One God & One Lord: Reconsidering the Cornerstone of the Christian Faith]
The book of Acts forms the biblical link between Jesus Christ coming to fulfill the Old Testament promises to Israel and his beginning the Church (the “Body of Christ”) on the Day of Pentecost.1 It presents a clear and unified witness of the Apostles’ view of Jesus Christ, and what they taught as “the Apostles’ Doctrine.” They viewed him as the Son of God, a man sent by God to be the promised Messiah, first to Israel, then to the Gentiles. They were convinced of his Messiahship by his resurrection, which they boldly preached as they fanned out throughout the Mediterranean countries. Nowhere in Acts is there any suggestion that Jesus was “God” in any sense, and this omission is remarkable if this doctrine were in fact a part of apostolic Christianity.
The book of Acts begins with a brief recap of the 40-day period that Christ spent in his resurrected body among the believers. He had ordered them to stay in Jerusalem until they were empowered by the gift of holy spirit. This filling, or “baptism,” with the spirit would equip them to be his “witnesses.” Having thus given them their marching orders for the next few days, and for their lifetimes, he ascended heavenward in complete defiance of the law of gravity.
One can only try to imagine the shock and wonder that filled the hearts of his disciples when he ascended into heaven before their very eyes. They were transfixed by the sight, pondering its significance. They were still trying to figure out when he would restore the kingdom to Israel, and they were very unclear about what his ascension meant. Almost immediately, an angel disrupted their reverie and reassured them that Christ would be returning to earth in the same way he left them. With this promise ringing in their ears, they headed back to Jerusalem to begin their new job as the Lord’s empowered witnesses.
Though the meaning of the ascension understandably befuddled them, as time went on God revealed more and more about what it meant. The pinnacle of this revelation about the ascension is found in Ephesians:
Ephesians 4:7–13 (NASB)
(7) But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
(8) Therefore it says, “WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.”
(9) (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth?
(10) He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
(11) And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
(12) for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
(13) until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.
After the ascension, the book of Acts then describes the growth and development of the early Church as Christ gave and guided these ministries to act in his stead, causing spiritual growth in the lives of all those who followed him. But Christ was not just working with these “equipping ministries,”2 as they are sometimes called. He worked directly with his brethren, like Ananias, “a certain disciple” (Acts 9:10 – KJV), or indirectly with them through those to whom he had specifically entrusted with the ministry of apostle, prophet, etc. What was clear to the first-century believers was that Christ was no longer physically present to do his work, so they were supposed to be doing it. But they were to do it by the power of the holy spirit that he had given them, and in conjunction with his continued leading of them. This they were to continue to do until they saw him reappear through the clouds, which they expected to happen in their lifetime.
Acts 2 records the events on the Jewish feast day of Pentecost that year when the Church began. The initial outpouring of holy spirit upon the disciples of Jesus, and their speaking in tongues in the Temple, caused no small stir.3 Peter then stood up and addressed the huge crowd assembled there. We will now focus on fifteen verses of his discourse that contain a magnificent exposition of an Old Testament passage that Peter quotes and then explains. It is this teaching that pricked the hearts of about 3,000 people who got born again that day (Acts 2:41). The key points in Peter’s speech that led to their New Birth were later capsulized in one classic verse in the Church Epistles. Here it is:
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
We will see that what Peter said in Acts 2 focuses on the two basic components in the above verse: the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and his lordship. It is significant that Peter did not portray Jesus as God nor further state that believing this was a requirement for salvation. In contrast, Peter referred to Jesus as “…a man accredited by God….” If Peter held the traditional Trinitarian concept of Christ, his omission is astounding. If Peter believed that those listening to him that day needed to believe that Jesus was God in order to be saved, as is often taught by Trinitarians today, he certainly did not say so. The fact that the Bible states that about 3000 people were saved that day, without hearing anything about the Trinity or Christ being God, is proof that this belief is not a requirement for salvation. Had this been an oral exam to graduate from most seminaries today, Peter would have flunked, yet by God’s standards, his sermon is right on:
“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.
