(5) “Being Filled With the Spirit” (The Case of the Twelve Apostles)

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Acts 2 tells us about many firsts. It was the first time the Holy Spirit was outpoured from heaven and filled a group of 12 men (Acts 2:4, 14) in fulfillment of the divine promises (cf. Joel 2:28-29; Matthew 3:11; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5). These men were disciples of the Man from Nazareth, a strange Man from a strange place. Strange not so much because of the absence of rabbinic references about Him as a God-sent figure beginning a grass roots ministry in such a place called “Ha Galil,” literally “The Circle,” or Galilee, in the northernmost tier of Jewish land, which was geographically, politically and spiritually far from the scene of action which was Jerusalem. Strange because the small band who followed the Man of peace too were adept in the ways of the revolution, Galilee being the nest of revolutionary movements in all Palestine. Strange because the band of twelve, in obedience to their Leader, was to proclaim a revolution that was to change the face of the soul and consequently the face of the world.

INITIATING THE NEW WAY OF GOD IN THE WORLD. The Twelve were unlearned in the ways of scholars and theologians (Acts 4:13). They had never been to a Mishna and Torah school. Their manners were rough. Their dialect had regional defects. They quarreled for the topmost position in the kingdom that was yet to come. They called for thunder and lightning to consume their fellow Jews who did not believe like they did. They cringed in the face of death when their Master was arrested, tried and hung outside the city walls. Yes, they were human, as human as anyone of us are.

Nevertheless all those— those minus points and flaws in their character—did not matter, for these were to change because of their continued association with the Great Personage who got out of His tomb one early Sunday morning.  The fact that He rose again, and made a promise that he would come and see them again, made them brave and courageous. To top it all, they were to experience one of the most wonderful phenomena the world has ever known—the Holy Spirit’s outpouring— which was to help them initiate the New Way of God in the world.

IN THE INITIAL SPURTS OF THE SPIRIT’S OUTPOURING, they came to be filled with it. Notice the language of Acts 2:4a. “They were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” The verb EPLESTHESAN, “they were filled,” is the aorist indicative passive 3rd person plural form of PIMPLEMI, “to fill” (Rogers & Rogers, The New Linguistic & Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, page 231).

In a reading from Julius Pollux, an Egyptian Greek lexicographer who compiled a Greek lexicon for Emperor Commodus, the man who is said to be PLERES THEOU, “filled with God,” is also inspired of God (Colin Brown, Ibid.). PLERES, “filled,” is also rooted from PIMPLEMI.

PLERES THEOU, “filled with God,” was a very common idiom among writers both heathen and Christian. In fact in his apology written against a heathen writer, Origen the Christian faith defender said the heathens could not deny that the Holy Spirit indeed inspired the writers of the Christian Oracles because even they themselves believe their Pythian priestess is said to be filled by the spirit of a god when she utters an oracle! (Origen, Contra Celsus, 7, 3; cited from Colin Brown, ibid.).  This is a technique in debates called “turning the table on your opponent.”

Now if “filled with God” means “inspired of God,” then its related idiom, “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit,” EPLESTHESAN PANTES PNEUMATOS HAGIOU (Acts 2:4a), teaches that the apostles were indeed inspired of the Holy Spirit! The text where this is found also says they spoke “as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4b).

The phrase says they were all filled with one Spirit; the verb however does NOT say they were EACH filled with the Spirit, as if the Spirit was distributed in the body of each apostle personally as the Pentecostals want us to believe. It was one Spirit filling them ALL; not one Spirit distributed to EACH one of them, Their being filled with the Spirit resulted in their speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

THE ANTICS OF THE PENTECOSTALS. The passive form of the verb also indicates the apostles were not the doers of the action but were recipients of it; “they were filled with the Holy Spirit” (passive voice), not “they filled themselves with the Holy Spirit” (active voice). The action of “filling” is understood to be done by God himself, in a case that scholars generally consider as “divine passive.” In my debate with a Pentecostal, I challenged him to fill himself with God’s Spirit, complete with winds (Acts 2:2) and utterances (Acts 2:4) and cloven tongues of fire (Acts 2:3). He could not provide the winds, but uttered words I could not understand. And the cloven tongues of fire? He got it in a sardines can filled with hot coals which he placed on his head!

