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Acts 2:37-39 (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?” 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.”

Some interpret verse 39 as saying that the gift of the Holy Spirit was promised specifically for Peter's audience, their children, and contemporary people who were far off at the moment. Essentially, the first-century Church. Would that interpretation be accurate?


Addendum - Examples of how the gift of the Holy Spirit was received in the New Testament:

Acts 2:1-4 (ESV):

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Acts 5:32 (ESV):

32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

Acts 8:14-20 (ESV):

14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!

Acts 9:17-19 (ESV):

17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.

Acts 10:44-47 (ESV):

44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”

Acts 19:1-7 (ESV):

And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John's baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. 7 There were about twelve men in all.

2 Timothy 1:6-7 (ESV):

6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

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I’ll offer a distinction between:

  • The gift of the Holy Ghost
  • The power to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost

The gift of the Holy Ghost is described and promised by Jesus:

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26)

But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: John 15:26

when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth (John 16:13)

The role of the Holy Ghost then, among other things, is to teach, remind, guide, and testify.

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That the Holy Ghost was active prior to the death of Jesus is evidenced by many passages, such as Exodus 31:3, 1 Kings 19:12, Matthew 16:17.

Given that the Holy Ghost testified to Peter in Matthew 16, that just before His death Jesus clearly speaks of an additional gift or power that is being bestowed, and that later the Holy Ghost is said to “come upon” people through the laying on of hands (see Acts 8:16, Acts 19:6), it has been suggested that:

  • Without the gift of the Holy Ghost the support & influence given by the Holy Ghost is of a temporary nature--it may come in a powerful moment but does not stay.
  • With the gift of the Holy Ghost, the support & influence is more permanent. An advocate/comforter is being given.

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Bestowing the gift

The receipt of the gift of the Holy Ghost is regularly associated with:

  • Baptism (e.g. Acts 2:38)
  • The laying on of hands (e.g. Acts 8:17)

It was Jesus who promised (see John 14:26) and bestowed (see John 20:22) this gift upon the apostles. They were given the power and authority to bestow it upon others.

That worldly goods cannot buy this power is poignantly taught by Simon Peter to Simon Magus, as noted in the OP:

18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,

19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.

20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. (Acts 8:18-20)

The gift cannot be purchased; it is bestowed by the laying on of hands through those who have the power and authority to do so.

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For what era?

As noted above, the receipt of the gift of the Holy Ghost is regularly associated with baptism (the most common formulation being that a baptism by water is followed by a baptism by fire--the receipt of the gift of the Holy Ghost).

With this in mind, let us consider the great commission:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (Matthew 28:19)

ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

In this video on my channel (from 1:49 to 3:01) I share my thoughts on the commission, concluding that:

  • They succeeded
  • The commission (long) outlived the apostles; the work of taking the message “to the uttermost parts of the earth” took far longer than one human lifetime
  • The words of the apostles have been taken to the uttermost parts of the earth

If the gift of the Holy Ghost follows baptism, and Jesus expected His message--including the covenant of baptism--to be taken to the ends of the earth, then the gift of the Holy Ghost was not a first-century only phenomenon.

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Logical Deduction

To formulate this with formal logic:

  • Let FC mean the time period of the first century
  • Let B mean baptism
  • Let G mean gift of the Holy Ghost

P1: If B => G

P2: ~(~FC => ~B)

C: ~(~FC => ~G)

English rendering:

P1: The official practice taught by the apostles that baptism by water is followed by the conferral of the gift of the Holy Ghost.

P2: "not first century means not baptism" is a false proposition

C: Therefore "not first century means not gift of the Holy Ghost" is also a false proposition

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Authority

That the influence of the Holy Ghost has been felt more recently than the first century is hardly in dispute. If the gift though requires authority, are the authority and the gift still around?

This gets very quickly into a theological discussion more suited for SE-Christianity. Suffice it say that questions of authority have been answered via means such as:

  • Apostolic succession
  • Sola scriptura
  • Apostasy & Restoration
  • And others

The passage in the OP, “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”, far from delimiting the audience, casts a very wide net.

Does Acts 2:39 say the gift of the Holy Spirit [was] promised only for the first-century Church? No. Nothing in “all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls” implies a seven decade time limit. If there were such a limit it would have to be constructed from other passages.

To slightly broaden the question, was the gift of the Holy Spirit promised only for the first-century Church? I do not believe so, but the answer to this question is inextricably linked to the answer to another: where is the authority?


My personal beliefs that would answer this last point more directly are probably out of scope for this site. If any are interested, they are described:

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Was the gift of the Holy Spirit promised only for the first-century Church, according to Acts 2:38-39?

Peter said, "as many as the Lord our God will call"―not only those called in the First Century, but even those whom God will call in the future.

