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A. The founding of the church 1:1-2:47
In his account of the founding of the Christian church Luke gave background information that ties Jesus’ giving of the Great Commission to the day of Pentecost. He showed how Jesus enabled His disciples to obey His command to evangelize the nations.
The day of Pentecost was an annual spring feast at which the Jews presented the first-fruits of their wheat harvest to God (Exodus 34:22 a). The Jews also called Pentecost the Feast of Harvest and the Feast of Weeks in earlier times. They celebrated it at the end of seven weeks (i.e., a week of weeks) following the Feast of Passover. God received a new crop of believers, Christians, on this particular day of Pentecost. The Jews also celebrated Pentecost as the anniversary of the giving of the Mosaic Law (cf. Exodus 19:1). Paul regarded the Spirit’s indwelling presence as God’s replacement for the external guidance that the Mosaic Law had provided believers under that old covenant (Galatians 3:3; Galatians 3:23-29).
"Pentecost" is a Greek word, transliterated into English, that means fiftieth. This feast fell on the fiftieth day after Passover. It was one of the feasts at which all the male Jews had to be present at the central sanctuary (Exodus 34:22-23). Jews who lived up to 20 miles from Jerusalem were expected to travel to Jerusalem to attend these feasts. Pentecost usually fell in late May or early June. Travelling conditions then made it possible for Jews who lived farther away to visit Jerusalem too. These factors account for the large number of Jews present in Jerusalem on this particular day.
". . . by paralleling Jesus’ baptism with the experience of Jesus’ early followers at Pentecost, Luke is showing that the mission of the Christian church, as was the ministry of Jesus, is dependent upon the coming of the Holy Spirit. And by his stress on Pentecost as the day when the miracle took place, he is also suggesting (1) that the Spirit’s coming is in continuity with God’s purposes in giving the law and yet (2) that the Spirit’s coming signals the essential difference between the Jewish faith and commitment to Jesus, for whereas the former is Torah centered and Torah directed, the latter is Christ centered and Spirit directed-all of which sounds very much like Paul." [Note: Longenecker, p. 269.]
The antecedent of "they" is apparently the believers Luke mentioned in Acts 1:15. It is not possible to identify the place (lit. the house, Gr. ton oikon) where they assembled certainly. Perhaps it was the upper room already mentioned (Acts 1:13) or another house. Clearly the disciples were indoors (Acts 2:2).
The descent of the Spirit 2:1-4
Luke introduced the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry with His baptism with the Spirit (Luke 3:21-22). He paralleled this with the beginning of Jesus’ heavenly ministry with the Spirit baptism of His disciples (Acts 2:1-4). The same Spirit who indwelt and empowered Jesus during His earthly ministry would now indwell and empower His believing disciples. John the Baptist had predicted this Pentecost baptism with the Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16) as had Jesus (Acts 1:8). Jesus did the baptizing, and the Spirit came upon the disciples.
5. The birth of the church 2:1-41
The Holy Spirit’s descent on the day of Pentecost inaugurated a new dispensation in God’s administration of the human race. [Note: For more information about the dispensations, see Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, or idem, Dispensationalism.] Luke featured the record of the events of this day to explain the changes in God’s dealings with humankind that followed in the early church and to the present day. This was the birthday of the church. Many non-dispensationalists, as well as most dispensationalists (except ultradispensationalists), view the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost as the beginning of the church. [Note: E.g., James D. G. Dunn, Baptism in the Holy Spirit, p. 49; Eduard Schweizer, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v., "pneuma . . .," 6:411; Emil Brunner, The Misunderstanding of the Church, p. 161; Neil, p. 71; Longenecker, p. 271; and Morgan, p. 22). For a summary of the views of ultradispensationalists, see Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, ch. 10; or idem, Dispensationalism, ch. 11.]
"This event is a fulcrum account in Luke-Acts." [Note: Bock, Acts, p. 92.]
"The plot of a work can often be illuminated by considering the major conflict or conflicts within it. Although Jesus’ witnesses face other conflicts, the central conflict of the plot, repeatedly emphasized and still present in the last major scene of Acts, is a conflict within Judaism provoked by Jewish Christian preachers (including Paul). Acts 2:1 to Acts 8:3 traces the development of this conflict in Jerusalem." [Note: Tannehill, 2:34.]
The sound like wind came from heaven, the place where Jesus had gone (Acts 1:10-11). This noise symbolized the coming of the Holy Spirit in power. The same Greek word (pneuma) means either "wind" or "spirit." Ezekiel and Jesus had previously used the wind as an illustration of God’s Spirit (Ezekiel 37:9-14; John 3:8).
"Luke particularly stresses the importance of the Spirit in the life of the church [in Acts]." [Note: Marshall, The Acts . . ., p. 32. ]
Jesus’ earlier breathing on the disciples and giving them the Holy Spirit (John 20:22) may have been only a temporary empowerment with the Spirit along the lines of Old Testament empowerments. Others believe that Jesus was giving these disciples a symbolic and graphic reminder of the Spirit who would come upon them later. It was a demonstration of what Jesus would do when He returned to the Father and which He did do on Pentecost. He was not imparting the Spirit to them in any sense then. I prefer this explanation.
"A friend of my daughter lives in Kansas and went through the experience of a tornado. It did not destroy their home but came within two blocks of it. When she wrote about it to my daughter, she said, ’The first thing we noticed was a sound like a thousand freight trains coming into town.’ Friend, that was a rushing, mighty wind, and that was the sound. It was that kind of sound that they heard on the Day of Pentecost." [Note: McGee, 4:516.]
Fire, as well as wind, symbolized the presence of God (cf. Genesis 15:17; Exodus 3:2-6; Exodus 13:21-22; Exodus 19:18; Exodus 24:17; Exodus 40:38; Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16). The believers received a visual as well as an audio indication that the promised Holy Spirit of God had come. Evidently the apparent fire came at first in one piece and then separated into individual flames, which always resemble tongues of fire. "Distributing themselves" translates diamerizomenai, a present and probably a middle participle, suggesting that the fire was seen dividing itself. One of these "flames" abode on each believer present. God could hardly have visualized the distribution of His Spirit to every individual believer more clearly. The Spirit had in the past abode on the whole nation of Israel corporately symbolized by the pillar of fire. Now He abode on each believer, as He had on Jesus. This fire was obviously not normal fire because it did not burn up what it touched (cf. Exodus 3:2-6).
Probably the Jews present connected the tongues with which the believers spoke miraculously with the tongues of fire. They probably attributed the miracle of speaking in tongues to the God whose presence they had identified with fire in their history and who was now obviously present among them.
Was this the fulfillment of John the Baptist’s statement that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire (Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16; cf. Joel 2:28-29; Malachi 3:2-5)? Some believe it was a complete fulfillment of those prophecies and that we should expect no further subsequent fulfillment. This seems doubtful since these prophecies occur in contexts involving the experiences of all Israel. Others believe that what happened on the day of Pentecost was an initial or partial fulfillment and that complete fulfillment is still future. Some who hold this second view believe that the prophecy about the baptism with the Holy Spirit was fulfilled on Pentecost, but the prophecy about baptism with fire was not fulfilled and will be fulfilled in the Tribulation. Others who hold this second view, including myself, believe that both baptisms occurred on Pentecost and both will occur again in the future and will involve Israel. I view what happened on Pentecost as a foreview of what will happen for Israel in the future. A third view is that what happened on Pentecost was not what the Old Testament predicted at all since those predictions have Israel in view. This explanation is unappealing to me because what happened on Pentecost has clear connections with these predictions. What we have in this verse is a gracious baptizing that involved the Holy Spirit and the presence and power of God symbolized by fire. [Note: See also my comments on 2:16-21 below.]
Spirit filling and Spirit baptism are two distinct ministries of the Holy Spirit. Both occurred on this occasion, though Luke only mentioned filling specifically. We know that Spirit baptism also took place because Jesus predicted it would take place "not many days from now" before His ascension (Acts 1:5). Moreover, Peter spoke of it as having taken place on Pentecost a short time later (Acts 11:15-16). [Note: See Fruchtenbaum, pp. 116-17.]
Filling with the Spirit was a phenomenon believers experienced at various times in the Old Testament economy (Exodus 35:30-34; Numbers 11:26-29; 1 Samuel 10:6; 1 Samuel 10:10) as well as in the New. An individual Christian can now experience it many times. God can fill a person with His Spirit on numerous separate occasions (cf. Acts 4:8; Acts 4:31; Acts 6:3; Acts 6:5; Acts 7:55; Acts 9:17; Acts 13:9; Acts 13:52). Furthermore God has commanded all believers to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Luke used "filling" to express the Holy Spirit’s presence and enablement. [Note: Bock, "A Theology . . .," pp. 98-99.] Filling by the Spirit results in the Spirit’s control of the believer (Ephesians 5:18). The Spirit controls a believer to the degree that He fills the believer and vice versa. Believers experience Spirit control to the extent that we yield to His direction. On the day of Pentecost the believers assembled were under the Spirit’s control because they were in a proper personal relationship of submission to Him (cf. Acts 1:14). In the Book of Acts whenever Luke said the disciples were Spirit-filled, their filling always had some connection with their gospel proclamation or some specific service related to outreach (Acts 2:4; Acts 4:8; Acts 4:31; Acts 9:17; Acts 13:9). [Note: Frederick R. Harm, "Structural Elements Related to the Gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts," Concordia Journal 14:1 (January 1988):30.]
". . . Luke always connects the ’filling of the Holy Spirit’ with the proclamation of the gospel in Acts (Acts 2:4; Acts 4:8; Acts 4:31; Acts 9:17; Acts 13:9). Those who are ’full of the Holy Spirit’ are always those who are faithfully fulfilling their anointed task as proclaimers (Acts 6:3; Acts 6:5; Acts 7:55; Acts 11:24; Acts 13:52)." [Note: Walt Russell, "The Anointing with the Holy Spirit in Luke-Acts," Trinity Journal 7NS (Spring 1986):63.]
"No great decision was ever taken, no important step was ever embarked upon, by the early Church without the guidance of the Spirit. The early Church was a Spirit-guided community.
"In the first thirteen chapters of Acts there are more than forty references to the Holy Spirit. The early Church was a Spirit-filled Church and precisely therein lay its power." [Note: Barclay, pp. 12, 13.]
