LOOKING THROUGH THE “I’s” of ACTS 2
by B.J. Clarke
It has been called “the hub of the Bible.” It has been said that everything before it points to it and that everything after it looks back to it. Some preachers among us today are ridiculing the idea that it is all that important. Yet, it still stands as the chapter in which God’s scheme of redemption through Christ is made manifest. It is the place where we see the kingdom of God established. It is the place where we see the terms of salvation given in connection with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is Acts 2.
One denominational preacher suggested that all members of the churches of Christ have a “greasy spot” in their Bibles at Acts 2. He taunted that if you were to take the Bible of a preacher in the church of Christ and just let it fall open, that it would most assuredly open to Acts chapter two. In spite of the ridicule from within and without, the second chapter of Acts has a powerful message. The chapter can be divided into seven different sections, all of which can be titled with a word beginning with the letter “I.” Let’s look through the “I’s” of Acts 2 and see what we can learn.
I. INFILLING (Acts 2:1-4). The opening stanza of the chapter reveals unto us that it was the day of Pentecost when they were all with one accord in one place. “And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 2:1-4). It is of paramount importance to define the group under consideration in these verses. Who was filled with the Holy Spirit? They were. They who?
One of the rules of English grammar is that a pronoun must be connected to its nearest antecedent. The book, chapter and verse divisions of the Bible were not a part of the original documents. It was not until the thirteenth century that the chapter divisions came into being. The verse divisions came along in 1551, when Robert Stephens divided his Greek Testament into verses while travelling. What’s the point? When Luke originally wrote Acts there was no break between what we know as Acts 1:26 and Acts 2:1. Thus, the original readers read the rollowing as consecutive sentences.
And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and
he was numbered with the eleven apostles. And when the day of
Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one
The “they” connected back with its nearest antecedent is Matthias and the eleven apostles. Thus, the apostles are the ones under consideration in Acts 2:1-4. These verses aren’t speaking of the 120 disciples mentioned in Acts 1:15. The apostles were all filled with the Holy Spirit.
There is still further proof that this infilling of the Holy Spirit was limited to the apostles. John records the words of Jesus to his apostles in the upper room just prior to his betryal and crucifixion (Jn 13-17). In the midst of these words Jesus said, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth” (Jn 16:12,13). Shortly before his ascension Jesus also told his apostles,
“And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but
tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power
from on high … And being assembled together with them, (the
“them” points back to the apostles whom he had chosen-Acts
1:2,3) commanded that they should not depart from Jerusalem,
but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye heard
of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be
baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence … But ye
shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon
you” (Lk 24:49; Acts 1:4,5,8).
These verses combined show us that the baptismal infilling of the Holy Spirit was promised specifically to the apostles and was limited to them on Pentecost.
II. INSPIRATION (Acts 2:5-21). The infilling of the Holy Spirit received by the apostles inspired them with the message of God. Inspiration was the product of the infilling. This inspiration equipped the apostles with the ability to speak in languages they had never studied. The reaction of the crowd to this is revealed in the divine record, “And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying to one another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born … And they were all amazed and were in doubt, Saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine” (Acts 2:7,8,12,13).
Peter responded to the charge that the men were drunken by pointing out that it was not intoxication but inspiration that was guiding the apostles. Peter referred to the prophecy given by Joel and said, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16). Joel had predicted that the Spirit would be poured out and that inspired prophesying would occur as the result. This is precisely what happened on Pentecost. Thus, the speaking in tongues wasn’t intoxication, but inspiration.
One comment needs to be made about the miracle that took place on Pentecost. Sometimes the question is raised as to whether the miracle was one of speaking or one of hearing. Did the apostles actually speak in other languages or did they speak normally while God miraculously worked on the auditors, causing them to hear it in their own language? There can be no doubt that this was a miracle of speaking. The text declares that the apostles “began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). The audience had not been infilled with the Holy Spirit. Thus, they were not the ones through whom the miraculous was working. Why would the Holy Spirit infill the apostles if it was not to endow miraculously them with the ability to do what the Bible says they did, namely to speak in languages they had never studied before? Had not Jesus promised them that they would receive power after the Holy Spirit came upon them? (Acts 1:8). Power to do what? Power to speak in languages they had never studied before! God performed His miracle through the apostles and the result was inspiration.
