St. Peter to the Multitude
Acts 2:14-40
But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said to them, You men of Judaea, and all you that dwell at Jerusalem…

1. We are struck first with the calmness and concentrated force of this address. How difficult the task which St. Peter undertook! He had to speak on the spur of the moment, and to a crowd excited as only an Eastern crowd can be. It is not easy for the most practised orator to catch the ear, and hold the attention of a confused and hostile crowd. Shakespeare means us to recognise consummate skill in Mark Antony's handling of the Roman citizens at Caesar's funeral; but he used flattering words, and he spoke in order to rouse the people against the assassins of Caesar, not against themselves. St. Peter had to address the crowd on a theme which could not be welcome, and to stir them to self-condemnation. Yet we see no trace of hesitation or embarrassment. The speech was as well conceived and compacted as if it had been premeditated for weeks. It soothed the tumult of unfriendly excitement, and stirred a tumult of convicted conscience.

2. An opening for the address was made by the rude jeering of some as to the source of that ardour which glowed in the faces and uttered itself in the words of the brethren. This charge was easily disposed of. It was a fair specimen of the capacity of carnal men to judge spiritual.

(1) But St. Peter brushed it away with a sentence. It was enough that it was but the third hour of the day. What Jew would have drunk wine at all on such a morning, and before the morning sacrifice i And even if one or two could be so lost to shame, how absurd to accuse one hundred and twenty! Even the heathen reckoned it disreputable to drink strong wines in the morning. Cicero tells us indeed that the revelry at Antony's villa began at nine o'clock; but this was regarded as the foolish excess of debauchees.

(2) But the complete refutation of it was the whole tone and tenor of the address, which was calm and well considered to a marvel. It showed that he and his companions were certainly "not filled with wine, wherein is excess." They were "filled with the Spirit." The apostle gave this as the true explanation, and proceeded at once to illustrate and support it by a felicitous quotation from one of the ancient prophets. He knew that in order to convince it was necessary to proceed on the common ground of Scripture. No one in that multitude, however prejudiced or impatient, could object to the citation from Joel. What St. Peter taught was the beginning of a fulfilment of Joel's prophecy. It was the sign of a new era; the inauguration of a time, the length of which no man could define, but ending with a "great and terrible day of the Lord." Such was the exordium of St. Peter's speech. We can see the mockers silenced, some of them, let us hope, ashamed. The crowd ceased to sway and shout, listening to the calm, clear, strong statement which carried with it such a ring of certainty.

3. Then the speaker, pursuing his advantage, addressed himself to the main theme. The Spirit had come upon them, that they might preach Christ with power. The apostles never dragged in their great theme abruptly or awkwardly. Here St. Peter found a starting-point for preaching Jesus in the concluding words of the passage he had cited from Joel, "Whosoever should call on the name of the Lord shall be saved." Who was the Lord, whose "great and notable day" should terminate the dispensation of the Spirit? St. Peter and his colleagues were prepared to say and prove that it was Jesus. And then for the first time the sin of the crucifixion was charged on the conscience of the Jews, the fulness of the gospel made known. Not a few of those present had joined in the cry, "Crucify Him!" That had not been, however, spontaneous; but had been stirred up by the rulers. And now that hot blood had cooled there must have been sore misgivings, which the apostle soon deepened. He reminded his hearers of "the mighty works and wonders and signs" by which God had accredited His prophet. He appealed to their own knowledge of those things; and their silence intimated that they could not dispute the fact.

