Backgrounds of the Restoration Movement: The Lisbon Earthquake, The Prosperity Gospel, and Some Other Stuff, Part 3

passioncartoonThere are a lot of false gospels out there. One is the notion that Christians will live happy, stress-free, burdenless lives. This gospel is manifested in calendars and wall plaques that quote just the happy, uplifting verses. And those verses are real, but they are not a complete description of the gospel. After all, Christians suffer loss, have spouses and friends and children die too young, go bankrupt, and otherwise suffer many of the same misfortunes as anyone else.

And sometimes, when a Christian has been fed a steady diet of feel-good Christianity and they suffer a hard loss, they lose their faith — or they struggle not only with the loss but also with the threat to their Christianity. How could God have let me suffer like this, when I’m good Christian? Aren’t Christians supposed to be able to rejoice and be glad in every single day?

On the other side of the ledger is the Christian who finds all his hope in heaven. This life is a vail of tears, the valley of death. We just endure the misery of this existence in hopes of a better place after we die.

Such Christians are often legalists, because they figure a bunch of burdensome rules fit this existence perfectly well. God never meant for us to be happy until later, anyway. So being miserable in church is the price we pay for our reward at the end.

Such Christians make pretty lousy evangelists, and because they don’t see the God who is behind the scriptures, they don’t understand the scriptures. They make themselves and their followers miserable — and figure that somehow this pleases God.

When they suffer hardship, their faith is just fine. They’ve gotten so used to misery, they don’t know how else to be.

The actual gospel is quite a different thing, and one good example of the contrast is the book of Philippians. Paul wrote this while in a Roman prison, and the theme of the book is —

(Phil 4:4)  Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

But we need to start closer to the beginning.

(Phil 1:14-18)  Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. 15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,

Why does Paul rejoice? Not because he’s in prison, but because his imprisonment has led to the preaching of Christ. To Paul, the mission — Christ — is far more important than his own misfortunes, and this attitude allows him to find true joy in times that would destroy the faith of others.

It’s not that he’s a Christian, precisely. It’s that he’s entirely sold out to the mission of Christ. Christianity doesn’t produce the joy promised in this epistle until we gain the same attitude as Paul.

(Phil 1:21-26)  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.

Again, why does Paul prefer to live — in prison — rather than die and be in the arms of Jesus? Why choose this earthly life over life with Jesus? Because of … the mission. He knows that his life gives joy to the Philippians. There is no selfishness in Paul — he’d rather suffer in the life, and so encourage young Christians, than be in bliss in the next life.

(Phil 1:27-30)  Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved–and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

Immediately after speaking of giving joy to the Philippian Christians, Paul encourages them to be “contending as one man for the faith of the gospel” without fear as this shows that God will save them. Courage in the face of persecution demonstrates the reality of the gospel! And allows the church to experience joy in the face of persecution.

Notice that Paul’s charge isn’t merely to endure persecution. He urges them to “contend” for the gospel. This hardly means to be contentious, as some seem to think! Rather, the word is an allusion to wrestling. We might say “grapple.” “Struggle” or “strive” would be the sense. Strive, fight, grapple — as one man — for the gospel. It’s not a fight against each other, but a fight against the powers of evil. It’s doing the mission, recognizing that there is an enemy fighting against you every step of the way.

When you think this way, persecution seems like the most natural, predictable outcome of your service to Christ. It’s not a shock that life is hard. Of course, it’s hard! Satan is losing and fighting back for all he’s worth!!

(Phil 2:5-13)  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

What does it mean to be like Jesus? It means surrendering what you have and giving it all up for God. Jesus “made himself nothing.” The Greek word is kenosis, which refers to self-emptying. God had a task for him, and he gave up everything to do it — even his place in heaven with God. As a result, God gave him even greater honor. Honor comes from self-emptying.

This is not the self-emptying of the ascetic. It’s not denying oneself the pleasures of God’s creation. Rather, it’s doing whatever is necessary to accomplish God’s purposes.

Vv. 12-13 are the “therefore.” We are called to “work out” our salvation. “Work out” translates katergozomai, meeting to work to completion: finish the task you began. Why? Because to be like Jesus you have finish the task, even if it means your own death. Do the mission!

But, Paul assures his readers, as hard as this can be, God will be working on their hearts and minds to give them the desire and strength to do exactly that. Just as Moses taught in Deuteronomy 30:6, it is God who will circumcise our hearts, changing us to be the people he wants. We are not being asked to serve God’s purposes alone or without help.

