Spirit Baptism in the Old Testament
When the Lord Jesus baptized the church with the Spirit on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, Peter, in Acts 2:16-21, proved the legitimacy of the events of the day by quoting Joel 2:28-32:
28 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. 30 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. 32 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.[i]
This text sets forth the Old Testament prediction of Spirit baptism. Its exegesis consequently provides important insights for the understanding of Spirit baptism in its New Testament fulfillment.
One notes that the Old Testament prediction of Spirit baptism was not connected with regeneration, but with those who are already converted (and were thus the Lord’s “servants and handmaids” before the Spirit was poured out upon them). Spirit baptism, Joel predicted, would be connected with miraculous powers, signs, and wonders (2:28-30). The fulfillment[ii] of Joel 2:28ff. in Acts 2 did not bring salvation and forgiveness to the 120 members of the pre-Pentecost church who received the baptism with the Spirit (Acts 1:15; 2:1), but brought, as promised, “power” (Acts 1:8; dunamis). An analysis of dunamis in Acts demonstrates that it is always or at least almost always connected with Divinely bestowed miraculous power.[iii] This is consistent with the fact that in Joel 2:28 the supernatural prophecy, dreams, and visions are a specification of the results of the prediction “I will pour out my spirit.” The recipients of Spirit baptism in Acts two received supernatural powers to speak in tongues and do other miracles, and Peter employs the quote from Joel in Acts 2:15-21 to justify the Spirit-produced speaking in unlearned foreign languages (2:6-11) that had been going on to the wonder of the onlooking unconverted Jewish crowds (2:14-16). Joel did not predict a Spirit baptism that was temporally simultaneous with the invisible inward works of regeneration, conversion, and justification, but a post-justification bestowal of power to do visible signs and wonders on those within God’s institutional covenant community. This is what took place on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2.
Furthermore, Joel did not predict that the Spirit would be regularly outpoured upon individuals who, day by day, year by year, came to faith in the Messiah and were converted; he predicted a massive, one-time outpouring[iv] of the Spirit upon the generality of the covenant community. This does not suit the UCDs insistence that Spirit baptism takes place at the point of individual regeneration for all believers for the duration of the church age. Nor does the PCPs belief that Spirit baptism continues to occur as individuals experience special post-conversion crises throughout the church age find support in Joel 2:28-32. The text is, however, entirely consistent with the historic Baptist position that Spirit baptism was a first century gift from Christ to the corporate church, a completed event fulfilled in the first century as recorded in the book of Acts.
The only other two texts that connect the Spirit (ruach) and the verb rendered pour out (shafach) in Joel 2:28-29 are Ezekiel 39:29 and Zechariah 12:10. Both texts refer to events that pertain to the eschatological future for Israel (as, indeed, does Joel 2:28-32 in its ultimate fulfillment), and neither contain an “all flesh” expansion,[v] as Joel 2:28 does, that reasonably incorporates Gentiles. Neither Ezekiel 39:29 nor Zechariah 12:10 is referenced in the New Testament as being fulfilled in or relating to Spirit baptism, nor does anything in the New Testament indicate that the latter passages pertain to events in the church age. Isaiah 44:3, which employs a different verb for pour (yatsak) than Joel 2:28-29, is also a promise to Israel (44:1) which relates to the Millennium, not to the NT church. It has no necessary connection with the doctrine of Christian Spirit baptism as explicated in Acts 2 and Joel 2. Other Old Testament texts likewise speak of special works of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 32:15; 34:16; etc.), but these are all also references to His blessings upon Israel, not the church. While a general analysis of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament is a valuable and important task,[vi] it goes beyond the bounds of the current study, in which Old Testament passages are relevant only as they pertain to the New Testament phenomenon of Spirit baptism. Consequently, while advocates of Reformed covenant theology can and regularly do,[vii] consistently with their theological system and spiritualization of Old Testament prophecy, employ texts that pertain to Israel as if they had to do with the NT church, believers who hold to a literal, dispensational hermeneutic, and who consequently recognize the Biblical distinction between Israel and the church, ought not so to do.
