1 The apostles, filled with the Holy Ghost, and speaking divers languages, are admired by some, and derided by others. 14 Whom Peter disproving, and shewing that the apostles spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, that Jesus was risen from the dead, ascended into heaven, had poured down the same Holy Ghost, and was the Messias, a man known to them to be approved of God by his miracles, wonders, and signs, and not crucified without his determinate counsel and foreknowledge: 37 he baptizeth a great number that were converted. 41 Who afterwards devoutly and charitably converse together: the apostles working many miracles, and God daily increasing his church.
1. Day. Rabbinic authority allowed Palestinian Jews one day for the celebration of Pentecost, but the Jews of the Dispersion were given two days for the feast.
Pentecost. Gr. pentēkostēs, from the adjective meaning “fiftieth,” a reference to the fifty days between the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of the First Fruits (Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost). The first known uses of this Greek word for the Hebrew Feast of Weeks occur in Tobit 2:1 (written c. 200 b.c. and 2 Maccabees 12:32), showing that the word had been employed among the Jews for many years before the Christian Era. For a fuller discussion of Pentecost and its position in the Jewish calendar see on Ex. 23:16; Lev. 23:16; cf. Vol. I, p. 709; Vol. II, pp. 106, 108; Resurrection to Ascension. A brief summary of relevant facts and their connection with the bestowal of the Holy Spirit at that time, follows:
The dating of Pentecost hinges upon the date of the Passover. The Passover was held on Nisan 14. The 15th marked the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and on the 16th a sheaf of the first fruits (of the barley harvest) was waved before the Lord (Lev. 23:5–11). From the 16th, seven weeks and a day, 50 days by inclusive reckoning, were counted to the Feast of First Fruits (of the wheat harvest), which was also known as the Feast of Weeks, because of the seven weeks that intervened (Lev. 23:15, 16). It is this feast that came to be known as Pentecost.
Since, in the year of the crucifixion, Nisan 16 fell on a Sunday (see Additional Notes on Matt. 26, Note 1), Pentecost, coming 50 days, inclusive, later (seven weeks and one day), would also fall on a Sunday in that year. There is no scriptural support, however, for assigning sacredness to Sunday on this account (cf. on Matt. 28:1).
Pentecost, of all feasts of the Jewish year, attracted the largest number of pilgrims from distant lands. The dangers of travel by sea and land in the early spring and late autumn (see Acts 27:9) prevented the coming of people from abroad in any large numbers to the Passover or to the Feast of Tabernacles. But the Pentecostal season was favorable, and at no other feast would there have been present at Jerusalem representatives of so many nations. There was no other time in which the gift of the Spirit was likely to produce such direct, immediate, and far-reaching effects. Also, the character of the offerings, which were mainly those of peace and consecration, put a joyous stamp upon the day. Even the bread was leavened, indicating a new spirit of release and fellowship working through the celebrants as they rejoiced together. Pentecost had much of the air of a harvest festival. Even Paul, least interested in observances as such (Rom. 14:5), was eager to celebrate Pentecost at Jerusalem in spite of his missionary journeys in Asia and Greece (Acts 18:21; 20:16).
Each aspect of the old Feast of Weeks presented a symbolic meaning that made it typical of the work now about to be accomplished. As the Feast of First Fruits, it was fitting that it should be the occasion of the first great gathering from the fields that were “white already to harvest” (Ex. 23:16; John 4:35). At this feast the Israelites, remembering that they had been slaves in Egypt, could feel again the liberty the Exodus had given them (Deut. 16:9–12), and be free of servile work (Lev. 23:21). It was therefore a fit time for the outpouring of the Spirit of God; and “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17). That Spirit was to guide the church into the truth, which makes all who receive it free indeed (John 8:32).
It is interesting to recall that the rabbis, who computed the interval between the first Passover and the giving of the law on Sinai, concluded that God spoke the law to the people (Ex. 20:1) on the day that was later observed as Pentecost. Through this tradition, the feast is thought to have acquired a commemorative character.
Pentecost was a great day in Israelitish experience, and was fittingly a type of the greater day that made the Spirit of God available for all who prepared themselves for Him.
Was fully come. Literally, “was being fulfilled,” or “filled up.” The words seem chosen to express the fact that the day was in the progress, perhaps to indicate the early morning hour.
They. Probably the 120 and other believers who may have joined them.
With one accord. Important textual evidence may be cited (cf. p. 10) for the reading “together.” Here, the writer is merely stating that “they were all together.”
However, though the Greek word does not say there was “accord,” it is evident that unity existed among the disciples. The jealousies revealed in their failure to heal the demon-possessed boy (Mark 9:14–29; DA 427, 429–431), in their striving for high position (Luke 22:24), and in refusing to wash one another’s feet (cf. John 13:3–17; DA 643, 644), had all been swept from their hearts by the agonies of the crucifixion, the glory of the resurrection, and the majesty of the ascension. Their Master had risen on the day of the offering of the wave sheaf of barley, which typified Himself, the First Fruits. Over a period of 40 days He had had repeated contact with them on earth. Ten more days had remained till this day, while they awaited “the promise of the Father.” What would this promise bring forth? The ten days of expectancy had been ten days of earnest prayer (Acts 1:14), offered in unity of desire (AA 36, 37). This is the unity that must characterize the people of God whenever they aspire to a special experience with their Lord, or expect of Him a manifestation of power. Whatever interferes with such unity must be removed, or it will obstruct the Spirit, who does the work of God for His people.
In one place. Perhaps the same large upper room in which the Lord’s Supper was eaten (Luke 22:11–14), which may have been the same ass that in which the disciples were sheltered after the crucifixion, and to which they returned after Jesus had ascended (see on Acts 1:13). Some hold that the disciples were perhaps meeting in one of the rooms of the Temple, which Josephus (Antiquities viii. 3. 2 [65, 66]) calls oikoi, “houses,” and which could be used by groups of friends, or members of an association, at a feast time. But it seems unlikely that the disciples would risk being seen together in so public a place as the Temple precincts.
2. Suddenly. Without warning, unexpectedly. The 120 could have had no inkling of the way in which the Comforter would come.
A sound. Gr. ēchos, “sound,” or “noise,” whence our word “echo.” It is used by Luke in his Gospel (ch. 21:25) to describe the “roaring” of the sea and the waves, and by the writer of Hebrews (ch. 12:19) for the “sound” of a trumpet from Sinai.
From heaven. Literally, “out of the heaven,” the place from which the Holy Spirit came to descend on Jesus at His baptism (Matt. 3:16; Luke 3:21, 22).
A rushing mighty wind. Literally, “a violent wind being borne onward.” Note that it was not actually a wind, but “as of,” or “like to,” a wind. The sensory impression made upon those going through the experience was as though it were a wind. The word translated “wind,” (pnoē) is used in the NT only here and in ch. 17:25 where it means “breath.” It is used in this same sense in the LXX. Luke may have chosen pnoē here as describing the supernatural “breathing” that the disciples were about to experience, and that must have recalled to them their sensations when the Lord “breathed on them,” and said, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22). Now once more they felt the divine impact of the awe-inspiring, divine “breathing.”
It filled. No subject of the verb is given, and the context does not make clear to what the “filling” refers. “It” may refer to the “sound,” or to the “wind.” Many commentators, however, hold that “it” refers to the wind “wind,” that is, to the Holy Spirit (cf. John 3:8).
All the house. Rather, “the whole house,” that is, the “one place” of v. 1. Sound or wind has the ability to fill quickly every nook and cranny of a building. Even so did the coming of the Spirit fill the place where these Christians were assembled.
Were sitting. Early in the day (see v. 15), possibly awaiting the hour of prayer.
