Bible Class
Discussion Guide
by Edward Thomason

An explanation by Peter
Acts 2:14-21

warm up

1. What is the best way to interpret an Old Testament prophecy?
[  ] Guess at what it means? 
     [  ] Take someone else's opinion or guess? 
     [  ] Consider the interpretation of the inspired apostles? 

2. Why should the people of Jerusalem (and readers today) believe  
    anything that Peter had to say?
      [  ] He was known as a wise fisherman. 
      [  ] He had proven his credibility by the miraculous power of the Holy
           Spirit that they had witnessed.

wise up

Peter explained what they were not witnessing... (2:14-15)

   It seems appropriate
that Peter would be the one to address the audience as a whole group. In Matthew 16:15-19, Jesus had promised to build his church and informed Peter that he would be given the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" (binding that which was bound in heaven - NASV.) That promise was about to be fulfilled. Peter would teach what men must know and do and the result would be the beginning of the church as promised (see Acts 2:47.)

    But first Peter must remove doubt and prejudice from the minds of those who mocked or were confused about what was happening. Be reasonable! That is the essence of what Peter states. It was only nine o'clock in the morning. Certainly not the normal hour to expect men to be drunken in public.

Peter explained what they were witnessing... ( 2:16-21)

This is that spoken by the prophet Joel (vs 16.) cf., Joel 2:28-30. Nearly 800 years before Joel had spoken of this important day. Consider the prophecy as interpreted or explained by the inspired apostle Peter in verses 17-21: 

   Last Days: The prophecy was to occur "in the last days" (plural). If we understand this expression in the light of Hebrews 1:2, we understand that the "last days" is a reference to the Christian age or dispensation of time. Does that mean that man is currently living in the last days and has been  since the Pentecost of Acts 2? Discuss. 

   All Flesh: Peter understood that the out pouring of the Spirit was a sign that the prophecy was being fulfilled. What might be meant by the expression "all flesh?" Consider this in your discussion:  It is obvious that Peter did not mean that every fish, fowl, and animal would receive the Spirit (cf., I Cor. 15:39.). And it should be equally obvious that he did not mean that every human (even the infidel or non-believer) would receive the Spirit. What could this expression possibly mean then? If we consider the book of Acts itself we discover that the "baptism of the Spirit" only occurred on two recorded occasions. Here at Pentecost (the beginning) when it was poured out upon the "Jewish" apostles and then later at the house of Cornelius upon  "Gentiles" (Acts 10). Could it be that the expression "all flesh" referred to the two major divisions of humanity (Jew and Gentile)? 

   Days: We noted above that the word days is "plural" which means that this prophecy was not completed in one day only. Sons and daughters of those present would prophesy, their young men would see visions and old men would dream dreams. We have examples of this recorded in the Bible: Who were the prophets mentioned in Acts 21:9? In Acts 10:10 we read about Peter's vision. Later in Revelation the apostle John (an old man by that time) dreamed dreams.

Questions that may need to be explained:

   What about women preachers? Since there were female prophets, this sometimes raises the question, can women preach publicly? Study and discuss the following:

  •  Were women prophets instructed to keep silent in the assembly? (I Cor. 14:34.)  

  •  Was it acceptable or  a shame for them to speak in the assembly? (I Cor. 14:35.) 

  • According to  I Tim 2:12 women are not to teach or usurp authority over men. 

  • If women did preach in the early church, they did so in the sense of Acts 18:26 where Priscilla along with her husband privately taught Apollos. She was not speaking in an assembly and she was not usurping authority over the man. She was aiding her husband.

   What is that great and notable day of the Lord? vs 19-20: Joel used this term five times in his book. Each time there is a different meaning possible. But Peter by inspiration informs us that in this quote Joel was referring to what was happening that day (the day of Pentecost.) Preceding this day, there were wonders in heaven, signs in the earth which included blood, fire and vapor of smoke... (vs19). Joel was making reference to the wonders and signs of Jesus seen by countless numbers of witnesses (Peter picks up on this later in vs 22). But most importantly, Joel was making a reference to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. The blood, fire, smoke etc., would be a reference to the sacrifices at Passover when Jesus was executed and the sacrifices made at Pentecost. The darkness of the sun (vs 20) occurred  during the crucifixion. All this took place "prior" to the day of Pentecost (that great and notable day of the Lord... the first Lord's day when the church began.)

   What is meant by "Whosoever shall call...?" vs 21: Salvation would be offered not only to the Jews but "whosoever..." Who would that include? Notice that salvation is connected to an activity described as "calling upon the name of the Lord." (Rom 10:13-17.) 

  • A comparative study of the scriptures where this expression is used indicates that this is not a "one time activity" but an "on going" action. We first read these words in Gen. 4:26 ".. then began men to call upon the name of the Lord." (They did this by their continual devotion, worship and living in obedience to God.)  The expression is used of "salvation" (Psm 116:13); "sacrifice" or worship (Psm 116:17); and "service" (Zeph 3:6). 

  • Notice also that I Corinthians 1:2 indicates that calling on the name of the Lord was for Paul's fellow Christians an "on going" way of life. Calling on the name of the Lord is more than just a prayer. It is a continual commitment to follow and obey the will of the Lord. 

  • Look carefully at how it is used in Acts 22:16 where the word "calling" is a passive participle in the Greek and literally means "while calling." It is interesting that Saul of Tarsus was told to arise and be baptized, and wash away his sins while calling on the name of the Lord. There we have an example of how someone who desires to be a Christian begins to call upon the name of the Lord. (More on that later.) 

wrap up

1. Joel looked to the future: "It shall come to pass..." Peter looked at the present and knew that the future had arrived.
2. After Peter completed his introduction, he had the attention of his audience and hopefully their respect. And then proceeded to do what every gospel preacher should do when given the opportunity... he preached Jesus.


  Please read Acts 2:22-24 for next week   copyright 2001