Lecture 6: Evangelism and Introduction to Acts
Login to download lecture and curriculum
The Gospel message is consistent in the book of Acts. The message is contextualized for different groups of people and explained to them in ways that were relevant to their own settings. The believers had relational networks and shared the Gospel as they travelled. Instances of miraculous healings recorded in Acts had an impact on people believing in Jesus. A common way in Acts for getting attention to the Gospel was signs and wonders. How we live is also a matter of evangelism. There are examples in Acts of the Spirit leading people to specific people and places to share the Gospel. There are various logistics used by people in Acts to share the Gospel. The leadership model in the book of Acts included indigenous people being partners in leadership. Much of Luke chapter 24 is recapitulated in Acts chapter 1. One of the first stories in the book of Acts was replacing an apostate apostle.
Lecture 6: Evangelism & Introduction to Acts
a. Ways of Evangelism
Toward the end of the last session, we begin talking about evangelism; the theme of evangelism and the different ways in which this is done. Different people have different gifts and God works through people in different ways. There is a consistent Gospel throughout the Book of Acts, but it was contextualized for different groups of people and explained to them in ways that was relevant in their own settings. We begin talking about how people got attention for the Gospel; there were certain kinds of networks that were available to them within their culture, synagogues and public debate forums, etc. We need to be ready to look for those in our own culture as well. We also had relational networks; believers shared the message as they traveled. The Book of Acts precedes more in a biographical way, focusing on Paul, Peter and other major figures. Nevertheless, believers were sharing the message as they traveled as seen in Act 8:4; 11:20. All the believers were carrying the message with them and that is what we want ideally. You see that in Ephesians 4 where it speaks of the ministers of the Word, equipping the saints for the work of service in that all of us are called to minister. If we have purely clergy oriented churches where what we call ministers is doing all the work of ministry and where other people aren’t involved, the work just can’t get done; we need the whole body of Christ involved. Apart from synagogues, this was very organic; they were following up with individuals and very much relational. Acts 20:20 tells us of Paul speaking out publicly but also going house to house. Households consisted of relatives, clients, servants and workers. And many different things were included as part of one’s household; Cornelius’ relatives in Acts 10 was said to have gathered together. In terms of households, there was something called patriots and clients; this was in the Roman culture especially and was relative to Corinth and Philippi. You would have someone of a higher social status who would invite peers and also others of lower social status; others that were socially dependent on this person and this person would receive honor from these social dependents. I am not saying that we need to use the same networks as they had because our household structure may be different and our culture is certainly different. We have different kinds of relational networks.
In today’s culture, sometimes we can have small groups that come together that are based on common interest, called target groups where people need support; these are also sometimes called support groups. And not all the people would necessarily be Christians that come. But as friends you can share what the Lord has done for you and how the Lord has helped you in times of difficulty. You can also learn from them as we are all broken human beings who all need the grace of God. In this context, sharing is organic because you are sharing with others. Beside target groups, you also have friends and family which is a way for the message to grow and increase. I wouldn’t want to ignore those connections we already have; yet you don’t have to stop there. We also see Paul working and sharing with others while you were working. This shows us that Paul became part of the culture; he did accept support when it became available; we see this even later on in that same passage. Paul accepted support when Silas and Timothy brought gifts from the churches of Macedonia, especially Philippi. But Paul was also working within the culture; he wasn’t an outsider to it, just preaching at the culture. He became part of it; he was already a citizen of the Greco-Roman world and this expanded as time went on. We also see variety; he reaches the women in Philippi through their mutual interest in monotheism. The jailer in Philippi was reached through an earthquake and preaching. Another way of spreading the Gospel is through healing, this is what some call power evangelism. I talked earlier about signs and wonders; the point is not that God always does everything that we ask him. We all know that the original apostles in the 1st century with as much faith as they had and empowered by the Holy Spirit as they were; they have been dead for a long time now. I don’t know any of the fired up respectable Christians from the 19th century like Hudson Tayler, who is gone; Justin from the previous century is gone; nobody ever says that everybody gets healed and we live forever in these bodies. We are still waiting for Jesus to give us our resurrection bodies.
