Acts Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 2
1. The festival of Shavu‘ot arrived, and the believers all gathered together in one place.
The festival of Shavu'ot ("Weeks") is one of the three regalim ("pilgrim festivals"), when every Jewish male goes up to Yerushalayim (see Mt 20:17-19N). The others are Pesach and SukkoV, see Mt 26:2N; Yn 2:13N, 7:2N.

The name "Shavu 'ot" comes from Exodus 34:22 and Deuteronomy 16:9-10, which, along with Leviticus 23:15-16, determine that the festival is to be seven weeks after the start of Pesach. The Bible also says, "You shall number fifty days" (Leviticus 23:16); hence in the New Testament the Greek name for the holiday is "pentikostis" which means "fifty" and is usually transliterated into English as "Pentecost." Two other names for the festival are found in the Tanakh: "Yom-HaBikkurim" ("Day of the Firstfruits," Numbers 28:26) and "Chag-HaKatzir" ("Feast of the Harvest." Exodus 23:16).

On Shavu 'ot the firstfruits of the wheat harvest were presented to Adonai in the Temple. The offering consisted of two loaves of bread baked with leavened flour (Leviticus 23:17). Thus was celebrated God's providence at the start of the wheat season.

Besides its primary agricultural significance Shavu 'ot later came to be understood as commemorating the giving of the Torah to Moshe. The earliest references to this reinterpretation date from the 2nd and 3rd centuries C.E. (Talmud: Shabbat 86b, Pesachim 68b); but Louis Jacobs, using material from Louis Finkelstein's The Pharisees, theorizes that "the transformation into a historical feast took place before the present era" (Encyclopedia Judaica 14:1420-1421). Exodus 19:1 says that the Israelites came to the foot of Mount Sinai "in the third month"; from this and other biblical data the rabbis deduced that God actually gave the Torah on Shavu'ot. Thus each Pilgrim Festival was associated with a major historical event in the forming of the Jewish people, and also with a major religious theme. Pesach, celebrating the Exodus from Egypt, has creation as its theme, the creation of the Jewish people. The theme of Shavu'ot is revelation; and the theme of Sukkot, associated with the forty years of wandering culminated by entering the Promised Land, is redemption. These three themes — creation, revelation and redemption — reappear in other aspects of Jewish life, for example, the three meals of Shabbat (see Ro 11:36N). Because Shavu'ot recalls God's revelation of himself, his power and his Torah to the Jewish people, the synagogue readings for this holiday include Exodus 19-20 (Moshe's ascent of Mount Sinai and the Ten Commandments) and two passages celebrating other theophanies (appearances of God), Ezekiel 1-2 and Habakkuk 3. Also read at this festival is the book of Ruth, appropriate because it is a story about a harvest; but in addition, since it tells about the joining of the Moabite woman Ruth to God's people, it gives a remez ("hint"; see Mt 2:15N) about a then future aspect of God's work on earth, the joining of Gentiles to God's people the Jews through the Messiah Yeshua.

Finally, Shavu'ot is the traditional date on which King David died, a point to be remembered when reading vv. 25-32; see v. 29&N.
It is in this framework of Jewish thought and custom, in which Shavu 'ot is celebrated as a festival of harvest and Torah, that the events of Acts 2 must be understood. Because it was God's intention to bring the Jewish New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:30-33(31-34)) to the Jewish people in a Jewish way, he made maximal use of the Jewish festivals to convey new truths in ways that emphasized their connection with old truths (see Mt 13:52&N).

Thus God promised through Jeremiah, "I will write my Torah on their hearts." This he does as he gives his Holy Spirit (v. 4). The same one God gives both Torah and Spirit (which thus are in a sense one) on the same one holiday, Shavu'oi, to the same one people, the Jewish people, stretching through history from the fire on Mount Sinai to the tongues of fire at Jerusalem (w. 2-3&N).

Yeshua himself is called the "firstfruits" at IC 15:23 (compare Ro 8:29), and he speaks of a "harvest" of people with prepared hearts at Mt 9:37-38 and Yn 4:35. Later in the present chapter, at v. 41, three thousand persons become the "firstfruits" of the Spirit-empowered activity of Yeshua's talmidim: while at Ro 8:23 what believers have now of the Holy Spirit is said to be only the "firstfruits" in comparison with what is to come.

