Acts 2 – Peter’s Sermon

Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 is critically important since it demonstrates how the apostles interpreted the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, including the Ascension. Peter uses the Old Testament in this sermon and cites texts which were fulfilled in the events of Jesus’ life, but also in the events of Pentecost.

Peter first explains the significance of the Holy Spirit (2:14-21). Beginning with a prophecy from Joel 2:28-32, Peter states that the presence of the Spirit in the apostles at that moment is what Joel predicted. In short, it is proof that the New Covenant has begun! Several other texts from the Hebrew Bible indicate that the Spirit of God would fall upon his people when the New Age begins (Isa 32:14-15, 44:3; Ezek 11:19, 37:14).

Peter PentecostSecond, Peter explains that Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the purpose of God in his death and was vindicated by God in his resurrection and ascension (2:22-35). The life of Jesus is summarized simply by stating that Jesus was from Nazareth and he was confirmed by God through many miracles. Since this is a summary of the actual sermon, it is entirely possible Peter illustrated this point with his personal experience and witness. Remember that the main theme of chapter one was that the twelve were to be witnesses of these events!

There are several words used to describe the miracles (signs and wonders). Signs is the most significant, since σημειον (semeion) typically refers to a miracle done to prove some sort of point, to make some sort of revelation. Peter states that God did the miracles through Jesus, not that Jesus himself did the miracles. He adds “as you yourselves know,” indicating that at least some of the crowd were witnesses to the miracles of Jesus. It is equally likely that the crucifixion of Jesus by the Romans as a rebel was well known by the crowds in Jerusalem.

But Jesus is not dead – God raised him from the dead in fulfillment of prophecy. Peter goes about proving the resurrection quite a bit differently than we do today. He does not mention the empty tomb or challenge the Pharisees to produce a body to prove that Jesus was really dead. Rather than pursue modern logical arguments, he turns to the Psalms and shows that David does not exhaust the meaning of the text. Since the messiah is to be a new David, the psalms Peter cites are turning into prophecies of Jesus’ resurrection.

Before looking at Peter’s use of the Psalms, I want to pause and think a bit about what Peter is claiming here. He is clearly saying that the messianic age has in some way already begun. The Spirit has been poured out on those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah. The dead have already been raised. Miracles are in fact happening. Remember that the crowd assembled to hear this sermon are religiously observant Jews who are spending time in the Temple during a religious feast. Peter is claiming that the age anticipated in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Twelve is beginning at that moment!

If this is on the right track, what might a religiously observant and biblical educated Jew in the first century have expected, if the messianic age was beginning? I suspect the crowd had a more than a few people with rather fervent messianic hopes. They might have expected Israel to be re-gathered from the nations to Mount Zion to worship the Lord. It is not a surprise, then, to find that Jews from all over the world who believe in Jesus as Messiah settle in Jerusalem to prepare themselves for his soon return.

Are there other elements of this sermon which contribute to the idea that Pentecost is the beginning of the eschatological age?

20 thoughts on “Acts 2 – Peter’s Sermon

  1. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is an important event validating the prophecy of Joel and the beginning of the New Covenant. Before further in depth study, I believed the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to be of average importance. This is because I always knew that the Holy Spirit was an important event in the New Testament because it gave people from all over the world the ability to hear the wonders of God. But before further study I did not realize that it also fulfilled Joel’s prophecy regarding the New Age. This is because like what is stated in this post, “The spirit of God would fall upon his people when the New Age begins.” The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is an event that is so significant in the validation of Joel’s prophecy because it proves that the new covenant has began because before this time the Spirit of God had not been given to man. However, because of Jesus and what he did on the cross the spirit of God has now been given to man and the old covenant is done and gone and the new covenant is now living and active. Personally, I think that this is so significant because now it is evident that the new covenant brings change because now anyone that calls upon the name of the Lord is saved through the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:21). I find this so interesting and impactful because since the indwelling of the Holy Spirit has occurred we can now enjoy a personal relationship with God, and the ability to call on him and be saved.

