Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Spirit, the Holy Spirit, and the Word (3)

Some Christadelphians argue that the Holy Spirit was given to certain people in Biblical times so that they could perform miraculous signs to prove that their message was truly from God. They then go on to argue that seeing as we now have the Word of God in its final and complete form (i.e. in the Bible), there is no further need for these authenticating miraculous signs, and therefore no further need for the Holy Spirit.

However, this argument lacks Scriptural support.

For example, John the Baptist (of whom Jesus said: "among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist" [Matthew 11:11]) was "full of the Holy Spirit even from birth" (Luke 1:15). If the Holy Spirit was given to individuals for the purpose of authenticating their message through miraculous signs then we should expect that this man who was the greatest of the prophets (and indeed the greatest among those born of women!) and who was full of the Holy Spirit from birth would have performed some outstanding miraculous signs. Yet we are told very specifically in Scripture that "John never performed a miraculous sign" (John 10:41).

A couple of things puzzle me. The Christadelphian writer I quoted in an earlier post also wrote: "When God pours out his Spirit, He gives unmistakable signs so that others can see and believe."

However, this is not what I see in Scripture. David had the Holy Spirit (Psalm 51:11; Mark 12:36; Acts 1:16; 4:25), but what "unmistakable signs" did he do "so that others can see and believe"? John the Baptist was full of the Holy Spirit from birth, but what "unmistakable signs" did he do "so that others can see and believe"? What about those in the early Corinthian church who Paul quite specifically said could not speak in tongues or perform miraculous signs, yet were filled with the Holy Spirit? What "unmistakable signs" could they do "so that others can see and believe"?

Some Christadelphians resort to emotional arguments when it becomes clear that their position lacks Biblical evidence. For example, I've had Christadelphians say to me "if you have the Holy Spirit then why don't you go into hospitals and heal everyone? If you were truly a loving and compassionate person you would use this gift to eradicate suffering." This question and its accompanying comment not only lack logic, they actually ignore the Biblical evidence. If anyone could go into hospitals and heal all the sick then it would have been our Lord Himself. Yet Jesus didn't heal all the sick people He encountered, even when He had the opportunity. In Acts 3:1-10 we read of a man who had been crippled from birth and who was carried every day to the Beautiful Gate at the Jerusalem Temple. Anyone going into the Temple had to pass through this gate. It was the perfect place to beg. This would have meant that Jesus passed him every time He went into the Temple, and every time He passed up the opportunity to heal this man. Did Jesus lack love and compassion?

In 2 Timothy 4:20 we read Paul saying that "I left Trophimus sick in Miletus". Paul clearly had the Holy Spirit, yet he didn't use this gift to heal a fellow-missionary who was sick. Either he couldn't heal him, or he wouldn't. Did Paul lack compassion?

The assertion that someone who has the Holy Spirit should go into hospitals and heal all the sick is not only contrary to the examples of people full of the Holy Spirit such as Jesus, Paul and John the Baptist, but is based on the false assumption that the Holy Spirit enables its recipients to perform miracles and to heal the sick. John didn't perform miracles, and Jesus and Paul didn't heal all the sick they encountered. Paul explained very clearly to the Corinthians that while all believers have the [Holy] Spirit, they do not have the same kinds of gifts: "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit" (1 Cor 12:4). He explained that there are different "manifestations" of the Spirit. Through some people the Spirit is manifested in miracles, through another in healings, through others in faith, words of wisdom, or knowledge. Paul went on to ask the questions "Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?" (vv. 29-30). Obviously not everyone can work miracles. Not everyone speaks in tongues. We can't all heal the sick. Yet everyone in the body of Christ has the [Holy] Spirit (e.g. see verses 3 and 7).

16 comments:

Kent said...

i appreciate your thoughts and am in substantial agreement. But I would posit one question for further explication. It seems to me that the gifts indicated in 1st Corinthians 12, Eph. 4, Romans 12, can still be experienced today. At least I find nothing conclusively indicating they are ended. If they are not ended, why is that not a part of our preaching in allowing God to empower his people? Just a question.
Kent

Anonymous said...

