FOCUS: The Spirit -- Tracing the biblical basis for understanding the Spirit as the third person of the triune Godhead who is the Comforter sent to us, leading to the work of the Spirit in our lives, the church and the world. Using Jn 14 – 16 and Acts 1 – 2, 3 & Rom 8 etc, the role of the Spirit in the work of regeneration, sanctification and empowerment for service. The Spirit sent, indwelling, transforming and poured out in power. The Spirit and the Scriptures. The Spirit, the Word and prayer. The Spirit Baptism debate and spiritual gifts debate, a modest proposal for balance. Gifts, ministries, body life and church organisation. Spirit-filled life, witness and service. The church empowered, equipped and mobilised as the body of Christ using diverse manifestations of the Spirit (aka spiritual gifts), the church anointed by the power of the Spirit prophetically confronting the world in witness to Christ , calling to penitence and discipling those who receive Christ. The kairos principle [Ac 17 with Ac 11 & Eph 4] and reformation. The seasons of refreshing principle [Ac 3] and moving from repentance [& rebirth] to renewal, revival & reformation. The fullness the Spirit and the fullness of Christ.
The gospel, salvation and the indwelling & empowering Spirit
The Spirit in the witness and service of the believer and of the church/body of Christ
The Spirit and the Scriptures
The Spirit, the Word and Prayer
Dealing with debates: baptism, filling, gifts, ministries, church organisational structure and operations
The kairos principle, seasons of refreshing and transformation towards the fullness of Christ
FOR DISCUSSION AND ASSIGNMENTS
INTRODUCTION: In the Last Supper discourse of John 14 - 16, Jesus broke new ground with his disciples. For, he now highlighted the central significance of the coming of the Spirit. As he explained, the Spirit of Truth is the dynamic enabling power for discipleship in union with the Godhead through Christ, and thus also the dynamo and guiding voice behind the work of the church in the world:
Jn 14: 15 “If you love me, you will obey my commandments. 16 Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate [ άλλον παράκλητον -- allon parakleton -- another advocate/ comforter/ encourager of the same essential Nature (i.e. as Jesus' own Nature)] to be with you forever – 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you.
18 “I will not abandon you as orphans, I will come to you. 19 In a little while the world will not see me any longer, but you will see me; because I live, you will live too. 20 You will know at that time that I am in my Father and you are in me and I am in you. 21 The person who has my commandments and obeys them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will reveal myself to him.”
22 “Lord,” Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “what has happened that you are going to reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” 23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and take up residence with him. 24 The person who does not love me does not obey my words. And the word you hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me.
25 “I have spoken these things while staying with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you . . . .
16:7 . . . I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I am going away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment – 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.
12 “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. For he will not speak on his own authority, but will speak whatever he hears, and will tell you what is to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you. 15 Everything that the Father has is mine; that is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you. [NET]
Jn 17:3 ". . . this is eternal life: [it means] to know (to perceive, recognize, become acquainted with, and understand) You, the only true and real God, and [likewise] to know Him, Jesus [as the] Christ (the Anointed One, the Messiah), Whom You have sent." [AMP]
Ac 10:25 So when Peter came in, Cornelius met him, fell at his feet, and worshiped him.
[--> Clearly, while Cornelius was "a righteous and God-fearing man, well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation" (v. 27), he did not have the full understanding of the reality that there is but one God, and that we should worship him only! So, he had some repenting to do and some truth from God to hear and believe then act on. Hence the need for a messenger of God to teach him the fuller word of God for him to trust and obey.]26 But Peter helped him up, saying, “Stand up. I too am a mere mortal.”
27 Peter continued talking with him as he went in, and he found many people gathered together. 28 He said to them, “You know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile, yet God has shown me that I should call no person defiled or ritually unclean. 29 Therefore when you sent for me, I came without any objection. Now may I ask why you sent for me?”
30 Cornelius replied, “Four days ago at this very hour, at three o’clock in the afternoon, I was praying in my house, and suddenly a man in shining clothing stood before me 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your acts of charity have been remembered before God. 32 Therefore send to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter. This man is staying as a guest in the house of Simon the tanner, by the sea.’ 33 Therefore I sent for you at once, and you were kind enough to come. So now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to say to us.”
34 Then Peter started speaking: “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism in dealing with people, 35 but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is welcomed before him. 36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all) – 37 you know what happened throughout Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38 with respect to Jesus from Nazareth, that God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with him. [--> a direct counter to the Beelzebul accusation . . . ] 39 We are witnesses of all the things he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem.
They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him up on the third day and caused him to be seen,
[--> Cf 1 Cor 15:1 - 11: " the gospel . . . preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved . . . [that which is] of first importance . . . that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared . . . "; note also the very first listed "official" witness (women not being rated as official witnesses under the prejudices of the day): "Cephas."]
. . . 41 not by all the people, but by us, the witnesses [--> Cf Ac 1:4 - 8: witness is by the power of the Spirit] God had already chosen, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to warn them that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. [--> The Spirit convicts of sin, righteousness and judgement]
43 About him all the prophets testify [--> cf 1 Cor 15:1 - 11 "according to the Scriptures"], that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the message.
[--> Cf Ac 15:7 - 9 on the significance of that timing: "7 . . . Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that some time ago God chose me to preach to the Gentiles so they would hear the message of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, has testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between them and us, cleansing their hearts by faith." The ONLY response these had made was to simply sit there, listening to the preaching of the word, obviously with repentant faith. justification by penitent, trusting faith alone, attested by the poured out Spirit. Thus, we see the doctrine in action that is amplified in Romans, Galatians etc.]
45 The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were greatly astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, 46 for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, 47 “No one can withhold the water for these people to be baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?”
48 So he gave orders to have them baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay for several days.[NET]
Ac 11:15 Then as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as he did on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, as he used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 Therefore if God gave them the same gift as he also gave us after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to hinder God?” [NET]
Ac 11: 18 When they heard this, they ceased their objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted the repentance that leads to life even to the Gentiles.” [NET]
1 --> It is the Spirit who convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgement, carrying home the power of the Word of God proclaimed by Spirit-filled spokesmen to our hearts. (Hence, the suicidal folly of stubbornly resisting the convicting voice of the Spirit, or slandering him!)
2 --> It is by the agency of the same Spirit that we are born again through penitent faith in Jesus, and are placed in the Body of Christ, the church, as living stones [Cf. 1 Pet 2:4 - 7] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets [Eph 2:20], in line with Him who is the Cornerstone [1 Pet 2:6], Christ.
3 --> This same Spirit, step by step, leads us into all the truth of God, guides us in our walk, and reveals to us that which is hidden but is now needed for our life and service.
4 --> The Spirit lives in us and transforms us in love, truth, power and purity:
Rom 8: 1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
2 For the law of the life-giving Spirit1 in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For God achieved what the law could not do because1 it was weakened through the flesh. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
5 For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook[i.e. φρονέω phroneo (fron-eh'-o) v.1. to exercise the mind, i.e. entertain or have a sentiment or opinion 2. (by implication) to be (mentally) disposed (more or less earnestly in a certain direction) 3. (intensively) to interest oneself in (with concern or obedience) --Michelson expanded Strong's lexicon]. . . shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit. 6 For the outlook of the flesh is death, but the outlook of the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.5 --> This same Spirit -- the very Wind of God who carried along the men of God who penned the scriptures [Cf 2 Pet 1:19 - 21] -- opens our minds and hearts to understand the wisdom of God, and especially the scriptures. This is so counter-intuitive and humbling that we will need to make a very full citation:
9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this person does not belong to him.
10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is your life because of righteousness. 11 Moreover if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his Spirit who lives in you. [NET]
1 Cor 1: 18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.6 --> Immediately, this is why it takes the Spirit to stir us to conviction of sin, righteousness and judgement, and to respect and receive the wisdom in God's apparently foolish message of the cross. Hence also the importance of faithful men of God to teach us the word of God, not with mere human eloquence, manipulative rhetoric and learning (even, mere theological learning), but with the demonstration of the Spirit.
19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will thwart the cleverness of the intelligent.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the expert in the Mosaic law?1 Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made the wisdom of the world foolish?
21 For since in the wisdom of God the world by its wisdom did not know God, God was pleased to save those who believe by the foolishness of preaching.
