(3) Figures Used to Describe the Church As God’s Habitation in Spirit

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Human hearts are the field, and God’s Word is the seed planted in it, and I think that Word also includes whatever He says about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. God will certainly be pleased if that seed grows in us and bears the fruit that our Maker expects us to bear, fruit that shows that indeed the Spirit has been in control of our being. I am in agreement with those who say that we must let the Word dwell richly in us (Colossians 3:16). I am in disagreement with them however when they equate this indwelling of the Word with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. That still remains to be proved.

From what He has taught us through the Word, God makes clear whatever He wants us to obey. But there are secret things in that Word that He has not revealed, and I think it is not in our province as human beings to strive hard or to agonize (I like this word!) to find those secrets (Deuteronomy 29:29). Let us be content with what has come out from the sanctity of heaven’s door. I am inclined to believe too that God is not pleased with sloppiness (cf. 2 Peter 3:16) when it comes to the understanding, interpreting and utilizing His Scriptures. Some advice therefore is in order.

First, There is the need to “rightly administer the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, Alford). The Greek orthotomounta literally means “rightly cutting or distributing,” the metaphor being from a father rightly cutting and rightly distributing bread among his children (Vitringa & Calvin).

The opposite of this is “adulterating” or “corrupting,” the translation of the Greek word kapeleuontes, literally “hawking, pawning off a product to get gain,” a word that alludes to tavern-keepers who mix wine with water to cheat the buyers (Rogers & Rogers, The New Linguistic & Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, 396). Paul says, “We are not as many, which corrupt [or adulterate] the word of God” (2 Corinthians 2:17).

Second, There is the need to be precise in the use of language. Use of precise words coupled with clear and correct grammar is the mark of clear thinking. Gobbledygook, euphemism and highfalutin language don’t mean anything, but they occur quite a lot in religious articles. Wendell Berry says, “Once precision is abandoned as a linguistic or literary virtue, vague generalization is one of the two remaining possibilities, gibberish being the second” (Quoted by Author Paula LaRocque, The Book on Writing. Published by Marion Street Press, Inc. Cited here with the author’s permission).

Third, Learn to understand the figures of speech and be consistent in the use of it. Much disagreement could be avoided if we all clarify the terms we use in any discussion and if we are in agreement on the meaning of those terms.

There are only two ways to understand the meaning of a word: figurative and literal.

By literal we mean its basic, factual, straightforward, word-for-word meaning. When we take things literally, we take it at its face value. In this case the literal has only one implication and no other.

By “figurative” we mean the symbolical, emblematic, mystical, metaphorical, allegorical, metonymical, or synechdochical use of it. Knowledge of these terms will go a long way toward helping one understand God’s will. Alexander Pope says, “A little learning is a dangerous thing.”

Be consistent in the use of the figures of speech. Inconsistency in its use is the damnation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Iglesia ni Cristo-1914. The INC-1914 says the “east” is literal (cf. Revelation 7:2), the “far east,” meaning the Philippines; but the “ascending angel” is figurative, referring to Felix Manalo! JW’s literally interpret the “144,000” who were sealed (Revelation 7:4) as the number of those who would go to heaven (all of whom are Jehovah’s Witnesses!), but they claim the “twelve tribes of Israel” is just figurative!

Fourth, Pay particular attention to the tenses of the verb. Next to the etymological meaning of a word, the tenses is the second thing I take into consideration. Doing so will probably put a stop to theological messiness and sloppy interpretations you often hear from the mouths of the unlearned teachers and biased theologians and deprive them of any brain space (spaces in our brains is what I mean).

Shall I also add a fifth? Having a good temper too is necessary. Our purpose in any discussion is to learn, and if we have short fuses, we would end up killing one another. I laugh at a good joke, even as I discuss with a false teacher. The incomparable Alan Alda, the first and the only one who has received Emmy awards for acting, directing and writing movie series that became hits, says, “When people are laughing, they’re generally not killing one another” (quoted by Answers.com. Cited here with permission).

Continuing on with our study on the indwelling Spirit, let us consider the figures used to describe the church as God’s habitation in the spirit.

INDWELLING DEFINED. From the word oikos, “house,” we get the verb oikeo, which means “to dwell,” “to inhabit as one’s abode” (Vine, 344). Figuratively, God is said to be “dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto” (Greek phos oikon aprositon, literally “light inhabiting unapproachable”) (1 Timothy 6:16). God dwelling in the light is not the same as you dwelling in your house.

The verb oikeo is also accompanied by its prepositions. Paul says “sin dwells in” him (oikousa en emoi hamartia, “sin dwelling in me,” Romans 7:20); oikeo with preposition en here is used figuratively to mean “to inhabit, to remain, to inhere” (Strong Greek Dictionary, quoted from e-Sword.net).

When Paul says that in his flesh “dwelleth no good,” this is understood to mean the absence of good in his mortal flesh. That also is to be understood figuratively.

By our statement that the church is God’s habitation in spirit, we mean that God spiritually dwells in the church, the prepositional phrase “in spirit” without article being understood to be an adverb of manner.

If we say that the church is God’s habitation through the Spirit, the Spirit becomes the instrument, the agency by which God dwells. It means that God representatively, not personally, dwells in the church.

THE CHURCH AS GOD’S FARM. Paul tells the church of Corinth, “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9).

“Husbandry” (Greek georgion, from geo, land, and ergo, to do) is also translated as “working field” or “cultivated land” (Rogers & Rogers, 353); “tillage,” “tilled land,” or “farm” (Vine’s, 241). The use of this metaphor, drawn from agriculture, is suggestive of the cooperative efforts of Paul and fellow missionaries working together with God in the ministry of the gospel and in the care of the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 3:6).

“I planted” (Greek phuteuo) figuratively means “I instilled doctrine.” Paul compares his planting ministry in Corinth to the planting of the vine, of the tree, of the seed; and if there was any other teacher the parties at Corinth should honor, it was he who had laboured there first. But he regarded himself unworthy of such honor because it was God who gave the increase. “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?” (1 Cor 3:5, KJV). The word “ministers” (Greek diakonoi) signifies those who wait, those who attend to the service of someone higher in position. The verb diako, from which we derive the noun diakonos, “minister” or “servant,” has the obsolete meaning of “to run errands.” Paul and Apollos are just God’s errand boys!

“Apollos watered.” Or, “Apollos irrigated.” The figure is taken from the practice of watering tender plants or irrigating fields. This was so in eastern countries because their fields would become parched and dry for the long droughts and it was necessary to irrigate them by artificial means (Barnes). The meaning is: Paul started this congregation, and Apollos subsequently laboured much to make it grow; but the honor should go not to anyone of them, but to God. Apollos is nothing; Paul is nothing (1 Corinthians 3:5, 7). God “gave the increase.” The phrase “gave the increase” is a translation from the verb euxanen, imperfect indicative active, which in the infinitive means “to cause to grow.” There is a wonderful implication of the imperfect: It is a tense that denotes continued action in the past time (Machen, 65). “The imperfect indicates the continuous blessing of God on the work of both Paul and Apollos” (Rogers & Rogers, 352).

