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The Holy Spirit

Billy Graham writes in his book, “The Holy Spirit”[1] the story about an Indian who came down the mountains and saw the ocean for the first time. In awe he took a jar and filled it, with the intention to take it back to his people who had never seen the ocean before.

Narrow viewIn the same way this article is like the jar, only instead of being made of glass, its limitations are through its words. For words can never hope to capture the fullness of the glory of the Holy Spirit, for in the same way the ocean must be experienced to gain a full appreciation of its immensity, we too must experience the Holy Spirit to fully appreciate and understand His Immensity, Glory and Mission. Many today limit the Holy Spirit within the confines of the written word of God, trying to understand Him through the limits of those words. There they constrain their understanding of Him to a narrow scope, where he is no longer to be experienced today as he was recorded in the Scriptures as working. Instead they teach and believe that his work has changed to making us rationally understand and believe the propositions of Scripture. Here they become guilty of the sin of Bibliolatry, changing the Trinity to Father, Son and Bible.The full view

In doing this they actually deny the truth of Scripture in that the Holy Spirit is the same God yesterday, today and will be the same tomorrow. Scripture is not meant to be read that way, it is to be read as a pointer towards the living God, recording for us the ways and means to which we are to experience the Holy Spirit ourselves. Scripture clearly shows us that the Apostles took this experience for all very seriously. Peter tells his audience when asked what they must do to be saved, “Repent, be baptised and then you will receive the Holy Spirit” Acts 2:38 and indeed we see this happening with the Christians in Samaria, repenting and accepting Christ for themselves, being baptised and then the Apostles went and ensured that they experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

This then is the norm of what should happen in the Christians life. Many in Christendom today though have reversed the order Biblical order in that we receive the Holy Spirit before accepting Christ, for it is God who makes us alive while we are dead in sin and therefore he does this by granting us the Holy Spirit in making us alive. This is a distortion of the Biblical recording of both Jesus’ teaching about the Holy Spirit and the recording of the working of the Holy Spirit.

There are distinctly two workings of the Holy Spirit.

1.) The external working of the Holy Spirit in drawing a unbeliever to accepting Christ.

2.) The baptism of the Holy Spirit which is the initial first experience of repeated infillings of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Himself taught that there would be an external working of the Holy Spirit Jn16:13 Paul says that no one can call Jesus Lord except through the work of the Holy Spirit 1Cor 12:3. He also goes to great pains to show us that faith comes through hearing the word of God, in the attempt to motivate us to share the Word of God through evangelism. Rom 10:17. . We see this external working of the Holy Spirit at work in Samaria, convicting the Samaritans to the truth of Christ, cutting them deep to the heart. We see the Holy Spirit at work in Peter’s first sermon to the Jews and God fearers who are cut to the heart asking what must we do, to be saved. And again we see this happening to Paul who has an encounter with Jesus, is convicted of his sin and that Jesus is Lord and yet has to wait for the laying on of hands by Ananias to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Acts 9:17 It may appear to the casual observer that there is a episode in the Scriptures where some receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit before being convicted by the external working of the Holy Spirit, and that is the case of Cornelius and his family. Yet if we look closely at the story we notice that his encounter with Christ is similar to the one Paul had, as both encountered the Angel of the Lord, before meeting with a Christian whom the Lord sent. Acts 10:33 the only difference was that they were yet to be baptised in water which Peter soon rectified. Again in Acts 16:25 we read of the Jailer being convicted through the external working of the Holy Spirit, this time through the earthquake – and their subsequent acceptance of the word of God.

Finally we read of some disciples whom Paul met on the road to Ephesus, there he asks them if they received the Holy Spirit when they believed. This is an important Scripture because it shows us an insight into his ministry that like the Apostles did with the Samaritans, Ananias did with himself, he also ensured that other believers also did not remain content with just believing, but they also received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, or if you like the initial experiential experience of being filled with the Spirit. There they showed that the receiving of the Holy Spirit was experiential for they also started prophesying and speaking in tongues. Acts 19:6 We also read of Apollos being like those disciples Paul met, only knowing the baptism of John and that Pricilla and Aquila explained the way to him, but that he taught about Jesus accurately.

nnwzz018.jpgThe reception of the Holy Spirit is a experiential reception, one that though we read about within the pages of Gods word, we experience it our selves outside of our rational understanding.  This experience brings life to the believer, it brings about gifting and draws us close to the heart of God


[1] Graham, Billy The Holy Spirit (Word Books, Texas, 1978) p.1

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I get a little tired and frustrated at times when the accusation is made towards Pentecostals that their theology is faulty because it is based on experience rather than what the Word of God says. That we put our experience before the Scriptures.