3. There appeared unto them. Literally, “there appeared to them.” They had just received an audible intimation of the Spirit’s coming (v. 2); now they had visible evidence of His arrival.
Cloven tongues. Better, “tongues distributing themselves,” or “tongues being distributed.” The Greek conveys a picture of an initial body of fire that divides itself into many small tongues, which then settle on each member of the waiting assembly. The figure of “tongues” is apt in view of the gift of speech the Spirit bestowed on the believers.
Fire. Not that they were actual flames of fire, but “like as of fire,” that is, “resembling fire” (cf. “as of a rushing mighty wind,” v. 2). Divinity and fire are often linked in Scripture (cf. Ex. 3:2; Deut. 5:4; Ps. 50:3; Mal. 3:2), doubtless because of the power, glory, and purifying effects of fire. John the Baptist had promised that Christ would baptize “with the Holy Ghost, and with fire” (Matt. 3:11).
The Diaspora: World Dispersion of the Jews, First Century A.D.
It sat. There are two possible interpretations of this construction. The singular subject “it” can either refer to each one of the individual tongues or look forward to v. 4 and refer to the Holy Spirit. The Greek verb for “sat” indicates a settling down upon, while the tense suggests momentary rather than continuous action. Even though the fiery-appearing tongues remained upon the believers for only a brief time, the effects of the visitation lasted for the lifetime of the faithful Christians who received the Spirit.
4. They were all filled. Here is the fulfillment of “the promise of the Father” (see on ch. 1:4, 5), and the fruition of ten days of prayerful waiting. The disciples had been taught to pray for the Spirit (Luke 11:13). On the night following the resurrection, Christ had “breathed on them” and declared, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22). Suffusing the inner depths of their beings, and stirring their every faculty to intense activity, the promised Spirit came upon them. Now they entered into the experience of the prophets, thinking thoughts and, with the gift of tongues, speaking words that were not their own (cf. 2 Peter 1:21).
It is not to be thought that this filling was confined to the apostles. The words and the context lead the reader to believe that all who were assembled, not excepting the women, were sharers in this distribution of the gift of the Holy Spirit. If this were not so, Peter could scarcely have made of Joel’s prophecy the application he did (Acts 2:16–18).
Holy Ghost. There are many clear OT references to the Spirit of God (Num. 24:2; Judges 6:34; 1 Sam. 16:13; 2 Sam. 23:2; 2 Chron. 24:20; Ps. 51:11; Isa. 48:16; Eze. 11:5; Joel 2:28, 29; etc.). But no manifestation of the Spirit in the OT can compare with that made to the disciples on Pentecost: (1) in the unmistakable identification of the Agent, (2) in the fullness of the outpouring, and (3) in the results that followed. Hence that day is often called the birthday of the church. The great episodes in the incarnate life of Jesus, His birth, His baptism and reception of the Holy Spirit, His crucifixion, His resurrection, His ascension, were of supreme importance, and central to the unfolding plan of salvation. But the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost followed upon the heavenly acceptance of Christ’s great sacrifice, and His enthronement with the Father (see AA 38, 39). By that outpouring the church was empowered to do for Christ what had never before been attempted, the preaching of the good news of salvation to all nations.
This was not a mere “moving” of the Spirit. It was not merely the “breath” of the Spirit. It was an in filling of the disciples, the complete possession of them by the Holy spirit. From that time on the church was the instrument of the Spirit. There is nothing in the later record to suggest that any of those possessed with the Spirit on that memorable day ever lost that possession. Succeeding generations of Christians, ever further removed from the experience of Pentecost, grew less and less receptive to the divine gift, and apostasy resulted. Present-believers believers may profit from this sober fact of early church history.
Began. This marks the immediate effect of the Spirit’s descent upon the disciples. There was no waiting, no period of apprenticeship; they “began to speak” immediately.
Other tongues. Or, “different tongues,” that is, tongues different from their native speech. The Greek word translated “tongues” (glōssai) here and in v. 11 refers primarily to the organ of speech, but it is often used with reference to language.
The ability to speak foreign languages was a gift given to the disciples for the special purpose of carrying the gospel message into all the world. Pilgrims from the four corners of the earth (see on vs. 9–11) were assembled in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost. These, being Jews of the Dispersion (see The Diaspora; Vol. V, pp. 59–61), may have understood enough Hebrew to enjoy the Temple services, but they may have been unable to cope with the Aramaic in which the disciples would ordinarily have been speaking. For their sakes, and for those who would receive the message through them, the Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to proclaim the gospel fluently in the pilgrims’ home languages. This was a major miracle and fulfilled one of the Lord’s last promises (see on Mark 16:17). It facilitated the reaping of a large harvest on that day (Acts 2:41) and had worldwide effects in the years that followed. See also on Acts 10:45, 46; 1 Cor. 14.
The record does not explicitly state that this gift of speaking with other tongues was permanent, but it should be borne in mind that what the Spirit once performed He was well able to repeat whenever there was a need (cf. AA 40).
As the Spirit. The Spirit gave the disciples not only the gift of speaking other languages but also their message. They spoke under the Spirit’s direct guidance.
Gave. The tense of the Greek verb suggests “kept on giving,” which evokes a picture of the Spirit giving words to each of the speakers as the need arose. It is possible that the disciples addressed the different language groups in turn, and that Peter’s sermon (vs. 14–36), given to the whole multitude, summarized their messages.
Utterance. Gr. apophtheggomai, “to speak forth.” In the LXX this word is used to describe prophesying (1 Chron. 25:1; Eze. 13:19; Zech. 10:2). Here it is employed to convey the idea of clear, elevated, vigorous speech, which led to the conversion of 3,000 people in one day. For the connection between the day of Pentecost and the “former rain” see on Joel 2:23.
5. Dwelling at Jerusalem. The question has been raised as to how the foreigners enumerated in vs. 9–11 may be considered to have been “dwelling” at Jerusalem. Two explanations are possible. The Jews mentioned here may have come to the city of their fathers for a protracted stay, perhaps on business; or perhaps, like Paul, to study (ch. 22:3), or some may have been men in retirement from active life. On the other hand, it is not impossible to understand their “dwelling” to indicate a temporary stay, particularly in view of the fact that some are called “dwellers in Mesopotamia” (ch. 2:9) and others, “strangers of Rome” (v. 10)
Devout. The word is used of Simeon (Luke 2:25). The primary meaning is one of circumspection, the disposition that handles sacred things carefully, devoutly, worshipfully. With this meaning it could include proselytes as well as Jews by birth. The expression “out of every nation under heaven” makes such inclusion a necessity. The word appears again in Acts 8:2.
Out of every nation. Herod Agripa II, in his famous speech made two generations later in an effort to keep the Jews from rebelling against the Romans, declared that “there is not a people in the world which does not contain a portion of our race” (Josephus War ii. 16. 4 ), and James addressed his inspired epistle “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (James 1:1). This dispersion of the Jews was due primarily to the great captivities they had suffered: (1) the ten tribes to Assyria and Media in 722 b.c. (2 Kings 17:6); (2) the tribe of Judah to Babylonia, in three separate transportations beginning in 605 (see on 2 Chron. 36:1–21; Jer. 52:1–30; Dan. 1:1–7); (3) the great numbers to Egypt by the Macedonian Ptolemy Soter (Josephus Antiquities xii. 1. 1 [6, 7]). In addition to the Jews who were dispersed by the captivities, thousands of them were lured to every part of the world by commercial activities.
6. When this was noised abroad. Or, “this noise having occurred.” The Greek word for “noise” or “sound,” phōnē, is often translated “voice.” In John 3:8 it is used for the “sound” of the wind to illustrate the movements of the Spirit. Here the word has two possible meanings: (1) the “sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind” (Acts 2:2); (2) the sound created by the mixed speech of the disciples (v. 4). Since phōnē is in the singular, it seems most likely to refer to the divine sound, which may well have been heard outside the house where the believers were, but it may also refer to the many voices of v. 4.