Now think about God the owner of the farm, maintaining His presence in that farm, watching the planters and the waterers—the errand boys—do their jobs. Without Him they would not expect a bountiful harvest, without His blessing they would fail.

God spiritually resides in His farm. He does not dwell in the bodies of the planters and the waterers. Think about this as you meditate on the figure.

THE CHURCH AS GOD’S BUILDING. See again 1 Corinthians 3:9. The use of this allegorical expression oikodome, drawn from architecture, is suggestive of the strengthening effect of the teaching and edifying ministries. Christ is the foundation of that building (verse 11), and workers for Christ are said to build upon (Greek epoikodomeo, from epi, upon, and oikodomeo, to build) that foundation.

Paul calls himself a wise (Greek sophon) master-builder (Greek architekton, which means “architect, master worker, skilled craftsman”). He calls himself ‘wise” because they who rally around men are not! He realizes that his contribution to the building job depends on the grace supplied by the Owner of the building (verse 10), and that too shows wisdom.

Paul “laid” (Greek etheka, aorist indicative active, signifying a past action) the foundation of the church, and the others subsequently “built” on that foundation (verse 10). Since there is only one foundation in the building of God, and that is Christ, let each one look (Greek, blepeto, “beware!” “be careful!”) how he builds on it (verse 10). “The master builder has the responsibility of the planning and construction of the building; therefore Paul is within his rights to require of preachers who come to labour on the builder’s work site and add to his construction that they be strictly faithful to the canon that he has determined once for all” (Rogers & Rogers, 353). Any man who builds on that foundation things that endure (like gold, silver, precious stones) or things that easily get burned and therefore do not endure (like wood, hay and stubble) (see verse 12), would have his work tested: “The fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (verse 13). If his work abides, he shall be rewarded (verse 14). If his work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss, yet he himself shall be saved, so as through fire (verse 15).

Christ being the foundation is mystically located in the building, is a part of the building, exercises a great role by holding the building together. He holds the saints together! Again, our understanding of this is not literal but figurative.

THE CHURCH AS GOD’S TEMPLE. Let us consider a number of passages that speak of the church as the temple of God.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17. Progressing from the building figure, he goes on and asks them, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God shall destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). That is a direct statement, stated in an allegorical manner. The “you” in that passage is plural in form.

“Do you not know.” It is necessary for him to ask this question because of the carnal principles the Corinthian church has imbibed. They have rallied around party heads, they are full of envy and strife, they have sliced the church into factions (3:1-4), they have tolerated the adulterer in their midst (5:1ff), they have hauled up each other to court, have committed fornication (6:1ff), and by so doing, they are defiling the temple of God, the church.

“That you are God’s temple” (Greek, hoti naos theou este, literally, “that the temple of God you are”). The Greek word hieron is used to refer to the Jewish temple in Jerusalem (Mark 11:11), as well as the temple of Diana (Acts 19:27). But “hieron is never used figuratively” (Vine’s, 115) to refer to the church as the temple of God; instead the word naos is used (in 1 Corinthians 3:16).

What does naos mean? Literally, it means a “sanctuary,” “a sacred place,” be it heathenish (Acts 17:24, “temples made with hands”; 19:24, “shrines for Diana”) or Jewish (Luke 1:9, 21, 22).

In John 2:19, 21, naos is used as a metaphor for Christ’s body: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”

In 1 Corinthians 3, naos is used as a metaphor for the church, His sacred, mystical body, the sanctuary of His presence through the Holy Spirit.

What is the implication of this? For one, sanctity. The church is the body of the sanctified. The church is the saints, a people who have been washed, sanctified, and justified (1 Corinthians 6:11). There may be some in the church who have become spotted (that is why the advice is to keep oneself “unspotted,” James 1:27). But an unwashed person can never become a member of Christ’s body, the church.

Separation. The Greek word hagios means “sanctified,” or “holy.” It also means “separated.” Our use of the word hagios alludes to the Old Testament rite of washing and cleansing a vessel, and separating it for divine use. The saints are not only a “washed people,” they are also a “separated people,” separated from the world, separated unto Christ and unto the Father, separated by the Holy Spirit.

Divine presence is another. In the old system, the Shekinah had dwelt in the temple of God in Jerusalem. Under the present system, the church becomes His dwelling place, He is in their midst, He watches them, He listens to their pleas and their cries, He heals them. Through the church, His habitation in the Spirit, He mingles with His own people. Again, this is to be understood figuratively.

Christ is said to be present in any gathering done in His name, that is, by His authority (Matthew 18:20). This does not mean that He is physically present in our gatherings on Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening, or any other day when Christians are gathered. I repeat, not physically.

In answer to one who insists that I am using this passage (Matthew 18:20) out of context, I say that if your Christ is present in your midst only during your disfellowship proceedings (this is the context), then your Christ is probably too small and powerless; he only comes during the disfellowship, but is absent during the fellowship?! What kind of reasoning is that?

Sacredness. As God’s spiritual habitation on earth, the church is sacred. Again, I am using this phrase in the figurative sense. Under the old system, death awaited those who polluted, defiled, or corrupted the temple of God in Jerusalem. In this present system, Paul says, destruction awaits also those who destroy the temple of God, the church (verse 17). By this we mean, spiritual destruction, eternal destruction, hell fire.

A place to offer sacrifices to the living God. On a Sunday gathering, the church becomes the temple where the worshippers offer living sacrifices to the God most high: their bodies, their praises of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, their prayers, part of their income during the week.

On any day the ungathered church still remains as God’s temple. Again, I understand this to be figurative.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20. If anything, this should also be taken as a parallel of 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, speaking about the same theme.

2 Corinthians 6:16. The passage says, “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (KJV).

Again, the word temple (Greek, naos) here is used “of the innermost sanctuary where the divine presence is supposed to be located” (Rogers & Rogers, 405, 406). Since the living God dwells in it, that temple must be vibrantly alive with His presence.

Furthermore, the text reads: “As God hath said, I will dwell in them” (Greek enoikeso en autois, literally, “I will dwell among them,” verse 16). The passage does not say, “I will dwell in each one of them.” God dwells in them as a group, not in each individual. The idea of enoikeso is to describe God’s spiritual presence in their midst (cf. Vine’s, 345).

Should you have any question about the tense of the verb enoikeso, future indicative active, this is my explanation: it is a prophecy quoted by Paul from the Old Testament, hence the tense is future. “The words here quoted are taken substantially from Exodus 29:45, Leviticus 26:12, Ezekiel 37:27. They are not literally quoted, but Paul has thrown together the substance of what occurs in several places. The sense, however, is the same as occurs in the places referred to” (Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament)

THE CHURCH AS GOD’S SPIRITUAL HOUSE. “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ,” (1 Peter 2:5, KJV).

