Church of Christ Deism: Do Spiritual Gifts Come Exclusively from the Laying On of Hands?

i_dont_believe_in_miracles_i_rely_on_them_tshirt-p235921785579041865yk07_400It’s been argued by many that spiritual gifts died out in the generation following the apostles because the gifts were imparted exclusively by the laying on of apostolic hands. In the Churches of Christ, this teaching has taken on near-canonical status due to the highly influential book by H. Leo Boles The Holy Spirit: His Personality, Nature and Works.  And there are indeed passages in the both the Old Testament and New Testament that refer to the Spirit’s coming by the laying on of hands. And yet, there are cases where the Spirit came by other means.

Who laid hands on John the Baptist? Or the apostles? Or the Romans? Ah, yes, the Romans. We need to talk about the Romans … because Paul says,

(Rom 12:4-8)  Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Paul speaks of “gifts” (charismata), including prophecy, which has been described as a gift from the Spirit going back to Numbers 11. So how did the Romans receive these gifts if no apostle had ever been to Rome? A few people may have traveled there from other locations where the apostles had laid hands on converts, but Paul plainly speaks as though they all have spiritual gifts.  While it’s entirely possible that gifts were sometimes given by the laying on of apostolic hands, it’s awfully hard to argue that only apostolic hands could give spiritual gifts.

Also, there are the Corinthians. Ah, yes, the Corinthians. We need to talk about the Corinthians … because Paul says,

(1 Cor 1:14-16)  I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.)

If Paul refused to baptize Christians so that there’d be no cause of jealousy — some claiming a special apostolic baptism whereas others have a more pedestrian baptism, why on earth would he have laid hands on a few, knowing that this would lead to some having special gifts and others not? Wouldn’t the giving of miraculous powers by the laying on of apostolic hands give far more cause for jealousy that an apostolic baptism?

And surely members had been added to the Corinthian congregation after Paul’s last visit, and yet he speaks as though each member had been gifted (12:7, 11, 13, 18).

And then there’s the conversion of Cornelius and his household. They received the Spirit, evidenced by the gift of tongues (Acts 10:46), without apostolic hands.

Obviously, there is no ironclad rule that God will only give spiritual gifts via apostolic hands. Right? So let’s take a look at the passages that do speak of the laying on of hands.

The first reference to the laying on of hands is Acts 6:6 where 7 men, likely deacons, were charged with caring for Hellenistic widows. The laying on of hands was a means of investing them with a new office, but they were already “full of the Spirit” (v. 3), and there’s no indication of any miraculous impartation.

When the Samaritans were baptized, they did not receive the Spirit (Acts 8:16). This was a great problem, and so the men who converted them sent for the apostles.

(Acts 8:17)  Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

There is no statement that they spoke on tongues or prophesied. Nor are we told how they could tell that the Samaritans received the Spirit. Luke says nothing of miraculous gifts. Rather, a number of commentators have suggested that that apostles had been derelict in the commission they received in Acts 1 when Jesus ascended. They were charged with going to Samaria, and they hadn’t gone. Therefore, to compel them to go to Samaria, and so to fully include the Samaritan Christians in the Kingdom, God refused to give his Spirit until the apostles came.

You see, if the Samaritans had received the Spirit but not miraculous manifestations, the apostles wouldn’t have been compelled to make the trip. But as the Spirit is essential to salvation, they had to come to make things right.

One might argue that the only way the apostles could have known that their hands imparted the Spirit is if the Samaritans spoke in tongues or the like. And that may be so. But if it is, then it’s also so that the only way Philip knew they didn’t receive the Spirit at first is because they didn’t speak in tongues or the like. And if tongues come only by apostolic hands, why would he have been surprised that they didn’t speak in tongues?

No, you can’t make the Samaritans fit the apostolic hands theory.

In Acts 9 Ananias laid hands on Saul/Paul, he regained his vision, but there’s no record that he spoke in tongues. But then, he’d not yet even been baptized. In Acts 13, the teachers and prophets in Antioch laid hands on Barnabas and Paul to commission them as missionaries — but there are no miraculous manifestations recorded.

In Acts 19 Paul baptized the Ephesians and then laid hands on them, and they immediately prophesied and spoke in tongues. However, in the early church, it was routine practice to lay hands on the person just baptized. After all, a convert was being converted to a mission — a fact we often forget. Therefore, it’s not altogether clear that the Ephesians received a second infilling of the Spirit — an ordinary indwelling at baptism and a miraculous indwelling with the laying on of hands. It’s likely, I think, that it was all one event, with the Spirit received just once and evidenced, as had often (but not always) been true going back to Numbers 11, by tongues and/or prophecy.

The Timothy passages are a bit of a puzzle —

(1 Tim 4:14)  Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

(2 Tim 1:6)  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.

It seems likely that both statements refer to Timothy’s baptism and the customary laying on of hands that immediately followed. But Paul doesn’t feel compelled to credit the giftedness of Timothy to Paul’s apostolic hands. He was quite comfortable crediting the gift to the hands of the elders. You see, both statements are surely true.

Finally, we have —

(1 Tim 5:22)  Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.

It’s unlikely that Paul was referring to the laying on of hands that follows baptism. Rather, Paul was likely referring to the appointment of elders and deacons as described earlier in the book.

