What is the Meaning of Acts 1

Exposition of Acts

Acts portrays the vibrant life in Christ. It is a solution for nominal Christian living.

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Read Acts 1

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  1. Gospel Authentication and Church Expansion in Jerusalem (1:1-6:7)
    1. Introduction (1:1-3)
    2. Resurrection to Pentecost (1:4-26)
      1. Christ’s Forty Day Ministry[1] (1:4-11)
        1. Jesus Commissions Apostles (1:4-8)
        2. Jesus Ascends (1:9-11)

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Summary point: Luke ended his gospel with the ascension of Jesus (Luke 24:50-53). Acts 1:3 tells us that between the resurrection and the ascension was a period 40 days.

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During this time, Christ promises the Holy Spirit and commissions them to be His witnesses. He then ascends, after which is another 10 days until Pentecost.

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Timing: Jesus was crucified on the Passover. Pentecost, or the Feast of Weeks, occurs 50 days after the Passover. There were 40 days between the resurrection and the ascension (Acts 1:3), which leaves 10 days until Pentecost. Leviticus 23:15, 16

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  • Christ tried and crucified Friday, April 3, AD 33
  • Christ laid in the tomb Saturday, April 4, AD 33
  • Christ resurrected Sunday, April 5, AD 33
  • Christ’s ascension (Acts 1) Thursday, May 14, AD 33
  • Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) Sunday, May 24, AD 33[2]

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  1. Gospel Authentication and Church Expansion in Jerusalem (1:1-6:7)
    1. Introduction (1:1-3)

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Luke addresses Theophilus and references his first volume, his gospel. He describes it as what Jesus began to do and teach, which implies that the book of Acts is the continuation of what Jesus began to do and teach.

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And Luke gives an order of events between the resurrection and the ascension in verses 2-3.

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You can see this by his use of the word “after.”

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  • Suffering (v3b)
  • He presented himself alive to the apostles (3a)
    • by many convincing proofs (v.3c)
    • appearances over 40 days (v.3d)
    • speaking of the things of the kingdom (v.3e)
  • Giving orders to the apostles (v. 2b)
  • He was taken up to heaven (v. 2a)

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So after Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion, he was raised from the dead. He presented himself alive to the apostles. He did that over a period of 40 days. He gave many convincing proofs and He was speaking of the things of the kingdom of God.

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He then gave orders to His apostles and then was taken up into heaven.

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Luke 24 gives those “many convincing proofs.”

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Read Luke 24:10-49

  • The apostles do not believe Mary.
  • The appearance on the road to Emmaus.
  • During the report of their experience by the two on the road to Emmaus to the 11 apostles, Jesus appears in their midst.
  • He offers that they examine His body.
  • He eats food in front of them (Lk. 24:36-45).

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So Jesus talks with them (Luke 24:13-32) and he eats with them (Luke 24:41-43). This is irrefutable evidence of the resurrection.

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Notice all the phrases that Luke uses to describe the resurrection…

Verse 2: until the day he was taken up

verse 3: he presented himself alive… By many convincing proofs… Over 40 days… Speaking

verse 4: commanding them…

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The point is clear, Jesus has been raised from the dead.

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The “things concerning the kingdom” are summarized in Luke 24:44-45. It is also reflected later in apostolic teaching. For example, Acts 2:16-21, 25-28, 34-35, 3:22-23, 25.

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  1. Resurrection to Pentecost (1:4-26)
    1. Christ’s Forty Day Ministry (1:4-11)
      1. Jesus Commissions Apostles (1:4-8)
        1. Wait for Holy Spirit Baptism (1:4-5)

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After his introduction, Luke now transitions to the events from the resurrection to Pentecost (1:4-26). The first event, is Christ’s 40 day ministry in between the resurrection and the ascension (1:4-11). And in that 40 day ministry, Jesus commissions His apostles (1:4-8) and He will ascend into heaven (1:9-11)….

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…But before His ascension, He will commission His disciples to wait for Holy Spirit baptism (1:4-5) and not to strive over times or epochs. They should focus on the task at hand… receive power and be Jesus witnesses’ in ever expanding circles (Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, uttermost parts of the earth).

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So now, Jesus commissions His disciples in Acts 1:4-8. There are two sections here. Verses 4-5, Jesus gathers His disciples together and He commands them. But in verse 6, the disciples come together and they are asking him.

