Measures of the Spirit John 3:34

By Frazier Conley

Vol. 115, No. 11

In biblical language, especially in the OT and in the Gospels and Acts, often when the Spirit is said to come upon someone, the meaning is that the Spirit comes upon that one to bestow a gift of power. The angel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). This is typical phraseology in Holy Scripture (Num. 11:29; Judges 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 14:6; 15:14; 1 Sam. 19:20, 23; 1 Chron. 12:18, etc.). It is hardly correct to say that the Spirit himself is not present when he comes to bestow a measure of power. It is more accurate to seek to determine what role or office the Spirit chooses to take when he comes upon someone.

Further, it is entirely correct to speak of “measures” of the Spirit.

In Numbers 11 the text tells how God took “some of the Spirit” which he had given to Moses and put it on the seventy elders. Since the text (Num. 11:17, 25) speaks of taking “some of” the Spirit it is implied that they received a lesser measure of the Spirit than that possessed by Moses. The text says, “And when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did so no more” (Num. 11:25). Again it seems to be indicating that their gift of the Spirit was limited when compared to that of Moses.

It is related in Numbers 27:18ff that Joshua became vested with “some” of the authority of Moses, a measure of it. In the same way that Joshua was vested with some of his authority (Num. 27:18-20), so he was possessed of a measure of the Spirit: “And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the Spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands upon him [presumably in the events of Num. 11]; so the people of Israel obeyed him, and did as the Lord had commanded Moses” (Deut. 34:9). The text is careful to say however that though Israel followed the Spirit-endowed Joshua, yet there had not at any time, “arisen a prophet … in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great and terrible deeds which Moses wrought in the sight of all Israel” (Deut. 34:10-12). Certainly it is implied that Moses had a greater measure of the Spirit than Joshua or any other prophet of the Old Testament.

In 2 Kings 2:9-15, the text gives an account of the passing from Elijah to Elisha of a double portion of his spirit. Although the translators use a lower case “s” for spirit, there should be little doubt that the reference is to the prophetic Spirit of God as it, or he, resided in Elijah to empower prophetic gifts. Elisha received a “double portion,” implying again that greater or lesser measures of the Spirit dwelt in the prophets of the Old Testament.

In 1 Samuel 10:6 a promise was given to Saul, “the Spirit of the Lord will come mightily upon you, and you shall prophesy with them and be turned into another man.” It would appear that in saying “mightily” the conception is that the Spirit sometimes came less, and sometimes more powerfully upon recipients. It might again be noted that the text does not say that Saul received the prophetic gift of the Spirit, but that he received the Spirit himself for the purpose of being endowed with the gift of prophecy.

For the preparation of the tabernacle, the Lord bestowed the Spirit upon certain ones. The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Un, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze” (Ex. 31:1-4). It should be noted that Bezalel did not receive the Spirit so that he might have unlimited powers. The gifts were limited and measured and specific.

In the Old Testament, the Spirit came upon some to bestow gifts for conducting war (Judges 3:10) and on some to bestow physical strength (Judges 14:6, 19; 15:14).

The ancient Jewish rabbis also noted the existence of measures of the Spirit in the OT prophets. Rabbi Acha said, “The Holy Spirit, who rests on the prophets, rests [on them] only by weight … [by measure].”

The early Christians also were limited in the gifts of the Spirit, “But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph. 4:7). As the context shows, the gifts were not all equal and certainly not without measure, but by measure. This merely confirms what is said of the gifts of the Spirit in I Corinthians 12:4ff. and Romans 12:3ff.

Again in Hebrews 2:4 the gospel affirms, “God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his own will.” There is no indication here that the Spirit came on the early Christians in fullness of power, but that the role he played in them was limited and varied.

An interesting expression occurs in Acts 2:18. Peter quotes Joel 2, “On my menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy” (Acts 2:18). When the text says “out of” it implies that the Spirit was not coming upon the recipients in its entirety, but in measure.

As Moses had laid his hands on Joshua (Deut. 34:9; and presumably in this way he had also conferred a measure of the Spirit to the seventy elders) so at Samaria Peter and John bestow (with prayer as well as hands) the Spirit in a measure upon the Samaritan converts (Acts 8:14-17). Although Simon was also surely a recipient of the same Holy Spirit empowerment as the other Samaritan believers, he perceived that the apostles had a greater measure, the power to confer the Spirit, and he coveted it, “Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me also this power [taking houtos as emphatic], that any one on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:18-19).

