It is always wonderful to gather and study the scriptures with men who are chasing after God’s own heart. Today, our men’s study group, met at Panera Bread at 7am to discuss our assigned reading of Acts chapter 1. Yes, that is early for me! As we read the text we were instructed to read with the acronym C.O.M.A. in mind to help us focus. COMA is short for Context, Observe, Meaning, & Application. Our discussion centered around these four points and it helped guide our conversation towards things that were meaningful in chapter 1 in which I probably would not have otherwise pulled from the text with a quick read through.
The context of Acts 1 hinges on the closing of the Old Testament Jewish covenant and the New Testament covenant in Christ. We see that the disciples and followers of Christ were beginning to wonder what was next. Would Jesus begin his earthly kingdom now? So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” v6 – Their minds and hearts were not ready for how Jesus would respond to their questions. In fact Jesus’ response is somewhat vague. He states, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” v7-8a.
The context also surrounds the replacement of Judas. Who will fill his role as the twelfth disciple after he betrayed Jesus? There is a selection process that is taking place in this chapter and it is here for a reason. The mission is to, “be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” For this to take place, the disciples needed to be equipped and ready to go forward with the mission. It only makes sense that the twelve tribes of Judea would all be represented with the new member, Matthias v26.
We discussed several observations that, at first glance, might be overlooked. It is interesting that “casting lots” v26 was a method used to pick the newest member of the disciples. Was this some sort of gambling, mysticism, or superstition they used to make a decision? Were they so “in tune” with the Holy Spirit that they could trust that he was guiding the dice in the right way so they would have a clear answer? We concluded that this was not a matter of making a decision of right or wrong, but of right or right. Earlier in verse 24, God had already given his seal of approval for the right candidate, “And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen…” The idea is that God knew the right person for the job and they were simply revealing his choice.
A second observation was made about the qualifications for the twelfth apostle. In verse 21, the author Luke points out that this man should have very specific requirements. He states, “So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” Suddenly the selection of men dwindled down to two choices.
We also observed that “casting lots” is probably not a prescription for believers today, rather it is a description of what went on at that special and unique time in Biblical history. We agreed that this method of making a choice was probably not well suited for us today because we have the Holy Spirit living in us, working through our consciences, according to the scriptures.
After reading through chapter 1, it was clear that this chapter is about two subjects, the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives and the mission of the Apostles in that time period. When Jesus ascended into heaven, he left for us his Holy Spirit, the third person in the Trinity, to give us power v8. All believers now posses the Holy Spirit and have a power that is not of this earth. That power enabled the apostles to go to the ends of the earth preaching the Gospel and it enables us today to do the same thing.
How does chapter 1 apply to us today? We can start by being grateful that Christ did not “leave us as orphans” to be stranded on our own. He provided his Spirit to guide us in all things pertaining to truth and life.
We can wait patiently for the Lord’s return. Verses 10b-11 reminds us that Christ is coming again, “two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
We can marvel at God’s design. As you read chapter 1, recognize that nearly 10k years of Biblical history and prophecy are coming to a close and a transition is taking place that will shape and mold the design of God’s bride, his church. The grand weaver of time is setting the stage for the greatest story ever told and chapter 1 is smack-dab in the middle of it all. Be excited and amazed that you are apart of His-story!