The explanation the gifts ended given by Christadelphians is that only the apostles were able to pass on the gifts by laying on of there hands to others - except on case when 300 or so were given it at once, so the presumption is that when the apostles passed away, then people stopped recieving the Miraculas gifts, and those that had them were unable to pass it along

Another thought whats more powerful the miraculas gifts or the gospel? well the miraculas gifts dont have the ability to provide salvation, where as the the gospel has, so how necessary is it to have the miraculas gifts or not?

Phil F

Steve said...

Kent,

I agree entirely with you that there is no Biblical evidence whatsoever that the gifts would cease. One could argue from the historical data that the gifts appeared to diminish or to cease as the church apostacised, but you cannot argue that Scripturally.

I am interested in your question about God "empowering His people" as part of our preaching. Do you mean we should preach about God's empowering, or that we should make use of the gifts in preaching?

Steve said...

Phil,

The explanation given by many Christadelphians and other cessationists that the gifts passed away because only the apostles could pass them on through the laying on of hands is contrary to the Biblical evidence.

Paul was able to heal, speak in tongues, perform miracles, etc, yet there is no evidence whatsoever that he received these gifts from an apostle through the laying on of hands. He may have received these abilities when he was filled with the Holy Spirit through the laying on of Ananias' hands (Acts 9:17), but Ananias wasn't an apostle. This verse alone would disprove the cessationist argument as a non-apostle could lay his hands on someone and they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

By "apostle" do you mean only the Twelve? Paul was an apostle, but not one of the Twelve. Could he pass on the gifts through the laying on of hands? What about other apostles such as Barnabas (Acts 14:14), Junias and Andronicus (Rom 16:7)? Including these four there are at least 16 apostles in Scripture. Were there others? Which ones could pass on the gifts and which ones couldn't, and how do you know?

"how necessary is it to have the miraculas gifts or not?" I'm not sure what you mean by "necessary". Do you mean "necessary for salvation"? If so, then having miraculous powers is not necessary for salvation. How necessary is it that we accept God's gifts? Well, I wouldn't like to have to answer this question on Judgement day: "I sent you some gifts which you refused to accept. Why didn't you?"

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this info Steve, much appreciated. What I understand at the moment is that the word and the spirit fit hand in glove, as the word is inspired by that same spirit so the two cannot contradict each other but together they help us to grew in spirit and in truth, thats just my idea at the moment till I study for myself more thoroughly

Phil F

Anonymous said...

Is there any evidence that the miraculous aspect of the gifts are availble? Like has anyone met a person that has the power of toungues - the scriptual type I mean, not the unscriptual type practised by pentecostals.

Phil F

Steve said...

Phil,

I have to ask: what do you mean by "the scriptural type" (of speaking in tongues) and how is this different from what you call "the unscriptual type practised by pentecostals"?

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,

Speaking in tongues in Scripture:

Act 2:4 All the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them the ability to speak.
Act 2:5 Devout Jewish men from every nation were living in Jerusalem.
Act 2:6 They gathered when they heard the wind. Each person was startled to recognize his own dialect when the disciples spoke.
Act 2:7 Stunned and amazed, the people in the crowd said, "All of these men who are speaking are Galileans.
Act 2:8 Why do we hear them speaking in our native dialects?

Pentecostals:

Gibberish

Regards Phil F.

Steve said...

Phil,

I'm not sure what point you're making. What do you think was the purpose of the tongues-speaking in Acts 2?

How do you know that Pentecostals speak 'gibberish'? Are you a linguist? Some (many?) Pentecostals/Charismatics claim to speak in the tongues of angels (1 Cor 13:1). Would you be able to recognise whether something was an angelic language or not? If not, then how do you know they are speaking 'gibberish' and not the tongues of angels?

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve

I'm not sure what point you're making. What do you think was the purpose of the tongues-speaking in Acts 2?

