Read the Passage: Acts 2:1-41
The Holy Spirit’s Arrival (2:1–13)
The “Day of Pentecost” (Acts 2:1), which was also called the Feast of Weeks, First-fruits, or Harvest, was one of three annual festivals in which the nation of Israel was required to gather together in Jerusalem. The other two nationwide festivals were the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Tabernacles, which was also called the Feast of Booths, or Ingathering (cf. Exod. 23:14–19). The Day of Pentecost occurred fifty days after the Passover and was a celebration of the grain harvest (cf. Deut. 16:9–12). As the disciples were gathered, perhaps 150 of them (cf. Acts 1:15), the Holy Spirit came with the sound of a mighty rushing wind, a biblical picture of the Holy Spirit (cf. Gen. 2:7; Ezek. 37:9–10, 14; John 3:8). The text tell us that “divided tongues, as of fire . . . sat upon each of them” (Acts 2:3). Note that fire is also a picture of God’s Spirit in Scripture (cf. Exod. 3:2; 13:21–22; 19:18).
While the events that accompanied the arrival of the Holy Spirit were phenomenal, it is interesting that the disciples did not seem to be surprised. Perhaps this is because of Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit ten days prior to these events (cf. Acts. 1:4, 8), as well as His earlier promises related to the Holy Spirit (cf. Luke 24:49; John 14:16–18; 15:26; 16:5–15). It is certainly understandable, however, that the crowds were amazed and confused by the effect of the Holy Spirit’s arrival. The prominent manifestation of Spirit’s coming was that the disciples began to speak in the heart or birth language of all of the ethnicities that were assembled, “speaking in [their] own tongues the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:11). This is what Holy Spirit still does today—that is, He causes the gospel to go forth. This event is a reversal, of sorts, of the events at the Tower of Babel (cf. Gen. 11:1–9).
Peter’s Message (2:14–36)
Peter’s sermon essentially had two parts, each of which focused upon the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. In the first part of his message, Peter expounded upon the phenomenal events of the Holy Spirit’s arrival by explaining it as a fulfillment of Joel 2:28–32. The fact that these events happened on the Day of Pentecost ought not to be overlooked. Just as the Feast of Weeks was a celebration of the first-fruits of the harvest, so God chose this day to bestow “the first-fruits of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:23) as the church was organized. The prophecy of Joel 2:28–29 (cf. Acts 2:17–18) is easy to connect with the events of Acts 2:1–13. However, the cosmic events of Joel 2:30–32 (cf. Acts 2:19–21) are more difficult to understand. Yet, these signs are symbolic of the effects of sin upon the created order “in the last days” (Acts 2:17). Biblically speaking, the last days are anytime from the cross to the present.
The second part of Peter’s message contains the gospel itself, as here Peter testifies that Jesus is the Christ and that He was crucified, buried, and resurrected (cf. Acts 2:22–24, 26). These are the basic essentials of the gospel message (cf. 1 Cor. 15:3–4). As with his explanation of the arrival of the Holy Spirit, so in this part of his message Peter demonstrates Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and reign constitutes the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, namely Ps. 16:8–11; 68:18 (cf. Acts 2:25–28, 34–35). While Peter is clear in blaming the crowds for Jesus’ death (cf. Acts 2:23, 36. “You have taken by lawless hands . . . you crucified”), he also notes that this is “by the determined purpose and plan of God” (Acts 2:23). This is called concurrence. Peter’s purpose here is not to lessen the responsibility of the crowds or to assuage their guilt, but to teach that God is sovereign even over the sins of mankind.
The Crowd’s Response (2:37–41)
Acts 2:37–41 reports the crowd’s response to Peter’s message in light of the Holy Spirit’s arrival. Peter’s message was that Jesus is the Messiah, the nation had murdered Him, Jesus was resurrected, and all of this was done in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. Understandably, then, those in the crowd who were convicted by the gospel message asked, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Many have wondered about Peter’s response to their inquiry, “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Given the context, the last phrase in this verse is probably better translated “because of the remission of sins.” Note that in the narrative of the book of Acts the Holy Spirit’s coming sometimes preceded baptism (cf. Acts 10:44–48) and at other times it followed it (cf. Acts 19:1–7). Never, however, is baptism presented as a requirement for salvation.
- What is the ministry of the Holy Spirit? What is the relationship between the Holy Spirit, believers, and the Word of God?
- Is the Pentecostal giving of the Holy Spirit the first appearance of the Spirit? Were Old Testament believers indwelt by the Holy Spirit?
- What did the speaking in tongues entail? Was this an angelic language or human language? Can Christians speak in tongues today (cf. 1 Cor. 13:1; 14:20–40)?
- What does it mean that that God’s children will have dreams, visions, and will prophesy in the last days? Are these events being fulfilled in the present day?
- What are the bare essentials for salvation? What must one know or do in order to be forgiven of their sins? What role does baptism play in the Christian life?