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The Holy Spirit: Pneumatology Questions IV

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Question #1:  

You wrote: "Wind" is thus an aptly descriptive analogy for the Holy Spirit's role in the plan of God: His invisible yet powerful support of good (Zech.4:6; 1Cor.12:3) and restraint of evil (Gen.6:3; 1Cor.12:3; 2Thes.2:5-8) in the furtherance of the plan of God must not be underestimated.

Could you clarify the reference to Genesis 6:3:

Then the Lord said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years."
Genesis 6:3 (NASB)

Firstly, do you include this verse since the Spirit's departing after 120 years means that God has set an end to the evil being committed by people? Are the 120 years a reference to a lifespan of a human being, so the limitation here means that God allows a man, who has proved himself evil, to commit evil for 120 years after which his life will come to an end, and as a result so will all his sinning, or is it a reference to 120 years given to the entire human race from the moment that these words are spoken? Could you explain the rendering "strive" or "contend"? Is that a correct translation of "yadhon"?

Response #1: 

"Strive" is the translation for diyn, and it is the fact of the Spirit's "striving" which indicates to me the restraint (i.e., "striving" to restrain evil, as in Galatians chapter five) mentioned here. The 120 years I take as the literal countdown to the flood. Please see the link:  Genesis Questions II.  [And n.b., most of the questions posited this week are references part 5 of Bible Basics: Pneumatology].

Question #2:  

You wrote: Oil: illustrating the warming, empowering, illuminating and healing properties of the Spirit's anointing ministry (Ex.29:7; Lev.21:10; Num.35:25; 1Sam.10:1; 16:13; 1Ki.1:39; Ps.23:5; 45:7;Ezek.28:14; Dan.9:24-26; Zech.4:11-14; Matt.25:1-10; Mk.6:13; Lk.4:18; Acts 4:26-27; 10:38;Jas.5:14).

How do we know that the oil and the anointing from these verses is to symbolise the Holy Spirit?

Response #2: 

It is an interpretation, but I feel it to be a valid one. Consider: the outpouring of the Spirit is described as "an unction" (chrisma, 1Jn.2:20); since His "pouring out" on us is described as an anointing, the anointing with oil in the Old Testament seems a very close symbol to what we in the Church have experienced, especially as a) so much of OT ritual is deliberately symbolic of more important spiritual matters (most everything in the Law is), and b) the fact that anointing with oil was often accompanied in the OT by the anointing of the Spirit (as in the cases of Saul and David: 1Sam.10:1-6; 16:13).

Question #3:   

"Now I am baptizing you with water for the purpose of [your] repentance. But the One coming after me is more powerful than me and I am not worthy to carry His sandals. It is He who is the One who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."
Matthew 3:11

Does John here not mean that the baptism of the Holy Spirit and of fire are two separate baptisms, which would mean that fire here isn't to be linked with the Holy Spirit?

Response #3: 

Yes, these are two separate baptisms, that of the Spirit anticipating the coming Church Age, the culmination of the first advent, and that of fire anticipating the second advent, one of the signature judgments of Christ's return wherein all who have received the mark of the beast will be swept from the earth as our Lord "cleanses His threshing floor". See the link: "The Baptism of Fire"

Question #4:   

And the Spirit of the Lord (#1) will rest upon Him (i.e., the Messiah), the Spirit of wisdom (#2) and understanding (#3), the Spirit of counsel (#4) and might (#5), the Spirit of knowledge (#6) and the fear of the Lord (#7).
Isaiah 11:2

Doesn't the expression "the Spirit of the Lord" only name the Spirit (i.e., what Spirit it will be) and then six-fold ministry is described?

Response #4: 

This is not an uncommon scriptural way of phrasing things. Here number 1 is described by numbers 6 through 7. We can compare the six days which are concluded by a seventh, or Daniel's seventy weeks which are also split up into 62 and 7 with one left over. In fact, of course, there is only one Spirit and these elements are facets of His ministry taken together a perfect ministry whose perfection is represented by the number seven (cf. Rev.1:4; 3:1; 4:5), with the fact of His anointing (#1) being the most important and thus listed first.

