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Archive for December, 2008

Deception’s Power

The Apostle Paul writes, “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3).

I began to use a phrase in my teaching ministry many years ago: “Never underestimate the power of deception.”  We can deceive ourselves when we allow ourselves to drift away from God’s Word (Heb. 2:1) and we can deceive ourselves when we do not obey God’s Word (James 1:22).

We can deceive ourselves and stray from God when we do not allow Him to discipline us to put Him first every day — preferably in the morning — by being with Him in His Word, in prayer and in worship.

I remember seeing a bumper sticker more than 20 years ago: “You have time for God, if you put Him first.”  I saw that phrase once and never again, but its affect has always stayed with me.

Finally, it is when we do not put Him first that we leave ourselves vulnerable for an enemy that is far more crafty than us.  He is an enemy that Peter describes as being like a hungry lion, prowling about for someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8).

He will dangle sin in front of us and we’ll be too weak to resist when we allow ourselves to stray from behind the Rock, where the fish is safe (James 1:13-15).

Beloved, let us lay hold of Jesus and never let go!  Let us forsake any and all things that compete for time with the One who will always be our closest companion and with One whom we stand in desperate need of every moment.

One of the worst things in life is the feeling of having been deceived by someone else.  Wouldn’t you agree with that?  Let us not allow ourselves to be deceived by ourselves, nor let us allow ourselves to be deceived by the enemy of our souls — Satan.

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2 Cor. 12:9: “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I believe in God’s power to heal bodies and have prayed for numerous people to receive healing and watched God heal them, yet I’ve suffered from chronic back pain now for 14 years, despite praying all of those years for healing!

On top of that, I suffer from insomnia, “restless legs syndrome” and Barrett’s Esophogus.  I continue to believe God for healing and know that today, tomorrow or next year I could be healed of one or all of these afflictions.

And I also know that I may not be healed of any of them until I get to heaven.  In the meantime, the passage above gives me the correct perspective in suffering (the word translated “weaknesses” generally relates to physical weaknesses): God is making use of these things to make me more dependent upon Him, to forge my character to be more like Jesus and to be able to relate to others with greater compassion.

Moreover, I had to endure some undeserved insults at the hands of other Christians recently — believers that I’m trying to be our Lord’s blessing to — but in reading this passage lately, how can I do any less than what Paul did by saying along with him, “Father, I’m well-content with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Beloved, are you going through something similar?  There is a joy that runs deep when we submit to God’s grace in difficulties.  Even now, I sense that sweet aroma of His presence and His delight in my patient, trusting submission to Him.

Father, may it always be so, that I would live in an attitude of grateful surrender to you, and may those who read gladly do the same for You, for the sake of the glory and honor of our great King, Lord, Savior and Friend, Jesus.

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WHAT IS ISLAM?
Pastor Brad Matthew Abley

1) Islam, which means “submission,” is a religion founded by a man named Mohammed who lived from 570 to 632 A.D. (thus, approximately 600 years after the beginning of Christianity) and who claimed to be a prophet of God (called Allah), and who was allegedly called by Allah to restore true religion throughout the world.
2) The Koran (also spelled Quran) is the Islamic equivalent of our Bible and consists of 114 “revelations” of Mohammed, which he claimed were given to him by Allah through his archangel. 
3) Parts of these “revelations” were recorded by Mohammed to his disciples and the rest are based upon his oral teaching, which his disciples recorded from memory after his death.  It should be added that Mohammed struggled with some of these “revelations,” worrying that they could be demonic in origin.  However, his wife Khadijah encouraged him to believe they had come from God.   
4) Mohammed lived in a culture surrounded by Jews and Christians and early in his life was favorable toward them until they rejected him and his teachings as being false.
5) In addition to the Koran, a number of additional sayings reported to be from Mohammed were also compiled by his disciples —  called the Hadith (tradition) — and these are used for the political and social structure of Islam (there is no such thing as separation of church and state in Islam; religion informs and rules the state).  A Surah is equivalent to a chapter from the Bible.
6) Muslims do believe in much of the Old Testament and they believe Jesus was a prophet and good teacher, but they do not believe He is God (Surah 4:171).
7) There are three sects of Islam, the largest being Sunnis, who are widely considered religious and political “moderates.”  It has been estimated that 90 percent of the Muslims in the Middle East are Sunnis.
8) The radical and militant sect of Islam is known as Shia’ite and these are the followers of Islam who are dedicated to eradicating Christianity and Judaism from the world, through Jihad, or “holy war.”  The main reason for the split between the two main sects is over who the proper successor of Mohammed was to be.
9) The third sect of Islam — the Ahmdiyan sect — is much smaller than the previous two and founded in the 1800s, but which is also very zealous and evangelistic, particularly among American college students.

WHAT DOES ISLAM TEACH ABOUT JESUS?

1) First, while purporting to be a pure revelation from “Allah,” and while claiming that the Bible itself is corrupted (but offering no proof), it is important to know that Islam’s Koran actually makes extensive use of the Old and New Testaments and also of literature from extra-biblical writings from Jewish rabbis and heretical, alleged Christian writings during and after the New Testament era (writings the early church rejected as heretical).  We will discuss this at length later.
 
2) The Koran has some quite amazing things to say about Jesus, but most importantly, it teaches that He is not God and that He did not die a literal death on the cross for the sins of the world. 
3) On the other hand, and from a strategic witnessing standpoint, the Koran actually teaches that our Lord was sinless, but that Mohammed was a sinner (Surat 47:19; 48:1-2)!   Moreover, the Koran teaches that Christ was born of a Virgin and may imply that He was the word of God.  Thus, from a witnessing standpoint, this question must be put to any Muslim: If the Koran has such an exalted view of Jesus – as the greatest prophet next to Mohammed – what do you do with His claim that salvation and eternal life come only through Him?
 4) There is further contradiction between the New Testament and the Koran in that while the Koran teaches that Mohammed was Allah’s greatest prophet, it also holds that Jesus did miracles (Mohammed himself acknowledged doing no miracles), that He was the Messiah, that He was taken up into heaven by Allah, and that He will return!
5) Furthermore, the crucial question must also be asked of the Muslim: what do you do with His claims to be God, and to have prophesied His own crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and return?  Could a great Prophet be a liar or could he be mistaken?  And what about the vast proof for His crucifixion, and His bodily resurrection on behalf of the world? 
6) If the New Testament is true and Jesus Christ is telling the truth and says that you must entrust your life to Him, what will you do with Him?
7) On the other hand, depending upon what kind of teaching a particular Muslim has received, some Muslims are taught that one who believes in Jesus as God has committed “the one unforgivable sin,” called shirk, and that this sin will send him to hell forever.
8) Thus, it is imperative to be discerning about what the Muslim knows about his or her faith; ask questions of the Muslim to determine what he or she knows about Islam’s view of Jesus.
9) Muslims are taught from the Koran that Jesus was the greatest prophet of all with the exception of Mohammed and the Koran clearly teaches that He was only a man: “Jesus was no more than a mortal whom [Allah] favored and made an example to the Israelites” (Surah 43:59).
10) The Koran asserts that Jesus denied His own divinity before God.  In addition, Muslims do not believe Jesus died on a cross and that Allah would never permit one of his prophets to die in such a hideous manner: instead, God substituted someone else to die in His place.
11) Of course, the believer must explain the reason for our Lord’s crucifixion: to redeem man from his sin.  Moreover, in order to redeem him from sin, Jesus had to be sinless, else His atonement would be imperfect and incomplete: only God Himself could provide such a sacrifice, done out of love for the world.
12) The Christian must be clear and bold in proclaiming our Lord’s promise of eternal life to those who embrace Him (John 3:16; 5:24; 11:25-26; 14:6), for Muslims are taught that anyone who converts to another religion other than Islam will be cursed for evermore.
13) But the Muslim’s own salvation is uncertain and indeed entirely problematic, for he will receive eternal life only if Allah has predestined him to receive it.  Furthermore, eternal life depends upon his works and upon his ability to please Allah, having his works placed on a scale: in the Day of Judgment, “they whose balances shall be heavy with good works shall be happy; but they whose balances shall be light are those who shall lose their souls, and shall remain in hell forever” (Surah 23:104-105).
 
