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The Growth of the New People of God (2:1-9:31).
The foundation of the new people of God having been re-established in chapter 1 we now enter a period of growth and expansion among the Jews and Samaritans, as, beginning with Pentecost, God begins to call to Himself the remnant who will respond to Him. The whole of this section (Acts 2:1 to Acts 9:31) follows an identifiable general pattern. There is first in each case the description of an incident, and this is then followed by a declaration or example of God’s triumphal move forward, sometimes with additional information added
Thus the book proceeds as follows:
1). THE INCIDENTS.
· The descent of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:2-44.2.13).
· The healing of the lame man (see Acts 3:1-44.3.10).
· The first arrest of the Apostles (Acts 4:1-44.4.7).
· The required primary warning given to the Apostles before witnesses (Acts 4:13-44.4.22).
· The sin of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 4:36 to Acts 5:11) - lying to God - the first major failure.
· The second and third arrests of the Apostles (Acts 5:17-44.5.28).
· Gamaliel’s warning to the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:33-44.5.40).
· The Appointment of Servers (Acts 6:1-44.6.6).
· The arrest of and charge against Stephen (Acts 6:8 to Acts 7:1).
· The first persecution of the church (Acts 8:1-44.8.3).
· The activity of Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8:9-44.8.11).
· Philip meets the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-44.8.28).
· Saul, the leading persecutor, travels to Damascus (Acts 9:1-44.9.9).
· The attempt to kill the converted Saul (Paul) in Damascus followed by doubts concerning him at Jerusalem (Acts 9:23-44.9.27).
2) A DECLARATION OR EXAMPLE OF GOD’S TRIUMPHAL FORWARD MOVEMENT.
These in each case follow the above.
· The first preaching of Peter (Acts 2:14-44.2.47) - Jesus has been enthroned in Heaven as both Lord and Messsiah - the beginning of the establishment of the Kingly Rule of God.
· The second preaching of Peter (Acts 3:11-44.3.26) - As well as being Messiah Jesus is the Servant of the Lord and the Great Prophet like Moses.
· Peter preaches to the elders (Acts 4:8-44.4.12) - Jesus is the Basis of Salvation and the Capstone of Israel and His followers cannot therefore cease the proclamation of His Name.
· Confident prayer and a renewing of the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:23-44.4.35) - the Kingly Rule of God is being established on earth in the infant church as is evidenced by their sharing all things in common.
· Great wonders and signs and many conversions (Acts 5:12-44.5.16) - the Kingly Rule of God is being established on earth as is evidenced by signs and wonders.
· Peter’s second reply to the elders (Acts 5:29-44.5.32) - Jesus is proclaimed as both Prince and Saviour. (The release from prison by the angel of the Lord has been another evidence that the Kingly Rule of God is being established).
· The preaching goes on (Acts 5:41-44.5.42) - they rejoice in suffering for the sake of His Name.
· The word of God increases and the church multiplies (Acts 6:7) - many priests become obedient to the faith.
· The preaching of Stephen (Acts 7:2-44.7.60) - they have rejected the Deliverer, the Temple and the land have had their day, and God purposes to bless a remnant.
· The ministry of Philip (Acts 8:4-44.8.8) - the word goes out to the Samaritans.
· The ministry among the Samaritans (Acts 8:12-44.8.25) - the repentance of a Wonder-worker.
· The conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:29-44.8.40) - the word goes to Ethiopia.
· The conversion of Saul (Paul) (Acts 9:10-44.9.22) - God appoints and empowers a new man for the ministry. His ministry in Damascus.
· The ministry of Paul in Jerusalem (Acts 9:28-44.9.31) - Paul preaches in Jerusalem and returns to Tarsus ready for his future.
We must now consider these in more detail.
Chapter 2 The Exciting Events Of The Day Of Pentecost.
The Feast of ‘Sevens’ (‘Weeks’ - because seven times seven days after the second day of Unleavened Bread), or Harvest, or Pentecost, was one of the three great feasts at which all Jews who lived within twenty miles of Jerusalem had to be present. But it was not exclusive to them and Jews would come from far and wide in order to be present at it. It was celebrated on the fiftieth day (hence pentecost - ‘fiftieth’) after the day following the first day of Unleavened Bread, and was a feast of the firstfruits of harvest. It thus emphasised fruitfulness. But people who attended the feast would in fact continue their celebrations for a few more days. Furthermore it had become associated in the minds of the Jews with the giving and sealing of the covenant at Sinai. Here then was to be another sealing of the covenant as a result of God’s gracious activity towards His people. No more suitable day could have been chosen for the giving of the One Who was to make the church fruitful, and Who was to be the seal in men’s hearts of their ‘anointing’ (1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27).
This is not to be seen as the first coming of the Holy Spirit, as though the Holy Spirit had not been active before. The Holy Spirit had been active in the ministries of John the Baptiser (Luke 1:15) and Jesus Himself (Luke 4:1). Furthermore the Apostles in the Upper Room had received a special enduing with the Spirit (John 20:22-43.20.23).
With regard to this latter John, who had promised the equivalent of Pentecost when he spoke of the Spirit which all who believed on Jesus would ‘receive’ (Acts 7:39), saw this is fulfilled when Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 20:22). He clearly saw this as all that needed to be said about the fulfilling of his earlier description of the promises of the Spirit as far as His disciples were concerned. To suggest therefore that this was merely symbolic of what was to come would mean that John only described the shadow when he could have described the sun, which is so unlikely as to be frankly incredible. It would leave his Gospel without a satisfactory ending, with the Apostles still unempowered.
What we must therefore undoubtedly see is that John saw in the enduing of John 20 a genuine enduing of His Apostles with His promised and unique wisdom and discernment as guaranteed earlier in John 14-16, including the ability to discern all truth and the ability to discern true repentance from false (John 20:23), a gift exercised by Peter in Acts 5:3. This is confirmed in Luke 24:45 where before Pentecost ‘He opened their minds that they might understand the Scriptures’. It appears to have been a special and distinctive enduing for the apostles in the light of their unique responsibilities. This was the personal establishment of the coming age of the Spirit in the persons who would be its vanguard, carried out in the privacy of the Upper Room. Pentecost would be the public revelation and would include all who would follow them. Here in John He privately endued the leaders, there in Acts He endued and established the army. In some ways it can be compared with the private coronation of a king, followed by his public acclamation. It was also the seal on the distinctiveness of the Apostles. But at Pentecost what the Apostles needed was the outward expression of God’s seal on them, the renewal of their ‘filling’, and the command to go forward. It was the group of disciples as a whole who began to share in what the Apostles had received as something new to them.
Matthew saw the situation represented by Pentecost as established in an apparently different way when Jesus openly declared that all authority in heaven and earth had been given to Him as the Risen Lord (Matthew 28:18), and added the promise that therefore He would be with them always until their task was done (Matthew 28:20). He recognised that the declared enthronement of the Lord Jesus, followed by the promise of His divine power among them, provided their all-sufficiency. But it was not really different. It was actually Pentecost expressed in another way. Mark’s ending assumes a similar empowering, and rather describes some of the powers the disciples will enjoy (Mark 16:17-41.16.18), even though this writer also does not put it in terms of the Holy Spirit. What need had they of anything more when they had their Risen Lord working with them revealing His wonders? (Mark 16:19-41.16.20). Was that not what Pentecost was all about? And he also confirms Jesus’ enthronement at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19).
But Luke with his deep historical insight saw how what happened on the Day of Pentecost was the perfect introduction to what his second book was to be all about. Just as John being filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:15) and Jesus being full of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1) were the perfect introduction to the first, so Pentecost was the perfect introduction to the second. It was the evidence that the King had been enthroned. It revealed the coming of God into the world in a new and emphatic way. From Pentecost onwards would come about the triumph of God and the Holy Spirit in establishing His Kingly Rule, first in Jerusalem and finally in Rome.
There will never be another Pentecost. It was a unique event and a mixture of climactic events that changed world history. We can enjoy the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, but as Christians can never enjoy another Pentecost, and we show our lack of understanding of Pentecost if we suggest otherwise. For Pentecost was the inaugural outward declaration to His disciples and to the world that God’s sovereign power had begun a work which would not cease until the whole world had been made aware of the Kingly Rule of God. It was the gift of the newly enthroned King to His people. It was God coming to dwell in His people, never to leave them or forsake them. On top of this it was a mixture of a supercharging of His people, both individually and as one whole; of a declaring of the new covenant through fire and word; of the reversal of Babel and a new beginning for the world; and of a proclaiming that the Risen Christ had now in supernatural power taken His throne, and had begun His final assault on the earth, in order to bring His elect out of the world to His feet. It was the same thing as both Matthew and Mark revealed when they put it in terms of the Risen Christ enthroned and ever with them, and active in bringing His people under the Kingly Rule of God.
Yet that is not to say that Pentecost is completely in the past. Whenever somewhere in the world some sinful man becomes aware of what He is and looks up to the Saviour so that he might find initial forgiveness and acceptability to God, he experiences Pentecost. For the Holy Spirit, the fiery tongue from God, indwells that person and they become one with the body of Christ. In that sense there are Pentecosts every day.
Before continuing, however, there is one myth that we must completely dispense with. We should note that while they waiting for what was to come the disciples were by no means a frightened, dispirited group. They may have met behind locked doors for a time (it is not spiritual to be foolhardy), but once they had become convinced that Jesus really had risen from the dead, they were filled with great joy and confidence, and were continually in the Temple openly praising and blessing God (Luke 24:52-42.24.53). They “continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” (Acts 1:14) and even went so far as to make the number of Apostles up to twelve again ready for what was to come (Acts 1:15-44.1.26), and this was after they had been endued with special wisdom in the Upper Room (John 20:22). Their ‘inactivity’ was thus a sign of obedient expectation and not of fear. It is misleading to suggest otherwise.
‘ And when the day of Pentecost was now come, they were all together in one place.’
The day of this event is clearly stated. It was on the Day of Pentecost, the Day of the Feast of Harvest, when Jerusalem would be filled with visitors, many of whom would flock to the Temple. But interestingly the place where it occurred is not mentioned (one of Luke’s silences). It was, however, a place where the one hundred and twenty could gather, and where three thousand hearers could be converted.
‘In one place.’ As regularly with Luke’s silences, the place is not difficult to determine. It must have been in the collonades of the Temple where they had regularly met for prayer. But Luke does not want us to be distracted from what really happened, and the reason for his silence is probably an important one. Concentration is not now to be on the old Temple but on the new. Indeed he does not want to mention the old Temple because it is now being replaced by the Temple of His people who will from now on be the dwellingplace of God’s Holy Spirit ( 1Co 3:16 ; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16-47.6.18; Ephesians 2:11-49.2.22). The centre of their worship will no longer be the old Temple, but the place of prayer and worship through the Spirit wherever they may be. The old Temple is being left behind. Note how the fire does not descend on the Sanctuary, as it did of old, but on the new people of God.
‘They.’ Some seek to limit this to the Apostles, referring it back to the phrase ‘the eleven Apostles’ in Acts 1:26. But from Acts 1:15 on all the stress has been on ‘the disciples’, whom Luke then immediately defined in terms of the one hundred and twenty, the ‘men and brothers (and sisters)’ of Acts 1:16, described as ‘they’ in Acts 2:23-44.2.24; Acts 2:26 a. These must surely then also be the ‘they’ mentioned here.
The Coming of the Holy Spirit (2:1-4).
It must be recognised what Pentecost was. It was not the day of the crowning of the King. That had already taken place in Heaven (Matthew 28:18; Mark 16:19; Daniel 7:13-27.7.14). It was the day when His crowning was publicly declared to earth in His coming to dwell in His people so as to establish the Kingly Rule of God throughout the earth. It was the day when God entered His people forming them as a new creation, making them one in the spiritual body of Christ, sealing them as representative of His whole people. God entered them. What more need we say?
‘And suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind (pnoe), and it filled all the house where they were sitting.’
