ACTS CHAPTER 2.
The Pentecost Miracle. Acts 2, 1-13.
The apostles filled with the Holy Spirit: V.1. And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. V.2. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. V.3. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. V.4. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. In the complete fulfilling of the day of Pentecost, when the day was altogether filled up, according to Hebrew manner of speaking, when it had altogether come. As Luke used the word, it indicates that this day, at this time, brought the fulfillment of the earnest and eager expectation of the disciples, and that its importance should therefore be remembered forever. It was the day of Pentecost, the fiftieth day after Easter, the second great festival of the Jewish church-year, celebrated on the day after the completion of seven full weeks after the second day of the Passover week, when the firstlings of the barley harvest were waved before the Lord. On this day, which in that year just happened to be a Sunday, they all were assembled together. This has been understood of the twelve apostles alone, who were spoken of in the last verse of chapter one. But the fact that the Pentecostal gifts, though exercised by the apostles first, were not confined to them, but were used by other disciples as well, makes it more plausible to assume that the entire congregation of Jerusalem, the hundred and twenty disciples, chap. 1, 15, and even others that had come to Jerusalem for the festival, were assembled together. In one place they were gathered together, and although the Temple is not specified as in other places, chap. 3, 2. 11; 5, 21, the fact that there was such a large assembly, and that afterwards thousands of people became witnesses of the miracle, indicates that an upper room in the city would have been inadequate, and that the miracle probably occurred in one of the Temple-halls adjoining the spacious courts. And there happened suddenly out of heaven a sound as of a mighty wind, that bore along with great power. The sound came without warning or visible cause, no storm-clouds having gathered and the serenity of the sky being unmarred by any indication of a disturbance. Out of the sky the sound proceeded with a volume of noise which immediately attracted attention to its rushing sibilance, since it was directed to that one house or hall where the disciples were assembled. The supernatural manifestation continued even inside the hall, making both walls and ceiling resound with its violence. Incidentally, a second phenomenon was made manifest. Forked tongues appeared above the disciples, like fire in their appearance and brightness. The text makes it seem as though there was originally a great flame as of fire which accompanied the rushing sound, from which now the smaller flames divided or parted themselves off. And so the semblance of fire s at upon every one of them. The fire and the flames were symbols of the audible tongues in which the apostles were presently to speak. For while the phenomenon was visible to all those present, the real and most important miracle of Pentecost took place. They were all filled with the Holy Ghost. -411 the preceding manifestations were but the heralds of the Spirit, who now came down to take possession of the hearts and minds of the disciples with His miraculous gifts. Not as though the apostles had not had the Spirit before. They had received Him both when they believed in Christ as their Savior and especially on Easter evening, with the commission of the Lord, John 20, 22. 23. But the apostles had shown only a very small measure of understanding in spiritual things, and as for power to work and courage to confess their Lord, all these had been strangely and lamentably absent. But here they received the Spirit in special measure; not only was the faith of their hearts confirmed as never before, but they were also given an unusual amount of strength, both to labor and to endure. And the strongest feature of this imparting Of the Spirit consisted in the gift of miracles, which was immediately manifested in them. For they now began to speak, in connected discourse, in other, strange tongues, in languages and dialects of which, for the most part, they had probably never heard. The Holy Ghost not merely taught them the various languages for their own understanding, but actually gave them the ability to express themselves correctly in these tongues. It was a wonderful manifestation and transference of miraculous powers. The account is so clear that there can be no question in the unprejudiced mind as to the miracle set before us in this narrative, namely, that the foreign languages became to the unlearned fishermen of Galilee as their own, that they had a perfect command of the various languages and could express themselves freely, as occasion offered. And all this was wrought by the Spirit, who gave them utterance and enabled them to speak the oracles of God. “The Holy Spirit thus penetrated their hearts that in one moment they had the right understanding of God and of His Son Jesus Christ, and understood the whole Scriptures, and had such courage that they do not keep this understanding for themselves, but dare to confess it freely and openly.... He comes down and fills the hearts of the disciples, who formerly sat there in grief and fear, and gives them fiery tongues that they become courageous, and preach freely of Christ, and fear nothing.” 6)
