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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary

Acts 2

Verses 1-47

IF WE READ Leviticus 23:1-44, we can see that just as the Passover was prophetic of the death of Christ, so Pentecost was prophetic of the coming of the Spirit, in whose power there is presented to God the “new meat offering” consisting of the two loaves of firstfruits—an election from both Jew and Gentile, sanctified by the Holy Ghost. Just as that to which the Passover pointed was fulfilled on the Passover day, so that to which Pentecost pointed was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. On Jesus the Spirit came as a dove: on the disciples as the sound of a mighty blowing or breathing, and as cloven tongues of fire. The wind appealed to the ear, and was reminiscent of the Lord’s own inbreathing, of which John 20:22 speaks. The tongues of fire appealed to the eye, and were quite unique. The wind filled all: the tongues sat upon each. We may connect inward power with the one; and with the other the expression of the power in the many tongues as the Spirit gave utterance. When Jesus came, He was audible, visible and tangible—see, 1 John 1:1. When the Spirit came He was audible and visible only, and that in this mysterious way.

It is important that we should, from the outset, distinguish between the great fact of the Spirit’s presence, and the signs and manifestations of His presence, which vary so greatly. This is the definite gift of the Spirit, referred to in John 7:39; John 14:16, though, since here only Jews were in question, the pouring out of the Spirit upon believing Gentiles (see Acts 10:45) was an act supplementary to this. Having come thus the Spirit abides with the saints right through the dispensation. As the result of the out-pouring here, they were all filled with the Spirit, so that He was in complete control of each. We must also distinguish between the gift of the

Spirit and the filling with the Spirit, since the former may be had without the latter, as we shall see later. Here both were present together.

Those upon whom the Spirit came were a praying people, in this resembling their Lord. They were also people of one accord, and consequently in one place. The one place is not named: it may have been the upper room of Acts 1:1-26, but more probably, in view of the crowds that heard the Spirit-given utterances, some court of the temple, such as Solomon’s porch. At any rate the thing was real and powerful and could not be hid. It was, within a limited sphere, a reversal of Babel. There man’s proud building was stopped by the confusion of tongues: here God signalized the start of His spiritual building by giving mastery over the tongues and reducing them to order.

We may see another contrast in the fact that when the tabernacle had been made in the wilderness and the Lord took possession of it by the cloud of His presence, He at once began to speak to Moses concerning sacrifice. This is shown by connecting Exodus 40:35, with Leviticus 1:1-2. In our chapter we have God taking possession of His new, spiritual house by His Spirit, and again He at once speaks by His inspired Apostles. Many people from different countries hear “the wonderful works of God.”

The enquiry of the crowds gave the opportunity for witness. Peter was the spokesman, though the eleven stood with him as supporting his words, and he at once directed them to the scripture which explained what it all meant. Joel had predicted the pouring out of the Spirit upon all flesh in days that are yet to come, and what had just transpired was a fulfilment of it, though not the fulfilment. Peter’s words, “this is that which was spoken,” imply that it was of the nature of that which Joel had foretold, but not necessarily the full and conclusive thing which the prophecy had in view. John the Baptist had said of Jesus, “The same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost” (John 1:33). Joel had said that, after Israel’s repentance and the destruction of their foes, there should be this pouring out of the Spirit on all flesh. Now on the day of Pentecost there had been a kind of firstfruits of this in the pouring out of the Spirit upon those who formed the nucleus of the church. That was the true explanation of what had happened. They were not drunk with wine, but filled with the Spirit.

But Peter did not stop there; he proceeded to show why this baptism of the Spirit had taken place. It was the direct action of Jesus, now exalted to the right hand of God. This we find when we reach verse Acts 2:33; but from verse Acts 2:22 he had been leading the minds of people through the scenes of the crucifixion to His resurrection and exaltation. Jesus of Nazareth had been most manifestly approved of God during the days of His ministry, yet they had slain Him with their wicked hands. He had been delivered up to this by God according to His “determinate counsel and fore-knowledge,” for God knows how to make the wrath of man to praise Him and accomplish His designs of blessing; though this does not diminish man’s responsibility in the matter. Verse Acts 2:23 is a clear instance of how the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man do not clash, when it is a question of practical results; though we may have difficulty in reconciling the two as a matter of theory.

What they had so wickedly done God had triumphantly undone. The collision between their programme and God’s was complete. It presaged their own complete undoing and overthrow in due season; particularly as the resurrection had been foreseen by God, and foretold through David in Psalms 16:1-11. Now David could not possibly have been speaking of himself, for he had been buried and his grave was well known amongst them at that day. When he spoke of One, whose soul was not left in hades and whose flesh did not see corruption, he spoke of Christ. What he said had been fulfilled: Jesus was not only raised but exalted to heaven.