14) The above is why some Muslims recite extra prayers, give extra to charity and make pilgrimages not only to Mecca but to other holy sites of their religion, hoping to earn favor with Allah.  Contrast this with eternal assurance of forgiveness of sins and eternal security that Jesus Christ Himself all who will exchange their lives for His (Luke. 24:44-47).
15) With respect to Jesus Christ and the salvation He offers, there is great difficulty with Koranic teaching on sin, for while it acknowledges Mohammed’s sin, the Koran also believes that men are good by nature and it does not believe in original sin (cf. Rom. 5:12-14).
16) Both the Koran and the Bible agree that there was a fall from the original state of the world in Eden, but both mean something entirely different by the fall.
17) The Bible teaches that Adam’s sin was rebellion. Knowing perfectly well what was right, Adam chose to do wrong. As a result, Adam’s entire race shares a natural distaste for God and his ways.
18) Sin is always rebellion against God, the King whose authority we reject.  By contrast, the Koran says Adam forgot to walk the right way. In Islam, sin can be defined as forgetfulness, heedlessness, or a failure to remember. Such forgetfulness is simply the result of inherent weakness, as opposed to active rebellion against God.
19) Muslims believe that non-Islamic societies and non-Muslim religions corrupt humans who, in the right environment (i.e. under Islam), are able to live a good life that is pleasing to Allah. That good life (coupled with fate—even good Muslims have no assurance of Allah’s favor) is required for entry into Paradise.
20) The best way to live a good life is to live in a good society defined as one governed by Shari’ah, the divine Islamic Law. This is an all-encompassing system that controls every aspect of everyday life and it applies to the economic, political, and legal structures of society as well as to everyone’s personal life.
21) It is appropriate—one could even say loving—to impose Shari’ah on a society for the temporal and eternal good of its citizens. This ideology is more obvious in radical expressions like the Taliban, but is inherent in all Islam.

IS THE KORAN RELIABLE?

22) My intent here is not to speak disparagingly about Muslims or Islam, but rather in the “marketplace” of ideas to take a careful and critical look at the religion and its claim for an infallible “holy” book to see if its claims can be upheld.
23) As mentioned above, Islamic teaching holds that the Bible we have is corrupted, and yet the Koran itself contradicts such a view. In the Koran, Mohammed writes that Allah commands him to search the Bible if he has any doubts about what Allah is revealing to him.
24) In another portion of the Koran, after highly exalting the writings of Moses, the prophets (the Suhuf), the psalms of David (Zabur), the teaching of Jesus (the Injil) and His disciples, the Koran says, “We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered.”
 
25) In fact, the Koran states that the above books were inspired by Allah (Surah 35:27-31; 4:163-164; 5:43-47; 32:24; 46:11-12; 2:87) and that Allah’s revelations are incorruptible and can be changed by no one (Sura 6:115).
26) Indeed, as Josh McDowell points out in his book, The Islam Debate (p. 39), Surah 7:157 holds that the Law of Moses (called Taurat) and the Injil were in the possession of Jews and Christians during the time of Mohammed.
27) How, then, could the Muslim charge of a corrupted gospel hold true?  Was not Allah powerful enough to preserve both the OT and NT from corruption?  And yet at no time in history has anyone been able to prove the existence of any other books claiming to be the same as those described above.
28) In addition, Muslims can offer no proof of corruption in the Protestant Bible, for there are well-over 25,000 hand-copied manuscripts of both the Hebrew OT and Greek NT found from all over the Middle East which are in complete agreement with each other and despite charges by critics for several centuries now, the Bible has proven to be inerrant and infallible.
29) On the other hand, the same cannot be said of the Koran; it has nowhere near the amount of available manuscripts for critical examination to see if its claims can be upheld.  McDowell (pp. 50-51) shows that when the Koran was first collated by the Caliph Uthman into one standard text, there were numerous texts in existence which all contained many significant variant readings and that in various parts of Syria, Armenia, and Iraq, Muslims were reciting the Koran differently than in Arabia.
30) Uthman saw to it that his version was sent to every province holding variant texts and that those variant texts be burned.  In stark contrast to this, many variant readings of the NT are in existence today and no attempt has ever been made to destroy them.
31) Why is that?  Because in each of those variants, the differences between the text of the NT we have today and the variants are so minor (spelling mistakes, punctuation, marginal notes and single words left out of a sentence due to copyist error) that they do not affect one single doctrine.  Truly, the NT has marvelously withstood withering attacks over the centuries to continue to be the reliable word of God.
32) Equally damaging to the Koran as being reliable are the words of Umar in his reign as Caliph; he indicates that an entire passage from the Koran was left out; specifically, verses prescribing stoning for adultery which were recited by Mohammed:
God sent Mohammed and sent down the Scripture to him.  Part of what he sent down was the passage on stoning; we read it, we were taught it and we heeded it.  The apostle stoned and we stoned them after him.  I fear that in time to come men will say that they find no mention of stoning in God’s book and thereby go astray in neglecting an ordinance which God has sent down.  Verily stoning in the book of God is a penalty laid on married men and women who commit adultery (McDowell, pp.51-52).
33) In fact, the Koran, written several thousand years after the OT and several hundred years after the NT, contradicts the Bible, whether it be the story of Cain and Abel (Gen. 4:1-15; cf. Surah 5:27-32), or its assertion that the ark of Noah came to rest on Mt. Judi (Surah 11:44) as opposed to the biblical teaching of Mt. Ararat (Gen. 8:4).
 
34) In addition, the Koran teaches that Abraham’s father was Azar (6:74) and not Terah (Gen. 11:27) and that Abraham attempted to sacrifice Ishmael (37:100-112) and not Isaac (Gen. 22); the Koran holds that the flood occurred in Moses’ time (7:136; cf. 7:59ff) and not Noah’s (Gen. 6-8). 
35) In a bizarre twist, it holds that Israel returned to Egypt after the Exodus (2:56-57, 61), which, of course was neither the case historically nor was it the case biblically.  The Koran also contradicts the NT by saying Zechariah would be speechless for three days for his unbelief (3:41) rather than nine months (Luke. 1:18-20).
36) Far more importantly, the Koran plainly denies the crucifixion of Jesus, which even secular history – let alone the NT – upholds.
37) In fact, while Jesus forbids adultery and fornication and allows only one wife for a man, the Koran permits a man to have up to four wives and unlimited concubines (women for sex) and does indeed promise concubines for men in heaven (cf. Surat al-Nisa 4:24; Surat al-Naba 78:33), in stark contrast to the teaching of Jesus (Luke. 20:34-36).
38) When Muhammad began his religion the first of his “revelations” has him tolerating all religions: “There is no compulsion in religion” (Surat al-Baqarah 2:256).
39) However, at the end of his 114 “revelations” the slaughter of “idolaters” (non-Muslims) is allowed unless they repent and turn to Allah (Surat al-Taubah 9:5, 29). This is where radical Muslims find their justification for Jihad, or the killing of non-Muslims.
(An interesting side note: only a few weeks ago from this writing, there was a major flap over the University of North Carolina requiring incoming freshmen to read the Koran as part of its annual book reading for incoming freshmen.  However, the students were required to read only the “earlier revelations” of the Koran – not its later “revelations,” which are much more controversial.  Is that true academic scholarship?).
41) In contrast to the above, when Jesus’ disciples grew frustrated that people were not converting to His message, they wanted His permission to destroy them, but Jesus rebuked them for such a desire (Luke 9:52-56).
42) Muslims (and even President Bush) claim Islam is a peaceful religion, and yet the Koran allows for the enslavement of all peoples (including even fellow Muslims: Surat al-Nisa 4:36), and Muslims in Sudan are currently enslaving thousands of Sudanese Christians and forcing them to convert to Islam, or else they are maimed or murdered.
43) Moreover, the Koran also allows husbands to “scourge” their wives if they disobey them – certainly not a “peaceful” thing to do! This is something the Bible would never allow and Eph. 5:22-29 makes it clear men are to treat their wives with the utmost respect and nourishment.
44) Finally, Surat al-An’am 6:34 says “there is none that can alter the words (and decrees) of Allah.” However, Mohammed has Allah changing his mind three times about which direction Muslims were to direct their prayers, changing from Ka’bah to Jerusalem and finally to Mecca (present-day Saudi Arabia).

 

IS MOHAMMED FORETOLD IN THE BIBLE?

45) Some Muslims claim Deut. 18:18 – a prophecy Jews and Christians hold to be messianic – is a prophecy of Muhammad, reasoning that Muhammad was far more like Moses than Jesus: both Muhammad and Moses were lawgivers, military leaders and spiritual guides for those whom they led; both were at first rejected by their people, whereupon they fled into exile and then later returned to lead their followers as religious and secular leaders.
46) However, the passage in Deut. 18:18 says that this Messiah to come after Moses would be “From among their brethren” and only Moses and Jesus were Israelites, whereas Mohammed descended from Ishmael.  McDowell (p. 79) notes that both Moses and Jesus left Egypt to perform God’s work, but Muhammad never was in Egypt.
47) In addition, Moses and Jesus forsook great wealth to share the poverty of their people (Heb. 11:25-26; cf. 2 Cor. 8:9); this Muhammad did not do.  Moses spoke with God “face-to-face” (a Hebrew term which is figurative for a direct encounter), and Jesus did the same (John 1:1).
48) Contrast the above with the Koran’s own assertion that Muhammad’s alleged revelations came to him through the mediation of the angel Gabriel.  And while both Moses and Jesus performed many signs and wonders, Muhammad performed none at all (Surah 6:37, 57).
49) Muhammad never claimed that Moses wrote of him, as Jesus emphatically did (John 5:45) and Peter and Stephen reinforced (Acts 3:22; 7:37). 
50) Some Muslims also attempt to see the “Comforter” of John 14-16 as Muhammad, but simple exegesis of these chapters shows such a view to be absurd, for these chapters make it quite clear that the “Comforter” is not a man but the Spirit of God.
51) Furthermore, He always glorifies and points people to Jesus Christ; He dwells with and within the followers of Jesus (who knew Him then), yet Muhammad was not even born until more than 500 years after the coming of the Comforter of John 14-16.