The Holy Spirit had also come upon Paul for this same office, and he too could confer the Holy Spirit so that early Christians could be empowered in a measure (Acts 19:1-7).

This brings us to the case of our Lord, Jesus. The author of Hebrews implies that while the Spirit-inspired prophets of the Old Testament did speak God’s Word in various ways, their gifts could not compare to the revelatory gifts of the Son of God (Heb. 1:1-3).

The famous prophecy of Christ in Isaiah 11:1-3 implies a great fullness of the Spirit, not a limited measure: “There shall come forth a shoot’ from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.”

In John 3:32-35, the text speaks of Jesus, “And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony. He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true. For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand” (KJV). Or, as Goodspeed renders: “For he whom God has sent speak God’s words, for God gives him his Spirit without measure.”

It is true that a number of translators have taken a text and an interpretation which leaves ambiguous who gives the Spirit to whom, rendering the passage: “for he giveth not the Spirit by measure” (ASV, NKJV; NASB, NIV, RSV). Some will say that the passage is affirming that Jesus (not God) gives the Spirit. And it is also affirmed that in any case the Spirit as a general rule is never given in a measure, that is, always in fullness to believers. But a number of translators remain in agreement with the KJV that it is grammatically sound to supply “to him” that is, to the Son, (see Goodspeed, the New Living Translation, Today’s English Version, Williams, Phillips, NIV, Beck, Moffatt, the Jerusalem Bible, the Jewish New Testament, Contemporary English Version, Amplified, and Barclay’s translation. Further many of the most erudite commentators on John also affirm this rendering: Bengel, Olshausen, Godet, Alford, McGarvey, Lipscomb, Barclay, Morris, Pack, Deissner in Kittel’s TDNT, iv, 634, etc. Of course, luminaries are also to be found taking the opposing view: Meyer; Westcott, Brown, etc.). No simplistic interpretation holds the day unquestioned.

At any rate, in the context of the passage, the argument is that Jesus is able to bear witness to God in truth. Jesus has seen and heard, having been with the Father (John 1:18). Further, he is able to speak the exact words of God because God gave the Spirit to him. John 1:32 says that John “saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him.” This was no temporary or limited office. Jesus possessed all the fullness, John 1:16, “And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace.” Verse 3:35 continues the thought, “the Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand.”

Who is it that is receiving from the Father? The Son (see also John 3:27). Whose words are being validated? Jesus’ words. From whence does Jesus get his words? From God through the Spirit.

Also it seems reasonable, given their proximity, to correlate the word give in verse 34 to the word give in verse 35. In both cases God is giving to the Son.

Therefore, regardless of the variant textual readings, and the ellipsis to be supplied (“to him,” that is, to Jesus), the context indicates that the force of the passage is that God is giving the Spirit without measure to the Son.

As we saw above, all the rest of God’s revelation indicates that in the Spirit’s role in empowering those on earth, no one had the fullness of the Spirit in the limitless measure of our Lord. Believers then received from his bounty: “But each one of us has been given his gift, his due portion of Christ’s bounty” (Eph. 4:7 NEB)

The Seal and Earnest of the Spirit (J. C. Brewer)

By Jerry C. Brewer

Vol. 114, No. 09

The application of the terms earnest and seal to the Holy Spirit’s work belong to the apostolic period when the gospel was being revealed in parts and portions and define two necessary aspects of the gospel scheme of redemption — revelation and confirmation. Purposed from eternity and hidden beneath the types and shadows of the old covenant, the scheme of redemption was a mystery that is now revealed.

…how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ,) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. (Eph. 3:3-4).

The word mystery in the above passage does not mean “mysterious” or “mystical.” It means unknowable through human reasoning and wisdom.

The word mystery in Revelation comports with the same meaning of the word as used elsewhere in the New Testament — that is, the spiritual truths not discoverable by human reason; understandable, but hidden from human knowledge until revealed. The word has the connotation of secret doctrine, hence prior to revelation it was a hidden thing; but when revealed, it was brought within human intelligence and understanding. …The word mystery did not mean mysterious. It meant that which could not be known until it was made known, or revealed, and it meant the gospel plan of salvation. The doctrine of the New Testament is, in this sense, called a mystery. (Foy E. Wallace Jr., The Book of Revelation, Sec. II, Part IV, p. 82).

