The Day of Pentecost: The Promise of the Spirit Fulfilled
Acts 2. In ch.1 we have a glorified man seated in heaven at God’s right hand. In ch.2 we have the Holy Spirit sent down. These two events are closely linked. The sending of the Holy Spirit was consequent on the glorification of Jesus at God’s right hand: “… the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus had not yet been glorified” (John 7:39). It would seem that the gift of the Spirit was in response to the Father’s satisfaction with the work of the cross (John 13:31-22). In other words, the Father was so delighted with the finished work of His Beloved Son, that He gave to Christ the promise of the Spirit, which He then sent down to the earth. The unity that was formed when the Holy Spirit was sent down on the Day of Pentecost was the union of believers one to another as members of the body of Christ, and the union of the members to their Head in heaven (Christ Himself). See 1 Cor. 12:12-13, Col. 1:18; 2:19. It was fitting then that before the body was formed on earth, the Head would be glorified in heaven! However, the knowledge of this was not yet known to the early Christians. In this chapter, we have the Holy Spirit sent down – the promised Comforter – and the immediate effects of it, especially in the speaking of tongues. Then we have Peter’s first sermon to the nation of Israel, which began as an explanation of what had happened. Finally, we have the aftermath of Peter’s preaching, and the continuance of the early believers after Pentecost.
- The Spirit Comes Down (2:1-4)
- The Public Witness of Tongues 2:5-13)
- Peter’s First Sermon (2:14-40)
- The Early Assembly (2:41-47)
The Spirit Comes Down (2:1-4)
1 And when the day of Pentecost was now accomplishing, they were all together in one place. v.1 The Day of Pentecost. Fifty days had now expired from the resurrection of Christ, which landed on the Feast of Firstfruits as His death had landed on Passover. This day was the Feast of Weeks, or as the Greek-speaking Jews called it, “Pentecost”. What transpired on this particular day was the fulfillment of that feast as a type (Lev. 23), which speaks of the formation of a new testimony on the earth. Two loaves were to be waved before the Lord, and “two” speaks of adequate testimony. Some have thought that the two loaves are Jews and Gentiles as two people-groups. However, we know from the New Testament teaching on the mystery that this subject of one body composed of Jews and Gentiles was hidden in ages past. The two loaves therefore represent the formation of a testimony on earth to the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Again, it is a meal offering (i.e. bread) so it speaks of life; here, the resurrection life of the believer. The bread was leavened because, as believers, we still have the principle of sin within us. But it was not a leavened lump (see 1 Cor. 5:6; Gal. 5:9) because it says “baked with leaven”. The heat of the oven has stopped the action of sin, similar to how the power of the Holy Ghost delivers the believer from indwelling sin. The believers were all together “in one place”. The Spirit came upon a company going on in happy unity, and gathered together for collective prayer! It was a unity in aim and purpose, proved by their actions, and it was an answer to the Lord’s own prayer: “that they may be one” (John 17:11).
2 And there came suddenly a sound out of heaven as of a violent impetuous blowing, and filled all the house where they were sitting. v.2 The Spirit Comes Among Them. The first indication of something happening was the sound of wind. It is interesting that the very word for ‘Spirit’ is ‘pneuma’ or breath, or wind. In John 3:8 the Lord Jesus likened the action of the Spirit of God to the wind. Here it was a sound “out of heaven”, showing that this was the Spirit descending from heaven. The Spirit “filled all the house where they were sitting”. This answers to the first aspect of the Spirit’s dwelling on earth. The Lord had told the disciples; “for he abides with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:17). Collectively, “he abides with you”. This refers to the collective indwelling of the Spirit, in which we are “an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22). It is because of this aspect of the Spirit’s presence that God inhabits the Church. While “all the house were they were sitting” (v.2) refers to the literal building, there was another house formed and filled with the Spirit at the same time: the house of God. Individually, “and shall be in you”. This refers to the individual indwelling of the Spirit, in which He comes to permanently dwell in the believer’s body. This is called the seal of the Spirit, the earnest of the Spirit, and the anointing of the Spirit. Both aspects are permanent, but v.2 describes the collective aspect and vv.3-4 describes the individual aspect.
