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The Alleged Spirit Gift Today
Over the past 25 years, there has been a growing amount of discussion on the matter of the Holy Spirit and the believer. This is immediately brought into focus with the question: Does the believer today receive the Holy Spirit Gift as expressed by Peter on the day of Pentecost? Peter's words are: "Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call" (Acts 2:28-29).
There are an increasing number who answer "Yes" to this question; much to the concern of other brethren.
In considering the matter, it is most important to do our best to have a fair understanding of the belief of those who say Yes. There are variations of belief, but it is not difficult to ascertain the general concept.
No Claim To Do Miracles
First it must be emphasised that in practically all cases these brethren do not propose that they have power to work miracles or speak with tongues. That is not the issue. The issue is over whether there is a direct indwelling of the Holy Spirit by which God influences the life of the believer. The belief is that from the day of Pentecost there has been something extra for every believer, the Holy Spirit Gift, through which God will influence the life of the believer for good. Although the Gift at Pentecost did result in miracles and signs, these are regarded as a secondary and temporary part of the Gift. It is pointed out that the real quality of the Gift is clearly stated by Jesus in John 14. It is described as the Comforter, and the Spirit of Truth. Comforter is translated in other versions as Advocate, Counsellor, Helper. So while not wishing to minimise the power of the written word as teaching us God's Truth and being our counsellor and helper, they see the christian after the day of Pentecost as having an extra, more direct, influence from God operating in his life, leading and guiding him into a fuller understanding and applications of God's Truth. This is not seen as in conflict with the written word, but rather as augmenting it. While recognising that the Holy Spirit Gift -- as the Comforter, Counsellor and Spirit of Truth -- operated more fully in the apostles than in ordinary believers today; they see it as the same Spirit Gift operating in varying degree.
Various scriptures appear to these brethren to support their belief. There are the words of Jesus in John 7:38-39:
And the words of Jesus at the end of Matthew's gospel:
There are also a number of passages by Paul, of which Ephesians 3:16-17 and Romans 8:9 are typical:
Such references to the Spirit and the believer are all seen as the operation of the Holy Spirit Gift of Acts 2:38.
How The Gift Is Said To Operate
Our next step in trying to understand those who believe they receive the Holy Spirit Gift is to note their description of the way in which this works today. The following four quotations are from The Christadelphian (1959), by Bro. A. D. Norris in reply to Bro. J. Carter's criticism of his booklet Being Born Again.
(1) "The manifestations (i.e. miracles-GP) of the first century bore witness to the reality of the Spirit's working, but they were the mere advertisement for something greater and more inward, as well as vastly more important.... God still, without the outward signs, pours out the Spirit grace richly upon those who call upon him."
(2) Defining the Spirit as what God wishes to be done:
"It can call into being the Son of God through the Virgin Birth, or it can in mysterious ways empower the chosen of God in their battle against sin."
(3) "To put my meaning in a nutshell, lest it should be swallowed up in a plethora of petty objections to it: God bore witness to His gift of the Spirit in the first century by miraculous signs, and by these it was recognised. But the primary purpose of the gift for believers as a whole was to help them to live lives acceptable to Him, and therefore this reality persisted even when the signs ceased, and was of the essence of the matter even when the signs were there. Therefore, Peter, while having the signs to bear witness to the truth of the promise, was offering something much more important than the signs themselves, the work of God to bring about salvation of the individual: this was what they needed at Pentecost, and what is needed still."
(4) "I accept the miracles at their full local value as a means of propaganda and conviction. I insist that, when those miracles are gone, the inward working of God is essential if we are to overcome our sins. It is needed for the successful living of our lives."
(5) "But even beyond this there are implications in the same chapter of John that the living -- though invisible -- presence of Jesus is still available to believers, linking their knowledge of him with their daily experience."