Undiscoverable by human wisdom, God’s plan could be known only by revelation, which requires inspiration. Inspiration requires confirmation. The scheme of redemption was revealed in words, (1 Cor. 2:10-13), and confirmed by signs and wonders (Heb. 2:1-4). Inspiration was the means God used to reveal his plan. Miraculous gifts of the Spirit confirmed that those through whom it was spoke the word of God. This was the function of the Holy Spirit whose work of revelation and confirmation is expressed in the terms “seal” and “earnest.”

The earnest of the Spirit relates to those gifts of partial revelation of which Paul spoke in 1 Corinthians 13 and is used only in 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5 and Ephesians 1:14. From the Greek word arrhabon, defined as, “a pledge, i.e. part of the purchase-money or property given in advance as security for the rest: – earnest.” (James Strong, Exhaustive Concordance of The Bible, “Greek Dictionary of The New Testament,” p. 16).

That which was given as an “earnest” was not the Holy Spirit, but that which the Spirit gave — partial knowledge of God’s word, which blossomed into the perfect (complete) revelation of His will. The earnest of the Spirit constituted a partial revelation until the “redemption of the purchased possession” which was the completion of divine revelation.

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail whether there be tongues, they shall cease, whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away (1 Cor. 13:8-10).

The partial revelation of the gospel, imparted to Christians in the first century, was an earnest or pledge of the full revelation to come. That partial knowledge would cease when those parts were gathered into the whole, which Paul styled “that which is perfect.” The revelation we now possess in the New Testament is the sum of the parts extant in the apostolic age. (The word perfect in 1 Corinthians 13:10 means “completeness” and when the parts of the mystery were gathered into the whole, the full price was paid of which the earnest was a pledge.)

The Holy Spirit was not the earnest in the hearts of men in the first century, except in a metonymical sense where the cause was put for the effect. When Paul said God had “given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts,” he referred to that which the Spirit revealed, not the Spirit himself. Neither is the Holy Spirit an earnest in the hearts of Christians today. Many who so teach contend that the Spirit constitutes a “down payment” or “pledge” from God of eternal salvation. But the full purchase price of anything is paid in the same currency as the down payment. If the Holy Spirit is the pledge or earnest of salvation, then God is making his down payment with a currency other than that which he will issue as the balance of the purchase. Besides, to say that God must make a “down-payment” on salvation is tantamount to saying we cannot trust him to fulfill his pledge to us!

When Paul said God had “given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts,” (2 Cor. 1:21-22), he distinguished between himself and the Corinthians. The pronoun “you” in this passage refers to the Corinthians and the pronouns “us” and “our” refer to Paul and the other apostles. The anointing of the Holy Spirit was Holy Spirit baptism, which the apostles received. He made the same distinction in the Ephesians’ epistle.

In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory (Eph. 1:11-14).

The Ephesians were sealed with the gift of tongues and given the earnest of prophecy when Paul laid hands on them after they were baptized (Acts 19:1-6). Paul explains the purpose of the earnest and seal of the Spirit in the Ephesians in the following statement:

Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened (Eph. 1:15-18).

The earnest of the Spirit was revelation, which came through Holy Spirit baptism, and the seal of the Spirit was the confirmation of that revelation. When gifts of revelation were imparted through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, they were accompanied by miraculous powers for confirmation.

The genuineness of the earnest of the Spirit, or the gospel that resided in inspired men, was attested by the Spirit’s seal of “signs and wonders and divers miracles” upon them. From the Greek sphragizo, the word seal is defined as, “to stamp (with a signet or private mark) for security or preservation …to keep secret, to attest. … The stamp impressed (as a mark of privacy or genuineness), lit, or fig. seal.” (Strong, p. 70). This seal or sign of genuineness was a visible attestation of the authority by which inspired men spoke.

