“Words taught by the Spirit” (1Cor. 2:13)
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When the Holy Spirit has come upon you… (Ac.1:8)
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you (literally: ye shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you); and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Ac.1:8)
A promise, an encouragement and a marching order
The verse we are going to examine constitutes a promise, an encouragement and a marching order to all those who belong to the Lord’s spiritual army.
- A promise because they will receive power when the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity, the promised Guide and Comforter has come upon those who belong to Him.
- An encouragement, because they will not be sent to the battle alone and in their own strength and weapons.
- A marching order by which they are given instructions where to go, when to go and what to do. That was the first fundamental statement of the Lord Jesus concerning the beginning of the New Testament evangelistic era in which the Holy Spirit would take the lead.
THE PROMISE, THE ENCOURAGEMENT and GOD’S REQUIREMENTS
Every true believer has the Holy Spirit, because without the Holy Spirit it is impossible to belong to Christ. It is impossible to have God’s testimony in ourselves without belonging to God (Rom.8: 9; 1Cor.3:16; 1Jo.2:27; Rom.8:14, 16 and Gal.4:6). The Bible teaches that the initial visitation of the Holy Spirit is not enough for the true believer. He must keep being filled with the Holy Spirit. For such a continuous infilling, the believer’s active obedience and cooperation are required. The commandment “… do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph.5:18) is addressed to true believers. Be filled with the Holy Spirit is absolutely necessary for the believer’s service and fruitfulness. It constitutes at the same time the result of repentance and faith… This is but the “filling” of the believer’s heart from the one Who is already there: What is going to happen when you release the sponge that you keep in the water in your hand? It will be filled with water! Let the reader understand! This commandment is expressed in the imperative and in the passive voice. That means: it is a commandment, just like the commandment, for example, not to commit adultery. As regards the filling with the Spirit, we see that we ourselves cannot fill our heart with the Holy Spirit… Someone else, that is God, can and wants to fill it… provided we offer it “empty”… The filling of the believer’s heart is not only for the super-saints but also for every believer that has learned to tell the truth in his heart, to repent and believe.
The best way for the believer to be filled with the Holy Spirit and His power is not by trying to become better, but by confessing that he has failed, that he has been disobedient, etc., and that he needs the Holy Spirit. God cleanses by the blood of Jesus, whatever we humbly and sincerely confess and the Holy Spirit fills the believer’s heart. However, if the believer has a certain known sin in his life, there will be no further progress, unless he repents, confesses and rejects it. There will be ‘stagnation’, and sooner or later it will be transformed into backsliding. We must not, therefore, grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by Whom we were ‘sealed’ for the day of redemption with an attitude which is not worthy of the Gospel: “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph.4:31-32). We must not quench the Spirit (1Th.5:19-20) but, on the contrary, seek the presence and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Eph.4: 30-31; Ac.7: 51; Pr.29: 1; 1Thes.5:19-20). We must ‘sow in the Spirit’… (Pr.1: 23; Ac.2: 38; 1Joh.1:7-9; Ac.5:32)! The opposite of “doing bad” is not “doing good” but “obeying the truth”. We can do nothing without Christ. We can do nothing without the Holy Spirit. The only thing we can do is to admit honestly the truth, it is to tell humbly the truth in our heart, it is to confess our need, our inability, our failures and our sin and seek God’s mercy and grace. God will forgive us, will cleanse us and bless us with the Holy Spirit.
The Word of God describes in a wonderful and extremely comprehensive way all the above-mentioned points, that is, God’s requirements: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic.6:8). The “good” is to live in the fear of God (De.10:12-13); to “do justly” is to judge in truth, which means that we live honestly towards ourselves and before God, that is, in repentance and truth; to “love mercy” means that our heart has made the choice to love in deed and in truth as well as to forgive others as God has forgiven us; and finally “to walk humbly with your God” means not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, always remembering that we all deserved a cross and that on that cross Jesus was nailed in order that we be spared from the penalty of eternal damnation. When a man asks for the forgiveness of his sins humbly and sincerely, then God will cleanse his soul and will fill him with His Holy Spirit. But be careful: when we confess our sins we must not use the expression “If I have done wrong, if, if, if”, if we know that we have done wrong… To walk in the light means that I admit humbly the spiritual stains that I see in me. The Holy Spirit does not convict us in order to condemn us, but to console and discipline us.
