Thank you for you prayers - they are much appreciated and certainly needed. This problem I have has affected us for years and resolving it according to God's will would make such a difference. At the same time when it all started I was certainly far from the Lord and if I describe myself now as a toddler when it comes to spirituality, then I don't think I was even a fetus a few years ago, not really knowing what faith was and entangled in catholic self-righteousness and misinterpretation of the truth. Now that things changed for me it is hard to see whether leaving things behind is indeed a godly decision (Luke 14:26). I hope that not only God presents a solution, but that I can discern it also.
In the meantime, here is another set of questions.
How would you translate 1 John 3:6?
a) Some translations say: No one who abides in Him sins; (NASB).
Others: No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. (NIV)
So sometimes it said 'no one (...) sins', and sometimes 'no one (...) keeps on sinning'. I believe these can be interpreted differently - the first one talks about the standard, which we strive to achieve, but never will and perhaps cannot be interpreted as an accurate description of any believer's behaviour, whereas the second one could be interpreted in that way - as even though we will still sin as believers, we will not 'keep on sinning' in the sense of immersing ourselves in sin.
What does the Bible here say in Greek? What is your take on this passage? Should we understand here that John here refers not to one single act of committing a sin, which is inevitable even for a believer, but rather to a life of sin?
b) One final thought on this passage - it says 'no one who abides in Him' - since it is not possible for any of us to abide in Him completely, the passage, rather than relating to an unreachable standard when it says about not sinning, this unreachable standard may also refer to the first part of the sentence about abiding in Him, which none of us will ever do perfectly. I may be going astray here, so please correct me where needed, but an alternative interpretation that crossed my mind would be:
'No one who abides in Him (but none of us will every 'abide in Him perfectly') sins (but since the first condition of 'abiding in Him' is never fulfilled we all sin)'.
This interpretation, rather than describing the actual state of affairs, refers thus to a perfect standard than we cannot fulfil ('abiding in Him' completely) and hence our inability to partake in the consequence of meeting this perfect standard (not sinning).
Let me know your thoughts.
c) Could you also comment on verse nine of the same chapter ('he cannot sin').
It's always good to hear from you, my friend. I apologize for the lengthiness of the delay. I threw my back out some days ago (it does seem to be temporary and is improving), and that event along with the end of the semester has slowed me down.
I have not forgotten about the dilemma you are facing nor the underlying issue of commitment which complicates it. I do continue to keep you in prayer on this particular matter day by day, and I am confident that God has an answer and will give it in His own perfect way at His own perfect time. We human beings are not particularly good at waiting I know I am not but waiting patiently and in complete faith is a key part of the Christian life: this is how we demonstrate the power and the depth of our faith. The two Hebrew words which express this idea theologically, qavah and yachal, both include the idea of the tension of the process ("straining in wait" and "writhing while waiting" respectively): so God is not unaware that waiting in peace is not easy and waiting without struggle, internally and externally, is impossible. Nevertheless, it is a mark of exceptional spiritual maturity to be able to accept God's will and God's timing without peeling off into rationalized, self-generated solutions which are not what He wants and/or not when He wants. We rightly consider Abraham exceptional because he waited until he was 99 for the blessing of the birth of the heir he so desperately desired; we see immediately the problem with his earlier agreement to go along with Sarah's suggestion that he do so "indirectly" through Hagar. None of us is perfect in passing these sorts of tests and many of us need multiple chances in order to finally "get it right", but the best policy in fact the only good policy is to trust the Lord that He really does have every situation in hand no matter how bleak it may seem to us, that He really does have our very best interests at heart even if at times He seems (to us) to have forgotten about our problem, and that He really will work all things out together for good even if we cannot see how good can still come out of a particularly problematic situation: our weakness is merely an opportunity for God to show His strength:
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2nd Corinthians 12:8-10 NIV
As to your question, 1st John 3:6 is another oft-debated passage. Whenever I am asked about it I always start by observing what John has also said earlier in the same epistle:
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
1st John 1:7-10 NIV
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.
1st John 2:1 NIV
Since claiming to be without sin is deception, since claiming not to sin makes God a liar, since confession of sin is recommended, and since we are told that if we do sin Jesus Himself acts as our Advocate speaking in our defense, it would be a mistake to think that 1st John 3:6 teaches that Christians never sin or are incapable of sinning. John has already made it very clear that we do sin and need confession and that claiming we don't is a horrible lie.
Still, 1st John 3:6 is the truth: it says what it says and it means what it means. In the Greek, we do have here the present tense indicative. Therefore both translations you reference, "no one . . . sins" and "no one . . . keeps on sinning" are possible. That is because while Greek makes aspectual distinctions in places where in English we do not (i.e., in the imperative, subjunctive and optative moods), it only has one present tense: the difference between "sins" (simple), "sinning" (progressive), and "does sin" (emphatic), all of which are distinguished in English, is non-existent in Greek. Secondly, your point about "abiding" is a good one: the person who "abides" (or "is abiding") is the one who "does not sin" (or "keep on sinning"). Theologically, this may actually complicate the interpretation because in my view of these matters, at any rate, there are two ways for the believer to be "in Christ" as well. The first is the position we all enjoy through faith: we are one with Jesus by virtue of being saved. However, it is also true that our fellowship with Jesus, that is, our "in or out" of His good graces or fellowship, is something which is, unfortunately, variable, and John has made a big point of this earlier in the epistle:
If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
1st John 1:6-7 NIV
It is also very difficult to separate the two. That is because if we are saved and yet insist on walking in darkness then very soon we are likely to fall away (or be removed from this life); whereas if we are saved and are making a conscious effort to walk in the light then it will be very difficult to distinguish between our positional fellowship and our actual fellowship. Or, to look at it from the standpoint of sin, if we are sinning "occupationally" and not fighting the fight against sin, not confessing, not repenting, not improving, then not only are we not "abiding" in Jesus in terms of a day by day walk with Him but we are also in grave danger of hardening our hearts against Him absolutely; whereas if we are confessing when we do sin and turning away more and more from sin day by day then there will be very little practical difference between the reality and the ideal when we do sin, especially in a more serious way, it will be an aberration from the norm and not part of our usual practice so that we may justly be described as "abiding in Him" and "not sinning" as a rule or as an "occupation" (e.g., David in Ps.11:5 makes an absolute distinction between the righteous and the wicked though we know from his rare lapses that no one is completely perfect in conduct, even a great believer like David).
Correctly understood, therefore, 1st John 3:6 "works" regardless of how it is interpreted. For those who want to understand it as absolute ("does not sin"), it is true in respect both to our position in Christ, that standard unto which we have been called, and, for all practical purposes, to our actual Christian function as well, once we attain a certain level of maturity and obedience to the Lord (wherein our occasional lapses are aberrations which do not violate the rule but which come under the exceptions and procedures noted earlier in the chapter). For those who want to understand this passage as relative ("does not keep on sinning"), it is also true both in respect to the principle of fellowship (i.e., our sinlessness is absolute when we are in fellowship and restored when we do sin once we repent and confess), and also in respect to the principle of position in that in terms of our place as part of the Body of Christ we are sinless in principle in that we abide in Him spiritually (which then is a good motivation to strive to make our practice match up with this perfect principle). For these reasons, John could in good conscience write what he wrote, and the Spirit in His perfect understanding of all things could allow what was written to take the exact form it did for nothing here is inconsistent with anything the Bible says elsewhere about sin, at least when properly and fully understood and not twisted to bad purposes.
It would be wrong to take from this verse the false idea that Christians can be or (worse to tell) are absolutely perfect; and it would be equally wrong to reduce it to a standard of perfection alone about which we need not worry since it is unattainable. For it is quite clear from the context that John's purpose in writing this verse is to show all readers that sin is serious business and that Christians should not sin. Making it mean that we don't sin is dangerous because we do and the only way it can even come to seem that we don't is by falsely defining sin as only some things which can be avoided. Making it mean only that we do sin and that it is only in the abstract that we don't is dangerous because while we do sin there is no way we can continue to do so with abandon without spiritual damage and decline (and worse).
This chapter, 1st John 3, is heavily weighted in favor of "don't sin" over "can't sin" because that is the point John has now reached in the argument (having previously covered confession, total depravity, and Jesus' advocacy on our behalf earlier in the letter), so that verses 7-10 hammer home the same basic point, then in verse 11 John moves on from the specific application of this principle (namely, that we should treat sin as serious business and avoid it) to the issue of love of the brethren. In verse 3, John has entreated his readers to "purify themselves" something unnecessary if they were already pure or could not be anything but pure as believers. Similarly here in verses 11 and following, if there were already a natural and unavoidable love of all fellow Christians throughout the congregation of the faithful, there would be no need for John through the Spirit to emphasize the need for that love as he now does. For all these reasons, rather than choosing between the "position" and "job description" interpretations of this verse, I am of the opinion that they have to be combined to understand what John means here: "You are all sinless in Jesus and have been called to live up to that perfect standard which in Him you positionally possess so do live up to that standard in practice so as to glorify your Lord, in order to help and not harm your brothers, and also for your own spiritual safety!"
p.s., as indicated above, I understand verse 9 along exactly the same lines (for one aspect of this see the link: 1st John 3:9). Because we have the Spirit or "seed" remaining in us, there is a such a tension between God's perfect standard and any aberration from it that it is very uncomfortable for any genuine believer to remain long in a limbo between the two. Not that this doesn't happen (it happens all too often), but it shouldn't happen. That is one reason why the Lord hates the lukewarm: those who have reached an accommodation between the two extremes of following Him or the world are virtually useless to Him in this life.
One more question on 1 John 2. I understand the points you made about the two commandments, but I'm still unsure about why John makes these points in such a manner, which sounds as if he was contradicting himself.
