A Review of Chapter 65 of A Dispensational Theology concerning its Twelve Points which Allegedly Prove that the Church of Paul’s Epistles is Different from the Church that Existed at Pentecost
About 25 years ago I knew an evangelist that was influenced by Ultradispensationalism. He thought very highly of Charles Baker’s systematic theology book entitled A Dispensational Theology and felt that many of Baker’s arguments on the origin of the church were irrefutable. Baker believed that a church existed prior to Pentecost and that there was also a church of Paul’s Epistles which was formed after Pentecost (Acts 2). Baker was an ultradispensationalist (see Dispensationalism by Charles Ryrie, Chapter 11 for a clear presentation of what ultradispensationalism is). His systematic theology text is very concise and readable. On page 483 of A Dispensational Theology Baker states: “We believe that the following twelve points of contrast will show that the Church of Paul’s epistles is a separate and distinct company of the redeemed from the Church which existed at Pentecost.” The twelve points are reviewed below to show why Baker believed the Body of Christ did not begin at Pentecost and to evaluate if he has really built a strong case for his viewpoint.
1. “There was already a church in existence at Pentecost. The Scripture does not say that the believers at Pentecost were formed into the church. It says they were added to the church (Acts 2:41). A thing must first exist before anything can be added to it” (Baker, A Dispensational Theology, p. 483).
ANSWER: Baker fails to distinguish between two clear-cut groups that are found present on the day of Pentecost. First there was the group that was assembled in Acts 2:1 which was made up of the 120 disciples mentioned in Acts 1:15. It was on these that the Spirit was poured out in such a remarkable way as recorded in Acts 2:2-13. These 120 disciples were the first recipients of the Spirit and thus the first members of the church. The second clear-cut group at Pentecost was the multitude of unsaved Jews out of which about 3000 were saved as the result of Peter’s preaching (Acts 2:41). So it makes good sense to say that the 3000 were added to the saved body of 120 that already existed.
The context of Acts 2:41 concerns those “…who received his (Peter’s) word….” This would be the multitude (Acts 2:5-6) not those in the house (Acts 2:2). The Body of Christ or church was born in Acts 2:1-4 and later in the day “three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41) were added to the church (added to the core group of 120).
The key passage on Spirit baptism is found in 1 Corinthians 12:13—“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” The “ONE BODY” spoken of in this verse refers to the CHURCH (see 1 Cor. 12:27-28; Eph. 1:22-23; 5:30-32; Col. 1:18), the Body of which Christ is the Head. Spirit baptism is defined in 1Corinthians 12:13 as that work of God whereby believers are baptized (immersed, placed) into Christ’s body, the church. How then does a believer become a member of the body of Christ? It is by Spirit baptism.
The key to when the Church began is this: If we can determine when Spirit baptism first began, then we will know when the church began. When did God first baptize believers into His body? When were believers first placed into the body of Christ? To answer this is to determine the day on which the church began.
Spirit baptism was first predicted by John the Baptist in Matthew 3:11 (and in the parallel passages: Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33):
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost (Spirit), and with fire” (Matt. 3:11).
John’s baptism was a water baptism (“I baptize you with water”); Christ’s baptism would be a spiritual baptism (“He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit”). The “fire baptism” is for the unsaved and this is yet future (see Matthew 3:12). Notice the phrase, “He shall baptize you with (Greek-en) the Holy Spirit.” The verb “shall baptize” is in the future tense, indicating that Spirit baptism had not yet taken place when John the Baptist spoke these words. John was predicting that it would happen in the future, but he did not predict exactly when it would happen. Notice also that Christ is the Baptizer. He is the One who will place believers into the body of Christ. He is the One who will build His church. Christ is also the Baptizer in 1 Corinthians 12:13, as will be shown later.
In Matthew 16:18 the Lord Jesus said, “I WILL build My Church.” The future tense of the verb indicates that the building of the church had not yet begun when Jesus said these words. He did not say, “I have built My church.” He did not say, “I am building My church.” No, the building project had not yet begun and thus the Church was yet future. At the time Jesus spoke the words of Matthew 16:18 the church had not yet begun.
Today Christ is building His church. He is adding to the church daily such as should be saved (Acts 2:47). But the question is, when did this building program first begin?
In Acts 1:5 the Lord Jesus predicted that Spirit baptism was still future:
“For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:5).
According to our Lord’s prediction, Spirit baptism had not taken place yet, though it would soon take place. No one had yet been immersed into the body of Christ. Thus, the church could not have begun prior to Acts 1:5. When Jesus spoke the words of Acts 1:5 His death and His resurrection had already taken place, and yet Spirit baptism had not yet taken place and the church had not yet been formed. But the announcement of Acts 1:5 was very significant because Jesus said that Spirit baptism would take place “not many days hence” (not many days from now). This means that it would happen soon, in a matter of days. Indeed, as we shall learn, it happened just 10 days later on the day of Pentecost.
The Day of Pentecost and the unique events that took place on that day are described in Acts chapter 2. In this chapter Spirit baptism is not specifically mentioned. It is not until Acts chapter 11 that we are specifically told that Spirit baptism took place on the day of Pentecost: “And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning [on the Day of Pentecost]. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that He said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 11:15-16). Based on the clear statement of this passage we know that Spirit baptism first took place on the Day of Pentecost. It was then that believers were first placed into the body of Christ. It was then that the church began.
2. “Peter’s preaching at Pentecost proclaimed the fact that Israel’s LAST DAYS had arrived (Acts 2:17), not the FIRST DAYS of the Body of Christ. Israel’s last days does not mean the last days of the existence of the nation of Israel, but those days predicted to usher in the glorious Kingdom” (Baker, Ibid., p. 483).
Peter did not proclaim that Israel’s LAST DAYS had arrived. What he did do was this: He quoted from a prophecy in Joel which included a number of things which had no relevance to the day of Pentecost. Here is a list of things mentioned in Joel’s prophecy which did not happen at Pentecost: 1) The Spirit was not poured out on all flesh (it was merely poured out on 120 believers); 2) No one saw visions or had dreams; 3) There were no spectacular wonders in heaven above, nor were there signs in the earth such as Joel mentions; 4) The sun was not turned into darkness; 5) the moon was not turned into blood. Why then did Peter quote from Joel’s prophecy? There were two things which Joel mentioned which also took place at Pentecost: 1) There was a supernatural outpouring of the Spirit of God (this was Peter’s answer to the false charge of drunkenness (see verses 13,15): “No, we are not drunk, but we are experiencing a supernatural outpouring of the Spirit similar, in some ways, to what Joel predicted would happen in Israel’s last days.” 2) Those who would call upon the Name of the Lord would be saved (Acts 2:21).
Joel’s prophecy awaits future fulfillment. Pentecost was a foreshadowing of the universal outpouring of the Spirit that will take place in Israel’s latter days.
