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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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Acts 2


 
Verse 1
And when the day of Pentecost was now come, they were all together in one place.

PENTECOST

Pentecost ...
This was one of the three principal feasts of the Jews (2 Chronicles 8:12,13), the others being Passover and Tabernacles. This feast was known by several names: "Firstfruits," "Harvest Festival," "Feast of Weeks" (Leviticus 23:15f), and "Pentecost," as here. The last two of these names derived from the time it was held, which was fifty days after the first ordinary sabbath after the beginning of Passover, "Pentecost" meaning "fiftieth." Also, since fifty days were exactly seven weeks, counting the first and last Sundays inclusively, this led to the name "Feast of Weeks." The historical church devised another name which came about thus: "The habit of dressing in white and seeking baptism on Pentecost gave it the name `Whitsunday,' by which it is popularly known all over the world." F1

The Passover week, from which Pentecost was reckoned, usually had two sabbaths: (1) the first full day of the feast, called a "high" sabbath (John 19:31), and (2) the ordinary sabbath, the seventh day of the ordinary week. The first of these came on various days of the week, like any day occurring on a fixed day of the month; the second was always a Saturday. The year our Lord suffered (A.D. 30), the high sabbath fell on Friday, both our Lord and the robbers being crucified on Thursday the preceding day; and, to prevent the bodies remaining upon the cross on that high sabbath, the Pharisees requested Pilate to break their legs. Thus there were back-to-back sabbaths during the Passover at which Jesus died, as attested by the Greek text of Matthew 28:1.

It will be seen at once that reckoning Pentecost from Friday would give a Saturday for Pentecost (as sabbatarians have insisted); whereas, reckoning from the ordinary sabbath would give a Sunday. The Sadducees and Karaite Jews counted from the sabbath ordinary; the Pharisees counted from the high sabbath. Thus, depending upon which method of calculating was used, Pentecost fell upon either a Saturday or a Sunday; but there is no way that the Christians could have been persuaded to accept the Pharisees' method of counting it, neither the judgment of the Pharisees or Sadducees having any weight at all with the followers of Christ. The Karaite Jews, however, accepted the Scriptures literally, insisting that Pentecost be reckoned from the sabbath ordinary of Passover week; and it is certain that Jesus' followers would have done the same thing. As Barnes declared:

The Caraite (the alternate spelling of Karaite) Jews, or those who insisted on a literal interpretation of the Scriptures, maintaining that by "the sabbath" here was meant the usual sabbath, the seventh day of the week. F2

Thus it is immaterial whether the Pharisees' or the Sadducees' position on this question prevailed in that year 30 A.D.; and all arguments based upon the date of the Jews' observance of Pentecost that year are irrelevant. The Christians would have allowed the literal, scriptural method, as did the Karaites, counting from the ordinary sabbath, and thus assuring that Pentecost would have been marked by them as falling upon the fiftieth day following the ordinary sabbath. That, of course, was a Sunday.

The verse before us carries a strong inference that the Pentecost observed by the followers of Jesus that year did not coincide with the Jewish observance.

Was fully come ...
This is the rendition in the KJV, and there are no valid reasons for changing this in the English Revised Version. The words "fully come" are translated from a word of uncertain meaning; and the incomparable Lightfoot believed that Luke used that word here "to signify that the Christian Pentecost did not coincide with the Jewish, just as Christ's last meal with the disciples was considered not to have coincided with the Jewish Passover." F3

In many areas, Christian tradition may not be considered as conclusive; but in this matter of what day of the week was Pentecost, the unbroken, unchallenged tradition of more than nineteen centuries, plus the fact that the first day of the week is stressed throughout the New Testament as the fixed day of Christian assemblies, makes it certain that Pentecost fell on a Sunday. Why would the church have clung to their assemblies upon the first day of the week, if indeed the very beginning of the church had been upon a Saturday? We agree with Bruce who said: "Christian tradition is therefore right in fixing the anniversary of the descent of the Spirit upon a Sunday." F4

It should also be noted that the complicated nature of the question in view here is a key factor in the popular and erroneous opinion that Christ was crucified on Friday. Note this:

According to Matthew, and Mark and Luke, the passover that year fell on Thursday the 14th of Nisan, hence, Pentecost fell on Saturday. F5

In view of the above, many calculators made the crucifixion to be on Friday with a view to fixing Pentecost on Sunday; but the exegesis here demonstrates that it is not necessary at all to do this. It is true, of course, that the Passover fell on Thursday (after sundown), after Jesus was crucified; and the next day (Friday) was a high sabbath from which the Pharisees would have calculated Pentecost, making it fall on a Saturday. But in their departures from the word of the Lord, the Pharisees were wrong in this, as they were wrong in so many other things. It is very significant, however, that it was the Sadducees, not the Pharisees, who were in charge of the Jewish religious affairs during that crucial time; and they reckoned Pentecost from Sunday after the sabbath ordinary. As Bruce explained:

This was the reckoning of the Sadducean party in the first century A.D. In the phrase "the morrow after the sabbath" (Leviticus 23:15), they interpreted the sabbath as the weekly sabbath. While the temple stood, their interpretation would be normative for the public celebration of the festival. F6

Some scholars deny this, insisting that the Pharisees' calculations were followed; but take it either way: (1) If the count was from the high sabbath (as by the Pharisees), then the Christian Pentecost came a day later (as might be indicated by the words "fully come"); and (2) if the count was from the sabbath ordinary, as alleged by Bruce to have been the method then in vogue, then the Christian Pentecost coincided with it, having been most certainly celebrated on Sunday the first day of the week, no matter what the Jews did. To this student, it seems strongly indicated that Bruce is correct and that the Jewish and Christian Pentecosts coincided, the immense throngs of people mentioned in this chapter apparently proving this.

They were all together ...
Who were the "they"? Scholars disagree radically about this; but the conviction here is that the reference is to the Twelve. They were the only ones to whom Jesus had promised such an outpouring of the Spirit. Furthermore, Peter's words (Acts 2:32) that "we are all witnesses" of Christ's resurrection can refer only to the Twelve, because only two disciples were found among the whole one hundred and twenty who were eligible to join them as "witnesses." What the word "all" surely means in Acts 2:32 must therefore be the meaning here. "We ... all," as used by Peter, identifies the "they ... all," as used here by Luke.

