Sermon: The Prayers that Avail Much (Acts 1:12-26)

The Prayers that Avail Much

Acts 1:12-26

Introduction

The two angels have just told the disciples that their beloved Lord would return someday in the same way in which He ascended.  Before Jesus left to be taken up, He gave them instructions to go back to Jerusalem and wait for the Promise of the Father, namely, the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Notice with me how they completely obey and how they are all in complete unity.  This is the result of complete trust in Jesus and His Words.  They believe and they obey.

Primary Claim of the Text

When our prayers and God’s will align, great things happen.

Human Condition Met By the Text

One thing this text greatly illustrates is that it is fitting and proper to pray for God’s will be done and expect God to answer.  This shows that proper prayer takes place when we pray for exactly the same things God promises to supply.  When we pray for the very things God desires us to have then we can be confident He will answer in an affirmative way.  This truly is a biblical solid and the reformed way of praying.  We can have great confidence as we pray for the things of God.  When our desire and God’s desire are aligned, great things will happen.  Jesus said for them to go back to the city and wait for the promise of God to be fulfilled.  God would send to them the Holy Spirit.  So, they obey and go back to the city.  They pray in unity for God’s promise to come to pass.

They are not praying for aunt Josephine’s sprained ankle.  They’re not praying that God would help them repair their forth car.  This is powerful God-centered unified praying. 

Please hear God’s Word for GCC…

Acts 1:12-26 (ESV)
12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.
13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, 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.
14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said,
16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.
17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.”
18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out.
19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)
20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms, “‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’; “‘Let another take his office.’
21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”
23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias.
24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen
25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”
26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

1. Praying for God’s Promise

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.
13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, 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.
14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
Luke shares with us, that they were at the Mount of Olives, which is elevated about 200 feet higher than the city of Jerusalem and, as Luke reports, a Sabbath’s Day’s journey away.  It wasn’t the Sabbath when this took place but Luke is just saying that it’s a distance of about 1 ½ miles from the city, a Sabbath day’s journey.

He continues to tell us that they arrived in the city and immediately found, probably the same upper room in which Jesus shared the last Passover meal with them and instituted the Lord’s Supper.

Luke also lists the eleven apostles, minus Judas Iscariot…the women and Mary, Jesus’ mother and Jesus’ brothers.  He does this to show that they were united in prayer.  All believed, trusted and were praying in one accord.  They prayed for what God already promised.  This is significant.  This is praying in Jesus’ name.  This is praying in the will of God.  Beloved we are called to pray for the things God desires to accomplish.  He would see to it that the Holy Spirit came and they were praying for Him to come.

We can see here that their trust in what Jesus told them gave them confidence to pray for His promise.

Luke reports that the women were also there.  These are the women who constantly traveled with Jesus and the disciples caring for them as they ventured through out the land preaching and teaching.

Luke 8:1-3 (ESV)
1 Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him,
2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,
3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuz (KUSA)a, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.

These were also the women who had went early in the morning to the tomb of Jesus to further anoint His body and found that He had already risen.  They were simply known as the women…

We also see in the crowd of faithful followers, Jesus’ mother Mary.  She was also praying for the promise to be fulfilled.

There were also present, Jesus’ brothers…James, Joses, Judas and Simon, who were also now followers of Jesus.

I think we need to pause and correct some false teaching.  Our Roman Catholic friends teach that it is very appropriate if not preferred to pray to Mary.  They teach she is seated very near Jesus in heaven, that she was immaculately conceived as well and that she is the queen of heaven because she is believed to be the mother of God. (See Pope Pius IX on the Immaculate Conception).  The Catholic Church also teaches that she is an eternal virgin.

See with me that Mary is praying along with the others for the Promise of God.  She is praying with them, they are not praying to her in any way.  Mary was a sinner like all humans and the Son she bore was her Savior as well.

Mary is shown here to have had other children…Namely, Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.   The source of all this is the early church was guilty of mixing pagan religion with the truth of God.  We must see that while Mary was a virgin and a very respectable Jewish young girl, the Bible never exalts her past this.

I believe we need to take a short detour here and discover what is behind the RC church’s veneration of Mary.

