Church History, Lesson 2: The Holy Spirit Descends on All in the New Covenant

Pentecost and the Holy Spirit DescendingFaithful and Fervent


Pentecost Day: The Speaking in “Tongues”

Old-Covenant Pentecost: In the Old Covenant, Pentecost was one of three feasts God required Israelite men to travel to the Temple and celebrate (Deuteronomy 16:16).  Pentecost was a harvest festival celebrated 50 days after Passover.  God’s people set apart the first loaves of bread from the spring wheat crop as a first-fruits offering to the Lord (Leviticus 23:15-17).  Over time, Pentecost also celebrated the Torah given to Israel on Mt. Sinai.  That is why there were so many Jews in Jerusalem when the New-Covenant Pentecost took place. 

In the New Covenant, Pentecost does not celebrate the Torah given to Israel but, instead, God giving His Holy Spirit to the new Israel, God’s New-Covenant Church (Romans 2:28-29; Galatians 3:7, 29).

Read Acts 2:1-4

“When the day of Pentecost arrived”: Literally, “fulfilled.”  Luke used the same wording in Luke 9:51: “When the days for his [Jesus] being taken up were fulfilled …”  Luke wrote of Jesus going to Jerusalem to fulfill His saving mission through the cross of death.  As no second crucifixion of Christ took place, so also will no other Day of Pentecost occur in the Church.  Now, God did send other manifestations of His Spirit as the Church grew and expanded, but those events were not another “Pentecost.”

  • Who were “they” in verse one? Was it only the Apostles or the 120 of the Church? (Hint: Acts 1:15, the number of language groups mentioned in vs. 9-11, and Peter’s reference in vs. 17-18.)


  • What did “they” begin to do?


“tongues”: Greek, glossa, often translated as “tongues.”  “Languages” is a better translation since that was the ordinary meaning of the Greek word and people understood what was being said.


Excursus: Speaking in Tongues Later in the Church

In Corinth, the Christians there spoke “in tongues” during their worship services, which caused confusion and disorder in the congregation.  This was different from Pentecost because, in Corinth, others did not understand what the tongues speakers were saying.  Paul wrote, “In the Church, I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.”

After meeting the tongues speakers where they were (1 Corinthians 12), in Chapter 14, Paul moves them away from making unintelligible sounds during worship.

It is written in the law, “I will speak to this people by people of other tongues and by the lips of foreigners, and even then, they will not listen to me,” says the Lord.  Thus, tongues are a sign not for those who believe but for unbelievers, while prophecy [understandable words of God] is not for unbelievers but believers” [1 Corinthians 14:21-22].

Paul adapted Isaiah 28:11-12 to make his point.  The original context of that passage was God punishing His people because of their unfaithfulness.  God would do that through foreigners, the Assyrians, who spoke a different language, a language that native, Hebrew speakers could not understand.  And, yet, God said after that, “Even then they will not listen.”  As the Assyrian language revealed Israel’s unbelief, so did the tongues speaking in Corinth.  Will the Corinthian Christians be different and repent?


2, What Non-Understandable Tongues Signify


Paul did not forbid speaking in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:29), but he did establish standards to be met.  If speaking in tongues is to happen, the person speaking is only to do so if someone is there to interpret (1 Corinthians 14:27).  Here’s the crux: Someone will not know ahead of time (without collusion) if another will be present to “interpret”!  In other words, Paul was shutting down speaking in tongues during public worship.  Instead of someone “speaking in tongues” during the service, he is to “speak to himself and God” (1 Corinthians 14:28), which means in private prayer.


The Preached Word Leads to Where Jesus Promises to Do His Saving Work 

Read Acts 2:14

  • Who stood up to preach?


  • What does this reveal about the roles of the pastor and laity?


After Peter’s sermon, the people respond.

Read Acts 2:37-41

  • Where does Peter direct the people for salvation? (Acts 2:38)


  • To whom does God’s promise in baptism apply? (Acts 2:39)


“Save yourselves”: Greek, sozo, an imperative passive.  The hearers are commanded to be saved but do not have the ability to do so.  They need this salvation, which is why it’s commanded, but it is something done to them, not something they do themselves.

  • Does he lead the people in a “sinners’ prayer”?


Christian evangelism leads to baptism, which is what we find on Pentecost Day.


Excursus: Being in the Church is NOT an Individual Relationship with Jesus

Baptism saves (John 3:3,5, 1 Peter 3:21, Titus 3:5,) bringing someone into God’s family (Colossians 2:11-15, Galatians 3: 27-29).  Someone, however, isn’t brought into a singularity with Christ (individual relationship) but into God’s family, where Jesus becomes our brother (Hebrews 2:11-15).

