Jurong Outreach

"whom we proclaim, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ."


Leave a comment

The Holy Spirit and Cornelius

The promise of being baptised with the Holy Spirit was, as we have studied previously, was never meant for Christians in general or for an ‘elite’ class of Christians (Outreach, June 4 & 11 2017). The Bible shows us too that the apostles of Jesus Christ were the ones who received the Holy Spirit on the first day of Pentecost after the Resurrection.

Besides the apostles, were there others who received this baptizing with the Holy Spirit? Indeed, there were. There is a remarkable incident recorded in the tenth chapter of Acts.

“There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway. He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do (Acts 10:1-6).”

Cornelius wasted no time in sending men to invite Peter. The apostle, meanwhile, had a vision where three times he was told to eat creatures which were unclean under the Mosaic Law. Each time he refused, saying that he had never eaten anything that was common or unclean, he was told “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.” The vision left Peter wondering what it could have meant (cf. Acts 10:9-16).

The men sent from Cornelius duly arrived at Joppa and sought Peter out. He was told by the Spirit to go with them. When he entered Cornelius’ house, he finally understood the meaning of the vision.

“And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean (Acts 10:28).”

After Cornelius shared his vision with Peter, the apostle began to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to all who were gathered there. Right then the remarkable incident took place.

“While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God… (Acts 10:44-46)”

First of all, we must note the significant fact that Cornelius and his household were Gentiles. Up until that time the gospel was preached among the Jews only (cf. Acts 11:19) and by Philip to the Samaritans in Acts 8. The Holy Spirit falling upon a Gentile household was a watershed event in the history of the church.

A second significant fact was that this was the one and only incident when the Holy Spirit fell on people other than the apostles. Peter later explained to an assembly of Jewish Christians, which included his fellow apostles, who had chosen to remain in Jerusalem when the persecution began (cf. Acts 8:1; 11:1).

“And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God (Acts 11:15-17)?”

“…the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning…Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us…” It is striking that Peter had to make reference to the event that happened years ago on Pentecost. Why did he have to do that if the promise of being baptised with the Holy Spirit was meant for Christians in general for all time?

The first person plural pronoun ‘us’ quite probably refers to the apostles. Peter recalled the time when the Lord told them to remain in Jerusalem to “wait for the promise of the Father (cf. Acts 1:4)” and reminded them of John’s prophecy.

“For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence (Acts 1:5).”

Who was Jesus talking to back then? The context of Acts 1:1-13 unmistakably identifies the apostles. It was this event to which Peter made reference to in Acts 11.

“…the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.” This can only refer to the event of Acts 2:1-4, which we have previously discussed and concluded, happened only to the apostles. (Outreach, June 4 & 11 2017)

In commanding the apostles that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, the Lord made reference to the prophecy of John. Likewise, Peter made reference to the prophecy of John when explaining what happened to Cornelius and his household.

Apparently, these were the only two incidents where the prophecy of John was fulfilled, once again reiterating the fact that the promise of being baptised with the Holy Spirit is specific and not generic, i.e., for Christians in general.

The promise was specific not only in persons but also in purposes.

Back when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost in fulfillment of the promise by the Lord (cf. John 14:16-17, 26; Act 1:2-5), the objective was clearly the establishment of the church (Acts 2:1-47).

What about Cornelius? We began to see the purpose in Peter’s vision and his later understanding that “God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean (Acts 10:28).” When the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles, it brought on quite a reaction from the Jews who traveled there with Peter.

“And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days (Acts 10:45-48).”

What was the purpose for this second time the Holy Spirit fell on people according to John’s prophecy? It was to establish the fact undeniably and unarguably that the gospel message was not exclusive for Jews; it was meant for non-Jews as well.

Not everyone understood the purpose at first.

“And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them (Acts 11:1-3).”

Peter recounted what happened, beginning with his vision at Joppa, and concluding with the remarks we have quoted from verses 15-17. What happened then? The assembly realised and understood the purpose.

“When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life (Acts 11:18).”

The promise of being baptised with the Holy Spirit was specific in terms of persons and purposes. It was never meant for Christians in general or for an ‘elite’ class of Christians. Anyone today claiming to be baptised with the Holy Spirit must prove otherwise from the New Testament. Anyone today claiming to be baptised with the Holy Spirit is claiming miraculous power, at least the power to speak in a foreign human language without having learnt it (cf. Outreach, June 18).

