Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit – Part 7 – A Few Personal Experiences As Well As Some of Others

In this post I will relate some experiences that I have personally had as well as a few others related to me by those who witnesses of them.

Before writing this post I should mention that I by no means speak for all or even a few Pentecostals in this writing. A man's perspective and view of the world and his experiences are all personal. They may be generally shared with others, but yet are also as individual as a snowflake. I write this as a person who is inclined when his contemplation of a wrong action or unkind thought towards brothers or sisters in Christ is interrupted by stubbing his toe to thank God for the interruption. I view it as a mercy, if it happened more often I would have sorer feet but a better walk. Thus compared to many brethren I know I am a little peculiar. I think some of my somewhat peculiar world view may have to do with my ancestry, particularly the Kentucky Irish/Native American received from my mother. All I know for certain is that I firmly believe that the spiritual world is not only real, but more real than the tangible.

One example of what I mean comes from two visits I made to Rwanda. The first visit was last year and though I had heard of the genocide there I did not really know much about it. This journey was taken with my cousin who is also a missionary though in another country. The pastor we were visiting had wanted to take us to the genocide memorial, but the day we scheduled to do it was a public holiday and it was closed. The one night though I had a vivid dream in my hotel room there. In my dream I was a black man and I was running and trying to hide from men in the genocide. Waking up from this I panicked at seeing the mosquito net lying over me and gave it as stout a kick as possible, waking up, and probably scaring my cousin who was sharing the hotel room. He knew I had had a nightmare, but I wasn't able to talk much about it. The dream came before I had heard much about the genocide, but because of the dream I had more of an understanding of the trauma it inflicted in the country. This year I went on a second visit to Rwanda and went to the genocide memorial. Frankly I was a little scared because having a good memory, there are some things I'd rather not plant in my head. Still I felt I should go, if for no other reason than to know some of the burden carried by the church in that nation and the obstacles they face. The odd thing was, that though the photos and things shown were all disturbing, it didn't really drive home the awfulness of what had happened there. For me that happened when we went to the mass graves just outside the memorial. When I was there, I could sense death and the whole indescribable sadness of what had happened. For me while a picture may be worth a thousand words, an impression upon the soul is even more talkative. Of course with so many people buried there, many unsaved with their iniquity lying on their bones (Ezek. 32:27), I would be more surprised if I felt nothing at all.

If anything I write seems a little odd, eccentric or even foolish I only beg the prayer of the reader that I might by God's grace be found in the end to be a harmless eccentric fool. There are few experiences I have had which encourage me not to totally shrug off my feelings.

  1. Some Examples of Spiritual Sense

    In one case when I was in Singapore for a 6 month stay, I had one night where my sleep was really badly disturbed my nightmares and I had a real sense that something bad was going on in the spirit. That morning I awoke to see that the night had inaugurated Hungry Ghost Festival, something I had never heard of, but consisting of basically a one month long Halloween where joss sticks are burned under most trees, paper effigies of gifts being burned and offerings of fruit all for people's departed relatives. Since I had no idea of any of this yet felt something was going on it confirmed me in trusting my spiritual sense.

    The second case I will mention was a prayer meeting I was invited to attend at a certain place. It was a spur of the moment thing on my part, and I had no idea of anything except that it was an interdenominational prayer meeting. When the praying began, two ministers began by opening in prayer. The first man brought an immediate sense of the presence of God to my spirit and I knew he was a man of God and was heard of God. The second man also prayed and I felt a sense that it was all show for him. Without saying anything to anyone, one of my friends who was there told me who men were a little later. The first man was a man whom I had never met but was well respected among the churches of that area, confirming what I had felt. The second man was a pastor that had taken to performing card tricks (literally) and other antics in the pulpit to bring people into his church so he could preach to them. I do not usually consider, or even want to consider someone's spiritual state when they pray, but in this case without my having any possible prejudice one way or another, not knowing who these men were, my spirit bore witness with what the known facts of their lives also spoke.

  2. One Example of Someone Speaking a Known Human Language While Speaking in Tongues

    I currently assist my parents in a work which they pioneered in Malawi, one of the main parts of which is a Bible School. For a few years I was absent from the work here, serving on other fields. During this time there was a student who when he received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues spoke the praises of God in Shona. Shona is a language spoken in Zimbabwe, but not in Malawi. Of the class at that time of 20-30 students only one actually knew Shona and he informed the leadership that the man was praising God in Shona. There is no reason to believe that we are aware of that the man speaking in tongues had ever heard or learned Shona. I was informed of this incident by my parents and their testimony was corroborated by Rev. Mario Manyozo who acts as interpreter in the Bible School.


  3. An Example of a Word of Knowledge

    In one case while we were praying for a certain pastor in the Bible school, my mother received a vision of a women hiding something. She asked him if that meant anything to him, and he said that it did not. Mom still felt it strongly and asked him if he was sure. He denied it again, but then as we were about to begin to pray for someone else he came forward and confessed that his wife was practicing witchcraft, she had been doing it openly, and then had stopped for a while before starting again but secretly. This is one incident I witnessed, but I know of another similar one. In our early days at the Bible school we had many pastors and elders from rural areas who were involved in witchcraft come to the Bible School. Some were delivered, some decided to remain in it. The Bible school has been going for 8 years now, and we see less of these sort of problems now.


  4. The Reality of the Enemy

    There are many times I have experienced spiritual attacks during my life. Two are worth noting here.


    When I was 16 years old and living in South Africa, I began to pray for the neighborhood I lived in and took regular walks while quietly praying. After I had been doing this for a short time, one night I was awoken by a very heavy knee pressing down right on my solar plexus. It was heavy enough I could not breathe. I could not see anyone, but I felt the evil presence. I managed to gasp out, "Jesus, help." Immediately, the weight removed, but the evil presence was still in the room. I continued to pray and after a while it left.


    Another time on a trip out to a village in Malawi for ministry, me, my brother Justin, and my then-friend-now-brother-in-law were sharing a sleeping quarters. They were both soundly sawing logs, but every time I would shut my eyes, I would see a picture in my mind of a face leering at me or later a cobra rearing up. Feeling my fair share of self-pity since the others were apparently undisturbed I prayed through. It was more than an hour before I could sleep though I don't know how much longer. There was still some opposition in the service the next morning but we felt something got through. Later I found out part of the problem, this church was the one where the pastor's wife was practicing witchcraft. After this time she stopped, until later when she went back to it secretly as previously mentioned.


  5. Experience Involving a Young Man with a Tatoo

    When I was in South Africa there was a young man I knew who had known the Lord but then had walked away. During this time he had gotten a few tattoos. When he got them they told him that they were African tribal symbols. After a time he came back to the Lord, and a few weeks after that he told us that the one night he woke up and he felt a burning where the tattoos were, and when he looked they had faded, not completely gone, but they were much less visible than before. We encouraged him to keep on praying that they would be totally removed, but unfortunately he later went back into the world. I firmly believe that had he continued following God the tattoos would have totally disappeared.


    While on this subject I should just mention not only are tattoos forbidden by Lev. 19:28, but if you study the origins of it is often linked with spiritism, the designs being put on in accordance with a vision given to a shaman, or to the one receiving the mark. Also included in this would be ritual scarring like the Sioux did in their sundance and is done in a multitude of different ways in other religions as well. A mark is a symbol of ownership. Having a mark on your person that is a symbol of another spirit gives that spirit the right to you. That is the main reason pagan societies used tattoos, warpaint, etc… Indeed, among some tribes such as the Sioux warriors specifically saught a spirit guide in a trance prior to putting on warpaint. The paint dictated by the spirit enabled that spirit to enter and energize them. Similar practices were found among the Picts and among Viking berserkers. With berserkers they were known to become so enraged they bit shields and other hard objects, and after snapping out of it had long fits of depression, a clear sign of the demonic possession and bondage involved in the whole thing.