3 And there appeared to them parted tongues, as of fire, and it sat upon each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave to them to speak forth. vv.3-4 The Spirit Comes to Indwell Them. When the Holy Spirit filled the house, a sign appeared over each of the believers that had the appearance of divided tongues. At the same time, the believers were all individually filled with the Spirit, and began to speak in other languages or tongues. The symbol that appeared was the clear sign that speaking in tongues was the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in power. The divided nature of the tongues showed that one message was spoken in multiple languages (v.6). It was not one universal language. The judgment at Babel was not removed, but God was going out in grace to meet man in his divided state. But the grace of God to man was with a reminder of God’s holiness; “as of fire”. This was done in an orderly way; “as the Spirit gave to them to speak forth”. The filling of the Spirit is when the Spirit of God is not only indwelling a person (which He does for every believer), but is also given complete control over the individual. Therefore, the filling of the Spirit is something that is mentioned in Ephesians 5:18 as something we are exhorted to do. Here, the believers were indwelt by the Spirit for the first time, and also filled with the Spirit!
Not the Baptism with Fire. Notice that Jesus said in the previous chapter “ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:4-5). He did not say they would be baptized with fire. Jesus will indeed baptize with fire, but that did not happen at Pentecost. The “parted tongues” were not actually fire, but “as of fire” they were divided in the same way flames divide. As the baptism with the Holy Ghost occurred in Acts 2 when the public testimony was fully surrounded by the Holy Ghost as a manifestation of God’s approval, in like manner the public testimony one day will be immersed in fire when it falls under God’s judgment. This will take place at the harvest judgment – just after the appearing – when the Son of Man will send His angels throughout the Christianized world to gather out all that offend. What remains of the Christian testimony after the rapture will be an empty, hollow profession. The Lord will judge that which professes His name; “he will throughly purge his floor” (Matt. 3:12). The great difference between the Baptism with the Holy Ghost and the Baptism with Fire is that only true believers were present at Pentecost, and only false professors will be taken at the harvest judgment. In both cases Jesus is the baptizer, but the two baptisms have very different characters.
Baptism of the Spirit. What is described in Acts 2:1-4 is later referred to as the baptism of the Spirit. Critical translations render 1 Cor. 12:13 as follows, “For also in the power of one Spirit we have all been baptised into one body”. They were all individual believers, and then when the Spirit came down, they were all assembled into one new thing; the body of Christ. The verb “are baptized” is in the aorist tense, which indicates that the baptism of the Spirit occurred once, and has never and will never be repeated. It happened once in Acts 2, and was consequently extended further to the Samaritans in Acts 8, and finally to the Gentles in Acts 10.
The Public Witness of Tongues 2:5-13)
5 Now there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, pious men, from every nation of those under heaven. 6 But the rumour of this having spread, the multitude came together and were confounded, because each one heard them speaking in his own dialect. 7 And all were amazed and wondered, saying, Behold, are not all these who are speaking Galilaeans? 8 and how do “we” hear them each in our own dialect in which we have been born, 9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and those who inhabit Mesopotamia, and Judaea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 both Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt, and the parts of Libya which adjoin Cyrene, and the Romans sojourning here, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabians, we hear them speaking in our own tongues the great things of God? 12 And they were all amazed and in perplexity, saying one to another, What would this mean? 13 But others mocking said, They are full of new wine. vv.5-13 God intended that the descent of the Spirit would take place at a time when a great number of people were at Jerusalem. The feast of weeks was one of the three pilgrimage feasts that every male in Israel was required to attend (Ex. 23:14-17). Not only Jews from Israel, but Jews “from every nation under heaven” were there, temporarily dwelling at Jerusalem during the feast. These were mostly Hellenized (Greek-speaking) Jews and proselytes (Gentiles converted to Judaism). The primary outward sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence on earth was speaking in tongues. This refers to the special ability given by the Spirit of God to speak in various languages that are foreign to the speaker. It is not simply to know many languages, but to speak other languages without knowing them. The Lord foretold that the apostles would have this ability (Mark 16:17), and we see it in action on the Day of Pentecost and afterward (Acts 2:4; 10:46; 19:6). While many of the brethren on the Day of Pentecost could speak in tongues, it is later seen as a special gift that only some had, and each had in a different measure (1 Cor. 14:18).
