Lecture 7: Acts Chapters 1 & 2
Lecture 7: Acts Chapters 1 & 2
1. Acts 1 & 2
Acts 1 & 2 teaches us about power witnessing. They introduce an emphasis for empowerment for cross cultural witnessing that is highly significant for the Book of Acts. Acts 1:8 is central to this. Not all ancient works had a thesis statement or something like that at the beginning, but Acts is one that does. Acts 1:8 says that you will be witnesses to the ends of the earth once the Spirit comes upon you. Acts 1 & 2 recapitulates Luke 24. This is the pivot between Luke and Acts. So this is a very strategic section and it highlights a major emphasis in Luke and Acts, namely the empowerment of the Spirit. And that Jesus’ mission is to be carried on by his followers, his mission of ministering grace to the world and spreading the good news of Jesus. We see that in Acts 1 & 2, a breakdown that shows us the promise, preparation, proofs, people, prophecy, preaching and purpose of Pentecost:
Acts 1:4-8, we read about the promise of Pentecost. Acts 1:12-26, we read about preparation for Pentecost, including prayer and leadership. Acts 2:1-4, we are given the proofs of Pentecost. Acts 2:5-12, we see the people of Pentecost. Acts 2:17-21, we have the prophecy of Pentecost. Acts 2:22-40, we have the preaching of Pentecost. Acts 2:41-47, we are given the purpose of Pentecost.
a. The Promise of Pentecost
The promise of Pentecost is so important that Jesus wants them to stay in Jerusalem and wait for it. Waiting for the Power of the Spirit is more important than just getting out and trying to do it on our own. We can’t succeed in Christ’s mission without his power. In fact, usually whatever he calls us to do, in many respects it is something we can’t do in our own strength. So we learn to depend on his strength instead of our own. The disciples asked the obvious question in verse 6; Jesus has been talking about the Kingdom and the Spirit; and the outpouring of the Spirit was associated with the end time restoration of Israel. We see this in Isaiah 44:3 and in Ezekiel 36 and 39 and in Joel 2, etc. Jesus is talking about the Spirit and the kingdom, and so the disciples ask the obvious question, ‘is this the time when you are restoring the Kingdom to Israel?’ So, Jesus answers by saying that it wasn’t for them to know the times of the seasons yet. The consummation of the Kingdom will come as shown in verse 7 but the Spirit is going to be given now to prepare the world beforehand; to prepare witnesses beforehand. The Spirit was associated with the end times; so Jesus’ followers must display the life of the future age. It would be like saying to the disciples that you have a foretaste of the world to come. And if the world around can’t look at the church and see what heaven is going to be like, it is because the church is living short of its birthright. Of course we see this throughout the New Testament of the already, not yet; the king who is yet to come, has already come. So, we are looking for the second coming, he has already come once. The resurrection of the dead was waiting on that. Yet, the disciples were able to preach Jesus and the resurrection from the dead because Jesus had already been raised. He was the first born from among the dead. We see the association with the Spirit elsewhere. Hebrews 6 says that we have received the Spirit; we have tasted the Spirit and the power of the age to come. In Galatians 1:4 we have been delivered from the present evil age and then in Romans 12:2, we are not to be conformed to this age. In Romans 8:23, it talks about the first fruits of the Spirit; this is the down payment, the beginning of our future inheritance.
This is also in Ephesians 1 and 2 Corinthians 1 and 5; we have the down payment for our future inheritance. In 1 Corinthians 2:9-10, Paul says the eye has not seen and neither has the ear heard or even entered the human heart the things that God has prepared for those who love him. But, God has revealed them to us by his Spirit. By the Spirit, we have a foretaste of the world to come and the world should be able to see this in us. Jesus said that you will see power when the Spirit comes upon you. We talked about this in the introduction of Luke and Book of Acts. Power is not exclusive but is associated with healings and the driving out of demons. Some have labeled this as power evangelism. That is, God backs up his Word with power; that is why we see signs and wonders in the Book of Acts, drawing people’s attention to this. But we don’t always see this happening, but if you are in a place where it is happening, rejoice in it. But the power is associated with the Spirit. The Old Testament often associated the Spirit with the prophets and prophetic speech and sometimes prophetic actions. Early Judaism especially made that association; that was one they developed the most. Some of the other connections to the Spirit do appear elsewhere, especially in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Those sources associate the Spirit a lot with purification, but they also mention prophetic empowerment. Other Jewish sources mentioned the Spirit in association with prophetic empowerment. So when Jesus says that you are going to receive power from the Spirit; it is as if he was looking at the disciples and saying that they will be like Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Mariam or Debra or Daniel. There were different kinds of prophets in the Old Testament, but the same power that was given to the prophets of old is given to us to let the world know about Jesus.