I believe that every Christians personal theology is Experiential. It has to be experientially driven, it has to be experientially based, for our relationship with God is an experiential relationship. God is alive, Jesus is alive, the Holy Spirit is alive, the Father is alive. And every relationship between two living organisms by its very nature is an experiential relationship. It doesn’t matter if we are aware of it or not, it is still experientially based.

God draws us, invites us to join in the community of himself. This communion with himself is experiential once again. It is real, not imagined. It is the purest form of reality as our minds are only the copy of the real, our flesh is only the copy of the real, our spirit is only a copy of the real. Therefore when the real brings life to the created, it brings into being a reality that must be experienced.

The experience of the Holy Spirit who convicts us, is a experiential conviction that convicts us to the depth of the inner man overturning our own rationalizations topsy turvey. The experience of the Holy Spirit comforting us is a real experiential comfort that again goes against what our minds would tell us.

The experience of having a real relationship with the living God is a experiential relationship by its very fact that it is between two living beings, the creator and the created made in the image of God who is the fulfillment of an experiential relationship within themselves.

When God gifts a person to speak, to write, to help, to pray, to be an vessel of his working however he may, that by its very nature is experiential theology in practice, and we are affected, our lives are changed, our perceptions altered through the living experience of community with the living God.

If we then can experience God through community, why are we surprised even frightened to think that God can still speak to us in the way that the Bible records Him speaking to his community? Why does it frighten us to say, or hear people say “I felt the Lord say this”? Should this experience be the normative, and not the exception for His people involved in real experiential community with the living God?

Our relationship is with the God of the Bible. It is real, we are in a real community with him, and not in relationship with the written word. Therefore the word of truth which is the Bible points us, directs us, and is the written invitation to come and drink deeply of him in an experiential way and join in his celebrational dance where true community awaits. It is not the invitation card that we have true relationship with, where our experience of the celebration comes from, it is from actually accepting the invitation to join in the experience of the Trinitarian dance where we find the fulfillment of that invitation.

If we have no experience, if our theology was not experiential then the word of God is not truth, it is a lie.

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Abstract

In this essay I have shown what the value of the gift of tongues is to the individual and to the larger church community, both for the edification of the individual and the larger church body. I have shown how the gift brings about edification and encouragement to the body of Christ and brings glory to our risen Lord in proclaiming the gospel. In showing this, I have made the point that the gift of tongues has a three way dimension to it, and so its purpose is not a selfish one, rather a selfless one for the building of Gods kingdom. Finally I have shown how tongues relate to the Pentecostal doctrine of them being the initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and why that is so.

Introduction

Wagner says,

The Gift of tongues is the special ability that God gives to certain members of the Body of Christ (A) to speak to God in a language they have never learned and / or (B) to receive and communicate an immediate message of God to His people through a divinely -anointed utterance in a language they have never learned.[1]

Tongues are a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, who is the Gift from God. The purpose of this paper is to first show what value tongues has, and secondly how it relates to the Pentecostal doctrine of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

This gift is transformational in regards that once we have experienced and used it, our view of life, our relationship with our heavenly Father, our deep inner personal knowledge of God as Abba Father, Christ, the Holy Spirit and his other gifts, will be changed for ever[2]. Then any derogative thoughts we may have had on this subject will have been dismissed, likely replaced by many more questions, rising from an experiential perspective.

What is the value of tongues?

The value of tongues is that they have a redemptive purpose interwoven within a circular motioned, inwards, upwards and outwards focus. [3]

By redemptive I mean its, Proclamatory Nature in that it is a gift that is spoken forth via the human tongue and we see this happening where the disciples spoke in unlearned languages in a vivid and most spectacular manner in the power of the Holy Spirit, through its initial outpouring into Gods people fulfilling the prophecy of Joel. (Acts 2:14) Chant describes, “They were declaring in majestic fashion the marvels of God”[4]

This appears to signify the reverse of Babel; whereas initially all spoke one language and because they denied God, instead wanting to laud themselves, God scatters the nations, through confusing their language (Gen 11:1-9) and now in Jerusalem all those nations have gathered and through tongues can hear the praise of God in their own language, causing them in turn to praise God. (Acts 2:9-11)[5]

