Sunday, July 3, 2022

Romans 14: One Lord, One Strong, One Weak



A Paper

Presented to

the Department of Biblical Studies & Christian Ministry

College of Arts & Sciences

Regent University


In Partial Fulfillment

of the Requirements for the degree

Biblical and Theological Studies



John C. Carroll 

Research Paper

Exegetical Section

Romans 14:1-12

            Romans 14:1-12 is propositional literature where Paul argued for the unity of believers. There are two categories of believers that Paul had in mind when writing this section of Romans: weak and strong. Another way to view this section of Pauline literature is in terms of love and liberty.[1] The emphasis of this text is, “Both weak and strong Christians at Rome are accepted in Christ, and therefore they should accept one another.”[2] There is liberty in Christ for believers to live at different levels of their faith. Not all believers will grow in faith and grace at the same pace. Consequently, there will be differences in practice between believers in non-essential categories. Paul’s argument here is that those differences should not divide us from love and fellowship. 

Romans 14:1

Paul immediately referred to the “weak” in this section (14:1). However, he did not mention the “strong” until Romans 15:1. While Romans 15:1 is not in the immediate context under consideration, it is still in the context of the topic of our selected verses. Scholarly commentaries often make Romans 14:1-15:13 a single section.[3] Therefore, Paul’s use of “strong” in Romans 15:1 is the contrast to Paul’s use of weak in Romans 14:1. 


Romans 14:1 set the tone perfectly for this entire section of verses: “As for the one who is weak in faith, receive him, but not to quarrel over opinions” (Rom. 14:1, [English Standard Version]). The first verse summarizes everything that Paul wrote throughout the remainder of the verses under immediate consideration as well as the larger section. It is about the strong and the weak accepting one another in Christ. 

It is not certain who the strong and weak believers are. There are at least six different possibilities for who the weak and strong are.[4] For the present section, that is unimportant. What is important is Paul message of mutual acceptance in Christ. Paul exhorted the Romans to “welcome” the one who is “weak in faith” (Rom. 14:1). The Romans were not just to welcome the weak, they were to welcome them for the right reasons. “Paul’s admonition not to welcome the weak for the ‘purpose of quarreling about opinions’ suggests that the gatherings of certain believers were becoming the occasion for the strong to dispute with the weak about what faith in Christ allowed.”[5] It was important that the gathering of believers for worship would remain a fellowship and not become a battleship. 

Romans 14:2

            Paul provided some clarity as to what he meant by weak faith. He means weak faith regarding what one may eat. One side thinks that he may eat anything, and the other side thinks that only vegetables are permissible. “The person who believes that he can eat anything

represents the strong, while the one who eats only vegetables represents the

weak.”[6]  The weakness in faith is about what one may or may not eat, not necessarily weakness in faith concerning Christ.[7]

Romans 14:3

            The one whose faith is strong enough to eat meat should not despise the one who abstains, and the one who abstains should not judge the one who eats. What they are not despise and judge one another concerning is eating meats and vegetables. The strong have the tendency to look down on the weak, and the weak have the tendency to judge the strong. Sometimes the strong look at the weak as less spiritual, and sometimes the weak look at the strong as less holy.[8]And Paul was arguing that they should not do that. 

Romans 14:4

            Neither the strong nor the weak have the right judge the other. Both are servants, and neither is the other’s master. One does not have the authority to judge one over whom he is not the master. They are both servants. The term servant isοἰκέτης and is literally a “household slave.”[9] Both servant stands before his own κύριος. In the context, God is the one master before whom both servants stand. And God will uphold both of his servants. 

Romans 14:5

            One person versus another person is a contrast between the weak person and the strong person. In keeping with the weak versus strong context, it is the weak who esteems one day above another and the strong that esteems all days alike.[10] Furthermore, it is important to note that the “one person” and “another” person are both house servants to the same Lord. They are both insiders. It is not a matter of one being in and the other being out.

            Even though they disagree, each one should be “fully convinced” in “his own mind.” There are two points here that are important. Whatever position one holds, they should be “fully convinced” of it. And they should be convinced their “own mind.” They should not be forced to live in subjection to the persuasion in the mind of another. If the Lord of the house permits a range of different views, then he wants his servant to have a mind of their own. 

