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Acts 2:1-47: Giving of the Holy Spirit
Individuals: Take time to think back about your past week. Where have you seen God work in your life or answer prayer? Write down any prayer requests you have.
Group: Open the study by sharing life updates, reviewing highs and lows of your past week, or sharing prayer requests and praises.
Icebreaker: What is the most dramatic transition you’ve experienced in your life? Were you able to see God guiding you through the transition?
All: Begin the study with a word of prayer, asking God to open your heart for today’s study. You can also pray for any prayer requests now, or save that for the end.
Read today’s passage: Acts 2:1-47.
1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him:
“‘I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
you will not let your holy one see decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.’
29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
35 until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”’
36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
What is the context for this passage?
Jesus’ disciples and other believers have just been through a roller coaster ride. First, they had the high of Palm Sunday when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to crowds of people praising him. Less than a week later, Jesus was arrested and crucified. One disciple betrayed him, one denied him, and the rest deserted him. They were at the lowest of lows.
Three days after his death, Jesus rose from the dead! He appeared to his disciples and many other believers. They were on a high again! After 40 days with his followers, Jesus ascended into heaven. He had told them to wait in the city until they received power from on high. So here they are, gathered together, just waiting.
Read the passage again.
Explore a different version if you have one available. If you are online, here is Acts 2 in NIV through Bible Gateway. You can change the version by using the dropdown menu at the top right of the page.
Try to summarize the passage in your own words.
Answer these three questions about the passage:
1. What does the passage say about God?
The Holy Spirit came like wind and fire (vs. 2-3). The Holy Spirit is often compared to wind. You can’t see the wind itself, but you can feel and see the effects of the wind. The Holy Spirit is like this. You may not be able to see the Holy Spirit himself, but if you are a believer, you can certainly feel and see the effects of the Holy Spirit in your life and in your mind. The Holy Spirit is also like a fire. It can consume you or purify you. It works both to make you more like Christ and to fill you with the power to witness for him.
The Holy Spirit enables people to do things they couldn’t otherwise do (vs. 4-12). The people who received the Holy Spirit were able to speak in tongues and perform miracles. We may not see such dramatic works by the Holy Spirit today, although he can still work in this way in the right circumstances. But even without these more obvious events, the Holy Spirit is still at work in believers to empower them to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do.
God keeps his promises (vs. 16-21, 25-31). In the Old Testament, God promised to pour out his Spirit on people. This story is the fulfillment of that promise. Peter’s sermon also pointed out other promises that God kept, including his promise to David and his promise to send a Messiah.
God has a plan in mind, even when it doesn’t make sense (vs. 23). This passage makes it clear that Jesus’ death on the cross was part of God’s deliberate plan. At the time, Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion probably didn’t make sense to his followers. So if you have something in your life that doesn’t make sense, be assured that God has a plan.
God has power over death (vs. 24, 32). God raised Jesus from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death. Not only did he raise Jesus from the dead, but he exalted Jesus to sit at his right hand. By raising Jesus from the dead, Jesus conquered sin and death once for all.
God has the ultimate responsibility of saving people (vs. 29, 47). Throughout this passage, we see that any time people were saved, it was because God was doing the work. God was calling people, and God was adding to the number of those being saved. Peter and the other believers may have done the teaching, but the ultimate responsibility for saving people belongs to God alone.
2. What does the passage say about people?
Jesus’ followers were obedient to wait for his promised gift (vs. 1). Before he ascended into heaven, Jesus commanded his followers to wait for him to send a promised gift. This gift was the Holy Spirit, who would give them power to spread the gospel. This passage tells us that Jesus’ followers were obedient to this command. They were meeting together and waiting when Jesus sent the Holy Spirit.
All believers receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (vs. 2-4, 38). Peter states clearly that anyone who repents and is baptized in the name of Jesus Christ will receive the Holy Spirit. This is a promise for all believers, not just those who were there that day. If you are a believer, you have received the Holy Spirit to give you the power to accomplish God’s will.
People who witness the power of the Holy Spirit may be confused at first (vs. 6-13). Many of the observers this day who had not yet received the Holy Spirit were confused by what happened to the disciples. How can these people be speaking in a language we understand? They were “amazed and perplexed.” How would you respond? I would probably be confused too.
