2:1–13 The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost marks the official inauguration of the new covenant and serves as a witness to the nation of Israel. The Church’s reception of the Holy Spirit, preaching, and sudden growth testify to the reality of Christ’s resurrection and His ongoing reign.
2:1 day of Pentecost One of three festivals or feasts that required all Jewish men to come to Jerusalem (Exod 23:14–17; Lev 23:1–44; Deut 12:5–6). Pentecost occurs 50 days after Passover, around May or June, and celebrates the gathering of the firstfruits of the harvest (Exod 23:16).
Israelite Festivals Table
Pneuma Word Study
2:3 tongues like fire Fire is often used to describe God’s holy presence and His ability to purify (e.g., Exod 3:2; 13:21; Mark 9:49; 1 Pet 1:7). The reference to tongues or languages indicates that this is a reversal of the Tower of Babel, where God confused the languages of those who rebelled against Him (Gen 11:7; see note on Acts 2:6).
rested May imply the permanence and intimacy of the Spirit’s ministry.
In Acts, tongues are an outward manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit. Speaking in tongues occurs three major times in the book (vv. 4; 10:46; 19:6). Each instance pertains to the acceptance of a new people group into the body of Christ. First, the apostles speak in tongues to the Jews, demonstrating that the promise of the Holy Spirit has come and that the covenant promises to them will be fulfilled (v. 4). Next, Cornelius and his family speak in tongues to show that Gentiles have been accepted into God’s people (10:46). Finally, Jews in Ephesus, a city in Asia Minor (modern Turkey), speak in tongues to demonstrate that the Church extends beyond local believers or national borders (vv. 39; 19:6). See note on 1 Cor 12:10.
2:6 confusion The wording used here, together with the reference to tongues or languages in Acts 2:4 and to the many nations in v. 5, recalls the ot account of the Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1–9). There, Yahweh came down to thwart ill-founded human ambition and pride by confusing their languages. In Acts, the Spirit of the Lord comes down to proclaim salvation in Christ by making the gospel intelligible in all languages.
2:7 Galileans It seems that Galileans were generally considered by cosmopolitan Jews in Jerusalem, and Jews in wider Judaea, to be uneducated and culturally backward (compare Matt 26:73). The cosmopolitan Jews in Jerusalem were astounded that such men could speak other languages so fluently.
2:9–10 This list of regions moves generally from east to west and north to south. Luke (the narrator) demonstrates that the kingdom of God is destined to reach the entire world.
Peter emphasizes that he and others are witnesses to Jesus’ saving death and resurrection. He argues that the pouring out of the Holy Spirit testifies that the last days have arrived, leading up to a time of judgment. In line with the early church’s mission as articulated in the book of Acts, Peter preaches the good news of Jesus as the true king who fulfills God’s ot promises and that Jesus is the hope of Israel and all nations.
2:17 the last days This phrase evokes ot language associated with the final time before God’s purposes of making all things right on earth are fulfilled—which includes the Messiah’s victory and impending ultimate judgment of all, demanding that everyone repent (Num 24:14–17; Deut 4:30; Joel 2:28–29; Dan 7). It marks the time when God will establish His kingdom over the earth and end oppression (Isa 2:2; Joel 2:28–29; Dan 2:28). The events of Pentecost demonstrate to the Jewish audience that the promises made to them are fulfilled in Jesus, who is the true Messiah, and that the time of the last days has begun.
pour out my Spirit In Joel, God’s full and final restoration of His people involves inner transformation by His Spirit (Joel 2:28–29).
2:20 sun will be changed to darkness Though these descriptions originally referred to the exodus plagues, this language was also used by the prophets to describe signs of God’s coming judgment (Exod 10:22; Joel 3:15; Amos 5:18).
2:22 Jesus the Nazarene Peter describes Jesus in a similar way elsewhere in Acts (e.g., Acts 3:6; 4:10; 6:14). He emphasizes that Jesus’ character and His works were often openly demonstrated and widely known to His audience.
2:23 the determined plan and foreknowledge Although the Jews and Romans violently rejected Jesus and His claims, Peter asserts that God’s saving purposes in Jesus’ crucifixion were planned and could not be overthrown (compare Isa 53:12; Luke 22:22; 1 Pet 1:20–21).
2:24 God raised him up Peter shows the triumph of God, who raised Jesus from the dead—demonstrating how the evil intended by the Jewish mob was used by God for the ultimate good (compare Luke 23:18–25).
2:25 David says Peter cites Psalm 16:8–11, a psalm of David, stating that the reference to the Holy One in Psalm 16:10 speaks of the Messiah’s resurrection (compare Acts 2:31). Peter understands David’s trust in Yahweh to be rooted in his belief that God will ultimately overcome death through the Messiah.
2:26 my flesh will live in hope The psalm shows that David had confidence in his ultimate safety in Yahweh. For Peter, this hints at a confidence in the resurrection of Jesus.
2:27 abandon my soul in Hades In the original context, this psalm could emphasize David’s belief that Yahweh would not allow him to die at that particular moment, or that God would not allow him to experience permanent death (represented by Hades or Sheol). The idea of a resurrection from death is where Peter finds the ultimate significance of David’s words.
