ACTS

The Descent of the Spirit
Gustave Doré

Author

Luke (Evangelist)

Date

60 – 65 AD


Introduction by Kretzmann

Author

The author of the Acts of the Apostles, by the unanimous consent of the early Church, is Luke, the “beloved physician,” the friend, companion, and coworker of St. Paul. The book, by its own testimony, is a sequel to the Gospel of St. Luke. Cp. Acts 1:1 with Luke 1:1-4. To all those that doubt the authorship of Luke, after comparing this book with the third gospel and noting the similarity in style, language, and vocabulary, it must be said, as one commentator has it: “The question of authorship lies between Luke and some other writer; and the adverse testimony, to be conclusive, should name that other writer.” [McGarvey, New Commentary on Acts, X]. Luke had the best opportunity to get his information from the most authentic sources, from the apostles, especially from Paul himself, and by his own personal observation, as the so-called “we” passages show. If one takes into consideration that the Holy Spirit, in using the holy writers as His tools for the penning of the divine truths, made use of their natural gifts and acquired abilities, the “Pauline character” of the book will stand out very prominently. The Book of Acts, like the Gospel of St. Luke, is inscribed to Theophilus, very probably a Roman convert belonging to the wealthier and more influential class. It is thus addressed principally to the Gentile Christians of Italy and elsewhere, by whom the easy style and fluent Greek of the author could readily be understood.

Purpose

The aim or object of St. Luke in writing the Book of Acts appears in every chapter and almost on every page. He wanted to relate, in the first place, in what manner the gift of the Holy Ghost was given on the day of Pentecost, and that the subsequent work of the apostles was due entirely to His agency and ministry. So prominent is this feature, the Holy Ghost and His work being mentioned about seventy times, that one teacher of the Church has called the book the Gospel of the Holy Spirit. Closely connected with this feature is the fact that all the happenings in the history of the early Church are based upon, and made to appear as following out of, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For this reason another teacher of the ancient Church [Luco note: Kretzmann may refer to John Chrysostom] called the book the Demonstration of the Resurrection. But, in the second place, Luke wanted to give an account of the spread of Christianity, not only among the Jews, but also among the Gentiles, by the missionary efforts of the apostles. “The dominant note of the book is the missionary cause.” The Book of Acts intends to supplement the history of Jesus, as found in the Gospel of Luke, with a history of the apostles, and to give a graphic account of the victorious progress of the Gospel of Jesus from Jerusalem, the capital of Jewry, to Rome, the capital of the world. But there is also a third purpose evident in the Book of Acts. “This book you should read and regard not merely as St. Luke’s record of the personal doings or history of the apostles, but this is the point you should rather note, namely, that with this book St. Luke teaches all Christendom to the end of the world the true chief article of Christian doctrine, which tells us that we must all be justified alone by faith in Jesus Christ, without the Law or our own works.” [Luther, 14, 92. cf. Luther’s Preface below]. Hence the frequent use of the word “grace” and the continual reference to the glad tidings of the mercy of God in Christ Jesus.

Date

Concerning the time when the Book of Acts was written, it is probable that it was written soon after the gospel, before the destruction of Jerusalem, but not long before the year 70 A.D. Its last verses indicate that it must have been written before the death of St. Paul, which occurred in 67 or early in 68. Taking everything together, the conclusion seems well founded to assume the year 65 as the date of composition and Rome as the place.

Contents

The Book of Acts is readily divided into two chief parts. In the first division Luke speaks of the general history of the Christian Church up to the death of Herod (From Acts 1:1 to Acts 12:25). This part may again be subdivided, since the author relates first of all the early history of the congregation at Jerusalem (From Acts 1:1 to Acts 8:4) and then the spread of the Church through Judea, Samaria, and the surrounding country (From Acts 8:5 to Acts 12:25). The second principal division of the book brings an account of the life and labors of the Apostle Paul. We have there, in the first place, a history of his preaching tours among the Gentiles to his visit at Jerusalem (From Acts 13:1 to Acts 21:16). And the end of the book gives the history of his five years’ imprisonment.