The multitude. That is, the crowds of people in Jerusalem, including particularly the visitors from foreign lands.
Were confounded. Gr. sugchunō, “to pour together.” The word is peculiar to Acts, where it is used five times. It is better translated “confused,” or “bewildered.” The multitude were naturally surprised, on arriving at the place whence the noise originated, to hear speakers using so many different tongues.
Heard them speak. The question sometimes is raised as to whether the gift operated here upon the apostles, giving them the power to speak other languages, or upon the hearers, giving them understanding of what the apostles said. Although it is true that Paul later recognizes the existence of a gift of interpretation of tongues (see 1 Cor. 12:30; 14:13, 27), the gift at Pentecost seems quite clearly to have been one bestowed on the apostles, because it was upon them that the Spirit came (Acts 2:3, 4; see AA 40; DA 821).
Language. Gr. dialektos (see on ch. 1:19). The list that follows (ch. 2:9–11) refers to language groups. Probably each speaker was using a different language according to the group he was addressing. Latecomers to the assembly doubtless moved about until they found the group where their own tongue was being spoken. In this way many nationalities were served simultaneously.
7. Amazed and marvelled. The Greek word translated “amazed” literally means “to be standing out of oneself,” and refers to the first wide-eyed astonishment that overwhelmed those who heard the miracle of tongues. Compare its use in Mark 3:21, “He is beside himself.” The Greek word for “marvelled” contains the idea of continuity, “to be marveling,” for their wonder grew greater the more they heard.
Galilæans. This description of the gospel messengers may refer primarily to the apostles, who were all from Galilee (see on Mark 3:14), if Matthias be counted as coming from that province. In a general way it may also be true of the 120, many of whom doubtless had come from Galilee.
The title “Galilaeans” seems to have been used scornfully, because the inhabitants of Galilee lacked culture (see on Matt. 2:22; 4:15; 26:73; see DA 232). It was all the more surprising, therefore, to find men of Galilee fluently speaking foreign languages.
8. Hear we every man. Obviously a composite statement, in which the writer embodies numerous remarks from representatives of the various nationalities next enumerated. The fact stated by these amazed listeners was both a foretaste and a pledge of the giving of the gospel to all the world, despite the fact of the many languages involved.
Wherein we were born. Many of those present, although Jews by religion, had been born in other lands and had grown up speaking the languages of their various birthplaces. The list that follows reveals the trained historian, who had inquired carefully as to the nations represented at this great occasion, who himself later attended at least one Pentecost (ch. 21:15), and who therefore knew the kind of crowd that gathered at the Pentecostal season. Luke follows a sequence of sorts in naming the nations, as though he were taking a mental bird’s-eye view of the Roman Empire. With Palestine as his center he looks first at the east, then passes north, west, and south in that order. In this way the reference to “every nation under heaven” (ch. 2:5) is justified. The Jews of the Dispersion (see Vol. V, pp. 59, 60; John 7:35; Acts 6:1) seem generally to have been divided into four classes. These classes, together with some of their component parts to which Luke refers, are: (1) those from Babylonia and other eastern areas: Parthians, Medes, Elamites; dwellers in Mesopotamia; (2) those from Syria and Asia Minor: Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia; (3) those from northern Africa: Egypt, parts of Libya about Cyrene; (4) those from Rome: strangers of Rome. It appears, therefore, that the list is given according to a generally known scheme. For the geographical positions of the various peoples referred to see, The Roman World at the Birth of Jesus; The Diaspora.
9. Parthians. The list begins at the east with the great Parthian kingdom, which was still, as it had been in the days of the defeated Roman general Crassus a century before, the chief enemy of the Roman government. It lay south of the Caspian Sea, from the Tigris to the Indus. The language was Persian, as was probably also the language of the Medes. Arsacid Pahlavi
The Parthian language, also known as Arsacid Pahlavi and Pahlawānīg, is an extinct ancient Northwestern Iranian language spoken in Parthia, a region situated in present-day northeastern Iran and Turkmenistan.
Medes. The country of the Medes lay southwest of the Caspian Sea, east of the region of Assyria. It was to Media that some of the ten tribes had been carried captive (2 Kings 17:6). See on Gen. 10:2; Dan. 2:39.
Elamites. These people lived in a kingdom bounded by Parthia on the east, Media on the north, and Babylonia on the west. The Persian Gulf lay to the south. See on Gen. 10:22; Esther 1:2; Dan. 8:2. The people of Elam are called “Persians” in the LXX, but the Elamite language was different from that of Persia.
Dwellers in Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia lay “between the rivers,” that is, between the Tigris and the Euphrates (see on Gen. 24:10). The “dwellers” would include several linguistic groups that would speak variants of Aramaic (see Vol. I, p. 30; see on Dan. 2:4).
Judæa. It has puzzled Bible students that Luke should have named Judea here, rather than leaving it to be taken for granted. Some have supposed it to be a mistake for India or Idumaea. But it would be natural for the Gentile Luke to mention Judea, the focal point of his history. Its presence makes the list the more complete. “Judea” may also be taken in a wider sense to include all Palestine.
Cappadocia. As he moves in his record from east to west, Luke names next the province lying northwest of Mesopotamia. Cappadocia lay in the eastern part of what is now Turkey, bounded by Armenia on the east, with the Black (Euxine) Sea and the province of Pontus on the north, Galatia on the west and Cilicia, the country of Paul (ch. 21:39), to the south. It is not known what language was spoken. Perhaps it was similar to the “speech of Lycaonia” (ch. 14:11).
Pontus. This region lay on the southern shore of the Black Sea, north of Cappadocia. Like its neighbor it was under Roman administration. Its native language is not known.
Asia. This is not the modern Asia, but a Roman province lying in the western end of Asia Minor, embracing much of the western part of modern Turkey. Ephesus was its chief city. The Holy Spirit prevented Paul on his Second Missionary Journey from entering this region. It was frequently called Ionia, and was markedly Greek in population. The seven letters of Rev. 1:2, 3 are addressed to cities in the province of Asia. Although Greek was understood by the majority in this and the following regions, the common people doubtless used their own local tongues.
10. Phrygia, and Pamphylia. Two small districts southeast of Roman “Asia.”
Egypt. For more than a millennium and a half there had been a tie between Egypt and the Hebrews. Witness the sojourn there of Jacob and his family, the enslavement of the Hebrew tribes, and the later Egyptian invasions of Palestine (see on 1 Kings 14:25). There was a strong pro-Egyptian party in Judea in the time of Jeremiah, and many, including Jeremiah himself, were taken there while Judea was falling into the hands of the Babylonians (Jer. 42:13 to 43:7). Thousands of Jews were taken to Egypt by Ptolemy, and others went there during the struggles of the Maccabees against the Seleucid kings. Jews constituted about one third of the population of Alexandria in Luke’s day, and were ruled by an ethnarch of their own (Josephus Antiquities xiv. 7. 2 ). The country was Hellenized, but the local language was Coptic, a development of ancient Egyptian largely written in the Greek alphabet, and modified by Demotic (simplified Egyptian writing) influences.
Libya. A name anciently used for all known Africa, with the possible exception of Egypt, but to be understood here as indicating approximately the same territory as modern Libya, Cyrene being its chief city on the Mediterranean coast. Its culture was highly Hellenistic, but it possessed a large Jewish colony, the result of a deportation from Palestine under Ptolemy I (Josephus Against Apion ii. 4 ). From Cyrene came Simon, who had borne Jesus’ cross (Matt. 27:32), and it was from there that missionary-minded men were to evangelize Antioch of Syria, having such success that Barnabas and Saul of Tarsus went to help them (Acts 11:19–26). See on Gen. 10:13.
