[Thoughts on Exodus 32; Acts 2; 1 Peter 2:9]
There’s no way to know exactly how many people heard the Spirit roar like a rushing wind, or how many people saw twelve men who shone like the sun, or how many people heard Peter preach the gospel with a flaming tongue on the day of Pentecost.
All we know is that the Spirit consecrated three thousand souls to the Lord in baptism, collected them into the church, and began conforming them to the image of Christ.
Three thousand seems like a lot of people to us, but it was a small number compared to the thousands upon thousands of Jews who had gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost.
So why were only three thousand souls consecrated to the Lord in baptism and collected into his church?
A simple answer is that three thousand is exactly how many people the Spirit wanted to collect for the harvest on that day.
A deeper, more complete answer is that three thousand is an echo from the first Pentecost. This story marks the continuity and discontinuity between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. This story shines a light on the similarities and differences between the Law and the Gospel.
For devout Jews, Pentecost was a time to celebrate the giving of the Law at Sinai, fifty days after passover and the exodus from Egypt.
For disciples of Jesus, Pentecost is a time to celebrate the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit and the giving of the Gospel, fifty days after the crucifixion of Jesus and his exodus from the grave.
At the first Pentecost, the Lord God sounded the trumpet from the mountain, but the people broke loose and worshiped a golden calf.
At the last Pentecost, the Lord Jesus poured out the Spirit on Pentecost, and there came from heaven the sound of a rushing wind, and the gospel was proclaimed to a solemn assembly.
At the first Pentecost, three thousand were slain with the sword. At the last Pentecost, three thousand were signed and sealed by the Spirit.
At the first Pentecost people were cut off and disconnected from the community of God’s people. At the last Pentecost people were cut to the heart and connected to Christ.
At the first Pentecost the Spirit wrote the Law on tablets of stone. At the last Pentecost the Spirit wrote the Gospel on the hearts of men, women, and children.
The Old Covenant was a ministry of death carved on stone. But the New Covenant is a ministry of life written on hearts.
So, Pentecost reveals that the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. What the Law of sin and death slays, the Spirit of life in Christ seals for the day of redemption.
In effect, on the day of Pentecost Peter stood up in the midst of the crowd and (like Moses) said, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to Jesus! The promise is for you and your children!” And three thousand souls gathered around the apostles; they were baptized and added to their number that day.
Three thousand individuals and members of households — men, women, and children.
A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, who proclaimed the excellencies of him who called them out of darkness into his marvelous light.