Acts 2-The Beginning of the Body of Christ?

Most theologians believe Acts 2 is the beginning of what Paul calls “the Body of Christ”.  Does this view hold up when the light of the word of God is shed on it?  Let’s see what God revealed to Paul and compare it with what Peter says in Acts 2.

Ephesians 3

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

3 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you; that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. 4 [a]By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight [b]into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets [c]in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. To me, the very least of all [d]saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to [e]bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things;

Romans 16:25

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

25 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which has been kept secret for long ages past,

Colossians 1

King James Version (KJV) 

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;

Ok, the first thing we need to define is the word “mystery”.  The Greek definition is “secret, never before revealed”.  So, this “stewardship” or “administration” or “dispensation” of grace, which is a “mystery” or secret”, was given to Paul and only to Paul-Galatians 1:11-12.  You will not find these terms in Acts or in any of the small letters of James, Peter, John or Jude.

We also see that in Ephesians that the “administration of the grace of God” (verse 2) is also called in verse 9, “the administration of the mystery”.  And the texts make it clear that it was given to Paul.  That’s why in Eph. 3:8 Paul calls these pearls of wisdom, “the unsearchable riches of Christ”.  In other words, they are not in the OT or gospel record, they are “unsearchable”, they are not prophesied about previously.  They are only found in Paul’s letters.

Now let’s look at Acts 2.

14 But Peter, [o]taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. 15 For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the [p]third hour of the day; 16 but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:

So, what was going on in Acts 2 was prophesied about by Joel.  By definition, prophecy is not a “mystery”; it was foretold.

Then Peter quotes Joel and we see something very weird if this is the “beginning” of the church age.

14 But Peter, [o]taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. 15 For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the [p]third hour of the day; 16 but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:

17 ‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says,
‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all [q]mankind;
And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
And your young men shall see visions,
And your old men shall dream dreams;
18 Even on My bondslaves, both men and women,
I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit
And they shall prophesy.
 19 ‘And I will grant wonders in the sky above
And signs on the earth below,
Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke.
20 ‘The sun will be turned into darkness
And the moon into blood,
Before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.
21 ‘And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

The “last days” of the church? I thought it was the beginning.  So, we see Joel is prophesying about the “day of the Lord”, which inaugurates the last days.  And Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, announces that what was going on in Acts 2 was written about before.  Again, by definition, this cannot be “the mystery” given to Paul.

Acts 3

24 And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days.

Again, Acts 3 is prophesied about.  It cannot be part of what God called “the mystery” and gave to Paul.

Have you ever noticed how Paul opens all his letters to the church, the Body of Christ?  “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ…”  These aren’t just nice words to greet people with.  They are a declaration from God that He is offering peace to mankind, who killed His Son.  According to prophecy, God should’ve brought in His judgment and made war with the world; instead He offers His grace and peace through the Apostle Paul.  Let’s look into this further.  We will look at Psalm 2, Isaiah 61, Daniel 9, Zechariah 13, Luke 13 and Revelation 19.  And we’ll compare these passages with the “grace and peace” offered to us by God through Paul.

When you understand the prophetic program that God had for Israel, you will see why God called what He gave to Paul “the mystery”.

Psalm 2

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

2 Why are the [a]nations in an uproar
And the peoples devising a vain thing?
The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the Lord and against His [b]Anointed, saying,
“Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast away their cords from us!”

He who [c]sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
Then He will speak to them in His anger
And terrify them in His fury, saying,
“But as for Me, I have [d]installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”

This is God’s prophetic program for Israel in a nutshell.  We even see the kingdom in verse 6.

This passage, by Holy Spirit inspiration, is quoted by Peter in Acts 4 as pertaining to the death of Jesus.  We notice that there is no mention of the age of grace between verse 3 and 4.  It goes right from the crucifixion to the “anger” and “fury” of God, which is the tribulation.  No mention of God’s grace and peace being offered

Isaiah 61

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

61 The Spirit of the Lord [a]God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the [b]afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And [c]freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord
And the day of vengeance of our God;

This passage was quoted by Jesus in Luke 4 in the synagogue in Nazareth. Jesus stops in the middle of verse 2 right after “the favorable year of the Lord”.  He then says that this was fulfilled in their hearing.  Notice that He didn’t complete the passage.  Why?  The next event on the stage of history, according to prophecy, was “the day of vengeance of God”-the tribulation; not “grace and peace”.

