The descent of the Holy Spirit at the day of Pentecost. (1-4) The apostles speak in divers languages. (5-13) Peter's address to the Jews. (14-36) Three thousand souls converted. (37-41) The piety and affection of the disciples. (42-47)
Verses 1-4 We cannot forget how often, while their Master was with them there were strifes among the disciples which should be the greatest; but now all these strifes were at an end. They had prayed more together of late. Would we have the Spirit poured out upon us from on high, let us be all of one accord. And notwithstanding differences of sentiments and interests, as there were among those disciples, let us agree to love one another; for where brethren dwell together in unity, there the Lord commands his blessing. A rushing mighty wind came with great force. This was to signify the powerful influences and working of the Spirit of God upon the minds of men, and thereby upon the world. Thus the convictions of the Spirit make way for his comforts; and the rough blasts of that blessed wind, prepare the soul for its soft and gentle gales. There was an appearance of something like flaming fire, lighting on every one of them, according to John Baptist's saying concerning Christ; He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire. The Spirit, like fire, melts the heart, burns up the dross, and kindles pious and devout affections in the soul; in which, as in the fire on the altar, the spiritual sacrifices are offered up. They were all filled with the Holy Ghost, more than before. They were filled with the graces of the Spirit, and more than ever under his sanctifying influences; more weaned from this world, and better acquainted with the other. They were more filled with the comforts of the Spirit, rejoiced more than ever in the love of Christ and the hope of heaven: in it all their griefs and fears were swallowed up. They were filled with the gifts of the Holy Ghost; they had miraculous powers for the furtherance of the gospel. They spake, not from previous though or meditation, but as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Verses 5-13 The difference in languages which arose at Babel, has much hindered the spread of knowledge and religion. The instruments whom the Lord first employed in spreading the Christian religion, could have made no progress without this gift, which proved that their authority was from God.
Verses 14-21 Peter's sermon shows that he was thoroughly recovered from his fall, and thoroughly restored to the Divine favour; for he who had denied Christ, now boldly confessed him. His account of the miraculous pouring forth of the Spirit, was designed to awaken the hearers to embrace the faith of Christ, and to join themselves to his church. It was the fulfilling the Scripture, and the fruit of Christ's resurrection and ascension, and proof of both. Though Peter was filled with the Holy Ghost, and spake with tongues as the Spirit gave him utterance, yet he did not think to set aside the Scriptures. Christ's scholars never learn above their Bible; and the Spirit is given, not to do away the Scriptures, but to enable us to understand, approve, and obey them. Assuredly none will escape the condemnation of the great day, except those who call upon the name of the Lord, in and through his Son Jesus Christ, as the Saviour of sinners, and the Judge of all mankind.
Verses 22-36 From this gift of the Holy Ghost, Peter preaches unto them Jesus: and here is the history of Christ. Here is an account of his death and sufferings, which they witnessed but a few weeks before. His death is considered as God's act; and of wonderful grace and wisdom. Thus Divine justice must be satisfied, God and man brought together again, and Christ himself glorified, according to an eternal counsel, which could not be altered. And as the people's act; in them it was an act of awful sin and folly. Christ's resurrection did away the reproach of his death; Peter speaks largely upon this. Christ was God's Holy One, sanctified and set apart to his service in the work of redemption. His death and sufferings should be, not to him only, but to all his, the entrance to a blessed life for evermore. This event had taken place as foretold, and the apostles were witnesses. Nor did the resurrection rest upon this alone; Christ had poured upon his disciples the miraculous gifts and Divine influences, of which they witnessed the effects. Through the Saviour, the ways of life are made known; and we are encouraged to expect God's presence, and his favour for evermore. All this springs from assured belief that Jesus is the Lord, and the anointed Saviour.
