Acts 2:14-36

A Bible Study led by Dr. Larry Reynolds

February 5, 2009


(Acts 2:14-36)


In our last session we began looking at the key event in the book of Acts – the infusion of the Holy Spirit into the lives of the followers of Jesus.  It is not that the Holy Spirit came into being on the Day of Pentecost.  He is part of the eternal Godhead and has been at work in the world from the very beginning.  In the Old Testament there are numerous references to the work of the Holy Spirit.  However, before Pentecost the Holy Spirit generally worked through special people and in special situations.  However, on the Day of Pentecost the “tongues as of fire” (a representation of the Holy Spirit) “rested on each one of them” (Acts 2:.32).  The result was that “…they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 2:4).  This was the fulfillment of the promise of God of which Jesus spoke in Acts 1:4-5. 


In telling the story in Acts 2 of what happened on the Day of Pentecost, Luke divides the account into three main movements:

1.      The coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-13)

2.      The preaching of Peter (Acts 2:14-36)

3.      The response to Peter’s sermon (Acts 2:37-42)

The chapter ends with a paragraph in Acts 2:43-47 which tells of the afterglow of Pentecost.  Because this event is so important, we are going to deal with it in three sessions. 

·         In the previous session we focused on Acts 2:1-13 which describe the coming of the Holy Spirit, the effect on the disciples, and the effect on the multitude gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost. 

·         In this session we will focus on the sermon Peter preached at Pentecost. 

·         In the next session we will focus on the response of the multitude to the sermon and the afterglow on Pentecost on the disciples.


The Preaching of Peter (Acts 2:14-36)

This is the first of nine (9) key sermons recorded in the book of Acts which were preached in the early days of the church.  These sermons are as follows:

1.      Acts 2 – Peter on the Day of Pentecost

2.      Acts 4 – Peter before the Jewish authorities after his and John’s arrest for causing a disturbance in the Temple area

3.      Acts 7 – Stephen before the Jewish authorities

4.      Acts 10 – Peter at Caesarea in the home of Cornelius, a Roman Centurion

5.      Acts 13 – Paul at Antioch of Pisidia on his first missionary journey

6.      Acts 17 – Paul at the Areopagus in Athens on his second missionary journey

7.      Acts 22 – Paul before an angry crowd in Jerusalem

8.      Acts 24 – Paul before Felix the governor in Caesarea

9.      Acts 26 – Paul before King Agrippa


While these sermons differ in style and length, four common elements can clearly be seen in most of them:

1.      An announcement that the long-awaited “Day of the Lord” had finally arrived

2.      A telling of the basic events of the life of Jesus – His life and works, His sacrificial death, and His resurrection

3.      A use of the Old Testament to demonstrate that Jesus is the promised Messiah

4.      A call to repentance and decision

Each of these elements can be seen in Peter’s sermon at Pentecost.


Peter’s sermon, like any well thought out speech, has three main parts:

1.      The introduction (Acts 2:14-21)

2.      The main body (Acts 2:22-35)

3.      The conclusion (Acts 2:36)


The introduction to Peter’s sermon (Acts 2:14-21)

Verse 14“But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: ‘Men of Judea, and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give heed to my words.”

      “But Peter, taking his stand…” - It is interesting that Peter is the spokesman for the apostles.  Only a few weeks earlier, three times he had denied even being associated with Jesus before a small group in the courtyard of the high priest (see Luke 22:54-62).  His remarkable transformation can only be attributed to the impact the resurrection had on him and on the Holy Spirit indwelling him.  This phrase indicates Peter was put forward by the other eleven (Matthias had taken the place of Judas) as the spokesman.


      “…declared to them…” – The word translated “declared” is the same word translated “utterance” in verse 4.  It means impassioned, elevated speech.  The word is used only in the book of Acts in the New Testament.  This was no boring lecture presented in a half-hearted way.  It was a strong argument presented with a sense of urgency.


