Holy Ghost Baptism
Who Is The Holy Spirit
By: David K. Bernard
Since Pentecostals are identified by a strong emphasis on the Holy Spirit, the question arises, What or who is the Holy Spirit? Various groups have defined the Holy Spirit as an abstract principle, an impersonal force, a fluid like substance, an angel, a subordinate divine being, or the third person in a triune Godhead. But what does the Bible say?
GOD IN SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY
God is “the Holy One” (Isaiah 54:5). Only God is holy in Himself; all other Holy beings derive their holiness from Him. Furthermore, God is Spirit (John 4:24), and there is only one Spirit of God (Ephesians4:4). The title of Holy Spirit describes the fundamental character of God’s nature, for holiness forms the basis of His moral attributes while spirituality forms the basis of His non moral attributes. Thus it describes God Himself, the one Holy Spirit.
For example, Peter told Ananias and Sapphira that they had lied to “to the Holy Ghost” and then said they had lied “unto God” (Acts 5:3-4).Similarly Paul wrote, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” and then, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?” (1 Corinthians 3:16;6:19).
The Bible calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of the LORD (Jehovah), “my(Jehovah) spirit,” “the Spirit of God” and “his (God’s) holy Spirit”(Isaiah 40:13; Joel 2:28; Romans 8:9; I Thessalonians 4:8). These phrases show that the Spirit is not distinct from God but rather pertains to God or is God Himself in Spiritual essence. For example, when we speak of the spirit of a man, we do not refer to another person but to the inward nature of the man himself. The man is his spirit and vice versa.
The Bible compares a man and his spirit to God and His Spirit: “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God” (I Corinthians 2:11). The former is not two persons, and neither is the latter. We speak of a man’s spirit in order to refer to his thoughts, character, or nature, but we do not thereby mean that his spirit is a different person from him or is any less than the total personality. Nor does speaking of God and His Spirit introduce a personal distinction or plurality in Him.
If the Holy Spirit is God Himself, why is this additional designation needed? What distinction of meaning is intended? The title specifically refers to God in spiritual activity, particularly as He works in ways that only a Spirit can.
The first biblical mention of the Spirit is a good example. Genesis1:1, speaking in general terms, says, “God created the heaven and the earth.” Genesis 1:2, focusing on a specific act of God, says, “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Important spiritual activities of God are regenerating, indwelling, sanctifying, and anointing humanity; thus we usually speak of the Holy Spirit in
connection with them. (See Acts 1:5-8.)
The roles of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are necessary to God’s plan of redemption for fallen humanity. In order to save us, God had to provide a sinless Man who could die in our place–the Son. In begetting the Son and in relating to humanity, God is the Father. And in working in our lives to transform and empower us, God is the Holy Spirit.
We should note that the titles Holy Ghost” and “Holy Spirit” are interchangeable; both are translations of the same Greek phrase. The King James Version uses the former more frequently, but it also uses the latter. (See Luke 11:13; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30.) The latter is usually more understandable to modern English speakers, especially those unfamiliar with the Bible. Frequently, the Bible simply speaks of “the Spirit.”
THE SPIRIT OF THE FATHER
The Bible identifies the Father and the Holy Spirit as one and the same being. The title of Holy Spirit simply describes what the Father is. There is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4). The “only true God” is the Father (John 17:3), and He is Spirit (John 4:24).
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father, not a different person from the Father. For example, Jesus said that in times of persecution God would give us proper words to say, “for it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Matthew 10:20). Jesus spoke of God as our Father in terms of personal relationship, but with reference to supernatural indwelling and anointing Jesus spoke of God as the Holy Spirit.
By definition, the one who begets (causes conception) is the father of the one begotten. The Holy Spirit is literally the Father of Jesus, for Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18, 20). If the Father and the Holy Spirit were two persons, then Jesus would have two fathers. When the Bible speaks of the man Christ Jesus in relationship to God it uses the title of Father, but when it speaks of God’s action in causing the baby Jesus to be conceived it uses the title of Holy Ghost so that there will be no mistake about the supernatural, spiritual nature of this work.
THE SPIRIT OF JESUS CHRIST
In Jesus Christ dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). Thus the Holy Spirit is literally the Spirit that was in the man Jesus Christ.