WHAT THE AORIST TENSE TEACHES. The aorist tense EPLESTHESAN in Acts 2:4 shows the act of filling as a finished action viewed as a whole. Aorist is always viewed as that— a point action, a finished action encapsulized. There is a sense in which a Greek verb describes an action as ongoing or continuing, and that is the job of the present active indicative. One passage (e.g. Col. 2:9) describes indwelling as a permanent thing, with its use of the present active indicative, but the aorist active/passive indicative is not the verb for that purpose.

Am I saying that apostolic inspiration ceased after Acts 2:4? No. I am just saying that EPLESTHESAN in the context of Pentecost event was a done thing.  I am in agreement with every Christian theologian that apostolic inspiration only ceased after AD 96, when John the apostle composed the Book of Revelation. But for goodness’ sakes, do not make an aorist verb in Acts 2:4 teach what it does not!

PIMPLEMI, when it appears in the passive, simply means “to be satiated, to have one’s fill of” something to the point of being complete (Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich & Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, p. 658). Their being “satiated with the Spirit” made them an ideal mouthpiece for God. The Spirit gave them utterance; in fact it can be said that they spoke as the Spirit moved them. Acts 2:4 really works in harmony with 2 Peter 1:21.

So “being filled with the Spirit” (in Acts 2:4) simply teaches apostolic inspiration. It is just the fulfillment of Christ’s promise in John 14:26 (“the Holy Ghost will teach you of all things which I told you”), John 15:26 (“the Spirit will witness concerning me”), and John 16:13 (“the Spirit of truth will guide you into all truth; he will not speak from himself but will speak what he hears; and he will announce to you the coming things”).

EPLESTHESAN PANTES PNEUMATOS HAGIOU, “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit,” thus does not mean “they were all indwelt by the Spirit.” The Greek words for indwelling are OIKEO, KATOIKEO, KATOIKIZO, ENOIKEO, and MENO. Let us not force the inspired Word to teach what it does not teach. If we are strict with the meaning of BAPTIZO, why can’t we be strict in the meaning of EPLESTHESAN?

We are thousands of years away from the events mentioned in Acts 2. Koine Greek, in which the Greek New Testament was written, is now a dead language. I am thankful it is now dead. Being dead, it did not grow. The words and their meanings, with their accompanying idioms and nuances did not change but remained static. English and other languages on the other hand evolve and grow, and keep evolving and growing, and meanings change. God has stored His living Word in a Book written in a language that is now dead–in order to preserve not only the Book but everything in it—words, idioms, nuances, tenses, moods, and cases. Our job basically is to understand what the ancient writers mean, not to impose our own meaning on what they wrote.

The Greek New Testament fares better in the hands of those who respect and love it and endeavor to preserve its teachings.

The idea of “personal indwelling” might be taught in other passages, and it’s our job to look for it. But definitely indwelling of the Spirit is not taught in Acts 2:4.

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Renato Austria

Renato AustriaI only knew Renato Austria as a face and a name on Facebook when brother Sonny Catalan introduced him to us. That was more than a week ago. Chito Cusi wrote about him. Gigie Carranza wrote about him. But I never knew him much. These last few days, however, tidbits and short notes kept adding to the scarce and limited information that I have of him, giving me in a way an almost complete profile of the man.

Atong (as he was fondly called by close friends and fellow disciples) was an active member of Midtown church in Baguio, a teammate in the church action group called MARCH for Christ, and had for many years been involved in the work of the Lord in many lands of Asia. At one time I and some brethren in Cebu did some follow-up of the mission MARCH had begun in Kalibo City, Aklan, but our paths –Atong’s and mine—never crossed.

But Atong, like the rest of those MARCH people, had done a great job in places perhaps too many to mention. If the church had wings to fly and feet to walk, Atong and the rest of them were those wings and those feet, flying to the heartlands of the heathens, walking on paths rough and muddy, on raging rivers, under heavy rains, from daybreak to daybreak, in a bid to turn these heathen hearts into heartlands of God. If the church had hands and lips, Atong was one of those, reaching out their hands to these men without God, with offers of food for the body, and proclaiming with their lips the food that could nourish the soul.

While Atong and the rest had been waging a war to win the hearts of men and women for Christ, he had also been waging a silent war in his own body. It is a terrible war. For the war in the cancer wards is a war we could lose, since science has not yet found a potent cure for it, like it did for TB. Cancer is our modern blight and our only way out of it is an early prognosis that can be done in labs by doctors skilled in the job. For brother Atong, it was too late to know he had caught it.

