ACTS, Chapter 1

All quotations are shown three times, in the New International Version (NIV), in the New King James Version(NKJ), and in the older King James Version (KJV). Our comments are indented after each section.

Verse 1-2:  
(NIV) In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.

(NKJ) The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen,

(KJV)  The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:

Comment: Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke after much research and many interviews. Acts began that way, but Luke joined Paul in his second missionary journey and so Acts from that point on is an eyewitness account.

Who Was Theophilus?

Because his name means "lover of God" or "friend of God," there have been countless expositions and sermons about this unknown Christian. But the truth is that he wasn't unknown and he may not have been a Christian (although, since Luke wrote to him a second time, he may have become one). The name "Theophilus" was not at all common at the time, so it was pretty easy to trace, especially since, in Luke 1:3, he is referred to by Luke as "most excellent." He had been the High Priest previous to Luke's writing of the Gospel of Luke.


There is no other reason why Luke would have referred to him with the title "most excellent." Luke 1:4 refers to things Theophilus had 'learned,' or 'been taught.' Neither is a correct translation. The Greek indicates that Theophilus had heard about a number of things and Luke was taking it on himself to present an "orderly account" for him. The only reason Luke would have done this sort of thing for such a personage would have been if the two already knew and respected each other. Luke was a medical doctor, and may well have been involved in the care of Theophilus or someone in his family. Luke must have been well-known and respected, for he had the trust of Mary the mother of Jesus and had interviewed her. His Gospel is the only one which records her reactions and thoughts.

The other possibility was that Luke knew Theophilus through Junia, whom he would have known through the Christians.

"Got Questions" has an article on the possible identity of Theophilus.


In the original King James, there is a difference in the translation of the second verse. Whereas the newer two translations seem to indicate that Jesus might have been obeying the Holy Spirit in giving commands to the Apostles, the older King James states that after the Ascension, Jesus continued working with His Apostles through the Holy Spirit. In this case, the older, original King James version probably is the more accurate, as it harmonizes with the rest of the information we get in the book of Acts and in the Epistles..

Verse 3:
(NIV)  After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

(NKJ)  to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

(KJV)  To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:

Comment: He clearly left no doubt in the Apostles' minds that He was very much alive. For a little over a month He continued teaching them, and we see this included information about the Millennial Kingdom; He may well have been reviewing a lot of the prophecies already in the Scriptures and explaining them.

Verses 4-5:
(NIV) On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” [the "with" in "with water" and "with the Holy Spirit" both have an alternate translation of "in]"

(NKJ)  And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father,“which,” He said, “you have heard from Me;  for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

(KJV)  And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

Comment: How strange this must have seemed to them! What could that mean -- baptized with the Holy Spirit? Still, not knowing what was going to happen, they had a choice. They could obey and stay in Jerusalem, where Jesus was arrested, tried, and crucified, or leave, seeking safety. The one thing they knew now was that Jesus was truly Lord and God and they could trust Him and obey Him. They stayed in Jerusalem.

Verse 6:
(NIV) Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

(NKJ) Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”

(KJV) When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

Comment: The use of the word "restore" here tells us how the disciples were viewing prophecy: Israel would be a theocracy bounded by the old boundaries from the time of David and Solomon. Now Jesus had risen, and proved to be God Himself in the flesh, surely this would be he start of the promised Kingdom! After all, we learn from verse 3 above that Jesus had been talking to them about it.

Empire of David and Solomon

Verses 7-8:
(NIV) He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

(NKJ)  And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.  But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

(KJV)  And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Comment: Jesus did not chastise them for not understanding; He did not say they had it all wrong and correct them. Instead He said that the Father had put these things in His own authority. He emphasized that their task now was to go out after the Holy Spirit had come and be His witnesses to all these things, starting in Jerusalem, then progressing to the ends of the earth.

Verse 9
(NIV) After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

(NKJ) Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.

(KJV) And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

Comment: The Shekinah glory cloud received Him out of their sight. The first mention of this cloud may have been in Genesis 3. It is the same Cloud which guided the Israelites through the wilderness; the same Cloud that descended on both Moses' Tabernacle and Solomon's Temple. It is what Ezekiel saw. It is THE Cloud of the Bible, not simply A cloud.

Verses 10-11
(NIV) They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come backin the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

(NKJ)  And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

(KJV) And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

Comment: Again we have reference to "two men" and not "two angels." Moses and Elijah were there at the Transfiguration. There were "two men" at the Tomb the morning of the Resurrection. Are these the same two each time? Moses was always considered to be the representative of the Law, and Elijah of the Prophets. These two men declare He is coming again in the same Glory Cloud (Rev.1:7 – Mat. 26:64). The first coming was quietly, humbly, born in a stable. The next coming will be with glory and seen world-wide.