Romans 14:6

Both the observer and the abstainer honor the Lord. The Lord receives honor from both the observation and abstention of the day. Both activities are honorable. Every servant does not have to hold the same view or perform the same services to honor their Lord. It is to the glory of the Lord that He can receive honor from opposite practices on a single issue. The greater issue for the Lord of both servant is not whether they choose to observe or abstain, but their thankfulness toward their Lord. 

Romans 14:7-9

            Without context, one may be tempted to become altruistic in this verse. One might expect Paul to follow up with how we are to live for others, but that is not what he did.[11] He goes on to say that servants live and die unto the Lord, and not to fellow servants who may wish to judge them.[12] To continue the image of the servants of the house from earlier, one lives ultimately for the pleasure of the Lord of the house and not the servants of the house. 

Romans 14:10

            Paul asked a powerful question based on the above conclusion: If one lives and dies to his Lord and not to other servants, then why do we pass judgment on our brothers. We are fellow servants and not the Lord of the house. Only the Lord of the house has the authority to judge the servants in the house. 

Romans 14:11

            Now the Lord of the house speaks for himself: “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” This is a citation from Isaiah 45:23. Therefore, this is not just Paul’s opinion about to whom the servants are accountable, or who should be judging the servants; it is the Lord’s opinion. The Lord made it clear that He and He alone will judge His servants. 

Romans 14:12

The conclusion of the Lord of the house motif is that we will all give an account of ourselves to God. We should not be worrying about what the other brother/servant is doing; we should focus on our own relationship with the Lord. When I stand before him, I can only account for my actions. The Lord will not hear my criticisms of his other servants. 

Theological Section 

Exegetical Summary

            Romans 14:1-12 is a powerful text demonstrating unity in diversity. There is room in the body of Christ for differences of opinion and practice. One reason that diversity of opinion and practice is permissible in body of Christ is because not all believers are at the same level of conscience and faith.  Some believers are weak in faith (Rom. 14:1), and some believers are strong (Rom. 15:1). Even though they have different levels of faith, they are both brothers in Christ. The weak and strong need to act charitably toward one another. 

Schools of Thought 

            There are differences of opinions among scholars as to what the weaker brother refers. As with most texts, there is no universal consensus in this topic. According to Pate, Moo offers six possibilities for who the weak brother is:[13]

1.     The “weak” were mainly Gentile Christians who abstained from meat (and perhaps wine), particularly on certain “fast” days, under the influence of certain pagan religions.[14]

2.     The “weak” were Christians, perhaps both Jewish and Gentile, who practiced an ascetic lifestyle for reasons that we cannot determine.[15]

3.     The “weak” were mainly Jewish Christians who observed certain practices derived from the Mosaic Law out of a concern to establish righteousness before God.[16]

4.     The “weak” were mainly Jewish Christians who followed a sectarian ascetic program as a means of expressing their piety. This program may have been the product of syncretistic tendencies.[17]

5.     The “weak” were mainly Jewish Christians who, like some of the Corinthians, believed that it was wrong to eat meat that was sold in the marketplace and probably was tainted by idolatry.[18]

6.     The “weak” were mainly Jewish Christians who refrained from certain kinds of food and observed certain days out of continuing loyalty to the Mosaic Law.[19]

There are theologians that hold to at least one of those views. Moo, Cranfield, and Pate hold to view number 6.[20] There may be merit to most of the views expressed above, but there was a view that the author intended. There is not enough space to make an argument for each of the views, but I will make the case for my view in the next. 

My View 

            The view presented in this paper will affirm the sixth view from the above list. Pate recapitulated Moo’s four reasons for choosing option six. First, the weak in faith and the strong parallels the differences to Jew and Gentile.[21]“Second, a Jewish origin of the position of the weak can clearly be seen in the term koinos (“unclean” [14:14]), which had become a semitechnical way of proscribing certain foods under the Mosaic law (see Mark 7:2, 5; Acts 10:14).”[22]Furthermore, this is the way we are to understand abstention from meat and wine, and participation in holy days.[23]These points challenge the validity of options 1, 2, and 4.[24]

            Third, Paul’s insistence that the weak and strong accept one another demonstrated that the weak were not teaching anti-gospel views like the Judaizers thus refuting option 3.[25] Fourth, the lack of mention of “food sacrificed to idols” is against option 5. Therefore, that leaves option 6 as the best option. The weak in faith were Jews who still felt an obligation to the law, and the strong in faith were Gentiles who felt no obligation to the law because they knew that law ended at the cross.[26]

