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THE CHURCH OF CHRIST EQUIPPED FOR ITS WORK—THE IMPLEMENTING OF THE PROMISE
1. The Baptism of Fire; or, the Descent of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:1-44.2.4).
2. Excitement in Jerusalem; or, what the Multitude thought of the Phenomenon (Acts 2:5-44.2.13).
3. Peter’s Sermon.—
1. The First Christian Apology; or, the Pentecostal Mystery explained (Acts 2:14-44.2.21).
4. Peter’s Sermon.—
2. The Mystery of Pentecost traced up to Christ (Acts 2:22-44.2.36).
5. The First Converts; or, the First Fruits of the Gospel Harvest (Acts 2:37-44.2.41).
6. The Pentecostal Church; or, the Daily Life of Primitive Believers (Acts 2:42-44.2.47).
Acts 2:1. Pentecost.—So called from the date of its occurrence, the fiftieth from the second day of the Passover. Fully come.—Lit. was being fulfilled, referring to the completion of the interval between the two feasts. If the 16th Nisan was a Friday, the fiftieth day forward would fall upon a Saturday, or the Jewish Sabbath. With one accord.—ὁμοθυμαδὸν = ὁμοψύχως, with one mind. The Revised Text reads ὁμοῦ, together, which seems superfluous when followed by ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό, in one or the same place. (Compare Acts 1:15.)
Acts 2:2. A sound as of shows that the noise was not occasioned by the wind, but by a mighty blowing which resembled the vehement rushing of air. In the Old Testament (2 Samuel 5:24), Josephus (Ant., VII. iv. 1), and Homer (Od., I. 98), the noise of wind was a sign of the Divine Presence. According to Josephus (Wars, VI. Acts 2:3), earthquakes and supernatural sounds were heard in the Temple at the feast of Pentecost before the destruction of Jerusalem.
Acts 2:3. Cloven tongues as of fire.—These, which consisted not of, but merely resembled material flame, and certainly were not electrical or light manifestations (Renan), real or pretended, appeared to part themselves asunder, διαμεριζόμεναι, which may signify either that each tongue divided itself (Alford) or that the flame divided itself so that the tongues were distributed amongst the company (Zöckler, Hackett).
Acts 2:4. Other tongues.—In this case foreign languages, not previously learnt by the speakers, which required no interpreter (Acts 2:8), but were understood by the hearers. Acts 2:13 shows that they resembled the “tongues” of the later Corinthian church by being accompanied in their possessors with an ecstatic condition of consciousness. (See Homily on Acts 2:1-44.2.4.)
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 2:1-44.2.4
The Baptism of Fire; or, the Descent of the Holy Ghost
I. When it happened.—
1. When the day of Pentecost was fully come.—Literally, when it was being fulfilled; which has led to the idea that the time referred to was the evening with which Pentecost closed, but the notion rather is that the interval which lay between the Passover and the Pentecost was then filled up. Pentecost, as its name implied, was the feast of the fiftieth day, and was celebrated seven weeks after the Passover. The suitability of this feast for the implementing of the Father’s promise lay in three things:
1. Its nearness. The next national festival after the Passover it fitted admirably to the words of the promise—“Ye shall be baptised … not many days hence.” Had the fulfilment of the promise been deferred till Tabernacles in October, the interval would have been long, and the Church’s faith and patience might have been overstrained. But the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost, not more than ten days after the Ascension, averted this danger, and, as it were, caught up the hearts of Christ’s followers, when their enthusiasm stood at its height. The Lord of the Church knows the best times for His movements, and can so order the gifts of His grace as not to overstrain the patience, overtax the faith, or over discourage the zeal of His people, but rather to reward their patience, increase their faith, and fan their zeal into a flame.
2. Its popularity. At no other religious celebration did such numbers flock to Jerusalem as at Pentecost, the early spring (the time of the Passover) and the late autumn (the date of Tabernacles) being less suitable for travellers from distant parts. If, therefore, the high endowment of the Holy Ghost or the miraculous phenomenon by which it was heralded and symbolised were to efficiently impress the world it was needful that the number of those witnessing it should be as large as possible. The Gospel of Christ, doing nothing in a corner, has no need to shun the light. It invites and will bear the closest observation and the keenest scrutiny.
3. Its significance.
(1) As the great harvest festival of the Hebrew Church (Exodus 23:16), it was a fitting time for the first ingathering of souls into the Christian Church.
(2) As the feast of the firstfruits in which two wave loaves of fine flour, baked with leaven, were presented to the Lord (Leviticus 23:17), it supplied a proper season for the presentation to Jehovah of the firstfruits of redeemed souls in the persons of the Jewish disciples and the Gentile converts which were to be gathered in as the result of the Pentecostal effusion.
(3) As a feast at which sacrifices of all kinds were offered (Leviticus 17:8), it formed a suitable occasion for the dispensation of that Spirit which was to bring about the entire consecration of believers to God.
(4) As a feast in which remembrance was made of the Egyptian bondage (Deuteronomy 16:12) and of the Exodus from Egypt, it served as a fit moment for endowing the Church with that spirit which is pre-eminently styled the spirit of liberty (2 Corinthians 3:17).
2. When all the disciples were together in one place. That this place was the upper room already referred to in Acts 1:3 (which see)—and not, as many excellent expositors prefer, one of the chambers belonging to the temple—is upon the whole the likelier hypothesis; and that on this occasion the entire body of the disciples, one hundred and twenty in number, and not merely the twelve apostles, were convened, is sufficiently apparent from the context. Nor is it without suggestiveness that the Holy Ghost descended on them when all were present in their usual place of assembly. Does this not afford some reason for believing that the heavenly gift would have been withheld or at least delayed had any of the company been absent? If so, how many blessings, it may be asked, what outpourings of the Spirit, what times of revival and refreshing, may Churches and congregations not miss because of the irregularity with which their members come together? It is a signal error to suppose that absence from Church on the part of a professed Christian inflicts no injury or loss on his fellow-Christians who repair thither. May not the absence of the one seriously diminish, if not effectually hinder, the blessing of the many? Then quite as inaccurate is the reasoning that one may derive as large benefit at home from private meditation as in the Church from social devotion. The blessing of the Holy Ghost, it should be observed, was dispensed in the public assembly and not in the private chamber—was given to the disciples when together and not when isolated one from another.
3. When all the brethren were of one mind. The words “with one accord,” though omitted in the R.V., are better than the adverb “together,” which is substituted in their stead, but which is almost synonymous with “in one place,” and therefore superfluous. In any case “with one accord” expresses the inward disposition of the disciples on that eventful morning when the Holy Ghost for the first time fell upon them. Had they been otherwise—disunited in heart and mind, torn with jealousies and rivalries, broken up into hostile factions or unfriendly cliques—does any one believe the Spirit would have fallen on them—that Spirit, who, if anything, is a Spirit of concord and unity (Ephesians 4:3)? What a rebuke to the Church of to-day, which is not only marred by divisions and separations, but too often also actuated by mutual antipathies, cut up into sects and animated by a spirit of proselytism rather than of co-operation, a spirit of reciprocal opposition rather than of mutual affection! And what an explanation of the comparatively slow progress of the Church in past ages, as well as of its spiritual deadness at the present time! If the Church is to awake from her lethargy and clothe herself with energy, if she is to shake herself from the dust and put on her beautiful garments, she must receive a fresh baptism of the Holy Ghost; and before that can take place there must be a laying aside of hostilities and a cessation of animosities on the part of rival denominations and congregations, there must be a healing of broaches in the walls of God’s Spiritual Zion, there must be a gathering into one of the tribes of the New Testament Israel.
II. How it was accompanied.—
1. By a mysterious sound.
(1) Sudden. At a moment when it was not expected there was heard from heaven a noise. Divine movements are mostly of this character. It is not possible for us to discern beforehand the noise of Jehovah’s footsteps (Psalms 77:19), though it is by no means impossible for Him to detect ours (Psalms 139:1-19.139.5). God’s interpositions in the original work of creation partook of this character (Genesis 1:3; Genesis 1:9; Genesis 1:11; Genesis 1:14; Genesis 1:20; Genesis 1:24). So did they in His providential judgments, as, e.g., the Deluge and the destruction of Sodom (Matthew 24:39; Luke 17:26; Luke 17:28). So were they of this sort when Christ came in the flesh (Luke 2:3-42.2.14). So will they be when He returns in glory (Mark 13:35-41.13.36).
(2) Violent. Strong and impetuous, like a current of air rushing vehemently in upon and roaring through the chamber, like the trumpet sound which was heard at Sinai (Exodus 19:19; Hebrews 12:19), or like the “great and strong wind” that rent the mountains of Horeb (1 Kings 19:11).
(3) All pervading. Filling the chamber in which the disciples sat, it left no part untouched by its mysterious breath. All within the room could hear the strange, weird sound.
(4) Supernatural. This must have been apparent to all. The sound was not produced by ordinary physical causes. All attempts to explain it as a natural phenomenon, whether as thunder or as an earthquake, signally fail. It came from heaven, caused directly by the Holy Ghost, whose breathing it was (John 20:22).
2. By an unusual sight. There appeared unto the disciples “cloven tongues” or “tongues parted asunder like as of fire.” Like the wind these tongues were also:
(1) Supernatural. “Electrical phenomena, such as the gleaming lights sometimes seen on the highest points of steeples or on the masts of vessels, and which have been known even to alight on men, bear a very faint resemblance, if any, to those wondrous tongues of fire” (Spence). Besides, “this phenomenon took place not in the open air, but in the inside of a house” (Lechler). Then, if possible, even less admissible is the notion of a flash of lightning which sat simultaneously on one hundred and twenty heads without doing injury to one of them, which would have been a miracle as great as that for which it is proposed to be substituted. “But indeed the expression “tongues as of fire” demands that the words be taken in their literal signification” (Zeller). Whether the tongues were also
(2) cloven—i.e., divided, or parting asunder, as a flame occasionally does, is doubtful. Though the word admit of this interpretation, it is better taken to mean dividing themselves, so that the tongues were
(3) distributed—i.e., parted amongst the company, one resting upon the head of each. In this way they became
(4) visible to all within the chamber, each seeing the tongues resting on his neighbours’ heads, but not that sitting on own. A happy hint that each Christian should be quick to discern the gifts of his fellow-Christians—which is charity, and slow to recognise those belonging to himself—which is humility. Finally, the tongues, again resembling the wind, were
(5) symbolic. Of the effect which should result from the baptism about to be experienced; of the exalted and consecrated speech which would thereby be set in motion; and of the illumination which thereby would come to others.
3. By a peculiar touch. The distributed fiery tongues sat one upon each man’s head. As the tongues only resembled fire, so their contact with the heads of the disciples differed from that of ordinary flame, which would have scorched the disciples’ heads, whereas they were quite unconscious of burning. The touch of the tongues was like the touch of Christ when He healed men’s bodies; it was the touch by which He influenced souls.
III. By what it was followed.—
1. The disciples were all filled with the Holy Ghost.
(1) The Holy Ghost now came upon them in the fulness of His saving operations as He had not done before (John 7:39). Prior to the Ascension Christ had breathed on them, and said “Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22); not until now had the Holy Ghost been imparted to them in the plenitude of His gracious influences.
(2) They were taken possession of by the new endowment in all departments of their being, so that they were filled with it.
(3) This inhabitation of their hearts by the Holy Ghost was to be permanent. Under the Old Testament the Spirit had descended upon men at special times and for special purposes, as upon Bezaleel (Exodus 31:3) and Joshua (Deuteronomy 34:9), to impart to them wisdom. Now He entered the disciples’ hearts to abide with them for ever (John 14:16). And this stupendous endowment was not conferred on the apostles only but upon the brethren as well, and not upon the leaders of the Church merely but upon the followers likewise; nor upon the eminent personages alone but also upon the humble and obscure individuals.
2. They all began to speak with tongues. That those tongues were something higher than and beyond those conferred on the churches at Corinth (1 Corinthians 14:2-46.14.33), may be inferred from the circumstance mentioned in Acts 2:6; Acts 2:8, that the multitude who listened to the inspired utterances of the apostles and brethren “were confounded because that every man heard them speaking in his own language.” The Corinthian tongues were unintelligible to those who heard them, and to be of service for public edification required interpretation; at Pentecost the tongues needed no exposition by a third party. The listeners “heard every man in his own language wherein he was born.” Yet, like the tongues at Corinth, those of Pentecost were not required for edification, which was principally secured by Peter’s sermon; and were accompanied by a kind of ecstatic utterance which led some at least of the auditors to think and say the speakers were intoxicated, as Paul afterwards suggested some hearing the Corinthians talk with tongues might allege they were mad (1 Corinthians 14:23). As to what these Jerusalem “tongues” were, the traditional opinion which sees in them foreign languages which the apostles and their company were enabled to speak, though not without difficulty, is probably correct. Nor does it militate against this idea that such foreign languages were not necessary to qualify the apostles for preaching to the multitudes at Pentecost, since the majority, if not all, of these would be able to understand either Greek or Aramaic, or both, and that the apostles do not appear afterwards to have used these new dialects (compare Paul at Lycaonia, Acts 14:14) in addressing themselves to foreigners. The answer to both objections is, that the Pentecostal tongues may not have been intended to be permanent but only temporary, as a sign to arrest the attention of the multitude and accredit the apostles as heaven-sent ambassadors. All attempts to discover other explanations of the tongues than the natural one lie open to as great, if not greater, difficulties than those they are devised to surmount. The fancy that the apostles spoke an original elementary “tongue of the Spirit,” which every listener in the crowd heard as if it were his own mother tongue (Erasmus, Meyer, Delitzsch, etc.), only adds a miracle of hearing to the existing one of speaking. That the tongues were merely ecstatic utterances which acted on the hearers in such a way as to make them think they were being addressed in their native languages (Beyschlag) is to put a construction on the narrative which it will not bear. The hearers did not think, but knew they were listening to their mother tongues. Besides, the tongues were spoken before the multitudes were present to hear. Then the notion that the assembly of believers was composed of Jews of various nations who spoke as the Spirit moved them, but in their ordinary speech (Paulus, Kuinoel, etc.), is expressly contradicted by the narrative which affirms that the one hundred and twenty were all, or at least mostly, Galilæans. The solution which detects in the narrative only a legendary or mythical reproduction of the Rabbinical fable, that the law was given from Sinai in a tongue which was intelligible to the seventy different peoples of the Table of Nations (Overbeck, Hausrath, etc.) is completely to destroy the credibility of the historian.