Ultradispensationalists have great difficulty believing that God can start a new work a considerable time before He fully reveals it. It is true that Acts 2 does not state that these events are the first days of the church, but neither do Acts 9, 13, or 28 state this (these are the chapters in which ultradispensationalists think the church began; they are not unanimous, even among themselves, as to when it did begin). Subsequent progression of revelation in the New Testament makes it clear that the church was born at Pentecost. The events in Acts 2 did not completely fulfill the prophecy in Joel 2:28ff. Acts 2:17-20 quotes from the book of Joel and describes events that did not take place at Pentecost. It seems best to understand this as a partial fulfillment of prophecy (William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary, p. 1584). William MacDonald refers to this as the “Law of Double Reference, by which a Bible prophecy has a partial fulfillment at one time and a complete fulfillment at a later date” (MacDonald, Ibid., p. 1584). MacDonald also states that “what did happen at Pentecost was a foretaste of what would happen in the last days, prior to the great and awesome day of the LORD” (MacDonald, Ibid., p. 1584).
Paul D. Feinberg wrote: “The promise of the outpouring of the Spirit in Joel is an amplification of the promise given to Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3). God’s promise to Abraham included promises to Abraham personally, to his descendants, and to all the peoples of the earth. Thus, when a part of the referent (fulfillment) of these promises turns out to be the church, we should not be surprised” (Feinberg, “Hermeneutics of Discontinuity”, in Continuity and Discontinuity: Essays in Honor of S. Lewis Johnson, Jr., p. 128, cited in A Bible Handbook to the Acts of the Apostles, Mal Couch, General Editor, p. 149).
Some expositors believe that the reference to Joel 2 in Acts 2 is used as an illustration and not a fulfillment of the prophecy. Huebner states that "The fact is that there are numbers of citations of the O.T. in the N.T. used in just this way as Joel's prophecy; for an application or illustration, while the fulfillment of those passages is in the future" (R.A. Hueber, J.N. Darby's Teaching Regarding Dispensations, Ages, Administrations and the Two Parentheses, Appendix 2, p. 127).
3. “The title, ‘the Church which is His Body,’ is distinctive with Paul. This expression is not used at Pentecost or in other New Testament writings. It might be argued that Paul sometimes refers to the Church without using the full expression: “the Church which is His Body,” and that, therefore, the use of the word “church” in the Pentecost account may in like manner refer to the Body of Christ. There is, however, this difference. When Paul uses the expression “the Church which is His Body,” he is implying that there are other churches or another church which is not His Body. If we should be sent to a certain city and be told to go to a hotel which is called the Biltmore, we would take it for granted there were other hotels in the city, otherwise, why specify the Biltmore?” (Baker, Ibid., p. 483).
ANSWER: More likely Paul is revealing additional truth. The church was formed in Acts 2. Later revelation showed that the church was Christ’s body. The use of the term “body” is that of an analogy and describes how the church functions in relationship to its head who is Christ. To specify a hotel as the Biltmore is to name it but not describe it. Paul was not using the phrase “the Church which is His Body” to differentiate between two or more churches but was using the phrase to describe the relationship of the Church to Christ.
It is important to understand that in the Acts account, written by Luke, there is a “church” mentioned which is composed of believers and to which others believers can be added (see Acts 2:47; 5:11; 8:1; 8:3). Compare also Acts 2:47 (“added to the church”) with Acts 5:14 (“added to the Lord”). If believers are ADDED TO THE LORD, this implies that they are joined to Christ in a special and unique way. Later it will be revealed by Paul that we are joined to Christ even as members are joined to a body (an organic union). Another early hint of the church being the body of Christ is found in Acts 9:5—“I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest.” Paul did not persecute Jesus but he persecuted believers. Thus for Jesus to say that Paul persecuted HIM implies that believers are connected to Jesus Christ in a very special way. If you persecute the body then you persecute the Head! If you hurt the body, you are hurting the Head! If this isn’t church/body truth, then what is? Thus to begin the church in Acts 9 or Acts 13 or Acts 28 is totally contrary to the testimony of Scripture.
4. “Pentecost was one of the annual Jewish feast days which depict God’s redemptive dealings with Israel in the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom. Whatever Pentecost meant, it is evident that it must have had primary, if not exclusive, reference to Israel. Doubtless all will agree that there was a typology connected with the seven annual feasts of Lev. 23. These feasts were given to Israel. “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel….” It would seem strange indeed if the typology of these feasts of Israel had no reference whatsoever to Israel. In fact, most dispensational commentators refer all of the other six feasts to Israel, and isolate Pentecost and claim that this one does not refer to Israel but to the Gentiles in this dispensation when Israel is set aside” (Baker, Ibid., p. 483)
ANSWER: Baker seems to be making this statement: “If Pentecost involves the church, as dispensationalists teach, then it cannot have anything to do with Israel. But if it involves Israel, then it cannot have anything to do with the church.” However the two are not mutually exclusive. It is obvious that Pentecost is all about Israel! All of the thousands of people present on that day were Jews! God was dealing with Israel in a very special and unique way. God poured out His Spirit upon the believing Jews in a remarkable way. When the church began at Pentecost it was totally an Israelite assembly. There were no Gentiles, only saved Jews. Pentecost was a unique, opportune time for the Lord to form the church out of saved Israel for His own purposes. The gospel went to the “Jew first” (Romans 1:16). Paul himself taught that in the church age there would be a saved remnant of Jews according to the election of grace (Rom. 11:5). It was the Jews who were first added to the Lord to form a very unique organism, the nature and purpose of which would be progressively revealed (compare John 16:12). These Jews knew that Christ was their promised Messiah and that He had died for them and rose again, but they knew little of church truth. God would teach them in His time. [Illustration: Consider a person coming to know Christ today. The moment he is saved he becomes regenerated, sealed with the Spirit, indwelt by the Spirit, baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ, etc. But he probably doesn’t know any of these things. All he knows is that he was a guilty sinner and that Christ died for him and rose again and that whosoever believes in Him has everlasting life. These other truths will be learned gradually in time].
5. “Paul teaches that it was because of the casting away of Israel that his message of reconciliation had been sent to the Gentiles. But at Pentecost Israel had not yet been cast away. The Jew, like the Gentile, had to be alienated from God before both Jews and Gentiles could be reconciled to God in one body. This is why Israel had to be cast away nationally before God could offer reconciliation to the world and form the Body of Christ. This fact is brought out in Rom. 11:15, 32; and Eph. 2:17. If anything is evident from the record it is that God had not yet set Israel aside at Pentecost. The fact that Peter’s first two sermons are addressed exclusively to Israel should be sufficient proof of this, but there can be no gain-saying of this when Peter plainly declares: “Unto you (Israel) first, God having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities: (Acts 3:26)” (Baker, Ibid., p. 484).
