May 6, 2013
Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles
By: Tom Lowe
Topic #I: Introduction to the Beginning of the Church, Acts 1.1-1.26
 Subtopic A: The Lord Prepares the Disciples (1.1-11)

 

Lesson I.A.2: The Re-orientation to the Program
 Scripture: Acts 1.6-8


Acts 1.6-8 (KJV)

6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.


Introduction

We are informed by Matthew that Jesus prefaced the Great Commission by announcing, "All authority in heaven and on earth is given to me." It was, probably, this announcement that led to the inquiry which Luke mentions next. Being informed that all authority is now given to him, the disciples expected to see him begin to exercise it in the way they had long anticipated.


Commentary

6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

Paul wrote, “When they therefore were come together” to make it clear that ALL the apostles were present when this question was asked, so that we may know that it did not come from only one or two of them, but that they all wanted to know about the state of the kingdom.  It may cause us to wonder why they appear so ignorant of the subject, when they have been diligently instructed by the Lord for more than three years; it’s as if they never heard a word. The question they put to Jesus was, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?  There are as many errors in this question as words, but it does contain two interesting facts: First, that the apostles still had a misconception of the nature of Christ's kingdom; second, that the kingdom was not yet established. Both these facts deserve some attention at this point, especially the latter.

Their misconceptions consisted in the expectation that Christ would re-establish the earthly kingdom of Israel, and restore it to its ancient glory, under His own personal reign. In His reply, the Savior does not attempt to correct this misconception, but leaves it up to the enlightenment that was to be provided by the Holy Spirit.

The expression "kingdom of heaven" is used only by Matthew. In the places where he uses this expression, the other three Gospel writers say "kingdom of God." This fact shows that the two expressions are equivalent. Explaining the former by the latter, we conclude that the "kingdom of heaven" is not heaven, but simply a kingdom of God, without regard to locality. This kingdom is also called by Christ his own, as the Son of man; since he says, "There are some standing here who shall not taste of death till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." (Matthew 16:28). The Apostle Paul also speaks of the "kingdom of God's dear Son," (Colossians 1:13); and He also says, "He must reign till he has put all enemies under his feet" (1 Corinthians 15:25).
Then, Jesus is the king of the kingdom of God; and so the time at which he became a king is the time at which "the kingdom of Christ and of God" (Ephesians 5:5) began. Furthermore, since it was Jesus, the Son of man, who was made the king, it is evident that the kingdom could not have commenced until after he became the Son of man. This thought process immediately disproves the theory which puts the beginning of the kingdom in the days of Abraham.

But it is not only Jesus the Son of man, but Jesus who died, that was made king. "We see Jesus," says Paul, "who was made a little lower than the angels, on account of the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor." (Hebrews 2:9.) It was after his death, and not during his natural life, that he was made a king. It is necessary, therefore, to reject the other theory, which locates the beginning of the kingdom in the days of John the Baptist.

Finally, it was after his resurrection and his ascension to heaven that he was made a king. Because Paul says, "Being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; wherefore, God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:8, 11). It is here where we can view that glorious scene described by David and by Paul, in which God said to His Son, "Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool" (Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 1:13). He "sat down on the right hand of the throne of God," (Acts 2:32-36). This event marked the beginning of his reign as King of kings, and Lord of lords, and history shows that the first act of the newly-crowned King took place on earth, when on the first Pentecost after his ascension the kingdom of Christ was inaugurated on earth. 

The hypocrisy of the apostles can be seen in the question they asked the Savior; they ask him about a kingdom; but they dream of an earthly kingdom, which would flow with riches, with external peace, and with all sorts of good things. Furthermore, there is this problem with their question, which is, that they desire to know those things which are not meant for them to know. I am sure they were not ignorant about what the prophets did prophesy concerning the restoring of David’s kingdom, since they had heard their Master preach concerning this matter many times. Finally, it was a common saying among the Jewish people during that time when they were held in miserable captivity, that they should all be comforted, with the expectation that the kingdom would soon be established. Now, they hoped the restoring would occur at the coming of the Messiah, and that is why, as soon as the apostles saw Christ raised from the dead, they began to think of the kingdom, and that He might soon restore it.

7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.