Those who claim this seal for Christians today cannot produce any visible sign of such seal. Their argument is the same one made for the direct indwelling of the Holy Spirit — “I know it because the Bible says I have it.” But what is the purpose of a seal of authority? The great seal of a state attests to and confirms the genuineness of documents issued by the state’s authority and is visible to all who read them. The seal of the Spirit was composed of the signs worked by inspired men of the first century and visibly attested to their authority from God. The seal of the Spirit wasn’t some invisible thing placed upon them for God’s benefit. Why would God have to attest ownership of Christians to himself? Does he not know them that are his without having some sort of mark placed upon them? The visible seal of the earnest of the Spirit was what Paul called “the signs of an apostle” (2 Cor. 12:12). That was the sign or seal of his apostleship and of all who had the earnest of the Spirit in the first century.

Miracles of the Bible

By H. A. (Buster) Dobbs

The idea of a miracle holds fascination for many people because it is charged with enigma. Strange and unknown things somehow appeal to the human psyche. Everybody talks about miracles but few know what they are talking about. The first step in discussing miracles is to say what we are talking about and note what we are not talking about. The purpose of this study is to consider the miracles of the Bible. We are not surveying unusual events in the human experience that some wrongly call miracles and that have no connection with the Word of God. Things like Unidentified Flying Objects and little green men with antennae coming out of their heads and long, snake-like fingers, and squeaky voices are figment and not miracle. Neither are we discussing the magician’s tricks. Furthermore, not every strange thing that is difficult to explain is a miracle.

The word “miracle” in the New Testament translates two Greek words. These two words are variously translated “miracle, sign, token, wonder, ability, power, might, strength, violence, and virtue.” The King James translators use the word 37 times. The American Standard translators use the word only 9 times. Often where the King James translates “miracle” the American Standard uses the word “sign.” A miracle is a sign, but not every sign is a miracle.

The New Testament speaks of signs or miracles performed by agency of the devil. In warning of a coming apostasy, Paul wrote: Now we beseech you, brethren, touching the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him; to the end that ye be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us, as that the day of the Lord is just at hand; let no man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be, except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, he that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know that which restraineth, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season. For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of his coming; even he, whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie (2 Thess. 2:1-11). The lawless one would come with the power of Satan to perform signs and lying wonders. In the book of Revelation the miraculous power of evil spirits is mentioned. “And he doeth great signs (miracles), that he should even make fire to come down out of heaven upon the earth in the sight of men” (Rev 13:13).

“And he deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by reason of the signs (miracles) which it was given him to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast who hath the stroke of the sword and lived” (Rev. 13:14). “For they are spirits of demons, working signs (miracles); which go forth unto the kings of the whole world, to gather them together unto the war of the great day of God, the Almighty” (Rev. 16:14). “And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought the signs (miracles) in his sight, wherewith he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast and them that worshipped his image: they two were cast alive into the lake of fire that burneth with brimstone” (Rev. 19:20). Malignant spirits, under the control of the great Red Dragon, were able to perform wonders and signs to deceive people and bring them under the power of the Prince of Darkness. When the empire of Satan is utterly crushed by the heavenly army of the Captain of our salvation, these wonder working spirits will be cast into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.

In the book of Acts we are told of a pretender to magic powers who amazed the people with his sorcery. “But there was a certain man, Simon by name, who beforetime in the city used sorcery, and amazed the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is that power of God which is called Great. And they gave heed to him, because that of long time he had amazed them with his sorceries” (Acts 8:8-11). Simon of Samaria was a charlatan, but the people were fooled. His humbug was effective. He was a fraud, but the people didn’t know it. The great and the small in the city of Samaria thought Simon was the real thing. They jumped on his bandwagon.

This Samaritan, Simon, was a conscious agent for Satan, and knew he was using trickery to deceive the people. Every generation produces swindlers who exploit gullible people eager to believe in voodooism. It is strange that people would rather accept claptrap than truth. The kind of signs these people do cannot favorably compare with bona fide miracles. Philip, a preacher of righteousness, came to Samaria and when the people of Samaria “heard and saw” the signs which he did they knew they had been bamboozled by Simon.

“And the multitudes gave heed with one accord unto the things that were spoken by Philip, when they heard, and saw the signs which he did. For from many of those that had unclean spirits, they came out, crying with a loud voice: and many that were palsied, and that were lame, were healed. And there was much joy in that city” (Acts 8:6-8).

Satan has real power and can pull wool over the eyes of sincere folks. We need to be alert to this and not allow ourselves to be hoodwinked by quacks. To be guided by astrology, Tarot cards, alchemy, palm readers, and fortune-tellers is about as sensible as making life-changing decisions on the basis of a message found in a Chinese after-dinner-cookie.