Let us be “rightly handling the word of truth” and be approved unto God (cf. 1Ti 2:15).

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Speaking in Tongues?

If a person completely new to the ‘church scene’ should walk into a ‘church’ on a Sunday, what would he encounter? Among many things new and strange to him, one of the most sensational must be the phenomenon of ‘speaking in tongues’.

He would be astounded, surprised, shocked, amused, confused and perhaps even disturbed to watch and hear as numbers of people in the assembly utter strange, meaningless sounds in ecstatic fashion.

What is the meaning of this, he might wonder. He might be told by helpful congregants that they were ‘speaking in tongues’. Some might offer the explanation that they were speaking in a heavenly or angelic language.

If one were to use a word to describe this ‘speaking in tongues’, the word would very well be ‘gibberish’. Gibberish means “meaningless or unintelligible talk or writing”, for that certainly does describe aptly what one hears of this ‘speaking in tongues’.

The first time we read of speaking in tongues in the New Testament is in the second chapter of Acts. The Lord had commanded His apostles to remain in the city of Jerusalem, until they were endued with power from on high (Lu 24:49; cf. John 14:16-17, 26; Acts 1:2-5).

The promise was fulfilled (cf. Acts 2:1-4). The Holy Spirit fell on the apostles on the day of Pentecost. “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:4).”

When did the apostles begin to speak with other tongues? When they were all filled with the Holy Ghost. How were they able to speak with other tongues? The Holy Spirit gave them utterance.

Clearly, the ability to speak in tongues was supernatural and stemmed from the power of the Holy Spirit. Not even the apostles could speak in tongues without the Holy Spirit’s empowerment.

Now we must consider another important point. Were the apostles speaking gibberish on that day when the promise was fulfilled? After all, that is usually what we hear from religious groups professing the ability to speak in tongues, just as the apostles did.

They claim the same power as the apostles had. Therefore it was only right and responsible for us to search the scriptures daily, whether those things were so (cf. Acts 17:11). We pick up the narrative from Acts 2:5.

“And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born (Acts 2:5-8)?”

“…every man heard them speak in his own language.” What the apostles spoke were not gibberish but actual languages of the devout men, out of every nation under heaven. To further verify this fact, these men themselves said, “And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?”

We can also infer that the Holy Spirit gave the apostles the miraculous ability to speak in languages foreign to their own so that they could preach to the diverse nationalities gathered in Jerusalem.

They were also told to “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).” How could they unless they could speak the languages?

When we objectively put what is claimed today as the ‘speaking in tongues’ under the scrutiny of the New Testament, we see an obvious and massive discrepancy.

Furthermore, as we have studied over the last two weeks, the promise of being baptised with the Holy Spirit was given to the apostles, not to Christians in general. To claim to be able to speak in a foreign language without having been trained in it is to claim miraculous power.

Of course, the fact that a person speaks gibberish instead of a foreign language is evident that he does not have miraculous power. In addition, no one (as best to my knowledge) who claims to ‘speak in tongues’ has made any assertion that the gibberish is indeed a foreign language known to the natives from whence it comes.

The attempt to explain away the discrepancy by claiming that such gibberish is speaking in a heavenly or angelic language falls short of having any scriptural evidence whatsoever.

As seekers of truth, it is vitally important that we lay aside our ego and face up to possible errors in our beliefs and practices, when we discover them by the light of God’s word. It is only doing the right thing.


Leave a comment

Who Were Baptised with the Holy Spirit?

We briefly considered last week what John meant when he said that the Christ would baptize people with the Holy Ghost and with fire (cf. Mat 3:10-12; Luke 3:9, 16, 17). A careful reading of the contexts shows that John was referring to two separate classes of people, with two separate acts of baptizing.

The contexts show us that the class that would be baptised with fire was described as “every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit” and “the chaff”. These the Lord would “hewn down, and cast into the fire” and “will burn with fire unquenchable”. These are apparently those who “rejected the counsel of God” (cf. Luke 7:29-30).