And he said unto them,
Jesus’ is about to give them His final teaching and final promise before His ascension. And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

It is not for you to know the times or the seasons,
This is the Savior's answer to the question which His apostles asked in the previous verse. Times refer to duration; when will you establish your kingdom, what is the date and hour? Seasons refer to fitness or opportunity; when will the conditions be right, what are the chances it will happen soon?  But Jesus replied “It is not for you to know.” Jesus warned the disciples against inquiring about the timing of God’s kingdom, because that was something that belonged to God the Father alone (which the Father has put in His own authority). It was wise for Jesus not to outline His plan over the next 2,000 years. How do you think the disciples would have felt if they had known that the kingdom they wanted to see right then would not be coming for almost 2,000 years? And it was also wise for Jesus to not say that there was to be no restoration of the kingdom to Israel; He simply said that speculation into the times and dates of it was not proper for the disciples.

The kingdom in its present phase would begin very shortly; but Jesus did not mention their ignorance on that point, since He knew that when the Spirit came upon them they would have all that Jesus had already taught on that question brought to their remembrance. Jesus was also aware that human curiosity is unlimited; therefore, He immediately warned his apostles that the final phase of the kingdom, including the resurrection and final judgment, would come at a time unknown to any man, not even to himself, as long as he had earthly limitations.

It is good and proper to learn all that our heavenly Father teaches us in His Word; but as for those things which He has not revealed, let us not be as bold as to inquire of Him concerning those things. Therefore, when we are distracted by this foolish desire to know more than we should, let us call to mind this saying of Christ, “It is not for you to know.”

which the Father hath put in his own power.
By the expression "in his own power (or authority)," Jesus may have intended to indicate that the times and seasons of God's purposes are reserved more specifically under his own sovereign control, and kept hidden from the knowledge of men, than the purposes themselves. It is a characteristic of prophesy that it deals much more in facts and the sequence of events than in definite dates and periods. The apostles were to be agents involved in launching the kingdom, but, as for the proper preparation for their work, they did not depend upon a foreknowledge of the time, it was not important to reveal it to them.

The distinctive use of the word "Father" here agrees with our Lord's saying in Mark 13:32, “No one knows when that day or hour will come. Even the angels in heaven and the Son don’t know. Only the Father knows.” The term “hath” sets that particular knowledge within God’s authority. “Hath reserved under his own authority” can be restated as (according to the 'Speaker's Commentary'), "Has established by means of his own plenitude of power" (Meyer); "Hath put or kept in his own power (A.V., and Afford). This last seems the best. The Truth is that God has in his own power winter and summer, and the rest of the seasons of the year, cold and heat, fair weather and foul. But because he has said that the pattern of the years shall be everlasting, (Genesis 1:14,) he is said not to have placed in his own power that which he has revealed unto men. Whatever the philosophers comprehend or understand by their talents, by learning, by judgment, or experience, God has not retained for himself, because he has chosen to reveal it to men—“While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (Gen 8:22; KJV). The same thing could be said of the prophets; because it was their function to know those things which God did reveal. But we must be ignorant of the secret things, such as what the future holds; since there is nothing which may make us more slack in doing our duties, than to know ahead of time those events that will occur in the future; but the Lord, by hiding them from us, does prescribe for us what we ought to do when each event occurs.
 
8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

But ye shall receive power,
The apostles would be assigned the task of building Christ’s church, therefore they needed an infusion of power; that's why Jesus adds, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you." The power promised here is not authority, because He gave them that in the Great Commission (See Matthew 28.16-20); but it is that miraculous power to know all the truth, and work miracles, which would serve as their credentials as true apostles of Jesus Christ. He says to them, in effect, “It is not for you to know the time at which I will establish my kingdom, but you shall receive power to inaugurate it on earth when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”  Jesus needed the power of the Holy Spirit while he was living on earth in a human body, as these verses will show:
1. "Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit"—“Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region” (Luke 4:14; NKJV). Having now conquered the great adversary, Satan, he comes in the miracle-working energy of the Spirit to show his power, godhead, and love for the people, so that they might believe and be saved.
2. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to the disciples, and it was for their advantage—“Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49; NKJV). The energy of the Holy Ghost was to be communicated to them for three particular purposes.
a. S0 that he might be in them, a sanctifying comforter, fortifying their souls and bringing to their remembrance everything Jesus had spoken to them before.
b. So that their preaching might be accompanied by a demonstration of His power, so that they might believe and be saved.
c. So that they might be able to work miracles to confirm their claim to a Divine mission and to establish the truth of the doctrines they preached.
3. God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power—“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him” (Acts 10:38; KJV). God transmitted to Him the power of the Holy Spirit, thus setting Him apart for the work of the Messiah.

