In this session of Secret Church 5, Pastor David Platt navigates significant issues that frequently arise within the Church concerning the Holy Spirit. As Pastor David Platt analyzes what the Bible says about these issues, he tackles the practical implications of these Scriptures and what they mean for us today. Within this message, we also learn the definitions and complexities of Scriptures and beliefs that center upon the Holy Spirit.
Yet, most importantly, Pastor David Platt guides us back to the primary work of the Holy Spirit that we must surely recall. As it says in Revelation 22, “The Spirit says to the Lord, ‘Come Lord Jesus. Come quickly.’” Amidst all that the Holy Spirit does within us, he most adamantly cries out for the day when we will see Christ face to face, and experience the fullness of our salvation.
- The Spirit Empowers Witness
- Blasphemy Against the Spirit
- Baptized in the Spirit
- Filled with the Spirit
- Gifted by the Spirit
- Prophecy, Tongues, and Healing
The Spirit empowers witness. When we say that, what we are saying is the Spirit fills the church so the gospel would be proclaimed to the ends of the earth. This is why the Spirit fills us. This is actually a little bit humorous. In John 20:21–22, the Scripture reads, “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” I was reading one of the commentaries on this which stated, “Jesus’ insufflation was active prophecy of what the promise of the Father would make powerfully possible at Pentecost.” Has anybody ever heard of the word “insufflation” before? I think this is one of those theological words we just make up; just take that and use it. Do not insufflate on the person next to you if you have bad breath. Guard your insufflation.
The whole point is the Spirit empowers witness. God is glorifying the completion of the Incarnation and the continuation of the Incarnation. What I mean by that is we are not incarnate the same way the Son is—the same way we would be fully divine and fully human—but the idea is like a handing off the baton in Acts 1 when Jesus says, “I am going to give you the Spirit and you are going to receive power.”
The Spirit fills us with power. This is exactly what Jesus had told His disciples in Luke 24:47–49, “…but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” In this passage, Jesus outlines the message: “Here is the gospel. Here is the method by which you are going to preach it to all nations,” and Jesus promises the means: “I am going to give you who you need to communicate this.” These are promises that He had given them already when He sent them out. He said, “The Spirit will speak through you,” but this is what is going on here. The Spirit gives us a purpose, and the purpose is to proclaim the gospel. This is an important truth.
We talk about the fruit of the Spirit. We talk about the gifts of the Spirit. What is the purpose of the Spirit coming in us? The purpose of the Spirit is to do all these things. Yes, so that we are conformed into the image of Christ, so there is comfort and strength, and so we can be a display and proclaimers of the gospel to the world around us. That is the picture here.
It is interesting when you look through these passages in the Old Testament—Numbers 11:29; 24:2–3; 2 Samuel 23:2 and Ezekiel 11:5—they are all talking about when the Spirit came on people, they began to prophesy—they began to speak. Then, you get to the New Testament. We do not have time to look at all of these, but eight different times in the New Testament—outside of that description in Ephesians 5:18 which says, “Be filled with the Holy Spirit” —eight times it says, specifically, that people were filled with the Holy Spirit. All eight times it is linked with proclamation of the gospel or the Word of God. Every time it says this in the New Testament (Luke and Acts in particular), “filled with the Spirit,” they spoke. The Spirit comes on people, and they start speaking the gospel. Here are the passages where it is mentioned: Luke 1:13–15, Luke 1:39–41, and Luke 1:67–69.
Three different times, people are filled with the Spirit in Luke 1, and all three times they are getting to speak. Then, you get to Acts 2. That is what happens at Pentecost in Acts 2:2–4. It also happens in Acts 4:8, 4:31, 9:17, and 13:8–11. Eight different times in Luke and Acts, people are filled with the Spirit every time they are speaking. This is why the Spirit sent us. The Spirit gives us a purpose to proclaim the gospel and the Spirit outlines our plans—the whole gospel from the whole church to the whole world. The Spirit wants the world for Christ.
The Obvious Conclusion
Here is the obvious conclusion from all of these twelve facets of the Spirit’s work in the Church. I hope that short glimpse of these twelve facets helps us see the necessity of the Spirit’s work in our lives. The reality is, without the Holy Spirit we have nothing. We do not have breath, ladies and gentlemen, much less comfort, or strength or gifts. Nothing. With the Holy Spirit we have everything! Everything! All that belongs to the Father, He makes known to us through His Spirit.
Here is what I want you to do as you flip pages: We are going to skip over “The Spirit in Consummation,” and we are going to end with that. We are going to come back there to page 54 in your book. Keep going over to “The Holy Spirit: Significant Issues.” Here are the issues we are going to look at: blasphemy, baptism in the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, gifted by the Spirit, prophecy, tongues, and healing.
The Holy Spirit: Significant Issues
What Does the Bible Say About the Work of the Holy Spirit and Blasphemy Against the Spirit
Matthew 12:31–32, “And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”
This, obviously, creates many questions because you read this, “anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” People immediately begin to think, “Have I done this? Have I committed the unforgivable sin?” That is a good question to ask. Obviously, this is a very stern warning here that Jesus is giving.
How do we understand this passage though? The definition of sin is “deliberate disobedience against God.” Blasphemy is “defiant irreverence toward God.” Blasphemy is “defiant irreverence toward God.” In the Old Testament, anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Blasphemy is extremely serious. Intentionally and openly speaking against a holy God, defaming Him, mocking Him—that is blasphemy. To blaspheme is to defame, to mock, to insult. “Why does this fellow talk like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7) This is a statement about Jesus. The people thought He was blaspheming because He was claiming to be able to forgive sins. Deliberate disobedience against God is sin. Blasphemy is defiant irreverence toward God.
Here is the difference: blasphemy against the Son of God is forgivable. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. So, blasphemy against the Son of God is forgivable. Speaking against the Son—an irreverence to the Son—is forgivable. The avenue to forgiveness is repentance. This is Paul talking in 1 Timothy 1:13–14: “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”
He was saved. Technically, any believer can blaspheme because there are often times when we say things very casually that are irreverent toward God, about God, regarding the Son. To question God’s goodness, wisdom and faithfulness is in one sense to blaspheme. All of that is forgivable by grace. It is forgivable by grace, but blasphemy against the Spirit of God is unforgivable.
What is Jesus saying here? The reason blasphemy against the Spirit of God is unforgivable is because the avenue to forgiveness is rejected. We have talked about what the Spirit does. The Spirit regenerates. The Spirit is the one who works in our hearts. The Spirit is the one who draws us. If we speak against the Spirit—blaspheme the Spirit—we are rejecting the one who is able to bring us to God. This is willful unbelief.
I wish we had time to study in depth the entire context of Matthew 12, but the context here is people who had seen Jesus drive demons out, forgive sins, but they are charging Him with deceit and falsehood, and demonism. They are saying, “He is a demon, and He is possessed by demons.” At the face of every possible evidence of Jesus’ Messiahship and Deity, they are saying, “No.” Willful unbelief. Persistent refusal. For many of these religious leaders, the more they saw, the more they rejected Jesus. They had seen so much. They had persistently refused Him. It is a final denial. It is seeing the truth Incarnate in front of you and knowingly rejecting Him and condemning Him. So, the picture is permanent refutation leads to permanent condemnation. He says in this age and in the age to come. This is rejecting the drawing of the Spirit toward Christ. Willfully unbelieving. A willful unbelief, persistent refusal, final denial, permanent refutation leads to permanent condemnation.
You think, “Well, have I done that?” Here is the question: Are you living in willful unbelief when it comes to the Spirit drawing you to Christ? Persistent refusal. Final denial. Permanent refutation that will lead to permanent condemnation. Here are the implications: we must realize that the unforgivable sin is sin of the heart and not the lips. This is really important. You might write this down: Matthew 12:34–35. Our words are evidence of the condition of our hearts. Evil words reflect evil hearts. This is not, “OK, did the wrong words come out of my mouth?” It is the heart condition that is being talked about here.