In the first century, the devil was allowed to use his mystical power without limit. The wonder-working power of God was also fully unleashed. There was a great contest. The supernatural power of God was arrayed against the supernatural power of the devil. The devil lost! Demon possession of Bible times was a display of Satan’s power. In the case of the woman with the “spirit of infirmity,” we are told that Satan had bound her for eighteen years (Luke 13:16). The maid with “a spirit of divination” was a tool of evil spirits (Acts 16:16-18). Every time demons came into contact with one having the supernatural power of God, the demon lost. In each case, the demon was cast out. In one case, demons were sent into a herd of swine (Matt. 8:31-32). They could not predominate in the presence of divine omnipotence.

Satan was defeated. Jesus’ victory over death was the final blow. Evil was pulverized. The terms of surrender were dictated by the conquering Christ. He who used his power to bind many was himself bound. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, And gave gifts unto men” (Eph. 4:8). “And he laid hold on the dragon, the old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and cast him into the abyss, and shut it, and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years should be finished: after this he must be loosed for a little time” (Rev. 20:2-3). The vanquished Satan will never again be allowed to use his supernatural power to afflict humanity. God also restricts his power to natural means by his own choice. We have the sweet assurance that “there hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).

Having looked at fake miracles and having considered Satanic signs, we now consider the miracles performed by the power of God that are recorded in the New Testament. A study of supernatural acts executed by divine power will demonstrate the nature of miracles performed in the name of God. There are several conditions that determine what constitutes a miracle performed by the power of the Creator. First, the heavenly miracles of the first century were always successful. No applicant for miraculous healing in the days of Jesus and the apostles ever went away disappointed. And the report of him went forth into all Syria: and they brought unto him all that were sick, holden with divers diseases and torments, possessed with demons, and epileptic, and palsied; and he healed them (Matt. 4:24). “And when even was come, they brought unto him many possessed with demons: and he cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all that were sick” (Matt. 8:16). “And Jesus perceiving it withdrew from thence: and many followed him; and he healed them all” (Matt. 12:15). “And he came forth, and saw a great multitude, and he had compassion on them, and healed their sick” (Matt. 14:14). “And there came unto him great multitudes, having with them the lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and they cast them down at this feet; and he healed them” (Matt. 15:30). “And when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them” (Luke 4:40).

There were no failures! No one ever went away from a “healing service” of Jesus or the apostles still sick, possessed, or bound. We are told of an epileptic the disciples of Jesus could not heal, but the Lord healed him (Matt. 17:15-18). There was no failure in this situation. Jesus, we are told, “did not many mighty works” in Nazareth (Matt. 13:58). The reason he did not do many miracles in his hometown was not that he could not do it, but the people did not believe him and therefore did not come to him for healing. He was not going to break their doors down to demonstrate his divine credentials. If a person wants to reject Jesus, he is allowed to do it. This, obviously, does not constitute failure, but lack of opportunity.

There never was a failure. So, the first thing we learn is that God-authorized miracles never fail. No sufferer who applied to Jesus or his disciples for healing was told that his lack of faith caused the cure not to materialize. Second, the cure was always perfect. No person was ever partially cured. If God heals supernaturally, the cure must be complete, or the power of God is inadequate. It is true that on one occasion at Bethsaida a blind man was brought to Jesus with a request the he be healed (Mark 8:22). Jesus “spit on his eyes” and said “Seest thou aught” (Mark 8:23). The man answered, “I see men, for I behold them as trees, walking” (Mark 8:24). Jesus laid his hands upon the man and he “saw all things clearly” (Mark 8:25). Why Jesus healed this man in stages I do not know, but it is true that the blind man never left the presence of Jesus until he “saw all things clearly.” In supernatural healing there is never a period of recuperation. The sick person does not begin to get better and over a period of weeks or months or years finally recover health. Miracles of healing always take place instantly. Third, there was no relapse. There is not a single instance in all of the New Testament where any person healed by the power of God ever suffered from the same complaint. A blind person who received his sight did not at a later time retrogress to darkness. The miracles of Jesus and the apostles were long lasting. Fourth, it was instantaneous. There was no waiting period. The cure was always abrupt.

