DID THE CHURCH THE BODY OF CHRIST BEGIN IN ACTS 2?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Nearly everyone in Christendom is convinced that Acts chapter 2 is “the birthday of the Church the Body of Christ.” Does this overwhelming consensus agree with God’s Word, or is this just a denominational viewpoint courtesy of religious tradition? Let us search the Scriptures to see what Almighty God has to say about this often-confused topic.
Firstly, remember, whenever you see the word “church” in the Bible, it does not necessarily refer to the Church the Body of Christ. “Church” simply means “a called-out assembly.” There are three “churches” in Scripture: the Mosaic Church, the Messianic Church, and the Mystery Church.
The Mosaic Church is mentioned in Acts 7:38, when the Prophet Stephen refers to the nation Israel as “the church in the wilderness.” The LORD had just called out Israel from Egyptian bondage. Certainly, that “church” had nothing to do with the Body of Christ—it was the nation Israel, a separate and distinct entity. This Mosaic Church derives its name from Moses, the man whom God used to lead Israel from Egypt to the edge of the Promised Land.
The Greek word ecclesia (often translated “church”) is correctly translated “assembly” in Acts 19:32. The King James translators did not use the word “church” here because it was not a group of believers, but rather a mob of pagan worshippers who were angry with the Apostle Paul after he spoke against their mythological goddess Diana. Again, “church” does not always mean “a group of believers;” likewise, “church” in the Bible does not always refer to the Church the Body of Christ. The context determines the definition of the term.
Religious tradition has made such a mess of Matthew 16:18. Let us read it as it appears in the King James Bible (Jesus Christ is speaking to Peter): “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” This is neither the Roman Catholic Church nor the Church the Body of Christ. Continue reading in verse 19, “I will give unto thee [Peter] the keys of the kingdom of heaven….” The Lord Jesus Christ has just appointed Peter as the head of the “Messianic Church.” The “rock” is the fact that Jesus is Messiah/Christ (Peter’s profession in verse 16). Again, this is not the Body of Christ because the Messianic Church is comprised of those Jews who have trusted Jesus as their Messiah, Christ, the Son of the living God—this includes those believers from John the Baptist’s ministry and Christ’s earthly ministry (see Matthew 16:15-17). According to Luke 12:32, the Messianic Church is also known as the “little flock,” the believing segment of the nation Israel that will inherit the earthly kingdom promised in the Old Testament.
When the book of Acts opens, this Messianic Church still exists. In Acts chapter 2, Peter is the chief speaker (remember, he is the head of the Messianic Church and the keys of Israel’s kingdom have been given to him). Do not be confused when Acts 2:47 says “the church”—it is the mishandling of this verse that contributes to the erroneous idea that this is the Church the Body of Christ. Acts chapter 2 is not a reference to the Body of Christ; remember that this is the Messianic Church, what Jesus Christ promised to build back in Matthew 16:18.
Here are 12 reasons why the “church” in Acts chapter 2 is not the Church the Body of Christ:
1. ACTS 2 INVOLVES JESUS CHRIST’S EARTHLY MINISTRY.
The Bible says in Hebrews 2:3-4: “ How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;  God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” According to the Holy Spirit speaking through the writer of the book of Hebrews—it is a Jewish book!—the early Acts period is a continuation of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry (which was also Jewish; Matthew 10:5-7; Matthew 15:24; John 4:22; Romans 15:8). Read Acts 1:4-5: “ And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.  For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” Jesus Christ was referring to John the Baptist’s words in Matthew 3:11: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” In His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus Christ promised to send the Holy Ghost (see John 14:16-18; John 15:26; John 16:7)—this promise was fulfilled to Israel in Acts chapter 2. Acts chapter 2 is linked to Jesus’ earthly ministry, which was confined to Israel (see Acts 2:22).
