Real Restoration: Acts: Peter’s Sermon

So I’d finished up the series on Luke, and it seemed obvious that I should cover Acts next. It’s essentially Luke’s sequel to the Gospel of Luke. But, I thought, we’ve covered Acts so very many times. What would be a fresh approach? What in Acts best shows the Kingdom principles we’ve been talking about?

And then it occurred to me: we never cover the sermons and discourses in Acts. Well, we cover Paul’s address at Mars Hill, and that’s about it. For example, other than Acts 2:38, what did Peter preach at Pentecost that we ever talk about?

And does the fact that we endlessly debate Acts 2:38 while ignoring the rest of his sermon suggest our theology is blind to some issues? Why did Luke consider this sermon so important that it fills most of chapter 2, and yet we consider the sermon so unimportant that we ignore it? What’s going on?

And why do we ignore the other sermons and speeches? We’re big on the conversion stories but not on the speeches. Why?

Well, the only way to find out is to take a look at these passages. We start in Acts 2.

(This is an unusually long post, but I couldn’t think of a way to split it.)

The outpouring of the Spirit

(Act 2:14-21 ESV) 14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.'”

Peter is likely speaking in the Temple courts. Where else could he speak to such a loud crowd? The rest of Jerusalem will filled with narrow, winding streets. It would have been hard to have been heard by a crowd of so many nationalities in a narrow street.

Joel, of course, declared that the gift of prophecy would be a sign of the end of Exile and the coming of the Kingdom. Consider what Joel said in the immediate context of the quoted passage —

(Joe 2:24-27, 32b ESV) 24 “The threshing floors shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. 25 I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.

26 “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. 27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame. …

32 … For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.

Even though God had sent an army — the Babylonians — to destroy the land (25), there will come a time when Israel will again enjoy prosperity (24). But it will not be all of Israel. A remnant will be called from among the survivors (32) — and it will happen in Jerusalem.

One sign that God has called a remnant to prosperity will be the signs Peter mentions: the outpouring of the Spirit on “all flesh” (not just Jews), both men and women, who shall have the gift of prophecy. And God’s salvation will come to all who call on his name (not just Jews).

Now, God had given his Spirit to women before, and the gift of prophecy was hardly a new thing to the Jews. But once the Exile had begun, the gift of prophecy had departed from Israel. The new thing — the sign — was the “outpouring” of the Spirit. The Spirit was not being sprinkled on an occasional few. God was pouring the Spirit out generously.

(Isa 32:14-18 ESV) 14 For the palace is forsaken, the populous city deserted; the hill and the watchtower will become dens forever, a joy of wild donkeys, a pasture of flocks; 15 until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. 16 Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. 17 And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. 18 My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.

(Isa 44:3-4 ESV) 3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. 4 They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams.

“Pour” indicates not only the vast quantity of the Spirit but also suggests that the Spirit will render its recipients clean. You see, the Torah is filled with references to pourings as part of cleansing rituals. God himself will cleanse his people by the Spirit — and do so generously.

Thus, Peter is announcing the end of the Exile and the coming of the Kingdom. The promises are being fulfilled right now! The Spirit is being outpoured right here and now. It’s happening! And so, the rest of the promises are coming true, too.

The resurrection

(Act 2:22-24 ESV) 22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know — 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Nazareth was a village settled by descendants of David. Ray Vander Laan teaches that the name of the village comes from —

(Isa 11:1 ESV) There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch [netser] from his roots shall bear fruit.

Nazareth was thus, according to its founders, “Branchtown” — the village from which the Messiah would come.

Peter declares that God himself attested to Jesus, and yet certain “lawless men” had him crucified and killed “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” It was God’s intent from the beginning that Jesus be killed!

God then raised him because “it was not possible for him to be held by” death. There was something about Jesus that made him more powerful than death itself!

(Act 2:25-28 ESV) 25 For David says concerning him,

“‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; 26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. 27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

Peter then refers to Psalm 16:8-11. There David prophesies a resurrection. “Hades” refers to the dwelling place of the dead (“Sheol” in Hebrew).

(Act 2:29 ESV) 29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.

Obviously, Peter argues, the Psalm is not speaking of David, as he is in fact in Sheol. His body is still in the grave.

Now, Peter is clearly speaking of a bodily resurrection. David’s soul may be in heaven, but his body is the grave. Therefore, he has not yet experienced a resurrection. Hence, the Psalm is speaking of someone else. The “Holy One” is Jesus.

What the prophets said about Jesus

(Act 2:30-32 ESV) 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.

What oath?

(Psa 132:11-12 ESV) 11 The LORD swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: “One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne. 12 If your sons keep my covenant and my testimonies that I shall teach them, their sons also forever shall sit on your throne.”

(2Sa 7:12-13 ESV) 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

The Ascension

This brings us to —

(Act 2:33 ESV) 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

Peter concludes that Jesus has not only been resurrected but is now at God’s right hand (due to his ascension). God gave the Spirit to Jesus, and Jesus poured out the Spirit. Thus, Jesus is not merely a good man, but a member of the Godhead. It is through Jesus that the Father fulfills his promises.

The “promise of the Spirit” is a mark of the Messiah —

(Isa 42:1-4 ESV) Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2 He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. 4 He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.

(Isa 61:1 ESV) The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would possess the Spirit, which will be associated with the Messiah’s mission to bring justice and good news to the poor and the brokenhearted.

Jesus is Lord

(Act 2:34-36 ESV) 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.’ 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Peter refers to Psalm 110 —

(Psa 110:1-4 ESV) “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” 2 The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! 3 Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours. 4 The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

David did not sit at the right hand of God, but Jesus ascended and does in fact do so. Therefore, “God has made him both Lord and Christ.” Wow.

“Lord” is the word used by the Jews to refer to God himself. In the Septuagint, God is repeatedly referred to simply as “Lord,” which translates YHWH. To call Jesus “Lord” is to declare him a part of the God of the Old Testament.

“Christ” is the Greek word (Christos) for Messiah, which means “Anointed One,” which means king. Jesus is the king prophesied to sit on the throne of David, but he is more than a mere king. He is a king who sits on a heavenly throne who wears the name of God Almighty. It’s a truly audacious sermon!

