This chapter has been aptly called “the hub of the Bible.” Everything that comes before leads to the culmination of God’s plan in Acts 2. Promises and prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled here. Isaiah 2, Daniel 2, and Joel 2 find their fulfillment in the establishment of the church in Jerusalem, as recorded in this chapter. It is not possible to overstate the importance of what occurs here. The first gospel sermon is preached. For the first time, sinners learn how to obey the gospel and be saved through Jesus’ sacrifice. The church is founded, forming the community of believers that Jesus promised in Matt. 16 and prayed for in John 17. This is the assembly of souls that Jesus died for, purchasing the church with his own blood (Acts 20:28).
It is important to note that only the apostles were recipients of the baptism of the Holy Spirit on this occasion. Although 120 believers are mentioned in the previous chapter, the focus has shifted to the apostles. No chapter divisions existed in original New Testament documents. The antecedent of “they” in 2:1 is “apostles” in 1:26. Jesus grants this special guidance and power to the few men he had personally trained to carry on his work (Acts 2:7, 14).
Multitudes of Jews had gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost, the last Old Testament festival ever celebrated with God’s approval. This was the day of transition from Old Covenant to New. From the Law to the Gospel (John 1:17). The sound like wind and the appearance of fiery tongues signaled the arrival of the Holy Spirit. Among the crowd of Jewish celebrants, the apostles began to preach the good news of Jesus. The apostles were enabled to speak in the dialects and languages of all those who gathered. This miraculous ability helped convince listeners that both the gift of tongues and the message of the speakers must be from God.
Having gained their attention, Peter began to speak to the whole crowd in their common language. Peter explained that the amazing arrival of the Spirit was fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy about the outpouring of the Spirit to usher in the last days, the Christian age (Joel 2:28-32). Peter plainly preached Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of mankind. That generation of Israelites had Jesus killed through the instrument of the Roman government, but we are all responsible for his death. Only through his death could we all be saved.
While the death of Jesus atones for sins, his resurrection is equally important (Rom. 1:4). He arose from the dead and reigns over his church from the side of the Heavenly Father. Peter quotes the Psalmist to establish that the Savior would not be defeated by death. Even as Jesus promised, the gates of hades (the unseen place of departed spirits) would not overcome his efforts. The apostles served as credible, literal witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
The gospel is God’s power for leading souls to salvation (Rom. 1:16-17). Many in the crowd of listeners were genuinely cut to the heart by Peter’s powerful message. They cried out for instruction. How could they be saved? What must they do? The answer given to them is also the answer for us today. Having believed that Jesus is God’s Son, they are told to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. The word “remission” in the King James Version is not sufficient to express what Peter states in the original language. To forgive is to pardon and to let go of the offense and its guilt. Repentance is the change of mind that leads to a change of heart. Penitent sinners must be baptized (immersed) in the name of Jesus Christ to obtain the forgiveness made possible by Jesus’ death (Matt. 26:28). The water does not save, but God meets us in baptism with forgiveness. Baptism is a picture of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (Rom. 6:1-4). We die to our sins, we are buried in water, and we arise a new creation, born again (2 Cor. 5:17; John 3:3-5). It is foolish to discount the act of baptism in the process of salvation (1 Pet. 3:21). Do you remember your baptism? The setting, the decision, the knowledge that your sins were truly forgiven? If you have not obeyed the Lord in this way, please do not wait. We would be delighted to assist you (Acts 22:16). “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation” (Acts 2:40). About 3,000 obeyed the gospel on that great day. Some were local residents, but many came from other communities in Israel and from lands beyond. God’s beautiful plan for the church community immediately became evident. The believers, later known as Christians, began to worship together and to enjoy fellowship in Christ. They practiced the love, hospitality, and generosity the Lord teaches. The power of the gospel continued to persuade others, and the church grew rapidly (Acts 2:47). Would it not be wonderful to see a return to days like these? The gospel is still good news to all who need it. God’s people must share it.
My comments are not an inspired commentary, but rather a few words to draw attention to the background, context, and dynamic situation of the book of Acts. May God bless your reading of His Word. T.C.