Cultural Analysis and Application 

            There are many ways in which the culture can benefit from a Christian community that lives out the message of the gospel in practical ways. While the specific details about the first century and the twenty-first century may differ, the big picture of a sinful culture and an imperfect church remain the same. That is why the principles and doctrines of the New Testament remain relevant. When dealing with humanity, there are things about our nature that will always remain true. Humanity will always be fallen. Humanity will always have a tendency toward works-based salvation regardless of the religion. Finally, humanity will always have to fight to resist the temptation to condemn others who do not hold their particular religious practices. 

The issue of weak and strong Christians as it relates to the secular and church cultures around us is still a major issue. In the day-to-day life of a Christian, there are many ways in which the principles from this text are applicable. We must understand that our brothers and sisters in Christ can stand at radically different places in faith than we do and still be a true Christian. We need maturity to walk in charity towards fellow Christians who are not on the same level of faith as we are. There are many secondary issues with which Christians must deal that will test our love for one another. The principles of the weak brother versus the strong brother is not about the essentials of the gospel; there is no room to move on that. The sinfulness of man, the holiness of God, the incarnation, the death burial and resurrection, and the deity of Christ are non-negotiable. Issues like eschatology, ecclesiology, and many other practices should not cause division among true believers. 

In the certain corners of modern Christianity, we fight over things that do not affect the gospel. It is no different now than in the first century. Some condemn others over facial hair on men, pants on women, television, holidays (Christmas, Easter, etc.), the timing of the second coming, women preachers, jewelry, wine or grape juice for communion, and so many other issues. Today’s church continues to need the message of Romans 14:19: “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” Adam Solorio made a powerful observation on this topic: “Disfellowshipping over petty issues is the luxury of an affluent church. If we were a persecuted church, then we would not be dividing over nearly as many things as we do.”[27] Perhaps, he was right. If our survival depended on other believers, then we would probably expand our definition of what true believers are.  

God is going to bring together all His people into perfect oneness (Eph. 4:11-16). God is at work on both ends and in the middle to bring together all the belong to Him. He has members of His elect in most denominations in Christianity and is going to bring them all together. God will accomplish this without compromise of the gospel. He will challenge the minds and change the thinking of those who belong to Him until we gravitate to one another by His leading. I believe that there are great things in store for the church. God is producing a church that will walk in charity to the so that the weak and strong may co-exist peacefully under the banner of the gospel. 


From the time of the New Testament there has been conflict in the body of Christ. Even the apostle’s had disagreements among themselves (Gal. 2:11-13). While that may be uncomfortable to some, it ought to be source of comfort and reassurance. The message is that we do not have to be perfect to be accepted. There is room to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (II Peter 3:18). If the first believers had issues, then we will as well. Life in the church will always include internal struggle, but God uses it for His glory. There have always been differences within the Christian community and there always will be. But when we understand that those with whom we have disagreements are also members of Christ’s body, then we can live out the gospel in an incarnational way. 



Matera, Frank J. Romans. Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament. eds. Mikeal C. Parsons and Charles H. Talbert. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010.

Moo, Douglas. The Epistle to the Romans. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. eds. Ned B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996. 

Morris, Leon. The Epistle to the Romans. ed. D.A. Carson. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988.  

Pate, Marvin C. Romans. Teach the Text Commentary Series. eds. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2013.



[1] Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, ed. D.A. Carson (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), 455, PDF. 


[2] C. Marvin Pate, Romans, Teach the Text Commentary Series, eds. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2013), 409, PDF. 


[3] Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, ed. D.A. Carson (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), 455, PDF; Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, eds. Ned B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), 848, PDF. 


[4] Pate, Romans, 410-11.


[5] Frank J. Matera, Romans, Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament, eds. Mikeal C. Parsons and Charles H. Talbert (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010), 311, PDF. 


[6] Ibid. 


[7] Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, 457. 


[8] Ibid., 459. 


[9] Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 848.



[10] Matera, Romans, 312.


[11] Ibid., 313. 


[12] Moo, The Epislte to the Romans, 866. 

[13] C. Marvin Pate, Romans, Teach the Text Commentary Series, eds. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2013). 410-11, PDF. 


[14] Ibid.


[15] Ibid. 