ANSWER: Israel was set aside because they rejected the gospel. They rejected their Saviour: “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” (John 1:11). When did they reject the gospel? They rejected it in the person of their King in the Gospels and they rejected it all through the book of Acts. Christ pronounced judgment upon the leaders of Israel in Matthew 11-12 and also in Matthew 23 (see especially Matthew 11:20-24; 12:38-42; 23:37-38). Romans 11 would have been written about 56 or 57 A.D. Ephesians 2 would have been written in the early 60’s A.D. Acts 2 would have occurred in the early 30s A.D. (see Everett F. Harrison, Introduction to the New Testament). So by the time Paul wrote the books of Romans and Ephesians Israel’s rejection of Christ was set in cement. When does Baker say that Israel finally rejected Christ and was set aside? Acts 13? The fact of the matter is that Israel, as a nation, rejected Christ consistently throughout the gospels and throughout the book of Acts. Only a very small remnant of Jews believed. But God in His mercy and grace sent His gospel message to the Jewish people even after they had crucified His Son. “To the Jew first!”
Once again the point must be emphasized that ultradispensationalists have great difficulty believing that God can start a new work a considerable time before He reveals it. In actuality the Bible does not say exactly when Israel was set aside. No doubt the process began before the cross and would have peaked at the crucifixion of their Messiah and continued in the book of Acts. The culmination of all of this took place in 70 A.D. with the destruction of Jerusalem, a judgment which was predicted by Christ even before His crucifixion (Matthew 23:38; 24:2).
Even on the day of Pentecost God gave the Jewish people a sign of judgment. The gift of tongues was a sign of judgment and this gift was first manifested at Pentecost (Acts 2). Throughout the Old Testament period the Jews were taught that speaking of a foreign language would be sign of judgment from God (see Deut. 28:49; Jer. 5:15; Isaiah 28:11 which is quoted in 1 Corinthians 14:21-22, the only passage in the New Testament where we are told the purpose for the gift of tongue). See God’s Gift of Tongues by George Zeller, Chapter 9, "The Purpose of Tongues”).
As Huebner explains "It is true that reconciliation was sent to the Gentiles consequent upon Israel's fall (Rom. 11:11, 12, 15). This does not prove that the message was sent (or had to be sent) to the Gentiles, say, the day Israel fell, or the day after [but only that Israel's fall had to occur first]. There was a lapse of time marked by the exposure of Israel's resisting the testimony of the Spirit regarding the resurrection and exaltation of Christ. So before the Gentiles were blessed and the mystery was revealed, the Jews were addressed first (Acts 3:26). This was the first step in the NEW mission, new because it was to the Gentiles, beginning, however, at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8)" (Hueber, Ibid, p. 109-110)
6. “Not only was Israel not cast away at Pentecost, but it is here that we find the first real offer of the Kingdom to Israel. It was because of their rejection of the King and the Kingdom that a new dispensation under Paul was ushered in. Many dispensationalists have taught that Christ offered the kingdom to Israel in the Gospels and that they rejected it by crucifying Him. Then on the day of Pentecost Israel was set aside and the new Gentile dispensation began. Evidence given in the point immediately above is proof that Israel was still in covenant relation with the Lord at Pentecost. It is true that the kingdom was preached as being “at hand” by Christ (Matt. 4:17; 10:7), but this is not to say that the kingdom could have been offered in the sense that it might have been established before the death of Christ. The prophets testified the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow (1 Pet. 1:11). Christ Himself plainly stated this fact: “But first he must suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation: (Lk. 17:25 cf. 24:26). And that the rejection of Christ in His incarnation was not the unpardonable sin is also plainly stated by Christ: “And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him; neither in this world, neither in the world to come” (Matt.12:32). In fact, that is why Christ prayed for Israel on the Cross: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34). And it was because God answered that prayer of His Son that Peter could preach to the very ones who had crucified Jesus: “And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled” (Acts 3:17-18). And the very next word in the Greek text is “therefore”; therefore, because all have been fulfilled regarding His sufferings, if you will repent and be converted, God will send back Jesus Christ. Here the kingdom is not merely at hand; it is being offered with nothing standing in the way but Israel’s continued rejection of Christ. The point is that God’s offer to send back Jesus Christ to usher in the times of the restoration of all things would surely have been insincere had He already cast Israel aside and begun a new dispensation” (Baker, Ibid., p. 484-485).
ANSWER: It seems quite a stretch to say that the first real offer of the Kingdom to Israel was in Acts 2. We recognize that if the Jews had received and embraced Christ as their King, He would still have had to die on the cross for the sins of the world. William MacDonald suggests that Acts 3:21 shows that God through His foreknowledge knew “Israel would reject Christ, and that the present age of grace would intervene before His Second Coming” (MacDonald, Ibid., p. 1593). The mysteries revealed in Matthew 13 indicate that there would be a period of time between the two advents, when the King is absent from earth, when God’s Word would be preached, but for the most part rejected (parable of the Sower, etc.). God’s offer to send Jesus Christ back to “usher in the times of the restoration of all things” was not insincere. Actually Baker’s point is hypothetical. God could make a sincere offer but in his foreknowledge He knew acceptance of His offer would not occur.
Dispensationalists (those who begin the church in Acts 2) do not deny that God made a kingdom offer to Israel in Acts chapter 3. This is fully developed by Alva McClain in his classic work, The Greatness of the Kingdom, from which we shall now quote:
Israel must meet the spiritual and moral demands which in every age are attached to the enjoyment of the blessings of the Mediatorial Kingdom. Just as in the record of that Kingdom of Old Testament history, and in the predictions of Old Testament prophecy, and in the announcements made by the Baptist and our Lord Himself—so now once more the demand comes to the chosen nation: They must “repent” and “turn again” (Acts 3:19, lit.). For the great social, economic, and political blessings of the Kingdom rest upon a spiritual foundation.
If Israel should meet these spiritual conditions, certain important things will follow: First, the terrible sins of this people can be blotted out. Second, they will enjoy “times of refreshing” from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19). Third, God will send Jesus, the Messianic King, who has been “appointed” for them (vs. 20, ASV), and whose present session in heaven is only temporary (vs. 21). Fourth, the second coming of Christ will bring “the times of restitution of all things” which have been the main subject of all divine prophecy (vs. 21). It is highly significant that in the word “restitution” we have the noun form of a related Greek verb used by the disciples when they asked Christ when he would “restore” the Kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). Thus, Peter is saying that the restoration of “all things” connected with the Kingdom, as described so fully by the Old Testament prophets, will arrive at the second advent of the Messiah. And the nation of Israel must understand that, while the exact time of this grand event is unrevealed, its arrival at this particular stage of history is morally conditioned upon the repentance of the nation. Once more, therefore, an appalling responsibility was laid upon the shoulders of Israel. Although their adverse action in the face of this divine offer was fully known to God, still we dare not deny that the moral option was genuine, and that Israel had once again under God its opportunity to determine the immediate course of human history.