It's a good question, and one which, in my view, can be lodged at some point against any book of the Bible. The writers of the Bible are inspired, but the Spirit did not cause them to waive their personalities or normal means of expression. The Spirit ensures that everything written is correct and indeed it is the very Word of God. I am sure that many things which might have been truly misleading or slightly incorrect were prevented from being written through the Spirit's ministry. Assuming that most people have trouble interpreting this passage and the way John phrases these things, I would only make the following three points 1) John is writing to a specific congregation familiar with him, his prior teaching, and his way of expressing these things but we have to try to fill that in from what we have received (so even if we find some things hard to understand at first, that was not at all necessarily the case for those who received the letter); 2) it is always possible to figure out the truth of what scripture teaches at every point not that all do or even that any figure it all out, but the Spirit wouldn't have included it in scripture if it were impossible to discern for those who persevere with a godly method; 3) it has long seemed to me that there are very good reasons for many portions of scripture not being patently obvious and instantly accessible to every reader regardless of faith, experience or preparation: Jesus spoke in parables precisely so as to separate those desirous of learning and obeying the truth from those who really were not; I for one from my own personal experience and present observation can see a benefit in requiring those who really want to know the truth to have to demonstrate the genuineness of that desire through effort, persistence, and diligence, both in the case of those who teach the Word and those who would learn the Word.
Can you please clarify Romans 1:4: "and marked out as God's Son by the power of the Spirit of Holiness through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord."
Why did our Lord have to be 'marked out as God's Son' by Spirit's power and 'through the resurrection from the dead'? I would have thought that Jesus Christ, being one with the Father does not need 'marking out'. Or is 'marked out' here used in the sense of 'showing for everyone to see that He is God's Son'? NIV says: 'who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God' - could this have anything to do with Jesus being born not through men's seed, but through the Holy Spirit?
I think the point is that the resurrection proves that Jesus is indeed the Son of God. That resurrection is the proof which "marks Him out" as such, accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the Agent of resurrection, for our Lord and also for us:
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
Romans 8:11 NIV
I know that in your texts you say that we are justified by faith (and obviously growing in faith contributes to us producing fruit), but James puts forward both faith and works.
18 But someone may well say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS," and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in
the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the
good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds
to a resurrection of judgment.
John 5:28-29 NASB
Could you explain the relationship between this passage and Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Am I correct to understand that good deeds are important (and faith is dead without them), but they need to be a natural consequence of the salvation bringing faith, rather than perceived as means of salvation themselves?
True "good works" can only come when believers respond to what the Lord really wants them to do and act in obedience to His will through the power of the Holy Spirit. As the next verse in the context you ask about, Ephesians 2:10, says: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them" (NIV). Doing God's will after salvation demonstrates that our faith is genuine: that is the "justification by works" of which James speaks, namely, deeds arising from faith that show that true faith was indeed present at salvation and continues to live within us afterwards. The examples he uses, of Rahab hiding the spies and Abraham being willing to sacrifice his son, are laudatory and faithful reactions to specific situations which, had faith not been present, neither individual would have or could have accomplished. If Rahab had not really believed in the power of the Lord to protect as well as to destroy, she certainly would not have risked her life and the lives of her family to protect two individuals who otherwise would have meant nothing to her; and if Abraham had not had absolute faith in the Lord's goodness in telling him to give up what he cared most about in this life and to restore it miraculously (cf. Heb.11:19), he would not have been able to commit himself to killing Isaac (from which act he was blessedly restrained at the very last moment).
These "works of faith" are therefore in quite a different category from what people in the secular world tend to think of when "good works" are mentioned (which are most generally assumed to be giving money or effort to some charity). The distinction is twofold: 1) only believers who have faith can really do the "good works" of Ephesians 2:10; when unbelievers "do good", it does not save them, and to the extent that they are doing such "works" in order to be saved, that is abominable to God because it is saying, in effect, "what Jesus did is nothing to me, but here is something I did instead" (this is precisely what Cain did). 2) the "good works" we do have been "prepared by God for us ahead of time so that we might walk in them", which certainly means that it is only by following the path God has laid down for us, the path of spiritual growth, progress and production, that truly good works are done, works not of our own choosing, but works which, as in the examples or Rahab and Abraham, come to us as opportunities from the Lord when we are treading the path He would have us to follow. Believers are justified by faith for/at salvation; we are justified by works in the course of our Christian lives through responding to God in ways which demonstrate that the faith we have put in Jesus Christ (which resulted in our being made righteous) is indeed genuine.
You wrote: To the extent that we yield up our will to Him and respond positively to the discipline we receive, we will find that the grace God gives us in this battle against sin and for sanctification will be greater than any trouble or temptation we will ever face (Jas.4:5-6; cf. Rom.8:1-17; Eph.6:18).
Could you explain why you support your point with Jas.4:5-6? It seems to relate to the Spirit being against the body, but doesn't explicitly mention overcoming it?
He does in the Greek, rightly understood. Please see the link: "The Spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy: explaining James 4:5".
Could you then please clarify James 4:5:
Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: "He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"?
The sentence : "He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us" is unclear to me.
This is another oft-misunderstood and mistranslated passage. Here is how I render it in context:
(4) You adulteresses (i.e., immoral people of both sexes)! Do you not know that friendship with the world is inimical to God? Therefore whoever wants to be a friend of the world establishes himself as an enemy of God. (5) Or do you assume that the Scripture (i.e., Gal.5:17) says to no purpose "The Spirit" which dwells in you "sets its desire against" [such] envy [emanating from the sin nature, a situation rampant among you (as is evident from the examples given in verses 1-4)]? (6) But [God] "gives grace [which is] greater" [than all these temptations] (i.e., in the provision of the Spirit which resists the flesh). That is why it says, "God opposes the arrogant, but He gives grace to the humble".
James quotes Galatians here (that is usually missed) and in the process uses "envy" as the archetypical sin and evidence of sin (analogous to covetousness and the wide-ranging implications of that sin as elastically covering "everything else" in the tenth commandment). The essential meaning of the part you ask about is explained in the context of Galatians chapter five: the Holy Spirit wars against the flesh and the flesh against the Spirit. The Spirit desires that we fight against sin and resist sin and will help us to do so to the extent that we are willing (the Spirit is all-powerful but never compromises our free will in these matters).
Could you give me some more details as to which of Paul's verses James 4:5 is paraphrasing?
James 4:5 (NKJV) "Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, 'The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously'?" is paraphrasing Galatians 5:17: "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh". Paul uses epithymeo and James epipotheo (close verbal synonyms for lust and desire); Paul uses kata and James pros (close synonyms meaning here "against [the flesh]"); Paul actually describes the flesh as the object of the Spirit's setting of His desire (i.e., desiring that we might follow Him and not the flesh) while James says "against jealousy", using envy as an archetypical sin representing the darkness of human nature (cf. Eccl.4:4: "all labor and all achievement spring from man's envy of his neighbor" NIV), no doubt because he is deliberately making his point against just such wrong motivations (Jas.4:3-4) and commending humility over just such self-centered pride (Jas.4:6-10). Envy/jealousy is also mentioned significantly in Paul's list of sins against which the Spirit "sets His desire" (v.21), and, a point which is often missed, was apparently a disproportionate problem for the Galatians as well: he ends the section with "Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other" (Gal.5:26 NKJV), showing that for Paul too arrogance (conceit) and envy were closely related. So the translation of James 4:5 given above in the NKJV (most versions similar) should be amended to read "Or do you assume that the Scripture (i.e., Gal.5:17) says to no purpose "The Spirit" which dwells in you "sets its desire against" [such] envy?" (see the hyper-link for more discussion).
You translated: (5) Or do you imagine that the scripture says (i.e., paraphrasing Gal.5:16-21) to no purpose that the Spirit which dwells in us sets its desire against [this sort of selfish] envy
Does that mean that Paul's letter to Galatians was already considered a part of the scripture when James was writing his epistle?
Yes. Compare 2nd Peter 3:16 NIV: "He [Paul] writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction."
Could you please clarify 2 Corinthians 3:18: "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory".
What is meant here by 'as in a mirror' and 'from glory to glory'?
Here is how I translate the verse:
(18) And everyone of us, when we reflect [like a mirror] the Lord's glory with no "veil" obscuring our faces (i.e., with unsullied Christian witness), is being transformed into the same image (i.e., becomes more Christ-like) so as to reflect an ever greater degree of glory exactly what is to be expected with the Lord's Spirit as the agent of our transformation.
2nd Corinthians 3:18
This is admittedly a little bit "loose", but the relaxed phrasing is necessary in my view to bring out both the imagery and the meaning. The key word you ask about is the participle katoptrizomenoi (κατοπτριζομενοι), and exegetes and lexicographers argue about the meaning of the verb. A katoptron is a mirror, so that the verb either means, "using a mirror" or "acting like a mirror", i.e., "mirroring" (the verb is not well attested in secular Greek). Most translations (yours included) understand it to mean the former, but I take it as the latter: when we walk as we should, like a mirror through the Spirit we reflect Jesus' glory, and when we are walking as we should (with the result that people can see some of Him reflected in us), we are simultaneously experiencing the spiritual growth which transforms us to be ever more like Him with the result that we reflect more and more of Him by the Spirit as we do grow. In other words, becoming more Christ-like is the objective of the teaching of the truth which Paul is contrasting in this section of chapter three to the hardness of heart in not being willing to accept the truth among most of contemporary Israel which Moses' veiling of himself exemplifies.
Also, regarding 2 Corinthians 3:18 you responded: Moses veiled himself so the Israelites would not see the glory fade. Paul modifies this and uses it in a comparison to show that contemporary Jews not see the glory at all because of the veil which in Paul's analogy is now their hardness of heart and spiritual blindness which prevents them from seeing God's glory in Jesus Christ.
I read the passage again and you refer here to that part that I still struggle to comprehend.
13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read.
It also ties in with your previous response:
In other words, becoming more Christ-like is the objective of the teaching of the truth which Paul is contrasting in this section of chapter three to the hardness of heart in not being willing to accept the truth among most of contemporary Israel which Moses' veiling of himself exemplifies.