Question #5:    

You wrote: Similar to this title is "the Spirit of the Lord" or "the Lord's Spirit", a standard Old Testament phrasing which, inasmuch as it also found in the New Testament (Lk.4:18; Acts 5:9; 8:39; 2Cor.3:17-18), should be taken to mean "the Spirit of the Lord Jesus".

Could you explain how do we know that "the Spirit of the Lord" should be taken to mean "the Spirit of the Lord Jesus" rather than the Spirit of God the Father?

Response #5: 

The Spirit of course is part of the Trinity so there is no real division (cf. Jn.10:30; 14:9), but the Church belongs to Jesus as His special possession, and in these passages (Lk.4:18 being anticipatory) His leadership of the Church is in view.

Question #6: 

Also, having read this reply and others on this subject I understand how the roles of the three members of the Trinity can overlap, but I'm not entirely clear why our Lord in John 2:19 still says that it is Him Himself and not the Father who will raise Him up?

Response #6: 

I think because we are His Church and belong to Him as His Bride in a special way. Whenever One member of the Trinity is mentioned as doing something it is usually a question of emphasis; the Trinity are "One" in purpose in an absolute way, so this sort of distinction has more to do with explaining things to finite human beings than it does with "task differentiation".

Question #7:  

(3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God of compassion and all encouragement (parakalesis), (4) the One who encourages (parakaleo) us in all our tribulation so that we in turn may be able to encourage (parakaleo) those in all types of tribulation by means of the very encouragement (parakalesis, para/klhsij) which we ourselves received (parakaleo) from God. (5) Because as our sufferings for Christ multiplied in service to you, so through Christ did the encouragement (parakalesis) we received multiply to the same degree. (6) So if we are experiencing tribulation, it is to provide you with encouragement (parakalesis) and salvation. And if we are being encouraged (parakaleo), it is for the sake of the encouragement (parakalesis) you have received, which is now at work in your successful endurance of the same sufferings which we also experienced. (7) And so our hope for you is a solid one, since we know that as you have become partakers of suffering, in the same way will you also become partakers of encouragement parakalesis).
2nd Corinthians 1:3-7

Could you explain why in verse 6 you use past tense in the expression "it is for the sake of the encouragement you have received"?

Response #7: 

To make the sequence clear: the encouragement from which the Corinthians are benefitting is "now at work" which means that it was previously provided, through the truth ministered by Paul and the provision of the Spirit using that truth to comfort them.

Question #8: 

Could you explain how we are able to arrive at the spiritual meaning of some of the physical acts of recreation performed by God?

Response #8: 

These are my interpretations. Granted, much of the reasoning is inductive. Take the first example: "separated: light from darkness"; I interpret the symbolic meaning of separating light from darkness to relate to the separation of the truth of God from the lies of the devil (whose rebellion resulted in the darkness of judgment which is now being addressed by God). After all, God's truth is "the light" (embodied in Him who is "the Light": Jn.1:9), and "darkness" is always symbolic of the evil one and his lies. Take the last one: the day of rest with the world re-created I take as symbolic of the resurrection and the blessings related thereto because just as the world was reborn at that time, so we are reborn, physically as well as spiritually at the resurrection, and we enter into our rest, finally and completely, when the cycle of seven has completed. Some of those you may find lest convincing than others, but this is the method followed throughout: just as the seven days themselves are symbolic of the pattern of God's laying out of human history, so the specific things that occurred during them are taken to have comparable symbolic meaning. After all, God could have done this all at once (in one day); and even if He meant the seven days to be symbolic of the pattern of history, but not the list about which you ask, then it surely wasn't necessary to give us the details we have been given. But we do have these details and that invites us (really, requires us) to consider how those details apply to the plan of God for human history, especially since the seven days of recreation are a deliberate parallel and in fact a model for the seven days of human history. In my reading of these things, the details thus have to be symbolic since they occur in a deliberately symbolic template which sets the table for all that will later transpire in human history. All this was meant to teach angelic kind (and us too, when we finally received this information later) about that pattern of events as God's plan of judgment, restoration and replacement was about to unfold, the ultimate replacement being the removal of the devil and his fallen angels and their replacement by saved mankind led by the Lord Jesus Christ the ultimate "Q.E.D." of the details God provides for us here. So while I understand that some of the particulars might be quibbled with (and am happy to have the discussion), to my mind this is not only a permissible instance of finding spiritual meaning in physical detail, but a case of gross misinterpretation if that spiritual significance is overlooked.

