Pentecost! The first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus; a time pointed to by prophets up to, and including, Jesus. It has been described as the "hub" of the Bible. Peter said in Acts 11:15, "And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, even as on us at the beginning." By this he referred to Pentecost, the beginning.
We are not saying, however, that the church was established on Pentecost in ways that were later to be revealed. Local congregations were formed, with elders and deacons, at a later time. Spiritual gifts were necessary, especially in the "infancy" of the church. Living Apostles and Prophets were a part of that beginning. And the early days at Jerusalem were characterized by special circumstances of relief, that some have supposed was either communism or communes, but was neither. The plan of salvation has not changed since that time, however, as with many other things. We are simply viewing the first gospel message that was in effect. The New Testament now being in force, people were first called out of the world into fellowship with Christ; salvation from sin was offered. This was the beginning.
Matthew 16:18. Jesus foretold of the establishment of the church: "upon this rock I will build my church . . ." We are interested in the church that Jesus built, and that belongs to Him. He is the architect, contractor, owner, and He built it on the fact that He is the Christ the Son of God. He said "I" will build "my" church. This isn't a physical structure, but a spiritual one. It was to begin future to this time. "Will build" is future tense, and means just that. The other places in Matthew where oikodomeo (build) is found show this same meaning. Those passages are 7:24-26; 21:33; 23:29; 26:61; 27:40. It is evident that Matthew used the term in just one way.
Seeing that the fact that Jesus was the Christ was to be the foundation of the church, as per Matthew 16:18, it is interesting to note that the disciples were told in verse 20 that they should "tell no man that he was the Christ." It was Acts 2, day of Pentecost, that they began to preach this fact, vs. 36. Why? Because it was then that the church began, here the foundation laid, and the structure erected. Following are some reasons why the church did not begin until Pentecost.
(1) The New Testament church requires the New Testament. But the New Testament was not effective until after the death of Christ. Hebrews 9:16-17 says it: "For where a testament is, there must of necessity be the death of him that made it. For a testament is of force where there hath been death: for it doth never avail while he that made it liveth." Before the sacrifice of Jesus the Old Law was in effect. So we read in Colossians 2:14: "having blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us: and he hath taken it out of the way , nailing it to the cross . . ." The verses following this show it was the Old Law that was meant.
(2) The purchase price of the church was paid by the blood of Christ. Acts
20:28 records: "Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which
the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the church of the Lord which
he purchased with his own blood." The price was not paid until the sacrifice
was offered. That makes it the church that belongs to Christ.
(3) All men being included in one body depended on His sacrifice. If the church existed before this it would have been only a Jewish church, under only the law of Moses, and not belonging to Christ. Note Ephesians 2:13-16 now: "But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were afar off are made nigh in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace; and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby." Or again, Colossians 1:21-22: "And you, being in time past alienated and enemies in your mind in your evil works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and without blemish and unreproveable before him." Here, finally, was the inclusion of all men in any opportunity for covenant relationship with God, through Jesus Christ. But his sacrifice made it possible.
(4) Jesus is the head of the church, saviour of the body, only after His resurrection. I Corinthians 15 argues the necessity of the resurrection of Jesus. In verses 16-17 it says: "For if the dead are not raised, neither hath Christ been raised; and if Christ hath not been raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins." His resurrection was necessary for our salvation from sin. Romans 14:9 says: "For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living." Yet, the clearest passage of all is Ephesians 1:20-23. It puts it this way: "which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." There is no doubt that His connection with the church followed his resurrection. Notice the connection here with Acts 2:33-36: "Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he hath poured forth this, which ye see and hear. For David ascended not into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet. Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified." Here is the same language as Ephesians one. No doubt that here on Pentecost is the beginning of what Paul refers to as Jesus being the head of the church.
(5) The Holy Spirit was given in a special way only after Jesus' ascension. John 7:39 says: "But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believed on him were to receive: for the Spirit was not yet given; because Jesus was not yet glorified." Here was special work to be done, the Holy Spirit involved. When was this fulfilled; when was Jesus glorified? Luke 24:26 says: "Behooved it not the Christ to suffer these things, and to enter into his glory?" And then, I Timothy 3:16 "He who was manifested in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, received up in glory." It is speaking of his ascension to heaven. The special work of the Spirit certainly did not begin until Pentecost as can be seen in the promises of Jesus and the events of Acts 2.
