Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Acts of the Apostles 4.32-5.11

Book of ActsThus far in the Acts of the Apostles the narrative has primarily been concerned with the formation of the Messianic community that would eventually become known as the Christian Church and the opposition to this community by the Jewish leaders and some of the Jewish people. This theme will resume shortly, but in the meantime we encounter an incident that demonstrates not everyone within this community truly belongs to this community; outwardly they are part of it, but they are not truly part of it because their hearts are different.

Before I begin discussing the incident I wish to point out that this is the first time an incident does not fall neatly within a chapter. Chapters and verses were added much later to the Bible and were not present in the originals, nor for several centuries thereafter. Thus when reading the Bible it is best to simply ignore them and focus on the flow of thought within the text because the thought may not be complete until somewhere within the next chapter. This passage is an example of this.

32 And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. 34 For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales 35 and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.

36 Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), 37 and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

This incident can be divided into two halves. This is the first half of the incident and describes for us how a particular practice functioning within the newly formed Christian community. If someone owned land or a house, and they desired to sell it, they would sell it and lay all the proceeds from the sale at the apostle’s feet so that it could be distributed to those who were in need. This was not something they were required to do, but was a consequence of the community being “of one heart and soul”  and no one claiming anything as his own, but instead recognizing it as belonging to the entire Christian community (v.32). Joseph, also called Barnabas, follows this practice and gives all the proceeds from the sale of the tract of land he owned.

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” 5 And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. 6 The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him.

7 Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter responded to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?” And she said, “Yes,that was the price.” 9 Then Peter said to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.” 10 And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.

The second half of this incident begins with “but.” Most of the time when you see the word “but” used what follows is being contrasted with what was said before it. So in this case these next verses are in contrast to what has been described previously in 4.32-37.

In the previous verses we saw that the accepted practice was for someone to lay the entire proceeds from a sale of land or a house at the apostle’s feet. In these verses we see Ananias and Sapphira keep back a portion of the proceeds (vv.1-2). Peter’s words in v.4 are indicative that Ananias and Sapphira were under no obligation to sell the land (“While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own?”) and even after it was sold they were under no obligation to give the proceeds to the apostles (“And after it was sold, was it not under your control?”). Because the money they laid at the feet of the apostles they claimed was the entire price is why Peter asks in v.3, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?” In v.8 Sapphira agrees that the money she and her husband laid at the feet of the apostles was indeed the price of the land.

Ananias and Sapphira were both struck dead in judgment for their actions. But why? At first glance it seems like a relatively minor offense to be struck dead for. However if we take a closer look perhaps their offense is not so minor. Recall that at the beginning of this passage the community of believers were of one heart and soul and no one claimed anything for themselves, but considered their possessions to be common property to the entire community. Because they had this attitude they gave all the proceeds from a sale of land to the apostles so that it could be distributed among the rest of the community. This act is in keeping with the attitude of claiming nothing for themselves, but considering their possessions, including their money, to belong to the entire community.

So if someone sold some land and laid all the proceeds at the apostles feet so it could be distributed to the rest of the community they were “of one heart and soul” with the community. Barnabas did this, but Ananias and Sapphira did not since they held back some of the proceeds; they were not of one heart and soul with the Christian community.

However in selling their land and claiming to have donated all the proceeds from the sale to the apostles they claimed to belong the Christian community. Ananias and Sapphira wanted to be considered as part of the Christian community, but demonstrated by their actions that they were not. They were not struck dead in judgment because they sinned, but because they were not of one heart and soul with the rest of the community and were a threat to it.

In the previous passage we saw an example of God’s protection of His Church from the outside threat of the Sanhedrin. Here we see an example of God’s protection of His Church from the inside threat of Ananias and Sapphira. Were it not for God’s protection over His Church it would not have survived to this day. And should God cease to protect His Church, His Church will cease to exist.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading.

Acts of the Apostles 4.13-31

Book of ActsThe response of the Jewish rulers, elders, and scribes continues in this passage:

13 Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. 15 But when they had ordered them to leave the Council, they began to confer with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name.” 18 And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; 20 for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 21 When they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened; 22 for the man was more than forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.

