Now we (finally) return to Acts and pick up where we left off before. The Holy Spirit came down and filled all the believers, placing on them tongues of fire. The Spirit was now taking up residence in his new temple, the church. The first members of the body of Christ spoke in different languages and proclaimed to all the people around them the glories of the Good News of the Messiah.
As is often the case, the world misunderstood and maligned what God was doing, and the crowd was ready to write off this phenomenon as public drunkenness. Peter, however, stood up and delivered his first sermon in explanation of what just happened. I won’t go into every single detail about his sermon, but here are some of my notes:
He starts off by citing Joel 2:28-32. Just to avoid misunderstanding, this is not a complete fulfillment of that prophecy. There’s no record of signs in the heavens or on the earth, and the sun and moon stood unaffected by the events of Pentecost. I do tend to take those prophecies literally, by the way, whenever I can. Therefore I conclude that the complete fulfillment of Joel’s predictions will come when Jesus returns.
Why did Peter mention this passage, then? Because what they were seeing was a partial fulfillment of Joel. Up to that point, the Spirit—as I’ve hammered again and again—was only placed upon certain individuals at certain times and for certain missions. Most believers up to that point had never experienced the Spirit in a personal way, at least not in the same way we do today. Now that was changing: Every believer now had access to the Holy Spirit. The fact that he was manifesting himself so publicly in so many people at one time was showing them that a new era had dawned.
And how had this been brought about? By the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. He used this name because it would be the name by which Jesus would be known by most people. Jesus, as Peter claimed, had performed miracles to show his accreditation by God. Then he was crucified at the hands of the Jewish leaders by means of the Roman soldiers. This is an interesting “tension” verse: On one hand Jesus’ Passion was preordained by God the Father before time began. On the other hand, this in no way exonerates his human murderers.
But he was raised again, as predicted by David in the Psalms. When talking about how God would not leave the “Holy One” in the grave to see decay, David couldn’t have been just referring to himself, since his own body had been lying in the grave for hundreds of years and had certainly decayed to dust. No, David had been referring to his greatest descendant, the Messiah.
Then Jesus ascended to the Father’s right side and had sent the Spirit, the result of which the crowd could see right now. The crux of Peter’s sermon was quite simple: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
What was their response? The same Holy Spirit who had caused the uproar in the first place now “cut” them “to the heart,” and 3000 people received Christ right there and then. How did they all get baptized at one time? According to MacArthur, archeologists have found several large mikvehs, or large pools used for ritual cleansing before entering the temple area. These baptismal-like facilities could've accommodated the large number of converts.
What about 2:38? Is this verse, as some would have us believe, teaching us that baptism is necessary for salvation? We’ll examine that question tomorrow.
In the meantime, let’s focus for a moment on the grand reversal of Babel. When sinful men wanted to unite themselves in arrogant rebellion against the Lord, he came down and scattered them all over the earth by confusing their language. Now, he came down again and started the reunification process. People of all different languages were all united into one church in submission to Christ as the language barrier was broken down. This is truly the dawn of a new era, in which people of all cultural backgrounds, all languages, all skin colors, and all places on the economic scale could be one in Christ. And it all began on Pentecost.
Lord Jesus, I thank you and praise you for making me part of your worldwide Body. I have brothers and sisters all over the world, of all skin colors and from all types of cultures. Help me to find my place in your Body.