“And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky?’ This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”
We have looked at the significance of the Ascension, now we have the actual story of its occurrence. The two men clothed in white standing beside them are not named in Scripture though many assume it was Moses and Elijah because they were at the Transfiguration. (Luke 9:28-36) We simply don’t know. We know they were messengers from God because of what they said. And we have a prophecy regarding the return of Christ. He left this earth the first time in His glorified body and He will return in that same glorified body someday.
“Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with their women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”
They were standing on the Mount of Olives looking up. Jesus will be returning to the same place according to Zechariah 14:4. The Church Age is the period when Christ is absent from the earth. Now, everything that Jesus wants us to know we have in the Word of God. I Corinthians 2:16 says the Word of God is the mind of Christ. This is our instructions during His absence.
There is a list of the people present, the eleven apostles to Israel and they are appointed apostles to the Church. Peter is mentioned first because his leadership is obvious. Thomas is mentioned, even though he totally failed 40 days before in the matter of the resurrection. This did not keep him from being on the roster of apostles. To each of these is given apostleship, spiritual authority for the next 50 years or so while the Church is being established. There are to be 12 apostles. Obviously someone had to take the place of Judas and the big question is who is going to be the replacement. This is a sovereign choice of God the Holy Spirit, according to I Corinthians 12:11. It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to appoint spiritual gifts. The four brothers of Jesus are mentioned in Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3.
“These all with one mind” means they were in harmony with one another and were all in fellowship with God. There were 120 of them and they were well equipped to spend the next ten days. The Resurrection was on the Feast of the First-fruits, and there are fifty days between the First-fruits and the next feast which is Pentecost. For forty days the eleven disciples and the others are gathered together in the upper room and they are in harmony with one another, which indicates that they stayed in fellowship. According to John 20:22 they were given the Holy Spirit, so they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Yet in spite of that of that they got into a sin.
“At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said, “Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was counted among us and received his share in the ministry.” (Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) For it is written in the book of Psalms: ‘Let his homestead be made desolate, and let no one dwell in it; and, let another man take his office.’ “
Peter was the presiding leader in the roster of disciples given in verse 13; “in the midst of the disciples” – the word “disciples” is used for about 120 people. Peter’s speech was based on scripture. But when we start praying for the will of God and was ignorant of the correct doctrine he was going to wind up out of the will of God. There is no substitute for knowledge of Bible doctrine. The will of God is declared through the Word of God.
“Had to be fulfilled” was a prophecy from the Old Testament from David. David was a king but he was also a prophet, and many of the Psalms which David wrote contained prophecy. “Concerning Judas” – Peter was right in this part of his interpretation; “who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus” – the word “guide” is used in the sense that he guided the soldiers to where Jesus was in order to betray Him, but the word means “traitor.”
“For he was counted among us” was a reference to Judas as part of the traveling disciples of Christ. Always among believers there are a certain number of unbelievers numbered with them, identified as Christians though they are not Christians because they have not accepted Christ as Savior; “and received his share in the ministry” – so that Judas was actually identified with the twelve when they went to Israel as apostles and he actually had a part of their ministry.
“Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness” was what happened to the money that was used for the betrayal. Judas became conscience stricken. Then Luke told how Judas died. There are two accounts: one that he hung himself and the other that the rope broke. Apparently it was some time before it was known that Judas had hung himself and the rope rotted, he had been hanging so long that he simply broke asunder. This was one man who was never taken down, he had no friends, no loved ones, no one who cared, he had the respect of no one.
Now Peter quoted the Scripture for which he has in mind for this message. “For it is written” – at this point he cites scripture which was to be used in this regard, and he was going to quote from two passages. The first was from Psalm 69:25—“Let his habitation be desolate,” and the second was from Psalm 109:8—“and his office let another take.” “Let his habitation be desolate” indicates that the Potter’s field was a place of desolation and no one has any regard for Judas; “let no man dwell therein” means that there is now a vacancy among the apostles, the eleven, there should be twelve.
“Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these mustbecome a witness with us of His resurrection.” So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.”
