THE BIRTH OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST
After the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Jesus spoke continually to His disciples about the ". . . things pertaining to the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3). Because the kingdom of God is the spiritual body of Jesus Christ, His church, we understand that He talked to them about the setting up and establishing of His church. This included the preaching of the gospel to the whole world, and baptizing converts "in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ," and receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Besides the numerous appearances Jesus made to His eleven disciples, and others close to Him, He also appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time (I Corinthians 15:6). He surely must have encouraged all of them to go to Jerusalem and wait for the promised Holy Ghost. However, only about 120 were present on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Ghost was poured out, including a number of women (Acts 1:14).
Perhaps a large crowd had first made their way to Jerusalem, but when the Holy Spirit was not immediately poured out some became discouraged and left. Those who were filled, however, had remained in Jerusalem for seven days, until they received the promised experience. What were they doing while they waited for their spiritual baptism?
"These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication . . ." (verse 14).
"And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God" (Luke 24:53).
Remember that these approximately 120 people had already repented, and had obviously already been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. This obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ meant that they had received remissions of sins, and were prepared to receive the promised Holy Spirit! They remained in an atitude of unity, prayer, praise, and expectancy, until the Holy Ghost was poured out on the day of Pentecost.
During the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, He spoke to His apostles concerning His church, which would be established on earth:
"And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatseover thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:18-19).
From the above verses of Scripture, we learn several things:
1. The church of Jesus Christ did not come into existence while Jesus was on this earth. Jesus spoke the above words shortly before His crucifixion. The fact that He said, "I will build" shows us that the church had not yet been established. Remember that the "kingdom of God" refers to the church of Jesus Christ, God's spiritual kingdom:
"For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Romans 14:17).
We have already seen that entrance into this spiritual kingdom is by baptism in the name of Jesus, and receiving the promised Holy Ghost. When was the Holy Spirit given? Not until after Jesus ascended into heaven and was glorified (John 7:39).
2. It is important for us to note that Jesus was the rock upon which the church was built--not Peter! The Greek word used for Peter's name was "Petros," which means "a large piece of rock." However, when Jesus said, ". . . upon this rock I will build my church," the word used for rock was "Petra," a huge, mountain-like rock, like the rock of Gibraltar. It was as if Jesus was saying to Peter, "You are indeed strong like a big rock, but I will build my church upon a rock so large that compared to it, you are no more than a little stone."
The Bible tells us plainly that Jesus is the rock upon which the church is built:
"And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone" (Ephesians 2:20).
See also I Corinthians 10:4; Romans 9:33; and I Peter 2:6-8.
3. Peter was given the "keys to the kingdom of heaven." Keys are used to open doors. Jesus gave Peter the authority to open the door of salvation to the Jews first, and afterward to the Samaritans and the Gentiles. This figure of speech is often used in the Bible concerning the preaching of the gospel in a new area (Acts 14:27; and Colossians 4:3). We shall see further in this lesson how Peter used these "keys."
It was very significant that Jesus Christ, our "Passover Lamb" (I Corinthians 5:7) was crucified on the very day that the Jews kept the Feast of the Passover. It was just as significant that God should choose to pour out His Holy Spirit on another Jewish feast day, while the Jews filled the city of Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost (also called "Feast of Weeks," and "Feast of the Firstfruits").
The word "Pentecost" is a Greek word that simply means "fiftieth." This feast was to be kept fifty days after the Feast of the Passover. It was to commemorate (celebrate) the beginning of the wheat harvest (Exodus 34:22). On this particular day, the Jews were required to bring, besides their animal sacrifices, two loaves of bread made with the newly gathered wheat, that they might be waved in worship before the Lord (Leviticus 23:16-21).
How significant are the words, "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come. . . ." The Jews had kept the Feast of Pentecost hundreds of times before, but there was never a Feast of Pentecost like this one, because God, in His divine providence, chose to make this day the Birthday of the Church, and the beginning of the ingathering of souls into the kingdom of God!
The day of Pentecost ushered in a new age for Israel--and for all who would become "spiritual Jews" through faith and obedience to Jesus Christ. When the Holy Spirit came upon the approximately 120 believers, there was a sound from heaven of a rushing mighty wind. (The Pentecostal experience came from heaven!) Then tongues of fire sat upon each of them. These phenomena are never mentioned as having been repeated again in the book of Acts. It does not mean that they never did, but it was not to be expected as Biblical evidence of having received the promised Holy Spirit. However, in the four historical accounts given in the book of Acts of people receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost, speaking with tongues (other languages) was either clearly stated or implied as having taken place.
