Wednesday, December 1, 2010
If that describes you, come with me back to about 200 years before Jesus and let me tell you the story.
In 174 BC, a rash and impetuous tyrant named Antiochus IV began to reign over Syria. He was called "Epiphanes," meaning "the gods' beloved." Several other Syrian rulers received similar titles. But a historian of that time, Polebius, gave him the epithet "Epimanes," which means "madman." That was a more suitable title to the character of this harsh and cruel king.
Antiochus desired to unify his kingdom by combining the various religions and cultures into one Hellenistic society under his leadership, borrowing heavily from the conquering plans of Alexander the Great some 200 years earlier.
Antiochus tried to root out the individualism of the Jews by suppressing all the Jewish Laws. He removed the High Priest, Yochanan, from the Temple in Jerusalem and in his place installed Yochanan's brother Joshua, who loved to call himself by the Greek name Jason. "Jason" was a memeber of the Hellenist party, and used his high office to spread more and more of the Greek customs among the priesthood.
When Yochanan, the former High Priest, protested against the spread of Hellenism (which celebrates man as the center of the universe rather than God) the High Priest conspired with murderers to assassinate him.
At this time Antiochus was engaged in a successful war in Egypt. He was ordered by Rome, however, to cease that war and return home.
A rumor spread in Jerusalem that the army's return was due to Antiochus' death and a revolt against the pagan-influenced High Priest ensued.
Antiochus returned from Egypt enraged by Roman interference with his ambitions. When he heard what had taken place in Jerusalem, he ordered his army to fall upon the Jews. Thousands of Jews were killed.
Antiochus then enacted a series of harsh decrees against the Jews. Jewish worship was forbidden; the scrolls of the Law were confiscated and burned. Sabbath rest, circumcision, and the dietary laws were prohibited under penalty of death.
Even one of the respected elders of that generation, Rabbi Eliezer, a man of 90, was ordered by Antiochus to eat pork so that others would do the same. When he refused, he was put to death.
There were thousands of others who likewise sacrificed their lives, but the story of Chanah and her seven sons is the story I want you to take with you.
Antiochus sent "policemen" throughout all the land searching for people who worshiped God and Chanah was brought before Antiochus, along with her seven sons.
Rather than executing them on the spot, Antiochus wanted to make a point with these. He looked at them and said, "Renounce God or die."
The oldest boy asked Antiochus, "Why have you brought us here? Did you want to learn about our God from us?"
Antiochus was shocked. "No! I want you to renounce your God or you will die right here!"
The boy said, "No way."
Antiochus brought in a bunch of cauldrons and filled them with water and built a fire under each of them.
It became obvious what Antiochus was planning to do.
Antiochus asked him, "Change your mind?"
They took their knives and took his skin off an inch at a time. Can you imagine the six brothers and the mother watching this happen?
They cut his hands off and they cut his tongue out for his arrogance and his insolence.
When they were done with that, they put him in that boiling water and they boiled him alive.
Antiochus turned to the second boy and asked, "What about you? Will you renounce your God?"
"Didn't you just see what I did?"
They took his insolent tongue out, they cut his hands off, they took his skin off inch by inch and they boiled him alive.
Antiochus didn't get the chance to ask the third boy. That boy walked right up to Antiochus and stuck out his tongue and his hands.
Off goes his hands, out comes his tongue, off comes his skin, and they boil him alive.
And the fourth, and the fifth, and the sixth.
Antiochus gets to the last boy and understands now that he has a problem. He's got to get this last boy to renounce God or all he will have done is make a bunch of martyrs. Instead of making Judaism less attractive, people will rally to God using Chanah's name and the names of her sons as rallying cries.
He pulls the last boy aside and offers him money. He offers him land. He offers him power. All if he will just renounce his God.
The boy refuses.
Antiochus turns to the mother and says, "Talk to him. You've made your point. You've honored your God. But, you've got one son left. Don't let him die like his brothers. Talk some sense into him."
The mother goes to her son and says, "Be strong. Be brave. Die well."
And he did.
Antiochus had him tortured more than his brothers. But he died well.
One thing Chanah told her last son was, "Tell father Abraham that he bound only one child on an alter to God. I, however, have bound seven."
Then they tortured her, and she died well.
The news of this and other atrocites rallied the people, first behind an old priest named "Mattiyahu" (Matthew). Before Mattiyahu's death, he urged the fighting men to rally behind one of his sons, Judah the Strong.
Judah was called "Maccabee," a word composed of the initial letters of the four Hebrew words Mi Kamocha Ba'eilim Hashem, "Who is like You, O God."
Antiochus sent his General Apolonius to wipe out Judah and his followers, the Maccabees. Though greater in number and equipment than the Maccabees, the Syrians were defeated.
Antiochus sent a greater army of more than 40,000 men to wipe out the Jewish resistance while Judah exclaimed, "Let us fight unto death in defense of our souls and our Temple!" The people assembled in Mitzpah, where Samuel had offered prayers to God.
After a series of battles the war was won.
The Maccabees returned to Jerusalem to liberate it. They entered the Temple and cleared it of the idols placed there by the Syrian pagans. Judah and his follwers built a new alter, which he dedicated on the twenty-fifth of the month of Kislev. Today at sunset.
Since the golden lamp stand (Menorah) had been stolen by the Syrians, the Maccabees now made one of the cheaper metal. When they wanted to light it, they found only a small container of olive oil bearing the seal of the High Priest Yochanan. Remember him from the beginning?
That container held only enough oil to burn a lamp for one day. By a miracle of God, it continued to burn for eight days, till new oil was made available.
That miracle proved that God had taken His people under His protection and from that day forward, the "feast of dedication," or Hanukkah has been celebrated for eight days beginning on the 25th of Kislev.
And if you wonder what Jesus thought about this feast, consider John 10:22, when Jesus made the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem:
"Then came the Feast of Dedication* at Jerusalem. It was winter,"
Footnote: * Hanukkah
Thursday, October 14, 2010
(1 John 3:24) Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gives us.
My brother tells me that while he was a very young child, his Sunday School teacher had him learn the following memory verse:
(Acts 2:38) Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is salvation.
It was years before he discovered that "which is salvation" is not in the Bible!
Some argue that if the Holy Spirit indwells a Christians and that God and Jesus do not, a Law of Symmetry is violated. This "law" is derived from the equality of the members of the Godhead. However, in any other context we readily see that the three members of the Godhead have different roles and characteristics.
Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him."
(John 14:16-17) "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever - the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you."
(John 14:25-26) "All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."
(Eph 3:16-17a) I pray that out of his glorious riches [God] may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
It is also argued that all three members of the Godhead are always everywhere, that is, omnipresent. The question is posed: If the Spirit is everywhere, how can his indwelling have any special significance? After all, the Spirit is not only in me; he is in everything.(Rom 5:5) And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.(1 John 4:12) No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
But we all know that Jesus existed for years in human form, in one special location. Members of the Godhead can be fully God yet have a special local existence.
In Genesis we frequently read of God appearing in the form of a man. He walked in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:8) and he appeared to Abraham as a man (Gen. 18 1-33). God can have a special, local existence and still be fully God and fully omnipresent.
The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove (Matt 3:16). He came upon the apostles with the appearance of tongues of fire (Acts 2:3). Some Christians had special gifts, but many did not. The Bible plainly teaches that the Spirit can have a special relationship with one person or appear at one place and still be fully a member of the Godhead and fully omnipresent.
Obviously, it is not only the presence of the Holy Spirit that matters. Rather, the special relationship and empowerment of the Holy Spirit are what make the indwelling significant.
Because of the Restoration Movement's roots in Presbyterianism (a Calvinist church) and frequent contacts and similarities with the Baptists (partially Calvinist), the Churches of Christ have always taken pains to distinguish their views from the Calvinist interpretations of the Bible. Not surprisingly, some are afraid that if the Holy Spirit has any influence on us, we would lose our free will - and we certainly wouldn't want anyone to think that we are Calvinists!