(Phil 2:14-18)  Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16 as you hold out the word of life–in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

“Shine like stars” is a reference to Daniel’s prophecy —

(Dan 12:2-3)  Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.

Paul speaks of the Philippians as though they had already been resurrected and given their spiritual bodies — which is true, in a sense. Our baptism is a rebirth and creates a new creation. We can’t see the glow with our human eyes, but we nonetheless shine.

One part of this shining is that they “hold out the word of life.” They are active in God’s mission, they are a city on a hill, a light in a dark room. And the fact that the Philippian church shines — by showing forth the glory of God to others — gives Paul joy even as he is “being poured out” as a drink offering.

There’s a subtle but essential point here. We tend to that “offering” or “sacrifice” is something done to obtain forgiveness of sins. And sometimes that’s true, and this is the language the New Testament uses to speak of Jesus’ sacrificial death. But there was also a host of thanks offerings — giving to God in gratitude for his blessings. See, for example, Leviticus 23:4-14.

Therefore, when Paul says he’s being poured out “like a drink offering” — he’s referring to an offering of gratitude! His imprisonment and possible death are acts of gratitude toward God!

(Phil 4:10-13)  I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

There is plenty more to learn from Philippians, but for the sake of time, we skip ahead to Paul’s summary. His summary is simple: I’ll be content — satisfied, unconcerned — no matter how awful my surrounding circumstances are. After all, the worst they can do to me is kill me, and that would be nothing but gain!

“I can do everything” isn’t a boast that he’ll accomplish all he tries. Rather, the sense is: no matter what I have to do for Jesus — suffer persecution, beatings, prison, or death — I can do it through the Lord, because the Lord gives me the strength to do it.

Paul was, you see, totally sold out to God’s mission on earth. Therefore, he was able to find joy — true joy — in whatever circumstance. He could see his own suffering as a gift of gratitude toward God.

True Christianity lives in the tension between the blessings of God and difficulties of this life. Both are true. We don’t have to wait for death to enjoy God’s presence with us. But neither does Christianity immunize us from difficulties. In fact, done right, Christianity produces tough times.

The deepest joys of Christianity aren’t found in getting to play church league basketball and listen to great contemporary Christian music and having pot roast with friends in small groups. The deepest joys are found in paying whatever price is necessary to show forth the glory of God, to fight against the Curse, to shine like stars in a dark world. It’s in seeing God working through disasters like an earthquake or hurricane, in seeing God change the world to be a little better through his disciples, in winning victories over Satan, and in learning to see the world as God sees it.

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52 Responses

  1. Our baptism is a rebirth and creates a new creation.

    Water baptism is not our rebirth that creates a new creation.

    The baptism of the Holy Spirit is our rebirth and He creates a new creation.

  2. Jay, when you draw your conclusions with lots of support of and quotations from the scriptures, you are usually spot on. You are spot on here, and it is a good observation. Interestingly, you never once quoted the Bible in your prior two posts accusing our more traditional brothers.

    It is a good lesson for us – when we stick to the scriptures we rarely will go off track.

    God bless.

  3. A note of caution: It is easy to fall into worshiping the mission instead of worshiping God. “The Mission” can become our God.

  4. Jay has given a good lesson but not when he spoke about our baptism.

  5. Dwayne,

    This is a good point. I think that is was Oswald Chambers rthat observed that too often we try convert someone to our mission or our cause rather than to the Saviour.

    God bless.

  6. “Water baptism” is a phrase that never appears in the Bible. It’s a redundancy, along the lines of “water swimming” or “water bathing.”

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  7. Mark 1:7-8 “And he preached, saying, “There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

    I believe the Bible shows there is a baptism with water and there is a baptism with the Holy Spirit.

  8. Anonymous,
    Are you trying to provoke an argument? Twice in less than half an hour you commented on Jay’s passing comment on baptism being the new birth. Jay neither said nor implied that baptism is all that is involved in the new birth – but there are many Biblical allusions to baptism and the new birth.

    John 3:5 links water and Spirit with the new birth.
    Titus 3:5 speaks of the “washing of regeneratiion [new birth] and renewal of the Holy Spirit”
    Matthew 28:19 directs baptism to be “into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”
    Acts 19:1-5 shows some disciples being baptized in the name of the Lord after having previously experienced John’s baptism when they learned that the Holy Spirit was given.
    Acts 2:38 promises the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who repent and are baptized in the name of the Lord.
    1 Peter 1:3 & 3:21 respectively link the new birth and baptism to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
    Romans 6:3-4 says we are baptized into Christ’s death that we might share in His resurrection to walk in “newness of life”
    Galatians 3:26-27 says we are sons of God by faith because we have been baptized into Christ.