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This shows the potential for error (or miss emphasis) among the apostles who were not baptized yet with the Holy Spirit: they were striving over the timing of Jesus restoring the kingdom to Israel.

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But what they needed to be concerned about was their pressing task: being Jesus’ witnesses in the world. Now, to be sure, a proper understanding of end time events encourages godly living (e.g., 2 Co. 5:10), but date setting never helps.

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Jesus gathers them together and He commands them not to leave Jerusalem…. Which makes you wonder if they desired to leave Jerusalem or would likely leave for some reason… Nevertheless, we don’t know…, But they were to wait for what the Father had promised.

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Remember, Jesus taught them that He must go back to the Father and that instead of Himself, He would send the Holy Spirit. See John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7. These verses demonstrate that the disciples had heard of the Holy Spirit from Jesus (Acts 1:4).

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The Father and the Son both send the Spirit. But He proceeds from the Father only. On the day of Pentecost, the Father and the Son will send the Spirit. [3]

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They were to wait for what the Father had promised which they’ve heard of from Jesus… What is that? Verse five Acts 1:5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

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They were told of Spirit Baptism….what is that?!

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Spirit Baptism

Spirit baptism is Christ immersing a believer with the Holy Spirit. The result is that the believer is a member of the body of Christ (e.g., compare 1 Co. 12:13, “with one Spirit”; cf. John 1:33, “with the Holy Spirit”) and is in union with Christ, or “in Christ” (Ga. 3:27). Illustration: Just as John the Baptist immersed with water, so Christ immersed with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Acts 1:5).

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The Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. The Son immerses a believer with the Holy Spirit.

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TRANS: The disciples may not have wanted to wait…what they probably wanted was the kingdom … now! But they’d have to wait even longer for that. But Jesus is saying….“No, the kingdom is not the next divine event in history.”

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  1. Receive Holy Spirit Power for Witnessing (1:6-8)

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First, wait for Holy Spirit Baptism (1:4-5)…second here, receive Holy Spirit power for witnessing.

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Acts 1:6-8

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During His earthly ministry, Jesus had taught the disciples many things concerning the kingdom of God. Matthew 4:17 and Mark 1:14-15

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This was Jesus’ constant message: “Repent because the kingdom of heaven is near.”

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But also during His 40 day ministry between the resurrection and the ascension, Jesus taught them about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).

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The disciples knew their Old Testaments. Isaiah 9:6-7; 11:10-12. And Jesus does not deny a literal rule of God on earth from Jerusalem, he merely sidesteps the timing of it.

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So instead of concerning themselves with date setting, they were to concern themselves with the imminent task at hand: evangelizing the world and teaching disciples. They were to be concerned with their mission. “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by his own authority…but….”

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Now the commission in Acts 1:8…

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The Power

When Christ baptizes them with the Holy Spirit, they will receive power. Thus, the Holy Spirit gives power. And He still has power today in the way he chooses.

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The People

In the immediate context, the 11 disciples are referred to. They are Jesus’ witnesses.

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Witness of what? The resurrection in particular, plus the crucifixion, and His whole life of good deeds and miracles. They were to preach repentance in His name.

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Occurrences of “witness” in Acts: Acts 1:8, 22; 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 6:13; 7:58; 10:39, 41; 13:31; 22:15, 20; 26:16

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The power: the Holy Spirit

The people: the 11 disciples… and now …

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The…um…Program![4]

This is our summary verse for the entire book of Acts. And we could spend a lot of time theologizing on this verse.[5] You remember that the book of Acts is outlined with this verse geographically speaking. The book ends with the gospel getting to Rome in the person of Paul.

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  1. Gospel Authentication and Church Expansion in Jerusalem (1:1-6:7)
  2. Gospel Authentication and Church Expansion in Judea and Samaria (6:8-9:31)
  3. Gospel Authentication and Church Expansion to the ends of the earth (9:32-28:31)
    1. Antioch (9:32-12:25)
    2. Asia Minor (Acts 13:1-16:5)
    3. Aegean Area (16:6-19:20)
    4. Rome (Acts 19:21-28:31)

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https://www.blueletterbible.org/assets/images/study/pnt/maps/palestine/samaria.jpg

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  1. Jesus Ascends (1:9-11)

And now is when the disciples need comfort. You remember, Jesus promised that they would be comforted when he left and the Holy Spirit was given to them. Notice the different words that Luke uses to describe the ascension.

