The Sending of the Holy Ghost
Acts 2:17-21
And it shall come to pass in the last days, said God, I will pour out of my Spirit on all flesh…

The occasion of Peter's sermon was a lewd surmise touching the gift of tongues. As soon as God from heaven sent His fiery tongues upon His apostles, the devil from hell put his into the mouths of his apostles. Note —


1. The Spirit is here the author of prophecy.

(1) Prophecy can come from no nature not rational; so the Spirit is natura rationalis, i.e., a person.

(2) Effusion is a proceeding of that which is poured; as inspiration, in the very body of the word "spirit." So the Spirit is a person proceeding.

(3) No person, angel or spirit, can be poured out, least of all "upon all flesh." God only can be that: hence the Spirit is God.

(4) But Peter saith, "of My spirit." The whole Spirit flesh could not hold, not even "all flesh"; and parts He hath none. The phrase, then, indicates the gifts and graces of the Spirit — beams of this light, streams of this pouring — here the gifts of prophecy and tongues.

2. The act: "pour."(1) The quality. That which is poured must be a liquid. But this seems improper to the occasion when we should have looked for fire. But Peter perhaps refers to their slander, "that it was nothing but new wine," a liquor; and certainly the metaphor was frequently used by Christ (John 7:39; Acts 1:5). Further, this quality falls well within the graces here given —

(a) Prophecy, likened by the great prophet (Deuteronomy 32:2) to the "dew falling upon the herbs."(b) Invocation, which is the pouring out of prayer, and of the very heart in prayer,

(2) The quantity. Pouring is a sign of plenty. The Spirit had been given before but never with such a largess; sprinkled but not poured.

(3) Pouring tells us that the Spirit came not of Himself, not till He was thus poured out; that so order might be kept in Him, and we by Him taught to keep it, i.e., not to start out till "we be sent, not to leak or run over, but stay till we be poured out."(4) Pouring is not as the running of a spout, but the voluntary act of a voluntary agent who has the vessel in his hand, and pours or not at will, and when he pours strikes not out the head of the vessel and let all go, bug moderates his pouring. So here the Spirit dispenses.

(a)  To divers parties,

(b)  divers gifts,

(c)  in divers degrees.

3. On whom this pouring is.

(1) Flesh, i.e., men. But we are spirit as well as flesh. Yes, but to magnify His mercy the more that part is chosen which seems farthest removed (Isaiah 40:6; Romans 8:3).

(2) Upon this flesh. But had not "into" been better? The Spirit is given both ways. At Christ's baptism the dove came "upon Him"; at His resurrection, "He breathed into" them. And so He has parted His sacraments — baptism is upon us, the Eucharist enters into us. But both come to one. If it be poured on it soaks in; if it be breathed in it works forth. But it is "upon" here —

(a) That we may know that the graces of the Spirit are from without, and grow not from our flesh; and not only from without but "from above, from the Father of lights."(b) Because "upon" is the preposition proper to initiation into any new office, as in the case of anointing, investing with a robe, imposition of hands, etc.

(c) To inure the apostles to the preposition, which so many hate. No "super," no superiority; "the right hands of fellowship," if you will, but no imposition of them; if "super" then "sub" follows; and no "sub" with those who submit neither head nor spirit to any.

(3) Upon all flesh. None is excluded — no sex, age, condition, nation. Yet not promiscuously; the text limits the promise to such as will be "My servants," i.e., as will "believe and be baptized." This gives them the capacity, makes them vessels meet to receive the effusion, all which effectually exclude unbelievers and counterfeit Christians.

II. THE END WHERETO. The Spirit is given to many ends, but one last — the salvation of mankind. Mankind was on the point to perish, and the Spirit was poured as a precious balm to recover and save it.

1. Means to that end. That men may be saved they are to call on the name of the Lord; that they may call to purpose they are to be called on to it, and directed in it by prophesying.

(1) Prophecy stands first, for without that the people must needs perish (Proverbs 29:18; Isaiah 32:14, 15). Not, however, in the sense of foretelling, but preaching (Romans 10:13-15), as Peter prophesied here. But is this gift poured upon all flesh? No! It is not promised that all God's sons and servants shall prophesy; for there must be some to be prophesied to. "All flesh" may not be cut into tongues; some must be left for ears. Else a Cyclopean Church would grow upon us, where all were speakers and none hearers.

(2) How then shall the Spirit be poured out upon all flesh? The spirit of prophecy is not all God's Spirit. If that be upon some, the spirit of grace and of supplication (Zechariah 12:10) is upon the rest.

2. The end itself — Salvation.

(Bp. Andrewes.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:

WEB: 'It will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh. Your sons and your daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions. Your old men will dream dreams.

The Promise Kept
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