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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
Bible Study Resources
Nave's Topical Bible - David; God; Holy Spirit; Jesus Continued; Orator; Peter; Preaching; Readings, Select; Revivals; Tongue; Trinity; Zeal, Religious; Scofield Reference Index - Resurrection; Thompson Chain Reference - Awakenings and Religious Reforms; Awakenings, Religious; Holy Spirit; Spirit; The Topic Concordance - Enemies; Jesus Christ; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Ascension of Christ, the; Confessing Christ; Promises of God, the;
Verse 33. By the right hand of God exalted — Raised by omnipotence to the highest dignity in the realms of glory, to sit at the right hand of God, and administer the laws of both worlds.
The promise of the Holy Ghost — This was the promise that he had made to them a little before he suffered, as may be seen in John 14:16, &c., John 16:7, &c., and after he had risen from the dead. Luke 24:49, and which as the apostle says was now shed forth.
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Acts 2:33". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/acts-2.html. 1832.
Peter’s preaching (2:14-42)
Seeing the people’s interest, Peter addressed them, this time speaking in his normal language. His address shows some features of the early apostolic preaching. First he quoted from the Old Testament, to show that the Pentecost events fulfilled what the prophets foretold. To Peter the important point of the prophecy was that God poured out his Spirit on everyone - not everyone whether believers or not, but everyone within the community of God’s people, whether male or female, young or old, slave or free (14-21; see v. 39).
Peter followed this with a short summary of Jesus’ work, death and resurrection, showing that in spite of human injustice, God was working out his purposes (22-24). Next he quoted Old Testament Scriptures that Jews in general believed referred to the Messiah. Although David was the author of the passages quoted, the words could not refer to him, as he was dead, whereas the person referred to here was alive. This person, though not David, was a descendant of David; in fact, the Messiah. And this Messiah was Jesus, who had risen from the dead, returned to his Father in heaven, and sent the Holy Spirit upon his disciples (25-36). (‘Messiah’ was a Hebrew word meaning ‘the anointed one’. It was used to refer to the descendant of David who would be God’s chosen king and saviour, not just for Israel, but for the world. The Greek equivalent of ‘Messiah’ was ‘Christ’.)
Finally, Peter called on the people to turn from their sins and believe in Jesus Christ. Because these people were part of the ‘wicked generation’ of Jews who killed the Messiah Jesus (cf. v. 23,40), they were to show their change of heart by being baptized in the name of the Messiah Jesus. They had to show publicly that they believed Jesus to be the Christ, the one whose divine authority was shown by the mighty works that God did through him (cf. v. 22). In this way they, and in fact people of any generation, would receive the same gift of the Holy Spirit as the apostles and others had just received (37-40).
With the addition of three thousand people, the church now consisted largely of new believers, but these believers soon grew into a strong body. They were built up through learning the teachings of Jesus passed on to them by the apostles, and through joining in fellowship where they worshipped and shared in the Lord’s Supper (41-42).
Baptism with the Spirit
Both John the Baptist and Jesus had foretold the outpouring of the Holy Spirit described by Luke, referring to it as a baptism (Matthew 3:11; Acts 1:4-5). The baptism with the Holy Spirit may be defined as that event on the Day of Pentecost by which the risen Christ gave the Holy Spirit to his disciples as he had promised and, in so doing, united them into one body, the church (Acts 2:33; Acts 11:15-16; 1 Corinthians 12:13; 1 Corinthians 12:13).
On the Day of Pentecost two separate groups received the baptism, or gift, of the Spirit. The first was the group of apostles and others mentioned in Acts 1:15 and 2:1-4, the second the group of three thousand mentioned in Acts 2:37-42. But there were several important differences between the two groups.
The first group consisted of people who were already believers and who had to wait till after Jesus’ ascension to receive the Spirit. The second group consisted of people who became believers only after hearing Peter preach on the Day of Pentecost and who received the Holy Spirit immediately. The experience of those of the first group (i.e. their speaking in tongues) should not be considered the normal experience of the Christian, because of the special circumstances in their case. They had lived with Jesus and could receive the Holy Spirit only after Jesus had completed his work and returned to the Father (John 7:39; John 16:7). The experience of those of the second group, who received the Holy Spirit when they believed, without any unusual happenings, was the normal experience of Christians, then as well as now.
Of all the people in the New Testament who received the Holy Spirit (meaning, in other words, all Christians; see Romans 8:9-11), in only two other places, both special cases, does it state that the people spoke in tongues (see notes on Acts 10:44-48; Acts 19:1-6).
Christians of all eras have a part in what occurred on the Day of Pentecost. Through that baptism of the Spirit they are, the moment they believe, made part of Christ’s body, the church, and made sharers in his Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). Jesus’ promised gift of the Holy Spirit, given initially at Pentecost, extends through the ages to all who repent and believe the gospel (Acts 2:38-39).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Acts 2:33". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/acts-2.html. 2005.
Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he hath poured forth this which ye see and hear.
By the right hand of God ... Christ had indeed appeared alive after his death and burial, and the apostles had seen him ascend into heaven. As so often affirmed in Scripture, Jesus was exalted at the right hand of the Majesty on High, and that exaltation was the fulfillment of God's oath that a descendant of David would sit upon his throne in perpetuity.
He hath poured forth this ... Despite the fact of his being in heaven, Jesus was still concerned with earth and the men dwelling upon it. He had promised the apostles that "another Comforter" would be given unto them; and here Peter affirmed that the baptism of the apostles in the Holy Spirit, as audibly and visually evidenced by the miraculous demonstration somewhat earlier, had indeed come to pass as Jesus promised. "Christ's present impartation of the Spirit to the apostles, attended as it was by sensible signs, was a further open vindication of the claim that he was the exalted Messiah." However, before leaving the subject, Peter would offer another proof.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Acts 2:33". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/acts-2.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
Therefore, being by the right hand - The right hand among the Hebrews was often used to denote “power”; and the expression here means, not that he was exalted to the right hand of God. but by his power. He was raised from the dead by his power, and borne to heaven, triumphant over all his enemies. The use of the word “right hand” to denote “power” is common in the Scriptures: Job 40:14, “Thine own right hand can save thee”; Psalms 17:7, “Thou savest by thy right hand them that trust in thee”; Psalms 18:35; Psalms 20:6; Psalms 21:8; Psalms 44:3; Psalms 60:5, etc.
Exalted - Constituted King and Messiah in heaven. Raised up from his condition of humiliation to the glory which he had with the Father before the world was, John 17:5.
And having received ... - The Holy Spirit was promised to the disciples before his death, John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:13-15. It was expressly declared:
- That the Holy Spirit would not be given except the Lord Jesus should return to heaven John 16:7; and,
- That this gift was in the power of the Father, and that he would send him, John 14:26; John 15:26. This promise was now fulfilled, and those who witnessed the extraordinary scene before them could not doubt that it was the effect of divine power.
Hath shed forth this ... - This power of speaking different languages and declaring the truth of the gospel. In this way Peter accounts for the remarkable events before them. What had occurred could not be produced by new wine, Acts 2:15. It was expressly foretold, Acts 2:16-21. It was predicted that Jesus would rise, Acts 2:22-31. The apostles were witnesses that he had risen, and that he had promised that the Holy Spirit would descend; and the fulfillment of this promise was a rational way of accounting for the scene before them. It was unanswerable; and the effect on those who witnessed it was such as might be expected.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Acts 2:33". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/acts-2.html. 1870.
33.He being therefore exalted by the right hand of God The right hand is taken in this place for the hand or power, in like sort as it is taken everywhere in the Scripture. For this is his drift, to declare that it was a wonderful work of God, in that he had exalted his Christ (whom men thought to be quite destroyed by death) unto so great glory.
The promise of the Spirit for the Spirit which was promised. For he had oftentimes before promised the Spirit to his apostles. Therefore Peter doth signify, that Christ had obtained power of God the Father to fulfill the same. And he maketh mention of the promise in plain words, to the end the Jews may know that this came not to pass suddenly, but that the words of the prophet were now verified, which went long time before the thing itself.
Furthermore, whereas it is said that he obtained it of the Father, it is to be applied to the person of the Mediator. For both these are truly said, that Christ sent the Spirit from himself and from the Father. He sent him from himself, because he is eternal God; from the Father, because in as much as he is man, he receiveth that of the Father which he giveth us. And Peter speaketh wisely according to the capacity of the ignorant, lest any man should move a question out of season concerning the power of Christ. And surely forasmuch as it is the office of Christ to direct us unto his Father, this is a most apt form of speaking for the use of godliness, that Christ being placed, as it were, in the midst between God and us, doth deliver unto us with his own hand those gifts which he hath received at the hands of his Father. Furthermore, we must note this order that he saith, that the Spirit was sent by Christ after that he was exalted. This agreeth with those sentences:
“The Spirit was not yet given,
because Christ was not yet glorified,”
“Unless I go hence, the Spirit will not come,”
Not because the Spirit began then first to be given, wherewith the holy fathers were endued since the beginning of the world; but because God did defer this more plentiful abundance of grace, until such time as he had placed Christ in his princely seat; which is signified by this word poured out, as we saw a little before. For by this means the force and fruit of Christ his death and resurrection is sealed; and we do also thereby know, that we have lost nothing by Christ his departing out of the world; because, though he be absent in body, yet is he present with us after a better sort, to wit, by the grace of his Holy Spirit.
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Acts 2:33". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/acts-2.html. 1840-57.
Now when the day of Pentecost ( Acts 2:1 )
This would be feast day following the Passover, of which Jesus was crucified. And fifty days after the Passover, the second major Jewish feast, the Feast of Pentecost, or the Feast of Ingathering. This is the time when they would gather the winter wheat, the winter grains that had been sown, and the early part of June; they're ready for harvest. The Feast of Pentecost was marked by them taking a portion of their field and harvesting it. Tying the wheat and the sheaves, bringing them in and offering them before the Lord as a wave offering, as the priest would take the sheaves and wave them before the Lord and offer them before the Lord as the first fruits unto God. "God, to You belong the first fruit. There's a harvest that is coming in, but this, Lord, is the first fruit. It belongs to You." And they would give to God the first fruits of the increase of their land at the Feast of Pentecost, the Feast of Ingathering. And as was the custom in all of the Jewish feasts, there would be Jews that had gathered from all over the world to celebrate these feasts. And so the day of Pentecost: the feast had come.
And the disciples were with one accord in one place. Suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as [the Spirit gave them the ability, or as the Spirit prompted their speech, or as the King James] the Spirit gave them utterance ( Acts 2:1-4 ).
But better, as the Spirit gave them the ability or prompted their speech.
We notice certain phenomena accompanying the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. There was a sound from heaven like a rushing mighty wind that filled all of the house where they were sitting. And notice, they were sitting. It doesn't matter whether you're sitting, standing or whatever. It is not the physical position. I am tired of trying to formulate God. I think that God defies any formulation by man. But people are always trying to put together a formula, and I guess it's only natural. You know, when you pray for someone and they're healed, you try and think, "Now, how did I pray? What did I do? Something happened here. Ooh that's great! Now how did I do it?" You're immediately wanting to formulate it. "What did I say?" Magic words, magic movements, or whatever, but God defies being formulated by man.
And so they were sitting in this particular case, and there appeared unto them these cloven tongues like fire, and it was above or upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. And in this case, began to speak, glossa, other tongues, as the Spirit gave them the ability and was prompting their speech.
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, who were devout men, out of every nation under heaven. And when this was noised abroad ( Acts 2:5-6 ),
What was noised abroad? Making the sound of the wind. The people heard this whistling sound like a hurricane or something coming out of the house, they came running to see what in the world was this noise coming out of the house.
the multitude came together, and were confounded, because every man heard them speak in his own dialectus ( Acts 2:6 ).
In his own language or dialect.
And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all of these which speak Galileans? How is it that we hear every man in our own dialect, wherein we were born? And the Parthians, the Medes, the Elamites, the dwellers of Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, Egypt, and parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our dialectus [languages] the wonderful works of God ( Acts 2:7-11 ).
Notice that when they understood the languages, these people were not preaching sermons in these languages, nor were their words addressed to men, but it was addressed to God. They were proclaiming the wonderful works of God.
Somewhere along the line, the Pentecostal churches have gotten a mistaken notion that God often speaks to the church through tongues and interpretation of tongues. That is not scriptural. In I Corinthians14 , Paul says, "If a man speaks in an unknown tongue, he is not speaking to man, howbeit, in the Spirit he is speaking to God divine mysteries, or secrets." And thus, he tells them that, if in church a person speaks in an unknown tongue, that he should pray that they might interpret. And if there is no interpreter, then he should not speak, but keep silent and speak unto himself and unto God. For if he gets up and speaks in an unknown tongue in a service and no one interprets, how is the person who doesn't understand what he is saying going to say, "Yes, and amen"? At his giving of thanks, not at the message that God had for the church, but at his giving of thanks, in that he does not understand what he's saying, indeed, you do bless God well. It's a good way to praise the Lord, but not in church where the people don't understand what you're saying.
So still and always, whenever tongues were understood, or when Paul teaches on the subject, never once is there an instance in the scripture where God spoke to man through tongues and interpretation. The closest thing would be in the book of Daniel when the writing on the wall was interpreted by Daniel. But that was not tongues and interpretation, and God was giving a message to the pagan king Belshazzar. When a man speaks in an unknown tongue, according to the scripture, he's speaking to God divine secrets men do not understand, and it's not addressed to man; it isn't necessary that man understands him, he is conversing with God in a special language that God has given him.
So, they were praising God, or they were glorifying God. They were declaring the wonderful works of God in the various languages and, of course, this amazed the people.
And they were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? ( Acts 2:12 )
Notice they have a question. "What does this mean, or what meaneth this?"
And others mocking said, [Hey,] they've just found some good wine. But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judea, and all of you who are dwelling at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and listen unto my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, in that it is only the third hour of the day ( Acts 2:13-15 ).
It's only 9 o'clock in the morning, too early to be drunk.
Now, what was their question? "What meaneth this?" And Peter's message is, first of all, addressed to their question. And I think that's important, that messages answer the questions that are in the minds of the people. I think there's a lot of preaching that's so totally irrelevant to anything. Well, thanks for the information; I really didn't need it and I don't understand what it is after I've got it, but uh... But he was addressing the question, "What meaneth this?" And the answer is,
This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel ( Acts 2:16 );
And he began to give them a scriptural basis for the phenomenon they had just observed. And let me say that I think this is vitally important. I think that you are on dangerous ground when you are seeking spiritual phenomenon for which you can give no scriptural basis. Because whenever you get into the area of spiritual phenomenon, people are going to ask questions. "What is this?" And if you are practicing some kind of spiritual phenomenon for which you cannot give a solid scriptural basis, you're in big trouble as far as I'm concerned. I am not interested in any kind of phenomenon for which I cannot give solid scriptural basis. And I think that it is very irresponsible for evangelists, or whoever, to promote spiritual phenomenon without scriptural foundation.
So Peter leads them right to the Word of God. "This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel." And now notice how Peter quotes from the prophet Joel. You see he had a good working knowledge of the Word of God. And I point that out in order that I might point out to you the characteristics of the men that God used. And we'll be following this as we go through the Acts. But one of the first characteristics that we find of the men that God uses is that they are men of prayer. Peter and the others were waiting daily in prayer and in supplication, you remember. The men that God uses are men of the Word; a second quality that God is looking for. Peter had a good working knowledge of the Word of God. He's able to quote from the Psalms, remote little Psalms. Psalms that are not apt to catch your attention, and yet he is quoting from them, putting them together, making sense out of them. Now, as this phenomena is taking place, and they're saying, "What means this?" And he said, "This is that which was spoken of by the prophet Joel."
And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith the Lord, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and daughters will prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and upon my servants and handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will show wonders in the heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; and blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke: and the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved ( Acts 2:17-21 ).