IV. What it signified.—
1. It attested the reality of Christ’s ascension (see Acts 2:33). Before His death Christ had promised on returning to His Father to send forth the Spirit (John 16:7). Forty days after His resurrection they had seen Him ascend through the opened heavens (Acts 1:10). The descent of the Holy Ghost after ten days’ waiting was the intimation to them that Christ had been exalted to the Father’s right hand.
2. It gave the signal for commencing the work of witness bearing, for which they had been selected and appointed, while it was natural for the apostles and their company to suppose that immediately on Christ’s departure they should begin the glorious business of publishing the good news of a crucified, risen and exalted Saviour. Christ Himself commanded them not to start upon their mission until they got the signal from the Father, who alone understood the times and seasons (Acts 1:7). That signal they recognised when the Holy Ghost descended on them.
3. It equipped the apostles and first believers for their service. The task committed to them was one that immeasurably transcended their native ability. Power from on high was absolutely indispensable for its efficient discharge. That power was to be supplied by a special baptism of the Holy Ghost (Acts 1:8); and now that the Holy Ghost had come they were prepared (1 Corinthians 2:4; 2 Corinthians 3:5).
1. The faithfulness of the Father in implementing His promise (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18).
2. The blessedness of those who humbly and prayerfully wait on God (Isaiah 40:31; Hebrews 6:15).
3. The reality of superterrestrial things (2 Corinthians 4:18).
4. The power of the Holy Ghost as shown in the gift of tongues (2 Peter 1:21).
5. The mission of the Christian Church—to utter what the Holy Ghost teaches (1 Corinthians 2:13).
6. The diversities of gift and service in the Christian Church; all had not the same tongue, but each as the Spirit gave him utterance (1 Corinthians 12:4).
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 2:1. The Feast of the Fulfilment.—On this day (Pentecost) was fulfilled:—
I. The most beautiful anticipation of antiquity.—The hope that not only an atonement would be made to Jehovah for the sins of the people, but also a new heart and a right spirit should be given them.
II. The deepest want of humanity.—Fellowship with God now for the first time rendered possible by the reconciliation effected through the sacrifice of Christ, and the renovation accomplished by the baptism of the Spirit.
III. The highest manifestation of Divinity.—All that went before, even the gift of the Son, being designed as a preparation for the dispensation of the Spirit.—Oosterzee.
Acts 2:3. Tongues of Fire.
I. Whence they come.—From heaven, from the Father, from the glorified Christ—i.e., they are gifts of grace bestowed in fulfilment of God’s promise, and on account of the merit of Christ.
II. On whom they are bestowed.—On praying, waiting, and united believers; on souls possessed of faith, hope, love, and longing.
III. How they are fed.—By the Holy Ghost, whose creation they are, for whose manifestation they serve, and under whose control they perpetually remain.
IV. What they speak.—Not the wisdom of this world, but words which the Holy Ghost teacheth.
V. The Effects they produce.—Always amazement, sometimes unbelief and mockery, frequently conviction and conversion.
Acts 2:4. A Sermon on the Holy Ghost.
I. His personality.—Though not here specially emphasised, yet involved in the scriptural representations given of Him generally (see Acts 5:3; Acts 5:32, Acts 7:51; Ephesians 4:30).
II. His Divinity.—Implied in His co-ordination with the Father and the Son (Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14).
III. His agency.—Symbolised by the Sound, the Fire, and the Tongues.
The Personality and Divinity of the Holy Spirit. The customary objections to this doctrine are thus summarised by Bornemann (Unterricht im Christentum, p. 151):
I. The Trinitarian formula proves nothing.—This, however, is only Bornemann’s opinion. Others hold it inconceivable that unless the Son and the Holy Ghost had been co-equal with the Father they would have been thus associated with the Father by either Christ or God.
II. The phrase “The Spirit Speaks” (Acts 21:11; Revelation 14:13) no more establishes the personality of the Holy Ghost than the similar phrase “The Scripture speaks” (Galatians 4:30) demonstrates the personality of the Bible. But other personal attributes are ascribed to the Holy Spirit which are not and cannot be assigned to Scripture, such as grieving (Ephesians 4:30), comforting (Acts 9:31), interceding (Romans 8:26), etc.
III. Nowhere in the New Testament is the Holy Ghost represented as the object of worship.—Yet all true worship is in the New Testament distinctly declared to be the inspiration of the Spirit (John 4:24; Romans 8:26; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 2:18).
IV. The word person as applied to the Holy Spirit is not the same thing as Moderns mean by this term.—Granted. Yet whatever the vocable “person” signifies as applied to the Father and the Son, that same it imports as applied to the Holy Ghost.
Filled with the Holy Spirit.
I. A transcendent mystery.—That the soul of a creature should be inhabited by the Spirit of its Creator.
II. A demonstrable fact.—Proved in Pentecostal and early Christian times by the gift of tongues, evinced now by the production of the fruits of the Spirit.
III. A gracious privilege.—Bestowed upon believers not of merit on their part, but of spontaneous kindness on God’s part.
IV. A comforting experience.—Being the seal of acceptance with the Father, and an earnest of the heavenly inheritance.
V. A valuable talent.—Such as are its recipients are thereby endowed for service, and will eventually be held answerable for its employment.
Acts 2:1-44.2.4. The Ideal of Christian Unity.—Believers united.
I. In Worship.—“Together in one place.”
II. In Heart.—“With one accord.”
III. In Privilege.—All witnessing and sharing alike.
IV. In Endowment.—“All filled with the Holy Ghost.”
V. In Service.—All speaking with tongues.
The Pentecostal Blessing.
I. The conditioning circumstances.
1. The Time. “When the day of Pentecost was now come.” “Here again, as in the fact of the Ascension and the waiting of the Church, we trace the outline of Christianity in Judaism, and see in the typical ceremonial of the Old Dispensation the outline and shadow of heavenly realities.”
2. The Place. An upper chamber. “Round this upper room at Jerusalem has gathered many a story dating from very early ages indeed. This upper room has been identified with the chamber in which the Last Supper was celebrated.”
3. The Spirit. With one accord. “There was unity of spirit and unity in open manifestation to the world at large. Christ’s disciples, when they received the gifts of Heaven’s choicest blessings, were not split up into dozens of different organisations, each of them hostile to the others, and each striving to aggrandise itself at the expense of kindred brotherhood.”
II. The external manifestations.—Three.
1. A Sound as of a Rushing Mighty Wind. “The marvels of the story told in the first of Genesis find a parallel in the marvels told in the second of Acts. The one passage sets forth the foundation of the material universe, the other proclaims the nobler foundations of the Spiritual universe.”
2. Tongues as of Fire, separate and distinct, sitting upon each of the Disciples. “The sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence was a tongue of fire. It was a most suitable emblem, pregnant with meaning, and indicative of the large place which the human voice was to play in the work of the new dispensation, while its supernatural character declared that the mere unaided human voice would avail nothing.” The separateness of the tongues also was “significant of the individual character of our holy religion.”
3. A Miraculous Gift of Tongues. “That gift indicated to the Apostles and to all ages the tongue as the instrument by which the gospel was to be propagated.” The gift itself was “the power of speaking in foreign languages, according to Christ’s, promise, ‘They shall speak with new tongues’ ” (Mark 16:17). G. T. Stokes, D.D.
The Pentecostal Wonder.
I. The rushing sound.—“The Divine power which descended on the waiting company of disciples revealed itself first according to its new creative energy or as heavenly life” (Leben, πνοή, Odem, Windshauch, Acts 2:2).
II. The fiery tongues.—“The Divine power revealed itself secondly according to its critically separating force as heavenly light or fire” (Acts 2:3).
III. The foreign tongues.—“The Divine power revealed itself thirdly according to its salvation-revealing might as heavenly discourse and speech, λαλεῖν γλώσσαις ἑτέραις” (Acts 2:4).—Dr. Otto Zöckler.
The Phenomena at Pentecost.
I. The praying congregation.
II. The sound from heaven.
III. The holy flames.
IV. The new tongues.—Lisco.
I. In the realm of Nature.—The sound, the tongues, the speech.
II. In the sphere of mind.—Men speaking languages they never learnt.
III. In the domain of grace.—Sinful men endowed with the Holy Ghost.
The Descending Spirit.—Among the thoughts and lessons that readily connect themselves with the event of our chapter are the following:
1. The Christian Church was born at Pentecost. There is no Christian Church history before that point. The materials of the Church were already present, but standing out of organic relation with each other. It was the brooding of the Spirit that, as we are told in the first of Genesis, produced the formless elements of things into a shapely and prolific world. It was the inbreathing of God into the being of our first parent that developed him into a living soul. It was the influx similarly of the divine Spirit that composed the disciples of Christ into an organised and living Church. A Church is Christianity organised.
2. This was the first Christian revival of religion. The Church was born in a revival, and the survival of the Church has been along a continuous line of revival. A revival is substantially a fresh appropriation of divine power. The dynamic element enters Christianity not at the cross, not at the Easter sepulchre, but at Pentecost. Pentecost is as much a fact of Christianity as is the crucifixion. The Acts of the Apostles is the Gospel of the Holy Ghost and the Gospel of power. It is the scope of a revival to work in men Christian sinew. There is nothing in the whole New Testament narrative more startling than the transformation which the Twelve suddenly underwent on the fiftieth day after Calvary. An apostle is a disciple plus the Holy Ghost. Appliances are valuable, but only as vehicles for the conveyance of energy that is from God. Christianity would have stopped at Olivet had it not been for the event of our chapter or its equivalent.
3. The Spirit descended upon the disciples when they were together. The full meaning of Christianity is not exhausted in any relation in which it sets us individually to Christ. It comprises a relation between men mutually as well as a relation to God personally and separately. There are blessings and enrichments that accrue to Christians only by their standing in fellowship with each other. That first Sunday evening, the evening of Resurrectionday, Christ showed Himself unto His disciples while they were together. The week after, the second Sunday evening, He again appeared to them while they were together. And similarly, as we learn from the first verse of our chapter, the Holy Spirit descended upon them while “they were all with one accord in one place.” And this gathering together of theirs was not for the purpose of instruction, but in order that they might remain together in the fellowship of concerted prayer and holy waiting. The Church was born thus in a prayer-meeting. The first Christian revival was inaugurated in a prayer-meeting. In spiritual matters two are considerably more than twice as many as one.
4. This first revival of religion began with the spiritual replenishment of those already Christian. It is time wasted, and runs counter to the divine order of things, for a Church that is not itself revived to attempt revivalistic operations among the unconverted. Christianity, to the degree in which it extends itself, does so as a kind of contagion.
5. After the ascension of their Lord the disciples simply waited for Pentecost. They prayed together, as it would seem, but exactly what was the subject of their prayers it would be very hard to tell. They probably did not pray for a baptism of the Holy Spirit. They had not been instructed to pray for it, but to “tarry” till it came. There was no further work that needed to be wrought in them before its bestowment. They were ready to be blessed. The outpouring of the Spirit was deferred till Pentecost, only because that day would give to the event greater publicity. Our prayers would often seem to imply that the gift of the Holy Ghost is something that has got to be wrestled from God by hard struggling. His Spirit is with us. He has already entered into the world. He is among us like a subtle atmosphere that crowds itself with a gentle intrusion into every space of our hearts and lives that is left open to its occupancy. He is like the sunshine, that fills with brightness and touches with colour every object of ground, sea, and sky that is bared to its silent impact. When we are not illumined, it is not because we have neglected to pray for the sun’s rise upon us, but because we have neglected to stand out in the sunshine.
6. The Holy Spirit descended upon all the disciples—not only upon the Twelve, but upon the whole hundred and twenty. So far as we are, then, Holy Ghost Christians, all substantial distinctions in this respect between the laity and the clergy are erased.
7. The Holy Spirit revealed Himself outwardly in the shape of tongues. This was prophetic of the way in which revealed truth was to be disseminated. It does not suffice that men should simply live lives of Christian consistency, and that they should think that conduct fills to the full their measure of obligation. Christ not only lived, He preached. “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” And the word “preaching” must not be construed too narrowly. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh”; “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. The first revival, then, opened men’s mouths and set men talking. It was a gift of tongues. There is no place for silent Christians under the administration of the Holy Ghost. Inspiration and utterance are inseparable.—C. H. Parkhurst, D.D.
I. Distinguish the permanent from the transient manifestations of this descending Spirit.—The miraculous displays were designed to attract attention, and to teach by symbols His nature and power. Air is necessary to life. The Spirit, of whom no one can tell whence He comes, or whither He goes, is symbolised by the air we breathe. Air in motion represents power. Fire is purifying. In great crises of the ancient Church God had revealed Himself by fire. The tongues of fire were tokens of the living, conquering, purifying energy by which the Spirit spreads truth through the world. They sat on each of the disciples, showing that each Christian has a special commission and a special power given him from heaven. The disciples, thus supernaturally excited, spoke of the wonderful works of God in dialects which men from all lands heard and understood. Here was displayed the sign that the obstacles to the spread of the gospel were removed. The transient symbol has departed, but the Word of God has leaped the barriers of strange tongues and spread through all the world. The miracle of that hour, emphasised by the miracle of centuries, says to us: “The gospel from heaven has been committed to you. The power of God is promised to you. Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” We see, then, what abides in the Church from the descending Spirit. A great change had already, within a few days, taken place in the apostles. But the task before them required supernatural power in them. They were to undertake a new kind of work. When, then, the Spirit descended to dwell in them, He changed their thoughts. He gave them confidence in the place of timidity. He led them to perceive the grandeur and spirituality of their mission, and their own position in it. They not only recognised that they were divinely commissioned, but they were divinely illuminated. The effects of their preaching were what we should expect from such changes in themselves. The Spirit gave them utterance. Their word was with power. Men were moved to acknowledge the truths they proclaimed. Paul the Apostle set against the power of Rome, the greatest nation on earth, the power of God unto salvation. Rome yielded. The gospel triumphed. It is the most impressive truth which God has revealed, that each of His disciples can, by his daily thoughts and acts, bring down upon the Church the power which has achieved the mightiest triumphs of history.
