ACTS - CHAPTER 2
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2000 James Melough
“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one
The full significance of
Pentecost can be understood only as we understand the significance of the feasts that
were to be celebrated by Israel as appointed by God in Leviticus 23.
This is not the place for such a detailed discussion, and a brief look at the
first two feasts will be enough for the purposes of our present study.
The series of seven feasts
began with Passover on the fourteenth of Nisan; Unleavened Bread on the fifteenth;
and on the sixteenth, Firstfruits, in which the first sheaf of the barley harvest was
presented as a wave offering (Le 23:9-14). Students
of Biblical typology are virtually unanimous in agreeing that this is a figure of the
resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, see 1 Co 15:20-23, and of those who will be
raised at His coming, 1 Th 4:13-18. Then
fifty days later the offering of firstfruits of the wheat harvest was to be
presented, but unlike the sheaf of firstfruits of the barley harvest, this offering
was to be “... two loaves ... of fine flour ... baken with leaven....” (Le
23:15-22). And again, students of
typology are virtually agreed that this feast presents us with a figure of the
Church, composed of believing Jews and Gentiles, baptized on the day of Pentecost
into one body, of which Christ is the Head, the leaven reminding us that while there
is no sin on us there is sin in us - the old nature is still with us.
The type was fulfilled when,
as the Lord Himself had promised (Lk 24:49), the Holy Spirit descended on the day of
Pentecost, not only to baptize them into one body, and to empower them for service,
but to do something He had never done before - to indwell them permanently.
In the past He had come upon men, but never to indwell permanently.
That same indwelling and endowment are the portion of every believer of the
Church age (Jn 14:16-17).
“... they were all with
one accord in one place.” Unlike today
when worldly-wise men advocate the dividing of believers into groups for prayer,
study, etc., there was no such division among those early believers.
They were all together in one place. This
is the pattern for the whole Church age. No good comes of dividing the local church into groups for any purpose.
The church that assembles according to the Scriptural pattern “with one
accord in one place” for its meetings is much more likely to know something of the
power that imbued those early believers.
“And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind,
and it filled all the house where they were sitting.”
Wind is one of the biblical
symbols of the Holy Spirit, e.g., Jn 3:8, and here its being described as
“rushing” and “mighty” reminds us of the unceasing activity of His limitless
power, as its being “from heaven” tells us of its heavenly origin.
This power is not of earth, nor is it available to “earthy” (1 Co
15:47-48) men (Jn 14:17). All that is
“earthy” (of the old nature) hinders the working of this force, hence the need of
implicit obedience on the part of the believer who would enjoy this power in his
“... and it filled all the
house where they were sitting.” The
house is used figuratively of the corporate body of profession, e.g., the Lord’s
words to disobedient Israel, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Mt
23:38). Here therefore “the house”
is figurative of the Church, so that the statement goes beyond a literal house to
assure us that that same power is available to an obedient church.
It is necessary to understand, however, that after AD 70 (the year when Jewish
autonomy ended) that power has not been available for the performance of literal
miracles such as characterized the OT and early apostolic ages.
Such miraculous manifestation is for Israel, not for the Church.
It will not be resumed until the Tribulation which will follow the rapture of
the Church, for that seven-year era will be a part of the Jewish age in which God
will resume His dealings with Israel.
“... where they were
sitting.” Sitting is always figurative of rest. That believing, obedient company, sitting with one accord in one
place, is the ideal for the Church, local as well as universal, and it is significant
that the Lord Himself presents us with a seeming paradox related to rest, “Take my
yoke upon you ... and ye shall find rest....” (Mt 11:29).
The yoke speaks of labor, the very opposite of rest, yet the testimony of
every obedient believer is to the truth of the Lord’s declaration.
Obedience, apart from service, is at best incomplete.
It is in obedience that does not refuse to submit to the yoke of service, that
true rest is found. The rest so
energetically sought in ease and pleasure eludes the indolent believer.
“And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat
upon each of them.”
While there is
uncertainty among scholars as to the exact form of these
tongues, the connection with literal speaking may lend credence to the claim of those
who allege that they were in the form of literal tongues.
If this view is correct, then their being cloven may perhaps be to emphasize
that part of the power conferred was the ability to speak in more than one language
without the speaker’s having learned any other than his own.
These cloven tongues had
only the appearance of fire, to emphasize perhaps that this fire, as throughout
Scripture, was symbolic of the Holy Spirit.
“... and it sat upon each
of them.” In keeping with the symbolic
meaning of sitting, this may be to indicate the permanence of the Spirit’s
residence in the body of each believer.
“And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other
tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
A distinction is to be
recognized between the indwelling and the filling of the Holy Spirit.
He indwells every believer unconditionally, but His filling is conditional,
being in proportion to the measure of obedience.
The indwelling is permanent and stable; the filling, fluctuating as the
believer’s obedience fluctuates. Hence,
to be filled, the believer must be totally obedient - a state at best fleeting, and
very infrequently achieved by most of us.
