Acts Part 2

Notes on the Book of Acts

Part Two


Read chapter two.


And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.[1]


We see that the phrase, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” refers to the baptism of the Holy Spirit (when pletho is used). It may be that the word, “tongues” (glossais), elsewhere refers to an angelic or otherwise unknown utterance; but here it means a human language as can be seen from verses 6 through 8. Also, as will be clear from other passages in this book, speaking another language is not the sole evidence of receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Some Pentecostal groups have tried to assert that it is, but this is an error.


When Peter commences his sermon, he quotes from the prophet Joel. In his citation he includes these words:


And I will show wonders in the heavens above

and signs on the earth below,

blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;

20   the sun shall be turned to darkness

and the moon to blood,

before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. [2]


This is poetic language of judgment which we saw in Matthew, chapter 24. I reproduce what we read on this subject then:

“The difficulty that people encounter in understanding this verse is due to an ignorance of the Old Testament. Most people read this and assume that the sun will actually become dark, as well as the moon. They think that stars or meteors will fall to the earth. But this is poetic language describing judgment as it appears in the Old Testament upon the enemies of Israel (and even Israel itself!).”[3]


Thus, this kind of prophetic imagery appears often in the OT and can be read in Isaiah 13:10; 34:4; Ezekiel 32:7-8; and Amos 8:9, where it refers to judgment upon Israel or her enemies. Here, it refers to the judgment upon Israel as it did in Matthew 24.

And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ [4]

“In 2:21 Peter goes on to say, ‘And it shall be that everyone, whoever calls on the name of the Lord, shall be saved.’ Calling on the name of the Lord is not a new practice in the New Testament. It began with Enosh, the third generation of mankind, in Genesis 4:26. It was continued by Job (Job 12:4; 27:10), Abraham (Gen. 12:8; 13:4; 21:33), Isaac (Gen. 26:25), Moses and the children of Israel (Deut. 4:7), Samson (Judg. 15:18; 16:28), Samuel (1 Sam. 12:18; Psa. 99:6), David (2 Sam. 22:4, 7; 1 Chron. 16:8; 21:26; Psa. 14:4; 17:6; 18:3, 6; 31:17; 55:16; 86:5, 7; 105:1; 116:4, 13, 17; 118:5; 145:18), the psalmist Asaph (Psa. 80:18), the psalmist Heman (Psa. 88:9), Elijah (1 Kings 18:24), Isaiah (Isa. 12:4), Jeremiah (Lam. 3:55, 57), and others (Psa. 99:6). All these practiced calling on the name of the Lord in the Old Testament age. Isaiah also charged God’s seekers to call upon Him (Isa. 55:6). Even the Gentiles knew that the prophets of Israel used to call on the name of God (Jonah 1:6; 2 Kings 5:11). The Gentile raised up by God from the north also called upon His name (Isa. 41:25). It is God’s commandment (Psa. 50:15; Jer. 29:12) and desire (Psa. 91:15; Zeph. 3:9; Zech. 13:9) that His people call on Him. It is the joyful way to drink from the fountain of God’s salvation (Isa. 12:3-4), and the enjoyable way to delight oneself in God (Job 27:10), that is, to enjoy Him. Hence, God’s people must call upon Him daily (Psa. 88:9). It is such a jubilant practice that Joel prophesied (Joel 2:32) for the New Testament jubilee.