Scripture never indicates that speaking in tongues should result in gibberish. Here we see that tongues were always intelligible languages, or as 1 Cor. 14:10 says, that there are “many kinds of voices in the world, and none of undistinguishable sound”. It doesn’t say that many languages went out simultaneously, but from 1 Cor. 14 it would indicate that the languages and dialects (v.8) were one by one. It was not a miracle done in the ears of the hearer (or it would not be the gift of tongues), but rather in the tongue of the speaker. This ability allowed the apostles to speak “the great things of God” to many from foreign nations who were at the feast. It is a striking action of God’s grace in spite of the judgment at the Tower of Babel. Many were perplexed by this amazing display, and others mocked, suggesting that the apostles were drunk. Perhaps this is because they didn’t understand the languages and dialects other than their own, and therefore concluded that the apostles were intoxicated and uttering nonsense.
Peter’s First Sermon (2:14-40)
An Explanation of the Signs: Joel’s Prophecy (vv.14-21)
14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice and spoke forth to them, Men of Judaea, and all ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give heed to my words: 15 for these are not full of wine, as “ye” suppose, for it is the third hour of the day; vv.14-15 Peter Begins. As he had often taken the lead among the twelve while the Lord was here on earth, so now again Peter takes the lead among the eleven, but not apart from them; “Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice”. It is wonderful to see the results of Peter’s restoration. Only fifty days earlier he had failed grievously in denying his Lord. But now, he can address the nation of Israel with boldness and power; “Men of Judaea, and all ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give heed to my words”. Such was the effect of grace in Peter’s soul. First Peter calmly puts to rest the notion of the mockers that the apostles were drunk. It was not yet the third hour of the day (our 9:00 AM), and therefore it was completely illogical to suggest they were drunken. Further, though Peter did not say it, drunkenness does not result in order and clarity, as the speaking of tongues had done.
16 but this is that which was spoken through the prophet Joel, 17 “And it shall be in the last days, saith God, that 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 elders shall dream with dreams; 18 yea, even upon my bondmen and upon my bondwomen in those days will I pour out of my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will give wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: 20 the sun shall be changed to darkness and the moon to blood, before the great and gloriously appearing day of the Lord come. 21 And it shall be that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” [Joel 2:28-32] vv.16-21 An Explanation of the Signs: Joel’s Prophecy. To explain the miraculous signs that the men of Judea had seen, Peter quotes from the prophet Joel, where he prophesied that the Spirit would be poured out upon all flesh. Peter was showing that the reason for the signs was that the Holy Spirit had been sent! Now, some who fail to rightly divide the word of truth will say that the events of Acts 2 were the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. They use that argument to further posit that most or all of Old Testament prophecies concerning the salvation and restoration of Israel are fulfilled in a spiritual or allegorical sense in the Church. They point to v.16 where Peter says, “this is that which was spoken through the prophet Joel, etc.”. It is important to treat this passage and all scripture carefully. When Old Testament prophecies are quoted in the New, specific language is used when something is the actual fulfillment of the prophecy; e.g. “For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken” (John 19:36). But other times, and more often than not, other language is used to show that the actual fulfillment is not at hand, but an event that is of a similar character, such as a case in point; e.g. “And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced” (John 19:37). Read more…
This is the case here. Peter is showing that the Spirit being sent, and the result being signs, was not out of character, because God has promised that it will happen. If we examine Joel’s prophecy closely, we will see that the passage in question comes after the Lord delivers Israel by removing from them and destroying the northern army (the king of the north in Daniel 11), and then the Millennium is ushered in with fruitfulness over all the earth. Now, those prophetic events did not take place on or around the Day of Pentecost, nor were other parts of the passage fulfilled, such as “wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: the sun shall be changed to darkness and the moon to blood”. Clearly, Peter is not saying that what was seen with speaking in tongues, etc. was the actual fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. In fact, the outpouring of the Spirit that will happen in the Millennium will be of a different character. At Pentecost, the Spirit came down to individually and permanently indwell believers.