2. ACTS 2 INVOLVES ISRAEL ONLY.
The chief speaker of Acts chapter 2 is the Apostle Peter, an apostle of Israel (Matthew 10:1-7; Matthew 19:28; Galatians 2:9). Peter was sent to minister to the nation Israel (Matthew 10:5-7). Undoubtedly, Peter’s audience in Acts chapter 2 is Jews only, the nation Israel (Acts 2:5,14,22,29,36). On four occasions, Peter says that he is speaking to, “Ye men of Judaea” (verse 14), “ye men of Israel” (verse 22), “men and brethren” (verse 29), and “the whole house of Israel” (verse 36). The Holy Ghost is leading the Apostle Peter to speak (verse 4), and the Holy Ghost is well aware that He is speaking to the nation Israel. Indeed, Acts chapter 2 is to Israel and about Israel. The Church the Body of Christ is made up of neither Jew nor Gentile (Galatians 3:28; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 2:11-18; Colossians 3:11); therefore, the Body of Christ is separate from the nation Israel and not related to Acts chapter 2. It is apparently clear that we are still in Jewish-Gentile distinction of “time past” of Ephesians 2:11-12 here in Acts chapter 2. Some may argue that the term “all that are afar off” in Acts 2:39 refers to Gentiles, but they are incorrect because the context does not allow this definition. Actually, we find this term in Daniel 9:7 and it refers to scattered Jews around the world. It has no reference to Gentiles, either in Daniel 9:7 or Acts 2:39.
3. ACTS 2 INVOLVES PENTECOST, A JEWISH FEAST DAY.
Acts 2:1 says “when the day of Pentecost was fully come.” This is a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. The Body of Christ is separate from Israel’s prophetic program (see Romans 16:25-26). Also, Pentecost is one of the three major Jewish feasts (Leviticus 23:15-16). We members of the Church the Body of Christ are not bound by the laws and feast days of Judaism (Romans 6:14-15; Galatians 4:9-11; Colossians 2:16), so this further proves that the group of believers in Acts chapter 2 is not the Church the Body of Christ. The Spirit of God would never lead a member of the Church the Body of Christ to be under the law (2 Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 5:18).
4. ACTS 2 INVOLVES PROPHECY, NOT MYSTERY.
According to what the Holy Ghost through Peter said in Acts 2:16-21, the events of Acts chapter 2 are fulfilled Old Testament prophecy: “ But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;  And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:  And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:  And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:  The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come:  And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” The Prophet Joel (2:28-32) prophesied the supernatural events of Acts chapter 2 in relation to Israel’s restoration—we do not have these signs, miracles, and wonders in the Body of Christ and the Dispensation of Grace. The strange astronomical phenomena recorded in Joel and Acts chapter 2 will be fulfilled after our dispensation (see Matthew 24:29-30; Mark 13:24-26; Luke 21:25-28; Revelation 6:12-14). Again, the Body of Christ has no relation to the Old Testament because the “mystery” (our Dispensation of Grace) was “kept secret since the world began” (Romans 16:25; Ephesians 3:5; Colossians 1:26). The risen, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ revealed our mystery dispensation first and only to the Apostle Paul (Romans 16:25-26; Ephesians 3:1-9; Colossians 1:25-29). We do not find ourselves outside of Paul’s epistles of Romans through Philemon.
5. ACTS 2 INVOLVES “THE LAST DAYS.”
We return to Acts 2:17: “ But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;  And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:” Notice the expression “in the last days” in verse 17. Acts chapter 2 does not record the first days of anything—there is no “church birthday” here. Acts chapter involves “the last days.” The “last days” of what? Israel’s prophetic program was winding down in Acts chapter 2, but God interrupted that program in Acts chapter 7 to introduce the mystery program (our Dispensation of Grace).
6. ACTS 2 INVOLVES JESUS CHRIST BEING RAISED TO SIT ON DAVID’S THRONE.
When the Apostle Peter preached in Acts chapter 2, notice what the Holy Spirit said through him in verses 29-31: “ Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.  Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;  He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.” We have no relation to David’s throne; we are Gentiles saved apart from the nation Israel (Romans 11:11-12). When the Holy Spirit moved the Apostle Paul to write to us, he wrote that Jesus Christ was raised “for our justification” (Romans 4:25)—he made no reference to David’s throne like Peter did.
