Chapter 2

2:1-12 The Power from on High on the Day of Pentecost

As the Father had promised (see note on 1:4), the church was constituted and empowered for its world-wide task (see 1:8) on the Day of Pentecost (50 days after the first Easter Sunday). God often uses symbols which are signs that have a special meaning for particular occasions. We use the symbol of a wedding ring, the firing of canons for royal occasions, the use of flags, fireworks, the Olympic flame. And there is rich meaning in the wind (see note on 2:2) and the fire(see note on 2:3) and the tongues understood by people of different nations (2:4).

This filling of the Spirit according to Joel's prophecy (Joel 2:28-29) was not an individual experience. It was the church being brought into existence and animated by the Spirit to form a body (Romans 12:4, 1Corinthians 12:12-13, Ephesians 4:16) through which the Messiah would be able to express himself in every city of the world (see notes on 1:5 and 1:8). This church would become a temple of living stones (Ephesians 2:21-22, 1 Peter 2:5) to replace the dead stones of the Jerusalem temple (which would soon be thrown down, Matthew 24:2). And this temple would move and grow where it was needed in every city of the world.

2:1 The Day of Pentecost (Greek for fiftieth day) was originally the harvest festival (Leviticus 23:15-21, always on a Sunday which came fifty days, or seven weeks, after the first fruits of the barley harvest (Leviticus 23:10) had been offered. It was also called the feast of weeks (Exodus 34:22, Deuteronomy 16:9-10). Pentecost was one of the three great annual feasts (together with Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles, Deuteronomy 16:16) for which Jews came to Jerusalem whenever possible (2:5, see Acts 20:16).

In the inter-testamental period (from Malachi to the New Testament) prophecy was silent. Instead of focusing, as did the prophets, on the reigning Messiah King and looking to the Spirit for Wisdom, the rabbis focused on the study of the torah (the 5 books of Moses). So they used the Day of Pentecost to celebrate the giving of that Law. Jeremiah had foreseen a new covenant of the heart, as opposed to the covenant of law given on Sinai (Jeremiah 31:31-33). And on this day the 120 persons who had been gathering for prayer (see 1:14-15) were in one place in the temple courts (see 3:11) awaiting the power of the Spirit as Jesus had promised (1:8, as in Luke 24:49).

2:2 The Hebrew word for wind was ruakh, and the same word was used for the creative Spirit or Wind of God (as in Genesis 1:2, Psalm 104:30). Wind had the power to move huge sailing vessels and lift eagles up into the sky. So the Holy Spirit was called the power of God (as in Romans 1:4, 16, 15:13, 1 Corinthians 2:4. Colossians 1:11). The word ruakh could also mean the wind breathing in our lungs, from which we get the word "inspiration." He inspired artists (Exodus 31:3, 35:31), those with gifts of leadership (Numbers 11:25-29, Judges 3:10, 6:34, 1 Samuel 16:13, Isaiah 11:2), wise persons (Proverbs 8:14-21), and prophets (1 Samuel 10:10, 2 Kings 2:9, 15, Isaiah 61:1, Ezekiel 2:2, 2 Timothy 3:16, 1 Peter 1:10-11). The sound "like the rush of a violent wind" was therefore a sign of the powerful work of the Spirit in and through the new church. Just as a rainbow reminds us of God's promise (Genesis 9:13), and the wind should remind us of the power of the Spirit.

2:3 Moses saw the bush on fire without the bush being consumed, and this was a sign of the presence of God calling him to free his people (Exodus 3:2, 4). A pillar of fire was a sign of the Lord leading them through the wilderness (Exodus 13:21). Fire came down on Mount Sinai for the giving of the moral law (Exodus 19:18, see 24:17, Deuteronomy 4:11-12, 5:22). And fire inaugurated the sacrificial worship of the tabernacle (Leviticus 9:24) and the worship of Solomon's temple (2 Chronicles 7:1). No Jew on the Day of Pentecost could doubt that the fire on each person's head was a sign of God's inauguration and blessing of the new church.

2:4 This filling of the Holy Spirit was to constitute the prototype of a church in which all the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4-13, Ephesians 4:4, 11-12) would function as a body in every city center of the world. But Paul made clear that we should not expect all members of the body to have all the gifts. "Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? (1 Corinthians 12:29-30). But when a new work of the Spirit begins one of the first manifestations is often speaking in tongues and its interpretation (8:17, 15:11-17, 10:44-47, 11:17, 19:6). But Paul explains that tongues are no proof of spirituality (1 Corinthians 13:1), where they occur in a worship gathering they should be interpreted (1 Corinthians 14:13, 28), and normally it was better to speak words that people can understand (14:12, 19).