[16] Ibid. 


[17] Ibid. 


[18] Ibid. 


[19] Ibid. 


[20] Ibid., 411.  


[21] Ibid., 411-2. 


[22] Ibid., 412


[23] Ibid., 412.


[24] Ibid. 


[25] Ibid. 


[26] Ibid. 

[27] Adam Solorio, verbal communication with John C. Carroll, 2018. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

The Teacher and His Tongue



A Paper
Presented to
the Department of Biblical Studies & Christian Ministry College of Arts & Sciences
Regent University 

In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the degree
Bachelor of Biblical and Theological Studies

John C. Carroll 
August 2021


The Teacher and His Tongue


            Every Christian has sinned with their tongue, and most have experienced the consequences of someone else sinning with their tongue. We are more acutely aware of the tongue’s tremendous potential for evil when we are on the receiving end of the tongue’s destruction. Consequently, every Christian needs to submit to the Spirit’s bridle on our tongue. Because of the tongue’s potential power, there is a specific category of persons that must have a controlled tongue; they are teachers. As spiritual leaders, teachers of the Word must maintain greater control of their tongues than other Christians. 

Exegeting James 3:1-7

            How does our theme text fit into the overall theme of the book of James? To determine that, one must determine what the overall theme of the book of James is. “James is interested primarily in practical Christianity.”[1] When it came to Christian ethics, James saw them through the lens of the Shema: love God and love people.[2] James’ practical theology connecting loving God (Shema) to loving people is clear in James 2:14-26. If one’s love for the one God does not cause them to love their neighbor, then their faith is no better than the demons (Jas 2:19). 

            Our project text from James 3:1-17 fits perfectly in the theme of practical theology.  Works from chapter two, and words in chapter three are loosely connected.[3] Our words will be one of the ways that God judges us in the eschaton (Matt 12:37).[4] If we love both God and neighbor, then we will not sin against them with our tongue. James 3:1-7 reveals to us the importance of speech as it relates to others. James noted that “quarrels and conflicts” (4:1, [Legacy Standard Bible]) within the community of believers is an example of the tongue being out of control. Instead of fighting with one another, we should be speaking grace and life to one another. 

            While the principles discussed in the text for this paper are universal, they have a special relevance to theδιδάσκαλοι.[5]  The Greek word for teachers is, διδάσκαλος, and means, “instructor.”[6] The King James Version uses the term “masters” in James 3:1. However, every other translation that I have uses the term “teachers.” In our modern English, the term “teachers” more clearly reflects διδάσκαλοι than “masters” does. McCartney said that the teachers in this context might mean the specific teaching role within the five-fold ministry.[7] The teachers of Ephesians 4:11 are included in James 3:1, but are probably not the only kind of teachers meant. 

Because of James 3:1, one should read verses 1-7—and more—as having special instructions for preachers. As we will see, those who proclaim the Word have a tremendous responsibility to carry for their words. Consequently, they must be held accountable when they do not handle that responsibility correctly. The Jews recognized and warned against teachers leading people into error.[8] Knowing this, teachers should take instructions from James 3:1-7 seriously. 

            James wrote that when teachers abuse speech, they are judged more harshly than those who are not teachers (James 3:1). Why do teachers receive harsher punishment? “Since all verbal activity is potentially dangerous, teaching is especially so, for the teaching of error has the potential not only to destroy the teacher, but also to harm the students.”[9]Peter told his readers that false teachers would bring in “destructive heresies” (II Pet 2:1, [Legacy Standard Bible]). Jesus said that when Pharisees convert others with their teachings, they make them “twice as much a son of hell” as they are (Matt 23:15). As you can see, the destructive power of a teacher sinning with their words is in the fact that it destroys their soul. No wonder teachers carry greater responsibility and judgment for their words. 

            James made an interesting statement that “if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man” (Jas 3:2). The term “perfect” is τέλειος and refers to maturity rather than moral perfection.[10] The Bible in Basic Englishsays, “he is a complete man” (Jas 3:2). And the Contemporary English Version, says “you are mature” (Jas 3:2).  In regard to this verse, McCartney wrote, “One of the principal marks of maturity is self-discipline, and self-discipline with regard to one’s speech is rare. Hence, few should be teachers.”[11] No teacher will be perfect with his words. But teachers can be mature with how they speak. And part of mature speech is being willing to apologize on occasion if a teacher speaks angrily or violates some relatively small principle of godly speech. 