The effect of the miracle upon the multitude: V.5. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. V.6. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. V.7. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans? V.8. And how hear we every man in our own tongue wherein we were born? V.9. Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, v.10. Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and In the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, v.11. Cretes and Arabians; we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. V.12. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? V.13. Others, mocking, said, These men are full of new wine. Since this was the festival of Pentecost. one of the feasts upon which all the Jews were to appear at Jerusalem, Ex. 23, 13-17; Deut. 16, there were people from all parts of the world living, or sojourning for the time, in Jerusalem. Many of them that had formerly lived in distant countries may have returned to the city of their fathers in order to spend their declining years in their sacred city and to die within sight of the Temple. The people here referred to were sincere, devout men, Luke 2, 25, not hypocrites like the Jewish rulers. And they hailed from every nation under heaven. Since the time of the Babylonian exile the merchandizing proclivities of the Jews had drawn them out into other countries more and more. In some countries, as in Egypt, there were large colonies of them, with influential men of the class of Philo. And that they were by no means few in number throughout Asia Minor, as well as in parts of Greece and in Italy, appears from the many passages in Acts in which the synagogs of the Jews are mentioned. These Jews, known as the Jews of the Diaspora, spoke the language of the people among whom they lived, retaining the Hebrew only for Sabbath services. Now when that great sound, as of the mighty wind, was heard, the attention of all the hearers was naturally directed to the hall where the apostles and disciples were assembled, and a great multitude came together to find out the reason for this supernatural occurrence. And what they saw and heard filled their minds with such trouble and perturbation that they were no longer sure of their senses; they were altogether confounded and mixed up. For here they heard, every man, the language of the people where he bad been born. There were present Eastern or Babylonian Jews, Parthians, from the region of the Caspian Sea, Medes, from the southwestern shore of the same sea, Elamites, in what is now western Persia, dwellers in Mesopotamia, along the Euphrates and Tigris rivers; there were present Syrian Jews, from Judea, the southern part of what is now Syria, from Cappadocia, in eastern Asia Minor, from Pontus, south of the Black Sea, from Asia, the parts of western Asia Minor in general, along the Aegean Sea, from Phrygia, in western Asia Minor, from Pamphylia, in southern Asia Minor; there were present Egyptian Jews, from Egypt itself, as well as from the parts of Libya in the western part, about Cyrene, the modern Tripoli; there were present Roman Jews, sojourners from that city. And finally Luke mentions Jews from the island of Crete, in the Mediterranean, and from Arabia, as being present in only small numbers. Both Jews and proselytes were represented in the assembly, such as belonged to the Jewish nation by birth, and such as had become proselytes of the gate (by acknowledging the truth of the Jewish teaching) or of righteousness (by formally accepting all the rites and ceremonies, as well as the teaching). And all the various members of this' big gathering heard the apostles speak in their own tongue, fluently addressing them, as though they had spoken the dialects and languages all their life. Such a miracle was unheard of, and Luke exhausts his vocabulary in trying to describe it s effect upon the multitude: they were confounded, they were amazed, they marveled, they were perplexed, they asked one another as to the meaning of the wonderful thing they were witnessing. And all the while the apostles were preaching the great and wonderful works of God, namely, that God had fulfilled the prophecies made to their fathers, that He had sent His Son Jesus to work the redemption of the whole world, and that this salvation was now being offered to all of them without exception.7) But while the majority of the assembled Jews were ready to accept the evidence of an extraordinary manifestation of God’s power in these unlearned Galileans, as they called them, there were also some that scoffed and mocked, derisively declaring that the apostles were full of sweet wine, either the must of grapes still in the fermenting state or a choice sweet wine in use in Palestine. Note: Wherever the Spirit of God works through the Word, there are always some that accept the glorious truth, while others are willfully offended and mock at the Spirit that lives in the Christians.
The Sermon of Peter and Its Effect. Acts 2, 14-47.
