Grace Bible Church
(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font. If you would like to sign up to receive these sermons via e-mail, go to link on index page )
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
September 11, 2005
Waiting in Jerusalem
In watching the news this week regarding the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, one reporter asked Franklin Graham what he said to people that were having a crises of faith because God had allowed such a tragedy to occur. Rev. Graham gave a very good answer stating first that the people he had been talking with were praising God for their lives and not having a crises of faith. Next he explained the gospel message. People should expect tragedy, death and eventual judgement by God, but through faith in Jesus Christ, God will forgive sin and welcome that person into heaven. And though it was obvious that the reporter was injecting his own opinion into the reporting, it is a legitimate question because there are those that have a crises of faith because they do not understand God. The underlying question is this. If God is sovereign and good, then why does He let evil occur? We will find an answer to this question this morning in our study of Acts 1:13-26 as we examine how Judas the traitor was replaced.
In Acts 1-13 we find Luke’s introduction to his second book. In the gospel of Luke, he composed a life of Christ from His birth to Ascension for a Greek man named Theophilus (“friend of God”). In Acts Luke continues that same story as Jesus continues His work by the Holy Spirit through the Apostles to reach the world with the gospel. These verses make the transition from Luke’s first book into his second book.
Jesus had proven His resurrection by many convincing proofs over a period of forty days (Luke 24:1-49 cf. Acts 1:3). We saw in our study last week that Jesus made at least 10 appearances to various people ranging from individuals (Mary, Peter, James) to more than 500 (1 Cor. 15:6). He prepared meals for them and ate with them (John 21:13-15; Acts 10:40,41) and invited them to physically touch Him (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:27).
Jesus gives them final instructions concerning the kingdom of God (Luke 24:25-27, 45 cf. Acts 1:3) and tells them to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit would come as promised and fill them with power to be His witnesses to all the nations beginning in Jerusalem (Luke 24:46-49 cf. Acts 1:4-8). After these final instructions Jesus ascended in His resurrected body into heaven and the disciples were assured by two angels that He will return someday in the same manner (Luke 24:5-53 cf. Acts 1:9-11).
I also pointed out last week that though Jesus gave them additional instructions regarding the kingdom of God, He did not tell them everything they wanted to know. One of their questions was whether the coming of the Holy Spirit would be the time that He would restore the kingdom to Israel. That idea was certainly in agreement with their understanding of Old Testament prophecy (Joel 2:28-32; Ezek. 36:22f). Jesus’ answer was that it was not for them “to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.” They have been given some general sequencing of events, but it was not for them to know the specifics. God has by His own authority fixed when the events of the future will take place, what will be the characteristics of future eras, and how long those eras will last. Jesus does not want His disciples to be concerned about those things, but rather to keep the priority of the commands He is giving to them to be His witnesses. As they considered the future they were to simply trust and rest in God’s character and sovereignty. Jesus then ascended into heaven
Return to Jerusalem
In verse 12 we pick up the story again after Jesus’ ascension. “Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James [the son] of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas [the son] of James. These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with [the] women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.”
I am sure the apostles returned from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem with mixed feelings. There was the wonder of having seen Jesus ascend into heaven. There was the joy of Jesus’ promised return. There was the excitement of His promise and commission to them that not many days from then they would be baptized by the Holy Spirit and receive power from Him to be Jesus’ witnesses in Jerusalem, all of Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the world. There would also be wonder about how all of this would unfold in the days, weeks, months and years to come. They responded and did as you and I would have done if we were there. They gathered together to pray and wait for the Lord’s promise to be fulfilled.
