Acts 2:33

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. Acts 2:33

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Peter just said that God had raised up Jesus. With that understood, He next says, “Therefore being exalted.” The word means “to lift up,” or “to raise on high.” Thus, it signifies “to elevate.” This happened to Christ who was dead. He was found worthy, and death could not hold Him.

As such, He was raised up – from the grave to the throne, and from the humiliation of the cross and death to the glory and power of the eternal King. The next words of Peter are debated over, “to the right hand of God.”

They are in the dative case. Simply stated, the Greek dative expresses a thing, or a person, indirectly affected by an action. With this being the case, there are two equally possible translations to these words –

“by the right hand of God”
“to the right hand of God”

Either is possible based on the surrounding context. The right hand signifies power, both in action (ability) and in position (authority). The previous verse just said that God raised Jesus. Therefore, it could be “by the right hand (ability) of God.” However, the next verse quotes David and will say, “Sit at my right hand (position of authority).” Nothing is lost in either translation because both possibilities are true. As such, translations such as Young’s use “at” which can convey both meanings at the same time –

“at the right hand of God having been exalted.”

As such, it can mean “at [by the power of] the right hand,” or “at [to the location of] the right hand of God.”

This may seem niggling, but the words have importance and should be considered. God’s power (His right hand) raised Jesus (Romans 10:9), and Jesus is seated at the right hand (the position of authority) of God (Romans 8:34). With this understood, Peter next says, “and having received from the Father.”

What Peter will refer to is something that had to wait for the full course of these events to occur. Christ was raised from the dead by the power of God, but He remained for a span before ascending to the Father. Only with that action completed would the disciples receive “the promise of the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus stated this explicitly in John 16 –

“But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” John 16:5-11

In Christ’s return to the Father (the right hand of power and the position of authority), the Helper was promised to come. This is what Peter is now referring to. In the exaltation of Jesus to this position, they received the Spirit from the Father. But because Jesus is at the position of power and authority, it explains why Jesus went to the Father in order for this to occur –

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” John 14:26

“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” John 15:26, 27

There is a unity within the Godhead that is clearly presented in Scripture. Thus, Jesus was able to say –

“Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.” John 14:11

In understanding the words of Jesus, and now the words of Peter as influenced by the Spirit, we see that the Spirit issues from the Father, through the Son. It is this event which Peter refers to by saying, “He poured out this which you now see and hear.”

This is a confirmation of what was prophesied by Joel, and which was cited earlier –

‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy.” Acts 2:17, 18

Peter is clearly and unambiguously stating that the promise of the pouring out of the Spirit prophesied in Joel has come. The church has been established, and this is the firstfruits of that event typologically anticipated in Leviticus 23 –

“You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Lord.” Leviticus 23:17

In the words of Leviticus 23, “two loaves” were to be presented. The loaves were to be “baked with leaven.” This is one of only two times that leaven was to be presented to the Lord in the Old Covenant sacrificial system. Leaven pictures sin, and yet – because of the work of Christ – sinful people could be presented to the Lord, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. The Jews now being filled with the Spirit represent one of the loaves.

The Gentiles (coming later in Acts) represent the other loaf. The symbolism is clear. There is one New Covenant, there is one gospel, and there is one way to receive the promised Holy Spirit. That is through accepting the finished, final, and forever work of Jesus Christ.

Life application: The events of Acts 2 are descriptive in nature. They simply record what occurred. They do not prescribe anything. The reception of the Spirit by various believers in Acts will occur in various ways. Each will give insights into the early working of the Spirit in the church to confirm that Jesus is the Messiah.

Once those early events occurred, there was no longer a need for such outward displays to continue. The verifications are made, the apostles witness the events – confirming the acceptance by God on the various people – and the writings of the prescriptive epistles become the standard for how the church works henceforth.

What occurs now is historical but not normative. We are beholding the work of the Spirit in these demonstrable ways with our own spiritual eyes as we read the book of Acts. In this, we are to demonstrate faith that they occurred, and we are to be convinced that God has accepted all people into His church – Jew and Gentile – according to their belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Lord God Almighty! You possess all power in heaven and on earth. Thank You that despite this glory, You would look with favor upon us – sinners in need of a Savior – and send Jesus. Thank You for Your kind care and gentle hand upon us. Praises to You, O God. Amen.