Pentecostals|Help Me Help You

helpmehelpyouToday I want to speak to the Pentecostal (and/or) Charismatic audience. If the case for Pentecostalism is truly Biblical, then should we not be fully submitted to Scripture? The 5 Solas of the Reformation serve as a return to the Bible as the only source for Truth. It doesn’t mean that the Protestant denominations fully achieved it, nor does it mean they preserved it, but at least we affirm Sola Scriptura. I grew up as a Christian under the Pentecostal tradition. Sure, the names change and not every Pentecostal denomination calls themselves Pentecostal, but the doctrinal distinctive relating to the Gifts of the Spirit remain.

I’d like to begin by plainly stating that those of the Pentecostal and Reformed camps do a poor job of characterizing each other’s doctrines. Honest research is exceedingly and exhaustively replete with ad hominem attacks, straw-man arguments, and mockery… from both camps.  Both sides engage in some proof-texting while accusing the other of the same. I’ve read a great deal researching Lutheran and Reformed theology from sites like Monergism.com. Pentecostalism isn’t nearly as historic, only dating back to early 1900s, but one resource for that movement’s history is Dixon Pentecostal Research Center. For all of the zealous antagonism between them it can be easy to forget their commonalities: both camps point to the same Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Both acknowledge God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit. Both understand that salvation comes by grace, through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and both hold to the same Bible as the Word of God. There are major differences, and they are not negligible; therefore, we should address them humbly, faithfully, lovingly, and truthfully according to the Written Word of God.

Is the Pentecostal “Speaking in Tongues” the same thing that happened at Pentecost?

No, it isn’t. Pentecostals point to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that took place on the day of Pentecost, and the filling of the room by the presence of the Holy Spirit is central to their form of worship. Let’s look at what took place at Pentecost just before Peter’s sermon:

Acts 2:1-12 (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?”

The non-Christians (though devout Jews) understood what they were saying. What where they speaking? They were declaring the mighty works of God. They were proclaiming the testimony of God. Some have argued that this miracle was of interpretation, that God opened the ears of the hearers so that they could understand what was being spoken. That doesn’t fit the text. While one of the gifts of the Holy spirit is indeed interpretation of tongues, the Holy Spirit hadn’t fallen on the masses, He filled the saints, the Christians, who were following the Lord’s last instructions before He ascended into Heaven. The miracle here, is in the speaking not in the hearing. Notice in Peter’s sermon when he quotes Joel 2:28-32a:

Acts 2:16-21 (ESV) 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

What happened on the day of Pentecost was not how modern-day Pentecostals should claim as “speaking in tongues”, for Peter recognized it as prophecy. What did they prophesy? The mighty works of God. What did Peter preach?

Acts 2:36-40 (ESV)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.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”

Of whom did Peter bear witness? of Jesus the Christ. What was his exhortation? Repent and be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. The key here is not in some hidden meaning of “other tongues”; rather, in that the others understood what the Holy Spirit was speaking through His disciples, the Word of God, Testimony of God’s greatness, leading to the Testimony of Jesus Christ. As we are told in Revelation 19:10 (ESV), “Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

Notice that in all of Acts 2, the only thing being taught is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Everything else in that section is descriptive, a testimony of what God the Holy Spirit did on that day. God moved through His people, to give testimony of His Son, Jesus. If you want to prescribe any Christian doctrine from this text, let it be the testimony of Jesus Christ found in the sermon uttered by Peter who was filled by the Holy Spirit. To God be the glory.

What is the Pentecostal “Speaking in Tongues”?

What the Pentecostal refers to as “speaking in tongues” comes from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapters 12-14. How does the Apostle Paul describe it? Let’s look briefly in 1 Corinthians 14.

1 Corinthians 14:1-5 (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.

So, in a sense, the Pentecostal should desire to prophesy as Disciples did on the day of Pentecost. However, that is not to say that every time the tongue fires off in unintelligible speech that they are prophesying. In fact, if there is no interpretation, they are decidedly NOT prophesying, for no one is being built up. Paul goes on to say that if the Holy Spirit doesn’t grant them understanding of what the Spirit is saying, then their mind is unfruitful. Therefore, Paul explains that he prays both with his mind and in his spirit.

