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