The Christian never repeats Spirit baptism in contrast to filling, God never commanded Spirit baptism, and it does not occur in degrees. Spirit baptism normally takes place when a person becomes a Christian (Romans 8:9). However when it took place on the day of Pentecost the people baptized were already believers. This was also true on three later occasions (Acts 8:17; Acts 10:45; Acts 19:6). (Chapter 19 does not clearly identify John’s disciples as believers, but they may have been.) These were unusual situations, however, and not typical of Spirit baptism. [Note: See my comments on these verses in these notes for further explanations.] Spirit baptism always unites a believer to the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). The "body of Christ" is a figure that the New Testament writers used exclusively of the church, never of Israel or any other group of believers. Therefore this first occurrence of the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit marks the beginning of the church, the body of Christ (cf. Matthew 16:18).
Speaking with other tongues was the outward evidence that God had done something to these believers inwardly (i.e., controlled them and baptized them into the body). The same sign identified the same thing on the other initial instances of Spirit baptism (Acts 10:46; Acts 19:6). In each case it was primarily for the benefit of Jews present, who as a people sought a sign from God to mark His activity, that God gave this sign (Luke 11:16; John 4:48; 1 Corinthians 1:22). [Note: See William G. Bellshaw, "The Confusion of Tongues," Bibliotheca Sacra 120:478 (April-June 1963):145-53.]
One of the fundamental differences between charismatic and non-charismatic Christians is the issue of the purpose of the sign gifts (speaking in tongues, healings on demand, spectacular miracles, etc.). Charismatic theologians have urged that the purpose of all the gifts is primarily edification (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:7). [Note: E.g., Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, pp. 134-36.]
They "always seem to be spoken of as a normal function of the Christian life . . . [in which the Spirit] makes them willing and able to undertake various works for the renewal and upbuilding of the Church." [Note: E. D. O’Connor, The Pentecostal Movement in the Catholic Church, pp. 280, 283. See also Ernest Swing Williams, a classic Pentecostal theologian, Systematic Theology, 3:50; Bernard Ramm, Rapping about the Spirit, p. 115; John Sherrill, They Shall Speak with Other Tongues, pp. 79-88; and Catalog of Oral Roberts University (1973), pp. 26-27.]
Many non-charismatics believe that the purpose of the sign gifts was not primarily edification but the authentication of new revelation.
There is an ". . . inseparable connection of miracles with revelation, as its mark and credential; or, more narrowly, of the summing up of all revelation, finally, in Jesus Christ. Miracles do not appear on the page of Scripture vagrantly, here, there, and elsewhere indifferently, without assignable reason. They belong to revelation periods, and appear only when God is speaking to His people through accredited messengers, declaring His gracious purposes. Their abundant display in the Apostolic Church is the mark of the richness of the Apostolic Age in revelation; and when this revelation period closed, the period of miracle-working had passed by also, as a mere matter of course." [Note: Benjamin B. Warfield, Counterfeit Miracles, pp. 25-26.]
". . . glossolalia [speaking in tongues] was a gift given by God, not primarily as a special language for worship; not primarily to facilitate the spread of the gospel; and certainly not as a sign that a believer has experienced a second ’baptism in the Holy Spirit.’ It was given primarily for an evidential purpose to authenticate and substantiate some facet of God’s truth. This purpose is always distorted by those who shift the emphasis from objective sign to subjective experience." [Note: Joel C. Gerlach, "Glossolalia," Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly 70:4 (October 1973):251. See also John F. Walvoord, The Holy Spirit at Work Today, p. 41; and Culver, p. 138.]
Other non-charismatics believe that the specific purpose of the sign gifts was to identify Jesus Christ as God’s Son and to authenticate the gospel message that the apostles preached.
Most non-charismatics grant that the sign gifts were edifying in their result, but say their purpose was to authenticate new revelation to the Jews (Acts 2:22; Mark 16:20; Acts 7:36-39; Acts 7:51; Hebrews 2:2-4; 1 Corinthians 14:20-22). [Note: See S. Lewis Johnson Jr., "The Gift of Tongues and the Book of Acts," Bibliotheca Sacra 120:480 (October-December 1963):309-11.] Jews were always present when tongues took place in Acts (chs. 2, 10, and 19). It is understandable why God-fearing Jews, whom the apostles asked to accept new truth in addition to their already authenticated Old Testament, would have required a sign. They would have wanted strong proof that God was now giving new revelation that seemed on the surface to contradict their Scriptures.
God had told the Jews centuries earlier that He would speak to them in a foreign language because they refused to pay attention to Isaiah’s words to them in their own language (Isaiah 28:11; cf. 1 Corinthians 14:21). Jews who knew this prophecy and were listening to Peter should have recognized that what was happening was evidence that it was God who was speaking to them.
"Barclay and others have puzzled over the necessity for using various dialects when it would have been more expedient to simply use either Greek or Aramaic-languages known to speaker and hearer alike. [Note: Barclay, p. 16.] However to suggest this is to miss the point of the record. The Spirit desired to arrest the attention of the crowd. What better means could He adopt than to have men who quite evidently did not speak the dialects in question suddenly be endowed with the ability to speak these languages and ’declare the wonders of God’ before the astonished assembly? The effect would be a multiple one. Attention would be gained, the evidence of divine intervention would be perceived, the astonished crowd would be prepared to listen with interest to the sermon of Peter, and thus the Spirit’s purpose in granting the gift would be realized." [Note: Harm, p. 30.]
"As has been pointed out by various scholars, if simple ecstatic speech was in view here, Luke ought simply to have used the term glossais [tongues], not eterais glossais [other tongues]." [Note: Witherington, p. 133.]
". . . the startling effect of the phenomenon on those who in difficult circumstances desperately wished otherwise (as in Acts 4:13-16; Acts 10:28-29; Acts 11:1-3; Acts 11:15-18; and Acts 15:1-12) supports the purpose of authentication (and not edification) for the sign gifts." [Note: J. Lanier Burns, "A Reemphasis on the Purpose of the Sign Gifts," Bibliotheca Sacra 132:527 (July-September 1975):245.]
God gave the gift of tongues also to rouse the nation of Israel to repentance (1 Corinthians 14:22-25). [Note: Zane C. Hodges, "The Purpose of Tongues," Bibliotheca Sacra 120:479 (July-September 1963):226-33. Some good books that deal with speaking in tongues exegetically include Robert G. Gromacki, The Modern Tongues Movement; Robert P. Lightner, Speaking in Tongues and Divine Healing; John F. MacArthur Jr., The Charismatics: A Doctrinal Perspective; and Joseph Dillow, Speaking in Tongues: Seven Crucial Questions.]
It is clear from the context of Acts 2:4 that this sign involved the ability to speak in another language that the speaker had not previously known (Acts 2:6; Acts 2:8). However the ability to speak in tongues does not in itself demonstrate the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Satan can give the supernatural ability to speak in other languages, as the blasphemous utterances of some tongues speakers have shown. Sometimes an interpreter was necessary (cf. 1 Corinthians 14), but at other times, as at Pentecost, one was not.
|Instances of Speaking in Tongues in Acts|
|Reference||Tongues-speakers||Audience||Relation to conversion||Purpose|
|Acts 2:1-4||Jewish believers||Unsaved Jews and Christians||Sometime after conversion||To validate (for Jews) God’s working as Joel prophesied|
|Acts 10:44-47||Gentile believers||Jewish believers who doubted God’s plan||Immediately after conversion||To validate (for Jews) God’s working among Gentiles as He had among Jews|
|Acts 19:1-7||Believers||Jews who needed confirmation of Paul’s message||Immediately after conversion||To validate (for Jews) Paul’s gospel message|
Were the tongues here the same as in Corinth (1 Corinthians 12; 1 Corinthians 14)? If so, was ecstatic speech present on both occasions, and or were foreign languages present on both occasions? Or were the tongues here foreign languages and the tongues in Corinth ecstatic speech? [Note: See Kent, pp. 30-32, for a clear presentation of these views.]
"It is well known that the terminology of Luke in Acts and of Paul in 1 Corinthians is the same. In spite of this some have contended for a difference between the gift as it occurred in Acts and as it occurred in Corinth. This is manifestly impossible from the standpoint of the terminology. This conclusion is strengthened when we remember that Luke and Paul were constant companions and would have, no doubt, used the same terminology in the same sense. . . . In other words, it is most likely that the early believers used a fixed terminology in describing this gift, a terminology understood by them all. If this be so, then the full description of the gift on Pentecost must be allowed to explain the more limited descriptions that occur elsewhere." [Note: Johnson, pp. 310-11. See also Rackham, p. 21. Longenecker, p. 271, pointed out the differences between tongues in Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 12, 14.]
Probably, then, the gift of tongues was a term that covered speaking in a language or languages that the speaker had never studied. This gift was very helpful as the believers began to carry out the Great Commission, especially in their evangelization of Jews. Acts documents and emphasizes the Lord’s work in executing that mission.
Evidently most if not all the believers present spoke in tongues (Acts 2:3; Acts 2:7-11). It has been suggested that the tongues speaking on the day of Pentecost was not a normal manifestation of the gift of tongues. It may have been a unique divine intervention (miracle) instead. [Note: See my note on 19:6 for further comments on the cessation of the gift of tongues.]
God gave three signs of the Spirit’s coming to the Jews who were celebrating the Feast of Passover in Jerusalem: wind, fire, and inspired speech. Each of these signified God’s presence in Jewish history.
"At least three distinct things were accomplished on the Day of Pentecost concerning the relationship of the Spirit with men:
(1) The Spirit made His advent into the world here to abide throughout this dispensation. . . . [i.e., permanent indwelling]
(2) Again, Pentecost marked the beginning of the formation of a new body, or organism which, in its relation to Christ, is called ’the church which is his body.’ . . . [i.e., Spirit baptism]
(3) So, also, at Pentecost the lives that were prepared were filled with the Spirit, or the Spirit came upon them for power as promised." [i.e., Spirit filling] [Note: L. S. Chafer, He That Is Spiritual, pp. 19-21.]
The Jews living in Jerusalem were probably people from the Diaspora (dispersion, residing outside the land of Palestine) who had returned to settle down in the Jewish homeland. Luke’s other uses of katoikountes ("living") are in Acts 1:20; Acts 7:2; Acts 7:4; Acts 7:48; Acts 9:22; Acts 11:29; Acts 13:27; Acts 17:24; Acts 17:26; and Acts 22:12, and these suggest permanence compared with epidemeo ("sojourning") in Acts 2:10.
