The Church Age – Distinctives: Spiritual Life
God's Plan for the Ages – Dispensations Lesson #17
July 22, 2014
"Father, we also pray for the folks in this congregation that are going through personal challenges. There are folks who are going through challenges that are related to their health; folks who are going through challenges related to finances. There are folks who are facing difficulties and diseases that are ultimately fatal; and we pray that they might have strength and endurance; that they might be faithful witnesses to those who care for them; that they might be faithful witnesses to their friends and to their family; and that they might have a tremendous testimony to Your grace. Now Father, we pray that as we study this evening that you would help us and strengthen us in our understanding of Your Word that we might be more adapted, more prepared and more faithful in the way in which we handle and utilize Your Word in our day to day lives. And we pray this in Christ's Name, Amen."
We have been going through our study on God's Plan for the Ages and now we are starting in the Church Age. So I want you to open your Bibles to Acts 2. We are starting a study on the distinctives of the Church Age or the Dispensation of Grace. Just as a kind of interesting note before we get started. The last two lessons that we covered have been rather intense and rather detailed, especially as we have gone through some new material related to how the Old Testament (OT) is used in the New Testament (NT). I have taught that there are four basic ways that are evident in Jewish interpretation from the first century and how the OT or how the Scripture was quoted and interpreted. I taught that many times. I taught it several times as we were going through the Book of Acts. I taught it in Matthew and other studies that we have gone through. But I took on the second example, which is a historical event that is used as a type and I added a new layer to that this last time, going beck and looking at a comparison in the second and third Balaam oracles. The purpose for that was to show that the Bible really uses this. It sets up Israel as a type; the nation is a type of The King, which was a new layer of information and a new layer of study complexity on that particular element of interpretation.
Now I originally learned these four areas of interpretation from Arnold Fruchtenbaum back in the 70s. Charlie Clough would have Arnold Fruchtenbaum come and talk to his church up at Lubbock Bible Church. And that is where I first learned about Arnold Fruchtenbaum. That was the first time I learned that and as I studied that I saw this was a tremendous way to come to an understanding of these particular passages. Well as you all know, Arnold is a tremendous scholar, especially in helping all of us understand the Jewish and the Hebrew background to understanding the NT. One of Arnold's protégés is Michael Rydelnik, who I mentioned earlier. Michael Rydelnik went to Dallas Seminary. He started in 79 and finished in 83. He worked for Ariel Ministries for Arnold for a number of years before he went on to his teaching career at Moody Bible Institute; his current position as the chairman of the Jewish Studies Department.
A few years ago Michael wrote a book. I think it was three years ago it came out, and the title is Is the Hebrew Bible Messianic?, dealing with this whole problem that has infiltrated a lot of evangelical scholarship that basically there is no Messianic prophesy in the OT. Michael has done a tremendous job working with that. In one of his chapters he deals with those four ways in which the OT passages are quoted by the NT and he did a much better job of developing that and presenting it in a much more scholarly academic way then Arnold had, which is needed to give that documentation support for all the different things that you are alleging as you argue for that position.
Arnold has been given a copy of the book and wrote an endorsement for the book when it first came out, but he just sort of skimmed through the book. I was talking with Michael yesterday; asking him some questions relative to what we've recently studied. And Michael told me that he got a letter from Arnold about a year ago. Some of you know Arnold and you've heard him speak, and Arnold is not one to be real infusive with his complements. And he wrote an infusive complementary letter of praise to Rydelnik about how wonderful the book was; because Arnold finally got around to reading the whole book. And what is interesting for us is that Arnold told Michael, he said, I have never put together and understood the significance of those two Balaam oracles. That is what everybody here sort of tripped over. He said, from now on I'm teaching it. He said that was the best explanation of that principle that I have ever heard and it will forever change the way in which I teach this particular topic. So I just thought you would like to know that additional information. All of us, many of us, Mike Rydelnik, Arnold, Tommy Ice, Randy Price, have know each other for many, many years along with another of others. No one man can maximize or become an expert in every area. It has really been exciting over the years to see how we have all sort of fed off of each other and stimulated each other and helped each other in different areas working through our understanding of the Scripture. That is the body of Christ at a pastoral level working together. So that just gives you a little insight into that.
