The Promise of the Holy Spirit
in Acts 2

Aleck W. Crawford

 

This article refutes the main point in the comments made by Bro Don Harrison in the December Testimony 2006 in his article with the above title. It also demonstrates that comments made in his recent letter cannot be substantiated and, as we will show, disagree with the foundation statement of the BASF.

In the second paragraph of my original article, Nov. 2006, page 412, I spoke of the unity of our faith and that when we speak of "one baptism" we must reject apostate ideas such as: godparents, holy water, sprinkling, confirmation, baptism for the dead, and "it's not essential".

That subject was not chosen at random but as a way to help readers get focused on its connection with the title. In case that was not obvious, we must also reject the Evangelical notions that:-

1.    we need to have the Holy Spirit to enable us to understand "the cold black letters on white paper" leading to baptism

2.    Acts 2:38 teaches that we are presently given the gift of the Holy Spirit at/after baptism.

Christadelphians have always believed that we must first understand and believe the Gospel, or the things concerning the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus, and repent before we can be properly baptized. This of course includes a proper understanding of the purpose of the judgment seat of Christ and that salvation or immortality are not bestowed until after we have been judged worthy in Christ's mercy. If we didn't understand these things we had a bath not a baptism. So it is quite pointless and false to say we are given "the knowledge of salvation" as the gift of the Spirit just after baptism, as we will demonstrate later in this article.

In my reply I referred Bro. Don, and Testimony readers, to the three large expositions on the subject of the Holy Spirit recommended by Bro John Allfree as additional reading in his booklet reviewed in the August Testimony p. 291. It seems fairly obvious that this advice was ignored. It is also obvious that Bro. Don almost entirely ignored the Scriptures and the questions asked in my reply. Rather than repeat all the points raised there, I would ask readers to read my article in the November Testimony, please.

I will reply initially to a few of Bro. Don's assertions but since the title of this article indicates this is supposed to be a part study of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, I will focus on that. I will replicate some of the sub-titles in Bro Don's article to assist readers to orient themselves.

The gift of the Holy Spirit

If Bro Don "had Simon the sorcerer in mind" why did he not mention it previously? The inspired record does not say Simon was a "fake repentant". It says the opposite: "when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip..." (Acts 8:12-13).

     It seems Bro Don is getting carried away with his own visualisations: "I visualised the number of fake repentants if the Spirit gifts had been bestowed as a result of baptism", rather than dealing with the inspired record. He seems to forget that one of the gifts was "the discerning of spirits", another "the gift of wisdom". Would Christ have allowed "fake repentants"? Obviously people can change from their beliefs and sincere repentance after their baptism, and several examples including Ananias and Sapphira and Simon prove this.

     When Bro Don says, "there is no evidence that the 3,000 who were baptized on the Day of Pentecost did in fact receive Spirit gifts of any kind", he ignores the evidence presented in my reply in the November Testimony which listed many scriptures that proved it was almost entirely the rule rather than the exception that believers in the first century received the Holy Spirit as promised by Peter in Acts 2:38. There are many additional Scriptures that demonstrate this fact. That is why I referred readers in footnote 4 to further reading, as an article is quite limited in how much material can be presented as proof. A few more from the books of Acts are added in what follows.

 "Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business...And ... they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, ... And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. (Acts 6:3, 5, 8)

In explaining verses 3 & 6 Brethren Whittaker and Carr say, "they were selected because they were "full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom". By the figure of speech hendiadys...the phrase means they were chosen because they all had "Holy-Spirit wisdom", which was a special miraculous endowment (1 Cor. 12:8, etc) supplied to them by the Lord himself."[1]

Obviously Stephen had the miraculous gifts of faith and miracles as well. We need to bear this following statement in mind when we discuss God's miraculous power poured out in the first century: "Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:4; cf. v. 9 & 10).

See also

Acts 8:5  Philip did miracles and was an evangelist.

Acts 9:17 Ananias healed Saul's blindness and foretold his mission

Acts 11:19 Believers from Cyprus and Cyrene preached and the "hand of the Lord was with them"

Acts 11:27 "Prophets" came from Jerusalem to Antioch.

There is much evidence in Acts and especially the Epistles which proves that the miraculous[2] gifts of the Spirit were received and used by many believers outside the circle of the Apostles. Ignoring this evidence is like taking one Gospel and ignoring the other three, or like taking only the Prophets in regard to the life of Christ and his feelings and ignoring the Psalms. So let's not be myopic in our reading of God's inspired record--the Bible.

