The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost (2:1-13)
1 The day of Pentecost fell fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection. In the Greek6 language, Pentecost means “fif tieth.” According to the Old Testament, the day of Pentecost came on the fif tieth day following the Sunday after the Jewish PASSOVER festival (Leviticus 23:15), which for Christians is the fif tieth day after Easter. The Jews celebrate the Feast of Weeks on the day of Pentecost (Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:9-10). The Jews observe the day of Pentecost for a second reason: they believe that on that day God gave them the Jewish law. Therefore, it was very suitable that on that day God should give the disciples the baptism of the Holy Spirit for the first time.
2-3 In the entire history of mankind there have been three events that have been more important than any other: the birth of Jesus, the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the coming of the Holy Spirit in full power on that first day of Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection. No other event in history can compare in importance with these three events. In these verses Luke gives us a description of the third of these three great events.
Jesus’ disciples had gathered in a house in Jerusalem.7 Then all of a sudden they heard a sound like the blowing of a violent wind (see John 3:8), and they saw what seemed to be tongues of fire. John the Baptist had said that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3:11). Fire is a sign of God’s presence. God appeared before the great Jewish leader Moses in flames of fire from within a bush (Exodus 3:2). When the Jews fled from bondage in EGYPT, God went before them in a pillar of fire to show them the way (Exodus 13:21-22). And when believers today experience the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, they of ten say that it’s like a fire burning in their hearts. May that fire never go out!
4 Whatever exactly the disciples heard and saw, the important thing is this: All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit. From that day on their lives were changed. From that day on they had the power of the risen Christ in their lives. Their fears and doubts were gone. From that day on when they spoke, they spoke with the power and authority of the Holy Spirit. When they healed, they healed through the power of the Holy Spirit. From then on their lives remained fully dependent upon the Holy Spirit and under His control.
Let us remember that today we too can receive that power. That power was not just for those first disciples; it is for all believers. Let it be our constant prayer for ourselves and for each other that we may all remain filled with the Holy Spirit and that His fire will continue burning brightly in our hearts.
The filling of the Holy Spirit does not just take place once. This filling is a continual experience; it is constantly being renewed (see Acts 4:31). From time to time in a believer’s life the filling of the Spirit can occur in new and special ways. But it was on that first day of Pentecost that the Holy Spirit first came in power upon believers. And the Holy Spirit has been filling the lives of believers ever since.
Some Christians believe that the “filling” of the Spirit and the “baptism” of the Spirit are two different things. But according to the book of Acts, the event on the day of Pentecost is called both a “baptism” (Acts 1:5) and a “filling” (verse 4). Therefore, from these two verses we cannot see any clear difference between the “baptism” and the “filling” of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 12:13 and comment; General Article: Holy Spirit Baptism).
How can we tell if a person is filled with the Holy Spirit? First, we will be able to see the fruit of the Spirit in his life, such as love, joy, peace (Galatians 5:22-23). Second, we will be able to see the gifts of the Spirit manifested in his life, such as the gifts of healing, of prophecy, of speaking in different kinds of tongues (see 1 Corinthians 12:7-11). One of these gifts, the gift of speaking in different kinds of tongues, was manifested by the disciples on the day of Pentecost.
Usually when the gift of “tongues” is manifested, the language spoken is a spiritual language, not an earthly language. To understand this spiritual language, another gift of the Spirit is needed, the gift of interpretation of tongues (see 1 Corinthians 12:10; 14:2,13,27-28). However, on the day of Pentecost these disciples spoke in the ordinary earthly languages of other countries, which the men of those countries could understand naturally8 (verse 6).
Christ had commanded His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). Now, through the Holy Spirit’s gift of speaking in other languages, the disciples were able to speak to men of different nations in their own languages. However, in New Testament times, the use of this gift in spreading the Gospel was usually not necessary, because most of the people living in the Middle East spoke either Greek9 or Aramaic,10 both of which languages the disciples themselves could speak.
Some Christians believe that the ability to speak in other languages is the main sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 10:44-46; 19:6). These Christians say that whoever does not speak in other tongues has not received the baptism of the Spirit. But most Christians do not agree with this opinion; rather, they believe that the gifts and workings of the Holy Spirit are of many kinds and that the ability to speak in other languages is just one of many manifestations of the Holy Spirit.
