|A355 : by Tony Garland |
As you mentioned, in a previous teaching concerning the errors of Mid-Acts Dispensationalisma (hereafter “MAD”), I described how Scripture sets forth the following logical relation:
Therefore: The Church began on the Day of Pentecost
- The Church is defined as the Body of Christ (Col. 1:18; Eph. 1:22-23)
- The Body of Christ is formed by Spirit Baptism (1Cor. 12:13)
- Spirit baptism began on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:5; Acts 11:15-17)
If this is true, then this singular fact destroys MAD which distinguishes a Pauline Church (of this age) from an earlier group of Jewish disciples and followers who ministered after the ascension of Jesus, but before Paul was given revelation of the mystery of the Church.
Clearly, for MAD to exist, they must dispute this simple logic—and they do!
MAD rejects this line of reasoning by maintaining there are two Spirit baptisms for two different people groups:
They support this conclusion by appealing to the difference in English translations of an underlying Greek preposition: either as with (Mark 1:8, etc.) or by (1Cor 12:13).
- The Jews of Pentecost underwent a Spirit baptism where Jesus was the agent and the Spirit was the element: 8 He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8). This baptism is unrelated to the Body of Christ.
- Subsequent to the conversion of Paul and his teaching concerning the revelation of the mystery of the Church, other believers underwent a different Spirit baptism in which the Spirit was the agent: 12 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body . . . (1Cor. 12:13). It is this different baptism which formed the Body of Christ.
In what follows, I'll respond to several statements in Ron Samdahl’s article https://doctrine.org/what-was-pentecost and explain why classic dispensationalism does not agree with the conclusions of MAD regarding the Day of Pentecost.
Samdahl: “The definition of the Church, the body of Christ, is that organism composed of Jew and Gentile, who are equal in Christ (Galatians 3.26-28). If Pentecost was the birth of the Church, why did Peter not include Gentiles in his message?”
MAD denies the progressive nature by which Jesus indicated the Church would be established and evangelism would go forth. Jesus clearly indicated that the Church would be established in an inside-out priority and order, beginning with Jews, then Samaritans, then Gentiles.
8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
Thus, we see Spirit baptism would be introduced in stages: first to the Jews (Acts 2), then to the Samaritans (Acts 8), and finally to the Gentiles at the house of Cornelius (Acts 10). In each instance, those affected spoke in tongues as a sign of the Spirit's work.12
Notice that it was Jesus Himself who specified the order in which evangelism would go forth to form the Church: starting in Jerusalem (with Jews — "to the Jew first"), reaching the despised Samaritans (with Jewish connections, a rival religious group, John 4), and extending eventually to the Gentiles—which numerically dominate today.
Peter didn’t preach to Gentiles on the Day of Pentecost because the giving of the Spirit first involved the Jews residing in and visiting Jerusalem, in accord to the order given by Jesus. Quite simply: Gentiles were not numerically significant at the Feast of Pentecost. Not only that, Peter clearly didn’t yet understand what God had initiated—at least not the Gentile/global aspect of the fledgling Church. Otherwise, God wouldn’t have given him the teaching lesson he received on the rooftop of Simon the Tanner’s house in preparation for ministering to the Gentiles at the house of Cornelius (Acts 10). Peter’s pattern is clear: God initiates actions and Peter only understands them in retrospect (e.g., Acts 11, where Peter comments on Acts 10). The fact that Peter didn't preach the first evangelistic sermon to Gentiles is of little consequence and is according to the evangelistic design, instructions, and instructions of Jesus.
Even so, Peter eventually comes to understand that what transpired with the Jews on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) was a beginning which included the gospel going to the Gentiles. We see this by examining what Peter relates concerning the conversion of Gentiles in Acts 10. How did Peter come to understand what transpired—when subsequently defending his actions before his fellow Jews?
15 "And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. 16 "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.’ 17 "If therefore 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?” (Acts 11:15-17)
Key points to notice about what Peter relates in Acts 11:
In both cases, whether Jews or Gentiles, God’s response in gifting the Spirit was in response to faith, not works. Peter says the Jews were saved by faith, not works, on the Day of Pentecost: 17 . . . God gave them [the Gentiles] the same gift as [He gave] us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ . . . (Acts 11:17). The message Peter preached to the Gentiles on this occasion was undeniably salvation by faith. Here’s a small snippet of his message in Acts 10: 43 To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:43) Remission of sins was received simply be belief. Peter connects this salvation with the death (Acts 10:39) and resurrection (Acts 10:40) of Jesus—as did all the prophets (Acts 10:43).