Yeshua spoke of himself as the "bread of life" (Yn 6:35). Since leavened stuff (chametz) symbolizes sin in the Tanakh, Yeshua represented himself as sinless by using unleavened bread, matzah, to inaugurate the New Covenant (Lk 22:20&N). The Shavu'ot bread offering is made with leaven, symbolizing God's people as having sin before Yeshua's atoning death: later Sha'ul writes the Messianic Community in Corinth that "in reality you are unleavened. For our Pesach lamb, the Messiah, has been sacrificed" (1С 5:6-8&N; see 1 Yn 1:5-10&N). The two loaves of the offering can now be understood as representing God's expanded people comprised of Jews and Gentiles (see Yn 10:16N,Ro 1 l:17-26&NN,Ga3:28&N, Ep2:14&N).

The book of Ruth points up a lesson not to be ignored. Ruth the Moabitess was added to the Jewish people with her noble confession, "Your people shall be my people, and your God shall be my God" (Ruth 1:16). This woman, who became an ancestor of Yeshua (Mt 1:5), expressed her loyalty to the Jewish people even before she spoke of God. But over the centuries, many calling themselves Christians have done just the opposite, hating the Jews, accusing them of deicide, ignoring the New Testament's warning not to boast against the Jewish root (Ro 11:16-26). The book of Acts shows that Gentiles may now become part of God's people without becoming Jews themselves. But no Gentile can become a Christian if he cannot say to Jews, "Your people shall be my people," at the same time as he says, "Your God shall be my God."

It is also no accident that God chose the holiday connected with the Torah to send the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, to empower the life of each talmid and to empower the entire Messianic Community. Achad Ha" Am's epigram, "More than that Israel has kept Shabbat. Shabbai has kept Israel," implies that it is the power of the Torah which has preserved the Jewish people through the centuries. Likewise, it is the power of the Holy Spirit which has changed the lives of millions for the better and enabled them to testify to God's life-changing power even in the face of great persecution. One need only compare Kefa's own ineffectiveness prior to receiving the Ruach HaKodesh (Mt 16:21-23, 26:69-75; Yn 21:15-17) with the inspiring sermon quoted in this chapter (vv. 14-40). Just as the Torah (the Hebrew word means "teaching" not "law") teaches God's truth, so the Holy Spirit teaches God's truth (Yn 14:26, 15:26, 16:13). The truth of the Torah set forth in the Tanakh is not different from the truth of the Torah set forth in the New Testament. The Messiah's Torah is not different from or an improvement over God's Torah in the Tanakh, for "the Torah of Adonai is perfect" (Psalm 19:7) and does not need improvement. Sha'ul calls it "holy, just and good" (Ro7:12); what more could one ask? What is different is the receptiveness of those for whom the Torah is meant, due to having a new spirit and a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26) on which the Torah is written (Jeremiah 31:32(33)), a heart receptive to the Holy Spirit (1С 2:14). Thus the Holy Spirit in a believer's life makes the Torah even more real to him (2C 3:6-18), and the giving of the Ruach HaKodesh on Shavu'ot only heightens the significance of the giving of the Torah on Shavu'ot.

The parallels between Sinai and Pentecost continue: (1) At both the Torah was delivered to God's people. At Sinai the Ten Commandments were written on tables of stone by the "finger of God" (Exodus 31:18). while at Pentecost the Torah was written on tables of the heart (2C 3:6-18), in fulfillment of the prophecies of Jeremiah 31:32(31) and Ezekiel 36:26. Far from replacing, canceling, or contradicting the Torah of Moses, the Holy Spirit confirms it for Messianic believers (Ro 3:31). (2) Both took place at Shavu'ot. (3) Both were accompanied by theophanies. (4) Both were accompanied by many languages (voices, tongues); see vv. 4b-13&N. (5) Both were accompanied by fire. The fire at Sinai was one fire visible by all; the fire at Yerushalayim divided itself and rested on each one individually. Thus at Sinai the Torah was given externally to the people as a whole, while at Yerushalayim the Torah was put within each individual believer. (6) At Sinai a mixed multitude {erev rav. Exodus 12:38) accompanied the people, just as people from many countries were present at Pentecost. (7) Torah means teaching, and the Holy Spirit is the Teacher (Yn 14:26, 15:26, 16:13). (8) It is customary in the Jewish celebration of Shavu'ot to eat milk foods. The Holy Spirit provides the "milk of the Word" (1 Ke 2:2, MJ 5:12-13).