Question #9:  

You wrote: Therefore, in addition to its fundamental importance for the spiritual growth of believers, the Bible, inspired by the Holy Spirit (2Pet.1:20-21; cf. Eph.3:5), and produced, disseminated and protected under His auspices, is also an essential part of the infrastructure of the gospel in the formation of the Church, the Body of Christ.

(12) "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. (13) But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. (14) He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. (15) That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you."
John 16:12-15 NIV

Could you explain why you decided to support your point with this particular passage?

Response #9: 

This passage is the first prophecy of the Spirit's coming ministry of inspiring the New Testament: "That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you" (Jn.16:15 NIV)

Question #10:  

You wrote: Because Christ has won the victory of the cross for which He came into the world, the Spirit is free to do for believers in this age something previously impossible, namely enter us into union with our dear Lord Jesus when we believe.

Why was this indwelling of the Spirit previously impossible?

Response #10: 

Scripture tells us that the reason for this previous restriction was because "Christ was not yet glorified" (Jn.7:39). Now that our Lord has won the victory, now that the cross is a reality, now that He has come into the world, died for our sins, been resurrected, ascended to heaven, and enthroned in glory at the Father's right hand, we who are of His Body are one with Him and it is on that basis we receive some of "the spoils" of His victory. But for the sake of divine justice, the victory had actually to be completed first for the glorification and consequent results (including the gift of the Spirit first and foremost) to take place just as the Old Testament believers were not allowed to transferred to the third heaven until the cross was a reality and their sins actually paid for (see the link, and cf. Rom.3:25).

Question #11:  

On that day [of the coming of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn.14:15-19)] you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you.
John 14:20 (cf. Rom.8:10; 2Cor.13:5; Eph.3:17; Col.1:27)

How do we know that by "on that day" our Lord meant the day of coming of the Holy Spirit?

Response #11: 

Because it was only with the coming of the Spirit that the disciples were brought to understand any of the new and important spiritual realities (compare Peter's behavior in denying Christ and later in trying to replace Judas by an election in Acts chapter one versus the "new", Spirit-filled Peter in Acts chapter two).

Question #12:  

You wrote: These passages demonstrate that 1) not everyone had the unction of the Spirit (as is the case today); 2) the degree of the anointing varied (Moses' is so extensive that it is sufficient to be parceled out to the seventy elders without negatively affecting his ministry); 3) it was sometimes accompanied by miraculous signs, in this case (and elsewhere) "prophesying" or speaking forth God's truth at the Spirit's direction; 4) these signs (and this ecstatic condition) did not generally last beyond the inaugural event: the elders "did not do it again" (cf. the uniqueness of the first Pentecost of the Church).

How do we know that by saying "I will take of the Spirit who is upon you" God means that it is from Moses' portion that God will parcel it out, rather then indicating that it is of the same Spirit that He will parcel it out?

Response #12: 

Your suggestion is not impossible linguistically. However, because of the point the passages makes of partition it would seem that the suggested translation/interpretation must be correct. Why say "some of" except to emphasize that Moses' unction is special and unique even within this subset of those being gifted with the Spirit? This is also a point in supporting his unique authority.

Question #13:   

What is your take on Keil and Delitzsch's take on these verses, according to which no actual division took place in imparting the Spirit on the elders:

We are not to understand this as implying, that the fulness of the Spirit possessed by Moses was diminished in consequence; still less to regard it, with Calvin, as signum indignationis, or nota ignominiae, which God intended to stamp upon him. For the Spirit of God is not something material, which is diminished by being divided, but resembles a flame of fire, which does not decrease in intensity, but increases rather by extension. As Theodoret observed, "Just as a person who kindles a thousand flames from one, does not lessen the first, whilst he communicates light to the others, so God did not diminish the grace imparted to Moses by the fact that He communicated of it to the seventy." God did this to show to Moses, as well as to the whole nation, that the Spirit which Moses had received was perfectly sufficient for the performance of the duties of his office, and that no supernatural increase of that Spirit was needed, but simply a strengthening of the natural powers of Moses by the support of men who, when endowed with the power of the Spirit that was taken from him, would help him to bear the burden of his office.

