Hello everybody, and welcome in to episode 23 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Acts 1 today, and our focus is on biblical decision making AND the power that propelled the good news across the world. Thank you for joining us for Bible 2021! We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in Telangana, India, Manitoba, Canada, China, Dallas, Texas and Fayetteville, Arkansas. Thanks for listening! Our focus this year is on DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast Don’t forget about our new web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more – Click here for our reading plan! 

Today we begin a new book – the Acts of the Apostles, written by Luke – the doctor and historian and author of the gospel of Luke. We don’t know very much about Luke, or his family. He was a Gentile, and writes some of the best Greek in the entire Bible, which would seem to indicate that Greek was his first and primary tongue. He was a careful historian and a sometime companion of Paul. We know very little about his family, or his lineage, but one early church Father might have indicated that his father was named AnakinO, or something like that, and that he was from a land far, far away from Jerusalem, but I’m not sure, so I’ll have to check on that one.

Let’s open with a hopefully interesting discussion. As you might recall, Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, betrayed Jesus and led the authorities to His location to arrest Him. Afterwards, Judas seems to very much regret his decision, and returns the money paid him by the Jewish authorities, and then ultimately commits suicide. Surprisingly, Luke describes the death of Judas Iscariot in graphic detail. This seemed to catch my family a little off guard tonight during Bible time, when we read this chapter, and it leads to a good question. Why so graphic, Luke? There’s no way to answer this question, but to guess, but my best guess is that the description is so stark and vivid, so as to show the fate of one of whom Jesus said, that it would be better for him not to have been born. (Matt. 26:24) Those are strong words, especially when you consider they came from Jesus.

More to the point of our focus today: How did the disciples choose the replacement for Judas Iscariot? The answer is really quite surprising. The chose two men that met the qualifications  – that they had been with Jesus since the baptism of John, and that they had witnessed the resurrection – then they prayed and then…they CAST LOTS. Yes, you read that right. We’re not entirely certain what it means to cast lots, at least exactly. This practice is mentioned around 70 times in the Old Testament and 6-7 in the New Testament, so it wasn’t entirely foreign to the Jews. Probably it was somewhat analogous to rolling the dice or flipping a coin.

24 Then they prayed, “You, Lord, know everyone’s hearts; show which of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this apostolic ministry that Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias and he was added to the eleven apostles. Acts 1:24-26

So, the early church made a few decisions in this way, and so did several Old Testament saints. Should we? Well – I can say this…I’m not entirely comfortable with the practice, but the Bible nowhere forbids it. In fact, one might argue that Proverbs 16:33 can give some degree of fuel to the practice, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” So – no firm conclusion there, but I do note that the disciples prayed well before this decision, and chose two very qualified men, so they didn’t make this decision lightly.

Let’s read Acts 1 and see this decision unfold AND see how the Word of God began to spread around the known world at the time.

Our second focus today is on the beginning of the spread of the gospel. I believe one of the single greatest proofs of the validity of Gospel and the truth of the resurrection is the historical spread of this message – how it travelled all around the world on the lips of ordinary men and women. The spread of the gospel was not empowered by great riches or a huge army of people, nor military might, nor an incredibly effective strategy. Instead, it went city to city and house to house shared by normal and unremarkable people. How could such a message gain such a mighty foothold in a world that would have been diametrically opposed to the proclamation of Jesus being the ONLY way, the ONLY truth and the ONLY life? It is not easy to explain the success of this message and the spread of the early church in a strictly human way. There had to be supernatural power empowering the spread of the message about Jesus, which is exactly what Acts 1:8, today’s focus verse indicates: 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.” I have yet to read a satisfying alternative explanation for the rapid and deep spread of the gospel that omits the empowering of God. A skeptic who denies the resurrection of Jesus is still faced with the historical difficulty of explaining how Christianity went from a small backwater city to dominated hundreds of countries and thousands of cities with the name of Jesus.

End of the Show: Bible memory verse for January: Mark 1:15 15 “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

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