Now, here is the part where today’s title comes into play. While I can see in God’s Written Word the basis and the instruction for the Gifts of God the Holy Spirit, I find it difficult argue on your behalf in most cases. Why? Because of the very same abuses Paul was addressing in his letter to the Corinthians. We cannot wave the first half of 1 Corinthians 14 as a banner of justification while simultaneously ignoring the latter portion of the very same chapter.

Help me, Help you.

While I do plan on eventually addressing doctrinal concerns I have with Reformed and Lutheran theology, but given the current state of the visible church and the pervasiveness of Mysticism and False teaching, I need to first address (biblically) the most obvious problems.

1. “Speaking in Tongues” in a loud voice for all of the congregation to hear (sometimes in a microphone) is NOT prophecy without the interpretation. The church is NOT edified by it. God is NOT glorified by it. It only serves to draw attention to the speaker, whose mind is unfruitful if he is not granted the understanding of what was uttered.

1 Corinthians 14:13-19 (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.

2. Understanding is not a matter of a level of faith; therefore, there is no benefit to pretending you understand what is being uttered without interpretation. It’s not “a faith thing”. Either God is speaking, or He isn’t. We don’t just accept it as the Word of God without testing it against Scripture. The first test is this, “is there an interpretation?”. If there is an interpretation, is it Biblically sound? Does it point to Jesus Christ?

3. Pandemonium, chaos, and sensuality do not bring Glory to God or edify His church.

1 Corinthians 14:26-32 (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. 28But 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.

Why did I include sensuality? Well, it’s the only way I can cover things like the “drunk in the spirit” or the “high on Jesus” or the “holy laughter” manifestations. It is a craving for an experience measured by the senses rather than by the Word of God. I’ve witnessed the full gambit of these experiences growing up, and I’ve never seen discernment exercised. I’ve been in church services where the preaching of the Word of God was cancelled due to 3 hour “Praise and Worship”, where the worship was either the same song being played over and over with long instrumentals, or a lot of “spiritual (tongues) worship” is sung or spoken or declared without interpretation. I’ve seen what amounts to “open-mic night” where everyone is claiming to prophesy, well beyond the two or three limitation provided. Sure, some might say “well, that’s why we have special services apart from church”. Paul didn’t say “when you meet on Sunday mornings”, he said “When you come together…”.

4. God the Holy Spirit is not the only spirit; however, He is the only True God. There are evil spirits, as well as the fact that our flesh is sinful and actively works against the Spirit of God. Even within Christians, the war wages on between our flesh and the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5). The ONLY way we know we are hearing from God is by His Written Word. Your emotions are tied to the flesh, and the flesh is weak and sinful. Faith is a gift from God, and comes by hearing the Word of God. God has given us His Written Word. Start there. You cannot skip over the written Word of God and expect to just “know” or “recognize” the voice of God or to feel which spirits are of God and which are of error. You cannot rely on goose bumps… pagan films can elicit the same response. Without interpretation, you have no idea what is being said “in strange tongues”… none; therefore, you have no way of knowing if it is indeed the Holy Spirit or if it is man, or demon. If it is of the Holy Spirit, He will submit to the Written Word of God, for He is unchanging. John 1 tells us that in the beginning the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and the Word became flesh, Jesus Christ. This isn’t “putting God in a box”, this is identifying what might be God by comparing it to what we know is God (His Word). Refusal to submit to Biblical discernment is a HUGE red flag.

5. God will not reveal something of Himself now that He hasn’t already revealed of Himself in Scriptures. When Jesus walked the earth, He fulfilled the Law and the Prophets, and then He established a New Covenant with His Apostles before ascending into Heaven. He granted John the final Revelation and then warned not to add to or take away from that Book. Any prophecy that makes a completely new claim about God, His Son, His Spirit, or His return that cannot be found in Scripture is false. That excludes the vast majority of prophetic visions turned into marketing campaigns for profit we see today. God the Holy Spirit is sovereign, and may grant a word of wisdom, knowledge, or insight for a specific people. Such a word, however, MUST point to Jesus as God and Savior and must be tested to see if it is true. If it doesn’t come to pass IT WAS NOT GOD. If it does come to pass, but the prophet preaches a different gospel, IT IS NOT OF GOD. If it comes true, is biblically sound, and Jesus Christ is glorified, then rejoice in the Word of the Lord and proclaim His kindness and mercy.