Suddenly, as they were praying there, there came the ‘sound from heaven of a rushing, mighty wind (Gk. pnoe)’ which filled the all the house where they were sitting. It is primarily said to be a noise that they heard, not a wind that they experienced, although it may be that the wind did come with the noise so that they did also experience the wind. But what mattered was that all knew that ‘the wind’ was there. They were surrounded by the noise of a wind. The word used for wind is interesting. It is not ‘anemos’ the usual word for wind, nor is it ‘pneuma’ which we might have expected as symbolising the Holy Pneuma (Spirit). It is ‘pnoe’. It is used only once elsewhere in the New Testament where it means ‘breath’ and is paralleled with ‘life’ (Acts 17:25). It is, however, more common in the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint) where it most often translates ‘neshamah’ which refers to the ‘breath of life’ (e.g. Genesis 2:7; Genesis 7:22; 2 Samuel 22:16; Psalms 150:6; Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 57:16). In Genesis 2:7 it is the breath of life breathed into man to give life, in 2 Samuel 22:16 it is God’s breath as figurative for a storm wind (compare Ezekiel 13:13), in Psalms 150:6 it is the breath of life, and in Ezekiel 13:13 it is a wind raised by God. But of especial interest is Isaiah 42:5 because there it is connected with the Servant. There it refers to the giving by God to those who are in the world of ‘breath’ (pnoe) and ‘spirit’ (pneuma). Outside the New Testament it is used both for ‘wind’ and ‘breath’. Luke clearly has a reason for uniquely using this particular word here. There seems good ground therefore for seeing its use here as stressing especially the life-giving breath of God, as symbolised by the wind.
This would immediately bring the thoughts of those who knew their Scriptures to another time when the breath of God came like a mighty wind. In Ezekiel 37:5-26.37.10 Israel were likened to a valley of dry bones, which remained dead until God’s wind came and revitalised them. The wind blew on them and they lived through the breath of God. The picture is of God giving life to a spiritually dead people. This did not, of course, directly apply to those who were endued here, for they were already born of the Spirit (John 3:5-43.3.6), but they were receiving the Spirit in order for the Spirit to flow through them to the world (John 7:39) and give life to all who responded to Christ. They were being empowered to bring life to the dead bones of Israel.
This also agrees with the idea found in John 20:22. In John also it was the breath of the Lord, which, while more gentle noisewise, was none-the-less equally powerful. There He breathed on them and His Apostles ‘received the Holy Spirit’. Here in Acts, then, is an extension to that when the mighty ‘pnoe’ is the breath of God publicly coming in mighty life-giving power, offering through these men new life to the ‘dead’ (Ezekiel 37:5-26.37.10), so that by becoming one with His body, the church, men might become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). It is a new revelation of the creative and life-giving power of God (compare Genesis 1:2; Genesis 2:7; Psalms 33:6), and the application of it to His people. It is the imparting of resurrection life.
Indeed God is breathing into His people and beginning His new creation which will finally result in the new heaven and the new earth (Isaiah 65:17-23.65.19; Isaiah 66:22). We sense here the breath of God breathing on the dry bones that they might live (Ezekiel 37:5-26.37.10). These particular recipients were not dry bones for they were already ‘born from above’, but it would be their task to go out to the dry bones of Israel, and then of the world, in order to offer them life. For what came to them was not just for them, it was for the world. It was to be their task to fashion the new Israel, infilled with the power and life of God. He was taking the Kingly Rule of God away from old Israel, and giving it to this new nation of His people who would bring forth its fruits through the living breath of His Spirit (Matthew 21:43; Galatians 6:16; Galatians 3:28-48.3.29; Ephesians 2:11-49.2.22).
The ‘sound of a rushing mighty wind’ also reminds us of “the sound of marching in the trees” (2 Samuel 5:24) when God was acting with His chosen king to establish His people in the land. God was again marching forth to action to establish His chosen King. The stress on the loudness of the noise emphasises what a climactic moment it was. It was intended to be seen as a powerful new beginning.
‘And it filled all the house where they were sitting.’ As already mentioned it seems probable that these events in Acts 2:0 took place in the Temple area, ‘the House where they were sitting’. Compare Luke 24:53 where we learn that they were continually in the Temple blessing God. It was there that we have been told that they met ‘continually’, almost unceasingly, for praise and worship. In Luke’s writings the Temple is elsewhere referred to as “the House” (Luke 11:51 in the Greek; ‘your (Jerusalem’s) House’ Acts 13:35; Acts 7:47-44.7.50), while when he refers to private houses he usually tells us whose house it is (Acts 12:12; Acts 18:7; Acts 21:8 and all the many references to houses in Luke). So ‘the House’ standing without explanation would appear to indicate the Temple.
We can consider here how in Acts 2:46 the Christians eat in their houses but worship in the Temple area, which is a place regularly visited by these early Christians (Acts 3:1; Acts 5:12; Acts 5:42). And there must be some reason why, unusually for Luke, he does not give details of the place where they are. We can also compare how the next filling with the Holy Spirit takes place in the anonymous ‘place where they were gathered together’ causing them to speak the word of God with boldness.
Luke elsewhere describes the Temple, in words of Jesus, as the ‘House of prayer’, in Luke 19:46 (compare Luke 6:4), and this would excellently fit the context. In the Temple area, apart from the Holy Place and the court of the priests, there was a courtyard for the men of Israel, a further courtyard which women also could enter, and an outer court for Gentiles (non-Jews). It was partly because this latter was a place for prayer that Jesus was so angry at the noisy trading taking place there (John 2:13-43.2.16). Each courtyard was surrounded by walls in which were large porticoes, where people regularly met for prayer, and these later were a general meeting place for disciples (Acts 3:1; Acts 3:10-44.3.11; Acts 5:12).
Their presence at this time in the Temple would explain how the crowd gathered so easily and so quickly, and could witness the ‘sound’ (Acts 2:6), and how such a large group of disciples could be together (probably over one hundred and twenty - Acts 1:15). But Luke avoids stressing the Temple because he does not want to suggest that the Temple has become the centre of Christianity. By the time he wrote he was fully aware of the problem of the Judaisers which Paul faced, and he does not want to strengthen their arm. And the fire fell on the gathered disciples of Jesus and not strictly on the Temple. To have mentioned the Temple would have deviated from that fact. For it was what happened that mattered, not where it happened.
‘And there appeared to them tongues dividing apart, like as of fire, and it sat on each one of them.’
There also “appeared to them divided tongues as of fire” sitting on each of them. Previously such fire would descend on the Sanctuary. Now it is on His people. Once again it is not suggested that the manifestation is real fire. It is God-fire revealing His presence through supernatural signs. It is God descending in fire on the new Temple of His people by His Spirit. In the Old Testament He regularly revealed His presence by ‘fire’. He did it to Abraham (Genesis 15:17), and to Israel at the Exodus (e.g. Exodus 13:22), at Sinai (Exodus 19:18; Exodus 24:17) and at the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:38), and Moses could say that God “spoke out of fire on the mountain” (Deuteronomy 4:11) at the giving of the covenant, so that they saw no likeness of God, only heard His voice. Similarly in Ezekiel 1:27; Ezekiel 8:2 God reveals Himself in “the likeness of the appearance of fire”, while in Isaiah 4:5 God is to be a flaming fire shining over His people, when He covers them with His protection.
This would suggest that the fire is here a symbol of the presence of God as covenant-maker and adopter of those whom He has made His own, as protector of His people, and as declarer of His holy commands from the midst of the fire. It therefore signifies a new deliverance, a new presence of God with His people, and a new giving of God’s instruction with the same awesome demand for obedience, as the fire at Sinai and elsewhere signified of the old. Its resting on each of them, in the same way as it had rested on the Mount, is declaring that as God had dwelt on the Mount so He was now permanently indwelling each and all of His people as His new Tabernacle and Temple, while the dividing of the fire demonstrates that each one present is experiencing the fullness of the whole. While therefore His fire is overall and all absorbing, it is also specific and personal to each individual involved. They were all His Temple (2 Corinthians 6:16-47.6.18), and each was His Temple (1 Corinthians 6:19).
Here then was the ‘drenching of the Holy Spirit. Here was the revelation of the new presence of God on earth which would be manifested wherever these men were, and would continue to be manifested on all those who through them became partakers of the Holy Spirit. Here was God’s new Dwellingplace, these people who were now the Temple of the Holy Spirit. God was here to stay. No wonder the next few chapters reveal the powerful impact of the manifestation of the new Kingly Rule of God.
‘And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.’
This verse is very often the one emphasised when looking at Pentecost, and for the wrong reason. For the emphasis is then placed on ‘being filled with the Holy Spirit’, (simply because it is the only place where the Holy Spirit is actually mentioned), as though it was the major event. But it should not be so. For this filling (pimplemi) of the Spirit spoken of here is not descriptive of a permanent all embracing enduement like that in Acts 2:3, nor is it central to the idea of the giving of the Spirit. It is rather describing the resultant action of the Spirit whereby He, having entered the disciples permanently in the breath and fire of God, gave an extra powerful but temporary filling so as to produce the sign that would follow, the speaking in other tongues. (They will need to be filled again in Acts 4:31 so that they can speak with boldness). This is evidenced by its use elsewhere.
The only cases where being ‘filled’ (pimplemi) with the Holy Spirit is a permanent experience, and not a temporary one immediately followed by a description of the resulting activity, is in the cases of John the Baptiser and Paul (Luke 1:25; Acts 9:17). For others it is always a real, but temporary, source of inspiration which results in inspired words as elsewhere in Acts (Acts 4:8; Acts 4:31; Acts 13:9; compare Luke 1:40; Luke 1:67). Here in Acts 2:0 it is mentioned as the source of the speaking with other tongues. The permanent enduement had already been denoted through the sound of the wind and the manifestation of the fire, which must not be seen as just symbols, but as manifesting the presence of God Himself, personally and powerfully. The prime emphasis of Acts 2:4 is not on being filled with the Spirit but on the Spirit filling them so as to produce the ‘other tongues’ which are thereby seen to have been God produced, and so to be manifestations of the presence of the same Spirit as is present in wind and fire.
We can compare how in Luke’s Gospel the phrase being “filled with the Holy Spirit” occurs at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel explaining the prophesying of Elizabeth (Luke 1:40) and Zacharias (Luke 1:67), and the continuing power behind John the Baptiser’s ministry (Luke 1:15), (where it is likened to the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17)). In all cases it resulted in inspired words. Another and very different phrase “full (pleres) of the Holy Spirit” is referred to the ministry of Jesus (Luke 4:1). He did not require special fillings for He was always full of the Spirit. ‘Filled (pimplemi) with the Holy Spirit’ also occurs elsewhere in Acts where it causes Peter to speak inspired words (Acts 4:8), and where it causes the same disciples of Jesus to “speak the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31). In Acts 13:9 Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, speaks wonder working words which render Elymas blind. It is used therefore in the main to explain particular, but temporary, supernatural phenomena.
It is true that in Acts 9:17 it is used, as with John the Baptiser, for the preparation of Paul for his unique teaching and preaching ministry, but then it is not followed by any phenomenon that needed explanation. Being ‘filled (pleroo) with the Spirit’, and therefore full (pleres) of the Spirit is what we usually think if as being filled with the Spirit and is an experience that Christians should enjoy continually (Acts 13:52; Ephesians 5:18; Acts 6:3; Acts 6:5; Acts 7:55; Acts 11:24) as they walk in fellowship with Him (Galatians 5:16; Galatians 5:25).
So in the case of John the Baptiser and Paul (Acts 9:17) the experience (with pimplemi) was permanent and explained their powerful and continual preaching and teaching ministry, while with Elizabeth and Zacharias and in all other cases, including here, it was a temporary phenomenon, explaining their prophesying and powerful words. This compares with the phrase “the Spirit of the Lord came upon ---” in the Old Testament where it was often for a specific task, but permanent for Saul, while he was obedient, and for David. Here in Acts 2:0 then it would seem to suggest that this filling is the cause of the temporary experience of speaking in other tongues. Thus here speaking in other tongues is not to be seen as a sign of being filled with the Spirit, but results from such a filling. The other tongues are the consequence of the Spirit’s temporary filling, the reason why the Spirit filled them. The more permanent experience of the indwelling of the Spirit is revealed in the divine breath and the tongues of fire.
For the sake of completeness and in order to demonstrate this let us see all the verses which speak of being ‘filled (pimplemi) with the Holy Spirit’ side by side:
· And he (John) will be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb, and many of the children of Israel will he turn to the Lord their God (Luke 1:15).
· And Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she lifted up her voice with a loud cry, and she said --- (Luke 1:41-42.1.42).
· And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied saying --- (Luke 1:67).
· And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:4).
· Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit said to them, --- (Acts 4:8).
· And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31).
· And Ananias --- putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, who appeared to you in the way as you came, has sent me, that you might receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17).
· Then Saul, (who also is called Paul) filled with the Holy Spirit, fastened his eyes on him, and said -- - (Acts 13:9).
It will be seen at once that the references to John the Baptiser and Paul in Acts 9:7 are distinctive in that nothing is said of words following. In all the other cases the words that result are clearly stated. Thus in those two cases the filling with the Holy Spirit is said to be absolute. These were men who for the remainder of their lives would have specially empowered ministries of the word. In all the other cases the phrase explains a phenomenon connected with ‘inspired’ speaking at a particular time.