The second implication is that it is wise for us to avoid labeling anyone as guilty of the unforgivable sin. Here is why: if anyone was looking for a person who was potentially guilty of blaspheming the Spirit and the Son, it would seem like Paul was. He was persistently refusing Christ, persistently speaking against Christ, not responding to the Spirit drawing him to Christ, but there comes a point, obviously, where Paul’s life is totally transformed. I do not think there is any person anywhere in the world who is outside the bounds of God’s reach and His grace and His mercy. So, we need to be careful not to label people.
Number one—we trust that God alone knows a person’s heart. Number two—we work and we pray with a constant hope. I know there are people in your life—maybe you work with or live with them—who are so hard-hearted toward the gospel that they constantly reject any prompting of the Spirit. Constantly. Constantly. That does not mean we give up. We work, and we pray with a constant hope, and, along the way, we are desperate for the Spirit of God in our lives and ministries.
If a person rejects the Spirit—this is really the crux of it—if a person rejects the Spirit willfully, persistently, permanently, then there is no way that they would come to Christ. It would be impossible. They have rejected the only One who is able to bring them to Christ. As a result, it is unforgivable and leads to permanent condemnation. Do you understand? All that to say, if you are a follower of Christ who has responded to the Spirit of Christ in your life, you do not need to worry about the blasphemy against the Spirit. You have a sensitivity toward the Spirit and are wondering if it is a sign that you are listening to the Spirit and you are responding to the Spirit.
However, a person who is rejecting the Spirit—and the Spirit is the only way they can come to salvation, the Spirit is the only one who can regenerate them—how can they be saved? How will this person who rejects the Spirit be saved? Here is the point: As Christ-followers, if we ignore the Spirit, how will we lead others to salvation? That is what I mean by being desperate for the Spirit of God in our lives and ministries because, the reality is, the hardest heart can come to Christ by the power of the Spirit, but as we share the gospel with them, it is not something we are going to say that is going to break through a hard heart. It is going to be the Spirit of God that is going to do that. This is a great quote from E.M. Bounds:
Unction is the sweetest exhalation of the Holy Spirit. It carries the Word like dynamite, like salt, like sugar; makes the Word a soother, an accuser, a revealer, a searcher; makes the hearer a culprit or a saint, makes him weep like a child and live like a giant; opens his heart and his purse as gently, yet as strongly as the spring opens the leaves. This unction is not the gift of genius. It is not found in the hall of learning. No eloquence can woo it. No industry can win it. It is the gift of God—the signet set to His own messengers. It is heaven’s knighthood given to the chosen true and brave ones who have sought this anointed honor through many an hour of tearful, wrestling prayer. Earnestness is good and impressive; genius is gifted and great. Thought kindles and inspires, but it takes a diviner endowment, a more powerful energy than earnestness or genius or thought to break the chains of sin, to win estranged and depraved hearts to God, to repair the breaches and restore the church to her old ways of purity and power. Nothing but holy unction can do this.
Unction is an old word that refers to the anointing of the Holy Spirit. E.M. Bounds wrote a great book called Power Through Prayer. I would highly recommend anything that E.M. Bounds has written. You can usually find him in the back shelf of the Christian bookstores. They are very cheap. Do not buy the more expensive hardback copy—just go get the cheap version E.M. Bounds, and it will change your life.
We need the Spirit to come to faith in Christ. Therefore, rejecting the Spirit is blasphemy against the Spirit, and it leads to unforgivable, permanent condemnation. At the same moment, if we are going to lead others to Christ, we have to be desperate for the Spirit. This whole description in Matthew 12 reminds us that we need to walk in the Spirit in order to share the gospel with somebody.
I was talking to someone in this faith family who just got back from South Africa. This person was talking about sharing the gospel with somebody who, in the end, came to faith in Christ, and this person said, “It almost was not fair because the translator I was working with was a church planter who had been working there for years and knew all about that culture and this person’s life.” He said, “I am sharing the gospel with this person through this translator, and this translator is able to take anything I say that does not sound right and make it sound better, make it work and make it applicable to this person’s life and culture.” He said it was almost unfair to be sharing the gospel because he got paired up with this particular translator.
I thought, “What a great description of the Holy Spirit of God.” We are not alone. When we are sharing the gospel with somebody, especially somebody with a very hard heart, there is a Spirit who is taking our words, who is giving us the words to say and taking our words and using them to penetrate people’s hearts. If they continually reject the Spirit, then that is blasphemy against the Spirit, but we pray constantly and we work with constant hope that they will come to faith in Christ. Blasphemy against the Spirit.
Baptized in the Spirit
1 Corinthians 12:13 says, “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles…” Here are the two main differing views we are going to discuss. The first view is that baptism in the Spirit is concurrent with conversion. In other words, when you come to faith in Christ, you are baptized in the Spirit at that moment. Concurrent—happens at the same time. The second view is that baptism in the Spirit is subsequent to conversion. There are many who believe that after you come to faith in Christ, there is another moment later where you are baptized in the Spirit. That is why they talk about a second baptism in the Spirit.
Differing views: concurrent or subsequent? The case for subsequent, second Spirit baptism is people will say the disciples experienced regeneration or their salvation before Pentecost. In other words, the disciples were saved before they received the Holy Spirit like they did before Pentecost, and that is why Jesus told the disciples to wait to be baptized with the Holy Spirit because there was something else to come. Even though they were already regenerated, even though they had already been converted, there was something else to come. The disciples then received a baptism in the Spirit after regeneration. So, for the disciples, they received a second baptism, a baptism in the Spirit, after regeneration.
Then, proponents of subsequent—second baptism—would say this pattern is then repeated throughout the book of Acts in chapters 8, 10 and 19. We will read brief portions here. Acts 8:14–16: “When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Here is a group of people who had, apparently, been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, but they had not received the Holy Spirit, so Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. This is the subsequent pattern here.
This is Peter in Acts 10:47–48. He goes to Cornelius and his household. Peter said, midway through that passage, “’Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.’ So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.” So, there is a distinction here between baptism of the Spirit and baptism in the name of Christ.
You get to Acts 19. and you get to the end of this passage, some men at Ephesus are approached. We will start near the beginning there. Acts 19:1–7:
There he found some disciples and asked them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ They answered, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ So Paul asked, ‘Then what baptism did you receive?’ ‘John’s baptism,’ they replied. Paul said, ‘John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.
They had this pattern where they are baptizing in the name of the Lord Jesus, then baptizing in the name of the Spirit, and even when they are baptizing in the Spirit or the Spirit comes on them, they are prophesying in tongues. They are speaking in tongues and prophesying. So does baptism in the Spirit happen at conversion or after conversion at a subsequent time?
Defining Spirit baptism. There are seven different places in the New Testament where it discusses either baptism with the Spirit or in the Spirit. It is the same language that is used in the original language in the New Testament—baptism with the Spirit, in the Spirit. Here are the seven. The first four are from John the Baptist; all four of these passages parallel one another. You will see all four of those when John the Baptist was talking about how Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:8) “He who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (John 1:33) “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16) He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit—talking about Jesus.
The next two occurances you see this phrase used is at Pentecost: “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:5) This is Jesus speaking to His disciples. Next, Acts 11:16 says, “Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’” Both of them are discussing how the disciples would be baptized with the Holy Spirit—referring to Pentecost. Then, you have one phrase by Paul when he writes, “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)
Conclusions. Based on those seven passages, here are the conclusions I believe we can draw. Number one: for Paul, baptism by, in or with the Spirit occurs at conversion. It is what he is saying in 1 Corinthians 12:13. “We were all baptized by one spirit into one body.” All of us were baptized by one Spirit into one body. Now, those who say there is a subsequent baptism at this point say, “Well, he says baptism by the Spirit there, and the others talk about baptism with the Spirit or in the Spirit,” but really that distinction cannot be supported because, in the original language in the New Testament, they are mirroring each other in these different circumstances. What Paul is saying to the believers in Corinth is that, when they came to Christ, they were baptized by one Spirit into one body, i.e. when they became Christians, they were all baptized. This was not, “Some of you have been baptized by the Spirit and some of you have not been.” We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body. So, that is what Paul is saying there.
