Type to search

Church:  Did ours today begin at the time of Acts 2?

Gary Googe May 09

The word for church in the Bible comes from the Greek word, EKKLESIA.  It simply means assembly.  This can be confusing when you realize that this same word is used in Scripture for a rioting mob.

Acts 19:32

32 Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly [EKKLESIA = assembly or church] was confused: and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together. [Emphasis added]

Of course, I suppose there have been times when a church assembly acted like a rioting mob.  But on a more serious note, either word would be a legitimate translation here, for we have EKKLESIA translated with the word church in most other passages where it is used.  Here’s a well-known example of that.

Matthew 16:18

18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church [EKKLESIA]; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. [Emphasis added]

I suppose you may have noticed that we have some churches or denominations today called The Church of God and others called The Assembly of God.  All this is based on the same Greek word—EKKLESIA.  The Greek term is even where we get the word ecclesiastical.

The EKKLESIA mentioned in Acts 2 is an assembly [or church] of Jewish believers.  There wasn’t a Gentile in the crowd unless there were some proselyte Jews there [Acts 2:5].  People today typically think Peter’s church is fundamentally the same church the Apostle Paul later ministered to, and that was made up of believers who came to be called members of the Body of Christ.  But is that the case? Are they one and the same? Again, most believers today believe they were.  The logic used for this view is as follows.

  1. The church of today is the Body of Christ.
  2. Membership into the Body of Christ is through the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
  3. A Spirit baptism occurred on this Acts 2 Day of Pentecost [one of many Jewish Holy Days].
  4. Therefore, the church of today began on that Acts 2 Day of Pentecost.

The logic of this argument appears strong. However, as you’ll see in this article, when other Scriptural data are considered, the traditional view completely collapses.  The logical argument for rejecting the traditional view is the following.

  1. The Apostle Paul stated that the Church, the Body of Christ, was not something prophesied, but had been a mystery, a secret. Paul made this declaration years after the day of Pentecost mentioned in Acts 2.
  2. Nothing in Scripture tells us the Twelve Apostles knew anything about the Body of Christ Church at the time of Acts 2 and not until it was revealed to them by the Apostle Paul. Peter and the others knew only about the prophesied earthly kingdom Church.
  3. The Twelve Apostles knew nothing about Jews and Gentiles becoming an equal Body of believers seated positionally in the heavens with a heavenly citizenship [Ephesians 1:3-4; Philippians 3:20; Colossians 1:5].
  4. Therefore, it is impossible for the Body of Christ Church to have begun on the day of Pentecost at the time of Acts 2.

Some may wonder what difference all this makes.  But this issue is one of the main reasons for divisions and so many church denominations today.  WHEN the church of today began affects many teachings of the Bible.  Therefore, if we’re to be obedient to God, this subject deserves our attention.

Three major problems exist for the traditional view that says the church of today began on the Day of Pentecost at the time of Acts 2.

1st Problem:  God explicitly states through the Apostle Paul that the Body of Christ Church was a mystery, a “secret” not known to the prophets. The Old English Bible speaks of it as having been a “mystery.”

Ephesians 3:3-9

How that by revelation he made known unto me [the Apostle Paul] the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,

Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)

Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;

That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:

Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.

Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;

And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: [Emphasis added]

Other passages that tell us about this same thing would include Colossians 1:26-27 and Romans 16:25-27.

Quite unlike this secret, the church at Pentecost of Acts 2 is said to have been the fulfillment of prophecy.  Clearly it could not have been prophesied if it had been a mystery, a secret to everyone.

2nd Problem:  The second problem confirms the first.  It is the fact that there’s no Biblical evidence showing that anyone at Pentecost states in any way that the Body of Christ Church had then come into existence.  The Twelve Apostles knew nothing at all about this Church that included both Jews and Gentiles.  Peter addressed only Jews on that occasion.  Furthermore, Paul is the only writer of Scripture who speaks of the Body of Christ Church.  Such terminology is absent from the Gospels and the letters of Peter, James, John, and Jude.  Paul was the first to declare that the Body of Christ Church was one in which Jews and Gentiles in Christ are equal. Peter obviously did not know this.  If he did, he would have addressed Gentiles in Acts 2 and not left them completely out of the picture as he did.  It was years later that Peter learned about all this, and other things related, from the Apostle Paul.  Peter speaks of this in his last recorded words.

