Temptation, Rebuke, Repentance, & Forgiveness

Suffer the Children - Anthony van DyckWe’ve been spending a great deal of time discussing discernment matters and pointing out false teaching (and even some false teachers). While this is exceedingly important I don’t want to overlook the need for Christians to understand their call to forgive is just as strong as the call to repent. Today, let’s look at what Jesus taught concerning temptation, rebuke, repentance, and forgiveness.

In researching a couple of rather heavy blogs that are in the works, I came across a passage that really caught my attention and I thought it would be an excellent way to pause some of the other research for a bit. Our primary text will be short, but we will explore other texts to better understand how this passage works out in our day-to-day lives.

Luke 17:1-4 (ESV) | Temptations to Sin
1 And [Jesus] said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. 3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents,forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

This portion in Luke is part of a series of parables and lessons taught by Jesus beginning roughly in Luke 15. Before we dive into the individual elements of this text, I want to reference Matthew 18 for clarity on who the “one of these little ones” was.

Matthew 18:1-7 (ESV) | Who Is the Greatest?
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said,“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!

The two passages capture the same event, but in neither case do we have a verbatim account of all that Jesus said and did on that day (John 21:25 (ESV) “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”); rather, what we have in Scripture is that the Holy Spirit recalled in the minds of the writers and inspired them to record for our eternal benefit.

Temptation to Sin

Jesus makes absolutely clear here that temptations to sin are going to come. In Matthew, we see Jesus add that in-fact the temptations to sin are necessary. It was necessary even in Jesus’s case where we see that immediately following His baptism the Holy Spirit led Him into the wilderness to be tempted.

Matthew 4:1-3 (ESV) | The Temptation of Jesus
1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”…

Jesus faithfully resists the devil (the tempter) and remains free of sin. I bring this up because while Jesus clearly teaches that temptation is bound to come, and is in-fact necessary, the sin is not. Why is the temptation necessary? I believe the answer to that question can be found in the first and greatest commandment:

Matthew 22:36-38 (ESV) 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.

The temptation to sin, once faithfully resisted, becomes a demonstration of a love for the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Jesus is the only person who fulfilled the Law, to include the first and greatest commandment. He never wavered, He never faltered. In His perfection, He offered Himself as the Lamb of God, the ultimate sacrifice as payment for our sin. And in Him, by His Grace, a way was made for us to demonstrate our love for Him whenever we resist a temptation to sin. When we succumb to temptation and sin, then we are guilty of sin and must confess the sin and repent from it and ask for forgiveness in the Name of Jesus Christ.

Woe to the one…

The problem of sin is not limited to the one committing the sin. The one through whom the temptation to sin manifests itself bears extra responsibility. When Christ pronounces a “Woe” it’s no small matter.

Matthew 11:20-22 (ESV) | Woe to Unrepentant Cities
20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.

Tyre and Sidon will fare better on the day of judgment than Chorazin and Bethsaida… that is indeed a case for woe. Similarly, the one through whom temptation comes, causing one of the little ones to sin, is indeed woefully damned. The Sovereignty of God means that God’s Will shall be done in the earth, and He can use anyone, even those who don’t know Him to accomplish His will. We’ve seen that God used Balaam (an unbelieving practitioner of divination) to turn what would have been a curse against Israel into blessings, and we’ve also seen God bless and use King Cyrus to restore Israel and Jerusalem after the Exile into Babylon. However, Jesus makes clear that while temptation to sin will take place, the tempter is never doing the Will of God and bears a heavy burden of guilt. God does not compel men to tempt other men; rather, He knows the hearts of men and uses their actions and deeds to bring about His Will, and punishes those who reject God in the process. Balaam and Cyrus did not follow God, they continued in their sin and were rightfully judged by God. Jesus warns that it would be better to die than to be the cause for temptation for another believer’s sin. This thought is carried throughout the rest of the New Testament as we see time and time again the warnings against false teachers, false prophets, and doctrines of demons. We can see this concept fully in the Garden of Eden.

Genesis 3:9-13 (ESV) 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.

In the punishment that followed, none were spared. Woe to the tempter who causes the little ones to sin. Though all of Creation was fully mature, it was yet extremely young when Adam fell.

This past Monday, we looked at the problem of placing a stumbling block in front of our brethren. It didn’t fit in that topic, but I want to look at how Paul taught this concept in his letter to the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 8 (ESV) | Food Offered to Idols
8 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. 4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. 7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

Wow. So while we who are in Christ, built up in the knowledge of the Scriptures and Maturing in the faith know that since there are no other gods but the One True God, are free to eat any food without it being a sin if we willfully exercise that “right” in such a manner that causes a less mature Christian to stumble then we have now sinned against our brother and against Christ. For Christ died for the weaker brother in the same way that He died for us. Anchoring this in the Luke text, even if our actions in-and-of themselves are not sinful, if they are done to tempt another to sin, then we have sinned. In today’s culture, we may struggle a bit with connecting to the matter of food, but what about drink? How about in clothing or entertainment? Take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.

