Acts Lesson Four – Acts 2:14-47 The Sermon, the Response, the Church
14 But Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them: “Men of Judah and all you residents of Jerusalem, let me explain this to you and pay attention to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it’s only nine in the morning. 16 On the contrary, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 And it will be in the last days, says God,
that I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity;
then your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
18 I will even pour out My Spirit
on My male and female slaves in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will display wonders in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below:
blood and fire and a cloud of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the great and remarkable Day of the Lord comes.
21 Then everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.
22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: This Jesus the Nazarene was a man pointed out to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through Him, just as you yourselves know. 23 Though He was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail Him to a cross and kill Him. 24 God raised Him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it. 25 For David says of Him:
I saw the Lord ever before me;
because He is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart was glad,
and my tongue rejoiced.
Moreover, my flesh will rest in hope,
27 because You will not leave me in Hades
or allow Your Holy One to see decay.
28 You have revealed the paths of life to me;
You will fill me with gladness
in Your presence.
29 “Brothers, I can confidently speak to you about the patriarch David: He is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn an oath to him to seat one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing this in advance, he spoke concerning the resurrection of the Messiah:
He was not left in Hades,
and His flesh did not experience decay.
32 “God has resurrected this Jesus. We are all witnesses of this. 33 Therefore, since He has been exalted to the right hand of God and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, He has poured out what you both see and hear. 34 For it was not David who ascended into the heavens, but he himself says:
The Lord declared to my Lord,
‘Sit at My right hand
35 until I make Your enemies Your footstool.’
36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah!”
37 When they heard this, they came under deep conviction and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what must we do?”
38 “Repent,” Peter said to them, “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” 40 And with many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, “Be saved from this corrupt generation!”
41 So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.
43 Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. 44 Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. 45 They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need. 46 Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved. (HCSB)
The passage we will study today can be split into three sections. The first is verses 14-21, and the second is verses 22-41, and the final one in verses 42-47.
The Introduction: verses 14-21.
Peter refutes the claim of the scoffers that they were drunk. A Jew wouldn’t eat or drink anything before 9 AM on a Sabbath or feast day. Therefore, what the pilgrims were witnessing was not caused by drunken behavior. Another point to note is that throughout this passage, Peter only addresses the Jews (resident or pilgrim) who witnessed the event. Peter is addressing the Jewish nation and proving to them that the Messiah has been raised from the dead. He quotes Joel 2:28-32 in verses 17-21, not to say that the entire prophecy had been fulfilled, but that the first part, verses 2:17-18, had just occurred and that verses 19-21 would occur when Jesus returns. Between those two events is the age of the Church.
Here are some points to note in this section.
- Raised his voice – a common Semitic expression when beginning to speak.
- Proclaimed to them – means to speak seriously and with gravity. It was often used for prophetic or inspired speeches.
- “Men of Judah” and “residents of Jerusalem” – refer to the same group. This is a typical Semitic style of speech or writing.
- Peter directs them away from the faulty thinking that the pilgrims were witnessing drunken behavior to the correct understanding that they were witnessing the fulfillment of prophecy before their eyes.
In verses 17-21, Peter quotes from Joel 2:28-32. Some points to note about the setting when Joel uttered this prophecy.
- It was given after a locust plague had devastated the land, creating a severe famine.
- Joel called the people to repentance.
- Repentance would lead to the restoration of their prosperity.
- In turn, this would lead to the event that happened here, at Pentecost.
Peter now applies this passage to the current situation.
- Peter is convinced that the Messianic Age began with the resurrection of Jesus.
- They were now living in the last days.
- The rabbinic consensus was that the Spirit would return as a universal gift at the end times.
- The pouring out of the Spirit on the believers at Pentecost was evidence that the end times had begun.
- Support for all 120 of the believers, male and female, receiving the Spirit was Joel’s statement that sons and daughters would prophesy.
- The Spirit was not just for the Jews. God will pour out His Spirit on all humanity. The Gentiles could now be included in God’s family.
Verse 21 must be viewed as the most crucial verse in this section of the passage.
- “Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
- In the sermon that Peter gives, the “Lord” was Jesus.
- It tells of His death.
- It tells of His resurrection.
- It tells of His exaltation.
- Whoever calls on His name or whoever confesses Jesus as Lord will be saved.
The Sermon: verses 22-41.
