The Holy Spirit and the Day of Pentecost, 1-13

2:1 Now when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.

When the day of Pentecost came – Pentecost – one of three major annual feasts, held 50 days after Passover and four months before the Feast of Tabernacles. Also called ‘the Feast of Weeks,’ because held 7 weeks (a week of weeks) after Passover, Deut 16:10; the ‘Feast of Harvest,’ because the first fruits of the harvest were gathered then, Ex 23:16; the “day of the firstfruits,” Num 28:26. Held on the 1st day of the week The Jews of many nations gathered in Jerusalem for this festival

‘Jewish people associated the outpouring of the Spirit especially with the end of the age, (Acts 1:6) and several signs God gave on the day of Pentecost indicate that in some sense, although the kingdom is not yet consummated (Acts 1:6-7), its powers had been initiated by the Messiah’s first coming (Acts 2:17).’ (IVP NT Background Commentary)

‘Pentecost, the Feast of the Firstfruits, was a most appropriate time for the Spirit to come. It was closely connected with Passover, just as the Spirit’s coming would be associated with the saving events of the Lord’s crucifixion and exaltation. The feast celebrated the first produce of the Promised Land, Israel’s inheritance, just as the Spirit is the “firstfruits” of the salvation blessings to the believer (see Deut 26:1-11, especially Acts 2:9-11).’ (IVP Commentary)

They were all together in one place – probably in the upper room. Many of the 120 were probably there, Acts 1:15, together with the disciples, 1:16.

‘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.’ (DSB) Moreover, the Spirit has been at work since the dawn of the ages, Gen 1:2, and is explicitly referred to from time to time in the OT: “Holy Spirit” occurs in Ps 51:11; Isa 63:10,11, and “Spirit of the Lord” in Jud 3:10; 1 Sam 10:6; Isa 11:2.

2:2 Suddenly a sound like a violent wind blowing came from heaven and filled the entire house where they were sitting. 2:3 And tongues spreading out like a fire appeared to them and came to rest on each one of them. 2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.

Wind – the word pnoe is used here (not pneuma), probably because the latter can be used both of wind and Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is mentioned in v4. (Cf. Jn 3:5-8, where ‘pneuma’ is used for both wind and Spirit) On the wind as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, see Eze 37:9; Jn 3:8; 20:22. But here it is not the wind itself, but a sound like it.

‘Three signs (wind, fire, and inspired speech) of God’s presence were witnessed. (Ex 3:2; 13:21; 24:17; 40:38; 1 Kings 19:11-13) Wind is a symbol of the Holy Spirit’s presence, (Eze 37:9,13; Jn 3:8) while fire is a symbol of the his cleansing and judging power. (Mt 3:11,12) The tongues were various languages spoken in all parts of the eastern Mediterranean region, from Rome to Persia.’ (New Geneva)

‘To the church, Pentecost brought light, power, joy. There came to each illumination of mind, assurance of heart, intensity of love, fullness of power, exuberance of joy. No one needed to ask if they had received the Holy Ghost. Fire is self-evident. So is power!’ Samuel Chadwick)

The audible sign (v2) is followed by a visible one. Notice the way the phenomena are described: it was like a wind (v2); they saw what seemed to be tongues of fire.

Tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them – the tense here probably indicates that ‘the fire-like appearance presented itself at first, as it were, in a single body, and then suddenly parted in this direction and that; so that a portion of it rested on each of those present’ (Hacket)

Fire had always been, to the Jews, a symbol of the divine presence, Ex 3:2; Deut 5:4.

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit – Those of the 120 who were present, Acts 1:15, plus the apostles.

Would that we today were all filled with the Spirit! Whether or not we should expect this to be accompanied by the gift of languages, we should certainly expect its effects to be observable. For the fulness of the Spirit brings life, purity, joy, power, peace, and much else besides. Like oil, he consecrates the believer for his God-given role and task; like water, he cleanses from the power of sin; like light, he illuminates both the state of our own heart and the truth of God’s words; like fire, he purges our hearts and empowers us for service.

For other fillings with the Spirit, see Acts 4:8,31; 9:17; 13:9.

A two-stage Christian life?

‘What should we say…of the often-heard view, based on Acts 2, that God means every Christian’s life to be a two-stage, two-level affair, in which conversion is followed by a second event (called Spirit baptism on the basis of Acts 1:5 or Spirit filling on the basis of 2:4), which raises one’s spiritual life to new heights? We should say that though individual Christians need, and again and again are given, “second touches” of this kind (and third, and fourth, and any number more), the idea that this is God’s programme for all Christians as such is mistaken. God means all Christians as such to enjoy the full inward blessing of Pentecost (not the outward trimmings necessarily, but the communion of heart with Christ and all that flows from it) right from the moment of their conversion.’ (Packer, Keep in step with the Spirit, 91.)

Heaven meets earth

‘If heaven and earth are already joined in the ascension, with part of “earth”— the human body of Jesus— now fully and thoroughly at home in “heaven,” then they are joined again in the opposite direction, as it were, in Acts 2, when the powerful wind of the divine Spirit comes upon the disciples. This is one of the New Testament equivalents of the filling of the tabernacle with the cloud and fire or of Solomon’s Temple with the glorious divine Presence.’ (Wright, The Day the Revolution Began)

Other tongues – Other languages; other, that is, from their native language. Whatever modern tongue-speaking may or may not be, it is clear that at Penecost all of them began to speak in languages they had not previously known. They were real languages (not jargon), and were understood by those from the various regions and countries who were present. As the wind was a symbol of the divine power, and the fire a symbol of the holy, refining presence, so the gift of languages appears to be a symbol of the world-wide spread of the gospel, Acts 1:8.

It has been pointed out that our tongues can be set on fire either by heaven or by hell! (Jas 3:5-6)

Speaking in tongues, and the other Pentecostal miracles, can be thought of as the Holy Spirit announcing his arrival.

2:5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven residing in Jerusalem. 2:6 When this sound occurred, a crowd gathered and was in confusion, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 2:7 Completely baffled, they said, “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 2:8 And how is it that each one of us hears them in our own native language? 2:9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and the province of Asia, 2:10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 2:11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own languages about the great deeds God has done!” 2:12 All were astounded and greatly confused, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 2:13 But others jeered at the speakers, saying, “They are drunk on new wine!”

Staying in Jerusalem – ‘Jewish people from throughout the Roman and Parthian worlds would gather for the three main feasts (Tabernacles, Passover and Pentecost). Because Pentecost was only fifty days after Passover, some who had spent much to make a rare pilgrimage to Jerusalem stayed between the two feasts. Pentecost was probably the least popular of the three pilgrimage festivals, but Josephus attests that it was nevertheless crowded.’ (IVP NT Background Commentary)

Acts 2:5-13 – ‘The most sensible setting for the encounter Luke describes here is the temple courts. If the disciples are still meeting in the “upper room” of Acts 1:13 (this point is debated), they would be near the temple; very large upper rooms were found only in Jerusalem’s Upper City, near the temple.’ (IVP NT Background Commentary)

‘The Jews from Parthia would know Aramaic; those from the Roman Empire, Greek. But many of them would also be familiar with local languages spoken in outlying areas of their cities. (Even most Palestinian Jews were functionally bilingual, as are people in many parts of the world today.)’ (NT Background Cmt’y)

Bewilderment – Note the sequence of the crowd’s responses: bewilderment, amazement (v7), perplexity, v12, conviction, v37, commitment, Ac. 2:

The crowd was amazed that these men from rural Galilee, with their rough accents, were able to speak all these foreign languages.

Utterly amazed – with open-mouthed astonishment.

Galileans – who were disdained for their indistinct pronunciation with its confused or lost laryngeals and aspirates.

