About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

Home Page    

This Section - Introduction, Chapter 2

Previous Section - Chapter 1

Next Section - Chapter 3

ch. 2:1-14    ch. 2:14-42   ch. 2:42-47

he Holy Spirit Comes At Pentecost  (ch. 2:1 - 13)


Here in Acts chapter 2 the New Testament era begins.  It begins with a miraculous and historic event.  The Holy Spiritís coming to earth in the lives of the believers is unprecedented in human history. If you read John 14 through 16 you'll note that since Jesus would no longer be with the disciples, Jesus would send the Holy Spirit to be His replacement.  


The coming of the Spirit not only introduces the New Testament era, but it brings about a new community of Godís people called the "church".  It brings about a new mission for Godís people, that is, the proclamation of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The church would now represent Jesus on earth, as Israel was supposed to represent Yahweh on earth but failed. 


In verse 1 of chapter 2 Luke says that ďwhen the day of Pentecost cameÖĒ  The feast of Pentecost was fifty days after Passover.  Pentecost means fiftieth.  This feast was also called the Feast of Weeks.  


It is interesting to note that the coming of the Spirit happened on the Day of Pentecost.  Obviously this was not some accident, but part of Godís design.  Passover represents the sacrifice of Jesus, while Pentecost represents the giving of the Holy Spirit to Godís people. This to me is yet another reason to believe that God has a timetable.  He does things at specific predetermined times.  Without getting involved in the discussion here, all of the seven feasts found in Old Testament Judaism are symbolic and representative of a New Testament fulfillment. 


To study the Feast of Pentecost from the Old Testament you can read, Exodus 34:33, Leviticus 23 15-21, Numbers 28:26-31.  In first century Judaism Pentecost came to mean a day where Israelis remembered God giving them the Law of Moses.  It also became a day of thanksgiving for the "first fruits of harvest".   The term "first fruits" are important to what is about to happen here in Acts 2.  The first fruits of the church, the spiritual Kingdom of God on earth, would be born, and, it would surely be a day of great salvation to those involved.  When you use the term "first fruits", I believe that implies there is a second fruit of harvest.  I believe the second fruit of harvest comes during the Great Tribulation that ends this age.  I believe the prophecy of Joel that Peter quotes a bit later has a two stage fulfillment, here in Acts 2 and also at the end of this age.  I get that from the context the Joel's prophecy.      


Luke says that "when the Day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place".  I believe the pronoun "they" refers to the one hundred and twenty believers mentioned back in Acts 1:15. 


From the Greek grammatical structure, the words "altogether in one place" means that these people were all in one room, the upper room, and in one mind and purpose.  They had gathered together for the sole reason to wait for the promise of God to come to them as Jesus said would take place.   


Much has been made of "being of one accord" as the KJV puts it.  These people were united in prayer, united in waiting for the Spirit, and united in purpose.  We should understand that the Holy Spirit didn't come to them because they were meeting in one place and in one accord.  The Holy Spirit came to them because it was God's plan for that exact moment in human history.  I'm not under estimating being of one accord and of one mind.  That is very important, especially in our present day divided church.  I'm simply saying that being of one accord wasn't the reason why the Spirit was given to them. 


It was most likely during a time of prayer when as we see in verse 2 a loud noise sounded.  It sounded like a sudden violent wind storm had just hit them. Note that the sound was heard throughout the whole house, not just the upper room.  Note also that this was not a wind.  It only sounded like a wind storm.  The word sudden suggests that the noise was not anticipated and came on them without warning.  It was a big surprise.  Those in the room were most likely very shocked, maybe even terrified.  At this precise moment, the New Testament era was born.  A similar suddenness will end this New Testament age with the return of Jesus to earth.  It will be just as sudden, without any advance warning. 


Luke says that this violent sounding wind type of noise came from heaven.  It came down from above and filled the whole house that they were in.  If the sound filled the whole house, it probably echoed outside and down the street as well.  Note the word "violent" in the NIV.  I imagine this noise to be like the noise of a jet fighter flying close to the ground.  When God intervenes into humanity, it can be pretty dramatic.  


In verse 3 we see "what seemed" to be flames of fire, or as Luke calls them, "tongues of fire".  The tongues of fire separated and "rested" on each person in the room.  These tongues of fire weren't real fire, but only appeared to look like fire.  This most likely is a direct fulfillment of Luke 3:16 where Jesus says that the believers would one day be baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 


It's interesting to me to note that there was something sounding like a violent wind, but it wasn't a violent wind, and, something like fire, but it wasn't fire, resting on all in the room.  What I find interesting here is that the Holy Spirit, although sounding furious and looking like fire, is neither.  He is gentle and kind, but powerful and awesome at the same time. 


If you want to get technical, verse 4 begins the New Testament era.  This is so because the one hundred and twenty people in the room were filled with the Holy Spirit.  Not one person was left out.  Both men and women, young and old, were filled with the Spirit.   


Verse 4 also tells us that all these people spoke in other tongues.  Speaking in tongues as seen here was a direct result of being filled with the Holy Spirit.  I'll speak more about tongues as we carry on in this study.


It will become obvious in the book of Acts, and really, is also obvious in our lives, that when the Holy Spirit comes to an individual, something happens.  He is God in spirit form.  God coming to anyone through His Holy Spirit is a dramatic event, as this certainly was.  


There are a number of words and phrases that the New Testament uses for this phenomena that we see here in Acts 2.  Luke uses the words "filled with" here in verse 4.  Other passages us such words as ďbaptized", "poured out", or, "come upon", when the Spirit envelops people.  Peter himself in verse 18 uses an Old Testament Scripture where the words "poured out" are used.  By using the words "poured out", it paints a picture of God pouring out the Holy Spirit onto the believers.   It's like God has a huge bucket full of the Spirit and He just dumps it onto the believer and the believer gets soaking wet with the Spirit.  The idea of getting soaking wet is where the word "baptize" comes in.  Like one gets soaking wet in water baptism, so one gets soaking wet in Spirit baptism when the Spirit is poured out on him. 


We need to understand here that the Holy Spirit didn't just come on these people.  He came to live within these people.  The Holy Spirit wasn't just poured on them, but into them.  For the first time in their lives the Holy Spirit was actually inside these people.  He had been with them in times past, but not in them.  Jesus, in John 14:17 said that the Holy Spirit was with them "but He would soon be in them".  Jesus' prediction was fulfilled here in Acts 2. 


We need to realize, as this passage clearly shows us, that when the Holy Spirit touches a person's life, something dramatic happens.  I've often heard over the years that people who don't experience something dramatic when they receive the Holy Spirit should simply believe by faith they received Him.  I think there's something wrong with this.  There's no logic.  If the Spirit of the Almighty comes to you, you will certainly know.  If you don't know, it's obvious that He did not come to you.  There is no accepting this by faith.  The rest of the book of Acts proves this to be true.       


What I'm about to say next is very important.  Verse 4 tells us that these people were filled with the Holy Spirit.  He came to reside in them.   I strongly believe that prior to this moment, none of these people had the Holy Spirit living in them. 