In the New Testament calling on the name of the Lord is mentioned first by Peter, in Acts 2:21, on the day of Pentecost as the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. This fulfillment is related to God’s outpouring of the all-inclusive Spirit economically upon His chosen people so that they may participate in His New Testament jubilee. Joel’s prophecy and its fulfillment for God’s New Testament jubilee have two aspects: on God’s side, He poured out His Spirit in the ascension of the resurrected Christ; on our side, we call on the name of the ascended Lord who has accomplished all, attained unto all, and obtained all. It is vitally necessary for us, the believers in Christ, to participate in and enjoy the all-inclusive Christ with all He has accomplished, attained, and obtained (1 Cor. 1:2). It is a major practice in God’s New Testament economy that we may enjoy the processed Triune God for our full salvation (Rom. 10:10-13). The early believers practiced this everywhere (1 Cor. 1:2), and it became a popular sign of Christ’s believers toward the unbelievers, especially the persecutors (Acts 9:14, 21). When Stephen suffered persecution, he practiced this (7:59), and his practice surely impressed Saul, one of his persecutors (7:58-60; 22:20). Then the unbelieving Saul persecuted these callers (9:14, 21) by taking their calling as a sign. Immediately after Saul was caught by the Lord, Ananias, who brought him into the fellowship of the Body of Christ, charged him to be baptized, calling on the name of the Lord, to show others that he also had become such a caller. By his word to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:22, he indicated that in the early days all the Lord’s seekers practiced such calling. Undoubtedly he was one who practiced this, since he charged his young co-worker Timothy to do the same, that he might enjoy the Lord as he did.

The Greek word for “call upon” is epikaleo, composed of epi, upon, and kaleo, call by name, that is, to call out audibly, even loudly, as Stephen did (Acts 7:59-60).


Acts 2:21 speaks of calling on the name of the Lord. The name denotes the person. Jesus is the name of the Lord, and the Spirit is His Person. When we call, “Lord Jesus,” we receive the Spirit.


According to the context, 2:21 is the conclusion of the quotation of Joel’s prophecy, which began in verse 17. The fact that verse 21 is the conclusion of the quotation indicates that the issue of God’s pouring out of His Spirit upon all flesh is their salvation through calling on the name of the Lord. God’s outpouring of His Spirit is the application of the Lord’s salvation unto His chosen people. To be saved is to receive this Spirit, which is the blessing of the gospel in God’s New Testament economy (Gal. 3:2, 5, 14). This Spirit is the Lord Himself as the breath (John 20:22) and the living water (John 4:10, 14) to us. To breathe Him in as our breath and drink Him as our living water, we need to call upon Him. Lamentations 3:55-56 indicates that calling upon the Lord is breathing, and Isaiah 12:3 and 4 indicate that calling upon the Lord is drinking. After we believe in the Lord, we need to call upon Him so that we may not only be saved but also enjoy His riches (Rom. 10:12-13). His riches are enjoyed through our calling upon Him by exercising our spirit. This is the real worship of God (John 4:24).

As we consider verse 21 in its context, we see that the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh, that is, upon all human beings, is for the purpose that people will call upon the name of the Lord and be saved. This is the reason Paul says that if one is to be saved, he needs to call on the name of the Lord (Rom. 10:12-13).”[5]


“When we preach the gospel and help others to be saved, we need to encourage them to call on the name of the Lord and say, “O Lord Jesus!” From experience we know that the stronger a person calls on the name of the Lord Jesus, the stronger will be his experience of salvation.


Let us suppose that someone who has heard the preaching of the gospel and who wants to be saved prays softly and weakly, “Lord Jesus, You love me, and You died for me. I believe in You.” It may be difficult to recognize that one who prays in such a weak manner is saved. However, suppose someone strongly calls on the name of the Lord Jesus and says, “Lord Jesus! O Lord Jesus! I’m a sinner, Lord, but You died for me! O Lord Jesus, I love You!” No doubt, anyone who prays like this, calling strongly on the name of the Lord, is saved. He may even be beside himself with joy in the Lord for His salvation.


According to Acts 7:59, when Stephen was being stoned, “he was calling upon the Lord and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Saul of Tarsus approved of this killing, and joined in the great persecution against the church in Jerusalem. According to 9:14, Saul had authority from the chief priest to bind all who called on the name of the Lord Jesus. His intention in going to Damascus was to arrest all those who called on the Lord’s name. This indicates that in the early days calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus was a sign of being a follower of the Lord. This calling must have been audible so that others could hear. Thus, it became a sign. At the time of Saul, the believers were those who called on the name of the Lord Jesus.