The Bible clearly teaches that we have freedom and free will. It also teaches that the Spirit "controls" (influences), "leads," "helps," and "empowers" us. How can these be reconciled?
(Phil 2:12-13) Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed - not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence - continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
This verse does not mention the Holy Spirit but plainly refers to it. The Bible often tells us about God without using the word "God," and it tells us about the Holy Spirit sometimes without saying "Spirit." It is wrong to try to avoid finding the Holy Spirit except in the most undeniable passages. A true understanding of the Holy Spirit sheds light on many other doctrines and many passages not specifically speaking in Holy Spirit terms.
(1 Cor. 2:14-16) The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment: "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.
We believe that God answers prayers, and when our loved ones are healed, we thank God for it. But no one knows how he does it, and no one can prove that he was involved. We know through faith and we know through experience that prayer is powerful. And we know that the Bible says so.
Perhaps the greatest difficulty many Christians have with the indwelling Spirit is the inability to see what the Holy Spirit can do. For example, Gus Nichols, a renowned preacher and author, and far from a liberal, published a book on the Holy Spirit. He concluded that the Spirit actually indwelled all Christians but that he could not determine what the indwelling Holy Spirit did. After all, Nichols concluded, he had never had a vision, felt a prompting, been spoken to by God, or otherwise been noticeably affected by the Spirit's workings. But the rest of us noticed the Spirit working in Dr. Nichols' life. This man was one of God's greatest servants, and he was too humble to see that the Holy Spirit had made him too Christ-like to recognize his own example of what the Spirit can do.
This very thing was prophesied by Jesus when Nicodemus asked him how to be saved.
(John 3:5-8) Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where ever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
Jesus said that the workings of the Spirit will be mysterious and subtle. Neither its source nor its path will be obvious. Look out your window at the wind. Do you see it? But do you know that it is there? While the wind is invisible, its effects are visible and they prove the presence of the wind to those who have experienced it - or have been told what wind is and how it works.
Similarly, Jesus told his apostles,
(John 14:16-17) "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever - the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you."
The workings of the Spirit cannot be known or seen by the world. The Spirit is therefore more than miracles and signs. And his working cannot be understood strictly scientifically or rationally. (That is not to say that the Spirit is irrational. The Spirit's workings do not contradict sound logic. Neither can they be logically tested. The ultimate proof is revelation. On the other hand, there is nothing irrational or unscientific in the Bible's claims. Rather, these matters are outside the scope of science.)
Just so, the Spirit is only seen through its effects, but the presence of the Spirit is clearly seen by those who know what to look for and whose hearts have been opened to its workings. The many verses already discussed in the preceding tell us much about what to look for. There is even more:
1. Spiritual Judgment
(1 Cor. 2:14-15) The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment… .
Those who have the Spirit are able to understand Spiritual things that seem foolish to the world. Christians do not look at the world or God the way non-Christians do, and this is very much due to the influence of God through the Spirit.
(1 Cor. 6:11) And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
(Titus 3:4-7) But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Your receiving the Holy Spirit saved you. That’s why Acts 2:38 says what it does about the Spirit:
(Acts 2:38-39) Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off..—for all whom the Lord our God will call.
All who are baptized for the forgiveness of sins receive the Spirit. This promise applies to all Christians, not just the Christians of the First Century—but also their children and all who are far off. Not just those on whom hands are laid, but “all.”
Similarly, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians,
(1 Cor. 12:13) 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.
All of us were given the Spirit, and this Spirit put us into the one body. Our relationship with the Spirit doesn’t end there. We are given the one Spirit so we can drink this Living Water as a fountain of continuous salvation—so continuous that we will never thirst for salvation again.
3. Fruits of the Spirit
This fountain produces more than salvation. It urges Christians to produce fruit pleasing to God.
(Gal. 5:22-24) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
These qualities come from a Christian's penitent heart, but the Christian's heart is strengthened by the Spirit.
4. Strengthening of the heart
(Eph. 3:16-19) I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
This strength can also empower the Christian to a dynamic faith and an understanding of God’s love and grace far beyond the Spirit-less man.
Another fruit of God’s Spirit is unity. There is only one Spirit and there is one church only.
(Eph. 4:3-6) Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit just as you were called to one hope when you were called one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Christians can be filled with the Spirit. The more a Christian tries to obey God, the more the Spirit strengthens the Christian to do just that.
(Eph. 5:18-21) Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, 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, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
The Spirit encourages worship in song, thanksgiving, submission, and reverence (this is much broader than just the assembly). Moreover, the Spirit encourages prayer:
(Eph. 6:18) And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
(Jude 20) But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.
By now it should be obvious that all our worship is Spirit led.
(Phil. 3:3 ) For it is we who are the circumcision, we ... worship by the Spirit of God, ... glory in Christ Jesus, and ... put no confidence in the flesh... .
Similarly, the Spirit produces Christian joy.
(1 Thes. 1:6) You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
“Sanctification” is the Spirit’s work of making Christians increasingly holy and always penitent.
(Rom. 15:15-16) I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
(2 Thes. 2:13) But we ought always to thank God for you; brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.
9. Evidence of salvation
The Spirit’s work also evidences our salvation. A baptized believer can tell that he still has the Spirit, and therefore is still saved, by looking at the state of his sanctification.
(1 John 3:24) Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
10. Other works of the Spirit
Moreover, we learned from our earlier readings that the Spirit does the following:
• Gives life.
• Eliminates Spiritual thirst.
• Wells up to eternal life.
• Permits service in the new way of the Spirit.
• Sets us free from the law of sin and death.
• Teaches us to live according to the Spirit.
• Teaches us to set our minds on what the Spirit desires.
• Gives life and peace.
• Gives life to our mortal bodies.
• Helps us put to death the misdeeds of the body.
• Makes us God’s children.
• Let’s us cry, “Abba, Father.”
• Testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
• Intercedes in our prayers and compensates for our weaknesses.
• Serves as a deposit, an earnest, a seal, and a guaranty.
• Makes each of us a temple
• Fills us with ever-increasing Glory.
What more could you want or need? Some of these things are evident only by faith. Others are plain to all. Others can see your life and tell if you’ve been filled with the Spirit. If you’ve been baptized as a penitent believer and if you live the life the Spirit desires, you’re saved and anyone can tell.
F. Other key passages
There are a number of other passages that deepen our understanding of the Spirit.
1. Hebrews 8
The preceding discussion provides the background to understand the prophecy of Jeremiah quoted in Hebrews 8.
(Heb. 8:7-13) For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said:
“The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares theLord. “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness andBy calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.
will remember their sins no more.”
The new covenant is superior to and different from the old covenant. Unlike the old covenant, where God’s followers had no help to know God’s will, under this one, God will put his laws in the minds of the Christians, and he will write them on their hearts!
Does this mean that God will only save exceptional Bible students? Does it mean that Christians will be more intense Bible scholars than the Jews were? Certainly not, for that would mean that God was counting on man’s efforts. The Bible is plainly saying that the effort will be God’s under the new covenant.
Hebrews says that all God’s children will already know him and will be forgiven by this same power. How can this be? By now it ought to be obvious. Jeremiah was prophesying the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit, according to 1 John 2:27, teaches us “all things,” meaning all things Spiritual. He teaches us all the things discussed in the preceding section, and that is very many things indeed.
Once again, none of this eliminates our own free will or the importance of our cooperation with the Spirit. But it means that we are absolutely guaranteed the help of God in understanding and doing his will, and we encourage this help and our being filled with the Spirit by putting to death the misdeeds of the body by the Spirit.
As we humbly empty ourselves by admitting our sins and our need for God’s help, not just to be saved but to be taught by God, the Spirit fills the emptiness with himself and replaces pride with power.
2. The baptism of Jesus.
There are only three events recorded in all four Gospels: the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the feeding of the 5,000, and the baptism of Jesus. The first emphasizes the obvious importance of the sacrifice of Jesus. The second emphasizes the importance of caring for others (benevolence). And the third, Jesus’ baptism, teaches us about our baptism.