Death and cancer however must be understood in the light of God’s plan for man in general. For man, the creature whom God had molded from the dust of the ground and breathed into with the breath of life, is not meant to dwell in this domain of dusts forever, in this habitation corrupted and defiled by so much sins, by so many wrongs man did against his fellow man. Atong knew so well the face of unbrotherliness because he too had gone to Myanmar and China. This world has gone a long way since the day God created an Eden in the heart of it. We have forgotten that we all came from one womb, and that every man is in fact a brother to everyone. Eden, the former home of the first human family is too close to the Arab and Jewish lands where the hateful war of brother against brother has been waged since time immemorial.  Atong with the rest of our brethren had tried to change what outlook everyone had had with others of their kind, by taking to them just that message of brotherliness that God has wanted them to see.

The only cure for death and the blight of death is hope in Jesus. In His great mercy, God allows us to weep and view the death of a loved one as a loss for us. But God also wants us to understand that death is a gain. Death is the closing of one door and the opening of another–the door to glory. Atong had served God well and enough already. God wanted him to come to his glorious home, with a life there that is a lot better than the life here.

Our prayers are for those whom this dear brother has left behind—his dear wife and two kids. God always loves His own. And so while we remain in this land of tears and sorrows, we still feel secure and well. Why? Hear God speak:

“Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained strangers unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them; and those who are ill-treated since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for God will judge the immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, ‘I will never fail you nor forsake you.’ Hence we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?”’ (Hebrews 13:1-6).

Reformers, Restorers, or Renewers?

IMG_0570There is a question that sometimes may jolt you from your senses, urging you to investigate and satisfy your need to give a better “answer to the one who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.”   Questions that demand you be consistent with what you stand for. Questions like, What are we? Restorers, reformers, or renewers? (This last word I have to invent; it’s not in the dictionary).

The churches of Christ are not the only religious group who claims to be the restored church; the Mormons and the INC-1914 do too.

Alexander Campbell, as far as my studies are concerned, called himself and his fellow disciples “reformers,” not restorers. Their movement began at the close of the 17th century. In fact, brother Bill Humble goes on record as saying that the “Restoration Movement began in America in 1800” (The Story of the Restoration, p. 1). It was a “Restoration Movement” fathered by one who never called himself a “restorer.”

Greville Ewing, the Haldane brothers, Robert Sandeman and his father in law John Glass never thought of themselves as “restorers,” but “reformers,” like Campbell. Their “Reformation movement” had antedated the “Restoration Movement” in America by some 200 years. So a “Reformation Movement” in the British soil had fathered a “Reformation movement” in America that later called itself “Restoration Movement.”

But the Anabaptist Movement in Europe had preceded the British movement by another 200 years also. They never called themselves “restorers” but reformers.

As far as I know, it was J. W. Shepherd who made the distinction between “restoration” and “reformation.” Why this distinction? We owe it to the progress of our cause, which called for the crystallization of the things we taught. We owe it to our leaders who decided we should also make a name.

If one looks for the pattern of things, then, you have the Anabaptists, the British, then the Americans. We Filipinos are just the daughters of the movement sired by the Campbells, Barton W. Stone, Elias Smith, and Abner Jones in the soil of America.

If we call ourselves “restorers,” what are we restoring? You cannot call yourself by something that you are not. Are we restoring the church?

Come closer and lend me your ears, please. If we claim to be “restorers” then we are admitting to the world that the INC had been right all along– the church of Christ had been lost, and from the time of its departure, there had been no saved people until Felix Manalo came on the scene! Are you ready to believe that?

That is your first predicament–to be identified with the group that calls itself too as the “restored church,” which actually was a church that started from us (Gentlemen, hear ye, hear ye, Felix Manalo, the founder of the INC-1914 actually came from our Movement. He was introduced to the church of Christ by an American named Frederick Kershner, a missionary of the instrumental wing of the Church of Christ).

Your other predicament is that you have to skew these passages in Matthew 16:18, Daniel 2:44 and Hebrews 12:28 that speak about the eternal nature of the church in order to fit your doctrine– “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it”; “in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed”; “therefore we receiving a kingdom that cannot be moved.”

I may be a son of the restorationists who came to these islands of 7,100 after Spain had ravaged it for 500 years and sold me into Magellan’s religion. And it’s one of those many events that God in His wondrous mercy had allowed to happen. I am thankful for Admiral George Dewey who came to my shores with his fleet of warships in preparation for a showdown with the Castillians and pointed his big guns toward Intramuros, giving his gunner this signal: “Be ready to fire when I tell you, Ridley.” He ended Spain’s rule over my islands. Then we welcomed the Thomasites, then the Protestants, then the “restorers” from America. The rest is history.

If you call me a “restorationist,” I have a problem wearing that scapular for the rest of my life. I am always thankful to my American mentors (Kenneth J. Wilkey, Bob Buchanan, Douglas LeCroy, Dale Chilton, and Douglas Gunselman) for teaching me Bible, and to Jeff Shelton for making me learn Greek. I have had Filipino teachers too–Brothers Seb Tanicala, Adrian Limbawan (deceased), Teofilo Alcayde, Felix Bravo, Cesar Lobino (deceased), Daniel Oliva, Roman Cariaga, Felipe Cariaga, Conrado Mapalo, Cesar Tajores, and the late Flor Tanicala. Thankful too for the late Eduardo Montoyo Sr. and for his son Eduardo Jr for guiding me into the right group, and for Charlie Garner for preaching that message one night in Baliwasan church hall, the message whose thunders echoed in my ears and made me tremble at the thought of not finding myself with the redeemed someday. God bless them.  Perhaps I differ from some of my teachers on the idea of the “restoration.” I am not a restorer of a church, because I wouldn’t be true to the purpose, intent and nature of that blessed institution for which my Lord died. I cannot restore a church that never vanished from the face of the earth in the first place! There was no general departure of the church and I trust the Holy Spirit who said to Paul that only “some shall depart from the faith” (1 Timothy 4:1).

I too have a problem calling myself a “reformer.” What do I reform? the doctrines of the church? The church itself? The true teachings of the Bible do not need any reforming at all. I am in the Lord’s church. In a sense I can be a reformer in the Lord’s church. But those other churches which are not Christ’s do not need any reforming; they need to be taught about the basics of truth.

So what am I? I am just a Christian preacher, calling the people who have departed from God to go back to Him again. I am calling for a renewal of relationships.

These thoughts are just for you to consider. This is not to fault anyone of you for teaching something different from mine. Tell you what, I have arrived at these thoughts after many prayerful studies of the Word, and after many debates with the sects. You may say that my ideas have undergone some kind of crystallization also. Consider it. It is not a dogma of a pope. It is not the kind of teaching that demands I split the church because some of you guys don’t agree with me. I am not going to die for that opinion, never.

What then are you saying, brother Ed? you may ask. Tell you what: One of those things that I like about the Campbells and other “restorers” is their motto that became the “restoration” movement’s guiding light: “In matters of faith, unity; in matters of opinion, liberty; in all things, charity.” Difference of opinion is what it is. I don’t chop other people for teaching that they cannot address the Father as Lord in their prayers because they believe that Jesus is the only Lord. I still love my brothers even though some of them may be up in arms because I disagree with them on the matter of the Spirit’s indwelling. I just love to learn, and I also love knowing they learn their own truths some other way. Differences such as ours is not a heaven-or-hell issue. I believe that we can still go to heaven even if we differ in our opinions– opinions that are not intended to fractionalize the body, but to become the springboard for discussions in order to for us to come up with a message that is consistent with the Word.

If this is the attitude we have, then we should not have divided over the issues of orphan homes, Bible schools, plural cups, located preacher, benevolence for the non-Christians. If Daniel Sommer and Roy Cogdill had not been too pushy of their principles, then the movement that my beloved American brothers had brought to many shores would not have been too fractious. As it is I am a loss to explain why we plead for unity of all believers and then divide the churches over minor issues. God help these fractious men! is all I can say in moments of frustrations.

Gentlemen, I love this church. There is nothing like it in the whole world, in spite of what our detractors say. Whether we agree or disagree on minor points, let us rather push for the evangelization of the whole world. That is the most important. If a brother lacks the sense that others have, the church, consisting of different talents and mental resources could amply supply that lack. But the church must also be tolerant over small matters. I am of the opinion that no one goes to hell just because he believes that when the Lord comes again, he shall restore the kingdom to Israel (cf. Acts 1:6). If even Christ had been tolerant of this small fault in the apostolic band, why couldn’t us? Why couldn’t you?

Oh, you can keep calling yourselves “restorers,” or “reformers,” and I don’t really mind. Some messages sometimes don’t sink that deep; sometimes they bounce back.

Now, it’s your turn to bounce to me your opinions. I will listen.

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