Strangers of Rome. Gr. epidēmountes Rhōmaioi, “sojourning Romans.” Rhōmaioi, usually means “Roman citizens” rather than “inhabitants of Rome.” The phrase “strangers of Rome” would therefore refer to Jews who lived at Rome as sojourners, or to Roman Jews temporarily sojourning in Jerusalem. Jews were so numerous in Rome that when Varus sanctioned their sending an embassy to Augustus, the 50 ambassadors were joined by more than 8,000 of their countrymen resident in the city (Josephus Antiquities xvii. 11. 1). Jews had been banished from Italy by Tiberius in a.d. 19. That edict must have sent several thousands seeking asylum, and naturally numbers of them would return to Palestine. Tiberius revoked this edict, but many Roman Jews might well have lingered in Jerusalem (see Vol. V, pp. 65, 66).
Jews and proselytes. The words may be applied to the whole preceding list, or they may be read like a note, especially emphasizing the prominence of the Roman proselytes in that cosmopolitan multitude of worshipers.
It is natural that the Gentile Luke (see Vol. V, p. 664), writing to the Gentile Theophilus (see on Luke 1:3), should mention visitors from the capital of the Roman Empire. For “proselytes” see on Matt. 23:15.
11. Cretes and Arabians. The two names appear to have been added to the preceding list, and this has been cited as an illustration of the genuine nature of Luke’s account, as though Luke were reporting what an eyewitness had informally told him. The island of Crete, south of Greece, held a large Jewish population. Arabia, bordering on Palestine, was the home of many thousands of Jews.
A study of the countries mentioned in vs. 9–11 reveals that many names that might have been expected are missing, and some minor ones are included. This may be taken as further evidence that Luke did not invent the list, but received it from those who had actually witnessed the miracle at Pentecost. The list should not be regarded as an exact inventory of all who were in Jerusalem, however. It is rather an attempt to describe the cosmopolitan nature of those to whom the disciples spoke, and the many different languages thus employed.
The wonderful works. Rather, “the great things,” or “the majesty.” The term would cover God’s providences that were manifested throughout the life and work of Jesus.
12. Amazed. See on v. 7.
Doubt. Gr. diaporeō, “to be perplexed.” Luke is the only NT writer to use the word.
What meaneth this? The hearers were genuinely puzzled at the phenomenon, and were excitedly discussing its import.
13. Others. Gr. heteroi, “others of a different kind,” not alloi, “others of the same kind.” This suggests a different class of speakers from those mentioned in vs. 5–12. Perhaps these heteroi were native residents of Jerusalem or Palestine who did not understand any of the languages the disciples were using. They had probably been influenced by many slanderous things that had been said about Christ. The Jews had attributed some of our Lord’s miracles to the power of the chief of devils (Luke 11:15), and Festus pronounced Paul mad (Acts 26:24). The priests had mocked Christ on the cross (Matt. 27:41–43), and were capable of instigating base rumors to account for this miracle of tongues lest it weaken their priestly hold on the people (cf. AA 40).
New wine. Gr. gleukos, “sweet wine,” not “new wine,” since Pentecost fell in June, and fresh grapes were not ripe till August. Apparently, an intoxicating beverage is meant here. The accusation of the mockers would suggest that there was an element of excitement in the manner and tone of the disciples. It would have been strange, indeed, if they had spoken in an altogether calm, or casual, manner. The great power of God was upon them, and their theme one of vast import.
14. Peter. A remarkable change has come over the apostle during the few weeks since his denial. He has been converted. His mind has been opened by the Lord’s instruction so that he can understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45). He has been endued with insight and power by the Holy Spirit. As a result, he stands forth as a sanctified leader of men. Instead of uncertainty, there is conviction; instead of fear, boldness; instead of hasty words, as in the Gospels, there is a detailed, well-reasoned discourse. The prophecies concerning Christ are unfolded with method and clarity. Here is an unstudied proof of genuineness. An inventor of tales would hardly have dared to show such a change in character as Luke shows in Peter.
With the eleven. Peter is not speaking in isolation. He stands as a representative of his brethren. They have been individually addressing the different national groups, but Peter addresses the multitude and binds off this great evangelistic meeting. “The eleven” reveals that Matthias is included among the apostles, and thus has rapidly taken to his responsibilities.
Lifted up. Although this expression is found in the LXX and in classical Greek, it is also a Hebraism (Gen. 21:16; 27:38), and suggests a raising of the voice, a crying out aloud. This was necessary in order for Peter to make himself heard by the large crowd.
Said. Gr. apophtheggomai, “to speak forth” (cf. on v. 4). The use of this word adds color to the fact that Peter was speaking with the Spirit’s gift. The apostle was not just “saying”; he was “speaking forth” that which the Spirit gave him.
Men of Judaea. This part of v. 14 reads literally, “Men, Jews, and inhabitants of Jerusalem.” It would appear that Peter was first speaking to local Jews (see v. 13), as distinct from the Jews of vs. 5–11, who were of the Desperation.
Dwell at Jerusalem. This phrase may also be taken in the local sense, as referring to those whose home was in the capital. Peter’s words, however, would reach the whole assembly, and it is clear from v. 22 that the apostle is eventually addressing the wider company.
Hearken. Literally, “give ear to.” This is another Hebraism, and may possibly indicate that Peter was speaking in Aramaic. Opinion on this matter is divided, for many Hebraisms are carried over into the Greek of the LXX, and the scriptural quotations are from the LXX.
15. These are not drunken. Peter appeals to the common sense of his listeners. Were the disciples likely to be drunk on the morning of the Feast of Pentecost, after a night spent in devotion, and when all decent Jews were fasting? Drunkenness belonged to the night (1 Thess. 5:7). It was a mark of extreme grossness for men to “rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink” (Isa. 5:11; cf. Eccl. 10:16, 17). Basing their traditional practice on Ex. 16:8, the Jews ate bread in the morning and flesh in the evening; and no wine was drunk by the Jew of good habits until late in the day.
As ye suppose. The apostle deals tactfully with the unfounded accusation of drunkenness, and assumes they have made a mistake rather than a malicious charge.
Third hour. That is, about 9:00 a.m. For NT reckoning of time see Vol. V, p. 50; see on Matt. 27:45. The third hour was the time of morning prayer.
16. This is that. Peter makes no timid approach to his subject. He boldly identifies the preaching as a fulfillment of prophecy. He can afford to do this, since he has been taught by the Lord and is inspired by the Spirit. Under this twofold guidance he begins the first public exposition of the life and works of the Messiah since His ascension. The verses that follow amply testify to the apostle’s new-found ability.
Joel. Peter does not plunge into controversy about Jesus. He first uses the OT Scriptures, which they believed, to sanction the phenomenon they are even then witnessing. This gains their attention, helps them accept his reasoning, and prepares them for his later references to Christ. The prophecy of Joel is thought by some to be the oldest prophetic book of the Bible (see Vol. IV, pp. 20, 21). Under the theme of the coming “day of the Lord” Joel calls Israel to repentance, and promises an outpouring of the Spirit at some future time, identified only as “afterward” (see on Joel 2:28–32; see Vol. IV, pp. 937, 938). The expectation of such an outpouring of the Holy Spirit was strong among devout men of the OT (see on Acts 2:3). Verses 17–21 are quoted from Joel 2:28–32, following quite closely the LXX.
17. Come to pass. The inference is that what was future to Joel is now present. The hearers are having prophecy fulfilled before their very eyes.
In the last days. See on Joel 2:28; cf. on Isa. 2:2.