22 For Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks ask for wisdom, 23 but we preach about a crucified Christ, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. 24 But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom,1 and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength . . . .
2: 1 When I came to you, brothers and sisters [NB: NET adds "sisters" as implied], I did not come with superior eloquence or wisdom as I proclaimed the testimony of God. 2 For I decided to be concerned about nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling.
4 My conversation and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not be based on human wisdom but on the power of God.
6 Now we do speak wisdom among the mature, but not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are perishing. 7 Instead we speak the wisdom of God, hidden in a mystery, that God determined before the ages for our glory.
8 None of the rulers of this age understood it. If they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. [--> notice the allusion to Dan 7:13 - 14!] 9 But just as it is written, “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.”
10 God has revealed these to us by the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
11 For who among men knows the things of a man except the man’s spirit within him? So too, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things that are freely given to us by God. 13 And we speak about these things, not with words taught us by human wisdom, but with those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people.
14 The unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The one who is spiritual discerns all things, yet he himself is understood by no one.
16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to advise him? But we have the mind of Christ. [NET]
7 --> Indeed, through the same Corinthians, we are counselled:
2 Cor 3: 3 . . . you are a letter of Christ, delivered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on stone tablets but on tablets of human hearts.8 --> Likewise, a few verses later, we see:
4 Now we have such confidence in God through Christ. 5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as if it were coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, 6 who made us adequate to be servants of a new covenant not based on the letter but on the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. [NET]
2 Cor 3: 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit. [NET, notice the trinitarian import of how the Spirit is being described]9 --> Thus, it is no surprise to see, immediately following, Paul's rhetorical method outlined:
2 Cor 4:2 But we have rejected shameful hidden deeds, not behaving with deceptiveness or distorting the word of God, but by open proclamation of the truth we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience before God.
3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing, 4 among whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe so they would not see the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God.note 5 For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.
6 For God, who said “Let light shine out of darkness,” is the one who shined in our hearts to give us the light of the glorious knowledge of God in the face of Christ. [NET]
Ac 1: 3 To the . . . apostles also, after his suffering, he presented himself alive with many convincing proofs. He was seen by them over a forty-day period and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God.
4 While he was with them, he declared, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait there for what my Father promised, which you heard about from me. 5 For1 John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had gathered together, they began to ask him, “Lord, is this the time when you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He told them, “You are not permitted to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.” [NET]
1 Cor 12: 4 Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are different ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are different results, but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.
7 To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the benefit of all. 8 For one person is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, and another the message of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another performance of miracles, to another prophecy, and to another discernment of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.
11 It is one and the same Spirit, distributing as he decides to each person, who produces all these things.
12 For just as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body – though many – are one body, so too is Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit. 14 For in fact the body is not a single member, but many . . . .
18 But as a matter of fact, God has placed each of the members in the body just as he decided. 19 If they were all the same member, where would the body be? 20 So now there are many members, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor in turn can the head say to the foot, “I do not need you.”
22 On the contrary, those members that seem to be weaker are essential, 23 and those members we consider less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our unpresentable members are clothed with dignity, 24 but our presentable members do not need this. Instead, God has blended together the body, giving greater honor to the lesser member, 25 so that there may be no division in the body, but the members may have mutual concern for one another. 26 If one member suffers, everyone suffers with it. If a member is honored, all rejoice with it.
27 Now you are Christ’s body, and each of you is a member of it.
28 And God has placed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, gifts of healing, helps, gifts of leadership, different kinds of tongues. 29 Not all are apostles, are they? Not all are prophets, are they? Not all are teachers, are they? Not all perform miracles, do they? 30 Not all have gifts of healing, do they? Not all speak in tongues, do they? Not all interpret, do they? 31 But you should be eager for the greater gifts. [NET]
1 --> The emphasis here is unity in love and mutually edifying service that brings together diversity initiated by God through the Spirit, starting with those gifts given to those called to key leadership roles by the sovereign choice of the Spirit, but in a context that the humblest seeming member is just as important though perhaps not fulfilling as "presentable" a role.
2 --> Paul of course immediately goes on to the famous "more excellent way," i.e. Spirit-gifted service based on Spirit-empowered love as focus and key motive:
1 Cor 13: 1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away everything I own, and if I give over my body [to martyrdom] in order to boast, but do not have love, I receive no benefit . . . .3 --> Love, of course, is the pivot of the doctrine of the fruit of the Spirit, the result of walking in the Spirit, or as some versions happily render this, keeping in step with the Spirit:
14:1 Pursue love and be eager for the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy . . . . 12b Since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, seek to abound in order to strengthen the church. [NET, NB: the once highly contentious but now fading debates on cessation etc will be addressed below. Suffice to say here, that we must reflect on the proper purpose of gifts -- to build up the church, and then ask ourselves (a) when will that be accomplished, and (b) when will we "see face to face . . . [and] know fully." (13:12.)]
Gal 5: 13 . . . you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity to indulge your flesh, but through love serve one another.4 --> The links to 1 Cor 12 - 14 (and to Rom 8) are obvious, especially: "through love serve one another" and: "live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh."
14 For the whole law can be summed up in a single commandment, namely, “You must love your neighbor as yourself.”
15 However, if you continually bite and devour one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.
17 For the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other, so that you cannot do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit. [NET]
5 --> We also see an emphasis that is expanded in Rom 13:8 - 10 (which builds on Jesus' summaries of the law in Matt 7:12 and 22:34 - 40), that "the whole law can be summed up in a single commandment, namely, “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” " As Rom 13:8 - 10 puts this:
Rom 13: 8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet,” (and if there is any other commandment) are summed up in this, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong [others render: harm] to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. [NET]6 --> And, we cannot overlook that famous announcement Jesus made in the Temple at the Feast of Tabernacles:
John 7: 37 On the last day of the feast, the greatest day, Jesus stood up and shouted out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me, and 38 let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the scripture says, ‘From within him will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 (Now he said this about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were going to receive, for the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.)7 --> In short, the whole Christian life can be summed up as life in step with the Spirit, responding to the gospel in penitent faith and through loving service under Christ, overflowing from the Spirit who dwells within.
2 Pet 1: 20 Above all, you do well if you recognize this: No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, 21 for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
1 Cor 2: 9 . . . just as it is written, “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.”
10 God has revealed these to us by the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who among men knows the things of a man except the man’s spirit within him?
So too, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. [NET]
1 Cor 2:13 And we speak about these things, not with words taught us by human wisdom, but with those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. 14 The unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The one who is spiritual discerns all things, yet he himself is understood by no one. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to advise him? But we have the mind of Christ. [NET]
Eph 4: 17 . . . I say this, and insist in the Lord, that you no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, being alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardness of their hearts. 19 Because they are callous, they have given themselves over to indecency for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. [NET]
1 Cor 1: 18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will thwart the cleverness of the intelligent.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the expert in the Mosaic law? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made the wisdom of the world foolish?
21 For since in the wisdom of God the world by its wisdom did not know God, God was pleased to save those who believe by the foolishness of preaching.
22 For Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks ask for wisdom, 23 but we preach about a crucified Christ, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. 24 But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom,1 and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength . . .
Ac 17: 16 While Paul was . . . in Athens, his spirit was greatly upset because he saw the city was full of idols.
17 So he was addressing the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles in the synagogue, and in the marketplace every day those who happened to be there.
18 Also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him, and some were asking, “What does this foolish babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods.” (They said this because he was proclaiming the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.) 19 So they took Paul and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are proclaiming?
20 For you are bringing some surprising things to our ears, so we want to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there used to spend their time in nothing else than telling or listening to something new.)
22 So Paul stood before the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I see that you are very religious in all respects. 23 For as I went around and observed closely your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: ‘To an unknown god.’ Therefore what you worship without knowing it, this I proclaim to you.
24 The God who made the world and everything in it, who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by human hands, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives life and breath and everything to everyone. 26 From one man he made every nation of the human race to inhabit the entire earth, determining their set times and the fixed limits of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope around for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.
28 For in him we live and move about and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’
29 So since we are God’s offspring, we should not think the deity is like gold or silver or stone, an image made by human skill and imagination. 30 Therefore, although God has overlooked such times of ignorance, he now commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has set a day on which he is going to judge the world in righteousness, by a man whom he designated, having provided proof to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
32 Now when they heard about the resurrection from the dead, some began to scoff, but others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul left the Areopagus.