Despite the Jewish leaders recognition of Peter and John as being uneducated these educated leaders can offer no reply or rebuttal to what has been said. The reason is found in v.16: they recognized that a great miracle had taken place through them and it was evident to everyone and could not be denied. In fact the only response the Jewish leaders can offer at this point is to tell Peter and John to no longer speak or teach in the name of Jesus. To which Peter and John respond: it is not right to listen to man over God, so we will not stop talking about what we have seen and heard because what we have seen and heard is from God. In response the Jewish leaders threaten Peter and John further and then release them since the miracle they performed was too great (the man on whom it was performed was 40 years old) and the response of the people too overwhelming for them to dole out any actual punishment.

The response of the Jewish leaders here is indicative of a group of people who have been caught off guard by something they did not expect. The Sadducees in particular did not expect two uneducated and untrained fisherman to heal a man who had been unable to walk for the entire 40 years of his life and then turn around and counter one of their chief teachings by proclaiming that Jesus, who was crucified, dead, and buried had risen from the dead and it was through him that this man had been made well. Presumably the Jewish leaders thought that by taking down the leader of the group, Jesus, the rest of the group would disperse and the movement would ultimately come to nothing (more on this in chapter 5). However this is not what is happening, and the Jewish leaders seem surprised.

23 When they had been released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said,

Why did the Gentiles rage,
And the peoples devise futile things?
26 The kings of the earth took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the Lord and against His Christ.’

27 For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. 29 And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, 30 while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.

The quotation here is from Psalm 2.1-2. In the portion of the Psalm that is quoted here we have a group of people (Gentiles) opposing and conspiring against the Lord’s Christ (or “anointed one”). Peter recognizes the situation described in the Psalm as being the same as the current situation where there is a group of people (Herod, Pontius Pilate, and Jewish leaders) opposing and conspiring against the Lord’s Christ (Jesus). Since Psalm 2 ends with the promise that the Lord’s “anointed one” will triumph over those who have gathered together to oppose him (Psalm 2.4-9) Peter then asks God to grant that he (Peter) and all those with him (“Your bond-servants”) would speak God’s message with confidence while God himself performs signs and wonders through Jesus. In other words, Peter is saying that Jesus is the Lord’s anointed one in Psalm 2 and asks God to grant the promise of Psalm 2, that those opposing the anointed one be defeated.

There is also another phrase in here which I want to note, since it occurs multiple times throughout the book: “filled with the Holy Spirit.” This phrase has occurred in 2.4; 4.8, 31 so far in the book and is usually followed by someone, or a group, proclaiming God’s message despite any opposition that might be encountered. This proclamation of God’s word despite opposition is a theme that will be encountered later on in the book as well.

At this point we also have another of the major themes setup which is going to play out through the rest of the account: the opposition of the Jewish leaders and people to the Holy Spirit indwelt Messianic community which would later be recognized as the Christian Church. But really this is just a continuation of the theme that runs throughout the entire Bible: God is in the process of executing a plan to redeem humanity and some are opposing that plan of redemption.

That’s all for today folks, thanks for reading.

Acts of the Apostles 4.1-12

When we last left off Peter and John had just performed a miracle in the Temple by making a man who had born lame able to walk. This attracted a crowd of people, presumably mostly Jewish, to which Peter delivered a second speech proclaiming to his fellow Jews that Jesus was the Messiah they had been waiting for, so they should repent of their lack of faith in Jesus as Messiah and join the community that He established “in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;” (Acts 3.19). We did not, however, learn of the reaction of the people to Peter’s speech; that is reserved for the following verses, the first part of which will be covered in this post.

As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, 2 being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.

Book of ActsFollowing Peter’s Pentecost speech there is no mention of any opposition to his words, but here, for the first time in the narrative, opposition is encountered. The Sadducees were a sect of Jews who taught that there was no resurrection (Matthew 22.23; Mark 12.18), so naturally they would be disturbed if someone was proclaiming that someone rose from the dead. Not only did this challenge one of their defining teachings, but it also was a threat to their power as well since they were members of the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of ancient Israel to which all questions of the Jewish faith (e.g. the Law; Law of Moses) were finally put; one of their defining teachings being proven false threatens their credibility to accurately interpret and decide on matters of the Jewish faith.

So in order to keep their credibility and power they have Peter and John put in jail. However Peter’s words had already had an effect on the people since “the number of the men came to be about five thousand.” The word translated “men” here is the Greek term andron, which usually refers to men or husbands; so the number of male Christian believers is now at about 5,000, and the total number of believers presumably higher with women and children added in. Often the Jews, when discussed in relation to Biblical events, get a bad rep, however a significant number of them did come to recognize Jesus as the Messiah and the early Christian community was primarily composed of Jewish converts. Let’s not forget that.