Daniel 9

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

24 “Seventy [t]weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to [u]finish the transgression, to [v]make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and [w]prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. 25 So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a [x]decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until [y]Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with [z]plaza and moat, even in times of distress. 26 Then after the sixty-two weeks the [aa]Messiah will be cut off and have [ab]nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And [ac]its end will come with a flood; even to the end [ad]there will be war; desolations are determined. 27 And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of [ae]abominations will come one who [af]makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who [ag]makes desolate.”

This is the “seventy weeks” of prophecy given for Daniels’ people, Israel.  We don’t have time in this study to develop all what’s going on here, but let’s at least notice that after “messiah is cut off”-killed, wars occur and the seven year treaty is signed with the Antichrist.  This is surely not the “administration of grace” given to Paul.  It is the tribulation, and this follows all other OT prophesies as to what was to happen after the cross.

Zechariah 13

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

“Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd,
And against the man, My Associate,”
Declares the Lord of hosts.
“Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered;
And I will turn My hand [d]against the little ones.
“It will come about in all the land,”
Declares the Lord,
“That two parts in it will be cut off and perish;
But the third will be left in it.
“And I will bring the third part through the fire,
Refine them as silver is refined,
And test them as gold is tested.
They will call on My name,
And I will answer them…

Again we see a prophecy about the death of “the Shepherd” and no age of grace inserted between that and the Jews being scattered and God “turning His hand” against the children of Israel in His wrath.  This lines up with Psalm 2, Isaiah 61 and Daniel 9, which all depict the day of the Lord”.  And remember that Peter, by Holy Spirit inspiration, in Acts 2 quotes from Joel 2 pertaining to the “day of the Lord”, which is the tribulation and kingdom age.  This is what Peter, after meeting with Jesus for 40 days and studying under Him (Luke 24:44-45), proclaimed was next on the scene of history, not the age of grace and peace which God proclaims to us through Paul.

Luke 13

And He began telling this parable:  “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any.  And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree [d]without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’  And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.”

This parable told by the Lord Himself sure leaves no room for confusion.  A parable is not a fairy tale or a fable; but a word picture that describes a real event.  We see the reference to Christ planting Israel, the “fig tree”, on the earth.  He comes to earth looking for fruit for three years, an obvious referral to His earthly ministry in which He came “only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel”.  After three years of rejection culminating in the crucifixion of their Messiah, the threat of cutting that generation off from their long awaited kingdom blessings is made with the request, “Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?”  But, the Father extends to Israel “this year too” for them to repent and accept Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah.  This one more year is in addition to the three year ministry of Christ portrayed for us in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  Well, anyone who knows Scripture will understand that the account of Pentecost mentioned in Acts 2 happened only 50 days after the feast of First Fruits, which is when Christ rose from the dead.  This is well within the “this year too” of God’s extended ministry “only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel”.  Pentecost can’t possibly be the beginning of the Body of Christ, as God is still dealing with Israel alone.

Revelation 19:11 says that when Christ comes back, He “judges and makes war”.  This is what was starting in Acts 2 (Joel 2).  Had Israel repented of killing their Christ and accepted Jesus as their Messiah, the tribulation would’ve occurred, and then they would’ve had their kingdom.  Acts 2 was the continuation of God’s ministry to Israel and was not the beginning of the Body of Christ (a term only found in Paul’s letters, not in any other book of the Bible), but God, in His rich mercy, stopped the prophetic program and now, through the ministry of the Apostle Paul, offers us reconciliation by His grace and peace.  That’s why Paul begins every letter this way.  Judgment and war should’ve followed the crucifixion, but God revealed “the mystery” of God’s grace to Paul for us instead.

This is why Galatians 2:8 shows the separation of the twelve’s apostleship to Israel from Paul’s apostleship to the Body of Christ.  The twelve were to attempt to turn Israel from their unbelief and to repent of killing their Christ, so that they could have their kingdom blessings on earth (Acts 3:19-20), while Paul was given “the mystery” to the Body of Christ, whose citizenship and blessings are in heaven.

The word of God says what it says.  Let’s not try to assume things that aren’t there due to tradition or our own theories.

When we understand the difference between “mystery” and “prophecy”, the Bible makes so much more sense and contradictions disappear.  If we think that it is all the same, then nothing but confusion reigns.


Article written by Paul D. Pedro

Oakdale, Minnesota

Emphasis, highlighting and underlining added by author.

Copyright 2014