This can be contrasted with the use of ‘filled (pleroo) with the Holy Spirit’ and ‘full (pleres) of the Holy Spirit’.
· And Jesus being full of the Holy Spirit returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness (Luke 4:1).
· Look you out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom (Acts 6:3).
· And the saying pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit --- (Acts 6:5).
· But he (Stephen), being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God (Acts 7:55).
· For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith, and much people were added to the Lord (Acts 11:24).
· And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:52).
· And do not be drunk with wine, in which is excess; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs, and making melody with your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things (Ephesians 5:18).
It will be noticed immediately that no examples in this list result in inspired words and in most cases they refer to a continuous experience which explains some particular attribute enjoyed by those filled, such as wisdom, faith, and joy (although loseable for a time when we are filled with doubts or fears or anxieties). The one that refers to Jesus is clearly unique and refers to the whole of His life although having specific reference to the commencement of His wonder working ministry in Luke 4:0. The reference to Stephen in Acts 7:55 explains why he saw heavenly things which no other saw. The reference in Ephesians refers to a continual experience which results in singing and praise and is a practical way of saying ‘be filled with faith and joy in the Holy Spirit’. These last examples in fact describe what we usually think of when we think of ‘being filled with the Holy Spirit’.
But having said that, while in Acts 2:4 the phrase being ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ is the explanation for the phenomenon of speaking in tongues, and to that extent temporary, there can be no doubt that Acts 2:1-44.2.4 as a whole is describing the “drenching (baptizo) in the Holy Spirit” of Acts 1:5, with which Acts 2:4 connects. The coming of the Holy Spirit here is in this case more than just a “filling”. It is a permanent indwelling. It is the arrival of God by His Spirit in His permanent power and distinctive presence in His people, never to leave them. It is so huge an experience that it is almost impossible to put it into words. The temporary “filling” in order to enable the speaking in other tongues is only a small though significant part of it. We must therefore beware of applying Acts 2:1-44.2.4 to some sort of ‘special experience’ available to all. Christians do, of course, experience this. ‘If any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His’ (Romans 8:9). And Christians can, of course, all enjoy what lies behind the experience here, experiencing the indwelling and life-giving power of the Spirit, receiving the enduement with power of the Spirit and taking part in the furthering of the work of the Spirit in this new age, but when we experience this it is the fruition of this event not a repeating of it. Many may also experience being “filled with the Holy Spirit” when God has a task for them to do. This is something that has happened through the ages, and will continue to happen. But it is interesting in this context that no one is ever told to seek the Holy Spirit. We are told to seek God, and as we seek God He will come, as He did here.
We would therefore suggest that the threefold emphasis of these verses is that:
· There came the sound of a rushing mighty wind/breath, ever the symbol of power (compareEzekiel 37:5; Ezekiel 37:5; Ezekiel 37:9; Isaiah 11:15; Isaiah 17:13; Isaiah 41:16; Isaiah 59:19 RV RSV; Exodus 15:10; 2 Samuel 5:24). God was revealing that He had given life and power to and through His people.
· There came the cloven tongues of fire, ever the symbol of God’s purity, and glory, and consuming power and the sign of His indwelling (Exodus 19:18; Exodus 24:17; Exodus 40:34-2.40.35; Deuteronomy 4:15; Deuteronomy 4:24; Isaiah 4:5; Ezekiel 1:27; Malachi 3:2). His people were now to be seen as, and would in fact be, God’s new Temple, His new Dwellingplace on earth.
· There came ‘speaking with other tongues’, resulting from the Spirit filling them for the purpose, which expressed the fact that God was seeking men and women out in His love and speaking personally to those whose individual tongues they were (Isaiah 28:11), because He knows and is aware of the tongues of all men.
‘And began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.’ These are the words that are central to the verse, and are clearly important for the significance of Pentecost. Having clarified their importance we must now consider what they tell us.
The first aspect of tongues or languages as stressed in Scripture is that they are the method by which God speaks, whether men hear or not (Isaiah 28:11-23.28.12). God speaks to men through languages, through words. If people are to hear God they must understand the tongue with which He speaks and listen to it. When His people gathered before the Mount they were made conscious of His wind, they saw His fire and they heard His words from the midst of the fire. This is especially brought out in Deuteronomy 4:0 where a great emphasis is placed by Moses on the fact that they saw His fire, and that from it they heard His voice speaking His words to them (Deuteronomy 4:10-5.4.12; Deuteronomy 4:33; Deuteronomy 4:36). From the fire of God came the words of God. Here at Pentecost we have the same picture, the ‘tongues’ of fire sat on each of them, and then the other ‘tongues’ came as a result of the fire, so that the watchers could see the fire and hear His words. God was speaking from the fire of His presence as He had at Sinai.
In this way those who heard the other tongues were made conscious, except in the case of the scoffers, that this was God present among them to speak to them His words in their own native languages. While all spoke either Aramaic or Greek, or both, most of them would be familiar with their own native languages, the languages of the region in which they were born, which were treasured as evidence of their ancestry and of their forebears, and of their own distinctive culture. But they would not expect to hear them so far from home. Yet here now they were made aware that God had sought them out through these Galileans and was speaking to them in the language of home. So those who were receptive, when they heard those native languages on the mouths of the Galileans, recognised that this was a place and an atmosphere in which God was speaking to them in the most personal and loving way. They were made to recognise that the God of Pentecost knew who they were. That God loved them for what they were. And by this their hearts were being opened and prepared for the Spirit inspired words of Peter. Nothing stirs a man like hearing the language of the country of his birth. No wonder that so many then responded. No other sign could quite have opened their hearts to the voice of God in the way that this one did. God had by it demonstrated to them His personal interest in them. This was the first significance of the ‘other tongues’.
The second significance of these ‘other tongues’ was that they were clearly miraculous and declared the wonderful works of God. The Jews believed that the days of prophecy had ceased and would not be renewed until the day of consummation when God again began to work powerfully on behalf of His people. But now here it was apparent that a new day of prophecy had come. This therefore identified these Galileans directly with the outpouring of the Spirit as promised by Joel. This is why Peter will be able to say, ‘This is that’ (Acts 2:16) and be believed. The new day of prophecy has dawned! And God is prophesying to His people through these men, and to each in his own tongue.
And thirdly a further aspect of this speaking in ‘other tongues’ is that it was also a declaration that the judgment of the world resulting from the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:0 was now over. At Babel had begun the process that led to men being divided through their different languages because they did not want to listen to the voice of God, here was beginning the process of unifying men, of bringing men of different languages together as one, so that they could hear the voice of God together.
So these manifestations of the Spirit’s activity had a crucial part to play in an understanding of what was now happening. They declared that God was speaking to them personally, that the new day of the Spirit and of prophecy had come, and that God was now seeking to unite a world divided at Babel.
In Acts 10:44-44.10.46 the same sign would bring home to Peter that Gentiles as well as Jews could enjoy the full privileges of the coming of the Holy Spirit, and be united with the Jews in one whole (compare Ephesians 2:11-49.2.22), because the time of separation was over. No longer, Peter informed his critics, could they be justified in not accepting Gentiles on the same basis as Jews, for they too had spoken in the other tongues that indicated the Spirit speaking through them. Whether the tongues were understood there we are not specifically told, but we are told that they were aware that they were ‘magnifying God’ which does suggest that they were understood, and as a Roman centurion Cornelius’ household would be multinational so that they could speak in each other’s tongues. Both this example and Acts 2:0 can be compared with the Spirit coming on the seventy elders so that they ‘prophesied’, and from then on knew that they possessed the Spirit (Numbers 11:25-4.11.26). There could be no ‘other tongues’ in Numbers because they were all of one tongue, so they prophesied in that tongue. But the significance was similar. God was giving them understanding and a mouth with which to speak.
In Acts 19:6 the sign was in order to indicate to the influential followers of John the Baptiser that they also needed to participate in the new age of the Spirit, and be united with the followers of Christ. If they wished to continue to speak for God they must yield to Christ and be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. As a result when they were baptised in the name of the Lord, of Jesus, they too spoke in tongues or prophesied in order to indicate that God was now speaking through them as well. They were now incorporated into what had happened at Pentecost. From now on God’s voice to the world would come forth from them also by His Spirit. It made them recognise that all must therefore become one in Christ and cease to be separated by response to Jesus Christ. In this case there is no indication as to whether the tongues were understood. It was not important here. What mattered was that they too had become genuine ‘God-speakers’. These are the only cases in Acts where men are said to have spoken with tongues so that we have no reason to see it as a common sign required of all. It occurred because of two unusual situations, the first the official inaugural welcome of uncircumcised Gentiles as full Christians, and the second, the welcoming in and embracing of a unique ‘sect’ which had resulted from the Spirit at work through John, which had necessarily to be incorporated into the Christian church..
But here in Acts 2:0 it is specifically the understanding of the other tongues that is emphasised. It was precisely because they were understood that they were effective. All men from ‘all over the world’ heard the Christians speaking in their own languages ‘the mighty works of God’. It was not preaching. The preaching was done by Peter, probably in Aramaic which all would understand (they were all Jews), or possibly in Greek. It was rather a manifestation of the fact that this little band of disciples of Christ had a message for the whole world which came directly from God, and resulted from the pouring out of the Spirit promised by Joel. It was to make them recognise that in this incident and atmosphere it was the very voice of God that was speaking, and speaking directly and personally to each of them. To see it as simply a grounds for arguing about the gift of tongues is to miss the whole point.
Furthermore as we have already suggested, we must surely connect these ‘tongues’ with the ‘tongues’ of fire in Acts 2:3. The tongues produced tongues. They were manifestations of the fire of God’s presence which had entered them, and were demonstrating that the indwelling was available for all the hearers, and indeed for all men who would respond to Him through Christ. The listeners therefore had both a visible and aural evidence that God was here speaking to them, in exactly the same way as the people of Israel had had at Sinai (Deuteronomy 4:33). They saw the Fire, they heard the Voice.
What happened here at Pentecost is the manifestation of Christ as King over the Kingly Rule of God (Acts 2:33; Acts 2:36), a Kingly Rule which was to spread worldwide, manifested by the indwelling of God and the sending down of His own Representative to act through those whom He had appointed to his service. It was also the outward revelation of the new age of the Spirit, in which men can respond to His new covenant, and will then be indwelt by God through His Spirit, and will enjoy at various levels the power of His Spirit, and will be able to speak as from God. They will be, and will be able to see themselves as, the Tabernacle and Temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16-47.6.18). They will thus as a result enjoying all the blessings that the Spirit brings as described elsewhere, sonship (Romans 8:15-45.8.16; Galatians 4:4-48.4.6), sealing (Ephesians 1:13-49.1.14; Ephesians 4:30), and setting apart for God (1 Corinthians 1:2 with Acts 6:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). They are then to allow the Spirit to fill (pleroo) them on a continual basis (Ephesians 5:18, which while sampled here was not said to be permanently experienced here in Acts 2:0), an experience different from being “filled (pimplemi) with the Spirit” for a particular inspirational task. This will then result in their rejoicing and being filled with worship and praise, the result of continually seeking God and being obedient to Him. Thus will they enjoy the full benefits of the age of the Spirit.
Some, however, see the reference to ‘other tongues’ here as meaning ‘other than the language normally used in Temple worship’, that is, other than the sacred Hebrew language, the other tongues being therefore mainly Greek and Aramaic. The surprise is then seen as occasioned to the listeners by the fact that while they were wedded to the fact that all worship in the Temple should be in Hebrew, here worship was taking place other than in Hebrew. But this does not explain why Luke then lists such a diversity of peoples, or how it could be such a clear sign to Jewish Christians of God’s acceptance of the Gentiles as in Acts 10:44-44.10.46; Acts 11:15. Nor can it be seriously be thought that no one had ever prayed in the Temple area in a foreign tongue before. (It might be different if it had taken place in the more inner areas of the Temple).
Excursus on the Speaking With Other Tongues.
It almost seems like a coming down from the mountain to divert from the significance of these other tongues at this huge moment in the birth of the church in order to look at the wider subject of the connection of this with the speaking in tongues (glossolalia) described elsewhere in 1 Corinthians 12-14. I say almost because the subject is clearly of great importance, and it is without question that the gift of tongues itself continued elsewhere, to a lesser extent to stress, the unity of all believers in the Spirit and the fact that God’s truth was for the whole world (even though like all gifts it could be wrongly used and spoken about in order to bring about the opposite). For while the wording is the same the emphasis is totally different.
