Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary – Acts (Vol. 1)》

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Act . Dwelling at Jerusalem.—Not. "permanently residing" only, a sense the word usually has in Luke's writings (Luk 1:19; Luk 4:16; Luk 13:4), but also "temporarily sojourning," a meaning not excluded by the term, and apparently demanded by the context, which speaks of the multitude (Act 2:6) as embracing "dwellers in Mesopotamia"—i.e., persons having their homes there, and "strangers of Rome"—i.e., Romans at the time sojourning in the city. Devout men.—Lit. cautious, circumspect, hence God-fearing persons, "men of piety and weight" (Alford), like Simeon (Luk 2:25), those who buried Stephen (Act 8:2), Cornelius and his servant (Act 10:2; Act 10:7).

Act . When this was noised abroad.—Better, when this sound occurred, or was heard (R.V.). Not when this report arose (Calvin), or when these tongues were listened to (Neander), but when this sound (of the mighty, rushing wind) was heard (Meyer, Alford, Hackett, Holtzmann, Zöckler, and others). If the house stood in one of the thoroughfares leading to the Temple the sound may have been audible all over Jerusalem. Every man … in his own language—i.e., one apostle spoke in one language and another in another. By this time the apostles and their company had probably gone forth into the streets.

Act . Galileans.—This constituted the marvel, that the speakers were all recognised as natives of the northern Palestinian province. This suggests that only the eleven addressed the multitude, or—what is more probable—that the eleven being most prominent were regarded as leaders of the rest, and their nationality taken as representative of the nationality of their followers, the one hundred and twenty, who, however, were not all Galileans.

Act . Parthians and Medes, etc.—The catalogue of peoples, fifteen in all, begins in the north-east (three), passes round to the north (one) and north-west (five, or including Judæa, six), moves toward the south (two), and closes in the west (one), Cretes and Arabians (two) being added as an afterthought. That Judæa should come between Mesopotamia and Cappadocia has led to the supposition that Idumæa should be read. But the MSS. forbid. The reason for the mention of Judæa is obscure. It may have been simply to serve as a connecting link between Mesopotamia and Cappadocia (Holtzmann), or in order to complete the enumeration of languages (Bengel, Meyer), or for the sake of Roman readers (Olshausen). Though the dialects may have been fifteen, Holtzmann thinks the actual tongues spoken were only three, or at most four—the Zend (Medes and Elamites), Semitic (Mesopotamia, Judæa, Arabia), Greek (Asia and Egypt), Latin (Rome). Both Jews and proselytes refers to persons from all the preceding places, and not exclusively to the Romans sojourning at Jerusalem.

Act . The wonderful works of God.—Lit. the great things of God (magnalia dei, Vulgate) done by Him through Christ for the salvation of men. (Compare Luk 1:49.)

Act . Amazed depicts the astonishment, in doubt the perplexity of the multitude.

Act . New wine.—Lit. sweet drink. A peculiarly intoxicating beverage made from dried grapes by soaking them in old wine and pressing them a second time. "Furrer" (in Schenkel's Lexicon) reports that a Jew in Hebron prepared such sweet wine by pouring water on dried grapes and distilling the infusion with an addition of spice" (Riehm's Handwörterbuch des Biblischen Altertums, art. Wein).


Excitement in Jerusalem; or, what the Multitude thought of the Phenomenon

I. The subjects of this excitement.—

1. The regular inhabitants of the city. "Devout men dwelling at Jerusalem." Besides the ordinary native population, these would naturally include pious Jews from foreign countries who had become domiciled in the city for a longer or a shorter period.

2. The feast pilgrims temporarily sojourning in the city. "Devout men from every nation under heaven." Of these fifteen different classes are mentioned.

(1) Parthians, from the north-east of Media—referred to nowhere else in Scripture.

(2) Medes, inhabiting the region between the Caspian Sea on the north, Armenia on the west, Hyrcania on the east, and Persia on the south (2Ki ; Ezr 6:2; Dan 5:28).