Three Scriptures confirm
that the filling of the Holy Spirit is governed by our will and our conduct: “...
be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18); “... grieve not the holy Spirit of God....”
(Eph 4:30); “Quench not the Spirit” (1 Th 5:19).
The Holy Spirit will control the life only as the believer permits that
control by an act of his own free will. During
this present age He does not bypass the will of the individual.
The full significance of the
permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit is not always grasped.
It declares the absolute perfection of the new man. As to his state in the sight of God, the believer is as holy,
spotless, sinless as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Were it otherwise, the Holy Spirit could not indwell.
The fluctuating filling, on the other hand, is the confirmation that the old
nature is still with us, for it is the activity of that old nature which produces the
fluctuation. The old nature and the
Spirit have nothing in common. They are
“... and began to speak
with other tongues....” This evidence
of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling was for the apostolic age only.
With the completion of the canon of Scripture this phenomenon ceased, as Paul
declared it would (1 Co 13:8), and as is confirmed by experience.
Note the lack of reference to tongues outside of Acts and Corinthians, and a
similar lack of any mention of the valid use of this gift in the history of the
Church. The claim of those who insist
that the ability to speak in tongues is an essential proof of conversion is refuted,
as noted above, by experience, and by Scripture (1 Co 12:30).
Even in the apostolic age, all did not speak in tongues.
“... as the Spirit gave
them utterance (prompted their utterances).” He
Who had given the gift directed its use. Those
speaking in tongues today are under the control of a very different spirit, for their
speaking is involuntary, whereas, as noted above, the Holy Spirit does not bypass the
will of the individual.
“And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation
Israel had not yet been set
aside, for while undoubtedly some of these may have been proselytes, God was still
dealing exclusively with His earthly people. The
millennial kingdom, offered by the Lord during His public ministry, was still being
offered. Had they as a nation believed
in the resurrected Jesus as their Messiah, the seven years of the Tribulation would
have followed, and been ended by the return of Christ in power and glory to establish
His millennial kingdom.
Why were these Jews
assembled in Jerusalem? To keep the
feast of Pentecost. Why had they come
“out of every nation under heaven”? Many
of them were undoubtedly the descendants of those who had been carried out of the
land during the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities; and while choosing to remain in
their adopted lands, they nevertheless returned to Jerusalem for the great national
“Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were
confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.”
It was no gibberish that the
Spirit-filled disciples uttered, but the languages spoken by the amazed multitude
assembled in Jerusalem.
“And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are
not all these which speak Galileans?”
The miracle was that the
speakers were using languages they hadn’t learned; and that they were current,
known languages spoken and understood by the assembled multitude, is clearly declared
in the following verse.
“And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?”
This miraculous, but
intelligent use of known languages, is far removed from the involuntary gibberish
that pours from the lips of those who manifest by this very activity that they are
simply the instruments of Satan. I have
yet to find a bona fide instance of the present-day use of this now obsolete gift.
What its advocates prefer to ignore is that it is a phenomenon almost
invariably associated with every heathen religion; as they prefer to ignore also that
the present-day use of this so-called gift violates the scriptural regulations
governing its use when it was legitimate.
For example, as someone has very aptly commented, If you took women out of the
tongues movement, it would cease to move. Women
are by far the predominant practitioners of this Satanic activity, in spite of the
fact that God has commanded them to be silent in the Church (1 Co 14:34), as He has
forbidden them also to teach (1 Tim 2:11-12).
“Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in
Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,”
“Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in parts of Libya about Cyrene, Jews
“Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful
works of God.”
That the meanings of these
names, like all Scriptural names, have spiritual lessons to teach, is undoubted, but
I regret being unable to see clearly what those lessons are, so, as with the names of
the apostles, I will list the meanings, and trust that the reader may be able to
discover the lessons himself. They are
as follows: Parthians a pledge; Medes he of the measured: my garments;
Elamites their heaps: suckling them: eternal; Mesopotamia exalted;
Judea land of praise; Cappadocia branded unreal; Pontus the sea;
Asia slime: mire; Phrygia parched: female roaster; Pamphylia all
sorts: all tribes; Egypt double straits; Libya afflicted: weeping;
Cyrene supremacy of the bridle; Rome strength; Cretes fleshy;
Arabians dusky: mixed.
We should note, however, the
clear declaration of Scripture that these were not strange ecstatic languages, but
rather the familiar dialects spoken by all the nationalities represented in Jerusalem
that day, as we should note also that this endowment was to facilitate the
proclamation of “the wonderful works of God.”
“And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What
The things of God are always
a puzzle to the natural man, for, “the natural man receiveth not the things of the
Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because
they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14).
“Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.”
Here again is the revelation
of the natural man’s response to the gospel. He
mocks what he cannot understand.
A valid question arises
here, however, Why should man be condemned for rejecting what he cannot understand,
since that lack is no fault of his? The
answer is, the Holy Spirit will give enlightenment to the man who wants it, for a
fact frequently overlooked is that He strives with sinners, just as He does with
saints - and the one as much as the other, may yield or resist as he chooses.