When John made his prophecy, he did not specify who exactly would be baptised with the Holy Spirit. One thing was clear: they were among his audience who heard him. We have also discussed last week why it is not only possible but very probable that the men who would later be appointed apostles by Jesus had heard John and were baptised by him in the Jordan (cf. Mat 3:5-6), and that at least one of them, Andrew, was a disciple of John (cf. John 1:35-40).

Let us now consider the fulfillment of John’s prophecy of baptism of the Holy Spirit and the beneficiaries of that prophecy.

It was about three and half years since John made his prophecy in the large presence of his disciples, members of the public from Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, and many of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Jesus and His disciples were in the upper room partaking of the Passover feast. Judas had gone out from among them to carry out his devious plot of betrayal (cf. John 13:21-30).

In an emotional and powerful address to the remaining eleven, the Lord gave them a promise.

“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you…But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you (John 14:16-17, 26).”

What has this to do with John’s prophecy of the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Both Jesus and John were talking about the same thing. Do note that the Lord was speaking to His eleven apostles, minus Judas; not to an assembly like the ones during His public preaching. The number was now greatly narrowed from perhaps hundreds to a mere eleven.

“Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence (Act 1:2-5).”

We know have the identities of the men to whom the prophecy/promise was directed. The promise was fulfilled on the first Pentecost after the Lord’s ascension.

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Act 2:1-4).”

The context of Acts chapter 2 informs us that it was the apostles who received the fulfillment of the promise. “But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice (Acts 2:14)…”

When we put the texts together and study them in their contexts, we learn that firstly, although John did not specify who would be baptised with the Holy Spirit, it was clear that he did not mean everyone in the audience. Secondly, the Lord revealed in His promise that it was the apostles who would be baptised with the Holy Spirit and thirdly, Luke confirmed for us that indeed it happened as the Lord and John prophesied.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit was a specific promise for specific people at a specific time. It was never meant to be a promise for every Christian or even an ‘elite’ class of Christians. Once more, let us be “rightly handling the word of truth” and be approved unto God (cf. 1Ti 2:15).


Leave a comment

“With the Holy Ghost and Fire”

Among people who profess to be Bible believers, there are not a few who claim that God still performs miracles through some people in our time and age.

They may be from diverse movements and denominations but one important point they seem to all agree on is that no one can perform miracles without being first “baptised with the Holy Spirit”.

Many miracle-today advocates believe John was prophesying in Matthew 3:10-12 and Luke 3:16 of the “cloven tongues like as of fire” in Acts 2:3. Of course, they also claim the promise to be for every believer today.

Is that understanding right? Let us look at what John actually said.

“And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire (Mat 3:10-12).”

“And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire…John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable (Luke 3:9, 16, 17).”

In the context of Matthew 3:5 onwards, we can plainly see that John was addressing an audience made up of those who came to be baptised by him and many of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

We see in this audience two very different groups of people. Luke draws the distinction:

“And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him (Luke 7:29-30).”

In Matthew’s account, John made this remarkable statement, “therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” before he went on to say “he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.”

In Luke’s account, he recorded John saying, “but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable” after he proclaimed that the coming Christ “shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.”

When we consider the contexts of Matthew 3 and Luke 3, we can infer that among all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan who came to be baptized of John in Jordan, confessing their sins (cf. Mat 3:5-6) were those who would later become apostles of Christ.

We know at least Andrew, the brother of Simon, was a disciple of John (cf. John 1:35-40). These would later be baptised with the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7; Acts 1:2-5, 8; 2:1-4).

But of those who rejected the counsel of God against themselves, these are the “tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” and “the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.” These are those who would be baptised with fire.

Of the 83 instances the word “fire” was used in the New Testament, an overwhelming number has to do with judgments, destruction, punishments and hell. There is no reason to assume that “he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire” is synonymous with the “cloven tongues like as of fire” in Acts 2:3.

From a careful study of the above scripture references we can also see that the promise of being baptised by the Holy Spirit applied only to the apostles and not to every believer even today, as so claimed by some.

John’s prophecy covers two different ‘treatments’ for two different classes of people. ‘With the Holy Ghost and with fire’ is not one thing but two. Those who rejected the counsel of God were promised God’s wrath—fire—and among the audience were those who would later be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

When readers mistakenly lump the two together, it is easy to fall into the error of assuming what the Bible does not say. Let us be “rightly handling the word of truth” and be the approved unto God (cf. 1Ti 2:15).