Some people suggest that the Eleven apostles actually received the Holy Spirit earlier when Jesus appeared to them one time after He rose from the dead.  In John 20:22 we see Jesus breathing on the Eleven apostles.  He then said, "Receive the Holy Spirit".  On the surface, you might think that these men received the Holy Spirit into their lives then, not here in Acts 2.  Once you do a little digging into the Scriptures you'll see that's not true.  If you read John 7:39 you'll learn that Jesus' followers would receive the Holy Spirit once Jesus was glorified. A careful study of Jesus' prayer in John 17 tells me that Jesus was glorified at the ascension. Therefore, the Eleven could not have received the Holy Spirit in John 20:22 because Jesus was not yet glorified. 


One more point to add is that in Acts 1:4 Jesus specifically told the Eleven to wait in Jerusalem until they received the promised gift of God, which was the Holy Spirit.  If the disciples had already received the Holy Spirit in John 20:22, it would make no sense that Jesus told these guys to wait to receive Him in a few days. 


It's clear to me, that the experience that took place in Acts 2 was not a "second work of grace" that is traditional Pentecostal teaching.  Traditional Pentecostal teaching states that one receives the Holy Spirit when one is first saved, and then at some later date, they have a second experience called the "Baptism in the Spirit".  Pentecostals use Acts 2 as proof of a second work of grace, but Acts 2 isn't a second work.  It's actually a first work.  For the first time in their lives, these people received the Holy Spirit.  


Some other Pentecostals believe that when one gets saved one just believes in Jesus.  He doesn't actually receive the Holy Spirit until the Baptism in the Spirit.  Without getting too involved at the moment, I believe this to be truer than the above thinking concerning the Baptism in the Spirit.                    


Now these same people did have other times in their lives when the Holy Spirit came on them.  Acts 4 is just one example, but these subsequent outpourings of the Spirit differ from this experience in that the Holy Spirit already lives in the believers.  The simple fact is that there is more to the Holy Spirit than one body can contain.  That is why He can come on a believer and be in the believer at the same time.  The Holy Spirit quietly lives in the true Christian, but there are times when He comes on a true Christian in dramatic power.  We'll see this as we move along in the book of Acts.


Not only did these people get filled with the Holy Spirit but they also spoke in other tongues, or other languages, "as the Spirit enabled them".  Speaking in tongues is listed by Paul as one of twelve gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Paul calls these gifts a "manifestation" of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:7)  This simply means that certain gifts are given by the Spirit to individuals, showing that He truly lives within the person.  To manifest means to show forth, or give evidence to, that which is true, and in this case, that which is true is the Holy Spirit living within the believer. 


All one hundred and twenty people began to speak in other tongues, that is, languages that they did not know how to speak.  It was Godís Spirit that caused this to happen.  It was a miracle.  This was not man made, but truly a miracle of God. 


The tendency in Pentecostal and  Charismatic circles, which is the tendency in all areas of the church, is to reduce the supernatural into human effort, as Paul puts it in Galatians 3.  We have too often reduced speaking in  tongues into a mere human thing.  By this I mean that we have said such things as, "repeat after me".  This actually happened to me in a time of prayer at a Pentecostal altar.  A preacher told me to listen closely to him speaking in tongues.  Once listening closely, he told me to repeat what I hear.  By repeating what I heard the preacher say would mean I spoke in tongues, at least according to this preacher.  Well, that would not have been tongues.  Such nonsense is humanizing a true gift of the Holy Spirit.


I have also heard some say, "just say any syllables that come to mind, and then the Lord will take over and cause you to speak in tongues".  The idea here is that you start the process by faith and Jesus will end the process with His supernatural faith, but again, this is pure humanism.  This is not how you begin to speak in tongues.  This is not what happened here in Acts 2. 


We need to note that "speaking in tongues" is not just a Christian phenomena.   Such things have been recorded in pagan worship.  This is one reason why the Corinthian church had so many problems with tongues.  They had seen it happen before in pagan worship.  Maybe some of them had actually spoken in tongues as a pagan.  This does not mean that we should downgrade this gift.  We know that the devil has many counterfeits. 


Another thing we should note here is that there is a difference between speaking in tongues and praying in tongues.  The people here spoke in tongues and it was a witness to those around them.  If you read 1 Corinthians 14 you will see Paul use the phrase, "praying in the Spirit", which in context is praying in tongues.  This is important to understand, especially for non-Pentecostals who only think tongues is that which we see here in Acts 2, which they see as a form of witnessing to others about Jesus.  There is more to tongues than Acts 2 tongues.  There is 1 Corinthians 14 tongues as well, and that is, praying in tongues that is not a witness to others, but a simple private prayer language.  


Concerning Acts 2 tongues being a witness; in one sense of the word it was.  It got the attention of those around them, and, those around them heard the one hundred and twenty praising God in tongues as we will shortly see.  Non-Pentecostals tend to see tongues in Acts 2 as preaching the gospel.  They thus say that tongues are still valid to today to preach the gospel on the mission field where other languages are involved.  These same people reject the 1 Corinthians 14 prayer languages tongues.  The problem with viewing Acts 2 tongues as preaching the gospel is this.  Those speaking in tongues didn't preach the gospel as they spoke in tongues.  Luke says in verse 11 that they heard the tongues speakers speaking the wondrous things of God.  It was Peter, after the tongues had subsided, that preached the gospel, and he did so in his own language, not tongues. Simply put, Acts 2 tongues weren't really a form of preaching the gospel.


In verses 5 and 6 Luke says that "there were Godly Jews staying in Jerusalem from every nation under Heaven".  Note also in verse 11 that there were Gentile converts, some Arabs, who were also in the crowd.  Many Jews had come from all parts of the known world to worship during the feast days in Jerusalem .  Obviously the Lord had this in mind when He chose this day to pour out His Spirit. These Jews spoke in many different Gentile languages from the various communities they came from. 


Both the Feast of Passover and the Feast of Pentecost were mandatory requirements for adult men to participate in at Jerusalem, according to the Law of Moses.  That's why there were so many people in Jerusalem from so many different places.


In verse 6, when these people "heard this sound, a crowd gathered in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language". The noise that sounded like a violent wind, and the various languages being spoken at once drew all sorts of Jews to the place where the believers were.  Everyone who heard was bewildered.  The reason for this bewilderment was due to the fact that each one heard their own language being spoken. 


We need to note that this demonstration of power from God was directed strictly to Jews who had come from all parts of the known world.  There is a Biblical principle that states, "to the Jew first and then to the Gentile".   What we see here is that the giving of the Spirit was to the Jew first.  Those who witnessed this were Jews, probably at, or near by the temple where they were worshipping. 


Some Evangelicals say the real miracle here was not in the speaking of tongues but in the hearing of these tongues.  They say this because such mass confusion from a hundred and twenty people speaking in different languages at once would be too hard for any one person to understand.  Therefore the miracle was not in the speaking but the hearing.  There is some validity to this view, but you cannot say the speaking in tongues wasn't miraculous, because it certainly was.  As far as I am concerned, tongues are the primary miracle here, other than the believers receiving the Holy Spirit.  The text clearly says that the believers spoke with other tongues, meaning languages they did not know how to speak, "as the Spirit enabled them".  "As the Spirit enabled them" means the tongues were miraculous.  I think when people say the miracle was in the hearing of the tongues and not the tongues themselves, I believe this is an attempt to down play the tongues.    