(Matt. 3:13-17) Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill allrighteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Jesus needed neither to receive the Spirit nor to be made God’s Son. Thus, Jesus was baptized for our benefit as a powerful, visual lesson on baptism. Exactly as is true for each of us, when Jesus was baptized, he received the Holy Spirit and God declared him to be his child and that God is well pleased with him. When we are baptized, we always receive the Spirit (although not in the form of a dove), and God makes us his child and makes us well pleasing to him.
What is the difference between John’s baptism and Jesus’ baptism? The pat answer is that John’s baptism is only for repentance, but there is much more to it than that.
(Mark 1:4) And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
The phrase “for the forgiveness of sins” is word-for-word, letter-for-letter identical to the same phrase in Acts 2:38 describing Christian baptism. Both baptisms are declared to be for the forgiveness of sins. The true difference is seen in Acts 19:
(Acts 19:1-6) While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples andasked 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 into 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.
Paul determined whether the Ephesians’ baptism was of John or of Jesus based on his query as to whether they had received the Holy Spirit, not whether they had received forgiveness of sins. Thus, the importance of the new baptism announced on Pentecost is not that sins were to be forgiven. John had already been baptizing for this purpose. The importance was forgiveness of sins due to the indwelling of the Spirit.
(Acts 2:38-39) Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
The significance of this difference will be further considered when we study grace.
3. The Spirit and prophecy
I have one last lesson before we move on to grace. The coming of the Holy Spirit was prophesied in the Old Testament, and these prophecies tell us much about the indwelling. The prophecies begin with Isaiah’s prophecies about Jesus.
(Isa. 44:3-4) For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.
God tells the Jews that their spiritual descendants, the Christians, will receive an outpouring of the Spirit.
(Isa. 59:21-60:3) “As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD. “My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever,” says the LORD.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”
Moreover, God’s Spirit will be given to the new children of God “forever.” Isaiah is not speaking only of the miracles to occur in the First Century. He plainly says that the gift of the Spirit will be “from this time on.” He also associates the coming Spirit with God’s Glory, which he says will rise upon the church and appear over it as it appeared over the temple when it was dedicated. It will illuminate the church with the brightness of the dawn. He calls on the church to“rise and shine” with the radiant Glory of God.
Ezekiel makes a similar prophecy regarding the coming Kingdom. The context of these prophecies makes clear that God is speaking figuratively of the church, the New Israel.
(Ezek. 11:19-20) I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them aheart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.
(Ezek. 36:26-27) I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees andbe careful to keep my laws.
(Ezek. 37:14) “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.”
(Ezek. 39:29) “I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the house of Israel, declares the Sovereign LORD.”
When the Jews returned to Judea after their Babylonian captivity, God promised that the Glory would return to the temple and his Spirit would remain among his people. His Spirit would give life. Moreover, God would act on the hearts of his people to “move” his people to obey him and to have “undivided” hearts. However, this promise was not fulfilled until the coming of Jesus and the establishment of the church as the New Israel.
(Hag. 2:5-9) “This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.” “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory; says the LORD Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine: declares the LORD Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house: says the LORD Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace, declares the LORD Almighty.”
Centuries before Jesus came, the Old Testament was written to tell us that God’s Spirit dwells in all Christians. These prophesies assure us that the Spirit’s work in our lives is a part of God’s eternal plan for us.
The indwelling Spirit makes Jesus’ baptism superior to John’s. It saves us and empowers us. It is not just the Word. The Word is of critical importance, but by itself it only kills. We are saved by grace, and grace is delivered to us and made effective by the Spirit’s indwelling. Only Christians have the Spirit and all Christians have the Spirit. Lose the Spirit and you will lose your soul. Possess the Spirit and you are saved.
The indwelling is not “representational” or indirect. The Spirit operates directly on the hearts of all Christians. This operation is like the wind. Only its effects can be seen. And it is not evident to or even understandable by those with a worldly mind. It is seen only through the eye of faith.
Denial of the Spirit’s indwelling renders numerous passages nonsensical. The Spirit is spoken of in nearly every opening of the New Testament. It is just not enough to decide what these passages don’t mean. It is just not enough to criticize the views of others. We must incorporate the teachings of these passages into our own beliefs. We will all be better Christians if we study them, understand them, teach them, preach them, and live them.
We need to end the practice of some of believing in the Spirit’s role and work and refusing to publicly preach and pray about it. The Spirit is not divisive. It is unifying. There are times when it is best not to raise an issue that will only serve to divide God’s people. But we have now tried for over 150 years to ignore this question, and the result is nothing but division. It is time to change tactics.
1. What arguments support the Word-only view? What are the arguments that support an actual indwelling?
2. Why has this issue been troublesome to the Churches of Christ, when other similar groups readily accept an actual indwelling?
3. What can the Holy Spirit do in the life of a Christian today? What has the Holy Spirit done in your life?
4. How would you respond to a Pentecostal who believes that he needs the assurance that comes from speaking in tongues?
5. What does the Bible mean when it says that Christians should love, pray, and worship in the Spirit? What does the Bible mean when it says that Christians should be filled with the Spirit?
6. In Acts 6 seven men were appointed to provide food to the Hellenistic widows. These men were to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. Most commentators teach that these were the first deacons. Are our deacons today supposed to be filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom? If so, what does this mean?
7. When a believer is baptized and is saved, he receives the indwelling Holy Spirit. Romans8 teaches that he remains saved so long as the Spirit continues to dwell in him. Suppose he sins in such a manner as to lose his salvation. He must also have lost (or quenched) the Holy Spirit. How can he get the Holy Spirit back? What Bible passage demonstrates that a former Christian can regain the Holy Spirit? Does the former Christian have to be rebaptized to regain his salvation? Can he be re-baptized?
Monday, October 4, 2010
I attended a major Church of Christ-affiliated college. One reason I chose a church school was to learn about the Holy Spirit. At that age I figured that I knew just about all the Bible that there was to know, but the Holy Spirit continued to trouble me. The Pentecostal movement was in fun swing at the time, and many Churches of Christ had split over the issue. I was sure that this fine school would be the place to learn the answers.
Early on, I signed up for a class in I and 2 Corinthians. The professor had a long and respected pedigree within the Churches, and I was anxious to learn about the Spirit’s gifts, a major theme of 1 Corinthians 14.
Some weeks later we finally got to chapter 14. We were ready to learn what the Bible says about tongues, prophecy, interpretation, and such. These were all timely and much-needed topics. The teacher approached the lectern bent low, as though burdened by the weight of great knowledge. He opened his Bible and turned to the chapter. He looked up, and with the utmost gravity announced, “1 Corinthians 14 is a very difficult chapter, and I have never really understood it, and I don’t know anybody who does. We will skip it.”
For a while, I attended a Sunday School class taught by a professor at my college. He was a very, very serious person. He was very dedicated to his teaching, but he just had no sense of humor.
We were studying James. Eventually we came to the passage that suggests that the sick of the congregation should ask the elders to pour oil on their heads to be healed. There were about ten minutes left in the class. He read the verse and saw two hands raised by two visitors.
The first visitor announced that he had had epilepsy and had been cured by exactly this procedure. The other visitor said that he had had severe diabetes and had also been cured this way. (Both visitors looked rather ill, in fact.) Our teacher opened his mouth to speak—and nothing came out. We waited and waited. After several minutes of silence, he dismissed class early.
This book is not really about the Holy Spirit; it is about grace. But I have learned from experience that grace cannot be thoroughly understood without first having an understanding of the Holy Spirit. The two subjects are completely intertwined, and a false understanding of the Holy Spirit will inevitably result in a false understanding of grace.