SPEAKING WITH TONGUES
Some argue that this "speaking with tongues" on the day of Pentecost was given only to allow the believers to preach to the crowd who gathered around them after they received the Holy Ghost. However, there was no need for a miracle of this nature, because all of their observers were also Jews (verse 5), and would be familiar with the Hebrew language, and most probably the Aramaic as well. There was no language barrier. Whenever it was time for a sermon, Peter stood and preached to the crowd without interpreters.
Others argue that the "speaking with tongues" was really "the gift of tongues." While there is a similarity, all the rules governing the operation of the gift of tongues would have been broken if this was indeed the gift of tongues. (This gift is actually called "divers or different kinds of tongues.") In I Corinthians, Chapter 14, Paul devotes the entire chapter to the operation of the gift of prophecy, and the gifts of tongues and interpretation. Paul gives these rules governing the "gift of tongues":
a. The gift of tongues is not to be exercised unless someone interprets what is being said (verse 5).
b. Only one person should speak at a time. There should never be more than three messages in tongues in one meeting, and that by course (verse 27).
These rules were not kept by the approximately 120 people, because their "speaking with tongues" was not the manifestation of the "gift of tongues," but was the unmistakeable audible proof that they had received the Holy Ghost.
The "speaking with tongues" that occurred on the day of Pentecost drew mixed reactions from the crowd of observers. Some mocked, and said, "These men are full of new wine." Others were in doubt, but said one to another, "What meaneth this?" Remember that these were all Jews, most of whom had come from other countries to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Pentecost. They had been taking part in the formal temple activities until they heard of the miraculous events that had taken place in an upper room of the house where the believers were assembled.
When the question was asked, "What meaneth this?" Peter stood up with the eleven and began to preach, first answering the question.
". . . This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy" (Acts 2:16-18).
This answer by Peter is the conclusive evidence that the "speaking with tongues" that occurred on the day of Pentecost was the audible witness or sign of the coming of the Holy Spirit into the hearts of the believers.
Important Bible doctrine should always be backed by more than one verse of Scripture, however, so let us continue with the other three accounts in the book of Acts of people receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
2. The Samaritans.
When the apostles at Jerusalem heard about the great revival in Samaria, they sent Peter and John unto Philip. Although many had been baptized in Jesus' name, none of them had received the Holy Ghost. (Remember that Peter had been given the authority to open the "door of salvation.")
"Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost" (Acts 8:17-19).
This is the only account in the book of Acts of people receiving the Holy Spirit where "speaking with tongues" is not mentioned. Yet, we see from the above verses that something miraculous must have taken place. Otherwise, why did Simon offer money unto Peter and John. Simon offered no money to have the power to heal the sick, after he witnessed many sick people being healed during Philip's ministry. But when Peter and John laid their hands upon people, and they received the Holy Ghost, Simon made his infamous offer. Every unprejudiced Bible scholar agrees that what Simon saw was these people speaking with tongues as the Spirit of God gave them the utterance.
3. Cornelius and His Household.
Peter came and preached to Cornelius and his household. In the middle of Peter's sermon, Peter said, concerning the name of Jesus, "through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins":
"While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed (Jews) were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God . . ." (Acts 10:44-46).
The Jews who had accompanied Peter to the household of Cornelius were convinced that these Gentiles had received the baptism (also called "gift") of the Holy Ghost. Why? ". . . they heard them speak with tongues."
4. The Ephesian Believers.
"And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied" (Acts 19:6).
This is the most important question that a person could ever ask. Yet, most people are seeking the answers to other questions that they feel are more important, such as:
How can I get rich?
These questions involve only this earthly life, which at the most is only seventy years, or so. They involve the body only. But man is much more than just a fleshly body. We are body, soul, and spirit (I Thessalonians 5:23). Our soul is going to live on forever somewhere. We can be wrong about some things, and it's not too important, but we must have the right answer to the all important question, ". . . What must I do to be saved" (Acts 16:30).
Peter's answer was exactly in line with the teaching of Jesus Christ, and the blood, water, Spirit plan! What Peter did not answer is also interesting for us to note:
"Just believe, and accept Christ as your personal Saviour."
True Bible-based salvation involves a lot more than "just believing." That is only the first step. The reason the multitude cried out, ". . . Men and brethren, what shall we do?" was because they already believed! Peter was telling them to go further than just believing:
1. They must repent:
". . . God . . . now commandeth all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30).
2. They must be baptized:THE IMPORTANCE OF BAPTISM
We studied in previous lessons the importance of the blood, water, and spirit in bringing to us full salvation. Yes, the Old Testament teaches by types, shadows, and figures the importance of water baptism.