(3) Elamites, located east of the Tigris, north of Susiania, and south of Media (Ezr ).

(4) Mesopotamians, from the lands between the Tigris and the Euphrates (Gen ; Jud 3:8; 1Ch 19:6).

(5) Judæans, including Jerusalemites, from the Holy Land—i.e., from different parts of Palestine.

(6) Cappadocians, whose settlements lay in the east of Asia Minor (1Pe ).

(7) Pontians, who resided in the north-east (1Pe ), and

(8) Asians from Proconsular Asia in the west of Asia Minor (Act ; Act 16:6; Act 19:10).

(9) Phrygians, also from the east of Asia Minor, and north of Pamphylia (Act , Act 18:23).

(10) Pamphylians, whose territory stretched along the Mediterranean coast, south of Phrygia (Act ; Act 15:38; Act 27:5).

(11) Egyptians from the Nile valley (Act ).

(12) Lybians from Cyrene on the west of Egypt (Jer ; Dan 11:43), the native place of Simon, who bore Christ's cross (Luk 23:26), and of Lucius, the prophet in the Church at Antioch (Act 13:1).

(13) Romans, from the world's capital on the banks of the Tiber (Joh ; Rom 1:7).

(14) Cretans, islanders from the Mediterranean (Act ; Tit 1:5).

(15) Arabians from the desert regions east of the Nile (1Ki ; 2Ch 17:11; Gal 1:17). A motley group, a veritable microcosmus, or little world in the heart of Juda.

II. The cause of this excitement.—

1. A mysterious sound. The noise of the rushing wind, or what resembled this, which pervaded the town arrested the attention of those who were abroad, and led them to investigate its cause. It is hardly to be supposed that thunder or even an earthquake would have produced the same sort of commotion.

2. A more mysterious experience. Every man in Jerusalem, from whatsoever regions arrived, heard one at least in the apostolic company preaching in his own tongue. Probably fifteen foreign languages, or dialects, were that day spoken in the streets of the Jewish capital. (See "Critical Remarks" on Act .)

3. A most mysterious circumstance. That none of the speakers were themselves foreigners, but all (or most) of them were Galileans, who had never been abroad and certainly had never been at school to acquire such command of foreign tongues. It is obvious that the tongues of Pentecost were not mere unintelligible gibberish, ecstatic or frenzied utterances, "sound and fury signifying nothing," but distinct, articulate, and reasonable speech which could be followed and understood. Nor is it at all likely that the miracle was one of hearing rather than of speaking.

III. The manifestations of this excitement.—These were three.

1. Astonishment. All, without exception, were confounded, amazed, and constrained to marvel. And no wonder. What they saw and heard was no every-day occurrence, but something altogether out of, and beyond, their usual experience. The universality of this astonishment guaranteed the reality of the phenomenon.

2. Perplexity. They could neither explain nor understand the phenomenon. Yet they did not on this account deny it. They felt at a loss to fathom its significance. Yet they did not conclude it had no significance. They realised that it must import something, and kept on asking one another what each man thought about it. In this their conduct was praiseworthy so far as it was serious; where it was insincere it was frivolous and deserving of blame.

3. Mockery. This was the attitude assumed by a portion of the crowd, who, because they failed to comprehend the phenomenon, lost their judgment, and began to scoff, accusing the Spirit-borne speakers of being under the influence of strong drink: "These men are filled with new wine"—a strongly intoxicating beverage. Ridicule and calumny have always been common weapons in the hands of unbelief since the days of Christ (Mat ). But neither the one nor the other is a satisfactory way of dealing with religion. Neither can disprove religion, scarcely even hinder its advancement; frequently they hasten its triumph, and often reveal the folly of those who resort to them.


1. The wide court to which Christianity appeals—men out of every nation under heaven.

2. The effect Christianity never fails to produce in every community it visits—excitement, wonder, inquiry, faith, and unbelief.

