Calvinism: Does Acts 2:47 support it?
It is easy to understand why some people believe Jesus Christ did not die for the sins of the entire world, but only for some. The “some” are often spoken of as “the elect.” Here are some passages of Scripture used to support their belief. This first one is a fairly well-known Messianic passage.
8 He [prophetically speaking of the imprisonment, trials, and crucifixion of Christ] was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. [Emphasis added]
This says nothing of Him being “stricken” for the entire world of mankind. It speaks only of the people of Israel. There are other passages that speak of it this way.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. [Emphasis added]
These verses don’t actually limit His work as something done only for Israel, but they certainly don’t tell us Christ died for the sins of the entire world either.
28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. [Emphasis added]
Other passages in the gospel accounts tell us practically the same thing— Mark 10:45 & Matthew 26:28. In each of these passages we are simply told that He died for many. Then in this next passage Christ is only speaking to His apostles.
20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. [Emphasis added]
An angel made a statement about this subject in relation to the birth of Christ in Bethlehem.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. [Emphasis added]
Our subject for this article, Acts 2:47, is also one such passage that seems to limit the number for which this was done.
47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. [Emphasis added]
Therefore, for a time, from what we gather from the records of Scripture, it was not revealed that this work of Christ would be done for all the world, including Gentiles. Passages like the ones I’ve mentioned are the ones Calvinists and others like to focus on when speaking of the scope of Christ’s work—His death, burial, and resurrection. In other words, who did Christ die for to provide a way of salvation? Is salvation truly available to everyone without exception? The question before us then is this—Was what Christ accomplished through His death, burial, and resurrection only for a limited few as the followers of John Calvin claim or was it for all mankind?
As we study this, we do need to consider the fact that Christ’s earthly ministry was limited in scope. It was confined to the people of Israel. If a Gentile wanted the blessing of God, he had to be circumcised and become what we speak of as a proselyte Jew. God wanted to form through Israel an earthly nation of people. This goes all the way back to the promise first given to Abraham. It would be through him and his progeny that would come a nation by which God would bless all the Gentile nations of the world.
1 Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. [Emphasis added]
Israel will eventually fulfill this purpose but obviously still has not. That’s still yet to come. The heart of the problem is that thus far most of the descendants of Abraham have not been a people of faith. Instead, for the most part they have been a corrupt, unbelieving people. The apostle Paul speaks of this.
6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel [spiritually], which are of Israel [physically]: [Emphasis added]
There have been many descendants of Abraham who did not have the simple faith of Abraham. These Israelites cannot be God’s physical people without also being His spiritual people. A “true Jew” has both a physical circumcision and a spiritual circumcision. The first is of his flesh, the second is of his heart.
28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. [Emphasis added]
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the prophet Isaiah spoke of Jesus Christ many centuries before He was born [Isaiah 53:8]. Isaiah’s descendants were all Jews. There were no Gentiles at all involved in his prophecy. It was over seven centuries after his time that the Christ child was born as predicted. Then beginning with John the Baptist’s ministry recorded in Matthew chapter 3, God began to call out a little flock of Jewish believers from that unbelieving nation Israel. Jesus Christ continued with this throughout the time of His earthly ministry. Then in Acts chapter 2 we read of Peter preaching a message working to form that called-out group of Jewish believers. Peter is following the instructions Jesus had given before He ascended into heaven.
47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. [Emphasis added]
The prophet Zechariah had predicted all this centuries earlier.
7 The Lord also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against Judah.
God’s plan was to minister to Israel first. The Twelve Apostles were to begin their ministry in Jerusalem then go to Judea [southern Israel], to Samaria [northern Israel], and ultimately to the world [the Gentiles]. Therefore, Jesus restricted His earthly ministry to Israel.
24 But he [Jesus] answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [Emphasis added]
The same was true for the apostles. The scope of their ministry was also limited.
5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans [who were part Gentile] enter ye not:
6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. [Emphasis added]
Prophecy dictated that Israel was to be saved first, and then the people of Israel would be the channel for salvation and blessings to the Gentile people of the other nations of the world.
1 Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee [speaking of the people of Israel].