b. God’s Future Promise
But the point is this, God gives us samples of that future promise. In the Gospels we read about the good news of the kingdom. Someday, God is going to make everything right; he is going to restore everything and wipe away everything, every tear from our eyes. What he gives us in the present are samples of that; healings are temporary. If we die and get raised from the dead, we are going to die again if the Lord delays in coming back. If we are healed of something, that doesn’t mean that you are not going to get sick from something or die from something later one. In this world, people die; this is part of the nature of this world and everyone recognizes this ultimately. But having said that, God does give us samples of that future glory and it is not just for people who experience it. We get to know that God is reassuring us in regards to this promise. He hasn’t forgotten us in this world, his power is with us and some day he is going to make this world new. Well, as I was reading the Book of Acts as a fairly young Christian during my freshman year of college, I noticed that the method of getting attention for the Gospel in the Book of Acts was through signs and wonders. Now, they got attention though not always positive, sometimes they got persecuted but people paid attention when there were signs and wonders. There were other methods of getting attention such as public debate forums. Those of us who are trained academically; the more we learn, the more we are able to enter into discussions and forums with other people and share our faith and dialogue with people. But in terms of other ways of getting people’s attention; on the Day of Pentecost, speaking in tongues got people’s attention as shown in Acts 3 and 4, this got people’s attention and drew the crowds. Healing of the man who was paralyzed, unable to walk in Acts 4:29-30 drew attention; they actually prayed that God would give them boldness by stretching out his hand to be healed. God was confirming his message through signs and wonders. In addition, people usually appreciate being prayed for. They like it when you pray for them, when there is something wrong with them. You can offer; they are usually not offended if nothing happens; you can make it happen, but if it does happen it usually gets their attention.
I was working at some apartment complexes one summer, pulling weeds and sanding walls and painting and doing just rudimentary tasks there. One of the people came by; they were much older than I was; mainly retired people. There was this one lady who was complaining about something and I ask if I could pray for her. She said sure and nothing happened. Then another person came by, Mabel Cooper and she said that something was wrong with her knee. It has been really bad and the doctor can’t do anything about it. I prayed for her knee and she came back a few days later excitingly saying that her knee was now much better. Now I need get you to work on my lungs because I have been coughing up blood and the doctor thinks that I have lung cancer. Okay, I will come back on my lunch break and pray for you. But in the meanwhile, I had been washing down the walls of her next door neighbor who had just died of lung cancer. He was a chain smoker and the nicotine was everywhere. I told her that she needed to give up smoking because of this. She replied, ‘my doctor says that also.’ In any case, I went by on my lunch break and I told her that I was going to pray for her but whether God heals you or not, I said, some day you are going to die and you need to be ready to meet him. She prayed with me and accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior and then I prayed for her to be healed. After that, she never coughed up blood again and the doctor decided that she didn’t have lung cancer after all. She lived on for many more years. I was only a young Christian then. All of us can pray, some people are more gifted in this than others but this is something we can do. This can help people and draw their attention to the saving grace of Jesus.
c. Power of the Spirit and Signs
In Acts 1:8 where it talks about power, it says that ‘You will receive power when the Spirit comes.’ What does Luke mean by, ‘when the Spirit comes?’ In the Gospel of Luke, not exclusively but most often power is associated with casting out demons or healing as shown in Acts 4:36; 5:17; 6:19; 8:46; and 9:1. Again, in Acts 3:12, it is not by our own power or holiness that this man was healed, it was by the name of Jesus, it was through his power.’ Acts 6:8 says that ‘Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.’ In Acts 10:38, it says, ‘with respect to Jesus from Nazareth, God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with him.’ So when we talk about power in Acts 1:8, we should think not only of power for witness in general, but also that God would confirm our witness by answering prayers and doing things that will get people’s attention; power from the Spirit of God and the Spirit was widely associated in Jewish circles with prophetic empowerment.