Rebuke, Repent, & Forgive

Let’s take a look at the closing portion of our text in Luke.

Luke 17:3-4 (ESV) 3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Now, today the warning, “Pay attention to yourselves”, seems to fit more as an end to verse 2 rather than the start of verse 3. But it could fit just as well at the end of verse 4. Jesus says very plainly that if your brother sins, rebuke him. That’s a command, a prescription, if you will. Rebuke him, out of love. The world would have you believe that a rebuke is the opposite of love. That is patently false. The only way a failure to rebuke sin could be a loving act is if there is no sin, or if there is no consequence for the sin. But we know that sin is clearly defined (the Law) and we know that no sin goes unpunished.

Romans 6:22-23 (ESV) 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Therefore, since we know that the wages of sin is death, we rebuke our brother who sins out of love for him and obedience to Christ. But the rebuke does not mark the limit of our responsibility. Jesus goes right on to say that if he repents, forgive him. Forgive him when he repents. He then says that if your brother sins against you (makes it personal) seven times a day and repents seven times, you must forgive him. While the Luke account records the commandment of Jesus, the Matthew 18 account sheds some light on what Jesus was addressing.

Matthew 18:21-35 (ESV) | The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.

Once again, we see Jesus flipping things around on us. At the start, Peter thought he was being generous in his guess at a 7 times a day limit for forgiving a brother who sins against us. In the end, Jesus not only declares that there be no such limit, but also stipulates that to the one who will not forgive, his own sin will not be forgiven. We know this to be a common theme since Jesus also taught of the connection between our receiving forgiveness in how we grant forgiveness when Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us”.

Conclusion

As we grow in God’s Word, we will undoubtedly be faced with many temptations. Temptations to sin, temptations to tempt others to sin, and temptations to despise rebuke for our sin. We will also be tempted to be unmerciful, unforgiving… essentially we will be tempted to walk according to the flesh. The truth of the parable of the unforgiving servant is that it is a daily thing for us. For our flesh isn’t just susceptible to sin, it craves it, for it is utterly depraved and fallen. Our flesh wages war against the Spirit. That is why it is so important that we remain in the Word and submit to the Spirit of God rather than our own flesh. We live in God’s Grace every day, and with that truth fully in mind, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to move us to forgive our brother from our hearts every time he repents, regardless of how often or how grievous we perceive his sin to be, for such a sin is minuscule when compared to the mercy and grace we have received from Jesus Christ on the cross.  But we must also not allow our freedom in Christ to become an occasion (or a snare, trap, stumbling block, temptation) for the young/weak in the faith to sin. Knowledge puffs up, but Love builds up.

2 Peter 1:5-8 (ESV)5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Amen. May the Lord bless you and keep you firmly in His will,
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Escape…Do not look back…lest you be swept away

This week my personal schedule got completely derailed and I allowed my Bible study time to suffer. It has been a mess. I thank God for His Mercy and Grace in giving me a loving, godly wife who reads me well and knows when to rebuke and when to encourage me.  Today, I’d like to share what has been rolling in my mind regarding the aftermath of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and what I think this points to for our understanding of repentance and the high cost of following Jesus Christ, or what it means to “be a Christian”.

Genesis 19:15-29 (ESV) 15 As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.” 16 But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. 17 And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” 18 And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords. 19 Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life. But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. 20 Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one?—and my life will be saved!” 21 He said to him, “Behold, I grant you this favor also, that I will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. 22 Escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.

23 The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar. 24 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. 26 But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. 27 And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28 And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace. 29 So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived.

The Bible does not go into great detail on the particulars of Lot’s wife turning into salt, anymore than it does on why she turned. The point of this passage isn’t Lot’s wife, it is about God’s wrath and about His salvation, for God spared Lot because He remembered Abraham, with whom He made His covenant. Jewish tradition (outside of the Bible) generally holds to the notion that Lot’s wife saw God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah and that is how she was turned into a pillar of salt, because no one can see God and live. Possible, but not worth spending a great deal of time on here because it isn’t explained fully in Scripture. In 2 Peter 2, the Apostle links the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the Flood during Noah’s time as examples of what is going to happen to the ungodly. Similarly, I believe the unique punishment of Lot’s wife also stands as an example. But of what? At face value, what we know is that all of them were commanded not to look back in their flight. I think there is a problem of unbelief or possibly a problem of unrepentance. Lot’s daughters were betrothed, but their would-be husbands thought Lot was joking, so they perished with the city. Lot was a righteous man (as attested to by the Apostle Peter), but his daughters would later conspire to do evil in the sight of God, thus becoming the mothers of the Moabites and the Ammonites. So, whether she doubted the word of the Lord regarding the destruction, and looked back out of disbelief, or she looked back because she couldn’t fully repent of that world, we don’t know. In researching another topic in the book of Luke, I came across another passage that always gave me pause to reflect:

Luke 9:57-62 (ESV) 57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus[a] said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Now, lets look at the greater context of Luke 9 and what happens next in Luke 10. Jesus has been prepping His disciples for His upcoming death, the need to take up their crosses and follow Him, and He was also transfigured before Peter, James, and John who heard the voice of God the Father in Heaven. These are troubling times, and the disciples aren’t really getting it yet. People are still wanting to follow Jesus, but they each are being held back by the cares of this life.  In the next portion of Scripture, Luke 10, we see Jesus sending out the 72 disciples, pronouncing woe to unrepentant cities, and wrapping up the chapter we see Jesus give a gentle rebuke to Martha over being distracted from the important things.