He commanded his disciples to wait for the promise of God, when they would receive power with the coming of the Holy Spirit; but the disciples were still seeing power, too much in terms of Caesar, and not enough in terms of Christ. Jesus offers them real power, spiritual power, but how attractive did that really seem to them? They were thinking of political power! They would not truly understand what Jesus was telling them until they actually experienced Pentecost. This is an additional proof that the kingdom was inaugurated on the day of Pentecost.
While promising them the power they would need, Jesus uses the occasion to mark out their successive fields of labor: first "in Jerusalem," next, "in all Judea," then "in Samaria," and finally, "to the uttermost part of the earth."

after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you:
The literal translation is "ye shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you." Jesus said this to the apostles to console them, while they wait for the Promise of God, although they could not know the time which God had reserved for this grand event. The word power refers to all the help or aid which the Holy Spirit would grant; the power of speaking with new tongues; of preaching the gospel with great effect; of enduring great trials, of healing the sick, of doing miraculous things, etc.—“And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:17-18; NKJV). It is generally accepted that this is a promise limited to the apostolic age and to a few of the disciples of that age.

 The apostles had impatiently asked him if he was about to restore the kingdom to Israel. Jesus by this answer rebuked their impatience; taught them to repress their ill-timed enthusiasm; and assured them again of the coming of the Holy Ghost. This promise, addressed directly to the apostles, has been grossly misinterpreted. For example, it has been said that “To be baptized in the Spirit is to become Christ's (or saved). The baptism of the Holy Spirit joins men to Christ so that they become Christians.” The promise of the Holy Spirit is gracious and not conditional. There are no conditions in Acts 1:8. It is impossible for such a view to be reconciled with Galatians 4:6, which states that "Because ye are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, etc." God's Spirit was never given to any man to make him a son, but it may be received only by them that are His sons and in consequence of their being sons. To make the sending of God's Spirit unconditional, while at the same time understanding it as that which makes a man a Christian, removes all responsibility from men regarding their salvation. The Scriptures do not teach this.

The disciples were to be made instruments in the establishment of the kingdom of Christ; but this must be by the energy of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; nevertheless, this energy would be given at such times and under such circumstances, and in such measures, as God should direct according to His infinite wisdom.

and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem,
This particular role of the apostles, to be “witnesses” of Christ, is mentioned numerous times in Scripture. For example it says in Acts 1:22, “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.” And in Acts 10:40-42 we read, “And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.” (see also Acts 10:39; Acts 10:42; Acts 13:31; Luke 24:48; Acts 4:33; Acts 13:31; Acts 22:15, Acts 22:18,Acts 22:20; Acts 26:16; 1 Peter 5:1; 1Jn 1-3, etc.). The result of receiving that power would be that they would become witnesses of Jesus, all over the earth. Something often missed is that this really isn’t a command; it is a simple statement of fact: When the Holy Spirit has come upon you . . . you shall be witnesses of Me. Jesus wasn’t recommending that they become witnesses; He was saying they would be witnesses.

If we want to be witnesses, we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit! If the apostles needed this filling, how much more do you and I need it today? The filling of the Holy Spirit is far more important than the best course in evangelism is! Isaiah 43:10 has the Lord announcing to His people “You are My witnesses.” Today there is a cult group that claims that this verse is their mandate for being “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Unfortunately, they fail to see Isaiah 43:10 in the context of Acts 1:8; we are truly Yahweh’s Witnesses when we are Jesus’ Witnesses.

When he said they must be His witnesses, He was correcting a false notion, and He meant to drive it out of His disciples’ minds; they had envisioned a terrestrial kingdom, but He shows them briefly, that his kingdom resided in the preaching of the gospel. Therefore, there was no reason they should dream of riches, of living like royalty, or any other earthly thing, when they heard that Christ reigned and would subdue the entire world by the preaching of the gospel. His reign was spiritual, and not worldly.