I would like, at this point, to open a parenthesis: When the Holy Spirit is given to us, He seeks to help us obey and do God’s will. He enlightens our spirit so that our heart (our will) obeys or surrenders to God’s will. The fact that our spirit is enlightened and agrees with God’s will does not mean that our heart has said YES to the light, which our mind has received: The knowledge that we have acquired does not mean obedience! When a man’s mind is in error and the Spirit of God reveals that error and man admits his error, this does not mean that the error has left! Man’s will must cooperate, must make the right willful choice and must decide to comply with God’s will… God’s Word says: “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled” (2Cor.10:5-6). This does not mean that when “the thought is surrendered” but when “the heart (the will) is surrendered”, then and only then it is possible to see the error and the fortresses of resistance cast down. Only when man is surrendered (Rom.12:1-2), only when he gives his heart (Prov.23:26), then, and only then, can his character be changed. When the heart believes and OBEYS THE TRUTH, then, and only then, the truth sets him free (Joh.8:32). It does not suffice to understand or to admit intellectually… One of my collaborators (colleagues) that I esteemed highly for his love for the truth and his objectivity told me one day: “What you preach, John, is absolutely correct and I admit that it is so, but I don’t want the life you preach. I want to do my own thing, whatever I like…”
As soon as one dies to sin and to self, then there is no obstacle for the Holy Spirit to fill immediately the believer’s heart! And as every believer is called to surrender to God … just in the same way he is called to be filled with the Holy Spirit. True sanctification is inseparably bound to the work of the Spirit in the believer’s heart. Sanctification means cleansing. Cleansing results in being filled with the presence and manifestation of the Holy Spirit. If we give humbly and sincerely ourselves to God, God takes us, purifies us by the blood of Jesus and then fills us with the Holy Spirit without any delay.
The accomplishment of the promise turns everything upside down
Let us examine carefully this verse, which I repeat: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Ac.1:8). We see that this is the key verse of the book of Acts of the Apostles because whatever the apostles and the first Christians said and did was due to the power of the Holy Spirit. Thousands of people were converted to Christ immediately after the day of Pentecost, miracles were done by the hands of the apostles and finally a fantastic influence was exerted by Christianity all over the whole Roman Empire and later all over the world. The water (Spirit) that God gives the believer becomes in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life (Joh.4:14).
Rome conquered Athens militarily, but Athens conquered Rome through its culture and language. In a similar but more wonderful and miraculous way, a handful of Christians, in spite of the persecutions they suffered at the hands of the Jews and the Romans, “subdued” the Roman Empire and turned the world upside down by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s weapons were faith, love and purity. Wonders and miracles accompanied the first Christians’ testimonies. For example, “… Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people” (Ac.6:8). The miracles operated by the first Christians were such that Simon, who previously practiced sorcery, envied that power and asked the apostle Peter, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit” (Ac.8:19)
What is the Holy Spirit? A divisible power or an indivisible Person?
That promise about the Holy Spirit was fulfilled not long after that day: “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Ac. 2:1-4). Was the power that the apostles received an invisible spiritual liquid that when it was poured on them resulted in additional spiritual power? No! Absolutely not! The Holy Spirit comes to inhabit in them! Unbelievable, incomprehensible, but true! Let us remind ourselves what Isaiah says: “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isa. 57:15) That “power” was the manifestation of the presence of the Holy Spirit IN them. The Holy Spirit was not and is not something that can be divided and be given in portions as if it were a thing or a matter. The Holy Spirit is an indivisible person. A Person that can speak, intercede, give power, give guidance and distribute gifts according to His sovereign will. We read, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills” (1Cor.12:11). We have become partakers of the Holy Spirit (Heb.6:4). The measure of the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s manifestation in our life depends on our cooperation with God!