  6. An Experience Showing that God's Word Speaks to Every Situation

    Once when I was in Bible School I was reading a book on Bible Archaeology, this particular one was by a skeptical man who tried to cast a lot of doubt on what the Bible said concerning certain events. As I was reading this it was as if a mental band came over my mind making it hard to reason against. I was very disturbed, put the book down, but still felt this band pressing in on my mind. Later that day as I was praying and reading Scripture, I came across Psalm 101:3, "I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me." Realizing that this was precisely applicable to my case, I repeated it several times out loud, especially the last part. The band broke. I have had similar experiences since. It is very important what we read and watch, especially if it is something made by one who has backslidden and forsaken God it can cleave to us and produce unbelief in us.


Those are some experiences I have had and seen. They will prove nothing to anyone who does not desire to see, but with a clean conscience I cannot pretend I don't feel things I feel or see things I see. Also if I am making a decision and weighing evidence and looking at Scripture to determine a course of action, I must consider all evidence I have before me, unless wish to make an ill-informed decision.

I should add in closing that sometimes we can be confused by things that happen to us, but if we cast ourselves on Christ He will show us the way out. Often we will realize that there are Scriptures applicable to our situation even if the situation is odd in itself. This is as it should be, if spiritual things are real , and the Bible is a spiritual book, we should expect it to have answers in any spiritual experience we encounter. Some must be rejected, as the Bible has a long list of abominable spiritual practices – necromancy, etc... Christ will give us victory over the enemy and can also impart understanding of our situations as we trust in Him. Praise God!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit – Part 6 – Revelation and in What Sense

In this post I would like to show why some degree of revelation must continue, even if the canon of Scripture is closed and we know it is. Previously I already gave my reasons why I believe the "perfect" of 1 Cor. 13 refers to the second coming as the general agreement of the Christian Church has always been, not the canon of Scripture. Suffice it to say now, that unless I now know as I am known, perfection has not yet come. We still see through a glass dimly, and that no cessationist can argue. Some cessationists allow for some measure of God speaking even today, but my post will be directed towards those who deny any direct revelation of any sort, a semi-deism if you will.

Let me first state that it is impossible to deny all direct revelation consistently and be a born again Christian. Thus we know that many of these cessationists do not actually believe what they say they do. Why do I say this? Because the new birth experience is not only a creation of a new man within us made in the image of God, but is also accompanied by a revelation that we have been born of God, and a realization that Jesus is exactly as He claimed in Scripture – the Son Of God who died and has risen and who will return. What is The Spirit Bearing witness to our spirit, but a revelation that we have experienced the new birth as the Bible tells of it?

Further Christ specifically told his disciples that He would not leave them as orphans (John 14:18). If we are left with the law, but yet without presence of the Spirit within to instruct and remind us in the situations we face and instead must rely totally on our own understanding of it as imparted by elder brothers in the Lord, are we not much like a child-headed orphan family? A father not only chastens and corrects, and lays down a law, but he also listens and talks to His children, shows them how to do what He commands and when they are unable, assists them. Is our Heavenly Father less likely to do this than a sinful by nature earthly father?

Also Christ made a promise to manifest Himself to those who love Him and keep His commandments (John 14:21). By definition any manifestation is revelatory, and any revelation is a manifestation of what was previously obscure.

Now this is the point that should be made clear when I mention revelation. Notice that these examples are not revelations of new doctrines to be propounded but rather are an enlightening of the understanding of an already given Scriptural doctrine. Christ is Saviour already, but He is revealed to us as Saviour when we are born again. Thus these revelations are confirmations of Scripture by experience, and they cannot cease or Scripture would be of no effect.

It has been argued that the main purpose of the gift of prophecy was that what was prophesied could be added to Scripture and once Scripture was written there was no further need. Anyone who thinks thus has no idea of Biblical prophecy at all. There were many non-writing prophets in the Old Testament, compare the use of the term sons of the prophets, and also note how though Jonah's prediction of prosperity for Jereboam II was fulfilled the actual words are not given (2 Kings 14:25). These prophecies were important for those hearing them, but they were not included for the instruction of all times to come as the Scripture was. Also consider Corinth, Phillip's daughters and the other New Testament prophets, if the purpose of their ministry was to add to the canon and yet there is little evidence of any of the perhaps thousands of prophecies given being added to the canon were the gifts not complete, consummate and catastrophic failures? Thankfully, that is not what the New Testament says of prophecy. Prophecy is for edification, exhortation, and comfort (1 Cor. 14:3). It establishes a person in the path that God has ordained for his life. Timothy had received a prophecy and also a gift when the elders had laid hands on him (1 Tim. 4:14). We do not know what the gift was, but we do not need to know, Timothy knew and was the one that needed to use what was imparted and required a reminder to do so from Paul. Thus some prophecies are for specific situations either personal, congregational, or even national. They were intended to guide the receivers in their actions, and were never intended to be received into the canon of Scripture. Thus the whole argument for cessation of gifts due to the closure of the canon is, frankly, irrelevant.

In closing this post I would also add that I fail to see how it would be possible to believe in no direct revelation at all and yet to sing some of the hymns in any non-sophistical sense. Hymns such as "He lives" and "This is my Father's World" are examples.

In my next an final post, I intend to mention a few personal experiences I have had and also discuss a little on miracles and experiences in general.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit – Part 5 – Evidence for Continuance

In this post I would like to look at some evidence for the continuance of the gifts of the Spirit. I would like to look at Scriptural evidence first and then proceed to historical.

The first passage I would like to quote in defense of the continuance of the gifts is a much contested one. That is Mark 16:17-18. This whole portion of Mark from verses 9-20 is questioned, because not only does it not occur in some manuscripts, but some have a shorter ending in its place and some have both endings showing that the copyist knew of both and unable to decide put both in. Clearly there was a papyrus roll of Mark floating around with no ending at all at some point which lead to problems for scribes. One Armenian manuscript ascribes these verses to Ariston, possibly Aristion the disciple of John. There is no way at this point in time to conclusively prove or disprove Mark's authorship. However, I submit this:

  1. They are dated by almost all to at latest 100 AD and so fall within Apostolic times
  2. We accept John 21:24-25, Numbers 12:3, and a few other verses believed to have been added shortly after the writer wrote the book to also be inspired. If this passage was not written by Mark, but was penned by someone like Aristion, or another one who had heard this portion of Christ's words from an apostle than there is no reason to reject it.
  3. If it is the Word of God it will stand whether we reject it or not. The children of Israel's unbelief did not make God's promise of no avail but it did keep them out of the land. The disbelief of any portion of God's Word will not damage it, but it will shut us out from the promises and comfort contained in it.

With that in mind here is Mark 9:17-18:

And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.


May I suggest that if it were not for what this portion of Scripture teaches it would have been much more readily accepted. Now I inquire do these signs really follow those that believe? For those that believe it, they do. In the instance of laying hands on the sick and their recovery there are scores of men throughout church history who saw this. I will mention a few examples of this and other miraculous manifestations later.


Looking at a few more passages, we come to Peter on the day of Pentecost.


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. 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." (Acts 2:38-39). The promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit is for all who are called of God. This is the promise of the Father Christ told the apostles to wait for that was manifested by their speaking in tongues.


As we already saw in our post on 1 Cor. 14, Paul desired all the believers to speak in tongues, but even more he desired them to also enter into prophecy (1 Cor. 14:5). He also wrote to the Thessalonians to not despise prophecies, but to test all things and hold fast to the good (1 Thess. 5:20-21).


Reading these verses alone you would find no hint that the gifts of the Spirit were ever to cease. The only passage of Scripture which alludes at all to the cessation of prophecy and other gifts is 1 Cor. 13:8-13.


Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.


The bone of contention in this passage lies with what the perfect is in this passage – the canon of Scripture or Christ's return in glory. Applying this portion Scripture to the canon of Scripture is probably one of the sorriest pieces of eisegesis done in modern times. It is equivalent to doing to this text what God threatened to do to Jerusalem in 2 Kings 21:13 – wiping it clean and turning it upside down! Why do I say this?


  1. Do we now see Him face to face? If we do not then we are still in partial knowledge not full.
  2. Do we know as we are known now? Then we are not yet in the time of cessation.


That these verses were understood of the second coming of Christ and not the canon of Scripture until comparatively recently is clear from even a cursory glance at the writings of those who have gone before from a wide spectrum of believers. Gill, Wesley, Clarke and Barnes all refer this to the saints in heaven and second coming not the canon. Going back to the earliest possible commentary on this passage we come to a lost work by an anti-montanistic write quoted by Eusebius, the Church historian:


And again after a little he says: "For if after Quadratus and Ammia in Philadelphia, as they assert, the women with Montanus received the prophetic gift, let them show who among them received it from Montanus and the women. For the apostle thought it necessary that the prophetic gift should continue in all the Church until the final coming. But they cannot show it, though this is the fourteenth year since the death of Maximilla."


The editor of the translation of the fathers I took this from (Philip Schaff) confesses ignorance as to what passage this writer refers to, but notes that the term "the apostle" without a name following referred to Paul in the early church. Clearly though this writer interpreted the perfect of 1 Corinthians 13 as referring to the second coming and argued in essence that since the Montanists had lost the gift they were not the true Church. It should be noted while we are on the subject of the Montanists, who are often claimed as the forerunners of Pentecostals by our opponents, that the Montanists were not condemned for prophesying, but for their manner of doing it. They gave their prophecies often in ecstacy, involuntarily, under compulsion. The Church condemned this because as Paul had written, "the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets" (1 Cor. 14:32). The Church at this time had some prophets of its own and clearly believed that there would be some in it until Christ returned.


Having thus shown I from Scripture why I believe the gifts should continue, I would like to look at a few examples of some of the gifts in history. Before I do this I should mention a little concerning how I evaluate miracles that I read of in history. There are many tales of miracles in some of these early works, some of which are, frankly, incredible and absurd. Miracles if done by the Spirit of God must be governed by Scripture. This is as true for ones done a thousand years ago as for ones done today. So here are my criteria for evaluating miracles.


  1. Since the Comforter does not bear witness to Himself or to the one working the miracle, but rather to Christ any genuine miracle should do so. Peter and Paul both refused any honor for the miracles they worked and pointed to Christ (Acts 4:10; Acts 14:8-18). Any miracle done in the name of a saint or another god, is a lying wonder. Also if the result of the person's miracles tend to produce a cultish following of him rather than of Christ which he does nothing to correct then the source should be questioned.


  2. The manifestation of the Spirit is given to everyman for his profit. The miracles recorded should be done for a specific good reason. Healings may glorify Christ and vindicate the Gospel, but that is not the primary purpose. The purpose of a healing is seeing one afflicted by disease recover. This is why the gifts flow from love. Many of Christ's miracles were wrought specifically out of compassion. On the other hand He steadfastly refused to work miracles as a proof of His ministry. His miracles validated His ministry, but that was not the primary purpose. True miracles should always be worked for the good of the recipient. Flashy, showy manifestations that do little good to anyone, but draw attention to the one doing them are not of God.


  3. Does it seem plausible or is it a fabulous and absurd miracle which is likely legendary? This one is subjective and thus the least reliable of my criteria. I do try as reading various accounts of men to discern if the said miracle is plausible on many I doubt it and on many others I merely cannot state with any confidence one way or the other.


I will try in this following section to state a few that I believe meet both my criteria and which I also consider plausible. Of course if someone is convinced that miracles have ceased, they will not find them very plausible, but I leave it up to the reader to weigh each case I give himself.


Examples of Prophecy


I quote my first from the Life of St. Columban written by the monk Jonas in the 7th Century.


In the meantime the compact of peace which Theuderich and Theudebert had made was broken, and each one, priding himself on the strength of his followers, endeavored to kill the other. Then Columban went to king Theudebert and demanded that he should resign his kingdom and enter a monastery, in order not to lose both earthly crown and everlasting life. The king and his companions laughed; they had never heard of a Merovingian on the throne, who had voluntarily given up everything and become a monk. But Columban said, if the king was not willing voluntarily to undertake the honor of the priestly office, he would soon be compelled to do it against his will. After these words the holy man returned to his cell ; but his prophecy was soon verified by events. Theuderich immediately advanced against Theudebert, defeated him near Zülpich, and pursued him with a great army. Theudebert gathered new forces and a second battle was fought near Zülpich. Many fell on both sides, but Theudebert was finally defeated and fled.

At that time the man of God was staying in the wilderness, having only one attendant, Chagnoald. At the hour when the battle near Zülpich began, Columban was sitting on the trunk of a rotten oak, reading a book. Suddenly he was overcome by sleep and saw what was taking place between the two kings. Soon after be aroused, and calling his attendant, told him of the bloody battle, grieving at the loss of so much human blood. His attendant said with rash presumption: "My father, aid Theudebert with your prayers, so that he may defeat the common enemy, Theuderich." Columban answered: "Your advice is foolish and irreligious, for God, who commanded us to pray for our enemies has not so willed.. The just Judge has already determined what He wills concerning them." The attendant afterwards enquired and found that the battle had, taken place on that day and at that hour, just as the man of God had revealed to him.

Theuderich pursued Theudebert, and the latter was captured by the treachery of his followers-and sent to his grandmother, Brunhilda. She, in her fury, because she was on Theuderich's side, shut him up in a monastery, but after a few days she mercilessly had him murdered.

I leave the plausibility of this to the reader, but just to help those who are unfamiliar with the events I will state that politically and personally Columban was far more disposed to the king killed than the victor. There is more in the life relating to Columban's prophetic ministry but I leave only this sample. Notice that he is not presented in this tale as one who can change what God has ordained should he wish it, but only as a messenger of what God has already decreed, that is a large part of the prophetic ministry. Sometimes they can intercede, but at other times the decree has already been set.

Next I would like to consider the case of Savonarola. He is a fairly controversial figure who clearly had his faults. He prophesied repeatedly that he had seen judgment coming upon Italy and Rome. After Florence tired of him they had him executed in 1498. In the next 30 or so years following took place the Italian wars, including the sacking of Rome in 1527. This particular sacking is viewed by historians as a far worse one then Rome had seen even by the Vandals and Goths. The whole of Italy was thrown into turmoil during this period. Micah's prophecy that Jerusalem would be like a plowed field, was not fulfilled far later than 30 years after it was given, so the time frame can hardly be used to discredit Savonarola.

Last in my sample, which is by no means exhaustive, is mentioned in George Fox's auto biography concerning the fire of London:

The people of London were forewarned of this fire; yet few laid to heart, or believed it; but rather grew more wicked, and higher in pride. For a Friend was moved to come out of Huntingdonshire a little before the fire, to scatter his money, and turn his horse loose on the streets, to untie the knees of his trousers, let his stockings fall down, and to unbutton his doublet, and tell the people that so should they run up and down, scattering their money and their goods, half undressed, like mad people, as he was sign to them; and so they did, when the city was burning.


Examples of Healings


Without going into too many details as my post is getting fairly long now a few men who were noted for laying hands on the sick and seeing them recover were. St. Anskar (also spelled Ansgar), and St. Bernard (very interesting in that he mentions his own miracles as apparently provoking amazement in himself as well as on lookers) are two candidates for the continuance of healing.