When the apostles spoke it was for the purpose of teaching to other nationalities. Also they spoke in their own native tongoue yet those of other nationalities heard it in their own language.

How do you know that Pentecostals speak 'gibberish'? Are you a linguist? Some (many?) Pentecostals/Charismatics claim to speak in the tongues of angels (1 Cor 13:1). Would you be able to recognise whether something was an angelic language or not? If not, then how do you know they are speaking 'gibberish' and not the tongues of angels?

Well, as it was in acts, the people heard and understood in their own language, this is not the same thing as how scriptuer defines it. I knows its gibberish because I've heard it in Gibberish, if it was according to the scriptual version, the other person could speak in another dialect, but I would hear it in my own dialect, basicly what I'm asking is, is there any evidence of the Acts 2 type of speaking in tongoues availbale today?

Regards Phil F.

Steve said...

Phil,

"When the apostles spoke it was for the purpose of teaching to other nationalities."

Can you give me a single NT example of when the apostles preached using the gift of tongues? The fact is that in the NT every example of tongues subsequent to Pentecost had nothing to do with preaching in foreign languages. Look at these references to tongues in Acts:

Acts 10
44While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

The speaking in tongues came after the preaching had been done and Cornelius' household had been converted. It did not facilitate their conversion, but was a sign that the Holy Spirit had been poured out.

Acts 19
5On hearing this, they were baptized into[b] the name of the Lord Jesus. 6When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.

These twelve men in Ephesus spoke in tongues after they had been taught and converted. Again, the speaking in tongues was not to preach the Gospel or to convert anyone, but was done by the converted not the preacher!

The only other clear case of tongues in the NT is in 1 Corinthians, especially chapter 14. Just look at what it says in verses 23-25:

So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, 25and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!"

In other words, Paul says that the speaking in tongues is to stop when a visitor comes in, and the teaching/preaching is to be done in their own language, not in tongues. This is the opposite of what we should expect if tongues was for teaching/preaching!

Throughout 1 Cor 14 Paul speaks of praying and singing in tongues, but not preaching/teaching. That should be a huge clue that tongues are NOT for preaching/teaching.

Phil, have you thought about why there was a gift of interpreting tongues? If tongues were/are for preaching then presumably this gift would be given to someone so that he/she could preach in languages they've never learned. For example, I've never learned to speak Mandarin, but if I had a gift which would enable me to preach in a language I had not learned then I could speak to a Mandarin-speaker and he would understand me. So why the need for an interpreter? Wouldn't it make sense that if God wanted me to speak in Mandarin that He would also enable me to understand Mandarin? Otherwise, before setting out on a missionary journey to China a tongues-speaker would have to find a person with the appropriate gift of interpreting Mandarin and while he could teach directly in Mandarin he wouldn't be able to answer any questions unless they went through an interpreter. It sounds to me like a very awkward way of preaching! And there is not a single incident in the NT of preaching being done this way.

I'd also like to hear more about how you know if something is 'gibberish'. English is my only language - every thing else sounds to me like gibberish. I might be able to recognise something as French or German, but probably wouldn't understand a word. If someone was speaking Hungarian or Swahili I wouldn't have a clue if it was a real language or gibberish. So, I'm wondering if you could pick the difference between, say, Farsi and 'gibberish'? And do the angels speak 'gibberish'? They apparently have their own language(s), but would you have any idea what it/they sound(s) like? Maybe it would sound like gibberish to you and me, but according to Paul (1 Cor 13:1) some people can speak in the tongues of angels.

Enough for now.

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve

To me I see the Speaking of tongues was used preach to those of other natinalities in acts 2.

From vrs 14 - 41 Peter was preaching

Regarding my other response I miss read scripture and thought that the disciples were speaking in their own language and those of other nationalities were hearing it in their own language, in fact the disciples were speaking different languages, my mistake as this has confussed our discussion.

Sorry Bro

Regards

Phil F.

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve could I start afresh

Is there anycurrent evidence of the Gift of speakinging tongues as it was described in Acts 2?

