Solace in Sovereignty (Acts 1:12-26) | Jared Betts

Solace in Sovereignty (Acts 1:12-26) – YouTube

The Blessed and Only Sovereign

As can be seen by just reading our text, one can see that there is much taking place within this account written by Luke. Christ has just commissioned His apostles to go into all the world bearing witness to His life, death, burial, and resurrection, and they would do all of this by the power of the Holy Spirit in them and through them after being “baptized with Him.”[1] The Spirit would empower them to boldly proclaim the message of life in Christ to a world dead in sin and hostile to Him.

After He gave them their orders, He ascended to heaven in the clouds to sit at the right hand of the throne of God, thus confirming His work of redemption on behalf of His people, and establishing His ministry as their Advocate, their High Priest who “is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”[2] His ascension not only confirmed these truths, but above all, it established His superiority over all things. As Paul said to Timothy, Jesus Christ:

“Is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light.”[3]

As Colossians 1:15-18:

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.”

He is “King of kings and Lord of lords.” Everything is in subjection to Him.[4] He possess all authority in heaven and on earth.[5] His ascension to the throne of God truly does declare that “from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.”[6]

            After Christ ascended in heaven and the disciples are left gazing into the sky, two angelic messengers remind them that He will come back for them in the same manner in which He left them.[7] The implication is this, “Get ready to be bold witnesses,” for just as Jesus had taught them about living in anticipation of His return, “Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.’”[8]

It is, therefore, no surprise what we find in our text before us. The disciples have “returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.A Sabbath’s day journey is referring to the maximum distance one is permitted to walk on the holy day according to the law of the Rabbi’s. It measures out to be around 2,000 cubits, which is equivalent to 1 ½ to 1 ¾ of a mile.[9] The disciples traveled this distance back to “where they were staying.” There is much discussion about the “where” of their location. Many believe they continued to gather where the Last Supper was had, and some surmise that this may have been the house of John Mark’s mother, which served as a location that the church regularly gathered in to pray.[10]

The location is uncertain, but what is certain is that approximately 120 persons were gathered, and “all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer.” Just considering the number we can understand that this was not only the apostles. This was not merely those who were commissioned to be the witnesses of Christ: “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.It was not merely these men, but “the women” that faithfully ministered to Christ in His life, in His death, in His burial, and were the first to witness His resurrection.[11]

Not only was it the apostles and the faithful women, but also “Mary the mother of Jesus,” the one whose womb contained the Infinite in infant’s form. The one found favor with God to be the person through which the eternal Son of God took on flesh to dwell among us.[12] Here she is, the last time we ever hear of her in the Scripture, devoting herself to Christ in prayer, and not only her, but her other son’s as well; “His brothers.” His brothers who deemed Him a lunatic in His life,[13] yet understood Him as Lord in His resurrection. From the point of Him coming back to life never to die again, they did not consider themselves as His brothers, but as His “bond-servants”;[14] He their Good Master and they His slaves who loved Him and had metaphorically inclined their ears to be pierced through with an awl signifying their life of service and dedication to Him.[15]

When we look at this large portion of Scripture as a whole, we see 120 likeminded persons, the church, the body of Jesus, the Bride of Christ:

  1. Devoted to Prayer (Acts 1:12-14)
  2. Directed to the Scripture and by the Scripture (Acts 1:15-22)
  3. Dependent upon Christ (Acts 1:23-26)

There is an undeniable reason for why we see all of these things occurring among the church, and it all revolves around a truth of God’s nature that produces within His people peace of mind, contentment in life, joy in every circumstance, and hope in life and death. These are all qualities that everybody desires, are they not? Do we not all want true peace? Do we not all want lasting contentment in life? Do we not all desire joy in every circumstance? Do we not all long for genuine hope in life and death? Then we must all become intimately acquainted with the fact that God is sovereign over everything. We must let the truth that God from all of eternity, according to His perfectly good and wise counsel, willingly, freely, and unchangeably ordained whatsoever comes to pass; and He has done this without authoring sin, without stripping humanity of their will, or taking away the liberty or possibility of second causes.[16] He is causing everything to work together for the praise of His own glory. He is working all things after the council of His own will.[17] As A.W. Pink put it, God is:

“Infinitely elevated above the highest creature, He is the Most High, Lord of heaven and earth. Subject to none, influenced by none, absolutely independent; God does as He pleases, only as He pleases always as He pleases. None can thwart Him, none can hinder Him.”