There is a three fold relational aspect and purpose in the gift of tongues; the first is inward, being a gift given to the individual, and is the only gift that does not require a second person for its valid use when used privately. That it is an individualistic gift needs noting now, and expanded on later when we come to discuss its relationship to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Tongues are a gift given to us from God, a manifestation of the Holy Spirit who lives within us. It brings about personal edification (1Cor14:4)… Finally it is a gift that we should desire for ourselves, as Paul desired all should have it. (1 Cor 14:5) while highlighting his own use of the gift, (1 Cor 14:18) commanding that none should forbid it, (1 Cor 14:39)[6] and I question, “Why”? When I hear others make a sweeping blanket statement in saying, “It is not for them.”[7]

Once received, its focus is upward enabling the user to worship, praise and pray to God in a manner previously unknown.[8] The ability to worship God is mentioned by Paul to the Ephesians and Colossians in the context of singing spiritual songs. (Eph 5:19, Col 3:15) and again speaks of its God ward direction, in involving praise and thanksgiving (1 Cor 14:16) It is a gift that is God focused, a humbling gift that requires childlikeness in prayer,[9] having childlike faith that indeed spiritual mysteries that only God can understand are being spoken. (1 Cor 14:2) Finally it’s intercessory or prayerful nature is shown again in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. (1Cor 14: 14-15)

Thirdly its focus is outward in that it outwardly signifies that the recipient has indeed been baptised with the Spirit of power. It is missionary directed in drawing others into relationship with God through Christ. (Acts 2:11) Its communal building in the building up, knitting together and releasing other gifts within the community of God, through its prophetic ability to speak Gods revelatory word in a way that needs either the speaker or another to use the gift of interpretation to speak forth Gods prophetic word that ultimately causes the hearers to praise God in the understanding of it. (1 Cor 14:5-6) In this communal setting tongues cease to be an individualistic gift, and become part of its corporate unity, its usefulness shown not only through its prophetic nature, its intercessory nature is made to the Romans (Rom 8:26-27) as well as been mentioned in the previous point. It is important to note that the gift like all the other gifts do not distinguish between race, sex or societal position[10], (Acts2:17 -18) Lord.[11] Lightner argues against this, in saying women were commanded to keep quiet in the church, and God would not have given women this gift.[12] Dunn shows he is wrong through Paul’s positive direction regarding women prophesying in church.[13] (1Cor 11:5) This is one of the groundbreaking traits of Azusa Street, and indeed stems back to Pentecost in that people of all races, sexes and class came together as one to worship the Lord.

The person, deity and work of the Holy Spirit

It is worthwhile to look briefly at the person, deity and work of the Holy Spirit, so as we can have a better understanding of how tongues relates to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. .

The Holy Spirit is not an IT,[14] nor an inert power; rather he is the third person of the Godhead, showing personal characteristics such as; speech, hearing, emotions, and preforming functions such as searching, teaching, rebuking, convicting, encouraging, comforting and empowering.[15]

Space does not permit more than to say that scripture clearly shows the Holy Spirit is God, being eternal, all knowing, all powerful, and omnipresent.[16]

His work involves convincing the non believer to come to a place of regeneration, sanctification and empowering for service. Regeneration meaning the event that takes place where one becomes a new believer in Christ. Sanctification means the new Christians beginning and subsequent continual walk of holiness displaying the fruits of the spirit. [17] (Gal 5:22-23) And thirdly He is Gods power in us, which enables us to testify of Christ. (Acts 1:8)

The 3 actions of the Holy Spirit in the work of the believer is interwoven in the Inwards, Upwards and Outwards value of tongues in that Regeneration is the inward work of God, Sanctification is related to the upwards focus towards God and the Testifying of Christ is shown in the Outwards focus in building Gods kingdom and the pattern starts again in bringing others into a Redemptive relationship.

What is the relationship of Tongues to the Pentecostal Doctrine of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?