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  2. Acts 2 talks about how the Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost. It first talks about tongues. I have done some studies on speaking in tongues and the “tongues” they are speaking in this chapter is not what people so today in church. But it is pretty amazing. The Holy Spirit made it so that everyone, no matter what language they spoke, could talk to each other and understand each other in their own language. The Holy Spirit did a work in that place. When Peter addresses the crowd he was lead by the Holy Spirit. I like verses 29-40 talking about how God raised Jesus from te dead. Jesus is alive a well to this very day! An how God has promised to send the Holy Spirit. The verses 42-47 is what Christianity should look like today. Being in fellowship, and under the Holy Spirit, they grew together and became strong in their faith. They helped the needy and more an more people were getting saved.

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    • Stumbling upon this site and post in research for my curriculum updates. Just a quick response to the statement, “and the “tongues” they are speaking in this chapter is not what people so (speak?) today in church”….. As a professor, my first question would be… “And, how did you arrive at that conclusion?”…. Best Regards, Dr. L

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      • Tongues in Acts 2 refers to real languages, people from all over the Empire hear the preaching of the apostles in their own languages (Acts 2:5-6). The people hearing the Apostles understand the language themselves. Tongues in 1 Corinthians need interpretation, as is the case most modern charismatic churches with which I am familiar.

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      • Thank you for the explanation. I am enjoying the reading of your blog,and have provided links to my students. In any event, a few quick thoughts. Firstly, to state that the tongues spoken today is not that of a known language is assuming a “kind of knowledge” that is humanly impossible to possess. It implies “Omniscience”. This is an attribute only possessed by God. Is it accurate to make such a categorical statement? If there is contrary evidence, how then does the statement change in response? For example, as a professor, I have heard tongues spoken in Hebrew and French by believers who do not know these languages. Each one speaking about the “Wonders of God”. Also, there are such occasions experienced by my Christian professor friends too. They have declared the “Wonders of God” in the native languages of others. Most recently, an English speaking friend and fellow professor was spoken to in English by a Christian whose only learned language was that of an Eastern European dialect. This was repeated on multiple occasions. Also speaking about the “Wonders of God”. Another incident, that of two sisters ministering to a Korean woman as her father lay dying. Right there, in perfect Korean, both sisters spoke in the Korean tongue. Korean was not a learned language for either sister. Words of comfort were spoken about Jesus to this grieving daughter in her only learned language, Korean. Again, these are persons known to myself. In short, as a finite being, I can state that I have been an eyewitness to Christian tongues speaking in the languages to which I am personally acquainted. Also, that I am privy to others who share the same experiences of Christian tongues speaking in a modern vernacular. In conclusion, is the statement in question, a personal belief? Perhaps given in that way for emphasis? Or, based on a different presupposition, but expressed in the manner of the related posting? Would you be so kind as to clarify? Best Regards Dr. L.

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      • The people who heard Peter’s sermon that day each heard them speaking in their native language. The groups that were there each had a different native language. Peter wasn’t actually speaking in their language, he was probably speaking Hebrew. Peter was a unlearned fisherman, so it is unlikely that he knew and fluently spoke all the languages of that day. Peter was speaking in Hebrew, and the people listening were able to hear it, not in Hebrew but in their native language, this was done supernaturally by the Holy Spirit. Peter wasn’t speaking part of his message in one language, then part in another language, and another part in still another language, because if he had some of the people would not have understood him. Peter delivered his entire message in Hebrew, but the listeners heard it in their own language.

        In churches today, when a message is given in tongues, someone else gives the interpretation, because it is given in a language not understood by the people hearing it. The example you gave, of the women speaking Korean to a man who’s native language was Korean, was the work of the Holy Spirit, but still, messages given in tongues usually require interpretation, so it is different today than what happened during Pentecost.