This begs the question, “What about Pentecost? What was going on with the disciples there?” Yes, the disciples were regenerated. They were born again before Pentecost. However, the question we need to ask is, “Is this narrative—the story—normative?” In other words, is this story what is normative for every believer? Is this what happens for every believer? They wait and are baptized by the Holy Spirit. What is happening to the disciples happens for every believer. I think the answer is very clearly, “No.” Pentecost demonstrates a unique shift in redemptive history. This is based on all things we have seen already in Scripture. There is, obviously, something going on at Pentecost that is incredibly unique. Jesus’ disciples were living in a time of covenant transition. Make sure you understand me; here is what I mean by that. Regarding Jesus, they understood the new covenant. They believed in an ascended Messiah. No question. They believed in Jesus before that happened, but, regarding the Spirit, up until Pentecost they were still living with an old covenant experience of the Spirit. The Spirit had not come down in this new covenant description in Acts 2. They had an incomplete experience of the Spirit.
So, what is going on in Acts 2? At Pentecost, disciples with an old covenant experience with the Spirit became disciples with a new covenant experience with the Spirit. What happened that was completely new in Acts 2? What happened for the first time for them? These were disciples who had a faith in Jesus, but they were living with an old covenant experience with the Spirit, and something unique happened in Acts 2 where the whole dynamic was changing into a new covenant dynamic. So, as a result of the unique shift in redemptive history that is going on here, I do not think and do not believe there is similarity between us and the disciples at this point. There is not one of us doing this study who has lived at any point with an old covenant experience of the Spirit as followers of Jesus Christ. None of us have. This is not something that we have had.
Instead, it happens when we come to Christ, and this is exactly what happens at Pentecost when Peter preaches and 3,000 people are saved. What happens when they are saved? They receive the gift of the Holy Spirit when they are saved. Right there in that moment. Jesus and the Spirit—two for one. Jesus and the Spirit both are received in their conversion experience. That is the pattern that we would see all throughout the new covenant from thereafter.
What about those other “second experiences in Acts?” What about Acts 8, 10 and 19? What is interesting is, if you go back and look at those three experiences, none of these experiences even mentions the phrase “baptism in the Spirit.” None of them were talking about baptism in the Spirit. Instead, what is happening is this new covenant realization of the Spirit is simply and clearly following the plan of the Spirit. Here is what I mean by that. What you have in Acts 8 is Samaritans receiving the Spirit. Just as it promises, the Spirit will come upon you, and you will be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. As the gospel goes to new people, such as Cornelius in Acts 10, we now see that God’s Spirit is coming upon Gentiles, too.
This whole portrait in the book of Acts is inaugurating. It is not giving us normative experiences for how everything is going to happen from now on. Instead, this is the first time we are seeing the plan of the Spirit unfold. In Acts 10 and 19—in addition to the fact that this is unfolding what was seen in Acts 1:8—those people were not just hearing about the Holy Spirit the first time, they were hearing about Jesus for the first time. In Acts 10, these are God-fearing Gentiles whom Peter comes to, and he tells them about Jesus and the Spirit. At the same time in Acts 19, we see the same situation. These are men who received John’s baptism. They say to them, “Well, no. You need baptism in Christ, and you need the Spirit.” Both at the same time.
I think the result is that the New Testament, therefore, does not teach a subsequent “second baptism” of the Spirit to be sought after conversion. If this were so important, then why would Scripture not very clearly teach this to us? Instead, the New Testament is teaching that baptism of the Spirit occurs at conversion. Now, I know that there are people studying this who would say, “But I had a second experience. There is something that happened at a different time for me than my conversion?”
For a personal angle on this, I remember in college, a good friend and I would go to lunch every week. We had some differences theologically, and this was a major one. He told me he was praying for me to get a second baptism. We went off for the summer and came back. He said, “Did something happen to you on July 17?” I said, “No.” He said, “I was praying that you would get a second baptism that day.” So, I missed it on July 17. I kept telling him, “I got the two for one—Jesus and the Spirit at the same time.”
I know there are people who have had some kind of experience post-conversion that has been called a second baptism. Here is what I would encourage us to do then. In light of that, I want you to think with me of the practical implications.
Practical implications. Number one: I believe as followers of Christ, we need to be confident in our baptism. By that, I mean when we come to Christ, we receive the Spirit of God. Not a quarter of the Spirit or half of the Spirit, but we receive the Spirit of God when we come to faith in Christ. Baptism of the Spirit is a distinctive blessing for new covenant believers. This did not happen for old covenant but new covenant believers, and baptism of the Spirit is a universal blessing for new covenant believers. In other words, all of us have it. That is the entire purpose of what Paul is saying in Corinthians, “You are all baptized into one body.” So, be confident in your baptism. What happened when the Spirit opened your eyes and regenerated your heart is that He indwelled you as well. Be confident in that.
Secondly, beware of two-class Christianity. One of the things I fear, when talking about second baptisms, is we have created a two-tiered system in Christianity where some have experienced one baptism and others have experienced two baptisms. There is an entire level of spirituality here that some have not attained, and it creates a two-class system of Christianity that the New Testament does not teach. I think it is harmful to the church. There were plenty of opportunities, if that was true, for Jesus to say or for Paul or Peter to tell any of these churches that were struggling in the New Testament, “You need to be baptized in the Spirit.” Or Jesus, in Revelation 2 and 3 with these churches that are struggling: “You need to be baptized in the Spirit,” but it does not say that. There is not a two-class Christianity that is being set up here.
I want to be careful here and encourage those of you who have had some kind of experience subsequent to conversion. I want to encourage you, and this is really speaking to me and to those of us who may not have had another experience, to be cautious in your judgment. We do not need to compromise on Scripture, and I do not believe there is clear warrant in Scripture for a second baptism in the Spirit. At the same time, we do not encourage one another in Christ by negating each other’s experiences. If you have had some kind of second experience (or third or fourth experience), if something has happened in your life subsequent to conversion, I do not want to negate it. Maybe there is something that has gone on in your life there, but I do not think, biblically, it is wise to call it baptism in the Spirit. Instead, maybe there are some other things it might be called that are more biblical. Yes, there are definitely spiritual markers we come to. There are definitely times we come to in our spiritual lives where the Spirit of God transforms us—maybe in an amazing way—in a “leap-ahead in our spiritual walk” kind of way, and it makes sense.
This next picture there is to be active in seeking the Spirit. Oftentimes people will be told they need to be baptized, and they need to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and here is what they are encouraged to do: “Confess all your known sins. Repent of any remaining sin in your life. Trust in Christ to forgive your sins. Commit areas of your life to the Lord’s service that have not been under His submission. Yield yourself fully to Christ and believe that He is going to empower you in a new way and equip you with new gifts for ministry.” Now, if you do those things, that is great! Definitely do those things, and when you do those things, let us not be surprised when something really big happens. We say, “There are areas in my life that are not under submission to His Spirit. I want to submit to Him completely and totally and get rid of unconfessed sin in my life.” This kind of preparation leads to moves of the Spirit in our lives. That is a good thing, but we need to be biblical in talking about those experiences.
We do not have a basis in Scripture for talking about those experiences as baptism in the Spirit. Instead, there is other terminology that Scripture uses such as anointing, being filled with the Spirit, a new step in the fullness of the Spirit, growth in godliness. There are all kinds of other terminologies and words that would be better used here that are more biblical, because baptism in the Spirit is certainly not associated with a subsequent experience that happens after conversion. That is what happens at conversion.