Luke points out that they returned to Jerusalem from “the mount called Olivet.” This is the Mount of Olives. This for the benefit of Theophilus who would not have been familiar with the geography of Jerusalem. The Mount of Olives is just to the East across the Kidron valley from the north end of the Temple Mount. It is a little over 200 feet higher than the temple and so has a good view of it (Mt. of Olives is 2,665 ft and the temple mount is 2,432 ft). Luke also mentions it is a “Sabbath day’s journey.” This is a reference to distance, not time. Jesus ascended 40 days after his resurrection. That would have been a Thursday, not a Sabbath. This distance is generally accepted by Jewish tradition to be 2000 cubits or about 2/3 of a mile. (Based on a reference in the Jerusalem Targum – “Let no man go walking from the place beyond 2000 cubits on the seventh day.” – a man made regulation based on Ex. 16:29). The Mt. of Olives is just over a ½ mile linear distance and slightly farther to walk.
Praying in Jerusalem
Luke notes that when the apostles returned to Jerusalem they went to the upper room where they had been staying. This would be the same upper room in which Jesus had held the Last Supper (Luke 22:12) and in which they had been hiding after Jesus’ resurrection because of their fear of the Jews (John 20:19).
Those who were present were Peter (also called Simon) and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James [the son] of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas [the son] of James (also called Thaddeus). These were the men that Jesus had picked early in His ministry to be His close disciples. Along with Judas Iscariot they were often referred to as “the twelve” to distinguish them from the many others that were also disciples of Jesus. After Judas’ betrayal they were called “the eleven.”
Devoted to Prayer (vs. 14)
Luke then points out that they gathered together, along with others, and “with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer.” We do not know all of what they were praying for, but we do know that they were unified and diligent at it. The phrase “continually devoting themselves” comes from a word (proskarterevw / proskartereô) that means to “to continue steadfastly in a thing and give unremitting care to it” (Vines). The KJV & NKJV adds “supplication” to the sentence to give a sense of the diligence and intensity with which they were praying. They were serious about this. There Lord was no longer present and this was the only way for them to communicate with Him and seek His guidance.
Again, we don’t know all of the things they would have been praying about. Certainly we are safe to assume that they would have been praying according to how Jesus taught them to pray in Matthew 6 and in a similar manner as is recorded in other prayers in the Bible. That would include many of the Psalms. There would have been confession of sin and requests concerning their needs. I also think they would have been praying as Daniel did in Daniel 9 in which he responded to Jeremiah’s prophecy for a soon to come restoration of Israel with a very moving confession and petition for God to glorify Himself by taking action without delay and fulfilling the prophecy. They would have been praying for the Lord to enable them to fulfill the commission He gave them and for Jesus to return soon. They were devoting themselves to prayer because they knew they could trust God to answer.
I found arguments pro and con about whether they were praying for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. On the pro side were those who advocate believers to pray for this today so that they will have the same experiences as occurred in Acts 2. On the con side are those who reject the experiences of Acts 2 being for today and so they claim they did not pray for the Holy Spirit to come. Again, we are not told what they prayed for, but to my mind I find both extremes are wrong. The Holy Spirit was promised and they were told to simply wait for Him, not to pray for Him to come, so it is hard to imagine that being the central focus of their prayer. At the same time we often pray regarding things that God promises as I already pointed out in Daniel 9. We know one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to give God’s people an understanding of divine truth (1 Cor. 2:7-12; 1 John 2:27, etc.), yet Paul prays on behalf of the Ephesians for that very thing (Eph. 1:17,18). My conclusion is that they would have included prayer regarding the baptism with Holy Spirit as one of their many prayers, but it was certainly not the focus of their prayers nor it to release Him as if the Holy Spirit was bound until they prayed. He was coming according to Jesus’ promise “not many days from now” regardless of their prayers. God keeps His word. Prayer allows us the privilege of taking part in the work of God.
I think it is also important to take note of Luke’s comment about the others that were there praying with the Apostles. Verse 14 states they were there “along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.”
The “women” are not mentioned by name other than Mary the mother of Jesus. However, we are on safe ground in assuming this group would at least include those women who were present at Jesus’ crucifixion and those that went to the tomb on the morning Jesus was resurrected. This would include Mary Magdalene, Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary the mother of James, and Salome (John 19:25; Mark 16:1). Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus would probably also have been present. There would have been others present as well since verse 15 mentions there were about 120 present.
