We are considering Michael Shank’s book Muscle and a Shovel.
Shank is close to being re-baptized. Shank and his wife drink some beers, and he gets sick on too much alcohol.
Shank realizes that he smokes a little, drinks to excess on occasion, and is something of a materialist. This baptism thing starts to worry him. Shank then summarizes what he’d learned from Randall.
A study on the psychology of conditioning. Shank concludes that he just might be conditioned by the world not to understand the Bible correctly. Indeed.
Shank confesses that if he’s re-baptized, he’ll essentially admit that his grandfather is in hell. Randall asks what his grandfather would want him to do?
We return to Acts 2:38. Randall declares that the “gift of the Holy Spirit” is eternal life. He gets there by jumping to Romans 6 — as though the Jews at Pentecost had cross-referencing New Testaments and quickly turned to Romans 6 as Peter preached. Romans wasn’t even written until decades later, and Randall is totally missing the context of Peter’s sermon.
It’s amazing that this deep into Shank’s book the only thing we’ve learned about the Holy Spirit is that Shank’s aunt failed to get him the gift of tongues and that the Spirit inspired all the baptism passages. Shank is being taught a doctrine of the Spirit that ignores him when possible and rationalizes him away when he can’t be ignored.
Let’s do a brief but serious study of Peter’s sermon in Acts 2.
(Act 2:14-21 ESV) 14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
Peter and the others are speaking in “tongues,” which are heard as the native languages of the various Jewish pilgrims present from across the Empire. They are accused of being drunk, but Peter explains that this is in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy, which he quotes.
The prophecy declares that there will come a day when God would pour out his Spirit on “all flesh.” Obviously, the prophecy is not yet entirely fulfilled, because only Jews have received it thus far. But this is the beginning of its fulfillment.
The use of “pour out” to refer to God’s giving of the Spirit under the new covenant shows up several times in the prophets and in the New Testament.
Finally, Joel promises that “all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” Many a Church of Christ preacher sneers at this, but this is what the prophecy says — and Peter quotes it for a reason. You see, Peter considers Jesus to be “the Lord.” His point, as we’ll see, is that faith in Jesus saves and Joel prophesied it.
(Act 2:22-23 ESV) 22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know — 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
Peter then declares that Jesus was crucified by the Jewish nation as God has planned, all as revealed by the prophets, such as Joel. He charges his audience with being guilty of the crucifixion of Jesus, although in fact he was “killed by the hands of lawless men.” The culture of the Jews created a sense of group guilt — and, of course, whether or not they personally participated, they now were forced to a choice: either ratify his crucifixion or repent.
(Act 2:24-28 ESV) 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,
“‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; 26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. 27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
Peter now quotes Psalm 16, saying that it prophesies that the Messiah — the Holy One — will be resurrected. He is building a case for Jesus to be the Messiah (or Christ).
(Act 2:29-31 ESV) 29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.
Peter explains that David could not have been speaking of himself, because he died and his body was corrupted. David was rather prophesying about Jesus — the Christ. “Christ” (Christos) is the Greek word for Messiah, the king prophesied to rule over God’s Kingdom when it arrives, marked by the outpouring of God’s Spirit.
(Act 2:32-33 ESV) 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.
Peter says that he and the other disciples saw Jesus resurrected, and he is now in heaven pouring out the “promise of the Holy Spirit,” that is, the promised Holy Spirit — as is happening right now!
(Act 2:34-36 ESV) 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”‘ 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Peter now refers to Psalm 110, which Peter explains calls the Messiah “Lord” — the very word used by the Jews for God.
Peter closes this part of his sermon by repeating the charge that they crucified Jesus, who is both Messiah and Lord.
(Act 2:37 ESV) 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Those who believed, those who accepted that Jesus is Messiah and Lord, were cut to the heart. Their nation bore the mark of a grave sin. Some of them had actually been there at the trial and crucifixion! Of course they asked what to do!
(Act 2:38-39 ESV) 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
In v. 39, “the promise” is a reference to the “promise of the Holy Spirit” mentioned in v. 33 as being poured out by Jesus from heaven. The prophets had promised the Spirit to God’s people, and to receive the Spirit would be to be accepted by God.
Up to this point, the Spirit had only been given to kings and prophets and priests and judges. Now it would be given to everyone who “calls on the name of the Lord.” This was a big, big deal. In fact, this is something the Jews had been praying for for centuries because they’d read the prophecies and knew that the Spirit had long been missing from their nation.
Also in v. 39 we’re told that the “promise” — the Spirit — is for “you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” This explains the “all flesh” of Joel’s prophecy and looks ahead to the entry of the Gentiles into Kingdom.
So what is the “gift of the Holy Spirit”? Well, Peter has two major topics: (1) Jesus is Messiah and Lord and (2) the Spirit is being poured out on all flesh. In that context, obviously, “the gift of the Holy Spirit” is the Spirit itself. And nearly every denomination teaches this, except for a sect within the Churches of Christ who insist that this means eternal life — which has not yet even been mentioned by Peter. How were Peter’s listeners supposed to guess that, when the subject of the sermon is the Spirit himself being poured out on all flesh? It’s just not a reasonable interpretation.
I could go on, but this post is running long. It’s just a very peculiar interpretation, rejected by a great many in the Churches of Christ, very unorthodox, and designed to justify a Deistic view of the Spirit — as though the Spirit retired when the last apostle died and then sat back to watch what would happen with no further work to do.
And that’s just wrong. And if you’re still not persuaded, the Old Testament evidence is overwhelming (as is the New Testament evidence). Here are links to posts giving some the Old Testament prophecies of the Spirit under the new covenant:
It’s a lot of reading, but if you’re new to this blog, you’ll be astonished at what was promised to God’s children under the new covenant.