The second chapter of the book of The Acts of Apostles in the New Testament includes a number of firsts. It includes the first recorded sermon, which was delivered by Peter. It was the first listed teaching effort following Jesus’ death. It was an impressive response for a first effort where some three thousand men were converted in a single day.
That number seems really large to me, but there may have been half a million (or more) religious men around the temple mound that day as it was one of the four holy days of the Hebrew calendar. But, 3,000 was not an insignificant number (no women are mentioned among the converts that day because women were not allowed into the Temple area during the feast). So this is a first — these are the first people to be converted to the cause of Christ after his death and resurrection, and there was a good response.
It was the occasion of the first recorded baptism of the Holy Spirit, which was the first of only two such events. And it is quite clear that the twelve apostles were the only recipients of that.
This is much to the consternation of those that hold false notions and who are led away with fantasies. Who would so much like to have the miraculous indwelling and gifts of the Holy Spirit to be given out willy-nilly to just about anybody (which has never happened). To this day they have dreams of the Spirit of God wandering about overtaking people in closets or in the night, knocking them over in miraculous healings, and granting what passes for speaking in tongues (something unheard of in the New Testament — which I call goose gabble). These would have it that the Spirit of God never completed his work here, but is still hanging around and working the crowds through emotional displays and in other very secret and mystical emanations. Yet we on this website have offered irrefutable proof from the word of God (more than once) that such things did not and have not happened, and that they are not happening now.
The time of Holy Spirit’s work ended when the apostles left this earth. Like it or not, according to the scriptures, the Comforter’s dwelling place is right now that very same place where both God Almighty and his Christ abide, their collective work in supplying “all things that pertain to life and godliness” having been accomplished long ago. We should read the scriptures to avoid being misled.
But, with that aside, if you are serious and you want to know what effect the gospel plan of salvation had on a large crowd of similarly minded devout people, and you wish to know what you need to do to be counted in the same crowd, this first recorded set of conversions is worth your continued study.
I won’t print the full text here as it would take up a lot of bits and bytes and you really should read it on your own before proceeding. The same rules apply that we always publish: read the text at least twice, underline, highlight words, and write down main or interesting points, and eventually write a synopsis in your own words, identifying all the important items you note.
And if you were to continue to read and study the entire book of Acts in the next few days, you would come upon all nine of the detailed conversions, that I will mention and comment upon, and you would be both educated with what you need to do to save yourself, your family and friends, and you also would know the things we are going to discuss both here and in the essays to follow.
But to continue: if you have concluded your reading, here are some of the things that I have noted about this passage in my studies.
It is the twelve apostles who are introduced as the chosen vessels to carry the word of God to the “uttermost part of the earth” (as had been prophesied by the Christ, and as Jesus specified in the first chapter of this book). It was their position, their duty and their honor. To accomplish this they were endowed with and aided by the Spirit of God. The baptism of the Spirit they were part of was in greater measure than they had been previously given, and in greater measure than anyone else would ever be given with Christ now in heaven. It was greater than what was later granted to any of the others to whom they would transfer the miraculous gifts of the Spirit in the then near future. There had never before been anything like it. This is just as Jesus had stated that it should be (John chapters 14 through 16). And with this baptism of the Spirit on these twelve men began the working of the Spirit of God to fulfill his part in the giving of the gospel plan of salvation.
The audience that day was made up of “devout Jews out of every nation” and fifteen of these countries are mentioned by name. The word devout means 1: devoted to religion or to religious duties or exercises, 2: expressing devotion or piety (a devout attitude) and 3: devoted to a pursuit, belief, or mode of behavior: serious, earnest.
These were not “Sabbath only” Jews — they were following and fulfilling the prescribed duties of the Law and they lived by it. They were serious believers and were seeking to please their God. They were attending to the commanded responsibilities for men of their age and position. And, by the way, they were not believers in Christ before that day, and they had not been sitting in the gallery during Jesus’ trial. The record says nothing at all about any such things.
This crowd first came to the part of the area surrounding the temple where there apparently were some houses, one of which was where the twelve apostles at that time had established residence (Acts 1:13). As an aside, the lexicographers are unanimous in noting that the word translated “reside” or “abode” in most of the English language versions means to reside “fully” or to “live permanently.”
There was an unusual event that caught their attention so early that morning (it wasn’t yet nine o’clock). There was a loud sound “as of a rushing mighty wind.” Notice that it does not say there was a wind, but only that there was a sound like one. This sound accompanied the Holy Spirit in his descent to the house where the twelve lived.
The house mentioned apparently was not a barracks or a dancehall where about “one hundred and twenty disciples” might meet, as the text says nothing at all about where that earlier event had taken place. But of this it simply says, “the house.” How much house with an upper room large enough for 12 men to live in do you suppose these disheartened fishermen from Galilee might have been able to afford at this time? Do you suppose that you could get 120 people into an upper room in that house, or in any other typical house in ancient Jerusalem without it collapsing the top to the bottom?
It says that the Holy Spirit filled the house and what looked like split or cloven “tongues of fires” moved over or “sat upon” each of them (still the same twelve men — just as Jesus said it would happen and as is recorded in chapter 1, verses 4 and 5). At this point they began to speak in languages that they had never before learned or had never before been taught (that is after all, what speaking in “tongues” means) with the Spirit speaking through them, as has always been the case with prophets of God.
When the crowd heard the noise like the wind, they went over to see what was going on. There they heard the twelve men, who had obviously moved from the house and outside around the temple area; and someone present was quoted noting that they were “speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” Some of these devout men knew a miracle when they became witness to it, so they stopped and listened. We don’t have miracles today, and we have a distinct problem with paying attention to something as simple as plain narrative.