- Peter understood what transpired to the Gentiles in Acts 10 was the same as what transpired to the Jews in Acts 2
- Peter understood it entailed Spirit baptism
- Peter understood both actions: one involving the Jews in Acts 2 and the subsequent action with Gentiles in Acts 10 were connected with the same beginning 15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning (Acts 11:15)
Peter tells us the giving of the Spirit to Gentiles in Acts 10 was part of the work of God that began with the Jews in Acts 2.
The order of Jews first, then eventually Gentiles (with Samaritans in-between) is in simply in accord with God’s divine evangelistic plan as Jesus set forth (Acts 1:8)
- Both were part of a beginning — the beginning of the Church
- Both were in response to faith, not works
- Both involved identical Spirit baptism
Samdahl: “Why did he not say a word about the body of Christ? To press further, why did Peter or any of the Twelve or James never mention the body of Christ?”
Because Peter didn’t understand aspects of what God had initiated—and because Paul was given that revelation (Eph. 3:4-9; 5:32). Peter understood more as time went on (as we saw in Acts 11). Just like in Acts 10-11, God initiated a work, and it was only afterward that Peter was made to understand what had already taken place. And so it is with Spirit baptism which created the Church on the Day of Pentecost—it was left to God’s subsequent revelation to Paul to fully explain the relation of Spirit baptism in forming the Body of Christ.
Samdahl: “Peter knew nothing about God’s salvation based upon the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ . . .”
This is an argument from silence (a common technique of MAD teachings)—and arguments from silence are notoriously unreliable. In the same article, Samdahl mentions Isaiah 53 — which sets forth the concept of substitutionary atonement hundreds of years before the NT and the revelation given to the Apostle Paul. What exactly Peter knew on the Day of Pentecost is difficult to establish with certainty. He certainly understood the importance of the death and resurrection of Jesus—explicitly mentioning both in his first evangelistic sermon (Acts 2:23-24; 31-32). He also connected acceptance of the work of Christ with the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Is this really all that far away from the gospel of today—once we allow for Peter’s improved understanding with time? As we just saw, by the time Peter ministers at the house of Cornelius, he is giving a message which clearly sets forth salvation by faith—just as we preach today.
Samdahl: “These declarations [by John the Baptist, in the early gospels] indicate Jesus was the baptizer, the agent of baptism. However, Paul taught that members of the Church, the body of Christ, are not baptized by Christ but are baptized by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the agent who baptizes one into the body of Christ. . . . Thus, at Pentecost, Jewish believers were baptized by Christ. Believers of Paul’s gospel, however, are not baptized by Christ but by the Holy Spirit.”
We now reach the most important aspect where MAD differs from classic Dispensationalism: what is Paul describing in 1 Corinthians 12:13? Is it a different baptism than John the Baptist and Jesus predicted would occur in association with the new ministry of the Spirit (Mat. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5)?
Depending upon your Bible translation, at first glance it might appear so:
8 I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8, NKJV)
Similarly Mat. 3:11; Luke 1:16; John 1:33; and Acts 1:5.
13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. (1Cor. 12:13, NKJV)
On the surface, it looks like a significant difference: Mark’s passage specifies Jesus as the agent baptizing with the Spirit as the element. Paul’s passage specifies the baptism by the Spirit—with the Spirit as the agent . . . or so it seems.
How significant is this difference between the prepositions with and by appearing in the two passages?
Here’s an important clue: all passages which clearly identify Spirit baptism3 use the identical Greek phrase: ἐν . . . πνεύματι [en . . . pneumati]. The Greek preposition in this phrase, εν [en], can be variously translated into English as in, with, or by. MAD places tremendous emphasis on the difference in English translation of the identical Greek preposition: whether “with” or “by,” and concludes there must be two different Spirit baptisms: one with Jesus as agent and the Spirit as the element; and another with the Spirit as agent. But the underling Greek preposition is identical. This should be a big yellow flag that the English preposition can’t carry the significance MAD requires!
Moreover, numerous Greek experts prefer a different rendering in 1 Corinthians 12:13 than the all-important “by” required for MAD’s argument. This includes several popular modern translations: 13 For in one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body . . . (1Cor. 12:13, ESV, NET). Notice they take the Spirit as the element, not the agent.
Others follow suit:
An additional hint that the Spirit should be taken as the element is found in the following phrase where Paul compares this baptism to the effects of water baptism: . . . and have all been made to drink into one Spirit (1Cor 12:13). The analogy seems to be, as with water immersion, immersion in the Spirit causes one to ingest the element.