    These are but a few of the Biblical references on this matter.

    The Patristic fathers (2nd & 3rd century Christian writers) used “the new birth” and “baptism” virtually interchangeably.

    If you want to argue about the new birth not having anything to do with baptism, you are arguing against the preponderence of the evidence, both in the Bible and in the early post-apostolic church.

    The Reformed wing of the Protestant Reformation divorced the new birth from baptism as a reaction to the Catholic abuse of the Biblical doctrine concerning baptism. In this, they ran from Rome past Jerusalem back to Sinai. Later, some came back toward the Jerusalem gospel by teaching believers’ baptism, but still stripped baptism of a vital connection with the new birth.

  9. Eph 4:5 says there is one baptism. This baptism has two elements – water and Spirit. Do not separate what God has joined.

  10. Dwayne,
    For Paul, the “mission” was Christ.

    “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21).
    “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…. at the name of Jesus every knee should bow… and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:5, 10, 11)
    “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death….” (Phil 3:10)
    “…that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends.” (Phil 4:1)

    Every chapter of the book Jay used stresses that for Paul, unlike many today, the mission was Jesus.

    You are right, though, in pointing out that for some the mission is like those who wanted the Galatians to be circumcised so they could “boast about your flesh” (Gal. 6:13). Paul’s boasting, however, was only in the cross of Christ (Gal 6:14).

  11. I am showing what me and others believe.

    John the Baptist made it clear that Jesus would baptize us with the Holy Spirit who is the seal of our salvation (Ephesians 13-14) but yet some don’t recognize the baptism of the Holy Spirit in other Scripures.

    John 3:5 Jesus was trying to explain to Nicodemus who was thinking of being born in the physical sense that he also needed to be born again of the Spirit. Jesus told Nicodemus that which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of Spirit is spirit and repeats that Nicodemus needed to be born again.

    John 3:6-7 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.”

    Jesus was saying we must be born again of the Spirit.

    It is clear Nicodemus was thinking of being born in the sense of physical birth. Jesus didn’t tell Nicodemus to be baptized to be born again as some want it to say. Right after Jesus’ reference to born of water and Spirit Jesus speaks of two births a physical birth and a Spirit birth and born again is the second birth of the Spirit.

    Titus 3:5 is not water baptism but the washing of regeneration and renewing done in us by the baptism of His Spirit, “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit”

    Matthew 28:19 I agree it is obedient to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    Acts 19:1:5-6 shows they didn’t receive the Holy Spirit when they were baptized but when Paul laid his hands on them, “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.”

    Acts 2:38 it was repentance that brought forgiveness of sins not water baptism, 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

    1 Peter 3:21 is the baptism of His Holy Spirit, Jesus’ blood He gave on the cross takes away our sins and the Holy Spirit gives us a good conscience toward God.

    Romans 6:4 is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Romans 6:5 is speaking about the symbolism in which the likeness we are water baptized.

    Galatians 3:26 says we are his children through faith, faith comes before water baptism. Galatians 3:27 we are baptized into Christ with the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

    You didn’t show Cornelius’ household who received the Holy Spirit before they were baptized, Acts 10:43-44 “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins. While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.”

  12. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the one baptism not water baptism.

  13. I am constantly amazed at the apostle Paul’s perspective on his life and ministry. I’m sure that he wanted to reach multitudes of people with his preaching, but instead he spent several years in jail or prison reaching only a few at a time. He could have been frustrated by his lack of opportunities. He could have given up since he was not nearly as effective as he probably thought he could have been. (Who hasn’t felt the same when looking at the world’s need for Christ and our relatively small successes at reaching the people of the world?)

    However, Paul never complained. He just kept on reaching whomever he could. Nobody was too insignificant for his attention. And he was thankful for every person who became a follower of Jesus Christ. He always rejoiced with them, rather than despair over those he could not reach. He wanted to reach the masses (especially massive numbers of Jewish people), but he rejoiced when a single individual was saved.

    I want to be like Paul. I want to reach as many as possible, but I don’t want to despair when my opportunities are limited (either by my circumstances or by my inabilities). Like the apostle Paul, I want to celebrate the salvation of every single person who has been led to Christ.