I apologize I'm coming back to it again, I am just still uncertain about why Moses' veiling of himself is put next to the explanation of the hardness of heart on part of the Israelites. Verse 14 starts with a 'But' (NASB) and I am not sure what it refers to.
Moses veiled himself, but isn't this his choice rather than exemplification of the hardness of Israelites' hearts ("But their minds were made dull")? What is specifically the link between Moses' decision to veil himself and 'their minds being made dull'? Did Moses veil his face because the Israelites were made dull, or was it opposite the case, or maybe a different relationship altogether?
The comparison is inexact, but powerful enough that Paul is allowed by the Spirit to use it. The main point of comparison is the veil, something which obscures sight both actively and passively, and the reluctance of the Jewish people to accept the truth, something that both Moses and Paul had big problems with. In Moses' case, the veil was used as a means of not allowing the people to see the glory fading from Moses' face. In Paul's case, the glory had now faded, or, better put, had been replaced by the brilliance of the reality of Jesus Christ. Rather than accepting this new, brighter glory, however, most Jews in Paul's day retained the veil of Moses (i.e., the Law), preferring its faded glory whose fading was/is obscured because only "in Christ" (i.e., by believing in Him) is that veil of preference for the imperfectly understood shadow replaced by the brilliant light of the reality of Jesus Christ.
Romans 8:26-27 New American Standard Bible: "In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."
In particular, 'He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is' - what is meant here? Does it mean that when the '(Holy) Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (helps us in our prayer); and He who searches the hearts (God?) knows what the mind of the Spirit is (that's the problem I've got - if 'He' is God, then it's obvious that God knows 'what the mind of the Spirit is', as they are one effectively - hence I'm unsure about the meaning)'.
Who is meant by the first He ('and He who searches')? What is the 'mind of the Spirit'? Could you 'walk me' through this whole sentence?
Another place where a better translation is helpful: "And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying" (NLT a somewhat dangerous version but certainly correct in terms of the meaning here). Yes, I suppose it should be obvious that the Father knows everything the Spirit knows. On the other hand, we are very weak and very emotional finite creatures. A major part of personal spiritual growth is getting to the point of not only believing the truths of scripture but also of applying them properly and consistently to our lives in absolute faith. For example, if we really did accept and appreciate the truth that the Father knows everything (and has in fact foreknown it and decreed it), we would never worry or get upset or be concerned about anything; we would never have the feeling that God isn't listening to us or has forgotten about us or has abandoned us. Between those two extremes is where most believers find themselves most of the time and so it is not amiss but actually good, encouraging teaching for Paul to remind the Romans that they have the Spirit, that the Spirit cares about them and is interceding for them, and that the Spirit's intercession is effective because of the close relationship of the Spirit with the Father. Just as we need to be constantly reminding ourselves of scriptural truths step by step in our walk with Jesus, so it is incumbent upon all good teachers to keep teaching and keep repeating (in varied and various ways) until those who are listening to us finally "get it" and then keep them on the right afterwards track so that they never forget it:
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.
Philippians 3:1 NIV
So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.
2nd Peter 2:12-15 NIV
Could you please clarify Johns Last Testimony:
22 After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of
Judea, and there He was spending time with them and baptizing. 23 John
also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water
there; and people were coming and were being baptized 24 for John had
not yet been thrown into prison. 25 Therefore there arose a discussion
on the part of Johns disciples with a Jew about purification. 26And
they came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, He who was with you beyond
the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, He is baptizing and all
are coming to Him."
Was our Lord still baptizing with water at the time, or was it just John ('because there was much water there')? When did water baptism lose its place?
As John 4:2 makes clear, Jesus Himself never water-baptized. John had prophesied about Him that "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit". The topic of water-baptism (a Jewish ritual) as opposed to Spirit baptism (the "one baptism" of the Church: Eph.4:5), is a long and involved one. I have many postings on this (one of the more recent of which is a good place to start; see the link: "Baptism: Water and Spirit II"). In a nutshell, water-baptism was a ritual cleansing to "make ready a people prepared for the Lord", that is, to prepare their hearts for the coming of the Messiah (Lk.1:17). After Jesus had come and fulfilled the purpose for His first advent in dying for the sins of the world, the purpose for water-baptism likewise passed. It was legitimately continued at times during the early days of the apostles as a way to link John, the Messiah's herald, with Jesus, the true Messiah, in the thinking of contemporary Jews who had accepted John but had not yet accepted Jesus at the point of being evangelized. That is why Peter includes "and let each of you be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ" at Acts 2:38. Matthew 28:19 is speaking of the Spirit baptism which makes us one with God. Jesus mentions no water there, and no ritual can put a person "into (Grk. eis) the Person[s]" of God. Continuation of water-baptism in various modes and manners at various times and with a plethora of putative symbolic meanings by Protestants, Catholics and other Christian denominations only serves to show by the confusion (and the undermining of faith) it produces that it is no longer valid. Spirit baptism is what makes the Church age unique:
(4) And gathering them together [Jesus] commanded [the disciples] not to depart from Jerusalem, but to await the promise of the Father (i.e., the Holy Spirit) "which you heard about from Me. (5) For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Spirit not many days from now".
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth".
Could you please clarify Revelation 1:4b-6:
Grace to you and peace from the One who is and was and is coming (i.e., the Father), and from the seven spirits (i.e., the Holy Spirit) which are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the Ruler of the kings of the earth. To the One who loves us and has released us from our sins by His blood and He has made us a kingdom, priests of His God and Father to Him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.
Why is the Father described as 'One who is coming'?
Also, why is the Holy Spirit described as 'seven spirits'?
The Father's advent comes at the end of human history when New Jerusalem, His dwelling place, descends to the New Earth (Rev.21:3; and see the link). Seven is the biblical number of perfection (compare the seven days of re-creation), so describing the Spirit in this way demonstrates on the one hand the perfection of His ministry of empowerment and on the other hand is in keeping with His role of staying in the background as far as visibility is concerned so that the Son may be prominent as the Father's visible Representative (see the link: The Seven Spirits).
Regarding Revelation 1:4-6 you wrote: 'Seven is the biblical number of perfection (compare the seven days of re-creation), so describing the Spirit in this way demonstrates on the one hand the perfection of His ministry of empowerment and on the other hand is in keeping with His role of staying in the background as far as visibility is concerned so that the Son may be prominent as the Father's visible Representative'.
Since in the passage the seven Spirits are described to be 'before His throne' (which may seem like a visible place), why do you think the Spirit is 'staying in the background as far as visibility is concerned'?
We know from Revelation 4:5 that the seven spirits which represent the Holy Spirit are visibly represented by seven blazing lamps which are before the throne (cf. also Rev.3:1). So the Spirit Himself, though represented before the throne, is not personally visible as the Son is as the God-man and as the Father is, manifesting Himself in the appearance of human form. The Spirit is physically invisible but His power is felt in everything we do, and the way in which He is represented in Revelation, namely, as present, important, and powerful yet not personally visible is entirely consistent with the picture given of Him elsewhere throughout scripture.
One of the difficulties about which I wrote recently relates to the differences in accounts of the four gospel writers. You explained that it can result from emphasis being placed on various parts of the teaching and from the fact that our Lord used some parables more than once, hence justifying different versions we can find in the gospel. I wanted to ask about passages that relate to the same event where our Lord is quoted, for example: Jn.12:7 NIV and Matt.26:12. The differences are admittedly very minor and the meaning is the same, but then both John and Matthew put quotation marks.
The quotation marks are modern, but they are appropriate in both cases since both passages are quotations. I would wish to make three points about this issue: 1) This particular case, namely, Mary Magdalene's anointing of our Lord's head during the week before His crucifixion, took place in Judea in the home of a well-to-do Jewish scribe (Simon). Therefore it is more than likely that Jesus actually said these things in Hebrew. In the north, Galilee, more often Aramaic was spoken and most people in this region also spoke Greek (analogous to the way many Europeans now speak English). So there is always the possibility that when we read the Greek we are reading a translation, and, generally speaking, different translators are going to render things even the same quote in slightly different ways; 2) Because of the nature of the gospels, as with all narrative histories, space limitations mean that not everything a person said is likely to be present in the account even if the account is otherwise 100% accurate. No doubt Jesus could have had much more to say about this than either gospel writer records, and this can also account for differences between the gospels even of an identical account: what was important in the particular gospel is what has been included. So when John says "she kept it for my burial" and Matthew says "she did it for my burial" it is not beyond the realm of the possible that Jesus said both things (and many more things besides); 3) It is important to remember that the Holy Spirit is the One who directed the writing of all scripture. Therefore when we look at a "problem" like this, assuming that in both cases we have the text right (that is another issue), we have to accept that what we have is precisely what God meant us to have, that it reflects in a genuine and complete way what really happened and what really was said, and that, rightly interpreted, will provide precisely the meaning God wants us to take from it. Our standards of quotation are different today in the modern world than they were in the ancient world, and yet we are somewhat hypocritical and inconsistent about them. We tend to want to hold the Bible to a standard which none of us and none of our procedures can really maintain, even with all of our modernity and technology. Anyone who has ever read a transcript of a conversation after listening to that conversation will know what I mean the way we talk and the way we write are different, and it is a very rare individual who requires no editing when switched from the former medium to the latter. That is why in our courtrooms the standard is not precisely what was said but essentially what was said because no one can remember precisely, for one thing. What we have in the Bible is unique. What we have in the Bible are the actual words of God. These passages you ask about, somewhat though not decisively different, convey (rightly understood) precisely what God wanted them to convey. It is my guess that if we had actually been there and heard all our Lord had to say in Hebrew, no doubt that we would understand just why John wrote through the Spirit what he wrote and how he wrote it and the same for Matthew too, and that we would then be in a position to affirm through experience what we already know by faith, namely, that these words are the true words of God.
A question regarding the original text of 1Cor.2:16: "For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ."
Are there capitals used in the original text in the clause 'that he will instruct Him'? The sentence is clear if you take the 'him' to mean a human being, but since in NASB a capital is used, it seems as if it meant 'that he will instruct Him - the Lord', which makes the meaning difficult to understand.
