4 Basic Questions About Speaking in Tongues

I’ve been writing some posts lately on the beginning of the church age, and I’ve now reached a place where I’d like to devote a couple of posts to the issue of speaking in tongues. I touched upon this issue briefly in the post “The First Sermon of the Church Age,” but now I’ll delve more deeply into it. And to get us started I’m going to use this post to ask and answer four basic questions about speaking in tongues.

Question #1: What Is Speaking in Tongues?

That group of approximately 120 of Christ’s followers who were first indwelt by/filled with the Holy Spirit manifested that filling by speaking in tongues (Acts 2:1-13). And what were those tongues? The story proves beyond all doubt that they were known languages those Christians had never learned. Acts 2:8-11 even provides a list of which languages were spoken. Furthermore, those foreign Jews who heard those tongues said of those Christians, “We hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” You see, “tongues” is just another word for “languages.”

Question #2: Where Does the Bible Mention Speaking in Tongues?

The Acts 2:1-13 passage isn’t the only place where the Bible mentions Christian believers speaking in tongues. Here are the other passages:

  • Acts 10:17-48 gives us the story of Peter traveling to Caesara and preaching the gospel to a group of Gentiles who are gathered in the home of a man named Cornelius. That story ends with those Gentiles receiving the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, and being baptized (Acts 10:44-48). The fact that those Gentiles spoke in tongues was significant because it showed that the Holy Spirit they received was the same Holy Spirit the Jews had received on that day of Pentecost (Acts 10:45-46).
  • Acts 19:1-7 gives us the story of Paul encountering a group of approximately twelve “disciples” who evidently were disciples of John the Baptist rather than Jesus. When Paul asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit when they had believed, they answered, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit” (N.K.J.V.). This prompted Paul to explain to them the difference between John the Baptist’s ministry and Jesus’ ministry. The group was then baptized, after which Paul laid hands on them. It was then that each member of the group received the Holy Spirit and consequently spoke in tongues.
  • 1 Corinthians 12:10 lists speaking in tongues as one of the spiritual gifts the indwelling Holy Spirit imparts to Christians.
  • In 1 Corinthians 14:18, Paul says, “I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all.” (N.K.J.V.)

Question #3: Is Every Christian Supposed to Speak in Tongues?

Does the indwelling Holy Spirit grant to every Christian the ability to speak in tongues? No, He doesn’t. In 1 Corinthians 12:29-30, Paul asks a series of rhetorical questions, the implied answer to each of which is, “No.” The verses say (N.K.J.V.):

Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?

Question #4: What Are the Bible’s Rules in Regards to Speaking in Tongues

In 1 Corinthians chapter 14, Paul lays out definite rules regarding speaking in tongues. I offer these rules as the close to this post. They are as follows:

  1. Speaking in tongues is not meant as a sign to Christians to showcase the power of God to them. To the contrary, it is meant as a sign to lost people to showcase the power of God to them (1 Corinthians 14:22). This is exactly what happened with that first case of speaking in tongues that is described in Acts 2:1-13. Even Jesus Himself listed speaking in tongues as one of the signs that would follow those who believe in Him (Mark 16:17-18). Those signs would help convince unbelievers that the gospel message was truly from God.
  2. Because speaking in tongues is not meant as a sign to Christians, it makes perfect sense that no Christian should speak in tongues in a church service unless a fellow Christian who has the spiritual gift of interpreting the foreign languages (1 Corinthians 12:10) is present to provide the understanding (1 Corinthians 14:26-28). Without such an interpreter, the Christian speaking in tongues is basically just showing off because no one else in the service is getting anything out of what he is saying because they can’t understand his words (1 Corinthians 14:6-12; 18-19).
  3. In a church service, a woman should never speak in tongues under any circumstances (1 Corinthians 14:34-35).
  4. Even in a church service where a Christian with the spiritual gift of interpreting the foreign languages is present, no more than two or three Christians should speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:27).
  5. Even in a church service where two or three Christians speak in tongues, they should not all speak at the same time. Each one should take turns (1 Corinthians 14:27).
  6. Even in a church service where two or three Christians speak in tongues, just one Christian with the spiritual gift of interpretation should do the interpreting (1 Corinthians 14:27).
  7. In a church service, the spiritual gift of prophesying is preferable to the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:1-5; 23-25; 39). The reason for this is simple. In prophesying, the words are spoken in the local language the people attending the church service speak. Thus, no interpretation is required and everyone in the service receives the blessing of hearing the prophesying. Of course, the opposite is true when the location is a foreign mission field rather than a church setting. On the mission field, speaking in tongues (the local language of that mission field) is preferable because the words of any prophesying must be filtered through the voice of an interpreter who knows both the language of the one doing the prophesying and the language of the locals.
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Filled With the Spirit