The introduction of the sermon: V.14. But Peter, standing up with the Eleven, lifted up his voice and said unto them, Ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words; v.15. for these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. V.16. But this is that which was spoken by the Prophet Joel, v.17. And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; v.18, and on My servants and on My handmaidens I will pour out in those days of My Spirit; and they shall prophesy; v.19. And I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; v.20. the sun shall be turned In to darkness, and the moon In to blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come; v.21. And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. While the gift of tongues was being transmitted to the apostles, it was not that they were in a state of ecstasy, making them detached from the affairs going on about them. They were perfectly sane and rational. And Peter heard the remark of the scoffers. Up to this time the apostles had been sitting down; but now Peter arose, and the Eleven with him, to enter an emphatic protest against this blasphemous insinuation, which, incidentally, was very foolish. As spokesman of the Twelve, Peter purposely raised his voice in order to make himself understood by the entire audience, and then spoke solemnly and impressively, In the name of God. He addresses the assembled multitude very respectfully as “men of Judea and dwellers in Jerusalem,” thus distinguishing between the inhabitants and the sojourners for the period of the festival. He wanted to make something known to them, he wanted to bring a fact to their attention, and therefore he asks them all to give ear, to listen closely to his words, his sayings, his informal talk. He brings out, first of all, the meaning of the Pentecost miracle. First of all, he refutes the charge that these men might be intoxicated. It was now only the third hour of the day, nine o’clock in the morning, and therefore the time itself made it highly improbable that these men should be drunken. But the real refutation of the insinuation came with the explanation of the miracle. The manifestation which they had witnessed was one due to the Spirit of God, in fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel, chap. 2, 28-32. God Himself had promised through this prophet that in the latter days of the world He would pour out of His Spirit upon all flesh, that as the result of this miracle both the sons and the daughters of the people would prophesy, would be able to unfold the future, that the young men would see visions and the old men would receive revelations in dreams. And still more was included in this miraculous occurrence. For even the bonded servants, the slaves, both male and female, would receive the same gift of the Holy Ghost, so that they, too, would be enabled to prophesy. Persons of all nationalities and of every rank and station in life would thus become partakers of the Spirit and His wonderful gifts. And this phenomenon would not be confined to a single occasion, but would continue until the day when God would show and give miracles in the heaven or sky above and signs of His majesty on the earth beneath, blood, and fire, and smoky vapor. The sun would be changed entirely, losing his brightness and turning into darkness, and the moon likewise would be changed into a bloody mass. Bloodshed and devastation of war would precede that last great day of the Lord, whose purpose will clearly be visible as soon as it dawns over the demoralized world. Cp. 1 Thess. 5,2; 1 Cor. 1. 8; 2 Cor. 1, 14; 2 Thess. 2, 8. The awful aspects of the end of the world are here held up to the startled gaze of the multitude, as a warning cry to repentance. But, in the mean time, there is also a glorious promise held out to all that turn to the Lord in repentance and faith, and fervently call upon His name as that of the only Savior. Note: We Christians live in the time of the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy, in the time of the New Testament Pentecost. The preaching of Christ, which was begun by the lowly fishermen of Galilee, has gone out into all the world. And through this Gospel the exalted Christ, God Himself, is sending, pouring out His Spirit. The crucified Christ, now exalted to the right hand of God, is the almighty God. 8) He is gathering unto Himself His Church out of all nations of the world. Sons and daughters, old and young, servants and maids, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. And though the working of the Spirit is not manifested in the same way as in the early days of the Church, in visions, in dreams, in prophecy, yet the Spirit lives in the hearts of the believers, gives them the knowledge of Jesus Christ, their Savior, and urges them to speak of that which they believe so firmly, and to call upon the name of the Lord. The pouring out of the Spirit is the last of the great miracles of God until the great day of His returning to Judgment, In the mean time, we have the comfort that our salvation is secure in Him. “What does it mean ‘to save’? It means to deliver from sin and death. For he that wants to be saved must not be under the Law, but under grace. But if he should not be under the Law, but under grace, then he must not be under sin. If he is under, in the power of, sin, then he is under the Law, that is, under the wrath of God, under eternal death and damnation, and under the power of the devil. But if he is to be saved, then all these enemies, sin, death, devil, must be removed. Therefore to save means nothing else than to deliver and make free from sin and death, from the wrath of God and the power of the devil, from the Law and from a bad conscience. Now Peter says, from the Prophet Joel: The Lord that pours out His Holy Spirit upon all flesh will save all that call upon His name, that is, by faith in Him He will deliver from sin and death." 9)