Paul possible grew in this in his ministry. We read in Acts 13 where Sergius Paulus wanted to hear the Word of God from Barnabas and Paul but a magician by the name of Elymas tried to oppose this. In Acts 14, it says that signs and wonders were being done through the hands of the apostles. But when you get to Acts 19, it is on the scale as you had in the Jerusalem church. We also grew in this; sometimes we would be pray and nothing would happen, but we were sure of what we were doing, yet it can get very discouraging. Normally, even if you don’t pray for people, they get better. After a year or so, suddenly in one week, a whole lot people started to get healed and it started to spread from there. This is a way of letting us know that it isn’t us, it’s God and when God decides to turn it on, we were ready. This also happened in Acts. The credit always belongs to Jesus; he is the one who does the work through us. But Paul perhaps grew into this during his ministry. Paul recognized that the attention was for the Gospel not for himself.
Another aspect of evangelism within the Gospel is that sometimes God just arranges things and sets things up where we don’t even expect it. You have the parallel vision of Cornelius and Peter; Peter would not have been available to go to Cornelius before this. But God clearly sends him and so he goes; God is so eager to pour out the Spirit and he doesn’t even wait for Peter to finish his sermon. He interrupts Peter’s sermon to pour out the Spirit on the people gathers around. Another obvious case is when Philip is sent somewhere under very unusual circumstances. He gets there and finds an African official reading the Bible in Isaiah 53; the official asks him about the suffering servant. So Philip gets to preach to him and God just sets that situation up. I remember when I was a young pastor and we were going to have a church picnic where two of us had come together so far. A young lady then walks up to me and asked, ‘Is this a church picnic?’ Yes, I replied. She continues, ‘can you tell me how to be saved?’ Yes, of course, I answered. Wait! My brother wants to be saved also. This was a setup; we did nothing in regards to preparation. How we live is also a matter of evangelism; at the end of Peter’s sermon, 3,000 people received Christ in Acts 2:41. But if you look at the literary structure of that last paragraph in Acts 2, it also concludes in another way. After these 3,000 people were converted, they were sharing worship and meals; they were praying with one another. They were even sharing possessions with one another. In Acts 2:47, the Lord was giving them favor and adding to their number daily of those who were being saved; one way of evangelism was what happened with Peter. God set up a dramatic sign and got a lot of people’s attention and Peter had the opportunity to preach. But in Acts 2:47, people saw how the Christians were living and that is what drew them to faith and people were being added to the church. You see this elsewhere in John 13:34-35; he says love one another as I have loved you. He calls it a new commandment; it was new because it was love. Leviticus 19:18 talked about loving one another as yourself. It was new because it was a new standard. He went on to say, ‘this is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another as I have loved you.’ If we live in such a way that people can see the heart of Jesus, then they are being exposed to Jesus through that. And that will draw their attention which is also a sign. In John 17:23, he prays for the unity of his followers so that the world may know that the Father has loved them, just as the Father loved Jesus.
d. Unity of the Church
Speaking now of unity; people debate about the unity within churches. We don’t have to belong to the same church or even believe exactly the same thing. We are brothers and sisters if we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savor and follow him. But in the case of unity, it is when we love one another; unity comes about when we work together and serve together for the Gospel. Where to go? We have to balance various factors, but the most important factor is concerned with God leads. If God is leading you, then you better go there. It may be hard and it may take years to see fruit. Usually God takes us through a testing stage before he gives us too much fruit. But where God leads us; sometimes it may be just in a moment. We may have to leave within a moment’s notice. You see that in Acts 8:29 where the Spirit says to Philip ‘go, join yourself to this chariot.’ And Philip shares Christ with the African court official. In Acts 10:19 where the Spirit says to Peter, there are some men who have come to see you. You need to go with them for I have sent them. Sometimes, the Spirit’s guidance is negative. For example in Acts 16:7, it wasn’t so hard when Paul began to retrace his steps with Barnabas. But he hadn’t really been leading the mission before and now he goes out beyond these churches that they have already founded and it seems like things are foundering. The Spirit says no when he wants to go into Bethnia. The Spirit said no when he wants to go into Asia, meaning the Roman province of Asia Minor. That no was only a temporary no in Acts 16:6. Later on, there is a great revival in Asia Minor; he wasn’t ready yet. Then they get to Troas which was a natural place to go, about a hundred thousand people, a very strategic city. So, he gets to Troas and he has a night vision there; someone from Macedonia saying to come over and help us. He and the others, including Luke, get together and they want to know what that means. It must mean that we are supposed to go to Macedonia. It wasn’t a vision of Jesus appearing and nothing more explicit than that.