The group of approximately 120 of Christ’s followers who experienced the famous day of Pentecost were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4). This means that each of those believers became indwelt with God the Holy Spirit at that time. After all, each of them couldn’t have been filled with the Spirit if the Spirit wasn’t inside them to do the filling. Therefore, we are right to say that Pentecost is the day when the Holy Spirit began to indwell Christ’s followers. But is there a difference between being merely indwelt with the Holy Spirit and being filled with the Holy Spirit? Yes, there is.

Difference #1: Whereas the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, the filling of the Holy Spirit can be experienced again and again and again. The book of Acts describes how the early Christians were on multiple occasions filled with the Holy Spirit. For example, Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:4, 4:8, and 4:31. This shows us that the filling of the Holy Spirit can happen repeatedly to a person. As a matter of fact, commentators have noted that a literal translation of the original Greek of Ephesians 5:18 would read, “…but be being filled with the Spirit…” The idea is that the command is a continual, ongoing thing.

Difference #2: Whereas the baptism of the Holy Spirit is mandatory to actually being a Christian, the filling of the Holy Spirit is mandatory to living the victorious Christian life. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is God the Holy Spirit entering into your body and taking up continual residence there. This baptism creates the new birth, which Jesus said is necessary for salvation (John 3:3). In other words, you aren’t a Christian if you haven’t been baptized with the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9). The filling of the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, is mandatory to living the victorious Christian life. Why are our church rolls weighted down with names of Christians who don’t live much differently than the rest of the world? It’s because those Christians know the baptism of the Holy Spirit but not the filling of the Holy Spirit.

So, with these two differences understood, what does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? The answer isn’t anything mystical or weird. It is actually very simple. To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be controlled by the indwelling Holy Spirit. You see, being filled with the Holy Spirit has absolutely nothing to do with you receiving more of the Holy Spirit. It is all about the indwelling Holy Spirit receiving more of you.

To help you understand this, please keep in mind that the Holy Spirit is “He” rather than “it.” He is the third person of the holy Trinity. You wouldn’t think of referring to God the Father as “it,” would you? You wouldn’t think of referring to God the Son, Jesus, as “it,” would you? Well then, don’t think of referring to God the Holy Spirit as “it.” When Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit, He used the pronoun “He” (John 14:16-17; 15:26; 16:7-15).

Why is this so important to our subject? It’s because to have a person come live with you is to have that entire person come live with you. Imagine someone moving in with you and saying, “You are just getting a third of me right now. The other two-thirds are back at my old place.” Imagine that person saying, “Here is half of me. If you treat this half well, I’ll send for the other half.” That kind of talk is bizarre. Well, it doesn’t make any more sense to say, “I have some of the Holy Spirit living inside me, but I’m still waiting to receive the rest of Him so that I can be filled with Him.” Do you see what I mean?

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not about you receiving more of the Holy Spirit. It is about the indwelling Holy Spirit receiving more of you. As I said, to be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be controlled by the indwelling Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit is not content to merely dwell inside the body of the Christian, lying dormant like some kind of inactive volcano. He wants to set up a command center inside the Christian’s body, a command center from which He controls (directs, guides, prompts) the Christian.