Now, Felix Brunner in A Theology of the Holy Spirit offers an important hypothesis explaining much of Acts. You see, it’s clear from the epistles that all Christians have the Spirit and only Christians have the Spirit (e.g., Rom 8:9-11; 1 Cor 12:1). And it’s clear that baptism is the normal time for the Spirit to be received (Acts 2:38, for example). But we see three prominent exceptions: the apostles in Acts 2, the Samaritans, and Cornelius and his household. The apostles received the Spirit without baptism, the Samaritans received the Spirit after baptism, and Cornelius and his household received it before baptism. Why?

Well, you can’t help but notice the parallel —

(Acts 1:8)  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

God used the coming of the Spirit — in three different ways — to drive the gospel outward. The apostles were plainly reluctant to go to Samaria and the Gentiles, and God had to push them to take these difficult steps.

The laying on of hands in ancient times was a means of commissioning to office or a mission. For a new Christian, the laying on of hands symbolized both the giving of a mission and the coming of the Spirit — because the Spirit came on the convert to equip him or her for mission. The hands weren’t primarily to infuse gifts. Rather the coming of gifts came with the Spirit, not the hands.

Sometimes it suited God’s purposes to demonstrate that the Spirit had come by means of tongues or prophecy, but not always. Sometimes the tongues or prophecy came with the laying on of hands and sometimes not.

God is not a rulebook. God is the power behind the laws of nature, but he is not himself a law of nature. He is a person with free will, and he does things as he wishes. Even when it involves the keeping of a promise, God keeps it as pleases him. He promises his Spirit to his people, but he delayed giving it to the Samaritans for his own, very good reasons. Sometimes we know the reasons and sometimes not.

The Spirit’s work in the early church was to drive the gospel to more and more people. The mission was far more important to God than following some set of spiritual laws about how to give gifts. Rather, gifts were given as suited God’s purposes, and his purposes were to spread the gospel from Judea to the nations.

When we seek to reduce God’s work through his Spirit to a set of invariable rules, like Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (in which he set for his laws of motion), we become, to an extent, Deists. It’s not a good place to be.

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About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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44 Responses to Church of Christ Deism: Do Spiritual Gifts Come Exclusively from the Laying On of Hands?

  1. Edward Fudge says:

    Excellent work, brother Jay! Just the kind of Bible study that is needed on all subjects!

  2. Jerry Starling says:

    Jay,
    Here you have another excellent post! In 1 Corinthians 12:11, Paul wrote concerning the charismatic gifts, "All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines."

    Strong defines "just as" in this text as, "just (or inasmuch) as, that: – according to, (according, even) as, how, when." In other words, the Spirit determines the method of giving His gifts, as well as which gifts to give to each one.

    This helps to explain what we may see as anomalies in the way the Spirit is given and received.

  3. anonymous says:

    God is God and we are not…even though we sometimes teach things that indicate that man has the say, the power, the decision–as if we could capture the wind. "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." John 3:8

  4. Alan says:

    It sounds like some folks are applying the Regulative Principle to God. Since we read in scripture that the gifts were given by the laying on of the apostles' hands, that excludes the option of giving them through other means. And since God gave the gifts to confirm the word, that precludes God from giving gifts for other purposes. I doubt anyone is deliberately following that line of logic, but the underlying principle for interpreting scripture is disturbingly similar.

  5. Paul says:

    Alan, many I know are adamant that

    "Since we read in scripture that the gifts were given by the laying on of the apostles’ hands, that excludes the option of giving them through other means. And since God gave the gifts to confirm the word, that precludes God from giving gifts for other purposes."

    Jay said,

    "God is not a rulebook. God is the power behind the laws of nature, but he is not himself a law of nature. He is a person with free will, and he does things as he wishes."

    So many Christians in the churches of Christ (and other denominations) believe that God is predictable like a rulebook and only does / acts as they have been taught. God conforms to them and their understanding, not vice versa. It is a common problem even in mainstream Christianity; that is, the idea that God is there to serve the individual. The King of the universe bow down and serve His creation? Are "we" arrogant, or what? God, the Holy One, The Holy Spirit, The Son is master creator of all creation and we are to comply to and serve Him- He can and will do anything He wants and in anyway He desires! To try to make rules and define God in such terms is so arrogant on our part. The book of Job, and the prophets make this very clear. Regarding the Holy Spirit, He is as much alive and well today as He has always been;
    "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may be with you for ever,
    even the Spirit of truth: whom the world cannot receive; for it beholdeth him not, neither knoweth him: ye know him; for he abideth with you, and shall be in you.
    I will not leave you desolate: I come unto you."
    (John 14:16-18 – ASV)
    Notice in this passage two things: Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to His followers, and Jesus said the Holy Spirit will not leave His followers – no time restriction i.e. until 'New Testament' is written, etc.

    Those that have difficultly believing the Holy Spirit is alive and well today have a big problem simply because the Word tells us the Holy Spirit marks us as "His". If you don't believe in the Holy Spirit, why should God prove you wrong??? Who are we that God has to prove Himself to…? The Gospel says to believe in Him and that includes ALL of Him…

    Just some thoughts… (Alan and Jay, great posts and comments!!)

  6. Glenn says:

    Nicely done, Jay.

    Makes me wish I'd said it like that….many, many times over the years. So I'll settle for quoting you until I forget that you were the one who put it together like this – and then I'll probably forget to give anyone but God the credit. Do you mind?

    Blessings,

    Glenn

  7. Rich says:

    Let’s get some facts straight here:

    Concerning Romans 12:4-8, Jay said,
    “Paul speaks of “gifts” (charismata), including prophecy, which has been described as a gift from the Spirit going back to Numbers 11. So how did the Romans receive these gifts if no apostle had ever been to Rome? A few people may have traveled there from other locations where the apostles had laid hands on converts, but Paul plainly speaks as though they all have spiritual gifts. While it’s entirely possible that gifts were sometimes given by the laying on of apostolic hands, it’s awfully hard to argue that only apostolic hands could give spiritual gifts.”