Some people make a connection between this event and the Tower of Babel event that we see in the book of Genesis.  They say this is a reversal of what we see when God confused the languages at the Tower of Babel .  There might be some validity to his as well.  If there is, the validity concerning this reversal lies in the fact that they only way to reverse God's judgment on humanity seen at Babel would be in Jesus, through the Holy Spirit   


Note in verse 7 that the disciples were "Galileans".  Galilee is north of present day Jerusalem.  Back then there was Jerusalem, Samaria just north of Jerusalem, and Galilee north of Samaria, near the present day Israeli Syrian and Lebanon boarder.  


Verse 8 clearly says that those hearing what was being spoken "were bewildered".  That's probably an understatement.  They were bewildered because each one heard these people speak in their own language.  Some suggest that there was only one language being spoken here by the believers.  Thus, the miracle was in the hearing of what was being said in their own language.  I think the text makes it clear that the believers were speaking a number of different languages.  When the text says that they spoke in "tongues, that is tongues plural, more than one tongue or language, it's obvious that more than one language was spoken here.  These various languages corresponded directly to those in the crowd.              


We are not exactly sure what was being said in tongues, but in verse 11 Luke does say that they "were declaring the wonders of God".  Iím convinced that they were not preaching the gospel as non-Pentecostals suggest. Luke does not say they were preaching the gospel.  If they were I think heíd say so.  We do know that Peter did preach the gospel after the event concluded.  If the tongues were the preaching of the gospel, then why did Peter preach the gospel?


People who believe that this tongues was preaching the gospel say this in order to suggest that there is only one type of tongues that they will accept as being valid and that is tongues that is a form of preaching the good news.  They say tongues in a Christian gathering are not valid tongues. But this canít be so.  Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:2 says that tongues are actually speaking to God in another language, and that is what took place on the Day of Pentecost.  The one hundred and twenty were speaking the wonders of God to God.  They were not preaching the gospel.   


I am what many would call a Charismatic Pentecostal Christian.  I'm not one for labels but because I do pray in tongues I can understand this label.  This is what I believe was happening when the one hundred and twenty were praying in tongues.  Those who have felt the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into their lives know it is one amazing experience.  You're lost in the presence of Jesus.  You have little concern for those near by.  All you want to do is praise Jesus and speak to Him all the glorious and wondrous things about Him.  This is what I believe was happening here.  These people were not preaching the gospel to those around them.  They were praising Jesus.  They were directing there words in tongues to Jesus as Paul states what tongues really is in 1 Corinthians 14.      


The localities stated in verses 9 through 11 represent people from as far east as India; as far west towards Rome; and south to Northern Africa.   


F. F. Bruce, in his commentary on Acts makes an interesting point at this juncture.  He note that Jewish rabbis believed that when Moses met with God  in Exodus 20 they believed that God spoke to the 70 nations of the world in their own language.  To be clear, the text does not say this.  That being said, it is interesting that God would use the gift of tongues to speak to these Jews from distant parts of the Roman Empire in their own language.  I wonder what the Jewish rabbis might have thought when they heard the different languages being spoken in light of their interpretation of Exodus 20.   


In verses 12 and 13 we see some of the responses by those in the crowd to what was going on.  Some were bewildered while others thought the one hundred and twenty were drunk.  I suggest that when the Holy Spirit falls on people today with the same lack of understanding would say the same thing, and they surely have.  What has been called the Pentecostal experience has been seen by some as being next to insanity.



Peter Addresses The Crowd (ch. 2:14 - 41)



Luke tells his readers in verse 14 of chapter 2 that Peter took the lead.  He says that Peter "stood up with the eleven".  Remember, there are one hundred and twenty people speaking in tongues here, but only eleven, the apostles, are standing together in front of the crowd.  This is their part, their job, in their apostolic ministry. 


At some point the commotion must have died down and Peter took the opportunity to explain what had just happened.  Why did Peter take the lead here?  Was it because of his impulsiveness, or could it have been Godís will?   Some would say that Jesus had already told the eleven that Peter would be their spokesman, when He said, "upon this rock I will build my church".  (Matthew 16:18)  Since this is a Holy Spirit led event, I believe that the Holy Spirit chose Peter on this day to give explanation for the event of the day.


Also in John 21:17 Jesus tells Peter to take care of His sheep.  Peter surely had this in mind.  What Peter was doing here was taking care of "the lost sheep of Israel" by preaching the gospel to them. 


It is interesting to note that after the miracle that had just taken place, someone had to preach the gospel.  Seeing and hearing the miracle of tongues was not sufficient.  This is what Paul seems to say in Romans 10:14 when he says, "How can they hear without someone preaching to them".  The preaching of the gospel, that is using one's mouth is fundamental to New Testament thinking.  I have heard it said, "Live the life, and if necessary preach".  This is not a Scriptural saying.  It is necessary, even mandatory,  to preach the gospel.  On the very first day of the New Testament times, after Godís miracle, a human being had to preach the gospel.  This is also what Mark was talking about in Mark 16:20.  He said, "The disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word with signs that accompanied their preaching".  The spreading of the gospel is a partnership between the Lord and us.  We do the manual labour, that is the preaching, and whatever else, and He confirms what we say by miracles.


The fact that Peter preached the gospel after the miracle of tongues tells me that these tongues weren't preaching.  Verse 11told us that those speaking in tongues were glorifying God, which I do not interpret as preaching the gospel.  If it were, then Peter was being redundant by preaching.  I say this because non-Pentecostal Evangelicals say that the tongue speaking here was preaching the gospel.  They say that to back up their thinking that tongues for today is only valid on the mission field when a missionary miraculously preaches the gospel in a tongue he doesnít know.  This whole thinking is faulty.       


Peter speaks to "fellow Jews and also to all who live in Jerusalem".  He tells them to ďlisten carefullyĒ to what he is going to say.  The words "fellow Jews" is directed to all the Jewish visitors who had come to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover and the Feast of Pentecost.  This is important because the Scriptural principle is to "the Jew first and then to the Gentile".  For this reason, the Jews had to hear the gospel first.   


Peter doesn't end there.  He makes sure he addresses his remarks to those living in  Jerusalem.  Why Peter specifies Jerusalem is only speculative, but Jerusalem is extremely important to the prophetic history of God's plan for both Israel and humanity.  It was also in Jerusalem where Jesus was executed.  It will be where Jesus returns to set up His kingdom on earth, but of course, the simple explanation is that all this was happening in Jerusalem.  It would only make sense that Peter is addressing both Jews living in Jerusalem and those visiting the city.     


In verse 15 Peter opens the first Christian sermon by saying, "these men are not drunk as you suppose.  It is only nine in the morning".  Some had mocked the believers for their behaviour, thinking that they were drunk.  This is why Peter begins as he does.


We might think that the nine oíclock in the morning reference suggests that it was too early for people to be drinking wine.  There might be something to this, but most likely what Peter had in mind were the strict dietary rules Jewish people were suppose to follow, as can be seen in Exodus 16:8 and Exodus 10:16 Ė 17.  They could only eat bread until 10 oíclock in the morning, only eat meat in the evening, and only drink wine with their meat.  So if these Jewish people speaking in tongues were drunk, then they werenít following Jewish Law. 