Ye as living stones. Greek, kai autoi hos lithoi zontes, “you yourselves as living stones,” describes the kind of material that they are; in contrast to the stones and aggregates people quarry from rivers and mountains, they are alive and organic materials to be utilized for the raising up of God’s spiritual house. Having been born again to eternal life (Romans 6:4-6), baptized in the name of Jesus (Galatians 3:27), they now partake of both the life and the name of Jesus, “a living stone, chosen of God, and precious” (verse 4). The Greek verb zontes is present active participle; as a participle describing the Christians as stones, it functions as an adjective, hence “living stones.” Since the tense is in the present, that makes them “continually living stones.” If the voice of the verb were passive, they could be described as “stones that are being made alive.” However the voice of the verb is active; it seems as if “living” is the act to be done by the stones. My translation is: “You as stones that continually live,” or “you as stones that remain alive.” Greek studies become more exciting as you keep on digging!

God’s spiritual house, or God’s habitation in the Spirit, which is the church, remains alive forever. As long as those stones are alive, they remain in God’s spiritual house. These stones must act and live. Ever wonder why the inspired writer told the first century Christians, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”? (Philippians 2:12). If we remain passive, or inactive, we fall. Stones that are “dead,” “inactive,” unfit for the Master’s use are better thrown into the garbage dumps.

Are being built. This is the literal translation of the verb oikodomeisthe, present indicative passive of oikodomeo, “to build, to erect a building.” The present indicative expresses the idea of a building being constructed until the present times. The stones that are to become the materials for building the temple are to remain alive, or living, throughout. Stones that do not fit are made to fit: need a lot of grace from Jesus and a lot of growing to do before one becomes fit. Stones that are dead (or “fallen away!’) are replaced, new stones take their place. The foundation for that temple (Jesus Himself, 1 Corinthians 3:11) has been laid in Zion two thousand years ago; the building is still on-going.

A spiritual house. That is, “a house pertaining to the Spirit,” “a house suited to the Spirit” (Rogers & Rogers, 570). If anything, it is a house only a spiritual Personality can live in. The Holy Spirit dwells in a temple whose construction is still on-going.

Yet this house is also a holy priesthood. To Peter, the church is a household of holy priests (“a sanctified priesthood,” v. 5); furthermore, they are a household of royal priests (“a royal priesthood,” meaning “a kingdom of priests,” verse 9).

To offer up spiritual sacrifices. Peter turns this spiritual house into priests who offer sacrifices to the God who lives among them. Does this confuse you? Not, if you are spiritually inclined. Neither, if you think Peter here is a God-ordained spiritual advisor dispensing spiritual knowledge to spiritual people. All we have to do is move along as the inspired man moves, as he excites us in every turn, taking us to spiritual heights of knowledge that none of the untutored minds have been privy to. This tells us what God’s purpose for the church is: It is to offer up spiritual sacrifices.

Acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. God, ever since the beginning, has decided what sacrifices are acceptable to Him. The rules have been laid down. While the object of these is to please our Maker, they also are for our own good. “The way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). One of the personalities of the Godhead came to earth, and lived like us, became our example, showed us how to please our Father—His Father, and our Father too–by making a sacrifice of Himself. In turn we too are to offer up spiritual sacrifices which the Father will accept.

The preposition in this phrase, “by,” should be translated “through,” since it is dia genitive. Dia is the primary preposition that denotes the channel of an act (Strong Greek Dictionary, quoted in e-sword.net). This gives a lot of consolation to us humans, because our sacrifices and efforts, no matter how inadequate and puny, as long as they are done according to the rule of faith, are acceptable to God through Jesus.

THE SUMMARY OF THE MATTER. God dwells in the church figuratively speaking. Furthermore I say, God spiritually dwells in the church founded by His Son even until today. He has started to dwell in this new temple of His since the day it was founded in the city of Jerusalem two thousand years ago. This temple has replaced that one in Jerusalem where His Shekinah used to dwell. All ancient prophecies have looked forward to the establishment of this new temple, the church. My Bible tells me that it is this church, which is also called the kingdom, that shall enter into His spiritual presence on the last day (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).

My faith in Him summons my reason and logic to accept these conclusions unconditionally. When I say I accept these matters unconditionally, it is unconditionally on my part. Only God makes the conditions; His Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). I have no hang-ups, no difficulties accepting all these by faith. This act of mine is a kind of faith-walking, not sight-walking.

The Bible says that the church becomes His habitation in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:21). The Greek preposition en in this passage denotes fixed position in time, place, or state, and if so it implies spiritual presence, nothing more. If en denotes instrumentality, then the Spirit becomes the agency or instrument by which God dwells in the church, in which case “through the Spirit” is also a correct translation. So in Ephesians 2:21 God is said to dwell in the church “by the Spirit,” “in the Spirit,” or “through the Spirit.” Accept all these conclusions because this is how the ancients spoke and wrote.

When God in His word speaks to us in figuratives, it is for the purpose of summoning our inward man to listen and be blessed. Let that inward man listen to what the Spirit says through the Word.

A Christian, born of the Spirit, must understand too that there are still so many things he may not understand about the ways of the Spirit. But we have been furnished a picture–scriptural declarations of how the Spirit works, and when, and where. You want to see more? Wait for it in God’s own time, in God’s own choosing. He gives you one picture now, and as your knowledge of the scripture grows, and as your spirit is being carpentered smoothly on the anvil of divine experience, you will be furnished more pictures.

The rest of the pictures are reserved in heaven. There, all questions will be answered, all anxieties will be satisfied, all doubts will be erased.

Be content, and wait with faith and longing eyes, your minds focused on Him who is the solution to every mind-boggling thing.

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January 17 YahooNews says Robert James Fischer, 64, is dead. Cause of death: kidney failure. He was interred at Laugardaelir church outside the town of Selfoss, and was buried in a private ceremony at a Catholic churchyard in southern Iceland. The funeral was attended by only a handful of people, mostly close friends, as well as Fischer’s long-time companion, Miyoko Watai, a Japanese chess player.

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(2) How the Spirit Dwells in Us

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I cannot argue with the Book (the Bible) although some may consider it only a “book,” because doing so would be to argue with the God who inspired that Book. I once argued with my Philippine history teacher because she made George Dewey the first American civil governor of colonial Philippines. You cannot argue with facts, but you can argue with wrong “facts.” You cannot argue with an inspired man. But in this age of post-miracles and post-inspiration, you can argue with any man about the Book, including Apollo Quiboloy, Eli Soriano, Erano Manalo, Ruben Ecleo and the “pope” of Rome, since they are never inspired. The axe falls where it may. Don’t take it then as a sign of disrespect if I question everything that I read, every teaching that I heard, regardless of who wrote or taught it. I teach nothing in secret and you have every right too to examine my premises and my conclusions.

The Holy Spirit does dwell in the Christians. But the question is: How? It is here where most disagreements lie. But since there are many bright and intelligent men on both sides of the controversy, you will certainly hear some uncertain sounds. Sometimes the discussion heats up it becomes a battle for numbers. The one with the most number of adherents wins.