How does the Holy Spirit manifest Himself?
The Holy Spirit manifests Himself in the believer through different ways, but mainly through His “power”:
- First and above all, against known sin and attacking temptations. The Advocate sets man free from the bondage of sin. He also manifests Himself through the gifts of the Spirit, such as wisdom, faith, healings, prophecy, miracles, discerning of spirits, speaking in tongues, interpreting of tongues.
- Second, He is the Helper of the believer in whatever the believer does according to the will of God, whether it has to do with the everyday life or the power of preaching the gospel with great effect AND with enduring great trials (Isa.57:15). The presence and testimony of the Holy Ghost are bound to the mission He gives to the children of the Heavenly Father. The manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life depend on two factors: First, on the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit, who distributes spiritual gifts and gives spiritual power, according to His will and second, on the responsive cooperation of the believer to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is mightier than physical forces (Zec.4:6); the Holy Spirit gives believers courage to denounce sin (Mic.3:8); enables them to speak with authority (Ac.4:33, 6:8); fills their life with healing influences (Ac.19:11-12); controls their movements and chooses the fields of operation / mission (Ac.10:19-20; 16:6); directs in the selection of Christian leaders (Ac.13:2); brings to remembrance Christ’s words (Joh.14:26); convicts man of sin (Joh.16:7-8) and guides man into all truth (Joh.16:13). In other words, the Holy Spirit:
- Convicts men about their sin (Joh.16:8);
- Makes them sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit (2Cor.3:6);
- Causes them to walk in His statutes and keep them (Eze.36:27);
- Gives His anointing and the man of God does not need that anyone teaches him (1Jo.2:20-27);
- Puts in the believer’s mouth His words (Isa.59:21) and the man of God does not speak words of man’s wisdom, but the words that the Holy Spirit teaches him (1Cor.2:13).
Personally, I have some serious problems with the modern notion of the Biblical term “POWER” we are speaking about. There are certain people who confuse the true spiritual power with: (a) Manifestations of doubtful origin and (b) with the gifts of the Spirit and/or talents! I do believe that:
- Our God is a God of miracles, but there are certain things, which make me suspicious about some “gifts” and certain “miracles” because there are people who boast themselves about the gifts of the Spirit that they do not really have: “Whoever falsely boasts of giving is like clouds and wind without rain”(Pr.25:14). There are people who even pretend to make miracles: “And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light” (2Cor.11:14). Let me stop here and not refer to concrete cases… In addition, some of those workers have no true spiritual word, no true spiritual arguments, but try to convince their hearers that they are full of God’s Spirit by screaming and by gesticulating on the platform. The Bible, however, says that the “Words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard rather than the shout of a ruler of fools” (Ec.9:17) and that “The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well–driven nails, given by one Shepherd” (Ec.12:11). Paul admonished Timothy, saying: “… shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness” (2Ti. 2:16), and
- The Holy Spirit bestows spiritual gifts, distributing to each one individually as He wills. 1Corinthians chapter 12 and Ephesians chapter 4 give us a lot of information about them. All the gifts mentioned in the Bible are, in reality, manifestations of the Holy Spirit. They are not due to man’s merit. Certain believers think that because of their gift they are “complete” in their salvation!!! Otherwise, their salvation would not be secure! As if the grace of God was not enough for their salvation… What a fatal crutch! Have they never read that all true believers are “complete in Him”? (Col.2:10).