“In the Book of Acts we see how the Church of Christ was formed and settled. The apostles simply proclaim the truth of God relative to the Passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ; and God accompanies their testimony with the demonstration of His Spirit. What was the consequence? Thousands acknowledge the truth, embrace Christianity, and openly profess it at the most imminent risk of their lives. The change is not a change of merely one religious sentiment or mode of worship for another; but a change of tempers, passions, prospects, and moral conduct. All before was earthly, or animal, or devilish, or all these together; but now all is holy, spiritual, and divine; the heavenly influence becomes extended, and nations are born unto God. And how was all this brought about? Not by might nor power; not by the sword, nor by secular authority; not through worldly motives and prospects; not by pious frauds or cunning craftiness; not by the force of persuasive eloquence: in a word, by nothing but the sole influence of Truth itself, attested to the heart by the power of the Holy Ghost.” [Clarke, Commentary, 5, 680].


Preface by Luther

Purpose

This book should be read and regarded not as though St. Luke had written of the personal works and lives of the apostles for an example of good works and good lives only; though this is the way it has sometimes been taken. Even St. Augustine and many others have looked upon the fact that the apostles had all things in common with Christians as the best example which the book contains; though this did not last long and had to stop, after a time. On the contrary, it is to be noted that by this book St. Luke teaches the whole Church, to the end of the world, the true chief point of Christian doctrine; namely, that we must all be justified only through faith in Jesus Christ, without any addition of law or help from good works.

This doctrine is the chief intention of the book and the author’s principal cause for writing it. Therefore he stresses so mightily, not only the preaching of the apostles about faith in Christ and how both Gentiles and Jews must be justified by it without any merits or works, but also the examples and the instances of this teaching, telling how Gentiles as well as Jews were justified through the Gospel only, without the law. So St. Peter testifies in Acts 10:28 and Acts 15:9, that, in this matter, God made no distinction between Jews and Gentiles, but just as He gave the Holy Ghost to the Gentiles through the Gospel though they lived without the law, so He gave Him to the Jews through the Gospel, and not through the law or because of their own works and merits. Thus he puts side by side, in this book, both the doctrine about faith and the example of faith.

This book might well be called, therefore, a commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul. For what Paul teaches and insists upon with words and passages of Scripture, St. Luke here points out and proves with examples and instances which show that it has happened, and must happen, as St. Paul teaches, to wit, that no law, no work justifies men, but only faith in Christ.

Faith alone justifies

Here, in this book, you find, then, a fair mirror, in which you can see that it is true. Sola fides justificat, “faith alone justifies,” for all the examples and instances of this doctrine contained in it are sure and comforting testimonies, which neither lie nor deceive you.

For see how St. Paul himself was converted; how the Gentile, Cornelius, was converted through St. Peter’s word, the angel telling him beforehand that Peter would preach to him, and so he would be saved. Look at the proconsul Sergius, and all the cities where Paul and Barnabas preached; look at the first council of the apostles at Jerusalem, in Acts 15:2; look at all the preaching of St. Peter, Paul, Stephen and Philip; — you will find that it all comes to one thing; it is only through the faith of Christ, without law and works, that we must come into grace and be justified. By means of this book, used this way, we can stop, in masterly fashion and mightily, the mouths of opponents who point us to the law and our own works and publish their foolish unwisdom to all the world.

Therefore St. Luke says that these illustrations of faith amazed the pious Jews, who had become believers, and that the unbelieving Jews became mad and foolish over it. And this was no wonder, for they had been raised in the law and had been accustomed to it from Abraham down and it could not but vex them that the Gentiles, who were without law and God, should be, like themselves, in God’s grace.

A stern warning

But that our people, who are all Gentiles, should slander and persecute this doctrine is ten times worse; for here we see, and cannot deny, that the grace of God and the knowledge of Christ came to our forebears without law and merit, nay, when they were in horrible idolatry and blasphemy. But they will gain as much by their slander and persecution as the Jews gained by their raging and raving. He who had before threatened the Jews and had Moses sing, “I will make you wroth with that which is not my people, and with a foolish folk will I make you angry,” and said in Hosea 2:23, “I will call ‘My people’ those who were not my people” (i.e. those who live without law and works), and who kept His word, He, I say, threatens these slanderers of ours with the same things, and He will surely keep His word, as He has already begun to do; but they will not believe it until, like the Jews, they have the experience. Amen.


Outline

Chapter 1

  • The ascension of Jesus (1-11)
  • The election of Matthias (12-26)

The author gives a brief account of the last speeches of the Lord, of His ascension, of the meeting of the disciples, and of the election of Matthias.

Chapter 2

  • The Pentecost miracle (1-13)
  • The sermon of Peter and its effect (14-47)

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.


