Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Acts 2 Explanatory Notes

For about 12 weeks now I have been studying Acts. Here are my notes and videos on Acts 1.

And now my notes and videos on Acts 2.

II. Acts 2-7 Jerusalem
A. Acts 2 The Coming of the Spirit
  • 2:1. We can assume from Acts 1:14 that these believers have been praying as important context for the coming of the Holy Spirit. It is also significant that they are "together." That is, they are unified.
  • 2:2. The word for spirit (pneuma) is related to the word for wind (pnoe). Spirit is something that is blown. The metaphor of "filling" is frequently used with the Holy Spirit, like a cup that is filled.
  • 2:3. The idea of tongues of fire is attested by Philo at the event of the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai and we can find in some places an association between Pentecost and Sinai. It is thus at least possible that we should hear new covenant overtones to the Day of Pentecost.
  • 2:4. A number of expressions are used in Acts for the event that takes place here--being "filled" with the Spirit, being "baptized" in the Holy Spirit, "receiving" the Holy Spirit. These would all seem to be synonymous expressions. 
  • Being filled with the Holy Spirit is an initiatory experience in the book of Acts. That is to say, a person has not truly become part of the people of God until he or she has received the Spirit. This baptism in the Spirit is the means by which one's past sins are cleansed (cf. Acts 15:9). 
  • Within the narrative world of Luke-Acts, this event is the fulfillment of Luke 3:16. That is to say, we would introduce foreign elements into Luke's story if we insert John 20:22 here. In the story world of Luke-Acts, this is the first time that the disciples receive the Spirit.
  • For Acts, Paul, and Hebrews, receiving the Holy Spirit is the initiatory experience for a Christian. Faith (Paul), repentance (Luke), and confession (John) are important precursors to inclusion in the people of God, but they are not the borderline per se. "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they are not his" (Rom. 8:9). The Holy Spirit is a seal indicating God's ownership of us (2 Cor. 1:22). He is the earnest of our inheritance, serving both as a down payment and guarantee of our salvation (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5). 
  • One is thus not a Christian unless you have received the Holy Spirit, and if you have received the Holy Spirit, you are a Christian. Therefore, in the narrative world of Luke-Acts, the Day of Pentecost is the birth of the church. 
  • The primary manifestation of receiving the Holy Spirit is power, as indicated in Acts 1:8. The first manifestation of this power is speaking in languages. These would seem to be human languages in Acts 2. The word for utterance here seems to suggest divinely revealed messages.
  • 2:5-6. We should picture this crowd as an overwhelmingly Jewish crowd. Pilgrimage to Jerusalem was a feature of the Judaism of the day, thus the picture of Diaspora Jews from all over the Roman Empire coming at some point to the temple. The volume of the noise from the rushing wind must have been quite spectacular.
  • 2:7-11. In these verses we get a sense of how many nations were represented in Jerusalem on feast days. This cross-section of Diaspora Judaism will serve as a conduit for the Jesus movement spreading throughout the world. 
  • 2:7. We get an overtone that Galileans were not particularly thought of as likely to speak in so many different languages.
  • 2:8. This verse clearly indicates that the languages spoken were human languages and that the use of tongues here served the purpose of evangelism. Although the other instances of tongues speaking do not indicate the nature of the tongues, Acts 2 may tip the scales toward them being human languages in the other instances too.
  • Acts never indicates that tongues always accompanied receiving the Holy Spirit. The believers at Samaria are not said to speak in tongues in Acts 8, nor is Paul said to in Acts 9. 
  • 2:11. The content of what they were saying seems to have been the "great works of God."
  • 2:12-13. There seem to be two basic reactions to the event. Some are perplexed and want to know more. Others immediately reject the spiritual nature of the event and propose that the men are drunk. In other words, some have ears to hear and others do not.
  • 2:14-36. This is the first and most important sermon in Acts, giving Peter's response to the crowd. We call the basic gospel message of this sermon the "kerygma," that which is preached. 
  • We probably shouldn't think of this sermon as a verbatim. It would be in keeping with the practices of ancient history writing for Luke to summarize, paraphrase, even at times create material for such speeches (cf. Thucydides). 