Also, "numbered with the eleven apostles," as it stands at the end of Acts 1, requires "eleven apostles" to be understood as the antecedent of "they" in Acts 2:1. DeWelt said:

The fact that the antecedent of any pronoun is found by referring back to the nearest noun (or pronoun) with which it agrees in number etc., clinches the argument of the baptism of only the apostle's in the Holy Spirit. F7

Russell also restricted the meaning of "they ... they ... all" in this verse to "the apostles." F8 McGarvey wrote:

The persons thus assembled together and filled with the Holy Spirit were not, as many have supposed, the one hundred and twenty disciples mentioned in a parenthesis in the preceding chapter, but the twelve apostles. This is made certain by the grammatical connection between the first verse of this chapter and the last of the preceding. F9

Another consideration is that the apostles had undergone a long preparation for the events of Pentecost, and there is no indication that the entire one hundred and twenty were thus prepared. The implications against understanding "they" in this verse as inclusive of the one hundred and twenty are too formidable to be set aside.

In one place ...
Where was this? Some have supposed it was the upper room, and others have been sure that some area of the Jewish temple, such as Solomon's Porch, was the place of these events; and still others have understood the action to have taken place in both, beginning in the upper room and moving to the larger area in the temple with the progression of events. It appears most likely that some large area of the temple compound was the place, due to the large numbers of people involved. All that is certain is that it was in Jerusalem.

In later Jerusalem, Pentecost was celebrated as the anniversary of the giving of the Law at Sinai (based upon a deduction from Exodus 19:1); and the occasions do have the great factors in common, of the Law having been promulgated at Sinai, and the proclamation of the gospel having begun at Pentecost in Jerusalem. The typical nature of the first event is further seen in the death of three thousand souls through disobedience the day the Law came, and in the contrast of three thousand souls having been saved through obedience at Pentecost. John Wesley has the following comment:

At the Pentecost of Sinai in the Old Testament, and the Pentecost of Jerusalem in the New Testament, were the two grand manifestations of God, the legal and the evangelical; the one from the mountain and the other from heaven; the terrible one and the merciful one. F10

The very weightiest reasons appear for God's choice of this day for the beginning of the church: (1) As Jesus was crucified at a great Jewish festival, it was appropriate that he should have been glorified at another; (2) Pentecost was the next after the Passover; (3) it was the anniversary of the giving of the Law; (4) the firstfruits were offered on Pentecost, and it was proper that the firstfruits of the gospel should come unto God on that occasion; (5) millions of people were in Jerusalem for that occasion; and (6) most importantly of all, perhaps, by its falling upon the first day of the week, it coincided in that particular with the resurrection of Christ, and was thus of major importance in certifying Sunday as the day of the Christian assemblies.


 
Verses 2, 3, 4
And suddenly there came from heaven a sound as the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them tongues parting asunder, like as of fire; and it sat upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The spectacular events here are suggestive of the wonders that attended the giving of the Law (Exodus 19:16f), such as the loud trumpet, the smoking mountain, the terrible earthquake, the thick cloud, and Jehovah descending upon Sinai in fire.

Wind ... fire ...
There was no wind, but the sound of a mighty wind; and no fire, but tongues resembling fire, at Pentecost. Despite this, wind and fire are both typical and suggestive of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is typified by the wind in that: (1) it is gentle; (2) it is powerful; (3) it is invisible (John 3:8); (4) it is the "breath" of life itself. Fire typifies the Holy Spirit in that: (1) it gives light; (2) it provides warmth; (3) it purifies; and (4) it is an emblem of God himself (Hebrews 12:29), and in this latter quality standing for the judgment of God against wickedness.

That such elemental forces of nature were manifested both at Sinai and at Pentecost is evidence, according to Lange, that the "kingdom of power and of grace is governed by one God." F11 It is also proof that the God of nature and the God of religious faith are one and the same. Although the tongues so strongly resembled fire, this may not be called a baptism of fire; "for the context in the Gospel (Matthew 3:11f) suggests that the baptism of fire is the judgment of those who reject the Messiah, the burning of the chaff with unquenchable fire." F12

All filled with the Holy Spirit ...
This has reference to the Twelve apostles only. See under Acts 2:1. Beasley-Murray gave expression to a common misconception regarding this outpouring of God's Spirit on the Twelve. He said:

At Pentecost the Spirit came upon the disciples with no other condition than that of prayer; they are not baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, either prior to or after the event. F13

None of those persons who had been baptized of John's baptism had any need to be baptized again; and it is a dogmatic certainty that the Twelve had been baptized by John's baptism (John 4:1,2), because there is no way to believe that the apostles would have been baptizing others with a baptism to which they themselves had not submitted. Moreover, if they had rejected John's baptism for themselves, it would have been "rejecting the counsel of God" (Luke 7:30); and, had they done that, Jesus would never have named them apostles of the new covenant. For further discussion of this, see under Acts 1:5.

On this Pentecost, there were two measures of the Holy Spirit given: (1) the miraculous outpouring previously promised the Twelve, and (2) the gift ordinary which is received by every Christian. The three thousand who were baptized received the second of these following their baptism; and it may be assumed that the one hundred and twenty (who, it may be assumed, were also baptized by John's baptism) likewise received that same gift. There is utterly no basis for supposing that they too were given that apostolic measure of the Spirit which would have enabled them to raise the dead, speak with inspiration, and be guided "into all truth," in the manner of the apostles. If they did receive that measure of the Holy Spirit, where is the record of any of them ever doing such things as the apostles did?

The new birth has two elements in it, requiring that all who experience it be born "of the water" and "of the Spirit." All who received God's Spirit that day, in whatever measure, were "born of water," in that they were baptized (either with John's baptism or that commanded on Pentecost), and also "born of the Spirit," that is, they received the gift of the Holy Spirit, whether in apostolic measure or in the measure called "the earnest of our inheritance," (Ephesians 1:13).

Began to speak with other tongues ...
Despite the insistence of some that this has reference to ecstatic utterances like those of so-called "tongues" today, such a view is refuted, absolutely, by the fact that men of many nations understood every word in their native languages. Nothing like this was ever seen, either before or after the astounding event before us. As Lange said:

The confusion of tongues occasioned the dispersion of men (Gen. 11); the gift of tongues re-united them as one people. F14

The event at Babel, referred to by Lange, was a direct intervention of God in human history; and the same thing, with opposite purpose, is apparent here. The action at Babel was not repeated, nor was this.