In addition, they do not respect and do not obey the instructions of the Bible in 1 Corinthians chapter 14. They put the emphasis not on the fruit of the Spirit, but on His supernatural gifts… as if the genuineness and/or the completeness of the believer depended on their gifts; as if their gifts constitute a guarantee of the quality of the believer. They create, therefore, a hidden spiritual “apartheid”. What quality of Christians the Corinthians who were supposed to have received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit? And of what quality are certain Christians of today that are supposed to have received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit? Are they full of the Holy Spirit, when they behave in a manner worse than that of the politicians of the world, when they manipulate the congregations, when they are deprived of wisdom, when they create divisions in their Church, when they are obliged to resign on account of scandals of moral or financial order, when they constrain the liberty of the Spirit transforming churches into rooms of religious conferences or of monologues (one way streets), when they do not respect their word or promises, when they put the accent on the spiritual gifts and neglect the fruit of the Spirit? What counts is only a victorious, full of the fruit of the Spirit life according to God’s Word! When we will stand before the throne of God for judgment, we will not be asked whether, for example, we have spoken in tongues or done some healings, but if we have obeyed His Word and led a holy life, full of the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, patience, etc., and if Jesus’ character has been formed in us. “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God” (Gal.6:14-16).
There is, however, one more point I would like to make at this point in order to “rightly divide the word of truth ”:
The doctrinal problems:
Article 7 of the AG (Assemblies of God) Constitution reads as follows: “7. WE BELIEVE… the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a Special Experience Following Salvation that empowers believers for witnessing and effective service, just as it did in New Testament times. [1 of 4 cardinal doctrines of the AG]”. Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4; 1:8; 1Cor.12:1-31. This experience is distinct from and subsequent to the experience of the new birth. Acts 8:12-17; Acts 10:44-46; 11:14-16; 15:7-9 With the baptism in the Holy Spirit come such experiences as: an overflowing fullness of the Spirit, John 7:37-39, Acts 4:8; a deepened reverence for God, Acts 2:43, Heb.12:28; an intensified consecration to God and dedication to His work, Acts 2:42; and a more active love for Christ, for His Word and for the lost, Mark 16:20.
Let me put a question: Does the Baptism in the Holy Spirit – which the AG relates obligatorily with the speaking in tongues – ALWAYS FOLLOW salvation? Is it excluded that both salvation and the falling of the Holy Spirit on a soul with the manifestation of “speaking in tongues” take place simultaneously? If you read once again carefully the Acts of the Apostles and see also what happens all over the world, but mainly in people who come in contact, for the very first time, with the Gospel you will change your opinion, provided you love the TRUTH more than your “tradition”.
Article 8 reads as follows: “WE BELIEVE… The Initial Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is ‘Speaking in Tongues,’ as experienced on the Day of Pentecost and referenced throughout Acts and the Epistles. Acts 2:4. The speaking in tongues in this instance is the same in essence as the gift of tongues, but is different in purpose and use. 1Cor.12:4-10; 1Cor.12:28»
This article is not among the “4 cardinal doctrines of the AG”. How is it that a NON cardinal doctrine supersedes all the other “4 cardinal ones of the AG”, when the day of the election of deacons/elders in the church council arrives? Let the reader understand… If spiritual members of the church with a good Christian testimony, but who do not speak in other languages, are proposed by the members of the church as candidates, are they not worthy to become members of the leadership team (council) because they are not baptized in the Holy Spirit? Αre they, therefore, considered as a second category or class of Christians? Does this divine manifestation (speaking in tongues) constitute a guarantee of the spirituality and maturity of the candidates? Does the “Initial Physical Evidence of Speaking in Tongues” make them wiser to take care of the Church and avoid leadership crisis and mundane or worldly activities and attitudes?
The leadership of the church does not declare it at the beginning, when the candidate applies for membership, but only when the moment of elections arrives!!!… God abhors the attitude of those who say: “… Stand by yourself, come not near to me; for I am holier than you. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burns all the day” (Isa.65:5). Generally speaking, there are spiritual leaders who love their denomination and their church careers more than Christ and His Word. They do know that they are wrong, but they prefer to stay prisoners of their “tradition”. They close their eyes, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and be healed!!! (Acts 28:27). They do know that, if they act according to the Scriptures, that it will cost them…!!! Whoever reads, let him understand!
I spent many days examining intensively my “credo” in order to find out once again, what is the teaching of the Bible concerning the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and the Speaking in Tongues. I examined ALL the relevant verses… from all points of view! Now, my position has become more solid than ever before!