‘At Pentecost (Acts 2:1-41) the Holy Spirit “comes on” the disciples (Acts 1:8), but also fills them (Acts 2:4), leading them to speak in foreign languages that they did not previously know. But this phenomenon (Acts 2:5-13) was not required to facilitate communication because Peter subsequently explains what has happened in normal speech. (Acts 2:14-36)

Rather, it must be a sign to authenticate the message and ministry of the disciples. Here is the fulfillment and end of the old covenant and the beginning of the new. The Spirit who has spoken in past prophecy (Acts 2:17-18), including through Jesus (Acts 2:33), now makes himself available as a “gift” along with the forgiveness of sins to all who repent (Acts 2:38) and obey (Acts 5:32). Although baptism is closely linked as a testimony to this repentance, Peter does not likely see it as essential for reception of forgiveness or the Holy Spirit, since his next closely parallel sermon concludes only with the call for repentance (Acts 3:19). The four elements of this “Pentecostal package” (repentance, baptism, the coming of the Spirit, and forgiveness) nevertheless provide a paradigm for much subsequent New Testament theology (cf. Peter’s own repeated references back to this event in passages that mention the Spirit – Acts 10:44; 11:15-16; 15:8).’ (EDBT)

Vv 9f – ‘Beginning with the farthest east, the Parthians, the enumeration proceeds farther and farther westward till it comes to Judea; next come the western countries, from Cappadocia to Pamphylia; then the southern, from Egypt to Cyrene; finally, apart from all geographical consideration, Cretes and Arabians are placed together. This enumeration is evidently designed to convey an impression of universality.’ (JFB)

Although these are all Jews, they come from many different nations, and are culturally and linguistically very diverse. The gospel is already moving into multicultural diversity.

Elamites – Elam = present-day Iran.

It may well be that Luke sees the miracle of tongues on the day of Pentecost as a reversal of the confusion of tongues and the scattering of the nations at the tower of Babel, Gen 11. Luke’s catalogue of nations would then mirror the table of nations set out in Gen 10.

‘Why are all these places mentioned? This is a list of many lands from which Jews came to the festivals in Jerusalem. These Jews were not living in Palestine because they had been dispersed throughout the world through captivities and persecutions. Very likely, some of the Jews who responded to Peter’s message returned to their homelands with God’s Good News of salvation. Thus God prepared the way for the spread of the gospel. As you read Acts, you will see how the way was often prepared for Paul and other messengers by people who became believers at Pentecost. The church at Rome, for example, was probably begun by such Jewish believers.’ (Life Application)

“We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” – Marshall understands the disciples to have ‘burst out into the praise of God’ under the influence of the outpoured Holy Spirit.  But this is not quite what the text says, and we would be mistaken if we reduced Pentecost to a ‘praise party’.  To ‘declare the wonders of God’ is tell of his remarkable deeds, and that is precisely what Peter will do presently, reverting to his own language.   The works of God are certainly praiseworthy, Psa 78:4, but they elicit conviction and contrition (Acts 2:37) as well as joy.

Peter reverted to his own native language when preaching. Incidentally, Acts 14:8-20 relates a story in which the evangelists had to overcome a barrier of human language without divine intervention.

‘This multilingual witness coheres with the universal offer of salvation in the church’s message and its consequent worldwide mission. It also highlights the church’s multicultural character. God affirms people as cultural beings. As many a Bible translator knows, our native language and culture is natural, necessary and welcome to us as the air we breathe. No wonder that when persons receive a Scripture portion in their own language, they rejoice: “God speaks my language!”‘ (IVP Commentary)

“What does this mean?” – ‘How should we respond to the work of the Spirit in our midst? We must avoid the mockery of the scoffer who explains everything in empirical terms. We must be open to a divinely given explanation. The mixed reaction of the Pentecost crowd also teaches us that 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.”‘ (IVP Commentary, quoting Longenecker)

‘If you want to get a crowd into your churches, pray for revival!  Because the moment a revival breaks out, the crowd will come, and, I assure you, it will not cost you a penny.’ (Lloyd-Jones, Revival, p208)

Some…made fun of them – treated them as a joke. So it is today, when the godly are treated as objects of ridicule by some sections of society (including the media). Let us be reminded not to set too much store by what worldly people think of us, since they have always failed to understand the ways of the Spirit, 1 Cor 1:18ff.

“They are drunk on new wine” – Although drunkenness was common among Greeks, it would have been a grievous accusation in Jewish Palestine, where it was regarded as obnoxious and sinful.

‘The “new wine” (Gk. gleúkos) of the Pentecost account (Acts 2:13) was the vintage of the recent harvest; the thrust of the taunt requires that it refer to wine that can cause intoxication.’ (ISBE, 2nd ed. art. ‘Wine’)

Peter’s Address on the Day of Pentecost, 14-36

2:14 But Peter stood up with the eleven, raised his voice, and addressed them: “You men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, know this and listen carefully to what I say.

Wiersbe points out that Peter explains three things in his sermon:-

  1. He explained what had happened: the Spirit had come, vv14-21.
  2. He explained how it had happened: Jesus was alive, vv22-35.
  3. He explained why it had happened: to save sinners, vv36-41.

Key Qualities of Peter’s Sermon

Kent Hughes indicates some of the greatness in Peter’s sermon:-It was great because it was simple. First, the apostle answered their question; second, he told them about Christ; third, he enlisted commitment. There was none of the stuffy obscurity that comes so easily to preachers. A. J. Gossip tells how he once heard the great Principal Rainy of New College, Edinburgh enthusiastically discussing a certain preacher’s scholarly sermons, when one of his friends asked: “Will the simple people to whom he preaches follow him at all?” “Well,” replied Rainy, “they will have the comfortable feeling that something very fine is going on.” [William Barclay, A Spiritual Biography (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1975), p. 84.] There was none of that with Peter’s Pentecost sermon. It was absolutely clear and simple. The preacher must not assume intelligibility and simplicity-he must fight for it.

The sermon was great because it was Scriptural. Peter’s message abounds with God’s Word. Notice verse 16 where he says, “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel” and in the following verses quotes Joe 2:28-32; or later, verse 25, where he says, “David said” and then quotes Psalms 16 and 110.

The sermon was great because it was Christ-centered. Look at verse 22, “Jesus of Nazareth,” verse 23, “this man,” verse 32, “This Jesus,” and verse 36, “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

The sermon was great because it was convicting. “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’.” (Acts 2:37)

The sermon was great because it was practical. It began by answering the question “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:12) and ended by answering the question “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)

The sermon was great because it was attention-getting and relevant. You would be amazed to know what a preacher can see from his pulpit! I had a couple in my last church who would go to sleep on the front row with their heads propped against one another and their mouths open. A preacher can see his people look at their watches. That does not bother me too much, but I know I am in trouble when people start shaking their watches. Peter got their attention and spoke to the point, saying in effect, “We are not drunk. We have not had anything to drink yet because on this Pentecost holiday we have not made our sacrifices. That is an hour away, and our main meal is two hours after that. We do not drink wine before a meal. How can you be so ridiculous?”

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven – ‘Perhaps the transformation of the disciples of Jesus is the greatest evidence of all for the resurrection, because it is entirely artless. They do not invite us to look at themselves, as they invite us to look at the empty tomb and the collapsed graveclothes and the Lord whom they had seen. We can see the change in them without being asked to look. The men who figure in the pages of the gospels are new and different men in the Acts. The death of their Master left them despondent, disillusioned, and near to despair. But in the Acts they emerge as men who hazard their lives for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and who turn the world upside down.’ (Stott, Authentic Christianity)

God can forgive and restore even me.  Consider Peter’s previous instability, his bravado and his denial of our Lord, Jn 18:15-18,25-27.  Yet Jesus had forgiven and restored him, John 21. The new Peter was humble, yet bold.  We ourselves may feel that we have made such bad mistake, done such wrong things, let the Lord down in so many ways, that he would never forgive and use us.  But God can change us, just as he changed Peter. (Life Application)

“Let me explain this to you” – The gift of tongues was not an evangelistic tool in itself, but a sign that needed explanation. Using this as a starting point, Peter moves on to the work of God symbolised in the miracle.