Quoting out of Joel, chapter 2. And what does he quote? The promise of God to send the Holy Spirit upon the world. Now notice that in context, this promise was for the last days, and Joel actually carries it right up to the second coming of Jesus Christ, through the great tribulation period right into the second coming. "I will show wonders in the heaven above, signs in the earth beneath, blood, fire, vapor of smoke, the sun shall be turned into darkness, the moon into blood," things of the great tribulation period. "Before the great and notable day," the day of the coming again of Jesus Christ. "The great and notable day of the Lord come, and it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
So the empowering of the Holy Spirit was not limited to just a short period of church history, but is to continue through out the church history, right unto the coming again of Jesus Christ, the great and notable day of the Lord. And it is wrong to try to put limitations upon the experience of being empowered by the Spirit of God.
Several years ago our older daughter came home from a prayer meeting, and we were sitting and sharing with her. And she was telling us how that at that prayer meeting God's Spirit came upon her, and she began to prophesy by the Spirit of God. And what a beautiful and exhilarating experience it was for her to just speak forth God's word under the anointing of the Spirit. Our son Jeff, who we were having problems with at that time, who was in high school at that time, I turned to him and said, "Well, son, the Bible says that your sons and daughters shall prophesy. Now that my daughter is prophesying, when are you going to start prophesying?" And he quickly, without any hesitation said, "When are you going to start having dreams?" Smart kid!
Now he's going to expound on the scripture. He gives the text and now the exposition.
Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth ( Acts 2:22 ),
Identifying who he's talking about, because there were many named Joshua. And so He's Joshua of Nazareth, so they knew exactly who he's talking about. And here's what he says of Him first of all,
He was a man approved of God among you ( Acts 2:22 )
The word approved is literally, "proved to be of God among you." How was He proved to be of God?
by the miracles and the wonders and the signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourself also know ( Acts 2:22 ):
So, He was proved to be of God. Jesus said, "Believe me or else believe for the very works' sake." And Jesus often called upon His works as the proof of His origin, of His authority and of His ministry, of His identity. "Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me, or else believe me for the very works' sake." And so here Peter is pointing out that the works Jesus did attested to the fact that He was proved to be of God--from God. Remember they said, "No man can do these works except God is with Him."
Then he goes on to say,
Him, being delivered by the determinant counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain ( Acts 2:23 ):
Notice as Peter talks about the cross he's not speaking of some horrible, tragic accident that happened. But in referring to the cross, he is talking about it as God's predetermined counsel and foreknowledge. It could not be any other way, because the cross was prophesied in the Old Testament. And the very fact that there are prophecies of the cross, death on the cross: Psalm 22 , Isaiah 52 , "lifted up" a term used for crucifixion, and His death prophesied in Isaiah 53 . There can be no other conclusion but what the death of Jesus Christ on the cross was planned by God long before Jesus ever came into the world. And thus, it is manifestly wrong to try to blame the Jews or to try to blame the Romans or anybody else for the cross. It was something that God had predetermined by His own foreknowledge--a method by which He might manifest the extent of His love for lost man. And so, as he refers to the cross, he talks about God's predetermined counsel, and thus the scripture speaks of Christ crucified from the foundations of world. Before man ever sinned, God had in mind to send His Son to redeem man from his sin, and thus to manifest God's love for sinning man. It's all part of God's predetermined plan, His foreknowledge.
Peter isn't really laying the blame on them. "You with your wicked hands did it, but it was all part of God's predetermined plan." But then he declares, and this is the central part of his message:
Whom God hath raised up ( Acts 2:24 ),
Remember, they were looking for someone who could bear witness of the resurrection. And the central message of the church is always the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was not possible that death could hold Him. It's the message of the church today. And wherever the church has denied this message, it has ceased to be a church. It is the central hope of man; we have to proclaim to man that Jesus rose from the dead. Peter said, "Thank God that we have been begotten again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
Whom God has raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he could be held by it ( Acts 2:24 ).
Why wasn't it possible? Because the scripture not only prophesied His death, but it also prophesied His resurrection. And because God predicted it, prophesied it in advance, it had to happen. It was not possible that He could be held by death.
For David speaking concerning him said, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is at my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: because you will not leave my soul in hell, neither will you allow the Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shall make me full of joy with your countenance ( Acts 2:25-28 ).
Again he is quoting from the scriptures. Notice how he just has the capacity of just quoting God's Word. It was something that was really there in his heart. The men that God uses are men who have hidden that Word away in their heart. They have that ready access, the ability to just quote from God's Word.
Now Peter is going to expound on this text. He said,
Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, his sepulchre is with us unto this day ( Acts 2:29 ).
Now, there is today on Mount Zion a little room where you may go where there's a very ornate sepulchre that they call "The Tomb of David." I don't know if David was buried there, but at the time that Peter was talking, David's sepulchre was still around.
Now David being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up the Messiah to sit on his throne ( Acts 2:30 );
David knew that God promised that the Messiah would come through him. That's when David said, "Lord, what can I say? I was nothing. You took me from the sheep coat, from following after sheep. You made me the king over Your people. You've done so much for me, and now you speak of the days to come. Oh, God, what can I say?" David was overwhelmed by the goodness and the grace of God. And that's always a beautiful experience to have. Have you ever had that? You're just totally wiped out by God's goodness and God's grace. I love those experiences where I'm just totally wiped out by the grace. You can't say anything; you just have to sit there and enjoy it. I have to pull off the road; it's dangerous to drive in those conditions.
David was a prophet. He knew that God had promised that the Messiah would come through him.
And he, seeing this before, was speaking of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither did his flesh see corruption ( Acts 2:31 ).
When Jesus died, He descended into hell and preached to those souls that were in prison.
Now you remember Isaiah 61 , a part of the prophecy of Christ would be that He would open the doors to those who were bound and free those from prison. Set at liberty those who were captive. Jesus descended into hell, because prior to the death of Christ, it was not possible that the Old Testament saints could enter into the full glory of God's presence. The Old Testament sacrifices could not put away their sins. All they could do was cover their sins as they spoke of a better sacrifice that was to come, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. These men all died in faith not having received the promise of God: having reserved a better thing for us that they without us couldn't come into the perfected state. So when Jesus died, He descended into hell, preached to the souls who were in prison. But according to Paul in Ephesians 4 , when He ascended, He led the captives from their captivity. "He who has ascended is the same one who first of all descended into the lower parts of the earth." You remember when they were asking Jesus for a sign, and He said, "No sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" ( Matthew 12:39-40 ). He descended into hell, and those who were waiting with Abraham for the promises of God to be fulfilled, He preached to them the glorious victory of the cross. The sacrifice has been made; it is now complete. And He who has ascended is the same one who first of all descended. And when He ascended, He led the captives from their captivity. He freed them. Death and hell was partially emptied at that point. Two resurrections. The just to everlasting righteous, and the unjust to everlasting condemnation. That resurrection has not yet taken place. It will not take place until the time of the thousand year reign of Christ upon the earth.
This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses ( Acts 2:32 ).
We've all seen it; we've all seen Him. Therefore, he comes back now to the resurrection. Notice this is the central part of the message; he's throwing out basic facts about Jesus. "He's a man proved to be a God among you by the signs and miracles which He wrought, whom you, according to God's predetermined counsel and foreknowledge, with your wicked hands have crucified and slain. But God raised Him from the dead because it was not possible that He could be held by it." Now when he gets to the central message, he expounds on it. He goes back, he gives scriptural basis, and he's talking about the resurrection and shows that it is a Biblical concept. Then he says again, coming back to this point, "This Jesus hath God raised up and we are witnesses of that fact."
Therefore ( Acts 2:33 )
Now he is going to continue his message concerning Jesus of Nazareth.
Therefore, he is exalted at the right hand of God ( Acts 2:33 ),
So Jesus today is in an exalted position there at the right hand of God in the throne of glory.
and having received of the Father the promise ( Acts 2:33 )
"And it shall come to pass in those days, saith the Lord, I will pour out my Spirit." "And having received of the Father the promise . . . "
of the Holy Spirit, he hath shed forth this ( Acts 2:33 ),
Now he's back to the question again, "What meaneth this?" The outpouring of the Holy Spirit that they were observing. And having ascended to the Father, being there at the right hand, exalted, He received from the Father the promise and He hath shed forth this,
which you now see and hear ( Acts 2:33 ).
There was visible tongues of fire and audible evidence of the outpouring of the Spirit as they were glorifying God in these languages.
For David is not ascended into the heavens [he had not yet ascended into the heavens]: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Messiah ( Acts 2:34-36 ).
Now, the Bible tells us that there is coming a day when every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord. And Peter is laying it straight on the line, "This Jesus, you better know that God has made Him both the Lord and He is the Messiah."
Now when they heard this ( Acts 2:37 ),
And this is the first message of the church centered on the theme of the resurrection.
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? ( Acts 2:37 )
Aware of their guilt, made aware by the conviction of the Spirit.
Then Peter said unto them, "Join the church, pay your tithes, keep this ministry going brother."
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit ( Acts 2:38 ).
Literally in the Greek he said, "Repent and be baptized every one of you into the name of Jesus Christ," which is an interesting point to make into a relationship with Jesus Christ. There are those who call themselves "Jesus Only." They make a big to do over baptismal formula, and say if you were baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that you weren't really baptized. That baptism didn't really count; the only baptism that really counts is the baptism in Jesus' name. But it's not actually in Jesus' name, but into Jesus' name; into the very relationship with Him, into the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. "And ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
For the promise ( Acts 2:39 )
What promise? The promise that God made to pour out His Spirit on all flesh. Who is it for?
It's for you, and it's for your children, and to all that are far off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call ( Acts 2:39 ).
No mention of just being good for the apostolic period, but on down through the church ages. "As many as the Lord our God shall call."
And with many other words he did testify and exhort, saying, Save yourself from this untoward generation. Then they who gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls ( Acts 2:40-41 ).
So you've got the beginning of the church growth program. Rapid church growth program, suddenly they've increased manifestly. Now this is important. What was the early church's function? What were they doing?
They continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers ( Acts 2:42 ).
These were the four institutions of the early church. First of all, the apostles' doctrine: the study of the Word of God. Second, the fellowship: the koinonia--a very interesting Greek word. Its implications are beyond translation into English. But this coming together, interrelating, becoming a part of each other, a strong bond and tie and communion and commonness and fellowship. Breaking of bread, the symbol of that inner relationship and prayers.
A lot of the things that the church does today are not listed here. I think a lot of the things that the church does today are extraneous and supercilious, and we'd do well to let them die a natural death instead of trying to keep them alive by artificial means.
And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all who believed were together, and had all things [koinonia] in common; And many of them sold their possessions and their goods, and they parted them to all men, as every man had a need ( Acts 2:43-45 ).
There was a early communism, in a good sense, in the church, prompted by love. Those who had, were selling in order that they might distribute to those who did not have, that they might be able to help them.
And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house ( Acts 2:46 ),
So the church actually began in both the fellowships in the temple, but also in the home fellowships. Breaking bread from house to house,
They did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart ( Acts 2:46 ),
What was the result? As they were,
Praising God, and having favor with all the people. The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved ( Acts 2:47 ).
When the church was what God wanted the church to be, then God did for the church what He was wanting to do.
Today the church is spending all of its efforts in church growth programs. How to increase our attendance? Studying psychology and sociology and making demographic studies of communities and determining what will appeal to the people of this particular community. What type of an advertising program will be most effective, taking polls and census and putting everything together so that we can have a church growth program because we want to add so many members to our church. You can get professionals to come in and do all of these studies and, for a fee, they will go ahead and develop your whole program. There are other professionals who'll come in and set up a whole financial program for us, and they will, for ten percent of the take, will set up the whole program of how to take you. And many churches hire these professionals for the church growth, or the fundraising programs. The early church didn't know anything of that. They were not very sophisticated, and they hadn't gone to seminary. So all they could do is what they knew to do, just get together and study the Word and pray and fellowship, break bread. "And the Lord added daily to the church such as should be saved." It was a natural spontaneous growth as the Lord added to the church.
"Oh, times are different." Why? Has God changed? God's hand is not short that He can't save, neither is His ear heavy. But we are no longer relying upon God; we're no longer relying upon the Holy Spirit. We've sought men's devices and man's ways. And we have forsaken the Word of God and gone to entertaining programs. And we have tried to attract the people by this lavish program of entertainment. "Come and be entertained. See the tallest Christmas tree in the world. See Elijah ascend directly into the clouds." And oh what a trap that is.
There was this particular church that every Christmas was putting on the spectacular program, and the problem is when you draw people to that, you've got to get more spectacular every year. And so, they had the "Living Christmas Tree." "Come and see the living Christmas tree!" And, of course, all of them there in the shape of a Christmas tree singing the carols. Well the next year it had to be a bigger Christmas tree, you know, bigger than the year before, because it's got to be the best. "The greatest living Christmas tree ever." Different costumes and different little gimmicks and gadgets, and finally, as they were developing this Christmas tree, living Christmas tree, year by year, they had just about run out of ideas, when someone had the idea of taking and putting a live angel at the top of the Christmas tree. And they lowered him out of the ceiling, and as the Christmas tree was being formed, he would come out of the ceiling and would be there at the top of the Christmas tree, the live angel. Well something happened to the gears, and as they were letting him down, he got suspended in mid air over the auditorium, and began swinging around and around. And the angel began to cry out, "Get me down from here!" And he got so upset--this is true--he began to curse. "Someone stop this damn thing from swinging!" And he got so sick from spinning, he began to throw up. May that be the fate of all man's endeavors and programs so that we can learn to rely upon God and the power of His Holy Spirit to build the church and to do His work.
"This promise is unto you, and to your children, and to those who are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." "Ye shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you and you'll become a witness." The gift of God's Holy Spirit is for you tonight. I pray that each of us might be open to God, to receive whatever it is that God may wish to impart to us. That we might become whatever God would have us to be. That we might, indeed, be His witness of His love in this world in which we live today. And so, may God bless you as you go forth, to bear witness of Jesus Christ. And may your life show forth the works of God that He has wrought in you. In His name. "
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Acts 2:33". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/acts-2.html. 2014.
Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.
Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted: Peter answers an anticipated question, "Where is Jesus now?"He is"by the right hand of God."To be"by the right hand"is often used to indicate power (Psalms 17:7; Psalms 18:35). Thus, God has raised Jesus and has given Him power.
and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear: The events of Pentecost, just witnessed by the multitude, are the results of a promise made to the apostles by Jesus. These Jews have now seen and heard the results of that which "he hath shed forth" (see notes on 1:8).
Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Acts 2:33". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ctf/acts-2.html. 1993-2022.
5. The birth of the church 2:1-41
The Holy Spirit’s descent on the day of Pentecost inaugurated a new dispensation in God’s administration of the human race. [Note: For more information about the dispensations, see Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, or idem, Dispensationalism.] Luke featured the record of the events of this day to explain the changes in God’s dealings with humankind that followed in the early church and to the present day. This was the birthday of the church. Many non-dispensationalists, as well as most dispensationalists (except ultradispensationalists), view the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost as the beginning of the church. [Note: E.g., James D. G. Dunn, Baptism in the Holy Spirit, p. 49; Eduard Schweizer, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v., "pneuma . . .," 6:411; Emil Brunner, The Misunderstanding of the Church, p. 161; Neil, p. 71; Longenecker, p. 271; and Morgan, p. 22). For a summary of the views of ultradispensationalists, see Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, ch. 10; or idem, Dispensationalism, ch. 11.]
"This event is a fulcrum account in Luke-Acts." [Note: Bock, Acts, p. 92.]