This baptism of the Spirit was never repeated. It was later extended to believers in Samaria (Acts 8), to the Gentiles (Acts 10-11) ... The filling of the Spirit was often repeated, but not the baptism with the Spirit. F15

Wesley noted that:

(They) spoke languages of which they had been before entirely ignorant. They did not speak now and then a word of another tongue, or stammer out some broken sentences, but spoke each language as readily, properly, and elegantly as if it had been their mother tongue. F16

If Wesley's view is correct, and the conviction here is that it is, then it would be logical to understand each one of the Twelve speaking in a different area of the great temple concourse, in each instance speaking in the language of his hearers. There is no way to understand this as a group of twelve men standing closely together and all speaking at once. Later on, Peter did stand up with the eleven; but then there were not many speakers, but only one.

Boles' comment on the "tongues" is:

They were not uttering unintelligible sounds, nor using a mere jargon of syllables with no meaning; their sentences were clear and their words distinct, so that every man heard them speaking in his own language. F17

This phenomenon was doubtless the "baptism of the Holy Spirit." De Welt stated that:

We can know as a dogmatic certainty that Acts 2:4 is the literal fulfillment of Acts 1:5. Jesus had promised (the apostles) the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and here is the fulfillment of his promise. F18


 
Verses 5, 6
Now there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound was heard, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speaking in his own language.

Heard them speaking in his own language ...
Some have understood the miracle to have been in the hearers, as in Harrison's comment:

This is not the language of religious ecstasy. By a miracle, the language of the apostles was translated by the Holy Spirit into many diverse languages without a human translator. This phenomenon is not the same as the glossolalia, or gift of tongues, in 1 Cor. 14, which were unintelligible until interpreted. F19

It is certain, however, that the miracle was not in the hearers, but in the speakers. If the miracle is understood as being in the hearers, there would have been no need for a plurality of speakers; yet it is clear that all the apostles were speakers; the people "heard THEM speaking." Thus the wonder was not in the hearers, but in the speakers. After all, it was THEY who had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.


 
Verse 7
And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying, Behold, are not all these that speak Galilaeans?

Thus, there were twelve speakers, the same being the holy apostles who were miraculously empowered to speak the languages represented by the nationalities Luke at once listed.


 
Verses 8-13
And how hear we, every man in our own language wherein we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, in Judaea and Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, in Phrygia and Pamphylia, in Egypt and parts of Libya about Cyrene, and sojourners from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we hear them speaking in our own tongues the mighty works of God. And they were all amazed, and were perplexed, saying one to another, What meaneth this? But others mocking said, They are filled with new wine.

This list of geographical names shows the diversity of the people to whom the apostles spoke, the provinces and locations mentioned lying in all directions from Jerusalem and representing a cross-section of the languages spoken in the entire Roman empire. As stated above, it is a mistake to suppose all of these languages were spoken "at once" and by a single speaker. Such a supposition would embellish this wonder far beyond the text. As Walker said:

It is probable that each of the eleven addressed the multitude in a different language. People would naturally gather around the man using their native language. We may thus imagine eleven congregations assembled within the same large area, all listening to the same sermon, in substance at least, but each in his own language. F20

Root also concurred in this view, saying:

It is not necessary to assume that each visitor heard the sermon of Peter in his own tongue; but, in the beginning of the morning's meeting, the various languages were spoken by the apostles. F21

The wonder of some and the mockery of others sprang from the sensational event of the Twelve apostles (this student believes Matthias participated in this) preaching all at one time to twelve assemblies at various places in the large temple enclosure. The power and eloquence of men who but a short while previously had been fishermen in Galilee was an astounding thing; and the scoffers could think of no better explanation than to charge them with drunkenness, a charge as unreasonable as it was malicious. Peter would dispose of that slander in a brief word a little later.


 
Verses 14, 15, 16
But Peter standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice and spake forth unto them, saying, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and give ear unto my words. For these are not drunken, as ye suppose; seeing it is but the third hour of the day; but this is that which was spoken through the prophet Joel.

Peter standing up with the eleven ...
In Acts 1:26, Luke said that Matthias was "numbered with the eleven," meaning that Matthias was the twelfth man. In the same way, Peter's standing up "with the eleven," as here, means that Peter was the twelfth man. Thus the Twelve participated in the events of this day.

The sensational speeches made by all of the Twelve earlier were at this point concluded, and the Twelve came together, and Peter, speaking upon behalf of all of them, delivered the inspired sermon which is the feature of this chapter. All were the object of Peter's sermon, but he addressed, particularly and primarily, "men of Judaea." It is neither affirmed nor denied that they heard Peter in their native languages.

Peter's taking the lead here was within full harmony with the Lord's promise that he should have "the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 16:19); and, accordingly, Peter flung wide the gates of the kingdom, preaching the first sermon of the gospel age.

PETER'S SERMON ON PENTECOST

The classical judgment of any public address must take account of: (1) the occasion, (2) the speaker, (3) the subject matter, and (4) the results; and by any or all of these criteria, Peter's address recorded here must be hailed as the most wonderful ever given. It was the birthday of the New Institution, the official emergence of the kingdom of God among men. That occasion was the precise moment toward which all the prophecies for thousands of years had pointed. The "new creation" was wrought that day.

Regarding the speaker, the rugged fisherman of Galilee, the bold outdoorsman with the ready tongue and fiery disposition, the man who shortly before had denied the Christ whom he was then to proclaim, the natural leader of the Twelve, and the type of man who could command the respect of all, - that man was the speaker, and no more effective a person for such a task could be imagined.

The subject matter was human salvation and the procurement of it in Jesus Christ the risen Lord. Where was ever a nobler theme?

And the results: three thousand souls believed in the Lord, repented of their sins, and were baptized into Christ in a single day! Let men study this speech, and like those who first heard it, they will be amazed and marvel. Concerning this sermon, McGarvey said:

Never did mortal lips announce in so brief a space so many facts of import to the hearers. We might challenge the world to find a parallel to it in the speeches of her orators, or the songs of her poets. There is not such a thunderbolt in all the burdens of the prophets of Israel, or among the voices which thunder in the Apocalypse. F22

The postulations of critics who would if they could, erode the authority of this sermon through allegations that Luke, rather than Peter, composed it, are completely frustrated by the evident marks of its genuineness that distinguish every line of it. Dummelow said:

The genuineness of this speech is vouched for by the simplicity of its theology, and by its resemblances to 1st Peter (e.g. "foreknowledge," 1 Peter 1:2; "to call upon (God)," 1 Pet. 1:17; "rejoicing," 1 Pet. 1:6,8; 4:13; "the right hand of God," 1 Pet. 3:22; "exalt," 1 Pet. 5:6; "the house" (Israel), 1 Pet. 2:5; 4:17 etc. F23

These are not drunken ...
This malicious comment by the mockers deserved little attention, and little it received from Peter. He merely pointed out that the time of day alone was grounds for rejecting such a slander. On a festival like Pentecost, no Jew ever ate or drank anything until after 9:00 A.M.