Erroneous and misleading methods
Since we are exhorted to follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts and especially prophesy; since he that prophesies speaks to men to edification and exhortation and comfort; since greater is he that prophesies than he that speaks with tongues, except he interprets; and since charity and holy life never fail, WHY has the AG put the priority and the emphasis on speaking in tongues? (1Cor.14:1-5 et 1Cor.13). Tongues shall cease (1Cor.13:8) but charity and holy life, which is the product of true love for God and for man, will never fail; they will be rewarded. Bad attitudes, quarrels and divisions will be condemned…
Speaking in tongues is just ONE of the gifts or to be more correct ONE of the signs. Do all the other signs accompany all believers (Mark.16:17-18) ? Of course not! Why then do we insist only on speaking in tongues? Can we say that the one who casts out demons or the one who has the gift of healing the sick has not been baptized in the Spirit because he has not spoken in tongues? The apostle Paul says in Ephesians 1:13-14: “In whom you also trusted, after that you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that you believed, you were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of his glory”. The sealing by the Holy Spirit refers only to those who spoke in tongues? Here is the ancient Greek text: «ἐν ᾧ καὶ ὑμεῖς ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον τῆς ἀληθείας, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς σωτηρίας ὑμῶν, ἐν ᾧ καὶ πιστεύσαντες ἐσφραγίσθητε τῷ Πνεύματι τῆς ἐπαγγελίας τῷ Ἁγίῳ» (Εφε.1:13). These three aorists (in GR) refer to one and the same event! And, here is the text in English: “In whom you also trusted, after that you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that you believed, you were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise” (Eph.1:13).
Where in the Bible is it written that “The Initial Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is ‘Speaking in Tongues,’…? What kind of hermeneutics is this? A question: All believers of all churches and of all past centuries were they never baptized in the Holy Spirit? The giants of faith of the past and the present centuries as well as many other true and fruitful Christians… who had not and have not spoken in tongues were they never baptized in the Holy Spirit? What is the meaning of the expression: “… But all these works that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally AS HE WILL?… (1Cor.12:10-12). Has the Holy Spirit begun baptizing only since the start of the Pentecostal movement about a century ago?
This is a man-made conclusion and requirement! This is false teaching and the way certain churches or certain Pentecostals implement it is heretic creating schisms! Early in the 50’s, I visited a Pentecostal church that believed that those who have not had spoken in tongues were not saved! Fortunately, all Pentecostals do not believe in the same error. Paul and all the other apostles NEVER required such a thing for Christians or from Christian leaders! The apostles John and Peter speak a lot (in their epistles) about the Cross of Christ, the Blood of Christ, redemption, repentance, holy living, etc. If the Speaking in Tongues is so crucial for Christians and Christian leaders, why is there no mention whatever of that prerequisite? Paul said: “But showed first to them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance”!!! (Acts 26:20).
LET THE BIBLE SPEAK AND TEACH US:
In general terms, 1 Cor. 12, 13 and 14 tell us the following things concerning the point we are discussing:
- “… No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit with. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit. To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues. BUT ALL THESE WORKS THAT ONE AND THE SELFSAME SPIRIT, DIVIDING TO EVERY MAN SEVERALLY AS HE WILL. For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit ARE WE ALL BAPTIZED INTO ONE BODY, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been ALL MADE TO DRINK INTO ONE SPIRIT” (1Cor.12:3-13)
- “God has tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked. THAT THERE SHOULD BE NO SCHISM IN THE BODY; but that the members should have the same care one for another” (1Cor.12:24-25).
- “And God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I to you a more excellent way” (1Cor.12:28-31)
- “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. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing” (1Cor.13:1-2).
