Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 28, 1961
NUMBER 21, PAGE 2,10a

"The Beginning" --- Acts 11:15

Jerry C. Ray, Irving, Texas

In Acts 11:1-18 Peter gives his defense for going to the house of a Gentile, preaching to, and baptizing the household of Cornelius. Peter states that "the Holy Spirit fell on them, even as on us at the beginning?' Since this had happened (along with other miraculous manifestations), indicating God's approval, Peter said, "Who was I, that I could withstand God?"

The word "beginning" is used to denote several different events in the Bible:

I. Denoting the beginning of the world. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Gen. 1:1) "In the beginning was the Word." (John 1:1)

2. Denoting the beginning of one's life. Paul speaks of "my manner of life then from my youth up, which was from the beginning among mine own nation and at Jerusalem." (Acts 26:4)

3. Denoting the beginning of Christ's public ministry. "Ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning." (John 15:27) "And these things I said not unto you from the beginning, because I was with you." (John 16:4)

4. Denoting the beginning of one's life as a child of God. "Beloved, no new commandment write I unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning: the old commandment is the world which ye heard." (1 John 2:7) See also 1 John 2:24 and 2 John 5.

But none of these four fits Acts 11:15. There is no evidence that Peter and the rest of the Apostles received the Holy Spirit at (1) creation, (2) their birth, (3) the beginning of Jesus' public ministry, or (4) at the beginning of their life as disciples of Christ (accommodatively speaking). (There is a technicality involved here. These men, as Jews, were born into God's family by their physical birth. It is not the purpose of this article to discuss this point). To the contrary, during Christ's ministry John states that "the Spirit was not yet given; because Jesus was not yet glorified." (John 7:39)

What "beginning" then is Peter speaking of? The event which Peter refers to is Acts 2, where the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles. (Acts 2:1-4) Why is this called the "beginning"? We suggest the following reasons why it was "the beginning:"

1. It is the beginning of the Gospel Age.

There are three dispensations of time that cover the entire history of the world, and include the future time until the end of the world. We refer to the time beginning at Creation as the Patriarchal Period. During this time there was no set day of worship, no written law of God and no priesthood tribe. God spoke directly to the father (patriarch) of the family concerning His will. The father served as the priest for his family.

God sent Moses and Aaron to bring the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage about 2500 years after creation. When they came out of Egypt they came to Mt. Sinai. Here God gave His law to the Jews through Moses. This is the beginning of the Mosaical dispensation, and the Law of Moses. This covenant was between God and the Jews; (Dt. 5:1-3) it was never given to the Gentiles. The Gentiles are not now, nor ever were under the Law of Moses. The Old Covenant (including the Ten Commandments) never has been for the Gentiles to keep, but only for Jews and Jewish proselytes. Under this dispensation God gave a set day of worship (the Sabbath), plus various holy days; He gave a written law and a 'priestly tribe was chosen (the Levites). This dispensation lasted about 1500 years.

The third dispensation is the Gospel Age. The basic facts of the gospel are the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. (1 Cor. 15:1-4) Up until the day of Pentecost, Acts 2, the gospel in fact, had never been preached. Jesus foretold the crucifixion and resurrection, as had the Prophets. But from the very nature of the case, it could not be preached as an accomplished fact until He had died, been buried, and raised from the tomb on, the third day. During the forty days after his resurrection, while Jesus was with them, they did not preach this gospel. To the contrary, Jesus told them to wait until the coming of the Holy Spirit should enable them to infallibly declare the message. (Lk. 24:46-49, Acts 1:8, 12; 2:1-4) In Acts 2 the gospel is preached as fact. People are told what to do in/ order to be saved according to the terms of the New Covenant.

2. It is the beginning of the Kingdom of God — the church of Christ The kingdom of God is the same body spoken of as the church of Christ. Jesus said, "I will build my church ....and I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven." (Mt. 16:18-19) Also, Jesus stated that the Lord's Supper was to be observed in the kingdom. (Lk. 22:29-30) Paul shows that the Lord's Supper was to be observed by the church at Corinth. (1 Cor. 11:20) Thus, the kingdom and the church are the same body.

