- In Acts 1 we left off noticing the apostles gathering with other disciples as they are united in prayer, scripture knowledge, and dependence on God as they awaiting the Holy Spirit. Through their prayer and studies, Peter realizes that Judas was prophesied as the one who leave his position and another was to replace it. The disciples then proposed two men who met the qualifications of apostleship and cast lots, upon which the Lord selected Matthias to be numbered with the apostles.
- We are still part of this scene as daily the apostles and disciples are awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:1 tells us that the day of Pentecost has now arrived. Pentecost literally means fifty and was a day of offering the firstfruits, fifty days after the Passover (Leviticus 23:15). Pentecost is also called the Feast of Weeks or the Feast of Firstfruits in the Old Testament. Therefore, it has been 50 days since the crucifixion of Jesus and since the apostles were taught by Jesus for 40 days after His resurrection (Acts 1:3), we know the apostles have been waiting about a week for the coming of the Holy Spirit, which was promised by Jesus (Acts 1:4-8). Pentecost was a celebration of thanks to God for His blessing the harvest. This information sets the scene for what is about to take place in Acts 2.
I. The Coming of the Holy Spirit (2:1-13)
A. Describing the event (2:1-4)
- The apostles are gathered together in one place (perhaps a room in the temple complex since the multitudes are witnesses of these things) awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit as promised by Jesus. Suddenly the Holy Spirit comes upon the apostles. The coming of the Holy Spirit was a visible, identifiable event that others besides the apostles were able to see.
- As we visualize this scene it is important that we pick upon the similes that are used by Luke to describe this occurrence. First, we are told that the sound of a violent rushing wind came from heaven. The text does not say that there was a violent rushing wind, but that a sound from heaven came that sounded like a blowing wind. The sound filled the whole house where the apostles were at during this time.
- Second, tongues like flames of fire divided and rested on each of them. Again, the text does not say that these are fiery tongues, but that the appearance of the tongues was like fire. To try to properly visualize this, the Greek scholars tell us that since the word is in the present middle participle (Robertson) that the tongue like fire appeared as a single entity and then distributed itself among each of the apostles, thus creating multiple tongues. Therefore we have a visible sign following the audible sign which was heard in the room.
- The outcome of this event is clearly defined in verse 4. Each apostle was filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages as the Holy Spirit gave them ability. Here is the great miracle of the coming of the Holy Spirit: not that the apostles spoke their own language and the audience heard their own language, for then the miracle would have been upon the hearers; but that the apostles were now able to speak different languages which they could not speak before.
B. Amazement of the multitude (2:5-13)
- At this time, devout men from every nation under heaven were in Jerusalem. These people would have come for the Passover feast and remained in the city for the fifty days to keep the Pentecost feast. The crowds begin to come together because they hear the apostles speaking in their own languages, causing great confusion in the crowd. Verse 7 tells us that the people are astounded and amazed because those who were speaking are Galileans. How could Galileans be speaking in all of the languages of those from all over the world? It is clear to the multitudes that a miracle is taking place in their very hearing.
- Also notice what the apostles were speaking: the magnificent acts of God (verse 11). These from all over the world are hearing in their own language the great deeds of the Lord. There is no need for translator or interpreters. The miracle was that these mere men were given the power through the Holy Spirit to speak such that all could understand their words.
3. Verse 12 again points out that the people were greatly perplexed and astounded when they saw these things and heard their language being spoken by Galileans. The Jewish people ask a very important question: what could this be? What do these things mean, as some translations say. The point is that the people want to know why these things are happening. They want to know what the meaning is of these events. Notice some others simply attributed this to the apostles being drunk. It seems there are always skeptics who will pawn off the obvious truth for a lie and irrational answer. Drinking wine has never caused a person to speak in multiple languages. Yet, rather than examining the scene with an honest heart, there are some who simply dismiss this miracle out of hand.
II. Apostolic Explanation of Event (2:14-36)
A. Fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (2:14-21)
- The people want to know what is going on. They want an explanation for the things they are seeing and hearing. In verse 14 Peter stands up with the eleven apostles and prepares to give the people the answer to their question. Peter first tells the people that they are not drunk since it is only nine in the morning. Peter demands the people to consider a logical alternative.
- Peter says that the events which have taken place were spoken of by God through the prophet Joel. Now before we look at the quotation of Joel 2, let us realize that no matter how we understand the images of Joel 2, Peter says these things were now being fulfilled. I believe there are three key points which Peter makes to the multitudes based upon Joel’s prophecy.