There is always someone that doesn’t get it. And that day, some cad was wrongheaded enough to say that drunkenness might be the root cause as to why these twelve men suddenly became fluent in everyone else’s language. So Peter took up the notion that the things being witnessed by the crowd were simply random events.
“Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams and on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and notable day of the Lord.’ And it shall come to pass that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
The crowd was both familiar with the words of the prophet to which Peter referred and they were knowledgeable about the language used to describe God’s judgment and how changes were heralded in prophecy. They had been schooled in such things — so they paid attention as Peter continued.
Peter clearly stated that the events they were witnessing that morning were the fulfillment of the very prophesy he had just quoted. He had said, “Today is the day when this is being fulfilled.” And they had not been staring up at the sun to see if it had burned out, nor did they go outside later that night to see if the moon had turned red (only we of later times would do stupid things like that), as they knew this type of symbolic language meant that God was ushering in radical new things and that the changes were to be notable, world wide and world altering, and that they would be happening very quickly. They understood that Peter meant the time was now.
Some of the crowd paid attention. Peter then told the multitude of his witness and the witness of these other eleven men to the life, the death, and particularly to the resurrection from the dead of Jesus. It nowhere addresses that the members of the audience had witnessed those things — Peter is addressing his witness and the witness of the others. They were the eyewitnesses, not the members of the crowd.
He openly accused the Jews of causing Jesus’ death, which of course was true, although the record elsewhere states that the Jews, Gentiles and the Romans each had a hand in things. No one got a free pass. But the pious and religious leaders of the Jews were at the front of the inquisitors: not the members of this particular crowd, but their leaders, just as prophecy had stated it would be.
He then said something new. He stated that this man Jesus was the Messiah of promise they both looked and longed for, and he proved it through references to the prophecies of David (with which they were also very familiar). Many of them likely knew or had at least heard of some of the deeds of Jesus throughout Galilee and Judea. Once Peter’s argument was made and sealed, he concluded, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” “Christ” is not a nickname or some family moniker for Jesus, but it is a title meaning the anointed one, the Messiah: The Christ was and is the Immanuel foretold by the Archangel.
Those that took in these events and that understood the things stated that day (the prophecy, the explanation and what it all meant) were visibly shaken. I am sure that the rest of the crowd did not hang around long enough to hear the end of these things, as some discounted the story and the proof that Jesus was the Messiah. But this group was startled, convinced and convicted and they began to talk among themselves saying, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” That is the equivalent of saying “What are we going to do now?” or, “How do we get out of this?” They knew the prophecies, and that the messiah would be tried, killed and resurrected. They now believed that Jesus was the Christ. But they did not know that these events would be laid to their charge and that it had all happened on their watch yet without their notice until the Holy Spirit put it in language that they could understand and into a clear perspective for them.
Peter then told them the only way out of the predicament and the only thing that they could do. “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
The response was that of the many thousands that heard the argument, “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
So what is it that they did to save themselves from that “perverse generation?”
They listened to what the apostles told them to do, they took it in, and in belief they followed the instructions to the letter. They repented (they made a turn away from the things that were corrupt to the godly things). They were baptized (immersed) which opened to them forgiveness from their sins; and, they called upon the name of the Lord (and that has nothing to do with praying for Jesus to take over your life, or in shouting or chanting out his name). Finally they continued in what they were being taught and in the new religious practice as it was being introduced to them.
So what have we in answer to the question of “What shall we do?” What is it that we ourselves must do to be saved from our own perverse generation, or what do we need to do to be made safe from the consequences of these same things? Would you do something different from what they did that day? How would we imitate these things?
We have found that they were told to turn away from the old and toward the new – to turn to God. They were also told to be immersed for the remission of sins (and it can only mean baptism in water as nowhere is baptism of the Holy Spirit mentioned) and they then started to walk along a different path learning as they went, but with Jesus as their captain, and the apostles as their guide on.
None of that encompasses any difficulty, either in understanding what had been said or in what was required to be done. Yet many struggle with it just as a prizefighter struggles to keep standing after a hard round.
There are some things that are not mentioned. The record doesn’t say a thing about any of these people speaking in other languages, and there is not a word about any of them ever being baptized with or being filled with the Holy Spirit. Peter told them they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and I must take that to mean they were receiving salvation that very day through the work of the Holy Spirit. It works the same today. Salvation is available to all. Others take it to mean that sometime later these converts were to be recipients of the laying on of the apostle’s hands and then they too would exhibit the miraculous indwelling of the Spirit. Yet the text says nothing at all about any of that. And if that was to be true, the apostles apparently were less than efficient, or perhaps they were too busy, to grant the Spirit to be given to the crowd that very day while they had them all together. What nonsense. No one had the indwelling of and gifts of the Spirit at this point other than these twelve apostles and on this the text is rife with proof. The apostles began to transfer the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to others at some point prior to the introduction of the story of Stephen, and there is no evidence of any kind that all were recipient.
Nothing at all is said of any of them being saved by praying a prayer accepting Christ as their personal savior. Praying a prayer to accept Christ wasn’t on the list given by the apostles, and therefore it simply did not work to bring about salvation. In fact, all of these notions and devices just mentioned are suspect, as none of them were mentioned and none of them appeared to gain anyone their salvation that day or any other day. The record states that what they were called on to do, they did — and that what they did allowed it so that “…the Lord added to the church those that were being saved.”
We’ll take a look in the next essay at the detailed conversion of a man called Simon the magician and compare its elements to those identified in this one.