Script for the June 14th episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast.
Welcome to the June 14th episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast. I’m Matt Ellis, and I’m the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida.
Today’s reading is Ezra 9-10 and Acts 1, but we will focus only on the New Testament reading in this podcast.
If you have questions about anything in the Old Testament or New Testament reading assignment, please email me at email@example.com. I will put my e-mail address in the podcast show notes. And I may answer it on the next podcast.
As Luke begins the book of Acts, he lets the reader know that he had written a previous book.
Acts 1:1 (CSB): “I wrote the first narrative, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach”
When Luke says that he “wrote the first narrative” and describes what the narrative was about, it is evident that he is referring to the Gospel of Luke. That book recounted Jesus’ birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and then ascension to Heaven.
We understand from Scripture that the Holy Spirit enabled the writers of Scripture to put their thoughts on the page. But how did it work? When we read the opening verses of Luke’s Gospel, we understand that the Holy Spirit wasn’t working in a vacuum. He used Luke’s intense investigation into the facts to prepare him to write the Gospel of Luke and Acts.
Luke 1:1-4 (CSB): “Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us. So it also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed.”
One more thing I want to point out in verse one is the name, “Theophilus.” In the Greek language, Theophilus means “friend of God” or “lover of God.” So Theophilus may have been someone that Luke was writing to. It may have been the name of a man who made it financially possible for Luke to study and write this book. Or it may simply be the nickname Luke gave his readers, assuming that all who would read about Jesus and the early church are friends of God, or soon would be.
In verses 4-5, we read that Jesus had told the disciples not to leave Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came. This is something we need to address at least briefly. And there are two specific items we need to understand.
First, the Holy Spirit’s work in the New Testament was much different than in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit only came on people who He empowered to do God’s will. This happened to some of Israel’s judges, prophets, kings, and some other leaders. But the Holy Spirit only came upon someone temporarily and could easily be taken away, as with King Saul.
In the New Testament, ever since the days of Acts, the Holy Spirit comes to indwell every single person who trusts in Jesus for eternal life. The Holy Spirit takes up residence within us, actually turning our bodies into a Temple of God. Further, He will never leave us and is our guarantee that all who trust in Jesus will finally arrive in God’s presence to enjoy Him forever.
The second matter regarding the Holy Spirit is that there is a baptism and a filling of the Spirit. The baptism of the Spirit, talked about in verse 5, is understood to be the moment the Holy Spirit enters a believer at the point of salvation. He “baptizes” them, thus identifying every believer with Christ. Since we can only be eternally saved once, baptism of the Spirit only happens once in the life of a believer.
The filling of the Spirit refers to an event that happens multiple times in the life of a believer. In complete dependence upon God’s Spirit, they comply with the command of Ephesians 5:18 and the biblical principles that accompany it by allowing the Holy Spirit to fill them. As the Spirit is given this control, they are enabled to live the life God has called them to live. Yet, Ephesians 6:17 tells us that the weapon that the Holy Spirit uses is God’s Word that we have studied, memorized, and internalized. So, if we want the Spirit to lead us, we must be about the business of getting God’s Word into us.
In verse 6, the disciples asked Jesus if He was about to set up His earthly kingdom at that point. Jesus responded by telling them that God’s timeline was none of their business. They were, instead, to focus on what God had commissioned them to do.
Acts 1:8 (CSB): “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
To be Jesus’ witnesses, they were simply to tell what they had seen and experienced. They were to tell people about Jesus, what he taught, and why He died on the cross and rose from the dead. As they testified about Jesus, they were to call people to follow Him.
So, where were they to be a witness for Jesus? Where are we to be a witness for Him?
We observe in Acts 1:8 that we are to begin where we are and work out from there. In fact, we observe that there are concentric circles in Acts 1:8.
It begins in their city, the city of Jerusalem.
Then, their witness was to expand out to their country, the country of Judea.