All of Christendom confesses that Jesus is Lord, and II Corinthians 3:17 plainly identifies the Lord as the Spirit: “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” The Bible also describes the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of Christ,” “the Spirit of his (God’s) Son,” and “the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6; Philippians 1:19). The way that Christ dwells in our hearts is as the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-11; Ephesians 3:14-17).
Trinitarians often point to John 14:16 as evidence that the Holy Spirit is a distinct person: “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.” But the context reveals that Jesus was speaking of Himself in another form–in Spirit rather than in flesh.
In the next verse He identified the Comforter as someone who already dwelt with the disciples: “Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:17). Jesus was the One whom they knew and who dwelt with them. The difference was that the Comforter would soon come in them, in a new relationship of spiritual indwelling rather than physical accompaniment.
And in the following verse Jesus plainly identified Himself as the Comforter: “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18).
Some trinitarians try to avoid this clear designation by saying Jesus was speaking of His physical return, either by the Resurrection or the Second Coming, but both explanations ignore the immediate context. Moreover, the Resurrection would have fulfilled the promise only for forty days, while the Second Coming would not have fulfilled the promise for many centuries, long after the listeners’ deaths. Clearly, Jesus spoke of coming and abiding in Spirit, as parallel promises show: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20); “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).
“HE SHALL NOT SPEAK OF HIMSELF”
Trinitarians also point to John 16:13 as evidence for an independent personality of the Holy Spirit: “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” The Greek text literally says, “He will not speak from Himself,” meaning, “He will not speak on His own
A trinitarian explanation of the verse is inadequate, however, for the third person would be in a very subordinate role and possibly would not even be omniscient, contrary to the trinitarian doctrine of coequality. He would not be able to say or know anything except what he received from another person. How then could this third person be God and have the power of God? In fact, this verse says the Spirit does not have independent authority or identity. He does not come under another name but in Jesus’ name (John 14:26).
In actuality, Jesus was describing the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the working of the Spirit in the believer. (See John 16:7.) It seems that He was trying to counter the tendency that sometimes arises among Spirit-filled people to think that they have some kind of supernatural authority in their own right. In other words, people who receive the Holy Spirit do not thereby have authority to establish any doctrine or teaching of their own. Though they may exercise the gifts of prophecy, tongues, and interpretation of tongues, the Spirit within them will not speak as a separate entity residing within them. Rather, the Spirit in them will only speak what is communicated by the mind of God-what is consistent with the Word of God.
To that extent, John 16:13 makes a conceptual (but not personal) distinction between God as Father, Lord, and Omniscient Mind and God in action, operation, or indwelling. The distinction is similar to that in Romans 8:26-27 and I Corinthians 2:10-16. The latter passage says we can know the mind of God by having the Spirit of God in us, for the Spirit of God knows the things of God. But, as we have already seen, the passage clearly does not envisage a personal distinction in the Godhead, for it compares God and His Spirit to a man and his spirit.
Romans 8:26-27 says, “The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” In other words, when the Spirit prompts us and speaks through us in intercessory prayer, we can have confidence that our prayers are in God’s will. The Spirit of God will certainly make intercession in accordance with the will of God, for the Spirit is God Himself working tn our lives. God will act in harmony with Himself as He first motivates our prayers and then hears and answers our prayers.
Pentecostals are sometimes accused of glorifying the Holy Spirit at the expense of Jesus Christ. Oneness Pentecostals are certainly not guilty of this charge, for we recognize that God is one Spirit and that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the risen, living Christ. Receiving the Holy Spirit is the way we receive Jesus Christ into our lives.
We do not have two or three divine spirits in our hearts, nor can we identify distinct religious experiences with each of three divine persons. Both the Bible and personal experience tell us that there is one Spirit, the Spirit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As our Father, God has told us how to live; in the Son God has shown us how to live and provided an atonement for our sins; and as the indwelling Holy Spirit God enables us to live for Him every day.
(The above material appeared in a June, 1989 issue of the Pentecostal Herald.)