Examples of Speaking in Tongues


There are several possible references to speaking in tongues in the lives of various men of God, but usually they are vague enough that it is hard to state with certainty. John Calvin wrote to Beza concerning his having awoken and found himself speaking in a barbarous language. Charles Finney had an experience in which he felt infilled the Holy Spirit and bellowed unutterable gushings from his soul. Both of these could easily refer to tongues though proof is another matter.


Time and space constraints limit me somewhat in this work on miracles in history. Let me merely add for those willing to do more searching, Charles Spurgeon several times manifested what Pentecostals would call words of knowledge in his pulpit ministry. Speaking in tongues and prophecy were sometimes reported among early Methodists, Quakers, Anabaptists and others.


I intend to write another post soon on why every Christian must logically believe in some measure of divine revelation to an individual, but I'll close this post with a quote from my namesake who was executed as an Anabaptist heretic at Graz in 1534, as his confession of faith he gave the Apostle's Creed with this addition, "We believe also, that there is a Christian church, in which the Holy Spirit has His work." To which I say, "Amen."







Monday, July 26, 2010

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit – Part 4 – A look at 1 Corinthians 14

One passage that is of importance in understanding the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the use of tongues is 1 Corinthians 14. I would like to devote this post to a study of this chapter and explain, at least I hope so, the difference between speaking in tongues in delivering a message to the Church which requires interpretation, and praying in tongues which does not.

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 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. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 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 (v. 1-5).

Paul starts out first continuing from the previous chapter which emphasized love without which everything we do or say is worthless. He never gives an either or proposition for character and gifts, but instead affirms both. Pursue love and also desire the gifts. He then goes to show why prophecy is superior to tongues. Tongues are spoken to God who understands them, and edify the speaker, but not the hearers. Prophecy edifies, encourages and consoles the church. The gift of prophecy is not really involved in foretelling future events, that belongs to the Ministerial office of prophet that Christ sets in His Church. Paul never wrote that all should desire to be prophets but that all should desire to prophesy. In practice in the Pentecostal churches I have been in, prophecies are usually quoted scripture, sometimes with an application, not given with anyone in mind but addressed to the congregation in general. As such it fulfills the conditions edification, encouragement, and consolation. Often it has often spoken to me personally concerning things I was considering and had mentioned to no one. In order for a message in tongues to have a similar effect it must be interpreted.

Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church (v. 6-13).

Paul continues to explain why interpretation is necessary, and again encourages that gifts be used to edify the Church, not show off or used in a way to the detriment thereof.

Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 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. 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? For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue (v. 14-19).

One accusation often brought against Pentecostals is that our tongues are not Biblical because we do not pray to interpret them. Our distinction between the prayer tongue which is received initially as a evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the gift of tongues is then held to be a fiction to justify our error. Let’s look at this section closely then shall we? We are enjoined to pray for interpretation if we speak in a tongue with the thought again of considering others as the reason. Then Paul says that he excels them all in speaking in tongues, but would rather speak in the vernacular in Church. Consider this closely:

1. The apostle Paul spoke much in tongues
2. Assuming he followed his own counsel here, he didn’t do most of that in church
3. that leads me to believe that he did it in prayer to God privately
4. Since he previously stated that the one praying in tongues edifies himself and speaks mysteries to God, is he required by this passage to interpret what he prays to God? No, because the interpretation was for the sake of the others.

This is what we refer to as our prayer language, and it doesn’t usually require interpretation. Occasionally we may pray for interpretation that we might understand what we are praying, but whatever we pray we know it is the mind of the Spirit, who can readily say that when they pray in the vernacular? There is a difference between the gift of tongues, which is like a prophecy in a foreign language and requires interpretation, and the speaking in tongues Paul was doing before God. I would also say to our critics, what is your response when you here tongues, since you require all tongues to receive interpretation? Do you pray that you might interpret? Would to God you did, more likely you would silence them, but where is that found in Scripture?

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. 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." Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. 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? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 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. 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. If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. (v. 20-28).

Paul writes more concerning the rationale in preferring prophecy to tongues. In the last verse in allowing the people to speak to themselves and to God I see an allowance for softly speak prayers in vernacular and tongues while waiting on God for a word or interpretation.

Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints,(v.29-33).

This passage does not limit the number of prophecies in a meeting because he specifically writes all may prophesy one by one. He is basically telling them not to cut each other off by trying to all prophesy at the same time, and reminds them that the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. Meaning that it is possible to restrain and channel the unction given. Personally, I have at times felt a word quickened, but had to hold back until the service was quieter and it could be heard. Gifts must be exercised in such a way as to best edify the Church.

the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. (v. 34-38)

The context of this command to women is referring to asking questions of their husbands, and as will be remembered in eastern churches they likely sat separately which would create much confusion. It does not refer to being silent from prayer or prophecy, because Paul gives instructions concerning how women should pray and prophesy in Chapter 11:5. We also see from Acts that Philip’s daughters prophesied (Acts 21:9). I leave it to the judgment of the reader where they did this and which was more befitting of modesty to operate their gifts in the gatherings of the faithful, or in markets and byways of the world.

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

Again he exhorts them to desire prophecy. Cessationists violate both parts of this verse, because the both do not desire to prophesy and forbid to speak in tongues. He concludes by telling them in surmise that all things should be done decently and in order. Note there are two parts to this, all things should be DONE, these gifts should be used. How? They should be used decently and in order. May it be so. I intend to continue this series by next looking at why I believe the gifts have not ceased both doctrinally and historically.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit – Part 3 – Some Misconceptions of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

In this post I would like to look at some misconceptions of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

  1. Unless someone speaks in tongues they are not saved

This is a very fringe position of a few Pentecostals. I would say roughly percentage wise it is equivalent to the percentage of hyper-Calvinists that believe that God is the author of sin. It is clear from Scripture that the disciples had already received the Holy Spirit (John 20:22) before the day of Pentecost. On the day of Pentecost Peter told those who asked what they were to do that after repenting and being baptized they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Since Jesus speaking in John 14 specifically stated that the world cannot receive the Comforter, thus this baptism can only come on those already converted. It can come on those newly converted as it did upon Cornelius and those with him, and in that case it was done specifically to show that he had been converted as Peter knew the Comforter cannot be received by the world, thus he had no grounds for refusing baptism. At Ephesus, it appears that the former disciples of John received salvation, baptism in water and the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the same day in quick succession, but Paul had started by asking them if they had received the Holy Spirit since they believed clearly referring to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. In Samaria under Philip's ministry many believed and were baptized, but only after Peter and John came and laid hands on them did they receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, so clearly someone can be saved without speaking in tongues. However it is also clear from Paul's first question to those at Ephesus, the response in Jerusalem to the revival in Samaria, and Christ's command to tarry in Jerusalem until they received the promise the need of the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers.

  1. Speaking in tongues is a sign of holiness

It is a common misconception that the gifts of God are a sign of holiness. This is not the case. In the Galatian church they had serious errors and were in danger of slipping into damnable heresy, yet Paul pointed to examples of miracles being worked among them and showed that the miracles flowed from faith, not the works of the law (Gal. 3:5). The Corinthians excelled in gifts and used them to show off but were hardly holy. Peter was reproved by Paul for his conduct long after he had begun to flow in the gifts of the Spirit. Working miracles in the Name of Jesus is not even proof of our ultimate salvation, let alone a superior holiness (Mat. 7:21-23). In the Old Testament the offering on the day of Pentecost that was offered to the Lord was singular in that it was the only offering which contained leaven (Lev. 23:16-17). In type then there can be a lot of sin still in someone who is flowing in the gifts. The children of Israel had miraculous provision for their needs not only at the beginning of their journey, but even for the extra 38 they gained through rebellion. The miracles were signs of God's provision, but not a sign of their holiness. The Lord both receives and gives gifts even to the rebellious that He might dwell among them (Psa. 68:18; Eph. 4:8-10).