Here in Acts 2:4 they are described as ‘speaking with other tongues’ (lalein heterais glowssais) and it is stressed that the hearers each heard them speaking ‘his own language’ (te idia dialekto lalountown- Acts 2:6; Acts 2:8). Indeed they declared that they heard them ‘speaking in our own tongues’ (lalountown -- tais hemeterais glowssais) the wonderful works of God (Acts 2:11). This may similarly be understood in Acts 10:44-44.10.46, for ‘they heard them speak with tongues (lalountown glowssais) and magnify God’, the latter words ‘and magnify God’ probably signifying that the tongues were understood. It is noteworthy otherwise that nowhere else are such things (that they spoke tongues which were understood) said about ‘tongues’, even though it be granted that the tongues in Acts 19:6 had the same purpose. Thus Acts 2:4; Acts 10:44-44.10.46 have the appearance of being unique phenomena intended for a unique purpose, to bring home that the message of Good News is now for people of all tongues, and that God is now speaking to such through His Apostles. This specific idea is not obvious in other references to tongues.
However, in Acts 10:44-44.10.46 and Acts 19:6 (where some spoke with tongues (elaloun te glowsais), while others prophesied) the tongues were seen as a sign of the presence of the same Holy Spirit as at Pentecost, and confirmed that these believers had been accepted into God’s Temple on the same terms as the original believers. They were thus of considerable importance in these cases as evidencing the acceptability of uncircumcised Gentiles into the church on equal terms, and the need for the then current disciples of John the Baptiser to become Christians in order to enjoy full blessing.
There are two other places where tongues are mentioned. The reference in Mark 16:17-41.16.18 is important. Being on the lips of the resurrected Jesus it is presented as the first ever reference to ‘tongues’ that we are informed of in the New Testament. Here, with no background given, we are told concerning His future disciples that ‘they will speak with “new tongues”’ (glowssais lalesousin kainais). Given the context of going into all the world and proclaiming the Gospel, and no parallel elsewhere to the expression ‘new tongues’ (languages), we may well see it as an indication of the widespread nature of their future witness. They will go among foreign peoples outside the range of Greek and Aramaic where they will have to speak with ‘new tongues’.
It is, of course, true that this is seemingly cited in the midst of examples of the miraculous. It is paralleled with the casting out of devils, the safe taking up of poisonous snakes and the laying on of hands on the sick that they might be healed. Even here, however, we should note that the casting out of evil spirits was not so much a miracle as a sign of God’s supreme authority over the powers of evil, and that the refraining from biting of the snakes was rather an indication that God was in control of creation and that His disciples had in some way entered into the new age which was coming (see Isaiah 11:8-23.11.9). Examples of both will be cited in Acts (Acts 8:7; Acts 16:18; Acts 19:12; Acts 28:3-44.28.6). Nor then necessarily were the ‘new tongues’ miraculous.
What the signs in Mark taught men was:
· That God was all powerful over the spiritual world, revealed in the fact that evil spirits were cast out.
· That God would enable His people to speak to all the world in all tongues, that is, in ‘new’ languages.
· That God was in control of all natural forces that could hurt them, even of the creature that had first been the cause of all men’s problems, because snakes were controlled.
· That God could heal all and could keep His people whole as they went out in His service, and could heal men so as to demonstrate that the Kingly Rule of God was here. .
With regard to not seeing ‘new tongues’ as necessarily a miraculous gift, we should note that among the gifts described in 1 Corinthians 12:28-46.12.31 are gifts like ‘administration’ and ‘helps’ which are mentioned alongside ‘miracles’ and ‘prophecy’. Thus the gifts of the Holy Spirit were there clearly seen as equally evidenced in the sphere of what might be seen as ‘ordinary’ activities. Furthermore while today we might see learning ‘new tongues’ as nothing unusual, it was certainly unusual for the types of people Jesus was talking about, and would include more exotic languages not known in their world. They would have been filled with trepidation at the thought of having to do so. It would therefore be a huge relief to them to know that God would give them enablement in the process. There would seem in view of this no reason for doubting that this promise in Mark refers to God’s powerful enabling in giving His disciples the ability quickly to absorb and preach in new languages, in ‘new tongues’ which would be necessary because of the places to which they would have to go.
It is, of course, always possible that this could be seen as a preparation for Pentecost itself where the ‘other tongues’ will be spoken, for it should be noted that all these references up to now have been in the context of Judaism where as far as we know speaking in tongues was not a normal experience either before or after Pentecost. These tongues would not at this stage be compared with such phenomena as evidenced in the more extravagant Gentile religions. Taken in this way it would have helped Peter to recognise in the ‘other tongues’ at Pentecost a fulfilment of the promise that Jesus had made concerning ‘new tongues’. But why then the different wording in describing the activity?
(It is interesting how those who argue that Acts and 1 Corinthians refer to the same thing because they use the same phraseology, then argue that the lack of the same phraseology does not matter here).
There may also be included in the idea in Mark, especially after Pentecost had made it plain, that their ability to praise God in new tongues in the same way as at Pentecost would soften up men’s hearts so that even the barbarians would recognise that they came with a message from God. But if this be so we are never given any examples of it, although it must be admitted that we do not know much about the later witness to such Barbarians nor of the activities of most of the Apostles so that this is not conclusive. But the new tongues in the context of a going out into all the world does suggest rather that they would have to speak in these new tongues (or languages) because they were going to new places. The promise is then that God will give them enablement in doing so, being Spirit-enabled without being miraculous (if such a distinction is possible). We are wise then to leave the reference in Mark out when looking at the phenomenon of ‘tongues’.
The only other place where the question of ‘tongues’ arises is in 1 Corinthians 12-14. But significantly these are never described as ‘new tongues’, and apart from in an Old Testament quotation are not even referred to as ‘other tongues’. Regardless, however, of the nomenclature we are certainly not in this case dealing with quite the same phenomenon as at Pentecost, for Paul clearly states that these tongues will not be understood and that outsiders will come in and hear them speaking in tongues (lalowsin glowssais) and will consider them mad (1 Corinthians 14:23). It is not so much a question of different terminology between Acts and Corinthians (as it is with Mark 16:0), for in 1 Corinthians there is a general similarity to Acts, but what stands out is that in addressing the Corinthians Paul nowhere seems to consider even the possibility of the tongues being recognised. It seems reasonably fair to conclude that had the speaking in tongues in 1 Corinthians been seen by Paul as exactly the same as here in Acts 2:0 he would have assumed that they were in recognisable languages. They would not therefore have produced the reaction that they did, and Paul would then have been open to the charge that he was misrepresenting the case. He would have had to answer the claim that some present did actually understand them, as they did at Pentecost. But on the face of it he was never required to answer such a claim. It would seem that both parties recognised that at Corinth the tongues were unrecognisable, and the difference therefore lay in the question as to how they should be used.
Paul is quite clear on this. He specifically states that the tongues being manifested in Corinth should not be spoken aloud, except privately in private prayer, unless they were translated (1 Corinthians 14:27-46.14.28), and then never more than three times in a public meeting which probably lasted for some hours. His decision was based on his view that no gifts should be used publicly in church unless they benefited all (Acts 2:26). However that was not to denigrate the gift, only to control its use, for Paul does seem to have valued the gift greatly in his own private prayer life. What he opposed was an excessive and/or untranslated use in public.
It is difficult therefore to argue that these tongues were being used in the same way as at Pentecost. Had they been so surely the Holy Spirit would have ensured that they were understandable to at least some of those present, as He did at Pentecost. The fact that He did not do so demonstrates that we are dealing in 1 Corinthians with a different, if parallel, phenomenon which was intended mainly for personal blessing, and that like all the gifts it was only granted to some.
For further detail with regard to this we would refer to our commentary on 1 Corinthians 14:0.
End of Excursus.
‘Now there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound was heard, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speaking in his own language.’
In Jerusalem lived Jews (‘devout men’ is elsewhere used mainly to indicate true-born Jews, but what follows suggests that it also includes proselytes - see Acts 13:43) from all parts of the known world, and because of the feast there would also be many visiting ‘devout people’ present. Those ‘from many nations’ were especially there because they were ‘devout’. They were either Jews who had come a long way to the Feast and were temporarily dwelling in Jerusalem or Jews who had returned to Jerusalem to spend their last years in the holy city in order to be near God’s earthly Dwellingplace. And large numbers of both would be gathered at the Temple for the Feast, as they brought their offerings of firstfruits and came together to worship.
‘From ever nation under heaven.’ This is a typical exaggeration, not to be taken literally, intended to indicate the widespread nationalities of the Jews present in Jerusalem at this Feast. At the coming of the Holy Spirit it was as though the whole world were present, confirming its universal significance. Here in miniature was the fulfilment of God’s promises in the prophets that His word would go out to all the world. This was then later to be maximised by actually going out into the whole world (Acts 1:8). Here the whole world had flowed to Jerusalem, which would be followed by the word of the Lord going out to the whole world (Isaiah 2:2-23.2.4).
When they ‘heard the sound (phone)’ they came to the spot where it had occurred, and was possibly still occurring. ‘The sound’ probably indicates the wind (although in Acts 2:2 it is echos), but many commentators argue for it meaning the words in tongues. Either is possible. However, if the howl of the wind was heard in the Temple courtyards it would certainly be seen as so unusual as to draw a crowd, whereas the babble of voices would probably be lost among the continual babble of noise emanating from surrounding crowds, and the continual noise of the traders (John 2:13-43.2.16). But when they then saw how the disciples, whom they knew to be Galileans, were behaving, they gathered round, totally astonished to hear them speaking in many different languages, among which they recognised their own.
The Reaction Of The Hearers (2:5-13).
‘And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying, Behold, are not all these that speak Galileans? And how hear we, every man in our own language wherein we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia; and Judaea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and those of Asia; and Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and sojourners from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we hear them speaking in our tongues the mighty works of God.’
Luke emphasises their astonishment, ‘they were all amazed and marvelled’. And the reason was that they heard these men declaring the mighty works of God, each of them in their own language, and we may presume with reasonably good accents. All the people present would speak Greek or Aramaic, and many would probably speak both, which seems to confirm that these ‘other tongues’ in their native languages were intended as a sign rather than as a means of conveying knowledge. The declaring of ‘the mighty works of God’ probably therefore indicates praise and worship rather than preaching. These ‘mighty works’ may well have included reference to the wind and fire, as well as to Old Testament Scriptures connected with them. The actual informative preaching was to be done by Peter.
In order to bring home the marvel Luke lists many of the nationalities that were represented, followed by general descriptions. There are grammatical reasons for suggesting that we might list them as follows:
· Parthians, Medes, Elamites and dwellers in Mesopotamia.
· And Judaea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and those of Asia.
· And Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and resident aliens from Rome.
· And Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians.
Each of the first three sets ends with a description or descriptions commencing with the article and representing a generality of peoples. The last three sets begin with ‘te’, distinguishing one from the other (otherwise where ‘and’ appears it is kai). The four descriptions in the final set, which also begins with te, appear to be added on as a kind of postscript in order to explain both that these were all recognised ‘Jews’ and in order to expand the descriptions overseas to the west and over the desert to the east. ‘Cretans and Arabians’ certainly appear abruptly like a postscript. It would appear to be a comment intended to include all who were not already in the list. Some suggest that ‘Judaea’ is intended to signify the province of Syria, including Syria and Palestine, with all speaking similar Aramaic. If so the first ten are all northerly, with Egypt and Libya southerly. Luke may well have known little about Arabia.
Parthians, Medes, Elamites and dwellers in Mesopotamia came from the north east, the Cappadocians through to the Pamphylians from the north and north west, the Egyptians and Libyans from the South, the Cretans from over the Great Sea, and the Arabians from due east across the Transjordanian desert. They also included some who were resident aliens in Rome. Luke probably saw these last as the initial sortie on Rome, which would eventually result in Paul’s presence there. Possibly some of these returned to Rome to establish a church there. But their description as ‘resident aliens’ emphasises their differing nationalities
‘The dwellers in Mesopotamia’, ‘those of Asia’, ‘the parts of Libya about Cyrene’, and ‘the resident aliens from Rome’ are thus all descriptions that could represent a multiplicity of languages, the point being that while Luke had identified specific peoples whom he had cause to know were present, presumably because during his enquiries he had ascertained the fact, he wanted it known that the number of languages spoken went well beyond that.
‘In Judaea’ possibly included the whole Aramaic speaking province of Syria, thus indicating those in ‘home territory’. But in fact the vast majority of visitors at the feast would actually be Judaeans, and Luke may therefore simply be saying that they too were catered for in the fact that some of these Aramaic speaking Galileans, whose pronunciation of Aramaic was mocked at by Judaeans (the Galileans found difficulty with the gutturals which they themselves did not pronounce quite so heavily), were speaking refined Judaean (which would certainly come as a shock to the Judaeans). The specific reference to Cyrene may suggest that Luke had precise knowledge of some who were from thereabouts, possibly because they had become Christians and had given Luke some of his information (compare Simon of Cyrene - Luke 23:26 - whom Mark identifies as the father of Alexander and Rufus, thus suggesting they were well known in Christian circles). But it may instead be his way of referring to the multiplicity of tribal languages known to be spoken in northern Africa identified by reference to a well known northern African city.