The mocking words, however,
were invested with a deeper meaning than the speakers realized, for wine is the
Biblical symbol of the Word, ministered by the Holy Spirit, in its ability to cheer
the heart, see e.g., Ps 104:15; Pr 31:6; Ec 10:19; and Eph 5:18, “And be not drunk
with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit....” Those believers were filled with the Spirit, and rejoicing in
their own salvation.
“But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto
them, Ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known to you, and
hearken to my words:”
This reminds us of the
Lord’s words concerning the spread of the gospel: first “... in Jerusalem, and in
all Judea” (Ac 1:8); then to Samaria, and then “unto the uttermost part of the
earth.” Israel must hear it first.
In the course of His own earthly ministry He sent the disciples forth with the
command, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans
enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt 10:6-7),
declaring in Mt 15:24, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of
That gospel called upon
Israel to repent and believe, in order to enter the millennial kingdom (from which
they would of course eventually pass into the eternal kingdom), and a great deal of
confusion has arisen from failure to recognize that that same gospel was preached in
the apostolic age until the abolition of Jewish autonomy in AD 70.
Israel was rejected, and the offer of the millennial kingdom postponed, not
because the nation had crucified Christ, but because they wouldn’t believe in His
resurrection, see Acts 2:32,36,38; 3:15,17.
“For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour
of the day.”
It was only nine in the
morning, too early for anyone to be drunk. But
again the words are invested with a spiritual significance that transcends the
literal. Three is the Biblical number of
resurrection. Its being the third hour
of the day is the symbolic announcement of the truth that it was the hour when
spiritual resurrection was being offered to Israel. Faith in a crucified and resurrected Messiah would have raised the
nation up from her spiritual state of being “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph
2:1), just as it has raised multitudes of believing men and women since then.
“But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;”
“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:”
“And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those day of my
Spirit; and they shall prophesy:”
These verses introduce a
section of Scripture that has been more misunderstood than virtually any other. Without bothering to read the prophecy of Joel, multitudes of
professing Christians have concluded that tongues is a spiritual gift given for the
whole Church age, some, in fact, maintaining that if you don’t have this “gift”
you are not saved!
But what does Joel
say? Language couldn’t be clearer, “And it shall come to pass afterward
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall
prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and upon
the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit” (Joel
2:28-29). That “afterward” is the
key. To what does it refer?
It is preceded by the description of the judgments that will be poured out in
the Tribulation era, and of the Lord’s return to deliver His people, and inaugurate
His millennial kingdom. The outpouring
of the Spirit is to be in the Millennium, i.e., after the Tribulation.
Had Israel believed the
gospel preached in the 38 years between the Lord’s resurrection and AD 70, the
Tribulation era would have followed immediately, to be ended by the Lord’s return
in glory to establish His millennial kingdom - and then would have come the
complete fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. As
many competent exegetes have pointed out, what was seen on the day of Pentecost was a
little preview of what Israel could have had, had she believed.
Her adamant unbelief, however, caused the gradual withdrawal of the offer of
the millennial kingdom and of this sample
of the blessings that would have been (and will yet be) a part of the kingdom
It cannot be over-emphasized
that in the first 38 years of the apostolic era, the millennial kingdom was still
being offered to Israel, and during that period there was an order that applied to
Jewish believers which did not apply to their Gentile brethren, see e.g., Acts
15:19-20, 28; cf., Acts 21:20.
The promises in Joel, it
should be noted, are addressed to Israel, not to the Church.
The promises are to “your sons ... and daughters ... your
young men ... your old men....”
“And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath;
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke:”
“The sun shall be turned into darkness, before that great and notable day of
the Lord come:”
Peter continues to quote
from the prophecy of Joel, and as noted already, that prophecy makes it clear that
the full outpouring of the Spirit will not be until the Millennium.
The fact that this foretaste was given before the Tribulation, which could
have begun in the apostolic age, and that would have been ended by the Lord’s
return to establish His millennial kingdom - when there would have been the complete
fulfillment of the prophecy - indicates that the rapture of the Church will be
followed by a similar interval of undisclosed length, prior to the beginning of the
Tribulation, in both of which a similar foretaste will be given, to be followed by
the complete fulfillment in the Millennium.
unbelief, however, caused God to postpone the program that would have brought them
into the enjoyment of the Millennium, a thousand years of blessing, to be preceded by
seven short years of tribulation during which would have been manifested the signs
mentioned here by Peter, see Mt 24:29-30. That
program aborted two thousand years ago by Israel’s unbelief, will yet be resumed,
however, and the signs all around us point to the fact that the moment of its
resumption can’t be far off.
“That great and notable
day of the Lord” is generally recognized as being the long period between the
rapture of the Church, and the establishment of the new heavens and the new earth
after the Millennium.
“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the
Lord shall be saved.”