What we need are wise men, not just intelligent or bright ones.

In this discussion, I take a different approach and for a different reason. My purpose is not to win an argument. I look at the question and the facts in front of me, hopefully, without my colored glasses on, without my preconceived notions, without my set of beliefs.

A missionary of the Lord’s church, who equated “being indwelt by the Spirit” with “being filled by the Spirit” (a conclusion which we have just proved to be lexically and etymologically wrong, see series 1), seeing from the Scriptures that only inspired men had been “Spirit-filled,” concluded that the indwelling of the Spirit had ceased with the death of the last inspired writer. There is no Spirit-indwelling today, he said. He was wrong.

In approaching the question, I try to look at ALL the facts related to it and based on a good number of reasons, I may make my conclusion. But, that conclusion is subject to further investigation and examination. The reason I do this is because I am not an inspired man and neither do I have a hotline connection to the office of the Deity.

This doctrine is like a puzzle, and I am trying to find the pieces that fit. Like any specimen in the lab, the Bible too may be examined, by us, and by those who are very critical of it. The facts about that specimen, its character and nature– they do not change–and if those facts are printed and published by machines configured only to print and publish what they see, these facts would come out the same. But in the eyes of men whose hearts have been configured to believe only what they want to believe, you would hear different conclusions.

This study is an invitation to you to learn with me.

Does the Holy Spirit dwell in us through the Word? The proponent of this theory argues that “the Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian indirectly, that is, through a medium,” which is the Word of God. Citing Romans 8:1-2, he says that the “Holy Spirit has a law that set us free from the slavery we were under, from the law of sin and death,” and that law is “the word of God, the good news of Jesus Christ.”

The paragraph in Romans 8 begins with a “therefore,” or “consequently,” an inference drawn from the argument which Paul made in Romans 7. That argument shows that in Christ the disciples are delivered from sin and from the curse of the Law. Since they have been delivered, they are now in Christ, and since they are now in Christ, they are no longer under condemnation or punishment. Romans 8:2 literally reads, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ FREED you from the law of sin and of death” (Alfred Marshall’s translation). “Freed” is from the Greek, eleutherosen, which means “liberated,” aorist indicative active of eleutheroo, to liberate. As this law liberated Paul and other Christians of long ago, it too could liberate anyone from the law of sin and death today.

The question is what law? The proponent argues that the Holy Spirit has a law, and that is the Bible. He argues from the use of the genitive, the of-phrase. “The Bible is the law of the Spirit, and since you keep the Spirit’s law within you, then He also resides, or dwells within you.”

But the Word is not just the law of the Spirit, it is also the law of God (Joshua 24:26; Romans 7:25) as well as the law of Jesus (Galatians 6:2). Hence you have not just the Spirit dwelling in you through the word, you have all of the Godhead dwelling in you. What proves one, proves all, and therefore proves nothing.

Take these other examples: The “law of the burnt offering” (Leviticus 6:8); the “law of the sin offering” (Leviticus 6:24-25); the “law of the trespass offering” (Leviticus 7:1); the “law of the beast” (Leviticus 11:46); the “law of him that hath an issue” (Leviticus 15:32); the “law of Moses” (2 Chronicles 30:16). Are you ready to believe that when that law resides in you, you have a lot of things–not just the Holy Spirit– residing in you?

It is illegal and anomalous to argue the indwelling of something by the use of the of-phrase.

2 Timothy 3:14-17 and Hebrews 4:12 are also cited to prove that the word of God has the power to make us complete and fully equipped. This does not help to prove the contention that the Holy Spirit dwells through the Word.

I am in agreement with this brother when he says that the Holy Spirit does not dwell in us literally. But the doctrine of the representative indwelling of the Spirit through the Word is not the kind of indwelling the Bible teaches.

Does the Spirit dwell in the bodies of Christians? The teaching that we have to keep our bodies morally pure and that we have to quit our vices like smoking and drinking because by continuing on with these vices, we are destroying our bodies, and our bodies are God’s temple, is one teaching the brethren keep promoting. Its intents and purposes are noble and profound. There are two basic texts used. First is 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. The passage says: “Know ye not that a shrine of God ye are, and the Spirit of God in you dwells? If anyone defiles the shrine of God, God will defile this man, for the shrine of God is holy, which ye are.”

Paul begins his argument by asking the question: “Know ye not that you are a temple of God (Greek, ou’k oidate hoti naos theou este)”? The pronouns used in this construction are PLURAL. One pronoun is found in the verb ending –te of the verb oidate, translated as “know ye not,” and in the separate pronoun este, translated as “ye are.” Paul is talking to them as a group: “Know ye (plural) not that you (plural) are a temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you (plural).” By using the plural pronoun “you” (or ye) and “your” and the singular noun “body,” Paul does not have the individual bodies of Christians in mind; he is addressing the Corinthian Christians as a “body.” The Christians of Corinth are a temple of God and the Holy Spirit dwells in them.

Paul could have said: “Know ye not that your bodies are a temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in your bodies?” Then we could understand that he means individual bodies of Christians. See for example his language in 1 Corinthians 6:15.

“If any man defiles that temple, God shall defile him.” To defile the temple also means “to destroy [it] by means of corrupting, and so bringing [it] into a worse state…With this significance it is used of the effect of evil company upon the manners of believers, and so of the effect of association with those who deny the truth and hold false doctrine [1 Corinthians 15:33 is cited in support. ETM]…With the significance of destroying, it is used of marring a local church by leading it away from that condition of holiness of life and purity of doctrine in which it should abide, 1 Cor. 3:17…and of God’s retributive destruction of the offender who is guilty of this sin…” (W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 242). If anyone destroys the group, God shall destroy that person, because the temple of God is holy, and you (plural) are that temple. Anyone who destroys the church, God shall destroy!

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 does not teach that the Holy Spirit dwells in the individual bodies of Christians, either spiritually, personally, literally or representatively.

The second text we shall consider is 1 Corinthians 6:15, 19, 20. In verse 15, Paul asks the question: “Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them the members of a harlot? God forbid.” In contrast to 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, Paul here talks of “bodies,” and there is no denying that this term refers to individual Christians. Individual Christians are members of Christ. What does the phrase “members of Christ” mean? In Acts 5:14, it is said that “believers were ADDED TO THE LORD”; in Acts 11:24, “a crowd was ADDED TO THE LORD”; in Acts 2;47, we read of saved believers that the Lord ADDED TO THEM or to the church (KJV). Since the church is the Lord’s body (Ephesians 1:22-23), to be added to the Lord is to be added to His body. Thus we conclude that the phrase “members of Christ” means members of Christ’s body, the church.

The “body” mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 is not referring to individual bodies. My conclusion is based on the fact that the pronouns used here are plural. “What? Do you (plural) not know that your (plural) body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which you (plural) have from God and you (plural) are not of yourselves (plural)? For you (plural) were bought with a price; therefore, you (plural) glorify God in your (plural) body.”

