Birth of the Church

by Mike Ratliff

1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Acts 2:1-4 (NASB) 

The Day of Pentecost just a few weeks after our Lord’s resurrection is marked in Church history as the day the Church was born. The Apostles obeyed our Lord’s commands that He gave them just before He returned to Heaven and were all gathered in a house in Jerusalem.  Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post. Where did the power for this miraculous event come from? Was it done according to the will and power of these Apostles? No, the Holy Spirit came with power upon these believers and nothing was the same. God the Holy Spirit gave these men the ability to preach the Gospel in languages of the people who had traveled from all parts of the known world to be in Jerusalem for this festival. This was indeed miraculous. (Acts 2:5-13) However, there were some who mocked as there always are when God’s truth is proclaimed and because of this Peter preached his first sermon.

14 But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. 15 For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; 16 but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:
17 ‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says,
‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
And your young men shall see visions,
And your old men shall dream dreams;
18 Even on My bondslaves, both men and women,
I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit
And they shall prophesy.
19 ‘And I will grant wonders in the sky above
And signs on the earth below,
Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke.
20 ‘The sun will be turned into darkness
And the moon into blood,
Before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.
21 ‘And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: 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— 23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 24 But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. 25 For David says of Him,
‘I saw the Lord always in my presence;
For He is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken.
26 ‘Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted;
Moreover my flesh also will live in hope;
27 Because You will not abandon my soul to Hades,
Nor allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.
28 ‘You have made known to me the ways of life;
You will make me full of gladness with Your presence.’
29 “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. 32 This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. 34 For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says:
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
35 Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”’
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.” Acts 2:14-36 (NASB) 

As you can see, Peter had no issue with using the Old Testament as the source for His sermon. What was the reaction of the people who did not mock?

37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:37-38 (NASB) 

37 Ἀκούσαντες δὲ κατενύγησαν τὴν καρδίαν εἶπόν τε πρὸς τὸν Πέτρον καὶ τοὺς λοιποὺς ἀποστόλους· τί ποιήσωμεν, ἄνδρες ἀδελφοί ; 38 Πέτρος δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς· μετανοήσατε, [φησίν,] καὶ βαπτισθήτω ἕκαστος ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς ἄφεσιν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ὑμῶν καὶ λήμψεσθε τὴν δωρεὰν τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος. Acts 2:37-38 (NA28)

What is this?

  • Peter’s message about Christ
  • God has made Him both Lord and Christ – v36

Pierced through the heart – to be greatly pained or deeply moved

  • Seriously affected in their most cognitive capacities
  • see John 16:8-11

What shall we do? – the gospel message provoked a response

  • See also Acts 16:30 – the Philippian jailer
  • They look to the apostles for answers

The first thing he told them to do was to repent, μετανοήσατε (metanoēsate), the second person plural, aorist tense, active, imperative case of μετανοέω (metanoeō). This is a pious sorrow for unbelief and sin and a turning from them unto God and the gospel. What the construction means is

  • You [plural], all of you must repent
  • Aorist – signifies the need for and fact of decisive action
  • Active – the responsibility to act was their own
  • Imperative – they are commanded to repent
  • Previous calls to repentance = Matthew 3:2 & 4:17
  • More calls to repentance – Acts 3:19; 5:31; 8:22; 11:18; 13:24; 17:30; 19:4; 30:21; 26:20

Baptized – to baptize or immerse in or wash with water in token of purification from sin and spiritual pollution – this verb is baptisthētō (βαπτισθήτω) the third person, singular, aorist tense, passive voice, subjective mood case of βαπτίζω (baptizō)

  • This is speaking to individual believers
  • “the construction here in koine Greek has been identified as permissive imperative, hence Let each…be baptized”

Why was baptism important specifically for these believers?