Important as is the study of
prophecy, we are to remember that all Scripture has to do with the revelation
of the Lord Jesus Christ and the “great salvation” made available to Jew and
Gentile alike through His work so perfectly completed at Calvary, “For there is none other name under heaven given among men,
whereby we must be saved” (Ac 4:12).
“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:”
Israel alone was addressed,
for it was not yet God’s time for the gospel to go out to the Gentiles.
That greatly favored nation was appealed to by being reminded that Christ’s
ministry had been validated by God Himself through “miracles and wonders and
signs” done by the Lord in their midst; and His being referred to as “Jesus of
Nazareth” has special significance in this connection.
Jesus is the name distinctly
associated with Him as Savior, “Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save
his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21); but His being linked with Nazareth has a
deeper significance than is generally comprehended.
Its being associated with contempt has obscured the truth being taught in the
meaning of Nazareth a branch: preservation.
Six times in the OT the Lord is referred to under the figure of a branch: Isa
4:2, “In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious”; Isa
11:1, “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch
shall grow out of his roots”; Jer 23:5, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord,
that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper,
and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth”; Jer 33:15; “In those days,
and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David”;
Zec 3:8, “... behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH”; Zec 6:12,
“Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The
Only blind eyes will fail to
see here the presentation of Christ as King, Servant, Man, and God - the same
fourfold view presented in the Gospels.
If we today can see the
connection between the meaning of Nazareth, and this fourfold picture of Christ,
there is no excuse for Israel’s blindness, except that of self-willed unbelief, a
determination to reject the witness of the Scriptures with which they were thoroughly
Nor should we miss the
significance of the second meaning of Nazareth preservation.
He Who came from the city of Nazareth, and Who is linked with it by the
prophets, is the One in Whom alone is to be found preservation from hell, and fitness
“Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God,
ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:”
While declaring their guilt
in crucifying their Messiah, he emphasizes at the same time that everything had been
done by God’s permission and according to His foreknowledge, all having been
foretold by the prophets. This was to
teach them, and us, the necessity of Christ’s death, apart from which there could
be no remission of sins. As is made
clear in Ac 3:17, Israel was not condemned for having crucified Christ: their guilt
lay in their refusal to admit the need of His death, and to believe in His
resurrection. Refusal to admit the
necessity of His death to make atonement, was to refuse to admit their own
sinfulness, an admission that must be made by all who would be saved.
“Whom God hath raised up, because it was not possible that he should be
holden of it.”
Besides the fact that death
could not hold the Lord of life, there is the fact that His sinless perfection as man
also rendered death powerless to hold Him. Having
yielded up the human life forfeited by the disobedience of the first Adam, the last
Adam took that life up again, as He had said He would, “Therefore doth my Father
love, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself.
I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.
This commandment have I received of my Father” (Jn 10:17-18).
“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:” (lit. “I foresaw that the
presence of the Lord would be with me always - NEB).
It was not so much a
question of showing that David had written concerning someone other than himself (his
sepulchre was there to remind them that he hadn’t been resurrected), but of showing
that the One of Whom he had written was this Jesus Whom they had crucified.
The quotation is from Psalm 16, one more part of Scripture declaring that
everything connected with this Jesus, from His birth to His resurrection and
ascension, had been foretold. He was the
Fulfillment of Scripture.
He Himself had declared,
“If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you: but if I depart, I will
send Him unto you” (Jn 16:7). The
proof of His resurrection was the fulfillment of His promise.
It was the Holy Spirit, sent as promised by the resurrected Christ, Who
enabled these unlearned disciples to proclaim the gospel in other languages.
What David and all the other OT writers had declared concerning the Messiah,
had been fulfilled by this Jesus. It was
He Whom David saw as the eternally existing One.
“Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my
flesh shall rest in hope:”
What was in David’s heart
was expressed by his tongue. There is
the same need in regard to our salvation. We
are to proclaim it, “... if thou shalt
confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath
raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For
with the heart man believeth unto righteousness: and with the mouth confession is
made unto salvation” (Ro 10:9-10).
But what was the source of
David’s joy? It was the knowledge that
the One he saw before him was the eternal God Who was manifest (revealed) in the
Jesus they had crucified, but Whom God had raised up again. David could exult, “My flesh shall rest in hope,” because by
faith he believed that the One, Who in his day was yet to come, would die in his
place for his sins and be raised again for his justification.
That One was Jesus, Who having died and risen again, would raise also all who
died in faith.
“Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine
Holy One to see corruption.”
David is not speaking just
about his own soul, see verse 31. The
Holy One Who was to see no corruption was Jesus Whom they had crucified.
David’s soul had been in hell until that moment when the Lord Jesus Christ -
Whose soul had also been there for the three days between His death and His
resurrection - rose in triumph (Eph 4:8-10), taking the soul of David and of all the
OT saints into heaven. (Until the moment
of the Lord’s resurrection, English hell, Greek hades, Hebrew sheol,
was the place of departed spirits, paradise being on one side, and the place of
torment on the other side of a great impassable gulf, Lk 16:26. Since the Lord’s
resurrection, paradise has been in heaven, so that since then the only occupants of
hell have been the souls of all who have died in unbelief since the time of Adam
until the present. The bodies of
believer and unbeliever alike are in the graves, the former “sleeping” until the
resurrection of life; the latter lying in death until the resurrection of damnation -
“Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy
with thy countenance.”
