In order to answer some charges that are leveled against us concerning the disciples and Pentecost, we herein give a brief account of our position, one we believe to be true to the Bible. It is also the position of John Wesley and many other early Church fathers. That the disciples were saved before Pentecost, we have no doubt! Further, we believe that if they had died before Pentecost, they would have gone to heaven. This is a much stronger position than some holiness preachers believe since they say that it is a second work or the second death.
The question arises: Did they have gospel regeneration or gospel faith? Gospel faith is to believe with the heart that God raised Jesus from the dead. This the disciples did not have (Romans 10:9)! It is also very clear to anyone who reads the epistles that all who have this faith are indwelt by the Holy Spirit! This the disciples did not have for the Bible says that he that believeth on the Son hath the witness in himself (1 John 5:10).
Anyone who reads the Gospels as well as other parts of the Scriptures will see that the terms "baptism with the Spirit," "being endued," "coming upon," "receiving," and being "filled with the Spirit" are all terms meaning the same experience. Now the Bible clearly teaches that all Christians have this if they are true believers (Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 1:13). Pentecost was the beginning of the new covenant which was promised. The disciples were not in that covenant until the Spirit came at Pentecost.
While they were with Christ on earth, they had faith enough to leave their nets and follow Him, yet they did not believe in Christ's atonement. Before His resurrection they had not witness of the Spirit (John 14:20). "And they all forsook him and fled"(Mark 14:50). This is not New Testament regeneration!
All believers under the old covenant were justified according to that dispensation, but did not have gospel saving faith. One of the weakness of the modern holiness doctrine is that they do not make clear the truth that the Holy Ghost comes into every heart that is truly saved and gives power over sin, witnessing to their hearts and leading them in the ways of righteousness and truth.
The baptism with the Spirit and the baptism with water are closely connected. John the Baptist made it clear that his baptism was not sufficient, but that Christ must baptize them with the Holy Ghost. The baptism with water signifies the visible body of Christ by this sign; even so, the baptism with the Holy Spirit brings one into the invisible body of Christ. Adam Clarke, in his notes on John 3, clearly stated that if Christ has not baptized one with the Holy Ghost, he is not a Christian. This, he says, shows the difference between the Jewish and the Christian dispensations. If one taught that the baptism with the Spirit is a second work of grace, something Wesley, Clarke, Fletcher, Asbury, and other Church fathers never taught, he should not give water baptism until the second work.
Wesley said, "All true believers are baptized with the Holy Ghost" (see Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament on Acts 1:5). The new birth is initiated by this. While the new birth does not destroy all inbred sin, it does give one victory over it and implants holiness in the heart. We further contend and believe in a second crisis or work of the Holy Ghost where the holiness which was begun in regeneration can be perfected in entire sanctification. This is not receiving the Holy Ghost, which all believers have, but rather the completion of regeneration.
The book of Acts clearly teaches that Cornelius, as well as others, received the Spirit when they were evangelically converted (Acts 11:14-18) and that it was what the disciples received at Pentecost. The Word clearly points out that they were granted repentance unto life (Acts 11:18). Had they already been in the experience of New Testament salvation, this could not have been true. Had they already been saved, they would have already received New Testament water baptism, for this was done as soon as they became believers. Peter would not have preached the remission of sins to them (Acts 10:42-46; see Wesley's Noteson verse 43).
Let us teach that Jesus does forgive sins and sends the Holy Ghost into hearts of all truly saved, baptizing them into His body (1 Corinthians 12:13), implanting holiness within and leading them forth from victory to victory and once again revival fire will burn. The confused state of may holiness folk (so called), along with the strife and division, will no longer be as plentiful as it is now. The love of God will be shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given us (Romans 5:5).