THE INITIAL EVIDENCE OF THE HOLY GHOST
By: J. L. Hall
The spark that ignited and sustained the Pentecostal revival in this century is the belief that speaking with tongues is the initial evidence of a person being filled with the Holy Ghost. Without this specific belief, it is not likely that the twentieth-century Pentecostal movement would have come to birth. Moreover, without this inseparable link to the gift of the Spirit, the sporadic occurrences of speaking with tongues probably would not have attracted any more attention today than they did among the followers of John Wesley, George Whitefield, Edward Irving, and others.
As vital as the doctrine of the initial evidence has been to the Pentecostal movement in this century, the more important question is, What is the scriptural basis that speaking with tongues is the initial evidence of the infilling of the Spirit?
Primarily, the initial evidence doctrine comes from four passages in the Book of Acts: (1) the coming of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2; (2) the revival in Samaria in Acts 8; (3) the outpouring of the Spirit on the household of Cornelius in Caesarea in Acts 10; and (4) the reception of the Holy Ghost by the disciples of John the Baptist at Ephesus in Acts 19. Other accounts, such Paul’s
experience (Acts 9) and writings (I Corinthians 12-14) are also important in studying the initial evidence.
THE DAY OF PENTECOST
When the Jewish disciples received the Holy Ghost on the Day of Pentecost, each person spoke with tongues as the Spirit gave him utterance (Acts 2:4). In response to the interest this unusual event created in Jerusalem, a large number of Jews, many who had come from other nations, crowded around the disciples. Confused, they questioned the apostles as to the meaning of the people speaking in foreign languages about the wonderful works of God.
The apostle Peter explained in his sermon that they were witnessing the fulfillment of prophecy: “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh. . .” (Acts 2:16-17). His answer linked speaking with tongues to the gift of the Holy Ghost.
He made the same association between speaking with tongues and the gift of the Spirit later in his sermon: “Therefore being by the right hand exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he (Jesus Christ) hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear” (Acts 2:33). Peter identified the sign of speaking with tongues as the evidence that the disciples had received the “promise of the Holy Ghost.”
Acts 2:4 clearly states that the Spirit gave the disciples the utterance of “other tongues”: “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” The Spirit gave them utterance–a sign manifesting His indwelling presence.
AMONG THE SAMARITANS
The biblical record does not state that the people in Samaria spoke with tongues when they received the Holy Ghost, but it does support that conclusion. Several important observations need to be made: (1) Although the Samaritans believed Philip’s preaching about Jesus Christ, they did not received the Holy Ghost at the moment of their faith; (2) The Samaritans did not received the Holy Ghost when they were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ; (3) The miracles of deliverance and healings brought great joy to the people in Samaria, but this joy was neither the Holy Ghost nor the evidence of their receiving the Holy Ghost; (4) Philip and the apostles knew that not one Samaritan received the Holy Ghost until Peter and John came from Jerusalem and laid hands on them in prayer; (5) Philip and the apostles accepted only one particular outward sign that revealed when each person received the Holy Ghost.
How did Philip, Peter, and John know that not one of the Samaritan had received the Holy Ghost although the people believed, were baptized, experienced miracles of deliverance, and had great joy? Obviously the essential evidence was missing. The two apostles were so sure about the matter that they laid hands on the baptized converts and prayed for them to receive the Holy Ghost. But it was not the laying on of hands or even their prayers that signified that the people received the Holy Ghost. The evidence had to emanate from the person who received the Spirit.
The passage is clear that the evidence received in Acts 8 was outward and not merely an inner witness. When the apostles laid hands in prayer upon individual Samaritans, the sign was evident to all, not merely to the person receiving the Holy Ghost or only to the spiritually sensitive, but to everyone, even to Simon the Sorcerer:
“When Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8:18-19). The sign was more than an inner feeling for even believers from Jerusalem and a wicked person in Samaria witnessed the sign of the infilling Spirit. And the sign was clearly supernatural, for a sorcerer was sufficiently impressed that he sought to purchase the ability to bestow it.
While no specific sign is mentioned in Acts 8, it is evident from a comparison of this event with others in Acts that the expected evidence was speaking with tongues. Since the apostles knew that the people had not received the Holy Ghost, they must have also known what sign to expect when they were filled. Although not named in this passage, the sign is still required. We can only believe that the same
sign given in Acts 2, 10, and 19 is the same sign expected in Acts 8.