Response #13: 

It's very unhelpful because it runs against the grain of what the passage says. On the one hand the Spirit is not indivisible. But surely Moses doesn't "have" the entire "Holy Spirit". Whatever Moses had was the basis for what the elders "got". It may be true (and it is also my assumption) that no diminution was experienced by Moses even though the elders "got" some of his Spirit, but that does not necessitate the weird gymnastics undertaken. It is a basic principle of theology that many who are in the toils of secularism often overlook that two things which are to human logic incompatible may be the truth.

Question #14:   

If I understand you correctly, Moses was given an unction of the Spirit and from this unction the elders also got some. But if no diminution was experienced by Moses, then doesn't this mean that the "flame" comparison in Keil and Delitzsch would be true?

Response #14: 

That part I do like. As long as we accept that 1) Moses didn't lose anything; 2) nevertheless the elders got something; 3) and that they got what they got from him (to use fire here too, just as in passing a torch the "lighting" of their spiritual empowerment came from Moses to accentuate his authority rather than directly from God as it did in Moses' case), then I would accept this. I was reacting more to the conclusion which I find confusing, especially in light of this rather good analogy: "God did this to show to Moses, as well as to the whole nation, that the Spirit which Moses had received was perfectly sufficient for the performance of the duties of his office, and that no supernatural increase of that Spirit was needed, but simply a strengthening of the natural powers of Moses by the support of men who, when endowed with the power of the Spirit that was taken from him, would help him to bear the burden of his office".

Question #15:    

The first passage above indicates that the special dispensations of the Spirit recorded in the Old Testament were not (or at least need not have been) the only ones that took place, inasmuch as the Father was more than willing to "give the Holy Spirit to those who ask[-ed] Him" (Lk.11:13).

This is just to say, Professor, that the list of passages which precedes this sentence, showing Holy Spirit's involvement with believers before the commencement of the Church Age is very helpful. I have already heard from some that the Holy Spirit is not really present in the Old Testament, so it's a most useful inclusion.

Response #15: 

You're very welcome!

Question #16: 

You wrote: Any Christian reading this passage and putting themselves into this situation can have very little doubt about the fact that Paul, confronted with the glory of Jesus Christ as he was and addressed by Him personally in this way became a believer immediately at this point (cf. Acts 22:6-10; 26:13-20). Everything about the call of the twelfth apostle was unique, and that included also Paul's reception of the Holy Spirit at water-baptism mediated by Ananias, who, although an exceptional believer, was not an apostle - but he was given very precise orders by our Lord Jesus Himself to carry out this procedure (cf. Acts 9:10-16; 22:12-16).

(17) And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." (18) Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized (i.e., the point of Paul's reception of the gift of the Spirit).
Acts 9:17-18 NKJV

And in footnote 36 you wrote:

(36). In regard to Ananias' words at Acts 22:16, "Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (NKJV), we may say 1) that Ananias was concerned to give Paul the gospel under the natural assumption that at this point he was still an unbeliever, 2) that water-baptism was still considered appropriate for the community of faith (it would be some time until even Peter recognized its superfluousness after the cross (cf. Acts 10:47), and 3) that the operative phrase here is "[by] calling on the Name of the Lord" (the Greek circumstantial participle expressing the means whereby one's sins are forgiven - the expression of faith in Christ).

In the quotation from Acts 9:17-18 you explain that by "baptized" a moment is meant when Paul received the gift of the Spirit, but wouldn't this mean that Luke, the author of the Acts of the Apostles, used the word "baptize" in different meaning in Acts 9:17-18 (Spirit baptism) and in Acts 22:16, where, as you explain, Ananias meant water baptism?

Response #16: 

In my opinion this is not a question of Luke's understanding or usage; rather it is about what Ananias actually said and this is what he actually said. Act records the actually words and actions of those involved. Sometimes these are godly, sometimes ungodly, sometimes neither particularly one or the other. It also means that we have to make allowances for otherwise godly actors not understanding things entirely correctly. After all, we may be sure that all of Jesus' words are the truth (He was given the Spirit "without measure" in this regard, and was perfect in every way). But it would be a mistake to think that the words of believers in Acts are 100% doctrinally correct any more than our words today are, even though we, like they, are trying to live godly lives. This may be especially more true of them (one hopes), because Acts chronicles the time of transition between the time of the Law and the time of the Spirit (see the link), and this key distinction took some time for believers to get used to, especially Jewish ones (cf. the entire book of Hebrews written to address some of the problems in not letting go of the earlier mode of dispensation; see the link).

