For an introduction to this series, click here.
May 22, 2007
The Acts of the Apostles is a controversial book in our world today. It was not always the case, but it is now. The most important thing you need to remember is that Acts is a history book. It tells the true story of what happened in the first 30 years or so of the church. It is not intended as a theology book or as a blueprint for how the church should operate today. Lots of people look at the miracles and the other supernatural things that happened and say that God is still the same and intends for us to do those things today. While of course it is true that the Lord never changes, the way He deals with people does change.
Acts was written by Luke and is addressed to Theophilus, the same person to whom Luke's gospel is addressed. Much of the second half of this book is firsthand knowledge. Luke talks a lot about "we" did this or that. We assume the first half is based on his research with those who experienced it.
Luke opens his book with the Ascension of Jesus. This means Luke is the only author who mentions the Ascension. His Gospel is the only one that mentions it, and we find it again here. The Ascension is significant only for the reason that Jesus did not disappear and leave the apostles in the dark. They knew exactly where He went.
The rest of the chapter has to deal with the choice of Matthias as the 12th apostle. The section starts with an important look at who was there for some of the first meetings of the church: "All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers." (1:14, ESV) While Jesus was alive, His family, or at least his siblings, did not believe Him. But at some point very soon after His resurrection, they realized who He really was. They certainly had a better insight than most into Jesus' personal life. They knew He was not a hypocrite.
Why the disciples chose to go through this exercise of drawing lots to replace Judas as an apostle is beyond me. Maybe it had to do with Jesus' promise that the Apostles would sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel. Interestingly enough, there are several people not on the official list in the Gospels who are mentioned as apostles. Paul, of course, spends much of his time in his epistles defending his status as an apostle. In Galatians, Paul calls Jesus' brother James an apostle. And there are others. I'm sure Matthias was a good man and there is no doubt we will see him in heaven. But like I said before, Acts is a historical record. There is no evidence that God commanded for this to happen. It does not mean that God disapproved or approved what happened, but it did happen.