Acts 1 Part 3
12. Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey.
Olivet is an unusual name for this mount, which is usually called the Mount of Olives. However, there can be little doubt that the same place is meant. Note that this is the last mention of this mountain in Scripture. Yet it will surely again be in prominence when it becomes the place that first receives the Lord upon His return!
A Sabbath day’s journey is said to be around a half-mile. Remember, there were strict rules against working on the Sabbath day. The Scriptures did not specify exactly what constituted work regarding many things. The Jews had many traditions to cover these situations, however. One of them was this matter of a Sabbath day’s journey, which was the distance one could travel on the Sabbath day without it being considered work. This is how far the mount called Olivet was from Jerusalem, which is not very far. They return to the city in obedience to His command in Acts 1:4. They were not to jump the gun and try to start preaching the truth before the Lord gave them the power to do so.
Many, I am afraid, try to jump the gun in preaching the Word today. They start to preach before they even know the Scriptures that they are trying to set forth. Let us follow the Lord’s instructions to preach the Word, by making sure that we know first of all what the Word says so that we can know that we are preaching it. We may not understand it all or have a complete knowledge of everything, but we should at least have an idea of what is said before we take up the task. Too many try to start their work without waiting for the Spirit. We need the power that comes from a working knowledge of the Word!
13. And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James.
The eleven return to where they were staying in an upper room. This Greek word huperoon meant the highest part of the house, either the upper rooms or even a room built on the roof of the house. Apparently, this is where they had been dwelling while in Jerusalem after the Lord’s death. Remember, the Lord had lived as an itinerant preacher, going from place to place, and had no settled place to lay His head. (Matthew 8:20) Yet having been in Jerusalem for some time now, it seems the eleven had found this place of lodging. This is the last we read of their accommodations. It is hard to say whether or not they continued to dwell here throughout the book of Acts, or whether this was strictly a temporary arrangement.
Here we have a list of the eleven, the last complete list in Scripture of these men the Lord chose for such a special service. As Bullinger points out in Appendix 141 of the Companion Bible, all the lists of the twelve follow a similar format. Each contains three groups of four disciples. Each disciple is always in the same group of four, although the order of the four is not always the same. The first disciple in each group of four is always the same: Peter in the first group, Philip in the second, and James the son of Alphaeus (known by different names) in the third group. This case is unique, in that Judas has died and lost his place. This is actually pointed out here by the list of disciples, for we notice the “hole” in the last group of four. This hole is filled in verse 26, where Matthias is chosen, and becomes the last name in this list, placed in the last position, as Judas Iscariot always was.
14. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
These eleven continued with one mind, as the Greek says. They were all seeking the Lord’s will and direction, and they were doing it in concord with each other. They did this through prayer and supplication to God. The word “prayer” in Greek is proseuche, and in the New Testament is only used for prayer to the true God. The same word is also used for a place where prayer is usually made. The word “supplication” has to do with entreaty in view of a need, although the word deesis can also be used for the need itself. These disciples knew their Lord’s command to wait in Jerusalem for the power they were promised, and yet they did not just sit back and relax. They had no thought of wasting the time they were given. Instead, they were using the time for earnest prayer to God and supplication. They had need of much help from God in light of the great task they were about to perform. And the Lord certainly heard their request, for they got the help they needed!
Notice that this is not just the eleven who are praying with one mind, but also the women who were with them, Mary the mother of Jesus, and the Lord’s brothers (or half brothers, of course, since they were the sons of Joseph and He was the son of God.) This is the last time we have mention of Mary, and it is in prayer. This woman whom God used in such an honorable way is last seen in prayerful dedication to God with the other believers. We are happy to see her faithful to the end, and yet we cannot help but notice here her position with the other believers. There is no indication that she is in any way above the rest. She is just one of the group, in no way exalted. This is the last picture the Lord gives us of her, and it is one we should take to heart. Mary was a blessed and obedient servant of the Lord. We should not imagine that she was anything more.
15. And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said,
Sometime during this period this event occurs. This situation probably lasted about ten days, since the Lord was most likely raised on firstfruits and was with His disciples for forty days, so there were ten days left until Pentecost. At some point during these ten days, Peter stands up in the midst of the disciples. There is no use imagining that Peter was acting out of the will of God here. As I stated before, not just the words of these men, but their very actions were all inspired by God. These were the acts of the apostles, and everything they did was by inspiration. Moreover, Peter did this in the midst of a time devoted to prayer. Claims that the disciples did not seek the Lord’s will before deciding to do this are simply slanderous statements. They were seeking the Lord’s will every step of the way here.
