Acts 2 Study Notes


2:1-12 Pentecost (also called the Festival of Weeks, Lv 23:15-16) commemorated the giving of the law on Mount Sinai and occurred fifty days after Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. Jews either made pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Pentecost or remained there after Passover. The events of Pentecost, which mark the formal and public beginning of the church, involved a number of supernatural phenomena. These included the rush of violent wind from heaven, tongues like flames of fire, the infilling with the Holy Spirit, and speaking in languages as the Spirit gave believers the ability to do so.

2:4 One of the supernatural phenomena at Pentecost was speaking in different tongues as the Holy Spirit . . . enabled the apostles to do so. These tongues have been interpreted as (1) supernatural languages given specifically for the purpose of communicating with the people gathered from all over the Roman Empire, (2) human languages that were recognized by individuals from various lands, or (3) the Greek language that was common to all the people gathered from throughout the Roman world. The second option seems to best fit the context.

2:8-11 Those present in Jerusalem for Pentecost included people from a wide variety of places and ethnic backgrounds. All the regions listed in vv. 9-10 are known to have had Jewish populations. They encompassed the eastern Mediterranean area that ran from Rome to Libya. The gathering at Pentecost is thus inclusive, featuring Jews from throughout the eastern Roman Empire.

2:13 Even the most profound miracles can be met with unbelief.

2:14-15 Acts is primarily a narrative punctuated by numerous speeches. Most of the speeches are summaries rather than word-for-word accounts. Just as he did in the Gospel that bears his name, Luke relied on “the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word” to report the essentials of speeches and events for which he was not present (Lk 1:2).

2:16-21 In his reply to the jeering crowd (v. 13), Peter cited three OT passages to demonstrate the biblical basis for the events of Pentecost. The first passage he cited was from Jl 2:28-32. The quotation follows the Masoretic Text version almost verbatim. Peter identified Joel’s prophecy with the last days and said those days had now arrived with the coming of the Spirit. There may also yet be a future, ultimate fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy.

2:23 Peter’s declaration articulates a major paradox of the Christian life: Jesus’s death occurred as a result of the plan and foreknowledge of God, but it was the free (and sinful) acts of human beings that executed that plan. The Bible often affirms the reality of both divine sovereignty and genuine human choice without explaining how the two can possibly work together without conflict (e.g., 4:28; Gn 45:5).

2:24 The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the fundamental event of Christianity and the basis of the gospel. Peter made several important statements about the resurrection in this verse. First, it was God who raised Jesus from the dead. This pictures the resurrection as God the Father’s vindication of God the Son. Second, Jesus was literally dead before the resurrection, not simply injured. Thus his resurrection was no mere resuscitation. Notice also that Peter personifies death as an actual force that holds the deceased in its embrace. Third, death’s power was overcome by the resurrection, which means that believers should no longer fear it.

2:25-28 The second OT passage Peter cited is Ps 16:8-11. He recognized that Jesus was the one about whom David had prophesied, one who would not see the decay of death (also in v. 31).

2:29-30 Peter identified David as a prophet because he had prophesied through his psalm about the Messiah. David would have treasured this God-given foreknowledge because it entailed Israel’s eventual salvation through his own progeny. David would have a victorious descendant on his throne. Peter saw all of this as having been fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is now seated at God’s right hand (v. 25; Eph 1:20).

2:31 The citation is from Ps 16:10, referred to by some as a typico-prophetic psalm, in which the meaning of the words describe more than just David’s experience.

2:32 Throughout this passage Peter has affirmed the reality and significance of Jesus’s resurrection. Now he states most clearly the basis of his claims: he and the rest of the apostles were all witnesses to the risen Jesus. They had seen the risen Christ for themselves.

2:33 This verse describes the relationship of the Father and the Son to the coming of the Spirit.

2:34-35 The third and final OT passage cited by Peter is Ps 110:1. Peter cited David as the authority for his seeing Jesus as seated at God’s right hand, with all of his enemies in full subjection. The basis of this victory and exaltation was Jesus’s resurrection.

2:36 Peter addressed his words specifically to Jews (the house of Israel) and affirmed that Jesus whom they crucified was both Lord and Messiah. By calling Jesus “Lord and Messiah,” Peter was staking the biggest possible claims. “Lord” is reserved in the Greek translation of the OT (the Septuagint or LXX) for God (Yahweh). Thus Peter says Jesus is God. Peter further noted that Jesus was the Messiah (anointed one), Israel’s hope for salvation.

2:37 Peter’s audience was pierced to the heart because they realized their guilt in the execution of Jesus, plus they were convinced by Peter’s passionate eyewitness testimony and his description of how the events surrounding Jesus’s death and resurrection fulfilled OT prophecies about the promised Messiah. This prompted them to ask the question that anyone hearing the gospel should ask, Brothers, what should we do?

2:38 Peter’s answer indicates three major components in conversion. One must repent, which means turning from sin. To be baptized . . . in the name of Jesus publicly declares our repentance and faith, plus it symbolically identifies us with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The Holy Spirit is given as a gift and seal of conversion, empowering the believer for the life of faith.

2:39 One of the major themes of the book of Acts is that the message of salvation through Jesus Christ extends not just to the people of Israel but also beyond them to as many as . . . God will call. The Gentiles were far off in two senses: they were geographically far removed from Israel, but even more significantly they were “far off” from knowledge of the one true God.

2:40 On this corrupt generation, see Ps 78:8. Jesus often referred to “this generation” in the same sense (Mt 12:41).

2:41 In response to Peter’s preaching, Luke commented in an understated way that about three thousand people were added to the community of believers. Note the close link between coming to faith and being baptized. There was apparently no delay between profession of faith and baptism. The large number of converts was made possible by the huge crowds who had traveled to Jerusalem from all over the Mediterranean region for the Passover celebration.

2:42 These four practices—teaching . . . fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayer—provide insight into the priorities of early Christianity. These same practices should be considered normative for the church today. The apostles’ teaching was probably similar to Peter’s message at Pentecost. That is to say, it focused on making Christ known by appealing to eyewitness testimony and the prophecies of the OT. Early Christians gathered together regularly for edification, prayer, and exhortation. The breaking of bread probably included fellowship meals and participation in the Lord’s Supper (1Co 11:17-34).

2:43 Being filled with awe is the response to the works of God in the midst of the people (4:30; 5:12).

2:44-45 As part of their fellowship, the early church practiced a community of goods for a short time. Distribution to members of the faith community took place according to individual need. This practice did not last long, likely because it was logistically difficult and fraught with potential abuse (see chaps. 4-6).

2:46 Early Christian gatherings took place in two places: the temple and the homes of individual believers.

2:47 The early church was an evangelizing church. Luke recounted that every day the Lord added to those who were being saved. He did not say how this took place, but it appears that evangelism took place primarily through the gathering of Christians in the temple and in individual houses. The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ were at the heart of early Christian preaching, which called for immediate response from anyone who listened.