First, let us address the primary lesson of repentance. The call to repentance, is to turn away from sin. In Genesis 19, this was quite literal. They were to flee, run, and not to look back lest they get swept away in the destruction. Today, we face a destruction that is every bit as real, and impending as what Lot’s family faced, only it is more subtle. The wages of sin is death, and the Holiness and Justice of the Lord God is not superseded by His Love, it is reinforced by it. We are born dead in sin and trespasses (Eph 2) and looking back toward the world of sin from which we are told to flee is sin. Repenting of this sin, means turning away from looking back. The Israelites whom the Lord God delivered out of Egypt frequently committed this sin of turning back toward Egypt, even inviting the bondage of slavery so that they might save their own lives.

Numbers 14:1-4 (ESV) 1 Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”

Thankfully, Jesus Christ presented Himself as the atoning sacrifice for the sin of mankind. His blood paid the debt of sin, so that in Him we might be made free from the bondage of sin. There is forgiveness for sin, and we must die to our flesh daily, take up our cross, and follow Him without looking back.

A secondary lesson here is that you can’t plow a straight line by looking back. You can’t follow Jesus if you keep looking back toward the world, toward Sodom and Gomorrah. You can’t follow Jesus and try to manage all of the cares of this life on your own. We aren’t likely to face being literally turned into a pillar of salt, but if we are not careful we can become just as ineffective and distracted. Keep your eyes on Christ. Keep Him in your focus. This goes for the members of the Church, the Body of Christ, and for the Elders/Deacons/Pastors. Preach the Word of God. Keep Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh, as the central figure and focus of all of Scripture.

In closing, I’d like to take a moment to visit Matthew 6, at the promise we have from God that He will meet our needs and that He cares for us.

Matthew 6:25-34 (ESV) 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

The Apostle Paul gave this instruction to the church at Philip

Philippians 3:12-16 (ESV) 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Amen. May the Lord bless you and keep you,
In Him,
Jorge

God the Holy Spirit | His Gifts

doveWhile this post isn’t exactly a “part 4” of a series dedicated to the Person of God the Holy Spirit, I wasn’t comfortable concluding that series without taking the time to discuss the Gifts of God the Holy Spirit as laid out by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Corinth. Once again, I’d like to emphasize that I am not following any guides or commentaries in this series, this is simply how I read the Scriptures and what I feel is the simplest, most direct interpretation of the written Word. The following 2 statements of faith, however, must be accepted as fundamental truths for this discussion to have any real meaning:

  • The inerrancy of the Bible as the Word of God. In it we find that which God has revealed of Himself, His Nature, His Will, and His Love for us. While we cannot claim (nor should we) to know and explain everything about God (for we are only created beings) we can (and must) aim to know what He has given to us to know about Him, that which He has chosen to reveal about Himself by giving us His Word and His Spirit.
  • The Trinity. There is only One God. He exists eternally as 3 distinct persons, God the Father, God the Son Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit.

If this is your first visit to the blog and you feel you’d like to read the rest of the series, I encourage you to follow the links on the Welcome page. In this series, we’ve looked at the working of God the Holy Spirit filling men and women of faith throughout Scripture (Old and New Testaments). It was not an exhaustive look by any means, but I just wanted to present the case that being filled with God the Holy Spirit was not a completely new concept to the New Testament Jews. The only thing that changed in the New Covenant, is that Jesus promised to pour out the Holy Spirit onto all who believed and were baptized in His Name, not just select few as He did before the cross. We took a close look at how Luke highlighted the work of the person of God the Holy Spirit while working with God the Son Jesus Christ. An attentive reading of the book of Luke will show that Luke took great care to prepare us for what we would see in the Book of Acts. Finally, we looked at the fulfillment of the promise Jesus made to send God the Holy Spirit to those who believed and were baptized. We see the Holy Spirit empowering the early church. In our conclusion to Part 3, I was heavily burdened to draw attention to a crucial element of doctrine, the Gifts of God the Holy Spirit are of God, not of men.

Let us begin our study in 1 Corinthians 12:

1 Corinthians 12 (ESV)
1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

What an interesting way to open this topic, don’t you think? Remember that Paul is talking to Gentiles, so he needs to cover all of the bases. While they had already received the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and were believers and no doubt had the Scriptures taught to them, this is all still new. The Jews grew up honoring the Sabbath, keeping (or attempting to) the Law and studying the Prophets and the Psalms. We Gentiles did not (sadly, many of us whose testimony is that we grew up in the church, still fall woefully short of studying the Scriptures of even the lost Jews) thus we are exceedingly grateful for the Grace of God working through His Apostle Paul. Notice here that he begins by reminding them that when they were pagans they were led astray to mute idols. While the rational argument against the worship of mute idols, made by men is one Paul engages in frequently, he makes it clear here that this discussion is less on the idol, and more on what led them astray to the idols. No one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed”... is our first lesson here in Spiritual discernment. Paul is not interested in providing a completely lesson on identifying each evil spirit by which men might speak; rather, he’s clearly defining a means of identifying one who is speaking in the Spirit of God. But Paul isn’t just speaking of his own here. Let us look first to the Law

Deuteronomy 13:1-4 (ESV)  1 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says,‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.

