Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: Some Temporary Aspects of the Coming of the Spirit

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Some Temporary Aspects of the Coming of the Spirit

1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come {being completely fulfilled in its type}, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly {in such a manner as to be startling} there came a sound from heaven as {like the sound} of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3so that they could know this more than just a rushing wind}, and it sat upon each of them. 4 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). And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire {

In coming to an understanding of the transitional nature of the historical record of Acts 2:1-4, there are some aspects of this event that were unique to the transition and should not be expected to be seen afterwards. First, this records a one-time (on one day in history) event and believers afterward should not expect a similar experience.

Although we find two other occurrences of some visible (“sign”) evidences of this new ministry of the Holy Spirit, even these two occurrences were transitional in nature and not the same as on the Day of Pentecost. The second record is found in Acts 8:5-25 and it records the miracles of Philip at Samaria in 34 A.D. (this is not a Samaritan Pentecost; there were no cloven tongues of fire or sound of mighty rushing of wind). The coming of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the new covenant was made evident to the Samaritans (a group of half breed Jews; II Kings 17:24) who had not believed on Jesus before Philip came. This was to visibly reveal God’s union of believers from these two groups (which had hitherto despised one another) after the day of Pentecost in the body of Christ. The reason for waiting for the Apostles and the laying on of their hands was to show that the authority of truth was centered in what the Apostles taught (and no one else), because God did not, and does not, want a sectarian Christianity.

When the Apostles passed out of history (historical transition), their authority was established in the written and inspired Word of God (inscripturalized) and the laying on of hands, that signified the giving of the Holy Spirit, ended with them (according to Scripture, this practice did not even continued throughout their lifetimes).

The third record found is in Acts 10:1-48 (verses 44-48; 41 A. D.) and records the visible evidence (“sign”) to the Jews (Acts 10:45) that the Gentile believers were united with the Jews and Samaritans into the “body” of Christ (this was not a Gentile Pentecost; there were no cloven tongues of fire or sound of mighty rushing of wind).

Cornelius was a Gentile believer in the Old Testament sense (Acts 10:1-2). Therefore, he was a Gentile proselyte to Judaism. However, the central reason for what took place at Caesarea was to show the Jews that Gentiles were joined with them in the body of Christ in the Church Age dispensation (Acts 10:45).

Since this coming of the Spirit of God on the day of Pentecost was a spiritual phenomenon, and those present would not normally be able to be aware (through their physical senses; I Cor. 2:9) of what was taking place, this required some physical (sensatory) aspects of this supernatural occurrence for the Jews to know that this was a fulfillment of prophecy (although an already, not yet fulfillment; i.e. it was not a complete fulfillment).

Therefore, the sensatory aspects of this event such as the “sound from heaven,” the “cloven tongues of fire” resting upon each of the disciples (to visibly show who it was that was receiving these new supernatural operations of the Spirit), and the speaking “with other tongues” were temporary “signs” to the Jews to reveal this new ministry of the Spirit.

In the Old Covenant, God’s revelation of Himself and His operations (workings) in the midst of Israel was manifested to them through “signs and wonders” (Ex. 4:1-9, 17, Num. 14:11, Deut. 4:34, 6:22, 7:19, 29:3, Joshua 24:17, Dan. 4:2-3, 6:27; Mark 16:17-20). This was an historical constant in the history of God’s manifestations of His workings to the children of Israel beginning with their deliverance from Egyptian bondage. These miraculous manifestations were the continuing expectations from the Jews.

18 Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? 19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. 20 Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? 21 But he spake of the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said” (John 2:18-21).

“Then said Jesus unto him {the nobleman from Capernaum}, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe” (John 4:48).

14 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: 15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. 16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17 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: 18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: 19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: 21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. 22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know” (Acts 2:14-22).

21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 22 For the Jews require a sign {a miraculous event before they would believe that God was involved}, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified {see John 2:18-21 above}, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (I Corinthians 1:21-24).

The Gentiles, on the other hand, had a different perspective that came from their religious practices in the demonically influenced paganism when it came to the issue of miraculous things such as tongues. Understanding what Paul was dealing with at Corinth must be understood from its historical context. The majority of those in the church at Corinth were Gentiles who were saved out of the pagan Mystery Religions (I Corinthians 12:2). These people were incorporating some of the religious practices of the pagan Mystery Religions with their Christianity.

Whatever God does, Satan is quick to counterfeit. Then Satan subverts people by bringing their focus upon the counterfeit and manufacturing a religion based upon the pursuit of what he has counterfeited. This is what Satan did within what came to be known as the Mystery Religions of paganism. These Mystery Religions became preoccupied with the spiritual miraculous and seeking the miracles rather than seeking the Person of God. Because of this satanic misdirection, people were easily led astray to follow false religious leaders.

“Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led” (I Corinthians 12:2).

Most of these Mystery Religions evolved out of Babylon from the occult practices of Nimrod that resulted in the building of the Tower of Babel and God’s confounding of the languages ending in the dispersal of the people into different nations (language groups). The origin and evolution of these Mystery Religions was demonic. Therefore, the supernatural happenings of the Mystery Religions were also of demonic sources.

Common to the Mystery Religions was the practice of Ecstasism and Enthusiasm. S. Angus, in his book The Mystery Religions (New York: Dover Publications, 1975) details these two practices.

“...Ecstasy (ekstasis) and Enthusiasm (enthusiasmos), both of which might be induced by vigil and fasting, tense religious expectancy, whirling dances, physical stimuli, the contemplation of sacred objects, the effect of stirring music, inhalation of fumes, revivalistic contagion (such as happened in the church at Corinth), hallucination, suggestion, and other means belonging to the apparatus of the Mysteries.”

Both Ecstasy and Enthusiasm were used to promote a heightened sense of euphoria and human experience. In this euphoric state, the participant experiences a feeling of having communed with deity. His involvement has been with the supernatural realm, but not the divine. Ecstasism and Enthusiasm were Satanic in origin.

From our historical understanding of all of this, we can understand that Paul is dealing with two types of tongues in I Corinthians 14. Since Paul would not be present to discern every tongues experience and the gift of tongues was still a viable reality at this juncture in the historical transition between dispensations, he seeks to regulate them by the process of elimination.

The first (false) type of tongues is ecstatic tongues which is denoted by the italicized word “unknown.” The King James translators understood the HISTORICAL CONTEXT of what Paul was addressing and added the word unknown to distinguish this kind of tongues, from the kind of tongues recorded in the book of Acts. This is the tongues experience Paul seeks to eliminate. Genuine “tongues” (which were always known languages) were used to communicate truth to someone who would not be able to otherwise understand.

If God is communicating, He will always do so with the intent of edification and understanding (I Corinthians 14:1-22). In the only three examples of tongues in the book of Acts (Acts 2:4-11, Acts 8:5-25, and Acts 10:44-46), the communication came with understanding by the hearers. The miracle (grace-gift) of tongues was not in the speaking, but in the hearing.

4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. 6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. 7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? 8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? 9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, 10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:4-11).

Clearly from I Corinthians 14:27, we can see the scope of the miracle of “tongues” is in the hearing and not in the speaking. Even though the one speaking needed to be “filled” with the Spirit before the miracle could take place, this was a supernatural work that flowed through the Spirit filled believer to the lost.

It is also important for us to understand from I Corinthians 14:27 that God tells us that He is only going to perform this miracle of “tongues” one-at-a-time (“by course,” one after the other). Therefore, the miracle of “tongues” must be understood from the perspective that as one of the disciples was speaking, either in Hebrew or maybe Greek, each person in the crowd heard what that one person was saying, but each person heard the speaker in his own native tongue (language). The speaker might not even have been aware that the miracle was taking place.

What is described in Acts 2:4-11 may have been the common experience of the Apostle Paul (see I Corinthians 14:18) as he preached throughout his missionary journeys. I doubt very much if Paul was able to speak all the languages of all the countries he started churches in.

Why is understanding all of this important to us today? It is important to understand all of this so that the believer is not looking for, or pursuing after, something the Spirit of God is not going to do? There are three important truths from I Corinthians chapter twelve that we must understand.

1. There “are diversities of gifts” (charisma). Not everyone had the same spiritual gifts. It should not be expected that everyone possess each gift. In fact, that expectation would be unscriptural.

29b are all workers of miracles? {No!} 30 Have all the gifts of healing? {No!} do all speak with tongues? {No!} do all interpret” {No!} (I Corinthians 12:29b-30; I have added the word No! after each question to show the intent of the questions.)?

2. According to I Corinthians 12:5, there “are differences of administrations.” Not everyone had the same ministry in the local church. The idea is that not everyone has the same job (although there are some things everyone is commanded to do). Everyone is not an Apostle. Everyone is not a preacher (“prophet”). Everyone is not a Pastor/Teacher.

Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers” (I Corinthians 12:29a)?

3. According to I Corinthians 12:6, there “are diversities of operations.” Although God never changes (character, nature, and attributes), His operations do change. These changes are called “dispensations.” This is what the focus is on in I Corinthians chapter thirteen. It is known as the doctrine of historical transition.

Sign gifts were for this time of historical transition between the dispensation of Law and the dispensation of Grace. Each of these dispensations is one of God’s “diversities of operations.” There were a number of changes in operations between these two dispensations. Sign gifts were to make this time of transition evident and to prove that what was being done was of God.

There are at least 6 major dispensational transitional changes in God’s operations in the transition from the Mosaic Covenant and the Dispensation of Law to the New Covenant and the Dispensation of Grace (the Church Age).

1. Old Testament believers looking forward to the coming of Messiah needed to know of Jesus and trust in His once for all sacrifice in order to become a formal member of the a local church.

2. There was a transition from the local synagogue to the local church.

3. There was the transition from government of the Old Testament priesthood to congregational polity administrated by local Pastors called by God.

4. There was a transition from the Temple sacrifices that looked forward to the coming Messiah, now abrogated in that the sacrifice of Jesus fulfilled them “once for all.”

5. There was the abrogation of Temple worship in that the believer’s body becomes the Temple of The Holy Spirit (a living Temple) and the believer is given direct access to the Throne of Grace because of the mediatorial work of Christ.

6. There was the transition from the Passover celebration that looked forward in anticipation to the coming of the incarnate Lamb of God to the Lord’s Supper that looks backward in remembrance of the completed sacrifice of the Lamb of God.

This New Dispensation and the beginning of the New Covenant (beginning actually in time, not merely promised) is expressed by the words “under grace” in the Bible. The Dispensation of the Law is expressed by the words “under Law.” The believer is now under the New Covenant and the Dispensation of Grace (God’s supernatural enabling of the yielded believer through the indwelling Spirit).

The focus of I Corinthians chapter thirteen is on what will continue in the operations of God through the Holy Spirit beyond this historical transition and what will not. “Charity” (love: that from which all “fruit of the Spirit” comes) is the one operation of the Spirit of God that encompasses all of His workings and characterizes all genuinely spiritually “born again” children of God. Therefore, the continuing sign or evidence of the New Covenant relationship with God will be this characteristic of love (self sacrifice; I Corinthians 13:1-7), not “prophecies,” “tongues,” and/or special revelatory “knowledge.”

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Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist.
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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