The speech given by the Apostle Peter in Acts 2 is the first speech given by disciples of the ascended Christ – the first of the new community of believers. It is important, historically, to have this speech which officially delivers the rules of the community to take place on Pentecost. Just as the Gospels establish that Christ is the Passover, this speech served to establish that this was the Church’s Pentecost. It mimicked the scene played out in Exodus 19, and indeed, the later writer of Hebrews notes the comparison as well (Hebrews 12.18-24). Not withstanding the historical significance of placing this speech at the beginning of Christian history we find an attempt at redefining the Hebrew writings in light of the new community and connecting certain aspects of the Jewish Scriptures to salvation and thus the new community.
First, Jewish Tradition held that when Moses, on the day of Pentecost, descended from the mountain to bring the Covenant, the world stopped and listened, so it is no accident the listing the nationalities in the crowd who stopped and listened as the Spirit of God descended to renew the covenant. In both actions, God made Himself known through fire. The Jerusalem Targum notes that the fire resulted form the Shekinah glory of God:
And all mount Sinai sent up smoke, because the glory of the Shekinah of the Lord was revealed upon it in flame of fire. (Exo 19:18 JTE)
One contrast worth noting that in the Exodus scene, God has Moses establish boundaries so that the people could not come up. In the Peter’s speech, he emphatically opens the gates to all those who call upon the name of the Lord. As we see in Acts, Peter’s words of ‘all who shall’ were redefined to include Gentiles as well. The first part of this speech centers on the prophecy as found in the book of Joel,
For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:`And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; yea, and on my menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth beneath, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and manifest day. And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ (Act 2:15-21 RSV)
This passage is found throughout the writings which became the New Testament, if nothing else, but the constant reference to the ‘name of the Lord.’ Several times, the ‘name of the Lord’ phrase is connected to the act of baptism (Acts 8.16; Acts 9.5). Further, the phrase ‘in the name of Jesus (Christ)’ appears connected to baptism as well.
Peter’s use of this passage in Joel is different from his answer give to the Jewish leaders at the end of the speech (Acts 2.37-39). By the end of the speech, Peter goes from what could term ‘easy beliefism’ to what many term a gospel of works. Yet, if we were to take the passages in question side by side, we can see that they are more aligned than many would like:
|Acts 2:21||Whoever||Calls||On the name of the Lord||Shall be saved|
|Acts 2:38||Everyone of you||Repent and be baptized||In the name of Jesus Christ||For the remission of sins|
If we look at Paul’s use, we note that he applied the same phraseology to his appeal to Caesar,
“If, then, I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die; but if none of those things is true of which these men accuse me, no one can hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar.” (Act 25:11 NASB)
Or, in the Greek,
Comparing that to Romans 10.13,
Romans 10:13 for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” (NASB)
πᾶς γὰρ ὃς ἂν ἐπικαλέσηται τὸ ὄνομα κυρίου σωθήσεται.
Paul is using the same idea, and as James Bales noted:
Paul, in appealing to Caesar, was claiming the right of a Roman citizen to have his case judged by Caesar. He was asking that his case be transferred to Caesar’s court and that Caesar hear and pass judgment on his case. In so doing, he indicated that he was resting his case on Caesar’s judgment. In order for this to be done Paul had to submit to whatever was necessary in order for his case to be brought before Caesar. He had to submit to the Roman soldiers who conveyed him to Rome. He had to submit to whatever formalities or procedure Caesar demanded of those who came before him. All of this was involved in his appeal to Caesar (1960, pp. 81-82, emp. added).
Returning to Romans for a brief moment, we know that the sinner cannot call upon God until he is first called upon by God,
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? (Rom 10:14 NASB)
It is evident that if Peter’s speech is not authentic, the idea of the ‘name of the Lord’ to the primitive community was so strong that even Pentecost was reinterpreted through the lens of Joel 2.32. It is also evident that ‘the name of the Lord’ required submission to what the Lord required.
Incomplete thoughts of course, but it seems to be the easy beliefism people don’t have a leg to stand on.