1 & 2 Thess.
1 & 2 Timothy
1 & 2 Peter
Gifts of the Spirit
Section B - General Subjects Related to the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit
BAPTISM OF THE SPIRIT
The idea is currently being advanced - as it has long been maintained by Christendom in general - that the gift of the Holy Spirit was, and still is, predominantly an influence of heavenly "grace"1 that descends into the believer's heart. It is maintained that the miraculous gifts were relatively rare. This minimizing or eliminating of the miraculous from the Holy Spirit makes it possible for the present believers to claim to "receive" the Holy Spirit in some non-miraculous sense. This minimizing process then opens the way for misapplication of many passages of Scripture to believers of all ages, when, in reality, they relate only to the miraculous first century Spirit gifts. The evidence for this is contained in what follows and in the notes on the verses in question.
Promise and fulfillment
John the Baptist said that Jesus was "he that baptizeth in Holy Spirit" (John 1:33 RV m.) Prior to His ascension, Jesus told His disciples that "ye shall be baptized in Holy Spirit not many days hence" (Acts 1:5 RVmg). When Acts describes the fulfillment of this, at Pentecost and in similar effusions that followed on a smaller scale, it never uses the Lord's phrase "baptized in Holy Spirit"2; instead "filled with Holy Spirit"3 is uniformly substituted (2:4 etc.). That Luke's use of the phrase "filled with" is equivalent to the Lord's "baptized in" is a crucial point and one which is corroborated by closer study. New Testament, and particularly Pauline, usage of the same phraseology as in Acts shows that being "filled" belongs to the same family of ideas as "baptized", and opens up what "Baptism in Holy Spirit" really means in the Scriptures.
Filled with holy spirit
The Greek bapto and its cognates usually mean "to immerse, to dip, to plunge"; but by extension they also carry the sense of "to submerge, to fill up, to cause to sink".
To explain and draw together these various meanings, imagine an empty tumbler being depressed into a vessel containing liquid. Gradually it is "baptized"; but at the moment when it can be said to have been totally immersed, when the brim of the tumbler touches the surface of the liquid, the tumbler becomes "baptized" also in the secondary sense of being "filled up", and is "filled up" in proportion to the depth to which it continues to be depressed. The two stages correspond to water baptism and Spirit-baptism in Christian teaching, and as practised, in that order, in the early Ecclesia (e.g. Acts 8:12,15-17). To apply this distinction between the two verbal definitions, to the subject in hand, may at first seem to be naively artificial, but it does, in fact, shed a flood of light on the use throughout the New Testament of the Greek words pleroo and pletho ("to fill, to make full") in connection with Holy Spirit.
Luke states that John the Baptist, Elisabeth and Zacharias were "filled with the Holy Spirit"; the first-named from his mother's womb, and the others specially to prophesy of the coming Messiah. In Acts, the disciples were "filled with the Holy Spirit" at Pentecost (2:4), as was Peter for his defence before the Sanhedrin (4:8). When the whole company of the disciples (presumably now a very large number) thanked and praised God for the release of Peter and John, and asked for boldness to speak the Word with the same fearless courage, the Lord responded by causing "the place" to shake, and "they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spake the Word with boldness" (4:31). So also, Paul was "filled with the Holy Spirit" in Damascus after his conversion (9:17), and again later, when he punished Elymas the sorcerer with blindness (13:9).
It would seem, in the terms of the metaphor, ("filled") that God's servants needed to be replenished with Holy Spirit on each occasion when their gift was employed. Although Jesus had the Spirit without measure, he perceived that "virtue" (RV: "power") had gone out of him when the woman with an issue of blood touched the hem of his garment (Mark 5:30). In front of the tomb, in the presence of the crowd, he thanked his Father for answering his prayer before calling Lazarus back to life (John 11:41). At that moment, or shortly before, he may have been conscious of a fresh surge of power for the supreme miracle about to be performed. These thoughts are consonant with the record of individual Apostles and the company of the early disciples being "filled with the Holy Spirit" on more than one occasion. The phrase "I will pour out", in Joel's prophecy concerning the Spirit-gifts, describes the source and means of supply, whilst being "baptized in" or "filled with" Holy Spirit describes the effect of that outpouring on those who were subject to it.4
Baptism in Holy Spirit, therefore, refers to the miraculous gifts evident to the eye and ear at Pentecost and thereafter5.
1 See GRACE, Section B.
2 It is worth noting that:
3 This was something that onlookers "heard and saw" v.33. This was a miraculous gift not 'grace'.
4 This section is largely quoted from TEST, Vol. 43, P. 226, 227.
5 Compare the use of the cognate forms of pleroo in Ephesians and Colossians.
BASF VERSUS BELIEF IN A PRESENT POSSESSION OF THE SPIRIT
It is maintained by some that since the Statement of Faith (BASF) does not mention the subject, then it is not a matter of fellowship.
This statement is a contradiction of "THE FOUNDATION".
"That the book currently known as the Bible consisting of the Scriptures of Moses, the prophets and the apostles, is the only source of knowledge concerning God and His purposes at present extant or available in the earth..."
When a person alleges he has access to another source of revelation1 or instruction or inspiration or power apart from the Word through an "experience" or "indwelling of the Spirit", then he disagrees with the foundation2 of our Statement of Faith. He becomes a man "who is right" because he has had an experience.
Under "Doctrines to be Rejected" Statement 25 we have
"That a man cannot believe without possessing the Spirit of God."
The person who claims present possession3 will and does claim that only those who have had "an experience with the Lord" "are on the track".
1 "It is the source of understanding the truth of God's Word and without the 'Renewing of the Holy Spirit' a man or a woman cannot be guided to salvation" (AMAX)
This claim is not unlike the Papal claim of infallibility (i.e. 'only the Spirit guided church may interpret truth').
2 See Introduction where it is established that they disagree with several other items in the Statement of Faith.
3 In claiming this, a person brings the condemnation of Scripture upon himself.
BEING BORN AGAIN
The Prologue of John's Gospel shows that there is a deliberate analogy drawn between the Son of God, and those who, through belief in him, are themselves subject to divine birth1. It sometimes is argued, on the basis of this evident relationship (between the begettal of Jesus by the Holy Spirit upon Mary, and that of "the sons of God") that the Holy Spirit must have been the medium of the miracle in their case also. But John's Prologue does not say so. The passage says that belief is the spiritual basis of rebirth.
Both the Prologue to John's gospel and the discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus2 teach that the new birth is a spiritual process which involves "receiving" Christ and "believing on his Name" through the message of "the Voice" of "the Spirit" speaking through God's prophets (both O.T. and N.T.) and preeminently through His Son. The seed of truth thus planted in the heart, is part of a spiritual process which after germination and growth, "brings forth" a new born "son of God", who, as he rises from the baptismal water, can rightly claim to have been born both "from above" and "anew" (RV translation of Gr. anothen).