"In the closing words of chapter 15 he again refers to his invisible presence under the title of the Comforter." . . . . "The gift of the Spirit -- Of Christ's presence in the in the believer's life -- is not for selfish purposes." No. 1081: pp. 70,71
Finally an extract from a letter:
(6) "Rather, he is developing the frequently- repeated and and variously expressed New Testament theme that the Holy Spirit -- Or Spirit of God, or Spirit of Christ -- or the Comforter, or the indwelling Christ, or Spirit of Truth (these terms are equated with one another) -- operated in the hearts and minds of believers to strengthen, comfort, guide, counsel, etc. I would not have thought this could be a subject of controversy, or that it is new to the brotherhood."
These quotations convey the clear idea that the Holy Spirit Gift, whether we call it the invisible presence of Christ, the Comforter or simply the Holy Spirit, was promised on the day of Pentecost and is available to the believer today to guide his life, and influence his mind in godly ways. What then is the issue? As we proceed we shall find that it concerns how the Spirit of God is in the believer. Both sides recognise that the Spirit of God is in the believer, and that all spiritual development flows from the work of the Holy Spirit. We shall find that on the one side is the belief that the Spirit of God for the believer operates through the written word and angelic ministration in response to our seeking; the other side acknowledges this, but adds a further vital element of outpoured Spirit, received by the believer, called the Holy Spirit Gift. In this view, if one may venture an analogy, it is as if Jesus Christ has a telephone line direct to us, instead of the more indirect communication of posting a letter.
Those who say the believer does not receive the Holy Spirit Gift today, fully recognise the reality of the Holy Spirit Gift. They see it as a direct power and influence from God upon men, but something limited to certain individuals and occasions, as God saw need; as with Moses, David, the prophets, the apostles, and the 'bishops' of the early ecclesias.
possible consequences of believeving
The difference between the two sides may be small in its effect at the beginning, but over a generation or so, it will produce distinct changes. In the last analysis, the two views are in direct opposition. One side believes that the Holy Spirit Gift, leading into all truth and being our counsellor,
guides and helps us to a fuller understanding and appreciation of the written Word; the other side believes that by its patient study of the Word it gradually acquires the Spirit of God. The one process is the reverse of the other. The one side has the Holy Spirit Gift in order to receive more fully the power of the Word; the other side grasps more fully the Word that they may build up in themselves more of the Spirit of God, or the Holy Spirit.
If we believe that we have the Spirit Gift which will unfold to us spiritual things by yielding to it, we shall cease to exert ourselves to the same extent in the day to day unwavering attention to the Word as our daily spiritual food. One calls to mind the emphasis Bro. Roberts gave to this matter in his introduction to the Bible Companion. "This is a work of slow development, and can only be achieved by the industrious application of the individual to the means God has given for the purpose, namely, the expression of His mind in the Scriptures of truth. Spiritual-mindedness, or a state of mind in accordance with the mind of the Spirit as displayed in these writings, can only grow within a man by daily inter-course with that mind, there unfolded. Away from this, the mind will revert to its original emptiness."
Already as a community, we are less diligent in the daily reading and meditation of the Word, and perhaps those who are less constant in this matter are not dissatisfied because they are trusting in the guidance of their Holy Spirit Gift.
Those who believe in receiving the Holy Spirit Gift today have to separate the miraculous aspect of the Gift from the so-called inner working of the Gift. We believe this separation is false, as we shall show later. And because it is false, it is likely that we shall find in due course some who begin to assume they have some aspects of visible Spirit power, as in the first century; that they are led into truth, that they are qualified for leadership, or healing. This suggestion may raise a smile of scepticism, but history will undoubtedly repeat itself, if time is allowed for this.
Once we realise that the Holy Spirit Gift was a manifestation of power, in special circumstances, and that the references to the Spirit of God in the believer in various scripture passages does not usually mean the Holy Spirit Gift, much confusion and misunderstanding will be removed from this subject.
After this introductory examination of the current scene, we think it necessary to look at the working of the Holy Spirit in broad terms, before coming in detail to the conflict of view on Acts 2:38: John 7:39, etc. So our unfolding theme will now be -- God, the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit Gift, and the Spirit of God in the believer.
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