What Is The Gift Of The Holy Spirit In Acts 2:38?
The "Miraculous" Meaning: The gift of the Holy Spirit is a miraculous endowment that was given to the early church to mature it (Ephesians 4:7-16) until such a time when the complete revelation of God was given in written form (2 Peter 1:3) and would it would then cease sometime in the first century A.D. (1 Corinthians 13:8-13). First, this meaning respects the consistency of language that is used. Luke defines the same phrase "the gift of the Holy Spirit" in Acts 10:45-46 to indicate that it is the miraculous endowments given by the Holy Spirit in the first century A.D. Second, this view respects the remote historical context where Peter discusses the gift of the Holy Spirit. When the Jews in the audience saw the miraculous phenomenon taking place where the apostles were preaching in languages that they had never studied before, Peter states that these events were being fulfilled as Joel had prophesied in Joel 2:28-32. Read Joel 2:28-32 and it indicates that there would be young men, old men, women, slaves who would receive miraculous endowments from the Holy Spirit, which we know would be given via the laying on of the apostles' hands (compare Acts 8:14-21) after they became Christians. The promise that Peter refers to in Acts 2:39 is referring back to the promise of Joel. Notice that these miraculous endowments would be given to "you" - Jews who became Christians, "your children" - the Jewish children, and the Gentiles - "those who are afar off" who became Christians. Also notice the phrase "will call" is not referring to the gospel call (2 Thessalonians 2:14), but referring to a call to a special office. The original language is in the subjunctive mood, which is a mode of possibility. It ought to be translated, "may call." There is a possibility that some of these people who became Christians would be called to these special offices such as prophets (Acts 13:2). Every verse in Acts 2 (unless Acts 2:38 is the lone exception) associated with the Holy Spirit depicts miraculous activity (Acts 2:4, 11, 17-18, 33, 38, 43). Joel's prophecy, which Peter quoted, spoke only of the miraculous (Acts 2:17-18). Third, this meaning respects the wider context of the book of Acts. Luke mentions in Acts that where there is a "giving" and "receiving" of the Holy Spirit, it is always in relation to miraculous activity (Acts 8:14-18; Acts 19:1-7).
The "Non-miraculous" Meaning: God did not give the Holy Spirit to Christ by measure (because Jesus had all the fullness of the Spirit, John 3:34). However, God did reveal 3 measures He gave to His people, two of which were limited to the miraculous age of the first century A.D., namely (1) The miraculous measure through "Holy Spirit baptism" (with record of only the Jewish apostles and the Gentiles, Cornelius and his household, receiving, Acts 1:5, 8; 2:1-3, 43; 10:44-48; 11:15-18); (2) the miraculous measure through the "laying on of the apostles' hands" (Acts 8:14-21; 6:6; 19:6; 28:8; 2 Timothy 1:6); and (3) the non-miraculous or "ordinary" measure through obeying the gospel/repenting and being baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:32; Romans 8:9; John 3:5; Titus 3:5). The word "of" can refer to the object of the subject (example: the gift of making alive, which comes FROM the Holy Spirit) or the subject itself (example: the gift which IS the Holy Spirit; compare "the city of Jerusalem). In Acts 2:38, this "gift" was to be received by all who obeyed the gospel and was not to be limited to the apostles or just to Cornelius and his household (thus eliminating the idea of the first two measures mentioned). Acts 5:32 is a great commentary to Acts 2:38, letting us know that all who obey the gospel receive God's Spirit (thus letting us know how "the gift of the Holy Spirit" in Acts 2:38 is being used, that is, the gift which IS the Holy Spirit). Furthermore, this was not to be limited to the first century A.D. because it was not a miraculous measure (miracles were only being done through the apostles until Acts 6:8) and it is consistent with the statement in Romans 8:9, "But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His."
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