- Sermon Notes
Determined in Devotion
This morning as we continue in the book of Acts, we will be drawn to the determination of Jesus’ disciples to remain devoted to Jesus, His words and His ways. As we see their determination to devotion, may we be encouraged and informed regarding the things we face in our day today, to be devoted in a similar way!
Context from Acts 1:1-11
Jesus was presented alive after His resurrection giving many convincing proofs.
He spoke of things concerning the kingdom of God.
He told His disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit.
Told them power would come when the Holy Spirit comes.
They would be empowered to witness to the world.
He ascended to heaven.
Read: Acts 1:12-14
The first picture we are given of Jesus’ followers after His ascension is they went to where He told them to go, together. This is an important picture for us as we pursue determination in our devotion. Specifically, that we would…
Unite In Dependence on Jesus’ Directions
Jesus had told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem, and not leave there until the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit, was given.
And after Jesus ascended to heaven, they went where He directed them to go.
Specifically, they returned to Jerusalem from Mount Olivet, which was near Jerusalem and was a Sabbath day’s journey away.
A “Sabbath day’s journey” does not mean they walked for an entire Sabbath day, rather, it was the maximum distance a person was permitted under rabbinic law on the Sabbath.
On the Sabbath, the day of rest, people were forbidden to work. So, they couldn’t work, but they could walk. But they could walk if their walking turned into work. What Jewish tradition came up with was that any walking over 2,000 cubits, or 2/3 of a mile, was work.
So, a “Sabbath day’s journey” was 2/3 of a mile or less.
From to seeing Jesus’ ascension on Mount Olivet, they head to Jerusalem to wait in the upper room.
Houses commonly had upper rooms, and this one must have been a large upper room because we find out in verse 15 that there were 120 people there in total.
This first gathering together of believers, takes place because they are doing as Jesus directed. Because of their dependence on His directions.
Matthew 7:24, Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.
The exact location of the upper room is not known outside of its location in Jerusalem, but the description gives strong indication that it is a well-known place. It may have been where the Last Supper was celebrated with Jesus and where Jesus appeared to the disciples after His resurrection, but we do not know for certain.
What we do know are some of those whose names are given as being amongst the group that gathered together, and a picture of their being united together.
The group is described in verse 14 as devoted with one mind, other translations say one purpose, or one accord. This description points us toward the spiritual unity that characterizes the early church.
When we consider the group that is present, the diversity of their backgrounds and the picture of their unity and devotion to the Lord, we should be compelled to do the same in our church, despite our distinctions and differences.
In verses 12 to 14 we are given the list of those present.
The list of apostles and many of their descriptions is always interesting to me.
Peter is the first mentioned on the list of the apostles. In fact, every time a list is given, he is the first one listed, we saw that in Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Mt. 10:2-4, Mk. 3:16-19, Lk. 6:13-16), and in those books, Judas Iscariot is mentioned last, but here he is not mentioned, and we will talk about exactly why a bit later.
Illus. The list of apostles present in the upper room.
Jesus had brought them together, taught them, unified them for His purposes, and here we see, after Jesus ascended to heaven, here they were, the Scripture says, devoted with one mind, also translated one purpose.
There were others there as well. From verse 14 we understand that also among them were “the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers.”
The women mentioned likely included the ones mentioned at Jesus’ crucifixion and at the empty tomb.
Mary the mother of Jesus is there, and this is the last mention of her in Scripture. She is not mentioned from here on out in Acts or in the epistles. Mary is amongst Jesus’ followers, waiting on the Holy Spirit, united among the others in prayer.
Also in the room are Jesus’ brothers. There were the biological siblings, the natural children of Mary and Joseph.
Their names are given in Mark 6:3 as James, Joses, Judas, and Simon,
James and Judas are prominent in the New Testament. James was the first head of the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:17, 15:13) and author of the epistle that bears his name. Judas wrote the epistle of Jude.
They were once skeptical of Jesus (John 7:5) but became believers. Their conversions are not recorded in Scripture, but we know that Jesus appeared to James after His resurrection (1 Cor. 15:7).
Those named are in the upper room together amongst many more. A room of 120, devoted in unity, with one mind and in one accord to prayer.
They all had unique encounters with Christ. They all had come to Christ in different ways. They had all learned of Christ and come to the conclusion that Jesus Christ is their Lord. And in that understanding, they come together.
Recently, we went through John 17 on a Sunday morning. It is there that we see Jesus’ prayer and desire for His people to be united as one in Him.
In John 17 verse 11, “so that they may be one”; in verse 21, “that they may all be one”; verse 22, so that they may be one”; verse 23, “that they may be perfected in unity.”
Psalm 133:1, How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
Galatians 3:28, …You are all one in Christ.
When it comes to oneness and unity, it is important to have an understanding of what exactly is being referred to as we see the continued call to unity amongst those in Christ.
In Scripture, the term “unity” is sameness, or oneness of purpose, not persons. In fact, in John 17 Jesus uses the example of His oneness with the Father as an example.
I noted that oneness of purpose, is distinction headed in the same direction. Like a football team that lines up on the field together, headed toward the same goal line.
What we see in the upper room is the spiritual unity that characterizes the early fellowship of believers.
Acts 2:42, They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
These examples of the early church should inform our times together, that we would make these aspects of gathering important. That we would pursue unity in Christ, fellowship, breaking bread together, and prayer.
From verse 14, we know that the people of God were not only united, but in unity they continually in prayer.
Praying continually means very often, regularly, with frequent intervals. The original word means to adhere to.