II. We see that the power imparted by the Holy Spirit is unique and supernatural.—He created the Christian Church, and now sustains and extends it. Without Him, it is without Christ; and apart from Christ it can do nothing. This gift, then, is not eloquence, nor logic, nor rhetoric, nor any acquired power. The Spirit can employ all these things, all that there is of a man, for His great ends. But His presence is the breath of Him who created all worlds. And His presence distinguishes the Church from all other institutions. Without that, with all its splendid history, it would be only a Samson shorn. There are diversities of gifts; but it is the same Spirit that divides them to every man severally as He will.
III. We see the purposes for which the Holy Spirit descended and abides with Christians—to perpetuate the presence of Christ with His disciples, and to enable them to proclaim His gospel. This gift was and is a fruit of the continued operation of the earthly life of Jesus. These truths realised will help us to feel more deeply the immense responsibility that rests on each disciple of Christ. “There is offered to you, as a gift, that which wrought all these wonders. Take it, and greater works than these shall you do.” Then think of the misery that sin is still working, of lives blasted by passion, of homes ruined and actions ruled by selfishness, of the millions that sit in darkness, of immortal souls disappearing from these scenes to wake to shame and everlasting contempt. Only one power can change these things—the Holy Spirit in the disciples of Christ. God has placed this measure of opportunity in our hands. Is it possible that Christians will allow anything to hinder the descent of this Spirit on them in His fulness? But evidently whatever wastes this power brings on us fearful loss; and we know the things that waste it. It is not merely the open breaking of the Decalogue which appears inexcusable in Christians, but that any of them can waste in trifling pleasures and selfish pursuits the abilities given from God to save our fellow-men from eternal death, and plead in excuse that they do not transgress any definite command. What do we need so much as the baptism of fire for spiritual life, and the tongue of fire to tell that life to the world? One thing more. This gift is offered to the unconverted. Do any who have not received the Holy Spirit wonder at and criticise the want of power and zeal in Christians? You may yourselves receive that which you think wanting in them. “Repent ye,” said Peter to the wondering audience, “and be baptised every one of you for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the Holy Ghost.” Yes, you whose ambitions are unsatisfied, whose affections are unstirred by heavenly things—this promise is to you.—Monday Club Sermons.
Acts 2:5. Dwelling at Jerusalem.—Not. “permanently residing” only, a sense the word usually has in Luke’s writings (Luke 1:19; Luke 4:16; Luke 13:4), but also “temporarily sojourning,” a meaning not excluded by the term, and apparently demanded by the context, which speaks of the multitude (Acts 2:6) as embracing “dwellers in Mesopotamia”—i.e., persons having their homes there, and “strangers of Rome”—i.e., Romans at the time sojourning in the city. Devout men.—Lit. cautious, circumspect, hence God-fearing persons, “men of piety and weight” (Alford), like Simeon (Luke 2:25), those who buried Stephen (Acts 8:2), Cornelius and his servant (Acts 10:2; Acts 10:7).
Acts 2:6. When this was noised abroad.—Better, when this sound occurred, or was heard (R.V.). Not when this report arose (Calvin), or when these tongues were listened to (Neander), but when this sound (of the mighty, rushing wind) was heard (Meyer, Alford, Hackett, Holtzmann, Zöckler, and others). If the house stood in one of the thoroughfares leading to the Temple the sound may have been audible all over Jerusalem. Every man … in his own language—i.e., one apostle spoke in one language and another in another. By this time the apostles and their company had probably gone forth into the streets.
Acts 2:7. Galileans.—This constituted the marvel, that the speakers were all recognised as natives of the northern Palestinian province. This suggests that only the eleven addressed the multitude, or—what is more probable—that the eleven being most prominent were regarded as leaders of the rest, and their nationality taken as representative of the nationality of their followers, the one hundred and twenty, who, however, were not all Galileans.
Acts 2:9-44.2.11. Parthians and Medes, etc.—The catalogue of peoples, fifteen in all, begins in the north-east (three), passes round to the north (one) and north-west (five, or including Judæa, six), moves toward the south (two), and closes in the west (one), Cretes and Arabians (two) being added as an afterthought. That Judæa should come between Mesopotamia and Cappadocia has led to the supposition that Idumæa should be read. But the MSS. forbid. The reason for the mention of Judæa is obscure. It may have been simply to serve as a connecting link between Mesopotamia and Cappadocia (Holtzmann), or in order to complete the enumeration of languages (Bengel, Meyer), or for the sake of Roman readers (Olshausen). Though the dialects may have been fifteen, Holtzmann thinks the actual tongues spoken were only three, or at most four—the Zend (Medes and Elamites), Semitic (Mesopotamia, Judæa, Arabia), Greek (Asia and Egypt), Latin (Rome). Both Jews and proselytes refers to persons from all the preceding places, and not exclusively to the Romans sojourning at Jerusalem.
Acts 2:11. The wonderful works of God.—Lit. the great things of God (magnalia dei, Vulgate) done by Him through Christ for the salvation of men. (Compare Luke 1:49.)
Acts 2:12. Amazed depicts the astonishment, in doubt the perplexity of the multitude.
Acts 2:13. New wine.—Lit. sweet drink. A peculiarly intoxicating beverage made from dried grapes by soaking them in old wine and pressing them a second time. “Furrer” (in Schenkel’s Lexicon) reports that a Jew in Hebron prepared such sweet wine by pouring water on dried grapes and distilling the infusion with an addition of spice” (Riehm’s Handwörterbuch des Biblischen Altertums, art. Wein).
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS (Acts 2:5-44.2.13)
Excitement in Jerusalem; or, what the Multitude thought of the Phenomenon
I. The subjects of this excitement.—
1. The regular inhabitants of the city. “Devout men dwelling at Jerusalem.” Besides the ordinary native population, these would naturally include pious Jews from foreign countries who had become domiciled in the city for a longer or a shorter period.
2. The feast pilgrims temporarily sojourning in the city. “Devout men from every nation under heaven.” Of these fifteen different classes are mentioned.
(1) Parthians, from the north-east of Media—referred to nowhere else in Scripture.
(2) Medes, inhabiting the region between the Caspian Sea on the north, Armenia on the west, Hyrcania on the east, and Persia on the south (2 Kings 17:6; Ezra 6:2; Daniel 5:28).
(3) Elamites, located east of the Tigris, north of Susiania, and south of Media (Ezra 4:9).
(4) Mesopotamians, from the lands between the Tigris and the Euphrates (Genesis 24:10; Judges 3:8; 1 Chronicles 19:6).
(5) Judæans, including Jerusalemites, from the Holy Land—i.e., from different parts of Palestine.
(6) Cappadocians, whose settlements lay in the east of Asia Minor (1 Peter 1:1).
(7) Pontians, who resided in the north-east (1 Peter 1:1), and
(8) Asians from Proconsular Asia in the west of Asia Minor (Acts 6:9; Acts 16:6; Acts 19:10).
(9) Phrygians, also from the east of Asia Minor, and north of Pamphylia (Acts 16:6, Acts 18:23).
(10) Pamphylians, whose territory stretched along the Mediterranean coast, south of Phrygia (Acts 13:13; Acts 15:38; Acts 27:5).
(11) Egyptians from the Nile valley (Acts 7:22).
(12) Lybians from Cyrene on the west of Egypt (Jeremiah 46:9; Daniel 11:43), the native place of Simon, who bore Christ’s cross (Luke 23:26), and of Lucius, the prophet in the Church at Antioch (Acts 13:1).
(13) Romans, from the world’s capital on the banks of the Tiber (John 11:48; Romans 1:7).
(14) Cretans, islanders from the Mediterranean (Acts 27:7; Titus 1:5).
(15) Arabians from the desert regions east of the Nile (1 Kings 10:15; 2 Chronicles 17:11; Galatians 1:17). A motley group, a veritable microcosmus, or little world in the heart of Judæa.
II. The cause of this excitement.—
1. A mysterious sound. The noise of the rushing wind, or what resembled this, which pervaded the town arrested the attention of those who were abroad, and led them to investigate its cause. It is hardly to be supposed that thunder or even an earthquake would have produced the same sort of commotion.
2. A more mysterious experience. Every man in Jerusalem, from whatsoever regions arrived, heard one at least in the apostolic company preaching in his own tongue. Probably fifteen foreign languages, or dialects, were that day spoken in the streets of the Jewish capital. (See “Critical Remarks” on Acts 2:9-44.2.11.)
3. A most mysterious circumstance. That none of the speakers were themselves foreigners, but all (or most) of them were Galileans, who had never been abroad and certainly had never been at school to acquire such command of foreign tongues. It is obvious that the tongues of Pentecost were not mere unintelligible gibberish, ecstatic or frenzied utterances, “sound and fury signifying nothing,” but distinct, articulate, and reasonable speech which could be followed and understood. Nor is it at all likely that the miracle was one of hearing rather than of speaking.
III. The manifestations of this excitement.—These were three.
1. Astonishment. All, without exception, were confounded, amazed, and constrained to marvel. And no wonder. What they saw and heard was no every-day occurrence, but something altogether out of, and beyond, their usual experience. The universality of this astonishment guaranteed the reality of the phenomenon.
2. Perplexity. They could neither explain nor understand the phenomenon. Yet they did not on this account deny it. They felt at a loss to fathom its significance. Yet they did not conclude it had no significance. They realised that it must import something, and kept on asking one another what each man thought about it. In this their conduct was praiseworthy so far as it was serious; where it was insincere it was frivolous and deserving of blame.
3. Mockery. This was the attitude assumed by a portion of the crowd, who, because they failed to comprehend the phenomenon, lost their judgment, and began to scoff, accusing the Spirit-borne speakers of being under the influence of strong drink: “These men are filled with new wine”—a strongly intoxicating beverage. Ridicule and calumny have always been common weapons in the hands of unbelief since the days of Christ (Matthew 11:19). But neither the one nor the other is a satisfactory way of dealing with religion. Neither can disprove religion, scarcely even hinder its advancement; frequently they hasten its triumph, and often reveal the folly of those who resort to them.
1. The wide court to which Christianity appeals—men out of every nation under heaven.
2. The effect Christianity never fails to produce in every community it visits—excitement, wonder, inquiry, faith, and unbelief.
3. The adaptation of Christianity to every people under heaven a striking evidence of its supernatural origin.
4. The mystery which sometimes accompanies Christianity; its phenomena are not always capable of being accounted for by natural causes.
5. The unreasonable treatment Christianity often receives—ridicule instead of refutation or reception.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 2:5. Devout Men.
I. Are to be found in every nation under heaven—a lesson of charity (Acts 10:35). Examples Job and Cornelius.
II. Are in the way of meeting Heaven’s revelations—a ground for hopefulness as to men’s ultimate destinies (Psalms 25:14; Isaiah 64:5).
III. Are often perplexed at the divine dealings with themselves and others—a cause for humility (Micah 4:12; Job 37:21; John 13:7).
IV. Are sometimes led into sin—a warning against rashness in judgment (Ecclesiastes 5:2).
Acts 2:11. The Wonderful Works of God.
I. In nature.—
1. The creation of the material universe (Genesis 1:1).
2. The origination of life (Genesis 1:20).
3. The formation of man (Genesis 1:26).
II. In providence.—
1. The preservation of created things—of the material cosmos (Hebrews 1:3) and of all animated beings (Psalms 36:6; Psalms 104:27).
2. The selection and education of Israel (Isaiah 43:21).
3. The preparation, inspiration, and preservation of the Bible (1 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Timothy 3:16).
III. In grace.—
1. The redemption of a lost world through the atoning death of Christ (Galatians 4:4).
2. The regeneration and renewal of souls through the Spirit and the word (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 3:5).
Acts 2:7-44.2.11. How the World receives the Spirit’s Utterances.
I. It commonly undervalues the Spirit’s witnesses. “Are not all these Galileans?”
II. It is startled at the sound of the truth in its own conscience. “How hear we each in our own language?”
III. It distrusts the issue of the ways of God. “What meaneth this?”
IV. It mistakes the source of the Spirit’s operations. “These men are full of sweet wine.”—Gerok.
Acts 2:12. What meaneth this?
I. The majesty of the Father, from whom the whole family in heaven and on earth is named.
II. The glory of the Son, which now appears in heightened splendour, as the glory of the exalted sovereign of God’s kingdom.
III. The power of the Holy Ghost, which is here seen in signs and tokens which, at the same time, presage a higher and more glorious future.—Oosterzee.
Acts 2:12-44.2.13. Man’s Reception of the Great Things of God.
I. The great things of God.—These great things are everywhere, for God is everywhere; and everywhere they produce much the same effects on man. Truly great is our Jehovah, and of great power! He has not forsaken man nor man’s earth. He shows Himself more signally than by lightning, or thunder, or earthquake, or tempest; even by the Holy Ghost.
II. The impression made by them on man.—
1. Wonder. With that their religion begins and ends. They wonder, but believe not. They wonder, but love not. They wonder, but depart not from iniquity.
2. Perplexity. They know not what to think. They see and hear, and are puzzled. These “great things of God” were not meant to breed perplexity, nor to end in perplexity, yet how often do we find them doing both, through man’s perversity, or cowardice, or love of sin and darkness.
