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The title of this book, Acts of the Apostles, sufficiently indicates its character, and the design of its author. It is a comprehensive account of transactions in which the apostles and other early preachers were engaged, subsequently to the death of Jesus, for defending and promoting the Christian religion. The writer confines himself, however, mostly to the labors of Peter and Paul, devoting by far the larger part of the book to the latter apostle.
From the earliest times of Christianity, Luke has been acknowledged the author of this book. The writer's allusion (Acts 1 : 1) to his former work, the Gospel according to Luke, and the similarity between the two in respect to style, fully agree with the concurrent belief of ancient and of modern times in regard to its author. His Gospel he denominates his first, or former, treatise; the Acts we may consider a second treatise, carrying forward the Christian history to Paul's first imprisonment in Rome. In some parts of the book, Luke writes as one personally acquainted with the events, and engaged in them. His knowledge of the other events which he relates, could be easily obtained from the apostle Paul, with whom he was in intimate familiarity, and from other sources of original information. Luke was a diligent investigator of facts pertaining to the Saviour and his religion. See Luke 1:1-4.
This book has a special value, as showing the early progress of the gospel amid both favorable and unfavorable circumstances, the manner in which inspired men sought to spread the Christian religion both among heathens and Jews, and the arrangements which were made in those early times, by the Saviour's authorized servants, for sustaining the gospel where it was introduced, and for conducting the affairs of churches. Though sufficient information is not given us on these points to gratify curiosity, yet enough is furnished to show us the primitive model, and thus to give us the pattern which we should endeavor to imitate.
Two general divisions may be made of this book. The first comprises an account of the leading events from the ascension of Christ to the apostle Paul's commencing his apostolical journeys. This part includes the first twelve chapters, and is mainly occupied with events that occurred in Palestine or its vicinity. It relates the history of the church in Jerusalem; the martyrdom of Stephen, with the persecution that immediately followed, and the dispersion of the Christians, through Judea and Samaria, and beyond Palestine; the conversion of Saul; the introduction of the gospel among the Gentiles; the martyrdom of the apostle James, and the rescue of Peter from the violent death which Herod the king had designed. The second division commences with the thirteenth chapter, and relates the travels and labors of Paul and his associates for the spread of the gospel in Asia Minor and in Europe, and for promoting the purity and prosperity of the churches.
The whole book covers the space of time from the year of our Lorg 33 to about 65.
THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.
down to expect in Jerusalem the rending THE former treatise have I
second coming. 12 They accordingly re
turn, and, giving themselves to prayer, 1 Christ, preparing his apostles to the behold choose Matthias apostle in the place of
ing of his ascension, gathereth them to Judas.
made, 0 Theophilus, of all down of the Holy Ghost, promiseth after that Jesus began both to do and few days to send it ; by virtue whereof
teach, they should be witnesses unto him, even to
2 Until the day in which he was the utmost parts of the earth. 9 After his ascens ɔn, they are warned by two angels to taken up, after that he through depart, and to set their minds upon his the Holy Ghost had given com
ing which would be necessary to CHAPTER 1.
gain a correct view of the life and 1. The former treatise have I made, character of Jesus. O Theophilus. Luke, the author of 2. Until the day in which he w118 this book, here alludes to the Gospel taken up ; the day when he was repreviously composed by him and ceived up into heaven, the day of his dedicated to Theophilus. See Luke ascension. Compare v. 11. Luke, 1:1–4. To the same distinguished in the first two chapters of his Gosfriend he dedicates, in like manner, pel, gave a brief account of the birth the history, on which we are now and childhood of Jesus. From the entering, of the labors of the apostles third chapter to the end, his Gospel after the ascension of Christ. ll Of related what Jesus did and taught all that Jesus began to do and to lcuch ; from his entrance on his public work or, as we may say, of what Jesus to his ascension. Thus Luke had undertook to do and to teach. The given a complete view of Jesus' life idea is the same as if the writer had on earth. Compare Luke 3: 21. said, of what Jesus did and taught ; | 24: 51. || After that he through the for what he begun he also completed. Holy Ghost had given commandments. When the writer says he had given Jesus is represented in the Bible as an account of all that Jesus did and having been abundantly furnished taught, he must be understood as with spiritual influences, or as acting speaking in a familiar manner, and by the special aid of the Holy Spirit. as meaning, not that he had related Hence he is said, in 10: 38, to have every particular that Jesus did and been anointed with the Holy Spirit, taught (for this would not be possible and, in Luke 4:1, to have been full in so brief a compass as his Gospel; of the Holy Spirit; and, in John 3 : see also John 21 : 25), but that he i 34, it is said, the Father giveth not had related the chief, or most im- the Spirit by measure, that is, in any portant things, and specially those limited degree, to him. Compare which were necessary to his design ls. 11:2. 61 : 1. It was under this of giving a complete account of the divine impulse that he instructed life of Jesus, an account sufficiently and commissioned his apostles.' The full for proving himn to be the Mes- giving of commandments to the apos, siah, and for showing the nature of iles, here mentioned by the sacred his doctrines. He had omitted noth. I writer, does not refer to any particu
mandments unto the apostles | himself alive after his passion, by whom he had chosen :
many infallible proofs, being seen 3 To whom also he showed of them forty days, and speaking lar injunctions, but to the instruc- should have known him to be a dif. tions and commands which he had ferent person? There was no room given them, as his apostles, appoint for mistake. The apostles had “ many ed to spread the gospel and establish infallible proofs" that Jesus did inhis church in the world. || The deed present himself before them apostles whom he had chosen. For alive after his death. It is worthy the names of the twelve apostles, see of special remark, that the apostles Luke 6:13—16. Matt. 10: 2-4 themselves were slow of belief in