I will now comment on Bro Don's second paragraph under this sub-heading.

"I feel quite strongly that when Peter said, "ye shall receive the gift of the Holy [Spirit]", he had in mind the words of Zacharias, by which we understand that the Holy Spirit through John Baptist would give knowledge of salvation in Christ. The baptism of those converts on the day of Pentecost was the very first occasion for anyone to be baptized into Christ. They had previously known only the Law, which could not take away sin;"

Bro. Don's interpretation of the Apostle Peter's words "ye shall receive the gift of the Holy [Spirit]" that "he had in mind the words of Zacharias, by which we understand that the Holy Spirit through John Baptist would give knowledge of salvation in Christ", is conjecture not in any way substantiated by the record in Acts 2:33-39 as we demonstrated contextually in the November Testimony. That exposition and the questions put to Bro. Don were just ignored. Feeling "quite strongly" about one's own opinion does not prove anything if that opinion cannot be demonstrated contextually from the Bible. Most of apostate Christianity feels strongly about their beliefs but they cannot be found in the Bible because they ignore either the context or the historical context or both.

Bro. Don's first statement and the third [from the paragraph quoted above] are mutually exclusive. In the first he states that "... John Baptist would give knowledge of salvation in Christ". In the third he says,  "they had previously known only the Law, which could not take away sin". Bro Don cannot have it both ways as his first statement contradicts his third. Mark 1:4 records that "John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" thus proving Bro. Don's third statement false.

Also Christ taught these people for about 3 1/2 years (Acts 2:22) but they had rejected those words of Jesus until after his glorification when Peter proved by the Holy Spirit that they had crucified their own Messiah. Did Christ teach them the Law?

Additionally, if the work of Zacharias or John Baptist had given all flesh the knowledge of salvation why is it that Bro Don claims that this knowledge is not really given until after baptism as the gift of the Holy Spirit?

The claim that ignores context within the chapter and especially the historical context by claiming we presently receive knowledge concerning God and His purposes via the gift of the Spirit apart from the written word of God contradicts what we see in the Scriptures as defined in The Foundation statement of the BASF.

A STATEMENT OF THE FAITH

 

THE FOUNDATION

 

That the book currently known as the Bible, consisting of the Scriptures of Moses, the prophets, and the apostles, is the only source of knowledge concerning God and His purposes at present extant or available in the earth, and that the same were wholly given by inspiration of God in the writers, and are consequently without error in all parts of them, except such as may be due to the errors of transcription or translation.

 

2 Timothy 3:16; 1 Corinthians 2:13; Hebrews 1:1; 2 Peter 1:21; 1 Corinthians 14:37; Nehemiah 9:30; John 10:35

...

 
Now that claim by Bro. Don becomes a quite serious matter as we can see from the above. It is now no longer an unimportant opinion, which he is entitled to hold, but a matter of doctrine and fellowship.

Dorea

The following statement by Bro Don is a red herring and a biased selection from those 11 verses that Young's lists under dorea.

'The word dorea, translated "gift" in Acts 2:38, is said by Young's Concordance to mean "a free gift" or "present", and it is used in Romans 5:15,17, where it has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit.'

I proved that dorea always refers to the miraculous Spirit gifts in Acts on page 414 point 4 so really the opposite of Bro Don's implication above. I quote:

"The Greek word dorea translated "gift" in Acts 2:38, always refers to the miraculous Spirit gifts throughout Acts; see Acts 8:20; 10:45 and 11:17. To suggest that, because the Greek word charismata is not used in Acts 2:38, dorea must refer to 'the knowledge of salvation' or salvation [9] or immortality [8] are invalid conclusions, because neither the word charisma nor its plural appear in Acts at all!"

It is a red herring because it is a well-known principle of Biblical exegesis that you cannot prove the meaning of a word in a given context by reference to other Bible writers and other books of the Bible. For example you cannot define the meaning of dorea in Acts 2:38 by saying that in Romans it has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit.  It is a biased selection because of the equivalence table proof below and also when Paul uses the word in Eph. 3:7; 4:7 and Heb. 6:4 it does refer to the gifts of the Spirit. So that is seven out of 11 occurrences of the word where it does have the meaning of miraculous Spirit gifts.