- “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that you may prophesy… But he that prophesies speaks to men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort” (14:1, 3)
- “I would that you all spoke with tongues, but rather that you prophesied: for GREATER IS HE THAT PROPHESIES THAN HE THAT SPEAKS WITH TONGUES, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying” (1Cor.14:5)
- “Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. Brothers, be not children in understanding: however, in malice be you children, but in understanding be men” (1Cor.14:19-20)
- “WHY TONGUES ARE FOR A SIGN, NOT TO THEM THAT BELIEVE, BUT TO THEM THAT BELIEVE NOT: BUT PROPHESYING SERVES NOT FOR THEM THAT BELIEVE NOT, BUT FOR THEM WHICH BELIEVE” (1Cor.14:22).
- If, therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that you are mad? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believes not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth (1Cor.14:23-25)
Finally, what is the meaning to Ephesians: “In whom you also trusted, after that you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that you believed, you were SEALED WITH THAT HOLY SPIRIT OF PROMISE, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of his glory”? (1:13-14) Does it refer only to those who have spoken in tongues? In 1 Cor. 13 and 14, Paul speaks about the restricted utility of speaking in tongues and the restrictions that should follow those speaking in tongues in the assemblies. The same spirit prevails also in Ephesians 4:11-13.
They argue that The Initial Physical Evidence, that is, the ‘Speaking in Tongues,’ should not be confused with the gift of speaking in tongues. True!
- No spiritual gift can exist and be applied if every believer has not passed from “The Initial Physical Evidence”, of speaking in tongues in the form of the sign of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit!!! And,
- No-one who has not passed through the experience of “The Initial Physical Evidence” of speaking in tongues has been baptized in the Holy Spirit! None!
Speaking in tongues was to be a sign, a means, of reaching out to unbelievers in their own languages. Also, the gift of speaking in tongues is for the believer’s personal edification and for the edification of the church, provided that he who speaks in tongues is able to interpret or there is anyone having the gift of interpretation of tongues to interpret. That became in certain cases pomp, vainglory and false imitations. This is the reason why Paul sharply reproved, among other sins, this fault and abuse in the Church of Corinth!
THE COMMAND: YOU SHALL BE WITNESSES TO ME…
What were the apostles going to be witnesses to?
They had seen the way Christ lived, His miracles, His meekness, His sufferings; they had listened to His teaching; they had conversed and eaten with Him; they had seen Him after he was raised from the dead and when He was ascending to heaven. They should, therefore, be witnesses of Jesus Christ’s suffering and death, of His resurrection and ascension to heaven, and of His deity and Lordship. They knew that He was to come again to judge the world and reign. Those who had seen Him raised from the dead were numerous and they could not be deceived. In the Acts of the Apostles, we read:
- “He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people” (Ac.13:31);
- “And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead” (Ac.10:39-41; Ac 22:15);
- “And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all” (Ac.4:33).
They were called for this purpose. The Lord told the apostles, one day: “And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning” (Joh. 15:27). And this is why John the apostle begins his first letter by saying, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life——the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us——that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full” (1Jo.1:1-4). The reason of their witnessing was to become witnesses of His resurrection (Ac.1:22; 2:32; 3;15). True Christians should simply follow their example…
What should their message be?
True servants of God should not preach their own words and reflections, but Christ Who was crucified and was raised from the dead (Ac.8:5, 35; 1Cor.2:2)! “… He whom God has sent speaks the words of God…” (Joh.3:34); “testifying repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ac.20:21), always and everywhere (Mr.16:20; Ac.8:4), without reserve (Ac.5:20; 20:20,27; Rom.15:19), according to the oracles of God (1Pet.4:11) and not with enticing words of man’s wisdom (1Cor.1:17; 2:1,4), not setting forth themselves (2Cor.4:5) or behaving with deceitfulness – fraud, flattery or slyness – (2Cor.2:17; 4:2; 1Th.2:3,5). Their messages should be given with boldness (Isa.58:1; Eze.2:6; Mt.10:27,28); with plainness of speech (2Cor.3:12); with zeal (1Th.2:8); with constancy (Ac.6:4; 2Ti.4:2); with consistency (2Cor.1:18,19); with heedfulness (1Ti.4:16); with good will and love (Php.1:15-17); with faithfulness (Eze.3:17,18) and without charge, if possible (1Cor.9:18; 1Th.2:9).