I believe that Paul is explaining Spiritual Discernment in 1 Corinthians 12 as it was already laid out in the Law (Deu 13). Notice here that the test is not of whether the man is speaking of his own will (that test can be found in Deuteronomy 18:18-22); rather the Lord God is talking about a false prophet/dreamer whose sign or wonder comes to pass. If a sign or wonder comes to pass but the individual points to anyone other than God (the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit) the individual is a false prophet who is listening to unclean spirits, the spirit of error,or the doctrines of demons. Jesus also warned that we shouldn’t also be wary of false christs in Mark 13:21-22, “And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.” So, it is not enough for someone to just use the Name of Jesus Christ, if who they teach is not the real Jesus Christ, God the Son (Islam, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness, etc…). Let us continue in 1 Cor 12:

1 Corinthians 12:4-13 (ESV) 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as He wills. 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

I truly believe that the Apostle Paul is trying to make it absolutely clear that regardless of the manifestation of God the Holy Spirit, it is all empowered by Him as He wills. It is not about us, or even about the Apostles, it is all about God the Holy Spirit. We are all baptized in One Spirit and made to drink of One Spirit… God the Holy Spirit. There is only one God the Holy Spirit. Any manifestation that is not of God the Holy Spirit is either falsified by the flesh (illusion, deception, fraud, vanity,presumption) or of unclean spirits, more commonly known as demons (again, 1 John 4:1-4). I believe that a blanket prohibition on these manifestations serves as a prohibition on God the Holy Spirit working in these ways among His people. I’ll revisit this view later on, for now let us continue.

1 Corinthians 12:14-31 (ESV) 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.
And I will show you a still more excellent way.

What we see here is a discussion of a wide array of problems that can arise out of a selfish or self-centered misunderstanding of the Gifts of God the Holy Spirit. The very first lie Paul addresses here is the, “Since I don’t move in that way I must not really be a part of the Body of Christ” lie. How does this play out? I happens a lot in even the most biblical of Pentecostal/Charismatic churches. Many feel that since they do not speak in tongues or have not spoken a word of wisdom, knowledge, or prophecy that maybe they aren’t really in the Body of Christ, or worse, that they aren’t truly saved. This is a lie of the enemy. Paul immediately flips the coin and demonstrates the utter fallacy of telling someone else that since he is not manifesting the same Spiritual Gifts (gifts, not fruit) that somehow he isn’t really a member of the Body of Christ. Relying solely on a particular manifestation to determine his membership in the Body of Christ is insidious because it is not judging the fruit of the Spirit; rather, it is judging him by a Gift of God the Holy Spirit who chooses at His discretion how He will move in each individual. So, if you’ve decided that speaking in tongues is required proof of salvation, you are adding to the Scriptures, for no such determination can be found in Scripture. If you’ve decided that speaking in tongues was only for the Apostles, you’ve made the same error, for no such connection is in scripture. God the Holy Spirit determines His gifts. We are told to judge them by their fruit, and to test the spirit behind the person to see if they are of God the Holy Spirit.

That last statement is important. Paul began this discussion with discernment. Once it is clear that God the Holy Spirit is working, then he addressed the need to keep focused on the fact that regardless of the service or gift or manifestation, it is God who is working, not men. We also see that as a body of believers, not everyone will serve the same functions or even look the same, yet we are all part of the same body and necessary. It is not up to the body to decide who belongs or who serves which function, that is up to God. Thus far, we’ve been able to demonstrate bad theology regarding the Gifts of the Spirit, but now Paul wants to address the heart of the issue. I believe, that at the heart of what Paul is addressing here in Corinth, is a body of believers who have drifted in the faith away from the Greatest Commandments to comparing their spirituality based on the gifts of the spirit. What is that more excellent way? Love. 1 Corinthians 13 is devoted to the centrality of love as the foundation for the Law and the Prophets. If you’ve not read our discussion of Christian Relationships, I recommend doing so very soon. If you’ve never read 1 Cor 13, please take a few minutes to read through it now before continuing on to Ch 14.

Before we get into chapter 14, let’s at least acknowledge that of the Gifts of God the Holy Spirit, the most feared, mocked, maligned and faked, copied, counterfeited gifts are Prophecy and Tongues. Few have any problem with knowledge, wisdom, faith, or even healing (though I hear many who reject that God heals anymore). How interesting that Paul, by the guidance of God the Holy Spirit, dedicated the next chapter to these Gifts.

