Monday, September 10, 2007

Who Were The 120 In The Upper Room

Who were the 120 disciples in Acts 1:13?
Scripture does not contradict Scripture; and we compare Scripture with Scripture to learn truth. When Paul says faith, James says works, and John says love - all are saying the same thing. No contradiction.

The four Gospels give the account of God's act in Christ Jesus to reconcile the world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:19). These four Gospels quote Jesus and tell Who He Is, What He Has Done, and What He Taught. God the Son became Man and made it possible for all of us - both men and women - to renew our lives in Him (Hebrews 2:14-15). God is beyond our imagination and logic (compare 1 Cor. 2:14). Yet God has spoken to us by His Son. Compare Hebrews 1:1-4. God revealed Himself to us in a way that we can understand.

Luke in his Gospel and in the Book of Acts shows a handful of ordinary men and women who were transformed into a dynamic community by their experience of the Risen Christ. They were the nucleus of the Kingdom of God which came into being with the first coming of Christ (compare Luke 16:16). They - men and women - had been trained by Him in discipleship and charged with the task of spreading the Good News Gospel of how God saves people to the whole world. Very fallible men and women, barely recovered from the shattering blow of the Crucifixion. Yet they were transformed by being convinced that He Arose, and then by the coming of "another Comforter" in Acts 2. The Kingdom of God came with power as Christ promised (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5).

Luke wrote in Acts 1:1-3 "The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God . ."

Paul speaks of over 500 eyewitnesses to Jesus raised up from the dead (1 Cor. 15:5-7). Paul himself was an eyewitness, as he points out (1 Cor. 15:8). The events of Matt. 27:52-53 can be taken to imply that He was also seen by the people and the Jewish leaders during the 40 days. (* note: Pentecost means 50 days.)

The Upper Room Prayer Meeting
This was a time of very great excitement! Christ had died and risen to life! HE was now alive forevermore! For forty days He had been with them before He ascended to heaven. They were to wait for the Promise of the Father! Luke 24:53 "And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen."
Perhaps a larger group met in the temple. But this group of 120 is specified as meeting in the upper room.

Acts 1:13-15 "And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)"

Who are these hundred and twenty persons? By looking closely at what is said here and in other places, we may know who they were. These had the common bond of knowing that Jesus had raised from death and was alive forevermore.

The Twelve
We recognize the names of the Twelve Apostles (now eleven with the absence of Judas Iscariot). We would expect them to be present in this gathering.

The Seventy
Also with them were the 70 (Luke 10:1). Each of the 70 would meet the qualifications Peter mentions: "Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us..." Among the 70 were Joseph Barsabas and Matthias (who were put forward by the whole group as possible choices). Just these two cast their lots (to take it out of the realm of human action) and the lot fell on Matthias. He became the twelfth Apostle to complete the number. We would expect that those mentioned in Acts 6:5 had been among the 70 (Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, Nicolas), also Barnabas. These were men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.

Further thoughts on the 70.
God told Moses to gather 70 elders of Israel in the tabernacle and He would put His Spirit on them and they would prophesy. They would bear the burden of the people with Moses, to relieve him. Moses said (of Eldad and Medad): "And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!" Numbers 11:16-29.

Compare Paul in 1Cor. 14:5. "I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying."

The women
Women were also identified to be among the 120. Mary the mother of Jesus is mentioned by name. The wives of the apostles were there (1 Cor. 9:5 "Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?"). Each of the wives was a devout believer in Christ. Part of the number of women would be those mentioned in Luke 8:1-3. "And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him, And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance." See also Matt. 27:55-56; Luke 23:49,55. We would expect that the sisters of Jesus were also believers by this time, as His brothers had become. Jesus was much more inclusive of the women than were the scribes and Pharisees. The women had accompanied Him as He went through every city and village. The very first person to announce the Risen Christ was Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18).

The brothers of Jesus
The brothers of Jesus are also included in the 120. They had not been believers before the Crucifixion (John 7:3-5). Now they were firm in their faith and devotion to Him. These were: James, Joses, Simon, Judas (Matt. 13:55-56). James the Just was the leader of the Jerusalem Church in Acts 15:13. He is called an apostle in Gal. 1:19, although not one of the Twelve. See also 1 Cor. 9:5. James was the author of the Book of James. Judas was the author of the Book of Jude.

Pentecost Sunday.
Pentecost was a feast which came every year (Exodus 34:22). Jesus had been among His disciples forty days (Acts 1:3), speaking of the things of the kingdom. The day of Pentecost was kept by the Jews also as a festival to commemorate the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. The Jews who had come for Passover had stayed on to celebrate Pentecost. Thus the whole Jewish nation had been witnesses of the Crucifixion of Christ. Now they were witnesses of the Coming of the Holy Ghost.

Johnson's Notes comments: 1. When the day of Pentecost was fully come. The entire period between it and the passover, the waiting period of the disciples, was filled full. Pentecost, one of the three great annual festivals of the Jews, lasted only one day, was on the fiftieth day from the morrow after the passover Sabbath (Lev. 23:15–22). The Savior, crucified on Friday, was in the tomb on the passover Sabbath, and rose on Sunday, the day from whence the count began. The Sunday following would be the eighth day, and the fiftieth day would fall on Sunday, the first day of the eighth week. Hence, the ancient church observed Pentecost on the first day of the week. For fuller discussion, see Meyer, Howson and Milligan on this passage. All agree that Pentecost came on Sunday. Pentecost was the feast of the grain harvest (Exod. 23:16; 34:22, 23), and was also held by the Jews to be the anniversary of the giving of the law. They were all … in one place. Not only the apostles, but the hundred and twenty disciples. They probably had an intimation that the promised day had come." 4. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit. All the disciples present. To be filled implies that the human spirit within was overwhelmed by, or immersed in, the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Spirit was not a sprinkling, but an outpouring that overwhelmed the human spirit. Began to speak. This was the "Beginning." See Luke 24:47 and Acts 11:15."

The 120 were certainly there when Joel's prophecy was fulfilled. And since 3,000 were baptized into Christ following Peter's sermon, there had to be a huge crowd of people. Only the temple courts had the space for so many people. All the people spoke both Greek and Hebrew (Aramaic) and so it was a special sign that so many languages were heard. It was the "tower of Babel" in reverse. Certainly evidence that God's Salvation was to be spread abroad over the world.

Peter announced: "But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your SONS and your DAUGHTERS shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my SERVANTS and on my HANDMAIDENS I will pour out in those days of my Spirit: and they shall prophesy:" (Acts 2:16-18)

The climax of Joel's prophecy was: "And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts 2:21). God sent Jesus to be the Savior! "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:17). God had promised: "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more" (Hebrews 8:13).

The Jerusalem Church became a mega-church on that first Sunday. The 120 plus 3,000 more! Certainly the 120 would be leaders and teachers - with the Twelve standing above them all. "And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' (note apostles' is plural) doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." Acts 2:42

"And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." Acts 2:46-47

1 comment:

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