A number of excellent books on the Spirit have been published.1 I will not try to replow the same ground. Moreover, the present book is not intended to deal with Pentecostalism, faith healing, speaking in tongues, and the like. Rather, I want to try to reach a consensus as to the correct understanding of the Spirit. We often spend time disproving the beliefs of others without taking time to ask what we should believe. Thus, the Churches of Christ as a whole have squarely rejected Pentecostalism but cannot even reach agreement as to whether the Holy Spirit indwells the Christian. I do not believe that the Spirit grants special revelation today, allows the performance of miracles (in the Biblical sense of a “wonder”), or empowers us to speak in tongues. But we must leave these questions for another day.
Many of those who believe the Spirit works only through the Word would say that the Spirit indwells all Christians, but they would mean that the Spirit indwells representatively through the Word. When others say the Holy Spirit indwells a Christian, they mean that the Holy Spirit has a special, personal, effective relationship with the individual Christian that does not exist for non-Christians. The relationship is realized and felt in the Christian’s heart and mind,and thus is an internal, intimate, life-changing relationship—an actual indwelling. We will see whether the Bible uses the term in the same sense. The question is fundamentally one of faith,and the only authority in this matter is the Bible.
effect that the Holy Spirit and the Word must be the same since they do the same things. Lists have been compiled by which it is shown that the Bible attributes the same roles to the Word and the Spirit. Thus, it is argued, they are indistinguishable.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another
Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot
accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know
him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
B. John 3
John’s Gospel is an especially important source of information about the Holy Spirit. The coming of the Spirit is a major theme of this book. For example, when Jesus is approached by Nicodemus, Jesus tells him about the nature of the new birth:
kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives
birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be
surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again: The wind blows
wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it
comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
Those born of the flesh have the nature of the flesh. Those born of the Spirit have the nature of
When you are born again, you are born of the Spirit and you become a Spiritual being.
The Spirit affects your very nature, just as being born of the flesh defined your nature as a fleshly being.
Next, note this passage from 2 Corinthians:
(2 Cor. 3:3)
ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on
tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
If the Spirit operates only through the Word, how can Paul say that the Corinthians are a
letter written with the Spirit and “not with ink”?
(2 Cor. 3:4-6)
Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves,
but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as
ministers of a new covenant not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter
kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Paul now goes much further and tells the Corinthians that there is a very big difference between God’s Word acting alone and God’s Spirit—the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. The new covenant, the gospel, is “of the Spirit,” and it is not “of the letter.”
Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do
not associate with Samaritans.)
a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is
deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our
father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also
his sons and his flocks and herds?”
whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I
give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
- Jesus gives it.
- Once you’ve received it, you never thirst for it again.
- It creates a “spring” within the recipient.
- This spring produces eternal life in the recipient.
He is not discussing salvation, but something that produces salvation from within the Christian. Jesus is discussing the indwelling Spirit.
Any doubt on this point is resolved in John 7:
(John 7:37-39) On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood
and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and
drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of
living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom
those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit
had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
John tells us that, when Jesus spoke of living water, he was speaking of the coming Spirit. Jesus prophesied that following his glorification (his return to heaven) the Spirit would be received by all who believe in him. The promise is to “anyone” who is thirsty, not just those on whom hands might be laid by an apostle. The promise is to “[w]hoever believes in me.” And the Holy Spirit “will flow from within” the believer.
Could Jesus have been speaking about the Word? Was the Word not received until Jesus was glorified? Do Christians receive the Word when they are saved? Don’t they “hear” the Word and receive it before they believe, and believe before they are saved? Jesus said that this Living Water would come to those who have already believed.
Could Jesus have been talking to the Samaritan woman about the Word? Does the Word flow from within the believer? Christians never thirst for Living Water because they already have it. Do you thirst for the Word? You should. We all need more knowledge of God’s Word and we are never filled. But once we have the Spirit, we need never receive it again.
This tells us what Paul meant in 2 Corinthians when he said that the Spirit gives life. The Holy Spirit is Living Water. This water “wells up” from within the Christian to give “eternal life” for which the Christian “will never thirst again.” The Spirit does indeed give life—eternal life. Moreover, this life giving occurs not just at baptism, but throughout the life of the Christian. Jesus gives his followers, not a drink of life-giving water, but a spring that never runs dry.
E. Romans 7 and 8
But 2 Corinthians not only tells us that the Spirit gives life, it also says that the “letter” kills. How can this be?
(Rom. 7:4-8) So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body
of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from
the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. For when we were
controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law
were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death ... . What shall
we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have
known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known
what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” But sin,
seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me
every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead.
Paul tells us that before we were saved, we were controlled by our sinful nature. Even though we knew and tried to obey God’s law, we failed. Moreover, the prohibitions themselves made the sins all the more tempting, and we sinned all the more. The result of our efforts was death. God’s revelation of his will for man through the law produced only frustration and more sin.
(Rom. 7:6) But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been
released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and
not in the old way of the written code.
The solution is not a better law. It is the Spirit. It’s not rules; it’s a relationship. This is explained in more detail in chapter 8:
(Rom. 8:1-2) Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are
in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life
set me free from the law of sin and death.
Paul draws a contrast between the new and old covenants. The old covenant is “sin and death.” The new covenant is “the Spirit of life” and “no condemnation.”
(Rom. 8:3-4) For what the law was powerless to do in that it was
weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the
likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in
sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be
fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but
according to the Spirit.
If we live “according to the Spirit,” the requirements of the law are fully met in us. How do we live this way?
(Rom. 8:5) Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds
set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the
Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
Living according to the Spirit is determined not so much by actions as by motivation. The test is whether you desire the things the Spirit desires. Obviously, you will frequently fail to achieve all that you desire, but you will suffer no condemnation for such failures.
(Rom. 8:6-7) The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by
the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not
submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.
The Spiritual mind is at peace because it is submissive to God’s will.
(Rom. 8:9a) You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by
the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.
If the Spirit lives in you, you are controlled by the Spirit. If you are not controlled by the Spirit, he does not live in you!
We should pause for a moment to recognize that “controlled by” is not in the original Greek. Rather, the Greek is more literally “of the Spirit” or “the Spirit’s.” Nonetheless, more than one translation has found this translation appropriate.
The thought is not a loss of free will so much as influence. When I say to my wife, “I am yours,” I mean that what matters to her matters to me. Her desires influence me—and do so profoundly. Just so, if we are the Spirit’s people, we very much want to do what the Spirit wants.
If you are not influenced by the Spirit, you do not have the Spirit, and if you do not have the Spirit, you do not belong to Christ. Either the Spirit lives in you and influences you, or you are damned! There are no other possibilities. There are no Christians (saved persons) who don’t have the Spirit. There is no one who has the Spirit who is not saved.
(Rom. 8:10-11) But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin,
yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him
who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from
the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit,
who lives in you.
If the Spirit is living in you, you will be resurrected, just as Jesus was, “through his Spirit.” You must have the Spirit to be resurrected, because your resurrection will be received only through the Spirit living in you. No one who has the Spirit will fail to be resurrected.
to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the
sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the
misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the
Spirit of God are sons of God.
Being controlled or led by the Spirit means putting “to death the misdeeds of the body.” It simply means continuing in the repentance that allowed you to be saved in the first place. It means growing in Christ. It means being filled with the Spirit. It does not mean a loss of free will. We do the putting to death, but we do it by the Spirit. The Spirit encourages and empowers us, but ultimately we choose whether to follow the Spirit’s promptings.
(Rom. 8:15) For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again
to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
Christians need not be afraid of condemnation. It is a possibility of course, but for a
growing, repenting Christian, the proper state of mind is life, peace, and a constant, comfortable, personal relationship with God.
(Rom. 8:16) The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
The Spirit’s testimony is not through miraculous signs but through the mind of the saved. The fact that a Christian’s mind is led by the Spirit will be evident from his thoughts, motivations, words, and deeds, and his salvation will be assured.
(Rom. 8:26) In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
The Spirit not only gives life, but it makes up any deficiencies in our prayer life. We will study this chapter again.
