Acts Devotional Commentary [Acts 2:37-41] Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost

Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost Continued

Acts 2:37-41

37 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.” 40 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.

Observations and Reflections

Justin-Holmes1.jpgThe preaching of Peter in Acts 2 is certainly truncated for the sake of brevity. It’s not that what Luke recorded isn’t enough to convince 3000 people to repent but that he indicates that there has been some material left out.

 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, (Acts 2:40)

What Peter said to the crowd beyond what Luke wrote is likely more reasoning and convincing from the scriptures. This would be the most logical route as Peter’s audience was mainly Jewish. What is even more interesting is that just about 40 days ago the Jews were having Christ crucified. Now they were repenting in droves. At the time, it was estimated that anywhere between 100,000 & 600,000 Jews resided in Jerusalem. However, 100K to 600K is a large swing of numbers.

Roman historian Tacitus estimated the population of Jerusalem to be 600,000. This around the time of the Roman/Jewish wars (70CE).

We are told that the number of the besieged, old and young, men and women, amounted to 600,000. All who could bear arms did so, and more than their numbers warranted had the courage necessary. (Tacitus, Histories, Book 5:13)

The Jewish historian Josephus, who slightly predated Tacitus, estimated the number of just Pharisees to be 6,000.

Accordingly, when all the people of the Jews gave assurance of their good-will to Caesar, and to the king’s government, these very men did not swear, being above six thousand; and when the king imposed a fine upon them, Pheroras’s wife paid their fine for them. (Josephus, Antiquities, 17:42)

Josephus also estimated that 1.1 million were killed in the Jewish War, that 115,880 dead were carried out one of the gates during the month of Nisan in AD 70, and that 97,000 were taken as slaves.

Now the number of those that were carried captive, during this whole war, was collected to be ninety-seven thousand. As was the number of those that perished during the whole siege eleven hundred thousand. The greater part of whom were indeed of the same nation [with the citizens of Jerusalem], but not belonging to the city it self. (Josephus, The Wars, Book VI, 9:3)

The population was almost certainly over 100,000 Jews but how much more is hard to know. I personally believe that Tacitus is probably most accurate as he was Roman and it was the Romans who were taking the census data for tax collection. They had the most incentives to get it correct. That being said, this was a holiday in Jerusalem and the population of Jerusalem was known to double or even triple during a big festival. The population at the point when Peter was speaking was likely 250,000 at the very least. That means that roughly 12% of the audience had converted to Christianity and were baptized. That is a pretty staggering rate of success since many of these people just witnessed Jesus get crucified.

Moreover, these Jews likely came from all over Judea which would explain the success of Paul’s missionary work. Peter had already laid the groundwork for Christianity to be brought to all the surrounding Jewish peoples because they were there on the day of Pentecost.This would also explain the success of the very first Christian church which was housed in Jerusalem and lead by the disciples. This church was widely recognized by all as the head of the Christian churches. Even Paul made a trip there to verify his calling as an apostle.

Lydia.jpgThe response they had to  Peter’s message regarding their role in the death of Jesus was astonishing. Instead of getting defensive or angry, they were moved by his words and sought to right what was wrong. They had a desire to find a means in which they could make up for the sin that had plagued in their hearts.

Peter goes straight to the heart of the gospel with saying that repentance is the key ingredient to moving past their sin, followed by accepting the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. This is a beautiful scene that we see playing out before us. The Gospel has been preached and there are many who are coming to know, believe and accept the name of Jesus Christ.

This is the first sermon that is preached after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit has started to move in a powerful way and is beginning to save lost souls and bring them to truth of the Gospel. A massive revival is taking place and we can see how there were about three thousand souls that were saved that day.

God’s hand is on the move and there is nothing that can stop the Gospel from going forward. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ did not thwart the good news from spreading by any means. Instead it set fuel to the flame and it is going out into the world and is spreading like wildfire.

When God’s hand begins to work we can rest assured that there is nothing in this world or outside of it that can stop it. His hand is the only source of power and hope. We can with great joy, take the time to celebrate what we see is at work here. Let us always be thankful for what God is doing in our lives, the church and our own ministries. Trust that God will continue to work to bring about the message of the Gospel and rely on the leading of the Holy Spirit to do the same work that He did back then, in you now.


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