"The plot of a work can often be illuminated by considering the major conflict or conflicts within it. Although Jesus’ witnesses face other conflicts, the central conflict of the plot, repeatedly emphasized and still present in the last major scene of Acts, is a conflict within Judaism provoked by Jewish Christian preachers (including Paul). Acts 2:1 to Acts 8:3 traces the development of this conflict in Jerusalem." [Note: Tannehill, 2:34.]
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Peter’s Pentecost sermon 2:14-41
"The miraculous is not self-authenticating, nor does it inevitably and uniformly convince. There must also be the preparation of the heart and the proclamation of the message if miracles are to accomplish their full purpose. This was true even for the miracle of the Spirit’s coming at Pentecost. . . . All this prepares the reader for Peter’s sermon, which is the initial proclamation of the gospel message to a prepared people." [Note: Longenecker, p. 273.]
Barclay pointed out four different kinds of preaching that the early Christians practiced. [Note: Barclay, pp. 16-17.] I would add two more. The first is kerugma, which means proclamation of the clear facts of the Christian message. The second is didache or teaching. This was explanation and interpretation of the facts-the "so what?" Third, there was paraklesis, exhortation to apply the message. Fourth, there was homilia, the treatment of a subject or area of life in view of the Christian message. Fifth, there was prophesia, the sharing of a word from God be it new revelation or old. Sixth, there was apologia, a defense of the Christian message in the face of hostile adversaries. Often the speaker combined two or more of these kinds of address into one message as Peter did in the sermon that follows. Here we find defense (Acts 2:14-21), proclamation (Acts 2:22-36), and exhortation (Acts 2:37-41). This speech is an excellent example of forensic rhetoric, the rhetoric of defense and attack. [Note: Witherington, p. 138.]
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Peter’s proclamation 2:22-36
In this part of his speech Peter cited three proofs that Jesus was the Messiah: His miracles (Acts 2:22), His resurrection (Acts 2:23-32), and His ascension (Acts 2:33-35). Acts 2:36 is a summary conclusion.
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Peter next explained that it was Jesus, now at God’s right hand, who had poured forth the promised Holy Spirit from the Father (John 14:16-17; John 14:26; John 15:26-27). The evidence of this was the tongues of fire and demonstration of tongues speaking that his audience saw and heard. The right hand of God figuratively repesents supreme power and authority, and reference to it sets up the quotation of Psalms 110:1 in the next verse.
Peter mentioned all three members of the Trinity in this verse.
"Throughout Acts, the presence of the Spirit is seen as the distinguishing mark of Christianity-it is what makes a person a Christian." [Note: Witherington, p. 140.]
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THE DAY OF PENTECOST ( Acts 2:1-13 )
We may never know precisely what happened on the Day of Pentecost but we do know that it was one of the supremely great days of the Christian Church. for on that day the Holy Spirit came to the Christian Church in a very special way.
Acts has been called the Gospel of the Holy Spirit; so before we turn to detailed consideration of its second chapter let us take a general view of what Acts has to say about the Holy Spirit.
The Coming Of The Spirit
It is perhaps unfortunate that we so often speak of the events at Pentecost as the coming of the Holy Spirit. The danger is that we may think that the Holy Spirit came into existence at that time. That is not so; God is eternally Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In fact Acts makes that quite clear. The Holy Spirit was speaking in David ( Acts 1:16); the Spirit spoke through Isaiah ( Acts 28:25); Stephen accuses the Jews of having, all through their history, opposed the Spirit ( Acts 7:51). In that sense the Spirit is God in every age revealing his truth to men. At the same time something special happened at Pentecost.
The Work Of The Spirit In Acts
From that moment the Holy Spirit became the dominant reality in the life of the early Church.
For one thing, the Holy Spirit was the source of all guidance. The Spirit moves Philip to make contact with the Ethiopian Eunuch ( Acts 8:29); prepares Peter for the coming of the emissaries of Cornelius ( Acts 10:19); orders Peter to go without hesitation with these emissaries ( Acts 11:12); enables Agabus to foretell the coming famine ( Acts 11:28); orders the setting apart of Paul and Barnabas for the momentous step of taking the gospel to the Gentiles ( Acts 13:2; Acts 13:4); guides the decisions of the Council of Jerusalem ( Acts 15:28); guides Paul past Asia, Mysia and Bithynia, down into Troas and thence to Europe ( Acts 16:6); tells Paul what awaits him in Jerusalem ( Acts 20:23). The early Church was a Spirit-guided community.
For another thing, all the leaders of the Church were men of the Spirit. The Seven are men of the Spirit ( Acts 6:3); Stephen and Barnabas are full of the Spirit ( Acts 7:55; Acts 11:24). Paul tells the elders at Ephesus that it was the Spirit who made them overseers over the Church of God ( Acts 20:28).
For still another thing. the Spirit was the source of day-to-day courage and power. The disciples are to receive power when the Spirit comes ( Acts 1:8); Peter's courage and eloquence before the Sanhedrin are the result of the activity of the Spirit ( Acts 4:31); Paul's conquest of Elymas is the work of the Spirit ( Acts 13:9). The Christian courage to meet the dangerous situation, the Christian power to cope with life more than adequately, the Christian eloquence when eloquence is needed, the Christian joy which is independent of circumstances are all ascribed to the work of the Spirit.
For a last thing, Acts 5:32 speaks of the Spirit "whom God has given to those who obey him." This has in it the great truth that the measure of the Spirit which a man can possess is conditioned by the kind of man he is. It means that the man who is honestly trying to do the will of God will experience more and more of the wonder of the Spirit.
In Acts 1:1-26; Acts 2:1-47; Acts 3:1-26; Acts 4:1-37; Acts 5:1-42; Acts 6:1-15; Acts 7:1-60; Acts 8:1-40; Acts 9:1-43; Acts 10:1-48; Acts 11:1-30; Acts 12:1-25; Acts 13:1-52 there are more than forty references to the Holy Spirit; the early Church was a Spirit-filled Church and that was the source of its power.
THE BREATH OF GOD ( Acts 2:1-13 continued)
2:1-13 So when the day of Pentecost came round, they were all together in one place; and all of a sudden there came from heaven a sound like that of a violent, rushing wind and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And tongues, like tongues of fire, appeared to them, which distributed themselves among them and settled on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them the power of utterance.
There were staying in Jerusalem, Jews, devout men from all the races under heaven. When the news of this got abroad the crowd assembled and came pouring together; for each one of them heard them speaking in his own language. They were all astonished and kept saying in amazement, "Look now! Are all these men who are speaking not Galilaeans? And how is it that each one of us hears them speaking in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes. Elamites, those who stay in Mesopotamia, in Judaea and Cappadocia, in Pontus. in Asia, in Phrygia and Pamphylia. in Egypt and the parts of Libya round about Cyrene, Romans, who are staving here, Jews and proselytes. people from Crete and Arabia--we hear these men telling the wonders of God in our own tongues." They were all astonished and did not know what to make of it, and they kept on saying to each other, "What can this mean?" But others kept on saying in mockery, "They are filled with new wine."
There were three great Jewish festivals to which every male Jew living within twenty miles of Jerusalem was legally bound to come--the Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles. Pentecost means "The Fiftieth," and another name for Pentecost was "The Feast of Weeks." It was so called because it fell on the fiftieth day, a week of weeks, after the Passover. The Passover fell in the middle of April; therefore Pentecost fell at the beginning of June. By that time travelling conditions were at their best. At least as many came to the Feast of Pentecost as came to the Passover. That explains the roll of countries mentioned in this chapter; never was there a more international crowd in Jerusalem than at the time of Pentecost.
The Feast itself had two main significances. (i) It had an historical significance. It commemorated the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. (ii) It had an agricultural significance. At the Passover the crop's first omer of barley was offered to God; and at Pentecost two loaves were offered in gratitude for the ingathered harvest. It had one other unique characteristic. The law laid it down that on that day no servile work should be done ( Leviticus 23:21; Numbers 28:26). So it was a holiday for all and the crowds on the streets would be greater than ever.
What happened at Pentecost we really do not know except that the disciples had an experience of the power of the Spirit flooding their beings such as they never had before. We must remember that for this part of Acts Luke was not an eye-witness. He tells the story as if the disciples suddenly acquired the gift of speaking in foreign languages. For two reasons that is not likely.
(i) There was in the early Church a phenomenon which has never completely passed away. It was called speaking with tongues (compare Acts 10:46; Acts 19:6). The main passage which describes it is 1 Corinthians 14:1-40. What happened was that someone, in an ecstasy, began to pour out a flood of unintelligible sounds in no known language. That was supposed to be directly inspired by the Spirit of God and was a gift greatly coveted. Paul did not greatly approve of it because he greatly preferred that a message should be given in a language that could be understood. He in fact said that if a stranger came in he might well think he had arrived in a congregation of madmen ( 1 Corinthians 14:23). That precisely fits Acts 2:13. Men speaking in tongues might well appear to be drunk to someone who did not know the phenomenon.
(ii) To speak in foreign languages was unnecessary. The crowd was made up of Jews ( Acts 2:5) and proselytes ( Acts 2:10). Proselytes were Gentiles who had accepted the Jewish religion and the Jewish way of life. For a crowd like that at most two languages were necessary. Almost all Jews spoke Aramaic; and, even if they were Jews of the Dispersion from a foreign land, they would speak that language which almost everyone in the world spoke at that time--Greek.
It seems most likely that Luke, a Gentile, had confused speaking with tongues with speaking with foreign tongues. What happened was that for the first time in their lives this motley mob was hearing the word of God in a way that struck straight home to their hearts and that they could understand. The power of the Spirit was such that it had given these simple disciples a message that could reach every heart.
THE FIRST CHRISTIAN PREACHING ( Acts 2:14-41 )
(i) There was kerugma ( G2782) . Kerugma ( G2782) literally means a herald's announcement and is the plain statement of the facts of the Christian message, about which, as the early preachers saw it, there can be no argument or doubt.
(iii) There was paraklesis ( G3874) which literally means exhortation. This kind of preaching urged upon men the duty of fitting their lives to match the kerugma ( G2782) and the didache ( G1322) which had been given.
(iv) There was homilia ( G3657) which means the treatment of any subject or department of life in light of the Christian message.
Fully rounded preaching has something of all four elements. There is the plain proclamation of the facts of the Christian gospel; the explanation of the meaning and the relevance of these facts; the exhortation to fit life to them; and the treatment of all the activities of life in the light of the Christian message.
In Acts we shall meet mainly with kerugma ( G2782) because Acts tells of the proclamation of the facts of the gospel to those who had never heard them before. This kerugma ( G2782) follows a pattern which repeats itself over and over again all over the New Testament.
(i) There is the proof that Jesus and all that happened to him is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. In modern times less and less stress has been laid on the fulfillment of prophecy. We have come to see that the prophets were not nearly so much fore-tellers of events to come as forth-tellers of God's truth to men. But this stress of early preaching on prophecy conserved the great truth that history is not haphazard and that there is meaning to it. To believe in the possibility of prophecy is to believe that God is in control and that he is working out his purposes.
(ii) In Jesus the Messiah has come, the Messianic prophecies are fulfilled and the and the New Age has dawned. The early Church had a tremendous sense that Jesus was the hinge of all history; that with his coming, eternity had invaded time; and that, therefore, life and the world could never be the same again.
(iii) The kerugma ( G2782) went on to state that Jesus had been born of the line of David, that he had taught, that he had worked miracles, that he had been crucified, that he had been raised from the dead and that he was now at the right hand of God. The early Church was sure that the Christian religion was based on the earthly life of Christ. But it was also certain that that earthly life and death were not the end and that after them came the resurrection. Jesus was not merely someone about whom they read or heard; he was someone whom they met and knew, a living presence.
(iv) The early preachers went on to insist that Jesus would return in glory to establish his kingdom upon earth. In other words, the early Church believed intensely in the Second Coming. This doctrine has to some extent passed out of modern preaching but it does conserve the truth that history is going somewhere and that some day there will be a consummation; and that a man is therefore in the way or on the way.
(v) The preaching finished with the statement that in Jesus alone was salvation, that he who believed on him would receive the Holy Spirit and that he who would not believe was destined for terrible things. That is to say, it finished with both a promise and a threat. It is exactly like that voice which Bunyan heard as if at his very shoulder demanding, "Wilt thou leave thy sins and go to heaven, or wilt thou have thy sins and go to hell?"
If we read through Peter's sermon as a whole we will see how these five strands are woven into it.
God's Day Has Come ( Acts 2:14-21)
2:14-21 But Peter stood up with the eleven and raised his voice and said to them, "You who are Jews and you who are staying in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and listen to my words. These men are not, as you suppose, drunk; for it is only nine o'clock in the morning. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel, 'It will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out from my Spirit upon all men, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy and your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams, And I will pour out from my Spirit upon my men servants and my maid servants in these days and they will prophesy. I will send wonders in the heaven above and signs upon the earth below, blood and fire and vapour of smoke. The sun will be changed into darkness and the moon into blood before there comes the great and famous day of the Lord. And it shall be that all whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."'
This passage brings us face to face with one of the basic conceptions of both the Old and the New Testaments--that of The Day of the Lord. Much in both the Old and in the New Testaments is not fully intelligible unless we know the basic principles underlying that conception.
The Jews never lost the conviction that they were God's chosen people. They interpreted that status to mean that they were chosen for special privilege among the nations. They were always a small nation. History had been for them one long disaster. It was clear to them that by human means they would never reach the status they deserved as the chosen people. So, bit by bit, they reached the conclusion that what man could not do God must do; and began to look forward to a day when God would intervene directly in history and exalt them to the honour they dreamed of The day of that intervention was The Day of the Lord.
They divided all time into two ages. There was The Present Age which was utterly evil and doomed to destruction; there was The Age to Come which would be the golden age of God. Between the two there was to be The Day of the Lord which was to be the terrible birth pangs of the new age. It would come suddenly like a thief in the night; it would be a day when the world would be shaken to its very foundations; it would be a day of judgment and of terror. All over the prophetic books of the Old Testament and in much of the New Testament, are descriptions of that Day. Typical passages are Isaiah 2:12; Isaiah 13:6 ff.; Amos 5:18; Zephaniah 1:7; Joel 2:1-32; 1 Thessalonians 5:2 ff.; 2 Peter 3:10.
Here Peter is saying to the Jews--"For generations you have dreamed of the Day of God, the Day when God would break into history. Now, in Jesus, that Day has come." Behind all the outworn imagery stands the great truth that in Jesus, God arrived in person on the scene of human history.
Lord And Christ ( Acts 2:22-36)
2:22-36 "Men of Israel, listen to these words. Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved by God to you by deeds of power and wonders and signs, which God, among you, did through him, as you yourselves know this man, delivered up by the fore-ordained knowledge and counsel of God, you took and crucified by the hand of wicked men. But God raised him up and loosed the pains of death because it was impossible that he should be held subject by it. For David says in regard to him, 'Always I foresaw the Lord before me, because he is at my right hand so that I should not be shaken. Because of this my heart has rejoiced and my tongue has exulted, and, furthermore, my flesh shall dwell in hope, because thou wilt not leave my soul in the land of the dead nor wilt thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life. Thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.' Brethren, I can speak to you freely about the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried and his memorial is amongst us to this day. Thus he was a prophet; and because he knew that God had sworn an oath to him, that one of his descendants should sit upon his throne. He spoke with foresight about the resurrection of the Christ, that he would neither be left in the world of the dead nor would his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up and all of us are his witnesses. So then when he had been exalted to the right hand of God he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father and poured out this which you see and hear. For David did not ascend up into heaven. and yet he says, 'The Lord said to my Lord, sit upon my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool for thy feet.' So then let all the house of Israel certainly know that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified Lord and Christ."
Here is a passage full of the essence of the thought of the early preachers.