Saith God. This does not appear in the text in Joel. It is an insertion by Peter for permissible sermonic purposes, and identifies the Giver of the promise that follows.
Of my Spirit. See on ch. 3:19.
Upon all flesh. That is, upon all men, enduing weak humanity with divine ability. The gift is not concentrated upon the Jews or upon any class or sex, although Peter’s mind would doubtless limit it to his own people at this stage.
Shall prophesy. Peter’s application of Joel’s prophecy to the present experience at Pentecost seems to link the gift of prophecy with the gift of tongues (see on Joel 2:28). The prophecy also states that women as well as men are to have the gift. Luke records fulfillments of this promise in Acts 9:10–16; 11:27, 28; 13:1–3; 16:6, 7; 18:9, 10; 21:9–11; 22:17, 18; 27:10, 22–25. See also on Luke 2:36. The gifts of the Spirit have always revealed themselves in the activities of God’s successful servants, particularly in crucial times.
Your young men. It has been shown again and again that men still in their younger years have both the ideals and the energy to see ahead and attempt the seemingly impossible. It seems that most, perhaps all, of Jesus’ disciples were young. Most religious movements, and many political and civic enterprises, have been set afoot by young men.
See visions. For a discussion of “visions” and “dreams” see on Num. 12:6; 1 Sam. 3:1. The young men are to see Spirit-given visions containing stimulation and instruction for the present and the future.
Old men. In Joel, these are mentioned before the “young men.”
Dreams. That is, revelations received in sleep, as contrasted with “visions,” which refer to visual revelations in general.
18. My servants. The passage from which this is quoted (Joel 2:29) says simply “servants” or “slaves,” both in the Hebrew and the LXX. It gives assurance that God’s Spirit is not reserved for the high and the mighty, but is to be received also by men and women on the lowest levels of society (see on Joel 2:28). But in the present context, Peter seems to make an extended application of these words. In v. 17 he speaks of “your sons,” “your daughters,” “your young men,” “your old men.” Then at the beginning of v. 18 he makes a subtle change from OT. His declaration, translated literally, is, “and indeed upon my servants and upon my handmaidens.” This addition of the words “indeed” and “my” to the OT text would seem to imply that Peter considers “servants” and “handmaidens” not as a further category of those who would receive the Spirit, but rather as a summary of all those who already had been mentioned. Your sons, daughters, young men, and old men, indeed all of Israel (see on v. 17), were to be My servants and handmaidens, true servants of God.
In those days. That is, “in the last days” (v. 17).
Of my Spirit. See on ch. 3:19.
Shall prophesy. See on v. 17. The words here do not appear in the corresponding passage in Joel 2:29.
19. I will shew. Literally, “I will give.”
Wonders. Gr. terata, “portents,” “miracles” (see Vol. V, p. 208).
In heaven. In Peter’s mind the immediate application of this prophecy may have been the gift of the Spirit from heaven. But the quotation also is significant for the last days (see on v. 20).
Signs. Gr. sēmeia, “signs,” “prodigies.” This word or its equivalent does not appear in the Hebrew or the LXX of Joel, but is frequently used with terata (see above on “wonders”) in the NT and always in the plural (John 4:48; Acts 4:30; Rom. 15:19; etc.).
In the earth. This may well refer, immediately, to the speaking with other tongues, but, as succeeding phrases show, its real significance belongs to the last days. Neither “above” nor “beneath” are in Joel; they are words added by Peter to sharpen the contrast between “heaven” and “earth.”
Blood. “Blood,” “fire,” and “smoke,” the terrible companions of war.
Vapour. This follows the LXX. Joel’s Hebrew has “pillars,” or “columns.”
20. The Sun. For specific fulfillment of the signs mentioned in this verse see on Joel 2:10; Matt. 24:29.
Before. Intimating that the wonders and signs precede the “day of the Lord” and are not themselves a part of it.
Notable. Gr. epiphanēs, “manifest,” “illustrious,” or “glorious.” The Hebrew of Joel 2:31, however, literally means “terrible,” “bright,” “glorious.”
The phrase “great and notable day” agrees with the LXX, but the final part of Acts 2:20 may be rendered “before the day of the Lord comes, the great and manifest day” (RSV).
Day of the Lord. See on Isa. 13:6; Joel 1:15; 2:1. The day will be terrible to the enemies of God (Joel 2:1, 2; Amos 5:18–20; Rev. 6:15–17; etc.), but welcome to those who accept the Lord’s call (Isa. 25:9; Joel 2:32).
21. Whosoever. This would first apply to Peter’s listeners, but in its wider sense it embraces all mankind and stresses the universality of the gospel appeal.
Call. To “call on the name of the Lord” was a common Hebrew phrase connected with those who worshiped God see Gen. 12:8; see on ch. 4:26. Luke and Paul both use the construction (Acts 7:59; 9:14; 22:16; Rom. 10:12; 1 Cor. 1:2). In Acts it is also used in the sense of appealing from a lower to a higher tribunal (ch. 11, 12, 21, 25).
The prayer of faith will result in a spirit of calm assurance amid the terrors of the day of the Lord. It is also true that those who, at any time, sincerely call on the Lord’s name thereby find the way of salvation ch. 4:12.
Peter broaches the great conclusion to which he is working, that Jesus is the Lord and Christ ch. 2:36. He has taken an OT prophecy that speaks of Yahweh, Jehovah (see Vol. I, pp. 172, 173), and applied it to Jesus. The title Kurios, “Lord,” used in the LXX for Yahweh, is given to the ascended Master. It is a bold step. It shows how the conviction of Christ’s deity was the keystone in Peter’s thinking and doctrine.
So frequently does the word “name” occur in connection with the Lord in the book of Acts that it constitutes a theme. The name of the Lord became a symbol to the disciples of the glorious character and unlimited power of Him with whom they had walked in Palestine.
Shall be saved. This has a twofold application—saved from sin and from the judgments of God upon the earth. As to judgments, the 1st-century Christians, by obeying the counsel of Jesus as given in Matt. 24:15–20, were saved from the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans (Eusebius Ecclesiastical History iii. 5. 3; see on Matt. 24:16). At the close of time, true Christians, by following the counsels of the Lord as Saviour and coming King, will be saved from the catastrophes of the last days. However, the chief application of the words of this verse is to salvation from sin.
22. Men of Israel. Literally, “men, Israelites.” The term “Israel” implies the covenant relationship (see on Gen. 32:28).
Hear these words. An arresting phrase, marking a division in Peter’s argument. Peter has given the prophetic background, and now launches into his main theme, the divinity of Jesus.
Jesus of Nazareth. The first part of the title affixed to the cross (cf. John 19:19). Seven weeks later the name is used to introduce Him whom Peter demonstrates to be “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). The use of the name could hardly have been casual.
A man. Peter begins his argument with the human Jesus, the Man who had lived and moved among them, openly and publicly, and proved by His life and works to be all that Peter is now going to claim for Him.
Approved of God. That is, acknowledged by God.
Among you. Rather, “unto you.”
Miracles and wonders and signs. For “miracles” read, literally, “powers,” or “mighty works.” “Wonders” and “signs” may hark back to Joel’s words quoted in v. 19. The three words are synonyms, expressing different aspects of the same fact rather than a meticulous classification of Christ’s deeds.
God did. Peter postulates God’s authority and approval for Jesus’ miracles.
Ye yourselves. The audience could hardly quarrel with Peter’s statements, for they knew them to be true, based on deeds done in their midst.
23. Him. Literally, “this one,” that is, Jesus of Nazareth (v. 22).
Delivered. That is, betrayed, by Judas. In order to afford Satan the opportunity to demonstrate the evils of his government, God permits many things to happen, contrary to His ultimate purpose. However, in His divine wisdom, He overrules all to His glory.