It is written, “. . . Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt.4:19) and, “. . . Be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2Tim.4:5). All true Christian workers must do evangelistic sermons. How sad it is to see workers of God, on Sunday morning, when the Church is usually full of believers, sympathizers and non-believers, not spend even five minutes to explain how man is saved and from what is he saved and launch a call to repentance and faith in the Gospel of God’s grace (Mrk.1:15). Yes, and how sad it is not to warn the audience concerning the consequences of unbelief, of disobedience and of sin in general (Lu.13:3, 5). God means to make us soul-winners, whatever the gift we have received from God is! He who says that, “I am not a professional evangelist, therefore, I am going to limit myself to the teaching of the Bible in a University or a Theological Seminary”; he who says that, “I am a technician missionary, I am going to limit myself to my job”; or he who says that, “I am a businessman and it is not my job to try to reach out to souls”, have lost their way. . . The man of God, whether missionary or not, must do both… If not, they disobey the Lord’s commandment, they have lost their zeal and sooner or later they are going to hear, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent ” (Rev.2:5).
Preaching must boldly attack sin. It is written, “Cry aloud, spare not; lift up your voice like a trumpet; tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins” (Isa.58:1). Only the grace of God can save, but grace saves sinners who have admitted their guilt, confessed their sin in order to be changed. We are called to preach the full gospel: Not only God’s mercy and grace, but also God’s justice and severity to unrepentant people. That is the kind of preaching Jesus did. There are churches in which the word “Hell”, “eternal damnation”, “everlasting destruction”, etc., has not been heard for decades!
Somebody may say, “An evangelist can do that, but a pastor cannot, because certain people might get mad, quit giving money and leave the Church.” So what? Let God’s worker do his duty and God is responsible for the rest. This is, however, the only way to revive believers and bring to life dead souls. All those who want to live a pious life, who preach the Word of God and not their own reflections and who are instant in season and out of season (2Tim.4:2) will be persecuted. The Church of God does not need soft-speakers, who never hurt anybody’s feelings, never offend anybody, who never cross anybody but who rarely awaken a believer and rarely save an unbeliever! Pastors must not give those who hear them false hope, consolation and security. How useful would it be for those who preach to remind themselves the preaching and the life of God’s prophets!
In certain cases, the Christian ministry is done in the power of the flesh and not in the power of God, because, like Nadab and Abihu, certain people try to reach out to people with strange fire, that is, with common fire, not divinely kindled (Lev.10:1-2). Sociology, psychology, human reflections, soft-speaking, peace-at-any-price, modernized reach-out methods accompanied by… a lot of decibels. . . draw numerous people, but can they really save souls?
Why should Christians witness?
The ultimate reason for their witnessing would be to make people understand their guilt and to convince lost sinners to believe and obey Christ in order to be saved from eternal damnation. They should teach them according to the Great Commission, as expressed in Matthew 28:18-20: “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen. ”
The Bible says, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that wins souls is wise” (Pr.11:30). All other labor is insignificant compared with the supreme labor of winning souls. The Savior Himself indicated that one soul is worth more than the entire world when He said, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37). Soul winning is the main business of a Christian. It is for that purpose that Christ came to earth and lived and died and rose again. There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance (Lu.15:7). “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Ps.126:6 AV).
Who are commissioned to be witnesses?
The commandment to evangelize lost sinners was not addressed to people pretending to be Christians or to Christians by name, but to true believers who would be willing to give even their life in order to obey and please their Savior and Master. Not to people who say to Him, “… Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name…” (Mt.7:22-23), but who are men practicing lawlessness! Not to lukewarm people who would be spewed out of the Lord’s mouth. Of course, also not to people who are not called by the Lord to preach and teach, but they go out to work on their own initiative. Such people will remain fruitless. We must not confound God’s tolerance with God’s will…
The verb “Go” of the Great Commission applies to all believers, not only to professional missionaries and pastors. The invitation to salvation is for all alike! We have the same rights, obligations, privileges and promises, so all should help in every possible way to evangelize the world according to our ability and direction from God. There is no excuse for millions of church members leaving this work to a few only who seek to obey the Great Commission. The responsibility for world evangelization rests on every individual Christian.