    Some facts:
    1) Nothing stated in the referenced scripture requires the gifts to be of the supernatural type. According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, the Greek for prophecy (propheteuo) refers to declaring the word of God regardless whether the knowledge comes from the supernatural or just personal study. The other gifts listed (service, teaching, exhortation, contributions, generosity, leadership and showing mercy) do not refer to the supernatural.
    2) The typical supernatural gifts are missing in this list: healing, raising the dead, and speaking in tongues. Clearly, the Romans did not have these gifts.

    Jay said, “If Paul refused to baptize Christians so that there’d be no cause of jealousy”.

    A fact:
    1. No where does it say that Paul refused to baptize anyone. We don’t know why he only baptized a minority of the Corinthian Christians. Although, he was clear he wanted people to show allegiance to Christ rather than himself. He was glad that they were baptized.

    Jay said, “And surely members had been added to the Corinthian congregation after Paul’s last visit, and yet he speaks as though each member had been gifted (12:7, 11, 13, 18).”
    Personal comment: a lot of CENI being used here, especially the necessary inference that Paul was referring to all. He was there for one and a half years which obviously had a big, positive influence.

    Jay said, “And then there’s the conversion of Cornelius and his household. They received the Spirit, evidenced by the gift of tongues (Acts 10:46), without apostolic hands.”
    Personal comment: a lot of regulative principle being used here (sorry, I couldn’t resist). The Apostle Peter was clearly present. The “laying on of hands” is just an idiom indicating apostolic presence and intention to pass on the supernatural gifts.

    Jay said, “When we seek to reduce God’s work through his Spirit to a set of invariable rules, like Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (in which he set for his laws of motion), we become, to an extent, Deists. It’s not a good place to be.”

    Personal comment: I have no desire to reduce anything God does. I only want to understand God’s communication to us revealing His intentions and plans

    p.s. I almost deleted this before posting because it probably sounds so blunt. However, the level of disagreement on the basics is beyond mere perplexity.

  8. Jay Guin says:

    Rich,

    Perhaps we are reading from two different editions of Vine's. But my copy defines propheteuo as "to be a prophet, to prophesy, is used with the primary meaning of telling forth the Divine counsels … (b) of foretelling the future … ."

    Under propheteia (the Greek word actually used in Romans 12:6), Vine's says, "It is the declaration of that which cannot be known by natural means. … In his measure the teacher has taken the place of the prophet, cp. The significant change in 2 Pet. 2:1. The difference is that, whereas the message of the prophet was a direct revelation of the mind of God for the occasion, the message of the teacher is gathered from the completed revelation contained in the Scriptures."

    See pages 221-222.

    What support do you have for "laying on of hands" being idiomatic and not involving the actual laying on of hands? Any? Can you cite a source?

  9. Rich, you said, "According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, the Greek for prophecy (propheteuo) refers to declaring the word of God regardless whether the knowledge comes from the supernatural or just personal study."

    I have a problem with that; with declaring some sort of difference between "knowledge from the supernatural or just personal study" when it comes to prophecy in the Biblical sense.

    Here is my problem: "Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, 'Jesus be cursed,' and no one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit." ~ 1 Corinthians 12:3

    "For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." ~ Revelation 19:10

    You also said, "Clearly, the Romans did not have these gifts."

    Not clear to me. Other possibilities: Paul chose not to mention the supernatural gifts, as they were not relevant to his point. Paul chose not to mention the supernatural gifts, as they were not the ones he advised Christians to "earnestly/eagerly desire." (1 Corinthians 12:31; 14:1)

  10. Jerry Starling says:

    Rich, you wrote:
    "Jay said, 'If Paul refused to baptize Christians so that there’d be no cause of jealousy'.
    A fact:
    1. No where does it say that Paul refused to baptize anyone. We don’t know why he only baptized a minority of the Corinthian Christians. Although, he was clear he wanted people to show allegiance to Christ rather than himself. He was glad that they were baptized. "

    Technically, you are correct in saying Paul did not refuse to baptize anyone. He did say he was glad he had not baptized any more than he had lest any should say he baptized in his own name. Jay's point stands.

    Jay has already questioned your citation of W.E. Vine. I do not have Vine, but Vincent's Word Studies says at Romans 12:6, "The New-Testament prophets are distinguished from teachers, by speaking under direct divine inspiration." Kittle's TDNT says, "Primitive Christian prophecy is the inspirede speech of charismatic preachers through whom God's plan of salvation for the world and the community and His will for the life of individual Christians are made known." Again, Jay's point stands.

  11. Rich says:

    Jay,

    It looks like we have the same version of Vine's. You left out the part where he says the supernatural prophesies have ceased.

    The word prophesy, in its generic sense, means to predict the future (part b of Vine's). Admittedly, in most biblical contexts, this includes supernatural knowledge. However, not always. The Hebrew version of the word is used in Nehemiah 6:12 simply as a predictor of the future based on secular information.

    Presuming the supernatural type of prophesy in Romans 12 when listed with gifts that are not supernatural is an assumption and not required by the context.

  12. Larry Short says:

    A minor point on the Roman's gifts. Chuld some gifted Christians move to Rome? Or less likely, could an apostle visited not in Acts or tradition?