Peter’s testimony of Jesus: V.22. Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: v.23. Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain; v.24. whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should beholden of it. Peter here launches forth into his sermon proper, to testify of Christ as David’s Son and David’s Lord. He addresses his hearers as Israelites, as members of the covenant nation of God, and asks them again to mark well his words. He places the name of Jesus the Nazarene at the head of this section, in order properly to emphasize his intention of making Jesus the center of his discussion. This Jesus had been approved by God unto them; God had clearly shown that Jesus was His ambassador to the Jews. the demonstrations of His power in the Word and work of Jesus being manifest throughout. The powers, wonders, and signs which He performed had been done through Him in their midst by God, just as He Himself had argued. Peter tells the Jews outright that they were very well aware of these facts, that it was impossible for them to deny a single one of them, John 11, 47. Peter furthermore informed the Jews that it was in accordance with God’s preordained purpose, with His constituted will and foreknowledge, that Jesus was delivered into their power, affixed to the cross and slain with wicked hands, and not because He had been overcome by their strength. And he finally tells his audience boldly that God had raised Jesus from death, by loosening and taking away the pangs of death, for it was not possible for death to hold the Prince of Life. Death had ensnared Him, but could not hold his prey. Like sledgehammer blows the powerful, brief statement of these facts falls from the lips of Peter, facts which make his hearers reel and stagger, and which force the conviction upon them that this man Peter must be telling the truth. “We might challenge the world to find a parallel to it in the speeches of her orators or the songs of her poets. There is not such a thunderbolt in all the burdens of the prophets of Israel, or among the voices which echo through the Apocalypse.” 10) For us Christians it is most consoling that the climax of this section is reached in the magnificent statement: Whom God hath raised up. Upon the fact of the resurrection of Jesus we place our hope of everlasting salvation.
The proof from David: V.25. For David speaketh concerning Him, I foresaw the Lord always before My face, for He is on My right hand, that I should not be moved; v.26. therefore did My heart rejoice, and My tongue was glad; moreover, also My flesh shall rest in hope; v.27. because Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell, neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption. V.28. Thou hast made known to Me the ways of life; Thou shalt make Me full of joy with Thy countenance. Peter had stated to the Jews that Jesus had been delivered according to the foreknowledge of God and that God had raised Him up from the dead. Since these two statements required proof, the apostle proceeds to give it from Scriptures. He quotes Ps. 16, 8-11. There David says certain facts of the Lord, and the Messiah speaks through him. The Messiah declares that He beholds the Lord, Jehovah, before His face always; He is in the bosom of the Father from everlasting to everlasting. God, His heavenly Father, is at His right hand, as His Defense and Helper, so that He could not become permanently dejected. For that reason the Messiah’s heart is full of gladness and His tongue is full of exultation, His soul is full of joyful confidence. For His flesh, His living, animate body, may dwell in cheerful hope; the Messiah’s entire life could be spent in a confident and calm contemplation of the end which was awaiting Him. For the Lord, His heavenly Father, would not give up, not desert, His soul in the kingdom of death, would not permit Him to become the permanent prey of death, neither would He give His Holy One to see corruption. He knows and is convinced that His soul will not be given up and abandoned in the abode of the dead and destruction, that His body will not rot in the grave according to the common experience of mankind. In distinction from this the Lord has made known to the Messiah the ways of life; He has filled Him with gladness as being in His presence without interruption. For the Messiah no death would, even for a moment, sever the union between Him and His God and Lord. Note: The words of the Psalm are a beautiful and clear exposition of the Messiah concerning His death and the glorification which would be His through His death.
