Promise is unto you

The gift of the Spirit is for all men who repent, even to those afar off, in fulfillment of the promise of the Father - Acts 2:37-41.

After completing his sermon on Pentecost, Peter summons his audience to repent and be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ.” But something more than a call to accept the gospel is transpiring - he concludes his sermon on a note of fulfillment and with a foretaste of things to come.

The apostle’s sermon begins with a citation from the book of Joel, and it ends with a clause from the same passage, thus neatly bracketing Peter’s message.

What began on the Day of Pentecost is the commencement of the era of fulfillment, the messianic age that is to continue until the consummation of all things on the “day of the LORD.”

What the crowd of Jewish pilgrims “saw and heard” is none other than the promised outpouring of the Spirit “in the last days” as prophesied in the book of Joel.

With the death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus, the “last days” have begun in earnest, and therefore, the Spirit is granted to his people, starting with the fledgling church in Jerusalem, but certainly not ending with them - (Joel 2:28-32).

Considering the unexpected events in Jerusalem, the “day of the LORD” is more imminent than ever, therefore, everyone who hears Peter’s words must repent, even “as many as the Lord our God shall call.”

  • (Acts 2:37-41) - “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: Brethren, what shall we do? And Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God will call to him. And with many other words he testified, and exhorted them, saying: Save yourselves from this crooked generation. They, then, that received his word were baptized: and there were added to them in that day about three thousand souls.”

BAPTISM IN THE SPIRIT

The “promise” is the “gift of the Spirit” promised in Scripture and by Jesus. Just before his ascension, he commanded his disciples to “tarry in Jerusalem” until they were endued with power from on high, the “promise of the Father.”

John baptized “in water,” but the “Coming one” baptizes “in the Holy Spirit.” Afterward, Christ’s disciples become his witnesses and take his gospel to the “uttermost parts of the earth” - (Acts 1:4-5, Luke 3:16, 24:49).

The setting of the sermon on Pentecost must be kept in mind. The sights and sounds that accompanied the Spirit’s outpouring caused confusion among the pilgrims gathered at the Temple, “Jews and proselytes” from at least fifteen nations.

As the editor of Acts, Luke does not list them simply for literary effect, but to make a theological point. The bestowal of the Spirit marks the start of the mission to announce the kingdom of God to all nations (“Now there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven”).

From its start, the covenant with Abraham envisioned a people consisting of more than just his biological descendants. At one point in Genesis, Yahweh shows Abraham the stars of heaven and challenges him to number them if he can. So, also, will be the number of his “seed” - (Genesis 15:5, 17:4-6).

But his physical descendants failed to keep to the covenant. That did not mean Yahweh had rejected Israel. On the contrary, to facilitate their redemption, He promised to provide a new covenant relationship that includes the gift of His Spirit.

The day is coming when Yahweh will “gather you from among the nations and bring you into your own land.” And on that day, He will put a “new Spirit within you… And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes” - (Ezekiel 36:24-27).

Thus, the fulfillment of the covenant promise began on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, not only with the outpouring of the Spirit but also with the addition of three thousand converts from among the Jewish pilgrims.

COVENANT FULFILLMENT

But that is only the beginning since the “promise” is “to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God will call to him.” The proclamation of the gospel began in Jerusalem, but as the book of Acts demonstrates, it progresses from there to “Judea, Samaria,” and even to Rome, the very heart of the empire.

At the end of the book, we find Paul in Rome under house arrest. Nevertheless, despite his circumstances, he “received all that went to him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness,” both to Jews and Gentiles alike - (Acts 28:30-31).

Thus, the gift of the Spirit and the proclamation of the “good news” do not represent a radical departure from the covenant with Abraham, but its fulfillment. What began on Pentecost was only the first stage in taking the kingdom to all nations, even “to the uttermost parts of the earth.”

And thus, the “promise of the Father” is for “you and your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”



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