Sunday Mar 05, 2023

The Beginning of the Church - Acts 2

     In acts chapter 2, we observe the beginning of the Church and the shift to a new dispensation. Luke wrote. “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them” (Acts 2:1-3). The Day of Pentecost was ten days after the Lord’s ascension into heaven. And the physical manifestation of the Holy Spirit was observed as tongues of fire that rested upon each person, an event that occurred only once in Scripture.

     Luke continues to ell us, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance” (Acts 2:4). To be filled with the Holy Spirit means to be under His guiding influence. The phrase, filled with, is used elsewhere in Scripture. We learn that the Pharisees were “filled with rage” (Luke 6:11), which meant they were controlled by rage. And later the Sadducees were said to be “filled with jealousy” (Act 5:17), which meant they were controlled by jealousy. Likewise, to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” meant the apostles were controlled by the Holy Spirit. The filling of the Holy Spirit is to be distinguished from the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit. According to Stanley Toussaint, “The filling with the Holy Spirit is separate from the baptism of the Spirit. The Spirit’s baptism occurs once for each believer at the moment of salvation (cf. Acts 11:15-16; Rom 6:3; 1 Cor 12:13; Col 2:12), but the Spirit’s filling may occur not only at salvation but also on a number of occasions after salvation (Acts 4:8, 31; 6:3, 5; 7:55; 9:17; 13:9, 52).”[1] An interesting occurrence is noted throughout the Scriptures in which the filling of the Spirit is followed by speech, in which the person communicates divine viewpoint revelation (Luke 1:41-42, 67; Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 13:9-10; Eph 5:18-19).

     To speak with other tongues (γλῶσσα glossa – the tongue, a foreign language) meant God the Holy Spirit was working supernaturally through them to speak a foreign language. Biblically, these were human languages (cf., Acts 10:46; 19:6). According to Earl Radmacher, “The word translated ‘tongues’ here is the normal Greek word for known languages. Speaking in ‘tongues’ or diverse languages underscored the universal outreach of the church. These witnesses were speaking foreign dialects to the people who had gathered for Pentecost from other nations.”[2] Stanley Toussaint agrees, saying, “An evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit was other tongues (heterais glōssais; cf. 11:15–16). These were undoubtedly spoken living languages; the word used in 2:6, 8 is dialektō, which means ‘language’ and not ecstatic utterance.”[3]

     This writer believes the church began in Acts 2. The believer is added to the church, the body of Christ, by means of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, in which the Spirit places the believer into union with Christ. Paul wrote, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13). The body is none other than the body of Christ. Paul, in Ephesians, wrote about “the church, which is His body” (Eph 1:22-23). The body and the church are one. Understanding this, we consider Luke’s words in Acts 1:4-5, in which he describes the baptizing work as yet future, saying that Jesus “commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘Which,’ He said, ‘you heard of from Me; 15 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now’” (Acts 1:4-5). The “not many days” was the Day of Pentecost. Later, when Peter was recalling his preaching to Cornelius, he explained, “as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning [in Acts 2:1-4]. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 11:15-16). According to Stanley Toussaint:

  • "This event marked the beginning of the church. Up to this point the church was anticipated (Matt 16:18). The church is constituted a body by means of Spirit baptism (1 Cor 12:13). The first occurrence of the baptism of the Spirit therefore must indicate the inauguration of the church. Of course Acts 2:1-4 does not state that Spirit baptism took place at Pentecost. However, Acts 1:5 anticipates it and Acts 11:15-16 refers back to it as having occurred at Pentecost. The church, therefore, came into existence then."[4]

Lewis Sperry Chafer agrees, saying:

  • "The Spirit made His advent into the world here to abide throughout this dispensation. As Christ is now located at the right hand of the Father, though omnipresent, so the Spirit, though omnipresent, is now locally abiding in the world, in a temple, or habitation, of living stones (Eph 2:19-22). The individual believer is also spoken of as a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19). The Spirit will not leave the world, or even one stone of that building until the age-long purpose of forming that temple is finished…The Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost and that aspect of the meaning of Pentecost will no more be repeated than the incarnation of Christ. There is no occasion to call the Spirit to “come,” for He is here."[5]