They get to Macedonia and get beaten and suffer there. Philippi was difficult as well as Thessalonica. They even get chased out of Berea and they had to continue based on that guidance they had. But it was guidance which is better than no guidance. So they went with what they had. Sometimes God has different reasons in mind in leading us to different places and ministries. But if we do our best to follow his leading, God is able to order our steps. Our job is to do our best. Sometimes it was a case of open doors; they left Macedonia for Achaia. Actually Paul was driven out of Macedonia and he had to go to Achaia where there were open doors and he got to minister there. It doesn’t mention any revelation; Paul may have had one, but basically what we do know, Paul had to go to Achaia. Sometimes, God leading leads us into suffering. In Acts 21, there are prophetic warnings, ‘this is what you are going to face if you go to Jerusalem.’ Paul’s friends tell him not to go because they also knew what the Spirit was saying. Paul tells them that he is prepared to die if I need to. Paul knew God’s will for him. As great as it was that his brothers and sisters loved him and hearing part of what God was saying, Paul knew that he was supposed to go. Finally they agreed, saying, ‘the will of the Lord be one.’ Just because God is leading you into something, doesn’t mean that you are not going to have a hard time with it and that you are not going to suffer. In fact, usually when we go into something new, there is going to be hardship. God often uses this to teach us a deeper dependence upon him. In places where Paul ministered, like Thessalonica and Philippi, they saw what Paul went through and he was able to appeal to that saying, ‘you know what it cost to follow Jesus.’ And they were able to persevere most strongly because of that. Because of him going to Jerusalem, he was able to preach the Gospel in the Temple and also in Rome. As a prisoner he preached to people who otherwise would not have learned of Jesus Christ. He was able to preach to the members of the Praetorian Guard and even to Nero’s court. When we don’t have any particular direction however; the commission remains, Acts 1:8 and Acts 13:2. It doesn’t always mean that we are going to move somewhere.
e. Paul’s Places of Ministry
Some of the early Christians had to move because they were persecuted and God was using that to spread the Gospel. But sometimes, it is just where you are. You are sharing the Gospel with people around you and you are just sharing it naturally because it is what matters to you. This is what you are passionate about. Even when we don’t have a particular direction or commission, we have a general commission, the great commission. We can start with the connection that God provides; where did the twelve apostles start? They started in Jerusalem where they were at that point. They actually stayed there a bit too long, but the Lord had his way to make sure the Gospel spread beyond Jerusalem. There were Diaspora Jewish Christians; Jewish believers from outside Judea, outside of Jerusalem who had settled in Jerusalem and Acts 11:20 said that there were believers from Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch. They began sharing the Gospel with people from their own people groups in Antioch. It might be what people call friendship evangelism with people they had a common interest with. They eventually were able to share it with Greeks as well. This was much more difficult for someone like Peter. These people were already bi-cultural. They already had cultural connections that went beyond those of Peter and the twelve. Barnabas and Paul in Acts 13 leave for Cyprus since it was the closest place to sail to and also because Barnabas was from Cyprus. Barnabas had connections in Cyprus; so it made sense for them to go there. Paul ministers in Cilica; Acts doesn’t explore that in detail but Acts 9:30 does say that he went there as well as Syria where he had already been. Galatians 1:21 says that he ministered in Syria and Silica. So it isn’t surprising that he had connections there. In any case in Acts 13, why did they go Antioch? There were more populated places on the coast. Antioch had perhaps over five thousand Roman citizens plus other residents. Some of the cities on the coast have as much as a hundred thousand people. Why go to Antioch? In this case, Acts doesn’t tell us this, but there may be a reason that archeology suggests. If you sail north from Paphos, you do come to the coastal area, going inland from there; you would go to Cilica and then to Antioch. We know from archeology that the family of the Roman Government Paulus had estates in that region, northeast of the city of Antioch. In part, they were going there because they had connections. They may have even had a letter of introduction. Paul went where he was distinctively equipped.