Chapter 1

Verses 1-11

The ascension of Jesus

The last commission of Jesus:

Acts 1:1-5

1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which He was taken up, after that He through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom He had chosen: To whom also He shewed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of Me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.


Cross-references

Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 23-24; Luke 1:1-4; Luke 24:36-53; Mark 16:19-20; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8; John 20:30-31; Matthew 3:11; John 1:29-34; Acts 2:1-4; John 20:19-23; Acts 11:15-18; Galatians 3:2; Acts 2:38-39; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Luke 11:11-13; Acts 8:14-17

“The former treatise,” the first discourse, Luke had made, namely, in his gospel, to which he here evidently refers. The present history is a sequel to the gospel narrative; as the first writing had given an account of the ministry of Jesus, so the present book is to give an account of the labors of His ministers. This book, like the gospel, is addressed and dedicated to Theophilus, who may well have been a citizen of Rome holding a high official position, probably of equestrian rank, and a resident of the imperial city. In the gospel Luke had spoken of all; he had given a complete account of the labors of Jesus. The phrase “began to do and teach” is an idiomatic expression, as much as “both did and taught” in English. But there is here also a hint of the fact that Jesus began the work of the Gospel and committed its continuance to His disciples. The teaching of Jesus continued, in a way, even after His resurrection, although He then no longer spoke before the general public, but only to the believers. In those days, up to the day of His ascension, — and especially on this day, — He commissioned the apostles, He laid a certain obligation upon them. This commission, according to the intimate union obtaining in the Godhead, He did not give in an independent way, but through the same divine Spirit whom they received in extraordinary measure shortly after His ascension. All the communications of Jesus to His disciples are transmitted through the agency of the Spirit, whom He breathed upon them on Easter evening, John 20:22. Note the distinction: Jesus had chosen the disciples out of the unbelieving world, and He had chosen the apostles from the ranks of the believers. To the latter the special apostolic commission was entrusted. Jesus Himself, at this time, was taken up, He was lifted up on high, He experienced His ascension as an act of the Father. But in the interval between His resurrection and ascension, Jesus had taken a number of opportunities to show Himself as their living Savior to His disciples. They had seen Him suffer; they had received the evidence of His death. Therefore He gave them, not only one, but many indubitable proofs of His resurrection from the dead. During a period of forty days He was seen by them on various occasions. And every new appearance was another link in the chain of convincing, certain evidence that He was living. He appeared to Mary Magdalene, John 20:14-18; to the women returning from the grave, Matthew 28:9-10; to the Emmaus disciples, Luke 24:15; to Simon Peter, Luke 24:34; to ten of the apostles, other disciples also being present, Luke 24:36; John 20:19; to the eleven disciples a week later, John 20:26; to seven of the apostles in Galilee, John 21:4; to James and 500 brethren at one time, 1 Corinthians 15:6-7; to the assembly of the disciples on Ascension Day, Luke 24:50. Note: There is no discrepancy between Luke 24:43–51 and the present passage, for in the former account Luke has contracted the interviews of the two appearances, while in this narrative he observes the distinction. At every appearance of the risen Christ His conversation and charge to His disciples concerned matters of the kingdom of God, He committed to them the charge of the truths and commands. In word and in deed the apostles and all disciples of the Lord are to proclaim that Kingdom. The one great message of the Church for all times shall be the acceptance of Jesus the Redeemer by faith, by which act the believer becomes a member of the kingdom of God.

Having thus summarized the events of the forty days intervening between the resurrection and the ascension, Luke now proceeds to give the gist of the conversation which took place on the last day of the visible Christ on earth. On this day Christ had assembled His disciples for the last time, not only the apostles, but all the believers, a crowded gathering, according to the Greek word. It was at this time that Jesus charged the assembled congregation of believers, in an emphatic command, not to journey away from Jerusalem. They were to stay there and wait for the promise of the Father, the promise of the Holy Spirit which He had made to them on the evening before His death, John 14:26; John 15:26-27; John 16:12-13. This promise they had heard, and this He calls to their remembrance. And He reminds them of another fact. John’s baptism had been with water only, it had pointed forward to another, greater baptism of which John spoke, of a baptism with the Holy Spirit and with fire, Luke 3:16. The extraordinary communication of the gifts of the Holy Spirit was to take place, as Jesus promises, not many days hence, after not many days. The prophecy of Joel 3:18 was about to be fulfilled. Notice that Jesus both kindles in the hearts of the disciples a joyful longing and desire for the wonderful gift which is now so near, and exercises the faith of the apostles in His Word.