The Lord appeared to Saul on the way to Damascus, and Saul said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ (9:5). Later Ananias came to Saul and said to him, ‘Rise up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name’ (22:16). Here Ananias seemed to be saying, ‘Brother Saul, you persecuted the saints for calling on the name of the Lord Jesus. They regard you as a persecutor, one who arrested the believers because they called on the name of the Lord. Now you have repented and have turned to the Lord. But how can those who consider you a persecutor recognize that you are now a brother? The only way for them to recognize you is that you call on the name of the Lord. So arise and be baptized by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus. While you are being baptized and calling on the name of the Lord Jesus, the saints will be very happy to hear that you also call on this name.’


Today many believers do not have the practice of calling on the name of the Lord Jesus. Some who follow only traditional practices criticize those who call on the Lord’s name. As we have indicated, calling on the name of the Lord is not a new practice; it is not something invented by us. According to the Bible, calling on the name of the Lord was first practiced in Genesis 4.”[6]


Peter then quotes David from Psalm 16 but indicates that David is not writing about himself, as he does in most Psalms, but is writing prophetically about the Messiah:

I saw the Lord always before me,

for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;

26   therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;

my flesh also will dwell in hope.

27   For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,

or let your Holy One see corruption.

28   You have made known to me the paths of life;

you will make me full of gladness with your presence.[7]


“The Lord” in verse 25 is God the Father. “My right hand” is the hand of the Messiah. Jesus’ heart was glad (vs. 26). He rejoiced.

Verse 27 is the verse that Peter quotes to give further evidence that Jesus rose from the dead.

Jesus was full of gladness because of the presence of God (vs. 28).

Verse 27 is unique to Jesus. We all will see corruption (meaning our bodies will die and rot) unless we happen to be alive when the Lord returns to the earth. However, we can and should experience the favor found in the rest of the passage.

If we recognize and are confident that the Lord Jesus is always before us (and for us!) then we will not be shaken by opposition. We will be glad. We ought to rejoice! We have hope.

The Lord has already made known to us (and will continue to do so) the paths of life. Therefore, we will be full of gladness because of the presence of Christ in us! Be glad!

Acts 2:28 is a memory verse. Memorize it but also realize it!

The presence of the Lord, according to the OT, is something that can be experienced. It signifies his favor and his kindness. Thus, although Christ is within every genuine believer, we can lose the sense of his presence.  We must commune with the Lord often so that we will experience his presence. As we read above, calling on his name will cause us to realize and enjoy his presence.

Peter continues:

This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.[8]

The apostles were witnesses to the resurrection of Christ. We are not following just-so stories. They saw the risen Christ with their own eyes, heard him speak, even ate with him! Not only are they witnesses, they are reliable witnesses. For they had nothing to gain and everything to lose by proclaiming what they saw and heard. Indeed, they all lost their lives! (Except John)


Peter concludes his message with:


Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” [9]


Not only can Israel know for certain, we can know for certain! “I am certain that Jesus is both Lord and Messiah!” Can you say this? Acts 2:36 is a memory verse. Memorize it, but also realize it! Thus, our faith is more than belief. It is knowledge! We can truly know that Jesus rose from the dead. We can truly know that he is Lord. And, we do! God says that we know. That settles it!


Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you 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 for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” [10]


Peter’s listeners were “cut to the heart,” meaning they were convicted by their own sin. True conversion commences with a conviction of sin. They were so convicted that they asked Peter what they should do. He did not lead them in a “sinner’s prayer,” did he? He commanded them to repent and be baptized. This is the path to conversion, not a prayer.


Peter says that they will receive the forgiveness of sins (and the gift of the Holy Spirit) if they repent and are baptized. The question some may have is: “Must both of these things be done in order to receive the forgiveness of sins?” The modern Christian group, The Church of Christ, founded in the 1820’s, answers this question in the affirmative. They teach that one must be baptized in order to receive the forgiveness of sins. Those groups from this movement historically, such as the Christian Church and the Disciples of Christ (the latter now having becomes quite liberal), are the only Protestant groups that teach this.


