Do We Believe in the Ministry of the Spirit Today?|
This lesson is part of a series entitled "Ready to Make a Defense."
CHARGE #4: MEMBERS OF THE CHURCHES OF CHRIST DO NOT BELIEVE IN THE MODERN MINISTRY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT..
I. AN EXPLANATION OF THE CHARGE
A. The churches of Christ are charged with teaching that there is no modern ministry of the Holy Spirit.
1. By “modern”, it is meant that the churches do not accept that the Holy Spirit is at work among men today.
2. Thus, it is implied that the churches accept that the Holy Spirit was active among men at one time, but He has since ceased to act and now has no ministry on earth whatsoever.
B. This charge is made against the church because members of the
1. Therefore, it is implied that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is entirely based upon miraculous spiritual gifts. By this implication, to deny the current exercise of those gifts is to deny His current ministry.
2. Otherwise, one must admit that it would be possible to believe in the modern ministry of the Holy Spirit while also believing that His miraculous gifts have ceased.
C. Thus, the answers to the following questions will reveal the truth regarding this charge against the church:
1. Are miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit performed through Christians today as they were when the church began?
2. Is there a modern ministry of the Holy Spirit if there are no modern-day miraculous spiritual gifts?
II. MIRACULOUS GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
A. The Bible records the use of spiritual gifts among the church in the first century.
1. These miraculous gifts were unnatural abilities given to men by God through the Holy Spirit.
2. They included such things as speaking in tongues (foreign languages), interpretation of tongues, miraculous healing, prophecy, miracles, distinguishing of spirits (testing whether good or bad), revelation of wisdom, revelation of knowledge, and miraculous faith. See 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.
B. Examples of the use of these gifts are found in the Book of Acts. Some of these examples are listed below.
1. The apostles spoke in tongues, which are explained as being foreign languages (Acts 2:3-11).
2. Various wonders and signs took place through the apostles (Acts 2:43; 5:12).
3. Peter performed a miraculous act of healing on a lame man (Acts 3:1-11).
4. The apostles spoke revelation and prophecy by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:14-36; 4:31).
5. Stephen spoke by the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:10).
6. Philip the evangelist performed miracles of healing and signs in
C. Notice that these miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were not performed secretly, but rather they were widely known, publicly displayed, and undeniable.
1. For example, when the apostles spoke in tongues on the Day of Pentecost, the whole multitude “from every nation under heaven” heard the gospel in their own languages, and they were amazed (Acts 2:5-12).
2. Also, when the apostles performed miracles of healing, they were done “among the people” (Acts 3:9; 5:12). These acts were done openly such that no one could honestly deny that a miracle had taken place.
3. Likewise, when Philip the evangelist preached in Samaria, the multitudes heard and saw the signs which he was performing, and they were amazed (Acts 8:6-8).
4. Thus, we see that these miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were not confined to the private meetings of the church, but they were public displays of God’s power. They were not debatable happenings that could be explained by natural means, but rather they were obvious violations of natural law that could only occur by the hand of God.
D. If these miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit continue today as they did when the church began, where are these same undeniable public displays of divine power?
1. Some who claim to have miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit now say that they are performed only among those who believe. This was not how these gifts were performed in the records of the Bible.
2. Some who perform their so-called miraculous healings publicly often do so in carefully staged settings which do not resemble the spontaneous public settings in the Book of Acts. Their results are not the instantaneous and undeniable results of miraculous healing, but rather they are easily doubted, denied, or completely disproved as fraudulent.
3. Those who claim to speak in tongues today do not speak in languages so that they may be understood by foreigners as the apostles did in Acts 2. Rather, they speak a series of nonsensical syllables that have no meaning to anybody. This so-called speaking in tongues is insignificant to outsiders, and yet the Bible says that speaking in tongues was a sign for unbelievers (1 Cor. 14:22).
4. Others make claims of various obscure miracles, but no one can honestly demonstrate now the kinds of miraculous powers that were commonly performed among Christians in the early church.
E. Therefore, it cannot be denied that there has clearly been a change in the way the Holy Spirit works through Christians from biblical times until now. This change was foretold by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:8-12.
1. The whole context of 1 Corinthians 12-14 is the proper use of spiritual gifts.
2. 1 Corinthians 13 is an exposition on the necessity and superiority of love, which, the text states, will last forever.
3. In contrast to love, Paul wrote, “if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away” (v. 8). Clearly, Paul saw that there would be an end to spiritual gifts.
4. That end, Paul wrote, would be “when the perfect comes” (v. 10).
5. Some have assumed that the “perfect” refers to Christ so that the meaning of this passage would be that spiritual gifts will continue until Christ comes again. However, the context does not support this.
6. The “perfect” is in contrast to the “partial” (v. 10). The context shows that “perfect”, meaning “complete”, and “partial” modify the same things, which are knowledge and prophecy in verse 9.