God had sworn to him Peter reminds his audience of the Davidic covenant, in which God promised that one of David’s descendants would reign forever (2 Sam 7:14–15). God kept this promise in Jesus, David’s descendant, whose reign would not end (Luke 1:32–33).
Davidic Covenant AYBD
having received the promise of the Holy Spirit As Jesus promised earlier in Acts (Acts 1:5,8; compare John 14:15–31; Gal 3:14). In claiming that Jesus does the work of sending God’s Spirit, Peter implies Jesus’ unity with God the Father in purpose and power (compare Isa 44:3; 61:1; John 14:26).
2:34 The Lord said to my Lord Peter cites Psa 110:1 to assert that this psalm of David shows that David was aware that someone far greater than himself would fulfill God’s promises to him of an everlasting kingdom, someone who was simultaneously distinct from Yahweh and yet also David’s Lord. David did not ascend into heaven or claim all authority, but Jesus did. Compare note on Luke 20:42.
Messianic Psalms Table
2:35 enemies a footstool According to Peter’s interpretation, this psalm of David envisions a time when the Messiah would reign, but would still await the time when all His enemies would be conquered. This echoes how the kingdom of God is understood in the Gospels—that it is both present yet in many ways coming (see note on Mark 1:15).
2:36 both Lord and Christ The Jewish mob who had killed Jesus had grossly misunderstood Him. God still used their actions to authenticate Him as both Israel’s king and the fulfillment of the promises about the Messiah (compare Isa 52:13–53:12).
2:37–41 Many in the crowd respond to Peter’s sermon in repentance and faith, are baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
2:38 Repent The Greek word used here, metanoeō, denotes a change of mind, will, or actions. Peter calls the people to believe that Jesus is the Messiah promised in the ot.
Peter’s exhortation involves two actions: repentance and baptism. These are connected with two promises: forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. In Acts, Luke presents saving faith, repentance, forgiveness, baptism, and the gift of the Spirit as interrelated aspects of embracing Jesus and coming to belong to the people of God in Christ.
Rep entance DBI
Acts 2:38 NICNT Ac
be baptized Just as circumcision served as a visible external marker of inclusion in the covenant community of Israel, so baptism serves as the public sign and seal of a person’s solidarity with Christ and participation in the new covenant community of faith, which encompasses both Jewish and non-Jewish people (compare Acts 8:36–38; 9:17–18; 10:47–48; see note on Col 2:11; note on Col 2:12).
forgiveness God does not overlook or ignore sin, but graciously frees those who belong to Jesus from its condemnation and power.
Aphesis Word Study
2:39 for your children Peter could be referring to the applicability of the gospel message to the immediate members of a person’s household (compare 16:15, 33) or more generally to the message of salvation reaching generations to come (the descendants of the people present).
those who are far away This could be a reference to Jews who lived in distant lands, but more likely is a reference to the nations who would hear the gospel throughout the whole earth (1:8; compare Isa 57:19; Acts 22:21).
2:40 crooked generation Refers to all people—both Jewish and non-Jewish people—who reject Jesus (see Phil 2:15; compare Luke 9:41; 11:29). In the ot, the phrase describes the people of Israel who rebelled against God in the wilderness (Deut 32:5).
2:41 about three thousand souls The Church enjoys amazing growth as a result of Peter’s first Pentecost sermon, a testimony to the truth of the good news of Jesus and the power of His Spirit.
2:42–47 This section recounts the character of the early Christian community’s worship, focusing on four key practices: devotion to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to communal meals, and to prayer. It also describes their life together as one of spiritual and material sharing among all.
2:42 the teaching of the apostles The gathered community listened to and followed the preaching and teaching of the twelve apostles from—and based on—the Scriptures (compare Acts 2:14–41; Luke 24:27).
breaking of bread This could refer to participation in the Lord’s Supper, or to sharing in other meals together, as in Acts 2:46—the same language is used for each practice (e.g., Luke 22:19; Acts 20:7; 27:35; 1 Cor 10:16). It is highly likely that both are in view.
2:43 fear came on every soul Part of the message of Jesus’ resurrection is His authority: He sits at the right hand of God the Father as Lord and King (v. 33). The apostles testify to that reality through the message they preach. Its truth is confirmed by the wonders and signs they perform through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Miracles in Acts Table
2:46 every day This may point to the Christians’ continued observance of Jewish daily prayers in the temple. At this point, Christians are still part of temple worship services in Jerusalem.
2:47 praising God and having favor The early church had an attitude of thankful and joyful worship, and demonstrated the love of God to one another in tangible ways.
the Lord was adding every day This demonstrates that the Lord is ultimately responsible for building His community of believers. The early Christians responded to His actions by proclaiming the good news of Jesus and living with love and joy.
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Faithlife Study Bible (FSB) is your guide to the ancient world of the Old and New Testaments, with study notes and articles that draw from a wide range of academic research. FSB helps you learn how to think about interpretation methods and issues so that you can gain a deeper understanding of the text.
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