Monday, 11 April 2016

Acts 2: 37-47 - What must we do?

Cappella brancacci, Predica di San Pietro (restaurato), Masolino.jpg
Masolino di Panacale, c1383-1440

Acts 2 concludes with:
  •  the reaction of St Peter's hearers to his homily (verses 37 - 41) and
  • a description of the life of the growing band of the faithful (verses 42-47).
The first section poses a question that we need to ask ourselves as well, namely, what must we do?

Acts: 37 When they heard this, their consciences were stung; and they asked Peter and his fellow apostles, Brethren, what must we do? 38 Repent, Peter said to them, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, to have your sins forgiven; then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is for you and for your children, and for all those, however far away, whom the Lord our God calls to himself. 40 And he used many more words besides, urgently appealing to them; Save yourselves, he said, from this false-minded generation. 41 So all those who had taken his words to heart were baptized, and about three thousand souls were won for the Lord that day.
37 His autem auditis, compuncti sunt corde, et dixerunt ad Petrum et ad reliquos Apostolos: Quid faciemus, viri fratres? 38 Petrus vero ad illos: Pœnitentiam, inquit, agite, et baptizetur unusquisque vestrum in nomine Jesu Christi in remissionem peccatorum vestrorum: et accipietis donum Spiritus Sancti. 39 Vobis enim est repromissio, et filiis vestris, et omnibus qui longe sunt, quoscumque advocaverit Dominus Deus noster. 40 Aliis etiam verbis plurimis testificatus est, et exhortabatur eos, dicens: Salvamini a generatione ista prava.41 Qui ergo receperunt sermonem ejus, baptizati sunt: et appositæ sunt in die illa animæ circiter tria millia.
Chrysostom (Homily 7): And, say they, What shall we do? They did not straightway say, Well then, we repent; but they surrendered themselves to the disciples. Just as a person on the point of shipwreck, upon seeing the pilot, or in sickness the physician, would put all into his hands, and do his bidding in everything; so have these also confessed that they are in extreme peril, and destitute of all hope of salvation. They did not say, How shall we be saved? But, What shall we do?

Here again Peter, though the question is put to all, is the man to answer. Repent, says he, and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ. Acts 2:38 He does not yet say, Believe, but, Be baptized every one of you. For this they received in baptism.

Then he speaks of the gain; For the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. If you are to receive a gift, if baptism conveys remission, why delay? He next gives a persuasive turn to his address, adding, For the promise is unto you Acts 2:39: for he had spoken of a promise above. And to your children, he says: the gift is greater, when these are to be heirs of the blessings. And to all, he continues, that are afar off: if to those that are afar off, much more to you that are near: even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

Observe the time he takes for saying, To those that are afar off. It is when he finds them conciliated and self-accusing. For when the soul pronounces sentence against itself, no longer can it feel envy...

This is the perfection of teaching, comprising something of fear and something of love. Save yourselves from this untoward generation. He says nothing of the future, all is about the present, by which indeed men are chiefly swayed; he shows that the Gospel releases from present evils as well. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

Comment: Note the parallel with Exodus 19:1 - 50 days after first passover, law given; in Ex 32:28 3,000 die for worshipping the golden calf.

The chapter concludes with a description of the life of the rapidly growing band of the faithful:
 Acts:  42 These occupied themselves continually with the apostles’ teaching, their fellowship in the breaking of bread, and the fixed times of prayer, 43 and every soul was struck with awe, so many were the wonders and signs performed by the apostles in Jerusalem. 44 All the faithful held together, and shared all they had, 45 selling their possessions and their means of livelihood, so as to distribute to all, as each had need. 46 They persevered with one accord, day by day, in the temple worship, and, as they broke bread in this house or that, took their share of food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God, and winning favour with all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship others that were to be saved.

  42 Erant autem perseverantes in doctrina Apostolorum, et communicatione fractionis panis, et orationibus. 43 Fiebat autem omni animæ timor: multa quoque prodigia et signa per Apostolos in Jerusalem fiebant, et metus erat magnus in universis. 44 Omnes etiam qui credebant, erant pariter, et habebant omnia communia. 45 Possessiones et substantias vendebant, et dividebant illa omnibus, prout cuique opus erat. 46 Quotidie quoque perdurantes unanimiter in templo, et frangentes circa domos panem, sumebant cibum cum exsultatione et simplicitate cordis, 47 collaudantes Deum et habentes gratiam ad omnem plebem. Dominus autem augebat qui salvi fierent quotidie in idipsum.
Chrysostom: Consider what an advance was here immediately! For the fellowship was not only in prayers, nor in doctrine alone, but also in (πολιτεία) social relations. And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. See what fear was wrought in them!

And they parted them, he says, showing the (τὸ οἰκονομικὸν) wise management: As every man had need. Not recklessly, like some philosophers among the Greeks, of whom some gave up their land, others cast into the sea great quantities of money; but this was no contempt of riches, but only folly and madness. For universally the devil has made it his endeavor to disparage the creatures of God, as if it were impossible to make good use of riches.

And continuing daily with one accord in the temple Acts 2:46, they enjoyed the benefit of teaching. Consider how these Jews did nothing else great or small, than assiduously attend at the temple. For, as having become more earnest, they had increased devotion also to the place. For the Apostles did not for the present pluck them away from this object, for fear of injuring them.

And breaking bread from house to house, did take their portion of food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. Acts 2:47 It seems to me that in mentioning bread, he here signifies fasting and hard life; for they took their portion of food, not of dainty fare. With gladness, he says. Do you see that not the dainty fare, but the (τροφἥς οὐ τρυφἥς) food made the enjoyment. For they that fare daintily are under punishment and pain; but not so these.

 Do you see that the words of Peter contain this also, namely, the regulation of life? [And singleness of heart.] For no gladness can exist where there is no simplicity. How had they favor with all the people? On account of their alms deeds. For do not look to the fact, that the chief priests for envy and spite rose up against them, but rather consider that they had favor with the people.— And the Lord added to the Church daily (ἐ πὶ τὸ αὐτό) [together] such as should be saved.— And all that believed were together. Once more, the unanimity, the charity, which is the cause of all good things!

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