As we will see, this text is all about the church seeking Christ and finding comfort in His sovereignty. Luke is showing us that though Christ is seated on His throne in heaven, He has not lost one ounce of control on earth. The truth of Christ being the Blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, should be the greatest consolation to us. As Alexander Carson said:

“God’s sovereignty is always to His people in wisdom and in love. This is the difference between sovereignty in God and sovereignty in man. We dread the sovereignty of man, because we have no security of its being exercised in mercy, or even justice: we rejoice in the sovereignty of God, because we are sure it is always exercised for the good of his people.”

A.W. Pink said it well:

“Divine sovereignty is not the sovereignty of a tyrannical Despot, but the exercised pleasure of One who is infinitely wise and good! Because God is infinitely wise He cannot err, and because He is infinitely righteous He will not do wrong. Here then is the preciousness of this truth. The mere fact itself that God’s will is irresistible and irreversible fills me with fear, but once I realize that God wills only that which is good, my heart is made to rejoice.”


Prayer Assumes God’s Sovereignty

Now, some may say, “Jared, I do not see sovereignty written anywhere on the pages.” You would be correct in the sense that the word “sovereignty” is not literally spelled out, but you would fail to see that His divine dealings are what epitomize this portion. If this text could bleed, it would bleed red with sovereignty. If this text could scream, it would cry out that God wills and works for His good pleasure, and He continually proves Himself strong in the lives of those whose hearts are completely His.[18] Some may say, “Jared, I do not see sovereignty written anywhere on the pages.” To which I would reply, “Friend, do you see prayer taking place?”

Genuine prayer assumes God’s Sovereignty. True prayer, not flippant words, or mere mantras, but true theologically driven and heartfelt prayer is an act of worship whereby the one communing with God recognizes their complete insufficiency and cries out in dependence upon God’s all-sufficiency. Genuine prayer recognizes that creation has a King, and He is controlling all things from His throne. If God does not possess complete control of all things. If He is not endowed with the totality of power, He is not worthy to be prayed to. If God cannot control all evil, then some evil can control Him, and He is therefore not God because omnipotence and sovereignty belong to another. Understand this, if God cannot control evil, then evil can control God. If this were true, it would be quite a problem for us who live in a fallen world where evil flourishes. Fortunately for us, however, God is sovereign. It is His unchangeable quality of being.

The believer, therefore, prays because they understand that no purpose of His can be thwarted.[19] They know that He is in the heavens doing what He pleases.[20] They cry out to God because they know His plan stands forever, “the plans of His heart from generation to generation.”[21] They know that none can frustrate what He is doing.[22] They are intimately aware of what He says of Himself through the prophet Isaiah:

“I am the Lord, and there is no one else, The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating disaster; I am the Lord who does all these things.”[23]

They know that His purpose will be established, and that He will accomplish all His good pleasure.[24] As King Nebuchadnezzar did, they humbly and joyfully relinquish themselves to the fact that He:

“He does according to His will among the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can fend off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’”[25]

They know that He is willing and working in them for His good pleasure.[26] They know that He is causing all things to work together for their good.[27] They know that the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support their heart which is completely His.