Notice especially the clause “For you were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20). The verb egorasthete, translated “ye were bought,” is aorist indicative passive plural. It is indicative because it is a declaration or statement of a fact: “You were bought.” It is passive since the subject of the verb, “you,” is not the one doing the action but is being acted upon (Someone did the buying, not you). The verb egorasthete is plural, hence the pronoun is also plural (you must understand that in Greek grammar, the endings of the verbs signal the kind of pronouns those verbs have). Finally, it is aorist, signifying a past action, an action that is done, finished, fulfilled.

May we remind you that Jesus had bought a church two thousand years ago and you are just added to it. The buying is an action that has been concluded in the past, and today He is just adding men and women to the church He has bought. The translation in your KJV, “ye are bought with a price,” is not correct.

Again, according to Paul’s teachings, the group is the temple or shrine of God, the habitation of the Spirit. If you still insist that the Spirit dwells dynamically, personally, representatively in the body of a Christian, you cannot expect any help from 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 6:19-21. Look for it elsewhere.

The Holy Spirit dwells in the church. Consider the passage of Ephesians 2:19-22. It says: “Then therefore ye (plural) are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye (plural) are fellow-citizens of the saints and members of the family of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom (singular relative pronoun, referring to Jesus) all the building being fitted together grows into a holy shrine (or temple) in the Lord; in whom (singular pronoun, still referring to the Lord Jesus) also you (plural) are being built together into a dwelling house of God in Spirit.”

Paul has just told the Ephesian church that at the time that they were without Christ, having been alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, they were also strangers from the covenants of promise (Ephesians 2:12); now he tells them, that is past, “you are no more strangers” (Ephesians 2:19), because they are now partakers of those covenants of promise.

They are no longer sojourners or aliens (Greek, paroikos) (Ephesians 2:19). An alien or sojourner is one who lives alongside the inhabitants of the place. According to Old Testament meaning, “a resident alien was subject to only a part of the law of the land and enjoyed only a corresponding legal protection” (Rogers and Rogers, A New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, p. 438). In Christ, they have ceased to be sojourners (Ephesians 2;19); they are now subject to all His laws, and enjoy His full protection.

Paul tells the Ephesian Christians that they are now fellow-citizens (Greek, sumpolitai) with the saints (Greek, ton hagion) and with the household of God (Greek, oikeioi ) (Ephesians 2:19). What do these words mean?

A polites is a member of a city or state, or the inhabitant of a country or district. A sumpolites is a fellow member of a city or state, possessing the same rights and privileges as the polites.

The saints are the sanctified ones in Christ Jesus. The household (or house) of God is the church (1 Timothy 3:15).

What does Paul mean when he tells the Ephesians that they are now fellow-citizens with the saints? It means that they enjoy the same rights as the sanctified ones in Christ Jesus, having Him as their Savior to cleanse them of their sins. Their cleansing does not end after they are baptized, for they would always need their Savior to continually cleanse them, and to keep them saved. “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sins” (1 John 1:7). Cleansing, according to this verse, is a continuing process.

They are also fellow-citizens with the household of God and as such they have God as their Father, and Jesus as their older brother. As fellow-citizens with other members of the church, they too have Jesus as their head and Savior (Ephesians 5:23), and they enjoy the fellowship with the saints on high and the fellowship with the Godhead. The Greek word oikeioi, “member of the household,” when used of persons means “one’s family,” strictly of relatives or kinsmen; loosely of familiar friends. But it is also used “of all members regardless of social or personal position” (Rogers and Rogers, p. 438).

Paul tells them that they are built on a sure foundation, the foundation of the apostles (who began the church on Pentecost day) and of the prophets (who prophesied about the church prior to Pentecost day), of which Jesus Himself is the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). The phrase “are built” is from the Greek epoikodomethentes, an aorist passive participle, literally translated as “having been built on.” It is a participle and is used as an adjective to describe the church. It is passive indicating that they, the church, have been acted upon; that the church did not build itself, it was just the beneficiary of an action. Jesus is the builder of it (Matthew 16:18).

In Christ Jesus, all in the building are “being fitted together” (Greek, sunarmologoumene, present passive participle of sunarmologeo, to fit together). As a participle, in Greek grammar it functions as a description of the noun, in which case it is the church structure described as being fitted together. In the parlance of the builders and constructors, the word describes the “elaborate process by which some stones are fitted together: the preparation of the surface including the cutting, the rubbing, and the testing; the preparation of the dowels and the dowel holes, and finally the fitting of the dowels with molten lead” (Rogers & Rogers, 638).

Since it is passive, Someone, not us, is doing the architectural job of making every part in the structure fit together. You as a brother, a part in the structural building, do not have any right to complain that your brother does not fit in the structure. It is the Lord’s prerogative to make all of you fit together, and he does this by making you grow everyday, changing you gradually, until you fit in. Notice too that the tense of the verb is in the present, not past or future.

The parts of the building being fitted together grows into a holy shrine or temple of the Lord (Ephesians 2:21). The Greek verb auxei, translated “grows” means to grow or to increase. It is present indicative active. The present indicates that the growing is continuous, and auxei may also be translated as “continuing to grow and develop. Though the building is structurally complete, it continues to grow with the addition of individual stones” (Rogers and Rogers, p. 438). The church keeps growing, becoming a temple of God.

Paul then tells the Ephesians that in Christ they “are also being built together as a habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:21). The Greek verb sunoikodomeisthe, “ye are being built together,” is present indicative passive. The indicative as we have said shows that this sentence construction is a declaration of a fact or state of things. The passive shows that Christ is the one doing the building. The present is used because the building is still going on. They are being built as the dwelling of God through the Spirit.

You and I are just stones being made to fit into the building, parts of the structure being built as God’s temple. God does not dwell in you or in me as stones; He dwells in the whole building, the church. And He dwells there through the Spirit.

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Things That Never Get Outdated

Today I bade goodbye to Penny. Three years ago, she became mine for a measly price of P2,800. Now as she grows older, and SLOWER, her upgrading price has gone up, while her usability has gone low. But she is one machine I’d learned to love. She watched me grow from one who knew nothing about Microsoft Word to one who knew something, like hacking– CPUs, memories, disks, legacy and I/O devices. Our three years journey was one most fruitful, because she had honed my skills to the utmost. I had adapted to her ways (“Checksum error”), her idiosyncrasies (“Try Safe mode”), her habits (“Your computer maybe at risk. Click here to update”) and her tantrums (“Could not find boot ini.”). Because she’s grown tired of Windows 98, she shacked up with Windows 2000, but finally settled with Windows XP. No one, definitely no one understood her more than I did; no one lovingly cared for her more than I did. You could say that today our parting was a tearful one. Penny it was who kept me company in my early blogging days. But I have to move on. Since she refused to be upgraded, rather, she could no longer be upgraded, I gave her away, and took on a new laptop.