Then, they were to go even farther to neighboring nations where there was racial tension – like in Samaria.
Finally, they continued to go even farther out “to the ends of the earth.”
When we look at the progression of the Gospel in the book of Acts, we see that the narrative generally follows the progression of Acts 1:8. What started in Jerusalem was all over the world by the end of the book of Acts.
Friends, our churches should be involved in missions locally and abroad. Look at Acts 1:8 to determine what your “Jerusalem” is, and then be a witness for Jesus there. Then define your “Judea” and “Samaria” and do missions there. Finally, find at least one place internationally where you can be a witness. Acts 1:8 is a command but also a call to an adventure locally and beyond.
After Jesus said this, we read in verses 9-11 that Jesus was taken up on a cloud. We are also told that angels proclaimed that Jesus would come back one day just like He left.
One of the many intriguing things about this text is that Jesus took His body to Heaven with Him. His resurrection body that He had on earth for 40 days after he rose from the dead was one in which He ate, was hugged, and still had his scars that He offered to let Thomas see and touch. So, it was a very physical body, remarkably similar to our own. And yet He took that body to Heaven with Him.
That tells me that Heaven is much more “real” than we often think that it is. There are currently people there with bodies like we have here. It also reminds me that the future Heaven is spoken of in the last two chapters of the book of Revelation. The Final Heaven is going to be a new, real, physical earth with new heavens.
Friend, Heaven isn’t some mystical place out there on the clouds. It is a real, physical existence in a body on an earth. If this isn’t true, then Jesus is out of place because He has a physical body in Heaven right now.
Acts 1:12 (CSB): “Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, which is near Jerusalem—a Sabbath day’s journey away.
How far as a Sabbath day’s journey, the distance from the Mount of Olives to their place in Jerusalem? According to Exodus 16:29, the people of Israel weren’t to go beyond their place. Then, according to Numbers 35:5, the people of Israel were to measure off 3,000 feet outside each of their cities for the outer boundaries of their pasturelands. This was land that belonged to them. So, putting these two verses together, some have speculated that a Sabbath day’s journey was no more than 3,000 feet, or a little more than half a mile.
When the group of disciples, women, the mother of Jesus, and her other sons, arrived back in Jerusalem, they went to the second-story room of a home. Luke points out that they prayed in that room. In fact, he writes that “they all were continually united in prayer.”
Matthew Henry, the great Presbyterian pastor and author of the 1600’s, once said: “When God intends great mercy for his people, he first of all sets them praying.” This is so true. Before God does something wonderful, he gets His people to pray. And prayer is a theme that appears on just about every page of the book of Acts. The church prayed, and God’s Holy Spirit moved. I don’t believe that God’s pattern has changed. God simply isn’t moving among so many of our churches because we aren’t praying as the first-century church did.
During one of their gatherings, the Apostle Peter stood up and spoke. We are told in verse 15 that there were about 120 people present. We know from passages like 1 Corinthians 15:6 that there were at least 500 Christians in the world at that moment. But God was about to explode this relatively small number into a massive movement.
But first, these folks needed to have a business meeting. Peter got up and said that the Old Testament prophecies had to be fulfilled, which talked about Judas. Yet, Judas’ name appears nowhere in the Old Testament. When we look for the verses that Peter quoted, they are Psalms 69:25 and 109:8. So what are we to make of this?
I love what the Bible Knowledge Commentary says about this. It claims that the psalms that spoke of the reigning Old Testament kings were taken by many New Testament believers to ultimately point to earth’s final ruler, King Jesus. This is why Jesus quoted Psalm 22:1 when He was on the cross. Many of the things in Psalms were prophetic even though they didn’t appear to be. This is why so many scholars believe that if you cannot see Jesus in the text, you haven’t truly understood the text.
So, getting back to our point, when those psalms talked about an enemy of the king, the New Testament believers took that to potentially refer to enemies of Jesus. That’s why Peter quoted the verses that he did.
Just listen to the following verses, in their context, that Peter quoted when talking about Judas.
Psalm 69:24-28 (CSB): “Pour out your rage on them, and let your burning anger overtake them. Make their fortification desolate; may no one live in their tents. For they persecute the one you struck and talk about the pain of those you wounded. Charge them with crime on top of crime; do not let them share in your righteousness. Let them be erased from the book of life and not be recorded with the righteous.”
Psalm 109:7-10 (CSB): “When he is judged, let him be found guilty, and let his prayer be counted as sin. Let his days be few; let another take over his position. Let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. Let his children wander as beggars, searching for food far from their demolished homes.”(Bold/underlined text is what Peter quoted in Acts 1)
There is one other item that seems to be contradictory in regard to how Judas died. First, listen to the Apostle Matthew tell us how Judas killed himself. Then, listen to how Luke, in Acts 1:18, tells us how Judas died.
Matthew 27:5 (CSB): “So he threw the silver into the temple and departed. Then he went and hanged himself.”
Acts 1:18 (CSB): “Now this man acquired a field with his unrighteous wages. He fell headfirst, his body burst open and his intestines spilled out.”
At first glance, these two accounts seem to be contradictory. Yet, they are easily reconciled if Judas hung himself high in a tree or at a cliff’s edge. It is not far-fetched to imagine that as he jumped to hang himself, the branch broke, he fell, and the jagged rocks below sliced his stomach open. It is a fitting way for such an evil person to die.
When we arrive at verses 21-22, Peter uses his understanding of the Old Testament passages to say that Judas needed to be replaced. Further, he needed to be replaced at that moment with someone who had been with Jesus throughout the time of His earthly ministry.
Some have speculated that Peter acted too hastily. We aren’t sure if he did, but it is certainly easy to follow this line of reasoning. After all, he repeatedly stuck his foot in his mouth and got ahead of Jesus when Jesus was on earth. With that in mind, some have speculated that the Apostle Paul should have been the 12th apostle.
I think this suspicion is at least possible. Just listen to the Apostle Paul speak of Jesus’ death and resurrection and then His appearance to His followers. When Paul speaks of himself, it sounds as if he is saying that he regretted coming along too late to be a part of the inner group.
1 Corinthians 15:3-8 (CSB): “For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, he also appeared to me.”
This chapter ends as Peter leads the gathering to fill the 12th spot. Two men are nominated, Joseph and Matthias. The group prayed, asking the Lord to show who He had chosen to fill Judas’ spot. Then they cast lots (or voted), and Matthias was chosen to be the 12th apostle.
Whether Matthias should have been the 12th apostle, God’s Holy Spirit was about to empower those folks for ministry. The small group of disciples was about to become a movement that would take the world by storm.
That’s why the book of Acts is not primarily referring to the Acts of the Apostles. It’s the Acts of the Holy Spirit. Nothing else could explain how quickly Christianity would take the world by storm.
Lord Jesus, we are such a product of our times. We look around us and see churches doing their thing and think this is the way things should be. Yet, when we look at the book of Acts, we realize that there is so much more of You to be experienced. There is so much more work to do. So much more joy to have. So much more hardships to endure for Your sake. Help us, Lord, to be content in our circumstances but help us to never be content in our experience of You and our service for You. Cause us to always want more. And then, as we comply with biblical principles we observe in the book of Acts, please help us experience true revival in our hearts, our churches, and across our land. We pray this in the Name of the One who turned the world upside down with the Gospel and who can do it again, Amen.
I hope today’s episode has helped you to understand and enjoy God’s Word so that you can apply it in the power of the Holy Spirit.
If looking over the script for this podcast would be beneficial to you, hop on over to my website at mattsmusings.net. I will provide a link in this episode’s show notes.
The “Enjoying the Bible” podcast is a ministry of the First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida. Check us out at fbcpolkcity.com. See you tomorrow!