Acts 2

Chapter two records the event that has set the tone for the past 2,000 years of human history. The apostles waited for ten days in Jerusalem for the baptism of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised, until the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-3). While the Twelve 1 were celebrating the Feast of Weeks together (Leviticus 23:15-22), the Holy Spirit entered the house where they had gathered, coming in the form of a singular flame of fire which divided itself and “CAME TO REST UPON EACH ONE OF THEM.” This signified that his presence was not only general but individual.

Immediately the men (Acts 2:15) began praising God in other languages (Acts 2:4). Quoting the prophet Joel, Peter explained that this miracle was the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in them (Acts 2:14-21), which began to fulfill God’s promise that the Spirit would come upon people again. We should note that this is the clearest passage in Scripture on the subject of what “tongues” are; they are human languages previously unknown 2 to the speaker. Additionally, it is important to observe that the preaching was done in the common language, not in the other languages. The other languages were used to give praise to God, not the gospel message or new revelation or prophecy. This was the pattern in all three occurrences of speaking in tongues/languages in Acts (Acts 2:1-13; 10:44-48; 19:1-7).

After explaining how the Twelve could miraculously speak these other languages, Peter preached to the captivated crowd, highlighting two key points, each prefaced by “David said.” First, Jesus was God’s prophet, whom they publicly crucified, but he was resurrected (Acts 2:22-32). Second, Jesus was God’s Messiah, and he ascended to heaven to wait until he can receive his kingdom (Acts 2:33-36). This was the crux of the matter: “GOD HAS MADE THIS JESUS WHOM YOU CRUCIFIED BOTH LORD AND CHRIST” (LORD = Jehovah, CHRIST = Messiah).

Under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, the crowd asked the apostles how they should respond to the message (Acts 2:37-41). Peter’s reply was that they should repent – the same message given by John the Baptizer, Jesus, and the apostles over the previous several years. Upon repentance, they would gain forgiveness of their sins and the Holy Spirit as God’s gift. Each one who believed should also be baptized as a public indication of this new belief. 3

Out of the thousands in Jerusalem for Pentecost, “ABOUT THREE THOUSAND PEOPLE” joined the little band of Christians that day (Acts 2:41-47). Fully expecting that Jesus would return shortly, especially after that show of acceptance, they gathered together regularly, both in the Temple and in their homes. They began selling off their possessions and sharing what they had with each other, knowing they would not need anything in the Kingdom, because the prophets promised that Messiah would provide for them. They listened to the apostles teach, probably what they had learned from Jesus about the Kingdom (Acts 1:3). They were a happy, excited group, constantly sharing their joy with their neighbors. As a result, many others joined their group expecting to see Messiah again any day.

Notes:

  1. Whether it was only the Twelve or the entire group of believers gathered on that day is debated, but the evidence seems to lean toward only the Twelve.
  2. “Previously unknown” does not mean that the men were able to speak these languages fluently again. It means that, at the time of their speaking, they knew what they were saying, although they had not learned that language before.
  3. Most English translations make it seem as if water baptism was required in order to be forgiven and receive the Holy Spirit. While it is a command in the sentence, the structure of the Greek language separates baptism from the rest of the sentence, not putting it on the same level as repentance but subsequent to repentance.

1 Corinthians 15

Chapter fifteen concludes the teaching portion of Paul’s letter. The final topic he needed to address was the resurrection. His opening statement, that he wanted “to make clear…the gospel,” reminds us that some of these believers were still “infants in Christ” (3:1) and that they were uncertain on the basic doctrines of the faith. It was also a good time to remind them of the gospel that they needed to preach in their meetings, so unbelievers could be convicted and believe (1 Corinthians 14:23-25). The basic message of the gospel is simple: Christ died for our sins and was raised on the third day. Both of these events were prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures, and they were confirmed by his public burial and post-resurrection eyewitnesses, respectively (1 Corinthians 15:3-11). Not only did he appear to individual apostles and small groups, including Paul himself, Jesus appeared to “more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time.” For anyone who thought that could not possibly be true, Paul challenged them to visit these eyewitnesses, “most of whom [were] still alive” at the time of his writing, twenty years after the fact. Circling back to his theme from chapter one, this is the only message Paul had, and this is what the Corinthians had originally believed.

This simple, verifiable message did not stop people from trying to lead the believers astray, though. Even though Paul said they could talk to eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection, those people were almost 1,000 miles away, and some of the Corinthians were beginning to believe that the concept of a resurrection was a hoax (1 Corinthians 15:12-19). Paul countered that, if that were true, three other truths would be certain as well. First, no resurrection at all means that Christ was not raised. Second, a dead Christ means that our faith is empty, we are false witnesses, and we are still in our sins. Third, no resurrection means no hope for those who have already died.