I love ministering to people on the street, but the Lord gave me academic gifts and because of those gifts there were places I could go where other people couldn’t. I realized that I need to go where I am distinctively equipped. Paul went especially to urban areas. At the beginning of Acts 13, he was ministering in Antioch; Paul was distinctively equipped for that. In other places he was uniquely equipped for. Paul was educated and a Roman citizen. There were places where he could minister in a special way, like Rome because he was a Roman citizen; other people may have not gotten a hearing. Even in Corinth or Philippi that were Roman colonies and in Cilica and Antioch. These were places where Paul had special inroads; Ephesus gave him a different kind of opportunity because of his experience and education. Paul may have realized some of this after having been beaten in Philippi; the Philippian jailer may have said that Roman citizenship is actually respected in Philippi. Paul and Silas being Roman citizens then became a big issue. What I would like to think is where the Gospel would not be preached if I don’t do it. If I don’t have any other specific guidance; if I have to make a choice between two things that are open to me; I want to the one that will not get done, if I don’t do it. Somebody else can go to a different place and praise God for their ministry. Another thing to take into account; Antioch was multi-cultural and they had a multi-cultural leadership team there. Word often spread from the cities and from the multi-cultural areas; Paul was able to do that in Ephesus. In Act 19:10, it said that the Word of the Lord spread from there to the entire province of Roman Asia. People were coming and going to Ephesus all the time; if you reached people there, you would also reach people from other people groups. Today, there are foreign students studying in many places around the world and they can take the Gospel back with them like that of the African Count Official. So, you may not need to travel; today, these people are coming to you to be ministered to. Antioch was a place like that at the time and Paul was ready to minister to these people.
Paul’s goal within the Empire was Rome. You may have heard the saying that all roads lead to Rome. Before Paul ever went to Rome; Romans 16 show that he already knew people in Rome. People were going and coming from Rome all the time. If you could reach the heart of the empire, the message would go out from there. Today, the Internet is a place where a lot of people congregate intellectually and a place for a lot of opportunities. But also, many people especially atheists are talking nonsense on the internet. They don’t have the slightest idea what they are saying, parroting off what others say. And sometimes, there are Christians who do exactly the same thing and it is an embarrassment. Please be informed when you speak about things, but most of all, whatever you do, do it in love, because we are called to love our neighbors.
f. The Logistics in Ministry
We have a lot of material in regards to logistics in Acts, although some of it is primarily for that culture. For example, they met in homes; they didn’t have public buildings available to them. They could meet in the temple in Jerusalem but not anywhere else. People were meeting especially in homes; that was the only thing available to them. For the first three centuries, that is mainly where the church met which was economically viable and easier if there was persecution. They are closer for people to get to if they need to walk in terms of reaching out to neighborhoods. They used what they had and that was effective. Acts 13 and elsewhere, you see that they had team leadership where Barnabas and Paul being sent out as a mission team taking Mark with them. Later on when Paul goes with Silas, he recruits Timothy to go with him and Luke also joins them. In Acts 20, Paul has others coming with him to Jerusalem to carry the offerings. For myself, being an introvert, I have often gone out on my own where I was still able to share the Gospel. I have got beaten more than necessary because of going out on my own in places that were sometimes dangerous. The leadership structure is another logistical issue in the church growth; they had elders and overseers. These leadership structures were borrowed from the larger culture; ancient Israel had elders who would guide the affairs of the local village. Elders would also oversee synagogues. The title of overseer was used in some Greek leadership settings and it was used in the Dead Sea Scrolls for overseers of the Qumran Community. Sometimes there are things that are in the culture you can use and if it works you can adapt it. Paul wanted there to be leaders in the local congregation to give it stability. Another logistical issue, the fourth; they were willing to trust what God was doing and that is why they could delegate to others. Delegating means that we trust God for what he is doing. We know from the New Testament that sometimes it doesn’t always work out; you delegate to people who are only responsible and they did that in Acts 6. Paul installed leaders in Acts 14:23 and the Pastoral Epistles, it warns not to lay hands too quickly on people.