Be biblical in talking about your experiences with the Spirit, look for the fruit of the Spirit, and focus on the filling of the Spirit. Here is how we know the Spirit is working in our lives: He is bearing fruit and He is filling us. I really think that fullness of the Spirit, being filled with the Spirit, is oftentimes what people experience when they have this second experience. It is a supernatural filling. There is a fullness that comes over people that may change and empower them for ministry in entirely new ways. So, if you have had a second experience, my encouragement to you based on the Word as best as I can understand it, would be to consider and really look in the Word to see how Scripture would describe that experience. Baptism in the Spirit is not the best way to describe it.
I would also encourage you to be careful not to look at others in a two-class sense of Christianity and tell people, “You need to be baptized in the Spirit so you can be at the same level that I am.” I think it is good for us to spur one another on toward Christ and encourage each other to seek the Spirit but not in a false way like that. If you have not had that kind of second experience, third experience or fourth experience, my encouragement to you would be to be cautious in your judgment of others. Help others think through these things, but in your own life, seek the Spirit. Seek more and more and more of the Spirit which leads to this next idea of being filled with the Spirit.
Filled with the Spirit
“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18) Here is the command—it is one command: “Be filled.” It is an imperative. To be filled with the Spirit is an instruction, not a suggestion. It is not a polite piece of advice. The fullness of the Spirit is not an option to consider; it is a command to obey. Every single one of us as followers of Christ is intended to be filled with the Spirit—commanded to be filled with the Spirit. “You be filled.”
The idea there is plural, not singular. The Spirit fills the church. Yes, individually the Spirit works in our lives, but He does a corporate work. The Spirit fills the church.
It’s passive. Here is where it is really interesting. “Be filled.” This is something He does—something we need the Spirit to do in us. Not us possessing more of the Spirit, but instead the Spirit possessing more of us. Let the Holy Spirit fill you. We yield to the Spirit’s filling. Yield to Him without reserve. Say to Him, “Less of me and more of you.” This is the whole idea.
I mentioned D.L. Moody earlier. One of my favorite stories about him is when there was a whole town wanting to have a preacher come and preach a revival. Everybody was saying, “We need to get D.L. Moody.” Finally, a young guy spoke up and said, “We do not need to get D.L. Moody. Why is everybody saying that? It is not like he has a monopoly on the Holy Spirit.” Everybody got quiet. An older, wiser gentleman in the back corner stood up and said, “Son, you are right. D.L. Moody does not have a monopoly on the Spirit. However, the Holy Spirit does have a monopoly on D.L. Moody, and that is why we need to get him to come.” Get the idea? Does the Holy Spirit have a monopoly on your life? It is less of me; more of You.
Be filled—it is passive and a present-continuing action. This is not just a one-time event. Sometimes in Scripture it is. Not just a one-time event, but this is also an on-going experience. That is why Stephen was described as being full of the Holy Spirit. He was walking filled with the Holy Spirit. Baptism in the Spirit is a once-for-all gift; it is when the Spirit comes in our lives at salvation. Filling with the Spirit is a gift given multiple times for multiple purposes. This is what I mean when I say, “Let us be a people desperate for the Spirit.” It is not like we are sitting in a wasteland in a desert waiting for something to drink because we do not have any sense of the Spirit, but when we say, “desperate for the Spirit,” we want to have more and more and more in us. “Be filled with the Spirit.”
When you look in Scripture, there are three categories where people have talked about being filled with the Spirit. General followers of Christ. Acts 6:3 and 5 talks about Stephen; Acts 11 talks about Barnabas, and Acts 13:52 talks about Paul and Barnabas. “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”
Leaders in the church. “For he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born” (Luke 1:15). This is talking about leadership in the church. Acts 9:17 talks of when Ananias went to Saul and placed his hands on Saul. He said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” This is when Paul is, basically, about to begin ministry. “Be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
In specific opportunities for ministry, sometimes people are filled with the Holy Spirit. In Acts 4, Peter is standing in front of the Sanhedrin about to preach the gospel. It says, “Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them…” Paul, in a time where he is confronting a man named Elymas, the Scripture says, “Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said…” (Acts 13:9) When you see Scripture talking about filling with the Spirit, it is the Spirit possessing more of us—sometimes for specific purposes in leadership in the church, sometimes for specific instances like we talked about.
Those eight different times people were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke. I think there is an instantaneous, sudden, sovereign operation of the Spirit of God when He fills us for opportunities we have to share the gospel. When you are sharing the gospel with somebody at the place where you work or the place where you live, I think there is a filling of the Spirit that accompanies that. That is what Scripture is teaching here, but not just in sharing the gospel. There is a sense in which we walk full of the Spirit—the Spirit with a monopoly on our lives.
Four results of the filling of the Spirit that are emphasized in Scripture in the New Testament. Number one is renewed worship. Renewed worship. Be filled with the Spirit. “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord…” (Ephesians 5:19–20) The Spirit fills us for the purpose of worship. The second result is for renewed fellowship. The third result is renewed submission. This is what happens right after this in Ephesians 5:21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Then, he goes on and talks about marriage and parenting. This is an important truth. Marriage is dependent on the Spirit’s filling; you need the Spirit to “…love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25) Women, you need the Spirit. “Wives, submit to your husbands” in a way that brings honor and glory to Christ. Parenting is dependent on the Spirit’s filling. How many parents studying this could think of moments with their kids when you thought, “OK, I need to have the Spirit have a monopoly on me right now before I do something I do not need to do.”
We need the Spirit to fill us, and then give us renewed power for proclamation of the gospel. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the Word of God boldly. Sometimes, in one-time events, the Spirit fills us for something specific. There is also a sense in which this is supposed to be a continuous action where we are continually asking God, “Fill me. I want you to possess more of me. More of you and less of me.”
What Does the Bible Say About the Work of the Holy Spirit and being Gifted by the Spirit
Filling of the Spirit leads to gifting—gifted by the Spirit. By His grace, the Holy Spirit equips every Christian to edify the church for the glory of Christ. Here is a definition of “by His grace.” A word for spiritual gifts is “charismata,” which literally means “grace gifts” (“charis” means grace). This is why part of me really does not like charismatic to refer to a certain group of Christians because we all have grace gifts, and so we are charismatic. We have grace gifts in our lives. In fact, the word “charisma” is also the word in Romans 6:23. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” “Charisma” of God is eternal life. Every Christian should be charismatic. We need to be charismatic—really charismatic! Grace gifts everywhere. So, let us be charismatic; the more charismatic the better!
Here is a distinction of “by His grace.” Here is the distinction when it comes to spiritual gifts. Natural talents are evidences of common grace. Spiritual gifts are evidences of saving grace. Here is what I mean by that: everybody, regardless of whether or not they are believers in Christ or not, has natural talents that are evidences of God’s grace in their lives—good athletes, good singers, people who have skills in the arts, or this or that. We have natural talents even before we come to Christ that are evidences of God’s common grace in our lives.
However, what we are talking about when it comes to spiritual gifts is not just a natural talent—it is something that is given to us because the Spirit is in us at salvation. Saving grace leads us to have spiritual gifts. I think there is room for there to be overlap between those. I think somebody who has a natural talent by the common grace of God to teach before they come to faith in Christ, sometimes, may have the spiritual gift of teaching once they come to faith in Christ. There is overlap there. I do not want to try to draw an unnecessary distinction between the two, but there is a major difference between a natural talent and a spiritual gift. What happens when we come to faith in Christ is there is a spiritual endowment that is given to us when it comes to spiritual gifts. What we are doing is unpacking that definition of “by His grace.”
By His grace, the Holy Spirit equips every Christian to edify the church for the glory of Christ. By His grace the Holy Spirit equips every Christian. Every Christian is gifted. To each one, manifestation of the Spirit is given. Nobody has all of the gifts, but everyone has at least one of the gifts. So, every Christian in this room is gifted. The Spirit of God has given you gifts and every gift is important. 1 Corinthians 12:15–20 talks about how every gift is important. You do not say to one part of the body, “You are not important” or to another part of the body, “You are not important.” You have to be careful here.