By 'THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM', I assume Paul means 'the Lord (i.e., Christ) will instruct him (the believer)?
In the Greek texts at the time that the New Testament was written there was no such distinction between capital and minuscule letters. As to the interpretation, first, this is a [partial] quotation from Isaiah 40:13 (LXX). In Isaiah it is part of a soliloquy showing that the Lord should be respected. I.e., this is a rhetorical question: no one is the Lord's counselor (Is.), no one knows what the Lord has in mind (Is. and 1Cor.) except that we do now have "the mind/thinking of Christ", namely, the Holy Spirit illuminating the Word of God for us.
I also wanted to ask what is the best thing to pray for with regard to believers. Is it biblical for me to pray that the particular believer be filled with the Holy Spirit or given the gifts or graces of the Spirit if he has already got the Spirit indwelling in him, if he is a believer?
The filling of the Spirit is the influence of the Spirit over a person's life which grows as said believer grows spiritually and responds more and more to the Lord and to the Spirit's guidance so by all means pray for that (see the link). Whether or not the Spirit gives additional gifts after initial rebirth or does so once and for at salvation is not specified in scripture, but it seems from 1st Corinthians 12 that the latter is what is being described. Of course, at the first Pentecost of the Church believers who had been believers some time were so gifted. I cannot think of a place where the scripture absolutely states that no further gifts will be given other than the ones a believer received at salvation.
You wrote: 'He immediately received a special and dramatic symbol (i.e., the Spirit descending upon Him in the form of dove) of the unction of the Holy Spirit He possessed from birth by virtue of His unique status as the Anointed One.'
Since Jesus possessed the blessing of the Holy Spirit from birth, why did the dove come at that moment?
This was the moment of the commencement of our Lord's public ministry and the coming of the Spirit in the likeness of a dove demonstrated that fact as well as signifying that He was the Messiah. As John says,
Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.'"
John 1:32-33 NIV
See the link: "Jesus' Baptism".
A friend of mine in Poland started reading your website. Like it is the case with me, the readings prompt many questions. One of the discussions we had recently was about the Trinity. He finds the arguments of anti-trinitarians more persuasive. One of the arguments refers to the Holy Spirit, who appears as a dove, which according to some anti-trinitarian teachers contradicts His nature as a Spirit who is never embodied. What is your take on this?
This also links with your last answer: 'Yes, that is my understanding. The Son is an actual human being (as well as God); the Father represents Himself in human form; the Spirit is represented by a symbol which can be seen, though He Himself is still invisible, at least in the third heaven presently, that is.'
Does it mean that the Holy Spirit is visible outside of the third heaven?
The Spirit Himself is never represented as visible. Symbols of the Spirit, however, are often described as visible in scripture. The dove is one such instance, as are the tongues of fire (Acts 2:3-4; cf. 1Thes.5:19), the seven lamps (Rev.4:5; cf. Jn.14:17; 14:26), and the seven seals (Rev.5:1ff.; cf. Eph.4:30). The Spirit is also symbolized (if not actually visible), as oil (1Jn.2:20; cf. Zech.4:11-14), wind (Jn.3:8), a sword (Eph 6:17; cf. Heb.4:12), and a pledge (2Cor.1:22; 5:5; Eph.1:14).
The dove of Matthew 3:16 , Mark 1:10 and John 1:32, and also Luke 3:22 is no different. The Greek of Matthew, Mark and John says only "like a dove" (i.e., in the manner of a dove but not an actual "embodied dove"), and that is consistent with Luke's description: "like a dove in physical appearance" (i.e., He resembled a dove but was not a dove and certainly not "embodied"). This is merely a manifestation of the Spirit, one among many, important in the context to visibly demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah, the "anointed One", by graphically showing that anointing for all to see. This is why John the baptist later says:
"I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' "
John 1:33 NIV
And this signal of Christ's Messiahship is the visible equivalent of the audible parallel on that same occasion in the Father also verifying that Jesus is His Son, the anointed One:
And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."
Matthew 3:17 NIV
Luke 23:55-56: The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.
Since these women were believers, and our Lord already fulfilled His first ministry, why did they keep the Sabbath?
Even Peter at this time still didn't understand the issues involved in the transformative events that were our Lord's life, the cross and the resurrection in particular. The disciples were as unbelievable as it seems surprised by our Lord's resurrection! As Jesus had not taught them while He was with them before the cross everything about the expansion of the Church to the gentiles, we certainly cannot expect these women to have reached the proper conclusions about all manner of new doctrine which nobody had yet grasped and even before they witnessed the resurrection at that. What is amazing, however, is that the apostles were (what seems to us) so slow off the mark after being schooled by our Lord following His resurrection even though being empowered by the Holy Spirit. Peter had to receive a three-fold vision from heaven and a verbal order from the Spirit in order to accompany the men who came from Cornelius house and he still wanted to add water-baptism to the mix after the Spirit was poured out on the new believers. I do not wish to be too hard on these brothers and sisters (especially since I have made enough mistakes of my own). But it is important for many reasons to realize that the book of Acts in particular chronicles not only the transformation of the Church in these respects but also the adjustments which the apostles who had grown up under Judaism had to make. One lesson we can certainly take from this is that the power of the Holy Spirit is irresistible, but that He only empowers those willing to be empowered and to the degree that they are willing to be empowered. He does not violate our free will. His way is the "still, small voice" of 1st Kings 19:12. If we listen, and if we heed, there is nothing He cannot do with us and for us; if we do not listen and if we do not heed, then we are not going to be benefitting from the incredible blessing of His indwelling ministry to us.
Acts 8:14-16: Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Could you please explain how come people in Samaria were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, but have not received the Holy Spirit?
This is the first instance of the Spirit coming upon gentiles (as the Samaritans were, albeit very close in their "orbit" to Judaism in many ways). There was a brief transitional period after Pentecost during which the Spirit was given by means of the laying on of the apostles' hands. No doubt this was to demonstrate their God-given status and authority. By the time of Acts 10, this transitional period is over (apart from some exceptions for persons who had believed prior to Pentecost but were not present for that miraculous event, e.g., Acts 19:1ff.), and now the Spirit is given to all who believe (e.g., Rom.8:9b). I think one additional reason for this brief transitional period of apostolic mediation of the Spirit was to explain to the apostles and their followers that the coming of the gentiles into the Church was the great mystery of the new age: if the Spirit had been given immediately to the Samaritans, the counsel in Jerusalem would never have considered the matter nor sent Peter and John. This incident is the first step in weaning them to start "thinking outside the box" in their prior assumption that Christ's assembly would consist of mainly Jews.
Does it mean then than during this transitional period the time when one became a believer was not automatically accompanied by the Holy Spirit being imparted to the person, but was given by the laying of hands? So it means that during transitional period the baptism of the Spirit didn't involve being given the Spirit straight away?
Yes, that is apparently the case, although this period of transition was very short. By the time of Paul's writing of the book of Romans (ca. 45-50 A.D.), he can say: "if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ" (Rom.8:9 NIV). There are two aspects to the Spirit's baptism, namely, His entering of the believer into union with Christ whereby we become part of Him as His Bride, and, secondly, the outpouring of the Spirit to indwell our bodies. It is only the latter which was not originally automatic. The reason for this seems to have been to establish the authority of the apostles in order to facilitate their mission of establishing the incipient Church. Once this process was underway and the preeminence of the apostles generally understood, this dichotomy was unnecessary (and potentially problematic). Outside of this situation in Samaria, we see only one other post-Pentecost instance in scripture of individuals who are saved but do not have the Holy Spirit and this is in Ephesus where the individuals in question were saved before that first Pentecost of the Church and were not present at it (Acts 19:1-7). Since this splitting of the two aspects would have been a problem just as soon as new Christians began to evangelize outside of the general area of Judea and without direct connection with the apostles (so that there would be little chance for an apostle to "show up and fix it"), my supposition is that the distinction ceased shortly after if not with this incident (by Acts 10 at least as that passage demonstrates: there, the new believers receive the Spirit before Peter can finish talking).
You wrote: 'From the Old Testament perspective, "the end" was one solid thing, "one day". With the benefit of the progressive revelation in the New Testament we now understand the chronological distinctions between, for example, the first and second advents (see the link: "Prophetic Foreshortening"). After all, everyone at the time imagined that when the Messiah came, that would be "it".'
I take it that when you say 'from the Old Testament perspective, "the end" was one solid thing, "one day"', you mean not the scripture which is right in every respect, but the understanding of it on the part of the prophets (and prophetic foreshortening too)? Or is it the case that even all the prophets, using your comparison, 'saw the mountain' from afar and hence thought of the end as 'one day'?
The scriptures, of course, were, are, and always will be absolutely true. But it is a fact that before the coming of our Lord, the advent of the Holy Spirit, and the revelation of the New Testament, that there was much prophecy which was not completely understood, even by those who were given to pen it as scripture:
Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.
1st Peter 1:10-12 NIV
The general theological term for this phenomenon is "progressive revelation". Prophetic foreshortening is a specific type of this. We can certainly understand it too from our own perspective looking forward. I have finished the Coming Tribulation series as well as its prolegomenon, the Satanic Rebellion series, and there is a lot more on eschatology in the various email responses posted (and unposted) through the years. Even so, it strikes me that when we actually experience the events themselves and look back on them we will see clearly that what we had was the outline of the most important things to know, but not an entire picture. God tells us what "need to know", and there is always a very good reason for why we may be told less than we would like.
You wrote that Acts is a historical book, which describes the acts of the apostles and their mistakes too, rather than giving us a ready theological teaching. A question occurred to me about the relationship between Acts and the Letters.
In Acts the apostles sometimes do things which were not in accordance with the word of God, and you said we have to discern what these things are. Such things took place even after the day of Pentecost, when they were given the Holy Spirit.