Assurance of the truth

Lloyd-Jones comments on the remarkable confidence that Peter now has concerning God’s truth.  ‘The church is given, as the result of this [outpouring of the Holy Spirit] great assurance concerning the truth.  She does not have to investigate the truth, or set up a commission to look into it, she is given an absolute certainty about it.’

‘Take Peter himself, look at the sermon which he preached on that occasion.  You see him expounding the Old Testament, showing the meaning of Joel’s’ prophecy.  He has an understanding which he had never had before…At last he has understood.  And here he is with his mind illuminated, [and] his heart moved…in this extraordinary sermon.

And this same confidence is a characteristics of revivals:

‘People have no doubt about these great things at such times, they know, and that is what they testify to.  In effect, this is what they say, “I believed on the Lord Jesus Christ for years, and yet i was assailed by doubts.  But from that moment I knew.  He told me that he loved me, and that he had given himself for me.”  their testimony is that they are more certain of him, and of God, and of the spiritual realm, than they are of anything else.’ (Revival, p204f)

The centrality of the resurrection

Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost is ‘wholly and entirely founded on the Resurrection. Not merely is the Resurrection its principal theme, but if that doctrine were removed there would be no doctrine left. For the Resurrection is propounded as being (1) the explanation of Jesus’ death; (2) prophetically anticipated as the Messianic experience; (3) apostolically witnessed; (4) the cause of the outpouring of the Spirit, and thus accounting for religious phenomena otherwise inexplicable; and (5) certifying the Messianic and Kingly position of Jesus of Nazareth. Thus the whole series of arguments and conclusions depends for stability entirely upon the Resurrection…Without it the substance of the apostolic witness would have disappeared.’ (W.J. Sparrow-Simpson, The Resurrection and Modern Thought, 230)

Clarity and confidence

We should not miss the clarity and confidence of Peter’s speaking now that the Holy Spirit had mastered him. ‘When the Spirit illuminates the heart, then a part of the man sees which never saw before; a part of him knows which never knew before, and that with a kind of knowing which the most acute thinker cannot imitate. He knows now in a deep and authoritative way, and what he knows needs no reasoned proof. His experience of knowing is above reason, immediate, perfectly convincing and inwardly satisfying.’ (A. W. Tozer)

A model sermon

Peter’s sermon may be regarded as, among other things, a model, with an introduction (vv14-21), in which Peter begins with the issue that brought the crowd together (cf. v11), and points out that their assumption (that the disciples were drunk) was incorrect, but that the event is explained by the prophecy of Joel 2. Then comes the main body, vv22-36, in which Peter provides some information about the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, in the light of Ps 16:8-11 and 110:1. However, Peter does not merely impart information: he draws a conclusion that demonstrates his hearers’ own involvement in salvation history, 2:36. Then Peter gives a practical application, encouraging his hearers to an active response, vv37-39. Luke notes, v40, that Peter used further arguments and exhortations.

2:15 In spite of what you think, these men are not drunk, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.

People would normally get drunk at night, at banquets. Cf. 1 Thess 5:7. Moreover, it was customary on feast days to fast for at least the first four hours, making drunkenness very unlikely.

2:16 But this is what was spoken about through the prophet Joel:
2:17 ‘And in the last days it will be,’ God says,
‘that I will pour out my Spirit on all people,
and your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
and your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
2:18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
2:19 And I will perform wonders in the sky above
and miraculous signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and clouds of smoke.
2:20 The sun will be changed to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the great and glorious day of the Lord comes.
2:21 And then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

Cf. Joe 2:28. ‘Joel used the imagery of the vivifying impact of a Near Eastern torrential downpour on parched earth to picture the generosity, finality and universality of the Spirit’s coming. And Peter declares that this is now happening before the very eyes and in the very hearing of his audience. In contrast to the selective and occasional outpouring of the Spirit on king and prophet in the Old Testament time of promise, (1 Sam 10:10; 16:14; Eze 11:5) here the Spirit comes without regard to age, sex, social status or, as Acts 2:39 indicates, ethnic origin.’ (IVP Commentary)

We can discern the following elements of fulfilment: the inauguration of the ‘last days’; the miracle-working powers of Christ and his apostles; the heavenly portents at the time of the crucifixion; the call to repentance; the offer of salvation; the applicability of the gospel to all classes; and the worldwide success of the missionary impulse. There seems no biblical or theological reason to limit the wonder-working aspect of Joel’s prophecy to the day of Pentecost, for as F.F. Bruce points out:- ‘Luke probably sees in these words an adumbration of the worldwide Gentile mission, even if Peter himself did not realise their full import when he quested them on the day of Pentecost. Certainly the outpouring of the Spirit on a hundred and twenty Jews could not in itself fulfil the prediction of such outpouring “upon all flesh;” but was the beginning of the fulfilment.’ (The Book of the Acts, 68)

‘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.’ (MHC)

‘Not everything mentioned in Joe 2:28,29 was happening that particular morning. The “last days” include all the days between Christ’s first and second comings, and is another way of saying “from now on.” “The great and glorious day of the Lord” (Acts 2:20) denotes the whole Christian age. Even Moses yearned for the Lord to put his Spirit on everyone. (Num 11:29) At Pentecost the Holy Spirit was released throughout the entire world-to men, women, slaves, Jews, Gentiles. Now everyone can receive the Spirit. This was a revolutionary thought for first-century Jews.’ (Life Application)

“In the last days” – ‘The quotation is from the Greek Old Testament text of Joe 2:28-32 (3:1-5). Peter’s use of the words “in the latter days” (cf. Isa 2:2; Ho 3:5; Mic 4:1; 1 Tim 4:1; 2 Tim 3:1; 1 Pet 1:20; 1 Jn 2:18) makes explicit that Joel is referring to the last times promised by God. Peter interprets Joel’s words as referring to the new covenant in contrast to the former days of the old covenant.’ (Heb 8:7 9:1) (New Geneva)

“I will pour out my Spirit on all people” – Stott comments on the expression ‘pour out’: ‘The picture is probably of a heavy tropical rainstorm, and seems to illustrate the generosity of God’s gift of the Spirit (neither a drizzle nor even a shower but a downpour), its finality (for what has been “poured out” cannot be gathered again) and its universality (widely distributed among the different groupings of humankind).’

‘Because of Peter’s Jewish mindset and his subsequent failure to embrace the Gentile mission immediately, some commentators argue that Peter’s and his audience’s understanding of all people here and all who are afar off in Acts 2:39 must be limited to Jews in Palestine and the diaspora (Haenchen 1971:179, 184; Longenecker 1981:286). Longenecker suggests that Luke, with his interest in the Gentile mission, reads into Peter’s words more than was there. Instead of pitting Luke against Peter, it is better to understand Peter as speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit of an ethnically indiscriminate outpouring, which he and the Jewish Christians only gradually realized was the foundation for the Gentile mission (Acts 10:28, 34-36). In his commission Jesus had laid the groundwork for the mission to the Gentiles to (Lk 24:47) all nations”).’ (IVP Commentary)

‘Pentecost was a missionary event. It was the fulfilment of God’s promise through the prophet Joel to pour out his Spirit “on all people,” irrespective of their race, sex, age or social standing. And the foreign languages which the disciples spoke (which seems clearly to have been what the “tongues” were, at least on the Day of Pentecost) were a dramatic sign of the international nature of the Messiah’s kingdom which the Holy Spirit had come to establish.’ (Stott, The Contemporary Christian, 330)

G.E. Ladd remarks that a scripture that originally referred to Israel is now applied to Jews and Gentiles alike.

“And they will prophesy” – this phrase in not found in the Joel passage. However, dreams and visions were regarded as prophetic activity, and so this expression underlines the point.

We might object that even in the NT prophecy was not a universal ministry within the church, 1 Cor 12:29. Stott answers: ‘If in is essence prophecy is God speaking, God making himself known by his Word, then certainly the Old Testament expectation was that in New Covenant days the knowledge of God would be universal, and the New Testament authors declare that this has been fulfilled through Christ. In this sense all God’s people are now prophets, just as all are also priests and kings…In fact, it is this universal knowledge of God through Christ by the Spirit which is the foundation of the universal commission to witness (Acts 1:8). Because we know him, we must make him known.’ We might add, that all of this underscores the idea of every-member ministry, and militates against the clericalism which has so frequently blighted the church and paralysed its activitiies.

