We apologize for the poor audio in this week’s recording.
Acts is the record of what Jesus continued to do and teach, and this includes the seemingly mundane, ordinary work of prayer, Bible reading, gathering together with God’s people, and obeying Him. The Risen Jesus works through these ordinary means.
“In those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) Men and brethren…” (Acts 1:15-26).
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
Sometime during the ten days between the Ascension and Pentecost, Peter stood up to speak in the midst of the eleven remaining apostles, the women, and about a hundred and twenty disciples (Acts 1:15). Peter cites what the Holy Spirit said in portions of Psalm 69 and 109 that address their situation with the loss of Judas (Acts 1:16-17, 20). Luke reviews what happened to Judas, recounting different details than Matthew. But the differences are easily accounted for: Judas hung himself in such a violent way that his bowels gushed out, and the money he had taken to betray Jesus was used to purchase that field, which became a burial ground for strangers (Acts 1:18-19, cf. Mt. 27:3-10). Peter says that another should be chosen to take his place, a man who was with them from the baptism of John until the ascension, a witness of the resurrection (Acts 1:21-22). Two men are selected that fit those criteria, Barsabas and Matthias, and after praying for the leading of Jesus, lots are cast and Matthias is chosen (Acts 1:23-26).
It’s in the context of worship and community that the Lord leads the Church to recognize a need to replace Judas through what was written by David in the Psalms. This need was probably first raised simply by the way Jesus had spoken about the number twelve itself (e.g. Lk. 22:29-30, Mt. 19:28, Mk. 14:20, Jn. 6:70), implying that Jesus intended that number on purpose as the foundation of a new Kingdom of Israel (cf. Rom. 11, Rev. 21:12-14, Eph. 2:20).
The purpose of this office is clearly repeated: to bear witness of the entire ministry of Jesus from His baptism to His ascension, and a witness of the resurrection in particular (Acts 1:22). This means apostles had authority to oversee/write Scripture, and God authenticated that authority by giving them the power to perform extraordinary signs (Mt. 10:1, Lk. 9:1, Acts 5:12, cf. 2 Cor. 12:12).
But this raises the question of Paul, who acknowledged that he was “born out of due time” and the “least of the apostles” and not worthy to be called an apostle (1 Cor. 15:8-9). And yet, Paul insisted that he was in fact an apostle, “not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead” (Gal. 1:1) and not at all inferior to the original apostles (2 Cor. 11:5, 12:11). So an apostle is an eyewitness of the resurrection of Jesus and proven by miracles. Paul became an eyewitness of the resurrection when he saw Jesus alive on the road to Damascus (Acts 9, 22, 26), and Jesus proved that by giving Paul the apostolic power to perform miracles (2 Cor. 12:12). This is why we believe that the office of apostle was only operative in the first century. They were the foundation of the Church (Eph. 2:20). The apostles ordained elders in the churches as their successors, but there is no “apostolic line,” much less a successor to Peter, as the Roman Church claims.
READING SCRIPTURE FAITHFULLY
Peter’s argument raises questions about biblical interpretation: How did Peter know that Psalm 69 and 109 were about Judas? Could these psalms also be applied to a modern enemy? The first rule of biblical interpretation is that Jesus is Lord of it. It is His Spirit that inspired all of it (Acts 1:16). We must come to the Word in complete submission. Second, and closely related, this means that we should seek to let Scripture interpret Scripture. Wherever Scripture comments on other Scriptures, that is an authoritative interpretation. And we should seek to imitate that method. Third, we know that when Jesus rose from the dead, He taught His disciples from all the Old Testament scriptures the things concerning Himself (Lk. 24:26-27), and Jesus Himself quoted the Old Testament repeatedly throughout His ministry, claiming that it was being fulfilled in Him (cf. Mt. 5:18, Jn. 10:35). Fourth, Jesus quoted Psalms in particular, a number of times, applying them to Himself, including Psalm 69:4 in John 15:25: “They hated me without a cause.” The disciples would also remember Psalm 69:9 and apply it to the cleansing of the temple (Jn. 2:17). Given that Jesus had already applied Psalm 69 to Himself, it would be no great jump to apply a similar Psalm (like Ps. 109) to Judas and Jesus and the apostleship. So we can speak of an original, literal/historic meaning of texts, prophetic/Messianic meanings/fulfillments of a text, and often, there are fruitful applications to our day.
CONCLUSIONS & APPLICATIONS
This text highlights the way the Spirit of Jesus drives history forward through how people respond to His Word. Judas became infamous for his greed, treachery, and then finally despair. Peter took up a leadership position through repentance, prayer, and Bible reading/teaching. Matthias receives the high honor of being the twelfth apostle, and then we never hear about him in Scripture again (although tradition says he was the apostle to Ethiopia).
While they were obediently waiting for the promise of the Father, the disciples weren’t doing nothing. They gathered together for prayer and Scripture reading (Acts 1:14-15). In some respects this is the position of the modern church: our culture is crumbling and appears ready for severe judgment. We are praying and working for Reformation, but in the meantime, while we wait for God’s decision, we gather together in prayer around the Word, looking to obey.
The ordinary way we grow up in our obedience to Christ is in community studying the Word. Even though we are saved by ones, there are no solo Christians. We are saved into a body, into a community. This is what church membership means (Heb. 13:7, 17). This worshiping community is the center of a thriving Christian life. Sometimes, God’s people must wait on decisions, but this doesn’t mean doing nothing in the meantime. Be obedient in the meantime: gather with God’s people around the Word and prayers and then obey Jesus.