What does Acts chapter 1 mean?The book of the Acts of the Apostles is the second letter Luke wrote to his friend Theophilus (Acts 1:1). This work continues with the same purpose stated in Luke 1:1–4:
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.The Gospel of Luke recounts the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Acts continues the story as Jesus ascends to heaven, the Holy Spirit descends onto His followers, and those followers spread the message of Jesus' saving sacrifice. Acts 1 is a kind of segue between the two accounts.
Luke starts by quickly reminding Theophilus of the contents of his previous letter. After the resurrection, Jesus spent forty days proving His was alive and giving the disciples last-minute instructions about the kingdom of God. Luke's account is by no means comprehensive; a unique story can be found in John 21, for example. As Jesus prepares to leave, He instructs His disciples to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:1–5).
Luke then gives a slightly expanded version of the ascension, which he had recorded in Luke 24:50–53. Jesus leads the disciples to Bethany (Luke 24:50) where the disciples prove their continued inability to understand the purpose of the kingdom of God and ask if now Jesus will restore Israel's independence from Roman rule (Acts 1:6). Jesus tells them, again (Mark 13:32), they are not meant to know when God will fulfill that promise (Acts 1:7). Acts 1:8 is a synopsis of the entire book of Acts; after the Holy Spirit comes, Jesus-followers will spread His message of salvation to "Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Jesus then rises to heaven in a cloud. Two angels appear and tell the disciples that Jesus will return in the same manner (Acts 1:6–11).
The disciples return from Bethany to Jerusalem and meet about 110 other Jesus-followers to pray in an upper room. Included are the women who stayed with Jesus through the crucifixion and burial (Matthew 27:56; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10), Jesus' brothers, and Mary. Peter, ever willing to be the spokesman, gives the tragic account of Judas and recites passages from Psalms to show that they need to choose a replacement. The requirements he gives are that the man must have been with them at least since Jesus' baptism, that the man must have accompanied them in their travels, and he must have seen Jesus after the resurrection. Two men meet the requirements, Joseph Barsabbas and Matthias. The group prays that God will look into the men's hearts and reveal which He has already chosen. The lot falls on Matthias, and the Twelve are twelve again (Acts 1:12–26).
The casting of the lots is the last act of a fully Jewish group. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit comes and the church is formed. Throughout the book of Acts, the church becomes progressively less Jewish and is filled with more Gentiles. These devout Jews abandon the expectation of becoming an independent Jewish nation and obey Jesus' instruction to be His witnesses to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the furthest parts of the earth. In doing so, they learn the kingdom of God is bigger and wilder and more glorious than they could have imagined.