  • 2:14-21. The main parts of the sermon each begin with a word that addresses the crowd. The first is "Men, Jews, and all those dwelling in Jerusalem."
  • 2:15. Peter first rejects the claim that they are drunk. It is only 9 in the morning. There may be some implied parallel between being filled with the Spirit and being drunk with wine (Eph. 5:18).
  • 2:16-21. Peter offers by contrast that the event is the fulfillment of the words of Joel 2. In the prophets, the Day of the Lord was a day of the Lord's judgment, one that could occur as often as needed. Acts presumably relates this to the Day of the Lord, the final judgment. In that sense, the entire age of the church is syncopated into this moment.
  • Language of the moon darkening and the sun turning to blood is eclipse language. It is not clear that Luke foresees a literal eclipse at some time but this is apocalyptic language. He may actually be saying that the Day of Pentecost fulfilled the thrust of those signs.
  • 2:17-18. These are key verses indicating that the age of the Spirit is one in which both men and women will preach. Preaching is often a form of prophesying, that is, speaking forth the word that the Lord has given to a particular group of people, a divine utterance. Prophecy is much more "forth-telling" than it is "fore-telling." The Spirit is the great equalizer, and since men and women possess the Spirit in full measure, there is no spiritual activity that is limited to a certain gender or type of person. "In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free. There is not male and female" (Gal. 3:28).
  •  2:21. One of the main themes of Acts is that anyone can now call on the Lord, and anyone who does will be saved. Luke also uses deterministic language but these two types of language should not be connected philosophically as in Calvinism. In keeping with the fatalism of the day, Luke assumes that those who are called have been chosen by God and yet also believes that the gospel is for everyone and anyone merely need call upon God to be saved.
  • 2:22-35. These verses focus on Psalm 16:8-11, which Luke uses in conjunction with Psalm 110:1 to indicate that Jesus' resurrection is also the fulfillment of prophecy, just like the day of Pentecost.
  • 2:22. Luke's Christology focuses on the empowered humanity of Jesus. In this verse, for example, Jesus is said to be a man whom God endorsed by empowering him to do signs and wonders through the Holy Spirit. In this sense Jesus the man gives us an example of what is possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • 2:23. One feature of the sermons of Acts, of which this one is the most important and central one, is that the enemies of Christ did not prevail. Jesus' death was in accordance with the foreknowledge and plan of God.
  • 2:24. The climax of every sermon in Acts except one (Stephen's sermon--he is stoned to death before he can get to this part of the sermon) is the statement that "God raised him from the dead." Notice again that the agency is that of God the Father rather than Jesus himself.
  • 2:25-28. Here is the quote of Psalm 16. 
  • 2:25. The Greek version of Psalm 16:8 differs a little from the Hebrew. The Hebrew reads, "I put the LORD" but the Greek reads, "I foresaw." While Peter might have known some Greek, it seems more likely that he would have spoken Aramaic on the Day of Pentecost, suggesting that Luke is at the very least making Peter's sermon conform to the text in which his audience would have read the psalm. 
  • More importantly, this different wording leads Luke's Peter to see these words as a prophecy by the psalmist, understood to be David, rather than a statement about the psalmist himself, as it likely was in its original meaning.
  • 2:26. The version Luke's Peter quotes in 2:26 also follows the Septuagint with the expression "in hope" rather than the likely Hebrew, "securely." 
  • 2:29-31. Now Peter gives a spiritual interpretation of the psalm. The original psalmist was likely expressing his confidence that God was going to save him from dying. Luke's Peter takes the psalm spiritually to mean that God would not leave the Messiah dead.
  • 2:32. An apostle is of course someone who is sent, but in Acts the apostles were sent with a very clear task to give witness to the resurrection. In the vast majority of cases in the New Testament, an apostle is someone to whom the risen Christ has appeared, who has been sent to witness to his resurrection, which means to witness to his Lordship.
  • 2:33. There are a number of places where the Gospel of John seems to echo themes in Acts, making us wonder if John had read Acts. Here we see a theme that John will develop in the later part of John. Jesus ascends to heaven and then sends the Holy Spirit.