The sign comes to each person individually as he receives the Spirit; although several persons may receive the Holy Ghost at the same time, each person will have his own experience accompanied by the sign emanating out of that experience. In other words, the gift of the Holy Ghost is not to the group collectively but to individuals that form the group. As the infilling of the Spirit is personal so is the sign personal.
In order for the sign to be the evidence of the supernatural it must itself be supernatural. Moreover, the sign must be a manifestation of the experience it signifies. The indwelling Spirit works the miracles of regeneration and transformation, and the same Spirit miraculously gives the sign of His presence in the person.
AMONG THE GENTILES
When Peter received the call to preach to the Gentiles in Caesarea, he was not easily convinced to go. The thought of Gentiles being saved was foreign if not distasteful for a Jew, and Peter knew that the other apostles and church people would not readily understand his preaching to them. Nevertheless, six Jewish believers went with him to Caesarea. Since he was convinced that God was directing him, he entered the home of Cornelius, but he did not expect the sudden outpouring of the Holy Ghost. He had only begun his message when the Holy Ghost fell on Cornelius and his household.
What sign convinced Peter and the Jewish believers with him that the Gentiles received the Holy Ghost? The answer is stated in the text: “And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished . . . because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God” (Acts 10:45-46). When they heard the Gentile speak with tongues, they knew that God had filled them with the Spirit.
When the Gentiles spoke with tongues, Peter had his answer to the questions he knew would come from the other apostles and leaders: “Forasmuch then as God gave them the gift as he did unto us, who
believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?” (Acts 11:17). He pointed to the unmistakable sign that God had indeed filled the Gentiles with the Spirit, and no one would expect Peter or anyone else to act contrary to God’s divine plan.
It can safely be assumed that speaking with tongues was the only sign that would convince the early Christians that the Holy Ghost had fallen on the Gentiles. For one thing, it was the sign of their own
experience that began on the Day of Pentecost. And it was this Pentecostal pattern that Peter used to convince the other apostles and leaders that the Gentiles had in reality received the Holy Ghost. Peter said, “And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us “at the beginning” (Acts 11:15). In other words, the Gentiles received the Holy Ghost after the pattern established on the Day of Pentecost–that is, they spoke with tongues of the Spirit gave them utterance.
Peter’s appeal to Pentecostal pattern reveals that the early church accepted speaking with tongues in Act 2 as God’s pattern or sign to be experienced by every person who is filled with the Holy Ghost.
THE EXPERIENCE AND TEACHINGS OF PAUL
Did Paul agree with the other apostles? The answer is found in Acts 19. When he arrived in Ephesus, he found twelve disciples of John the Baptist. One of the first questions he asked concerned the matter of receiving the Holy Ghost: “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” (Acts 19:2). He did not question their faith, although it was flawed by incomplete knowledge and understanding. But he did expect them to face their need to receive the Holy Ghost.
When the twelve disciples confessed that they had not even heard of the coming of the Spirit, Paul related to them the gospel of Jesus Christ. The men believed and were baptized in the name of Jesus. But since they did not speak with tongues, Paul knew that they had not received the Holy Ghost. For this reason, he laid his hands on them just as Peter and John had laid their hands on the people in Samaria. He looked for the one sign, and he was not disappointed. When the Spirit came upon the men, they “spake with tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:6). Believing was not the evidence, nor was water baptism. The only God-given sign was speaking with tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
From a comparison of Acts 2, Acts 8, Acts 10 and Acts 19, it is evident that Paul, Peter, John, and the other apostles and leaders agreed that the sign of speaking with tongues is the initial evidence of the infilling of the Holy Ghost. They did not confuse the evidence of baptism of the Holy Ghost with faith, repentance, water baptism, miracles of deliverances and healing, or even an inner feeling of joy.
Some critics point to the account of Paul’s conversion in Acts 9 to raise doubts about the initial evidence of speaking with tongues. There is no mention of Paul speaking with tongues in this passage as it is not a description of his receiving the Holy Ghost. Later, however, in his epistle to the Corinthians he affirms that he indeed experienced speaking with tongues as the Spirit gave him utterance (I Corinthians 14:18).