We see in this verse that Peter was being very specific to identify the particular Jesus of whom he is speaking—”Jesus of Nazareth.” When Peter said Jesus was “…a man accredited by God…,” he meant that God supported and energized Jesus. Peter continued:
This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
Remember that Jesus came specifically to the nation of Israel as their Messiah. And what did they do to him? They killed him, as he prophesied they would. He also prophesied that God would raise him from the dead, and Peter confirmed this in the next verse, when he declared the resurrection of Christ:
But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
The first reason it was not possible for death to hold Jesus is because God Almighty, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, who cannot lie, had promised in Old Testament prophecy that He would raise His Son from the dead. That is why “the gates of Hades” (Matt. 6:18) will not be strong enough to retain its captives.4 It was also not possible because Jesus Christ was a righteous man without sin, who did not deserve the penalty, or “wages,” of sin, which is death. Therefore, God could legally and ethically raise him from the dead. Again we see the absolute urgency of his obedience to God, for a single sin would have made it possible for the grave to hold him in its clutches.
Remember that Peter was talking to Jewish people. Who was one of the chief heroes of Judaism? David, and it was David who had prophesied about the future resurrection of the Messiah. By quoting David, Peter really got the attention of those Jews.
(25) David said about him: ‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
(26) Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope,
(27) because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
How did David know that he would be raised from the dead? Because he believed in the resurrection of the “Holy One” (the Messiah) who would one day raise him to everlasting life.
You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.
Peter made it clear that David knew he would see his Redeemer face to face. Then he launched into an exposition of the verses he had just quoted.
(29) “Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day.
(30) But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne.
(31) Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay.
Peter told the Jews that David had prophesied about the resurrection of the man they had just murdered. Then he boldly stated that the resurrection had been accomplished.
Acts 2:32 and 33
(32) God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.
(33) Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.
Peter was saying that not only did God raise His Son from the dead, but also that He highly exalted him and gave him holy spirit, which Jesus had in turn given to those who believed in him as Lord. In the next verses, Peter made it plain that David is not in heaven.5 Then he spoke of Jesus exalted at the right hand of God, another truth prophesied in the Old Testament from which he quoted:
Acts 2:34 and 35
(34) For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, ” ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand
(35) until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” ‘
Peter finished this amazing presentation with a resounding crescendo:
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
The idea that “Jesus is Lord” is clearly explained within Scripture. Acts 2, beginning in verse 22, sets forth the biblical understanding of this concept. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter boldly set forth the truth that Jesus was “…a man accredited by God…by miracles, wonders and signs which God did among you through him….” He then went on to say that this “man” was handed over to the Jewish leaders, crucified and killed by them. Then God raised him (this man) from the dead and “exalted” him (this man) to His (God’s) right hand where he (this man) received from the Father and then poured out to people the promised holy spirit.
What was Peter saying? He was making the claim that Jesus was the Christ prophesied in the Old Testament. After this, Peter concluded by quoting the Messianic prophecy of Psalm 110:
(34b) ‘…The Lord [Septuagint=kurios, but Hebrew text=Yahweh] said to my Lord: [Septuagint=kurios, Hebrew text=Adoni]: “Sit at my right hand
(35) until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
(36) Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Was Peter identifying Jesus as the Yahweh of the Old Testament?6 Hardly. He was instead proving from Scripture that Jesus was the Christ, that is, Yahweh’s Anointed One. According to Scripture, the Christ (Messiah) had to suffer and rise again. In addition, as the Christ of Old Testament prophecy, Jesus had been exalted to the right hand of God and installed by God as Lord over all. In short, he had entered into his glory (Luke 24:26 and 46).
…The LORD [Yahweh] says to my lord [adon]: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
As we saw in Chapter 5, the Jews regarded Psalm 110 as a Messianic prophecy concerning the coming Christ. Psalm 110 also speaks of the coronation of a king, in this case, a king from the line of David. In its original context, it may have been speaking of Solomon, but in its larger context, it was either a foreshadowing or direct foretelling of the future Davidic king, that is, the Messiah or Christ. Remember that to Peter’s audience on the Day of Pentecost, the Hebrew understanding of the text would have been clear. The Messiah (or King) who is being installed in Psalm 110 is referred to as Adon, not as Yahweh. Yahweh was the personal (proper) name of God in the Old Testament. On the other hand, Adon was a descriptive name meaning “Lord.”7 Unfortunately, both of these terms were translated from Hebrew into the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament) as kurios and then later into English as “Lord.”8 In our English Bibles, they are distinguished only by various means of capitalization within the Old Testament.