My question is then - how is it possible, that the apostles who made some mistakes having received the Holy Spirit, did not make mistakes when writing their letters? It occurred to me that I haven't witnessed the theological teaching of any of the letters being put into doubt, but these were written by the same people who showed some shortcomings in what they were doing?
Just as all prophets who were truly prophets spoke the Word of God without error because they were doing so under the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, so the Holy Spirit personally superintended the writing of all scripture:
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2nd Peter 1:20-21 NIV
So the writing of scripture is a unique situation in all of human history. Theologically this is often called "verbal plenary inspiration", meaning, in a nutshell, that God has authored the Bible in every detail there are no mistakes in the original autograph. This does not mean that God did not use the talents, personalities, language skills (or lack thereof), particular and peculiar modes of expression of the human authors clearly He did. But the Spirit guaranteed that what we have is the actual Word of God, the precise and deliberate expression of just what God wanted us to have and to know as those who seek Him diligently. There is nothing like the Word of God, and this was recognized by the writers of scripture who at times did not completely fathom what they had been given to pen.
Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.
1st Peter 1:10-12 NIV
So when an apostle writes an epistle to a local church instructing them in doctrinal matters, it is not a question of describing a historical event but rather of a direct communication of the truth of God's Word. That is different from general behavior. The apostles, great men though they were, were human beings just like us. Walking in this world in a godly way requires our free will to respond to God's WILL by listening to and heeding the voice of the Spirit. That means learning the truth, believing the truth, and hearkening to and responding to the prompting of the Spirit within us as He guides us in accordance with that truth. No one is perfect in this, and becoming better at it is a process and it was a process for the apostles too. But the Spirit allowed no such errors when it came to the unique and critically important ministry of His inspiration of the Bible (and the scriptures are very clear that they are "Him speaking"; e.g., Matt.22:43; Mk.12:36; Acts 4:25; 1Tim.4:1; 1Pet.1:20-21).
Could you please clarify John 7:38-39: He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water." But this He spoke of the Spirit
Am I correct to understand these passages as saying that through the Spirit, who fills a believer, that believer will become a source of the living water?
Yes, in that through the Spirit we learn the truth through faith and it wells up and empowers us through the Spirit. Water is a symbol of the truth, and the truth only comes to abound in us through the ministry of the Spirit. The Lord is the "spring of living water" (Jer.17:13), so this verse speaks of the special empowerment to receive and understand and apply the truth of the Word of God which belongs to all of us who have been baptized with the Spirit of God at salvation. That is the force of John 7:39 which says "this He spoke about/in reference to the Spirit"; that is, the Spirit is not symbolized by the water per se, but the Spirit is inextricably related to the means He uses to save and empower, namely, the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit (Eph.6:17). So as often in scripture, the inseparable means (truth) can be used to describe the Agent who wields it ("I am the Way, the Truth and the Life": Jn.14:6).
Could you briefly explain how do we know that in Revelation 5:6 the 'seven eyes' are the seven spirits?
And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living
creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing [there,
looking] as if He had been slain, with seven horns and seven eyes (which
are the seven spirits of God sent out into the entire earth).
The seven eyes speak of spiritual perception, the province of the Spirit. This expression is also deliberately close to the "seven spirits" which likewise go out throughout the whole earth (Rev.5:6; Rev.1:4; 3:1; 4:5), or, better phrased, "the seven-fold Spirit", since that reference too is to the Holy Spirit. The eyes are visible upon the head of the Lamb and so we are right to associate this passage with the seven-fold unction of the Spirit which the Messiah enjoyed (Is.11:2-3; cf. Jn.3:34). See the links: in CT 2B "The Victorious Lamb"; in CT 1: "The Seven Spirits" and "the Seven Spirits are the Holy Spirit".
You wrote: 'the universal baptism of the Spirit was a gift from the Father to the victorious Son, and was thus not poured out upon all believers until after the cross, beginning on the day of the first post-cross Pentecost. But our Lord possessed the Spirit "without measure" (Jn.3:34)'.
a) John 3:34 doesn't seem to say that it's specifically our Lord that possessed the Spirit without measure (the passage doesn't say 'gives Him'):
John 3:34 (NASB): For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure.
The 35th verse may be useful in clarifying this, but is the following logic correct:
1. In order to speak the word of God, one needs to be filled with the Spirit (John 3:34).
2. Jesus speaks the word of God, so He is filled with the Spirit.
3. Additionally, during His first advent, only our Lord is filled with the Spirit ('without measure'), every other believer would be given this gift after our Lord's departure.
b) Although these things are not explicitly mentioned in the passage, should we understand that if one speaks the word of God, it is through the Spirit. Has this passage got a general application, or is it only about our Lord?
c) Could you also clarify the passages that come before:
32 What He has seen and heard, of that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. 33 He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true.
It says: 'no one receives His testimony', and right after that: 'He who has received His testimony'. Please clarify.
a) Jesus is the understood indirect object, i.e., the "to Him". It is very common in Greek to leave out objects when they are crystal clear from the context. This drives my Greek students crazy, but it is such a common and fundamental part of the language that in my view it would be improper to translate this verse without adding our Lord as the recipient of the Spirit (or at least without explaining that such is the case). So your logic is certainly correct, as are your conclusions; John's purpose here is to show that no one before or since was ever so completely and perfectly under the influence of the Spirit as was our Lord. We have the same opportunity today, being indwelt by the Spirit, but none of us take advantage of that great gift to the degree our Lord did. We can all and we all should set ourselves to be "filled with the Spirit" to an ever increasing degree day by day.
b) Yes no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except through the Spirit (1Cor.12:3). And, yes, I believe it does have general applicability to us all in that sense of needing the Spirit to speak the truth, though the specific interpretation is all about our Lord (He our role model in this as in all things).
c) These principles are put here in absolute terms. Absolutely considered, Israel corporately rejected our Lord and delighted in His crucifixion. Individually, some did buck the trend of "this generation" and affirmed that God's truth is the truth.
You wrote: 'We too have the Spirit given in an unlimited way, for He now dwells in all of us as well (Rom.8:9; 2Tim.2:1).'
I assume that the 'grace that is in Jesus Christ' (2Tim.2:1) is the same thing as the 'Spirit of Christ' (Rom.8:9).
Grace is God's favor, God's blessing. The Spirit is most definitely a blessing and a bestower of blessings, but they are not the same thing. In Jesus, we are favored by God in manifold and marvelous ways, one of the most wonderful of which is the gift of the Spirit to us. See the link: "The word "grace".
In Read your Bible you wrote: 'Furthermore, the provision of Bible teaching is an undisputed ministry of God the Holy Spirit (Eph.4:11-16)'.
Does the He in verse 11 refer to our Lord or the Holy Spirit? I take it the whole passage refers to the gifts of the Holy Spirit?
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
I take the "He Himself" in Ephesians 4:11 to be our Lord Jesus. The specific gift comes from the Spirit, but the Son is certainly not uninvolved in administering His Church. He is the one who assigns the specific ministries (1Cor.12:5), and in the context of this passage the one is indistinguishable from the other. Even though the Trinity's roles in certain aspects of the Plan of God are sometimes said to be specifically distributed, at other times the cooperation of the other members is seen and stressed. A famous example of this is the "filioque controversy": the Father is said to send the Spirit in John 14:26 while Jesus says that He will send Him in John 15:26 (i.e., "and from the Son" = Latin filioque). I find no disparity between the two because the Trinity have a total unity of purpose and action to a degree we cannot appreciate at present God, after all "is One". But of course this controversy was a major factor in the schism between Roman Catholicism and the Byzantine Orthodox church nonetheless.
You wrote: 'It was prophesied about John the baptist, Jesus' herald, that he would be "filled with the Holy Spirit from out of his mother's womb" (i.e., from the moment of life at birth; Lk.1:15).'
Could you please clarify - some translations say 'while' and some say 'out' ('of his mother's womb')?
The ones which say "while" are mistranslating the Greek; the one's which say "out of" are translating it correctly. The incorrect translations stem from a desire to find life in the womb (no doubt to buttress the argument against abortion unnecessary as abortion is obviously wrong, and distorting the truth in support of even a good position is a poor bargain which has many negative consequences). The influence wielded upon John by the Spirit was unique. But He only did so and there was only need for Him to do so after John had actually been born. Please see the links: "John "leapt for joy" in the womb - or did he?" and "Life begins at birth".
You wrote: 'And we may be sure that this was the case for the Messiah he heralded as well (Mic.3:8; cf. Matt.3:11; 3:16; 4:1; 12:28; 12:31-32; Mk.1:8-12; 3:29; Lk.3:16; 3:22; 4:1; 4:14; 4:18; 11:13; 12:10; Jn.1:32-33; 7:39; 14:26; 15:26; 16:15).'
I assume then that Mic.3:8 refers to the ministry of our Lord?
Also, why do you include the passages referring to the coming of the Spirit after our Lord's ministry is finished? Is it because it is Him who will send it to us?
Yes, I definitely find Micah 3:8 to be a Messianic passage (cf. Is.11:2-3). As to the second part of the question, if you are referring to the quotations from John's gospel (given while our Lord was still with the disciples), yes, these refer to the gift of the Spirit He would give to us to share in the pattern of the empowerment He Himself enjoyed.
Could you please clarify John 1:31: "I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water."
Could you please explain the causal relationship of this sentence - 'I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water'.
Why is the water baptism a condition required to be fulfilled for our Lord to be manifested to Israel?
Also, what does John mean by the 'inability to recognize Him'?