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  3. Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, Jesus taught about the future kingdom saying that it was coming soon (Matt. 4:17). It was prophesied in Matthew 2:6 that He would rule. Peter had studied the scriptures, and he knew that Joel had prophesied of when the Holy Spirit would come upon people and the nation of Israel would be restored. When the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, Peter was excited. In Peter’s sermon to the Jews, he restates Joel’s prophecy in Joel 2:28-31 saying that “this is that” (Acts 2:16). He truly believed that now was the time that God would restore Israel. He wanted the other disciples and Jews to know that the “great and notable day of the Lord” was coming (Acts 2:20). He challenged the people by saying, “…everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Peter confirms that Jesus was raised from the dead. “God raised him from the dead in fulfillment of prophecy” (“Peter’s Sermon” post). Peter says that because of Jesus’ resurrection, the beginning of the ecological age is coming. Peter’s speech about the end times was motivational to the Jews because in Acts 2:37, many people were “cut to their heart,” and they asked Peter “what shall we do?” He told them to “repent and be baptized…” (Acts 2:38).

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  4. The first part of the post that I would like to touch on was that Peter referenced the Old Testament. Marylyn Hickey spoke on the 20th that many people lessen the importance of the OT because it is under the old government. However, Peter and Hickey show the importance of the Old Testament even in the new government. Peter did this by touching on the prophets in the old testament and showing that their prophesies were coming to fruition in the current age.
    Peter also highlights the importance and the power of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. The Holy Spirit gives power to Christians, but the most significant item brought about by the Holy Spirit was the signal that the New Government has begun thus fulfilling Joel’s prophecy.
    I like that Peter talks about his own personal experience and how the crowd “already knows” Jesus miracles that he was talking about. This points to the fact that some people in the crowd already have seen the miracles Jesus has performed and he is speaking to an educated crowd. I like that small detail in the Bible that I have never seen before and legitimizes the whole text for me because it shows that there was history not included in the Bible. If the Bible included every shred of history from that time, it would be impossibly large. The crowd still had strong beliefs in how they felt about Jesus and his legitimacy. Peter was speaking to a hostile crowd that believed strongly one way or another.
    I like how Peter did not use logical facts to argue that Jesus was the messiah. Clearly, people were not looking at the facts right in front of their faces or there would have been no dispute in the first place. Peter uses David in the Psalms to provide another argument that the crowd possibly had not thought of before.

    Nick Van Loo

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  5. As others have stated already it’s interesting and also kind of inspiring to see Peter stand up and recite a prophecy from the book of Joel. It seems like this could have been a very well known prophecy among educated Jews because of the implications within. Nevertheless, the bible makes it look like he quoted it in the middle of his sermon. Not only did he do this with this passage but also with a couple Psalms as well. Even though this is impressive, its important to acknowledge that the fulfilling of these prophecies is incredibly more significant. This fulfilling of prophecies through Jesus Christ along with the stating of Jesus’ miracles, wonders, and signs are arguably the more important aspects to Peter’s sermon, especially concerning that this event was the beginning of the eschatological age. However it’s remarkable that Peter presents the gospel in his sermon and tells his audience what they need to do in order to receive the Holy Spirit and salvation. As Anna stated, “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). He told them exactly what their response should look like and the steps they needed to take. Verse 40 possibly adds another element that contributes, which may not be very theological, but more of an affirmation. “With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation” (Acts 2:40). This idea of “warning” and “saving yourselves” reveals that there is something that is to come in the future that is not very appealing. It is going to be so bad that you need to be saved and rescued right now. This was not just a passing statement, there was obviously a sense of urgency as the Scripture said Peter pleaded with his audience.

