Welcome back to our weekly Bible study through the book of Acts. The purpose of these studies is to help beginners to develop an appetite for studying Scripture and also to inspire seasoned Bible students to follow Spirit-led rabbit trails that emerge from a plain reading of the text. This can take as little as 10 minutes or point you down a path to a further adventure.
You should be able to answer these three questions by the end of this blog:
To start, listen to this ACTS 2 Reading all the way through below or click here.
Here’s something you should know before we begin today’s study. There are three major things we see in Acts 2, together recounting one of the most significant days in all of history. First there was the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on Jesus’ disciples on the day of Pentecost. Second, was the bold, articulate proclamation of Jesus as Israel’s risen Messiah by His #1 apprentice Peter. Third, there was the birth of the first local church. What you need to know is Jesus foretold or promoted each of these things.
In John 14, Jesus tells His disciples to ask the Father to send another Helper—as if to say, “The Father sent me as the first Helper, but He’s going to send another me!” Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit, who made His first appearance on page one of the Bible (Genesis 1v2), would not only come in power, but that He would be like Him, and would be their new rabbi (teacher).
Later in John 21:15-17, Jesus communicated His confidence in Peter as the key leader of His forgiveness movement, restoring Peter to fellowship with Him. And in Matthew 16:18, Jesus tells Peter and the disciples that His Church would be built on the revelation of who He is (namely, that He really is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God”).
So, as surprising as the timing and the expression of these events were, it’s no surprise that Peter and the other disciples were able to quickly locate their meaning in the grand narrative of Scripture. Jesus had said it. They believed it. Now they looked with longing expectation for the promise of the Spirit!
Okay, without further comment from me, let’s begin.
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. Then, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. At this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. Then they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
For centuries (in the wilderness, in the promised land, or in exile, the Hebrew people would remember and be shaped by their story through their calendar. The first half of the feasts each year, pointed to the Messiah’s first coming (ending with Passover) in some way, and the second half of the feasts pointed to His second coming. Pentecost (meaning “50”) was a feast that happened seven weeks and a day after Passover — right in the middle of those two parts of the story. Pentecost and all that happens here, symbolizes that surprising new age between the two comings of Christ—the Spirit-empowered age of the Church!
What else do you notice in this section? Did you catch the three miraculous phenomena? What were they? Look back through that first paragraph, don’t look ahead yet. When Pentecost arrived, they were all together. We don’t know if they were still in the upper room (Acts 1:13) or if they were (as most scholars suggest) somewhere in the Temple complex.
There was a sound. I imagine it sounding like the gale force winds of a tornado or hurricane. This, of course would cause a commotion as everyone moved in the direction of the sound to see what it was. Where in Scripture was a sound associated with God’s appearing? (See Genesis 3v8)
You Bible students know to ask “where else have we seen fire in Scripture connected to an appearance of God?” Moses’ burning bush comes to mind, as does the pillar of fire by night. These tongues were “divided”. What do you suppose that means? Why might Luke have included that detail?
There were Spirit-empowered words. We know this as the public demonstration of the gift of speaking in tongues (tongues is literally “languages” in Greek). Look back. Does it say they spoke in different languages? No? What does it say? It says each of them heard in their own language. This seems to be a reversal of what famous Old Testament story (see Genesis 11v-19)? So the disciples were praying in tongues, but the people were hearing words in their own language. What was the content of the prayers they heard? The Spirit-empowered words were telling the wonderful works of God.
But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
“And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Peter sure seems bold, doesn’t he? Why do you think that is? What changed? Where does Peter begin His sermon – Old Testament or New Testament? Luke 24 tells us Jesus had done a Bible study with the disciples to show how all of Hebrew Scripture pointed to Him. It could have been that Jesus pointed Peter to this Joel passage. The Bible doesn’t tell us. But it seems to me this was an example of the Holy Spirit connecting the dots for Peter. The Holy Spirit, Peter’s rabbi, taught him on the spot.
Look at the last line of Joel’s prophecy again. Christians are often accused of being exclusive. Do you see exclusiveness here? I do. Salvation requires calling on the name of Jesus. But do you also see breathtaking inclusivity? For Jews in general (and Peter in specific), the word “everyone” would have been mind-blowing and category shattering. The invitation to follow Jesus is for everyone! Everyone? Everyone.
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him,
‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’”
What things does Peter say about Jesus in this section? Which Jesus? Ah, the Jesus of humble, nobody-saw-it-coming, Nazareth. To whom was Jesus attested? To the rulers of Israel. By whom was Jesus attested? By God. How was Jesus attested by God? Might “works and wonders and signs” done out in the open. Which Jesus? “This Jesus”, Peter says.
Who delivered Jesus up? God or men. Men. Who knew this would happen? God or men? God. Whose hands crucified and killed Jesus? Lawless men (the Romans). Then what happened to Jesus? God raised Him up! Who prophesied of Jesus’ resurrection? King David.
Peter is packing a lot of punch into these few sentences. Let’s keep going.
“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne,
he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
According to Peter, in a comparison between the greatest king of Israel and Jesus, who comes out on top? Where is Jesus now? After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, who is the subject and main focus of Peter’s amazing sermon? It’s Jesus! Just as Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit would empower the disciples for just this sort of thing!
Think about the implications, here. In your relationship with God’s Spirit, who is He most likely to focus your attention on—you, Himself or Jesus?
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
Repentance is choosing to align your past and your future with the truth of Jesus in the present. Repentance is the natural result of the Spirit’s work in our lives and He reveals Jesus and helps us become more like Him. That’s what happened to the people here. How many received the word and baptized on that day? Do you think they were filled with the Holy Spirit? Why or why not?
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles… all believers were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those saved.
Clearly, these people were filled with the Holy Spirit. This behavior is not natural. It’s supernatural. What observations did you make as you read through these last few verses? What was the result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and Peter’s Spirit-empowered sermon?
Acts 2 begins and ends with people gathering for worship and prayer, looking with longing expectation for God to do what He’s promised. Sure enough God shows up, His Word is proclaimed, there’s repentance (an aligning of hearts toward Jesus), and people are empowered to start acting like they love each other, like really love each other.
Pentecost happened. God really did pour out His Spirit and the Church was born. But Pentecost also happens. Being filled with the Spirit is more than a one time thing. When’s the last time you asked?
I invite you to pray this prayer:
Well done! You’ve completed this ~12-minute Acts Bible Study.
Next Week: Acts 3-4.
Read last week’s blog: Going Deeper: Acts 1 (10-Minute Bible Study)
1-244 & 129th
Saturday at 5:00 PM
Sunday at 10:00 AM
1-244 & 129th
Saturday at 5:00 PM
Sunday at 10:00 AM
1-244 & 129th
Saturday at 5:00 PM
Sunday at 10:00 AM