  • 2:34-35. Here we have a foundational interpretation of Psalm 110:1 for the early church, one that may have been central to early Christian understanding of the resurrection. Jesus' resurrection is understood to be a cosmic enthronement whereby Jesus is exalted to God's right hand in the highest heaven. 
  • The key to this interpretation is to see "my Lord" as David referring to the Messiah. In the original meaning, the psalmist was probably referring to an earthly king. In the spiritual interpretation, YHWH speaks to the Messiah.
  • 2:36. Here is the final climax of the sermon. Jesus has been enthroned as Lord and Messiah. God "has made him." They crucified him. God enthroned him. The timing of the enthronement in context is post resurrection. Thus we might say that Jesus was heir apparent up to this point, but then is seated on the throne after his resurrection, ascension, and exaltation. This is the "session" of Christ.
  • 2:37-41. Here we have the response to Peter's sermon. We should note that the boldness of Peter to preach is one of the manifestations of the power that has come on him because of the filling of the Holy Spirit.
  • 2:37. The crowd has the response. Upon realizing that they have participated in the crucifixion of their own Messiah, they want to turn and see restoration.
  • 2:38. This verse unfolds how to call on the name of the Lord. First one repents or turns from one's self-destructive path. Repentance is a major feature of Luke's theology (as opposed to Paul's, who hardly mentions it). Then one believes or exercises faith. The crucial moment, however, is when one receives the Holy Spirit. This is the moment when one actually becomes part of the people of God, is cleansed of one's past sins, and is going to be saved on the Day of the Lord.
  • 2:39. The promise is first for the Jews. In Acts 10 we will learn it is for the Gentiles as well.
  • 2:40. By contrast, the generation of which they are a part is "crooked" and destined for destruction.
  • 2:41. About 3000 people respond positively to the message and join the Jesus movement.
  • 2:42-47. These verses give us an idyllic picture of the earliest church, and Luke wants us to see this picture as the ideal. He is not merely describing the early church. The evaluative point of view of Acts is entirely positive toward this picture.
  • 2:42. This community involves teaching and teaching by the apostles. The source of their teaching is presumably the Holy Spirit, although they have also been apprentices of Jesus.
  • Community life involves fellowship (koinonia) and prayer. The importance of fellowship should not be underestimated. The breaking of bread suggests a level of mutual approval and intimacy.
  • 2:43. The apostles performed miracles, which brought a fear at the seriousness of the power of the Spirit. It is interesting that it is not suggested that all the believers performed miracles.
  • 2:44-45. There was a communal aspect of the early church. Those who had more possessions than they needed sold them and gave them to others who had need. The sense probably is not that they sold everything, although it is possible that some did. Those who think the Lord will return immediately or soon sometimes rashly do such things. The sense is probably more that they shared their excess with those in need. In other words, the early church behaved as a family, and they helped each other out accordingly.
  • 2:46. They continued to pray at the temple. We get no sense that they realized the temple was going to be destroyed. Indeed, if Acts 21:24 suggests they continued to participate in the sacrificial system, perhaps implying that they did not yet understand the full scope of Christ's atoning death.
  • Again we see the centrality of fellowship and eating in each other's homes. The church is a new family.
  • 2:47. New people were being saved daily. The sense is not one of "progressive salvation," as if we are gradually being saved. Rather, people were being saved daily, one by one, salvation event by event.
  • They also held favor with the people. Under peaceful circumstances, non-believers should respect and admire believers for their wholesome and peace-loving nature.
Patrons videos (now available)
Hermeneutics of Psalm 16 and 110:1
Spirit-Fillings in Acts

Videos on English of Acts 2
Acts 2:1-13
Acts 2:14-23
Acts 2:24-36
Acts 2:37-47

Videos on Greek of Acts 2
Acts 2:1-2
Acts 2:3-4
Acts 2:5-6
Acts 2:7-11
Acts 2:12-13
Acts 2:14-15
Acts 2:16-17
Acts 2:18-19
Acts 2:20-21
Acts 2:22-23
Acts 2:24-25
Acts 2:26-28
Acts 2:29-30
Acts 2:31-33
Acts 2:34-35
Acts 2:36-38
Acts 2:39-40
Acts 2:41-42
Acts 2:43-45
Acts 2:46-47

1 comment:

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for doing this.