No monotheistic Jew living at that time would have taken Peter’s statements recorded in Acts 2 to mean that the Messiah (or Christ) was Yahweh, that is, God. This would have been ludicrous to them, and had Peter proclaimed this, no one would have given him the time of day. Instead, Peter clearly set forth that it was, in fact, God Himself, Yahweh of the Old Testament, the God of their fathers, who had raised Jesus from the dead and highly exalted him to the heavenly position of Lord in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Christ. As Philippians 2 states, God elevated the man He had named “Jesus” (meaning “Yahweh our Savior“) to the most highly exalted position possible. Thus, his name is above every name.
The Greek term kurios (Lord) was used in a variety of ways in New Testament times, as well as in the New Testament itself. Its basic meaning is “Lord,” “master” or “owner,” always indicating one who has authority. But it does not of itself imply or indicate deity, even though God was called “Lord” and the pagan gods of the East were called “lords.” Masters of slaves, property owners, kings, emperors and great teachers could also be called “lords” (kurios). In its vocative use (marking the one addressed), the term was often equivalent to “sir” as a respectful way of addressing an honorable person (See Matt. 21:30; John 12:21, 20:15; Acts 16:30). But no matter what language was spoken by the various believers of those times, the understanding of “Jesus is Lord” would have been governed by their understanding of the Messianic fulfillment of Psalm 110. It was only later that this understanding was corrupted.9
The point is simply that in Psalm 110, God was not talking to Himself or with the “second person of the Trinity.” Instead, Yahweh is pictured as talking with the Messiah, David’s “Lord.” David foresaw that God would raise the Christ from the dead and install him as Messiah and Lord at His right hand in heaven. David recognized him as his superior, his Lord. As a result, David himself had the hope of a future resurrection.
Since Peter told his audience that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead, and we know from that and other similar Scriptures in Acts and the Epistles that salvation is dependent upon the confession that “Jesus is Lord,” it certainly seems logical that we should desire to know exactly what this statement means. In its note on Romans 10:9, the NIV Study Bible offers a view that is all too often held and promoted in evangelical Christian circles. Under the heading, “Jesus is Lord,” we read:
…the earliest Christian confession of faith (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3), probably used at baptisms. In view of the fact that “Lord” (Greek kurios) is used over 6,000 times in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the O.T.) to translate the name of Israel’s God (Yahweh), it is clear that Paul, when using this word of Jesus, is ascribing Deity to him… [emphasis ours].
Can “deity,” that is, that Jesus is “God,” really be ascribed to him on this basis? No. “Lord” is simply the most appropriate title for Jesus, especially now that he sits at God’s right hand.10 This is one of the many places where the NIV translators have endeavored to imprint their own Trinitarian belief either onto the text itself (via their translation) or onto the understanding of the text (via their study notes). Some examples of other places include: John 1:1 and 18; Romans 9:5; 1 John 5:20.11 This list could go on and on. In pointing out these examples, we do not mean to denigrate what we consider to be an excellent translation. They are simply indicative of the extent to which the Trinitarian interpretation has colored the understanding of most translators and Bible scholars. So ingrained is it in most Christians’ minds that seldom do any of their thoughts about its illogic lead them to seriously seek any alternative.
Another consequence of not seeing the difference between “Lord” and “God” is the fallacious idea that one is not saved unless he believes that Jesus is God. This is in spite of the clarity of Romans 10:9, which says that salvation is dependent upon confessing that Jesus is Lord. There is no verse that says to be saved one must believe that Jesus is “God” or “divine.”12 Furthermore, in all the records in Acts, there is no presentation of the Trinity. For example, as we have seen, about 3,000 Jews were saved on the Day of Pentecost without Peter mentioning the Trinity or that Christ was somehow God. The Roman soldier Cornelius and his household were saved in spite of the fact Peter never mentioned the Trinity. The jailer in Philippi was saved, and Paul’s words were short and to the point: “…Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:31).
Are we to believe that Paul did not really communicate the whole message of salvation to the jailer, and somehow missed saying that this simple jailer really needed to believe that Jesus had two natures incorporated into one body and was a “co-equal and co-eternal being,” actually “God in human flesh”? We hardly think so. Surely the fact that Acts portrays thousands of people being saved, yet not once records anyone teaching the doctrine of the Trinity, should be conclusive proof that the Trinity was not a part of early Church doctrine. How many precious Christian saints have been made to doubt their salvation and thus suffer emotional trauma at the hands of those promoting this false doctrine? It is also a lever of intimidation used to tyrannize thinking people by labeling them “cultists” and ostracizing them from fellowship with the Body of Christ.