By Peterís response you might even say that he was a little indignant concerning the idea of him and his brothers being drunk.  It may have appeared to be drunkenness to the scoffers, but for Peter, it was far from being drunk.  I am not sure that Peter would even relate being filled with the Spirit to being "drunk in the Spirit" as you often hear in modern Pentecostal or Charismatic circles today.  We, in our modern day usage of words should not use words said by scoffers, but use words said by Peter.  My suggestion is to stay away from the phrase "drunk in the Spirit".


Why Peter just speaks of men here when there were obviously women being filled with the Spirit to might be speculative.  It might have something to do with the culture of the day as well.  It was a man's world back then. 


If these men are not drunk, then what does their behaviour mean?   In verse 16 Peter begins to quote from the Old Testament book of Joel, chapter 2, verses 28 and 32.  Joel prophesied around 870 B. C..  Peter says that if God said these words through Joel, his Jewish audience needs to pay close attention to what God said.  Good God-fearing Jews would have known about the book of Joel as well as the rest of the Old Testament, although it is clear that most Jews didn't understand all of the prophetic implications of the prophets, including Joel.


In verse 17 Peter states God saying that "in the last days" He would "pour out His Spirit on all flesh".  Two important points are made by these words.  One is that the term last days.  The last days as Peter understood them  began on the day of Pentecost.  That's why he is quoting this passage from Joel.  This event was predicted and therefore should be accepted as being from God.  So, in one sense of the word, the "last days" began on the day of Pentecost.  Biblically speaking, the term "last days" is in reference to the age in which we now live. The Bible also uses the term "last days' in reference to the very few last days that ends this age.   


 The second point to be made is that the Holy Spirit could now be poured out on all flesh, all men and women, no matter what nationality they were. The giving of the Spirit was not exclusive to the Jews, something that Peter himself did not understand as yet.  He would begin to understand in Acts 10.  We see that when we come to Acts 10. 


It's interesting to me that Peter quotes from Joel but really doesn't yet understand what he is quoting.  Joel says that the Holy Spirit would be poured out on all nationalities, but when Peter quoted this passage I don't really think he considered the meaning of these words.  My guess is that he thought the Spirit would be poured out on all Jews in all nations, not on Gentiles in all nations.  Again, Peter doesn't learn the true meaning to this prophecy until Acts 10.  This makes it clear to me that the Holy Spirit can speak through a person and cause the person to say truthful things without the person really having a clear understanding of what he is saying.   


Christians are viewed as being exclusive, and in one sense of the word we are.  Yet from the beginning of New Testament times, in one sense of the word, Christians are not exclusive.  They believe that all peoples, in all nations, and of all stripes, can find favour with God, yet only through Jesus, as we see here.


Peter continues in verse 17 to quote Joel by saying that "your sons and daughters will prophesy", which you might say is one of the main results of the outpouring of the Spirit.  Once again, we donít receive the Spirit for the sake of having an awesome experience.  We receive Him in order to prophesy, that is, in the broadest sense of the word, meaning "to preach" the gospel. 


I think it is important to understand what prophecy really is.  It's more than predicting the future.  It's simply speaking what God wants one to speak.  So, in the case of Peter preaching, he was in fact prophesying, at least in the broader sense of the word. 


Not only will your sons and daughters prophesy, but your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams.  What Joel is saying here is that everyone can be as the prophets of old were, including women. We all can proclaim Godís message, even if we are not full fledged prophets.  This would have been a new concept for Peter and for the Jews listening to Peter. 


By saying the above, I'm not discounting the ministry of the prophet.  Just because one prophesies doesn't mean he is a prophet.  The ministry of prophet can be seen throughout the New Testament, which we will encounter later in Acts.    


In verse 18 we see that Joel goes on to say that "even on my servants will I pour out my Spirit".  It is clear that in order to be a real servant of God; you need the presence of Godís Spirit in your life, and not simply hovering over you as the Jehovah Witnesses would say.  He needs to be actually living within you.  Joel also says that these servants of God, including both men and women, would prophesy. Once again, the result of the indwelling Spirit is prophesying; is witnessing to the resurrected Christ as Jesus predicted in Acts 1:8.


Peter continues in verse 19 to quote from Joel, but the prophecy speaks about the very end of this age.  It's interesting to note that if you read Joel, the whole prophecy seems to be about the days leading up to the return of Jesus to earth, even though Peter interprets the first part of this prophecy as being in his day.  Verse 19 is clearly apocalyptic in nature when it speaks of wonders and signs in the heavens and on the earth. 


You might wonder why Peter quoted this part of the Joel prophecy.  Why did he quote the parts that didn't clearly refer to the present event?  I can't say that I know the answer.  Some might suggest that Peter is misquoting the Joel passage, but I don't see it that way.  I believe he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to speak as he did.  In my thinking, this suggests that the giving of the Spirit in such dramatic and effectiveness is not meant to be something that begins this age, but something that will end this age as well.  Peter clearly says that the pouring out of the Spirit referred to by Joel was for his day.  If you would ask Joel, I believed he'd say it was for the end of this age.  Therefore, I believe that just prior to the return of Jesus there will be a huge out pouring of the Spirit that takes place during the Great Tribulation.  If you read the book of Revelation you'll note that there are many believers killed for their faith, believers who became believers during the time of the tribulation.   


The words "blood, fire and billows of smoke" in verse 19 are an obvious reference to the final calamities as described in the book of Revelation.  The blood, fire and smoke could easily be from the wars that Jesus describes in Matthew 24.  The same is true with the sun being turned into darkness and the moon into blood as we see in verse 20.  Jesus says this very thing in Matthew 24:29.


All these things will happen says Joel "before that great and glorious day of the Lord".  The KJV says "terrible day of the Lord".  In reality, that day is both glorious and terrible. It's glorious for the believer and terrible for the non-believer. 


 In verse 21 we note that before that final day comes Joel says, and Peter repeats, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved".  The name of the Lord is Jesus.  There is no other name under Heaven whereby one can be saved from the great and terrible day of the Lord. 


The word ďcallĒ in verse 21 implies a serious heart felt cry to Jesus; not simply a mental ascent to the gospel.  This call is a cry.  It's a plea for help.  It implies that more than anything else, you want Jesus and His salvation, and you will do anything to get it.  When God hears such a cry, He will grant salvation and freedom from the terror to come.  


You might say that the word "call" here could be used by one calling out to a fireman who is trying to rescue those in a house on fire.  If you were in the house, you would be screaming at the top of your voice so the fireman would hear you and rescue you.  There is a desperateness involved in the cry, in this call.  The same is true with what Peter and Joel are saying.  This call is a desperate cry for help, which implies a good measure of repentance. I say this because this "call" is in reference to bad things happening on the earth at the time.  Men are terrified.  Some will cry out to the Lord while others won't.  This is extremely important when thinking of the gospel and preaching it.  Too often we have not viewed this call in this way.  We more often than not give the impression, "just try Jesus and see how it goes".  This is not the gospel.


Earlier in this chapter I compared the coming of the Holy Spirit to the return of Christ.  There are many similarities.  I think the quote from Joel backs up my point.  It links the coming of the Spirit in Acts 2 with the events which will close this age.  In both instances God takes a people out of the world for Himself.  He will always have a remnant of true believers.  


