The Birth of the Church

Acts 2:1-13

Dr. S. Lewis Johnson expounds the Day of Pentecost and the unique formation of the church outside of the Hebrew traditions of assembly.

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[Scripture] “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. (Notice the term language, if you have a Bible with a marginal reference you may have the term dialect, for example. It’s the Greek term dialektos, which does refer to a spoken known language. Verse 7,) And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans?

And how is it that we each hear them in our own language (again notice language, dialect) into which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs (As we say over in Alabama A-rabs [Laughter]) –we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God. And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, What does this mean? But others were mocking and saying, They are full of sweet wine.”

Let’s open our class with a word of prayer.

[Prayer] Father, we ask again for Thy blessing upon us as we study together. Give us understanding. Enable us, Lord, to hear what the Scriptures have to say concerning the church. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

[Message] This is the second of our studies on the church in our study in Ecclesiology, and in our last study we attempted to make a number of introductory points. The first, that the New Testament Ecclesiology or the Doctrine of the Church is not only a very important matter, it is also remarkably clear in spite of the prevalent neglect and confusion over the subject. I think I made a false statement in the midst of my last message that is one that I know about. There may be others, too, of course. But I did make reference to the fact that the theologians had generally neglected the doctrine of the church in their theologies. I believer, however, that I inadvertently mentioned Professor Berkoff as one who had omitted any discussion of the church. Berkoff in his systematic theology does have a section on the doctrine of the church. But it is true that Charles Hodge, Dabney, Shedd, and some of the other well known theologians wrote systematic theologies without any section on the doctrine of the church.

Now, in the case of Charles Hodge there was some reason for this, because his son A.A. Hodge, who also was a professor at Princeton Seminary, pointed out that Charles Hodge intended to write a fourth volume to his three volume theology which would be on the church. He had lectured on the church for years in the theological seminary. But by virtue of his death he was unable to finish it. He at least intended to. Shedd said that the subject of the church really belonged under the topic of the sacraments. And then he wrote very, very little on that topic. So he does not really have a doctrine of the church. In the case of Dabney he said in his theology he was not going to lecture on the church, because it was lectured on in another department of the seminary. And so his theology wound up with out an Ecclesiology, too. The fact remains, though, that Ecclesiology has been a very neglected study.

Then we also said that from a study of the biblical terms from the Old Testament and from the New Testament that there is no clear indication that the New Testament writers were building upon an Old Testament concept. Now, you find the statement made in Professor Berkoff in his theology, and he cites three passages, but that is all. There is not an extensive study of the terms used for a gathering or an assembly in the Old Testament, and the proof of the relationship between those terms and the term ecclesia used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament and in the New Testament revelation. Many of the most recent studies have also said this same thing, that there is no demonstrable connection between the term church in the New Testament, and those terms of the Old Testament, whether in the Hebrew or the Greek. So I think we’re on fairly solid ground in saying that the doctrine of the church is not to be connected strongly with the doctrine of the gathering of the children of Israel in the Old Testament.

Then third, we said the term church takes on a new flavor because of its relation to the Lord Jesus in his saving work. You can see that our Lord is the one who begins the teaching on the doctrine of the church in the New Testament. He says, “Upon this rock I will build my church.” Now, “I am building it,” as if it had been being constructed through the Old Testament time, but “On this rock, I will build,” future, “my church.” So I think it’s fair to say, as F.F. Bruce has said, that the term church takes on a new flavor because of its relation to the Lord Jesus Christ and his saving work.

Then fourth, we said the term church refers to both the local church and the universal church. When the term invisible is applied to the church the reference is to the body of Christ in her spiritual essence, that is the body of true believers. We speak about the visible church; we are talking about local churches such as Believers Chapel or Grace Bible Church or the First Baptist Church. But when we talk about the invisible church we would be talking about the body of believers conceived of as bound together in a spiritual unity, whether in heaven or on the earth, the invisible church. And we said that we did believe in the invisible church, but not the invisible church that makes itself invisible when the visible church ought to be visible on Sunday morning. But it may, and does, have a relative and imperfect embodiment in the visible local church. We have not gone into that yet. We will later on, but I’m stating it at the present time. There is an invisible church composed of all the believers in Christ, of all, whether on heaven or on the earth, the family of God. But it has its visible manifestation in various places in the doctrine or in the local churches.