How do we know that Torah can come from Jerusalem as well as from Sinai? Several Tanakh prophecies confirm it, but best known is Isaiah 2:3, featured on the title page of the Jewish New Testament: "For out of Tziyon shall come forth Torah, and the Word of Adonai from Yerushalayim." Pentecost fulfilled this prophecy in a powerful way; and I hope that in a modest, emulative way the Jewish New Testament and this commentary contribute to the process of Torah emanating from Jerusalem.

Because Shavu 'ot commemorates the giving of the Torah it is sometimes thought of as the day on which Judaism was born. Likewise, because God gave the Holy Spirit to his people on Shavu'ot, it is sometimes regarded also as the birthday of the Messianic Community. But one could equally think of Pesach as the "birth of a nation" for the Jews, who are first portrayed as a unified people in Exodus 12, at the time of the first Passover. Similarly, it can be argued that the Messianic Community too came into being on Pesach, since that is when Yeshua died and was resurrected, and we as a community have died and been resurrected with him (Ro 6:1-8). 

2. Suddenly there came a sound from the sky like the roar of a violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
3. Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire, which separated and came to rest on each one of them.
Roar of a violent wind.... tongues of fire which separated. God emphasized the connection between the Torah and the Roach HaKodesh by giving both with similar miraculous signs. The roar and fire in Jerusalem recalled the fire, smoke and sounds at Sinai (Exodus 19:18-19, Deuteronomy 5:19-21). However, instead of God's people being kept away (Exodus 19:21-23; Deuteronomy 5:22-24), God's glory, represented by the tongues of fire, came to each individual. 

4. They were all filled with the Ruach HaKodesh and began to talk in different languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.
They were all filled with the Ruach HaKodesh. In Tanakh times certain individuals had the Holy Spirit "in" or "with" them (Yn 14:17N); here he fills them all, bringing to pass what Moshe had prayed for long ago, that Adonai would put his Spirit on all his people (Numbers 11:29), and fulfilling Yeshua's promise (Lk 24:49; Yn 14:16, 20:22; Ac 1:8). 

5. Now there were staying in Yerushalayim religious Jews from every nation under heaven.
6. When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered; they were confused, because each one heard the believers speaking in his own language.
7. Totally amazed, they asked, “How is this possible? Aren’t all these people who are speaking from the Galil?
8. How is it that we hear them speaking in our native languages?
9. We are Parthians, Medes, Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Y’hudah, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia,
10. Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome;
11. Jews by birth and proselytes; Jews from Crete and from Arabia..! How is it that we hear them speaking in our own languages about the great things God has done?”
Jews by birth and proselytes, literally, "both Jews and proselytes." Gentile proselytes to Judaism were a sizeable component of the Jewish people in Yeshua's day, perhaps even the majority (see Mt 23:15&N); therefore ш the book of Acts the theme of bringing the Gentiles to faith in the Jewish Messiah (1:8N) has in a sense already appeared. However, the gathered crowd did not consist of Gentiles from these countries, since vv. 5-6 state that it was composed of religious Jews — that is, Jews sufficiently observant of Jewish religious requirements to have come from far away to be in Jerusalem for the pilgrim festival of Shavu'ot (v. l&N, 20:16&N).

Arabs. Not the ancestors of today's Arabs but Jews from Arabia. Gentiles are not added to the Messianic community until the Samaritans of Chapter 8; see 1:8&N. 

12. Amazed and confused, they all went on asking each other, “What can this mean?”
13. But others made fun of them and said, “They’ve just had too much wine!”
The miraculous event accomplished through the Holy Spirit amounts to a reversal of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). Then God confounded the speech of" people misusing their unity for sinful purposes (the English word "babble" comes directly from the Hebrew). Here God enabled people whose different languages separated them to understand each other praising God, which is the proper use of unity.

There were two reactions to what God did — as usual (Yn 7:43&N). Religious Jews (v. 5) were amazed and confused (v. 12) but open to being taught. Others (v. 13) ridiculed the talmidim.