The Resurrection of Christ: Psalm 16 (vv.22-28)
22 Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus the Nazaraean, a man borne witness to by God to you by works of power and wonders and signs, which God wrought by him in your midst, as yourselves know v.22 Jesus’ Life: His Testimony. Peter now begins to give explanation for why the spirit was sent at this time. He speaks of Jesus the Nazarene, connecting Him with the despised city of Galilee. This is one of the things that the men of Israel stumbled at; the lowly birth and upbringing of Jesus. As he walked here below, Jesus did “works of power and wonders and signs” that showed that He was the Messiah. It was God working through Him in the very midst of Israel. Peter lays the fact before their minds and consciences; “as yourselves know”. The truth is, if the men of Israel were honest with themselves, they knew that God was approving Jesus by works that He did.
23 — him, given up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye, by the hand of lawless men, have crucified and slain. v.23 Jesus’ Death: Two Aspects. Peter spoke the of the death of Christ in two aspects. First, according to the sovereignty of God, Christ was “given up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God”. The death of Christ was predetermined by God in His eternal counsels, so that Christ might be the sin-bearer (1 Pet. 1:18). Second, according to man’s responsibility, it was the Jews who had the Lord Jesus crucified and put to death, even though they did it “by the hands of lawless men”; i.e. using the Romans to do the deed. Nationally, Israel is guilty of the death of their own Messiah. This is something that they, as a nation, will repent of in the future when they are restored to the Lord. Peter brings this in to convict the consciences of the people. The Spirit of God would uses this solemn fact, that the Jews killed their own Messiah, to prick many of the people’s hearts and turn them to God in repentance. Both sides of the death of Christ are true: (1) God determined it, and (2) man consciously acted. Although we cannot rationalize God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility in our minds, we know both are true. Why God in His sovereignty allows responsible men to chose to do evil things is part of His divine wisdom, and the cross is a perfect example of this. God allowed men to crucify the Lord Jesus in order to glorify God and to save lost men.
24 Whom God has raised up, having loosed the pains of death, inasmuch as it was not possible that he should be held by its power; 25 for David says as to him, “I foresaw the Lord continually before me, because he is at my right hand that I may not be moved. 26 Therefore has my heart rejoiced and my tongue exulted; yea more, my flesh also shall dwell in hope, 27 for thou wilt not leave my soul in hades, nor wilt thou give thy gracious one to see corruption. 28 Thou hast made known to me the paths of life, thou wilt fill me with joy with thy countenance.” [Psalm 16:8-11] vv.24-27 Jesus’ Resurrection: Foretold by David. Peter then speaks of the resurrection of Christ. Again, there are two aspects to it. First, there is God’s side; He raised up the Lord Jesus, and the Lord was depending on God to do that. Second, there is the aspect in which it was impossible for Christ to remain in death; “inasmuch as it was not possible that he should be held by its power”. As the apostle John could write, “in Him was life” (John 1:4). He had life in Himself intrinsically, like a stubborn flame that refuses to be quenched, it is a life that is “impossible to be held” by the pangs of death. It was simply not possible for the Eternal Word made flesh to remain in the condition of death. The pains (or, “pangs”) of death are gone because of the resurrection of Christ; the believer has been delivered from “the fear of death” (Heb. 2:15) because our Captain has conquered death. The Devil can no longer terrify the children of God with that fear. Peter quotes from a Psalm of David that speaks prophetically of the resurrection of Christ. In that Psalm the Messiah is seen having walked a path of perfect dependence, humility, and confidence in God, and then enters into the joy and assurance of resurrection. Although the death of Christ is not explicitly stated in Psalm 16, it is implied by resurrection that death would first come in.