And finally we said the church has at least a five-fold function in the world. And we didn’t go into any detail here, but it is mentioned and outlined in that first lecture, and you can look it up for yourself. We have said that his is important. We have said that it is necessary that we listen to what the New Testament says concerning the doctrine of the local church.

I received a letter last month from a man who has had some experiences in the matter of the doctrine of the church through the ministry of Believers Chapel, and I’d like to read a few paragraphs. There are some people who believe that when you see something in the Bible you ought to do what the Bible seems to say you should do. He talks about the fact that he has come to a new interpretation of some of the doctrines of the word of God. He’s a graduate of a well known theological seminary.

And he says, “Since I graduated from Seminary ten years ago I’ve been coming to a clearer understanding of Reform teacher and more lately have come to appreciate the Calvinistic understanding and interpretation of Scripture. I can’t imagine how dull I must have been not to have learned and explored such while I studied at [this well known theological seminary]. “He says, “Interestingly, it not your series on the local church, which precipitated my study and consequent shift in view regarding the local church and the ministry, all leading to my resigning the [certain denominational pastorate] in 1972. Since then my ministry has been to assemblies in the Baltimore-Philadelphia-Lancaster area. My non-Darby approach to the church and more recently with a touch of Calvinism appearing, I’ve fallen out of favor as a speaker among [he mentions certain people] and hence my ministry opportunities are greatly reduced I support my family by painting houses. This is when I listen to tapes,” he says. I can just picture him painting away and the tapes going all the time. The people in the house must wonder what kind of a painter this is.

But he says, “I support my family by painting houses and have developed a very small church meeting in a home. We long for a more extensive preaching and teaching ministry, but realistically face the fact that I don’t really fit anywhere. So we are content to paint for the glory of God, minister to our small group on Sundays, minister to my wife and children believing in his time he will direct in these other areas.” Now, that’s the kind of man that ultimately is liable to have a very wide ministry. He has heard the word of God. He’s come to certain convictions concerning it, and he’s not taking a step on the basis of what he has learned. And he’s discovering that he’s being shaken a little bit and stirred a little bit and sifted a little bit. But nevertheless he’s carrying on a ministry. It sounds like an apostle doesn’t it? Painting and carrying on a ministry at the same time, it almost could be working with leather and preaching at the same time like the Apostle Paul.

Well, in this study we want to deal with the topic of the birth or the historical origin of the church. There are differing view points about the origin of the local church or the church. And I want to mention a couple of them as we begin just to have a kind of perspective for the things that I’m going to say. And let’s look first at the view of Professor Louis Berkoff; Professor Berkoff was an outstanding Calvinistic professor, a man whose systematic theology has been widely read and widely appreciated. It’s certainly one of the best theologies written in the 20th century. It’s a kind of compendium of Bavinck’s Four Volume Dutch Theology but Bavinck’s was never translated. And so this is a kind of key to Bavinck and a shortened form of it.

Berkoff was a member of the Christian Reform Church, the church that puts out the program “The Back to the Bible Hour” I think, will Joel Nederhood found KRLD at eight o’clock Sunday morning, in case you’re coming to Believers Chapel. It’s a good program to listen to. Mr. Nederhood’s an outstanding man. He’s a Calvinistic man, an amillennialist, and a firm believer in the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Confession of Faith, which are the doctrinal standards of the Christian Reform Church, and essentially, too, in harmony with the Westminster Confession of Faith.