Several scriptures support the preceding interpretation:
"In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth" (James 1:18).
By a simple transfer to agricultural figures, conversion is compared in Scripture to seed (the gospel) planted in soil (minds). Two examples demonstrate this:
Those who teach that the Holy Spirit is in some mystical sense the direct medium of the believer's new birth, and that without this direct intervention any conversion is ineffectual and invalid, claim that it is absurd to expect the cold print of Scripture to effect a miracle3 of rebirth. Yet it is in terms of human language, by the spoken or written word, that God has always seen fit to speak to men about sin and salvation. This "word of God is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword and... able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Heb. 4:12).
1 1:14 cf. 1:12-13
2 see notes at John 3:5.
3 See Providence and Angels in Section B.
CONVERSION: WHEN DOES IT TAKE PLACE?
It is maintained by some that their conversion took place months and even years after they were "baptized" and that this conversion was "an experience which gave them the Spirit and put them on the track."
1 "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul..." Psa. 19:7-12.
2 cf. Acts 26:18 "to open their eyes", "forgiveness of sins", "inheritance".
THE SPIRIT DID NOT CAUSE RIGHTEOUSNESS
Personal possession of the Spirit DID NOT CAUSE RIGHTEOUSNESS and was no guarantee of Salvation.
It is alleged that the Holy Spirit
It may be seen, therefore, that the bestowal of the Spirit neither prevented apostasy nor built up character.
By the effort put out to know and keep God's commandments they developed characters of faithfulness and holiness. If it were otherwise then God could be accused of being partial, because it is easy to see the advantage they would have.
1 See notes on Rom. 5:17.
THE SUPPOSED "DIFFERENCE" BETWEEN THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT
When it became apparent to the Apostate church that all evidence of Holy Spirit effusion had ceased, they made the suggestion that there is a difference between the gift of the Holy Spirit on one hand and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.1
They had healed a man lame from birth, had struck Ananias and Sapphira dead and had spoken with spontaneous divine assurance that confounded all their enemies. Thus was fulfilled the promise of the Lord:
"When they deliver you up take no thought how or what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you." (Matt. 10:19, 20).
This special power was proof of the possession.
1 cf. NTTC and others *.
2 See Rom. 5:17 and notes there.
If we can understand the principles involved in Divine assistance on a natural plane, this will enable us to understand it on a spiritual plane. The proposition before us is that: God does not perform for us, things which we are capable of doing for ourselves. His assistance consists of furnishing us with the means of doing things. This is the basis of Divine assistance except in miraculous cases.
In the natural sphere God does not perform for man the numerous actions upon which his bodily happiness depends. He furnishes only the capacity and the means of performing them. God plows no man's field; He sows no man's seed; He reaps no man's harvest; He grinds no man's grain; He bakes no man's bread; He plants no man's vineyard; collects no man's grapes nor converts them into wine; He manufactures no man's cloth; nor cuts nor sews it into garments. But He provides the bacteria which can work on loose soil; He provides the sunshine and nutrients which cause the seed to grow, mature and ripen; He provides the food value in the grain which makes it worth grinding; He provides the latent heat in the fuel and the process of combustion to bake the bread plus the process which causes bread to rise; He causes the grapes to grow and fermentation. The above points clearly prove the proposition.
Likewise God does not perform any of those mental actions which enable the advancement of human happiness because he has qualified the human mind to perform these when it desires. God has furnished the means for sight, hearing, tasting and smelling but he does not do these actions for man. God thinks, meditates, reasons and judges for no man; nor does he perform for any man the mental actions of imagination, memory, attention or conscience. Also God does not read, comprehend, believe, repent or reform for any man; nor does he love, hate, sorrow, rejoice or feel any emotions on behalf of any member of our race. No, all these actions man must and does perform for himself. But if man must perform all these actions for himself, what does God contribute towards their performance? He furnishes only capacity, means and motives. This answer can easily be proved to be correct by the Socratic method of argumentation that follows:
The analysis of these spiritual actions proves to us that man is the performer of these actions since God has furnished only the capacity, means and motives which enable him to do so. To ask for or expect to receive more, is to suggest that God is incapable of deciding what His creation requires. If God performed these actions for us, then we would be robots.
1 These notes are extracted from an essay in TBSM, Vol. 5, P. 198.
2 Acts 11:18 ("Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance") is not an exception. Repentance was not planted directly in the brain of Cornelius, but was the act of Cornelius when he believed the words (11:17) spoken by Peter. It was God who caused Peter to preach the Gospel. God furnished the motive but He did not perform the act.
3 See Providence and Angels, Guidance and Prayer.
a) How God calls2
b) The method of enlightenment before baptism
"The seed is the word of God" sown by Christ and later by the Apostles. The various kinds of ground represent the various kinds of people and their response to the preaching (v. 12-15). It was what was "heard" that caused the response; not some mysterious work of the Spirit.
Enlightenment occurs because God has "manifested His word through preaching" (Titus 1:3). Conversion then is the result of preaching, not of some mysterious action of the Holy Spirit. Acts 16 demonstrates how the Philippian jailer came to know the truth - Paul and Silas "spake unto him the word of the Lord" (v. 32). The record of Acts 13 also shows that the manner in which God brings men and women to Him is through the preaching of the word - "the word of the Lord was published throughout the region" (of Antioch, v. 49).
BEFORE THE COMPLETION OF THE CANON
The means by which Divine enlightenment came to men at this time was generally three-fold:
There is not a particle of Scriptural evidence to suggest that enlightenment (and acceptance) depends on anything else than hearing or reading the written word of God and receiving that message into a good honest heart. The doctrine of prevenient grace, by which a man is brought to understand the gospel by the direct influence of the Holy Spirit on his mind, is an invention of the apostasy.
If God does not reveal His secrets to us in just the same way today, are we not bound to admit, that though the end result may be the same, there is an important difference between the actual mechanics of Divine enlightenment then and now? Their experiences were unlike ours in some respects as is evident from the record which contains references to phenomena which are not part of the fabric of our lives. Why therefore do some persist in trying to apply to themselves many Scriptural verses that are clearly not repeated in identical fashion today? To abandon the first century context of the writings of the New Testament is to set sail on the sea of confusion.4
c) Enlightenment after baptism
The Word of God as we have it can be understood by any or all who will make the effort to listen with careful attention to the voice of the Spirit which speaks from its pages. As well as the perfection which the Word displays, there is the providential care of the angels who "minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation". (Heb. 1:14).