We must guard against self-deprecation. By that, I mean the terminology—the mentality—that says, “I’m not good. You don’t need me.” I think this is very prevalent in the church. I am guessing there are countless people doing this study who, when they think of the local church they are a part of, whether it is here in the United States or somewhere else, think, “I do not think that church really needs me.” The reality is, if you are in church, if you are a follower of Christ, then you have been given gifts for the sake of that church. We need to avoid—guard against—self-deprecation.
We also must guard against self-exaltation. We are not to think, “Well, I have many gifts so the church really needs me.” Self-deprecation says, “I am no good. You do not need me.” Self-exaltation says, “You’re no good. I don’t need you.” God says, “You need each other.” I think this is one of the most exciting things in the context of various faith families around the world. However many people are in your local church, you have that many gifts to edify the body—what an amazing truth here! If there are ten people in a church, there are ten grace gifts or more! Many people do not have just one spiritual gift. So, we guard against those things and we say, “We need each other.”
I have listed four of the New Testament lists of spiritual gifts right here in your notes: Romans 12:6–8, 1 Corinthians 12:4–11, 1 Corinthians 12:28, and 1 Peter 4:11. When you add them up, you have about 22 different gifts that are listed in Scripture in addition to Ephesians 4:11 and 1 Corinthians 7:7 which are two “somewhat lists” that are not included here. Here is the deal: these gifts often overlap. Some of these lists have gifts that are contained in other lists. You also have gifts like administration and leadership that probably have some overlapping. They include some characteristics and expectations of all Christ’s followers. For example, teaching is a spiritual gift, but, in a sense, all of us are commanded to make disciples of all nations, going and baptizing and teaching people to follow Christ. All of us are commanded to teach in some way. It does not necessarily mean that all of us are gifted to teach to a group of people in a certain way, but even if it is teaching your children to follow Christ, every parent has been called by God to do that—commanded to do that.
When addressing the gift of serving, you cannot sit back and say, “I do not have the gift of serving, so I do not have to serve.” All of us are commanded to serve as members of the body of Christ, but some people have a supernatural endowment, a spiritual gift of serving. Something that irks me a little bit is when people talk about the gift of evangelism and say, “Well, I do not have the gift of evangelism, so I cannot lead people to Christ.” That is absolutely wrong. You have the Spirit of God, so you can lead people to Christ. With the Spirit of God, you are enabled to, free to, and empowered to lead people to Christ.
There are certainly different measures here that are represented in giving, but some of these gifts that are mentioned are really for all followers of Christ, and, as a result, my encouragement when you look at those lists would be to see them as more illustrative than exhaustive. Here is what I mean by that. I think there is a great diversity of spiritual gifts that the New Testament is giving us here that demonstrate the rich and beautiful diversity of the body of Christ, and there is not a set number of gifts. The Spirit does not have a vault of 20 gifts that He is saying, “Here are the ones I am going to give you.” I think these lists are illustrative of a whole myriad of gifts that the Spirit of God gives, and I think spiritual gift tests and surveys are helpful to think through some of these things, but I do not think we need to even limit ourselves to some of these things that are mentioned here or certain categories that are mentioned because the Spirit of God gives each of us gifts out of a rich and bountiful diversity in the body of Christ.
All of these gifts are given to edify the church. Spiritual gifts are given for service for the common good. There is an “other-centered” nature to spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts depend on God’s sovereignty. He gives them according to His will and wisdom. Spiritual gifts may vary in strength. Spiritual gifts are like muscles; if we use our muscles, they will grow and strengthen. If we do not use our muscles, they will become weak. Spiritual gifts may vary in strength. That is what Paul is talking about in 1 Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6.
Spiritual gifts may vary in significance. Look at 1 Corinthians 14:5 which says, “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy.” In other words, it is better to prophesy because that edifies the church more so than tongues. There is a significance that is placed on prophecy above speaking in tongues in 1 Corinthians 14.
Spiritual gifts can and should be sought. “But eagerly desire the greater gifts.” (1 Corinthians 12:31) Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts. Desire that which edifies the church more. Scriptures teach us here, in a sense, to ask God for gifts, to check motives. Not to say, “I want this gift for this purpose,” but, “I want to strengthen the church. God, give me gifts to strengthen the church.” That is a biblical thing to do.
Spiritual gifts require self-examination. Here is my encouragement to you on a very practical level. Ask God to show you your gifts. Really ask God to give you wisdom. Think about your interests, your desires, your abilities that God has given you, and then discover your gifts as you serve. Gifts are given for service, so the more I serve in different circumstances—different scenarios—the more gifts I have seen. These are areas where I sense the Spirit has gifted me, or these are areas where the Spirit has evidently not gifted me. You would conclude from our fruit of the Spirit song that the Spirit’s gifting in me does not, necessarily, point toward worship leadership. That is probably not one of my gifts. You find that out when you stand in front of 2,000 people and try to sing a song.
Spiritual gifts require self-examination all for the glory of Christ. Spiritual gifts exalt the head of the Church because, the more gifts are used, the more we are exalting the “…Head, that is, Christ…” (Ephesians 4:15–16) Spiritual gifts anticipate the coming of Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:7 says, “Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” We are going to talk about 1 Corinthians 13 in the near future.
Here is the question. Here is where it gets interesting. Are the miraculous gifts mentioned in the New Testament valid for use in the church today? Here is what I mean by miraculous gifts. Some people call them miraculous gifts, and some people call them remarkable gifts, special gifts, sign gifts or charismatic gifts. I definitely do not like that last term because they are all grace gifts, but this would include signs and wonders, casting out demons, prophecy, tongues and healing which we are going to address.
There are, basically, two views. The first view is Cessationism. This is the view that miraculous gifts—prophecy, tongues, healings, signs, and wonders—ceased with the apostles and therefore are no longer applicable in the church today. Here is a quote on this from John MacArthur: “The four temporary sign gifts included miracles, healings, tongues, and interpretation of tongues. These four sign gifts had a unique purpose: to give the apostles credentials, to let the people know that these men all spoke the truth of God. But once the Word of God was inscripturated, the sign gifts were no longer needed and they ceased.”
Does that make sense? That is Cessationism. It is really pointing to when Scripture was closed, when Scripture was finished, and these sign gifts were not necessary. When the apostles were gone, these sign gifts were not necessary and they ceased.
Continuationism says miraculous gifts are available to all Christ’s followers and are therefore active in the church today. This is a more Pentecostal picture—charismatic, third-wave kind of picture. Especially in Pentecostalism, tongues is a necessary sign that you have experienced baptism in the Spirit. Let us think about both these views.
Cessationism. I will try to sum it up in, basically, two thoughts. Cessationists would say that Jesus and the apostles had a unique ministry that involved miraculous gifts. You look at Jesus, “…accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs…” (Acts 2:22) “Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.” (Acts 2:43) “The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people.” (Acts 5:12) “So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders.” (Acts 14:3) Miraculous signs and wonders had been performed among the Gentiles through Paul and Barnabas. That is unique to the apostles.
The second facet of that is miraculous gifts were given by God to authenticate apostleship. This is why we see signs, wonders, and miraculous gifts when it comes to the apostles, because God is authenticating, or in other words, validating what they are saying. “The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance.” (2 Corinthians 12:12) Look at the end of Hebrews 2:2–4. Listen to this. “God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” Cessationists would say, “The apostles practiced these things and were accompanied by signs and wonders (these miraculous gifts) for a reason. It was validating their apostleship, but once the apostles were no longer around, these gifts were not necessary anymore, they ceased.”
Continuationists. Continuationists would say, “Jesus sends us out to carry on the ministry He began, which includes miraculous gifts.” “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). He even told them in Luke 9 and 10 to, “Go and heal the sick.” Do healing. In John 14:12, He says, “You will do even greater things than I have done,” but Continuationists would also say, “Miraculous gifts are evident among Christ’s followers who are not apostles in the New Testament. Stephen did great wonders and miraculous signs. The crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did.” Paul, speaking to the Galatians in Galatians 3:5 says, “Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you?” We see the same kind of thing in 1 Corinthians 12—gifts of healing—and he is speaking to the church in Corinth. So, which is it? Did they cease or not?