(i) It insists that the Cross was no accident. It belonged to the eternal plan of God ( Acts 2:23). Over and over again Acts states this same thing (compare Acts 3:18; Acts 4:28; Acts 13:29). The thought of Acts safeguards us from two serious errors in our thinking about the death of Jesus. (a) The Cross is not a kind of emergency measure flung out by God when everything else had failed. It is part of God's very life. (b) We must never think that anything Jesus did changed the attitude of God to men. It was by God Jesus was sent. We may put it this way--the Cross was a window in time allowing us to see the suffering love which is eternally in the heart of God.
(ii) Acts insists that this in no way lessens the crime of those who crucified Jesus. Every mention of the crucifixion in Acts is instinct with a feeling of shuddering horror at the crime it was (compare Acts 2:23; Acts 3:13; Acts 4:10; Acts 5:30). Apart from anything else, the crucifixion shows supremely how horrifyingly sin can behave.
(iii) Acts is out to prove that the sufferings and death of Christ were the fulfillment of prophecy. The earliest preachers had to do that. To the Jew the idea of a crucified Messiah was incredible. Their law said, "A hanged man is accursed by God" ( Deuteronomy 21:23). To the orthodox Jew the Cross made it completely impossible that Jesus could be the Messiah. The early preachers answered, "If you would only read your scriptures rightly you would see that all was foretold."
(iv) Acts stresses the resurrection as the final proof that Jesus was indeed God's Chosen One. Acts has been called The Gospel of the Resurrection. To the early Church the resurrection was all-important. We must remember this--without the resurrection there would have been no Christian Church at all. When the disciples preached the centrality of the resurrection they were arguing from experience. After the Cross they were bewildered, broken men, with their dream gone and their lives shattered. It was the resurrection which changed all that and turned them from cowards into heroes. It is one of the tragedies of the Church that so often the preaching of the resurrection is confined to Easter time. Every Sunday is the Lord's Day and every Lord's Day should be kept as resurrection day. In the Eastern Church on Easter day, when two people meet, one says, "The Lord is risen"; and the other answers, "He is risen indeed!" A Christian should never forget that he lives and walks with a Risen Lord.
Save Yourselves ( Acts 2:37-41)
2:37-41 When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and they said to Peter and to the other apostles, "Brethren, what are we to do?" Peter said to them, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, for this promise is to you and to your children and to all who are afar off, to all those whom the Lord your God invites." With many other words he gave his witness and he urged them, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation." So they accepted his word and were baptized and on that day there were added to them about three thousand people.
(i) This passage shows with crystal clarity the effect of the Cross. When men realised just what they had done in crucifying Jesus their hearts were broken. "I," said Jesus, "when I am lifted up from the earth will draw all men to myself" ( John 12:32). Every man has had a hand in that crime. Once a missionary told the story of Jesus in an Indian village. Afterwards he showed the life of Christ in lantern slides thrown against the white-washed wall of a house. When the Cross appeared on the wall, one man rose from the audience and ran forward. "Come down from that Cross, Son of God," he cried. "I, not you, should be hanging there." The Cross, when we understand what happened there, must pierce the heart.
(ii) That experience demands a reaction from men. "Repent," said Peter, "first and foremost." What does repentance mean? The word originally meant an afterthought. Often a second thought shows that the first thought was wrong; and so the word came to mean a Change of mind. But, if a man is honest, a change of mind demands a change of action. Repentance must involve both change of mind and change of action. A man may change his mind and come to see that his actions were wrong but be so much in love with his old ways that he will not change them. A man may change his ways but his mind remains the same, changing only because of fear or prudence. True repentance involves a change of mind and a change of action.
(iii) When repentance comes something happens to the past. There is God's forgiveness for what lies behind. Let us be quite clear that the consequences of sins are not wiped out. Not even God can do that. When we sin we may well do something to ourselves and to others which cannot be undone. Let us look at it this way. When we were young and had done something bad there was an invisible barrier between us and our mother. But when we went and said we were sorry, the old relationship was restored and we were right with her again. Forgiveness does not abolish the consequences of what we have done but it puts us right with God.
(iv) When repentance comes something happens for the future. We receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and in that power we can win battles we never thought to win and resist things which by ourselves we would have been powerless to resist.
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CHURCH ( Acts 2:42-47 )
2:42-47 They persevered in listening to the apostles' teaching, in the fellowship. in the breaking of bread and in prayers. Awe was in every soul; and many signs and wonders were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and they were in the habit of selling their goods and possessions and of distributing them amongst all as each had need. Daily they continued with one accord in the Temple, and breaking bread from house to house they received their food with joy and in sincerity of heart; and they kept praising God and everyone liked them. Daily the Lord added to them those who were being saved.
In this passage we have a kind of lightning summary of the characteristics of the early Church.
(i) It was a learning Church; it persisted in listening to the apostles as they taught. One of the great perils of the Church is to look back instead of forward. Because the riches of Christ are inexhaustible we should ever be going forward. We should count It a wasted day when we do not learn something new and when we have not penetrated more deeply into the wisdom and the grace of God.
(ii) It was a Church of fellowship; it had what someone has called the great quality of togetherness. Nelson explained one of his victories by saying, "I had the happiness to command a band of brothers." The Church is a real Church only when it is a band of brothers.
(iii) It was a praying Church--these early Christians knew that they could not meet life in their own strength and that they did not need to. They always went in to God before they went out to the world; they were able to meet the problems of life because they had first met him.
(iv) It was a reverent Church--in Acts 2:43 the word which the King James Version correctly translates fear has the idea of awe in it. It was said of a great Greek that he moved through this world as if it were a temple. The Christian lives in reverence because he knows that the whole earth is the temple of the living God.
(v) It was a Church where things happened--signs and wonders were there ( Acts 2:43). If we expect great things from God and attempt great things for God things happen. More things would happen if we believed that God and we together could make them happen.
(vi) It was a sharing Church ( Acts 2:44-45); these early Christians had an intense feeling of responsibility for each other. It was said of William Morris that he never saw a drunken man but he had a feeling of personal responsibility for him. A real Christian cannot bear to have too much when others have too little.
(vii) It was a worshipping Church ( Acts 2:46); they never forgot to visit God's house. We must remember that "God knows nothing of solitary religion." Things can happen when we come together. God's Spirit moves upon his worshipping people.
(viii) It was a happy Church ( Acts 2:46); gladness was there. A gloomy Christian is a contradiction in terms.
(ix) It was a Church whose people others could not help liking. There are two Greek words for good. Agathos ( G18) simply describes a thing as good. Kalos ( G2570) means that a thing is not only good but looks good; it has a winsome attractiveness about it. Real Christianity is a lovely thing. There are so many people who are good but with their goodness possess a streak of unlovely hardness. Struthers of Greenock used to say that it would help the Church more than anything else if Christians ever and again would do a bonnie thing. In the early Church there was a winsomeness in God's people.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Acts 2:33". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/acts-2.html. 1956-1959.
#5 Evidence of the Promised Holy Spirit
Right hand of God -- Christ was resurrected and raised up to heaven to the right hand of God to sit on David’s throne. The apostles were witnesses of both Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven Mark 16:19; Ephesians 1:20-22; Philippians 2:9-11; Hebrews 1:3;
Promise of the Holy Spirit -- Christ received the promise made to David by the Holy Spirit and now the apostles have received the promise of the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:4;
Shed forth this -- The promised Comforter, the Holy Spirit, had now come upon the apostles as promised John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7; and in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy quoted in Acts 2:17; Many present listening to Peter had themselves witnessed the flames like as of fire, and heard the sound like a rushing wind, and now they all were hearing the apostles speaking the foreign languages.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Acts 2:33". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gbc/acts-2.html. 2021.
Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted,.... After his resurrection he ascended to heaven, and was exalted in human nature; "to the right hand of God", as the Ethiopic version; and the Arabic version used by De Dieu read; an honour that never was conferred on any creature, angels or men, besides: or he was exalted and raised to the high honour and dignity of a Prince and Saviour, of Lord, Head, and King, so as to have a name, dominion, and authority over all, by the mighty power of God, which is sometimes called his right hand; see Psalms 118:15.
and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost; which the Father had promised to pour forth in the last days, Isaiah 44:3 and which Christ had promised to send from the Father, John 14:16 and which, upon his ascension and exaltation, he received as Mediator from him; see Psalms 68:18 compared with Ephesians 4:8
he hath shed forth this; this Holy Spirit, or promised Spirit, these gifts of his; and so the Syriac version renders it, "he hath shed forth this gift"; which expresses both the plenty and abundance of the gifts bestowed, and the liberality of Christ in the donation of them: it is added,
which ye now see and hear; meaning the cloven tongues, as of fire, which they saw sitting on the disciples, and the various languages which they heard them speak. The Alexandrian copy, the Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions, leave out the word "now": and the Syriac, in the room of it, reads, "behold".
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Acts 2:33". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/acts-2.html. 1999.
|Peter's Sermon at Jerusalem.|
14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judæa, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: 15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. 16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: 19 And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: 21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. 22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: 23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: 24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. 25 For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: 26 Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: 27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 28 Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. 29 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. 30 Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; 31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. 32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. 33 Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. 34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, 35 Until I make thy foes thy footstool. 36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
We have here the first-fruits of the Spirit in the sermon which Peter preached immediately, directed, not to those of other nations in a strange language (we are not told what answer he gave to those that were amazed, and said, What meaneth this?) but to the Jews in the vulgar language, even to those that mocked; for he begins with the notice of that (Acts 2:15; Acts 2:15), and addresses his discourse (Acts 2:14; Acts 2:14) to the men of Judea and the inhabitants of Jerusalem; but we have reason enough to think that the other disciples continued to speak to those who understood them (and therefore flocked about them), in the languages of their respective countries, the wonderful works of God. And it was not by Peter's preaching only, but that of all, or most, of the rest of the hundred and twenty, that three thousand souls were that day converted, and added to the church; but Peter's sermon only is recorded, to be an evidence for him that he was thoroughly recovered from his fall, and thoroughly restored to the divine favour. He that had sneakingly denied Christ now as courageously confesses him. Observe,
I. His introduction or preface, wherein he craves the attention of the auditory, or demands it rather: Peter stood up (Acts 2:14; Acts 2:14), to show that he was not drunk, with the eleven, who concurred with him in what he said, and probably in their turns spoke likewise to the same purport; those that were of greatest authority stood up to speak to the scoffing Jews, and to confront those who contradicted and blasphemed, but left the seventy disciples to speak to the willing proselytes from other nations, who were not so prejudiced, in their own language. Thus among Christ's ministers, some of greater gifts are called out to instruct those that oppose themselves, to take hold of sword and spear; others of meaner abilities are employed in instructing those that resign themselves, and to be vine-dressers and husband-men. Peter lifted up his voice, as one that was both well assured of and much affected with what he said, and was neither afraid nor ashamed to own it. He applied himself to the men of Judea, andres Ioudaioi--the men that were Jews; so it should be read; "and you especially that dwell at Jerusalem, who were accessory to the death of Jesus, be this known unto you, which you did not know before, and which you are concerned to know now, and hearken to my words, who would draw you to Christ, and not to the words of the scribes and Pharisees, that would draw you from him. My Master is gone, whose words you have often heard in vain, and shall hear no more as you have done, but he speaks to you by us; hearken now to our words."
II. His answer to their blasphemous calumny (Acts 2:15; Acts 2:15): "These men are not drunken, as you suppose. These disciples of Christ, that now speak with other tongues, speak good sense, and know what they say, and so do those they speak to, who are led by their discourses into the knowledge of the wonderful works of God. You cannot think they are drunk, for it is but the third hour of the day," nine of the clock in the morning; and before this time, on the sabbaths and solemn feasts, the Jews did not eat nor drink: nay, ordinarily, those that are drunk are drunk in the night, and not in the morning; those are besotted drunkards indeed who, when they awake, immediately seek it yet again,Proverbs 23:35.
III. His account of the miraculous effusion of the Spirit, which is designed to awaken them all to embrace the faith of Christ, and to join themselves to his church. Two things he resolves it into:--that it was the fulfilling of the scripture, and the fruit of Christ's resurrection and ascension, and consequently the proof of both.
1. That it was the accomplishment of the prophecies of the Old Testament which related to the kingdom of the Messiah, and therefore an evidence that this kingdom is come, and the other predictions of it are fulfilled. He specifies one, that of the prophet Joel,Acts 2:28; Acts 2:28. It is observable that though Peter was filled with the Holy Ghost, and spoke with tongues as the Spirit gave him utterance, yet he did not set aside the scriptures, nor think himself above them; nay, much of his discourse is quotation out of the Old Testament, to which he appeals, and with which he proves what he says. Christ's scholars never learn above their Bible; and the Spirit is given not to supersede the scriptures, but to enable us to understand and improve the scriptures. Observe,
(1.) The text itself that Peter quotes, Acts 2:17-21; Acts 2:17-21. It refers to the last days, the times of the gospel, which are called the last days because the dispensation of God's kingdom among men, which the gospel sets up, is the last dispensation of divine grace, and we are to look for no other than the continuation of this to the end of time. Or, in the last days, that is, a great while after the ceasing of prophecy in the Old-Testament church. Or, in the days immediately preceding the destruction of the Jewish nation, in the last days of that people, just before that great and notable day of the Lord spoken of, Acts 2:20; Acts 2:20. "It was prophesied of and promised, and therefore you ought to expect it, and not to be surprised at it; to desire it, and bid it welcome, and not to dispute it, as not worth taking notice of." The apostle quotes the whole paragraph, for it is good to take scripture entire; now it was foretold,
[1.] That there should be a more plentiful and extensive effusion of the Spirit of grace from on high than had ever yet been. The prophets of the Old Testament had been filled with the Holy Ghost, and it was said of the people of Israel that God gave them his good Spirit to instruct them,Nehemiah 9:20. But now the Spirit shall be poured out, not only upon the Jews, but upon all flesh, Gentiles as well as Jews, though yet Peter himself did not understand it so, as appears, Acts 11:17; Acts 11:17. Or, upon all flesh, that is, upon some of all ranks and conditions of men. The Jewish doctors taught that the Spirit came only upon wise and rich men, and such as were of the seed of Israel; but God will not tie himself to their rules.
[2.] That the Spirit should be in them a Spirit of prophecy; by the Spirit they should be enabled to foretel things to come, and to preach the gospel to every creature. This power shall be given without distinction of sex--now only your sons, but your daughters shall prophesy; without distinction of age--both your young men and your old men shall see visions, and dream dreams, and in them receive divine revelations, to be communicated to the church; and without distinction of outward condition--even the servants and handmaids shall receive of the Spirit, and shall prophesy (Acts 2:18; Acts 2:18); or, in general, men and women, whom God calls his servants and his handmaids. In the beginning of the age of prophecy in the Old Testament there were schools of the prophets, and, before that, the Spirit of prophecy came upon the elders of Israel that were appointed to the government; but now the Spirit shall be poured out upon persons of inferior rank, and such as were not brought up in the schools of the prophets, for the kingdom of the Messiah is to be purely spiritual. The mention of the daughters (Acts 2:17; Acts 2:17) and the handmaidens (Acts 2:18; Acts 2:18) would make one think that the women who were taken notice of (Acts 1:14; Acts 1:14) received the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, as well as the men. Philip, the evangelist, had four daughters who did prophesy (Acts 21:9; Acts 21:9), and St. Paul, finding abundance of the gifts both of tongues and prophecy in the church of Corinth, saw it needful to prohibit women's use of those gifts in public, 1 Corinthians 14:26; 1 Corinthians 14:34.