According to Professor Berkoff, the church began with the early individual believers in the patriarchal period. He doesn’t say this specifically, but I feel that from what he said he would say the church began with Adam. Then in the Mosaic period the nation Israel, he says, was the church of God. In the New Testament period the church, while divorced from Israel’s national life and now an independent organization, is essentially one with the Old Testament and becomes a universal spiritual and missionary church. He gives no scriptural references to support these points. Some could be given, but nevertheless that’s his position. The church began with Adam, and when Israel came into existence the church was Israel. Israel was the church. Then in the New Testament period of time, the church is the continuation of Israel except the Law is done away with, the priesthood, the Levitical priesthood is done away with and a few things like that.

The second view that I want to have in mind is the view of A.H. Strong. A.H. Strong is probably the best known Baptist theologian, as Berkoff is one of the best known Calvinistic theologians. Now, it is possible for a Baptist to be a Calvinist, of course, but Strong is not a consistent Calvinist. According to Professor Strong, in its largest meaning, the church consists of all the saved from all times and ages in heaven and on earth. And this, I think he would largely agree with Professor Berkoff. The church is composed of all believers since the day of Adam to the day of the end of time. However, Strong goes on to say that before the day of Pentecost it only existed in germ. And he uses an illustration which leads me to believe that he would also say it exists in bud only, like a flower. And these expressions seem to mean that in the relation of Christ to the apostles before the cross we have the beginnings of the church, he goes on to say that there is some organization there, because Judas carried the bag, so he was the treasurer of the group. That suggests organization. Furthermore, the Lord Jesus Christ is the way the conducted the relationship between himself and the apostles, that suggests that there is some organization, and that would be the beginning of a church. But it’s only in bud, or only in germ, because there was no equipment for the work of the ministry until after the Holy Spirit came. And the church offices were appointed by the local churches. So before the cross we have the prenatal period of the church. But nevertheless we can call it the church. So the church is composed of all believers from all times, but in a special sense it was in germ only before the time of the cross and Pentecost and afterwards it comes to full flowering.

Well, with these two things before us let’s turn now to a consideration of the inception of the church. This, I think, will be our next to last study that we do, incidentally, on the church as the invisible body of Christ. We want to launch in and spend most of our time on the local church, which I think we begin in our next study. But we want to look at the birth of the church tonight. So Roman I in the outline, the time of its birth, and I want to preface my comments by a few introductory words here. We need to be sure to remember that there is a unity of all the elect. You’re going to see that I think something unique happened at the Day of Pentecost and marks a difference between the church, as the New Testament speaks of it, and the believers of Old Testament times and before Old Testament times, that is from Adam to Abraham. But there is a unity of all the elect, whether they be of Israel or of the church or of neither. And there are people who are neither Israel nor neither church, Adam was such an individual. He was not an Israelite. Abel was not an Israelite.

There is a unity that exists among all of the elect, because they all have their life by virtue of what Jesus Christ did in his sufferings on the cross. And second, there is an important connection between Israel and the church, in that both have their life through the one Savior. Further, the church was formed from a remnant out of the first assembly, that is Israel. We call it that. The ecclesia, the church, on the Day of Pentecost was formed from individuals who were primarily Israelites at that time. I think it’s fair to say that the church, when the church began was a Jewish body of believers. True, they came from the four corners of the earth, but they were there because of the Jewish feasts. They were there because of Passover and Pentecost. So the early church was Jewish. The apostles were members of Israel, and when they were formed by the Holy Spirit into the church, using the term proleptically, it was a beginning in Israel, so that the church has its roots in Israel. It’s Gentile character was a development that you can trace through the Book of Acts, and of course, now from the standpoint of history, we can add to that by writing other chapters to the Book of Acts without scriptural authority in explanation of the works of God as manifested throughout the 1900 years since the time of the Book of Acts. I guess that’s the reasons Acts has no conclusion. The point of that book is that the Book of Acts is still being written by the Holy Spirit as the Lord works through individuals to gather the elect into the body.