It is important to remember one other thing: False spirits and false prophets can also speak in other tongues. Followers of other religions have also spoken in tongues. Therefore, it is always necessary to test what is being said in tongues by understanding its meaning. Simply speaking in some other tongue or making strange noises is not necessarily a sign of the Holy Spirit. The main thing is to understand what is being said. If what is said agrees with Scripture and glorifies Christ, then it is of the Holy Spirit. If what is spoken does not agree with Scripture or if it dishonors Christ, then it most certainly is not of the Holy Spirit (see John 16:13-14; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 John 4:1-3 and comments).
5-6 In New Testament times, there were Jews scattered about living in many different nations. Many of these Jews used to come each year to Jerusalem to celebrate the main Jewish religious festivals. One of these festivals was the Feast of Weeks, that is, the day of Pentecost (Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:9-10). Therefore, when Jesus’ disciples got up and began speaking in other languages, many of these Jewish pilgrims from other countries heard the commotion and gathered around to see what was happening. To their amazement, they heard these uneducated men from the province of Galilee speaking in their own languages. Perhaps one disciple spoke in one language, and another disciple spoke in another language. Perhaps they spoke in turn, or perhaps they spoke all at once. But however they spoke, the listeners were astounded. “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?” they asked (verse 7). By the power of the Holy Spirit these disciples were speaking foreign languages they had never spoken or learned before, and they were speaking them perfectly!
7-12 In these verses Luke mentions the different countries and provinces from which these foreign Jewish pilgrims had come. Most of the places were at that time provinces of the Roman Empire.11
13 Some of the people listening thought that the disciples were drunk. “They have had too much wine,” they said. Probably the people who thought this could not understand any of the languages the disciples were speaking; therefore, it seemed to them as if the disciples were just babbling nonsense (see 1 Corinthians 14:23).
Peter Addresses the Crowd (2:14-36)
14-15 After the disciples had finished speaking in tongues, Peter, their chief spokesman, stood up and spoke to the people. He said first of all that the disciples were not drunk, because it was then only nine in the morning.12 Men don’t usually drink wine that early!
16-21 Then, in order to explain to the Jews the significance of what they had been hearing, Peter quoted from the Old Testament PROPHET Joel (Joel 2:28-32).
The term last days (verse 17) means the period between Christ’s first coming to earth and his second coming at the end of the world; that is, it means this present time. Through the prophet Joel, God said: “I will pour out my Spirit on all people (that is, on all believers in Christ), on Jewish and GENTILE believers, on their sons and daughters, and on all believing servants, both men and women” (verse 18).
Joel also wrote that along with the coming of the Holy Spirit there would be other signs as well, such as prophecies, visions, and dreams (verse 17). One kind of proph-ecy is the speaking in tongues followed by its interpretation (see 1 Corinthians 14:5). There would be natural signs also: wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below (verse 19). Joel wrote: The sun will be turned to darkness (verse 20). On the day that Christ died, darkness came over the whole land from noon until 3 P.M. (Mark 15:33). In such darkness the moon (there was a full moon on the day Christ died) would appear red like blood.
But in verses 19 and 20, God, through the prophet Joel, is talking especially about the end of the world and about that great and glorious day of the Lord, when Christ will come again to judge all men. That day will be a day of judgment, to be sure; but before then, these last days—that is, these present days—are days of salvation for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord (verse 21).
22 Almost everyone in Israel knew about the great signs and miracles that Jesus of Nazareth13 had performed during His three years of public ministry (Mark 1:28; Luke 7:14-17).
23 “Nevertheless,” Peter said to the Jews, “you … put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”14 The Jewish leaders had seized Jesus and handed Him over to the Roman governor Pilate to be sentenced to death15 (see Mark 15:1,9-15). The Jews put Jesus to death with the help of wicked men—that is, the Romans, whom the Jews considered to be wicked, or unrighteous, because they did not worship the one true God and did not follow His law.
However, Jesus did not suffer and die simply by chance; He died according to God’s set purpose and foreknowledge. God’s purpose was that Jesus should suffer and die for mankind (see Luke 24:25-26,46 and comment). But even though God had determined beforehand that Jesus should die, those who killed Jesus were still fully guilty of His death.
