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

10 Comments

  1. Posted October 13, 2014 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    Story of Stephen in the book of Acts 6:1-15)

  2. beameup
    Posted March 6, 2016 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    Israel (the religious leaders) blasphemed the Holy Spirit when they stoned Stephen, which was the “unforgivable sin”. And so, God called upon Saul of Tarsus to become the Apostle to the Gentiles and the first member of the Body of Christ, in Acts 9.

  3. Mike
    Posted September 22, 2017 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    Im new at this, so, please forgive me if I ask a unrealistic question. There are all kinds of different versions of the Bible out there, so Im totally confused as to which one God prefers. Isn’t God powerful enough to preserve his word? Should one God, have one absolute truth by which he can judge? Is it Satan, perhaps, mixing bad seed with good seed and corrupting the preserved one? I’ve compared many, but, the King James to me speaks with authority. But, there so many. Which one is the preserved word of God? Help?

  4. Paul Pedro
    Posted September 23, 2017 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    Mike,

    I have always been told that the New American Standard is the closest to the original Hebrew and Greek. Although there are some passages that fall short of accuracy, I have always found it totally fine to use. The King James is another reliable one and even the new King James. There are some that would say that the King James is the only word for today, but I don’t ascribe to that, as I have found passages in the King James that have been lacking or even inaccurate. Stay away from paraphrases and I would also even recommend staying away from the NIV, as it to falls short. I hope that helps.

  5. Mike
    Posted September 23, 2017 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Paul,

    So, the God of the universe who created all things, an omnipotent, omniscience. and omnipresent God is not powerful enough to preserve His word for a common man to buy in a dollar store. Reliable versions are not perfect. Isn’t God perfect? I dont speak Greek and neither does most of the world. One of the versions must be perfect, if not, we are in trouble.

    Thanks for your honesty,
    Mike

  6. Paul Pedro
    Posted September 23, 2017 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Mike,
    I’m not sure I understand your point. Clearly we have His word or we wouldn’t have any Bibles at all. So I’m not sure I understand your point.

  7. Mike
    Posted September 23, 2017 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Which Bible is the perfect word of God? God is not the author of confusion. So, there has to be one perfect full canon of scripture. Out of150 versions, which is God’s choice? I mean, that’s the one I want to read. Not making a point. Just asking which one is perfect? Or should I keep researching?

  8. Paul Pedro
    Posted September 23, 2017 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Do you have a comment on this article from which you posted your comments on? That’s what this comment section is for.

  9. Mike
    Posted September 24, 2017 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    Paul, in the article the NASB was mentioned. That’s what keyed me to ask. Im onboard with the article, but don’t understand why so many bibles. It’s research I need to do on my own. I need to investigate what line bibles come from, which version produces the most fruit, which version is the number one seller, and above all “compare”, that’s how you find contradictions. God has one bible out there, not 150 different versions. By His grace, he will show me. Sorry, didn’t mean to offend. Discussion closed. Have a blessed day.

    Mike

  10. Posted October 9, 2017 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Hi Mike.

    It is a common teaching that is perpetrated by mostly Richard Jordan (in the mid-Acts world). It is a teaching that I’ve studied, and also have studied the other side of the issue, something that obviously most mid-Acts believers have not done. Richard Jordan uses a few select verses, often pulled out of context and then made to say something the verses were never made to say. He also misinterprets the whole idea of the preservation of God’s word. I am enrolled in Grace School of the Bible and have studied what He says about the King James Bible.

    Let’s just think about what it means to preserve God’s word. When Jesus spoke, He spoke most likely in Aramaic. If you are truly preserving God’s word, then how can you take what Jesus said in Aramaic and translate it into English and then say it is God’s word? I’m guessing your answer would be something like this: that God guided the translator of the King James Bible to say exactly what He wanted them to say. That is a non-answer, trusting that every word in the King James Bible is God’s word because He directed it to be so. That does not prove that the King James Bible is the perfectly preserved version of God’s word. It is a cop-out for people to say we just need to accept it as God’s word by faith (which is what John Verstegen believes, and is what someone says when there is not enough evidence to prove something).

    That also does not explain why God decided to change His mind in the interpretation of certain words. For instance, why did God use Pascha 28 times to indicate Passover and then use the same work to indicate Easter (Acts 12:4). Either the manuscripts are wrong or the King James Bible is wrong. Those poor people before the King James Bible was translated didn’t know it was suppose to be Easter!

    Look at Romans 6:2 where God is translated to say “God forbid” in the King James Bible, but the manuscripts actually say something like, “Let it not be.” Again, God either changed His mind in what He wanted to say, or the King James Bible is wrong in using those exact words.

    I could go on and on where the King James Bible has odd translation choices, and even some wrong translations, thing that have been corrected in other translations. The problem with thinking the King James Bible is the preserved word of God is that if there are any mistakes in it, then you have to reject it as the perfectly preserved word of God. How can His word be preserved if there are errors or even variance from all Greek manuscripts.

    The problem is in following teaching that make you think there is only one perfect translation. That is a misinterpretation of Scripture. What many don’t understand is that God DID preserve His word and it can be found in all the preserved manuscripts. How do I know that Easter is a poor translation? Because I can go back to the original manuscripts and see what they say. Are there good manuscripts and poor manuscripts? Obviously. How do we know what is good or bad? Because there is so much evidence within the body of manuscripts that we can make a judgement as to what is good and bad. Same for translations. How do I know the NIV, for instance, is not such a good translation? Because of all the evidence we have to work with. The bad teaching coming from Rick Jordan and those like him is that God preserved His individual words. Any time a translation is made, you are trying to translate the thought behind the words to be as accurate as possible. Even though I point out the failings of the King James Bible in not translating Romans 6:2 (and other places) absolutely correctly, the idea behind the translation is correct. I absolutely know that God objects to these things whether it says “God forbid” or “May it never be” or “let it not be.” In other words, His word was preserved even though different words were used to show what God was saying.

    What is most important is that the idea is accurately conveyed in the words used, by using the words of the manuscripts that we have. I most often use the NASB, but also very often refer back to the King James Bible. Can you tell me what doctrine I am missing in my Bible that you have in yours? That’s one question I have never gotten a straight answer to from anyone who says their King James Bible is God’s perfectly preserved word.

    I think it is unfortunate that good mid-Acts teachers have made this such a divisive and time-consuming issue within the mid-Acts ranks. I know they mean well, but that does not change the destructive force they have become. I’ve had a lot of hate directed toward me for what I believe (can anyone say Peter Ruckman??). It’s too bad that our focus has to be directed to this issue.

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