The Deception of Knowledge

As one of the better performing students in secondary school I was led to believe I knew more than others.  Yet my superior knowledge was limited only to those things taught in the class.

I was deceived into thinking that the content of the curriculum represented a significant body of information and that my superior mastery of that information put me ahead of others.

In the decades since, however, I remembered things mentioned to me by fellow students who were less academically adept.  They had ideas about things I had never heard of, and discounted because they were not in the textbooks.  Ideas about diet and health, for instance, were well understood by some of my friends.  I ignored their knowledge, because if such knowledge was truly important surely it would have been in the school curriculum.

Decades later, however, I came to appreciate the merit of things which my school friends clearly understood, but which I was ignorant of.

The Bible warns that knowledge puffs up, or makes us proud, 1Corinthians 8:1.  My academic abilities certainly fed my pride in those schooling years and I readily fell under the deception of knowledge.

The most informed of us still only knows a portion of what there is to know, 1Corinthians 13:9.  Knowledge itself is helpful, but not a measure of our true worth or superiority.

While I could master topics in the textbook, I was ignorant of many other, more important things.  My friends who could not keep pace with my academic capacities, yet held knowledge of greater value to their health, life and future than my textbook information proved to be.

Beware the deception of knowledge.

Call to Preach

The notion of preacher often invokes images of days gone by. Wesley, Finney and Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, are characters from a bygone era, doing something that fitted that generation, but which we do not see as so relevant today.

The idea of a preacher standing in an open field or marketplace, with thousands of people listening and being transformed by the message, as revival fire sweeps a nation, is not something we think of in today’s western church.

Of course we have preachers today. Christian TV channels are crammed with fancy speakers, each with their own style and emphasis. We also have some exemplary preachers in our modern world.

However, the value of a preacher is not so well recognised today as it was in previous generations. Yet I believe we are approaching a revival of Preaching and Preachers, because the day of Preachers has not passed.

The Place of Preaching

The New Testament church was built on preaching.  Jesus Christ commissioned His followers to preach.

“And he (Jesus) said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to everyone.” Mark 16:15

“And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Luke 24:47

“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” 1Corinthians 1:17

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” 2Timothy 4:2

The Apostle Paul recognised that God has given a special place to preaching as a tool to bring transformation.

“God, in His wisdom, determined that people would not find or know God by pursuing human wisdom, but God would use the ‘foolishness of preaching’ to save those people who believe.”

1Corinthians 1:21 (paraphrased)

Proclaiming the Truth

Preaching does not need a crowd or a pulpit.  What we call witnessing is the same a preaching.  Telling the truth of the gospel to a person is preaching.  We see this where what was said privately to one person is still said to be “preached” to them.

When God gave promise to Abraham, privately, God was preaching to him.

“And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached the gospel to Abraham in time past, saying, In you all nations will be blessed.” Galatians 3:8

When Phillip the Evangelist had a private session with the Ethiopian eunuch he “preached” to him, even though we would call it explaining the gospel, or witnessing.

“Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.” Acts 8:35

Every time you proclaim the truth, to thousands, or privately and quietly to one person, you are preaching. And preaching is what we are called to do.

The Power of Preaching

We see in the New Testament that by Christians simply going out and telling others about Christ multitudes of lives and even whole cultures were transformed.  The Apostle Paul, one of the most active preachers, was hated by the Jewish religious leaders because he turned so many to Christ.  Even those who made idols to a heathen goddess in Ephesus attacked Paul because he was destroying their business.

The simple process of talking to people, individually and in groups, about the gospel released tremendous transforming power, called “Salvation”.

“I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God to salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (non-Jew).” Romans 1:16

Historic Role of Preaching

World history reveals that preaching is so significant that those who preach actually direct society.

The English king Charles 1 wrote about preaching back in 1646, recognising the influence held by the preachers from the pulpits.  He said, “people are governed by pulpits more than the sword in times of peace.”

For centuries English culture was shaped by the simple process of men standing up to preach the truth from God’s word.

A similar testimony comes from Herman Melville’s 1850 novel, Moby Dick, in chapter 8, titled The Pulpit.

“…the pulpit is ever this earth’s foremost part; all the rest comes in its rear; the pulpit leads the world. From thence it is the storm of God’s quick wrath is first descried, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt. From thence it is the God of breezes fair or foul is first invoked for favorable winds. Yes, the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.”

Too Many Voices

The significant place of the pulpit, celebrated for centuries, has now declined.  This is due in large part to the abandonment of Christianity and the decline in church attendance, where most people get to hear preaching.

Another influence is the sheer abundance of voices clamouring for our attention.  The influence of the Christian pulpit has been replaced with other voices that are not sympathetic to Bible truth.

Secular education provides a pulpit for every teacher to preach the approved social values into the hearts and minds of their captive congregation.  The press and printed material also preach the populist message.  Radio and television, songs and movies all capture our attention and preach their preferred values into our culture.

Instead of Bible truth and the gospel bringing transforming power into society and steering us to godly living and the blessings of Almighty God, we are now turned every which way, and left to languish in our confusion and defeat, without godly direction and God’s power.