Reflecting now upon the total content of Acts 3, it is hard to imagine how words could have made any plainer the historical reality of this reoffer of the King and His Kingdom to the nation of Israel. Some have objected that nowhere in the chapter does the term “kingdom” (basileia) occur. But this is pedantic argument. Surely, we should be able to recognize an idea when set forth in different semantic frames. And in Acts 3:19-21 we have something better than a term: actually, a definition of the kingdom. As to content, it will bring “the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” As to time, it will come when God “shall send Jesus Christ” back from His present session in “heaven.” And as to its conditionality, its coming is contingent upon the repentance and conversion of Israel (The Greatness of the Kingdom, Chapter 24, pages 404-406).
McClain then explains how this reoffer of the kingdom was predicted by way of a parable (and notice how the parable refutes Baker’s teaching that the first real offer of the kingdom was not made until after Pentecost):
During His earthly ministry our Lord had specifically foretold of such a reoffer. The prediction is recorded in Matthew 22:1-7, clothed in the form of a parable of “the kingdom of heaven,” in which a certain king makes a marriage feast for his son (vs. 2). Two calls are sent out by the King, both addressed to a special group of people who had previously been invited, “them that were bidden” (vs. 3, perfect tense), a reference to the original and abiding call of this nation through Abraham to enjoy the blessings of the Messianic Kingdom, and renewed over and over again in the Old Testament. The first call of the parable was issued by our Lord through His disciples (Matt. 10:1-15; Luke 10:1-9), directed exclusively to the chosen nation; and it was officially rejected (Matt. 22:3). Then there was to be a second call announcing that the dinner is now “prepared” and “all things are ready” (vs. 4)—certainly a reference to our Lord’s finished work of redemption at Calvary. Such a call could not have gone forth until after the Resurrection. But again the call is rejected, this time by actions which help to identify it in Biblical history: some Jews would turn away with contemptuous indifference, according to the parable, while others would mistreat and kill the messengers (vs. 6). This points to the post-Pentecostal offer, as described in the Book of Acts, when the officials of Israel did exactly that. During the gospel period not an official disciple of Christ was killed by the Jews, but during the period of the Acts the terrible persecution and killing of the messengers begin. And there is no third call for this generation of Israel, but judgment falls: the King sends forth his armies, destroys the murderers, and burns their city—a parabolic prediction of the awful destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (vs.7). –The Greatness of the Kingdom, p. 406.
But does the reoffer of the kingdom mean that the church could not have been formed on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2)? No, McClain does not reach that conclusion at all:
There can hardly be any reasonable doubt that on this historic day (Pentecost) the building of Christ’s ekklesia began. No other date fits the data furnished by the New Testament. And this testimony has been so convincing that Dosker says without qualification, “The almost universal opinion among theologians and exegetes is this: that Pentecost marks the founding of the Christian church as an institution.” –The Greatness of the Kingdom, p. 397.
When we look for solid Biblical evidence that the church began in Acts 9 or Acts 13 or Acts 28 we find none. The Day of Pentecost is uniquely marked by baptism in the Spirit (defined in 1 Corinthians 12:13 as that act of God which baptizes or immerses a person into the body of Christ) and by the coming of the Comforter so often predicted by Christ in John 14-16.
Baker seems to think that the church and the kingdom are mutually exclusive, and that if the kingdom was reoffered to Israel, then this proves that the church had not yet been formed. But keep in mind that in our Lord’s first prediction of the building of HIS CHURCH, the kingdom is also mentioned:
Matthew 16:18---“My church”
Matthew 16:19---“the keys of the kingdom of heaven”
The church and the kingdom are not identical and they must be carefully distinguished in light of Biblical teaching, but they are not mutually exclusive. For example, Paul taught that members of the body of Christ would inherit the kingdom (1 Cor. 6:9-11; Eph. 5:5; Gal. 5:19-21; compare also Col. 1:13).
7. “The Body of Christ is a joint-body of Jews and Gentiles, but at Pentecost there is no mention of the Gentiles. The message is directed specifically to, and only to, the men of Israel. There were doubtless many Gentiles in Jerusalem at that time, at least, we know there was a Roman garrison there. Had Peter known that Israel had been cast aside and that God was beginning a new Gentile dispensation, it is very strange that he constantly addresses his message to the men of Israel and never mentions the Gentiles” (Baker, Ibid., p. 485).
Yes, the body of Christ IS a joint-body of Jews and Gentiles, but at the beginning it was not. At the beginning it was 100% Israelites and stayed that way until the first Samaritans (Acts 8) and Gentiles (Acts 10) were saved. At some point in the first century there was a 50% blend of Jews and Gentiles, but as time went on more and more Gentiles got saved and fewer and fewer Jews. Today, [with sadness we say this], the percentage of Jews is so minute that it is probably safe to say that 99% or more of the church is composed of Gentile believers and the true Israel of God (the present Jewish remnant according to the election of grace—Rom. 11:5) is very tiny part of the whole. You may have been a part of a local assembly in which (sad to say) there were no saved Jews at all. The believers were all saved Gentiles. This is not an unusual situation in many churches today, even though we would certainly desire to have in our assemblies those who are saved Jews. Because a church is not a joint-body of Jews and Gentiles (at any point in time), does this mean that it is not a true local church? Obviously not. God saves people and adds them to His body as it pleases Him.
The Body of Christ had to start sometime and somewhere. It started with the Jews and Jewish proselytes in Acts 2. Some Samaritans were saved in Acts 8. The Gentiles came in later in Acts 10. It is not strange that Peter did not know everything because there was still the progress of revelation to be made and Acts shows Peter and the other Apostles learning new truths as the progressive revelation unfolds. God started a new work, the church, and reveals its meaning later in time. Peter was being obedient to the Great Commission as revealed in Luke 24:47. He preached repentance and remission of sins and he began this preaching in Jerusalem.
8. “A part of the Pentecostal celebration was the presentation of the two “wave loaves” as described in Leviticus 23:17-20. Acts 2 dispensationalists interpret these two loaves as representing Jews and Gentiles being brought into the Church of this dispensation. This could not be, since the Church of this dispensation was hidden from men in all former ages. It has been suggested that the two loaves represent the two houses of Israel which will be united in the Kingdom (Ezekiel 37:15-22). The Body of Christ is not two loaves. Rather, Paul states in 1 Corinthians 10:17 that we are one loaf” (Baker, Ibid., p. 485).
Baker’s position is very weak if he must argue from typology. One’s prior understanding of the significance of Pentecost will determine the identification of the antitype. Since Baker has already determined that the church which is His body cannot be found in Acts 2, then it’s obvious that he must find some other anti-type. He chooses the two houses of Israel, and yet there is nothing in the context of Acts 2 that has anything to do with the re-uniting of the two houses of Israel in the Kingdom.