Acts states clearly that God has exalted Jesus the Christ to His own right hand and installed him as Lord, and the rest of the New Testament agrees. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. Angels, powers and principalities have been made subject to him. He is the Head over all the Church. God has placed all things under his feet, with one exception—Himself. Thus, Jesus is now “Lord,” installed and coronated by God in fulfillment of the great biblical prophecy of Psalm 110. To confess “Jesus is Lord” is to bring glory and honor to God (Phil. 2:11). It is to acknowledge the accomplishments of God Himself in bringing about victory over sin, death and Satan. In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and his exaltation as Lord, God’s wisdom and power are revealed.
We also want to point out that in Acts 2:36 Peter says that God “…has made this same Jesus… both Lord and Christ.” The context of this statement is his resurrection, therefore the question arises, when did God make Jesus the Christ? Had He not made him the Christ before his resurrection? The answer is found later in the book of Acts, when Peter addresses a Gentile audience for the first time:
how God anointed [chrio] Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
God anointed Jesus at his baptism, empowering him to be the Messiah, or Christ. But as we recognized in Chapter 7, Jesus was veiled about his Messianic claims, knowing that only resurrection would authenticate his Messiahship. Therefore Peter appropriately speaks of God having “made” (i.e., proven) Jesus the Christ through his resurrection. This further explains why the Gospel (the Good News) preached by his disciples in Acts revolves around the truth that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, as verified by his resurrection (see Acts 9:22, 13:34, 17:3 and 31, 18:28).
The Active Christ
When Peter boldly addressed the house of Israel in Acts 2:36, he confronted them with the irony that it was they who had crucified Jesus. In essence, he said to those Jews: “All of your lives you were looking for the Messiah, but when he came face to face with you, you killed him, just like the Old Testament prophecies said you would. God, however, has raised him from the dead and exalted him as Lord and the Anointed One.”
Why did the Jews fail to recognize Jesus as the Messiah? Chiefly because they failed to believe in the sufferings of the Messiah that had to precede his exaltation and glory. They were looking for a political deliverer, not a man whose blood had to be shed for their redemption. They should have seen in Exodus 12 the suffering of the Redeemer in the types of the Passover Lamb and the other sacrifices. They should have seen his death in Genesis 22, Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. Graciously, God gave them another chance by way of the message of Peter, and about 3,000 responded affirmatively. Based upon what happened in the days that followed, it appears that most of the religious leaders, however, slunk off in anger and prepared to persecute the disciples just as they had their Master. The believers, however, had been cut to the heart by Peter’s words, and prepared to follow in the Apostles’ Doctrine.
(37) When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
(38) Peter replied, “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 Holy Spirit.
(39) The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
(40) With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
(41) Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
The book of Acts shows that Jesus had not lied when he told Peter “…I will build my church….” We see Jesus Christ actively and powerfully working to build and support the Church, which is his Body. He pours out the gift of holy spirit to all who believe. He adds to the Church those who call on his name. He heals people. He is supporting the outreach of his Church in many ways: by signs and miracles and by specific guidance and revelation. Records like the vision he gave to Peter on the rooftop show him preparing the hearts of Christians for ever greater works of service. That he personally appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus shows him building his Body and lightening the persecution of Christians at the same time.
He is calling out ministries to provide leadership, sending angels to do his work, defending his causes against the Adversary’s forces, and encouraging those who stand for him. On two occasions in Acts, he appeared to the apostle Paul to encourage him (18:9, 23:11). Thus, the book of Acts is indeed a book of “acts.” Jesus is acting powerfully on our behalf, the ascended Christ working hard for his earthbound Church. It is also a book of inspiration and hope for the believer. Although the book of Acts also shows the hard work and suffering involved in the Christian life, it is easy to see how much Christ loves and supports those who give their lives to him.
The book of Acts also records the history of the early Church as believers reached out with the Word, first to the Jews, and then later to the Gentiles. In the early part of the book of Acts, despite Jesus’ admonition to his followers to “go unto all nations,” the message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ was preached only to Jews. Acts faithfully sets forth the growth of the Church. First the Jews, then the Samaritans (Acts 8), then the Gentiles (Acts 10). It sets forth the actions of the Church as the Lord Jesus began to reveal the truths that set the Church of the Body apart from the “Old Testament.” These doctrinal truths are clear in the Church Epistles, which set forth the truth about the “administration of grace,” in which all believers, no matter what their nationality or heritage, Jew and Gentile alike, form the One Body of Christ. The truth of the “Sacred Secret” (often mistranslated as the “Mystery”) that is set forth in the Church Epistles was unfolded gradually throughout the period covered in the book of Acts.13 As we shall see, Jesus Christ will one day confirm all of God’s promises to Israel (Rom. 15:8). He will also give everlasting life to all Gentiles who call upon his name.