The Pentecostal doctrine regarding the Initial evidence of the Holy Spirit can be summarised as a second experiential blessing or empowerment of the believer subsequent to becoming a Christian, accompanied by the sign of speaking in tongues.[18]

It is interesting that studies have shown that in the American Assemblies of God movement, between 35 – 40 % of its congregations do not speak in tongues [19] while it is the Assemblies of God movement who mainly hold to this doctrine of Initial Evidence. Other Pentecostals who don’t, and yet are favourable towards the gift of tongues, consider the doctrine an embarrassment at best and in serious theological error at worst. [20]

All Pentecostals however believe that the purpose of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is power for service and that that power comes only from on high, and is distinct work of the spirit apart from conversion.[21]

Macchia notes that there is little theological reflection regarding the doctrine of initial evidence hence the purpose of his paper.[22] While there may not be much theological reflection regarding the doctrine of Initial Evidence, what is available is enough to seriously reflect on and make a solid case for its Biblical, Traditional, Experiential and Denominational validity.

That it is Biblical can be pointed out of the five specific cases in Acts that show that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, three were accompanied by tongues, and that in the other 2 cases scripture is silent regarding what actually physically happened, only that something indeed did happen. Norling[23] points out that the 12 disciples who received the Holy Spirit had a mixture of manifestations of tongues and prophecy (Acts 19:6) and if any thing perhaps the doctrine is too narrow in regards to Tongues only, as Tongues is a speaking language and perhaps inspired prophecy could be a form of Tongues spoken in the speakers native language, though Peter the Apostle alludes to the initial Pentecost tongues as prophecy, (Acts 2:16-17) and Davids says that the prophesying of Saul was a glossarial language,[24]

1Sa 10:6 The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed

into a different person.

Note the similarities between 1Sam 10:6 and Acts 1:8, for the enabling power of the Spirit. There is ample precedent that inspired prophecy in known languages is more effective in edifying the church over unknown tongues.[25] (1 Cor 14:3) Certainly Cruz, in responding to Menzies shows this is a possibility.[26]

One can not cut its self of from its traditional roots, and we draw on the tradition of the movement, dating back to Azusa Street in that Gods people expected to be Baptised in the Holy Spirit, they expected to be endued with power from on high and the result of this endowment of Power included the gift of Tongues, showing indeed that they were Baptised in the Spirit.

The Experiential value of tongues can not be ignored and without having to re-state the inwards, upward, and outwards aspects of them, it is worthwhile noting that the gift enables the individual to both participate in and partake of the presence of God through the gift of the Spirit (Tongues) by the Gift of God, who is the Spirit of God. Pentecostalism is not a tongues movement, it is a Spirit movement, wanting all Christians to be experientially baptised in the Holy Spirit, and both traditionally and Biblically it is shown that tongues shows outward evidence of receiving the dumanias power of the Holy Spirit.

And finally by Denominational while it could be argued this is more of a pragmatic polity rather for doctrinal reasons, the doctrine can help stem the risk of nominalism. Veli- Matto Karkkainen when asked about the dangers of nominalism within Pentecostalism replied,

“There was indeed a danger, especially in the USA where church attendance is seen as something one does for social status and something we need to watch out for.” [27]

The doctrine of initial evidence can help the movement to expect its members to be Spirit Filled, and indeed should be seen as an encouragement to tarry and expect God to endow one with Power from on high, and in doing so guard against nominalism.

Conclusion

That the gift of tongues is invaluable to the individual for personal edification has been shown in this paper, and in return this same individual is part of the greater body of Christ, and how much more built up and edified the body would be, if all individuals who made up this body were baptised in the Holy Spirit. It is for the reasons shown and discussed that the doctrine of initial evidence is valid for today, and is needed to be more widely taught within the congregational church structure as to why it is so. May we tarry for the continual blessing and infilling of the Holy Spirit for ourselves and those who are yet to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and may Gods people look to God expectantly to fill them afresh and show this through the evidence of tongues.

Bibliography

Chant, Barry. Spiritual Gifts: A Reappraisal: A Biblical and Practical Handbook. (Sydney Australia: Tabor Publications, 1993)

De la Cruz, Roli G. “Salvation in Christ and Baptism in Spirit: A Response to Robert Menzies, “Evidential Tongues: An Essay on Theological Method,”” Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies 1:2 (August 1998)

Davids, Peter H. “Tongues” in Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments. ed. Ralph P. Martin and Peter H . Davids. (Downers Grove, Ill..:InterVarsity Press, 1997)

Dunn, James D.G. The Theology of Paul the Apostle. (Grand Rapids, Mich. Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1998)

Fee, Gordon D. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. New International Commentary on the New Testament. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1987)

Horton, Stanley M. Systematic Theology. rev. ed. (Springfield Missouri: Gospel Publishing House, 1995)