1 Corinthians 14 (ESV) 1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

With love as both the foundation AND the goal, we are told to earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that we may prophesy.  In Luke 11:13, Jesus tells us to ask God the Father for the Gift of the Holy Spirit. Based on what we’ve seen in chapter 12, we know that we are to look to God the Holy Spirit for these gifts. Why does Paul want everyone to speak in tongues? Does he want people to speak in foreign languages fluently without studying them? Well, that would be awesome, but that is not really the context he set up here. He has already established that he is talking about those who speak in tongues building up himself and speaking to God uttering the mysteries in the Spirit… for no one understands him. This isn’t the miraculous instant-Rosetta-Stone of languages we saw in Acts 2 that Paul is talking about here. Notice also that within this context, tongues with interpretation are equal to prophesy; tongues without interpretation is inferior to prophecy, since the church isn’t built up by tongues without interpretation the way it is with prophecy. Let us continue…

1 Corinthians 14:13-25 (ESV) 13 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue. 20 Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. 21 In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” 22 Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.

Another command, that those who speak in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. That, however, is up to God the Holy Spirit. So what does Paul do? He prays with his spirit and his mind also, he sings praises with his spirit and sings with his mind also. Notice, he doesn’t abandon speaking in a tongue that is unintelligible. He trusts that God the Holy Spirit who dwells in him is faithful and just to activate his spirit in prayer to God (not men), while Paul also praises God and prays to God in his mind. And he does this more than all of those to whom he is writing this letter. Settle that in your hearts, because we are about to shift gears a bit in verse 19. Nevertheless… while all of what he said is absolutely true, in church, he’d rather speak five words of instruction than 10,000 words that will only benefit him in prayer to God. The gathering of believers is not about catching up on your personal prayer time, it’s about building up the Body of Christ. Primarily through the reading of God’s Word, but also through the ministering of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit that are given for the Body of Christ. While his focus has shifted now to start thinking less about our individual moving in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Paul has not yet established any rules, he is merely highlighting the needs of the body are different from the needs of the individual members. As an Apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul does establish in his letters the order and structure of the church (Titus, 1 & 2 Timothy bear it out extensively), but in the interest of time now I want to stay focused on the order of service as far as Tongues and Prophecy are concerned. Let us continue on…

1 Corinthians 14:26-33 (ESV) 26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

I’d like to make mention of a couple of observations. Here, it seems Paul isn’t just talking about praying in tongues and being overheard, he’s talking about someone launching into speech as though it were a “Thus says the Lord” prophecy. The idea here is that there will be an interpretation and the Body of Christ edified. If that doesn’t happen, then the speaker got carried away and was simply being disorderly. The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets serves as a reminder that God the Holy Spirit isn’t in the business of creating confusion in the church, so the prophet can wait for his turn to share what God the Holy Spirit has to say. When we gather together, there should be a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue &  interpretation or a prophecy for the edification of the Body. In order, so that all can be encouraged by what God the Holy Spirit has to say. But remember, again, that there is only One God the Holy Spirit. God gives the utterances, the messages, and manifestations. God is a God of peace. If the speaking in tongues and prophesying devolve into frenzied chaos, that is either the work of the flesh or of unclean spirits. Test the spirits, and weigh what is said. I’d also like to highlight, that verse 32 applies also to speaking in tongues. If you don’t have an interpretation. The speaking of unintelligible tongues is for praying to God, not for edifying the Body of Christ. There is no benefit or need to do so loudly. God the Father hears the prayers from your Spirit as well as your Mind, so unless God the Holy Spirit is compelling you to proclaim something specific in another tongue with the interpretation, or asking you to speak so that another can interpret, keep your prayer language quiet as you pray with your mind and your spirit just as Paul said he did in verse 15. I’d like to close this post by looking a how Paul closed this discussion on Tongues and Prophecy:

1 Corinthians 14:39-40 (ESV) So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But all things should be done decently and in order.

All things should be done decently and in order. This is not a prohibition on prophesy nor tongues. While it is absolutely true that nothing will be added to Scripture, that does not mean that God the Holy Spirit does not still give prophesies, tongues, interpretations, or any other of the gifts we’ve discussed in God’s Word. We know that God the Holy Spirit is unchanging, and that His role is to point us to God the Son Jesus Christ, and who gives us access to the Throne of God the Father. Refusing the gifts of the Holy Spirit to avoid “getting carried away” or the task of discernment is not unlike rejecting music to avoid sensuality. Sure you can get buy without music, but why not discipline yourself so that you can enjoy the gift of music in your life? Similarly, while God the Holy Spirit is Sovereign over His Gifts, why not allow Him to move in your life as He Wills, rather than force him to only use you to speak English? I know you will be spending daily devotional time in prayer and reading Scripture, so allow the Holy Spirit freedom in your life. Test the spirits always, but know that the Holy Spirit is God and the Spirit of God will not lead you astray. God is so very good, and His Gifts are His to give to those whom He saved, by grace, through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the Gift of God.

