The Last Days Acts 2

apostles_300614While the apostles were speaking these other languages, some mocked them, saying they were probably “filled with new wine.” But Peter stood with the eleven (the eleven apostles who were filled with the Spirit) and said that “these men are not drunk…since it is only the third hour of the day.” Adam Clarke explains:

“That is, about nine o‘clock in the morning, previously to which the Jews scarcely ever ate or drank, for that hour was the hour of prayer. This custom appears to have been so common that even the most intemperate among the Jews were not known to transgress it” (Adam Clarke, The Adam Clarke Commentary, available at http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/view.cgi?bk=43&ch=2)

Peter then explains what is happening by quoting prophecy from Joel 2:28-32, saying in part:

“And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.”

The “last days” do not, as some might suppose, represent the end of the world or the second coming of our Lord, but rather a period of time ushered in by this day. It represents the fulfillment of God’s promises of His plan of salvation through His Son, Jesus. It is spoken of in many other passages, such as 1 Corinthians 10:11, Hebrews 1:2, and 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Paul ends his warning to Timothy in that last one, which is about people in the last days, by saying “avoid such people,” making it clear that the “last days” spoken of have begun already.

Peter continues quoting from Joel, with some apocalyptic verses that obviously are about the signs and wonders that will occur before the fateful A.D. destruction of Jerusalem (verses 19-20). But the most important verse that Peter quoted was the last – most appropriate for that day:

“And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Acts here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 2 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

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Ten Days Until Pentecost – Acts 1

It is in verse 12 that Luke’s account of the time between the ascension of Jesus into heaven and the day of Pentecost seems to confuse a great many people. It begins with the apostles returning to Jerusalem after Jesus has gone from the mount called Olivet. The text says that it was a “Sabbath day’s journey.” According to rabbinic law, Jews were prohibited from walking anywhere that was beyond what would amount to a little more than a half mile. The generally accepted length of this Pharisaic law is about 2000 cubits. A more important point at this juncture is that from the day of Jesus’ ascension to heaven until the Day of Pentecost (next chapter) is 10 days. File that away for now.

English: Mount of Olives.

English: Mount of Olives. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back in Jerusalem in verse 13, the apostles went up to the upper room, where they were staying. The text then names them – all eleven of the remaining apostles. Eleven apostles staying in one upper room. A little crowded perhaps, but not overwhelmingly so, especially for the times. The next verse tells of how they were “with one accord devoting themselves to prayer together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus and his brothers.”

Uncannily, some scholars have taken that to mean that all of those women, as well as Jesus’ mother and brothers were staying in that room as well! We find that utterly preposterous. Forgetting the impropriety of such an arrangement in the first place, this upper room was not a high school gymnasium, after all! It would have been cramped  for just the eleven.  They were staying there, but naturally they would not spend all of their time in that room. Jesus hadn’t commanded them not to leave their room. No, the verse was not saying they were doing all of those things in that small room. Luke is merely describing how they spent their days while waiting for this “power” from the Holy Spirit.

Then, in verse 15, Luke says  “In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120)…” Even more incredibly, many scholars even place the entire 120 of them inside that upper room! One has to wonder just what sort of upper room these people are imagining – not to mention, just what sort of building! The term translated “in those days” merely means that the action being spoken of occurred during the time period contextually. So we are not talking about the apostles coming back from Olivet, doing some praying, and then Peter getting up to make a speech all in the same room and on the same day.

At this point, one might ask, “so what?” Indeed, why is any of this important? It will become quite important when we begin chapter 2 next week, and we will refer back to this. For now, it is enough to realize that the apostles were not sharing that upper room with half of a village, nor were they spending all of their time every day there for 10 days. It was a place to sleep and/or eat.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Acts here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 2 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

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The Unfolding of a Miracle – (Luke 9)

Luke, ever the accurate historian as has been proved time and gain, correctly refers to Herod Antipas as Herod the tetrarch in verse 7 of chapter 9. By this time, Herod has already had John the baptist beheaded, yet these stories of Jesus keep coming to him; and some people were saying that He was John – raised from the dead. Others said He was Elijah, and still others said that He was another one of the prophets. Verse 9 has Herod reassuring himself, but he resolved to meet Jesus face to face. One cannot help but wonder if guilt on Herod’s part has also placed some fear in his heart.

Luke’s account of the feeding of the Five Thousand

Meanwhile, Jesus’ apostles returned from the mission He had sent them on, and reported to Him all that had happened while they were gone. Jesus took them and went to Bethsaida, a town just east of where the Jordan River flowed into the Sea of Galilee. As usual, word spread quickly among the crowds, and they followed them. Jesus preached to them about the kingdom of God and healed those who needed healing among them.

The miraculous feeding of the 5,000 occurred on the shores of the Sea of Galilee near Bethsaida.

