I think everyone enjoys receiving gifts. It is what makes our birthdays pleasurable. We want to see what gifts people thought to give us. Peter is going to preach in Acts 2 about the best gift you could ever receive. This is the best gift that you could ever have because it is the gift that keeps on giving.
God Comes Down (2:1-13)
Pentecost is an important backdrop for the events that are being recorded. Pentecost was also called the Feast of Weeks in the Law of Moses and was the second of three great pilgrimage required of the Jewish men. It was a harvest festival where Israel thanked God for the gifts of the grain harvest (cf. Exodus 34:22). It was a sign of gratitude for the start of the harvest and a prayer that the rest of the crops would be safely gathered in. Pentecost also became connected to Sinai and the giving of the covenant as a gift from God to the people because of its timing after the original Passover during the exodus. So there are two aspects that are coloring the events that are happening. Pentecost represented thanksgiving for the harvest and the hope for future harvest to come and it represented covenant renewal as it was connected to God gifting the law to Moses who dispensed it to the people.
On the day of Pentecost, they were all together in one place (2:1). Suddenly a sound like a violent rushing wind came and filled the whole house. Think about the sound you hear when you are in a hurricane. This may be a good representation of the kind of sound that was heard. The sound filling the whole house means that the sound was very loud. Not only this, tongues that look like flames of fire rested over each of them. We should already have a sense of what is happening because God’s arrival in the scriptures is always pictured as loud and fiery. Think about when God came down on Mount Sinai and we see a loud noise and the mountain shaking and fiery. God is arriving which is further revealed in verse 4. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they begin to speak in different languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak. Now do not need to explain any of this at this point. Peter is going to explain this later to the crowds. Right now, we are just to take in the imagery and see that God has arrived. This is what Jesus said would happen in Acts 1:4-8 that the apostles were to wait to happen.
This event causes confusion. So if you are confused by these verses, the people who were there were also confused by what happened. The sound of this rushing, violent wind was so loud that people around Jerusalem came together to try to understand what happened. But as they come together, they are even more confused because they hear the apostles speaking to them in their own languages. The apostles are from Galilee, yet everyone who has come from all over the Roman Empire is able to hear the apostles speak in their own language “the magnificent acts of God” (2:11). So the people are astounded and perplexed, desiring to know what this all means (2:12). Some were mocking the apostles claiming that they were drunk (2:13).
Peter’s Explanation (2:14-36)
So Peter stands up with the eleven apostles to explain what has happened. Obviously these apostles are not drunk. Drunk people do not speak in untaught languages that people understand. Further, it is only 9 in the morning so they are not drunk (2:15). Rather, Peter says the answer is simple. This is what fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. You can look in your copies of God’s word and see from verses 17-21 that the text is marked a little differently to show Peter quoting from Joel 2:28-32. What did God promise through his prophet Joel that Peter is saying is happening now?
God promised that the Spirit would be poured out on all people. This is the big point in verses 17-18. No one is excluded from this outpouring. God would not pour out his Spirit only on the rich or powerful. Notice the prophecy is that the Spirit would be poured out on men and women, young and old, even male and female servants. The pouring out of the Spirit will have no regard for social class or gender. What else would accompany the pouring out of the Spirit? Notice Joel also says that miraculous events will accompany the pouring out of the Spirit. People will prophecies, see visions, and dream dreams. This will be the sign of the arrival of the Spirit into the world: a miraculous outpouring. Peter stands up and says that this is what is happening right now. The apostles are speaking in different languages by the Holy Spirit which indicates that the Spirit has arrived. We will talk more about what this means in a minute because Peter will explain in a minute.
But notice that Peter continues with Joel’s quotation. Something else is coming with the outpouring of the Spirit. In verses 19-20 we see judgment is also coming. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood. The images of verses 19-20 are judgment images. If the sun turns to darkness then the people are doomed. The people are being judged by the Lord. So judgment is coming with this outpouring. Remember that this is exactly what John the Baptizer said in Matthew 3. He said that Christ would baptized with the Holy Spirit and baptized with fire. These two parts are also declared by the prophet Joel and quoted by Peter. We also know this is judgment imagery because of verse 21. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” What are they being saved from? They are being saved from verses 19-20: the judgment of God. Restoration and judgment have arrived.
But Peter will explain this in verses 22-32. The point of this paragraph is that what has happened is the work of Jesus. Remember how the book of Acts began. The first book was about all that Jesus began to do and teaching. This implies that Jesus has more work. What has happened is Jesus’ work! How can Jesus do this work when he was crucified? Peter begins by declared that God raised Jesus from the dead because it was not possible for death to hold him. Think about the power of that statement. It was not possible for death to hold Jesus. Peter quotes Psalm 16 to prove this point. Death was no match for Jesus because he is the perfect righteous one. Life was the path for him. God raised Jesus from the dead and they are witness of this fact (2:32).