He also mentions that there were both true-born Jews, and proselytes These last were converted Gentiles who had submitted to circumcision and had undergone a once-for-all ritual self-bathing in order to make themselves ‘clean’ from their defilement resulting from living previously as Gentiles. Such proselytes could come from peoples of many languages. Whether the reference to Jews and proselytes is limited to the resident aliens from Rome is open to question. But more probably Luke is just being general in his designations and intending it to apply to all, and proselytes could come from any language background. The main point is that there were many languages being spoken and that all heard their own tongue being spoken by these unlearned Galileans, as they declared the mighty works of God under the inspiration of the Spirit. One of the points undoubtedly being pressed home by this was that their message was for the whole world, and especially for these hearers.
It must be considered as quite probable that all the disciples who were speaking in ‘other tongues’ had often previously heard men praising God in those tongues within the Temple area, even if they had not understood them themselves, so that one of the explanations of the phenomenon may well be that the Holy Spirit drew on their subconscious memory to enable them to repeat openly such praises as they had often heard, precisely so as to emphasise the universality of the Gospel.
‘And they were all amazed, and were perplexed, saying one to another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with sweet wine.” ’
Opinions about what was happening were divided. Some were intrigued and even recognised that it somehow held a message for them. They recognised that there was some form of miracle here. In contrast the more cynical merely laughed and said that the men were drunk. However, to the more thoughtful and receptive it would have come home as in some way God Himself speaking to them, for what other explanation for the phenomenon could there be for them hearing their own native language from an unexpected source?
‘Sweet wine (gleukous).’ The emphasis is on ‘sweet wine’, kept sweet through the year and possibly especially potent (the word occurs only here in the New Testament). It may indicate the first seepings from the new grapes in the wine press which were generally seen as potent, and probably regularly a cause of amusing comments. ‘Filled with gleukous’ might have been a common saying equivalent to our contemptuous ‘they’re drunk’.
We should note how the whole future response of the world is here epitomised in three types of hearers. There are three sets of people in mind (compare Acts 17:32):
1) The believers.
2) The interested.
3) The scoffers.
The world is made up of these.
‘But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and spoke forth to them, saying, “You men of Judaea, and all you who dwell at Jerusalem, be this known to you, and give ear to my words.” ’
Peter stood up with the eleven. He did not sit as did the Rabbis, and put forth blessed thoughts, he stood and proclaimed. He did not wait for them to come and sit around, he lifted up his voice so that all the great crowds within the Temple courtyard could hear. For what he had to say was for all who were present.
He addresses the Judaeans present and all who dwelt at Jerusalem. The Jerusalem dwellers always saw themselves as distinctive from the Judaeans who did not live in Jerusalem (compare Mark 1:5; Isaiah 1:1; Isaiah 2:1; Isaiah 3:1; Isaiah 5:3; Jeremiah 4:3 etc.). His address draws attention to how many Judaeans were present, and explains why Judaeans were mentioned in Acts 2:9. He calls on them to listen to his words, stressing with twofold emphasis the importance of listening carefully.
Peter’s Reply (2:14-36).
In his reply Peter reveals a combination of what he has learned through the ministry of Jesus, and what Jesus had made clear to His disciples over His resurrection appearances of which we have only been given a small amount of information. The sensible explanation for that lack is that Luke saw no need for giving further information because he knew that it was also to be included in Peter’s preaching. But we do know that in those appearances Jesus had drawn their attention to the many Scriptures which had pointed forward to Himself (Luke 24:26-42.24.27; Luke 24:44-42.24.45), and had related them to His death and resurrection. Now, newly inspired by the Spirit, Peter enunciated to his listeners what he had learned from Jesus, carefully following the pattern of preaching he had been taught by Jesus (see introduction on the Speeches in Acts).
“For these are not drunk, as you suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.”
He first points out the unlikelihood of these men being drunk. It is too early in the day. Most Jews would only drink wine when they ate flesh and it was usual to eat flesh in the evening. Furthermore even heartier drinkers were unlikely to have drunk enough to be in such a state by roughly 9:00 am on a Feast Day, for they would not even have had their first meal, and this was a recognised time of prayer (compare Acts 3:1). So drinking by this time would simply not have been done. They were here for prayer in preparation for the more religious side of the Feast at the Temple. Such drinking as there was would come later.
“But this is that which has been spoken through the prophet Joel.”
He then explains what is really happening. Quoting Scriptures which may well have recently been drawn to his attention by Jesus, and citing the prophet Joel who had spoken of a coming effusion of the Spirit in the days when God began to act, he declares that God had now begun His promised work of ‘the last days’. ‘This is that’ indicates that what they are seeing this day is a part of that pouring out of the Spirit promised by Joel. Let them now recognise that the days of promise and warning are now here. In the context of Acts Luke has in mind the working of the Spirit which he will describe all through the Book of Acts.
“And it shall be in the last days, says God, I will pour out of my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. Yes, and on my servants and on my handmaidens in those days will I pour forth of my Spirit, and they will prophesy.”
Joel 2:28 in LXX reads, ‘And it shall come about afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh’. Peter paraphrases ‘afterward’ as ‘in the last days’ (or quotes from a collection of sayings which has done the same). Joel’s prophecy does in fact have reference to the last days and stresses that it is dealing with ‘the day of Yahweh’ (Joel 1:15), the time when God chooses to work among men. However, ‘the last days’ is a significant phrase for it is the phrase used in Isaiah 2:2-23.2.4; Micah 4:1 referring to the time when God’s Temple would be miraculously exalted, when the peoples would respond to Him, and when His truth would go out to the world. Nothing could be apter for the Day of Pentecost. So Peter is linking Joel 2:28 with Isaiah 2:2-23.2.4. The coming day of Yahweh is also often called ‘that day’ (Isaiah 2:11; Isaiah 2:17; Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 11:10 etc.), that is, the one coming at the end. So Peter is simply by his changes putting the quotation in its true context. The quotation is otherwise similar to both LXX and MT except for the reversal of the words with regard to young and old men and the final addition of ‘and they will prophesy’ (which is merely repeating what has been said for emphasis. This is probably a preacher’s use of a text where he is stressing the salient points).
It should be remembered that to the Apostles the days which had now begun were ‘the last days. See Hebrews 1:2; Heb 9:26-28 ; 1 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Timothy 3:1; 1Pe 1:20 ; 1 Peter 4:7; 2Pe 3:3 ; 1 John 2:18. The last days may have lasted two thousand years, but to God that is but a short period in the night, ready for the coming of the Day..
The prophecy promises ‘the pouring out of the Spirit on all flesh’. In context ‘all flesh’ means all types of people, sons and daughters, male and female, young men and old men, menservants and maidservants. It does not necessarily include non-Jews (compare Ezekiel 21:4-26.21.5 which is addressed to Israel and where ‘all flesh’ can only mean Israel). Thus the promise, which he is now declaring as in process of fulfilment, refers to a general and all encompassing pouring out of the Spirit on all God’s people.
And that day was also to be marked by ‘prophecies’ such as these they were hearing in their own languages from these men about whom they were commenting. It was especially to be a time of prophesying, and also one of visions and dreams (which will come out later in Acts). This identified what was happening with Joel’s prophecy. It was all evidence that the Holy Spirit, God’s own Spirit, was being poured forth.
“And I will show wonders in the heaven above, And signs on the earth beneath, blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the day of the Lord come, that great and notable day.”
That day was also to be a time of vivid signs and wonders. Peter had noted that such things were already beginning. In respect of the ‘wonders in the heaven above’ many of them would remember the darkness that had descended on the day of the crucifixion of Jesus, (Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44). Here in Jerusalem it was not likely to have been forgotten, and certainly not by Peter and the disciples. But as we have seen above there were other wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth beneath. For example there were there were:
1). Wonders in the heaven above which comprised the mighty noise of the wind and the glory of the fire that had been seen to descend on the disciples ‘from heaven’ (Acts 2:3).
2). Mighty ‘signs and wonders’ of various kinds performed by Jesus on earth (Acts 2:22). Luke also continually stresses signs and wonders performed on earth by the Apostles and Apostolic appointees (Acts 2:43; Acts 4:16; Acts 4:30; Acts 5:12; Acts 6:8; Acts 8:9; Acts 8:13; Acts 14:3; compare Acts 3:10).
3). The blood of Christ that had so recently been shed, and which some of their number had observed falling from His hands and feet and body at the cross. This blood was the sign (Hebrews 12:24; 1 John 5:8) of God’s redemptive offer (Romans 3:25; Romans 5:9; Eph 1:7 ; 1 Peter 1:18-60.1.19; Revelation 5:9), and will later be constantly referred to (Ephesians 2:13; Colossians 1:20; Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 10:19; 1Pe 1:2 ; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 12:11). They themselves are ‘the fellowship of the blood of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 10:16). Blood is therefore a feature of the new age.
4). The fire of God that had come down from heaven on His people, to remain with them for ever, evidencing the permanent indwelling of God in His people.
5). The vapour of smoke or cloud into which Jesus had been taken that they might see Him no more (Acts 1:9), but which had resulted in what they now saw and heard.
6). There was the great darkness that blotted out the light in Jesus’ final hours (Mark 15:33), a phenomenon possibly accompanied by the reddening of the moon. The reddening of the moon was a fairly common occurrence over Palestine, and sometimes occurred with such intensity that it is especially mentioned by Josephus.
Moreover Peter was now expecting that not only the present but also the future would also hold such world-shaking events, for Jesus had told them of what was to come (Luke 21:25-42.21.26; Matthew 24:29-40.24.31; Mark 13:24-41.13.27), and he knew that such signs would follow the pouring out of the Spirit. It had to be so for the world had crucified the Son of God. They had sent Him away marked ‘Unwanted’. So he saw what had now happened at Pentecost as the beginning of all that Jesus had promised, and all that Joel had prophesied, but as something that must also issue in judgments on the world. His words not only describe what has just now taken place but also stress what is to come, as a warning to his listeners.
Peter did not see the coming of the Holy Spirit as just a joyous event for His people, although it was certainly that. He saw it in a context of God’s whole dealings with the world and with mankind. God was now beginning His activities of the last days. For those who responded that could only mean joy and gladness and salvation. But for those who rejected the Spirit’s work there could only be gloom, disaster and despair.
He himself had only too recently heard from the lips of Jesus the dreadful and awe-inspiring events which were shortly to happen to Jerusalem and to the Temple (Luke 21:20-42.21.24), which were also inevitably to see the devastation of Palestine, and carrying away of His rejected people among the nations, and which would result in blood and fire and vapour of smoke, together with the inevitable effects on the visibility of the sun and moon, which the warfare involved would produce. And the 1st century AD would also see something of their fulfilment in the dreadful famine in the time of Claudius (see Acts 11:27-44.11.30) which covered many lands, especially affecting Palestine, and in the terrible earthquake which destroyed Laodicea and shook the whole of Phrygia in 61 AD, causing many seemingly unnatural phenomena to occur, and in the destruction by huge volcanic action of Pompeii and Herculaneum and all the area round about, which would certainly result in blood and fire and pillars of smoke, and in many similar catastrophes which occurred. And every century since has seen their fulfilment time and again, for these are the last days, but with all pointing ahead to the coming of the great and notable day of the Lord when He brings all things to conclusion. Peter had good cause for his words. (We do not do well just to split them into two as though God’s judgments will not be abroad until what we call the end times. They have been observed throughout history).
All this tied in with the worldview of the Old and New Testaments. First there had been the times of man’s ignorance which God had winked at, now had come the last days when God having sent His Son to die for us, would call men to repentance and visit the world with His judgments in the Day of the Lord (Acts 17:30-44.17.31), and finally would come the consummation when all was put right or destroyed and God would be all in all.
“And it shall be, that whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
In view then of what they have seen and of these coming wonders and catastrophes let them now recognise that if they wish to be saved they should ‘call on the name of the Lord’, and in terms of Acts 2:36 this means on Jesus Christ. For the wonderful truth is that now, because of what is happening, whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. They will find mercy and escape the wrath of God as depicted by the signs mentioned.
To ‘call on the name of the Lord’ was to approach God in worship and to seek His mercy. Compare Genesis 4:26; Genesis 12:8; 2 Samuel 22:4; Psalms 55:16; Psalms 86:5; Psalms 105:1; Psalms 116:13; Psalms 116:17; Psalms 145:18). But here was probably the added idea that it was Jesus Who was the Lord Who had to be called on.