Then a third introductory comment, assuming that the church is both local and universal and that the two aspects came into existence at the same time. Incidentally, that’s an assumption, and I use the word assume on purpose. I think it’s true, but it is an assumption, and I’m recognizing that it is an assumption. Assuming that the church both local and universal and that the two aspects came into existence at the same time, I want to attempt to show that the church had its birthday at Pentecost in the truest sense. And I want, now, to go through these steps in the argument with you.

First of all, the Bible describes the church as the body of Christ. Now, will you turn with me to Ephesians chapter 1, verse 22 and 23, Ephesians chapter 1, verse 22 and 23? Here we read, “And He,” Christ, “put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body.” Notice, the church is the body of Christ, “Which is his body the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” So the church is the body of Christ. That seems clear. Colossians also says the same thing. Other passages of Scripture seem in harmony with it.

Second, or B, the church is entered by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 12, verse 12 and verse 13, 1 Corinthians chapter 12, verse 12, verse 13. The apostle writes, “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit,” now this could be rendered in one Spirit, and there would be a little shift in the way in which we describe this, but no essential difference in meaning. Nothing that affects the point, I think, that I’m trying to prove. “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” I think there is good justification for believing that Christ is the baptizer through the Spirit, but that will not affect the point. I say that for some of you who may have done a little study in this area. We’ll just take this as the rendering, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”

Now, notice the statement in verse 13, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” The church is the body of Christ, and here the apostle says we enter that body by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” So if the one body is the church and if we enter it by the baptism of the Holy Spirit, then we enter the church through the ministry of our Lord in the Spirit, uniting us to himself and to other believers.

Third, or C, the church was future from the time of Christ’s pre-cross ministry. Now, remember, the church is the body of Christ and it is entered by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In Matthew chapter 16 and verse 18 we learn that the church was future from the time of Christ’s pre-cross ministry. Here we read, verse 18 of chapter 16 “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.” As I have previously said, notice the future tense. “I will build my church.” Now, if the church was already in existence our Lord would say, would he not, “I am building my church.” Or “I have been building my church.” That would be even more suitable for Professor Berkoff. Upon this rock I have been building my church. That’s exactly what Professor Berkoff believes. He believes that the church has been being built, is that correct, on Jesus Christ. But when our Lord comes on the scene he says, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Furthermore, in the third chapter of the gospel of Matthew, John the Baptist refers to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, he says it’s future. So the statement of John the Baptist suggests a future baptism of the Holy Spirit and our Lord is harmony by saying, “I will build my church.”

What shall we say then of Berkoff’s words? Jesus on the one hand said that he would found the church in the future, but also recognized it as an already existing institution, Matthew 18:17. Well, that’s clever, but it’s not accurate. It’s easy to be clever in interpreting Scripture, and you’ll fool a lot of people. But ultimately it’s a mistake. Let’s turn over to chapter 18, verse 17. By the way, Matthew 16:18 is the first reference to the word church in the New Testament, as we read the New Testament, Matthew 16:18. The word only occurs two other times in the four gospels, and the two other times are right here in chapter 18 of Matthew. Let’s read verse 17, “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church,” these are the two occurrences, so there are three in all of the gospels, “let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax gatherer.”

Now, I ask you, are to we interpret chapter 18, with its two-fold reference to the term church to Genesis chapter 3, Genesis chapter 22, Genesis chapter 12, or the other places in the Old Testament where a believer is mentioned or should we interpret Matthew chapter 18, verse 17 in the light of Matthew chapter 16, verse 18? Why, there isn’t a single interpreter in the world who wouldn’t feel pressed into a corner if he was asked a question like that, providing he had Professor Berkoff’s view. One of the first principles of hermeneutics is to interpret later references of a word by earlier references, particularly in the same book.