As the exalted Man, Jesus had received of the Father the promised Holy Ghost, and had shed Him forth upon His disciples. At His baptism He received the Holy Ghost for Himself as the dependent Man; now He receives the same Holy Ghost on behalf of others as their Representative. By shedding forth the Spirit these others were baptized into one body and became His members. This we learn from later scriptures.

In verses Acts 2:34-36, Peter carries his argument a step further to its climax. David had prophesied of his Lord, who should be exalted to God’s right hand. David himself was not ascended to the heavens any more than he was risen from the dead. The One of whom David spoke was to sit in the seat of administration and power until His foes were made His footstool; therefore the conclusion of the whole matter was this:—the shedding forth of the Spirit, which they had seen and heard, proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that God had made the crucified Jesus both Lord and Christ.

As Lord He is the great Administrator on God’s behalf, whether in blessing or in judgment. His shedding forth the Spirit had been an act of administration, which had revealed His Lordship.

As Christ He is the anointed Head of all things, and particularly of the little handful of His own left upon earth. His reception from the Father of the Spirit on their behalf, preliminary to shedding Him forth, had revealed His Christhood.

Being “made” Lord and Christ is quite consistent with His having been both during His sojourn on earth. These things were ever His, but now He was officially installed as such, as the risen and glorified Man. Wonderful news for us; but terrible news for those who had been guilty of His crucifixion. It simply guaranteed their dreadful damnation, if they persisted on their course.

The Spirit, who had just fallen upon the disciples, now began to work in the consciences of many of the hearers. As they began to realize the desperate situation in which they were placed by the resurrection of the Lord, they were pricked in the heart and cried out for direction. Peter indicated repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ as the way to remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit; for, as he points out in verse Acts 2:39, the promise in Joel is to repentant Israel, and to the children of such, and even to distant Gentiles. Thus in the first Christian sermon the extension of Gospel blessing to Gentiles is contemplated. Remission of sins and the gift of the Spirit carry with them all Christian blessings.

It may strike us as remarkable that Peter does not mention faith. But it is inferred, for no one would submit to baptism in the name of Jesus Christ except they believed in Him. Baptism signifies death, and consequently dissociation from the old life and connections. They would not be prepared to cut their links with the old life unless they really believed in Him who was Lord of the new life. With many words Peter testified, and exhorted them to cut their links, and thus save themselves from that “untoward generation.”

Faith was present, for no less than three thousand received Peter’s word. An hour before they knew the anguish of being pricked to the heart. Now they received the Gospel and cut their links by baptism. Having thus dissociated themselves from the mass of their nation, who had crucified their Lord, they took their stand by the side of the original 120, who were multiplied twenty-six times in one day. Further, not only did they begin, but they were marked by stedfast continuance.

The four things that marked them, according to verse Acts 2:42, are worthy of note. First comes the apostles’ doctrine or teaching. This lies at the foundation of things. The apostles were the men to whom the Lord had said, “When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). Their doctrine was consequently the fruit of the Spirit’s guiding. The church was now in being, and the first thing that marked it was subjection to the Spirit’s teaching through the apostles. The church does not teach; it is taught, and is subject to the Word as given by the Spirit.

Continuing in apostolic doctrine, they continued also in apostolic fellowship. They found their practical life and society in apostolic company. Formerly they had everything in common with the world; now their communion with the world had disappeared and communion with apostolic circles had been established—and the apostolic communion was “with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).

They continued also in the breaking of bread, which was the sign of their Lord’s death, and also incidentally—as we learn from 1 Corinthians 10:17an expression of fellowship. Thus they were in constant remembrance of their Lord who died, and preserved from reverting to the old associations.

Finally, they continued in prayers. They had no power in themselves; all was vested in their Lord on high and in the Spirit given to them. Hence constant dependence on God was necessary for the maintenance of their spiritual life and testimony.

These things marked the primitive church, and should no less mark the church today. The things mentioned in the closing verses of the chapter were of a less permanent character. The apostles, with signs and wonders are gone. The Christian communism, which prevailed at the outset, also passed away; as did the continuing with one accord in the temple, and the being in favour with all the people. Yet all was over-ruled of God. The selling of their possessions led to much poverty amongst the saints when years later the famine came, and thus was the occasion for that ministry of relief from Gentile assemblies (see, Acts 11:27-30) which did so much to bind together the Jewish and Gentile elements in the church of God.

For the moment there was simplicity, gladness and singleness of heart with much praise to God. And the work of God, adding the believing remnant to the church, still went on.

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Bibliographical Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Acts 2". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.