This is that which hath been spoken through the prophet Joel ...
Not Joel, but God was the speaker in that prophet's writings.

This is that ...
identifies the events initiated at Pentecost as fulfilling the prophecy about to be quoted from Joel.


 
Verse 17
And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour forth of my Spirit upon all flesh: And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams:

In the last days ...
This refers to the Christian dispensation then beginning. The same thought occurs often in the New Testament. Note such passages as Hebrews 1:2, 1 Peter 1:20, and 1 John 2:18. The day of Pentecost, therefore, ushered in the "last days"; but the meaning is compound. (1) Those were the last days in the sense of this being the final dispensation of God's grace to men, the same thought appearing in Mark 12:6. (2) Those were the last days in the sense that Israel's day of grace was running short. Their long and repeated rebellions against God were soon to culminate and become final in their rejection of Christ. (3) Those were last days in the sense that Jerusalem, the temple, and the Jewish state would be utterly destroyed before that generation died (in 70 A.D.). (4) Those were the last days in the sense that the prophecies of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-35) and others of a new covenant were fulfilled in the preaching of the gospel.

It is a gross error to suppose that the apostles all thought that the end of the world was at hand. Jesus had plainly told them that some of them were to be killed before Jerusalem fell, and that even the fall of the Holy City was but a type of "the end" that would come long, long afterward. See in my Commentary on Mark, under Mark 14:9.

The passage Peter here quoted from Joel is 2:28ff.

My Spirit upon all flesh ...
The baptism of the Twelve in the Holy Spirit was the enabling act that would propagate the gospel throughout all times and nations, and it was for the benefit of "all flesh" that this endowment of the apostles was given. As De Welt expressed it, "The pouring forth of the Spirit upon all flesh was POTENTIALLY accomplished upon the day of Pentecost." F24

The other things mentioned here, such as sons and daughters prophesying, young men seeing visions, and old men dreaming dreams, etc., refer to the gifts of miracles which, through the imposition of the apostles' hands, would bless and encourage the church during the apostolic period. Again from De Welt, these things can be "understood as the spiritual gifts imparted by the apostles." F25


 
Verse 18
Yea and on my servants and on my handmaidens in those days will I pour forth of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.

This is a continuation of the thought in the previous verse. The mention of daughters, handmaidens, and servants shows that in Christ Jesus "there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female" (Galatians 3:28).

They shall prophesy ...
The tremendous weight of prophecy is not fully appreciated in these times, because men simply do not know how amazingly the apostles of Christ foretold future events. Barclay relates how the ancient writer Tatian was led to accept the Scriptures, quoting him as follows:

I was led to put faith in these by the unpretending cast of their language, the inartificial character of the writers, the foreknowledge displayed of future events, the excellent quality of the precepts, and the declaration of the government of the universe in one Being. F26


 
Verses 19, 20
And I will show wonders in the heaven above, And signs on the earth beneath; Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the day of the Lord come, That great and notable day.

Wonders in the heaven above, and signs on the earth beneath ...
Several of the most spectacular wonders ever seen on earth had occurred right there in Jerusalem the day Jesus was crucified only fifty-three days before Peter thus spoke. The very sun's light failed; and, as it was the full moon, the satellite appeared as blood. Pontius Pilate wrote to the Emperor Tiberius that "The moon, being like blood, did not shine the whole night, and yet she happened to be at the full." F27 Thus the sun and the moon were "wonders in heaven"; and the earthquake, the rending of the veil of the temple, and the resurrection of many of the dead, were signs on the earth beneath. See in my Commentary on Matthew, pp. 483-495.

Certain commentators, such as Harrison, refer these verses to "the day of Christ's coming in glory," F28 apparently overlooking the most spectacular fulfillment of them a little over seven weeks prior to Peter's message. Despite this, it is not wrong to see in these words a prophecy of the final day also. As Bruce pointed out,

"The last days" began with Christ's first advent and will end with the second advent. They are the days during which the age to come overlaps the present age; hence the assurance with which Peter could quote the words of Joel and declare, "This is that." F29

The blood and fire and vapor of smoke ...
were spectacularly associated with every great Jewish feast, such as Passover or Pentecost. It is difficult for any modern to envision the sacrifice of a quarter of a million lambs and all of the blood and "vapor of smoke" that inevitably accompanied such an event. These words most certainly fix the occasion of the signs mentioned as occurring upon one of the great Jewish festivals, which of course they did.

The awful events prophesied by Joel and here announced by Peter as fulfilled (that is, beginning to be fulfilled) were omens of fearful judgments about to fall upon the chosen people; but in concert with this, Peter also extended the hope of grace and forgiveness, basing his whole sermon on the climactic final sentence concluding the passage from Joel.


 
Verse 21
And it shall be, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

This verse was the text of Peter's address, making it clear that his sermon was primarily concerned with human salvation and the means of its procurement by men. As Boles expressed it:

In the midst of these alarming events and wonders and terrible phenomena that foretold awful judgments, opportunity would be given to all who would "call upon the name of the Lord" to be saved. F30

The impending judgment against Israel would bring the total destruction of the Holy City; but all of the Jews who became Christians were spared in that disaster; and as it was a type of the final judgment and overthrow of the world itself, Peter's message applied not merely to Israel who first heard it but to all men, as stated in Acts 2:39.

Call upon ...
The word thus translated denotes far more than merely pronouncing the Lord's name (Matthew 7:21,22; Luke 6:46).

It is used of being declared to be a dedicated person, as to the Lord, Acts 15:17...to invoke, to call upon for one's self (that is, on one's behalf)...and to call upon by way of adoration, making use of the Name of the Lord, Acts 2:21. F31


 
Verse 22
Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God unto you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you, even as ye yourselves know.

It is significant, as McGarvey taught, that: "By the three terms, works ... wonders ... signs, Peter does not mean three classes of actions; but he uses the three terms to describe the same phenomena." F32 All of Christ's deeds were "mighty works," for only the power of God in himself could have done them; they were "wonders," because all who beheld them marveled; and they were "signs" in that, properly viewed, they attested the oneness of Jesus with the Father in heaven. Thus, in a single sentence Peter summarized the countless miracles of the four-year ministry of our Lord.


 
Verses 23, 24
Him, being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay: whom God raised up, having loosed the pangs of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.

In these verses and the one preceding them, there are four statements, two of which required no proof, the latter being: (1) that God had approved Jesus Christ among them by mighty deeds, and (2) that they had by the hands of lawless men crucified him.