We have studied in the last lesson how Jesus declared the importance
of water baptism:
"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16).
The apostles also preached the necessity of water baptism:
"And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord
. . ." (Acts 10:48).
Every account of baptism in the Bible was by immersion:
"And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water . . ." (Matthew 3:16).
"And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there . . . " (John 3:23).
"And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him" (Acts 8:38).
Notice that baptism is referred to in the Bible as a burial: Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12.
History also states that baptism by immersion is the correct
"Immersion was the oldest method employed. 'Buried in him by baptism.'" Catholic Biblical Encyclopedia, Page 61, Paragraph 1
"It is evident that the action performed in baptizing was immersion." Encyclopedia Dictionary of the Bible, Page 202
"The early church practiced immersion or submerging under the water." World Book of Encyclopedia, Volume 2, Page 70
"Martin Luther preferred immersion as more true to original practice."
Encyclopedia of the Lutheran Church, Volume 1, Page 188
When Peter instructed the inquirers to be baptized ". . . every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ . . ." he was only obeying His Lord. The words of Matthew 28:19 were spoken by Jesus in Galilee, some days before His ascension. However, included in the final instructions of our Lord to His apostles were these words:
". . . Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:46-47).
To say that Peter made a mistake on the day of Pentecost would be to distort and ignore the truth. If he made a mistake, why did not Matthew correct him. He was standing by Peter's side when Peter preached his memorable sermon. The truth is that all of the apostles understood Jesus' command in Matthew 28:19 as a command to baptize in His name. Anything different would have been a contradiction from His final instructions, and Jesus cannot contradict Himself. The only way anyone was ever baptized in the early church was "in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ." Note the following examples:
1. Samaritan believers were baptized ". . . in the name of
the Lord Jesus" (Acts 8:16).
". . . thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).
IS IT WRONG TO BE REBAPTIZED?
In Acts 19:1-5, Paul met twelve men who had been baptized "unto
John's baptism." John used no formula at all, although he
did baptize his disciples by immersion. His baptism was valid only until
the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. Paul rebaptized these twelve
men "in the name of the Lord Jesus."
"The early church baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus until the second century." Canney Encyclopedia of Religion, Page 53
"TheNew Testament knows only the baptism in the name of Jesus." Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia, Volume 1, Page 435
"It must be acknowledged that the three-fold name of Matthew 28:19 does not appear to have been used by the primitive church, but rather in the name of Jesus, Jesus Christ, or Lord Jesus." Hastings Dictionary of the Bible, Page 88
"Christian baptism was administered using the words, 'in the name of Jesus.' Baptism was always in the name of Jesus until the time of Justin Martyr." Hastings Encyclopedia of Religion, Pages 377, 389
"Baptism was changed from the name of Jesus to the words Father, Son and Holy Ghost in the second century." Brittanica Encyclopedia, 11th Edition, Volume 3, Page 365
We must make a choice between tradition and truth. Paul has given to us these words of warning:
"Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him . . ." (Colossians 2:9-10).
If we are complete in Him, we should be willing to take upon ourselves His name in water baptism!
3. They must receive the Holy Ghost
"Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:38).
This is the blood, water, and Spirit plan! The plan that will give you peace, joy, victory, and eternal life! ds
2. What were the approximately 120 people doing while they waited for their spiritual baptism?
3. Jesus said, "Upon this rock, I will ________________________________."
4. Jesus gave to Peter the _______ of the kingdom of heaven.
5. Jesus gave Peter the authority to open the door of salvation to the ______ first, and afterward to the _________and the__________________.
6. Jesus Christ, our _________________, was crucified on the very day that the Jews kept the ____________________________.
7. God, in His divine providence, chose to make the day of Pentecost the birthday of ___________________.
8. On the day of Pentecost, the people who were filled with the Holy Ghost were speaking in ____________different languages.
9. All of those who received the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost were ____________, and all of their observers were also _________________________.
10. Name two reactions of the crowd who observed the outpouring of the Holy Ghost.
11. The "speaking with tongues" that took place on the day of Pentecost was the audible witness or sign of:
12. If nothing happened when the people of Samaria received the Holy Ghost, _________ would not have offered money to Peter to have the same power he had.
13. How did the Jews who accompanied Peter know that Cornelius and his household had received the Holy Ghost?
14. What happened when Paul laid his hands upon the Ephesian believers?
15. Give one verse of Scripture that shows the importance of water baptism.
16. Give one verse of Scripture that shows baptism is by immersion.
17. The only way anyone was ever baptized in the early church was
18. The name of Jesus is the ____________________name.
19. Is it wrong to be rebaptized?
20. The plan that will give us peace, joy, victory, and eternal life