Popular media has become the pulpit of modern day culture.

Preachers as Kingdom Technology

We now need a fresh release of preachers into our culture.  This is the main technology used in history to expand God’s kingdom, and it is still the principal Kingdom technology today.

The New Testament church thrived where ever preaching took place.  When the Jerusalem church was persecuted and believers were dispersed to other cities and nations the church grew wonderfully.

As Paul and others took the gospel to places, the church grew in those new locations.  History reveals that the Ethiopian eunuch, taking back what he learned from Phillip, prompted the growth of the church there.  And people in southern India can trace their church connection back to the arrival of the disciple Thomas almost two millennia ago.

John Wycliffe, a professor at Oxford, was the first to translate the Bible into English, way back in 1380.  But what gave his translation and life greater impact were the many people who read his translation and preached from it across the English countryside.  These Lollards opened the word of God to their generation.

Almost four centuries after Wycliffe, John and Charles Wesley, also based at Oxford, instigated a preaching program which came to be known as Methodism.  The heart of this movement was the circuit riding preacher.  These men were expected to preach multiple times on a Sunday, walking or riding on horseback around their circuit.

The great Wesleyan revival started the 1700’s continued long past the deaths of these men of God, because of the preaching system (method) they created.  At its heart, apart from the message of personal encounter with God and the truth of God’s word, the Methodist revival was based on preaching.

Preaching Through Opposition

Preachers are not usually welcome in a society that needs God.  Paul was opposed across the many nations and cities to which he took the gospel.  Revivalists through history have been at times violently opposed by angry audiences.

While we expect Christian preachers to be opposed in heathen lands, note that John Wesley was driven from many places when he started preaching in Christian England.  His Methodist preachers had to face rocks, roof tiles and mud, among other abuses.

Today’s new generation of preachers will also face opposition and trials.  While many will gain prominence and have popular ministries, others will have to struggle through opposition.

Releasing Preachers

In every generation and in every culture there is always primary place for preachers, great and small.  Each nation and culture needs more preachers, from those who quietly inform their small circle of friends, to those who draw vast crowds in stadiums, halls and fields.

I have always delighted in the role of preacher, but am all the more convinced today than ever that God is seeking a new generation of labourers in the harvest field, who preach the good news of Jesus Christ into their culture, whether the hearers are resistant or not.

Baptism in the Holy Spirit Explored

At the birth of the Early Church a miraculous phenomenon repeatedly took place, in which ordinary men and women were baptised in the Holy Spirit and spoke in languages they never learned.

This occurred on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem to 120 people who spoke a wide range of recognised languages in a glorious experience of receiving the Holy Spirit.

It occurred in Samaria when Peter and John laid hands on the converts who had already been baptised so the Holy Spirit would be given to them.

It also occurred privately for the Apostle Paul when he received his sight.

It occurred at the home of a Roman Centurion named Cornelius where a large group of gentiles were baptised in the Holy Spirit and spoke languages they never learned.

It occurred in Ephesus when the Apostle Paul laid his hands on a group of new believers.

Modern Christian thought is divided about this phenomenon.

Some churches teach that the baptism in the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues is an historic experience which died out after the days of the original Apostles.

Other churches teach that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a present day element of the Christian life and is available to all believers throughout the church age.

I believe the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a present day experience for all believers.

Allow me to explore several New Testament statements about Baptism in the Holy Spirit to show how I see those texts supporting what I believe.

John the Baptist Prophesied the Spirit

The first mention of any significant experience of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament traces to the last prophet of the Old Testament era, John the Baptist, who came as a forerunner to prepare the people to receive Jesus as the Christ.

It is to John that we owe the phrase “Baptism in the Holy Spirit”.

“I indeed baptized you with water: but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Mark 1:8

Note that John prophesies an experience of the Holy Spirit different to anything identified in the Bible to that time.  And the promise of this “baptism” is to “you”.  It is made to the people in general, not to a specific leader, a king, or a priestly class.

I understand John to be prophesying an experience of the Holy Spirit to all who accept Jesus Christ as saviour.

Jesus Prophesies the Spirit

After His resurrection Jesus prophesied that the Holy Spirit would be poured out.  In doing so He confirmed the prophecy of John the Baptist.

“And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry in the city of Jerusalem, until you be endued with power from on high.” Luke 24:49

“And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, you have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence.” Acts 1:4,5

Just ten days later the baptism in the Holy Spirit, which is the promise of the Father, occurred for the first time.

Pentecost Outpouring

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost is a significant landmark in the history of the church.  It is the birth of the church.

120 believers praying in an upper room heard a sound of rushing wind and saw tongues of fire on each head. They then spontaneously spoke in languages they did not know.

From Dr Luke’s record in Acts 2 we find a number of significant elements.

“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2:4

People from many lands were in Jerusalem at that time and they reported “we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God”, Acts 2:11.

Those 120 believers who received the Holy Spirit spontaneously spoke out sounds they could not intelligently control, since they did not know what they were saying.  Yet their words were descriptions of the “wonderful works of God”.  They glorified God in languages they did not know.