Trusting in what God is doing is about the empowerment of the Spirit. Acts 1:8, the Spirit will come upon you and you will be witnesses. So, the Spirit’s empowerment is for the sake of witnesses and that comes on all believers. Acts 2:39 says that this promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off. Now, Jewish people expect that in the restoration if Israel, God will pour out his Spirit on his people. They did not expect the Spirit to be poured out on the Samaritans, but the Samaritans received the message about Jesus, those in Jerusalem wanted to understand this. Philip along with Peter and John went there and they saw that it was of God and they laid hands on the Samaritans so that they might receive the Spirit. The Spirit is given to us to be witnesses, especially in Acts. The Samaritans were no longer objects of missions; they became partners in missions. So, it is great to start churches, but once you have believers coming to any level of maturity, then they become partners. God gives the Spirit to all of his people; we all become brothers and sisters and we need to be ready to trust the Spirit at work in our brothers and sisters. We need to learn to listen to people who have different cultural perspectives; they may be the ideal ones to reach their own culture. The fifth point in regards to logistics deals with people that have economic resources and possessions. Luke is strong on this about sharing possessions with the poor. We need to understand that people with economic resources haves gifts to bring. We see this and in Luke 8:3, there were women traveling with Jesus and the disciples; the women were ministering to them out of their own resources. These were fairly well to do women and they were helping to provide for the mission. Nobody was getting rich off of it, nobody was living in a state of wealth, but they had food to eat. Acts 18:7 said that when a gift was received from the church in Macedonia, Paul was grateful to have that being able to devote himself more fully to the ministry of the Word.
We also have people with teaching resources. Apollos was a fairly new believer who had to have things explained to them, some things that he didn’t understand. However, he was so equipped in the Torah, that once he understood it, he was able to speak eloquently within his circles of influence. God used people such as Moses, David, the apostles and so many others because of their background. God will often take things from our background in ways that we couldn’t imagine and use them for good. We shouldn’t ignore the resources that are in the body of Christ. There were people within my congregation with a drama degree and a person with musical experience; these people were able to be used in the church. Another point, it is important to report back to your home base and your supporters. If somebody goes out in a cross-cultural situation reaching out to other groups of people; it is important to report back to the home base, to those people who are providing prayer and financial support. It is important to have people to pray for you. Another logistical issue involves legal apologetics. Sometimes, people really misrepresent Christians and they really misrepresent Jesus and what the Gospel is about. Well, what is Acts 24-26 about? Paul has been falsely accused and you have this whole section on apologetics. That suggests that apologetics are important and if we follow Luke’s example, then we will also be concerned. You can’t refute every rumor; you can’t satisfy everyone’s skepticism. Paul talks about how he was object of slander; some people respected him while others did not respect him. But, legal apologetics insofar as possible exposes people to the truth. If there were false accusations in the early church; it was said that Christians were guilty of incest and cannibalism in the 2nd century. It was helpful that God raised up apologists to explain about the Lord’s super and what it mean to love one another as Jesus told us to. Another issue with logistics is with naivety; persecution and internal division. Sooner or lately there will be problems. So, with that we are getting ready to move into Acts 1.
