Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Acts 1

Since we might have difficulty because of different questions than the apostles have in Acts 1, we need to imagine what it was like to have been given orders by the resurrected Son of God, as Luke starts here by describing (Acts 1:2).  As we read.

They wouldn't be asking about the relationship of the Lord's divine and human nature, or what was the best form of church government.  What they did ask and learn was very much of-the-moment: they received "many convincing proofs" that the Lord was alive, for one thing.  Also, they received orders to wait for "what the Father had promised" -- this, an amazing confirmation of what He had said the day He ate the fish with them (Lk 24:49).

As we continue to read in Acts 1, the whole series of events comes upon us so fast!  "Forty days" is not a long time to be around "the first and the last, and the Living One," as He will explain later to John and us (Rev 1:18), that  He "was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore" with these "many convincing proofs" (Acts 1:3). 

It would not be unfair to wonder why He was to go after He said those things in Acts 1:8.  And thus we are not far off from needing what the angels said to the apostles at the very time they could have been distressed: "why do you stand looking into the sky," they ask (1:11).  But their exhortation wasn't something like "get to work!" but, as per the way things are done under the aegis of the new era, a promise was given them: the Lord "will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go" (1:11).   A good question we can ask is "why was that told to them? What would that have added to their step, knowing what we do, two thousand years later?"  Or is it, really, a good question?  Lots of those "knowing what we do" assumptions should be revisited!

The disciples could not have but understood this as encouraging to them, that the Lord would come in just the same way as they watched Him go.  To the theological mind, this might need "rephrasing," but don't dare do so.  Keep the verse, lose the philosophy that prevents the significance of the verse from hitting you!

The rest of chapter 1 takes the form of a procedural issue that would seem to be a secondary matter to us, compared to other issues, but there it is.  Another corrective of our common practice of reading what happened, but putting its significance as low for us.

One way to see why it was so significant to Peter, to replace the place of Judas among the apostles, is to remember what Jesus had been doing.  He "presented Himself alive" ... "to them."  Jesus was not presenting Himself to everyone, "not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead" (Acts 10:41).  That's the background of the importance of the selection of Matthias (Acts 1:22ff).  We want arm-chair discussions of why Judas, and Peter wants to make sure he synchronizes the actions of the apostles with the fact that the witnesses were "chosen beforehand by God."