3. The adaptation of Christianity to every people under heaven a striking evidence of its supernatural origin.

4. The mystery which sometimes accompanies Christianity; its phenomena are not always capable of being accounted for by natural causes.

5. The unreasonable treatment Christianity often receives—ridicule instead of refutation or reception.


Act . Devout Men.

I. Are to be found in every nation under heaven—a lesson of charity (Act ). Examples Job and Cornelius.

II. Are in the way of meeting Heaven's revelations—a ground for hopefulness as to men's ultimate destinies (Psa ; Isa 64:5).

III. Are often perplexed at the divine dealings with themselves and others—a cause for humility (Mic ; Job 37:21; Joh 13:7).

IV. Are sometimes led into sin—a warning against rashness in judgment (Ecc ).

Act . The Wonderful Works of God.

I. In nature.—

1. The creation of the material universe (Gen ).

2. The origination of life (Gen ).

3. The formation of man (Gen ).

II. In providence.—

1. The preservation of created things—of the material cosmos (Heb ) and of all animated beings (Psa 36:6; Psa 104:27).

2. The selection and education of Israel (Isa ).

3. The preparation, inspiration, and preservation of the Bible (1Co ; 2Ti 3:16).

III. In grace.—

1. The redemption of a lost world through the atoning death of Christ (Gal ).

2. The regeneration and renewal of souls through the Spirit and the word (Eph ; Tit 3:5).

Act . How the World receives the Spirit's Utterances.

I. It commonly undervalues the Spirit's witnesses. "Are not all these Galileans?"

II. It is startled at the sound of the truth in its own conscience. "How hear we each in our own language?"

III. It distrusts the issue of the ways of God. "What meaneth this?"

IV. It mistakes the source of the Spirit's operations. "These men are full of sweet wine."—Gerok.

Act . What meaneth this?

I. The majesty of the Father, from whom the whole family in heaven and on earth is named.

II. The glory of the Son, which now appears in heightened splendour, as the glory of the exalted sovereign of God's kingdom.

III. The power of the Holy Ghost, which is here seen in signs and tokens which, at the same time, presage a higher and more glorious future.—Oosterzee.

Act . Man's Reception of the Great Things of God.

I. The great things of God.—These great things are everywhere, for God is everywhere; and everywhere they produce much the same effects on man. Truly great is our Jehovah, and of great power! He has not forsaken man nor man's earth. He shows Himself more signally than by lightning, or thunder, or earthquake, or tempest; even by the Holy Ghost.

II. The impression made by them on man.—

1. Wonder. With that their religion begins and ends. They wonder, but believe not. They wonder, but love not. They wonder, but depart not from iniquity.

2. Perplexity. They know not what to think. They see and hear, and are puzzled. These "great things of God" were not meant to breed perplexity, nor to end in perplexity, yet how often do we find them doing both, through man's perversity, or cowardice, or love of sin and darkness.

3. Mockery. This is the worst, yet not the least common treatment which the great things of God receive at the hands of men. Thus the natural heart speaks out. Let God's great things produce their due, their natural impression. He does not work them for mere show.

(1) Let them overawe us.

(2) Let them break us down. Our hearts need breaking.

(3) Let them lead us to faith.—H. Bonar, D.D.

Verses 14-21


Act . Men of Judæa.—Natives of Jerusalem. Ye that dwell at Jerusalem.—Foreign Jews, sojourners in the city from other parts.

Act . These.—Not the eleven with Peter merely, but all who had been heard speaking (Act 2:7). The third hour.—Nine a.m. in our time; the hour of morning prayer (Schürer considers this doubtful), before which no respectable Jew allowed himself to become intoxicated (Isa 5:11).

Act . Through the prophet.—Joe 2:28-32. διὰ since he was not the author but the medium of the message.