It is true that the mystery of the church was hidden in the Old Testament, but it is not true that the church must be absent from all typology. Types by their very nature are hidden. That is, it is not until the antitype comes along that we can look back and see the significance of the type. It is highly doubtful that a Jew living in the days of Joshua would read about the two loaves in Leviticus 23 and say, “God is here predicting that Jews and Gentiles will be united into one body!” It is equally doubtful that a Jew would read this and come up with Baker’s view about the two houses of Israel.
Joseph has been almost universally recognized as a type of Christ and his wife Asenath (Gen. 41:45) as a type of the church (Joseph received his bride from the world during his time of rejection by his brethren), but the significance of this was hidden for centuries. But now that we know of the formation and nature of the church we can look back and clearly see Asenath as a type of the church. To say, as Baker seems to be saying, that the church can never by typified in the Old Testament because it is a mystery never revealed in Old Testament times, reflects a serious misunderstanding of the nature of typology.
The feasts of Jehovah can be divided into two groups. The first four feasts took place during the first three months of the Jewish year. The first three feasts took place in the first month and spoke of redemption, a holy walk and resurrection. The fourth feast took place on the third month, 50 days after firstfruits and was a type of Pentecost. But then there was a long gap of 3 months during which there were no feasts. Finally in the seventh month there were three feasts: Trumpets (the regathering of Israel), Day of Atonement (Atonement for Israel), and Tabernacles (Kingdom joy). These three feasts are all grouped together and they all speak of events leading up to or involving the kingdom. Though Baker would like to include Pentecost as having kingdom significance, it is not grouped together with the other feasts that have kingdom significance.
Since the church began on the day of Pentecost (as we have previously demonstrated), it is not unreasonable to have the two loaves represent Jews and Gentiles united together into one body. Even though only believing Jews made up the church at the very beginning, it was not long before the church became an organism composed of both believing Jews and believing Gentiles. This same truth was spoken of by our Lord in John 10:16. Jesus speaks of two folds which would become one fold. So also we have two loafs which would become one loaf.
9. “At Pentecost the believers received water baptism for the remission of sins. There is no record that Paul ever practiced baptism for this purpose. In fact, water baptism was not even a part of his commission (1 Corinthians 1:17)” (Baker, Ibid., p. 485).
This objection by Baker indicates a very serious flaw in his theology. He seems to be teaching that during the early period of Acts water baptism was one of the requirements for salvation. This is a serious distortion of the grace of God. One of Baker's associates, C. R. Stam, even went so far as to write that "...while the commission to the eleven did stipulate water baptism as a requirement for salvation and designate miraculous signs as evidences of salvation, this commission was superceded by another, as the twelve apostles were superseded by Paul" (Cornelius R. Stam, Baptism and the Bible). People have never been saved by works and have never been saved by water baptism. Saints of all dispensations have always been saved in only one way: BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH. It is not of works. It is not of yourselves. It is not by water baptism. Salvation is only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The only requirement is “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:31). Baker, of course, also believes that the Great Commission along with its command concerning water baptism (Matthew 28:18-20) is not for the church today.
For a detailed study of how water baptism relates to salvation, see: Does Water Baptism Save? A Biblical Refutation of Baptismal Regeneration
The believers were baptized BECAUSE of the remission of sins. As Ryrie has pointed out “The Greek preposition eis, for, has this meaning “because of” not only here but also in such a passage as Matthew 12:41 where the meaning can only be “they repented because of [not in order to] the preaching of Jonah” (Charles C. Ryrie, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 24). As for I Cor. 1:17 Paul is merely making the point that “his main business was not to baptize” (MacDonald, Ibid., p. 1749). Earlier in 1 Corinthians 1:14, 16 Paul indicated that he had baptized believers at Corinth. Paul baptized believers in water but Charles Baker and his followers do not.
While Ryrie’s understanding of Acts 2:38 (see above paragraph) is valid and grammatically possible, there is another way to understand Acts 2:38 which also avoids falling into the error of baptismal regeneration:
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38).
This passage has become one of the favorite verses of those who teach baptismal regeneration. Placed in a motel room was a Gideon Bible and near the front cover there was a section with John 3:16 written out in many different languages. In this particular Bible someone had crossed out all of the John 3:16 verses and in big letters had written ACTS 2:38. The person who had defaced this Bible was communicating something like this: “You are deceived if you think that John 3:16 presents the true gospel. It doesn’t present the true gospel at all. It’s not enough to believe in Christ. To be saved and to be forgiven a person also needs to be baptized in water. The true gospel is much better presented in ACTS 2:38!”
When it comes to having sins forgiven, what must a person do? The Bible teaches that it is faith and repentance that brings about forgiveness. Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin. You can’t have true repentance without having true faith. You can’t have true faith without having true repentance. They go together. The Bible sometimes mentions repentance as the only condition of salvation. One example of this would be Luke 13:3, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” See also Luke 15:7,10 and Acts 17:30. A few times both repentance and faith are mentioned in the same verse (Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21). There are many, many verses which mention only faith as the condition of salvation (John 1:12; 3:16; 5:24; Acts 16:31; etc.). When only repentance is mentioned, faith is implied or assumed. When only faith is mentioned, repentance is implied or assumed. Where you have one you must have the other.
What is repentance? The word means “a change of mind.” It means to change your mind about sin, self and the Saviour. It especially has to do with one’s recognition of his true condition before God. One Biblical definition of repentance is found in Job 42:4. Job said, “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” According to this verse, to repent is to abhor oneself, to discover how vile we are (see Job 40:4), to discover our utter wretchedness and sinfulness. No one can be saved unless he changes his mind about sin and self and recognizes how sinful he really is in God’s sight.
Harry Ironside explained repentance as follows: “Repentance is just the sick man’s acknowledgment of his illness. It is simply the sinner recognizing his guilt and confessing his need of deliverance....(repentance) is judging oneself in the presence of God; turning right about-face, turning to God with a sincere, earnest desire to be completely delivered from sin. And when a man takes that attitude toward God and puts his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, he finds salvation” (Luke, pp. 253-254).
In another place Ironside said, “Literally [repentance] means ‘a change of mind.’ It actually implies a complete reversal of one’s inward attitude. To repent is to change one’s attitude toward self, toward sin, toward God, toward Christ....So to face these tremendous facts is to change one’s mind completely, so that the pleasure lover sees and confesses the folly of his empty life; the self-indulgent learns to hate the passions that express the corruption of his nature; the self-righteous sees himself a condemned sinner in the eyes of a holy God; the man who has been hiding from God seeks to find a hiding place in Him; the Christ-rejector realizes and owns his need of a Redeemer, and so believes unto life and salvation” (Except Ye Repent, pages 15-16).
True faith requires repentance because to be saved a person must recognize his lost estate and see himself as lost and helpless and vile and wicked and utterly sinful. True repentance requires faith because the man who repents believes what God has said about his true condition (Romans 3:10-23) and he also believes that God has provided a perfect solution in the person of His Son, God’s only Saviour.