Some people will be skeptical of the Holy Spirit’s power (vs. 13). Not only were people confused at the effects of the Spirit, but some were downright skeptical. They thought the apostles were drunk. Have you ever seen a drunk person suddenly know how to speak a new language? Me either. But those who don’t have the heart to believe will make any excuse for the Spirit’s work in others.
People experience faith within a community (vs. 42-47). As people came to know Christ, they built a community. They came together for teaching, fellowship, food, and prayer. They gave willingly to help those in need. This community gave them what they needed to grow in faith and to grow in numbers. A good faith community is essential to Christian growth.
3. What does the passage say about God’s plan?
God’s plan is to empower his people to spread the gospel through the Holy Spirit (vs. 4). When God sent the Holy Spirit to the apostles, the Holy Spirit filled them with power to do miraculous things and to preach the gospel. Through the Holy Spirit, God gives all believers the power to do anything God has called them to do. First and foremost, we are called to spread the good news of Jesus’ work on the cross.
God’s plan is to save anyone who calls on the name of the Lord (vs. 21). To be saved, we don’t have to do anything amazing. We don’t have to live a good life or prove our worth. The only requirement is to call on the name of the Lord, and he promises to save us. We often tend to make this more complicated than it is.
God’s plan was to conquer sin and death through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross (vs. 22-24, 38). Peter lays out God’s plan quite clearly. God’s plan was for Jesus to die on the cross. God then raised him from the dead, conquering sin and death forever. The only way to forgiveness for sins is through Jesus Christ.
God’s plan is for believers to repent and be baptized (vs. 38). In response to Peter’s message, the crowd asked what they should do. Peter’s response was “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins.” This is God’s ultimate plan. He wants all people to repent of their sins and be baptized into obedience in Christ. The command to repent indicates that we must turn away from our sin. We should not continue to live in that sin.
God’s plan is for believers to be united (vs. 44). The believers who received the Holy Spirit were united. They had “everything in common.” They learned together and ate together and gave together. They had one purpose through it all—to praise God. If we keep God at the center of our community, we will be united in purpose.
How does the passage fit into the overarching story of the Bible?
Sometimes it’s easier to understand a passage if you have a little outside knowledge from other passages in the Bible. This section will help provide that outside perspective.
The story in Acts 2 records the transition from how believers related to God under the Old Covenant and how they will relate to God under the New Covenant. Under the Old Covenant, God required his people, the Israelites, to follow a sacrificial system to atone for their sins, and they had a whole list of laws they needed to follow. They communicated with God through the High Priest.
Now, everything has changed. Jesus gave himself as the perfect sacrifice for sin, fulfilling the Old Covenant and replacing it with a better covenant. Under this new covenant, believers are not held to the requirements of the old law, and they no longer need to rely on the High Priest to communicate with God for them. Instead, they have direct access to God through Jesus Christ.
Not only do believers have access to God through Jesus, they now have the promised Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the third part of the Trinity, able to dwell within believers to give them power and authority to teach in Jesus’ name. We no longer need an imperfect human to be a mediator between us and God. We have God himself dwelling in us!
How do we access this power through the Holy Spirit? We must repent of our sins and turn away from them. We must have our sins forgiven through the atoning work of Jesus on the cross. We are called to show that we are following God through the act of baptism. When we do these things, we will have fellowship with God and with other believers.
Individual: Answer the following questions thoughtfully for yourself.
Group: Pose these questions for discussion.
All: If you are willing to share, I’d love to hear your thoughts to these questions. Feel free to use the comment section to start a discussion about this passage.
What else strikes you about this passage?
How does the passage affect how you view God? How you view yourself?
How does this passage affect how you will live your life?
For additional study related to this topic, read Acts 10:19-48.
For Bible Essential studies, you can use my thoughts as your devotional, or you can download and use the journaling sheet to work through the passage on your own. If desired, you can then compare your thoughts to mine. Journal sheets can be downloaded and used now or later. They can be printed and filled in by hand or saved and filled out electronically. Journal sheets are available for individual or group use.
If you plan to lead a group study, a PowerPoint presentation is also available.
You can access these resources by clicking here: Acts 2 Resources