Verses 37-41 From the first delivery of that Divine message, it appeared that there was Divine power going with it; and thousands were brought to the obedience of faith. But neither Peter's words, nor the miracle they witnessed, could have produced such effects, had not the Holy Spirit been given. Sinners, when their eyes are opened, cannot but be pricked to the heart for sin, cannot but feel an inward uneasiness. The apostle exhorted them to repent of their sins, and openly to avow their belief in Jesus as the Messiah, by being baptized in his name. Thus professing their faith in Him, they would receive remission of their sins, and partake of the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit. To separate from wicked people, is the only way to save ourselves from them. Those who repent of their sins, and give up themselves to Jesus Christ, must prove their sincerity by breaking off from the wicked. We must save ourselves from them; which denotes avoiding them with dread and holy fear. By God's grace three thousand persons accepted the gospel invitation. There can be no doubt that the gift of the Holy Ghost, which they all received, and from which no true believer has ever been shut out, was that Spirit of adoption, that converting, guiding, sanctifying grace, which is bestowed upon all the members of the family of our heavenly Father. Repentance and remission of sins are still preached to the chief of sinners, in the Redeemer's name; still the Holy Spirit seals the blessing on the believer's heart; still the encouraging promises are to us and our children; and still the blessings are offered to all that are afar off.
Verses 42-47 In these verses we have the history of the truly primitive church, of the first days of it; its state of infancy indeed, but, like that, the state of its greatest innocence. They kept close to holy ordinances, and abounded in piety and devotion; for Christianity, when admitted in the power of it, will dispose the soul to communion with God in all those ways wherein he has appointed us to meet him, and has promised to meet us. The greatness of the event raised them above the world, and the Holy Ghost filled them with such love, as made every one to be to another as to himself, and so made all things common, not by destroying property, but doing away selfishness, and causing charity. And God who moved them to it, knew that they were quickly to be driven from their possessions in Judea. The Lord, from day to day, inclined the hearts of more to embrace the gospel; not merely professors, but such as were actually brought into a state of acceptance with God, being made partakers of regenerating grace. Those whom God has designed for eternal salvation, shall be effectually brought to Christ, till the earth is filled with the knowledge of his glory.
Acts 2:1-13 . DESCENT OF THE SPIRIT--THE DISCIPLES SPEAK WITH TONGUES--AMAZEMENT OF THE MULTITUDE.
1-4. when the day of Pentecost was fully come--The fiftieth from the morrow after the first Passover sabbath ( Leviticus 23:15 Leviticus 23:16 ).
with one accord--the solemnity of the day, perhaps, unconsciously raising their expectations.
2. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, &c.--"The whole description is so picturesque and striking that it could only come from an eye-witness" [OLSHAUSEN]. The suddenness, strength, and diffusiveness of the sound strike with deepest awe the whole company, and thus complete their preparation for the heavenly gift. Wind was a familiar emblem of the Spirit ( Ezekiel 37:9 , John 3:8 , 20:22 ). But this was not a rush of actual wind. It was only a sound "as of" it.
3. cloven tongues, like as of fire, &c.--"disparted tongues," that is, tongue-shaped, flame-like appearances, rising from a common center or root, and resting upon each of that large company:--beautiful visible symbol of the burning energy of the Spirit now descending in all His plenitude upon the Church, and about to pour itself through every tongue, and over every tribe of men under heaven!
4. they . . . began to speak with . . . tongues, &c.--real, living languages, as is plain from what follows. The thing uttered, probably the same by all, was "the wonderful works of God," perhaps in the inspired words of the Old Testament evangelical hymns; though it is next to certain that the speakers themselves understood nothing of what they
5-11. there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men out of every nation--not, it would seem, permanently settled there (see Acts 2:9 ), though the language seems to imply more than a temporary visit to keep this one feast.
9-11. Parthians, &c.--Beginning with the farthest east, the Parthians, the enumeration proceeds farther and farther westward till it comes to Judea; next come the western countries, from Cappadocia to Pamphylia; then the southern, from Egypt to Cyrene; finally, apart from all geographical consideration, Cretes and Arabians are placed together. This enumeration is evidently designed to convey an impression of universality [BAUMGARTEN].
Acts 2:14-36 . PETER FOR THE FIRST TIME, PUBLICLY PREACHES CHRIST.