7. Thus we can fully express the meaning of verses 9 and 10 as follows: “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect knowledge and prophecy come, the partial knowledge and prophecy will be done away.”
8. The partial knowledge and prophecy of spiritual gifts have been done away now because the perfect knowledge and prophecy have come to us in the Bible. Spiritual gifts are no longer necessary because the Bible gives us more than they ever could. See 1 Corinthians 14:21.
F. The very purpose of the miraculous spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit was to reveal God’s word and to give credence to those who spoke the word of God by the Holy Spirit.
1. In each of the examples from the Book of Acts, we find that the miraculous spiritual gifts enabled men to gain the attention of people, to speak the word of God, and to prove to those people that what they heard was indeed from God.
2. Regarding the word of salvation, Hebrews 2:3-4 says, “After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.”
3. Now that the word of God has been spoken, confirmed, and witnessed by God, the gifts of the Holy Spirit have fulfilled their purpose and are no longer necessary.
III. THE MODERN MINISTRY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
A. It has been demonstrated above that there are no modern-day miraculous spiritual gifts. However, this does not indicate that there is no modern ministry of the Holy Spirit.
B. The Holy Spirit was given a ministry (service, work) on earth.
1. Jesus promised the apostles that He would send the Holy Spirit to help them and be present with them.
a. “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, who the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you will know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)
b. “Helper” is translated from parakletos, which means “called to one’s side” (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words). This word was used commonly in the first century to denote a legal assistant or advocate.
c. Notice that Christ said that the Holy Spirit would be “another Helper,” indicating that Christ Himself was a Helper to them. See 1 John 2:1. Therefore, there is some similarity between the Holy Spirit and Christ as they minister to help man.
2. Jesus also explained exactly what the Holy Spirit would do to help the apostles. This explanation is given in John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:8-15.
a. The Holy Spirit would teach them all things.
b. The Holy Spirit would bring to their remembrance all things that Jesus said.
c. The Holy Spirit would testify about Jesus.
d. The Holy Spirit would convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.
e. The Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth.
f. The Holy Spirit would disclose to them what was to come.
g. The Holy Spirit would glorify Christ.
h. The Holy Spirit would disclose to them the things of Christ.
3. At the beginning of the church, the Holy Spirit accomplished these things with the assistance of miraculous spiritual gifts.
a. Before Jesus ascended, He told His apostles, “You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5), and, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8).
b. The Holy Spirit first did this on the Day of Pentecost after Jesus ascended to the Father. The fulfillment of the Lord’s promises to the apostles is recorded in Acts 2:1-4.
c. From that day forward, the apostles were empowered by the Holy Spirit unlike anyone else to speak the word of God and to perform signs and wonders (Acts 2:19; 4:30; 5:12).
d. Individual miraculous spiritual gifts were also then imparted to other Christians by the apostles through the laying on of the apostles’ hands (Acts 8:14-19; 19:6; Rom. 1:11).
e. The only exception to this was in the case of Cornelius’ household (Acts 10:44-46), in which case the Holy Spirit fell on them to demonstrate that God had accepted the Gentiles as well as the Jews (Acts 11:15-18).
4. Now that the miraculous spiritual gifts have ceased, the work of the Holy Spirit continues by different means.
a. Today the Holy Spirit still has this same ministry as we noticed above. Now He ministers to us to the same effects as He ministered to the apostles.
i. He still teaches all things.
ii. He still brings to our remembrance all things that Jesus said.
iii. He still testifies about Jesus.
iv. He still convicts the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.
v. He still guides us into all truth.
vi. He still discloses to us what was to come.
vii. He still glorifies Christ.
viii. He still discloses to us the things of Christ.
b. Now He accomplishes all of this through the word of God, which we have in the Bible.
i. Make no mistake about it. If these things are being accomplished, then the Holy Spirit is at work!
ii. Therefore, as these things are accomplished through the word of God today, the Holy Spirit is working.
c. In fact, the Holy Spirit always accomplished these things through the word of God, but until the Bible was complete and confirmed, the word was revealed and accompanied by miraculous spiritual gifts.
i. Notice that Paul told the Thessalonian Christians, “for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thess. 1:5).
ii. Yet, Paul writes that it was the word at work in them: “when you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe” (1 Thess. 2:13).
iii. Thus, when there was no written, codified New Testament, the word of God was delivered by means of miraculous spiritual gifts. But once it was delivered, it was the word through which the Holy Spirit did His work. See also Colossians 1:5-6; James 1:21; 1 Peter 1:22-25.
A. Those who charge the churches of Christ with rejecting the modern ministry of the Holy Spirit have misunderstood the true ministry of the Holy Spirit, and therefore they reject His ministry themselves.
B. Ironically, those who cling to the necessity of the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit are fixated upon the physical rather than the spiritual. They are refusing to accept what is truly spiritual (the word of God, John 6:63) unless they see a physical demonstration.
C. The true effects of the Holy Spirit’s work are seen in the persons who are transformed by the word of God. “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Rom. 8:14)
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