The Old Testament, as evidenced in an examination of the passage (Joel 2:28-32) Peter quoted in Acts two to explain the baptism of the Holy Ghost, supports the historic Baptist view of the doctrine, rather than the UCD or PCP position. Spirit baptism was predicted as a post-conversion gift for the collective body of God’s covenant community, not an event simultaneous or synonymous with regeneration. It would not apply the invisible grace of justification to the legal standing of sinners, but bestow power to perform visible miracles to saints. It was not a personal, individual event that would take place regularly and gradually as individuals came to the Redeemer in repentance, but a one-time corporate gift for those already part of the people of God. It was fulfilled in the church, in those who had already been converted and immersed upon profession of faith.
[i] Quoted by Peter as Kai« e¶stai e˙n tai√ß e˙sca¿taiß hJme÷raiß, le÷gei oJ Qeo/ß, e˙kcew◊ aÓpo\ touv pneu/mato/ß mou e˙pi« pa◊san sa¿rka: kai« profhteu/sousin oi˚ ui˚oi« uJmw◊n kai« ai˚ qugate÷reß uJmw◊n, kai« oi˚ neani÷skoi uJmw◊n oJra¿seiß o¡yontai, kai« oi˚ presbu/teroi uJmw◊n e˙nu/pnia e˙nupniasqh/sontai: kai÷ ge e˙pi« tou\ß dou/louß mou kai« e˙pi« ta»ß dou/laß mou e˙n tai√ß hJme÷raiß e˙kei÷naiß e˙kcew◊ aÓpo\ touv pneu/mato/ß mou kai« profhteu/sousi. kai« dw¿sw te÷rata e˙n twˆ◊ oujranwˆ◊ a‡nw, kai« shmei√a e˙pi« thvß ghvß ka¿tw, ai–ma kai« puvr kai« aÓtmi÷da kapnouv: oJ h¢lioß metastrafh/setai ei˙ß sko/toß, kai« hJ selh/nh ei˙ß ai–ma, pri«n h£ e˙lqei√n th\n hJme÷ran Kuri÷ou th\n mega¿lhn kai« e˙pifanhv: kai« e¶stai, pa◊ß o§ß a·n e˙pikale÷shtai to\ o¡noma Kuri÷ou swqh/setai.
[ii] Acts 2 is a partial, but not the ultimate, fulfillment of the prediction of Joel 2:28-32. The eschatological events of the Tribulation and Millennium, referenced in Ezekiel 39:27-29 and Zechariah 12:10, the only Old Testament references besides Joel 2:28-29 to the Spirit being massively poured out (Kpv), constitute the ultimate fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32 as well, when the Jewish remnant in mount Zion and Jerusalem will receive miraculous physical deliverance (The noun hDfyElVÚp, “deliverance” in 2:32, refers to physical deliverance, not spiritual salvation, in all 28 of its OT appearances, as does the verb flm in the Niphal, “delivered” in 2:32, all 63 times it is found in the OT) from the armies of the Antichrist (Joel 2:32; neither Joel 2:32 nor Romans 10:13 is a promise that unconverted sinners who say a prayer will be regenerated; see “An Exegesis and Application of Romans 10:9-14 for Soulwinning Churches and Christians,” Thomas Ross, http://sites.google.com/site/thross7). The sun did not turn into darkness, nor the moon into blood, on the day of Pentecost—but they will in during the Tribulation period, the seventieth week of Daniel. J. Dwight Pentecost explains well the fulfillment of Joel 2 in the Tribulation on pgs. 444, 486-490, Things To Come (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1958).