The number of names is given to us as about a hundred and twenty. Since the word “about” is used, it seems there may have been slightly more or less than this amount. Probably the number is used in a symbolical manner. Bullinger suggests this as three forties, forty being the number of a probationary or waiting period, and three the number of divine appointment.
16. “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus;
People have a tendency to become excited here, and think that Peter means that Judas had to betray the Lord since the Scripture had to be fulfilled, and Peter says David spoke concerning Judas. We need to remember here that Peter is speaking after the fact. The Holy Spirit through David predicted that one would betray the Lord. He did not say who that person would be, nor was Judas named. Judas became the betrayer, and thus fulfilled the prophecy. He was not forced to do so. The Lord had to be betrayed, but only Judas can be blamed for his choice to become the one to do it.
As for Judas’ guilt, even if we could absolve him from guilt for betraying the Lord, he would still be guilty of being a thief, as John 12:6 informs us, and I Corinthians 6:9b-10 assures us, “Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10. nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” It is enough to condemn Judas that he was a thief. He would still lose the place he should have had in God’s kingdom. And Mark 14:21 assures us, “The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had never been born.” This should settle the matter as far as Judas is concerned. He not only has no place in the Kingdom, but no eternal life. If Judas would end up saved eventually, as any idea of Universal Reconciliation would try to have us believe, then it would be far better for him that he had been born. It is impossible for me to believe that one obtaining eternal life could have been better off not living. There can be no eternal life for Judas. He would have been better off if he had never lived.
The phrase “the Holy Spirit” here in Greek is “the Spirit the Holy,” and thus indicates the person of the Holy Spirit, not just His power. It was the Holy Spirit speaking, and He did it by the mouth of David. This is an elegant example of what we believe when we talk about inspiration. It was David’s mouth, but the Holy Spirit’s words.
Judas became a guide to those who arrested the Lord Jesus. He did not start out that way. This was the sad end this man came to because of his own choices. Let us never allow our choices to lead us in a similar path, to betray our Lord!
17. for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry.”
This was true of Judas. The Lord had chosen him, and numbered him among the twelve. The word “part” here is the word for “lot,” and had to do with that for which you “cast lots.” This same word is used of the soldiers casting lots for the Lord’s garments. We have a figure of speech wherein we speak of “casting your lot” in with something, meaning you dedicate yourself to it and risk your future upon it. It seems that here was a Greek use of this word related to having a portion in something, much like you would have a portion in some winnings you obtained by lot. In this case, Judas had his lot in the ministry that the twelve had.
18. (Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out.
Many people get mixed up here, and think that this had to do with the thirty pieces of silver that Judas received for betraying the Lord. Yet Judas did not purchase anything with that money, but rather threw it back into the temple, into the holy place, as we read in Matthew 27. Then, the priests took the money, and bought an unclean field with it to bury foreigners in.
5. Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.
6. But the chief priests took the silver pieces and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, because they are the price of blood.” 7. And they consulted together and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. 8. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.
Therefore, this could not be the “wages of iniquity” that is mentioned here, since the priests, not Judas, purchased a field with it. Rather, consider the testimony of John 12:5.
6. This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.
According to this verse, Judas was apparently what we would call the treasurer for the disciples, and kept all their funds. However, he was a thief, and the worst kind of thief, stealing from the funds that were given to the Lord by those who loved Him. He was embezzling this money, and this, I believe, was the “wages of iniquity” mentioned here. We learn that Judas took this money and put it into a piece of land. Probably, he had long ago decided that the Lord was not really the Messiah, and that eventually His promises would fall apart and His followers scatter. Thus, in preparation for that day, he had been buying this little bit of land on the side as a place for him to live comfortably. When his betrayal of the Lord led not just to the end of His ministry, but finally to His crucifixion, Judas was conscience-stricken, and going out to this field that he thought would bring him happiness, he hanged himself.
Now we come to this odd testimony about “falling headlong” and the disgusting record that “he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out.” This is hard to read, but this was the final fate of Judas. Yet what really happened here?
Many ideas have been put forward. Some, like that suggested in the Companion Bible, seem fanciful and somewhat ridiculous. Others, like that suggested by Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum in his book Messianic Christology seem more plausible, yet ultimately do not match up to what is written. We need to come to a better understanding of what is said here.