Mary the mother of Jesus is mentioned specifically in verse 14. It shows that Mary is really no different than anyone else. She is simply part of the group that is devoting themselves to prayer. The Roman Catholic Church has developed a lot of myth and error about Mary over the centuries and especially in the last two centuries. Prayers to Mary and other dead Saints began about A.D. 600, but even with this wrong practice it was not until December 8, 1854 that Pope Pius IX declared Mary to have had an immaculate conception. In other words, she was born sinless while all the rest of us were born dead in our trespasses and sin (Eph. 2:1). On November 1, 1950 Pope Pius XII pronounced Mary’s assumption to heaven. Specifically this means that Mary was rased from the grave shortly after death and has been taken to heaven and enthroned as “Queen of Heaven.”
Other false ideas about Mary include Pope Pius XII statement that “As a second Eve she came forth from the side of the New Adam in His sleep on the Cross.” That she is a perpetual virgin. That she is the mother of the church. That she is “co-Redemptrix” (co-redeemer) with Christ, and “Mediatrix of all grace” (mediator).
What is the truth about Mary? She was born in sin just like everyone else and she recognized her own sin and need for a savior (Luke 1:47). No one but God is to be worshiped (Matt. 4:10 – you shall worship only God; Exod. 20:2-5 – no other God, idols, etc; Isa. 42:8 – God does not give His glory to another). She cannot be a mediator for there is only one mediator between God and men and that is Jesus Christ (Heb. 9:15). She cannot be a redeemer because no one comes to the Father except through Christ (John 14:6 cf. Acts 4:12), and she did not die as a substitutionary sacrifice for others.
Jesus’ Brothers. I can also add here that Mary cannot be a perpetual virgin because she had other children. Luke specifically mentions that Jesus’ brothers are present and praying. Matthew 13:55 tells us that Jesus had half sisters and names his four half brothers who are James, Joseph, Simon and Judas. In Galatians 6:19 Paul says that he met “James, the Lord’s brother.”
I should point out that it is a mortal sin for Roman Catholics not to believe their doctrines concerning Mary. Because I do not believe what they teach they place me under their anathemas. (Anathemas are their pronouncements of condemnation to Hell). But to be blunt, regardless of what the Roman Catholic Church ever says about me or does to me, the truth must be told that they have produced a false Mary that is promoted as a false savior with attributes that belong only to Jesus Christ. That is serious heresy that places a person under God’s condemnation, and I would rather be under Roman Catholic condemnation than God’s.
Choosing a Replacement
Fulfilling the Scriptures (God is sovereign) (vs. 15, 16a, 20)
Starting in verse 15 we find the story about the replacement of Judas, the traitor. It is in this story that we find some answers to the question about God’s sovereignty and evil actions. Verses 15-20 says, “And at this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said, 16 “Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 “For he was counted among us, and received his portion in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his homestead be made desolate, And let no man dwell in it’; and, ‘His office let another man take.’”
Why would the apostles be concerned about replacing Judas, and why would Peter give such a detailed explanation of it? To answer that you will need to put yourself in the place of one of those 120 people present in that room. You have seen Jesus do wonderful miracles. You have heard Him teach great truths about God. You have seen His care and compassion for others. You have also seen Him betrayed by Judas and then crucified just at the point in time when you thought He was about to set up His kingdom. You endured three agonizing days of confusion and fear before you hear the amazing news that Jesus is alive. Jesus has had ministry among the different disciples over the last 40 days, but now He is ascended to heaven and you are praying and waiting to see what unfolds next.