  14. Is it not possible that water baptism is the instrument to Spirit baptism, after Pentecost. John the Baptist, could not give the Spirit, and Jesus only promised it after he left. It seems that the link of wate & Spirit is strong in Acts 2:38.
    God can give the Spirit anytime he wants. Moses had it, and so did the seventy elders. (Numb 11) There is no promise to continue it, and it seems for the 70 it was for a breif time.
    Baptism of the Spirit in the NT apart from what’s given at water baptism seems to be a rare event, including Jesus’ baptism, Pentecost tongues of fire, Cornelius, and laying of apostles hands. Perhaps it occurred more often than recorded. 1 Cor 13 maybe saying that special gifts, which is connected with apostle’s hands, is fading, maybe in era or like the 70, in giftee’s lives. However just like the 70 God can have a new outpouring of the Spirit anytime He wants.

  15. Larry,

    1 Cor 12:13 says we are all baptized in one Spirit (ASV). The Greek word used here is ‘en’ the common word for “in” and the same word John the Baptist used when he said Jesus would baptize “with” the Holy Spirit.

    Baptism is more than in water; it is also in Spirit. Thus, all children of God receive this. 1 Corinthians 12 goes on to separate this, which all have (v. 13), from the spiritual gifts, which not every one has (vv.27-30).

  16. 1 Corinthians 12:13 says we are baptized by one Spirit which is the baptism of the Holy Spirit not water baptism. “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free–and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”

  17. Jesus’ blood is sufficient to take away our sins. There is one Mediator between God and men Jesus Christ our Savior.

    1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus”

  18. Anonymous,
    Why, then, is water so consistently mentioned in the New Testament in connection with water – and the Scripture still says there is “one baptism”. Does 1 Cor 10:2 give us a paradigm for there being one baptism in two separate elements?

  19. The Bible gives proof that God accepts people before they are water baptized. Acts 10:43-44 Cornelius and his household received the Holy Spirit before they were water baptized. That does not fit your theology saying people aren’t accepted by God until they are water baptized.

  20. Jay is coming along quite well. There are two elements of baptism, one seen and one unseen. JOHN 3:
    5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
    6 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
    7 “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’
    8 “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
    Water comes first in mention in this passage and is an acknowledged reference to water baptism- this is the ‘seen’ part. ” Spirit “, which is capitalized, is a reference to the Holy Spirit which is the ‘unseen’ part. It should be noted that scripture from Genesis 1 thru Revelation uphold the role of the Spirit as life-giving, thus the seen element of water baptism (think of voluntary drowning) kills the ‘old man of sin’ and the ‘unseen’ Spirit resurrects the believer into new life. The major problems comes about when a person is insincere / unrepentant and only get water baptized to appease others or God. If baptism is made out to be a “magical get-out-hell ritual” , then this will occur often. What then is the result? Baptized, but not born-again Christians will result. ‘Holy Spirit baptism’, of which you refer, is a different subject and it is understandable that the two become confused. The term used is misleading. Properly, what you refer to as Holy Spirit Baptism should be more accurately described as “being filled with the Spirit” (Acts 2)

  21. The meaning of what Jesus was saying to Nicodemus comes from the context of His and Nicodemus’ conversation not from the word water which by the way isn’t baptizo-baptism.

    John 3:5 Jesus was trying to explain to Nicodemus who was thinking of being born in the physical sense that he also needed to be born again of the Spirit. Jesus told Nicodemus that which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of Spirit is spirit and repeats that Nicodemus needed to be born again.

    John 3:6-7 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.”

    Jesus was saying we must be born again of the Spirit.

    It is clear Nicodemus was thinking of being born in the sense of physical birth. Jesus didn’t tell Nicodemus to be baptized to be born again as some want it to say. Right after Jesus’ reference to born of water and Spirit Jesus speaks of two births a physical birth and a Spirit birth and born again is the second birth of the Spirit.

  22. Anonymous, could you please define more clearly what you mean by baptism of the Holy Spirit ? The traditional teachings of many of the churches of christ do not include many of your understandings, as a primary focus has been to distance themselves from “denominations”. There are so many misunderstanding of terms, that thorough explaination is absolutely necessary. It has taken me about a year of intense study to understand where you are coming from, having been raised in the church of christ.

  23. When people were told to be baptized on the day of Pentecost, did any of them say, “I’m sorry… baptized in what?” People then knew what baptism was. In the last few hundred years, some have tried to change that understanding.