Okay, we are moving past the OT. We are coming into the NT and we are specifically looking at the beginning of the Church Age. And the Church Age begins in Acts 2. And so I just want to run through, in a categorical outline manner, the basic characteristics of the Church Age:
XV. Dispensation of the Church
Slide 3: The Church Age or the Dispensation of Grace
A. Scripture: Acts 2:1-Revelation 3
The Scripture that covers the Church Age in the NT begins in Acts 2:1-Revelation 3. Remember Revelation 2 and 3 contain the Seven Letters to the Seven Churches. At the end of Revelation 3 there is no longer a mention of the Church until you get to the end after the Tribulation. So there is no mention of the Church because the Church is absent from the earth during the period of the Tribulation. So this section, Acts is the historical narrative on the foundation and expansion of the Church through the power of God the Holy Spirit. We just studied the entire Book of Acts on Tuesday night before we began this series on Dispensations.
The Epistles that are written, all of the Epistles in the NT are written to explain the dynamics of the Church Age. The information that is given in those Epistles from Romans to Jude is information, much of it is different, but built on that of the OT because the spiritual life of the Church Age is different. In the OT they anticipated the coming of a Messiah. They anticipated the coming of the Savior. In the Church Age we look back to the completion of the payment for sin and all that has been done for us. In the OT they did not know of the personal ministry of God the Holy Spirit in the life of every single believer. But in the Church Age we have various ministries of God the Holy Spirit that are true for every single believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and that is the foundation for our spiritual life. So the spiritual life of the Church Age doesn't look back to the age of Israel. It doesn't look back to the Mosaic Law at all for the precedent, for the framework for understanding the spiritual life. And that is so critical and in many denominations and many theological frameworks; basically all theological frameworks other than dispensationalism. They look to the OT as the precedent for the Christian life, which means they look to the Law as if it has some sort of direct impact on Christianity and it doesn't. There is a clean break; something new happens on the Day of Pentecost that had never happened before; that was not even predicted in the OT at all; that was completely unknown and that was based not on the precedent of the age of Israel and the Mosaic Law and the spiritual life under Israel, but is based upon the foundation of the ministry and life of the Lord Jesus Christ. He not only fulfilled the Law, which studied in Matthew 5:17. He not only fulfilled the Law, but He also, by virtue of His relationship with God the Holy Spirit in His humanity laid the foundation for the spiritual life of the Church Age.
One of the things we studied in Hebrews many years ago when we went through our study of Hebrews was to understand that the Lord Jesus Christ did not live His humanity on the basis of any of His divine powers. There was as it were, a firewall between His deity and His humanity. There is no intermingling of the divine attributes and the human attributes. Now there were times that Jesus did things that demonstrated that He was fully God from His omnipotence, He was able to change the water into wine; from His omnipotence He was able to still the storms on the Sea of Galilee; from His omnipotence He was able to walk on the water, but these were not things that He did to solve personal problems and spiritual problems in His humanity. They were things that He was doing to demonstrate that He was Who He claimed to be; that He was also the Eternal God made flesh incarnate, Who had come to the earth to fulfill the promises related to the Messiah. But in His spiritual life as a human being He faced the challenges that we all face, temptations.
For example, at the beginning of His ministry when He demonstrates His qualifications for His ministry He was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness where He is tempted or tested by Satan three times. That testing or temptation, when he passes it that shows His qualifications to be the Messiah. But He doesn't pass those temptations by relying upon His divine attributes. He relies upon them as a human being by utilizing the same resources that you and I have, the Word of God and the Spirit of God.
So we can't ever fall into the trap of thinking, well Jesus could handle it because He was God. No, Jesus never handled any challenge or problem or difficulty in His life because He was God or on the basis of His divine attributes. He handled all of those problems as a human being setting the precedent for us in the Church Age by depending upon the Word of God and the Spirit of God. So the Epistles outline this new, this distinct spiritual life that is based upon the indwelling and filling of the Holy Spirit, walking by the Spirit not by the flesh. So the Epistles are specifically written to inform us as Church Age believers on How we are to live the Christian life and to tell us what God has provided for us so we can access these incredible spiritual resources that God has given us. In this dispensation as in each dispensation there is a key person.