“Blood, fire and billows of smoke” – is the language of war.

The sun will be turned to darkness Colin Humphries argues that if this part of the quotation from Joel is intended to refer to the present, rather than to the future (he clearly has been applying the prophecy to the day of Pentecost, and the Crucifixion was only 50 days earlier) then this part of it it might be applicable to the darkening of the sun that took place while Jesus hung of the cross.

And the moon to blood – Humphries adduces evidence that suggests (although he does not claim that it proves) that this is descriptive of a lunar eclipse that quite possibly occurred on the night of Good Friday.

Peter breaks off his quote from Joel here, but resumes with the final line of Joel 2:32 (“as many as the Lord calls”) at the end of his sermon. (Acts 2:39) ‘Thus his sermon is a standard Jewish (midrashic) exposition of the last line he quoted, and answers the question: What is the name of the Lord on whom they are to call? In the Hebrew text, “Lord” here is the sacred name of God (Yahweh), which readers in the synagogue would pronounce as the word for “Lord” (Adonai); in the Greek text that Peter probably cites to communicate with hearers from many nations, it is simply the Greek word for “Lord,” but everyone would know that it means “God” here.’ (IVP NT Background Commentary)

2:22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man clearly attested to you by God with powerful deeds, wonders, and miraculous signs that God performed among you through him, just as you yourselves know—2:23 this man, who was handed over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you executed by nailing him to a cross at the hands of Gentiles. 2:24 But God raised him up, having released him from the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held in its power.
Peter’s testimony to Jesus

  1. His life and ministry, v22
  2. His death, v23
  3. His resurrection, vv24-32
  4. His exaltation, vv33-36
  5. His salvation, vv37-39
  6. His new community, vv40f.


“Jesus of Nazareth” – Although Peter had begun with a reference to the miracle of tongues, he quickly moves to the main focus of his sermon – Jesus.

“A man accredited by God to you” – Accustomed to the idea that a fact normally needed two witnesses to be established, Peter sets out two: the witness of the people themselves (“…as you yourselves know”) and that of Scripture.

“Handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge, and you…put him to death” – ‘Clear thinking about God’s involvement in the world-process and in the acts of rational creatures requires complementary sets of statements, thus: a person takes action, or an event is triggered by natural causes, or Satan shows his hand-yet God overrules. This is the message of the book of Esther, where God’s name nowhere appears. Again: things that are done contravene God’s will of command-yet they fulfill his will of events. (Eph 1:11) Again: humans mean what they do for evil-yet God who overrules uses their actions for good. (Ge 50:20; Acts 2:23) Again: humans, under God’s overruling, sin-yet God is not the author of sin; (Jas 1:13-17) rather, he is its judge.’ (J.I Packer, Concise Theology)

This verse sets forth clearly both the eternal purpose of God in the death of Christ (cf. Acts 3:18 13:29) and the culpability of the people responsible for his crucifixion. ‘Here we have the paradox of divine predestination and human free will in its strongest form.’ (Marshall) Cf. Rev 13:8 and its (mis)translation in the AV.

‘Nowhere is it taught in the Scriptures that God causes people to sin or that evil can be somehow turned into good or dialectically merged with good in such a way that it is neutralized or made necessary. Evil is always evil and, as such, can never be traceable to God. However, God is able to take the evil that human beings do and incorporate that into his plan in such a way that at no compromise to himself he is able to use it for his own good ends. The supreme example of this is the death of Jesus Christ for the salvation of the world. He was the lamb slain from the creation of the world (Rev 13:8) according to the set purpose and foreknowledge of God, (Acts 2:23) fulfilling the prophecies given by God of old. (Isa 53:4-10) Yet those who crucified Jesus were responsible for the evil that they had done, as indeed, is everyone who does evil. (Jas 1:13-17) The God who can take the worst that human beings can do and bring out of it the best that he can do is the God who works across the whole spectrum of human action, from good to neutral to unqualified evil, accomplishing his own good ends. God works his purposes sometimes by allowing evil to work itself out, (Hos 4:17; Acts 14:16; Rom 1:24,26,28) sometimes by directing evil, (Ge 45:8; Isa 10:5; Acts 4:27-28) yet at other times by limiting (Job 2:6; Ps 124:1-3; 1 Cor 10:13) or preventing evil from coming to full fruition. (Ge 20:6; Ho 2:6-7) There is unquestionably a great mystery here as to how a holy God who cannot even look upon evil (Heb 1:13) can work his will through evil, but that he does it is the clear teaching of Scripture. If something could get outside the ultimate will of God, it would become a god unto itself and a rival to God. Such can never be the case. God alone is God; there is no other.’ (EDBT)

“Wicked men” anomos suggests not so much the wicked, as ‘those outside the law’, outsiders, Gentiles. Cf. Mk 10:33. Here, the reference is more specifically to the Romans who were implicated in Jesus’ death.

‘Some anti-Semites have used texts like 2:23 to attack Jewish people in general, but Peter’s critique of their corporate responsibility (cf. 2 Sam 12:9) is no harsher than that of Old Testament prophets (e.g., Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah), and cannot rightly be used as if it were.’ (NT Background Cmt’y)

God raised him from the dead – Human beings may have killed Jesus, but God brought him back to life.

Having released him from the pains of death – The expression means ‘birth pangs’. ‘In a remarkable mixed metaphor, death’s agony became its birth pangs: death was in labor and unable to hold back the “delivery” of Jesus.’ (IVP Commentary)

‘Peter began with a public proclamation of the resurrection at a time when it could be verified by many witnesses. This was a powerful statement, because many of the people listening to Peter’s words had been in Jerusalem 50 days earlier at Passover and may have seen or heard about the crucifixion and resurrection of this “great teacher.” Jesus’ resurrection was the ultimate sign that what he said about himself was true. Without the resurrection, we would have no reason to believe in Jesus.’ (1 Cor 15:14) (Life Application)

Don’t forget that Peter is still answering the question, ‘What does this (the outpouring of the Spirit) mean?’ His answer is that it is ‘the gift of Christ, and the product and proof of his resurrection and ascension.’ (MHC)

It was impossible for death to keep its hold on him – ‘Never did death meet with its over match before it met with Christ, and he conquering it for us, and in our names, rising as our representative, now every single saint triumphs over it as a vanquished enemy, 1 Cor 15:55.’ (Flavel, The Fountain of Life)

This passage has been used by anti-Semites to support their case. However, (a) the accusation is made by a Jew to Jews; (b) it is no harsher than the accusations frequently levelled by the OT prophets against some of their own people; (c) it does no in any way constitute an accusation against the Jews merely as a people, but as the perpetrators of a particular crime, a crime which was committed against the light of knowledge and privilege.
2:25 For David says about him,
‘I saw the Lord always in front of me,
for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken.
2:26 Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue rejoiced;
my body also will live in hope,
2:27 because you will not leave my soul in Hades,
nor permit your Holy One to experience decay.
2:28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of joy with your presence.’
Matthew Henry on Acts 2:25-28

The text quoted at large, (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, Jn 13:31,32 17:4,5.

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, (Ps 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, Lk 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, Lev 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.’

Vv25-28 quote Ps 16:8-11 in the LXX version, but with the last line of the psalm (‘pleasures at your right hand forever’) omitted.

Luke’s portrayal of the joyful faith of Jesus resembles the saying in Heb 12:2.

