judas hanging himself.  Here the tradition is that he fell (doesn’t say threw himself off a cliff).

Psalm 69:23-29 after pleading for help from God to save him from unjust tormenters:

May their own table be a snare for them,

and their communion offerings a trap.

Make their eyes so dim they cannot see;

keep their backs ever feeble.

Pour out your wrath upon them;

let the fury of your anger overtake them.

Make their camp desolate,

with none to dwell in their tents.

For they pursued the one you struck,

added to the pain of the one you wounded.

Heap punishment upon their punishment;

let them gain from you no vindication.

May they be blotted from the book of life;

not registered among the just!

Psalm 109: 2-15

O God, whom I praise, do not be silent, for wicked and treacherous mouths attack me.

They speak against me with lying tongues; 3with hateful words they surround me,

attacking me without cause.


In return for my love they slander me, even though I prayed for them.

They repay me evil for good, hatred for my love.


Appoint an evil one over him, an accuser to stand at his right hand,

That he may be judged and found guilty, that his plea may be in vain.


May his days be few; may another take his office. 

May his children be fatherless, his wife, a widow.


May his children wander and beg, driven from their hovels.

May the usurer snare all he owns, strangers plunder all he earns.


May no one treat him with mercy or pity his fatherless children.

May his posterity be destroyed, their name rooted out in the next generation.


May his fathers’ guilt be mentioned to the LORD;  his mother’s sin not rooted out.

May their guilt be always before the LORD, till their memory is banished from the earth,



The Coming of the Spirit

“they were all in one place together” – who is the “they”?  The newly reconstituted 12?  The 120 which would have included the 12, the women, Mary mother of Jesus …?”  Text is unclear.

Sound of driving wind, tongues as of fire: Sinai references?  Or wind as breath in creation (ruah in Hebrew; to pneuma in Greek) or wind sweeping over the deep as creation began?

Exodus 10:13: “So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the LORD sent an east wind blowing over the land all that day and all that  night …”

Pentecost was a Jewish pilgrimage festival (which explains the presence of Jews from all over the Mediterranean world) also known as “Weeks” – 50 days from Passover.  Passover was a first harvest festival, Weeks was the second harvest festival – of grain.   Today it is known as Shevuot (50 in Hebrew) and is celebrated as a festival of the giving of the Torah on Mt Sinai (which was accompanied by wind, tongues of fire)  – the giving of Wisdom.  Very close to us!


Willimon p. 28: “Today, the average congregation may experience these events as separate phenomena, thus missing the truth that both the ascension of Christ and the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost are further explications of the wonder of Easter.  Fortunately, recent liturgical reforms seek to set the liturgy for Pentecost within the context of the great fifty-day celebration of Easter.  The opening prayer for the Catholic Mass for Pentecost asserts, “Almighty and ever-living God, you fulfilled the Easter promise by sending us your Holy Spirit”.”

Willimon p. 32: the miracle is not in the multiple languages (not yet a universal message – all who hear are Jews) nor is it in the hearing on the listener’s side.  It is in the new willingness and power to proclaim what has happened in Jesus  “Those who had no ‘tongue’ to speak of the ‘mighty works of God’ now preach.”

Kurz p. 46: “Although the whole crowd hears the diverse languages coming from a group of Galileans, their reactions differ widely, from being astounded and bewildered to questioning, to scoffing accusations that the believers are drunk.  Miraculous signs are an invitation to faith but often require an explanation of what they signify.  Such an explanation is what Peter’s speech will provide (Acts 2:14-36)”

Peter’s Speech at Pentecost

None of the “speeches” in Acts were actually given – all of them are Lukan constructions which advance the message that Luke wants the reader / hearer to understand.

Peter – who had cravenly denied Jesus on Good Friday is pictured as standing up to speak boldly to the crowds

An outline of the speech:

  • This is prophecy
  • We have been given the Spirit which is an element of the end times
  • Jesus of Nazareth / the Nazarean did mighty deeds and signs through the power of God
  • You killed him using lawless men (Romans) to crucify him
  • God raised him up – we are witnesses
  • He is now exalted and sent the Holy Spirit
  • God has made him both Lord and Messiah – this one you crucified.
  • SO – repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins, for reception of the Holy Spirit yourselves

Based on this verse some denominations baptize only in the name of Jesus.  Our church would not recognize such a baptism.  These denominations may do a water baptism in the name of Jesus and then require a “baptism of the Holy Spirit” before considering one a full member.

Kurz p. 58: “To confess that Jesus is LORD is to say that he is my LORD, my savior, my King; that I have placed my life under his authority and that my whole destiny belongs to him.  Thus St. Paul declares, ‘No one can say Jesus is lord.’ except by the holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3).   …  The existential knowledge that Jesus is LORD, a living presence in our lives, is meant to be the inheritance of every Christian.”

Communal Life

Willimon p. 39 ff: So, the Spirit has come.  What changes?  A lot!

  1. Devotion to the apostle’s teaching
  2. Deep fellowship resulting in shared goods and risks
  3. Breaking of the bread together
  4. Regular prayer

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