Prophecy of Joel

Some in Jerusalem accused the disciples of being drunk.  But Peter stood and declared that what was taking place fulfilled a prophecy by Joel.

“But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it will come to pass in the last days, says God, I will pour out of my Spirit on all flesh: and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they will prophesy” Acts 2:16-18

Peter Explains the Promise of the Spirit

After pointing to Joel’s prophecy Peter continued with his explanation about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, including explaining that it is Jesus who gave the Spirit and that the Holy Spirit is the Father’s “promise”.

“This Jesus has God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has shed forth this, which you now see and hear.” Acts 2:32,33

“Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38,39

Cornelius Outpouring

The next most significant outpouring of the Holy Spirit in historic terms is that of the gentiles at the home of Cornelius. This outpouring is specifically linked by Peter to the Pentecost events.

Peter was called to preach to these gentiles, as a first in church history.  Before he even finished his message or fully explained the intricacies of the gospel the Holy Spirit fell on the whole group.

“While Peter yet spoke these words, the Holy Spirit 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 Spirit. 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 Spirit as well as we?” Acts 10:44-47

Peter Called to Account

Following this amazing event of Peter preaching to gentiles and them being baptised in the Holy Spirit, Peter was interrogated by the Jews in Jerusalem.

Dr Luke records Peter’s explanation.

“And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit 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 you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did to us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then has God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” Acts 11:5-18

Interpreting the Accounts

Some churches teach that these events were rare and for that time only.  Do these texts support such belief?  I do not find it so.

So let me tackle a couple of key questions about the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.  Firstly, was this promise from the Father to give the Holy Spirit made only to the early church believers, or to all Christians?

It is clearly made to all believers throughout the church age.

Universal Gift of the Spirit

John the Baptist spoke of the baptism in the Holy Spirit being for “you”, which denotes all his hearers.

“I indeed baptized you with water: but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Mark 1:8

The Prophet Joel had already given the promise of the Father, of the Holy Spirit poured out on all flesh, including the sons and daughters, servants and handmaids.

“But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it will come to pass in the last days, says God, I will pour out of my Spirit on all flesh: and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they will prophesy” Acts 2:16-18

The Apostle Peter, at the birth of the church, declared that what the people saw happen to the 120 was for all believers.

“Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38,39

At the home of Cornelius Peter saw Baptism in the Holy Spirit and faith in Jesus Christ as intrinsically linked.

“And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit 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 you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did to us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then has God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” Acts 11:5-18

Repentance and Baptisms

From the Apostle Peter’s perspective salvation through Christ involved repentance, water baptism and being baptised in the Holy Spirit, not necessarily in that order.

Peter had no hesitation promising the same experience of the Holy Spirit to his entire audience on the Day of Pentecost.  And he saw the Baptism in the Holy Spirit at the home of Cornelius as proof of salvation, so he gladly baptised the believers in water.

The Apostle Paul also saw Baptism in the Spirit going along with the salvation experience.  When Paul met believers at Ephesus, he asked if they had received the Holy Spirit since they believed.  Paul clearly expected new believers to have a sovereign experience of the Holy Spirit that could be proven to have taken place.

“He said to them, Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed? And they said to him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Spirit.” Acts 19:2

“Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying to 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 Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues, and prophesied.” Acts 19:4-6

Two Baptisms

While we see two baptisms in the practical examples, we also have a plural reference to baptisms in the letter to the Hebrews.

“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” Hebrews 6:1,2

The writer did not say “the doctrine of baptism”, but of “baptisms.  This is consistent with the New Testament examples where believers were both baptised in water and baptised in the Holy Spirit.

Peter clearly understood two baptisms at Pentecost and at the home of Cornelius.  Paul clearly understood the same two baptisms when he spoke to the believers at Ephesus.  Paul himself experienced two baptisms, by receiving the Holy Spirit and then being water baptised, Acts 9:17,18.

The early church gospel message called for faith and repentance and was followed by two baptisms, one in water by immersion and the other in the Holy Spirit.  If the Holy Spirit did not fall on the new believers, then others would lay hands on them to receive the Spirit.

Died Out With the Apostles

We have seen that the early church saw the Holy Spirit outpouring as a universal experience for all believers.  It not only happened at Pentecost and the home of Cornelius, but was expected to happen in all believers.

But some churches teach that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the attendant miracles died out with the Apostles.  Is there reason to believe that from the teaching of the Bible?

The Prophet Joel, who gave the “promise of the Father” centuries before Christ, clearly shows that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was not just to get the church kick-started, or as a special blessing on the early church.  It was to be part of what Joel called the “last days”.

“But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it will come to pass in the last days, says God, I will pour out of my Spirit on all flesh: and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they will prophesy” Acts 2:16-18

What comes after the “last days”?  All that can possibly come after the Last Days is the End!  Yet Joel prophesied that “in the last days” God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh.  The “last days” is a descriptor of the entire church age.  You and I are still in the last days.  If we are not in the last days, then the end must have already come.

