The Disciples of Christ
“Were men born again before Pentecost?”
This is a question you may or may not be ready to answer, and if not,
the hope is that before you get through a few chapters of this book you
When we look at the Ministry of God in the Old Testament, we recognize
the Holy Spirit ministers in and through men, empowering them for
ministries such as Prophet, Priest, and King. We are told of King David
when anointed as King, "The Spirit of the Lord came upon him from that
day forward," but is this the eternal indwelling of God? We would be
hard pressed to say that it was, seeing Christ foretells the coming of
the Comforter, Who, He teaches, will then be in the disciples,
contrasted with the Spirit being with them, and, that He would be with
King James Version
15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter,
that he may abide with you for ever;
17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it
seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth
with you, and shall be in you
Here are a few points for consideration as you read:
1. The True Bread which provides eternal life, which Christ contrasts
with the provision given the "fathers" (manna), came down from Heaven
(John 6:32-33), and we see when that took place (at the time of the
Incarnation, John 1:14);
2. The eternal indwelling of the Spirit did not take place until after
Christ returned to Heaven, because the Spirit could not come unless He
left (John 16:7). Not only did Christ make this clear (John 14:16), but
we see it fulfilled in Acts 2, which follows Christ's statement in Acts
1 that the disciples would be Baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days
hence (Acts 1:4-5);
3. Remission of sin through the Atonement was retroactive, the Old
Testament Saints were not made perfect/complete (in regards to Eternal
Redemption and remission of sins) prior to their deaths (Hebrews 9:12-15
4. The disciples did not have the saving knowledge that leads to new
birth, as the Gospel was not revealed to them during Christ's earthly
Ministry, though told them on a few occasions. This was evidenced not
only by Peter's opposition to the Gospel, but clearly stated by Christ
Himself both before and after His Resurrection (Matthew 16: John
16:28-32; Mark 16:9-11; Luke 6-11)).
All of these will be touched upon within the course of this study, as
well as making application of this one simple truth and how it clarifies
the Redemptive Plan of God throughout the course of Redemptive History.
I mention them as a baseline to begin our look at whether men were born
again before Pentecost.
The Unbelief of the Disciples
Let's begin with an examination of something simple: did the disciples
believe in Christ as Savior prior to Pentecost and being baptized with
the Holy Ghost? Some may view questioning their faith in Christ as
heretical, ludicrous, or even blasphemous, but I can assure you, if the
Lord Himself questioned their belief, I see no problem with us coming
into agreement with His view (John 16:28-32).
First, we consider that while the disciples were men of faith, we also
keep in mind the progressive nature of revelation, meaning the knowledge
God reveals to men and when He revealed that knowledge. We will look at
the Mystery of the Gospel in more detail, but I will mention at this
time that in several passages it is made clear that the revelation of
this Mystery did not take place in prior Ages. We can draw a line
between Pentecost and all periods of time prior to Pentecost, as this is
the time in which the New Covenant was established. Prior to the New
Covenant being established, we see that men were under the Covenant of
Law. Prior to the Law being established we see the Abrahamic Covenant.
The point is this: if we do not make that distinction, then we merge the
Two Covenants together (and the provision that went/go with them), and
that is the first mistake contributing to a misunderstanding of the
promises that all Covenants prior to the New Covenant held. For example,
the Abrahamic Covenant held a singular promise that we can dogmatically
assert as not being fulfilled until the New Covenant was established:
King James Version (KJV)
1 Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and
from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will
2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and
make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth
thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
Our focus here is that "all families of the earth shall be blessed"
through Abraham. This is the foretelling of Gentile Inclusion, and the
provision for Salvation offered to all men, or, in other words, that
Gentiles would at some point in the future come into relationship with
God, and that men would not be distinguished between as they were under
Law, Jew and Gentile. The Nation that God would make of Abraham is of
course, in the immediate fulfillment, Israel, and when the Covenant of
Law is established Israel is the exclusive People of God. Gentiles could
enter into that relationship by embracing the Covenant of Law and
becoming proselytes, but, there was still a distinction drawn between
them and Israel herself. How this promise is fulfilled in the New
Covenant is the creation of "one man" between the two, Jew and Gentile.
