Peter has spoken of Jerusalem’s sins against Christ (v22,23,36) & God’s vindication of him (v32, 33). Many now respond with an anxious cry (v37), to which Peter replies with a call to repent (v38). They must turn back to God for forgiveness, joining Jesus’ people through baptism. Christ will then grant them the gift which baptism points to: the Holy Spirit. In verses 1-3 the ascended Christ baptised his people in the Holy Spirit, the outcome of which was the Spirit permanently dwelling in them (v4). Ever since, any who repent and are baptised into Christ, receive the Spirit within. So Peter preaches this to the crowd, pressing it on them with urgency. Time is limited! This generation (v39) needs to act before God’s trouble strikes them (Lk 11:50,51;19:44;21). God is calling them; soon he’ll move on to call to those far away. So the people need to act, lest they will find themselves like the rebel generation of Israelites who died in the desert (v40; Dt 32:5).
In God’s grace the response to Peter’s preaching is large, with 3000 baptised in Jerusalem’s pools that day (v41). But how should this enlarged group of believers now organise themselves? Well, Peter has brought to mind the Exodus generation and, in positive ways, these believers are an echo of them: they are Israel reborn, fleeing trouble, through water, guided by the Spirit to a new life (Ex 13:17-14:31). So they adopt a lifestyle similar to old Israel on her great journey. Not that they leave Jerusalem (that will come later) but they build a communal life like that of the ancient desert camp-site. Firstly, at the heart of their new life is Jesus’ teaching brought to them by the apostles (v42), just as God shaped the Israelites through the laws he gave via Moses. Secondly, they share a common purpose with their lives overlapping like never before, a fellowship which reminds us of the united hoards leaving Egypt. Thirdly, just as the Israelites dined upon God-given manna, so the believers break bread together, knowing their lives are now sustained by Christ, the bread of heaven (Lk 22:19; Jn 6:51). Fourthly, they pray together showing their utter dependence upon God. This is in contrast to the lost generation who complained about God and sought help from elsewhere (Nu 11:1-10). So in these four ways, the believers form a community of safety in the heart of Jerusalem, which has a profound impact upon the city (v43). Ancient Israel was feared at times, but this renewed Israel seems even mightier as the apostles perform miracles in their midst. The believers are like a holy place filled with the power of God.
Yet though it inspires awe, the community’s loving unity (v44) is also deeply attractive. Jesus said not to depend upon worldly possessions (Lk 16:10-15) and the believers put this into practice, selling stuff to share resources (v45). Also, since they are a living temple (2Co 6:16) they meet regularly at the temporary temple (v46; Lk 21: 5,6). However, more of their shared life is out in their homes, where they eat together in happy sincerity, full of delight in God (v47). As they live out this life for Christ, he draws more folk to join them. Of course, this set up will change in coming chapters as the group matures and faces new circumstances, but it still inspires us. We too need the apostles’ teaching to shape our church life. There’s always a need for fellowship, in which we stand together and support one another. Shared meals build solidarity, especially when we feast together on Christ (Lk 22:19). Prayer is key, helping one another to cling to the Lord.