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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Acts 2

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-47

The feast of Pentecost in Israel looked forward to the very day on which God had decreed that the Spirit of God should come to form and indwell and empower the Church of God, which Christ had declared He would build (Matthew 16:18). He is the promise of the Father (Ch.1:4); He is sent by the Son from the Father (John 15:26); He has come of His own volition (John 16:13); for He is God. The disciples were with one accord in one place, a precious indication from the very beginning of the unity of the church of God.

No arrangements or efforts of men had anything to do with this startling event: it was absolutely a work of God. A sudden sound from heaven came as a mighty, sustained breathing, filling the house where they sat. This was virtually the public birthday of the church, a matter once to take place, and never again. Of course the Spirit of God is invisible, therefore visible signs were necessary to emphasize the reality and power behind this. Cloven tongues like as of fire sat upon each of them. The Spirit had come to Christ at Jordan in the form of a dove (Luke 3:22), the symbol of peace and love, indicating God's perfect complacency in Him. Fire however reminds us of the holiness of God in judgment: one of the first effects of the Spirit's coming to believers is to produce a serious self-judgment, for the Spirit stands in contrast to the flesh.

Tongues of fire were sent to indicate the various languages the disciples were given ability to use at this time, with the object of bringing about an understanding between those who normally were far apart. When they were thus filled with the Spirit of God, they spoke their own thoughts in languages they did not normally understand. It is evident they were speaking the things that they had seen and heard as to the Lord Jesus in His death and resurrection.

A matter so marvellous as this could not but be quickly publicized, and the more so since the feast had brought many Jews to Jerusalem from "every nation under heaven." They recognized that the disciples were all Galileans and were astonished to hear them speak in languages of the various nations in which the visitors were born. Many of these are listed, whether all of them or not; but the people bear witness that they speak in their tongues "the wonderful works of God." Bearing witness to Christ and His death and resurrection, they of course knew perfectly well what they were saying, but were miraculously able to express it in a language they did not normally know. Their hearers too understood what they were saying. These two things must be expected when the true gift of tongues is in use. In effect this would wonderfully reverse the action of God in confounding men's languages at the time of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:5-9). In the church there was to be understanding and fellowship now between those of nations for years far apart. The Spirit of God was the power to accomplish this.

Some were amazed and questioning, others contemptuous and mocking, accusing the disciples of drunkenness. Honesty would at least make a little inquiry before such accusation. It is Peter who, with the eleven, stands up to speak. How fully he is recovered from his painful experience of having denied that he knew the Lord! He addresses the men of Judah first, but includes all who were then living at Jerusalem. At the third hour of the day (9.00 a.m.) it was rather foolish to suppose a large number of men to be intoxicated. "But this is that," he says, "spoken by the prophet Joel." The verses he quotes (Joel 2:28-32) were not completely fulfilled in this Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit of God, for verses 19 and 20 at least will be fulfilled only at the time of the tribulation period. His words, "this is that" however indicate that, consistently with that prophecy, God was accomplishing an unusually striking work. Such partial fulfillment are not unusual in scripture. For the church is "a kind of first-fruits of His creatures" (James 1:18), and she has received blessings now in a heavenly and spiritual way that are anticipatory of those Israel will receive on an earthly level.

God was making clearly evident the fact that He was speaking by the power of the Spirit; and he who listened and responded by calling upon the name of the Lord would be saved. Peter then presses upon Israel the facts concerning this Lord Himself, "Jesus of Nazareth." He does not preach Him as the Son of God (as Paul did immediately after his conversion -- ch.9:20), but as "a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs," miracles evidencing divine power; wonders emphasizing their effect upon men; signs being significant of spiritual truth. Of these things the people themselves were witnesses.

Why had He been crucified? He had been "delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." On God's side it was marvellous grace; but on man's side, they had wickedly taken and crucified Him. Now God had raised Him from the dead, for the power of death could not possibly hold Him, as prophecy had foretold concerning the Son of David, the Messiah.

It was God who put into David's lips the words of Psalms 16:8-11, who speaks, not primarily as to himself, but as representing the Messiah of Israel. His heart rejoicing, His tongue glad, His flesh resting in hope, was because of the certainty of resurrection. His soul would not be left in hades, which is the unseen state of separation from His body. Also, "thine Holy One" would not see corruption. This of course refers to His body: though being in a state of death because the spirit and soul had left it, the body would not see corruption.

In men's bodies, derived from Adam, immediately death takes place corruption sets in. Not so in the body of the Lord Jesus: it was reunited with His spirit and soul without corruption having touched it. Verse 28 speaks of the great resultant joy of this, in life beyond death. That scripture in the Old testament then could not possibly apply to David personally; and Peter applies it with clear and beautiful precision to the Lord Jesus. David himself had long since died and his body given to corruption. But as a prophet he spoke of Him whom God had sworn would sit upon David's throne, being One of David's seed according to the flesh. This was Israel's true Messiah, Jesus, whom God had raised up, and of whose resurrection the disciples were competent witnesses.