“Now Peter and John were going up into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour. And a certain man that was lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the door of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked to receive an alms. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him, with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but what I have, that give I thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk. And he took him by the right hand, and raised him up: and immediately his feet and his ankle-bones received strength. And leaping up, he stood, and began to walk; and he entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God: and they took knowledge of him, that it was he that sat for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him” (Acts 3:1-10). The God-authorized miracles of the New Testament were always without failure, or setback, perfect, and immediate. Anything that purports to be a miracle but that does not have these earmarks is not a God-authorized miracle. It may be a man-made fraud, it may be a Satan inspired fake, but it is not an act of God.

The miracles performed by approval of Jehovah in the New Testament were for the purpose of confirming revelation. God spoke through his appointed representatives and then sealed the message by signs and wonders. Nicodemus said to Jesus, “no one can do these signs that thou doest, except God be with him” (John 3:2). Nicodemus was right about that! The message of the New Testament is confirmed by signs and wonders. “God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will” (Heb. 2:4). If God performed miracles today, they would be available to all and would not be selective. “God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). They would be immediate and perfect and there would be no regression. The purpose of God’s miracles was to confirm his word. “God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will” (Heb. 2:4). “And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by the signs that followed. Amen” (Mark 16:20). When that purpose was realized, miracles ceased. Satan is defeated. The truth is established. Miracles are no more. They are not needed. If miracles had remained after the truth of the gospel was certified to be of God, then many people would follow Jesus for the wrong reason. If believers are put under a glass and protected from sickness and hurting, many would come to Jesus for the loaves and fishes. We are cautioned to not labor for the meat that is perishing, but for that which endures to eternal life (John 6:27).

“If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth. For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory” (Col. 3:1-4).

Cotham’s Comments on the Holy Spirit

By Perry B. Cotham

Vol. 108, No. 08

A misconception of the Holy Spirit and his work for man’s salvation leads to all kinds of religious errors. All that we can ever know about the Spirit and his work comes from the Scriptures. It is tragic to see some turn away from what the Bible teaches in favor of an inner, mystical longing, which they mistake for information about God.

The Holy Spirit is a person. There are three beings in one Godhead (Acts 17:29; Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14). There is only one God (Deut. 6:4), but three beings possess the divine nature.

The Holy Spirit gave us the Holy Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:21; Eph. 6:17). The apostles were guided by the Spirit into all of the truth (John 16:13; 2 Pet. 1:3; Jude 1:3). In conviction, conversion, and edification the Holy Spirit operates on the heart of man only through the inspired Word of God (Psa. 19:7; Psa. 73:24; Psa. 119:50, Psa. 119:93, Psa. 119:105, Psa. 119:130). “The Gospel … is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Rom. 1:16). The Spirit operates through the words of revelation, which are spirit and life (John 6:63).

The Bible plainly says that the Holy Spirit dwells within Christians. Paul wrote, “Know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have from God? and ye are not your own?” (1 Cor. 6:19).

How does the Spirit indwell the child of God? He indwells directly or indirectly. There is a difference in stating the fact and in stating the method (the how) of the Spirit’s indwelling. The Bible does not teach that the Spirit dwells in Christians apart from the inspired Word. Many religionists have the idea of a personal, direct indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the child of God. They think the Spirit gives the believer extra help besides the Word of God. This, of course, denies the all-sufficiency of God-breathed writing to make the man of God complete. Of course, this belief leads to all kinds of “experiences” and “feelings.”

Let us note some things: (1) God dwells in Christians (2 Cor. 6:16; 1 John 4:12-16). Does God dwell in his children directly or indirectly? It is indirect, through obedience to the word: “He that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him” (1 John 3:24). (2) Christ dwells in Christians (Col. 1:27). But how does Christ dwell in us? Paul explains, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Eph. 3:17). “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). (3) The Holy Spirit dwells in Christians. The Spirit is in each faithful member of the church the same way that God and Christ are in the saved. Neither God, Christ, nor the Holy Spirit dwells directly, personally, in Christians. As the Christian obeys the Spirit’s message, the Spirit’s influences are in him, and he brings forth the fruit of the Spirit in his life: “Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).

Comparing Ephesians 5:17-19 with Colossians 3:16 shows how the Spirit is in the child of God. To be “filled with the Spirit” is to let the “word of Christ” dwell in you richly. There is no statement of Scripture saying the Holy Spirit dwells literally, directly, and personally in the child of God. If Jehovah the Father and Jesus the Son can indwell Christians indirectly and figuratively, the Holy Spirit can do the same.