Verses 33-36 are the key to Peter’s sermon. I really want us to carefully read verse 33.
Therefore, since he has been exalted to the right hand of God and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, he has poured out what you both see and hear. (Acts 2:33 CSB)
Why was everyone seeing and hearing what they saw and heard? Why did they hear the sound of the mighty, violent wind? Why did they see the apostles miraculously speaking in different languages? Why did all of these signs happen? To show that Jesus has been exalted to God’s right hand, received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, and has poured out the Spirit now. Now we need to slow down right so we make sure that we are all together on what Peter is teaching.
Why did all of these signs happen? Why are they speaking in different languages? The pouring out of the Spirit was going to happen on all of his people. We noted that the promise of the Father regarding the Spirit meant the restoration of God’s rule, the restoration of God’s kingdom, the restoration of God’s blessings on his people, the restoration of the covenant with his people, and the turning of his face toward his people in mercy and grace. But here is the problem: none of those things are visible. How do we know that the kingdom has been restored? How do we know that the forgiveness of sins is available? How do we know that we have a new covenant that offers grace? How do we know that God has turned his face toward his people? How do we know that God has come to restore his blessings to his people? You cannot see any of those things. So the miracle is the proof. This visible miraculous outpouring was the proof that the invisible has occurred. This visible miraculous outpouring was the proof that Peter’s declaration about the risen Jesus reigning from the throne happened. By the way, this was the purpose of all miracles in the scriptures. Miracles always were to prove and confirm what the miracle worker was saying. Jesus proved he could forgive sins by telling the paralyzed man to take up his mat and walk (cf. Mark 2:9). The miracle proved that God’s greatest promises to bless the world, save the world, and draw all people to himself has now come.
The Conviction and Response (2:37-39)
Notice verse 37. When the people heard this, they were pierced to the heart and asked what they should do. These are the two keys for desiring God and I hope you see it here. First, you are cut to the heart. People who desire God are convicted. They are pierced. They do not hear the word of the Lord and it bounces off of them. They do not hear the word of God and the word has no impact. People who desire God are moved when they hear God’s word. Second, people who desire God want to know what to do. They do not simply say, “Wow!” and then continue living their lives. They say, “You have convicted me and now I need to know what to do next.”
Now why doesn’t Peter say, “I already told you what to you?” Look back at verse 21. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Here is the problem that the people are facing. We do not what this means. What does it mean to call on the name of the Lord? How do I call on the name of the Lord? So Peter has to explain what this means. Look at verses 38-39. Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter explains that calling on the name of the Lord means to repent from your sins. You need to turn away from living for self and for sinning and turn toward God and live for him. Further, you need to be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins. We will talk more about the meaning of this in the next lesson. But I want us to see what Peter taught as the response: repent and be baptized. What would be the result? You will have the forgiveness of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Now do not stop the reading because Peter helps us understand the gift of the Holy Spirit. He continues in verse 39 that this is a promise to you, to your children, to those who are far away, as many as the Lord calls to himself.
Peter says that the gift of the Holy Spirit that is available to you is what God promised to the world. It was promised to you and your children, to even the Gentiles (the far off), and as many that God will call to himself. The gift of the Holy Spirit is for everyone. The promise of the Holy Spirit is for everyone. Go back to what Peter said that we looked at in this lesson. The pouring out of the Spirit was available for all flesh, without regard for gender or social status. What did we say God had promised? What did Peter say had arrived when the Spirit was poured out? We said that what was promised was the restoration of God’s kingdom, the restoration of God’s blessings, the restoration of God’s covenant with his people, the restoration of his relationship with the world, and turning of his face toward his people with mercy and grace. How do we access this? How can we be part of God’s kingdom, enjoy God’s restored blessings, belong to God’s saving covenant, and have God pour out his mercy and grace to us? Be cut to the heart, repent, and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.
Friends, this is the gift you need. This is the gift that keeps on giving. When you come to Jesus, yes, you have the forgiveness of sins. But do not stop reading the text and settle on salvation as the only thing you receive. When you repent of your sins and are baptized for the forgiveness of your sins, you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will be poured out on you also. What does this mean? That you belong to God’s kingdom, you are a child of God, you enjoy God’s blessings, you belong to his saving covenant, and you will enjoy his mercy and grace. This is the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is God’s great gift to the world.
Now do we see why this happened on Pentecost? Pentecost was the first harvest with the hope of the rest of the harvest to come in. Pentecost was the start of the spiritual harvest as 3000 people are baptized and saved (2:41). The hope was the rest of the spiritual harvest would come in. The offer to enjoy all that God has to offer is to you as a gift. The miracles of Acts 2 prove that you can belong to the kingdom of God. This event declared to the world that the gift is also to you because Jesus is on the throne reigning. He has poured out this which you can now experience.