‘Peter now argues, based on Scripture, that Jesus’ resurrection is part of God’s saving plan. In verses 25-28 he introduces a quote from Ps 16:8-11 to explain Jesus’ resurrection as the fulfillment of prophecy about the Messiah (NIV does not translate the Greek, causal connector between verses 24 and 25). The psalmist declares that because of his ongoing relationship with the Lord God, he will not be shaken. This accords well with Luke’s portrayal of Jesus in his last hours (Lk 23:46/Ps 31:5; the cry of dereliction is absent-Mk 15:34/Ps 22:1). The psalmist expresses joyful confidence that his flesh (NIV body; Acts 2:26) will live in hope. He openly declares that there is no abandonment to Sheol or experience of decay, but rather the path of life and the joy of God’s presence forever.’ (IVP NT Cmt’y)

‘How is it possible to understand a first-person psalm attributed to David, in which he appears to speak of his protection from death, as a prophecy of the Messiah’s hope in a resurrection out of death? Peter comes to such an understanding by using two hermeneutical principles: literal interpretation and a messianic reading of first-person Davidic psalms. Thus David, “not as a mere person but David as the recipient and conveyor of God’s ancient but ever-renewed promise,” can predict the Messiah’s experience (Kaiser 1980:225). Pointing to the well-known (and still extant) tomb of David, Peter contends that David could not be talking about himself. By a process of elimination, then, someone else must qualify to experience the literal fulfillment of this promise. That someone is the Messiah. For David was a prophet. He had received the divinely sworn promise of an eternal reign for one of his descendants, who would be the Messiah.’ (2 Sam 7:12-13; Ps 132:12) (IVP NT Cmt’y)

‘How can a Messiah who suffers and dies also reign forever? (Ps 22:15-16) It is possible only if that Messiah rises from the dead. David was permitted to see ahead of time this vital stage in God’s process of redemption. So he could speak confidently of Messiah’s resurrection when he said that Messiah was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. (Acts 2:31) What a wise God to plan a path the Messiah would follow to effect salvation! What a merciful God to reveal a portion of that path to prophets, so that now, as we look back after the fulfillment, it all makes sense.’ (see 1 Pet 1:10-12) (IVP NT Cmt’y)

“Therefore…” – ‘The reason why he would exult or rejoice was, that he would be preserved amidst the sorrows that were coming on him, and could look forward to the triumph that awaited him. Thus Paul says, (Heb 12:2) that “Jesus-for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame,” etc. And throughout the New Testament, the shame and sorrow of his sufferings were regarded as connected with his glory and his triumph, Lk 24:26; Php 2:6-9; Eph 1:20,21. In this, our Saviour has left us an example, that we should walk in his steps. The prospect of future glory and triumph should sustain us amid all afflictions, and make us ready, like him, to lie down amid even the corruptions of the grave.’ (Barnes)

‘My body also will live in hope’ – This testifies to a physical resurrection for Christ; this has enormous implications for our physical existence in the present world and for our own bodily resurrection at the last day.

‘You will not abandon me to the grave’ – lit. ‘hades‘, corresponding to the Heb ‘sheol‘, the place of the departed.

Did Jesus ‘descend to hell’?

The English version of the credal statement, ‘He descended into hell’ is misleading, ‘for “hell” has changed its sense since the English form of the Creed was fixed. Originally, “hell” meant the place of the departed as such, corresponding to the Greek Hades and the Hebrew Sheol. That is what it means here, where the Creed echoes Peter’s statement that Ps 16:10 “thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades” (so RSV: AV has “hell”), was a prophecy fulfilled when Jesus rose. (see Acts 2:27-31) But since the seventeenth century “hell” has been used to signify only the state of final retribution for the godless, for which the New Testament name is Gehenna. What the Creed means, however, is that Jesus entered, not Gehenna, but Hades-that is, that he really died, and that it was from a genuine death, not a simulated one, that he rose.’

(Packer, Growing in Christ)

‘Will not let your Holy one see decay’ – ‘The question that Peter asked was, ‘Who is this Holy one?’ The audience’s answer was likely to be, ‘David himself’, to which Peter’s objection is without answer: David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. Rather, Peter argued, David, who was a prophet, was speaking about the Messiah who would not remain in a tomb but would be resurrected.’ (NBC)

‘Once again there is the David-typology (Acts 2:25-28, citing Ps 16:8-11). But here these is also a small sample of apostolic reasoning in this regard. Although it is possible to read 2:27 as David’s conviction that God will not, at that point, let him die, the language is so extravagant, and David’s typological role to common, that Peter insists the words point to something more: a greater than David will quite literally not be abandoned in the grave, and will not be permitted to experience decay. David, after all, was a prophet. Whether in this case, like Caiaphas, Jn 11:50-52, David spoke better than he knew, at least he knew that God had promised “on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne,” Acts 2:20.’ (Carson, For the love of God, I)

2:29 “Brothers, I can speak confidently to you about our forefather David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.

‘Peter argues that the psalm cannot refer to David, because David did see corruption (rot). (A tomb in David’s honor had been dedicated outside Jerusalem, along with one of Huldah the prophetess.) Rather, the psalm refers to David’s ultimate descendant, whom everyone agreed to be the Messiah (the anointed king), by definition (Acts 2:30; Ps 132:11; cf. Ps 89:3-4).’ (NT Backround Cmt’y)

‘It is implicit in Peter’s argument that when Jesus was seen by his followers as raised from the dead, it was his actual physical body that had been raised (so that his tomb was left empty) and exempted from physical decay. That is to say, what the psalm said is seen to fit what was known about Jesus by actual observation: he came alive after dying, and his body evidently had not decayed.’ (Marshall, Commentary on NT Use of OT).

2:30 So then, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, 2:31 David by foreseeing this spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did his body experience decay.

He was a prophet – On Messianic prophecies in the Psalms, see Ps 22:1 / Mt 27:46; Lk 24:44; Ps 22:18 / Mt 27:35; Ps 69:21 / Mt 27:34,48; Ps 69:26 / Acts 1:20.

“God had promised him on oath” – An allusion to Psa 132:12.  See also 2 Sam 7:12-13; Psa 89:3–4, 35–37.

Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ – David did not consciously speak of the resurrection of Jesus. His words were fulfilled in a way he could never have dreamt of. Yet in one respect Peter’s interpretation is true to David’s original intention: God, and not death, has the final word.’ (Beasley-Murray, The Message of the Resurrection, 175)

What was Peter’s purpose in citing this psalm?  Marshall (Commentary on NT Use of OT) quotes Dupont:

‘It is often asserted that Peter desires to prove that Jesus has really risen from the dead, but that is obviously inaccurate, for Peter presupposes the resurrection as a datum of faith. What Peter wishes to establish is rather the fact that Jesus, having really risen from the dead, is truly the Messiah of which the psalm speaks.… The resurrection owes its value as a sign precisely to the oracle of the psalm which announced that the Christ would rise.’

2:32 This Jesus God raised up, and we are all witnesses of it.
2:33 So then, exalted to the right hand of God, and having received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he has poured out what you both see and hear.

As Bruce points out, this verse answers the question, ‘Where was he now, if he was risen from the dead?’

Even more than raising Jesus to life, never to die again, God has exalted him to a position of high authority, from which position he mediates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, (Jn 14:16,26 16:7) of which Peter’s hearers are now witnesses.

‘Only after his resurrection appearances are completed and Jesus has departed to reign in heaven can the Holy Spirit be given. (Acts 2:33) The Spirit is none other than the presence of Jesus, (Acts 16:7) albeit in another form. Some speak of the period after Jesus’ departure into heaven as “the age of the church,” but Luke would seem to suggest that it would be best described as “the age of the Spirit.”‘ (DJG)

‘Who who had earlier received the Spirit for the public discharge of his own messianic ministry had nw received the same Spirit to impart to his representatives on earth, in order that they might continue the ministry which he began. His present impartation of the Spirit to them, attended as it was by sensible signs, was a further open vindication of the claim that he was the exalted Messiah.’ (Bruce)

2:34 For David did not ascend into heaven, but he himself says,
‘The Lord said to my lord,
“Sit at my right hand
2:35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” ’

Cf. Our Lord’s own question about this verse, Lk 20:41-44 / Ps 110:1.