Christ would speak of His flesh (His body) resting in hope! It is the hope of resurrection; faith counting that God would raise Him up (Heb. 11:19). In obeying unto death, and going to the cross, Christ was trusting God to raise Him from the dead. It is not Christ taking the place of Son of God, to raise Himself, which power He had (John 10:18; John 2:19), but as the dependent man, trusting God to raise Him up. One one hand, His soul would not long remain in the state of separation; “For thou wilt not leave my soul to Sheol”. The word “Sheol” is the equivalent to Hades in the New Testament, and it simply refers to the intermediate state of the soul in death; i.e. separated from the body. On the other hand, while separated from His soul, Our Lord’s body would not begin to decay; “neither wilt thou allow thy Holy One to see corruption”. This is different from every other man. Every person’s body, when they die, begins to decay immediately. Not so with the Lord! Notice also the preciousness of the body; “thine Holy One”.The body of our Blessed Lord was still part of who He was and is, and it is called “holy”. Having laid out the negative side of resurrection, the Psalmist then went on to speak of it positively. The “paths of life” refer to resurrection! But this goes beyond resurrection, and takes up the ascension and glorification of Christ at God’s right hand. Christ had confidence that He would see Jehovah’s countenance; i.e. find Himself in the presence of God where is “fulness of joy”. Peter would go on to speak more about the glorification of Christ later (vv.33-36).
The Exaltation of Christ: Psalm 110 (vv.29-36)
29 Brethren, let it be allowed to speak with freedom to you concerning the patriarch David, that he has both died and been buried, and his monument is amongst us unto this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn to him with an oath, of the fruit of his loins to set upon his throne; 31 he, seeing it before, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that neither has he been left in hades nor his flesh seen corruption. 32 This Jesus has God raised up, whereof all “we” are witnesses. vv.29-32 David’s Prophecies. Peter then went on to explain why Psalm 16 is prophetic of Christ, rather than simply about David personally. David is dead and buried, and his body certainly did see corruption (Acts 13:36), and therefore it cannot be spoken about him. Instead, David spoke of the Messiah, the son that was promised to him, to sit on his throne. The conclusion is in v.32, were we see that the fulfillment of Psalm 16 was something actually seen by the apostles (the “we” of v.32), and that they were witnesses of the Lord’s resurrection; One who died, and never saw corruption, but was raised from the dead. It was important to establish that David spoke prophetically of Christ in regard to resurrection first, before moving on the another Psalm that speaks of the exaltation of Christ at God’s right hand!
33 Having therefore been exalted by the right hand of God, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which “ye” behold and hear. v.33 The Exaltation of Christ and Its Visible Result on Earth. Having spoken of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, now Peter speaks of His exaltation and the visible fruit of it on earth. Christianity takes its character from this stupendous fact, that a glorified man sits at God’s right hand in heaven! That One is the glorified Christ, who has become the object of our faith. But, if Christ in glory is the external Object for our focus, drawing our affection up to heaven, where our life is hid with Christ in God, then equally important is the presented of the Holy Spirit indwelling us, an internal Guest, making all the power of God available to us, and as the energy of our resurrection life. The “right hand” is the seat of privilege, honor, and authority. That is the place Christ took. But Christ was also “exalted by the right hand of God”, meaning that God’s right hand of power is what put Him there! The Spirit being sent down to earth was the fulfillment of the promise of the Holy Spirit. In John 14 Jesus said He would “pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter” (John 14:16), the Spirit “whom the Father will send in my name” (John 14:26). In John 16, the Lord added that “I will send him unto you” (John 16:7). Here we find that the Father gave the Spirit to the glorified Son, who then pours out the Spirit on earth. The outpouring of the Spirit was the visible fruit of the glorification of Christ in heaven.
34 For David has not ascended into the heavens, but he says himself, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit at my right hand 35 until I have put thine enemies to be the footstool of thy feet.” [Psalm 110:1] vv.34-35 Psalm 110. Peter next follows up his earlier statement with another of David’s prophecies, this time from the often-quoted Psalm 110. Of course, David was not speaking of himself when he said, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit at my right hand until I have put thine enemies to be the footstool of thy feet.” This scripture – the most quoted Old Testament passage in the New Testament – is prophetic of the Messiah, concerning His ascension and exaltation at God’s right hand. It was David speaking to his Son, calling Him Lord (Matthew 22:44). The scene the Psalm 110:1 unfolds is that of the return of an ascended Christ into heaven. The Father (Jehovah) instructs the ascended Christ, who had accomplished the work of the cross, to sit on His right hand. What a welcome Christ received at the majesty on high! What a contrast to His reception on earth! Hebrews 1 quotes this verse to show the unparalleled place that Christ has in heaven presently. God has never said to any angel, “Sit thou at my right hand”. But there is also a promise of a future vindication, “waiting from henceforth until his enemies be set for the footstool of his feet” (Heb. 10:13). It is a place reserved exclusively for God’s Son. Here we see the perfection of Christ as a man. Even in glorification He is dependent; told to sit in the place of highest honor, and wait “until” the time comes (Mark 13:32). Christ is seated at God’s right hand today, but when the right moment comes Christ will sit upon His own throne (Rev. 3:21).