    It’s sad, though, that a fine post is being diluted by a tangential discussion. Jay has some posts on baptisms; if “Anonymous” is truly interested in learning and sharing what they have learned, I suggest reading those posts and engaging the conversation there.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  24. When I was baptized I knew that I was being baptized with water, but I also knew Jesus had already saved me that I was already accepted by God before I was water batized.

  25. before I was water baptized. (sp)

  26. And by the way I made two one sentence comments about baptism, one of them complimenting Jay on a good post. Other people decided to also comment about baptism. So maybe you should direct them to another post too.

  27. I believe it is when we receive God’s Holy Spirit it is when we are united as one with the God and Jesus. I can’t think of anything better except for the day that I will be in heaven with God and Jesus for the rest of eternity.

  28. Anonymous, Thanks for the clarity. I agree. Now, I have a question: can someone be baptized and receive the gift of the Spirit, but not at that time receive Spirit baptism? We have bible examples of those baptized who received the Spirit before, after, and in some cases (John’s disciples) not until later. The amount of how “full” one is “filled with the Spirit” seems to relate more on how “right” of a relationship they have with God than conformity to procedure and traditional teaching. The examples we have of those in scripture (old testament) who were “filled with the Spirit” seem to support this. Of course, the Holy Spirit is God and He can do whatsoever He wishes, in any order He wishes, and we have no business telling Him what, how, or when He can…

  29. I agree. God knows a person’s heart.

  30. As for your question – can someone be baptized and receive the gift of the Spirit, but not at that time receive Spirit baptism?

    I believe the Holy Spirit is God’s promised gift who seals our salvation and I believe when we receive the Holy Spirit it is the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

  31. Alan S.,

    There’s lots of Bible to come on the Church of Christ Deism series. It’s not over.

  32. It’s sad to me that Calvin messed with everyone’s mind, splintering God’s creation into thought, God’s action and our action. The entire Bible shows a wholelistic responce of God and man. God asks Abram to move, Abram beleives, God blesses, Abram does as God requested. That is how pure relationship of God and man works. James was right, if you separate faith and action, you have dead faith. I doubt that dead faith is the temple of the Spirit.
    If I read it right, God is always ready. Salvation is paid for, and He stands ready to bless His faithful. (Mal 3) There is no clear promise of giving the Spirit in the OT, as in the NT, I doubt He holds it back to those who have accepted Him. I doubt that we have to schedule an appointment for the Spirit baptism ceremony!
    One of the problems with the cleaver of Calvin is the human tendancy to find the least possible we must do to get what we want.
    Rather than slice and dice a relationship with God, let’s do as the righteous of Hebrews list and have faith that propels us to do the will of God. We should be eager to confess, eager to be baptised, eager to love, etc.
    Spirit baptism is purely an act of God. We can water baptise as an act of faith, but we cannot force the Spirit into anyone. So what’s the use of identifying water or Spirit for every use of baptism? Let’s believe and do what we can, and trust Him to complete our full being.

  33. Paul,
    I believe that Soirit baotism is the same thing as the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is what Peter seems to indicate in Acts 10 with the conversion of Cornelius. This powerful Spirit baotism is seen as the gift of the Holy Spirit. The main point is the gift IS the Holy Spirit, not a gift given by the Holy Spirit,
    Thanks,Gary

  34. ??? “There is no clear promise of giving the Spirit in the OT, as in the NT,…” Beg your pardon, but consider this plain scripture:
    Old testament clear promise quoted in Acts 2:
    Joel 2:28-32 – American Standard Version
    (28) And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
    (29) and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit.
    (30) And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
    (31) The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of Jehovah cometh.
    (32) And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of Jehovah shall be delivered; for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those that escape, as Jehovah hath said, and among the remnant those whom Jehovah doth call.

    New Testament Quotation
    Acts 2:16-21 – American Standard Version
    (16) but this is that which hath been spoken through the prophet Joel:
    (17) And it shall be in the last days, saith God, I will pour forth of my Spirit upon all flesh: And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams:
    (18) Yea and on my servants and on my handmaidens in those days Will I pour forth of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
    (19) And I will show wonders in the heaven above, And signs on the earth beneath; Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke:
    (20) The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the day of the Lord come, That great and notable day .
    (21) And it shall be, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

  35. Sorry, for confusion. I said giving the Spirit, not promising it. The OT folks did not have a promise of the Spirit in their OT lives.
    The forming of Israel from leaving Egypt to entering Cannan is similar to the new church from Pentecost to probably death of John. God showed any observer that He favored these people (water crossings – Red Sea and Jordon, pillar of fire, manna, etc.) just like the new church. Numbers 11, the Spirit on Moses and the 70 elders is similar to Acts events. I suspect God meant to make Israel a special, called out, people obedient to His morality, just like the church. And in both cases he infused His Spirit. But in the OT there is no promise of every follower of Him to receive it.