Now let us return to our discussion of Acts 2:38. We have already seen that faith (which would include repentance), not baptism, is essential for the forgiveness of sins. This is clearly seen in Peter’s very next sermon, found in Acts 3:19—“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” Notice that in this verse Peter says nothing about water baptism. If water baptism is essential for the forgiveness of sins, why does Peter say nothing of this in Acts 3:19? If water baptism is essential for forgiveness of sins, why does Peter say nothing of this in Acts 10:43 (“To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission (forgiveness) of sins”). If water baptism is an essential part of the preaching of salvation, then why does Luke 24:46-47 mention repentance and the remission (forgiveness) of sins but say nothing about water baptism? Even in the days of John the Baptist, it was repentance that was for the remission of sins, not water baptism (see Mark 1:4). John's baptism was an outward demonstration to show publicly that repentance had already taken place.
Forgiveness is received at the point of repentance/faith, not at the point of water baptism. Those who are not forgiven should not be baptized. They are yet in their sins. One simple parenthesis helps us to understand what Acts 2:38 is really saying, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent (and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ) for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
The real question centers on the meaning of the preposition eis (translated "for" in the KJV). It is possible to show examples where eis can mean "because of" (Matthew 12:41--"at") or "on the basis of" or "with reference to," and all of these are certainly grammatically possible. However, it seems more natural and more probable that in Acts 2:38 this preposition indicates purpose or result. Peter was preaching to unsaved Jews who were guilty of crucifying Christ. They desperately needed the forgiveness of sins (as we all do). Peter was telling them what they must do in order to have forgiveness (see Acts 2:37---"What shall we do?").
The translations seem to support this meaning. The KJV, NASB, Amplified, NEB, RSV all give the rendering "for." The Revised Version has "unto." The NIV has "so that your sins will be forgiven" (although in later editions this was changed to "for"). You can see how a person believing in baptismal regeneration could easily use all of these translations to support his view.
The lexicons seem to support this meaning. Arndt & Gingrich say that the preposition here denotes purpose ("in order to") and they render the phrase: "for forgiveness of sins, so that sins might be forgiven." Thayer has a similar rendering "to obtain the forgiveness of sins" (his discussion under baptizo). Thus those who believe that a man is saved by water baptism would gladly appeal to these authorities.
Acts 3:19 seems to support this meaning of the preposition “eis.” This is the very next sermon that Peter gives, and again he tells the Jews what they must do to have forgiveness. We would expect that what Peter told the Jews in Acts 3 would be similar to what he told them in Acts 2. In both cases he was preaching to unsaved Jews under similar circumstances. In Acts 3:19 once again the preposition eis is used, and the KJV translates it "so that your sins might be blotted out." Of course, those who teach baptismal regeneration do not make much of this verse because water baptism is not even mentioned.
The grammarians also concede that the preposition may be translated "for the purpose of' or "in order that" (see Dana & Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 104). Those such as A.T.Robinson and Julius Mantey who render it “because of” or “on the basis of” do so primarily on the basis of theology, not grammar. They suggest a rare usage for the term in order to not make the verse teach baptismal regeneration. But are we really forced to depart from what seems to be the more natural and more common rendering?
Most commentators, regardless of the view they hold, understand the prepositional phrase ("for the remission of sins") as belonging with the verb "be baptized." It is possible, however, that the phrase is actually part of a chiasmus (inverted parallelism) and should be connected not with the command "Be baptized" but with the command "Repent." The verse contains two commands and two prepositional phrases which can be represented by the following chiasmus:
B. Be Baptized
B. In the Name of Jesus Christ
A. For the remission of sins
In English we would best represent this structure by using a parenthesis: "Repent (and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ) for the remission of sins." This is exactly what Acts 3:19 teaches (only Peter there omits the parenthesis). In Acts 3:19 Peter could have said, "Repent (and be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ) so that your sins may be blotted out!"
Indeed, the Bible consistently connects "repentance" with "the forgiveness of sins" (see Luke 24:47 where Peter received his commission; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; Acts 5:31). On the day of Pentecost the Jews would have understood this because the only baptism that they knew about was the baptism of John which was a baptism of repentance UNTO (eis) the remission of sins.
The strengths of this view are as follows: 1) it is theologically sound and avoids the error of making water baptism a condition for forgiveness; 2) it harmonizes with the other passages which speak about repentance and the forgiveness of sins; 3) it understands the preposition eis in its most natural meaning (though other meanings are possible); 4) it agrees with the parallel passage of Acts 3:19; 5) it best suits the context of Acts 2:38 where Peter is offering forgiveness to Christ-rejecting Jews. Peter was not speaking "with reference to" or "because of" or "on the basis of" a forgiveness which they did not yet have! 6) it employs a figure of speech (chiasmus) that was not uncommon or unusual to the Semitic mind, though in English it may seem somewhat awkward.
Stanley D. Toussaint (The Book of Acts in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 359) gives several reasons why the parenthetical view is the correct view:
Several factors support this interpretation: (a) The verb makes a distinction between singular and plural verbs and nouns. The verb "repent" is plural ["repent ye"] and so is the pronoun "your" in the clause, "so that your sins may be forgiven" (lit., "unto the remission of your sins," (eis aphesin ton hamartion humon). Therefore the verb "repent" must go with the purpose of forgiveness of sins. On the other hand the imperative "be baptized" is singular, setting it off from the rest of the sentence. (b) This concept fits with Peter's proclamation in Acts 10:43 in which the same expression "sins may be forgiven" (aphesis harmartion) occurs. There it is granted on the basis of faith alone. (c) In Luke 24:47 and Acts 5:31 the same writer, Luke, indicates that repentance results in remission of sins.
10. “At Pentecost there is no indication that the Spirit baptism was forming a new Body. To the contrary it is stated that this baptism resulted in receiving Power from on high (Luke 24:49). This baptism was experiential, resulting in great signs and wonders. The baptism which forms the Body is not experiential. There is no sensation or feeling when the Spirit does his work. At Pentecost Christ was the Baptizer. In 1 Corinthians 12:13 the Holy Spirit is the Baptizer” (Baker, Ibid., p. 485).
ANSWER: Why must the Scriptures indicate that Spirit baptism was forming the body of Christ at Pentecost? Why could it not progressively be revealed later in the Scriptures? As MacDonald observes “there are four communities of believers in the Book of Acts, and the order of events in connection with the reception of the Holy Spirit is different in each case” (MacDonald, Ibid., p 1597). The prophecy of Luke 24:49 was fulfilled in Acts 2. The gift of the Holy Spirit to the Samaritans in Acts 8:14-17, the Gentiles in Acts 10:44-48 and the disciples of John the Baptist in Acts 19:1-7 are all unique from each other for God’s purpose. Once each initial group had received the Holy Spirit there would not be any reason to continue these unique experiences of receiving the Spirit.