John did not know what our Lord looked like and apparently expected the Messiah to be obvious and glorious in appearance. In this verse, therefore, John is contrasting his initial failure to recognize Jesus (which probably astounded him) with the fact that the whole purpose of his ministry was to proclaim our Lord's coming. This is a profound illustration of the misapprehension under which Jesus' generation was laboring, imagining that the Messiah would come in an obvious way like a conquering king. He will do so at the second advent and to a degree to which "this generation" cannot really fathom. But His first advent was for a different purpose: the salvation of us all through the washing away of our sins. From the same general failure of reasoning John was unwilling to baptize Jesus at first, but the symbolism of our Lord's water baptism was fundamentally different from that of those who went to be symbolically cleansed of their sins: our Lord went into the same water, sinless though He is and was, and immersed Himself in all of the sins symbolically washed off. This is part of the explanation of why He also calls the cross a "baptism" (Lk.12:50), namely, His immersing of Himself in the sins of the world, so to speak, in paying the penalty of judgment for them all so that all may be saved. Our Lord's resurfacing symbolizes His resurrection, and the Spirit descending upon Him shows both the Spirit's role in the resurrection and also God's seal of approval on our Lord's work in dying for the sins of us all.
Could you please clarify Luke 1:15: He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.
I think earlier in the study you wrote that our Lord was filled with the Spirit from birth, whereas we may be filled later in life, if we accept the truth. John, according to this passage, was filled with the Spirit from birth too, would that also refer to other servants of God, like prophets?
John, as the herald of the Messiah, the "greatest among those of women born", seems to have been unique in this regard. This was a badge of his special status which called attention to the Messiah about to come into the world. Our Lord and John, along with Moses and Elijah, the two witnesses who symbolize them (and will do so again when they are resuscitated during the Tribulation; see the link), are uniquely said to be filled by the Spirit. What a blessing that all believers of this age have the potential to be likewise filled and influenced as those who now have the Spirit indwelling us! Would that we all too maximum advantage of this extraordinary gift.
You wrote: 'learning truth as we all must, through observation of the world (cf. Jn.2:25 for our Lord's perspicacity regarding human nature), diligent study of the scriptures, humble attention to direct prophetic revelation'
By 'direct prophetic revelation' do you mean the words given to our Lord during His ministry directly from the Father (and I understand you take the gift of prophecy as not operational at the moment)?
That, but also direct teaching from the Spirit of God. We are taught by the Spirit too, but not in a verbal way; in my estimation our Lord probably did receive direct verbal revelation as other prophets had (e.g., 1Sam.3:10; 3:21).
Is Luke 1:78-79 a citation of Is.9:2?
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those
living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
Isaiah 9:2 NIV
I would call it a paraphrase or verbal allusion rather than a direct quotation (en skia thanatou, "in the shadow of death", is the only part which constitutes an exact rendering from the LXX), and there are other passages which could be called to mind here: Mal.4:2, and also Is.58:8, 60:1-2 e.g. But, yes, I do think that this is a passage that Zechariah had in mind under the inspiration of the Spirit (it's clearly Messianic, and that is certainly appropriate for the Messiah's herald).
It just occurred to me what you said about the water baptism when I was reading John 7:37-39 - could this passage be taken as an argument that we shouldn't baptize with water these days and that water here means the Spirit?
Yes. Also John 6:35. Water in these contexts is water to drink: the analogy being one of that key element necessary for physical live illustrating the key element necessary for spiritual life, namely, the water of the Word which is only understandable through the Spirit's ministry. Compare: "we were all given the one Spirit to drink" (1Cor.12:13 NIV). Here is another example of the One who gives the drink and the drink itself being functionally inseparable.
Regarding 1 Corinthians 15:23-24 and 15:51, I'm starting to comprehend these passages. What would really help me understand them in full, is to go through the events described in them not only in order, but also having placed them on the millennial timescale. Below I present things how I currently understand them, please correct as appropriate:
a. Christ is resurrected on the third day after His crucifixion, 33 A.D. This marks the beginning of the Church Age.
1 Corinthians 15:20: But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.
1 Corinthians 15:23: But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits
b. The Church is resurrected, first those who died in Christ and then those who are alive at His coming. This takes place at the end of the Church Age and the Tribulation.
1 Thessalonians 4:15: For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. (Those who died in Christ will be resurrected first, after that those who are alive at His coming)
In 1 Corinthians 15:23, after that those who are Christs at His coming (this passage doesn't seem make the distinction made in the letter to Thessalonians, whereby 'those who are Christ's at His coming' are divided into those are alive at His coming or those who have died in Christ; so in 1 Corinthians 15:23 believers who are alive at Christ's coming and those who died in Christ are labeled 'those who are Christ's at His coming').
1 Corinthians 15:51-52: Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed(this sentence sets out the sequence - 'we will not all sleep' - meaning not all believers will die before they are changed at Christ's coming) 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
c. After Christ's coming, when His Church has been completed, more will come to believe in Him, and these will constitute the double portion. These believers who will come to Christ afterward are 'the invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb'.
Revelation 19:9: Then he *said to me, "Write, Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." And he *said to me, "These are true words of God."
d. After the Millennium has run its course, the millennial believers will be resurrected.
1 Corinthians 15:24: then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.
After their resurrection, Christ will hand over the kingdom to the Father, and the final judgment will take place.
Matthew 15:46: These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
Daniel 12:13: "As for you, go your way till */the end/*. You will rest, and then at */the end/* of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance."
Please let me know if this is correct, I think outlining the meaning of these passages in the form of such a timescale can really help me grasp them.
Yes, this is correct. Four small points: a) the "Church Age" is generally taken to have begun on the first day of Pentecost after the ascension and with the gift of the Holy Spirit; however, b) the Church itself consists of everyone from Adam and Eve on until the last person saved during the Tribulation (many people don't understand this important point); c) 1st Corinthians 15:23 does not, as you note, divide the resurrection of the Church into the living and the dead (not unprecedented since after all Daniel 12:2 does not even distinguish between the two phases of the resurrection of believers, namely, the Bride and the Friends of the Bride; d) this is understandable as a case of progressive revelation (specifically, prophetic foreshortening), for as Paul says later in 1st Corinthians, "Behold, I tell you a mystery . . ." (1Cor.15:51): the mystery is that not everyone will die but some will be resurrected while still alive: "not all will fall asleep, but all will be changed".
In the last response you wrote: 'that through the Spirit we learn the truth through faith and it wells up and empowers us through the Spirit'.
What specifically is the role of the Spirit in this process?
That is the force of John 7:39 which says "this He spoke about/in reference to the Spirit"; that is, the Spirit is not symbolized by the water per se, but the Spirit is inextricably related to the means He uses to save and empower, namely, the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit (Eph.6:17).
When you say that the Spirit is not symbolized by the water, do you mean that the 'living water' in the passage stands for the word of God?
Yes, the water is the Word. The Spirit is the answer to all of the epistemological problems and objections to our understanding of divine truth raised and explored by the philosophers over the ages (e.g., Kant): the Spirit makes divine truth understandable to our spirit through by-passing the imperfections of our presently corrupt, physical mind. This is also why the Spirit has to be the Agent of evangelism: when we give the gospel, it is the Spirit who makes clear the truth of it to the unbeliever who hears it (whether or not he/she accepts or rejects it is a matter of free will, however). For the specifics and more on the Spirit's role, please see the links: "Epignosis, Christian Epistemology, and Spiritual Growth" and "Faith Epistemology (in BB 4B)".
Could you explain the difference between direct teaching from the Spirit of God and words given directly from the Father? How can we distinguish between the two?
We are all "taught by the Spirit" (1Cor.2:13; 1Jn.2:27; cf. Jn.6:45; 1Thes.4:9). So in John 8:28 when our Lord says "I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me" (NIV), this may represent in His case direct, verbal instruction, or it may represent as in our cases specific guidance based upon the ministry of the Spirit which leads to solid conclusions about the truth from our attention to the truth (natural revelation and scripture) of course, needless to say, no one has ever been so perfectly attuned to this sort of inaudible yet powerful guidance and teaching of the Spirit as our Lord was. The Spirit makes use of the "capital" of truth we have stored in our hearts through reading scripture, listening to sound Bible teaching and believing it. He uses our willingness to respond to Him and His illumination of that truth in our daily walk in this world. In our Lord's case, both His understanding of the truth and His response to the Spirit's ministry in guiding Him in His humanity were absolutely perfect. In our cases, not only have we failed thus far to learn and believe all of God's truth available in scripture (and this failing is more dramatic in the case of some than of others), but we also all fail to hearken to the Spirit as we should in our daily walk with Jesus Christ. But to the degree we are willing to work on getting better about both of these critical aspects of the Christian life, the Spirit is right here, in us, helping us and guiding us if only we will let Him.
You wrote: On the Isaiah quote, I would make a small emendation to your translation for clarification sake and translate "They shall all be taught of God" (vice *They* shall be *all* taught of God). The "sons" in the Hebrew is generic (as often: "sons of Israel" = "Israelites"), so Jesus' translation is right to the point. In any case, this passage (as is clear from the context of Isaiah 54) is primarily referring to Christ's millennial kingdom, when "the world will be full of the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea" (Is.11:9). But here in John 6:45 we have the Messiah Himself, offering the kingdom and teaching the knowledge (to all who will receive it). Yet not everyone will (not everyone did, not everyone does). That is the point of "unless My Father draws them" (v.44) and why the knowledge or teaching essentially comes from the Father (v.45).
a) Could you please explain the difference between "They shall all be taught of God" and "*They* shall be *all* taught of God"?
b) Also, when you say "Jesus' translation is right to the point", could you clarify this point? I'm not sure whether your response here is that literally everyone will be 'taught of God', or whether it's referring to some, as I think you might be making a point later in this paragraph.
This is a question about the posting "Is hearing believing?" (see the link). In English, the KJV's "They shall be taught all" seems to some modern American English speakers as if it can mean not that "all will be taught" but that "those taught will be taught all or 'everything'". It doesn't mean that in Hebrew and that is not what the KJV means either but then our language has changed enough so as to make a good deal of the KJV's diction confusing to many. As to our Lord's translation of Isaiah 54:13 in John 6:45, the Greek is pantes, masculine plural nominative, which makes it indisputably clear that "all" is the subject (i.e., those taught) and not the object (i.e., they are not taught "everything", as that would have to be neuter plural). As to the theology, this refers to the fact that during the Millennium "the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea" (Is.11:9; Hab.2:14); for at that time the Spirit will be poured out upon all believers liberally (Joel 2:28-29). See the link: "The Spiritual Blessings of the Millennium".
