1:1-2 In the prologue to the book of Acts, Luke reminds Theophilus (probably Luke’s patron who funded his work) that the first narrative he wrote (the Gospel of Luke) told about all that Jesus began to do and teach until he was taken up—that is, until he ascended into heaven. It is at this point that the two books overlap. Luke ends with the ascension of Jesus (see Luke 24:50-52), and Acts opens with it (1:9-11).
Thus, the “tongues” (2:4, 11) in which the apostles were enabled to speak were the various native “languages” (2:6, 8) of the visitors to Jerusalem (not some unintelligible heavenly language). This was the fulfillment of Jesus’s promise that they would receive power from the Holy Spirit to be his witnesses to the world (1:8).
2:12-13 How was this possible? Galilean Jews would have known Aramaic (the language of the Jews) and perhaps also Greek (the lingua franca of the Roman Empire). But how could they have known all of the other languages? That’s what these visiting Jews and converts wanted to know. Imagine never having studied French and suddenly you’re able to speak it fluently. They asked one another, What does this mean? (2:12). Some mockingly concluded, They’re drunk (2:13).
2:14-21 Peter stood up with the Eleven and took advantage of the opportunity to address both the visiting Jews and the residents of Jerusalem (2:14). The combination of divine activity and human confusion was a perfect occasion for proclaiming the truth of what God had done through Christ and what he was now doing among them.
First, Peter dismissed the ridiculous notion that they were drunk (2:15). The only thing they were “drunk” with was the Holy Spirit (see Eph 5:18). What they were witnessing was actually the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Peter quoted the prophet Joel (2:16), who foretold of the day when God would pour out [his] Spirit on [his] servants without distinction—both young and old . . . both men and women when repentance occurred (2:17-18; see Joel 2:28-32).
Calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 2:21) is a specific act of Christians appealing to a higher court for divine intervention in human affairs (see 1 Cor 1:2). Through the Holy Spirit all believers have access to divine illumination (see 1 Cor 2:9-16) and divine enablement for ministry (see 1 Cor 12:7).
2:22-23 This outpouring of the Holy Spirit had to do with Jesus of Nazareth (2:22). Jesus himself had promised to send the Holy Spirit, whose role was to witness to and glorify him (1:8; see John 14:16-17; 15:26-27; 16:13-14). So if you are unwilling to bear witness to Jesus, you can forget about experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. The Spirit’s task on earth is to make much of Jesus.
Importantly, Jesus was not unknown to the Jews who were listening to Peter. They had witnessed his miracles, wonders, and signs (2:22). With this connection made, Peter got personal: Though he was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail him to a cross and kill him (2:23). In these words we see both divine sovereignty and human responsibility in action. God had a sovereign plan to sacrifice his Son for sinners, but that did not absolve these free moral agents of their sinful actions. Some of those listening to Peter had joined together with the mob on that day, crying out, “Crucify! Crucify him!” (see Luke 23:13-25). Jews and Gentiles joined together to kill Jesus.
2:24-31 Nevertheless, God raised him up from the dead. Death could not hold him (2:24). Then Peter quoted David from Psalm 16:8-11; he spoke of the Lord not abandoning him to the grave or allowing his holy one to see decay (2:25, 27). But Peter made it clear that David wasn’t speaking about himself. He was speaking about Jesus (2:25). Peter could say confidently that David was dead and buried (2:29). None of his listeners would disagree with that! So David was talking about someone else, one of David’s descendants whom God had sworn . . . to seat on David’s throne (2:30; see Ps 110:1). That descendant was none other than the Messiah, who was raised from the dead so that his flesh did not experience decay (2:31).
2:32 God has raised this Jesus; we are all witnesses of this. The frightened disciples (see John 20:19) had been transformed by the Holy Spirit to risk their lives by boldly and publicly proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus. How could they have done that unless they were telling the truth? If they were intentionally fabricating the whole story, what explains their transformation and willingness to face persecution and death? The only sane answer is that they were truly witnesses to the resurrected Jesus.
2:33-36 This risen Messiah who had been exalted to the right hand of God had poured out the promised Holy Spirit. That, Peter told them, is what they were seeing and hearing (2:33). He then quoted David (from Psalm 110:1), who overheard God the Father telling the Messiah, Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool (2:34-35; see commentary on Ps 110). That Scripture had been fulfilled in Jesus. God [had] made this Jesus . . . both Lord and Messiah (2:36).
2:37-39 When the crowd heard Peter’s words, they were pierced to the heart. They were convicted of their sin and asked, What should we do? (2:37). That was exactly what Peter wanted to hear, and he was quick with the answer: Repent and be baptized . . . in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (2:38).
Now don’t misunderstand this. The New Testament is clear that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ apart from works (see Eph 2:8-9; Rom 4:4-5). But repentance and baptism are to accompany faith. To repent is to turn from sin to God. As Paul will later tell the Ephesian elders, he preached “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:21). And to be baptized in the name of Jesus is to obediently go public with a profession of faith in him. But baptism doesn’t save, as Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 1:17.
Since the goal of repentance is to reduce or remove the consequences of sin, Peter was calling on the Jews who had witnessed and endorsed the crucifixion of Jesus (in identification with their Jewish leaders), to publicly renounce their actions via baptism. By doing this, they would disconnect themselves from the perverse generation that was about to experience the temporal wrath of God when Rome destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple in AD 70.
2:40-41 With this sermon and Peter’s exhortation to be saved (2:40), the church age began. This evangelistic campaign resulted in three thousand new believers (2:41)! The church of Jesus Christ was off to an amazing start.
2:42-47 So what did the fledgling church do? Luke says the early church was known for four activities that should be foundational for every kingdom-minded local church. First, there was devotion to the apostles’ teaching (2:42). The church was learning divine truth from God’s Word (only the Old Testament was written at this point, but in the years to come the apostles would be inspired by the Holy Spirit to write what would become the New Testament). You cannot grow beyond what you know. The teaching of the apostles was to give believers God’s perspective on every matter so that they could learn, obey, and experience spiritual growth and make kingdom impact.
Second, they devoted themselves to fellowship (2:42)—mutually sharing the life of Christ within the family of God. We are not to live as Lone Ranger Christians but to engage in the life of faith together. We are called to “love one another” (John 15:12), to “carry one another’s burdens” (Gal 6:2), to forgive one another (Eph 4:32), to “encourage one another” (1 Thess 5:11), and the list goes on. A disconnected Christian is a disobedient and unfruitful Christian. Each of us is an integral part of the body of Christ (see 1 Cor 12:12-26; Heb 10:23-25).
Third, the church regularly prioritized worship, reflected in the breaking of bread (i.e., Communion or the Lord’s Supper) and prayer (2:42). Worship is the recognition and celebration of who God is, what he has done, and what we are trusting him to do. The church is called to make a big deal about God because this is what he deserves.
Fourth, the church was clearly engaged in outreach because every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved (2:47). Everyone was involved in evangelism. They weren’t merely letting the apostles take care of it. All of the believers were living out their faith publicly (2:44-47). Such public love, devotion, joy, ministry, and testimony convinced unbelievers to trust in Jesus Christ.
As a result of these activities, everyone in the church was filled with awe and experiencing wonders and signs . . . performed through the apostles (2:43). The Holy Spirit will cause amazing things to happen when the church is unified in its devotion to God and to its members in fulfillment of God’s kingdom program.