[3.] That one great thing which they should prophesy of should be the judgment that was coming upon the Jewish nation, for this was the chief thing that Christ himself had foretold (Matthew 24:1-51) at his entrance into Jerusalem (Luke 19:41); and when he was going to die (Luke 23:29); and these judgments were to be brought upon them to punish for their contempt of the gospel, and their opposition to it, though it came to them thus proved. Those that would not submit to the power of God's grace, in this wonderful effusion of his Spirit, should fall and lie under the pourings out of the vials of his wrath. Those shall break that will not bend. First, The destruction of Jerusalem, which was about forty years after Christ's death, is here called that great and notable day of the Lord, because it put a final period to the Mosaic economy; the Levitical priesthood and the ceremonial law were thereby for ever abolished and done away. The desolation itself was such as was never brought upon any place or nation, either before or since. It was the day of the Lord, for it was the day of his vengeance upon that people for crucifying Christ, and persecuting his ministers; it was the year of recompences for that controversy; yea, and for all the blood of the saints and martyrs, from the blood of righteous Abel,Matthew 23:35. It was a little day of judgment; it was a notable day: in Joel it is called a terrible day, for so it was to men on earth; but here epiphane (after the Septuagint), a glorious, illustrious day, for so it was to Christ in heaven; it was the epiphany, his appearing, so he himself spoke of it, Matthew 24:30. The destruction of the Jews was the deliverance of the Christians, who were hated and persecuted by them; and therefore that day was often spoken of by the prophets of that time, for the encouragement of suffering Christians, that the Lord was at hand, the coming of the Lord drew nigh, the Judge stood before the door,James 5:8; James 5:9. Secondly, The terrible presages of that destruction are here foretold: There shall be wonders in heaven above, the sun turned into darkness and the moon into blood; and signs too in the earth beneath, blood and fire. Josephus, in his preface to his history of the wars of the Jews, speaks of the signs and prodigies that preceded them, terrible thunders, lightnings, and earthquakes; there was a fiery comet that hung over the city for a year, and a flaming sword was seen pointing down upon it; a light shone upon the temple and the altar at midnight, as if it had been noon-day. Dr. Lightfoot gives another sense of these presages: The blood of the Son of God, the fire of the Holy Ghost now appearing, the vapour of the smoke in which Christ ascended, the sun darkened, and the moon made blood, at the time of Christ's passion, were all loud warnings given to that unbelieving people to prepare for the judgments coming upon them. Or, it may be applied, and very fitly, to the previous judgments themselves by which that desolation was brought on. The blood points at the wars of the Jews with the neighbouring nations, with the Samaritans, Syrians, and Greeks, in which abundance of blood was shed, as there was also in their civil wars, and the struggles of the seditious (as they called them), which were very bloody; there was no peace to him that went out nor to him that came in. The fire and vapour of smoke, here foretold, literally came to pass in the burning of their cities, and towns, and synagogues, and temple at last. And this turning of the sun into darkness, and the moon into blood, bespeaks the dissolution of their government, civil and sacred, and the extinguishing of all their lights. Thirdly, The signal preservation of the Lord's people is here promised (Acts 2:21; Acts 2:21): Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord Jesus (which is the description of a true Christian, 1 Corinthians 1:2) shall be saved, shall escape that judgment which shall be a type and earnest of everlasting salvation. In the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, there was a remnant sealed to be hid in the day of the Lord's anger; and in the destruction by the Romans not one Christian perished. Those that distinguish themselves by singular piety shall be distinguished by special preservation. And observe, the saved remnant are described by this, that they are a praying people: they call on the name of the Lord, which intimates that they are not saved by any merit or righteousness of their own, but purely by the favour of God, which must be sued out by prayer. It is the name of the Lord which they call upon that is their strong tower.
(2.) The application of this prophecy to the present event (Acts 2:16; Acts 2:16): This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; it is the accomplishment of that, it is the full accomplishment of it. This is that effusion of the Spirit upon all flesh which should come, and we are to look for no other, no more than we are to look for another Messiah; for as our Messiah ever lives in heaven, reigning and interceding for his church on earth, so this Spirit of grace, the Advocate, or Comforter, that was given now, according to the promise, will, according to the same promise, continue with the church on earth to the end, and will work all its works in it and for it, and every member of it, ordinary and extraordinary, by means of the scriptures and the ministry.
2. That it was the gift of Christ, and the product and proof of his resurrection and ascension. From this gift of the Holy Ghost, he takes occasion to preach unto them Jesus; and this part of his sermon he introduces with another solemn preface (Acts 2:22; Acts 2:22): "You men of Israel, hear these words. It is a mercy that you are within hearing of them, and it is your duty to give heed to them." Words concerning Christ should be acceptable words to the men of Israel. Here is,
(1.) An abstract of the history of the life of Christ, Acts 2:22; Acts 2:22. He calls him Jesus of Nazareth, because by that name he was generally known, but (which was sufficient to roll away that reproach) he was a man approved of God among you, censured and condemned by men, but approved of God: God testified his approbation of his doctrine by the power he gave him to work miracles: a man marked out by God, so Dr. Hammond reads it; "signalized and made remarkable among you that now hear me. He was sent to you, set up, a glorious light in your land; you yourselves are witnesses how he became famous by miracles, wonders, and signs, works above the power of nature, out of its ordinary course, and contrary to it, which God did by him; that is, which he did by that divine power with which he was clothed, and in which God plainly went along with him; for no man could do such works unless God were with him." See what a stress Peter lays upon Christ's miracles. [1.] The matter of fact was not to be denied: "They were done in the midst of you, in the midst of your country, your city, your solemn assemblies, as you yourselves also know. You have been eyewitnesses of his miracles; I appeal to yourselves whether you have any thing to object against them or can offer any thing to disprove them." [2.] The inference from them cannot be disputed; the reasoning is as strong as the evidence; if he did those miracles, certainly God approved him, declared him to be, what he declared himself to be, the Son of God and the Saviour of the world; for the God of truth would never set his seal to a lie.
(2.) An account of his death and sufferings which they were witness of also but a few weeks ago; and this was the greatest miracle of all, that a man approved of God should thus seem to be abandoned of him; and a man thus approved among the people, and in the midst of them, should be thus abandoned by them too. But both these mysteries are here explained (Acts 2:23; Acts 2:23), and his death considered, [1.] As God's act; and in him it was an act of wonderful grace and wisdom. He delivered him to death; not only permitted him to be put to death, but gave him up, devoted him: this is explained Romans 8:32, He delivered him up for us all. And yet he was approved of God, and there was nothing in this that signified the disapproving of him; for it was done by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, in infinite wisdom, and for holy ends, which Christ himself concurred in, and in the means leading to them. Thus divine justice must be satisfied, sinners saved, God and man brought together again, and Christ himself glorified. It was not only according to the will of God, but according to the counsel of his will, that he suffered and died; according to an eternal counsel, which could not be altered. This reconciled him to the cross: Father, thy will be done; and Father, glorify thy name; let thy purpose take effect, and let the great end of it be attained. [2.] As the people's act; and in them it was an act of prodigious sin and folly; it was fighting against God to persecute one whom he approved as the darling of heaven; and fighting against their own mercies to persecute one that was the greatest blessing of this earth. Neither God's designing it from eternity, nor his bringing good out of it to eternity, would in the least excuse their sin; for it was their voluntary act and deed, from a principle morally evil, and therefore "they were wicked hands with which you have crucified and slain him." It is probable that some of those were here present who had cried, Crucify him, crucify him, or had been otherwise aiding and abetting in the murder; and Peter knew it. However, it was justly looked upon as a national act, because done both by the vote of the great council and by the voice of the great crowd. It is a rule, Refertur ad universos quod publice fit per majorem paretm--That which is done publicly by the greater part we attribute to all. He charges it particularly on them as parts of the nation on which it would be visited, the more effectually to bring them to faith and repentance, because that was the only way to distinguish themselves from the guilty and discharge themselves from the guilt.
(3.) An attestation of his resurrection, which effectually wiped away the reproach of his death (Acts 2:24; Acts 2:24): Whom God raised up; the same that delivered him to death delivers him from death, and thereby gave a higher approbation of him than he had done by any other of the signs and wonders wrought by him, or by all put together. This therefore he insists most largely upon.
[1.] He describes his resurrection: God loosed the pains of death, because it was impossible that he should be holden of it; odinas--the sorrows of death; the word is used for travailing pains, and some think it signifies the trouble and agony of his soul, in which it was exceedingly sorrowful, even to the death; from these pains and sorrows of soul, this travail of soul, the Father loosed him when at his death he said, It is finished. Thus Dr. Godwin understands it: "Those terrors which made Heman's soul lie like the slain (Psalms 88:5; Psalms 88:15) had hold of Christ; but he was too strong for them, and broke through them; this was the resurrection of his soul (and it is a great thing to bring a soul out of the depths of spiritual agonies); this was not leaving his soul in hell; as that which follows, that he should not see corruption, speaks of the resurrection of his body; and both together make up the great resurrection." Dr. Lightfoot gives another sense of this: "Having dissolved the pains of death, in reference to all that believe in him, God raised up Christ, and by his resurrection broke all the power of death, and destroyed its pangs upon his own people. He has abolished death, has altered the property of it, and, because it was not possible that he should be long holden of it, it is not possible that they should be for ever holden." But most refer this to the resurrection of Christ's body. And death (says Mr. Baxter) is by privation a penal state, though not dolorous by positive evil. But Dr. Hammond shows that the Septuagint, and from them the apostle here, uses the word for cords and bands (as Psalms 18:4), to which the metaphor of loosing and being held best agrees. Christ was imprisoned for our debt, was thrown into the bands of death; but, divine justice being satisfied, it was not possible he should be detained there, either by right or by force; for he had life in himself, and in his own power, and had conquered the prince of death.
[2.] He attests the truth of his resurrection (Acts 2:32; Acts 2:32): God hath raised him up, whereof we all are witnesses--we apostles, and others our companions, that were intimately acquainted with him before his death, were intimately conversant with him after his resurrection, did eat and drink with him. They received power, by the descent of the Holy Ghost upon them, on purpose that they might be skilful, faithful, and courageous witnesses of this thing, notwithstanding their being charged by his enemies as having stolen him away.
[3.] He showed it to be the fulfilling of the scripture, and, because the scripture had said that he must rise again before he saw corruption, therefore it was impossible that he should be holden by death and the grave; for David speaks of his being raised, so it comes in, Acts 2:25; Acts 2:25. The scripture he refers to is that of David (Psalms 16:8-11), which, though in part applicable to David as a saint, yet refers chiefly to Jesus Christ, of whom David was a type. Here is,
First, The text quoted at large (Acts 2:25-28; Acts 2:25-28), for it was all fulfilled in him, and shows us, 1. The constant regard that our Lord Jesus had to his Father in his whole undertaking: I foresaw the Lord before me continually. He set before him his Father's glory as his end in all--for he saw that his sufferings would redound abundantly to the honour of God, and would issue in his own joy; these were set before him, and these he had an eye to, in all he did and suffered; and with the prospect of these he was borne up and carried on, John 13:31; John 13:32; John 17:4; John 17:5. 2. The assurance he had of his Father's presence and power going along with him: "He is on my right hand, the hand of action, strengthening, guiding, and upholding that, that I should not be moved, nor driven off from my undertaking, notwithstanding the hardships I must undergo." This was an article of the covenant of redemption (Psalms 89:21), With him my hand shall be established, my arm also shall strengthen him; and therefore he is confident the work shall not miscarry in his hand. If God be at our right hand we shall not be moved. 3. The cheerfulness with which our Lord Jesus went on in his work, notwithstanding the sorrows he was to pass through: "Being satisfied that I shall not be moved, but the good pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in my hand, therefore doth my heart rejoice, and my tongue is glad, and the thought of my sorrow is as nothing to me." Note, It was a constant pleasure to our Lord Jesus to look to the end of his work, and to be sure that the issue would be glorious; so well pleased is he with his undertaking that it does his heart good to think how the issue would answer the design. He rejoiced in spirit,Luke 10:21. My tongue was glad. In the psalm it is, My glory rejoiceth; which intimates that our tongue is our glory, the faculty of speaking is an honour to us, and never more so than when it is employed in praising God. Christ's tongue was glad, for when he was just entering upon his sufferings, in the close of his last supper, he sang a hymn. 4. The pleasing prospect he had of the happy issue of his death and sufferings; it was this that carried him, not only with courage, but with cheerfulness, through them; he was putting off the body, but my flesh shall rest; the grave shall be to the body, while it lies there, a bed of repose, and hope shall give it a sweet repose; it shall rest in hope, hoti, that thou wilt no leave my soul in hell; what follows is the matter of his hope, or assurance rather, (1.) That the soul shall not continue in a state of separation from the body; for, besides that this is some uneasiness to a human soul made for its body, it would be the continuance of death's triumph over him who was in truth a conqueror over death: "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell" (in hades, in the invisible state, so hades properly signifies); "but, though thou suffer it for a time to remove thither, and to remain there, yet thou wilt remand it; thou wilt not leave it there, as thou dost the souls of other men." (2.) That the body shall lie but a little while in the grave: Thou wilt not suffer thy Holy One to see corruption; the body shall not continue dead so long as to begin to putrefy or become noisome; and therefore it must return to life on or before the third day after its death. Christ was God's Holy One, sanctified and set apart to his service in the work of redemption; he must die, for he must be consecrated by his own blood; but he must not see corruption, for his death was to be unto God of a sweet smelling savour. This was typified by the law concerning the sacrifice, that no part of the flesh of the sacrifice which was to be eaten should be kept till the third day, for fear it should see corruption and begin to putrefy, Leviticus 7:15-18. (3.) That his death and sufferings should be, not to him only, but to all his, an inlet to a blessed immortality: "Thou has made known to me the ways of life, and by me made them known to the world, and laid them open." When the Father gave to the Son to have life in himself, a power to lay down his life and to take it again, then he showed him the way of life, both to and fro; the gates of death were open to him and the doors of the shadow of death (Job 38:17), to pass and repass through them, as his occasion led him, for man's redemption. (4.) That all his sorrows and sufferings should end in perfect and perpetual felicity: Thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. The reward set before him was joy, a fulness of joy, and that in God's countenance, in the countenance he gave to his undertaking, and to all those, for his sake, that should believe in him. The smiles with which the Father received him, when, at his ascension, he was brought to the Ancient of days, filled him with joy unspeakable, and that is the joy of our Lord, into which all his shall enter, and in which they shall be for ever happy.
