Scott Lencke has a good post up on why he doesn’t believe we should believe the popular idea that the church was born at Pentecost (Acts 2). Scott lays out some very good reasons why we should see God’s people through the lens of continuity rather than trying to divide Israel and the Church up. You’d do well to check out Scott’s thoughts.
In the charismatic world, I think you find a lot of preaching that tends to force very sharp distinctions between the Old Testament’s Israel and the New Testament’s Church. It’s common to hear things about people in the OT being saved by their works and people in the NT being saved by faith (I’ve blogged before why I totally disagree with that). There’s also a lot of preaching that tends to connects Acts 2 to the birth of God’s people, the Church, while almost completely ignoring God’s previous work in Israel. It’s almost as if some of the preaching I have heard reduces the Holy Spirit as being absent until Acts 2. This makes for some good “Pentecostal” preaching because you can then emphasize that the things that happened in Acts 2 can happen today, so get ready for Spirit baptism (at least that’s how these types of sermons come across).
I’m convinced that the influence of Classic Dispensationalism is far reaching, especially within Pentecostal/Charismatic circles. You find that in the common eschatological position that most Pentecostals and Charismatics hold (Dispensational Premillennialism). So it makes sense, given the dispensational influence, why there’s often a emphasis on discontinuity rather than continuity concerning God’s people, both Israel and the Church.
Undergirding Scott’s very fine blog, I’d also add the following texts as being extremely important to the topic: What Jesus says in John 10:16 and Paul’s unifying point in Ephesians 2:11-3:13.
“And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16)
Commentators are unanimous about this text clearly giving Jesus’ thoughts concerning his goal of bringing together the two groups of sheep, those of Israel and those outside (Gentiles). Responding to the voice of the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4), there is one flock, not two. Case closed.
“This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Eph. 3:6)
Paul’s point in the context of the passage is that God has brought together that which was once far off, both God and man and Israel with Gentiles. In fact, God has created one new man. The Gentiles are members of the same body. Case closed.
The assembly of God’s people did not begin at Pentecost in Acts 2. God simply continued the plan he had progressively revealed over the course of redemptive history. That’s why Peter connects the phenomena in Acts 2 with the prophecy of Joel 2:28-31.