      “…men of Judea, and all who live in Jerusalem…” – The majority of the people in the crowd that day were people who lived in the province of Judea in which Jerusalem was located and in Jerusalem itself.  But, as we saw in the previous session, there were Jewish people present for the Feast of Pentecost from all across the Roman Empire.  While Peter begins his sermon by addressing those from nearby areas, he quickly expands the scope to address the entire multitude in verse 22 when he uses the phrase “…men of Israel…”


Verse 15“For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day…”  In the previous paragraph some of the mockers had accused the disciples of being “full of sweet wine” and thus explained their excited speech.  Peter points out the absurdity of that explanation.  The “third hour” refers to 9:00 a.m. in the morning.  It was a specified hour of prayer.  No decent Jew would eat food or drink wine before that time on a holy day such as Pentecost.  Therefore, there had to be some other explanation for the actions of the disciples.


Verses 16-21 – Quoting the Old Testament prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-32), Peter explains to the crowd what they are witnessing.  Joel prophesied in Judah around the fifth century B.C.  He spoke of a time when God would pour out His Spirit.  Joel prophesied the following about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit:

·         It will occur “in the last days” (v.17) – This is a common Old Testament expression referring to the days of Messianic blessing and judgment.  (see Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:1).  In quoting Joel, Peter is declaring that the era of the last days has begun.  In the New Testament, “the last days” refers to the entire period between the resurrection of Jesus and the triumphal return of Jesus to earth. (see Hebrews 1:2; 1 Peter 1:20; 1 John 1:18)  The “last days” are all those days between the time Christ came as the suffering Savior and the time Christ will return to as the “King of kings and Lord of lords.”

·         It will be “upon all mankind” (v.17) – The word translated “mankind” is sarx which literally means flesh.  The idea is that this would be an inclusive event.  To Peter, at this point in time the phrase “all mankind” did not extend beyond the Jews.  It took a special vision from God and the experience he had with Cornelius, the Roman Centurion (which we will get to in Acts 10 and 11) for Peter to understand that this outpouring really did extend to all people.  Also, “all mankind” does not mean that the Spirit is poured out on all people indiscriminately.  This is not teaching universalism (that all people are saved) or pluralism (that all religions lead to the same place).  The Holy Spirit will be poured out on any person who genuinely repents and accepts Jesus into his or her life (see verse 21).  No segment of “mankind” would be excluded from receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The gift of the Holy Spirit would be given without regard to:

o   Gender – “…your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…” (v.17)

o   Age – “…your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams…”

o   Social standing – “Even upon My bondservants, both men and women, I will pour forth My Spirit and they shall prophesy.” (v.18)

·         It will be accompanied by prophetic speaking (vv. 17-18) – The word translated “prophesy” in these verses means to speak for God under the inspiration of the Spirit.  The word means both to fore tell and to tell forth.  It is not merely predicting future events, even though it can involve that.  It is proclaiming the will and way of God.

·         It will be accompanied by signs and wonders (vv.19-20) – Some say the events described in these verses is pointing to the darkening of the sun at the crucifixion of Jesus.  Others say these events are yet to occur and will happen at the end of this era of last days when the Lord returns.  Those ideas are not mutually exclusive and perhaps are both correct.


The main body of Peter’s sermon (Acts 2:22-35) – The subject of Peter’s sermon can be stated in a single word – Jesus!  Peter spoke of the life of Jesus, the death of Jesus, and the resurrection of Jesus.

·         The life and works of Jesus (v.22)“…Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst just as you yourselves know…”

“…a man…” – We must not minimize the humanity of Jesus.  His humanity is necessary to his mission.  The Eternal Word became flesh!


“…attested to you by God…” – The word translated “attested” means to show forth, demonstrate, or exhibit.  God has given us ample evidence that Jesus is who He claimed to be.


“…with miracles and wonders and signs…” – This is how God demonstrated that Jesus was the Messiah.  The phrase “wonders and signs” is used at least eight times in Acts.  The wonders and signs did not stop when Jesus physically left the earth.  They continue through His people.  The purpose of wonders and signs is not to point to the event or to a person, but to Jesus!


“…in your midst just as you yourselves know…” – Many of those in the crowd had witnessed or at least heard of the miracles Jesus performed.


·         The death of Jesus (v.23)“…this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.”

“…by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God…” – From the point of view from heaven:

§  The death of Jesus was the heart of God’s grand, eternal plan for our salvation.  It was not after-thought or plan “B” after plan “A” had failed.  It was a purposeful event planned before the foundations of the world.  His life was not taken; it was laid down.  He was a willing sacrifice.