Looking at Ezekiel's vision of the river we can see a certain comparison (Ezek. 47). At each point in the vision the waters are measured and then we are told the depth as he wades further into the river. The measure is always a thousand which could point to a certain fixed stage of Christian walk. The first one is ankle deep, which speaks of salvation, prior to that we never knew there was a river, but now we feel it's refreshing on our feet and enjoy it. The next could be compared to water baptism, we follow Christ in obedience into the waters of Baptism and it begins to affect our way of walking – knee deep. Then we come to waist deep, which I would compare to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, because once you are waist deep in water you feel the current far more than before. However, and this is the problem, you can still resist it. Many, many Pentecostals feel the moving of the Holy Spirit, but they often would rather do their own thing. The final depth is swimming depth, and when you swim in a river it carries you along the current even as you move. This is a sign of true Christian maturity and one which Christ specifically spoke to Peter, "Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go" (John 21:18).

It should also be noted that nowhere are the gifts spoken of as bad or a sign of immaturity. The abuse of them was corrected. Every good and perfect gift comes from above, though men can taint them. We do not condemn the gift of marriage because people abuse it, and we should not condemn the gifts of the Spirit either. Paul believed that spiritual gifts established believers (Rom. 1:1). He also encouraged the Corinthians to covet the best ones – the ones that most edified the Church (1 Cor. 12:31; 14:39).

  1. I am Spirit-filled but I have never spoken in tongues

Sometimes people believe that they are Spirit-filled because they have been used in healing, casting out demons, have an anointing to preach, or some other experience with God. Remember that the Apostles when sent out by Christ preached, cast out devils and performed healings, but they still were told by Christ to wait for the promise of the Father. The immediate effect of the reception of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost was speaking in tongues, though there were many side effects (Acts 2:4). Also this was seen as evidence of reception of the Spirit by Peter in the case of Cornelius (Acts 10:46-47). The men in Ephesus also spoke in tongues and also prophesied, which shows that prophecy can and should flow from us as we flow in the Spirit (Acts 19:6). The key to knowing if we have received the promise is whether or not we have spoken in other tongues.

These are probably the three most common misconceptions of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I intend to carry on in the series with more posts on this topic, looking at some side issues and also if I am able at some doctrinal and historical evidence for the continuation of the gifts.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit – Part 2 – the Effects of it

As we look at the effects of the baptism in the Spirit it is perhaps first helpful to understand what the Word "baptize" means. I once read a Baptist archaeologist, whose name I would cite if I could remember it, state that while the Greek "baptizo" means "immerse", it means more than that. The ordinary Greek word for immerse is "bapto," and "baptizo" is a more emphatic form. Having written this he publishes an ancient Greek pickle recipe to demonstrate his point. In the recipe cucumbers were first dipped "bapto" in boiling water, then dipped "baptizo" in vinegar. The difference between mere dipping and baptism was baptism produced a marked change in the thing dipped just as the vinegar changed a cucumber into a pickle. The word was also used to describe the dying of a cloth, or sinking of a ship, or being overwhelmed in general. As this relates to water baptism I think this is apparent. As we choose to follow Christ in the waters of baptism we are buried with Him and begin a new life, we proclaim publicly our following of Him and it has an indelible effect upon us, whether we are true to the profession made there or not. Now in looking at the baptism in the Holy Spirit, we are referring to an immersion into the Spirit of God, like a cup thrown into a lake, where the water is in the cup and the cup is in the water, so we become vessels in the Spirit filled with the Spirit. Baptism in the Spirit must produce a marked change in our lives or it is not a true baptism. What are the effects then?

  1. Speaking in other (foreign) tongues

Acts 2:1-4, "When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance." Notice here that while the entrance of the Spirit into the room was announced by the wind and fire, but the filling of the individuals was shown by their speaking in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to enunciate clearly (the meaning of utterance). Peter speaking later to the crown who wondered what was going on told them that this was the promise given by Joel. He also added that it was the promise of the Father that Christ had received on His ascension that they were seeing and hearing (v. 33). Further he promised them that they and all who were called of God could enter into this promise if they repented and were baptized (Acts 2:38-39). The tongues that they were hearing were an intimate part of the promise of the Father so much so that they are the initial evidence of this promise.


Looking now at Acts 8, we see that Phillip the deacon ministered in Samaria and many responded and were baptized (Acts 8:12). Yet later we see that the apostles in Jerusalem specifically sent Peter and John to Samaria to pray for these converts to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17). Clearly this does not refer reception of the Spirit at salvation, it must refer to something else, the most obvious conclusion would be that it refers to receiving subsequently the promise of the Father with its intendant sign and this is allowed by many non-pentecostal commentators such as Gill, Barnes, and Clarke. If the early church felt it important enough to send a special mission out to ensure that the new converts were filled with the Spirit, do you not think that it is perhaps important for us as Christians to enter in to this same blessing?


In Acts 10, Peter was preaching to the Gentiles, much to his own initial horror, and the Spirit fell on them. They manifested this by speaking in tongues (Acts 10:44-48). This opened the door to the Gentile believers. Peter knowing that the Spirit had fallen on them because of their speaking with tongues could not forbid their baptism. This portion of Scripture shows us that Peter interpreted the speaking in tongues as evidence of being filled with the Spirit. It also presents a large obstacle to the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, but that is another issue.


Peter then defends his conduct to his Jewish brethren in the next chapter saying, "As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?" This again shows that he equated the speaking with tongues with the reception of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.


In Ephesus Paul met disciples of John the Baptist who he first baptized into Christ and then laid hands on them the received the Holy Spirit and spoke with other tongues and prophesied (Acts 19:1-7). Again we see speaking with other tongues linked with receiving the Holy Spirit.


I think it is clear from these Scriptures that we have looked at that this experience is subsequent to salvation. It is also clear from these passages that this experience is separate from water baptism. I also trust that it is clear that the one manifestation that is the distinguishing evidence of this experience is speaking in other tongues, though other effects also follow.


  1. Boldness

Boldness is an effect of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. The marked contrast in the Apostles conduct at the time of Christ's crucifixion and the day of Pentecost says volumes about the power of the emboldening Spirit. The religious leaders saw it and realized it came from Christ (Acts 4:13). Furthermore they prayed for more boldness in the face of persecution and were heard.


  1. Guidance

It is interesting to note that after the Spirit fell we never see the use of lots for guidance any more in Scripture, but instead the believers were lead by the Holy Spirit. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit opens us up to receive His voice and prodding in a greater way than we have before.


  1. Other miraculous gifts

The baptism of the Holy Spirit also resulted in a flow of spiritual gifts, such as prophecy, miracles, and healing. Jesus had promised rivers of living water flowing out of believers and the rivers can be various in manifestation, but flow from one source. It should be noted though that it is at least somewhat possible to move in healing and casting out devils without the baptism in the Holy Spirit because all the Apostles and the seventy did (Matt. 10:1;Luke 10:17).


These are not the only effects of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, but I think they are a sufficient look at some of the main ones. In my next post I would like to look at some misconceptions of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and with God's help do what I can to clear them up.



The Baptism of the Holy Spirit – Part 1 – the Promise of it

In this series of posts I would like to look at the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. I want to look at this doctrine fairly comprehensively, starting with this post by looking at the promise of it, when the promise was first given and how God later enlarged on it. Whenever we study a doctrine in the Word of God, we will see that it is first hinted at, then enlarged on, and lastly fulfilled and made openly available. This is true of redemption seen first vaguely in Gen. 3:15 before being enunciated more and more clearly until being seen and fulfilled in Christ. In the same way the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was first promised in the Old Testament, being gradually amplified and enlarged until poured out on the day of Pentecost.

