Introduction: The Acts of the Apostles is a sequel to the Gospel of Luke, written by the same author around the end of the 1st century. This book describes the creation and expansion of the Christian church, starting with Jesus’ ascension and ending with Paul’s missionary activity in Rome while under house arrest. In between, it describes the growth of Jerusalem’s Christian community, the welcoming of Gentiles into Christianity, and the missionary activity of Saul (also known as Paul) in what is now Greece and the Middle East. Although the author of Luke-Acts is traditionally assumed to be a traveling companion of Paul due to the author’s use of “we” in several situations (i.e. Acts 16:10), many modern scholars doubt this assumption, pointing out that Acts’ portrayal of Paul’s travels and theology contradicts Paul’s own letters.
Acts 1-4: Roughly 120 believers, including the eleven disciples, gather in Jerusalem shortly after Jesus’ ascension. The disciples choose Matthias to replace Judas as the twelfth. On Pentecost, another crowd gather together and are filled with the Holy Spirit–they begin to speak in other languages, and Jews from across the known world could all understand each other. Peter gives a speech, quoting from the Psalms and explaining that God made Jesus Lord and Messiah; he tells the audience to repent and be baptized, so that their sins may be forgiven. Three thousand people were converted on that day–they sell their possessions and share all their belongings.
One day, Peter sees a crippled man by the Temple and heals him; Peter then accuses the watching Israelites of killing Jesus and calls them to repent. Five thousand more believe. The priests and Sadducees are annoyed and arrest Peter and John, but have to let them because they feared “the people”. The believers all sell what they had and share everything in common.
Commentary: Peter speaks extensively in these four chapters. Two verses are particularly intriguing:
Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified. (2:36)
There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved. (4:12)
The first, 2:36, is taken by many scholars (i.e. Bart Ehrman) to mean that Jesus was “adopted” as the son of God at his resurrection. The verse doesn’t specifically mention the resurrection, but it appears after Peter says that Jesus was crucified (2:23), raised up by God (2:24, 2:32), and exalted (2:33). Many other scholars disagree, especially because Luke himself seemed to describe Jesus as “adopted” at his baptism in Luke 3:21. Luke 3:21 reads:
when Jesus also had been baptized […] the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.'”
4:12 is remarkable for being close to, but not quite the same as, what would become the orthodox Christian view on salvation. Strangely, this view is absent from Luke’s gospel.