Truth Matters October 2013

11 11 2013

Supernatural Speech In Acts
Part One

By Rev. Robert Liichow 

The 40-member church is among many nationwide that are reducing or cutting out speaking in tongues as they become more popular and move to the mainstream. It’s a shift that has unsettled some more traditional Pentecostals who say the practice is at the heart of a movement that evolved out of an interracial revival and remains a spontaneous way for the poor and dispossessed to have a direct line to God.

Last month on Issues Etc. radio I was asked, along with our discussion of Mr. Copeland’s measles outbreak at his compound to share my insights regarding recent articles that had come out stating that the defining mark of Pentecostalism, ecstatic speech, was not being practiced openly in many Pentecostal denominations and in some cases was no longer being emphasized. Harvey Cox, a Harvard religion professor said “This is a long-developing phenomenon . . . they don’t want what appears to be objectionable to stick out or be viewed with suspicion.”

First of all, we must begin with the biblical
evidence. Once we know what this expression of speaking in other tongues was biblically, then and only then can we determine if any Christian body is following the biblical practice or not. If on the one hand their practice has indeed been biblically correct, then why are they compromising their stance? If however, their practice has not been in accord with the Bible, then it is a good development that it is decreasing. What doth the Bible saith regarding what actually happened on the Day of Pentecost and throughout the history of the Book of Acts?

Prior to that Day – – –

Although many times sign-gift enthusiast proclaimers will begin their message on the validity of speaking in other tongues with this passage of text (which is probably as well known by Pentecostals as John 3:16 is to Baptists) they are already building on a faulty biblical understanding.

And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen. Luke 24:46-53

Only the 12 NOT the 120    
Our Lord Jesus was with the twelve. He is addressing His hand-picked witnesses moments before His ascension back to the Father and they are told that they, they who? The eleven disciples/apostles are the ones being addressed. This is a crucial point, do not forget it. They are the ones who will be initially clothed with power from on high and our Lord lifts up His hands, blesses them; they worship their Lord, and being filled with great joy return to Jerusalem.  Before the tongues as of fire rested upon the apostles they (the apostles) had to select another man to replace Judas. The qualifications are stated very clearly for all succeeding generations: First, Jesus said His men were witnesses of His ministry in Luke 24 and then again in Acts1:

Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a
witness
with us of his resurrection. Acts 1:21-22

The eleven prayed and sought the will of the Lord and they chose by lots between Matthias and Justus, with the result being the selection of Matthias. Remember in Luke 24 our Lord said they (the apostles) would be “witnesses” this is the same masculine term used again here for “witness.” The witnesses were the 12 apostles according to the context of this thought. After the number of apostles was restored to twelve and the “day of Pentecost” had fully come:

Pentecost or Shavuot has many names in the Bible (the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Harvest, and the Latter Firstfruits). Celebrated on the fiftieth day after Passover, Shavuot is traditionally a joyous time of giving thanks and presenting offerings for the new grain of the summer wheat harvest in Israel. The name “Feast of Weeks” was given because God commanded the Jews in Leviticus 23:15-16, to count seven full weeks (or 49 days) beginning on the second day of Passover, and then present offerings of new grain to the Lord as a lasting ordinance.

Keep in mind that during this celebration Jerusalem would have been packed with people from all over the known world. “The Law of Moses required that all men make a pilgrimage to the temple three times a year to celebrate the feasts or festivals of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.” The city was already filled due to the major Passover and now 50 days later most people were still in the city and surrounds to fulfill their next obligation. This helps explain the wide divergence of languages in evidence during this observance.

When the Day of Pentecost Had Fully Come

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Acts 2:1-4

The “they” being spoken of are the same “they” Luke referred to in his Gospel account. There is nothing that indicates that the 120 other people gathered in that room were also recipients of that vocal gift. There is nothing stated anywhere in the Book of Acts that states or intimates anyone other than the apostles initially received this spiritual ability.

It is a question whether only the Twelve spoke in tongues or all 120. Several factors support the idea of only the Twelve being involved in this phenomenon: (1) They are referred to as Galileans (Acts 2:7; cf. 1:11–13). (2) Peter stood up with “the Eleven” (2:14). (3) The nearest antecedent of “they” in verse 1 is the “apostles” in 1:26.

We do read that it was the apostles who went outside and began to glorify God supernaturally in a genuine language unknown to them as the speakers, but known to the one being addressed hearer(s).

And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Acts 2:4-8

    The ones filled were the same ones who went outside and began to speak intelligently and the ones speaking were Galilaeans (male verb, male adjective in the Greek), the apostles were all male. We know that there were women that comprised a good part of the 120 people with the apostles but none of them is mentioned as receiving this gift at this time.

Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. Acts 2:9-13

    The apostles amazed their hearers because they were extolling the “wonderful works of God” in their own native languages. Languages that “ignorant and unlearned men” (see Acts 4:13) would not have known how to speak. The purpose of this gift was evangelical in that it got the attention of the people by proclaiming the wonderful works of God, which is simply another way of telling people about what God has done for us all in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. From this account we know: (1) Jesus told them to go and wait, they did not know what to expect, i.e. they were not seeking the “gift of tongues.” (2) The apostles were the ones initially empowered with the Holy Spirit. (3) The gift was for the benefit of others not the personal edification of the speaker. (4) The messages were spoken to other people in their own language by a man who did not know the language he was speaking in, i.e. it was a genuine supernatural experience. (5) The content of the messages was clearly understood and glorified the works of God. (6) Lastly, this unusual manifestation was also a duel fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy:

For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; And this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear. Isa. 28:11-12

The context is God’s judgment against Judah and foretold their going into Assyrian captivity, a people whose language they did not understand. “Men who mock God’s servants and message will ultimately be mocked in turn: delivered into the captivity of people who speak with what seems to be a stammering or mocking tongue (Isa 33:10). This was fulfilled as Isaiah prophesied, yet the apostles seem to apply this past event to what was now taking place in the Church.

The extreme enthusiasts today claim that because some of the mockers (Judeans) said the apostles were acting like people totally out of control on alcohol that we should expect the same drunken manifestations today when we are “filled” with the Spirit. The entire “holy laughter” movement was buttressed on this faulty concept.

But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. Acts 2:14-14

Peter corrects the Judeans who were the ones casting aspersions. There is nothing in the text that indicates the apostles were “acting” drunk at all. The Judeans heard them, did not understand the languages, knew they were from Galilee (hicks) and thus mocked them. Peter says “these are not drunk” and dismisses the notion altogether and begins to explain what is transpiring.

Peter begins to preach what is taking place, in his own native tongue, and he tells them (and us) that what is taking place is THE fulfillment of the prophecy given by Joel [not “a” fulfillment]:

But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out 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: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: Acts 2:16-18

“This” is a demonstrable pronoun pointing to what was taking place right then and there. It was prophesied to come to pass and it CAME TO PASS on that Day. The grammar is always important in Bible study and many people have missed its importance here. Peter stated unambiguously that “this,” what is transpiring in their midst is the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. Enthusiasts through the ages have tried to claim that their movements were birthed out of additional fulfillments of Joel’s prophecy.  Montanus claimed “Joel” as did the people at Azusa Street in 1906, later on the New Order of the Latter Rain declared their movement a fulfillment, as did the Roman Catholic Charismatic renewal movement in the mid 1960’s at the University of Notre Dame. All of them are wrong. That specific prophecy in Joel was fulfilled in the Church then, period.

Without going into the meat of Peter’s sermon we do learn one thing virtually all people fail to mention. When the 3,000 hearers are pricked to their hearts and are brought to faith in Christ Jesus and baptized —- NONE of these men began to speak in other tongues upon believing and baptism.

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. Acts 2:38-41

The “promise” of the Holy Spirit is given to all (note also, Peter included children) who are brought to repentance and are baptized into Christ Jesus. Every Christian receives the Holy Spirit at their new birth, but not all Christians spoke with new tongues. Speaking in other tongues is not “proof” or evidence that an individual is “filled” with the Spirit per se. The “proof” of being indwelt by the Spirit is found in the waters of holy baptism. If you were baptized into Christ, then you are indwelt by the Spirit of Grace, like everything else in our walk, this is an article of faith and it is not based on whether we feel His presence or not.

What we should focus on in this event is that the Spirit had just been poured out on the apostles; they were not seeking this gift of other tongues, yet they received it — why didn’t these newly minted “Christians” also speak with new tongues as well? Peter just preached that the gift of the Holy Spirit was for all God’s children . . . so why are not all reported to be glorifying God wonderful works supernaturally? Obviously, this supernatural ability was not given to all believers, then or now. About five years after the Day of Pentecost (DOP) the Gospel message begins to make Its way outside of the converted Jews. In the following event we read of Phillip preaching Christ to the Samaritans. They received the Word of God and were converted (see Acts 8:11).

Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. Acts 8:14-17

 Phillip shared the Gospel with the Samaritans, yet he was not authorized to impart the gift of the Spirit, only the apostles had this ability. They had to send for the apostles Peter and John. The apostles prayed for them, laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Ghost. There is no mention of these believers speaking with other tongues when they received the Holy Spirit. We are not given many details of how the Spirit manifested Himself among them, but something was evident by reading the account of Simon the sorcerer:

Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Acts 8:13, 18-20

Simon became a believer, he was baptized into Christ and he continued with the evangelist Phillip. Simon saw that through the laying on the apostles‘ hands the Holy Ghost was imparted and he wanted to do the same thing as the apostles and even offered to pay for this ability, which probably made perfect sense to his yet carnal mind. THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT EVENT! We read of a believer who tried to TRESPASS into a ministry arena that he was unauthorized to engage in and Peter rebukes Simon and calls him to repentance for his presumptuous sin, he repents (vs. 24). Here are the vital points; first of all, we read that the Holy Spirit was imparted/given via the ministry/authority of the apostles alone. Secondly, one cannot purchase the gift of God. Thirdly, it was (and is) God alone who determined who and what gift they shall receive. What we are reading about is not the unique gift of speaking in other tongues, instead we are privy to reading about the unconquerable spread of the Gospel, the gates of hell (Matt. 16:18) are indeed no match for the power of God (Romans 1:16) and now the Samaritans are united in one Body with the Jews.

From the DOP nothing is mentioned about speaking in other tongues until the event with the Centurion Cornelius in Acts 10. If the gift of other tongues was the be-all and end-all of Christian spirituality why isn’t it mentioned as taking place more often in the account? We know Peter goes with John and he preaches in the temple and this time 5,000 men are converted (see Acts 4:4). As with the earlier 3,000 converts, these 5,000 also did not speak in other tongues at their conversion either.

If one is honest with the Book of Acts then one MUST admit that speaking in other tongues was not a universal experience for Christians. As we shall read, it was in fact a unique and surprising infrequent occurrence. The next citation of this specific gift is almost ten years later after the DOP at home of Cornelius!

While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days. Acts 10:44-48

    Years had passed since that DOP was initially celebrated. Many Jews have been converted, for even as Paul said later that the Gospel was to “the Jew first, then the Gentiles” (see Romans 1:16). The divine encounter between Cornelius and Peter was completely orchestrated by God. The Lord spoke to Cornelius by an angel (Acts 10:3) and gave hardheaded Peter a vision and brought them together defying tremendous racial animus between the Jews and Greeks.

    While Peter was still preaching to those gathered (Cornelius, his household and devout friends, v. 24) the hearers were brought to faith and the Spirit of Grace fell upon the Gentiles for the first time. How did Peter and those on his ministry “team” know they had received the Spirit? “For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God” (v. 44). There are several very salient facts in this account to keep in mind when it comes to the issue of ecstatic speech.

    First, Peter as apostle was present and conducting the service which was his calling as a “witness” (that word again from Luke 24, Acts 1, Acts 10) — apostolic presence and authority. No one in the book of Acts received the gifts of the Spirit apart from the presence/ministry of the apostles. Secondly, some years had passed since the birth of the Church and Peter, Cornelius nor anyone else gathered were expecting (seeking) this capability. At this point in the Acts account we have no proof that anyone spoke with other tongues again after the Day of Pentecost. There is nothing in the text to indicate that speaking in tongues was in evidence in the worship services in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria at this (or any other for that matter). Thirdly, this manifestation was the same as occurred on the Day of Pentecost. The Gentiles did not receive some other demonstration of this gift than the Jews. We know they received the same experience as the Jews by Peter’s own testimony:

And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.
Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? Acts 11:15-17

    Upon returning home Peter is questioned by the circumcised believers and he recounts to them the entire event. Peter clearly states that the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles as on us at the beginning (Pentecost). They received the same expression “as he did unto” the Jews. Peter and those with him at the home of Cornelius heard the Gentiles magnify God, and although the text does not state it, it is very safe to conclude that some people in attendance could interpret/translate what was being vocalized or else they would not have known they were “magnifying God.” Also, it makes perfect sense that since the Gentiles received the same manifestation of the Spirit as the Jews, then the gift would have been the same, i.e. in this case Gentiles speaking supernaturally and someone being able to understand that they were in fact glorifying God. In this case it seems that the manifestation of other tongues was to convince the Jewish believers of the validity of the salvation of the Gentiles, even as tongues were used to help convince the pious Jews and proselytes of the reality of Peter’s sermon. What we see on the Day of Pentecost is the outworking of “to the Jew first” and then a few years later the Gentiles are brought in – “then to the Greeks.”

    First we read of the dramatic birth of the Church, the Church being opened to the Samaritans (Acts 8) and now in Acts 10 we read of the Church doors being opened to the Gentiles and the beginning of global evangelism. On these occasions nobody was expecting and thus not seeking the gift of tongues. On these occasions the vocalization of this special gift was spoken in a known language by people who did not know that language but a language that could be understood. Initially the apostles were the recipients and from that point on the apostles were always present when spiritual gifts were imparted. In Acts we read of no accounting of the Church gathering together to speak in tongues as part of worship, nor of any lay people going about distributing the gifts of the Spirit.