6. God’s primary language isn’t KJV. I say this, because I have heard a lot of “prophecy” spoken in King James English despite the speaker NOT quoting scripture. If you are quoting scripture and you’ve memorized most of it in KJV, fine… but if you aren’t quoting Scripture and are speaking words given to you by the Holy Spirit, why the KJV? It would be like an Arabic-English interpreter putting on an Australian accent to let folks know which words he’s translating from Arabic, and then dropping the accent to signify that he’s speaking of his own accord. Just odd. Additionally, just because a scripture was quoted does not mean it’s God providing the prophecy. Satan quoted scripture in his temptation of Jesus Christ. His twisting of scripture was quite subtle compared to what we hear these days. Which brings me to my final point.

7. If the person claiming to be anointed of God, His prophet, His apostle, or messenger demonstrates an inability to rightly handle Scripture, then we have no reason to believe he is speaking prophetically. The Written Word of God IS the Word of God. One who has mishandled the written Word of God cannot be trusted to rightly handle the spoken word of God. Now, God is still God, and He is still sovereign over His gifts and callings. Yes, God opened the mouth of Balaam’s donkey, but the donkey didn’t deliver the Word of the Lord, the Angel of the Lord (Jesus) did.

Lately, I’ve come to realize that the vast majority of the Pentecostal / Charismatic church has lost its way. Before writing this, I spent some time reading through the Way articles from 1906, and saw so much focus and attention on the “gifts” and so little on Jesus Christ. I read through popular charismatic teacher Facebook pages, and saw so very little scripture. Lots of appeals to “trust the spirit” and “experiencing power” and “soaking in His presence” but so very little teaching from the Scriptures. Is that what Paul would support based on his teaching in 1 Corinthians 14?

The reformed camp has its problems, too. If Pentecostals struggle with mysticism and winds of doctrine, then the Reformed struggle with legalism, particularly of the Law ► Gospel ► Law variety. They preach law to convict of sin, then Gospel for the forgiveness of sin, and then burden the Christian with Law to prove themselves “true” Christians. The error in both camps ends is the same, the error of Peter on the water, the error of taking our eyes off of Jesus Christ and placing them on ourselves, our works, or our own righteousness.

This ended up being much longer than I had intended. If you feel I’ve misrepresented Pentecostalism, feel free to contact me. In closing, I leave you with the exhortation of the Apostle Paul in the closing of his first letter.

1 Corinthians 16:13 (ESV) 13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

May the Lord Bless you and keep you,
In Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior,
Jorge

Discernment | Prophecy or Apostasy?

The primary goal of Faithful Stewardship is to study the Word of God. Knowing what the Word of God says as the standard of Truth will preserve you from false doctrine. However, there is a great need in this present day to understand that there are false prophets, false teachers, and even false christs leading away the saints away from the faith, from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I’d like to borrow an exhortation from Christ Rosebrough at Fighting for the Faith, “please, don’t come with an open mind; rather, come with an open Bible”. We really can’t rely on our feelings or emotions to warn us of false teaching or false doctrine, we really need to hold every teacher, writer, speaker to the Word of God. Today, I just want to look at the basis for why it is so important to practice discernment and not to just “go with it” in the name of “not being a thorn in someone’s side”.

Remembering that Jesus Christ didn’t come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it, let us look at what the Law says about false prophets.

Deuteronomy 13 (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. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. 6 “If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which neither you nor your fathers have known, 7 some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other, 8 you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. 9 But you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. 10 You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 11 And all Israel shall hear and fear and never again do any such wickedness as this among you. 12 “If you hear in one of your cities, which the Lord your God is giving you to dwell there, 13 that certain worthless fellows have gone out among you and have drawn away the inhabitants of their city, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which you have not known, 14 then you shall inquire and make search and ask diligently. And behold, if it be true and certain that such an abomination has been done among you, 15 you shall surely put the inhabitants of that city to the sword, devoting it to destruction, all who are in it and its cattle, with the edge of the sword. 16 You shall gather all its spoil into the midst of its open square and burn the city and all its spoil with fire, as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God. It shall be a heap forever. It shall not be built again. 17 None of the devoted things shall stick to your hand, that the Lord may turn from the fierceness of his anger and show you mercy and have compassion on you and multiply you, as he swore to your fathers, 18 if you obey the voice of the Lord your God, keeping all his commandments that I am commanding you today, and doing what is right in the sight of the Lord your God.