The first seed of the promise is found, at least as far as I see, in Numbers 11. In this passage of Scripture Moses was weary because the people were constantly complaining and asked God for help. God took a measure of the Spirit that was upon Moses and placed it on the elders of Israel, including Eldad and Medad who had neglected to come when summoned. This angered Joshua who wanted to silence them. Moses replied in Verse 29, ""Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD's people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!" Moses shows the heart of God in desiring to place His Spirit upon all of His children, this is the promise in a seed form.

It is also worth noting here that while the Feast of Pentecost was not kept in the wilderness journey, because it was a harvest feast, the law was apparently given on the day of Pentecost as seen from Exodus 19. It was on that day that the mountain shook and the Law was given externally and the people were commanded not to draw near lest they die. On that same day many years later, there was a mighty wind and tongues of fire and many were called to draw near, that the law might be written internally.

Later in time we come to Joel, who having prophesied the removal of the current difficulties Israel was then facing upon the repentance and turning unto God, further promised, "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit" (Joel 2:28-32). The "afterwards" is one of those little jumps in the prophetical timeline skipping several hundred years, as Peter pointed out at Pentecost. Again the promise was to all from the oldest to the youngest, regardless of sex or rank.


The prophet Isaiah begins chapter 28 by pronouncing woes upon Ephraim, specifically their rulers, and continues with a promise of His being in place of the rulers the crown of glory, the spirit of judgment, and the strength of those in battle. Then Isaiah carries on and referring firstly to the Babylonians yet looking beyond them as Paul shows us in 1 Cor. 14:21 says, "For by people of strange lips and with a foreign tongue the LORD will speak to this people, to whom he has said, "This is rest; give rest to the weary; and this is repose"; yet they would not hear" (Isaiah 28:11-12). In this chapter also this speaking in a foreign language is shown in contrast with the exterior law which was precept upon precept and was not heeded.


This promise is also alluded to in Jeremiah's promise of the New Covenant where the law be written on the heart and not on stones. A few years later, God speaking through Ezekiel reiterates the same promise, "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules." The putting of His Spirit within us is the hall mark of the New Covenant. It is true that we all receive the Holy Spirit at salvation, but there is a greater depth of the Spirit than mere salvation spoken of here. We will look at this more in depth in the future.


Progressing to the beginning of the New Testament John the Baptist proclaimed Christ as the One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Luke 3:16).


Jesus in John chapter 7 gave the promise of rivers of living water flowing out from believers speaking specifically of the Spirit who was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified (v.37-39). Jesus also encouraged men to ask seek and knock for the Spirit that the Father would give to those who ask (Luke 11:9-13).


In the last discourse He had with His disciples before going to the cross, He spoke concerning the coming Comforter. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you" (John 14:12-18). Then a little later He continues, "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." Notice that this portion of Scripture is an expansion of the promise of the New Covenant, with believers receiving the Spirit as indwelling, and teaching us the right way, and reminding us of what Christ has taught.


Looking now at the same discourse, but chapter 15, Jesus says, "But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning" (v.26-27). He repeats some of the previous thoughts in John 16, and adds that the Spirit will convict of sin, righteousness, and judgment.


Some reading these chapters would refer them to receiving the Holy Spirit at salvation, however, I refer this portion to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and not to salvation for several reasons. Firstly, Christ says that this will happen after He went to the Father, and the disciples received the Spirit prior to their baptism in the Spirit in John 20:22. Secondly, this reception of the Holy Spirit is specifically tied to the ability to witness which is related to the infilling in Acts 2 (compare Acts 1:8 with John 15:26-27). Also Christ specifically told them to await the promise of the Father after this which implies a previous promise that if not found here and in the continuing discourse is found nowhere at all in Christ's teaching.


The coming of this Comforter is important, so important that Jesus commanded the disciples to wait for it in Jerusalem. This is the promise spoken of first by Moses that all God's people would have His Spirit upon them, reiterated and enlarged on by Joel, and foretold as one of Christ's ministries by John. Christ is the Baptizer in the Holy Spirit. It is the Father that sends the Spirit through Christ, who is the Baptizer. So what are the effects of this promise? We will look at that in the next post.







Tuesday, July 20, 2010

More on Divine Rejection of Anything Originating in Man

Since my last post touched on semi-pelagianism, I wanted to further elaborate on God's rejection of anything originating in man. I want to make this post more practical than the last one, if possible, because even if we are not and have never been semi-pelagian in our theology, we all tend to be so in our attitudes and actions. We often confess the truth, but only later does it really work its way into our hearts and begin to influence attitudes and actions.

The first portion of Scripture I would like to consider is Leviticus chapter 15, which was doubtless given to promote physical health among the Israelites but also could be summarized as saying that anything issuing from within man defiled him. One of the main complaints made by God against the false prophets to Jeremiah in Jer. 23:14-26 is their prophesying out of their own heart and own mind. Since the carnal mind is always at enmity with God, anything originated by it will have evil and not good consequences. The writer of Hebrews brings out the thought of the rest of God and writes in Heb. 4:9-10, "So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his." So this rest is essentially ceasing from our own (ie. self-initiated works). This passage compares well with Isaiah 58:13-14, "If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken." Notice the repetition of the phrase "your own." To delight in the Lord in the fullest sense we have to first forsake what is our own.

Next I would like to look at the Tabernacle of Moses. The tabernacle is important because it was the means which God ordained to meet with His people for a period of roughly 400 years. Also it had a heavenly counterpart into which Christ entered with His perfect sacrifice (Heb. 9:23-24). Since the Tabernacle had to show certain eternal realities, it had to follow the eternal pattern and thus both the idea of having a Tabernacle and the way it should be were given to Moses directly by God (Ex. 25:8-9, 40). Thus the tabernacle was of God. It is also worth noting that the making of the tabernacle and it's furniture was placed under the care of two men who specifically enabled by the Spirit of God to do it (Ex. 31:1-6). It is also interesting that those chosen did have natural skill in this area (v.6). It is not that natural skill is to be despised, on the contrary God gives us talents and abilities and we should develop them. However, to accomplish anything of true eternal value, such as the tabernacle, we cannot rely on human talents alone, but must have them enabled by God's Spirit. Thus the Tabernacle was made through God's power. It was made to God for His dwelling place and that having been done His fire fell and consecrated it. The tabernacle really epitomized Rom. 11:36.

Carrying on with the theme of human insufficiency, we come to the injunction of Exodus 20:24-26, which referred to altars outside the tabernacle and temple made out of stone. The stone had to be natural, as formed by God and the forces He created, not shaped by man, because that polluted it. It is good to remind ourselves often that in every offering of worship we bring to God it is only accepted if offered through the Spirit. The more we rely on the Spirit the more our worship will carry His anointing. Our offering can also only be accepted if we are first accepted (Gen. 4:3-5 – notice the order unto Abel and his offering… unto Cain and his offering), so we are in constant need of the blood of the Lamb to make us acceptable to draw near to God.

The Apostle Paul clearly felt insufficient for his task as a Christian. "But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ" (2 Cor. 2:14-17). If as these verses imply we are carriers of Christ's fragrance and as such bring a separation in our lives between those who love Christ and those who do not, how can we be sufficient to do this? We are talking about eternal destinies of human souls. Only God in us can produce the fragrance of Christ, when that is in us then people's attitudes and actions towards us reflect their response to Jesus. May we be careful never to put people off of Christ by our bad conduct. May we also be careful never to lull them into a false sense of security. This is only possible by the aid of the Spirit.


