To answer this question, we need to go back a few verses in the New Testament. Jesus was having a conversation with Peter in Matthew 16. To understand the conversation, we need to take it apart phrase by phrase. In verses fifteen and sixteen, Jesus asked Peter who he thought He was. Peter replied, “Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God.” Jesus confirmed that this knowledge was not gained by human understanding but that the Heavenly Father had revealed it to him.
There are those who take this passage of Scripture to mean that Jesus ordained Peter to be the head of the church. This is incongruent with other passages and the unfolding of history. In Acts 15: 19 James was the head of the Council, not Peter, and he oversaw the decisions made about the Gentiles and the growth of the church. At no time in biblical or secular history did Peter claim for himself that he was no more than any of the other apostles. In regard to the section of that same chapter, Jesus spoke of the keys to the kingdom in which forgiveness or no forgiveness was delegated as keys to the kingdom. Other apostles and believers assumed the same authority as we read through the Scriptures. This having been said, there is no evidence at all that Jesus ordained a papal ministry over the church. In fact, no such oversight occurred for another two hundred and fifty years.
The main portion of Scripture in chapter 16 is the part that says, “Upon this rock I will build my church. “ The question is to ask what is the identity of the rock. Looking at Greek exegetical studies the rock referred to Christ himself in other Scriptures. He even called himself the chief cornerstone. Let us catch the flow of this conversation. Peter made the confession the Jesus was the Christ. It is inconceivable that the Catholic Church would use this passage of Scripture to say that Jesus started the papal ministry with Peter as the first pope and then disavow Scriptures relevant to the growth of the church. A closer look at the grammar and identification of specific words says no such thing. There are, however, two possibilities for what Jesus was referring. The first possibility was that he was referring to himself, meaning that he was going to build the church upon himself as the rock. The second possibility is that the confession of faith that Peter made could in itself be the basis on which the church is built because the church could not grow without faith. Either of these are just as likely and either of these can be taken together or separately.
The significance of this dissection of Scripture is that Jesus said, “I will build my church.” This must mean that the church was established by Jesus and that through the disciples and other followers he would build the church with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The church did not start on the day of Pentecost because it was already in existence by that passage in the book of Acts. On the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 there were already at least 120 church members and that included women as well as men.
Jesus instructed his followers after his resurrection they should be assembled together where they once gathered, and they would receive the promise of the Father that he had already mentioned to them. He promised that they would receive power after the Holy Spirit came upon them, making them witnesses first to local areas and then to the uttermost parts of the earth. After his ascension, they assembled in the upper room with the other disciples that included women, Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
We first note that the members of the church were faithful and obedient to Christ’s last instruction to them for them to assemble in the upper room. There they selected a replacement for Judas who betrayed Christ. His name was Matthias. The second note that we can make about the members of the church is that they were all in one accord in one place. Today God will not bless the people who are not in one accord.
Then what happened? Remember these were members of the church that experienced this coming of the Holy Spirit upon them. As they prayed, they heard what seemed like the sound of rushing wind. Next the vision occurred in which it appeared that there were cloven tongues resting on them as of fire. This fire can be easily recognized as an anointing like that of the Old Testament oil that was poured on the members of priesthood. The Bible does not say that these people went out talking to others with flames of fire on their head or shoulder. I would look silly. The fire was the initiation of the Holy Spirit within each of them. In obedience to Christ to go to local people and then to people in distant lands, they scattered among the people and shared their testimony speaking in their earthly language. Because it was a holy time, many Jews from many lands were present. The original members of the church spoke to these people in eighteen different earthly languages as mentioned in the second chapter of Acts.
In response to the criticism that they received by observers, Peter preached a sermon, quoting Old Testament prophecies, reminding them that if they called on the name of the Lord they would be saved. He brought to mind how that Jesus was crucified and resurrected as a prophecy made by David. He further advised them that they should repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and then they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. That meant that they could not be casual believers of the historical events of crucifixion that Jesus experienced. It meant that it had to be personalized in their own lives bringing them into the fellowship with the family of God as new members of the church. As a result, the Bible says that three thousand people received the word and were added to the church. Again, the believers all came together and had everything in common, joining together in the temple and then breaking bread from house to house. They had singleness of heart. They praised God and had favor with all the people. Chapter 2 concludes saying that the Lord added more to the church as should be saved.
There are two other incidences in which people spoke in a foreign language. And these were Gentiles who became believers and members of the new church. The Holy Spirit filled these people in what we might call the Gentile Pentecost indicating that they were not two churches-a Jewish Christian church and a Gentile Christian church. They were all members of one church that was filled with the Holy Spirit. Today when a person becomes a Christian believing in their heart that Christ was raised from the dead for their salvation, at their salvation the Holy Spirit also comes upon them. They may not speak in tongues, but they were endowed with power and fellowship. You might ask how this is possible since it does not appear likely in today’s church. This is not to say that the Scripture is wrong. It is to say that the church has fallen into the state of lethargy and that many people who call themselves Christians going to church are not true Christians.