ONCE A WEEK for the next several weeks, I’m going to let you take a peek inside the new paraphrase of Acts—the story of how the church got started after Jesus died, rose from the dead, and then left the planet.
It’s a beta edition, still getting polished for the Casual English Bible—a new Bible paraphrase especially for newcomers to the Bible.
If you have suggestions for improving Acts 2, I’m all ears.
Acts 2. Here comes the Holy Spirit
Pentecost Festival 50 days after the Crucifixion
2:1. On the Jewish festival day of Pentecost, the disciples and those with them were having a meeting inside a house.
2:2. Suddenly, they heard a loud noise above them in the sky. It sounded like a violent blast of wind. The noise filled the entire house where they were sitting.
2:3. Then they saw what appeared to be flames in the shape of tongues. The flames split apart until every person in the room had a flame hovering on them.
2:4. The Holy Spirit filled every person there. And the people started to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them the ability.
2:. Devoted Jews from all over the world were staying in Jerusalem at the time of this festival.
2:6. When they heard the noise, they came to see what was going on. What they discovered made no sense to them. They were hearing their own languages coming out of the mouths of the people from inside the house.
2:7. Astonished, they asked, “Aren’t these people from Galilee?
2:8. Why are we hearing them talking to us in our native languages?
2:9. Look at how many languages we represent. In this crowd are Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Judeans, and Cappadocians. There are people from Pontus, Asia,
2:10. Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and parts of Libya near Cyrene, along with visitors from Rome.
2:11. There are Jews and converts to the Jewish faith. And there are Cretans and Arabians. Yet we all hear these people talking to us in our native languages as they tell us about the miracles God has done.”
2:12. The people witnessing this were astonished and confused. They kept asking each other, “What’s going on here?”
2:13. Others in the crowd, however, made fun of the people who were talking in the foreign languages. They said, “Well, they’ve had their limit of wine for the day.”
Pastor Peter at the pulpit
2:14. Peter stood with the other 11 apostles and addressed the crowd. Speaking loudly, he said, “I’ve got something you locals need to hear. I’m talking to you people who live in Jerusalem and in the surrounding area of Judea.
2:15. You’re accusing these people of being drunk, but you’re wrong. Come on, it’s only nine in the morning. So you know better than that.
2:16. What you’re seeing is the prophet Joel’s prediction coming true:
2:17. ‘Here’s what will happen in the end,’ God says,
‘I’m going to throw open the floodgates of heaven and let the Holy Spirit pour out on all people. Your sons and daughters are going to prophesy. Your young men are going to see visions. And your old men are going to dream vivid dreams.
2:18. Even my slaves— men and women alike—are going to get drenched in my Spirit. They, too, will prophesy.
2:19. I’m going to show the world remarkable sights in the sky. I will show them signs on the ground, too—signs written in blood, fire, and smoke.
2:20. The sun will go dark, the moon blood red. This is what will happen before the great and glorious Day of the Lord.
2:21. On that day, anyone who invokes the name of the Lord for help will be saved.’
2:22. Gentlemen of Israel, listen up. God himself endorsed Jesus of Nazareth. God proved it by performing miracles, wonders, and other signs through Jesus. You saw it for yourselves.
2:23. God knew what was going to happen. He planned it. The arrest. Turning him over to people outside our faith, who don’t follow our laws. Execution by nailing.
2:24. But it was God, too, who released him from the pain of death and who brought him back to life. Death couldn’t hold onto him.
2:25. King David wrote about this man:
‘The way I see it, the Lord is always with me. We’re shoulder to shoulder, walking together. Nothing’s going to rattle me.
2:26. My heart is happy. My tongue says it. Everything inside my skin is living it—I’m living in a life of hope.
2:27. You’re not going to dump my soul into Hades. You’re not going to let the One you love rot in the tomb.
2:28. You have shown me the path I need to follow in this life. And you walk it with me, which is why I’m so happy.’
2:29. Gentlemen, David wasn’t talking about himself. Our ancestral father is dead and buried. His tomb is right here in town.
2:30. David was a prophet. He knew God had promised him that one of his descendants would become King of the Jews.
2:31. Looking far into the future, David was able to see the resurrection of Christ. David saw that Christ had not been abandoned in Hades. And he saw that the body of Christ was not left to rot in the tomb.
2:32. Jesus was raised from the dead. We know it because we saw him after he died.
2:33. Right now he is sitting beside God. And just as God had promised, he gave Jesus the Holy Spirit to pass on to us. You’re seeing and hearing the evidence of that Spirit now.
2:34. David never levitated into the sky, to the heavens. Yet listen to what he said.
‘The LORD said to me, “Sit here beside me in the place of honor.
2:35. And stay right here until I can turn your enemies into a footrest for you so you can relax.”’
2:36. Every Jew needs to know this: God has put Jesus in charge of us. This Jesus, whom you crucified, is our Master and Messiah.”
2:37. When the people heard that, they were devastated. They asked Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what can we possibly do about this?”
2:38. Peter said, “All of you should reject your sinful way of living. And you should get baptized, invoking the authority that comes with the name of Jesus Christ. If you do this, you can find forgiveness for the sins you’ve committed and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
2:39. This is God’s promise to you and to your children and to people near and far. It’s for everyone, the great crowd God invites.