II Peter 3:15-16

15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;

16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest [STREBLOO = twist], as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. [Emphasis added]

From that day until now these things are often not understood and “wrest” by those who are “unlearned and unstable.”  The division this subject has caused among believers is disgraceful.

3rd Problem:  Peter and the Eleven Apostles were looking for the fulfillment of prophecy, i.e., the kingdom of God being established on Earth which God spoke about through the prophets of old.  The recorded things that happened in Acts 2 were the beginning of the fulfillment of those prophesies, not a then disclosed mystery [or secret] that had been hidden.  The Old Testament Scriptures contain not even one word about the Church that is the Body of Christ.  Peter quoted from the writings of the prophet Joel and expected miraculous things like the “sun to be turned into darkness and the moon into blood.”

Acts 2:15-20

15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.

16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;

17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of 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:

18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:

19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:

20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come: [Emphasis added]

Peter and the others were obviously expecting Christ to come in judgment and to establish His earthly kingdom.  However, the first portion of this prophecy was fulfilled, but because of Israel’s ultimate rejection of her Messiah there was an interruption.  Verses nineteen and following were not fulfilled.  That portion of the prophecy has all been put off to a future day, being eventually fulfilled in what we speak of as the coming time of The Tribulation that leads up to the Second Coming of Christ to the Earth.

Unlike the prophesied Church, the Body of Christ Church was a new creature [or creation], a “secret” God first revealed through the Apostle Paul.

II Corinthians 5:17

17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature [KTISIS = creation]: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. [Emphasis added]

It is by way of a dry baptism, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, that believers today, both Jews and Gentiles, are made into one body.

I Corinthians 12:13

13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized 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]

The fact that He was going to do this had been kept secret.

Here a comment needs to be made about the difference between this baptism of the Spirit and the baptism in the Spirit.  These are two different baptisms.  In the first, a person is placed in the Body of Christ.  In the other, one is placed in the SpiritAgain, these are not the same.  The first had been a mystery, a secret while the other had been a prophecy.  Paul wrote in Ephesians 3 that “by revelation” this “secret” was revealed to him [v. 3] and that this secret was unknown to “other generations” and “sons of men” [v. 5]. What was this secret? It was that Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body [v. 6].  What body did Paul mean? He meant the Body of Christ spoken of in I Corinthians 12:13 and in his other epistles [Romans 12:5; I Corinthians 10:16; 12:27; Ephesians 4:12; Colossians 1:24; 2:17].

Again, I Corinthians 12:13

13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized 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]

It can be tempting to conclude that when Paul wrote “it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets” [Ephesians 3:5] that God had revealed this secret to The Twelve apostles.  But reading further into this passage tells us this was not the case.  Paul states clearly that this secret had been revealed to him only[Ephesians 3:2-3] and that God gave him the grace to preach to the Gentiles the “the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God,” [Ephesians 3:7-9].

As we’ve noted, The Twelve learned about the “secret” of the Body of Christ from Paul.  No Biblical evidence exists to support the view that anyone knew of it before Paul. The passages in Acts that recorded the events surrounding Pentecost provide evidence that The Twelve knew nothing about the Body of Christ. God did not reveal this “secret” to them at that time. Consider Paul’s words elsewhere on this.


24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:

25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;

26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:

27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: [Emphasis added]

Note Paul’s words in verse twenty-five.  When he speaks of himself as a minister, of which church was he speaking? Did he mean the Jewish church to which The Twelve had been ministering? No! He meant the Body of Christ Church.  Were Peter and the Eleven ministers of the Body of Christ? They were not if we believe what Paul tells us.  This was the ministry the ascended Christ gave to Paul from Heaven.  Note what he says to the Galatian churches about this.

Galatians 2:7-9

But contrariwise, when they [the Twelve Apostles] saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;

(For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)

And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. [Emphasis added]

Here Paul made a special trip to Jerusalem to brief the apostles on both his message and his mission.