We are to be witnesses to the ends of the earth. The language reflects Isaiah and this isn’t surprising as Luke 24 is giving these commission talks about power from on high. This is using language from the Book of Isaiah. It says that Jesus was teaching this, based on Scripture and yes in Acts 1, it was based on Scripture. They would be witnesses for God as in Isaiah 43:10, 44:8. But here, whose witnesses are they? Jesus says that you will be my witnesses; it fits very clearly on the theme of Jesus being divine. This was introduced very early in Luke’s Gospel; even when John the Baptist comes preaching; a quote from Isaiah 40:3, a voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare the way for our God and it continues to talk about the gentiles seeing the salvation of our God. In Acts 1:8 it has a clear Christological message including the divinity of Jesus. And our mission is to carry this on as told about in the Book of Isaiah, when they received the Spirit, they would be witnesses. It would be to the ends of the earth, Jesus says here in Acts 1:8. This can echo a number of other passages, but especially it echoes Isaiah 49:6 which talks about the mission to the ends of the earth; a light to the ends of the earth. That is actually quoted in Acts 13:47 where it is applied to Paul’s own ministry. It is not just for the twelve. Jesus is directly addressing the eleven here, but not just the eleven; if you look at the end of Luke 24, it is the eleven and those who are with them. So, it is a bit larger than that to begin with. Those who were directly called witnesses are the ones that were especially with Jesus. They were witnesses of these things also along with Paul and Stephen; moreover, the Spirit is not only given to the twelve, but it is going to be given to all the believers to carry on this mission. You see this clearly in Acts 2:38-39 using the same language that we have here in this context. You will receive the gift of the Spirit and what has been promised etc.
This introduces a major theme in Acts; the Gospel spread and you see this in summary statements throughout the Book. The Lord added to the number daily as mentioned in 2:47 and in 6:7, it says that the Word of God spread. In 9:31, it tells us that the church grew in numbers and in 12:24, it says that the Word continued to increase and also in 16:5, 19:20, and 28:31 all reflecting the growth of the church. This started in Jerusalem and went across class boundaries and on to Judea and Galilee and southern Asian Minor, Ephesus and in Rome. This tells us of how the good news went forth. And we have an even more rough but explicit outline in Acts, which gives us a summary statement of where the Gospel is going:
Acts 1-7: Jerusalem Acts 8-9: Judea and Samaria Acts 10-11: to the gentiles Acts 13-14: to Cyprus and Southern Asian Minor Acts 16-20: to Asia and Greece Acts 21-28: to Rome
Geographically, Luke’s Gospel begins and ends with the Temple in Jerusalem. It was from Zechariah having the vision in the Temple and the disciples praying in the temple in Jerusalem at the end of Luke 24. But the Book of Acts moves from Jerusalem to Rome and there is a theological reason for this. Theologically we could say that Luke and Acts moves from heritage to mission. It first makes sure that everything is grounded in heritage so that you understand what was predicted in terms of where the Gospel was going forth. This was already grounded in the history of Israel. But in regards to the history of Israel, it is moving beyond that to mission. For Luke’s audience being in the empire, getting to the heart of the empire was a significant climax for the Book of Acts, yet the Book of Acts is very much open ended. Where was the ‘ends of the earth’, as mentioned in the Gospel? There were different things that were labeled the ends of the earth back then. The western end of the earth was thought to be Spain and the river-ocean that was thought to circle the earth. To the east, you had Parthia, India, and China of which they had trade connections with. They knew of places like that. Places like Russia to the north and Germany and Britain; they knew of places like Africa to the south even all the way to Tanzania where a bust of Caesar was found. The Nubian kingdom appears in chapter 8:29, a very power kingdom, south of Egypt that Rome knew about and failed to subdue, but had trade connections with. So they knew about the ends of the earth beyond Rome; they didn’t know about North, Central and South America. But they did know that it went beyond Rome.