  13. Rich says:

    Ketith,

    Thanks for your feedback. See my response to Jay, above, on the generic meaning for prophesy.

    As to Romans 12, you have helped make my point. Since Paul did not list supernatural gifts this cannot be a proof text that the Romans received the supernatural without the live presence of an apostle.

    Even if some of the Romans had these gifts, it is possible that a few received the supernatural gifts while visiting the Judea region and used them to help establish the church in Rome. It's speculation but possible.

  14. Rich says:

    Jay,

    Perhaps my recovery from a 17 hour drive in a U-haul yesterday has affected my word choices. My use of idiom (popular phrases that mean something beyond their literal words) was meant to be an analogy to some physical gestures mentioned in the NT that have meaning beyond their literal movement. These include the laying on of hands, anointing the head with oil, greeting with a holy kiss, etc. The laying on of hands was a real physical gesture that had multiple meanings as your suggest. Included was the transfer of the supernatural from the Holy Spirit to another person through the apostles.

    In the case of Cornelius, the important issue is this all occurred in the presence of Peter. It doesn't really matter whether Peter did lay on the hands (and Luke chose not to record it) or not.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Rich – In the case of Cornelius, the important issue is this all occurred in the presence of Peter. It doesn’t really matter whether Peter did lay on the hands (and Luke chose not to record it) or not.

    Rich, if Cornelius and his house was given the Holy Spirit and the spiritual gift to speak in tongues by Peter laying hands on them why would Luke leave that out, Luke was a physician someone who would know the importance to write the laying on of hands especially being Cornelius and his house were Gentiles.

    You are reaching making up stuff and give nothing to support it.

  16. Alan says:

    If Peter had laid his hands on Cornelius and his household, why would he have been surprised that they received the gifts? The whole point seems to be that he didn't expect it, and therefore had no reason to lay hands on them.

  17. Jerry Starling says:

    Rich,
    Had Peter laid hands on Cornelius before he was baptized, would the brethren with him and the church in Jerusalem have responded the way they did?

    Given the sensitivity of the whole idea of admitting Gentiles to Christian fellowship, Peter would have been raked over the coals and back again! As it was, they called him on the carpet for an explanation. What was his explanation? "Who was I to resist God?"

    If he had laid hands on them, as you suggest, that explanation would not have satisfied them. Instead, they rejoiced that God had granted repentance even to the Gentiles!

  18. Rich says:

    Dear Anon., Jerry & Alan:

    I don't remember ever saying that Peter laid his hands on Cornelius. However, the situation is consistent that an apostle is always present in the scriptures when the supernatural powers are given to a person.

    It is purely speculation that Peter did not or did lay his hands in this situation. Luke only gives us summary information for each of the events. For example, we learn several more details of Paul's conversion when Luke records Paul's description of the events (Acts 22) than when it is first recorded in Acts 9.

    By the way, although Peter's traveling companions were surprised that Cornelius and others received the supernatural gifts, it seems that Peter understood fully and explained the reason to the others.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Acts 15:7-8. “And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: "Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us.”

    Peter said God gave the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles knowing their hearts. We are given three summaries about the Gentiles conversion Acts 10, Acts 11, and Acts 15, and nowhere does the Scriptures say Peter laid hands on them. Sorry Rich but your argument is very, very weak.

    The Bible says it is God who gives all things such as speaking in tongues as He wills, not as man wills.

    1 Corinthians 12:7-11“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.”

  20. Rich says:

    May I repeat that I never said that Peter laid his hands on Cornelius. What I did say is not being mentioned is not proof that he did not. We don't know for sure either way.

  21. Rich, I would only be helping you make your point if I agreed with it; I refuted it in the first part of my comment and I was merely pointing out that – even within your pattern of thinking – there is more than one possibility about why Paul mentioned some gifts but not others beyond "the Romans did not have these gifts."

    I tend to believe that all gifts of the Spirit are supernatural because He is supernatural, whether you would term them "mundane" or "spectacular." In fact, what you term "mundane" seem to overlap the set of gifts Paul recommends earnestly desiring.

    I'm sure it is more convenient to your argument to separate gifts into seemingly magical and non-magical categories so that you can do away with the ones that you no longer want to exist (perhaps because you find them troublesome?) and exalt only those you wish to exalt.

    I find it interesting that both the gifts of 1 Corinthians 12-14 and those of Romans 12 come with a teaching about humility, mutual benefit, and sincere brotherly love. Any of the Spirit's gifts can be misused by the hands of the self-minded; scripture does not treat any of them as more troublesome than others.

  22. Rich says:

    Keith,

    Concerning nomenclature, I was just using Jay's words, "spectacular and mundane".

    This is totally about trying to figure out God's will, not mine. Please don't assume any other motive.

    The facts are that the only recorded events of people receiving the supernatural/magical/spectacular gifts did so in the presence of an apostle. The bible even records the case where people did not receive these gifts until an apostle traveled to them. Any other observation is a pure stretch/speculation to assume otherwise.

    I see this as an explanation why we don't observe raising of the dead today.

    Do you have another explanation or do you believe people have the power to raise the dead? This is the issue.

  23. What I believe is not the issue at all, but whether God still works through His people.

    Because scripture does not draw the lines you draw between what He can/can't/will/won't do to accomplish His purposes. It does not tie His hands nor duct-tape His lips, bro.

    That's the issue.

  24. cin3@me.com says:

    This is a Revelation from me 1 corinthians 2 :14 says if we are not born of the Spirit (I put on the christian goggles) the Buble became the truth of God, but , #)+ years later ………….

