On the Acts of the Apostles.

Chapter 2:12-21.

Taken from The Bible Treasury Number 311 - April 1882

 

Chapter 2:12-21.

The tongues were, as the Apostle explains elsewhere, a sign to unbelievers. They were intended to arrest and produce inquiry. The presence of the promised Holy Spirit was. an incomparably deeper and more fruitful fact. He was sent down from heaven to form the assembly, the new dwelling-place of God, the body of Christ. He was to be the power of testimony, of God's good news for the world. He was to be in the believers and with them for ever, that Paraclete whom Christ after going on high was to send, not only to bring demonstration to the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, but to guide the saints into all the truth, announcing what is coming, and glorifying Christ as He had the Father. Whatever might be the marvel and the gracious suitability of the tongues, the gift of the Spirit Himself immensely transcends them; but His presence and the all-important results of it are beyond the ken of the world which neither sees nor knows Him. The strange thing occupies men.

"And they were all amazed and perplexed,1 crying one to another, What meaneth this?2 But others mocking3 said, They are filled with sweet wine. But4 Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice and spoke forth unto them, Men of Judaea and5 all ye that dwell in Jerusalem, be this known to you, and give ear to my words. For these are not drunken as ye suppose, for it is [the] third hoar of the day; but this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel: And it shall be in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young [men] shall see visions, and your elder [men] shall dream with6 dreams; yea and on my bondmen and on my bondwomen will I pour out of my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will give wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and vapour of smoke. The sun shall be changed into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and manifest day of [the] Lord come. And it shall be, whosoever shall call on the name of [the] Lord shall be saved" (Var. 12-21).

As usual, men arrange themselves in mutt than one class, some astonished, others hostile and scornful. Peter takes the lead in explaining with gravity and distinctness. He explicitly denies the unworthy thought of intoxication, which the early hour itself should have silenced as against God-fearing souls. It was really what Joel spoke of: not of course the fulfilment as it is to be in the last days, but en instalment of that nature. Indeed the words of the prophet went in this beyond what that day saw accomplished; for "all flesh " cannot fairly be limited to Israel, and God, who was soon about to bring in Gentiles to the name of Christ, will bless the nations in the future kingdom, when all the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Him. The gospel now makes good the indiscriminate grace. of God even more profoundly than will be under His government, when He will show that the kingdom is Jehovah's, and that He is the governor among the nations.

In the latter day when Joel's words will be fulfilled us a whole, the Spirit will be poured out, and if Israel enjoy the blessing richly, it will flow far beyond their narrow limits. God's way shall then be known upon earth, His saving health among all nations. Temporal blessing is then to be vouchsafed to Israel (ii. 19-27), and their great northern enemy to be for ever disposed of; for Jehovah will do great things for His people and land, whatever the enemy may have prepared to do. "My people," He says emphatically, "shall never be ashamed." Then as a distinct intimation the prophet presents two announcements: the first, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (28, 29); the second, external signs of judgment ushering in the day of Jehovah, the circumstances of which are detailed in chapter iii. till we come down to the closing account of their blessings once more. As the wonders above and below precede that day, so does the repentance of Israel prepare for their deliverance, and blessing, and especially the gift of the Spirit. We see the same principle here also.

For God, in pouring .out of His Spirit now, does thereby associate believers with Christ exulted on high. Given in virtue of redemption the Holy Spirit sheds the love of God in their hearts, seals them for the day of redemption, and is the earnest of their inheritance. He dwells in them now, and will quicken their mortal bodies then at Christ's coming. Besides He is the blessed and divine bond, constituting them Christ's body and God's house. And here it may be of interest to not a few if I set before them the judgment formed by the celebrated ecclesiastical historian, Neander, who had no bias toward the truth of the church from his Lutheran views. It is not cited as invariably sound or as in any respect authoritative, but as a grave testimony from an able and well-informed Christian in direct opposition to the present state of the church, whether Protestant or Romanist, Oriental or Greek. It is, therefore, as far as it goes, a strong involuntary homage to the revealed truth on this subject.

"What Moses expressed as a wish (Nam. xi. 29), that the Spirit of God might rest upon all, and all might be prophets, seems to me a prediction of that which was to be realised through Christ. By Him was to be instituted a fellowship of Divine life, which, proceeding from the equal and equally immediate relation of all to the One God, as the divine source of life to all, should remove these boundaries, within which, at the Old Testament position, the development of the higher life was still confined; and hence the fellowship thus derived would essentially distinguish itself from the constitution of all previously existing religions societies. There could, in such a society, be no longer a priestly or prophetic office, constituted to serve as a medium for the propagation and development of the kingdom of God, on which office the religious consciousness of the community was to be dependent. Such a guild of priests as existed in the previous systems of religion, empowered to guide other men, who remained, as it were, in a state of religions pupilage; having the exclusive care of providing for their religious wants, and serving as mediators by whom all other men must first be placed in connection with God and divine things,— such a priestly caste could find no place within Christianity. In removing that which separated men from God, in communicating to all the same fellowship with God, Christ also removed the barrier which had hitherto divided men from one another. Christ, the Prophet and High Priest for entire humanity, was the end of the prophetic office and of the priesthood. There was now the same High Priest end Mediator for all, through whom all men, being once reconciled and united with God, are themselves made a priestly and spiritual race; one heavenly King, Guide and Teacher, through whom all are taught of God; one faith, one hope, one Spirit which should quicken all; one oracle in the hearts of all, the voice of the Spirit proceeding from the Father; all were to be citizens of one heavenly kingdom, with whose heavenly powers, even while strangers in the world, they should be already furnished. When the Apostles applied the Old Testament idea of the priesthood to Christianity, this seems to me to have been done invariably for the simple purpose of showing that no such visible particular priesthood could find place in the new community; that since free access to God and to heaven had by the one High Priest, even Christ, been opened once for all to believers, they had, by virtue of their union to Him, become themselves a spiritual people, consecrated to God; their calling being none other than to dedicate their entire life to God as a thank-offering fur the grace of redemption, to publish abroad the power and grace of Him who had called them out of the kingdom of darkness into His marvellous light, to make their life one continual priesthood, one spiritual worship springing from the temper of faith working by love; one continuous testimony for their Saviour. (Compare 1 Pet. ii. 9; Rom. xii. 1; and the spirit and whole train of thought running through the Epistle to the Hebrews.) So, too, the advancement of God's kingdom in general and in particular, the diffusion of Christianity among the heathens and the good of each particular community, was now to be the duty not of one select class of Christians alone, but the immediate concern of each individual." (Meander's General History of the Christian Religion and Church, i. 2, 248-250, Bohn's edition.) We need not do more than notice the vague inaccuracy of " entire humanity " on the one hand and of the " King " on the other; for we must never expect a Lutheran to know the total ruin of man or the new relations of Christ. That He tasted death for every man is true; but He is King of Israel and of nations, Head of the church, not of humanity as such. He has authority over all flesh to give eternal life to as many as the Father hath given Him. But this and other passages show that, notwithstanding grave drawbacks, this modern historian understood better than most the peculiar character of that new thing which God formed for His glory on the day of Pentecost; a character in no wise accidental or temporary, but essentially distinguishing it from first to last, and as distinct from that which Grad had set up in Israel as from the inventions of Satan among the Gentiles. It was Gods habitation in the Spirit.

 

 

1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) The critics depart from the Text. Rec. chiefly in forms which affect the sense so little that we need not notice them. Tischendorf omits καὶ ἐπιφανῆ in ver. 20 on the authority of א D.