WHAT ABOUT THE GOSPEL OF BARNABAS?

52) Muslims will occasionally catch Christians off-guard by mentioning the Gospel of Barnabas as being the only authentic New Testament document.  Most Christians have never even heard of this “gospel.”
53) Of course, the document, purportedly coming from the Apostle Paul’s fellow apostle Barnabas, contains prophecies of the coming of Muhammad, denounces Paul and his entire ministry and rejects the deity of Jesus and His Messiah ship (though the Koran counts Him as Messiah, while at the same time rejecting His deity).
54) While historical evidence exists for the veracity of all of the writers of the NT, there is no historical evidence for the apostle and companion of Paul writing a gospel.  Thus, we must first examine who the real Barnabas was and then examine when such an alleged “gospel” came into being and by whom.
 
55) Barnabas appears in the NT as an apostle after the resurrection of Jesus, but until that time was known by his common name, Joseph (Acts 4:36).  The name “Barnabas” (“son of encouragement”) was given to him because of his character and nature of encouragement to the Christians he ministered to.
56) In contrast to the above, the author of the Gospel of Barnabas has him as one of the original 12 disciples of Jesus and even more contradictory, alleges that he was always called Barnabas, even during Jesus’ earthly ministry.
57) The next time we see Barnabas is in Acts 9:27, during Paul’s first visit to Jerusalem to visit the apostles.  It was Barnabas who defended Paul before the apostles, after Paul had publicly proclaimed Jesus to be the Son of God (Acts 9:20).  This, too, contradicts the claims of the Gospel of Barnabas.
58) It was Barnabas who sought out Paul to help him teach and ground the new believers in Antioch in the faith (Acts 11:26) and from this point on, the two traveled and ministered together (Acts 11:28-30; 12:25; 13:33; 15:1-2), both of them preaching Jesus as the Son of God!
59) Again, in contrast to the above, the author of the Gospel of Barnabas is diametrically opposed to Paul and all he stands for, especially in relation to his teaching on the person of Christ.
60) Yes, it is true that Paul and Barnabas did have a dispute about taking John Mark along with them on one of their missionary journeys (Acts 15:38-40).  However, it is a testament to the character of both men that at a later period, they were reconciled (Col. 4:10; 2 Tim. 4:11).
61) The best manuscript evidence for the Gospel of Barnabas is that it was written perhaps 200 years after Muhammad, especially since it quotes the Koran, which itself was written after Muhammad’s death.
62) In addition, the only copy available of this book is written in Italian – not in Greek – and the book has many lines taken from Dante’s Divine Comedy, which was written in the 13th century. It is the Koran which says there are seven heavens (Surah 2:29), but the Gospel of Barnabas says – like Dante’s Empyrean – that there are nine heavens and that Paradise is the 10th heaven above all the others (McDowell, p. 101).
63) The Gospel of Barnabas repeatedly has Jesus say He is not the Messiah but that Mohammed would be the Messiah.  Yet again, this even contradicts the Koran, which calls Jesus the Messiah (Surah 3:45).

HOW TO COMBAT ISLAM: PRAY, LOVE AND WITNESS

What is the most powerful thing we can do in this epic spiritual battle we face? Pray with compassion for the salvation of Muslims, who are blinded to their need for the Savior just as with any other person apart from salvation through Jesus. Pray with authority for the destruction of the spiritual forces behind Islam. 
Ask Muslims if they have found forgiveness and eternal life through the Messiah, Jesus Christ!  Another strategy in witnessing to them is to ask them how they hope to get to heaven, for Muslims believe that on the Day of Judgment, Allah will place their deeds on a scale; those who have sufficient personal merit will go to heaven and those who do not will go to hell.
Muslims have very little assurance of their prayers being answered, for Allah is distant, capricious, and difficult to please.  Of the 99 “beautiful names” for Allah, not one is “love” and Allah does not love the sinner (compare this with John 3:16; 1 John 4:6; Rom. 5:8-10; 2 Cor. 13:14).
Allah cannot ultimately be known and he is not relational, for that would make him dependent upon his creation.  This stands in dramatic contrast to John 17:3; Is. 30:18, the book of Psalms and the vast majority of the entire Bible!  Indeed, the God of the Bible is intensely personal, intimate and loving!
Moreover, He has revealed Himself through Jesus Christ and through His Word, whereas Allah has revealed his will only through the Koran, as interpreted by Muslim clerics (recall how this was the case in the Roman Catholic church for centuries and how corrupt that church became, with unbiblical teachings and wicked practices among popes and priests).
Therefore, another excellent strategy in reaching out to Muslims with the gospel of Jesus Christ is to invite them to do a Bible study; if they agree, pray earnestly that God would reveal Himself to them through His Word and before actually beginning the Bible study, open up in prayer, asking God to speak to you both through His Word. 
I recommend studying John and reading through the particular passage ahead of time, anticipating any questions that might come up in the study.  Feel free to give me a call if you have any questions about the passage.

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SCRIPTURE, INERRANCY AND INFALLIBILITY
    Rev. Brad Matthew Abley

The Knowledge of God
1) The primary question in theology is that of the knowledge of God, and we find that knowledge throughout the Bible.  From the human side in both the OT and the NT, we find man’s yearning to know God (Job 23:3; John 14:8). 

2) From the divine side, we find God’s passion for man to know Him (Jer. 9:23-24), culminating in His will being accomplished (Is. 11:9).

3) On the other hand, failure to truly know God is viewed as tragic, with tragic results (Is. 1:2-7). Hosea tells us what kind of “knowledge” He is looking for from man (6:6; cf. Micah 6:8; John 17:3). 

4) First, it must be said that God cannot be known as other things or persons: He is altogether unknowable unless He first reveals Himself (1 Kings 8:12).

5) Thus, unless such revelation comes, He is in a sense a “mystery” to man – part of the reason for man’s frequent misunderstanding of God and His ways.  Why is that?  Man routinely misunderstands God because He is infinite and man is finite (cf. Is. 55:8-9; 1 Cor. 1:21). 

6) Second, man is sinful and God is perfectly holy (cf. Is. 59:1-2; Hab. 1:13).   However, when He reveals Himself, He is no longer mysterious, as Paul writes (Eph. 1:9; 3:3-4; 6:19; Col. 1:26). 

7) How, then, does God reveal Himself?  We can say that first of all, God reveals Himself through what theologians call General Revelation (also called Natural Revelation). 

8) General, or Natural Revelation occurs, first of all, through God’s creation (Ps. 19:1-2; Rom. 1:20).  Second, it occurs in man himself, since he was created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26). 

9) Moreover, because he has been created in God’s image, he has been given a conscience, which, though defiled by sin, is still capable of moral reflection and obligation (Rom. 2:15), and this in itself is a revelation of the nature and character of God. 

10) However, as we find in Rom. 1:18ff, some people — perhaps it would be better to say many people — suppress the general revelation of God to justify their own sin and become their own god. 

11) The limitation with general revelation then becomes a problem: what to do with man in his sinful, rebellious state?  This is where Special Revelation comes in. 

12) Special Revelation is where God reveals Himself in a real and personal way, usually through the agency of words.  First, Special Revelation is particular: God reveals Himself to a people (Deut. 7:6; 1 Pet. 2:9). 

13) Second, it is progressive : There is an unfolding revelation of God throughout biblical history and throughout the Bible itself – from a lesser to a fuller disclosure, culminating in Jesus Christ Himself, so that man can identify with God (John 14:9). 

14) For example, God is not a God of wrath and judgment in the OT and a God of love and mercy in the NT.  These qualities are constants throughout Scripture, but we receive a deeper understanding of that love, mercy, and wrath through the careful study of the life and death of Jesus. 

15) Similarly, His judgment appears in both the OT and NT, but it is ultimately most severe with those who reject the sacrifice of His Son, and especially so in the events leading up to His return, which is the focus of the book of Revelation (though His mercy carefully precedes His judgments, seen especially in the repeated miraculous warnings to repent). 

16) Even the revelation of the Law in the OT is not superceded by the revelation of the gospel, but rather, it is fulfilled in it (cf. Mt. 5:17; Gal. 3:24, and consider that even the OT sacrifices for sin pointed the way to a final sacrifice for sin).