David had had revealed to
him “the ways of life,” and in response to that revelation had had faith to trust
in the work to be done by the coming Messiah, Jesus.
Believers of this present age have also been given the same revelation, and in
response have had faith to believe that the work which David anticipated has now
been perfectly completed by that same Jesus.
Whether to believe that He would come, or to believe that he has
come, requires the same faith. Whether
in the OT age or the New, sinners are saved in the same way - through faith in the
Lord Jesus Christ. It requires the same
faith to believe that He has come, as it did to believe that he would come.
But David’s joyful
expectation went beyond the Lord’s coming to die: it reached on to a day still
future, anticipated by every believer of every age - that moment when we shall see
Him face to face!
“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.”
“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;”
“He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul
was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.”
“This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.”
All that Peter had been
saying was to demonstrate that the Jesus they had crucified was their Messiah; and
only blind eyes would refuse to see, darkened minds refuse to understand,
self-hardened hearts refuse to believe. Sadly,
however, such was the condition of the nation.
Only a few would believe, and so has it always been.
There are few that believe.
“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
This is the explanation of
what the mockers attributed to drunkenness. The
believers, proclaiming the gospel in languages they had never learnt, were the proof
that Jesus was risen, and had fulfilled His promise to send the Holy Spirit.
He was the Christ!
“For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD
said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,”
The reference is to
David’s body, for as noted already, when the Lord arose on the third day, He took
up to heaven with him the souls of all those who had died in faith.
David’s soul was in heaven, but his body lay in the grave, and will remain
there until that stage of the resurrection of life which will see the bodies of the
OT and Tribulation-age saints raised at the end of the Tribulation, the bodies of the
Church-age believers being raised before the Tribulation begins.
The “LORD” Who addressed
David’s Lord, is God the Father; and David’s Lord, of course, is the Lord Jesus
Christ. The quotation is from Ps 110:1.
“Sit thou on my right hand,” is being fulfilled today, for that same Jesus
Who hung on Calvary’s cross crowned with thorns, “made a little lower than the
angels for the suffering of death,” sits now at the Father’s right hand,
“crowned with glory and honor” (Heb 2:9).
As has been pointed out by
others, this Psalm is the answer to the Jews’ question, If this Jesus is the
Messiah, why doesn’t He begin His reign now?
The answer: Scripture must be fulfilled: He must sit first upon His Father’s
throne until his foes are made his footstool.
“Until I make thy foes thy footstool.”
That moment is still future,
but all the signs in the world today point to the fact that the time of its
fulfillment is near. The Rapture of the
Church could occur today, to be followed apparently by a little interval, which will
be followed by the seven years of the Tribulation, an era that will end with the
Lord’s return in power and glory to banish unbelievers into hell, and to inaugurate
His glorious millennial kingdom.
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made
that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Israel alone is addressed. The time had not yet come for the gospel to go out to the
In spite of the attempts of
the promoters of ecumenism, to absolve Israel of full responsibility for the Lord’s
crucifixion, the language of Scripture is plain, “whom ye (the house of Israel)
have crucified.” The One Whom they
knew only as Jesus, and Whom they had rejected and crucified, is “both Lord and
Christ.” He is their Lord, and He is
God’s Christ, i.e., the anointed One.
“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?”
What had they heard?
Of the resurrection of Christ - an essential part of believing faith,
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe
in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
“... they were pricked in
their heart.” But they heard more than
that He had been resurrected. They heard
that He had died for their sins. As a
nation they were responsible literally for His death, and as sinners they were
responsible morally for that death, because apart from it there could be no remission
of sin. This knowledge pricked their
hearts and consciences, and apart from a pricked heart and conscience there can be no
salvation for Israel or anyone else. Man
must be willing to acknowledge his guilt and condemnation before he can be saved.
The popular “gospel” that calls for no repentance, that pricks no
consciences, may produce many “professions,” but it will save no souls.
“What shall we do?”
Others had asked a similar question while the Lord was here on earth, “What
shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” (Jn 6:28).
The answer? “This is the work
of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent” (Jn 6:29).
The Philippian jailer asked the same question, “Sirs, what must I do to be
saved?” The answer is the same today, as then, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be
saved....” (Ac 16:30-31).
“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.”
What does it mean to repent? Simply to have a change of mind which produces a changed life.
It is to turn around. That’s
what conversion is. The believer is
turned around from walking on the broad way to hell, to walking on the narrow way to
heaven. But his life must give evidence
of this repentance. Words alone are not
enough, see Jas 2:14-26. The changed
life doesn’t save: it is simply the outward evidence of the reality of the inward
faith, which alone saves.
“... and be baptized every
one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins....”