"It was . . . customary for many pious Jews who had spent their lives abroad to return to end their days as close to the Temple as possible." [Note: Neil, p. 73. Cf. Kent, p. 30, n. 9.]
A list of nations from which they had come follows in Acts 2:9-10. The sound that attracted attention may have been the wind (Acts 2:2) or the sound of the tongues speakers (Acts 2:4). The Greek word translated "noise" in Acts 2:2 is echos, but the word rendered "sound" in Acts 2:6 is phones. The context seems to favor the sound of the tongues speakers. Acts 2:2 says the noise filled the house where the disciples were, but there is no indication that it was heard outside the house. Also Acts 2:6 connects the sound with the languages being spoken. The text does not clearly identify when what was happening in the upper room became public knowledge or when the disciples moved out of the upper room to a larger venue. Evidently upon hearing the sound these residents of Jerusalem assembled to investigate what was happening.
When they found the source of the sound, they were amazed to discover Galileans speaking in the native languages of the remote regions from which these Diaspora Jews had come. The Jews in Jerusalem who could not speak Aramaic would have known Greek, so there was no need for other languages. Yet what they heard were the languages that were common in the remote places in which they had lived. Perhaps the sound came from the upper room initially, and then when the disciples moved out into the streets the people followed them into the Temple area. Since about 3,000 people became Christians this day (Acts 2:41) the multitude (Acts 2:6) must have numbered many thousands. About 200,000 people could assemble in the temple area. [Note: J. P. Polhill, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 118, footnote 135; Joachim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, p. 83.] This fact has led some interpreters to assume that that may have been where this multitude congregated.
The amazement of the onlookers 2:5-13
Most of the disciples were Galileans at this time. They were identifiable by their rural appearance and their accent (cf. Matthew 26:73).
"Galileans had difficulty pronouncing gutturals and had the habit of swallowing syllables when speaking; so they were looked down upon by the people of Jerusalem as being provincial (cf. Mark 14:70). Therefore, since the disciples who were speaking were Galileans, it bewildered those who heard because the disciples could not by themselves have learned so many different languages." [Note: Longenecker, p. 272.]
Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and Mesopotamians lived to the east and north of Palestine. Some of them were probably descendants of the Jews who did not return from the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. Many texts do not include "Judea," but if authentic it probably refers to the Roman province of Judea that included Syria. Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia were all provinces in Asia Minor to the northwest. Egypt, Libya, and Cyrene lay to the south and west. Simon of Cyrene, in North Africa, had carried Jesus’ cross (Luke 23:26). Rome, of course, lay farther northwest in Europe. Luke had a special interest in the gospel reaching Rome, so that may be the reason he singled it out for special mention here. It may be that some of these Roman expatriates returned to Rome and planted the church there. Ambrosiaster, a fourth-century Latin father, wrote that the Roman church was founded without any special miracles and without contact with any apostle. [Note: Ibid., p. 273.] Josephus wrote that visitors to Jersalem for a great feast could swell the population to nearly 3,000,000. [Note: Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, 6:9:3.]
"The Roman Empire had an estimated population of fifty to eighty million, with about seven million free Roman citizens (Schnabel 2004: 558-59). About two and a half million people inhabited Judea, and there were about five million Jews altogether in the empire, 10 percent of the whole population." [Note: Bock, Acts, p. 43.]
A proselyte was a Gentile who had adopted Judaism and had become a part of the nation of Israel by submitting to three rites. Acts and Matthew are the only New Testament books that mention proselytes. These rites were circumcision (if a male), self-baptism before witnesses, and ideally the offering of a sacrifice. [Note: F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of Acts, p. 64.] Cretans lived on the island of Crete, and "Arabs" refers to the Arabians who lived east of Palestine between the Red Sea and the Euphrates River. All these heard the mighty deeds of God (i.e., the gospel) in their own languages. This was a reversal of what took place at Babel (Genesis 11) and illustrated the human unity that God’s unhindered working produces.
"Although every Jew could not be present for Peter’s speech, the narrator does not hesitate to depict representatives of the Jews of every land as Peter’s listeners. This feature shows a concern not just with Gentiles but with a gospel for all Jews, which can bring the restoration of Israel as a united people under its Messiah." [Note: Tannehill, 2:27.]
"The point [of Luke’s list] is not to provide a tour of the known world but to mention nations that had known extensive Jewish populations, which of course would include Judea. [Note: See D. J. Williams, Acts, pp. 28-29.] More to the point, Luke’s arrangement involves first listing the major inhabited nations or regions, then those from the islands (Cretans), then finally those from desert regions (Arabs)." [Note: Witherington, p. 136.]
Unable or unwilling to accept the miraculous working of God in their midst some observers charged that the believers were under the control of wine rather than the Holy Spirit (cf. Ephesians 5:18; 1 Corinthians 14:23). The Greek word for wine here (gleukous) means sweet wine, which had a higher alcoholic content than regular wine. [Note: Blaiklock, p. 58.]
Peter, again representing the apostles (cf. Acts 1:15), addressed the assembled crowd. He probably gave this speech in the Temple outer courtyard (the court of the Gentiles). He probably spoke in the vernacular, in Aramaic or possibly in Koine (common) Greek, rather than in tongues. Peter had previously denied that he knew Jesus, but now he was publicly representing Him. The apostle distinguished two types of Jews in his audience: native Jews living within the province of Judea, and all who were living in Jerusalem. The Diaspora contingent was probably the group most curious about the tongues phenomenon. Peter began by refuting the charge of drunkenness. It was too early in the day for that since it was only 9:00 a.m. The Jews began each day at sundown. There were about 12 hours of darkness, and then there were 12 hours of daylight. So the third hour of the day would have been about 9:00 a.m.
"Unfortunately, this argument was more telling in antiquity than today." [Note: Longenecker, p. 275.]
"Scrupulous Jews drank wine only with flesh, and, on the authority of Exodus 16:8, ate bread in the morning and flesh only in the evening. Hence wine could be drunk only in the evening. This is the point of Peter’s remark." [Note: Blaiklock, p. 58]
Peter’s defense 2:14-21
Peter’s Pentecost sermon 2:14-41
"The miraculous is not self-authenticating, nor does it inevitably and uniformly convince. There must also be the preparation of the heart and the proclamation of the message if miracles are to accomplish their full purpose. This was true even for the miracle of the Spirit’s coming at Pentecost. . . . All this prepares the reader for Peter’s sermon, which is the initial proclamation of the gospel message to a prepared people." [Note: Longenecker, p. 273.]
Barclay pointed out four different kinds of preaching that the early Christians practiced. [Note: Barclay, pp. 16-17.] I would add two more. The first is kerugma, which means proclamation of the clear facts of the Christian message. The second is didache or teaching. This was explanation and interpretation of the facts-the "so what?" Third, there was paraklesis, exhortation to apply the message. Fourth, there was homilia, the treatment of a subject or area of life in view of the Christian message. Fifth, there was prophesia, the sharing of a word from God be it new revelation or old. Sixth, there was apologia, a defense of the Christian message in the face of hostile adversaries. Often the speaker combined two or more of these kinds of address into one message as Peter did in the sermon that follows. Here we find defense (Acts 2:14-21), proclamation (Acts 2:22-36), and exhortation (Acts 2:37-41). This speech is an excellent example of forensic rhetoric, the rhetoric of defense and attack. [Note: Witherington, p. 138.]
Was Peter claiming that the Spirit’s outpouring on the day of Pentecost fulfilled Joel’s prophecy (Joel 2:28-32)? Conservative commentators express considerable difference of opinion on this point. This is an interpretive problem because not only Joel but other Old Testament prophets prophesied that God would give His Spirit to individual believers in the future (Isaiah 32:15; Isaiah 44:3; Ezekiel 36:27; Ezekiel 37:14; Ezekiel 39:29; Zechariah 12:10). Moreover John the Baptist also predicted the pouring out of God’s Spirit on believers (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33).
Some commentators believe that Peter was claiming that all of what Joel prophesied happened that day.
"The fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel which the people had just witnessed was a sign of the beginning of the Messianic age . . ." [Note: F. J. Foakes-Jackson, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 15.]
"What was happening was to be seen as the fulfillment of a prophecy by Joel. . . . Peter regards Joel’s prophecy as applying to the last days, and claims that his hearers are now living in the last days. God’s final act of salvation has begun to take place." [Note: Marshall, The Acts . . ., p. 73. For refutation of the view that the fulfillment of Joel 2 in Acts 2 has removed any barriers to women clergy, see Bruce A. Baker, "The New Covenant and Egalitarianism," Journal of Dispensational Theology 12:37 (December 2008):27-51.]
"For Peter, this outpouring of the Spirit began the period known in Scripture as the ’last days’ or the ’last hour’ (1 John 2:18), and thus the whole Christian era is included in the expression." [Note: Kent, p. 32. See also Longenecker, pp. 275-76; John R. W. Stott, The Message of Acts, p. 73; Barrett, 1:135-39; and Robertson, 3:26-28.]
Other scholars believe God fulfilled Joel’s prophecy only partially. Some of these, for example, believed that He fulfilled Acts 2:17-18 on the day of Pentecost, but He will yet fulfill Acts 2:19-21 in the future. [Note: Ironside, pp. 46-48; Zane C. Hodges, "A Dispensational Understanding of Acts 2," in Issues in Dispensationalism, pp. 168-71. See also Homer Heater Jr., "Evidence from Joel and Amos," in A Case for Premillennialism: A New Consensus, pp. 157-64; Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Back Toward the Future: Hints for Interpreting Biblical Prophecy, p. 43; and Daniel J. Treier, "The Fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32: A Multiple-Lens Approach," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40:1 (March 1997):13-26.] I believe the following explanation falls into this category.
"This clause does not mean, ’This is like that’; it means Pentecost fulfilled what Joel had described. However, the prophecies of Joel quoted in Acts 2:19-20 were not fulfilled. The implication is that the remainder would be fulfilled if Israel would repent." [Note: Toussaint, p. 358. Cf. Pentecost, p. 271.]
"Certainly the outpouring of the Spirit on a hundred and twenty Jews could not in itself fulfill the prediction of such outpouring ’upon all flesh’; but it was the beginning of the fulfillment." [Note: Bruce, Commentary on . . ., p. 68. See also Bock, Dispensationalism, . . ., pp. 47-48; Ladd, pp. 1127-28; Kenneth L. Barker, "The Scope and Center of Old and New Testament Theology and Hope," in Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church, pp. 325-27; Robert L. Saucy, The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism, pp. 74, 178-80; and D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, p. 61.]