Unfortunately, the Christian can prevent this control from happening. For one thing, the indwelling Holy Spirit can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30). The Christian grieves the Spirit by doing something the Spirit doesn’t want him to do. For another thing, the indwelling Holy Spirit can be quenched (1 Thessalonians 5:19). The Christian quenches the Spirit by not doing something the Spirit wants him to do.

The Bible’s best passage on being filled with the Holy Spirit is Ephesians 5:18. That verse says:

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. (N.I.V.)

A person who is drunk on wine is under the control of the wine. The wine makes him do things he wouldn’t otherwise do and say things he wouldn’t otherwise say. Similarly, the Christian who is filled with the Holy Spirit is under the control of the Spirit. The indwelling Holy Spirit makes him do things he wouldn’t otherwise do and say things he wouldn’t otherwise say. Of course, the difference between the Spirit’s control and the wine’s control is the Spirit’s control leads to good things and the wine’s control leads to bad things.

And so what is the upshot of all this in regards to what happened to that group of approximately 120 believers on that day of Pentecost? The upshot is that those believers experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the filling of the Holy Spirit simultaneously. The moment the Spirit entered into each of their bodies He took control of those bodies. The result of this control was each of those believers speaking in a foreign language he or she had never learned.

I’d love to conclude this post by saying that those believers all remained under the uninterrupted control of the indwelling Holy Spirit for the rest of their lives. As I’ve already mentioned, though, that’s not what happened. Allowing the Spirit to maintain 24-7 control is impossible even for the most devout Christian. At some point, every Christian will either grieve the Spirit or quench the Spirit and in so doing take back the control of his or her body.

At that point, with the Spirit no longer in control, the Christian is no longer filled with the Holy Spirit. The good news, however, is that all that is required for the Christian to be filled with the Spirit once again is for the Christian to purposefully give the indwelling Spirit the control (the reins, the steering wheel, the remote control) again. And when that Christian becomes once again filled with the Holy Spirit, will the Spirit cause that Christian to speak in tongues the way He did those Pentecost believers? Ah, that’s a good question, and I’ll answer it with my next post. So stay tuned….

Posted in Disobedience, Doing Good, God's Work, Obedience, Rebellion, The Holy Spirit | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Rightly Understanding Peter’s Answer

Peter’s Pentecost sermon, which was the first sermon of the church age, caused his listeners to ask, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). His answer was, “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38, N.I.V.). However, in my previous post I explained why we shouldn’t take Peter’s words to mean any of the following:

  • the requirement of repentance cancels out the requirement of belief/faith
  • water baptism is essential for salvation
  • we must baptize in the highly specific name of “Jesus Christ”

Okay, so why did Peter give the answer that he gave? The obvious answer is that God the Holy Spirit, who now dwelt inside him, prompted him to give it, just as the Spirit had prompted all the words of the preceding sermon. But why did God prompt such an answer? The fact is, there are multiple possible factors that might have come into play. Since these factors are all plausible, any one or even all of them might have applied.

Factor #1: The Greek preposition translated as “for” in the words “for the forgiveness of sins” is eis, and it can mean “on the basis of.” For example, eis is used in Matthew 12:41, where Jesus says, “The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at (eis, on the basis of) the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here” (N.K.J.V.). The point is that it’s possible that what Peter actually said was, “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ on the basis of the forgiveness of your sins.” You see, this places the salvation (forgiveness of sin) before the baptizing.

Factor #2: In Matthew 16:19, Jesus says to Peter, “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (N.K.J.V.). Catholics interpret these words to mean that Jesus made Peter the first pope, but that interpretation is preposterous because the New Testament neither names no such office nor provides any qualifications for it. The better interpretation is that Jesus giving Peter the “keys” of the kingdom of heaven meant that Peter would be the man who would, in a figurative sense, initially open the doors of the church to the world’s three ethnic groups (Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles) so that any individual who believed in Jesus as Savior could enter.

