Acts 1:12-26 The Submissive Disciples
Last time we left off focusing on verse 8 which is the key verse to understanding the entire book of Acts.
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Being Christ's witnesses is the mission of all who profess faith. We are called to witness to the Word and to Inner Reality that Christ lives in us through how we live. This is no side job for Christians but our main task until Christ comes again.
But we can't be the kind of witnesses we're called to be, and neither can the any of the disciples, without the Holy Spirit — thankfully, it's God's good purpose to give His Spirit to His people so they can fulfill their calling.
But before God pours out His Spirit on the Apostles, and the other disciples, we see a dramatic change in their attitude. We see formerly headstrong, stubborn disciples now being submissive. This is an amazing change that can only be explained by they presence of God’s Holy Spirit already at work in them.
So in this section we see three ways the disciples (or apostles) demonstrate their newly God-given submissive attitudes. They submit: to waiting, to Scripture, and to God's choice.
The Apostles Submit to Waiting
The Apostles Submit to Waiting
OK, so if your remember, the Apostles had just witnessed the ascension of Christ on the Mount of Olives which was Jesus' way of putting an exclamation point on his command to get busy witnessing to the world until He returns. We don’t know how long he’ll be gone. That’s not our business, being witnesses is.
So you would think, filled with excitement, they’d go get busy sharing the good news, but they don’t.
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, which is near Jerusalem—a Sabbath day’s journey away.
Instead of witnessing, they walk the half mile or so back to Jerusalem which probably takes less than 15 minutes.
Why didn't they just immediately go out witnessing to Christ? Because they had been specifically told not to. Jesus had told them to wait. Remember in verse 4…
4 While [Jesus] was with them, he commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise.
Now, this must have been very hard for impulsive disciples because Jesus had just given the greatest motivational speech of all time punctuated with his ascension. But He had also told them very clearly not to leave Jerusalem.
So their immediate, primary task was to be submissive to waiting, to God's timing.
When they arrived, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James.
Scripture calls this the room so maybe it's the very same upper room where they met for the Passover. Who is there? Eleven of the twelve disciples. Judas the son of James isn’t the same Judas that betrayed Christ.
What were they doing and who else was there?
They all were continually united in prayer, along with the women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
Apparently, these women are so well known most of them don't even need to be named. Likely, these women are Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and the one the Bible calls “the other Mary.” Perhaps some of the Apostles wives are present, too.
Mary, Jesu’s mother, is mentioned but notice she isn't being worshiped. She needs a Savior just like all other Christians. Jesus’ mother isn't being prayed to, she's praying along with the others.
And Jesus' brothers are present. Remember John 7:5 says "not even his brothers believed in him" so this is a big change for them as well. Jesus had four brothers. James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas (Matthew 13:55) and they probably came to faith as a result of James seeing the resurrected Jesus.
And now all of these people, together, are submissively waiting for God’s timing.
Now, notice what they’re doing while they wait. They are continually united in prayer.
We can make some educated guesses what they were praying for. Certainly they prayed for the coming of the Holy Spirit because Jesus had told them to before his death. Remember, right after telling them a parable about a man who needed some bread from a neighbor in the middle of the night, Jesus said in Luke 11:13...
"If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?"
So they were likely asking for the Holy Spirit but it's good to remember that the coming of the Holy Spirit wasn't dependent upon prayer. The purpose of their prayers, and ours, is to align our will with God's. We don't control God when we pray. God’s not our genie in a bottle. We should ask for the Holy Spirit, but just like every time we pray, we primarily seek to submit ourselves to God's will.
Notice also in the verse that the emphasis is on continual prayer. They didn't just make a hobby of prayer, it was their primary task while they waited. It's interesting that just before Jesus said God loves to give His Spirit to those that ask, He said these words in Luke 11:8-9. Turn there.
A man went to his neighbor in the middle of the night to borrow food for an unexpected guest and his neighbor wasn't too happy about being woken up. Luke 11...
8 I tell you, even though he won’t get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his friend’s shameless boldness, he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
9 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you
Persistent, continual prayer is what they do while they submissively wait for God to act, and lastly notice also that this submissive waiting and praying is done together. They aren't waiting for the Holy Spirit in isolation. They are now united in prayer.
This unity is amazing especially considering it hadn’t been long since these same disciples were all arguing about who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Now there is a change in them. Now they are submissive to God's will and willing to wait for His timing.
The Apostles Submit to Scripture
The Apostles Submit to Scripture
Not only do they submit to waiting, they submit to Scripture.
See, Peter, and the other disciples, now know more clearly than ever that the Scriptures are all about Jesus because for the last 40 days, Christ had been teaching them. Jesus started on the road to Emmaus teaching a few disciples that the Old Testament Scriptures pointed to Him. Then he appeared to all the disciples and told them…
...that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:44-45).
So we now come to verse 15...
In those days Peter stood up among the brothers and sisters—the number of people who were together was about a hundred and twenty—and said:
Peter’s got something to say, which isn’t unusually for him. But he doesn't start out with His vision for the church or his agenda. He has something to say about the Scriptures...