34 But some people joined him and believed. Among them were Dionysius, who was a member of the Areopagus, a woman named Damaris, and others with them. [NET]
I am God, and there is none like me,
10 declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose’ ". . . .
then suddenly I did them, and they came to pass. [ESV]
The human tragedy in USA has also served to bring into sharp focus the use of terror by religious fanatics/fundamentalists. Fundamentalism or fundamentalists are terms that are applicable to every extreme conservative in every religious system . . . . During the twentieth century in particular we have seen the rise of militant expression of these faiths by extreme conservatives who have sought to respond to what they identify as 'liberal' revisions that have weakened the fundamentals of their faith . . . They opt for a belligerent, militant and separatist posture in their public discourse that can easily employ violence to achieve their goals. [Gleaner, Sept. 26, 2001, italics added.]
The USA and its local allies . . . sought to empower the younger churches that have been planted by missionaries from the USA conservative 'Bible Belt' region. [sic] The high number of new denominations that were incorporated in Jamaica during the 1980s speaks volume to this perspective.
Some of these younger churches . . . were empowered . . . to counter the influence of liberation theology [NB: link to 1984 Vatical Encyclical added] with a traditional fundamentalist theology . . . . many of the younger churches saw their fight/struggle with the older churches as saving the true church from 'a serious heresy/error' in which leaders were making too many concessions to the secular world and its godless ideology of socialism and the rationalising influences . . . They unleashed the religious version of capitalism with its emphasis on rampant individualism, innovative worship and being prosperous at all cost.
The phenomenal rise in charismatic and newer forms of evangelical churches saw some church leaders functioning like TV stars . . . Salvation became totally privatised. Christ came to change individuals without similar emphasis being invested in salvation of the community.
The pivotal issue, however, is the advocacy of not so much rationality, but rational-ISM, the philosophical view and companion to radical skepticism that inter alia dismisses the possibility that revelation can be a source of valid knowing. and so we see the relativising and skeptical domination of theology and the resulting rough and often dismissive handling of the Judaeo-Christian Scriptures that the iconoclastic former Bultmannian, Eta Linnemann acidly summarises:
Theology as it is taught in universities all over the world . . . is based on the historical-critical method . . . . [which] is not just the foundation for the exegetical disciplines. It also decides what the systematician can say . . . It determines procedure in Christian education, homiletics and ethics . . . . Research is conducted ut si Deus non daretur (“as if there were no God”). That means the reality of God is excluded from consideration from the start . . . Statements in Scripture regarding place, time, sequences of events and persons are accepted only insofar as they fit in with established assumptions and theories . . . . Since other religions have their scriptures, one cannot assume the Bible is somehow unique and superior to them . . . .
It is taken for granted that the words of the Bible and God’s word are not identical . . . the New Testament is pitted against the Old Testament, assuming that the God of the New Testament is different from that of the Old, since Jesus is said to have introduced a new concept of God . . . . Since the inspiration of Scripture is not accepted, neither can it be assumed that the individual books of Scripture complement each other. Using this procedure one finds in the Bible only a handful of unrelated literary creations . . . . Since the content of biblical writings is seen as merely the creation of theological writers, any given verse is nothing more than a non-binding, human theological utterance. For historical-critical theology, critical reason decides what is reality in the Bible and what cannot be reality; and this decision is made on the basis of the everyday experience accessible to every person [i.e. the miraculous aspect of Scripture, and modern reports of miracles -- regardless of claimed attestation -- are dismissed as essentially impossible to verify and/or as merely “popular religious drivel”] . . . . .
Due to the presuppositions that are adopted, critical reason loses sight of the fact that the Lord, our God, the Almighty, reigns. [Historical Criticism of the Bible: Methodology or Ideology? (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1993), pp. 83 – 88 as excerpted. Emphases in original; parenthetical notes in square brackets.]
H. E. W. Turner  has distinguished two basic approaches to the Gospels: the historical and the interpretative. The former believes that the Gospels were intended to be historical records, the latter that they were essentially propaganda, written to present a particular view of Jesus. The former assumes that the records are true unless good reason can be showed to the contrary; the latter assumes the opposite. The attitude of Bultmann and his school to a Gospel-saying has been summarised as . . . '(1) If it reflects the faith of the church after the resurrection, it must be regarded as a creation of the church, rather than an authentic saying of Jesus. (2) If there is a parallel saying attributed to a Rabbi, it must be held as a Jewish tradition which has been erroneously attributed to Jesus. But if it is neither -- if it is clearly distinct both from the faith of the church and from Judaism -- then it may be safely accepted as authentic.'  This means of course that any appeal to Scripture by Jesus is at once suspect. This approach produces an improbable view of both Jesus and the early church. Jesus becomes an eccentric who took almost nothing from his environment. The church becomes inexplicable, since it took almost nothing from its master. Rather it so altered what it received from him that its teaching can be seen in sharp contrast to the few sayings which it preserved. [Christ and the Bible, (Guilford, Surrey, England: Eagle, 1993), pp. 45 - 46. Emphasis added.]
16: H. E. W. Turner, Historicity of the Gospels (London, 1963)
17: R. H. Fuller, Interpreting the Miracles (London, 1963), pp. 26f.
Why, in the last analysis, do Christian people believe the Bible is God’s Word? Not because they have studied up on Christian evidences and apologetics, however useful these may prove to some. Christians believe the Bible because it has been able to do for them exactly as Paul promised it would [i.e. in 2 Tim 3:13 – 17]: introduce them to a saving and transforming knowledge of Christ. Reasons for faith and answers to perplexing difficulties in the text, therefore, are supportive but not constitutive of faith in God and his Word. Faith rests ultimately, not on in human wisdom, but in a demonstration of the Spirit and power. [The Scripture Principle, (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1985), p. xix.]
1 Cor 2:4 My conversation and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not be based on human wisdom but on the power of God. [NET]
2 Pet 1:3 . . . his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence. 4 Through these things he has bestowed on us his precious and most magnificent promises, so that by means of what was promised you may become partakers of the divine nature, after escaping the worldly corruption that is produced by evil desire.
Heb 11: 1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see. 2 For by it the people of old received God’s commendation.
3 By faith we understand that the worlds were set in order at God’s command, so that the visible has its origin in the invisible.
4 By faith Abel offered God a greater sacrifice than Cain, and through his faith he was commended as righteous, because God commended him for his offerings. And through his faith he still speaks, though he is dead.note 5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he did not see death, and he was not to be found because God took him up. For before his removal he had been commended as having pleased God.
6 Now without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. [NET]
1 Jn 5:11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 The one who has the Son has this eternal life; the one who does not have the Son of God does not have this eternal life.
13 I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
14 And this is the confidence that we have before him: that whenever we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, then we know that we have the requests that we have asked from him. [NET]
Rom 10: 6 . . . the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 or “Who will descend into the abyss?” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).8 But what does it say?“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we preach), 9 because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation. 11 For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, who richly blesses all who call on him.13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. [NET]
Eph 2: 8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 it is not from works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them. [NET]
John 15: 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me – and I in him – bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing.6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown out like a branch, and dries up; and such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, and are burned up.7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want, and it will be done for you.8 My Father is honored by this, that you bear much fruit and show that you are my disciples. [NET]
Rom 8: 26 . . . the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how we should pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings.27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes on behalf of the saints according to God’s will.28 And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, 29 because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.30 And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified. [NET]
Worse, in Jesus' High Priestly Prayer in Gethsemane, he asked the Father:
Jn 17: 20 “I am not praying only on [the disciples'] behalf, but also on behalf of those who believe in me through their testimony, 21 that they will all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. 22 The glory you gave to me I have given to them, that they may be one just as we are one – 23 I in them and you in me – that they may be completely one, so that the world will know that you sent me, and you have loved them just as you have loved me. [NET]So, if we are to make progress on these matters of not only diverse views but of all too polarised dispute, we must first repent of our contentious spirit and sharp-tongued divisiveness. Then by God's grace we can pray to be guided in the unity of the Spirit, who is also the Spirit of Truth. (And, on fair comment: maybe it is exactly because we have been contentious instead that we can find so little consensus in this area.)