- Greek expert, Kenneth Wuest: 13 By means of one Spirit we all were placed into one body . . . (1Cor. 12:13) Wuest allows for a broad understanding of the Spirit’s participation in this work—including the notion that the Spirit serves as the element (“in”).
- Expositor’s Greek Testament remarks: en defines the element and ruling influence of the baptism [emphasis in original]
- Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown (JFB) comments: literally, “in”; in virtue of, through”
- Christian Kling, in Lange’s Bible Commentary remarks: The Spirit is here represented as the element into which the baptized have been transferred (not the agent)
Besides all that, the role of the Spirit as element does not necessitate a surgical exclusion from any contribution in agency.4 Even if we were to consider "by" as the only viable English rendering and insist on the primary meaning (agency), it still would not negate Jesus is the ultimate agent—Who sends the Spirit to do the (delegated) work (John 14:16-18). As the Bible Knowledge Commentary puts it: The One who gave the diverse gifts, the Spirit, was also the medium in which, by which, and with which (possible translations of the Gr. preposition en; cf. Matt. 3:11) that unity exists.”
One might also ponder: if this verse requires the Spirit as the agent, then what is the element? John (the agent) baptized with water (the element) into a baptism of repentance (the sphere). Jesus (the agent) baptizes with the Spirit (the element) into the body of Christ (the sphere). But, if the Spirit is taken as the agent here and the sphere as the body of Christ, what is the element?
In common with Pentecostals, MAD places undo emphasis on the variations in the English translations and their different rendering of the Greek preposition εν [en]. The fact that the Greek phrase is identical everywhere it appears should be a huge caution about placing too great of an emphasis on these English translational differences.
In summary: MAD builds a major new doctrine (two spirit baptisms) upon on a shaky foundation
The difference in English translation of the identical Greek phrase is used as the foundation to build a doctrine upon which the rest of Scripture is silent: two different Spirit baptisms. Neither Peter nor Paul distinguish two baptizing ministries involving the Spirit. Nor do Jesus or John the Baptist.
The MAD view of the Day of Pentecost also illustrates the erroneous ways proponents of MAD handle the Scriptures. In my view, this is the foundation of their interpretive errors:
- Peter - Peter tells us what happened to the Gentiles in Acts 10 was the same baptizing work that happened to the Jews at Pentecost. The fact that God did the identical thing with Gentiles forced Peter and his fellow countrymen to accept that God was integrating Gentiles into the work on an equal footing: "If therefore 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?” (Acts 11:17) The events of Acts 10 occurred in A.D. 39, but 1 Corinthians 12:13 wasn't written for another 16 years (A.D. 55). Thus, Gentiles were incorporated into the Church over a decade before Paul would communicate the supposed "second Spirit baptism" imagined by MAD.
- The Greek - The phrase translated "by one Spirit" does not necessitate taking the Spirit as the agent (vs. Jesus). Numerous Greek experts, as reflected by some English translations, believe the English preposition "in the Spirit" or "with the Spirit" to be a more faithful translation. The Greek phrase ἐν . . . πνεύματι [en . . . pneumati] is identical in all passages concerning Spirit baptism. To build an otherwise-unmentioned doctrine of a second type of Spirit baptism on the basis of vagaries in English translation—when the underlying Greek is identical in all cases—is a recipe for trouble.
- The Body of Christ - When must the body of Christ minister? Why is the Church referred to as the “body of Christ”? Like a bride joined to her husband, the Church is considered joined with Jesus—His body (Eph. 5:30-32) and ministers, by the power of the Spirit, in His physical absence. When did the physical body of Christ depart necessitating the formation of a spiritual body in His absence? At the ascension of Jesus (Acts 1). When did the spiritual body of Christ form? A few days after His ascension (Acts 2). When did Jesus fulfill His promise to not leave the disciples orphans (John 14:18)? If the physical body of Christ arose in Acts 1:9, are we to believe it would be over a decade before the spiritual body of Christ began its work—with a separate group of Christians, as MAD requires?
- Finding/making distinctions where they are not to be found
- Placing undo emphasis upon differences in the English rendering of passages where the underlying Greek is identical
- Majoring on arguments from silence, “why didn’t Peter say . . .”—inferring doctrinal distinctives based on what isn’t said rather than what is
|1.||Not explicitly stated, but inferred in Acts 8.|
|2.||See the chart on page 8 of notes for my presentation on Acts 2b.|
|3.||Mat. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; 1Cor. 12:13|
|4.||After all, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9; 1Pe. 1:11) and Christ referred to the coming of the Spirit as, I will come to you (John 14:18).|