    For almost another ten years the Book of Acts is silent about the use of this gift until we come across the apostle of untimely birth (1 Cor. 15:8) Paul in Acts 19:

And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. And all the men were about twelve. Acts 19:1-7

    Paul and Apollos are on their way to Ephesus and they encounter a group of John’s disciples. Beyond them being disciples of John the Baptist we know very little about them. We know they were baptized with John’s baptism and they did not knowing that the Holy Spirit had been given by Jesus Christ who came baptizing with the Holy Ghost and fire (Matthew 3:11). The apostle Paul corrects their theological ignorance and they received the Word and were baptized into Christ Jesus. Then Paul the apostle laid his hands on these men and the Holy Spirit came upon them and these twelve men both spoke with tongues and also prophesied. Again, let us focus on what we do know, not what we speculate about! The Holy Spirit was given/imparted/bestowed through the ministry of an apostle to believers who had no idea of what to expect, they did not even know of the Spirit’s ministry through the Church at this point, again they were not “seeking” an experience or encounter with God. We read that the “gifts” given are according to the will of God, they spoke in tongues and also prophesied, two of the nine gifts Paul delineates in 1 Corinthians 12:8-11. This encounter is the last mention of speaking in/with other “tongues” in the Book of Acts.

    The fact is there are only three actual texts that deal with speaking in other tongues —Acts 2:4, 10:46, and 19:6—are the only instances regarding speaking in tongues in the book of Acts. Some Pentecostal and sign-gift enthusiasts assert that tongues also occurred in Acts 8:4 but, there is no textual support for their belief, it is pure speculation. All three events treat the gift of speaking in tongues as the public and intelligible (understandable) communication of truth about God. Each event also show the gift of speaking in tongues as a verifying sign of the unique coming of the Holy Spirit upon a new group of people, thereby incorporating that group into the church.

    In conclusion let us also remember the examples of when people were converted and filled with the Holy Spirit without any evidence of speaking in other tongues. In Acts 2:41-42 we read where the three thousand were converted and baptized. Phillip preached and men and women were converted and baptized in water and filled with the Spirit, no mention of other tongues however, Acts 8:12. When Phillip witnesses to the Ethiopian eunuch who converts and is baptized does not speak in other tongues, Acts 8:26-40. There is no evidence at his conversion and baptism that the apostle Paul spoke in tongues (Acts 9:17-19), although later he thanks God he speaks in tongues “more than ye all” in 1 Cor. 14:18. It is obvious that the gift of speaking in other tongues was not a universal experience or practice. When the Spirit manifested Himself in such a manner He did so through apostolic authority and not the laity. Lastly, it was not an experience to be sought, nor did it seem to be for personal edification. Then how did the sign-gift movement get to be the largest segment of the Church? Stay tuned as by the grace of God DMI will continue to endeavor to unscrew the inscrutable.

ENDNOTES & REFERENCES:

An important FACT to remember when you read the Book of Acts is that what we read in an hour covers many years of Church history.

This is one of several recent stories on this topic http://bigstory.ap.org/article/messages-tongues-down-among-pentecostals. The underlining and bold type were added by the author for emphasis.

Christian people need to regain their objectivity.  It matters not how long a group of Christians has done something nor does it matter how many millions embrace a practice or dogma that does not make it true.  Our first and foremost authority is the Bible itself.

Obtained from http://christianity.about.com/od/biblefeastsandholidays/p/pentecostfeast.htm on 9/24/13

http://emp.byui.edu/SATTERFIELDB/Rel211/TEMPLE.html

Stanley D. Toussaint, “Acts,” ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 357–358.

Walter C. Kaiser, “1118 לָעַג,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 481.

When Pentecostal/sign gift folks teach the Book of Acts the people are given the impression that all of these “supernatural” events take place one after another quickly and that all the members of the early Church were all supernaturally empowered by the Spirit and that the rank-N-file believers were imparting gifts, working miracles, having a revival time in the Lord per se.  This is simply invisibly written into the account.  There is nothing that indicates this sort of hyper-Pentecostalism was transpiring at all in the lives of the people.





Truth Matters November 2013

11 11 2013

Other Tongues Part Two
Rev. Robert S. Liichow

     For argument’s sake let us agree that 100% of the people in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost (DOP) received the Holy Spirit and began to speak supernaturally in other languages as opposed to the view of myself and a host of other theologians which holds that only the apostles received this supernatural ability on that day. In reading the rest of the Book of Acts ask yourself the following questions. Did you read anywhere of the use of this gift by “laypeople” in the temple or in house to house worship? No. Did you read anywhere of non-apostles imparting/bestowing the Holy Spirit on believers? No. Did you read anywhere about people seeking the ability to supernaturally speak in other tongues? No. Remember your answers, you will be tested.