They are “one” because both are now in Christ (in eternal union with
Him). Israel was the Old Testament type, or model, of the eventual One
Fold God has always intended to be the end result of His Redemptive
Plan. The Church, the Body of Christ (made up of all Born Again
Believers), is the current picture of that eventual One Fold (at which
time we will all reside in glorified bodies). Israel was a physical
picture of the Church in this Age, a people separated unto God and
distinguished from the world in general.
Paul speaks of this distinction between Jew and Gentile here...
King James Version (KJV)
11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh,
who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision
in the flesh made by hands;
12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the
commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise,
having no hope, and without God in the world:
13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh
by the blood of Christ.
How this is relevant to the focus of our study is this: the promise of
Gentile Inclusion was only promise until the New Covenant was
established. One of the best known passages in Prophecy concerning
Christ also mentions this:
King James Version (KJV)
5 Thus saith God the Lord, he that created the heavens, and stretched
them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of
it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them
that walk therein:
6 I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine
hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people,
for a light of the Gentiles;
7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison,
and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.
Included in this prophecy is mention of salvation in Messiah. Keep in
mind as we look at the Disciples of Christ that we are not denying that
these were men of faith. In view is understanding that while they were
men of faith, their faith was specific to the revelation they were given
understanding of. They did indeed trust in Messiah, and He was their
hope. However, in regards to being born again we understand that
specific faith in Christ as the Resurrected Lord differs from the
fundamental teaching the prophecy of the Old Testament provided. It is
impossible to impose understanding of the Gospel in the Old Testament
Saint because it was still mystery. The Gospel was foretold but
unrevealed as to its specific nature. Sometimes when we seek to justify
a position or Doctrine, there is a tendency to go to an extreme. The
best example I can give to illustrate is the differing views between
certain groups concerning Mary as our Lord's mother. Those who seek to
revere her might err in going so far as to actually worship her, while
those disagreeing with that view go so far as to come to despise her and
become irreverent of her. We have to keep things in perspective, and in
that example my position is that we give her the honor that Scripture
itself affords her, but we do not forget that there is One God and One
Savior, and that Christ alone is to be credited with, not only Eternal
Salvation, but even our physical salvation here on earth.
All that to say we do not undermine the faith of the Disciples, or that
of the Old Testament Saints. We seek only to place their faith in a
proper perspective according to the progressive nature of Revelation and
the unfolding of redemptive effort on the part of God.
It is important to understand that Revelation (that knowledge given to
Man by God) was progressive, meaning that when we track the course of
the revelation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We see Him spoken of early
on in the Bible, but knowledge of Christ does not equate to
understanding of that knowledge. For example, in the first mention of
Christ in Scripture…
King James Version (KJV)
15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy
seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his
…we see what we-having the full revelation of both the Old and New
Testament-understand as a clear reference to Christ overcoming Satan.
However, there is no knowledge given here of Christ dying in the stead
of sinful man, and man being in need of trusting in the Sacrifice of
Christ. As Scripture emerges over time, we see reference after reference
to Christ, but, again, the understanding of such passages as Isaiah
53-which gives a clear statement of the Sufferings of Christ-was not
given to men in those Ages. As time progresses, Prophecy reveals more
about Christ, yet, the Doctrine of Christ introduced is called by the
Writer of Hebrews as the “First Principles of the Doctrine of
Christ,” meaning, basic knowledge as compared to the more complete
revelation he gives in His Epistle (as well as the other Epistles being
circulated throughout the Church in the First Century).