Among the many questions that will be floating around in your mind will be a desire to know who will be leading this new entity that we now know as the church, and a nagging thought about how a traitor like Judas could have ever been chosen to be among the twelve. The problem is not so much that Judas turned out to be a traitor, for every leader of men will seek to make the best choices they can about who they will train and / or give responsibilities too, yet they will find that some of their choices will turn out to be bad ones. Even with the wise counsel of others there will be some poor choices made because both the men who make the choices and the men chosen are fallible. Every President has experienced this. I have experienced this. The person I choose failed me. There are things that I find out only after they have already caused damage. But Judas was chosen by Jesus. Jesus is infallible. Jesus knows the hearts of men (John 2:25; 6:64). In fact John 13:11 even tells us that Jesus “knew the one who was betraying Him.” How is it then that Jesus could chose Judas and allow such evil to take place?
The simple answer that Peter gives is that all of it was done to fulfill the Scriptures. While Jesus’ sacrificial death may have been a mystery to the disciples before it happened, it has always been in God’s plan of redemption. Jesus had to die on behalf of man’s sin
on a cross and God had it planned before hand (Rev. 13:8; 1 Peter 1:19,20; Romans 5:6; Gal. 4:4). There also had to be someone that would betray Him (Ps. 55:12-13). Recall that Jesus said to His disciples at the Last Supper that one of them would betray Him but “the Son of Man [is to] go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!” (Matt. 26:21-24).
Peter, who may have been taught this by Jesus during the 40 days between His resurrection and ascension, is prompted by the Holy Spirit to stand up and explain that the Old Testament prophecies the Holy Spirit had made through David were fulfilled in Judas. Peter then cites Psalm 69:25 and 109:8. Both Psalms are in contexts that point to the time of the Messiah’s death and the Holy Spirit used Peter to make it clear that Judas fulfilled certain prophecies in them. God had revealed what would happen long ago. God declares the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10). God had everything under control the whole time. God is so powerful that He can even use evil things and evil people to accomplish His holy will. He still does, even when we do not understand.
The Tragedy of Judas (vs. 16b-20)
The great tragedy here is Judas. He was given the unique opportunity to live and learn from Jesus Christ Himself as one the twelve disciples. As verse 17 puts it, “he was counted among [the disciples] and received his portion in this ministry.” There is no greater tragedy than his waste of that opportunity. John 12:6 reveals that Judas’ motives from the beginning were selfish. He was following Jesus because he hoped for personal gain. He was trusted by the disciples so much that he was made their treasurer. But he proved to be a thief who would pilfer from it. When the opportunity arose to gain more money for himself by betraying Jesus he took it and became the epitome of a traitor (Luke 6:16 cf. Matt. 26:14-16, 21-25; Luke 22:47,48).
Did Judas actually think his actions would result in Jesus’ death? Perhaps not Matthew 27:3 tells us“when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But Judas’ did not have the godly sorrow that lead to repentance. He had the worldly sorrow that leads to death (2 Cor. 7:10). Matthew 27:5 tells us that “he threw the pieces of silver into the sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.” The chief priests then took that silver, and because it was “blood money” that could not be put back into the treasury, they bought the Potters Field as a burial place for strangers in fulfillment of Zechariah 11:12,13. Luke adds some gruesome detail here in Acts 1:18 that Judas “fell headlong and bust open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out.” It would appear that the rope or branch he hung himself on broke and that his abdomen split open when he hit the ground. Interesting enough, the very place Judas died was also the place the chief priest bought with his money resulting in it being called the “Field of Blood” because it was purchased with blood money and because Judas’ blood was spilt on it.
Judas had one of the greatest opportunities offered to any man, but he rejected it. He lost his office and it was to be given to another.
Requirements for an Apostle (vs. 21-22)
In verses 21-22 Peter explains the requirements for Judas’ replacement. “It is therefore necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us– 22 beginning with the baptism of John, until the day that He was taken up from us– one of these should become a witness with us of His resurrection.” In summary, he would have to be someone who had been a follower of Jesus from the beginning of His ministry when He was baptized by John through His ascension. He would have to be someone that could be a firsthand witness of Jesus’ resurrection. Remember that their were many others beyond the twelve that were Jesus’ disciples. Recall from Luke 10 that Jesus had even sent 70 out by pairs to prepare people for His coming. Peter was then speaking to about 120 people, though we do not know how many of them were physically present at Jesus’ ascension, at least some of them were. Please note that these qualifications exclude Paul from being Judas’ replacement. Paul became an apostle, but it was on a different basis.