Could you please clarify 1 John 5:6-12? What does John mean by: "This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement"?
John's purpose in this passage is to demonstrate to Gnostic opponents that Jesus was a true human being: John is also the one who reports that when Jesus' body was pierced by the lance "blood and water" came out (Jn.19:34) and this could never have happened if He were an "aeon" rather than human (the Gnostic position). This evidence of "blood and water" is joined by the testimony of the Spirit (who inspired John's gospel), so that together they constitute "the three" who give witness to the truth of Jesus' true humanity. It may seem odd to us in our day and age where heresies involving the doctrine of Jesus Christ tend to doubt His deity, but in antiquity there were many attacks on the genuine nature of His humanity, and that is what John is addressing here (we find similar defenses against Gnosticism in Peter chapter 2 and throughout Paul's corpus, in Colossians and Ephesians in particular).
Another question regarding our Lord's translation of Isaiah 54:13 in John 6:45 and what you wrote. On the website, responding to another reader you also wrote: 'In any case, this passage (as is clear from the context of Isaiah 54) is primarily referring to Christ's millennial kingdom, when "the world will be full of the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea" (Is.11:9). But here in John 6:45 we have the Messiah Himself, offering the kingdom and teaching the knowledge (to all who will receive it). Yet not everyone will (not everyone did, not everyone does). That is the point of "unless My Father draws them" (v.44) and why the knowledge or teaching essentially comes from the Father (v.45).'
So in summary, this means that:
I) Our Lord means that 'all' (as a subject, referring to believers) will be taught of God, referring to the Millennium.
II) Although, since these words are spoken on the earth, our Lord adds a 'condition' saying in verse 44: 'No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him'. This means that in the Millennium it will be literally 'all', as those who chose for Him will be with Him during the Millennium, but since these words are spoken during the first advent and are spoken not only to those who were believing and would believe, but also to those that would not come to believe, our Lord adds this specification in verse 44.
Please let me know if I understand you correctly and drew correct conclusions.
Isaiah and our Lord are addressing true believers, regardless of who was in the audience and when. The verse is literally fulfilled both by our Lord in His first advent when He taught the whole believing community of Israel, and will be fulfilled literally again to a wider audience of believers during the Millennium. Many will hear in both cases who while they hear do not believe. For "all Israel is not Israel" (Rom.9:6), so that true sons (and daughters) in God's eyes are those who receive the Word made clear by the Spirit with joy and maintain it unto life eternal.
But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a
year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the
sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing
by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed
as long as the first tabernacle was still standing.
Could you please explain the meaning of : "The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing."
The repetition of the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, the sacrifice for all sins which represents Christ's work on the cross, is a clear proof that the entrance into heaven itself was not yet opened up before that foundational event, and so the rituals of the Day of Atonement were symbolic only: until the real sacrifice by the real Substitute took place, there was no way into heaven (and that accounts for the holding of all Old Testament saints in the subterranean paradise until after Christ's ascension; see the link).
Your wrote: 'Thus, our Lord's communication with these demons had to occur in exactly the manner in which Peter describes it, namely, "by means of the Spirit['s power]".'
Could you please point me to the passage?
1st Peter 3:19, quoted at the beginning of the paragraph. It is true that the version say "by means of which", but the "which" is the Spirit, the antecedent of the relative pronoun at the end of the previous verse.
When you write, 'And while during His post-resurrection appearances our Lord appeared in a "not yet glorified" state (since the full revelation of His glory had to follow His ascension to heaven and session at the Father's right hand; compare Jn.7:39 with Acts 9:1-6; 22:6-11; 26:12-18; Rev.1:12-18)', why did you include the passages in the brackets to illustrate your point?
The first passage, John 7:39, gives the "not yet glorified" principle of our Lord's status before the resurrection and ascension, only after which events could the Spirit be given; the other passages all show our Lord in His glorified state following these events.
Colossians 2:12: having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
What is meant by 'you were also raised up'?
This is one of many places where scripture affirms our "position in Christ" (often saying merely "in Christ"); as believers in Him, made part of Him and His Body the Church through the baptism of the Spirit (the "into" part as opposed to the "with" part which is His indwelling of us), we share all that Christ is, belonging to Him as we do. Therefore in terms of how God sees things, we who belong to Him are already "raised and seated" with Him. The fact that it hasn't actually happened yet is of no consequence since God's choice of believers in Christ is irrevocable and will lead to all these things more surely that day follows night.
Could you please clarify Galatians 5:15:
(15) But if you bite and devour each other, take care that you are not consumed by each other.
What is meant by 'bite and devour'?
This is metaphorical, comparing those who do not give themselves over to the Spirit in the analogy to wild animals who compete for dominance in a vicious way (only these people are using their tongues rather than their teeth as animals do).
You wrote: 'Only by turning our earthly thinking into divine thinking can we hope to effectively turn away from sin and evil on a consistent basis, and the only way to so "reprogram" our fleshly minds is through the pure water of the Word of the God, the very thinking of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (1Cor.2:6-16).'
What do you mean by 'the very thinking of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ'? Is it 'the ability to understand 'THE THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN', as we have 'the mind of Christ'?
Or do you mean here that the Word of God represents the thinking of our Lord?
Or do you mean in general the process of 'reprogramming'?
I think it is impossible to split up the three. To "think like Jesus" requires 1) the Word; 2) the illumination by the Spirit, and 3) the process of learning the Word, listening to the Spirit, and applying the Word with the Spirit's help. The Spirit is producing "Christ in us" (Gal.4:19), and our goal is to imitate Jesus Christ through responding to His truth with that help (see the link). Christ's mind is His thinking; His thinking is the truth of scripture; actually understanding that truth in the first place and applying it in the second requires faith and the illumination of the Spirit. If I had to break it down to one tangible thing, I suppose it would be the Word of God, but of course the Spirit and our response are necessary for that "Mind/thought-pattern" truly to become ours in a meaningful way. Scripture is the "sword of the Spirit", after all (Eph.6:17): He inspires it, preserves it, makes it clear to us when we are willing to take it into our hearts, illuminates it, and empowers us with it.
Could you please clarify 2 Corinthians 4:6: For God who said, "Let light shine forth from the darkness!", is He who has shone forth [His light] into our hearts to illuminate our knowledge of God's glory in the Person of Jesus Christ.
Since the world was created through Jesus, the passage could be interpreted as:
For Christ who said, "Let light shine forth from the darkness!", is He who has shone forth [His light] into our hearts to illuminate our knowledge of God's glory in the Person of Jesus Christ.
But this interpretation doesn't seem to make sense (if that was the case, then logically in the end it would probably say 'to illuminate our knowledge of God's glory in His Own Person'). Please clarify.
In many instances it is impossible for us to separate out the precise roles of the Trinity in some particular action and not surprisingly since 1) they have a unity and a unity of purpose that transcends anything we can understand (that an important part of what "God is One" means), and 2) Christ very often acts in the Father's stead as His representative. In my understanding of this issue, the Father commands, the Son acts, the Spirit empowers. So in my view keeping God as the subject is appropriate. There is also the point that throughout this chapter we do have "God" ('elohiyim) and not LORD (YHVH), and on top of that the verbs are plural (not usually the case with 'elohiyim even though it is technically a plural form). To me this emphasizes that the joint cooperation of the Trinity in the re-creation of the world (so best to keep "God" for that reason too).
What does Paul mean by 'cleverness of speech' in 1 Corinthians 1:17 and the meaning of the passage as a whole?
17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.
Paul's "competition" was apparently very rhetorically gifted and the legalizers and heretics who were opposing him were apparently using such "clever speech" to win over adherents. Paul very frequently makes the point that he is not trying to persuade people through tricks but instead with the power of God's truth illuminated by the Spirit:
My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.
1st Corinthians 2:4-5 NIV
This is analogous today of many organizations, whether long established, or cults, or merely modern mega-churches, which use the means of the world and worldly techniques to achieve what really are in most cases worldly ends. Truth needs no persuasive packing it only requires the illumination of the Spirit in the hearts of those truly willing to receive it.
You wrote: For it is not the outward form that is truly important, but the inner power of the Spirit where our true power lies (1Kng.19:12; Zech.4:6).
Do you use the first passage because the 'the LORD was not in the wind' and 'in the fire', etc.?
Yes indeed. That is the point. The Spirit's ministry is invisible, inaudible, and largely imperceptible but there is nothing in this world more powerful.
I would like to know what to pray for. For example, if I pray for someone to open their heart to the truth, what is the relationship between my prayer and the free will of the person that I pray for? Since they might be rejecting the truth out of their own volition, am I effectively not praying for their free will to be neglected? How do you pray for those who don't believe? Do you keep unbelievers in your prayer for a long time, or even pray for some of them daily, or do you say a prayer and don't come back to it?
I don't think there is a set answer to this question. If the Spirit is moving you to pray for someone, then do so by all means. If, after due consideration, you feel you have fulfilled your mandate in a particular case, that doing more is pointless, then move on. Just exactly how our prayers in this respect are acted upon by the Lord is something no one really knows this side of heaven. But I do know that God hears prayer and that He has entered all the prayers we really did pray (as opposed to those we merely contemplated praying and never got around to) into the divine decree: they are all part of the plan, and so is how He fulfilled them, and so is the reaction of the person prayed for to the stimulus given. I have no doubt but that there are in fact many cases where a believer prayed for an unbeliever and that resulted in God giving that unbeliever just the right experience in order to stimulate that person to believe. God knows ahead of time all who are His, but all believers start out life as unbelievers, even if they are saved very young, and no doubt many of them were prayed for by someone before they were saved. As in the sin unto death where John says "I do not say that you should pray about that" (1Jn.5:16), there certainly comes a point in an unbeliever's hardening process where further prayer is extremely unlikely to have any positive effect. But God still honors all of our prayers, so I tend to leave the mechanics in His capable hands and "let fly" where prayer is concerned.