Grammatical argument for the Holy Spirit as the Gift 

1. "gen., receive the Spirit as a gift, Ac 2:38." - Arndt & Gingrich, Dorea, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and
Other Early Christian Literature, p.210
2. "With the epexegetical gen. of the thing given, the Holy (Spirit), Ac 2:38." - Thayer, Dorea, Greek-English Lexicon of the New
Testament, p.161
3. "In Ac 2:38, 'the gift of the Holy (Spirit)', the clause is epexegetical, the gift being the Holy (Spirit)... " - Vine, Expository
Dictionary of New Testament Words, p.147
4. "The genitive is appositional, as in v.33 the promise is the Holy Spirit, so here the gift is the Holy Spirit." - Lenski,
The Acts Of The Apostles
5. "of the Holy Spirit - this clause is an appositional genitive with 'the gift' and means 'the gift, namely, the Holy Spirit.'"
- Kistemaker, Acts, New Testament Commentary, p.110

That the Spirit is the gift in Acts 2:38 is the general consensus of Greek scholars.

I would now like to comment on the following statement by Bro Don.

"How fitting that Peter should tell those first converts that they were to receive, not "a gift of the Spirit" but "the gift of the Holy [Spirit]", which was the knowledge of the salvation possible through Christ!"

An attempt to distinguish between the phrases "a gift of the Spirit" and "the gift of the Holy [Spirit]" is just pedantic. 

     In what follows we demonstrate that there are several equivalent Scriptural phrases in Acts which define what the phrase "the gift of the Holy Spirit" in Acts 2:38 means.

Ac 8:15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit:

 16 (For as yet [it, Diaglott] was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)

 17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

 18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money,

Ac 8:20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.

Ac 10:45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 11:15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, as on us at the beginning.

 16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

 17 Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ;

Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

 

As we can see from these comparable events in the equivalence table below, the description is slightly different but the overall meaning is the same.

 So        "the gift dorea of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38)

= "the Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:15, 17,18)

= "the gift dorea of God" (Acts 8:20)

= "the gift dorea of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 10:45)

= "the Holy Spirit" (Acts 11:15, 16)

= "the like gift dorea" (Acts 11:17)

= "the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4)

 in these contexts. In particular, the inspired record about the Pentecost of the Gentiles demonstrates that what was received was not "the knowledge of salvation" as claimed without support by Bro. Don, but the miraculous ability to speak in tongues which was one of the gifts of the Spirit. This was the "like gift dorea" that filled the disciples on the day of Pentecost (Acts. 2:4) as prophesied by Jesus in Mark 16:17[3]. That only the 12 Apostles are mentioned in Acts 2 as speaking in tongues at that time is easily explained by the qualifying phrase "as the Spirit gave them utterance". If the Spirit did not give them utterance then the other recipients would not be able to speak at that time. So what was promised in Acts 2:38 was what the 120[4] had received (Acts 2:4) and what the Gentiles (Cornelius, his relatives and close friends) received.

What was promised in v. 38 was miraculous, what they could "see and hear" (v. 33) and also limited by time[5]. It was "to you (those Jews assembled) and to your children, and to all that are afar off..." (the Gentiles such as Cornelius and those in the epistles) (v.39). This limit by time has been expounded by Brethren E. Whittaker & R. Carr, John Allfree, Ron Abel, Graham Pearce, and myself among others. Even Bro. Don admits, "with the falling asleep of the apostles the Holy Spirit was no longer available or necessary (1 Cor. 13:8)."

So why does Bro. Don have such a confused and unsupportable view of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38?

The Spirit gifts

This first statement under this sub-heading:

"The bestowal of the Holy Spirit gifts, such as we read of in 1 Corinthians 12, was a later development, the Holy Spirit being imparted by the laying on of the hands of the apostles."

is a complex statement. There are two statements in one in Bro. Don's comment. Leave out the example of 1 Corinthians 12[6] and is easy to observe that the statement is invalid as we see in Acts 8 where the apostles bestowed the Spirit upon the baptized believers in Samaria. Who gave Philip the Evangelist (cf. Eph. 4:11; Acts 21:8 where we see Philip was an evangelist or teacher) the Spirit? He was not an apostle so it is incorrect to say only the Apostles received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Either he was one of the 120 who initially received it at Pentecost or one of those 3,000 or 5,000 baptized who received the gift of miracles and perhaps healings (Acts 8:6-7). Bro. Don's statement just does not agree with Scripture.

