DOES ACTS 2:47 SUPPORT CALVINISM?
by Shawn Brasseaux
One of the “five points” of Calvinism is “Limited Atonement.” It is the belief that Jesus Christ “died only for the elect.” The “elect,” in theology, is defined as “those whom God chose for blessings and eternal life in heaven.” Those whom God chose to be saved are then given faith, and subsequently, they receive eternal life. Acts 2:47 is used to defend this kind of teaching. Notice the verse: “Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Has God chosen only a certain number of people who will inherit eternal life? Acts 2:47 appears to be a good “proof text” verse for Calvinists, but is it really? Let us look at that verse in detail… and in context.
Dispensational Bible study frees you from the bondage and confusion in every theological system in existence. You name the heresy, the confusion, the argument, the point of contention, and it is very likely that dilemma can be resolved with dispensational. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). You must make the distinctions that God has made in His Word. Failure to do so will greatly damage your life and the lives of those around you. If you do not approach Acts 2:47 dispensationally, you are sure to fall into the trap of Calvinism as countless others have done throughout church history. Let me demonstrate how dispensational Bible study makes Acts 2:47 amazingly clear for you.
GOD’S SPECIAL NATION – ISRAEL
In Israel’s prophetic program, there was such a thing as “limited atonement”—that is, that the merits of Christ’s crosswork were available to some, rather than, all people of all nations. Salvation and blessings from God were to go to the nation Israel first.
The Prophet Isaiah wrote of Jesus Christ: “…[F]or the transgression of my people was he stricken” (Isaiah 53:8). Isaiah’s people were the Jews. There are no Gentiles (non-Jews) in the verse unless we say Isaiah was a Gentile! Over seven centuries later, the angel told Joseph about Mary bearing Jesus: “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus Himself said on a few occasions, “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28; cf. Mark 10:45; Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:20). Jesus said to His Jewish disciples, “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20). Again, it is a reference to Israel. This is not saying, as Calvinists teach, Jesus Christ died only for a limited number of people throughout human history. Rather, it is Jesus Christ dying for the nation Israel at a particular time in human history.
Recall that God wanted to form an earthly nation of people, Israel, going back to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It would be through this nation that God would bless all the nations of the world. See Genesis 12:1-3. However, as time passed, an apostate religion corrupted that nation. There were descendants of Abraham who did not have the faith of Abraham. These cannot be God’s physical people because they were not His spiritual people as well. A “true Jew” has both a physical circumcision (dead to the flesh, cut off from human efforts) and a spiritual circumcision (in the heart, cut off from Adam, fallen human nature removed). You can see Romans 2:28-29, for example. For time’s sake, we withhold any further comments on that passage.
Beginning with John the Baptist’s ministry in Matthew chapter 3, God began to call out a little flock of Jewish believers from that unbelieving nation Israel. Jesus Christ continued to do this in His earthly ministry. We now get to Acts chapter 2, when the Apostle Peter is preaching in order to continue forming that called-out group of Jewish believers. Peter is following the instructions Jesus Christ had given them before He ascended into heaven: “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). The Prophet Zechariah had predicted centuries earlier, “The LORD also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against Judah” (Zechariah 12:7). According to Matthew 10:23, Luke 24:47, and Acts 1:8, Jesus’ 12 apostles were to preach to people in this order—Jerusalem, Judaea (southern Israel), Samaria (northern Israel), and the uttermost parts of the earth (Gentiles). Hence, Jesus restricted His earthly ministry to Israel (Matthew 15:24) and He commanded His apostles to restrict their ministry to Israel (Matthew 10:5-7). Prophecy said that Israel was to be saved first, and then Israel would be the channel of salvation and blessing to the nations of the world!
Notice Isaiah 60:1-3: “ Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.  For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.  And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” (You may compare this with Genesis 12:1-3, the Abrahamic Covenant, briefly mentioned earlier.)
Moving on to Acts chapter 3: “ Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.  Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.  Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” The Abrahamic Covenant was given to Israel, that she would then be God’s special nation who would preach to and convert the nations to the one true God (see also Zechariah 8:20-23, and again, Genesis 12:1-3).
Finally, Acts chapter 5 confirms once more: “ The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.  Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” Can it be any clearer that Jesus Christ was to save Israel first?
Peter said that he was preaching that “which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21). That is, Peter’s ministry was focused on repeating and building on what the prophets of Israel had spoken and written centuries earlier in the “Old Testament.” Peter said that Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:16-21; Joel 2:28-32). Using all of this as background, recognizing all of this as the context of Acts 2:47, we can see why Luke wrote it. It was an event according to prophecy—Isaiah, Zechariah, Joel, et cetera, had written about it. Again, Acts 2:47: “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” This is a reference to God wanting every Jew to be converted so they—as a nation—could become His kingdom of priests (cf. Exodus 19:5-6; 1 Peter 2:9-10). They were to be saved not merely from hell to eternal life, but also they were to rescued from that apostate religion (spiritual darkness, Satanic oppression) that had gripped them as a nation. Hence, Peter constantly affirmed, led by the Spirit of God who gave him utterance, “Ye men of Judaea… Ye men of Israel… Let all the house of Israel know assuredly…” (Acts 2:14,22,36). The salvation of Acts 2:47 had nothing to do with Gentiles! It had nothing to do with the Church the Body of Christ. It had nothing to do with us or our Dispensation of Grace! You can see our Bible study link below, “Did the Church the Body of Christ begin in Acts chapter 2?,” for more information.
The Calvinists, like so many in Christendom, fail to realize that Acts chapter 2 was not the Church the Body of Christ, the present-day group of believers in Jesus Christ. There was a restriction to join that church of Acts 2:47—one had to be a Jew because God wanted to save Jews first. There is no restriction today, for God is forming the Church the Body of Christ of Jews and Gentiles (1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 4:28; Ephesians 2:11-18; Colossians 3:11). In addition, the Church the Body of Christ was a “mystery” (secret hid in God) until Jesus Christ revealed it to the Apostle Paul (Romans 16:25-26; Ephesians 3:1-11; Colossians 1:24-28). There was no Body of Christ at the time of Acts chapter 2, so Acts 2:47 has nothing to do with the Body of Christ or anything God is doing today!