36 Let the whole house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him, this Jesus whom “ye” have crucified, both Lord and Christ. v.36 Summary for Israel. Bringing the issue down to the ultimate outcome for Israel, Peter shows from these scriptures that God has glorified the very One Israel crucified. The “whole house of Israel” was responsible, in a national sense, for rejecting and crucifying Jesus. Now that needed to know assuredly that God had made “this Jesus”, whom they had crucified, “both Lord and Christ”. We might ask, wasn’t Jesus already Lord and Christ? Yes, but Peter is speaking of what God did to a dead Jesus. God made Him Lord in resurrection, denoting absolute authority, and hence He would say, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth“ (Matt. 28:18). God then made Him Christ in exaltation, assuring to Him the kingdom glories. This put the nation of Israel at odds with God. What God had done with “this Jesus” showed how wrong they were – how wicked they were – in rejecting Him. This was Peter’s twofold aim: (1) to present the facts concerning Christ from scripture, and (2) to bring the issue of sin before their consciences.
Conclusion and Instructions (vv.37-40)
37 And having heard it they were pricked in heart, and said to Peter and the other apostles, What shall we do, brethren? v.37 Hearts Pricked. Peter’s preaching was effective. The Spirit of God sent down was working to convict these men of Israel of their sin. Peter had told them the truth about Jesus, and brought out their position as at odds with God. Notice that Peter did not immediately tell them the way of salvation (although it was hinted at in the quotation from Joel). He allows time for conviction and reflection. The men of Israel “were pricked in heart”. This was not merely an intellectual repentance, but a deep, inward work. They asked “What shall we do?”. Peter had waited for this moment.
38 And Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptised, each one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for remission of sins, and ye will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. v.38 The Path of Blessing. There were two things that these men of Israel needed to do in order to have forgiveness, or “the remission of sins”.
- The first action was repentance, an inward change resulting in inward salvation. Repentance means to have a change of mind; literally “re” (change) “pent” (think). The scriptures that speak of repentance show that it is a deep work in a person’s heart and soul, not merely an intellectual change. Repentance has to do with taking God’s side against ourselves because of our sin (Luke 7:30), and it should happen every time we sin, and it is a process that continues for our whole life; “there shall be joy in heaven for one repenting sinner” (Luke 15:7). Confession is an action, repentance is a process. Repentance is not the same as faith, but it is an expression of faith, and upon the soul having faith God justifies the sinner granting eternal forgiveness (therefore remission) of sins. Read more…
- The second action was baptism, an outward change resulting in outward salvation. Baptism (baptisma) simply means “to dip, or submerge.” The word is used many times in scripture, in several different contexts. Baptism is a symbolic action with great meaning. In God’s sight, when a person is baptized, they leave one position or ground, and take another. With John’s baptism, the disciples by baptism disassociated themselves with the wicked nation of Israel, and associated themselves with the faithful remnant of the Jews. In Christian baptism, as we have here “in the name of Jesus Christ”, a person’s link with the world, their old lifestyle, their old sins, is broken, and the come into a new association, as part of the Christian testimony and connected with Christ. However, this is only an outward change. There are many people that have been baptized that have never had “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ”. Such are mere professors, and will certainly perish if they do not believe. Nevertheless, there is an outward sense in which baptism saves us (1 Peter 3:20-21), washes away our sins (Acts 22:16), associates us with Christ (Galatians 3:27), and makes us His disciples (Matthew 28:19). Read more…
Having changed inwardly (repentance) and outwardly (baptism), there are two results. First, the soul is granted “remission of sins”. Remission is the cancellation of guilt, very similar to forgiveness. However, just as there are different aspects of forgiveness (judicial, governmental, etc.), so with remission of sins. It is the repentance that results in remission of sins in the eternal sense, and it is baptism that results in remission of sins in the outward or governmental sense, which was urgent given the guilt of the nation (v.40). Here, these two aspects of forgiveness coalesce.1 Second, they would “receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”. The first converts after the Spirit was sent would receive the same gift that the original company had received. They would be individually indwelt with the Holy Spirit, and would be added to the body that had been formed. New converts today are added the same way!