Under this interpretation, each time Peter used his “keys” to open the doors of the church to a different ethnic group, the grand opening was marked by a special event — either a mass public baptizing, a mass receiving of the indwelling Holy Spirit, or both — involving some members of that group. Consider the following:

  • In Acts 2:38-41, Peter opens the church doors for Jews (Acts 2:5), with the event being marked by a group of Jews being publicly baptized and receiving the indwelling Holy Spirit. This was Peter using his “keys” for the first time.
  • In Acts 8:4-13, Philip preaches the gospel to the Samaritans, who were a mixed race. On the one hand, they were Gentiles because their ancestors had been Gentiles the Assyrians had brought in to repopulate Israel’s northern kingdom after Assyria had conquered that kingdom and carried off its inhabitants. On the other hand, those Gentiles had adapted themselves to certain aspects of the Jewish religion and over the ensuing centuries had also intermarried with the Jews. Irregardless of their history, when Philip preached the gospel to the Samaritans many of them believed in Jesus as Savior and submitted to baptism. Interestingly, though, at no point in all that did those believers receive the indwelling Holy Spirit. That didn’t happen until Peter and John traveled from Jerusalem to Samaria and laid hands on them. Only then, with Peter being on the scene, did those Samaritan believers receive the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17). This was Peter using his “keys” for the second time.
  • In Acts 10:24-48, Peter travels to Caesarea and preaches Jesus to a group of Gentiles who are gathered in the home of a Gentile named Cornelius. While Peter was in midst of his sermon, the Holy Spirit fell upon those Gentiles, after which Peter baptized them. This was Peter using his “keys” for the third and final time as each of the world’s three ethnic groups (Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles) had now had Peter open the doors of the church to them.

Factor #3: To be baptized in the name of an individual is to submit to that individual and his message. Because the Jews of Jerusalem had been very public in their rejection of Jesus, they needed to be just as public in their submission to Him. By being baptized publicly in Jesus’ name, they dramatically set themselves apart from the unbelieving Jews whom Peter called “this perverse generation” (Acts 2:40, N.K.J.V.). It is also worth mentioning that while every Jew held God and the Holy Spirit in the highest esteem, every Jew certainly did not hold Jesus in high esteem. And they really hated the title “Christ” being added to the name Jesus because that title meant “Messiah.” Perhaps, then, this is why the indwelling Holy Spirit led Peter to command those Jews to be baptized in the name of “Jesus Christ.” It was that name, after all, that drew the starkest line of division between a believing Jew and an unbelieving one.

Factor #4: The book of Acts is the record of a highly transitional time in the history of God’s dealings with people. The church age begins. Judaism wanes. Jews who are accustomed to living under the Old Testament law begin to understand what it is to live under grace. Gentiles come front and center in God getting His work done upon the earth. Because of all this major upheaval, it is unwise to build any doctrine exclusively around any passage from Acts. As evidence of this, consider the following:

  • In Acts 2:38, the order of conversion for Jews is listed as: repentance, water baptism, receiving the Holy Spirit.
  • In Acts 8:14-17, the order of conversation for Samaritans is listed as: belief, water baptism, Peter and John praying for them, receiving the Holy Spirit.
  • In Acts 10:44-48, the order of conversation for Gentiles is listed as: hearing the word (followed, presumably, by believing), receiving the Holy Spirit, water baptism.
  • In Acts 19:1-7, the order of conversation for the disciples of John the Baptist is listed as: receiving Paul’s teaching about the difference between John’s ministry and Jesus’ ministry (followed, presumably, by believing), water baptism, Paul laying his hands on them, receiving the Holy Spirit.

Does this mean, then, that there are four different plans of salvation? No, it doesn’t. It simply means that at the dawn of the church age, God had different ways for how different groups could express their belief in Jesus and their newfound submission to Him.

Posted in Baptism, Belief, Bible Study, Church, Evangelism, God's Work, Salvation | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Peter’s Famous Answer

To say that Peter’s Pentecost sermon was powerful and impacting would be an understatement. His listeners were so “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37, N.K.J.V.) that he didn’t even have to give an invitation to evoke a response from them. Instead, they voluntarily asked him and the other apostles, “What shall we do?”

The answer Peter gave has been debated for centuries and has become a cornerstone verse for more than one denomination. And what was that answer? It was: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38, N.I.V.).

Actually, he didn’t stop there. He also told them, “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off — for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39, N.I.V.). Furthermore, he warned them with “many other words” and pleaded with them saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation” (Acts 2:40, N.I.V.). But it’s that part about repenting and being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins that gets all the attention. Here’s why those words are so debated:

  • In John 3:16, the Bible’s most famous verse, Jesus teaches that salvation (eternal life) comes by way of belief in Him. So why didn’t Peter say, “Believe in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins”?
  • Why did Peter stress the necessity of repentance?
  • Why did Peter stress the necessity of water baptism?
  • Why did Peter say that the water baptism should be done in the name of “Jesus Christ” when Jesus Himself had said that it should be done in the name of “the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”? (Matthew 28:19)

Now, it’s been said that the best commentary on the Bible is the Bible, and so the correct way to deal with all these questions is to interpret them through the lens of the rest of the Bible. When we do this, we find some real help. So let’s get to it.

First, there are over 100 passages in which the New Testament uses the words “believe,” “believed,” “believing,” or “believers” in regards to salvation. A handful of examples are: John 3:16; Acts 8:37; Acts 13:39; Romans 1:16-17; and Ephesians 1:13. And then there are approximately 80 New Testament passages that use the word “faith” in relation to salvation. Some examples are: Ephesians 2:8; Colossians 1:4; 2 Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 10:38; and 1 Peter 1:9. In light of all this, we are left to conclude that the New Testament uses the words “belief” and “faith” interchangeably when the subject is salvation. Four excellent proof texts for this conclusion are: Romans 1:16-17; Romans 3:22; Galatians 2:16; and 1 John 5:4-5. The upshot is that we shouldn’t trip over the plain teaching of dozens and dozens of verses just so we can make everything about Acts 2:38.

Second, Peter wasn’t the only person who tied repentance in with salvation. Both John the Baptist and Jesus did as well. (For your homework, read passages such as: Matthew 3:1-2; 4:17; Mark 1:15; 6:12; Luke 13:3-5; 16:30; and 17:3-4.) Therefore, it seems that repentance and belief/faith are two sides of the same coin. Let me illustrate. Imagine that Jesus is walking west. Now imagine that a lost sinner is walking east. As Jesus approaches the lost sinner, He says to the sinner, “Follow Me.” Okay, what does the lost sinner have to do to respond to Jesus’ invitation? He has to change his direction. This, you see, is what repentance is. It is a change of direction. This means that if any lost sinner is going to get saved by believing in Jesus, that sinner is automatically going to have to show a degree of repentance (a changing of direction) in order to do that. Jesus and a lost sinner are never going in the same direction.

Third, there are multiple passages that expressly teach that baptism isn’t necessary for salvation. For example, John 4:2 says that Jesus didn’t personally baptize anyone. That’s an odd thing for the Bible to say if baptism is necessary for salvation. Likewise, in 1 Corinthians 1:13-16 the apostle Paul admits that he didn’t do much baptizing. He even says in 1 Corinthians 1:17 that Christ didn’t send him to baptize but to preach the gospel. Remember that this is the same Paul who also said, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 1:18, N.K.J.V.). For that matter, even Peter himself didn’t mention the need for baptism in other teachings he gave on the subject of salvation (Acts 3:12-26; 5:29-32; 10:34-43; 1 Peter 1:3-12; and 2:7-10). And then there is the problem that if baptism is necessary for salvation, it means that God’s plan of salvation for the New Testament age is different than His plan for the Old Testament age, an idea the entire 4th chapter of Romans flatly refutes.