Soul winning is not a matter of talent or of schools
Soul winning is not a matter of talent. It is not a matter of schools and literature to become true soul-winners! It is a matter of persistence and obedience to the Great Commission. It is a matter of obedience to the Lord’s commandment: “… As my Father has sent Me, I also send you” (Joh.20:21). It is a matter of broken heart over sinners like our Lord, who came “to seek and save the lost” (Lu.19:10). Soul-winners simply forget themselves and with the power of the Spirit go after sinners. They simply preach the Word and are ready to pass it on to others “… in season and out of season. . . ” (2Tim.4:2). Christians know that they cannot save all the lost to Christ because “. . . wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it” (Mt.7:13).
Where should we be witnesses?
Jerusalem would be the starting-point and the first object of the apostles’ mission, which was “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Lu.24:47). Those who have received the Great Commission would be witnesses in their families, in their jobs, in their city, in their country and even to other neighboring countries and finally all over the world. That would be the world conquest for Christ. Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria were places where the apostles’ testimony would be most opposed. Paul the apostle, by the power of the Spirit of God, preached the gospel of Christ from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum (Rom.15:19). And as our Lord prophesied in Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come”. Then and only then will be the end! No sooner, no later! The entire world is included in Christ’s plan Who commanded His followers to go into all the world and to preach to everyone. Every person who accepts the LORDSHIP of Christ in his heart and life is a member of His true universal church. The Christian church, irrespective of local churches and numerous denominations, must reach out to the unconverted and win people to Christ: “… lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” (Joh. 4:35) is the Master’s command! Judging by myself, unfortunately, how often we all miss the opportunity to evangelize our neighbors and our colleagues…
When should the witnessing for the Lord take place?
The Great Commission through the power of the Holy Spirit should be obeyed with the necessary wisdom and discernment and not only whenever it suits us. We should be ready to preach the Word of God in season and out of season, under favorable and unfavorable conditions but with the necessary discernment. We should preach the Word of God and witness not only when we are welcomed, but also when we are fleeing from one place to another under severe persecution… It is useful to remember what the Word of God says, “And they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles, everywhere preaching the word” (Ac.8:1, 4).
How our witnessing should be done
Our preaching and teaching should be done by demonstration of God’s power. Not only in word or with the tongue, but in deed and in truth. Only those who would do God’s will in their life and teach it, only such Christians would be genuine witnesses and shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Mt.5:19). To this end we MUST APPLY THE WORD IN OUR LIFE AND THEN TEACH IT….If so, they will be filled with knowledge and zeal, with strength and courage, and with all gifts and abilities necessary for the service that God has entrusted them. Then and only then it would be possible to see true conversions and the fruit of the Spirit in the new converts’ life. Andrew Murray wrote: “God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him”. God has engaged to give believers strength equal to their trials and services.
Let us examine ourselves
Now, let us examine ourselves as regards the manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s power. How and when do we go out to witness and preach the Word? Are we full of fear or full of assurance and boldness? I wish I myself and all God’s people were like the prophet Micah, who declared, “But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the LORD, and of justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin” (Mic.3:8). I wish myself and all God’s people understood that our life and our witnessing should be the product of the Word that the Lord addressed to Zerubbabel, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit” (Zec.4:6). My prayer is for you and for me to live not in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. Yes, and to have always the victory against sin and “… the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt us” (Lu.10:19). My prayer is that you and I may become like Stephen, who full of faith and power… and all those who were disputing with Stephen were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke (Ac.6:8-10). If we want to be good witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ, we must be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, whom God gives “TO THOSE WHO OBEY HIM” (Ac.5:32). This is the reason why it is written: “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Ac.3:19)… “… Repent,……… and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Ac.2:38). Amen.