Everyone heard them speaking in his own language (v. 6), and a representative list of Roman Empire nations is given (vv. 9-11). This corresponds closely to a Talmudic concept of how God dealt with the nations:

"Rabbi Yochanan said, 'What is meant by the verse, "Adonai gives a word; those spreading [it] are a great army" (Psalm 68:12( 11))? It means that every single word going forth from the Almighty was split into seventy languages. The school of Rabbi Ishmael taught that the verse, "[Is not my word... ] like a hammer that breaks a rock into pieces?" (Jeremiah 23:29), means that just as a hammer is divided into many sparks [when it hits a rock or piece of metal], so every single word that went out from the Holy One, blessed be he, split into seventy languages.'"(Shabbat 88b)

In rabbinic thought seventy is the traditional number of Gentile nations and the traditional number of languages of mankind. Although the number of tongues mentioned in the present passage falls short of seventy, enough are mentioned to allow the understanding that God is speaking here through Yeshua's faithful talmidim to all humanity.

But there is more. In Exodus 19:16, what the people heard was not "thunders," as in most translations, but "voices" (Hebrew kolot). So just as from the above midrash we can leam that at Sinai God's "great voice" (Deuteronomy 5:19(22)) was divided into the seventy languages of the Gentiles, so also from the present passage we learn explicitly that at Pentecost the praises of God were similarly heard in the various Gentile languages.

Midrash Tanchuma 25 says that at Sinai the people were confused when they heard God's "voices" coming from every direction (as masterfully portrayed in Arnold Schoenberg's opera, Moses undAron). Similarly, the people hearing the languages of the nations at Pentecost were confused, overwhelmed and amazed (vv. 5-13) — as is always the case when God appears; compare Psalm 18:7-15 and Job 38-42. 

14. Then Kefa stood up with the Eleven and raised his voice to address them: “You Judeans, and all of you staying here in Yerushalayim! Let me tell you what this means! Listen carefully to me!
15. “These people ar en’t drunk, as you suppose — it’s only nine in the morning.
Kefa disposes of the closed-minded skeptics and scorners before addressing the open-minded but bewildered remainder. 

16. No, this is what was spoken about through the prophet Yo’el:
17. 'Adonai says: “In the Last Days, I will pour out from my Spirit upon everyone. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
18. Even on my slaves, both men and women, will I pour out from my Spirit in those days; and they will prophesy.
19. I will perform miracles in the sky above and signs on the earth below — blood, fire and thick smoke.
20. The sun will become dark and the moon blood before the great and fearful Day of Adonai comes.
21. And then, whoever calls on the name of Adonai will be saved' (Joel 3:1–5(2:28–32)).
In the Last Days, in Messianic times. Kefa explains that the Last Days have already begun (see also MJ 1:2, 1С 10:11, 1 Ke 1:20). They are continuing now (] Yn 2:18, Yd 18); and they will culminate in a Last Day (Yn 6:39ff., 12:48), here called the great and fearful Day of Adonai (compare Rv l:10&N). The sun will become dark. This one of Joel's portents occurred: the sun became dark when Yeshua was hanging on the execution-stake (Mt 26:45). But the others, spoken of at length in the book of Revelation, are meant for the future.

Whoever calls on the name of Adonai will be saved (cited also at Ro 10:13). This is the key sentence of Joel's prophecy. The rest of Kefa's speech shows that one can call on Adonai for salvation only by acknowledging Yeshua as the Messiah. 

22. “Men of Isra’el! Listen to this! Yeshua from Natzeret was a man demonstrated to you to have been from God by the powerful works, miracles and signs that God performed through him in your presence. You yourselves know this.
23. This man was arrested in accordance with God’s predetermined plan and foreknowledge; and, through the agency of persons not bound by the Torah, you nailed him up on a stake and killed him!
Men of Israel,... you killed him! Like a knife the accusation pierced their hearts, as it does today the heart of any Jew who has ever been told, "You Jews killed Jesus!" But Kefa's true charge to his listeners and the false charge that the Jewish people committed deicide are worlds apart. This verse places the responsibility very precisely.