F. The down payment
Three times Paul describes the indwelling as a seal, deposit, guaranty, or down payment.
Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit
in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
(2 Cor. 5:5) Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has
given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
(Eph. 1:13) And you also were included in Christ when you heard the
word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were
marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit ... .
The word translated “deposit” is a commercial term meaning a down payment or payment of earnest money. When you buy a car, you sign a note, promising to pay for the car in the future, and you make a down payment, which is in cash. It would be a contradiction in terms and utter nonsense to sign a note for a down payment. A down payment is real and it is now.
God tells us that heaven is in our futures. This is God’s “note.” He says that he gives us the Spirit today as an immediate, first installment of our reward. The immediacy and reality of the Spirit give us confidence in the promises of God and assure us of his faithfulness. The Word is the promise. The Spirit is the cash in hand.
“Seal” is also a commercial term. Although seals have lost most of their legal significance in the United States, until recently a seal might be impressed on a legal document to make the promises contained in the document absolutely enforceable. No promise made under seal could be withdrawn or repudiated in court. This is much the same thought as in the term “guaranty.” God gives his personal guaranty that we are saved!
But a seal also means ownership. In the First Century, goods were often sealed before shipping to prove their ownership. God is telling not only us, but the whole world, that we are his.
Moreover, a seal represented authority. In ancient times, the keeper of the king’s seal could stamp documents with the seal, giving them the same authority as though the king himself signed them. In some regions, it has even been considered that you would be absolutely bound by a promise made under your seal even though the promise was made without your knowledge and sealed by someone who had stolen your seal!
God is telling us that he owns us, that the whole world can see his ownership, that he has authorized our salvation, and that we were saved by his authority.
Can God be talking about the Bible only? How can the Bible be a “seal”? Are Christians the only people who own and read Bibles? The seal is not the promise—it is the immediate, real assurance of the promise. The Bible makes the promise, and therefore cannot be the seal. The immediate, real, powerful, effective Spirit living and working in each of us is God’s seal.
G. The Glory and the Spirit
This lesson begins on top of Mt. Sinai. Moses was called by God to the top of the
mountain to receive the Law of Moses.
(Exo. 24:15-17) When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered
it, and the glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the
cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the LORD called to
Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the LORD
looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.
This is what the songs mean by “clouds of glory.” God’s glory is nothing so abstract as
his greatness or divinity. It is the visible, radiant, consuming fire demonstrating a special,
powerful presence of God himself.
Shortly thereafter, the Israelites built the tabernacle. The tabernacle was built during their
wanderings in the wilderness on their way out of Egypt as something of a portable temple. The
tabernacle was built in response to God’s command to Moses:
(Exo. 25:8) “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell
Although God is an omnipresent being, transcending all limitations of space and time,
God wanted a building built for him to dwell in.
God again spoke to Moses and described how he would dwell within the tabernacle and
how his presence would consecrate it:
(Exo. 29:42-43) “For the generations to come this burnt offering is to be
made regularly at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting before the LORD.
There I will meet you and speak to you; there also I will meet with the
Israelites, and the place will be consecrated by my glory.”
“Glory” in Hebrew is Shekinah. When the tabernacle was finished, the Shekinah
(Exo. 40:33-35) Then Moses set up the courtyard around the tabernacle
and altar and put up the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard. And so
Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting,
and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the
Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of
the LORD filled the tabernacle.
Once again, we see the Glory as the bright, shining presence of God on earth. It was real
and present, so real that Moses himself could not approach it.
replace the tabernacle. As was true for the tabernacle, the ark of the covenant was to rest in the
Holy of Holies, or the Most Holy Place. When the temple was finished, the ark was brought in.
to its place in the inner sanctuary of the temple, the Most Holy Place, and
put it beneath the wings of the cherubim. The cherubim spread their
wings over the place of the ark and overshadowed the ark and its carrying
poles. … When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled
the temple of the LORD. And the priests could not perform their service
because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple. Then
Solomon said, “The LORD has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud ...”
Although Solomon saw the real presence of God, he knew by inspiration that God was
not limited to the confines of the Holy of Holies. He prayed at the temple dedication ceremony
immediately after the Glory appeared,
(1 Kings 8:27) “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the
highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!”
Solomon did not deny that God dwelt in the temple, but he knew that this was not all of
Some years later, the Israelites had so fallen away from God that God permitted
Nebuchadnezzar to conquer Jerusalem. He did not destroy the temple during his first conquest,
but he took from Judah its brightest and most accomplished citizens. These men and women,
such as Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were taken to Babylon to be indoctrinated in
the Babylonian way.
God called Ezekiel to prophesy to these exiles and called Jeremiah to prophesy to those
left behind. Ezekiel prophesied that Nebuchadnezzar would again conquer a rebellious Jerusalem and that this time virtually all of Judea would be exiled to Babylon. Many Jews doubted that God
would permit the destruction of his temple and dwelling place, but Ezekiel prophesied that God’s
Glory would reluctantly leave the temple, symbolizing God’s rejection of the Jews. His highly
symbolic language shows the Glory gradually withdrawing from the temple and Jerusalem,
eventually resting on the Mount of Olives.
cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple.
and moved to the threshold of the temple. The cloud filled the temple, and
the court was full of the radiance of the glory of the LORD. The sound of
the wings of the cherubim could be heard as far away as the outer court,
like the voice of God Almighty when he speaks.
threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim. While I
watched, the cherubim spread their wings and rose from the ground, and
as they went, the wheels went with them. They stopped at the entrance to the
east gate of the Lord’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them.
spread their wings, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them.
The glory of the LORD went up from within the city and stopped above
the mountain east of it.
Ezekiel next prophesied that one day the Glory would return to a new and better temple.
came to destroy the city and like the visions I had seen by the Kebar
River, and I fell facedown. The glory of the LORD entered the temple
through the gate facing east. Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me
into the inner court, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. While the
man was standing beside me, I heard someone speaking to me from
inside the temple. He said: “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the
place for the soles of my feet. This is where I will live among the Israelites forever."
However, history teaches us that when the Jews returned to Jerusalem under the
leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah and they rebuilt the temple, it was not filled with the Glory
when it was dedicated. The Jews were greatly disturbed by this and anxiously awaited the
coming of the Messiah, when they expected the Glory to return to God’s people.
Under the new covenant, each Christian and each congregation is a temple.
that God’s Spirit lives in you?
(1 Cor. 6:19a) Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy
Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?
become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built
together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Moreover, you can see that it is not the Glory that dwells in the new temple,
but the Spirit.
and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that
we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are
not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Paul says that each Christian has a “glory” within him that will be revealed at the end of
time. Read all of Romans 8. The chapter is written to tell Christians about the indwelling of the
Spirit, and this “Glory” clearly is the Spirit himself.
The identity of the Spirit and the Glory is made all the more evident in 1 Peter:
blessed, for the Spirit of Glory and of God rests on you.
This passage also recalls the tongues of fire that rested on the Apostles at Pentecost. The
fire in Acts 2 suggests the Glory of the Old Testament.
This thought is given its fullest description in 2 Corinthians. Paul recalls that when Moses
went to Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, he was in the presence of God’s Glory.
He returned to the Israelite camp with a brightly shining face. He covered his face with a veil.
covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the
Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry that brought death, which was
engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could
not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though
it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?
inferior because its Glory faded away.
(2 Cor. 3:9-11) If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much
more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was
glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if
what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of
that which lasts!
The Glory of the new covenant will never fade. Its Glory far exceeds the Glory of the old.
Therefore, the new covenant is superior to the old.
bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep
the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. … And
we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being
transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes
from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
“ever-increasing”! And both the Glory and the increase comes from the Lord, by means of the
God inspired the authors of the Bible to tell us that the Holy Spirit today represents the
Glory of the Old Testament. Moreover, our bodies represent the temple. And just as was true
under the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit literally dwells in the modern-day temple. This is not
symbolic or representational. It is as real and powerful as the coming of God’s Shekinah at the
dedications of the tabernacle and the temple.