Verses 12-14
(NIV) Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

(NKJ)  Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey.  And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judasthe son of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

(KJV)  Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

Comment: returned from the Ascension and went to same Upper Room (Mark’s house) where they were staying. The word for this room was "kataluma," or guest room. It is the same word mistranslated as "inn" regarding what was full in Bethlehem when Joseph and Mary arrived. Every house had a kataluma, or guest room. (They were all full when Joseph and Mary arrived due to the Caesar's orders).

Note that Mary the mother of Jesus was with them, and Jesus brothers. These brothers are identified separately from the Apostles here, indicating that Mary had, indeed, had other children after Jesus. These brothers did include James who was the chairman of the meeting in Acts 15:13, as the Apostle James (brother of John) was killed by Herod in Acts 12:2.

Both of the King James translations state they prayed "in one accord" and that is probably a better rendition of the Greek than "they all joined prayer." The Greek translates into "in one mind," but is a compound word whose components actually mean "unanimous passion." This means they were agreeing about what they were praying for, not simply that they were praying together as a group.

Note: A "Sabbath Day's journey" was about 1 kilometer, or about 5/8 of a mile. This was one of the laws the leaders of the Jews had invented. The reason for it was that the Sabbath was to be a day of rest. So how far could one walk and still be 'resting?' This was their determination. Now, for an old man or woman, that would definitely be work! For a youngster, not so much. But instead of telling the people to pray and obey the Lord, they made a law that was to be applicable to all, whether lame or whole. There was also a way they got around this law when they wanted to. Considering that wherever a man's mat/bed was, was home, it was easy to take a mat with you, lay it down at the prescribed distance, sit or lie on the mat, declaring it "home" and then picking it up and continuing the journey.

Verses 15-17
(NIV) In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”

(NKJ) And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said, “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus; for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry.”

(KJV) And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.

Comment: We often think of "Jesus and the 12 disciples," and not past that. Here we see that even prior to Pentecost, there were 120 followers there in Jerusalem. Peter was the acknowledged leader. From what we have seen of him earlier, he appears to have been the most bombastic and outspoken of the group. If he was not considered the leader at this point, he was at least the most vocal.

We can see Judas had been accepted as part of the ministry by all of them. The Scripture Peter was referring to he refers to a little later, below.

Verses 18-19
(NIV) (With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)

(NKJ) (Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out. And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.)

(KJV) Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.

Comment: The New King James and the New International Version, as well as many other versions, are correct in indicating this is a parenthetic. Peter probably did not say these words, but they were inserted by Luke as a point of explanation. This explanation, however, has confused many people as Matthew 27 refers to Judas hanging himself. It also says he threw the thirty coins of silver on the Temple floor. So did he buy the field or was the field bought with that money by the Pharisees or other leaders? Whichever it was, it was there Judas hanged himself. However it was the beginning of the extended Sabbath of the Passover and no one would touch a dead body as it would make them unclean and unable to participate in the Temple ceremonies. So the body hung there several days -- long enough to start decomposing, and swelling with decomposition. Was he cut down or did the rope break? We don't know, but we do know that when the body fell, the decomposition caused it to burst open.

Then the text says, "Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this." One more event in an incredible week! But enough of an event to be gossiped about by the entire city. So the field got a popular name of Field of Blood.

Verses 20-26
(NIV)  “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms:

“‘May his place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell in it,’
[Psalm 69:25]


“‘May another take his place of leadership.’[Psalm 100:8]

Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us,beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

(NKJ)  “For it is written in the Book of Psalms:

‘Let his dwelling place be desolate,
And let no one live in it’;


‘Let another take his office.’

“Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,  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.”And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

(KJV) For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take. Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.

And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Comment: Peter was vocal, he was impetuous. He knew Scripture, but patience was not one of his virtues at this stage. Instead of waiting upon God's timing and God's will, Peter jumped ahead, quoting Scripture, and as a group they choose two who had been with them from the beginning. This was their criteria. Then they "allowed" God to choose which of these two He preferred. This is so common among us all. We think we know all the options, and we ask God to choose among the options we are aware of.

But we never hear of Matthias again. He may have done great things with the early church, but we do not know. There are no records. As we will see later, God chose Saul, a man who started off persecuting the Christians (see Galatians 1:1). But God knew Saul's heart was for God and God could use that.

The idea of men choosing people for God is completely negated by this part of Scripture. It is a little like Samuel and the father of David trying to choose among the older brothers when God's choice was the youngest. Those trying to use this Acts passage to support Apostolic Succession are missing two vital points: first, the Apostles were the foundation and that is a finished thing; second, man's choices and God's choice are very often radically different.

It is important to note that at this time in the history of Acts, the Apostles were not yet under the control of the Holy Spirit.


Continue to Acts 2