Even the minutest circumstances in our daily lives, all under angelic control, (especially so if we prayerfully request it) can assist us to understand and appreciate God's word.
The direct action of the Holy Spirit may have been the means by which the inspired Psalmist received the fulfillment of his petition "open thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law" (Psa. 119:18) but who can claim such revelatory inspiration now?
Rather our posture should be that of Joshua (1:8), Daniel5 or the Bereans (Acts 17:11-12). These examples are the ones we should follow in attempting to know more of God's revealed purpose. It will not be revealed again!
d) Enlightenment - by spirit or word?
PROBLEM: It is sometimes argued that we must possess the Holy Spirit before we can have real knowledge of Divine truth, i.e. "It is not the sunlight of other centuries which fills the heavens and the earth with its glory today; and it is not by the inspiration of other centuries that men now come to know God6."
1 This subject is related to most others in this section and must be considered in that light.
2 See notes at John 6:44.
3 See Section E, Prophets.
4 TEST, Vol. 44, P.457
5 "I Daniel understood by books" (9:2).
6 R. W. Dale cited in TCM, Vol. 91, P. 362
7 cf. AMAX, P.4, which is in contradistinction to the gospel. "One thing is certain - no man can put God's laws into his own mind... no matter how much he reads the Word. Only God can do that for him." If Spirit enlightenment is essential to the understanding of the Gospel, then 2 Tim. 3:15 is a lie.
8 Acts 8:12
9 John Carter, TCM, Vol. 91, P. 364.
10 We do not exclude any "providential" act that could cause men to be brought into contact with the truth. This, however, is not admitting that the persons "possess" the Spirit. An example will illustrate. We read that by the Spirit, instruction was given to Philip to join with the Ethiopian who was travelling from Jerusalem. So Philip "preached unto him Jesus" (Acts 8:35). The record does not say that "the Holy Spirit taught his mind" about Jesus.
11 "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God". (Rom. 10:17). "The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." (John 12:47-50) (cf. Heb. 1:1; John 15:3; John 3:33-34).
12 The Apostles, Prophets and those who had the gift of wisdom or the gift of knowledge were the exception. The Holy Spirit enlightened them. (Eph. 3:5).
Notice, however, that only the prophets - and not all - were taught directly. This is evident
from verse 30:
However, to suggest that Divine enlightenment or strength might be given independent of revelation, oral or written (either then or now) is quite unscriptural.
John Thomas' comments on this subject are recorded in his "Clerical Theology Unscriptural".
"HERESIAN: Is this revelation made to every man by or through the spirit?
BOANERGES: NO. It was conveyed from God to the prophets of Israel, to His Son, and to His apostles, to be by them made known to the world. God's revelation, therefore, is a matter of testimony, and not an afflation, or aura, termed "grace" by those dark bodies called the "schools". God has revealed all He intends to reveal until the revelation of Jesus Christ in his kingdom..." 13 cf. notes on John 6:45 in Section C.
FREEWILL AND THE SPIRIT
God, in His infinite wisdom, gave man the freedom of choice that we term freewill. Therefore, He will not overrule that principle. Christ, for example, who was given the Spirit without measure, could have yielded to his temptations. He still had the choice to obey or disobey (Heb. 4:15).
Those who claim that the Spirit directly causes righteousness, joy, happiness, and zeal display a fundamental error in their thinking. God did not and will not give the Spirit for these purposes because it would make man a robot without the choice to obey or disobey God.
God could have peopled the earth with robots if He had wished. Because He did not is evidence that He does not compel us to do what He desires. That would not give Him glory. God has no pleasure in a man persuaded against his will. (Matt. 9:13).
A modern example may help us to appreciate these facts. A computer programmer can program a computer so that it obeys all his instructions and performs the desired task. However, a programmer cannot love a computer and a computer cannot love its programmer.
In the voluntary submission of a man to God, there is for Him immeasurable satisfaction and sweetness. This is to be expected as God is a person and His relationship to His people is a personal one. Such a thing as direct interference with the mental processes of an individual seems contrary to all that God is.
The scriptures1, from Genesis to Revelation, make it clear that man has freedom of choice. God does not seek the programmed response of automatons which are incapable of thought or independent action. Rather he seeks the obedience and love of individuals with personality and character.
Christ "learned obedience by the things that he suffered" and the process for us is essentially the same.
A great deal of evidence exists in the Bible to show that many who had the Spirit misused that power. The ecclesia at Corinth is an example of the misuse of tongues. Those who claim that the possession of the Holy Spirit causes righteousness2 need to reread their Bible, because the evidence there is just the opposite.
1 e.g. "I have set before you life and death ... therefore choose life". (Deut. 30:15-20).
2 see Section B - "Did not cause righteousness".
GOD IS CORPOREAL1
Most of the people who misunderstand the subject of the Spirit assume or declare that Spiritual beings are immaterial. This misunderstanding gives rise to all sorts of arguments about "mysterious activities" of the Spirit.
"We should not assume that anything we cannot see or hear or touch is by nature, by its basic character, silent, immaterial or invisible. We cannot see God who is Spirit. We cannot, today, see angels who are spirits. We hear no voice from heaven. Yet we know that some men heard, saw and touched things which are eternal, things which may be described as eternal." 2
Stephen saw the "heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God",3 while those around saw nothing. So we cannot argue that God, Jesus and the angels are immaterial because we by our limited senses cannot see or touch them.4
That conception of God that thinks of Him as mere abstract power, impalpable, universal, without person or locality is not true. We cannot worship abstract universal power and claim we worship God.
The phrase "God is Spirit" is sometimes offered as evidence that He is immaterial, but Jesus (whom we know to be a corporeal being5) is called the Lord the Spirit in 2 Cor. 3:17,18. "He is now no longer flesh and blood; but Holy Spirit Nature a flesh and bones embodiment of Spirit."6
Dr. Thomas' comments as follows:
"The spiritual body is constituted of flesh and bones vitalized by the Spirit. This appears from the testimony concerning Jesus. On a certain occasion, he unexpectedly stood in the midst of his disciples, at which they were exceedingly alarmed, supposing they beheld a spirit, or phantasm, as at a former time. But, that they might be assured that it was really he himself, he invited them to handle him, and examine his hands and feet: "For", said he, "a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have". Incredulous for joy, he gave them further proof by eating a piece of broiled fish and of a honeycomb. Thomas thrust his hand into his side, and was convinced that he was the same who had been crucified. What stronger proof can we need of the substantial and tangible nature of the spiritual body? It is the animal body purified, not evaporated into gas, or vapour. It is a bloodless body; for in the case of Jesus he had poured out his blood on the cross. The life of the animal body is in the blood: but not so that of the spiritual body: the life of this resides in that mighty power which suspends "the earth upon nothing", and is diffused through the immensity of space."7
Since Jesus has flesh and bones it seems incongruous that his Father would not. The writer to the Hebrews says that Christ was "the express image of His person"8
The angels are "ministering spirits"9 but they were seen by men many times.