Rome was important for Luke’s audience, but Rome was a foreshadowing of the ends of the earth. It was just like the conversion of the African Official in Acts 8; it was a foreshadowing of the Gospel reaching the southern ends of the earth. Like in Acts 2 where you have Jewish people from every nation under heaven; this is a foreshadowing of the Gospel going to the ends of the earth. So, Luke keeps giving us reminders of the future promise. The mission is open ended; it continues today. The Book of Acts opens into the future, even though Luke just wrote two volumes; we know that the mission has continued. There is another Biblical illusion in Acts 1:9-11; Jesus ascends to heaven. The Greeks and the Romans had stories of people ascending to heaven; the Jewish people also had stories like that. But there is one in the Old Testament before Jewish people were exposed to these things. This is the one that Luke’s audience was most familiar with because it is in their Canon. This is one that they would have heard regularly; Elijah ascended to heaven in 2 Kings 2, he left Elisha a double portion of his Spirit. So Jesus is ascending to heaven in Acts 1:9-11 but he just promised the disciples the same Spirit that empowered him, that anointed Jesus and that is now the same Spirit that that empowers the church to carry out the mission. Like Elisha was to carry on the mission of Elijah, we are to carry on the mission of Jesus of bringing healing and well-being to people and preaching the good news of the kingdom.
b. The Preparation for Pentecost
They have to reestablish the leadership structure because they have had a scandal; one of the leaders has fallen away and ended up dying. They need to prepare in faith that God will use them. Just like David wasn’t allowed to build the temple, but he stored up material so that Solomon could build it. It isn’t time for them to go yet, but they do prepare in faith that God is going to bring about the promised restoration. They therefore make sure that the twelfth disciple is appointed. Also in verse 14, they pray together; you have both men and women praying together, praying before the outpouring of the Spirit. This is a theme that runs throughout Luke and Acts. It is especially important in terms of prayer before the coming of the Spirit. This is also a frequent theme in Luke and Acts; the Spirit comes on Jesus when he is praying and at his Baptism. You also have them here and the Spirit is poured out in Acts 2. In Acts 4, they are praying and they are filled with the Spirit so that they can continue the mission. In Acts 8, they prayed for the Samaritans to receive the Spirit and the Spirit came on the Samaritans. Prayer also precedes the outpouring of the Spirit in Acts 9 and 10. This is not to say that it is the only way that God pours out his Spirit. In fact in Acts 10, Peter is rather surprised when it happened with Cornelius’ family. I believe of all the things I have found out during the research with my Acts commentary, the most important point for the church today is that God pours out his Spirit in the Book of Acts. This is very clear; the church needs the Spirit to fulfill the commission that God has given us; we can’t do this on our own. It is God who makes it count and it is God who multiplies it and God who makes it fruitful. The chief preparation we can give before the out pouring of the Spirit is prayer. If we want to see God move, let’s ask him for it. Jesus promised to give us the Holy Spirit in Luke 11:13 if we ask him. Let us ask him for the out pouring of the Spirit upon us and his church around the world. And that he will send laborers into the harvest. And he has instructed us to pray for that. Many pilgrims gathered at the temple for the Day of Pentecost. This was a strategic time for people that were gathered there. In Acts 2:2-4, we see how Pentecost was framed in prayer as they were together in one place and one accord.
c. Proofs of Pentecost
We then get the evidence of Pentecost as the Spirit is being poured out. In 2:2 you have the sound of a mighty lashing wind that evokes a theophany where you often have the sound of a wind when God reveals himself in the Old Testament. In Ezekiel 37 it may be associated with resurrection life; end times resurrection life. God sends his rock; his Spirit comes like a wind to revise the dry bones of his people to bring about the restoration of his people. So you have the wind, you also have fire in verse 3 which often again evokes a theophany with God revealing his glory. In the Old Testament, it comes like fire. Fire is also associated with eschatological judgment as in Isaiah 66, what would be understood as end-time judgement by interpreters in the 1st century. These are not repeated at later outpouring of Spirit in the Book of Acts. They are important here because they show that God is present and a sort of foretaste of the future, a foretaste of eschatology. But these are not repeated at subsequent outpouring of the Spirit in the Book of Acts. Interestingly, the wind and fire came with the outpouring of the Spirit in the West Timor revival in Indonesia. This happened in India in the first decade of the 20th century in an orphanage in 1904. The third sign that is given in this case is that they began praying in tongues; they began speaking in other languages, and tongues are the most significant of these because it is repeated at initial outpourings in 10:46 and19:6. It provides the catalyst here for the multi-cultural audience. It gets people’s attention, even cross culturally. Jewish people are from different locations and from a variety of cultures. It says that when this sound was heard, people ask what it meant. Peter replied, this is what Joel meant when he said, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all fresh and your sons and daughters will prophesy. This relates to the theme of Acts in 1:8. Peter interprets it in 2:17-18 as the Spirit of prophesy about which Joel spoke. Acts 1:8 talks about the Spirit empowering us for witness; remember what it says about witness. It is inspired speech, inspired by the Spirit. It is prophetic speech and it is cross cultural speech. What greater sign could God give his church that he was empowering them to cross all cultural barriers and to enable people on the Day of Pentecost to begin worshipping God in other people’s languages.
