Church of Christ
Mission USA

The “Gift of the Holy Spirit” in Acts 2:38? (continued from 4-2011)

(Part 7, Holy Spirit series; will be intermittent)

by Perry Sexton

         Please read again Acts 2:38,39 “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.  For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”  Consider the “promise” of verse 39: Was it of a literal personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit?  If so, it must be proven by book, chapter and verse (1 Thess. 5:21)!  I think I have shown so far that the evidence is strongly against it.  Where, before Acts 2:38, was the literal personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit promised?  I have never seen it and I do not believe anyone else has, or else they would share that verse with us. 

         For those who believe in a personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit, they must “prove” (1 Thess. 5:21) that a personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit is meant in Acts 2:38 or anywhere else for that matter.  Actually, should they not have done so before they believed it?  Well, evidently they did prove it to
themselves and to some others, but what I have seen is woefully short of “proving” it.  Acts 2:38 promises the “gift of the Holy Ghost [Spirit].”  Proper hermeneutics suggest that we interpret it according to the immediate context and to the remote context, and other uses of the phrase which I have done [see prior articles].

         It should not be hard to understand that the gift of the Holy Spirit is the miraculous when considering the contexts in both directions of Acts 2:38.  It is exactly what Jesus said would happen in Mark 16:16-18.  And that is in perfect harmony with what Joel prophesied (Joel 2:28,29). 

         Connect the verses: This can be done in a number of ways, but I will approach it in this manner: “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;” (Acts 2:16).  Consider: “this” what?  The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the apostles (vs.1-4,12).  Consider: “that” what?  “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel….”  So Peter is declaring, in answer to their question (v.12), that what the apostles received was a part of Joel’s prophecy.
 But that is not all, the prophecy included more than the apostles, it included: “all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:” (vs.17,18).   Why should anyone think that only the apostles received the miraculous outpouring whenever it was clearly promised to

         Peter said plainly to the people that the outpouring was for others.  Is this not also what Jesus said? “…these signs shall follow them that believe…” (Mark 16:16-18).  Note Peter’s reference to the Great Commission included in Joel’s prophecy: “And it shall come to pass, that
whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21 cp. Joel 2:32).  Joel prophesied it, Jesus promised it and Peter proclaimed it to be “this” (the outpouring of the miraculous) on this day of Pentecost.  Then Peter begins to proclaim the gospel of Christ (Acts 2:22ff).  Why should we allow uninspired men to lead us astray from the plain truth?

        What did Jesus say would happen to the believers (Mark 16:17,18)?  Do you believe Jesus?  And in the midst of Peter’s great declaration (Acts 2) he stated: “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear” (Acts 2:33).  Clearly this is the miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  Compare: “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).  The promised power was repeated by Luke in Acts 1:4,5,8 and do not ever forget Mark 16:16-20.

        Two very important questions were asked by the people.  The first question: “What meaneth this (v.12)?”  They were asking about the miraculous
events and Peter affirms: “this is that which was spoken by the
prophet Joel (v.16)” and continues speaking of the miraculous in proclaiming the gospel of Christ and finally speaks of the greatest of all miracles – the resurrection of Christ (v.31ff).  And then, again, reference to “the promise” spoken by Joel and Jesus “which ye now see and hear” (v.33).  They were seeing the beginning of the “promise” of the miraculous being fulfilled.  But what had Peter said (see vs.16-18 cp. Mark 16:16-18)?  And when they asked the second question (v.37) what did Peter include???

      It should be no surprise whatsoever that Peter would include the miraculous in his answer to their second question!  Acts 2 is filled with the miraculous.  In fact, every mention of the Holy Spirit in Acts 1 and 2 refers to the miraculous, but some people make verse 38 the exception and claim it is referring the Spirit Himself literally and personally indwelling the Christian.  Where is the consistency? 

      Furthermore, note clearly that the Great Commission and the miraculous went hand in hand during the First Century (Mark 16:15-20; the whole book of Acts; Heb. 2:4, etc).  The miraculous was absolutely necessary in order to confirm the gospel of Christ.  Please note again (read the contexts): Joel 2:28,32;
Mark 16:15-20; Luke 24:47,49; Acts  2:38,39. Please remember, uninspired man put the verse divisions in. 

      Some people get hung up on the “afar off” of Acts 2:39 thinking it is referring to people throughout the ages for as long as the world stands.  And therefore they are led to believe (by those who teach such) that it is referring to the personal indwelling.  But, please note the contrast between “you,” “your” and “afar off.”  Joel 2:28,29 “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall
prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: 29And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.”  It seems clear that “your” equals the
Jews and their sons, daughters, old men, young men, the servants and the handmaids.  And “all
” specifically includes the Gentiles.  This is quoted by Peter in Acts 2:16-18.  Again note Acts 2:33 “… the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.”  Now Acts 2:39 “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar offeven as many as the Lord our God shall call.”  The “afar off” refers to the Gentiles which is included in “all flesh” of Joel 2:28,29 which Peter quoted in Acts 2:16-18.

      The “afar off” refers to the Gentiles as it does in Eph. 2:11-19: “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.  14For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us15Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain
one new man
so making peace; 16And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17And came and preached peace to you which were
afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.  19Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;”

      Concerning the “afar off” in Acts 2:39, it was fulfilled in the case of Cornelius and his household (Acts 10).  Note: "While Peter yet spake these
words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word"(v.44).  And other Gentiles as well such as in Acts  19:1-6.  Remember: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek [or Gentile]” (Rom. 1:16). 

      Immediately following the “afar off” is “even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”  This also seems to give trouble to some upon a casual reading and especially when already influenced by the doctrine of the personal indwelling.  But upon careful consideration in the context the perceived difficulty should be removed.  When one has proven that the “promise” is referring to the miraculous it is then easy to see the limit ofeven as many as the Lord our God shall call.”  The miraculous was temporary (1 Cor. 13:8-12) and therefore so was those called for this purpose limited.  This is seen further in Ephesians 4:7-13 where Paul is speaking of the same gifts; they would end when the purpose was fulfilled and so would the recipients of the gifts cease. 

      In Acts 2:38,39 there is the command (cp. Acts 10:48; Mark 16:16) and then there is the “promise” (cp. Joel 2:28,29; Mark  16:17,18; Acts 2:16-18, 33,39).  Commands are to be obeyed, but promises cannot be obeyed.  The command continues for as long as the world stands (cp. Matt.  28:18-20), but the “promise” was limited in scope and time according to its purpose.  The miraculous was to prove that the messenger and message were from God (John 3:2; Mark 16:20; Heb.  2:4).  This would last until the complete revelation was given (1 Cor. 13:8-12 cp. 2 Peter 1:3; Jude  3).  ♥  

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2011, 4 SW   The “Gift of the Holy Spirit” in Acts 2:38? (continued from 4-2011) (Part 6, Holy Spirit series; will be intermittent)

2011, 7 SW  Personal Indwelling Of The Holy Spirit Advocates Have Many Problems  (How The Godhead Dwells In The Christian Today)  (Part 8, Holy Spirit
series; will be intermittent)