Does baptism save? No.
Like works, it is the outward testimony to an inward faith.
Note that every recorded NT baptism was preceded by a conversion. The repentant malefactor was never baptized, yet he was saved.
They were to be baptized because their sins were forgiven, not in order
to obtain that forgiveness.
What then does baptism
represent? In going under the water, the
believer is saying, “I am crucified with Christ,” but in coming up out of it, he
is saying, “Nevertheless, I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me....” (Ga
2:20). What does that mean, “Christ
liveth in me”? My thoughts, words, and
deeds are to be His. He is to have
complete control of my whole being. The
best testimony to a genuine conversion is an obedient life.
“... and ye shall receive
the gift of the Holy Ghost.” To take
this to teach that one cannot receive the Holy Spirit until he has been baptized is
to advertise ignorance of the nature of the apostolic age.
It was an age of transition in which many things done were unique to that age
only, and in which there was an order for believing Jews, which was different from
that which applied to believing Gentiles. The
normal order for the Church age after AD 70 (when the distinction between Jew and
Gentile vanished), is found in connection with the conversion of Cornelius (Ac
10:44-48). The Holy Spirit is received
immediately the man puts his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is often overlooked also
that at conversion the believer receives not only the Holy Spirit, but in addition,
the spiritual gift bestowed by that same Holy Spirit.
And we can do two things with each. We
can obey Him, or we can grieve and quench Him; and we can use our spiritual gift for
His glory and our own eternal reward, or we can neglect and fail to stir up the gift
He has given - to our eternal loss.
“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.”
The promise is that if they
(and their children or descendants) would believe in this crucified but resurrected
Jesus as their Lord and Christ, they would receive the Holy Spirit. It is to be noted also that the promise is first to Israel, and
then “to all that are afar off,” i.e., the Gentiles who would believe, see Eph
2:13-17, “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by
the blood of Christ. For he is our
peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition
between us ... and came and preached peace to you which were afar off....”
“... even as many as the
Lord our God shall call.” This has
been taken to teach that some are predestinated to be saved, and others lost.
No such doctrine, however, is to be found in Scripture.
God extends the call, but leaves man to choose whether he will obey.
Many hear the call, but disobey it. Those
who obey make themselves “the called” simply by their obedience.
“And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save
yourselves from this untoward generation.”
Peter’s words, impelled by
the Holy Spirit, make it clear that even thus early in the apostolic age, Israel’s
unbelief was foreknown to God. Those who
would save themselves were called upon to come out from among the mass of the nation
described as “untoward,” i.e. crooked, perverse, false-minded, wicked.
The “save yourselves” reminds us that salvation is not predestined, but a
thing to be received by a free-will choice of Christ as Savior.
The gospel remains the same. The
few who will save themselves are called upon to come out from the midst of the mass
of unbelieving humanity.
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day
there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
This is the first act of
obedience to be rendered by every believer. The
word “gladly” should be noted. True
conversion is a joyous experience. It
lifts from death to life; from darkness to light; from sin to holiness; from curse to
blessing; from the prospect of hell to the assurance of heaven. The believer has every reason to be glad.
It is to be noted that
baptism does not save anyone, nor does it make anyone more saved or more secure.
It is the ordinance in which the believer, going under the water, says
symbolically, “I am crucified with Christ,” and in coming up out of the water, he
declares, “... nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me....” (Ga
Baptism, by any mode other
than complete immersion, is robbed of its Scriptural significance.
The baptism of infants is without any Scriptural authority.
“... and the same day
there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
That day it was the immediate, spontaneous response to the convicting power of
the Holy Spirit; but it was more: each convert became a potential witness for the
transmission of the good news for the rest of his life.
That is the privilege and responsibility of every believer.
To refuse to be a witness is to be disobedient, for Christ Himself has
commanded us, “Go ye into all the world, and preach
the gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15).
A question that must be
addressed here is whether we are justified in looking for such phenomenal numbers of
converts today, and the answer appears to be, No. There is dispute as to whether the
five thousand men mentioned in Ac 4:4 includes these three thousand, but even
conceding that they are a separate company, the fact still remains that apart from
the references in 14:1 and 17:4, there is no further mention of any such large
numbers of converts, nor is there anything to indicate that there were such large
assemblies (churches) as might be presumed to have resulted from such conversions.
There is much evidence to the contrary, in fact: the assemblies appear to have
been small. Most meetings were held in
homes, a fact, which itself, precludes large numbers.
The euphoria that looks for
the conversion of thousands today arises from failure, not only to understand the
unique nature of the apostolic age, but from failure to understand also the fact that
this present Church age is typified in Israel’s literal harvest time.
The reality is that the bulk of the harvest has already been reaped.
This present period is clearly very near the end of the Church age, and
corresponds to the time of gleaning. The
gleaners gathered up straws of grain, not sheaves.