24 Wicked men sentenced Christ to death. But in the end God overturned their judgment by raising Christ from the dead.
25-28 Peter then quoted from Psalm 16:8-11, a Psalm written by David. The main section that Peter wanted to quote comes in verse 27: … you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay (see Acts 13:35-37). David was not writing about himself in this Psalm, but was making a prophecy about Christ. In fact, in the Psalm Christ Himself is talking. Here we can see the mind of Christ. He says in the Psalm: “… my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices (verse 26); you (God) will fill me with joy in your presence” (verse 28). Indeed, Jesus’ suffering did turn to joy; and His shame turned to glory (see Hebrews 12:2).
29-30 Then Peter pointed out that David couldn’t have been talking about himselfin this Psalm, because later on David did die; that is, he was abandoned to the grave and his body saw decay (verse 27). Instead, as David wrote this Psalm, he was thinking of a descendant who would not remain in the grave and whose body would not see decay, a descendant whom God had promised to place on David’s throne (Psalm 132:11). That descendant was Christ (see Luke 1:30-33).
31-32 God did not abandon Christ to the grave, nor did He let Him see decay. This has to mean, then, that God raised Him from the dead. In saying this, Peter was trying to show the Jews that their own Scriptures16 prophesied about the RESURRECTION of the Christ17 (verse 31). But not only did the Old Testament testify of Christ’s resurrection; Peter and the other disciples had seen the risen Christ with their own eyes! This Old Testament prophecy had indeed come true!
33 God not only raised Christ to life, but He also exalted Him to His right hand (Luke 22:69). God had given His Holy Spirit to Christ, and now Christ had poured this same Spirit out upon His disciples.
However, let us remember that we are talking here about just one God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—always acting together.
34-35 When God raised Jesus to sit at His right hand, the prophecy of Psalm 110:1, which Peter quotes here, was fulfilled. The Lord (God) said to my Lord (Christ): “Sit at my right hand…” (verse 34). Here again, David is talking about Christ in this Psalm (see Mark 12:35-36).
36 Finally, we come to the main point of Peter’s sermon: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus … both Lord and Christ.”
Peter has quoted the prophecies of Joel and David to prove that Jesus was not only the Christ but also the Lord, that is, God. The Jews gave the name “Lord” only to God. Now in this verse, Peter gives the name “Lord” to Jesus also. Above all, it is Jesus’ resurrection from the dead that gives the final proof that He is both Lord and Christ (see Romans 1:4).
Jesus Christ is not only the greatest teacher; He is not only the greatestprophet; He is not only the greatest incarnation. He is God Himself. Jesus is Lord (see Romans 10:9; Philippians 2:11).
Three Thousand Are Baptized (2:37-41)
37 Peter’s words cut the people to the heart. Why? Because Peter had spoken God’s word in the power of the Holy Spirit. The word of God is like a sword (Ephesians 6:17), which penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). When we speak God’s word by the power of the Holy Spirit, then our listeners also will be cut to the heart by our words. Therefore, let us never dare to preach God’s word without first asking Him for the power of His Spirit.
38 Then those who had been listening to Peter’s sermon asked the disciples, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (verse 37). Peter answered: “REPENT and be baptized … in the name of Jesus Christ.” That was all! That was all these men needed to do—men who only a short while before had murdered the Son of God!
But let us examine what Peter says here. Repent. To repent means to confess your sins and to turn from them. Many people feel sorry about their sins, but they don’t stop committing them. This kind of sorrow is not repentance. To repent of a sin always means to leave that sin.
The second thing Peter says must be done is to be baptized in Jesus’ name. But baptism doesn’t only mean to be immersed in water or to have water sprinkled on one’s head. In order to be truly baptized, one must put FAITH in Jesus Christ.18
Peter says that we are to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. When we receive baptism, we tell the world: “Now I stand with Jesus; I will follow Him; I will take up my cross and suffer for His sake” (Mark 8:34). If we are not ready to do this, then we are not ready to be baptized.19 Because if we are not ready to take up our cross and follow Jesus, we haven’t really put faith in Him. Baptism is an outward demonstration of our inner faith. Without faith in our hearts, baptism has no meaning.20
After telling the people to repent and be baptized, Peter then said two other things to them. First, after repenting and being baptized, they would receive forgiveness of their sins. Baptism is a sign that our sins have been washed away and that we are now cleansed and pure in God’s sight (see Mark 1:4 and comment). Then, after becoming Christians, we must continue to repent each time we sin, and God each time will forgive us and cleanse us afresh (see 1 John 1:9 and comment).