Still others believe Peter was not claiming the fulfillment of any of Joel’s prophecy. They believe he was only comparing what had happened with what would happen in the future as Joel predicted.
"Peter was not saying that the prophecy was fulfilled at Pentecost or even that it was partially fulfilled; knowing from Joel what the Spirit could do, he was simply reminding the Jews that they should have recognized what they were then seeing as a work of the Spirit also. He continued to quote from Joel at length only in order to be able to include the salvation invitation recorded in Acts 2:21." [Note: Charles C. Ryrie, The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 20-21. See also McGee, 4:519; and Warren W. Wiersbe, "Joel," in The Bible Exposition Commentary/Prophets, p. 333.]
"It seems quite obvious that Peter did not quote Joel’s prophecy in the sense of its fulfillment in the events of Pentecost, but purely as a prophetic illustration of those events. As a matter of fact, to avoid confusion, Peter’s quotation evidently purposely goes beyond any possible fulfillment at Pentecost by including events in the still future day of the Lord, preceding kingdom establishment (Acts 2:19-20). . . . In the reference there is not the slightest hint at a continual fulfillment during the church age or a coming fulfillment toward the end of the church age." [Note: Merrill F. Unger, "The Significance of Pentecost," Bibliotheca Sacra 122:486 (April-June 1965):176-77. See also John Nelson Darby, Meditations on the Acts of the Apostles, 1:17; and idem, Synopsis of the Books of the Bible, 4:13. Underlining added for clarification.]
"Virtually nothing that happened in Acts 2 is predicted in Joel 2. What actually did happen in Acts two (the speaking in tongues) was not mentioned by Joel. What Joel did mention (dreams, visions, the sun darkened, the moon turned into blood) did not happen in Acts two. Joel was speaking of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the whole of the nation of Israel in the last days, while Acts two speaks of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Twelve Apostles or, at most, on the 120 in the Upper Room. This is a far cry from Joel’s all flesh. However, there was one point of similarity, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, resulting in unusual manifestations. Acts two does not change or reinterpret Joel two, nor does it deny that Joel two will have a literal fulfillment when the Holy Spirit will be poured out on the whole nation of Israel. It is simply applying it to a New Testament event because of one point of similarity." [Note: Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology, pp. 844-45. See also Arno C. Gaebelein, The Acts of the Apostles: An Exposition, p. 53; Thomas D. Ice, "Dispensational Hermeneutics," in Issues in Dispensationalism, p. 41; Renald E. Showers, Maranatha: Our Lord, Come! A Definitive Study of the Rapture of the Church, pp. 36-38; Merrill F. Unger, Zechariah, p. 215; and Wiersbe, 1:409. Underlining added for clarification.]
"Peter did not state that Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. The details of Joel 2:30-32 (cp. Acts 2:19-20) were not realized at that time. Peter quoted Joel’s prediction as an illustration of what was taking place in his day, and as a guarantee that God would yet completely fulfill all that Joel had prophesied. The time of that fulfillment is stated here (’aferward,’ cp. Hosea 3:5), i.e. in the latter days when Israel turns to the LORD." [Note: The New Scofield Reference Bible, p. 930. Underlining added for clarification.]
I prefer this second view. Some writers have pointed out that the phrase "this is what" (touto estin to) was a particular type of expression called a "pesher."
"His [Peter’s] use of the Joel passage is in line with what since the discovery of the DSS [Dead Sea Scrolls] we have learned to call a ’pesher’ (from Heb. peser, ’interpretation’). It lays all emphasis on fulfillment without attempting to exegete the details of the biblical prophecy it ’interprets.’" [Note: Longenecker, p. 275.]
Peter seems to have been claiming that what God had predicted through Joel for the end times was analogous to the events of Pentecost. The omission of "fulfilled" here may be deliberate to help his hearers avoid concluding that what was happening was the complete fulfillment of what Joel predicted. It was similar to what Joel predicted.
Peter made a significant change in Joel’s prophecy as he quoted it from the Septuagint, and this change supports the view that he was not claiming complete fulfillment. First, he changed "after this" (Joel 2:28) to "in the last days" (Acts 2:17). In the context of Joel’s prophecy the time in view is the day of the Lord: the Tribulation (Joel 2:30-31) and the Millennium (Joel 2:28-29). Peter interpreted this time as the last days. Many modern interpreters believe that when Peter said "the last days" he meant the days in which he lived. However, he was not in the Tribulation or the Millennium. Thus he looked forward to the last days as being future. The "last days" is a phrase that some New Testament writers used to describe the age in which we live (2 Timothy 3:1; Hebrews 1:2; James 5:3; 1 Peter 1:5; 1 Peter 1:20; 2 Peter 3:3; 1 John 2:18; Judges 1:18), but in view of what Joel wrote that must not be its meaning here. In the Old Testament "the last days" refers to the days before the age to come, namely, the age of Messiah’s earthly reign. That is what it means here.
There are some similarities between what Joel prophesied would come "after this" (Joel 2:28) and what happened on Pentecost. The similarities are why Peter quoted Joel. Yet the differences are what enable us to see that this prophecy was not completely fulfilled then. For example, God had not poured out His Spirit on "all mankind" (Acts 2:17), as He will in the future. He had only poured out His Spirit on some believers in Jesus. Joel referred to deliverance in the Tribulation (Joel 2:32), but Peter applied this offer to those who needed salvation in his audience. Joel referred to Yahweh as the LORD, but Peter probably referred to Jesus as the Lord (cf. Acts 1:24).
Many dispensationalists understand Peter as saying that Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled initially or partially on Pentecost (view two above). Progressive dispensationalists believe that the eschatological kingdom age of which Joel spoke had begun. Therefore the kingdom had come in its first phase, which they view as the church. The New Covenant had begun, and the Holy Spirit’s indwelling was a sign of that, but that does not mean the messianic reign had begun. The Old Covenant went into effect some 500 years before any king reigned over Israel, and the New Covenant went into effect at least 2,000 years before Messiah will reign over Israel and the world. The beginning of these covenants did not signal the beginning of a king’s reign. One progressive dispensationalist wrote, ". . . the new covenant is correlative to the kingdom of God . . ." [Note: Saucy, The Case . . ., p. 134.] I disagree with this.
Not all normative dispensationalists agree on the interpretation. By "normative dispensationalists" I mean traditional dispensationalists, not progressives, including classical and revised varieties. [Note: See Craig A. Blaising, Progressive Dispensationalism, pp. 9-56, for these labels.] Some of them, like Toussaint, see a partial fulfillment on Pentecost, while others, like Ryrie, see no fulfillment then.
How one views the church will affect how he or she understands this passage. If one views the church as the first stage of the messianic kingdom, as progressive dispensationalists do, then he or she may see this as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies about the outpouring of the Spirit in the eschatological age. If one views the church as distinct from the messianic (Davidic) kingdom, then one may or may not see this as a partial fulfillment. It seems more consistent to me to see it as a partial fulfillment and as a similar outpouring, specifically the one Jesus predicted in the Upper Room (John 14:16-17; John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7). Some normative dispensationalists who hold the no fulfillment position distinguish baptism with the Spirit, the future event, from baptism by the Spirit, the Pentecost event. [Note: E.g., Merrill F. Unger, The Baptizing Work of the Holy Spirit.] There does not seem to me to be adequate exegetical basis for this distinction. [Note: See Saucy, The Case . . ., p. 181.]
"Realized eschatologists and amillennialists usually take Peter’s inclusion of such physical imagery [i.e., "blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke," and "the sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood"] in a spiritual way, finding in what happened at Pentecost the spiritual fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy-a fulfillment not necessarily tied to any natural phenomena. This, they suggest, offers an interpretative key to the understanding of similar portrayals of natural phenomena and apocalyptic imagery in the OT." [Note: Longenecker, p. 276.]
By repeating, "And they will prophesy" (Acts 2:18), which is not in Joel’s text, Peter stressed prophecy as a most important similarity between what Joel predicted and what his hearers were witnessing. God was revealing something new through the apostles. Peter proceeded to explain what that was.
Another variation of interpretation concerning the Joel passage that some dispensationalists espouse is this. They believe that Peter thought Joel’s prophecy could have been fulfilled quite soon if the Jewish leaders had repented and believed in Jesus. This may be what Peter thought, but it is very difficult to be dogmatic about what might have been in Peter’s mind when he did not explain it. Jesus had told the parable of the talents to correct those "who supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately" (Luke 19:11-27). He also predicted that "the kingdom of God will be taken away from you [Jews], and given to a nation producing the fruit of it" (Matthew 21:43). Daniel predicted that seven years of terrible trouble were coming on the Jews (Daniel 9:24-27; cf. Matthew 24-25). So there had to be at least seven years of tribulation between Jesus’ ascension and His return. If advocates of this view are correct, Peter either did not know this, or he forgot it, or he interpreted the Tribulation as a judgment that God would not send if Israel repented. Of course, Peter did not understand, or he forgot, what the Old Testament revealed about God’s acceptance of Gentiles (cf. ch. 10). Peter may have thought that Jesus would return and set up the kingdom immediately if the Jewish leaders repented, but it is hard to prove conclusively that God was reoffering the kingdom to Israel at this time. There are no direct statements to that effect in the text. More comments about this reoffer of the kingdom view will follow later.
Peter argued that God had attested to Jesus’ Messiahship by performing miracles through Him. "Miracles" is the general word, which Peter defined further as wonders (miracles eliciting awe) and signs (miracles signifying something). Jesus’ miracles attested the fact that God had empowered Him (cf. John 3:2), and they led many people who witnessed them to conclude that He was the Son of David (Matthew 12:23). Others, however, chose to believe that He received His power from Satan rather than God (Matthew 12:24).
Peter’s proclamation 2:22-36
In this part of his speech Peter cited three proofs that Jesus was the Messiah: His miracles (Acts 2:22), His resurrection (Acts 2:23-32), and His ascension (Acts 2:33-35). Acts 2:36 is a summary conclusion.
Peter pointed out that Jesus’ crucifixion had been no accident but was part of God’s eternal plan (cf. Acts 3:18; Acts 4:28; Acts 13:29). Peter laid guilt for Jesus’ death at the Jews’ feet (cf. Acts 2:36; Acts 3:15; Acts 4:10; Acts 5:30; Acts 7:52; Acts 10:39; Acts 13:28) and on the Gentile Romans (cf. Acts 4:27; Luke 23:24-25). Note Peter’s reference to both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man in this verse.