5 On the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; 6 and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent. 7 When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people, 9 if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. 11 He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

Annas and Caiaphas are mentioned previously in Scripture as presiding over Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin (specifically mentioned in Matthew 26.57-68 and John 18.12-28), so they are no strangers to opposing Jesus and His followers; in fact they were part of the group that persuaded Pilate to have Jesus crucified. Peter is certainly aware of who these men are and what their feelings are towards Jesus and His followers, but that doesn’t dissuade him from continuing to proclaim what he has consistently proclaimed: that Jesus Christ was crucified, dead, buried, and rose again and there is salvation in no one else; He is the Messiah that we have been expecting and His kingdom has been established.

Thus far in the narrative Peter has given three speeches and each speech has been delivered to the same audience: Jews, and had a consistent message: Jesus the Nazarene is the prophesied Messiah you have been waiting for, so repent of your lack of faith in Him and join the community He established. Even when faced with a group that he knew to be hostile towards his message he still did not change it, but proclaimed it faithfully. His faithfulness was not due to him being logically convinced of a theological system of beliefs, but rather because he had witnessed the events he was proclaiming and could not deny his experience.

I have mentioned previously that Christianity is based on the historical event of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, not on any particular system of theology; the theology can fall away and be proven false, but as long as Jesus rose from the dead Christianity is true. I say this is the basis because this is what the Apostles themselves claimed as the basis of the faith, and we have seen Peter state that basis three times now in the Acts of the Apostles.

As Christians the basis of our faith should be this basis as well; Jesus has risen and defeated death and through Him we have eternal life and salvation. In the Christian culture I was raised in I found this basis unfortunately neglected and not proclaimed to the extent I believed that it should have been. To me it seemed that more effort was devoted to defending particular doctrinal or theological beliefs (though this certainly does have a place), and not enough to proclaiming and reminding me of Jesus’ resurrection and the implications of that event.

Salvation, Baptism, and the Church

In the previous post the passage of Acts that we were looking at ended with this sentence:

And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Salvation is the most important aspect of the Christian life. In fact it is what the Christian life is all about. Yet in my Evangelical Protestant upbringing I noticed that it was also one of the least understood aspects of the Christian life and one of the least appreciated. This was quite alarming to me, especially since our salvation was the reason that Christ came to earth. As the Nicene Creed says:

We believe…in one Lord Jesus Christ…who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven…

At least part of the lack of understanding concerning salvation I believe can be attributed to two factors: 1)The Western proclivity for concrete definitions, and 2)The fact that salvation is, in the end, a mystery and a personal experience between an individual and God. In an effort to define salvation the West has articulated various and conflicting positions on salvation. In my native Evangelical Protestantism the end result of these varying positions has been not only divisions, but also seems to have led to salvation being primarily associated with getting into heaven. Thus to the Evangelical Protestant mind salvation is associated primarily with a completed past action: the moment they “accepted Christ,” became indwelt and sealed by the Holy Spirit, and were assured entrance into heaven upon death.* The downside to this association is that it can easily minimize, or even completely remove, the necessity and importance of following the commands of Christ and seeking to live more like him everyday.

Now to be fair Evangelical Protestants certainly agree that one must follow the commands of Christ, and if they aren’t then they have either abandoned their faith or were never really a Christian in the first place. However this is not called salvation in Evangelical Protestantism, but rather sanctification (becoming more like Christ). And while, technically speaking, sanctification may be included in the salvation process, dividing the process into different parts and defining different terms for each of the parts puts one at a significant disadvantage when reading Scripture because there does not seem to be such a distinction in terms made in Scripture. It is simply a form of “save” and could refer to the getting into heaven aspect, the sanctification aspect, the future glorification aspect (not discussed here), or could refer to someone being in physical danger, such as drowning, and in need of rescue.

Salvation is a personal experience between an individual and God and thus does not readily lend itself to definitions precisely because it involves multiple personal beings (i.e. a human and God). It also does not seem to be clearly defined and articulated in Scripture or in Christian tradition. It does involve coming to a recognition that Jesus is God and reconciled us to the Father through his crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection; and following Christ’s commands and becoming more like him; and being glorified in the future. Thus I propose that when we think of salvation, or being saved, we do not think of “accepting Christ” and being guaranteed a ticket to heaven when we die, but rather the following:

The process of being restored to our original, perfect state of being from our current evil and depraved state of being.