Against this false teaching, Paul pointed them back to the Old Testament Scriptures, noting that death has been common since Adam and that their belief in Christ was a belief that he undid what Adam did; thus, a resurrection from the dead is both theologically and logically sound and necessary (1 Corinthians 15:20-28). He also pointed to the prophecies of what Christ is supposed to do: rule in his kingdom until all his enemies are eliminated, including death itself. None of this is possible if Christ is still dead.

Paul’s comment about people being “baptized for the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:29-34) has found its way into Mormon theology, where living people can be baptized in the place of their dead relatives to create a retroactive salvation for them. This has caused a great debate in Christianity as well. It is possible that these Corinthians had been including the pagan practice of baptism for the dead because they had begun to disbelieve the basic gospel (which does not include baptism at all) and the truth of the resurrection. This view fits the context of Paul’s comments about their human thinking, bad company, and command to stop sinning. 1

Paul anticipated a further question asking for more detail about the resurrection: “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” (1 Corinthians 15:35-49). His response indicates that this was not a line of honest questioning but one of defiance. His answer was simple: the resurrection body will be similar but different than our current bodies. Humans were meant to live in physical bodies, and we will live forever in physical bodies, except that they will be better. Some people believe there is a difference between “flesh and blood” and “flesh and bone” (1 Corinthians 15:50-58). 2 Regardless of the details, Paul was clear that our resurrected bodies will become imperishable and immortal. This will happen in an instant, at the Rapture, both for dead saints and those still alive. At that time, “death [will be] swallowed up in victory.” This truth should cause us all to live in victory, “knowing that [our] labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

Notes:

  1. Another option is that some had come to believe because of Christians who had died, and their baptism was due to the others’ martyrdom. This is more palatable and has a lot of support from conservative scholars, but it does not seem to be the natural reading.
  2. Paul here said that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” Some compare this to Adam’s statement that Eve was from his “flesh and bone,” indicating that they did not have blood at that time. Since physical life is connected to blood (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:11, 14), their conclusion is that spiritual life does not need blood. For an explanation of this position, see Henry Morris, “Flesh and Bones”, https://www.icr.org/article/5946 (accessed 10/23/2015).

“It is an abomination”

Recently, because of the debate about homosexuality in our culture, the word “abomination” has resurfaced. In the context of this topic, we find the word in Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13, as God’s description of homosexual activity.

“You must not have sexual intercourse with a male as one has sexual intercourse with a woman; it is a detestable act.” Leviticus 18:22

“If a man has sexual intercourse with a male as one has sexual intercourse with a woman, the two of them have committed an abomination. They must be put to death; their blood guilt is on themselves.” Leviticus 20:13

The Hebrew word is the same for both of those bolded words above – to`evah (תּוֹעֵבָה) – and it means “something abominable, detestable, offensive.”

However, while Leviticus is the first time this word is used to describe something God hates, it’s certainly not the last. So what does God consider an abomination? Here’s the entire list (each one uses the same Hebrew word, regardless of how various English Bibles translate it):

coveting silver and gold from idols…Deuteronomy 7:25

idols, idolatry…Deuteronomy 7:26; 27:15; 32:16; 2 Kings 21:11; Jeremiah 16:18; 32:35; 44:3-4; Ezekiel 5:11; 6:9; 7:20; 14:6; 16:36; and all of Ezekiel 8

false worship of God…Deuteronomy 12:31

blemished sacrifices…Deuteronomy 17:1

worshiping the sun, moon, stars, and other gods…Deuteronomy 17:4

witchcraft, sorcery, necromancy, magic…Deuteronomy 18:12

child sacrifice…Deuteronomy 18:12; 2 Kings 16:3; 2 Chronicles 28:3

crossdressing…Deuteronomy 22:5

prostitution…Deuteronomy 23:18; 1 Kings 14:24; Ezekiel 16:43

improper divorce and remarriage…Deuteronomy 24:4

cheating others in business…Deuteronomy 25:16; Proverbs 11:1; 20:10, 23

living in rebellion against God’s law, wicked plans…Proverbs 2:32; 6:18; 15:9, 26; Jeremiah 7:9-10

perverted hearts…Proverbs 11:20

lies, lying…Proverbs 6:17-18; 12:22

religious acts, outward religion…Proverbs 15:8; 21:27; Isaiah 1:13

arrogance…Proverbs 6:17; 16:5

acquitting the guilty, condemning the innocent…Proverbs 17:15

shedding innocent blood…Proverbs 6:17

the prayers of those who ignore God…Proverbs 28:9

adultery…Ezekiel 22:11

creating disunity…Proverbs 6:19

It is important to remember that, while “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1), Christianity does not give us the license to do whatever we want. Because God’s standard against sin has never changed, and he is working to grow us to become like himself, we must learn to despise the actions that he despises, while at the same time pointing the people who do them back to Jesus.

Which of these surprised you the most to be on “the list”?