It finds its origin in the Babylon cults as far back as Genesis, chapter 10. Satan had already begun in Genesis 10 to counterfeit what God would do. Genesis, chapter 10 that is a city founded called Babylon and it was a Godless city and it was the home of the beginnings of idolatry… The Tower was the first idol and it became the object of men’s worship, the point of their pride. It spawned a complex of weird, strange, mysterious religions that are still going on in our world today. Now, Nimrod had a wife and his wife’s name was Semiramis, called Semiramis I. And Semiramis, because Nimrod founded all these weird religions, Semiramis became the high priestess of false cults and they’re called the Babylonian Mystery Religions and you can study them in ancient history. They’re all over everywhere and they’re still with us today all in different forms. But it all spawned out of Babel and Semiramis was the high priestess of the whole menagerie of false systems. Now, that means that Babel, then, became the fountainhead of all false religion. That’s why when false religion reaches its heyday again in the end times, the Bible calls it Babylon again in Revelation, chapter 17 and 18. So when Babylon was destroyed, here’s what happened. God moved in and scattered everybody, right. Well, when He scattered everybody, everybody took all this false religion with them and it went all over the world at the same time. And it all fell under different names in different countries, but it was all the same thing. It was all this Semiramis worship. And it stayed in Rome until finally when Christianity reached Rome, Christianity became what Catholicism is today, a combination of pagan Babylonian cultism and the New Testament. And it’s all mixed together. Now, let me give you some background so you understand what I’m saying.

This Semiramis became known in Assyria and Nineveh as Ishtar…and all of this due to different languages.

In Phoenicia she was called Ashteroth,

in Egypt, Isis,

in Greece, Aphrodite and

in Rome she was called Venus.

It was all the same high priestess of the false Babylonian religions. Now, Semiramis gave birth…according to her own religion, this is what they said…she gave birth to a son. His name was Tammuz and she said that he was born by a sunbeam. In other words she was impregnated by a sunbeam, thus, Tammuz was virgin born and she is a perpetual virgin…

Semiramis. Now, when he was grown, he was attacked by a wild boar who killed him. And so Semiramis went into mourning for 40 days. And for 40 days she prayed and wept and denied herself and on the 40thday, he arose from the dead. Now, you know where Lent came from. Lent never has had any connection with the Bible. Lent comes from the pagan practice of 40 days of weeping and self-denial for the resurrection of Tammuz, the son of Semiramis and has absolutely no connection with Jesus Christ or the New Testament whatsoever. That’s why we don’t believe in Lent. Now, in that false story we have the basis of religions all over the place. In Phoenicia you know what Tammuz’s name was?…Baal, in Egypt, Osiris, in Greece, Eros, in Rome, Cupid. It’s all the same. It’s the mother/child cult that’s been going on through the systems of religion since Genesis 10. And, strangely, what happened when God brought the reality in Mary and Jesus, the whole pagan system got tangled up in it and we have what we know as Romanism today. This is Satan’s counterfeit. And let me just give you some interesting things and I won’t go into a lot of detail but there’s a book entitled The Two Babylons by Hislop which covers all of this. But in the worship of Semiramis several interesting things were done. For example, she was called the queen of Heaven, she was worshipped by the offering of a wafer, not only that, there were always 40 days of lent, weeping over Tammuz before the feast of celebrating his resurrection, which parallels lent today. These cults also had priests. They had sacramental rites. They had the dedication of virgins to these gods from which the whole idea of a convent comes. They had purgatory, which they taught and believed and adhered to and many other things that are today a part of Roman Catholicism. Now, please understand me. I love those people who are in that and I desire that they know Jesus Christ. And it is only against the error of their theology that I speak. In Jeremiah, chapter 44, verse 15 we are introduced to this whole worship. And if you think the queen of Heaven is Mary, let me just help you to guess again. Listen to these words.

Jeremiah 44:15-17 (ESV)
15 Then all the men who knew that their wives had made offerings to other gods, and all the women who stood by, a great assembly, all the people who lived in Pathros in the land of Egypt, answered Jeremiah:
16 “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we will not listen to you.
17 But we will do everything that we have vowed, make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we did, both we and our fathers, our kings and our officials, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no disaster.

we’re not gonna buy that stuff about the Lord…”But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth”…that’s really the essence of do your own thing. And what are you gonna do? Listen to what they do. We will “burn incense unto the queen of Heaven…” Did you get that? Verse 18, we will “burn incense to the queen of Heaven…” Verse 19, “when we burned incense to the queen of Heaven…” Do you know where the queen of Heaven came from? It came right out of Egyptian idolatry, Isis and Osiris. It has nothing to do with the New Testament at all. Now, lest you’re unconvinced, I show you another passage

Ezekiel 8:12-15 (ESV)
12 Then he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures? For they say, ‘The LORD does not see us, the LORD has forsaken the land.’”
13 He said also to me, “You will see still greater abominations that they commit.”
14 Then he brought me to the entrance of the north gate of the house of the LORD, and behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz.
15 Then he said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? You will see still greater abominations than these.”