Many scholars and theologians believe that this section of the passage reflects the most basic form of the Christian kerygma, the death of Jesus linked to His resurrection. It is found throughout the book of Acts and follows the basic formula, “Jesus of Nazareth whom you killed…but God raised.” Peter includes a prelude here to reflect on Jesus’ earthly ministry.
- Miracles – the mighty acts of Jesus.
- Wonders – points to a deeper reality and in Acts is only found in conjunction with “signs.”
Peter is stressing to the audience that they should have understood that the miracles, wonders, and signs that Jesus performed should have led them to recognize that Jesus was the appointed Messiah. Verses 22-23 establishes the guilt of the Jewish crowd and puts them under conviction. This would lead to a large number repenting and professing faith in Jesus.
Now that Peter has stated the basic Christian confession that Jesus is God’s appointed Messiah, Peter sets out to support this claim with scriptural proof from Psalm 16:8-11. Let’s look at some points behind Peter’s usage of the passage from Psalms.
- This psalm is written by David, which is important as its application to Jesus is based on the Davidic descent of the Messiah.
- It may appear that the psalm was a plea to God for vindication and avoidance of death and Hades.
- However, Peter applies this psalm messianically as it’s a prophecy that David can’t apply to himself.
- Verse 27 is the key.
- David expresses confidence that he would not be abandoned to the grave. Yet, he did die and was buried.
- The “Holy One” refers to Jesus as He was resurrected, and His body suffered no decay.
- Verse 28 doesn’t add to the argument about the resurrection, but it does refer to Jesus as the “source of life” (Acts 3:15) and the path to a new life through His resurrection.
In verses 29-31, Peter explains his application of this psalm to Jesus.
- David died, so the psalm can’t apply to him.
- It is a prophecy David intended for a descendant who would sit on the Davidic throne.
- It applies to Jesus, who has risen and is, therefore, the messianic descendant David spoke about.
- The psalm is used to prove the messianic status of Jesus, not His resurrection.
- The proof of the resurrection is the eyewitness account of the disciples.
- It depicts David’s vision that the Messiah would not be bound by death.
- Since Jesus burst the shackles of death by His resurrection, He is the Messiah that David saw.
Another point to remember about the crowd in general. Many would have been familiar with what had transpired two months earlier at Passover, Jesus’ crucifixion. Peter reminds them that they were witnesses to the entire process; crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection.
In verses 32-35, Peter gives an exaltation to Jesus.
- God resurrected Jesus from the dead.
- The resurrection fulfilled the prophecy of David.
- The Apostle’s eyewitness accounts are proof of Jesus’ resurrection.
- God has exalted Jesus to sit at His right hand.
- God has given the gift of the Holy Spirit to Jesus.
- Jesus has poured out the Holy Spirit on mankind.
- The Apostles were witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. The crowds were witnesses to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
- Only Jesus, exalted at God’s right hand, has the authority to dispense the Spirit.
- Peter uses Psalm 110:1 as scriptural proof.
- David spoke of someone ascending to heaven and sitting at God’s right hand. David didn’t ascend to heaven, so he couldn’t have been talking about himself.
- David must have been speaking of a future descendent, the Messiah.
- The outpouring of the Spirit affirms that the Messiah ascended to heaven.
- David predicted this ascent.
- Therefore, Jesus is the Messiah.
The conclusion of Peter’s sermon comes full circle to the beginning point, Jesus is Lord. Peter’s use of the psalms was designed to resonate with the Jewish audience and their understanding of the Messiah. There was no doubt that Jesus was the prophesied living Lord, Master, and Messiah.
The Jewish crowd heard Peter’s point loud and clear. They were guilty of rejecting Jesus, and in some cases, implicitly or explicitly involved in Jesus’ crucifixion. The phrase “cut to the heart” is uncommon, in the original Greek, but an extremely strong term. Peter’s sermon had clearly impacted the audience, and now they desired to know what they could do in response. Peter’s response contains four elements:
- Repent – turn from disobedience to God.
- Be baptized – signifying dying to your old self and being raised a new creation.
- Forgiveness – the person’s sins are forgiven.
- Receive the Holy Spirit – all believers receive the Holy Spirit after submitting to Jesus.
Peter concludes with a promise; all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved! This promise is universal. It is not exclusive to any people group or country. The poorest believer is equal to the richest. God’s plan of salvation is for all to enjoy.