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  6. Peter’s use of Old Testament before all the Witnesses was a perfect fit instead of arguing about where the Pharisees could have hid the body because all the Jews that were gathered to hear him were devoted to studying the law, and would have known the passages in Psalms that Peter was referring to. He is preaching specifically on these passages to prove that these well-known prophecies were coming true through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Peter talks about the many “signs” that God has done through Jesus and restates that all of these are fulfillment of scripture. He is trying to make clear to these devout Jews that the Messianic age has started. Near the end of the chapter in verse 41 it says that many believed and that 3000 joined the number of believers that day. They understood and in believing they devoted themselves anew to teaching, and breaking of bread. Verse 47 also says that God kept adding to their number day by day. through Peter’s sermon and teaching, God was bringing the Jews to him and shows him an answer to why the Twelve disciples were told to stay in Jerusalem instead of going out everywhere to preach, connecting chapters one and two.

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  7. Jesus had gone about, with His disciples doing many signs and miracles. So if Peter did not refer back to O.T. scripture what was keeping the people from thinking it was just another one of their miracles that they could perform. In order for there to be redemption, the law must be fulfilled. Jesus came to fulfill that law. Peter and his sermon explained that Jesus came to meet the requirements of the law in order that we would not have to. For the Jews and people of that age and time this would have been the most awkward time to live in… just imagining these people had to totally change the way they were ‘atoned’… but thats just it, Jesus came to take away any ritual of religion and make it a relationship. Okay, back to the point. The day of Pentecost was a time to rejoice, to come before the Lord and bring Him gifs/sacrifices out of love and not out of duty. Now looking to Acts 2 where Perter had preached that we no longer have rituals, but instead an intercessor for our sins, the Jews, and believers of that day would have been totally shocked.

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  8. What you believe about Jesus matters. And I believe that Peter believed the same thing when he looked out into his audience before he gave his sermon in Acts 2. Something that I was really able to take out of this was when Peter quoted King David’s prophecy of the resurrection. Peter knows that the power of Jesus Christ and the hope in putting faith in him shows truth in the resurrection. Without the resurrection, there is no Christianity. A big part of sermon preparation and the delivery of the sermon is to know your audience. With King David being such a highly respected figure in the faith, telling how even he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ (Acts 2:31). Leading up to Peters sermon I thought it was interesting that the believers were filled with the spirit and speaking in tongues. A lot of charismatic Christians use to justify speaking in tongues today as speaking a heavenly language however in this context, it is strictly them speaking a foreign language. I also think that it’s interesting that Peter’s sermon quotes Joel, another Old Testament prophet where he testifies the future of the Holy Spirit. What amazes me the most about this is that Peter starts off in verse. 17 saying “in the last days”. Peter and the disciples believed that Jesus could have come back at any moment (which he could have) therefore believed the Holy Spirit coming was an indicator for the end times. Hindsight is 20/20 but looking back at Peters sermon here in 2019, I see this sermon being a great presentation to the early believers of Christ’s deity while I see Peter feeling a need to prepare the early believers for Christ’s return.

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  9. Peter’s sermon is a vital part of the journey of the early church as it unites and builds up the believers to be baptized in the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit enters the believer and the blessings that come from those that seek and find purpose in God. These gifts that are gifted in Acts 2, are the stepping stones of the body of believers using the talents God has shared with them. (Acts 2:38-39). They are to build up the body and help in the ways that God has placed in their journey of faith. The body has many parts, and each has a purpose that it is needed to do that allows it to be the most efficient that it can be. They saw or experienced the wonders that God working out for them to see the power and wonder of himself to these people. They had to surrender to Christ all that they were in the past for him to move in their lives and children’s lives. (2 Peter 1:3). Just as Peter was gifted to speak and lead from God. He used his gift with the 3,000 people who became new believers, he did not do it on his own words or thoughts but through Christ and God using him as a tool to reach people. (Acts 2:40-41). God seeks those willing to serve, He doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called. Just as many in Acts did not know that their gifts at the time they felt called to be a part of something greater.

