The Acts of the Holy Spirit; Acts 1:12-26

The Acts of the Holy Spirit; Acts 1:12-26
Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor Michael Gunn on January 24th, 2010

“The spiritual history of a mission or church is written in its prayer life.”

“Much of what constitutes Christianity is not what we do, but what we receive.”
Mark Driscoll

Our passage today dives into the moments after Jesus promised the Holy Spirit and ascended into the heavens (Acts 1:8-11). It is important to remember that this book was written with the intent to demonstrate how the early church was established and then expanded into the “Other parts of the world” ala Acts 1:8.

Our goal then is to see all of its parts as pieces that make up the whole, and search for the clues that take us to the author’s intent. We’re looking for keys to help guide us, especially keys that are more “Normative” for use in our day and age.

Acts is a book reminding us of the power of the Spirit and His goal to establish God’s kingdom through His power and the obedient actions of His people.

In today’s passage we are reminded about the importance of prayer, and the sovereignty of God. The two often don’t seem to mesh, and actually appear to be contradictory. This is true if we believe that prayer is to move the hand of God rather than take the time to listen to what He has to say. Too often in the Christian community, we use prayer as a cliché to “Prove” our decisions. I pray that this passage helps us become more fervent and enduring in our prayers until we come enmeshed in God’s desires for us, and not our desires for ourselves…

From the Head…

The Necessity of “One-Minded” Prayer (Acts 1:12-14)
The disciples (120 of them) returned from the Mount of Olives, which was a “Sabbath’s journey away” (Approximately a half mile). They went together, and the 120 included women (V. 14), and they “with one mind, were continually devoting themselves to prayer” (NASB). First the idea of being of “One Mind” (omothumadon) is a compound word literally meaning “Together passionately.” I’m not sure we can extract more than this word should supply, but it’s used 10 out of its 12 occurrences in this book, and it highlights a key to the expansion of the church; fervent community.

Secondly, the word for “Continually” (proskarterountes) carries the idea to remain faithful or cling to…

Thirdly, we are to cling to “Prayer” (proseuche). This is a prayer that prays until an answer is given. It takes patience, endurance, waiting, time; many things that we struggle with. This kind of prayer blows away our five minute variety , which in of itself is not wrong, but we are often called to a fervent, enduring prayer, that may wait on God for years, but we remain faithful, knowing that we are praying for the will of God.

The disciples were given a promise by Jesus in Acts 1:8 and they were praying for that fulfillment, knowing that what Jesus promised, He would deliver.

God’s Sovereignty and The Choice of Judas (Acts 1:15-20)
God’s sovereignty and the “Free Will” of humanity has often been a huge road block to faith in the Christian tradition, but in this narrative, we see a perfect antinomy developing between the human “Choices” of Judas, and the divine sovereignty and predictive will of the Holy Spirit. One question often asked is what was the motivation behind Judas’ actions? Though we can’t know for sure, the following scenarios may give us some insight:

(The below scenarios are taken from Barclay’s “Daily Bible Study”)
(i) It has been suggested that Iscariot means man of Kerioth. If it does, Judas was the only non-Galilean in the apostolic band. It may be that he felt himself the odd man out and grew so embittered that he did this terrible thing.

(ii) It may be that Judas turned king’s evidence to save his own skin and then saw the enormity of what he had done.

(iii) It may be that he did it simply out of greed for money. If he did, it was the most dreadful bargain in history, for he sold his Lord for thirty pieces of silver, which was less than £4 (About $7 USD).

(iv) It may be that Judas came to hate Jesus. From others he could disguise his black heart; but the eyes of Jesus could penetrate to the inmost recesses of his being. It may be that in the end he was driven to destroy the one who knew him for what he was.

(v) It may be that Iscariot is a form of a Greek word, which means a dagger-bearer. The “dagger-bearers” were a band of violent nationalists who were prepared to undertake assassination and murder in a campaign to set Palestine free. Perhaps Judas saw in Jesus the very person who could lead the nationalists to triumph; and when he saw that Jesus refused that way he turned against him and in his bitter disappointment betrayed him.

(vi) It is likeliest of all that Judas never meant Jesus to die but betrayed him with the intention of forcing his hand. If that be so, Judas had the tragic experience of seeing his plan go desperately wrong; and in his bitter remorse he committed suicide.

Basically we will never know, and we can only speculate. What we can know is how easy it is for a sin-ridden heart to turn on Jesus. We are good at justifying ourselves, and our sin, and before we know it, we have drifted away from our savior.

This is an interesting situation where God’s providence and the heart of men come into agreement to fulfill God’s will and the scriptures written years before. Judas’ actions were the result of God’s will and the “Fulfillment” of the word of God (Acts 1:16), as well as his own sinful desires. I believe that this is here to remind us that the expansion of the kingdom of God is a result of God’s sovereign will, and the actions of His chosen witnesses. The Holy Spirit is involved in God’s work, but so are the actions of those that are part of His story.