Now, in chapter 16 he said he would build his church. It’s in the future. Well, when in chapter 18 he talks about discipline in that church, is he talking about a church in the past? No, he’s talking about discipline in that church which he will build. He’s giving us further information concerning that church which is still future. So the disciplinary reference in chapter 18 is a reference to the church of the future not the church that Berkoff thinks existed when Adam became a believer. That’s a very, very serious interpretive mistake. And Professor Berkoff, fortunately, now knows better. And I’m sure he’s saying, “Go ahead Louis, tell them the truth. I’m satisfied now.” [Laughter]

Fourth, the church was future from the time of the Lord’s pre-ascension ministry. Let’s turn to Acts chapter 1, verse 4 and 5. Acts chapter 1, verse 4 and 5, now while you’re finding it, “The first account I composed,” Luke says, “Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach.” Isn’t it interesting that he says began, because our Lord is still doing and teaching through the apostles in the Book of Acts. That’s the perspective from which Luke writes. “Until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Now, we’ve said the church is the body of Christ. We’ve said the church is entered by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We have said our Lord said the church is future from the days of his pre-ascension ministry, from his incarnate ministry. Now, here since the baptism of the Holy Spirit is still a future thing, the church is future from the time of the Lord’s pre-ascension ministry. If the church is entered by the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the baptism of the Holy Spirit has not occurred yet, as our Lord says here, we don’t have any church yet. It’s as simple as that.

First, the church was born on the Day of Pentecost. Now, when we turn to Acts chapter 2, verse 1 through verse 4 we have a rather interesting thing. We could have guessed that the baptism of the Holy Spirit would occur on the Day of Pentecost, because he said, “You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence.” That was our Lord’s addition to the word of John the Baptist. He was interpreting the time. John had said, “He will baptize you with the Spirit and with fire.” Our Lord said, “It’s going to occur not many days hence.” So he’s giving further chronological information.

Now, there isn’t any event in the Book of Acts here that could be referred to by that “not many days hence” but the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came and all of the phenomenon which accompanied it took place. But there is no specific mention of the word baptize in Acts chapter 2. Let’s read it again, verse 1, “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.”

Now if we had been writing this chapter having all of that other information we would have said, and they were all baptized by the Holy Spirit. But he says, “And they were filled.” Are the events of Acts chapter 2 specifically related to the promise regarding the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Does this really produce a problem? Why, I think we could explain this. We could say, “Well, two things happened, the baptism which he had already said was going to happen. But also, they were filled,” two distinct things. And so it wasn’t necessary to mention that they were baptized. Obviously if they were filled with the Holy Spirit they had been made to drink of that one Spirit and were baptized by the Spirit. So it’s not necessary to mention it.

Well, we’ll just drop that for a moment and I want you to notice a few of the cardinal features of the day of Pentecost. In the first place, the Day of Pentecost was the fulfillment of an Old Testament feast. We are going to see that when we study Leviticus’ typology. We are going to see that this was the feast of the weeks. And the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost not because they were all together in one place, all united, lovey-doveying with one another without any scrapping going on among them at all. This is the way it’s usually presented, you know if we could all just get together and love everybody. And of course, that means, you know, give them a mouth full of teeth, and a big hearty handshake, and a pat on the back, a lot of honey, then we would have Pentecost again. That’s just nonsense, nonsense. Pentecost came because it was the fulfillment of Scripture. Listen; if there had been nobody in Jerusalem, and if the temple area had been deserted with the exception of two people there, I guess we have to have a few there, the Holy Spirit would have come. He was supposed to come on Pentecost according to the Old Testament chronological program. He would have come. He didn’t come because they were there, united, praying through down at the altar, nothing of that. So, the time is important. We’ll talk more about that when we study the feast of Leviticus chapter 23.

What are cardinal features of Pentecost? Let me just mention them. It was the day of the inauguration of a new age. It was then the Holy Spirit came in the fullest sense. He was given then. Let me read you a text that you know about, John 7:37-39. “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” Now John adds these words, writing from the perspective of 95 AD or so he says, verse 39, “But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” There could come no gift of the Spirit until our Lord had been glorified. So it was the inauguration of a new age, the age of the Spirit, the age in which the Spirit was given. It was the birthday of the church. The new birth brings us into the family of God. The baptism of the Holy Spirit brings us into the church of God. There is a new order of life in humanity. From now on Christ is the believer’s life. Paul talks about it in Colossians chapter 1. He said it was something that was hidden, too, in Old Testament times.