We are not just told they were doing this; we get examples of times when this was done. Later we will see them pray prior to making a decision and in need of direction.
Like the earliest believers, we should be a church devoted to Jesus’ desires, united in Him, in prayer, determined to trust Him for direction.
John 17:17-19, Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. Just as You sent Me into the world, I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, so that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.
Proceed According to God’s Word and Will
In verse 15, we see Peter stand up in front of the 120 people who are present and pointed them to the Scriptures.
Peter put the events of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus into biblical perspective.
Peter points out that the Scriptures predicted what would happen and will point back to what the Holy Spirit foretold through David in the Old Testament.
2 Timothy 3:16, All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness.
All Scripture is inspired by God, other translation say “God-breathed,” this means when it comes to Scripture, we can’t pick and choose. Some want to change the Bible at will, rather than allow the Bible to change them knowing that the Bible, the Word of God, is what defines God’s divine will!
Here Peter points back to the Scriptures and details out what happened to Judas in verses 18-19.
As you read those verses, you may be thinking, wow, T.M.I. (Too Much Information) Peter. But we must keep in mind that Peter was a fisherman. I would say though graphic, it was spoken like a true fisherman.
Prior to giving that description, however, Peter notes something quite sobering. That Judas was counted among Jesus’ 12 apostles and had received a share in the ministry.
Judas had ministered amongst them, walked with them, gave the appearance of an apostle. He was sent out with them in Matthew 10, given authority at that time to cast our demons, heal sickness in Jesus’ name. He is named in Matthew 10:4 as being a part of that group.
Though he had heard Jesus’ teachings, took part in the ministry, was called by Jesus, He was never truly saved. He never truly believed, never truly gave His life to Christ.
Jesus knew this all along.
John 6:64, There are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him.
In Matthew 26:25, we see that Jesus acknowledged to Judas himself that he knew that Judas was going to betray Him.
And although it was predicted in Scripture, though Jesus knew what was to come, it was Judas’ choice. What we see is that there are those who are close to truth, but not committed to truth.
Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
Judas fit that description; he never truly knew Jesus.
Illus. Picking up the pieces.
Matthew 11:28-29, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Romans 10:13, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Judas had heard Jesus’ words, but was not willing to proceed according to them. He never went to Jesus with his burden, he never called upon the Lord, rather we know from Matthew 27:5 that he went and hung himself.
Here in Acts 1 we get the additional details as Peter is speaking that ultimately, due to decay or a breaking of the rope or tree branch, Judas would fall to the ground.
I believe wholeheartedly that Judas could have called on the name of the Lord…but he was unwilling…
In Peter, we see an example of one who turned away and then turned back. One who would proceed according to God’s will and word.
Here Peter pointed the people to the same when it came to the necessity of finding a replacement for Judas amongst the apostles.
Acts 1:20, “For it is written in the book of Psalms: ‘May his residence be made desolate and may there be none living in it’; and, ‘May another take his office.’
Peter wanted to make sure that the Jesus followers were walking in accordance to God’s will as revealed in His Word.
Psalm 119:105, Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Psalm 127:1, Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.
The Scriptures he quotes are from Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8, that the Holy Spirit had spoken through David.
Additionally, in Matthew 19:28 Jesus made a promise. He said when the son of man comes in glory, the 12 would sit on 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel.
Peter knew the words of Jesus and he went back to the time of David, upon understanding them, was determined to walk according to them.
God’s word gives us His will. And like the disciples, in the decisions and transitions we face, it is important to walk according to the word and will of God.
Make Fulfilling His Will Necessary
Illus. Walking in His word.
This was modeled to us by Jesus in difficulty, saying not my will but thy will.
And Peter, knowing that a replacement for Judas needed to be put in place according to the Scripture, he made it necessary.
Acts 1:21-22, Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us— beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”
Peter said that the one who would fill Judas’ position was to be one who 1. Accompanied the disciples while Jesus was among them. 2. One who witnessed Jesus’ earthly ministry from the time He was baptized by John until the day He was taken up, 3. One who was a witness of the resurrection, and 4. Would be a witness with the 11 that remained.
The replacement of Judas was because of his defection, not his death. Other apostles would be martyred others would die, but they would not be replaced. The 11, plus the one chosen would be the 12 apostles, Ephesians 2:20 says they would lay the foundation, Revelation 21:14 tells us that in heaven, the new Jerusalem has twelve foundation stones, and on those stones, the names of the twelve apostles of the Jesus.
And after Peter presses the importance of filling the role of Apostle, and the two men fitting the description are put forward, the people prayed.
They had not yet received the Holy Spirit and used an Old Testament method for determining God’s will by casting lots. To cast lots was like drawing straws or rolling dice. It is a method seen in the Old Testament.
Proverbs 16:33 says, “the lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”
And this is the last occurrence in Scripture of lots being cast in decision making because the Holy Spirit, the helper, would be given.
For us today, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us, we have the completed Word of God which gives guidance and instruction.
Today we have the completed Word, the Holy Spirit, and prayers are sufficient for discerning God’s will.
What I love about what is modeled in Acts 1, is that they were determined in their devotion to prayer, walking according to God’s Word and Will, and made the fulfillment of His revealed will, necessary.
Would you follow their model and make doing God’s will and walking according to His Word necessary in your life today?
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said, “Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was counted among us and received his share in this ministry.” (Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) “For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his homestead be made desolate, And let no one dwell in it’;and, ‘Let another man take his office.’
Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us— beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.