Don L. Smith
The greatest institution this earth has ever known, the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the church, was established seven Sabbaths plus one day after the Passover just before which Christ was crucified. On that fateful day, the first day of the week, Sunday, the first gospel sermon was preached, and the first converts were added by the Lord. All of this is chronicled in the book of Acts, the second chapter. Acts is considered the hub of the Bible, and truly, Acts 2 is the central focus of all time. All relevant history before Acts 2 looks forward to that day, and all after it looks back to it—the point at which man can be saved and added to God’s people. Therefore, our focus today will be Acts, chapter 2.
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
The opening of the chapter begins with only the apostles in view. This is true due to the fact that the apostles were the subject of the last verse of chapter 1 (Acts 1:26). This is important to understanding the establishment of the church, as miraculous enduement was only upon the apostles. In verses 2-3, a very significant event occurred wherein clear elements were present—a sound and a sight—a sound as of a rushing mighty wind and the appearance of cloven tongues like as of fire. With these elements present, each of the apostles was filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with tongues (diverse national languages, cf. v. 16). In this was fulfilled the promises of Christ (Mark 9:1; Luke 24:49).
And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.
Fulfilled also was the prophesy of Isaiah in verse 5, that all nations would be present at the establishment of the church (Isa. 2:2). Moreover, when the event that just took place was “noised abroad,” all the representative nations present heard the apostles speaking in their native languages. The word “language” (Acts 2:6) is used synonymously with the word “tongues” (v. 3). This is where “tongues” is defined for us – by the Bible. In no other context is it defined as an unintelligible “heavenly” language. Again, the word “tongues” is used synonymously in verse 11—those descendants of the dispersion heard in their own tongues the speech of the Galileans.
“And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.”
Such an event confused many people. Some did not understand what it meant but clearly knew it meant something of significant importance. (Of what greater weight of importance would there be than that of the realization of the foundation of that long-awaited vessel of salvation, the establishment of the church?) Hearing and seeing this miracle provided ample reason to understand what was taking place was of utmost significance. Others acted as some have acted throughout time, with mocking and ridicule.
But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.
When Peter stood up with the eleven, it put emphasis on the fact it was only the apostles upon whom this miracle had been bestowed. He first addresses the men who dwelt within the local area of Jerusalem and the greater region of Judaea. Apparently, they had been the ones who were mocking the apostles in claiming they were drunken. Such an attitude among locals, who may have even known the apostles, hearkens back to Christ’s words: “A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country” (Matt. 13:57). Peter was about to refute this false supposition.
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 days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Three things are put to view here: Joel’s prophesy 1) regarding the events that were taking place; 2) regarding either the destruction of Jerusalem or the final judgment; and 3) regarding salvation. Peter begins the very first gospel sermon with “this is that.” This miracle they were witnessing was that which Joel had prophesied about. In the last days, the Spirit would be poured out on all flesh. Peter is saying that the last days had begun—the final dispensation, which is the Christian age. Notice that the Spirit would be poured out in the last days—plural. This seems to indicate it would happen more than once—and it did—the second time being upon Cornelius’s household, which was a representation of the Gentiles—all flesh would include both Jews (represented by the apostles) and the gentiles (represented by Cornelius’s household) (cf. Acts 10-11). All were to be shown to have opportunity to enter the kingdom.
Next, the Hebrew idioms “blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke” and “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood” are representative of great peril. The “great and notable day of the Lord” is used in conjunction with these. Just before the Olivet Discourse regarding the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus speaks of “one of the days of the Son of man” (Luke 17:22). This gives the indication there is more than one day of the Lord—a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, which is the type, and the final judgment, which is the antitype (literally not-the-type, but the actual). The mention of the day of the Lord in our Acts passage is meant to shock the audience into the realization that they were in need of salvation. In the context, they were about to be told how to call upon the name of the Lord—the terms of entrance to the kingdom, the church.
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: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.
Next, Peter addresses all Israel, which includes not only the locals, but all who had gathered for the Passover and Feast of Weeks, culminating into the day of Pentecost. Some believe this number could have swelled to around a million people. After showing scripturally that the miracles the people were witnessing had clearly been a part of prophesy, the apostle then begins the breakdown of the wicked and cruel deed those same people had procured to be done to the Messiah. He initiates his presentation of the evidence regarding the miracles they had witnessed and cites the fact that Christ’s death was according to the foreknowledge and determinate counsel of God. Due to the lies that were spread about the disappearance of His body (Matt. 28:11-15), they were well aware He was no longer in the grave. Peter then blasts them with the Truth that God raised Him up because death could not hold Him.