And it is in these days that God is pouring out His Spirit on all flesh.

An Unfair God

Before I realised that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is as real and available today as it was in New Testament times, I thought of God as incredibly cruel to today’s believers.

Back in those days my church taught me that the Holy Spirit, gifts of the Spirit and miracles were not available today.  As I saw it back then, based on what I was taught, God gave amazing grace to the early church leaders, but is denying us that same grace.  Rather than giving the same salvation and blessing to all God must have created different salvation experiences for different times.

And this made life particularly unfair to us today.  Peter, Paul and James, seeing the miracles, speaking in tongues, using the gifts of the Spirit, healing the sick and raising the dead, were pretty excited about their salvation.  In the glory of all that good stuff they lived at a spiritual level that I saw as unattainable today.

And in their euphoria and wonderful blessing those men wrote the prescription for Christian living.  They invoked such instructions as, “pray without ceasing”, “rejoice evermore”, “in everything give thanks”, “cast your cares on him”, “resist the devil”, and so on.

I complained to God that He had no right to expect me to live to Paul’s standards if He would not give me the same power and blessing He gave to Paul.  And I think that is a very reasonable complaint.

So, has God shown partiality?  Has God created one level of Christian experience for the early church and denied it to you?  Should you be expected to live by the standards set by men who enjoyed graces that are now denied you?

However, because the Holy Spirit is as available to believers today as in the early church, all of that thought of unfairness is resolved.  I can live like James, Peter and Paul, because I have access to the same Holy Spirit that empowered and sustained them.

A Second Experience

Another case against the present day baptism in the Holy Spirit is the argument that all Christians receive the Holy Spirit at their new birth, which is then claimed to be one and the same as the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

It is true that all believers receive the Holy Spirit at their conversion.  And it is equally true that a subsequent experience of the Holy Spirit is also available to them, apart from their conversion.

The 120 disciples who received the Holy Spirit were already New Testament believers.  They believed that Jesus is the Christ and that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9) and so they were saved.  Jesus had already breathed on the disciples and said “Receive the Holy Spirit”

“And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit” John 20:22

So the day of Pentecost was a second Holy Spirit experience.  This time they were Baptised in the Holy Spirit.  They were immersed in the Spirit.  Rather than receiving the Spirit in an unseen internal experience, as all believers experience, this was a publicly verifiable and visible experience of the Spirit.

Paul and the Second Experience

Paul both experienced and expected others to experience a baptism in the Holy Spirit separate to receiving the Holy Spirit at conversion.

It is to Paul that we owe our understanding that every believer has the Holy Spirit, from Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome.

“But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Romans 8:9

Yet Paul came to faith on the road to Damascus, three days before he received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands of Ananias.  Paul called Christ “Lord” on that first day, Acts 9:5,6.  Ananias called him “Brother Saul” when they met, Acts 9:17.  Ananias also advised him that he was yet to be “filled with the Holy Spirit”, Acts 9:17.

It was Paul who expected the believers at Ephesus to have “received the Holy Spirit” since they “believed”, Acts 19:2.  He later reminded the church at Ephesus that they had an experience of the Holy Spirit after they believed.

“In whom you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after you believed, you were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise” Ephesians 1:13

Peter and the Second Experience

Peter and John also displayed the reality of a second experience of the Holy Spirit for all believers when they travelled to Samaria.  Receiving the Spirit was not something they left up to God, but saw as the birthright of all new sons and daughters of God.

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

Baptism in the Spirit Experience

Some churches teach that receiving the Holy Spirit is a secret, internal experience, unlike the New Testament examples.  It is true that all believers receive the Holy Spirit at salvation, internally and unseen.  But this is not the Baptism in the Holy Spirit which is promised by God the Father to all believers.

So what does the Baptism in the Holy Spirit look like?

The New Testament reveals that Baptism in the Spirit is always publicly attestable.  It is never secret.  It can be verified by the recipient and any witnesses to the event as well.

On the Day of Pentecost there was no doubt about this experience.  All the people heard the disciples speaking in tongues.

At Samaria there was no doubt about this experience.  Firstly it was obvious to Peter and John that the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen on them, because the obvious evidence was not there.  Secondly, after Peter and John prayed for the people, the evidence was so compelling that Simon the former sorcerer wanted to buy the ability to give the Spirit to people, Acts 8:18,19.

At the home of Cornelius there was no doubt about the Holy Spirit being given, because the witnesses heard them speak in tongues.

When Paul met the converts at Ephesus he fully expected them to be able to attest that they had received the Holy Spirit.  After Paul laid his hands on them there was no doubt they had received the Spirit because they spoke in tongues.

Paul speaks on several occasions about being “sealed” with the Holy Spirit, as if something quite discernible has taken place, 2Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13,14, Ephesians 4:30.

A Miracle of Hearing

Another idea I have heard promoted is that the speaking in tongues was a miracle of “hearing” by the audience.  Rather than the disciples speaking in a new language, they were being understood in the language of their hearers.