Act . The last days.—The LXX. read μετὰ ταῦτα, after these things. The Hebrew "afterwards," expounded by Peter as referring to Messianic times. Saith God indicates the source of the prophecy. Young men … old men.—The order of the clauses in Joel is transposed.

Act . That great and notable day of the Lord.—Notable = clear, far shining. (Compare Luk 17:21.) The Hebrew prophets used "the day of the Lord" to signify any remarkable interposition of Jehovah for the punishment of His enemies (Isa 2:12; Jer 46:10; Zep 1:7). Joel used it to describe the Messianic coming, both first and second.


Peter's Sermon.

1. The First Christian Apology; or, the Pentecostal Mystery explained

I. The attention of the people summoned.—

1. By a courageous attitude. Peter's standing up with the eleven signified that they did not intend to shirk investigation, be overborne by clamour, or hurried away with excitement. A reasonable amount of fortitude is requisite for all who would bespeak the attention of their fellows on any subject, but especially on religion. This fortitude ought never to be wanting when the interests of Christ's kingdom are at stake, or anything about the behaviour of Christ's ambassadors requires to be investigated.

2. By an earnest utterance. As Peter's manner was unshrinking, so were his words fervent. Like the multitude around, he, too, was under strong excitement, only different from theirs. Besides, he perceived a crisis had arisen in the history of His Master's cause—the time had passed for keeping silence, and the hour struck for speech (Ecc ).

3. By a frank appeal. Intending to hide nothing from his auditors, he invited the attention of all who could understand him, the men of Juda, and of those who could only reach his meaning through translation, the foreign dwellers at Jerusalem.

II. The charge of drunkenness repelled.—

1. As mistaken. Founded on a hasty generalisation, and grounded on appearance, which is seldom reliable as a basis for judgment (Joh ), it was an altogether unwarranted inference.

2. As impossible. Not because wine was not obtainable before 9 a.m., the third hour of the Jewish day, but because during festal seasons it was unlawful to take food, and much more to drink wine earlier than the hour of morning prayer, and because the characters of the accused rendered the charge absurd. "These men," said the Apostle, "whom ye all see and know, and who like yourselves have come up to worship at the feast, are not likely to be drunk at 9 a.m."

3. As ridiculous. Drunken men, he might have added, have commonly a difficulty in speaking their own tongues, let alone making use of foreign languages.

III. The mystery of the tongues explained.—As a fulfilment of prophecy.

1. Of the effusion of the Holy Spirit.

(1) By God, whose the Spirit was, and who had engaged to pour it forth in the last times, or in the closing dispensation of the world.

(2) Upon all flesh, without distinction of sex—"Upon your sons and your daughters"; or age—upon "young men and old"; or condition—upon "bondmen" and "bondmaidens," as well as upon free persons.

(3) With inward illumination, so that they who received it should "prophesy" or utter divine communications of religious truth, as the apostles and other Christians who had the gift of prophecy did (see 1Co ), should "see visions," or possess insight into spiritual and unseen realities, as Stephen did in the judgment hall (Act 7:55), Peter on the housetop (Act 10:10), and Paul on the Damascus road (Act 9:3), and in the Temple (Act 22:17), and should "dream dreams," as perhaps John did in Patmos on the Lord's day (Rev 1:10).

2. Of the Second Coming of Christ. Characterised as a "great and notable" day.

(1) In comparison with His first advent, which was lowly and obscure, whereas this was to be conspicuous and glorious (Mat ).

(2) Because of the portents which should attend it, "the wonders in heaven above and signs on the earth beneath," etc.—language descriptive of the woes and horrors that should overtake such as refused to acknowledge Christ—which received its first and partial fulfilment in the Destruction of Jerusalem, and will attain its complete realisation at the Last Day, when those who decline to believe and obey Christ will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of God, and from the glory of His power (2Th ).