We can also surmise from the context that Peter’s sermon was longer than what is recorded here using the phrase “and with many other words.” We don’t know what those words were, but the essential portion is recorded for us. Additionally, his use of the phrase “corrupt generation” harkens back to the Old Testament that was used to depict stubborn, rebellious, and faithless people. The crowd was part of that generation. They had witnessed the Messiah and had rejected Him.
Peter’s sermon and appeal to leave a corrupt generation resulted in around 3,000 new believers who were baptized and added to the original 120 believers. That is miraculous multiplication within the church.
First Characteristics of the New Testament Church: verses 42-47.
This section could be further subdivided; verse 42 and verses 43-47.
Not only does this show how the new converts were brought into the new church, but it also is an indication of the bare minimum but still essential components of any church and is still applicable today.
- Teaching – the faithful teaching of Scripture is a foundational aspect of any church. It is also a key component of discipleship. If we don’t know what’s in Scripture, how are we supposed to follow Jesus?
- Fellowship – the basic meaning of the Greek word used here is “association, communion, fellowship, and close relationship.” In secular Greek, it could also denote the sharing of goods. From the context within this passage, it is clear this was intended for the early believers.
- Breaking of bread – the primary meaning is participating in communion. It could also mean sharing a normal meal together, reminiscent of a pot-luck dinner. Everybody contributed as they could, and everybody enjoyed it together.
- Prayers – there is no doubt that prayer was a key component of the early church. This could have involved keeping the formal prayer hours of Judaism, but most likely was an indicator of a vibrant personal and corporate prayer life among the believers.
Points to note from this section.
- The Apostles were performing miracles (signs and wonders).
- The people displayed reverent fear because of the miracles that they witnessed.
- The word “everyone” indicates that even non-believers were impacted by what they witnessed.
- The church enjoyed fellowship.
- The Greek indicates a gathered community.
- There was a strong sense of unity.
- They shared with and took care of each other.
- Shared resources were in keeping with the Old Testament ideal of community equality…no poor among them found in Deuteronomy 15:4.
- They remained faithful to their Jewish heritage.
- They devoted themselves to worshipping together.
- They worshipped with a unity of purpose guided by the Holy Spirit.
- By worshipping in the temple, they were able to present a recurring witness to the lost around them.
- The temple may have been the place of worship, but the home was the place of fellowship.
- Sharing a meal together.
- A shared time of rejoicing.
- A time of sharing burdens.
- God responds to faithfulness.
- The early church was blessed.
- Their numbers grew exponentially.
- They found favor with God and with their community.
This was a time of perfect innocence for the early church. They existed in unity, trusting each other and being truthful in their actions. They also had not yet experienced the dishonesty that would appear within the young church. Finally, opposition and persecution had not arisen.
Peter’s sermon, the first evangelistic sermon of the New Testament church, contains the following points. Each of the points is vital as we share the Gospel and should be included in our message.
- Jesus’ life and ministry made it possible for Him to be our Savior (verse 22). It demonstrated that He was not a mere man; He was God’s answer to the issue of sin.
- His death on the cross achieved salvation (verse 23).
- His resurrection confirmed the success of over sin and death and validated His work (verses 24-25).
- His exaltation enabled Him to send the Holy Spirit, who makes our salvation a reality in our daily lives.
- His present exalted state confirms His Lordship and Messianic title representing His reign. During this period, He will defeat all rebellion to God (verses 34-36).
- His second coming will complete His work (implied in verse 35).
- In light of who Jesus is and what He has done, our salvation depends entirely on Him (verses 36, 38). Our receiving salvation requires us to admit our need through repentance and submitting to Jesus as Savior and Lord. This results in us receiving the Holy Spirit and being baptized in His name (verse 38).
- Do we let the Holy Spirit lead and direct us, or do we work blindly in our flesh?
- When we share the Gospel, do we include the elements that Peter used? Look back at the section covering this and craft your witness around this structure.
- When possible, let Scripture speak for Scripture. God’s Word is powerful, much more powerful than any message we could ever craft.
- Do our churches and small groups incorporate the elements listed in Acts 2:42? If they don’t, they should. If they won’t, find new ones.
- We should be generous when fellow brothers and sisters have genuine needs. If we trust God, He will take care of us when our needs arise.