May the Lord bless and keep you,
In Him,
Jorge

God the Holy Spirit | Part 3

doveWelcome back to part 3! Today, I want to take a good look at the Promise of God the Holy Spirit fulfilled to in Acts and what the Apostles taught regarding the Gift of the Holy Spirit. I’d like to reiterate that I am not following any denominational quick-guide on the Holy Spirit. I shall endeavor to simply share what I’ve read in the Scriptures. I maintain 2 fundamental statements of faith as the basis for this discussion:

  • The inerrancy of the Bible as the Word of God. In it we find that which God has revealed of Himself, His Nature, His Will, and His Love for us. While we cannot claim (nor should we) to know and explain everything about God (for we are only created beings) we can (and must) aim to know what He has given to us to know about Him, that which He has chosen to reveal about Himself by giving us His Word and His Spirit.
  • The Trinity. There is only One God. He exists eternally as 3 distinct persons, God the Father, God the Son Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit.

In the last post, we ended by taking a look at the Great Commission as recorded in Matthew 28 and Mark 16. I neglected, however, to share that Luke included a Great Commission as well.

Luke 24:44-49 (ESV) 44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Personally, I think the reason we don’t have a grandiose declaration of the Great Commission here in Luke, is that he isn’t quite finished writing. He didn’t need to belabor the point here at the end of the Gospel, since he was going to share how the Great Commission was carried out by the early church. Notice here that we still have all of the elements of the Great commission, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ who suffered and died and rose on the third day and that the repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus Name would be preached to all nations beginning in Jerusalem. Let’s pick up from this thought in Acts

Acts 1:4-8 (ESV) 4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Acts 2:1-15 (ESV) 1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” 14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day…[9 a.m.]

This is amazing. I’m going to pause here to let you know that we will be skipping through Peter’s sermon for now (I do plan on revisiting because it is just such a wonderful sermon!) so that we can remain focused on the Gift of the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus Christ. Notice here that there are more places listed than there are Apostles at this time. Notice also that each hearer (of which 3,000 would be saved and baptized) heard praises of God in his own foreign language, something that wasn’t done. Since the Law and the Prophets were for the Children of Israel, why would it need to ever be translated into Gentile tongues? Galileans were not exactly known for their scholarly achievements, so any thought that these men were trained in language simply wouldn’t have been entertained. In fact, the very idea that this was the result of drunkenness is in itself a bit absurd. I struggle to understand a drunken person speaking English, much less a language I would recognize to be beyond the knowledge of the drunk. Nevertheless, Peter sets them straight and immediately begins preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s jump to the conclusion of his sermon.

Acts 2:32-39 (ESV) 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

I find the inclusion of this last portion telling. The promise of the Holy Spirit is not limited to the Apostles. The promise of the Holy Spirit was for all who would believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, it is an integral part of the Gospel. Matthew worded the Great Commission to include the Holy Spirit in the baptism into all who would become disciples. One baptism, in the Name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Remember in the first post also, that when the Spirit of God fell on Saul who was anointed as the first king of Israel he prophesied? And the terminology used for the Holy Spirit moving in David is that the Holy Spirit “rushed” on David? Interesting how all of the elements come together in the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit to all who believe. This is not the work of men, but of God the Holy Spirit. Don’t lose sight of that. Many did, and many still do today, but don’t you do it, dear reader. Remember that the whole of Scriptures isn’t about you or me, but about God the Father, God the Son Jesus, and God the Holy Spirit. Yes, friend, this is about God the Holy Spirit moving as a precious promised Gift from Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, for everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.

Now, I urge you to continue reading through Acts (or restart after finishing this blog post) to see very clearly the boldness and the clarity of scriptures granted to the Apostles by God the Holy Spirit to stand firm in the face of judgment and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Seriously, better sermons you will never witness… and not just from the Apostles. Check out Stephen, a deacon, filled with the Holy Spirit and the wisdom and boldness granted him through the Holy Spirit (Acts 6-7). However, right now I want to focus on the importance of preaching the Gospel completely.

After Stephen’s death a great persecution arose on the Church in Jerusalem and the believers (minus the Apostles) scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Now Philip was preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he was filled with the Holy Spirit who was performing many signs and wonders through Philip, leading many to believe.

Acts 8:9-24 (ESV) 9 But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. 10 They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 11 And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed. 14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” 24 And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”

Now, often this passage is used as a proof-text for those who believe that the speaking in tongues (and for some even prophecy) was granted only to the Apostles and those who had direct contact with them. If we looked at this passage alone and allowed someone to fill in several blanks, I could see that being a very persuasive argument. However, nowhere in the underlined portion do I see it plainly stated that Simon was wrong to ask for something that was only for the Apostles. It isn’t what he was asking for that was wrong, it was that his heart (motive) was not right before God. So much so, that Peter wasn’t sure if repentance would be possible for him. We didn’t cover it, but Peter saw God strike down Ananias and Sapphira for attempting to steal from the Holy Spirit (chapter 5). Also, at the end of the chapter, we see the Holy Spirit use Philip in a way we don’t have recorded of the Apostles… the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away from Gaza to Azotus. How many times have you thought or even prayed, “okay Lord, please instantly move me from here to there as you did Philip”? I will not venture a guess as to why these believers had not yet received the Gift of the Holy Spirit. I think it is important that we see that it sometimes didn’t happen immediately.

