Acts

2:37-41

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

vi] Peter calls for repentance

Synopsis

On the day of Pentecost, following the infilling of the disciples by the Holy Spirit, a crowd gathered outside the upper room, amazed by the behavior of the disciples. When Peter had quieted the crowd, he preached a gospel sermon to them, a sermon recorded in some detail by Luke. The passage before us consists of the final appeal of the sermon.

 
Teaching

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.

 
Issues

i] Context: See 1:1-11.

 

ii] Structure: This passage, Christ, his resurrection and the gift of the Spirit, presents as follows:

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:

"Repent and be baptized ... for the forgiveness of sins .... and you will receive he gift of the Holy Spirit."

The crowd responds to Peter's sermon, v37;

Peter calls for commitment, v38-39;

Appendix / overview, v40-41.

 

iii] Interpretation:

In the passage before us we have 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.

 

In what sense is Luke using the word baptisqhtw, "let be baptized"?, v38. Many commentators integrally link repentance and baptism as necessary elements for forgiveness, but it is not unreasonable to argue that water "baptism" is but the outward expression of repentance, or possibly "an outward sign of repentance and remission of sins", Bruce, such that it is the repentance which gains forgiveness, not the outward sign. So, the sense is, "repent, and express this outwardly in water baptism, for the forgiveness of sin." The simplified exposition provided in the sample sermon takes this traditional line.

When we see the word "baptism" we often assume that it refers to water baptism, yet the word "baptism", meaning "immersed", is used in other ways in the New Testament, eg. "immersed / baptized in fire" (= persecution), and "immersed / baptized in the Spirit". There is also the possibility that "immersed in the Name" refers to something other than, or wider than, water baptism, namely, being immersed into the gospel, into the teaching of Christ, into the person of Christ and thus under his authority. So, in v41, "those who believed were immersed in water" could mean, "those who believed were instructed in the Christian faith." Yet, it is more likely that "repent and be baptized [in the Name]" is a technical descriptor of what had become, by the time Luke wrote Acts, standard practice, namely, gospel response (repentance and faith), 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 would have been the pressing issue (particularly if it was full immersion!!); instruction can come later. As to the issue of how much water (sprinkling / dunking / immersing), the argument is akin to how many angels reside on the head of a pin!!!

 

iv] 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.

akousanteV (akouw) aor. part. "when the people heard this" - having heard. The participle forms an adverbial clause, probably temporal, as NIV.

katenughsan (katanussomai) aor. pas. "they were cut to [to the heart]" - 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.

loipouV "other [apostles]" - rest, others. Luke includes the other apostles in this ministry; it is not all down to Peter.

ti poihswmen (poiew) aor. subj. "what shall we do" - what should we do, [men, brothers]. Deliberative subjunctive. The literal "men, brothers" is a "fraternal Jewish form of address", Longenecker. "Brothers, brothers, so now what do we do?" Peterson.

 
v38

ii] Peter calls for commitment, v38-39: Peter goes on to give an answer to the question. First, the people of Israel must recognize 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 "be baptized." As noted above, it is not overly clear what baptism / immersion Luke has in mind. Taken at face value it is a baptism similar in fashion to that performed by John the Baptist, Peter tells his hearers that they must submit to water baptism. Water baptism serves as a visible expression of repentance and forgiveness, a washing which illustrates our turning to God for cleansing. 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 baptizing as well as the person baptized. 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."

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", Jol.2:32, Isa.57:19. Yet, 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 can be argued that God's call serves to gather those predestined to salvation, ie. it 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 "repent and believe".

proV + acc. "[Peter] replied" - [and Peter] to [them]. "Peter said to them", Barclay.

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

baptisqhtw (baptizw) aor. pas. imp. "be baptized" - be immersed, overwhelmed.