One more question regarding 1 Corinthians 1:17 (NASB): For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.
Why does Paul say 'For Christ did not send me to baptize', If he preaches the gospel, which results in the baptism of the Spirit?
Paul and we too are laboring under the dual meaning of the word "baptize/baptism". Actually, it's not as big of a problem in Greek, at least in Paul's day. We know from a variety of NT uses that baptism does not center on water but on identification. The problem is that it did originally mean to "dip X into Y", and in non-metaphorical uses that usually meant water. It is the "into Y" part that most contemporary Christians who teach water-baptism get wrong as a matter of course. When the term is used absolutely (i.e., without any "into WHAT" expressed where Greek would use eis plus the accusative), it can refer to water as well as to something else (usually the Spirit's baptism of us into Christ if water is not in view). The fact that Christ did not send Paul "to baptize in water" but to "give the gospel" is actually quite telling, because as you point out the latter results in the baptism of the Spirit and that is why it is the objective: when unbelievers accept the truth of the gospel through faith, they are immediately baptized by the Spirit into Christ and the Spirit also indwells them. Although, as mentioned above, this second element of the baptism did not become automatic until some years after the first Pentecost in order that the apostle's authority might be established. Much more on all this at the links: "Baptism: water and Spirit" and "Baptism: water and Spirit II".
1 Samuel 11:5-6: So they related to him the words of the men of Jabesh. Then the Spirit of God came upon Saul mightily when he heard these words, and he became very angry.
Why does the Spirit of God incite anger in Saul, when it is (otherwise) considered sinful?
Most biblical scholars admit of the acceptability of a legitimate "righteous indignation" in some circumstances, that is, "anger" out of being zealous for the Lord and His justice in the face of assaults thereon. This clearly seems to me to be one of those cases, since, this moving of his spirit comes from the Holy Spirit.
Could you please clarify Acts 3:19-20: Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; 20 and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you
Why does Peter say 'that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you'? Christ has already come for the first time and will come the second time, regardless of whether some of the people 'repent and return'.
That is an excellent point. This verse, Acts 3:19, proves that Peter did have a lot of learning yet to go which puts his encouragement toward water-baptism in Acts chapter two into proper perspective. Peter recognizes as the later verse show that a revival of Israel is prophesied before the coming of the Lord which would now have to be the Second Advent. We can certainly understand his inclination toward hoping that the revival was on the point of happening and that therefore our Lord's return was imminent. As we now know, however, with further revelation (not to mention the passage of nearly two thousand years), that revival has yet to take place and will only do so once the Tribulation begins. That is for me the biggest doctrinal failure here (and an illustration once again of a point I often make in regard to the book of Acts that the Spirit has recorded actual words and deeds but we are still left to sort out the good from the bad and from the indifferent; i.e., it is a historical book), for as Paul says "Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for [that day (i.e., the 2nd Advent) will not come] until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction" (2Thes.2:3 NIV). We can perhaps see how this would all still be legitimate to say at the time Peter said it since the telescoping of future events is something the Spirit often did in Old Testament prophecy (see the link: "Prophetic Foreshortening"), but it does serve to show that one ought to be very wary of building doctrine on quotations in the book of Acts.
John 3:34 (NASB): For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure.
What is meant by 'He gives the Spirit without measure'? Is it about the Father giving the Son 'the Spirit without measure'? If so, why is it not specified - 'He gives the Son the Spirit without measure'?
Yes, it is to Christ that He gives it. As mentioned above, we have here the ellipsis of the indirect object, a common enough occurrence in Greek. Including "to Christ" would make it clearer for us, I suppose, but we are easily able to figure this out anyway (if we have some Greek, that is).
Regarding Peter's words from Acts 3:19 you wrote: Peter recognizes as the later verse show that a revival of Israel is prophesied before the coming of the Lord which would now have to be the Second Advent.
Based on which passages can we draw this conclusion?
You also wrote:
We can certainly understand his inclination toward hoping that the revival was on the point of happening and that therefore our Lord's return was imminent. As we now know, however, with further revelation (not to mention the passage of nearly two thousand years), that revival has yet to take place and will only do so once the Tribulation begins. That is for me the biggest doctrinal failure here . . .
How is it possible that Peter made such a doctrinal mistake of expecting our Lord's imminent return after the Pentecost, having been given the Spirit?
The "time of reformation" in Acts 3:19 is the Messiah's second coming. Peter at the point he says this now realizes that there is a "lag time" because he encourages people to pray for that restoration as something that has not yet happened even though Jesus has come and returned to the Father. So Peter now understands something about the gap of the Church Age (but understandably does not yet realize how long it will last: 2,000 years). We all have the Spirit and we all make mistakes. The Spirit works with us, but does not overrule our free will. For teachers (and apostles), that means we still have to do the hard work of studying in preparation for teaching. Only in cases of divine inspiration is all error of statement excerpted by the Holy Spirit. Acts was not written by Peter but by Luke, and the agency of the Spirit guarantees that this is exactly what Peter said not that what he said was entirely doctrinally correct. That is a fallacy many people make in interpreting the book of Acts and is at the heart of many false doctrines which are built largely upon what the book says happened without understanding what it means in this regard. Also, there is certainly nothing wrong with what Peter says here. The end times have been imminent in the sense of no unfulfilled prophecy remaining after the resurrection of our Lord and until His return (see the link in CT 1: "Because the time is near"). This "imminency" is actually an important part of our Christian application and should be a prod to every Christian to prepare for the end regardless. After all, although it certainly seems to be working out for the Church Age to last precisely 2,000 years, it has always been entirely within our Lord's authority to shorten the time. So when I say "failure", I am speaking entirely about subjecting Peter's probable understanding of these matters to very close scrutiny with the benefit of much hindsight. I'm certainly not saying I could or would have been able to do any better! This is just a (in my view) correct assessment of where Peter was in his understanding of these matters at this point based upon what he said. It is certainly a necessity too to understand correctly what his words about water-baptism in the previous chapter actually mean and should be taken to mean as a result.
What does Paul mean by 'washings' in Hebrews 6:1-2: Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.
The 'washings' in Hebrews 6:1-2 are all of the ceremonial washings of the Law, literally, "baptisms", and includes rites of purification and the water-baptism of John and the distinction between these and Spirit baptism (the overt element of which was initially sometimes mediated by "laying on of hands"). In my view Paul mentions this here as an "elementary" teaching in deliberate contrast to the Spirit baptism he includes just a bit later in verse 5. And as it says in Hebrews 9:10: these things "are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings external regulations applying until the time of the new order". That "time of the new order" is the present Age of the Spirit's ministry where the true and truly powerful baptism of the Spirit is what counts, His indwelling of us and His placing of us in union with our Savior. As Peter says, what really counts, therefore, is Spirit baptism, "not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God" (Pet.3:21 NIV).
One more question on John 3:34: For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure.
Am I correct to think that the Spirit is given without measure only to our Lord (with everyone else receiving his specified, limited 'measure')? It doesn't seem to be specified whether this is a general statement, or one only referring to our Lord.
Yes. This refers to the unlimited nature of the ministry of the Spirit given to Jesus Christ (compare: Num.11:17 and 2Kng.2:9). We have the same potential now with the Spirit indwelling us and being ready and willing to fill us to the same degree, but we are imperfect in our response.
You wrote: 'The Spirit is also symbolized (if not actually visible), as oil (1Jn.2:20; cf. Zech.4:11-14)'
Could you please explain the reference Zech.4:11-14? Is it to do with the lampstand?
The reference is to the oil itself which provides the energy and light; the trees are Moses and Elijah, " the two who are anointed to serve the Lord" (Zech.4:14), while the Lampstand is a symbol of Jesus Christ. As He will for those two tribulational witnesses so the Spirit does for us: He is the One who provides the energy of the power of the truth and the illumination of the light of the truth for all who let Him work in their lives.
I don't feel easy asking about this and I hope you don't feel offended by my question - I ask it out of a genuine intention, even if I misinterpreted the word of God on this matter (1 Tim.5:18). Your ministry (both the website and your replies to my frequently sent long lists of questions) has been the key to my spiritual growth (and, no doubt, contributed to the growth of many others). I can see now myself how difficult it is to give the due time to spiritual growth, and in your case - production also, through the study of word of God, of biblical languages and acquisition of knowledge in other related domains while earning one's living through work and maintaining at least some form of relationship with our close ones. Seeing things more through faith all I now desire from my professional life is to be able to sustain myself (devoting all my life to ministry at some point and not having any 'professional' life could be helpful too, even if it may never become a reality) - all the other time and resources I want to devote to growth in faith and hopefully eventually production for our Lord. And that is the value of money, as I see it - it allows to pay the bills, it may give us more time (greater resources may translate into the ability to devote more time to Bible study, as one needs to work less to cover the necessary needs) and may enable us to help others too.
I thought that apart from my continuous prayer for you and your ministry I could ask you if you would accept financial support too. Replying to my emails takes time, and a lot of it, and I'm sure there are many others benefitting from your ministry, and website maintenance isn't free either. If I could, I would certainly work less and devote more time to the study (I hope my view on these matters is biblical) and maybe you see things similarly. Please let me know if you would consider accepting this form of gratitude.
With constant prayer for you and your ministry and in our Lord,
As to the question of giving, as Paul says to the Philippians in chapter four, the thought really is what counts, and I deeply appreciate your generous spirit. My policy since the beginning of this ministry has been one of providing these materials free of charge on a grace basis, and that policy has served me well (please see the link: FAQ #9). If I ever need to change it, I will certainly let you know. In the meantime, through your generous prayers on my behalf "I have received full payment and even more" (Phil.4:18 NIV).
As to deliverance, things are still in "crisis mode" here, but I remain confident of the Lord's deliverance. I have never been good at "predicting" how things would be likely to turn out. But in Jesus Christ they always turn out. Your prayers for this are also greatly appreciated!
Thanks as always for your sharp eye. These studies are also benefitting from your careful proofing.
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,