God can dwell through his Glory both everywhere and especially in the Holy of Holies.
The Holy of Holies is where the people were redeemed from their sins on the Day of Atonement.
Thus, God had a special, powerful, redemptive, radiant presence in the temple. This is not
inconsistent with his omnipresence. It is consistent with his omnipotence. And as a Christian
grows, he is increasingly filled with the Spirit, and God’s Glory within him radiates all the
Review these passages, from 2 Corinthians, John, and Romans. Try to replace “Spirit” with “Word” in each case. The results are absurd!
not of the letter but of the Bible; for the letter kills, but the Bible gives life.
and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and
drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of
living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Bible, whom
those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Bible
had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
the Bible, if the Bible lives in you.... And if the Bible of him who raised
Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead
will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Bible, who lives in you.
(Rom. 8:26) In the same way, the Bible helps us in our weakness. We do
not know what we ought to pray for, but the Bible himself intercedes for
us with groans that words cannot express.
“Bible.” But there are very many verses dealing with the relationship of all Christians to God,
Jesus, and the Spirit that will not permit this treatment. Sure there are many things that the Spirit does that the Word does, but there are many important things that the Spirit does that the Word does not and cannot do. The Word does not save. The Spirit saves. The Word instructs us about the mind of the Spirit, but the Word neither leads, intercedes, gives life, nor resurrects.
I. Prayer and the Spirit
understanding prayer. But if your faith is strong enough for you to appreciate the power of
prayer, then you should be able to appreciate the Spirit’s power as well.
God with freedom and confidence ... . For this reason I kneel before the
Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your
hearts through faith.
was to be accomplished through the work of the Spirit in each Christian’s inner being, acting
may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long
and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that
surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the
fullness of God.
by this same Spiritual power:
all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,
to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all
generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
There is a power at work within all Christians—power through the Spirit in our inner
beings. And the Spirit empowers us beyond all we ask or imagine.
If Paul is writing about the Word, then he is saying that we are to read the Bible and
thereby learn about God’s love. But why is Paul praying? If God and the Spirit do nothing, and if
we come to our improved understanding through the power of diligent Bible study, we will learn
the same regardless of prayer. And if prayer does have an effect, then God has empowered us
through a means other than the Word!
If Paul is talking about the Word, then he is talking about something external to us that
we should make internal through study. But he says that what we need is already in us. If we
receive this power by learning from study, then how can we be empowered beyond all we ask or
imagine? If it depends entirely on human effort, how can the working of the Spirit exceed human capabilities?
If I learn about God’s love exclusively from the Bible, how can it surpass knowledge?
Under that theory, it’s only knowledge.
Paul says the same thing in Philippians:
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
How can we enjoy peace beyond our ability to understand if God only operates on our minds through our understanding? Why do we pray that God “guard, guide, and direct us”? Is this a scriptural prayer? How does God answer this prayer? Why pray that God give the preacher “a ready recollection” if God will not operate directly on his memory?
If God never operates directly on the heart of the Christian, then this guidance and direction must occur only through Bible study. If so, wouldn’t our prayer time be better spent reading our Bibles? After all, how can you believe that the prayer results in improved guidance and direction if God does nothing in response?
We in the Churches of Christ do not suppose that God grants a vision or verbatim prophecy in response to such a prayer. But we do believe that he empowers the Christian to be more open to his Word, to have a deeper, wider, and higher understanding of his revelation. And the empowerment is beyond the action of the Word itself—or else prayer means nothing.
When we pray that God heal a friend, we don’t think that our sick friend must read the Bible to be cured. If we ask God to guide the hands of the attending doctors, we don’t expect the doctors to read the Bible—we expect God to directly affect their hearts and minds to help them do a better job.
If God the Father can be active in history, help physicians heal our loved ones, improve our Bible study, and give preachers “a ready recollection”—all by direct operation on the hearts of people, why is there any problem with believing that sometimes God does these things through the agency of the Spirit?
with God? How does it affect how you feel about God’s presence?
2. Compare your body to the Old Testament temple. What are the similarities that allow
God to tell us that our bodies are temples?
3. Where do we worship God?
4. How is the presence of the Holy Spirit like the Glory that surrounds God in heaven?
5. How can your friends tell that God’s seal is on you?
6. How does the seal of the Spirit give you assurance of your salvation?
7. What makes living water “living”? Why is it like water?
8. How has John 4’s reference to living water been interpreted in your own experience? If
the interpretations you’ve heard in the past differ than the one offered in the book,
explain the justification for the contrary views.
9. How does the letter kill? Explain how the actions of the Spirit differ from the letter.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
The Churches of Christ have a serious problem with division, and we’ve had this problem for a long time. The controversies that are brewing today are merely symptoms of much deeper problems that are of very longstanding. Ultimately, these problems must come from a misunderstanding of the Bible and God’s will for us. Nonetheless, we can gain helpful insights into our situation by reviewing the history of our movement. Why are we the way we are?
In the early 1800’s, a number of religious movements developed in the American frontier, which then consisted of such “western” states as Kentucky and Illinois. Among these was a movement led by a former Presbyterian minister, Barton W. Stone. Stone came to reject the strict Calvinism1of 19th Century Presbyterianism as well as the constant division of the Presbyterian churches over doctrines and opinions. Stone called for Christians to give up their denominational ties and become Christians only. Differences of opinion would be tolerated among church members so long as the members professed faith in Jesus and evidenced their salvation by living the Christian lifestyle. Stone was a strong believer in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He felt that the one true test of salvation is whether the Holy Spirit has been received by the believer as evidenced by Christian living.
Shortly after Stone began his work, a similar movement was founded by Thomas Campbell and his son, Alexander, who worked unaware of Stone’s efforts. Thomas Campbell was also a former Presbyterian minister who had also come to reject Calvinism and the divisive attitudes prevalent in the Presbyterian Church of the day.
Alexander soon became the intellectual champion of this movement and developed a national reputation for his debates on religious issues. He came to the conclusion that baptism by immersion was essential to salvation. Thus, Campbell emphasized baptism as the true test of whether a believer has been saved. Campbell believed, however, that a penitent believer who, out of ignorance, had not been baptized would be saved. Stone shared this view.
These conclusions caused Campbell to cooperate with Baptist churches. The Baptists,like Campbell, taught and still teach that baptism is to be administered only to believers and,therefore, not to infants. Moreover, like Campbell, they teach that “baptism” in the Bible means immersion and do not consider sprinkling or pouring to constitute baptism in the Biblical sense.
The Stone and Campbell movements soon overlapped territories, with many towns having congregations of both persuasions. Many within the Stone movement became persuaded as to Campbell’s beliefs regarding baptism, and soon efforts were being made to unite the congregations into a common fellowship.
Campbell was initially reluctant to condone a merger. However, the churches were eager to merge, and many merged without his blessings. Because both movements also stressed that each church is completely independent (congregational autonomy), neither leader had any authority to prohibit or compel a merger of the movements. But eventually the two men came to recommend the merger gladly. The combined movements came to be known as the Restoration Movement. Today, scholars usually refer to the “Stone-Campbell Movement,” as there are otherdenominations that were founded in an effort to restore First Century Christianity.
Among the issues that had concerned Stone and Campbell was the differing emphasis on the Holy Spirit by the two movements. The Stone movement emphasized each Christian’s relationship with the Spirit. But Campbell was clearly uncomfortable with the non-rational nature of the indwelling. Campbell emphasized that the Spirit did not provide any revelation other than through the Word of God as revealed through scripture. Campbell thus saw the Spirit as working exclusively through the Bible, denying any supernatural agency separate from the Bible.
