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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Acts 2

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-4

Acts 2:1-4. The Promise of the Spirit is Fulfilled to the Disciples.

Acts 2:1. Fifty days after Easter, ten days after the Ascension, the promise of Acts 1:4; Acts 1:8 is fulfilled and the Church starts into action. The statements of time, however, appear to be independent of each other, and are not to be construed strictly. The place is not mentioned, only that all were together in a house (cf. Acts 5:12). The situation is that of Acts 1:14; at one of the meetings this sound, this sight, occurred; the sound like that of a great rushing wind filling the whole house, the sight, visible to all, of tongues like flames dividing, so that each person received a share, and it settled on each of them. The winds are in the Psalms God's messengers; the tongues point to an utterance that is to take place, under His authority; the whole might be a telling expression of the fact that the message is ready, that the hearts of the messengers are so full of it that they are finding words to declare it. In the writer's view, the promise is thus fulfilled. The Holy Spirit now takes up His dwelling in the believers, each and all, and expresses Himself in manifold ways (cf. 1 Corinthians 12). Christian baptism has now come about, the baptism of the Spirit which in later cases accompanies the baptism with water; here, it comes independently. The immediate result, in this case, is the gift of tongues (pp. 647f.); "speaking in other tongues," i.e. not in ordinary speech, but so that people of other languages than theirs understand them. See further on the significance of the Day of Pentecost and the baptism of the Spirit, pp. 638f., 641-644.


Verses 5-13

Acts 2:5-13. The Effect on Outsiders.—The visitation has taken place in a house, but the noise is heard, not the speaking with tongues, all over the town; a crowd collects, made up of pious and thoughtful men, Jews of various lands, now dwelling at Jerusalem. Guided to the spot they stayed there in wonder, because each of them heard these Galileans, men of rude dialect, speaking the language of the country to which he belonged. The following catalogue of countries or of peoples goes round the map from the east to Judæa, then to Rome by Asia Minor and by Egypt and North Africa, then come Jews again, but as the counterpart of proselytes, not as a nation; at the end Cretes and Arabians. Not counting the Jews, nor the Cretes and Arabians, who might be put in afterwards for completeness, there are twelve kinds of foreigners; and they all hear the Christians speaking in their own language. If the linguist inquires how many languages were necessary that each of these might hear his own, the reply is that Greek was understood by the educated all over the Empire; if the people in question were all Jews (Acts 2:5) Greek was enough for them all. The gift of tongues as set before us in 1 Corinthians 1:4* has nothing to do with different languages, and the speech of Peter which follows says nothing of this. The narrative is accordingly symbolical; it conveys the idea that the Gospel, now preached for the first time, was destined for all nations, and that the Spirit was able to make all nations hear and understand it. Another opinion expressed in the crowd of wondering hearers, was that the phenomenon was due to intoxication. Paul (1 Corinthians 14:27 f.) tells us that the person who exercised the gift of tongues was generally unintelligible and unedifying, and therefore should have an interpreter. The above verdict might naturally occur to unsympathetic hearers, and the early Christians might often hear it, in connexion with these ecstatic utterances (p. 648).


Verses 14-36

Acts 2:14-36. Peter Explains the Occurrence.—Peter is, as before, the mouthpiece of the community. His speech is not addressed to foreigners but to the people of Jerusalem, and shows us, as his other speeches do, the style of argument used by Christians in their first great controversy, that with their Jewish neighbours. This address falls into three parts: (a) Acts 2:14-21, the phenomena are not due to intoxication but show that prophecy of the Last Things is being fulfilled, and that further fulfilment is at hand; (b) Acts 2:22-32, the Resurrection of Jesus proves His Messiahship; (c) Acts 2:33-36, appeal to the Jews to recognise Him accordingly.

Acts 2:14-21. Intoxication is not an affair of the early morning; it is not yet the time for morning prayer, and the Jew did not eat nor drink before that hour. The lively utterances of the believers are due to the direct inspiration of God according to His promise in Joel (Joel 2:28-32; LXX with slight differences). The passage predicts what is to precede the final deliverance, and Peter suggests that as the earlier part is being realised in the inspiration of the Christian community both in its older and younger members, the later parts, the heavenly portents and the day of judgment, may be expected forthwith. To escape therefrom they must "call on the name of the Lord" (Joel 2:32); and by "the Lord" the writer understands Peter to point to Jesus as Kurios; in Acts 2:36 he expressly so names Him.

Acts 2:22-32. That Jesus is Lord and is to be called upon is proved by the fact of His resurrection. The doctrine of Christ set forth in Acts 2:22-24 is very simple. His human life is appealed to: Jesus the Nazorean, as He is called, is spoken of as a man, but a man whom God approves to the Jews by the wonderful works He did through Him, "powers" and "wonders" and "signs"; powers, as showing the energy which dwelt in Him; wonders, from their arresting character; and signs from what they proved about Him (2 Corinthians 12:12). In spite of all this it was God's deliberate counsel—for nothing happened to Jesus that God did not know beforehand and arrange for—that He should be delivered to His enemies and done to death by the Jews. They were the real authors of the crime, though in the act of His execution wicked hands, the hands of men outside the Law, were employed. The speaker passes lightly on from the death of Jesus to His Resurrection; he has no doctrine of the virtue of Christ's death, but hurries on to the act by which that fearful crime was redressed and turned to its opposite. God raised Him up, having loosed the pangs (so LXX, Psalms 18:5, Psalms 116:3; Heb. "bonds") of death. He could not be held of it; it was inconsistent rather with the Divine plan than with the inherent nature of Jesus, just described as "a man."