3. Of the free publication of the Gospel. This also, according to the prophet, should distinguish Messianic times. Under the dispensation of the Spirit, whosoever should call upon the name of the Lord, not merely evoking but accepting Him and trusting in Him for all that His name should imply, should be saved. (Compare Rom .)


1. It is no disparagement to a Christian to be found fault with by the world.

2. It is better to be drunk with the Spirit than to be intoxicated with wine:

3. The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

4. The gospel has two outlooks—one of mercy for the believer, another of wrath for the unbeliever.


Act . Drunkenness and Spiritual Influence.

I. Compared.—

1. Both accompanied by bodily manifestations.

2. Both frequently attended by mental excitement.

3. Both, as a rule, followed by corresponding prostration.

II. Contrasted.—

1. The one is a carnal excitement; the other is a spiritual ravishment.

2. The one, a degrading sin; the other, an elevating grace.

2. The one leads to moral and spiritual ruin, the other terminates in salvation and eternal life.

Act . The Dispensation of the Spirit.

I. The age to which it belongs.—The last days—i.e., all the days of the New Testament era.

II. The author from whom it proceeds.—Jehovah, the God of the ancient Church and the founder of the new, the God and Father of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

III. The persons on whom it descends.—"All flesh," without distinction of sex or age, provided they be "servants and handmaidens" of the Lord.

IV. The measure in which it is given.—Not in drops but in streams. "I will pour out."

V. The effects by which it is followed.—The highest forms of spiritual illumination—prophesying, seeing visions, and having dreams.

Act . Visions for Young Men.

I. The vision of the Saviour Christ.—Such as Saul of Tarsus received in the hour of his conversion (Act )—a vision of Christ as the Righteous One, "as the greatest, the wisest, the dearest, and the best—all one's salvation and all one's desire."

II. The vision of a better self.—Such as every young man obtains when he gets his vision of Christ. In this vision of a better self are included two spiritual experiences:

1. An immediate and an intense self-depreciation, as if the first outcome of the vision of the divine ideal of goodness were "to send down into the dust and break all to pieces"; as with Simon Peter (Luk ) and the Publican (Luk 18:13).

2. The springing up of an intense aspiration. "There is a gradual emptying of self, and a gradual abandonment to the ideal in Christ, so much so that the motto of Paul becomes that of every Christian, ‘To me to live is Christ.'"

III. The vision of a better society.—"A common vision with the saints of God is to see the kingdom of God established on the earth." "A modern preacher of righteousness—the Rev. Hugh Price Hughes—specifies no less than a round dozen of devils which must be cast out of modern society—drunkenness, lust, slavery, ignorance, gambling, pauperism, disease, crime, war, the opium trade, the torture of dumb animals the sale of spirits and gunpowder to savages."

IV. The vision of a better Church.—"Of a Church free, united, and energetic"—i.e., free to recognise the Lord Jesus Christ alone as its head, and neither pope nor prelate, Queen nor State; united, in the sense that all unnecessary separations shall have ceased; and energetic in doing its God-appointed work amongst men.

V. The vision of a heavenly inheritance.—"On the wall of the house in Hamburgh, where the poet Klopstock lived and died, was a board with this inscription—‘Immortality is a great thought'; but the thought of Eternal Life in an eternal Home is greater still." A vision of this will defy all the negations of science, and lift the soul higher than all the guesses of philosophers and all the dreams of poets." "Hopeful saw the gates of the city, and that was enough. He looked, and from that happy peace (the Delectable Mountains) God's glory smote him on the face. ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.'"—P. Wilson, M.A.

Act . The Day of the Lord.—Great and notable.

I. As regards the splendour of Christ's manifestation.—On that day the Son of man will appear in the glory of His Father and with His holy angels.

II. As regards the blessedness of Christ's people.—Then this will reach its highest point. They will appear with Him in glory.

III. As regards the destruction of Christ's foes.—This will then be sudden, complete, and final.

Act . The Messianic Salvation.

I. Its import.—Deliverance from the guilt and power of sin—victory over death and the grave—Resurrection and Eternal Life.