In verse 22 Peter says "men of Israel ".  Again, we see Peter speaking directly to Jews, and not any Gentiles who might be in the crowd.  I would think there would be more Jews than Gentiles because they're at or close to the temple and it is the Feast of Pentecost.  That being said, Peter wasn't directing his words to Gentiles.  In his mind, at this point, the new gospel message was just for the Jews.  His thinking didn't change until Acts 10.   


Peter continues by saying, "Jesus of Nazareth Ö"  Peter now brings Jesus into the picture.  He moves from God and the prophecies to Jesus, the God-man who many would have seen or met a few weeks earlier.  You cannot preach the gospel without speaking about Jesus.  Many liberal preachers try to do this, but it is not the gospel of the New Testament.  As Paul said in Galatians 2:8; "It is "another gospel".


Peter says that Jesus "was accredited" by God through the miraculous signs and wonders.  That is to say, the miracles were Godís stamp of approval on Jesus.  The miracles prove that God in fact sent Jesus to earth.   


Peter then says "as you yourselves know".  He is saying that his audience knows about this Jesus.  It wasnít too many days earlier that Jesus walked their streets, and talked with them, confirming His words with miracles.  Many of these same people praised Jesus as He entered the city for the last time.  Peter knows that these people would remember Jesus.  


Verse 23 is very important.  It says, "This man was handed over to you by Godís set purpose and foreknowledgeÖ"  It is clear by these words and also by a reading of Isaiah 52 and 53 that God was the one who killed Jesus.  It was His set purpose.  At the same time, He knew ahead of time how this would happen.  The debate has raged over the years, did God make Judas hand Jesus over to the authorities?  Did God make the Jews bring Jesus to Pilate?  I donít believe that God had to make anyone do anything.  There were enough people who wanted Jesus dead.  They didnít need Godís help.  God knew ahead of time who these people were, and in the long run God wanted, and even needed this to happen.  I also believe that Jesus knew He was choosing a thief in Judas when He asked Judas to follow Him.    


In verse 23 we see clearly that God has a timetable of events for things to take place.  It was His predetermined plan that Jesus would die on the cross. 


Deuteronomy 21:23 speaks of those dying in the way Jesus died.   It speaks of a man dying on the cross as being cursed.  Jesus was cursed because He died on the cross and also because He took our sin to the cross.  He took both the curse and punishment due us.  In short, He died in our place.  


Peter had the courage to say that "you (the Jews he was speaking to), with the help of wicked men, (the Roman authorities) put Him to death".  This is a pretty dramatic thing for Peter to say.  Even more than dramatic, it took lots of Holy Spirit guts to accuse the Jews of killing Jesus.  From this moment on, Peter would be hunted down by both Jews and Gentiles alike until he was executed upside down on a cross in Rome in and around 64 A. D..  


Peter doesn't leave Jesus in the grave.  In verse 24 he says, "But God raised Him from the dead".  The resurrection is a main part of the gospel.  The gospel without the resurrection is not the true gospel.  This too would be called "another gospel", as the apostle Paul puts it in Galatians 1:8..  Peter says, that "it was impossible for death to keep a hold on Him".  It only makes sense.  Jesus is God in human flesh.  Death could not have a hold on Jesus forever. Jesus tasted death, but death did not overcome Him like it does us.


To prove the resurrection of Jesus to his Jewish listeners Peter quotes from another Old Testament passage in verse 25.  This time Peter quotes from David, from Psalms16:8-11.  There is something to think of here concerning how Old Testament Scripture is interpreted in the New Testament.  These words were spoken by David.  When he spoke these words he was speaking about himself.  Yet when Peter quotes these words he says that these words, though spoken by David were not about him.  These words were prophetic.  They spoke about Jesus.


The pronoun "I" in the Psalm of David that Peter quotes refers to Jesus.  This is how Peter is led by the Holy Spirit to interpret David's words.  "I saw the Lord" means, Jesus saw Yahweh.  "Because He (Yahweh) is at my right hand, I (Jesus) will not be shaken".  Even though Jesus died on the cross, descended into Hades, and, even though God turned His back on Jesus while on the cross, Jesus understood that at that exact moment was at God's right hand of authority.  The term "right hand" as used in the Bible is idiomatic of the idea that one is in a place of authority alongside someone else.  This term doesn't mean that God has a physical right hand.  


In verse 26 we see that even in His trials, Jesus had a measure of joy because the death He was experiencing would end in a great hope.  His "body would live in hope".  We know that Jesus suffered the agony of the cross.  We saw Him sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane.  We know that He was in anguish, but it appears that at one point in time His anguish turned to joy.  


In verse 27 Jesus says that God "would not abandon Him to the grave".  Even though God turned His back on Jesus while on the cross, which by the way, we should not see as abandoning Jesus; God would not allow Jesus to remain in the grave.  I understand the words "the grave" here to be more than a hole in the ground, or in Jesus' case, a whole in the side of a mountain.  I understand grave here to be Hades, as is often the case in the Bible.  Jesus did go to Hades to free the righteous souls, but He did not stay there.   


Also in verse 27 we see "the Holy One".  This is clearly in reference to Jesus.  Decay entered the world when Adam first ate of the forbidden fruit, but Jesus would not experience any of this decay in a lasting sense.  He would only taste decay.  The technical term for this decay is "entropy", meaning, "All things lead to decay".


In verse 28 we note that Jesus understood every stop of the path He would take.  Nothing was a surprise for Him.  No matter how hard the path was for Jesus, the Psalm clearly predicts that it would end in life.  I believe Jesus knew that as He hung on the cross. 


The Psalm that Peter quotes here fills us in on a lot of what happened to Jesus while on the cross, especially how He viewed the whole experience, as many Old Testament passages do.


In verse 29 through 31 Peter tells his audience that David died and his tomb could still be seen.  He said that David was actually acting as a prophet as he spoke "and knew that God had promised him on oath that He would place one of his descendents on his throne.  Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of ChristÖ"  Peter was simply saying that David wasn't talking about himself but about the Messiah, and especially the resurrection of the Messiah, something the Jews didn't see in the Psalms because they failed to see that their Messiah would come to earth twice; once as the suffering servant, and then as their Saviour. 


David also speaks of the Messiah, meaning Jesus, as one who would sit on His throne.  We see this truth predicted in 2 Samuel  7:11 - 16 and Psalm 89:3 Ė 4.  If you recall what the angel told Mary concerning the birth of her Son Jesus, He told her that Jesus would rule on the throne of David. (Luke 1:32)     


When it comes to the fulfillment of Jesus ruling on the throne of David, this will be realized when Jesus returns to earth and rules the world from Jerusalem, the city of God.  


At this point I'll remind you of the false teaching of Replacement Theology.  People holding this view believe that Israel has no more significance in the sight of God.  They believe that the church has replaced Israel in prophetic history.  Therefore, they reinterpret all the Old Testament prophetic passages concerning Israel to concern the church.  I do not believe this teaching, and I think this verse helps support my position.   If God says Jesus will rule on David's throne, and this throne is in Jerusalem, we should take God at His word.    