"God had willed the death of Jesus (John 3:16) and the death of Judas (Acts 1:16), but that fact did not absolve Judas from his responsibility and guilt (Luke 22:22). He acted as a free moral agent." [Note: Robertson, 3:29.]
The ultimate cause of Jesus’ death was God’s plan and foreknowledge, but the secondary cause was the antagonism of godless Jewish and Roman men. Really the sins of every human being put Jesus on the cross.
God, a higher Judge, reversed the decision of Jesus’ human judges by resurrecting Him. God released Jesus’ from the pangs of death (Gr. odinas tou thanatou), namely, its awful clutches (cf. 2 Samuel 22:6; Psalms 18:4-6; Psalms 116:3). A higher court in heaven overturned the decision of the lower courts on earth. It was impossible for death to hold Jesus because He had committed no sins Himself. He had not personally earned the wages of sin (Romans 6:23), but He voluntarily took upon Himself the sins of others.
Peter appealed to Psalms 16:8-11 to prove that David prophesied Messiah’s resurrection in the Jewish Scriptures. [Note: See Gregory V. Trull, "Views on Peter’s Use of Psalms 16:8 in Acts 2:25-32," Bibliotheca Sacra 161:642 (April-June 2004):194-214, for seven views; and idem, "Peter’s Interpretation of Psalms 16:8-11 in Acts 2:25-32," Bibliotheca Sacra 161:644 (October-December 2004):432-48.] Psalms 16 is perhaps the clearest prediction of Messiah’s resurrection in the Old Testament. As earlier (Acts 1:20), Peter saw that Messiah’s (Jesus’) experiences fulfilled David’s words.
In this Psalm David spoke of God as being at his right hand, a figure for close association and powerful assistance. Peter saw Jesus’ presence in heaven at God’s right hand as an extension of what David had written.
God’s presence with David made him happy and hopeful. Likewise the fact that Jesus was now at God’s right hand made Peter happy and hopeful.
David said he would not go to Hades (the place of departed spirits, Old Testament Sheol), and his body would not suffer decay. This was a poetic way of expressing his belief that God would not allow him to experience ultimate humiliation. David referred to himself as God’s devout one. Peter saw this fulfilled literally in Jesus’ resurrection from the grave after only three days. Jesus was the supremely devout one.
David ended this psalm by rejoicing that, in spite of his adversaries, God would spare his life and enable him to enjoy God’s presence in the future. Peter interpreted these statements as referring to Jesus entering into new life following His resurrection and into God’s presence following His ascension.
"Peter quotes from Psalms 16, not to teach that Christ is on the Davidic throne, but rather to show that David predicted the resurrection and enthronement of Christ after His death. The enthronement on David’s throne is a yet-future event while the enthronement at His Father’s right hand is an accomplished fact." [Note: Pentecost, pp. 273.]
Peter next argued that David’s words just quoted could not refer literally to David since David had indeed died and his body had undergone corruption. Ancient tradition places the location of King David’s tomb south of the old city of David, near the Pool of Siloam. David’s words were a prophecy that referred to Messiah as well as a description of his own experience. God’s oath to place one of David’s descendants on his throne as Israel’s king is in Psalms 132:11 (cf. 2 Samuel 7:16). [Note: See Robert F. O’Toole, "Acts 2:30 and the Davidic Covenant of Pentecost," Journal of Biblical Literature 102:2 (1983):245-58.]
Peter did not say that Jesus now sits on David’s throne (Acts 2:30), which is what many progressive dispensationalists affirm. [Note: E.g., Bock, Dispensationalism, . . ., pp. 49-50; Blaising, Progressive Dispensationalism, pp. 175-87; and Saucy, The Case . . ., p. 59-80. For refutations of the progressive dispensationalist view, see John F. Walvoord, "Biblical Kingdoms Compared and Contrasted," in Issues in Dispensationalism, especially pp. 89-90; David A. Dean, "A Study of the Enthronement of Christ in Acts 2, 3" (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1992); McLean, pp. 223-24; Ryrie, Dispensationalism, pp. 168-69; Hodges, "A Dispensational . . .," pp. 174-78; and Stanley D. Toussaint, "The Contingency of the Coming of the Kingdom," in Integrity of Heart, Skillfulness of Hands, pp. 231-32. See Charles C. Ryrie, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith, pp. 81-82; and John F. Walvoord, Jesus Christ Our Lord, pp. 224-26, for the normative dispensational interpretations of the Davidic Covenant passages.] He said that David prophesied that God had sworn to seat a descendant of David on David’s throne. Jesus now sits on a throne in heaven, but He has yet to sit on David’s throne, which is a throne on earth. He will sit on David’s throne when He returns to the earth to reign as Messiah.
Peter equated Jesus with the Christ (Messiah, Acts 2:31). He also attributed Jesus’ resurrection to God again (cf. Acts 2:24). The resurrection of Jesus Christ was one of the apostles’ strongest emphases (cf. Acts 3:15; Acts 3:26; Acts 4:10; Acts 5:30; Acts 10:40; Acts 13:30; Acts 13:33-34; Acts 13:37; Acts 17:31; Acts 26:23). They proceeded to bear witness to what they had seen and heard as Christ had commanded and foretold (Acts 1:8).
Peter next explained that it was Jesus, now at God’s right hand, who had poured forth the promised Holy Spirit from the Father (John 14:16-17; John 14:26; John 15:26-27). The evidence of this was the tongues of fire and demonstration of tongues speaking that his audience saw and heard. The right hand of God figuratively repesents supreme power and authority, and reference to it sets up the quotation of Psalms 110:1 in the next verse.
Peter mentioned all three members of the Trinity in this verse.
"Throughout Acts, the presence of the Spirit is seen as the distinguishing mark of Christianity-it is what makes a person a Christian." [Note: Witherington, p. 140.]
Peter then added a second evidence that Jesus was the Christ. He had proved that David had prophesied Messiah’s resurrection (Acts 2:27). Now he said that David also prophesied Messiah’s ascension (Psalms 110:1). This was a passage from the Old Testament that Jesus had earlier applied to Himself (Matthew 22:43-44; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-42). It may have been Jesus’ use of this passage that enabled His disciples to grasp the significance of His resurrection. It may also have served as the key to their understanding of these prophecies of Messiah in the Old Testament.
David evidently meant that the LORD (Yahweh, God the Father) said the following to David’s Lord (Adonai, Master, evidently a reference to Messiah or possibly Solomon). David may have composed this psalm on the occasion of Solomon’s coronation as Israel’s king. Clearly it is an enthronement psalm. Yahweh, the true King of Israel, extended the privilege of serving as His administrator to Messiah (or Solomon), His vice-regent. Yahweh included a promise that He would subdue His vice-regent’s enemies. Peter took this passage as a prophecy about David’s greatest son, Messiah. Yahweh said to David’s Lord, Messiah, sit beside me and rule for me, and I will subdue your enemies. This is something God the Father said to God the Son. Peter understood David’s reference to his Lord as extending to Messiah, David’s ultimate descendant.
"Peter’s statement that Jesus is presently at ’the right hand of God,’ in fulfillment of Psalms 110:1, has been a focal point of disagreement between dispensational and non-dispensational interpreters. Traditional dispensationalists have understood this as teaching the present session of Christ in heaven before his return to fulfill the Davidic messianic kingdom promise of a literal reign on earth. They are careful to distinguish between the Davidic throne and the position that Christ presently occupies in heaven at the right hand of God (Acts 2:30). [Note: E.g., Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom, p. 401.]
"Non-dispensationalists, by contrast, see Peter’s statement as a clear indication that the New Testament has reinterpreted the Davidic messianic prophecies. The messianic throne has been transferred from Jerusalem to heaven, and Jesus ’has begun his messianic reign as the Davidic king.’" [Note: Saucy, The Case . . ., pp. 69-70. His quotation is from George E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, p. 336. Cf. Oswald T. Allis, Prophecy and the Church, p. 136. Saucy’s discussion of "the right hand of God," pp. 72-74, is helpful.]
"This does not mean that Jesus is at the present time ruling from the throne of David, but that He is now at ’the right hand of the Father’ until His enemies are vanquished (Acts 2:33-35)." [Note: Cleon L. Rogers Jr., "The Davidic Covenant in Acts-Revelation," Bibliotheca Sacra 151:601 (January-March 1994):74.]
". . . it is preferable to see David’s earthly throne as different from the Lord’s heavenly throne, because of the different contexts of Psalms 110, 132. Psalms 110 refers to the Lord’s throne (Acts 2:1) and a Melchizedekian priesthood (Acts 2:4) but Psalms 132 refers to David’s throne (Acts 2:11) and (Aaronic) priests (Acts 2:9; Acts 2:16). . . .
"Because the Messiah is the anointed Descendant of David and the Davidic Heir, He presently possesses the right to reign though He has not yet assumed David’s throne. This was also true of David, who assumed the throne over Israel years after he was anointed.
"Before Christ will be seated on David’s throne (Psalms 110:2), He is seated at the right hand of God (Acts 2:1). His present session is a position of honor and power, but the exercise of that power is restricted to what God has chosen to give the Son. God the Father reigns and has decreed that Christ dispense blessings from the Holy Spirit to believers in this present age. When Christ returns to earth to begin His messianic reign on David’s throne, He will conquer His enemies (Psalms 110:2; Psalms 110:5-7). Until then, He is now seated at God’s right hand (Acts 2:1), exercising the decreed role of the Melchizedekian King-Priest (Acts 2:4), the believer’s great High Priest (Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 4:14-15; Hebrews 5:10; Hebrews 6:20; Hebrews 7:26; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 9:11; Hebrews 10:21)." [Note: Elliott E. Johnson, "Hermeneutical Principles and the Interpretation of Psalms 110," Bibliotheca Sacra 149:596 (October-December 1992):434, 436.]