14-21. Peter, standing up with the eleven--in advance, perhaps, of the rest.
15. these are not drunken--meaning, not the Eleven, but the body of the disciples.
but the third hour--nine A.M. (see Ecclesiastes 10:16 , Isaiah 5:11 , 1 Thessalonians 5:17 ).
17. in the last days--meaning, the days of the Messiah ( Isaiah 2:2 ); as closing all preparatory arrangements, and constituting the final dispensation of God's kingdom on earth.
pour out of my Spirit--in contrast with the mere drops of all preceding time.
upon all flesh--hitherto confined to the seed of Abraham.
sons . . . daughters . . . young men . . . old men . . . servants . . . handmaidens--without distinction of sex, age, or rank.
see visions . . . dream dreams--This is a mere accommodation to the ways in which the Spirit operated under the ancient economy, when the prediction was delivered; for in the New Testament, visions and dreams are rather the exception than the rule.
19. I will show wonders, &c.--referring to the signs which were to precede the destruction of Jerusalem
21. whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved--This points to the permanent establishment of the economy of salvation, which followed on the breaking up of the Jewish state.
22-28. a man approved of God--rather, "authenticated," "proved," or "demonstrated to be from God."
by miracles . . . which God did by him--This is not a low view of our Lord's miracles, as has been alleged, nor inconsistent with John 2:11 , but is in strict accordance with His progress from humiliation to glory, and with His own words in John 5:19 . This view of Christ is here dwelt on to exhibit to the Jews the whole course of Jesus of Nazareth as the ordinance and doing of the God of Israel [ALFORD].
23. determinate counsel and foreknowledge--God's fixed plan and perfect foresight of all the steps involved in it.
ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain--How strikingly is the criminality of Christ's murderers here presented in harmony with the eternal purpose to surrender Him into their hands!
24. was not possible he should be holden of it--Glorious saying! It was indeed impossible that "the Living One" should remain "among the dead" ( Luke 24:5 ); but here, the impossibility seems to refer to the prophetic assurance that He should not see corruption.
27. wilt not leave my soul in hell--in its disembodied state
neither . . . suffer thine Holy One to see corruption--in the grave.
28. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life--that is, resurrection-life.
thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance--that is, in glory; as is plain from the whole connection and the actual words of the sixteenth Psalm.
29-36. David . . . is . . . dead and buried, &c.--Peter, full of the Holy Ghost, sees in this sixteenth Psalm, one Holy Man, whose life of high devotedness and lofty spirituality is crowned with the assurance, that though He taste of death, He shall rise again without seeing corruption, and be admitted to the bliss of God's immediate presence. Now as this was palpably untrue of David, it could be meant only of One other, even of Him whom David was taught to expect as the final Occupant of the throne of Israel. (Those, therefore, and they are many, who take David himself to be the subject of this Psalm, and the words quoted to refer to Christ only in a more eminent sense, nullify the whole argument of the apostle). The Psalm is then affirmed to have had its only proper fulfilment in JESUS, of whose resurrection and ascension they were witnesses, while the glorious effusion of the Spirit by the hand of the ascended One, setting an infallible seal upon all, was even then witnessed by the thousands who stood listening to Him. A further illustration of Messiah's ascension and session at God's right hand is drawn from Psalms 110:1 , in which David cannot be thought to speak of himself, seeing he is still in his grave.
36. Therefore--that is, to sum up all.
let all the house of Israel--for in this first discourse the appeal is formally made to the whole house of Israel, as the then existing Kingdom of God.
know assuredly--by indisputable facts, fulfilled predictions, and the seal of the Holy Ghost set upon all.
that God hath made--for Peter's object was to show them that, instead of interfering with the arrangements of the God of Israel, these events were His own high movements.
this same Jesus, whom ye have crucified--"The sting is at the close" [BENGEL]. To prove to them merely that Jesus was the Messiah might have left them all unchanged in heart. But to convince them that He whom they had crucified had been by the right hand of God exalted, and constituted the "LORD" whom David in spirit adored, to whom every knee shall bow, and the CHRIST of God, was to bring them to "look on Him whom they had pierced and mourn for Him."