Here are the conclusions that I would draw from what Scripture teaches. First of all, we must honor the unique authority of Christ, the New Testament apostles, and the Old Testament prophets. What I mean by this is there is something unique that is going on in the apostles. For example, remember the apostles in the New Testament? Sometimes you see it used generally to refer to those who are sent out. In some sense every person is an apostle sent out, but most often the New Testament refers to the apostles as this group of men who were with Jesus, eye-witnesses to Jesus’ death and resurrection—His disciples, minus Judas of course, add in Matthias, and then add Paul. There is something unique that is going on there, no question. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. The apostles are the ones who are giving us the Word that we have in our Bibles.
At the same time, we must honor the unfathomable ministry of the Spirit in the church today. I believe we need to be wary of limiting activity of the Spirit in areas where Scripture does not limit activities of the Spirit. We need to be wary, be cautious, in limiting activities of the Spirit in areas where Scripture does not limit activity of the Spirit. As I have traveled around the world, I have seen and heard testimonies of the Spirit’s work in ways that I have never seen or experienced here. Now, if Scripture speaks directly to some of those things, then we follow Scripture clearly, but if Scripture does not speak directly to some of those things, I think we need to be careful to honor the ministry of the Spirit in the church today.
That leads to a few practical exhortations then. How do you connect these things? First of all, my encouragement is to seek spiritual gifts that most edify the body of Christ. That is plain and simple. Scripture does not tell us to seek miraculous gifts or non-miraculous gifts. It tells us to seek gifts that most edify the church. Whatever is most needed in the church, seek those gifts.
Second, take the gospel to the lost—especially to unreached peoples who have no special revelation. I am going to try to make this really quick, but I think what we see in the New Testament, especially in the book of Acts, is, as the Word of Christ, the gospel of Christ, and the Spirit of Christ are going into new places, there is authentication happening there by signs and wonders—some miraculous things. When I look at what God is doing in the world today, and I see the gospel advancing to new places, particularly unreached places, that is where we hear most about signs and wonders and these sorts of things. I think there is an authentication that may be going on there to the Word as it is going for the first time to new places—to unreached places. At the same time, once we have the Word and the Word is established, and we are saturated with the gospel, then I think the need for signs and wonders is less.
Here is why. I am going point to the rich man and Lazarus parable that Jesus tells. When the rich man is in hell, he says, “Go to my brothers and tell them that this is real,” and Abraham tells him, “Even if they saw somebody rise from the dead, it would not make any difference. They have the Word. They have the prophets, and they are ignoring it. They have not listened to what they already have.” This is why I do not think it is necessary for us to see all kinds of signs and wonders in the church today, in our culture, because we have the Word, and if we would believe, follow and trust this Word, we would see the power of God at work.
We have neglected this Word. Certainly, we do not need to neglect this Word and seek out signs and wonders instead. At the same time, we go to the lost—especially the unreached peoples—who have no special revelation, and as we go, we trust the authority of His Word. This Word has authority to save. Go to the deepest, darkest tribe on this planet, the farthest possible place from the gospel—if there are degrees of being far from the gospel—and this gospel is powerful enough to save, and as you go, ask God to attest to His Word. I am not saying I know all that this means, but I am saying it is good to go to an area that is unreached. I am going to have the opportunity to be in India soon. I will be going there, preaching the gospel, sharing the gospel and asking the Holy Spirit of God to show that this Word is true in a way that brings honor to Him and glory to Christ. That is what I would encourage us to do.
Here is where I really want to bring it. You ask, “Pastor, did you say you are a Cessationist or Continuationist?” Here is what I would say. Number one, be open regarding the Spirit of God. I would encourage us as a people to be open regarding the Spirit of God and be generous when it comes to brothers and sisters around the Word who talk about work of the Spirit. I am not going to sit back and say miraculous gifts are not in use today—that they have ceased. I do not think there is enough Scriptural evidence to say they have definitely ceased which we are going to talk about in just a short time.
At the same time, there is an openness; there is also a discernment. Be open regarding the Spirit of God yet discerning according to the Word of God. The last thing I want to do is oppose something that the Spirit of God is doing in His church today. At the same time, I do not want to attribute anything to the Spirit that the Word tells me not to attribute to the Spirit. So, I think we need to be very cautious and discerning according to the Word of God. We need to make sure we are describing the work of the Spirit and attributing the work of the Spirit to that which is biblical as best as possible. Open, but discerning. Basically, I do not see in Scripture enough evidence that these gifts were definitely supposed to cease right then after the apostles. At the same time, I do not see a lot of evidence that they are that important to continue on either—that they will definitely continue on until any other particular time. Instead, I think we need to be open, but cautious and discerning according to the Word.
The Gift of Prophecy
That leads to prophecy. 1 Corinthians 13:8–12: “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears…Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
Here is one example of prophecy. According to 1 Corinthians 13, the gift of prophecy is temporary. It’s temporary. “But where there are prophecies, they will cease…” There are really two options here. Will they cease when Scripture is complete? That is what the Cessationist would say. The Cessationist would say that prophecies ceased when the apostles finished—off the scene. “We have Scripture. We do not need prophecy.” The other option is will it cease when Jesus comes back? This is a position that would be open more to someone from the Continuationist line, and it comes from this passage in 1 Corinthians 13. Basically, what you have is prophecies that will cease. “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.” So, prophecy is imperfect and when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
This is the point in debate because Cessasionists would say “when perfection comes,” that is referring to when the Word is complete—when Scripture is complete. That is when perfection comes. I do not agree with that. I do not see that in 1 Corinthians 13 because I think “when perfection comes” is a reference to when Jesus comes back. I think it is very clear when you look later in the passage and at the context here. “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” This is talking about our glorification. It is talking about when we will see Christ; when we will be fully known by Christ. Our salvation will be complete. It also couples with what Paul had said earlier in 1 Corinthians 1:7 when he talked about our spiritual gifts being given to us as we wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. The gift of prophecy is definitely temporary, but I do not believe that in 1 Corinthians 13 there is conclusive teaching for us that prophecy will cease when Scripture is complete.
So, you get to 1 Corinthians 14, and you have a description of prophecy. I believe 1 Corinthians 14:1–5 is saying that, until Jesus comes back, Christians desire the gift of prophecy because the church is edified with the gift of prophecy. The interesting question here is, “If there is a gift of prophecy, does that mean there are Isaiahs and Jeremiahs in the church today who can stand up and speak the Word of God that is just as authoritative as what is in this Word from Isaiah and Jeremiah?” I do not believe that is what Scripture is teaching. I want to show it to you.
Think about it this way. There are three categories of prophecy. The first is false prophecy. Deuteronomy 13, 18 and Jeremiah 23 all talk about false prophets who are speaking lies. Here is what false prophecy is. False prophecy consists of dishonest lies and involves deceptive speech based on no revelation—deceptive speech based on no revelation. This is not something God is revealing and the prophets are speaking. There is no revelation here. They are deceiving. They are claiming to speak for God when they are not speaking for God. It ignores divine Scripture. It usurps divine Scripture for that matter. That is false prophecy.
True prophecy is what we see in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and other men in the Old Testament. “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me…” (Isaiah 61:1) True prophecy consists of inspired truth. This involves direct speech based on new revelation. What I mean by that is God is revealing His Word, the prophets are speaking it, and it results in divine Scripture. The prophets speak, and we have Scripture. In the Old Testament, that’s what prophets were doing. In the New Testament, the counterpart to Old Testament, the New Testament apostles are the prophets. It says, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.” (Romans 1:1) Look at 1 Corinthians 2:13 which says, “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit…” The apostles are now doing what the prophets had done—speaking as they are led by the Spirit, and that leads to the belief of Scripture that we have.