"Christ’s enthronement at the time of His ascension was not to David’s throne, but rather was a restoration to the position at His Father’s right hand (Hebrews 1:3; Acts 7:56), which position He had given up at the time of the Incarnation (Philippians 2:6-8). It was for this restoration that Christ had prayed to His Father in John 17:5. Since Christ had never occupied David’s throne before the Incarnation it would have been impossible to restore Him to what He had not occupied previously. He was petitioning the Father to restore Him to His place at the Father’s right hand. Peter, in his message, establishes the fact of resurrection by testifying to the Ascension, for one who had not been resurrected could not ascend." [Note: Pentecost, pp. 272. Cf. Hodges, "A Dispensational . . .," pp. 172-78.]
|Normative dispensationalists:||Christ’s messianic reign will be on earth.|
|Progressive dispensationalists:||Christ’s messianic reign is now from heaven and will be on earth.|
|Non-dispensational premillenarians:||Christ’s messianic reign is now from heaven and will be on earth.|
|Non-millennarians:||Christ’s messianic reign is now and will be from heaven.|
Peter wanted every Israelite to consider the evidence he had just presented because it proved "for certain" that Jesus of Nazareth (cf. Acts 2:22) was God’s sovereign ruler (Lord) and anointed Messiah (Christ). It is clear from the context that by "Lord" Peter was speaking of Jesus as the Father’s co-regent. He referred to the same "Lord" he had mentioned in Acts 2:21.
"This title of ’Lord’ was a more important title than Messiah, for it pictured Jesus’ total authority and His ability and right to serve as an equal with God the Father." [Note: Bock, "A Theology . . .," p. 104. See Witherington’s excursus on Luke’s Christology, pp. 147-53.]
Normative dispensationalists (both classical and revised, to use Blaising’s labels) hold that Peter only meant that Jesus of Nazareth was the Davidic Messiah. Progressive dispensationalists, along with covenant theologians (i.e., non-dispensationalists), believe that Peter meant that Jesus not only was the Davidic Messiah but that He was also reigning as the Davidic Messiah then. Thus the Davidic messianic kingdom had begun. Its present (already) phase is with Jesus on the Davidic throne ruling from heaven, and its future (not yet) phase will be when Jesus returns to earth to rule on earth.
Progressive dispensationalists (and covenant theologians) also believe that Jesus’ reign as Messiah began during his earthly ministry. [Note: Blaising, Progressive Dispensationalism, p. 248.] They see the church as the present stage in the progressive unfolding of the messianic kingdom (hence the name "progressive dispensationalism"). [Note: Ibid., p. 49.] Normative dispensationalists interpret the Davidic kingdom as entirely earthly and say that Jesus has not yet begun His messianic reign. He now sits on the Father’s throne in heaven ruling sovereignly, not on David’s throne fulfilling Old Testament prophecies concerning the Davidic king’s future reign (cf. Revelation 3:21).
Peter again mentioned his hearers’ responsibility for crucifying Jesus to convict them of their sin and to make them feel guilty (cf. Acts 2:23). [Note: See Darrell L. Bock, "Jesus as Lord in Acts and in the Gospel Message," Bibliotheca Sacra 143:570 (April-June 1986):147-48.]
"Peter did not present the cross as the place where the Sinless Substitute died for the world, but where Israel killed her own Messiah!" [Note: Wiersbe, 1:410.]
"Peter’s preaching, then, in Acts 2:14 ff. must be seen as essentially a message to the Jews of the world, not to the whole world." [Note: Witherington, pp. 140-41.]
"The beginning and ending of the main body of the speech emphasize the function of disclosure. Peter begins, ’Let this be known to you,’ and concludes, ’Therefore, let the whole house of Israel know assuredly . . .,’ forming an inclusion (Acts 2:14; Acts 2:36). In the context this is a new disclosure, for it is the first public proclamation of Jesus’ resurrection and its significance. Acts 2:22-36 is a compact, carefully constructed argument leading to the conclusion in Acts 2:36: ’God made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.’ Peter not only proclaims Jesus’ authority but also reveals the intolerable situation of the audience, who share responsibility for Jesus’ crucifixion. The Pentecost speech is part of a recognition scene, where, in the manner of tragedy, persons who have acted blindly against their own best interests suddenly recognize their error." [Note: Tannehill, 2:35.]
"The Pentecost speech is primarily the disclosure to its audience of God’s surprising reversal of their intentions, for their rejection has ironically resulted in Jesus’ exaltation as Messiah, Spirit-giver, and source of repentance and forgiveness." [Note: Ibid., 2:37.]
God bestowed His Spirit on the believers on Pentecost (and subsequently) for the same reason He poured out His Spirit on Jesus Christ when He began His earthly ministry. He did so to empower them to proclaim the gospel of God’s grace (cf. Acts 1:8). Luke recorded both outpourings (Luke 3:21-22; Acts 2:2-4; cf. Acts 4:27; Acts 10:28). This fact is further evidence that Luke wanted his readers to view their own ministries as the extension of Jesus’ ministry (Acts 1:1-2).
"Luke’s specific emphasis (and contribution) to NT pneumatology is that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church not just to incorporate each believer into the body of Christ or provide the greater new covenant intimacy with him, but also to consecrate the church to the task of worldwide prophetic ministry as defined in Luke 4:16-30." [Note: Russell, p. 63.]
Peter mentioned that Jesus was now at the right hand of God in heaven four times in this part of his speech (Acts 2:25; Acts 2:30; Acts 2:33-34). This had particular relevance for "all the house of Israel" (cf. Acts 2:14; Acts 2:22; Acts 2:29).
"Apparently, therefore, the messiahship of Jesus was the distinctive feature of the church’s witness within Jewish circles, signifying, as it does, his fulfillment of Israel’s hopes and his culmination of God’s redemptive purposes.
"The title ’Lord’ was also proclaimed christologically in Jewish circles, with evident intent to apply to Jesus all that was said of God in the OT . . . . But ’Lord’ came to have particular relevance to the church’s witness to Gentiles just as ’Messiah’ was more relevant to the Jewish world. So in Acts Luke reports the proclamation of Jesus ’the Christ’ before Jewish audiences both in Palestine and among the Diaspora, whereas Paul in his letters to Gentile churches generally uses Christ as a proper name and proclaims Christ Jesus ’the Lord.’" [Note: Longenecker, p. 281.]
The Holy Spirit used Peter’s sermon to bring conviction, as Jesus had predicted (John 16:8-11). He convicted Peter’s hearers of the truth of what he said and of their guilt in rejecting Jesus. Their question arose from this two-fold response.
Notice the full meaning of their question. These were Jews who had been waiting expectantly for the Messiah to appear. Peter had just explained convincingly that He had come, but the Jewish nation had rejected God’s anointed King. Jesus had gone back to heaven. What would happen to the nation over which He was to rule? What were the Jews to do? Their question did not just reflect their personal dilemma but the fate of their nation. What should they do in view of this terrible situation nationally as well as personally?
Peter’s exhortation 2:37-41
Peter told them what to do. They needed to repent. Repentance involves a change of mind and heart first and secondarily a change of conduct. The Greek word translated repentance (metanoia) literally means a change of outlook (from meta and noeo meaning to reconsider). The Jews had formerly regarded Jesus as less than Messiah and had rejected him. Now they needed to accept Him and embrace Him. John the Baptist and Jesus had previously called for repentance in their audiences (Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17; et al.), and the apostles continued this emphasis, as Luke reported in Acts (Acts 3:19; Acts 5:31; Acts 8:22; Acts 10:43; Acts 11:18; Acts 13:24; Acts 17:30; Acts 19:4; Acts 20:21; Acts 26:18; Acts 26:20).
"The context of repentance which brings eternal life, and that which Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, is a change of mind about Jesus Christ. Whereas the people who heard him on that day formerly thought of Him as mere man, they were asked to accept Him as Lord (Deity) and Christ (promised Messiah). To do this would bring salvation." [Note: Charles C. Ryrie, Balancing the Christian Life, p. 176.]
When people speak of repentance they may mean one of two different things. We use this English word in the sense of a conduct change (turning away from sinful practices). We also use it in the sense of a conceptual change (turning away from false ideas previously held). These two meanings also appear in Scripture. This has led to some confusion concerning what a person must do to obtain salvation.
"The Greek verb [metanoeo, translated "to repent"] means ’to change one’s mind,’ but in its Lucan usage it comes very close to the Hebrew verb for repent which literally means ’to turn or turn around’ (sub). . . . A change of perspective, involving the total person’s point of view, is called for by this term. In fact, John called for the Israelites to bring forth fruit worthy of repentance ([Luke] Acts 3:8). This passage is significant for it separates repentance from what it produces, and also expresses a link between repentance and fruit. One leads to the other.
"In summary, Luke saw repentance as a change of perspective that transforms a person’s thinking and approach to life." [Note: Bock, "A Theology . . .," pp. 129-30, 132.]
If a person just thinks of repentance as turning from sinful practices, repentance becomes a good work that a person does. This kind of repentance is not necessary for salvation for two reasons. First, this is not how the gospel preachers in the New Testament used the word, as one can see from the meaning of the Greek word metanoia (defined above). Second, other Scriptures make it clear that good works, including turning from sin, have no part in justification (e.g., Ephesians 2:8-9). God does not save us because of what we do for Him but because of what He has done for us in Christ. [Note: See Joseph C. Dillow’s excellent discussion of the true and false definitions of repentance in The Reign of the Servant Kings, pp. 30-36. See also Kent, pp. 33-34.]
Repentance by definition is not an act separate from trusting Christ. It is part of the process of believing. A few scholars believe repentence plays no part in salvation but that repentence is a condition for harmonious fellowship with God. [Note: E.g., Zane C. Hodges, Absolutely Free, pp. 145-6.] This is a minority view, however.
When a person trusts Christ, he or she abandons his or her false notions about the Savior and embraces the truth. The truth is that Jesus Christ is God’s provision for our eternal salvation. When we rest our confidence in Him and the sufficiency of His cross work for us, God gives us eternal life. This is not just giving mental assent to facts that are true. Saving faith does that but also places confidence in Christ rather than in self for salvation. [Note: See Thomas L. Constable, "The Gospel Message," in Walvoord: A Tribute, p. 207.]
". . . it needs ever to be insisted on that the faith that justifies is not a mere intellectual process-not simply crediting certain historical facts or doctrinal statements; but it is a faith that springs from a divinely wrought conviction of sin which produces a repentance that is sincere and genuine." [Note: Harry A. Ironside, Except Ye Repent, pp. 9-10.]
Peter called for individual repentance ("each of you," Gr. second person plural). The Jews thought corporately about their responsibilities as God’s chosen people, but Peter confronted them with their individual responsibility to believe in Jesus.
The New Testament uses the word baptism in two ways: Spirit baptism and water baptism. This raises the question of which type Peter was calling for here. In Acts 2:38 "baptism" is probably water baptism, as most commentators point out. A few of them believe that Peter was referring to Spirit baptism in the sense of becoming identified with Christ.