What greater way could he show them the purpose for that empowerment! He empowered them with the Spirit of prophesy to send us to the ends of the earth. That is the purpose for the outpouring of the Spirit. If you look at the history of the past century or so; late 19th century radical evangelicals, they were emphasizing holiness and missions and healing; this was an interdenominational movement. A lot of it came from Methodists, but at this point it was spread amongst Presbyterians and many different churches. There was an emphasis in holiness, missions and healing and many were seeking what was called the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Traditionally, reformed churches said that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit represents conversion and seems to be how it is used in 1 Corinthians 12:13 where one is baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ. Traditionally, Wesleyan and Holiness oriented churches and Pentecostal have said it applies to something that happens after conversion. They point to people having experience after conversion in the Book of Acts. Remember that this goes back to what John the Baptist prophesized. John the Baptist spoke of being baptized in the Holy Spirit and in fire. Both in Matthew 3 and Luke 3, but in the context, you have a contrast between this. Presumably people will be baptized in the Holy Spirit or in Fire; I don’t have time to go into all of that. But if you look context, the fire clearly is not baptism in holiness although we affirm the importance of holiness. But when it talks about being baptized in fire, look at the context for yourself; this fire is referring to the fire of judgement. At the same time, John the Baptist was also aware of what the prophet Joel said; what Peter quoted in Acts 2 that when the Spirit is poured out, your sons and daughters will prophesy. This is the Spirit that would empower God’s people. So, how do we put those things together? Luke emphasizes one aspect of the Spirit’s work; he is not denying the other aspect. He is not denying conversion; he associates them in 2:38-39. But he especially talks about power for witness and prophetic empowerment and that is how Peter interprets this in Acts. Jesus’ sermon in Luke’s Gospel also has to do with empowerment for mission. This is Luke’s emphasis, not that he denies the other things and not to say he doesn’t talk about it. People who are filled with the Spirit are filled with joy.
So the Spirit can be associated with different things; especially empowerment for mission. This raises the question whether this always happens at conversion or can it sometimes happen after conversion. Theologically and principally it happens at conversion; we receive access to the whole package of the Spirit’s work and we become dead to sin at conversion. But in practice some of us appropriate that at different times. I think when John the Baptist talks about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit; he is talking about the whole sphere of the spirit’s work in the coming age. Different passages of the New Testament focus on different aspects of that. And you have different churches focusing on those different aspects, focusing on different passages that focus on different aspects. I don’t see it as this church being right and that church is wrong; while we need the Spirit for conversion, we also need the Spirit for empowerment. I think all of us agree when we get past semantics as 1 Timothy clearly says, we are not supposed to waste our time arguing about words. They have some value in debating about words but let’s go to the heart of the matter. Virtually all of us agree that we receive the Spirit in some way at conversion; certainly access to the Spirit. Virtually all of us agree that subsequent to conversion, we can have experiences with the Holy Spirit. In fact, in Acts, we see people have multiple experiences with the Spirit. Peter is filled with the Spirit in Acts 2:4 and also in Acts 4:8 and he is part of a group that is filled with the Spirit in Acts 4:31. So, that is three times already. Paul in 9:17 is filled with the Spirit; in Acts 13:9, again it says that Paul being filled with the Spirit speaks out. Perhaps, instead of arguing about some of the details about this, all of us would do better to ask God more for the work of his Spirit in our lives, like we pointed out in Luke 11:13. He will hear us if we cry out for the Spirit; he will recognize our thirst for God. We can’t fulfill this mission on our own, and so the power of the Spirit is available to us.
