Acts: Chapter 1:4 – 1:26 (Witnesses, Replacing Judas)

(Act 1:4-5 ESV)  4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me;  5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

The apostles were Galileans. Home was a long way away, but Jesus insisted they stay in Jerusalem. After all, the prophets had promised that God’s salvation would come from Jerusalem.

(Isa 51:11 ESV)  11 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

(Isa 52:1-3 ESV) Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for there shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean.  2 Shake yourself from the dust and arise; be seated, O Jerusalem; loose the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.  3 For thus says the LORD: “You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money.”

(Jer 30:17-20 ESV)  17 For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the LORD, because they have called you an outcast: ‘It is Zion, for whom no one cares!’  18 “Thus says the LORD: Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob and have compassion on his dwellings; the city shall be rebuilt on its mound, and the palace shall stand where it used to be.  19 Out of them shall come songs of thanksgiving, and the voices of those who celebrate. I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will make them honored, and they shall not be small.  20 Their children shall be as they were of old, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all who oppress them.

Jesus reminds the apostles of the baptism promised by John — baptism with the Spirit. Remember, “baptize” means “immerse,” and so Jesus’ words recall not only John but the many prophecies that the Holy Spirit would be poured out —

(Isa 32:14-18 ESV)  14 For the palace is forsaken, the populous city deserted; the hill and the watchtower will become dens forever, a joy of wild donkeys, a pasture of flocks;  15 until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.  16 Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.  17 And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.  18 My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.

(Isa 44:2-4 ESV)  2 Thus says the LORD who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen.  3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.  4 They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams.

(Eze 39:28-29 ESV)  28 Then they shall know that I am the LORD their God, because I sent them into exile among the nations and then assembled them into their own land. I will leave none of them remaining among the nations anymore.  29 And I will not hide my face anymore from them, when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord GOD.”

Notice that John’s emphasis is on the Spirit, not on the water. Indeed, as Jesus quotes John, only John’s baptism is with water. The disciples will be “immersed” in the Spirit — a natural result of God’s outpouring. (No, I’m not arguing against water baptism — just that the receipt of the Spirit is overwhelmingly the main thing in baptism.)

You see, the coming of the Spirit in abundance is a sign of the end of exile and coming Kingdom. And it’s an indication of what the kingdom is to be like — a kingdom in which all citizens possess the Spirit that was once possessed only by judges, prophets, priests, and kings.

(Act 1:6-7 ESV)  6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”  7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.”

The disciples ask the obvious question: is the kingdom coming now? They’d read the prophets. They knew the kingdom requires a king on David’s throne, the outpouring of the Spirit, the announcement of good news, the establishment of justice and righteousness … Is it time?

Jesus responds cryptically. In short, “Be patient!” “Be patient”? Are you kidding? Jesus had been preaching the kingdom for three years. He’d been killed and, much to the apostles’ surprise, had been resurrected. Surely it’s time! But Jesus says wait. God will let you know the right time.

(Act 1:8 ESV)  8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Jesus then becomes more concrete. Power is coming via the Spirit. This reminds us of —

(Mic 3:8-10 ESV)  8 But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.  9 Hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel, who detest justice and make crooked all that is straight,  10 who build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with iniquity.

The power of Spirit empowered God’s prophet to preach justice to the rulers of Israel. The thought here is the same: the apostles are destined to confront a wicked leadership with true justice.

They’ll do this at witnesses, as we’ve previously mentioned. They’ll be witnesses foremost to the resurrection but also the other mighty acts God performed in Jesus.

Then Jesus gives the apostle the grand plan: Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria, and then the rest of the world. This is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham — in the lifetime of the apostles. God would accomplish this through them. Their job is merely to testify what they’d seen God do. They wouldn’t have to be great debaters or logicians. Telling the world what they’d seen would be enough.

(Act 1:9-11 ESV)  9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.  10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes,  11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Jesus then ascends to heaven — to sit on his throne — and two angels appear. They assure the apostles that Jesus is not dead (how would you have reacted to the Ascension?) but alive in heaven — and that he’d return.