It’s astonishing that the Jews listening didn’t pick up stones and kill Peter on the spot. Those without faith in Jesus would have heard blasphemy. How can a mere man — a man who’d been hung on tree! — be God?!

And Peter goes further, accusing his hearers of crucifying Jesus. Indeed, it’s likely that many in the crowd were in the same crowd that cried “Crucify him!” But the resurrection changed everything.

You see, Jesus hadn’t merely been raised from the dead. That had happened several times before. Jesus was not merely raised but resurrected. He was given a new, spiritual body. He was raised never to die again. All the others raised from the dead in the past died as do all men. Not Jesus. All the others arose with a physical body susceptible to the same weaknesses as all other bodies. Not Jesus. Indeed, Jesus was lifted into heaven to be with God.

The resurrection changes everything, because the resurrection proves that Jesus was more than a prophet or teacher. Jesus was those things, but he was also God Almighty in the flesh. And he was the Suffering Servant — God taking on himself the task given to Israel and God suffering the fate that Israel deserved.

And the resurrection of Jesus shows that those who are his can also be resurrected. God resurrects! The Sadducees are wrong. The Greeks are wrong. God can do what he promised.

“What shall we do?”

(Act 2:37-40 ESV) 37 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?” 38 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. 39 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.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”

Verse 37 tells us that Peter’s sermon was effective. His listeners understood that the nation had crucified the Messiah. Surely, God would be angry! What is the solution? How do we escape the wrath of God?

Repentance

Peter answers “repent.” Repentance is no new concept. The prophets had repeatedly spoken of repenting, but almost always in terms of God repenting!

(Jer 18:8 ESV) and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent [metanoeo = repent] of the disaster that I intended to do to it.

The “repent” or “relent” is to change your mind and the direction of your conduct. If you want God to relent/repent, you must do the same. It’s much more than a change of heart. It’s a change of intention and conduct.

Peter’s words “repent and be baptized” echo the John the Baptist —

(Luk 3:3 ESV) And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

It’s no accident that Luke begins both Luke and Acts with a lesson on baptism of repentance for [eis = into] the forgiveness of sins. The grammar is remarkably parallel. Indeed, both John and Peter were baptizing into forgiveness in response to repentance and baptism.

The Spirit

The difference is that only Peter offered —

and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit

Now, in context — both the immediate context and in light of the prophets — Peter is referring to the outpoured Spirit, not just forgiveness of sins. In other word, if you repent and submit to baptism, you’ll be admitted into the Kingdom through the forgiveness of your sins and the empowering gift of the promised, outpoured Spirit.

Of course, Peter also adds “in the name of Jesus Christ” — an element missing from the baptism of John. This baptism will accomplish something John’s cannot because it’s empowered by the work of Jesus the King. Baptism is much more the work of the Trinity than of the convert. The convert gets wet. Jesus saves. The Spirit empowers. God forgives.

Verse 39 repeats the promises of the prophets that the “promise” (a reference to the “promise of the Spirit” in v. 33) is not only for those present but for all future generations. This “gift of the Holy Spirit” would not be a single-century event!

“This crooked generation”

Finally, Peter urges them, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” “Crooked” doesn’t mean criminal. Rather, the translation is quite literal. The Greek word means twisted or bent. It’s used metaphorically of perverse or unreasonable — unwilling to be straight.

Peter’s point is often missed. This generation of Jews is so twisted that it will be damned. To find salvation, his hearers must escape into the true Kingdom, the Kingdom of God — a kingdom entered via repentance and forgiveness through the work of Jesus. There is no other path.

Peter didn’t urge them merely to a deeper understanding of their spirituality or to a better approach to Torah. He urged them to flee the wrath of God richly deserved by their contemporaries!

Reflections

Now, what fresh insights do we gain from Peter’s sermon?

1. It sure doesn’t sound like a sermon likely to be preached today. Unlike most contemporary preachers, Peter emphasizes the end of the Exile, the outpouring of the Spirit, and the resurrection of Jesus as demonstrating his power and his divinity.

2. Peter uses the prophets, not to prove that God knows the future, but to prove that Jesus is the Messiah of prophecy. God’s foreknowledge is assumed. The question is whether Jesus fulfilled the prophecies.

3. Peter further emphasizes the damned condition of his listeners, but not so much their personal sins but their being a part of a generation so perverse that they denied God’s Messiah. You either share their collective guilt or you escape through repentance, faith, and baptism.

I don’t think Peter would for a moment deny their personal sinfulness as well. But the sermon’s emphasis is on collective guilt. You can either ratify the crowd’s and leaders’ decision to crucify him or escape from that decision. You can’t claim he wasn’t the Messiah without partaking in the guilt of those who acted as that conclusion would demand.

Some would take offense at this statement, as though this makes all Jews guilty of crucifying Jesus. But the assertion is more subtle and more pointed. Jesus plainly claimed to be the Messiah (no one there would have denied that premise). Either he was or he wasn’t. If he was, then repent and be baptized in his name. If not, then he was a blasphemer and a rebel against Roman authority — and deserved his fate. For those present, those were the choices.

The same dilemma exists today. If he Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, then your choices are to submit to him or to agree that the Jewish authorities were right to crucify him as a blasphemer.

4. Peter emphasizes that Jesus is not only Christ (= Messiah = king) but Lord (= God = the true ruler of the Empire). Submission to Jesus means not only acknowledging that he is a a divine being, a part of the Godhead, but that he is the true king and the only king to whom we should submit. Submission to Jesus means revoking allegiance to all other authorities of any kind.

5. The Spirit is nearly as emphasized as Jesus. The Spirit not only shows the ending of the Exile and coming of the Kingdom, but also a personal indwelling for each convert. Peter could not have imagined preaching the Kingdom without preaching both Jesus and the Spirit.