The above listed areas seem to be a cluster of interacting, inter-related disputes, yielding what the sustainable development people call a problematique; an inter-twined cluster of mutually interacting challenges that collectively dominate the situation we face.
Such problems are seldom solved by a single brilliant stroke.
Indeed, often the first major challenge is to accurately identify the problems and how they interact, which then leads us to begin to understand the problems well enough to develop a viable solution strategy. Such a strategy, classically, will build on available strengths, to make the credibly best use of opportunities, counter threats, and compensate for or even correct weaknesses where that is possible. In steps of thought, per the following model:
|The ALT/BAU sustainability strategy development model, adapted from Danny Bernouille et al, Bariloche Foundation, Argentina, c. 2000|
1 --> Usually, there is need for a critical mass of stakeholders to come together in an initial trust-building, problem identification exercise.
2 --> Participants then assess the situation and where the current business as usual [BAU] path trends -- the expected future [EF].
3 --> Brainstorming and other creativity enhancing exercises are used to help participants to see what alternatives are plausibly likely to begin to move us away from business as usual towards a feasible alternative [ALT] that leads to a credibly better future state; the desirable future, [DF].
4 --> To do that, the external situation and internal situation are analysed.
5 --> To analyse the external framework, a common approach is the PEST analysis, looking at -- on the broad sense --
. . . factors and trends that give rise to opportunities and threats [O & T].P -- Political (including legal, regulatory and policy issues),
E -- Economic,
S1 -- Socio-cultural and linked demographic,
T1 -- Technological-Scientific-bio-physical "environmental"
6 --> It is relatively easy to modify this environment scan for our context by adding a second S factor and a second T factor:
7 --> Thus, we can begin to understand our times and trends so that we will begin to "know what Israel should do," instead of being like those religious leaders of Jesus' day who could readily read the signs of the weather in the sky but could not discern "the signs of the times." (Cf. 1 Chron 12:32 with Matt 16:1 - 4 and Matt 24; also cf. Unit 11 below.)S2 - Spiritual,
T2 - Theological and Philosophical/Worldviews.
8 --> In particular, we should identify factors and trends that give rise to opportunities and threats: O and T. This is where we must start if as Paul counsels, we are to " be very careful how [we] live – not as unwise but as wise, taking advantage of every opportunity, because the days are evil." [Eph 5:15 - 16] So also we must"not be foolish, but be wise by understanding what the Lord’s will is." (v. 17.)
9 --> Ironically, the very next verse instructs: "do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit" (v. 18). Then, after counselling us to "[speak] to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for each other in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," the apostle concludes: "submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." (vv. 19 - 21.)
10 --> Surely, if we can give God thanks for one another in the name of our common, risen Lord, we can respectfully listen to each other and discern the guiding voice of Christ through his Spirit in each other.
11 --> Of course, in one of his earliest epistles, the apostle counsels the Thessalonians, and through them us:
1 Thess 5:13b . . . Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the undisciplined, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient toward all.12 --> This process naturally leads on to the identification and listing of the internal capacities and limitations, our strengths and weaknesses: S and W.
15 See that no one pays back evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all.
16 Always rejoice, 17 constantly pray, 18 in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
19 Do not extinguish the Spirit.20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt.21 But examine all things; hold fast to what is good.22 Stay away from every form of evil. [NET]
13 --> A large wall chart or a chalk board can then be used to align strengths and weaknesses with opportunities and threats, leading us to the initial scoping out of possible strategies that would build on strengths, make the most of opportunities, counter threats and compensate for (then -- where possible -- correct) weaknesses.
14 --> On the strength of the slowly emerging initial strategic consensus on a viable alternative and of a climate of trust and mutual respect, backed by accessible resources, a first wave of projects to move towards the better path can be identified, developed, monitored, carried out, and evaluated.
15 --> Then, using the lessons learned, we can move on to the next wave of progress. And yet further waves in a cycle of progressive transformation.
16 --> Across time, such renewal leads to reformation and moving the community as a whole towards a better outcome.
This is of course a generic framework, and outlines an idealised planning and implementation approach. We have to be careful to bring together an adequately representative cross section of stake holders, and build a genuine consensus that listens and takes on board what each has to say. We have to be very careful indeed to avoid manipulative "selling" of a hidden agenda on one hand, and stubborn obstructionism on the other.
Hard to do, but well worth trying if we want to make progress on some rather contentious matters.
Here, then, following, are some tentative initial suggestions, clustering on the list in the caption for this section. In looking at them, we must emphasise going to the scriptures to look at them afresh using inductive study techniques, as this is arguably the best way for us to gain a fresh and unifying perspective that we can be confident of. And, certainly, it is the way that is most likely to build up street credibility with the ordinary, reasonably intelligent and relatively unbiased person, the whole context for this survey course.
So, in effect, what follows is a modest proposal for discussion, consensus-building and development, not an imagined knock-down argument for a hard and fast view to be cast in stone then used as a rule to lock out those who while respecting core gospel principles, happen to see things differently.
In steps of thought, for discussion:
a --> You will have noticed that the discussion above has focussed on a metaphor that is rooted in several scriptural word-pictures of the work of the Spirit: we drink in/are born of the Spirit, who lives in and wells up from within those who belong to Christ, filling us then overflowing to those around. I believe this model is scriptural and will help us to begin to work through our differences, identifying ways to agree on how to work together in unity amidst our diversity.
b --> A particular focus is the distinction to be made between indwelling and upwelling from within, and also specific, crisis-point moments of flowing over with a wave of power. For instance, we see the apostles Peter and John before the Sanhedrin, on trial over the healing of the lame man at the beautiful gate in the name of Jesus:
Ac 4: 7 After making Peter and John stand in their midst, they [the Ruling Council] began to inquire, “By what power or by what name did you do this?”
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, replied, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today for a good deed done to a sick man – by what means this man was healed – 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, this man stands before you healthy. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, that has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.”
13 When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and discovered that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized these men had been with Jesus.
14 And because they saw the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say against this. [NET]
c --> Likewise, when they had been threatened with punishment and instructed to be silent about that Name -- how sad all of this is . . . these religious authorities saw the healed man standing there in their midst but would not listen to the sign of power and the name of power -- they returned to the believers:
Ac 4: 23 When they were released, Peter and John went to their fellow believers and reported everything the high priests and the elders had said to them.d --> Here we have the circle of believers, and in particular the apostles, going through fresh crisis point waves of filling with the Spirit, after Pentecost:
24 When they heard this, they raised their voices to God with one mind and said,
“Master of all, you who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them, 25 who said by the Holy Spirit through your servant David our forefather,31 When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God courageously. [NET]
‘Why do the nations rage,27 “For indeed both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together in this city against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, 28 to do as much as your power and your plan had decided beforehand would happen. 29 And now, Lord, pay attention to their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your message with great courage, 30 while you extend your hand to heal, and to bring about miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
and the peoples plot foolish things?
26 The kings of the earth stood together,
and the rulers assembled together,
against the Lord and against his Christ.’ [i.e. Ps 2]
i: The first wave burst forth from Peter as apostolic spokesman before the Sanhedrin, and let them know the name and the power by which they spoke, by which the lame man was healed and by which we can and must access salvation.
ii: The second, fell on the whole church (by then at least 5,000, possibly 8,000; cf. Ac 4:4) and empowered it with power to bear courageous witness to Jesus, doubtless backed up by further miraculous signs and wonders additional to the healing of the lame beggar. So,
iii: by Ac 4:31, Peter at least had gone through no less than three crisis-point fillings with the Spirit that burst forth in waves of powerful, anointed ministry: Ac 2:4, Ac 4:8 and Ac 4:31.
iv: When the problem of seeing to the proper support of widows came up (the apostles having noted that "[i]t is not right for us to neglect the word of God to wait on tables" -- Ac 6:2), the apostles indicated required qualifications: "select from among you, brothers, seven men who are well-attested, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this necessary task." [Ac 6:3.]
v: That this was a qualification, not an assumption, suggests that some disciples, sadly, were not characterised by so being "full of the Holy Spirit." (That some were not full of wisdom, can be taken for granted; underscoring the point!)e --> So, by looking at the life-situation of the very first church, we can definitively identify that the Spirit lives in believers, and wells up in us, filling us and overflowing to those around. In particular, we see how there are definite, multiple, crisis point fillings with the Spirit that manifest themselves in all sorts of effective service -- anointed preaching and teaching, testimony with power, wisdom, effective practical administration, apologetics, healings, and inspired testimony before judges; all the way up to peaceful, martyrdom with the prayer, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Ac 7:60.)