Determine counsel. Peter has so developed his spiritual insight that he now can see the working out of God’s purpose, in harmony with God’s foreknowledge, in the tragic events associated with Christ’s death (cf. ch. 1:16). See on Isa. 53:10; cf. Luke 22:22.
Ye have taken. Textual evidence favors (cf. p. 10) the omission of these words.
By wicked hands. Literally, “by the hand of lawless [men].”
Crucified and slain. Literally, “fastening [to the cross] ye did slay.” Peter here includes his hearers among those guilty of his Master’s death. This is a terrible indictment in view of his conclusion (v. 36).
24. Whom God hath raised. It is probable that an account of the resurrection of Jesus had found its way among the people, and had been met by the false story recorded in Matt. 28:11–15. But this is the first public witness to that event borne by one of the followers of Jesus.
Pains. Literally, “travail pangs.” The word for “pains” is the same as that for “sorrows” in Matt. 24:8.
Not possible. Peter’s conviction rests, in part, upon the sure words of prophecy quoted in vs. 25–28, which foretell Messiah’s triumph over death. But there are other reasons: (1) Christ’s sinlessness (John 8:46; 1 Peter 2:22; see on Matt. 4:1–11; see Additional Note on John 1)—death could not hold the Innocent One; (2) the Life-giver could not be held by death (John 5:26; 10:17, 18).
25. Concerning him. Without this explanation Ps. 16 might seem to present hope only of David’s own deliverance from his enemies. The fact of the resurrection gave a new meaning to prophecies that would not of themselves have suggested it, but that were incomplete without it.
I foresaw. This may also be translated, “I saw in front of myself.”
The Lord. God the Father.
On my right hand. The reference may be to a battle scene, in which a soldier, standing by his friend’s right hand, protects him from attack. It may also represent an advocate by the side of his client. The quotation emphasizes the Father’s unfailing support of the Son.
26. Heart rejoice. Oneness with God is the greatest source of happiness.
My tongue. See on Ps. 16:9.
My flesh. That is, “my body.”
Shall rest. Literally, “shall tabernacle,” or “shall dwell as in a tabernacle” (see on 2 Peter 1:13, 14). The Hebrew of Ps. 16 speaks of David’s security in this life, but Peter applies the psalmist’s words to the resurrection.
27. Soul. See on Ps. 16:10; Matt. 10:28.
Hell. Gr. hadēs, “the grave” (see on Ps. 16:10; Matt. 11:23). The death of Christ was an actual death, but His resurrection provided victory over it, a death He had tasted for every man (Heb. 2:9).
Holy One. Gr. hosios, “pure,” “pious,” “holy.” This word conveys the idea of personal piety and godliness (Heb. 7:26; Rev. 15:4), and thereby differs from hagios, which refers to consecration or dedication (see Mark 1:24). See Additional Note on Psalm 36.
Corruption. In the Hebrew text of the verse quoted the word is shachath, “pit,” that is, “grave” (see on Ps. 16:10). Luke was doubtless following the LXX of Ps. 16:10, which reads “corruption.”
28. Ways of life. This agrees with the LXX, which is a very free rendering of the Hebrew (see on Ps. 16:11).
Joy. Gr. euphrosunē, “well-mindedness,” “cheerfulness,” “gladness.”
With thy countenance. God’s countenance, that is, His presence, is the source of cheer and gladness.
29. Men and brethren. Literally, “men, brethren.” Peter maintains his persuasive forms of address.
Let me freely speak. Rather, “it is permissible for me to speak with freedom.” Those to whom the apostle spoke could not contradict the facts of David’s death and burial. The prophecy just quoted must therefore have another application.
Patriarch. Used in its primary sense, of the founder of a family or dynasty. In the NT it is also used of the 12 sons of Jacob (ch. 7:8) and of Abraham (Heb. 7:4).
His sepulchre. King David was buried in Jerusalem, “in the city of David” (see on 1 Kings 2:10; 3:1).
30. Being a prophet. An unusual description of King David, but justified because Ps. 16 goes beyond David’s personal experience and becomes Messianic.
God had sworn. See on 2 Sam. 7:12–14, 16. The oath is suggested in Ps. 132:11, which Peter quotes.
According to the flesh. Textual evidence favors (cf. p. 10) the omission of the words “according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ,” so that the passage would read, “God swore to him with an oath to place upon his throne one, of the fruit of his loins.” This would agree more closely with Ps. 132:11.
31. Seeing this before. This ascribes prophetic vision to David, but does not mean that he personally understood that the prophecy referred to the resurrection of the Messiah (see 1 Peter 1:11).
Soul. Textual evidence favors (cf. p. 10) the reading, “he was not left unto hades,” rather than “his soul was not left in hell.” See on v. 27 for comment on “hell,” and “corruption”; for “soul” see on Ps. 16:10; Matt. 10:28.
32. This Jesus. Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One, of vs. 22, 23.
God raised up. Christ arose at the call of God the Father, who commissioned angels to call upon His Son to come forth from the dead (Matt. 28:2–6; Rom. 8:11; DA 785).
Witnesses. See on ch. 1:8, 22.
33. By the right hand. Or, “at the right hand.” Such a position was one of honor (see Matt. 20:21; 25:33), and is portrayed as that taken by Christ upon His glorification (Matt. 26:64; Heb. 1:3; cf. Acts 2:34).
Exalted. See on John 1:1–3, 14; see Additional Note on John 1.
Promise of the Holy Ghost. See on John 14:16, 26; 15:26.
Shed forth. Rather, “poured out.”
Now. Textual evidence favors (cf. p. 10) the omission of this word.
34. Is not ascended. Rather, “ascended not.” Peter’s argument is clear. David had died and been buried (see on v. 29). Therefore the statement of Ps. 16:10, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell” (see on Acts 2:27), could not refer to him. Here is clear evidence that Peter believed that man does not ascend to heaven at death (cf. 1 Thess. 4:14–17; see on 2 Sam. 12:23; 22:6; Job 7:9).
He saith. Peter quotes Ps. 110:1. This psalm is most quoted in the NT (see Matt. 22:44; 1 Cor. 15:25; Heb. 1:13; 5:6; Heb. 7:17, 21; Heb. 10:13). This psalm was regarded as Messianic by the Jews, and was so interpreted by Jesus (Matt. 22:41–46). See on Ps. 110:1.
The Lord. In terms of the present context this title refers to God the Father (see on Ps. 110:1).
My Lord. In terms of the present context this refers to Christ (see Ps. 110:1).
Sit thou. These words suggest the recognition of Christ as holding a unique position (see Eph. 1:20; cf. Phil. 2:10, 11).
35. Thy foes. Christ is victor in the great controversy with Satan and his hosts. In the ultimate triumph over evil, “the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26).
Footstool. The king seated in power on a secure throne has his foot upon a footstool (see on Ps. 99:5). To put an enemy in the ignominious place of the footstool is a sign of complete triumph (see on Joshua 10:24). Christ will one day completely conquer all His foes, and His kingdom will be established in everlasting glory (Rev. 11:15). At that time of triumph the Son will turn over the universal kingdom to the Father (1 Cor. 15:24–28).
36. House of Israel. Peter intends his words to go beyond the immediate circle of his hearers to “all” Israel. Nevertheless, his vision thus far is evidently limited to the Jewish race, as was true of the other disciples. This is evident from Peter’s experience with Cornelius see chs. 10:9–16; 11:1–18.
That same Jesus. Rather, “this very Jesus” (cf. vs. 22, 23).