Many passages in scripture show that God is corporeal and shares emotions that we do:
"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." (Gen. 1:26).
"God created man, in the likeness10 of God made he him" (Gen. 5:1, 3).
"He that sitteth in the heaven shall laugh" (Psa. 2:4).
"Hide not thy face . . . incline thine ear unto me" (Psa. 102:2).
"He hath looked down from the height of His sanctuary" (Psa. 102:19).
" ... sat on the right hand of God" (Mark 16:19).
"Man... is the image ... of God" (1 Cor. 11:7).
"Christ, who is the image of God"11 (2 Cor. 4:4).
"Men, which are after the similitude of God" (James 3:9).
Psalm 34:7 "The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them" is sometimes advanced as evidence that spirit beings can materialize or dematerialize.
1 Capable of being touched (as are all spirit beings).
2 TBSM, Ray Walker, "The Language of Apostasy", (SPIRIT) Vol. 3, No. 2, P. 50.
3 Acts 7:56
4 Angels appeared as ordinary men to Abraham ("three men stood by Him", Gen.18:2).
In the future the "inhabitants of Jerusalem ... shall look upon me (Jesus) whom they have pierced". (Zech. 12:10). They will say unto him, "What are these wounds in thine hands?"
5 "Reach hither thy finger and behold my hands... and thrust it into my side" (John 20:27).
"And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of a honeycomb and he (Jesus) took it, and did eat before them" (Luke 24:43).
6 LOGOS, J. Thomas, Phanerosis, P. 78. See notes at John 4:24.
7 Elpis Israel, P. 43.
8 Heb. 1:3. It is a principle of creation that like begets like.
9 Heb. 1:14
10 Notice that "Adam begat a son in his likeness, after his image." If this language is understood, then surely it can be seen that we are created in the image of God even as Jesus was the express image of Him.
If we are to be one with God even as Jesus is one with the Father (John 17:22) then we must be physically and morally like Jesus was after his glorification.
- see also Gen. 9:6: Psa. 94:9,10; Luke 1:35; John 14:9; Neh. 1:6; Luke 20:35-36. 11 cf. also Col. 1:15.
GOD IS WORKING THROUGH MEN
PROBLEM: It is often assumed that when God works through men it means that they have the Holy Spirit.
1 Christ could not be "seen" by his disciples for a time for the same reason:
However afterward "their eyes were opened, and they knew him" v. 31.
1 cf. "Did Not Cause Righteousness."
2 1 Cor. 3:1 This statement obviously includes the group mentioned in verse 16, "the Spirit of God dwells in you."
3 See TBSM, "Grace", Vol. 3. P. 155 for an excellent treatise on this subject.
4 That these were "gifts" of the Holy Spirit is evident from the following tabular comparison of the same gifts in Corinth, Ephesus and those to whom Peter wrote.
These gifts were therefore both:
(Of course it is recognized that such words as "apostles", for example, are a classification (or office) and do not refer specifically to a particular gift.)
6 The grace under consideration in this context was that defined in 2.b. above. 1.c. has not been forgotten (cf. Heb. 4:16) but is not considered here as it is not the problem under consideration in this treatise.
7 See Section D.
GUIDANCE AND PRAYER
Our attitude to prayer generally fits into one of the following four categories:
It almost 'goes without saying', that all attitudes except the first are wrong. If we do not know what we are saying then we must not say it. This type of prayer indicates a lack of sincerity. Also it is easy for false doctrine to creep into this type of prayer. When prayer is not based on the word of God it becomes "an abomination" (Prov. 28:9). If we deliberately give prayers that have two meanings, then we are not sincere and God will not be pleased with our action. If we do not offer acceptable prayer then we can have no hope of salvation.
It is the second category - that of not fully understanding our words and therefore possibly assisting false doctrine1 - that we are initially concerned with here. Some Christadelphians argue that believers today possess the Holy Spirit, and say that even those who claimed not to accept this idea really demonstrated their belief in it when they prayed for divine help to be given to a speaker, "that God may be mouth, matter and wisdom"2
This deduction is correct, for if we really do expect God to answer this kind of prayer then it can only be through the direct intervention of God by His power, and it follows that if God does answer such prayer then the speaker's words are God-given, and therefore infallible!
All who are well grounded in the Truth will see the absolute folly of this position. Those entrusted to exercise the privilege of prayer on behalf of the Ecclesia should take care lest, in making such petitions, they provide the faulty premise on which such reasoning is based.
The request that God may be "mouth, matter and wisdom" conflicts with God's divine revelation that we are to:
"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth." (2 Tim. 2:15).
Most brethren, when questioned about the phrase, have admitted that they had used borrowed words and hadn't understood their full implication.
A true follower of Christ must "pray without ceasing". Those who expect to obtain salvation without asking God to intervene and help them will not attain that end. Conversely those who expect God to intervene in the sense of giving them the Spirit or influencing them directly by His Spirit3 will not receive answers to their requests because they are not in accordance with the revealed purpose of God.
In view of the above points how should we pray for "divine guidance" and how should we expect it to operate in our lives? This is a crucial question and certainly not an easy one to answer. There are several facts, however, which are immediately apparent and these will help to steer us to the right answer:
Prayer for the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit had been given to David without requiring that he pray for it. After his sin with Bathsheba he prayed that the Spirit be not taken from him (Psa. 51) but this can not be construed as prayer for the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost but this did not require the disciples to pray for it. It was a promise that the Father gave and fulfilled. Any other example of prayer for the Holy Spirit, as can be seen upon examination, relates only to the first century miraculous gifts.
For us to pray for the Spirit so that it may cleanse us and make us righteous is to speak the
words not of Truth but of the Apostasy. It is through the words or truth of Christ that we are
sanctified (John 17:19) and this was his prayer. He did not pray that the Spirit in some
miraculous way should do the sanctifying. There is more of the Holy Spirit available from the
written word than was ever given to the early ecclesia. And He has never undertaken to send His
Spirit to open unto us for wisdom what He has put in our power to open for ourselves.
What prayer "for the spirit" means today
What prayer "for the spirit" means today
It means a reversal of the process of salvation. It means that the Scriptures are a sealed
book, and that unless we have the Spirit we need not trouble ourselves with opening it. It means
substituting prayer for action. It means the petitioner wants to save himself the bother of
searching the Scriptures. It means what the Church of Rome and her harlot daughters teach about
"grace"4. It means that those who ask will find themselves answered by fancies and
frenzies of their own imagination which have as much relation to the work of God on their hearts
as the rantings of those "led astray to dumb idols".
