Tuesday, 26 October 2021
And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. Acts 2:5
Note: You can listen to today’s introduction 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).
In the previous verses, the Holy Spirit came upon the believers and they “began to speak with other tongues.” With that noted, Luke now turns to the broader audience who witnessed these things, saying, “And there were dwelling.”
The word katoikeó, is used. It signifies to settle down as a permanent resident. Scholars generally argue against this notion though because in the coming verses Jews from many locations will be noted, and in verse 9, it uses the same word in the same present tense to indicate those dwelling in Mesopotamia and elsewhere.
There is no difficulty with this. Some of these foreign-born Jews now dwelt permanently in Jerusalem. Some were pilgrims visiting Jerusalem. In Deuteronomy, Moses says what the Lord will do to the people if they disobey Him –
“Then the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known—wood and stone.” Deuteronomy 28:64
However, the Lord also promised restoration –
“Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God drives you, 2 and you return to the Lord your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, 3 that the Lord your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the Lord your God has scattered you. 4 If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you. 5 Then the Lord your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. 6 And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” Deuteronomy 30:1-6
The people who were exiled were brought back. Many came back permanently, some would come back at appointed times, such as the pilgrim feasts, of which the time of Pentecost was one. Paul specifically returned to Jerusalem, as is indicated in Acts 18, to keep a feast –
“So Paul still remained a good while. Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him. He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow. 19 And he came to Ephesus, and left them there; but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did not consent, 21 but took leave of them, saying, ‘I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.’ And he sailed from Ephesus.” Acts 18:18-21
Even today in Israel, this is true. One can go to a large dancehall and see people who have returned to the land from dozens of countries gathered together. They will have learned the Hebrew language, but they will most commonly speak to family in their own native language, such as Russian, Arabic, English, or etc.
Understanding this, Luke continues with, “in Jerusalem.” As this is Pentecost, and as there are people gathered from many different areas, it makes the thought of this gathering being at the temple complex all the more certain. The disciples are gathered in one place (1:1), also called a “house” (1:2), and there are many others gathered there. This would be as directed by Moses –
“But when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety, 11 then there will be the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to the Lord.” Deuteronomy 12:10, 11
As this is certain, Luke continues, saying, “Jews.” The term speaks of any person, regardless as to which tribe the person was actually from. It is an all-encompassing term that became acceptable to speak of anyone of the stock of Israel. This is how Paul uses the term, even when referring to himself –
“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews.” 1 Corinthians 9:19, 20
Despite using this term, Paul is actually from the tribe of Benjamin (see Philippians 3:5). As such, the term “Jews” as used by Luke is referring to any and all of Israel. The tribe of Judah became the predominant tribe. The designation “Jew” is the umbrella by which those of all tribes were labeled, and that has remained true to this day. Of these Jews, Luke says they are “devout men.”
The Greek word is only used by Luke. Once in his gospel (Luke 2:25) and three times in Acts. It is a compound word that literally means “‘taking hold of what is good.’ It focuses on the outward response someone gives to what they feel is truly worthwhile (worthy of respect)” HELPS Word Studies. At times, translators say, “God-fearing” which is more of a paraphrase, but it implies that a godly fear is instilled in the person.
This would be obvious as the people had followed the Law of Moses, as stated above, and had come to the temple to observe the feast as the law instructed. This description is made more pronounced by the final words of the verse, “from every nation under heaven.”
These were men who had been returned from exile and had returned to the land as the Lord promised, or they were men of the diaspora that believed the words of Scripture to some degree, and they wanted to participate in the customs of the Jews as the law stated. Thus, they were “taking hold of what is good,” at least in this respect of the law.
Of this verse, Ruckman ridiculously says, “There are no ‘Christians’ present in the chapter; no ‘Christians’ show up until Acts 11:26. Peter is addressing Jews (here; vss 10, 14, 22). The only Gentiles present are ‘proselytes’ to Judaism (vs. 10).” As such, Ruckman is trying to divide the church into two separate entities with two separate gospels.
Acts 11:26, that he cites, simply says, “And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” It is an acknowledgement that the movement that began on Pentecost in Jerusalem developed into what would become its only separately identified group of people known as “Christians.” This is evidenced by Peter’s words of 1 Peter 4:16 –
“Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.”
The designation “Christian” means “follower of Christ.” In Acts 2, Peter will use the term “Christ” four times, clearly indicating in two of them that he (Peter) is a “Christian” as are those with him, even if the term had not come into common use at the time –
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Acts 2:36
“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38
In the middle of his analysis, Ruckman switches from the subject to the object – from Peter to Peter’s audience, thus pulling a fast one in his flawed theology. Of course, Peter was only speaking to Jews. This is in the temple in Jerusalem, and only Jews and proselytes were allowed into this area. The message itself was designated to go to the Jew first and then to the Gentile (see Acts 26:23). But it is the same group of believers that spread the message, meaning Christians (aka “followers of Christ).
The doctrine of hyperdispensationalism which Ruckman teaches is heretical and insidiously divides the church established by Jesus Christ for truly malignant purposes.
Life application: For such a seemingly simple verse, much is tied up in what it says. It is important to know the rest of Scripture to understand the context of what is being conveyed. For those who spend most of their time trying to separate the testaments, covenants, and promises by dividing them into wholly separate ideas, there will be a failure in grasping the overall message being conveyed.
It is true that the Mosaic Covenant is obsolete in Christ, but one cannot have a New Covenant without there first being an Old Covenant. God is slowly and progressively revealing Himself in the stream of human existence, logically building a case for man’s need for Christ in every dispensation that arises.
In the end, the final point of everything that God is doing is to reveal Himself through Christ and to reveal our need for Christ. He used Israel, the Jewish people, to reveal a very large part of that program. Without understanding their history, as well as the promises yet to be fulfilled in them, a huge void in our understanding of God’s message will result. Hence, you are admonished to READ YOUR BIBLE.
It is in Scripture that the glory of what God has done for you is revealed. Again, READ YOUR BIBLE.
Lord God, thank You for Your precious word – the Holy Bible. Amen.