If you feel unable now, good. Now let deep call out to deep. Only infinity can fill infinity, and only an infinite God can fill the infinite hell of the human heart and make it worthy of Him. Let the depth of your sorrow call out for the depths of His joy, the depth of your weakness call for His strength and the depth of your sin for the depth of His holiness. Let Him lift you up give you feet like a deer's and set you on your high places. Amen.



Friday, July 16, 2010

Arminian answer to John Cassian’s Semi-pelagianism

John Cassian was one of the foremost founders of western monasticism. In his earlier life he had been a monk in Bethlehem and then had journeyed to Egypt with a friend to see the monks there. Later he was a friend of John Chrysostom in Constantinople, before settling in the area of Massilia (Marseille). From the instruction he had received in Egypt he published a series of conferences reproducing what he and his friend heard from the monks of Egypt.


Reading the conferences sheds some light on monasticism in Egypt and the ethos around it. They prided themselves on strictness and if your idea of piety is having your cook perform open penance (he was excluded from common prayers for a time and had to beg for prayers from his brethren as they assembled) for hurrying with the pot he was carrying and sloshing water and a few lentils on the ground then you would love monasticism. There were doubtless good Christians among these monks, and some of the things written by Cassian are very good, but monasticism has a great flaw. It is in direct contradiction of Paul's command in 1 Corinthians 7:23, where it is forbidden for Christians to become slaves voluntarily. Monks were not called slaves, but they were in the condition in that like slaves they could not leave without permission and if they did could be found and hauled back. They could not own property, but were effectively property of the monastery. They took a vow of perpetual obedience which is extremely perilous for the human conscience. All of this is slavery in essence if not in name.


Also found in the conferences in the third conference of Abbot Chaeremon chapter XII is a statement and some scriptural passages which he uses in support of Semi-pelagianism. Cassian was a contemporary of Augustine and though an opponent of Pelagianism, he believed that it is possible for man unaided by God in at least some cases to draw near to God. This is known as semi-pelagianism. Pure pelagianism denied any consequence of the fall but bad example, and praised the merits of human ability to such an extant that it practically denied the need of God's grace in redemption. Semi-pelagianism acknowledges God's grace in that it believes that without God's grace our best endeavors will not succeed, it differs from Arminianism and Calvinism in believing that the beginning of these endeavors can arise from ourselves.


In this post I will quote the fore-mentioned section of the conference and then try to show where I differ and why I think Cassian is in error. This section of the conference is the basic statement of his beliefs and in dealing with it I will be dealing with semi-pelagianism as a whole.



For we should not hold that God made man such that he can never will or be capable of what is good: or else He has not granted him a free will, if He has suffered him only to will or be capable of evil, but neither to will or be capable of what is good of himself. And, in this case how will that first statement of the Lord made about men after the fall stand: "Behold, Adam is become as one of us, knowing good and evil?" For we cannot think that before, he was such as to be altogether ignorant of good. Otherwise we should have to admit that he was formed like some irrational and insensate beast: which is sufficiently absurd and altogether alien from the Catholic faith.


This opening statement is the heart of semi-pelagianism. What exactly is the natural human condition in regard to good? Jesus brought out both total depravity and an ability to do basic natural goodness in Matt. 7:11, "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" This goodness to children is part of the image of God in which man was originally created, it is present in even evil men and absent only in the most fiendish. However, this goodness is not true goodness, because it did not make these people any less evil in nature. Jesus also shows in Matt. 5:43-48, that even notorious sinners are capable of loving those who love them and repaying kindness with kindness, and that these things though they would appear good fall short of the goodness which God requires. Only true goodness can cry for the punishment to come on those who are bringing about your own death, only true goodness could give natural benefits to all whether they worship Him or not, and only true goodness could grant a man the very breath he uses to expel blasphemy against the one who gave it to him. This is true goodness, this is true righteousness. It isn't in any of us. We are only too happy to retaliate on others when we are slighted, or if better inclined to merely ignore them, not to love. Our righteousness is as filthy rags. In the tabernacle it was forbidden to offer honey with any sacrifice on the altar (Lev. 2:11). Honey like human goodness cannot abide the fire, but turns bitter in the heat. In the same way, whatever good we do as humans shows what a good God created us, but is in no way effectual in saving us or causing Him to give us grace.


As to Adam and his knowledge prior to the fall, he was able to enjoy the goodness of God, but that doesn't mean he had a knowledge of what that goodness entailed. Just as a child can enjoy and experience the care of a parent without really knowing it. As infants we become acquainted with good and evil the same way Adam was, it is driven into our consciousness when we cross over the line and first transgress. Until that time we had the nature of Adam, but it was only manifest when the command came and we transgressed. Adam was clearly a sensible and moral being that enabled him to fellowship with God, but though placed in a moral world, he had little idea of what morality meant. Also at this time there were no wrong foods for him to eat except the one forbidden, no thorns or noxious plants. Thus he would have been unable to discriminate between baneful and good, not because he lacked the faculty, but becasue only good was there.


Moreover as the wisest Solomon says: "God made man upright," i.e., always to enjoy the knowledge of good only, "But they have sought out many imaginations," for they came, as has been said, to know good and evil. Adam therefore after the fall conceived a knowledge of evil which he had not previously, but did not lose the knowledge of good which he had before. Finally the Apostle's words very clearly show that mankind did not lose after the fall of Adam the knowledge of good: as he says: "For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things of the law, these, though they have not the law, are a law to themselves, as they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to these, and their thoughts within them either accusing or else excusing them, in the day in which God shall judge the secrets of men."


Yes, man has the knowledge, at least some knowledge, of good. The problem is man does not live according to that knowledge. He never will because his will is depraved. He may follow his conscience, which is a witness that God has given us and restrains us from a lot of things we would otherwise do, but he will never follow it perfectly. We all break the law of God whether it is known from His Word, or known by the law of conscience.


And with the same meaning the Lord rebukes by the prophet the unnatural but freely chosen blindness of the Jews, which they by their obstinacy brought upon themselves, saying: "Hear ye deaf, and ye blind, behold that you may see. Who is deaf but My servant? and blind, but he to whom I have sent My messengers?" And that no one might ascribe this blindness of theirs to nature instead of to their own will, elsewhere He says: "Bring forth the people that are blind and have eyes: that are deaf and have ears;" and again: "having eyes, but ye see not; and ears, but ye hear not." The Lord also says in the gospel: "Because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not neither do they understand."And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says: "Hearing ye shall hear and shall not understand: and seeing ye shall see and shall not see. For the heart of this people is waxed fat, and their ears are dull of hearing: and they have closed their eyes, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart, and be turned and I should heal them." Finally in order to denote that the possibility of good was in them, in chiding the Pharisees, He says: "But why of your own selves do ye not judge what is right?" And this he certainly would not have said to them, unless He knew that by their natural judgment they could discern what was fair.


The Scriptures used here are applicable to the subject at hand, but what do they show? Firstly this blinding is judicial, but not unconditional. The blinding was in response to the Word of God received, but not believed. Secondly this blinding takes place not in the absence of grace but in the presence of it. They closed the eyes of their spirit to the truth, but first they had seen it or else they would not have shut them. They stopped the ears of their spirit, but first the voice must have resounded or they would not have felt the need. These verses thus show that grace is necessary to awaken us to the truth, but they also show that it is not irresistible. If the word had not penetrated they would have had nothing to reject by closing eyes and ears as they did. The truth is most of the Pharisees were already very hard of hearing spiritually before Christ came, because they had heard the Word over and over again, but not let it work in them, when Christ came very few of them would respond and the greatest grace God gave them produced the greatest hardening. Both the ones who repented on the day of Pentecost and the ones who stoned Stephen were deeply moved in the heart by God's Word, but the response was very different. The second group resisted the Spirit, which can only be done if He were present. Jesus promised that the Comforter when He came would convict (not judicial conviction – the same word is used in John 3:20, Matt. 18:15, Luke 3:19, and John 8:9&46) the world of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8-11). The world has its faults exposed by the Spirit, but what it does with the exposure is a different matter.