Acts 2:36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

“Let all Israel be assured of this” – Interesting contrast to the ‘Messianic secret’ of the Gospels! ‘They were charged to tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ till after his resurrection; (Mt 16:20 17:9) but now it must be proclaimed on the housetops, to all the house of Israel.’ (MHC)

“This Jesus, whom you crucified” – Cf. Acts 3:13ff. See also Jn 1:11. ‘The sting is in the tail’ (Bengel). Many of Peter’s hearers were implicated in the death of Jesus by at least tacitly agreeing with the decision of their leaders to put him to death.

I was there

Is there a sense in which the evangelist today can say, “This Jesus, whom you crucified…?” Cf. the following:-

Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon you?
It is my treason, Lord, that has undone you;
And I, O Jesus, it was I denied you,
I crucified you.

(From the hymn, Ah, Holy Jesus)

‘Twas I that shed the sacred blood;
I nailed him to the tree;
I crucified the Christ of God;
I joined the mockery.

Of all that shouting multitude
I feel that I am one;
And in that din of voices rude
I recognise my own.

Around the cross the throng I see,
Mocking the Suffer’s groan;
Yet still my voice it seems to be
As if I mocked alone.

(Horatius Bonar)

‘Jesus was executed by people painfully like us, in a society very similar to our own…by a corrupt church, a timid politician, and a fickle proletariat led by professional agitators.’ (Dorothy L. Sayers)

‘To prove to them merely that Jesus was the Messiah might have left them all unchanged in heart. But to convince them that he whom they had crucified had been by the right hand of God exalted, and constituted the “LORD” whom David in spirit adored, to whom every knee shall bow, and the CHRIST of God, was to bring them to “look on him whom they had pierced and mourn for him.”‘ (JFB)

‘Every mention of the crucifixion in Acts is instinct with a feeling of shuddering horror at the crime it was.’ (compare Acts 2:23; 3:13; 4:10; 5:30) (Daily Study Bible)

See in this verse two widely different estimates of Jesus: a common criminal, and Christ the Lord; two different treatments of him: theirs, and God’s.

‘Sin is not weakness, it is not a disease; it is red-handed rebellion against God and the magnitude of that rebellion is expressed by Calvary.’ (Oswald Chambers)

Many of the individuals listening to Peter might have argued, ‘But I was not there when he was crucified. I did not shout for him to be killed. I did not nail him to the cross.’ But they still share in a corporate responsibility for the death of Jesus (“Let all Israel be assured of this”). And so do we.

‘This blaming of the Jewish people for the crucifixion of Jesus is extremely unfashionable today. Indeed, if it is used as a justification for slandering and persecuting the Jews (as it has been in the past), or for anti-semitism, it is absolutely indefensible. The way to avoid anti-semitic prejudice, however, is not to pretend that the Jews were innocent, but, having admitted their guilt, to add that others shared in it. This was how the apostles saw it. Herod and Pilate, Gentiles and Jews, they said, had together ‘conspired’ against Jesus. (Acts 4:27) More importantly still, we ourselves are also guilty. If we were in their place, we would have done what they did. Indeed, we have done it. For whenever we turn away from Christ, we “are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” (Heb 6:6) we too sacrifice Jesus to our greed like Judas, to our envy like the priests, to our ambition like Pilate. “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” the old negro spiritual asks. And we must answer, “Yes, we were there.” Not as spectators only but as participants, guilty participants, plotting, schemeing, betraying, bargaining, and handing him over to be crucified. We may try to wash our hands of responsibility like Pilate. But our attempt will be as futile as his. For there is blood on our hands. Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us (leading us to faith and worship), we have to see it as something done by us (leading us to repentance). Indeed, “only the man who is prepared to own his share in the guilt of the cross,” wrote Canon Peter Green, “may claim his share in its grace”.’ (Stott, The Cross of Christ, 59f).

Every attack on the cause of Christ, is an attack on Christ himself, Acts 9:4.

2:36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know beyond a doubt that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.”

“God has made this Jesus…both Lord and Christ” – Cf. Acts 4:11-12; 5:30. ‘That is, that God the Father had not only constituted and appointed Jesus of Nazareth to be the Messiah, the Lord of lords, and King of kings, and had invested him with that office, power, and authority, but he had made him manifest to be so by the Holy Spirit which he had received, and now poured forth the same, and not another; even him whom they had rejected with so much contempt; whom they had treated in such a scornful and brutish manner; had spit upon, buffeted, and scourged, and at last crucified; and yet, now, even he had all power in heaven, and in earth, given him, and was exalted above every name; that in his name every knee should bow.’ (Gill)

God declared Jesus’ Messiahship at his baptism, (Mt 3:17; Mt 17:5; Mk 9:7; Lk 9:35; 2 Pet 1:17) and confirmed it by his resurrection. (cf. Rom 1:4) ‘The first apostolic sermon leads up to the first apostolic creed: “Jesus is Lord” (cf. Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 12:3; Php 2:11) – “Lord not only as the bearer of a courtesy title, but as bearer of “The name which is above every name”.’ (Php 2:9) (F.F. Bruce)

‘In Luke’s and Peter’s view, this Christology does not present Jesus as the adopted Son of God. Rather, by his resurrection and exaltation Jesus is able to function as Lord and Christ in a way he had not before. Now from heaven he dispenses salvation blessings and directs the church’s mission. There is no change in his nature. He had always been divine Lord and promised Christ, as Luke declares in the account of his birth.’ (Lk 2:11) (IVP Commentary)

‘It is very hard for us to grasp, let alone to feel, how completely the verdict seemed to have gone against Jesus when he died, and how in consequence the apostles’ past hopes had been extinguished. Jesus had been condemned in a Jewish court for blasphemy by duly authorised legal procedures. He was then sentenced and executed for sedition by the Romans. Worse, he had been “hanged on a tree” and therefore (according to Deut 21:22f) had died under the curse of God. After that, he was taken down from the cross and buried, which was the final touch in disposing of him. The public rejection of Jesus could not have been more thorough. At every dimension he was finished – judicial, political, spiritual and physical. Religion, law, God, man and death had all conspired to wipe him off the face of the earth. It was all over now. The verdict was as decisive as it could possibly have been. No power on earth could ever rescue or reinstate him.

But the apostles had left out of account the resurrection power of God. Small wonder that their earliest proclamation could be summarised in the words, “you killed him, but God raised him.” And in raising him, God reversed the verdict which had been pased on him…In other words, by raising Jesus, God was making a declaration about him, and in particular was turning all human opinions about him upside down. Condemned for blasphemy, he was now designated Son of God by the resurrection. Executed for sedition, for claiming to be a king, God made him “both Lord and Christ.” Hanged on a tree under the curse of God, he was vindicated as the Saviour of sinners, the curse he bore being due to us and not to him.’  (Stott, Authentic Christianity, 60)

We are accustomed to think of the resurrection of Christ as good news. But it is here perceived as a fearful threat, as is evidenced by the reaction of the hearers in v37. To realise that the one you have had a hand in murdering now sits at the right hand of the majesty on high is not a comforting thought! On this, cf. Acts 17:31.

The Response to Peter’s Address, 37-41

2:37 Now when they heard this, they were acutely distressed and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “What should we do, brothers?”

They were cut to the heart – Cf. Ps 51:17; Joe 2:13; Zec 12:10; Heb 4:12-13. They were not only convinced, but convicted. This is the stabbing pain of guilt. They found the charge unanswerable. Such conviction is a work of the Holy Spirit, Jn 16:8-11. It is not only that they are guilty of murder, but that they have (it seems) destroyed their only hope of salvation. Their alarm can only have been compounded by the assurance that the Messiah they had executed had come back to life and had been exalted to the highest position of divine authority. Were they doomed to suffer the wrath of God on his day of judgement, 2:20? Were they to be numbered among the ‘enemies’ (v35) whom the Messiah would overcome and put under his feet?

‘People are driven from the church not by stern truth that makes them uneasy, as by weak nothings that make them contemptuous.’