Children of God cherish the Spirit’s message and live by it, and in this way the Holy Spirit dwells in them and in the church. The teaching that the Spirit works directly – separate and apart from the Word of God in the heart of the alien sinner or the child of God, is contrary to the teaching of the Bible. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God … that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). We have the Bible and it is sufficient to make us what God wants us to be.

A Habitation of God Through the Spirit

By Earl Trimble

Vol. 106, No. 06

Ephesians 2:22 is sometimes cited to support the view that the Holy Spirit personally indwells the Christian in a direct and in-Person manner. Often the question will be asked: “How can God dwell in us through the Spirit if the Spirit does not indwell us?” The phrase, “through the Spirit,” in this Ephesians verse, is thought by some to mean that God, being in the Spirit, indwells us indirectly, figuratively, or representatively through (by means of) the Holy Spirit who is literally in us in his own Person.

Does this verse in the Ephesian letter, in fact, teach that the Spirit indwells one literally and immediately, as some affirm? This phrase, “through the Spirit,” occurs at least four times in the New Testament (Acts 21:4; Rom. 8:13; Eph. 2:22; 1 Peter 1:22, KJV). An examination of the other three references will show that this phrase, through the Spirit does not refer to an indwelling of the Spirit. Notice the similar usages of these four references:

1)      “…who said to Paul through the Spirit…” (Acts 21:4)
2)      “…through the Spirit do mortify the deeds…” (Rom. 8:13)
3)      “…a habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22)
4)      “…obeying the truth through the Spirit…” (1 Peter 1:22)

Notice the similar meanings of this phrase, “through the Spirit” in these four references:

“And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem” (Acts 21:4). The Holy Spirit made known to the disciples at Tyre that Paul would be in danger of his life if he returned to Jerusalem (see also Acts 21:10-14). Here “through the Spirit” means “by the Spirit” (ASV). That is, the Spirit had warned the brethren of the danger that awaited Paul at Jerusalem. This information given the disciples by the Spirit was inspired revelation.

“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Rom. 8:13). Who would argue this means if those Roman Christians would mortify the deeds of the body “through the Spirit” that indwelt them, they would live? It is apparent Paul was telling them if they would mortify the deeds of the body through the Spirit’s teaching, that is, according to what the Spirit taught, they would live.

“In whom ye also are built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22). How are Christians built together for a habitation of God? Is our being built together accomplished by the Spirit as he literally indwells us? If so, then would our being built together not be a direct operation of the Holy Spirit? Again, in this Ephesians 2:22 reference, the phrase “through the Spirit” could have been rendered “by the Spirit.” Our obedience to the Spirit’s teaching builds together as “a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5). This verse does not allude to a direct, personal, immediate indwelling of the Spirit. It is a misapplication of Ephesians 2:22 to use it to teach that the Spirit indwells us literally in his own Person.

“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love on another fervently” (1 Peter 1:22). Who would affirm that one’s “obeying the truth” is effected “through the Spirit” that literally indwells him? We know that one obeys the truth through, or by, the Spirit’s influence exerted through, or by, the inspired Word of God. The Spirit’s only influence upon the human heart or conscience is through the message of the inspired Word of God, and never by direct operation. In like manner we are built together for a habitation of God, Christ and the Holy Spirit through the influence exerted by the Spirit in the inspired Word of life (John 6:63-68).

Miracles

by Alstone L. Tabor

Vol. 106, No. 01

Do miracles occur today? If they do, who performs them? Perhaps most important, what is a miracle?

Most of us believe that God performs “miracles” daily as we consider the worlds in orbit and development of a tiny seed into a great plant. But this usage of the word “miracle” means “an unfathomable wonder” not a direct sign from God given as some special confirmation of His will. Our bodies are a miraculous creation! In this sense God continues miracles, and “miracles” is used, in this sense, by many writers in a poetic way. “To me, every hour of the day and night is an unspeakable, perfect miracle” (Walt Whitman).

A speaker recently declared that he believed in miracles. He told of his heart transplant and that his heart stopped beating twice and that the doctors and nurses started it again with electrical shocks. He said that he had died twice and came back to life.