The second thing that Peter said after telling the people to repent and be baptized was that they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter did not say “gifts” of the Holy Spirit, such as the gift of healing or the gift of prophecy. Rather, he said gift of the Holy Spirit—that is, the Holy Spirit Himself. As soon as one becomes a Christian, one receives the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, one cannot be a true Christian (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19).
Many Christians say that some time after having put faith in Christ and having received the Holy Spirit the first time, they then have experienced a new filling of the Spirit. These Christians call this new experience of the Spirit a “second blessing,” or the “baptism” of the Spirit.21 They are filled with the Spirit in a new and deeper way, and they receive a new power and zeal for serving Christ. But other Christians say that they have experienced this kind of power and zeal from the moment they became Christians. Surely the Holy Spirit can work in different ways in different people’s lives. Whatever way we describe the Spirit’s work or whatever name we give it, it is the Spirit that is doing the work in each person’s life. It is not necessary to compare our own experiences of the Spirit with the experiences of others. Rather, let us be grateful to God for whatever blessings of the Spirit He has given us, and let us daily pray that He might fill us with His Spirit more and more (see 1 Corinthians 12:13 and comment; General Article: Holy Spirit).
39 Even though Peter was himself a Jew speaking to a crowd made up mainly of Jews, he told them that the promise (of the Holy Spirit) was not only for Jews, but was also for all who are far off—that is, the Gentiles (see Ephesians 2:11-13). The promise of the Holy Spirit is for everyone whom the Lord our God will call. God has chosen us, called us, from before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). God knows beforehand who will believe in Christ and who will not. Whoever believes in Christ will be saved (verse 21), and will receive the promise of the Holy Spirit.
40-41 Peter called his generation a corrupt generation, because the men of that generation had crucified Christ, the Son of God. But we must also understand that every generation of men is “corrupt,” because most people in every generation refuse to believe in Christ. They too, like Peter’s generation, stand condemned.
On that day of Pentecost, about three thousand men accepted Peter’s message; that is, they believed in Christ and were baptized. It is not enough to only hear the word; we must also accept it and obey it. Here, on this one day, more people came to believe in Christ than had believed during Christ’s entire three years of public ministry (see John 14:12). Truly the Holy Spirit had come upon these disciples with power. From now on they would not simply be disciples—they would be apostles.
The Fellowship of the Believers (2:42-47)
42 In this section Luke gives us a description of the first Christian church. The believers devoted themselves to four main things. First, they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. Those believers didn’t have the New Testament, as we do; they had only the Old Testament. Therefore, it was necessary for them to devote themselves to the apostles’ teaching, because it was through that teaching that they would learn about Christ and about how to follow Him. And, of course, that same teaching of the apostles later was written down and became the New Testament. Thus, in the same way those early Christians devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles, so we today should devote ourselves to the study of the New Testament.
The second thing those early believers devoted themselves to was the fellowship.
The third thing they devoted themselves to was the breaking of bread, that is, the LORD’S SUPPER (see Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25).
And fourth, they devoted themselves to prayer.
When we compare our own church today with that first church, what do we see?
43 The Holy Spirit never ceased working through those apostles. They continued to perform many wonders and miraculous signs (see Acts 3:6-7).
44-45 Those first believers turned over all their possessions to the apostles for use by the church as a whole. They didn’t keep anything back for themselves.22 They didn’t say of anything, “This is my own.” Instead, they were constantly thinking about the needs of others (see Acts 4:32-35).
Nowadays most Christians don’t sell their possessions; they don’t have everything in common (verse 44). Perhaps it is not necessary for us to do exactly as that first church did in this regard. There is no command saying that we must do as they did.23 However, there are two things that we must do: one, we must regard all of our possessions, including our own bodies, as belonging to God (Romans 12:1; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20); and two, we must love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31). If we do these two things, then in God’s sight we will be doing as those first Christians did.
46-47 Those first believers did everything together. They broke bread in each other’s homes; that is, they celebrated the Lord’s supper together, one time in one home, another time in another home. Together with the Lord’s supper, they also ate an ordinary meal.
What a godly, joyful, and caring community that first church was! When other people saw the lives of those first believers, they came to join their fellowship. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.