“You men of Israel, hear these words. Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God to you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you, even as you yourselves know,”
Having commenced with the prophetic word from the Old Testament he moves on to the second stage of the Apostolic message, a description of the life and death of Jesus, and what has followed. They had recently seen the mighty works, and wonders, and signs, when Jesus of Nazareth had walked among them. They all of them knew about them. These evidenced that God had worked through Him, and had thus approved Him. Let them then remember what they had heard and seen.
‘Mighty works and wonders and signs.’ The threefoldness stresses the completeness of His ministry looked at from three aspects. He had done mighty works, the works of God (John 5:17). He had cast out evil spirits. He had healed the sick in large numbers. He had raised the dead. By this it could be seen that God was active on earth. But these were also wonders. They had revealed His extraordinary power, especially when amalgamated with his miraculous feeding of the crowds and His control over wind and wave. None could explain them, ‘for no man can do those signs which you do except God be with Him’ (John 3:2). And this leads on to the fact that they were signs of the presence of the Messiah, for, as He had gently pointed out to a despairing John (Matthew 11:4-40.11.6), they fulfilled all that the prophets had promised (Isaiah 32:1-23.32.4; Isaiah 35:5-23.35.6; Isaiah 61:1-23.61.2)
“Him, being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you by the hand of lawless men (or ‘by lawless hands’) did crucify and slay.”
And they also knew that they themselves were of the people who had caused Him to be crucified and slain. Peter pulls no punches. He will not allow that the Romans should take all the blame. He knew too much of what had happened. Indeed for some of it he had been personally there. He knew that the guilt lay as much, if not more, on the Jews as on the Romans. Nevertheless the Romans are included for they were the ‘lawless men’ by whose hands it was done. (Elsewhere Acts again stresses the sharing of the guilt (Acts 4:27)).
‘By the hand of lawless men (or ‘by lawless hands’).’ This word ‘lawless’ can simply refer to those who transgress the Law, or it can refer to those who are ‘without the Law’ (1 Corinthians 9:21). Thus here it may refer to the Jews as behaving as if the had no Law, or it may be referring to the Romans as behaving in the same way because they do not have the Law of God. But either way (and both may be included) it indicates rebellion against God and His laws.
Nevertheless, he declares, even before he tells them this, that it was not an accident, or even an unforeseen circumstance. Let them not really think that they have got rid of Jesus. Let them now recognise that Jesus had also been offered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. He wants them to know that God’s ways and purposes had not been forestalled, and that this extraordinary event had been of His doing. It had been in accordance with His predetermination that Jesus should die. His death had been the result of God’s own counsel and wisdom. This was a concept that had seized the imagination of the Apostles. Now that Jesus had risen they saw all things differently. God was in everything that was happening, and it was happening in accordance with His own counsel as He had foretold (Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 54:12). Compare here Acts 3:18; Acts 4:28; Acts 13:29. ‘Did crucify and slay.’ The dual description emphatically stresses what they had done. The desire for His death had possessed their hearts.
Peter had good reason to know all this about God’s foreordained purpose. Jesus had constantly emphasised that as the Servant of God He must die (Mark 10:45), and while at the time the disciples had avoided the subject, they had now come to see that it was true, just as Jesus had said. For all that He had spoken of had happened, the suffering, the vicious treatment, the trial by the Jews, and the cruel execution followed by the resurrection (Luke 9:22; Luke 18:31; Mark 8:31; Mark 9:31; Mark 10:33-41.10.34; Mark 10:45). Thus to a Spirit enlightened mind the conclusion was clear. This was all in God’s plan and purpose. It resulted from His own counsel and predetermination.
Some may then ask, are the perpetrators then guilty? Scripture always answers this question with a resounding ‘Yes’. Regularly through Scripture God’s purposes are seen to be fulfilled through men’s wickedness, but that never reduces the condemnation on the wickedness. God’s Assyrian rod must also come under His judgment for enjoying it and going further than was required (Isaiah 10:5-23.10.15). It is only sinful man who thinks that he can remove his guilt by blaming God. Man does what he does because he is sinful man. God brings it about and harnesses it into the carrying out of His predetermined purposes.,
“Whom God raised up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible that he should be kept captive by it.”
But His death had not been the end. For God had raised Him up, and had released Him from the pangs of death. Indeed it had not been possible for Him to be held by them because the Scriptures had already declared that He would be raised from the dead. There may also here be a recognition by Peter even at this stage that the nature of Jesus was such that death could not hold Him. He was the Holy One, the Lord of Life. The Scripture he quotes is Psalms 16:8-19.16.11. This psalm was a Davidic Psalm and therefore applied to all the faithful scions of David. (They were sung century by century precisely for this reason). In it David had expressed his confidence that for him death would not be the end. And each following ‘David’ who was faithful could express the same confidence. How much more then was this true of the greater David Who had now come.
‘The pangs of death.’ Death is regularly in Scripture seen as an enemy, as something to be avoided, as something painful and abhorrent which is why the defeat of death is regularly described in terms of freedom from sorrow and bondage (Isaiah 25:8; Isa 26:19 ; 1 Corinthians 15:54-46.15.57; Hebrews 2:14-58.2.15; Revelation 21:4)
“For David says concerning him, I beheld the Lord always before my face. For he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved. Therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced. Moreover my flesh also will dwell in hope, because you will not leave my soul to Hades, nor will you give your Holy One to see corruption. You made known to me the ways of life. You will make me full of gladness with your countenance.”
These words are based on Psalms 16:8-19.16.11 LXX being almost word for word apart from the omission of ‘at your right hand there are delights for ever’ in LXX. While those words would have made the case stronger Peter feels them unnecessary for his case. Note the expression of total loyalty to God in the Psalm, without which what followed would not be true, the confidence that as God’s ‘holy one’ (i.e. as His anointed who is faithful to Him) he will not be left in the grave or be allowed to suffer corruption. Note also the certainty that he will again experience life and be joyful before the face of God. Whether the writer of the Psalm was originally here expressing his hope of a future life, or was simply expressing the hope that God would not leave him to an early death in the situation in which he found himself, is disputed, but the words not quoted by Peter support the case that he was thinking of living for ever because he could not believe that God would forsake him or let him sink into oblivion. This idea appears in a number of Psalms (see Psalms 17:15; Psalms 23:6; etc) and Isaiah too would cry, ‘My dead bodies shall rise -- the earth shall cast forth the shades’ (Isaiah 26:19) in a context speaking of Sheol (Hades - the grave world - and compare here Psalms 139:8-19.139.9). But the distinction is of secondary importance here because Peter goes on to explain his argument.
It is unlikely that we are to see Peter here as specifically using Rabbinic methods of exegesis. It must be seriously doubted whether he knew of such methods as such. What he was doing was using methods that he had learned from Jesus, and which were generally recognised by the common people from their contact with Pharisaic teaching, combined with good common sense and spiritual insight, fortified by the Holy Spirit.
“Brethren, I may say to you freely of the patriarch David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins he would set one on his throne; he foreseeing this spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he left to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.”
He declares that this Psalm could not literally apply to David because David did die, and was buried, and because his body did see corruption, as was evidenced by the fact that his tomb was with them to that day. He therefore declares that the literal fulfilment of the Psalm requires its fulfilment of another ‘David’. This fulfilment having not happened to David, it must necessarily happen to the coming David, His Holy One, the Messiah. In this way it would happen to David in his descendant.
Here we have another case of prophecy where the original prophecy was part fulfilled, while in the fullest sense the prophecy awaited a later time. Here, says Peter, David knew that in accordance with God’s promise, God would raise up a son to David who would be ‘the everlasting King’ (2 Samuel 7:12-10.7.13). The promises of God were regularly of ‘everlastingness’ in the Old Testament. They did not always think it through but it was there. And that being so David had known that such a king could not possibly be held by death or the grave, otherwise he could not reign for ever. The future ‘David’, therefore, could not finally be ‘left in Hades’, nor could His flesh finally corrupt, otherwise the promise would fail. Thus, says Peter, as the Coming King is Jesus Who had been put to death, as they all knew, His resurrection was inevitable. He must rise from the dead otherwise He could not be the everlasting King. In this argument we might sense the teaching of Jesus after His resurrection and the influence of Isaiah 53:10-23.53.12 connected with Acts 9:6-44.9.7.
Peter’s interpretation brings out an important aspect of prophecy. The prophets were often prophesying of future trends rather than of specific events. Yet it is again and again remarkable how in the later fulfilment of these trends actual details are fulfilled in a way probably not expected by the prophet. A very good example of this is found in Psalms 22:14-19.22.18. This passage is another example.
His emphasis on the fact that David died, and was buried and that they knew this because his tomb was with them to this day was probably intended to remind them of the empty Tomb which Peter would remember so vividly. It suggests also that the account of Jesus’ empty tomb was not only common knowledge (as we know it was, otherwise the soldiers would not have been bribed to put the blame on the disciples - Matthew 28:13), but was also such a talking point at this time that he did not feel that he had to draw attention to it when describing the tomb of David. (It was only two months later. Plenty of time for the story to get around Jerusalem, and not long enough for it to have been forgotten). He believed that they would automatically draw the parallel. Compare and contrast Paul’s declaration that Jesus ‘died --- and was buried -- and rose again’ (1 Corinthians 15:3-46.15.4) which is in direct contrast to what is said of David here.
“This Jesus did God raise up, of which we all are witnesses. Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured forth this, which you see and hear.”
Having given his Scriptural proof Peter now applies it powerfully. This Coming King was Jesus, and Him therefore God has raised up, as all His disciples present had witnessed. And having been raised up He has ‘poured forth’ His Holy Spirit. (The Spirit was thought of as ‘poured forth’ because He was thought of by the prophets as like pouring rain). And this present pouring out of the Spirit is proof positive that He has been exalted by God’s powerful right hand (compare Acts 2:25). For the coming of the Holy Spirit, with the manifestations that indicated the presence of God, demonstrated that He had received the promised Holy Spirit from the Father and had here and now poured it out on His disciples.
So while his listeners had not themselves had the privilege that His disciples had had, of being witnesses to the resurrection, they had the next best thing, visible and aural evidence of His action in sending forth God’s Spirit with power, which demonstrated His resurrection and present exalted position, as witnessed to by the words spoken by Him in their own tongues through His disciples. Let them see from this then that the reason for the empty tomb, of which they would all have heard, is that Jesus is risen, and that they themselves now have proof of it. The greater David has received what the first David could only wishfully hope for.
“For David ascended not into the heavens: but he says himself, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit you on my right hand, until I make your enemies the footstool of your feet.”
He then again contrasts David’s situation with that of Jesus. He had drawn attention to the fact that David was still in his tomb. Now he stresses that, unlike Jesus, David had not ascended into heaven. Here then is One greater than David, great David’s greater son, of whom David had said, “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit you on my right hand, until I make your enemies the footstool of your feet.” David had thus prophesied that his superior ‘son’, Who was really his Lord, would rise to heaven and take His place at God’s right hand, there to await the submission of those who opposed Him.
While as far as we know this Psalm had never specifically been interpreted Messianically (although in general any Davidic psalm was Messianic simply because it spoke of the house of David and was downdated king by king and must therefore finally include reference to the coming son of David) Jesus Himself had certainly taken it as such (Luke 20:41-42.20.44; Mark 12:35-41.12.37; Matthew 22:41-40.22.45 compare Hebrews 1:13). He had further used it in order to demonstrate the superiority of the expected Messiah to David himself.
“Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Peter then brings them to his final conclusion. All the house of Israel, (all those who claimed descent from Jacob), should therefore recognise from a combination of these Scriptures and what has happened here that God has made Jesus, this Jesus Whom they had crucified, both Lord and Christ (Messiah). The crucified Jesus is also He Who has been raised from the dead and seated at God’s right hand as His anointed King, and as the Lord of glory, and has sent the Holy Spirit to carry forward His work of restoring and revivifying Israel.
As ‘Messiah’ (Christ) Jesus is the fulfilment of all the hopes of Judaism, and of mankind. He is the Man Who on behalf of men has received kingship and glory and power (Daniel 7:13-27.7.14; Matthew 28:18). All that is to be ours is ours in Him. In Him we have died, because He died. In Him we have been raised, because He was raised. In Him we are seated on the throne, because He is on the throne. We are even now seated with Him in heavenly places, in the spiritual realm, in Christ (Ephesians 2:6) that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace, His freely offered unmerited favour, in His kindness to us through Him (Ephesians 2:7).
