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That the Holy Spirit sustained a relation to the apostolic church that it does not sustain to the church of today is clearly evident to the student of the Word of God. The church of the apostolic age had no New Testament as we have today. Hence, the necessity of a more direct and immediate leading than is necessary today. The apostle Paul states the difference between the two when he says: “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.” (1 Cor 13:9-10, ESV) This is not a contrast between the imperfections of our day and the perfection of heaven, but between the imperfection of the apostolic church and the perfection of the church of today. That which is perfect has come; a perfect revelation of Christian character, a perfect gospel, a perfect “law of liberty,” a perfect New Testament.
The apostolic church was limited to knowing in part and prophesying in part. “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. –1 Corinthians 12:7-11, ESV.
Now, here was manifestly a condition in the first churches that do not exist today. Here are various direct and supernatural workings that are manifestations of spiritual power resulting from a direct gift of the Spirit to members of apostolic churches. Now, there was a purpose to be accomplished by this special gift of the Spirit. In the fourth chapter of Ephesians, the apostle tells us the purpose of this gift. “And he gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as shepherds and teachers, for the equipping of the holy ones or the work of ministry, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” (Eph. 4:11-13, ESV) This gift of the Spirit accompanied the baptism of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
This brings us to a very interesting question. Was the promise of the “gift of the Holy Spirit,” referred to by Peter on the day of Pentecost, a universal one to all who obey the gospel? Or was it limited to those of the apostolic church who received it that they might manifest it in a supernatural way “to profit along with the rest,” or to the profit of all?
There are some who claim that “the gift of the Spirit” is one that belongs to all who obey the gospel to- day. In addition, that it is independent of the instrumentality of the gospel, and is the peculiar heritage of those who repent and are baptized for the remission of sins; that it performs a work in them other than is performed by the Spirit operating through the truth. There are others who claim that the “gift of the Spirit” was a supernatural power and was conferred on persons to qualify them to do the work or works peculiar to the age of miracles that were obtained in the apostolic church. The only way to settle this is by appealing to (1) the consciousness of individuals, (2) to the Word of God.
Before appealing to either of these tribunals, there are a few facts that we must consider. (1) This is the only passage in the New Testament that connects “the gift of the Spirit” with obedience to the gospel in the preaching of the apostles. (Acts 2:37-40) We have remission of sins so connected on various occasions (see Acts 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; 26:18, etc., etc.), but nowhere else is this “gift of the Spirit” promised. If it is to be as universal as “remission of sins,” ought it not to have the same prominence in apostolic preaching? This is a major factor in settling the matter. (2) In the only instance in which it is promised it is inexorably connected with baptism for the remission of sins. It is promised to no others, and all others are ruled out by the explicit terms of the promise.
With these facts before us, let us now appeal to the consciousness of the individual. If we consider numbers, it is safe to say that many of those who today claim “the gift of the Spirit” has never been baptized for the remission of sins. They have never performed the conditions upon which the gift was bestowed. Are they competent to testify? Of the remaining few, there is not one who can give any definite reason why he is conscious of the personal indwelling of the Spirit within him. To demonstrate my statement, I appeal to the consciousness of my readers. Are you aware of any influence within you except a holy joy that comes from obedience to the will of God? If you are not, what evidence have you that the Spirit personally dwells in you? So much for the argument from consciousness.
In the paragraph below, this author would argue that it is highly likely that Sweeney is mistaken. This does not take away from the point he is making in this entire chapter. After his paragraph, this author will do a small excursion on what he has said and offer some insight, as well as perspective. – Edward D Andrews.
Now let us appeal to the inspired Word of God. When the apostle Peter promised “the gift of the Spirit,” he followed it with the words, “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Ac 2:39, EV) He distinctly states that the gift of the Spirit is in fulfillment of “the promise.” Now, is there in the Scripture any promise of a personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit as a result of obedience? Let us search the words of the Master. In Luke 11:13 our Lord says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (ESV) This passage may be disposed of by saying that in the original it is a holy spirit and does not refer to the Holy Spirit at all. It represents God’s willingness to give a holy disposition.