B. Key Person:
Now the Church is treated as a corporate entity and the Church as a whole is called the body of Christ. It is the body of Christ that is the steward of the Church Age. But Paul, as it were, is the key person as the key apostle to the Gentiles, he is the one that articulates mostly what is called, and we will see, understand this in a minute, the mystery doctrine of the Church Age. That is the information that was revealed related to Church Age believers that was completely unknown in the OT. So the apostle Paul refers in the Scriptures, as we'll see, to the dispensation of grace, the administration of God's grace in this unique way in the Church Age, as having been uniquely and distinctly given to him.
The Church ate is called the Church Age because the dominate entity is the Church, the body of Christ, but it is also sometimes called the dispensation of grace and this comes from John 1:17, which says, that "the Law was given through Moses; but grace and truth through the Lord Jesus Christ."
Now that verse doesn't mean that there was no grace or truth in the OT. Grace and truth are linked together by that conjunction "and." Was there truth in the OT? Sure three was truth in the OT. Everything that God revealed in the OT was absolute truth. So Jesus Christ came along as the ultimate expression of truth, but He is not the first to bring truth. And so you can apply that same line of reasoning to grace. Jesus Christ is not the first to bring grace into God's relationship with the human race. Salvation in the OT wasn't based on Law.
There were some early dispensationalists who misstated that, but the Law was never a basis for salvation in the OT. Salvation in the OT was based on faith alone in Christ alone. They didn't understand the specifics of Jesus of Nazareth, but they understood Christ, the Greek word is Christos, meaning "The Anointed One." The Hebrew is Mashiach. They understood that the promise of the Mashiach, Who would be "The Anointed One" Who would bring deliverance to God's people from sin; and so they are looking forward to a Redeemer, the Seed of the women, Genesis 3:15, Who would fulfill those promises and bring redemption from sin to the human race.
So grace was known in the OT. Truth was known in the OT. But there is an ultimate expression of grace and truth in the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ in the First Advent. So because of this, this age is known for grace because in a distinct way grace is being showcased in the Church Age because of God's extension of His favor to all the world, to all the nations in a way that was never know; not that God wasn't saving Gentiles in the OT, but in a way that was never known in the OT because God was primarily working through Israel. Now there were many Gentiles that were saved. We know of Jonah going to Nineveh. The remains of Nineveh are on the outskirts of the modern Iraqi city of Mosel. And if you have been following the news you know that there are ancient Jewish communities that have lived in Mosel going back to 500 years to 600 years before Christ.
There are Christian communities that trace their heritage back to almost the first century in this area of the world and yet these horrible barbaric Moslems that are marching across Iraq right now are destroying everything of cultural value. They have taken and stolen the homes and businesses from all the Christians and Jews who live in these areas and they are expelling them from the country. They are giving them just a few days to leave and they can't take anything with them. Their truly losing everything that they've ever had and they will never recover it. They are reduced to zero possessions and being expelled by the peace loving Moslems.
You know the fact that they are a religion of peace doesn't mean that it is a religion of peace. If you know anything about Islam you know that the peace is only for those who are in the House of Peace, The House of Islam, and if you are in the House of Peace there is peace from Allah for you. But if you are not Moslem, if you are not under the authority of Allah, then you are in the House of War. Everybody in the world is either in one or the other; you are in the House of Peace or the House of War. And if you are in the House of War then you are to be destroyed. Jihad is declared against you and if you are a Koran-believing Moslem then the orders in the Koran are to destroy every Jew and Christian on the planet; and that is what Islam is. Anything else, when people talk about moderate Islam, they are not talking about Moslems who actually believe the Koran. But if they believe the Koran, eventually they'll be pushed to Jihad. But that is what is happening now.
So you had in Assyria in the ancient world in Nineveh you have the whole city repented when Jonah came. They responded to his message and all those Gentiles turned to the Jewish God and the Jewish Savior in their expectation of eternal life. There are people like Neman the Assyrian, who also was a Gentile who came to salvation; and there were many, many others in the OT. So there was grace that was extended to the Gentiles, but not in the way it is in the NT. The NT Church has primarily a Gentile make up even though initially in the first one hundred years it was primarily Jewish.
Every dispensation has a specific responsibility or in some cases one or two responsibilities that are to be carried out and fulfilled by the steward. Remember, I pointed out at the beginning that the Greek word from which we get our English word "dispensation", the Greek word is OIKONOMIA, meaning economy or administration, or you also have a variant of the word referring to a steward or the person who is responsible for the administration. Each dispensation has a responsible party or corporate entity in the age of Israel and under the Law; the responsible entity was Israel. In the Church Age the responsibility is to the Church. This is distinction that we have between Israel and the Church is one of the primary distinctives of dispensationalism.