III. INDICTMENT (Acts 2:22-23). Now having their attention as the result of the miracle, Peter indicts them with the crucifixion and slaying of Jesus of Nazareth. It is interesting to note that God had done miracles, wonders, and signs by Jesus in the midst of them (Acts 2:22). Alas, a miracle, wonder, or sign had been performed in their midst also on Pentecost. Thus, if miracles, wonders, and signs showed Jesus to be approved by God, then the miracle, wonder, or sign done by the apostles showed them also to be approved of by God. Hence, there was divine credibility behind Peter’s indictment. They had killed God’s Son.
IV. INTERPRETATION (Acts 2:24-36). Having indicted the Pentecostians for the murder of Jesus Christ, Peter then proceeded to discuss the glorious resurrection of our Lord. In order to accomplish this he referred back to the statement of David in the sixteenth Psalm in which David said, “thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thin Holy One to suffer corruption” (Ps 16:10). Peter took that statement and interpreted it as it related to Jesus.
His bottom line interpretation was that David, as a prophet, was foretelling the resurrection of Christ from the dead to be exalted into heaven to sit on His throne. Peter interpreted David’s words to mean that Jesus was not going to be left in Hades, but rather that He would conquer death and ascend to assume his position at the right hand of God. Peter gave an interpretation of David’s words that showed them to have been fulfilled for he said, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).
V. INQUIRY (Acts 2:37). This dogmatic declaration of Peter coupled with his indictment earlier, pricked the hearts of his hearers so much so that they made inquiry as to what they must do to be relieved of the guilt of having killed God’s anointed Son. The greatest question in all the world is the question asked of Peter on Pentecost. It is the same question asked by the jailor in Acts 16:30. Similar questions were asked by the Rich Young Ruler (Mk 10:17) and the lawyer (Lk 10:25). No greater inquiry can be made than was made by these hearers in Acts 2.
VI. INVITATION (Acts 2:38-41). Upon hearing their inquiry, Peter immediately invited them to “Repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins” (Acts 2:38). He invited them to come to the same Jesus they had killed in order that He might give them life. This invitation is extended to the whole world (Mt 11:28-30; 28:18-20; Mk 16:15-16; Jn 3:16; 1 Jn 2:2).
The bride and the Spirit invite whosoever will to come and take of the water of life freely (Rev 22:17). The invitation is ours to respond to. The people on Pentecost responded to this invitation in that they who gladly received his word were baptized and the same day there were added unto them about 3000 souls (Acts 2:41).
VII. INCREASE (Acts 2:42-27). After their initial conversion to Christ the disciples increased. They increased in their knowledge of the apostles’ doctrine. They increased in fellowship and breaking of bread. They increased in their prayers one for another. They increased in their love and concern for one another so much so that they sold their possessions to aid their less fortunate brothers and sisters in Christ. They increased in unity. Their stature in the eyes of the people increased. And their numbers of conversions increased on a daily basis. Oh that the church would have the same increase in all of these areas today!
Acts 2 is indeed one of the most vital sections of the sacred writings. As we have looked through the “I’s” of Acts 2 we have seen the infilling of the apostles with the Holy Spirit. We have observed the inspiration in the apostles as the result of this infilling. We have noted Peter’s indictment of his hearers for crucifying Jesus and have seen his inspired interpretation of David’s comments concerning the resurrectiona nd ascension of Jesus. We have focused upon the inquiry of the crowd and Peter’s invitation to them. Finally, we have gazed upon the tremendous increase in the infant Jerusalem church. Looking through the “I’s” of Acts 2 has given me clearer spiritual vision. How about you?
DRL NOTE: B.J. Clarke has done an excellent job in analyzing this HUB OF THE BIBLE, hasn’t he? I have put this outline in my Bible and am sure that I will use it over and over again in the future. I feel sure that you could benefit by doing the same. These seven “I’s” serve as a wonderful overview of this marvelous chapter from God’s word. Thanks, B.J., for helping to improve our spiritual vision by providing this outline!
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