Old Testament apostles, some prophets, New Testament apostles—they give us Scripture that is true and inerrant. Scripture is authoritative—true and authoritative. It is the Word of God, not the word of man. It is the Word of God through men. It is unique. There is no other book like this that we hold in our hands. It is sufficient. True, authoritative, unique, and sufficient—this book has everything we need for life and godliness. God is not in heaven wishing that He added something here that He forgot to give to us. Everything we need is right here. It is sufficient. It is complete. It does not need a second volume. It does not need to be revised or updated by anybody. That is what we have in the Bible.
We have false prophecy. We have true prophecy—Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles. Then, you have this description of the gift of prophecy that is being talked about in 1 Corinthians 14:29–31, “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.”
There is some level of prophecy that is happening here that is not in one of those first two categories that is involving the gift of prophecy. I think what Scripture is saying here is that there is a type of speech that consists of Spirit-prompted talk. Saying something that God, by His Spirit, brings spontaneously to our minds, and we begin to speak. It involves indirect speech based on established revelation. What I mean by that is this is not a “new Paul” on the scene getting new revelation that is coming down from God to give to the church. This is the Spirit speaking to us, prompting us to speak, based on what is in this book, and it is tested by divine Scripture. 1 Thessalonians 5:19 says, “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire…” Do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good.
That is why I said others should weigh carefully what he has said. When the Old Testament prophets speak, Isaiah would not come out and say, “You men need to weigh carefully what I am about to say.” Isaiah would come out and say, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says. Listen.” It is the same thing with the New Testament apostles. When the gift of prophecy is being used, it is always being weighed carefully—it is being tested—because the gift of prophecy is imperfect. It is not perfect. The gift of prophecy is imperfect. It is fallible. In 2 Thessalonians 2:1–3, Paul is warning them about some prophecy that was wrong. It is similar, yet, distinct from teaching. It is not just preaching or teaching the Word because that is listed as a separate gift there in Romans 12.
Some people think, “How can the Spirit prompt talk that is fallible, that may have errors in it?” Think about it this way. In light of that whole teaching idea, I teach the Word most Sundays in this faith family. Is it possible that I say something in error? Absolutely! Everything I say is not infallible. There are certainly fallible things, but I pray and hope the Spirit of God is inspiring me to teach. In the same way, here is an instance where the Spirit is inspiring/prompting prophecy, but because it is not on the same level as what we have described from Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles, then it is not infallible, authoritative truth for us. It is tested by infallible, authoritative truth. When you look at the gift of prophecy in the New Testament, you see people speaking about the future; you see people disclosing sins in unbelievers’ hearts and encouraging the church.
Here are the two implications. Remember that Scripture alone contains authoritative truth for all situations at all times. Therefore, know the Word. We do not need nor do we have anyone on a level of an Old Testament prophet or a New Testament apostle. Scripture is good and sufficient. We have everything we need. This book is our authority. Not what you or I say—this Word is our authority. Therefore, we know this Word.
Second implication is to consider that the Spirit may grant the gift of prophecy to apply biblical truth at particular times or in particular situations. Therefore, seek the Spirit! In other words, I think Scripture is giving us a description of times where the Spirit may prompt someone to speak, based on the Word, to encourage and edify the church today, and that is what is being talked about there in 1 Corinthians 14.
What About Tongues?
I think we are certainly confused on tongues. Here is what I mean by that. Tongues are marked by subjective certainty for many. Some of you are thinking, “What about tongues? That is not a question at all. I speak in tongues in my private prayer closet, or I speak in tongues in the church that I am a part of so why is this even a question?” Subjectively, you have experienced this, so you have certainty there. I want to be careful here, but the only problem is not every religious experience is divine. Just because we have experienced something does not make it true. I do not want to offend anyone in saying this, but there are similar practices to tongue-speaking that are in other world religions such as voodoo and witchcraft. There are certainly religious experiences that are not from the Spirit of God.
At the same time, tongues are marked by objective confusion for many. There are many people who think tongues are strange, dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. The Cessationists would say that tongues have ceased, but I really believe that there is not strong biblical evidence for the cessation of tongues or prophecy or healing just like we have previously discussed. There is not strong biblical evidence. What do we think about these things then?
Tongues defined. At Pentecost, tongues are intelligible languages that may warrant translations. They are speaking in intelligible languages. They are speaking languages that are understood by different people from different nations in Acts 2:1–12. Elsewhere—for example what Paul is addressing in Corinth—tongues are unintelligible languages that may warrant interpretation. Not translation but interpretation because they are unintelligible. They are not understandable without an interpreter. Speaking in tongues involves prayer or praise, spoken in syllables not understood by the speaker. “For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God.” (1 Corinthians 14:2) Speaking in tongues is primarily directed to God—prayer or praise, spoken in syllables not understood by the speaker, primarily directed to God. 1 Corinthians 14:14 says, “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays…” It occurs in the Spirit. My spirit prays. That is what 1 Corinthians is talking about. Unintelligible languages that may warrant interpretation such as prayer and praise spoken in syllables not understood by the speaker but directed to God in the Spirit.
Tongues described—in public. We have 1 Corinthians 14:27–28: “If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.” Here is the idea: Paul says speaking in tongues involves an interpreter who reports to the church the general meaning of what is spoken. If there is no interpreter present, then the speaker needs to be quiet. There must be an interpreter.
Speaking in tongues is also characterized by self-control. The New Testament does not give us room for frenzy, disorderly conduct. There is self-control that is a fruit of the Spirit, and it is so controlled here in 1 Corinthians 14, you have one, sometimes two and at the most three people who would speak in tongues. The description here is, even tongues at Pentecost, they stopped speaking in those languages when Peter started to preach the gospel. Speaking in tongues involves an interpreter, is characterized by self-control, and must edify the church and glorify God. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. They must edify the church and glorify God. That is what happens in public.
Tongues in private. “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself…” speaks “…to himself and God.” Paul seems to have a favorable view of people who speak in tongues in private. I think it begs the question. I will be honest, I have never spoken in tongues in private or in public. I know people who have spoken in tongues in private or public. I have been in situations of both. This description here is the private speaking in tongues. I do not think Scripture says there is no way this could or should happen. At the same time, spiritual gifts are given for the edification of the church. So, speaking in tongues in private, at least causes some question of how this is edifying the church—edifying the people of God.
If I have the gift of teaching, and I teach in private, it is not going to be very good, but at the same time, I certainly respect many people I know who have talked about a private prayer language, and there seems to be room for that in 1 Corinthians 14:4 and 28. So, unless you take a completely Cessationist view, I think there is an openness here in the New Testament to speaking in tongues, but the main question I want to make sure of is this: Are tongues normative? I believe Scripture speaks very clearly on this. Listen to this direct quote from a charismatic manual:
A person should claim this gift [talking about tongues] in confidence when he is prayed with to be baptized in the Spirit. Yielding to tongues is an important first step and it is worth putting effort into encouraging a person to yield to tongues, even to run the risk of being labeled imbalanced. Often, people can be helped to yield to tongues rather easily. After praying with a person to be baptized in the Spirit, the team member should lean over or kneel down and ask the person if he would like to pray in tongues. When he says, ‘Yes,’ he should encourage him to speak out, making sounds that are not English. He should then pray with him again. When the person begins to speak in tongues, he should encourage him, ‘After you ask to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and ask for the gift of tongues then yield to it. Begin by speaking out, if necessary, beginning by just making meaningless sounds. The Holy Spirit will form them.’
I do not believe Scripture supports that quote. This is something the Spirit does in His sovereign operation. If we are going to seek anything, we are to seek gifts that most edify the church, which is why Paul says, “Seek prophecy.” Even here in Acts 10 and Acts 19, they certainly did not have the charismatic manual. At the same time, this question, “Are tongues normative?” Again, look to Acts 10 and 19. These were very unique experiences that were going on in this period in redemptive history, and I do not think they provide us with a foundation to say, “Everybody should be based on Acts 19 because Paul placed his hands on these guys, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. Everybody who has the Spirit or is baptized in the Spirit [which is a phrase that is not used there] should speak in tongues.” I think that is going way beyond the bounds of Scripture. I think that is taking, again, narrative passages in Scripture and making them normative.