  36. Anonymous:

    The passage also doesn’t say that Cornelius was saved just because the Holy Spirit had been poured out on him. In fact, it doesn’t even say he was a believer yet.

    The point of pouring out the Holy Spirit on them was to show they could be saved. Peter later recounts that it was just like on Pentecost. The Spirit didn’t come on Pentecost to save the apostles, it came as a fulfillment of Joel and Cornelius is a continuation of fulfilling the same prophecy.

  37. Romans 8:7-9 “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”

    Those who do not have the Holy Spirit are not His. Those who have the Holy Spirit belong to God.

  38. A disciple is a student, Jesus’ disciples didn’t become saints until after His resurrection when they were given the Holy Spirit.

  39. Jay, I hope it is more accurate than your prior two posts. I find the demand that belief in miracles must be equal to belief in answered prayers completely without scriptural support.

    God bless

  40. Alan S,

    Recall that the definition of “miracle” given by the conservative camp is uniformly a suspension of the laws of nature. By that definition, an answer to prayer that changes what would otherwise have happened is a miracle.

    My complaint is the use of a definition together with the assertion that all “miracles” have ended that necessarily lead to the conclusion that God doesn’t answer prayer.

    And I’m particularly unhappy at the use of this argument to assert that the Spirit has no influence over Christians other than through the word.

  41. Jay,

    It seems like this issue is more a difference in definitions than a difference in behavior.

    Both sides believe that God is actively working today answering our prayers.
    Both sides believe that God no longer gives humans the power to raise the dead like he did for some of the apostles. (at least I don’t think you do).

    You want to call God’s working today a supernatural act because that’s what God does (vs. just natural).
    Conservatives want to use the word supernatural when it is easily observable rather than an indirect, gradual healing that may have been the result of God’s action but not provable.

    Why make such a big deal out of definitions of words when our actions/behaviors are basically the same?

  42. Jay. you entire accuation of modern day Deism in the conservative churches of Christ is based on three things that you have previously accused the consevtative churches of Christ of practicing:

    1. You have accused the consevtative churches of Christ of practicing, “Now, over-generalization is one example of a flawed argument called a “strawman.” In a strawman argument, the debater invents a claim by his opponent and then refutes that claim. When Bryant suggests that Kimball denies the sinfulness of homosexuality, he’s created a strawman argument that he can easily defeat. ”

    You have stated that the conservative position must conclude “necessarily lead to the conclusion that God doesn’t answer prayer.”

    This is a strawman argument becuse it is an argument based not on what our conservative brothers say – they have never said that and have not even implied or necessarily impled that. It is based solely on you flawed opinion and assumption of where their opinions must lead. You are arguing against your own assumption and not on what they have actually taught.

    2. You have accused the consevtative churches of Christ of practicing, “This is a false dichotomy, that is, we’ve falsely assumed that there are only two choices. Among the other possibilities to consider is that the Spirit operates on the heart of the Christian in a way that reinforces the action of the word. There are other possibilities.”

    You have stated that the conservativce position is either “answer to prayer that changes what would otherwise have happened is a miracle” or “God doesn’t answer prayer”

    Your accusation is a false dichotomy, that is, you’ve falsely assumed that there are only two choices. Among the other possibilities to consider is that since healing (in the case of of illness) is one of the many outcomes possible with a miracle, then God answering prayer is Him choosing the possible outcome prayed for.

    3. You have accused the consevrative churches of Christ of practicing an inadequate syllogism:

    “•Major premise: {primary assumption}.
    •Minor premise: {opinion}.
    •Conclusion: {Opinion is wrong because of assumption}.”

    Once again, you are practicing exactly what you accuse our conservative churches of Christ brother or arguing.

    You stated a major assumption, “the definition of “miracle” given by the conservative camp is uniformly a suspension of the laws of nature”.