So there are responsibilities given to the Church and to Church Age believers. In summary this is that we are to utilize the power of God the Holy Spirit in our individual spiritual life and to be witnesses to Christ throughout the world, Acts 1:8. You could also say Matthew 28:19-20, the Great Commission; and there is a responsibility we have to the New Covenant to proclaim the benefits even though it is not in effect today and won't come into effect until the millennial kingdom. That is what we are working toward. That is our end game. We know the old saying, "You have to begin with the end in mind."
The end for us as Church Age believers is the Judgment Seat of Christ. There we will be given rewards, rewards and responsibilities that will determine our role in the millennial kingdom. And so some will have no rewards, some will have a few rewards, and some will have many rewards depending upon our faithfulness and our spiritual growth. But the responsibility of the Church Age is to grow to spiritual maturity, to be a witness for Christ, to be an ambassador for Christ; 2 Corinthians 5 emphasizes that. We are as such ministers of the New Covenant, which is what comes into effect in the millennial kingdom when we, as the bride of Christ, will be ruling and reigning with Him in the millennial kingdom.
So these are the first four aspects of the Church Age:
1. The Scripture that covers the Church Age, Act 2:1-Revelation 3
2. The Key Person that reveals this doctrine is Paul, but Peter, James, Luke, Matthew, Mark, all reveal significant things related to the Church Age.
3. The Name, as the Dispensation of Grace comes from John 1:17.
4. The Responsibility is to grow in the grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ by means of God the Holy Spirit and to be a witness throughout the ends of the earth.
Slide 4: The Church Age or Dispensation of Grace
E. Basic Test:
Now the basic test is always in each dispensation the test is related to responsibility that God gives us. The Basic Test for us is will we walk by the Spirit? And in each dispensation the test is really in relation to obedience to God as it is articulated within the covenant in the OT. Since there is not a specific covenant for the Church Age what we have are the commands and the mandates of Jesus Christ. So the issue is, will man walk in the Spirit and be a witness for Jesus Christ? This is seen in Acts 1:8 and we will look at these passages in just a little bit.
F. The Failure:
The failure is that many Christians will become apostate by the end of the age and will fall into false doctrine, embrace false teachers, and like every other dispensation, the steward fails to utilize the resources that God gives them. So the Church Age ends; the Church will never dominate.
You have the view of post-millennialism that says that the Church grows and grows and grows and through God the Holy Spirit eventually all mankind will become saved and will bring in a utopic period of the kingdom and after that Jesus comes back. That is called postmillennialism because Jesus comes back after the Millennium in their view. And because they are so optimistic that everything will eventually get better and better; it may get worse before it gets better. They refer to themselves as optimillennialists; they are optimists; they are optimillennialists, and they sneer at premillennialists and they call us pessimillennialists because we are looking forward to doom and gloom so we are a bunch of pessimists.
Historically the opposite is really true. It is premillennialists who have had great hope in the future because we know that even though between now and then there may be dark days, Jesus is coming back to establish His kingdom and this has stimulated the Church to great evangelistic activity. In fact in the 19th century and 20th century it is primarily through premillennial pastors and missionaries and evangelists that there has been a great explosion of the gospel around the world. That is not to say that others have not been a part of the expansion of Christianity in the last two centuries, but much evangelism has been speared by premillennialists. In fact one of the founders of the Chosen People Ministries wrote his PhD dissertation at Fuller Theological Seminary on Jewish Evangelism in the Early 20th Century in Europe. Some of his statistics are remarkable. I cannot recall all of them off the top of my head, but in some areas of Eastern Europe as many as 15% of the Jewish population in the 1920s and 1930s converted to Christianity as they came to understand the gospel. In fact there were more Jewish believers, Messianic Jews, in Budapest in 1930 than there are Jews living in Houston, Texas.