Excursion “Holy Spirit” and Luke 11:13
In the New Testament, we have the phrase “holy spirit” (Gr., pneuma hagion) eighty-seven times. Without belaboring the subject, we must consider the fact that those who lived in the New Testament era were more used to speaking of “spirits” than we are today. Do not get me wrong, the general population does speak of “spiritual” things to a degree. Many readers likely have heard or used such expressions as “being spirited” or “the human spirit.” Of those eighty-seven times, the phrase “holy spirit” is used forty-two times with the definite article, which is rendered “the Holy Spirit” and forty-five times without the definite article (anarthrous), which can be rendered a number of ways. One might automatically assume that if there is no definite article (“the”) in the forty-five times, it should be translated “a holy spirit.” This is not really the case because there are Greek grammar rules, which would make the phrase “holy spirit still definite.” For example, if there is no definite article with a noun that follows a preposition, it can still be definite. (Smyth 1916, Section 1128) The anarthrous phrase “holy spirit” occurs within a prepositional phrase twenty-one times. Thus, Smyth’s Greek Grammar rule means that we cannot see these uses of “holy spirit” as being indefinite, but rather a definite, i.e., the Holy Spirit. Another grammatical construction that may cause the definite article to be dropped in Greek is the characteristic of the verb in the verbal phrase. The expression “filled with Holy Spirit” is found fourteen times in the New Testament without the definite article, which does not mean it is to be taken as indefinite. The verb “fill” has objects in the genitive form, which does not need the definite article to establish definiteness, like other forms, i.e., nominative and accusative.
Therefore, we have eighty-five occurrences of the phrase “holy spirit,” with forty-five of which that does not have the definite article. However, there are thirty-two occurrences where the grammatical or syntactical construction allows the anarthrous phrase “holy spirit” to be definite. Of the thirteen occurrences of the phrase “holy spirit” without the definite article, we can remove another six times because the phrase is in the genitive for dative form, which does not need an article in order to be definite. They are Romans 15:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 2:4; 6:4; and 1 Peter 1:12. Almost all translations render these as definite, namely, “the Holy Spirit. (ASV, ESV, RSV, NASB, HCSB, LEB, and so on)
This leaves seven occurrences of the phrase “holy spirit” without the definite article, where no grammar or syntax can be used to see them as definite. Our Luke 11:13 in the above is one of them. It reads, “If you, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father from heaven give (pneuma [spirit] hagion [holy]) to those who ask him?” There is no definite article and “holy” is not in a genitive or dative form, nor is there any grammar and syntax rules that would allow “holy spirit” to be taken definitely. If Luke specifically meant “the Holy Spirit,” he would have had to use the definite article in this phrase. Does this mean that he was not talking about the Holy Spirit here in Luke 11:13 but rather “a holy disposition” as Sweeney argues? This author believes that Sweeney is mistaken but that his attention to this verse is correct. I believe it is a reference to the Holy Spirit. If we sincerely ask God for Holy Spirit, if it is according to his will and purposes, he will not withhold this gift. The question, then, is, in what sense do we receive this gift of “holy spirit” as a guide? Is it like the apostles who were inspired, moved along by Holy Spirit in their penning the Word of God, or by our taking in the inspired by Holy Spirit, inerrant Word of God? I believe it is the latter, which means it is still in harmony with everything said in this book.
End of Excursion
Matthew explains it in the words “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matt. 7:11, ESV) In John 7:38-39 we have recorded another promise: “‘Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given because Jesus was not yet glorified.” This is evidently a supernatural gift, as he represents the recipient of it as a fountain from which flows rivers of living water. This is obviously not true of us today. Our Savior also dates the bestowal as following his glorification, or on the day of Pentecost. In Mark 16:16-18: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name, they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” These five things that accompanied the believers are all supernatural. Of the three promises of Jesus, which are all that are recorded in the New Testament, only two refer to the Holy Spirit, and both of these to its supernatural manifestation. This author says that it does not matter the argument Sweeney is offering for Mark 16:16-18, as is evidenced in the articles Is Speaking in Tongues Evidence of True Christianity? and Is Snake Handling Biblical?, Mark 16:9-20 are an interpolation into the Bible, which was added by some unknown writer in the second century, meaning they are not part of the original.
If we go back to the Savior to the Old Testament, we find a distinct promise of the gift of the Spirit: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit.” (Joel 2:28, 29) This promise is the one quoted by Peter to explain the manifestations on the day of Pentecost to the people drawn together by that wonderful event. From it, he delivers by the Spirit a sermon on the claims of our Lord. He shows that they had taken the Lord by wicked hands and had crucified and slain him; that God had raised him from the dead and had exalted him to his right hand; had given him the promise of the Holy Spirit; that what they saw and heard was the fulfillment of Joel’s promise. This promise was not simply to the apostles, for we read in the preceding chapter that the apostles, and the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brethren to the number of one hundred and twenty all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication. “And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:2-4, ESV) This shows that the gift of the Spirit came upon all the followers Jesus left behind him.
When the apostle’s discourse convicted the multitude, they “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.’” What promise! Evidently, the promise of God, “I will pour out of my spirit upon all flesh.” (Joel 2:28) There is no other promise in the mind of Peter and his hearers, and I know of no other promise the reader can have in mind. This position is amply supported by after-developments. “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’” (Acts 10:44-47). This was in fulfillment of the promise to not only the Jews but also the Gentiles, whom the Jews regarded as “far off.”
Paul, speaking to Gentiles, says, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Eph. 2:13) In this incident “the gift of the Holy Spirit” and “receiving the Spirit” are the same. And when Peter was taken to task for baptizing the Gentiles, he defends himself on the ground that God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit, “the like gift as he did also unto us.” In the above instances, Pentecost and the house of Cornelius, the gift of the Spirit was the result of the baptism of the Spirit, the baptism of the Spirit was an outpouring or falling of the Spirit upon the Jews at Pentecost and the Gentiles at the house of Cornelius, to signify his acceptance of both Jew and Gentile into the kingdom of Christ. Paul undoubtedly refers to this when he says, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Cor. 12:13, NASB) The baptism of the Spirit ceased when its object, the making of one body out of Jews and Gentiles, was accomplished, but “the gift of the Spirit” did not cease. It was conferred by the laying on of the hands of the apostles through all their lives. A few illustrations may be mentioned from the Scriptures.
The Samaritans. When a bloody persecution arose at Jerusalem, following the death of Stephen, the disciples were scattered and went everywhere preaching the Word. Philip went to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. “But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” (Acts 8:12, ESV) “for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 8:16, ESV) If the gift of the Spirit is to all baptized believers, why did not the Samaritans receive it? Philip was not an apostle and did not have the power to confer “the gift of the Spirit” by the imposition of hands, and, in order that they might receive this “gift,” it was necessary that two apostles, Peter and John, should go to Samaria and lay hands on them, that they might receive the Spirit. Here is a clear case of baptized believers receiving the Holy Spirit by the imposition of hands.
Disciples at Ephesus. In Acts 19 Paul met certain disciples that had received the baptism of John. He showed them that John did not preach a full gospel, which embraced a belief in Christ. “On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.” (19:5-6, ESV) This is another clear case of the Spirit being given by the imposition of hands.
Timothy. In 2 Timothy 1:6 Paul tells Timothy: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” This is a third instance of the gift of the Spirit by the imposition of hands, and they form just three more instances than can be found of the Spirit taking his personal “abode in men because they have believed and been baptized.”
That the Spirit was imparted to many Christians in a similar way is clear. Paul tells the brothers at Rome, “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you.” (Rom. 1:11, ESV) It was not necessary that he see these brethren to the end that he might proclaim the gospel unto them; but it was necessary that he see them that he might lay hands on them and impart the gift of the Spirit.
We are now enabled to reach two conclusions of importance: First, the “gift of the Spirit” was a supernatural gift for the purpose of enabling the “believers” in apostolic days to work the “signs” which Christ said should accompany them that believe, and ceased when the signs ceased. Second, many of the exhortations of the New Testament writers were to a church whose members were filled with the supernatural power of the Spirit, and should be interpreted in the light of that fact. We give a few examples that fall under this head, “and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Rom. 1:4). “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” (Rom. 8:9, ESV) “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Rom. 8:23, ESV) “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 9:1, NASB) “I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf.” (Rom. 15:30, ESV) “e who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” (2 Cor. 5:5, ESV) “Ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is an earnest of our inheritance” (Eph. 1:13, 14). “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” (Eph. 2:18, ESV) “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” (Eph. 5:18, ESV) “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy.” (Phil. 2:1, ESV) “Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” (1 Thess. 4:8, ESV) “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Tim. 1:7, ESV) “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” (Tit. 3:5, ESV) “While God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” (Heb. 2:4, ESV) “Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’?” (Jas. 4:5, ESV) “But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.” (1 John 2:20, ESV). “And as for you, the anointing which you received from him remains in you, and you do not have need that anyone teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you reside in him.” (1 John 2:27, LEB). “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” – 1 John 4:13, ESV
All the above Scriptures become clear if we understand them to apply to a people through whom God was manifesting his presence by supernatural demonstrations, but many of them lack meaning when applied to people of God who no longer exhibit these supernatural powers.
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