    You follow with your opinion, “an answer to prayer that changes what would otherwise have happened is a miracle”

    And you conclude with an arggument based on your opiniopn of their assumption: “necessarily lead to the conclusion that God doesn’t answer prayer”

    You have used your regulative pronciple roots well, because you aregue using the same arguments you decry.

    Answred prayers are not necessarily miracles, and scriptures do not require that they be a miracle. God does answer prayer, and he doe not have to use a miracle (thought he could choose to) to answer the prayer.

    Your entire series is based on a false dichotomy, an inadequate syllogism, and arguing a point based on YOUR opinion rather than from what your conservative brothers have said.

    God bless.

  43. Alan S. and Rich,

    Why do so many of the conservative churches deny the influence of the Spirit — its direct operation — on the hearts of Christians? One argument I’ve heard repeatedly is that such an influence would be a miracle and the age of miracles is over.

    [Someone alleged that the] Holy Spirit caused a preacher to miss his plane in order for him to preach to a person in a certain city. But friends, the days of miracles have ceased (1 Cor. 13:8-13).

    http://www.kingsridgecofc.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=793:what-is-the-indwelling-of-the-holy-spirit&catid=133:miracles-and-the-holy-spirit&Itemid=116

    Many (not all) conservatives take a very broad definition of “miracle” when speaking of the Spirit’s work.

    Second, you wrote,

    Among the other possibilities to consider is that since healing (in the case of of illness) is one of the many outcomes possible with a miracle, then God answering prayer is Him choosing the possible outcome prayed for.

    When someone is sick, there are indeed multiple possible outcomes — so far as human knowledge is concerned. But after the doctors have done all they can do, there is only one natural outcome. Either the medicines and ministrations work — or they don’t — and absent God’s intervention, that outcome will be determined by the laws of nature.

    What, then, does prayer do if it can’t change the laws of nature? Well, it might, through God, change the heart of the diseased person to intensify his will to live — but this would be a “direct operation,” which is fine by me but denied by many. What else? It could make the body heal itself by producing more antibodies, for example, but if those antibodies wouldn’t have been produced but for God’s intervention, then for that to happen, God had to interfere with the natural order of things.

    You see, I just can’t imagine what God might do that isn’t either a “direct operation” on the human mind or else an intervention in the workings of nature. As both of these are — in other contexts — often ruled “miracles” and thus impossible, I see an inconsistency.

    And it’s an important inconsistency because I know many people who have no confidence in prayer because they’ve heard the sermons and read the tracts, as have I. Yes, it’s not taught in so many words, but the repeated, persistent denial of miracles — defined to include even God’s influence on the human heart and mind — has led many to wonder how prayer could work when God has limited himself not to influence the mind or nature. What else is left to influence?

    And it’s an important inconsistency because it leads to a denial of the influence of the Spirit in the lives of Christians — which denies one of the central doctrines of the New Testament and deprives God’s people of unspeakable comfort and assurance.

  44. Jay,

    I believe you are mixing two subjects here. The first is what vocabulary we should use to describe God’s direct influence in the natural world and secondly, the operation of the Holy Spirit.

    Concerning the first: I happen to agree with you that God’s direct influence is supernatural. If he didn’t do anything then only the natural would occur. However, I don’t think using the word miracle in a spiritual context is wise. Bible miracles included humans raising the dead which I don’t observe happening anymore. The classic scriptures cited seem to say why (no longer a need to prove that God’s spokespeople were inspired now that we have a written record).

    Concerning the second: The Holy Spirit certainly operates today. The theory that He stopped working after the Bible was written is quickly going away among our ranks. Yes, there is still some residual but it is getting smaller.

    It looks to me like you are trying to build a bigger wall here between progressives and what you call conservative cofC that doesn’t match daily behavior. There isn’t that big, if any a gap. Now, if you start preaching power to raise the dead, I will have to take that last statement away.

  45. Look above for my response. Posts seem to be inserting in random spaces again today.

  46. Rich,

    I’m delighted to hear that the Spirit’s work is being taught among the conservative Churches. I’ve seen a number of authors concede the personal indwelling. Wayne Jackson and Mac Deaver would be notable examples. I’ve not seen anyone admit that the Spirit continues a direct operation on the Chrisitan’s heart — but I can’t keep up with all the literature.

    What strikes me as very unhelpful is drawing a hard line between “providence” and “miracles,” and then defining “miracles” as any intervention of God in nature and any direct operation on the human heart. That doesn’t seem to leave any room for God’s work — providential or otherwise.