First, the Messiah's death was in accordance with God's predetermined plan and foreknowledge. It was not an accident, not a miscalculation on the part of Yeshua and his talmidim. God knew and planned Yeshua's death as atonement for humanity's sins. But that provides the killers no excuse; they had free will and could have chosen to act differently. Compare Lk 22:22, "The Son of Man is going to his death according to God's plan, but woe to that man by whom he is being betrayed!" Thus the Bible teaches both predestination and free choice; and the antinomy has never been expressed more succinctly than in Rabbi Akiva's Mishnaic epigram, "All is foreseen, yet freewill is given" (Avot 3:15). Yeshua's death is neither God's fault (compare Ro 9:6-29&NN) nor Yeshua's mistake. Second, Gentiles — Pontius Pilate and Roman soldiers — were directly involved in killing Yeshua. Kefa does not measure the degree of their guilt because he is not speaking to them. But Pontius Pilate's very act of washing his hands (Mt 27:24) showed he recognized his own guilt, and the way the Roman soldiers mocked and savaged Yeshua shows us their depraved mentality. The issue is not Gentile innocence versus Jewish guilt.

Third, the "you" who "killed him" were Jews who had seen that Yeshua... was a man demonstrated... to have been from God. They were well aware of it (you yourselves know this), and they were aware of the factual basis for this conclusion, the powerful works, miracles and signs that God performed through him in their actual presence (compare Yn 10:32-38). This distinguishes them from the Jewish people who throughout history have been maliciously charged with deicide. We may suppose that in the audience were some who had taunted Yeshua, "If you are the Son of God, come down from the stake" (Mt 27:41). Others had called for freeing the murderer and rebel Bar-Abba instead of the Messiah, whom they had wanted executed (Mt 27:16-26). Still others were members of the illegally convened Sanhedrin which had sentenced him and hypocritically turned him over to the Romans, men not bound by the Torah, to be put to death (Mt 26:57-27:2). Jews more distant in space and time did not commit these specific sins.

Although Kefa was a fellow Jew who addressed his hearers as "brothers" (v. 29). he nevertheless used the strongest possible language to motivate repentance — as did Moshe and the Prophets. Although Kefa's words, like theirs, were meant in the first instance for contemporaries, they can move us if we hear with our hearts as well as our minds.

For we have a responsibility to know and respond. The New Testament's position is that all humanity, Jews and Gentiles, then and now, killed Yeshua. We did it by disobeying God, for which the penalty is death (Genesis 2:17). Because Yeshua loved us he died in our place. In this sense we killed him, and the blame rests on each one of us until we accept his atoning sacrificial death and God forgives us (see Ro 5:12—21&N). 

24. “But God has raised him up and freed him from the suffering of death; it was impossible that death could keep its hold on him.
But God has raised him up. It is of the essence of Messianic faith that Yeshua is alive (1С 15:12-19). If he were not, we could feel sorry but could do nothing to repair the relationship between him and us, and Kefa would not have delivered this sermon.

Suffering of death. The Hebrew phrase, "matzrei-Sh ЪГ ("pains of Sh'ol"), is found in Psalm 116:3. Some people unfamiliar with the Bible think of death as an end to the agonies of life; they say of an ill person, "It was better for him that he died." But the Bible regards death as the ultimate tragedy. Only for those who have eternal life through Yeshua the Messiah has the sting of death been removed (Ro 6:23, 1С 15:55-56, Pp 1:21). 

25. For David says this about him: 'I saw Adonai always before me, for he is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken.
26. For this reason, my heart was glad; and my tongue rejoiced; and now my body too will live on in the certain hope
27. that you will not abandon me to Sh’ol or let your Holy One see decay
Sh'ol, "Hades, hell." See Mt 11:23N, Lk 16:23&N. 

28. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will fill me with joy by your presence' (Psalm 16:8–11).
29. “Brothers, I know I can say to you frankly that the patriarch David died and was buried — his tomb is with us to this day.
The patriarch David died. According to Jewish tradition he died on Shavu 'ot, as Kefa's Shavu'ot audience was undoubtedly aware. And was buried. The Tanakh says he was buried in the City of David, southeast of the present Western Wall (1 Kings 2:10). His tomb is with us to this day.

"The tomb of David was probably destroyed at the time of the Bar Kokhba revolt (135 C.E.). However, various sites were suggested by popular traditions over the ages and the one which became generally accepted was the place now called Mt. Zion. This tradition is about 1,000 years old, first being recorded in Crusader times...." (Encyclopedia Judaica 5:1330).
In other words, the site now called King David's Tomb isn't. 