"The baptism of the Spirit which it was our Lord’s prerogative to bestow was, strictly speaking, something that took place once for all on the day of Pentecost when He poured forth ’the promise of the Father’ on His disciples and thus constituted them the new people of God; baptism in water continued to be the external sign by which individuals who believed the gospel message, repented of their sins, and acknowledged Jesus as Lord, were publicly incorporated into the Spirit-baptized fellowship of the new people of God." [Note: Bruce, Commentary on . . ., pp. 76-77.]
This verse is a major proof text for those who believe that water baptism is essential for salvation. [Note: See Aubrey M. Malphurs, "A Theological Critique of the Churches of Christ Doctrine of Soteriology" (Th.D. dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1981).] Many people refer to this viewpoint as sacramental theology as contrasted with evangelical theology. It encounters its greatest problem with passages that make the forgiveness of sin, and salvation in general, dependent on nothing but trust in Christ (e.g., Acts 16:31; Acts 10:43; Acts 13:38-39; Acts 26:18; Luke 24:47; John 3:16; John 3:36; Romans 4:1-17; Romans 11:6; Galatians 3:8-9; Ephesians 2:8-9). [Note: See Charles C. Ryrie, So Great Salvation; Hodges, Absolutely Free! and Robert N. Wilkin, "Repentence and Salvation," Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 1:1 (Autumn 1988):11-20, and 2:1 (Spring 1989):13-26.] Peter later promised forgiveness of sins on the basis of faith alone (Acts 5:31; Acts 10:43; Acts 13:38; Acts 26:18).
". . . Christian [water] baptism was an expression of faith and commitment to Jesus as Lord." [Note: Marshall, The Acts . . ., p.81.]
What is the relationship of repentance, water baptism, forgiveness, and the gift of the Spirit that this verse brings together? At least three explanations are possible if we rule out the idea that water baptism results in the forgiveness of sins. [Note: Lanny T. Tanton, "The Gospel and Water Baptism: A Study of Acts 2:38," Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 3:1 (Spring 1990):27-52, discussed six interpretations of this passage.]
1. One acceptable option is to take the Greek preposition translated "for" (eis) as "because of" or "on the basis of." This is not the usual meaning of the word. The usual meaning is "for" designating aim or purpose. However it clearly means "because of" in some passages (e.g., Matthew 3:11; Matthew 12:41; Mark 1:4). This explanation links forgiveness with baptizing. We could paraphrase this view as follows. "Repent and you will receive the gift of the Spirit. Be baptized because your sins are forgiven." [Note: Advocates of this view include Ryrie, The Acts . . ., p. 24; W. A. Criswell, Acts, p. 96; H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, pp. 103-4; Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, 3:76-77; Robertson, 3:35-36; and Wiersbe, 1:410.]
2. Other interpreters emphasize the correspondence between the number (singular and plural) of the verbs and pronouns in the two parts of the sentence. "Repent" is plural as is "your," and "be baptized" and "you" (in "each of you") are singular.
Repent (second person plural)
be baptized (third person singular)
each (third person singular) of you
for the forgiveness of your (second person plural) sins
According to this view Peter was saying, "You [all] repent for [the purpose of] the forgiveness of your sins, and you [all] will receive the Spirit." Then he added parenthetically, "And each of you [singular] be baptized [as a testimony to your faith]." This explanation links forgiveness with repentance. [Note: See Toussaint, "Acts," p. 359; Ned B. Stonehouse, "The Gift of the Holy Spirit," Westminster Theological Journal 13 (1949-51):1-15; Frank Stagg, The Book of Acts, p. 63; Bob L. Ross, Acts 2:38 and Baptismal Regeneration, pp. 45-49; Malphurs, pp. 167-69; and Luther B. McIntyre Jr., "Baptism and Forgiveness in Acts 2:38," Bibliotheca Sacra 153:609 (January-March 1996):53-62.] This seems to me to be the best explanation.
"Repentance demands the witness of baptism; forgiveness is followed by the gift of the Holy Spirit [i.e., Spirit baptism]." [Note: Blaiklock, p. 60.]
3. A third, less popular, view is that God withheld Spirit baptism from Palestinian converts to Christianity when the church was in its infancy. He did so until they had entered into communion with God by obeying His command to undergo baptism in water (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16). Their Christian experience unfolded in this sequence of events: regeneration, water baptism, forgiveness of sins, fellowship with God, Spirit baptism. These Palestinian converts were individuals who had exposure to but had rejected the ministries of both John the Baptist and Jesus. One advocate of this view felt that it accounts best for the instances of Spirit baptism in Acts 2:38; Acts 8:12-17; Acts 19:1-7; and Acts 22:16. He took these occurrences as non-normative Christian experience unique in the early years of Christianity. Acts 10:43-48 reflects normative Christian experience where regeneration, forgiveness, and Spirit baptism take place simultaneously with water baptism following. By the time Paul wrote Romans this later sequence had become normative (Romans 8:9; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:13). [Note: Rackham, p. 30; and Zane C. Hodges, The Gospel Under Seige, pp. 101-4.]
Baptism in water was common in both Judaism and early Christianity. The Jews baptized themselves for ceremonial cleansing. Gentile converts to Judaism commonly baptized themselves in water publicly as a testimony to their conversion. The apostles evidently took for granted that the person who trusted in Christ would then submit to baptism in water.
". . . the idea of an unbaptized Christian is simply not entertained in [the] NT." [Note: Bruce, Commentary on . . ., p. 77. See also Longenecker, p. 284.]
"Since baptism signifies association with the message, group, or person involved in authorizing it [cf. 1 Corinthians 10:1-2], baptism in the name of Jesus Christ meant for these people a severing of their ties with Judaism and an association with the messages of Jesus and His people. Baptism was the line of demarcation. Even today for a Jew it is not his profession of Christianity nor his attendance at Christian services nor his acceptance of the New Testament, but his submission to water baptism that definitely and finally excludes him from the Jewish community and marks him off as a Christian." [Note: Ryrie, The Acts . . ., pp. 23-24. See also Longenecker, p. 286.]
Was Peter violating the Lord Jesus’ instructions when the apostle told his hearers to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ alone? Jesus had commanded His disciples to baptize "in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19). I do not think so. When Jesus gave the Great Commission, He had in view the discipling of the nations: everyone. When evangelizing non-Christians, it was necessary to have them identify with the triune God of Christianity through water baptism. Peter’s audience on the day of Pentecost, however, was Jewish. They needed to identify with the true God too, but identification with Jesus Christ is what Peter stressed since baptism in the name of Jesus would have been a particular problem for Jews. It meant acknowledging Jesus as their God. Jews already accepted the fatherhood of God and the idea that God is a Spirit.
The gift of the Holy Spirit was baptism with the Spirit. The Spirit is the gift. Peter connected reception of the Spirit with repentance. The Holy Spirit immediately baptized those who repented (Acts 11:15). Their Spirit baptism was not a later "second blessing."
Notice that Peter said nothing in this verse about acknowledging Jesus as Lord in the sense of surrendering completely to His lordship to receive eternal life. Those who contend that submission to the lordship of Christ is essential for salvation must admit that Peter did not make that a requirement here. This would have been the perfect opportunity for him to do so. Peter did not mention submission to the lordship of Christ because he did not believe it was essential for salvation. Admittedly he referred to Jesus as Lord in Acts 2:36, but as I have explained, the context argues for "Lord" meaning God rather than master there. Further discussion of the "lordship salvation" view will follow in these notes.
The "promise" is the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5; Acts 1:8; Acts 2:33). Those "far off" probably include the Diaspora Jews, future generations of Jews, and the Gentiles. Peter had already expressed his belief that Gentiles could be saved (Acts 2:21; cf. Joel 2:32), a fact taught repeatedly in both the Old and the New Testament. Peter’s later problem involving the salvation of Cornelius was not due to a conviction that Gentiles were unsaveable. It was a question of the manner by which they became Christians (i.e., not through Judaism, but directly without becoming Jews first). Note, too, Peter’s firm belief in God’s sovereignty (cf. Acts 2:23). God takes the initiative in calling the elect to salvation, and then they repent (Acts 2:38; cf. John 6:37; Romans 8:28-30).
The Greek word translated "generation" (genea) sometimes has a wider scope than simply all the people living within the same generational period. It has a metaphorical meaning here as elsewhere (e.g., Matthew 17:17; Mark 9:19; Mark 13:30; Luke 9:41; Luke 16:8). It means "a race of men very like each other in endowments, pursuits, character; and especially in a bad sense a perverse race." [Note: A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, s.v. "genea," p. 112.] Here the reference seems to be to unbelieving Jews of all time but particularly those living during Peter’s lifetime. "Generation" in this larger sense is virtually the same as "race."
Jesus had announced that the actual generation of Jews who had rejected Him would experience God’s judgment on themselves and their nation (Matthew 21:41-44; Matthew 22:7; Matthew 23:34 to Matthew 24:2). In view of that prediction it seems that Peter may have had that impending judgment in mind when he issued this call to his hearers. Jesus’ promised judgment fell in A.D. 70 when Titus invaded Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and scattered the Jews.
"This exhortation shows that Peter viewed that generation under the physical, temporal judgment about which Christ had spoken so forcefully and clearly. What Jesus had warned them about earlier (Matthew 12:31-32) had come on them and was inescapable. . . .
"While judgment on the nation was inescapable, individuals could be delivered from it. Peter’s answer was, ’Be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven,’ that is, they were no longer to participate in the repeated sin of the nation in rejecting Christ. The confession of their faith in Christ and of their identification with him by baptism would demonstrate their separation from the nation. They would be put out of the synagogue and lose all identity in the nation. Thus, by this separation they would individually not undergo the judgment on that generation since they ceased to be a part of it. Baptism did not save them. Only their faith in the One in whose name they were being baptized could do that. But baptism did terminate their identity with the nation so that they could escape its judgment." [Note: J. Dwight Pentecost, "The Apostles’ Use of Jesus’ Predictions of Judgment on Jerusalem in A.D. 70," in Integrity of Heart, Skillfulness of Hands, pp. 139-40.]
Peter had called on his audience to repent and to be baptized (Acts 2:38). Luke recorded the response of the believers. This reference, too, is probably to water baptism.
More people may have become Christians on this one day than did so during the whole earthly ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. John 14:12). Luke evidently meant that 3,000 were added to the 120 mentioned in Acts 1:15 since he was describing the visible relationships of the believers. [Note: Kent, p. 34, footnote 14.]
