Acts 2:39

Monday, 29 November 2021

For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:39

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

Peter just instructed the men of Israel what they needed to do in order to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. At first, it might seem contradictory to do something in order to receive a gift, but that was seen to be incorrect. A gift is not necessarily something everyone will get. Only those who meet the qualifications for receiving it will. In the case of those of Israel who had just crucified Christ Jesus, they had to prepare themselves in order to be eligible by repenting (changing their mind). Today, we too must be prepared, meeting the qualifications that are set forth for us as outlined in the epistles.

Understanding this, and having seen what Peter instructed the people before him, he notes to them, “For the promise.” This is certainly referring to the reception of the Spirit. It is what Peter cited in verse 2:17 –

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;”

However, and whether they understood it or not, this promise is based on the establishment of a New Covenant. Peter was fully aware of this, having sat with Christ as He proclaimed it. But those there before him will receive that instruction in due time if they accept the terms set forth to receive the gift. This New Covenant was prophesied by Jeremiah, and it is what allows the pouring forth of the Spirit –

“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.” Jeremiah 31:31

In the establishment of this New Covenant, the Spirit has been poured out. It is the promise Joel referred to. As such, Peter continues, saying that it “is to you and to your children.”

Again, it follows directly with the next half of the verse that Peter cited from Joel –

“Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.” Joel 2:17

The people of Israel were to receive the promise, and it was one that extended beyond a single generation. It would continue from that point on, testified to by the words “and to your children.” It implies a new order of things had come to pass. From there, Peter then says, “and to all who are afar off.”

The words “afar off” mean “at a distance” or “unto a long way.” The idea of “to you and to your children” is temporal in nature. The idea of “to all who are afar off” is spatial in nature. It is an all-encompassing thought then. Whatever Peter is thinking of, and whatever the Jews standing there were thinking of, cannot be fully known. Any or all of them may be thinking only of Jews of the dispersion and not of Gentiles at all. However, the words are words of prophecy, therefore, the full scope of their meaning does not necessarily have to be understood at this time. For example, in John 11, it says –

“And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.’ 51 Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.” John 11:49-52

Caiaphas prophesied concerning the nation of Israel, but John clearly indicates that what he prophesied extended beyond the nation. Thus, by default, it extends to the Gentiles. The same is true here, whether Peter and those before him realized this.

Peter and the others had already been told that they were to carry the gospel to the Gentiles. That is clearly recorded in Matthew 28 –

“‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” Matthew 28:18-20

The sentiment is also reflected in Jesus’ final words to those gathered with Him in Acts 1:8. However, as Acts continues on, it will be seen quite clearly that Peter did not fully understand this. There is a developmental process that is identified in Acts that shows that the apostles and disciples were learning as they went. Paul, however, will be taken from outside of this group and given a direct commission apart from their slowly developing understanding. This way, the focus of one group, though bearing the same gospel, will be more user-friendly to one audience, while that of the other will be more acceptable and palatable to another audience.

When the two sides meet up, such as is recorded in Galatians 2, it will be seen that Peter, not Paul, must continue to develop in his theology to come to the same level of understanding concerning what is going on as that of Paul. For now, and even if Peter and those before him did not understand that the words applied to the Gentiles, it does not negate the fact that they do. Paul makes this clear in his words of Ephesians 2 where he clearly shows that the words apply to Gentiles who were once outside of the commonwealth of Israel –

Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Ephesians 2:11-18

As such, and understanding that this promise applies to both Jew and to Gentile, Peter concludes with the words, “as many as the Lord our God will call.” The promise extends to whoever the Lord calls. The words of prophecy are not limited by man, but by God. It is He who determines the extent of the call. As such, and even if a prophecy is misunderstood, it is God’s prerogative that stands.

With this understood, a person could take a Calvinistic stand on the words “the Lord our God will call” and say, “See, this proves that a person must be regenerated in order to believe. Only then can he be saved.” This would assume the “call” is active (God actually reaches out to the individual and selects him for salvation), and the assumption would be incorrect.

It has already been seen that God sets forth the conditions for salvation. In the case of these Jews before Peter, it was with a particular requirement based on particular circumstances which are not to be considered normative for today. As far as the call being referred to, meaning salvation through the gospel, the call has been made by Jesus in the giving of the gospel. It has been recorded in Scripture as directed by the Holy Spirit. God has made the move, and now that call – which is passive – must be responded to.

Therefore, the words “as many as the Lord our God will call” find their extent based on that. The fact is that the church age will end at some point. Therefore, to say, “as many,” is a parameter set by God. Suppose there is an island that has never been evangelized. If it is expected to take a certain number of missionaries a certain amount of time to evangelize them all, it may be that the rapture will happen before they are all evangelized.

As such, “as many as the Lord God will call” will only apply to those who were evangelized before the rapture. This doesn’t mean that God actively chose some and actively rejected some (Calvinism). Peter says that God was not willing for any to perish, but that all should turn and be saved (2 Peter 3:9). However, because of the timing of redemptive events, it did not come about. This is the extent of Peter’s words now. It is a passive, not an active, calling from God.

Life application: One thing that can be highlighted from Peter’s words of this verse is the universal nature of the calling of God through the gospel. It is a constant problem with cults and sects that they believe certain things belong only to certain people – such as spiritual gifts, salvation, and so on – and that this is based on limitations they have assumed from Scripture or from their own imaginations.

In fact, this is generally the main indication of an incorrect doctrine. The truth of the matter, however, is that salvation is offered to any and to all who meet the requirements set forth by God. His requirement in the church age is that a person must believe the gospel. In this, the Spirit is given in full measure to the person who believes.

The Church of Christ, for example, says that a person must be baptized in order to be saved. That is not a requirement set forth in Scripture, even if Peter told the people to be baptized at a certain time (Acts 2:38). One must determine what is normative, meet the requirements for that, and he will be saved.

Anytime someone or somebody claims an exclusivity that is not clearly stated in Scripture (those who read the King James Version only, only Jehovah’s Witnesses, only Mormons, only the elect (when taken out of context), must be baptized into the Church of Christ, and so on), then be sure to compare their “onlyism” with Scripture. When it is determined that it is not to be found, then run to get away from that body.

God does not show favorites. He saves everyone who comes to Him through the parameters He sets forth. Be sure to know what those parameters are (know the gospel) and meet them. When you have, you are saved. This is what God expects for salvation. From there, be sure to continue to learn what God expects from His word for those who have been saved through the gospel. Grow in doctrine, pursue holiness, and walk circumspectly in this world. Oh, and be sure to tell others the message of hope that is found in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Lord God, thank You for the simplicity of the gospel. Thank You that it is clear, understandable, and available to any and to all who are willing to simply believe its words. You have done the work. Help us to accept this and to be saved through the precious blood of Christ. Amen.