    Some might try to argue that the event with Phillip is an example of miracles being done by a non-apostle as seen in Acts 8:

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place.  And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship  and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah.  And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” Acts 8:26-29, ESV

    Phillip obeys the divine directive and joins the chariot and he enlightens the Ethiopian court official regarding the meaning of the text. Phillip shares the Word of God, the Holy Spirit convicts the man of his need of the Savior.

And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. Acts 8:26-39

    There is MUCH that can be said of this amazing encounter, but let us focus in on a couple of aspects. We read of the eunuch making the good confession “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” This confession can only truly be made by a person who has already been brought to faith in Jesus. Note what his “faith” desires immediately —- water baptism! Phillip baptizes the eunuch, whether Phillip immersed the eunuch or stood with him in the water and poured it over his head is not stated nor does it matter; the “mode” of water baptism is not an issue. We do read they come out (ek) of the water together. Before, during or after his baptism does the Ethiopian speak in other tongues? No. Does Phillip mention that he needs this gift or experience so he has “evidence” that he is in fact now filled with the Holy Spirit? No. The only really miraculous experience occurs after the ministry work is over when Phillip is “caught away” (harpazō to snatch away) by the Lord and simply vanishes before the eunuch’s eyes who goes home rejoicing. I believe this event helps solidify my strong belief that no one received the “gifts of the Spirit” apart from apostolic presence or direct ministry. Again, please call to mind Acts 10:44while Peter yet spoke. . .” the Spirit was given. Earlier in Acts 8:14-15 we read:

Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:

In closing out this short review from last month let me restate the obvious to any reader of the Book of Acts, but apparently is not so obvious to many enthusiastic readers — there is NO

contextual
supportive
evidence:

  • That speaking languages supernaturally was a common experience to all or even most believers.
  • This gift {however it is understood} was ever part of the public or private worship of God’s people.
  • This ability was sought by believers.
  • After the DOP we have no indication whether the apostles themselves spoke or heard again in such a manner until some years later during a specific event in a specific place.
  • No one ever received these gifts of the Spirit apart from apostolic ministry.

Biblical scholars are in agreement (as much as they can agree on anything) that Luke, the physician wrote the Book of Acts and they also agree that Luke was indeed a close associate of the apostle Paul. Furthermore the dating of the Book of Acts is placed around 60-62 A.D. This is as important fact to “tuck away” in your mind as you re-read First Corinthians, which is dated around 53-57 A.D.

Luke wrote Acts ten years after Paul wrote the Corinthian believers. What is more Luke was well acquainted with Paul’s ministry. Yet for whatever reason the Holy Spirit did not allow anything to be shared of their ecstatic practices. This “silence” speaks volumes. If indeed the Church at Corinth was acting appropriately and were indeed these highly supernaturally gifted super-saints, then why aren’t they upheld as wonderful examples of faith and practice in the Book dedicated to the history of the beginning of the Church? Certainly Luke knew about what was taking place in Corinth, news travelled more slowly back then, but travel it did and he would have known, yet he is silent about them.

 The Confusion at Corinth

  Space does not permit me to go into detail about all the abuses taking place at Corinth, nor can I take us through a verse-by-verse study, although such a study is well worth the time and effort. With a cursory glance let’s get some sense of the condition of these believers and then focus in on their understanding of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in next month’s article.

    Lest we be tempted to think of ourselves more highly than we ought (see Rom. 12:3) one thing Paul’s letter to Corinth teaches us is that sinful flesh does not change regardless of the age or degree of technology it is born into. The problems that plagued the Church then STILL plague us to this day and the answers given then are the SAME answers for us today. God changes not (see Mal. 3:6) nor does His truth, Truth Matters.

Some of the Systemic Sinful Abuses at Corinth

Paul learned of what was taking place at Corinth from two sources: (1) the household of Chloe (see 1 Cor. 1:11) and (2) a letter possibly written by Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus (see 1 Cor. 16:17). The reason for writing this letter boils down to correcting
sinful abuses being practiced and false doctrine that is being believed.

Factions & Schisms

For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? 1 Cor. 1:12-13

The Corinthian, blood-bought baptized believers were in serious strife with one another in their church family. The Greek word for “contentions” refers to severe disagreements:

33.447
ἐρίζω; ἔρις, ιδος: to express differences of opinion, with at least some measure of antagonism or hostility—’to argue, quarrel, dispute.’
39.22
ἔρις, ιδος: conflict resulting from rivalry and discord—’strife, discord.’ ὅπου γὰρ ἐν ὑμῖν ζῆλος καὶ ἔρις, οὐχὶ σαρκικοί ἐστε; ‘when there is jealousy and strife among you, doesn’t this prove that you are people of this world?’ 1 Cor. 3:3. In a number of languages the type of strife referred to by ἔρις is frequently described as verbal, for example, ‘always saying bad things about one another’ or ‘never having a good word to say to one another.’