2:40. Peter talked for a long time. He warned the people and he pleaded with them. He said, “This is an evil generation. Break away from its sinful culture and practices.”
The Christian movement begins
2:41. That day about 3000 people believed what Peter told them, and they got baptized.
2:42. These people spent as much time as possible listening to the apostles teach. The group developed a sense of community. They got to know each other by spending time together, eating together, and praying together.
2:43. The apostles did many miracles and other wonderful things for the people. A sense of reverence and awe gripped everyone.
2:44. This community of believers became so close that they shared their possessions with each other.
2:45. They went so far as to sell possessions and give the money they got from the sale to anyone in the group who needed it.
2:46. These people met together every day at the Temple. They ate together in one house after another, taking turns. They freely shared their food, and were happy to do so because their hearts were in it.
 2:1. The word Pentecost means “the fiftieth,” as in the fiftieth day. The festival comes about 50 days after Passover. Passover is when the Romans crucified Jesus. Pentecost is a festival celebrating the harvest. Many Jews call the festival by its Hebrew name Shavuot, “Festival of Weeks,” because it follows Passover by several weeks.
 2:2. Wind is often associated with God. When the prophet Ezekiel had a vision about a valley full of human skeletons coming back to life, it was divine wind that breathed life back into the bodies once the muscles and flesh had covered the bones (Ezekiel 37:9-10).
 2:5. Pentecost was a festival that encouraged Jewish people to celebrate in Jerusalem. Many came to Jerusalem for Passover and stayed the several weeks for Pentecost as well. For pilgrim holidays like this, the population of Jerusalem could more than double—and sometimes far more than double.
 2:9. See note for Acts 16:1.
 2:16. See Joel 2:28-32.
 2:17. Some Bible experts say Peter is referring not to some apocalypse at the end of the world, but to the end of the old covenant—the old agreement between God and his people. Jeremiah 31:33-34 says that God will retire the old legal system and replace it with laws written on the heart. And in Ezekiel 36:27, God promises to put his spirit within his people.
 2:18. These could include a variety of servants including slaves bought and sold or bond servants who have sold themselves into either part-time or lifelong slavery to pay for a debt. Either way, they are social bottom dwellers. And even they are going to get filled with the Spirit.
 2:20. The Day of the Lord, many scholars say, refers to Judgment Day or to the Second Coming of Jesus—or to both.
 2:23. Jesus.
 2:25. Peter is referring to Psalm 16:8-11.
 2:27. Many people in ancient times came to think of Hades as an incredibly inhospitable waiting room for the inevitable judgment that was coming. In the Hebrew language, Jews called this place Sheol, a place where the shadowy dead live and don’t return (Job 7:9). For “hell,” see the note for Luke 12:5.
 2:34. This is a quote from Psalm 110:1.
 2:34. More literally, “The LORD said to my Lord.”
 2:38. Literally, “repent.”
 2:39. Literally, “calls.”
ACTS 2 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
- When the apostles and other believers waited for the Holy Spirit’s arrival, as Jesus told them to do, two things happened before the spirit arrived. There was a sound “like a violent blast of wind” (2:2). And there was an appearance of flames that looked like tongues. Why do you think God would do something like that? Why not just send the Holy Spirit?
- “The Holy Spirit filled every person there” (2:4). How so? What do you think was different about the people after the Holy Spirit filled them?
- When the people heard the followers of Jesus from Galilee speaking in languages throughout the Roman Empire and beyond (2:8), do you think this was a miracle of speaking or a miracle of hearing? Were the people who had been filled with the Holy Spirit talking in a variety of languages—one person speaking one language and another person speaking another? Or were the Jewish pilgrims from throughout the world simply hearing the words in their own languages? Which theory do you think best fits the context of the chapter?
- Peter quotes a Psalm to say that David predicted the death and resurrection of Jesus (2:25-28). What do you think Peter saw in this Psalm that tracks with the story of Jesus?
- Why do you think Peter not only told the people to repent, which is to “reject your sinful way of living” (2:38), but he also told them to “get baptized”?
- Peter told the people in the crowd that if they repented and got baptized “you can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (2:38). What do you think he meant by that? Did he mean the people would hear a loud noise like a blast of wind and see flames of fire hovering above them? Or would they perform miracles and speak in other known languages? Or did he mean something else?
- What do you think about the report that the first group of people to receive the Holy Spirit seemed to form themselves into a community of equals who “shared their possessions with each other” (2:44)?
- LIFE APPLICATION. Some Christians get baptized. Some Christians choose not to get baptized. For people in our generation, what do you think is the value of getting baptized? And what are some of the arguments that would suggest baptism is not a requirement for entering into the spiritual Kingdom of God?
- LIFE APPLICATION. Peter told the people in the crowd, “This is an evil generation. Break away from its sinful culture and practices” (2:40). If we took Peter’s advice today, what sinful culture and practices do you think we should consider avoiding?
- LIFE APPLICATION. When have you ever seen a Christian do something as radical as “sell possessions and give the money they got from the sale to anyone… who needed it” (2:45)?