    GOD KNOWS WHO He, She, It is ?

    I no longer believe in "revealed religion"
    Do you believe in LIFE the deist believe in God, i can't prove Deism is wrong…..This guy Mark itell it like it is In His Humble Opinion …….. .http://il.youtube.com/watch?v=-qiWM7uT8-Y&feature=related

  25. Price says:

    Jay, I sure hope you're right….II Cor 10:4 For the weapons of our (spiritual) warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power…" If you're wrong, we are in a battle that we can't win. In essence, the denial of spiritual gifts to wage war against evil is surrender…..

  26. Theophilus Dr says:

    A lot of confusion is created when people use terms imprecisely and in contexts where they do not belong. Spiritual gifts (charismata) are found in Romans 12:3-8 (but more broadly to the end of the chapter), 1 Corinthians 12-14, 1 Peter 4:10-11. Luke does not use the word, charismata, and spiritual gifts are not mentioned in Acts. The "gift (dorea) of the Holy Spirit" is not a spiritual gift, and speaking in tongues in Acts is not referred to as a spiritual gift. If Luke doesn't call it that, we shouldn't either. There are at least a dozen reasons why tongues in Acts is different from tongues in Corinth, and it requires an eisogesis to equate them. To refer to the Samaritans or to Cornelius as having "spiritual gifts" is a misnomer. This imprecision, as well as the casual and inappropriate use of words such as "miracle" and "supernatural" create interpretative chaos. Either all of the spiritual gifts mentioned in the above 3 references are miraculous and supernatural or none of them are. You can't pick and choose. Once one understands the scriptural definition of "miracle" (instead of our jargon use), they understand why ALL of them are supernatural. Which, interestingly, includes 1 Peter 4:11, "If anyone speaks, let them speak as of the oracles of God." KJV. This is the scripture behind the tenet of the Restoration Movement, "Let us speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent." This slogan has been used as a tool to dismiss the validity of spiritual gifts today. How ironic that the verse it is based on, itself, refers to a miraculous spiritual gift! No wonder we have trouble communicating.

  27. guy says:

    What about Acts 2:38 itself necessitates the understanding that immersion in water and reception of the Spirit were a simultaneous event? i don't see why the wording itself *forces* that understanding.

    –guy

  28. Price says:

    Hey Guy…do you find it odd that it is recorded that the Samaritans in Acts 8 and Cornelius and his household visibly demonstrated the gifts of the Spirit whereas the converts in Acts 2 did not…Well, that's not necessarily true..It doesn't say they didn't but it does not say that they did which seems to be glaring…at least to me…any thoughts about that? It may have no relevance at all…just curious..anybody ?

  29. guy says:

    Price,

    You're right–it doesn't say one way or the other. i believe Jay has argued that since the text mentions wonders being performed by the apostles, that means others weren't performing wonders (wow, is that move like RPW?). That may be true, but it doesn't necessarily follow. i think it would be odd given the context that Peter's converts never had any of the experiences you mentioned.

    i was just commenting because Acts 2:38 is getting proof texted right and left for the position that water baptism and Spirit reception are simultaneous events, and i don't see why the wording in that verse necessarily implies that position.

    –guy

  30. Jay Guin says:

    Guy,

    The Greek of Acts 2:38 has been dissected by many in many ways to reach many conclusions.

    Personally, I take the preposition often translated "for" (EIS) to mean "into" so that Peter urges his hearers to be "immersed into the forgiveness of sins."

    Everywhere else in the NT when EIS follows BAPTIZO, it's translated "into" by the ESV. "Into" is the most literal reading of EIS and fits most naturally after "be immersed."

    Therefore, the Greek suggests that forgiveness is a result of the immersion. Of course, so is the outpoured Holy Spirit.

    "You will receive the Holy Spirit" is future tense, plainly indicating that the Spirit had not yet been received by his listeners and that the Spirit would come with baptism. And many verses teach that God does his forgiving via the Holy Spirit.

    (Tit 3:5-6 ESV) 5 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, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

    And so it appears to me that in the case of Acts 2:38, baptism follows the prototype of John's baptism of Jesus: the convert is immersed, and God announces the convert a beloved son in whom he is well pleased and the Spirit descends from heaven onto the convert. And this interpretation fits very well with the flow of Luke-Acts.

  31. Price says:

    Jay, you're a student of the Greek…answer a question if you can for someone who is not….. you said that the "you will receive the Holy Spirit" in acts 2:38 was future tense… Is there a construction that the author could have used to indicate that the Spirit would be received at the same moment as baptism as opposed to a time in the future ? Thanks…

  32. Theophilus Dr says:

    It is recorded that John baptized within water into (eis) repentance (Matt 3:11) and of repentance into (eis) the forgiveness of sin (Luke 3:3) or proclaiming such (Mark 1:4). How could this be the same "into (eis) the forgiveness of sins" in Acts 2:38? John contrasted his baptizing within water with Jesus baptizing within the Holy Spirit. How could John's baptism within water effect forgiveness of sins when the sacrifice for them hadn't been given yet? Paul told the 12 Ephesians in Acts 19 that John's baptism was for repentance. So the continual forgiveness of sin by the blood of Jesus applies only to Acts 2:38, as the believer moves from one state into (eis) another, from being dead in sin to being alive because of forgiveness. Water baptism by John didn't effect forgiveness of sins, but baptism within the Holy Spirit by Jesus did. John contrasted himself and the water baptism he performed with that of Jesus in Mark 1:7-8 as not being worthy to unloose his sandals. Why should the baptism within water that he performed be able to unloose us from the bondage of sin?

