Acts chapter 2      Next chapter            Back to Bible Studies  

The first verse of Acts chapter 2 starts with a reference to the 'day of Pentecost' having come. It is important to do some background study into this, because it reveals God's underlying purpose. The feast of Pentecost was also called the feast of weeks and took place 7 weeks (49 days) after the Passover feast on the 50th day. At Passover, the first sheaf reaped from the barley harvest was presented to God. But at Pentecost, the firstfruits of the wheat harvest were given to God. Therefore, Pentecost is called the day of firstfruits. It was also a celebration of the giving of the Law through Moses - read Numbers 28: 26 - 27 and Deuteronomy 16: 9 - 11. On the day described here in Acts 2, we see that the Holy Spirit comes upon the believers and so replaces the Law as guide. (Now in the heart). Secondly we see that the disciples had all come together in one place, earnestly seeking God, joyfully praising Him. However, they were not bringing the firstfruits of their wheat harvest this time, but their lives as Living Sacrifices - see Romans 12:1. Thirdly it was significant that the Holy Spirit came on this day as Jerusalem was full of devout Jews who had come from far away places to celebrate the feast of weeks and soon all these would hear the Message in the languages of the regions they were from and take it back to those areas.

The reference to the disciples being of one accord (also found in Acts 1:14) deserves closer examination. The Greek root word behind the english phrase 'of one accord' is made up of two words - 'Homo' meaning 'the same' and 'Thumos' meaning 'passion or desire'. Literally the phrase means they had the same passion or desire. The most important lesson to take from this is that it was not their being together in one place that caused them to be united, but the single passion or desire that they all had - a desire for the indwelling Spirit of God. Unity does not come from physical togetherness, but from having the same passion/desire/goal which is God Himself.

The individual tongues of fire in v 3 is significant. In the Old Testament we see the Israelites guided and led by the column of fire and smoke, collectively as a nation. Here in Acts we find that the Holy Spirit alights on each one individually. This emphasises an individual relationship with the living God for every person.

The subject of the disciples speaking in Tongues in this context clearly refers to 'other languages'. Many of the Jews from distant regions recognised the languages that the disciples were speaking. The giving of Tongues was for the specific purpose of spreading the Gospel far and wide. We must guard against the idea that the coming of the Holy Spirit must always be accompanied with the speaking in Tongues. In this instance before us it did happen that way but it is in no way prescriptive. Neither must we seek some dramatic even like falling over or being struck down (although these may well happen too). The Holy Spirit can indeed indwell someone without a dramatic event. It is the visible fruit of the Spirit that is the test of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives. Paul writes something very useful regarding the speaking in Tongues in 1 Corinthians 14: 1 - 17.

We come now to the sermon that Peter preaches to the crowd. It is interesting that the first message John the Baptist brought was on repentance (Matthew 3: 1-3), the first sermon Jesus preached was on repentance (Matthew 4:17) and this sermon of Peter is on the subject of repentance! (Acts 2:38). It is clear from the way Peter addresses the crowd that he is a changed man. Gone is the Peter who denied the Lord Jesus - here he is clearly very bold and fearless. The Holy Spirit in him had changed him altogether. He does not mince his words either - he tells the crowd straight out (twice in his discourse) that they have quite literally killed the Messiah. These are serious words and one would have expected the crowd to take offence...however, in v 37 we see their response - they were cut to the heart. There is a very important lesson in this for us. God was working by His Spirit through Peter, but He had also already done a work in the hearts of the hearers! The proof of this lies in reading Acts 5: 25 - 33. In that passage we see how the religious leaders are furious when Peter delivers the same message, to the point of  wanting to put Peter and his companions to death! But the other listeners were 'cut to the heart'. This can only be explained in terms of God, by the Holy Spirit, preparing their hearts to receive the message humbly and ask: "Brothers, what shall we do?" (v 37). All of us have probably in the past attempted to convict another person in our own strength, with disastrous results. But when the Holy Spirit does the work, hearts are softened and the conviction is well recieved. It is interesting to compare Peter's other 'cutting' incident with this one. We read in John 18:10 how Peter strikes the high priest's servant with his sword and severs his ear, quite obviously all in human strength. (Jesus of course instantly heals the man). Here in Acts, we see Peter use a different sword - Read Hebrews 4:12 - the two edged sword of the Word, which cuts the hearers to the heart and has a glorious effect.      

Upon the question "What shall we do brothers?" Peter answers "Repent and be Baptized every one of you..." Last week we had a closer look at the original meaning of the word 'Baptized'. This week we'll take a closer look at the word 'Repent'. The Greek word for Repentance is Metanoia (Noun) and Metanoeo (Verb) and comes from the combination of the Greek words Meta meaning 'after' and the Greek word Noeo meaning 'the mind, the understanding', so literally, 'after thought', or 'rethinking'. The implication here is that when you 'rethink' something you have a change of mind from one thing to another. From unbelief to belief in our current context in Peter's sermon in Acts chapter 2. In Latin, the word literally means 'to come (back) to your senses' or 'return to soundness of mind'.

Of great importance for us to realise is that repentance has more to do with turning towards God than it has to do with the turning away from our sin. If the emphasis is on turning away from the sin, we start concentrating on what we must not do, which is pure legalism again, as if we are trying to gain God's approval by showing Him that we have been good children and that we have turned away from certain sins. The purpose and aim of repentance is that we turn back to the Father, to be with Him again. Then the other things lose their appeal and 'grow strangely dim' and we are no longer captivated by them. Instead we are captivated by Him and find all our desires and our deepest need met in Him. I related a personal story about interviewing new staff in my previous work. Upon asking the question "why would you like to work here", I got two types of answers. Some candidates immediately launched into a detailed account of how terrible the place is where they currently work and how happy they would be to get away from there. This always made me hesitant about these prospective employees. Others again, could not wait to talk about our company and how they would love to work there, it was situated in such a beautiful spot and they found the people wonderful and they knew that they would just love it. In fact, they already loved being there right now. I always employed applicants from the second group, because they had the correct motivation for wanting to work with us. The other group's motivation stemmed from what they were trying to get away from and not on what they were coming to!

We found a further vital element of repentance in four beautiful scriptures:
2 Timothy 2:25    Acts 5:31    Acts 11:18     Romans 2:4   
These scriptures all speak about how God himself brings us, leads us toward repentance which reveals His tremendous grace, mercy and kindness.

We ended the study contemplating the huge need we have to be filled with the Holy Spirit, just as the believers were at Pentecost and how that defines us as Christians. We then read that very encouraging scripture in Luke 11:11 - 13:  
"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

© 2011 Werner Schreiber

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