Acts 2:39
39For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)

You'll notice that there are three groups of people to whom the promise of the Holy Spirit was given. The First Century Church pertains only to the first two groups of people. The three groups are:

  1. "To you".
  2. "To your children".
  3. "To all those who are afar off".

The ones to whom Peter was speaking and said "to you," are those of the People of Israel.

Acts 2:36
36"So be sure of this, all you people of Israel. You nailed Jesus to the cross. But God has made him both Lord and Christ."
(The Holy Bible. New International Reader’s Version. Colorado Springs, CO, USA: International Bible Society, 1998.)

The ones to which Peter referred as "your children," are those of the Gentile nations begotten through the preaching of the Gospel.

I Cor. 4:15
15For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)

Together, the Jews and Gentiles compose those who were already called in the First Century.

Rom. 9:24
24Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
(The Holy Bible: King James Version. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1962.)

These two-thirds of God's people would unfortunately be cut off and die.

Zech. 13:8
8And it shall come to pass in all the land," says the LORD, "That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, but one-third shall be left in it:
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)

The ones to which Peter referred as "all those who are afar off," are those who would come from a distant place and time.

Acts 2:39
39For it was to you that the gift was promised, to you and your children, and to all those in distant times and places whom the Lord our God calls to him.
(The Acts of the Apostles: Translated by C.H. Rieu. Canterbury, England: Penguin Books, 1957.)

These are Christ's other sheep, who would be made one flock in the future.

John 10:16
16I have other sheep too. They are not in this flock here. I must lead them also. They will listen to my voice. In the future there will be one flock and one shepherd.
(Holy Bible: Easy-to-Read Version. Fort Worth, Texas: World Bible Translation Center, Inc., 1999.)

As to who those other sheep are and when they would be called, that would be better answered in a separate question.

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Yes. Peter said so.

"16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;

17 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:" (Acts 2:16-17, KJV)

Time specific. "This is that"...On the day of Pentecost as Peter and the other disciples were standing around the temple and the crowd was heckling him saying that they were all drunk, Peter recalled the prophesy from Joel 2 that in the last days God would pour forth His Spirit.

"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:"

"29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit." (Joel 2:28-29, KJV)

On the day of Pentecost - in the present tense voice - Peter repeated the prophesy from Joel that God would pour forth His Spirit. So the day of Pentecost was "in those days" of the first century AD after Christ's resurrection. Peter equated "those days" with "the last days".

Time markers are important. Peter, Paul, John, James, etc were all living in "the last days". Speaking to the "strangers", those of the diaspora from the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities still living in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, - the land area we now call Turkey -

"19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

"20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you," (1 Pet. 1:19-20, KJV)

"These last times" - present tense when Peter spoke the words during the 1st century AD. Peter told THEM that THEY were living in the last times. The last times, the last days were when Christ was promised to appear, and when YHWH promised to pour forth His Spirit.

Acts 2:39 begins with the word "for" - used in that verse as a conjunction, connecting the previous sentence in vs. 38. Therefor, the promise of Joel's prophesy was directed to those standing before Peter on the day of Pentecost - "to you and your children".

When we are reading these words almost 2,000 years later we cannot remove them from the 1st century AD and put them into our generation. That is anachronistic. We are reading history of the establishment of Christ's assembly, ecclesia, the called out which happened as promised during "the last days".

"And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days." (Gen. 49:1, KJV)

Jacob was telling his sons what would befall each of their tribes in THEIR last days. And the last one to fall would be Judah.

"10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be." (Gen. 49:10, KJV)

Judah was God's lawgiver (Psa. 60:7, 108:8). The temple was in Jerusalem, in Judah. The Mosaic law went out from Jerusalem, from Judah. The scepter did not pass from the lawgiver until it was given to Christ after His baptism in the river Jordan with John, when God called Jesus His beloved Son (Matt. 3:17). God told Peter on the mount of transfiguration,

"While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him." (Matt. 17:5, KJV)

The scepter had passed from Judah to Christ, Shiloh, the promised Seed before He was crucified. No longer were they to listen to the words of Moses, but to the words of Christ. Those were the last days of the Mosaic covenant which Hebrews clearly stated was passing away during their lifetime (Heb. 8:13).

The last days were those days when God poured forth His Spirit, when Christ appeared to that generation and spoke to them in person, face to face (Heb. 1:1-2). The last days were the last days of the Mosaic covenant, and that animal sacrificial temple in Jerusalem. They were never speaking of the last days of all life on the entire earth.

The promise was to THEM. Since Christ did accomplish everything He said that He would (Matt. 24:34), as Christ did not lie to His disciples, but told them exactly what would happen (Matt. 24-25), then all things were accomplished in that generation. The all things were concerned with the transition from the old to the new (reference the entire book of Hebrews) for the establishment of His everlasting kingdom.

So, we must ask ourselves are we still under the law of Moses? Because the prophesy of Joel was for "those days" when the Spirit was poured forth during the "last days" of the Mosaic covenant.