Now, the majority of Acts 10 is God working on the Apostle Peter to bring deeper understanding of the very Gospel he preached, that God was indeed bringing in Gentiles. It’s a wonderful story (especially for us Gentiles), but I want to pick up at the beginning of his sermon to Cornelius (a Gentile)

Acts 10:34-48 (ESV) 34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” 44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

Their hearts were ready. The pump was clearly primed by the Holy Spirit (God had already spoken to Cornelius in a vision to send for Simon-Peter) because they believed the Gospel even while it was being preached! And the Gift of the Holy Spirit fell on these Gentiles in the same way it fell on the Apostles. Now it would be some time until the fullness of this revelation of the new covenant would be made official (the topical focus of the letter to the Galatians), but in Chapter 11, we see Peter bring this good news of just how far the Gospel will go to save (truly to the ends of the earth for all nations and every tribe and every nation). I would also like to caution against tying the Gift of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, rather than to the Holy Spirit. So far, the gifts of the Holy Spirit were as much a sign to the Apostles as they were to others, because the Holy Spirit is God, not some parlor trick. Skipping ahead to chapter 15, we see the fruit of Peter’s witness to the Gentiles in the Jerusalem Council. The Elders declare that the yoke of the covenant of Abraham (circumcision) and the Law of Moses should not be tied to the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. Since the Law of Moses is still being read in synagogues throughout the land, they encouraged Gentile believers to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, sexual immorality, from blood, and food from strangled animals.  I believe that from this letter to the believers in Antioch the Holy Spirit then guided Paul to address it more completely to the Galatians, for they had been lead astray by those from the circumcision party (teaching that to be saved, all had to be circumcised into the covenant of Abraham).

Okay, so lets look at one more instance. In Acts 18, we are introduced to Apollos who was preaching in Ephesus that Jesus was the Christ, though he only knew the baptism of John. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately, and then sent him off to Jerusalem to continue preaching. Paul arrives in Ephesus (as Apollos is in Corinth) run into some disciples. Let’s pick up the story in Acts 19:

Acts 19:1-10 (ESV) 19 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. 7 There were about twelve men in all. 8 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

A couple of notes here. First, while Apollos was teaching from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ, the baptism was that of John the Baptist. This is probably one of the things Apollos was corrected in. One question I like to ask whenever I read this passage is, “what prompted Paul to ask the question?” I think it is a fair question to ask of the Holy Spirit yourselves, so I’m not going to dive into what I think might have been at play here. Suffice it to say that since they had received an incomplete Gospel and Baptism, Paul shared the full Gospel, and as they heard it they were baptized in the Name of Jesus and then Paul laid hands on them so that they can receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. Interesting how this played out, but again, I want to emphasize that if you are looking for a formula or a system, you’ve already  missed it. The Holy Spirit is a person. Look to God, not to a formula, or ritual.

Remember Luke 11:13 (ESV) “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!

Now, I’ve gone beyond my intended word limit, but I think that is as it should be. So far, we’ve managed to look at God the Holy Spirit as both a Person of the Trinity and a Promised Gift sent by Jesus Christ (God the Son) after He ascended to the right hand of God the Father in Heaven. I’ve done my best to simply share what I see in the Scriptures. If the Lord Wills, the next post we will take a look together at Paul’s instructions regarding the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This is a topic that greatly divides the church today as far as doctrine goes. No legitimate doctrine of faith denies the Trinity or that the Holy Spirit is God, or that the Holy Spirit dwells within all those who believe in the Gospel. I say that with great confidence, because if you don’t teach properly these basic truths regarding the Holy Spirit, then the God you teach is not the God plainly described in the Bible. However, what we will be discussing next is not the Gift or Promise of God the Holy Spirit to all who believe; rather, the gifts given by the Holy Spirit to those in whom He dwells, the body of Christ. We will be looking specifically at 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, Paul’s instructions to the church in Corinth.

May the Lord bless and keep you,
In Him,
Jorge

God the Holy Spirit | Part 2

doveWelcome back to part 2! Today, I want to take a good look at the Promise of God the Holy Spirit as we make our way through the book of Luke. I’d like to reiterate that I am not following any denominational quick-guide on the Holy Spirit. I shall endeavor to simply share what I’ve read in the Scriptures. I maintain 2 fundamental statements of faith as the basis for this discussion:

  • The inerrancy of the Bible as the Word of God. In it we find that which God has revealed of Himself, His Nature, His Will, and His Love for us. While we cannot claim (nor should we) to know and explain everything about God (for we are only created beings) we can (and must) aim to know what He has given to us to know about Him, that which He has chosen to reveal about Himself by giving us His Word and His Spirit.
  • The Trinity. There is only One God. He exists eternally as 3 distinct persons, God the Father, God the Son Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit.

For starters, let us continue our discussion of John the Baptist by picking up in Luke chapter 3.