    For people like myself who were spiritually raised inside a water baptistery, it is a shock to say the least to realize that Acts 2:38 must be talking about the baptism that Jesus performs. Yes, baptism within the Holy Spirit. Yes, they then took the responders on Pentecost and water baptized them. Yes, it is the same order as Cornelius. Take a deep breath and pray about it.

    But, did Peter understand it that way when he said it? What difference does that make? The Holy Spirit understood it. Peter said a lot of things he obviously didn't understand. In verse 39 he said the promise was for those "afar off" and "whomever God will call." We know that meant the Gentiles, but from what he had to later learn from some visions in chapter 10, apparently Peter himself didn't understand what he had said.

    Water baptism is done as a matter of obedience. Peter would have "opposed God" if he failed to water baptize Cornelius. But the obedience is not expected from the believer; it is expected that the church will perform it. It is the church's obedience that is tested. We will answer for not water baptizing a believer, not the believer, because it is a public declaration of fellowship within the body of Christ. Just like Cornelius.

    There are spiritual blessings of enormous magnitude that have remained hidden from our sight because for too many years all we have seen is a water baptistery.

    (And, returning to a previous note, can we please be more precise in our use of the word "gift" when referring to external manifestations in Acts? They are not the same.)

  33. aBasnar says:

    Withouth having read all of the comments, I'd like to add just one thought:

    The ECF distinguished between water- and Spirit-baptism this way: After having been immersed, the baptizer laid hands on the convert and prayed for the Holy Spirit to come. This actually follows the example of Acts 19.

    So there is one description that shows these two "steps" in baptism, and is was a quite universal practice in all churches after the times of the Apostles. This makes it seem that it was normal to do it this way in apostolic times, too, although we see that the Spiruit sill is free to move and act as He pleases.

    I see some great value in laying on of hands (although we also don't practice it, yet): Our Lord said, the Spirit will be given to those who ask for it (Luke 11:13). If we treat Spirit baptism as something granted, because there is a promise, but we don't ask for it – is that the right attitude? Grab and go (so to say)? Or shall we entreat God for His promised gift?

    Sure, every outward sign can become a dead ritual. This is true for laying on of hands and water baptism and the Lord's Supper. But rejecting these outward actions may as well result in loosing their contents. Signs serve as a vessel to bestow unto us the inteded grace.

    If we say, we are saved by faith – so baptism is not essential (we can even skip it), we agree this is a wrong approach. If we say however, the Spirit comes with our conversion (and/or baptism), we treat this almost as a fact that does not need anything else. So, we don't pray forthe Spirit and don't lay on hands. And we think that#s OK. I fear that we apply a doubke standard here.

    Consequence: Whenever confrinted with Charismatics many sincere Christians begion to wonder whether they really received the Spirit, because they can't even point to a situation where they specifically asked God for it. And these doeubt normally are fuelled by some extraordinary gifts that some say every Christian must have …

    So, instead of applying this question to the gifts of the Spirit, I'd put it in the context of Spirit baptism. Maybe that's off topic, but I believe it is a neglected topic.

    Alexander

  34. Theophilus Dr says:

    Thank you for your good comments. I agree that the baptism within the Holy Spirit is a neglected topic, partly because we don't understand it ourselves, but we do know that we don't like the interpretation given for it by others who claim that they do understand. So we avoid it.

    The baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gift of the Holy Spirit both occur when a person recognizes his own sin and receives by faith the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This would involve desiring a change (repentance) by his own sin to being removed into (eis) forgiveness of sins. God is ready to do this for everyone who "calls upon the name of the Lord." This is a spiritual transaction in the spiritual realms that occurs when we are baptized within the Holy Spirit by Jesus and born from out above (John 3) and baptized within one Spirit into the body (1 Cor 12:13). When this occurs is God's sovereign timing and not ours (Acts 1:7). Our job is to show to the church and to the world that we accept what God has done, by something we do in our physical realm that represents the spiritual process, including water baptism and laying on of hands. While external manifestations, including the charismata spiritual gifts, are under the control and will of the Spirit, what we do with them depends on our own faith. This may be when our expectation and what we ask for comes into the picture. But this is after God's salvation and in response to it. Responses to receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit are not limited to our doctrinal definitions. Apollos didn't have a external manifestation speaking-in-tongues type of response. He just went out and totally bumfuzzled the Jews with a new more Christ-centered message.

    The baptism within the Holy Spirit and the gift of the Holy Spirit are received by those who call on the name of the Lord because that is the Promise of the Father. Peter said the Promise was for everybody; the Holy Spirit was poured out on all people. Speaking in tongues or any other manifestation or spiritual gift was not part of the Promise of the Father; the gift of the Holy Spirit was. External signs may or may not be manifested, even as evidenced in the book of Acts. The Ethiopian (ch 8) and the jailer (ch 16) showed the joy of a changed life, which is a fruit of the indwelling Spirit, which is part of the "gift," but they didn't have the sign of external manifestations. Why? Because Luke records external manifestations for a specific purpose and that was as a sign to the Jews that God's authority was behind what was happening and that the Jews had better follow what God was doing and accept these new Christians into their fellowship and maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Luke records that there were to be signs and wonders. Therefore, manifestations accompanied each phase of Acts 1:8 – Jerusalem/Judea – Samaria – everywhere (Gentiles), confirming this was by God's authority. Then Acts 19 showed that divisive denominational splinter groups could not be allowed.