‘Modern preachers are trying to bring men into the Church without requiring them to relinquish their pride; they are trying to help men avoid the conviction of sin.’ (Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, 68)

The faithful presentation of the gospel does not guarantee a successful reception. On this occasion, 3,000 were converted. But in Acts 5:30, we see that the same message led to a furious rejection. See Acts 7:54 for another negative reaction.

They…said to Peter and the other apostles – ‘Ministers are spiritual physicians; they should be advised with by those whose consciences are wounded; and it is good for people to be free and familiar with those ministers, as men and their brethren, who deal for their souls as for their own.’ (MHC)

“What shall we do?” – ‘It was very strange that such impressions should be made upon such hard hearts all of a sudden. They were Jews, bred up in the opinion of the sufficiency of their religion to save them, had lately seen this Jesus crucified in weakness and disgrace, and were told by their rulers that he was a deceiver. Peter had charged them with having a hand, a wicked hand, in his death, which was likely to have exasperated them against him; yet, when they heard this plain scriptural sermon, they were much affected with it. ‘ (MHC)

‘This is that beautiful spirit of genuine compunction and childlike docility, which, discovering its whole past career to have been one frightful mistake, seeks only to be set right for the future, be the change involved and the sacrifices required what they may.’ (JFB) Cf. Acts 16:30.

‘We have seen the wonderful effect of the pouring out of the Spirit, in its influence upon the preachers of the gospel. Peter, in all his life, never spoke at the rate that he had done now, with such fulness, perspicuity, and power. We are now to see another blessed fruit of the pouring out of the Spirit in its influence upon the hearers of the gospel. From the first delivery of that divine message, it appeared that there was a divine power going along with it, and it was mighty, through God, to do wonders: thousands were immediately brought by it to the obedience of faith; it was the rod of God’s strength sent out of Zion, Ps 110:2,3. We have here the first-fruits of that vast harvest of souls which by it were gathered in to Jesus Christ. Come and see, in these verses, the exalted Redeemer riding forth, in these chariots of salvation, conquering and to conquer, Rev 6:2.’ (MHC)

‘What will it take today to bring people to their knees-beyond admitting their anxiety (the awareness that something is wrong) to facing their guilt (the recognition that someone is wrong)? The sin of people today put Jesus to death just as surely as the sinful hatred of first-century people. This fact leaves no room for anti-Semitism. With Peter’s first audience, we must return to the scene of the crime, the cross. We must face up to our guilt before almighty God, the Judge. We must throw ourselves on his mercy, asking, What shall we do?’ (IVP NT Commentary)

‘No way of being happy but by seeing ourselves miserable. When we find ourselves in danger of being lost for ever, there is hope of our being made for ever, and not till then.’ (MHC)

‘Conversion is a work of argument, for the judgement is gained by the truth. It is a work of conviction, for the awakened are pricked in their hearts. It is a work of enquiry, for they ask, “What must we do to be saved?” And, lastly, it is a work of comfort, for its subjects have received remission of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost.’ (Joseph Sutcliffe)

2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 2:39 For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far away, as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.”

‘Sinners convinced must be encouraged; and that which is broken must be bound up; (Eze 34:16) they must be told that though their case is sad it is not desperate, there is hope for them. ‘ (MHC)

“Repent and be baptized” – ‘Because baptism was a sign of conversion to Judaism normally reserved for pagans, Peter’s demand would offend his Jewish hearers and cost them respectability. He calls for a public, radical testimony of conversion, not a private, noncommittal request for salvation with no conditions. “In the name of Jesus Christ” distinguishes this sort of baptism, requiring faith in Christ, from other ancient baptisms; this phrase simply means that the person being baptized confesses Christ. (Acts always uses this phrase with “be baptized”-the passive, never the active; it does not denote a formula said over the person being baptized, but rather indicates the confession of faith of the person receiving baptism; see 2:21 and 22:16.)’ (NT Background Cmt’y)

‘Repentance is not basically a religious word. It comes from a culture where people were essentially nomadic and lived in a world with no maps or street signs. It’s easy to get lost walking through the desert. You become aware that the countryside is strange. You finally say to yourself, I’m going in the wrong direction. That’s the first act of repentance.

The second act of repentance is to go in an alternate direction. It implies that you not only do this but you admit it to your companions. We all do this whether or not we realize it.’-Gordon MacDonald

Notice that repentance is not the same as being cut to the heart; a sense of guilt is not the same as the exercise of saving faith.

‘This phrase is the subject of endless controversy as men look at it from the standpoint of sacramental or of evangelical theology.’ (RWP)

‘It would, of course, be a mistake to link the words “unto the remission of your sins” with the command “be baptised” to the exclusion of the prior command “Repent ye.” It is against the whole genius of Biblical religion to suppose that the outward rite had any value except in so far as it was accompanied by true repentance within…The reception of the Spirit here is associated not with baptism in itself but with baptism as the visible token of repentance.’ (Bruce)

The connection of baptism with the forgiveness of sins has already occurred in Luke-Acts, for in Lk 3:3 the author has already mentioned “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (so also Mt 3:6,11 Mk 1:4). 1 Pet 3:21 seems to go even further in linking baptism with salvation.

Baptism is the pledge and public declaration of repentance and faith. It functions somewhat like a marriage ceremony. By baptism they swear allegiance to the one they had formerly despised.

Faith, the corollary of repentance, is mentioned in v44.

“In the name of Jesus Christ” – ‘”by his authority, acknowledging his claims, subscribing to his doctrine, engaging in his service, and relying on his merits.” (J.A. Alexander) In the name of the one they had so cruelly murdered!

“The forgiveness of sins” – If the sin of murdering the Son of God can be so readily forgiven, then so can any other sin!

A well-known agnostic exclaimed, not long before her death, “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me.”

“The gift of the Holy Spirit” – i.e., the Holy Spirit himself, who regenerates, indwells, unites, and transforms lives. They would receive the same gift that had been bestowed on the apostles not more than an hour or two earlier. As Bruce points out, ‘we must distinguish between the gift of the Spirit from the gifts of the Spirit’. All the fruit and gifts of the Spirit flow from this one great gift. The gift of the Spirit ‘may comprehend a variety of gifts of the Spirit, but first and foremost “the saving benefits of Christ’s work as applied to the believer by the Spirit”.’ (Bruce, quoting Stonehouse)

‘There is no suggestion here that the reception of the Spirit by those who believed was conditional upon their having apostolic hands laid upon them. To be sure, in such a brief summary various details would inevitably be left out; but if Luke did believe that the laying on of hands was an indispensable prerequisite for the bestowal of the Spirit (as some have precariously inferred from 8:16, it is remarkable that he has nothing to say about in in this Pentecostal narrative.’ (Bruce)

“The promise” – made by Jesus, Acts 1:4, and foretold by Joe 2:18.

“You and your children and for all who are far off” – i.e., to Jews near and far. Also included, possibly, is the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles. Cf. Acts 1:8 Eph 2:13-19. There are allusions also to Isa 57:19 & Joe 2:32. ‘It may be doubted how clearly Peter grasped the significance of these words for he will have trouble over this very matter on the housetop in Joppa and in Caesarea, but he will see before long the full sweep of the great truth that he here proclaims under the impulse of the Holy Spirit.’ (RWP)

“All whom the Lord our God will call” – picks up the quotation from Joel (2:32) which was left at v21

This verse defines the scope of the promise recorded in v38, and suggests that the promise is directly applicable to all peoples in all ages (including our own). If so, then we should not shrink from advertising the promise at all times and in all places.

2:40 With many other words he testified and exhorted them saying, “Save yourselves from this perverse generation!”

With many other words – showing that Luke does not pretend to report all that Peter said. ‘Ancient writers never recorded speeches verbatim…; they took notes if they were present, got the gist and were guided by their knowledge (when available) of the speechmaker’s style and proper speechmaking technique. Historians sometimes fabricated speeches (as Josephus does for a speech at Masada with no surviving witnesses) but used the basic thrust of the speech when data about it was available. Luke’s editing brings out some consistent themes in the apostolic-proclamation speeches in Acts, but we may also be confident that they reflect the substance of messages given on those occasions, to which Luke should have had access. Acts’ speeches are significant for the book’s purpose; they make up roughly one-fourth of the book.’ (IVP NT Background Commentary)

“Save yourselves from this corrupt generation” – ‘as if Peter already foresaw the hopeless impenitence of the nation at large, and would have his hearers hasten in for themselves and secure their own salvation.’ (JFB)

“Corrupt” – Gk ‘skolias‘, opposite of ‘orthos‘, straight.