The ways of God are not confined to the ages of miracles. God has done and continues to exercise his will by means of divine regulation of natural circumstances. All who commit their way to God in a scriptural manner are included in the operations of this providence - that is the control of natural circumstances by angelic agency in an unseen manner and without any apparent interference with natural ways. Where angels do not operate, providence is not at work.
This divine guidance does not dispense with the necessity for individual prudence and action. Human action is the basis for divine supervision. In its absence, there is nothing for the angels to work on.
God has conferred upon man independent volition within natural boundaries. This limited independence of will is the basis of God's dealings with His children. "Providence" manipulates circumstances, and so acts through, without setting aside, the action of the unconstrained human will. Cooperation between God and man in this way is God's glorious arrangement and is expressed in scripture in the following way: "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh5 in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Phil. 2:12-13).
When God works with and by means of man, human agency is far from superfluous. God requires men humbly, faithfully, and diligently to do their part as the condition and means of enabling Him to work out His purpose with and concerning them. There is a time to stand still and see the salvation of God, but it is not when He proposes to work by us. All the promises of God presuppose active, diligent, courageous, and caretaking co-operation on the part of those to whom they are made. Try to imagine God making the promises to Abraham without his response in leaving Ur. Another example is when the angel appeared to Lot and said:
"Haste thee, escape thither, for I cannot do anything till thou be come thither." (Gen. 19:22).
With these facts before us it is clear that, while we must commit our needs unto God and seek for His help, we should not ask God for "guidance" and expect such to come directly in a miraculous, mystical way.
Rather we should ask God to work in our lives (not in us) and expect that the answer will come in providential adjustment of events in our lives (not in a 'Spirit operation' on our brain). This may seem to some to be splitting hairs but the difference in meaning is vast. The first is part of the gospel; the latter is part of another perverted gospel.
There is not a particle of Scriptural evidence to suggest that we must be Divinely guided before
we can understand the Word of God.
Open thou mine eyes
Open thou mine eyes
That God will help His servants to understand more of His Word in answer to their prayers is a fact to which we agree. However, to claim that this is now done by the direct influence6 of the Holy Spirit would be very unwise indeed.
It is perhaps not altogether surprising that the Bible student should instinctively attribute the remarkable experience of a "flash of inspiration" to direct illumination by the Spirit. But let the student reflect, and he will remember how often some find or sudden solution that he so gladly "received" in this way had to be modified or abandoned in later years in the light of maturer knowledge of the Word of God! God is not the author of confusion or error, and great care must be exercised in claiming our own sometimes imperfect ideas as Spirit guided. It is a known fact that sudden "flashes" occur in the study of subjects other than the Gospel. This author has had many computer programming problems solved in sudden "flashes". Is this direct guidance?
1 Our hymn books are sometimes misused in a similar way. When Brethren sing hymns which teach false doctrine, this is advanced by those who hold false doctrine as evidence that their theory is true. Their deduction is correct. We must not sing or pray words that support false doctrine. Let us be on our guard.
2 see WHSA, P. 44 and TBSM, Vol. 4, P. 145. (Editorial reference).
3 See Providence and Angels.
4 See Section B, Grace
5 See notes on Phil. 2:12-13.
6 See Providence and Angels.
HAVE WE THE HOLY SPIRIT NOW?
Do the saints at the present day possess the Holy Spirit? If so, in what sense? If not, why not?
1 Editor, Christadelphian, 1908, cited in TCM, Vol. 95, P. 448.
2 R. Roberts, Christendom Astray, P. 100.
METHODS OF IMPARTING THE SPIRIT GIFTS
IN THE OLD TESTAMENT two methods are recorded:
A. Directly by God (i.e. Elohim bearing the title YAHWEH).
"And the LORD came down in a cloud, and spake unto him (Moses) and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders... and they prophesied." (Num. 11:25).
B. Indirectly by laying on of hands.
"Now Joshua the son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him" (Deut. 34:9).
IN THE NEW TESTAMENT two methods were also employed:
A. Directly by God or Christ.
It appears that whenever it was imparted directly that there was always a visible (or verbal) manifestation to accompany that outpouring.
B. Indirectly by prayer and the laying on of hands1 of the Apostles2.
When it was imparted indirectly there was no question to those who observed that a change3 had occurred in the person.
1 It is essential that the two uses of this rite in the early ecclesia not be confused. One was simply a benediction (Acts 6:6; Acts 13:3, cf. Heb. 6:2; 1 Tim. 5:22). The other was for the bestowal of a gift (Acts 8:18; 19:6; 2 Tim. 1:6). The presbytery (1 Tim. 4:14) probably has reference to the Apostles at Jerusalem. (See notes on this verse.)
2 See notes at Acts 9:17; Acts 8:15, 17, 18.
3 The fact that no change is recorded in Acts 2:41 is not evidence that what they received was an inner subjective gift. They probably received the Spirit later.
THE OUTPOURING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS LIMITED AND SPECIAL1
PROBLEM: It is often argued that the Holy Spirit was and is given to everyone at baptism, or when they 'Have an experience with the Lord'.
1 This follows the pattern in the O.T.:
a. God could not dwell among His people until a dwelling place had been made;
"Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them" (Exod. 25:8).
b. Spirit gifts were given so that this dwelling place might be constructed.
"I have filled him (Bezaleel) with the Spirit of God ... that he may make" (Exod. 31:2-6).
c. When the tabernacle was finished the need for these gifts ceased. When Bezaleel and his companions died there is no reason to suppose that these gifts carried on.
2 Only those Apostles appointed by Christ, i.e. the 12 plus Paul. (cf. 1 Cor. 15:8-9). This would not include those appointed by the ecclesia such as Titus (2 Cor. 8:23) and Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25) etc.
The purpose of this subject is to demonstrate that the teaching and claims of some in the Brotherhood have their origins in the pagan philosophies of Plato. It is easy to see that some ideas on the Spirit are drawn directly from that source2. On the other hand certain phrases and words are so colored and tainted by hundreds of years of theological 'dust' that it is difficult to see the fact that they too have their origin in Greek mythology and metaphysics.