Only a biased person would attempt to twist Paul’s words of instruction in I Corinthians 14 to mean that he condemned speaking with tongues. There is not one hint in Paul’s writings that a person should not speak with tongues; indeed, Paul endorsed speaking with tongues as from God. Moreover, he extolled its blessings in both private prayer and church gatherings.
The teaching of I Corinthians 14 is not that speaking with tongues is wrong or that it should be avoided but that Christians should not abuse the function and purpose of speaking with tongues, especially in public gatherings. Those who attempt to discredit speaking with tongues in general usually try to make speaking with tongues among the Corinthians essentially different from speaking with tongues on the Day of Pentecost. But speaking with tongues is the same whether it serves as evidence of the indwelling Spirit or functions as the gift of “divers kinds of tongues.” Differences in purpose and function exist, but the same Spirit gives the utterance.
It is interesting to note that Paul applied the prophecy in Isaiah 28:11 to speaking with tongues in the New Testament church: “In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not” (I Corinthians 14:21-22).
Using this prophecy, Paul wrote that speaking with tongues is a sign, a sign by which God speaks to His people about the “rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and…the refreshing” (Isaiah 28:12). Is not this the same rest that Jesus promised to those who “labor and are heavy laden”? (See Matthew 11:28.) Does it not also indicate that a person has not entered into the “rest” of God until he has experienced speaking with tongues as the Holy Ghost gives him the utterance?
Since in the early church the sign of speaking with tongues was the only accepted evidence that a person had received the Holy Ghost, we should follow the same teaching. We must remember that the pattern was established by God on the Day of Pentecost, and that the apostles accepted it as the pattern for the church.
If anyone teaches contrary to the pattern established by God and proclaimed by the apostles, he is not building on the foundation of Jesus Christ. No Christian can deviate from the truths established of the Bible by precept and example, including those in the Book of Acts, and be pleasing to God. Other signs and wonders may convince both believers and unbelievers of God’s presence among the people, but speaking with tongues is the only initial evidence that the Spirit has come to dwell in a person.
(The above material appeared in an August, 1989 issue of the
WHO CAN DENY AN EXPERIENCE
By: Russell R. Wisehart
One of the strongest, yet simplest proofs for the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues is the experience itself.
Many have tried to explain away this Pentecostal phenomenon. Libraries could be filled with the writings of those who have gone around in theological circles demonstrating what Pentecost was not, is not, and could not be.
But of the countless attempts by armchair theologians and others to explain away the Promise of the Father, not one, to my knowledge, has ever been able to attack it successfully from the standpoint of the actual experience. And yet, that the experience does exist is an undeniable and, to some, an uncomfortable fact. Like the rulers and elders in Jerusalem, who were embarrassed and amazed at Peter’s anointed preaching (Acts 4), the opponents of the Pentecostal experience have often been grieved at this teaching. In many cases they have opposed the proponents of this doctrine because of its utter unacceptableness in their religious circles.
They attempt to explain away the fulfillment of Joel’s Prophecies concerning the Pentecostal outpouring. They charge these unlearned and ignorant men to cease their babblings and act like sober, mature, intelligent men. Yet as they confer together concerning what they consider this distasteful conduct, they are increasingly aware of a nagging certainty. They cannot evade it. They close their eyes and stop their ears, but it is still there. It keeps returning until they must face the facts.
Despite their excellent sermonizing and their neat theological interpretations, despite their logical and reasonable explanations and their fine exegesis, here before them stands a man who has had a real experience with God and they cannot deny it.
What to do? Like the man born blind (John 9), the Spirit-baptized believer may be brought again and again before the religious leaders and asked to renounce his position. They should remember the former blind man’s simple question, “How can one deny the Healer when the healing is definite and real?”
One outstanding, unquestionable fact had been established, even to the fear and chagrin of his own parents. This man had been totally blind; now he could see.