     It seems fairly straight forward that the church began in Acts 2:1-4, though some of our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ hold to different views. Most Reformed/Covenant  believers hold that the church began with the first convert in the OT, arguing that the church consists of all believers of all time. Some Baptists believe the church began with John the Baptist. And, some ultra-dispensationalists believe the church began in Acts 13, or after Acts 28. Though we may disagree with others on this matter, there should always be love and grace. Acts 2:5-13 reads as follows:

  • Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own [human] language. 7 They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans [typically unilingual]? 8 “And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? 9 “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God [i.e. the gospel message].” 12 And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others [cynics] were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.” (Acts 2:5-13)

     Here we observe the supernatural work of God the Holy Spirit working through the apostles in which the mighty deeds of God were being proclaimed. According to Charles Ryrie, “At first the people were amazed (literally, wide-open astonishment, v. 7). Then they were perplexed or at a loss to understand what they were witnessing (v. 12). They knew that they did not know what was going on, and since ignorance is always a blow to man’s pride, they were driven to criticism (v. 13). They concluded that the disciples were drunk (cf. Eph. 5:18).”[6]


  1. In Acts 2:1-13, God poured forth His Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost just as He promised, and the church was born (cf., Matt 16:18; Acts 1:4-5).
  2. In Acts 2 the church was purely Jewish, but Acts 8, 10 and 15 will reveal that Gentiles have an equal place in the body of Christ (cf., 1 Cor 10:32; Gal 3:26-28).
  3. Acts 2 also marks the transition from the Mosaic Law to the Church age.
  4. According to Acts chapter 2, tongues refer to human languages that the disciples were able to speak for the benefit of sharing God’s revelation with others. The foreign language was unknown to the speaker, but was plainly understood to the hearer. In all, about fifteen different human languages are mentioned in Acts chapter 2. At the Tower of Babel God supernaturally divided the languages of men in order to scatter them (Gen 11:7-9), but here, God is temporarily reversing it to unite them.
  5. The coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost marked major spiritual changes for believers in the church age, which include:
  6. Regeneration (John 3:6; Tit 3:5; 1 Pet 1:3; 23).
  7. Spirit-baptism (Acts 1:4-5; 11:15-16; 1 Cor 12:13; Gal 3:27-28).
  8. Indwelling (Rom 8:9; Eph 1:13-14; 1 Cor 6:19).
  9. Sealing (2 Cor 1:21-22; Eph 1:13; 4:30).
  10. Providing a spiritual gift (Rom 12:4-8; 1 Cor 12:27-31; Eph 4:11; 1 Pet 4:10).
  11. Illuminating the believer’s mind to Scripture (1 Cor 2:11-15).
  12. Filling (i.e., guiding) each believer for service (Eph 5:18).
  13. Walking with (i.e., directing) each believer (Gal 5:16, 21).

     The first five activities by the Holy Spirit occur at the moment of salvation and are never repeated. However, the illuminating, filling, and walking ministries of the Holy Spirit are ongoing throughout the believer’s life from regeneration onward until he/she is taken to heaven. The Holy Spirit never forces Himself on the Christian and can be quenched or grieved (1 Th 5:19; Eph 4:30). It is only the submissive believer who is learning and living God’s Word on a regular basis who knows the spiritual walk.



[1] Stanley D. Toussaint, “Acts,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 357.

[2] Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald Barclay Allen, and H. Wayne House, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary (Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers, 1999), 1368.

[3] Stanley D. Toussaint, “Acts,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 357.

[4] Ibid., 357.

[5] Lewis S. Chafer, He that is Spiritual (Grand Rapids, Mich. Zondervan Publishing, 1967), 26.

[6] Charles C. Ryrie, Acts of the Apostles, Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1961), 19–20.

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