17) Third, Special Revelation is saving.  General Revelation gives the knowledge of God in His creation and through man’s conscience, but it is through special revelation that he can be saved from the judgment to come for his sin and enjoy God forever in relationship. 

18) Thus, Romans 1 ultimately leads to God’s work of salvation in Rom. 3:23-24; 5:1, 10; 6:23; 10:9-10.  Fourth, Special Revelation is verbal.  In General Revelation, there is no speech (Ps. 19:2-3) but in Special Revelation, there is great clarity of Himself in speech, supremely in Christ (cf. John 1:1-3, 14; 6:63; Heb. 1:1-2). 

19) Thus, the Word of God in Special Revelation, which is personal as well, comes not to supplement what people already know but to correct what is distorted and darkened due to sin, and this comes — especially for the believer in Jesus — throughout the NT.  It is in the NT where the apostolic witness explains the Person and life of Christ and completes the divine revelation. 

20) Finally in this section on the knowledge of God, it can be said that for the Church, there is a subordinate revelation, whereby God supernaturally works through the believer and by the working of the Holy Spirit to take His completed revelation and apply it to a person’s life, for his or her benefit (1 Cor. 12:4-11). 

21) It must be stressed, however, that especially through the words of knowledge and wisdom, the word of prophecy, a tongue and interpretation or word of revelation (1 Cor. 14:26) that such moving in the power of the Holy Spirit will never add to, supercede or take away from God’s written word, which is objective, inerrant and infallible truth, revealed for all time. 

22) Rather, such supernatural work will be used by God to apply the word of God to an individual in such a manner that he or she is ministered to in a way that otherwise could not be done and it will have the result of the entire believing community being blessed, with a demonstration of God’s involvement in their midst. 

23) At this point in our study, it will be fitting to offer a practical study on the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, the pinnacle of God’s Special Revelation to people.
  The Inerrancy and Infallibility of Scripture
1) Is the Bible fully reliable?  How do you know?  How do you know Jesus is really God?  How do you know the Virgin Birth is true?  How would you know that the core of your faith – the resurrection of Jesus – is true? How would you know for certain that God really is the Creator of all existence?  How would you know for certain that there really is a heaven and a hell?

2) The answer to the above questions comes from the Special Revelation of Scripture, which God inspired and ensured to be inerrant and infallible, verbally inspired.  The truth is, men wrote the Bible, but the Bible itself claims that God inspired every word. So the question is: Could God entrust His revelation to man in such a way as to ensure its complete reliability – men from all walks of life (shepherds, generals, kings, fishermen, tax-collectors, prime ministers, a doctor, a Pharisee, prophets, farmers and a cupbearer to a king, for example)?

3) Critics (primarily in the 19th and 20th centuries) have long argued, “The Bible is full of contradictions.”  One question I always like to ask such critics is, “Have you ever read the Bible cover-to-cover?”  I also like to ask them to point out the contradictions.  One of my life-long passions has been to study the alleged contradictions of the Bible (coming from the most ardent critics), and I have yet to find one.

4) One form of logic that consistently comes from the critics concerning the Bible’s inspiration from God is that it was written by men (true) and therefore it must contain error.

5) That logic appears impressive until we consider that even fallible man does not always necessarily err.  For example, mankind has come up with numerous infallible truths: In mathematics, for example, 1 + 1 = 2.  That is an infallible truth (and discovery) that anyone can understand.

6) Continuing with that logic, we may go even deeper, when it comes to Algebra, Calculus, Trigonometry, etc: equations that have been discovered as infallible proofs.  Even the great scientific equation, E=MC2 is well-known as an infallible discovery.

7) I use the word discovery because that is precisely what it is, even as the law of gravity and other laws governing the universe have commonly been known as discoveries by mankind. 

8) We come to discover – through patient, honest investigation – that Scripture is indeed inspired by God and kept inerrant and infallible.  This is astonishing, considering that it was written over the course of approximately 1400 years, on three continents, by 40 authors!

9) The Bible is easy enough to understand that a young child can read it and be greatly blessed by it.  Yet it is also deep enough that even the greatest of philosophers (and critics) have acknowledged for centuries the profundity of its depth and intellectual challenge.

10) Thus, there are areas of Scripture that are difficult to understand, but that does not necessarily mean those difficulties are contradictions, any more than an aspect of science or law that appears to contradict another aspect is necessarily contradictory.  With patient investigation, what appears to be contradictory eventually is proven to be otherwise.

11) So it is with Scripture, except Scripture itself claims to be both a natural (e.g. Luke 1:1-3) and supernatural book (2 Tim. 3:16, where the word translated inspired is the Greek word theopneustos, or God-breathed.  Furthermore, Paul says every word of Scripture (pasa graphe) is inspired by God.

12) Moreover, David claims that Scripture is perfect (Ps. 19:7) and supremely, Jesus Himself does the same, even indicating His authorship of it all, along with the Holy Spirit (Mt. 5:17-18; Luke 24:44-45; cf. John 14:26; 16:13).

13) Friends, the truth is, the Bible has absolutely no contradictions, but there are Bible difficulties.  But with careful and patient investigation and proper use of resources such as commentaries, those difficulties can be understood!  (In another study, I would be happy to discuss numerous alleged contradictions).

14) Our next focus in this section will be in three areas: a) What the Bible says about its own inspiration; b) What the early church believed about the Bible; c) What theology says about the Bible.  Theology defined is not simply the study of God but it is really the contents of the Christian faith as set forth in orderly exposition by the Christian community.  Helpful theological terms that describe the inspiration of Scripture include inerrancy and infallibility, just as the Trinity (from the Latin trinitas) is a helpful term to describe the Godhead.

A. What Scripture Says About Itself:  We begin by examining the Old Testament, first in Ps. 19:7-11, where David claims perfection for Scripture (and the NT speaks of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit speaking through him: e.g. Heb. 1:5, 13; 2:12; 4:7; cf. Mt. 22:41-46). 

2) Next, looking back on the completed OT, we examine what Jesus Himself says about the Word of God, which completely reinforces what David wrote: Mt. 5:17-18; Luke 24:44-45. 

3) And what did our Lord say about the Old Covenant versus the New Covenant?  Why was the New Covenant far superior?  Because it was grounded in Him: in His death and resurrection, and in His words of life.  The NT was the fulfillment of the OT.

4) Thus, in light of the above we should carefully examine the following: John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26-27.  For the NT and its perfection we study 2 Tim. 3:16-17 and 1 Tim. 5:18 (it is highly significant that Luke was written in A.D. 60, while Paul wrote 1 Tim. in A.D. 63-66).  We should also note the importance of 2 Pet. 3:14-16 in this matter.

5) In addition, we must note Heb. 1:1-2; 2:1-3, noting especially that this is why God would never add to His special revelation (a man influential in the current “renewal” movement once asked me why God cannot add to Scripture through modern-day prophets and apostles)!

B. The Early Church Fathers: The following early church fathers all wrote about and believed in the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture: Irenaeus (130-200), bishop of Lyons in Gaul/France; Augustine (354-430), bishop of Hippo in North Africa; the theologian Origen (185-254); Jerome, the translator of the Bible into Latin; Polycarp, Tertullian, Cyprian, Athanasius, and Chrysostom, (all 2nd and 3rd centuries) up to Luther and Calvin in the 1500’s, the Westminster Confession, as well as the Roman Catholic Church (until 1962-65). 

2) The only thing that challenged or even altered the prevailing view of inerrancy and infallibility (except among theologically conservative evangelicals) was the advent of rationalism and the Enlightenment of the 18th and 19th centuries, a time when men began to exalt reason above revelation.  The result was that men began to sit in judgment of the word of God, rather than the word of God sitting in judgment of men, as it always has anyway (and always will!).

3) Since that time, higher criticism of the Bible has taken over, with a decidedly anti-supernatural bias (no miracles).  But the attacks of the higher critics against Scripture have proven wrong every time in a variety of ways, chiefly through the constant discovery of historical artifacts and archaeological discoveries, plus, conservative theologians have fairly easily been able to disprove the numerous contradictory writings of the higher critics, whose scholarship continually has proven to be inferior.

4) Still, because man in his sinful state often has muddled thinking, the Bible will continue to come under attack until Jesus comes.  And perhaps the worst attacks are still to come.

C. What Theology Says About Inerrancy and Infallibility: I will offer two definitions of inerrancy and infallibility:  A) Being wholly inspired throughout, all Scripture is without error or fault in its teaching, whether that be creation, the events of world history, the Bible’s own literary origins under God or in its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives through Jesus.   B) Holy Scripture, by its own standard and definition, declares itself to be infallible and inerrant throughout.  By infallible we mean that Scripture is reliable and trustworthy in what it says, a guide that is not deceived and does not itself deceive.  By inerrant, we mean that it is the source of complete truthfulness, containing no mistakes or errors in all its assertions.

