Since the Book of Acts is a history book, it is a very bad place to grab permanent theology. Every time people do so they get in trouble and twist themselves into a theological pretzel. There are things that happen at the establishment of the church for the first time that are to never happen again. I repeat, there are things that happen at the establishment of the church for the first time that are to never happen again. Why? Like all transitions even in your own life they are unique. This transition that God makes is huge! So huge that the Apostles themselves have to be “pushed” by God and shown that the time has come for the end of the Temple sacrifices, the Jewish priesthood, and the theocratic system. Everything they have known as part of their worship and identity as a Jew is vanishing.
One example of the theological pretzel that I am talking about is what has been called “the second blessing” or “second baptism” that is supposedly evidenced by “speaking in tongues”. All of the supposed biblical support for this is taken from the experiences read in the book of Acts. As I will demonstrate below this is not biblical basis for a “second baptism” or “the sign of a filling of the Spirit”. What this is is a lack of understanding of the historical context of the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant an example of which was given last week in my post on Acts 1. If you remember even the Apostle Peter got himself in trouble by using Old Testament methods in New Testament times.
We can debate and not divide over the matter of the belief that tongues still exist today, but there is no debate and we must divide over the belief that there is a “second blessing or filling” needed after one has already came to Christ. Now some of you may think “well that is harsh!” Really? But are you not promoting division within your own church by creating a “have’s and have not’s” of suposed Spirit-filled believers and just believers? This division within one local church body has become so significant that some churches have even started classes to learn how to speak in tongues. So let me get this straight now you can teach people in the flesh what is from the Spirit? I think not my brothers and sisters and I hope that this post combined with a teachable spirit will convince you. You will see no “priming the pump” here. As to the matter of the debate on the existence of tongues today I will address this when we get to 1Corinthians. What fun it is to learn from one another through debate! To debate is to love and to discern the truth so that we actually grow! The post later will be a post for debate among my brothers and sisters, but not a matter of division. However this post today is a matter of biblical division. Biblical division is good!
1 Corinthians 11:19 – No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.
So why is there a delay in belief and receiving of the Holy Spirit at times during the establishment of the church? Here is the answer: The Apostles are establishing the Church that includes everyone who accepts Jesus as the Messiah. The Messiah as to human origins is of Jewish lineage and came to the Jews first but not the Jews only. This delay occurs 4 times, and happens to 4 types of people representing every race of men. Furthermore, every time this happens it occurs at the laying on of the hands by an Apostle.
(1) The Church includes the Jews: Acts 2:5-21
Acts 2:1-8 – When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?
Please note that these tongues were not gibberish but real languages! There were Jews there from many nations and they heard in their own NATIVE LANGUAGE. Remember there were many believers with the 11 Apostles who were all speaking.
(2) The church includes the half-breeds; the Samaritans:
Acts 8:14-17 – When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized intoc the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Again the Apostles Peter and John lay on the hands to establish the Church that includes, Jews and Samaritans—but God is not done. Now at this point Jesus had already shown that He accepted the Samaritans and even used them as an example in the parable of the “Good Samaritan”. So, I imagine Peter thinking to himself “Hey they are at least half Jewish.”
(3) The Church includes the God-Fearing Gentiles. These are Gentiles who converted to Judaism but remained uncircumcised and follow the one true God.
Acts 10:9-23, 44-46 – About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. 18 They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.
19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, threea men are looking for you. 20 So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”
21 Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?”
22 The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” 23 Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.
Now God had to go further by providing Peter a vision of Old Testament “UNCLEAN FOOD” to show that God is changing the times. It is New Covenant times! Peter needed a vision to push him along to the Gentiles!
You can see that God’s plan worked:
Acts 10:28, 34-35 – He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean…Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.
(4) The Church includes the Gentiles. The Gentiles in Ephesus. (These are people like me whom believed for the first time as a Gentile)
Acts 19:1-7 – While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
“John’s baptism,” they replied.
4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.
Note again that this event happens at the laying on of the hands by an Apostle! This takes us back to the last post on the presumption and disobedience of Peter when it became clear that Jesus was to pick the replacement for Judas and not Peter. Jesus called Paul to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, and it is interesting that God chooses Paul this time and not Peter to use:
Acts 9:15 – the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.
As you can see by looking at all of these events together and not in isolation there is a pattern! This is why I often give the advice to “never read a Bible verse!” You must read the verse in context with the paragraph, the book, the books together in the New Testament, then in their totality. This book is even more unique in that regard because it is a history of God using the 12 Apostles as pillars of the new church of ALL Nations. So hopefully you see that you can never use the book of Acts where events occur for the first time to get a theology that is normative in the church for all time. The other books of the New Testament give us the rest of the story.
These four events are the fulfillment of the Prophet Joel quoted by Peter on the Day of Pentacost:
Acts 2:16-17 – this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on ALL people.
In addition this is the beginning of the fulfillment of the Great Commission that God is using us Spirit-filled Christians to fulfill! We can fulfill this mission because all of us who are true Christians are filled with Holy Spirit. The sign of my own filling is a changed heart and a new life!
Matthew 28:19-20 – Therefore go and make disciples of ALL nations, baptizing them ina the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Until He Returns,
Peter P. Lackey, Jr.