I have a question on Acts 2:39. Quite a few brethren say that verse 39 speaks of two generations:
- To you (those there that day)
- and to your children (next generation) and contemporary with them, those who are afar off (Gentiles).”
Some in the faith say the promise is Joel's promise just mentioned, the Holy Spirit's gift. They state the three reasons this is true are:
- Proskaleomai — means to call or to appoint to a task. (God calls all people to salvation via the gospel.) But they say this word “proskaleomai” means to “appoint”.
- God calls all to salvation via the gospel. But here, God is calling or appointing "as many as." They tell me that God is appointing a smaller group from out of the larger group to a task. That task is to receive the Holy Spirit's gift via the laying on of the apostles hands.
- God calls all to salvation via the gospel. It's a definite call. A call of surety. Here, some brethren say the appointing is a maybe or might. As many as the Lord might or may call. This calling or appointing to a task is maybe or might appoint to a task. Therefore, the brethren believes this appointing is limited, not universal. Being baptized is universal. May or may not appoint is limited, that is, the Holy Spirit's gift, by the laying on of the hands, was limited in scope, and was not for everyone because God would choose who would be appointed for such a task.
Some also state that "calling" in Acts 2:39 does not match up to the gospel call. They say the calling is in the subjunctive mood, meaning God might or might not call. They say the word used is proskaleomai, which is found about 30 times and is never used for the call of salvation or gospel call. I have been told the word means to summons or appoint to a work or task. They say God is the one doing appointing. God is appointing "as many as," not all. Therefore, they say the text is saying, "as many as our God might appoint." Some have told me Acts 2:39 is not discussing salvation and it is referring to the last part of Acts 2:38 and the Holy Spirit's gift (Acts 2:17-18).
Is any of this correct?
"Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!" So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls" (Acts 2:37-41).
I quoted the larger context so that you can see the question at hand was not "How can we speak in other languages like you can?" Peter charged them with killing the Messiah, the Son of God. The crowd wanted to what could be done about their crime. Peter told them to change and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. He continued to tell them to be saved from the evil of this generation and the response was that three thousand were baptized.
The people you are talking to are claiming that being saved from God's wrath was not enough reason to change, so Peter is offering a "Wait! There's more!" like some late-night salesman by saying they might win a chance at also having miraculous gifts.
What is the promise? It is a promise of salvation given by the Holy Spirit. "In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation -- having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory" (Ephesians 1:13-14).
The promise was to those Peter was talking to who realized they had killed the Messiah. It was for their descendants. "For I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring and My blessing on your descendants; and they will spring up among the grass Like poplars by streams of water" (Isaiah 44:3-4; see also Isaiah 59:21). And it was not limited to the Jewish nation. It was also for all who were far off. That is how Joel's prophecy began. "It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days" (Joel 2:28-29). As Peter stated in his letter, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy" (I Peter 2:9-10).
Often people see "pour out My Spirit" and assume that God is talking about the giving of miraculous gifts since prophecies, dreams, and visions are next mentioned. However, I think Peter is saying the giving of the Spirit is the promise of salvation. A sign that God had started fulfilling His promise would be the miraculous gifts seen in the first century. But God's actual gift is something far greater than miracles (Titus 1:2). A bit later in Joel, we read, "And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD will be delivered; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape, as the LORD has said, even among the survivors whom the LORD calls" (Joel 2:32).
Yes, God calls (invites) the entire world to partake of salvation, but Joel hints that the invitation has to be accepted and not everyone will respond. Jesus' parable of the wedding feast illustrates this (Matthew 22:1-14). Because the invitation is conditional on its acceptance, the subjunctive mood was used for "call" in Acts 2:39. God did not promise to save regardless of how all of mankind behaved. But as many as God called to Himself -- that is, as many as those who responded to God's invitation and came to Him -- God gives salvation (the gift of the Holy Spirit).
The promised gift that Peter is discussing is a gift that was for as many as respond to God's call. It cannot be referring to the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit because that those gifts were not given to every Christian (I Corinthians 12:29-30), nor were they promised to continue (I Corinthians 13:8-10).