For an adult this process begins first with the recognition that Jesus is God and reconciled us to the Father, from whom we were separated at the Fall, through his crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection. Then as soon as possible baptism should follow. This is the pattern that we have seen so far in the Act of the Apostles. First the “men of Judea” recognized who Jesus was, then they were baptized.

Baptism, I think, is best viewed as the initiation rite into the Church, regardless of what one believes happens during baptism. As such I do not have an issue with baptizing infants since I do not see any good reason why a child of Christian parents should not be initiated into the Church. In fact, for a child of Christian parents, salvation begins as soon as they are born and thus they should be initiated into the community that will guide them through the salvation process. Later on these children who were baptized do make their own decision concerning Christ as they learn for themselves who he is and what he has done.

Baptism will be featured multiple times as we continue through the Acts of the Apostles and is certainly an important part of the Christian life. If someone claims to be a Christian they should have either already been baptized, or be waiting to be baptized. I do not believe anything else to be acceptable for someone claiming to be a Christian.

The Church, what the baptized are initiated into, is in general terms the worldwide body of people who have been baptized and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (called “believers” in Christian circles). The Church is such an essential part of salvation that Jesus himself personally trained and appointed those who would lead it during its initial phases. These were the Apostles, whose acts, words, and deeds we are currently reading about. And not only were Apostles appointed, but the Holy Spirit was, and still is, given to all who are members of the Church in order to guide the Church and protect it. The Church is not a man-made institution, but a divinely appointed institution whose main purpose is to guide people along the way of salvation and help them avoid the snares the devil has laid with the purpose of leading people off the path of salvation.

Summary

In order to be restored to their perfect, original state of being from their evil and depraved state of being a person must be initiated into the worldwide community of believers by being baptized and receiving the Holy Spirit. Then they should learn from others in the community of believers so that they will be able to discern where God is leading them and avoid the snares the devil has laid for them.

Next up will be chapter 3.

* Protestantism disagrees as to whether or not one can lose their “salvation,” i.e. their admittance into heaven.

Acts of the Apostles 2.14-21

Here’s a recap before we get started:

 1.1-11 – IntroductionThis book is a continuation of the author’s previous account, the Gospel of Luke. The author informs us that this account will deal with the coming of the Holy Spirit, which was promised by Jesus during his Earthly ministry.
1.12-26 – Replacement of Judas: When the Apostles were praying after having returned to Jerusalem following Jesus’ ascension it is revealed to Peter that someone should be selected to occupy Judas’ apostleship since it is now vacant following Judas’ suicide. Matthias is selected to occupy the vacant office.
2.1-13 – The Coming of the Holy Spirit: During the Jewish festival of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came and rested on each one of “them” (probably referring to the group of people that were gathered to pray together in 1.12-14) and they were speaking in foreign languages so that those who were also in Jerusalem struggled to explain to themselves how it was possible that they were hearing people from Galilee speaking in their own native languages, since the Galileans most likely did not know the languages in which they were speaking.

Acts of the Apostles 2.14-21

Book of ActsIn the previous section we saw some of the Jews who had come to Jerusalem from foreign lands explain to themselves the phenomenon of the Galileans speaking in the languages native to those foreign lands by saying that they were drunk, or “full of sweet wine.” In this next section we have Peter’s response to those who alleged that the Galileans were drunk.  Just to be sure, the women who were gathered with the Apostles to pray in 1.14 are also included in the group referred to as “Galileans.”

14 But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. 15 For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; 16 but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:

17 ‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says,
‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
And your young men shall see visions,
And your old men shall dream dreams;
18 Even on My bondslaves, both men and women,
I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit
And they shall prophesy.
19 ‘And I will grant wonders in the sky above
And signs on the earth below,
Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke.
20 ‘The sun will be turned into darkness
And the moon into blood,
Before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.
21 ‘And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

Interestingly, Peter is said to “take his stand with the eleven,” referring to the eleven Apostles. However we have already seen Judas’ vacant office be occupied by Matthias in 1.12-26. The text seems to indicate a clear progression of events up to this point, meaning that the events happened in the order in which the text places them, so there should be twelve Apostles at this point in the account. The most likely explanation to me seems to be to take the phrase to mean Peter in addition to the eleven Apostles.*