vi: One of these in particular began to stand out, Stephen: "a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit." (Ac 6:5.) He was " full of grace and power, [and] was performing great wonders and miraculous signs among the people." (v. 8.)
vii: He also became the first Apologist, so powerful that opponents "were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke." (v. 10.) Thus, he was framed by false witnesses and carried before the Sanhedrin.
viii: Then, before the Sanhedrin, as the kangaroo court proceedings reached their sad and sadly revealing climax, we see how: "Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked intently toward heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God . . . " [Ac 7:55.] So, he capped off his Spirit-filled, spiritually gifted career with one last manifestation of the Spirit: martyrdom, forgiving those who murdered him. And yes, with fear and trembling: such martyrdom is, by definition, a spiritual gift that helps build the church. (Hence, Tertullian's point that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.)
f --> Those are scriptural facts, set in the life-setting of the very first church, which is plainly presented to us as a model for church life:
Ac 2: 36 . . . let all the house of Israel know beyond a doubt that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.”
37 Now when they heard this, they were acutely distressed and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “What should we do, brothers?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far away, as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.” 40 With many other words he testified and exhorted them saying, “Save yourselves from this perverse generation!” 41 So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added.
42 They were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
43 Reverential awe came over everyone, and many wonders and miraculous signs came about by the apostles.
44 All who believed were together and held everything in common, 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and distributing the proceeds to everyone, as anyone had need.
46 Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the temple courts, breaking bread from house to house, sharing their food with glad and humble hearts, 47 praising God and having the good will of all the people.
And the Lord was adding to their number every day those who were being saved. [NET]g --> When some point out that a similar pattern of indwelling by the Spirit through penitent faith in Christ, thence welling up and overflowing in waves of power in the lives of believers of many walks of life and positions in the church and community has continued down to today, that therefore has to be taken seriously; however we may want to dispute about terminology (especially, on the Baptism in/with/by the Spirit) and the continued validity of particularly controversial manifestations.
h --> If you will pardon a flourish: a mountain of destructively volcanic disputes has just shrunk to the size of an ant-hill; still potentially problematic -- especially if it is fast-spreading and venomous fire ants -- but much less of a challenge.
i --> Oddly, it is easier to now take up the issue of spiritual gifts and their cessation before coming back to the most challenging issue. Immediately, 1 Cor 12 tells us that spiritual gifts -- or charismata, we know, are diverse "manifestation[s] of the Spirit," for the common good (1 Cor 12:8). Even as, "[i]t is one and the same Spirit, distributing as he decides to each person, who produces all these things. " (v. 11.) According to Paul, too:
1 Cor 13:8 Love never ends. But if there are prophecies, they will be set aside; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be set aside.
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, 10 but when what is perfect comes, the partial will be set aside. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. [NET]
j --> So, such manifestations definitely will cease, the issue is when. Logically,
i: that is when their purpose is achieved, where alsok --> The relationship between gifts, ministry roles and recognised offices in the church is naturally linked to this, as can be seen from Paul's remarks:
ii: the apostle counsels: "[s]ince you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, seek to abound in order to strengthen the church." [1 Cor 14:12.] In short,
iii: the gifts are given to build up the church, through loving, Spirit-empowered service, as is obvious from something that is as apparently mundane as teaching, or administration or the ever so humble "helps."
iv: So, then -- as imagery about a child grown up underscores -- the logical time for cessation is when the church is complete.
v: Where also, given the proviso that it is the Spirit who distributes gifts according to his will, balanced by Paul's counsel to ask for particular gifts to round out the purpose of others, and to especially covet to prophesy, the Spirit may see fit or not fit to impart a given gift to particular people in a given situation at any given time.
vi: An obvious (but humbling) reason for such, could be that we are not sufficiently mature to properly handle a given gift. Power gifts, such as healings, particularly come to mind; but this plainly could apply to any gift, in principle.
vii: However, Paul further identifies the time, saying that "we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when what is perfect comes, the partial will be set aside . . . now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known." While one can indeed make up an argument for another view, it is not too hard to see that, most plausibly, this speaks to the culmination of all things, i.e. the Second Coming.
1 Cor 12: 27 Now you are Christ’s body, and each of you is a member of it.
28 And God has placed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, gifts of healing, helps, gifts of leadership, different kinds of tongues.
29 Not all are apostles, are they? Not all are prophets, are they? Not all are teachers, are they? Not all perform miracles, do they? 30 Not all have gifts of healing, do they? Not all speak in tongues, do they? Not all interpret, do they?
31 But you should be eager for the greater gifts. [NET]l --> Gifts, ministries and offices are all listed together, reflecting the premise that the gift and associated calling are the qualification for the ministry and the office should be organised to respond to the needs to be met, and to the relevant gifts, calling and ministry. In this context, it is worth noting German theologian Arnold Bittlinger on the nature of "ministry" in the New Testament:
In designating the ministries of the church, the new testament avoids concepts that have inherent in them an implication of power or dignity or the performance of a priestly function. As a rule the New Testament designates the functions of the ecclesiastical official as diakonia . . . . By applying the term diakonia [--> literally, waiter at table or the like position of practical service] to what we would today call 'ministry,' the new Testament chooses a concept that in no way designates a position of dignity or power . . . .m --> Historically, as the case of Corinth shows -- both in the 50's AD as Paul had to deal with and in the 90's as Clement of Rome had to deal with -- there was a challenge of divisiveness and threats of heresies as well as persecution, so there was a pressure to recognise the local council of elders and deacons as answering to a president, the Bishop who eventually answered to a Council and a patriarch based in one of the five principal sees, of which Rome was the one in the West. The others were: Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandra and Constantinople. (The office of "priest" is actually derived from the term "presbyteroi," elders, now viewed as in effect an ordained assistant to the bishop. Deacon, in some respects, retained its practical focus. The fancy robes and at times special haircuts, etc., were simply traditions that emerged across time.)
Named under ministries for the local congregation (particularly in the pastoral epistles) are: overseers (episkopoi), elders (presbyteroi), and servants (diakonia). The ministries for the whole church are enumerated in Ephesians 4:11 -- apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. [--> this list, of course, is echoed in the similar one in 1 Cor 12:28] . . . [Gifts and Ministries, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1974, pp. 23 - 24.]
n --> At the same time, as ministry faded into office it was in effect assumed that those specially "called" to ministries had the relevant gifts; with the ordinary believer increasingly seeing himself or herself as a lay-person [from laos -people]; there to receive ministry as a struggling sinner, not to be an active, called, Spirit filled, gifted participating, serving member of the body of Christ.
o --> Since also, there was a hot and sustained controversy over prophecy in particular, thanks to the issues over the Montanist movement, prophecy in particular became identified as a key threat of heresy. (Of course, in actuality, false teachings were probably at least as big a problem. The answers offered to that were the creeds, the recognition of an authentic canon and the insistence on the apostolic succession of ordination, from generation to generation of the key offices; theoretically tracing back to the C1 apostles. Sadly, across time, this "solution" was backed by state power, in the interests of maintaining community unity in the face of dangerous and destructive external threats. Though this was understandable and probably responded to a situation in which there were no obvious "good" options, it led directly to the abuses in the name of the church and the gospel that have marred the history of Christianity-influenced civilisations. [Cf. Unit 11, below.])
p --> During the Protestant Reformation, it was felt that the pastor-teacher was the key ministry to be officially recognised as in effect a senior elder, and that the bishops and the patriarchate (the pope) had become largely corrupt and even apostate. So, the bishop of Rome and the hierarchy under him were rejected by the Protestants, and his teaching office and appeals to the early theological writers (the Church Fathers) and to councils were sharply challenged as too often riddled with the grossest of errors, major disagreements and abusive domineering. So, the argument was, to dismiss the accretion of traditions and go back to the original source in the Scriptures as primary authority. The attitude of the reformers at their best is captured in Luther's refusal to recant his main writings at the Diet of Worms (pron: DEE-it of Vorms), April 1521:
Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason -- for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves -- I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one's conscience is neither safe nor sound. [Disputed: "Here I stand; I can do no other."] God help me. Amen. [Heiko Oberman, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil (Yale University Press, 1989).]
q --> Current calls for renewal and reformation must therefore go back behind the traditions and inherited patterns, pointing us back to the pivotal text that gives us, in effect the operational form of the church's mandate:
Eph 4:10 He [Christ], the very one who descended, is also the one who ascended above all the heavens, in order to fill all things.r --> It is quite plain that Jesus came, descending and ascending in order to to fill all things with his grace; acting through the church and its Spirit-anointed service in the world. Thus, gifting and calling leading to service on the body are primary, organisational structures and offices are secondary means by which service may be recognised, supported and coordinated.