There's nothing wrong with what Ananias says; he, like even some of the apostles, doesn't seem yet to understand the significance of Spirit baptism vs. water-baptism (yet). We don't have to be bothered by that: Acts was the time of transition from the Law to grace, and none of the biblical actors involved in that transition were flawless in their negotiation of it (cf. Gal.2:11-14). What we have to avoid is enshrining their partial misconceptions (where it is a case of that) as doctrinal truths.

Question #17:  

You wrote: The filling of the Spirit relates to the level of the Spirit's influence over the believer in question at a given moment (i.e., "the filling of the Spirit" is synchronic), whereas the Spirit's leading of the believer to spiritual fulfillment requires that he or she respond properly to this influence of the Spirit over time, being consistently "spiritual" (i.e., "the fulfillment by the Spirit" is diachronic).

I'm not clear about this distinction.

Response #17: 

At any given moment we are either in fellowship with the Lord and walking with Him in the Spirit or not that is an absolute; however, the degree to which we influenced by the Spirit can be variable. And there is also the issue of the degree to which we may be influenced: this latter distinction depends not on our momentary attitude but upon past decisions made to grow in grace through the truth . . . or not (since the Spirit will only use the truth we have heard and believed). All of this, positively speaking, is "spirituality", that is, our "being influenced and guided by the Spirit". The point I was trying to make in this quote is that we have to be willing to be spiritual now, and how willing we were in the past affects the potential of our "now"; moreover both of these things are relative because we can be "hot", "lukewarm" or "cold" over time and also at any given time (with of course limitless gradations in-between).

Question #18: 

(16) But I tell you, walk in the Spirit and you will not carry out what the flesh lusts for. (17) For what the flesh lusts for is contrary to the Spirit's will, and the Spirit is opposed to what the flesh lusts for. Since these are diametrically opposed to each other in this way, what you are doing is not what you yourself choose.
Galatians 5:16-17

In most versions the last phrase of the seventeenth verse is rendered as a command, but you translate it as a statement of what is happening - "what you are doing is not what you yourself choose". Could you explain why Greek there is interpreted differently?

Response #18: 

It's a purpose clause in the Greek, roughly and overly literally "so that you may not do the things which you choose". Translating as a purpose clause is confusing to English speakers because Greek final clauses as in this case (no doubt based upon Hebrew influence) lean closer to result. Rather than translate this as a result clause (which would likewise give a bit of a false impression in meaning), I have "split the baby" by utilizing an indirect question, the net effect of which is, in my view, emphasizing what Paul is trying to emphasize. Translating as an imperative or with a notion of indirect obligation (as NIV "you are not to do"; similarly ESV, ASV, NASB, DBY) imports a notion not present in the Greek and shifts the emphasis entirely: the point here is not that you shouldn't do fleshly things (that is well-known and has already been established) but that you are not in fact going to be doing it yourself anyway: you have to choose between the Spirit and the flesh, and the one you choose to follow is the one who will dominate your attitude and behavior.

Question #19:  

I understand your point here. Just one more question - how should we understand the expression "what you are doing is not what you yourself choose"? Does Paul here mean "what you are doing is not what you (in your fleshly lust) would choose", or rather the opposite - "what you are doing is not what you (in your spirit) would choose (but don't do because of the weakness of your flesh"?

Response #19: 

That depends on what the choice is. If we give our will over to the Spirit, then it is the Spirit doing the deciding; if we give our will over to the flesh, then it is our flesh that does so.

Question #20:  

Ok, understood. I thought that Paul here had specifically one of the two in mind.

Response #20: 

I think the focus is on what we choose and the further point that our choice is merely handing control over either to the Spirit or the flesh.

Question #21:  

In regard to your enthusiasm, do not be hesitant, but be boiling with the Spirit.
Romans 12:11

Could you explain your translation - in many versions "the Spirit" isn't capitalized here? Does Paul mean the Holy Spirit?