3. To whom also he showed himself regard to his resurrection. They alive ; to whom he presented himself were not credulous men, believing alive, and, by appearing before them, without satisfactory evidence. But gave them the proper evidence that the evidence was so convincing, that he was indeed alive. || After his even the most incredulous among passion. The word pussion here them was compelled to acknowledge means suffering, and refers to our it; and, in the strength of his convicLord's having suffered death. || By tion and the fervor of his affection, he many infallible proofs. Compare could not refrain from exclaiming, John 20 : 30. Jesus, after his resur “My Lord and my God." See John rection, did many things, in the pres- 20: 24–28. ll Being seen of them ence of his disciples, which proved forty days. Compare 13: 31. Jesus him, beyond question, to be the did not allow himself to be seen by very same person that had before the public indiscriminately after his been with them, and had been cruci- resurrection, but appeared only to fied and buried. See the accounts his true followers. It was important in the 20th and 21st chapters of that he should be seen by them, so John's Gospel, and in the 24th chap- that they might be witnesses of his ter of Luke's. Besides what he did resurrection, and that he might still and said after his resurrection, as further instruct and encourage them, showing him to be the same person, and thus prepare them for their work and to be pursuing the same object of vindicating his cause and spreadas before, his bodily presence was ing the gospel. Compare 10: 40, 41. itself enough to produce conviction. We are not informed that Jesus reFor the apostles could not be de- mained perpetually, during these forty ceived in regard to the person of days, with the disciples. OccasionJesus. They had had an intimate ally, at least, and perhaps frequently, and confiding acquaintance with him, for the space of forty days, he apand were familiar with his voice and peared to them, and staid á longer looks. And now, after having been or a shorter time, as his purposes violently torn from them, put to required. While he was with them, death, and buried, he was again however, he conducted in all ordiamong them. He showed himself nary respects as he had done before repeatedly to them, on various occa- his death. He ate and drank with sions, sometimes when only two or them. See 10: 41. Where Jesus three were present, and sometimes was between the intervals when he when all the apostles were together. appeared to his disciples, we know He conversed familiarly with them, not. He had all power in heaven and ate with them : and all this and on earth, and there was no lack during forty days. How is it pos- of ability to appear or to disappear, sible, if the person thus with them to be in one place or in another, just were not Jesus of Nazareth, – the as he chose. In all probability, his identical person who had before been appearances were at irregular interwith them, - that not one of them vals, and, for the most part, without
of the things pertaining to the Jerusalem, but wait for the promkingdom of God:
ise of the Father, which, saith he, 4 And being assembled to- ye have heard of me. gether with them, commanded them 5 For John truly baptized with that they should not depart from water; but ye shall be baptized previous notice. Compare John the present, leave Jerusalem. This 20: 19, 26. 21:1–14. | Speaking is the same command as is recorded of the things pertaining to the kingdom in Luke 24 : 49, “Tarry ye in Jerusaof God. By the kingdom of God is lem, until ye be endued with power here meant the religion of Christ. from on high.” It was the design of This religion is called the kingdom, God to bestow on them special qualor, more properly, the reign, of God, ifications for their holy and arduous because it establishes in men's hearts work. || Wait for the promise of the those just and righteous principles Father. “God the Father had promwhich accord with God's will, and ised the gift of the Holy Spirit, by thus fits them for the happiness which which the apostles of Jesus should God has appointed for his true sub- be fully and finally qualified for their jects. All who heartily embrace this office. See John 15: 26, 27. 16: 13. religion choose God for the.r King, Compare Luke 24 : 49. For the ful. and consider themselves as his sub- filment of this promise, they were to jects. The Messiah's dispensation wait in Jerusalem. || Ye have heurd is, therefore, eminently the period of of me. In our Lord's conversation God's reigning among men, Com- with the disciples shortly before he pare Matt. 3:2. The apostles, who was betrayed, he had assured them were to be their Lord's ambassadors (John 15: 26, 27. 16: 13) that the and representatives, and the leaders Holy Spirit would be imparted for of his people, needed further instruc- completing their qualification to be tion; and, as it was his purpose to his apostles. defer their becoming fully qualified 5. For John, &c.; that is, John the for their work, by the extraordinary Baptist. Compare Matt. 3:11. || Ye influences of the Spirit, until the day shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. of Pentecost (2:1-4), he gave them, The word baptize primarily signifies during the intervening time, instruc- to immerse. And as a person who tions and encouragements adapted to has been immersed in water has retheir circumstances and prospects. ceived it most copiously, this word is
4. Being assembled together with well used to express the idea of great them. As this was the Saviour's last abundance or plentifulness. Cominterview with the disciples on earth pare Matt. 20:22, 23, where the (see v. 9), it was held, at least the words baptize and baptism evidently latter part of it, on mount Olivet. convey the idea of overwhelm and Compare v. 12. From Luke 24 : 50, operuohelming: To be baptized with we learn that Jesus led out the disci- the Holy Spirit, then, means to receive ples as far as to Bethany (that is, the influences of the Holy Spirit in probably, to the boundaries of Beth- great abundance. The apostles were any, not into the village itself), and to be most plenteously endued with took his final leave of them. Beth- divine influence. The copious influany was on the eastern side of Olivet, ences of the Spirit
rould qualify fifteen furlongs, or nearly two miles, them for their office as apostles, by from Jerusalem. John 11: 18. It correcting all their erroneous views, would seem that this interview was and leading them into all Christian held partly in Jerusalem, and partly truth, by greatly promoting their during the walk from Jerusalem to piety and zeal, and by endowing the spot of ascension. || Commanded them with miraculous powers. Thus them that they should not depart from they would be made fit guides of Jerusalem ; that they should not, for men in religion. || Not many days