My youngest daughter was too happy to have Penny the Pentium 2.

Things in this world get old or outdated. I thought about it last night too as I talked to a fellow preacher who’s on his last semester in a graduate school. He and his fellow students are on the cutting edge, the laptop-carrying generation, not just the ordinary laptops, mind you, but the Dual Core Centrino, 1 gig RAM, 180 gig hard disk, Windows Vista OS. Because they’re groomed to be counselors, teaching and lecturing became common affairs, and the DLP (“digital live projector”) became the common gadget they attach to their Neo Emprivas. The suns of modern technology definitely shine so brightly in the classrooms.

But everything man invents will eventually go out of date. Someday even personal laptops, DLPs, RAMs and HDDs will become obsolete. CRT monitors have just given way to Plasma, but soon Plasma too will be outdated. Everything in this world to which man has attached some significance will go the way of the old and will become null or nothing.

Does our mortal insignificance baffle you? Man, who started as couple in some garden in the Middle East, has now become a dot in the universe. There’s too many of us. I hate it when they don’t call me by my first name, but in front of an ATM, in a bank, in front of a ticket booth, I am just a number. But maybe, someday, numbers too will give way to encrypted dots.

But some significant things remain and never get outdated.

The news that Someone had suffered agony and death for me, for you, and for them, for Muslims, for Jews and for those who are neither Muslims nor Jews–an insignificant bunch of creatures–comes to me as significant. He died for the Jews who killed Him. He died for the Muslims who did not even believe He died for them. I never asked Him to, but I am most thankful to know that a drop of His blood had also been shed for me.

The news of His death, burial, resurrection, ascension and coming again is history about two thousand years old, but the significance of it remains. That news is the Gospel, and it is Allah’s instrument to save Jews and Muslims and those who are neither Jews nor Muslims.

Muslims, Jews, and those who are neither Muslims nor Jews need forgiveness. Why talk about heaven when all I need most today is be cleansed from my sin? Once I am cleansed, I am made new. Heaven is for those who have been made new.

Why talk about Paradise when it is a new relationship with my God and with my fellow man that is of paramount importance? If I love my God–Allah– I would no longer hurt, maim, or kill my fellow man. If I love my God I would accept Jesus as his Prophet who spoke for God, the Lamb who was offered for my sin, the High Priest who entered the most Holy of Holies to mediate for me, the King who rules my life, and the God who will come again and judge me.

These facts never change.

Let the gospel in its purity be preached through far and wide. It is the story that constantly reminds us that our only hope is Jesus.

(1) The Fact of the Spirit’s Indwelling

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This is admittedly one of the most difficult topics we have tackled thus far. The difficulty, for one, lies in the fact that we in our modern language are attempting to understand one of the most baffling subjects tackled by the ancients, portrayed in their language, with their first century cultural background, idioms, and grammatical construction. There is a great chasm that separates us and the people of the New Testament times. New Testament Greek, being a dead language, is static (and thank God because this limits our search); while modern languages keep changing and dialects keep multiplying as knowledge grows. Every generation of men and women since the time of William Tyndale looks for a Bible translation they can comfortably read and connect with, and translations are every generation of translators’ way of trying to look at the Book and telling us what it means. There is no perfect translation. I am saying this at the outset of this discussion because we sometimes insist on arguments based on the points that we have lifted from the Bible translations. Let’s us take the discussion to the much higher plane. Go to the Greek New Testament. What do the ancients say?

I call this series of studies “The Holy Spirit’s Indwelling: A Second Look at the Doctrine that Baffles Religious People.” A second look is necessary because of the caveat against false teachers (1 John 4:1). In obedience to this injunction, we test the spirits of those who are in our own backyard and in other backyards. In the book of Acts there is also an example of disciples who, listening to an inspired apostle, received the Word with open hearts (meta pases prothumias, “with all eagerness”) but examined the Scriptures daily whether those things were so (cf. Acts 17:11). We are not to take everything everybody is saying as gospel truth.

The “indwelling of the Spirit” is not “incarnation.” We are not talking here of the incarnating Spirit. To be incarnate is to be “in flesh.” Jesus, while in heaven, was God (John 1:1), or was in God’s form (Philippians 2:6), but when He came to earth He became flesh (John 1:14), He became incarnate. Yet is said that He received the Spirit without measure (John 3:34). Without measure means not in a limited degree, but fully, completely. While he was on earth, Jesus spoke and ministered and performed miracles with the Spirit’s assistance (cf. Matthew 12:28).

I have heard this being argued somewhere. The proponent of the theory, insisting that the Holy Spirit dwells in him bodily, also insists that he has given flesh to the Holy Spirit, that his body becomes the home of the Spirit. This is arguing from the point of English grammar, because to “indwell” also means to “dwell in.” The Holy Spirit literally dwelling in the body of a sinful person? Does the Spirit go wherever you go, move wherever you move? If the argument is pushed to its logical conclusions, the proponent, not having logical answers ready, would resort to sophistry. And sophistry is false logic.

The Bible never speaks of the indwelling of the Spirit in Christians as an “incarnation.”

“Literal indwelling of the Spirit”? If the Holy Spirit literally, personally dwells in you, then the third member of the Godhead has become much smaller. He must become small in order to really, literally, personally dwell in you. (If you don’t accept these conclusions, it is probably because you have a pretty limited concept of what the word “literally” means).

But, you insist, the Holy Spirit could fit inside you because He dwells in you spiritually. You however have no Scripture evidence to prove this. You have abandoned “literal indwelling,” and now you have been willing to embrace the “spiritual indwelling” theory. But the idea of a Spirit dwelling in man “spiritually” is actually redundant and does not mean anything. Besides, you have no proof for this. Your notion is no proof.

Also, if the Spirit of God dwells in you spiritually, then you must admit that He also indwells you in some other way than spiritual. He must do this if you think He is omnipotent. If not, why not?

Now, if he dwells in you spiritually, snugly fitted inside you, then you must admit that He does not dwell in you literally. Also, if He fits inside you, then He ceases to be omnipresent. If you want Him to be omnipresent, then you have to distribute Him. The Spirit is in you now, also in him, also in others. You have turned Him into slices of something of which He is not (cf. Isaiah 55:8). You have humanized your God.

Another question: Why does He need to be snugly fitted inside you?

Have you noticed that “literal indwelling” is just a terminology men have invented which finds no precedent in the Scriptures? In my many years of listening to brethren claiming that the Holy Spirit actually, literally and personally dwells in them, I have never heard them say what the Holy Spirit precisely says or does while He is inside them. Does He communicate to you in Hiligaynon? In Ilocano? In Cebuano? In English? In a trance? Through vision? Does He nudge you? Can you feel it when He is inside you? Do you consult Him? Does He consult you?

You claim to have the literal personal indwelling and yet perform no miracles. Others claim the same literal personal indwelling and also claim to perform wonders. You are correct in not claiming you could do miracles; he is wrong in claiming he could. But the burden of proof now lies on both of you. Where does it say that the Spirit literally and personally dwells in both of you? Will the Spirit dwell in the bodies of people who are worlds apart in points of doctrine?