Plato (but more especially his theological descendants) believe, in reality, that 'righteous'
man is God. True they accept the fact that God exists, but believe that this God gives to each
chosen man a mystical emanation of Himself which then is mystically united with Him so that the
things this man says and does is under the direction of His will. The logical extension of this
belief is the claim that there is no sin in those whose spirit or divine essence is properly
united to God. The written word is discounted by these men and self-deluding 'enthusiasm'3
gains importance. It is then claimed that only those with this mystical spirit can know spiritual
B. The cycle of history
B. The cycle of history
Plato and Aristotle always accompany Bible Truth5. The process is a cycle and may be described as follows:
When the apostate churches became oppressive and outdated, desire 3 lost prominence and desire 1 and 2 began to be the lot of the common people. It is easy to see that, in the main, desire 1 has ceased. Gone are the Bible readers and debaters of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In a recent rock festival held on July 4, 1973 in Washington, D.C., U.S.A. there was an obvious lack of political rebels. The 'do your own thing' gang has moved in two directions:
The same phases of the cycle have been (and are) evident in the Brotherhood.
C. The reformers and Plato
Although the Reformers were originally motivated by the desire to have freedom of religion, this quickly gave way to teachings that had their origin in Plato.
The reformers substituted experience for ritual. Thus 'grace' (the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit acting on the believer's portion of the Holy Spirit) was thought to descend on the believer after prayer. This emotional experience ("conversion") removed Adam's sin and is the Baptism or Sanctification by the Holy Spirit. So it can be seen that this false doctrine of Adamic sin requires the equally false doctrine of regeneration by the Holy Spirit. (cf. ESSA, P. 2, 30.)
In the pamphlet "Clerical Theology Unscriptural", Bro. J. Thomas establishes truth. He denies the error of regeneration by 'grace' and teaches the regeneration of the heart of man by the gospel believed and obeyed.
"The Nicolaitans, of whom were Hymeneaus and Philetus, engrafted the heathen speculation of immortal soulism upon the doctrine of Christ and then taught the regeneration of the pagan 'soul' by a physical operation of the Holy Spirit upon it. In this way was substituted, by men of corrupt minds, a physical spiritual agency for an intellectual and moral agency upon the heart in the regeneration of individuals." (P. 17).
D. Greek ideas on the nature of God
Anything immortal was thought to be essentially immaterial and immutable. This was one of the most basic feelings in Greek philosophy. It is at the root of most of the corruption6 of the gospel by paganism.
The Gnostics also believed this basic Platonic idea that "good" existed only in immaterial, eternal things such as soul or spirit. The churches today teach something very similar7. We would like to stress that the idea of an immaterial8 God is not found in Scripture but belongs to Platonism.
Mystical pagan philosophy (largely originated by Plato) characterizes almost every shade of the Apostasy. Anyone with a bit of fortitude can discover that the ideas Evangelicals hold on "spirit" are founded in Plato. These ideas deny the authority of Scripture. A person led by the Spirit in intuitive ways has no need of Scripture.
Let us beware of the apostasy9 and its false theories on spiritual beings and 'spirit'. The strength of the Christadelphian position is that it is Biblical10. It is not necessary to have the help of:
before one can understand. We hold that the Bible is God's inspired revelation to man. It is complete and needs no other ingredient to make "the man of God" perfect or complete. It is a clear and reasonable book. Our posture needs to be one of prayer and of willingness to read and obey God's Word.
1 Please refer to TBSM, "Plato or Christ", Vol. 2, for a full treatment.
2 "The Holy Spirit is the God given spark within a man which turns that Word into a living reality in his life. It is the source of ability to remember God's laws and the source of desire to do God's will." (AMAX)
3 The pagan origin of this word is explained in footnote 1 at 1 John 4:4.
4 "Only those with the Spirit are on the track; all others are like so many derailed toys in a boy's train set."
5 This can be seen by studying P. 167 of the 'Revelation of Jesus Christ' published by E. G. Walker, available from TBSM.
6 Pre-existence, devil, demons, "faith", "grace", "spirit", "guidance", "sin", etc.
7 "Through the Neo-Platonists and Augustine he (Plato) provided a philosophy for Christianity." (TBSM, Ancient Greek Literature, Sir Maurice Bowra, P. 209.)
8 see Section B - "God is Corporeal".
9 "If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:8,9).
10 "From childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:15-17).
'…The opportunity can now be taken, in considering the operation of Divine providence in election, to consider the continuing work of God's power on behalf of those who are "called to be saints"....
An attempt must be made to face up to the formidable subject of 'predestination', at least as far as the Word and out own limited intellects will take us. The word "predestinate" occurs in Romans 8:29, 30 and Ephesians 1:5, 11, and the same Greek word proorizo is also translated "determine before" in Acts 4:28 and "ordained" in 1 Corinthians 2:7. The word means 'marked out' or marked off" with the prefix pro ('before') added; this is the origin of the English 'horizon', which 'marks off' the boundary between the earth and sky. Jesus was "declared (Gr horizentos, 'marked out') to be the Son of God ... by the resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:4). The crucial passages need to be quoted in full:
"For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate …whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified, them He also glorified" Rom. 8:29,30);
"Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will" (Eph. 1:5);
"In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him Who worketh..." (Eph. 1:11);
"For of a truth against Thy holy child Jesus …both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done" (Acts 4:27, 28);
"but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, even the wisdom that hath been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds unto our glory" (1 Cor. 2:7).
From these Scriptures we learn that:
The happenings culminated in the sacrifice of Jesus were predestined beforehand in the wisdom and power of God;
"the wisdom of God", centred in "Jesus Christ, and him crucified", in which he is "made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:23-30), was predestined before the ages began;
God's choice or election of His saints and their adoption by Him as His sons in Jesus Christ was predestined, and that their predestination was based on God's foreknowledge.
The order of the opening phrases of Romans 8:29 ("whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate ..." would seem to warrant this conclusion; but this cannot be taken to mean that God's will is subordinate to or attendant upon, His foreknowledge. The two are so closely interfuses in the mind and purpose of God that they cannot be separated for the purposes of a watertight definition of categories. Nor is there any evidence to suggest that a predestination implies that in the beginning God planned an earth full of His glory as the ultimate object of His will, and then, as He guided the course of history toward that end he made adjustments as necessary on the way to defeat the persistent obstructions of perverse men. This deterministic view has long been widely held in different forms, but it is not the way God works — not, at least, according to the overwhelming evidence of Scripture.
Foreknowledge of God
Whatever the ultimate truth may be about the relationship of predestination to God's foreknowledge, a study of some Scriptures relating to the latter will perhaps help to clear away some of the obscurities. The passages concerned are:
"For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate" (Rom. 8:29);
"God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew" (Rom. 11:2);
"Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and fore-knowledge of God, ye have taken, and ... slain" (Acts 2:23);
"Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father" (1 Pet. 1:2);
"Who (Christ) verily was foreordained (Gk. proginosko, 'to know beforehand') before the foundation of the world" (1 Pet. 1:20).