Those who mistakenly look today for the same numbers of converts as were found
at the beginning of the apostolic age would be well advised to go back and study what
is written concerning God’s arrangements concerning the reaping of the corners of
the harvest fields, and of not going over the fields a second time, but leaving for
the gleaners what had been missed in the first gathering.
It is significant also that,
apart from a few isolated instances in widely different places and at widely
different times, Church history furnishes no evidence of any similar numbers of
converts. It is of further significance
that those contending for the large numbers of converts are unable to produce them,
for even the spurious gospel that makes conversion easy, fails to produce them.
(No one should be deceived by the numbers attending even such gospel meetings
as those addressed by Billy Graham. He
himself is the first to admit that the genuine converts form only a small fraction of
those going forward).
The phenomenal outpouring of
the Spirit in the early days of the apostolic age was in accord with the offer of the
millennial kingdom, an offer, which but for Israel’s national unbelief, would have
been fulfilled then.
“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, and fellowship, and in
breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
That word “continued” is
significant. Theirs was no short-lived
emotional response. They continued - day
in, day out, in good times and bad. God
sets a high value on faithful consistency.
“... stedfastly,” is
related to the thought of endurance: perseverance, indicating commitment in the face
of opposition. What trifling things
afford excuse for our absence from the meetings of the assembly!
Only what will be acceptable at the Bema, however, is a good enough reason for
This tells us of their
attitude; but let’s look now at what it was to which they were so committed.
The first thing was, “the apostles’ doctrine,” i.e., what we now have as
the Bible, for it has to be remembered that the teaching of the apostles included not
only what we know as the NT, but also the explanation of the relationship between it
and the OT - a connection largely lost sight of today.
Scripture has much to say about doctrine, and of the need to study it, guard
it, obey it, and teach it.
“... and fellowship.”
The fellowship that marked those early assemblies is largely unknown today.
There was a warm, intimate, loving communion among the believers that was
devoid of the selfishness marking so many fellowships today.
Their care for one another extended to the sharing of all they possessed, as
we read in 4:32, “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of
one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was
his own; but they had all things common.”
I hope, God willing, to
comment on this in detail when we come to chapter four, but for now would point out
that this too, like the large numbers of converts, was not to continue.
It resulted largely from a belief in the imminence of the Lord’s return to
establish His millennial kingdom, but it quickly lent itself to abuse, and was
“... and in breaking of
bread.” It is an untenable thesis that takes this to be simply eating
their meals together. As others have
pointed out, it is ridiculous to maintain that people would “continue stedfastly”
in eating their meals. There can be no
question that the reference is to the Lord’s supper.
The need for steadfastness is apparent in view of the widespread neglect of
this all important ordinance. What
Scripture declares to be a weekly observance (on the first day of the week),
Christendom for the most part has relegated to an annual observance, reduced in form
to an empty ritual that bears little resemblance to the practice of the early Church.
“... and in prayers.”
This too has become a much neglected practice, as is readily apparent by
comparing the relatively small number at the weekly prayer meeting with the total
number of those professing to be in fellowship. Nor is it just the corporate prayer meeting that is neglected:
what passes for prayer at that meeting, and at the Lord’s supper, advertises all
too clearly that private prayer is also practiced but little.
It is painfully obvious in fact, that many Christians don’t know how to
“And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the
It is clear that this
reverential awe of God extended beyond the believers: it embraced the whole populace.
That fear too has vanished,
not only from an unbelieving world, but for the most part also from the assemblies of
believers. There are permitted in the
assemblies today things that an earlier generation would not have tolerated, and
which, in fact, are not tolerated in many churches having considerably less
enlightenment than is possessed by the average believer in the fellowship of the
assemblies. I have seen professing
Christians (some of them habitual offenders) stroll into the Lord’s supper half an
hour late, and then have the additional effrontery to rise and attempt to participate
audibly in the presentation of the corporate worship, ignorant of the fact that they
were not only unfit, but that they were interrupting the worship, and distracting
believers who were attempting to worship.
I have also seen parents
sitting at the Lord’s table helping their children color picture books and do
puzzles; feeding babies, changing diapers, permitting babies to cry, and older
children to wander around to the distraction of the assembled company.
It never ceases to puzzle me
that in some assemblies there is need for so many - adults and children - to visit
the bathroom during the Lord’s supper, yet in others no one appears to be under the
necessity of offering this distraction. Surely
it shouldn’t be too much to expect that for a meeting rarely lasting more than an
hour, these people could go before or after the meeting.
I have witnessed trips to and from the bathroom being made while someone was
praying, and while the emblems were being passed.
This is more than lack of consideration for believers who are attempting to
worship - it is gross irreverence.
And the irreverence extends
to other meetings. In some assemblies it
is not uncommon for the speaker to have to compete with crying babies, and children
playing in the aisles. Just recently I
witnessed a speaker trying desperately to hold the attention of the audience above
the loud crying of a baby in obvious distress; but instead of taking the baby out,
the mother handed it to the father who added to the distraction of speaker and
audience alike by pacing back and forth while the baby continued to cry.