4. Having gained the point, St. Peter proceeded to show who the prophet Jesus was —

(1) By reference to His crucifixion. Was this fatal to a claim of Messiahship? Peter would once have said so; but now he stood there prepared to show that it formed an essential part of the proof that He was indeed the Christ. It was God's purpose, and was predicted in the ancient oracles. Jewish teachers had turned away from a suffering to an exclusively glorious Messiah. But none the less was He so predicted, and none the less was the fulfilment secured by God's "determinate counsel." Therefore was Jesus delivered into the hands of those who hated Him, who crucified Him by the hand of "men without the law" — the Roman soldiers. But it was really on the Jews and their children that the blood of the Just One lay — "Ye did crucify and slay."(2) Then, in a breath, the speaker announced a fact which gave a new turn to the whole history in the resurrection of the Crucified One. "Whom God raised up," etc. This, indeed, had been announced immediately after; but a counter story had been set afloat that the body had been stolen. These conflicting rumours had left the whole matter in a haze of doubt. But, before adducing witnesses, St. Peter referred again to the Old Testament. With a fine skill which the Holy Ghost had taught him, he prepared the Jews for receiving evidence, by showing that it was far from incredible, since it had been clearly foretold in one of the prophetic Psalms. Of course this did not prove that Jesus was that Christ. But, if it could be proved that Jesus had risen, His fulfilment of this oracle would go far to place it beyond doubt that He was the Messiah. And then the proof was adduced. Pointing to the Christian company, St. Peter said boldly, "This Jesus did God raise up, whereof we all are witnesses." How could any fact of the kind have better attestation?

(3) The argument had to be carried one step further; and the speaker, not knowing how long the crowd might continue to listen, proceeded at once to say that the risen Jesus was exalted by the right hand of God. On this point, too, St. Peter found support in the Old Testament — "Jehovah said to Adonai" (Psalm 110.). Every one knew who was meant by Jehovah: but who was Adonai? David could not have meant himself, for he was not his own Lord; far less could he have given such a title to any of the kings of the earth. The Spirit had inspired him to sing thus of the Lord Christ, and the proof of His ascension was before the eyes of the multitude. On the followers of Jesus, and on them only, had descended the new energy from heaven.

5. Thus the proof was completed at every point. There was no declamation but compact statement and close reasoning, leading up to the conclusion that God had made the crucified Jesus both Lord and Christ. And now the Christians beheld the crowd no longer mocking, but subdued, ashamed, conscience-stricken. Pricked in their hearts, many cried out, "What shall we do?" A welcome interruption! It showed St. Peter that he had struck the right chord, and that the Holy Spirit was speaking through him to the people. It enabled him to follow up his address with a very pointed application, and a very earnest appeal. They could not undo their own act, but God had done that already. This, however, they might and should do without delay:(1) "Repent." — It was not enough to be pricked in heart. Repentance is more than vexation with one's self, or even poignant sorrow. The apostle bade them reconsider the whole matter, and so change their minds regarding the Nazarene, and consequently their attitude.

(2) "And be baptised every one of you unto the remission of sins." — This implied that they should believe, and confess their faith-for faith is always allied with repentance unto life, and is the instrument of forgiveness. Those who sincerely repented of their rejection of Jesus, must now believe in Him as the Christ; and in token thereof were called to join the company of His followers by openly receiving that baptism, which Christ had authorised them to administer. The consequence of this would be, that they would obtain not only pardon, but the Holy Ghost; for the promise was to their nation first, though also, God be praised, to the Gentiles — "as many as the Lord our God shall call."

6. Such was the speech of St. Peter; and the result was glorious. The fisher of men let down a good net into the deep, and caught a great draught — drew to the shore of faith and peace three thousand souls. He wrought no miracle to astonish and impress them. It was better that no sign or prodigy performed by the apostles should interfere with the direct and solemn application of truth to the conscience. He performed no ceremony. The notion of a Christianity that trusts to ceremonial and celebration was quite foreign to the apostolic conception. The speaker prevailed by the word of his testimony. The three thousand felt the power of the truth and yielded to it — the Spirit of the Lord disposing and enabling them so to do. Thus they repented, believed, were baptized, were pardoned, were quickened to newness of life.

7. In one day! It was the typical and significant day of our dispensation, a day which should be expected to repeat itself. True, there cannot be a second descent of the Holy Spirit, any more than there can be a second incarnation of the Son. But the Church should ask and look for a continuance of the mighty working of the Holy Ghost, and so for conversions by thousands. The Church wants no other means of increase than those by which it was founded —

(1)  the fire of the Holy Ghost, and

(2)  the testimony of anointed witnesses in sound speech that cannot be gainsaid, testifying to Jesus, the Saviour, that He is the Christ of Israel, and the Lord of all.

(D. Fraser, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:

WEB: But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and spoke out to them, "You men of Judea, and all you who dwell at Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to my words.

Prophecies of the Times of the Spirit
Top of Page
Top of Page