This event was, understandably, a miracle to the speaker. By this definition, nearly everyone believes in miracles. But his wonderful experience is in no way comparable to the miracles of the New Testament. Those miracles were signs of a special sort which God used to confirm the inspired word. Marvelous medical advancements are different; they do not defy explanation, as do Biblical miracles, but are merely wonderful examples of human achievement.

Biblical miracles were real miracles. When Christ healed the sick, raised the dead, and gave sight to the blind, He never declared, “I will perform this miracle provided you go to the hospital and let the surgeons operate on you.” His miracles did not depend, even in part on the skill of earthly physicians or technology.

Miracles, such as the restarting of a stopped heart, do depend upon man and his skills. Such “miracles” do not have the same force upon those who witness them. When Jesus performed a miracle, no one could doubt that God had intervened in the natural world. God may, or may not have intervened in the heart transplant case, but doubt exists. Jesus’ signs left no doubt, to the observer, that God had suspended natural laws to do His will.

One denominational Houston preacher who has a large following declares that he believes miracles happen today in the same way as Christ and the Apostles performed them. He says that he prayed for his young daughter, and she was healed. The daughter is now grown, and a few weeks ago, was opening the mail for him when a bomb went off in her lap. Does he rush in and pray that God will heal her? He claims his prayer was answered before. Does he rely on a miracle now? No sir! He rushed her to the emergency hospital and implored the surgeons to do their work. If God miraculously heals today, why not pray for her right there in the office and let God do the healing, without benefit of surgeon or nurse?

Would this sort of “miracle,” say the rushing of Bartimaeus to the emergency room in Jericho, have confirmed Christ or his word? Certainly not! Christ did not perform miracles in this fashion.

God is all powerful and one day will perform the miracle of miracles by resurrecting all that are in the grave (John 5:28-29). He will also instantaneously change those then living (1 Cor. 15:51-52). But today He does not give the spiritual gifts of healing, tongues, prophecy, miraculous knowledge or any of the other gifts mentioned in 1 Cor. 12:6-10. God Himself told us that miraculous gifts would cease. “Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away” (1 Cor. 13:8-10).

He tells us plainly that faith, hope and love (these three shall abide or continue) not the eleven gifts which included the miraculous and healing gifts of the twelfth chapter. Only three were to abide! “And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).

What is that which is perfect? David declared in Psalm 19:7, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” James calls the New Testament “the perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25). So when the law of God was completed (made perfect), then miraculous gifts ceased. God said they would fail, cease, vanish away! I believe God rather than Oral Roberts, Pat Robinson or John Osteen. God no longer performs miraculous feats such as raising the dead, walking on water, the gift of prophecy, healing or speaking in tongues.

We believe in prayer, but we do not believe prayer will cause God to grant us the miracle-working power that He gave in the first century. Some people believe that God has to perform a miracle for prayer to be answered. That position is not supported by scripture. God’s hands are not tied, nor his power limited. God does move in our world. God provides many things in answer to prayer. Prayer accomplishes much, but God has not promised miracles in our age of the same kind that He performed through Christ and the inspired apostles.

Consider Heb 2:3-4:

“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will?”

Consider also Mark 16:17 and Mark 16:20:

“And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; And if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” Did this occur? Read verse 20. “And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.”

The miracles or signs described in the preceding passages were to confirm the word. In that time without a written New Testament early Christians could know that God inspired certain messages because God confirmed the word by His miracles. He has confirmed His word: He does not need to continue the confirmation.

“Wherefore he saith, When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men… And he gave some Apostles; and some prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man… That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine…” The first century church needed all these miraculously inspired people as they had no written New Testament then. Later the word was committed to writing. Obviously we no longer have Apostles or Prophets, nor do we have inspired evangelists, pastors or teachers. The inspired people were to continue “Till we all come in the unity of the Faith” (Eph 4:8).

We now have that faith, in the unified form, in the New Testament. Jude declared that we should “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3). This is not our personal faith, but the system of faith which had been revealed in God’s Holy Word. Miraculously endowed gifts were to last “till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God…” (Eph. 4:8). This unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God was completed, made perfect, when the last word of inspiration was written.

Now instead of all these miraculously endowed individuals, we have the “perfect law of liberty” completely given to mankind. God said supernatural things were to cease (1 Cor. 13:8), so His word being true, we have none of these today.

10018 Warwana
Houston, TX 77070