Fourth, before we take Peter’s Acts 2:38 answer ultra literally by baptizing specifically in the name of “Jesus Christ,” we’d do well to consult Acts 10:48, where he commands a group of Gentile believers to be baptized in the name of “the Lord” (N.K.J.V., K.J.V.). We also might want to read Acts 19:5, where we’re told that Paul baptized a group of Ephesian believers in the name of the “Lord Jesus.” Do you see what I mean? The New Testament doesn’t provide any consistency in regards to the precise words that should be said during a baptism. This shows us that there are no magic words that have to be spoken verbatim to make a baptism legitimate.

And so all of this circles us back around to the fundamental question: Why did Peter say, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”? Well, that’s a legitimate question, one that has a legitimate answer, an answer that I’ll provide in my next post. So, until then, I’ll ask you one more time to stay tuned….

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The First Sermon of the Church Age

The “church age” began in grand style. The day was the Jewish feast day known as Pentecost (Acts 2:1), and approximately 120 of Christ’s followers were gathered together in a room in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1). They had been waiting a week for the resurrected, glorified, now ascended Jesus to fulfill His promise to baptize them with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:5). This baptizing would amount to God the Holy Spirit coming to dwell inside each of them (John 14:17; Romans 8:9), and the Spirit’s indwelling would endue each believer with power for evangelism (Acts 1:8). Then it happened.

Suddenly, without warning, the room in which all those believers were sitting was filled with a noise that sounded like a violent wind blowing (Acts 2:2). And then, just as inexplicably, divided flames of fire shaped in the form of human tongues appeared out of nowhere and one tongue came to rest upon each believer (Acts 2:3). At that point each believer was filled with God the Holy Spirit and strange sounds began to pour out of their mouths (Acts 2:4).

The sounds were the sounds of foreign languages those believers had never learned, and it didn’t take long for all that commotion and noise to create quite a stir. Evidently, at some point, the believers left their room and made their way into the streets of Jerusalem, still speaking those unlearned languages as they went. Jerusalem at that time was filled with people, many of them foreign Jews who had traveled to Jerusalem to observe the feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:5).

To the amazement of those foreign Jews, they heard those Galilean Jews speaking their various languages (Acts 2:6-8). The Bible even makes a point of listing all the different languages those Spirit-indwelt believers were speaking (Acts 2:9-11). They were the languages of the visiting Jews from: Parthia, Mede, Elam, Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya, Rome, Crete, and Arabia.

The scoffers who didn’t understand that actual languages were coming from those believers mocked them and accused them of being drunk on new wine (Acts 2:13). But the foreign Jews who were understanding exactly what those believers were saying knew better. They said, “We hear these people speaking in our own languages the wonderful works of God. What does this mean?” (Acts 2:11-12)

What it meant was that a new era had just been birthed. A promised age, the church age, had begun. What was needed now was a powerful sermon. After all, what’s church without a sermon? (Spoken like a preacher, right?) And who will be the man to preach the church age’s opening sermon? It will be Peter, of course. We wouldn’t expect anything less. After all, he couldn’t keep his mouth shut before the Holy Spirit came to dwell inside him!

