1. The early church in Jerusalem, 1:1-5:42

vi] Peter calls for repentance


It's the day of Pentecost, and Peter has just explained to a gathered crowd why the disciples are speaking in "tongues", and how this fits with God's plan for the salvation of his people Israel. Peter now makes his final appeal.


To stand approved under Christ's reign it is necessary to repent for the forgiveness of sins. By so doing, the believing person will be enlivened by the gift of the Holy Spirit.


i] Context: See 1:1-11.


ii] Background:

iWater Baptism in Acts: Luke's intended sense for the verb baptizw, "to baptise", is not overly clear. The word often takes the literal sense "to dip in / sprinkle with water", but it can also be used figuratively. In the New Testament the word is sometimes used for "immerse / baptise in fire" (in a difficult situation, persecution), and "immerse / baptise in the Spirit". It does seem likely that the word is also being used figuratively in the phrase "immersed in the Name", ie., it refers to something other than, or wider than, water baptism, namely, being immersed into the gospel, into the teachings of Christ, into the person of Christ, and thus under his authority; see "Baptised into the Name", 10:44-48.

It is obvious that dunking, dipping, sprinkling, ...., along with instruction, became part of the business of being baptised, given that the prime apostolic task is to immerse a person in the gospel. In Luke's commissioning (Lk.24, Acts 1), it's about being witnesses of Jesus' death, resurrection, to bring about repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The Markan appendix, 16:15-16, reflects a corporate understanding of "the gospel" and of "baptism", but note how Luke avoids this in his commission.

When it comes to water baptism itself, many commentators integrally link water baptism with repentance as a necessary element for forgiveness, but it is not unreasonable to argue that water baptism is but the outward expression of repentance; "an outward sign of repentance and remission of sins", Bruce. As such, it is the repentance which gains forgiveness, not the outward sign. So, the likely sense of Peter's appeal to the crowd in Acts 2:38 is "repent, each of you expressing this outwardly in water baptism, and do so under the authority of Jesus Christ, so that your sins may be forgiven, and as a consequence, receive the long promised gift of God's Spirit."

It is likely that "repent and be baptised [in the Name]" is a technical descriptor for what had become, by the time Luke wrote Luke/Acts, standard practice. So, gospel response (repentance and faith) was followed by formal instruction in the Christian faith ("in the Name"), followed by a public affirmation of that faith in water baptism (a baptism "in the Name" = confirmed under the authority of Jesus). Of course, given the explosion of events at Pentecost and the enthusiastic response of many in the crowd, the niceties of Christian instruction would have been the last thing on the apostles' mind. Finding some water somewhere would have been the pressing issue (particularly if they were practising immersion!!!!); instruction can come later.

Although Peter's call to respond to the gospel is similar to that of John the Baptist, it has two distinct differences. First, it is "in the name of Jesus Christ." The phrase probably means something like "under the personal authority of Jesus Christ", an authority which applies to the person baptising as well as the person baptised. The apostles would often use the same words when they were performing a miracle. Second, Christian baptism adds to John's baptism in that it is linked to "the gift of the Holy Spirit." The promised gift of the Holy Spirit is the gift of God's indwelling presence in the life of a believer which exhibits in divine power for ministry. The gift of, and the empowering of, the Spirit, are integrally linked and belong to all who "repent and believe."

As to the issue of how much water (sprinkling / dunking / immersing), the argument is akin to one that was of great concern during the middle ages, namely, how many angels reside on the head of a pin!!!


iii] Structure: Christ, his resurrection and the gift of the Spirit:

Peter's Pentecost sermon, v14-39:

Introduction, v14-21;

The charge of drunkenness. Text Joel 2:28-32.

Sermon Proper, v22-36:

Christ is both Lord and Messiah. Text Psalm 110:1:

Response, v37-39:

The divine demand;

Repent and be baptised ...

for the forgiveness of sins ....

you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The crowd responds to Peter's sermon, v37;

Peter calls for commitment, v38-39;

Appendix / overview, v40-41.


iv] Interpretation:

We have before us what Dodd calls "an appeal for repentance", "The speech not only interprets what has happened; it causes something to happen. The audience makes a shattering discovery and is moved to repentance in large numbers", Tannehill.