Act 2:2

Suddenly, a sound like a violently blowing wind came from the sky and filled the whole house where they were staying.

Act 2:3

Tongues that looked like fire appeared to them. The tongues arranged themselves so that one came to rest on each believer.

Act 2:4

All the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them the ability to speak.

Act 2:5

Devout Jewish men from every nation were living in Jerusalem.

Act 2:6

They gathered when they heard the wind. Each person was startled to recognize his own dialect when the disciples spoke.

Act 2:7

Stunned and amazed, the people in the crowd said, "All of these men who are speaking are Galileans.

Act 2:8

Why do we hear them speaking in our native dialects?

Act 2:9

We're Parthians, Medes, and Elamites. We're people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia,

Act 2:10

Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the country near Cyrene in Libya. We're Jewish people, converts to Judaism, and visitors from Rome,

Act 2:11

Crete, and Arabia. We hear these men in our own languages as they tell about the miracles that God has done."

Love,

Phil F.

Steve said...

Phil,

Read Acts 2 carefully. There is nothing there to suggest that the preaching done by peter from verse 14 and following was done in 'tongues' or in any tongue other than the language commonly spoken (probably Aramaic).

Much is frequently made of the fact that in Acts 2 the audience was made up of people from many different countries, and, presumably, speaking different languages. However, there is very strong linguistic evidence that the Jews in all the countries named here spoke either Greek or Aramaic as their first language and would have had no difficulty in communicating with the disciples in Jerusalem in either of these languages. It would have been logical for Peter to speak in Greek or Aramaic because they were the languages they would all have understood.

If it was necessary for a special gift of tongues to enable Peter to preach the Gospel on this occasion (because it clearly says that it was Peter who did the preaching, and not the 120 people who spoke in tongues) then we are faced with a number of difficulties in interpreting the text:

(a) Did Peter speak in one language or ten?

(b)If he spoke in ten languages how did he do that? Did he speak ten languages all at once? Wouldn't that have sounded like 'gibberish'?

(c) Did he give this speech ten times?

(d) If it was only Peter who did the preaching on this occasion then why was the ability to speak in tongues given to 120 people and not just Peter?

(e) Why would Peter need a special gift to preach to people who could all speak the same language(s) he could?

I think we need to look for another explanation for why they spoke in tongues at Pentecost, and I think the answer is right there in Acts 2.

Mickers said...

Steve, thanks for posting this - at last it's nice to hear people speaking the truth on this subject - I constantly argue your position with people.. I once had a sister snap at me "well, why are you a Christadelphian then?!" - well, Romans 8 quite clearly indicates that the sons of God (i.e Christ's brethren) (i.e. 'Christadelphians') are conceived by the Spirit, and live in the Spirit, the same Spirit (power) that raised Christ from the dead..

"But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you."

Grant said...

Hi Steve,
thanks for this oppotunity to talk,
i think that we may be misunderstanding the events here.
If you look into the history you will find that the disiples wre sent to the lost sheep of israel who had been scattered throughout the nations around them.
Each disiple went to various counties to preach to israel in the language that had become native to them, i do not want to take too much time on this point but there is evidence which disiple went to which country.
As far as the penticostals go scripture tells us that if we speak in tounges then we must have an interpreter psreent or remain silent 1 cor 14:9-18.
As far as speaking in the toungues of angels goes it is the same thing as the other toungues, DO IT IN PRIVATE AND NOT SHOW OFF IN CHURCH.1 cor 14: 27-28,
I have no problem if someone says they can speak in tounges or in the language of angels but unless there is an intrpreter or an understanding of what was said then it benefits none whatsoever,
we are able to preach and pray to God in the language that he gave us after all he was the one who gave all languages at Babel.
Not to mention that this gift is considered the least of the gifts 1 cor 12: 28-31 the gift of love is a gift from God to all mankind and this we should be seeking and practising. It is not only a gift but james 2:8 tells us that this is the ROYAL LAW.... Lots of Love to you all

Grant