Lesson 7: A New Age Begins/ The Lord Daily Added the Saved to the Church
The day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2 was the first day of a new age - the Christian age. Jesus had spent about 3-112 years teaching his disciples and training his apostles for the kingdom that would come. Many of Jesus' parables began "The kingdom of heaven is liken unto...." He compared the kingdom to a sower, a grain of mustard seed, to leaven, to a net, to a treasurer in the field and many, many more. It had been prophesied for centuries, but about 9:00 a.m. that Sunday morning the word of the Lord began to go out from Mt. Zion, the kingdom had come. The apostles began to use the keys of the kingdom. Now we've considered Peter's sermon-most of it. We've considered the questions that the Jews interrupted to ask, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Peter's answer is recorded in verses 38 and 39 - repent and be baptized. Now we've considered scriptural repentance and scriptural baptism. In the last part of verse 38, Peter said those who do this shall receive something - "the gift of the Holy Ghost". Assuming the gift of the Spirit is something like getting married, a relationship is established between the baptized believer and Christ. Romans 6:3 says:
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
Did you notice that "into" relationship? This relationship is compared to a vine and its branches in John 15; to a shepherd and his sheep in John 10; to a husband and wife relationship in Ephesians 5. The Spirit dwells in baptized believers. The spiritual relationship is established but the Spirit does not overwhelm them or take charge of them as it did the apostles. Jesus said in Luke 17:20:
The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:
At another place - John 3 - Jesus, during his earthly ministry, explained this relationship to a man named Nicodemus. Jesus said that one cannot enter or see the kingdom without this relationship. Now the kingdom, of course, has reference to that assembly of citizens, that is, baptized believers that followed Jesus as their king. In John 3:5, Jesus described the requirements for this relationship to Nicodemus like this:
Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
To be born of water, of course, has reference to baptism just like Peter commanded on Pentecost. To be born of the Spirit - now that's a capital "S" meaning Holy Spirit - to be born of the Spirit has reference to this gift of the Holy Spirit, that is, a quickening or an activation on the part of the baptized believer accomplished by the Holy Spirit. Thus, the forming of this relationship is henceforth established by (1) the believer being scripturally baptized, that is, born of water, and (2) the Spirit, that is, the Holy Spirit dwelling within that baptized believer. Now, you're probably ready to ask exactly how is this? How does the Spirit - Holy Spirit - dwell in a baptized believer? How is that? That I can't tell you because I don't know. That's the Holy Spirit's business. Now you take care of your business and I'm quite sure the Holy Spirit will take care of his business. You might be interested, Jesus told Nicodemus this:
The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
John 3:8. Thus, Jesus did not say it would come with observation. As I said, that's the Spirit's business. You don't have to know how. All you need to understand is that he does dwell in baptized believers. Now in many places in the New Testament reference is made to this relationship. For example, in I Cor. 6:19-20 Paul, writing to baptized believers, said this:
19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple
of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye
have of God, and ye are not your own?
20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify
God in your body, and in your spirit, which are
Ok. It's hard to get away from verse 38. Let's move on.
Peter has answered their question, but he continues to explain in verse 39 that this promised gift relationship extends to that crowd on Pentecost, but it also extends to their children, not infants now, but the future generations - all those that are afar off. We learn later that this encompasses all other peoples and nationalities, as well as the Jews. The word "promise" in verse 39 has reference to the "gift" in verse 38, but the word is calculated to cause them to associate this "gift" with what God had promised Abraham - the seed promise - in Genesis 12. All the families in the earth would be blessed. Some prey on the last part of verse 39 - "even as many as the Lord our God shall call" - to imply that God has predestined or predetermined the individuals that will be saved and the individuals who will be lost. That is not the thought. This promise is conditional to those who will respond or accept it. Let me illustrate the word "call" used there in the end of verse 39 like this. I live on a farm. Sometimes I call my cows. Sometimes some of them respond to my call and sometimes they don't, but I might say to my wife, "I called five cows". Now you see what happened was I yelled at all of them, but only five responded and came to the barn. Now, God's invitation is to all. The promise is to all, but only those who respond are called out of the world and added to Christ. How many will the Lord call? Well, that depends upon the response. How many believe in Jesus as the son of God and are willing to repent and be baptized? Ok, that finishes Peter's answer.