Does the word “filled with the Spirit” mean “literally filled”? Does it also mean “literally indwelt” by the Spirit? Two apostles were said to be sent forth by the Spirit (Acts 13:4); does this mean “indwelt” by the Spirit? One apostle, “filled with the Spirit,” blinded a sorcerer (Acts 13:8-12). If you think this means he was “indwelt by the Spirit,” may I remind you that the ancients never spoke this way, and if you want to know you may go to a Bible lexicon. It is just your notion telling you that “being filled with the Spirit” means being “indwelt by the Spirit.” You see what you are doing? You are trying to clothe an ancient idiom with your 21st century notion. The word “filled,” as in “filled with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 13:9), is the Greek plestheis, aorist passive participle of pimplemi, which means to be “filled with external perceptible things”; it may also be used to describe a man’s inner life, as in “filled with enthusiasm”; it also means to be “satiated” with something. It does not mean “indwelt with.” (See Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 658).

No mention of indwelling in Acts 13:8-12. So you have a man not Spirit-indwelt who performed a miracle.

Not a long time ago I listened to an actor (his name is in the forefront of protests against the Arroyo administration) telling us on TV about all the good things the Holy Spirit had directly led him to do, all of them worldly and material in nature, including what brand of a car to buy, what business to engage in. Apparently he had been deceived into thinking that with the Spirit living in him literally and personally, everything he does and would do, including instigating protests and supporting acts of rebellion against the constituted authority, was right and lawful. He claimed to be a Spirit-indwelt, miracle-working leader of their group, and said the Holy Spirit did some nudging to him as he went car-shopping.

The Holy Spirit of Promise. We sometimes argue that the Holy Spirit had been promised to the apostles only, using Luke 24:48 and Acts 1:8. Strictly speaking what was promised them was the power from on high. This power came when the Holy Ghost came on Pentecost day, accompanied by the sound of the rushing mighty wind and the appearance of cloven tongues like as of fire which sat on each one of them. Filled with the Holy Ghost they each spoke as the Spirit gave them utterance.

We argue that because it has not been promised us, we are not entitled to the power that came with the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Correct. Not everyone receives the promised bonuses and perks, except only those who have been promised these perks and bonuses.

Holy Spirit baptism a promise, not a command? That’s a cute way of saying it. Very simplistic. The apostles were promised the power (Luke 24:48; Acts 1:8), yes, but they were also commanded to tarry in Jerusalem until they be endued with that power (Acts 1:4). The transaction involved both a promise and a command. Had they not followed the command to wait in the city, they would not have received the power that was promised them.

During the long haul, one’s interpretation sometimes gets an overhaul.

Acts 2:38. This passage talks about the gift of the Holy Spirit and there’s no denying that this is also a promise. “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” By baptism one puts on Christ (Gal. 3:27). By baptism he also becomes a newborn creature (John 3:3-6; Romans 6:3-6). The three thousand were commanded to repent and be baptized; after baptism they received the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. “Repent” (Greek, metanoesate, aorist imperative active) and “be baptized” (Greek, baptistheto, aorist imperative passive) are both commands.

Is dorea the Holy Spirit Himself? Now, what is the “gift of the Holy Spirit” (Greek, dorean tou hagiou pneumatos)? In the New Testament dorea is used to refer to spiritual gift (John 4:10); to supernatural gift (Acts 8:20); the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:17); the gift of grace (Romans 5:15; Eph. 3:7); the gift of liberality (2 Cor. 9:15); the heavenly gift (Heb. 6:4); the gift of Christ (Eph. 4:7); the gift of righteousness (Romans 5:17).

It is argued that Acts 2:38 contains an epexegetical clause. For example, in Romans 5:17, the “gift of righteousness” is not the gift coming or originating from righteousness, but righteousness itself, in which case, it is translated, the “gift, which is righteousness.” Acts 2:38 is also interpreted as epexegetical, “the gift, which is the Holy Spirit.” May we be forewarned however that this is just an interpretation, that we are arguing from implication, not from explication, and that the passage does not directly say the gift is the Holy Spirit Himself.

We have also have lined up above the different uses of the word dorea, the very word translated as “gift” in Acts 2:38. But other words than dorea have also been translated “gift.” Therefore when you see the word “gift” in your English Bible do not immediately conclude it is dorea, and when you see dorea, do not immediately say it means “Holy Spirit”!

Is the dorea salvation from sins? A minister of the gospel has this objection: “If the Holy Spirit is the ‘the gift,’ that is, the personal indwelling in each Christian, why did Peter use the word ‘gift’ at all? Why didn’t Peter simply say: ‘You shall receive the Holy Spirit,’ rather than ‘the gift of the Holy Spirit’? In John 20:22, Jesus said to His apostles, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ Definitely the promise was that they were to receive the Holy Spirit Himself in some way and not some ‘gift’ that the Holy Spirit would give. On Pentecost, the obedient believers were promised a ‘gift’ that the Holy Spirit would give them as a result of their obedience to the gospel message. What was the gift they received? The forgiveness of their sins! Salvation! Redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ!” (Click here: The Examiner).

Now read Acts 2:38 (RSV) and try making some substitution: “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you shall receive the FORGIVENESS OF SINS.” How does that sound?

There is no need to make war over Acts 2:38. Both interpretations are based on implications, and implications are just our conclusions. Are there wise men in both camps of this Holy Spirit indwelling controversy? I think there are. “Do any of you have wisdom and insight? Show this by living the right way with the humility that comes from wisdom” (James 3:13, God’s Word, courtesy of WordSearch).

Acts 2:38 is the only passage that speaks of the promised gift of the Holy Spirit AFTER baptism. By baptism here we mean baptism in water. Acts 11:17, paired with Acts 10:44, speaks of the Holy Spirit falling on the household of Cornelius BEFORE they were baptized in water (Acts 10:47). In short: the three thousand got it AFTER baptism; the household of Cornelius BEFORE baptism.

We have just shown that Acts 2:38 does not explicitly say that the “gift of the Holy Spirit” is the Holy Spirit itself. Neither does it mean “salvation” or “forgiveness from sins.” What is it? I don’t know. I don’t like to venture an opinion that would later on be proven to be wrong.

Acts 5:32. This passage, together with Acts 2:38, is used to buttress our contention that “every disciple who submits himself to the Lord’s command to be baptized not only receives the forgiveness of sins but also the gift of the Spirit, which is the Holy Spirit.” Acts 5:32 says, “And we are his witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God hath given to them that obey him” (KJV).

Here we find the irate high priest and the equally irate group of people, majority of whom probably belonged to the Sadducean sect, ganging up on the apostles (Acts 5:17-18). Prior to this, the apostles had been strictly commanded not to teach in the name of Christ Jesus, but instead they filled Jerusalem with their teaching (Acts 5:28)! Not only were the apostles accused of teaching a doctrine that runs counter to Sadduceeism–the teaching about the resurrected Jesus! — but they also were trying to hold these religious authorities accountable for the death of Jesus (”you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us!”). In the face of this unbelievably strong pressure, Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29)!