And I believe, because I am an optimist, that many of those Messianic Jews who understood the gospel went to the gas chambers at Auschwitz and at Treblinka and at many of the other death camps in Poland; but they went with the gospel of Jesus Christ on their lips and through their witness I believe there were many, many other Jews that were saved during that time. This is an extremely unusual and extremely rare area of study and Mitch Glazer is the head of Chosen People Ministries. This was his doctrinal dissertation. But he has done remarkable, groundbreaking research on that area. But he said that all this Jewish evangelism was driven by premillennialists and premillennial dispensationalists. So we are not the pessimillennialists that the postmillennialists claim that we are. We have genuine biblical hope and genuine biblical optimism based on our understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ and fulfilling the mission, which is to be a witness to all the nations in the world of the gospel. So we emphasize grace. We emphasize grace, which means undeserved favor, unmerited kindness, unmerited blessing; that God deals with us not on the basis of who we are or what we have done, but on the basis of Who Jesus Christ is and what He did on the Cross.
Now if you can get your mental fingers around what I just said, that alone ought to change your whole perspective on Christianity. That God deals with us not on the basis of our failures, not on the basis of our sins, not on the basis of our good deeds or our works, but on the basis of Christ's righteousness, on Who Jesus Christ is and the fact that we are saved not because of anything positive we have done, but because we possess the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.
And that means that you don't have to do anything to be saved. So this is the focal point of the gospel. This is grace and God's grace is specifically demonstrated to the Church in that before the Tribulation begins, so that doesn't mean there won't be persecution. There has been much persecution of Christians in pass centuries. There is a tremendous amount of persecution toward Christians today, especially in Moslem countries. A tremendous hostility; they have been driven out of Egypt. They are now being driven out of Iraq. They are being driven out of Syria. They are being persecuted; they are being killed; they are being martyred by these horrible Islamists, but that is nothing compared to what is going to happen in the Tribulation period to believers. Now they are not Church Age believers. God in His grace is going to remove the Church from the earth before any part of the Tribulation begins and He will keep us out of that terrible judgment.
There are some Christians who teach a partial-rapture view. In other words, if you have been a good Christian and if you have been a maturing Christian then you get raptured, but if you are a backslidden Christian or an apostate Christian then you have to go through the Tribulation. And if you get right with the Lord then maybe you get raptured. So there are some that have these partial raptures all through the Tribulation. There is also a view called the mid-Tribulation view. Again it is the same kind of thing. And at the core these folks usually have a problem understanding grace and the fact that Christ paid the penalty for all of our sins at the Cross. And there is no sin too great for the grace of God, there is no sin that the omniscience of God forgot about and Christ didn't pay for; every sin was paid for at the Cross so that sin isn't the issue. The issue is what do you think about Jesus Christ? And that is grace.
So all that are in Christ, all who are members of the body of Christ by faith alone in Christ alone are going to be raptured when Jesus Christ returns in the air for the Church and in an instant, in less than a blink of an eye, we are all going to disappear. We will be bodily resurrected. We will instantly, in a nanosecond; you can't even measure how it takes place, but in a nanosecond we will receive our resurrection bodies and we will all be joined together in the clouds in the air with the Lord Jesus Christ and from there we go to heaven where we receive our rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ in preparation for the next stage, which is when we rule and reign with Christ. That is our end game. That is what we are preparing for; you can think of the Judgment Seat of Christ as a graduation ceremony. Some people are going to have a high honor, some people are going to graduate with honors, some people are going to graduate, and some people are going to graduate just by the hair of their chinny chin chin. They are going to graduate. It says in 1 Corinthians 3 that at the Judgment Seat of Christ they will enter heaven yet as through fire. You can almost smell the smoke as they walk by. They are just escaping the hellfire, but they are saved, but that is it. They've got no rewards because they were failures in their Christian life, but they don't lose their salvation. They just lose out on the maximum blessing they could experience in the Judgment Seat of Christ.
One writer put it this way, "everybody's cup is going to be full." You are going to come out of the Judgment Seat of Christ and everyone will have a full cup. Some people are going to have really large cups and some people are going to have mini-mini-demitasse cups. Yet everybody's cup will be full. If you have the small cup you are going to be exceptionally happy because your cup is full. And if you have a really, really large cup you are going to be exceptionally happy because your cup is full. It is just going to have different capacities. So that is what happens as a result of the Judgment Seat of Christ. All of which we will go into over the next several lessons.