The Choice of Matthais (vs. 23-26)
In verses 23-26 we find out how they chose a replacement that met the qualifications. “And they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias. 24 And they prayed, and said, “Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two Thou hast chosen 25 to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place. ” 26 And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.”
They were able to determine that two men met the qualifications. Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias. This is the only passage in which either of these men is mentioned, so we know nothing else about them except that they met the qualifications to be an apostle. Perhaps there was more known within the general Christian community at that time since Luke goes to such length to clearly identify the Joseph he was talking about. What was known about them has been now lost to history. We will not know again until we meet them in heaven.
Because there are two candidates and only one replacement was needed, they want to make sure that the final choice is according to God’s will. They affirm at the start of their prayer God’s omniscience in knowing the hearts of both men. Their prayer also affirms that God had already chosen one of them. Their request is simply that God would show them which one was to occupy this ministry and apostleship.
The last phrase reveals another sobering truth. It was a ministry and apostleship that Judas had turned away from “to go to his own place.” In Matthew 25:41 Jesus tells us that Hell was prepared for the devil and his angels. People who are going to hell do so because they have turned aside from what God offers them to chose to go their own way, which invariably leads to hell. The gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13). God will deal out His retribution on those that do not know Him and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus (2 Thess. 1:8). God’s kindness, forbearance and patience should lead to repentance (Rom. 2:4), but like so many that have gone before them, they turn from what is good to follow the evil of their own wisdom and desires (cf. Jer. 2:13).
After they prayed they drew lots and it fell to Matthais who was then numbered with the other eleven apostles. Casting lots was the accepted Old Testament method of for determining God’s will based on Proverbs 16:33 which says, “The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the Lord.” God in His sovereign providence answered their prayer in choosing Matthais.
As a final point take note that this is another transition in the book of Acts. This is the last time casting of lots is recorded in Scripture as being done for determining God’s will. Casting lots was never used during Jesus’ ministry and it does not occur after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. There is also no evidence that it was used by the early church for choosing leaders. We still have confidence in God’s sovereignty as expressed through His providence, however, because the Holy Spirit indwells the believer we seek His leading in determining God’s will and do not cast lots.
Sermon Study Sheets
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up. 2) Count how many times “God” is mentioned. Talk with your parents about God’s sovereignty and how He can be trusted even when bad things happen.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
How would you answer of why a good and sovereign God allows evil to occur? Acts 1:1-11 introduce the book of Acts as a continuation of the gospel of Luke. What are the major points in those verses? Who returned to Jerusalem? Describe the geographical features of the “mount called Olivet.” How far is a “Sabbath day’s journey”? What did the disciples do when they got back to the Upper Room? Describe in detail. Who else was there? Why does Luke specifically mention Mary, the mother of Jesus? What are some fables the Roman Catholic Church teaches about Mary? What is the truth about her? Name Jesus’ half brothers. How would you have felt if you were one of the 120 in the Upper Room that day? Why did Judas have to be replaced? What is the tragedy of Judas’ life? What are the requirements to be the apostle that replaces Judas? Should Christians “cast lots” to determine God’s will? Why or why not?
Sermon Notes – 9/11/05 a.m.
Waiting in Jerusalem – Acts 1:13-26
Return to Jerusalem (vs. 12)
Praying in Jerusalem (vs. 13,14)
Devoted to Prayer
The Other Women
Mary, the Mother of Jesus
Choosing a Replacement
Fulfilling the Scriptures (God is sovereign) (vs. 15, 16a, 20)
The Tragedy of Judas (vs. 16b-20)
Requirements for an Apostle (vs. 21-22)
The Choice of Matthais (vs. 23-26)
Grace Bible Church Home Page | This Week’s Sermon | Sermon Archives
For comments, please e-mail Church office