Some interpreters believe that this verse does not describe what took place immediately following the conclusion of Peter’s sermon, however. Luke may have been summing up the results of Peter’s preaching as a new point of departure in his narrative. He often used the Greek word translated "then" (men) in Acts to do this. Furthermore "day" (hemera) can refer to a longer time as well as to one 24-hour period. Here it could refer to the first period in the church’s life. [Note: Rackham, pp. 31-32; Neil, p. 80.]
The period between the death of Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 was a transitional period. The tearing of the temple veil when Jesus died (Matthew 27:51) symbolized the termination of the old Mosaic order and the beginning of a new order. The new order began when Jesus Christ died. However it took several decades for God’s people to make the transition in their thinking and practice. The Book of Acts documents many of those transitions.
"The transition was extensive. Ethnically, there was a transition from dealing primarily with Jews to dealing with both Jew and Gentile without distinction. There was also a transition in the people with whom God was dealing, from Israel to the church. Likewise, there was a transition in the principle on which God was dealing with men, from Law to grace. There was a transition from the offer to Israel of an earthly Davidic kingdom to the offer to all men of salvation based on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There was a transition from the prospect of Messiah’s coming to the historical fact that the promised One had come. There was a transition from the promise that the Spirit would be given to the historical fact that the Spirit had come.
"Again, all these transitions were made positionally in the brief period of time from the death of Christ to the Day of Pentecost. Yet experientially these truths were understood and entered into only over a span of some four decades. The Book of Acts records the positional transition as well as the experiential transition in the development of the theocratic kingdom program." [Note: Pentecost, Thy Kingdom . . ., pp. 266-67.]
". . . the Book of the Acts is particularly valuable as giving to us the earliest models of several ordinances and institutions which have since become part of the life of the Christian Church. These first occasions should be studied as types and models of what all subsequent occasions should be.
"The first descent of the Spirit (chap. 2); the first Christian preaching (chap. 2); the first Christian Church (chap. 2); the first opposition to Christianity (chap. 4); the first persecution (chap. 4); the first prayer meeting (chap. 4); the first sin in the Church (chap. 5); the first Church problem (chap. 6); the first martyr (chap. 7); the first Church extension (chap. 8); the first personal dealing (chap. 8); the first Gentile Church (chap. 11); the first Church Council (chap. 11).
"The first missionary (chap. 13); the first missionary methods (chaps. 13, 14); the first Church contention (chap. 15); the first Church in Europe (chap. 16); the first address to Christian ministers (chap. 20)." [Note: Thomas, pp. 86-87.]
This list could be developed even further.
". . . what Acts aims to do is to give us a series of typical exploits and adventures of the great heroic figures of the early Church." [Note: Barclay, p. xiii.]
These new converts along with the disciples gave ("devoted," Gr. proskartereo, cf. Acts 1:14) themselves to two activities primarily: the apostles’ teaching and fellowship. The grammar of the Greek sentence sets these actions off as distinct from the following two activities that define fellowship. The apostles’ teaching included the Jewish Scriptures as well as the teachings of Christ on earth and the revelations He gave to the apostles from heaven. This means the early Christians gave priority to the revealed Word of God. [Note: See Steven J. Lawson, "The Priority of Biblical Preaching: An Expository Study of Acts 2:42-47," Bibliotheca Sacra 158:630 (April-June 2001):198-217.]
"The steady persistence in the apostles’ teaching means (a) that the Christians listened to the apostles whenever they taught and (b) that they assiduously practised what they heard." [Note: Barrett, 1:163.]
The fellowship (Gr. te koinonia) refers to sharing things with others. The presence of the article with fellowship indicates that this fellowship was distinctive. It was a fellowship within Judaism. Even though their fellowship extended to material goods its primary reference must be to the ideas, attitudes, purposes, mission, and activities that the Christians shared.
Two distinctive activities marked the fellowship of the early church. The "breaking of bread" is a term that here probably included the Lord’s Supper as well as eating a meal together (cf. Acts 2:46; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25; Judges 1:12). [Note: Kent, pp. 34-35; Blaiklock, p. 61.] Elsewhere the phrase describes both an ordinary meal (Luke 24:30; Luke 24:35; Acts 20:11; Acts 27:35) and the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 11:24). Probably these early Christians ate together and as part of the meal, or after it, used their common food, bread and wine, to commemorate Christ’s death. [Note: Neil, p. 81.]
In "the prayers" the believers must have praised and thanked God as well as petitioning and interceding for His glory (cf. Matthew 6:9-13). The article with prayer probably implies formal times of prayer (cf. Acts 1:14), though they undoubtedly prayed together at other times too. [Note: See Daniel K. Falk, "Jewish Prayer Literature and the Jerusalem Church," in The Book of Acts in Its First Century Setting; Vol. 4: The Book of Acts in Its Palestinian Setting, pp. 267-301.]
"Just as Luke has set up in Luke-Acts the parallelism between the Spirit’s work in relation to Jesus and the Spirit’s work in the church, so he also sets up the parallelism between prayer in the life of Jesus and prayer in the life of the church." [Note: Longenecker, p. 290. Cf. 1:14, 24; 4:24-31; 6:4, 6; 9:40; 10:2, 4, 9, 31; 11:5; 12:5; 13:3; 14:23; 16:25; 22:17; 28:8.]
"Prayer is an expression of dependence, and when the people of God really feel their need you will find them flocking together to pray. A neglected prayer meeting indicates very little recognition of one’s true need." [Note: Ironside, Lectures on . . ., p. 77.]
Their persistence in these activities demonstrated their felt need to learn, to encourage one another, to refocus on Christ’s death, and to praise and petition God (Acts 1:1).
6. The early state of the church 2:42-47
Luke now moved from describing what took place on a particular day to a more general description of the life of the early Jerusalem church (cf. Acts 4:32 to Acts 5:11; Acts 6:1-6). Interestingly he gave comparatively little attention to the internal life of the church in Acts. His selection of content shows that his purpose was to stress its outward expansion.
The feeling of awe that the obvious working of God in their midst inspired continued among all the people in Jerusalem. The wonder-inspiring miracles that the apostles performed pointed to God’s hand at work and kept this spirit alive. Not the least of these wonders must have been the remarkable unity and self-sacrifice of the believers. Compare Acts 2:22, where Peter said Jesus had done "wonders and signs," with this verse, where Luke wrote that the apostles performed "wonders and signs." This shows again Jesus’ continuing work through His servants following His ascension. [Note: For a good evaluation of the "signs and wonders movement," which teaches that believers today may perform the same kind of miraculous works Jesus and the apostles performed to authenticate the gospel message, see Ken L. Sarles, "An Appraisal of the Signs and Wonders Movement," Bibliotheca Sacra 145:577 (January-March 1988):57-82; or idem, "All Power & Signs," Kindred Spirit 13:2 (Summer 1989):8-11.]
These early believers had frequent contact with each other. Communal living was voluntary and temporary in the Jerusalem church (Acts 4:32; Acts 4:34-35; Acts 5:4); it was not forced socialism or communism. No other New Testament church practiced communal living to the extent that the Jerusalem Christians did. The New Testament nowhere commands communal living, and Acts does not refer to it after chapter five. [Note: See Brian Capper, "The Palestinian Cultural Context of Earliest Christian Community of Goods," in The Book of Acts in Its First Century Setting; Vol. 4: The Book of Acts in Its Palestinian Setting, pp. 323-56; and Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, "The Cenacle-Topographical Setting for Acts 2:44-45," in ibid., pp. 303-22.]
The believers’ willingness to sell their property (real estate, cf. Acts 5:37) and personal possessions to help others in need demonstrated true Christian love. One writer argued that Luke’s portrait of the early church was true to reality and not an idealized picture. [Note: Alan J. Thompson, "Unity in Acts: Idealization or Reality?" Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 51:3 (September 2008):523-42.] Others have disputed this claim. [Note: E.g., S. S. Bartchy, "Community of Goods in Acts: Idealization or Social Reality?" in The Future of Christianity: Essays in Honor of Helmut Koester, pp. 309-18).] The believers were probably giving to non-believers as well as to their Christian brethren, but what Luke stressed was their sacrificial giving to one another. Beside Christian love it may have been their hope that Jesus Christ would return very soon that motivated them to live as they did. Furthermore since Jesus had predicted judgment on Jerusalem, what was the use of keeping property?
This progress report summarizes the growth of the church thus far. It is one of seven in Acts each of which concludes a major advance of the church in its worldwide mission (cf. Acts 6:7; Acts 9:31; Acts 12:24; Acts 16:5; Acts 19:20; Acts 28:30-31). [Note: See Witherington’s excursus on the summaries in Acts, pp. 157-59.]
The believers met with one another daily, enjoying the unity of the Spirit. They congregated in the temple area probably for discussion and evangelization (cf. Acts 3:11; Acts 5:12). Probably these Jewish believers considered themselves the true remnant within Israel until they began to realize the distinctiveness of the church. They ate meals and observed the Lord’s Supper together in homes. In the ancient Near East eating together reflected a common commitment to one another and deep fellowship. A meal shared together was both a mark and a seal of friendship. In contemporary pagan religions the meal formed the central rite of the religion because it established communion between the worshippers and between the worshippers and their god. In Judaism too eating some of the offerings of worship symbolized these things, especially the peace offering.
Public church buildings were unknown until the third century. At the time chapter two records, there was no significant opposition to the Christian movement, though there was, of course, difference of opinion about Jesus. The believers enjoyed the blessing of their Jewish brethren. People trusted Christ daily, and the Lord added these to the church so that it grew steadily. Luke, in harmony with his purpose (Acts 1:1-2), stressed the Lord Jesus’ work in causing the church to grow (Acts 2:47; cf. Matthew 16:18).
". . . this is one of the few references in Acts to the Christians worshipping God in the sense of rendering thanks to him. The fewness of such phrases reminds us that according to the New Testament witness Christian gatherings were for instruction, fellowship, and prayer; in other words for the benefit of the people taking part; there is less mention of the worship of God, although of course this element was not absent." [Note: Marshall, The Acts . . ., pp. 85-86.]
"Christianity was no proletarian movement. It appealed to a broad spectrum of classes." [Note: David A. Fiensy, "The Composition of the Jerusalem Church," in The Book of Acts in Its First Century Setting; Vol. 4: The Book of Acts in Its Palestinian Setting, p. 230.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Acts 2". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/
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