11 It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God – a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature.
14 So we are no longer to be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes. 15 But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head.
16 From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body grows in love. [NET]
s --> Accordingly, we can now lay out some suggested patterns for organisation and governance in response to that operational dynamic, in light of NT exemplars, experience, organisation theory and a dash or two of glorified common sense. These should serve as discussion-sparkers:
i: four or five general ministries are given to the church, the body of Christ, as gifts to equip the members, where
ii: in turn it is the members in general who do the works of service that build up the body in maturity under its mission of filling all things with Christ.
iii: That is, there is no division of those called to be ministers and those who are simply there to be the ministered to. In particular, "As each one does its part, the body grows in love."
iv: This is to be achieved by our learning, yielding to and practicing the truth in love (and plainly in the power and purity of the Spirit).
v: And as a consequence, the members of the maturing body will be less and less vulnerable to deception and trickery across time.
vi: Further, we see that each is gifted with a cluster of manifestations of the Spirit relevant to the work to be done at that stage of his or her service. (There is no warrant here or elsewhere for a static view of the gifting, calling and service of the believer; the key image is of growth, thus development.)
vii: We can thus see our service/ministry as a member of the body of Christ as the stewardship of our calling, step by step, as we follow the path of those "good works" that "God prepared beforehand so we may do them." (Eph 2:10.)
viii: In that context, the four or five general leadership ministries serve to guide, guard, encourage, equip and support. In suggestive summary:
ix: It is worth noting that the last pair probably form a spectrum, with different people at different points along it. The two roles are plainly inseparable -- you simply cannot do one without elements of the other -- but the emphasis varies with the particular calling and level of a given individual in the face of a given situation.
- Church planting and renewing missionaries,
- intercessory-prophetic spokesmen for God,
- general servants of the gospel who may have an emphasis on calling people to respond to Christ, and
- nurturing teachers and shepherds who help tend, pasture/feed and guard the flock
x: Offices in the church as formally organised should then respond flexibly to the situation, to opportunities and challenges, and to the needs and the particular calling, gifting and service of members and leaders.
xi: That is, I argue that we should adapt to people and the general leading of the guiding Spirit in light of the scriptures, circumstances and such wisdom, creativity and insights as we have been granted, instead of forcing square pegs into round holes that have been cast in firmly fixed concrete.
xii: That said, at the local, congregational level, it can be argued that the NT leadership model can be summarised in terms of a presbytery which has elders/shepherds and teachers as a cluster of servants of the word, with a team of administrative and practically oriented deacons who wait on tables.
xiii: At trans-local level, we can see mobile missionary teams that are led by senior church planting and reforming missionaries, with senior and junior associates who are general ministers of the gospel.
xiv: Oftentimes, such teams or detachments from them are in residence in communities, hosted by sponsoring families and/or businesses, or the existing churches if such an established church exists.
xv: If Paul's team can be taken as a model, there is a sending home base, which is a part of the network of faithful churches. The team regularly reports home, and can then be sent back out.
xvi: Taking the dispute that led to the Jerusalem Council of 48/49 AD as a model, when major disputes arise, collegiality, conference, dialogue and consensus among the churches based on scripture should drive the setting of major policy and the settling of disputes; and communiques that summarise pivotal decisions should be circulated with delegations of relevant spokesmen.
xvii: Had this been followed faithfully, much of the sad history of division, hostility and bloodshed could have credibly been averted. (BTW, it is no accident that this course is organised around the statement issued by the second general council ever held, that at Nicea.)
xviii: Similarly, we may observe a pattern of larger and smaller groups, starting from how Jesus ministered in Synagogues and to crowds, but also called out a circle of twelve and sent out teams in ministry pairs.
xix: Likewise the Acts clearly shows believers meeting in large groups and in smaller groups from house to house, using the Temple and even a rented School hall belonging to Tyrannus.
xx: We see the twelve continuing, the setting up of a ministry team of seven deacons, apostles often going out in pairs, and Paul's Missionary Company.
xxi: We even see Paul engaging in a business partnership with Aquilla and Priscilla, which in effect blended business and church planting.
xxii: This suggests that it is valid to think in terms of an integrated network of large and small groups with ministry teams providing ways to organise both time-limited ministry projects and ongoing ministry operations.
xxiii: On the small group side, this naturally suggests a cell structure, keyed into the "win, nurture, send" cycle of discipleship, with three distinct types of cells:
xxiv: In the context of a congregation, these can be organised around a matrix type structure that supports its overall operations. Here is an example:W -- Evangelism-based outreach cells (e.g. an evangelistic Bible Study, the Alpha Course, many Sunday School classes)
N -- Nurture cells, for foundational discipleship, training, and emergence in service (e.g. prayer and Bible study cells attached to a congregation or a campus or office fellowship, many Sunday School classes)
S -- Ministry teams that carry out a focussed area of Christian service and provide apprenticeship for those who are being developed as ministers in training (e.g. presbyteries and church planting missionary teams, teams of deacons, choirs, music groups, evangelism teams, etc. Obviously, the leadership cores of outreach and nurture cells should be small ministry teams [paired leaders work well], and should be part of a larger ministry team that provides oversight and support.)
xxv: Looked at from another perspective, we can see a network of cells in "caves" that come together in "commons" and take advantage of networks in and beyond the local community, from roads to telephones and the Internet:
t --> With the above in hand, we can now address the question of the vexed debates over Spirit baptism in a more informed and balanced context:
i: We have seen that, in the NT, empowerment by the Spirit and resulting manifestations that bring the power of God to bear on concrete situations are not optional extras or special endowments for the exceptional, instead manifestations of the Spirit for the common good through the building up of the church by the truth in love and for witness tot he gospel are/should be part and parcel of the life of every single genuinely born again member of the body of Christ, the church.
ii: Such manifestations will indeed come to a point where they will cease, which is most plausibly the time when the church will reach its full completion. Indeed, we see how Jesus speaks to the disciples of how "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth." [Ac 1:8.]
iii: Obviously, this is global and must extend across the generations that carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. Thus, we see Peter in the very first Christian sermon:
Ac 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far away, as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.” [NET]iv: Jesus was speaking in a context:
Ac 1: 3 To the same apostles also, after his suffering, he presented himself alive with many convincing proofs. He was seen by them over a forty-day period and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God. 4 While he was with them, he declared,v: This in turn points backward, to the teaching of John (and of course Jesus' announcement in the Temple in the feast of Tabernacles, of John 7:37 ff). John's teaching, we can conveniently sample from one Synoptic Gospel and from John -- which gives more details:
“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait there for what my Father promised, which you heard about from me. 5 For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” [NET]
Matt 3: 11 “I baptize you with [ἔν en (en) n. 1. "in," at, (up-)on, by, etc.] water, for [εἰς eis (eis) prep. 1. to or into (indicating the point reached or entered), of place, time 2. (figuratively) to or into a purpose (result, etc.)] repentance, but the one coming after me is more powerful than I am – I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with [en] the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clean out his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the storehouse, but the chaff he will burn up with inextinguishable fire.” [NET, Michelson expansion of Strong's lexicon.]vi: So, baptiser with or in the Holy Spirit is a definite office of Messiah, and it is the promise of the Father. To see how this is to be understood, we should consult the events of Pentecost and the opening words of Peter's sermon at Pentecost (which also make the universality of the outpouring in view plain):
Jn 1: 19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”
20 He confessed – he did not deny but confessed – “I am not the Christ!”
21 So they asked him, “Then who are you?1 Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not!”
2 “Are you the Prophet?”3 He answered, “No!”