Fourth, we have the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit from Pentecost on. We have evidence of permanent indwelling of any individual in Old Testament times. Fifth, it was a day in which they experienced the filling of the Spirit. Now, we do have reference to the filling of the Spirit previously. For the Spirit came upon individuals and endued them with power to perform certain tasks.

Sixth, it was a day of tongue speaking. Now, we have seen in verse 4 and verse 8 and verse 11 that from the Acts account the speaking in tongues was a speaking in known tongues. Really, in dialects, but the dialect, that’s the word from we get the English dialect, it really means a language, but it was always a spoken language, a known language. This word occurs, I’ve forgotten, I didn’t look up the number of times again, but it occurs six or seven times in the Book of Acts and in every occurrence it refers to a known language, not ecstatic speech. So the speaking in tongues on the Day of Pentecost was intelligible speech if you had known the language. The miracle was that men who had never studied the language were able to speak it. If I should suddenly break out in Russian, you would know that was a miracle. And if some of you would break out in English with the proper accent, [Laughter] Southern accent it would be a miracle, but this was a miracle.

And finally, it was the inauguration of the reversal of Babylon. At Babylon God confounded the language so that there was a confusion of tongues. ON the Day of Pentecost he gave us an indication that by virtue of the coming of the Holy Spirit, there would be a program which would ultimately lead to the fulfillment of the purpose of God in which there would be gathered in one a people of God who shall ultimately all speak the same language of the new Jerusalem, so that on the Day of Pentecost we have the inauguration of the reversal of Babylon. And in indication, too, that it is through the ministry of the Holy Spirit that this unified body shall be brought out of humanity to glorify God. The church begins as a speaking church and it’s always a speaking church. That’s why we stress the preaching of the word of God. That’s why stress doctrine. That why we stress the fact that the pulpit has an important place, always first place, in the ministry of the church.

Now then, the church was born on the Day of Pentecost, but it doesn’t say they were baptized by the Holy Spirit does it? Well, I don’t think, as I say, it would be absolutely necessary. I believe our point would still be true, but I’m asking you now to turn to Acts chapter 11, where the Apostle Peter helps us out. Good old Peter, he helps us out with some who might want to pick a little bit. He describes, you know what was happening in Cornelius’ house when he got to Jerusalem. He says in verse 15 of chapter 11, “And as I began to speak” isn’t that typical of a preacher? He’s giving his introduction. He had a message prepared. He had plenty of time from his traveling from down in the southern part of the land up through Cornelius’ house to prepare a message. And he spoke his introduction, but unfortunately gave the gospel, and that’s all the Holy Spirit needed was the gospel. So he said, “Peter step aside, we’ve had enough now.” He says, “As I began to speak,” he said, “to him give all the prophets witness that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” The Holy Spirit said, “That’s enough. Step out. Step back Peter.” “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as he did upon us at the beginning.”

So he’s identifying what happened in Cornelius’ house with Pentecost. “And I remembered the word of the Lord how he used to say, John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit. If God therefore gave to them the same gift as he gave to us, also after believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way.” In other words, Peter says, “Look, what happened in Cornelius’ house is the same thing that happened to us in the beginning, and what was it that happened to us on the Day of Pentecost? Why, it was the fulfillment of our Lord’s words that John would baptize us with the Holy Spirit.” So in chapter 11 Peter says that the baptism of the Holy Spirit occurred on the Day of Pentecost.