Baptism involves the Church and the pastor, whom God has called to baptize.  Our life with God begins by being brought into His Church and continues by being “discipled” until we die, learning the “all” Jesus wants us to know (Matthew 28:19-20).

The Bible never uses the closest equivalent word for “relationship” to describe who we are in Christ—the Greek word, sungeneia.  It uses sungeneia in three places to describe earthly, family relatives: Luke 1:61; Acts 7:3, and 14, not who we are in Christ.

What the Bible does use is the word for a community relationship, a communion, a fellowship: koinonia.  So, although one does individually believe, this belief brings the “I” into a “we,” a communion.  This communion is the Church, which Jesus established.

  • 1 Corinthians 1:9: God is faithful, who has called you [plural, “y’all”] into fellowship [koinonia] with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
  • 1 John 1:7: If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship [koinonia] with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

Notice this walking in the light and Jesus cleansing us from all sin are communal events, not individual events: If we…  cleanses us.

This communion grows from the communion that exists within the triune nature of God.

  • 2 Corinthians 13:13: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion [koinonia] of the Holy Spirit be with all of you [plural, “ya’ll].

Christian evangelism leads to baptism and baptism brings one into a community, the Church of Christ.  Christian evangelism does not bring someone into a separate life apart from the Church, for life apart from the Church is not Christian.  We find this in the earliest Church.


The Earliest Church

Matthew 5:17: Jesus speaking, “Don’t think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets.  I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.”


2, From the Old into the New


Read Acts 2:42

Who are “they” and how did they devote themselves?


2, Acts 2.42


Christianity Spreads …

We now read about the first martyr in the Christian Church.

Read Acts 8:1-4

  • How did the Jewish establishment respond to newfound Christian Church?


  • What was the result?


2, The Christian Life relating to Evangelism


… To Samaria

Read Acts 8:14-17

  • Why did the Apostles go to Samaria?


  • Why didn’t these Samaritans receive the Holy Spirit?


Excursus: Being Baptized Only in the Name of Jesus

Being baptized only in the name of Jesus means, “I baptize you in the name of Jesus,” which is not according to Jesus’ baptismal mandate.  When the New Testament mentions being baptized in the name of Jesus—not only in the name of Jesus—we find something different than what happened in Samaria.  Consider Pentecost.  The Apostle Peter preached for his hearers to be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38).  Elsewhere, Scripture describes baptism as baptism “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 8:16), “in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:48), or as “into Christ” (Galatians 3:27, Romans 6:3).

Being baptized “into Christ” or “in the name of the Lord” or “in the name of Jesus” are ways to distinguish a Christian baptism from other baptisms.  For there were other baptisms.  Jews ceremonially baptized their pots and pans; there were baptisms into Judaism for Gentile converts; and baptisms, such as John’s, were done to show repentance.

Being baptized “in the name of Jesus” means being baptized according to Christ’s mandate, that is, based on who He is.  And so those baptisms “in the name of Jesus” were done according to His mandate: “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  If that were not so, it would not be a baptism “in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Being baptized only in the name of Jesus meant, “I baptize you in the name of Jesus,” which is not what Jesus instituted and so does not come with what He promises.


  • What did the Apostles do?


In the Old Testament, Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh by the laying his hands on them (Genesis 48:14).  In the Tabernacle, the laying of on hands set apart a burnt offering to be the substitute for sin in an atonement sacrifice (Leviticus 1:4).  Moses laid his hands on Joshua to transfer his leadership to Joshua, who would now lead the people as his successor (Deuteronomy 34:9).

Pastoral ordination in the New Covenant is an outgrowth and development of those Old-Covenant, Jewish practices.  The Apostles laid hands on the seven deacons to ordain them for Word and Sacrament ministry as they assisted the Apostles in their work.  We find the Apostle Paul counseling Timothy, “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands” (1 Timothy 5:22).  Pastor Timothy was not to ordain a man into the Office of Pastor haphazardly.

Here in Acts, Peter and John laid their hands on the Samaritans to receive the Holy Spirit because they were “baptized only in the name of Jesus.”  The laying on of hands always showed or granted some blessing and/or derived authority from another.  In the laying on of hands, something divine takes place because God is working through such activity in His Church.


Next week: We’ll look more into the Church and her use of “the laying on of hands.”


Link to the next Lesson.


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