II. Its foundation.—The Name of the Lord. The merciful and gracious character of God in Christ, the only plea of a sinner's justification.

III. Its condition.—Calling on that Name, which implies faith and earnestness on the part of the caller, as well as an acknowledgment of his need of salvation and utter helplessness to procure it for himself.

IV. Its universality.—It is offered to every one who chooses to comply with the aforesaid condition. "Whosoever shall call shall be saved."

V. Its certainty.—"It shall be," of a verity, without any peradventure. The believer's salvation is guaranteed by the oath and promise of God, both of which are Yea and Amen in Christ.

Verses 22-36


Act . Mighty works, wonders, and signs.—Compare 2Co 12:12; 2Th 2:9; Heb 2:4. Of these terms, the first, δυνάμεις, refers to the powers by which Christ's miracles were performed; the second, τέρατα, to the astonishment they awakened; the third, σημεῖα, to the significance they possessed.

Act . Counsel and foreknowledge are distinguished as antecedent and consequent.

Act . The pains of death.— τὰς ὠδῖνας τοῦ θανάτου. Quoted from the LXX. (Psa 18:5; Psa 116:3)—the Hebrew having "the cords of death."

Act . David speaketh.—In Psa 16:8-11, which is here ascribed to the sweet singer of Israel as distinguished from the Hebrew Psalmist generally (Act 13:35). Concerning Him.—Not merely words that might be applied to Him—i.e., Christ—but words that typically and prophetically referred to Him.

Act . My tongue as in the LXX. instead of "my glory" as in the Hebrew. The LXX. may have regarded man's faculty of speech as his highest excellence; and Peter, reflecting on the miracle of Pentecost, may have agreed with them.

Act . Hell, ἅδης, Hades, the unseen world, the realm of the dead, comprising two regions, Paradise, the abode of the blessed (Luk 23:43), and Gehenna, the prison of the lost (Mat 5:29-30), is here represented as a rapacious destroyer.

Act . The ways of life were those which led from the realm of death to that of life—a hint of the doctrine of the resurrection. With Thy countenance signified not "by" but "in Thy presence"—i.e., in heaven.

Act . Let me freely speak.—Better, it is lawful for me to speak with boldness. David is here called patriarch as founder of the royal family. His sepulchre is with us.—On Mount Zion (1Ki 2:10), where most of the kings of Judah were buried. Compare Neh 3:16; Josephus, Ant., VII. xv. 3, XIII. viii. 4; Wars, I. ii.

5. "David's tomb, on the south side of Mount Zion, is still pointed out by the guides. The tomb is described by one who has seen it as an immense sarcophagus in a room comparatively insignificant in its dimensions, but very gorgeously furnished by the Moslems, under one of whose mosques it stands" (Lawrence Hutton, in Harper's Monthly Magazine, March 1895, p. 549).

Act . A prophet was a divinely inspired person, hence one who could predict future events. The words, according to the flesh He would raise up Christ, are wanting in the best MSS.

Act . His soul is also omitted by the best authorities.

Act . Whereof, or of whom. In the former case the subject of witness is the resurrection; in the latter, the person of Christ.

Act . By the right hand of God.—I.e., through His almighty power; compare Act 5:31 (Calvin, Meyer, Zöckler, and others). The translation "at or to the right hand of God" (Neander, De Wette, Bleek, Hackett, and others), though admissible, is not so good.

Act . For David is not ascended should be did not ascend; but he saith himself in Psalms 110.

(1) which Christ ascribes to David (Mat ; Mar 12:36). The Lord said unto my Lord, etc.—Thus distinguishing between himself and his Lord, who could be no other than the Messiah.

Act . All the, or every house of Israel shows that Peter's address was directed exclusively to the Jews. Lord and Christ.—Compare Eph 1:22 : "Head over all" and "Head of the Church." In both passages the general expression precedes, the specific follows.

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