1 & 2 Thess.
1 & 2 Timothy
1 & 2 Peter
Gifts of the Spirit
Section A - Introduction
This is primarily a New Testament exposition because, generally speaking, the subject is largely self-explanatory in the Old Testament1 and the current discussion surrounds the New Testament usage of the word. Also the Spirit is not dealt with as a theme until the New Testament.
We believe, however, that the Old2 must be the basis of interpretation for the New. It is at this point that some have faltered and been led astray to another gospel. They come to the New Testament with an Evangelical bias, and impose such thinking upon the text where it does not exist.
According to Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary the English word "spirit" has eighteen separate meanings. It is one of very few English words which has that many. Naturally this fact contributes to the complexity of this subject and to the difficulty of communication. We may know perfectly well the meaning we intend but the reader or hearer may have assumed we are using another meaning. Add to this the fact that the Biblical meanings of "spirit" may not correspond to the English Dictionary meanings and we begin to realize the need for a careful exposition. There are also additional factors that need to be taken into consideration:
While keeping to the aim of this book, (as stated in the Preface) we must digress slightly from (iii) by expanding into areas (i) and (ii) if we are to give a comprehensive treatment of the subject of the Spirit. It was one of the pioneer brethren who stated that "we didn’t really believe the truth unless we could define it positively and negatively". It is for this reason that some of the general subjects3 have been included. The "problem-solution" format has been employed occasionally in Section C for the same reason.
1 See Section F - Word Studies "Spirit".
2 "If they speak not according to the law and the testimony it is because there is no light in them" (Isa. 8:20).
3 e.g. "Plato’s Influence".
GUIDELINES TO THE UNDERSTANDING OF SPIRIT PASSAGES
Figures of speech
The Bible is full of figures of speech1 and idioms2. This is as true in the subject of the Holy Spirit as it is in subjects such as sin, wisdom, etc. When, therefore, we read "that the Spirit suffered them not" to go into a place we must not suppose the Spirit to be the intelligent source of the instruction, but that it was the agent (medium) used for the imparting to the understanding of the apostles what they should do. "The source of the instruction, was an intelligent mind and was not in the power by which it was transmitted3."
The figure of speech used was "metonymy of the adjunct". This is when something pertaining to the subject (Spirit) is put for the subject itself (God or Angels or Christ.)
A contextual interpretation of a verse is the only valid way. There are three considerations when looking at the context:
Consideration b) is illustrated in what follows and c) under the next heading.
Verses such as those below seem on the surface to indicate direct Spirit intervention on the hearts of those who believed. Careful examination, however, reveals alternate means of expression that suggest it was the result of the gospel plus miracles.
This point demonstrates the care that needs to be given to the context. Very often those who claim present possession string together seemingly supporting verses, but with total disregard for context5 (as do churches to support their false doctrine.)
New Testament Background
In the New Testament times the immature ecclesia was vibrant with the constant knowledge that the exalted Christ moved omnipresently in their midst. The frequent miraculous visitations of the Spirit were visible tokens of that superintendence. For these awe struck congregations, the word "Spirit" would be understood primarily as the medium through which the Lord sent the miracles and revelations. It would not have meant an inwardly sanctifying influence6.
Along with these manifestations, local idioms and verbal clichés would have come into use to describe these phenomena. This variation of expression in localized areas is a common occurrence even today and does not even need to be demonstrated. The Lord would accommodate Himself to this variation7 in His revelations and exhortations through the Christian prophets, just as He had done during His earthly ministry when in conversation with the "unlearned" Galileans on one hand, and with the "learned" ecclesiastics of Jerusalem on the other. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons why the style of so many of Christ’s discourses varies so much in the gospels. In the case of the epistles, the destination of the inspired messages would determine the Spirit’s choice of terminology.