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

epi + dat. "in [the name of Jesus Christ]" - on, on the basis of. Interesting use of this preposition here, given that it is the only time it is used with the phrase usually translated "baptized in the name." The preposition is often en + dat., "in", cf. 10:48 (some texts read en for this verse), particularly when the phrase is used in a healing; either taken locally, or instrumentally, so Bruce, the Name being an accompanying circumstance. The other preposition of choice is eiV, "into", cf. 8:16, 19:5, with "baptizing them in (into) the name" chosen by Matthew in 28:19. Possibly Luke doesn't think any of these prepositions add to the meaning of the phrase because as a whole it expresses the intended sense, namely "the power and authorization 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. The "name" serving to express the substance of the person, but also their authority; "under the authority of Jesus."

eiV "for" - to, into. Here obviously the preposition expresses purpose; "in order to obtain."

afesin (iV ewV) "the forgiveness - Forgiveness of sins and thus consequently covenant acceptance / covenant inclusion.

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

lhyesqe (lambanw) fut. "you will receive" - "As a result of your becoming a new-born spiritual babe, he saturates you body, soul and mine 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. "[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." 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.

 
v39

gar "-" - for. Here expressing cause / reason; introducing a causal clause explaining why they should repent, "because ....."

hJ epaggelia (a) "the promise" - The promise is probably the new covenant promise, Jer.31:33, the new heart within, which entails the gift of the Spirit for renewal apart from the law, a reality which fulfills the promise to Abraham and a truth which is central to Pauline theology, cf. Barrett, Johnson. More generally "the covenant of grace", Bruce. On the surface at least, the promise is that of forgiveness and the gift of the Spirit.

uJmin dat. pro. "to / for you" - Dative of interest, advantage, but possibly possession, and so also "to your children" and "to the ones far into the distance." "All who are far off" are 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" does apply to Gentiles, "the stranger within the gates", but all in good time.

toiV dat. "who [are far off]" - Here serving as a adjectivizer, turning the prepositional phrase eiV makran "into far off" = "far off", into an adjectival modifier / relative clause, limiting pasin, "all / everyone", as NIV.

oJsouV an + subj. "for all whom" - as many as [may call]. Forming an indefinite relative clause.

proskaleshtai (proskaleomai) aor. subj. "will call" - may call. Possible echo of Joel 3:5, not included in 2:17-21, so Fitzmyer. The promise applies to the called-out people of God, although this says nothing about how a person becomes part of this people. Some, of course, do argue that an effectual call is intended here, although the context has already provided us with a call / invitation.

 
v40

iii] Overview, v40-41: Israel was always a "faithless and perverse generation", Lk.9:41, yet within Israel there remains a faithful remnant, a godly line. Ultimately, Jesus is that godly remnant, the faithful Israel, and to this godly line a people can now escape from "this corrupt generation" and the judgement that hangs over it. It is possible that in the conversion of 3,000 people we see a fulfillment of Jesus' promise of the "greater things" that will following his ministry.

logoiV (oV) dat. "with [many other] words" - The dative is obviously instrumental, "with / by", as NIV. Interesting comment indicating that this is only a summary of Peter's sermon, a truth that probably applies to all the recorded speeches in Acts.

diemarturato (diamarturomai) aor. "he warned them" - he testified, declared. "Testified by argument", Bruce.

parekalei (parakalew) imperf. "pleaded" - was appealing, urging, exhorting [them]. The imperfect is durative, probably here iterative, "kept on urging", expressing repeated action, 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.

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" - Expressing separation; "away from."

thV skoliaV adj. "[this] corrupt [generation]" - crooked, bent. "This twisted Generation", Johnson, cf. Deut.32:5.

 
v41

men oun "-" - This construction is on the one hand inferential, expressing a logical conclusion, but adding a further element, either with de, adversative comparative, or kai, as here, correlative; "so therefore [those who recieved ......] and [there added ..........]"

oiJ ... apodexamenoi (apodecomai) aor. mid. part. "those who accepted" - the ones having accepted, welcomed, received. Participle as a substantive. Variant, "believed", but best to follow NIV.

proseteqhsan (prostiqhmi) aor. pas. "were added" - [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 for the durative imperfect variant which expresses a lengthened period of time over which people were added to the Christian community. Barrett argues that the participle, taken as a substantive, also implies duration. Still, "some three thousand additional persons being won over on that day", Cassirer, is not impossible.

en th/ hJmera/ "that day" - in/on that day. Temporal; "on that day", Barclay.

 

Acts Introduction

Exposition

 

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