30. Therefore, since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him that one of his descendants would sit on his throne,
God had sworn to him with an oath that one of his descendants would sit on his throne, according to Psalm 132:11 and 2 Samuel 7:12-13; also see 13:23N. 

31. he was speaking in advance about the resurrection of the Messiah, that it was he who was not abandoned in Sh’ol and whose flesh did not see decay.
32. God raised up this Yeshua! And we are all witnesses of it!
33. “Moreover, he has been exalted to the right hand of God has received from the Father what he promised, namely, the Ruach HaKodesh; and has poured out this gift, which you are both seeing and hearing.
34. For David did not ascend into heaven. But he says,
35. 'Adonai said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet"' (Psalm 110:1).
On Psalm 110:1. cited here, see Mt 22:44N and Mk 16:19N. The earliest extant rabbinic interpretations apply this verse to Abraham (Talmud: N'darim 32b and Sanhednn 108b). But in the Midrash on Psalms, compiled in the 1 lth century, we find that

"Rabbi Yudan |c. 350 C.E.] said in the name of Rabbi Hama [ben-Hina, с 260 C.E.], 'In the time to come, when the Holy One, blessed be he, seats the King, the Messiah, at his right hand, as it is said, "Adonai said to my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand,'"and seats Abraham at his left, Abraham's face will grow pale, and he will say to God. "My son's son sits at the right, while I sit on the left!" God will then comfort him by saying to him, "Your son's son is indeed at my right, but I myself, in a manner of speaking, am at your right, since 'The Lord is at your right hand' (Psalm 110:5)......(Midrash on Psalm 18, Section 29)

This passage shows that there were 'Amora'im (Talmudic period rabbis, 3rd to 5th centuries C.E.) who applied Psalm 110 to the Messiah. 

36. Therefore, let the whole house of Isra’el know beyond doubt that God has made him both Lord and Messiah — this Yeshua, whom you executed on a stake!”
Let the whole house of Israel know beyond doubt that God has made him both Lord and Messiah. How can the Two-Covenant theory survive this climax to Kefa's sermon? The Two-Covenant theory says, in effect, that Jesus is for Gentiles and Moses is for Jews (see Yn 14:6&N). But Kefa's central point is that all Jews, the whole house of Israel, should acknowledge Yeshua as Lord and Messiah because God has made him fulfill those roles in Jewish life and human history. See also 4:12&N.

God has made him Lord and Messiah. From the viewpoint of God and eternity the Word became a human being (Yn 1:1, 14; Pp 2:5-11). Under the aspect of time, in Kefa's experience, Yeshua had just been revealed as who he really is. Non-Messianic Judaism objects that the New Testament says Yeshua, who is only a man, became a god. But the New Testament never says such a thing, not even here. What it says is that God had, from eternity, made him who was already equal with God before the universe was created (Pp 2:6-8&NN, Co i:15-17&NN,MJ 1:1-3&NN), both Lord of all humanity and the promised Messiah, king of the Jewish people. Whom you executed on a stake. See vv. 22-23&N, Mt 10:38N.

Psalm 16:8-11 (cited in vv. 25-28) is a key text, along with Lk 24:44-46 and 1С 15:4, showing that the Messiah must rise from the dead; and it would be hard to improve on Kefa's exposition of it (vv. 29-36). 

37. On hearing this, they were stung in their hearts; and they said to Kefa and the other emissaries, “Brothers, what should we do?”
38. Kefa answered them, “Turn from sin, return to God, and each of you be immersed on the authority of Yeshua the Messiah into forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Ruach HaKodesh!
Kefa's answer: Turn from sin, return to God. Six English words to translate one Greek word, "metanoesate" which means "repent" and expresses the Hebrew concept of t'shuvah (see Mt 3:2N).

And be immersed (or "baptized"; see Mt 3:1N) on the authority of Yeshua the Messiah (literally, "on/upon the name (Greek onoma) of Yeshua the Messiah"). The command is to absorb completely and accept totally the work, power, authority and person of Yeshua the Messiah; on "onoma" see 3:16N, Mt 28:19N. 

39. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for those far away — as many as Adonai our God may call!”
40. He pressed his case with many other arguments and kept pleading with them, “Save yourselves from this perverse generation!”
This perverse generation. Yeshua called them wicked and adulterous (Mt 16:4). Now Kefa calls them perverse, because despite having seen and heard Yeshua, most had rejected him. Some had even attributed the Messiah's works to Satan (Mt 12:27-32), which is as perverse as you can get.