(Act 1:12 ESV) 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.

They were less than a mile from Jerusalem —

(Act 1:13 ESV)  13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, 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.

For the only time in Acts, Luke names the 11 remaining apostles. The apostles understood the potent symbolism of 12 men, representing the 12 sons of Jacob/Israel. They were called, in a sense, to renew the 12 tribes, to renew Israel. Therefore, they saw the need to replace Judas.

(Act 1:14 ESV)  14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

“The women” is vague, but surely a reference to the women who traveled with Jesus —

(Luk 8:2-3 ESV)  2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,  3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.

The women were not among the 12, but they were among the original disciples.

(Act 1:15-17 ESV)  15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said,  16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.  17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.”

There were 120 disciples (12 x 10). We have to take “brothers” as including “the women.”

Peter appears as the leader of the group. Luke does not record Jesus’ restoration of Jesus by asking three times “Do you love me?” as in John, but rather shows Peter transformed from coward — even a traitor — to become a leader. Peter concludes that Judas must be replaced.

(Act 1:18-20 ESV)  18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward 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 the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)  20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms, “‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’; and “‘Let another take his office.'”

Luke explains that Judas had died — in the field he’d bought with his money.

(Act 1:21-22 ESV) 21 “So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,  22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us–one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”

Peter then specifies the requirements to be an apostle. They were looking for a man who’d been with the disciples from the time of Jesus’ baptism. Who else would have the benefit of all that Jesus had taught? Who else would have seen the Spirit descend on Jesus and God announce his approval?

(Act 1:23-26 ESV) 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias.  24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen  25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”  26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

And so they cast lots to make the selection.

“Apostle” literally means a delegate or a messenger sent with orders. Paul was also an apostle, and a number of other missionaries are given that designation, so the term seems to refer more broadly to a missionary or a leader of missionaries. But the 12 are different because of the symbolism and their special role in Jewish history. Thus,

(Rev 21:14 ESV)  And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.


* Why did Jesus make the disciples wait? Why not send the Spirit immediately? Why not tell them how long?

* Are we ever required to wait — in faith — in a similar way?

* Can you imagine spending 40 days in prayer anticipating a day you can’t know? Would you keep attending 40 days of prayer meetings that really were for prayer?

* Peter came up with the idea of replacing Judas and the means of doing so. This is one of the very few things the apostles do in Acts without specific guidance from the Spirit. Peter gets all the credit — which is very unusual in the text. What does that tell us about our ability to make decisions without explicit revelation? Anything?

* Do you see how nearly everything spoken is an allusion to the Old Testament? Why? How were they able to speak in these terms and expect to be understood? Are we like that?

* Can we be witnesses? Are we supposed to be? How might that work?

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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8 Responses to Acts: Chapter 1:4 – 1:26 (Witnesses, Replacing Judas)

  1. Price says:

    When was the “pattern” of casting lots, or at least making selections for leadership, significant leadership, discontinued by the church ? The 11 seemed in agreement as to this method… Just curious.

    I’ve been around a lot of legalistic folks who claim we should wash feet, kiss in a holy manner, or use only one cup but never have I seen any serious consideration for imitating this apostolic example for selecting leadership within the church…

    Jay…your question about how would I react to seeing Jesus ascending into heaven…I nearly lol… here I’ve spent 3 years seeing miracles and amazing signs, I see Him come back from the dead….like when would I have ever been “normal?” I would have been walking around most of the time in total amazement…:)

  2. John says:

    Being able to wait for God is an amazing gift. But in many church circles “waiting” is considered laziness. Let’s face it, the words of choice in most congregations are “GO…GO…GO!!” and DO…DO…DO!!” The person who suggests “Let’s wait” is the one who gets preached at next Sunday through the preacher’s very creative sermon entitled “Better to Do Something Than to do Nothing”.

    What I am saying is that the examples are easy recognize, and waiting for God can be a great topic for Bible class or small groups. But within our success oriented culture “waiting” is a very difficult practice for churches who want to be a “mega-church” yesterday.