This suggestion contradicts the passage from Joel which Peter directly connects with the occasion.  Joel said the people would speak, not that the hearers would hear.

“But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it will come to pass in the last days, says God, I will pour out of my Spirit on all flesh: and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they will prophesy” Acts 2:16-18

The miracle of the outpouring is in the “speaking”, not in the “hearing” of an unconverted audience.  The Spirit is poured on God’s servants, not on the heathen who happen to be watching.

The New Testament record shows that the people “spoke with new tongues”.  They had utterance.  It had nothing to do with the hearers, but all to do with the speaking.

“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2:4

And at the home of Cornelius there were only the Jews and the local Gentiles present.  The diverse crowd with different language backgrounds was not there.  Yet Peter said what happened there was the same as what happened on the Day of Pentecost.  They spoke out in languages they and even their hearers did not understand.

Tongues to Preach to the Crowd

Another belief is that the miracle of tongues on the Day of Pentecost was to preach to the crowd.  This suggests that the languages spoken by the disciples were chosen specifically for that audience.  And it suggests that the experience is not so important today.

However Paul, teaching specifically about speaking in tongues as one of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, in 1Corinthians 12-14, refers to speaking in the tongues of men and angels.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” 1Corinthians 13:1

The Holy Spirit empowers us to speak all manner of languages, including all the languages spoken on earth and the variety of languages spoken by angels.  So the fact that men recognised their own language among the 120 voices speaking is not a matter of preaching in those languages, but simply overhearing people speaking supernaturally in the “tongues of men”.

In the home of Cornelius there was no need for those filled with the Spirit to preach to Peter and the other Christians that came with him.  Yet Peter said what happened there was the same as what happened on the Day of Pentecost.

On the Day of Pentecost those speaking in an unknown tongue were unknowingly speaking “the wonderful works of God”, Acts 2:11.  Cornelius and his friends spoke in tongues and unknowingly magnified God, Acts 10:46.

Rather than tongues being a miracle of preaching it is the Holy Spirit glorifying God through the believer.  All believers can have that experience, even today.  It is not a tool for birthing the church, but a promise by God to His children, for their blessing.

Just Like Us

Peter described the filling with the Spirit of Cornelius and his friends as being just like what happened on the Day of Pentecost.  Yet there were several differences.

“And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit 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 you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did to us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?” Acts 11:5-17

Cornelius did not have any experience of the sound of a wind or the sight of fire on their heads, as occurred at Pentecost.  So those manifestations are not an integral part of receiving the Holy Spirit.

What was similar includes that they spoke with tongues and glorified God.  They did this by the influence of the Holy Spirit, not by human cause.  They did this as a consequence of their desire to know God.

Holy Spirit for Today

Not only does the New Testament text attest to an on-going second experience of the Holy Spirit available to all believers throughout the church age, but church history attests to the same thing.

The Holy Spirit is for today.  Theologies that come to a different conclusion do not stack up with scripture.

Yet, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not essential for salvation.  It is an element of our eternal inheritance, but rejecting the inheritance does not void sonship.

Sabbath Keeping

In my early teens I met a girl at a youth camp who was Seventh Day Adventist. I thought she was pretty, so I looked in the Bible to find out whether what she believed was an important issue or not. The passage that helped me was Romans 14, which I discuss a little later in this article.

In the years that followed I heard various Christian claims about how the Church changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday and how relevant the Old Testament law was or wasn’t for us today.

Today I finally decided to put together an article exploring the Christian attitude to the Sabbath, particularly for those who are struggling with whether Christians should or should not keep a day each week as a holy day.

The most prevalent voice about Sabbath keeping today is that of the Seventh Day Adventist church, so this article is probably of greatest relevance to those who have been influenced by the Adventists. So I will start with a comment about who to listen to.

Who To Listen To

We are warned in several ways about who we listen to and the company we keep.

“He that walks with wise men will be wise: but a companion of fools will be destroyed.” Proverbs 13:20

“Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man you shall not go: Lest you learn his ways, and get a snare to your soul.” Proverbs 22:24,25

“Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” 1Corinthians 15:33

“My son, stop listening to instruction that causes you to err from the words of knowledge.” Proverbs 19:27

Adventists have a couple of specific topics which they sow into the hearts of their listeners. The topic of Sabbath keeping is a key issue for them and one which they regard as essential for correct worship.

If you have been reading Adventist material or listening to their messages you will already have imbibed something of their concern for this topic, as you are gradually led to hold their beliefs. That is the purpose of their speaking on the topic.

Please heed the caution to take note of who is speaking into your life. Are you being led to Biblical wisdom, or are you being led to a mindset or belief that the Adventists hold dear?

New Testament Sabbath Keeping

Now, take a look at the New Testament teaching about Sabbath keeping.

There is no direct New Testament instruction to keep the Sabbath day, either as a Saturday or Sunday.  Instead we find the opposite message conveyed.

Consider the Apostle Paul’s comments about keeping a particular day. I have condensed a passage from Romans 14:5-13.