There were good reasons for selecting the Holy City for the birthplace of the church, also for choosing the date of one of the great Jewish festivals for the time of its birth. On such occasions as the feast of Pentecost, thousands of Jews flocked there on their holy pilgrimage to worship God. The gospel could be proclaimed at that time to a waiting multitude of faithful Jews, who in turn would carry the “Good News” back to their respective homes and countries. The amazing love of Christ is on display, since even his bitterest enemies who made up the ruling class in Jerusalem were not to be denied their right to hear the gospel, either receiving it or rejecting it. (Jerusalem was where Jesus was executed at the word of an angry mob.) Only the Lord Jesus had such a great love as this.

There was another reason for planting the First church in Jerusalem; there was the prophecy that must be fulfilled—“The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD'S house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:1-3; NKJV). The temple on Mount Moriah is a type of the Gospel, beginning at Jerusalem, and, like an object set on the highest hill, made so conspicuous that all nations are attracted to it.

and in all Judaea,
Jesus shows them that they must work hard and face many difficulties. He assigned the whole world to them, in which they must publish the doctrine of the gospel. Furthermore, he refuted the opinion which they held of Israel; they assumed that Israelites were only those which were of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh.

Judea rejected Christ’s ministry; so it may seem odd for Him to give such a high priority to taking the gospel to Judea.  This arrangement of their ministry was not dictated by partiality for the Jews, or merely to fulfill prophesy. But it was foretold by the prophets, and there were good reasons why they should go there. One reason, suggested by the commentators for beginning in Jerusalem, was the prospect of vindicating the claims of Jesus in the same city in which he was condemned. But the controlling reason was almost certainly this: the most devout portion of the Jewish people, that portion who had been influenced the most by the preparatory preaching of John the Baptist and of Jesus, were always gathered at the great annual festivals, and consequently the most successful beginning could be made there. Next to these, the inhabitants of the rural districts of Judea were best prepared, by the same message, and the same gospel; then the Samaritans would be next, since they had seen some of the miracles of Jesus; and, last of all, the Gentiles. This was the rule for success as they went from place to place, and it became the custom of the apostles, even in heathen lands, to preach the gospel "first to the Jew" and "then to the Gentile." The result fully justified the rule; for the greatest triumph of the gospel was in Judea, and the most successful way to reach the Gentiles of every region was through the Jewish synagogue.

and in Samaria,
Jesus informed them that they must take the gospel to the Samaritans, whose country was not far from them, but when it came to their mind and heart, they were far distant. By singling out the Samarians, He showed that all the other regions which were far distant, and also nonreligious, must be united with God’s holy people, in order that they may all partake of the same grace. It is evident how greatly the Jews detested the Samaritans, when we consider Jesus’ conversation with a Samaritan woman—“Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans” (John 4:9; KJV). The request for water was a logical one since the disciples had gone into the city to buy meat. However, the woman is amazed at this request because of the natural animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans. This hatred was caused when, after the fall of Israel, the Jews who remained in Palestine intermarried with the heathen and were called Samaritans. They were not full-blooded Jews. Christ commanded that the old prejudices which had separated Jews and Samaritans as well as Jews and gentiles be broken down and that they be made one body—“For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (Eph 2:14; KJV)—so that his kingdom may be erected everywhere. Jesus is our peace—not merely a "Peacemaker," but "He" is the price of our (Jews' and Gentiles' alike) peace with God, and so He is the bond of union between "both" in God. He took both into Himself, and reconciled and united them to God, by His assuming our nature and our punishment and legal liabilities.  By naming Judea and Jerusalem, which the apostles knew were full of their most deadly enemies, He warns them to prepare for the troubles they will face in the future, and to stop thinking about the triumph they were soon to experience. Jesus may have reached out to the Jews almost exclusively at first, since they were the first-begotten—“And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn” (Ex 4:22; KJV)—but now He calls the Gentiles, one after another, which were previously strangers from the hope of salvation—“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Eph 2:11-13; KJV). Here we have learned something wonderful, that the gospel was preached everywhere by the clear commandment of Christ, so that two-thousand years afterward it might also come to us.

and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
The Jews viewed Gentiles as nothing better than fuel for the fires of Hell. Yet God wanted a witness sent to all of these places. The spread of the Gospel from Jerusalem, to Judea to Samaria, and then to the end of the earth becomes the outline of Acts. Acts 1.1 through 8.4 describe the gospel in Jerusalem, verses 8.5 through 11.18 speak of the gospel in Judea and Samaria, and verses 11.19 to the end of Acts tell of the gospel going to the end of the earth. We might imagine there were objections to the places of ministry Jesus described.

 

 

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