The two Old Testament quotes in verse 20 are from Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8, which are messianic Psalms reminding David that God is going to re-right the wrongs done to the righteous, which can only be realized in Jesus, not David. The Psalms often reflect the despair of life in a sinful world, but they also demonstrate the hope that is found in waiting on the Lord for our comfort.

This idea of divine sovereignty and human will is seen so clearly in Acts 4:27-28 where we see that it is both human will (Motivated by personal; glory) and Divine will (Motivated by the glory of God) come together to accomplish God’s ultimate will.

And what these verses remind us of are that we are responsible for our choices even though they are used to establish God’s will. The execution of Jesus was paramount to the plan of God (See Isaiah 53) and the desires of sinful humanity. God working with human choice is nothing new to scripture (See Genesis 50:21).

Note: Any alleged discrepancies in regards to Judas’ suicide accounts (See Matthew 27:5) can most likely be understood in light of reporting two parts to the same event. It is quite possible that Judas hung himself outside of the temple walls on weak branches that overhung the Kidron valley and the branch broke hurdling Judas down onto the rocky surface below. It is discrepancies like this that would be easy for redactors and scribes to clean up, but this is not what we see happen, because eyewitness accounts vary in details, giving the witness more veracity, and less corroboration.

The Choosing of Leadership (Acts 1:21-25)
While Acts gives us the same list of Apostles as the gospels, Luke puts Peter, James and John in the forefront most likely to highlight their early leadership in the establishment and the expansion of the early church. The rest of the 12 aren’t even mentioned in the book from here on in, while Peter (Especially) and John and James play a more significant role. None of them are mentioned past chapter 15 of Acts. What we can deduct from this is the fact that Peter felt it was proper to have 12 men represent the “Witness” of the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ since Jesus Himself chose that many (Acts 1:21-25).

It is important to note that Luke includes women as part of the 120 in the upper room, which is typical of His gospel, and shows the veracity of the claims since including women wasn’t a positive for that culture, and shows Christianity’s inclusion of women in the life of the early church, which was monumental for their time frame. Paul would later expand on this type of thing in verses like Galatians 3:28.

Another thing that is important to note is the fact that being an “Eyewitness” to the resurrected Christ is a stipulation to hold an apostolic position (Acts 1:21-25). Thus the “Office” of apostle has ceased with the death of the twelve plus Paul.

It may seem to us that Peter, James and John would advocate for a “Casting of lots” to find their leaders, but this method was not foreign to locate temple workers. Three things re important here:

1. Fervent Prayers (V.24)
They had two men they felt were “Qualified,” (Joseph and Matthias), and they chose to pray, and then let God intervene in the election of the person to join the apostles as a witness of the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

2. Redeemed Hearts (V.24)
Both of these men represented hearts that were transformed by the power of the resurrection in their life. This is what it meant to be a “Witness” (Acts 1:8, 22). Paul would later build on the qualifications of church leadership as the need became obvious (1+2 Timothy; Titus).

3. Sovereign Will (V. 24).
All through scripture God has done the choosing. He chose Adam, Abram, Modes, Israel, etc. and He chooses kings and leaders. The casting of lots is weird to a people that make “Free Will” supreme, but the apostles trusted God’s sovereign choice than they did their own.

We usually choose leaders based on their individual calls, and our corporate needs., and most often do not stop to think and pray, and ask God what He wants. We move, take jobs, spend money apart from seeking the will of the Lord, and the help of our spiritual communities. Our “Choices” are made by whim, or self-preservation. If God were sovereign, maybe it would make more sense to “Cast Lots” and seek His face as we move forward with big choices in our lives. I’m not just advocating making all decisions by casting lots, but I do believe that we could use more of a prayerful approach to making choices and deducting God’s will than personal experience or preference.

…to the Heart
Prayer and community are two things that appear antiquated and impossible for a culture that has way too much to do. I’m not sure what the disciples were praying for other than the fact that they were asking for direction. We are a body too geared to “Doing” and are not very conditioned to receiving. How much of your life is spent in “Fervent” clinging prayer, with others and alone? How much of our choices are made with much prayer?? It is so cliché to say “I prayed about it, and…” when in reality it was just the Christian thing to tack on to our lives to justify the decisions we have already made. Do you pray with God’s sovereignty in mind, or do you pray in despair?


3 comments so far

  1. Eric on

    Missed hearing you for a few weeks when the podcast moved to SOMA…your one of my top 5 favorite preacher Mr. Gunn and I am really enjoying getting to hear the other Soma preachers….

  2. harambee on

    That’s cool Eric, thanks!

    • sarahelizabeth on

      This has been an incredible assistance to my sermon on this topic!! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

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