“One man esteems one day above another: another esteems every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” Romans 14:5

“He that regards the day, regards it to the Lord; and he that disregards the day, to the Lord he disregards it.” Romans 14:6

“For none of us lives to himself, and no man dies to himself.” Romans 14:7

“For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.” Romans 14:8

“But why do you judge your brother? or why do you set at nought your brother? for we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” Romans 14:10

“So then every one of us will give account of himself to God.” Romans 14:12

Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” Romans 14:13

No Special Day

Here is Paul, the architect of the New Testament church, and a man who was taken into heaven and shown things too wonderful to ever talk about and who wrote the most books in the New Testament, telling us that there is no Biblical imperative about keeping a particular day. Instead, the keeping of a special day or treating all days as equal is a matter of personal conscience, not Biblical mandate.

Despite the clear responsibility of Jews to keep the Sabbath, as we see in the insistence of the Pharisees that Christ not work on the Sabbath, this former Pharisee, Paul, speaks quite casually about whether one day or all days are to be honoured.

In Christian worship there is no special day, either as Saturday or Sunday, that must be given honour over any other day.  If you choose to esteem one day over another, that is a matter for your conscience.  If you choose to esteem all days alike, that too is a matter for your conscience.

And no Christian is to judge another about which day or days they hold in esteem.  Each of us must answer to Christ, and give an account of ourselves to Him.  Therefore “let us not judge one another any more”.

The Early Church Leaders

We also see the same message that Paul gives in Romans 14 affirmed by Peter, James and the other church leaders when they gave instruction to the Gentile believers about what was required of them.

The church leaders in Jerusalem were asked to clarify if Jewish laws applied to Gentile believers. The church leaders came out with the following conclusion, which they sent to the Gentiles.

“And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting to the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:” Acts 15:23

“Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, You must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:” Acts 15:24

“For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay on you no greater burden than these necessary things;” Acts 15:28

“That you abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if you keep yourselves, you will do well. Fare you well.” Acts 15:29

Here are the church leaders of the New Testament age holding the very first conference about what is doctrinally correct for believers. And they do not impose the Jewish Law, Sabbath Keeping, Circumcision, or any such thing. They focus on three elements of diet: food offered to idols; blood; and things strangled. And they focus on sexual purity. That’s it! No Sabbath Keeping!

Life in the Spirit

We learn from the Book of Hebrews that the Old Testament laws were a pattern and earthly replica of eternal things in the heavens.  Christ fulfilled the true meaning of the Old Testament pattern and laws. Spiritual realities now dominate our lives in the church age, not legalistic requirements of religious duty as were applied under Jewish law.

We find this truth explored in the following verses from Hebrews 9, which I will paraphrase.

“The first covenant had ordinances of divine service (the Jewish laws) and a man made sanctuary, with various pieces of furniture” Heb 9:1-5

“The priests served in the tabernacle but only the high priest could go into the holiest place, once a year, with blood of animals offered for himself and the people” Hebrews 9:6,7

“This Jewish legal process was the Holy Spirit’s way to show us that real access to the true holy place was not available under Jewish Law, which was a mere model of the real thing, with processes that could not fully deal with sin, but were in place until the time of reformation, the time when the true heavenly realities are revealed.” Hebrews 8-10

“But Christ is a high priest of the heavenly reality, the greater tabernacle in heaven, where he entered only once with his own blood into the true holy place where he obtained eternal redemption for us.” Hebrews 9:11,12

“If animal sacrifices purified the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, completely cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the Living God?” Hebrews 9:13,14

All those laws the Jews were slavishly bound to were a mere reflection of the true spiritual reality yet to be revealed, which is now fulfilled in Christ.  So we are free from those “dead works” which the Jews were religiously bound to, and now we serve God with a clean conscience and free from the old laws.

Romans 8

That same truth is also expressed by Paul in Romans 8, showing that to live in the Spirit is the reality of God’s plan, not the following of the law.  By entering into the spirit of what God has planned we become free from the practical demands of law.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 8:1

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:2

“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:” Romans 8:3

“That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 8:4

Keeping Your Liberty

As these verses show, we enjoy a wonderful liberty and freedom through Christ. We are no longer bound by the laws that enslaved the Jewish people.

We now serve God out of a clear conscience and a heart of love toward Him. “We are not under law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:14)

But in the early days of the New Testament church there were Christian teachers who insisted that the people come under the law. Some insisted on circumcision and others on the keeping of various laws.

Paul particularly challenged the church at Galatia that it had been seduced to come back under law. Note these various verses from Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

“I marvel that you are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ to another gospel:” Galatians 1:6

“Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.” Galatians 1:7

“And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage” Galatians 2:4

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” Galatians 2:16

“For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.” Galatians 2:19

“O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” Galatians 3:1

“This only would I learn of you, Received you the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” Galatians 3:2

“Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” Galatians 3:3

“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continues not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.” Galatians 3:10

“But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.” Galatians 3:11

“And the law is not of faith: but, The man that does them shall live in them.” Galatians 3:12

“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree:” Galatians 3:13

“That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Galatians 3:14

Those verses say we are set free from all the demands of the law, to live by grace through Christ. Some people try to ensnare us to a gospel based on our works, such as keeping various laws, but we are to remain in the Spirit, relying only on Christ and living only for Him.