After that interruption, after answering the question "what shall we do?", Peter continued his speech or his sermon. Verse 40 says:
And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying....
Now here's a paraphrase of what Peter said. "Save yourselves from this untoward generation." Some versions say "Save yourselves from this crooked generation." Notice the Holy Spirit did not see fit to record for us the rest of Peter's sermon word-for-word. The essence of Peter's sermon was you must do something to accept God's promise - repent and be baptized. Some object to the thought that man can save himself. Obviously, man does not possess supernatural power and cannot of his own power save himself. Now verses 38 and 39 make it clear that this is a gift of promise from God, but it's just as emphatic in verse 40 that man has a part in this arrangement. Man is a free moral agent. He is given the prerogative of living his life as he chooses, ultimately selecting his own destiny. Man's part in this arrangement is within his power and his discretion. Thus, Peter appeals to these duties of man that are within his capability of compliance. Jesus, the agent from heaven, has made it possible and extended the invitation to all on a conditional basis. Thus, man's acceptance and compliance, often termed obedience, determines whether a man will be saved or lost. In this sense, a man can save himself. This is what Peter meant by that appeal in verse 40, "Save yourselves." Now what did the Jews do? What will you do? Verse 41 records for us how the crowd on Pentecost responded to the apostle's plea. Let's read:
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
Some exercised the prerogative to obey; others exercised their prerogative not to obey. Those who were baptized followed the example of Jesus in Matt. 3:16. Jesus, when he was baptized, it says, went up straightway out of the water, and if he went up out of the water, he must have went down into the water, and if he went down into the water, he must have been totally covered with that fluid called water. Now some have objected saying that many persons could not have been immersed on the same day. First of all, that's discrediting the Bible. Our text says they were. Secondly, this is a petty objection. It doesn't take a very high-powered mathematician to figure out the apostles alone could have done it easily in less than a half day, and you know, they could have had some help. As a matter of fact, you can't prove that the apostles did any of the baptizing. Some of the 120 camping with the apostles could have taken on that chore and that's just one possibility.
Notice in verse 41 the words "added unto them". You see, the 3,000 complied with the requirements. Then the Spirit added them, that is, their sins were blotted out or remitted, plus they received the gift of the Holy Spirit, plus they were added to the church. They were now citizens of the Lord's kingdom. They were in covenant relationship with God. Please notice the 3,000 were added unto them, that is, they were added unto the apostles and disciples in waiting. You see, the apostles, the 120, and other disciples, had been baptized before the day of Pentecost in anticipation of the coming kingdom. Thus, the total in the kingdom that first day was much more than 3,000 souls. It says about 3,000 souls, but that's not an exact number.
Ok, the material in verse 42 is follow-up. By that I mean it follows the day of Pentecost. From this point forward in the book of Acts, the time factor moves faster. The events that make up the rest of the book are just a few of the high points and historical moments of the early church. I said a few. The book of Acts is sometimes referred to as the "Book of Conversion". Now this is because the book gives detailed accounts on several occasions of individuals being added or converted and added to this body of believers. It should be emphasized that this is the only book in the New Testament that gives us examples of conversion. The first four books of the New Testament are biographies of Jesus. They tell us in some detail about his life and ministry. You must keep in mind that Jesus lived under the Jewish dispensation. By that I mean he kept the law of Moses, which is sometimes called the "Ten Commandment Law" or "Old Testament Law" or sometimes "Old Covenant". Now the 22 books that follow the book of Acts in the New Testament, with the exception of the book of Revelation, deal with points of doctrine and thus were written to assist baptized believers in living the Christian life. These 22 books make up approximately one-half of the New Testament. The other one-half is made up of those four biographies of Jesus - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John -sometimes called Gospels - plus the book of Acts. The book of Acts makes up slightly more than one-tenth of the total New Testament, but it contains all the examples of conversion in the Christian age. Now that means if you want to find out how to become a Christian and teach others the same, you must use the book of Acts. All of the conversions follow the same pattern or formula as these 3,000 did on Pentecost. Let's read verse 42:
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Thus, they began to live the Christian life. The word "stedfast" means that they were faithful. They continued in the apostles' doctrine. Some translations say "teaching". The apostles were guided by the Holy Spirit. Thus, this band of disciples followed the instructions of the Holy Spirit. The list of activities here, teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers, are likely acts of public worship. Fellowship here really means joint participation. Breaking of bread has reference to the Lord's Supper established by Jesus in Matt. 26, and in keeping with the context, prayers are likely public prayers. Since the disciples prayed on many and all occasions, this probably contrasted with the Jewish hour of prayer conducted three or four times a day at the temple - all in this little band were Jews. We have no way of telling how many of that 3,000 were local residents in Judea and Jerusalem. It's likely that after only a brief stay following Pentecost, the traveling or transit Jews returned to their homes in distant lands. It would be interesting to know how many converts went where, but the Holy Spirit did not see fit to give us that information. The discussion in the following verses shift to the local Jerusalem community. Let's read verses 43-47 -that's the rest of the chapter:
43 And fear came upon every soul: and many
wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
44 And all that believed were together, and had all
45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted
them to all men, as every man had need.