Ye have crucified. The pronoun “ye” (humeis), not ordinarily given in the Greek, emphasizes the contrast between the Jews’ treatment of Jesus and the recognition He had received from the Father. In the Greek the word “crucified” comes at the end of the sentence, and makes a most solemn conclusion. Peter boldly lays the crime at the Jews’ door. He unflinchingly presses home their guilt and thus prepares the way for the effects described in v. 37.
Lord and Christ. The word “Lord” reflects the thought of the psalm cited in v. 34. “Christ” identifies Jesus as the Messiah (see on Ps. 2:2; Matt. 1:1). The original word order possesses a force which the English cannot give: “Both Lord and Christ hath God made this Jesus.”
37. When they heard. God has ordained that the preaching of His word should be one of the most effective means of bringing conviction—and faith—to man (see Rom. 10:17; 1 Cor. 1:21).
Pricked. Gr. katanussomai, “to pierce,” and metaphorically, “to pain mentally.” Here is the deep inner sorrow that should accompany true repentance (2 Cor. 7:9–11).
Apostles. They must have been nearby, supporting Peter in his dynamic ministry.
Men and brethren. The very term the disciples used with one another (ch. 1:16), and with which Peter addressed the multitude in ch. 2:29. The Spirit-prompted sermon brought the people into sympathy with the apostles.
What shall we do? The genuine cry of contrite hearts (cf. chs. 16:30; 22:10).
38. Repent. For a discussion of the import of this word see on Matt. 3:2; 4:17. This is the message that Christ commanded to be preached (Luke 24:47).
Be baptized. See on Matt. 3:6; Mark 16:16. This was to be an integral part of the apostles’ ministry (Matt. 28:19).
Every one. Peter allows no exemption from baptism. Although it is not a saving act, it is the outward sign of the death of the old life and the beginning of the new, and is required of all.
In the name. Textual evidence is divided (cf. p. 10) between this and the reading “upon the name,” that is, upon confession of the name of Jesus. Such an interpretation would suit the context, which deals with Jesus as “Lord and Christ” (v. 36).
The question arises, Why in this instance, and in chs. 10:48; 19:5, is only the name of Jesus mentioned in connection with baptism, and not the threefold name given in Matt. 28:19? Various explanations have been given. The most satisfactory solution seems to be that Luke is not recording the baptismal formula, but Peter’s exhortation to those who are willing to confess Jesus as the Christ. It was only logical that Christian baptism sometimes might be spoken of as if only in the single name, since of the persons of the Godhead, it is Christ particularly to whom baptism points. This is illustrated in early Christian literature, both in the NT and later. Thus the Didache, or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (7; 9), uses both the single name and the three names in connection with baptism. This early attitude is demonstrated by Ambrose (d. a.d. 397), who declared concerning the baptismal formula: “He who says the one signifies the Trinity. If you say Christ, you have designated also God the Father from whom the Son was anointed, and also the Son, the very One who was anointed, and the Holy Spirit by whom He was anointed” (De Spiritu Sancto i. 3; J. P. Migne, ed., Patrologia Latina, vol. XVI, col. 743). Peter’s hearers already believed in God the Father; the real test, so far as they were concerned, was whether they would accept Jesus as the Messiah.
As Christ had instructed, baptism was now given “in the name,” in vital connection with the person of Jesus Christ. Only by recognizing Him could the convert now come to baptism. The disciples had just experienced the gift of the Holy Spirit, and thus they were in a position to recognize the meaning of John the Baptist’s prophecy that Christ would baptize them “with the Holy Ghost, and with fire” (Matt. 3:11). The mystical union between the believer and his Lord, made real by the Spirit, is signalized in the rite of baptism.
Sins. Textual evidence favors (cf. p. 10) the reading “your sins.” This makes forgiveness a very personal matter (see on Matt. 1:21; 3:6; 26:28; Luke 3:3).
Gift of the Holy Ghost. These words may be understood as identifying the gift, and so may be read, “gift which is the Holy Ghost.” The Greek dōrea, “gift,” is a general term, and differs from charisma, a term applied to the more specific gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:4). The apostle promises the presence of the Spirit of God as a personal possession for each believer. He is not here concerned with the bestowal of miraculous powers.
Note the steps in the blessed experience of becoming a Christian, as outlined in this verse: (1) repentance, (2) baptism, (3) remission of sin, (4) reception of the Holy Spirit.
39. Promise. See on ch. 1:4.
Unto you. The very ones who had participated in the crucifixion of the Lord. Their children were also free to benefit from the promise (cf. Matt. 27:25).
Afar off. The Jews of the Dispersion (see Vol. V, pp. 59–61), to whom the apostle afterward wrote (1 Peter 1:1, 2), and possibly also the heathen nations among whom the dispersed Jews lived (cf. Eph. 2:13, 17). By inspiration Peter may here be forecasting the entry of Gentiles into the church (see Matt. 28:19).
Lord our God. God, the Father, whom the Jews professed to serve.
Shall call. Rather, “may call unto Him.” The call of God is to everyone. Everyone has an opportunity to be saved. In the sense of invitation, the “called” are many; the “chosen” are those who respond to the call (see on Matt. 22:14); these are the “called” in the ultimate sense. For further comment see on Rom. 8:28–30.
40. Many other words. Now Luke summarizes the remainder of Peter’s address, quoting only his final appeal (cf. on John 21:25).
Did … testify and exhort. Rather, “protested solemnly and kept on exhorting.”
Save yourselves. Literally, “be ye saved.” Men cannot save themselves; they can only accept or reject God’s provisions for salvation.
Untoward. Rather, “crooked,” as in Luke 3:5; Phil. 2:15. Compare on Deut. 32:5.
41. Gladly. Important textual evidence may be cited (cf. p. 10) for the omission of this word.
Added. To those who already confessed Christ (see on ch. 1:15).
Three thousand. Because of the largeness of this number it has been urged that the baptism was by pouring or sprinkling, not immersion. Such an assumption is not necessary (see on Matt. 3:6). There were adequate supplies of water in and near Jerusalem to provide for the baptism of large numbers of persons, such as the pools at Bethesda (see on John 5:2) and Siloam (see on John 9:7), and the pools of Solomon. Furthermore, it need not be thought that the administration of the rite was necessarily confined to the Twelve. Succeeding chapters show that many converts were made from among the Hellenistic Jews who were present at the feast (Acts 6:1) and that few if any of the converts were yet of the local ruling class (ch. 4:1). Some of these converts went back to the cities whence they had come, and may have been the now unknown founders of the churches in such places as Damascus, Alexandria, or Rome itself.
Souls. Gr. psuchai, “souls,” used here in the sense of “persons,” as in Acts 2:43; 3:23; Rom. 13:1; etc.; see on Matt. 10:28.
42. Continued stedfastly. Gr. proskartereō, “to persevere,” “to give constant attention to.” This takes the story beyond the day of Pentecost and includes the believers’ conduct in the days that followed (see on ch. 3:1).
Doctrine. That is, “teaching.” The newly baptized Christians had heard Peter’s sermon, and separate groups had benefited from the messages given in many tongues. In succeeding days that first instruction would be supplemented by further lessons concerning Christ. All such instruction may be included in the term “teaching.” It is difficult to believe that the apostles had already formulated anything like a “creed.”
Fellowship. Gr. koinōnia; although this word is translated most often as “fellowship” (1 Cor. 1:9; Phil. 1:5; 3:10; John 1:3, 6, 7; etc.), in 1 Cor. 10:16; 2 Cor. 13:14 it is rendered “communion,” and in Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 9:13; Heb. 13:16 it refers to charitable contributions. It seems clear that in the present instance the word refers to the brotherhood that developed between the apostles and their converts.
Breaking of bread. Probably this included both the Lord’s Supper (see 1 Cor. 10:16) and ordinary communal meals (see p. 45; Acts 2:44, 46).