Psalms 16, from which a quotation follows, is originally an utterance of the Jewish community, expressing its faith in God and in touching phrases its confidence that He will not suffer death or destruction to approach it. In the Gospels and Ac. all the Pss. are regarded as the work of David and as speaking of his fortunes. Psalms 16 records his view of his own death, and expresses the conviction that he will arise out of it and not be left in the place to which all souls went at death. But this was clearly not fulfilled in the person of David. Peter appeals to the Jews, whom he now addresses as "brethren," in a bond of faith and hope with him, to allow that David died and that they know his tomb (mentioned Nehemiah 3:16 and several times in Josephus); what then do his words mean? He was a prophet, and the words must have a fulfilment. David knew of the descendant, in whom his throne was to be established for ever (2 Samuel 7:12 f., Psalms 132:11), and it was of Him he spoke in Psalms 16. It was actually true of Christ that God raised Him up; that is the fact of which all the apostles are witnesses (Acts 1:3; Acts 1:8; Acts 1:22) and of which David spoke.

Acts 2:22. "Jesus the Nazorean": the origin of this expression is obscure; Burkitt in RTP, ix. 714, discussing the term Nazorean, which occurs seven times in Ac., and Nasarean found in Mk. and Lk., does not profess to have solved the difficulty. He warns us against basing the explanation on the name of Nazara, where the Lord was brought up. The name Nosri was applied to Christ, as Matthew 2:23 informs us, and may mean watchman, tower-dweller, pagan, according to 2 Kings 17:9. As a term of reproach His followers would be called Nazoraioi after Him. The sect of Nazoreans was more ancient; Epiphanius speaks of them, and the name may mean "rebels."

Acts 2:33-36. Conclusion.—The inference is that Jesus is the cause of the ecstatic speech, Jesus raised by God's right hand, Jesus exalted. It is He who has obtained from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, and has poured out what is seen and heard in His followers. There is no reference to the gift as one of languages, nor to the fact that Jesus already was full of the Holy Spirit in His lifetime. Another Ps. quotation follows (Acts 2:34), of frequent occurrence in NT (Matthew 22:44, 1 Corinthians 15:25, Hebrews 11:3) but not elsewhere used just as it is here. In Mt., Psalms 110 proves that the Jews were mistaken in their view of the Messiah; He was a greater than David, not less; in 1 Cor. it proves a point as to the future development of Christ's power; here, that the exaltation is true of Jesus alone, who is therefore to be regarded as Lord and Messiah. David was buried and lies in his tomb (Acts 2:29), he never rose to heaven; but Jesus has sent down the Spirit from heaven to His followers (Acts 2:33). In Him, then, the prophecy is fulfilled; God, as the whole house of Israel is to recognise, has made Jesus both Lord and Messiah.


Verses 37-41

Acts 2:37-41. Effect of the Sermon.—A rapid and lively narrative succeeds. The hearers feel the sting of their position, and say (cf. Luke 3:10-14), "What shall we do?" Peter's requirements are repentance and baptism, the first being the original requirement of the Gospel (Mark 1:4; Mark 1:15). The reason is still the same, that the Day of the Lord, with which the Kingdom was to open, is at hand. Baptism (pp. 638f.) is, as in the Gospels, connected with repentance and with a view to the forgiveness of sins. It is to be in the name, or as it should be rendered "upon the name," i.e. on the authority of Jesus Christ (Mark 9:39). The formula of baptism does not appear from this passage; but forgiveness of sins was to accompany it, and so was the gift of the Holy Spirit; this is stated in most of the oases in Ac. in which baptism is administered. The promise of Acts 2:39 is that found at the close of the passage from Joel quoted in Acts 2:21; it is addressed to the Jews and to their children, and to these at a distance, which would point to the Gentile mission or to those at a later time. Finally (Acts 2:40), the hearers are urgently warned to separate themselves from the perverse multitude around them and from their fate. That believers are called to this separation is a frequent note in the epistles (Galatians 1:4, 2 Corinthians 6:17), and is implied in the "call" spoken of in the Gospels.

Acts 2:41. The baptism of so many might have been dwelt on, and some details given, but only the bare fact is stated, and the number is approximate (cf. Acts 1:15, "about 120").


Verses 42-47

Acts 2:42-47. The Religious Life of the Brethren.—The four items in Acts 2:42 should be taken in two pairs; (a) the believers adhered steadfastly to the apostles as their teachers and to their common life with each other, the formal manifestations of which were (b) their common meals and their common prayers (Acts 1:14); this is further shown in Acts 2:46. The "fear" of Acts 2:43 did not drive the people from the Church, but marked its authority, as did the wonders and signs wrought by the apostles. Paul speaks of "the signs of an apostle" (2 Corinthians 12:12) which he himself had furnished sufficiently; our author attests the same of the older apostles, though the instances he gives are few. The common life (Acts 2:42) is further described in Acts 2:44. The believers all held together, and even regarded their property as common, selling their possessions and their movables to meet the needs of the poorer members. This is enlarged on in Acts 4:34 f.* (cf. p. 767). They visited diligently the Temple, the place of prayer of their race (Luke 18:10; Luke 19:45 f.), and held religious meals in one house and another. Thus their meals were sacraments to them, held without guile. They were full of God's praises, and afforded an attractive spectacle to the Jews round them. Those who joined their company they regarded as saved, and the Lord added such daily to their number. On early Christian worship, see pp. 638, 641, 643, 647f.

Acts 2:46. The kata in kat' oikon would have no meaning if it did not refer to domestic meetings at which the breaking of bread was reminiscent of the Master's practice (Luke 24:35).

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Acts 2:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/acts-2.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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