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: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.
He goes on to quote from Psalm 16:8-11, attributing the words of David to Christ. This is yet again a scriptural application, and in essence, prophecy, regarding Who the audience had crucified. In David’s words, Christ was not left in Hades, the realm of the dead, and neither did his flesh see corruption or decay. By this, Peter is again putting Jesus’ resurrection to the forefront of the minds of the people. His effort is building towards conviction in their hearts that, by their submission, God may bring about their salvation and the establishment of the kingdom.
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.
Peter’s proof resides in the fact that all knew David was dead and his sepulchre remained during that time. This would mean that it had been untouched, and there was nothing that ever indicated his body had disappeared. The genealogical records, which the Jews were certainly aware of, puts Jesus as an heir of David, according to the flesh. Peter tells them this is the one David spoke of—in regards to His resurrection. Of those present, the small number of sensible Jews were certainly hearing this out.
“This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. 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.”
There was no other Jesus whom God raised up, but the one crucified Messiah, Whom they were guilty of murdering. Peter references himself and the other apostles as witnesses of Christ’s resurrection (John 20:19-29; cf. Acts 1:21-22). From the proofs he had given, he makes the declaration that Christ is now exalted at the most prominent place anyone could ever be given—the right hand of God. He, again, lays on them the fact that the miracle they were witnessing that day within the apostles was the fulfillment of the promise of the Holy Ghost from the Father. This is basically a final warning and attempt of reasoning that all needed to hear what Peter was saying, as his words were eternally consequential.
“For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool.”
As Peter closes his argument, there is one more aspect he wants to expound upon. It is not David, but Christ who ascended. David’s own words confirm this, as the Father told the Son through prophecy to sit on His right hand (Ps. 110:1). Moreover, in this prophecy, David refers to the Son as “my Lord.” Peter finalizes this argument with the duration of Christ’s reign in this current capacity, until His foes become His footstool—all of time.
Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. 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?
Next comes the indictment. He tells them they now know assuredly that the one they crucified was the Christ. This is without doubt the most damnable statement of their current condition—due to all the supporting evidence behind it. It was bound to cause a reaction by some. The honest and good hearts were pricked to ask what they must do to make this right—what to do to be saved from such a condemning judgment they would surely face.
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. 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.
As directed by the Lord, Peter imparts the terms of pardon to the people (Mark 16:16). They were to repent and be baptized in order to receive the pardon of their sins. The gift of the Holy Ghost could be the non-miraculous measure of the Spirit or could be the gift of God which is eternal life (Rom. 6:23). Either way, it is quite clear that it is not a miraculous indwelling of the Holy Ghost where any kind of direct operation could occur, as the promise is to all the Lord would call, and all are called by the gospel (2 Thess. 2:14). The whole idea here is that salvation in the truest sense is now open and available to all.
And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
What were the many other words that Peter did testify and exhort with? This was the establishment of the kingdom—the establishment of the church—the greatest institution on this earth to ever be founded! Certainly Peter was testifying of it—just as Paul did (Acts 28:23). They needed to hear of the kingdom before being baptized (Acts 8:12). Surely, accessing the Father acceptably had to be understood (Eph. 2:18; 3:12; Heb. 12:28). We see them carry out these very things after Peter’s testimony—about 3,000 were baptized, and they continued together in worshipping God. The church had officially been established!
And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 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, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
As fear came upon every soul, only the apostles are spoken of as having miraculous abilities. There is a great picture of unity and selfless compassion as they all used their monetary means to help those in need. They continued together, as a congregation, a brotherhood, preferring one another over the world. In these things, they had favor of the people. And the Lord was the one Who added to the church daily those who were being saved and has continued to do so ever since.
This is what it took for the establishment of the church. It took a hard case with undeniable facts of truth. It took real conviction of a deep and grievous sin. It took an explicit, unwavering, and detailed prosecution. And it took the honesty of heart to want to make it right. The Jews may have had Christ falsely convicted under trial, but all they did was heap an even heavier trial of Truth upon themselves. This is the way God planned for the church to be established, and it is the same conviction required for men to be added to it today.