3. Mockery. This is the worst, yet not the least common treatment which the great things of God receive at the hands of men. Thus the natural heart speaks out. Let God’s great things produce their due, their natural impression. He does not work them for mere show.
(1) Let them overawe us.
(2) Let them break us down. Our hearts need breaking.
(3) Let them lead us to faith.—H. Bonar, D.D.
Acts 2:14. Men of Judæa.—Natives of Jerusalem. Ye that dwell at Jerusalem.—Foreign Jews, sojourners in the city from other parts.
Acts 2:15. These.—Not the eleven with Peter merely, but all who had been heard speaking (Acts 2:7). The third hour.—Nine a.m. in our time; the hour of morning prayer (Schürer considers this doubtful), before which no respectable Jew allowed himself to become intoxicated (Isaiah 5:11).
Acts 2:16. Through the prophet.—Joel 2:28-29.2.32. διὰ since he was not the author but the medium of the message.
Acts 2:17. The last days.—The LXX. read μετὰ ταῦτα, after these things. The Hebrew “afterwards,” expounded by Peter as referring to Messianic times. Saith God indicates the source of the prophecy. Young men … old men.—The order of the clauses in Joel is transposed.
Acts 2:20. That great and notable day of the Lord.—Notable = clear, far shining. (Compare Luke 17:21.) The Hebrew prophets used “the day of the Lord” to signify any remarkable interposition of Jehovah for the punishment of His enemies (Isaiah 2:12; Jeremiah 46:10; Zephaniah 1:7). Joel used it to describe the Messianic coming, both first and second.
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 2:14-44.2.21
1. The First Christian Apology; or, the Pentecostal Mystery explained
I. The attention of the people summoned.—
1. By a courageous attitude. Peter’s standing up with the eleven signified that they did not intend to shirk investigation, be overborne by clamour, or hurried away with excitement. A reasonable amount of fortitude is requisite for all who would bespeak the attention of their fellows on any subject, but especially on religion. This fortitude ought never to be wanting when the interests of Christ’s kingdom are at stake, or anything about the behaviour of Christ’s ambassadors requires to be investigated.
2. By an earnest utterance. As Peter’s manner was unshrinking, so were his words fervent. Like the multitude around, he, too, was under strong excitement, only different from theirs. Besides, he perceived a crisis had arisen in the history of His Master’s cause—the time had passed for keeping silence, and the hour struck for speech (Ecclesiastes 3:7).
3. By a frank appeal. Intending to hide nothing from his auditors, he invited the attention of all who could understand him, the men of Judæa, and of those who could only reach his meaning through translation, the foreign dwellers at Jerusalem.
II. The charge of drunkenness repelled.—
1. As mistaken. Founded on a hasty generalisation, and grounded on appearance, which is seldom reliable as a basis for judgment (John 7:24), it was an altogether unwarranted inference.
2. As impossible. Not because wine was not obtainable before 9 a.m., the third hour of the Jewish day, but because during festal seasons it was unlawful to take food, and much more to drink wine earlier than the hour of morning prayer, and because the characters of the accused rendered the charge absurd. “These men,” said the Apostle, “whom ye all see and know, and who like yourselves have come up to worship at the feast, are not likely to be drunk at 9 a.m.”
3. As ridiculous. Drunken men, he might have added, have commonly a difficulty in speaking their own tongues, let alone making use of foreign languages.
III. The mystery of the tongues explained.—As a fulfilment of prophecy.
1. Of the effusion of the Holy Spirit.
(1) By God, whose the Spirit was, and who had engaged to pour it forth in the last times, or in the closing dispensation of the world.
(2) Upon all flesh, without distinction of sex—“Upon your sons and your daughters”; or age—upon “young men and old”; or condition—upon “bondmen” and “bondmaidens,” as well as upon free persons.
(3) With inward illumination, so that they who received it should “prophesy” or utter divine communications of religious truth, as the apostles and other Christians who had the gift of prophecy did (see 1 Corinthians 14:3), should “see visions,” or possess insight into spiritual and unseen realities, as Stephen did in the judgment hall (Acts 7:55), Peter on the housetop (Acts 10:10), and Paul on the Damascus road (Acts 9:3), and in the Temple (Acts 22:17), and should “dream dreams,” as perhaps John did in Patmos on the Lord’s day (Revelation 1:10).
2. Of the Second Coming of Christ. Characterised as a “great and notable” day.
(1) In comparison with His first advent, which was lowly and obscure, whereas this was to be conspicuous and glorious (Matthew 25:31).
(2) Because of the portents which should attend it, “the wonders in heaven above and signs on the earth beneath,” etc.—language descriptive of the woes and horrors that should overtake such as refused to acknowledge Christ—which received its first and partial fulfilment in the Destruction of Jerusalem, and will attain its complete realisation at the Last Day, when those who decline to believe and obey Christ will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of God, and from the glory of His power (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
3. Of the free publication of the Gospel. This also, according to the prophet, should distinguish Messianic times. Under the dispensation of the Spirit, whosoever should call upon the name of the Lord, not merely evoking but accepting Him and trusting in Him for all that His name should imply, should be saved. (CompareRomans 10:13; Romans 10:13.)
1. It is no disparagement to a Christian to be found fault with by the world.
2. It is better to be drunk with the Spirit than to be intoxicated with wine:
3. The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
4. The gospel has two outlooks—one of mercy for the believer, another of wrath for the unbeliever.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 2:15. Drunkenness and Spiritual Influence.
1. Both accompanied by bodily manifestations.
2. Both frequently attended by mental excitement.
3. Both, as a rule, followed by corresponding prostration.
1. The one is a carnal excitement; the other is a spiritual ravishment.
2. The one, a degrading sin; the other, an elevating grace.
2. The one leads to moral and spiritual ruin, the other terminates in salvation and eternal life.
Acts 2:17-44.2.18. The Dispensation of the Spirit.
I. The age to which it belongs.—The last days—i.e., all the days of the New Testament era.
II. The author from whom it proceeds.—Jehovah, the God of the ancient Church and the founder of the new, the God and Father of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
III. The persons on whom it descends.—“All flesh,” without distinction of sex or age, provided they be “servants and handmaidens” of the Lord.
IV. The measure in which it is given.—Not in drops but in streams. “I will pour out.”
V. The effects by which it is followed.—The highest forms of spiritual illumination—prophesying, seeing visions, and having dreams.
Acts 2:17. Visions for Young Men.
I. The vision of the Saviour Christ.—Such as Saul of Tarsus received in the hour of his conversion (Acts 22:14)—a vision of Christ as the Righteous One, “as the greatest, the wisest, the dearest, and the best—all one’s salvation and all one’s desire.”
II. The vision of a better self.—Such as every young man obtains when he gets his vision of Christ. In this vision of a better self are included two spiritual experiences:
1. An immediate and an intense self-depreciation, as if the first outcome of the vision of the divine ideal of goodness were “to send down into the dust and break all to pieces”; as with Simon Peter (Luke 5:8) and the Publican (Luke 18:13).
2. The springing up of an intense aspiration. “There is a gradual emptying of self, and a gradual abandonment to the ideal in Christ, so much so that the motto of Paul becomes that of every Christian, ‘To me to live is Christ.’ ”
III. The vision of a better society.—“A common vision with the saints of God is to see the kingdom of God established on the earth.” “A modern preacher of righteousness—the Rev. Hugh Price Hughes—specifies no less than a round dozen of devils which must be cast out of modern society—drunkenness, lust, slavery, ignorance, gambling, pauperism, disease, crime, war, the opium trade, the torture of dumb animals the sale of spirits and gunpowder to savages.”
IV. The vision of a better Church.—“Of a Church free, united, and energetic”—i.e., free to recognise the Lord Jesus Christ alone as its head, and neither pope nor prelate, Queen nor State; united, in the sense that all unnecessary separations shall have ceased; and energetic in doing its God-appointed work amongst men.
V. The vision of a heavenly inheritance.—“On the wall of the house in Hamburgh, where the poet Klopstock lived and died, was a board with this inscription—‘Immortality is a great thought’; but the thought of Eternal Life in an eternal Home is greater still.” A vision of this will defy all the negations of science, and lift the soul higher than all the guesses of philosophers and all the dreams of poets.” “Hopeful saw the gates of the city, and that was enough. He looked, and from that happy peace (the Delectable Mountains) God’s glory smote him on the face. ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’ ”—P. Wilson, M.A.
Acts 2:20. The Day of the Lord.—Great and notable.
I. As regards the splendour of Christ’s manifestation.—On that day the Son of man will appear in the glory of His Father and with His holy angels.
II. As regards the blessedness of Christ’s people.—Then this will reach its highest point. They will appear with Him in glory.
III. As regards the destruction of Christ’s foes.—This will then be sudden, complete, and final.
Acts 2:21. The Messianic Salvation.
I. Its import.—Deliverance from the guilt and power of sin—victory over death and the grave—Resurrection and Eternal Life.
II. Its foundation.—The Name of the Lord. The merciful and gracious character of God in Christ, the only plea of a sinner’s justification.
III. Its condition.—Calling on that Name, which implies faith and earnestness on the part of the caller, as well as an acknowledgment of his need of salvation and utter helplessness to procure it for himself.
IV. Its universality.—It is offered to every one who chooses to comply with the aforesaid condition. “Whosoever shall call shall be saved.”
V. Its certainty.—“It shall be,” of a verity, without any peradventure. The believer’s salvation is guaranteed by the oath and promise of God, both of which are Yea and Amen in Christ.
Acts 2:22. Mighty works, wonders, and signs.—Compare 2 Corinthians 12:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; Hebrews 2:4. Of these terms, the first, δυνάμεις, refers to the powers by which Christ’s miracles were performed; the second, τέρατα, to the astonishment they awakened; the third, σημεῖα, to the significance they possessed.
Acts 2:23. Counsel and foreknowledge are distinguished as antecedent and consequent.
Acts 2:24. The pains of death.—τὰς ὠδῖνας τοῦ θανάτου. Quoted from the LXX. (Psalms 18:5; Psalms 116:3)—the Hebrew having “the cords of death.”
Acts 2:25. David speaketh.—In Psalms 16:8-19.16.11, which is here ascribed to the sweet singer of Israel as distinguished from the Hebrew Psalmist generally (Acts 13:35). Concerning Him.—Not merely words that might be applied to Him—i.e., Christ—but words that typically and prophetically referred to Him.
Acts 2:26. My tongue as in the LXX. instead of “my glory” as in the Hebrew. The LXX. may have regarded man’s faculty of speech as his highest excellence; and Peter, reflecting on the miracle of Pentecost, may have agreed with them.
Acts 2:27. Hell, ἅδης, Hades, the unseen world, the realm of the dead, comprising two regions, Paradise, the abode of the blessed (Luke 23:43), and Gehenna, the prison of the lost (Matthew 5:29-40.5.30), is here represented as a rapacious destroyer.
Acts 2:28. The ways of life were those which led from the realm of death to that of life—a hint of the doctrine of the resurrection. With Thy countenance signified not “by” but “in Thy presence”—i.e., in heaven.
Acts 2:29. Let me freely speak.—Better, it is lawful for me to speak with boldness. David is here called patriarch as founder of the royal family. His sepulchre is with us.—On Mount Zion (1 Kings 2:10), where most of the kings of Judah were buried. Compare Nehemiah 3:16; Josephus, Ant., VII. xv. 3, XIII. viii. 4; Wars, I. ii.
5. “David’s tomb, on the south side of Mount Zion, is still pointed out by the guides. The tomb is described by one who has seen it as an immense sarcophagus in a room comparatively insignificant in its dimensions, but very gorgeously furnished by the Moslems, under one of whose mosques it stands” (Lawrence Hutton, in Harper’s Monthly Magazine, March 1895, p. 549).
Acts 2:30. A prophet was a divinely inspired person, hence one who could predict future events. The words, according to the flesh He would raise up Christ, are wanting in the best MSS.
Acts 2:31. His soul is also omitted by the best authorities.
Acts 2:32. Whereof, or of whom. In the former case the subject of witness is the resurrection; in the latter, the person of Christ.
Acts 2:33. By the right hand of God.—I.e., through His almighty power; compare Acts 5:31 (Calvin, Meyer, Zöckler, and others). The translation “at or to the right hand of God” (Neander, De Wette, Bleek, Hackett, and others), though admissible, is not so good.
Acts 2:34. For David is not ascended should be did not ascend; but he saith himself in Psalms 110:0.
(1) which Christ ascribes to David (Matthew 22:43; Mark 12:36). The Lord said unto my Lord, etc.—Thus distinguishing between himself and his Lord, who could be no other than the Messiah.
Acts 2:36. All the, or every house of Israel shows that Peter’s address was directed exclusively to the Jews. Lord and Christ.—Compare Ephesians 1:22 : “Head over all” and “Head of the Church.” In both passages the general expression precedes, the specific follows.
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 2:22-44.2.36
2. The Mystery of Pentecost traced up to Christ
I. The earthly life of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:22).—
1. His human nature. “A man”—i.e., no mythical creation or docetical simulacrum, but a bonâ fide flesh and blood personality; a genuine member of the race, possessed of a true body and a reasonable soul like the ordinary descendants of Adam. The certainty of this was attested by the fact that He lived among men, performed actions which they saw and uttered words which they heard, sorrowed and suffered like the rest of His contemporaries, and was eventually put to death at their hands. That Peter in connecting the Pentecostal effusion of the Holy Ghost with Him takes as a starting point His humanity does not signify that Peter was in doubt of His divinity (Matthew 16:16; John 21:17), or regarded that only as a consequence of His exaltation, but merely that in attempting to gain a hearing from his countrymen he commenced with a proposition which he and they held in common—viz., that Christ had been amongst them as a man. That He had been even from the first more than this Peter believed and proceeded to show (Acts 2:34-44.2.36).