Secondly, The comment upon this text, especially so much of it as relates to the resurrection of Christ. He addresses himself to them with a title of respect, Men and brethren,Acts 2:29; Acts 2:29. "You are men, and therefore should be ruled by reason; you are brethren, and therefore should take kindly what is said to you by one who, being nearly related to you, is heartily concerned for you, and wishes you well. Now, give me leave freely to speak to you concerning the patriarch David, and let it be no offence to you if I tell you that David cannot be understood here as speaking of himself, but of the Christ to come." David is here called a patriarch, because he was the father of the royal family, and a man of great note and eminency in his generation, and whose name and memory were justly very precious. Now when we read that psalm of his, we must consider, 1. That he could not say that of himself, for he died, and was buried, and his sepulchre remained in Jerusalem till now, when Peter spoke this, and his bones and ashes in it. Nobody ever pretended that he had risen, and therefore he could never say of himself that he should not see corruption; for it was plain he did see corruption. St. Paul urges this, Acts 13:35-37; Acts 13:35-37. Though he was a man after God's own heart, yet he went the way of all the earth, as he saith himself (1 Kings 2:2), both in death and burial. 2. Therefore certainly he spoke it as a prophet, with an eye to the Messiah, whose sufferings the prophets testified beforehand, and with them the glory that should follow; so did David in that psalm, as Peter here plainly shows. (1.) David knew that the Messiah should descend from his loins (Acts 2:30; Acts 2:30), that God had sworn to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne. He promised him a Son, the throne of whose kingdom should be established for ever,2 Samuel 7:12. And it is said (Psalms 132:11), God swore it in truth unto David. When our Lord Jesus was born, it was promised that the Lord God would give him the throne of his father David,Luke 1:32. And all Israel knew that the Messiah was to be the Son of David, that is, that, according to the flesh, he should be so by his human nature; for otherwise, according to the spirit, and by his divine nature, he was to be David's Lord, not his son. God having sworn to David that the Messiah, promised to his fathers, should be his son and successor, the fruit of his loins, and heir to his throne, he kept this in view, in penning his psalms. (2.) Christ being the fruit of his loins, and consequently in his loins when he penned that psalm (as Levi is said to be in Abraham's loins when he paid tithes to Melchizedek), if what he says, as in his own person, be not applicable to himself (as it is plain that it is not), we must conclude it points to that son of his that was then in his loins, in whom his family and kingdom were to have their perfection and perpetuity; and therefore, when he says that his soul should not be left in its separate state, nor his flesh see corruption, without doubt he must be understood to speak of the resurrection of Christ, Acts 2:31; Acts 2:31. And as Christ died, so he rose again, according to the scriptures; and that he did so we are witnesses. (3.) Here is a glance at his ascension too. As David did not rise from the dead, so neither did he ascend into the heavens, bodily, as Christ did, Acts 2:34; Acts 2:34. And further, to prove that when he spoke of the resurrection he meant it of Christ, he observes that when in another psalm he speaks of the next step of his exaltation he plainly shows that he spoke of another person, and such another as was his Lord (Psalms 110:1): "The Lord said unto my Lord, when he had raised him from the dead, Sit thou at my right hand, in the highest dignity and dominion there; be thou entrusted with the administration of the kingdom both of providence and grace; sit there as king, until I make thy foes either thy friends or thy footstool," Acts 2:35; Acts 2:35. Christ rose from the grave to rise higher, and therefore it must be of his resurrection that David spoke, and not his own, in the Psalms 16:1-11; for there was no occasion for him to rise out of his grave who was not to ascend to heaven.
(4.) The application of this discourse concerning the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ.
[1.] This explains the meaning of the present wonderful effusion of the Spirit in those extraordinary gifts. Some of the people had asked (Acts 2:12; Acts 2:12), What meaneth this? I will tell you the meaning of it, says Peter. This Jesus being exalted to the right hand of God, so some read it, to sit there; exalted by the right hand of God, so we read it, by his power and authority--it comes all to one; and having received of the Father, to whom he has ascended, the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath given what he received (Psalms 68:18), and hath shed forth this which you now see and hear; for the Holy Ghost was to be given when Jesus was glorified, and not before, John 7:39. You see and hear us speak with tongues that we never learned; probably there was an observable change in the air of their countenances, which they saw, as well as heard the change of their voice and language; now this is from the Holy Ghost, whose coming is an evidence that Jesus is exalted, and he has received this gift from the Father, to confer it upon the church, which plainly bespeaks him to be the Mediator, or middle person between God and the church. The gift of the Holy Ghost was, First, A performance of divine promises already made; here it is called the promise of the Holy Ghost; many exceedingly great and precious promises the divine power has given us, but this is the promise, by way of eminency, as that of the Messiah had been, and this is the promise that includes all the rest; hence God's giving the Holy Spirit to those that ask him (Luke 11:13) is his giving them all good things,Matthew 7:11. Christ received the promise of the Holy Ghost, that is, the promised gift of the Holy Ghost, and has given it to us; for all the promises are yea and amen in him. Secondly, It was a pledge of all divine favours further intended; what you now see and hear is but an earnest of greater things.
[2.] This proves what you are all bound to believe, that Christ Jesus is the true Messiah and Saviour of the world; this he closes his sermon with, as the conclusion of the whole matter, the quod erat demonstrandum--the truth to be demonstrated (Acts 2:36; Acts 2:36): Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that this truth has now received its full confirmation, and we our full commission to publish it, That God has made that same Jesus whom you have crucified both Lord and Christ. They were charged to tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ till after his resurrection (Matthew 16:20; Matthew 17:9); but now it must be proclaimed on the housetops, to all the house of Israel; he that hath ears to hear, let him hear it. It is not proposed as probable, but deposed as certain: Let them know it assuredly, and know that it is their duty to receive it as a faithful saying, First, That God has glorified him whom they have crucified. This aggravates their wickedness, that they crucified one whom God designed to glorify, and put him to death as a deceiver who had given such pregnant proofs of his divine mission; and it magnifies the wisdom and power of God that though they crucified him, and thought thereby to have put him under an indelible mark of infamy, yet God had glorified him, and the indignities they had done him served as a foil to his lustre. Secondly, That he has glorified him to such a degree as to make him both Lord and Christ: these signify the same; he is Lord of all, and he is not a usurper, but is Christ, anointed to be so. He is one Lord to the Gentiles, who had had lords many; and to the Jews he is Messiah, which includes all his offices. He is the king Messiah, as the Chaldee paraphrast calls him; or, as the angel to Daniel, Messiah the prince,Daniel 9:25. This is the great truth of the gospel which we are to believe, that that same Jesus, the very same that was crucified at Jerusalem, is he to whom we owe allegiance, and from whom we are to expect protection, as Lord and Christ.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Acts 2:33". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/acts-2.html. 1706.
First of all we see man in an entirely new place man risen from among the dead and ascending to heaven. The risen ascended man, Christ Jesus, is the new starting-point of the dealings of God. The first man afforded the great and solemn and saddening lesson of human responsibility. The cross had just closed the history of the race; for Jesus in no way shrank from all that was connected with the creature responsible here below, but met it to God's glory. He alone was capable of doing all; He alone solved every question; and this as a perfect man, but not a perfect man only, because He was very God. Thus was glory brought to His Father all through His life, to God as such in His death; and glory to God not merely as one who was putting man to the test, but who was removing from before His face the root and the fruits of sin; for this is the wonderful specialty of the death of the Lord Jesus, that, in Him crucified, all that had hindered, all that had dishonoured God, was for ever met, and God infinitely more and after a better sort glorified than if there never had been sin at all.
Thus on the setting aside of the old creation, the way was clear for man in this new place; and we shall see this in the blessed book before us-the Acts of the Apostles, although I am far from meaning that the title is an adequate statement of its contents: it is but its human name, and man is not capable even of giving a name. It is a book of deeper and more glorious purpose than acts of the apostles could be, however blessed in their place. Flowing down from the risen man in heaven, we have God Himself displaying fresh glory, not merely for but in man, and this so much the more because it is no longer a perfect man on earth, but the working of the Holy Ghost in men of like passions as ourselves. Nevertheless, through the mighty redemption of the Lord Jesus, the Holy Ghost is able to come down holily and righteously, willing in love to take His place, not merely in the earth, but in that very race that had dishonoured God down to the cross of Christ, when man could go no lower in scorn and hatred of that one man who in life and death has thus changed all things for God and for us.
Accordingly this first chapter, and more particularly the verses (1-11) that I have read, show us the groundwork, by no means unconnected with all that follows, but the most fitting introduction, as the facts were the necessary basis of it; and this the more strikingly because at first sight no man perhaps could have understood it thus. Indeed I doubt that any believer could have scanned this until there was a fair measure of intelligence in the revealed truth of God. And I do not mean merely now that truth which, being received, constituted him a believer, but the large infinite truth which it is the object of the Holy Ghost to bring out in this book as also throughout the New Testament. At first sight many an one may have found a difficulty why it was that the Spirit of God, after having in the gospel of Luke shown us Jesus risen and Jesus ascended, should take it up again in the beginning of the Acts. If we have had such questions, we may at least learn this lesson, that it is wise and good, yea, the only sound wisdom for us, and that which pleases our God, to set it down as a fixed maxim that God is always right, that His word never says a thing in vain, that if He appear to repeat, it is in no way repetition after a human infirm sort, but with a divine purpose; and as the resurrection and the ascension too were necessary to complete the scheme of truth given us in the gospel of Luke, so the risen man ascending to heaven was necessary to be brought in again as a starting-point by the very same writer, when God gives by him this new unfolding of the grace and ways of God in man.
We see then the Lord Jesus risen from the dead. We have the remarkable fact that He does not act independently of the Holy Ghost in His risen character any more than as man here below. In short, He is man, although no longer in that life which could be laid down but risen again; and the blessedness of man always is to act and speak by the Holy Ghost. So with the Lord Jesus, until the day in which He was taken up, it is said, after that He, through the Holy Ghost, had given commandments unto the apostles whom He had chosen. Resurrection does not supersede the Holy Ghost. The action of the Holy Ghost may be very different in resurrection, but there is still the blessedness of the power of the Spirit of God working by Him even though risen from the dead. It is not only that the disciples needed the Spirit of God, but that Jesus was pleased still through the Holy Ghost to deal with us so. But this is not all. Assembled with them, He explains that the Holy Ghost was to be given to themselves, and this not many days hence. It was the more important to state this great truth, because He had said a short time before "Receive ye the Holy Ghost;" and the ignorance that is natural to us might have used the words in John 20:1-31 to deny the further power and privilege that was about to be conferred in the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. They were both of the deepest importance. It is not for us to compare for our preference. But of this I am persuaded, that to have the Holy Ghost according to the Lord's words on the resurrection-day has its own blessedness as decidedly as the gift of the Holy Ghost sent down from above: the one being more particularly that which forms the intelligence of the new man; the other, that power which goes forth in testimony for the blessing of others. I need not say the order too was perfect, not in power for others first, but as spiritual intelligence for our own souls. We are not fit vessels for the good of others until God has given us divine consciousness of a new being according to Christ for ourselves.
But there is more still. It was necessary too that they should know the vast change. Their hearts, spite of the blessing, had little realized the ways of God that were about to open for them. Thus not only do we hear the Lord intimating that the promise of the Father must be poured out upon them, but further, even after this, they asked Him whether He was at this time about to restore again the kingdom to Israel. This furnishes, as our foolish questions often do, the inlet for divine instruction and guidance. We need not always repress these enquiries from the Lord: it is well to let that which is in the mind come out, especially if it be to Him. Nor must His servants be impatient even at the curious questions of those that least understand; for the importance is not so much in that which is asked as in the answer. Certainly this was ever the case with our Lord and the disciples. "It is not for you," says He, "to know the times and the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own authority, but ye shall receive power." The measures and the fit moments that had to do with earthly changes were in the sole control of Him to whom all belonged. "But ye shall receive power" (for the two words are different), "after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me." It was not the time for the kingdom in the sense of manifested power; and this was in their desires. The kingdom in a mysterious form no doubt there is, and we are translated into it., and it is in the power of the Spirit. But emphatically it was to be a time of testimony till He returns in glory. Such is our place. Blest perfectly according to all the acceptance of Christ exalted in the glory of God, our business is to be witnesses to Him. And so the Lord tells the apostles, "Ye shall receive power when the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
Then we have the finishing touch, if one may so say, to this introduction. The Lord ascends to heaven, but not with whirlwind nor with chariot of fire. It is not simply that He was not, for God took Him, as is said of Enoch, but in a way more suitable to His glory it is written here that "he was taken up, and a cloud" (the special token of the divine presence) "received him out of their sight."
While they looked steadfastly toward heaven, they hear from the angels who stood by them in white, that this Jesus that was taken up from them should thus come in like manner as they had beheld Him going into heaven.
Thus the only true foundation is laid, and heaven becomes the point of departure not the earth, nor the first man, but the second man, the last Adam, from the only place that was suitable for Him according to the counsels of God. Such is the basis of Christianity. Altogether vain and impossible, had not redemption been accomplished, and a redemption by blood and in the power of resurrection. Redemption in se does not give us the full height and character of Christianity: man risen, and ascended to heaven, after the full expiation of sins on the cross, is necessary to its true and complete expression.
A further scene follows, by no means possible to be absent without a blank for the spiritual understanding. It must be proved manifestly that God had given even now a new place of blessing, and a new power too, or spiritual competency, to the disciples. At the same time they would have to wait for power of the Spirit in gift to act on others. Accordingly we see the disciples together, "continuing with one accord in prayer and supplication;" and in those days Peter stands up, and brings before them the gap made in the apostolic body by the apostasy and death of Judas. Observe how he brings out with an altogether unwonted force the scripture that applied to the case. This was in virtue, not of the promise of the Father for which they were waiting, but of that which they had already from Jesus risen from the dead. Hence without delay the disciples proceed to act. Peter says, "Of these men which have companioned with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be a witness with us of his resurrection."
It will be noticed that the words "ordained to be" are left out. Every one ought to be aware indirectly, if not from his own knowledge, that there is nothing in Greek to represent them. There is not, and there never was, the smallest pretence of divine authority for their insertion. It is hard to say how godly men endorsed so pure an interpolation with what object can be easily surmised: it does not require a word from me.
"And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias." For these two had qualifications, as far as man knew, suitable to the requirements for an apostle, being the companions of the earthly path of the Lord Jesus. They had seen Him risen from the dead. Unable to judge between them definitely, the rest spread the matter before the Lord who must choose His own apostle. The mode of the disciples in this case, it is true, might seem peculiar to us; but I have no doubt that they were guided of the Lord. There is no reason from scripture to believe that Peter and the others acted hastily, or were mistaken. The Spirit of God in this very book sanctions the choice that was made that day, and never alludes to Paul as the necessary twelfth apostle. To do so would be, in my judgment, to weaken if not to ruin the truth of God. Paul was not one of the twelve. It is of all consequence that he should be permitted to retain a special place, who had a special work. All was wisely ordered.
Here then they prayed, and said, "Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, show whether of these two thou hast chosen." Man never chooses an apostle; apostles did not, could not, elect an apostle: the Lord alone chose. And so they gave forth their lots after a Jewish fashion. The twelve apostles were clearly, as it seems to me, in relation to the twelve tribes of Israel, "and they gave forth their lots." This was sanctioned of God in the Old Testament when Israel was before Him; it will be sanctioned of God when Israel returns on the scene in the latter day. No doubt, when the assembly of God was in being, the lot disappears; but the assembly of God was not yet formed. All would be in order in due time. "They gave forth their lots;* and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles." We shall find a little later, yet before Paul appears, that "the twelve" are recognised. So says the Spirit of God.
* The true reading, as arrested by , A, B, C, D (corr.), and many ancient versions, is αὐτοῖς (not αὐτῶν , as in D, E, the mass of cursives, etc.). The meaning is, "they gave lots for them." This meets the chief reasoning founded on the common text which Mosheim urges with his usual force against the view in which, he confesses, and the commentators agree (i.e., in representing Matthias as having been chosen an apostle by lot, agreeably to the ancient Jewish practice). It is evidently of no consequence who they were that set forth or appointed ( ἔστησαν ) the two: some, like Alford, arguing that the whole company thus produced them; others, like Mosheim, contending that it must in all propriety have been the eleven apostles. I think that the vagueness of the phrase, without a defined subject, shows that the stress laid on either side is a mistake. It suffices to say, that two candidates were brought forward, possessed, as far as either apostles or disciples could say, of adequate qualifications. The Lord alone could decide: to Him all looked after the manner so familiar to the people of God. But Mosheim's conclusion destroys the whole point, besides doing violence to the text by confounding κλῆρος "lot" with ψῆφος vote or suffrage. It would bring in man's will and voice where the prayer just offered was an abandonment of it for the intervention of the heart-searching God. This, no doubt, was natural to one who was swayed by Lutheran prejudice, and strengthened by the practice which undoubtedly prevailed (from the third century at latest), the assembly deciding by suffrage, not by lot, between the candidates proposed by those who took the lead in their affairs. There seems little difficulty in understanding. a Hebraistic extension of the word "gave" (1 Samuel 14:41) for the more common "cast"; and as to the pronoun, it is as intelligible and correct in the dative, as in the genitive it is perplexing in sense, and, I think, inaccurate in form; for the article would be requisite with the substantive if it were the true reading. Compare J. L. Moshemii de rebus Christianorum ante Const. M. Comm. Saec. Pr. § xiv. pp. 78-80.
