SYNOPSIS – On the Day of Pentecost, Peter explained what God accomplished in Jesus and what his audience needed to do in response – Acts 2:37-43.
Peter began his sermon in response to the question from the crowd – “What does this mean?” In turn, their response at the end of the message provided him with the opportunity to summon his audience to repent, be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ,” and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit – (“And, being pricked in their heart, they cried out – What shall we do?”). While Peter was the one speaking, he functioned as the spokesman for all of the apostles.
(Acts 2:37) – “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?”
“Pricked in the heart.”“Pricked” translates the Greek verb katanussô. It is found only here in the New Testament and means to “pierce, strike, sting.” The sense is of a deep piercing sorrow. The related noun katanuxis is found in Romans 11:8 – (“‘God gave to them a spirit of deep stupor, eyes not to see, and ears not to hear”).
Peter had just reminded his audience that they themselves were responsible for crucifying the long-promised Messiah of Israel, the very hope of the nation, a charge quite likely to cause very sharp emotional reactions.
(Acts 2:38) – “And Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Even though the baptism of the Spirit had become a reality, the act of water baptism was not discarded by the early church. However, in the age characterized by the Spirit, the rite performed by John the Baptist is modified so that a man or woman is now baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ.” Whether someone declared the name of Jesus while baptizing a convert, or the convert called on his name while being baptized is not stated. There is an allusion here to the final clause from Joel quoted by Peter – “Whoever shall call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
“Baptized,” or baptizô, means “to immerse, to submerge, to dip.” Whether these early converts to the faith were immersed completely in water, or the water was applied by another means is not stated. However, the sense of the Greek verb is immersion.
“Repent” translates the Greek noun metanoia, signifying “to change one’s mind.” In the passage, repentance precedes water baptism, the latter being the public expression of the person’s act of repentance and faith.
“For the remission of sins.” “Remission” represents the Greek noun aphesis, meaning “discharge, remit, release.” The term was used in Greek literature for the remittance of debt, the release of a person from slavery, and even divorce. The point is the discharge of any penalties incurred by sin.
Together, the reference to the “remission of sins” and the question of the crowd, “What shall we do?”, recall the preaching of John the Baptist:
(Luke 3:3-17) – “He came into all the region round about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make ye ready the way of the Lord, Make his paths straight…Therefore, he said to the multitudes that went out to be baptized, You offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance…And the multitudes asked him, What then must we do?…And there came also publicans to be baptized, and they said unto him, What must we do?…And soldiers also asked him, What must we do?… John answered, saying to them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but there is coming he that is mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire.”
“And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” This is the endpoint of the process that began with John the Baptist – The receipt of the “promise of the Father.” Whether Peter viewed repentance, water baptism, and the receipt of the Spirit as parts of a single process, or as separate stages and experiences that the believer must undergo is not stated. However, if anything, his words infer a quick succession of events with no significant delays between them, a pattern repeated in the book of Acts. If one repents and is baptized, one receives the gift of the Spirit. There is no concept here of a class of believers that does NOT have the gift of the Spirit – The receipt of the gift, however it comes, is the expected norm for converts.
(Acts 2:39) – “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.”
The “promise” is the “promise of the Father,” the “gift of the Holy Spirit,” the very thing the 120 disciples received on the day when Pentecost “fully came.”
Peter’s audience was comprised of Jewish pilgrims from at least fifteen different nations. They heard the 120 disciples praising God in their native tongues – “as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” The inclusion of the list of nations by Luke was deliberate – It foreshadowed the opening of the gospel to all nations. Next, Peter universalized the promise – Left it open-ended. The message is for “as many as the Lord our God will call.” This last clause is from the prophecy by Joel that he quoted at the beginning of his sermon:
“The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the day of the Lord come, That great and manifest. And it shall be, that whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” – (Acts 2:17-21, Joel 2:28-32).
Peter ended his quotation at the midpoint of Joel 2:32 – “All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved…” He did not include the original ethnic and geographic limitations – “For in mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those that escape and among the remnant those whom Yahweh calls.” The promised salvation was not limited to Jerusalem or to the remnant of Israel. Instead, the promise of the Spirit was for all who would respond and repent, whether “near or far,” even to the “uttermost parts of the earth.”
In this passage, the declaration of Peter anticipates the spread of the gospel geographically – Beginning from Jerusalem as commanded by Jesus – And its spread to the Gentiles. The fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy began on the Day of Pentecost with the outpouring of the Spirit, and the process will continue until the “day of the Lord” – (Luke 24:46-49, Acts 1:7-8, 10:44-48).
(Acts 2:39-43) – “And with many other words he testified, and exhorted them, saying, Save yourselves from this crooked generation. They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.”
“This crooked generation” echoes a declaration by Moses when he described the wilderness generation of Israel as a “perverse and crooked generation.” The same words were heard on the lips of Jesus when he rebuked the disciples for their unbelief (“O, faithless and crooked generation” – Luke 9:41).
“There were added about three thousand souls.” Prior to his ascension, Jesus commanded the disciples to “tarry in Jerusalem” until they received the Spirit, then they would become his witnesses “unto the uttermost parts of the earth.” This is the real point of the gift of the Spirit – To empower disciples for effective witness – And the “sign” that matters above all others and demonstrates that the Spirit of God is present and working – The salvation of men and women.
“And many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.” The point is not that supernatural signs only occur through apostles. This is a deliberate echo of the prophecy from Joel – “I will show wonders in the heaven above, And signs on the earth beneath.”
Just as God performed “mighty works and wonders and signs” in “Jesus of Nazareth,” so “signs and wonders” now operate through the men and women who have received the gift of the Spirit. The prophecy of Joel concerning the outpouring of the Spirit “in the last days” is fulfilled as Jesus gives the Spirit to his people.
The activity of the Spirit among the people of God – As evidenced by “signs and wonders” and effective witness to the nations – provides the incontrovertible proof that the final phase of history – The “last days” – is now underway. The promised outpouring of the Spirit and the universal call of the gospel began on the Day of Pentecost and will continue until the “Day of the Lord.” In the interim, anyone who “calls on the name of the Lord” will be saved.