In considering this verse, there are at least three possible understandings. One is that both repentance and baptism are necessary to receive the forgiveness of sins. Or, only repentance is necessary. Or, only baptism is necessary. The Roman Catholic church teaches the last – that one only needs to be baptized to have sin forgiven. Technically, they state that faith is also necessary; but, infants still have their original sin forgiven via baptism because of the faith of their parents. Thus, infants only need to be baptized to have their sins forgiven. This is contrary to Scripture since personal faith is necessary, not someone else’s faith! Here, in Peter’s sermon, faith is already being demonstrated by his hearers when they asked the question, “What shall we do?” in response to his message about Jesus.


The Church of Christ teaches that both are necessary: repentance and baptism. The rest of the universal church teaches that only repentance is necessary. A brief review of other passages that address this subject will show that repentance is the efficacious action that brings forgiveness:


and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day,

47     and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.[11]



“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;[12]


“And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.

16     ‘But rise up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you;

17     rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you,

18     to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the authority of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’[13]


To “turn from darkness to light and from the authority of Satan to God” is a synonymous expression for repentance!


This One God exalted to His right hand as a Leader and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.[14]


We continue through chapter two:


And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. [15]


According to Peter, baptism does play a role in saving us, but not from the wrath of God. It saves us from the crooked generation around us…it saves us from the world and its influence by separating us from the world. Water has often symbolized consecration and separation from the common. The Israelites were saved from the Egyptians by water after they had been saved from the wrath of God (the death angel).


And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. [16]


This is the fruit of genuine repentance: a devoting of oneself to the apostles teaching, to fellowship, the breaking of bread, and “the prayers.” The definite article in front of the word, prayers, indicates corporate (collective) prayers. Thus, anyone who does not meet regularly with the church (where these things are done) has not experienced genuine repentance. It was only a “said repentance” or no repentance at all (just the “sinner’s prayer”[17]).


Devote yourself to the apostles teaching!


And all who believed were together and had all things in common. [18]


Another evidence of genuine repentance is ‘having all things in common.” That is, the fledgling church shared their possessions and were not selfish or protective about their own resources. Any need anyone had was met by the others. This is a demonstration of true love and true faith. Those who are disinclined to help others or who complain about helping the less fortunate give evidence of their unregenerate (and unsaved) state!


And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,[19]


Here is another verse showing the foundational practice of meeting with God’s people regularly! The early church met every day! (And some have a difficult time meeting once per week at the present time!) During the Reformation, under John Calvin’s teaching in Geneva, the church met daily also.


Glad hearts…generous hearts! The fruit of a Spirit-filled life!


Chapter two ends with this verse:


Praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. [20]


The one who has been born from above loves to praise God! What a joy it is to praise Him who is so worthy of glory, honor, and praise! When we praise we find fulfillment in the deepest part of who we are! The one who has been born again will find favor among those who have had the same experience!


The Lord adds to the church those who are being saved. Here is a third verse showing that the local church, and assembling with it, is a necessary fruit of true repentance. False repentance results in people just staying to themselves. God-given repentance results in devotion to the apostles teaching and fellowship!


We see here, and will see throughout the book of Acts, how important the local church is in the eyes of God. Any kind of “faith” that does not issue in the love and support of the local church is a false faith. We give ourselves to the Person of Christ. But, when we do, we discover that we have given ourselves to his people and we don’t turn back!


[1] Legacy Standard Bible (2021). (Ac 2:4). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 2:19–20). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] Notes on Matthew, Part 52.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 2:21). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Witness Lee, Life-Study of Acts, Message Nine.

[6] Ibid.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 2:25–28). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 2:32). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 2:36). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 2:37–39). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[11] Legacy Standard Bible (2021). (Lk 24:46–47). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[12] LSB (Ac 3:19). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[13] LSB (Ac 26:15–18). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[14] LSB (Ac 5:31). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[15] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 2:40–41). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[16] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 2:42). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[17] Some (only some!) so-called sinner’s prayers can be formulated to include words of repentance. This is a great improvement upon many prayers being promoted. We still must remember, though, that it is God who grants repentance and it must come from the heart, not merely the lips.

[18] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 2:44). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[19] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 2:46). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[20] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 2:47). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.