            James went on to talk about why it is important to control the tongue. Because the tongue is to the body what bridles and rudders are to horses and ships; they control what they do. James used metaphors here as linguistic tools to make a powerful analogy. The problem with the tongue is, “Where bridles and rudders ordinarily perform their designated function, the tongues prove rebellious.”[12] So, if the tongue is not under control, the rest of the body is not either. There is a particular significance to this truth as it relates to teachers of the Word. If they cannot control their tongue, then there will likely be other areas of their lives that are out of control as well.

            Why does it matter if a teacher does not control his life? Paul taught clearly that there were qualifications for bishops and deacons (1 Tim 3:1-6; Titus 1:5-9). James states that the inability to control the tongue reflected the inability to control other areas of a teacher’s life that determine whether or not he is qualified for ministry. Often, when a preacher is out of control with his language, time will reveal a lack of control in another important area of his life. Teachers, as well as everyone else, should be “quick to hear, slow to speak” (Jas 1:19, [Legacy Standard Version]).

            When a preacher’s tongue is not under control, it will inevitably create a firestorm. James says that the tongue is a tiny fire that can burn down a large forest (Jas 3:5-6). There are so many ways that preacher’s tongues can start a fire that they cannot put out. They can say something inappropriate to the opposite sex. They can communicate confidential information that people told them in private counseling to other people who should not know it. They can overreact in anger to difficult situations that cause people to lose confidence in their ability to lead. They can become angry and bitter on social media. Teachers of God’s words must be the first ones to sanctify their own words. If they do not, then people will become so distracted by the teacher’s words and will not be able to receive God’s words. 


            James is a book about practical theology. The author wants us to realize that faith in the one true God must manifest as good works, or it is of no value at all. One of the ways that James said we are to show good works is with our speech. While everyone should watch what they say, there is a particular responsibility on teachers of the Word. What teachers of the Word say can cause eternal damage to their souls.  Because the consequences for what they say are so much greater, so is the punishment for when they use words to destroy. Therefore, preachers and teachers of the Word of God must diligently guard their mouths. 


McCartney, Dan G. James. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, edited by Robert Yarbrough and Robert H. Stein. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009.

McKnight, Scot. The Letter of James. The New International Commentary on the New Testament, edited by Ned B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2011.

Keener, Craig. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, 2nd edition. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2014. 

Moo, Douglas. The Letter of James, The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000. 

Pheme Perkins, “Tongue on Fire: Ethics of Speech in James.” Interpretation, vol. 74, no. 4 (2020): 369.

Strong, James H. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. e-Sword HD, v11.0. Retrieved August 13, 2021,



[1] Dan G. McCartney, James, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, edited by Robert Yarbrough and Robert H. Stein (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), 3, PDF.


[2] Scot McKnight, The Letter of James, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, edited by Ned B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2011), 6, PDF. 


[3] Douglas Moo, The Letter of James, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000), 147. 


[4] Ibid. 


[5] McKnight, The Letter of James, 266-7


[6] James H. Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, e-Sword HD, v11.0. Retrieved August 13, 2021,


[7] McCartney, James, 179. 


[8] Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, 2nd edition (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2014), 677, PDF. 


[9] McCartney, James, 179. 


[10] Ibid, 180. 


[11] Ibid. 


[12] Pheme Perkins, “Tongue on Fire: Ethics of Speech in James.” Interpretation, vol. 74, no. 4 (2020): 369. 

Thursday, March 4, 2021

The Role of Visions in Acts

 The Role of Visions in Acts


            The critical text from Acts for this paper is Acts 2:14-18. The focus will be on the relationship of visions to the outpouring of the Spirit on all people. In the book of Acts, God used visions to facilitate the Spirit’s mission. Since Acts 2:17 makes dreams and visions part of the Spirit's work, it is important to look at the part that visions played in the book of Acts. By examining the texts in the book of Acts, one will see the interaction between the visions and evangelism. Therefore, the primary role of visions in the book of Acts was to facilitate the evangelization of all nations. 