2) Now the above certainly doesn’t extend to the copies of the NT, but only to the originals, which are lost to us.  But does that present a problem?  Not at all!  First of all, the copies have minor errors in them, none of which affect a single doctrine. 

3) Secondly, there are approximately 5,300 manuscripts or fragments of the NT in existence today and they agree substantially with one another (and all were found in entirely different geographical areas).

4) By comparison with other ancient literature, the only manuscripts that even come close are 643 copies of Homer’s Iliad, written 900 BC, but the earliest copy is dated 400 BC, 500 years later.  Contrast this with the NT, whose last books, written by John (90 AD) and earliest fragments (dated 125 AD) and earliest manuscripts of most of the entire NT date from 200 AD, only 110 years later.

5) Third, the science of textual criticism takes all the existing copies and stringently and painstakingly compares them with each other to detect copyist errors (an extremely extensive process) to arrive at the wording of the originals.

6) The same God who created the world, who brought forth Jesus from a virgin and raised Him from the dead is certainly able to sovereignly superintend human writers without violating their own style and unique personality and contributions to bring forth an inerrant and infallible product as important as His sacred word, keeping with His principle and desire of accomplishing His work through men.

7) It was not the men themselves who were inspired – though they were certainly filled with the Holy Spirit – but what they wrote under God’s guidance was.  This can be seen in 2 Pet. 1:21, where the word “moved” is the same Greek word used to describe the events of the day of Pentecost and the rush of a mighty wind (Acts 2:2) or Acts 27:15, which describes Paul being taken by ship to Rome, where the ship was carried along or driven by the wind.

8) Were the NT writers aware of their own authority (recall that Jesus has already established the inspiration and authority of the OT writers)?  The answer to that question is yes!  For example, John is clearly aware of his authority and inspiration as an apostle to write in a manner which informs his readers about who the Triune God really is and he is equally aware of his authority to call the reader to complete obedience to Him (1 John 1-2).

9) Likewise, Paul is also aware of God’s commissioning of him to write Scripture (1 Cor.

10) But most importantly, throughout the Bible – 66 books, written by 40 authors, on 3 continents and written over the course of 1400-1500 years – there are no disagreements or contradictions. 

11) But ultimately I want to state what is obvious to every believer and that is the witness to the truth of the Word of God which comes from the Spirit of Truth who resides in each one of us who names Jesus as Lord.  And we accept this by faith – a faith that is entirely reasonable – just as we accept our salvation by faith and it is deeply reinforced. 

12) Some of the greatest skeptics in history have come to faith through reason and logic and some have not; that is a mystery of salvation none of us will ever understand until we get to heaven.  But what you and I can control is the truth; what others do with the truth we share is between them and God.  May His name by greatly praised!

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    Introduction: The Person of the Holy Spirit

“[A]and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:4-5).

“For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power” (1 Cor. 4:20).

1) We begin our study by examining first who the Holy Spirit is: the third Person of the Godhead. It is imperative that we understand that He is equally a Person as the Father and the Son, so that we can speak of the Trinity as one God, eternally existent in three Persons. 

2)                  For that understanding, Gen. 1:1-4 and the use of the term Elohim (in theology we speak of this term as the plural of majesty) introduces us to this concept of His equality with the Father and Son.

3)                  In addition, the ancient Hebrew creed of faith in Deut. 6:4 is equally important, since the words “our God” come from the Hebrew elohenu and “one” is echad, which in Hebrew is not one in isolation but one in unity.  The word is never used in the OT of a stark singularity.

4)                  Echad is used to refer to a bunch of grapes, or that the people of Israel responded as one people, or that Adam and Eve became one flesh (Gen. 2:24).  On the other hand, yachid is the Hebrew word that exclusively means singularity.

5)                  That the Person of the Holy Spirit is indispensable for the Christian life can be seen supremely in how vital He was in the life of Jesus, beginning immediately with His conception (Mt. 1:18; cf. Luke 1:35).

6)                  Thus, we can say that the very incarnation of our Lord would not and could not happen without the Holy Spirit, even as He was also involved in Creation. 

7)                  Next we see our Lord’s empowerment with the Holy Spirit at His baptism (Mt. 3:16), manifested first in His wilderness experience (Luke 4:1, 14) and then in His teaching and pastoral ministry.

8)                  So critical was the Holy Spirit to Jesus in His humanity that He even depended upon Him to give “orders to His apostles whom He had chosen” just before His ascension (Acts 1:2)!

9)                  This is nothing short of astonishing – that the sinless Son of God and Son of Man began His ministry with utter dependence upon the Holy Spirit and in the power of the Holy Spirit. 

10)              As He set the example for His apostles (and for us), we will see that He would not allow them to even go and preach the gospel until they too were empowered by the Holy Spirit.

11)              John’s account of the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus is extraordinary in its connection between the Spirit remaining upon Him and in Jesus baptizing His people with the Holy Spirit (John 1:32-33).

12)              Likewise, it is after the coming of the Holy Spirit upon Him that He then moves to call His disciples — those men who would be trained by Him to choose to follow Him in ways that can only be described as supernatural.

13)              That Jesus Himself moves in the supernatural immediately upon the coming of the Spirit for the purpose of proclaiming the kingdom of God (John 1:35-51; cf. 1 Cor. 2:4-5; Gal. 3:5) is instructive for the pattern of the way His followers must operate (John 14:12-14).

14)              In addition, we see the climax of this empowerment immediately at the beginning of our Lord’s ministry in Luke 4:18, where He clearly refers to and honors the Holy Spirit – not as a mere “power” or “force” — but as a Person

15)              It is also instructive for us that this is the first sermon that Luke records of Jesus – a sermon where He Himself proclaims His dependency upon the Holy Spirit both to fulfill prophecy and to minister to people in the way God intended for Him (and for us) all along.

16)              Everything Jesus did thereafter was in complete dependence upon both the Father and the Spirit (e.g. John 5:19; Mt. 12:28).

17)              Let us marvel and summarize here: our Lord – in His humanity – was entirely dependent upon and empowered by the Holy Spirit!

18)              Finally, Jesus prepared His disciples to understand that likewise, they must depend upon the Holy Spirit to do everything our Lord would call them to do (John 14:16; cf. vv. 12-14). 

19)              The Greek word translated “another” (allon) is another of the same kind, as opposed to heteros, which is another of a different kind

20)              Moreover, the word translated “Helper,” meant to be an advocate for one’s cause; to be called alongside to help; one who provides assistance in difficult situations (cf. Rom. 8:26-27).  Thus, the Holy Spirit did this for Jesus, as Jesus did for His disciples

21)              But once His ascension took place, the disciples would still be empowered by the Holy Spirit, and indeed, by the entire Trinity (cf. Acts; 1 Cor.; Gal. 3:5; etc.).

22)              Thus, if Jesus was fully empowered by the Holy Spirit in living His life on this earth and to do the Father’s work, how much more must we also be empowered by the Holy Spirit? 

23)              God chooses to change people’s lives through ordinary and extraordinary (i.e. supernatural) means, working through His people.

24)              Since His supernatural work can be seen throughout Scripture, we ought therefore to give great heed to what is said, especially since we’re called to allow Him to work through us both ways.

25)              Effectively moving in the supernatural power of God is not easy; it takes time, patience, utter dependence upon God, humility and sound doctrine among other things. People – even God’s people – routinely misunderstand the supernatural.

26)              On the other hand, they are rightly grieved when the supernatural occurs in ways that are unnecessarily flashy, flamboyant or when they are done with lack of regard for the people around them.

27)              Let our model be Jesus and Paul, who sought not to draw attention to themselves, rather than dramatic styles we might pick up from others.

               The Baptism of the Holy Spirit in the Gospels and Acts

28)              It is at this point that we begin to investigate what the NT says about Christ’s own teaching of the Person and work of the Holy Spirit – primarily the baptism of the Holy Spirit (for power in ministry: 1 Cor. 2:4; 4:20). 

29)              First, if you are a Christian, the Bible is absolutely clear that the Holy Spirit already indwells you (Rom. 8:9; Tit. 3:5).  This is the reception of the Holy Spirit for salvation/regeneration.

30)              The moment we come to faith in Jesus, we are saved and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our spirit – formerly dead because of sin – but made alive through Him (Eph. 1:13).

31)              The reception of the Spirit for salvation also results in our immediate adoption as God’s sons or daughters (Rom. 8:15), our immediate forgiveness of sins and redemption from slavery to sin (Eph. 1:7) and our immediate justification (Rom. 4:25), which means we have been declared righteous before God – all through Jesus Christ.

32)              Moreover, we are also immediately sanctified by the Spirit’s indwelling.  To be “sanctified” is to be declared holy – only through the merits of Jesus and our identification with Him (1 Pet. 1:2-3).