37-40. pricked in their hearts--the begun fulfilment of Zechariah 12:10 , whose full accomplishment is reserved for the day when "all Israel shall
what shall we do?--This is that beautiful spirit of genuine compunction and childlike docility, which, discovering its whole past career to have been one frightful mistake, seeks only to be set right for the future, be the change involved and the sacrifices required what they may. So Saul of Tarsus ( Acts 9:6 ).
38. Repent--The word denotes change of mind, and here includes the reception of the Gospel as the proper issue of that revolution of mind which they were then undergoing.
baptized . . . for the remission of sins--as the visible seal of that remission.
39. For the promise--of the Holy Ghost, through the risen Saviour, as the grand blessing of the new covenant.
all afar off--the Gentiles, as in Ephesians 2:17 ), but "to the Jew first."
40. with many other words did he testify and exhort--Thus we have here but a summary of Peter's discourse; though from the next words it would seem that only the more practical parts, the home appeals, are omitted.
Save yourselves from this untoward generation--as if Peter already foresaw the hopeless impenitence of the nation at large, and would have his hearers hasten in for themselves and secure their own salvation.
Acts 2:41-47 . BEAUTIFUL BEGINNINGS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
41-47. they that gladly received his word were baptized--"It is difficult to say how three thousand could be baptized in one day, according to the old practice of a complete submersion; and the more as in Jerusalem there was no water at hand except Kidron and a few pools. The difficulty can only be removed by supposing that they already employed sprinkling, or baptized in houses in large vessels. Formal submersion in rivers, or larger quantities of water, probably took place only where the locality conveniently allowed it" [OLSHAUSEN].
the same day there were added to them about three thousand souls--fitting inauguration of the new kingdom, as an economy of the Spirit!
42. continued steadfastly in--"attended constantly upon."
the apostles' doctrine--"teaching"; giving themselves up to the instructions which, in their raw state, would be indispensable to the consolidation of the immense multitude suddenly admitted to visible discipleship.
fellowship--in its largest sense.
breaking of bread--not certainly in the Lord's Supper alone, but rather in frugal repasts taken together, with which the Lord's Supper was probably conjoined until abuses and persecution led to the discontinuance of the common meal.
prayers--probably, stated seasons of it.
43. fear came upon every soul--A deep awe rested upon the whole community.
44. all that believed were together, and had all things common--(See on Ac 4:34-37 ).
46. daily . . . in the temple--observing the hours of Jewish worship.
and breaking bread from house to house--rather, "at home" (Margin), that is, in private, as contrasted with their temple-worship, but in some stated place or places of meeting.
eat their meat with gladness--"exultation."
and singleness of heart.
47. Praising God--"Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart, for God now accepteth thy works" ( Ecclesiastes 9:7 ,
having favour with all the people--commending themselves by their lovely demeanor to the admiration of all who observed them.
And the Lord--that is, JESUS, as the glorified Head and Ruler of the Church.
added--kept adding; that is, to the visible community of believers, though the words "to the Church" are wanting in the most ancient manuscripts.
such as should be saved--rather, "the saved," or "those who were being saved." "The young Church had but few peculiarities in its outward form, or even in its doctrine: the single discriminating principle of its few members was that they all recognized the crucified Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. This confession would have been a thing of no importance, if it had only presented itself as a naked declaration, and would never in such a case have been able to form a community that would spread itself over the whole Roman empire. It acquired its value only through the power of the Holy Ghost, passing from the apostles as they preached to the hearers; for He brought the confession from the very hearts of men ( 1 Corinthians 12:3 ), and like a burning flame made their souls glow with love. By the power of this Spirit, therefore, we behold the first Christians not only in a state of active fellowship, but also internally changed: the narrow views of the natural man are broken through; they have their possessions in common, and they regard themselves as one family" [OLSHAUSEN].