7. ACTS 2 INVOLVES A GOSPEL THAT IS NOT VALID TODAY.
The Apostle Peter preached in Acts 2:38 when his audience asked how to be saved: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” This is certainly a works-religion gospel, and it was valid in Israel’s program—it is problematic when people try to apply it to us because it does not belong in our dispensation. After all, Jesus Christ had said in Mark 16:16 that faith and water baptism were necessary for salvation in Israel’s program. Peter is in perfect accordance with his commission. Israel will not receive forgiveness of sins until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (Acts 3:19). Jews must repent (change their mind about who Jesus Christ really was) and be water baptized in order to receive forgiveness and the Holy Spirit. When the Philippian jailer asked Paul what he must do to be saved, Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). Unlike Peter’s ministry, in Paul’s ministry, there was no reference to water baptism or repentance. We receive the Holy Spirit by trusting the Gospel of the Grace of God—Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as sufficient payment for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 4:24-25)—and God the Father seals us with the Holy Spirit instantly (Ephesians 1:12-14). Romans 4:1-8 makes it abundantly clear that no works save us. Acts chapter 2 does not apply to us because its Gospel message does not apply to us—it is a false gospel for us and we should reject it as such (Galatians 1:6-12).
8. ACTS 2 INVOLVES ISRAEL’S APOSTLES AND ISRAEL’S TEMPLE.
According to some of the closing verses of Acts chapter 2, these believers continued in “the apostles’ doctrine” and were “with one accord in the temple” (verses 42,46). The “apostles” in this case are Peter, James, John, and the other nine apostles from Christ’s earthly ministry—these apostles of Israel were never sent to minister to the Church the Body of Christ (recall Matthew 10:5-7; Galatians 2:9). Furthermore, temple worship has no relation to us the Church the Body of Christ because we are not under the demands of the Mosaic Law (Romans 6:14-15; Galatians 5:1-5). We believers are the Temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16), and God does not dwell in temples made with hands (Acts 17:24).
9. ACTS 2 INVOLVES A PRE-EXISTING GROUP OF BELIEVERS.
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). The Bible says that there was a pre-existing group of believers in Acts chapter 2. It is not a new Body of Christ; Acts chapter 2 was simply a continuation of the Messianic Church that we discussed earlier. Again, there is no “birthday” of anything in Acts chapter 2.
10. ACTS 2 INVOLVES SIGNS, MIRACLES, AND WONDERS.
Read Acts 2:43: “And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.” Is there “fear” in local churches today because of miraculous demonstrations? “The Jews require a sign” (1 Corinthians 1:22a). Mark 16:15-20 talks about how signs were to follow those that believe in Israel’s program, and Acts chapter 2 is a confirmation (see Hebrews 2:3-4). These miracles belong with Israel, and they do not apply to us. We have something better than miracles—we have the completed Word of God, the Holy Bible (1 Corinthians 13:8-13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
11. ACTS 2 INVOLVES COMMUNAL LIVING.
Did you ever notice the communal living found in Acts 2:44-45? Who does this today, except perhaps the cults? “ And all that believed were together, and had all things common;  And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” These Jewish believers sold everything they had and gave the money they received to the twelve apostles for distribution to the poor (in perfect accordance with what Jesus said in Matthew 19:21-24 and Luke 12:31-34)! This was selfless, spontaneous living for the good of their fellow Jewish believers. Do you know of any Christian today who has sold all his or her possessions and given the money to a preacher or a local church? I seriously doubt it, so yet again, the Bible proves that Acts chapter 2 has nothing to do with the Church the Body of Christ.
12. ACTS 2 INVOLVES LEGALISM.
As we stated earlier, the Spirit of God would never lead a member of the Church the Body of Christ to be under the law (2 Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 5:18). Yet, legalism abounds in Acts chapter 2—repentance and water baptism for salvation and forgiveness (verse 38) and obeying the apostles’ doctrine in the Temple (verse 42,46). Jesus said that Israel’s 12 apostles were to preach and teach the Law (Matthew 5:17-20). We have no relation to legalism because Paul says that we are under grace, not law (Romans 6:14-15).
Despite what the denominationalists and religionists claim, the Church the Body of Christ did not begin in Acts chapter 2. To say that it did is to ignore all of the verses that we briefly outlined in this study. Acts chapter 2 is not our pattern; we must ignore the modern-day cries to “go back to Pentecost to get the Holy Ghost and the fire.” If we want to have God’s power and learn God’s information to us, we must go to Paul’s epistles of Romans through Philemon. We must leave Acts chapter 2 in Israel’s program where it belongs, or we will confuse everyone and ourselves, and make our Christian lives vain and miserable. So, when did the Church the Body of Christ begin? Please see our study below dedicated to answering that very question!