d. The People of Pentecost
In the late 19th century radical evangelicals were emphasizing all of these things; they were praying for the baptism of the Spirit and whether you agree with the terminology or nomenclature or not, don’t worry about it. They were praying for something good; they were praying for the outpouring of the Spirit. Many were also praying for what they called, ‘missionary tongues.’ They had to evangelize the world; this is an impossible task, how can we do this? We need the power of the Spirit to do this and why spend two years learning the language when God can give it to us miraculously. So they were praying for missionary tongues and some of the people who were praying for this became what we call the early Pentecostals. These were people who were seeking missionary tongues; they were praying for the outpouring of the Spirit. They were praying for the empowerment for missions and they began praying in tongues and they were so exciting that they went overseas to minister. They tried out their missionary tongues and in most cases nobody understood what they were saying and they were disappointed. The early Pentecostals kept tongues for prayer as in 1 Corinthians 14, however most abandoned the missionary tongues idea. But I think that they had actually recognized something genuinely about the connection in Acts at the beginning. Luke emphasized the power of the Spirit to speak for God across cultural barriers. Therefore tongues were not an arbitrary sign. What greater sign could God give than to enable their servants to worship God in other people’s languages? So, Pentecostals and others sometimes debate whether tongues were evidence of this empowerment. Classical Pentecostals say, ‘yes’ and most others say ‘no’. But if we get past the question of whether they are evidence of this empowerment for every individual, many of us would say, ‘no’. I don’t think it is for every individual; let me also say, I do pray in tongues myself and for those of you who are against that, don’t think badly of me because I didn’t do it on purpose; it just happened to me two days after my conversion. I hadn’t heard of it, it just started in my life and I have been do it ever since. But I didn’t know what it was when it first started; God just did it for me. However, my wife doesn’t pray in tongues for example.
So, tongues are evidence of this empowerment; I don’t see it as evidence for each individual, but evidence of what the experience was about. Yes, it is evidence of the nature of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but this is empowerment of cross cultural ministry. All of us, his church, should be crossing cultural barriers. So whether we pray in tongues or not, if we don’t care about reaching other people; if we can’t be reconciled across ethnic or racial lines and that is where Acts 2 takes us next, the peoples of Pentecost. Acts 2, verses 5-13 speaks of the diaspora Jews from every nation under heaven. It foreshadows the mission for nations that we talked about in 1:8, just like the African count official. Just like the mission to Rome in Acts 28. Here as elsewhere, we probably have another Biblical allusion; there is a list of nations in Acts 2:9-11. Jewish people have heard this along with people who have read the Bible; they have heard of this and might think of the list of nations in Acts 10. And if you are really good with Math, you know that the chapter that follows Genesis 10 immediately we see that God came down to scatter the languages, but now in Pentecost it is to divide the peoples into a new cross cultural unity to the body of Christ. Now, going back to early Pentecostalism, this happened in context to a lot of different revivals that were taking place. The Welsh Revival which had dramatic impact along with Ramafy’s orphanage in India experienced a dramatic outpouring of the Spirit. It was happening in different parts of the World independently at about the same time. There was the Korean revival that happened shortly after this. God was doing different things among different groups of Christians at about the same time. There had been an outbreak of prayer in the Catholic church where they began praying for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Catholic church. So, we see it coming from a lot of different angles. Azusa Street is where the early Pentecostals went international; people coming from different nations and in Lost Angeles there were a lot of different people groups.
The person who was heading it up was William Seymore; an African American born to parents who were slaves. Some of the people who were there said that the color line had been washed away by the blood. In the US, there was ethnic prejudice between whites and blacks. S’more had gotten his particular understanding about tongues from Charles Parham. Charles Parham was his white mentor but Parham came from a different type of church background. Seymore’s background was where they expressed their excitement to God in very loud ways. Parham came from a different kind of church tradition where they were very quiet. When the Spirit came on you, you would be very quiet about that. What happened, Charles Parham came to the Azusa Street mission and tried to take it over, but Seymore wouldn’t let him. Parham went out and complained about what was happening in Azusa Street. One of the things he said was, ‘it is nothing but a darky camp meeting.’ It was a very racist way of denouncing what was happening at Azusa Street. Seymore changed his emphasis; he still believed in tongues as being valuable but now he added another emphasis, a Spirit and Ethnic reconciliation. He said how can you really have the Spirit and not love your brother and sister across racial lines. When we really submit to the Spirit, the Spirit will take us beyond racial prejudice, beyond ethnic prejudice, beyond class prejudice, beyond cast prejudice. The Spirit will unite us so that we can speak for God and together for God as partners in the mission to reach the world for Christ.