    Let us make doctrines that result from our submission to God and what He does through Christ rather than doctrines that center around things we control or experience (or not). Let us humble ourselves before the author of our salvation.

    People with the humility of Jesus don't have a problem with unity.

  35. Jay Guin says:

    Price,

    It is future tense, but I take the construction to be causative rather than chronological. In English we might say, "Kiss me and I'll kiss you back." The first verb is imperative and the second future. The second results from the first, but they happen at essentially the same time.

    However, in that construction, it's quite impossible to mean, "Because I kissed you back, kiss me." The future-tense action can't precede the imperative.

    I'm likely exceeding my limited Greek expertise here, but that seems to be how most commentators take the construction, other than those arguing from Calvinistic preconceptions.

  36. Jay Guin says:

    Theophilus Dr,

    Interesting question:

    "How could John's baptism within water effect forgiveness of sins when the sacrifice for them hadn't been given yet?"

    Well, how did God forgive David's sin with Bathsheba 1,000 years earlier? How did Elijah make it to heaven if his sins weren't yet forgiven?

    The old "sins rolled forward" argument is, in my opinion, fatally flawed. The scriptures plainly teach that sins were forgiven long before Jesus' sacrifice — including by Jesus himself. I take the statements as inspired and true.

    Forgiveness occurs in heaven, not on earth. And God exists outside of human time. He forgave, just as the text says, but he forgave as a consequence of Jesus' sacrifice. Time is no barrier to God's grace.

    (2Sa 12:13 ESV) 13 David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die."

    (Mar 2:5 ESV) 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

    Therefore, I have no trouble with the idea that John's baptism effected forgiveness — empowered by the sacrifice of Jesus.

    Hence, I see the distinction between John's baptism (pre-Pentecost) and Jesus' baptism (post-Pentecost) in the receipt of the Spirit and the continuous forgiveness thereby received by Christians. John's baptism effected a one-time forgiveness. Jesus' baptism, by giving those of faith the Spirit, gives them ongoing forgiveness — a MUCH greater blessing!

    (Tit 3:4-7 ESV) 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 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, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

    Therefore, while John's baptism effected forgiveness, it did not free from bondage to sin. That requires the Spirit (and we agree on that point).

    I believe you are quite right that Christian baptism is infinitely superior to John's and that the difference is found in the receipt of the Spirit.

  37. Jay Guin says:

    Theophilus Dr,

    Amen to your comment of 10:00 A.M.

  38. Theophilus Dr says:

    Thanks, Jay. Your comments are interesting and I need to meditate further on them when it's not so late. But this was a bit of a trick question. The real question is "How could John's baptism within water effect forgiveness of sins?" (at all). Was it the act of John dipping them in water, or was it the repentance that proceeded? Why was John's baptism called a "baptism of repentance?" Why did God forgive David of his sin? Was it his repentance, or something else that he did?

    If the water baptism of John represented what God was doing following repentance, why should post-Pentecostal water baptism be elevated to a higher spiritual importance, especially when John said a baptism that was different from water would be of infinitely greater importance? Consistent with John's baptism, post-Pentecostal water baptism represents what God has done.

    How could anyone place water baptism as the gatekeeper for our sovereign God's forgiveness? But, at one time, I did just that. I am a testimony to the patience and grace of God.

  39. aBasnar says:

    John's baptism effected a one-time forgiveness. Jesus' baptism, by giving those of faith the Spirit, gives them ongoing forgiveness.

    "Ongoing forgiveness" sounds a bit strange to me. What do you mean by that? That we are "permanently" forgiven? Or "automatically"?

    As I understand it, even after we have been baptized and regenerated, we have to repent of sin and confess them in order to be cleansed (1Jo 1:9). Christ also said that forgiveness is conditional and depentend on our forgiving others their trespasses (Mat 6:14-15). Forgiveness can even be taken back as is shown in one of His parables (Mat 18:23-35).

    How do the facts that forgivness must be asked for, is conditional and can be taken back harmonize with the term "ongoing forgiveness"? Maybe I completely misunderstand your point …

    Alexander

  40. Price says:

    Jay, sounds like you need to do a teaching on Grace and it's impact on Salvation as opposed to our sanctification by trial and error…

  41. Jay Guin says:

    Abasnar/Alexander,

    Salvation is continuous but not necessarily permanent. I lay this argument out in detail in the ebook posted here The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace. It's also laid out in the series "Amazing Grace."

    The 20th Century Churches of Christ have two inconsistent rules.

    Rule 1: If you sin after baptism, you can only be forgiven by repenting, confessing sin, and asking forgiveness. In the context of divorce, the 20th Century CoC also adds the requirement of making restitution. And for a public sin, you have to "come forward" at a church assembly and confess to the congregation.

    Rule 2: Forgiveness for those walking in the light in continuous.

    (1Jo 1:7 ESV) But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

    It is routinely noted the "cleanses" is in present tense in the Greek and so promises continuous forgiveness.

    Now, obviously, the two standards are very different. I've repeatedly asked leading writers within the conservative Churches to explain when one rule applies and other does not — and where the scriptures tells us which rule governs when. I've yet to receive an answer other than trite aphorisms — "holy common sense" and such like.

    I think Rule 1 is mistaken and Rule 2 is scriptural.

    However, you can certainly fall from grace, but not by just any sin. The sins that damn are those that undo what saved us in the first place — a loss of faith in Jesus (1 John 4:1-3), rebellion (Heb 10:26 ff), or loss of trust in Jesus to save by grace (Gal 5:1-7).

    These are the antitheses of the three elements of faith (in the Pauline/Johannine sense) —

    * Believe Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of God (Faith)(Accept Jesus as the Christ)
    * Submit to Jesus as Lord, that is, become faithful to Jesus (Love)(Accept Jesus as Lord)
    * Trust Jesus to keep his promise to save us based on faith (Hope)(Accept Jesus as Savior)

    Here are the links — http://oneinjesus.info/books-by-jay-guin/the-holyhttp://oneinjesus.info/index-under-construction/t

  42. Jay Guin says:

    Theophilus Dr,

    But if repentance was sufficient by itself, why did the Jews go to John to be baptized? Why not just repent at home? What was going on that compelled them to enter the water?

  43. Theophilus Dr says:

    Alexander, thank you for questioning an imprecise statement about "ongoing forgiveness." The Lord often reminds me that I can be guilty of the same thing that I point out in others. Forgiveness is a method of reinstatement of relationship. The Word makes it clear that from God's perspective, forgiveness has been accomplished in Christ and reconciliation has been offered. God's love and forgiveness are permanent (Rom. 8:39, Heb. 10:7-18). We have to accept God's reconciliation, hence Paul's appear in 2 Cor. 18-21. The "continual" forgiveness like in 1 John 1 seems to assume that a continual relation with Christ is occurring. I think it safer to say the scripture assumes we are in relation with God and with our brother, rather than placing our relation to God, including forgiveness, in jeopardy because we fail to do something right. So, "ongoing forgiveness" has to also assume an "ongoing walk in the light."

    I think we sometimes take our own understanding of forgiveness and transfer it to how God thinks, when it should be the other way around. But there are consequences to unforgiveness. In the process of peacemaking, I have seen the consequences of conflict and unforgiving attitudes on both the people involved and the resulting division and chaos in the church. I have seen the crippling consequences of continuing to maintain a root of bitterness on people's (or family's) physical health, spiritual health, financial health, everything. And the worst part is the attitudes they pass to their children. And I have also seen the incredible display of power of the Holy Spirit when people humble themselves before the cross and confess wrongs done to one another.

    I have been through a reconciliation process myself together with other elders, and I can say that it is an incredibly emotionally and spiritually draining process. It is not for the weak. I thought I understood what forgiveness, peace, and reconciliation were, but I found through this experience that I didn't understand diddly.

    Is God's forgiveness conditional on whether or not we ask Him or whether or not we forgive someone else? I think not from God's perspective; His offer of forgiveness isn't retractable (John 3:16), but God has created us so that our openness to receiving God's continual ("ongoing") forgiveness may be dependent on our own attitudes toward other people. I think that's the link.

    Who would be more likely to say, "I don't think God likes me. I don't see how He could forgive me" — a person carrying around inside of them an unforgiving attitude and root of bitterness, or a person walking in the freedom and joy of an active forgiving and peaceful relation with their brothers and sisters in Christ (or their spouse, etc.)?

    Did I create more ambiguity?

  44. Theophilus Dr says:

    Why not just repent at home?

    Interesting question, Jay, and our only choice for an answer is speculation, because the scripture doesn't address that possibility. (Which is often the definition of "interesting question" to those of us who feel led to ponder details.)

    John's appearance and approach was rather unusual, even for "that time," which attracted people probably our of curiosity. (Today, people would probably watch the news on their i-pads as John was loaded into a paddy-wagon headed for a hospital). But they went out to check this guy out, and they heard his message, which was so anointed by God that the word pierced everyone (except maybe the "religious leaders").

    John's purpose – to prepare the way; to testify of Jesus.

    John's message – repent for the kingdom of God is at hand, [at which time] He will baptize within the Holy Spirit (and fire).

    John's method – water baptism, symbolizing change from one state into (eis) another.

    What did the Pharisees notice – was it the fruit of repentance or the physical symbol of water immersion which meant to them the authority of a change?

    John 1:24 Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?"

    John's answer deflected attention away from himself and toward the baptism that Jesus would perform

    What if John didn't water baptize? Would no one have repented? Would those who did repent not receive corresponding forgiveness? Would John have not done an act that showed authority of change that would be recognized by the Pharisees? If someone repented at home, would they remain unforgiven or would their repentance not been noticed by the Jewish leaders?

    Water baptism was necessary as a matter of obedience. But I think it was John's obedience to water baptize that was involved rather than the responsibility of the responder to obey something.

    That, I think, is the same role of water baptism today. It is the church's responsibility to water baptize a responder and not the responsibility of the responder, who has already been baptized in the Holy Spirit by Jesus. Why? Obedience, just like it was for John.

    John's message would not have been complete without his administration of water baptism. His mission would have failed because he could testify of the baptism within the Holy Spirit. John would have been held accountable.

    I think, from the perspective of the responder to John's message, that forgiveness of sin was granted in response to their faith and confession. But there was no question that water baptism would follow.

    "What compelled them to enter the water?" I don't John gave then that choice.

    This is the same post-Pentecost; people weren't given a choice, they just were water baptized. There is no example of someone refusing to be water baptized. What if they aren't? We don't have a direct answer to that.

    But does that mean we make water baptism the gate to salvation? Do we hold the grace of God hostage until we do something in the physical realm? I used to think that. Now it sounds like an incredibly arrogant and dangerous position to take. I just can't do it.

    Thanks, Jay.

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