Earlier study has shown that God's decrees for inanimate things and irrational creatures are always fulfilled instantly. Free will is not involved. But with man, God's decrees take free will into account, and His predestination is based on a knowledge of what any and every man will do in the situations in which God places him. God chooses people for His glory on the basis of foreknowledge of their character and conduct, and yet this does not diminish in the slightest degree His sovereign prerogative and purpose, nor their responsibility. By circumstantial pressures exerted through the ministry of angels God guides and directs the lives of men and or nations, who are free to respond to or resist the providential activity of God. It is God's foreknowledge of human reactions in life and history as they gradually unfold that causes predestination to harmonise perfectly with foreknowledge down to even the minutest detail in the purpose of God.
Confirmation of this is to be found in a study of actual cases. The census that took Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem in fulfillment of Micah 5:2; the piercing of the Saviour's hands and feet in crucifixion by the Romans (when, only a few weeks before, the disciples were fearing his death by stoning) in fulfillment of Psalm 22:16; the apparently unpredictable impulse of the soldiers to throw dice for the garment of Jesus that they could not share, in fulfillment of Psalm 22:18; the remarkable whim of the soldier who broke the legs of the two thieves, but viciously thrust a spear into the Lord's side because he was already dead, in fulfillment of Psalm 34:20—all these were foretold by Divine prescience. Foreknowledge down to such apparently trivial details supplies the only possible explanation of how the prophecies could have been made in the first place.
But the same foreknowledge is still more outstanding when viewed in greater breadth. The whole course of history follows a plan that has the glorification of God through the redemption of mankind as its goal. After Babel, all the tribes were distributed numerically and geographically in direct proportion and relation to the eventual fluctuating population and location of the children of Israel, as God's ground plan from which eventually all nations might be blessed and the earth be filled with His glory (Deut. 32:8). Indeed. all the stages of God's purpose, even those that seem to be historically unimportant and local when viewed in this Divine perspective, assume a necessary place in the Divine purpose.
But the marvel of foreknowledge reaches even further. Paul wrote that all the events of redemption (including personal salvation of individual men and women) were foreordained (predestinated) before the worlds (Gk. pro ton aionon, 'before the ages') (1 Cor. 2:7). Because the Biblical record does not, and by its very nature cannot, trace back 'before the ages', it is not possible to confirm this statement. But in his teaching about the love of Christ for his ecclesia, the Apostle Paul's inspired commentary (Eph. 5:25-33) on the narrative of Genesis 2 treats the formation of Eve from the side of Adam whilst he was under a deep sleep as a parabolic prophecy of the formation of the ecclesia (which is Christ's bride) from his 'riven side' at Calvary. The "great mystery" (so called) because it had not previously been revealed by God through His prophets) was lodged in the oracle of Genesis 2, and is made the more remarkable by the fact that it was enacted before the fall of man, and therefore even before the need arose for a Saviour. A remarkable prophetic type such as this illustrates, though it does not explain, the intimate relationship between God's foreknowledge and His predestination both of His Son and our ourselves, if we are among the chosen who will form part of the bride of Christ.'
This amazing exposition on the work of the Holy Spirit/the election of Grace is quoted from WHCA, pages 132, 135-138.
"PROVIDENCE" AND ANGELS1
Evangelicals do not expect "Saints" to answer their prayers - as do Catholics - nor do they
expect angels to be involved in the answer. Not understanding God manifestation they expect to
deal with God. They (and too many Christadelphians) expect God's influence to descend directly to
man, without the agency of angels. Most major errors in doctrine stem from a misunderstanding of
the angels. The subject of the Spirit is no exception. Indeed for those who claim to be in direct
contact with God there is little need for angels. However, those who know the truth realize that
God works through the angels by a process we call providence2.
Angels in the lives of the faithful
Angels in the lives of the faithful
The angel of the Presence "appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac and unto Jacob". The language used by the Angel indicated the very close association he had with the faithful.
"I will be with thee, and will bless thee" (Gen. 26:3).
"I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest" (Gen. 28:13-15).
"Behold, I die: but God shall be with you" (Gen. 50:24).
TO ISRAEL (under Moses)
"Certainly I will be with thee" (Ex. 3:12).
The Angel did indeed go with Israel, walking among them in the cloud and fire, filling the Most Holy Place, sometimes going before to lead them, sometimes standing behind to protect them, advising them, reproving them, always leading them in the way YAHWEH had planned.
"My presence shall go with thee" (Ex. 33:14-16).
"He (Angel of the presence) it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee" (Deut. 31:6).
"In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the Angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old" (Isa. 63:10).
"Fear not, for I am with thee" (Isa. 41:10; 43:5).
TO THE APOSTLES
(This theme is traced in the
TO ALL HIS BRETHREN
"Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" (Heb. 1:14).
This verse allows no change in the operation of Divine providence through the angels. The many visions of angels in the Revelation complete the picture of a continuing angelic ministry.
The only difference in the New Testament (to the oft-repeated Old Testament promise: "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee") is that the active participation of the Son is added to God's omniscient presence. The "abiding" presence is therefore no more "mystical" or "spiritual" than in former ages. The only difference today is the withholding of the overtly miraculous.
Providential control or the function of angels
The Psalmist said: "He maketh His angels Spirits (RV: winds); His ministers a flaming fire" (104:4). The angels are evidently able to exercise control over the elemental forces of nature, and by doing so, they exert pressures on men and nations to influence their decisions and actions without interfering with human choice or free-will.
In the prophetic visions of the Apocalypse, God is seen to be using this "pressure of circumstances" which consists of natural phenomena under the control of the angels. The angels are seen holding back or releasing winds (7:1); they produce "voices, and thunderings and lightnings and an earthquake" (8:3,5), and many other upheavals which channel the freely disposed inclinations and purposes of men and nations towards the fulfillment of God's will. There can be no doubt that there is actually a much larger literal element in certain parts of the apocalyptic visions than has hitherto been appreciated, and the role of angels, in the outworking of the Divine purpose is one example of it. The Old Testament supplies ample confirmation of this fact. At the exodus, locusts came on an east wind and were withdrawn by a west wind at precisely pre-stated times (Exod. 10:13-19). A strong east wind parted the Red Sea before the enclosed Israelite host (14:21), and a wind from God brought quails exactly as and when Moses foretold (Num. 11:31). A great wind (cyclone?) from the wilderness destroyed the house of Job's eldest son and killed all his children (Job 1:19). In order to bring Jonah back into the path of duty, "the Lord hurled a great wind into the sea", so that the ship in which he was journeying "was like to be broken" (1:4). In all these instances, God "rode upon a cherub (angel) ... he flew swiftly (RV) upon the wings of the wind" (Psa. 18:10). The list of passages could be greatly extended, and more lists could be compiled to show God's angels employing other elements of nature to divert and direct the attentions and plans of men. Even where the Divine record makes no overt mention of the angelic supervision of particular events, their role can be easily deduced. The death of Ahab is a good example of this. 1 Kings 22:34 relates that "a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness". It is not too farfetched to say that from the moment the arrow left the bow it was under Divine control; it was not mere chance that brought about the fulfillment of the prophet Micaiah's pronouncement of doom on Ahab (1 Kings 22:28).