    The people were dividing themselves into “camps” based upon their favorite style of preacher whether it was Paul or Apollos and some pious folks claimed only to follow “Christ.” Absolutely NOTHING has changed to this day (thus PROVING my contention that our flesh never changes) in this regard. Christians today lump themselves together by their favorites preachers. Today it is “I am of Copeland,” or “I follow Walther and not Melanchthon.” How about “I am Lutheran, or I am a Calvinist?” Same fleshly outbreak as back then, just different characters today. Paul deals with this issue in his letter from 1:1 up to around 4:21.

Sexual Immorality

It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.  And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. 1 Corinthians 5:1–2

    It seems the Corinthians thought themselves so spiritual (1 Cor. 1:7 tells us that they lacked no spiritual gift) that the normal rules of morality did not apply to them any longer. The sexual degradation they tacitly approved of was of such a nature that even the pagan Gentiles did not fall to such depths of depravity. What is even worse than the individuals sins itself, as hideous as it was, was that the Church felt “good” about their liberty in Christ due to their inflated (φυσιόω/puffed up) egos. Instead, they should have mourned over the sin of one of their members, not approved of it in any way and sought to restore their brother who fell and at all costs uphold the holy name of Jesus into which they were baptized. Paul deals with this sad abuse in 5:1-13.

Litigious Libertines

Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? 1 Corinthians 6:1–3

The congregants did not get along, they did not trust nor particularly “like” one another, so it is not stretch to see them take their issues to an “impartial” party as opposed to their own brethren. This was (and is) a massive failure on the part of these people. First, it indicates those involved in such activities were not walking in love towards one another. Later on Paul will remind them exactly how the love of God expresses Himself through us (see 1 Cor. 13). Secondly, for a people so “filled with the Spirit” (as we shall see) how is it that they cannot depend upon Him within them, to give them discernment in judging common events in life? These super-saints were obviously not “hearing from God” in these matters. Lastly, to whom do they appeal? They go before the unjust, judges whose understanding belongs 100% to this world and its defeated non-god, Satan (see 2 Cor. 4:4). The Corinthians had not considered the BIG picture, we, the Church shall judge the angels . . . and these people cannot figure out an equitable outcome to simple things in this short life?

Strolling with Strumpets

All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.  Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.  What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. 1 Corinthians 6:12–16

    The Greek culture thought it perfectly normal to satisfy all the desires of the body which included the meats they ate and giving expression to their sexual lusts. Much of the eating and fornicating were done within the confines of various pagan mystery religions temples. The members ate the foods sacrificed to the idols and then engaged in sexual activities with the temple prostitutes (both male and female prostitutes) of their selection. This was the normal accepted manner of behavior and departure from it would have been considered abnormal. The members of the Church of Corinth were drawn out from this type of society mostly as adults, to them Christianity probably seemed like a newer and more superior mystery religion.

    The Corinthians had taken their true freedom in Christ to mean they could pick and choose who they listened to biblically. They were not obligated to love one another and get along; instead they would rather sue one another and sleep around. Paul saw this danger and rhetorically responds to this prevalent attitude by saying “all things are lawful to me but all things are not expedient.” He limits our liberty by tempering it with expediency. Christians are not free “to” sin but we have been freed “from” sin. Unfortunately the Corinthians took their liberty in Christ to mean they could indulge their flesh and in thinking they were free, they had in fact come under the power of sin (see John 8:34, Romans 6:16,20). As children of God we are now in Christ Jesus free to obey and free and empowered to say no to sinful temptations. Paul brings correction and continues operating on the flock.

Eating the Wrong Things

     Not only were the Corinthians guilty of abusing sexual relations, they were eating foods sacrificed to idols, whether directly in the various cultic temples or in the public markets which bought their meat from the temples often. Just as a point of history, the Greeks only burned the inedible portions of animals sacrificed, they ate everything else themselves.

    It seems evident to this author that the Corinthian’s were decidedly on the “libertine” side of the “scale” whereas the Galatian believers were being led to the opposite pole, that of “legalism.”

As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. 1 Corinthians 8:4

    Paul begins addressing this “abuse” by appealing to the power of love over “knowledge” (vv.1-3) and he acknowledges that some might have the correct understanding that an idol is in fact nothing, thus eating sacrificed to “nothing” had no effect on the meat whatsoever. Like my mother used to say to me at times “Robbie, it is not enough to be right sometimes.” Those with this view were correct, but as Paul reminds these haughty saints walking in “revelation knowledge” that godly love trumps knowledge.

Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 1 Corinthians 8:7

    Not all the Corinthians had arrived at the correct understanding and some believed that food dedicated/sacrificed to an idol actually did something to that food which caused the people partaking of it to be united with the god or lord of the temple of origin.

But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.  But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.  For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;  And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 1 Corinthians 8:8–11

    What we eat does not matter to God per se. What does matter is when we use our legitimate liberty in Christ in such a way that it leads the weaker (in the faith) brother/sister to engage in something that they do not properly understand in Christ, and are destroyed by it.

But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend. 1 Corinthians 8:12–13

Causing my brother or sister to stumble and wound their weak conscience by my liberty, then not only have I sinned against them but against our Lord Jesus Christ also. Like the Corinthians we often see our sins as “personal” between me and God and that my sin only impacts my fellowship with God. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are all members of One Body —- thus my sins impact ALL of my family in some manner. Paul reminded the Ephesians (and us) of the following:

From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:16

Every member of the Body of Christ has been given gifts, talents and abilities that are NEEDED to be used, when we sin we become sort of a “joint out of place,” which will slow down the Body, if we become so diseased by sin, then we have to be removed from the Body, lest the cancer spread (this is what happened to the brother sleeping with his mother-in-law, he was excommunicated – but he is restored by the next letter, which is the goal of Church discipline).

The Lady Has the Floor

The Corinthian’s were so “free” that they were allowing the women in their services to participate in ways not granted to them by Christ Jesus, the Head of the Church. Not only were some women out of divine order, they (with the men’s permission/approval) were violating the traditions that Paul delivered to them.

Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.  But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. 1 Corinthians 11:2–3

Paul begins by reminding them of the divine order (headship) of creation [PLEASE keep in mind that what is being discussed is not about “competence” but “faithfulness” to God’s order for His Church].

The word head (kephalē) seems to express two things: subordination and origination. The former reflects the more usual Old Testament usage (e.g., Jud. 10:18), the latter that of Greek vernacular (e.g., Herodotus History 4. 91). The former is primary in this passage, but the latter may also be found (1 Cor. 11:8). The subordination of Christ to God is noted elsewhere in the letter (3:23; 15:28). His subordination to the Father is also true in His work as the “agent” of Creation (8:6; cf. Col. 1:15–20).

The Corinthians thought themselves so “free” in Christ, no doubt due to their high degree of self-perceived
pseudo spiritual advancement that they overthrew the biblical and cultural distinctions between men and women. “All things are lawful” was extended to women’s participation in worship:

. . . the Corinthian women had expressed that principle by throwing off their distinguishing dress. More importantly they seem to have rejected the concept of subordination within the church (and perhaps in society) and with it any cultural symbol (e.g., a head-covering) which might have been attached to it. According to Paul, for a woman to throw off the covering was an act not of liberation but of degradation. She might as well shave her head, a sign of disgrace (Aristophanes Thesmophoriazysae 837). In doing so, she dishonors herself and her spiritual head, the man.

It is not our goal to consider the proper biblical role of women in the ministry of the Church at this time. The focus is that obviously the Corinthians were guilty of abusing the role of women in their midst.

In the church—as elsewhere—men and women need each other, and God intends them to be complementary in their gifts and personalities. Some gifts and aspects of personality may be the same in the man and in the woman, but not all. They were created to be different. Physical differences between the sexes are matched by differences of gift and personality.

Abusive Table Manners

Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. 1 Corinthians 11:17

    It is interesting to take note of that Paul uses the words for “idol” and “Idolatry” fifteen (15) times in 1 Corinthians and only six (6) times in his remaining letters. Contrast this with his use twelve (12) times of “impurity.” I agree with William Ramsay when he says that Paul is more concerned with the reality of idolatry versus impurity, which is the wrong view of many other commentators.

    The people were gathering together for worship and to share the Lord’s Table together. They were to be united as one family in Jesus Christ and yet they were anything but united.

For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. 1 Corinthians 11:18-19

    When they gathered to be receive God’s good gifts of Word and sacrament they probably associated with one another based on their proclivities regarding their favorite teachers, based on their perceived spirituality and economic status.

    Paul is not surprised to hear about this extremely sad state of affairs. After all, the entire congregation seems to be a very “mixed bag” of exceptionally carnal Christians and sincere believers who wanted to please their Lord versus themselves.

    Up to this point of doctrine and practice Paul has been exposing and correcting their abuses regarding virtually everything they were doing as God’s people, so he is not surprised to learn of their abuses at their Lord’s Table.