Kefa begs his hearers to save yourselves from them, since they are destined for particularly severe judgment and punishment (Lk 12:48). Some consider this to have been the destruction of the Temple and the slaughter of vast numbers of them by the Romans in 66-70 C.E., at least partially fulfilling Lk 21:20-24 (see notes there). 

41. So those who accepted what he said were immersed, and there were added to the group that day about three thousand people.
Three thousand people. Some think it unspirilual, or at least gauche, to keep statistics on how many persons come to trust in Yeshua and join congregations of believers. God thinks otherwise. In the book of Acts Luke traces the growth of the Messianic Community from at least 120 (1:14) to some 3,120 (here). "About five thousand men," not counting women and children, were added soon after (4:4&N). Some twenty years later there were "many tens of thousands... among the Judeans" of Jerusalem alone (21:20&N). Besides these statistics we read that "the Lord kept adding to them" (v. 47), "the number of talmidim was growing" (6:1), "the number of talrnidim in Yerushalayim increased rapidly" (6:7), "their numbers kept multiplying" (9:31), and "a great number of people trusted and turned to the Lord" (11:21). Moreover, Luke takes note of key subgroups: "a large crowd of cohanim were becoming obedient to the faith" (6:7); "some of those who had come to trust were from the party of the P'rushim" (15:5).

These data imply that early Jewish evangelism was successful. A genuine "people movement" arose in which hundreds of thousands of Jews came to faith in Yeshua the Jewish Messiah (see Ac 21:20&N). It was still going on at the close of the book of Acts (28:24-25&N).

Although Kefa came down harder on his Jewish audience than any Christian preacher today would dare, so that they were stung in their hearts, nevertheless three thousand people responded to his call to turn from sin and return to God. It is the Holy Spirit acting in the giver of the message and in its receivers who brings about genuine trust. Moreover, the Good News that God forgives makes sense only against the background of the bad news that you have grievously sinned. The people were so affected that they asked, "Brothers," — they were not offended personally by the bring-ers of the bad news, but still considered them brothers — "What should we do?" They took the initiative. 

42. They continued faithfully in the teaching of the emissaries, in fellowship, in breaking bread and in the prayers.
The teaching of the emissaries. Greek didache means either the act of teaching or the doctrine taught. Since Hebrew Torah also means "teaching," the phrase can be translated, "the Torah of the emissaries" (although the JNT usually reserves the word "Torah" to render Greek nomos ("law") when it refers to the Law of Moses). To the Jewish mind the Torah is not something dead, fixed forever, but a living teaching to be applied in the light of circumstances to the lives of individuals.

That this is so is implied by Deuteronomy 17:8-13, which gives to "the cohanim, thcL'vi'im and the judge who shall be in those days" the right to "declare unto you the sentence of judgment." This passage is a key biblical ground for the Jewish claim that there is such a thing as an Oral Torah in addition to the written one. Unfortunately what is accepted in traditional Judaism as the Oral Torah — the Mishna, the Gemara, and the rabbinical discussions and court judgments since then — does not take into account Yeshua's exposition of the Torah (Mt 5:17&N, 1С 9:21 &N, Ga 6:2&N); the teaching of the emissaries, whose authority in the matter comes from the Messiah himself (Mt 18:18-20&N); or the New Testament, which itself "has been made Torah" (MJ 8:6&N).

This is the first time the New Testament portrays the emissaries teaching, giving out the true Torah sh'be'alpeh ("Oral Torah"). Why only now? Because only now were they filled with the Ruach HaKodesh, able to have the mind of the Messiah (1С 2:16), to be reminded of everything Yeshua had said to them (Yn 14:26) and to be guided into all the truth (Yn 16:13). What traditional Judaism calls the Oral Torah can certainly be mined for its treasury of truths (Mt 13:52&N). But as it stands the Oral Torah cannot be authoritative; because its writers and expositors have ignored the Messiah's coming, his interpretations of Torah and the interpretations of those he appointed, as well as the New Testament itself, which constitutes one-quarter of the written Word of God. Fellowship (Greek koinnnia, "community, commonness, communion, fellowship") includes two elements, each of which fosters the other, as explained below: (1) deepening friendship, and (2) developing a common vision, goals and priorities.