“”Perverse generation” is an Old Testament phrase for the people of Israel who rebelled against God in the wilderness (Deut 32:5) and is applied in the New Testament to those who reject Jesus (Php 2:15; cf. Lk 9:41; 11:29; Heb 3:10).’ (Marshall)

‘They looked on the nation of Israel as a “crooked generation” that was under condemnation. (Mt 16:4; 17:17; Php 2:15) Actually, the nation would have about forty years before Rome would come and destroy the city and the temple and scatter the people. History was repeating itself. During the forty years in the wilderness, the new generation “saved itself” from the older generation that rebelled against God. ‘ (Wiersbe)

2:41 So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added.

Baptized – only after receiving the word and being converted. It is not explicitly stated that these baptisms all took place on the same day, but the numerous pools in Jerusalem would mean that this would have been quite possible.

The context implies that the three thousand converts also received the Holy Spirit. No attention is drawn, however, to any outward signs of this.

About three thousand were added – in addition to the 120 already enlisted. This was ‘a much larger company won in a single day that Jesus had secured to his allegience in two or three years of public ministry. No wonder that he told his disciples that, as a result of his returning to his Father, they would perform greater works than they had ever seen him do.’ (Jn 14:12) (Bruce)

‘Those who are joined to Christ are added to the disciples of Christ, and join with them. When we take God for our God, we must take his people to be our people. ‘ (MHC)

‘The missionary movement can be said to have begun at Pentecost. Jesus had promised his followers that they would receive power and so become his witnesses. Pentecost’s three thousand or so converts are a reminder that mission is about salvation from sin, making disciples and building churches.’ (Peter Cottrell)

Fact, doctrine and gospel

‘It is not enough to ‘proclaim Jesus’. For there are many different Jesuses being presented today. According to the New Testament gospel, however, he is historical (he really lived, died rose and ascended in the arena of history), theological (his life, death, resurrection and ascension all have saving significance) and contemporary (he lives and reigns to bestow salvation on those who respond to him). Thus the apostles told the same story of Jesus at three levels—as historical event (witnessed by their own eyes), as having theological significance (interpreted by the Scriptures), and as contemporary message (confronting men and women with the necessity of decision). We have the same responsibility today to tell the story of Jesus as fact, doctrine and gospel.’ (Stott)

The Fellowship of the Early Believers, 42-47

2:42 They were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

No doubt the 3,000 new converts were caught up in the emotion and drama of the occasion. And yet the first thing that is said of them is, they devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching.

Fellowship – Gk koinoniai = partner, sharer in a common interest. This involves, inter alia, participating in the blood of Christ, Php 2:1, co-operating in the work of the gospel, Php 1:5, and contributing for those in need, 2 Cor 8:4; 9:13. We might say that it involves sharing in a common life and a sharing out to those in need. Whether on this occasion its usage includes the idea of almsgiving is disputed by scholars.

‘Other views which have been offered to explain this reference are an allusion to the Lord’s Supper; a technical expression for having a community of goods as in Acts 2:44; 4:32, as C. E. B. Cranfield takes it; Anderson Scott’s view that the term he koinonia = the fellowship) is the translation of a special Heb. word meaning a religious society within Judaism; a recent proposal of J. Jeremias that Acts 2:42 lists, in its four notes of the church’s corporate life, the liturgical sequence of early Christian worship, in which case koinonia may be an allusion to the offering; and the view that koinonia describes the inward spiritual bond which joined the early Jerusalem brotherhood and which expresses itself in the outward acts of a pooling of material resources.’ (NBD)

‘You will find that when God sends revival you do not have to exhort people to come together to worship, and to praise, and to consider the word, they insist upon it.  They come night after night, and they may stay for hours, even until the early hours of the morning.  This will go on night after night for months exactly as happened here at the beginning.  They met daily.  They could not keep away from one another.’ (Lloyd-Jones, Revival, p207)

2:43 Reverential awe came over everyone, and many wonders and miraculous signs came about by the apostles.

Note the following features of the Christian church in that dramatic period following Pentecost. First, he says, ‘It was a steadfast church’. Second, ‘They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and the apostles’ fellowship’. Third, ‘It was a prayerful church’. Fourth, ‘It was an overflowing church’; they overflowed in liberality and also in praise. Fifth, ‘It was a powerful church’ – powerful in its Gospel presentation, and powerful in holiness.

2:44 All who believed were together and held everything in common, 2:45 and they began selling their property and possessions and distributing the proceeds to everyone, as anyone had need.

Together – together in the same place, as in Acts  2:1.

Had everything in common – This unusual arrangement is mentioned against in Acts 4:32-37 but nowhere else.  It appears to have been due to the special conditions which obtained at that time.  We are not to deduce from this a pattern for all Christians to follow, and that private property is forbidden to Christians.  ‘Certainly the generosity and mutual care of those early Christians are to be followed, for the New Testament commands us many time sto love and serve one another, and to be generous (even sacrificial) in our giving.  But to argue from the practice of the early Jerusalem church that all private ownership is abolished among Christians not only cannot be maintained from Scripture but is plainly contradicted by the apostle Peter in the same context, Acts 5:4 and by the apostle Paul elsewhere, 1 Tim 6:17.’ (Stott, Baptism and Fullness, 16)

2:46 Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the temple courts, breaking bread from house to house, sharing their food with glad and humble hearts, 2:47 praising God and having the good will of all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number every day those who were being saved.

Sincere – Gk apheloteti, from a word which means ‘free from rock, smooth’.

Praising God – ‘That is how the Christian church is meant to be.  Great joy, great praise to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to God, glorying in this great salvation, in the new life they have received, and in this sense of heaven.’ (Lloyd-Jones, Revival, p206)

And the Lord added – If only more would be added to churches; and if only all those were added by the Lord!

‘The gathered body is itself, even apart from its teaching and preaching, an act of evangelism, a symbol, a demonstration to an unbelieving world that the good news has been communicated and has been received.’ (Acts 2:42-47) (Kenneth O. Gangel, Bib. Sac., 1985)

God’s vision for his church

  1. A learning church.  ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching’ (verse 42).  ‘One might say that the Holy Spirit opened a school in Jerusalem that day. The school teachers were the apostles, whom Jesus had appointed and trained, and there were three thousand pupils in the kindergarten!…Those new Spirit-filled converts were not enjoying a mystical experience which led them to neglect their intellect, despise theology or stop thinking…They did not suppose that, because they had received the Holy Spirit, he was the only teacher they needed, and they could dispense with human teachers.’
  2. A caring church.  ‘All the believers were together and had everything in common (koina). Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need’ (Acts 2:44–45).  Whereas Jesus called some to absolute poverty (Mk 10:21), it is clear that others retained their personal property (Acts 5:4).  But, for all of us, Christian love (Gal 5:22) gives us solidarity with the poor.
  3. A worshipping church. ‘They were devoting themselves…to the breaking of bread and to prayer.’ Their worship was both formal and informal, traditional and contemporary (‘in the temple courts’ and ‘from house to house’, v46).  It was also both joyful (v46) and reverent (v43).
  4. An evangelising church. ‘The Lord was adding to their number every day those who were being saved’, v47.  It was the Lord himself who did it, through his human agents.  He added then to the church: salvation and church membership go together.  And this was happening, not occasionally, but on a ‘daily’ basis.

At the heart of all this (writes Stott) are relationships: with the apostles and their teaching, with each other, in caring and sharing, with God, in worship, and with the world outside, in witness.

The Living Church: Convictions of a Lifelong Pastor, Ch. 1.