Lawless ...
McGarvey thought this refers to the Romans, that is, men without the law; and, although true that the Romans were so used by the leaders of Israel in crucifying Christ, we believe that much more is intended. Vine pointed out the word here is the same as that describing the man of sin (2 Thessalonians 2:4), where "The thought is not simply that of doing what is unlawful, but of flagrant defiance of the known will of God." F33 The "lawless men," therefore, were not merely the Romans, but the religious leaders of Israel who violated every conceivable kind of law in their ruthless determination to accomplish the death of Jesus. How great was the courage of Peter to charge such men publicly, as he did here, and at a time so soon following their dastardly crime.

The other two of the four statements required proof, these being: (3) that it was included in the purpose and foreknowledge of God that Jesus should so suffer, and (4) that God had raised him from the dead. Peter at once presented formal, dogmatic and conclusive proof of both of these. That it was God's purpose and with his permission that Jesus suffered, he proved from the Old Testament (Acts 2:25-28); and that God had indeed raised Jesus from the dead, he would prove by appealing to the witnesses of it, as well as by pointing out the clear prophecy of it.

It was not possible that he should be holden of it ...
The master thesis of the Bible is that God runs a just universe; and if Jesus had remained in the grave, that would have been the end of any such proposition. That is why it was impossible for death to have triumphed over Jesus by retaining his body in the grave.


 
Verses 25-28
For David saith concerning him, I beheld the Lord always before my face; For he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; Moreover my flesh also shall dwell in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul unto Hades, Neither wilt thou give thy Holy One to see corruption. Thou madest known unto me the ways of life; Thou shalt make me full of gladness with thy countenance.

These words are from Psa. 16:8ff. In this Psalm, David spoke in the first person, as if the glorious promises concerned himself; but actually they regarded great David's greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, there having been no fulfillment whatever of these words in the instance of King David himself. It is absolutely certain that this passage from the Old Testament prophesies a resurrection of someone, for it is only by a resurrection that one could descend into the grave (Hades) and not see corruption. The inspired Peter correctly applied it to the resurrection of Christ, an event the Lord had repeatedly, at least four different times, prophesied and elaborated for the Twelve. The proof absolute that this Psalm cannot refer to David was present for all to see right there in Jerusalem in the tomb of David which still enshrined his dust.


 
Verses 29, 30, 31
Brethren, I may say unto you freely of the patriarch David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us unto this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins he would set one upon his throne; he foreseeing this spake of the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he left unto Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.

Peter here affirmed that not only was David fully aware that the promise in his Psalm was not to be fulfilled in himself, but that he also foresaw the resurrection of the Holy One. The certainty of this lies in the words HOLY ONE, there having been utterly no way that David would ever have referred to himself in those words. The memory of Uriah and Bathsheba would never have allowed it.

Implicit in Peter's works is also the fact of David's realization that his throne was to be occupied by that same Holy One, even Christ, who true enough would be the "fruit of" David's body, but in only one dimension, that of the flesh. We need not speculate upon the extent of David's understanding of Christ and his kingdom; but the fact of his being a prophet of God indicates that it was broader and deeper than many suppose.

Resurrection of the Christ ...
The significance of "the Christ" should not be overlooked. Jesus was not A Christ, or A Messiah. Jesus of Nazareth is THE Messiah, THE Christ of God! As Alexander Campbell observed:

To maintain this was the main drift of all apostolic preaching and teaching. So important is it, then, that it should stand before all men in the proper attitude. In reading the five historical books of the Christian religion, every intelligent reader must have observed that the issue concerning Jesus of Nazareth is: "Is he, or is he not, the Christ of whom Moses in the law, and all the prophets wrote?" F34


 
Verse 32
This Jesus did God raise up, whereof we are all witnesses.

The resurrection: This is the bedrock and cornerstone of the Christian faith, dogmatically affirmed in the five historical books of our holy religion, and the quibbles of sinful men with regard to variations in the records themselves are powerless to cast any shadow over the fact itself. What is needed is honesty in the reading of them. If Liby, Polybius, Dionysius and Tacitus describe the same event with variations, no one denies that the event occurred; and the Gospels should be received the same way, especially in view of the truth that the "variations" in them are so minor as to be negligible.

Hunter noted that the New Testament accounts of the resurrection all agree (1) that the tomb was empty and (2) that the resurrection occurred the third day. Regarding the empty tomb, he said:

Paul's tradition implies it. So does the apostolic preaching in Acts. The four evangelists declare it. The silence of the Jews confirms it ... In trying to fathom the mystery of the first Easter Day, we should think of something essentially other-worldly, a piece of heavenly reality, invading this world of time and sense and manifesting itself. We are concerned with an unmistakably divine event which yet occurred in this world of ours, on an April day in A.D. 30 while Pontius Pilate was Roman governor of Judea. F35

We are all witnesses ...
Peter could not have meant "all" of the one hundred and twenty disciples, but all of the Twelve apostles. The blessed Mary herself, who was one of the one hundred and twenty, was not a witness of the resurrection; nor is there any record that Jesus ever appeared to her.

In the certification of so important an event as the resurrection to all times and conditions of men, Jesus trained and qualified a group of men fully equal to the task. They were outdoorsmen, unspoiled by any human sophistication, but still prepared in the most complete and perfect manner to witness and proclaim the resurrection. It is simply incredible that such men as the Twelve could have been led, either intentionally or otherwise, into believing the resurrection of Christ UNLESS IT HAD INDEED occurred. This conscious limitation of the witnesses of Christ's resurrection was noted by Peter himself who said:

Him God raised up the third day, and gave him to be made manifest, not to all the people, but unto witnesses that were chosen before of God, even to us, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead (Acts 10:40,41).

The resurrection of Christ as the fulfillment of God's oath to set a descendant of David upon his throne should be noted. God promised David:

And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will establish his kingdom for ever .... Thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever (2 Samuel 7:12-16).
I have sworn unto David my servant: Thy seed will I establish for ever, And build up thy throne to all generations (Psalms 89:3,4).
Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven (KJV Psa. 89:35-37).

It is regrettable that many have envisioned the Davidic throne as something that would be upon earth, despite the fact of the throne in view here being compared to the sun or the moon, neither of which was ever on earth, and especially in view of the plain promise that it would be "in heaven," that is, the authority (or throne) would be in heaven. The rendition of "heaven" as "sky," as in the English Revised Version, does not change this meaning. The apostle Peter forever settled this question when he declared here in Acts 2:31 that the resurrection of Christ was the fulfillment of the above promises to David. The Davidic throne was a type of the eternal throne and authority of Jesus Christ.


