Acts 1:12-26—A Short Commentary—Part 3

Posted: August 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

1:20—Here Peter goes to the Old Testament that these disciples would have known so well.  No doubt they had heard Jesus teach many times from the book called Psalms.  The specific quotations used come from two different Psalms.  Peter shows how these two Psalms, written hundreds of years prior to the betrayal of Christ by Judas, have come true in these events. 

Psalm 69:25 is the first Psalm that Peter quotes.  “May his camp become a desolation, and let there be no one to well in it.”  The actual Psalm is in the plural as it uses “their camp” instead of “his camp” and “let no one dwell in their tents” instead of “let there be no one to dwell in it.”  This isn’t a major issue as Peter is being consistent with the normal use of language.  The Psalm itself is “not to be understood of Judas alone, but of enemies of the Messiah in general, of which Judas was one”[i].  This application to Judas and subsequent changing of tense is acceptable on these grounds.

Psalm 109:8 is quoted after Psalm 69:25.  Since the enemy is to be removed another must “take his office.”  Again, this is a Psalm that refers generally to those who are unworthy of their office.  As David faces challenges of various kinds and is betrayed from time to time, those who were unfaithful were unworthy to retain their place of service.  After their removal another must fill the slot.  Here, Peter applies the Psalm to this particular circumstance.  Judas, being unworthy of the office and thus removed, must be replaced.

1:21-23—After Peter’s showing those gathered in the upper room from the Scriptures the need to replace Judas, two men are put forth as candidates.  The important of this decision is found in the importance of this office.  It is the Lord Jesus Himself that chose the apostles.  It is the foundation of the apostles on which the church would be built.  It is the apostles that will sit and judge the twelve tribes of Israel.  This is no light matter.  These two men must be up to par.

The qualifications are recorded for us in the text.  That they must be “men” is consistent with the pattern Jesus had set and is consistent with male headship that is clearly portrayed in the Bible.  These men are to have “accompanied [the apostles] during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among [them], beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from [them].”  By this criteria some of the original apostles would be excluded.  In this case however, as Longenecker writes, “they evidently wanted to make quite sure that there would be no deficiency on this first point”[ii].  The whole business of the apostle was to be a witness to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  Who better than one who had seen it all!

The second qualification is that this person must be a witness to the resurrection of Jesus.  As Acts 1:8 says, they are to be His “witnesses.”  This term “witnesses” is the term “martyrs.”  The meaning is that this person is to be “one who bore testimony even to death”[iii].  The testimony they were to give was the testimony of the resurrected Christ.  One who had physically seen (and possibly touched) this Jesus had the necessary experience to fulfill the available slot.  As John MacArthur states, “The resurrection was central of apostolic preaching”[iv]

Only one who had been with Christ during His earthly ministry, from the baptism of John until His resurrection, could fill this position.  Two are put forth but only one will be chosen. How that decision is made and who is chosen closes this section of Acts.

1:24-26—The first thing that the church does as they seek to ordain the next apostle is to express their dependence upon God.  As their Lord had appointed the original twelve it would be the Lord who must appoint the replacement.  As Luke records this event for us a number of issues are raised, including the meaning that Judas went to “his own place” and the idea of casting lots in this situation.

First, when the text says that Judas goes “to his own place” it can also be taken as “a place of his own choosing”[v].  What exactly this refers to has been hotly debated by scholars throughout church history.  When we realize that Judas dies after he betrays Christ, the obvious reading would seem to be that hell is in view.  That is the place he has chosen when he rejects Christ as Lord.  According to Albert Barnes, “unless men had previously made up their minds not to believe in future punishment, no one would ever have thought of any other interpretation”[vi]

The second issue has to do with the casting of lots.  It would seem today very odd for a major decision in the life of the church to be decided by throwing dice.  This, however, fails to understand the providence and control of God.  Again, the apostles would have been very astute in respect to the Old Testament.  Proverbs 16:33 says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”  The apostles had chosen two men who met the qualifications to be an apostle.  They have sought the Lord’s guidance and want to ultimately leave the decision in the hands of the one who had appointed them to this apostleship.  Therefore, they put two men forth, cast lots, and let the God who controls the dice choose his man.


[i] Albert Barnes, Acts,13.

[ii] Richard N. Longenecker, Acts, 265.

[iii] John B. Polhill, Acts, 93.

[iv] John MacArthur, Acts, 1435.

[v] John B. Polhill, Acts, 94.

[vi][vi] Albert Barnes, Acts,17

 

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