Slide 5: The Parameters of the Church Age
When does the Church Age begin and when does the Church Age end? Now this is really important because this relates to understanding Scripture. There are many folks that think that, usually covenant theology, but also other theological systems, Lutheranism, Roman Catholic theology, all believe that Israel, spiritual Israel in the OT was the Church of the OT. They confuse the Church with Israel. So they see the Church in the OT and Israel in the OT is the Church in the OT and the Church in the NT is spiritual Israel. So they confuse those two and they don't understand the distinctions between the believer in the OT under the Law, who did not have the Holy Spirit, and Church Age believers and all that God has provided for us in grace through the ministry of God the Holy Spirit. So it is important to understand these distinctives and they relate to understanding the beginning and the end of the Church Age.
1. The Church began on the Day of Pentecost, AD 33, Acts 2.
It didn't begin with Adam. You don't have this spiritual Church as far back as Adam. You will run across that if you read very much. You will hear people say that, but the Church did not begin with Adam. It didn't begin in Abraham's tent. It didn't begin in Abraham's home in Ur of the Chaldees or in his tent in the Promised Land. It didn't begin with Moses on Mt. Sinai; the Church began on the Day of Pentecost with the arrival of God the Holy Spirit. This is the scene in Acts 2.
Now I have asked you to turn to Acts 2, but as background for that I want to read to you from Matthew 3:11. In Matthew 3:11 John the Baptist is talking. John the Baptist is down by the Jordan River where he is preaching a message, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." And he is calling upon those who have repented to indicate this change by water baptism. And then he says to them, "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me (which is a reference to the Messiah) is mightier than I, Whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. Now when he says "He will baptize you" he uses a future tense verb. A future tense verb means that something is going to have to happen in the future, but it is not happening now. It is something that is a future event. So in Matthew 3:11 John the Baptist says, "This baptism by the Holy Spirit is future."
Then we turn to the Acts 1. This gets into the second point.
2. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is what forms the Church, the body of Christ.
Slide 6: Acts 1:5
This is seen in Acts 1:5. In Acts 1:5 Jesus is speaking, Jesus said, "For John truly baptized with water." That is what we just looked at in Matthew 3. You see the whole Bible is interconnected. You can't just read part of it. You have to understand the entirety of the Bible because it is interconnected and interdependent. If you just go in and grab verses out of context then you are going to misunderstand because these verses are interdependent. So Matthew 3:11 is the background for what happens in Acts 1:5. Matthew 3:11 happens just before the beginning of Jesus' ministry. In Acts 1:5 Jesus has been crucified. He has been buried. He has been resurrected. He is about to ascend to Heaven. It is going to happen at the end of this discussion by the time we get down to about Acts 1:9-10 Jesus is going to ascend to Heaven. But here He is repeating what happened at the beginning of His ministry:
Acts 1:5, "for John truly baptized with water, but you" who is He talking to? He is talking to the eleven disciples. He says, "but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
So from the time of John the Baptist until Christ's ascension how many people were baptized with the Holy Spirit? Zero, not one; not one person prior to Acts 2 is baptized by the Holy Spirit. It's future tense in Matthew 3:11; its future time in Acts 1:5.
Slide 7 Acts 11:15-17
Now we will skip over Acts 2 just for the moment and we look at Acts 11. We've gone through Acts in the past and we know that what happened in Acts 1:8 is that Jesus gave them a commissioning. One of the many times He commissioned them in terms of expansion of the Church. "And He said, "but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem and then in Judea and Samaria and then to the ends of the earth."
Now this is the expansion of the Church. So as we went through Acts we say that initially the proclamation of the gospel and the repetition of the offer of the kingdom occurred to the Jews in Acts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Then persecution broke out and the Church was forced to leave Jerusalem because of hostility from the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. So they had to spread out. They went to Judea and to Samaria. They just stayed together and huddled together in Jerusalem and God said okay, if you are not going to fulfill what I told you to do then I am going to have to squash you and hit you hard with some discipline and that will scatter you. You will finally do what I told you to do after you get a little discipline. So they scattered. They went to Judea and Samaria. And there was tremendous impact. Peter is now at this time living in Joppa, which is really a suburb of the modern city of Tel Aviv. Joppa was the old poet. It was the port from which Jonah left fleeing from God so he wouldn't have to take the gospel to those nasty filthy Gentiles. And he went on a ship and then he got a return trip home via a special fish. So he left from Joppa. So Joppa is always associated with God's grace to the Gentiles.