The application of the prophecy: V.29. Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day. V.30. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, He would raise up Christ to sit on his throne, v.31. he, seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ, that His soul was not left in hell, neither His flesh did see corruption. V.32. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof w e all are witnesses. Peter, in this section of his sermon, uses the intimate and confidential address “men and brethren.“ He wants to make the people feel that it is in their interest to hear him out in his argument. He had quoted a passage from a Psalm which, as the people knew, was written by David, a passage held throughout in the first person. The question therefore was as to who was speaking when David wrote, he himself or some one else. Now concerning David, whom Peter here calls a patriarch, the ancestor of a kingly race, he could freely say, and without any fear of contradiction, that he died and was buried, his grave being in Jerusalem and well known to all Jews. So the death of David was a fact, and the presence of his tomb implied that this ancestor of kings, on his part, had seen corruption. Of himself David, then, had assuredly not spoken. On the other hand, as the Jews knew, he held the position of a prophet, one through whom the Lord foretold the future, and as such he knew, by a revelation of God, that God had promised him with an oath that a descendant of his would sit upon his throne. Cp. 2 Sam. 7, 12. 13. With this knowledge in mind, David wrote this prophecy of the 16th Psalm, speaking of the resurrection of Christ, that He would not be abandoned in the kingdom of death, and that His flesh would not see corruption. Thus Peter proved clearly from his text that Jesus suffered death according to a predetermined and expressed aim of God, but that death could not hold Him, that He plainly must and did arise from the dead. And that this prophecy has been fulfilled the apostles also, the twelve men standing before them, could testify; they were witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus. Their eyes, their senses, did not deceive them; they had been with the risen Lord; they had received His commission. This fact is of great comfort also to us, who place our faith in the message of the risen Lord, as recorded by these witnesses of His resurrection.
The conclusion of Peter’s sermon: V.33. Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear. V.34. For David is not ascended into the heavens; but he saith himself, the Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand, v.35. until I make Thy foes Thy footstool. V.36. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ. A powerful peroration or conclusion! After his testimony concerning the resurrection of Jesus there was one more point which Peter was bound to make, namely, the proof of Christ’s exaltation into glory, with the attendant majesty and power. In this case he did not cite the testimony of the apostles’ personal witnessing, since this step of Christ’s glorification had been hidden from human eyes. But the ascension and exaltation was a necessary consequence of the resurrection. Jesus was by the right hand of God exalted, raised by the omnipotent power of God to the highest dignity in the realms of glory; Jesus received the promise of the Holy Spirit from. the Father; Jesus poured the Spirit out upon the disciples, as the Jews were now witnessing to their great astonishment, both with their eyes in seeing the tongues of fire and with their ears in hearing the unlearned fishermen declare the great wonders of God in more than a dozen languages and dialects. It was testimony of a kind which no sane man among the hearers would dream of calling into question. And this miracle of the exalted Christ was, in turn, predicted in the Old Testament, another fact which should convince them of the truth of Peter’s remarks. For David, as they well knew, had not ascended into heaven. The words therefore which he had written, Ps. 110,1: The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand till I place Thine enemies as a footstool for Thy feet, could not apply to David. The passage, then, as even the Jews admitted, must refer to Christ; the words had found their fulfillment in the ascension of Jesus. Having therefore, by the soundest kind of evidence, brought proof for the statements which he made in his introduction, Peter was ready for the logical, powerful conclusion and application. With convincing confidence and startling directness he appeals not only to the present hearers, but to the whole house of Israel whom they represented, to have the correct understanding of the facts brought out by his sermon, namely, that God had made that same Jesus whom they had crucified both Lord and Christ. He had made Him Lord by exalting Him to the everlasting throne of majesty and power; and He had made Him Christ by thus establishing all the prophecies of old concerning the Messiah as referring to Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus and His entire ministry were vindicated in a most glorious and incontrovertible manner. Such is the preaching of Christ which should obtain in the Christian Church at all times. That is the content of all Christian preaching: Jesus Christ, true God and man, crucified and resurrected, our Lord and Savior.