Galatians 2:2

And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain. [Emphasis added]

There he informed them that God had commissioned him as “the apostle to the Gentiles.”  The Twelve weren’t informing Paul of anything.

Romans 11:13 [see also Ephesians 3:1-9]

13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: [Emphasis added]

His message was what is usually called the Gospel of the Grace of God.

Acts 20:24

24 But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. [Emphasis added]

The Twelve Apostles did not receive a commission to the Gentiles.

Matthew 10:5-7

These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:

But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. [Emphasis added]

They were to eventually go to the world with this message [Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-20, but first Israel had to be brough to repentance, and that never happened.  As late as Acts 11:19 we see them still bogged down in Jerusalem facing unbelief with the Jews.  No such message as theirs was ever given to Paul or to us today.

Acts 11:19

19 Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. [Emphasis added]

These men were ONLY apostles to the people of Israel.  Even their eternal future will be linked to that of Israel.

Matthew 19:28

28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. [Emphasis added]

Their message was not the Gospel of the Grace of God.  Instead, they preached the Gospel of the Kingdom [also called the gospel of the circumcision in Galatians 2:7], a different gospel.  In Paul’s Jerusalem council meeting with The Twelve recorded in Acts 15, Paul informs them that they were to continue in their work with Israel and that he would continue with the Gentiles.  Throughout this time The Twelve had not worked with the Gentiles with the one exception being Cornelius [Acts 10].  The reason they had not done so was because they were still working under the Kingdom program Christ had given them earlier [Matthew 10:5-7].  Note again Luke’s very important comment about this in his writing.  I mention it still again because most Bible teachers miss this point completely.

Again, Acts 11:19

19 Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. [Emphasis added]

Now let’s notice some things about this Holy Day called Pentecost.  What was it? It was a Jewish feast day which occurred fifty days after a special day for Israel called the Passover.  At the time of Acts 2 it was when Jesus told His disciples to remain in Jerusalem to receive the Holy Spirit [Luke 24:49; John 14:16-17,26; 15:26; Acts 1:8].  The coming of the Holy Spirit was a key component of God’s prophetic program for Israel [Isaiah 44:3 cf. 59:21].  It was by no means the birth of the Body of Christ Church for there’s nothing in the Old Testament that spoke of it.  Again, it was a mystery, a secret! The baptism in the Holy Spirit was an essential part of the fulfillment of the promise of the New Covenant that Jesus had initiated at the Last Supper [Matthew 26:27-28].  This was the coming of the covenant Jeremiah had prophesied.

Jeremiah 31:33 [also Ezekiel 16:62]

33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. [Emphasis added]

Jesus initiated this New Covenant at His Last Supper with the Apostles.  In the years prior He proclaimed that the kingdom of God was close to being established.  His work on the cross and resurrection fully atoned for the sins of all mankind.  Then at Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended and Jewish believers were baptized in Him.  Israel was then on the threshold of gaining all the blessings the prophets had foretold.  Only one last thing was requiredIsrael had to “repent,” meaning they had to change their mind about the identity of this Jesus they had crucified and accept Him as their promised Messiah.

Acts 2:38-39

38 Then Peter said unto them, 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.

39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off [Jews in other nations], even as many as the Lord our God shall call. [Emphasis added]

If they had repented, Jesus Christ would have then returned to the Earth and established the promised kingdom.

Acts 3:19-21

1Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when [HOPOS = so that] the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord [a reference to His kingdom on Earth].

20 And he shall send Jesus Christ [a reference to His Second Coming], which before was preached unto you:

21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things [a reference to the promised earthly kingdom], which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. [Emphasis added]

It would be then that the famous prayer would be answered.

Matthew 6:9-10

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. [Emphasis added]

The apostles understood all this clearly, but Christ’s crucifixion came as a complete surprise to them even though He had briefed them on the necessity of it.

Luke 18:31-34

31 Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.

32 For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on:

33 And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.

34 And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken. [Emphasis added]

Needless to say, the apostles were greatly discouraged when all this came to pass.  Therefore, when He was about to leave them and ascend into heaven, this matter regarding the promised kingdom on Earth was the most pressing thing on their minds.  Of all the things they could have asked Him, this took priority.

