This question – “Does It Really Matter When The Church Began?” – was first asked when we sought to show that many Christians are in error by stating that the church which is Christ’s body (Ephesians 1:22-23) began on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. It matters much more than people realise, because this traditional starting point of Pentecost has been the cause of much confusion.
If we start the church of today at Pentecost, it naturally follows that we should be performing in the churches today all that was enacted among the believers from Pentecost onwards and right throughout the book of Acts.
In their attempts to be consistent, many well-meaning Christians have tried to do just that. They claim that miraculous acts such as healings, recovery of sight to the blind, tongues, etc should be the normal order of things in the church today, though they forget about divine judgement and supernatural transportation.
But many who once followed that teaching have become disillusioned and have been forced to give it up, finding that they do not possess the powers experienced by the Christians of the Acts Period.
The teachings of Scripture are a serious business, and we must learn to keep things in their proper place. There were those who, in Paul’s day, taught that the future resurrection of our bodies “has already taken place” (2 Timothy 2:18). These people did not deny the resurrection, but they were putting it in the wrong place in time. Paul said, “their teaching will spread like gangrene” and would “destroy the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:17,19).
And there are those today who teach that the things written in the book of Revelation have also “already taken place”. This, too, is putting things in their wrong place. So, let us be careful. The starting place of the church of today at the wrong place can lead to dire consequences.
Pentecost was, in fact, a feast of the Jews, having its origin in the Old Testament in Leviticus 23. It was then called ,The Feast of Weeks”, and was among other feasts such as the Sabbath, Passover, Unleavened Bread, First-fruits, Trumpets and the Day of Atonement.
The “Day of Pentecost” (as mentioned in Acts 2:1) was the 50th day after the Jewish Passover, and Jews out of every nation were gathered at Jerusalem for the feast. The only Gentiles (non-Jews). present were proselytes (Gentiles who had become a part of the nation of Israel by way of circumcision and other rites). Gentiles who had not embraced Judaism were not Present at Pentecost.
Not only is that 2nd chapter of Acts very “Jewish” in character, but the rest of the book of Acts is also Jewish right to the very last chapter, Acts 28.
During the Acts period, God was dealing primarily with the Jews. The following verses come from the book of Romans, written during the period covered by the book of Acts:
“I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes … first for the Jew, then for the Gentile”. (Romans 1:16 – NIV)
“There will be trouble and &stress for every human being who does evil.. first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” (Romans 2:9 – NIV)
” … but glory, honour and peace for everyone who does good; first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”, (Romans 2:10 – NIV)
The 28th and final chapter of Acts tells of one last appeal by the Lord through Paul to Israel, calling on them to repent and believe that Jesus was the Christ, their true Messiah. They rejected this, and God then revealed, through Paul, the secret kept hidden all through the ages that: “the Gentiles [should be] heirs together, members together of one body and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus ” (Ephesians 3:6 – NIV).
So it is after Acts 28:28 when the “Church which is His Body” (Ephesians 1:22, 23) began, and not at Pentecost.
The Jewish feasts, the miracles, signs and wonders which were all so prevalent during the Acts period have been temporarily set aside. This is because Israel has ceased to be God’s chosen people and will continue to be so until He takes up with them again some time in the future.
This article was adapted from a leaflet originally written by Cliff Hollard.