The student seeks humbly to penetrate still deeper into the Divine mystery. Israel's early history provides a thought-provoking illustration. God commanded them: "Three times in the year shall all thy males appear before the Lord God ... neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou goest up to appear before the Lord thy God three times in the year" (Exod. 34:23, 24 RV). On each occasion the land would virtually be left defenceless, and would invite invasion, especially at harvest-time "when kings go forth to war" (2 Sam. 11:1). God demanded faith which He would reward with guaranteed protection. And what was true of a nation, could be true also of individuals, as Proverbs 16:7 shows: "When a man's ways please the Lord He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him". Such providential control would require the cumulative effect of thousands of circumstances large and small, all marvelously correlated to produce each Divinely desired result.
We can take it therefore that the description of "thousand thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand" of angels in Daniel 7:10 is a clear indication that the angels are so numerous as to be beyond computation; and yet they all are tirelessly active and ready on the instant (Dan. 9:21) to fulfil God's commandment, at "the Voice of His Word"…
If the twentieth century is not favored with visible manifestations of angels, it ought not to be assumed that they no longer superintend the affairs of God's creation. There are Scriptural examples enough of unseen angels at work to convince any faithful reader of God's Word that though now invisible, "the angel of the Lord" still "encampeth round about them that fear Him" (Psa. 34:7). To doubt this is to fall into one of the errors of the Sadducees (Acts 23:8).
Jesus was certainly aware that the Psalmist had promised him the providential protection of angels (Psa. 91:11). Hence his confident rebuke to Peter, who wanted to prevent his arrest: "Thinketh thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and He shall even now send me more than twelve legions of angels?" (Mt. 26:53). Jesus believed, without any doubt, that even at that late hour, angels could have intervened to change the course of events that was leading up to his crucifixion.
It was Christ, also, who gave the reassurance to all those who believe on him (typified by the
little child he called and set in the midst of the disciples), that "their angels do always behold
the face of my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 18:10). The continuing ministry of the angels is
thus guaranteed by the Master himself.
It ill behoves us therefore to devise our own ideas as to how God works in our lives. The Holy Spirit is not now given to men to use for Divinely appointed ends; the angels of God are not now openly revealed; the Spirit of God is nonetheless still at work among men, through His Word and through His unseen ministers. We must beware not only lest we entertain mistaken ideas about the operations of God with men but also lest we forget that He works at all.3
1 The reader is referred to TEST, Vol. 44, P. 186 for an excellent article on the subject.
2 Although not a scriptural word it is a word which conveys the way in which God works in the affairs of His creation to bring about His purpose without interfering with human free will. The reader is referred to RWOP, where providence is described and illustrated by many Biblical examples.
3 TEST, Vol. 44, P. 189-191.
A. IN OLD TESTAMENT TIMES
Those believing the Truth can not discriminate between those living before and those after Christ. Certainly they were fully sanctified and without the possession of the Holy Spirit! They are held out to us as our examples.
God perfected their characters by the power of His Word, and by angelic supervision of their lives. We must reject conclusion 2a) and be left with 2b).
B. IN NEW TESTAMENT TIMES
Sanctification occurs when we understand and obey the gospel. "Sanctify them through ("in" RV) thy truth: thy word is truth", said Jesus. (John 17:17). Only through the Word is sanctification achieved; without it there is none.
"Ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you." (John 15:3).
He did not say they were clean by the indwelling of the Spirit. In writing to the Ephesian ecclesia, Paul says that Christ gave himself for the ecclesia,
"that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word ... that it should be holy and without blemish." (5:26, 27).
The process is as follows:
We grow if we are "built up on the foundation of the apostles and prophets6" and Jesus Christ. If our foundation is not based on their words and lives then we are "strangers and foreigners".
The process of sanctification7 in the O.T. and N.T. is the same, and this destroys the theory that we need the "Spirit" to lead us into sanctification.
1 Verses such as 1 Peter 1:2 are advanced as evidence (but see notes there).
2 See "PROVIDENCE AND ANGELS".
3 cf. Job 2:3 "There is none like him ... a perfect and upright man".
4 the verb "hagiazo" is used in Exod. 29:21 LXX of the consecration of Aaron.
5 See Section B - "Did NOT Cause Righteousness.
"To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." (Isa. 8:20).
6 Eph. 2:19, 20.
7 The word "hagiasmos" is used only by Biblical and ecclesiastical writers, and it has two meanings.
Hagiasmos: "has reference to status rather than to personal conduct; to destination rather than character."
2. By metonymy (a figure in which the effect is put for the cause producing it), the state of being sanctified with the manner of life appropriate to such a condition (Rom. 6:19 and 22; 1 Thess. 4:3, 4 and 7; 1 Tim. 2:15; Heb. 12:14). (TCM, Vol. 94, P. 6).
SPIRIT IN THE LIFE OF THE ECCLESIA TODAY
No mortal today possesses the Holy Spirit. We can be sure of that fact because it is not promised and no claimant can prove otherwise.
No doubt the Holy Spirit would be a powerful confirmer of our testimony to the truth if God gave the Holy Spirit to believers now. However, this is not promised and we must remember that God condescends to such special displays of power only at great turning points when it is necessary to show His endorsement of events for the confidence of that generation. Faith is the great thing God aims to produce (Heb. 11:6). The constant exhibition of His power would be "sight" - not "faith". One only has to reflect on the history of the Bible to see that faith is much greater and more enduring than "sight".
Nevertheless God is bringing about His purpose with the ecclesias through the unseen work of the Angels.
These ministering Spirits are sent forth to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation1.
1 See Section B - "Providence and Angels".
THE "SPIRIT" WE MUST POSSESS
In our period of probation we must attempt to achieve the goal of moral perfection. This way of life is often described by the word "spirit"1 - Paul also calls such characteristics "the fruit of the Spirit2". This humble and contrite spirit is something we must possess if we are to expect to become a habitation of God through the Spirit in that day when the righteous are to become ministering spirits with Spirit bodies. Instead of falsely claiming now:
let us use the sword3 of the Spirit so that the law of the spirit (of life in Christ) will make us free from the law of sin and death.
1 Romans 8 is an example.
2 Gal. 5:22-25.
3 The Bible clearly reveals that it is the word of God that is the active ingredient in our lives.
PAUL "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Eph. 6:17).
JOHN "the Spirit is truth." (1 John 5:6)