e. The Prophecy of Pentecost
This comes from Acts 2:17-21. Peter says what they spoke fulfilled Joel’s prophecy about prophetic empowerment. He quotes from Joel but he adapts the wording somewhat, which was common in Jewish interpretation. You could adapt the wording to get across the point. In Joel, it says afterward not in the last days. But Peter adapts the word because in Joel 3:1, it talks about when God restores the fortunes of his people Israel. So, it was in the context it was talking about the restoration of God’s people. So, afterward it meant the last days; so Peter says that in the last days, God will pour out his Spirit on all people and that was what happened. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, so it transcends gender barriers as well. God will empower both men and women to proclaim the good news of Jesus. And then old men and young men are included thus transcending age barriers. They will have dreams and visions; who was it in the Old Testament that had dreams and visions? It was especially the prophets and Peter says that they shall prophesy. Well, Joel already mentioned prophecy, but Peter mentions it again. He doesn’t want you to miss the point. This is the same Spirit that empowered the prophets of old; now the same Spirit is empowering us, God’s people. When he talks about male and females; the word for female is used for Mary in Luke 1 when the Spirit comes on her causing Jesus to conceive inside of her. This is actually her second experience with the Spirit. She is also called the hand maiden of the Lord. She becomes the model for the church on the day of Pentecost as God pours out his Spirit, submitting to God and wanting to be used by God. He goes on to quote Joel speaking of signs and wonders. He adds wonders to this because he wants to emphasize the ones on earth. Not everything that Joel spoke about has happened yet. But, it is a time of fulfillment; Acts 2:22, he talks about Jesus, a man appointed by God who performed miracles and wonders and signs among you. Of course, there was the sign at Jesus’ death with the sun turning to darkness. So, he goes on to quote what Joel says, ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ He breaks off the quote there, but he isn’t done with Joel yet. Later on in Acts 2:39, he picks Joel up again where that sentence went on. Joel went on to say that everyone that the Lord will call and Peter goes on at the end of his message to say, ‘your sons and your daughters and as many our God will call.’ So, he is taking the last line he has quoted and he is going to explain it. What does it mean to call on the name of the Lord? Now is the era of salvation; now is the era of the outpouring of the Spirit; now is the era of prophetic empowerment. These are the last days and the same today, these are the last days.
So, what does it mean, ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ We are empowered as end time prophets for Christ. You go through the Book of Acts where it talks about Word of the Lord. For the Old Testament, this could be the Torah; it also could be the prophetic message. For us also, in the Book of Acts as they were going forth with the Gospel in the power of the Spirit, that is the Word of the Lord. So you have people prophesizing in the Book of Acts. But even when sharing the Gospel with people; this is Luke’s emphasis, we can trust that the Spirit of God is speaking Christ to these people. So we can trust God to touch their hearts, God is using us in that way. All believers can embrace that power and expect God to speak through us to reach people with the good news of Christ. But in the preaching at Pentecost; now he is going on to explain this passage. He breaks off Joel’s quote from Joel 2:32 and he picks up the quote and continues at the end of his sermon in Acts 2:39. Between Acts 2:21 and 39, he explains what he just quoted in Acts 2:21. What is the Lord’s name on which to call for salvation? Well, in good Jewish Midrash form, he links together some text based on common key words from the Psalms. He says that the Lord is at the Father’s right hand; we are witnesses that Jesus is the risen one and he has been exalted. Well, the risen one is at God’s right hand. The risen one is at God’s right hand as Psalm 16 says. Psalms 110 says that it is the Lord who is at God’s right hand. Therefore, what does it mean to call on the Lord’s name? It is to call on the name of Jesus. In Acts 2:38 it says, ‘repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ The very first Christian sermon already acknowledges that Jesus is divine; that Jesus is Yahweh.