The leaders also disagreed on the name of the church (Christian Church vs. Disciples of Christ) and the name of the members (Christians or Disciples). Stone rejected the usual statement of the nature of the trinity (God in three persons, but one essence) found in the Nicene Creed and seemed to many to be a Unitarian (God in one person). Campbell held premillenialist views(Christ will return and reign for 1,000 years). They disagreed on the nature of the atonement(how man is saved) and the necessity for ordained ministers. These and other more subtle differences were put aside, with the men agreeing to “think and let think” and to preach and write only on those subjects that would edify the church. Although each was the publisher of a periodical that was highly influential in the Movement, in the interest of unity each chose to avoid the temptation toward controversies over theological speculation.
When the merger was approved by the leaders of the two movements, a large portion of the Stone movement, perhaps more than half, refused to go along. These churches refused to accept Campbell’s insistence on baptism as essential to salvation and his minimization of the role of the Spirit.
The combined movement, known most commonly as the Disciples of Christ or Christian Church in the North and as the Churches of Christ in the South, was greatly invigorated by the merger and spread rapidly throughout the country as the young nation expanded westward and into the Deep South.
Unlike most denominations, the movement did not divide over slavery during the Civil War. Following the war, while the northern churches were prospering, the southern churches remained relatively poor due to the losses caused by the Civil War, Reconstruction, and related factors.
By 1900 many of the northern churches had begun to build elaborate church buildings and use organs and pianos. Very few Protestant churches had the benefit of either before the Civil War, because the frontier cities were small and instruments were expensive. Moreover,most of the Protestant churches had long histories of rejecting the use of instruments in congregational worship. (In fact, Huldrich Zwingli, among the earliest leaders of the Reformation, rejected congregational singing as well as the instrument, believing the Bible taught Christians to make music in their hearts—only. Martin Luther personally opposed the use of instruments but felt that the Bible did not bind a prohibition and refuse to approve insistence on First Century practices.)
The wealth and size of the northern cities allowed the northern Restoration churches to afford not only buildings and instruments, but also nice clothes for Sunday attendance and fulltime preachers. Alexander Campbell was a scathing critic of dressing up for church! (“Worshipping Assemblies—No. I,” Millennial Harbinger (1839), reprinted in John Allen Hudson, editor, ThePioneers on Worship (The Old Paths Book Club, 1947).
Moreover, many of the northern churches organized a national missionary society to solicit funds and support foreign missions. A national missionary society had been begun before the Civil War and had been strongly supported by Campbell himself. Campbell had been elected president of this society, but he was too infirm from age to actively serve in this capacity. The opponents of the society claimed that Campbell’s support was the result of infirmity due to his old age and that the young Alexander Campbell would never have supported such an innovation.However, Campbell plainly supported the founding of this institution.
In the late 19th Century, the Gospel Advocate, published in Nashville, Tennessee, became the most influential periodical among the southern churches. For many years, David Lipscomb served as its editor, and his writings have a tremendous impact on the southern churches even today. Under Lipscomb, the Advocate stoutly rejected the instrument and missionary societies,and the southern churches followed its lead.
The southern churches and not a few of the northern churches found these changes to be unscriptural as adding elements to the worship not authorized by scripture (instrumental music),as wasteful of God’s resources (elaborate church buildings and Sunday finery), or as creating institutions to do the work that the Bible contemplated would be done by local churches(missionary societies). Because both branches of the Restoration Movement insisted on congregational autonomy, neither group could formally “join” or “leave” the Restoration Movement.
By the turn of the century, the division was very real in the minds of most churches. In1906 the Advocate advised the Census Bureau that the Churches of Christ (as most southern churches were known) were no longer affiliated with the instrumentalist churches and should be considered a separate denomination. This decision formalized what was already largely an accomplished fact.
Just before the “formal” split, the Restoration Movement had some 1,600,000 members and was one of the largest Christian organizations within the United States. Between 150,000and 300,000 of these were members of non-instrumental churches.
Many within the instrumentalist Disciples of Christ came under the influence of liberalism in the early 20th Century. Liberalism is the view that the Bible is not inspired, that Jesus was not a real person, but an ideal, and that most of the Bible is not historical. This view came to dominate most mainline denominations in the early 20th Century, and still carries a great deal, of influence within many of the older Protestant Churches. This thinking eventually led the Disciples to divide into the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (which has a denominational structure, does not require baptism, and while not formally liberal, accepts those of liberal beliefs) and the conservative independent Christian (which is very similar to the Churches of Christ except for the use of the instrument and, in many cases, missionary societies).
Until about World War I, the Gospel Advocate counseled a broad view of fellowship,teaching that the Baptists’ practice of baptism to obey God (as opposed to the Churches of Christ’s teaching that baptism is for remission of sins), although reflecting an erroneous understanding of baptism, is sufficient to save. The Firm Foundation was founded in Texas to oppose this teaching. However, sometime after World War I, the Advocate came to teach that only those churches that followed the Biblical patterns of worship (meaning the assembly) and congregational organization were a part of the true church of Christ, and that those churches that use an instrument, join missionary societies, or the like do not bear the “marks” of the true church, are not the true church, and are not saved.
Under this line of reasoning, many churches sought to assure their salvation by taking great pains to do nothing not specifically authorized in the scriptures. After all, any “going beyond that which is written” (1 Cor. 4:6) would cost them their very souls! Thus, at various times some churches chose to reject the following as unauthorized:
• Paid preachers (as being equivalent to a single elder, when the Bible requires a plurality of elders).
• Use of multiple communion cups (Jesus only used one; single cup promotes unity).• Use of song books (not found in the Bible).
• Sunday School (a denominational practice not used by anyone until the 19th Century, not found in the Bible, and contrary to the Biblical example of teaching all church members in a single class).
• Christian colleges (the local church is the only scriptural educational institution).
• Sunday School literature other than the Bible (they didn’t use lesson books or flannel graphs in the New Testament).
Many churches divided over these and similar issues. It was felt that division was better than “condoning” sin by staying together with those who insisted on participating in unauthorized practices. Those who objected to a practice were called “anti’s” by those who approved the practice. Those who opposed a practice called those favoring the practice“digressives” or “liberals.”
The experience of the Disciples of Christ with actual liberalism was well known.Influential periodicals argued that those who disagreed with a more conservative view could not disagree for Biblical reasons, since the arguments made by the conservative must be obvious to even the densest of readers. Therefore, those who disagree must do so by doubting the truth of what the Bible so plainly says on the subject. Therefore, all who disagree are liberals. And all liberals are going to hell. Thus, although the Churches of Christ had no denominational organization or structure, the editors of Church periodicals became de facto archbishops, with the power to excommunicate those who dared disagree with a stroke of a venomous pen.
During the 1930’s, a concerted effort was made to re-unite the instrumentalist independent Christian Churches with the non-instrumentalist Churches of Christ. These efforts were led by Claude E Witty, of the Westside Central Church of Christ in Detroit, and James DeForest Murch, of the independent Christian Church. The issues that the participants considered to be the basis of division were: instrumental music, missionary societies and similar organizations, the organized Sunday School, the pastor system, raising money by giving suppers,choirs, solos, and similar special singing, and the name of the church.
A number of “unity meetings” were held seeking a reconciliation of the two branches of the Restoration Movement. The largest of all the unity meetings was planned to be held in Detroit—the “big meeting”—in an effort to bring the reconciliation efforts to a head. The Gospel Advocate published articles by Witty and also articles by those who opposed the unity efforts.Typical of those opposing the efforts is an article by W. E. Brightwell, stating,
Did it ever occur to you, Brother Witty, that with the same amount of sacrifice of convictions necessary to unite with the Christian Church we can fellowship every sect on earth that acknowledges the name of Christ? In preparation for the big meeting, invitations to prominent church leaders were sent out.
H. Leo Boles, the editor of the Gospel Advocate, was chosen to give the keynote address for the Churches of Christ. Boles spoke to the assembled men and women of the Christian Church who had traveled to the meeting to seek unity in Christ, and said, 'You know where you left the Churches of Christ; hence you know where to find them; come back and unity is the inevitable result. There will be no compromise or surrender on this point. The Churches of Christ, as long as they are loyal to the New Testament, cannot compromise on this or any other point so clearly taught in the New Testament.'