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Acts 1:9: “lifted up,” “received,” and “was going.”

This happened “while they were looking on.” Clearly this was a gradual ascension, not a disappearing act. And Christ was lifted up until He ascended past a cloud.

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And as they were looking on and gazing intently into the sky, there were two men in white clothing who made a prophetic utterance. Who are these two men? Likely angels. Notice in Luke 24:4. Mark 16:5? Same ‘men?’

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And with Jesus’ ascension comes the promise of His glorious return. He would come in the same manner as he departed.

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This does not refer to the rapture before the tribulation. It refers to Jesus coming at the end of the tribulation, when he comes “with clouds.” See Matthew 16:27; 24:3, 30; Mark 14:62; Luke 21:27; Revelation 1:7; 14:14; cf Daniel 7:13.

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2. The Apostles Wait 10 Days to Pentecost (1:12-26)

a. Praying in the Upper Room (1:12-14)

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That’s Jesus 40 day ministry from the resurrection to Pentecost. Now the apostles have a 10 day wait until Pentecost.

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Acts 1:12-14

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Where?

The apostles returned to Jerusalem. Where were they? Where was the ascension? On the Mount of Olives (v.12). It was less than a Sabbath day’s journey, which means it was less than a mile away.

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When they got to Jerusalem, they went to the upper room, the upper room, where they were accustomed to meeting (it is “where they were staying,” v.13).

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Who?

Luke then lists the 11 apostles in verse 13. Verse 14 tells us that there were women there along with Mary the mother of Jesus with Jesus brothers. Verse 15 tells us that it is a gathering of about 120 persons.

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Jesus half-brothers had been unbelievers, John 7:3-5. Jesus’ mother Mary obviously has a need.

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What?

What were they doing? They were praying. For how long? Well, it seemed like a 10 day prayer meeting … with some business! … as we see next …

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b. Selecting a Replacement for Judas (1:15-26)

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Acts 1:15-26

Peter attempts to resolve the issue of the traitor Judas and Jesus’ selection of him. He does this by appealing to the fulfillment of Scripture. How could Jesus choose an apostle who would become a traitor?

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John 13:18-19 (cf. Ps. 41:9). Since Judas’ life fulfilled prophecy, Peter demonstrated the heinousness and seriousness of Judas’ crime but, also, God’s sovereignty. Peter quotes from Ps. 69 and Ps. 109 in verse 20.

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And then Peter gives his requirements for filling the office of apostle (Acts 1:21-22).

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  • He must’ve been a follower of Christ throughout his ministry and he must’ve been a witness of the resurrection.

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Two men are put forward, they pray once again, and they draw lots. See Prov. 16:33. This is the modern day equivalent of throwing dice.

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Is this right? Did they do well by selecting these men?

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Matthias an Apostle? What about Paul?[6]

So who qualifies to be an apostle?

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In Acts chapter 1 beginning in verse 12, the 11 apostles are gathered together in the upper room after the ascension of Jesus Christ.

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And they were praying. And Peter stands up beginning in verse 15 and speaks to them concerning the apostolic office. For whatever reason, Peter feels the need to replace Judas. Jesus never told him to do that.

And Peter has qualifications for the one they choose to replace Judas as an apostle.

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Acts 1:21-22 21 “Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 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.”

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So in Peter’s mind, whoever it is that was to be an apostle had to have been with the original apostles from John’s baptism until the ascension of Jesus.

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What happens next is that they pray and draw lots verse 26 Acts 1:26 And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

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Notice it says that the lot “fell on Matthias.” It doesn’t say “the Lord chose.” “He was added to the eleven apostles” not “The Lord added him” nor is he not called the “12th apostle.”

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Matthias was chosen because he fulfilled the qualification of having been with the disciples from the beginning and also an eye witness to the resurrection and ascension.

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But there comes a problem with these qualifications. Are these really the qualifications of an apostle?

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…Let’s keep in mind Peter is not infallible…Matt. 14:28-30; Mark 8:31-33; Luke 22:61-62

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The problem comes when Paul becomes an apostle in Acts 9. In Acts 9, Jesus appears to Paul as he was about to persecute the church once again. And Jesus commissions him in Acts 9:15-16 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16 for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

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And Ananias goes to Paul. Paul had been 3 days without food or drink and was praying. By a miracle, he had something like scales on his eyes during this time. You remember he had seen a vision of a man named Ananias coming to him. And the Lord spoke to Ananias to go and lay his hands on Paul.

