Author: Ron Graham
—Verse by verse
This page is a verse by verse study of Acts 1:1-8. These verses contains Luke's introduction to the book of Acts, and his account of Christ's parting words to his disciples before his ascension into heaven.
Luke's introduction to the book of Acts
¶“1I did the first account for you Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach 2until the day he was taken up, having given orders by the Holy Spirit to the messengers he had chosen. 3And he showed himself alive to them by many proofs, being seen by them forty days after he had suffered, and he spoke about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:1-3).
¶“4When they gathered, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to await the promise of the Father which 'You heard from me'. 5John indeed immersed with water, but you will be immersed in the Holy Spirit not many days from now ” (Acts 1:4-5).
¶“6Those who were gathered asked him this question: 'Lord, is it at this time that you restore the kingdom to Israel?' 7Jesus said to them, 'It is not yours to know the times or seasons which the Father has appointed in his own authority 8But you will receive your authority when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, then in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth' ” (Acts 1:6-8).
¶ "I did the first account for you Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach.." Acts 1:1).
- Luke’s 2nd Writing to Theophilus. When we compare Acts 1:1-2 with Luke 1:1-4, we see that Acts is the second of two books written by Luke to Theophilus. The "first account"is the gospel of Luke. Now luke is writing a second account, a sequel, to tell Theophilus what took place after the resurrection of Christ.
- The name "Theophilus" means God-friend. Theophilus could live up to his name and become a friend of God by believing Luke's account, just as Abraham became the God's friend by believing (James 2:23).
- Christ’s Ongoing Ministry. The ministry of Christ on earth was only what he "began" to do and teach. He continues his work or ministry even today (Hebrews 8:1-2).
- Notice the phrase "to do and teach". One's teaching is measured by what one does. What Jesus did went hand in hand with what Jesus said. It ought to be the same with us.(Luke 6:46).
¶ "...until the day he was taken up, having by the Holy Spirit given orders to the messengers he had chosen." (Acts 1:2).
- The ascension of Christ is where Luke's first book closed and Acts opens. Acts starts, as we shall see later, with the ascension and the fact that Jesus was "exalted to God's right hand" (Acts 1:9, Acts 2:33).
- Power From the Spirit. Jesus was empowered "by the Holy Spirit". His apostles would receive similar authority by the same means (Acts 1:8).
- Nature of the Orders Christ Gave. The word εντελλομαι entellomai, to command, or give "orders", has the underlying sense of providing goals. The word is related to τελεος teleos, an end to be met or achieved. In giving us commands, Jesus challenges us with goals to achieve that make our lives meaningful.
- Notes on the Apostles. The Greek word αποστολος apo-stolos, "messenger" or apostle, conveys the idea of being sent forth as in αποστελλω apo-stelloo, sent.
- There were eleven "apostles" at the time Acts begins. Later, Luke describes how a twelfth, Matthias, was added to make up for the loss of Judas.
- The story of Acts is not about all the apostles. It is mostly about Peter (one of the twelve) and then about the apostle Paul. Paul was not one of the twelve but he said, "I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles." (2Corinthians 11:5). We could not make that claim to that special apostleship, nevertheless every Christian is to be a messenger of Christ. (Acts 8:4, Luke 10:2).
- Called and Chosen Being "chosen", elected or picked out, is associated with the idea of being called. The apostles regarded themselves as being called and chosen by God Acts 1:24. We are not called and chosen as apostles, but we are all called and chosen for eternal life. (Revelation 17:14, 2Peter 1:10, 2Thessalonians 2:13-14)
¶ "And he showed himself alive to them by many proofs, being seen by them forty days after he had suffered, and he spoke about the kingdom of God."
- Christ’s Resurrection. Luke’s first book describes the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and some of his appearances are recorded in Luke 24. The resurrection of Christ was confirmed convincingly on many occasions...
- Christ’s Passion Christians speak of the "passion" of our Lord, but they use this word in the special sense of πασχω pascho, to suffer. The crucifixion of Christ is described in Luke chapter 23. The first chapter of Acts mentions not only Christ's death, but also his resurrection, ascension, and second coming. But the cruel cross is essential to the good story of Jesus.
- Christ’s Kingdom The disciples still showed some confusion about the kingdom of God. As we shall see in the second chapter of Acts, Jesus Christ sat on the throne of David in a way the apostles did not fully understand beforehand (Acts 2:30,33) We shall see their lack of understanding in the question they asked (Acts 1:6).
¶ "When they gathered, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to await the promise of the Father which 'You heard from me.' "
- Nature of the Order Christ Gave Here Luke comes back to the commandments Jesus issued. This time the word is παραγγελια parangelia, made up of para, beside, and angelia, message. This is an appropriate word because the apostles, at that moment, had Jesus at their side with a divine message for them to obey. Although he would soon depart from them, the promised Holy Spirit would be present with them to help them obey the orders given.