We paraphrase the words of the once-blind man to say to those who would doubt the reality of the Pentecostal experience : “Why, herein is a marvelous thing. You say God does not fill individuals with the Holy Spirit today, and yet He has done it.” Over and over again He has performed this miracle. He has included not only the unlearned and ignorant, but businessmen, professional men, persons in high places, college graduates, seminary students, and others whose hearts are open. Men of all walks of life and many denominations are experiencing the infilling of the Holy Spirit in these days. They testify, “We may not understand completely; we cannot explain it fully; but this one thing we know, that whereas once we were thirsty and hungry, now we are filled.”
Hunger and thirst are important prerequisites for receiving the fullness of the Spirit. A hunger and a thirst for a deeper, fuller experience with God brings a spiritual reality into our lives we never knew existed–a new dimension we had never penetrated. “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink,” Jesus said, speaking of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39).
The baptism of the Spirit cannot be explained. The experience cannot be coldly analyzed. It cannot be compressed into neat outline form. But for those who, with David, desire to fix their hearts upon the
Lord, for those who desire to be “filled with all the fullness of God,” to know the length and breadth and height of His love-for such “there is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad” the hungering, thirsting people of God.
The river of salvation flows from the very heart of God. The river of the Holy Spirit flows from the throne room of the Father. Jesus said, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16:7). Perhaps one reason no one has ever been able to eradicate this precious experience from the Church is that they have been unable to reach the heavenly source.
And so it shall always be. Men will continue to attack and to deemphasize. They will attempt to damage and destroy this doctrine. However, as Pentecostal believers continue to live in the Spirit, giving their lives for the cause of the gospel, those who oppose it will still have to ask themselves, in words not too far removed from those of the elders of Israel so long ago, “What shall we do to these men ! for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all . . . and we cannot deny it” (Acts 4:16).
How can anyone deny the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues when millions testify it is a real experience!
(The above material appeared in a September, 1974 issue of the Pentecostal Herald.)
By: Kenneth Bow
Ephesians 2:8. “It is the Gift of God.”
God in His kindness has bestowed upon mankind many gifts. I would like to talk about three of His great gifts.
The first one is mentioned in this verse of Ephesians. It is the gift of Grace. Grace is “the Gift of God.” It is unmerited. It is free. It is wonderful.
How can any of us fully understand the real value of God’s grace. Back in the 18th century, a devout mother knew her years of life were soon to end. She taught her young son all that she knew about God and the Christian life.
She died when her son was seven. Her son rejected his mother’s teaching. He went to sea and eventually became the captain of a slave trading ship.
His crew soon became disgusted with the depravity of his actions. One day he fell overboard while he was drunk. They rescued him by throwing a harpoon into him and pulled him back into the ship.
From that day on John Newton walked with a limp. After he embraced Christianity every step on his bad leg reminded him of God’s matchless grace to a wretched sinner.
He is the composer of hundreds of hymns. His most famous is “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.”
Truly God’s grace is Amazing! It is one of His greatest gifts to mankind.
The second gift I’d like to mention is found in Acts 2:38. “Ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Without any doubt this is one of God’s greatest gifts.
According to Acts 1:8 we know that the Holy Ghost gives us power. John 14:26 tells us it is a comforter. The eighth chapter of Romans reveals
the Holy Ghost will be our intercessor. When we don’t know what or how to pray, the spirit makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be understood.
You cannot even say that Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Ghost (I Corinthians 12:3).
The Holy Ghost is your ticket to Glory! It is the power that will translate us to another world. Ephesians 1:14 says that it seals us unto the day of redemption.
James 1:17 informs us every good gift is from above. Surely the Holy Ghost is one of God’s best gifts.
The third gift God gives to us that I would mention, is found in Jeremiah 3:15. “And I will give you Pastors.”
A godly pastor is one of God’s greatest gifts. The thirty-third chapter of Ezekial calls him a watchman. He is responsible to warn you of any approaching danger.
A good pastor will sometimes have to tell you no! Be thankful he is willing to say no. He is not a hireling. He is accountable to God!
Hebrews 13:17 instructs us to obey and submit to those that have the rule over us. God has always used men to lead his people. That’s why there was a Moses, a Joshua, Gideon, Sampson, Samuel, David, Daniel, John the Baptist, Peter, and Paul.
When God wanted to show us His ultimate expression of Love, He became a man! (John 3:16).
