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Acts & Topical by Robert Dean
These Apostles fulfilled Jesus’ mandate to take the gospel to the uttermost parts of the world. The focus of our documentation of the church, after it spread from Jerusalem, was to the west. We lose access to documents from the Eastern Church, but there are ancient records with information that can be considered, but not always reliable. Follow the biographical information available for these Apostles from scripture and historical tradition. Learn what we can know of their lives, the area of their ministries, confusions that may have been caused by names, relationships and martyrdoms. Erase any doubt with the understanding that Judas Iscariot was not a believer. As church age believers, what is our mandate?
Series:Acts (2010)
Duration:1 hr 7 mins 38 secs

God's Choice Men: John, Philip, Thomas, Matthew (Levi), Thaddaeus, Simon the Cana-nite, Judas Iscariot


We know about the apostle John because there is more information about him as the writer of the Gospel, the writer of the three epistles  of John and the book of Revelation. There is some confusion if you read in some literature or in listening to some confused pastors between an individual that they want to identify because the writer of 2 & 3 John identifies himself as John the elder. This is just another term for a pastor because at that time in John's life he was no longer functioning as a travelling apostle, he functioned as a pastor, as a church leader in Ephesus. It is still the same person.

John is probably the only apostle who died a natural death. He lived into his nineties, according to church tradition. He pastored in Ephesus. Ephesus had a number of different pastors. Paul was there for a long time, Timothy was there, Apollos was there also. So there were a number of apostles and apostolic associates who pastured in the Ephesus area.

In the early nineties of the first century Domitian became the emperor in Rome and he instituted and empire-wide persecution of Christians, and part of that was the banishment of the apostle John to the island of Patmos approximately ninety miles off the western coast of Turkey. He was there for about three years until Domitian died and then he returned back to Ephesus. It is generally believed, although there is a competing tradition, that Mary stayed in the area of Judea but it is more likely that John, who received the mandate from the Lord Jesus Christ as He hung on the cross, had Mary with him in Ephesus where she died and was buried. Ephesus is where John was buried.

Originally John was a disciple of John the Baptist (John 1:35) and he was also one of Jesus' 'inner circle'—John, his brother James and Peter, the disciples who were the closest to the Lord Jesus Christ.

There is not a tremendous amount known about Philip but there is a good bit said in the Scripture about him. Philip also was one of these fishermen who was called by Jesus in the area of the Sea of Galilee.

In John 1:35 to the end of the chapter we have the story of how Jesus called His disciples. It starts off with Jesus coming down to some area of the Jordan River and being baptized by John the Baptist. John 1:35 NASB "Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, [36] and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God!' [37] The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. [38] And Jesus turned and saw them following …" One of those who followed was Andrew who will go and get his brother Simon. Then another one who joins them the following day is Philip, verse 43 NASB "The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, 'Follow Me.' [44] Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter." So we learn that Philip and Peter Andrew and (we will learn from other sources) James and John all know each other. So there was a lot of close connection between these individual disciples. [45] Philip found Nathanael and said to him, 'We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and {also} the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.'"

When we find a list of the disciples Philip is usually the fifth one listed and there is some confusion between him and one also called Philip the evangelist. The Philip in Acts 6 and Acts 8 is not Philip the apostle. Jesus called Philip to follow Him the day after Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, the day after He had called Andrew and Peter, and most of the time when we see action taking place Philip and Andrew are interacting together. So they were close. That fits a somewhat later scenario in terms of what happens to both of them later on in life. Biblically though, Philip only appears in a couple of episodes. He shows up in John 6:4-7, which is the story of the feeding of the 5000. The Passover was approaching [v.4], Jesus has a multitude coming to Him, somewhere on the coast of the Sea of Galilee by Capernaum, but as all these people came there was the problem of feeding them and Jesus decides to use this little situation to provide a test for Philip to see where his focus is. And so when the crowd is coming He turns to Philip and asks where they are going to buy bread that they could feed them. The focal point here is: Philip, are you thinking about your surroundings? Are you thinking about your circumstances? And are you thinking about the challenge that is in front of us with reference to divine viewpoint and God's provision, or human viewpoint?