And this goes on in
assemblies where nursery and baby-sitting services are provided!
Do those who are guilty of
this irreverence ever stop to consider how long they would keep their jobs if they
were habitually late, or took their children with them?
Do they ever consider how long they would be tolerated in the class rooms of
their teachers or professors if they subjected them to the same distractions they
inflict on those who are ministering God’s Word?
There is very great need for
the return of that same fear (reverence) that came upon believer and unbeliever alike
in those early days of the Church’s history.
“... and many wonders and
signs were done by the apostles.” Should
we be looking for wonders and signs today? Absolutely
not. These phenomena accompanied God’s
dealings with His earthly people Israel, and will be resumed when He is dealing with
them again in the Tribulation, i.e., after the rapture of the Church.
Those looking for signs today fail to understand the unique character of the
apostolic age up until the dissolution of Jewish autonomy in AD 70.
The period between AD 32 (the year of the crucifixion) and AD 70, was a time
when Israel was being offered the millennial kingdom, a kingdom, which but for her
national unbelief, she could have had then. That
offer will be resumed in the coming Tribulation era, when signs and wonders will
again accompany God’s dealings with Israel.
Such phenomena today,
however, are the evidence of the working of Satan, not God.
It is significant that in
the apostolic age miraculous manifestation diminished as Israel’s unbelief became
more evident. It is equally significant
that in the later Epistles there is no reference to any such activity, nor does
Church history furnish any convincing evidence of such phenomena after AD 70.
“And all that believed were together, and had all things common;”
Again we are presented with
a phenomenon that was unique to the early apostolic age as the believers anticipated
the Lord’s soon return to establish the millennial kingdom.
Whether they began to realize that Israel’s national unbelief was
diminishing that prospect, or whether the passage of time dimmed their hope, it is
clear that the fervency of their expectation waned as the age progressed, and the
system produced by the combination of zealous love and eager expectation began to be
abused, as is clear from the fact that Paul had to address the abuse (see for example
2 Th 7-15); and from the additional fact that mention of it gradually fades both from
the NT, and from Church history.
That doesn’t mean that
they ceased to minister to one another’s needs: there is abundant evidence that
they did, e.g., the care of the Macedonian saints for their needy brethren in
Jerusalem; but the communal aspect of their lives gradually gave place to the normal
order which has characterized the life of believers for the greater part of the
Church age. It is equally clear that the
bulk of NT teaching is to be understood in the context, not of that early communal
lifestyle, but of normal family life. Not
everything that was done in those early days until AD 70 is to be taken as the normal
order for the whole Church age.
“And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every
man had need.”
Had this continued, the
point would have been reached where there would have been nothing left: all would
have been poor; and obviously this was not the case, as is made clear by even a
casual reading of the NT. Note for
example the references to rich and poor; to employers and employed; to masters and
“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
Their congregating in the
temple reminds us that it was still a Jewish age in which the millennial kingdom was
being offered to Israel; and in which there was, for Jewish believers, but not for
their Gentile brethren, the continued use of the Levitical ritual, but now invested
with a commemorative, rather than an anticipative character - the character it will
have when the Millennium does come, as is made clear in the book of Ezekiel, for
The zeal that drew them
daily to the temple to hear the teaching of the apostles is now conspicuous by its
absence. Poorly attended or discontinued
Lord’s day evening meetings, and mid-week prayer and Bible study meetings, declare
all too clearly that the bulk of Christians today loathe the “manna,” and lust
for Egypt’s “leeks, and onions, and garlic,” just as did literal Israel in the
The majority of scholars
agree that the “breaking of bread” here refers to ordinary meals.
Some of those who insist that it is the Lord’s supper, also seize upon
“daily” as authority for observing that ordinance daily rather than on the first
day of the week, in spite of the fact that Scripture is clear that it is to be eaten
only on the first day of the week.
That the Lord’s supper was
eaten in homes is beyond question. That
it was done corporately, and not as an individual activity, however, is equally clear
from what Scripture as a whole teaches about that feast.
The simple-hearted gladness
of those early believers is no more than should be expected of those who were waiting
for the soon return of their Lord. The
same simple-hearted gladness will mark us only when the same expectation fills our
“Praising God, and having favor with all the people.
And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
Those early Christians,
conscious of how rich they were spiritually - however different their lots may have
been temporally - were a thankful worshiping people, another attitude conspicuously
absent amongst believers today.
Their “having favor with
all the people” was an experience of brief duration.
It wasn’t long until it was replaced with hatred and persecution, as the
Lord Himself had foretold, “In the world ye shall have tribulation” (Jn 16:33). The world has no love for God or His people, and he who is
enjoying the world’s favor should examine his relationship with God.
“... such as should be
saved” has been seized upon by the advocates of predestination to support their
erroneous thesis, in spite of the fact that Scripture leaves no doubt that no one is
predestinated to be saved, but that salvation is the result of a free-willed choice
to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. More
accurate translations of this phrase are, “those that were saved”; “the people
who were being saved”; “new converts.”