22 Then they said to him, “Who are you? Tell us so that we can give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
23 John said, “I am the voice of one shouting in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” 24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 So they asked John, “Why then are you baptizing if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
26 John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not recognize, 27 who is coming after me. I am not worthy to untie the strap of his sandal!”
28 These things happened in Bethany across the Jordan River2 where John was baptizing.
29 On the next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
“Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one about whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who is greater than I am,1 because he existed before me.’ 31 I did not recognize1 him, but I came baptizing with water so that he could be revealed to Israel.”32 Then John testified,
“I saw the Spirit descending like a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. 33 And I did not recognize him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining – this is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have both seen and testified that this man is the Chosen One of God.” [NET]
Ac 2: 1 Now1 when the day of Pentecost had come, [the 12o, cf 1:15 ff.] were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like a violent wind blowing came from heaven and filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And tongues spreading out like a fire appeared to them and came to rest on each one of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them . . . .vii: But is the visible outpouring we are here seeing that led some to suppose that the disciples were drunk, even as others heard them praising God in some fifteen languages, at least a part of the understanding of the term "baptism with the Spirit"? For that, we only need refresh our memories of the events in Ac 10, where the Spirit fell on Cornelius and those with him while they were listening to Peter preaching. Then, when Peter had to explain himself back in Jerusalem, he said:
[Then, after a crowd gathered and inquired, some mocking hem for imagined drunkenness:] 14 But Peter stood up with the eleven, raised his voice, and addressed them: “You men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, know this and listen carefully to what I say. 15 In spite of what you think, these men are not drunk, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 But this is what was spoken about through the prophet Joel:
17 ‘And in the last days it will be,’ God says,
‘that I will pour out my Spirit on all people,
and your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
and your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
19 And I will perform wonders in the sky above
and miraculous signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and clouds of smoke.
20 The sun will be changed to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the great and glorious day of the Lord comes.
21 And then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ [NET]
Ac 11:15 . . . as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as he did on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, as he used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’viii: In short, the main life-situation passages in view in Acts: 1, 2, 8, 10, 19 -- clearly blend a cluster of related terms: baptism in/with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit falls upon, [gift, the Spirit comes upon, receiving the Spirit, filled with the Spirit (in the crisis-point experience sense). They are also in several cases closely connected to conversion to the point where to receive the Spirit poured out in power like this is seen as evidence of genuine conversion, though of course in Ac 2:1 - 4, that is obviously not the case.
17 Therefore if God gave them the same gift as he also gave us after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to hinder God?”
18 When they heard this, they ceased their objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted the repentance that leads to life even to the Gentiles.” [NET]
ix: We also need to reckon with the key declaration in Rom 8:
Rom 8: 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this person does not belong to him.x: Backing off from terminology for a moment, we can see the life-situation model in repeated action, of indwelling though the born again experience we access by penitent faith in Christ, welling up and overflowing at specific points in waves of power. Where (as we saw above), Ac 10, 11 and 15 make it quite clear that it is the point of faith that is the point of salvation. That life-setting derived pattern seems to have a greater significance than whatever terminology we are in the end willing to understand in whatever way.
xi: But before we can draw a firm conclusion, there is another key text, from 1 Cor, that must also fit into our reckoning:
1 Cor 12: 12 For just as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body – though many – are one body, so too is Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit.xii: Grudem, who has changed his views on the matter across his span of experience and study, picks this up:
. . . if we admit that 1 Corinthians 12:13 refers to baptism in the Holy Spirit, then it is very hard to maintain that it is an experience that comes after conversion. In this verse Paul says that this baptism in/with/by the Holy Spirit made us members of the body of Christ -- "We were all baptized in one Spirit into one body" (1 Cor. 12:13 NIV mg). But if this really is a "baptism in the Holy Spirit," the same as the event that happened in the previous six verses [i.e. in the Gospels and Acts], then Paul is saying that it happened to all the Corinthians when they became members of the body of Christ; that is, when they became Christians. For it was that baptism that resulted in their being members of the body of Christ, the church. [Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan, 2000), p. 767.]xiii: The challenge here, is that if this is so, then on the strength of Ac 8, it is arguably possible to be a genuinely penitent and Christ-trusting sinner but not born again; as R A Torrey and others have often pointed out since this subject has been up for modern debate starting in the late C19. For, when Philip went to Samaria and preached the gospel:
Ac 8:12 . . . when [the Samaritans] believed Philip as he was proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they began to be baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon [the magician] himself believed, and after he was baptized, he stayed close to Philip constantly, and when he saw the signs and great miracles that were occurring, he was amazed.xiv: Of course, Simon Magus -- traditionally reported to have been the founder of the heresy of Gnosticism -- seems to have been a case of that sadly familiar phenomenon, the false convert; as, he evidently had not properly repented of his former ways. But, it is hard to argue that all of the rest of the new converts were false disciples, especially since the Spirit came upon them when the apostles laid hands on them. With results sufficiently spectacular that a professional magician was willing to spend money for the ability to do that.
14 Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15 These two went down and prayed for them so that they would receive the Holy Spirit. 16 (For the Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on the Samaritans, and they received the Holy Spirit. [NET]
xv: The argument by Grudem and many others is in effect that 1 Cor 12:13 is decisive and clear, and that the phenomena in Acts must be assigned to transitional arrangements that are not normative for our own experience. However, as the case of Cornelius in Ac 10, 11 and 15 shows, it is precisely the life-situation cases that led the church to accept the position of Paul that justification is by faith and so per what happened to Cornelius and those with him, Gentiles do not need to first become Jews in order to be saved.
xvi: It seems, then, that whichever option we take, there will be significant difficulties, so we need to apply the principle of comparative difficulties to see what we can best live with.
xvii: Harper and others have put forward a suggestion that may be helpful. namely, let us look a couple of chapters above 1 Cor 12:13, and see how Paul describes baptism EN [a medium] EIS [a reference context]:
1 Cor 10:1 . . . our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into [EIS] Moses in [EN] the cloud and in [EN] the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they were all drinking from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. 5 But God was not pleased with most of them, for they were cut down in the wilderness. 6 These things happened as examples for us, so that we will not crave evil things as they did . . . [NET]xviii: Here we see a double baptism, in the cloud and in the sea, both with reference to Moses and the covenant of Moses, and also a direct parallel to the eucharist, the drinking of water from the rock and eating of manna. But by reference to the situation, we can also note that the redemptive passover event was PRIOR TO both baptisms. (And for those who need to know this, those who actually were physically immersed in the water in question -- the pursuing Egyptians -- were drowned.)
xix: It seems then, that baptism IN a medium is with reference to -- the sense that INTO seems to be taking -- a prior inner invisible change, and acts as a visible sign of an inner grace. And here, the mediums of the cloud and the sea obviously stand for the Spirit and water. But baptism IN X INTO Y is evidently used with reference to an already existing spiritual/covenantal state Y, which it confirms and establishes. On that reading, Paul was writing to a circle of believers who were in the normal C1 state for such, i.e. spiritually empowered. Though, of course, he had to warn them on their behaviour and attitudes in light of what had happened to the Israelites.
xx: If such is doubted or seems disputable, let us observe how Paul spoke to the incomplete disciples in Ephesus who only knew the baptism of John:
Ac 19: 1 While Apollos [who, until Aquilla and Priscilla gave him more complete understanding right there in the same city of Ephesus, had formerly "been instructed in the way of the Lord, and with great enthusiasm he spoke and taught accurately the facts about Jesus, although he knew only the baptism of John . . . "] was in Corinth, Paul went through the inland regions and came to Ephesus.xxi: John, of course, demanded that candidates for baptism be penitent. His sharp words to the pharisees who came to him to be baptised are more than sufficient to show this: "You offspring of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Therefore produce fruit that proves your repentance . . . " (Mt 3:8 - 9.) And as we noted above, John in comparing his baptism with what the Messiah would do, declared:
He found some disciples there 2 and said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They replied, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
3 So Paul said, “Into what then were you baptized?” “Into John’s baptism,” they replied.
4 Paul said, “John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, 6 and when Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they began to speak in tongues and to prophesy. 7 (Now there were about twelve men in all.) [NET]
Matt 3: 11 “I baptize you with [ἔν en (en) n. 1. "in," at, (up-)on, by, etc.] water, for [εἰς eis (eis) prep. 1. to or into (indicating the point reached or entered), of place, time 2. (figuratively) to or into a purpose (result, etc.)] repentance, but the one coming after me is more powerful than I am – I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with [en] the Holy Spirit and fire.
xxii: Indeed, if we look at Ac 2:38, we will see Peter saying: "“Repent, and each one of you be baptized [--> in water] in [ ἐπί -- Epi (ep-ee') 1. upon, on, at, by, before 2. of position, on, at, by, over, against 3. to, over, on, at, across, against; Thayer] the name of Jesus Christ for [EIS] the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit . . . "
(a) This was in fact a key proof text used by a sectarian group of my acquaintance, to argue that it was when one was baptised that one entered into forgiveness of sins. (They then argued that unless one was baptised under this understanding, s/he had not been 'properly" baptised and so was not genuinely saved. Thus, they wrote off and declared fair game for recruitment anyone who had not been baptised under this peculiar teaching.)