The relationship between God and Jesus Christ is clearly portrayed in Acts. As we have already seen in the record of Peter’s sermon in Acts 2, Christ is shown as distinct from God. He is the man approved by God. Nowhere in Acts is there any hint of a “Trinity,” and nowhere in Acts is anyone told to believe in the Trinity or that Jesus is God. All through the book of Acts, people get saved when they accept Christ as the Man whom God raised from the dead and made Lord. The disciples call him the servant of God (4:27) and “the man” (17:31). As Stephen was being stoned to death by the Jews, he saw a vision of both God and His Son.
Acts 7:55 and 56
(55) But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
(56) “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
Stephen did not look up into heaven and see a Triune God, he saw God on His throne, just as the elders of Israel and prophets had seen.14 And at the right hand of God stood the resurrected Christ. Stephen was so blessed and amazed at the vision that he shouted out what he saw, even though no one else could see it.
As the Head of the Church that began on the Day of Pentecost, it was the Lord Jesus Christ who spearheaded the outreach of God’s Word as recorded in the book of Acts. He is the Lord who spoke to Ananias about going to see Paul, and the one who spoke to Peter on the rooftop about going to see Cornelius.15 He is the Lord whose power energized the many signs, miracles and wonders done by those who believed in him and who went forth in the authority of his name.
The “Apostles’ Doctrine” concerning Jesus Christ is as clear. They believed him to be “…a man accredited by God…,” the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Since the early Christians lived in closer proximity to the Lord Jesus and presumably derived their doctrinal understanding “at his feet,” why would later Christians want to try to “improve” upon the apostolic witness? Would it not be wiser to attempt to cleave to their same language and understanding? Yet in many, many ways, the Church strayed from its apostolic roots, and this will become more evident in the later chapters of this book when we address the historical development of the Church’s doctrine concerning Christ.
Having a biblically accurate view of Christ should help us hold to his “headship” and look to him for the direction of his “Body.” Jesus Christ is the same Lord today, and we need to expect and believe that “this same Jesus” is working powerfully in the Church today, just as he did in Acts. As fellow laborers with him, it is incumbent upon us to work with him by acting upon the guidance he gives us, because only with our cooperation can he accomplish his mission of proclaiming the true Gospel to all people. When we obey him and walk with him, we can see the same kind of deliverance in people’s lives as there was nearly 2000 years ago.
1. Scripturally, the “Body of Christ” is figurative language that refers to the Church, that is, all Christians. Jesus Christ is called the “Head” of his Body, the Church. Thus, in the Church Epistles, Christians are referred to as being “in Christ.” Since every human being is born dead in sin, he must be “born again” in order to have life in Christ. That New Birth happens the moment one confesses with his mouth that Jesus is Lord and believes in his heart that God raised him from the dead (Rom. 10:9). It is via the New Birth that one receives spiritual life and a guarantee of living forever in Paradise. At the moment of one’s New Birth, he is endowed with holy spirit, “power from on high,” “the divine nature,” which equips him to be like Jesus Christ and do the works that Jesus did. What did Jesus do in his body during his earthly ministry? He expects those who believe in him to do the same things, and, in fact, he told them that they could (John 14:12). Jesus Christ is called “…the firstborn from among the dead….” As such, he was the Head, but he did not have a body until the Day of Pentecost when the Church, the “one new man” (Eph. 2:15), was born. That spiritual organism has been growing ever since as more and more people are added to it by way of their belief in Christ and resulting New Births. It is the Lord Jesus Christ who pours out the gift of holy spirit into the heart of each new person who believes in him as Lord (Acts 2:33). In that moment it is as if Jesus pulls you from the dead group into which you were born and places you in his Body so that you are now part of him. For more detailed teaching on this, listen to our audio teaching: The Purpose of the Ages (May/Jun 97).