Every situation and circumstance in life is a test. The test isn't the circumstances specifically themselves; the test is the choice that we have to make. Are we going to trust God and apply the Word and the principles of the Word to the circumstance or are we going to try to handle the circumstances from our own resources, usually from the sin nature?

John 6:6 NASB "This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do." Jesus knew what was going to happen but He wanted to engage Philip's mind and the circumstances. [7] "Philip answered Him, 'Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.'" Philip is totally focused on just human viewpoint. He recognizes the problem but has no idea what the solution is. That is our first introduction to anything on the part of Philip.

The next time we see Philip is in John 12:20-22. It is the day after Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. There is a group of Hellenistic Jews who had heard about Jesus. They came to Philip—which indicates that Philip spoke Greek and (he has a Greek name) possibly has an orientation to Greek culture, or maybe he was a Hellenistic Jew or his family were Hellenistic Jews, and they felt comfortable coming to him to get access and ask questions of Jesus.

But the most significant passage is really in John 14, which is part of the upper room discourse. John 14:1-3 is also an important Rapture passage. In fact there are a variety of parallels and vocabulary between this passage and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17. Jesus announces that He is going to leave in the previous chapter and Peter gets all flustered. He doesn't know where the Lord is going or how they are going to follow Him and is just starting to fall apart. So Jesus answered him in John 14:1-3 NASB "Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, {there} you may be also." The "dwelling places" refers to a temporary abode, not a permanent abode. Why is that? Because that is not our ultimate destiny. We are going to go to heaven in the Rapture and we are only going to be there a short time before we come back. Our future abode is coming down with the Lord Jesus Christ at the Second Coming and ruling and reigning with Him in the Millennial kingdom. The words "that where I am" refer to heaven, not on the earth, so it indicates a pre-Trib. Rapture; "you may be also," i.e. in that place He is going to.

John 14:5 NASB "Thomas said to Him, 'Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?'" Hello Thomas, have you been paying attention? It is really easy to get down on the disciples as a bunch of dummies but remember they don't have the Holy Spirit. They are not getting it, not because they are inherently low IQ but because they don't have the Holy Spirit; they are not connecting all the dots. This is Wednesday night of the Passover week and it is amazing that fifty-one days later when they have received the Holy Spirit and are proclaiming the gospel with conviction and power in Jerusalem, they'd got it. At the end of Acts chapter two they'd got it; at the end of Acts chapter one they still don't get it, they are still not connecting the dots. What makes the difference is the arrival of the Holy Spirit. 

John 14:6 NASB "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'" Then we get into a really interesting passage. [7] "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him."

One of the battles that we fight in Christianity is the devil destroying vocabulary, watering down vocabulary, taking phrases that sound holy and good and then we use those instead of what the Bible says. Or we take terms that the Bible uses and we assign a meaning to them that the Bible does not. One of the ways in which people poorly express conversion, or what you need to be saved or whether or not you are saved, is to state it in terms of "knowing Jesus." "Do you know Jesus?" people use, in modern evangelical language, meaning "Are you saved?" But at this point we know that because of what Jesus said in John 13 as He sat down with Peter and was going to wash his feet and there was a little discussion about that, Jesus said, "All of you are clean except one"—a reference to Judas Iscariot. What Jesus meant when He said "All of you are clean" is "All of you are saved." They were justified; regenerate at that point.

But here we come to John 14 and Jesus said, "If you had known me." What does He mean by this? It is very interesting. He starts off with what in Greek is a first class condition, which means we are going to assume this first part is true. "If [assuming] you had known me, you would have known my Father also." What Jesus is implying here is that they don't know Him. They see Jesus walking down the street and they say yes, that's Jesus; but they don't know Him. But they are saved! Wait a minute. I thought that knowing Jesus meant one is saved. Only if you are using bad modern evangelical vocabulary, designed by Satan to destroy the truth. Knowing Jesus has to do with your growth after you are saved, not getting saved. That is clear in this passage.