2:5-7 Jewish people had come from all over the world (see 2:8-11). In this case there was a reversal of the curse of Babel (Genesis 11:7), which had divided languages from one another. Some of the 120 people (1:15) who were Galileans (2:7) "began to speak in tongues" (wrongly translated languages), and those from other language backgrounds were astonished to find themselves understanding what was said. Normally the interpretation of tongues was a gift of the Spirit through a person with the gift of interpretation (1 Corinthians 12:10, 30, 14:5). Tongues which had been interpreted "with the mind" became intelligible prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:4-5, 9, 13-15). And normally those who find themselves speaking in tongues should be able to put what they receive into understandable words. In this case the hearers understood without the help of interpreters.

2:8-11 The variety of languages from the various countries of the Jewish diaspora (dispersion, see 1 Peter 1:1) is interesting. Parthians belonged to a large empire from the Caspian sea across northern Iran to present day Afghanistan. Medes were an Indo-European people related to the Persians. Elamites descended from Shem (Genesis 10:21-22), and they were originally cousins of the Sumerians, among whom Abraham was raised in the city of Ur. Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, were in eastern, northern, western, and southern Turkey (see 1 Peter 1:1). Egypt, Libya and Cyrene (Mark 15:21) stretched across North Africa. Paul planted churches in the Island of Crete (Titus 1:5). Arabs (see Galatians 1:17) lived to the east of the river Jordan (for their story seeIshmael the Arab). These were all countries where the church was already growing as Luke was writing (see Matthew 24:14, where Jesus spoke of church growth before the fall of Jerusalem, compare Matthew 24:31 which speaks of the much more extensive growth of the church to the four winds after the destruction of Jerusalem).

2:12-15 When people wondered what this meant, and suggested the apostles were drunk, Peter stood with the other eleven apostles (see 1:26), and pointed out it was only nine in the morning (in Greek this was the third hour counting from daybreak at six a.m.).

2:16-36 The Meaning of Joel's Prophecy

2:16-18 The prophecy of Joel refers to two ways in which the Old Testament prophets received their message (Joel 2:28-29).   One was by being given a vision or dream (2:17, as in Zechariah 1:8, 18, 2:1, 4:2) which at first was obscure, and then the Holy Spirit enabled them to interpret it to the people. The other was by being given words (other tongues), as when Saul was given tongues by the Spirit (1 Samuel 10:10 - the translation should be ecstasy, not frenzy. See Numbers 11:25-29). The words would be like unknown tongues, which at first had no meaning, and the prophets were then able to interpret them in a clear language (as in 1 Corinthians 14:13-19). This makes clear that tongues are not meaningless babble, but incipient prophecy that should normally be put into words for all to understand (1 Corinthians 14:13-14).

Later Paul would make clear that in the church as a body other gifts of the Spirit would be given (Ephesians 4:7-4:16, as in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11). Paul did not become an apostle on the Damascus Road. And this gifting included women as well as men, children (2:39) as well as parents, slaves and masters, all in mutual submission to one another as members of the church in each city (Ephesians 5:21-6:9). The prophecy of Joel was therefore being fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost as the new church of the Spirit began to be seen and heard. What is first heard is the outpouring of visions and tongues (both precede their interpretation). The other manifestations of teaching, loving fellowship, communion, and fervent prayer (2:42).would soon follow. This shows that speaking in tongues is not the evidence of an individual baptism in the Spirit, but it frequently appears when a church is first animated by the Spirit.

2:19-20 In Joel's prophecy the events of the Day of Pentecost (Joel 2:28-29) and the destruction and burning of Jerusalem in AD 70 (Joel 2:30-32) were mentioned in the same breath. But in fact these two events were going to be divided by a period of 40 years. It is clear from Jesus' own words that the portents mentioned by Joel (2:30) were those that would accompany the Messiah's coming in the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 (Matthew 16:28). As Jesus had said, "The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken" (Matthew 24:29), which is an exact quote from the portents that signaled the fall of Babylon (Isaiah 13:10) and the day of the Lord that Joel himself expected in his day, Joel 2:1,10). When he quoted Joel on the Day of Pentecost, Peter knew that both parts of the prophecy were now being fulfilled in that generation (Matthew 16:28, 24:34, Luke 21:32). What he did not know was the exact timing (Mark 13:32), or that the two events would be separated by 40 years. When he wrote his letter shortly before he was martyred as an old man (probably in AD 64) he knew "The end of all things is near" (1 Peter 4:7). The terrible wars across the Roman empire and the siege of Jerusalem began in AD 66, and the city fell and the temple was destroyed six years after Peter's martyrdom (AD 70).