2. Ephesians 4:11 mentions five specific ministries in the Church that are especially given by the Lord Jesus to prepare and equip Christians for service to God. Scripture does not refer to these ministries collectively by any particular name, so different Christian groups have referred to them in different ways. Some call these five ministries (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers) “gift ministries,” but that is misleading because each Christian has a gift ministry, that is, a ministry he or she is to carry out in the Body of Christ. “Ministry” simply means “service,” and every Christian has been specifically enabled and empowered to serve. These five ministries have also been called “ascension gift ministries,” but again, after his ascension Jesus gave each Christian a ministry (Eph. 4:8). The Word of God says that the purpose for these five ministries is “for the equipping” of the believers (Eph. 4:12 – NASB), and many other versions recognize that “equip” or “equipping” is an excellent translation in this verse. Whenever possible, we of The Living Truth Fellowship do our best to use the vocabulary of the Word of God to describe the spiritual realities in the Bible, and so we refer to the five ministries listed in Ephesians 4:11 as “equipping ministries.”
3. Traditionally, Christians believe that the original outpouring of the gift of holy spirit occurred in the “upper room.” Bible students are beginning to recognize that this is not tenable, because, for one reason, the multitudes involved could not possibly have fit into the upper room. Also, in Scripture, “the house” often refers to the Temple. Consider this note in the NIV Study Bible: “Evidently not the upstairs room where they [the Apostles] were staying, but perhaps someplace in the Temple precincts, for the apostles were ‘continually in the Temple’ (Luke 24:53 – KJV) when it was open.”
4. The phrase, “the gates of hell” has been popularized and thrown around in Christianity with little or no understanding of its real meaning. The phrase is usually used in emotional sermons designed to inspire Christians to storm the Devil’s stronghold. The Greek word translated “hell” in the KJV is hades, and it is transliterated into “hades” in the NIV. Hades was the Greek word used in the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew word sheol. E. W. Bullinger has an extensive study of sheol in his lexicon, and concludes: “Sheol therefore means the state of death; or the state of the dead, of which the grave is a tangible evidence.” Thus hades describes a state of being of dead people, equivalent to “gravedom.” Biblically, it is not a literal place with literal “gates.” Our book op. cit., Is There Death After Life? covers the subject of sheol in Chapter 4. When Jesus Christ said that “the gates of hades” would not be able to prevail against his Church, he was using the phrase in the same way it is used in the Old Testament, where it occurs twice, using the word sheol. Job asks, “Where then is my hope? Who can see any hope for me? Will it go down to the gates of death [sheol]? Will we descend together into the dust?” (Job 17:15 and 16). In the book of Job, the “gates of sheol” are the gates of the grave. When someone dies, it is as if gates were permanently shut behind him. There is no way out, no way back to the land of the living.
King Hezekiah of Judah later used the phrase, “the gates of sheol” in exactly the same way Job had many years earlier. Hezekiah almost died from a sickness and was miraculously healed. After the experience, he wrote: “In the prime of my life must I go through the gates of death [sheol] and be robbed of the rest of my years?” (Isa. 38:10). A related phrase, “the gates of death,” occurs in Job 38:17; Psalm 9:13 and 107:18.
Thus, a study of the way the phrase is used in Scripture reveals its meaning and how Jesus used it. Because Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life, he could say that he would build his Church and the gates of Hades would not prevail against it. Although the gates of the grave will close over us if we die, we will break through them unto everlasting life when the Lord calls us at his appearing.
5. If David is not in heaven, great believer that he was, then where is he? He is dead and in “gravedom” awaiting resurrection at the hand of the Messiah. The Bible teaches that all who have died will stay dead until they are resurrected by Christ.
6. For more information on the name Yahweh, see Appendix L.
7. For specifics on this verse see Appendix A (Ps. 110:1).
8. See Appendix B for a detailed examination of Kurios.
9. See Appendix A (Rom. 10:9).
10. See Appendix B, Uses and Usages of Kurios.
11. For our explanation of these verses see Appendix A.
12. See Appendix Q, “Do You Have to Believe in the Trinity to be Saved?”
13. For an explanation of why the Greek word “musterion” should be translated “Sacred Secret” see our book: op. cit., The Gift of Holy Spirit, Appendix A, of that book.
14. See Appendix A (Gen. 18:1 and 2).
15. In Acts 10:14, Peter recognizes that the source of the vision was the “Lord” (see Appendix B). But in verse 15, the voice from heaven says, “…Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” When Peter is recounting his vision to the circumcision “police” in Acts 11:4–18, he says the same thing. Had God been speaking directly to Peter, He would have said, “Do not call anything impure that I have made clean.” The use of the third person here argues for the source of the vision being Jesus Christ and not God Himself.