But now, when the day of Pentecost was running its course, they were all with one accord together; for God put the disciples in waiting in the attitude of expectation and prayer and supplication before Him. It was good that they should feel their weakness; and this was indeed the condition of true spiritual power, as it always is for the soul (if not for testimony, certainly for the soul). "And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." The manner of the Holy Spirit's appearing thus it is well to notice. It was exactly adapted to the intent for which He was given. It was not, as in the gospels, a testimony to the grace of the Lord, although nothing but grace could have given Him to man. It was not, as we find it afterwards in the Revelation, where mention is made of the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. The tongues were parted; for it was not a question of people being now made to speak of one lip. God was meeting man where he was, not setting aside the ancient judgment of his pride, yet graciously condescending to man, and this to mankind as they were. It was no sign of government, still less of government limited to a special nation. The parted tongues clearly showed that God thought of the Gentile as of the Jew. But they were "as of fire;" for the testimony of grace was none the less founded on righteousness. The gospel is intolerant of evil. This is the wonderful way in which God now speaks by the Holy Ghost. Whatever the mercy of God, whatever the proved weakness, need, and guilt of man, there is not nor can be the least compromise of holiness. God can never sanction the evil of man. Hence the Spirit of God was thus pleased to mark the character of His presence, even though given of the grace of God, but founded on the righteousness of God. God could afford fully to bless. It was no derogation from His glory; it was after all but His seal on the perfectness of the work of the Lord Jesus. Not only did He show His interest for man, and His grace to the evil and lost, but, above all, His honour for Jesus. There is no title nor ground so secure for us. There is no spring of blessing that we are entitled so to boast of as the Lord: there is none that so delivers from self.
At this time too there were dwelling at Jerusalem men from all nations, we may say, generally speaking, under heaven "Jews, devout men." And when it was noised abroad that the Holy Ghost had thus been given to the congregated disciples "the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speaking in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all of these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new the (or sweet) wine. But Peter, standing up with eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem." For he first addresses them on a narrower ground than that into which he afterwards branches out, and both with a wisdom that is not a little striking. Here he is about to apply a portion of the prophecy of Joel. It will be seen that the prophet takes exactly the same limited ground as Peter does. That is, the Jews, properly so called, and Jerusalem, stand in the foreground of Joel 's prophecy: so admirably perfect is the word of God even in its smallest detail.
The point he insists on, it will be noticed, was this that the wonder then before them in Jerusalem was after all one for which their own prophets ought to have prepared them. "This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel." He does not say that it was the fulfilment of the prophet. Men, divines, have so said, but not the Spirit of God. The apostle simply says, "This is that which was spoken." Such was its character. How far it was to be then accomplished is another matter. It was not the excitement of nature by wine, but the heart filled with the Spirit of God, acting in His own power and in all classes. "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: and I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: and it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved." There he stops, as far as Joel is concerned.
Then, verse 22, he addresses them as "men of Israel," not merely of Judea and Jerusalem, but now breaking out into the general hopes of the nation, he at the same time proves their common guilt. "Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it."
And this the apostle supports by what David had spoken inPsalms 16:1-11; Psalms 16:1-11: "I foresaw the Lord always before my face." The same psalm affords the clearest proof that the Messiah (and no Jew could doubt that the Messiah was in question there) would be characterised by the most absolute trust in God through an His life; that he was to lay down His life with trust in God just as unbroken and perfect in death as in life; and finally that He would stand in resurrection. It is the psalm therefore of confidence in God that goes right through life, death, resurrection. It was seen in Jesus, and clearly not applicable to David its writer. Of all whom a Jew could have put forward to claim the language of such a psalm, David would have been perhaps the uppermost one in their hearts. But it was far beyond that famous king, as Peter argued: "Men [and] brethren,* let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses."
* It may be well to guard the English reader from supposing that two classes are intended. The phrase is literally "men-brethren," and means simply men who were brethren. Let me add, that the true text in the last clause of verse 30 is simply, "to seat from the fruit of his loins on his throne."
Thus the fresh and notorious facts as to Jesus, and no one else, completely agreed with this inspired testimony to the Messiah. Nor was it confined to a single portion of the Psalms. "Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear." But David is not ascended into the heavens. Thus Peter cites another psalm to show the necessary ascension of Messiah to sit at the right hand of Jehovah, just as much as he had shown resurrection to be predicted of Him as of no other. "for he says himself, Jehovah said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool." Who was the man that sat at God's right hand? Certainly none could pretend it was David, but his Son, the Messiah; and this entirely corresponded with the facts the apostles had beheld personally. "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." Thus the proof was complete. Their psalms found their counterpart in the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus the Messiah. God had made Him "both Lord and Christ;" for here the testimony is very gradual, and the wisdom of God in this we may well admire and profit by. In meeting the Jews, God condescended to put forth the glory of His own Son in the way that most of all attached itself to their ancient testimonies and to their expectations. They looked for a Messiah. But apparently all was lost. for they had refused Him; and they might have supposed that the loss was irretrievable. Not so: God had raised Him from the dead. He had shown Himself therefore against what they had done; but their hope itself was secure in the risen Jesus, whom God had made to be Lord and Christ. Jesus, spite of all that they had done, had in nowise given up His title as the Christ; God had made Him such. After they had done their worst, and He had suffered His worst, God owned Him thus according to His own word at His own right hand. Other glories will open there too; but Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, as Paul says, was to be raised from the dead according to his gospel. Timothy was to remember this; and Paul can descend to show the connection of the glorious person of the Lord Jesus with the Jew on earth, as he loved for his own relationship to behold Him in heavenly glory. Thus the link with the expectations of the earthly people, though broken by death, is reset for ever in resurrection.
Surprised, grieved, alarmed to the heart by that which Peter had thus forcibly brought before them, they cry to him and the other apostles, "Men [and] brethren, what shall we do?" This gives the opportunity for the apostle to set out in the wisdom of God a very weighty application of the truth for the soul that hears the gospel: "Repent," says he, which is a far deeper thing than compunction of heart. This they had already, and it leads to that which he desired for them: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." There is no true repentance unto life without faith. But it is according to God that repentance is put forward here rather than faith. The Jews had the testimony of the gospel, as well as the law; and now it had been pressed on them by Peter. Because they believed that testimony, brought home to their consciences, as we have seen, their hearts were filled with sorrow.
But the apostle lets them know that there is a judgment of self that goes far below any outburst of grief, any consciousness and hatred, even of the deepest act of evil, as undoubtedly the crucifying of Jesus was. Repentance is the abandonment of self altogether, the judgment of what we are in the light of God. And this was to be marked, therefore, not only by the negative sign of giving themselves up as altogether evil before God, but by receiving the rejected and crucified man, the Lord Jesus. Hence, to be baptized each one of them in His name for the remission of sins follows; "and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
This, therefore, is entirely distinct from faith or repentance. Believing, they had of necessity a new nature they had life in Christ; but receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost is a privilege and power beyond; and in this case it was made to be attendant on one's being baptized as well as repenting, because in Jews it was of the utmost moment that they should give a public witness that all the rest and confidence of their souls lay in Jesus. Having been guilty of crucifying the Lord, He must be manifestly the object of their trust. And so it was that they were to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
But indeed this gift is always consequent on faith never identical with it. This is as sure as it is important to assert and to insist on, as well as to believe. It is no question of notion or tradition, the subject of which runs in quite another direction. I do not even allow it to be an open question, nor a matter of opinion; for plainly in every instance of each soul, of whom Scripture speaks, there is an interval however short. The gift of the Holy Ghost follows faith, and is in no way at the same instant, still less is it the same act. It supposes faith already existing, not unbelief; for the Holy Ghost, though He may quicken, is never given to an unbeliever. The Holy Ghost is said to seal the believer; but it is a seal of faith, and not of unbelief. The heart is opened by faith, and the Holy Ghost is given by the grace of God to those that believe, not in order to their believing. There is no such thing as the Holy Ghost given in order to believe. He quickens the unbeliever, and is given to the believer. Although we do not hear of faith in the passage, yet from the fact that the converted only were called on to repent, we know that they must have believed. True believing necessarily goes along with true repentance. The two things are invariably found together; but the gift of the Holy Ghost is consequent on them both.
And so the apostle explains. He says, "For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." His words seem to carry a sense beyond Israel: how far he entered into the force of them himself it is not perhaps for any of us to say. We know that afterwards, when Peter was called upon to go to the Gentiles, he found difficulties. It is hard to suppose, therefore, that he fully understood his own words. However. this may be, the words were according to God, whether or not fully appreciated by Peter when he uttered them. God was going to gather out of the Jews themselves and their children, but, more than that, "those that were afar off, as many as the Lord our God should call."
And then we have the beautiful picture that the Spirit of God gives us of the scene that was now formed by His own presence here below, "Then they that [gladly]* received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls." They were added to the original nucleus of disciples, and "continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, [and] in breaking of bread and prayers."
* It appears to me that ἀσμένως , "gladly," was inserted in the commonly received text against the best testimony, as well as internal reasons. For the great uncials (M, A, B, C, D, etc.), supported by the Vulgate and Aethiopic, omit the word, which was probably suggested byActs 21:17; Acts 21:17, where it falls in as admirably as here it sounds somewhat out of season. Nearly the same authorities concur in omitting καὶ , "and," between "the fellowship" and "the breaking of bread." This serves to strengthen the view that "the fellowship" goes with "the teaching of the apostles," though put as two objects instead of being combined by a single article in one idea; and it would throw the breaking of bread and the prayers similarly together.
Thus, after being brought into the new association, there arose a need of instruction; and the apostles were pre-eminently those that God vouchsafed in the infant days of His assembly. Inasmuch as it was of the utmost importance that all should be thoroughly established in the grace and truth that came by Jesus Christ, they had a place peculiar to themselves, as above all others chosen of the Lord to lay the foundation of His house, and to direct and administer in His name, as we see through the New Testament. And then as the fruit of it, and specially connected, there was "the fellowship" of which we next read. Next followed the breaking of bread, the formal expression of Christian fellowship, and the special outward sign of remembering Him to whose death they owed all. Finally, but closely following the Lord's supper, come "the prayers," which still showed that, however great might be the grace of God, they were in the place of danger, and needed dependence here below.
"And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common." This peculiar feature is found in Jerusalem, beautiful and blessed in its season, but, I have no doubt, special to the Jerusalem condition of the church of God. We can easily understand it. in the first place all that composed the church were at that time in the same place. We can feel readily, therefore, that there would be a real and strong family feeling, but I doubt whether their mutual affections then rose higher than the sense of their being God's family. They really did constitute the body of Christ; they were baptized by one Spirit into one body; but to be that one body, and to know that such they were, are two very different things. The development was reserved for another and still weightier witness of the glory of the Lord Jesus. But having in its strength the sense of family relationship, the wonderful victory of grace over selfish interests was the fruit of it. If he or she belonged to the household of God, this was the governing thought not one's own possessions. Grace gives without seeking a return; but grace on the other side seeks not its own things, but those of Christ.
Another trait is, that all savoured of divine as well as family life. The breaking of bread every day, for instance, was clearly a striking witness of Christ ever before their hearts, though also a kindred effect of the same feeling. Thus they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, as one might have need.
And they "continued daily with one accord in the temple." This is another peculiarity. There was by no means as yet a manifest severance of the tie with Judaism, at least with the circumstances of its worship. We know that in principle the cross does make a breach, and an irreparable one, with all that is of the first man; but the power of old habits with the joy that overflowed their souls made them for the moment to be, I may say, better Jews. There was that now within which was far stronger liquor than had ever filled the old skins of the law, and these were sure to be broken in no long time. But for the present nothing was farther from the disciples' minds: they continued daily with one accord in the temple. Along with it was joined this new element breaking bread at home; not "from house to house," as if it were a migratory service. There is no real ground to infer that they shifted the scene of the Lord's supper from one place to another. This is not the meaning. The margin is correct. They broke bread at home, in contrast with the temple. It might be the very same house in which the breaking of bread always took place. They would naturally choose the most suitable quarters, which combined convenience as to distance with commodiousness in receiving as many brethren and sisters as possible.
Thus these two features were seen to meet together in the Pentecostal church the retaining of Jewish religious habits in going up to the temple for prayer, and at the same time the observance of that which was properly Christian the breaking of bread at home. No wonder the new-found joy overflowed, and they were found "eating their meat with gladness and singleness of heart." There is no reason to confound the breaking of bread with eating their meat. They are two different things. We find the religious life, so to speak, expressed in their going up to the temple, and in their breaking bread at home. We find the effect upon their natural life in their "eating their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people." There is the same double character.
"And the Lord added to the church," or " together," (for there is a fair question that may be raised as to the text in this last clause) "daily such as should be saved," or those that God was about to separate from the destruction that was impending over the Jewish nation, and, further, to bring by a blessed deliverance into the new Christian estate. The word σωζομένους does not express the full character of Christian salvation which was afterwards known. Of course we know that they were saved; but this is not what the word in itself means. It is simply that the Lord was separating those that were to be saved. The English version gives it on the whole very justly. Carefully remember that the meaning is not that they were saved then. The phrase in Luke has nothing to do with that question; it refers simply to persons destined to salvation without saying anything farther.
In the next chapter (Acts 3:1-26) a miracle is related in detail, which brought out the feelings of the people, especially as represented by their leaders (Acts 4:1-37). In going up to the temple, (for the apostles themselves went there,) Peter and John met with a man that was lame; and as he asked for alms Peter gave him something better (as grace, poor in this world's resources and estimate, always loves to do so). He tells the expecting man, "Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have given thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk." The man instantly rises, according to the power of God, and is found with them, "walking, and leaping, and praising God; and all the people saw him."
This arrests universal attention, and Peter preaches a new discourse that which has been justly enough called a Jewish sermon. It is thus evident that his indication of the Christian place of blessing in the chapter before (Acts 2:1-47) does not hinder him from setting before the men of Israel (for so he addressed them here), first, their awful position by the rejection of Jesus, and, next, the terms that God in His grace sets before them in answer to the intercession of Christ. "The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his" not "son," but " servant Jesus." We know Him (and the Spirit of God, who wrote this book, infinitely better knew Him) to be the Son of God. But we must always hold to what God says; and the testimony of God did not yet and especially in dealing with the Jews set forth all the glory of Christ. It was gradually brought out; and the more that man's unbelief grew, so much the more God's maintenance of the Lord's glory was manifested. And so, if they had with scorn refused Him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go, if they had denied the Holy One and Just, and desired a murderer to be granted, if they had killed the Prince [leader, originator] of life, whom God raised from the dead, they had simply shown out what they were. On the other hand, His name, through faith in His name, (and they were witnesses of its power,) had made this man strong, whom they saw and knew: "Yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. But those things, which God before had showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled."
And then he calls upon them to repent, and be converted, that their sins might be blotted out, so that times of refreshing might come from the presence of the Lord. "And he shall send Jesus Christ, who was fore-appointed for you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began." God has accomplished His word by Moses the prophet; for Moses in no way took the place of being the deliverer of Israel, but only a witness of it, a partial exemplification of God's power then, but looking onward to the great Prophet and Deliverer that was coming. Now He was come; and so Peter sets before them, not only the coming, the Blesser's arrival and rejection in their midst, but the awfulness of trifling with it. Whoever would not bow to Him was to be cut off by their own Moses's declaration: "Every soul who will not hear that prophet shall be destroyed from among the people." And so it was that all the prophets had testified of those days: and they were the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with their fathers, saying unto Abraham, "And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed." The Seed was now come. It was for them, therefore, to declare themselves. Alas! they had already set up their will against Him; but at His intercession (what grace!) God was willing to pardon it all, did they but repent and be converted for the blotting out of their sins.