[iii] Acts 2:22; 3:12; 4:7-10, 33; 6:8; 8:10, 13; 10:38; 19:11; cf. Luke’s uses of the word in his “former treatise” (Acts 1:1; Luke 1:1-4): Luke 1:35; 4:36; 5:17; 6:19; 8:46; 9:1; 10:13; 19:37; 24:49; also 1 Corinthians 12:29, duna¿meiß, “workers of miracles”; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:10, 28; Hebrews 2:4; Matthew 11:20-23; 13:54, 58; etc. This would be “the power that works wonders,” def. 1b in Danker, Frederick William (ed.), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, 3rd. ed. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000 (henceforth cited as BDAG). “du/namiß [like te÷raß, shmei√on, megalei√on, e¶ndoxon, para¿doxon, and qauma¿sion] . . . have this in common, that they are all used to characterize the supernatural works wrought by Christ in the days of his flesh; thus shmei√on, John ii. 11; Acts ii. 19; te÷raß, Acts ii. 22; John iv. 48; du/namiß, Mark vi. 2; Acts ii. 22; megalei√on, Luke i. 49; e¶ndoxon, Luke xiii. 17; para¿doxon, Luke v. 26; qauma¿sion, Matt. xx. 15; while [du/namiß, te÷raß, and shmei√on are] the most usual [and] are in like manner employed of the same supernatural works wrought in the power of Christ by his Apostles (2 Cor. xii. 12); and of the lying miracles of Antichrist no less (2 Thess. ii. 11). They will be found, on closer examination, not so much to represent different kinds of trades, as miracles contemplated under different aspects an from different points of view. . . . [M]iracles are also ‘powers’ (duna¿meiß =‘virtutes’), outcomings of that mighty power of God, which was inherent in Christ, Himself that “great Power of God” which Simon blasphemously allowed himself to be named (Acts viii. 8, 10); these powers being by Him lent to those who were his witnesses and ambassadors. . . . [In] our Version duna¿meiß is translated now “wonderful works” (Matt. vii. 22); now “mighty works” (Matt. xi. 20; Luke x. 13) and still more frequently “miracles” (Acts ii. 22; 1 Cor. xii. 10; iii. 5) . . . the word . . . point[s] . . . to new and higher forces (e˙ne÷rgeiai, e˙nergh/mata, 1 Cor. xii. 6, 10), ‘powers of the world to come’ (Heb. vi. 5), which have entered and are working in this lower world of ours. . . . With this is closely connected the term megalei√a, only occurring at Luke i. 49 (=‘magnalia’) and at Acts ii. 11, in which, as in duna¿meiß, the miracles are contemplated as outcomings of the greatness of God’s power and glory.” (pgs. 339-344, Synonyms of the New Testament, Richard C. Trench. London: 1880, elec. acc. Accordance Bible software). This is not to say that the word is universally or only used of miraculous power; cf. Luke 1:17 & John 10:41; Luke 22:69. See endnote 52.
[iv] The verb Kpv, employed in Joel 2:28, 29 (MT 3:1-2), does not “does not mean a gradual pouring as required, but rather a sudden, massive spillage . . . this definition can be seen clearly in yIj…wr_tRa y;ItVkApDv Ezk 39:29, JKÚOpVvRa yIj…wr_tRa Joel 3:1-2 and … NEj Aj…wr y;ItVkApDv◊w Zech 12:10 [the only OT references to Kpv in connection with Aj…wr]” (The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, Ludwig Koehler & Walter Baumgartner, rev. Walter Baumgartner & Johann Jakob Stamm, trans. & ed. M. E. J. Richardson. New York, NY: Brill, 2000, elec. acc. Accordance Bible Software).
[v] However, the “your sons and your daughters” of Joel 2:28 refers, in its original context, to Jewish sons and daughters. This does not mean, though, that the sons and daughters of others are necessarily excluded, or that “all flesh” means only the physical seed of Abraham.
Compare the giving of the Spirit to all the covenant community with the result of prophecy in Joel 2:28-32 with Numbers 11:24-29; in the Pentateuch Jehovah “took of the spirit that was upon [Moses] . . . and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit was upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease.” When Joshua wanted to forbid this prophesying, Moses said, “[W]ould God that all the LORD’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!” Moses’ prayer is answered in the fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32, when all the Lord’s people have His Spirit and therefore prophesy. Consider also the typological aspect to Moses as a type of Christ when the seventy received the Spirit after the Lord “took of the spirit that was upon [Moses]” and gave it to them, as Christ received the Spirit from the Father and gave Him to the church (John 3:34; Acts 2:33).
[vi] cf. The Holy Spirit: A Comprehensive Study of the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit, John F. Walvoord (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1958), pgs. 18-54, 227-235.
[vii] This is evident in an examination of any of the gamut of Reformed commentators and writers; see, e. g., John Calvin or Matthew Henry’s comments on Isaiah 44. Similarly, after employing Isaiah 44:3 and other texts as if they related to the work of the Spirit on Christians of the age of grace, and insisting that the Millennial vegetation described in Isaiah 35:1 is really speaking about the Holy Spirit making Christians grow, Arthur Pink laments, “the spiritual meaning of these [Old Testament] passages is commonly unperceived today, when carnal dispensationalists insist on the ignoring of all figures, and the interpreting of everything ‘literally.’” (pgs. 227-228, The Holy Spirit, Arthur W. Pink. elec. acc. Christian Library Series vol. 8, Arthur Pink Collection. Albany, OR: AGES Software (ver. 1.0), 2000).