In this initial interchange here it is interesting that Jesus is using the word oida [o)ida], an imperfect tense for "know," and He is going to shift in verse 9 to a different word, ginosko [ginwskw]. The perfect tense means having come to a knowledge of something in the past with ongoing results. So Jesus is really saying, "If you had really understood who I am you would have known my Father also." Again He uses that perfect tense form, indicating past complete action. Then He says, "From now on you know Him," and He uses a present tense form of ginosko—"you know Him." "… and have seen Him," but He shifts to a perfect tense. If you are a native English speaker and you are speaking to a native English speaker you process the nuances of the grammar instantly because you are a native English speaker. We are dealing with Greek here and so we don't process that automatically, but it is important to understand what Jesus is saying. He is saying, "From now on you are going to (present continuative sense) continue to know Him (the Father)…" "… and [already] have seen Him"—those who have seen Jesus, He is going to say, have seen the Father. He uses a perfect tense to indicate past completed action. So He goes from "You know Him now and you have already seen Him in the past [because you have been watching me].

Along comes Philip. John 14:8 NASB "Philip said to Him, 'Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.'"

John 14:9 NASB Jesus said to him, 'Have I been so long with you, and {yet} you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how {can} you say, 'Show us the Father'?'"  This is really important, one of the most significant exegetical insights you'll see in a passage like this. "… and you have not come to know me" is a perfect tense of ginosko, which means "you have not some to know me in the past."

Is Philip saved? Absolutely! Is Philip regenerate, justified? Absolutely! But what Jesus is saying here is not, "Philip you need to know me; you need to get saved." He is saying, "You trusted in me as Messiah but after that you really haven't come to know me. You really haven't learned who I am and all about me, as you should after you are saved." He is really talking about post-salvation knowledge. "He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how {can} you say, 'Show us the Father'?" If you have seen me you have seen the Father.

John 1:18 NASB "No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained {Him.}"

John 14:10 NASB "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works." He is making the very important point to Philip that knowing Jesus doesn't mean that you have believed in Him. Believing in Jesus is what we need to do to be saved. After we are saved, only after we are regenerate, do we have the capacity to come to know Jesus; before that we are spiritually dead and we can't come to know Jesus. 

After the ascension and after the period in Jerusalem we are told that Philip is a missionary. There is some tradition that he was a missionary in France, which was known as Gaul. But remember there could be some confusion between Gaul in France and Gaul in terms of the Galatians. The Galatians were of the same ethnic stock as the Gauls. On group of Gauls went west, one went east into central Turkey. It could be either one. There is also indication that he stayed in the area of central Turkey and then went north around the Black Sea to the area of modern Ukraine, as did Andrew. Eventually he was executed in Hierapolis.

 Thomas is an interesting character. He is a twin, often referred to as Thomas Didymus. Didymus is Greek for twin. We don't know anything about his twin. In terms of the tradition he went east to Parthia, and went even further east all the way to the southern part of India where he established churches. We are only given a couple of places in the Gospels where Thomas speaks. John 11:16 NASB "Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to {his} fellow disciples, 'Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.'" The most significant conversation is found in John 20:24 NASB "John But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

John 20:25 So the other disciples were saying to him, 'We have seen the Lord!' But he said to them, 'Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe' … [27] Then He said to Thomas, 'Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing." So the scars of the cross are in Jesus' resurrection body. There is nothing wrong with giving people evidence that the gospel is true. Jesus did it. But He said something afterwards: "Blessed {are} they who did not see, and {yet} believed." They come to faith without the evidence; they just trust. But there is nothing wrong about giving evidence. If there was then John's Gospel should be just cut out of the Bible, because remember John said: "but these [signs] have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name." The whole Gospel of John is a book of evidences to prove that Jesus was the Messiah. 

But notice that Thomas doesn't put his fingers in the holes. He immediately recognizes that this is the resurrected Jesus. John 20:28 NASB "Thomas answered and said to Him, 'My Lord and my God!'" He recognizes the authority and the reality of the resurrection.

Thomas's traditional tomb is located in the city of Madras.

