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Chapter two records the event that has set the tone for the past 2,000 years of human history. The apostles waited for ten days in Jerusalem for the baptism of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised, until the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-3). While the Twelve 1 were celebrating the Feast of Weeks together (Leviticus 23:15-22), the Holy Spirit entered the house where they had gathered, coming in the form of a singular flame of fire which divided itself and “CAME TO REST UPON EACH ONE OF THEM.” This signified that his presence was not only general but individual.
Immediately the men (Acts 2:15) began praising God in other languages (Acts 2:4). Quoting the prophet Joel, Peter explained that this miracle was the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in them (Acts 2:14-21), which began to fulfill God’s promise that the Spirit would come upon people again. We should note that this is the clearest passage in Scripture on the subject of what “tongues” are; they are human languages previously unknown 2 to the speaker. Additionally, it is important to observe that the preaching was done in the common language, not in the other languages. The other languages were used to give praise to God, not the gospel message or new revelation or prophecy. This was the pattern in all three occurrences of speaking in tongues/languages in Acts (Acts 2:1-13; 10:44-48; 19:1-7).
After explaining how the Twelve could miraculously speak these other languages, Peter preached to the captivated crowd, highlighting two key points, each prefaced by “David said.” First, Jesus was God’s prophet, whom they publicly crucified, but he was resurrected (Acts 2:22-32). Second, Jesus was God’s Messiah, and he ascended to heaven to wait until he can receive his kingdom (Acts 2:33-36). This was the crux of the matter: “GOD HAS MADE THIS JESUS WHOM YOU CRUCIFIED BOTH LORD AND CHRIST” (LORD = Jehovah, CHRIST = Messiah).
Under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, the crowd asked the apostles how they should respond to the message (Acts 2:37-41). Peter’s reply was that they should repent – the same message given by John the Baptizer, Jesus, and the apostles over the previous several years. Upon repentance, they would gain forgiveness of their sins and the Holy Spirit as God’s gift. Each one who believed should also be baptized as a public indication of this new belief. 3
Out of the thousands in Jerusalem for Pentecost, “ABOUT THREE THOUSAND PEOPLE” joined the little band of Christians that day (Acts 2:41-47). Fully expecting that Jesus would return shortly, especially after that show of acceptance, they gathered together regularly, both in the Temple and in their homes. They began selling off their possessions and sharing what they had with each other, knowing they would not need anything in the Kingdom, because the prophets promised that Messiah would provide for them. They listened to the apostles teach, probably what they had learned from Jesus about the Kingdom (Acts 1:3). They were a happy, excited group, constantly sharing their joy with their neighbors. As a result, many others joined their group expecting to see Messiah again any day.
- Whether it was only the Twelve or the entire group of believers gathered on that day is debated, but the evidence seems to lean toward only the Twelve. ↩
- “Previously unknown” does not mean that the men were able to speak these languages fluently again. It means that, at the time of their speaking, they knew what they were saying, although they had not learned that language before. ↩
- Most English translations make it seem as if water baptism was required in order to be forgiven and receive the Holy Spirit. While it is a command in the sentence, the structure of the Greek language separates baptism from the rest of the sentence, not putting it on the same level as repentance but subsequent to repentance. ↩