The expression “breaking of bread,” or one similar to it, occurs in Matt. 14:19; 15:36; Mark 8:6, 19; Luke 24:30, 35, of meals that were clearly not celebrations of the Lord’s Supper. “To break bread” was a common Jewish idiom meaning “to eat.” In Matt. 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 10:16; 11:24 it is used specifically of the Lord’s Supper. In Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7, 11 either might be indicated. That the cup is not mentioned in connection with the bread does not necessarily exclude the possibility that the Lord’s Supper is here referred to. Although the context does not justify a dogmatic conclusion, it may be noted that the expression “breaking of bread” appears in a series descriptive of religious activities. Verse 41 speaks of believers receiving the “word,” of being “baptized,” and of being “added” to the church. Accordingly, it may be reasonable to conclude that the “breaking of bread” here referred to likewise had specific religious significance. See on Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:20, 21.
Prayers. See on ch. 1:14. Here were four basic elements in the life of the new Christian society: (1) The believers grew in knowledge of the truth through the teaching of the apostles. (2) They were conscious of fellowship with Christ, and with one another in acts of common worship and mutual kindness and benevolence. (3) They participated in the “breaking of bread,” probably including the Lord’s Supper. (4) They engaged in prayer, both private and corporate.
43. Fear. That is, reverential awe.
Came. Rather, “kept on coming.”
Every soul. Awe must have fallen upon believers and unbelievers alike. During the previous two months Jerusalem had been through trying times. There had been the climax to the work of Jesus, with public attention focused upon Him. He had been crucified, and had risen from the dead. The disciples had boldly proclaimed His resurrection and ascension. Then had come the remarkable events of the day of Pentecost. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was presented as proof of Christ’s acceptance in heaven. The impact of the Christian community upon the nonbelievers had resulted in the conversion and baptism of thousands. Here was ample cause for awe in the hearts of the people of Jerusalem.
Many wonders and signs. Here was further cause for awe. The Spirit manifested Himself in giving to the apostles great power not only in preaching but in working miracles, even as Jesus had promised them (see on Mark 16:14–18).
Done. Rather, “kept on being done.”
44. Together. This may refer either to the physical gathering together of the believers or to their unity of spirit.
All things common. To have things in common was not unusual in Jewish life of the time. Visitors to the yearly feasts often had their needs supplied by their friends in Jerusalem. It is clear, however, that something more than this is implied in Luke’s statement. The Christians were thrown back upon themselves, and a new, a Christian, economy was set up. However, this does not mean the institution of what is called Christian socialism. It was probably a continuation and enlargement of the “bag,” or common purse, of John 12:6; 13:29. The new converts would be the more ready to share their material possessions because of their new-found love for Christ and for one another, and their earnest expectations of the Lord’s soon return (Acts 1:11). There was nothing compulsory about the sharing (ch. 5:4). It was a literal fulfillment of our Lord’s words (Luke 12:33), and a very natural act for a society founded, not on the law of self-interest and competition, but on the law of sympathy and self-denial. The Spirit of God was showing His power, not only in the specific gifts, but in the way of love.
There is no evidence that this way of life continued in the church for any length of time, except in the gracious benevolence that the church doubtless showed at every opportunity. At the same time, however, the church learned to discriminate in its economy (2 Thess. 3:10; 1 Tim. 5:8, 16). The church at Jerusalem became repeatedly dependent upon the bounty of the Gentile churches, as seen in Acts 11:29. It need not be thought, however, that the Jerusalem church came to be thus in need because of the extravagance of its benevolence in the earlier years, but rather because of the severe persecution and famine it endured (see on Acts 11:27–30; Rom 15:26; 1 Cor. 16:1–3).
45. Sold. Rather, “were selling,” or “used to sell.” The sales took place as special occasions of distress called for expenditure of funds to assist those in need.
Possessions. Gr. ktēmata, “possessions,” in the sense of fixed property, such as land.
Goods. Gr. huparxeis, “possessions,” in the sense of movable property, personal possessions.
Parted. That is, “divided up,” “distributed.” They distributed the proceeds of the sale of their possessions.
To all. That is, to all the believers.
As every man had need. Rather, “according as anyone had need.” The words imply judicious discrimination. Help was dependent upon the degree of need. The was soon prepared for systematic aid (see on ch. 6:1–6).
46. Continuing daily. The new believers were constant in their public devotions.
With one accord. Compare on ch. 1:14.
In the temple. It might be thought that followers of the One the rulers had condemned to death would avoid the Temple. But they were frequenting it even before the day of Pentecost (Luke 24:53). It would be more precious to them than in the days before they knew their Lord as the Messiah. Through Him they had learned truly to know the God of the Temple. It might seem strange, too, that they should be allowed to worship and teach in the Temple. Later on, indeed, they were forbidden to do so. But it must be remembered that the Temple courts were open to all Israelites who did not disturb its peace, partly, perhaps, because there were those in the Sanhedrin, such as Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathaea, and Gamaliel, who were on the borderline of belief. Then, too, the church may have acquired a certain popularity by its holiness of life and its liberal alms giving. As for the disciples, they did not think of their religion as a defection from Judaism, but rather as the fulfillment of it. The Christians therefore worshiped with their Jewish blood brothers (Acts 3:1), not only from habit and desire, but also in the hope of seeing them won to the gospel. See also on ch. 3:1.
Breaking bread. See on v. 42.
From house to house. Or, “at home.” The Christians worshiped in the Temple, but the particular features of their communal life, the breaking of bread and the sharing of their food with one another took place in one another’s homes.
Did eat their meat. Rather, “were eating food.” It is evident that the breaking of bread was closely connected with the daily life of the Christians (see on Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 11:20–22).
Gladness. Gr. agalliasis, “exultation,” “extreme joy.” They rejoiced at the privilege of being Christians.
Singleness. Gr. aphelotēs, literally, “free from stones,” referring to smooth soil, but here meaning simplicity of character, unalloyed benevolence, generosity. These emotions would naturally be evident in the early Christians.
47. Praising God. A phrase often used by Luke (cf. Luke 2:13, 20; 19:37; Acts 3:8, 9). Joy in their new-found faith naturally led them to praise the Father. The true child of God always finds sufficient cause to praise the Lord.
Favour. Jesus had been popular with the people; the church now enjoyed a similar favor, possibly because they praised God and were benevolent.
The Lord. The church recognized that the great accessions to the faith were due to the Lord and not to themselves.
Added. Rather, “was adding,” or “kept adding,” giving the idea of continuity beyond the day of Pentecost. This is strengthened by the use of the word “daily.”
To the church. Textual evidence favors (cf. p. 10) the omission of these words.
Such as should be saved. Gr. hoi sōzomenoi, “those that were being saved.” The rendering “should be saved” probably reflected unconsciously the theological belief of the translators, but has no support in the Greek.
ELLEN G. WHITE COMMENTS
1 DA 827; Ed 95; ML 58; MM 201; 8T 191
1, 2 AA 37, 39; COL 120; Ed 95; Ev 697; TM 170; 5T 252
1–4 GC ix; SR 242; TM 66; 7T 31
1–47 AA 35-46; SR 241-247; 9T 196
2 7T 213
2–4 ML 60; 8T 15
3–5 AA 39
4 DA 821; EW 24; 7T 213; 8T 26
5 AA 87
5–8 SR 243
6–8, 13AA 40
13–16 TM 66
14–18 AA 41
17 EW 78; GC 611
19 PP 110
21 GC 611; ML 62
22–25 AA 41
23 FE 535
25–27 SR 244
26, 27, 29 AA 42
29 GC 546
Nichol, F. D. (1978; 2002). The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 6 (132). Review and Herald Publishing Association.