When God wanted to show you how much He loved you He gave you one of His greatest gifts. A pastor. A man. A man who cannot be bought or bribed. A man with convictions. A leader. He’s concerned about you. He loves you. Fie prays for you. He fights spiritual warfare for you.
There should be a very special place in your heart for your pastor. Don’t ever let people talk bad about him. Don’t listen to criticism about him or his family. See him for what he is–a gift from God.
There is a story in II Kings 3 that is beautiful. The King asked is there a man of God around. They replied, only Elisha. He poured water on the prophets hands. The King said, “Bring him.” The way to favor in the King’s eyes was by being the preacher’s friend. Are you a preacher’s friend? Do you lighten his load! The King of Kings will favor you if you are a friend to the preacher.
In II Kings chapter 4 there is the story of the woman who built a room on her house for the man of God. You need a special place in your heart for the preacher. When she did this, God gave her the deepest desire of her heart. A son! God blesses people who are loyal to the preacher.
Never utter a word of criticism about your pastor. Allow him to correct your children. Follow his advice. He is your spiritual Leader. He is a gift from God.
The early church gave all to the preachers. (Acts 4:34-35) They laid it at the Apostles’ feet. God saw to it that they reached their world. We need some Aarons and Hurs to hold up the hands of the man of God during the heat of the battle. Let your pastor know you are behind him and support him.
You will never know the burdens he carries, the hours spent in study, the days he fasts, the night spent in counseling, putting you above his family. When God loved you He did not give you St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, or Westminster Abby in London. He did not give you St. Peter’s Bascilica in Rome or the Pyramids, or the Eiffel Tower. He gave you His one invaluable gift. A man. A man who will love. And give. And pray. And care.
I personally do not believe you are right with God when you are wrong with your pastor. You need him. Hosea 12:13 says “by a prophet the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved.” It took a preacher to get you out of sin. It takes a preacher to keep you saved.
I know there are pastors who have gone bad. I also know of saints who have gone bad. But I still believe in saints. Pastors are God’s Plan. They are a gift of God.
Some time back I was at a meeting where a particularly stirring message was preached. At the conclusion of the message, tongues and interpretation went forth. I shall never forget it. God said “Say not they are just men, I have called them, they are my voice.” Pastors are the method God has chosen to speak to His people
I am acquainted with a preacher who had a man in his church who went on a 40-day fast. The preacher told me the man looked like he came out of a concentration camp at the end of this 40-day fast. When he had completed his fast, the next service at church he asked his pastor if he could pray for him. The pastor, a little uncertain, said alright. The man asked the pastor to step into another room for privacy. They did. This man, gaunt, thin, began to pray for his pastor. My heart melted when the pastor told me what he prayed. This man began to ask God to let every benefit, every good thing, that could come from his 40-day fast to go to his pastor and his pastor’s ministry. He asked God to not let the fast benefit his own life, only to benefit his pastor’s ministry. This man truly understood that a pastor is a gift from God.
Several years ago I was preaching a revival in California. Throughout the two weeks a backslidden lady had come and sat on the back row. She never moved. She never prayed. No tears. Nothing. I tried harder each night. The last night of that revival is a night I will never forget. I gave it my best. I have never preached harder than I did that night. When the altar call was given, every person in the building came to pray except this lady. She sat stony, silent. I was heart broken. I had tried so desperately. I wanted to reach her. She would not move. Weeping, I turned to pray. I remember asking God just one word. Through my tears I simply said, “Why?” God answered me. Vocally. His answer changed my life. When I asked, “why?”, God said to me, “That woman would be in hell tonight, except for…” and he named the Pastor of that church. It was so forceful I stopped praying. I looked at the pastor on the opposite side of the platform. He was curled up in a ball. His face was twisted in intercessory prayer. He was weeping. It washed over me. He is the only thing keeping her from hell and the judgement of God. That woman had no idea he was a gift from God to her. To help. To Save. To Pray. To Intercede. To Love. To Care.
Grace is a wonderful gift. The Holy Ghost is a gift from God. But without a pastor, a spiritual leader, an adviser, an example, a shepherd, the first two might not be enough. Thank God for the gift of a pastor.
(The above material appeared in a January, 1991 issue of the Gospel Tidings.)
Christian Information Network.”