The Witty/Murch unity effort soon collapsed.
After World War 2, the South began to prosper, due to the benefits of the military experience, education becoming available under the G.I. Bill, the development of the South under such Roosevelt programs as the Rural Electrification Authority, and perhaps most importantly, the invention of air conditioning. At the same time, the Churches of Christ grew rapidly and probably caught up with the instrumentalist branch of the Movement (exact membership data is impossible to get).
The dramatic changes in American society and the entire world following World War II made many Americans open to Christianity. The Churches began a number of important initiatives, including the establishment of orphans homes (especially needed following World War II and the Korean War) and the “Herald of Truth,” a national television show sponsored cooperatively by many members and congregations of the Churches of Christ.
Many churches came to believe that orphans homes and television programs could not be supported from church funds (since these were not works of a local congregation but of distinct institutions). Soon countless congregations had divided over these very emotional issues.
During the 1950’s another unity effort was made, with the primary focus being to cause the two sides of the orphans home and “Herald of Truth” dispute to recognize one another as brothers and cooperate. This effort was lead by W. Carl Ketcherside of St. Louis, who was anticooperative,anti-Christian college, and anti-fulltime preacher. Although the cooperatives have since largely come to accept the salvation of the anti-cooperatives, during the 1950’s, when emotions were high, both sides tended to consider the other lost in sin for its false teaching, both sides seeing no distinction between the anti-cooperative controversy and the instrumental and missionary society disputes. Ketcherside’s efforts were rejected by the Churches of Christ as a whole, so much so that even today many preachers opposing unity efforts conclude their published articles by branding their opponents guilty of “Ketcherside-ism.”
In 1976 Monroe E. Hawley’s Redigging the Wells was published, sounding similar themes to Witty and Ketcherside:
'However, many do not realize that God also extends his grace to doctrinal matters. Some reason that when doctrinal error is persisted in there is no repentance displayed and without repentance there can be no forgiveness. This betrays a misconception of the nature of repentance. ...One cannot repent of what he does not know to be wrong. ... Likewise, many honest people persist in doctrinal error because they have never learned that it is error. If they were convinced they were wrong, they would change. Who has the right to avow how far the Lord will or will not go in extending clemency to his children in either moral or doctrinal error?'
Many members of the Churches of Christ became persuaded of the soundness of Hawley’s arguments through his writings (Ketcherside’s writings did not receive wide circulation among the cooperative churches), but at least in the South, his views were distinctly a minority position until recently.
During the 1970’s and 1980’s, under the editorship of Reuel Lemmons, the Firm Foundation began publishing articles along the same lines as Hawley’s views, and thus the Texas and other western churches (where the Firm Foundation had the greatest influence)became much more likely to agree with the “unity” position. In the South, where the Gospel Advocate continued to be the trend-setting publication, very few congregations accepted the seviews, but rather the narrower view of grace was still considered not only sound, but unquestioned. Very few southern Church of Christ members were even aware that there had been or continued to be any controversy, because the ongoing efforts toward a reunification of the Restoration Movement were largely ignored by church periodicals widely read within the southern churches.
Thus, Rubel Shelly’s publication of I Just Want to be a Christian in 1984 was a major event in the South but less so out west. Shelly had been a respected preacher and author for many years and was considered very conservative in his views. His “soundness” was beyond question. Some even considered him to be something of a legalist. However, this book placed him squarely in the Witty/Ketcherside/Hawley camp and did so in a manner that could not be ignored.
Shelly wrote, "The universal church of God is made up of individuals—not groups, parts of groups, subsets within larger units, etc.—who have turned from Satan to God, from error to truth, from evil to righteousness. Specifically, it is made up of every person who has been born anew of the water and the Spirit. ...[A Christian] breaks his or her fellowship with the body by embracing adoctrine which denies one or more of the essential elements of the Christian faith. These 'essential elements' are the fundamental issues identified by Paul in his famous unity passage of Ephesians 4:4-6. Having these seven things in common, Christians really are in partnership with one another in spiritual things."
The unity question had been swept under the rug in the South for many years, but now the issue became very public indeed. Many who had harbored views similar to Shelly’s were emboldened to take more public stands, and the issue struck a responsive chord among many members other than preachers and intellectuals.
The controversy continues today, with the issues being debated vigorously and, at times viciously.
From 1980 until 2006, the Churches of Christ grew 2.6% (total, not per year). This is all the more remarkable in light of the fact that sociologists and church growth experts have determined that people are most receptive to the gospel or a change in church affiliation during times of change, and these have been three decades of great change.
During this same time, the Baptist, Pentecostal, independent Christian Churches, and Mormon churches have grown greatly, as have many other fundamentalist churches.
Moreover, thousands have left the traditional “mainline” churches, such as the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches, to form independent congregations, each seeking to restore New Testament Christianity as well as they know how. Never has the United States been more receptive to the historic plea of the Churches of Christ that Christians come out of the denominations and be Christians only.
But we have been too busy fighting among ourselves to be effective in letting the world know what we stand for. We aren’t even sure ourselves.
By the 1970’s, many in the “mainline” Churches of Christ, those that reject missionary societies and instruments but accept congregational cooperation, congregational support of orphans homes and missions, Christian colleges, full-time ministers, and Sunday Schools, had begun a fresh study of the Holy Spirit and the doctrine of grace, driven in large part, I believe, by the loss of members to Pentecostal churches and concern over the lack of evangelical zeal within the Churches of Christ, as well as the increasing availability of modern-English translations. The new translations and continually increasing educational standards made church members much less reliant on preachers and editors for interpretation of scripture.
The mainline Churches of Christ now appear headed for another split. Some would say that the split has already occurred. Many churches still follow the narrower view of grace promoted by the Gospel Advocate. Others wish to take a much freer interpretation of God’s grace and come closer to the views of Stone and Campbell. Both accuse the other of basing their views on emotion (an alleged unhealthy attachment to the past versus an alleged undisciplined, false concept of “love”). Those pursuing a broader view of grace have sometimes been guilty of “cheap grace,” the notion that grace allows Christians to be lazy and uncommitted to Jesus, since God’s grace will supposedly cover this sin. The conservatives’ fear of being wrong often closes their minds to persuasion. Moreover, since the conservatives often believe that any error at all will lead to damnation, the less conservative teachings of the others are considered by them to be not only wrong but extremely dangerous.
This perception of both danger and error is driving the Churches toward a split that maybe irrevocable. Once the two sides divide and, therefore, stop talking, there will be little chance for either side to learn from the other or to reconcile.
After all, there has never been a doctrinal split within the Churches that has later beenhealed. We still have no-Sunday School congregations, anti-cooperative congregations, one cup congregations, foot washing congregations, and holy kiss congregations.
While I was finishing work on this book, a congregation near my home town split overexactly these issues. The preacher implied in a sermon that the Baptists are saved. One side chose to follow the preacher while the other side declared their intention to be a “mainstream Church of Christ.” They evidently concluded that they could not meet as one church of our Lord while they disagreed over this matter.
Jesus tells us that a house divided against itself cannot stand. He was referring to Satan and his demons, but he could just as well have been referring to the Church of Christ today. We are divided against ourselves if anyone ever has been, and our fate has been prophesied if we donothing about it!
2. Is it possible for all those within the Restoration Movement to agree on all Biblicalissues? Could all members of the “mainline” Churches of Christ ever agree on all Biblicalissues?
3. If we can’t all agree, what determines whether a church must split when its membersdisagree and can’t come to an agreement? Are there some issues that we must agree on?Are there some that we can agree to disagree about?
4. How can the excessive influence of the editors of church periodicals be remedied?
5. How can the various divisions within the Churches of Christ and the RestorationMovement be healed?
6. Would God’s kingdom be better off if these divisions were healed? Why or why not?