2:21 Peter's invitation is based on the words of Joel that immediately follow his prophecy: "Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love" (Joel 2:13, and the almost exact quote in Joel 2:32).

2:22-24 Peter then related the prophecy of Joel to what had happened in the life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus. Finally the apostle had come to understand what Jesus had repeated three times (Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:18-19) and Peter had resisted in the name of Satan (Matthew 16:22-23). Jesus' crucifixion was according to the words "God so loved the world that he gave his only son" (John 3:16).

2:25-28 As Peter spoke about the resurrection he remembered the words "You did not give me up to sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit," and the words that preceded and followed it (Psalm 16:9-10). This Psalm must have been in Jesus' mind when he announced his own resurrection (Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:18-19). And Paul quoted this same text when explaining the resurrection (Acts 13:35).

2:29-30 Peter then pointed out that this could not refer to King David since he died and was buried in a tomb which was known "to this day." In the Psalm David was therefore speaking prophetically of the resurrection of one of his descendants, who could only be the Messiah. And Peter and the other apostles were witnesses of this taking place.

2:31-32 "He was not abandoned to Hades (Hebrew sheol, the abode of the dead) is again a quote from Psalm 16:10. The first act of the Messiah when he died and went to be with the father was to go and empty sheol of its contents (as he had prophesied in John 5:28-29). And in fact the faithful dead from sheol appeared in Jerusalem while Jesus' corpse was still hanging on the cross (Matthew 27:52-53). That meant that Jesus never down in the abode of the dead, and nor will we.

2:33 At the last supper Jesus had said "The Advocate (Greek paraklytos, Latin advocatus, both mean "called alongside"), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all I have said to you" (John 14:26). Luke referred to this "promise of the Father" at the end of his Gospel. "See, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). And he repeated this reference to the Father's promise at the beginning of his book of Acts. "He ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to await the promise of the Father" (1:4). The outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which they had now witnessed, had therefore been promised to Jesus before he was crucified, and now fifty days later this promise was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost.

2:34-35 Clearly David did not ascend into the heavens, but he said in a messianic psalm "The LORD (in Hebrew this is the HE IS of Exodus 3:14) says to my lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool" (Psalm 110:1). Paul will refer to this in his great chapter on the resurrection, "He must reign till he has put all his enemies under his feet" (15:25).

2:36 Peter therefore concluded from these Old Testament texts, and their fulfilment fifty days earlier on the first Easter Sunday, that every Jew could now know with absolute certainty that Jesus, whom they had crucified, was the one who was known in the Old Testament as Lord and reigning King Messiah.

2:37-47 The Response to Peter's Preaching on the Day of Pentecost

2:37 Peter's words about Jesus as the Messiah cut his hearers to the heart, and they asked what they should do?

2:38 The verb metanoeo means to change one's mind, or to change direction. It can include a city repenting in sackcloth and ashes (Matthew 11:21, Luke 10:13), but for the individuals here it meant turning from rejecting Jesus to recognizing him as Messiah. Deep contrition is not a prerequisite for baptism, but it often follows later. Both John the Baptist and Jesus had used baptism as a means of enrolling disciples (learners) to be taught (as explained fully in Go Make Learners). And after the resurrection Jesus had told his disciples to continue this practice among all nations. "Go therefore and make disciples (people willing to become learners) of all nations" by baptizing them to be taught about the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (the three parts of the Apostles' Creed), and imparting to them all that Jesus had taught in the Gospels (Matthew 28:19-20). The only definition of the word "Christian" is someone who is currently learning about the Messiah and his purposes (Acts 11:26). After being enrolled by baptism a church of the Holy Spirit would be formed (as in 8:17) and the Holy Spirit would begin teaching the disciples (the sequence is given in Titus 3:5), guide them into all truth, and pray within them prayers according to the Father's will (John 14:25-26, 15:26-27, 16:12-13, Romans 8:26-27).