46 And they continued daily with one accord in the
temple and breaking bread from house to house,
did eat their meat with gladness and singleness
47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
The souls mentioned in verse 43 probably have reference to all the people of the Jerusalem community at large. Thus, you can see that the amazement and marveling mentioned in verses 6 and 7 of this chapter continued to have a sobering effect on the local population even after Pentecost. The apostles continued to exhibit the powers of the Holy Spirit. The apostles, I repeat, the apostles did many signs and wonders of which we have no record. The last four verses in this chapter give us a picture of life among the believers. They were together, verse 44, that is, in mind and activity, not likely in housing. Verses 44 and 45 should not be looked upon as describing communal or communistic inclinations. Rather, it describes neighborly concern and natural mutual edification. Having all things in common doesn't mean that they wore uniforms, or when one person got a new pair of shoes, everyone got a new pair of shoes. The point is, no one was allowed to suffer or go hungry. They commonly loaned, borrowed, shared, etc. All believers considered themselves brethren or partners in a common cause. Some of the converts that were travelers stayed longer than they planned before hand. This probably accounts for some of the necessity for selling goods to buy provisions. I infer from verse 46 they likely used the temple in Jerusalem as a central point of gathering. The Jewish temple was the natural place to meet. They had access to it just like the streets of the city. They had used it before. Some teaching was done every day. They also continued to attend the regular prayer hours that was traditional of the Jews most likely. They commonly visited each other in their homes and had a common meal together. "Gladness and singleness of heart" indicates that they were happy and thankful people with unity in spirit. Verse 46 and the first part of verse 47 is a single sentence, so "praising God" - in verse 47 - would indicate that their visiting and fellowship included singing, prayer sessions and worshipful activity. Now the last part of that sentence shows such visiting and worshipful activity was accepted by the community at large. At this point in their development, there was no derision, no envy, no discontent between believers and nonbelievers in the community. There were no denominational or sectarian divisions among the believers. As the word "favor" would indicate, they were without doubt considered first-rate citizens. There may have been some envy on the part of the priests and scribes at the temple, but they were probably so stunned by the sudden development of the church, they were not prepared to bring about any resistence movement. The last sentence in this chapter implies that the Christian influence was extended. Still more people were taught, then baptized. Notice the word "church" in that last sentence. This is the first time in the whole Bible that this word "church" is used as being present and in existence. Jesus used the word like this in Matt. 16:18: "I will build my church." That is, as being in the future, but here in Acts 2, the Lord was adding to the church daily. Now you might notice they did not join the church. The Lord does the adding and it goes without saying, the one that does the adding can do the subtracting. Here's a question for you. How often were baptized believers added to the Lord's church? The answer is in the last sentence. The answer is "daily". I trust you can see that does not agree with denominations today who take in members once a year. Here's another question. Who does the Lord add to his church? The very last phrase in verse 47 answers that question. "Such as should be saved." Must one be in the church to be saved? Look at it close. If the Lord adds the saved to the church, then all the saved must be in there. What about it? That may not agree with some creed books - what some creed books say. That may not be what some preachers and religious advisors say, but that is what the Bible says. Will you accept it? Jesus' church is not a building. The church is the saved. Read it again. What about the word "saved"? What does it mean to be saved? It comes from the idea of being safe in covenant relationship with God, that is, one that God will protect. Now the words "should be saved" in the King James version imply that a child of God can be lost, that is, he can backslide. To be saved means he is safe for the present, but, you see, he must abide in the faith by his own free will. That is, be faithful unto death to be saved in the end.