The church was not established during the days of the Old Testament. Jesus said, "I will build my church." (Mt. 16:18) This expression, "I will build" is future tense, which means that at that time the establishment of the church was yet future. It is true that God had a "called out" people in the Old Testament, which are referred to as the "church in the wilderness" (Acts 7:38), but the church that Jesus built is not that church. Neither is Christ's church a continuation or extension of the old Jewish church, for Jesus told Nicodemus that he (Nicodemus) must be born again to enter the kingdom. (John 3:3, 5) Likewise, many of the early converts were Jews who had been circumcised and were members of the Jewish church, but they were baptized into the one body, the church. Hence, being a member of the Jewish church was not the same as being a member of this church that Jesus would build.

The Lord's church was not established by John the Baptist. John was beheaded in Mt. 14:10. Two chapters later Jesus said, "I will build (future- tense) my church." John was dead at the time Jesus said the establishment of the church was still future.

The Scriptures that deal with the church (or kingdom) all point to Acts 2 as the beginning time. Every passage before Pentecost points forward to Acts 2 (Mt. 3:2; Mk. 1:15; Mt. 6:9-10; Mt. 10:7; Mt 16:18; Mk. 9:1; Mt. 18:3; Lk. 10:9; Lk. 19:11; Lk. 22:18; Lk. 23:51; Acts 1:6). Every passage after Acts 2 speaks of the church as an established body, thus pointing back to Acts 2 (Rev. 1:9; Heb. 12:28; Col. 1:13; Acts 14:23; Acts 8:1; Acts 5:11).

Prophecy points to Acts 2 as the beginning time of the kingdom of God. Isa. 2:2-3 states that God's house (the church, 1 Tim. 3:15) would be established in Jerusalem in the "last days." Peter quotes the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32, which prophecy was to occur in the last days, as being fulfilled on Pentecost (Acts 2:16-17). Dan. 2:44 states that God's kingdom was to be established during the days of these kings (Roman rulers). This is true of Pentecost, Acts 2.

3. It is the beginning of the New Testament — New Covenant — New Will.

Jeremiah 31:31-34 prophesies of a new covenant, different from the Law of Moses. The writer of Hebrews quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34 in Heb. 8 and 10 stating that this new covenant has been put in force by Jesus. Paul states that we are not under the old law (Rom. 7:4-7), that it has been nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14), and taken out of the way. (Eph. 2:13-16)

Heb. 9:16-17 states that this New Testament is similar to a legal will. The will goes into effect when the one who made it dies. Before the person dies, his will is of no force. The New Covenant went into effect when Christ died on the cross. People who deny that baptism has any thing to do with salvation, (despite Mk. 16:16, Acts 2:38, 1 Pet. 3:21), often speak of being saved as was the thief on the cross. But no one today can be saved as was the thief. We live on the other side of the cross. The new Covenant is in force now. While Jesus lived he could forgive sins upon any terms that He so desired. But when He died, the last will and testament went into force, and its stipulations are binding upon all who desire to be saved. There must be obedience to its terms in order to be saved. It matters not whether the thief on the cross (or Adam, or Noah, or Moses, or Elijah) was baptized. We are not living under the same law as was the thief. We today must believe, (John 8:24) Repent, (Acts 17:30) Confess our faith in Christ, (Rom. 10:10) and be baptized for the remission of sins. (Acts 2:38) 4. It is the beginning the high-priesthood of Christ Under the Old Covenant there was the Aaronic priesthood. Christ is not of the tribe of Levi, hence could not be a priest on earth according to the Old Law. (Heb. 7:11-17) Christ's priesthood is after the order of Melchizedek. Christ is now our High-priest and Mediator (Heb. 9:24, 1 Tim. 2:5), and no man stands between us and God. All Christians are priests (1 Pet. 2:9), and we need no man to hear a confession of our sins and absolve us of our wrongs.

5. It is the beginning of the great salvation of Hebrews 2:1-3.

It is a great salvation because of (1) its planner - God, (2) its sacrifice - Christ, (3) its cost - the blood of Christ, (4) its scope - for all nations, (5) its benefits - forgiveness of sins, and (6) its promises eternal.

This great salvation is conditional. We must obey, we must do the will of God. (Heb. 5:8-9, Mt. 7:21-23) We must do as did the people who were convicted of their sins in "the beginning." We must repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. (Acts 2:38).