I’d like to make a couple of notes here. Firstly, according to the old covenant, they were to be put to death. Under the new covenant, we are not to physically put them to death, but death is still what is required for this sin. According Romans Chapter 6, we know that we must die to sin, die to our flesh, by joining in Christ’s death, so that we might be made alive in Him. Repentance, Atonement, Returning to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The false teachers are to repent of their idolatry! That is why we still have the Law and the Prophets. The letter of the law kills, so that those of us who have died to sin might be made alive in Christ before we die in the flesh and face Judgement. This is real. If you ascribe to the secessionist view, then you probably believe the office of the Prophet to be closed. I do not hold to that view, because I don’t see any support for it in the Bible. Neither do I see anything in Scripture that modified the office of Prophet; therefore, the standard for a Prophet of God remains unchanged. God promised His people to send Prophets, because Israel begged Moses to speak to them the Words of God, for they were too scared to hear God’s voice for themselves (Exodus 20:18-21). In this present day, for anyone who claims to be a Prophet, even if their signs/wonders come true, if they preach themselves, or a god that is not the One True God of the Bible (pantheism, gnosticism, humanism, etc.) they are to be put to death (called to repentance and cut off from the people until such repentance according to the Law) and we are NOT to listen to them. As Paul told Titus, “they are to be silenced” (Titus 1:11). I would also argue that this same test be applied to anyone claiming to be a present-day Apostle. Again, even if the signs/wonders come true, if what they preach is not in keeping with sound doctrine (Titus 2) they are to be silenced and “put to death” (called to repent). Now, we also run into some abuses in the current charismatic/evangelical circles where they are wise enough not to claim for themselves the office of Prophet or Apostle, yet they feel completely free to claim to speak on God’s behalf via a gift of the prophecy, knowledge, understanding from God the Holy Spirit. For some reason, in this community they think it’s okay to “prophecy” in the Name of God things that do not come to pass. Is that okay? There is also a test for that in the Law as well.

Deuteronomy 18:9-22 (ESV) 9 “When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer 11 or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, 12 for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, 14 for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this. 15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— 16 just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.

Here, we see that false prophets are not to be feared. So then, the bigger sin here, even in the Law, is anchored in the teaching of the one who claims to be speaking the Words of God. If their teaching leads the Children of God astray, they are to be silenced and put to death (again, we understand this now in the New Covenant to be a call to repentance, that they might die to their sin and repent and turn back to God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ). It is one thing to falsely prophecy signs and wonders that don’t come true… for the Law identifies that the prophet has spoken presumptuously, and they need not be feared. Do not fear these individuals, they are speaking of their own. I think this happens when young Christians are poorly discipled in the Word of God and out of their zeal try to “operate in the gifts of the Holy Spirit” and end up speaking from themselves rather than from the Holy Spirit”. This is not a “safe zone” because if they take the next step to preach/teach/or lead to a false gospel, false spirits, false teachings, then there is a major problem. For according to the old covenant, this false teaching and leading astray from the One True God bore the penalty of death. This is Sin.

Even more troubling, is that false teachers often buy their own lie first, even before leading away others after gods they have not known (borrowing from the passages in Exodus above). We understand that only the work of the Holy Spirit is capable of opening the hearts of sinners to the Gospel of Grace… how much more then does the Hand of God have to fall on those who once professed a faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, only to have let themselves be led astray by spirits of error or by pride/presumptuous assertions? The Apostles spoke strongly against false teachers, false prophets, and false christs. That is because when Jesus was asked about the end times (Matthew 24), He warned strongly against false christs even leading astray the elect. Being deceived is a worse state than being lost.

2 Peter 2:17-22 (ESV) 17 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

I encourage you, brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, to hold firmly to the Word of God. Scrutinize heavily anything extra-biblical (outside of scripture) being presented as the Word of God. Test the spirits (1 John 4), for God the Holy Spirit will never object to His Spoken Word being measured by His Written Word, for He is One God. Silence the false teachers and issue a rebuke and a call to repentance, burn up the false doctrines and do not return to them. Preach the Word of God and teach in accordance with sound doctrine. For we are stewards of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is His Gospel, entrusted to us as His stewards. And do not fear the false prophet, false teacher, even the false christ. Fear and love the Lord God.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. 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