6. Conversion is not merely forgiveness. It’s fleeing a generation (a race or men sharing a common characteristic, such as perversity) to enter into a new, better generation. It’s a change of group, ethnic, and even racial loyalty. You are no longer a Jew or a Roman. You are a citizen of the Kingdom and you bow to Jesus as king. You are a sojourner in Jerusalem but have renounced all loyalty to the generation you have escaped.

You see, to the ancients, you were loyal to but one king at a time. There was no “two kingdoms” theology. In that world, you lived in one kingdom only and you honored the one king of that kingdom.

Now, for the Jews, this was easy. They hated the Romans and Herodians anyway. They’d prayed for centuries for God to send his Messiah! Pledging loyalty to the Messiah and only the Messiah wasn’t that hard for most. But for a Roman, such as Cornelius, the change would have been much more difficult. It’s easy enough to promise to go to church and do five acts. It’s not so easy to bow to Jesus as the only true Lord, Savior, and King.

The scriptures don’t necessarily require us to be in rebellion or to break the civil laws. But we serve the emperor only because he’s God’s agent of justice, and we consider God’s laws higher than those of any earthly authority. The Christians were good citizens, but they would not and could not participate in all governmental policies. And when conflict arose, most chose Jesus over Caesar — and Caesar did not take kindly to that.

7. Hence, we must “repent,” which means much, much more than “stop sinning.” It also includes a change of loyalty to a new king and lord. And a change of loyalty from one ethnic group to another and one nation to another. We don’t merely turn. We change directions totally. We change our minds. We change citizenship. The direction of our lives change radically. We serve God’s agenda and mission, whatever that may be.

8. The resurrection and ascension are far more important to Peter than it is most of our preaching. We tend to emphasize the sacrifice of Jesus as atonement — which is a very biblical teaching. But it’s the resurrection that gives us hope of an inheritance in the new heavens and new earth. You see, most Christians believe that when we die, our soul goes to heaven and that’s that. In their theology, there’s no resurrection — just a soul flying away into heaven. And under that theory, why does it matter that Jesus rose again?

You see, there’s the huge inconsistency in Christian thought. We teach (a) a general resurrection of dead at the end of time and (b) that our souls pass immediately into heaven and it’s all over. Or some teach that the souls are stored in Paradise until the end of time, then move to heaven. But that thought has never made it into our hymnody or speech. It’s not really how we think of the afterlife.

But Peter teaches (and Paul does, too) that Jesus’ resurrection shows that we’ll also be resurrected.

(Acts 2:24) God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

What is about the resurrection of Jesus loosed the pangs of death if we aren’t going to enjoy the same sort of resurrection?

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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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39 Responses to Real Restoration: Acts: Peter’s Sermon

  1. Royce says:

    Jay,

    You likely plan on discussing more of what Peter said according to Luke's account in the Acts. I am interested in what you have to say about Peter's speech to the house of Cornelius, the fact that they received the Holy Spirit while he was speaking, and only then he talked about baptism saying "Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" (Acts 10:47)

    Later, when Peter defended taking the good news to Gentiles his defense was exactly the same. "As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?" (Acts 11:15-17)

    Now twice Peter says the Gentiles have received the Holy Spirit the same way he and the others with him had and that was when they believed on Jesus. In chapter 10 vs 47b "…received the Holy Spirit just as we have" and in chapter 11 vs 17 "God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ".

    If this was true of Peter and of Gentiles like Cornelius and his house why would it be different today? We don't know when Peter and the other disciples were baptized. They could have been baptized by John the Baptist (and even again in the name of Jesus), they could have been baptized by each other, or Jesus could have baptized them, we just don't know because there is no biblical record. What we do know is that they received the Holy Spirit when they believed on Jesus.

    I believe it was only after the resurrection that Peter and the others really put all their trust in Jesus. Again we cannot say with certainty because the Bible doesn't say but we do know, if we take the plain language of Luke's record, that they received the Holy Spirit "when they believed". And, we also know that at least some of the time it is before baptism in water.

    The reply of the church leaders in Jerusalem after Peter's discourse in defense of baptizing Gentiles is very telling in my view. They "fell silent"…, and " And then they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life." Repentance leads to life and is a gift from God. What had been normative for Jews was now true of Gentiles. Could it be that in Acts 2:38 "repent" is the key word?

    Restorationists for the most part teach baptism is a means of grace but Peter suggests otherwise unless one makes the argument that the Gentiles had the Holy Spirit but were not saved, a foolish idea. So, we are left with few possibilities if our traditional teaching is correct. 1. water baptism is faith. 2. Faith is not genuine until baptism. (a popular point of view) . 3. A person can receive the Holy Spirit before he is saved. ( a foolish idea) 4. Baptism is an act of obedience by a new believer who is already indwelt by the Spirit.

    Peter also said this before the counsel gathered to discuss circumcision. "Peter stood up and said to them, "Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith." (Acts 15:7b-9)

    This statement is clear and consistent with Paul's teaching. I don't know how we can read this passage and the others I mentioned and come away telling people they can only be saved when they are baptized. I know in the view of some this makes me an infidel. I am sincerely trying to understand how these events and statements fit into traditional coc teaching about salvation and receiving of the Holy Spirit.

  2. Edward Fudge says:

    Good work as usual, brother Jay! If I may stand behind you with two supplemental studies, I am honored to offer the following:

    "Power from on High" http://edwardfudge.com/written/pentecosttext.pdf

    and

    "Purpose and Duration of Spiritual Gifts" http://edwardfudge.com/spiritualgifts.pdf

    Cordially,
    Edward

  3. sid says:

    thank you ,Jay. a lot of things are beginning to become clear for me. it has been a long, hard journey.

  4. sid says:

    and thank you too, brother fudge.

  5. guy says:

    Why is 3 automatically a "foolish" idea?

    Maybe the notion that God is concerned solely with individual salvation and thus all of His acts somehow prove or at least hinge on such is an idea worth questioning.

    i opt for 1 based on Acts 19.

    –guy

  6. guy says:

    Jay,

    You seem to make a hard distinction between "raised" and "resurrected." i was unclear–were you meaning to say that the audience members in Acts 2 recognized the precise difference in these two terms?

    Also, i see that Luke uses the "pour" and "fill" language regarding the Spirit. But does Luke refer to Spirit-activity as an "indwelling"?

