What is the Promise of Acts 2?

Many Baptists recently seem eager to divorce the promise in Acts 2 from the promise given to Abraham in Gen 17, seemingly as a way to distance baptism from circumcision and the repercussions therein.

I first encountered this viewpoint several years ago when Jamin Hubner posited it while in discussion in the #prosapologian chat room. I seemed novel then, even to his fellow baptists. Then, a few months back, Chris Whisonant proffered the same view.  Now I see that Matt D. Robertson is saying the same thing.

The basic argument of the viewpoint goes like this:

Oftentimes in discussion paedobaptists will bring up Acts 2:38-39. Frequently they seem to throw this verse down as though it’s supposed to be incontrovertible proof of their position, which has always confused me…

When we look at these verses together, we are equipped to answer the most important question of vv.38-39: What is the promise? Is this not the key question?

The way this passage is used by our paedobaptist brethren, we can only assume they believe that the promise is New Covenant membership. “New Covenant membership is for you, and for your children…” Now I must say, if that is what the text said, there would be no discussion. It would be the power-verse many use it as. But if we look at the wider context, the identity of what (more accurately, Who) the promise is becomes clear.
Look at verse 33. “Therefore, since He has been exalted to the right hand of God and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, He has poured out what you both see and hear.”…

This is extremely important, because if the promise is the Holy Spirit, then the promise is not explicitly Covenant membership.


For just a moment, let me say that I agree with Mr. Robertson that the “promise” in Acts 2 is indeed the promise of the Holy Spirit. Peter quotes Joel 2 explaining how the outpouring of the Spirit will be manifest.

Joel 2:28
“And it shall come to pass afterward,
    that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    your old men shall dream dreams,
    and your young men shall see visions.”

The problem with Mr. Robertson (and the rest) who posit this as a definitive rebuttal of the paedobaptist position, is that the promise given to Abraham in Gen 17 etc. wherein we read the covenant formula “for you and your children” – is directly tied to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 3:13-14
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

According to Paul, and thus the God-breathed commentary on the Old Testament, the promise to Abraham included Gentiles receiving the Spirit through faith. This is supported elsewhere by Paul wherein he writes:

Romans 4:13
For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.

Galatians 3:29
And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Thus, according to Peter, Paul, and therefore God himself, the outpouring of the Spirit is the definitive evidence that the promise to Abraham is being fulfilled.

Remember, the promise in Gen 17 includes this:  “you shall be the father of a multitude of nations” – and here the people of God are now reaching out to the nations, as expressed by the Holy Spirit’s gift of Gentile tongues.

Also note that the passage Peter is quoting in Joel, wherein he’s expressing the manifestation of the Spirit, calls on the people of God to “gather the children, even nursing infants”to meet with the bridegroom (Joel 2:16).

Attempting to divorce the promise of Acts 2 from the covenant promise to Abraham in Gen 12,17 etc. is not supported by Scripture.

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