SOME THOUGHTS ON THE ACTS TWO POSITION
I have found only two main reasons proposed for the belief that the church began at Acts 2. One is that Acts 2:47 reads “…..And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved”. The other is that those in Jerusalem were filled with the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. Let us consider these two points.
“THE LORD ADDED TO THE CHURCH“
Acts 2:46-47 reads in the KJV, “And they continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart. Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved”. The note in the Companion Bible on the phrase, “to the church” tells us that that phrase is not in the texts. In other words, the texts read, “….And the Lord added the ones being saved”. The New Revised Standard Version reads, “The Lord added to their number those who were being saved”. And the New American Standard Bible reads, “And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved”.
But to what were those believers being added? That is to say the most literal translation is “the Lord added the ones being saved” To what and/or to whom were they being added? Obviously, they were added to those who had already been saved. So given that Acts 2:47 does not tell us that the church began at Pentecost, I believe we must conclude that this verse tells us that those being saved on that day were added to the already existing body of believers spoken of in the New Testament, i.e. Israel.
“FILLED WITH THE HOLY GHOST“
Another reason given for the belief that the church began at Acts 2 is recorded in Acts 2:3-4 which reads, “And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance”. What exactly does it mean when we read that they were “filled with the Holy Ghost”? J. A. Bengel wrote, “The outpouring of the Spirit produced not just momentary enthusiasm but ….continuing commitments: to learn, to care, to fellowship and to worship”. But that is not the result of being filled with the Holy Ghost that we read in Acts 2 . We are told quite specifically what was the result of being filled with the Holy Ghost in verse 4, “they were filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak in other tongues…“. I suggest that given the fact that the result of being filled with the Holy Ghost. is quite specifically recorded, we consider from Scripture what it means to be filled with the Holy Ghost.
WHAT DOES THE HOLY GHOST DO IN THE LIVES OF BELIEVERS?
To be sure the Holy Ghost does indeed play a very important role in the life of every believer. Let us consider just a few of the scriptures that tell us of what the Holy Ghost does for believers. (It is important to understand that the Greek word translated “Ghost” is exactly the same as the one translated “Spirit”.)
We read Rom. 5:5, “….the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” .
I Cor. 2:9-12 reads, 9) “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. 10) But God hath revealed them unto us by His spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11) For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the spirit of God. 12) Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”
Eph. 3:16, “I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”.
But please note, not one of these passages speak of being filled with the Holy Ghost which is what happened on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. Let us therefore consider passages that speak of one being filled with the Holy Ghost.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE FILLED WITH THE HOLY GHOST?
As we will look at all eight passages in the New Testament that speak of one being filled with the Holy Ghost the reader will see that in every case where one is filled with the Holy Ghost, it is in order to accomplish a very specific act that God has for those who are filled.
Luke 1:15-16, “For he (John the Baptist) shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. “Please note that the first time we read in the New Testament of someone being filled with the Holy Ghost we are told in the immediate context the precise result, i.e. he will turn many to the Lord. My point is that John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Ghost for a specific purpose that God had for him to accomplish.
Luke 1:41-42, “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed, ‘blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear’”. Elizabeth was filled with that power in order to accomplish a specific task, i.e. to speak a word of prophesy concerning Mary and the baby she was carrying.
Luke 1:67, “His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied“. Here too one was filled with the Holy Ghost in order to fulfill a specific task, i.e. to prophesy.
Acts 2:4 will be discussed below.
Acts 4:8, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit said,…”. This is another example of one being filled with the Holy Spirit in order to accomplish a specific task. In this case it was for prophecy.
Acts 4:31, “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness” Here again the specific task that was accomplished is given in the immediate context.
Acts 9:17, “And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him (Paul) said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus That appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost'”. The specific task that God had for Paul is not given until a few verses later, i.e verse 20, which reads, “and straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God”.
Acts 13:9-11, “Then Saul (who also is called Paul), filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, and said, ‘O full of all subtlety and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now, behold the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind.…….”. Once again the immediate task that God had for Paul when he was filled with the Holy Ghost is given in the context, i.e. to bring blindness upon this man.
We have seen that every time we read of one being filled with the Holy Ghost that that person was filled with the Holy Ghost in order to accomplish a specific task that God has for him or her.
A CONSIDERATION OF ACTS 2
We come now to Acts 2:4, “All of them were filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them”. The question is: does this verse describe as Mr. Bengel suggests, “…….continuing commitments: to learn, to care, to fellowship and to worship”? Or does this verse describe being filled with the Holy Ghost in order to accomplish a specific task?
The Word of God is consistent in what it means to be filled with the Holy Ghost. As students of that Word we may not, in my opinion, attribute to Acts 2 something altogether different than every other passage that records one being filled with the Holy Ghost. We must conclude that this passage speaks of being filled with the Holy Spirit which enabled those who were filled to accomplish the specific task of speaking in tongues unfamiliar to them.
One cannot escape the obvious conclusion that there is no Scriptural evidence that the church began at Acts 2. If the reader is interested in the Acts 28 view, i.e. that the church which is the body of Christ began after Acts 28 please see the paper When Did The Church Begin?
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond to this paper please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org