Peter has now finished his speech defending the Galileans who were accused of being drunk (see 2.14-36) and in this passage we see the response of the people to Peter’s speech.
37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” 40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Before moving forward in this passage it is helpful to remember the identity of “they” in v.37. “They” refers to Peter’s audience who just heard his speech, which is specifically identified for us in v.14 as “men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem.” So then the crowd Peter was addressing was most likely predominantly, if not entirely, Jewish. Knowing this identity helps us understand their actions in the following verses and why Peter said what he said in vv.14-36.
The Jews had expectations (and still do) for the coming of the Messiah and the inauguration of a kingdom as prophesied in the Old Testament. Peter’s speech was aimed at convincing them that Jesus was the Messiah that they had been expecting. After hearing Peter’s argument they were “pierced to the heart” when they realized that they had crucified the Messiah they were expecting, so they ask the Apostles what it is they should do, and Peter tells them to repent and be baptized.
In the context of this passage what the Jews are repenting of is their lack of belief in Jesus’ Messianic identity. Up until this point they had rejected Jesus’ identity and even crucified him. So Peter calls them not only to cease rejecting Jesus as Messiah, but to accept Jesus as Messiah and join the 120 or so others who at this point comprise the Church by being baptized.
While Christendom disagrees over what happens during baptism, it does agree that it is an essential part of the Christian life. It was commanded by Jesus in Matthew 28.19, and is commanded here by Peter. V.41 indicates that baptism is one’s entrance into the Church, or the worldwide community of Christians, and that baptism should follow coming to some level of belief concerning Jesus. In this particular episode it seems to me the level of belief achieved was acceptance of Jesus being the prophesied Messiah. Today most churches expect you to understand not only Jesus’ identity, but the foundations and basics of the Christian faith. These are best summarized, I think, in the Nicene Creed.
43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
These verses describe the early community of believers and what was happening amongst them. I believe these verses to be fairly straight forward and not requiring much explanation. However I do want to emphasize a few things. First, they were devoting themselves to the Apostle’s teaching (v.42). They recognized that the Apostles had been chosen by Jesus and tasked with instructing others in what Jesus had taught them. We should imitate their humble attitude when we devote ourselves to the teachings of the Apostles (i.e. read the New Testament). Not only does Christianity claim to be historical, but it also claims to be revealed. The Apostles did not teach their own ideas, but rather taught what had been revealed to them by Jesus, and so to challenge the teachings of the Apostles is to challenge the teachings of God.
Secondly, they were devoting themselves to prayer (v.42). Prayer is an essential part of the Christian life and must be practiced throughout the day. Our prayers should be focused on things that will be spiritually beneficial for us, not things like new boats and cars. Written prayers are a great way to learn to pray for things that are spiritually beneficial. See the post on Acts 1.12-14 for more on this topic.
Thirdly, they were devoting themselves to fellowship and eating together (vv.42, 44-47). These verses are fairly self explanatory as to what this fellowship entailed, so I won’t expand much upon it. I do want to emphasize though that the Christian life is lived in community and this includes helping others in need (vv.44-45) and worshiping together (vv.46-47). The Christian life cannot be lived in isolation, it must be lived within a community of believers.
For the next post I’m going to explain more about salvation, baptism, and what it means to have joined the Church. It really does deserve its own post and I think it is important to understand.