The phrase “falling headlong” is a bad translation. The word translated “falling” is ginomai, which means to become, not to fall. There is no mention of “falling” here. “Headlong” is the word prenes, which occurs only here. In the article “The Case of Judas Iscariot” in Word of Truth Volume X number 3, Hershey Julian suggests:
As used by secular Greek authors, it is apparent that it does mean “headlong,” but it is usually found in connection with the verbs falling and lying: In the Greek of Acts 1:18 there is no word for “falling,” and the insertion of it by the translators only increases the difficulty. The word so translated in the King James Version, genomenos, means becoming and does not mean falling. Since “becoming headlong” hardly makes sense, the translators resorted to “falling headlong.” This is not true to the Greek. What, then, can prenes mean when it is used with the word becoming?
A clue is found in the Apocrypha, where the same word, with only a slight change in spelling, is used in the Greek (Septuagint) translation of The Wisdom of Solomon and is translated “swollen.” The context speaks of- the end of the ungodly, saying: . . . the Lord will laugh them to scorn. And afterward they will become a dishonored corpse, and be insulted among the dead forever: He will burst them open, dumb and SWOLLEN. The Wisdom of Solomon 4:18.19.
While we do not consider the Apocrypha to be teaching from God, nevertheless, as literature it is of value in discovering what certain Greek words meant in the times before and after the advent of Christ. Some may feel that headlong and swollen are so different in meaning that both meanings could not be attached to the same Greek word. But they are not as diverse as they at first appear. A man lying headlong is one lying prone or extended. From extended may be derived the meaning stretched, or swollen.
This translation in Acts 1:18 makes sense and is true to the Greek. The verse then reads in part: “and becoming swollen, he burst asunder in the midst.” Among modern translators both Moffatt and Goodspeed have translated prenes in this sense. Moffatt renders it, “but swelling up he burst in two” and Goodspeed, “his body swelled up and burst open in the middle.'”
Jamei Moffatt, The New Testament, A New Translation (New York: Harper, 1922), p. 290.
Edgar J. Goodspeed, The New Testament, An American Translation (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1939), p. Ill. See also the article on. Acts 1:18 by the same author in his Problems of New Testament Translation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1939, p. 122f.
So this had nothing to do with falling. Judas had purchased this field in secret, since he was using funds pilfered from the money shared by the Lord and His disciples. Thus, when he hanged himself there, no one knew what had become of him. In the time he was hanging there dead before being discovered, perhaps more than a month, his body had started to decay as putrefaction set in. Finally, due to the upright, hanging position that his body was in, his chest cavity burst open, perhaps because of the buildup of internal gasses, and this caused his entrails to be ejected out the hole. This is a disgusting picture, yet it is a fitting end for this one who committed such a grievous sin against the Lord. Certainly, this is not the last payment Judas will have to make for his sins, for there is coming a resurrection both of the just and the unjust. In that day, Judas will have to face the Lord in judgment, and will no doubt have ample opportunity then to wish he had never been born.
19. And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.)
Judas was eventually found, and the gruesome scene was described to those dwelling in Jerusalem. Since a place where parts of a dead body had thus been scattered would forever have been considered unclean afterwards, this piece of property that Judas had purchased became known as “Akel Dama” or “Field of Blood” from then on to the Jerusalemites. This is the same name as was given the field purchased with Judas’ blood money, yet it is not the same field. Any field associated with blood became unclean and taboo for any law-keeping Israelite. Neither of these fields were unique in this respect.
20. “For it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘Let his dwelling place be desolate, And let no one live in it’; and, ‘Let another take his office.’
Now Peter goes on to quote the Psalms he had only mentioned in verse 16. The first quotation is written in Psalm 69:25, the second in Psalm 109:8, both Psalms of David. Notice that neither of these passages would have to apply to this situation. Both of them would seem to be talking about events that took place in the lifetime of David. Yet Peter reveals that these passages find a later and even fuller fulfillment in the things that happened with Judas. It is as if he is saying, “This fits right in with what the Scripture says about another man like this.” Thus this event “fulfilled” these verses in that it illustrated them even more perfectly than the traitor in David’s life ever did.
The word “dwelling place” occurs only here, and means a country house or farm. The Jews would not have bought a farm or country house to bury dead people in. They would have purchased land that was unfit for such use. This was not the same thing at all as what they bought. Judas bought a parcel of land with a dwelling place on it. He was planning to retire there, and he was not going to retire in the middle of a field. Now, this house becomes desolate, for the land upon which it rests is made unclean by Judas’ blood.