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  10. One of my favorite aspects of this entire sermon was the fact that Peter calls out all those who willingly wanted Jesus crucified after all he had done. Peter is sharing accountability and forgiveness. Most of the people didn’t know what it was that they did, but for others it was a reminder that they did know and ignored it. Peter himself was one of those people that denied Christ and with his conviction seeking forgiveness. The promise of the Holy Spirit is the hope that we are going to forever have the same power in us that raised Jesus Christ from the dead. In the book of John, Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And i will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:15-16). Jesus tells us that we are given a helper and that we are going to be able to the same works that he has done and more. Peter is confirming that this helper is coming and i would also like to think that he is sharing a everything from his own personal experience. This man has had his ups and downs but stayed strong in his faith. Peter gives so much encouragement in this sermon that no matter what we are going through this promise and gift was for everyone. We can leave the worldly lives we want to be a part of and be a part of something so much bigger that God has planned for each one of us to do with building his Kingdom.

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  11. We can see from the miracle right before the sermon (v. 1-13) that the Holy Spirit had come down and allowed the people to speak in tongues. They were all speaking different languages, but they all understood in their own language (v. 6-7). While some mistook it for them being drunk, they were under the power of the Spirit. Peter then goes on at the start of his sermon to explain that this is a miracle (as well as v. 33). At this point, Christ’s sacrifice had been fulfilled and He’d been raised from the dead and ascended into Heaven. Because of this, the Law was no longer binding. Peter says to repent and be baptized, and they will receive the Spirit (v. 38). So, Peter isn’t just explaining Christ’s Messiahship, but also telling those present for his sermon how to receive salvation and eternal life. 3000 were saved and added to the Body that day.
    Many today tend to misconceive what is meant to be baptized. It requires an inward change of heart and a genuine repentance of sins in the name of Christ. There’s no outward work required to be saved, yet so many seem to think that if they do good things and work well, they’ll be good enough to be saved. It’s also interesting to see the division in the church that has come about over time. Believers at this time were deeply rooted in fellowship with each other, sharing all they had with each other. While we don’t necessarily have to do that today (I can’t imagine that going over well with some), we can learn something about the fellowship that they had and apply it to our lives as Christians today. We should be willing to do anything for our brothers and sisters in Christ to help them grow.

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  12. Peter does not go at these people lightly, he calls them out for their mistake in crucifying Jesus, putting Him to death, and killing the Messiah sent to save them. It is powerful when Peter uses phrases such as, “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” (Acts 2:23) The power comes from the fact that Peter is calling them out, cutting them straight to the core for murdering Jesus, an innocent man, the Son sent to them by the Father to restore. I do believe that this incident, the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, was the beginning or start of the eschatological age because Jesus promised when He ascended that He would/will return again, and it was said in Joel and Ezekiel that the Spirit of God would fall upon His people when the New Age begins, and the descending of the Holy Spirit like fire at Pentecost was the fulfillment of those prophesies which were set to be after the Messiah. Therefore, the eschatological age, the Second Coming, and the progressive revelation over time has begun and the new era is in full swing due to the divine revelation and miraculous signs at Pentecost in Acts 2.

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  13. This is really a great passage where we can find great material on how the disciples viewed the life death and resurrection of Jesus, and even see how the normal followers of Jesus viewed the resurrection. I like the point that you made about how Peter in his message was assuming a lot of the people had seen Jesus do miracles. also how you were saying the proposals had all seen Jesus do miracles before his death and resurrection as well. it is just a sort of nice thing that we have as Christians, that the people that wrote the book that we read actually saw Jesus be raised from the dead. Also, the point that you were making about how this passage is not normally what we are thinking of when we think of the resurrection. this fact just tels me that we in our modern day church are not looking at scripter enough, we should always be in our Bible and learning.

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  14. thank you so much for this its very helpful for me right now because im in grade 8 and im doing religion and it kinda hard for me sometimes

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  15. I would like to look into what peter was saying in his speech a I know it does already say that but i need more information

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