By Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum
Q. What is the biblical evidence that the Church began at Pentecost in Acts 2?
A. The evidence comes in four passages of Scripture. The first passage that deals with the beginning of the universal church isColossians 1:18:
And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
The point of this verse is that the Church is the Body of the Messiah.
The second passage that deals with the beginning of the universal church is I Corinthians 12:13:
For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all made to drink of one Spirit.
The point of this verse is that entrance into this Body, the Church, is by means of Spirit baptism. In other words, it is the Holy Spirit’s ministry of Spirit baptism that places one into the Body of the Messiah. This is the reason this verse clearly teaches that every believer has been baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of the Messiah, not just some. So long as there was no ministry of Spirit baptism, there was no universal church. If it can be determined just when Spirit baptism began, that will also reveal when the Church began, since Spirit baptism is an absolutely essential element to the existence of the Church, the Body of the Messiah.
The third passage that deals with the beginning of the universal church is Acts 1:5:
for John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence.
According to this verse, Spirit baptism was still future as of Acts 1. Spirit baptism had not yet begun, because Jesus used the future tense again, “You will be baptized by the Spirit not many days hence.” They had not yet experienced this because, although Yeshua had already been resurrected, He was not yet ascended. So the question is: Just when did Spirit baptism begin? The logical answer is that Spirit baptism began in Acts 2. The problem is, however, thatActs 2:1-4 does not mention Spirit baptism. What is mentioned is the fact that the Holy Spirit filled them, but the passage does not state that He baptized them. How can it be proven that Spirit baptism did begin in Acts 2, and therefore, so did the Church?
The exact beginning of the universal church can be proven by the fourth passage, Acts 11:15-16. The background to this passage begins in Acts 10 when Peter had gone to the home of Cornelius, a Gentile. Peter had preached the gospel to these Gentiles and they had been saved and filled with the Holy Spirit as a result. In Acts 11, Peter defended his actions of going to a Gentile home before the council of the Jerusalem Church. Verses 15-16 state:
And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, even as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit.
In verse 15, Peter stated that the Holy Spirit fell upon them [these Gentiles], even as on us [the Jews] at the beginning. When was this beginning? The beginning was Acts 2, for in verse 16, Peter stated that what had happened at the beginning was a fulfillment of the words of Jesus (Acts 1:5). So Spirit baptism began at Pentecost. Since Spirit baptism is essential to the existence of the Church, that is also when the Church was born.
Summarizing the four points of evidence dealing with the beginning of the universal church found in these four passages: point one is that the Church is the Body of the Messiah (Col. 1:18); point two is that entrance into this Body is by Spirit baptism (I Cor. 12:13); point three is that Spirit baptism was still future as of Acts 1:5; and point four is that the Church began at Pentecost in Acts 2 and will continue until the Rapture occurs (Acts 11:15-16).