Understanding Acts 2:14-18

The Relationship to Overall Flow of Acts

Peter’s application of Joel’s prophecy to the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost is central to the flow of Acts. Joel said that God would pour out His Spirit on “all people” (Acts 2:17, [New International Version]). Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would empower “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The language in Acts 1:8 includes all people from the ethnic and geographical perspectives and provides a chronological outline for the Spirit’s inclusion of all people.[1] Therefore, Acts 2:14-18 is in the strongest current of the flow of the book of Acts. 

         Now the obligation is to connect the function of visions to the expanse of the Spirit to the ends of the earth. To do that, one must examine the occurrences of visions in the book of Acts to see what the purposes of those visions were. The term ὅραμα appears 12 times and only in the book of Acts in this form. The plural form, ὅρασις, is only used once in the book of Acts (2:17), but it is used four other places in the book of Acts (Rev 4:3 (2), Rev 9:17). Taking a look at those occurrences in the book of Acts, brings into focus a clear picture of how the Holy Spirit intended to use visions in the context of the Spirit being poured out on all people. 

How Did Peter’s Audience Understand Visions?

            Peter’s Jewish audience would have understood dreams and visions through the experience of holy people in the Old Testament. That would have been their only theological frame of reference. There were notable dreams and visions in the Old Testament. God revealed His will to Joseph in dreams (Gen 37:5, 9). God revealed things to Daniel in visions (Dan 7:2). Therefore, they would have understood that dreams and visions were means by which God gave supernatural revelation. What they may not have understood is the content of the revelation that God would give through visions in the context of the Holy Spirit’s missiological purpose in Acts. Rather than revealing future events, the visions were going to be revelations for supernatural evangelism. 

            The lexical definition of visions.  Visions carry the idea of seeing something with the eye. However, in the context of Acts 2:17, it has the added implication of “vision in a transcendent mode.”[2] Visions in the supernatural sense of Acts 2:17 are to see something spiritually but just as real as if one saw something naturally (Acts 10:3). `

            The Lexical definition of dreams. Dreams mean “to have visions in dreams Ac 2:17.”[3] Based on the language here, spiritual dreams are not that much different that spiritual visions. In the case of dreams, they are a place where visions occur.

One might ask, why emphasize just the term vision(s) when Peter mentioned dreams as well? The terms ἐνυπνιάζομαι and ἐνύπνιον appear only in this verse in Acts. Based on those words, there is no data to examine throughout the rest of the book of Acts. However, Barrett wrote, “Seeing visions and dreaming dreams are in synonymous rather than antithetical parallelism: young and old (the order in Joel reversed) alike will receive supernatural revelations.”[4]Therefore, the use of vision(s) will be used as inclusive of both terms. If we understand Acts 2:17 as synonymous parallelism and understand dreams as a place where visions can occur, that would explain why the term dreams does not reappear in Acts.

Why Visions?

Visions Are to Facilitate and All Flesh Outpouring 

            Peter applied Joel 2:28-32 to the events on the Day of Pentecost. “Peter regards Joel’s prophecy as applying to the last days, and claims that his hearers are not living in the last days. God’s final act of salvation has begun.”[5] The salvation through the Spirit that Yahweh promised would come, and “the evidence will be seen in prophecy and visions.”[6] While prophecies are an important part of the equation, the emphasis here will be on visions. The question is, what role did visions play in facilitating the expanse of the spirit on all flesh?

            Visions and geography. As we pointed out earlier, “the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8), and “all people” (Acts 2:17) refer to the same thing. One must also consider Acts 1:8 and 2:17 as the continuation of the language of Luke 24:47.[7]There is a debate among scholars as to what “the ends of the earth” refers. One view is that Rome was very important to the Lukan narrative in Acts and is the end of the earth in a representative way.[8] In other words, it marks the beginning of the ends of the earth. It was the gateway that brought the gospel to the United States of America.

            Geography was implied in the vision in Acts 9. The Lord told Ananias that Saul would preach to the people of Israel (Jerusalem, 9:13) and to the Gentiles. Gentile geography was implied necessarily along with Gentile ethnicity. But if Acts 9 is not clear enough of a text to connect vision and geography, Act s16 is. In a vision, a man from Macedonia appeared to Paul and asked him to come help (Acts 16:9). Through a vision, the Spirit of Jesus told Paul and company where to go preach. 