See the sermon proper, 2:22-36, for notes on Peter's gospel sermon.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 2:37

Peter's appeal for repentance, v37-41. i] The crowd responds to Peter's sermon, v37. To reject the messiah of Israel is a horrific crime, and obviously many in the crowd understood the consequences. "Brothers, what are we to do?" they cried.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

akousanteV (akouw) aor. part. "when the people heard this" - having heard what Peter said. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.

katenughsan (katanussomai) aor. pas. "they were cut" - they were pierced, stung, stabbed. The inward pain associated with anxiety and remorse. "They were cut to the quick", Phillips.

thn kardian (a) "to the heart" - in the heart. Accusative of reference, although a locative dative variant exists.

te ..... kai "...... and" - [and they said toward] both [peter] and [the rest, others]. Forming a correlative construction. Luke includes the other apostles in this ministry; it is not all down to Peter.

tiv +subj. "what shall we do" - what [should we do, men, brothers]. Here the interrogative pronoun is used with a deliberative subjunctive to introduce a direct question. The vocative "men, brothers" is a "fraternal Jewish form of address", Longenecker. "Brothers, brothers, so now what do we do?" Peterson.


ii] Peter calls for commitment, v38-39: Peter goes on to give an answer to the question. First, the people of Israel must recognise their rejection of God's messiah and turn to him for mercy (repent). Not only will their sins be forgiven, but they will receive the long-awaited outpouring of the Spirit. Second, they are to express that decision in water baptism". Peter goes on in v39 to make the point that the good news of God's mercy in Christ is not just for Jews, but for all mankind, for all who "call on the name of the Lord", Joel 2:32, Isaiah 57:19. The "all" Peter is speaking of here is probably the scattered remnant of Israel, but the "all" will inevitably include all humanity. Peter adds, it is for those whom "God will call." It could be argued that God's call serves to gather those predestined to salvation, ie., what we have here is an effectual call. The call is certainly effectual in that it gathers a lost people for salvation, yet those who become members of God's called-out people are those who choose to hear and act on the call to "repent and believe".

metanohsate (metanoew) aor. imp. "repent" - [but/and peter said toward them] turn, change direction. A call for a complete change in direction with regard to a person's attitude toward God, as opposed to a feeling sorry for wrongdoing, eg., "reform your lives", Fitzmyer. "Turn back to God", CEV.

uJmwn gen. pro. "[every one] of you" - [and be immersed each] of you. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

epi + dat. "in" - upon. Local, expressing space, "upon the foundation of, basis of"; "on the authority of Jesus", Bruce. Kellum suggests reference / respect, "concerning the name of Jesus." Interesting use of this preposition here, given that it is the only time it is used with the phrase "baptised in the name." The phrase usually has en + dat., "in [the name]", cf., 10:48 (some texts read en for this verse, but they are likely later adjustments), particularly when the phrase is used in a healing; either local or instrumental, "the Name" being an accompanying circumstance. The other preposition of choice is eiV, "into", cf., 8:16, 19:5, with "baptising them in (into) the name" chosen by Matthew in 28:19. The preposition eiV is often used instead of en. There is probably no significance in the use of different prepositions, all intended to express the same sense, namely, "the power and authorisation for apostolic activity", Johnson. So, "on/in/into the name of Jesus Christ" = "committed to and identified with Jesus", Longenecker, "on the authority of" Jesus, Bruce; "under the authority of Jesus", Dunn.

tw/ onomati (a atoV) "the name" - the name [of jesus christ]. The "name" serves to express the substance of the person, but also their authority; "under the authority of Jesus." The genitive "of Jesus Christ" is adjectival, possessive.

eiV "for" - to, into = for. Here obviously the preposition expresses purpose; "in order to obtain." For forgiveness of sins and thus consequently covenant acceptance / covenant inclusion.

twn aJmartiwn (a) gen. "of [your] sins" - [forgiveness] of the sins [of you]. The genitive is adjectival, usually taken as verbal, objective.

lhyesqe (lambanw) fut. "you will receive" - [and] you will receive. "As a result of your becoming a new-born spiritual babe, he saturates your body, soul and mind with his very nature, which will increasingly make you, your thoughts, your responses, and the totality of what you are, reflect who he is", Junkins.

tou aJgiou pneumatoV gen. "of the Holy Spirit" - [the gift] of the holy spirit. A genitive of definition, epexegetic, explaining the nature of "the gift." Note Peter's call to faith is little different to that of John the Baptist. The differences being, "in the Name of Jesus Christ" and "the gift of the Holy Spirit"; See above. This "gift" is of the Spirit himself, not "the gifts of the Spirit", although the presence of the Spirit naturally opens access to the gifts.