Acts 1:6-7

When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? [Emphasis added]

Then notice carefully His answer.

And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. [Emphasis added]

He doesn’t say yes, and He doesn’t say no, even though He knew Israel was not going to respond with faith in order for the kingdom to be established.  If He had told them what was going to happen, they would have been highly discouraged and lost their enthusiasm for fulfilling their commission.  For Jesus had promised them that they would have a special position of rulership over the twelve tribes of Israel in the coming Kingdom.

Matthew 19:28 [also Luke 22:30]

28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. [Emphasis added]

Because there were Jews from foreign countries gathered in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, God enabled these believers to miraculously speak to them in their native tongue.  They also received the power to perform miracles as Christ had in His earthly ministry.

Acts 1:8

Butye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. [Emphasis added]

These miraculous powers were used to confirm the validity of their message that Jesus was their Messiah, and the kingdom was soon to be established if they would repent.

Again, Acts 3:19

19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when [HOPOS = so that] the times of refreshing shall come [Christ’s Millennial Kingdom] from the presence of the Lord. [Emphasis added]

But there were still no Gentiles involved at all at this point.  Therefore, it makes no sense to believe that the Body of Christ Church began at this time.

If Israel had accepted Jesus as her Messiah, things would have been radically different.  But they didn’t! On some yet future day they will. It was then that God interrupted the prophetic program and inserted this period of history we are a part of today.  Instead of then bringing the judgment they deserved, God dispensed grace.  That’s why this present time is called the Dispensation of the Grace of God.  Gentile believers have now been put in this special place of blessing.  Is God finished with Israel? No! But their time of blessing as His covenant people has been put off to a future time.

Romans 11:11-12,15

11 I say then, Have they [Israel] stumbled that they should fall [be forever cast down]? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

12 Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?

Then there’s more on this in verse fifteen.

15 For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? [Emphasis added]

Believing Israel will have a future day of glory.  But first there’s this period of history of which we are a part today.  This surprise dispensing of grace has lasted already for almost two millennia.  How much longer it will last is something no one knows.  Many Gentiles [and a few Jews] are being blessed today and for all eternity because of Israel’s failure.

From the time of Acts 2 to the time of Acts 9 and the salvation of Saul of Tarsus the focus remained on Israel.  There was no change at all in dispensation.  All the developments in that period were prophetic things tied to Israel.  But with the salvation of Saul in Acts 9 and him becoming the Apostle Paul, many things changed.  All the attention of the gospels and this first portion of the book of Acts, and, of course, including the Day of Pentecost, is on Jews. Gentiles are not in view.  The situation with the man Cornelius in Acts 10 was a kind of a hint that a change was in the works.  Then throughout the remainder of the book of Acts you have a time of transition into what we have today.  For lack of study, many people have remained confused about many of the developments in the timeframe of the book of Acts.  This confusion on what to believe about it has led to the birth and rise of so many church denominations.  The bottom line to it all is a failure to understand Paul’s words about the importance of rightly dividing the Scriptures.

II Timothy 2:15

15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [Emphasis added]

So, no, the Body of Christ Church of today did not begin on the Day of Pentecost discussed in Acts 2.  Instead, it began with the salvation of the Apostle Paul at the time of Acts 9.  He tells us he was the first believer of our time.

I Timothy 1:16

16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. [Emphasis added]

In Acts 9:15, Paul reflects on what happened at the time.

15 But the Lord said unto him [Ananias], Go thy way: for he [Paul] is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: [Emphasis added]

It was at this time of Acts 9 that the present Dispensation of the Grace of God began to unfold.  How blessed are we as believers today to be a part of it!

As I look back over my life, even though I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the journey, how very much I wish someone had shared an article like this with me fifty years ago! Maybe there’s someone, even a pastor, you should share this with today.

Share this article:
    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop

    Contact 4Us/2Us

    [super_form id="692"]

    Support Our Ministry


    Your gifts will be a part of the means by which this ministry is supported and sustained.

    Our objective is to give people the truth they need by which to gain salvation and to grow spiritually.

    We very much appreciate your part in this great work.

    Donation amount
    Donation frequency

    Don't worry - your information is safe with us!