Christ our Sabbath Rest

I pointed out earlier that Hebrews 9 shows that the old testament pattern as a model of the real things in heaven. Hebrews 4 also speaks on that theme and shows that Christ is our true rest.

The Jews had a weekly day of rest, a Sabbath. But that did not give them true rest.

After instigating the seventh day, Sabbath, rest, God promised that another “rest” would be given to His people. This was to be the true rest.

Hebrews 4 refers to a promise of rest given in Psalm 95:7-11, saying basically that “There is a rest yet to come, and those who hardened their hearts missed out on it.”  That rest is entered into when we stop relying on our own actions and trust in Christ.

“There remains therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest is he who has also ceased from his own works, as God did from his.” Hebrews 4:9,10

We cease from our own works by relying on the finished work of Christ, by faith. And so Christ becomes the fulfilment of the Sabbath Rest for us.

What God signified to us by instigating the Sabbath was not the true rest God has for us. That is why people who kept the Sabbath could miss out on God’s true rest. The Jews who refused to believe God would lead them to the Promised Land kept the Sabbath faithfully each week, yet they were denied God’s rest.

“Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.” Psalm 95:11

So the true meaning of rest is not fulfilled by keeping a weekly Sabbath. It is not fulfilled by treating Sunday as the new Sabbath, as some Christians teach. The true rest is not about a day off, or a day of religious observance. It is about finding rest to our souls because we rely on Christ and the grace of God through Him, and so we abandon all thought that our own actions count for anything toward our salvation. That is the true REST God gives.

Protect Your Liberty

We are instructed by Paul to resist any who would steal our liberty in Christ from us.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1

The Jewish laws, including Sabbath keeping, are a yoke of bondage. The Jews could not keep those laws and those laws did not bring them salvation. All the Jews who faithfully kept the Sabbath desperately needed to put their faith in Christ, just like all the Gentiles who did not keep the Sabbath. Sabbath keeping has no bearing on our salvation or our on-going Christian life. It is not the true REST which God has for us.

The Jewish laws like Sabbath keeping can now only rob us of our freedom to worship Christ and to celebrate the glory of grace that saves us.

Sabbath keeping entangles us in a yoke of bondage and destroys our liberty in Christ.

Putting it Together

The New Testament teaches about a Sabbath rest that has nothing to do with any particular day of the week. In fact, the New Testament shuns the idea of any particular day being exalted over another, except in the conscience of individual believers.

We are to rely on Christ for our full salvation and not to become entangled in the “yoke of bondage”.

We are also to avoid allowing people to bewitch us into moving away from our full trust and reliance on Christ.  We need to be aware that those who speak into our lives will lead us in their direction, for better or for worse.

The devotion of some Christians to a particular day shows that they have not understood and do not fully walk in the teaching of the New Testament church.  They have mixed old and new covenant ideas in a way that can only ensnare them and those who listen to them.

That does not make them sinners, but it does mean they have missed the true Sabbath rest, because they now rely on their own works, instead of totally relying on Christ.

Enjoy a Day of Rest

Now that the religious imperative for Sabbath keeping has been addressed, allow me to remind you that God has given you one day in the week for your refreshment.  While we are not forced to honour any particular day and we are to avoid religious regulation that ensnares us, we are also offered a wonderful gift from God, of a rest day each week.

Jesus taught that the day of rest was a gift to man.  Man was not made to worship the Sabbath.

“And he (Jesus) said to them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” Mark 2:27

Jesus did not rebuke his disciples for doing what was considered to be “work” on the Sabbath, allowing them to pluck grain and eat it as they walked along with Him (See Mark 2:23,24).

Note too that God created the day of rest back at creation.  God rested on the Seventh Day and blessed it (See Genesis 2:2,3).

Subsequent to creation the Jews were brought under a strict law regarding keeping the Sabbath, including the death penalty for those who worked on the Sabbath.  While Christians are not under the Jewish law and its legalistic constraints, we are still privileged to have a rest day blessed by God.

The Apostle Paul allows you to choose any day to esteem over others, or to esteem them all equally, as we saw in Romans 14.  So even God’s blessing on the Seventh Day does not bind us to it.  We have liberty in Christ.

Sabbath Keeping is a religious bondage. Enjoying a day of rest each week is God’s grace to us.

So, be led by the Spirit of God to enjoy what God has given you, free from religious constraints, legal bondage or man made religion.

Creating a Lifestyle for Your Child

Parenting is a great joy. It brings many wonderful blessings to both mum and dad.  So let me help those who are not so confident, with some Biblical insights.

A command given to parents is to train your child.  The Bible also gives advice about what we train into the child.  We train the child in the “way he should go”.  That means we create in our child a lifestyle they will follow.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Way to Go

We might better understand the phrase “way he should go” by thinking of it as the “lifestyle” the child will follow.  The way is not just a couple of key things we want the child to value, such as good manners or going to church.  The idea here is of a whole life orientation, not just a select few things.