The immediate effect of the sermon: V.37. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? V.38. Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. V.39. For the promise is unto you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord, our God, shall call. V.40. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Peter had closed his sermon with the words: Both Lord and Christ has God made this Jesus whom you crucified. These concluding words, coming after his powerful presentation of truth, could not fail to have their effect. They penetrated to the heart of the hearers, they pierced the heart. The men were moved most deeply, they were filled with compunction and remorse. They felt, with the keen misery of an evil conscience, that they were murderers in the sight of God. That is the beginning of repentance: a keen realization of sin and a deep sorrow over the offense thus offered to God. This is brought out by the eager, uneasy question of the hearers: What shall we do, men and brethren? They do not despair on account of the greatness of their sin, but turn to Peter for help in their great trouble. It was a momentous question, and it received a clear answer. The first thing Peter urges them to do is to repent truly and sincerely, to admit all guilt before the face of God without reserve and equivocation, Prov. 28, 13. And the second step is that every one of those whose heart was thus filled with sorrow and remorse should be baptized on or in the name of Jesus Christ. Christian Baptism is made in the name of Jesus, because the work of Jesus made the gift of Baptism possible, since it is made unto remission of sins. Forgiveness of sins, full pardon, is given to the poor sinner through the washing of regeneration, Titus 3, 5. Baptism is not a mere symbol or form of initiation into the brotherhood of believers, nor is it a work by which remission of sins is earned. The water of Baptism, through the power of the Word which is in and with the water, transmits and gives the remission of sins as earned by Jesus Christ. Note: Peter uses both the Law and the Gospel, the former to work a full and proper realization of sinfulness, the latter to open the floodgates of God’s mercy to the poor sinners. And there is still a third point which Peter brings out. Where repentance and faith are found in the heart, there the gift of the Holy Ghost is assured, there God freely, out of pure mercy, sheds forth the Holy Ghost. The Spirit lives in the hearts of those that are baptized and believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and His constant work is to sanctify the believers. Through the indwelling of the Spirit we are enabled to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit. This application Peter makes very emphatic, declaring that the promise of God unto salvation is unto them, has reference to them and to their children, is earnestly intended for them. Note that the Gospel promise of God, also In regard to the remission of sins as transmitted through Baptism, is not only to the adults, but also to the children; the children are very decidedly included in the command to baptize. And the promise of the Gospel was not confined to the Jews and their nation, but was intended also for all those at a distance, as many as God would call to receive the benefits and blessings of His mercy. It is the gracious work of God, to exhibit the power of His mercy also among the Gentiles, to have His Word accepted among them to their salvation, to call them unto Himself, as His own children. There is no limit to the universality of this promise nor to the beauty of its import. Here Luke closes the verbal account of Peter’s discourse, merely adding that he, and undoubtedly the other apostles as well, very earnestly testified, with many additional arguments. And to his testimony he added exhortation, in order to confirm and strengthen the newborn faith of their hearts, urging them to be or become saved, to save their souls by separating themselves from the perverse, godless generation of this world. The power to do so came to them by faith, the strength of God being present in them, and they must exercise this power at once, Phil. 2, 12. It is necessary, that Christians at all times make use of the power of God in them which they have received by faith. The effect of the sermon in the establishment and progress of the Church: V.41. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. V.42. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. V.43. And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. V.44. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; v.45. And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. V.46. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the Temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, v.47. praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved. The Word of God which had been preached with such power and followed up with such earnest exhortations, did not remain without fruit. By the working of the same Spirit whose miraculous power was exhibited before their eyes, some of the people present, a considerable number of the hearers, received the Word by faith, they accepted Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Messiah and they were baptized. The Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ served for the strengthening of their faith in the Word of the Gospel, and for the confirming and sealing of their salvation in Christ, of which Peter had testified. It is immaterial whether this great number of people that were thus added to, that joined the ranks of, the disciples, were baptized by immersion (the necessary facilities being present in Jerusalem, as the defenders of immersion declare) or not, since the mode of Baptism is not prescribed in Holy Scriptures. There are a good many arguments of probability against immersion. But be that as it may, the fact is that these people were added to, received into, the Christian Church by the Sacrament of Baptism, their number being about three thousand souls. The souls that are won for Christ are thereby added to His Church.