Luke 3:1-22 (ESV)
1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
and the rough places shall become level ways,
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

7 He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

15 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

18 So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. 19 But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, 20 added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.

21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

That last part (v21-22), I just wanted to take a moment to highlight that we see here plainly the doctrine of the Trinity. Three distinct persons, interacting at the same time, all One God. Also notice, that while John is filled with the Holy Spirit (from the womb) he makes it clear that Jesus will be the one baptizing with the Holy Spirit and fire. Absolutely wonderful, but I want to keep my commentary to a minimum. I highly encourage each of you to read through the book of Luke with a highlighter to pick up on these, otherwise for the sake of context I’ll end up filling this entire post with Scripture (though, not a bad way to make sure I don’t detract from God’s Word, eh?)

Luke 4 (ESV) | The Temptation of Jesus
1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry.

14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. 16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, 32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority.

Luke 10:17-24 (ESV) 17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” 21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” 23 Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

Luke 11:11-13 (ESV)11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

Interesting how He closed out the lesson here in Luke. Here, we have the Holy Spirit being clearly established as a Gift from God the Father. A gift, to those who ask Him. Luke (under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit) is building the case already for the wonderful Gift of the Holy Spirit that will be given to the Church later in Acts.  Prophecy, Direction, Guidance, Authority, Worship, Praise, Miracles, and Ministry are clearly tied to the Holy Spirit. Let’s take a look at one more passage in Luke before closing out today’s post with the Great Commission.

Luke 12:1-12 (ESV) 1 In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. 4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. 8 “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, 9 but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 11 And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.

Now verse 10 gets people worked up often. I once heard Alistair Begg discuss this in one of his sermons, and he said that if you were a Believer in Jesus Christ who was worried about committing the unforgivable sin, that you were the least likely to commit the sin. I think that for the most part, the concern stems from having the verse ripped from its context and taught as some undefined unforgivable sin that could be committed by anyone at any time and doom them. I know that I struggled a great deal with fear on this topic when I was a young boy in a Holiness Pentecostal Church.  Let’s look at the Mark account of Jesus explaining the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

Mark 3:22-30 (ESV) 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. 28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Okay, so what is going on here? There is a special problem that arises with this sort of blasphemy of God the Holy Spirit. If you reject the Holy Spirit as an unclean spirit, then you’ve rejected God the Holy Spirit’s testimony of Jesus Christ. There can be no forgiveness for a sin that prevents you from accepting the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Jesus Christ, our atoning sacrifice. That is an eternal sin. Notice that every other sin (including blasphemies against God the Father and God the Son) are forgivable. Even blasphemy against God the Son, Jesus Christ. But how does that make sense? Because without the Holy Spirit opening our hearts to the Truth of the Word of God made flesh, we just see the man, Jesus, claiming to be God. Therefore, if the Holy Spirit who is working in Jesus (for we see clearly that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit in Luke 4) is declared by an unbeliever to be an unclean spirit, then that person has closed off his heart from the One who testifies of the Son, and doomed himself to remaining eternally dead in his sins and trespasses. Notice the what Jesus said to Peter after he rightly confessed Jesus as the Messiah in Matthew 16:17 (ESV), “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you is the key phrase here. God the Son, Jesus, is standing before His disciples in flesh and blood. Yet, Jesus makes it clear that the revelation of His identity came not as a result of flesh and blood, but from God the Father who is in heaven. Matthew is citing the source of the revelation, God the Father. But Peter’s revelation from God the Father came through the work of God the Holy Spirit. For whatever reason… Judas Iscariot failed to recognize the working of the Holy Spirit, and listened instead to Satan, and betrayed Jesus.

The Great Commission

Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV) 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Mark 16:15-16 (ESV) 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

We are going to discuss this at length in the next post, but I want to point out that this is a singular baptism. In John the Baptist’s statement about Jesus, notice the tone in the wording, the baptism of John is with water, but Jesus (Who is mightier than John) would baptize in the Holy Spirit and with Fire. The baptism that Jesus brings, is superior to that of John. We will see this revealed further in the Book of Acts. Notice also that the making of disciples of all nations, means that we Gentiles are to become disciples and to be taught to observe the commandments of Jesus Christ, Praise the Lord! Also notice that Mark includes the reminder of the condemnation that follows a rejection of the Gospel. The one sin that cannot be forgiven. You can reject the notion of God philosophically, you can reject the personal claims made by Jesus, but if you listen to the Holy Spirit, He will open your heart to the testimony of Jesus Christ, who will then make you right with God the Father by His atoning sacrifice. However, if you reject all including the work of God the Holy Spirit… you will be condemned by your unbelief and hardened heart. Much like Adam in the Garden… there is but one sin that leads to death… eternal death. Praise the Lord for His Grace and Mercy and unfailing Love for us that He would send His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross as payment for our sinful nature!

If it be the Lord’s Will, in the next post, we are going to dive right into the Book of Acts and 1 Corinthians. This 3-part study is in no way exhaustive, but I’m excited about it, and I hope you find as much blessing in this study as I have.

May the Lord bless and keep you,
In Him,
Jorge