Breaking bread. Many Christians assume that this refers to "taking communion" and have an image of the early believers meeting in homes (v. 46) to eat a tiny wafer of bread and drink a symbolic amount of wine or grape juice, just as Christians do today in their churches. However, the context is not twentieth-century Christianity but first-century Judaism; and for Jews then as now, fellowship was mediated by meals. To say that the early Messianic Jews broke bread is to say neither more nor less than that they ate together.

The meaning of eating together must be grasped. First of all, when possible, religious Jews begin a meal with bread and say over it ab'rakhah (cited in I4M9&N, and see Mt 9:8N). Then they break off a piece of the loaf and eat it, so that the blessing of God specifically for his provision of bread to eat will not have been said in vain.

Yeshua knew and observed this practice, but he also gave an additional meaning to the act of breaking bread when he said, as he broke the matzah at the Last Supper, 'This is my body, which is being given for you; do this in memory of me" (Lk 22:20; compare 1С 11:24). This practice clearly became part of the "Torah of the emissaries," so that the early believers were to recall Yeshua's death for them as they began their meal — though some fell short of the standard (1С 11:20-34). Then, after that, the entire meal time was to be devoted to fellowship, "communion" in the ordinary sense of the word (see above, on "fellowship"), not in the technical Christian sense (wafer of bread, cup of wine).

Yet this fellowship was not mere worldly socializing that ignores God. Consider the Mishna:
"Rabbi El 'azar ben-' Azaryah [ 1 st-2nd cent ury C.E. ] said,'... If there is no meal [here is no [study of] Torah, and if there is no [study of] Torah there is no meal.'"(Avot3:17)

Maimonides explains that each aids in bringing about the full expression of the other and completes it (Commentary on Pirkey-Avot, ad lot:). In other words, if one becomes preoccupied with religious studies and ignores normal social interaction, the individual's study does society little good. But, conversely, if at the main time of socializing, the meal, one ignores the things of God, it is a sign that religious truth has not penetrated deeply into the life of the individual. Yeshua, by his identification of himself with the bread, focuses the meal on himself and enables this reworking of Rabbi El'azar's epigram: If there is no time of interacting with fellow believers, one's identification with Yeshua and study of God's Torah is incomplete. But if the time of interacting with fellow believers does not relate itself to Yeshua's death on our behalf and to encouraging one another in living the life God wants us to live, the time has been wasted. See note to 1С 11:17-34 in the Appendix, pp. 929-930.

The prayers, both the statutory Jewish prayers, as at 3:1 below, and times of pouring out one's heart to the Lord spontaneously, as at 4:24-30. See notes at both places. 

43. Everyone was filled with awe, and many miracles and signs took place through the emissaries.
44. All those trusting in Yeshua stayed together and had everything in common;
45. in fact, they sold their property and possessions and distributed the proceeds to all who were in need.
46. Continuing faithfully and with singleness of purpose to meet in the Temple courts daily, and breaking bread in their several homes, they shared their food in joy and simplicity of heart,
Continuing... in the Temple. They remained Jews.
Since many of the first bel ie vers were visitors from other countries who had not come to Yerushalayim prepared to take up life there, an immediate need arose for those with local property and resources to use them to care for their new brothers and sisters in the Messiah. These verses certainly teach unselfishness, unpossessiveness and hospitality as traits to be cultivated everywhere and always, but I don't think they constitute God's special seal of approval on communal living as lifestyle or socialism as politics. 

47. praising God and having the respect of all the people. And day after day the Lord kept adding to them those who were being saved.
Having favor with all the people. They were not excluded from the Jewish community. The Lord kept adding... tbose being saved. This is the climax of the picture painted in vv. 42-41. Because of the believers' Holy Spirit-empowered obedience to the Torah (that is, to the Torah as expounded by the emissaries), God blessed the Messianic Community with growth in numbers of truly saved persons, all of them Jews. This significant and rapidly growing community of persons honoring Yeshua the Messiah and believing the Gospel is described not as an alien "Christian Church" but as a movement within Judaism; the first Gentiles without a prior "Jewish connection" do not join the Messianic Community until Chapter 10.

This picture of the Messianic Community empowered by the Holy Spirit and obedient to God remains the model for his people today. 

next chapter...