2. His divine attestation. “Approved,” shown forth; accredited as a special messenger to His countrymen—
(1) by God, so that, like the prophets of old, He could at least claim to be an ambassador of Heaven, a plenipotentiary and representative of Jehovah (Luke 4:18; John 6:39; John 16:28).
(2) Through “mighty works and wonders and signs”—i.e., deeds of power, of mystery, and of significance, which God did, by Him, so that men, reasoning like Nicodemus (John 3:2), ought to have had no hesitation in recognising Him as “a teacher come from God.”
3. In the most public manner—not at all in secret, as His unbelieving brethren insinuated (John 7:4)—so that the fullest evidence was furnished of who and what He was and claimed to be (John 14:11). Though Peter represents God as working by and through Jesus, he does not thereby deny that Christ performed His miracles by His own inherent power; simply in addressing his countrymen, he asserts the least that could be affirmed about Christ—viz., that the divine power manifested itself through Him.
II. The atoning death of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:23).—This Peter represents as having been brought about by a concurrence of human and divine will and action.
1. In accordance with the divine purpose. Reverting to the original and eternal decrees of God, who worketh all things according to the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11), Peter finds a place among them for the crucifixion of Jesus. The death of Christ was in his view no accident which had surprised either Christ Himself or God. As the story of the arrest in Gethsemane shows that Christ freely surrendered Himself into the hands of His captors (John 18:1-43.18.11), so does Peter here affirm that God delivered Him into their toils, not because He was unable to rescue His darling from the power of the dog (Psalms 22:20), but in pursuance of a deliberate and determinate counsel, formed in eternity, to thus save man from sin and death (1 Peter 1:2; 1 Peter 1:20).
2. By an infamous act of betrayal. Though the person of the traitor is not named, clearly Judas is thought of as the perpetrator of this wicked deed. (CompareMatthew 26:15; Matthew 26:15; John 19:11.) As the counsel of God did not compel the man of Kerioth to sell Christ to His foes, so neither did it absolve him from guilt for so doing. While the predestination and foreknowledge of God are incontrovertible facts, being involved in the very conception of God, yet must they ever be conceived by us in such a way as neither to make God the Author of sin nor to destroy the efficiency of second causes.
3. By a cruel deed of crucifixion. The tragic event was too recent for any call on Peter’s part to reproduce the spectacle. Doubtless the strangers from foreign parts had been made acquainted with the deed of blood. Peter restricts himself to two points:
(1) That while the instruments of the crucifixion were “lawless men,” meaning, most likely, the Roman soldiers,
(2) The real authors of it were the people “ye,” who cried “Away with Him!” or their leaders who instigated them to demand His death. Both acted in ignorance, comparatively at least, of the personal dignity of Christ and of the heinous character of their crime (Acts 3:17; 1 Corinthians 2:8), yet were neither thereby excused.
III. The triumphant resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:24-44.2.32). Peter presents this in a fourfold light.
1. As effected by God. “Whom God raised up” (Acts 2:24; compare Acts 3:15; Acts 4:10; Acts 10:40; Acts 13:30; Acts 17:31; 1 Peter 1:21), “having loosed the pangs of death.” Quoted from the LXX. version of Psalms 18:5, which in the Hebrew reads “cords of death”; the imagery lying in “the pangs of death” may be different, but the sense is the same. The Hebrew poet represents death as a strong man, who binds his victim with cords, which must be untied to admit of resurrection; the Christian apostle compares death’s agonies to the pains of parturition—doubtless because in both cases life follows—with this difference, that he depicts these as not ending with the expiry of physical life, but as pursuing the body into the grave in the form of corruption, and requiring to be loosed-or made to cease in order that their victim might be raised. In Christ’s case both conceptions were realised. His body saw no corruption, and the cords of death were unloosed.
2. As necessitated by Christ Himself. “It was not possible that He should be holden of death” (Acts 2:24). Inasmuch as the like averment could not be made of any ordinary son of man, the use of it concerning Christ marked Him off as standing in a distinct category by Himself. The impossibility of death’s dominion over Christ remaining unbroken lay in this, either that He, Christ, was the Resurrection and the Life (John 5:26; John 11:25), and had power in Himself to resume as well as to lay down His life when He pleased (John 10:17-43.10.18), or that, having satisfied the claims of justice in behalf of man by dying and lying in a sinner’s grave, the conditions of His covenant with the Father demanded His restoration to life (Isaiah 53:10-23.53.12).
3. As foretold by David. “David saith concerning Him.”
(1) That Peter referred to David the sweet singer of Israel as the author of this psalm, and did not merely use the term David as a convenient synonym for the Hebrew poet, or for the collection of hymns and spiritual songs that passed current under his name, is obvious from even a cursory glance at the passage, and must be held as confirmed by the fact that Paul also, indirectly at least, ascribed it to the son of Jesse (Acts 13:35), notwithstanding that the higher critics of to-day pretty generally assert that both Peter and Paul were mistaken (?).
(2) That the psalm was prophetically written with an outlook to Christ must be maintained on the same twofold apostolic authority. That the passage cited literally from the LXX. version of the psalm (Acts 2:8-44.2.11) could not have been meant by David to apply to himself was apparent, first, from the language (e.g., Thy Holy One), which befitted not a sinful mortal; and secondly, from the circumstance that David saw corruption and never rose again—his tomb being amongst them on Mount Zion at the very moment when the Apostle spoke (Acts 2:29, compare Acts 13:36). That it was designed to fore-announce the resurrection of Christ, Peter contended, was the unambiguous testimony of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:31).
4. As attested by the apostles and primitive disciples. “Whereof” or “of whom”—i.e., of the fact or the person; “we all,” the one hundred and twenty of Acts 1:15, “are witnesses” (Acts 2:32). If none of them had been present at the opening of the sepulchre, it is probable that all of them had looked on their risen Lord after His emergence from the tomb. Nor can it be doubtful that what these first witnesses understood by Christ’s resurrection was not the exaltation of His spirit to celestial life after His death (Ritschl), but the actual return of His body, though in a glorified form, from the tomb.
IV. The glorious exaltation of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:33-44.2.36).—That Peter, as well as Luke and Paul, distinguished between the resurrection and the exaltation of Christ is too manifest to be successfully challenged. Having treated of the former occurrence, he naturally advances to speak of the latter, replying in succession to the following unspoken inquiries:
1. Whither?—“Into the heavens” (compareActs 1:11; Acts 1:11; Luke 24:51; 1 Peter 3:22; Hebrews 9:24) and up to the right hand of God” (seeActs 7:55; Acts 7:55; Mark 14:62; Mark 16:19; Romans 8:34; Colossians 3:1). This also had been a subject of prophecy by David in Psalms 110:1-19.110.2, who could not have referred to himself for the simple reason that he “had not ascended into the heavens,” and therefore must have spoken of Christ. N.B.—The Davidic authorship of Psalms 110:0 is guaranteed by Christ (Matthew 22:43-40.22.45).
2. By whom?—“By the right hand of God.” Though not the better of the possible renderings of this clause, it contains a thought in full accord with the teaching of Scripture, that Christ’s exaltation was the work of the Father (see Ephesians 1:20; Philippians 2:9), who so rewarded Him for His redeeming work.
3. For what?—To be “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).
(1) Lord, or possessor of divine dominion, an idea already expressed in His sitting at the right hand of God as partner of His throne, which dominion, though originally and from eternity belonging to Him as the preincarnate Word (John 1:1; John 17:5), was now conferred on His divine manhood in reward for His obedience unto death (Philippians 2:9; Hebrews 1:3; Revelation 3:21).
(2) Christ or Messiah, which signified not that Christ had not been Messiah in the days of His flesh (John 4:26), but that His Messiahship was, by His exaltation, incontestably proved, and that the purposes for which His Messiahship had been constituted could not begin to realise themselves in all their fulness until after His Ascension. That is to say, He was not to be a temporal deliverer rescuing Israel from political thraldom and erecting a world-empire upon earth, but a spiritual Saviour, wielding authority from heaven.
4. How long?—“Till His enemies should be made the footstool of His feet” (Acts 2:35). Till the ends contemplated by His mediatorial sovereignty should be accomplished (1 Corinthians 15:23-46.15.28). Till all His believing people should be fully, perfectly, and finally saved (John 17:24). Till all His unbelieving adversaries should be reduced into absolute, if still unwilling subjection (Philippians 2:10-50.2.11).
V. The Mediatorial Activity of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:33).—This, according to Peter, was—
1. Authorised by Christ’s exaltation to the right hand of the Father. Manifestly, only one possessed of divine authority could act as the glorified Redeemer is here represented as doing. More, only one who was the equal and fellow of the Most High. A Moses might serve as mediator for a nation; a mere man would be insufficient to officiate as mediator for the race.
2. Prepared for by the promise of the Father that He would pour out the Spirit upon all flesh in Christ’s days—a promise given to Christ beforehand in the words of Old Testament prophecy which referred to Him, and renewed to Him on His exaltation.
3. Manifested by the Pentecostal effusion of the Holy Spirit, which Peter now ascribes to Him. “He hath poured forth this,” an indirect proof of Christ’s exaltation and divinity.
4. Verified by the unusual phenomena which the house of Israel saw and heard.
1. The close and intimate connection with one another of all evangelical doctrines. This a powerful argument in favour of their truth.
2. The reality of distinct Messianic prophecy. A point contested by modern criticism.
3. The inspiration of the sacred Scriptures and, in particular, of the Psalms of David.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 2:22. Did Jesus of Nazareth really Work Miracles?—
1. “It is incontestable that Christ” (in asking the faith of his contemporaries) “appealed very emphatically to His miracles, to His ‘works,’ which He was able to perform in virtue of the divine power which stood at His command, to His ‘signs’ in which His Godlike character, and specially the energy and grace pertaining thereto, showed themselves.”
2. “In all the wonderful works which the Evangelists report of Him, the question concerns occurrences in which, if they really happened so (i.e., as reported), we cannot at all find merely specially striking arrangements of a common divine providence ruling in the world and nature, but must recognise a direct intrusion of superterrestrial divine power into the regularly ordered connection of finite natural things and the forces deposited in them by God.”
3. “It is, and remains, incontestable, that Jesus intended to perform such works and referred (His contemporaries) to them—and that such works were not first assigned to Him by a late, fabulous tradition, which, at the same time, put into His mouth the (above-mentioned) appeal to them.”
4. “Apart from every other thing, it is unthinkable that His first disciples and apostles would have ascribed to themselves miraculous powers, as they unquestionably did, had not such miraculous powers been known of Him.”
5. Hence “to a historical critic, who will deny to Jesus all real miraculous activity, remains only the supposition possible—at least, if he is clear and honest—that Jesus and His disciples, with respect to this matter of miracles, practised deliberate and constant deception” (Köstlin, Der Glaube, p. 28).
Acts 2:23. Divine Afterknowledge and Foreknowledge.
I. The divine afterknowledge.—Does God know all persons, other creatures, or things that have existed, as well as all occurrences that have taken place in the past?
1. This question must be answered in the affirmative. God’s eye never closes. It never droops. He has never slumbered or slept. He is never unobservant (Psalms 139:1-19.139.16; Psalms 147:4; John 21:17; Hebrews 4:13).
2. The effect of this knowledge on persons, creatures, things, events past, is nothing. It does not in the least degree modify their nature. It does not make them either good or bad. It does not alter their relations to one another or to God.
II. The divine foreknowledge.—Does God foreknow all the persons, other creatures, events, and things that shall be in the future?
1. Some theologians have maintained that God can and does foreknow things necessary, but not things contingent—i.e., such things as owe their existence to free will. But this idea is not tenable, inasmuch as—
(1) It ascribes ignorance to God, and
(2) is at variance with the existence of prophecy in the Bible, and
(3) traverses the statements of both Peter (1 Peter 1:2) and Paul (Romans 8:28-45.8.30).
2. Other theologians hold that it is neither logical nor scriptural to maintain the universal foreknowledge of God. “Whatever is actually foreknown must, they think, be actually fixed by being foreknown.” But “knowledge, whether simple (i.e., present) or after or fore, never fixes the object which it knows.” “Things foreknown, whether necessary or contingent, will come to pass, but each according to its own nature”—things necessary as necessary, things contingent as contingent.
3. The true theology is that while all things are foreknown nothing is thereby bound to be. “There is no certainty imparted to the essence of the things that are foreknown.”—James Morison, D.D.
Acts 2:25; Acts 2:34.—The Two Right Hands.
I. God upon the right hand of Christ (Acts 2:25).—This was equivalent to a promise from God to Christ of four things.
1. Of support and protection in the execution of His redemptive work. Compare Isaiah 42:1; Matthew 12:18.
2. Of joy and satisfaction in the inception and progress of His work. Compare Proverbs 8:31; Isaiah 42:4; John 15:11; John 17:13.
3. Of hope in death.—Not merely of inward peace, but of prospective recovery from death’s dominion. Compare Isaiah 53:10; Isaiah 11:4. Of a glorious resurrection to embodied existence beyond the grave.—Isaiah 53:11-23.53.12.
II. Christ upon the right hand of God (Acts 2:34).—This could only mean the enjoyment on Christ’s part of three things additional.
1. Co-ordination (in the sense of equality) with God—i.e., essential divinity. Compare Zechariah 13:7.
2. Communion (in the sense of fellowship) with God—i.e., such converse as alone could be held by equals. Compare John 1:1; John 5:19; John 20:3. Co-partnership (in the sense of dominion) with God—i.e., the possession of absolute power. Compare Daniel 7:13; Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:21; Philippians 2:9; 1 Peter 3:22; Revelation 17:14.
Acts 2:25-44.2.28. The Lord upon the Right Hand.—What that signifies to the follower of Christ.
I. Confidence.—He shall not be moved. With such a Companion and Protector, why should we either be troubled or afraid? (Proverbs 29:27; Isaiah 26:3).