I have been immersed into Christ for the forgiveness of my sins, and have put on Christ (Rom. 13:14, Gal. 3:27), but I can honestly tell you that I cannot prophesy, I cannot miraculously speak and translate a foreign language, I cannot heal the sick, nor cast out demons. So, those miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit which they were given in "those days" ended sometime. And, that is what Paul told them in 1 Cor. 13 during the discussion of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

"10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." (1 Cor. 13:10, KJV)

What were they waiting for still to come, that was still future to them? It would come when the temple was destroyed as was prophesied by Christ during His Olivet discourse. That which was perfect was the everlasting kingdom, and it was fully in place, fully established at the judgment that fell upon Jerusalem and that earthly temple in its destruction by the Roman army in AD 70.

The Feast of Trumpets on the 1st of Tishri (appox. Aug/Sep on the Gregorian calendar), Yom Kippur on the 10th of Tishri, day of awe and time of repentance after the judgment for the opening of Hades, and the fullness of the kingdom was set in place on the day that was set for the Feast of Tabernacles on the 15th of Tishri, approx. Sep 23rd, AD 70.

After that time, the gifts of the Holy Spirit began declining until the last person so gifted died and went home. The purpose had been to aid in the preaching of the gospel to call all to the Kingdom, the promised land of the spiritual Jerusalem.

The new Jerusalem is not a physical city in a physical land nation marked by earthly boundaries. That which is perfect is the body of Christ composed of all who are clothed with His righteousness. We are members of His body, and we are spread throughout all of the lands of the physical earth in this realm, but all connected to the one body, and all in tabernacle with God. Tabernacle - Feast of Tabernacles - THE Feast, the Feast of Nations, The Season of our Joy, and the dwelling with Christ and our Father in heaven.

The miracles confirmed the word of the gospel of Christ. We have that word today in the books of the Bible, both the old and new testaments. We read and study His word, grow in the knowledge of His word and the Spirit lives in our hearts through His word. We have been living in the Feast of Tabernacles, the last feast which all other feasts pointed to since the destruction of that temple when the city was burned and the fire melted all of those works of the dross in the midst of Jerusalem (Ezek. 22:22, 2 Pet. 3:10).

Through our prayer and God's providence God continues to work miracles today for those who love the Lord, and where the Spirit wills (John 3:8) for the work He needs to do for the kingdom. But, the pouring forth onto the people was promised for that specific generation of that specific time for a specific purpose for the coming of the kingdom, the spiritual promised land.

As we are in that kingdom now, as we are no longer under the law, then the miraculous gifts are no longer being poured forth.

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    Hi Gina, I'm struggling to see how the 2nd sentence follows from the first: "I cannot prophesy, I cannot miraculously speak and translate a foreign language, I cannot heal the sick, nor cast out demons. So, those miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit which they were given in those days ended sometime". This wouldn't mean that nobody can. I recognize you may believe they are wrong, but there are people who claim to have witnessed these gifts in operation today. Some hold that the gifts never stopped; others hold that some powers were taken away and later restored. May 22 at 15:07
  • I'm aware. But, every time some one has told me of current instances of miracles they describe a subjective event that only they saw, or they heard, with no clear evidence & very few witnesses. There was no question of the miracles done in the 1st cent. AD. Many ppl saw the miracles & those healed stood up and walked. I absolutely know that God healed me in a moment of time 5 years ago when I was on the brink of death. That healing was the result of prayer and God's mercy. It was not a public display, & in no way can you confirm that it ever happened. It does not promote the gospel...
    – Gina
    May 22 at 15:54
  • ... as the miracles of the 1st century did. Objectivity, public witness, and the proof so they could believe the apostles / disciples were sent from God. That was the purpose of those miracles from the Spirit that God poured forth on those who believed and were immersed into Christ.
    – Gina
    May 22 at 15:56
  • @Gina - this testimony is a clear counterexample to what you just said. May 22 at 16:55
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    Gina rejects the testimonies of present living people but accept the testimony of first century writers of NT. She thinks since it doesn't happen to me, it doesn't happen with everyone else. Same logic like atheists or agnostics who thinks God is not real bec they didn't witness and exp a miracle. I tried searching Michael Browns article to McArthur on this topic but couldn't find, he wrote excellent points from bible proving that the gifts are forever.
    – Michael16
    May 23 at 8:56
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Acts 2:36-38 tells us what We are supposed to do that is be baptized after we hear , believe what We heard , than repent of our sins. Than if You study more of the chapter Lord adds You. And yes we all van receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

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    The question is about the gift of the Holy Spirit and whether that gift is extended beyond the first century. I do not see how these two very brief sentences answer the question. Please see the Tour and the Help (below, bottom left) as to the purpose and the functioning of the site. Welcome to SE-BH.
    – Nigel J
    May 22 at 7:41

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