Luke now sketches a picture of the first Christian congregation of Jerusalem, with the nucleus of the apostles and the hundred and twenty disciples, and with the three thousand Pentecost converts as the body. The growth of the Church was not only in numbers, but also in faith and charity. The members of the congregation continued, persevered, with great fidelity and devotion, in the teaching, in the doctrine of the apostles. These men, set and ordained by Christ as the teachers of all Christendom, were at that time the teachers of the congregation at Jerusalem. And their doctrine was the doctrine of Christ; they taught what they had heard from Christ; their word was the Word of God. By remaining steadfastly in this Word, the disciples also preserved fellowship. They were united in the same faith and love toward their Lord and Master; they were in communion with one another and in union with Christ and the Father, a wonderful, blessed intimacy, by which they were attached more closely to one another than brothers and sisters according to the flesh. Each one felt the most solicitous concern for the joys and sorrows of the other. Their intimate fellowship was expressed in the breaking of bread. If this expression does not refer exclusively to the celebration of Holy Communion, it certainly does not exclude the Sacrament. Cp. 1 Cor. 10, 16. It plainly does not refer to an ordinary meal, and was probably used by Luke to describe briefly the common meal which the believers connected with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in the early days of the Church. And as the believers heard the Word, as they observed the Eucharist, so they also were diligent, assiduous, in public prayer. By common prayer, praise, and thanksgiving the disciples of Jerusalem manifested their brotherly fellowship and their unity of spirit. All these facts could, of course, not remain hidden from the people of the city, even if the members of the congregation had intended it so. The Christians’ mode of living was a continual confession and admonition to all the inhabitants of the city. The result was that many of the Jews, as many as came into contact with the believers, were filled with a great fear; the solemn awe which the miracles and signs of the apostles inspired was augmented by the reverence demanded by their blameless living. The presence of God and the exalted Christ, through the manifest working of the Spirit, in the midst of the congregation, had to be admitted by all that came into contact with them. And this awe served the spread of the Gospel as well; it acted as a curb upon the hatred of the Jews, hindering them from showing any open manifestation of their enmity. It was God’s intention that the young plant of His Church was to enjoy a peaceful growth for a season.
Meanwhile the brotherly love of the disciples showed its power in their life and works. They were together; their hearts and minds were directed to their common cause, a fact which naturally caused them to meet as often as possible, either in the Temple or in private houses, and not only for public services, but also for social intercourse in a true Christlike spirit. And they held all things in common; they did not practice communism, they did not abrogate the right of private property. Not the possession, but the use and benefit of the goods was common. Cp. chap. 4, 32. Every member of the congregation considered his property as a talent of the Lord, with which he was to serve his neighbor. In many cases this brotherly love effected still more. Their possessions and goods, all their property, they sold and divided the proceeds among all the brethren, just as the needs demanded it. That was not a law proposed or enforced by the apostles, but a free manifestation of true charity. The well-to-do Christians were willing and eager to make these sacrifices when it was evident that this was the only way in which the needs of the brethren could be supplied. There was none of the supercilious aloofness which now characterizes the intercourse of the rich with the poor. Such expressions of love had seldom, if ever, been seen on the earth before. And all this was done without any attempt at ostentation. As a matter of course, the believers, with one accord, in full unity of the spirit, held their public meetings in the Temple, where they had an opportunity to testify to the other members of their nation concerning the hope which animated them. And not only were daily meetings held in the Temple, but they also met from house to house, mainly for the celebration of the Holy Communion and of the common meal known as the Agape, where they partook of food together with great gladness or exultation and incidentally with all simplicity of heart. The richer members were not indignant over the fact that the poorer brethren were partaking of the food provided by their bounty, nor did they deem it beneath their dignity to sit at the same table. And the poor members possessed nothing of poverty’s foolish pride on account of being obliged to accept the largess of others. They were all united in that one great work, to give praise to God for all the gifts which He had bestowed upon them. No wonder that they found favor with all the people. Every honest, upright Jew would naturally esteem the believers for the simplicity, purity, and charity of their lives. And the confession of the mouth being seconded and confirmed by the evidence of works, the result was that additions to the number of the believers were daily recorded. But Luke expressly states that the Lord added such as should be saved to the congregation. The conversion of every person is the Lord’s doing all alone, and is the result of His gracious and good will for the salvation of sinners. Note: The congregation at Jerusalem throughout is a shining example to the Christian congregations and to the believers of all times. If that same love for the Word of God, for the use of the Sacrament, if that same unselfish charity toward the brethren were evident in our days, every congregation would stand out in the same way. And such is the will of Christ, the Head of the Church.
Summary. The miracle of Pentecost is followed by a long and powerful sermon of Peter, setting forth Jesus as the Lord and Christ, whose effect is seen in the sound establishment of the first Christian congregation at Jerusalem.