The promise is the promise of the covenant, the new heart within, entailing the gift of the Spirit for renewal, and this apart from the law. Such fulfils the promise to Abraham, a promise which is central to Pauline theology, so Barrett, Johnson, cf., Jer.31:33, ie., "the covenant of grace", Bruce. On the surface at least, the promise is that of forgiveness and the gift of the Spirit. This promise is for "all who are far off", presumably "the lost" of Israel (the Diaspora - Israel in exile), rather than the Gentiles, given that the audience was made up of Jews (not so Barrett). Of course, "the promise" inevitably applies to Gentiles, "the stranger within the gates", but all in good time. The promise is also for all whom God proskaleshtai, "will call". The promise is for God's elect people, although this says nothing about how a person becomes a member of God's elect people. Some, of course, do argue that an effectual call is intended here, although in this context, the word "call" means nothing more than "invite", or possibly a stronger "summon".

gar "-" - for. Introducing a causal clause explaining why they should repent, "because ....."

uJmin dat. pro. "for you" - [the promise is] to you [and to the children of you and]. Dative of interest, advantage, "for you", but possibly a dative of possession, and so also "to your children" and "to the ones far into the distance."

toiV dat. "who [are far off]" - [to all] the ones [into a distance]. Here the article serves as an adjectivizer, turning the prepositional phrase eiV makran "into far off" = "far off", into an attributive modifier limiting the substantive adjective pasin, "everyone", as NIV.

oJsouV an + subj. "for all whom" - [the lord the god of us may summon, invite [as many as = whomever]. The pronoun "as many as" with a]n + subj. forms an indefinite relative construction, direct object of the subjunctive verb, "to summon"; "It is to anyone whom the Lord our God invites", Barclay. Possible echo of Joel 3:5, not included in 2:17-21, so Fitzmyer.


iii] Overview, v40-41: Israel was always a "faithless and perverse generation", Lk.9:41, yet within Israel there was a faithful remnant, a godly line. Ultimately, Jesus is that godly remnant, the faithful Israel, and those who attach themselves to Jesus, those who repent and believe, can now escape the judgment that hangs over the "corrupt generation."

te ..... kai "...... and " - both [with many words he testified] and [was appealing to]. Forming a correlative construction.

logoiV (oV) dat. "with [many other] words" - with [many] words. The dative is instrumental, expressing means, "with / by", as NIV. This is an interesting comment, indicating that Luke's account is only a summary of Peter's sermon, a fact that probably applies to all the recorded speeches in Acts.

autouV pro. "them" - them. Accusative direct object of the para verb "to urge, exhort, appeal to", a verb which usually takes an accusative of persons, as here. Not found in all texts. The imperfect verb "to urge", "he pleaded with them", is probably iterative, "kept on urging", although speech, by its very nature, is durative and so often takes the imperfect. "He implored them", Phillips.

legwn (legw) pres. part. "-" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle, virtually redundant, but serving to introduce direct speech.

swqhte (swzw) aor. pas. imp. "save yourselves" - let be saved. A reflective sense is possible, as NIV, but salvation from divine judgment, for the remnant of Israel, is a divine act of mercy, so "accept salvation", Barrett, cf. 2:21.

apo + gen. "from" - from. [this crooked, bent, generation]. Expressing separation; "away from." "This twisted Generation", Johnson, cf., Deut.32:5.


It is possible that in the conversion of 3,000 people we see a fulfilment of Jesus' promise of the "greater things" that will follow his ministry.

men oun "-" - therefore. The conjunction oun is inferential, expressing a logical conclusion, while men indicates the addition of a further linked element; See men 1:6.

oiJ ... apodexamenoi (apodecomai) aor. mid. part. "those who accepted" - the ones having accepted, welcomed, received [the word of him were baptised]. The participle serves as a substantive. Variant, "believed", but it is best to follow the NIV.

proseteqhsan (prostiqhmi) aor. pas. "were added" - [and about three thousand souls/people] were added. Dunn suggests that the number is "propagandistic", but Longenecker and others disagree - Jerusalem's 100,000 + population, low ambient background noise and spacious areas allows large crowds to gather and hear speakers. Longenecker argues that the durative imperfect variant expresses a lengthened period of time over which people were added to the Christian community. Barrett also argues that the participle, taken as a substantive, similarly implies duration. None-the-less, "some three thousand additional persons being won over on that day", Cassirer, is not impossible.

en + dat. "[that day]" - in/on [that day]. Temporal use of the preposition; "on that day", Barclay.


Acts Introduction


Exegetical Commentaries


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