Tongues in Acts occur in groups and their primary purpose is to demonstrate the advancement of the gospel in light of this new period in redemptive history. They occur in groups for the advancement of the gospel. Speaking in tongues in Corinth is different. They occur with individuals who use this in the context of the church and their primary purpose is to edify the church in worship. We have to be careful not to take narratives like Acts 8, 10 or 19 and make them normative for everybody. “Well this happened to them so this has to happen to everybody.”
This is a very basic Bible study principle. When you look at narratives in Scripture, do not look at the narrative of Abraham offering his son Isaac on the sacrificial altar and thinking, “Every father needs to do this if he has faith in God.” We do not say those things. We do not look at the story of Daniel and think, “I am going to prove my faith by going and spending the night with some lions,” or “I am going to be Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and jump into a furnace.” These narratives are not normative. There are portions of Scripture that give us commands. Let us follow those, and then seek to understand narrative in the context of redemptive history.
The conclusions to speaking in tongues are that speaking in tongues is not normative evidence of New Testament faith. I am not saying that Scripture is teaching that tongues has ceased completely. I do not think Scripture speaks very clearly on whether or not they have ceased, but I think Scripture does speak very clearly that they are not normative evidence of New Testament faith, and they are not a necessary expression of New Testament faith. Mighty movements of the Spirit of God have not been hindered by people not speaking in tongues. This is very important. I am not saying that if you speak in tongues that is a bad thing by any means. I do not think Scripture speaks very clearly on some of these things, but I think Scripture does speak clearly that we should not say to others, “You need to speak in tongues as evidence that something has happened to you in the Spirit.” I think we focus on what we know from the Spirit like the fruit of the Spirit, filling of the Spirit, the proclamation of the gospel and the power of the Spirit. That should be happening—not tongues.
What about Healing?
What about healing? 1 Corinthians 12:8–10 and 1 Corinthians 12:28 express the purpose of healings. I am going to show you these in the Word. There are four primary purposes that I see. Healings authenticate God’s Word, the gospel. Healings comfort God’s people, the church. God shows mercy to His people who are ill or sick through healings. Healings remove hindrances to God’s work, to ministry, and healings glorify God’s name. They authenticate God’s Word, the gospel; they comfort God’s people, the church; they remove hindrances to God’s work and ministry; they glorify God’s name. People see evidences of the greatness, goodness, love, power, and wisdom of God in healings.
The “gift of healing” is the gift of praying in different kinds of situations with different kinds of needs for healing to occur. I am using the plural here because that is how it is described in 1 Corinthians 12. Look at James 5:13–15: “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is any one happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.”
Some would say, “We do not need to pray for healing. Pastor, you should not encourage people to pray for healing because if God does not heal, maybe they will doubt God’s power. Maybe they will grow angry at God.” I hear that, in one sense, but at the same time, I do not see the alternative in Scripture, and I do not think I would ever say to anybody, “Well, do not pray for healing.” I would never say to anybody, “God does not have power to heal or is not able to heal.” There is, obviously, a time in which healing does happen, and God does do miraculous things at times. Should we pray for healing? Yes! I think we are encouraged to in Scripture. I think it is what James 5 is doing. Encourage to pray for healing.
I do not think we need to take the step that some in the more Pentecostal tradition when they say, “All sickness is attributed either directly or indirectly to Satan and we have power over Satan in Christ and the Spirit. Therefore, if you have enough faith in Christ and the Spirit, you will be delivered from your sickness.” I do not think that is biblical. It did not work for Paul in 2 Corinthians 12 when he asked God to remove his “thorn in the flesh” and He did not. There are other times when Paul was sick. Unfortunately, Paul did not live by that. I do not think Scripture gives us that kind of idea, but Scripture does tell us to pray for healings and does talk about gifts of healings.
How do we pray for healing? When somebody is sick, how do we pray for healing? The first of two main thoughts is pray with purpose for healings. By that, I mean pray in light of the purposes we saw earlier—for the advancement of the gospel. Look at Acts 5, 9, 14 and 19. What you see is people being healed and people coming to Christ as a result of that. So, pray! I think when you pray for somebody who is sick, you should pray, “God, I pray that you might bring healing here for the advancement of the gospel, for the comfort of the church, for the comfort of God’s people!”
Acts 20:7–12 is so appropriate. This is about Eutychus. Paul just kept preaching and preaching. Eutychus fell asleep and fell out of the window. Then, he prayed for healing on Eutychus, and God healed him.
Next is for success in ministry. There is a story of Tabitha being healed to push ministry forward in that region of Joppa for the glory of God. Acts 3 is when the lame man is healed and begins to glorify Christ and many people are astonished by this demonstration. So, pray in light of those purposes: for the advancement of the gospel, for the comfort of God’s people, for success in ministry, for the glory of God, and pray with faith for healings. Here is the kind of faith we pray with. Again, please do not mistake me as saying that if we have enough faith, that means healing will automatically happen. I do not believe Scripture is teaching that.
Pray with faith for healings because the kingdom is here. In Luke 7, the way Jesus described how John the Baptist would know that the kingdom of God had come in Christ was because the blind were receiving sight, the lame were walking, those who had leprosy were cured and the deaf were being healed. Jesus’ presence on the earth was evidence that the Kingdom was here, and when God miraculously brings healing in instances today, He reminds us that the Kingdom is here—Christ’s Kingdom is here, but we pray also with faith that the Kingdom is coming. When God does not heal, we hold to this truth: the Kingdom is coming.
2 Corinthians 12, Galatians 4, 1 Timothy 5 and 2 Timothy 4 are all instances in which healing did not come and people were still sick even as they were following God. So, we pray. We pray with a purpose. Pray for faith for healings, but we know there is coming a day when He will heal our bodies. (Romans 8, Ephesians 1) He will heal our bodies and one day we will see His face.
What Does the Bible Say About the Work of the Holy Spirit and consummation
That leads us back to page 55 in your books. He will heal our bodies, and we will see His face. Here is what the Spirit does. We have talked much about what the Spirit does in our lives. When it comes down to it, when we look toward the future, the Spirit does these things. First of all, the Spirit assures us. We are confident in the life of Christ in us because of the Spirit He has given us. This is how we know that He lives in us. 1 John 3:24 says, “We know it by the Spirit He gave us.” And, “We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” (1 John 4:13)
What is interesting in the New Testament is that we see different metaphors and images to describe how the Spirit assures us. The family metaphor: The Spirit testifies that we are children of God. “…by Him we cry, ‘Abba Father.’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children…” (Romans 8:15–17) The Spirit of adoption. The financial metaphor: the Spirit is a down payment of our salvation. He anointed us, set a seal of ownership on us, and then put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. The Spirit is a guarantee—like a first installment. This says, “There is more to come.” It is a financial metaphor.
The agricultural metaphor: the Spirit is the first-fruits of our salvation. We “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23) Just like the first-fruits of the crop reveal and show us, remind us that there is a harvest coming! The Spirit is in you! This is not all there is to it! There is more to come. The legal metaphor: the Spirit is a seal. We are “marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13–14) You are sealed, brothers and sisters. You have a seal on you—the promised Holy Spirit who guarantees your inheritance in heaven, who guarantees that there is coming a day when He will heal your body, and you will see His face. It is guaranteed because He seals you.
The Spirit assures, and the Spirit glorifies. The Spirit will complete His sanctifying work in His people. He will complete His sanctifying work in His people. Revelation 22:17 says, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.” Then, you get to the end of Revelation 22, and the author says, “The Spirit says to the Lord, ‘Come Lord Jesus. Come quickly.’” The Spirit in us, amidst all that He does, cries out for the day when we will see Christ. When we will see face to face, we will experience the fullness of our salvation.