The Trinity in Scripture: Acts 2; Joel 2. Also containing a word on who effectually calls sinners to salvation

Just as in chapter 1 of Acts, I see three references to the Trinity in Acts chapter 2. (Don’t worry—I am not out to find a “magical three” references in every chapter or book.)

But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
Acts 2:16-21

The first reference in chapter 2 is significant because it actually comes from the Old Testament! In his Pentecost sermon, Peter quotes Joel 2:28-32 and in so doing we have one of the few references to each of the Three found in a single Old Testament unit of thought. In keeping with the promise theme alluded to in Acts 1:4, Peter informs the befuddled pilgrims that what they are witnessing is God (the Father) fulfilling his promise to pour out the Spirit on all flesh. The purpose of this great outpouring is not the miraculous demonstrations, but salvation in the name of the Lord (Jesus). Peter makes this clear by immediately delivering the gospel message—that Jesus died, was buried, and was raised in accordance with the Scriptures. It is upon the name of this Lord Jesus that every one finds forgiveness of sins (2:38).

This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.
Acts 2:32-33

The second reference in chapter 2 is significant because it begins (in Acts at least) to show the co-operation of the Trinity. In Acts 1:4-5 Jesus describes the coming of the Holy Spirit as a promise to be fulfilled by the Father. In Acts 2:32-33 we get a closer look at the functioning of the promise’s fulfillment. Yes, the giving of the Holy Spirit was promised by the Father. But it turns out the Holy Spirit was received first by the Son. Given Paul’s declaration in 2 Cor. 1:20 regarding the promises of God, this event should not be too surprising. So here is another aspect of the mediatorship of Jesus between God and man. While the Holy Spirit is sent by God the Father, it is Jesus who first receives the Spirit and subsequently pours out the blessings of his presence upon his followers. (I think this text must therefore be considered in the debate about the Spirit’s procession.)

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you 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 for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
Acts 2:38-39

The third reference to the Trinity in Acts 2 continues under the theme of promise. Here we begin to see something of how Scripture describes the work of the Trinity in Salvation. Men must repent and be baptized “in the name of” or, on account of the work of, Jesus Christ. When this is done, their sins will be forgiven. The evidence, or demonstration, of their forgiveness will be the receiving of the Holy Spirit. Yet all of this happens because of the effectual call of the Lord our God (the Father).

Why do I take “the Lord our God” to be a reference to the Father? Because, as far as I can tell, in the New Testament, calling is nearly without exception presented as the work of God the Father. While many Christians believe and teach that the Holy Spirit calls men to salvation, I can find no reference in Scripture assigning this work to the Spirit. If you would like to pursue this, consider all of these references in which God the Father calls:

Romans 8:28-30; 9:11; 9:22-24
1 Cor. 1:19; 1:24-29; 7:17-24
Gal. 1:4-6; 1:14-16
Eph. 1:17-18
1 Thess. 2:12; 5:24
2 Thess. 1:11; 2:14
2 Tim. 1:8-9
1 Peter 1:15-16; 2:9-10; 5:10
2 Peter 1:3

The only New Testament reference I could find to the Holy Spirit calling was Acts 13:2 where he calls Barnabas and Saul to the work of spreading the gospel. I can find no New Testament reference to the Holy Spirit calling sinners to salvation. On the contrary, I only find references to the Father calling sinners to salvation. Since that is the case elsewhere, I take it to be the case in Acts 2:39.

The work of the Trinity offers a sure anchor to the troubled soul. Once it is realized that salvation is before anything else, a co-operation of the Trinity the insecurities caused by our failures suddenly are robbed of strength. The struggling soul should flee to God—the Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Man’s salvation is the testimony of the faithfulness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to each other. He cannot deny himself. Praise be to God!

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