“Brothers and sisters, it was necessary that the Scripture be fulfilled that the Holy Spirit through the mouth of David foretold about Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.
Peter doesn’t wants to emphasize what the Holy Spirit wants to say through Scripture. What matters is what “the Holy Spirit through the mouth of David foretold about Judas.” This is a big change in attitude for Peter and the other disciples.
The disciples knew the content of Psalms but not its real importance. They knew Psalm 41, which verse 16 refers to, but they thought it only applied to King David. Psalm 41 says...
6 When one of them comes to visit, he speaks deceitfully; he stores up evil in his heart; he goes out and talks.
9 Even my friend in whom I trusted, one who ate my bread, has raised his heel against me.
They would’ve known the verse but now they are submissive to its meaning. Now they understand what Jesus meant when prayed in John 17:12...
...I guarded them and not one of them is lost, except the son of destruction, so that the Scripture may be fulfilled.
Now Peter is becoming submissive to Scripture and the inspiration of Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit has spoken through the mouth of David, he doesn't have to guess at God’s agenda.
Peter continues in verse 17...
For he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.”
See, as upset as Peter probably is with Judas, he now understands that God has a purpose, a sharing in ministry even, for Judas. God didn't make Judas betray Him but Judas was a part of God's plan. Judas did exactly what he wanted to do but he also fulfilled prophecy.
Here's how it was fullfilled...
Now this man acquired a field with his unrighteous wages. He fell headfirst, his body burst open and his intestines spilled out. This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that in their own language that field is called Hakeldama (that is, Field of Blood).
Judas’ betrayal is disgusting, as is all sin, but in this case it served God's good purposes and fulfilled prophecy as Peter goes on to say...
“For it is written in the Book of Psalms: Let his dwelling become desolate; let no one live in it; and Let someone else take his position.
Peter has read this Psalm before, Psalm 109:8 before but never in the context of Jesus Christ. Now he understands it's fulfilment and he knows what they must do next.
On the basis of Scripture they need to “let someone else take his position.” They need to find a replacement for Judas.
So they submit to waiting and they submit to Scripture...
The Apostle's Submit to God's Choice
The Apostle's Submit to God's Choice
See, it’s not Peter’s choice that’s being pushed. Peter may have a favorite person in mind but if he’s learned anything over the last few days it’s God’s choice that matters.
But he also knows God would want certain qualifications so he says in verse 21...
“Therefore, from among the men who have accompanied us during the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us—
There's a vacancy but it can’t be filled by just anyone. Notice the qualifications. They needed to be men who had been with Jesus since the beginning and they needed to be eyewitnesses of the risen Jesus. But the last qualification implied is probably most important of all: they needed to be chosen by God. Verse 23...
So they proposed two: Joseph, called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed, “You, Lord, know everyone’s hearts; show which of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry that Judas left to go where he belongs.”
They could have voted but that would not have emphasized this was God’s choice nor was it their traditional way of deciding things. Deciding by lots was common in the Old Testament but this is the last time we see the method being used so it’s probably not meant to be a model for us. The point isn’t the method being used so much as their submission to who is actually deciding. The apostles are submitting to God’s choice.
See, even if they had voted, it still would’ve been God’s choice and this is what they seem to get more than ever.
Then they cast lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias and he was added to the eleven apostles.
Now, notice that God's choice was accepted. There wasn’t a call for a recount. No one complained. They submitted to God’s will and Matthias was added to the eleven.
What a change is taking place in the apostles! Once they were arrogant, self-centered, self-absorbed disciples but now they are submissive. They are submissive to God’s command to wait. They are submissive to Scripture. And they are submissive to God’s choice.
They have been prepared and God is about to change the world through them. They are about to receive power like they’ve never known before which will enable them to be Christ’s witnesses “in Jerusalem, in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
When they were arrogant they weren’t ready, but in their submissive humility, now they are.
What about us?
Could it be that God withholds His Spirit from us because of how we would misuse it? Are we submissive to God’s agenda or are still desiring our own. Great power in the hands of self-absorbed people is dangerous. So as we ask for God to give us more of His Spirit we should also be asking for God to help us be submissive to His will.
But it’s not easy.
Corrie ten Boom, who became famous for her book “The Hiding Place” which recounts her family’s efforts to save Jews during the Nazi Holocaust, was once asked if it was difficult for her to remain humble.
Her reply was simple. “When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on the back of a donkey, and everyone was waving palm branches and throwing garments on the road, and singing praises, do you think that for one moment it ever entered the head of that donkey that any of that was for him?” She continued,
“If I can be the donkey on which Jesus Christ rides in His glory, I give him all the praise and all the honor.”
Who do we want to get all the praise and honor? In today’s passage we saw evidence of a dramatic transformation taking place in the apostles. Their goal isn’t to make a name for themselves anymore but to make a name for Christ. That’s all that matters to them and I pray it is all that matters for us, too.