    –guy

  7. Alabama John says:

    If in the NT the Holy Spirit is the Word or later the Bible, you could receive it before baptism.

    Hearing and understanding would precede obeying in baptism.

    This is a very popular belief..

  8. Royce says:

    Guy,

    Now you have me confused. Do you really think lost people have the Holy Spirit? Really?

    "The reply of the church leaders in Jerusalem after Peter's discourse in defense of baptizing Gentiles is very telling in my view. They "fell silent"…, and And then they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life." Repentance leads to life and is a gift from God. What had been normative for Jews was now true of Gentiles. Could it be that in Acts 2:38 "repent" is the key word? "

    #1 seems an odd conclusion based on Acts 19. You can make a case receiving the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands by an Apostle but I can't see from that section that baptism equals faith. It is a result of faith. Faith always obeys as did the people in Acts 19. It seems that the moment they were taught they acted. There isn't a hint that Paul considered them to be unsaved. They are called "disciples", hardly a term for unbelievers.

  9. Royce says:

    Alabama John, Obviously people must hear and understand. It would be foolish to baptize someone who knew nothing about Jesus and his work for sinners.

    How popular do you think it is to believe that the Holy Spirit is no more than than the Word of God. Do you think a guy has a KJV version of the Holy Spirit on the dash of his truck in the Wal Mart parking lot?

    I have had long discussions with agnostics and a few of them knew more Scripture than I did. They had the word of God in their heads but they didn't have Jesus.

  10. guy says:

    Royce,

    i believe God can do what He will with His Spirit, and that He is not obligated to save someone in order to work in and through them for His own purposes. Nor do i think God's only job for the Spirit is individual regeneration. i don't believe God's power or Spirit is so limited. Thus, i don't see why i must conclude that anytime God does something to or through someone involving His Spirit, that person is necessarily saved.

    The revealing thing to me about Acts 19 is that "believe" doesn't refer to something that happens entirely in a person's skull. If "belief" is separate from and excludes "baptism," then Paul's first two questions don't make sense together. The point is that i think "belief" or "faith" (pisteuo) is much broader than just some inward principle of assent or some mental disposition of trust. Thus, i don't think it's really necessary to think of things happening 'at belief' *or* 'at baptism.' i think that style of dichotomy was largely invented by reformation debates rather than by scripture. And it's definitely more reminiscent of "5-step salvation" theology than the more organic and process-oriented language in scripture. (For this reason, i also don't think "repent" is some concept air-tight in separation from faith or baptism.)

    –guy

  11. Alabama John says:

    Royce,

    1Cor. 13:10
    But, when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
    No need for the Holy Spirit itself anymore as now we have the perfect word.

    This is the belief of all but a very few of the churches of Christ in this part of the country.

    So, yes, and several quotes on bumper stickers too.

    The confusing part is folks are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, but, many have the Bible in their hand when they say this..

  12. JMF says:

    Guy —

    In regards to people having the Spirit yet not being saved (if I read correctly what you seem to be suggesting as a possibility), I'd argue that Romans 8:9-11 seems to teach that having the Spirit is a guaranty/seal of inheritance.

    That said, non-Christians/non-believers certainly seem to possess fruit of the Spirit/Spiritual gifts.

  13. guy says:

    JMF,

    (1) That's Paul and this is Luke. i guess i don't think inspiration means that everyone is always using words precisely the same or even trying to say the exact same things about them. i think inspiration just requires that they don't say anything contradictory. Further, as Jay mentioned in an earlier post, Theophilus likely didn't have a copy of 'The Works of Paul' to flip through as a commentary on Luke's work. Thus, i think we have to try and understand how Luke intends Theophilus to understand Luke-Acts. (This is also why i asked about the difference in language between Paul and Luke.)

    (2) i seriously doubt that King Saul occupied any sort of "saved" state before God, yet he was able to prophesy. Balaam had a gift and was able to use it for hire.

    –guy

  14. Alabama John says:

    Royce,

    Very popular as I'd say 95% or more CoC teach that here.

    " No more than" referring to the HS, the word! Come on now!

    I know Jesus is in the Wal Mart too.
    Was there last week and while looking at the camping gear since my tent is old and worn out two young men approached me at separate times. They asked if they could help an old man and I noticed they both had a sign on their shirts that said.

    Welcome to Wal-mart

    JESUS

    So we are pretty religious there too.

  15. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Royce,

    Since we covered baptism pretty extensively in the recent series “Baptism, An Exploration,” I’ll not focus on baptism as we go through Acts. I won’t ignore it, but I’m going to try to let the text tell me what the lesson is rather than coming to the text with any question other than “What is the Spirit saying?”

    In fact, part of what I’d like to accomplish is to show how very much we’ve missed by focusing on a few issues and ignoring most of what is actually being said.

    Stick with me. I think one result will be to understand our baptisms much better by not talking so much about baptism.

  16. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Guy,

    The Jews used “resurrect” exclusively to refer to a bodily resurrection. The Greeks believed their “souls” to go to Hades on death. The Jews taught a bodily resurrection. This is why the philosophers on Mars Hills scoffed at Paul’s teaching of the resurrection. The Greeks were firmly convinced that the dead stayed dead.

    N. T. Wright covers this in great detail in The Resurrection of the Son of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God, Vol. 3). He gives a briefer account in Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. Both are GREAT books, but the first is very lengthy and not light reading at all.

    To a Jew, the “resurrection” wouldn’t occur until the end of time. Therefore, for Jesus to be resurrected was not merely for the dead to come alive again (as had happened before) but for the end of the word, the New Heavens and New Earth promised by Isaiah, to be anticipated and proven real. Jesus was therefore the firstfruits — the first to resurrected among all those saved by God (1 Cor 15).

    The resurrection of Jesus thus demonstrates not only that God can raise the dead (as he did for Lazarus and many others) but that he will ultimately raise all his children at the end of the age. It’s the beginning of the in-breaking of the Kingdom. It’s the beachhead that promises the victory.