Reasoning along these lines, it may not therefore necessarily be right to expect to find an undeviating uniformity of usage of the different Greek words and phrases relating to "spirit" in the New Testament: pneuma, to pneuma, pneuma hagion, to pneuma to hagion and other variants, which themselves are not even clearly and uniformly distinguished in translation. It is not surprising, either, that lexicologists have been unable to discover or invent a simple rule that could be applied right across the whole of the New Testament with regard to the uses of these particular words. Instead, expositors have had to bend, twist and contort New Testament usage in order to arrive at often highly dubious interpretations of important passages. The very large number of attempts that have been made at establishing a blanket rule is itself an indication of the difficulty, not to say the impossibility, of arriving at a universally satisfactory solution to the problem. It would, however, seem reasonable to expect uniformity of usage of the different Greek expressions for "spirit" within the space of a single inspired book of the New Testament. The Lord would not confuse His terms or His readers, even though at this distant point in time, we may not immediately appreciate any contextual variations.
The word "spirit" is the New Testament word par excellence. While this treatise elsewhere attempts to explore the subtle overtones of meaning which this word carries, perhaps it may not be too much of a simplification to summarize thus:
Besides the obvious and very frequent connotation - that of "Holy Spirit", in the Almighty’s varied operations and manifestations - the other most common usage, and one which has gone largely unappreciated, is as an idiomatic equivalent to "the life in Christ", "the New Creation", etc. Once this idiomatic usage has been recognized it clears for us a lot of apparent problem passages.
The use of different words in the various Epistles of Paul such as "grace" in Romans and "spiritual" gifts in Corinthians is therefore to be explained on the basis of local idiom and clichés. We must not try to see doctrinal differences where only cultural ones exist.
Doctrinal bias is to be found in most translations in areas where the "church" is apostate. This is evident to most Bible students on such subjects as hell, the devil, the supposed pre-existence of Christ, personality of the Holy Spirit, etc. Doctrinal bias in the various translations is particularly evident in most Bibles on the subject of the Spirit8. This is to be expected as the translators believe Plato’s teachings. Very imprecise renderings, for example, are made of the genitive case in such passages as 2 Cor. 13:14; Gal. 3:14.
The difference in result because of this bias may seem small on the surface, but it assumes major proportions when carefully examined. When a study of the Spirit is undertaken using the NEB as the main translation, the result can only end in error.9
Spirit and Holy Spirit
It is often10 argued by those claiming present possession of the Spirit that God’s "spirit" is holy and, therefore, where we see "spirit of Christ", "spirit of God", we should read "Holy Spirit" and understand by this a mysterious influence "working inner righteousness, peace and joy in the true believers’ heart".
The Bible is not a cheap novel. It is the revelation of God by the Spirit. In a subject as exalted as this it is especially necessary to consider:
when interpreting a verse of this revelation. Salvation is the work of God through the Holy Spirit, both in the power that the Word has to change our mind and in providential guidance administered by the angels.
The character formed by these interacting forces is called "spiritual" because it is in harmony with God’s mind.
1 See Companion Bible appendix 6.
2 See Young’s Concordance, Page xi.
3 John Carter, The Holy Spirit in the Church, (TCM, Vol. 92), P. 170
4 See for example the notes on 1 Cor. 14:21.
5 NTFE, NBBA and others.
6 Used in the sense defined by Webster’s - "The supposed flowing of an ethereal fluid or power from ... (above), thought to affect the characters and actions of people."
7 This was clearly evident in the manifestation of tongues at Pentecost in Acts 2. Several dialects were spoken on that occasion.
8 The reader will recall such insertions as 1 John 5:7 and "through the spirit" in 1 Pet. 1:22 by the AV.
9 WHSA is an example.
10 e.g. SGC, Letter, Para 1, Feb. 21, 1974.
As we can see, no additional "Spirit" is necessary, nor is it apparent anywhere today. The process of sanctification is one of understanding the word, receiving it and acting upon it.
There is no need to see this compliance as "salvation by works"1. It is no such thing. Salvation is contingent on two things:
Because these things are revealed in the word and we find them out by reading; can hardly be described as "salvation by works". (Opening ‘our hearts to let God work in us’ could also be described as salvation by works!! Since we had to open our hearts!)