    But to the extent the conservative Churches admit that the Spirit works effectively on the Christian’s heart and mind, and that God answers prayers without limiting himself to some artificial category called providence, we are entirely in agreement. But I’ve seen no evidence of this teaching in the literature I read. And it’s not popped up in several internet searches. Maybe this is changing at the grassroots level rather than through the preachers who write articles for publication?

    I agree that it would be helpful to find a line between God’s actions today and those we read about in the Bible, as he seems much less inclined to part seas and rain down fire and brimstone nowadays. But the distinction — if there’s one to be found — is a tough one to suss out.

    I’m posting a series of lesson on why the classic scriptures are, in my opinion, misinterpreted. But this doesn’t lead immediately to an answer to the question of just what God is apt to do today — only to free us to think down different pathways.

  47. Jay,

    You said, “I’ve not seen anyone [conservative cofC] admit that the Spirit continues a direct operation on the Chrisitan’s heart.”

    It is admittedly easier to describe the extremes rather than the middle. For example, it is cleaner to say that either God works miracles just like in the Bible (including faith healers) or to say that God stopped working altogether. Describing the middle ground is almost always muddier.

    I haven’t fully thought out how to explain my understanding on the working of the Holy Spirit. However, I’m not sure that the quote above works. It seems to lead down a path against free will. Likewise, how the devil works today seems similar. We know he influences but few of us will accept “The devil made me do it” as an acceptable excuse. I lean toward the HS affects our surroundings which touch and affect our hearts, but to say He directly controls my heart seems to be over the edge.

    Again, I’m open to suggestions here (Biblical of course).

  48. Rich,

    Regarding free will and the influence of the Spirit: reflect on your life and the man you’ve become. Who influenced you? Your parents? Friends? Teachers? Wife? Children?

    Total up the impact of all the influences that made you who you are today. Ignore anyone whose influence violated your free will — such as by holding a gun to your head. Just think of those who influenced you by persuasion, example, love, etc.

    And consider the influence of authors of books, composers of lyrics, great figures of history — whatever indirect influences there may be.

    How much of who you are is a result of such influences?

    I dare say that a very large percentage of who we are comes from such influences. I mean, how many people are just like their parents? And how many are the very opposite of their parents — being influenced by their example — a bad example?

    People are changed — and changed a lot — by influence, without any threat to their free will. Sometimes we consciously choose who will influence us (I want to be just like him!) or unconsciously (who HASN’T been influenced by a parent or guardian?) But we have a choice.

    This is the nature of human existence. We are influenced and we influence.

    Why then cannot the Spirit, who indwells us, not influence us without violating free will?

  49. Jay,
    In your comment you said “Why do so many of the conservative churches deny the influence of the Spirit — its direct operation — on the hearts of Christians?”

    I would suggest that one of the the stronger reasons for the CofC denial of the direct action of the HS on the heart of a person is our anti-Calvinistic position. In Calvinism a “natural” person is unregenerate and cannot respond to God b/c the things of God are spiritually discerned. One must be born from above/born again/regenerated (direct operation of the HS) before they can respond to God in faith, love, devotion etc. This necessarily implies there are limits to what the natural man can accomplish by willing it. On the American frontier in the age of manifest destiny and Jacksonianism it was not popular to place any limits on the ability of human freewill. Even today we make arguments against some ideas on the basis that it denies our freewill rather than on the basis that the idea is somehow contrary to scripture.
    Peace,
    Randall

  50. Randall,

    You are very right. We have definitely over-reacted to some Calvinist teaching. It’s as though we either do it all on our own, with no help other than the Bible — or we have no choice but to obey.

    There is, of course, a wealth of possibilities between the extremes.

    Thanks for an astute observation.

  51. Jerry,

    I came across your letter posted on Edward Fudge’s site: http://www.edwardfudge.com/Ukraine.html.

    That’s a great message. Thanks for sharing it.

  52. Jay,

    You said with a question: “Why then cannot the Spirit, who indwells us, not influence us without violating free will?”

    I think you are implying exactly how I understand the HS. But I call that an indirect influence on my heart.

    Your other question: “Why do so many of the conservative churches deny the influence of the Spirit — its direct operation — on the hearts of Christians?”

    To me the HS works ‘indirectly’ on our hearts rather than directly. To me the word ‘directly’ refers to control and therefore drops free will.

    Perhaps this is all a matter of verbage like the miracle points earlier or maybe not.

    I do appreciate your time to answer my questions and comments.

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