It’s true that at Pentecost there was no indication that the Spirit baptism was forming a new body. We are only told that it happened then. What this baptizing ministry of the Spirit really involves must await future explanation such as Paul gave in 1 Corinthians 12:13. At Pentecost, nothing was said about the sealing of the Holy Spirit, but these believers were gloriously sealed unto the day of redemption, although they would not learn about this until some time later. So it is with the baptism of the Spirit.
It’s true that when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost there were some very unique signs and wonders (tongues of fire, speaking in tongues, etc.). Often when God is initiating something new He marks it off in a unique way. When God gave the law, for example, there were certainly some amazing manifestations on Mount Sinai.
Baker’s objection that the baptism which took place in Acts 2 was different from the Spirit baptism mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:13 is answered under the next point.
11. “At Pentecost Christ was the Baptizer, baptizing with or in the Holy Spirit. In Corinthians 12:13 the Holy Spirit is the Baptizer, baptizing into Christ” (Baker, Ibid., p. 485).
ANSWER: Actually the Greek constructions are basically the same in Acts and I Corinthians 12:13. As Zeller writes:
But someone might raise an objection and say, "The Spirit baptism mentioned in Matthew 3:11 and Acts 1:5 is different from the Spirit baptism mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:13. In Matthew 3:11 and Acts 1:5 Christ is the Baptizer, but in 1 Corinthians 12:13 the Holy Spirit is the Baptizer. As we read the English Bible this seems to be the case, but the Greek construction of Matthew 3:11 and Acts 1:5 is practically identical to 1 Corinthians 12:13 as the following chart illustrates.
All four of these passages are talking about the same baptism, and the Greek construction in all four passages is closely equivalent, as the following literal rendering reveals:
He (Christ) shall baptize you with (in) Holy Spirit
You You shall be baptized (by Christ-Matt. 3:11) with (in) Holy Spirit
You shall be baptized (by Christ-Matt. 3:11) with (in) Holy Spirit
1 Cor. 12:13
We all were be baptized (by Christ-Matt. 3:11) with (in) one Spirit into one body
The order of the words in 1 Corinthians 12:13 has been altered in order to show that the same Greek construction is used. In the King James Version the Greek preposition en is translated "By one Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:13) which has led some to wrongly conclude that the Spirit is the Baptizer. But the passage should be understood in this way: "With (en) one Spirit were we all baptized( by Christ) into one body (the body of Christ, His Church)" (George Zeller, When Did The Church Begin?, a study published by the Middletown Bible Church).
On the other hand, it is possible that both Christ and the Spirit had a part in doing the baptizing. Christ could have baptized believers into the body by allowing the Spirit to actually do this work. This is illustrated in John 4:1-2. In John 4:1 we are told that Jesus baptized disciples, even more than John the Baptist. In John 4:2 we discover that Jesus Himself did not baptize anyone! How could He baptize many but not baptize anyone? The answer is that Jesus baptized many disciples but He did this by allowing His disciples to be the ones who actually did the work of baptism. It’s possible that this is the case in 1 Corinthians 12:13. Jesus Christ is the Baptizer (in light of Matthew 3:11; Acts 1:5, etc.) but the actual work of baptizing was carried out by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was the instrument that Christ used to carry out His baptizing work. This concept is not foreign to the New Testament epistles. We would all agree that Jesus saves and yet the actual work of salvation is carried out by the Spirit of God (see 1 Corinthians 9:11).
It is certainly not incorrect to say that Christ immerses His believers into the body of Christ, and thus has rightful claim to the title of the Baptizer. In Matthew 16:18 we learn that it is Christ Himself who will BUILD His church. In Acts 2:47 we learn that it is the Lord (Jesus Christ) who adds to the church daily such as should be saved. Consider also Acts 2:33 where the Lord Jesus is the One who sheds forth the Spirit. The Lord Jesus, in perfect co-operation with the blessed Person of the Holy Spirit, accomplished this great work, to the praise of the glory of His grace.
This section is somewhat technical, but the grammatical facts of the case argue strongly against Baker’s view that the grammar argues for two baptisms and that the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:13 is the personal agent.
The construction is the preposition en used with the dative case: “in one Spirit” or “with (by means of) one spirit.” The translation “by” (KJV) could be problematic unless it is understood as “by means of” or “by the instrumentality of.” But it does not mean personal agency. If this is what Paul meant he would have most probably used the preposition hupo. In fact, Dana and Mantey say the following: “Hupo is most frequently used for expressing agency. In fact, agency is expressed with the aid of hupo more frequently than it is by all the other methods combined” (A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, by H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, p. 112).
Example: Matthew 3:11 says, “He (Christ) shall baptize you.” If we take this sentence and make it passive it would read as follows: “You shall be baptized by Him (by Christ).” If we were to write this phrase in Greek, the Greek preposition that would be used for “by” would be “hupo” and it indicates that Christ is the personal agent. In other words, He (Christ) is the Baptizer, the One who does the baptizing. Another example is in Matthew 1:22, “Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by (hupo) the Lord through (dia) the prophet, saying…(Isaiah 7:14 is then quoted). Who is the One who spoke? It was the Lord! The Lord was the personal Agent. He was the Speaker. The prophet was the intermediate agent. The prophet was the instrument that God used. God was the One who spoke, but He used His prophet to do it.
In Matthew 3:11 and its parallel passages the same grammatical construction is used (en with the dative) with the same meaning. John said, “I baptize you with (en) water. . . He will baptize you with (en) the Holy Spirit.” John was saying: “I am using water to baptize you but He will use the Holy Spirit to baptize you.” Christ will use the Holy Spirit to baptize believers and He will use fire to baptize unbelievers, but whether it is believers or unbelievers, Christ is the Baptizer. [John MacArthur has an excellent discussion of this in his commentary on 1 Corinthians. See under 1 Corinthians 12:13].
A.T.Robertson, in his monumental Grammar of the Greek N.T. cites many examples of “en” with the dative being used in an instrumental sense but gives no examples of it being used for personal agency. This would mean that the Spirit was the instrument that Christ used to baptize believers into the body but the Spirit was not the personal Agent (that is, He was not the Baptizer except in the sense that He was the agent or instrument that Christ used to do this work).
In A New Short Grammar of the Greek Testament (10th edition) by A.T.Robertson and W.Hersey Davis, the authors point out that hupo is used for the direct agent (personal agency). They then list four other prepositions which are sometimes used to express agency (apo, ek, para, pros) but en is not one of them.
The following discussion is by Daniel B. Wallace in Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (pages 373-374):
1. En + Dative for Personal Agency?
Some have suggested that either the naked dative or en + the dative can express personal agency in the NT. However, once a clear definition is given for personal agency, this will be seen to be a rare or nonexistent category. Williams defines the dative of agency as denoting “the agent (personal) by whom something is done. The only difference between means and agency is that means is impersonal, agency is personal.”