2. Introduction to Acts
In the next session, I want to trace the theme of Acts 1 and 2 together. But now in a two volume work, a later volume could recapitulate the end of the previous volume. This is what you have with Luke 24 with much of that restated in a summary at the beginning of Acts 1. It repeats the points in greater detail, especially those that Luke wants to emphasize. Remember that historians had the freedom to rearrange things. They had the freedom to paraphrase and word things in a slightly different way. Yet, it communicates essentially the same message. Acts 1:1 is dedicated to Theophilus which goes clear back to Luke 1:3. In the second volume, he is dedicating it possibly to a sponsor; Theophilus could have sponsored the writing project and supporting the distribution of the book. Or sometimes it would simple be dedicated to a prominent person. In this case, Theophilus is somebody that Luke knows who apparently is a person of a higher social status. He wants to present evidence of Jesus’ resurrection which is located in Luke 24 where Jesus presents himself alive to the disciples. Jesus eats food before them, etc. which emphasizes his physicality. That is why in Acts 1:4 he warns them not to leave Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes. Act 1:12-14 is about a week to ten days between Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost. It was about fifty days after the resurrection. So, there was a week to ten days that they were praying together and waiting for whatever God was going to do. Acts 1:12 talks about the Mount of Olives which appears in the Gospels as well. According to Zechariah 14:4, that was the expected place of the Messiah’s coming. It was said that you will see him come again in the same way he left. It was about a half a mile east of the temple and several hundred feet higher up. It was close to a Sabbath’s day’s journey.
b. Peter and Matthias
Acts 1:13 talks about the Upper Room which could only have been in the wealthier part of the city; most of the city was down wind of the sewers; the lower part of the city. The wealthy people had more spacious accommodations. Many upper rooms were something like attics, but some Jewish texts mention that all the sages gathered together in upper rooms. So there were some houses that did have larger upper rooms. Why does it speak of the twelve? Twelve was the number of the tribes of Israel and the Dead Sea scrolls show us that a Jewish renewal movement could use that in thinking of the restoration of the twelve tribes. They would have twelve leaders in Israel when God restored his people. The names of the twelve here is not exactly the same as other lists show. The variations are not major but there are some variations. It was very common for people to have several identifying names; either both of which could be used for the person. If you had a common name like Simon, you would often have to use another name with it. Many of the names used in the New Testament were very common, even Mary was very common. They were common in the location they were originally from. Now, in the broader culture there was a down playing of women’s roles but In Acts 1:14 there is an equal participation of women and men. The language of prayer was sometimes used for a prayer house, outside Judea. But Luke usually used synagogues for that. In Acts 1:15-26 Peter spoke in order to replace Judas. In the Dead Sea scrolls, they had a group of leaders that included twelve special officials. This was to show that they were the true remnant of Israel. There was a Jewish tradition of having one hundred and twenty elders that passed on the law to Ezra. Also the Dead Sea scrolls required one priest to every ten men, so if you have one hundred and twenty, it would make sense if you had twelve apostles. But Luke’s point in mentioning one hundred and twenty may simple be that the upper room was very packed with people. Acts 1:20, Peter uses a common Jewish interpretative technique to deal with the Psalms of the righteous sufferer. If this was true for a righteous sufferer, how much more would it be true of Jesus? Psalm 69:25 and 109:8 both talk about prominent accusers. In Acts 1:23-26 there is the casting of lots to choose Matthias to replace Judas.
This was often used for special duties; this was prominent in the Greek world and also the Roman world for choosing political officers or assignments where governors would go. You also have this in the Old Testament in 1 Chronicles 24 and 25 and in the Dead Sea Scrolls and also in Josephus; it was also used as a form divination within Greek circles. It was used once before in Luke and Acts, earlier in the Gospel of Luke for the choosing of a priest to go in and offer the incense. Notice also that some people have double names; for example in the case of Joseph Barsabbas, this was a triple name in Acts 1:23. So double and triple names were quite common and especially such names as Joseph being so common, they required addition information. We will trace the theme, the power for witness that runs through Acts 1 and 2 in the next session.
If you are enjoying this lecture, would you consider making a donation so others can learn from it as well?
BiblicalTraining is a non-profit and relies on its users for support.