Dorman Newman, 17th century scholar:

Thomas brings the gospel to the Medes, the Persians, through various regions in Parthia and other nations. In Persia he met with the Magi whom he baptized and took along with him. From there he preached and passed through Ethiopia

(Ethiopia here is spelled a little differently. Apparently there was a region in Persia with the same name as the modern country of Ethiopia in Africa. That is why there is some confusion. Did Matthew and Matthias end up in Ethiopia in Africa or were they martyred in Parthia.)

According to Newman Thomas went to the southern part India where he was eventually martyred in a suburb of what is now Madras. There is a long tradition of a community in India that traces their founding to Thomas.

Then we come to Matthew. In some passages he is referred to as Levi. He is a tax collector, which meant that he was viewed socially as a traitor. Not a lot is known about Matthew after the close of the Gospels. He would be with the apostles up through Acts chapters 6 or 7 but we don't know what happened after that. Clement of Alexandria in the late second century says that Matthew died a natural death in Africa. But his description of Matthew includes a lot of legendary and mystical material and so we can't really trust him. The Jewish Talmud says that Matthew was condemned to death by the Sanhedrin and was martyred by the Sanhedrin. Other traditions from eastern churches indicate that Matthew was linked to Ethiopia, but we're not sure if this is the African country or a region in Parthia. Other traditions do identify him as having had a ministry to kings and aristocracy and leaders in Parthia. All traditions agree that he was martyred, but where he was martyred and how he was martyred is uncertain.

Then Lebbeus whose surname was Thaddaeus, also called Jude. We don't know a lot about him. He is mentioned in Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18. In Luke he is referred to as Judas—literally in the Greek, Judas of James. Most believe he is Judas the son of James. We don't know which James. Nothing else is said about him in the Scripture. 

Simon the Cana-ite, from Cana of Galilee. He is listed in Mark 3:18 and is also identified as Simon the Zealot. The zealots were a radical right-wing element within Jewish society. By the 60s the zealots were operating as a sort of guerilla force against the Romans and causing a tremendous amount of division. They were so busy in-fighting that when the Romans were putting the final siege on Jerusalem that the zealots and other groups on the walls of Jerusalem, defending it against the Romans, were not only shooting the Romans but were shooting each other. Because they hated each other as much as they hated the enemy they could not unite against a common enemy. This is what happens when a culture deteriorates into arrogance and self-absorption. It loses all perspective and balance. So Simon was a zealot before he was called to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. He is identified as a zealot in Luke 6:15.

Again, we don't know much about him. There are traditions that he went to Britain but we are not sure how accurate those are. Although there are a lot of different-sourced traditions for that most agree that he would not have been there very long. Nearly every tradition indicates that he ended his life in Parthia, along with Jude the author of the epistle of Jude and the brother of the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that Simon the zealot was sawn in two and Jude was killed with a battle axe.

Last, and certainly least, is Judas Iscariot. There is an idea that somehow Judas managed to be a believer. Judas was not a believer. People say that Jesus sent him out and he cast out demons and healed people. We don't really have specific statements that Judas did that. There are specific statements that Jesus sent out disciples and they as a group did these things. Judas could have gone along and just let whoever was with him do these things. A lot of things could have happened. We have to stick with the precision of the language of Scripture.

In John 13:2 when Jesus is sitting down with the Passover meal with the disciples we have extremely precise language. "During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, {the son} of Simon, to betray Him." That is demon influence. It is putting an idea into the mind of somebody. Satan is putting an idea into Judas's heart to betray Jesus.

Then in John 13:10, 11 when Jesus is having his interchange with Peter, Peter said: "Jesus said to him, 'He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all {of you.}'" The image here is that once you are saved you are cleansed of all sin from head to toe. But as we continue to live our life we sin, it gets our feet dirty and our hands dirty, and so we have to be washed. We don't have to take a whole bath again because we are saved. The picture is of ongoing confession of sin. But when Jesus says this, using this picture of clean—the same word used in 1 John 1:9—He is saying you are clean, i.e. saved, positionally cleansed, but not all of you. In other words, somebody is not saved. "For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, 'Not all of you are clean.'" He repeats the sentence again so that the reader catches it that not everyone is clean, not everyone is saved.