Response #21: 

Yes, I believe so. In the Greek we have en pneumati, and given Paul's emphasis on the power of the Spirit in the Christian life earlier in the book (esp. chap. 8), it makes sense to me to see him appealing to us to maximize the gift of the Spirit in our Christian progress and production. On the other hand, "in your 'human' spirit" doesn't seem to have any particular meaning. It is also problematic inasmuch as it is usually the heart, the place where spirit and body meet, the place of emotion, that such "boiling" would take place. When isolated, the spirit is usually a place of quiet and rational spirituality.

Question #22:  

(9) But as it is written: "What the eye has not seen and the ear has not heard, and [what] has not entered the heart of man, [these are the very] things which God has prepared for those who love Him".
1st Corinthians 2:9

You wrote: v. 9: Divine truth, something which cannot "enter into the heart" through human sensual perception, has nevertheless been "prepared by God for those who love Him". So while our physical eyes and ears are incapable of discerning God's divine truth on their own, God's special provision of this truth, designed and meant from the beginning to be received and understood by His children, guarantees that God has also provided the means for this to occur, not physical and empirical means, but spiritual and invisible means, grace means: the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who makes the truth we hear real and understandable to our human spirits so that we may believe it grow thereby: only through faith is the truth converted from mere knowledge (gnosis) to the status of truth in the heart understood and now usable by the Spirit (epi-gnosis).

You apply this passage to discerning the truth, but I have always thought that it refers to the eternal state in heaven and the ultimate happiness of believers there?

Response #22: 

I think it applies to both; Paul brings up here "the things prepared by God" (for our eternal blessing) to demonstrate that it is only with the Spirit that we can appreciate now what we will have then (even though we can't yet have all the details or appreciate those things fully in this body) and only through the Spirit that we can grow so as to be maximally rewarded and fully reap the things we have sown "in the Spirit" (Gal.6:8).

Question #23:   

You wrote: So on the one hand, God is the One who is making these determinations as to the distribution of gifts (the Spirit's domain: 1Cor.12:4), ministries (our Lord Jesus' domain: 1Cor.12:5), and their effectiveness (the Father's domain: 1Cor.12:6) - and who can doubt God's goodness, grace, fairness, or authority in this matter?

Could you clarify on what basis we can make the distinction between the Spirit distributing the gifts, our Lord the ministries and God the Father deciding on their effectiveness based on 1 Corinthians 12:4-6?

Response #23: 

Explanation in square brackets, verse by verse:

(4) There are different gifts, but the same Spirit; [the Spirit giving gifts]
(5) and there are different ministries, but the same Lord; [the LJC associated with ministries, and no doubt assigning them to individual believers; cf. Rom.1:1, e.g.]
(6) and there are different results, but the same God who brings about all results in all cases [here we see the Father effecting the results of the ministries Christ has assigned in accordance with the gifts of the Spirit which make accomplishing them possible]
1st Corinthians 12:4-6

Question #24:   

You wrote: Teaching gifts have been given "greater honor" by the Lord due to their relative rarity in the Body (1Cor.12:24; Greek: "giving greater honor to the member in short supply"; cf. 1Cor.14:12), but it is only those who carry out their duties well who are worthy of this "double honor" (1Tim.5:17). So while believers are to seek out those with such "greater" gifts for communicating the Word of God (1Cor.12:31), those who possess them labor under an even greater responsibility:

Could you explain your rendering of 1 Corinthians 12:24? You translate "giving greater honor to the member in short supply", but it seems that all other versions unanimously say "the member which lacked it (i.e., lacked the honor)". Perhaps the difference could have something to do with how the word husteroumenoi is understood.

Response #24: 

That participle is passive: literally "things being lacked"; only by postulating an exceptional middle use which does not occur elsewhere in Greek can the other translation be accepted. Most have misunderstood what the passage means (incredibly, to my view).

Question #25:    

Could you clarify verse 23 and 24 and how they apply to the higher and lower ranking gifts?

Response #25: 

The last half of v.24 gives the principle which is the point of the analogy: "God has composed the human body in such a way as to give greater honor to the parts that are short supply (analogous to teaching gifts)". So just as we take greater care of our ears than, say, our muscles (because we only have two ears and their function is particularly important), and just as we protect our eyes more than we do our elbows (because they are more vulnerable and very necessary), and just as we treat our private parts with more discretion (for all manner of reasons), so we give the "in shorter supply" gifts in the Church more care, concern, honor.