We must also keep in mind that the Spirit of God has always ministered
in the lives of men, and has always been the source of enlightenment and
illumination in the hearts and minds of His Saints. What He reveals to
men can be seen to be secluded to certain periods, and the extent of
understanding also often seen to be excluded. We look to Prophecy as
“exhibit A” in regards to understanding that though something has
been revealed to men, that does not mean they understand how it will
unfold (1 Peter 1:10-12). The Gospel of Christ is the prime example of
men being told of something, yet understanding of that knowledge being
withheld from them. And the one thing we must understand in regards to
the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that no man was made to understand the
Cross of Christ prior to this Age, which, again, began at Pentecost.
While Israel sat in expectation of her Messiah, their understanding was
limited to a physical understanding. Fulfillment was thought to refer to
a physical descendant of David rising up and physically restoring
Israel. That the throne erected by Christ would be everlasting meant
that a physical descendant of David would always occupy that throne. We
will discuss the Revelation of the Mystery of Christ in further detail,
but I wanted to give a brief description of the Progression of
Revelation going into the topics we will discuss.
Can men be born again without trusting in the Risen Savior?
Now let's turn our attention back to the Disciples of Christ. We ask the
question "Can men be considered born again if they are not trusting in
Christ for their salvation?" Most usually answer this question with a
resounding "No!" So we ask another question, "How then could the
Disciples be born again if Christ had not yet died, and they did not
know at that time that the belief Christ preached was specific to His
Resurrection and atonement for sins?" The answer would be…we can't.
And we remember, we are discussing if they were born again, not if they
were saved. Many often tend to attribute Atonement prior to the Cross,
but Scripture does not. We know men were justified by grace through
faith in all Ages, but we look at the provision for remission of sins in
past Ages compared with the remission of sins achieved by Christ. And
there is simply no comparison. We will examine the theme of "Perfection"
as taught in Hebrews as we continue in this study, which makes the point
that the sacrifices of the Law were incomplete whereas the Sacrifice of
Christ was complete, making "perfect," or complete, those who are
sanctified by His Sacrifice...forever. Understanding this significant
difference helps us to better understand the magnitude of Christ's Work.
Men were saved in the Old Testament from the eternal perspective of God,
yet they all died not having received one specific promise in the New
Covenant, and that is God no more remembering their sins. The last
sacrifice that men like Abraham, Moses, and David would have offered
prior to their death would have been that of an animal only, which we
are told in Hebrews could not take away sin. And this we will go into
greater detail in later chapters.
Christ makes it clear that He came from Heaven to bestow eternal life.
The implication is that this was not taking place before. And when we
consider what the Lord states as the means of Eternal Life, we see it is
quite impossible to equate the faith one had in Messiah prior to the
Revelation of the Gospel Mystery with that demanded of men in this Age.
Let’s consider something we see often in the Lord’s-as well as the
Apostles’-teachings, a contrast between Himself as the eternal
fulfillment of Prophecy and Promise, and the physical standard of the
Ages that preceded the one established by Christ through His Work:
King James Version (KJV)
29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye
believe on him whom he hath sent.
30 They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we
may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?
31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave
them bread from heaven to eat.
32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave
you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread
33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth
life unto the world.
34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.
35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to
me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
In this statement we see the provision under the Law (manna) and the
provision that we can only conclude falls after the True Bread has
actually come from Heaven. This is a reference to the Incarnation and
specifically designated as the "flesh” of Christ. Manna sustained
physical life only, and that is Christ's point throughout this passage.
The Jews demand a sign that they might believe, appealing to the
provision of God in the Wilderness as a "proof" that those in the
Wilderness might believe. Christ's response rebukes them in regards to
Who-Father God, not father Moses-provided that provision, and that the
provision given then is distinct from the provision that He came to
Note carefully, the "Bread of God is He that comes down from Heaven,"
that is, Christ, and this Bread “gives life to the world.” They say
"Give us this bread," to which He replies that this bread shall be given
to those that come to Him, and believe on Him. Again, keep in mind the
contrast between the two, the physical bread of the Exodus which
sustained physical life, and the spiritual Bread which provides Eternal
Excerpted from "The Magnitude of the Cross" by Darrell Conner. Copyright © 2018 by Darrell Conner. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.