For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

2:1. “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.”

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.

2:2.  “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 daily living.

“... 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. 

2:3.  “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.

2:4.  “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 enemies.

“... 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.

2:5.  “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.”

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 feasts.

2:6.  “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.

2:7.  “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.

2:8.  “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).   

2:9.  “Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,”

2:10.  “Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in parts of Libya about Cyrene, Jews and proselytes,”

2:11.  “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.”

2:12.  “And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?”

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).

2:13.  “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.

2:14.  “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 Israel.”

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.

2:15.  “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.

2:16.  “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;” 

2:17.  “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:”

2:18.  “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 blessings.

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....”

2:19.  “And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke:”

2:20.  “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.

Israel’s national 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.

2:21.  “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).

2:22.  “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:”

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 BRANCH.”

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 familiar.

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 for heaven.

2:23.  “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.

2:24.  “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).

2:25. “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:” (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.

2:26.  “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.

2:27.  “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 - Jn 5:29).

2:28.  “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!

2:29.  “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.”

2:30.  “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;”

2:31.  “He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.”

2:32.  “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.

2:33.  “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.”

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!

2:34.  “For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,”

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. 

2:35.  “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.

2:36.  “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 Gentiles.

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.

2:37.  “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?”

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).

2:38.  “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.” 

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.

2:39.  “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.” 

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.

2:40.  “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.

2:41.  “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 2:20).

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.

2:42. “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 our absence.

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 gradually abandoned.

“... 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 pray.

2:43.  “And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.”

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.

2:44.  “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.

2:45.  “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 slaves, etc.

2:46.  “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,”

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 example.

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 wilderness.

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 hearts.

2:47.  “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.”

[Acts 3]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough