Not Traditional, Original

T 1.61 Tradition in Original Christianity, The Word Spirit Can Mean Different Things Depending on the Context, Studying the Word Spirit

Since we are talking about devils as evil spirits and discerning of spirits now is a good time to take a deeper look at the word spirit in scripture.

Spirit is one of those things like electricity.  You can’t see it; you only know what it is by its effects. Oh, you can see lightning or the light of a light bulb, but those are just manifestations of electricity.  And spirit is more hidden than electricity which we can define and measure in the natural whereas spirit (as in holy spirit or evil spirit) is not measurable in the natural at all.  A google search of electricity revealed this definition, “a form of energy resulting from the existence of charged particles (such as electrons or protons), either statically as an accumulation of charge or dynamically as a current.” That is pretty precise and understandable to people that study those kinds of things. On the other hand, spirit cannot be ascertained in the natural world:

Now the natural man doesn’t receive the things of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to him, and he can’t know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  (1Co 2:14 WEB)

The things of the spiritual world are not available to be reasoned out scientifically or philosophically, or any other way of the world.  The spiritual world is revealed by Yahweh to us spiritually.

But to us, God revealed them through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For who among men knows the things of a man, except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so, no one knows the things of God, except God’s Spirit. But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that were freely given to us by God.  (1Co 2:10-12 WEB)

What we truly know about the spiritual world is what has been revealed from God.  There are all kinds of people all the time reasoning how God works, but they are just guessing because it is beyond our capacity to truly understand as the verses above declare.  But people still do it, and bigger and bigger holes just keep being dug.  That is part of how we have gotten the massive amount of division that we have in the church.

In reality, the more we both study the scriptures and act on them to experience the truth the more we understand spirit because we understand our father God, and the Lord Jesus Christ as we relate to them. Be we have to get away from all the philosophizing about the things of God because we really are incapable of figuring out anything about who God is and how God works other than what is revealed.

Now, when it comes to spirits, as great as it would be if the word spirit always referred to Holy Spirit or evil spirits, we need to acknowledge that the word spirit has different meanings in different contexts.  Right off the bat here’s an example of spirit with some key distinctions.

That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (Joh 3:6b WEB)

The word spirit is in this verse twice with the word born between indicating there is a parent and child. A spirit is born of a spirit indicating two different spirits.  And as this is talking about Holy Spirit that means it is talking about two holy spirits!  We’re talking about Holy Spirit giving birth to holy spirit.  Yep, that’s right. That’s what is revealed here.

Basically, the principle is that the Greek word pneuma with the article “the” refers to the Holy Spirit, the Giver. Without the article, pneuma refers to spirit, the gift believers receive when they are born again.  This verse is saying that which is born of the Holy Spirit is a believer’s holy spirit.  Notice that the first word is Spirit (capitalized) and the second is spirit (lower case).  The Holy Spirit is capitalized.  Lower case spirit, our spirit, is lower case.  That is the convention in English although not in Koine Greek.

There is one Holy Spirit.  If there are a billion born again believers then there are a billion holy spirits.  That is what we are talking about.  Here’s a verse that talks about individual spirits in believers, in this case, prophets.

The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets, (1Co 14:32 WEB)

Look at this verse:

May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (1Th 5:23 WEB)

This verse breaks down a believer in the three components, spirit (pneuma), soul (psuche), and body (soma).  Notice that the Greek word pneuma is not capitalized in that verse because it is talking about the believer’s holy spirit which is one part of three of the makeup of a believer.

Remember, part of the problem too is that there is no capitalization in the texts from which the books of the bible are translated.  So, the translators decided, based on their theology, when to capitalize Holy Spirit and when not to, holy spirit.  So, there is a problem going from translation to translation as to that translation’s rules for capitalizing or not capitalizing pneuma as spirit so it does get confusing at times.

There are more things to consider in the way spirit is used in scripture.

Next, look at this usage of the word pneuma. It does not have the article and it does refer to a person’s holy spirit, but only indirectly as it refers to the manifestations and uses of the spirit. So, it is a little awkward.  The translators add the word gifts in the KJV to show the word is added by the translators.

Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.  (1Co 14:12 KJV)

I chose to use the KJV version of that first to show that the word gifts is in italics, which, again, in the KJV shows that it is a word added by the translators. The literal translation is “for as much as you are zealous of spirit”. The ESV version translates that same phrase as “since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit.”  Neither is literal. The text says the word spirit but it is referring to the operation of the spirit.  It goes to show you that you need to have some flexibility in that the use of the word pneuma just doesn’t mean a spirit entity, plain and simple.

Of course, so far, we have been talking about holy spirit, the good kind of spirit.  But there are kinds of references to evil spirits, who are under the command of Satan. Devils or demons are angels who have turned against Yahweh and joined Satan’s cause.

Then he will say also to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; (Mat 25:41 WEB)

These bad angels are part of the kingdom of the devil which Jesus came to destroy.

He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. To this end the Son of God was revealed: that he might destroy the works of the devil.  (1Jn 3:8 WEB)

In a later article, we will see in scripture that a number of these evil spirits are named like lying spirits, spirits of antichrist, familiar spirits, and so forth.

But, as we shall see in this article, every time it says spirit in Scripture doesn’t mean a spiritual entity like a holy spirit or an evil spirit.  Here is a place with the Greek word pneuma where it doesn’t mean spirit as in holy spirit or evil spirit.  It refers to an element of character or an attitude:

What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?  (1Co 4:21 WEB)

Again, it is usages like this that can make it more difficult to understand spirits because every time it says spirit it doesn’t necessarily refer to a different entity.   This is talking about being gentle or a “gentle spirit” if you will.  For us believers, gentleness isn’t a separate spirit, but gentleness is a fruit of our (holy) spirit as it says in Galatians:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  (Gal 5:22-23 WEB)

To be gentle means to act tenderly, mildly, with a light touch.  1 Cor 4:21 above shows Paul making a choice whether to act gently, with a light touch, or harshly, with a rod.  So, to come in a spirit of gentleness is to come with a light touch, mildly, tenderly.

Similarly, let’s look at some verses in Proverbs.

Pride goes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall. It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor, than to divide the plunder with the proud.  (Pro 16:18-19 WEB)

The Hebrew word for spirit is ruach. It is the Hebrew equivalent for the Greek word pneuma.  The arrogant spirit here is not talking about someone being possessed with a spirit of arrogance.  It means being puffed up, all full of themselves.   You don’t have to be possessed to fall down this rabbit hole.  People that are not possessed get arrogant and wind up taking a fall all the time.

This arrogant attitude is contrasted with a humble attitude, a “lowly spirit” the text reads.  Again, humility refers to attitude.  Our holy spirit helps us to be humble.  When we have a lowly or humble spirit it refers to our character at that time.

Arrogant spirit, lowly spirit, gentle spirit are all examples of times when the word spirit is used but it doesn’t mean a unique spiritual being, it refers to character and attitude.

The word spirit is used when talking about angels as they are good spirits under God’s direction.

But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise, and go toward the south to the way that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. This is a desert.” He arose and went; and behold, there was a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was over all her treasure, who had come to Jerusalem to worship. He was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah. The Spirit said to Philip, “Go near, and join yourself to this chariot.”  (Act 8:26-29 WEB)

This is one of the records of a wonderful angel delivering a message to someone.  It illustrates that angels are spirits.  Interestingly, if inspired by the Lord, you could discern with discerning of spirits the presence of an angel or angels.  Food for thought!

Here is an example of the phrase “the spirit of the law” used in the epistles.

who also made us sufficient as servants of a new covenant; not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.  (2Co 3:6 WEB)

In this usage, “spirit” refers to what the original author intended as opposed to the actual entity of a spirit.  The opposite is “letter of the law” which means to construe what was said to be as harsh as possible.

Here is another usage of spirit:

This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, although he knew only the baptism of John.  (Act 18:25 WEB)

You understand that this isn’t saying he had a spirit of fervor, fervent in spirit here means he was just eager!  We all should be eager to walk in the spirit like this man, teaching accurately the things of God.

We would be remiss if we didn’t point these verses out:

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour comes, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, will you worship the Father. You worship that which you don’t know. … God is spirit  (Joh 4:21, 22a, 24a WEB)

Jesus is talking with a Samaritan woman who he points out doesn’t really know much about God.  He tells her that the Father is Spirit.  (Notice the translators didn’t capitalize this usage of spirit.) So, here pneuma refers to the Father.  God is Spirit.

There is more to this study, but by now you should have an idea of what to look for when seeing the word spirit in scripture.

Summing up, we see these usages of the word spirit in this article.  I have also included some additional examples where this usage applies:

  1. Holy Spirit (Matt 1:20; Luke 2:26; Acts 1:16)
  2. holy spirit (Luke 1:15; Acts 2:4 (first); Romans 5:5)
  3. Manifestations and/or gifts of the spirit (Rom 15:19; 1 Cor 14:2; 1 Thes 1:5,6)
  4. Evil spirits (Matt 8:16; Mark 1:23; Act 5:16)
  5. Character or attitude (Matt 5:3; Gal 6:1; 2Tim 1:7)
  6. Angels (Heb 1:7,14)
  7. As an adverb (1 Cor 5:3; Heb 4:12)
  8. God the Father

All of this shows that the word spirit is used in relating to spiritual matters in a number of ways.  And it is important to understand that every time the word spirit is used it might not mean a separate spiritual entity.  We’ve seen that in scriptures where prideful spirits, jealous spirits, gentle spirit, humble spirit, power spirit, sound mind spirit are referred to. Those terms refer more to the character of the person being exhibited at the time.  On the other hand, holy spirit, the powerful gift of the Holy Spirit, is a spiritual entity as are the many references to unclean spirits who are part of the domain of Satan to influence and even possess people in scripture and in life.

There are online sources for the different usages of the word spirit, but I didn’t find that they agreed all the time and it is important to watch out for the theology of the writer to determine how the usages are determined[1]  The only publication that I know of that explores a word study of spirit is an old book by E W Bullinger, Word Studies on the Holy Spirit.[2]  Bullinger’s book is the most thorough discussion that I have found.

This is a worthy topic for each scripture student to study and the examples that I have given above are a good place to start.

[1] Spirit, https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/spirit/  has an interesting discussion from Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Encyclopedia.com has a discussion of spirit in both the Old and New Testaments at https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/spirit-bible

[2] Word Studies on the Holy Spirit, E. W. Bullinger, 1985, originally published 1905, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids

March 4th, 2021 Posted by | Spirit, Tradition | no comments

The Argument that Tongues and other Gifts and Manifestations have Ceased

Pentecostal and charismatic churches are commonplace today, but in the not too distant past speaking in tongues and other manifestations of the spirit including miracles were somewhat taboo in the Christian Church. The official doctrine, which is called Cessation Doctrine, was that these spiritual manifestations were an apostolic phenomenon. As such they ended in the apostolic age which was practically defined as the first century. According to his doctrine. while some of the followers of the apostles may have manifested supernatural power this was residual and when those believers died the ability to manifest supernaturally was gone permanently. The reason for the ending of the supernatural manifestations is, according to proponents, is that the bible was given, and it, being perfect, replaced the need for supernatural manifestations.

The contrasting viewpoint to cessationism is continualism, that is, that availability of the power, gifts, and manifestations of the spirit have continued since Pentecost whether or not they were being practiced at any given time.

The Pentecostal movement began in the late nineteenth, early twentieth century. This movement is characterized by speaking in tongues and other manifestations of the spirit as a regular practice in the churches. Assemblies of God, Oneness Pentecostals, and Full Gospel churches began to grow and flourish. The movement spread to mainline churches and denominations. This spread into the mainline denominations is known as the Charismatic Movement. Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, and even Roman Catholics began to experience spiritual manifestations. By mid-2000 there were an estimated 523 million believers in Pentecostal and Charismatic movements.[i]

Despite fairly widespread acceptance, there is still strong opposition to the present day existence of at least some of the manifestations of the spirit. “Fixing its focus on historic New Testament and Baptist doctrine to guide students in the tasks of world missions and evangelism, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will not knowingly endorse contemporary charismatic practices such as a private prayer language, nor hire professors who advocate the practice, according to a statement issued by trustees.”[ii] Baptists, generally recognized as fundamentalists, are among numerous churches that teach that spiritual manifestations such as speaking in tongues, prophecy, miracles, and possibly even healings are no longer available, as they passed with the apostles.

Cessation Doctrine is not Limited to Christianity.

Christians were not the first people of God to say that prophecy and other manifestations of God were over. Jewish rabbis taught that both the spirit and prophecy had ceased in Judaism in the time after the last OT prophets. “The Jewish impact on the development of Christian prophecy needs some more consideration than the above topics of apostles and teachers. At first glance, it is impossible to find in early Judaism a functional model as a paradigm for the Christian prophets because our main Jewish sources expressed the view that, during the second Temple period, prophecy has vanished altogether. Postexilic Jews denied the possibility that God still communicated with his people by speaking directly to certain individuals. In rabbinic literature, the ability to prophesy is closely associated with the presence of the spirit, but both prophecy and the spirit are recorded to be absent from Jewish religious experience. On the other hand, the Didache, which expresses a similar close affinity between prophecy and the spirit(11:, presents the prophets as practicing prophecy on a regular basis. How is this phenomenon to be accounted for?

According to a number of texts in rabbinic literature, Josephus, Apocrypha, and Pseudepigrapha, the spirit was taken from Israel after the fall of the First Temple, or alternatively, after the deaths of the last canonical prophets(Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi). For the sages of the Tannaitic period onward, genuine prophecy had ceased. Revelation was no longer mediated by the inspired prophet but by a “bath qol” ( a daughter of voice ) which, however, was rather a poor compensation for a legitimate continuation of prophecy. Veritable prophecy was dead and no one could claim the title’ prophet’ until God was to fully realize the kingdom. Although some rabbis were held to be worthy of the title ‘prophet’, the iniquity of the present age made it impossible for even the holiest man, such as Hillel the elder and Rabbi Akiva, to be called so. Prophecy was limited to the period of the canonical prophets of the distinct past and was expected to return in the end time.”[iii]

Confusing the issue of whether the manifestations of the spirit have ceased today is the use of “holy laughter”, the practice of slaying in the spirit, the acceptance of prophecy with errors, and other aspects of Pentecostalism that many believe are outside the teaching of the bible. For many that accept the teaching of the bible on manifestations and gifts of the spirit to be relevant today these practices discourage teaching the scriptures concerning spiritual manifestations or participation in meetings where manifestations are exercised.

Biblical Basis of Cessation Doctrine

Those proposing that the manifestations ceased point to I Cor 13:8-10 where it says:

Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away.
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part;
but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.1Co 13:8-10 ASV

To cessationists, this verse is interpreted to say:

  1. Prophecy shall be done away
  2. Tongues shall cease
  3. Knowledge shall cease
  4. Knowledge and prophecy at that time were only partial.
  5. That which is perfect will come and these partial manifestations will go away
  6. The New Testament is that which is perfect
  7. The New Testament appeared by the end of the first century
  8. Therefore the tongues, and prophecy, along with other manifestations have ceased.

Cessationists advocate further that modern-day spiritual manifestations are false. Some go as far as to say that they have to be of the devil as the bible teaches against them.

Proponents advocating the manifestations agree with the points above up until point six. They say that “that which is perfect” refers to the return of Christ. Therefore the gifts and manifestations of the spirit are and have been available since Pentecost. Furthermore, for 1st Corinthians 13:8-10 to be interpreted as above leads to the conclusion that knowledge has ceased as well as prophecy, tongues, and miracles. Clearly, there is still knowledge, so the other items mentioned, prophecy and tongues, haven’t ceased either. Therefore there has been no cessation of the gifts and manifestations of the spirit.

Some Notable Spiritual Gifts and Manifestations Events Timeline

Proponents of the continued practice of the spiritual gifts and manifestations note a long history and numerous contributors who document the working of the spirit.

First Century
* Pentecost occurs, the Holy Spirit descends in a miraculous display.
* Clement and Ignatius document the continued use of prophecy.
* The Didache, Shepard of Hermas, and Barnabus indicate that prophecy is normative. They teach to discern the difference between true and false prophecy.

Second Century
* Justin Martyr argues that God has transferred the gift of prophecy and miracles from Judaism to the Church.
* Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Tertullian write about various gifts and miracles including prophecy, discerning of spirits, raising people from the dead, gifts of healing, and receiving revelations.

Third Century
* Tertullian writes of the prophecy in the Montanists movement and provides stories with revelations and visions.
* Origen of Alexandria writes that the gifts continue to be experienced in the church. He notes healings, exorcisms with accompanying signs and wonders.
* Gregory of Thaumaturgis is noted for incredible manifestations including prophecy, healing, and great signs and wonders.
* Athanasius describes charismatic saints in the desert.

Fourth Century
* Augustine reports healings and miracles.

Sixth Century
* Gregory the Great writes of healings, raising the dead to life, prophecies and other miracles.

Eleventh Century
* Symeon writes of a “baptism in the Holy Spirit” and other spiritual phenomena.

Twelfth to Fourteenth Centuries
* Hildegard of Bingen is noted for prophecy, miracles, and other spiritual manifestations.
* Athanasius of Constantinople is known for healing the sick, delivering the possessed, and other miracles.
* Gregory Palamas is known for our the laying on of hands to bring about gifts of healing, miracles, knowledge, wisdom, tongues, and interpretation of tongues.
* Bonaventure reports that Francis Assisi is empowered by the Holy Spirit. Francis manifests prophecy, casting out of doubles, healing the sick, and other miracles.
* Vincent Ferrer manifests miracles, healings, and raising the dead.

Sixteenth Century
* Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, receives visions, and tongues.

Seventeenth Century
* The Quakers are known for their “inner light.” They record visions, healings, and prophecy.
* The Prophets of the Cavennes in France, Protestant resistance fighters, are noted for prophecy and tongues.
* Jansenists are noted for their prophecy, healings, signs, and wonders.

Eighteenth Century
* Jonathan Edwards in the first great awakening notes genuine workings of the spirit.
* John Wesley was noted to be tolerant of followers who claim to dreams, visions, healings and revelations. He calls earlier prophetic groups such as the Montanists, “real, scriptural Christians.”

Nineteenth Century
* The West of Scotland revival in 1830 noted prophecy, healings, tongues, and interpretation of tongues.
* AMD Simpson, the founder of the Christian missionary alliance, considers the possible reappearance of the gift of tongues and refers to actual occurrences in India and Africa.
* Reportedly there are about 900,000 African Christians who have experienced phenomena like at Pentecost.

20th Century
* Charles F. Parham travels to Shiloh, Maine, where he hears speaking in tongues taught at a school. He begins teaching and praying for the pouring out of the spirit. Students report speaking in tongues.
* William Seymour, following Charles Parham, who leads the Azusa Street Revival, which becomes a significant Pentecostal revival
* By the end of the 20th century there are numerous Pentecostal churches, and the charismatic movement in which spiritual manifestations are seen in mainline churches is widespread.

The above list is encapsulated from the international dictionary of Pentecostal charismatic movements.[iv] The list suggests that God has been communicating with men much more than was taught previously. While noting the dominant belief was that the gifts had ceased, and there was skepticism regarding spiritual manifestations the conclusion still is that spiritual manifestations were consistently in evidence at least somewhere in the world for at least most of history since the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.

Unscriptural Practices

In chapter 9 of the book of Acts we read that Saul of Tarsus was on his murderous course persecuting and killing Christians when there appeared a light from heaven upon which Saul fell to the ground and had a divine conversation with Jesus who converted him to Christianity. Interestingly, the verse does not say that Saul was thrown to the ground; rather it says he fell to the ground. The difference is a matter of will; when someone throws us it is their will that we go to the ground. But if we fall, sometimes, albeit not always, it is our choice. For example, the standard response to seeing yourself on fire is to stop, drop, and roll. In this case, it is an act of will to fall to the ground in a safety procedure. Therefore it not clear from this verse that this spiritual action forced Saul to fall rather than that was his chosen response.

There is the practice called being “slain in the spirit.” This practice is noted for believers following uncontrollably backward after a minister lays hands on them, usually in a healing service. The biblical documentation given for this is the record in acts nine above were Saul falls to the ground, and thus proponents argue that being “slain in the spirit” is normal. Opponents label what happened in acts chapter 9 as a phenomenon. While it is not guaranteed to anyone that a light will shine and someone will fall in response it is always within God’s prerogative to do any number of phenomenal things.

There are other practices throughout the history of the manifestations in the church which are at least dubious as to their authenticity. These include holy laughter, holy dancing, and what I term, holy writhing. Holy laughter is where a believer or believers just start laughing during a service. Holy dancing, likewise, is supposed to be where a person is set in motion dancing, usually in the midst of the service. And the last one, holy writhing, is where a believer looks like they’re having a fit of epilepsy on the floor during service. Supposedly the spirit has taken over in each of these cases, and the person laughs, dances, writhes on the floor, or some combination of these.

While it is certainly God’s sovereign prerogative to do as he sees fit, some of these practices at least appear to violate other principles that are stated in the bible.

Paul writes that all things should be done decently and in order. I have been at services were some of these practices happened and with an increasing amount of participation in these practices the events become increasingly disorderly. I remember trying to hear a sermon one time while a person a few rows in front of me was writhing on the floor and making loud noises. I had never seen this before, but the people around this person treated this practice of writhing and babbling as normal. They didn’t even pay attention to her. After a while, the person stopped and resumed a normal position. I certainly had a problem hearing the speaker while this person was making this noise which was considerable. I was also concerned that the jerky movements might not be safe, and the person might get hurt.

There is also a doctrine in Pentecostal circles that prophets can err in their prophecy. Prophets have been known to give a prophecy to believers which did not come to pass. Despite Old Testament warnings to ignore anyone whose prophecies did not come to pass these churches teach that this is the age of Grace and that this same grace has to be applied to prophets and therefore when they err we need to forgive them, and not judge them.

Many people share my concerns. I have been to Bible-based churches where the policy was that while they did not believe that the gifts had ceased, these unbiblical practices discourage the church from teaching and practicing spiritual manifestations. So besides the Cessationist groups who teach that spiritual manifestations are no longer available, and the Pentecostal/charismatic groups that teach and practice spiritual gifts and manifestations there is a third group who believe that spiritual gifts and manifestations are available, but since there is the widespread use of these unscriptural practices the church is better off staying away from these, at least for the time being.


It appears that whenever people stop experiencing the manifestations of God they rationalize that the manifestations have ceased. The Rabbis did it at the end of the old testament period. Christians theologians did it after they stopped experiencing the manifestations of the Spirit. How do you prove that something exists when others say that it doesn’t? You simply point out examples that document its existence. As the above timeline shows there have been numerous examples of spiritual manifestations, signs and wonders throughout Christian history. Augustine, Bonaventure, and Ignatius are well known names in church history, so this is not just a record of obscure, unheard of, people. These famous men as well as many others document the existence of supernatural gifts and manifestations.

The verses the Cessationists use are ambiguous at best. Their interpretation that the “perfect” in “when that which is perfect is come, then that which is imperfect will be done away” is shaky at best.  Jesus Christ is the perfect one, not the canon of scriptures doctrine which points to a decision in the Roman Catholic church as to what writings are acceptable to that church.

Nevertheless, Cessationists conclude that the gifts are false, not that they don’t exist. There will always be a group that denies the working and power of the Holy Spirit. For the rest of us, we rejoice that the power of the holy spirit has never stopped.

[i] INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARY OF PENTECOSTAL CHARISMATIC MOVEMENTS, Stanley Burgess, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2000, p1234
[ii] https://www.sermonaudio.com/new_details.asp?ID=22495. This web page features an article
[iii] The Didache, Hubertus Waltherus Maria van de Sandt, Huub Van de Sandt, David Flusser, Fortress Press, 2002, ISBN 0800634713, 9780800634711 p357
[iv] INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARY OF PENTECOSTAL CHARISMATIC MOVEMENTS, pgs 1227-1234. This table has much more information that only more fully shows that the workings of the spirit were documented much more than many people taught previously

Bible.org discusses both the Cessationist and Continualist viewpoints  at https://bible.org/article/questions-cessationists-should-ask-biblical-examination-cessationism

Mark W Smith © 2009-2022  Edited 10/4/22

March 5th, 2009 Posted by | Divisions, Spirit | one comment

The Power of the Spirit in Original Christianity

In modern Christianity many churches adopt the stance that the gifts and power of the apostles ceased with the apostles or shortly thereafter. This is completely untrue. The standard is set in the book of Acts. There we see that receiving the spirit was a priority. In Acts chapter 8 we see that the Apostles were sent to Samaria because they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, but the holy spirit hadn’t fallen on any of them. The Apostles laid hands on the believers there and they received the holy spirit. And in Acts 19:2 Paul asks the new believers in Ephesus whether they had received the holy spirit when they believed. After being answered in the negative, Paul laid hands on the new believers and the holy spirit came upon them and they manifested the power of the holy spirit.

The Pattern of the Leading of the Spirit in the Book of Acts

In chapter one of the book of Acts we have the apostles waiting for the promise of the Father. In Acts 2 we have the phenomenal outpouring of the holy spirit and the real start of the church under the apostles. Chapter 3 shows the apostles Peter and John miraculously healing the man who was lame from birth.

We are starting to see a pattern here where there is miraculous power of the holy spirit and accompanying preaching from the miracle workers that leads people to accept Christ and join the church. The real star of the book of acts is the holy spirit. It’s the holy spirit that is poured out on the day of Pentecost, fills Peter with power to give his sermon on that day, flows through Peter and John to heal the man that was born lame, and works in the believers as they grow closer together and share everything wonderfully. The holy spirit is at work again to convict Ananias and Saphira when they lied about the amount of money they received and were giving.

In Acts chapter 5 we see that with all of this wonderful movement of the holy spirit, the apostles “ceased not to teach and to preach Jesus the Christ.” In chapters 6 and 7 we see the power of the spirit in Stephen. In chapters 8 and 9 we see the holy spirit again at work, this time in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus on his way to becoming Paul the Apostle. In chapters 10 and 11 we see the leading of the holy spirit in bringing the Gentiles into the church. First Peter gets a vision, then leads Cornelius and his family to Christ, and then the acceptance of the whole Church of this dramatic change in outreach. In chapter 12 we see the Angel delivering Peter from prison, a tremendous deliverance in the power of the spirit.

In each and every one of these occurrences we see the power and leading of the holy spirit, but we also see the convicted preaching of those experiencing the spirit, and the resultant growth of the church. The preaching centers around how Jesus fulfilled the scriptures and is the Messiah. The goal of the preaching is to simply get people to accept Christ and experience the spirit themselves.

Up until this point, around chapter 12, the preaching has been done by Peter and the apostles at Jerusalem. But from this point forward in the book of Acts we begin to see the ministry of Paul and the outreach to the gentiles. Paul’s ministry appears to work in a manner similar to Peter’s. There is the leading of the spirit with manifestations and power. There is Paul preaching, the manifestation of the spirit in power, and people accepting Christ and manifesting the Holy Spirit themselves.

Chapter 15 records the historical Council of Jerusalem where the issue is not one of deep theological analysis. Rather it is simply to rectify the situation where some of the people who had become disciples earlier and had Jewish backgrounds were having problems accepting the ways of the new Gentile converts. It was simple theology, that the new converts did not have to become circumcised and/or follow the law.

In chapter 16 we see this spirit giving Paul a vision of where to go to minister. The next few chapters show the same pattern. The holy spirit leads, Paul and his associates minister, the people accept Christ and receive the holy spirit.

The latter part of the book of acts shows a different story line. We see the holy spirit, through prophets and prophetesses, advising Paul about the dangers of going to Jerusalem. We see Paul going to Jerusalem, and we see him on a course from that point on going all the way to Rome fighting legal matters. While Paul is eventually set free and we see him preaching in Rome at the end of the book, this definitely is a different pattern from the pattern of growth that we see in the first 20 chapters or so of the book of Acts. The movement changed right around the time when the believers ceased saying the will of the Lord be done, when they stopped “following the spirit”.

After the Book of Acts

(There is a timeline of movement of the spirit throughout the ages at The Argument that Tongues and other Gifts and Manifestations have Ceased.)

Not only is there a parade of accounts throughout the ages that the holy spirit continued to be manifested by believers, in the time of original Christianity the amount of this manifestation was quite abundant.

While none of these materials have ever achieved the status of being the word of God they demonstrate that there were writings that proclaimed that the workings of the spirit did not die with the Apostles but continued at least in some places while others were believing that these workings of the spirit had ceased.

The Didache, which was probably written in the late first century or early second, has specific instruction for how apostles and prophets were to operate and be treated within the church:

“3. And concerning the Apostles and Prophets, act thus according to the ordinance of the Gospel.
4. Let every Apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord,
5. But let him not stay more than one day, or if need be a second as well; but if he stay three days, he is a false prophet.
6. And when an Apostle goes forth let him accept nothing but bread till he reach his night’s lodging; but if he ask for money, he is a false prophet.
7. Do not test or examine any prophet who is speaking in a spirit, “for every sin shall be forgiven, but this sin shall not be forgiven.”
8. But not everyone who speaks in a spirit is a prophet, except he have the behaviour of the Lord. From his behaviour, then, the false prophet and the true prophet shall be known.
9. And no prophet who orders a meal in a spirit shall eat of it: otherwise he is a false prophet.
10. And every prophet who teaches truth, if he do not what he teaches, is a false prophet.
11. But no prophet who has been tried and is genuine, though he enact a worldly mystery of the Church, if he teach not others to do what he does himself, shall be judged by you: for he has his judgment with God, for so also did the prophets of old.”<sup>1<sup>

Irenaeus, 2nd century church father, writes of the workings of the holy spirit within the body of believers,

“For some do certainly and truly drive out devils, so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe [in Christ], and join themselves to the Church. Others have foreknowledge of things to come: they see visions, and utter prophetic expressions. Others still, heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole. Yea, moreover, as I have said, the dead even have been raised up, and remained among us for many years. And what shall I more say? It is not possible to name the number of the gifts which the Church, [scattered] throughout the whole world, has received from God, in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and which she exerts day by day for the benefit of the Gentiles, neither practising deception upon any, nor taking any reward ” (Against Heresies, 2:32,4).

This is quite a powerful testimony. By Irenaeus’ time, the original Apostles were gone. This is pretty clear evidence that not only the original Apostles, but others received and manifested the power of God, and that this power continued. This is incredible. There were healings, people were raised from the dead, and people were freed from devil spirits. And according to Irenaeus, the number of these happenings was innumerable.

Now about the same time as Irenaeus Montanus claimed that he was the Paraclete from God. He started a movement that lasted for centuries but was proclaimed a heresy. This event seems to have dampened believers’ interest and pursuit of the workings of the true spirit.

Nevertheless, the history is clear. The power of the spirit manifesting itself in prophecies, foretelling, healings, raisings of the dead, and more was a key part of original Christianity and continued well past the original Apostles.

  1. http://www.thedidache.com/

(c) 2009-2020  Revised 2020.  Mark W Smith, All rights reserved.

February 19th, 2009 Posted by | Original Christianity, Spirit | no comments

The Result of Churches Teaching Different Things While Claiming to be Led of The Spirit

It would be so great if we could go to a church and hear God’s instruction and be loving Christians without any doubt that what is taught there is God’s absolute truth. But what we hear on many issues depends on the church we enter. In today’s Christianity churches are all over the board on many issues. While God speaks on abortion, baptism, eternal security, gambling, giving, holiness, the holy spirit, leadership, salvation, scripture, sexuality (including homosexuality), the role of women in ministry, worship, and many other topics, from church to church you will hear different reports on what he commands and instructs in these and other areas.
There are several problems that this dichotomy causes:

  1. The incredible amount of variations possible makes it overwhelming for many Christians to try to resolve, so they don’t try.
    a. A lot of churches don’t encourage or even tolerate real investigation into these matters.
    b. Most churches have a policy where doctrine is purely decided by the denomination or the pastor so there is no questioning.
  2. This gives fuel to Christian detractors who point to how Christians can’t agree on what is true.
  3. People forsake trying to resolve these issues.
  4. The doubt caused by doctrinal confusion weakens faith

I can’t tell you how many people I have heard say that doctrine isn’t important. They don’t try to learn all the subtleties of the bible because it is too confusing and becomes a pointless exercise for them.

The truth is that the bible is not always clear. According to Rick Warren, the great evangelist Billy Graham struggled with the accuracy and integrity of the Bible.  In the early years of his Ministry, Billy Graham went through a time when he struggled with doubts about the accuracy and authority of the Bible. One moonlit night he dropped to his knees in tears and told God that, in spite of confusing passages he didn’t understand, from that point on he would completely trust the Bible as the sole authority for his life and ministry. From that day forward, Billy’s life was blessed with unusual power and effectiveness.i

This is certainly a heartwarming story. If even one as great among us as Billy Graham struggled with confusing passages where does that leave the rest of us? I agree that at some point we need to trust, but that doesn’t diminish the need to eliminate at least some of the confusion over all the many doctrinal disputes. Yes, we stand on our faith despite the confusion, but we still need to work to eliminate it.

i THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE, Rick Warren, 2002, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, p. 187

© copyright 2009-2019  Mark W Smith, All Rights Reserved

February 12th, 2009 Posted by | Introduction, Spirit | no comments