39 For to you is the promise and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God may call. v.39 The Liberality of God. The great reason why the door of blessing was still open to these men of Israel was the grace of God. God would grant that wonderful gift, the promise of the Father, to Israel first, but then “to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God may call”. This takes in the Gentiles too! How long had God’s heart be straightened, so to speak, while Israel was tested under law! Israel’s rejection of their Messiah did not cause God’s heart to become hardened. On the contrary, “through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:11-12). The floodgates of blessing had been opened, and the offer of salvation was going global.
40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, Be saved from this perverse generation. v.40 Save Yourselves. Peter continued his preaching, exhorting his natural brethren to “Be saved from this perverse generation”. The perverse generation was the guilty nation of Israel. The faithful could be saved by separating themselves from the guilty nation through repentance and baptism (v.41).
40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, Be saved from this perverse generation. v.40 Save Yourselves. Peter continued his preaching, exhorting his natural brethren to “Be saved from this perverse generation”. The perverse generation was the guilty nation of Israel. The faithful could be saved by separating themselves from the guilty nation through repentance and baptism (v.41).
The Early Assembly (2:41-47)
41 Those then who had accepted his word were baptised; and there were added in that day about three thousand souls. v.41 Aftermath. The response to Peter’s preaching was tremendous! Three thousand souls were saved through Peter’s preaching, and were added to the company. It gives us a striking example of the results of the Spirit being sent. Compare the sending of the Spirit with the giving of the law (Exodus 32:28). Here 3000 were saved, and there 3000 were killed! Such is the contrast between law and grace; “For the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2 Cor. 3:6). This also might be an example of what Jesus said in John 14:12, “Verily, verily, I say to you, He that believes on me, the works which I do shall he do also, and he shall do greater than these, because I go to the Father”. After Pentecost, tremendous works were done that in certain ways did surpass what Jesus performed on earth. Three thousand saved through one sermon might be an example.
42 And they persevered in the teaching and fellowship of the apostles, in breaking of bread and prayers. v.42 Perseverance. It is one thing to a make a profession of faith, to be baptized, but it is another thing for that profession to be real. Faith manifests itself in perseverance. These new converts persevered in four things:
- The apostles’ doctrine. The saints continued in hearing and practicing the doctrine of the twelve apostles. This would be the doctrine that Jesus’ told them before He ascended; “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). And what had Jesus commanded them? “Speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). Paul had not been converted, nor had the truths connected with the glorified Christ, such as the mystery, been revealed yet. It was what Hebrews calls “the word of the beginning of Christ” (Heb. 6:1), the very basics of Christianity, things taught by Christ himself on earth before the cross, while there was a transition from Judaism to Christianity. But though higher truths were later revealed, the things pertaining to the kingdom of God are still vital to us as believers. Examples of the apostles’ doctrine might be: the virgin birth of Christ, the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy, the death and resurrection of Christ, practical righteousness, contentment, forgiveness, humility, obedience, and faith, etc.
- The apostles’ fellowship. The saints also continued in the apostles’ fellowship. From the very beginning, the fellowship of the saints has been a vital component of Christianity. This was a very practical thing. It was time spent together, sharing meals, ministering together. This was done in small groups from house to house, and also in large gatherings in the temple (v.46). Fellowship draws the hearts of the saints together, and it is also where much of the doctrine of Christianity is practiced: in the context of interactions with others. Notice that doctrine is mentioned before fellowship, because doctrine is the basis of fellowship.
- Breaking of bread. The saints continued in keeping the Lord’s Supper according to the Lord’s request, “this do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). In v.46 we find that the early church broke bread house to house, no doubt in small groups. As those who have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, it is the natural response in the heart of every true believer to remember the Lord.
- Prayers. The saints continued in prayers, which would refer to collective prayer. The early church was a praying church, and this was a source of their strength and joy. When we pray, we express our dependence on the Lord. To do so collectively is a blessed privilege.