Paul said the gifts would cease. Not only would the gift of tongues cease, but also the gift of knowledge (which is sometimes wrongly assumed to be non-miraculous8). The pattern of things in the first century was for all gifts to work together for the well being of the ecclesia. We have no instruction of any other pattern. The Spirit is the power of God9. Power is something manifest10. If brethren have the Holy Spirit they would reveal its power in some form. But they do not! Those who claim to speak in tongues, for example, merely repeat the error that Pentecostals and other false claimants have always exhibited. They do not and cannot speak in foreign languages that they have not learned. They merely regurgitate gibberish. (See The Gift of Tongues in Section D for more evidence).
These points clearly demonstrate that the traditional Christadelphian teaching about the Spirit is the Biblical one.
The following statements briefly summarize the facts:
The first three statements above are simple and generally agreed upon. The fourth is not difficult but it may not be readily apparent. In fact it may take as long to demonstrate as other Scriptural subjects which are wrested (such as ‘hell’, ‘Satan’).
In considering any exposition of scripture, one principle must be kept clearly in mind: Any interpretation that fails to harmonize all the testimonies of the Holy Scripture must be rejected. This may be illustrated on the subject of the Spirit in the following example.
Some, upon reading A., will lapse into describing their experience of being saved and of being guided directly by the Spirit. In so doing, they belittle (unconsciously perhaps) any need for doctrine or laws of Christ and the need to study and to assimilate the teaching of the Word of God. As may be seen from reading B. this interpretation rips the sentence from its immediate context and gives it a meaning altogether foreign to the Scripture.
Perhaps the key to most of the misunderstanding is the fact that "providential control of a man’s life is one thing, and the gift of the Holy Spirit is another and quite different thing18." Those who argue for present possession fail to see the distinction.
The idea of "present possession of the Holy Spirit" was strenuously repelled, rebutted and formally rejected a hundred years ago by Bro. Thomas, in no uncertain terms: and it has raised its head somewhere in the ecclesias in every generation since. This is not surprising when this false, but self-satisfying, conceit characterizes every shade of the Apostasy around us, notwithstanding their common claim to the Truth. This dangerous doctrine generally leads to the embracing of other19 apostate doctrines that deny and destroy the truth.
Those who claim present possession of the Spirit declare (as the apostate Roman Church and the Evangelicals declare) "that because the Bible is a spiritual book given by a Spiritual Being, it cannot be understood purely by natural reason. It can, therefore, only be understood with the help of direct guidance from God Himself. This guidance is not, however, given through the Church (as the Romans claim) but to the individual by prayer. Since this is the case, those who have not the Spirit can never understand spiritual things"20.
To declare this is to say that the Bible is an unreasonable book and is useless without a second ingredient - divinely given private "enlightenment". This, of course, is unacceptable reasoning (cf. 2 Tim. 3:15-17).
It should be realized that passages which seem to demonstrate that "possession of the Holy Spirit is timeless, have a very definite reference, either to the Apostolic days or to the Kingdom - NEVER to the present21 ."
However, we should be very grateful that we have through the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit-guided men of the past a much greater gift in our hands - the Spirit inspired Word of God.
1 NTTC side 2.
2 See Section B - Providence and Angels.
3 See Section F - Word Studies -‘Word’.
4 TBSM, Vol. 3. P.50. This concept is not narrow and limited to this example. Men are compelled to listen to the voice of God speaking the Word by His breath through angels, prophets and the Lord Jesus (and recorded on paper) and not merely (or only) - like the pagans or apostasy suggest - to open their minds to divine ‘Spirit’, and be led intuitively in right ways, i.e. "The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." (John 12:48).
5 Does the claimant teach correct doctrine?
6 John Carter. (TCM, Vol. 92) p. 246.
7 1 Cor. 13:8; Eph. 4:13-14 (see notes in Section C).