  3. Jerry says:

    Jesus then ascends to heaven — to sit on his throne — and two angels appear. They assure the apostles that Jesus is not dead (how would you have reacted to the Ascension?) but alive in heaven — and that he’d return.

    Price correctly identifies “amazement” as our reaction. Yet, I also recall that when Elisha returned across the Jordan after seeing Elijah taken up in the whirlwind and the fiery chariot, the sons of the prophets who were waiting for him wanted to go search to see if the Spirit had dropped his dead body somewhere. So, the angelic assurance that Jesus was alive does have some reason behind it.

  4. Charles McLean says:

    The waiting is hard for believers not just because we are impatient. Sometimes it is because we do not really believe we have anything to wait on. Jesus said that he only did what he saw his father doing. We, on the other hand, seem to believe that Father is waiting for us to do something so he can see what WE are doing.

    It takes more humility– and more intimacy– to seek the will of God in prayer than it does to use the bible to justify some well-meaning plan of action of our own. But it also requires an expectation of real-time, real-world guidance from the Holy Spirit– dare I say it– outside the pages of the scriptures.

  5. Larry Cheek says:

    I have heard many speak of waiting on the Lord. I read in scripture that men waited when they were instructed to. Most of the men that I have heard using that concept were expressing a waiting for the Lord to do something that we can reconize him doing then we are to join forces with the Lord to, (advance his work, follow his lead as we are seeing him working). I get the impression that the waiting that they are expressing could cause us to react just like the Jews did at his comming, and we may never begin doing what he has already given us instructions to do. The Lord gave the apostles a mission ( and the same principles embeded in that mission we can work at, because it is obvious that has not been fully accomplished). The Lord did not tell the apostles to look and see what I am doing and then join in to help me. He gave a job to earthen vessels, and not just the 12 apostles. I believe that everone is given many oppurnities daily to promote the kingdom, but most ignor the oppurnity. We are to live by faith, we need to work in faith, because seeing something removes faith.

  6. Charles McLean says:

    “The Lord did not tell the apostles to look and see what I am doing and then join in to help me. He gave a job to earthen vessels, and not just the 12 apostles.”
    This is the old “absentee landlord” view, which is 180 degrees from how Jesus says he did things. If I have to choose between a philosophy of “I know some good things to do, so I am going to do them” and “I do nothing of myself” but “I only do what I see my father doing”, I’m going to choose the approach that my Master does. It seems strange to me that the very nature of the way the apostles were supposed to proceed would be very different from what their Master modeled for them.

    Too many believers settle for a second-hand, one-off following of Jesus. They take up the scripture and proceed to find there a Chinese menu of good works, and pick two from Column A and two from Column B. As though this self-directed working of a to-do list is what it means to live “in Christ”. The Holy Spirit is here, in part, to assure that we not do this.

    This is all too human. I can hear James and John, a week after the ascenscion, saying something like, “Okay, we’ll give it a couple more days, then we gotta get busy with that Great Commission!”

  7. Jerry says:


    Why must it be “either this or that” in this matter? You overlook that Jesus told the disciples to wait for something specific that would empower them. He has already empowered us with His Spirit.

    We can follow Jesus as He said He did nothing except what He saw the Father doing. We see the actions of the Father through the actions of Jesus. When we begin to love one another as He loves us (which is as the Father loves Him – John 15:9), we will do so only through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.

    In making progress in love, we will receive new insights into how to love one another and others who are around us. Until we learn to love, though, we will look for our good works without seeing the vast majority of them.

    People who are doing what they know to do through love will soon know to do more. Those who only do what they must do as two things from list A and two from list B will never progress beyond that – unless they begin to learn to love as Jesus loves.


  8. Jay Guin says:

    Jerry wrote,

    Yet, I also recall that when Elisha returned across the Jordan after seeing Elijah taken up in the whirlwind and the fiery chariot, the sons of the prophets who were waiting for him wanted to go search to see if the Spirit had dropped his dead body somewhere.

    I’d completely forgotten that. Thanks!

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