Peter suggested that they fill the vacancy right away. Peter gets into error because the appointment of the twelfth apostle is strictly the appointment of God. In I Corinthians 12:28 we see that the fact that there would be apostles was the sovereign decision of God the Father. In Ephesians 4:8, 11 the sovereignty of the Son is involved in spiritual gifts. In I Corinthians 12:11 it is the sovereign ministry of the Holy Spirit to actually select who is involved in apostleship. Everything was done decently and in order, and this was highly commendable. The only problem with it is that the sovereignty of God is not in it at all. Now there is a ballot and there are two men on it.
“Show which of these two You have chosen” was where they went astray. God hadn’t chosen either. They recognized that it is God Who does the choosing and yet they were voting to choose themselves. In other words, they were superimposing their volition on the sovereignty of God, and that was a sin. They were out of fellowship at this point and when people are out of fellowship they are tremendously inconsistent. Matthias was numbered with the eleven apostles and said to be the twelfth. But God had not chosen him and eventually we learn who God had chosen as the twelfth apostle – Paul.
“If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or I speak of myself.” (John 7:17) When we study the will of God, we must consider the doctrine of Divine Guidance since it is the means of discovering the will of God. The Scripture declares in many passages that God will continually guide us. Jesus said that when He departed this earth that He would send a Comforter to teach and guide us. This Comforter, of course, is the Holy Spirit and He is indwelling you right now, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ. The Greek word for “will” is “thelema” and refers to the designed plan of God for every believer. Therefore, the will, the plan and the purpose of God are all synonymous terms. Throughout the Word of God we are commanded to know the will of God. Therefore, the questions are: “How can I know God’s will for my life?” and “What is His plan for me?” (Romans 2:18; Ephesians 1:1)
A Christian that does not know God’s will is said to be a fool according to Ephesians 5:17. The opposite of being foolish is being wise. Wisdom, as we have studied, is application of the Word of God. Therefore, God’s will can be discovered by knowing and applying His Word. Knowledge and application of God’s Word can only be gained under the control of the Holy Spirit, since He is the teacher of truth. (John 14:26, 16:13-14; Romans 8:14; I Corinthians 2:16)
As with everything in the Christian way of life, divine guidance from the Holy Spirit is only a potential. We must make the choice to allow Him to guide us. We do this in three ways: know the will of God, grow in the Word of God and submit to the will of God.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may discover what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God”. (Romans 12:2)
We see from this verse that the way to discover God’s will is by knowing God’s Word. It takes the renewal of the mind, which means to change from Human Viewpoint Thinking to Divine Viewpoint Thinking. Since the Bible is the only source of the known will of God, whether by direct statement or by deduction from doctrine, knowledge of His will is based on our understanding of His Word. Therefore, God the Holy Spirit guides the believer based on the doctrine that he has learned, believed and stored in his soul.
Through knowledge of doctrine we learn certain things in the Bible that we know are the will of God and certain things that are not the will of God for all believers. For everything else, we must use a combination of known factors (doctrine in our soul), Divine Norms and Standards, and the control of the Holy Spirit. If indeed the Holy Spirit is controlling our lives, He will guide us into all truth and will empower us to execute His will.
“But grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. (II Peter 3:18)
Grace is God’s plan for mankind. God’s plan is salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. God’s plan after salvation is grow in grace. Grace is all that God is free to do for mankind on the basis of what Christ did for us on the cross. Grace is the undeserved mercy of God towards us. Being in the will of God is the same as being in His plan and being in His plan is the same as being in His will.
Growth is a grace process of learning the Word of God under the control of the Holy Spirit. Application of what you learn brings wisdom, stability and maturity to your spiritual life. Once again, this is a process; a little here and a little there, line upon line and precept upon precept. Study plus application plus time equals compliance with and advance in the will of God for your life.
“I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service”. (Romans 12:1)
Presentation of the body means to place yourself under the authority of God, or submit to His will. This is to be a life-long, constant, commitment not a one time decision. The Christian life is made up of thousands of moment by moment decisions to obey the mandates of God. Only by obeying His mandates, which include being controlled by the Holy Spirit, can God guide us to His will. Therefore, the importance of spending a maximum amount of time in fellowship with God and under the control of the Holy Spirit. If you are out of fellowship with God, it is impossible to be guided by the Holy Spirit. This is the reason that we need to keep “short accounts.” (Ephesians 5:18; I John 1:6-10)