What is the promise in Acts 2:39?
In a previous question, we talked about the gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38. Summarizing what was said in regard to that question, the gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38 must be the ability to do miracles. The evidence for that is this: 1) That all references made to the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:1-37 are references made to the miraculous manifestation of the Holy Spirit. There is no compelling reason in the immediate context to make any changes to this idea in verse 38. Why would Peter change from talking about the miraculous manifestation of the Holy Spirit to some other manifestation of the Holy Spirit? There is no reason to do so in this text. 2) Peter in Acts 10:45 uses the exact same phrase, “The Gift of the Holy Spirit” in reference to the miracle of tongues. So the only other time the phrase “The gift of the Holy Spirit” is used it refers to the miraculous. 3) Peter says in Acts 11:17 that the same “gift” was given to “us” at the beginning (the day of Pentecost). The “us” in this passage is the apostles and the brethren as indicated in Acts 11:1. So the gift of the Holy Spirit had to be given in Acts 2 both to the apostles and the brethren. It was given to the apostles in Acts 2:1. Where was it given to the brethren? Acts 2:38 was the first promise of this gift to they who would eventually be brethren and then they received it with the laying on of the apostles hands as indicated in Acts 8:14-20 and Acts 19:5, 6.. Peter in fact calls this “the gift of God” in verse 20. So “the gift of the Holy Spirit” in Acts 2:38 must refer to the miraculous manifestation of the Holy Spirit; all of the evidence in both the immediate and the remote context leads us to this conclusion.
Someone says, however, what about verse 39 which reads, “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Doesn’t this indicate that “the gift of the Holy Spirit” is to be given to believers? How can one reconcile this with the idea that “the gift of the Holy Spirit” is the miraculous manifestation of the Holy Spirit? However, for one to interpret the promise in verse 39 to be referring only to the gift of the Holy Spirit is to ignore the context. There are two promises made in the context of Acts 2. There is first the promise of the Father that the Holy Spirit is going to come. We see this promise discussed in Acts 1:4, Acts 2:17 and Acts 2:33. But there is another promise interwoven with these promises. This second promise is the promise of salvation. We find this promise in Acts 2:21, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” We know from Acts 22:16 that this refers to the promise that comes as a result of baptism–remission of sins. This is what Peter states in the first part of Acts 2:38. Verse 39 is merely referring back to that promise–the promise of the remission of sins; the promise that “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” The promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the promise of salvation are closely related, because one is a sign for the other. That is the force of the Joel’s prophecy. When you see the miraculous manifestation of the Holy Spirit then you will KNOW that the promise of salvation has been made available for all men. Peter is simply restating the same concept in Acts 2:38 and 39 as Joel stated in prophecy.