II. Joy.—Arising from a sense of the divine presence and fellowship. All the nobler faculties of that man who has God for a defence begin to exult (Psalms 5:11; Romans 5:11).
III. Hope.—When the good man’s flesh lies down to tabernacle in the grave, it does not do so in despair, but rather with the joyous expectation of a future coming forth (Proverbs 14:32; Acts 24:15; Romans 8:19).
IV. Resurrection.—His soul will not be left in Hades, neither will his body be abandoned as a prey to corruption. It may be allowed to see corruption, but that which is sown in corruption will be raised in incorruption (1 Corinthians 15:42).
V. Immortality.—The good man will not be raised to judgment and condemnation, but to justification and eternal life (John 5:29).
VI. Glory.—He will be filled with gladness with Jehovah’s countenance; he will behold Christ’s glory and experience, the highest felicity in Christ’s presence (1 John 3:2; Revelation 7:13-66.7.17; John 17:24).
Acts 2:31. The Resurrection of Christ.—Was—
I. The necessary counterpart of His death.
II. His final victory over all hostile powers.
III. The divine attestation of His Messiahship.
IV. The presupposition of His exaltation as “the Son of God in power.”
V. The pledge of His supremacy over the living and the dead.
VI. The seal of all blessings, rights, and privileges given through Christ, especially of the forgiveness of sins and the future resurrection.
VII. The constraining argument for a new life in the spirit on the part of Christians.
VIII. The decisive proof for the reality, supernaturalness, and eternity of the kingdom of God.
IX. The starting point of all Apostolic missions and evangelical preaching.—Bornemann, Unterricht im Christentum, p. 102).
Acts 2:34. The Mediatorial Throne.
I. Its divine appointment.—“The Lord said unto My Lord.” Jehovah its Author. By His decree was it constituted.
II. Its glorious occupant.—“My Lord.”
1. David’s divine Sovereign.
2. Jehovah’s personal fellow.
III. Its specific object.—Here represented to be the subjugation of all the enemies of that throne—i.e., all the foes of Jesus Christ and His kingdom.
IV. Its long duration.—Till that subjugation is effected. But not for ever. (See 1 Corinthians 15:28.)
Acts 2:22-44.2.36. Four Remarkable Things in Peter’s Sermon.
I. The courage that could venture to charge upon an immense miscellaneous street audience the death of God’s Messiah, and this in the most naked terms, and by a man who had himself but a short while before, quailing before a servant maid in the high priest’s palace, denied Him thrice.
II. The tenderness which tempered this awful charge with the announcement of an eternal purpose of God in that very death, so paving the way for holding forth this crucified One as their own now exalted Lord and Christ.
III. The dread harmony with which one and the same event is here presented as on men’s part a crime of unparalleled atrocity, and on the part of God the result of an eternal decree of saving mercy.
IV. The description given of that death itself—by a word signifying travail pangs, as the throes of a death which was to give birth to a new life.—David Brown, D.D.
Acts 2:37. What shall we do?—As in Luke 3:10; Luke 3:12; Luke 3:14. The cry showed how deeply Peter’s words had penetrated.
Acts 2:38. Be baptised.—The rite known to the Jews as a means of admitting proselytes to the Jewish Church had been practised by John (Matthew 3:6) and commanded by Christ (Matthew 28:19). In or upon the name of Jesus Christ.—I.e., Not for the sake of the salvation accomplished by Jesus Christ (Hofmann), but upon the ground of the name of Jesus Christ or with confession of that which this name signified (Zöckler, Holtzmann, Hackett, and others). To the question, Why in the Acts (Acts 10:48, Acts 19:5) baptism is never, as in Matt. (Acts 28:19), performed in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost? various answers have been given.
1. Baptism in the name of any one of the Persons of the Trinity involves baptism in the names of the other two.
2. Luke, though employing the shorter, really meant the longer formula.
3. The longer formula was designed for Gentiles who had never known the Father, the shorter for converts from Jewish people or Jewish proselytes. The Didache, or Teaching of the Twelve (x), seems to favour the second explanation by using as synonymous the two expressions, “baptism into the name of the Lord” (ix. 5) and “baptism into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (vii. 1). For, or in order to, εἰς, the remission of sins (compareMatthew 26:28; Matthew 26:28, and Luke 3:3), defines the negative aspect of the blessing which ensues upon a right reception of baptism. The gift of the Holy Ghost (compareActs 10:45; Acts 10:45, Acts 11:17) represents the positive side of the same blessing.
Acts 2:39. Your children.—“Little ones” rather than, though not exclusive of, posterity or descendants. All that are afar off.—Not remotely dwelling Jews only (Bengel, Meyer, Wendt, Holtzmann), but Gentiles as well (Calvin, Neander, Lange, Zöckler, Hackett), Shall call, sc. unto Him; so preserving the force of the preposition πρός.
Acts 2:41. Were baptised.—How? By immersion? or by sprinkling or pouring? The Didache, vii. 2, 3 seems to suggest that both methods may have been employed. See further on this under “Hints and Suggestions.”
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 2:37-44.2.41
The First Converts; or, the Firstfruits of the Gospel Harvest
I. The anxious inquiry.—By whom it was preferred. The men and women who had listened to Peter’s sermon; who had manifestly kept awake when the Apostle preached, attended to his words, taken in and reflected on their significance, as well as applied them to their own circumstances and condition; in all which they offered an example to hearers of the Gospel in general.
2. To whom it was addressed. “To Peter and the rest of the Apostles.” From this conjunction of the eleven with Peter (see Acts 2:14) it should perhaps be inferred that they also as well as Peter solicited a hearing from the crowd. Nor need it be doubted that, enjoying the same inspired assistance as Peter, they treated their themes in much the same way as he did his. In any case they were believed by the multitude to be able, as well as Peter, to direct those who asked from them guidance. It is good when preachers have the confidence of their hearers, in respect of both intelligence and willingness to place that intelligence at their service; it is better when hearers in their anxiety appeal for spiritual counsel to such preachers; it is best when they repair to Him who is the Lord both of hearers and preachers.
3. By what it was prompted.—A heartfelt conviction of guilt. Realising the terrible mistake they had been under both as to who Jesus of Nazareth had been and as to their behaviour in sending Him to a cross, they understood the heinous criminality of their lawless deed; and discerning clearly that if Christ were now exalted to the light hand of God they were in danger indeed, they became forthwith filled with alarm. Besides, by their exclamation they practically owned their sin, and openly confessed their belief that the Christ they had crucified was Lord of all. Once more furnishing a pattern to hearers of the Gospel, who should allow it when addressed to them to carry conviction of its truth to their understandings and of their guilt to their hearts and consciences.
4. For what it was directed. Guidance in their distressful perplexity: “What shall we do?” Pierced through with the arrows of conviction, rent with spiritual anguish under a sense of guilt, enlightened as to their wickedness, and alarmed for their safety, they felt that to remain indifferent or do nothing was impossible. They must escape from the peril in which they stood, know how to act in the crisis that had come upon them, find out where to turn and what to do in order to obtain remission of their guilt, peace for their consciences, and eternal life for their souls. A fourth time their behaviour was a splendid illustration of how convicted, anxious, and distressed Gospel hearers should act in time of soul concern.
II. The comforting reply.—
1. The direction. Two things were needful for all, without exception and without delay.
(1) Repentance. “Repent ye.” Without a change of mind, heart, and behaviour, salvation was impossible. Repentance for them meant an alteration in their way of thinking about Christ, who must no more be looked upon as a man, and far less as a malefactor, but regarded as Lord and Christ; in their way of feeling towards Christ, who must no more be treated with indifference and unbelief, far less with hate and persecution, but honoured with earnest faith and cordial love; in their way of acting before Christ, who must no more be pained by seeing them walking after their own ways, and far less in ways of sin, but must behold them following holiness and keeping His commandments.
(2) Baptism. “Be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ.” The repentance, faith, and obedience already demanded, if existing in the heart, must be outwardly expressed by submission to baptism, in which it was designed that all should be symbolised. Rightly viewed, this religious ordinance was intended for a material and visible representation not of the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but of the answer of a good conscience or the laying aside of the works of the flesh in repentance (1 Peter 3:21), of the faith which looked for cleansing from guilt and sin to the sprinkling of a Saviour’s blood (Hebrews 12:24), and of that spirit of submission to Christ which acknowledged Him as Lord (Galatians 3:27). That baptism was connected with repentance as necessary for the remission of sins did not signify that any saving efficacy resided in the water, or in the ceremony, but merely that without compliance with this ritual there could be no guarantee of that repentance which was required for salvation. Where, however, baptism was sincerely submitted to, it became a visible pledge to the repenting and believing recipient that the covenant of salvation, of which it was a seal, would be kept in his experience, and that the blessings of the covenant, of which it was a sign (washing from guilt or pardon, and washing from pollution or regeneration), would be bestowed upon him.
2. The promise. “Ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Their cry indicated that already they had been visited by the gracious operations of that Spirit who Christ said (John 16:8) should convict the world of sin; what Peter’s statement imported was that the Holy Ghost should descend upon them as He had upon the Apostles themselves and their fellow-believers, and should remain with them as a permanent endowment (John 14:16), enlightening their minds (1 Corinthians 2:12), purifying their hearts (2 Thessalonians 2:13), sanctifying their whole natures (1 Corinthians 6:11), witnessing with their spirits (Romans 8:16), and conferring upon them sundry gifts for the edification of themselves and the Church (1 Corinthians 12:7). The permanent inhabitation of the believer by the Holy Ghost is a recognised doctrine of the New Testament (Acts 5:32, Acts 10:44, Acts 13:52, Acts 15:8; Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 1:22, etc.).
3. The encouragement. “The promise of the Holy Ghost,” which was virtually a promise of salvation, had been freely extended unto them, the Jews, domestic and foreign, then present in the city and listening to the Apostle, along with their children, descendants, or offspring (a warrant for infant baptism), and unto all that were afar off, not merely Jews of the dispersion, but Gentiles as well; an unambiguous hint that from the first the Gospel, as preached by Peter, contemplated the admission of the Gentiles into the Church, though Peter from the first did not understand the exact terms and conditions upon which their reception should take place. The only limitation to that universality which sounds in the Gospel offer arises from the appended clause, “as many as the Lord our God shall call unto Him,” which may signify either that the promise would realise itself only in the case of those whom God inwardly called to Himself by His grace, or that it was extended only to those who were invited by the Gospel. Both propositions are correct. All who hear the Gospel call are invited freely to lay hold of the promise; but the promise is fulfilled to them alone who by faith embrace it, and so prove themselves to have been inwardly drawn by the Father (John 6:44).
4. The appeal. Besides encouraging his hearers Peter endeavours to arouse them to instant action, by exhorting them to save themselves from the then existing crooked generation (comparePhilippians 2:15; Philippians 2:15), for which the Hebrew Scriptures threatened ultimate destruction (Psalms 125:5); and this he tells them they could do only by repenting and being baptised. In no other way yet can men rescue themselves from the doom which overhangs this present evil world (1 Corinthians 11:32; Galatians 1:4).
III. The happy result.—About three thousand souls (persons) responded to this appeal.
1. They received the Apostle’s word. With faith. A customary New Testament phrase for believing acceptance of the Gospel (Acts 11:1, Acts 17:7; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:13).
2. They submitted to baptism. Whether this rite was administered on the spot, or at a subsequent hour of the same day, or still later, to suit the convenience of the recipients, is not certain from the text (see “Critical Remarks”), though the second alternative is the more probable. (On the subjects of baptism, see “Hints on Acts 2:39.”)
4. They were added to the Church. The word Church, though not expressed, is understood. The new converts were reckoned to the number of professed disciples, and professed disciples form the visible Church.
1. The genesis of true religion in the soul. Conviction of sin, repentance, faith (implied in baptism), pardon, the Holy Ghost.
2. The defectiveness of those (so-called) evangelical systems that have no place in their teaching for conviction of sin or repentance.
3. The certain test of religion’s reality in the soul of an individual—his having received the Holy Spirit.
4. The universality of the Gospel promise of salvation, not inconsistent with Divine Sovereignty in respect of the Gospel call.
5. The urgency of seeking after personal salvation, by separation from the sinful world.
6. The necessity of confessing Christ before men by submitting to baptism.
7. The duty of believers connecting themselves with the visible fellowship of the saints.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 2:37. Conviction of Sin.
I. By whom required?—All, seeing that all have sinned.
II. Wherein lies its seat?—In the heart, as distinguished from the head.
III. By what produced?—
1. The instrument—the word of God, either preached or read.
2. The agent—the Holy Ghost applying the word to the conscience.
IV. To what it leads?—A sense of danger and feeling of alarm, prompting the cry, “What shall we do?”
V. How removed?—By:
2. Remission of sin.
3. Reception of the Holy Ghost.
The Cry of awakened Souls, “What shall we do?” The cry of:
I. Acknowledged guilt.
II. Realised danger.
III. Conscious helplessness.
IV. Earnest desire.
V. Eager hope.
VI. Humble docility.
VII. Arising faith.
The Spirit and the New Sense of Sin.—Confucius is said to have once exclaimed, in an outburst of despondency, “It is all over! I have not yet seen one who could perceive his fault and inwardly accuse himself.” Confucius is not alone in that verdict upon human nature. The lament is suggestive. It implies the enormous difficulty of bringing an average man to admit his fault. It is all but impossible to argue the world into a frank and unreserved acknowledgment of its follies and misdemeanours. The most horrible offences which have ever blotted and befouled the history of mankind find ingenious apologists. At this very hour men will write to the newspapers to defend with sociological sophistries every vice that saps and smirches our national life. Where the Spirit of God does not work in the fulness of His power true moral discernment is wanting. You might as well make a colour-blind man judge at a flower-show, as accept from one who has not the Spirit of God a verdict upon questions of morals not already determined by statute law or public opinion. To convince of sin is a work of supreme difficulty worthy of the Spirit’s matchless light and wisdom and resource. So many forces militate against the work of the Spirit in convincing the world of sin, that the wonder is we should come to see any dawning humility, reproach, and self-accusation in human nature at all.