The third hour of the day referred to in v. 15 is 9 a.m., so it is highly unlikely that they would be drunk so early in the day. Instead Peter says that what is happening is what the prophet Joel said would happen and quotes from Joel 2.28-32. Unlike in chapter 1, this passage that Peter quotes is actually predictive of something, that something being the coming of the Holy Spirit. The passage that Peter has quoted here lists several signs that will accompany the coming of the Holy Spirit:

  • The Spirit will be bestowed upon men and women, slaves and free. In short there will be no distinctions made when the Spirit is bestowed; it can be bestowed upon anyone. And everyone who receives the Spirit will see visions, dream revelatory dreams, and prophesy.
  • There will be wonders in the sky above and on the earth below including: “blood, fire, and vapor of smoke;” a darkened sun; and a moon of blood.
  • Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.

The immediate accompanying sign that Peter likely has in mind is prophesying, since in v. 11 it says, “…we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” The second accompanying sign Peter likely has in mind is the darkened sun and moon of blood. The Gospels record that during Jesus’ crucifixion the sky was darkened from about the sixth hour (noon) to the ninth hour (3 p.m.), and Luke adds the detail, “because the sun was obscured” (Matthew 27.45; Mark 15.33; Luke 23.44-45). What is likely being described here is a lunar eclipse since it can last for several hours and turns the moon a reddish color, giving it the appearance of blood.

Peter interpreted Joel’s prophecy to be referring to the kingdom of Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament, which is why he changed the words “After this” to “In the last days.” To a Jew the “last days” refers to the coming of Messiah when he will restore Israel politically and reign forever. This is the first stage of Peter’s argument that the promised Messiah has come since the sun was darkened and the moon appeared red like blood, the Spirit was bestowed, and men and women are prophesying.

The proper response of the Jewish people then is in the last line of Joel’s prophecy that Peter quotes, “Anyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” It is only by belonging to the kingdom of the Messiah that they will be saved, otherwise they will perish. Here saved seems to mean in the sense of delivered from punishment; e.g. spending eternity with God rather than separated from God.

So to summarize Peter’s speech so far: these people are not drunk, but this is the fulfillment of the signs that the prophet Joel said would occur in the last days when Messiah comes, and you all should recognize this and join us and receive the Spirit as well.

In my opinion Peter could have stopped here and would have made his point quite clearly. Peter however continues his speech, and we will continue also, but in the next post.

* The other possibility I can think of is that there was some distinction made between Matthias being an Apostle and the remaining eleven Apostles that Jesus himself had chosen. My main problem with this explanation though is that 1.26 says that Matthias was added to the eleven Apostles, which seems to go against there being any such distinction made.

Acts of the Apostles 2.1-13

Book of ActsNow we finally come to the event that the opening verses of the book prepared us to expect: the coming of the Holy Spirit. This is a very significant event as it marks the beginning of the Church. Since there is so much to cover with this event I will be breaking this up into several posts.

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

5 Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of

Book of ActsMesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” 12 And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.”

First, the author provides for us the date on which the Holy Spirit was given: the day of Pentecost. This is a Jewish feast and it is dated 50 days from Passover. So, since Jesus was crucified on (or near) Passover*, rose 3 days later, and presented himself alive to the apostles over a period of 40 days following his resurrection before he ascended (see 1.3), we can conclude that approximately 10 days have passed since Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit.

It’s easy to skip over details like this, that seem to have no other purpose than to provide a date, but I would advise you not to do so. Such details are incredibly important. Details like this, and the genealogies (especially the ones in Matthew and Luke), tie Christianity to historical events, dates, and people. Christianity is based on historical events, such as the resurrection of Jesus, his ascension, and the coming of the Holy Spirit (all of which have been recounted to us by this point in the book). Christianity is not a philosophical system that someone produced in a vacuum. Christianity doesn’t hinge on a particular doctrine, but rather on the historical event of Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. Christianity is only false if these events did not happen.

As a side note, Mike Licona has some great resources (free and paid) to take advantage of if you are interested in investigating the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection. His site is: RisenJesus.com.

It is this relation to actual historical events that sets Christianity apart from most, if not all, of the other major religions of the world. It is also this relation to historical events that I personally find to be the most persuasive aspect of Christianity. If there lived a man who claimed to be God, was killed, rose again, and ascended into heaven I have to explain those events somehow and come to a conclusion about them; I can’t merely dismiss them as fiction if they actually happened.