33)              Second, the Bible also teaches that there is a baptism of the Holy Spirit that results in boldness and power for and of witness, deepening of fellowship with God and edification and strengthening in prayer. 

34)              Put another way, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is so that God’s people are equipped to minister to others in the power of the Spirit (Zech. 4:6; Luke 4:14; 1 Cor. 2:4-5).

35)              It is particularly noteworthy that all four gospel writers record the promise that Jesus will baptize His people with the Holy Spirit (Mt. 3:11; Mk. 1:8; Lk. 3:16; Jn. 1:33).

36)              We will trace this baptism of the Holy Spirit for power in ministry to others first in the lives of our Lord’s disciples. 

37)              Note first of all Jesus’ additional (and continued) promise of the Holy Spirit to the disciples in John 7:39 and compare this promise along with John 14:16-20, the context of which is Jesus’ announcement of His impending death. 

38)              Next, we look at John 16:7 and note especially the fulfillment of our Lord’s promise on the first day of His 40 days with His disciples after He had been raised from the dead (John 20:19-22). 

39)              In breathing upon His disciples and giving them the Holy Spirit, the disciples finally become born-again men, since Jesus had died for their sins and been raised for their justification (Rom. 4:25). 

40)              Put another way, the disciples could not be born-again without Jesus being raised from the dead first, so that He could send the Holy Spirit to take up residence in their new-born spirit.

41)              It is remarkable that the only time in the NT this Greek word translated “breathed” (emphusao) appears here. 

42)              And it is the same Greek word used in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) in Gen. 2:7 when God breathed the breath of life into Adam and Eve!

43)              We might think that this reception of the Spirit for salvation/regeneration was enough for the disciples to then go and fulfill our Lord’s great commission (Mt. 28:18-20), but astonishingly, it is not!

44)              Instead, on the last day of Jesus’ 40 days of appearances to His disciples, He actually reminds them that there is more to come and that they must not preach for Him until they receive the “promise of the Father” and they are “clothed with power from on high”!

45)              We find these instructions from our Lord in Luke 24:44-53 (cf. Acts 1:1-8).  Jesus’ disciples had already received the Holy Spirit for salvation, but He commands them to wait for more.

46)              For the fulfillment of Luke 24:44-53 and Acts 1:1-8, we need to carefully examine  Acts 2:1-11, 33, 37-39, for the implications of this fulfillment of prophecy are quite broad. 

47)              First, mighty baptism of the Holy Spirit and the accompanying dual sign of tongues and interpretation of tongues was used by God as He said He would in Is. 28:9-16: many came to faith in their Messiah as a result of this and the preaching of the gospel by Peter, but others rebuffed the gracious sign and hardened their hearts!

48)              Thus, the same use of tongues and interpretation of tongues that we see in Acts was common in the church in Corinth as well (1 Cor. 12-14), keeping with Peter’s prophecy that God would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh Acts 2:17-21).

49)              But as we’ll find out later in this study, God designed the baptism of the Holy Spirit for much more for believers as well: for power in ministry; for joy, for boldness and for prayer and edification.

50)              Note carefully that they were “all” filled with the Holy Spirit and we must also see the corresponding promise of the same from v.39 “to you, your children and to all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.” 

51)              We’ll see shortly from Acts 10:44-48 that “all” would include Gentiles as well as Jews.  In addition, the interpretation of the tongues (2:7, 11) was received not “of” their own language but rather “in” their own language.

52)              Thus, the “tongues” was a language in spiritual and transcendent speech, which needed interpretation: they were “other” tongues: divine in origin, human in operation and control, but aided by the Holy Spirit. 

53)              This is the meaning of the Greek word for “other” (heteros): another kind; different in quality.

54)              Furthermore, while there may indeed be historical precedent for speaking in tongues from the Old Testament (the seers of 1 Sam. 10:5ff. had fervor expressed in broken cries and unintelligible speech [cf. also 2 Kings 9:11] and drunkards mocked Isaiah’s babbling speech Is. 28:10-11), the tongues of the NT were a sign of “the last days” according to Peter (Acts 2:15-18).

55)              This accords well with the Greek expert Gerhard Kittel, who in his Theological Dictionary of The New Testament describes “tongues” (the Greek word is glossalalia) as a language of the Spirit – given by the Spirit as a gift (1 Cor. 14:2).[1]

56)              The consistency with what the Holy Spirit did on the day of Pentecost with what He also did for the Gentiles in Acts 10:44-48 is astonishingly remarkable

57)              First, note the word “all” in v.44.  Secondly, note carefully the same result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in v.46: they spoke with tongues, which were followed by an exaltation of God (one definition of the purpose of the ministerial use of tongues with interpretation).

58)              It follows that since Peter could not understand the tongues, the interpretation followed for he and his companions, since they understood the tongues-speaking as “exalting God,” just as on the day of Pentecost (2:11). 

59)              In addition, they heard them “in” their own language (2:8), not “of” their own language. 

60)              The difference appears therefore to be one of interpretation (i.e. God giving the interpretation to them).  Tongues and interpretation is more fully defined years later when Paul explains it in 1 Cor. 12-14 (part two of our study).

61)              Compare this with Acts 19:1-7 and note the similarity with the previous passages, except here, the Ephesian believers were saved and baptized (v.5) and then the Holy Spirit “came on them” (v.6).  

62)              How was this evident?  “They began speaking with tongues and prophesying” (recall Acts 2:17 for “prophesying”), both gifts of the Holy Spirit.

63)              Some argue that these 12 men (v.7) were not saved and did not come to faith in Jesus until Paul’s visit. 

64)              However, the context in this passage shows otherwise: A brief study of Acts 18:24-28 (the immediate context of Acts 19:1-7) will demonstrate that Apollos preached the same gospel of salvation Paul preached, in Ephesus (18:24), where Paul found the 12 disciples of 19:1-7.

65)              It is also clear that Apollos had much to learn about the fullness of the faith, as is evident from Priscilla and Aquila’s ministry to him (18:26), but 18:28 makes clear he clearly understood the most important thing for any preacher: Jesus Christ was raised from the dead to bring forgiveness of sins to anyone who will ask Him.

66)              No doubt, Apollos would later be instructed in the significance of water baptism (cf. Rom. 6:1-11, where the passage focuses upon our identification with Jesus’ own death and resurrection, pictured for us in the symbolism of water baptism). 

67)              Our real identification with Him occurs the moment we receive Him by calling upon His name for forgiveness of sins.

68)              F.F. Bruce, in his commentary on Acts, has a compelling argument that the “disciples” of v.1 were disciples of Jesus, otherwise Luke would have called them John’s disciples.  Regarding their ignorance of the Holy Spirit, Bruce writes,

69)              “More particularly, since they had received John’s baptism, they would presumably have been told that John’s baptism was preparatory, in view of the approach of one who was going to baptize with the Holy Spirit. 

70)              “If so, they did not know that Jesus, in whom they had believed, was the one who would administer this baptism with the Holy Spirit, or that this baptism had now been inaugurated.”[2]

71)              Thus, we see that God is free to pour out His Spirit in whatever manner He chooses, perhaps so that we cannot “box Him in” or perhaps simply because He deals with people differently because they are unique (salvations are likewise usually different from one person to the next).

72)              Keeping the above in mind, let us now close with Acts 8:4-19, noting carefully that Peter and John did not re-baptize the Samaritan believers, as Paul had done with the men in Ephesus. 

73)              Moreover, nothing is said about speaking in tongues or prophesying, but note carefully that Simon “saw that the Spirit was bestowed” and compare again with 2:33.

74)              Likewise, compare Paul’s baptism in the Holy Spirit experience in 9:17-18 (it appears from v.17 that he had already been converted on the road to Damascus; note Ananias’ use of the term “Brother Saul”). 

75)              Nothing is said about the reception and result of tongues, but compare Paul’s own testimony to this in 1 Cor. 14:18-19.

76)              Thus, we’ve plainly seen in Scripture how tongues/praying in the Spirit is the normative result of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and common to the NT churches.

77)              By “normative” I mean that it is a consistent result of this empowerment of the Holy Spirit and that this prayer language is not somehow arbitrarily given to some and not to others by God. 

78)              It is a language that is a critical (not the critical) part of our ability to pray comprehensively (please see the study on

              THE BENEFITS OF THE DEVOTIONAL USE OF TONGUES).

79)              As we continue this study, let’s note how Paul uses the phrase “praying in the Spirit” interchangeably with tongues (1 Cor. 14:13-16; Rom. 8:26; Eph. 6:18; Jude 20).

80)              We conclude with a practical consideration: how do we receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit?  We’ve already seen in Acts that it is often through another believer laying hands on us and praying for us.

81)              But in the case of Cornelius and his family, the Holy Spirit bypassed the laying on of hands and moved directly upon them – saving them and filling them with His power all at once.

82)              The basis for receiving is simply asking (Luke 11:5-13): We receive this glorious baptism just like we received Jesus as Lord – by asking!