2 For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.
3 And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. [Emphasis added]
The covenant God made with Abraham had a long-range effect. It would be his spiritual progeny that would be God’s special nation that would preach to the Gentile nations. But all this would begin in Israel through God’s provision of the Savior. Note what the “religious” leaders of Israel were told about all this.
30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.
Note the contrast between how they treated Him and what God did with Him.
31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. [Emphasis added]
The fact that God had promised to do this for Israel is a theme throughout the writings of all the prophets. Note what the apostle Peter says about it.
21 Whom [speaking of Christ] the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things [speaking of His Second Coming and the earthly kingdom that would follow], which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. [Emphasis added]
Peter’s ministry was focused on repeating and building on what the prophets of Israel had spoken and written. He is saying that this prophecy was then being fulfilled. And that’s what the verse of this study is talking about. Let’s look at that verse again.
47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved [literally—those that were being saved]. [Emphasis added]
This “church” [EKKLESIA = assembly] and the ones that “should be saved” is referring to believing Israelites—those who had accepted Jesus as their promised Messiah. All this is a reference to God wanting every Jew to be converted so they as a nation could become His kingdom of priests. They were to be saved not merely from hell to eternal life, but from that apostate religion that had held them captive as a nation for so long. Both Moses and Peter talk about this.
5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye [Israelites] shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
So often these verses are taken out of context and misapplied to us today.
6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. [Emphasis added]
Originally the priesthood of Israel was confined to the tribe of Levi. This verse recorded in Exodus was a promise that the entire nation would become a kingdom of priests. Again, these were by no means promises to Gentiles and to us today, but to regenerate Israel and only Israel. Sometimes believers today think of themselves as believer priests, but such is not the case. If they are, who are the people they are representing before God? They are not, but as believers today they are members of the Body of Christ which is a superior position. The Levites did not have such an intimate relationship with Christ their Savior. We, today, are said to be members of Christ’s body.
29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. [Emphasis added]
With Israel the relationship and their role was different.
1 Peter 2:9-10
9 But ye [Israelites] are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people [PERIPOIESIS = a purchased possession]; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;
10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. [Emphasis added]
But having said all this, is there anything in the Bible that tells us Christ died, was buried, and rose again for people who are not Jewish or a part of Israel? If you’re a Gentile, you should be very glad to know that there is! These passages we’ve noted so far in this article are of course all correct, they just don’t comment about the full scope or the extent of what Christ accomplished through His cross and resurrection. That had not yet been revealed. In those passages it appears to be only for Israel. Let’s look at some of these other passages in Scripture that record things since that time that tell us more about what God accomplished through Christ. Probably the most well-known is this first one I’ll mention.
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. [Emphasis added]
One of the first things you need to understand about this subject is that Calvinists and some others sometimes have their own made-up definition for certain terms. An example of this is the word world in this passage. To them this means the world of the elect or all kinds of people, not everyone without exception or all mankind. Instead of accepting what is clearly stated, they do this to support their beliefs. Instead of drawing truths from the Scripture [called exegesis], they insert their own meaning into the Scripture [called eisegesis]. And that’s not an exaggeration or a misrepresentation of what they do. That’s exactly what they do! I should know because I was taught that for three years at a leading Calvinistic seminary.
The apostle John tells us the truth about this.
1 John 2:2
2 And he [speaking of Christ] is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world [KOSMOS = world]. [Emphasis added]
What could be clearer than that! I always want to say to these people, “What part of world do you not understand?”
1 John 4:14
14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. [Emphasis added]
Then the writer of Hebrews tells us the same thing in different words.
9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. [Emphasis added]
Then we have our apostle, the apostle Paul’s clear statements about this.
32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? [Emphasis added]
2 Corinthians 5:14-15,19
14 For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:
Again, this is not all kinds of people, but all people without exception.
15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. [Emphasis added]
What a marvelous truth Calvinists cover up! How shameful!
1 Timothy 2:5-6
5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. [Emphasis added]
1 Timothy 4:10
10 For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe. [Emphasis added]
We need not read anything into any of these. They mean what they clearly say.