Question #26: 

You wrote: The word "deacon" means "servant", and the word is from the same Greek root as the word for "service" in Romans 12:7 above. What we may take from this is that there is an office of "servant/deacon", namely, individuals who are responsible for the money a local church may collect for supporting its pastor-teacher (for example), and that there is also a gift of service. The latter (deacon) may have an official position in a local church as its fulfillment in the will of God, but in doubtless many more cases the gift of service will be applied in ministries of an unofficial capacity, often not even directly connected to a local church.

From what you wrote it seems as if collecting the money for supporting the pastor was a primary function of the deacon or as if this function was derived directly from what is written in the scripture. You add "for example" at the end, but the way it's stated at the moment may make it appear as if raising the funds is the most obvious role associated with being a servant/deacon.

Response #26: 

That is my reading of the activities of the early churches: they raised money for charity (taken by Paul to Jerusalem), they raised money to support widows; they had no church buildings or official para-church ministries. In Jerusalem, the first of these deacons "waited tables", that is, they distributed food to those in need whom the church was supporting (clearly a related function but not viable when a far away need is being ministered to). So I do mean this as an example, especially in terms of how the generic gift of service would or could be used in the future. The point is less about money than about linking the gift to supporting the local church's number one function: the teaching of the Word of God. That may be lost today, but the indications are that it was not as long as the apostles were on the scene.

Question #27:  

You wrote: The giving by the Lord of specific messages not meant to be written down in the Bible to individuals with the gift of prophecy came to an end at least by the time of the completion of the canon (cf. Num.11:25).

Why were the prophetic messages not meant to be written in the Bible? I thought that maybe it could have been a part of the prophetic message to proclaim the word of God that was to be later written, but which hasn't been written yet.

Response #27: 

The written prophecy of scripture has to come from a person with the office as well as the gift of prophecy, and it has to be specifically intended by the Spirit for preservation to become part of the canon (2Pet.1:20-21). There was apparently much prophecy which was not written down in the Old Testament (consider how many are called "prophets" but how little, relatively speaking, we have from all these prophets in the canon). This is perhaps even more so in the respect to the New Testament, given the great amount of prophecy in the days of the early Church before the canon (to make up for its lack until it was universally available). This prophesy in either case would not be different from scripture (God's truth is always the same), nor, I think, additional to scripture in terms of meaning.

Question #28: 

You wrote: At the very least, no one can read these three chapters and come away with the idea that anyone should speak in tongues without at the same time someone being present with the gift of interpreting tongues, the companion gift which allowed the evangelist to understand what those being evangelized were saying in return. For this Paul states in no uncertain terms:

(28) If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. (29) But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.
1st Corinthians 14:28-29 NKJV

I'm not clear about the office of interpreter. I think your interpretation - that he was a person explaining "what those being evangelized were saying in return" - is logical, but there seem to be no verses that would directly state things this way. It seems, as in 1 Corinthians 14:28-29, that the gift of interpretation Paul is linking with those speaking in tongues rather than those receiving the teaching ("let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret").

Some propose that it was to do with explaining what was being said in a more accessible manner to the listeners (i.e., someone might for example present a difficult teaching with the gift of tongue, and the interpreter clarifies it to the audience). This makes some sense when one assume that someone would speak in tongue only to an audience for whom this particular tongue was understandable in the first place (e.g., a Jew starts speaking in Greek to a Greek audience, even though he doesn't know Greek). But I'm also not sure if this assumption is correct.

Not sure what you think of such a take on it, but in any case I would appreciate if you could explain your interpretation of this office.

Response #28: 

I think Paul's connection of interpretation with tongues is indivisible and constitutes the sole biblical explanation of the gift: it is used to interpret tongues. What else would be interpreted? We have other gifts of teaching which are impossible without interpretation in the more generic sense. Just as there is a gift to speak a language that one does not understand, so there is a gift to translate a language one does not understand. Both gifts are valuable for evangelizing, but could only be used together to give encouragement and edification to the early Church.