The miraculous feeding of the 5,000 occurred on the shores of the Sea of Galilee near Bethsaida.

As the end of the day was coming close, the apostles became concerned for the people, coming to Jesus to dismiss them, so they could find food and a place to stay. But Jesus told the apostles to feed them. Having only a couple of fish and five loaves of bread, they protested the impossibility of feeding five thousand men and all of the women and children as well. Having them sat in groups of about fifty each, he blessed the food, looking toward heaven.  Everyone ate until they were satisfied, and twelve baskets full of broken pieces were taken up afterward.

We are not told why Jesus had them separated into groups of “about fifty,” and speculation about that is futile, since the whole thing was miraculous anyway.  But one might wonder what the apostles saw, as they made sure that the food was passed around throughout what would have to be well over 100 of these groups of people. We cannot know how it all unfolded, but let’s try for a minute to just imagine what it could have been like.

When Jesus broke the loaves, He must have given portions to each of the twelve apostles. One can only imagine their sense of foreboding as they handed their portion off to the first group – no doubt expecting it to run out long before reaching the last of the fifty people in their first group. When that did not happen, and as each of the twelve transferred the food from one group to another, did they see the amount of food undiminished in quantity or was it gradually growing? It seems likely that the latter would be the case.

Imagine that sense of dread they felt initially turning first to surprise, and then to amazement. It is easy to imagine then that the excitement would build into a giddy and festive atmosphere that would be contagious to these crowds!

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

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Twelve (extra) Ordinary Men

All four of the Gospels contain numerous references to Jesus going to God in prayer. On this occasion (in Luke 6:12), Luke says that he went to “the mountain” and spent the whole night in prayer. We do not know what mountain this was. It is reasonable to believe it was one located close to what was then Capernaum.

Ministry of the Apostles, a complex multi-figu...

Ministry of the Apostles, a complex multi-figure icon with a full-height image of Jesus Christ, surrounded by sectors with scenes of His disciples’ calling, ministry and martyrdom. Icon from the Yaroslavl Museum Preserve. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What was the occasion of such a lengthy and fervent time of prayer by the Son of God? The next verse gives us the answer, for when day came, He chose from among His disciples twelve men from various backgrounds, and named them “apostles,” a word very familiar to us. He chose this term because it describes what their mission would be very well. It comes from the Greek word “apostolos,” which means “messenger” or more aptly “one who is sent out.” This will become most appropriate when He gives them their “Great Commission.” The list of apostles also occurs in Matthew 10:2-4, and in Mark 3:14-19. There are some differences, but it is the same twelve men in those gospels as listed here in Luke. Like Simon, many were known by more than one name.

The first two are “Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother” The next two listed are James and John (the sons of Zebedee), who were partners in fishing with Peter and Andrew. This James is sometimes called “James the greater” to distinguish him from the other apostle named James. John referred to himself as the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23, John 20:2). Philip was one of the first disciples, but is not mentioned after Jesus’ ascension. He should not be confused with the Philip in the book of Acts that was a deacon.

The next apostle listed is Bartholomew, also known as Nathanael (John 1:44-49); and he is almost always mentioned along with Philip. Next was Matthew, also known as Levi, the tax collector, followed by Thomas (who, unfairly really, will always be remembered as “doubting Thomas”). Next come James the son of Alpheus (also known as James the less), and Simon “who was called the Zealot.” In the days before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the group of people known as Zealots were men who wished to overthrow the Roman government. It is unknown for certain whether the term here is meant in a religious sense or in that political sense. If the latter, it would mean that a change of heart and purpose occurred in his life after becoming a disciple. Otherwise, Jesus would not have made him an apostle.

English: Icon of James, the Just, brother of J...

English: Icon of James, the Just, brother of Jesus Português: Ícone de Tiago, o Justo, irmão de Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Number eleven in the Gospel of Luke is “Judas the son of James,” known in Matthew as Thaddaeus. Some scholars believe that this is the Jude that wrote the book of Jude, but there are some problems with that. In the opening for the Book of Jude, he calls himself “the brother of James,” while he is listed here as the son of James. It is certainly possible for someone to have a brother with the same name as their father, but it is more likely that Jude was referring to a more well-known James – the brother of Jesus. If so, it would make that Jude the brother of Jesus also (both he and James called themselves “servants” of Jesus Christ in the scriptures). Jesus did have a brother named Jude, short for Judas (Matthew 13:55). But none of the apostles could have been brothers of Jesus. Though His brothers did come to believe in Him, at the time of John 7:5, they did not; and the circumstances in that passage occurred well after His apostles were named. The last apostle in the list is Judas Iscariot who, we all know, betrayed Jesus.

Twelve men who were just like you and me, who saw in Jesus salvation for the world. Their lives were never the same after meeting Him. And once Jesus went home, the Holy Spirit would make their understanding of what they were a part of complete. But for now, they have a lot to learn.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

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Acts 6 – Stephen is Seized

Seven men were selected to serve the needy in the early church, which freed the apostles to preach the Gospel (Acts 6:1-15).