11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, [Emphasis added]
All are savable because Christ did His cross work for all people, not just some. An unbeliever can’t even get saved without believing Christ died for his sins. That’s at the heart of our gospel message to the world, not just to some.
2 Corinthians 5:21
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. [Emphasis added]
Not until an unbeliever believes Christ died for him, paying the full penalty for his sins does he receive the righteousness of God by which he is then said to be justified and saved.
We see in so many passages the prominent position Israel once had in all this— “Ye men of Judaea… Ye men of Israel… Let all the house of Israel know assuredly…” [Acts 2:13, 22, 36]. The salvation spoken of in Acts 2:47 is quite different from our situation today— the church which is Body of Christ. At that time they still didn’t know and fully understand what Christ had accomplished through His death, burial, and resurrection. Their focus was on the fact that He was the promised Messiah. People had to believe in His name, that is, who He was as the Messiah. Furthermore, they knew nothing of this today that is spoken of as the Dispensation of the Grace of God. This information was later channeled to us through the revelation given first to the apostle Paul. This “church,” this assembly of God’s people today, is made up of both Jews and Gentiles. But Jews no longer enjoy a place of prominence. Today God’s blessing is open equally to all, to the whole world of mankind. Gentiles could be saved in Old Testament times, but it was always through Israel. Today it is channeled through any member of the Body of Christ who presents it— Jew or Gentile.
1 Corinthians 12:13
13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized [there’s of course no water involved in this Spirit baptism at all] into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. [Emphasis added]
This is the “one baptism” for us today that Paul speaks of.
5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, [Emphasis added]
The Calvinists, like so many in Christendom, fail to realize that Acts chapter 2 was not the Body of Christ church, the present-day group of believers in Jesus Christ. At the time of Acts 2:47 a person had to become a Jew first to become a part of the family of God. That’s not true today! That restriction has been lifted. Again, now God is forming a body of believers made up of both Jews and Gentiles. Gentiles are on equal footing with Jews.
26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
This occurs through the new birth or what Paul speaks of as regeneration [Titus 3:5].
27 For as many of you as have been baptized [by the Holy Spirit] into Christ have put on Christ.
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek [speaking of Gentiles], there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. [Emphasis added]
If this wasn’t important, Paul wouldn’t mention it so often in his letters. It is a blessing that others before this present age of grace didn’t have.
11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. [Emphasis added]
Also, Ephesians 2:11-18 speaks of this. By faith in the work of Christ we are all one in Christ. The fact that such would occur was totally unknown until it was first revealed through the apostle Paul. That is why it is spoken of as a mystery, that is, a secret held in the mind of God until it was made known through Paul [Romans 16:25-26; Ephesians 3:1-11; Colossians 1:24-28].
Calvinism is a system of theology that covers up or distorts so many marvelous truths. They can’t even present the gospel to someone without wondering if Christ died for the person they’re talking to. Then if the person doesn’t accept the gospel, they may assume Christ must not have died for them. They must not be one of the elect, chosen of God for salvation. How ridiculous! All people need to know God has made provision for them so that they can be saved. We don’t need to give anyone an excuse for not accepting the good news message about what God did for them and all the world. We truly have good news to herald to all. You can tell anyone Christ died and rose again to provide them with a way of salvation. Let us get on with that without these foolish distractions.
If you want more information about these things, I encourage you to go to our website where you’ll find quite a list of articles about them— 4Us2UsMinistries.com. Just type Calvinism in the search box and it will take you to them. Here is a list of some of the articles that are currently available on this website that provide correct answers to this false teaching known as Calvinism. I think you’ll find them all quite helpful.
Bible: What’s the true meaning of John 3:16?
Calvinism: Does Acts 2:47 support it?
Calvinism: Does Romans 9:14-18 support it?
Calvinism: What is it all about?
Election: What should we believe about this?
Ephesians 2:8: Is it salvation or faith that is the gift of God?
God: Does He love everyone?
Hell: Does God pick and choose who’s going there?
Jesus Christ: For whom did He die?
Predestination: Does God predetermine who’s going to Hell?
Salvation: Does God desire it for everyone?
Salvation: Is the salvation of a believer secure?
Volition: Does man have free will?
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