As ‘Lord’ He is ‘my Lord and my God’ to all (John 20:28). He is the One Who came from God and returned to God. He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things (Hebrews 1-3; Colossians 1:16) . He is the One Who enjoyed the glory of God with His Father before the world was (John 17:5). From having emptied Himself for us He has been restored to the fullness of His Godhood.
‘He has made --.’ This does not mean that He became Lord and Messiah at this point in time. It means that what He already was, was, at this point in time, finally established through His having achieved all that God wanted to achieve. He was already Lord and Messiah, but up to this point in time there had been things which had to be accomplished in order to make that Lordship and Messiahship fully effective. Now they had been fulfilled, and now He was established by God as Lord and Messiah, as the full achiever of all God’s purposes and will, as the Creator and Saviour of the world. All He had come to do had been accomplished. He could say, ‘It is finished’.
‘All the house of Israel.’ An expression only used here in the New Testament but common enough among the Jews for it is contained in a number of synagogue prayers, and occurs over twenty times in the Old Testament (interestingly in Ezekiel 37:11 the dry bones are ‘all the house of Israel’).
The Truth About Jesus of Nazareth and of What He Has Done For Us..
Having looked verse by verse at Peter’s words about Jesus, we will now try to put together the whole. For the picture Peter has built up is a quite remarkable one . We see how step by step Jesus was born, grew up, died, was buried. was raised again and is now highly exalted, with all authority in heaven and earth having been given to Him..
· ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Here we are firmly introduced to the man, the son of Joseph and Mary, the brother of James and his other brothers and sisters, the man among men, who for thirty years lived and walked, mainly in Nazareth, first as a growing child and then as a respected self-employed carpenter. He was made man.
· ‘A man approved of God to you by mighty works and wonders and signs.’ And as man this Jesus of Nazareth was then evidenced to be a mighty man of God by the performance of works, wonders and signs. He was revealed as true and good, as compassionate and caring, righteous in all His works. He was revealed as an outstanding prophet among men, a man who did good things, a man of compassion and power who brought relief and hope and restoration to those who had lost all hope, and a man who through God’s power cast out evil spirits, healed the sick, raised the dead, controlled nature, revealing Who He was through the ‘wonders and signs’ that he did.
· ‘Which God did by Him in the midst of you.’ He was revealed as the mighty instrument by which God exerted His power in the world in the midst of His people. He was not here of His own will, or to do His own will. He was here at the will of the Godhead.
· ‘Him being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.’ The next stage was His crucifixion. But Peter could not mention that without revealing the secret that lay behind it. And that was that this great and powerful and good God-endued man was ‘delivered up’ to suffering and death as a result of God’s predetermined wisdom and counsel. God knew what must be done and He did it. Man must not think that he had interfered with what God was doing. What had happened was no accident or work of man. It was in accordance with God’s knowing by experience even before it happened and purposing beforehand. For God’s foreknowledge is not merely His pre-knowing, it is His pre-experiencing, His pre-purposing. It is an entering into something beforehand in order to do and bring about His own will. And it had been His purpose that He should be delivered up for us.
· ‘You by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay.’ But men broke in on God’s purposes. They revealed what they were. Although they did not realise it, their own evil intentions and behaviour were actually a part of what God was doing, while exposing their own essential nature. But that did not make it excusable or reduce the crime. Far from it. They chose to do it, and all they did was with evil intent and exposed the awful truth about them. They called on evil allies and deliberately and callously crucified and slew the One Whom God had sent, the man of Nazareth, the one Who went about doing good, the worker of miracles and wonders, the chosen of God. And having crucified Him they mocked Him there. There was nothing that they would not do to reveal their vindictiveness and hatred. Yet behind it all amazingly God was in control.
· ‘Whom God raised up having loosed the pangs of death.’ Despatched in cruel suffering into the empty hopelessness of a darkened grave, crushed by the pangs of death, all was not over, indeed it could not be. For He was the Holy One. The Light broke in on the shades (Isaiah 26:19), and God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, and giving Him triumph over man’s great enemy Death (1 Corinthians 15:54), and over all the forces of evil who wanted to ensure that Death reigned for ever (Colossians 2:15). He raised Him in triumph from the grave, giving Him the victory over death and the grave.
· ‘Because it was not possible that He should be held by it.’ But now comes the even greater secret. Death could not keep its prey, the grave could not hold Him, not only because God was with Him, but because He Himself is the One Who has life in Himself (John 5:26). He Himself had the power to lay down His own life and take it again (John 10:18). Thus it was not possible for death and the grave to hold Him captive. He was more than a man. He was the Holy One, the Source and Controller of Life, the One Who had all life in His hands.
· ‘This Jesus did God raise up of which we all are witnesses.’ The double repetition of His resurrection emphasises the centrality of the resurrection. God raised Him up and His resurrection was made clear in the eyes of witnesses who saw Him, who touched Him, and who ate with Him in His resurrection body (1 John 1:1-62.1.4).
· ‘Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted.’ Having raised Him from the dead God exalted Him by His own right hand. All the fullness of the power of the ‘right hand’ of Almighty God was active in His exaltation. It was the ‘arm of the Lord’ as never seen before. He was raised up far above all powers in heaven and earth (Ephesians 1:20-49.1.22), and seated on the throne. But which throne did he receive? It was His Father’s throne (Revelation 3:21). He enjoyed again with His Father the full dignity of Godhead. He was crowned as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:11-66.19.16), and given a name above very name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess Him as LORD (Philippians 2:9-50.2.11). And that name above every Name was LORD, the holy Name of Yahweh. For He Himself is not just resurrected man He is the Mighty God (Isaiah 9:6).
· As a result of this, ‘having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you now see and hear.’ And the result of all this work of the Father and of His Son Jesus Christ on our behalf, was that He received from His Father the promised Holy Spirit of God and poured Him forth on His people so that they are now indwelt by Him, sustained by Him, ‘watered’ by Him, and completely within His power so that He might work in us to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). What is Pentecost? It is the pouring out on us like life-giving rain of all that is contained in Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and exaltation. All that He wrought and did is given to us through His Holy Spirit. That is the significance of Pentecost. It signifies that we are indwelt by our living and glorified Saviour, and that all His power in heaven and on earth is at our disposal in order that we might do His will and win the world for Christ.
The Response of His Hearers (2:37-41).
‘Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” ’
What they had seen and heard had convinced many of them. Their hearts and consciences were pricked, and they appealed to the group of Apostles as to what they should do. (Matthias now had to stand with the other Apostles in seeking to lead them through to the truth).
We may readily trace the cause of the ‘cutting to the heart’ (compare Psalms 109:16 LXX). First they had heard these Galileans declaring, each in their own native tongues, the wonderful words of God, something which had awakened within them the sense that God was here and was speaking personally to them. Then they had no doubt become aware of the manifestations of powerful wind and fire that had taken place revealing the awful sense of God’s presence in these men. Then they had learned from Peter, while still deeply moved, how these things were a fulfilment of Scripture. Then they had been faced up to the Prophet Who had been among them, and had done such wonderful things, Whom many of them had appreciated and admired, and Whose death they regretted. Then they had been faced up to the nation’s guilt for what they had done to Him, something which would still be a painful memory in many of their hearts. The death of Jesus would not have passed unnoticed and would not have been approved of by the truly devout. And finally they were faced up to the Scriptures concerning what God had said would happen to Him and an awareness that these wonderful things that had happened were because He had truly been raised from the dead and had been enthroned above, sending down the Holy Spirit Whose activity they were now observing and hearing. No wonder that under the Spirit’s working they had recognised that somehow they had failed Him, and had failed to observe Who and What He was, and now wanted to make amends.
‘And Peter said to them, “Repent you, and be baptised every one of you on the name of Jesus Christ to the remission of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Peter summarises what they must do. They are to ‘repent’, to have a change of heart and mind about the Lord Jesus Christ, and about their sin, and turn to Him. They are to be baptised ‘on (epi) the name of Jesus Christ’ unto the forgiveness of sins. Then they will receive this same gift of the Holy Spirit as the disciples now had, the gift of the coming age.
Peter’s first words recall the preaching of John the Baptiser, which Peter had heard so often. In John’s case it was ‘the baptism of repentance unto the remission of sins’ (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3), it was ‘unto repentance’ (Matthew 3:11). The central thought then was the repentance of which the baptism was the symbol and expression, and repentance signifies a change of heart and mind and will.
In order to understand this we need to be more aware of what this repentance was. It was not primarily repentance from individual sins, however important that might be, it was repentance from a wrong attitude towards God, from a failure to give God His due, from a refusal to recognise Him in their lives, from disobedience to His will. It was thus a change of heart and mind about God, and a turning to a new obedience towards God. It was a recognition of a past failure to respond to Him truly, and a resultant determination not to fail in that way from now on. That did, of course, involve a recognition of sin and a turning from sins, and it did require that those sins be forgiven, but the prime problem was not that they had sinned, but that they had sinned against God. Such a repentance only occurs when men become aware of God and see themselves in His eyes. Then their eye does not become fixed on the sins, it becomes fixed on the One to Whom the person is turning. Although this will in the end result in a deep awareness of sinfulness, for some immediately, for others gradually.
When Isaiah repented it was because of his new awareness of God. He saw God and his mind was changed about God, and he thus became aware that all was not right, and that he was sinful. He had a change of heart and mind because God had broken in on him. So his awareness of sin resulted from His new recognition of God, and his repentance lay in the fact that from now on he would approach God and His requirements in a totally different way. Awareness of God and response to that awareness was the essence of it.
It had been a requirement of John’s preaching that men submit to his baptism in water precisely for this reason. The baptism symbolised the coming ‘drenching of the Spirit’ (Isaiah 44:1-23.44.5), and his followers were baptised because by it they were renewing their dedication to God, and indicating their longing and desire to participate in that ‘drenching’. They were baptised in order to indicate that they had turned back to God ready for His blessing. It was in order to demonstrate true ‘repentance towards God’, so that they might receive the forgiveness of sins, with the hope of participating in the new age of the Spirit.
It was the later church subsequent to the New Testament which turned baptism into a cleansing from sin and aligned it with Jewish ritual washings. But John says nothing of that. His concentration was on the coming drenching of the Spirit which would produce a fruitful harvest, and the majority of his illustrations are along that line.
This turning to God did necessarily result in a desire to walk rightly before God, and as a result to behave in such a way as to please Him, for that would be necessary for all who would partake in the blessing of, the coming age, but the baptism signified the power that would bring it about.
How much more then was such a baptism necessary as an outward symbol and sign, and as an expression of repentance and desire to enter the new age, for those who would turn to Christ and receive the fulfilment of that ‘drenching’ in the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 3:19 repentance is central, and baptism is not mentioned, but what follows immediately pictures the new age. There is no mention of baptism there because the reality is described and not the shadow. The ‘seasons of refreshing’ were what John’s baptism had pointed forward to. But the lack of mention of baptism does not mean that there it was not called for by the Apostles, but simply that it was recognised that it was repentance and receiving the blessing of the new age that was central, not the rite that symbolised it. Baptism would then result because it pointed to the blessing of the new age. It suggests that neither Peter nor Luke (nor Paul - 1 Corinthians 1:17) put the same emphasis on baptism as many have since. Baptism was important as the outward expression, repentance and the forgiveness of sins and the times of refreshing were the reality.
His call to them to be baptised echoes Jesus words in Matthew 28:18-40.28.20, confirming that Luke knew of those words. Peter had baptised men and women in the early days of Jesus’ ministry with a baptism parallel to that of John (John 4:1-43.4.2), because he was still a disciple of John. We are nowhere told whether such baptisms continued during the ministry of Jesus, but if they had ceased, as they probably had, Peter now knew that they were to begin again because the Lord had so commanded. They were to be the means by which, now that the King was no longer present, new converts were to express the fact that they were receiving the Holy Spirit and becoming ‘Holy Spirit men’ and ‘Christ-men’, indwelt by God’s Spirit. By such baptism they would be openly marked off as belonging to Him and as having opened themselves to the Holy Spirit.
‘Baptised on the name of Jesus Christ’ may signify ‘on the basis of’. There is an advance in the significance of Baptism. They are not only being baptised in order to enter the community of the Spirit but on the basis of what Jesus Christ has done for them, calling on His name for those benefits to be applied to them. Here we can contrast ‘in (en) the name of Jesus Christ’ (Acts 10:48) and ‘into (eis) the name of the Lord Jesus’ (Acts 8:16; Acts 19:5). Note how when it is baptism ‘into the name’, as in Matthew 28:19, it is into the name of ‘the Lord’ Jesus. ‘The Lord’ (LXX for Yahweh) is the name into which both demand that men be baptised. But here in Acts there is no standard formula.