I. The instinctive pride of human nature is arrayed against this first task of the Comforter.—The man who, born to wealth, lands himself in an unhappy bankruptcy is rarely able to adapt himself to a life of straitened circumstance. He will think he has the right to ride behind horses, to be waited on, and to drink the best wines, to the end of his days, although he may never redeem his fortunes. His habits cling to him, and he goes upon the assumption that once a merchant prince, always a prince. A fallen king can rarely reconcile himself to the position of a mere subject. Poor plaything of chance though he is, he looks upon his hereditary rights as interminable, and claims from his followers on the tossing sea, or in the mountain cave or island prison, to which his conquerors have banished him, the deference he had claimed when the head of a brilliant court. And so with human nature. It seems to possess some faint hereditary consciousness of its own high birth. It has some pathetic and indefinable reminiscence of the position to which it was designated in the beginning. The reverence of children and the honour of neighbours are demanded as rights. The Bible, too, seems to give its sanction to this code of etiquette; for, in spite of all it has to say about the depravity of human nature, it enforces the universal honour of man as man. Can we be content to honour ourselves less than it is claimed others must honour us? We are built up in pride by that habit of expecting honour at the hands of others, the germ of which is perhaps hereditary, and we repel and resent that self-humiliation to which the Spirit must needs bring the best of us.
II. The work of the sin-convincing Spirit is further hindered by the fact that we judge ourselves in the light of an imaginary future, as well as by the ideals of an outfading past. We draw the material for our own portraiture from the flattering hopes we have been wont to cherish, rather than from the practical record we have left behind us. We had meant to be holy and noble and without reproach, and have not yet relinquished our great intentions, and it is from that standpoint we form the estimate of ourselves. It is not the spendthrift youth only, with a small income and extravagant conceptions of life, who makes audacious drafts upon the future. We are all prone to live in a fool’s paradise, in the ethical sense. We are not yet at the end of our career, and of course we are going some day to be faultless from every point of view. And the glamour of that dream is always before our eyes when we are called to the task of knowing ourselves. The future, as we intend to shape it, will more than outbalance the past.
III. Another difficulty encountered by the Spirit in this preparatory work is that we find ourselves with personalities whose natural perceptions are more active than their moral.—Two diseases work within us, our physical senses are in a condition of hyperæsthesia and morbid sleeplessness, and our spiritual senses are blunted by an ominous coma and a fast-developing in-duration. The perceptions of pleasure and pain are so much keener than the consciousness of right and wrong, that we never forget the wrongs done to us by others, and spend our lives in counting up the pitiful sum, whilst our heart grows stone-dead to the trespasses we have committed against both God and our fellows. We are occupied with an arithmetic that is entirely false, vicious, and misleading, and can never give us an equation of justice and of truth. Whilst our natural sensibilities are so keen, that we can give a most minute and detailed account of all the wrongs inflicted upon us by others, our moral sensibilities seem to be represented by a single attenuated nerve-thread only, which is so obtuse that it fails to register a tithe of the wrongs we do to others; and it is hard to bring us to that state of soul described by the expression “pricked in the heart.” And we come to look upon these solitary delinquencies as more than outweighed by the losses of which we are the victims through the multitudinous delinquencies of others. And by thinking of these possible offsets in judgment, we shut out the operation of the Spirit as He seeks to convince of sin.
IV. We are sometimes trained to self-justification by the exigencies of our daily life, and a tenacious habit is formed within us adverse to the sin-convincing work of the Spirit. The current conditions of society are such that certain cardinal moralities, and a reputation for them, are necessary to worldly success. We must vindicate our name at every turn if we are to live. The competition that prevails in all sections of the world, grave and gay alike, is in the last analysis the competition of reputations, and we must keep up our reputations, unless we are to go to the wall. It has become a second nature to us to overlook our own faults entirely, and to be ever dressing out our virtues for the eye of the world; and we carry the habit of self-vindication into God’s presence, and exercise it before His bar, perhaps at the very time we are joining in the General Confession of the Liturgy. When trees have been bent by the prevailing winds that have been beating upon them for half a century, it is not easy to make them lean in the other direction. A passing hurricane will not effect the reversion.
V. Our passionate self-interests league themselves against the work of the Spirit as He comes to convince us of sin.—We live in a world sadly lacking in charity and tenderness, and to plead guilty of a trespass in the common affairs of life would often be to invite punishment more or less severe. The world gives us the full benefit of all the confessions we pour into its ear, and we soon learn the art of keeping confessions to ourselves. In very few communities indeed is the admission of error a highway to advancement. Wherever Governments are cruel and public opinion is harsh and pitiless, you will find a proportionate reluctance to admit error and shortcoming. The most immaculate people in the world, according to their own estimate at least, are to be found in the lands where rule is despotic and public opinion pitiless. And some traces of this fact are present in our own midst. For the servant to confess error would be in many instances to challenge dismissal, especially if his position is one of trust and responsibility; for a master to confess error would be to invite strikes and to risk the break up of his authority; for a tradesman to confess grave error would in some cases lead to a discontinuance of the business that has been given him. I have heard some men plead that authority must be upheld when it is wrong, because to allow that it had made mistakes might pave the way to anarchic conditions of feeling. And this repugnance to the acknowledgment of error, ingrained into us through our worldly training and experience, influences us when the Spirit begins to deal with us and to convince us of our sin. Confession is almost inseparably associated with the idea of drastic punishment. What is the method of the Spirit’s logic? By what process does He introduce into the human mind and implant there these stern, unflattering convictions of sin? His work is creative, and we cannot penetrate its many secrets; and answers to these questions are necessarily fragmentary and inadequate.
1. The Holy Spirit for the fulfilment of His appointed work puts an environment of new ideals before the mind. He testifies of Christ, and in so doing makes us see how in His humanity all divine excellencies have come down into the midst of men and made themselves a new law to the conscience. Some little time ago I was passing through a country lane, and saw a flock of sheep feeding on the hillside. They seemed to be milk-white, justifying the scriptural metaphor, “He scattereth hoar-frost like wool,” and fit to be welcomed as pets into a drawing-room. In comparison with the green pastures in which they were feeding, their fleeces seemed bleached into spotlessness. Not long after, a snowstorm came, and I had occasion to pass by the same field. But the sheep did not seem to be the same creatures at all. The background had changed as if by magic, and they were in a new world, the conditions of which served to bring out their griminess. The collier, rising out of the pit into the sunshine after a night of toil, scarcely looked grimier than those spotless sheep of yesterday. So when the Spirit brings down from the presence of God on high into these human souls new ideals of truth and righteousness, love, purity, faithfulness, the soul sees itself against a new ethical background. The philanthropist puts himself by the side of churl and niggard, and says, How open-handed I am! A man poses before the background of ethical mediocrity current in his town, or city, or nation, and is quite content with his past record. And for the time his self-satisfaction seems to be warranted. But by-and-by the new background comes in. He awakes to the fact that he is in God’s presence, and sees himself standing by the side of the spotless Son of man in whom the Father has revealed Himself, and before the great white throne of all-searching judgment, and he is filled with shame and self-condemnation,
2. The Spirit enwraps the man to whom He comes with a new atmosphere of sympathy and graciousness, unlike that which exists in the world and provokes to ingenuous self-justification. He who comes under this ministry feels almost instinctively His right to search the heart and bring every delinquency before a divine tribunal. It is useless to attempt concealment, for the Spirit knows us more thoroughly than we know ourselves, and can constrain the most reluctant natures into a consciousness of their own evil. He acts upon us, not like the angry storm which leads men to bar their doors and close their shutters, but like the soft south wind, which opens every labyrinth of the heart and life to the light. It is no treachery or ill-will or unrelenting antagonism which is bringing right home to us the unwelcome facts of the past, but helping and healing beneficence.
3. But over and above these things, a new power of moral discernment needs to be aroused in those who are to be re-created by the ministry of the Spirit. The Pharisee met Jesus, and had no sense of guilt. The idea of spiritual sin seemed to be entirely foreign to the genius of his thought. He looked upon the surpassing excellence of this man of Nazareth as mere eccentricity, a freak of fanaticism, a spasm of madness. Men needed new senses, an enlargement of the conscience that would enable them to feel the guilt of unchastened desire, evil imagination, soulless worship. And where the Spirit comes, whilst He deadens to the illusions of the world and its vain shows, He makes men conscious of the paramount significance of the faintest things which touch their relation to the invisible. By awakening these new perceptions the Spirit brings into view the countless spiritual sins of the former days, and shuts men up for hope to the one common law of mercy. The fact that the sins of the spirit as well as the sins of the body are rebuked by this inward Teacher is indicated by that expansion of the words immediately added—indeed, sins of the spirit are the roots of all outward transgression—“of sin, because they believe not on Me.” In the view of the Spirit this is the core of all heinousness in either the ancient or the modern world, and the Spirit will demonstrate it to those with whom He deals.
4. The conviction of sin is the groundwork of all religious belief, and there can be no genuine consciousness of divine things which does not begin here. Remember in what an awful state the man is who lacks this new sense of sin. If the natural senses were blotted out, a man would walk into some death-trap or other in less than twenty-four hours. And when a man lacks these spiritual senses, is the peril less tragic, think you? The highest thing that the love of God or man can seek for you is that you may have this sense of sin. Has it been born within you? Do you possess this sign of a dawning spiritual life?—T. G. Selby.
Acts 2:38. The Gift of the Holy Ghost.
I. Supernatural as to its origin.
II. Mysterious as to its enjoyment.
III. Free as to its bestowment.
IV. Conditioned as to its reception.
V. Permanent as to its duration.
VI. Saving as to its effect.
Acts 2:36-44.2.38. The Cross, the Crucifiers, and the Crucified.
I. The crucified One.—Let us note concerning this.
1. Who He was. “That same Jesus”; yes, Jesus of Nazareth.
2. What was done to Him. He was betrayed, tried, condemned, crucified, slain.
3. By whom was this done? By “His own”; by “Israel,” the house of Israel.
4. What God has made Him. “Both Lord and Christ.” The stone which the builders rejected has been made the head of the corner.
II. The crucifiers.—They were, as we have seen, “the house of Israel.” They had deliberately united to crucify.—
1. An innocent man.
2. A good man.
3. A prophet.
4. The Lord of Glory.
5. Their own Messiah. They were thus not merely murderers, but no ordinary ones; criminals in the highest and darkest sense.
III. The connection between the crucified and the crucifiers for evil and for good.
1. For evil. For condemnation. It was this that they felt so awfully when the Apostle had stated the simple facts.
(1) They were pricked in their hearts.
(2) They cried out, What shall we do? A full sense of their awful criminality flashed through them.
2. For good. This connection for evil might be disannulled, and a new one formed.—H. Bonar, D.D.
Acts 2:39. The Promise of the Gospel.
I. As to its giver, divine.
II. As to its contents, saving.
III. As to its terms, free.
IV. As to its recipients, universal.
V. As to its continuance, irrevocable.
To you and to your Children; or, the Church Membership of Children.
I. The import of this statement.—Not that all children indiscriminately and promiscuously should be regarded as within the pale of the Church visible, but only those of such parents or parent as accepted and relied upon the promise.
II. The ground of this statement.—That children were considered as within the pale of the Old Testament Church, and that under the New the promise of salvation (remission of sins and reception of the Holy Ghost), and therefore of Church membership, is distinctly offered to men and women not by themselves, but along with their offspring.
III. The consequence of this statement.—
1. The salvation of children dying in infancy. This seems, in the case at least of the children of believing parents, involved in their relation to the promise. The promise belongs to them in virtue of their connection with believing parents, and is given to them the moment they accept it by an act of personal repentance and faith. Hence, in the case of such as die before this repentance and faith can be exercised, it seems reasonable to conclude that they are saved. Nor is it an unnatural supposition with regard to infants generally who die before attaining to years of responsibility that they also, for Christ’s sake, share in the blessing of the promise.
2. The reasonableness of infant baptism. If to them belongs the promise of salvation, why should they not receive its sign and seal? If it be answered that faith must precede baptism, the answer is that faith must also precede salvation. If, then, a child cannot be baptised without faith, the conclusion is that neither can he be saved without faith. In other words, a child dying in infancy must be lost. We prefer to believe Christ: “Of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
Acts 2:37-44.2.40. Words for Anxious Inquirers.
I. Their duty pointed out.—
3. Be baptised.
II. Their salvation assured.—
1. The Holy Ghost is for them who perform these duties.
2. As a free gift.
3. In undoubted certainty.
III. Their warrant set forth.—
1. The promise of salvation is for them. 2 They are called to believe the promise and accept the gift.
Acts 2:41. The Miraculous Draught of Souls.
I. The deep sea.—The listening multitude.
II. The gospel net.—The sermon of Peter.
III. The great catch.—Three thousand converts in one day.
Acts 2:38-44.2.41. Scala Salutis; or, the Ladder of Salvation.
I. Repentance cherished.
II. Faith expressed.
III. Sin forgiven.
IV. The Holy Ghost received.
V. Baptism submitted to.
VI. The Church entered.
Acts 2:42. They continued steadfastly.—Lit. constantly applying themselves unto, or being engaged in. A term characteristic of Luke (see Acts 2:46; Acts 6:4; Acts 8:13; Acts 10:7). The apostles’ doctrine—I.e., listening to and applying to themselves the teaching of the Twelve. From this expression, τῇ διδαχῇ τῶν , the title of Didache seems to have been borrowed. (Compare Wohlenberg, Die Lehre der Zwölf Apostel, s. 49). And fellowship.—Rather, and in fellowship, but whether:
(1) unity of spirit and brotherly intercourse with one another (Galatians 2:9), or
(2) in acts of sacramental communion, or
(3) in communication—i.e., distribution of money (Romans 15:26) is disputed. The second sense is excluded by the fact that “fellowship” was not used to mean communion in the Lord’s Supper before the fourth century. The third, though supported by eminent authorities (Olshausen, Bengel, Zöckler, Hackett, Spence, and others), does not appear so good as the first (Meyer, Holtzmann, Alford, Lechler, and others). Breaking of bread meant the Lord’s Supper, as in Luke 22:12; Luke 20:7-42.20.11; 1 Corinthians 11:23. Prayers were public and private devotions (Acts 3:1; Acts 4:24).
