SYNOPSIS – The prophecy from Joel cited by Peter on the Day of Pentecost sets the tone for the book of Acts, all linked to the gift of the Spirit – Acts 2:17-21.
Jesus commanded his disciples to “tarry in Jerusalem” until they received the gift of the Spirit – Only then would they become his “witnesses” and proclaim the “kingdom of God” in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the “uttermost parts of the earth.” This is the testimony of the book of Acts – The proclamation of the good news to all nations by the church under the power of the Spirit – from its start to its finish.
It begins in Jerusalem and ends in the city of Rome with the Apostle Paul preaching to Jews and Gentiles alike – (“Whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved”) – (Acts 1:6-8, 28:23-31).
After the bestowal of the gift of the Spirit – The “promise of the Father”- Peter preached to a confused crowd in Jerusalem that “saw and heard” what happened when the Spirit filled 120 disciples, both men and women. He began by citing a prophecy from the book of Joel – What his audience had witnessed fulfilled the scriptural promise of the outpouring of the Spirit in the “last days.”
As the editor of Acts, Luke has placed the quotation in a prominent position in this account. Doing so provides several themes that appear throughout the book of Acts – themes that stress how the Hebrew scriptures were being fulfilled as the Spirit let and empowered the church to take the gospel throughout the Roman world – (“THIS is that spoken by the prophet Joel”).
(Acts 2:17-21) – “And it shall be in the last days, 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: Yea and on my servants and on my handmaidens in those days will I pour forth of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 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 manifest day. And it shall be, that whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
“I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh.” It began in Jerusalem at when the Spirit filled about 120 male and female disciples – “And they all began to speak in tongues.” Later, to the north of Judea, many Samaritans “received the Holy Spirit.” In Caesarea, the gift of the Spirit was “poured out” on the entire household of a Roman centurion (and Gentile) while Peter was preaching – All of them were heard “speaking in tongues.” In the city of Ephesus, the Spirit “came upon” several of the followers of John the Baptist who then “spoke in tongues and prophesied.” Men and women, Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles all received the Spirit when they responded to the proclamation of the gospel.
Thus, beginning in Jerusalem, the disciples proclaimed the kingdom of God in Judea, Samaria, and the “uttermost parts of the earth” – (Acts 2:1-4, 8:14-17, 10:44-48, 19:1-6).
“Your sons and daughters shall prophesy.” When the disciples of John received the Spirit, they spoke in tongues AND “prophesied.” In Caesarea, Philip the Evangelist was noted for having “four daughters who prophesied.” And in the church, Agabus was a noted “prophet” who prophesied more than once under the inspiration of the Spirit – (Acts 11:28, 19:6, 21:9-10).
“I will show wonders in the heaven above, and signs on the earth beneath.” Luke applied the terms from this passage to the “signs and wonders” performed by the Spirit through the disciples and other believers:
- (Acts 2:22) – “Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God unto you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him.”
- (Acts 2:43) – “And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.”
- (Acts 4:30) – “While you stretch forth your hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of thy holy Servant Jesus.”
- (Acts 5:12) – “And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people.”
- (Acts 6:8) – “And Stephen, full of grace and power, wrought great wonders and signs among the people.”
- (Acts 8:6, 13) – “And the multitudes gave heed with one accord unto the things that were spoken by Philip, when they heard, and saw the signs which he did… And Simon also himself believed: and being baptized, he continued with Philip; and beholding signs and great miracles wrought, he was amazed.”
- (Acts 14:3) – “Long time therefore they tarried there speaking boldly in the Lord, who attested to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.”
- (Acts 15:12) – “And all the multitude kept silence, and they hearkened unto Barnabas and Paul rehearsing what signs and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles through them.”
“Whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” In the book of Acts, it is “in the of Jesus” that men and women are healed and “made whole,” and by which men are “saved.” In his name, disciples perform “signs and wonders.” Converts are baptized in water “in the name of Jesus.” And in his name, everyone who believers receives the “remission of sins” – (Acts 2:38, 3:16, 4:10-12, 4:30, 8:9-16, 10:43, 10:48, 15:17, 19:5, 22:16).
Thus, the prophecy of Joel quoted by Peter set the tone for the remainder of the book. It is the story of the church being led by the Spirit to bring the gospel to men and women regardless of rank, wealth, or nationality. The Spirit leads, inspires, and empowers the church to proclaim the kingdom of God in boldness, perform “signs and wonders,” and bring wholeness and the “remission of sins” to all who will “call on the name of the Lord”.
Implicit throughout the book is the proposition that none of what the church accomplished would have been possible without the gift of the Spirit, the “promise of the Father.”