This definition is a little too general. It would be better to say that when en + the dative expresses the idea of means (a different category), the instrument is used by an agent. When agency is indicated, the agent so named is not used by another, but is the one who uses an instrument. (It may be noted here that an intermediate agent, usually expressed by dia + the genitive, is an agent who acts on behalf of another or in the place of another. This agent is not, strictly speaking, used by another as an instrument would be. Thus, en + dative to express means can be (and often is) used of persons, though they are conceived of as impersonal (i.e, used as an instrument by someone else). For example, in the sentence “God disciplined me by means of my parents,” “God” is the agent who used the “parents” as the means by which he accomplished something. The parents are, of course, persons. But they are conceived of as impersonal in that they are the instruments used by another.
According to our definition, if en + dative is used to express agency, the noun in the dative must not only be personal, but must also be the agent who performs the action. BDF accurately assess the NT situation of the naked dative used for personal agency: “Dative of agency is perhaps represented by only one genuine example in the NT and this with the perfect: Luke 23:15 [italics added].” In summary, we can say that there are no clear examples of the dative of agency in the NT, and even if the category does exist, it is, by all counts, exceedingly rare.
Wallace then gives two examples to illustrate his point and both of these examples relate to Spirit baptism:
1) Mark 1:8 “but He (Christ) shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit”
Here it is obvious that Christ is the agent (since “He [Christ]” is the subject) and the Holy Spirit is the means (and perhaps sphere) that the Lord uses to baptize.
2) 1 Cor. 12:13 “for by one Spirit we all were baptized into one body”
Our contention is that this is an illustration of en used for means. By calling “Spirit” means here does not deny the personality of the Holy Spirit. Rather , the Holy Spirit is the instrument that Christ uses to baptize, even though He is a Person. Since pneumatic hagio [Holy Spirit] clearly indicated means in Mark 1:8 (as in several other passages dealing with Spirit-baptism), it is surely not unreasonable to see “Spirit” as the means here. Furthermore, if the Holy Spirit is the agent in this text, there is a theological problem: When is the prophecy of Mark 1:8 fulfilled? When would Christ baptize with the Holy Spirit? Because of the grammatical improbability of pneumati [Spirit] expressing agent in 1 Cor. 12:13, it is better to see it as means and as the fulfillment of Mark 1:8. Thus, Christ is the unnamed agent. This also renders highly improbable one popular interpretation, viz, that there are two Spirit baptisms in the NT.
Thus, Baker’s theory that the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:13 is the Baptizer and that there are two Spirit baptisms in the NT is extremely unconvincing grammatically.
12. “Finally, and perhaps the most convincing, is the fact that everything that happened at Pentecost was in direct fulfillment of prophecy. Peter quotes Joel and David in Acts 2, and in Acts 3:24 he says: “Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.” But Paul says that the truth about the Body of Christ is a “mystery which has been hid from ages and from generations, but is now made manifest to his saints” (Col. 1:24-26). It is very difficult to believe that that which every prophet of old predicted is that which has been hidden from ages and generations. The above twelve reasons are fully supported by the Scripture and surely overweigh any evidence to the contrary that the Body of Christ and the dispensation of the Mystery began on Israel’s feast of Pentecost” (Baker, Ibid., p. 485-486).
This is a common ultradispensational argument: If there is prophecy then there cannot be mystery. In other words, prophecy and the church are mutually exclusive. Where you have one, you can’t have the other.
But this reasoning condemns their very own system because prophecy is also found in Acts 13 and Acts 28 where moderate ultradispensationalists and extreme ultradispensationalists begin the church respectively.
Take Acts 13, for example. Paul’s message given at Antioch in Pisidia is given in verses 14-41. This entire message is immersed in the Old Testament and it ends with a reference to that which was spoken of by the prophets and quotes from Habakkuk 1:5 (see Acts 13:40-41). Later in Acts 13 Paul says, “It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you (Jews); but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles” (v.46). Paul then indicates that this was in some way a fulfillment of Isaiah 49:6 (see v.47). If I were an ultradispensationalists and wanted to find a place to begin the church which had no connection with O.T. prophecy, I certainly would not want to choose Acts 13.
Acts 28 is similar. Again the Jewish people were rejecting the gospel message and again Paul indicates that “salvation is sent unto the Gentiles and that they will hear it” (v.28). But Paul made this statement based on the great prophecy of Isaiah 6:9-10 (see verses 25-27). If prophecy and church are mutually exclusive, then I would not want to begin the church in Acts 28.
We should also keep in mind that, strictly speaking, the Bible never calls the church a mystery. The New Testament mysteries, especially those revealed by Paul, usually relate to some precious aspect of church truth, but never is the church called a mystery.
The concept that church and prophecy are mutually exclusive can easily be disproved. Here are some examples:
Prophecy and church truth are not mutually exclusive. The apostles sometimes quoted from the prophets even in contexts where they were discussing church truth.
Let us consider now the prophecies that Baker specifically mentions. The Joel prophecy which is quoted in Acts 2 we have already discussed. Many details of this prophecy were not fulfilled in Acts 2. Peter was saying, “What is happening here is similar to what Joel predicted would happen in the last days, namely, a supernatural outpouring of the Spirit of God.”
Baker also mentioned that David is quoted in Acts 2 (see verses 24-31) which is certainly true, but Baker’s point is self-condemning, because the same Psalm 16 passage is quoted in Acts 13:35-37, and Acts 13 is the chapter that most ultradispensationalists claim marks the beginning of the church! If it can be done in Acts 13, why can’t it be done in Acts 2? Also Peter’s use of Psalm 16 was not to reveal the mysteries of church truth, but it was to establish the fact of the resurrection. He was preaching the gospel, not expounding church truth.
The only other passage Baker cites is Acts 3:24 and we agree with Baker that this verse has no reference to the church, but neither has it any bearing on whether the church began at Pentecost.
Baker’s dozen points are thought provoking but when weighed in the light of Biblical teaching, they are found wanting. The differences between dispensationalists (classic dispensationalists) and ultradispensationalists are many. Baker and other ultradispensationalists try to argue strongly that the church did not start in Acts 2 but they muster very few sound arguments for why they believe it started at some later time (and there is considerable variation in ultradispensational circles as to when the church really began). One of the biggest problems they have is a misunderstanding of 1 Corinthians 12:13 and the grammar involved, and thus they wrongly teach that there are two Spirit baptisms in the New Testament. They seem to ignore the fact that Paul persecuted “the church of God” or else they claim that the church of God that Paul persecuted was different from the “church which is His body”! Finally, one key question is how soon God has to indicate or reveal a change in His program. Ultradispensationalists have great difficulty believing that God can start a new work and then gradually and progressively reveal the nature and purpose of His new program when and as it pleases Him.
May we be diligent to search the Scriptures in these difficult and declining days, not being tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, but that we might grow up into Christ who is the Head of His beloved Body (Eph. 4:13-16).
First Draft by Jeff Raymond, October 2002
Final Draft by Jeff Raymond and George Zeller, November 2002
If you have questions or further input regarding the things
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