Peter launched into an impromptu sermon right there in the streets of Jerusalem (Acts 2:14). He explained that he and all those other believers weren’t drunk (Acts 2:15). No, in actuality what those people in Jerusalem were witnessing was the beginning of the fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy from the book of Joel (Acts 2:16). The prophecy concerned the “last days,” a time period that began when Jesus first walked this earth (Hebrews 1:1-2; James 5:1-3) and will end when He returns to walk it again at the close of the seven-year tribulation period this world is scheduled to undergo (Acts 2:17-21). According to Joel’s prophecy, one of the trademark characteristics of the “last days” would be God pouring out His Holy Spirit in a way that would cause believers to supernaturally prophesy, see visions, and dream dreams (Acts 2:17-18), and the engine that would supply all the power for that would be the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Following that introductory explanation of what those people of Jerusalem were witnessing, Peter then segued into the second section of his sermon, which was all about Jesus:

  • Jesus’ miracles had proven that He truly had been sent by God (Acts 2:22).
  • Jesus had been crucified by the hands of man, but His death had been in accord with the foreknowledge and purpose of God (Acts 2:23).
  • God had resurrected Him, and that resurrection had fulfilled another Old Testament prophecy, this one from David’s Psalm 16 (Acts 2:24-31).
  • Following His resurrection, Jesus had ascended to take His exalted place at the right hand of God (Acts 2:32-33).
  • Jesus’ exaltation was even more fulfillment of the prophecies of David, specifically the prophecies found in Psalm 68:18 (Acts 2:34) and Psalm 110:1 (Acts 2:35).
  • Once He was at the right hand of God, Jesus had poured out the Holy Spirit upon His followers and in so doing kept the promise He had made to them (Acts 2:33).
  • In the wake of all these events, all of Israel could know for a certainty that God had made the Jesus the Jews had crucified Lord and Christ (Messiah).

Okay, now the ball was firmly in the court of those Jews who had heard Peter’s sermon. How would they respond to what they had just witnessed and Peter’s explanation of it? Well, that will be the subject of my next post. So until then, stay tuned…..

Posted in Christ's Second Coming, Christ's Death, Christ's Miracles, Christ's Resurrection, Christ's Return, Church, Evangelism, Prophecy, Speaking in Tongues, The Holy Spirit, Witnessing | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Beginning of the Church Age

What we call the “church age” began on the Jewish feast day known as Pentecost that is described in Acts chapter 2. It was on that day that God the Holy Spirit began indwelling Christ’s followers. Jesus had said, “I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18), and what happened on that day of Pentecost was the official beginning of that work.

This new ministry of the Holy Spirit fulfilled four promises that Jesus had made:

  • On the last night of His earthly life, He had told His chosen 12 apostles concerning the Holy Spirit, “…for He dwells with (emphasis mine) you and will be in (emphasis mine) you” (John 14:17, N.K.J.V.).
  • Later in that same teaching session, He had told them, “…if I do not go away, the Helper (the Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7, N.K.J.V.).
  • After His resurrection and in the last seconds prior to His ascension back to heaven, He had stood on the Mount of Olives just outside Jerusalem and commanded a group of approximately 120 of His followers to stay in Jerusalem and wait because, “…you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5, N.K.J.V.).
  • Seconds later as part of those same departing words, He had told that group, “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 (Acts 1:8, N.K.J.V.).

And so there that group of approximately 120 were, staying in Jerusalem, waiting for God the Holy Spirit to “come upon them,” “baptize” them, and grant them “power” even though they didn’t have a clue what all that might look like or feel like. All they knew was that Jesus had promised that it would happen. That was good enough for them.

How long did they wait? To answer that, let’s do a little math. First, we know that Jesus observed the Passover meal with His chosen 12 apostles on the night before He was crucified (Matthew 26:17-30). Second, we know that He made various post-resurrection appearances in His glorified body in the forty days immediately following His resurrection (Acts 1:3). Third, we know that the day of Pentecost (also known as the feast of Weeks) occurred exactly fifty days after the day of Passover (Leviticus 23:15-22). Putting all this together, and adding in the fact that Jesus was dead for three days before resurrecting, that group of approximately 120 waited approximately one week (seven days) before Christ’s promise was fulfilled. That number of days also fits with Christ’s promise that those believers would be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from the day of His ascension (Acts 1:5).