In verse 31 we see reference to Jesus' body not decaying.  Peter is saying that David's body did decay.  So, for this reason, David's words could not be speaking of him.  They had to have been speaking of someone else, meaning, the Messiah, who Peter now says is Jesus.  Peter is using simple logic here; simple common sense.   


In verse 32 Peter clearly gives a powerful witness to the resurrection of Jesus, just as Jesus predicted in Acts 1:8 would happen.  When the Spirit would come on these disciples, they had great power and boldness to witness to the Lord Jesus Christ, which in this case meant that Peter exposed the sins of the Jews.  He would give them an opportunity to repent of their sins. 


Note in verse 32 the words "this Jesus".  We've seen this before.  Peter makes sure that those hearing him know exactly what Jesus He is talking about.  It's the Jesus these Jews killed.   Peter's boldness would soon get him in lots of trouble. 


In verse 33 we see the term "exalted to the right hand of God".  As I've said before, this term doesn't mean God has a right hand.  It's idiomatic of the fact that Jesus will rule alongside of God.  The term "right hand" in those days simply meant "to rule alongside another".  So, Jesus was exalted from being the servant to the Lord of all there is. 


Note here in verse 33 that Peter says that Jesus has received the Holy Spirit from His Father and has poured Him out on the disciples.  It was Jesus, at the Father's request, who gave the Holy Spirit to the believers.  This verse might be hard to get your head around, especially when thinking of the Trinity.  You might ask, "How can God give the Spirit, who is God, to Jesus, who is God"? I'm not sure I can properly answer that question.


In verse 34 Peter goes beyond the resurrection of Jesus, as we should do in our preaching.  Yes, Jesus was raised from the dead, but He was raised to higher heights.  Verse 33 says that Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God. This speaks of the ascension of Jesus.  Jesus had to leave this earth as He said in John 16:7 before the Holy Spirit could come to the believers. 


Peter, getting back to his proof concerning the Davidic Psalm being prophetic of Jesus and not David says in verse 34 that David did not ascend into Heaven.  Thus is one more proof that this Psalm was speaking about Jesus.


In verses 34 and 35 Peter then goes on to quote Psalm 110:1.  This Psalm says that Jesus would "sit at the right hand" of God until all of Godís enemies would become His footstool.  As Paul clearly points out in 1 Corinthians 15, the last enemy to be defeated by Jesus is death.  Once death has been conquered and thrown into the Lake of Fire , Jesus will return all things over to His Father.  According to this verse, at this present time, not all the enemies of God have been put under Jesus' feet. That's obvious.  Death and the devil, and sin itself, have still to be conquered.  The cross is only the beginning, not the end of the story.  All these enemies will be put under Jesus feet when the New Heaven and New Earth appear on the scene at the end of the book of Revelation.  Until then, we suffer and, but there is a better life to come. 


Again, when speaking of the "right hand of God", we must understand this to mean that Jesus will rule with God His Father in a place of authority. 


Psalm 110:1 also says, "The Lord says to my Lord".  This might be hard to understand on the surface, but if we continue on as we've been saying about David and the Psalms, the first mention of Lord here would be Jesus while the second mention of Lord would be Yahweh.  Putting Jesus and Yahweh in the same sentence would disturb the Jews.  Saying that Jesus is Yahweh, as this verse states, was blasphemy to the Jews.  Peter was being bold in saying this.  This is not the same Peter who denied knowing Jesus just a few weeks back.  The Holy Spirit made a huge difference in Peter's life.


The word  "sit" here in this Psalm might have some significance.  The Psalm didn't say stand.  Of course, when it comes to thrones, one does sit.  That being said, the word "sit" implies rest and confidence.  Jesus could rest in confidence knowing that He would win the battle over death.          


In verse 36 Peter carries on with the same thinking.  He says, "Let all Israel be assured of thisÖ"  Peter, in these words is not just speaking to those who are listening to him.  He is speaking to all Jews.  They have been waiting a long time for their Lord and Messiah to appear, yet when He appeared, they missed Him.  He goes on to say, "God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ".  Again, we see the words "this Jesus".  Peter is speaking of a specific Jesus.  He is the same Jesus the Jews executed.     


Here we see the earthly name of Jesus, along with His two titles.  Jesus is His earthly name, yet God has made Him both Lord and Christ.  We need to understand Lord as Yahweh.  The Hebrew equivalent to Lord was always understood to be Yahweh in the Old Testament.  Yahweh is the final authority of all there is.  As Christ, Jesus is the Messiah who will eventually restore the nation of Israel to nationhood, but in the mean time, He is the Christ who saves all who give themselves to Him.  Wrapped up in one person, that is Jesus, was all that Israel longed for, but rejected.  This complies with what John says in John 1:11 where he says that Jesus came unto His own people, but His own people did not receive Him.


Peter, being very bold told his listeners that they were the ones who killed Jesus.  I am sure this would have irritated them. Yet it was the Jews who handed Jesus over to the Roman authorities who actually put Him to death.  But behind all of these events was the will of God. God needed to see Jesus die in order to bring salvation to the world.  Isaiah 53, the chapter that is all about Jesus, tells us that it pleased God to bruise Jesus.  In one real sense of the word, it pleased God to see Jesus hang on the cross.  I suggest you read Isaiah 52 and 53 to understand what I've just said.  


The biggest thing that bothered the Jews from Peter's message was the fact that Peter was associating Jesus with Yahweh.  This was pure blasphemy to the Jews and worthy of death. 


The words of Peter most likely did irritate some but for others his words "cut them to the heart", as stated in verse 37.  It was as if someone had stabbed them right to the core of their being and twisted the knife around in circles.  These people simply did not know how to respond to Peter.  They only sensed the convicting power of God. The Holy Spirit brought such conviction to them that the only thing that they could say is seen in verse 37.  They asked Peter, "What shall we do"?  Simply put, they were asking "whatís next".  


Peter told them what was next.  In verse 38 he says, "Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins".  Peter preached repentance and faith.  One cannot have true faith without true repentance.  That is to say, one cannot truly trust Jesus with his life unless he has seen the need to do so.  It's my thinking that the modern church is in the process of neglecting the preaching of repentance, and that has shown in church membership.  One cannot be a true Christian unless he repents of his sin.    


Sometimes there is great sorrow involved in repenting, and sometimes not.  But one must turn from their own ways.  Of course they must see the need to turn.  This is where the Reformation Movement gets its thinking on "law and grace".  They say, as the Scripture says, one must have the law preached to them before they can begin to understand faith.  People must understand that they live in a fallen state, they disobey God daily, and they are in desperate need of help from God.  This is what Romans 1 and 2 is all about. This is the preaching of the law.


Once law is preached, people need to hear grace.  That is Godís love and provision for them.  People have a way out of their lostness.  So Peter says, "Repent".  Although in the verse he doesnít actually tell them to "believe", or to have faith or trust in Jesus, he does tell them to be water baptized, which would imply faith. 


It's also important to note that Peter says that repentance, faith, and water baptism, must be done in the name of Jesus.  No other name will do.  No other name will lead people to salvation. 


