Acts 2 and 3 and the Gift of the Holy Spirit

by Doy Moyer

When you lay out Acts 2 and 3, there are some great comparisons. Both begin the same basic way (Men of Judea, Men of Israel) and contain at least these similarities:

  • They start by clearing up misunderstandings and reference a direct act of God's power (Acts 2:15-20; 3:16-18). 
  • They show how the miracles attest to Jesus (Acts 2:22; 3:16). 
  • They speak to "the name of the Lord" (Acts 2:21, 38; 3:16). 
  • They reference the guilt of killing Jesus (Acts 2:23; 3:14-15). 
  • They affirm the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 2:24,32; 3:15). 
  • They show how it all happened according to God's plan, spoken of through the prophets (Acts 2:23-35; 3:18,21-26). 
  • They contain eyewitness claims (Acts 2:32; 3:15). 
  • They contain claims and proof of fulfillment Acts (2:36; 3:18,25-26). 

The emphasis in Acts 2 is that Jesus was raised to sit on David's throne; the emphasis in Acts 3 is that Jesus was raised to fulfill the seed promise and bless all by turning people from sin.

And both contain a command connected with promise. Read Acts 2:38-39 with Acts 3:19-21. Now compare the two in terms of what they say:

  • "Repent" correlates with … "repent." 
  • "Be baptized" with "return." 
  • "Forgiveness of sins" with "sins blotted out." 
  • "Gift of the Holy Spirit" with "times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord."

That last part really intrigues me. The "presence of the Lord" somehow correlates with the "gift of the Holy Spirit." What is it? There is actually a connection made in Isaiah between God's presence and the Holy Spirit. Consider Isaiah 63:7-14, then note the phrases:

  • "angel of His presence" (v. 9).
  • "grieved His Holy Spirit (v. 10).
  • He put His Holy Spirit in their midst (v. 11).
  • "The Spirit of the Lord gave them rest" (v. 14).

This is no coincidence.

In the garden, Adam and Eve were in the presence of the Lord. They had rest. When they sinned, they lost their peace and they hid from His presence (Genesis 3:18). When Cain sinned, He fled God's presence (Genesis 4:16).

Yet God's presence was given to the children of Israel through His Spirit, as Isaiah 63 tells us. God told Moses, "My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest" (Exodus 33:14).

When they approached God's presence dishonorably, they suffered the consequences, as is seen in Nabad and Abihu (Leviticus 10:2; 16:1). The bread in the tabernacle was called "the bread of His presence" (Numbers 4:7). Many other passages speak of God's presence, whether offering incense (Numbers 16:7), preparing for battle and crossing the Jordan (Numbers 32:29,32), eating and the presentation of produce (Deuteronomy 14), the king writing a copy of the Law (Deuteronmy 17:18), and so on.

Generally, I conclude that the "presence of God" indicates God's walking in fellowship with His people. To think of the presence of God is to see His constant oversight, His care, and His willingness to be with the people. The Holy Spirit was the "angel of His presence." By comparing Acts 2:38 and Acts 3:19, a case can be made that the "gift of the Holy Spirit" is the restoration of God's presence. Sin results in losing His presence. Through the Spirit, God gives rest (Matthew 11:28) and restores this. These are "times of refreshing" that come from His presence. In the end, we will either continue in His presence or suffer the eternal destruction "away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power" (II Thessalonians 1:9-10).

The essence of the gift of the Holy Spirit, I believe, is the presence of God with us.

"Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face continually" (Psalms 105:4). Herein we find that God refreshes us, gives us rest and peace, and promises that He will abide with us.