Church: Did the Church of today begin on the Day of Pentecost in 30 AD?
This is a very controversial subject among many people, especially pastors. You may wonder what importance it could possibly have. But believe it or not, the conclusion you draw about this one issue will have a major effect upon the conclusions you will draw about many doctrinal issues of the Bible. Therefore, it is definitely a subject you need to resolve in your mind.
It is my firm belief that the Church, the body of God’s people of today, began with the salvation of one man known as Saul of Tarsus who later came to be known as the Apostle Paul. The foundation for that belief rests primarily on the following passage of Scripture.
I Timothy 1:15-16
15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
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]
Although Paul’s salvation occurred in what is often spoken of as a transition period, I am convinced the period of history we are a part of today had its formal beginning with his salvation. In the Bible, the record of that event is first given in Acts 9.
There are many excellent Bible teachers who believe this present dispensation of grace came about in the timeframe of Acts 13. However, it seems the majority of professed Christians believe the Church began on the Jewish holiday called the Day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2. My study given below is designed to summarize why the Acts 2 position cannot be correct. I suppose you have noticed that the majority is often wrong about a lot of things. I believe that such is the case with this.
Whatever your beliefs may be on this matter, I hope you will think long and hard about it because, believe it or not, the conclusion you come to is going to have a major effect upon your understanding of the Bible in many places. Therefore, it will have a major effect upon your spiritual growth as a believer.
Below you will find a list of fifteen reasons why I believe “the Church” could not have begun on the Day of Pentecost in the timeframe of Acts 2.
- There was already a Church in existence on The Day of Pentecost [Acts 2:41, 47]. This passage tells us the converts of Peter’s message were “added” to the Church. The Apostle Peter was given the keys to this Church and the Apostles were given authority to “bind” and “loose” believers to this Church [Matthew 16:15-20; John 20:23]. No one on earth has such authority from God today.
- We are told in Acts 2 that Peter preached the “Last Days” of Israel on Pentecost and not the first days of The Church which is His Body [Acts 2:16-17]. At that time, the Church of today was a mystery [a secret held in the mind of God] still unknown to Peter and all the others.
- There is no indication in Acts 2, or anywhere in Scripture, that The Body of Christ was being formed on that day of Pentecost.
- Pentecost was a Jewish feast day given in The Law of Moses [Leviticus 23; Deuteronomy 16]. In the Dispensation of The Grace of God, there is no observance of days [Colossians 2:16], and they are spoken of as “weak and beggarly elements” and “bondage” [Galatians 4:9-11]. It is inconceivable that the Lord would begin the Church of today on a “feast day” of another dispensation [The Dispensation of Law].
- The nation of Israel was not cast off or set aside on The Day of Pentecost, as was necessary for the establishing of The Church which is The Body of Christ [Romans 11:11-15, 32]. On the contrary, the first real offer of the kingdom was made by Peter on that Day of Pentecost [Acts 2]. Furthermore, the kingdom was not “offered” during the timeframe covered by the Gospels; it was only said to be “at hand.” Also, it was impossible for it to have been offered until after the New Testament was established by the death of Christ [Luke 17:24-25; 24:26]. Christ had to first suffer the cross and enter into His glory [I Peter 1:11].
- The Body of Christ is a joint body of Jews and Gentiles. Peter only addressed Jews at Pentecost [Acts 2]. No Gentiles are mentioned or involved at all.
- Part of the message that Peter preached on Pentecost involved water baptism as a requirement for salvation [Acts 2:38], just as they were commanded in their commission to present it [Mark 16:16]. However, water baptism has no part in the gospel message committed to Paul and The Church which is The Body of Christ [I Corinthians 1:17; Ephesians 4:5].
- On that Day of Pentecost, the prophetic promise of the Father was fulfilled to Israel. This was a spiritual baptism where Christ was the baptizer, and Israel was baptized into the Holy Spirit [Matthew 3:11; Acts 1:5]. This spiritual baptism is quite different from the baptism of this dispensation, where the Holy Spirit is the baptizer and the believer is baptized into The Body of Christ [I Corinthians 12:13; Romans 6:3-4].
- Pentecost was a fulfillment of prophecy [Acts 2:16, 33; 3:24], whereas The Body of Christ was a mystery which had been kept secret since the world began [Romans 16:25-26; Ephesians 3:1-9; Colossians 1:24-26]. No prophecy is fulfilled in The Dispensation of Grace. All prophecy is fulfilled in connection with Israel.
- If there was any dispensational change on that Day of Pentecost, the Twelve Apostles were completely unaware of it, for they continued with their worship in the Temple [Acts 2:46; 3:1, 3, 8, 11; 5:20-21, 25, 42].
- The Twelve Apostles and The Kingdom Church at Jerusalem continued to observe the Mosaic Law throughout the timeframe of the book of Acts just as they had done before [Acts 21:20-25; 22:12]. Up to that time there had been no indication that they were to do otherwise.
- The Kingdom Church of Acts 2, in accordance with the Kingdom teachings of Christ, sold all their possessions and established a common treasury [Matthew 19:21; Luke 12:33; Acts 2:44-45; 3:6; 4:32-35]. That is not a part of God’s program for us in The Dispensation of Grace.
- Peter, in his message on The Day of Pentecost, did not preach The Gospel of the Grace of God, which is the clear and distinctive message Paul teaches through the revelations Christ gave to him for the Church of today [I Corinthians 15:1-4; Romans 16:25]. There was then no mention at all of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection being the basis for salvation.
- Some argue that God started The Body of Christ at Pentecost in Acts 2, claiming that Peter was simply ignorant of the Church then being formed. This cannot be since we are told that Peter had his understanding opened [Luke 24:45], had received the Holy Spirit [John 20:22], was baptized in the Holy Spirit [Acts 1:5], and was filled with the Holy Spirit [Acts 2:4]. No, Peter was not ignorant – he was completely aware of the Kingdom program Christ was carrying out at that time.
- The Apostle Paul who would be given the gospel and the other doctrine for The Dispensation of Grace had not even been saved at that time [Acts 9; Romans 11:13; Ephesians 3:8].