The word translated “office” here is episkopen, and is related to the word episkopos or “over-watcher.” The disciples were set up as over-watchers of those who believed, and Judas had his place among them. Now, he had forfeited his position, and it was time to let another take it.
21. “Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
This was the criterion set forth by Peter. Peter was not just making things up here. This was all done under the direction of the Holy Spirit.
“Went in and out among us” is a way of saying the man chosen must have lived his life among them. The twelve were not the only disciples the Lord had. The difference was that they were chosen for special service. There were others who lived with the Lord just as closely, though they did not share the same privileges.
22. beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”
Those who suggest that this was a wrong move, and that Paul was always meant to be the twelfth apostle, show little understanding of the passage, the Acts period, the work of the twelve, the work of Paul, or the workings in general of Scripture. Paul never went in and out among them. He never saw the baptism of John, nor the Lord being taken up from them. He could not have been a witness of those things to the people, or filled the role that these twelve men were destined to fill. Moreover, the things they did from Acts 1 to Acts 8 were not inconsequential. Peter says, “One of these must become a witness,” and so it was. They did not have the luxury of going on with eleven and hoping that would be good enough. The Lord had appointed twelve for the task, and twelve there must be. As for Paul, His calling and work were entirely separate from that of the twelve. Galatians 2:7-9 makes this clear.
7. But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter 8. (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), 9. and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.
The very agreement between Paul and the twelve makes it clear that their ministries were separate and distinct, and they were not to overlap. Or is this agreement too to be called into question? This mistaken idea about Paul only leads to a greater and greater lack of faith.
The one chosen was primarily to be a witness of His resurrection. If the testimony of witnesses is to be accepted, then the resurrection of Christ is one of the most attested to things in recorded history. These things did not happen in a corner. Christ rose from the dead, and many were witnesses of this truth.
23. And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.
Some have suggested that this is the same as the one mentioned in Acts 4:36, “And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus.” This would make Barnabas, Paul’s early companion, to have been one of the long-standing disciples of the Lord. This suggestion is interesting, but in my mind it lacks evidence. There is no particular reason to connect these two.
24. And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen
Again, this is done with prayer. These men were not acting outside the will of God, but seeking His will every step of the way. They ask Him to show them which of the two He had chosen. If the Lord had wished, He could have revealed that He had chosen neither of the two. Matthias was not the disciples’ choice, nor was he picked by random chance. Matthias was the choice of the Lord.
The word “choice” here is exelexo, which is a form of eklektos or “elected.” Election never has to do with salvation. Both Matthias and Joseph were already believers in and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. What they were being chosen to was special service. That is what Biblical election is all about.
25. to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.”
The word “part” is the word for “lot” again. The one chosen would take the lot that Judas had left. The lot was the ministry and the commission from which Judas by transgression fell. Notice that it was so he could go to his own place. Judas fell because he was trying to clear his way to leave the disciples and move to his country home that he had purchased. That was why he fell. He did not fall in order to go and hang himself. That was the result, but that was certainly not his plan!
26. And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
In order to fill this lot, these men cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. These are the third and fourth occurrences of the word “lot” in this chapter, as we have already noted. This was not casting dice, nor was it drawing a short straw. These men made a choice, and they all chose Matthias. This was not because Joseph was not qualified, for he was. It was not an insult against him. This decision was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and these men could do nothing but go along with the choice He had made. Matthias was chosen by the Lord Jesus just as much as the other eleven men had been. Just because he was chosen while the Lord was in heaven rather than upon earth does not mean that this was not a good decision. This man was now one of the twelve, and everything that applied to them applied to Him as well. He may not have been one of the twelve while the Lord was granting them their privileges and responsibilities, but now he is to be numbered among them, and so all their privileges are also his.
This was a God-made choice, and we must not forget it. Many go into Acts expecting to see the church today, and so they imagine there will be mistakes, “church councils” fumbling around in the dark, men acting out of mistaken or selfish motives, and so forth. These simply do not understand that these men were continuing the work that the Lord had begun, as we saw in verse 1. They could no more go wrong than He could. Yet already at this point, many have gone astray in interpreting this book. This is the beginning of this mistake, yet it is certainly not the worst example of it. If it is true in this passage, it becomes multiple times truer in the passage we will consider in the very next chapter.