The final promise of the Holy Spirit:

Acts 1:6-8

When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And He said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.


Cross-references

Luke 17:20-21; Luke 19:11; Psalm 47:2; Psalm 117; Acts 2:1-4; John 20:19-23; Acts 11:15-18; Galatians 3:2; Acts 2:38-39; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Luke 11:11-13; Acts 8:14-17; Romans 5:1-5; Romans 15:13; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Titus 3:4-7; Ephesians 4:30; Galatians 5:16-26

When Jesus referred to the nearness of the great revelation of the Spirit’s gifts, the disciples, whose hopes of some form of temporal kingdom under the leadership of Christ had been revived since His resurrection, thought that He was referring to this blissful consummation of their hopes. Those that had come together therefore, most likely in Jerusalem, put the question to the Lord: At this time wilt Thou restore the kingdom unto Israel? Their minds had returned entirely to the earthly, carnal understanding. They understood the prophecies of old as well as the promises of the Lord of the restoration of the kingdom to Israel, to be accomplished by the utter annihilation of the enemies of God and the complete victory for the Jews. Their foolish thoughts were not effectually dispelled until the Spirit of Pentecost was shed forth upon them. Although the question of the disciples had been put in all sincerity and sobriety, it argued for a remarkable lack of proper understanding after all the patient teaching of Jesus. His answer, therefore, in a way is a reproof. For He refers them to the real Messianic kingdom, to the future Kingdom of Glory, which will see the full revelation of Christ’s majesty before the eyes of all men, very comforting to those that are to partake of this bliss with their Redeemer. Jesus here guards the royal prerogative, the exclusive rights of the Father. It is not the business of the disciples to know the times and the seasons, critical and otherwise, which are controlled by the exclusive authority and power of the Father. That most critical time and hour above all, which will decide the fate of mankind, is not theirs to inquire for. Note: Whatever pertains to the revelation of God’s majesty should not be a subject of anxious thought for the Christians; both the government of the world and the Church and the revelation of the future glory are in His hands, to be revealed at His time. Jesus rather reminds the apostles that they will receive, will be given power, strength, which they should exert and put forth in the great duties of their calling. This power would be imparted to them when the Holy Ghost would come down upon them. The power to be effective witnesses for Christ is evidently meant. Filled with this strength from above, the disciples should bear witness, should tell what they had seen and heard of Christ, whose message they were to proclaim and who was to be the content of their message. In Jerusalem their work was to begin, but not to be confined to that city. In ever-widening circles their influence should extend, by virtue of the power given them through the Holy Ghost, throughout Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the world. There is neither limit nor boundary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Note: The believers to this day have the same call and the same promise, but must observe also the same command, to be witnesses of Christ, of His salvation, to the uttermost parts of the earth.

The ascension of Christ:

Acts 1:9-11

And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.


Cross-references

Luke 24:50-51; Mark 16:19; Ephesians 4:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Exodus 16:10; Exodus 40:34; Matthew 17:5; Daniel 7:13; Matthew 24:30; Mark 14:61-62; Revelation 1:7; Luke 24:1-7; Daniel 7:9; Luke 9:29; Revelation 7:9-17

Jesus had finished the words of His last commission to His disciples; He had entrusted to them the preaching of the Gospel to all nations, Matthew 28:19. But while they were still looking at Him in anxious expectation, desiring to hear more of the words of comfort and strength out of His mouth, He was lifted up before them. He was in the act of blessing them with uplifted hands when He was taken from them. That is the picture of Christ which should be most dear to the memory of a Christian, with His hands stretched out in blessing over them. And a cloud, the symbol of divine glory, a truly regal chariot, shut the Master from the view of the disciples as He entered its bosom. There was no deception, no optical illusion; the ascension of Jesus is a historical fact which cannot be doubted. The Lord went up with a shout, with the sound of a trumpet, Psalm 47:5. He has ascended up on high and led captivity captive, Psalm 68:18. He has spoiled principalities and powers, He has made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it, Colossians 2:15. He has ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things, Ephesians 4:10. By His exaltation and ascension the Son of Man, also according to His human body, has entered into the full and unlimited use of His divine omnipresence. His gracious presence is therefore assured to His congregation on earth. He is now nearer to His believers than He was to His disciples in the days of His flesh. He is now sitting at the right hand of His heavenly Father. As our Brother He has assumed the full use of the divine power and majesty. He reigns with omnipotence over all things, but especially also over His Church. God has put all things under His feet, and has given Him to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all, Ephesians 1:22-23. By His Word and Sacrament He gathers unto Himself a congregation and Church upon earth. He works in and with His servants; He governs in the midst of His enemies. He preserves and protects His Church against all the enmity of the hostile world and against the very portals of hell. And His intercession before His heavenly Father makes our salvation a certainty, Romans 8:34.