(b) In defense of their view, a key rule of interpretation they used here, was what a nine year old boy listening to Peter would in their view have understood. (They seemed to overlook Peter's caution: " Some things in [the writings of Paul] are hard to understand, things the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they also do to the rest of the scriptures."[2 Pet 3:16.])
(c) The pivotal answer to their position was to observe the case of Cornelius and those with him, in Ac 10, 11, and 15, which not only shows that Gentiles do not have to become Jews first to be saved, but also shows just when "cleans[es] . . . hearts by faith." (Ac 15:9.)
(d) Namely, as Peter said: "God, who knows the heart, has testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us." (v. 8)
(e) And, when and how did this happen? "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the message." (Ac 10:44.)
(f) Just what were "these words"? "About him [Jesus] all the prophets testify, that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." (v. 43)
(g) So, the only response to the gospel made by Cornelius and company had been to listen with penitent trust, and on the strength of that the Spirit "fell," they burst out in worship of the true God in tongues, and it had to be recognised by peter and the other Jewish believers who were present that they had "received the Holy Spirit just as we did." (Recall, only minutes before, Cornelius had tried to worship Peter on arrival at the house in Caesarea, and had had to be corrected.)
(h) With that timeline firmly in hand, it was understood that it is by penitent faith that we are forgiven, i.e., that we are justified by faith. So, baptism EIS water cannot be held to mean that it is at the point of immersion that we are forgiven. (Sadly, the sectarian group's onward argument was -- I am quoting its leadership here: "That's an exception.")
(i) On the strength of such life-situations and the conclusive theological reasoning of the Spirit-led Jerusalem Council [cf. Ac 15:28, "it seemed best to the Holy Spirit and to us . . . "] it seems wise not to insist that baptism in X EIS Y must mean that it is at that point that one enters into condition Y. That is, in the NT usage, type-X baptism often seems to stamp and seal a condition-Y that may already be existing.
xxiii: Why then did Luke and the apostles he reported use terms like "receive the Spirit"? To that, I suggest that their context of use determines the meaning as we should understand it, not what we may be inclined to see in it. The sense of receiving in view, plainly, is specific to a life-situational context.
xxiv: It should therefore be clear why I suggest for discussion, that:
(a) it is more important for us to understand the dynamic pattern of indwelling, upwelling and overflow, andxxv: In short, I think R A Torrey may well have had it about right over a century ago, as can be examined here in his often overlooked 1895 work on the subject. But obviously, this is a contentious matter that different people will hold different views on. (Much of the reason for my stepwise discussion above is to bring out some of the difficulties that may lurk unrecognised in various views, so that we can be aware of such in drawing our own particular conclusions.)
(b) that there is room to see that the understanding that the Baptism with the Spirit denotes an initial crisis point upwelling and overflow experience is a defensible one. I add,
(c) that it is much less defensible (as the gifts are the prerogative of the Spirit distributed according to his will) to argue that one who is so filled with the Spirit must Speak in tongues as THE -- not just an - evidence.
u --> How, then, can we move towards a sufficient consensus that we can work together through the truth in love? This is of course the real challenge.
v --> In answer, I suggest that by working through where business as usual is leading us in light of the factors and trends we face, and looking seriously together at possible alternatives that lead to a more desirable direction, we should be able to identify a change strategy and specific projects to carry it forward.
w --> One thing is certain, given where our civilisation seems to be heading, and how challenged the church is in its task of witness and ministry, something has to change. Now, if not sooner.
Now, as we worked through the disputed issues in the above, it became clear that the church, the body of Christ -- despite our struggles and weaknesses -- is the means by which Christ is working to fill the world with his grace. Indeed, we can see in all of this, the principle that God deliberately uses the weak and the apparently foolish to overcome the strong and the ever so wise, so that no one can boast.
Taking up the same basic text in Eph 4:
Eph 4: 17 So I say this, and insist in the Lord, that you no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.
18 They are darkened in their understanding, being alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardness of their hearts. 19 Because they are callous, they have given themselves over to indecency for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.
20 But you did not learn about Christ like this, 21 if indeed you heard about him and were taught in him, just as the truth is in Jesus. 22 You were taught with reference to your former way of life to lay aside the old man who is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires, 23 to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and to put on the new man who has been created in God’s image – in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth . . . [NET]Acts 17, as already outlined (cf Unit 2 above on the Mars Hill challenge), shows how this works out on the ground: the highly educated philosophers missed the mark, because their understanding was en-darkened by a flawed system of thinking and living. This sort of system is strongly associated with moral disintegration of the community, and so communities dominated by such systems tend to be locked into addictive, conscience-benumbing systems and ensnaring habits of thought and life. In addition, of course, people who lack the indwelling, upwelling Spirit within, who empowers us to grow in the right.
Sadly, many who profess the Christian faith can fail to walk in step with the Spirit, and so stumble unnecessarily in the dark also.
Indeed, that was a main challenge Paul made to the Corinthians:
1Cor 3: 1 . . . brothers and sisters [NET here adds "sisters" as implied], I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but instead as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready. In fact, you are still not ready, 3 for you are still influenced by the flesh. For since there is still jealousy and dissension among you, are you not influenced by the flesh and behaving like unregenerate people? [NET]As the indwelling, upwelling, overflowing model suggests, the natural state of the Christian, is to be growing in grace through the truth in love, power and purity. That means, if this is not happening, if there is a prolonged delay in progress in significant aspects of our life, something is hindering the normal flow of the Spirit in our lives and service.
This brings back to mind the writer to the Hebrews' response to his audience. (NB: these epistles were probably originally read out entire to the listening recipients; indeed silent reading to oneself is a relatively modern habit.)
From Heb 5:12 on we may see:
Heb 5:12 For though you should in fact be teachers by this time, you need someone to teach you the beginning elements of God’s utterances. You have gone back to needing milk, not solid food. 13 For everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced in the message of righteousness, because he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, whose perceptions are trained by practice to discern both good and evil . . . [NET]Peter uses the same baby's milk metaphor:
1 Peter 2: 1 So get rid of all evil and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 And yearn like newborn infants for pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up to salvation, 3 if you have experienced the Lord’s kindness. [NET]Milk of course provides complete and adequate nutrition for a suckling child. However, at a certain stage, the child moves beyond milk, and must begin to grow up by taking more solid food. Heb 6:1 - 2 lays out the first principles that provide this milk, repentance, faith, baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection and judgement. In effect, we address:
i: a consolidation of commitment to Christ that rests on turning from the former way to trust and serve the living God throughAs we go through that, the four R's of reformation kick in: repentance, renewal, revival and reformation as the impact of transformed lives begins to push communities and civilisations towards a tipping point. And in all of this, the indwelling, upwelling and overflowing Spirit is at work; more and more filling all things with Christ.
ii: faith in Christ based on the gospel,
iii: baptism in water being a covenanting act that seals the commitment, where arguably Spirit baptism [however understood] points to the indwelling, upwelling and overflowing Spirit,
iv: laying on of hands shows the principle of ministry: our hands, God's initiative and power,
v: resurrection is both the demonstration of our Lord's victory as the Son of Man and our own hope that we too will rise as he rose, and
vi: judgement teaches us to live from the view-point of eternity, carrying out a stewardship of the good works laid out in advance for us to do.
In the next unit, we will therefore explore this process in a bit more details.