- They were living in the last days. Peter begins the quotation “And it will be in the last days….” What is interesting is if you turn back to Joel 2:28, Joel does not say “the last days.” Instead, Joel says “afterward.” Peter is trying to impress upon his listeners that the “afterward” is right then. The last days have come upon them. Why is this significant? The phrase “last days” refers to the days when the events that would lead to the coming of the Messiah. Peter is telling the multitudes that those days of the Messiah were currently being lived in and was not something that would still happen “afterward.” Peter and those in the first century were living in the last days because the Messiah had come. Peter will elaborate more upon this idea later in this sermon.
- A time of blessing and judgment upon all people. A careful reading of the prophecy shows that Joel was speaking that upon all humanity blessings and judgment were going to take place. The blessings are described as God declares He will pour out His Spirit on all flesh. Isaiah 44:3 shows that the pouring out the Spirit was understood as the coming of blessings. “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.” Therefore, when Joel and Isaiah prophesied the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, they were speaking of God’s blessings being poured out on the people.
- However, judgment was also promised in this outpouring. “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the great and remarkable day of the Lord comes.” This imagery is used repeatedly by the prophets to describe a coming judgment upon a people and nation. The blessing is not only the benefits derived from the Holy Spirit coming upon all mankind, but also refers to the blessings that came because the Messiah had come and conquered death. Again, Peter will make this point more fully later, but alludes to the point here in the quotation of Joel’s prophecy. Now, since the Messiah had already come in the form of Jesus, it was time for judgment to come upon all humanity.
- Call upon the name of the Lord to avoid judgment. Peter, by quoting Joel’s prophecy, also declares how a person will be able to avoid the impending judgment upon all humanity. Peter declares, “whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Salvation from this grand judgment of destruction was needed. The way to come about this salvation was to call on the name of the Lord, a phrase we will look at in more detail later. These three points set the tone for the rest of Peter’s sermon in which Jesus is tied to the blessings and judgments to come.
B. Jesus, risen from the dead
- Peter now goes on to explain about Jesus. Peter declares that God pointed Jesus out as the Messiah with miracles, wonders, and signs that were done among them. Peter points out that these people are fully aware of the signs and wonders that were done by Jesus.
- Furthermore, it was God’s determined plan and according to God’s foreknowledge that Jesus was delivered up to be crucified. The events that surrounded Jesus’ life were not an accident. Everything that took place was fully planned by God. But without any law or authority to do so, the people delivered Jesus to be nailed to a cross and crucified. God raised Jesus from the dead, conquering death because it was not possible for Him to be held by the power of death. Peter will now present three arguments to prove that Jesus has risen from the dead.
- David prophesied the Messiah would rise from the dead. Peter first quotes Psalm 16 to prove that David was not speaking of himself but of his descendant to come. David is dead, buried, and his tomb was still with them in the first century. David was prophet who knew that one of his descendants would sit on the throne. Therefore, concerning the Messiah, His soul was not left in Hades and He did not experience any corruption or decay.
- Apostles are witnesses of the resurrection. Peter’s second argument is that the apostles are witnesses of the resurrection. God raised Jesus from the dead. Peter and John ran to the tomb and found it empty. The women went to the tomb and were told by the angel that Jesus had risen from the dead. The apostles were present when Jesus showed Himself to them. In fact, the apostles have been with Jesus for 40 days after His resurrection, learning about the kingdom of God. The apostles were assured that Jesus died and rose from the dead. If they were not sure of these facts, they would not have died for their beliefs.
- The pouring out of the Holy Spirit proves Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus taught that He must return to the Father. However, when He returned to the Father He would send another Helper, the Holy Spirit, who would guide the apostles into all truth (John 14:15-31; 15:26-27; 16:5-16). If Jesus had not risen from the dead, the things that happened there at Pentecost would not happen. The coming of the Holy Spirit was also sign to show that the Messiah had not only come, but was now ruling on the throne in heaven. To prove this point, Peter quotes David again, this time from Psalm 110, to show again that David was not speaking about himself ascending to the throne, but of the Messiah.
- The conclusion of the sermon is that the people needed to know with all certainty that God had made Jesus both Lord and Messiah, the one whom they had crucified. This was a powerful lesson Peter presented, full of proofs and arguments to explain that what had taken place proved Jesus to be risen from the dead and that judgment was coming upon all people for killing Him. At this news, the people are pierced to the heart, understanding that they have killed their Messiah, the One who had come to deliver them. Judgment was now coming on the nation as described in verse 20 and they needed to call upon the name of the Lord to be saved.
- The people then ask what should they do. To call on the name of the Lord is too general of a statement to which the people needed further explanation. How do you call on the name of the Lord? Peter explains in verse 38 to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. This is how salvation would be offered and continues to be offered today. Judgment must come upon all flesh for their sins. To be saved everyone must call on the name of the Lord by repenting and being baptized. Without obeying these conditions, judgment comes. Let us also be saved from this corrupt generation by purposing to serve God and being baptized today.