While the disciples were still looking after their Lord with longing gaze, there suddenly appeared two men in white garments, in shining vestments, two angels that had just acted as escorts to the victorious Lord. These angels aroused the disciples from the revery into which they had sunk when gazing after their Lord. Addressing the apostles as men of Galilee, the heavenly messengers told them that the time spent in longingly wishing for the visible presence or return of Christ was wasted. And they gave them and all the believers a joyful assurance. This same Jesus, who was here taken up into heaven, apparently taken away from them, will come back again in the very same way in which they watched Him disappear from sight. Jesus will return visibly and bodily. With the same body, clothed in the same human nature, He will descend from heaven to judge the quick and the dead. That is the hope of all believers, that they will see Jesus with their own eyes. And in the mean time they live under His merciful reign and government, safe and secure, knowing that He is with them to the end of the world. This hope and certainty makes the believers willing to work for the Lord and to do the works of their calling on earth in His name and to His glory. The time is short, and His return is both sure and imminent, John 9:4.


Verses 12-26

The election of Matthias

The return to Jerusalem:

Acts 1:12-14

12 Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey. 13 And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. 14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren.


Cross-references

Luke 24:50-53; John 11:18; Zechariah 14:4; Luke 21:37; Matthew 21:1-3; Matthew 24:3; Matthew 26:26-30; Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:13-16

The ascension of Jesus took place on Mount Olivet, east of Jerusalem, not very far from the town of Bethany, Luke 24:50. Its distance from the Jewish capital is a Sabbath-day’s journey, seven and a half stadia (a little over 1,500 yards). There is no contradiction between the accounts concerning the location of the various places and the exact spot where the ascension occurred. The summit of the mountain was approximately seven and one-half stadia from Jerusalem, Bethany was almost twice that distance, and the ascension took place in the Bethany neighborhood, on the southeastern slope of the hill. After the removal of their Lord in such a miraculous manner the disciples returned to Jerusalem. Note how exactly Luke describes the geographical location for his non-Jewish readers. At Jerusalem they were to wait for the great miracle of the outpouring of the Spirit. So they went to their usual meeting-place, to the upper chamber, probably in the house of one of the disciples. The disciples held public meetings in the Temple, Luke 24:53, principally in the interest of mission-work. But for mutual consolation and encouragement they met at the houses of members of the congregation. The names of the chief men and of some of the women of this first congregation are here recorded. Peter is named first, as usual in the gospels; James, the elder, and John, the younger son of Zebedee, are next named. These three head the list as the special intimates of the Lord. Then comes Andrew, the brother of Peter; Philip, also of Bethsaida; Thomas, surnamed Didymus; Bartholomew, formerly known as Nathanael; Matthew, the publican, previously known as Levi; James, the son of Alphaeus; Simon the Zealot, of Cana; and finally Judas, the brother of James. All of these men had been preserved, though the storm of adversity occasioned by the Passion and death of Christ had struck them with great severity. But they all were now ready at their post, eager to begin their appointed work and waiting only for the promised power from on high, in the sending of the Holy Spirit. The eleven disciples spent the interval between Ascension and Pentecost in the best possible way; they were engaged continually and perseveringly in prayer, and all with one accord, in the same mind. Their prayers were both general and specific, for they deeply felt their weakness and spiritual poverty, and they were anxious to receive the gift of the Spirit, as promised by their Master. Their action is to be commended as an example for the believers of all time, to join both publicly and privately in the earnest prayer for the gift of the Holy Ghost, without whose power and enlightenment we can do nothing. In this service of prayer the apostles were not alone, for there were with them some of the faithful women, probably those that had ministered to the Lord even in Galilee, and later had made the journey to Jerusalem to be present under the cross, witness the burial, and receive the message of the risen Lord. One woman is mentioned by name, Mary, the mother of Christ. She had not returned to Nazareth, since John was faithfully carrying out the request of the crucified Jesus to consider Mary his mother. Mary was undoubtedly regarded with great respect by the apostles, but there is no indication of the idolatrous homage which was later paid to her in various churches. To this small congregation or inner circle now belonged also the brethren (half-brothers, cousins) of the Lord, who are previously mentioned as unbelieving, John 7:5. Just when they relinquished their unbelief and accepted Jesus as their Savior and Lord is not recorded in the gospels, but they were staunch adherents of Jesus from this time forward. Note: No matter how energetically a person has formerly opposed the Gospel of salvation, all this should be forgotten as soon as he accepts the Gospel-truth. The conviction of faith, in such a case, is usually coupled with the firm intention to work all the more humbly and sincerely for the once despised Master.