Peter irritated them the more by preaching a mini-sermon covering the key points of Christ’s death, His resurrection and His glorification. Peter blamed them for crucifying Jesus. But God (who was also the God of the Sadducees and of their counterparts the Pharisees) subverted their plan by raising up Jesus from the grave, and by exalting Him to His right hand as Prince and Savior, to grant repentance to the nation of Israel and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31). If I were a Jew living in strict conformity to the law, the doctrine about a crucified God is too much for me to swallow. And if I were a Sadducean high priest confronting a rebellious Jewish preacher just fresh from prison, a rebel Jew who was imprisoned for performing a miracle, a miracle done in the name of the Man whom we had just crucified as a common criminal, how would I react? I would be enraged!

Then Peter said, “And we are the witnesses of these things [or, these words]” (literal translation of Acts 5:32a). What did Peter mean? (1) That they were witnesses of Christ’s death, his resurrection and his ascension into glory; (2) That they were witnesses of the words they were preaching. They were witnesses of what they had seen and heard.

And he added that the Holy Spirit also was an additional witness. “And so is also the Holy Ghost.” God the Father resurrected Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit had equipped them to preach with boldness. The religious establishment opposed Peter and the apostles because they were small, insignificant personalities. But oppose the Spirit they could not. They probably remembered what Jesus had said about this Spirit (Matthew 12:32).

The rest of the passage reads, “And so is also the Holy Ghost whom God GAVE to the ones obeying Him” (Acts 5:32b).

The verb “gave” is Alfred Marshall’s translation of the Greek verb edoken, which is aorist indicative active. It is indicative because it is a simple statement of facts. Active because the subject of the verb, “God,” is the one doing the action. It is aorist in its tense, and is referring to the past action of giving. It is a done thing, finished, fulfilled.

Concerning the aorist, J. Gresham Machen says, “The aorist is like the imperfect in that it refers to past time. But the imperfect refers to continuous action in past time, while the aorist is the simple past tense…The Greek language shows no tendency whatever to confuse the aorist with the imperfect” (New Testament Greek for Beginners, pp. 81-85).

If you use Acts 5:32 to apply to every case of Christians baptized today for the remission of their sins, saying he receives the Holy Spirit after he has obeyed the command of baptism, you will surely encounter some problems with one who knows Greek grammar.

I have not made up my mind on what conclusions to make of this discovery. But if you have a better explanation (not one you just copied from Leo Boles, B. W. Johnson, David Lipscomb, or other “restorers”), I am willing to listen to it.

Boles, Johnson and Lipscomb were good scholars, and I learned so much from reading them, but…

I stand here, holding a glass, and I want to drink from that faucet. Some of us may be contented with drinking from that jug which they have passed on to us. If this is the kind of scholar that you are, then let’s be at peace. I am not going to convince you to change. But I want to go ahead and drink from that faucet myself. To be an independent thinker is my choice.

Name With a Big G

I think you ought to remember me. You must remember me. I’ll give you a thousand and one reasons why you should remember me. Better listen.

Know this: Fairness has not always been a part of my nature. Am not fair to everyone. Am just fair to myself. Ow, come on. Do not complain. I won’t listen anyway.

I just killed somebody. Yesterday. I killed another one before that. I am going to kill today. And I will kill tomorrow. I am blood-thirsty, am not satisfied with a few victims. The more victims, the better; the more turbulent the game, the merrier. What are you belly-aching about? It’s normal.

When I am on a rampage, I inflict a severe and permanent wound; and be thankful you’re not dead– you’re just dying. If I come back tomorrow, you’re finished. Look at me, look at these eyes, because it’s the last time you will see them. Because my craftiness knows no comparison, because my deceit knows no bounds, because my malice knows no limits. And I am not satisfied with just maiming — I always aim at the jugular.

Am more spectacular than you, you know that? Your stories are ordinary. Mine? The longer my “news” are told and retold, the more they are believed. I am no small thing.

Ow yea, I am everywhere– in schools and in malls, in the highlands and in the lowlands, in homes and in churches. You see me on TV and on the pulpit too. I may be an atheist, but sometimes I am religious too. I like to tell my stories in seclusion. Just between the two of us.

You say I’m bad? No, I’m worst. A friend of no one, I am the enemy of everyone. Once I destroy you, you are never the same. You wanna bet?

I work in the noontime, in the night time, in the wee hours of the morning, anytime. I have no respect for daylight saving. Any place on the globe to me is a war zone– be it continents or islands. My stories cross time zones, ride on the cyber web, gallop on four-legged creatures but mostly on two-legged ones, travel on wheels, journey on wings, are conveyed by cellular phones. My favorite is a text message. The shorter, the better. I don’t want to get caught.

If I topple a government, I’d start in the oval office, or in the bedroom. I work with a headwaiter who has caught you in an indecent situation with someone everyone knows is not the first lady. Election officers may have supplied you with a mandate, but I work with CDs– the mothers of all CDs!–that keep a record of your misdemeanors. Business tycoons are always there, eager to help, eager to peddle, but I work with secretaries– in times of reckoning, they can turn you in. Oh, yes, generals– they are eager to prop you up, but be careful too because the walls have eyes. Drinking buddies aiming for the big cut? Just sign this. Never mind if this document looks like toilet paper. Banks can hide an account. Cabinet secretaries can hide behind an executive order. You can hide abroad.

If I want to topple generals, I start with a private, and go up the ranks. My favorites are officers’ wives. Because the men are in the battlefields, they never have any idea what havoc their wives have wrought till they get home. I like it when officers kill each other after they have talked to their wives on the phone. My favorite cubicle is the office of the comptroller.

If I wreck a marriage, I supply your wife with every motive she could find, and tomorrow be sure to pack up your bags and find another bed.

If I destroy a career, I work with the secretary who works with the boss. Sometimes I would start with the ordinary janitor. Who knows. Big things sometimes come from the ordinary.

Because it has been my purpose to cause heartaches and pains, sleepless nights and equally sleepless days, heart attacks and indigestions, headaches and headlines, griefs and sorrows, hardships and troubles,  I would suggest scenarios to spawn suspicions.

And if I attack you, I want you to beg for your life. All those whom I have victimized could not help themselves. If they want to protect themselves, they better come to me. I may promise them mercy, a promise that I don’t fulfill.

Track me down? What do you mean? You cannot do that. It is impossible to do that. You cannot because I don’t carry an ID, and I have no face.

Pssss. You hear that hissing sound?

They call me Gossip.

A Burial One Afternoon

It is not often that I attended burials, and if I did, it would be for one reason: To pay my last respects for the dead.

But today was different: They would be burying the man who, while still living, had often considered me his enemy.

Read on>>>

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