In verse one, the phrase “in these day,” accompanied by the context, implies that some time had passed.  The number of the disciples was still increasing.  The Hellenists were Jews of foreign birth and Greek education.  It is likely that many had ended up staying in Jerusalem after the events of Pentecost and the beginnings of the church had profoundly affected them.  But a complaint arose from them that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food and such.  The New American Standard version translates the issue as they “were being overlooked,” and it is likely that it was unintentional.  The language difference would also result in some separation physically as well, so such an oversight in such great numbers could be expected.

When brought to the attention of the Apostles, it would of course be remedied, but they recognized that the work they were doing of preaching the word of God could not be neglected.  So they told their brothers to choose seven men “of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.”   There is some discussion as to whether these were the first deacons, but as Coffman notes:

“…the record here does not so name them, nor is there very much similarity between their status and that of the deacons Paul commanded Timothy to appoint. The men here were not assistants to elders of the church, but to the Twelve; and, furthermore, they were endowed by a laying on of the hands of the apostles.”

Stephen’s Gate, Jerusalem- This gate in the eastern wall of Jerusalem is named for Stephen, the first-century martyr.

The point is academic however, as the scripture does mention the Apostles using the words “serve tables.”  The significance to us is mostly the selection of Stephen as one of the seven.  He is described as full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, grace and power; and “was doing great wonders and signs among the people.”  But before moving to Stephen’s story, let’s not overlook the significance of verse 7’s description of the growth in numbers – that “a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”  We are not told what is meant by “a great many” but the lower echelon of the priesthood numbered in the thousands; and conversion of a significant number of them would offer some explanation of why the Pharisees reacted so viciously in their treatment of the early Christians.

In a dispute that evolved into a conspiracy of lies and false witnesses, Stephen is seized and brought to the Sanhedrin.  Verse 15 says “And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.”  Although we do not know precisely what that means physically, it is clear that the Holy Spirit was at work in Stephen.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Acts 3 – Peter Speaks in Solomon’s Portico

 

As chapter 3 begins, we know that the Apostles had already been working miracles (Acts 2:43).  Now as Peter and John were going to the Temple, a man who had been lame from birth was carried to the gate of the Temple that was called the “Beautiful Gate,” where he was placed with enough regularity (daily) that he was familiar to the other people who came to the Temple (verse 10).  Looking to Peter and John, the man was asking for alms (gifts of charity), but instead Peter lifts him up and heals him in Jesus’ name.  The sight of the man “clinging” to Peter and John, leaping and praising God, quickly drew another multitude of people from all over.  And verse 10 says “they were filled with wonder and amazement,” as they recognized the man who had always been lame.

This model shows how Solomon's Porch, the eastern part of the Temple wall, may have looked in the time of Jesus.

This model shows how Solomon’s Porch, the eastern part of the Temple wall, may have looked in the time of Jesus.

Solomon’s Portico, according to the historian Josephus (Antiquities 20:9, section 7), was a portion of the Temple that still remained from Solomon’s time when Herod built the current Temple.  It was in this colonnade where Jesus had nearly been arrested during the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22-23), as He told the Jews that He was indeed the Son of God.  Here, Peter addresses this host of people, asking first why they are staring as if he and John had made the man walk by their own power.  He then repeats that they had “killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead” (verse 15), and that God had foretold it by all of His prophets.

The message is again to repent (verse 19).  In verse 13, Peter ties Jesus to the promises made to Abraham; and in verses 22 and following, he refers to the prophecies of Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15), Samuel, and all the prophets who came after them.  In verse 26, Peter saying “God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first…,” as he alludes to the Great Commission.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

 

Opening Acts \ Week 37 summary posted

English: Papyrus fragment of the 9th century w...

English: Papyrus fragment of the 9th century written in Serto variant. A passage from the Acts of the Apostles is recognizable. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All through this year, we have read through God’s word with the promise of the Messiah.  Jesus came and fulfilled the prophecies we have read, and last week we read of His crucifixion and resurrection.  Now what?  Now, we turn the page to the book of Acts – traditionally called “The Acts of the Apostles.”  The book begins with Jesus’ last conversation with the Apostles.   Then as promised, the Holy Spirit comes to help them with the beginning of the church and the work of the Great Commission.

Summing Up

Each weekend, I am now posting a small PDF of one week of chapter summaries (on the website’s “Summaries” page), current to the beginning of the previous week.  I have posted the summary for Week 37 (September Week 2) of the schedule I am following.  This short PDF document contains condensed comments about John 15, 16, 17, 18, and Matthew 26, with hyperlinks to the ESV version of each chapter for listening or reading, and joins the summaries for other weeks already posted there.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.