 
Verse 33
Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he hath poured forth this which ye see and hear.

By the right hand of God ...
Christ had indeed appeared alive after his death and burial, and the apostles had seen him ascend into heaven. As so often affirmed in Scripture, Jesus was exalted at the right hand of the Majesty on High, and that exaltation was the fulfillment of God's oath that a descendant of David would sit upon his throne in perpetuity.

He hath poured forth this ...
Despite the fact of his being in heaven, Jesus was still concerned with earth and the men dwelling upon it. He had promised the apostles that "another Comforter" would be given unto them; and here Peter affirmed that the baptism of the apostles in the Holy Spirit, as audibly and visually evidenced by the miraculous demonstration somewhat earlier, had indeed come to pass as Jesus promised. "Christ's present impartation of the Spirit to the apostles, attended as it was by sensible signs, was a further open vindication of the claim that he was the exalted Messiah." F36 However, before leaving the subject, Peter would offer another proof.


 
Verses 34, 35
For David ascended not into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet.

This quotation from Psa. 110:1 indicated: (1) that the Son of David would also be the Lord of David (Matthew 22:43ff), and (2) that the Son of David would sit on the right hand of God, an idiomatic promise of the ascension into heaven. Peter did not have to prove that David himself had not ascended to heaven, for his grave was still in Jerusalem. In post-apostolic times, Jewish commentators have attempted to deny the Davidic authorship of this Psalm, with a view to softening the argument here; but the Lord Jesus himself left no doubt whatever of it, naming David as the author (Matthew 22:43).

Having thus established a number of the most important truths regarding Christianity, especially the power and godhead of Jesus Christ, his resurrection from the dead, ascension into heaven, and sitting down upon the throne of David in heaven, and the fact of Christ's having poured forth the Holy Spirit in such a divine demonstration as the multitude had witnessed, Peter then announced his conclusion.


 
Verse 36
Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified.

All the house of Israel ...
There seems to be good reason to understand these words as being addressed not to the dwellers in all those countries mentioned by Luke (Acts 2:8-12), but to the Jews of the Holy City itself, there being no evidence that the Diaspora had taken any hand in the rejection of Christ. This justifies the conclusion that the "speaking" of all the Twelve in languages they had never learned, earlier that morning, was not in any sense a preview of this sermon. This sermon was the first of the gospel age, quite properly delivered "to the Jew first" as God had ordained; and, therefore, it may be concluded, that those earlier "speakings" were concerned with gathering an audience for Peter's message, the same purpose being evident in the rushing sound and other divine manifestations of that hour.


 
Verse 37
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do?

They were pricked in their heart ...
is equivalent to saying that these people then and there believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no way that they would have followed on to obey the word if they had not believed. Thus, right here in the gateway of the historical church stands the sure and certain truth that "faith alone" did not save the first Christians; nor can the conclusion be denied that "faith alone" never saved any Christians since then.

The terms of the salvation of those believers in Christ were immediately announced by that apostle to whom Jesus had promised that whatever he bound on earth would be bound in heaven (Matthew 16:19ff). There was no ambiguity in the announcement.

What shall we do ...?
In the light of Peter's text, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts 2:21), the meaning of this question is "What shall we do to be saved?" It has no other possible interpretation.


 
Verse 38
And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

As long as this verse remains in the sacred New Testament, the terms of admission into Christ's kingdom shall continue to be understood as faith (those were already believers), repentance and baptism unto the remission of sins. The cavils and controversies of the post-Reformation period have not altered in the slightest particular what is so evident here. Space does not permit any exhaustive reply to the denials which are alleged against what Peter declared; indeed, no complete answer is possible, because the cleverness and ingenuity of man have been exhausted in the vain efforts to shout baptism out of this verse as a God-imposed precondition of salvation. We shall note only a few.

Note the following from Hervey:

We have in this short verse the summary of Christian doctrine as regards man and God. Repentance and faith on the part of man; forgiveness of sins, or justification, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, or sanctification, on the part of God! F37

Thus, baptism is left out of the things regarding man's part in the accomplishment of his salvation; and, while it is true that Hervey went on to affirm that all of this is "expressed in the sacrament of baptism," it cannot be denied that such an exegesis denies what is so categorically affirmed here by inspiration, namely, that a man must repent and be baptized in order to receive the forgiveness of his sins and the gift of the Spirit.

This writer is glad to note a change among modern commentators toward a more scriptural view of the ordinance of baptism, as evidenced by the following:

The idea of an unbaptized Christian is simply not entertained in the New Testament. F38
In the early church it was the universal practice of the church that the new convert was baptized immediately. F39
The rite was first practiced in obedience to a command of the Risen Lord ... dates back to the day of Pentecost ... was administered "into Christ," or "in the name of Christ," signifying that the baptized person passed into his possession. The mode was immersion, and baptism normally coincided with the reception of the Holy Spirit. F40
Baptism is the occasion when the Spirit brings to new life him that believes in the Son of Man ... We must ungrudgingly recognize that the New Testament does not permit us to divide between the new life of Christ and the new life of the Spirit in baptism. (We) should bear steadily in view that the difficulties and the misunderstandings that have surrounded this doctrine, through the change of the context in which the churches have set baptism, DO NOT ARISE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT (italics mine, JBC). They should not be permitted to affect our interpretation of its evidence. F41

Glimpses of the truth appearing in such comments are a vast improvement over many of the wild allegations of the nineteenth century; and it is devoutly hoped that men will come to accept what is so patently stated in the text before us, namely, that forgiveness of sins and the gift of God's Spirit are promised AFTER both repentance and baptism (also after faith), obedience of the believer to BOTH requirements being made an absolute precondition of salvation.

This text is the grave of the Lutheran heresy of justification by "faith only"; and, since many passages of the New Testament have been laid under tribute by holders of that error in their efforts to refute this text, many passages of the New Testament should be studied in connection with this. In this series of commentaries, extensive teaching on this doctrine will be found as follows: my Commentary on Mark, Mark 16:16; my Commentary on John, John 3:5, 8:30, and John 12:43; my Commentary on Hebrews, Heb. 1:2, 9:14; and my Commentary on Romans, Rom. 3:22,24, and Rom. 10:11, etc.

One other common misunderstanding and it concerns this:

Ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit ...
Here, as Beasley-Murray pointed out, "The gift of the Spirit will be given in or immediately upon baptism," whereas "The Samaritans are evangelized by Philip and baptized by him without receiving the Holy Spirit." F42 This, of course, is viewed as a discrepancy by many; but the problem is resolved in the knowledge that at Pentecost those baptized received the gift ordinary of the Spirit, which is the earnest of our inheritance; whereas, a special dispensation of the Spirit "through the laying on of the apostles' hands" is indicated in the case of the Samaritans.