  17. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Guy,

    I find no reference to the Spirit “dwelling” in the individual Christian in Acts using that term. There are, of course, many references to the Spirit being poured on or filling or being received by a Christian. I don’t see the absence of the word as particularly significant.

    Paul speaks in similar terms, and doesn’t use “dwell” with respect to the Spirit in all his epistles.

  18. Bobby C says:

    I think you have to remember what the gift of tongues was: A sign gift for unbelievers. Who were the unbelievers at the house of Cornelius: Peter and other Jews. The tongues thus showed Peter that salvation was in fact being offered to the Gentles. When defending his actions, he has the "tongues" to fall back when explaining to those who questioned him. If Cornelius was saved when he spoke in tongues there would be no reason to have baptized him. Remember God can use the ungodly to show the godly: Read Habakkuk.

  19. guy says:

    Jay,

    i knew this difference you mention–i've read Surprised by Hope. But i thought you were claiming another difference. When you said this:

    "You see, Jesus hadn’t merely been raised from the dead. That had happened several times before. Jesus was not merely raised but resurrected."

    i took you to be saying:

    "raised" = brought back from the dead but will eventually die again

    "resurrected" = brought back from the dead never to die again

    i thought you were saying these were different words in the original, and that the definitional distinction between them would've been apparent to the audience. Yes? No?

    –guy

  20. guy says:

    Jay,

    Not necessarily the absence of the word, but the difference in descriptors is what i find interesting. Paul tends to talk about 'in' and being a 'temple of' and being 'sealed.' Luke tends to use 'pouring' and 'filled.' (John uses the term "anointing".) Does that necessarily mean they aren't talking about the same thing? No. But it's not the case that they must be talking about the same either. i think we may just tend to take for granted that the terms, topics, and claims are meant to be interchangeable or speak specifically of identical phenomenon. That seems indicative of a very 'cut-and-paste' or 'it's-all-one-book' view of Scripture.

    –guy

  21. Randall says:

    Alabama John,
    I believe you said the following regarding the understanding that the HS is limited to the written word: "Very popular as I'd say 95% or more CoC teach that here."

    AJ, that is just one of many reasons what so many have left the CoC. Are you aware there is a support group for ex CoCers? You could find it on line if you wanted to verify it exists.

    In fact, there is a lot of biblical and theological information available at your fingertips if you care to take the time to read it. It goes deeper than the five steps to salvation and the five acts of worship. And all of it is free if you're interested.
    Hesed,
    Randall

  22. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Guy,Yes. Not very clear in the English, as there’s not a one-to-one correspondence between the Greek and English in this area (more than one Greek word can be translated “raised”, for example).But when a First Century person said or wrote “resurrect,” the readers understood that that meant “bodily resurrection,” as the Jews expected at the end of time and the Greeks denied.

  23. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Guy,I’d agree that the words have different “flavors.” References to the “outpouring” of the Spirit are built on the prophets and have a sense of the fulfillment of prophecy — the Spirit coming with the Kingdom and being given in perpetuity.Reference to being “filled” (which is found both in Acts and Ephesians) is more about the result of the outpoured Spirit on the individual. The metaphor is likely associated with “pour”: the result of pouring is filling. But the shift is from the general outpouring to the personal filling. Acts and Paul both use “fill” to speak of degrees of filling or, more precisely, the degree to which the Spirit affects a person’s conduct and thoughts. To be filled with the Spirit is to be thoroughly submitted to the Spirit’s influence.“Dwelling” emphasizes the personal relationship that comes with the Spirit and is an allusion to God’s dwelling with Israel in the tabernacle and temple. It naturally leads to the image of the church/Christian being a “temple” of the Spirit.“Seal” is borrowed from ancient culture where physical seals were placed on property to mark ownership. Hence, “seal” emphasizes how an indwelt, filled person appears to others (although the seal is also evident to the in-filled person).“Anoint” — found especially in  John — demonstrates the kingly and priestly status of Christians in parallel to Jesus, who was also anointed. It’s an allusion to the Torah’s use of anointing to dedicate priests and to purify the elements of the tabernacle used in worship and, especially, the enthronement of kings by anointing.And so the metaphors picture the Spirit’s work through different facets. It’s all the same jewel, however.

  24. Alabama John says:

    Randall,

    We are having a discussion ,stating positions held, not necessarily our own. I too have left that type of thinking as Jay has, but, we still remember it well and he writes many articles referencing that thinking that I am the loudest AMENer.

    Here though, only a few believe as you and I and by far most believe and teach the Holy Spirit among many other things as I said.

    Interestingly, I went to the support group site for a while and it was discouraging. It is a slam the folks in the church of Christ, not lets see if we can change them for the good. I've never seen negativity piled on one another help anyone.

    Also, noone is allowed if you aren't on the side of the slammers. To want to try to bring folks to Christ that have left, that is not the place to go. For one thing, you would have to lie about your church position and goals to be allowed to stay.

    I'm curious, have you signed the required declaration and allowed to go there?

  25. Randall says:

    Alabama John,
    I do not attend the CofC any longer, but I have not associated myself with a support group to "get over" the CofC either. The last 30 years I attended the CofC it was to become as close to the leadership as I could and discuss other ways of thinking with them.

    Overall, it was a fruitful experience but one can do that for only so long. We retired and moved to another part of the country and started fresh with a new church. We would have had to so no matter whether we stayed in the CofC or went elsewhere and my wife couldn't take the CofC anymore – me either for that matter.

    I mentioned the support group primarily b/c the CofC has (in my opinion) warped the thinking of many and been abusive to many/most who dared to disagree with them out loud. The more traditional congregations are not quite a cult, but not very far from it – not far at all. It should be no surprise that a support group for ex CofCers would be rather negative towards the denomination as a whole. The teaching of salvation by works (not to mention CENI) is only going to frustrate those who truly examine themselves. And please, would no one suggest that the CofC teaches salvation by grace plus works as everyone gets the grace (in that scenario) and the real difference in whether one is saved or lost is the works – so it is salvation by works, not grace.

    In short, there is a support group for ex Mormons and they are hostile to the Mormon church. There is also a support group for ex CofCers and they might be hostile towards the CofC – and for very similar reasons. No doubt there are support groups for others that have been involved with some sort of abuse.

    I simply consider the CofC to be my church heritage/family. It is a dysfunctional family, but still my family. I can't associate with them too much as that is not healthy. I do like to hear news from home, and I am always happy when it is good news rather than news of more dysfunctional behavior.

    May God bless you with His lovingkindness – and to be redundant . . .
    Hesed,
    Randall

  26. Randall says:

    So did the Jews believe in soul sleep until the resurrection or that the spirit of the dead was conscious and with the Lord as a disembodied spirit?

  27. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    The dead are consistently referred to as “asleep” or the like in the NT — an obvious metaphor but a metaphor that says that the dead are, as a rule, in a condition that appears to the readers like sleep. The main point of the metaphor is that the condition is temporary and the sleepers will awake.Matt. 27:52Jn. 11:11fActs 7:60Acts 13:361 Co. 7:391 Co. 11:301 Co. 15:6,18,20,511 Thess. 4:13ff2 Pet. 3:4There are, of course, a few verses that are argued to convey a different conclusion. I’ve considered them in the Surprised by Hell series. <a href="http://oneinjesus.info/index-under-construction/eschatology/surprised-by-hell/http://oneinjesus.info/index-under-construction/e… />Suffice to say that I don’t hold to the “holding tank” theory that says the saved go to “Paradise” pending judgment and the damned go to “Tartarus,” and then they are all surprised at Judgment Day. How could they be surprised? I mean, if you spent a few thousand years next to Hitler awaiting your judgment, and discovered that Peter and Paul aren’t in the same place, you’d pretty easily figure out what your fate will be.Rather, I’m inclined to the view that “sleep” is a description of what happens from an earthly perspective. From God’s perspective, time is a part of the Creation, God exists outside of time, and so there’s no wait for those who die and leave this earthly existence.It’s a theory that solves far more problems than it creates, I think.

  28. Alabama John says:

    Randall,

    Been to a birthday party for two of my grandchildren (2&5, brother and sister) at Pump It Up and have thought a lot about you.

    I too grew up in the CoC and have tried to change whoever I could with very limited success.

    What I have found is more come to sites like this than I thought so I know what they are wanting to read comments on. Jay sure helps more than he will ever know and so does many on here without even having a clue of their influence and talking starting..

    Several have expressed their feeling were the same as mine and yours but family ties to the church kept them there. They fear being withdrawn from.

    I have seen folks with no hope and to see them have hope again even though they could not be baptized and then die. Opinions on their final destination made all the difference .

    I've seen that twice. Once as a young man in the USMC and then again when much older.

    One of the saddest statements I ever heard was a lifelong preacher of the Church of Christ of the very conservative position that lived a life of obedience as an example for most state to me when he was dying of cancer that he hoped he had done enough.

    Works as you say in his thinking would be his judge.

    Remember the bluegrass gospel song; "life has many choices, eternity has two.
    How very true!

    God be with you and bless you in your efforts, both you and your wife!

    I've said it before, but, many are going to be surprised by who all else is in heaven.

    Osiyo and Wado
    John

  29. sid says:

    Randall & Alabama John,
    I grew up in the coC as well. I am 60 years old and struggle everyday with the teachings of the coC. The uncertainty of my final destination has caused me great confusion and stunted my growth as a Christian. These posts have been very helpful in my quest for truth. Keep 'em comin'. It's somewhat comforting to know there are other like me out there who have the same questions.

    God Bless Ya'll
    Sid

  30. Alabama John says:

    Let me add something else since I and my bride of 49 years have been talking about this site with others for months.

    We really don't believe those that post on here realize how many read their post and the extent folks discuss them.

    So many people, especially those of the conservative church of Christ come here and do not ever post.

    Far more would never come, but do have others copy the post and hand them out to far more than you realize.

    I think recently of guy and Jay discussing many subjects and folks complaining light heartedly of Alexanders post taking three pages yo copy since they do so in big type for the "old folks'.

    Prices sense of humor and down home point making, and laymonds short right to it posts.

    Some of you scholars, Royce, Jerry, Edward, have sites of your own and those too are copied. Al Maxey is very much discussed.

    Jay is unbelievable in many a home study or supper table discussion.

    What I'm saying is keep it up, the good you are doing is way more than you imagine and reaches far beyond this site.

    Credit to Jay for seeing this way before so many did.

    Sid, thank you and Randall and all the rest of you for your patience with this 'ol country boy from Alabama.. I ask many a question others ask me too.

    We see this as a study, not a who wins debate. We've all had enough of that for a lifetime.

  31. guy says:

    Randall,

    You said:
    "The more traditional congregations are not quite a cult, but not very far from it – not far at all."

    This is interesting to me. By "more traditional," do you mean like uber conservative? i grew up in what i would call a conservative CoC. But i never had the cult or abusive experience you mention. That experience really didn't start for me until i went to preaching school. In hindsight, that was a very cult-like experience. Then when i went into ministry, i saw a lot of rank hypocrisy, hatred, and the need to control, especially among those who were most respected–much more than i knew how to cope with in my early twenties. Emotional scars from many of those experiences is what i find myself still dealing with far more than any doctrine i was taught when i was young. i eventually left ministry for a lot of reasons, but being jaded by some very ungodly people masquerading as leaders was one of them.

    i didn't join the exCofC site, but i was aware of it. i'd been there once or twice. i joined a different group instead. Perhaps it's just best not to mention the site–i'm not in any way trying to spread slander. It was a site that criticized CofC for more institutional reasons–very pro-house-church group. It was really just an email newsletter ring. A main author emailed out an article, and then everyone could comment on it or just send in comments that would in turn be emailed to all subscribers. But i began to notice that i was just growing more and more bitter and testy. i noticed it wasn't bringing me peace or helping me cope. i eventually just got as bad an attitude as all those about whom i felt jaded.

    Pooling negativity wasn't healthy for me at all. i still have plenty of that bad attitude that i need to work through, repent of, and supplant. That bad attitude and various failures make me doubt sometimes whether God even listens to me anymore. But i'm working on it.

    –guy

  32. Randall says:

    Hello, Guy,
    I said the more traditional CofC is not far from being a cult primarily b/c of the claim made by some (most that I was aware of during the 1950s and 60s) that they are the only true Christians. I was actually taught polite ways to tell the Baptists they were going to hell by an elder at the congregation I was raised in – really, that's true. They (CofC) made this claim b/c they were the only ones who baptized believers (not infants) by immersion (only acceptable mode) and with the believer having the understanding that their baptism was in order to obtain the remission of sins (only acceptable understanding).

    Additionally, they did church the right way i.e. run by elders and deacons with an evangelist (not a pulpit minister – well he was one but we didn't call him that) and performed the five acts of worship and only the five acts of worship – to do otherwise was to lose one's salvation. We actually had announcements BEFORE the beginning of the worship b/c announcements were NOT one of the five acts of worship. The guy would actually do the announcements and then he would announce the worship was now beginning – how inane!! I'll bet everyone here over the age of 60 knows exactly what I am talking about – if they were lifelong members of the CofC. And the Jule Miller filmstrips – they actually implied the church was so corrupt by the third or fourth century that the ecumenical councils fouled everything up. That is to say that there was an implied rejection of the doctrine that Jesus was fully God and fully man as well as an implicit denial of the doctrine of the trinity. This rejection of some of the basic beliefs of orthodox Christianity is enough to say they are nearly a cult. Additionally there has been a wide scale rejection of the the work of Jesus on the cross and to put the icing on the cake the wide spread acceptance of Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism makes it difficult for the CofC to defend some pretty basic Christian doctrine. I do know of classical Arminians in the CofC but even on this blog I think most are Pelagian or semi-Pelagian in their view of man's natural ability to be truly good.

    When a group claims to be the only ones saved they are, in my opinion, bordering on being a cult. Regrettably, there are still many congregations today that hold to those same doctrines. If you read GraceConversation you may have gotten the idea that some of some of those doctrines are still firmly entrenched in the minds of some. There are still what I refer to as "time machine" congregations – when you step across the threshold of the door you have just stepped back in time 60 years. Thankfully, many of our congregations have moved closer to mainstream Christianity. There is a better understanding of grace and a recognition that we are dependent on God for our salvation – though we are inconsistent in how we teach that.

    FWIW, I googled "cult definition" and came up with some interesting information at one site. The whole thing might be interesting to read but I'll quote a little of it: http://cultdefinition.com/
    Another example of a cult of Christianity (as defined theologically) that developed into a cult (as defined sociologically) is the International Churches of Christ — a prime example of an abusive church.

    The Mormons, Family of God and Jehovah's Witnesses also qualified as cults at the above web site.

    I find it frustrating that we are inconsistent in our teaching. I know more than a few that I respect who acknowledge we are utterly, hopelessly, helplessly lost and saved by grace through faith – and then they turn around and add that we are saved IF we do this or that or else they make faith meritorious rather than a gift we have received. So I try to keep up with what is going on in the CofC, but I don't feel led to be a member of this denomination anymore. One should keep in mind that 20-30 years ago there were not many swimming against the current and trying to teach about grace in our fellowship. Today, there are many and with better and more effective voices than mine. I got tired of trying to push the truck uphill and now there are many willing to do it.

    Additionally there is a significant amount of good scholarship in the CofC e.g. John Mark Hicks, Bobby Valentine and others – and it is more accessible than it was 20-30 years ago. I can keep up with their writings on line and it is not necessary to be in a CofC to do it.

    Please excuse the way I digress. I really feel like this was written in a disjointed manner. So I wish everyone well. Oh, by the way, sometimes the grass really is greener …
    Hesed,
    Randall

  33. guy says:

    Randall,

    i guess i don't think of cult-ish-ness in terms of any tenets of faith, but about levels of manipulation and control in the lives of members. For that reason, i think any congregation can become cultish regardless of what they're creed says.

    Do you really think claims of exclusivity make a cult? i mean, couldn't the first century church have made the claim that they were the only Christians? i don't know if that would've made them a cult. And doesn't the Catholic Church believe it's the only right church? But i still wouldn't consider them a cult.

    i think of cult-ish-ness as shaming tactics, emotional manipulation, deliberate use of guilty feelings, relationships that are psychologically unhealthy, etc.

    i'm not sure i'm understanding you but for hints in places. Do you think any view of synergistic salvation leads to cultish tendencies or psychological hardships? The abuses of the Catholic church in the 16th century Europe i think without a doubt led to all kinds of emotional trauma among members. But it seems to me that monergistic reformers, though on paper their soteriology was so much more "grace-based," in practice it was every bit as traumatic as the Catholicism they left.

    –guy

  34. Randall says:

    Hello, Guy,
    Cults are frequently manipulative and abusive but the definitions (with regard to religion) I am familiar with have to do more with their doctrine. Exclusivity alone doesn't make a group a cult; but when a smallish newer group that says they are of the same religion (e.g. Christianity) excludes all others, especially the mainstream denominations, then they become at least cult like in that respect. The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) has not excluded all others since Vatican II and they are not a small, newer sect and have never really been so. The first centruy church was hardly established enough for the differing sects to damn the others. But by the second/third century I think one could begin to think of gnostics and Marcionites as cultish.

    I do not believe that "any view of synergistic salvation" leads to cultish tendencies. Most Christian denominations are synergistic in their view of salvation – that's true of even most Baptists today as well as many Presbyterians. It was once said that Catholics knew theology and Protestants knew the Bible. That may have been true in the past. I don't think it generally true today of either group today.

    I agree the RCC has been quite abusive at times in her history. The early part of the Protestant Reformation the reformers were cable of being abusive. Some just love to cite the case of Calvin and Servetus and many of the Puritans and other Calvinists were quite strict. I also agree that in practice the early monergistic reformers emphasized a holy lifestyle more than many of the followers today. I think that is b/c they viewed salvation as by grace through faith – not works – but by a faith that works (Luther). Works were the evidence of faith and salvation – never viewed as the cause of salvation. So yes, if there were no works there was/is reason to question the validity of the faith. James said something about showing one's faith by his works and I couldn't agree with him more. Luther also said something like "man is saved by faith alone, but not that faith that is alone." I don't see anything traumatic about that.
    Hesed,
    Randall

  35. Randall says:

    Hello Guy,
    One other thing I left out above, but it is important. The CofC has not simply been one more denomination that took a synergistic view of salvation. It has been common place in the CofC to 1.) deny the divinity of Christ and the trinity (ask Laymond about that) and 2.) deny the fallen nature of man and his inability to serve God apart from the work of the HS in his life.

    I have heard it taught in a CofC only 23 years ago that the Bible is a "do it yourself manual for Christians" rather than a God did it for you letter to sinners. And this was in a church in a large metropolitan area of Texas and the congregation was considered progressive. Not long ago (maybe a year) in the same region a large "progressive" CofC had a sign in the auditorium that included "Man is basically Good" or words to that effect as one of their core beliefs.

    The CofC has been (still is) at significant variance on important doctrines from most denominations that think of themselves as conservative evangelicals. It isn't the same as being a Baptist vs a Bible church member or Community church member etc.

    Are you familiar with the United Pentecostal Church in the southern USA. I am speaking of the group that emphasizes baptism in the name of Jesus ONLY – not the Father, Son and HS. Some of them deny the salvation of others baptized any other way – They are Monarchians aka modal Monarchians i.e. those that believe that God existed first as the Father, then as the Son and now as the HS. I would also consider them to be at least borderline cult just as much as the CofC that denies the salvation of anyone that didn't have the "right" thoughts in their head when they were baptized.
    Hesed,
    Randall

  36. guy says:

    Randall,

    Yes, i had a few UPC friends growing up, and i'm somewhat familiar with their distinctives. Although i don't see why they'd be considered a cult. A Muslim would deny the trinity, but i don't see how that's means Muslims are similarly cult-like.

    Why do groups have to be smaller to be cults? That criterion seems arbitrary (if "cult" refers primarily to some characteristic of doctrine).

    i think we're just using "cult" two different ways. i just don't get any "cult" red flags because someone teaches something odd. i don't know how i'd even judge what counts as cult-like creedal tenets and what doesn't. Any standard for making that judgment i can think of seems suspiciously like a case of the-'winners'-of-history-get-to-write-the-history-books.

    And about trauma, i'll just let it go. i at least get the sense that your far more a fan of the reformers than i likely ever will be.

    –guy

  37. Randall says:

    I'll try this again since it appears something went wrong it was posted previously. This was a a dialogue mostly between me and Guy – but not limited to me and Guy. I simply suspect/wonder if anyone here is even interested in things that are not specifically CofC issues. That may say more than enough all by itself. I know this is a CofC web site but I hope there are those that have an interest in theology at large – at least larger than issues unique to the CofC fellowship. —

    I probably am more a fan of the reformers than many in the CofC, although Thomas and Alexander Campbell were big fans. Alexander C. even considered the movement he led to be a continuation of the Reformation and used the term reformation a whole lot more frequently than restoration. So yeah, I think highly of the contributions of Wycliffe, Hus, Luther, Calvin etc. Humanly speaking, I wonder where we would be without them. I'm happy our sovereign God chose to use these men in the ways He did.

    FWIW, the issues of the trinity and the truly God – truly man nature of Jesus were not things the reformers came up with. Those issues were settled for mainstream Christianity (Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and Protestants) more than 1000 years before the Reformation. According to wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity
    According to the Trinity doctrine, God exists as three persons, or hypostases, but is one being, that is, has but a single divine nature.[83] Chalcedonians—Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and Protestants—hold that, in addition, the second person of the Trinity—God the Son, Jesus—assumed human nature, so that he has two natures (and hence two wills), and is really and fully both true God and true human.

    The CofC is one of a few small groups that remain ambivalent (or confused) about these basic doctrines of the Christian faith.
    Hesed,
    Randall

  38. guy says:

    Randall,

    Sorry, i just didn't see your comment until now.

    i maintain something more or less like a reformed-style reading of Romans 1. And i think at the end of the day something like the presuppositional apologetics of Cornelius Van Til (staunchly reformed) has to be right in terms of accurately describing the logical space in which truth claims about God or reality operate (though i might differ about effective apologetic methodology). And reading John Frame's (professor at RTS in Florida) The Doctrine of God began to persuade me that God's providence and connection to all the events of history has to be something at least closer to a reformed view (though i don't believe in determinism), and very unlike what has been coined here "CoC Deism" (an idea i was a little shocked to read even Jack Cottrell more or less endorsing in his Faith Once For All). And i admit that i find some of A.W. Pink's devotional works to be excellect–i've based entire class series on some of his material (though i didn't find any of the bits i used to be distinctly reformed).

    But when i suggest i'm not a fan of the reformers, i mainly mean to reference a reformed-reading of Paul; i think they were just plain mistaken there and that mistake has been pervasive for quite a few centuries now, and i take their reading of Paul to be one of the most distinctive characteristics of the reformers and their entire 16th century debate with the Catholic Church. And less so i mean to reference that i don't buy any of TULIP. i'm definitely a synergist. And i don't believe in anything even close to a reformed view of election.

    About the Trinity–i'm a Trinitarian. But there are even differing versions of that doctrine among Christians. i don't have a commitment to any specific explanation of it. i'm perfectly content to leave it in the category of 'mystery.' And i agree that people denying the trinity, like neo-Arians (JW's for instance) are teaching something false–a doctrine that ought not be tolerated. It's false teaching. i agree.

    My point is i don't see how false teaching alone constitutes a "cult." i think Buddhists, Muslims, Wiccans, and Unitarians are teaching false doctrines, but i don't think they're cults. i'm just saying i don't think "cult" is a term that applies in virtue of someone teaching something false. i think if that's the criteria by which the appellation is applied, then the marks between some cults and non-cults will just be arbitrary or perspectival. Like i said, i think "cult" should be reserved to describe certain psychological/sociological patterns and group dynamics.

    –guy

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