Visions and ἔθνος. Not only did God use visions to expand the kingdom of God geographically, but He also used visions to specify his intentions to include gentiles in the New Covenant. God named Gentiles in the vision about Paul in Acts 9. But the ultimate Gentile vision occurs in Acts 10. Cornelius, an uncircumcised Gentile, saw a vision of an angel clearly about three in the afternoon (Acts 10:3). The angel told Cornelius where to find Peter. Then on the other end, God began to work on Peter by showing him the same vision of unclean beast three times. Peter finally came to realize through a supernatural series of events that the vision meant that God wanted Gentiles to be saved (Acts 10:27-28, 34). Without Peter having the vision, the kingdom’s expansion to the uncircumcised would likely not have happened. 

Visions and gender. The Pentecostal promise “is gender inclusive: your sons and your daughters (2:17); servants—both male and female (2:18).”[9] And there is a connection to visions and the role of women in the advance of an all flesh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Acts 16 describes the advance of the kingdom into new territory where women were the catalyst of the revival.  Although, it was a man in the vision that ask for help in Philippi, Macedonia (Acts 16:9), it was a women’s prayer meeting and a woman named Lydia that were the first converts (Acts 16:13-15). And when Paul and Silas got out of prison, they headed straight to Lydia’s house where the brothers and sisters were (Acts 16:40). Why did Paul and Silas not meet the believers at the jailer’s house? Why were the believers gathered at Lydia’s house? This seems to indicate that Lydia was a prominent figure in the early days of the Philippian church. 

Visions and the Contemporary Church

            What does what the book of Acts have to say about visions have to do with the contemporary church? Does the Holy Spirit intend to actively work through today’s church by giving them visions to produce supernatural evangelism? Indeed, He does. The Holy Spirit still desires to be actively involved in His evangelistic mission in the world. Today’s church should be so Spirit-led that God could direct us supernaturally through visions. The Spirit wants to become personally involved in the Church’s evangelistic efforts. After all, evangelism is the Missio Dei, not the mission of the Church. It is the job of the church to join together with the Spirit’s mission. And how marvelous would it be if visions, as they were intended in Acts, became more active in the church? The culture and society may get to the point where the church requires the Spirit’s active participation in this way. 

            Because the Spirit used visions as His means of directing conversion and evangelism, the church should limit the way it uses the term vision. One certainly should not be using visions as a means to get people to donate to their ministries. Pastors and other religious leaders should not use visions as a means of producing fear in Christians so that they can control. These and other abuses of vision are certainly at work in the contemporary church. Less abuse would occur if Charismatics were more careful about putting biblical parameters on our language and practices. 


            While visions were not the only means by which the gospel spread to the ends of the earth, it was certainly one of the powerful means. The visions that occurred in the book of Acts were missiological. The church needs to reclaim the biblical language and purpose of visions. A careful look at the book of Acts would clarify our vision for the Spirit’s mission to indwell all flesh. The church’s effectiveness depends on the supernatural participation of the Holy Spirit. We cannot do the Spirit's work alone. He must aid us with all of His gifts. In cultures that are increasingly hostile against the church, we need supernatural evangelism in the form of missiological visions. 



Arndt, William F., F. Wilbur Gingrich, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.


Barrett, C. K. Acts 1-14. vol. 1. The International Critical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Edinburg, T&T Clark, 1994.


Fernando, Ajith. The NIV Commentary: Acts. Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1998. 


Marshall, I Howard. Acts: An Introduction and Commentary. vol. 5. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IVP Academics, 1980. 


Moore, Thomas. “‘To the Ends of the Earth’: The Geographical and Ethnic Universalism of Acts 1:8 in Light Isaianic Influence on Luke.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40, no. 3 (1997). 389-99.


Parsons, Mikeal C. Acts. Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008. 

[1] Ajith Fernando, The NIV Application Commentary Series: Acts, (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1998), 52. 


[2] William F. Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 718-9.


[3] Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon, 342.


[4] C. K. Barrett, Acts 1-14, vol. 1, The International Critical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments (Edinburg: T&T Clark, 1994), PDF, 137. 


[5] I. Howard Marshal, Acts: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 5, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IVP Academics, 1980), 77.


[6] Ibid., 78. 


[7] Thomas Moore, “‘To the Ends of the Earth’: The Geographical and Ethnic Universalism of Acts 1:8 in Light Isaianic Influence on Luke,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40, no. 3 (1997), 396.


[8] Ibid., 396-7. 


[9] Mikeal C. Parsons, Acts, Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), PDF, 42.