Thus we have here an appeal to the nation as such; for in all this it will be observed he does not speak a word to them of the Lord Jesus as Head of the church. We have no hint of this truth yet to anybody. Nay, we have not Jesus spoken of even in the same height as in the preceding chapter 2. We have Him in heaven, it is true, but about to return and bring in earthly power, blessing, and glory, if Israel only turned with repentance to Him. Such was the testimony of Peter. It was a true word; and it remains true. When Israel shall turn in heart to the Lord, He who secretly works this in grace will return publicly to them. When they shall say "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of Jehovah," the Messiah will come in fulness of blessing. The heavens will retain Him no more, but give Him up who will fill earth as well as heaven with glory. No word of God perishes: all abides perfectly true.
Meanwhile other and deeper counsels have been brought to light by the unbelief of Israel. This unbelief comes out in no small measure in the next chapter, which follows but might properly have formed a part of Acts 3:1-26; for in sense it is a continuous subject. "And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide. Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand." Then, on the morrow, we have the council; and Peter, being by the chiefs demanded by what power or name they had wrought the deed, filled with the Holy Ghost, answers, "Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, if we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; be it known unto you all," (he is throughout bold and uncompromising) "and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner." Thus again reference is made to their own testimonies. "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
Unscrupulous as they were, they were thus confounded by the calm confidence with which the truth armed the apostles; and the more so, because their tone and language gave evidence that, whatever the power of the Holy Ghost wrought, it did not set aside 'their condition as illiterate men. Their words, etc., bore no polish of the schools; and truth spurns, as it needs not, dialectic subtlety. This magnified, therefore, the power of God so much the more, as man's skill was null. But at the same time there was the witness of the miracle that had been done. In presence, then, of the apostles clothed with the irresistible might of the Lord, and of the man whose healing silently attested it even as to the body, they could only command them to go aside, while they conferred together. A guilty conscience betrays its conscious weakness, however wilful. God invariably gives sufficient testimony to condemn man. He will prove this in the day of judgment; but it is certain to our faith now. He is God, and cannot act below Himself when it is a question of His own revelation.
On such occasions even those who profess most are apt to speak together, as if there were no God, or as if He did not hear them saying, "What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it." They would, if they could. Their will was engaged (sad to say!) against God, against the truth, against Jehovah and His anointed. "But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they may speak henceforth to no man in this name." Thus their lack of conscience could not be hid: witness their opposition to facts that they knew, and to truth that they could not deny. The apostles cannot but take the real seat of judgment, searching the hearts of their judges: "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done. And being let go, they went to their own [company]." It is seen in this passage bow truly it has been said that we have a new family. They went to their own [company], and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them." Accordingly we find them speaking to God in a new manner, and suitably to the occasion: "Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen race, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together in this city [these last words being wrongly omitted in the received text] against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy servant [again it is servant ] Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy servant Jesus." And God answered. "When they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost." They had received the Holy Ghost before; but to be "filled" with Him goes farther, and supposes that no room was left for the action of nature, that the power of the Holy Ghost absorbed all for the time being. "They were filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness." Such was the effect. They were to be witnesses of Him.
"And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things in common." The Spirit of God repeated this, I suppose, as having a further proof of His action on their souls at this time, because many more had been brought in. "And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet," a slightly different development from the second chapter. There we find that there was what might seem a greater freeness, and perhaps to some eyes a more striking simplicity. But all is in season, and it seems to me that, while the devotedness was the same (and the Spirit of God takes pains to show that it was the same, spite of largely increased numbers, by the continued mighty action of the Holy Ghost), still with this advance of numbers simplicity could not be kept up in the same apparent manner. The distribution made to each before was more direct and immediate; now it takes effect through the apostles. The possessions were laid at the apostles' feet, and distribution was made to every one according as he had need. Among the rest one man was conspicuous for the heartiness of his love. It was Barnabas, of whom we are afterwards to hear much in other ways of still more lasting moment.
But there is rarely a manifestation of God in the church without a dark shadow that accompanies it from the evil one. And farther we find this immediately. We are not to be alarmed by the presence of evil, but rather to be sure that where God works Satan will follow, seeking to turn the very good in which the Spirit acts into a means for introducing his own counterfeit to the dishonour of the Lord. Thus in the present instance Ananias and Sapphira sell some of their property, but keep back part of the price; and this was done deliberately by concert for the purpose of gaining the character of devotedness without its cost. in principle they made the church their world, in which they sought to give the impression of a faith that confided in the Lord absolutely, while at the same time there was a secret reserve for themselves. Now the manifest point of that which was then wrought by the Spirit of God was grace in faith: there was in no way a demand. Nothing could more falsify the fruit of the Spirit of God here than converting it into a tacit rule: there was no compulsion whatever in the case. Nobody was asked to give anything. What was gold or silver, what houses or lands, to the Lord? The worth of it all depended on its being the power of the Spirit of God the fruit of divine grace in the heart. But Satan tempted them in the manner here described; and Peter, by whatever means he arrived at the conviction of it, arraigns the husband alone first. "Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost
It is a solemn thing to remember, that all sin now is against the Spirit. There may be, no doubt, the unpardonable sin of blasphemy against Him; but in truth all sin is sin against the Holy Ghost; and for this simple reason, that He has taken His place here. In Israel the sin was against the law, because the law was the testimony that God set in His sanctuary. By the law sin was measured in Israel; but it is not so for the Christian. There is now a far more serious and searching and thorough standard. Those that use the law now as a measure among Christians lower the test of judgment incomparably. Such a misuse of the law for righteous men does not at all prove that they are anxious about holiness or righteousness; it is a proof of their ignorance of the presence of the Holy Ghost, and the just and necessary effects of His presence. One has no thought, I repeat, of implying that it is not well meant. To be sure it is. It is simply that they do not understand the distinctive character of Christianity.
But this is a most serious error; and I doubt much whether all who in appearance and by profession take the place of owning the presence of the Spirit of God have by any means an adequate sense either of the privileges which are theirs or of the gravity of their responsibility. Now, Peter had. The days were early. There was much truth that had yet to be communicated and learnt; but the power of the presence of the Holy Ghost made itself felt. He at least seems to have realised the bearing of all, and so he deals with the sin of Ananias as one who had lied to the Holy Ghost. He bad kept back part of the price of the land. "Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?" It was still his own. "Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God."
Forthwith Ananias comes under the judgment of the Lord. He fell asleep, and great fear came upon all them that heard these Words. "And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter said to her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much?" Thus there was an appeal to her conscience, without an atom of harshness in it. She had longer time to weigh what they were about; but in truth it was a conspiracy; not so much to injure others as to exalt themselves; but the end was as bad as the means were evil and odious in the sight of God. Christ entered into none of their thoughts or desires. Many a thing has been said untruly since, which was not so judged of God. But there was an especial offence at this time, in that, He having wrought so wondrously in blessing man with the best blessings through Christ our Lord, the practical denial of the presence of the Spirit should have so deliberately and quickly manifested itself for the express purpose of exalting the flesh which Christianity has set aside for ever. Hence Peter says, "How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and they shall carry thee out . . . . And great fear came upon all the church."
Then we find the Lord accomplishing His word: greater works were to be done by them than even He Himself had wrought: never do we hear of the Lord's shadow curing the sick. And believers were the more added to the Lord. The unbelievers were warned, "and of the rest durst no man join himself unto them." Souls that bowed to the word were attracted, multitudes both of men and women; and the enemy was awed, in some quarters alarmed, and irritated in others. "The high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, and were filled with indignation. They laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison."
But the angel of the Lord shows his power; for this chapter is remarkable in giving us a picture not merely of the sweet activity of grace, but of divine power in presence of evil. We have seen the positive interference of the Spirit of God. At the end of the chapter before we had the second witness of it, after the foundation laid, and first witness given, in chapter 2. But here we have the proofs of His presence in other ways power in dealing with the evil, and judging it within the church of God; next, power by angelic deliverance; thirdly, power by men in providence. Gamaliel in council is just as truly the effect of God's power working by man, as the angel in opening the doors of the prison and bringing the apostles out, not, of course, so wonderful, but as real a part of God's working in behalf of His assembly and servants.
But there is another case. The very same men who were delivered by divine power are allowed to be beaten by man. Nay, not only do they take it quietly these men about whom all the power of God was thus seen in action in one form or another; but they rejoice that they were counted worthy to suffer. Are we prepared for the same thing? Be assured, brethren, if we have any tie with Christ by grace, we belong to the same company: it is our own company; it is a part of our own heritage of blessing. It is not, I admit, according to the spirit of the age to deal with us after the same sort; but there is no real change for the better in the world to hinder the outbreak of its violence at any time. Is it not well therefore for us to realize to what we belong, and what the Lord looks for from us, and what it is He has recorded for our instruction as well as comfort?
After all this then we find that "they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ." It is impossible that a human authority could be entitled to set aside the direct command of the Lord Jesus. The Lord had commanded them to go and preach the gospel to every creature. Men had forbidden this. It is very clear that the apostle Peter gives the prohibition only a human place now (Acts 5:29). If men had told them to be silent, and the Lord bid them preach, the highest authority must be paramount.
Another form of evil betrays itself in the next chapter (Acts 6:1-15); and here again we find in the very good that God had wrought evil murmuring is found. It is not merely individuals as before; in some respects it is a more serious case: there are complaints heard in the church the murmuring of Grecians against the Hebrews (that is, of the foreign speaking. Jews against the Jews, proper of the Holy Land), because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. This forms the occasion for the provisional wisdom of the Spirit of God.
We have already seen with abundant evidence how truly the church is a divine institution, founded upon a divine person (even the Holy Ghost) coming down and, making it, since redemption, His dwelling-place here below. Besides, we may now learn the working of this living power that is drawn out by the circumstances which call it forth. It is not a system of rules; nothing is more destructive of the very nature of the church of God. It is not a human society, with either the leaders of it or the mass choosing for themselves what or whom they think best, but the Spirit of God who is there meets in His wisdom whatever may be necessary for the glory of Christ. All this is preserved in the written word for our instruction and guidance now.
Here we have the institution of seven men to look after the poor who were in danger of being forgotten, or in some way neglected at any rate, so they had complained. To cut off the appearance of it, and at the same time to leave the apostles free for their own proper work of a more spiritual kind, "the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.
Thus we find two things: not only the apostles formally appointing, but the multitude of the believers left to choose, where it was a question that cone the distribution of their gifts. On the part of that governed the church of God, there ought not to be the appearance of coveting the property of God's people, or the disposal of it. At the same time the apostles do appoint those who were thus chosen over this matter. They were called of God to act, and so they do. "But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word."
The principle of the choice too is striking; for all these names, it would appear, were Grecian. What gracious wisdom! This was clearly to stop the mouths of the complainants. The Hellenists, or Grecians, were jealous of the Palestinian Jews. The persons appointed were, judging from their names, every one of them Hellenists, or foreign-speaking Jews. The troublers ought to have been not only satisfied but somewhat ashamed. Thus it is that grace, while it discerns, knows how to rise above evil; for murmuring against others is not the way to correct anything that is wrong, even if it be real. But the grace of the Lord always meets circumstances, and turns them to a profitable account, by a manifestation of wisdom from above. The field was about to be enlarged; and although it was but a poor root of man's complaints which led to this fresh line of action, God was moving over all, could use these seven, and would give some of them a good degree, as we find in Stephen soon and in Philip later. But He marked it in another way too, which showed His approbation. "The word of God increased," spite of murmuring; "and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly;" and a new feature appears "a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith."
Stephen then, full of grace and power (but One could be said to be full of grace and truth), is found doing great wonders. This draws out the opposition of the leaders of the Jews, who "were not able to resist the spirit and the wisdom with which he spake. Then they suborned men, who said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, and set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: for we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us."
Accordingly, thus accused, Stephen answers the appeal of the high priest, "Are these things so?" And in his wonderful discourse (Acts 7:1-60), on which I can but touch, he sets before them the prominent facts of their history, which bear on God's question with the Jews at this moment. God had brought out their forefather Abraham, but He never gave him actually to possess this land. Why, then, boast of it so much? Those who, according to nature, vaunted loudly of Abraham and of God's dealings, were clearly not in communion with God, or even with Abraham. Spite of the love and honour that God had for their forefathers, he never possessed the land. Why, then, set such stress on that land?
But more than this. There was one of the descendants of the fathers who stands out most especially, and above all of the family of Abraham, in the book of Genesis one man who, more than any other, was the type of the Messiah. Need I say it was Joseph? And how did he fare? Sold by his brethren to the Gentiles. The application was not difficult. They knew how they had treated Jesus of Nazareth. Their consciences could not fail to remind them how the Gentiles would have willingly let Him go, and how their voices and will had prevailed against even that hardened governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate. Thus it was manifest that the leading points of Joseph's tale, as far as the wickedness of the Jews, and the selling to the Gentiles, were rehearsed again in Jesus of Nazareth.
But, coming down later still, another man fills the history of the second book of the Bible, and indeed has to do with all the remaining books of the Pentateuch. It was Moses. What about him? Substantially the same story again: the rejected of Israel, whose pride would not hear when he sought to bring about peace between a contending Israelite and his oppressor, Moses was compelled to fly from Israel, and then found his hiding-place among the Gentiles. How far Stephen entered intelligently into the bearing of these types it is not for one to say; but we can easily see the wisdom of God; we can see the power of the Holy Ghost with which he spake.
But there was another element also. He comes down next to their temple; for this was an important point. It was not only that he had spoken of Jesus of Nazareth, but they had also charged him with saying that He would destroy this place, and change their customs. What did their own prophets say? "But Solomon built him a house. Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in [places] made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things?" In short, he shows that Israel had sinned against God in every ground of relationship. They had broken the law; they had slain the prophets; they had killed the Messiah; and they had always resisted the Holy Ghost. What an awful position! and the more awful, because it was the simple, truth.
This brought out the frenzied rage of Israel, and they gnashed on him with their teeth; and he that charged them with always resisting the Holy Ghost, as their fathers did, full of the Holy Ghost looks up into heaven, and sees the Son of man, and bears witness that he sees Him standing at the right hand of God. And thus we have what I began with: we have the manifestation of the character of Christianity, and the perception of its power, and the effect produced upon him that appreciated it. We have not merely the Lord going up to heaven, but His servant, who saw heaven, open, and Jesus, the Son of man, standing at the right hand of God.
But there is more: for while they rushed now to silence the mouth which so completely proved their nation's habitual sin against the Spirit, they stoned him indeed, but they stoned him praying, and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." They could not silence the words that told how deeply he had drunk into the grace of the Lord Jesus. They could not silence his confidence, his peaceful entrance into his place with Christ, associated consciously with Him as he was. And then we learn (it may be without a thought on his part) how grace conforms to the words of Jesus on the cross, and certainly without the smallest imitation of it, but so much the more evincing the power of God. For Jesus could say, and He alone could say rightly, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." Jesus alone fittingly could say, "I commend my spirit." He who could lay down His life, and could take it again, could so speak to the Father. But the servant of the Lord could say, and rightly and blessedly, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Nor was this all; the same heart that thus confided absolutely in the Lord, and knew his own heavenly portion with Jesus, kneels down and cries with a loud voice. This was not directed to Jesus only: no loud voice was needed there: a whisper would be enough for Him. The loud voice was for man, for his dull ears and unfeeling heart. With a loud voice he cries, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." What simplicity, but what fulness of communion with Jesus! The same who had prayed for them reproduced His own feelings in the heart of His servant.
I shall not now develop this subject more than other scenes of the deepest interest, but just simply and shortly commend to all that are here the beautiful witness that it affords us of the true place, power, and grace of a Christian.
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Kelly, William. "Commentary on Acts 2:33". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/acts-2.html. 1860-1890.
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19