They go through the rest of the meal and conversation and when Jesus gives the bread out He said whoever dipped after Him was going to betray Him. It is Judas who dips the bread. John 13:27 NASB "After the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Therefore Jesus said to him, 'What you do, do quickly.'" This is not the same as what we have in verse 2 where Satan "put into the heart of Judas Iscariot." That was influence. Here Satan enters him. This is demon possession.

How do we know that? Exegesis in the process of Bible study is understanding word usage. Certain words in certain contexts do have a technical meaning. The word for "enter" here is the word eiserchomai [e)iserxomai]—eis = into; erchomai = to come or to go. Here it means Satan entered Judas. This word is used in numerous passages related to demon possession. But there is no Greek word for demon possession. It is translated demon possession in some places, but there is no Greek word for demon possession. Some might react to that and say there is no demon possession in the Bible. No, that is not what is being said. We put it together from the vocabulary.

We will go to the episode of the Gadarene demoniac.

Mark 5:1, 2 NASB "They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes. When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him." The phrase there is the word en [e)n] plus the adjective "unclean" and the noun "spirit." So it translates, "he has with [preposition of association] him an unclean spirit." That is a little ambiguous. Is it with him, like arm in arm, or is it inside of him? We have to look at parallel language in the story to find out what it is.

When we look at the parallel story in Luke 8:27 we read: "And when He came out onto the land, He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons …" That is not what it says in the Greek. What it says in the Greek is a participle built on the noun for "demon," daimonizomai [daimonizomai]. This is another ambiguous term. It simply means to be acted upon by a demon. There are those who say there are all sorts of ways people can be acted upon by a demon. They can be acted upon through demon influence from an external position, and maybe even from inside. Yes, but look at the description in the text and it will tell us exactly what the word means. The vagueness of this word is clarified by other descriptions. 

"… and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs… [30] "And Jesus asked him, 'What is your name?' And he said, "Legion"; for many demons had entered him." Not only is this eiserchomai but the preposition is repeated. That word eiserchomai is a very clear word indicating that something has gone from outside to inside; it has entered into. What happens after this is Jesus is going to cast the demon out—ekballo [e)kballw], meaning something goes from inside to outside. 

Luke 8:32 NASB "Now there was a herd of many swine feeding there on the mountain; and {the demons} implored Him to permit them to enter [eiserchomai] the swine. And He gave them permission." erchomai is the Greek technical term that clarifies that having a demon, being acted upon by a demon, means that a demon entered inside. The only solution is for that demon to go out of. In all of the descriptions of demon possession and the casting out of a demon have this vocabulary—eiserchomai and ekballo. So the passages mean to enter into the person where they are internally controlled by a demon.

So someone says it doesn't mean that when it says Satan entered into Judas because he is a believer. What he has just done is demonstrate that he has flunked first year Greek, second year Greek and third year Greek. He is an exegetical imbecile and a theological fool because of what he has just done. This is basic syntax in grammar and yet there are pastors who teach this.

Judas was not a believer. A believer cannot be demon possessed. We say the Holy Spirit indwells the believer and where the Holy Spirit indwells the demon can't indwell. That is generally true, but Satan showed up in heaven accusing Job. Maybe we oversimplify it. The reality is that when we are saved the Holy Spirit sanctifies us and sets us apart as a temple. And the word there in 1 Corinthians is the Greek word naos [naoj], the term for the inner sanctum of the holy of holies in the temple. It doesn't make us a temple heiros [e(iroj] which is the outer courtyard. Any unclean person could go into the outer courtyard. But if a priest who wasn't cleansed went into the naos he was struck dead. Nothing unclean can go into the naos, that temple, that holy of holies; and that is the argument. It is not that the Holy Spirit indwells you therefore Satan can't indwell you. That is a poor expression of the argument. You have been converted into a holy of holies, a naos temple, by the Holy Spirit; and that sanctified state cannot be breached by a demon or Satan at all. No believer can be demon possessed.

Judas was demon possessed and so he was the one who was not clean that Jesus spoke of. After Jesus is crucified he is overcome with grief and he went out and committed suicide.