Letter dated 11 Dec. 2006 from Bro Don

"...Those 3000 who repented in Acts 2 had come to see their folly, and had repented. They had come to understand how they could be saved by the Sacrifice of Christ. If they repented and were baptised, they would receive that Gift - the knowledge of Salvation in Christ - which was the Divine purpose in the Visitation of the Holy Spirit.

 

I said that the knowledge of this Salvation is something we can all treasure. Yes, we could call it the 'knowledge of the Gospel of Salvation', but it is a reality which we can constantly rejoice to know. We are in fact on the way to the Kingdom of God."...

 

Bro. Don makes no qualifications about what salvation is dependant upon like Christadelphians customarily would do. He has stated repeatedly that the gift of the Holy Spirit is the "knowledge of salvation". Now that sounds very similar to the Evangelical belief of "once saved always saved"[7]. Certainly, even if that is not Bro Don's precise belief, when we get to his statement that this "is a reality" we get into unbiblical ground. We see this in the following definitions of "reality".

'1: the quality or state of being real 2 a(1) : a real event, entity, or state of affairs (2) : the totality of real things and events b : something that is neither derivative nor dependent but exists necessarily', Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 2003.

 

'reality, noun, pl. -ties.

1. actual existence; true state of affairs.

Ex. I doubted the reality of what he had seen; I thought he must have dreamed it. Ghosts have no place in reality.

2. a real thing; actual fact.

Ex. Slaughter and destruction are terrible realities of war.' World Book Dictionary 2003

But salvation is not an actual fact until after the judgment. We have many Biblical statements that define our life in Christ as a probation. Here are some samples:

 "... he that endureth to the end shall be saved." (Matt. 10:22)

 "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called to day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;" (Heb. 3:12-14).

  "but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified" (1 Cor. 9:27, RSV).

We hope for salvation and if we continue in well doing, in God's mercy, we shall receive the crown of life.

There are many examples in the New Testament of those who failed after accepting the gospel and being baptized, so "the knowledge of salvation" is not a present "reality". Paul states the general principle even of those who possessed one of the gifts, which did not make the recipient righteous:

"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh," (Heb. 6:4-6).

It is essential that we all contend earnestly for the faith as Jude exhorts his readers. It is my considered view that this is very well done, on a subject that is poorly understood in some parts of the brotherhood, in the book Spirit in the New Testament published by the Testimony. Let us all help each other to keep the purity of the faith and purity in our lives by keeping God's commandments (1 John 3:3).


[1]     On page 163-164 of Spirit in the New Testament published by the Testimony.

[2]     It has been demonstrated repeatedly in the literature and by the authors mentioned herein that all the gifts of the Spirit were miraculous in nature.

[3]     For more details on these verses see the two books mentioned in my comments in the November 2006 Testimony: Spirit in the New Testament published by the Testimony, and The Spirit a General Exposition of New Testament Usage, the latter available from the author at replies@chariot.net.au and also online at http://www.christadelphia.org/books/spirit/index.html
or http://www.thechristadelphians.org/htm/books/the_spirit/index.html

[4]     For proof that it was 120 see the comments on Acts 2:4 in my book or website mentioned in the footnote above.

[5]     Whatever is missing in Acts 2:39 as to the definition of time is clearly defined in other places such as 1 Cor. 13:8-13.

[6]     Yes, 1 Cor. 12 is about 25 years from Pentecost. The establishment of that ecclesia was about 5 years earlier. But these two events are not time markers as to when the Holy Spirit gifts or inter-ecclesial offices were first poured out. What is recorded in Acts 8:18 was obviously occurring from the time Christ's 12 disciples became Apostles (Acts 2:42-43). If it was really a later development as Bro Don claims when did these gifts get given to the Apostles?

      What Peter quotes in Acts 2 from Joel 2 proves that Bro Harrison's statement that "the bestowal of the Holy Spirit gifts" "was a later development" is false. The expectation of those in Acts 1 and the dramatic events at Pentecost in Acts 2 when those believers assembled were filled with the Holy Spirit describes in condensed form what happened. We get the details of the widespread outpouring of the Holy Spirit by reading the other chapters of Acts and from the epistles.

[7]     Bro Ron Abel in Wrested Scriptures covers well the disastrous conclusions of Evangelicals on p. 154 to 161. 

[8]    See The Challenge of Corinthians, Michael Ashton, CMPA 2006, p. 122.

[9]    See Series on Acts in  Christadelphian March 2007

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http://users.chariot.net.au/~aleck/05MyreplytoDecTestv5.htm
March 24, 2007