As for what lesson we can learn from the beginning of the church age, the obvious one centers around the necessity of the indwelling Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian (the believer in Jesus). Putting it simply, if you haven’t been baptized with the Holy Spirit in this church age, the Holy Spirit does not dwell inside you. This means two things. First, you are not an authentic Christian (Romans 8:9). I don’t care how long you’ve had your name on a church roll, how much Bible you know, or how much morality you showcase in life. Second, you have no real power when it comes to living for Jesus and serving Him. You’re like a car with nothing under the hood.

God the Holy Spirit coming to dwell inside the believer is the “born again” experience of which Jesus spoke (John 3:3). And unlike those believers who first experienced it on that day of Pentecost, no one who places saving belief in Jesus today has to wait for it. Now the new believer is baptized with the Holy Spirit the moment that God rates the person’s belief as real and saving. That’s why the apostle Paul could confidently write, “…Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (Romans 8:9 N.K.J.V.). It’s also why He could rightly describe the indwelling Holy Spirit as being the believer’s inner guarantee of a heavenly inheritance (2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30).

Therefore, in light of all this, I guess the only thing left to ask is, “Does God the Holy Spirit dwell inside you?” Rest assured that if you have placed legitimate saving belief in Jesus Christ, He does. But rest just as assured that if you haven’t placed legitimate saving belief in Jesus Christ, He doesn’t. The difference really isn’t hard to understand.

You see, there are various religions that teach that adherence to their rules can in some way make you either God yourself or very close to Him. Christianity, however, is the only one that teaches that God Himself — in the person of God the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity — will come to you and literally take up residence inside your earthly body. That’s a whole different ballgame, and it’s one in which Jesus wants you to participate.

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What Lou Gehrig Can Teach Us About God’s Will

…Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You. (Psalm 143:8, N.K.J.V.)

Lou Gehrig was one of the most iconic players in the history of baseball. He played for the New York Yankees from 1923 to 1939, when the disease that now bears his name finally forced him to retire. Nicknamed “The Iron Horse” because he played in 2,130 consecutive games, Gehrig’s hall-of-fame career is the stuff of legends. As evidence of this, his Yankee uniform #4 was the first number to ever be retired by a baseball team.

One story from Gehrig’s career places him at bat, with the Yankees trailing by one run. A runner is on first base and another on second, which means that Gehrig has a chance to either tie or win the game. But with the count full at three balls and two strikes, the pitcher winds up and throws a perfect strike right past Gehrig,

Gehrig just stands there, never moving his bat as the umpire yells, “Strike three!” Then the embarrassed slugger heads toward the dugout. Before he leaves the batter’s box, though, Gehrig turns and says something to the umpire. This sends the sportswriters sitting next to the field into a frenzy. Never before have they seen Gehrig argue with an umpire.

Curiosity quickly gets the better of one of the writers, so he yells out, “Hey, ump, tell us what Lou said to you.” The umpire looks at Gehrig and says, “Lou, tell these men what you just said to me.” To that Gehrig smiles somewhat ashamedly and says, “I just said, ‘I’d give ten dollars to have that one back.'”

This world is filled with people who’d give much more than ten dollars to have a decision back. Many a man or woman thinks, “Oh, to be back in time, standing at that same crossroad again!” But we can’t go back, can we? Life gives us just one chance to get it right, and if we make a bad decision, we have to live with the unpleasant harvest. This is why it is so important that we tap into the mind of God when making decisions. The Bible tells us that His way is perfect (Psalm 18:30), His work is perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4), and His will is perfect (Romans 12:2).

So, are you facing a big decision right now? If you are, have you taken the matter to God in prayer and asked Him to show you His will? “Not really,” you say? Then it’s high time you did. And even if you have, then it would still be a good idea for you to ask Him again and make double sure that you heard His answer correctly. What you don’t want to do is ignore God and His will altogether and consequently one day have to say what Lou Gehrig once had to say: “I’d give ten dollars to have that one back.”

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