83)              We conclude this study with Luke’s theological emphasis on the purpose and on the results of the baptism of the Holy Spirit: the purpose was and is for power in ministry (Acts 1:8).

84)              The results can be seen in Acts 2:42-47, where we see a deepening of fellowship (vv.42, 46); the reality of God’s presence (vv.43); humility and joy (vv.44, 46-47); generosity (v.45) and worship and the salvation of the lost (v.47).

85)              From Acts 3 we can see the deepening reality of God’s presence, Spirit-led, great boldness and the work of power in Peter’s life.  And of course, a man who was never able to walk leapt for joy, praising God (3:8)!

86)              The same can be seen repeatedly in Acts 4, with the additional aspect of continuing praise to God and joy among the people for the miraculous healing (v.21). 

87)              We see powerful discernment from Peter in Acts 5:1-11 and power, favor and salvation in vv.12-16 and great, Spirit-led boldness in vv.29-32, 41-42.

88)              Luke mentions more salvations in 6:1 and now Stephen – not an apostle – moves in miraculous power in vv. 8, 10.  We should not that in v.55, Luke records him as “being full of the Holy Spirit” with the result that he could actually see Jesus in heaven.

89)              In Acts 8:4-8, we find another non-apostle – Philip – moving in great power, so that the paralyzed and lame were healed and “there was much rejoicing in that city” (v.8), along with salvations from his preaching and power (v.12).

90)              Another non-Apostle – Ananias – is used by God to lay hands upon Saul so that Saul was healed of blindness and filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:10-18).  And we know the results that followed that one act of obedience on the part of Ananias!

91)              These are just some examples of the results of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and now we can see why Jesus told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they were clothed with power from on high.

92)              The power of the Holy Spirit can be seen continually beyond Acts as well in so many other churches (e.g. 1 Cor. 12-14; Gal. 3:5).

               Part Two: The Devotional and Ministerial Usage of Tongues

In Part One of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, we studied this promise to God’s people and its fulfillment in the Gospels and in Acts and we noted the consistency of its result: the gift of tongues, whether the writers (especially Luke in Acts) showed directly the use of tongues as a result of the Holy Spirit coming upon the believers or whether they implied this action.

1)      Now, we’ll see that tongues remains consistent as a result of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, whether they are discussed among the Christians at Corinth, Ephesus, Rome, or among the believers to whom Jude wrote.

2)      We will learn from Paul and Jude the purpose of tongues as it is seen in its dual purpose as a prayer language and part of an individual’s prayer life for help and edification (the “devotional” use of tongues) and the ministerial use of tongues (where tongues come forth as a gift of the Spirit and which must be accompanied by interpretation). 

3)      It will be crucial to see and understand that there is a clear distinction between the two usages of tongues!

4)       First, we look at the devotional use of tongues, which is also called “praying in the Spirit” and done for the edification, upbuilding, strength and help of the believer (1 Cor. 14:4-5; Jude 20-21, where the Greek in 1 Cor. 14:5 is literally, “I want you all to speak in tongues”). 

5)      In our attempt to understand this devotional use of tongues, let us also recall that tongues, or prayer in the Spirit is a language of the Spirit (Acts 2:4).  Moreover, we must stress that this prayer language is solely between the believer and God (1 Cor. 14:2).

6)      Next, we see from 1 Cor. 14:14-15 that the believer controls this prayer language, yet still in dependence upon the Spirit (just as he or she is in any aspect of prayer). 

7)      Again, we should see that praying in tongues or praying in the Spirit is a spiritual – not a mental exercise.

8)      Put another way, Christians at times are led by the Holy Spirit to pray in tongues or to pray with their understanding (i.e. in the human language they speak).

9)      For additional insight into why Paul says he doesn’t understand what it is that he is praying when he prays in the Spirit, note Rom. 8:26-27 (where the immediate background is “we do not know how to pray as we should”) and Jude 20-21, where the purpose of this language is for help and edification

10)  Eph. 6:18 (cf. 1 Cor. 14:15, where Paul uses the same terminology to describe this prayer language as he does in Eph. 6:18 and as Jude does in vv.20-21) includes praying in the Spirit as part of a normative prayer life.

11)  In addition, see 1 Cor. 14:1-5, 16-20, which leads us into a discussion of the ministerial (“ministerial” because it edifies others) use of tongues as one of the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:1, 7-11; 14:26), which must always be accompanied by the gift of interpretation (inspired, of course, by the Holy Spirit) and which is done in a gathering of believers. 

12)  The usage of these “twin” gifts will result in edification (v.5; 14:12-13) and a sign for unbelievers (14:21-23) when exercised properly (i.e. with an interpretation and not with believers in a church gathering praying in tongues).

13)  The classic misunderstanding of some – that tongues are not for everyone – comes in 1 Cor. 12:30.  But in context (vv. 7-11, 28-31), Paul is clearly describing the ministerial use of tongues as a gift of the Holy Spirit – not the devotional use of tongues as part of one’s prayer life.

14)  That is, in a gathering of believers, all are not to speak in their prayer language at once (1 Cor. 14:19, 23).  However, when one or two or three give a tongue (1 Cor. 14:27) and each instance is interpreted by the power of the Holy Spirit, edification results (1 Cor. 14:5) and there is a powerful witness to unbelievers as well. 

15)  The reason for this has been seen already: the Holy Spirit uses these supernatural occurrences to manifest His presence (1 Cor. 12:7-11).

16)  The particular reason that we can understand that the above context is ministerial is that the use of tongues is accompanied by its interpretation (v.10, 30) and the background is when believers gather together (1 Cor. 11:18; 12:7).

17)  We’ve already seen in Acts that one definition of an interpretation of a tongue is that of exalting God (2:11; 10:46), but Paul shows us in 1 Cor. 14:6 that there are additional interpretations of a tongue that result in “revelation” (probably here meaning something of an edifying nature for the church), “knowledge” (perhaps, in context, a “word of knowledge,” according to 1 Cor. 12:8), or prophecy or teaching (likely a form of Spirit-inspired teaching as opposed to a formal teaching, since this is all done spontaneously).

18)  Incidentally, the broader context of 1 Cor. 13 is a discussion of how the church ought to exercise the gifts of the Spirit: in love.  Love is not a gift but a fruit of the Spirit.  Tongues are necessary for this age, but not the next (vv.8-11). 

19)  The “greater gifts” are those Paul mentions in 1 Cor. 12:31 and the other seven gifts of the Holy Spirit already described in 12:7-11 (and especially prophecy:14:1).

20)  We also need a word here about Paul’s use of “the perfect” in v.8 (ta teleion, the fulfillment, goal, completion, end), which many evangelicals have held to be the Bible.

21)  While I earnestly agree the Bible is perfect – it is inspired by God and thus inerrant and infallible – proper exegesis sees “the perfect” in its context (cf. v.11 and chapter 15 for the broader context) as the return of Christ, inaugurating the millennium. 

22)  This event accords well with the neuter case of the Greek for “perfect”; it relates to the event of the return of Christ, when the gifts will no longer be necessary, since “the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea” (Is. 11:9).

23)  Remember, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is for all believers (Acts 2:39), and one of its powerful results is the beauty of the language of the Spirit for help and strengthening.  The baptism and prayer language is received by simply asking God, in faith (Lk. 11:13).

24)  We receive the baptism by faith just as we received Jesus by faith.  As for our prayer language, remember that we trust God with that as well and we begin to speak in faith, as the Spirit gives the utterance, and resist fearing what we may not be able to logically figure out with our finite minds, though we’ve received quite rational teaching from the Word of God. 

 

                THE BENEFITS OF THE DEVOTIONAL USE OF TONGUES                                                           

                  Scriptures and Their Benefits on the Devotional Usage of the Prayer Language of the Holy Spirit

                  Introduction

 1)      Once again, the Greek word in the title, above – glossalalia – means tongues, or literally, a language of the Spirit.

2)      This plural language — given by the Spirit as a gift to believers in Jesus Christ as part of the normal Christian life (1 Cor. 14:2) – is simply one aspect in a broadly diverse means of prayer with God.

3)      As seen in my teaching on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, this gift is for all believers in Jesus, as Peter makes clear on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:39) and it is but one way of enabling us to live in the power of the Holy Spirit.

4)      And has there ever been a day in this age when the followers of Jesus Christ – especially in America – need the power of the Holy Spirit more, to live victoriously and to be His witnesses? 

5)      That is why I offer this teaching: to bring clarity and understanding on such a beautiful, extraordinary gift from God that too many denigrate for very ignorant reasons. 

6)      I pray that the Lord use this teaching to encourage and stir you to frequently pray in the Spirit, as well as in your normal, human language!

7)      1 Cor. 14:2: The benefit of this language of the Holy Spirit: it is a prayer language to God.  The Greek present tense of the word “speaks” means this is an ongoing activity and benefit.