- We should never drift away from the belief that God has commandments for us to obey. But we should realise that God is always at our side, and even in us, helping us to keep his commandments. (John 14:15-18, Philippians 2:12-13).
- The City of Jerusalem The disciples were told to return to Jerusalem and wait there. Jerusalem, with its pools and palaces, its temple and towers, is the most mentioned city in Acts. The story of Acts begins in Jerusalem.
- Acts Facts has information on Jerusalem.
- How the Disciples Waited As we shall see later in chapter 1, the disciples didn't wait lazily twiddling their thumbs. Rather they were "fiercely united in prayer and petition" (Acts 1:14). Even when we can't do much else, we can do this! And it's no small thing we do. It is characteristic of Christ’s true disciples, that they wait actively.
- The Promise of the Holy Spirit The "promise of the Father" is God’s promise of the outpouring of the Spirit as mentioned in verse 5. As we shall see later in Acts, the promise mentioned again with regard to the Jews converted on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38-39), and again with regard to the Gentiles converted in Cornelius's house (Acts 10:44-48, Acts 11:15-17). In Acts chapter two, we will learn that when the apostles received the promised Holy Spirit, they were endowed with special powers not granted to all who receive the promised Spirit.
- Note three things about the promise and gift of the Holy Spirit:
- (1) Linked with baptism (Acts 1:5, Acts 2:38),
- (2) A gift received from God (Acts 1:4,8, Acts 2:33)
- (3) For all who believe and obey (Acts 2:38-39, Acts 5:31-32, cf Galatians 3:14, Ephesians 1:13-14).
¶ "John indeed immersed with water, but you will be immersed in the Holy Spirit not many days from now" (Acts 1:5).
- John’s Baptism John the baptizer practised a "baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" (Luke 3:3). In chapter 2, we shall observe that baptism in the name of Christ or “Christian baptism” is also a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Acts 2:38).
- Meaning of “Baptize” The word “baptize” is derived from the Greek βαπτω baptoo, to dip, and is used in the New Testament dozens of times in several forms and of various things. Here are some reference verses: John 13:26, Revelation 19:13, John 3:23, Mark 10:38, Acts 8:38, Romans 6:3-4, 1Corinthians 10:2, 1Pet 3:21. These show that βαπτιζω baptizo in particular means plunge or immerse. On this website there are several lessons on baptism.
- Baptism of the Holy Spirit Christ promises the apostles a baptism in the Holy Spirit which John himself had promised (Matthew 3:11).. The promise was fulfilled on Pentecost as we shall see in Acts 2.
- Not Many Days Hence Pentecost came fifty days after Passover. Compare this with the earlier mentioned forty days (Acts 1:3). The disciples had about a week to wait.
¶ "Those who were gathered asked him this question: 'Lord, is it at this time that you restore the kingdom to Israel?' " (Acts 1:6).
- Nature of God’s Kingdom. The disciples recognized Jesus as κυριος kurios, Lord. He is "the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords" (1Timothy 6:14-15).
- However, the disciples did not yet fully grasp the nature of the kingdom of God. The second chapter of Acts will show us how Jesus Christ sat on the throne of David in a way the apostles did not fully understand beforehand (Acts 1:6, Acts 2:30,33).
¶ "Jesus said to them, 'It is not yours to know the times or seasons which the Father has appointed in his own authority" (Acts 1:7).
- Authority as Jurisdiction There was a chain of command. The disciples were under Christ’s command, and he was under the Father’s. The disciples naturally desired to know what was taking place, but they had to be satisfied to wait until God was ready to reveal his counsel and intention.
- The Greek word for authority here is εξουσια exousia and means a jurisdiction. In the next verse we will note the use of another word for authority.
¶ " 'But you will receive your authority when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, then in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth' " (Acts 1:8).
- Authority as Power The second Greek word for authority used here is δυναμις dunamis which means power. The two words for authority are used together in much the same sense. God has the ultimate jurisdiction, but grants authority and power appropriately down the chain of command. As a matter of interest, the two words are similarly used together in two other passages (Luke 9:1, 1Corinthians 15:24).
- Differing Powers Although all who follow Christ receive the Holy Spirit, different gifts and powers are given to different ones at different times (1Corinthians 12:4,28-29). The power and authority to be soon given to the apostles was very special, and the Holy Spirit came upon them in a most marvelous way (Acts 2:1-4).
- Bearing Witness Witnesses bear testimony. They give evidence. The word "witnessing" is used far too loosely today, and the testimonies that people give are often unsubstantiated claims that are little more than wishful thinking. The witness of the apostles was a true and substantiated testimony backed by irrefutable evidence.
- The Great Commission Here Jesus gives what is known as "the great commission" (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-16) to distinguish it from the earlier "limited commission" (Matthew 10:7-15, Mark 6:8-11, Luke 9:1-4, Luke 10:1-4).