It is a mistake to view the gift of the Spirit as promised to all who were baptized on Pentecost as anything other than the gift ordinary. "There is no indication that the apostles laid hands on these new converts that they might receive the Holy Spirit." F43 As Thomas Scott stated it:

There is nothing to lead us to imagine that they received any miraculous gifts of any kind. There can be no doubt that the gift of the Holy Spirit in view here is that which all without exception received ... which is bestowed upon all the members of the family of our heavenly Father. F44


 
Verse 39
For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto him.

All that are afar off ...
certainly includes the Gentiles; but Peter, like many of the prophets of the Old Testament, was here uttering words, under the power of his inspiration, that he himself did not fully understand; for it took a miracle, later on, to convince Peter that the Gentiles should be included as proper recipients of the gospel message. See under Acts 10:14,15, and also 1 Peter 1:12.

As a matter of simple fact, the command to believe, repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (the Nestle Greek text translates this "with a view to" the remission of sins) and with the promise of receiving the Holy Spirit afterward, - this is a timeless and universal commandment of the Christian gospel, as clear from this verse. None are exempted, or denied, or promised redemption without compliance.


 
Verse 40
And with many other words he testified, and exhorted them, saying, Save yourselves from this crooked generation.

Many other words ...
Thus Luke was giving a resume of this great sermon, and not a verbatim account of every word of it; and from this, we may be sure that where Peter is quoted, he is quoted accurately.

With these words Luke summarized the great message of Pentecost and, significantly, the initiative rested with men, not God. The promised Spirit had come; henceforth forever, until the final judgment, that Spirit would be in the world; the terms of accepting the gospel had been announced, and they would never be changed. Therefore the final word to humanity was:

Save yourselves from this crooked generation ...
As Morgan said:

You say that you are waiting for the Spirit? Nothing of the kind ... The Spirit is waiting for you. No, we are not waiting for him; how often he is waiting for us! F45

Of all the wicked falsehoods ever devised by Satan and received by sinful men, the greatest is this: "There is nothing you can do to be saved!" The existence of this Satanic lie has been continuous throughout the Christian dispensation; but this verse is the total refutation of it. How does one "save himself"? Just as Peter said: "Repent and be baptized." Even in compliance with the God-given conditions, lacking which no man can be saved, the saved person does not merit, or earn, redemption; but he saves himself in the sense of fulfilling the conditions without which he can never be saved.

Note the following:

Take heed to thyself, and to thy teaching. Continue in these things; for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee (1 Timothy 4:16).
So then, my beloved, even as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

The great teaching of these verses, taken in conjunction with what Peter said, is that man is himself responsible for whether or not he is saved. If he obeys the Lord, he will be saved, not as a matter of merit, but by the grace of God; but if he does not obey, not even the grace of God can reach him and redeem him. Nor is there any implication in those teachings that an absolutely perfect obedience is prerequisite to redemption, because absolutely perfect obedience does not lie within the province of man's ability. However, the initial obedience, such as Peter commanded on Pentecost, does lie within the area of what man is fully able to do, provided only that he desires to do it; and that is the basis of the conclusion that there can be no waiver of what Peter commanded on Pentecost. It will be bound in heaven. It is simply incredible that most commentators pass over this sentence with no comment: "Save yourselves from this crooked generation"!


 
Verse 41
They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls.

At the giving of the Law, three thousand souls broke the Law and died; on this occasion three thousand souls obeyed the gospel and were saved.

Unto them ...
is usually written in italics to indicate that the words were supplied by the translators. From this some have concluded that these, along with the apostles and the one hundred twenty, were "added," or aggregated to become the first body of Christians.


 
Verse 42
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The apostles' teaching ...
As this church did, so should every church do, the apostles' teaching being the only doctrinal authority in the Christian religion. This is limited, of course, to the teachings of the New Testament.

And fellowship ...
Campbell rendered this "contribution," stating that:

The contribution of money for the wants of the brotherhood, appears to be its import in this passage as in Romans 15:16. F46

In the breaking of bread ...
Barnes thought that it was impossible to tell whether this has reference to "taking ordinary food, feasts of charity, or the Lord's Supper"; F47 but Milligan, Boles and Campbell were certain that the reference is to the Lord's Supper.

Campbell supported his conclusion thus:

The expression itself may designate an ordinary meal, as in Luke 24:35; but that here would be an unmeaning notice. There can be no doubt that the Eucharist at this period was preceded uniformly by a common repast, as when the ordinance was instituted. Most scholars hold that this was the prevailing usage in the first centuries after Christ; and we have traces of this practice in 1 Cor. 11:20ff, and in all probability in Acts 2:46. F48

The bread only being mentioned in this passage is held by the Roman Catholic Church to support their custom of distributing only the bread to their congregations, calling it "communion under one kind." However, as the scholarly Hackett said: (this mention of the bread alone) "is obviously a case in which the leading act of a transaction gives name to the transaction itself." F49 The figure of speech thus used is synecdoche, and the Protestant world have little complaint against Catholics for missing the synecdoche here in view of the fact that they themselves have missed it so spectacularly in reading salvation by faith as salvation by "faith alone." The errors are one and the same.

And the prayers ...
Whereas in Judaism, prayers were offered at stated times of the day, the Christians offered prayers at any and all times, and in any and all places.


 
Verse 43
And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.

This verse is the proof of the deductions given earlier in this chapter to the effect that only the Twelve were baptized in the Holy Spirit. Here it is clear enough that the one hundred twenty were not able to do the wonders and signs which accompanied the Twelve, indicating most certainly that they, the one hundred twenty, were not included in the baptism of the Holy Spirit which the apostles received.

Regarding what these signs were, conjecture is idle; however, it is reported later in Acts that Peter raised Dorcas from the dead (Acts 9:41). The signs here mentioned were of such a powerful and supernatural nature that fear came upon the whole community of Christians, and presumably upon many in Jerusalem besides these.


 
Verses 44, 45
And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all as any man had need.

COMMUNISM

This writer has seen Earl Browder's greasy little tract in the Library of Congress in which he declared that "We communists are only doing the thing commanded in your Christian Scriptures, and which you do not have the guts to do!" He went on to quote the above verses. Even the Red Dean of Canterbury, only a few years ago, identified communism with this passage; and how about that? All right, HOW ABOUT IT?