(6) The Gospel, as actual fact, not till after his resurrection. I Corinthians 15:1-4 tells us of the basic facts of the gospel, by which salvation comes. The resurrection of Jesus is important to those facts. Notice: "Now I make known unto you, brethren, the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye received, wherein also ye stand, by which also ye are saved, if ye hold fast the word which I preached unto you, except ye believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures . . ." These basic facts, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus are essential to the gospel that saves. The church was established after that resurrection.
(7) The Old Testament Prophets pointed to this day and time. Luke 24:44-49 is important and interesting. "And he said unto them, These are my words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their mind, that they might understand the scriptures; and he said unto them, Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Ye are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send forth the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city, until ye be clothed with power from on high."
There are several important points tying this with Pentecost, Acts 2, and the establishment of the church.
(1) The church could not have been established until the disciples understood
the death, burial, and
resurrection of Christ. As late as Luke 24:11, after the resurrection, they didn’t understand. That passage says:
“And these words appeared in their sight as idle talk; and they disbelieved them.”
They didn’t believe He was raised. All of this, however, was essential to the establishment of the church, as we have seen.
(2) Repentance and remission of sins, in the name of Christ, was to be preached shortly, BEGINNING at Jerusalem. Remember Acts 11:16, and the beginning. For fulfillment of this we have but to turn to Acts 2:38—
“And Peter said unto them, ‘Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins’.”
(3) The Apostles were to be witnesses. So in Acts 2:32 we find:
“This Jesus did God raise up, whereof we all are witnesses.”
(4) It was to be preached to all nations. In Acts 2:39 we find:
“For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto Him.”
(5) The fulfillment would occur at the time they received the power from on high. Note the specific mention of the “promise of the Father” This is all mentioned again in Acts 1:4-8—
“and, being assembled together with them, He charged them not to depart
from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, ‘which,’
said He, ‘ye heard from Me: for John indeed baptized with water; but ye
shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence.’ They therefore,
when they were come together, asked him, saying, ‘Lord, dost thou at this
time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ And He said unto
them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons, which the Father hath set within His own authority. But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth’.”
Acts 2:33 then says:
“Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He hath poured forth this, which ye see and hear.”
(6) Last, but perhaps most importantly, even the Old Testament Prophets foretold of the events we have been describing here, and find fulfillment and beginning on Pentecost. After stating in Luke 24:44 that all things written in the law, prophets and psalms about Him must be fulfilled, He says in verses 46-47—
“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
A similar statement is found in Acts 10:43:
“To Him bear all the prophets witness, that through His name everyone that believeth on Him shall receive remission of sins.”
But the passage in Luke gives several details of prophecy. It has to do with Jerusalem, a definite time for a beginning, death, burial, and resurrection, remission of sins, going to all nations, etc. We understand that all of these items do not occur in one book or with one prophet in the Old Testament. Acts 2:25-28 records the prophecy of David, from Psalms, about His death, burial, and resurrection. Isaiah 2:2-3 says:
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the
Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall
be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people
shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to
the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will
walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the
law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”
Notice that it would be in the last days. Compare that with Acts 2:16-17—
“but this is that which hath been spoken through the prophet Joel: And it shall be in the last days, saith God...”
The last days began on Pentecost.
“God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds (Hebrews 1:1-2).
Isaiah’s prophecy gives details of events, time and place. The “mountain of the Lord’s house” refers to His government. It started under the new order on Pentecost. Another pertinent prophecy is Jeremiah 31:31-34 which begins by saying,
“‘Behold, the days come,’ saith the Lord, ‘that I will
make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and the house of Judah...’”
And closes saying,
"for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
This prophecy is quoted in Hebrews 8:8-12, and was fulfilled in the existence and power of the New Testament. That New Testament order of things began on Pentecost.
In Acts 3:18-26 there is a list of several prophets and prophecies that spoke of these days, events that began on Pentecost. Also in Acts 13:27-39 there are others. Especially look at Psalms 2 in its entirety. In Acts 13:33 Paul quotes from Psalms 2. That Psalm speaks of the days of universal sovereignty of the Messiah, of His resurrection, and His priesthood (Hebrews 5:5-6). This universal dominion began on Pentecost (see point 4 above).
There are several positions, which we do not have space to review here, that try to place the beginning of the church before or after Pentecost. The Missionary Baptist position is that it began during the life and work of Jesus on earth. The Dispensational position is that the gentile church started with the Apostle Paul, and there is one for Jews and one to the gentiles. Both positions are false, but we will leave that study to you.
By Maurice Barnett
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