Paul says in v. 20when therefore ye assembly yourselves together, it is not possible to eat the Lord ‘s Supper.” For a host of reasons the Corinthian believers were not conducting the sacramental meal as taught by our Lord Jesus Christ at His last supper with His disciples prior of His death (see Matthew 26:17-30). When they gathered together they were in essence eating their own supper (vs. 21-22) and some people were actually becoming drunk (μεθύει/methyō) during the meal!

    Concerning the “Eucharist” (Greek for ‘thanksgiving’) meal the Corinthian’s were in serious, sometimes fatal error. They erred in discerning exactly what was taking place at the Lord’s Table both vertically in their relationship with God and horizontally with one another as God’s own dear children.

Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
For this cause many are
weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 1 Corinthians 11:27-31

Paul again brings correction by teaching them that they need to begin with self-examination:

1507 δοκιμάζω (dokimazō): 1043; 1381; 2.255—1.
examine, try to out, test (Lk 14:19; 1Co 3:13; 11:28; 2Co 8:8; Gal 6:4; 1Ti 3:10); 2.
regard as worthwhile (Ro 1:28). 3.
judge as good, regard something as genuine or worthy (Ro 1:28; 14:22)

This self-examination is a critical and necessary aspect of properly receiving the benefits given by our risen Lord through His supper.

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.  For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are
weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 1 Corinthians 11:28–30

Obviously these disciples were failing to judge themselves (the examine “himself”) properly in relation to what they were about to receive (the “Lord’s body”). Their abject failure regarding the holiness of God in the meal resulted in:

For this cause many
are
weak and sickly among you, and many
sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 1 Corinthians 11:30–31

Specifically because of their carnality at the communion meal MANY (‘polloi’, indicates abundance) people were receiving judgment DUE to their behavior including:

Weak — 23.145
ἀσθενής, ές: pertaining to being ill and, as a result, weak and incapacitated—’sick, ill, weak, disabled.

Sickly — asthĕnēs, from 1 (as a negative particle) and the base of 4599; strengthless (in various applications) feeble, impotent, sick, without strength, weak (er, -ness, thing).

Sleep — And not a few sleep (και κοιμωνται ἱκανοι [kai koimōntai hikanoi]). Sufficient number (ἱκανοι [hikanoi]) are already asleep in death because of their desecration of the Lord’s table. Paul evidently had knowledge of specific instances. A few would be too many.

Let me just put this thought out for readers to ponder — if the Lord’s Supper is merely symbolic, as many denominations teach, then why was God judging them for their ill treatment of a mere symbol? I agree with the apostles and Paul when he states:

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. 1 Corinthians 10:16-17

The cup of wine we bless is a communion, or better translated “participation” in the blood of Christ, even as the bread we break is a participation in the body of Christ, the Corinthians had lost sight of this fact.

The solution was self-examination (diekrinomen, 11:31; cf. vv. 28–29; 5:1–5; 10:12), self-discipline (9:27), and promoting of unity. The alternative was God’s judging (krinomenoi, 11:32), which was a discipline that they were then experiencing. This was not a loss of salvation, but of life (cf. 5:5).

    We have seen in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church that these people were carnally minded in the grossest forms. They erred in their morals, their relationship to leaders, and their lack of love towards one another, spiritual pride and arrogance. It seems they had at best a tenuous grasp of the Gospel message and yet they saw themselves as highly spiritual people whom God was using in marvelous ways.

    It is the view of this author that what Paul is doing throughout this letter is showing the Corinthians their sinful abuses. What I am endeavoring to point out is simply WHY do so many people look to the Corinthians when it comes to the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit as the experts? What basis do we have to believe that they got “this right” where the entire letter is an open rebuke and not too subtle correction of their other many errors? There is no basis to believe their use of the gifts was any more sound than their communion practices. Next month we shall consider the Corinthian abuse of the spiritual gifts and hopefully address whether or not speaking in tongues is disappearing from charismatic public assemblies.

REFERENCES:

Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 437, 494, 269.

David K. Lowery, “1 Corinthians,” ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 528–529, 532. Underlining added for emphasis.

Derek Prime, Opening up 1 Corinthians, Opening Up Commentary (Leominister: Day One Publications, 2005), 96–97. Underlining added for emphasis.

[1] The Corinthians came from a background of eating ‘sacred food’ in their temples.  They were formerly schooled in believing that what they ate was an actual encounter with their gods.  Perhaps when they learned as Christians that idols were nothing, thus the meats sacrificed to idols was “nothing” and perhaps they carried this over to thinking that the Lord’s Supper was also just a sort of “memorial” meal with nothing really taking place.

James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

James Strong, A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 16.

A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933), 1 Co 11:30.