To begin with, there were certain unique conditions in that New Testament situation that are not matched in modern times anywhere at any time. Furthermore, it must be remembered that the New Testament experiment lasted but a short while, was not undertaken upon the basis of any command of Christ or the apostles, and that there was never any teaching whatever set up with a view for perpetuating what is in view here. Most importantly of all, the experiment failed, human nature proving then, as it ever has, an insurmountable obstacle forbidding the success of any such society.

However, we shall waive all the differences just noted, for the sake of an objective contrast between the so-called "Christian communism," as in Acts, and the organized ungodliness which today would be very pleased to identify itself with the sacred Scriptures.

In the book of Acts, the disciples were all in the temple praising God; in communist camps, people are all together blaspheming God, denying Christ, and desecrating every holy thing.

In the book of Acts, holy men gave into the treasury of a common fund. The collectivists known as communists rob, plunder, expropriate, and confiscate the goods of all men, doing so by violence and force. See any difference here?

Christians, through love, parted their goods unto all men. Communists part all men from their goods. They are enlarging their horizons and are in the process of parting all nations from their goods, South Vietnam being the latest in a long bloody list.

Christians enjoyed the fellowship of the saints from house to house. The communists spread terror from house to house, as their dreadful secret police move from house to house at night to plunder, to kill, to deport, to confiscate, and to murder. See any difference?

Over the camp of the Christians is raised the banner of the cross of Christ, emblem of the world's salvation; but over the camp of the communists flies the hammer and sickle, perverted variations of the sword and the club, the red banner of anti-religion, robbery, rape, and revolution.

Christians give. Communists take. Christians love. Communists hate. Christians worship. Communists blaspheme. One of these societies is of God. The other is of Satan, of hell, and destruction. See any difference?

Another notable difference in the Christian experiment with so-called communism and the collectivist madness of modern times is in the fact that the Christians individually retained the means of production.

Dr. Kenneth H. Hunter, an outstanding economist of Washington, D.C., and former professor of economics in American University, said:

The so-called communism in Acts, to the extent it might be called that, was a communism of distribution, not of production. The means of production were still owned and retained by the individual. In my opinion, there is no fallacy of modern collectivism that has deceived more people than the glib catch-phrase, "from each according to his ability; to each according to his need." The fallacy is that in the collectivist society, the individual has absolutely nothing whatever to say either about his ability or his need. All vital decisions are made for him by the Party through the endless inefficiency and red tape of its infinite bureaucracy.

So much, then, for the so-called communism of Acts. It bears exactly the same relation to world communism of today that a collection plate bears to a gun in the hands of a robber.


 
Verse 46
And day by day, continuing stedfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they took their food with gladness and singleness of heart.

At home ...
indicates that there had been no abolition of private property, nor the removal of the means of production from the hands of individuals; and, therefore, what we behold in the preceding verses is not "communism" at all, but Christian generosity. There is no reference here to the Lord's Supper.


 
Verse 47
Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to them day by day those that were saved.

Favor with all the people ...
As Plumptre said:

The new life of the apostles, in part probably their liberal almsgiving, had revived the early popularity of their Master with the common people. The Sadducean priests were, probably, the only section that looked on them with malignant fear. F50

It is difficult to imagine a more significant chain of events than those related in this chapter, closing as it does, with this reference to a successful, ongoing church, faithful to God and to each other. It all began beautifully enough, but Satan would not long permit the spread of divine truth without opposition; and Luke quickly moved to relate developments which would disperse this happy church.


Footnotes for Acts 2
1: ISBE, p. 2319.
2: Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1953), Acts,. p. 26.
3: ISBE, p. 2318.
4: F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, Publishers, 1954), p. 53.
5: ISBE, p. 2318.
6: F. F. Bruce, op. cit., p. 53.
7: Don DeWelt, Acts Made Actual (Joplin, Missouri: College Press, 1958), p. 35.
8: John William Russell, Compact Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1964), p. 286.
9: J. W. McGarvey, Acts of Apostles (Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company, 1892), p. 21.
10: John Wesley, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, n.d.), in loco.
11: John Peter Lange, Commentary on Acts (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, n.d.), p. 31.
12: Everett F. Harrison, Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), p. 387.
13: G. R. Beasley Murray, Baptism in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, Publishers, 1962), p. 105.
14: John Peter Lange, op. cit., p. 31.
15: Everett F. Harrison, op. cit., p. 388.
16: John Wesley, op. cit., in loco.
17: H. Leo Boles, Acts of Apostles (Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1941), p. 33.
18: Don DeWelt, op. cit., p. 36.
19: Everett F. Harrison, op. cit., p. 388.
20: W. R. Walker, Studies in Acts (Joplin, Missouri: College Press, n.d.), p. 17.
21: Orin Root, Commentary on Acts (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1966), p. 10.
22: J. W. McGarvey, op. cit., p. 30.
23: J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 821.
24: Don DeWelt, op. cit., p. 42.
25: Ibid.
26: William Barclay, Turning to God (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1964), p. 43.
27: Tertullian, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Pilate to Tiberius (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, Publishers, 1957), Vol. iii, p. 463.
28: Everett F. Harrison, op. cit., p. 389.
29: F. F. Bruce, op. cit., p. 68.
30: H. Leo Boles, op. cit., p. 40.
31: W. E. Vine, Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1940), p. 163.
32: J. W. McGarvey, op. cit, p. 29.
33: W. E. Vine, op. cit., p. 317.
34: Alexander Campbell, Acts of the Apostles (Austin, Texas: Firm Foundation, 1858), p. 15.
35: Archibald M. Hunter, Introducing New Testament Theology (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1957), p. 57.
36: F. F. Bruce, op. cit., p. 72.
37: A. C. Hervey, Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, Publishers, 1950), Vol. 18, p. 54.
38: F. F. Bruce, op. cit., p. 77.
39: William Barclay, op. cit, p. 50.
40: A. M. Hunter, op. cit., p. 79.
41: G. R. Beasley-Murray, op. cit., pp. 278, 279.
42: Ibid., p. 105.
43: Everett J. Harrison, op. cit., p. 392.
44: Thomas Scott, Commentary on the Holy Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1960), p. 439.
45: G. Campbell Morgan, The Unfolding Message of the Bible (Old Tappan, New Jersey.: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1961), p. 339 .
46: Alexander Campbell, op. cit., p. 18.
47: Albert Barnes, op. cit., p. 64.
48: Alexander Campbell, op. cit., p. 18.
49: As quoted by Campbell, ibid.
50: E. H. Plumptre, The Acts of Apostles (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 15.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Acts 2". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=ac&chapter=002>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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