Question #29:  

Perhaps I haven't worded my question clearly - I'm just not sure what interpreter's role is meant to be. If someone speaks in a tongue, then I take it the audience is given the teaching or the word of God in a language they can understand, that's what the gift is for. So what is interpreter's role in all this?

Response #29: 

The gift of tongues is designed for a group that does speak "the tongue". But in Corinth persons with this gift were speaking "in tongues" that the congregation did not understand. In such circumstances both gifts had to be present for the use to be legitimate so people could understand. A person could speak in tongues in the service if someone who had the gift of translating otherwise unlearned languages was present (the gift of interpretation), so as to be able to tell the congregation what the otherwise incomprehensible sounds meant.

Question #30:  

Ok, understood, I have been assuming that people who were speaking in tongues would always use a tongue that the audience could understand.

Response #30: 

That SHOULD have been the application, but individuals in the Corinthian congregation were violating that obviously proper approach, so Paul had to correct them in this letter.

Question #31:  

You wrote: Jesus refrained from helping His humanity with His divinity in a variety of ways, the most astounding and significant of which was in the case of His suffering and dying for our sins on the cross. But this instance you mention of not accessing His divine omniscience is one of many much more mundane ones (e.g., He walked from place to place and did all the other things that human beings have to do).

Wasn't Jesus kept alive by the Spirit on the cross?

Response #31: 

There is much we don't know about the Lord's spiritual death even though we know enough to know that it is the foundation of all things. Here is what I write about this in BB 4A:

The Spirit, with Christ before the cross and returning after His spiritual death for sin, would seem to have been the member instrumental in making the sacrifice possible. That is to say, Jesus offered up His human body "through the eternal Spirit". The Father acted as judge, carrying out the sentence of death on His own beloved Son (as symbolized by Abraham and Isaac), but the Spirit's mediation was necessary for that judgment to take place just as the Father is our Lord's Father, yet the Spirit's role in Jesus' conception is key (Matt.1:18; 1:20; Lk.1:35; cf. Jn.1:14). And just as it was only through the Spirit that the our Lord Jesus could become a human being as well as God, being made the human Son of the Father, so also at the cross only through the Spirit was it possible for Christ's human body to be judged by the Father in spite of Jesus' divinity (the two natures being in hypostatic union through the Spirit; see section I.5.e above). Thus the Spirit's pivotal connection with the human body of Christ at its conception, sacrifice, and also resurrection (Rom.1:4; 1Pet.3:18) is clear. Scripture does not come any closer than this to explaining the mechanics of a process that in many respects is beyond our ken. What we can say is that the Spirit made it possible for the Father to judge sin in Jesus' body, and for Christ's human body to be judged in spite of His divinity (Heb.9:14). This required facilitation and restraint (both key characteristics of the Spirit's other known ministries), facilitation in making the sacrifice and the judgment possible, and restraint in preventing the complications of Christ's deity, perfect humanity and union between the two from making the sacrifice and judgment impossible.(119) To use a rather rough analogy, just as steel cannot be forged without an anvil to support it, so the Spirit was the "anvil" on which our Lord's human body was hammered to purge way the sins of the world. For Jesus to stay physically alive long enough to be punished for every human sin ever committed required supernatural intervention.

. . . . . Christ, who offered Himself . . . . . through the eternal Spirit . . . . .
Hebrews 9:14b

Question #32:  

Hi Bob,

Did Adam and Eve have the Holy Spirit prior to the fall?


Response #32: 

It's an interesting question. Scripture, of course, doesn't say. The gift of the Spirit which believers now enjoy is a result of Christ's victory, and that of course (while technically unnecessary before the fall), was still far future at that point. Our Lord's words at John 14:17 stating that "He abides with you but will be in you" seem to indicate a progression rather than the resumption of an original state. Adam and Eve, though part of the plan of God before initial creation, were created in response to the satanic rebellion, and the gift of the Spirit is part of the "spoils" of our Lord's victorious resolution of that conflict at the cross (everything that comes after is exploitation and conclusion). Adam and Eve didn't need the indwelling Spirit, after all, to combat a sin nature they did not yet possess. However, the Spirit is the Church's "sword" with which to fight in our part of the conflict (of which Adam and Eve seem to have been blissfully ignorant in paradise until fatally involved by the devil). A long way of saying that I don't think so.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.


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