§  The death of Jesus was as much an expression of God’s love for people as it was His wrath toward sin.


“…you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men…” – From the point of view of earth the death of Jesus on the cross was a brutal murder.  The fact that Jesus’ death was God’s plan for humanity does not alleviate those who were directly involved in the crucifixion from responsibility for their actions.  What they did in crucifying Jesus was a direct expression of their sinfulness and an indirect expression of all people’s sinfulness.  The pronoun “…you…” may refer to the people in the crowd that day who played a direct role in the death of Jesus, crying for Pilate to release Barabbas and crucify Jesus.  The Jews would have understood the phrase “…godless men…” to mean the Roman soldiers who actually carried out the crucifixion.


·         The resurrection of Jesus (vv.24-35)

“…and God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death…” – The word “agony” is literally “birth pangs” which refers to the pain a woman experiences in childbirth.  The resurrection of Jesus has put an end to the intense pain of death.  That does not mean that we do not grieve when a loved one dies.  But because of the resurrection the intense pain of death, the hopelessness of death has been put to an end.   


“…since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power…” – The image is that of a death being like a hunter who catches and binds his prey.  Jesus was the prey death caught but death did not have the power to contain Him.


While the disciples had seen the resurrected Lord over a period of forty days (Acts 1:3) and were thoroughly convinced of His resurrection, this is the first time most of the people in the crowd had heard of the event.  So verses 25-31 Peter offers some evidence to support his claim that Jesus had been raised from the dead.  Three pieces of evidence are presented:

1.      The evidence of prophecy in the Scripture.  In verses 25-28 Peter sites the words of David in Psalm 16.  In verses 29-31 he applies these words to the resurrection of Jesus.

2.      The evidence of eyewitnesses.  Verse 32 points back to Acts 1:8 where Jesus commissioned the disciples to be his witnesses and Acts 1:22 where Peter explained that the main work of an apostle was to be a witness to the resurrection.  One of the strongest arguments for the resurrection is how the disciples went to their deaths insisting that Jesus had been resurrected.  Had the resurrection been some sort of elaborate hoax, logic would dictate that at least one of the supposed witnesses to it would have exposed the hoax to save his life.  That did not happen.

3.      The evidence of the Holy Spirit.  What they were seeing and hearing that very day was an evidence for the resurrection.  Verse 33 is essentially a summary of the key events in recorded in Acts 1 and the first part of verse 2.


The Conclusion to Peter’s Sermon (Acts 2:36) – “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ – this Jesus whom you crucified.”  All of these events prove that Jesus is “Lord” (God) and “Christ” (Messiah).  For those who honestly look at the evidence, there can be no reasonable doubt.  Notice that Peter ends his sermon with the phrase “…you crucified…”  I suspect he let that phrase hang in the air as the impact of it penetrated the hearts of his hearers.  One writer said:

“…[Peter} leaves that accusation to rankle their hearts and bring home to them the enormity of their guilt.”  [ Lindsay quoted in Acts: A Study Guide Commentary, Curtis Vaughn]


Practical Application from Acts 2:14-36

1.      God is a God of second chances.  What a blessing it was for Peter, who had previously denied Jesus, to be the lead witness at Pentecost.  Often, Christians are harder on each other than God is, shooting the wounded!

2.      God does not place the same artificial limits on the people He can use than we tend to place.  The inclusiveness of the pouring out of the Spirit (men and women, young and old, etc.) should remind us to be careful about saying who God can and cannot use.

3.      Should live with a sense of urgency since we are living in the era of the last days.  That does not mean that we live irresponsibly neglecting our duties in this world, but it does mean that we live always knowing this world is temporary. 

4.      The message God has entrusted to His followers is the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and the eternal salvation found only in Him.  When we wander off into politics or sociology or psychology, etc. we dilute the message.  That does not mean that Christians should not be engaged in those areas.  But the message entrusted to the church supersedes all that. 

5.      God is a God of purpose.  There are no accidents with God.  God can work in any event and any situation to further His purpose, which is conforming people to the image of Christ.  He transformed the image of the cross from an instrument of suffering and death to symbol of hope and life.  And He can transform the events in our lives a well.