f. The Preaching of Pentecost
Peter was asked in Acts 2:37, ‘what shall we do to be saved?’ Peter says to repent and be baptized. This was actually a radical thing for Jewish people to be baptized. They had their regular ceremonial traditions, but it was quite a different thing when it was a once for all kind of turning. Repent evokes the language of the Old Testament prophets; sometimes others say that it is a change of mind or the ways you think about this. But it was really more than that as the meaning of a word is in the way it is used. This word actually evokes the language of the Old Testament prophets when they are talking about Israel turning back to God. So, he is calling them to turn and in calling them to be baptized, gentiles would be immersed in water. This is reported in Jewish literature and also by gentiles that Jewish people expected gentiles to be baptized in water. Well, they had immersion pools all over the temple where people would dump themselves in water and step out. But when he calls them to be baptized, this is now a regular ceremonial cleansing before you go into the temple; this is repentance, a turning to God. This is a special kind of turning where you were going to turn your whole life over to God. He is invited them to come to God on the same terms as gentiles. This says that none of us can depend upon our ancestry. I wasn’t raised in a Christian home, but for people who were, we can’t just depend on our parents faith. But on the same way as on the day of Pentecost, all had to come to God anew with faith in Christ. All of us must trust in Christ. When Peter says repent and be baptized, the way this is expressed is interesting. The question they ask, ‘what shall we do to be saved?’ That is a question that gets asked elsewhere Luke and Acts; remember the ritual in Luke 18. He says what must I do to have eternal life and Jesus replied, ‘sell everything you have and give it to the pour.’ Jesus this to his disciples in 12:33 and especially 14:33; it talks about surrendering you resources for the good of the kingdom. If you are really turning to God, then everything you have and everything you are, you will want to use it for God’s purposes. You will want to devote your life to God’s purposes. Here, when they ask what they should do; they must repent and be baptized.
In Acts 16, the Philippian jailer says, ‘what must we do to be saved?’ Paul says, ‘believe in the Lord Jesus, you and your household will be saved.’ In each case the answer is somewhat different, but they are all linked together. Because if we really believe in Jesus, we stake everything that we are and have in Jesus, why would we want to keep anything for ourselves? Jesus saves our life, but he doesn’t just save us from the penalty of sin, he saves us from sin, he saves us from our rebellion; he brings us into a relationship with himself. We go from being enemies of God to being on God’s side, to serving God. We really want to serve him; we really want to please him. Again, we are dead to sin at conversion but not all of us experiences all that at once. Sometimes it takes time to grow and understand what this means in relation to the Holy Spirit. That is what the community was experiencing here and it is expressed very clearly. You have effective evangelism in 2:41 and also in 2:47 in the way the community lives. We see the transformation in the community by how they treat one another. They worshipped together and had meals together from house to house. This was a way of expressing covenant relationship; eating together created a covenant between them. That is why the Pharisees was so upset when Jesus was eating with sinners. Here, the believers are eating together which was a sign of covenant fellowship. This is expressed in other ways in different cultures. But it was unity together and praying together. They continued together in pray. In the heart of this in Acts 2:44 and 45 were shared possessions. They were willing to sacrifice for one another. It doesn’t mean that they immediately sold all their goods but when anyone was in need, people sold what they had to meet their needs. Not that having possessions were bad, but they valued people more than they valued possessions. And if we have resources; instead of acquiring things that may lose their value overtime, why not lay up our treasure in heaven as Jesus commanded us to do? This means investing in people and investing in things that matter to God; using our resources for the kingdom. That is what the early church did. The outpouring of the Spirit in the Book of Acts meant that they reached out with the good news to others and they expressed this in love for one another. There were a number of different ways the outpouring of the Spirit was expressed. Sometimes, one church will emphasize one and one church will emphasize another.
g. The Purpose of Pentecost
We see conversions that are followed by discipleship; people participating in prayer and teaching. In 1 Kings 18, Obadiah says that he hid a hundred prophets in a cave. The Bible isn’t all that was said to anybody. God’s Spirit witnesses together with our Spirit. The Bible isn’t everything that God has ever spoken. The canon is the measuring stick by which we judge everything else. The message that God gave us has been tested through time; the message of the prophets; Jeramiah’s prophecy was tested by time as it came true. So we have the message of the holy apostles and prophets that has been given to us in the Scriptures. This keeps us on track with our relationship with God. Nor was it dramatic signs that we often think of. You do have these signs on the day of Pentecost, but you don’t just have the Spirit’s gifts but you have the fruit of the Spirit. People parted with their possessions because they valued one another more than they valued their property. And the church kept growing. Through the fruit of the Spirit, our lives are transformed by the Spirit. God empowers us with the Spirit to cross cultural barriers and to worship him and to form one new multi-cultural community of worshipers committed to Christ and to one another.