The address of Peter:

Acts 1:15-20

15 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) 16 Men and brethren, this Scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. 17 For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. 18 Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The Field of Blood. 20 For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.


Cross-references

Psalm 41:9; Luke 22:47-48; Matthew 27:1-10; Psalm 69:25; Psalm 109:8; Acts 15:1-33

“In those days,” on one of the ten days intervening between the ascension of Christ and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. At one of the meetings held during those days Peter assumed the initiative by rising up and standing before the disciples in addressing them on a very important matter. Upon this occasion there were some hundred and twenty disciples assembled together, probably all of those in Jerusalem that had professed adherence to the Lord at that time. Note that they are called brethren, bound together by a common faith and by a common love more closely than by the bonds of blood relationship. Mark also that Peter, although acting as spokesman, yet is one of the brethren; he acts with their consent, and does nothing in an imperious manner. Very solemnly Peter addresses the assembly as “men and brethren,” the importance of his subject being reflected throughout his discourse. He points out that it was necessary first of all for the Scripture to be fulfilled in the defection of Judas Iscariot. His betrayal of Christ had been foretold, Psalm 41:9. More than a thousand years before the Messiah had bitterly denounced the shamelessness of the traitor. It was Judas that was the leader of the enemies’ band at the capture of Jesus, that showed the soldiers and servants the way to the probable place of Christ’s abode on that night. Note with what tact Peter handles his delicate subject throughout, not heaping scorn or abuse upon the traitor, but speaking of him with all lenity. His example might well be followed at the present time, no matter whose death is spoken about. Judas had been numbered with the twelve apostles; he had been chosen by the Lord as one of the men that were to serve as His messengers and ambassadors to bring the Gospel to all people; he had obtained a lot, or share, in this ministry by actual selection of Jesus; he was supposed to receive a charge as well as the other apostles actually did. The call of Jesus is always sincere and with the intention of keeping the believer at His side; the unbeliever’s defection must be placed entirely to his own charge.

Acts 1:18-19 is probably to be regarded as a note inserted by Luke for the understanding of the Gentile readers. Judas had received a certain sum of money, thirty Denarii, the price of a slave, as the price of blood for the betrayal of his Master. When he was then seized by repentance and fear on account of his horrible deed, he brought back the money to the high priests, and since they refused to accept it, he threw it into the Temple. With this money, which the hypocritical Jewish leaders still considered as belonging to Judas, they bought the potter’s field, which thus was really the property of Judas, and might have been claimed by his heirs. Thus the reward of iniquity, of unrighteousness, bought the burial-ground for the unknown strangers. This fact, especially after the terrible end of the traitor, became known throughout the city, and that field, since all the inhabitants of the city knew the history of that piece of ground therefore soon acquired a name, in the Aramaic, or Chaldeo-Syriac, language Akeldama, which means “a field of blood,” bought with the price of the life or blood of the Lord Jesus. And Judas himself had a horrible end. It seems that after he hanged himself, the rope broke, and he pitched over backward down some declivity, with the result that his body burst open and all his intestines gushed forth. That was evidently the judgment of God upon this hardened sinner; he had gone to the place provided for such as he was — the place of the damned. But in all these happenings, horrible as they sound in the narration, Peter finds the fulfilment of Scriptures. In Psalm 69:25 the Lord had prophesied: Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents, and in Psalm 109:8: Let another take his office. The exposition of Peter shows that these passages found their strictest fulfilment in Judas Iscariot and his fate, as a warning to all men for all times. The habitation of Judas had become desolate; he had lost his ministry, his office, when he denied the faith and betrayed his Lord. Note the deep impression which the end of the traitor had made upon the other disciples, and how they heeded the warning contained in the story, just as all believers will remember the horrible end of the apostates, either here or hereafter, lest they fall into the same example of unbelief.