These four things have been compared to the four anchors that were cast out of the stern of the ship in Paul’s journey to Rome (Acts 27:29). If we persevere in these same four things, it will establish us in our Christian walk!
43 And fear was upon every soul, and many wonders and signs took place through the apostles’ means. v.43 Power. The early assembly was marked by great power in testimony. It is important to note that they were first characterized by perseverance, then by power. Sometimes we cite a lack of power as an excuse not to persevere, but really the path of blessing is through perseverance. The wonders and signs were done by the apostles as a witness to the nation of Israel; “God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will” (Heb. 2:4). It was a demonstration that indeed, the Holy Spirit had been sent, and that Israel needed to repent.
44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common, 45 and sold their possessions and substance, and distributed them to all, according as any one might have need. vv.44-45 Unity and Love. The third thing that characterized the early assembly is their love for one another, and the resulting unity amongst them (Acts 4:31-32). It would appear that the saints in Jerusalem spent time together, lived together, and shared everything they had (v.44). When needs arose, love abounded such that those needs were met; “sold their possessions and substance, and distributed them to all, according as any one might have need”. This was a very real sacrifice, especially for the wealthy Jews, who were accustomed to thinking of their possessions as a palpable measurement of the Lord’s blessing. When the great famine struck the Roman world in the days of Claudius Caesar, the resources of the wealthy had already been exhausted. However, the costs of the earlier acts of love by Jewish brethren later became an opportunity for the display of love on the part of Gentile brethren, and it had the effect of drawing the hearts of the saints together (Acts 11:27-30). No one told these brethren to sell their possessions, etc. It was divine love flowing through them, rising up over the barriers of selfishness and self-preservation, and meeting needs as they appeared. Never was such love an unity displayed on earth! It was the fulfillment of the Lord’s prayer; “that they may be all one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:21). At Pentecost, the oneness of the family was strikingly evidenced. It didn’t matter who they were, what they had done, or even what language they spoke; i.e. all that previously characterized and divided the human race. The power of the Holy Spirit brought forth a powerful testimony before the world, overcoming every human barrier. This unity would evidence that the Father had sent the Son, because it was a heavenly people, enjoying the days of heaven on earth.
46 And every day, being constantly in the temple with one accord, and breaking bread in the house, they received their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God, and having favour with all the people; and the Lord added to the assembly daily those that were to be saved. vv.46-47 Joy, Fellowship, and Growth. Finally, the early church was characterized by joy (Phil. 4:4), especially in the the context of fellowship. True joy is only possible for those who know God’s love and the forgiveness of sins. The saints in Jerusalem met together in three ways: (1) all together in the temple, a Jewish habit that continued for a time, as they were in a state of transition from Judaism and had not yet received the call to leave it (Heb. 13:10-14), (2) in small groups in houses where they broke bread, eating the Lord’s Supper, and (3) enjoying common meals together. In all three of these ways, the saints enjoyed fellowship together, and whenever they were together they were found “praising God”. The saints were simple in their joy; receiving their food with gladness, and not anxious about the future. The saints had “favor with all the people”, in the sense that their conduct was commendable (Luke 2:52). The assembly began to grow daily as “the Lord added … daily those that were to be saved”. The words “to the assembly” are added by translators, but really the word “assembly” (‘ecclesia’ in Greek) is first found in Acts 5:11. They were the assembly, but they did not know themselves as the assembly yet. It says “those that were to be saved” in the future tense because the salvation here spoken of implies the separation of the believers from the nation of Israel, shortly to come under judgment (v.40).2
- This is one place in Scripture where eternal forgiveness and governmental forgiveness coalesce. These are two different aspects of forgiveness. Eternal forgiveness delivers a person from the eternal consequences of his sins. Governmental forgiveness delivers a person from the present consequences of his sins felt in this life. The conditions of repentance and faith apply to eternal forgiveness, which secures the believer’s eternal destiny with Christ. The condition of baptism applies to governmental forgiveness, which these Jews needed, for they were part of the guilty nation that had crucified Christ. – Anstey, B. The Book of the Acts: Divine Record of the First 30 Years of Christianity.
- “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. – Kelly, W. Lectures Introductory to the New Testament.