In past generations Christian parents insisted on certain behaviours from their child, but let the world sow its lifestyle values as well.  The child then followed the lifestyle of the world, and may or may not have kept the particular few things the parents taught.

So give some thought to the “lifestyle” you want to create in your child, not just the few token behaviours that are important to you.

Course of Life

The Hebrew word translated as “way” in Proverbs 22:6 is ‘derek’, which refers to a road we tread (a ‘walk’ rather than a highway we drive along), and has the figurative meanings of a course of life or a mode of action.  The word is at times translated in the King James Bible as “conversation”, which does not mean talking, but “lifestyle”.

You, as the parent, train your child in the course of life and mode of action.  You determine the path they tread and cultivate the lifestyle they will live.  You are commanded to do so.

Do Not Abandon Your Child

If you are not training your child you are leaving him to himself.  You are warned in the Bible not to do that, because a child left to himself will bring his mother to shame.

“The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself brings his mother to shame.” Proverbs 29:15

Children need training.  You are to correct their wrong behaviour and direct their actions into the way you want them to live.  If you do not do that, maybe because you think their naughty actions are cute, or that you are supposed to let them discover their own way, you have failed the child and failed God.

A key aspect in training a child is to discipline them for their wrong choices, wrong actions and foolishness.  This basic Biblical training method is so essential it led to the saying, “If you Spare the Rod you Spoil the Child”.  To ‘spoil’ means to ruin, like food that has gone rotten. It is spoiled.  Do not abandon and spoil your child.

Core Lifestyle Values

To train a child in the right lifestyle you need to know what that lifestyle is.  Simply stated it is a ‘godly’ lifestyle.  It is a lifestyle centred on desire to glorify God and to live as God wants us to.  We know this from the prophet Malachi who explained that the reason God created marriage is to produce “godly seed”.

“And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.” Malachi 2:15

Note that being godly is not something we add on to our lifestyle, but is the core lifestyle value.  Some people who live for self, money, success, fame or other things are able to go to church, do good deeds and look quite godly.

But someone who is godly at heart has the desire to glorify God and to be blessed by God as their primary goal, not self, money, success, pleasure or those many other things.  While on the outside the behaviours may seem similar, at heart they are very different.

Training the Heart

God looks at the heart of your child.  God knows when your child loves self, the world, pleasure or other things.  It is vitally important for you to train the heart of your child.

“But the LORD said to Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1Samuel 16:7

Since God sees the heart of your child and will reward your child accordingly, you also must look into the heart of your child and train their tender heart to love and respect God.

One way to do this is to have a close, heart to heart bond with your child, so they open their heart to you and you can speak into their life at the deepest level.

King Solomon expressed the father’s desire to have his son open his heart to his dad.

My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.” Proverbs 23:26

Both Parents Training the Child

Another key point is that training the child is done by both parents.  It is not the mother’s job or the father’s job.  Both mum and dad have a part to play and they work together to create the best outcome.

The Bible calls children to obey both mother and father, so obviously both parents are training them in the right lifestyle.

Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.” Colossians 3:20

King Solomon reveals that the mother and father have complimentary roles.  He refers to the father’s actions and the mother’s contribution as different, yet obviously working together.

“My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of your mother” Proverbs 6:20

A Godly Lifestyle

To train your child to a godly lifestyle you need to know what that lifestyle looks like.  It looks quite different to the values and actions of typical children and youth.  Western culture has moved far away from godliness and is based mostly on selfishness and worldliness.

If you allow your child to learn the values of their peers and what is found in everyday music, movies, advertising and role models then they have no hope of being godly.  You will not have trained them in the correct way.

Remember that you are training their heart to be tender toward God.  You want to develop in them a love for God and confidence that serving God and keeping God’s requirements brings them the greatest blessings, because it does.

Your Own Lifestyle

If your own lifestyle is full of addictions to this world, selfish interest, keeping up with the trends, gobbling down the latest and greatest that the world has to offer, and so on, then you will not really know the godly way to create in your child’s heart.  And you will also automatically train your child to be like you.

An important starting point is to humble yourself before God and ask Him to create a clean heart in you and to lead you to love and worship Him fully.  As you learn to do that you can then bring your child along in the same experience.

It is not wrong to have things that are in the world, but the extreme danger is when we love those things.  We know we love them when we refuse to give them up.  Rather than giving up or shutting down those things that could contaminate your child, you will be tempted to find reasons to keep them in your life.

I challenge you to love your child enough to seek God until you love Him enough to clean out your lifestyle of all things that tempt your child to love something other than God.

Parenting is Joy

It is a joyful thing to have godly children you have trained who fill your life with good things.

“Correct your son and he will give you rest; yes, he will give delight to your soul.” Proverbs 29:17

You do not need to be ashamed, pained, disturbed or anxious about your children.  The benefits of good parenting are not only enjoyed in your child, but they come back to you as lovely and delightful rewards as well.

The Lord bless you as you give Him your heart and lead your children to love Him too.