When I take groups to Israel I give them a tour guide and most tour guides will list all the biblical passages that relate to a particular place. All the things, I mean all the things that happen at that place biblically, historically, etc. I don't go through everything because it overwhelms everybody, but I try to point out the key events that take place in certain locations so that you can connect a key doctrinal point to a key location because God did not operate in human history apart from space-time events. He is not out in the ozone somewhere in some kind of special spiritual dimension. He is always functioning in space-time concrete human events.
So Joppa is tied to God's grace to the Gentiles. God's grace to the Gentiles is exhibited in the OT by Jonah who was to take the gospel to the Ninevites. In the NT we see the same thing happen there. Peter is staying at Joppa at the home of Simon the tanner, Acts 9-10. It shows God's grace because a tanner was somebody who dealt with dead things. And therefore he was perpetually ceremonially unclean because he was dealing with carcasses. So Peter is staying with him and he had a vision that there are some Gentiles who are going to come and invite you to Caesarea by the Sea. Caesarea is one of the first places we usually go on the tour. He (the Gentile) is going to invite you to Caesarea to the home of Cornelius the centurion. You need to be welcomed by them; don't be a separatist, because the Jews would never go into the home of a Gentile. And you are going to go and they are God-fearers and you are going to give them the gospel and explain the way of salvation to them and then they are going to be saved because the gospel is going not only to the Jew but also to the Gentile.
Well that happens in Acts 10. In Acts 11 Peter goes back to Jerusalem and he is telling the other apostles and the Christians in Jerusalem what God is now doing among the Gentiles. And he describes this in Acts 11:15-17. He says,
Acts 11:16 "And as I [Peter] began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning."
"Us at the beginning." When was that? Who is the "us"? That is "us." He is primarily giving this report to the other apostles. So he is talking to them. When did the Holy Spirit fall upon them? Acts 2, when God the Holy Spirit came upon them. That is the "beginning." The "beginning" of what? The "beginning" of the Church. It is not back in the OT with Adam or Abraham or Moses. It happened on the Day of Pentecost. And then Peter said,
Acts 11:15, "Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, 'John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' "
Future tense, that was in Acts 1:6. So he is quoting in Acts 11; he is quoting from what Jesus said in Acts 1. And then he said,
Acts 11:17a, "If therefore God gave them the same gift", them being the Gentiles, "as He gave us when we believed…"
When did that gift come? "when we believed." He is talking about the "beginning" because many of them became believers. He has got a large audience here. Not just the apostles, but he had others who had believed on the Day of Pentecost.
Acts 11:17b, He "[God] gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?"
So he [Peter] makes it very clear that the giving of the Holy Spirit occurs and the "beginning" of this new age was when that occurred on the Day of Pentecost.
Slide 8: 1 Corinthians 12:13
Now several years later, a decade or more later, the apostle Paul wrote in his Epistle to the Corinthians the statement "For by one Spirit we were all baptized. Now it is past tense. See Jesus said in Acts 1:5, you will be in the future baptized by the Holy Spirit. That occurred in AD 33. This is around AD 50-51. Paul says we were all baptized by the Holy Spirit. So sometime between AD 33 and AD 52 everybody who is a believer in Christ gets baptized by the Holy Spirit. Acts 11 tells us it was "at the beginning" at the Day of Pentecost. So it is very clear that the Church began on the Day of Pentecost in AD 33 and that this occurred when God the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. I had you open to Acts 2; lets just look at that as we sort of wrap things up here in a few minutes.
Act 2:1, "When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place."
Now when we have studied this in the past I have pointed out that the pronoun "they" that third person plural pronoun has as its antecedent the closest previous plural noun is the eleven apostles at the end of Acts 1:26. Many people make an understandable error by thinking that the 120 that were gathered together to chose or select an apostle to replace Judas were still hanging out at the same place. But this is several days later. They all wouldn't have room to stay in these small upper rooms, so it was just the eleven that come together on the Day of Pentecost. Just the apostles because they are the foundation of the Church. So they are all together in one place.
Acts 2:2, and there came a sound from heaven, a sound like a tornado, it filled the whole house and then there was a visual effect, there appeared a fire over each one of them and they were all filled by the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other languages. This would be languages that they had not learned, but were legitimate forms of language: Aramaic, Roman, Latin, various Mesopotamian dialects, various other dialects, Parthian, perhaps some languages form the Medes and the Persians, but they all miraculously were able to communicate in these other languages and they were describing the gospel, which is stated to be the great things of God.