8)      1 Cor. 14:4: An additional benefit of this heavenly language is personal edification: The building up of one’s self (how often do you need personal edification? 

9)      This is one of many ways that God graciously gives us to be edified.  Note again that the speaking is in the present tense (ongoing activity and benefit).

10)  1 Cor. 14:5: Speaking/praying in tongues/in the Spirit (the Bible uses all three terms) is encouraged by Paul, but not all at once in a gathering of people who may not yet have this language, or if unbelievers are present (v.23).

11)  1 Cor. 14:14-15: Benefit: when someone prays in the Spirit (recall that this is a language of the Spirit, given to people who speak it, with His aid), his or her spirit is praying.  That is, our spirit is joined together with the Holy Spirit, who in lending His language to us knows exactly the need of the moment (Rom. 8:26).

12)  We’ve already established that this prayer language to God brings edification to our spirit and Paul notes from Rom. 8:26 that we are at times weak in knowing “what” (literally) to pray “as we should” (literally, “according to what is necessary”).

13)  Thus, the Holy Spirit in helping us “intercedes” for us.  The Greek word here refers to a “rescue by one who ‘happens on’ one who is in trouble and ‘in his behalf’ pleads with ‘unuttered groanings’ or with ‘sighs that baffle words.’”[3]

14)  We’ll return to 1 Cor. 14:14-15 in a moment, but for now we turn to Eph. 6:18, where Paul’s focus is also on intercession for others. 

15)  Thus, from Rom. 8:26 and Eph. 6:18 we can derive another benefit: that prayer in the Spirit not only benefits us – it benefits others as well, when used in intercession!

16)  Three additional benefits to praying in the Spirit in 1 Cor. 14:14-15 are balance, singing and a variety of means of communicating with God.  First, we see balance because Paul is aware that when he prays in the Spirit, it is strictly (in this case) a time of edifying his spirit.

17)  But desiring to engage his mind as well, he also prays in his native tongue (for Paul, it would have been either in Aramaic, Hebrew or Greek). 

18)  That’s balance and balance is healthy to the Christian life!  Second, Paul can “sing with the Spirit” and we know that brings joy to the believer.

19)  The third benefit from these two verses alone is another means of effective, Spirit-led communication with God, especially in times of “weakness” in prayer (Rom. 8:26).

20)  In 1 Cor. 14:18, the context of Paul’s statement is not one of boasting: the Corinthians are defensive in thinking he is trying to outlaw completely speaking in tongues as a devotional practice and as a ministerial practice.

21)  In this verse, he shows them otherwise: speaking in tongues is so important, so beneficial, that Paul does it all the time (vv.14-15, 18)! 

22)  But in a church setting, the devotional use of this prayer language is not to be used; only its ministerial use is permitted (that is, accompanied by an interpretation for the edification of the church body and witness to the unbeliever, v.23).

23)  Beloved, do you see the difference in purpose between the personal, devotional use of tongues and its ministerial use?  It is for one’s own edification. 

24)  The ministerial use is for the edification of people in general, when accompanied by an interpretation.  It is exciting that our supernatural God allows us to walk in the supernatural as well!

25)  We have one last reference from the New Testament concerning the devotional use of tongues or prayer in the Spirit (recall: the language is from and of the Spirit, spoken by the believer and aided by the Spirit. 

26)  That is, the believer works in harmony with the Holy Spirit in this manner of prayer, just as he or she does in any and every aspect of the Christian life anyway): Jude 20-21.

27)  Once again, the benefit, according to Jude, is edification (“building yourselves up”) and note the sacredness of his language: “on your most holy faith.”  How is this done?  It is once again through prayer “in the Holy Spirit.”

28)  Additionally, the connection between vv.20-21 is that this prayer language is also a means of keeping ourselves “in the love of God.” Moreover, it is a way of helping ourselves to wait “anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life” (v.21).

29)  Jude’s reference in v.21 is to our Lord’s return (cf. vv.18, 24): he’s speaking to people who are already believers and thus praying in the Spirit has nothing to do with obtaining eternal life.

30)  The last benefit of our devotional use of tongues is that we can be used by God to give a tongue in a gathering of believers and also be used by Him to interpret it (unless someone else comes forth with the interpretation).

31)  The ministerial use of tongues has only happened to me about twice since 1983, but I have given many interpretations of others who have given a tongue, probably because God uses me with the gift of prophecy, which is one of the definitions (and means) of the interpretation of tongues.  That, of course, belongs to the next study on the ministerial use of tongues.

32)  My prayer for you is that you would ask God to baptize you with His Holy Spirit so that you might enjoy more and all of what He has for you and that like Jesus our Lord, you would have the power of the Holy Spirit when ministering to others!


[1] Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged in One Volume, by Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 123.

[2] F.F. Bruce, The New International Commentary of the New Testament: The Book of Acts (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 363.

[3] Fritz Rienecker, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, ed. Cleon Rogers (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 367.

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HOW CAN A LOVING GOD ALLOW SUFFERING? Part Two
God’s Fault or the Fault of Society?
Pastor Brad Matthew Abley

1) Here is another common question from the critic, or sometimes, the sincere seeker: If evil causes suffering, why doesn’t God stop evil if He’s so powerful?  For Him to stop evil, He would have to remove free will.  To be consistent or “fair” He would have to do this for all, not for a select few (as we’ll understand in a moment as we briefly study the Ten Commandments)! 
2) What about your own evil?  Do you want Him to begin with you?  What if every time you wanted your own way, God put a constraint on your decision-making?  Be honest!  How would you like that?
And how do you think another would feel if you had the power to force them to obey your every wish?  How would you feel if the tables were turned?
3) From a study of Ex. 20:1-17 (recall James 2:10) we can understand that God is incorruptible while we’re corruptible and thus our absolute and urgent need of Him. 
Read and comment on it.  The outcome: Jesus obeyed the commandments perfectly, and what evil did He bring to the earth?  What about Paul and the rest of the disciples?
4) James and John wanted to bring fire down from heaven upon those who refused to follow Jesus, but He rebuked them and turned them around from those who would use power to bring suffering to those who would use power to bring good (Luke 9:51-56).
5) Thus, suffering is clearly the fault of society in rebellion against God, for “Evil can only exist in something as a corruption of what ought to be there.”
Thus, according to Gal. 6:7-9, sometimes we can understand why suffering exists and sometimes, we cannot Luke 13:1-5), though God still gives us the ability to make a difference through our own lives, as can be seen in the next paragraph:
6) We can be an extraordinary part of the solution to suffering through one of the most satisfying things in all of life: prayer, which can move the heart and hand of God Himself – the best part of our free will (e.g. Gen. 18:16-33; Jer. 5:1-2; Ez. 23:30; Dan. 2; cf. James 4:2b)!

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HOW CAN A LOVING GOD ALLOW SUFFERING? Part Three
A Moral Universe and the Importance of Prayer
Rev. Brad Matthew Abley

1) God created men and women in His own image and likeness (Gen. 1:16-27) and therefore a major part of this is that like God, we are moral beings, and thus it is our responsibility to live moral lives.  But sin has deeply damaged us, our relationships with others and the world itself and this is the cause for misunderstandings, arguments, envy, hostility, hatred, war and many other evils besides.

2) God has provided four major solutions to suffering and evil: First, God is love (1 John 4:8, 16) and demonstrates that love by sending His own Son – God the Son – to be the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).

3) Propitiation (cf. 1 John 4:14; Heb. 2:17; Rom. 3:25) is the appeasing of God’s wrath against sin and the resultant reconciliation.  It can also be translated expiation: The extinguishing of guilt and the payment of the penalty for sin by death (so serious is sin before God).
4) The second major solution God has provided for this world to free us from suffering and evil: Jesus’ life on earth was the perfect demonstration of how human beings ought to treat each other. 

5) God’s third major solution to suffering and evil: He has given us Scripture and ensured its infallibility and inerrancy through His very own inspiration to instruct us in how to live.  

6) God’s fourth major solution to suffering and evil is one of the most overlooked and underestimated solutions there is, and yet another of the most satisfying things in all of life: Prayer, which can move the heart and hand of God Himself – the best part of our free will (e.g. Gen. 18:16-33; Jer. 5:1-2; Ez. 23:30; Dan. 2; cf. James 4:2b; John 14:12-14; 15:7; 16:24; 1 John 3:21-22; 5:14-15; Luke 19:1-8)!

7) Thus, we’ve learned that humanity is in partnership with God, as a parent is in partnership with his or her son or daughter – for life, for joy and companionship, for good and for blessing.

8) When a child rebels against his or her parent, the bond of trust is broken, the relationship suffers and evil fills the gap of what was intended (see the above paragraph).

9) Thus, the suffering and evil are not the fault of the parent but of the child.  Likewise, suffering and its consequent evil are not God’s fault but the fault of humanity.

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