Peter does not leave the people with repentance and faith.  He continues to say, "And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for youÖ."  The natural result of true repentance and faith is that you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Note once again, the gift is the Holy Spirit, not an experience called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.  Note also the word "promise" again.  The promise also refers to the gift of the Spirit, not an experience as some might suggest.


Here in this one verse we have what I call, "salvation as a package".  Salvation is a combination of three things.  They are, repenting, believing, and receiving the Holy Spirit.  One must repent to truly believe.  One must repent and believe before receiving the Spirit.  It appears from life experience that all three can happen in a moment of time, or it can happen over a period of time.  We will see this later.  Still, one is not fully saved until all three aspects of salvation have come true in a personís life.  If you fall short, only God knows where you stand. 


In verse 39 Peter continues to say that this salvation is not only for you, but also for your children and "all those who are far off Ė for all whom the Lord our God will call".  To some, the words "also for your children" suggest what is called "household salvation".  This teaching states that if the father or mother, or both, give his or her life to Jesus, then the whole house is saved.  These people suggest this is the meaning to 1 Corinthians 7:14 as well.  If this were true, then infant baptism would be permissible, just as infant circumcision was mandated in the Old Testament by God.  I do not believe in this way of thinking.  That being said, I do believe that children while living at home are under the blessing of God that is upon their parents.    


What does it mean when Peter uses the words "whom the Lord our God will call"?  Does it mean that He does not call everyone to salvation?  Does He only call some and not others?  Some hold to this position, but I donít.  There are too many verses that say "whosoever will believe, will be saved" to hold what is called the "Calvinistic view of Predestination".  If you believe that God only calls some to salvation, then these "whosoever will" verses are meaningless.  God calls all men, in one way or another, yet not all men respond in a positive way.    


Peter uses the words "in the name of Jesus Christ" when referring to repentance and water baptizing. Some denominations have gone overboard in their doctrine concerning the name of Jesus and baptizing in His name.  Jesus Himself said to baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  To me it is simple.  The name of the Father Son and Spirit is the same as the name of Jesus.  No other distinction needs to be made.  The disciples did everything in the name of Jesus.  This means that they were representatives of Jesus.  They acted in His place on earth.  When they baptized people in water, they baptized them with the authority that Jesus gave them to be His representatives.


Verse 40 says, "with many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, Ďsave yourself from this corrupt generation'".  Peter obviously spoke more than what Luke recorded.  Personally speaking, I would have liked to have heard the whole message. 


Peter spoke to the crowd by "warning" them.  He actually "pleaded with them".  The use of the word "pleaded" suggests that Peter was very emotional and even forceful in his presentation.  He told them to save themselves from the generation in which they lived.  Peter, and the rest of the New Testament writers, did not think much of the generation in which they lived.  As a matter of fact, the Bible really speaks of all generations being corrupt.  This should be our stance, but for many Christians today who are in love with this world, they don't see things this way.   


The words "warned" and "pleaded" are imperfect indicative verbs in the Greek.  Imperfect means that he continued to warn them and plead with them.   His warning wasn't just a quick statement.  The shows the intensity Peter has about this issue.  Indicative suggests a certainty about this warning.  The people must save themselves from their present generation. 


When Peter speaks of "saving" one's self from his corrupt generation, the verb in Greek here is an aorist imperative.  This means that the one saving himself must do it right now.  It's a one time decision.  Imperative also suggests that this is not something to think about.  Peter is commanding these people to save themselves from their corrupt generation.       


Again, note the use of the word "save" in this verse.  As Christians we are not only saved from hell, from our sins, from Godís wrath, but we are also saved from the world and its influence on our lives.  Peter believed that we needed to be rescued from the corrupt surroundings that we all live in.  The word "rescue" is a good word to use because the way of the world only leads us to death.  We all need to be saved, or rescued from the world.


Verse 41 tells us that three thousand people believed what Peter had to say and were water baptized and added to the church that day.  I often wonder if the same Pentecostal event happened to these people as it did to the one hundred and twenty.  Somehow I think that their experience might have been different, maybe less dramatic.  What really took place at this huge baptismal service, we really donít know.  Luke decided not to tell us.  Some experts suggest that this baptism was not done by immersion, but by pouring water on the head of the believers.   


I also have wondered what baptizing 3,000 people in one event would look like.  It musts have been one great baptismal service.  


There has been much debate over how water baptism is performed.  The very nature of the word means to totally immerse, yet there are many experts that show from external sources, for example drawings, that baptism was often a pouring out on the most part. 


I'd like to close this section by saying that this is quite a sermon by an uneducated fisherman as many call Peter, but of course, he had help from the Holy Spirit.  That being said, Peter was only uneducated in Jewish the legalistic laws of the Pharisees.   



   The Fellowship Of The Believers (ch.2:42 - 47)



This section of Acts gives us the very first picture of church life in New Testament times.  The first thing we see is that "they", that is the new converts, "devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship".  Teaching by the apostles and fellowship with them and the rest of the church were primary.  The word "continued" here suggests that these things were an ongoing and regular process.  I don't think they were a once a week meeting of the saints.  The word "fellowship" used here implies more than just a meeting.  It implies the idea of building functional relationships with one another in the Body of Christ.  I call these kinds of relationships "functional relationships" because the relationships formed among these people would have been twofold.  These relationships were a means of support for one another in an anti-Christ environment.   These relationships however, were also a means in which the people functioned in the Body of Christ.  That is to say, they served Jesus based from these relationships.  Serving, at least at this point, did not revolve around much organizational structure.  It's important that we're not just joined to other Christians for the fun of fellowship or for mutual support.  We're joined to work for the Lord with those to whom He has joined us.


Note that the general Christian public followed the apostolic teaching.  Of course, this is only reasonable.  There were no other teachers in the church.  Much has been said about apostolic teaching over the years.  I won't dwell on it here, but modern day apostles must not stray from the apostolic teaching found in the Bible, but that is not always the case these days.         


Luke mentions two other things.  They participated in the "breaking of bread and prayer".  Does "breaking of bread" mean eating a meal, or does it mean what we would call "communion" or "the Lordís supper"?  I lean towards the idea that breaking of bread means communion within the context of a community meal.  It appears that communion was often part of a common meal that these people may have eaten together, something like the Last Supper in John 13 and 14.  One thing I do say, I'm not convinced that this breaking of bread was heavily ritualized as it is in today's church. 


The contextual meaning to why I believe the breaking of bread refers to communion is because in verse 46 it seems to separate breaking of bread from eating together.  "They broke bread in their homes and ate together Ö"  I take the eating together as eating meals.  Thus we see a distinction between breaking bread and eating meals.  


Corporate prayer was also a regular practice for these Christians, something our modern church should learn from.  Prayer meetings over the last few decades have decreased in size and regularity.  It's the hardest gathering to encourage people to attend.  This has led to a humanistic style of church, which really isn't church.     


As I've said, all these things mentioned here were a regular and ongoing practice for these people.  The breaking of bread, the prayer, the teaching, was all in the context of functional fellowship in the Body of Christ.    