We can see an example of people trying to explain to themselves a supernatural phenomenon in this passage. When the Holy Spirit came there was a noise, and tongues of fire came and rested on the Apostles. When the noise was heard the people who were in Jerusalem, people from every nation under heaven,  gathered together and were perplexed because they heard men who were from Galilee speaking in their (the people in Jerusalem, i.e. not the Apostles) own language (for the languages see the list in vv. 8-11). We can see two different attitudes to the event: 1) some are perplexed and bewildered and seeking to understand how this could be possible; 2) others are dismissive of the event and mock the Apostles as simply being drunk. Neither group is doubting the event happened, but rather is trying to make sense of it.

So to recap this passage: when the Holy Spirit came there was a noise, the people of Jerusalem gathered together when they heard the noise and found the Apostles speaking in their (the people of Jerusalem, i.e. not the Apostles) own native languages. This perplexed them because they identified the Apostles as being from Galilee who likely did not learn the languages in which they were speaking. Pay attention to these events and remember the signs that accompanied the coming of the Holy Spirit, it will be important later.

That wraps up this post. Maybe finishing chapter 2 in the next post. And that’s a big maybe, there’s a lot to cover in the rest of the chapter.

*I’m not going to reconstruct a timeline here, but you can see the sequence of events by starting with Matthew 26.17; Mark 14.12; Luke 22.1; and/or John 13.1 and reading the rest of the account(s).

The Acts of the Apostles 1.1-11

Before I get into the post let me first apologize for not have written anything recently. My absence has been due to a number of factors including being too busy write and not being inspired to write anything anyway. That being said you “should” start seeing regular entries here for the foreseeable future as I have decided to embark on a study of the Acts of the Apostles and share my insights and thoughts here. So without further ado, let’s begin.

Book of Acts

The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach,until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.

The first sentence is actually quite informative for us as it gives us a clue as to the identity of the author of this book. The Gospel of Luke begins with the author saying that he is composing an orderly account of the “things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word…” The “things” referred to are the teachings and works of Jesus, as evidenced by the content that follows in the Gospel of Luke.

Thus since Acts begins with a statement mentioning a “first” account written to a Theophilus about the teachings and life of Jesus we can conclude that whoever wrote the Gospel of Luke also wrote the Acts of the Apostles. This is important to note as it helps us identify what the “orders” given to the apostles were. These orders the author is referring to are recorded in Luke 24.44-49, which can be summarized as the apostles being witnesses to Jesus being the Messiah that was prophesied by Moses, the prophets, and the psalms and should stay in Jerusalem until the promised Holy Spirit comes.

To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Having already identified the author of this book being the same as the author of the Gospel of Luke we already know that Jesus said these things at the conclusion of that Gospel (for verse 5 see Luke 3.16). So why is the author repeating it for us here? I believe for 2 reasons: (1) to emphasize that this account is not separate from his first account, but rather is a continuation of it and thus should not be thought of as a separate, unrelated account; and (2) to introduce what the focal point of this account will be, the main theme if you will: the coming of the Holy Spirit and the “acts” that this event brought about.

This book is all about what happened after the Holy Spirit was given to the apostles and the acts that were done through them as a result of this. The Holy Spirit will figure prominently in the rest of the book and I will be paying attention to the times when He is mentioned.

So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

Here we see reflected in the comments of the apostles the Jewish expectation, which remains until today, that when Messiah comes he will found a political kingdom and restore the nation of Israel politically. Jesus’ response indicates that this will indeed happen one day, but that the apostles should not worry about when this will happen. Instead they should wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit so that they will be empowered to be witnesses to Jesus being the Messiah the Jewish people were expecting.

And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. 11 They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”

This concludes the author’s recounting of the end of his first account, the Gospel of Luke, and also his introduction for second account. With Jesus’ ascension the expectation now is that the Holy Spirit will come soon as it is taught in the Gospel of John in chapters 14.16 and 16.7 that unless He (Jesus) goes away the “Helper” will not come.* Jesus had already told the apostles twice (vv. 4-5, 8) to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit and now the realization of this event is at hand.

To summarize what has been said so far: the author wants us to know that this is a continuation of his first account, the Gospel of Luke, and that it will be focused on coming of the Holy Spirit and the subsequent acts the apostles performed as a result of being given Him.

That concludes this post, next up will be 1.12-26.

* It is my position that it was known throughout the church by the time Acts was written that if Jesus didn’t go away the Holy Spirit would not come (this is said in John’s gospel, which was probably written after Acts). The early church first taught things orally and only later were they written down.