The Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) or Church of Christ doctrines on baptism includes a topic on Acts 2:39:
Acts 2:39 (NKJV) – 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
There appear to be 3 groups of people in this passage and INC explains who are the three groups:
1) to you
2) to your children
3) to all who are a far off
The explanation to what appear to be three groups of people is followed by teaching on John 10:16
John 10:16 (NKJV) – 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
So Christ have another sheep who are in the fold (in His time) and not in the fold and they are:
1) In the fold – Jews
2) Also in the fold – Gentiles
3) Not in the fold – Iglesia Ni Cristo
Understanding John 10:16 and other Old Testament prophesies explaining those who are not in the fold will emerge in the Far East, the timing of which is July 27, 1914, then Acts 2:39 means to INC this way:
1) to you – Jews
2) to your children – Gentiles
3) to all who are a far off – Iglesia Ni Cristo members
The True Context of the Promise in Acts 2:39
The Acts chapter 2 is believe by many Christians as the birth of the Christian Church. We have to read it from the beginning to who are speaking in the chapter and who are the audience. The bible is like of record of prophesies, conversations and apocalyptic language, parabolic language, etc. Acts chapter 2 can be classified a record of event, conversations, preaching and I am convinced it is also a fulfillment of the prophesy regarding the “last days”. I suggest read Acts 2 in its entirety to appreciate and understand it better.
Acts chapter 2 is about the day of the Pentecost. Pentecost according to Wikipedia is called by that name in Exodus 34:22 and Deuteronomy 16:10. It is also called the Festival of Reaping in Exodus 23:16, and Day of the First Fruits in Numbers 28:26. According to Jewish tradition, Pentecost commemorates God’s giving of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. The Day of The Pentecost in Acts 2 was held in one place which is at the Jerusalem Temple (based on other references).
Acts 2:2 (NKJV) – When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
As a Jewish festival, Jews from all different places comes to Jerusalem. The bible mentioned this “from every nation under heaven” – see how bible language is? It does not mean these are Jews who also came China or Japan or other places as they are also under heaven.
Acts 2:5 (NKJV) – And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.
If you continue reading, these men came from different nations mostly nations in the old testament map of the world.
Acts 2:7-10 (NKJV) – Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,
Again, the day of the Pentecost originally a Jewish festivity so we expect those who are in attendance are Jewish and proselytes as we read in Acts 2:10. At this point, we know the day of the Pentecost is for the Jews, the attendees are the Jews but who are the proselytes?
We can also learn that both Jews and proselytes followed Paul.
Acts 13:43 (NKJV) – Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
Who are the proselytes? The proper description I can get is they are non-Jews by birth, and have become Jews, who are converts. Now it is not possible they are the Gentile Christians because the Gentile Christians are not converted to Jews. In fact, Gentile Christians were not required to be circumcised which is a requirement to being a Jew.
Understanding how the ministry of Christ and the apostles started is key to understanding who are the proselytes or convert Jews at the time of the Day of the Pentecost.
Matthew 10:5-6 (NKJV) – 5 These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. 6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
The apostles where instructed to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and also gave direct instructions no to go to the city of Samaritans.
The Lost Sheep of The House of Israel
It is not my intent to cover this topic but I need to add little bit of background. Please read the topic in details here.
In short, The Lost Sheep of Israel are the Lost Ten Tribes of the Northern Kingdom, Israel. Israel was divided as Southern Kingdom and Northern Kingdom. The Northern Kingdom turned into worshiping other gods. If we continue the study, Samaria is part of the Northern Kingdom. Jesus has a specific reason to preach in Samaria.
John 4:3-4 (NKJV) – 3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 But He needed to go through Samaria.
The words “but He needed” is a “must” go to Samaria. I think this is a prophetic mission and is part of finding the lost sheep or the other sheep. I think because Samaria is a significant place for the people of God in the time of Jacob
John 4:5 (NKJV) – 5 So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.
We will reserve the topic of the lost sheep in a separate article.
The Promise Is to You and Your Children
When Peter was speaking in front of the crowd during the Day of the Pentecost. “For the promise is to you and to your children“, applying the audience relevance we know Peter was speaking to crowds who are the Jews and proselyte Jews (converted to Jews) not the Jews and Gentile Christians.
Gentiles cannot be children of Jews because Jews considered Gentiles as not children of God and they are not allowed to associate with them. Peter mentioned this when he visited the first Gentile who is about to be converted to Christianity which happens after the Day of The Pentecost.
Acts 10:27-28 (NKJV) – 27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. 28 Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
Eventually Gentiles will be converted to Christianity. Some Jews also became believers of Christ and so they became Christians. Even when Jews are converted to Christianity, some still trying to apply the law of Moses and asking the Gentiles to follow the law. Romans chapter 2 was written by Paul to explain some differences between the Jew and the Gentile Christians. The point here is that the Gentiles cannot be called children of the Jews.
And To Those Who Are Afar Off
Who are referred to those are afar off? Certainly, not the Jews and not the proselyte Jews. The bible used language or words in a consistent usage. Usage of the words when they mean something else can be explained using Hermeneutic principle, the scriptures interpret scriptures but in a contextual sense not just using verse here and verse there even if the context are unrelated.
In the letter of Apostle Paul to Ephesus he describes them [Gentiles of Ephesus] as “once were far off” but have been brought near by the blood of Christ. They are once aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the promise. So now the Gentiles who are afar off received also the promise.
Ephesians 2:11-13 (NKJV) – 11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— 12 that at that time you 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 you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
The “you” in the preceding text refers to the audience of the letter of Paul, the Gentiles. Clearly at this point, the promise to those who are afar off is to the Gentiles at the time of the Apostle Paul and to all who will be converted to Christianity. Clearly also the “afar off” is not referring to those who will become members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo starting in 1914.
To disprove that the Gentiles are not from afar off place, is to disprove that Ephesians 2:13 is false. That is denying the bible is inspired by God.
Making More Sense Who Received the Promise from Afar Off
If you read the entire Ephesians chapter 2, you can understand the context better. Again, in Ephesians 2:17, Paul refers to the Gentiles of Ephesus again “you who were afar off”.
Ephesians 2:14-18 (NKJV) – 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
What else is interesting here is Paul is talking about creating one new man from the two. Who are the “two“? The Gentiles (people afar off) and the Jews (people who were near). What was abolished? it is the la of commandments in the Old Testament such as Gentiles are not required to be circumcised, they are not required to offer lamb, they are not required to go to Jerusalem the Jewish festivities and so on. If you know the history of Jerusalem temple, there is actually a wall between Jews (Israel) and the Gentiles so the wall of separation is also literally referring to the wall in the temple but symbolically refers to the Jewish laws.
Other Proof of Two Groups
Ephesians 2:11 (NKJV) – 11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands
Romans 1:16 (NKJV) – 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
Romans 9:24 (NKJV) – 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
Colossians 3:11 (NKJV) – 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.
Galatians 3:28 (NKJV) – 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Acts 2:39 refers to
1) to you – Jews and proselytes
2) to your children – Children of the audience, the Jews and the proselytes
3) to all who are a far off – The Gentiles which includes believing Christians from the first century to our time.
John 10:16 refers to
1) In the fold – Jews who became believers of Christ
2) Not in the fold – Lost tribes of Israel and the Gentiles who will be called from afar off
Not all Jews have the promise, only those who believed in our Lord Jesus Christ. That is why many of them died during the war of 70 A.D. when Jerusalem Temple was destroyed as prophesied by Christ in Matthew 24:2.