Again, prayer assumers God’s sovereignty. J.I. Packer beautifully drew this truth out in his work entitled Evangelism and The Sovereignty of God. Packer said:

“This is the fundamental philosophy of Christian prayer. The prayer of a Christian is not an attempt to force God’s hand, but a humble acknowledgment of helplessness and dependence. When we are on our knees, we know that it is not we who control the world; it is not in our power, therefore, to supply our needs by our own independent efforts; every good thing that we desire for ourselves and for others must be sought from God, and will come, if it comes at all, as a gift from His hands…In effect, therefore, what we do every time we pray is to confess our own impotence and God’s sovereignty. The very fact that a Christian prays is thus proof positive that he believes in the lordship of God.”[28]

This is exactly what we find with the church of Christ. The 120 believers “all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer.” Why? When Christ commissioned them, He made sure that they understood something about Him very clearly, which is that He possesses all power and authority in heaven and on earth. He desires His people to depended upon Him through prayer so that He might prove Himself strong in their lives. He beckons us to boldly come before His throne to find help in time of need.[29]


Appealing to God’s Sovereignty

Now, we do not know the exact requests they were making, but we can assume that there was much concern and confusion over the fate of Judas Iscariot given what occurs next. Acts 1:15-20:

15 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, 16 “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. 17 For he was counted among us and received his share in this ministry.” 18 (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. 19 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.) 20 “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.’”

Judas’ betrayal and death brought great uncertainty and worry among the body of Christ. Here was a man that had all the outward appearances of being Christ’s. It looked as if he were abiding in the vine, but he was merely a dead branch.[30] He regularly walked with Christ but he was not of Christ. He delivered Him into the hands of His enemies for gain. This would have been devastating news to all of the unsuspecting followers of Christ.

Notice what Peter does to comfort the 120 persons gathered in that upper room. He strives to console their hearts and minds with the truth of God’s divine rule over all things:

“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.”

He wants them to find comfort in the fact that God brought to pass exactly what He said would come to pass. He says of His Word in Isaiah 55:11:

10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth
And making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; 11 So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty,
without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

God spoke of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus through the Psalmist. Psalm 41:9 says:

“Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”

Psalm 55:12-13 says:

“For it is not an enemy who reproaches me, then I could bear it; nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me, then I could hide myself from him. But it is you, a man my equal, My companion and my familiar friend; We who had sweet fellowship together walked in the house of God in the throng.”

He even spoke of the exact price He would be betrayed for in Zechariah 11:12-13, which says:

“I said to them, “If it is good in your sight, give me my wages; but if not, never mind!” So they weighed out thirty shekels of silver as my wages. Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them.”

Judas Iscariot fulfilled all of this. He was a close companion of Christ who, as Matthew 26:14-16 depicts:

14 Went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?” And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. 16 From then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus.”

Judas is the one who ate the bread of Christ. John 13:21-27:

21 When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.” 22 The disciples began looking at one another, at a loss to know of which one He was speaking. 23 There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24 So Simon Peter gestured to him, and said to him, “Tell us who it is of whom He is speaking.” 25 He, leaning back thus on Jesus’ bosom, said to Him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus then answered, “That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 After the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Therefore Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.”

As Peter said, “The Scripture had to be fulfilled.”

            Luke quickly interjects Peter’s statements here to explain to Theophilus what happened to Judas:

“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. 19 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.”

In a state of great remorse, Judas returned the money to the leaders of Israel who then used the money to purchase this field. Apparently the traditional site of this field possessed soil that was perfect for making pottery.[31] This is important, because this too was declared by God. Matthew 27:1-10:

1 Now when morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus to put Him to death; and they bound Him, and led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate the governor.Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. The chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury, since it is the price of blood.” And they conferred together and with the money bought the Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one whose price had been set by the sons of Israel; 10 and they gave them for the Potter’s Field, as the Lord directed me.”

Again:

the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas…20 For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his homestead be made desolate, And let no one dwell in it.