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Acts 9:17-19 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; 19 and he took food and was strengthened. Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus,

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So Paul is here directly commissioned by Jesus Christ. Paul is a divinely appointed apostle… Acts 14:14; Rom 1:1; 1 Cor 1:1; 2 Cor 1:1; Gal 1:1; Eph 1:1; Col 1:1; 1 Tim 1:1; 2 Tim 1:1; Titus 1:1

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He saw the risen Jesus on the road when that light appeared and through miracles, the Lord commissions him directly.

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And that’s why he can say in 1 Corinthians 9:1 … Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?

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So Paul is an apostle. But why? He did not fit Peter’s requirement that he be with the disciples from the beginning of John’s baptism until the ascension.

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So we have a problem. Paul is clearly an apostle because he was commissioned by Jesus and is a witness to the resurrection. But he was not with the disciples from the beginning, which was Peter’s requirement in Acts 1:21-22.

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The problem: Paul doesn’t fit Peter’s description.

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The solution to the problem is that, Peter was likely being typically Peter and was a little hasty in replacing Judas. So I would contend that Peter was hasty in his leadership of the church to replace Judas with Matthias.

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Remember that the book of Acts is a record of what happened. It’s not necessarily the infallible Acts of the Apostles. The book is not called the Infallible Acts of the Apostles, it is called the Acts of the Apostles. It does record history.

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And the debate comes to a head in Revelation 21:14 where John records that the wall of the New Jerusalem has 12 foundation stones, each of which has on it a name of the 12 apostles.

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So which apostle gets his name on there? 11 apostles are clear, but who is the 12th? Is it Judas, Matthias, or Paul? It’s only the 12 apostles. It’s best to conclude Paul and explain in Acts chapter 1 as Peter being a little hasty in his desire to replace Judas.

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With this then we can conclude that the qualification for being an apostle requires that you be directly commissioned by Jesus Christ and also that you be an eyewitness to the resurrection of Jesus. Paul and the 11 other disciples fit this description. However, Matthias was not directly commissioned by Christ.

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An issue that either side must contend with is what to do with Barnabas and Romans 16:7. Read Acts 13:1-2 and Acts 14:14. Barnabas is called an apostle. Is there a nontechnical usage of the term, which is similar to “deacon?” Every deacon is a servant, but not all servants are deacons. It is similar to apostle. It means “one sent on a mission with authority.” Is Barnabas simply an apostle sent out by the Holy Spirit, per Acts 13:2? And Paul is an apostle of Jesus Christ? And Matthias is an apostle of the church?

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Go to BibleTrove.com Home Page from What is the Meaning of Acts 1

Go to New Testament Books Page

Go to Acts Main Page

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  1. From resurrection to ascension

  2. Hoehner, Harold W. (2010-06-29). Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Kindle Locations 1786-1788). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

  3. The Filioque controversy. John 15:26. But it seems like perhaps maybe the Holy Spirit also proceeds from the Son: John 14:16; 16:7, 13-15; 20:22; Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:9; Philippians 1:19.

  4. Ryrie, Charles C. (1961-01-01). Acts of the Apostles- Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Everyman’s Bible Commentaries) (Kindle Locations 126-128). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

  5. Moore, Thomas. ““To The End Of The Earth”: The Geographical And Ethnic Universalism Of Acts 1:8 In Light Of Isaianic Influence On Luke.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40, no. 3 (1997); Niemelä, John H. “Acts 1:8 Reconsidered: A Stub Track, a Siding, or a Main Track?” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 24, no. 27 (2011); Hesselgrave, Ronald. “The Theology of Mission in Acts 1:8.” William Carey International University. Accessed October 9, 2014. http://www.wciu.edu/docs/resources/C7E_Hesselgrave.pdf; Ellis, E. Earle. “”The End Of The Earth” (Acts 1:8).” Bulletin for Biblical Research 1, no. 1 (1991).

  6. See https://archive.org/details/wordsofapostles00stie The words of the apostles by Stier, R. (Rudolf), 1800-1862, pgs. 12-15. Also http://truthseekersministries.org/images/files/Acts%20of%20the%20Apostles.pdf page 14, G. Campbell Morgan on Acts.

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