In verse 43 Luke says that "everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles".  Note that there are two groups of people mentioned in this verse.  They are, "everyone" and "the apostles".  Note also that the apostles were the ones that did the miraculous signs, not the group called "everyone".  Everyone did not appear to perform the miracles, as is so often thought.  Only the apostles were used by God to perform the miracles, or so it is implied here.  This doesn't mean that many of the people were used by God to perform miracles at times, because they probably were.  What I believe this says is that part of the apostolic ministry was the performance of miracles.  Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12:12 suggests what I've just said when he says, "Ö the things that mark an apostle Ė signs, wonders, and miracles".  This should answer the question many of us had in our youth.  We used to ask why we don't see the miracles that we see in the New Testament.  We had the faulty premise that everyone did the miracles, when I don't believe they did.   


In verse 44 Luke says that "all the believers were together and had everything in common".  I canít see that this verse means that there were three thousand plus people living in one big commune somewhere in Jerusalem.  What this must mean is that they were constantly getting together, possibly in small groups as well as larger groups.  Generally speaking, you would see gatherings of Christians all over the place back then, at any time, and on any given day. I wish the Christian community was more like this today.


They held "all things in common", suggests more of a way of thinking.  Once again, I canít see all these people bringing all of their possessions and piling them altogether in some big field to share with each other.  The attitude of the first generation Christians was generosity.  If someone needed something, they were given it by their brothers in Christ.  I don't believe you can use this verse to support communal living, even though I have lived communally in times past.  Luke's words speak to the mentality of the people.  Simply put; they were willing to share when needed, and that they did.   Verse 45 says this. It reads, "Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone who had need".  If there was a need among them, and if the sale of an item would help that person, the item was sold.  It's that simple. It was all about taking care of your brother in the Lord in the time of his need.


So-called Christian Marxism or Christian Communism, as has been taught in some areas of that which we call church, will often point to these believers having all things in common to support their position.  This is a pure misuse of this verse.  A simple thinking things through of this verse tells you that no one was forced to share anything with anyone.  Marxism or Communism is a forced sharing.  People shared here out of love and concern for their brothers and sisters in Christ. Also, this text does not teach the concept of holding all things in common.  It only states that this is what these first Christians did.  The teaching associated with this practice would have been simply loving your brother as Jesus loved us.  That's it.        


Verse 46 tells us that the believers met in the "temple" courts every day.  The early Christians did not necessarily promote communal living, but they were in constant contact with one another, and for a while, part of this contact took place at the  temple.  This was only natural since being Jewish.  They were used to gathering at the temple for religious gatherings.  This would soon change when they were no longer allowed to meet in the temple.    


Note the pronoun "they" that refers to the believers in verse 46.  "They met in the temple courts on a daily basis".  I believe the word "they" is "a corporate they".  By this I mean that onlookers would look at the temple courts every day and see a crowd of Christians there.  The word "they" refers to "the crowd", not to individuals in the crowd.  This tells me that individuals in the crowd may have varied from day to day.  Not the same individuals could be seen on a daily basis.  Only the crowd could be seen on a daily basis.  I'm not convinced that every individual believer met every day of the week in the temple courts. Some might have met daily, but many, if not most had obligations to fulfill, like earning a living.  I might also suggest that probably some did gather every day, but only at times when they were free to gather.  Again, simple logic would tell us this, something many don't use when reading the Bible.  Unless you stop your reading and think the text through, you'll most likely get a wrong understanding of the text.           


Luke also says in verse 46 that "they broke bread together in their homes and ate togetherÖ"  Note here the distinction between "breaking bread" and "eating together".  I suggest this as proof that "breaking bread" means communion an eating means eating of a meal.  The first generation church partook of the Lordís Supper in their homes as they ate meals together.  This was a regular practice.  Communion was not a liturgical or ceremonial religious affair as it has evolved into today.  It was seen in terms of fellowship and in terms of relationships in the Body of Christ.  Of course, over the years, like all other Biblical things, the church has liturgicalized something that was very relational.   


Once again, note the use of the temple temple by these early Christians.  Remember, these new Christians were Jews, or Jewish proselytes, that is, Gentile converts to Judaism.  As Jews it was their practice to meet at the temple for worship. 


You see Peter and John in the temple in Acts 3 as an example of their daily activity.  It had not yet sunk into their thinking that salvation was for all mankind, even though Jesus told them that they would preach to the ends of the earth, which would include preaching to Gentiles.  They still had a Jewish and Jerusalem mentality.  All this would begin to change in Acts 10 when God called Peter to a Gentile home.  This would change even more when Paul was converted and began his ministry to the Gentiles.  We owe most of our salvation by faith alone theology to Paul.  I often say, "If Paul was wrong, then we have major problems".


In verse 47 Luke says that these new Christians were praising God and as a result were in "good favour with everybody".  "Everybody" would refer to the non-Christian Jews who would have seen these people in the temple on a daily basis.  We should note though, that this favour did not last long. 


Chapter 2 ends with the words, "and the Lord added to their number daily, those who were being saved".  Note that the Lord added to the church.  Note also that this happened on a daily basis.  From this verse we should know that once a person gets saved, he is added to the church.  He becomes a vital part of the Body of Christ.  Christians aren't isolated individuals, but affective members of the community of God's people.  We should therefore act accordingly.  This truth is not always understood or practiced in Christian circles.    


This infant church was a praising church.  They were always getting together to be taught, to pray, to break bread, and to have fellowship, including meals.  I say that as modern day Evangelicals we have the meal part of this down pretty good.  We might need to work on the rest.  When needed, these Christians would give what they could to those in need because they didnít think that what they owned belonged strictly to themselves.  They had favour with those around them, at least for the time being, and their numbers increased on a daily basis.  This is a pretty nice picture of the early church.


At this point you might want to ask, "Is the growth of the church evolutionary" in nature?  By this I mean, "Should we just allow the church to evolve in such a way to fit the needs of our generation without any consideration to what the New Testament teaches, or, should we pattern church after what the New Testament specifically teaches".  The church we see in Acts 2 was young.  It was an infant church.  As it grew, it did encounter change.  Was this change meant to stop after the first generation church members died off, or was it meant to continue? 


If you ask these questions to those who think about such things, you probably get many answers.  How you answer these questions will determine what kind of church you will have.  If the church is totally evolutionary; meaning it is in constant change, then we donít have to follow what the first apostles taught about church.  However, if the church isn't to be evolutionary in nature, then what was taught by men like Peter and Paul should be clearly understood and practiced.   


There is a third possibility, that is neither totally evolutionary nor an exact replica of the first church's teaching.  This possibility would be a combination of both.  That is to say; we practice what the New Testament apostles taught, but with present day updates.  For example, the early church had a group of elders as its leaders.  We could do the same today, yet the duties of these elders may differ since we are in a different era.  Back then the church did not have worship teams with all sorts of high tech equipment as we do today.  One of our elders could be a worship team elder, something they might not have had back then.


When it comes to church structure, I strongly believe that we should follow New Testament teaching.  I differentiate between New Testament teaching and New Testament practice.  Not all that the first church did was correct.  The church at Corinth is an example of that.  I do believe we should follow New Testament teaching.  If we don't follow New Testament teaching on this issue, why do we think we should follow it on any other issue?    


As we walk our way through the book of Acts you will see the change this early church goes through.  It should be obvious and clear as you read.  You might then want to ask yourself how this change affects our church life today.



Previous Section - Chapter 1

Next Section - Chapter 3

Home Page