The commencement of the Church age
The events that took place on the Day of Pentecost marked the beginning of a new dispensation. The age of the church was ushered in, an age that will end with the Rapture (1 Thess 4.13-18).
It was, first, the coming of a Divine Person. The Holy Spirit had in the past come upon certain individuals to enable them to carry out specific acts of service. At Pentecost He came to indwell believers. It was, second, the fulfilment of a divine promise. The coming of the Holy Spirit had been promised by the Lord Jesus during the upper room ministry (Jn 14.16-17,26), and after His resurrection when He stated, " ye shall be baptised with the Holy Ghost, not many days hence" (Acts 1.5). That baptism took place when the room in which the disciples were seated was filled with the Holy Spirit and thus they were immersed in the Holy Spirit. It was, third, the bestowal of a Divinely-given Power. Spiritual gifts were given to those who had been baptised in the Holy Spirit as was evidenced by the disciples speaking with tongues, a spiritual gift that was given for a short period. It was, fourth, the revelation of a Divine Plan. The church, the birth of which had not been revealed in the Old Testament, was now brought into being.
After the baptism in the Holy Spirit the apostles, led by Peter on this occasion, went out to preach, giving the first address of the new dispensation.
The character of the address
The address was marked by unity. Note that Peter stood up with the eleven. All twelve apostles were united and spoke with tongues. There was no dissenting voice amongst them.
The address was also marked by authority. The authority of the preachers is seen in the confidence and clarity with which they spoke. The apostles spoke with tongues, and every one who was present could listen to their own language being spoken. This was proof of the fact that a new era had opened. It was confirmation that what the apostles preached was of God. The listeners exclaimed in wonder, "And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?". It also showed that this was a message for the world and not for Israel alone.
The authority of Scripture is also obvious as Peter quotes from the Old Testament to prove to the Jews that the resurrection of the Lord Jesus was foretold.
The address was marked by suitability. Speaking to Jews, Peter uses Scriptures and language that they would understand. The preaching was suitable for the audience.
It was a challenge to the listeners as Peter declared, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you" (v.38). They had to save themselves from "this untoward generation" (v.40).
What must have been clear to those who listened was that these followers of a man who had been crucified and who were, therefore, defeated and leaderless, were now preaching with power and confidence. The change was remarkable.
The content of the address
Explanation - vv.14-21
The charge was made against the preachers that they were "full of new wine" (v.13), that they were in a drunken state. Peter refutes this by reminding his listeners that it was 9.00 am, too early for them to be inebriated. But stating what was not the cause of this event leads to him explaining what actually had taken place. He quotes from the prophet Joel (2.28-32). He does not declare that the prophecy of Joel had been fulfilled, for clearly there had been no "wonders in heaven above, and signs on the earth beneath; blood and fire, and vapour of smoke". Joel is cited to show the Jews from their own Scriptures the evidence that the Holy Sprit had been given. There is no claim to specific fulfilment of his prophecy, but it does show that remarkable things happen when the Spirit is present and is working. The judgment of which mention is made in vv.19-20 refers to the cosmic and terrestrial upheaval which takes place on the opening of the sixth seal in Revelation 6.12-17.
It has already been noticed that Joel is also quoted because it brings before the listeners their responsibility to call on the name of the Lord for salvation. This recognition of their need was what was required of those who heard the apostles preach, but it also ought to be the objective of every gospel preacher to bring this about.
It is worth remarking also that the reference to daughters prophesying is not to be used to claim sisters "rights" to speak publicly in the assembly. This refers to a different dispensation. Pentecost was not the inauguration of the Kingdom!
Declaration - vv.22-24
This vital part of the address opens with words that call on the listeners to give good attention to what is about to be announced. Peter declares publicly, for the first time, the fact of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The responsibility for the death of the Lord is laid on Israel: "Him ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain". There could be no disagreement about that fact; indeed the Jews readily acknowledged that they had put Him to death, although they would not acknowledge that He was delivered "by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God".
The fact of the resurrection had been confirmed. He had been seen by the apostles and by others (1 Cor 15.4-8), but had not been seen by unbelievers. That privilege had been only for His own. Certainly, the news of the empty tomb had been abroad, but the authorities had asserted that the body had been "stolen" away. Now Peter states, "Whom God hath raised up". This truth itself would arouse the opposition of the Jews.
Confirmation - vv.25-36
On the day of the resurrection Peter did not know the Scriptures that the Lord would rise from the dead (Jn 20.9). But now, fifty days later, he quotes from the Psalms to show that the resurrection was foretold. How did this come about? The answer is twofold. First, the Lord had taught him, and the other disciples, for the forty days until He was taken up into heaven itself. Remember that the Lord Jesus opened the Scriptures to the two to whom He revealed Himself on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24.13-35). Second, the Holy Spirit had now come.
The Psalms referred to come from the pen of David, and that fact gave them great authority. No Israelite could question the writings of the greatest king to sit on Israels throne. Three Psalms are quoted. The first is Psalm 16.8-11 which is used in vv.25-28 to substantiate the death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus. Peter asserts that David wrote of One who would not see corruption, and yet the Jews asserted that in this Psalm he was speaking of himself. How could this be when they knew that David died and was buried? His sepulchre was still with them, therefore Davids body did see corruption. Psalm 132.11 states that David, because he was a prophet, knew that God had sworn an oath that He would raise up Christ from the seed of David, and it was He who would not see corruption. When Psalm 110 is quoted it is to substantiate the ascension of the Lord: "Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool".
The consequence of the address
First there was conviction. Those who heard the preaching were "pricked in their heart" (v.37). This was followed by conversion when there were those who received the word. Then there was continuation as those who received the word were baptised and "continued stedfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers".
This is the pattern for today. The purpose of gospel preaching is to bring conviction of sin into the hearts of the listeners. Following this, from amongst those who are convicted some receive the word and prove practically that they have done so by being baptised. This act is one of obedience to the Lord who had instructed that it should be carried out (Mt 28.19). The breaking of bread is also an act of obedience to Him (1 Cor 11.23-26). These early believers proved decisively by their actions that they had become followers of the One who had been crucified and had been raised from the dead. Salvation was confirmed by their separation from the world (publicly declared at baptism) and then by their service for the Lord. This still is the gospel pattern for today. If we are saved and wish to please the Lord who died for us we must submit to the scriptural order. It has not been given to be merely of historical interest, but to set out clearly what is expected today of those who claim to be saved.