Wherefore we must take care not to refer all the merits of the saints to the Lord in such a way as to ascribe nothing but what is evil and perverse to human nature: in doing which we are confuted by the evidence of the most wise Solomon, or rather of the Lord Himself, Whose words these are; for when the building of the Temple was finished and he was praying, he spoke as follows: "And David my father would have built a house to the name of the Lord God of Israel: and the Lord said to David my father: Whereas thou hast thought in thine heart to build a house to My name, thou hast well done in having this same thing in thy mind. Nevertheless thou shalt not build a house to My name." This thought then and this purpose of king David, are we to call it good and from God or bad and from man? For if that thought was good and from God, why did He by whom it was inspired refuse that it should be carried into effect? But if it is bad and from man, why is it praised by the Lord? It remains then that we must take it as good and from man. And in the same way we can take our own thoughts today. For it was not given only to David to think what is good of himself, nor is it denied to us naturally to think or imagine anything that is good. It cannot then be doubted that there are by nature some seeds of goodness in every soul implanted by the kindness of the Creator: but unless these are quickened by the assistance of God, they will not be able to attain to an increase of perfection, for, as the blessed Apostle says: "Neither is he that planteth anything nor he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase."


This Scriptural example is pertinent, but the writer does not fully look at all the options in my opinion. It's important to first note that David was a man after God's heart, and this desire to build the temple was after he had followed the Lord many years. We all tend to interpret Scripture within our own perspective. Here is how I see it. God commended the desire, because David was the first man who had drawn so near to Him as to feel for His honor in this way. It was deep desire that God had that He had not voiced to anyone, but was waiting to share with one who understood Him. A similar case is Moses in seeking pardon for the children of Israel when God expressed a desire to destroy them. Moses voiced God's deeper desire to show mercy and interceded for them. In neither case would I say that the desire sprung from the man as the source. Why then was David given the desire if he was not allowed to do it? Perhaps so that he could lay up the treasure for his son to be able to do it. It is doubtful if Solomon would have built it if David had not prepared. To look at another example, it is clear that Abraham's call was from God not his own desires and he was promised the whole land for his seed, but he owned none of it except for a burial plot he bought himself. Thus in his case especially, the promise and desire were primarily for those who would follow not himself.


The last verse quoted here is badly misapplied, because the planting is not the planting of man's thoughts, nor the watering thereof, but the planting of God's Word, and even in that God gives the increase. There are no remaining seeds of goodness in us for God to aid. Paul gave one of the marks of true circumcision as having no confidence in the flesh (Phil. 3:3). In it dwells no good thing (Rom. 7:18). What is born of the flesh is flesh, it can never morph into spirit. Nothing done in the power of the flesh can please God (Rom. 8:7-8). The sweat of the brow was part of the curse inflicted on man, sinful man having rejected the sustaining provision of God would now have to exert himself to provide and God specifically forbade the priests in Ezekiel's temple to wear any garments that caused sweat (Ezek. 44:18). The sweat of human exertion is unacceptable to God, even as sweat has an unpleasant odor to us. Jesus' yoke is easy and His burden is light, it becomes difficult when we exert ourselves in our own paths. If we allow God to minister through us all is easy, when it is a slog, we must ask a few questions. Firstly, is it God's plan I am following or my own? Secondly, Am I trying in my own strength or relying on His grace? Thirdly, for whose glory am I seeking this? Remember, of Him and through Him and to Him are all things (Rom. 11:36). It is also pertinent while we are on this subject to remember that Christ Himself did not offer Himself in His own power as sinless Man to the Father, but He offered Himself through the Eternal Spirit (Heb. 9:14).


But that freedom of the will is to some degree in a man's own power is very clearly taught in the book termed the Pastor, where two angels are said to be attached to each one of us, i.e., a good and a bad one, while it lies at a man's own option to choose which to follow. And therefore the will always remains free in man, and can either neglect or delight in the grace of God. For the Apostle would not have commanded saying: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling," had he not known that it could be advanced or neglected by us. But that men might not fancy that they had no need of Divine aid for the work of Salvation, he subjoins: "For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do, of His good pleasure." And therefore he warns Timothy and says: "Neglect not the grace of God which is in thee;" and again: "For which cause I exhort thee to stir up the grace of God which is in thee." Hence also in writing to the Corinthians he exhorts and warns them not through their unfruitful works to show themselves unworthy of the grace of God, saying: "And we helping, exhort you that ye receive not the grace of God in vain:" for the reception of saving grace was of no profit to Simon doubtless because he had received it in vain; for he would not obey the command of the blessed Peter who said: "Repent of thine iniquity, and pray God if haply the thoughts of thine heart may be forgiven thee; for I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity."


If you have ever wondered where the popular consciousness got the idea of the little angel and devil on the shoulder often seen in cartoons, it was from the Shepherd of Hermes, a book written in the 2nd century and widely read in the Church, though not accepted as inspired. With most of this passage I am in agreement provided it be understood that God's grace must first be present or we would have nothing to respond to. Some might enquire how is it possible for someone who's will is depraved to choose God. I would reply by asking how a woman with a sinful nature could bear a Son with a sinless nature. As Protestants we believe that Mary had the same nature as we and yet somehow that nature was not passed on to Christ. Is this not because the overshadowing of the Spirit made it possible? If this is possible when the Holy Spirit overshadows, can He not enable a sinner to choose good refuse evil when He probes the depths of his heart?


It prevents therefore the will of man, for it is said: "My God will prevent me with His mercy;" and again when God waits and for our good delays, that He may put our desires to the test, our will precedes, for it is said: "And in the morning my prayer shall prevent Thee;" and again: "I prevented the dawning of the day and cried;" and: "Mine eyes have prevented the morning." For He calls and invites us, when He says: "All the day long I stretched forth My hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people;" and He is invited by us when we say to Him: "All the day long I have stretched forth My hands unto Thee." He waits for us, when it is said by the prophet: "Wherefore the Lord waiteth to have compassion upon us;" and He is waited for by us, when we say: "I waited patiently for the Lord, and He inclined unto me;" and: "I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord." He strengthens us when He says: "And I have chastised them, and strengthened their arms; and they have imagined evil against me;" and He exhorts us to strengthen ourselves when He says: "Strengthen ye the weak hands, and make strong the feeble knees." Jesus cries: "If any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink;" the prophet also cries to Him: "I have laboured with crying, my jaws are become hoarse: mine eyes have failed, whilst I hope in my God." The Lord seeks us, when He says: "I sought and there was no man. I called, and there was none to answer;" and He Himself is sought by the bride who mourns with tears: "I sought on my bed by night Him whom my soul loved: I sought Him and found Him not; I called Him, and He gave me no answer."


This last section is many Scripture quotations mostly relevant, but overlooking certain things. The word "prevent" is used in its original sense of go before, either to help or hinder as the case maybe, we use it more in the latter sense today. The main thing being overlooked is John's express statement, "we love Him, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). It is God who first sought Adam in the garden after the transgression, not the other way around. It is God who first seeks us, but having found us and kindled love for Him in response to His love we seek Him. At times He withdraws from us to increase our seeking of Him, and to show to us how much we long for Him. This longing itself comes from Him. Draw me and we will run after you. Willing we are, but unless you first draw we can go nowhere.


I hope this has been helpful to someone. It is important that we see our dependence on God for everything that pertains to life and salvation. We are complete in Him. He is the author of our faith and the finisher of it. He not only enlivens our spirit but also keeps us. It was He who began the work and thus we know He will be faithful to finish it. To God be the glory!