Well, if the baptism of the Holy Spirit first occurred on the Day of Pentecost and the church is the body that you enter by the baptism of the Holy Spirit, then the church began on the Day of Pentecost. Now if you didn’t have anything else, any information about this, what would you expect in the Book of Acts? Well, you would expect that after these prophetic references to the church, only three mind you, in the whole of the four gospels, you should therefore expect to find the word church becoming very common, shouldn’t you? That’s exactly what you find. You read the Book of Acts and read the history of the body of believers and they start using the term church now. Why? Because the church had come into existence on the Day of Pentecost, that’s why.

Now, there is a reference in the Authorized Version, I think, verse 47 or so, I don’t have an Authorized Version. Does someone have an Authorized Version here? Steve, do you have one here? That’s all right. Carolyn, do you have it? Would you read out loud verse 47 of Acts chapter 2? “Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Yes, notice, “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” If you have a New Testament, a Greek New Testament or if you have a version that is a modern translation you’ll notice the term church is not found there in the older manuscripts. The reference to the word church is found in Acts chapter 5, verse 11. “And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.” So the church’s existence, seventh, it is referred to shortly after Pentecost in Acts chapter 5, verse 11.

Now, in the light of that what shall we say of our great Baptist theologian’s words on chapter 2, verse 47, “The church existed in germ before the Day of Pentecost otherwise there would have been nothing to which those converted on that day could have been added.” Doesn’t it say in Acts chapter 2 here, and verse 47, “Praising God and having favor with all the people And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” “Well, what was the adding? If the church was not in existence, to whom could they be added, so the church must have been in existence,” so Strong argues, “beforehand. Otherwise there would be nothing to which they could be added.”

Now, of course, it’s possible that Luke meant, when he wrote this, they were added to the Lord, because the baptism of the Holy Spirit is that which unites us to him. He was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved, adding them to the Lord. But he probably means that they were added, well to whom? Well, he’s been describing what’s been going on after the Day of Pentecost here. He’s saying they began selling their property and possessions. They were sharing them with anyone who might have need, and day by day continuing with one mind in the temple and breaking bread from house to house. They were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, and the Lord was adding to their number day by day. Why, the adding is not to a previous church. The adding is to the group who were formed into the church on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came. He’s talking about the continuation of the progress of the church. And it is the adding of later believers to the initial believers. Poor Professor Strong, he too knows better, in my opinion. That’s only my opinion you understand.

Now, by the way when I’m going and some of you young people are teaching the Bible it’ll be all right for you to say, “Poor Dr. Johnson, [Laughter] he used to say so and so, but now he knows better.” I give you my permission to do that, [Laughter] because I won’t care. I will be saying, “Isn’t that great, he was really following the Lord rather than following his teachers,” which is good.

Now, our time is just about up. I think I have written in under section two and three everything that I intended to say under those sections. So if you’ll just read them you’ll have it, because I had other things put in my notes to say under those other points, but nothing there. And I think if you have the notes and you read the section on the manner of the birth, and you read it on the ultimate basis of the birth you will have exactly what I intended to say. And what I intended to say, essentially, is that that church is the product of Christ’s work. The conditions upon which a person becomes a member of the church are one must have experienced the new birth and received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The foundation of the church is Jesus Christ himself. And that, of course, is inclusive of his work for he is what he is because of what he had done. He is the foundation of the invisible or universal church. And he is the foundation of the local church as 1 Corinthians 3:11 says. Let’s close with a word of prayer.

[Prayer] Father, we are grateful to Thee for the truth that has been given us concerning the local church. We sense, Lord, a continuity that exists between the believers of the Old Testament and the believers of the New Testament. But we also note that something new and striking occurred on the Day of Pentecost to which the saints of the Old Testament were really strangers. We know that they had a measure of the power of the Holy Spirit and a measure of a relationship to Thee that enabled them to do great exploits for Thee. But we remember that our Lord has said that the Holy Spirit was given on the Day of Pentecost and the union that exists in the body of Christ between the believers and the Lord and one another, and also a union that exists between Jews and Gentiles on the same plain before Thee is a new thing. Enable us, Lord, to understand and appreciate its significance and also to respond…


Posted in: Ecclesiology