There is an automatic reaction to this. The people are astounded. They are hearing the gospel presentation from the disciples in all their different languages. These different nationalities or ethnic groups are listed between Acts 2:9-11. Now there have been linguistic scholars who have looked at this list and have said that it basically represents eleven different languages. Well there were eleven different apostles. And so each apostle was given an ability to communicate the gospel in a language related to one of these linguistic groups that were present in Jerusalem.
But the people who are hearing them are astounded and they are saying what does this mean? And others are mocking them saying, well they are drunk. Peter said look it is only nine o'clock in the morning. They haven't had enough time to get drunk yet. The stores aren't open. So Peter then explains it in terms of the OT. Acts 2:16 he says, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel.
Now we just spent two lessons talking about how the NT cites the OT. We tend to think of a passage like this, well he is saying that this prophetic fulfillment in the same way that Matthew 5:2 says the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. And Matthew 2 says Jesus was born in Bethlehem. It is a prophetic announcement with a prophetic fulfillment. But what we learned in those last two lessons was that that is not always true. There are different ways or different meanings that they assign to this word fulfill. So there is a typological fulfillment where you have a historical event; Israel as a type of The Messiah came out of Egypt and so that was a typical prefigure of Jesus the Messianic King coming out of Egypt.
And then you have the application of a historical even when the mothers of Israel were weeping over the young men who were being taken as captives to Babylon in Jeremiah. "Rachel was weeping for her children" and this is applied to the weeping of the mothers in Bethlehem pointed out that there was only one thing those two events had in common and that was weeping mothers. That in the historical event in Jeremiah the sons, the children were not dead. They were being taken off into captivity. The mothers would never see them again. It happened in Ramah, which is where Rachel is buried, north of Jerusalem. Whereas, Bethlehem was south of Jerusalem.
In Matthew 2 the mother are weeping because their infant sons are dead. So there are no parallels, no similarities except one thing and that is what you see in that third usage, which was the OT applied to a NT event and you have a series of circumstances that only one of which is identical. What the writer is saying is I am going to demonstrate a point from a similar situation in the OT. And so Joel talks about these incredible things that God the Holy Spirit can do. And he predicts that there will be a time in the future when God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh, sons and daughters will prophesy, that daughters will dream dreams, and sons will see visions, and all these things are mentioned in Joel 2. But one thing that is not mentioned in Joel 2 is speaking in languages. And of all the things that are mentioned in Joel 2 none of them take place in Acts 2. The only point of similarity is the pouring out of God the Holy Spirit.
So what Peter is basically saying in this extended quotation from Joel is that this coming of God the Holy Spirit is in keeping with how God has promised work in the future. And so there is a connection there. God the Holy Spirit from what we learn in the OT can do this kind of thing. So he uses that to go on and talk about the fact and apply this to the message and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth in Acts 2:22. So of all the things he (Joel) quotes, all the things that he cites, prophecy, the signs in the heavens, the wonders in the heavens, the moon turning into blood, and the coming of the great and awesome Day of the Lord, Joel 2:28-31, none of those things happened in Acts 2. That is going to happen at the end of the Tribulation. That is when that prophesy is actually fulfilled is at the end of the Tribulation. But Peter isn't saying this is that event. He is saying this is like that and we can learn something from it in terms of the gospel. So he is explaining this. This is when the Church begins in Acts 2.
Now the third point we will save until next time. This is when we go into what is known as the mystery doctrine of the NT. This is an important concept to understand because what it tells us is that Israel in the OT had no foreshadowing; they had no predisposition to realizing that God was going to set them aside at the time. They thought The Messiah would come and then they would go into the kingdom. There was no idea that there would be an intervening period of time, a parenthesis as some call it, between the First Coming of Christ and the Second Coming of Christ. It was not revealed at all in the OT. It was a MYSTERY, unrevealed truth, and everything related to your life and my life as a Christian is based on this mystery doctrine. It is some of the most important material in all of Scripture and we will start looking at that next time.
"Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things this evening and to reflect upon the beginning of the Church, the uniqueness of the Church, and the distinctives of the Church. And we pray that God the Holy Spirit would use it to challenge us that we might maximize the assets, the privileges, the blessings that You have given us in this Church Age, so that we might grow and advance in our spiritual life and glorify You. We pray this in Christ's Name, Amen."