            Peter goes on to point out that not only was Judas betrayal part of the divine plan of God, but so was his successor. He reveals that Psalm 109:8 speaks of another person filling his position as an apostle, “Let another man take his office.If God sovereignly appointed Judas to fulfill His purpose, and spoke of having another take his place, then they can trust that Christ will choose a replacement to be a witness of His life, death, burial, and resurrection. Peter says in Acts 1:21-26:

21 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— 22 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.” 23 So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen 25 to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.”

What happened? They appealed to Christ, and He chose the man. Of 120 people, only two met the criteria. Of those two, Christ chose only one to fulfill the office of the apostle for the laying of the foundation of the church.[32] Though Christ is seated on His throne in heaven, He has not lost one ounce of control on earth. He is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Head of His body, His bride, the church.


Solace in Sovereignty

20th century Hymn writer Edith Margaret Clarkson said these words:

“The sovereignty of God is the one impregnable rock to which the suffering human heart must cling. The circumstances surrounding our lives are no accident; they may be the work of evil, but that evil is held firmly within the mighty hand of our sovereign God… All evil is subject to Him, and evil cannot touch His children unless He permits it. God is the Lord of human history and of the personal history of every member of His redeemed family.”

If the truth of His sovereignty does not grab ahold of our entire being. If it does not inform our emotions. If it does not impact the way we live, and think, and understand the world around us, we will never have true peace. We will never have lasting contentment. We will never have real joy. We will never have genuine hope. We will therefore be a very miserable creatures. We will live in constant fear of men and what they can do to us. We will never be satisfied with what we have, or the circumstances with which we find ourselves. We will never see the good that God is doing in our lives through both the good and the bad.

The fact that God works all things after the council of His own will without authoring sin, without stripping humanity of their will, or taking away the liberty or possibility of second causes; means that the Christian is the only person that can look at all that this wicked and fallen world has to offer and still be at peace. They can see all that evil people desire to do to them, and at times succeed in doing it, but not have their contentment crushed or their joy robbed. Why is this? Their trust rests in God’s unchangeable sovereign nature. He does as He pleases, and this is good news because there is none good but Him.[33] He is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.[34] They therefore have a genuine hope in life and death and can conclude as Joseph did, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”[35] The Christian is the only person that can conclude this. As Romans 8:28-30 says:

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

Charles Spurgeon said:

“There is no attribute more comforting to His children than that of God’s sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe trials, they believe that sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that sovereignty overrules them, and that sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children ought to more earnestly contend to than the doctrine of their Master over all creation – the Kingship of God over all the works of His own hands – the Throne of God and His right to sit upon that throne…for it is God upon the Throne whom we trust.”

Find solace in His sovereignty!


[1] Acts 1:5-8

[2] Hebrews 7:25

[3] 1 Timothy 6:15-16

[4] Ephesians 1:22

[5] Matthew 28:18

[6] Romans 11:36

[7] Acts 1:10-11

[8] Matthew 24:46

[9] The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Acts 1-12, John MacArthur; Page 28

[10] Acts 12:12

[11] Mark 15:40-41,47

[12] Luke 1:26-38; John 1:1,14

[13] Mark 3:21; John 7:5

[14] James 1:1; Jude 1:1

[15] Deuteronomy 15:16-17

[16] The Westminster Confession of Faith; Chapter III, Of God’s Eternal Decree, Article I

[17] Ephesians 1:11

[18] 2 Chronicles 16:9

[19] Job 42:2

[20] Psalm 115:3

[21] Psalm 33:11

[22] Isaiah 14:27

[23] Isaiah 45:6-7

[24] Isaiah 46:10

[25] Daniel 4:35

[26] Philippians 2:13

[27] Romans 8:28

[28] Evangelism and The Sovereignty of God, J.I. Packer; Page 15-16

[29] Hebrews 4:16

[30] John 15:1-6

[31] The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Acts 1-12, John MacArthur; Page 33

[32] Ephesians 2:20

[33] Mark 10:18

[34] 1 John 1:5

[35] Genesis 50:20

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