  • Identification with Jesus Christ
  • This would lead to almost certain persecution (Acts 22:19)
  • Peter was asking them to identify with the man they just crucified

in – Greek word is ἐπί (epi)

  • Means upon, resting upon, or upon the ground of, or upon the authority of
  • Uses of this throughout Acts
  • Acts 2:21; 9:42; 11:17; 16:31; 22:19

for – Greek word is εἰς (eis)

  • Biblical usage – into, unto, to, towards, for, among
  • The usual meaning is ‘for’ designating aim or purpose
  • However it clearly means ‘because of’ in some passages such as Matthew 3:11; 12:14; Mark 1:4
  • Wuest: let each one of you be baptized upon the ground you confession of belief in the sum total of all that Jesus Christ is in His glorious Person, this baptismal testimony being in relation to the fact that your sins have been put away.
  • This preposition can be grammatically connected to Repent.
  • How would Peter’s listeners have understood this passage?

the name of Jesus Christ

  • The key is belief in the name of Jesus Christ
  • Peter is constant in this message
  • Acts 2:22; Acts 2:36; Acts 4:12; Acts 10:43
  • Repent (believe)…[then] you will receive
  • Acts 10:44-48 – Gentiles receive the spirit, then are baptized

38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” Acts 2:38-39 (NASB) 

38 Πέτρος δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς· μετανοήσατε, [φησίν,] καὶ βαπτισθήτω ἕκαστος ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς ἄφεσιν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ὑμῶν καὶ λήμψεσθε τὴν δωρεὰν τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος. 39 ὑμῖν γάρ ἐστιν ἡ ἐπαγγελία καὶ τοῖς τέκνοις ὑμῶν καὶ πᾶσιν τοῖς εἰς μακράν, ὅσους ἂν προσκαλέσηται κύριος ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν. Acts 2:38-39 (NA28)

Promise of the Holy Spirit

  • References to the promise of the Holy Spirit – Acts 1:4-5 & 1:8
  • Fulfillment of that promise – Acts 2:1-4

Recipients of that promise

  • All the believers at this point were Jews
  • Peter (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) says this promise is to “[them] and [their] children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself”
  • Far off indicates distance, not time
  • Did Peter understand what he was saying?
  • See his reluctance to take the gospel to Gentiles in Acts 10
  • Jesus call all me to Himself – Acts 2:21

40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” Acts 2:40 (NASB) 

40 ἑτέροις τε λόγοις πλείοσιν διεμαρτύρατο καὶ παρεκάλει αὐτοὺς λέγων· σώθητε ἀπὸ τῆς γενεᾶς τῆς σκολιᾶς ταύτης. Acts 2:40 (NA28)

Be saved

Peter’s actions:

  • solemnly testified – to bear witness, testify earnestly or repeatedly, or to charge as it were witnesses
  • kept on exhorting – to call upon someone to do something, to exhort, to admonish
  • Emphasis here on a repeated continual action

Peter’s words:

  • saved – to save and (by implication) to give eternal life – notice that this verb is in passage voice
  • Context is clear – they are to repent, i.e. turn to Christ

41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:41-42 (NASB)

Who was the Church?

  • those who had received [Peter’s] word – implication is they repented and believe on Jesus
  • were baptized – Predicated on them repenting and beleiving
  • Roughly 3000

What did they do?

  • The fruit of the Spirit is almost immediately evident

What was their focus?

  • apostles’ teaching – i.e. doctrine – the Apostles had complete doctrinal authority at this time
  • The doctrine (apostles teaching)  in koine Greek in this passage is singular. There are not multiple versions of it.
  • fellowship – participation, fellowship, communion
  • fellowship here is also singular
  • This was a distinctive community
  • breaking of bread – observance of the Lord’s table
  • prayer – a priority for the early saints

43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:43-47 (NASB) 

One another

  • We see the amazing response of a people filled with the Holy Spirit
  • Summary of vv43-47
    • sense of awe – people were noticing what God was doing
    • wonders and signs – God spread the early church extraordinary measures
    • all things in common – not necessary communal living, but certainly living in unity
    • selling…sharing…as anyone might have need – this is how God provides for His church
    • continuing with one mind – they were united around the doctrine
    • sincerity and gladness of heart – they are no longer their own


  • And the Lord was adding to their number – Some text have ekklesia (church) instead of autos (number)
  • These verses summarize what happened of an extended period of time

This outline is an example of what I would prepare in order to teach a Bible Study class. However, I found this “outline” to be something that I believe all Christians could read and understand and see how the Gospel is meant to be spread from believers to those God is drawing to Himself. Compare that with how most churches in our time operate. I believe you will see that what we have going on is just religiosity and, for the most part, not going out and making disciples from all parts of the world.

Soli Deo Gloria!


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