When the Spirit is at work, God’s covenant promises are proclaimed clearly, and they prick human hearts and drive them to repentance. And instead of sin driving a wedge between people, the Spirit begins knitting them together in glad fellowship around the worship of the Lord.
“Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:36-47)
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
Having proclaimed Jesus risen from the dead and established as Lord and Christ (Acts 2:1-36), the people are cut to the heart and ask what they must do (Acts 2:37). Peter says to repent and be baptized, receiving the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, which was the new covenant promise going back to the beginning (Acts 2:38-40).
About three thousand souls received this word gladly and were baptized, and they all joined together in the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and in prayers, and this event shook the whole city in a good way (Acts 2:41-43). As there were many gathered from out of town, it was necessary for an intense hospitality to be practiced, and everyone pitched in gladly, so that they continued learning and growing in worship and gladness (Acts 2:44-47).
THE COVENANT PROMISES
When the people are cut to the heart, Peter proclaims the “promise” (Acts 2:39). We know that this refers back to what Jesus had previously said (Acts 1:4, Jn. 14:16-19, 26), and of course it was also the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Acts 2:16ff, Joel 2:28ff). But there were other texts as well: Ezekiel had promised the exiles that God would gather them together again and sprinkle clean water upon them, cleansing them from all their idols and give them a new heart of flesh and put His Spirit within them (Ez. 36:24-27, cf. 37:14). This promise is specifically called God’s “covenant of peace” that He promised Israel and their children and their children’s children forever (Ez. 37:24-26). Isaiah likewise prophesied of the days when God would pour water on the thirsty land and pour out His Spirit upon the offspring and descendants of Israel (Is. 44:3). Even during the days of Moses, the Spirit came upon the seventy elders, and Moses cried out, longing for God to put His Spirit on all of the Lord’s people (Num. 11:29).
Ultimately all of this goes back to the promise that God made to Adam and Eve after the Fall, that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the seed of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). This was the first promise of God to undo the power and guilt of sin. Then, after that, Peter says that the flood was a type of baptism, picturing the filth of our sin being washed away so that we might have a clean conscience before God (1 Pet. 3:21). Therefore, the renewal of the covenant with Noah after the flood, is a renewal of God’s promise to take away our sins and bless us (Gen. 9). So when God renews covenant with Abraham, the promise of a seed and blessing for all the families of the earth should be heard as including forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit, signified by circumcision (Gen. 12:3, Gen. 17:6-10, cf. Dt. 10:16).
ALL THINGS IN COMMON
Sometimes Acts 2 is cited as evidence of some kind of “New Testament Christianity” that functioned sort of like communism. In some fringe sects, this even included open marriages and such. But that isn’t what was going on here at all. As we will see in a few chapters, when Ananias and Sapphira conspired to lie about a gift they brought to the apostles, Peter explicitly says that their land and money belonged to them and was theirs to do with whatever they wanted (Acts 5:4). What we have in Acts 2 is a situation where there is a huge influx into the church (thousands overnight), many from faraway lands, coupled with the promise of Jesus about the destruction of Jerusalem (Mt. 24:2, 15-16) (also indicated by Joel’s prophecy).
So you have a unique historical moment with a sudden explosion of practical needs and a bunch of folks starting to plan to get out of dodge. The Christian Church does have a mandate to practice hospitality (Rom. 12:13), welcome strangers (Heb. 13:2), care for the needs of true widows and orphans (1 Tim. 5:9-10), especially for the household of God (1 Pet. 4:9, Gal. 6:10). But the apostolic tradition has always been that if a man will not work, he should not eat (2 Thess. 3:10) and anyone who does not provide for their own household is worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim. 5:8). This is why the deacons oversee a Deacons Fund (internal needs), an education fund, and a benevolence fund (external needs), and they work closely with individuals/families to truly help.
While we are not yet at Pentecost proportions, the Lord has seen fit to bring many new people here to Moscow who have likewise been cut to the heart by the Lordship of Christ; so we have some of the dynamics in play that the early church faced. And we really do want to practice Christian hospitality centered around the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and the prayers. This is why Lord’s Day worship is the central thing we do. It is the Lord’s hospitality to us (and to all) proclaiming and renewing His covenant promises, and precisely because that is what it is, we want to extend it to one another. So make a point to meet someone new and catch up with someone you already know here every Lord’s Day.
And just like the early church, this formal gathering spills out, “from house to house,” and so the encouragement is to continue practicing hospitality in your homes throughout the week and do so “without grumbling” (1 Pet. 4:9). The reason why we need this reminder is because we are tempted to grumble. We are tempted to grumble when no one invites us over, tempted to grumble when the guests stay too long, tempted to grumble when no one volunteers to help with the dishes, or when other expectations are not met. But our hospitality is a reflection of the gospel: we love because we have been loved. This love covers a multitude of sins and confronts some sins in meekness (1 Pet. 4:8, Gal. 6:1). Therefore, root out all bitterness, all grumbling, all gossip, and put on the gladness and simplicity of Christ (Acts 2:46).