I am very excited today because the NLT New Application Study Bible arrived in my mail. I found a great deal on the Amazon Marketplace. In a previous post I pointed out how good the study notes were. So I picked one up for myself. There is a section in the back of the study Bible called "A Christian Worker's Resource." One of the articles is about how to become a Christian. After being severely disappointed with the ESV Outreach New Testament and how it teaches bringing people to Christ, I was curious to see if there was any mention of baptism.
I have referenced the prophecy from Joel chapter two several times in lessons and essays on this site. In order to comment (once again) upon the notion that Christians today have an indwelling of the Holy Spirit and in some way to conclude the examinations of baptism in general and that of baptism of the Holy Spirit in particular, then that text will be studied and examined here again.
And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy.
I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and notable day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Joel 2:28—32)
This passage from Joel was recited by Peter as it is recorded in Acts chapter two (17-21), on that great day when Peter exercised the use of the keys he had been given by Christ and first opened the doors of the kingdom of heaven to humanity. He did so with an amplification of a single phrase within the prophecy to note that this event or work had come from God at that particular specific time and with an addenda or interpretation on the work of the servants of God.
It was quoted in answer to the theory of some concerning the commotion heard when the apostles had received the presence of the Holy Spirit and in explanation of the events of that morning during the feast of the tabernacles (Pentecost), which had followed 50 days from the resurrection of the Christ.
In this examination, I must immediately point out that nothing is said in either Joel’s prophecy or in Peter’s recitation of it either of an indwelling of the Holy Spirit being promised to every Christian in every age, or along with that, the granting to every Christian of every age of any attendant display of miraculous gifts. The prophecy does not state such things, nor can it be inferred from what is said. In all of these things we should look at what is in the text and precisely note the particulars in God’s word. As with the rest, that will be the charge also in this examination.
What the prophet listed was that there would be two portions of, or two outpourings of the Holy Spirit accomplished by the Lord of Hosts — one on “all flesh:” “on sons and daughters, young men and old men” which would be accompanied with signs and visions; and then there would also be a second portion or level of outpouring on God’s “menservants and maidservants.”
The use of the phrase “all flesh” in this first outpouring does not in any way necessarily or otherwise constitute that “all persons” would be recipient to a personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Any serious student understands that, and notes that this is looking to or suggesting the pending fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham. God had said to Abraham “in thy seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed.” This is that promised fulfillment, that in the coming of Christ and through the pouring out of the Holy Spirit of God, his work being to codify and witness through the apostles that which Christ had appointed, that “all nations” or as here rendered, “all flesh” should indeed be blessed.
This is exactly what the apostle Paul notes in Galatians 3. “Just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.” (Galatians 3:6—9)
At no point, not here and not anywhere else do the scriptures ever indicate that everyone that believes in this age, or in every age, will receive a personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit in any form or be participant to his attendant powers. God simply stated that His Spirit would be “poured out on all flesh.” I suggest that means that the pouring out of the Holy Spirit would be available to or granted to ALL humanity — that its efficacy would be available to everyone and not just to the House of Israel. That is in fact the context of the remark. There would be those amongst this first group who would prophecy and dream dreams just as it stated, but it does not widen this to all recipients, either in the language used or by the intent.
“On my menservants and on my maidservants I will pour out my Spirit in those days. And they shall prophesy.” That is what is stated of the second portion or pouring out. This is noting that particular servants of God would be benefit to a portion or outpouring of the Holy Spirit also and that it would in point be different, or would contain different elements than those of the general outpouring. That the two events are not identifying the same group is obvious or it would not have been stated this way.
To note that the first portion or pouring out of the Spirit on all flesh is equivalent to there being an indwelling of the Spirit for and in all believers stretches the fabric far beyond what is stated. That would clearly read into it what is not present. For “all flesh” either means just exactly that — all of humankind, in every age, irrespective of whether they are amenable or even interested in God’s work, or it means something less than that — that it will be made available to all flesh — poured out — to all who would come whether Jew or Gentile. Or, it means the Holy Spirit and the gift of salvation and perhaps the outcome of his efforts thereby would be available to all who call on the name of Christ. You cannot have every way.
Furthermore, the second pouring is exclusive by the language used and identifies that only the “menservants and maidservants” of God would be recipients of it. The first group therefore is not equal to the second.
These mentioned outpourings would and did occur on a notable Day of the Lord, a day accompanied with and identified through signs and wonders. Peter said that the events on that particular Pentecost, as recorded in Acts chapter two, were the very fulfillment of this particular prophecy. This was then that notable Day of the Lord spoken of by Joel as identified in the word translated in the original as “afterward,” and where Peter stated that these events had occurred on that particular day. Therefore, the outpouring of the Spirit on both identified groups — upon all humanity who would receive it and upon the servants of God, had begun and was initiated on that particular day. That there were to be attendant miracles and prophesies made by members of both groups is also clear. So said the apostles, so said the word of God.
The prophet Joel had stated, “…your sons and your daughters will prophesy and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” Notice it did not say that all sons and daughters would do these things, but that it is specific to the time of fulfillment. “Your sons and your daughters will prophesy…”
This is not in any way in dispute, as clear record exists to the fulfillment of this prediction in every respect. Once again, the text says nothing about all believers or of every son and daughter doing so or of everyone in all times exhibiting these signs. The prophesy was being spoken alive to a crowd of people present on the Temple grounds that day and is used in the active sense to indicate that they were to be the first part of that general fulfillment. The record of scripture demonstrates this as fact. Yet some have assumed that this other notion is the case: that every believing man and woman in every age throughout history will have a particular and personal indwelling, or will be party to a specific outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I would suggest that the scriptures teach nothing of the sort. I plan to examine this proof in the next several essays, and this will be the premise explored through this series.
In the next installment I will discuss the scriptures that particularly demonstrate that these events were set in motion of being fulfilled and were indeed fulfilled in the events of that first Pentecost following the death and resurrection of Christ. The Holy Spirit was indeed “poured out” upon all flesh, and the menservants and maidservants of God in those days also received a portion of the Spirit and used the works of God in precisely the manner in which they had been granted to them.