2:39 Women were baptized, as well as men (as in 5:14, 8:3, 12, 9:2, 36, 16:13-14), and their children were to be included according the prophecy of Joel (see notes on 2:17, and the household baptisms in 16:15, 31, 40, see Ephesians 6:1).

2:40 It seems that Peter used many other arguments to encourage them to respond to the invitation by turning from the crooked generation (see Deuteronomy 32:5, Philippians 2:15, note on 2:21).

2:41 The result was that 3000 were enrolled (added, as in 2:47, 5:14, 6:1, 7) by baptism to be instructed by the apostles. As in other recorded baptisms (8:12, 36, 9:18, 10:48, 16:15, 33) there was no time to examine the faith or sincerity of those who were enrolled. The logistics of baptizing three thousand persons on one day would make it impossible for each person to be examined for the genuineness of saving faith. If twelve apostles spent 10 minutes with each of three thousand individuals, the time needed would be over 40 hours over a period of at least four days.

2:42 The new school of the Holy Spirit immediately engaged in four essential activities. There was doctrine, which meant that truth had to be imparted not as head knowledge but by the Holy Spirit (John 14:26, 1 Corinthians 2:4-5, 13). There were some who were specially gifted in teaching (11:24-25, 1 Timothy 3:2, 4:6, 6:2, 2 Timothy 2:15, 24, 3:16-17, 4:2, Titus 2:1, 15), but all Christians were to be involved in teaching one another: "Let the Word of the Messiah dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom (Colossians 3:16, see Hebrews 5:12 ). And this teaching activity went on throughout the book of Acts (4:1-2, 5:21, 25, 28, 6:7, 11:25-26, 19:8-10, 28:31).

Secondly there was loving fellowship (Greek koinonia). This was not just a social club. In the New Testament koinonia can be defined as "a group of people who accept each other as sinners, with view to being changed by the Holy Spirit." It meant love and care among brothers and sisters in the family of God (brotherly love for one another is encouraged in John 13:34-35, 15:12, 1 John 1:7, 3:11, 14, 23, 4:7, 11-12). Paul said "Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor" (Romans 12:10, see Hebrews 13:1). This love was expressed by the Middle Eastern hug of peace (Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26, 1 Peter 5:14).

Thirdly there was the breaking of bread (these days often called the eucharist or holy communion) that Jesus had commanded (see 2:46, 20:7, 11, Luke 24:30, 35, 1 Corinthians 10:16, 21, 11:23-24, 26). As we know, a family is created by eating together. When a child is adopted into a family the first thing he experiences is that he now has a right to eat at the family table. Other children could only come to eat by special invitation.

And in addition there were prayers. These were both in groups and engaged in privately (1:14, 4:24, 29-31, 6:4, 10:9, 12:5, 12, 13:1, 20:36). But this was not just formal prayer, but energized and directed according to the will of God by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8: 26-27, Ephesians 6:18-19).

2:43 There were other miraculous manifestations of the power of the Holy Spirit (as Jesus had predicted, John 14:12, and fulfilled in 1 Corinthians 12:9-10).

2:44-45 There was an immediate longing to share with one another. It has been suggested this was a kind of Christian communism, but this was voluntary (not enforced by the state). It was not a church requirement as Peter made clear in the case of Ananias and Sapphira (5:4). The selling of possessions (4:34-37) did not mean that people did not own or rent houses to live in (12:12, 28:30, Romans 16:5), or tools for their trade (18:3), or the clothes and books needed for their work (2 Timothy 4:13). In Christian community (koinonia) we voluntarily offer our house for a meeting, they lend their cottage for a conference, you lend me your truck for a move, she gives her time to provide a church supper, and all of us give money for the work of our church and those in need. The more we share our gifts, the more we love one another, and enjoy it.

2:46 The temple provided a meeting place for larger gatherings (as in 3:1, 11, 5:21, 42), but they also gathered in various homes to break bread together.

2:47 Their evident love and worship of God impressed ordinary people, and the church in Jerusalem grew rapidly (2:41, 5:14, 6:7), but the religious authorities would soon get jealous and arrest themt (4:5-7, 17-18, 27-28, 5:17-18, 27-33). The translation "to their number" (NRSV) misses the Greek epi to auto which means "in one place"(as in 1:15, 2:1). Better translate "The Lord kept adding to them in that location those who were being saved " (as in 2:1). The location was evidently in the temple courts (2:46, 3:1).

Chapter   3