Not only was He raised from the dead: God had exalted Him by His own right hand of power; and from that place of excellent majesty He had received from the Father the gift of the Holy Spirit, sending Him forth upon His disciples. Then he applies another striking and appropriate scripture from David's pen, "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand until I make thy foes thy footstool" (from Psalms 110:1). This can refer to no-one but the Lord Jesus, who is therefore David's Lord, and prophesied of, not as immediately taking His throne, but being seated at God's right hand for a definite time before God would subdue His enemies under His feet. For those who have faith this is transparently clear. The conclusion is triumphant and inescapable: "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." Israel had rejected Him, but God has raised a solemn issue with them by raising Him from the dead and giving Him the highest place of glory and honor.

The power of the Spirit of God in this address itself produced serious response among the people. Pricked in their heart, they inquired of Peter and the apostles as to what they should do. Where conscience is seriously affected, the answer is near to hand. First they are to repent, which refers specifically to their previous treatment of their own Messiah; then to be baptized, publicly reversing their previous public rejection of Him. This was important as regards Jews. Gentiles were not told to first be baptized before receiving the Spirit of God (Ch.10:44-48), but were baptized afterward. They had not (as Israel) been guilty of publicly rejecting the promised Messiah, for no such promise had been given to Gentiles. Being baptized to the name of the Lord Jesus, Jews would have their glaring public sins remitted publicly. This outward ordinance only accomplished outward results: it is no proof of a vital inward work of the Spirit of God. Of course, true repentance is a vital work of the Spirit, and this would result in Jews being willing to be baptized. If a Jew would not be baptized one would seriously question whether he had actually repented.

The promise Peter affirms as being for them and their children. and not confined to Jews in their land. but extending to those also who had been scattered abroad. In the coming kingdom, Israel will be blessed only in their own land, but here is grace including them outside the land.

Verse 40 assures us that Peter spoke much more than is recorded here, but specially stressing that they save themselves from this perverse generation. By being baptized they saved themselves from identification with the generation that was guilty of the rejection of Christ. In this way baptism saves: it does not save souls.

Receiving Peter's word, three thousand were baptized that day. How this was accomplished by the disciples we are not told. There is no hint of people being questioned as to the reality of their faith, and no time for proving its reality. Actually, they acknowledged the counsel of God against themselves by thus being buried (figuratively speaking). In order to be buried, it is only necessary that one should be dead: he is not buried because he has life, nor in order to receive life. However, being "unto Christ," who is raised, baptism points to life beyond death.

As we have observed, the proof of reality of faith is not seen in baptism, but it is seen in the steadfast continuance mentioned in verse 42. Of first importance in this matter is the apostles doctrine. This teaching was fundamental to everything. Not having been written yet, it could only be communicated by word of mouth. What the Lord had spoken came back to them by the power of the Spirit (John 16:4), and to this was added what they themselves had witnessed of Himself, of His death, resurrection and ascension. Apart from this, Christianity would be nothing. Then fellowship is linked with doctrine: they continued enjoying together the truth of Christ. Breaking of bread in remembrance of the Lord also formed an important part of their lives. In the freshness of faith and first love it seems likely they did this every day. Later on this appears to have become more settled as an observance on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). Another marked feature of their very life was continuance in prayers, a fact seen prominently throughout the book of Acts. This is the supply line through which power was received from the Spirit of God to accomplish what God intended.

These four vital matters seen in the inception of the church, are as fundamental to her blessing today as they were then. At that time these things occasioned serious thoughts on the part of the general public: they could see it was no matter to be treated lightly. Also many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. as the Lord had foretold. This was God's public bearing of witness to the truth of that which the apostles spoke (Hebrews 2:4). a clear proof that this new dispensation was being introduced by God Himself. After Christianity had been established, such signs and wonders were no longer necessary.

The living energy of the Spirit of God implanting genuine love in the hearts of God's people led to their spontaneous desire to be together and share everything in common. This was no designed communal living, as has been tried by men time and time again, usually ending in disruption and worse. Those with possessions sold them, so that all could be shared. We shall see this referred to again in Ch.4:34-37. So long as all would be fully subject to the leading of the Spirit of God, this would be beautifully successful.

But it did not continue because of men's selfishness entering in, as was sadly shown in Ch.5:1-2. Still, the evidence is clear that the power of the Spirit of God was sufficient for it, and later history is to our shame. Not that we can regain such a thing, for it would certainly no more continue now than it did then; and the identical thing can never be regained by human arrangement; for all was totally spontaneous at the time.

With one accord they continued daily in the temple, for it was Israel's center of worship and as yet God had not called them to separate from it; but they broke bread in homes, not in the temple: it seems the word "daily" may apply to this too. Of course 3000 could not be all together in a home: no doubt there were many gatherings, yet in a true spirit of unity. Eating with gladness and singleness of heart tells us that the common routine of life had taken on a fresh, delightful fragrance because of their common joy in the Lord.

Their praise to God was spontaneous and genuine; and at this moment the people generally looked upon them with favor, which was of course not shared by the leaders (Ch.4:1-2). The Lord also added to the assembly daily those who were being saved. They were not left to "join the church of their choice." The Lord had added them to His church. The doctrine concerning the truth of the assembly as the one body of Christ was not yet taught, as later Paul taught it; nor was it yet understood how great a change God was accomplishing in regard to introducing the dispensation of the grace of God; but the Lord Jesus was doing what He had promised before: "on this Rock I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18).

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Acts 2:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/acts-2.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, July 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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