8 Those who had this gift in Corinth manifested it (1 Cor. 1:4-7). Wisdom, knowledge and faith were no less real, no less open, no less capable of demonstration than miracles, healing and tongues. (cf. Matt. 10:20; Luke 21:15; Gal. 1:12; 1 Cor. 13:2).
9 Luke 24:49
10 1 Cor. 12:7. The whole record of Acts proves this.
11 cf. Section F -Word Studies - Spirit.
12 "But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you." (Acts 1:8 cf. 4:33).
13 Ecclesial elders. cf. 1 Cor. 12:28.
14 By faith a man is justified". Rom. 3:28.
15 cf. notes on 1 John 4:4, footnote 2.
16A person who "exalts" himself by claiming to possess the Spirit has forgotten this important point.
17 cf. MJNC, "Collateral Evidence that the gifts were temporary", P.S-6, col. 2, paragraph 2.
18 C.C. Walker, TCM, (1922), P. 220. This is demonstrated in the notes. (Providence is defined in Section B - "Providence and Angels".)
(I) The following have been noted:
b. "righteous are raised before millennium, wicked after."
c. declaring that Christ sinned but obtained forgiveness.
d. "We obtain eternal life now."
e. strange new false doctrine declaring "we obtain salvation by having perfect forgiveness."
b. "speaking in tongues" (simulated)
c. "laying on of hands"
d. "prayer meetings"
e. emotion packed revival meetings.
20 Ideas such as these are set out in a current Christadelphian periodical.
21 J. S. Thomas, TEST, (1954), P 324, (e.g. John 14:16).
THE PURPOSE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT GIFTS
The purpose was fulfilled
Once the Jewish "world" was destroyed in AD 70 then need (1) was completed. When the new doctrine was written2 and the book of Revelation completed the scriptures, then need (2) ceased. Once ecclesias were established from Jerusalem to Rome, then purpose (3) was completed. (See Col. 1:21-23).
In these last days when there is no open vision and no miracles wrought by Spirit gifted brethren, it would be unreasonable to expect a "foretaste of the future".
We might, therefore, expect some indication from Scripture that this aspect of the Holy Spirit was nearing completion. We find this in the words of Paul.
1 Cor. 13:10 demonstrates that the manifestations of the Holy Spirit mentioned in 1 Cor. 12 "will be done away", i.e. when the canon was completed.
John (the last living Apostle) died at the close of the first century. The youngest of those on whom he laid his hands would, by the middle of the second century be getting old, ready to die. When these died, there would be no mortal left who had the Holy Spirit.
The following summarizes the facts:
Most pagan religions taught salvation by some kind of mystical cleansing, rather than by forgiveness of sins through a mediator and belief in a word. Generally the pagan believed he had an immaterial soul or spirit within them which could receive from its divine origins3 a regeneration.
It seems that Moses, Agur (from Northern Arabia) and Paul were counteracting this pagan influence.
Note the words of Paul.4
"THE WORD5 is NEAR YOU... - that is, the word of faith which we are preaching." (Rom. 10:6-8 NASB).
Paul also describes the process of righteousness leading to salvation.
Paul is saying in effect that the steps are:
Salvation is by faith in the word of God, not by some mystical entrance of a gift of righteousness into our hearts. The two are mutually exclusive. The former is the "power of God unto salvation"; the latter is the philosophy of pagans.
1 see Heb. 2:4.
2 "These are written, that ye might believe" (John 20:30, 31; see also 1 John 5:10).
3 cf. TBSM, ‘Wisdom of the Children of the East’, Vol. 1, P. 155.
"Before such renewal could take place, the gods had to be pleaded with. Therefore, a messenger had to be sent - and in early Tammuz worship a human sacrifice was burnt in order that his soul might ascend to heaven to beg the god to return to earth as a new-born spirit of... sinlessness in the human heart. If the god was thought to be in the nether world, the sacrifice was drowned in order that the spirit of the man might ‘go over the sea for us’."
4 Capitals are quotations from Deut. 30:11-14. (cf. Prov. 30:1-5).
5 Greek Rema. cf. Eph. 6:17 "Sword of the Spirit".