There it is, the worship of the virgin in Jeremiah 44, the worship of her son as they were weeping for his resurrection. That is in Ezekiel 8. Both of them, pagan idolatrous practices and have been carried over into Christianity and, thus, Mary has been given the title that rightfully belongs to a false priestess. Modern Roman Catholicism, beloved, is not Christian; it is an abominable mixture of pagan Babylonianism and the Scripture.[1]

Mary is unable to answer prayers.  She is not the mother of God in the Catholic sense and she is not the Queen of Heaven.

We are in the upper room and all the Apostles and the others are in complete agreement.  They understand all Jesus taught.  He had shown them the OT prophecies concerning Himself and He connected the dots for them.  They finally get it and their belief in Christ and everything He said and taught are now fueling their obedience.  They go straight back to the city, like Jesus said, and wait.

They are not all locked up in the upper room.  We have already seen in Luke 24 that they were worshipping daily in the Temple as well.  They go in and out of the upper room.

2.  The Scriptures Must Be Fulfilled, Judas Had to Happen

15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said,
16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.
17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.”
18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out.
19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)
20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms, “‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’; “‘Let another take his office.’
During the next 10 days between the ascension and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles begin to reflect on all Jesus taught them concerning OT prophecy fulfilled in Christ.  They begin to think about all Jesus taught them and the amazing recent events.  They also focus on the vacancy left in their number because of Judas’ betrayal and suicide.

In these days, Peter becomes the spokesman for the apostles.  Luke reports that Peter stood up and began to exposit the OT Scriptures that spoke of Judas and his betrayal.

Peter gives us a very good picture of what the disciples thought of Scripture, Sovereignty, and Inspiration.

First, he tells us the Scripture had to be fulfilled.

Peter equates Scripture to God’s Word.  Because God is sovereign and everything came to pass as God decrees then it is a logical conclusion that His Word will without a doubt always be fulfilled.  We know that both Old and New Testaments are Scripture and Scripture will always stand the test of time and always come to pass as God determines.  God wrote it through men and God has determined all things so what He tells us in His Word will come to pass.  Peter understood this.

Perhaps Jesus explained these passages to him prior to His ascension.   At any rate, Peter with full apostolic authority stands and does what Jesus did before him; he opened up the Scriptures and explained to the others why Judas had to happen.

Second, he shows us how inspiration works

which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David.

Peter quotes from two Psalms of David and tells us that while David spoke these works, or wrote them down concerning an event in his day, the Holy Spirit was speaking through him with such prophetic magnitude that David wrote about Judas centuries before Judas was even born.  The Holy Spirit through David spoke hundreds of years into the future about Judas.

Psalm 69:25 (ESV)
25 May their camp be a desolation; let no one dwell in their tents.
Psalm 109:8 (ESV)
8 May his days be few; may another take his office!
Peter tells the others that Psalm 69 speaks of Judas’ office of apostle being vacated and that Psalm 109 says that his office is to be filled.

So Peter proceeds to organize the others and obey what the Bible tells him.

Peter also declares that Judas fell either in the process of hanging himself or perhaps the rope didn’t hold and he fell and his body hit the rocks that are all over in that region and his body burst open.  Or perhaps he did hang himself and after a time the dead body fell to the ground.

The need was there to replace Judas.  Jesus had already taught the disciples the twelve apostles would be seated on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  So if the twelve apostles were the foundations of the church then Judas needed to be replaced prior to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and subsequently Pentecost.

This Judas needed to be replaced.

3.  The Choosing of Matthias

21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”
23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias.
24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen
25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”
26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

In order to be numbered among the original twelve, the man had to meet a few requirement, according to Peter he had to have been with Jesus from the beginning of His ministry, the baptism of John to the ascension and not only with them for the entire time but he also had to be a significant part of the larger group… went in and out among us.

This requirement would then qualify Judas’ replacement as a witness.  He would have witnessed everything Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the end of His ministry on earth.  Of the 120 disciples two men qualified…Joseph and Matthias.

James and Judas who were Jesus’ brothers qualified in that they were with Jesus the entire time but prior to the resurrection they did not believe.  Once Jesus was raised they too became followers and leaders in the church.

I have heard from some that this was a mistake on Peter’s part.  That he jumped the gun and that Paul was to be Judas’ replacement.  I have read the arguments but I don’t think that this was what Paul struggled with.  Most scholars agree that if Peter was wrong in doing this, then his interpretation of the two Psalms was also problematic, declaring that they spoke of Judas.  I don’t think the church was founded on errors.

The Apostles are twelve in number again and ready for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

When our prayers and God’s will align, great things happen.

Are your prayers in line with God’s will?  Are you praying for the same things God desires?  Lets look to the example of those in the upper room and see a larger group in unity, praying consistently…and next week, we’ll see just how powerfully God answers effectual, fervent prayers.


[1] Acts 1:12-26 by John MacArthur

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