Karkkainen, Veli-Matti. Pneumatology: The Holy Spirit in Ecumenical, International, and Contextual Perspective. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2002)

Lightner, Robert P. Speaking in Tongues and Divine Healing. 2nd. ed. (Dallas Regular Baptist Press, 1978)

Macchia, Frank D. “Groans Too Deep for Words: Towards a Theology of Tongues as Initial Evidence,” Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies 1:2 (August 1998)

Norling, Allan. Jesus the Baptiser with the Holy Spirit. (Sydney: Alken Press, 1994)

Pinnock, Clark H. Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1996)

Robeck, Cecil M., Jr. “Tongues” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. ed. G. F. Hawthorn, R. P. Martin and D. Reid. (Downers Grove, Ill.:InterVarsity Press, 1993)

Sproul, R. C. Essential Truths of the Christian Faith. (Wheaton, Illinois Tyndale House 1992)

Tan, Ling May. “A Response to Frank Macchia’s “Groans Too Deep for Words: Towards a Theology of Tongues as Initial Evidence,”” 1:2 (August 1998)

Wagner, C. Peter. Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow. (USA, Regal Books, 1985)


[1] C. Peter Wagner, Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow, (USA, Regal Books. 1979)p. 233[2] Barry Chant, Spiritual Gifts, A Reappraisal A Biblical and practical hand book, (Sydney Tabor Publications, 1993) p. 134[3] I first heard this comment “Upwards, Inwards, Outwards, spoken by Dudley Ford, retired Sydney Anglican Bishop, spoken at an in house local church training weekend – though his talk did not have any thing to do with tongues, it was on worship and relating to God.

[4] Barry Chant, Spiritual Gifts, p. 134

[5], Peter H Davids. “Tongues” in Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments. ed. Ralph P. Martin and Peter H . Davids. (Downers Grove, Ill..:InterVarsity Press, 1997)

[6] Robeck, Cecil M., Jr. “Tongues” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. ed. G. F. Hawthorn, R. P. Martin and D. Reid. (Downers Grove, Ill.:InterVarsity Press, 1993)

[7] Are they saying that they don’t want it, and therefore grieving the Holy Spirit by not desiring his gifts, or is it because they have asked God for it and have not received it, and so they say it is not for them.

[8] Barry Chant, Spiritual Gifts, pg. 134

[9] Clark H. Pinnock, Flame of Love, A theology of the Holy Spirit (1996Downers Grove, Ill Intervarsity Press) p. 173.

[10] Note that Mary the mother of Jesus and other women were among the 120 who received the gift of tongues on the day of Pentecost, as described in Acts 1:14 & 2:1.

[11] Frank D. Macchia Groans too Deep for Words: Towards a Theology of Tongues as Initial Evidence, Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies 1: 2 (August 1998)

[12] Robert P.Lightner,., Speaking in Tongues and Divine Healing (Dallas Regular Baptist Press 1978). p.24

[13] James D.G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle, © 1998 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. USA. p. 588

[14] I need to note that in my calling the Holy Spirit an He, I am not meaning to be gender specific, rather to note the personhood of the Spirit.

[15] R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, (Wheaton, Illinois Tyndale House 1992). p.111

[16] Ibid., p. 110

[17] Ibid., p. 117

[18] Stanley M. Horton, Systematic Theology, revised edition, (Gospel Publishing House 1995) p. 425

[19] Matti Karkkainen Pneumatology, the Holy Spirit in ecumenical, international, and contextual perspective, (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2002). p. 96-97

[20] Frank D. Macchia Groans too Deep for Words: p. 2

[21] Stanley M. Horton, Systematic Theology, p. 451

[22] Frank D. Macchia Groans to deep for words. p. 2

[23]Allan Norling, , Jesus the Baptiser with the Holy Spirit, (Sydney, Alken Press 1994) p. 32

[24] Davids, “Tongues” in Dictionary of the Later New Testament…”

[25] Gordon Fee, The New International commentary on the New Testament, The First Epistle To The Corinthians 1987, (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1987) p. 656

[26] Roli G. dela Cruz Salvation in Christ and Baptism in Spirit: A Response to Robert Menzies, “Evidential Tongues: An Essay on Theological Method” Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies 1:2 (August 1998)

[27] I asked him the question regarding the danger of nominalism throughout Pentecostalism, during a series of lectures by him, held at Southern Cross Bible College, Chester Hill Sydney Australia, in 2006.

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