What All Happened in Acts 2

November 24, 2013
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Acts 2 is one of those chapters that almost every Christian is somewhat familiar of to a default. Peter preached at Pentecost, 3000 people were saved, the Church was born, and they ate together and shared possessions. While that’s absolutely correct, there’s much more to that chapter that Christianity at-large seems to keep overlooking. 120 people also known as followers of Jesus were there. Tongues of fire filled every one in the upper room. God delivered Jesus to be killed. Folks walked away unphased by what they heard. There was an immediate sense of selflessness, unity, diversity, and joy in the first mega church in Scripture.

It’s important to discuss this chapter so as to rid my Cessationists brethren of some illogical points that don’t mesh with a coherent argument. What I mean is that I often hear my brothers link the revelatory gifts, such as miracles/healing/tongues/prophecy, with the office of apostle and prophet. Often we tend to forget that revelation is progressive. Therefore, one ought not ignore what’s said and redefined later by the Scriptures. There are a few objections I constantly hear that I believe need to be addressed with more concrete biblical evidence. They are as follows

  1. Primary purpose of miracles was to confirm new outpourings of divine revelation which occurred in 3 periods that lasted no longer than 70 years
  2. NT prophecy was just for the apostolic foundation of the Church
  3. The revelatory gifts aren’t practiced today
  4. Too much heresy is involved in the churches doing ‘this’ stuff so we must abandon it all

It is this list I wish to rid my brothers of when speaking of and to their continuationist brethren. No, not because I think they’re being divisive, but because I think those are straw-men and exegetically incorrect. In order for us to have good conversation and hear clearly from each other, we must wipe out eisogesis and straw-men.

Before I address the 1st point, I’d like to include something John Piper said in regards to the Strange Fire conference remarks made about the continuationist position.

“Charismatic doctrinal abuses, emotional abuses, discernment abuses, financial abuses, all have their mirror image in non-charismatic churches.”

Bird’s Eye View

The 1st point made by my cessationist brothers listed above indicates that the last 70 year period where miracles promulgated the scene in the New Testament consisted of Jesus and the apostles. It’s this 70 year figure that seems to trouble me greatly. From where does this number originate? Well these brothers never tell us. They just plop it down like it ought to be well-known in circles of every believer. But I think someone proposed that number and others have sought to run with it. Here’s the problem: it isn’t true textually.

Here in Acts 2, we see 4 things happen: the Last Days, the birth of the Church, the gift of the Holy Spirit (indwelling), and the spiritual gifts manifested. Most of my conservative brothers would agree with the 2nd point, and quite possibly the 3rd. I’ve known many attempt to deny the 4th point repeatedly, but textually they don’t have a credible case. However, I’ve noticed not one cessationist to consider the 1st point. In my opinion, it’s the most important thing found in Acts 2.

But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

There’s so much found here in this passage from Joel that I’d love to discuss, but that’d make this blog look like a dissertation. Nonetheless, it’s important to notice the strength of this text as it relates to the Acts 2 account. All that happened in Acts 2 happened because it’s the last days. God poured his His Spirit on the men and women in the upper room and the spiritual gift of tongues was manifested.

Later in the book of Acts we see repeated accounts of miracles done through the ministry of believers for Peter, John, and Paul mainly. The question then becomes where does this 70 year figure come from since all of this began in the last days? The answer is no one knows. See, the entire argument between cessationists and continuationists is centered around the function and purpose of revelatory gifts being needed for the Church. Here in Acts we witness the Church born. In the New Testament Church we know that the Spirit indwells every believer. “Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” That’s verse 38 of Acts 2. Right after they were indwelt, they manifest a spiritual gift. “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Notice here in verse 4 that the same Spirit that filled them gave them utterance to manifest this spiritual gift. This is key because all of this is a work of God done for the will of God using sinners to accomplish his purpose or function. All of this went down to signify the last days that Joel the prophet spoke about.

So where do we go from here? Well it’s nigh time both camps that sit comfortably within orthodoxy honestly look at the text and allow that to correct and instruct us. It would behoove us to admit that the grounds whereabout we argue about the purpose, function, and length of spiritual gifts given to believers indwelt by the Spirit all began in the last days. Now for those of my cessationist brothers who wish to push back the last days have some hermeneutical ‘splaining to do. The last days is that period in between the first coming and second coming of Jesus. Even the person who’s yet to pick a camp on this issue knows that 70 years is out. I’d even argue that this chapter is so strong that it wipes out the footing for the other typical arguments presented, but I’ll address those in other blogs.

I hope this blog is encouraging to those who read it.