The choosing of Matthias:

Acts 1:21-26

21 Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that He was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of His resurrection. 23 And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two Thou hast chosen, 25 That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. 26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.


Cross-references

John 15:26-27; Jeremiah 17:10; John 2:24-25; Acts 15:6; Acts 20:17-18,28; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Exodus 28:30; Ezra 2:63; 1 Samuel 28:6; 1 Chronicles 24:5; 1 Chronicles 25:8; Proverbs 16:33; Acts 9:1-31; Galatians 2:6-9; Romans 1:1-7; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Having briefly referred to the regrettable vacancy in the number of the apostles, Peter now makes a proposal as to the selection of a man to succeed Judas in the high office which he had held. He stated that it was necessary for them to choose some one of the disciples that had associated with them and with Jesus from the very beginning, one that had been their companion during the whole time that Jesus went in and out before them, one that had, in other words, been a witness of the whole course of Christ’s life, beginning with His baptism by John and ending with the day of His ascension from their midst. Note that Peter speaks of the ascended Christ as a human being, as being still in the flesh, although he incidentally calls Him Lord, thus yielding to Him full divine honor and majesty. But the chief point to be taken into account was this, that the man to be chosen must be a thoroughly competent witness of the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection of Christ as St. Paul shows, 1 Corinthians 15, is the seal of God upon the completed work of redemption of Jesus. Without its certainty established, Christianity becomes an illusion and a farce. It is self-evident that the experience of matters of fact went hand in hand with the possession of a firm faith in the matters witnessed. The apostles were called to testify of that which they had seen and heard with their own eyes. The Church has received the Gospel of Christ out of the mouth of credible eye- and ear-witnesses. Peter’s proposal having been accepted by the assembly, they put forward, or nominated, two men for the vacancy, one Joseph Barsabas, apparently one of the seventy disciples, whose surname Justus had been adopted after the custom of the time, and Matthias. These two men may have been the only two that possessed all the qualifications laid down by Peter. Concerning these two men, the candidates for the vacant position in the number of the apostles, the disciples assembled now made an earnest prayer. They addressed their prayer, literally, to the Heart-knower, to their risen Lord, Jesus Christ. Cp. Jeremiah 17:10. The thoughts and prayers of all true Christians are now ever directed to their exalted Lord and Savior. He knows all things; He guides all things in the interest of His believers and for their benefit. The Lord knows the hearts of men, John 2:25; He was able to judge exactly as to the qualifications of either candidate; His choosing would not have to be the result of long and deliberate weighing and reflecting. He should merely designate His choice of these two men, in order that the chosen man might take the place of the ministry and apostleship left vacant by Judas. Note once more the tactful reference to the traitor, as having gone “to his own place.” As the words read, they may refer as well to the place of reward as to that of punishment. The disciples very properly leave the decision in this grave matter to the great Judge above, and do not themselves pronounce the condemnation, although it is included that Judas went to the place to which the hypocrites and apostates go after death. Mark also: The prayer of the disciples is a model of its kind. “The petitioners had a single object for which they bowed before the Lord, and to the proper presentation of this they confine their words. They do not repeat a thought, nor do they elaborate one beyond the point of perspicuity. … So brief a prayer on so important an occasion would in this voluble age be scarcely regarded as a prayer at all.” [McGarvey, New Commentary on Acts, 16. 17]. Having thus sanctified the occasion with the Word of God and with prayer, the disciples were ready to proceed to the selection of the twelfth apostle. To do this, they gave forth their lots. Just how this was done is not certain. But it is probable that the usage prevailing in the Old Testament was observed. “Tablets on which the names of Joseph and Matthias were written, were employed; these were shaken in the vase or other vessel in which they had been deposited, and the lot which first fell out furnished the decision.” [Schaff, Commentary, Acts, 21]. Cp. 1 Chronicles 24:5; 1 Chronicles 25:8; Leviticus 16:8; Numbers 34:13. Matthias having been designated in this manner, he was now henceforth numbered with the eleven apostles, as the twelfth. The manner of selecting the man to fill the vacancy left by the defection of Judas was an unusual one, and undoubtedly resorted to in this case by a special command of God. The method, therefore, is not to be considered an example to be followed under similar circumstances. But the use of the Word of God and the earnest appeal to the Lord to direct the choice of officers of the Church according to His will and for the welfare of His kingdom, should never be lacking at any meeting for the purpose of electing officers in a Christian congregation.

Summary

The author gives a brief account of the last speeches of the Lord, of His ascension, of the meeting of the disciples, and of the election of Matthias.


Chapter 2

Verses 1-13

The Pentecost miracle

The apostles filled with the Holy Spirit:

Acts 2:1-4

1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.


Cross-references

Leviticus 23:15-22; John 14:15-17,26; John 15:26-27; John 16:7-11; Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-13

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 fulfilment 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 Acts 1:26. 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, Acts 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, Acts 3:2; Acts 3:11; Acts 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 sat 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. All 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.” [Luther, quoted in Stoeckhardt, Biblische Geschichte des Neuen Testaments, 334].

The effect of the miracle upon the multitude:

Acts 2:5-13

5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, 10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. 12 And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? 13 Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.


Cross-references

Acts 1:1-11; 1 Corinthians 14:23; Genesis 11:1-9; Exodus 23:14-17; Psalm 117

Since this was the festival of Pentecost, one of the feasts upon which all the Jews were to appear at Jerusalem, Exodus 23:13-17; Deuteronomy 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 had 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 its 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. [Luther, 13b, 2060. 2061]. 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 wilfully offended and mock at the Spirit that lives in the Christians.


Verses 14-47

The sermon of Peter and its effect

The introduction of the sermon:

Acts 2:14-21

14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: 15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. 16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 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: 18 And on My servants and on My handmaidens I will pour out in those days of My Spirit; and they shall prophesy: 19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come: 21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.


Cross-references

Acts 1:12-26; Joel 2:28-32; Matthew 24:29-31; Romans 10:9-13

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 fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel, Joel 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 Thessalonians 5:2; 1 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 1:14; 2 Thessalonians 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 fulfilment 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. [Luther, 13b, 2066]. 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.” [Luther, 13b, 2070. 2071].

Peter’s testimony of Jesus:

Acts 2:22-24

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: 23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: 24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that He should be holden of it.


Cross-references

Genesis 3:15; Luke 1:26-33; John 3:1-2; John 10:14-18; John 20:30-31

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 sledge-hammer 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.” [McGarvey, New Commentary on Acts, 30]. 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:

Acts 2:25-28

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: 26 Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: 27 Because Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption. 28 Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; Thou shalt make me full of joy with Thy countenance.


Cross-references

Psalm 16:8-11; Acts 13:32-35; John 6:66-69; Luke 4:33-37

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 Psalm 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:

Acts 2:29-32

29 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. 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; 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. 32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.


Cross-references

2 Samuel 7:12-13; 1 Kings 2:10-12; Psalm 110; Matthew 1:1; John 7:42; Luke 1:26-33; Matthew 22:41-46; Revelation 22:16; Acts 13:36-37; Luke 24:44-49; 1 Corinthians 15:1-22; Revelation 1:17-18

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 Samuel 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:

Acts 2:33-36

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. 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, 35 Until I make Thy foes Thy footstool. 36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.


Cross-references

Psalm 110:1; Matthew 22:41-46; Romans 1:1-7; Romans 10:9-13; 1 Corinthians 2:2

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, Psalm 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 fulfilment 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:

Acts 2:37-40

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? 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. 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. 40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.


Cross-references

Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16; Galatians 3:27; 1 Corinthians 12:13; 1 Peter 3:21-22; Titus 3:4-7; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Hebrews 10:19-22; Acts 8:26-39; Acts 9:17-18; Acts 10:44-48; Acts 16:25-34

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, Proverbs 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, Philippians 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:

Acts 2:41-47

41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. 42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. 44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 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, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.


Cross-references

John 17:20-21; Hebrews 10:19-25; Galatians 1:8-9; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; 1 Corinthians 11:27-32; Matthew 6:9-13; John 14:13-14; James 5:13-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Romans 8:26-30; Ephesians 6:10-20

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 Corinthians 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 practise communism, they did not abrogate the right of private property. Not the possession, but the use and benefit of the goods was common. Cp. Acts 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.


Chapter –

Verses –

Acts 1:1

1


Cross-references