Acts 2:44. All things common.—This pointed not merely to an exuberant and spontaneous liberality (De Wette, Neander, Bengel), but to an actual community of goods—which, however, was not legally instituted, but voluntarily practised. See Acts 4:32 ff., Acts 5:1. “A sort of community of goods appears already to have existed in the lifetime of Christ. See Luke 8:3; John 12:6; John 13:29” (Holtzmann).
Acts 2:46. From house to house, though not inadmissible (Titus 1:5; compare κατʼ οἴκους, Acts 20:20, and κατὰ πόλιν, Luke 8:1), should perhaps be rendered “at home” (Philippians 2:0), as distinguished from “in the temple. Possibly both ideas should be included, as the number of believers was already too large to find accommodation in one house.
Acts 2:47. Added to the Church should be added, the words “to the Church” being omitted in the best MSS., and “together,” ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ, found in its stead. Such as should be saved.—Rather, such as are being saved. The present participle denoting a process rather than a completed fact. “The Greek should have been τοὺς σεσωσμένους, to signify that they had already secured their salvation; and τοὺς σωθησομένους to signify that they were certain of its completion” (Hackett).
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 2:42-44.2.47
The Pentecostal Church; or, the Daily Life of Primitive Believers
I. The leaders of the Church.—The apostles, who were employed in two ways:
1. Teaching. Instructing the newly baptised converts in the elements of Christian truth. Baptising and teaching the order prescribed by Christ (Matthew 28:19-40.28.20). This traverses the idea that baptism should not be administered to infants because these cannot understand the gospel before being baptised.
2. Working miracles. Doing signs and wonders; most likely healing sick persons. The curing of the lame man (Acts 3:1-44.3.10) an example of their activity in this direction. Their “works” secured a hearing for their “words.” “Good works” should always accompany “good words.”
II. The members of the Church.—
1. The New Converts. Devoted to four things:
(1) Waiting on the teaching of the apostles. An example for young Christians, who should desire the sincere milk of the world that they might grow thereby (1 Peter 2:2).
(2) Cultivating religious fellowship with one another. Joining, doubtless, in common acts of worship and mutual deeds of kindness. So should Christ’s disciples not forsake the assembling of themselves together (Hebrews 10:25), or forget to be kindly affectioned one to another (Ephesians 4:32), speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19), and endeavouring to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3).
(3) Celebrating the Lord’s Supper. At first observed on the evening of every day, at the close of a common meal or lovefeast (Agapæ), it gradually came to be dissociated from the lovefeast, and to be celebrated at wider intervals.
(4) Engaging in acts of devotion. Praying both in public “in the temple” and privately “at home.” Perhaps using the prayers of the Jewish sanctuary; more likely employing the prayer which Christ had taught His disciples (Matthew 6:9); and outpouring besides, in speech of their own, their hearts’ desires for themselves and for one another.
2. The whole body of believers. Of these, who also continued daily in the temple praising God and celebrating the Lord’s Supper in their homes, three things additional are recorded:
(1) They maintained visible unity among themselves. Not only being of “one accord,” but meeting “in one place.” Not necessarily in one building all at once, since a commodious enough chamber might be difficult to find in Jerusalem, but in separate groups in different rooms, the essential thing about their meetings being that they were characterised by a spirit of concord and unity.
(2) They supported themselves by a common purse. Those who had “lands” or “estates”—i.e., real property—and those who had “goods” or personal property, sold what belonged to them and cast the proceeds into a common fund, out of which each man received what was needful for his daily sustenance. This, the first effort after Christian socialism, was probably dictated by two things—a desire to live as nearly as possible like Christ and His apostles (John 13:29), and the necessity of finding a livelihood for those who, by becoming Christians, had been thrown out of their customary employments, and so reduced to want. How far this experiment of the Jerusalem Church was binding on the Churches that afterwards arose, or how far it should be followed by Churches to-day, are questions on which the “Hints on Acts 4:34-44.4.35” may be consulted.
(3) They grew in popularity with the outside public. Owing doubtless to the “signs and wonders of the apostles,” by which the populace were impressed; to the increasing number of believers, which caused the new movement to be respected; to the peaceful character of the Christians, who, not being turbulent fellows, gradually disarmed the people’s fears and suspicions; and to the kindness they exhibited towards each other, which naturally drew the people to regard them with sympathy.
III. The Head of the Church.—The Lord—i.e., Jesus Christ. Occupied in two ways.
1. Impressing the people.
(1) With fear towards Himself. Religious awe (Luke 1:65) fell on every soul who witnessed what was going on. They said “This is the doing of the Lord!” (Psalms 118:23).
(2) With favour towards the disciples. These came to be looked upon with approbation (Luke 2:52), on account doubtless of their serious characters and peaceful lives.
2. Increasing the Church. Adding to it daily through the preaching of the apostles—not those who should be, or those who were, but those who were being saved.
1. The secret of spiritual growth—continuing in the apostles’ doctrine, etc. (Acts 2:42).
2. The secret of Church stability—walking in love and bearing one another’s burdens (Acts 2:44).
3. The secret of happiness—the cultivation of piety at home and the exhibition of it abroad (Acts 2:46).
4. The secret of ecclesiastical prosperity—God adding to the Church those who are being saved.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 2:42. Christian Steadfastness.
I. In the Apostle’s doctrine. (Compare Acts 14:22; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Timothy 3:14; Hebrews 10:23.)
II. In mutual fellowship. Compare Romans 12:10; Romans 15:2; Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 4:2; Ephesians 5:2.)
III. In the breaking of bread. Compare Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 5:7-46.5.8; 1 Corinthians 10:16-46.10.17; 1 Corinthians 11:17-46.11.34.)
IV. In prayers. (Compare Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17.)
Acts 2:44-44.2.45. Primitive Christian Socialism and Modern Unchristian Communism compared and contrasted.
I. Points of resemblance.—
1. The sale (or surrender) of lands and goods.
2. The creation of a common sustentation fund.
3. The distribution to each man according to his need.
II. Points of difference.—
1. Christian socialism (as practised in Pentecostal days) said—“What is mine is thine”; modern communism, as frequently advocated, says, “What is thine is mine.”
2. Christian socialism said, “Take what I have”; modern communism says, “Give what thou hast.”
3. Christian socialism was prompted by love to the poor; modern communism is too often actuated by hatred to the rich. 4. Christian socialism drew men together in love and sympathy; modern communism rather tends to separate men by anger and hostility.
III. Points of suggestion.—
1. That if Christian socialism were more practised modern communism would be less rampant.
2. That the existence of modern communism shows something to be wrong in the social body.
3. That the equality of classes and individuals should rather be brought about by Christian socialism than by modern communism.
Acts 2:46. Model Christians.
I. In their duly towards God.—Worshipping daily with one accord in the temple.
II. In their love towards each other.—Cultivating friendly relationships in private life. Breaking bread at home.
III. In their happiness by themselves.—Eating their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.
Acts 2:47. A Prosperous Church.
I. Increasing in numbers.
II. Increasing in numbers daily.
III. Increasing through the addition of saved souls.
IV. Increasing through additions made by the Lord.
Acts 2:37-44.2.47. The Believing People.
I. We are shown, first, the elements of genuine conversion.—Two words may express these—“repentance,” “faith.” Conversion is turning round and coming back to God. Sin is the only thing which can keep men from God. But for that, we should fly to him, as a raindrop hastes to the ocean. The beginning of salvation with this multitude was in honest conviction of guilt. Peter charged them with the greatest crime—crucifying their Messiah. They admitted the charge without excuse or resentment. If such a sinner ever gets to heaven, something more than repentance and consecration must bring him there. The sinner has violated the eternal law of righteousness, compared with which the law of gravitation is weak and transient. He may repent, he may yield to God; but something harder to be managed than a cold heart and a stubborn will is a broken law. Deep conviction cannot rest short of expiation. It demands not only forgiveness, but cleansing. This it finds by an absolute trust in the sacrifice of Christ. Just as soon as the people learned what to do they joined the company of disciples; so we are to notice—
II. The qualifications for Church-membership.—Plainly, conversion at the outset. The Church was to be made up of regenerate souls. This was a new thing. In the Jewish Church, one came into membership by being born of the flesh. To enter Christ’s Church he must be born of the Spirit. At the birth of the Christian Church, the apostles, filled with the Holy Ghost, set, as conditions of membership, true conversion and public confession of a sound faith.
III. The characteristic life of the Church is also. described here.—
3. Thus strengthened within, it had a Zeal which reached out to bless the world. Born in a revival, it breathed a revival spirit into all its work.—Monday Club Sermons.
1. Observe the effect of Peter’s sermon, which was instrumental in winning the first converts. His hearers were “pricked in their hearts.”
2. Next we have the cry of the wounded conscience; and there are no wounds which prompt to so earnest a cry as those which an awakened conscience suffers. “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
3. We are taught the means of cure—repentance and baptism into the name of Jesus. Of course faith in Jesus is here clearly implied.
4. Next consider how this large company of believers grew in grace and acquired strength in their spiritual life. The means employed were four—every one essential to Christian progress.
(1) “Steadfast continuance in the apostles’ doctrine.” Christianity is a religion based on facts, all of which embody vital and eternal truths. And this is ever one of the indispensable methods of nourishing the soul in piety and holiness. We must study the truth as it is in Jesus, and be built up into Him in all things. Moreover, there must be “steadfast continuance” in this work. Never will the time come for even the most studious to say, “I have learned it all.” If a Paul could say, “I count not myself to have apprehended,” there is no chance for a reasonable boast with any of us that we have attained all and are perfect in knowledge. The more we know truly, the better shall we become.
(2) The second means of edification is “fellowship.” By this I understand friendly intercourse of believers with each other as brethren and sisters in Jesus Christ. Their faith had united them in a new and holier sympathy. One divine Spirit pervaded their hearts. Fellowship is one of the essential conditions of a healthful, happy, and vigorous existence. The Church that does not take pains to cultivate it is untrue to itself. Disintegration by reason of class-distinctions or mutual jealousies and rivalries or personal alienations is weakness, is destruction. Let it be avoided by all means. The “communion of saints” should be no dead article of our creed, but a living fact.
(3) “The breaking of bread” is the third specific. This expression may be taken in a broader sense to denote the lovefeasts of the earlier time, or it may be restricted to denote simply the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, with which the lovefeast was always concluded. Now, since lovefeasts are no longer held, it will not be out of place to take the words in their more restricted application. And how important the observance of the Lord’s Supper is to the development of the Christian life need not be largely insisted upon. It brings us, we all know, into special communion with our Lord in the mystery of His great sacrifice in our behalf. Sacramental seasons are therefore the Church’s festal seasons. They should be so celebrated, and mark as they come the stages of its enlargement.
(4) “In prayers.” Whether there are intended here public or private supplications, the essential thing is “the offering up of the heart’s desires for things agreeable to God’s will in the name of Christ.” Such prayer is the breath of the Christian life. No soul that has been quickened to feel its own ignorance and weakness and perverseness, that has been awakened to discern the beauty of holiness, and see what it ought to become, that has learned something of the glory of God’s kingdom, and what a renovation it was designed to effect on earth, can live without prayer. If Christians would grow in grace they must pray for grace.
5. A Church thus alive and edified will be likely to exhibit some fruits of its new life. What fruit the early Church bore the text tells us. First, there was the largest liberality. The time was one which called for special sacrifices on the part of believers resident at Jerusalem. A large number of people had come from a distance to attend the feast of Pentecost, and, expecting soon to return to their homes, they had not provided for a long stay. And the need was heartily supplied. In the first fervours of their love and joy all selfishness seems to have melted away. No one called aught he had his own, but they had all things common. Generosity is one mark of a true Church. Let no person deem himself a Christian who does not exhibit something of it. Other fruits were gladness, singleness of heart, praise. Indeed, to such an extent did these fruits abound that one would infer that the early days of the Church were one continuous festal season. The new life burst forth at once in full beauty and fragrance as a spring-time, and all hearts blossomed with joys and gushed out in song. How could it be otherwise? This is the natural effect of that religion the object of whose worship is a God of love, and whose spirit breathes love into every believing soul. Love is gladsome, love is musical.
6. Finally, we see the influence which this exhibition of this Christian spirit had upon the multitude. The new converts “found favour with all the people.” And this, too, was a legitimate result. The gospel, truly acted out, commends itself to every man’s conscience. It creates a blessedness which wins admiration. “The Lord added to the Church daily.” This is the way every Church must grow and spread. It must aim to make itself attractive by catching and reflecting the beauty and the glory of its risen Lord. There is no community on earth that has in itself the possibility of exercising such an all conquering power over mankind as the Church possesses.—D. W. Poor, D.D.
Acts 2:1-44.2.47 (on the whole chapter.)—The Day of Pentecost.
I. The descent of the Spirit (Acts 2:1-44.2.4).
1. The time.
2. The signs.
3. The tongues.
II. The effect (Acts 2:5-44.2.13).
III. The explanation (Acts 2:14-44.2.36).
1. The fulfilment of prophecy.
2. The realisation of the same in Christ.
IV. The fruit (Acts 2:37-44.2.41).
1. Conversion of multitudes.
2. Their reception into the Church by baptism.
V. The Beginnings of Church life (Acts 2:42-44.2.47).—
3. The breaking of bread.
4. Prayers.—David Brown, D.D.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Acts 2". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent