Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, which is near the city, a Sabbath day's journey away.
I. THE SCENE IN THE UPPER ROOM. Obedient to the Lord's command, the disciples return to Jerusalem. A certain upper chamber, probably in a private dwelling, became the first Christian Church. Epiphanius says that when Hadrian came to Jerusalem, he found the temple desolate and but few houses standing. This "little church of God," however, remained; and Nicephorus says that the Empress Helena enclosed it in her larger church. It was probably the room in which the Supper had been celebrated, and was to be associated with the power of the risen, as it had been with the suffering of the humiliated, Christ.
1. The assembly. It represented all varieties of character, gifts, and graces. Peter the eager, John the mystic, James the practical, Thomas the skeptical, and others. The feminine clement, destined to play so large a part in the life of the Church, was also represented.
2. Its employment. It was engaged in the highest exercise of the spirit. Prayer is action; as action may be itself a prayer. And there are times of waiting for all, when prayer is the only possible action. The transactions between the spirit and God are the most real of all, and are ever followed by significant results. It was social prayer. True prayer requires both solitude at times and at times society. We need the help of one another in the pursuit of truth. Plato spoke of the "joint striving of souls" in philosophy Common prayer is the joint striving of souls to lay hold upon the strength of God. "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. It was persevering, continuous prayer, as all exertion of the spirit must be to attain worthy ends. Thus was the mind of the Church calmed, and its intelligence cleared for insight into the business of the kingdom.
II. THE DISCOURSE OF PETER.
1. It rests on the past. He begins by pointing to a fulfillment of Scripture. The present event is thus constantly identified in apostolic thought with some word from the past. Nothing befalls except by Divine law. And in the words of poets and prophets of the past, whatever their original meaning, hints of other meanings are to be found. All language is indeed fossil poetry; and as in the earth's strata plants are found to which living organisms correspond, so in the realm of moral law past and present are in inner and profound connection. To the traitor sketched in Psalm 69, (also 109. and 55.) the features of the unhappy Judas closely corresponded. False and wicked relations of conduct repeat themselves in history, and incur the like doom foreshadowed by the prophetic consciousness.
2. It finds hints for present duty in the past. The fragment of a verse from a psalmist ran, "His office let another take." Conduct must run on the line of precedents. Often an old proverb or example may give us our clue. A memory for the old sayings of Scripture and other ancient lore may guide the judgment, or serve as a finger-post to the will. This might run into superstition; as when men in the Middle Ages turned over Virgil's pages for a clue to decision in cases of perplexity. But in the case of the apostles there is no reason to believe (but the contrary) that their habit, in common with all the devout, of falling back on old sayings checked the full and free exercise of their independent judgment.
III. THE SELECTION OF A FRESH WITNESS of the Resurrection.
1. "Witnesses for Christ" is perhaps the largest designation of the "office" to be filled. An "apostle" is one sent - a man with a mission; and the mission is to witness. Of what? Above all of the Resurrection; for it is this which made the gospel a power in the world. "Assurance is given to all men" that Jesus was the Son of God with power, and possesses all the functions of majesty, by the resurrection from the dead. We can hardly conceive how the gospel should have spread without this testimony. Hence the importance of the present business.
2. The mode of selection. It blends human intelligence with the recognition of Divine determination. The call to any function proceeds from God, and is contained in the gift or capacity. Yet God requires us to cooperate with him through all the sphere of freedom. The use of means towards a decision does not exclude the Divine wisdom, but reposes upon it. The junction of the Divine and the human will in such solemn acts is real, though impossible to explain. First, then, there is an exercise of human judgment, and two distinguished brethren are selected. Here the human choice already recognizes the Divine indication in the existence of observed gifts and graces. Next there is prayer, sacramentally sealing the union of Divine with human thought, and seeking a fruitful result. Lastly, there is the casting of lots, in which the human intelligence confesses its inability for the last decision, and surrenders itself utterly to the guidance of God. The lot falls on Matthias; and he is "voted into" the company of the eleven. Two extremes are to be avoided in the crises of affairs. One, to passively "leave everything to God," which really means to excuse one's self from the trouble or thought. The other, to take the whole burden of responsibility on ourselves, which means to move from our point of support. Thus we topple over into weakness and deeper uncertainty. Let faith be at the root of all our thinking; the scales of judgment stand firmly on the Wisdom that works through and in the activity of finite minds. - J.
Then returned they unto Jerusalem.
I. THE PLACE. "An upper room." This could hardly have been in the temple, for the ecclesiastical authorities were too hostile to suffer such a company within the sacred precincts. It was probably the room in which our Lord ate His last supper, and which, from His manner of pointing it out, seems to have belonged to a disciple. The Jews had such an upper room for their devotions, as we read of Peter going up to one, for prayer; and of Paul holding, in an upper room, a meeting of the Church at Miletus. In the houses of Jerusalem such apartments were provided for those who came up to keep the feasts. Here the disciples "abode," i.e., probably spent the day there; retiring to separate lodgings at night. What reflections must have rushed into their minds on coming to the scene of the Last Supper! How much better they now understood our Lord's discourse, and how soothing must have been the remembrance of His prayer! After seeing Him make the clouds His chariot, what must they have thought of His condescension in washing the disciples' feet! In that room, after a few days, descended the Spirit, of which Jesus said not in vain, "He shall glorify Me."
II. THE COMPANY. As if to show how important it is for us to know who the apostles were, Luke, after giving the list in the Gospel, here repeats it. "The women" seem to be those who came up with our Lord "from Galilee, and who ministered to Him of their substance." "Mary, the mother of Jesus," not of God, as she has been impiously called, is there; and this is all that the inspired history says of her whom "all generations shall call blessed." Verily the Scriptures are not chargeable with Mariolatry. By "the brethren" of Christ being there, we conclude that it could no longer be said, "neither did they believe on Him." The "hundred and twenty" included probably the seventy evangelists; some inhabitants of Jerusalem, who, like the master of the house, believed, and such persons as Joseph of Arimathea. This upper room was the cradle of the Christian Church, now an infant, but soon to become a giant and stride over a conquered world. Who then would "despise the day of small things"?
III. THEIR EMPLOYMENT.
1. Their harmony was secured by the discourses which they had heard and the scenes they had witnessed, which had extinguished self, that fire-brand of discord. With a world ready to rise in arms against them, their strength lay in union; and now that the traitor, the discordant one, was gone, we may say, "Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"
2. They were commanded to wait, but not to be idle; and their business was prayer for that Spirit who was to fit them for their work. They came from this retirement, to live in the view of a world, eyed by enemies as the butt of persecution, and by friends as examples and guides. Not the least of the blessings which resulted from these days of prayer was the lesson given to public men to prepare for great doings by secret devotions.
(J. Bennett, D. D.)
(Bp. Harvey Goodwin.)
I. SEPARATION FROM THE WORLD. The work was unworldly, and therefore separation was necessary. This separation was —
1. Local. Worldly business was not likely to come to the "upper room," as there were no attractions for buyers and sellers. Every Church should have a place of meeting set apart for its own use.
2. Mental. No worldly-minded man .could have anything in common with their mental state. They were waiting for the bestowal of what no outsider had ever seen or heard. Does this mental distinction exist to-day?
3. Moral. They had given themselves up to be directed by Jesus. Such renunciation marks all true Christians. It cannot co-exist with the pride and self-sufficiency which mark unregenerate men.
II. UNITY. The separation would not have answered its purpose without this. All present —
1. Recognised one Head. Attachment to a chief often unites men of varying gifts, tastes, and ambitions. So high and low, educated and illiterate, etc., are united in Christ. The light of the sun illumines planets of different magnitudes in various orbits, and .each reflects the light of the ruling orb. So Christ is the centre of the Christian system, binds each member of the system to Himself, and freely sheds His light on all. Discord in a Church is therefore unchristian.
2. Had oneness of spirit. They all stood in the same relation to Christ, agreed in the exercises to which they were now devoted, and had grace to love one another. This oneness has often appeared where personal elements have been of very diverse kinds. Such unity in diversity is one of the beautiful effects of Christianity.
3. Were of one purpose — viz., to know, experience, and do the Divine will. For this end they conferred, waited, and prayed. In the abolition of slavery men of opposite opinions, etc., were united by a common purpose. Such union will ever be shown where men aim at Christian ends.
III. CONFIDENT EXPECTATION. They persevered in the work to which they had given themselves. They had strong faith in Him whose words had brought and now kept them together. When that faith was tried by delay it bore the test. Continuance in prayer would increase the sense of power at the throne of grace; and this would intensify the longing for the promised blessing. This confident expectation ought to appear in all Christian assemblies, for there are Divine promises yet to be fulfilled.
I. A TRANSITION PERIOD. It stood midway between Christ's completed work on earth and the unopened work of the Spirit from heaven. In the history of redemption the first chapter closed on the day of the Incarnation. A long, dreary, chequered period that had been, but it was succeeded by one in all respects the reverse — brief, bright with heaven, and, though ending tragically, bringing life and immortality to light. But it was reserved for the Spirit to make this good, and His dispensation, the last chapter, was now to open. But ere the curtain should be drawn, a breathing time of ten days was in the wisdom of God to take place. It was like the "silence in heaven, for the space of half an hour" between the breaking of the "seals" and the appearance of the angels.
II. A TIME OF FELT NEED. The eleven were told that they were to be their Master's witnesses, but they had no clear comprehension of the tale they were to tell, and could not but feel that they had neither position, culture, influence, nor any ground to hope for success save in their assurance of the truth of their story, and the help they might receive in telling it. As they thought of this what sinkings would come over them, which would rather be intensified, as day after day found them in the upper room, but for some counteractive.
III. A TIME OF EXPECTANCY. How often would they recall and find it indispensable to recall the promise of the Father — ill as they understood what it meant. Yet being charged not to stir till it was fulfilled, they could not but hope that it would bring a full qualification for their arduous mission. But it was no time of silent waiting, for it was —
IV. A TIME OF PRAYER. Who can doubt that the burden of the supplication was the promised power. But besides this it was —
V. A TIME OF FRATERNAL CONFERENCE. They could hardly have prayed without intermission; and it is only reasonable to assume that the intervals would be filled up with the interchange of recollections and encouragements.
VI. IT WAS A TIME OF ACTION (vers. 15-26.)
(D. Brown, D. D.)John 16:23-24). The angels had often sung together over the prayer of repenting sinners, Now, for the first time, they hear prayers authorised and accredited by the name of the Only-begotten of the Father. That name has just been set "above every name"; and as it echoes through the host on high, with the solemn joy of a hundred believing voices, "things in heaven" bow. What must have been that moment for the saints in Paradise, who had seen the Saviour afar off, but never known the joy of praying directly in His name! Father Abraham had "rejoiced to see His day." What would be His gladness now? David, what would be "the things" which, in that wonderful moment, his voice would sing, "touching the King"? Oh, the joy of that first hour of praying in the name of Christ! What short and burning petitions would go up from the lips which first quoted, "Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He shall give it you!" But the Spirit has not seen it good to hand down the strong and tender collects of these ten days. Then surely it is unlawful to impose good forms of prayer upon all men, because ancient saints wrote them. He who will never use a form in public prayer casts away the wisdom of the past. He who will use only forms casts away the hope of utterance to be given by the Spirit at present, and even shuts up the future in the dead hand of the past. Does any one of the hundred and twenty up to this moment forget that Thursday night? The Friday morning dawns: the day the Lord had died. Would He not send His promised Substitute to-day? Now came back all His words about the death "which He should accomplish." Yet the Friday wears away, and no "baptism of fire"! The Saturday sets in; its hours are filled up as before, with prayer; but no answer. And now dawns the first day of the week, the day whereon He rose, the first Lord's day He had passed on His throne of glory. Surely they would expect that the blessing be delayed no longer. But the evening steals on, and all their prayers might have risen into a heaven that could not hear. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday pass. Their faith does not fail; still in the temple "praising and blessing God," or in the upper room in "prayer and supplication," they continue of one accord. Though He tarry, yet will they wait for Him. This is waiting. Some speak of waiting for salvation as if it meant making ourselves at ease, and dismissing both effort and anxiety. Who so waits for any person, or any event? When waiting, your mind is set on a certain point; you can give yourself to nothing else. You are looking forward and preparing; every moment of delay increases the sensitiveness of your mind as to that one thing. A servant waiting for his master, a wife waiting for the footstep of her husband, a mother waiting for her expected boy, a merchant waiting for his richly-laden ship, a sailor waiting for the sight of land, a monarch waiting for tidings of the battle: all these are cases wherein the mind is set on one object, and cannot easily give attention to another. To-morrow will be Thursday, a full week from the Ascension; that will be the day. The Thursday finds them, as before, "of one accord in one place"; no Thomas absent through unbelief. How the scene of that day week would return to their view! How they would over and over again, in mind, repeat the occurrences of a week ago! But the day wears on, and no blessing. Is not the delay long? "Not many days!" Does the promise hold good? They must have felt disappointed as the evening fell. Now is the hour of trial. Will their faith fail? Will some stay at home, or "go a-fishing," saying that they will wait the Lord's time, and not be unwarrantably anxious about what, after all, does not depend on them, but on the Lord? Or will they begin to find out that the cause lies in the unfaithfulness of their companions? Happily the spirit of faith and love abides upon them. Happy for them that none fancied He could fix upon .others the cause of their unanswered prayers! The Thursday is gone; eight days! The Friday and the Saturday follow it, marked by the same persistency in union, in praise, in prayer, and by the same absence of encouragement. Ten days gone! the promise, "Not many days," is all but broken. The final proof given by Peter, that he was waiting indeed, making all preparation for the event, was in calling upon his brethren to fill up the number of apostles.
(W. Arthur, M. A.)
(J. P. Lange, D. D.)
(A. Arthur, M. A.)I. THE SCENE. "Upper" does not mean a room above the lower floor, much less a garret or inferior apartment, but one comparatively spacious — reserved in Greek and Jewish houses for the use of guests, or for unusual occasions. "Upper rooms were a kind of domestic chapels in every house. There they assembled to read the law, and to transact religious affairs. In returning to Jerusalem the disciples showed —
1. Their obedience to Christ.
2. Their fearless faith.
II. THE ATTENDANCE. The roll of names reminds us of —
1. The sociality of Christ's system. If you would unite men in social affection, you must get them to love supremely your common object. Christianity alone supplies an object that all hearts can love supremely; and therefore of all systems it is the most social.
2. The triumph of grace. Here is Peter no longer fearful, and Thomas no longer incredulous, etc. Women are also here: their presence being noted in strong contrast which assigned a separate court in the temple, and kept women apart in the synagogue. In Christ there is neither male nor female. Christianity has raised woman to her present position, and woman has ever proved most loyal to the system that has made her what she is.
3. The ravages of sin. Where is Judas? He was present at the supper, perhaps in this very room.
III. THE SPIRIT was a spirit of —
1. Union. They were not only assembled in the same place and for the same purpose; but there was a great unanimity of sentiment amongst them. They agreed in the blessings they sought, and in the mode of seeking them.
2. Perseverance. Cf. Parable of unjust judge. Conclusion: Would that all prayer-meetings were something like this. We must go back to apostolic times for our models of devotion.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
I. ATTENDANCE. There were one hundred and twenty present.
1. All the office-bearers were there. Are modern elders and deacons as exemplary?
2. The male members were there. Business or pleasure did not hinder them.
3. The female members were there. "The women" still form a large proportion of the attendants at prayer-meetings.
II. THE SPIRIT. Peace and unity prevailed. The day of "murmuring" had not yet come (Acts 6:1.) Union is strength. A divided Church cannot long remain a praying Church. God answers prayer when it is offered by few or many "with one accord." The promise is addressed to those who are "agreed."
III. THE RESULTS (see chap. Acts 2.). The Church was born at a prayermeeting, which should encourage us to sustain our often thinly attended and cold-spirited prayer-meetings. The prayer-meeting is more than the thermometer of the Church, it is the source of her spiritual power. There is as intimate a relation between the prayer-meeting and the outpouring of the Spirit as between the gathering of the cloud and the downpour of the shower. Pentecostal revivals must be preceded by ante-Pentecostal prayer-meetings.
(T. S. Dickson, M. A.)
I. THE FEATURES BY WHICH THEY WERE DISTINGUISHED.
1. They contemplated the attainment of a special object. The Saviour's promise, so far from inducing indifference, awoke attention, urged to duty, and gave a specific character to prayer. During the greater part of the Saviour's ministry they seem to have known little of the doctrine of Divine influence. But at its close the Lord dwelt mainly upon this fundamental truth; and now the doctrine inspired their hopes, warmed their hearts, and must have formed the subject of their prayerful appeal to heaven. This blessing is as important for us as for them, The doctrine of Divine influence is admitted as an article of our faith, but it fails to exert the amount of influence over us which its importance demands. Yet, upon the prayers of the Church is made to depend the bestowment of the Spirit in any enlarged degree. And what else can secure the salvation of the perishing? or warm the hearts of slumbering saints? or reclaim the backslider from his wanderings? or correct the existing errors of the Church?
2. The prayers were presented in concert and union. The place was humble, but it served the purpose. It was not enough that that each one separately should have been endued with the spirit of prayer. Religion is social. Like gravitation, its tendency is to bring its recipients into contact; and the wants of the Church make it necessary for its members to meet that they may blend their affections and unite in service.
3. These devotional exercises were continuous and persevering. The disciples laid aside for several days their ordinary occupations and gave themselves to the uninterrupted pursuit of spiritual things. This course was as true to philosophy as it was consistent with religion. It is by oft-repeated strokes that the artisan produces the desired impression on the metal; and that the heart may be subdued and elevated, it must be brought into continuous contact with spiritual realities. It is partly on such grounds that extraordinary religious services may be adopted and justified. A state of things may exist in a Church such as to call for some special effort. It may have lost its first love, and the things that remain may be ready to die. All ordinary effort to revive its piety seems to be in vain. It may be necessary, therefore, to resort to, extraordinary measures and give ourselves to special prayer.
4. These exercises must have been marked by fervency and sustained by faith and hope.
II. THE INFLUENCE AND RESULTS BY WHICH THESE DEVOTIONAL EXERCISES WOULD DE ATTENDED.
1. They would improve personal piety. That indeed had progressed considerably. Still, in point of depth, comprehensiveness, and power, it was susceptible of improvement. And if the first disciples needed an improvement in spiritual character, how much more we? What, then, shall accomplish it? United, as well as private prayer.
2. They would prepare the disciples to receive the promised effusion of the Spirit, and for their future vocation. A fixed rule in the Divine government is that the minds of men must be prepared by a suitable course of discipline for the reception of any special token of the favour of God. Isaiah was not called to witness before the live coal from the altar touched his lips. Moses was instructed by immediate communion with the Most High, preparatory to his mission. Would you be endued with power from on high and win souls to Christ? Then pray in unison.
3. They sustained an intimate relation to the events of the day of Pentecost. May they not be regarded as a most gracious answer to the prayers of the suppliant Church?
(W. A. Hurndall.)
(W. Baxendale.)i.e., little collections of four or five or more persons, who meet before service on Sabbath morning, to spend an hour in prayer for a blessing on the minister and the ordinances. They began on New Year's Day and we seemed to have an immediate answer, for the meeting was unusually solemn; and we have reason to hope that the Word was not preached in vain.
(E. Payson, D. D.)
1. The inauguration of the Christian Church was preceded and attended with social prayer. The Day of Pentecost followed a ten days' prayer-meeting of the one hundred and twenty disciples.
3. Revivals of religion are closely connected with them. When Zion travails in prayer she brings forth her spiritual children (Isaiah 66:8).
4. Great movements have been originated in them. The first foreign missionary society had its inception in the meeting for prayer held by five young men — Mills, Richards, Robbins, Loomis, and Green — under a haystack at Williams-town in 1806.
II. DIFFERENT KINDS OF MEETINGS FOR SOCIAL PURPOSES.
1. The weekly Church prayer-meeting.
2. Ladies' prayer-meetings.
3. Business men's noonday meetings.
4. The week of prayer.
5. Neighbourhood or cottage prayer-meetings.
6. Conventions or convocations for prayer and revival.
III. SCRIPTURE PROMISES.
1. That Christ will make one in their company, whether they be few or many (Matthew 18:20).
3. That their rewards shall be sure (Matthew 3:16).
IV. HOW MAY THE EFFICIENCY OF SUCH MEETINGS BE ENLARGED?
1. By preceding them with secret prayer.
2. By regular and prompt attendance.
3. By labouring to secure the attendance upon them of every able-bodied Church member and others.
(L. O. Thompson.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D)
(D. L. Moody.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE APOSTLES.
1. They had just been visited with a very afflicting dispensation. We all know something of the pangs of separation, but how trying must have been separation from the Redeemer Himself! Amidst the experience of the pain which separation inflicted, however, they betook themselves to prayer, and in the exercise they sought and found consolation. Have you such a salve for the experience of trials?
2. They had just met with disappointment in reference to their worldly views and expectations. How did they act? did they exhibit symptoms of chagrin or hesitate about persevering in the service of Christ? No, they betook themselves to prayer. Let us follow their example.
3. They were placed in circumstances of great trial and perplexity. Not only were they now deprived of their Adviser and Friend, not only were their worldly expectations blasted, but they were taught to look for the experience of difficulty, persecution, and death. And, besides this, there was perplexity as to the duties they were to discharge (ver. 8). How were they qualified then to go to the uttermost parts of the earth to appear before the learned, the great, and the wise? But in the midst of all this they went to Him who could comfort them; and they did not repair to Him in vain.
4. A promise had been made to them, and their prayers had a very special reference to this. There are many who contend that prayer is useless because it is impossible that it can alter the decrees of the Almighty. There are some who condemn it for the same reason. But the apostles were made aware, not only of God's decrees, but they had a promise actually made to them, yet they prayed for the very things which Christ had declared should be bestowed. True it is that no one can resist the will of the Almighty; but God works by means, and prayer is one of them.
II. THE SPIRIT AND TEMPER THAT CHARACTERISED THEIR SUPPLICATIONS.
1. They doubtless prayed in the name of Christ (John 16:22). When we go to God never let us forget that the name we mention is that of Him who sitteth at the right hand of the Father.
2. They prayed in a spirit of obedience. We read here of their supplication, but notice their practice: "They returned unto Jerusalem." Let us be taught by this, that if we expect our prayers to be heard we must not only go to God in the name of Christ, but we must go seeking, and praying, and aspiring after obedience.
3. They showed also the spirit of love. We do read of their disputes, hut we shall read of these no more. They are met with one accord.
4. They united together. And this teaches us the importance of public worship.
(A. Maclaren, D. D)
(A. Maclaren, D. D)
(St. Francis de Sales.)
(H. G. Salter.)
(The Power of Prayer.)
(F. W. Briggs.)
LinksActs 1:12 NIV
Acts 1:12 NLT
Acts 1:12 ESV
Acts 1:12 NASB
Acts 1:12 KJV
Acts 1:12 Bible Apps
Acts 1:12 Parallel
Acts 1:12 Biblia Paralela
Acts 1:12 Chinese Bible
Acts 1:12 French Bible
Acts 1:12 German Bible
Acts 1:12 Commentaries