So having truly repented, and having changed their minds with regard to the Lord Jesus Christ, and having turned from sin, they were to demonstrate their commitment to Him by the baptism which would mark them off as belonging to the new Israel, and then they could be sure that they would receive ‘the gift of the Holy Spirit’, which the water baptism symbolised. The Holy Spirit would be poured out on them as He had been on the disciples. ‘The gift’ refers back to the giving in Acts 2:1-44.2.4. The gift has been given and now they share in it (compare Acts 5:32). In Acts 8:20 it is described as ‘the gift of God’.
This reminds us that baptism was never intended to be separated from the moment of conversion, and in the early days it was not. Once it was it could never quite be the baptism mentioned in the New Testament. For once believers began to be baptised as other than responders to the proclamation of the word it rather looked back to what had been. It ceased to be the moment of receiving the Holy Spirit. It was performed on those who had already received the Spirit (as with Cornelius - Acts 10:44-44.10.48).
Unfortunately the main significance of baptism has been misinterpreted in the church. In the New Testament the emphasis on its significance is always the expectancy of receiving of new life and of the Holy Spirit. John’s baptism pictured the pouring out of the Holy Spirit like rain as promised by the prophets so that his message was all about the resulting fruitfulness and the harvest that would result. Paul continues the idea and sees it as dying and rising again in newness of life, as the seed did in order to become fruitful (John 12:24). It was the later church that came to see it as washing from sin and then built up all kinds of superstitious beliefs around it so that even leading Bishops put off baptism until they were nearing death. That was the opposite of the purpose of baptism which was to indicate that those baptised were immediately entering into the new community, the new body of Christ, ‘baptised in the Spirit into one body -- which is Christ’ (1 Corinthians 12:12-46.12.13). As we shall see when we come to Acts 22:16 (the only verse that remotely comes near to possibly teaching ‘washing’ when related to baptism) the picture of baptism as washing was not what Ananias meant at all. Nowhere does the New Testament see baptism as washing from sin. It is regeneration and the blood of Christ that wash from sin, not baptism (Titus 3:5; Revelation 7:14; 1 Corinthians 6:11).
“For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call to him.”
Peter then reminds them that what he is declaring is what God had already promised them and speaks in such a way as to remind them of Isaiah’s prophecies. The promise is to them, and to their children, and to all who are afar off. These words echo the prophets (Isaiah 33:13; Isaiah 57:19; Ezekiel 11:6; Joel 3:8; Micah 4:7; Zechariah 6:15 - the Jews scattered around the world - but compare Ephesians 2:13). To Peter at this time ‘afar off’ referred to the Jewish dispersion. To Luke, however, it meant all peoples (Acts 22:21).
‘And with many other words he testified, and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” ’
We are now specifically informed that we have only been given the gist of Peter’s message. He spoke many other things, testifying to them and exhorting them, and the continual heart of his plea was that they would save themselves from the twisted and ‘crooked generation’ among whom they found themselves. The Israelites who wandered in the wilderness were also described as a "crooked generation", and they by their crookedness had lost God’s favour (Deuteronomy 32:5; Psalms 78:8). Peter thus saw the present generation of Jews as also ‘lost in the wilderness’ and missing out on what God had promised.
‘They then who received his word were baptised, and there were added to them in that day about three thousand souls.’
The result was the ‘adding’ to them of around three thousand people. ‘Three thousand’ indicates a goodly and complete number in great contrast with the one hundred and twenty. There is a multiplication of people being received by the Lord. There may also here be an intended contrast with the three thousand men who were slaughtered because of Israel’s disobedience with the molten calf (Exodus 32:28), the idea being that as a result of this that deep sin of Israel that immediately followed the giving of the covenant is reversed (just as the other tongues in Acts 2:4 pointed to the reversal of Babel). The new Israel can go forward as though that slaughter had never been.
They received his word and were baptised, probably in the River Jordan. These were ‘added to’ the band of disciples, to the one hundred and twenty. The figure should not actually surprise us. There must have been tens of thousands who had heard and responded to the earlier teaching of Jesus who would simply be waiting for the news to reach them of His resurrection. He had been exceedingly popular.
The suggestion that Peter’s voice could not reach three thousand people need not detain us. Those with a stentorian voice have no difficulty in reaching such numbers under reasonable conditions, and tests in Jerusalem have confirmed this to be the case.
‘And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers. And fear came on every soul. And many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common, and they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, according as any man had need.’
The infant church now met regularly together and we here learn of their activities in summarised form. It is quite probable that they formed the equivalent of a synagogue or even synagogues (which merely required the coming together of ten adult males) which they would see as a natural form of organisation. There were large numbers of differing synagogues in Jerusalem. They also met within the confines of the Temple (Acts 2:46) where they would meet to read the word of God, to pray and to hear the word expounded as the Apostles, in a similar way to the Rabbis (Luke 2:46), sat and taught. Being Jews the giving of alms would also be a recognised responsibility and the picture given below is of overflowing generosity. As they learned what Jesus had taught, so they began to put it into practise.
· They continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ teaching. Having responded to Christ they were eager to learn about Him from the Apostles, and to learn more about the significance of His death and resurrection. This would also include learning of His ethical teaching which the Apostles, who would have memorised it, would be able to pass on them word for word. Their sole desire now was that their lives might become pleasing to God, and that they might please their risen Lord. Additionally they would seek to gain an understanding of the Christian application of the Old Testament, for that was their ‘Bible’. By this continual process of teaching the words of Jesus, later called ‘the Testimony of Jesus’ (Revelation 1:2; Revelation 1:9; Revelation 12:17; Revelation 19:10), would become fixed in form while it was still fresh in the memories of the Apostles.
· They continued steadfastly in fellowship. Fellowship means ‘sharing in common’, the maintenance of unity and harmony. There was on openness between them as they met together for worship and all barriers were broken down between them. They walked ‘in the light’ together, sharing each other’s lives (1 John 1:7), and each others problems. They were ‘brothers and sisters’ together.
· They continued steadfastly in the breaking of bread. The fellowship meal was a regular means of worship in many religions, and here the new Christians are now portrayed as setting up their own fellowship meals, eaten in the presence of God in their houses. They invited one another to each others houses and shared their food together (see Acts 2:46). This would eventually develop into the Christian love feast (the Agape) which would be a cause of much joy to all but which would eventually cause such trouble in Corinth (1 Corinthians 11:18-46.11.34). (All good things can be misused by sinful man). It was a fulfilment of Isaiah 25:6.
We do not know whether at this stage they regularly celebrated ‘the Lord’s Supper’ with the bread and the wine. It would depend on whether Jesus’ words ‘whenever you drink it’ were interpreted as meaning each Passover or whenever they drank wine. But we may see it as more certain that Luke wanted us to see in the phrase a recognition that they met together in the name of the crucified One, the One represented by broken bread (compareLuke 22:19; Luke 22:19), and if it was not already celebrated wanted us to see in it a link with the future ‘breaking of bread’ in its fullest sense (Acts 20:7). In Luke 24:35 it was by ‘the breaking of bread’ that the presence of Jesus as risen was made known to two of His disciples.
· They continued steadfastly in prayers. As Jews they were familiar with daily prayers and would continue to use them, gradually giving them a more Christian slant. In all that they did they remembered God and were faithful in praying, and giving thanks, and rejoicing (compare e.g. Acts 4:24; Acts 6:4; Acts 12:5; Acts 13:3; Acts 20:36). Since the coming of the Spirit prayer would have attained a new dimension and a new urgency. The coming together in Jerusalem to worship was to be a sign of the new age (Isaiah 66:23).
· They were filled with reverential fear. As the wonder and signs continued, and people continued to respond, they did not forget the awe that was due to God in the face of the wonderful privileges that they had been given and the new revelations from His word that they were receiving. They had waited long for the new age and now it had suddenly dawned. What they were experiencing was awe-inspiring, and would not soon be forgotten (compareActs 5:11; Acts 5:11). Alternately this may mean that fear came on observers who were not yet responsive to Christ.
· The Apostles performed many ‘wonders and signs’. The ministry of the Apostles went on and they performed many wonders and signs among the people, as Joel had declared (Acts 2:19), and as Isaiah had promised (Isaiah 35:5-23.35.6; Isaiah 61:1-23.61.2). There was a flourishing ministry, and the work begun by Christ went on.
· Those who believed had all things in common, and sold of their possessions and goods, and divided up the proceeds according to the needs of each. They were open-hearted and generous towards each other. This would be the natural result of the situation combined with their learning about what Jesus had taught. There would be many who were poor in Jerusalem, and such who joined the ranks of the Christians would soon be welcomed and provided for, including the widows and orphans. There were seemingly so many of them that the better off Christians began to sell off their possessions so as to be able to supply the needs of the whole. And the more ‘the church’ (the new congregation of the new Israel) grew the more would be needed. This would in fact cause a problem of fair distribution (Acts 6:1). The Apostles wwould find themselves in a position with which they were not familiar. They had for years lived from hand to mouth (God’s hand to their mouth), and now they were being called on to act as overall distributors of wealth and provisions.
But the point behind these descriptions is in order to represent the new church as growing and becoming established in the faith, and as showing the love for one another that Jesus had taught them. Their conversions had been genuine and it was revealing itself in their lives, and in their fulfilling the teaching of Jesus. And it was fulfilling all that the prophets had promised.
This sharing in common is often spoken of by commentators as a failed experiment, but it was in fact the natural result of their new faith and the needs around them. Luke certainly did not see it as a failure, and the new Christians could hardly, if their hearts were right, ignore the poor around them. There were many poor in Jerusalem. It should be noted that there was no requirement that everyone sell everything that they had (Acts 5:4). Nor is there any suggestion that they sold their houses or businesses. What they sold they sold because their hearts had been moved by the needs of their brothers and sisters.
Luke will seemingly repeat what is said here in Acts 4:32-44.4.35, aalthough there there is deliberate advancement. Here they ‘sold their possessions and goods’, in Acts 4:32-44.4.35 they sell their houses and lands. There is in Acts 4:32-44.4.35 even greater generosity of spirit, and an indication of wider need because of increasing numbers. It stresses how much the church was being multiplied.
The Kingly Rule of God Is Revealed As Present In The Life of the New Congregation of Israel (2:42-47).
Now, as a result of Pentecost, we have the beginnings of the Kingly Rule of God manifested on earth as the believers grow in faith together, share food together, pray together, share together, and reveal their love for one another, and continue to expand. All this is what would be expected of those who have entered the new age under the Kingly Rule of God. For examples see Isaiah 25:6 (feasting together); Isaiah 32:3-23.32.5 (learning together); Isaiah 35:3; Isaiah 40:31; Isaiah 66:23 (praying together); Isaiah 35:5-23.35.6; Isaiah 61:1-23.61.2 (signs and wonders). It was also a practical outworking of the teaching of John the Baptiser (Luke 3:11) and of Jesus (Matthew 5:42; Matthew 6:9-40.6.15; Matthew 6:19-40.6.20; Matthew 6:25; Matthew 6:33; Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31; Luke 10:27; Luke 12:33; Luke 14:33; Luke 16:9; Luke 18:29-42.18.30; Luke 21:1-42.21.4).
‘And day by day, continuing steadfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they took their food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to them day by day those who were being saved.’
And this continued on day by day, meeting in the Temple, meeting at each others homes, and sharing their food together, and they were full of gladness, being singlehearted towards each other and in living out what they believed. All that now mattered to them was what God wanted. The result was that all the people who lived round about them were impressed by their lives and became well disposed towards them. And daily more people were becoming Christians, and the word of Christ was spreading. These were entering the sphere of the ‘saved’, those who had found forgiveness and had become right with God.
It should be noted that they worshipped in the Temple but broke bread at home. They did not expose their most sacred fellowship to the world, even the Temple world. They were not seeking to draw attention to their behaviour, only to their message.
‘Gladness.’ Here was one thing that distinguished them. They had come under the Kingly Rule of God, so that the heavy hand of Rome no longer troubled them. In a dissatisfied world they had found joy and satisfaction.
‘The Lord added to them day by day those who were being saved.’ The phrase ‘epi to auto’, here translated ‘to them’ regularly in LXX means ‘together’. There is the stress on their not only being added, but added in oneness.
One thing, however, stands out to us. While they were certainly establishing their base they seemed in no hurry to go outside Jerusalem, and the main witness and overseeing of the new church appears to have lain wholly with the Apostles. The result will shortly be a recognition that something extra needed to be done if everything was to proceed efficiently. While everything might appear idyllic, their outreach and scope was fairly limited. What had not to happen was that it became a phenomenon localised to Jerusalem. However, there was no reason to worry. God would shortly see to that.
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Acts 2". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent