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The Holy Spirit: Pneumatology Questions I

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Question #1:  

Hope your keeping well. I was trying to share the truth with a brother. I said to him that some people will believe for a while but in time of testing fall away, according to the parable of the sower. He said that there not true believers. There is a different type of believe. He said that demons believe and tremble, that's not the same belief of a born again Christian. Is that a justifiable argument? Does the bible make a distinction between, the demons believe, the believe mentioned in the parable of the sower and the believe of a born again Christian.

Love In Christ

Response #1: 

This is a good example of what happens when Christians are not taught in any depth and as a result do not consider the theological implications of the words they hear and use. Christianity is all about faith. But faith in what or whom? Christianity is all about faith . . . in Jesus Christ believing the truth of the gospel, namely, who Jesus is (the Son of God, true deity and true humanity in one unique person since the incarnation), and what Jesus has done (dying spiritually in Calvary's darkness in being judged for the sins of the entire world). This "belief" is not merely an intellectual assessment of the truth of these matters: the Holy Spirit makes the gospel clear to all unbelievers when they are evangelized. The question is whether or not a person is willing to put their trust and faith in Jesus for salvation, to accept Him as the Savior who washed away their sins, to be willing to stand on His work and not their own, giving their obedience and allegiance to God through faith in the One whom God the Father sent to be the object of our faith and faithfulness.

The demons know very well who God is and that He exists (Jas.2:19). But so does every single human being who has ever lived and attained mental maturity. The question is not knowledge of the truth; the question is accepting or rejecting that truth. People reject the truth of the gospel not because they are in any doubt about it but because they do not want to accept it given the implications of that acceptance. Accepting Christ through faith is handing over one's own will to the WILL of God, committing oneself thereafter to live for God and after this life is over with God the Father and our dear Lord Jesus forever. Most people in the history of the world, however, have no interest in surrendering their will. They would rather be their own god for just as long as possible even though they know that life is short, and are not willing to trade allegiance to themselves for a moment even at the price of missing out on eternal life because they love themselves and are not willing to love God back for His gift of our dear Savior. Once this decision has been made, either overtly in rejecting Christ or covertly in being unwilling to come to Christ, then all sorts of lies emerge which are believed and accepted instead of the gospel. Once the truth is rejected even though it was perfectly well understood through the Spirit's illumination but deemed "not the truth I want" then in their little "god-ness" unbelievers pronounce some truth they prefer to be "the truth". The devil has always been happy to supply all sorts of alternative "truths", and human beings are quite good at making up their own as well.

As to the parable of the Sower, it says in scripture that at first "they receive the Word with joy" which can only be genuine belief / acceptance of the gospel and that they then "believe for a while" which can only be genuinely being believers but that afterwards they "apostatize / fall away" which can only be losing something which they once possessed, namely, salvation. And why? Because they now choose not to believe, accept, give their allegiance to, follow, and be faithful to the Lord who bought them. Their belief was the same as ours; they did not persevere while we do. That is the difference.

Hope this helps. Here is a link which discusses the matter in more detail: "Faith Dynamics".

In Jesus Christ the dear Lord in whom we believe for life eternal,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

How are you doing ? And how is your mom? I have some interesting things lately about the people I was with, you know, the Hebrewites, and a few questions I had. One thing really worried me that they taught once you died your body went into atoms. There it lay until the Second coming and then the atoms turned it into a spiritual body! I battled with this especially after the death of a loved one as I couldn't see what happened to him. Now after reading your website on the interim state more closely, I am so relieved and see how wonderful is the Word! Thank you! They also taught that there is no devil. Said just look in the mirror and you'll see it! Also taught that the devil was really the High Priests! What a drastic mistake to teach the people. They also argued that the Scriptures were first written in Hebrew not Greek - I am sure I saw you had said somewhere it was Greek? During his last service, the leader of the gang was so overcome that he began to speak in tongues! And went on speaking in tongues for a day or so...they say he is a much softer person now! I may be wrong, but do you think he was Baptised in the Holy Spirit? Strange how God works, as none of them believed in that before. I want to write about this in my blog but I need confirmation first.

Thank you so much Bob.

All love in our precious Lord Jesus

Response #2: 

Very good to hear from you! My mom is doing quite well at the moment thanks for asking!

I pray for you daily and am very happy to hear that these materials having given you some comfort through the Word of God.

As to your questions, yes, obviously, there is a "personal devil" by the name of Satan. For anyone to deny this fact they would have to submerge the entire Bible so deep into the trough of allegory that all truth would be entirely washed away. Human beings are, among other things, God's replacements for Satan and his demons (at least we believers are; see the link: "The Satanic Rebellion Series").

As to Greek and Hebrew, the New Testament was originally written only in Greek (with the exception of a few Aramaic phrases like "Talitha Qum!", "little girl, arise!", and "Marana Tha!", "O our Lord, return!"). There is a false theory which has rather ancient origins to the effect that Matthew wrote originally in Aramaic, but that is demonstrably false (see the link: "Not Aramaic but Greek"). The Old Testament is all in Hebrew, with the exception of some phrases and a few chapters (in Daniel and Ezra) in Aramaic. There is an ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek (known as the Septuagint or the LXX), but having spent a great deal of my time on that version in seminary and thereafter I can tell you that it is not worth very much from the standpoint of analyzing the Hebrew text which blessedly we do have.

As to the baptism of the Spirit, well, all believers have the Spirit (e.g., Rom.8:9). The "baptism of the Spirit" includes two things: 1) the Spirit entering us into union with Christ when we believe, and 2) the Spirit coming to indwell us. As He does so, all believers also receive certain spiritual gifts (1Cor.12). Now during the very early days of the era of the apostles, occasionally, as at Pentecost, the Spirit came upon believers in a visible and dramatic way. That has not happened in nearly 2,000 years and ended long before the apostles died. No one has legitimately spoken in tongues in biblical terms since those early days. There is much to say on that topic and I will refer you to the links for that:

The Gift of Tongues: Part 1

The Gift of Tongues: Part 2

Good for you, persevering with your blog! I hope you are feeling better too.

In my prayers in Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:   

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you for your clear and precise answers. I'm thankful for getting the bible answers I need given to me in such a clear manner and is rightly divided. My understanding of God's Word has greatly increased because of this.

A co-worker is part of the Assemblies of God (a Pentecostal sect) and he believes that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is distinct from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that all believers receive. And that this special baptism gives evidence by speaking in tongues, divine healing, and other spiritual gifts. Does the bible teach a separate baptism of the Holy Spirit and tongue speaking that accompany this? I know you had mentioned that the gifts of healing seem to have ceased (not that God is unable to do so today) because of the less times it is mentioned through the progression of the New Testament. What does the bible say about this? Thanks!

God Bless,

Response #3: 

Good to hear from you as always, and thanks too for your encouraging words.

On your question, I am familiar with this group (and others of their ilk), and you have correctly reported their false position, namely 1) that Spirit indwelling and Spirit baptism are somehow distinct, and 2) that tongues in particular (along with other gifts, variously listed) are necessary manifestations of the latter.

There is no biblical basis for either proposition.

In my experience, these groups are not big on proving from the Bible that what they are doing is legitimate. They feel no need of demonstrating the rightness of their behavior and teachings from scripture because they feel that they have a superior "experience" which is more than proof enough that is, explosive emotionalism often manifested by speaking in tongues.

The problem with the above is twofold:

1) We walk by faith, not by sight. Believers are to believe the truth of the Word of God, even if it seems to conflict with what our eyes see and our ears see. Conversely, if what our eyes see and ears hear does not comport with the Word of God we are to reject it out of hand. During the Tribulation, antichrist and his false prophet are predicted to do all manner of false miracles capable of "deceiving even the elect, if that were possible" (Matt.24:24; and see the links: "The persuasiveness of tribulational false signs" and "Great Miracles").

2) In fact, not only are the above propositions not in scripture but they are explicitly contradicted by scripture not to mention experience.

To explore this last point further, first of all, the charismatic movement or Pentecostalism is a product of the USA and dates back only to the early 20th century. It defies spiritual common sense to believe that this unique manifestation of the Spirit had lapsed since the days of the apostles, but then reemerged only recently. It also makes little spiritual sense to say that only some believers have this "special blessing", that only some groups "understand it" and that only some "special individuals" can confer it. Indeed, since there are no apostles today (there were only 12 with a capital "A"), these characteristics certainly have much in common with cults: special leaders with special powers whose source of information is really extra-biblical.

Second, when we look into these matters closely, the hype is not supported by reality. Many such groups and churches have claimed prodigious records in healing, but whenever they have been investigated the reports always turn out to be vastly overstating the results (to the extent that there are really any results). Tongues in particular presents what I feel to be a decisive case against these organizations. When on the day of Pentecost the Spirit fell upon the early believers He imparted to them "tongues", namely, actual languages (that is what the Greek of Acts 2:3ff. means), wherewith these local believers proceeded to evangelize in languages they did not otherwise know the foreign visitors who had come to Jerusalem for the festival:

"Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!"
Acts 2:7-11 NIV

However, despite the fact that there are many such groups and that we live in a video age, there has never been a single documented case of which I am aware where a person who did know and had not studied a particular foreign language was suddenly able to speak in that language. Unfortunately, I know a bit more about this subject than I care to admit, and so I also always ask those who try to support the validity of modern day "speaking in tongues" for such proof. So when I say that I am not aware of any such proof it is not for lack of seeking it out. And all it would take is a single YouTube video of the phenomenon to show that it has happened at least once. Still, no proof is forthcoming. Not that these people don't tell stories of how this or that miraculous tongue-experience happened (usually in Africa or India). But if the baptism of the Holy Spirit was something that could be given to all believers (on the grounds that though indwelt they had never been so "baptized"), and given the great number of these groups now around the world, it is beyond odd that no such proof exists of someone actually being given to speak in a real language they do not know. Mind you, these people very often do babble nonsensical syllables and sometimes with great emotional excess as well but that is not biblical speaking in tongues (as the passage above along with all other biblical references to the gift make abundantly clear).

Turning to the scriptures, it is very clear that the visibly miraculous outpouring of the Spirit resulting in speaking in tongues and prophesying is not something that happens in all cases of salvation, nor in the way that these groups teach. For example, other than at the first Pentecost, the only places even in the book of Acts where we find such an outpouring described in these terms are the assemblage of gentiles at Cornelius' house in Acts 10 and Paul's placing of his hands on the Ephesian brethren who had only known John's baptism in Acts 19. The first instance is sometimes called the "gentile Pentecost" because of the fact that for the first time here this gift of the Spirit is given to non-Jews, and the second is also unique because it stands for that group of people who had believed John's message but had not yet heard who the Messiah was (i.e., responsive Jews and gentiles outside of Judea who hadn't yet come to know about and therefore to receive Jesus as their Savior). It certainly makes sense to argue that these were unique situations which were likewise uniquely inaugurated by the Lord in this way; it is less convincing to extrapolate this outpouring to every believer thereafter. Now the Charismatics do not claim this (indeed, they tell us we need a "second blessing"), but why would there continue to be such a division now as in the earliest days of the apostles between salvation and Spirit baptism? At least we have no indication that such an outpouring happened whenever someone was saved, even then, so in terms of the Charismatics doctrine that would seem to show the apostles falling down on the job rather significantly.

In fact, in none of the other instances in the Bible do we find tongues, for example, being the sign of salvation. In Acts chapter 8, the apostles place their hands on the Samaritan believers and they receive the Spirit. So in that case, and also in the case of the Ephesian believers, there is a separation between salvation and the gift of the Spirit, but there is nothing in scripture which indicates that this was more than a transitional effect and everything to indicate that it was just that: throughout his epistles, Paul stresses the ministry of the Spirit but never suggests that there are "degrees" of having the Spirit. When he says at Romans 8:9 "if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ", he is unequivocally describing "having the Spirit" as a unified and indivisible gift, and also that being a believer and having the Spirit are inseparably one and the same. But this would not be possible if the Charismatic teaching is correct; it is possible if it was only in the early days of the Church that the apostles were given the ability to impart the Spirit in order 1) to give the Spirit to those who had already believed (as in the Ephesian case) and 2) to uphold and advance the authority of the apostles for the purpose of building up the incipient Church (and we know that they had many other miraculous gifts for this same purpose).

Finally, in respect to tongues, I find this in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians:

And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way.
1st Corinthians 12:28-31 NIV

The answer to the rhetorical question in bold above was clearly "no!", even during the apostles' lifetimes. Since not all spoke in tongues even during that time of transition where miracles helped to fill the gap until the canon of scripture had been completed and the Church somewhat established, why would we assume that the Bible was teaching that all believers with the Spirit must speak in tongues (as Charismatics do)? Indeed, this chapter, 1st Corinthians 12, is all about the gifts of the Spirit, and it makes no distinction between gifts except as to their type. That is to say, if the gift of tongues was in abeyance between the early Church and the early 20th century because the baptism of the Spirit had been overlooked for all those centuries, then the other gifts, including pastoring and teaching and administration, must also have been in a lapsed state. But we do know that Bible was taught during the Reformation, for example.

Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took of the Spirit that was on him and put the Spirit on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again.
Numbers 11:25 NIV

As in this case above, the dramatic and immediate empowering of a group towards prophesying and speaking in tongues seems to have been an inaugural event not something we should take to be an essential manifestation of salvation or the gift of the Spirit. As I say, it is difficult to read the New Testament epistles objectively and believe that they are teaching any such gradation of the gift of the Spirit. On the other hand, as I have written you before (and as you allude to in your email), there is ample evidence to suggest that the overtly miraculous gifts which correspond to apostleship were meant to be temporary, a means of transition to the time in just the next generation when the completed Word of God would be the miracle to which all believers are to give their attention.

Love never falls [into inactivity]. But whether [we are talking about gifts of] prophecy, they will cease, or about [gifts of] tongues, they will come to a stop, or [about the gift of] knowledge, it will be done away with. For when we exercise the gift of knowledge, its results are only partial. And when we exercise the gift of prophecy, its results are only partial. But when what is complete shall have come on the scene (i.e., the fully functioning Church with a complete Bible), all partial measures shall be done away with.
1st Corinthians 13:8-10

The Spirit is prophesied about by John and by our Lord Jesus as follows:

"I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and [with] fire".
Matthew 3:11 KJV

(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".
Acts 1:4-5

John tells us that it is Jesus who will "baptize us with the Spirit", and Jesus tells us the gift of the Spirit is the "promise of the Father" which Jesus had already told them about. Both passages indicate what we already know from the entire text and context of the New Testament, namely, that the Spirit is for all who believe and that God makes no distinction between believers. Even the transitional incidents in the book of Acts are designed to show how God saw to it that all received the Spirit.

Theologically speaking, the baptism of the Spirit has two parts: 1) with the Spirit: we are all given of the One Spirit to drink so that He indwells us all, and if we do not have the Spirit of Christ then we do not belong to Christ; 2) by the Spirit: when we believe we are entered "into Christ" (cf. Matt.28:19), becoming one with Him through the Spirit's agency, the sign of which is His presence indwelling us. These two aspects of the baptism are two sides of the same coin and indivisible one from the other. This baptism happens at salvation, and no believer is left out. Today, no one truly believes in Jesus Christ without then immediately being made one with Him and without simultaneously being indwelt by the Spirit. This is the "baptism of the Holy Spirit", not some made-up and false generated babbling. Would that we all spoke in tongues legitimately. But it is beyond dangerous to arrogate to oneself a gift that has not actually been given and then to claim that some false, hyper-emotional, and self-centered behavior is "of the Spirit".

Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.
Galatians 4:6-7

In this passage and throughout the Pauline epistles, for example, Paul paints a scenario wherein all believers have the Spirit and where the Spirit is the sign of being a believer. We are all sons of God in Christ Jesus and we know this because of the Spirit. But if only some had the Spirit, then only some would know and only these would be sons. All true believers, however, are very aware of being members of God's family through Jesus Christ and that is why we call our Father "Father!" with the confidence the Spirit provides, the Spirit who is in all who have become one with Jesus Christ through faith.

There is much to say about all this. I commend to you the following links, and invite your further questions on anything unclear:

The Gift of Tongues: Part 1

The Gift of Tongues: Part 2

The baptism of the Holy Spirit as distinct from speaking in tongues.

An Extended Conversation about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord who gave us His Spirit, the "one baptism" of the Church.

Bob L.

Question #4:   

Dear Bob,

Hey, I have a few more small questions which I hope you can answer.

1) How did Judas Iscariot die? I don't remember which book it was (I think Matthew?), but I first read that he hanged himself; however, I've stared reading Acts recently, and ow it's saying he tripped and split himself open on something?

2) Ananias and Sapphira, the couple in Acts 5. I understand they lied, but were the believers or not? Why did God kill them, or why did they fall over dead? They lied, but (human perspective) isn't it a bit, I dunno, harsh? I mean, the Lord is the Lord, and I know I'm not one to question his methods, but don't really know the reasons is all. Were they just unbelievers masquerading as those of faith, or.. what happened there?

3) Back in the old testament, Leviticus 10, God killed Aaron's sons for writing the wrong kind of flame on their incense burners. Again, I do feel bad for questioning but.. why? I mean, human perspective here, but it doesn't seem like a big deal, though they did break the bonds of the Covenant I think.

Thank you in advance for answering, and for always being there to have answered all of my previous questions and concerns, especially when I first came to you about the question of if I was even saved or not. Once n a very great while, that concern still comes back, but I manage to fight it away with Acts 2:21 and John 3:16. Thank you for helping me.

Response #4: 

You are certainly welcome, and I am heartened to hear that things are moving forward for you in your spiritual growth.

As to your questions:

1) As to Judas, Acts 1:18 is not inconsistent with the gospels where it says that Judas hanged himself. Peter's meaning seems to show that after his death Judas' body fell from wherever he was hanging and split open. That is the way I take the passage and most versions and commentators do the same. There is more about this in the second question/response at the link: "Judas Iscariot".

2) Acts presents us with some unique circumstances and equally unique and never-again-repeated events. This was the time of the transition from Israel to the Church at large, and the apostles were the ones responsible for managing the transition. One of the ways this was accomplished by the Lord was by giving the apostles exceptional gifts and by working exceptional miracles at their hands. For example, when the Samaritans believed, it was given to the apostles to mediate the gift of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of their hands. Today, of course, all believers have the Spirit, being baptized by Him at the moment of their new birth (e.g., Rom.8:9). Part of the issue here with Ananias and Sapphira is that this deception of theirs challenged the authority of the apostles and thereby the entire underpinning of the incipient Church. If the apostles could be lied to and their authority ignored, there was no way that the Church could ever rise out of that difficult contemporary situation and become what the Lord intended it to become. This miracle, therefore, was an important example of apostolic authority that marks the end of the "honeymoon" period and the beginning of the "real life" which would be necessary for the new believers to endure. Believers can be sinful, and believers can be rebellious, and not everyone has the same commitment to the Lord and to the Word of truth. In my view this wayward couple did believe. Otherwise, why even bother to associate with the other believers? After all, there was no benefit to being a Christian in human terms; indeed, it was a terrible disadvantage. And why bother to sell their land and give it any of it to the Church? No, I think they were believers, and even if what they did at that time seems to be (and may well have been) far less than many believers do today without suffering anything so dramatic as this, their deception and therefore their potential eroding of apostolic authority at this critical juncture was the reason for the example the Lord made of them.

3) This question on Leviticus chapter 10 is related to the one above. As one of my seminary professors observed many years ago, there does seem to be some inaugural "example making" by the Lord at such times in order to teach us all about the need to sanctify the Lord in our hearts and in all we say and do. He was speaking about the similarity between the death of Ananias and Sapphira on the one hand and of the son of the man who gathered wood on the Sabbath and was stoned for it on the other (Num.15:32-36; although this is an inaugural event for the next generation), and I would put the stoning of the man who blasphemed the Lord into the same category (Lev.24:11-23). But your example is really a better parallel to Acts 5:1ff. because it is the Lord who carries out the sentence. The authority of the leader of the people and of the high priest (both of which offices represent Christ and both of which offices are combined in Christ) needed to be maintained and protected, and this act of rebellion and blasphemy, while perhaps seeming of not such great significance, represented, as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, a direct challenge to the Word of God and His divinely constituted authority. For that reason, it had to be dealt with most severely lest many others follow this route with an ever growing severity to their negative acts.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:  

Dear Itchy,

Can you help me understand the unpardonable sin which is said to be blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Thank you. Your bible study about three false teaching etc has really blessed my heart. also those on the Hebrew 10:26 has encouraged me a lot. Only the person who has faith in himself is able to be faithful to others.

Jesus is knocking at your heart's door.

Will you let him in? I did!

He died for you.

Response #5: 

Good to make your acquaintance, and thank you for your kind words about this ministry.

As to the unpardonable sin / blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, that is the sin of rejecting the gospel (which is ministered by the Spirit). Jesus died for every sin of every human being who ever has or ever will live, but there was one sin for which He obviously could not make atonement, namely, the sin of rejecting Himself. That is because it is only by accepting Him, His perfect Person as the God-man and His perfect work in being judged for the sins of the world, that we can be saved. He is our Substitute, but if we reject that Substitute there is "no further sacrifice for sins" which God will find acceptable. Only the blood of Jesus, His spiritual death on our behalf, can cleanse us from our sins and make us acceptable to God the Father. The sin "which will not be forgiven" (Matt.12:31) is called by our Lord "blasphemy against the Spirit" because the Holy Spirit is the One who makes the truth of the gospel understandable to the unbeliever when that gospel is given (Jn.3:5-6; 1Cor.6:11; 2Cor.3:3; 3:6; 1Thes.1:5; 2Thes.2:13; 1Pet.1:12).

Unbelievers have no excuse for rejecting the gospel, because no matter how unpersuasive or unattractive we may be in our presentation of the truth of the way of salvation, provided we do give someone that truth, it is the Spirit who makes it real and understandable in the unbeliever's heart. In their hearts, those listening to Jesus knew the truth because the Spirit made it clear. But instead of accepting that truth, they chose to reject it and even went so far as to say that Jesus was demon possessed. That is why the sin is called blasphemy against the Spirit, because instead of accepting the gospel as what it is, God's truth about the only way to be saved, unbelievers claim that this truth is not true. They reject the Spirit's witness to them, which in effect calls Him a liar. Calling God a liar is the very definition of blasphemy, and that is precisely what unbelievers do every time they reject the gospel because knowing it is true in their hearts, they nevertheless push it away as something false.

Many Christian groups/teachers have this doctrine wrong and want to identify some particular sin which believers might commit as the "unpardonable sin". But that does us all a grave disservice, not only because it misses this important lesson about the essential nature of the choice everyone makes to be saved or not, but also because it may cause great and unnecessary panic among many good Christians who become terrorized that somehow they might have committed this dark "unpardonable sin". But the unpardonable sin is one which only unbelievers commit when they decisively and irrevocably reject the gospel of Christ and commit themselves to the way of unbelief and eventual damnation.

I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." He said this because they were saying, "He has an evil spirit."
Mark 3:28-30 NIV

Mark's commentary on this saying is very revealing. Mark tells us specifically that the reason Jesus made this statement was because His unbelieving contemporaries were saying that the words of truth He was sharing with them, words empowered by the Spirit and made clear to their hearts by that same Spirit, had a satanic origin. In other words, they were calling Jesus a liar and also specifically calling the Holy Spirit a liar by saying that the truth of the gospel was of the devil. In doing so they hardened their hearts against the acceptance of that truth and the possibility of coming to Jesus through that gospel so as to be saved. This is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, the willful and utter rejection of the gospel message which the Spirit is mediating. For this sin there is no forgiveness because this sin is the rejection of God's offer of forgiveness in Jesus Christ our Lord.

I also have this written up at the following links:

The Unpardonable Sin and Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

What exactly is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

Have I committed the unforgivable sin?

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death (in Basics 3B: Hamartiology)

As to "once saved, always saved", these three links will also give you some good insights into addressing the inconsistencies of that false doctrine:

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security.

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security II.

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security III.

Finally, on the Spirit's role in helping us to understand the truth please see the link:

Faith Epistemology (in Basics 4B: Soteriology)

Please feel free to write me back about any of the above.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #6: 

Regarding the blasphemy against our Lord and the Holy Spirit you wrote: 'I am sensitive to the distinction here about unbelievers who may hear the gospel and not "take it" at that point. I am certain that this is not necessarily unpardonable. That is to say, there are unbelievers who take their time in accepting Jesus Christ. What our Lord has in mind here is the flat rejection of the truth that admits of no change and that is unpardonable rather than an agnostic reception or a rejection which will later change.'

That clarifies the character of unbelievers attitude - it can be simply 'postponing' potential accepting of the truth, or it can be a rejection of it and/or calling our Lord demon possessed.

One aspect of this issue is still unclear to me - how do these two types of rejection relate to the blasphemy against the Son (pardonable) and the blasphemy against the Spirit (unpardonable), as written in Luke 12:10?

I still don't know what could be said against our Lord that would be equal to the blasphemy against the Spirit - could it be words directed towards His human nature as opposed to the teaching?

Response #6: 

The same principle applies to Luke 12:10. Speaking against the Son (it doesn't actually say "blasphemy", but that is really neither here nor there), as with all sins a person may commit, is forgivable. What is not forgivable is the posture of considering the Holy Spirit a liar when He makes the truth of the gospel clear to the person in question. As I always like to say, and I hope that at least to some small degree it is true, where there is life, there is hope. That is, as long as a person is on this earth still alive, that person can still theoretically use his/her free will to repent and come to Jesus Christ. There are innumerable testimonies of death-bed conversions, after all, and some of them at least would seem to have to be true. What is really going on in the heart of a particular unbeliever is something only he/she really knows, and even then only God really knows the details and the consequences. Whether or not a person who hears the gospel and does not believe is postponing (and whether or not that postponing will some day result in acceptance), and whether or not the person in question is solidly rejecting (and whether or not that rejection is so firm as to admit of no further possibility of change or instead may indeed be broken down by particular circumstances later in life), no one but God knows. Our Lord's words in both of these passages comprise all of these potential situations and all of their permutations: sin is not the issue; Jesus is the issue; faith in Him delivers from all sin; rejection of the gospel given by the Spirit results in condemnation regardless of the number or kind of sins.

Question #7:  

On "speaking against the Son", I apologize for coming back to it again and thank you for your patience - the pieces are slowly coming together for me. What I wanted to ask is whether speaking anything against the Son, the truth about whom is in the gospel, doesn't automatically involve calling the Holy Spirit a liar?

Response #7: 

It's a good question. Jesus says specifically that it does not: "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven" (Matt.12:32 NIV; cf. Lk.12:10). I think the reason for this is that this sin of opposing Him is one Jesus did die for along with every other sin (outside of categorically rejecting Him and His work) and thus has been forgiven, so that theoretically said person could be saved. Your point is well-taken that anyone reviling Jesus is likely not going to be saved, but, after all, Paul persecuted the Church vigorously, forcing believers to blaspheme, and while we are never told so it seems unlikely that he could have thought well of Jesus even as he was seeing to the torture and execution of His followers. At the last judgment, any blasphemy against the Son will be shown to have been paid for by the death of our Lord Himself. Unbelievers go to hell for rejecting the Spirit's testimony about Him, that is, the gospel through which by God's grace all who believe are saved.

I would put it this way: blasphemy against the Son is an indication of blasphemy against the Spirit but not the same thing as blasphemy against the Spirit, and there is a chance that a) the blasphemy against the Son may have been done in ignorance, that is, without the presentation of the gospel (as perhaps in Paul's case), or b) that a person may revile Jesus today but may not have in his/her heart of hearts completely decided against the gospel in an irrevocable way so as to have had his/her name blotted out of the book of life already. These are things we cannot know in individual cases this side of heaven (though we may have very good indications). What we do know is that calling the Spirit a liar is unpardonable because it constitutes the firm rejection of the gospel message the Spirit is giving.

Question #8: 

You write: "While Stephen's prayer in Acts chapter seven was as appropriate as it was magnanimous (...)." You explain later in the paragraph why such words ("Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do") could not have been spoken by our Lord and I understand your arguments. What I am uncertain about is how these words could have been spoken by Stephen. He is also asking for the sin of the people stoning him to be forgiven, but the people doing it are obviously not repentant on the very sin they are committing, so had forgiveness been granted, wouldn't the righteousness have been compromised? What is the purpose of Stephen saying these words?

Response #8: 

Steven is a human being and human beings sin and are sinned against all the time. We not only have a right but a duty to forgive others the sins they commit against us (e.g., Matt.6:12-15; 18:21; 18:35). Rejecting the Lord and His work on the cross is another matter. That is the "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit", the refusal to accept Jesus as the Savior, and the only sin for which He could not die.

Question #9:  

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

A professing Christian was debating on how God is not triune since the bible never teaches the Holy Spirit in a loving relationship with the Father or the Son. She was saying that the bible only teaches a relationship (loving) between the Father and Son only. She also said that the Holy Spirit is the one Spirit that "proceeds" from the Father and the Son, and not a distinct person separate from the Father and Son. She then said that the Father is the only true God as Jesus said and at the same time said that Jesus is God from God, but just not the Almighty God. I couldn't make sense of this because we can't have two Gods with one being "lesser" than the other one, for there is only one God. She further said that there is nothing in scripture that says that the Holy Spirit is a distinct person from the Father and the Son or had a loving relationship with the Father and the Son in eternity past. I know that the bible says that God is love and also teaches that the Holy Spirit is God as referred to in Acts and elsewhere. So I can't imagine God being love and not having a loving relationship with the other members of the triune God. I also understand Jesus sending "another" Comforter as referring to someone other than Himself, but also equal. She kept referring to the trinity doctrine as making God out to be a three-headed monster and said that the RCC corrupted Christianity with this doctrine. To me, I simply don't care what the denominations or RCC says. I take my beliefs from the Word of God alone and what it teaches. I see the bible teaching that all three members of the Godhead are Deity, and all three members are distinct from each other. I see the bible proving this in scripture. Is this correct?

God Bless,

Response #9: 

You are absolutely correct. Kudos to you for your deep understanding of the truth and your ability to recognize such heresy and refute it effectively! This person's approach is very much a JW approach. I'm not saying the person is a JW, but it sounds as if this false doctrine has come from them or a similarly anti-Christian group. The person may profess to be a "Christian", but then many people who are not Christian say they are because it suits their purposes. Calling God a "three-headed monster" tells me conclusively that this person is not "exploring" some idea but is proselytizing for a specific religion.

There is only one God, as you correctly put it, not two or three "gods". If the Spirit is a Person, and He is, then He is God. God exists in three Persons, but only one essence, and exists in perfect harmony and unity to a degree unimaginable to mere human beings. Now that is a relationship which as you point out has to be loving because God is love. Of course the word "relationship" (let alone the phrase "loving relationship") does not occur in scripture. So this individual is making up false and unbiblical criteria and then using these falsities to prove a point. How dare anyone suggest that the Spirit is less loving or less loved than the Father or the Son! Certainly there is no biblical basis for doing so, and none of the arguments advanced make the least bit of sense. There is no need for further refutation because 1) there is no prima facie case for this nonsense; 2) you are clearly not in the least influenced by it and have a solid understanding of what the truth actually is; and 3) by this person's "three-headed monster" statement and the entire tone of the rant it is clear that there is not a shred of receptivity in the person's hardened heart.

Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.
Titus 3:10 NIV

You might have a look at this link: "The Divinity of the Holy Spirit"

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10:  

G'Day Brother!

Thank you again.

I've always believed that Jesus is The God of the old testament, the creator of all things. The only God that can forgive sins, who washed us with his own blood. Is the name "Jehovah" or "Yahweh" in the old testament used to apply to the person of the father or all three persons, (father, son, & holy spirit)? Which verses best show that the "Holy Spirit" is part of the God-Head or Trinity?

In Jesus Christ who is the beginning and end,

Response #10: 

You are indeed correct (compare John 12:41 with Isaiah 6:1ff.). The tetragrammaton, "LORD" (YHVH; transferred into English as "Jehovah" or "Yahweh", etc.) refers to any of the members of the Trinity. As the Trinity are "one", that is, of one unique essence and of one indivisible purpose, in the Old Testament God has chosen to present for the most part a picture of unity, and course this rendered the cross a mystery before the fact (cf. 1Pet.1:10-11; see also the link: "The Trinity in Isaiah").

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2nd Corinthians 3:17 NIV

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
2nd Corinthians 13:14 NIV

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
Hebrews 9:14 NIV

For more on the Spirit's divinity, please see the links:

The Trinity in the Bible

The Trinity in the Old Testament

The Divinity of the Holy Spirit

Hope this helps feel free to write back about any of the above.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11:  

Thanks very much Bob. Will make that another study.

ANOTHER question - is it right to say Holy " ghost "? I have been asked often " whose ghost was it ?" I am sure it must have been the old K J way of writing? Also in Matthew ch 28 v 19 "go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." Where I was with the Hebrewiites, they said that was also spurious and should just be "baptising them in My name". And they really got the Trinity mixed up too. At one time it was "Holy two" then "Holy One". Do you think they will make it in the end ? What a mess and confusion they have made of the Scriptures! I am so grateful to be studying the truth from your website. Thank you so much for your time, love and prayers always with you in Jesus precious name.

Response #11: 

Always good to hear from you.

The "Ghost" versus "Spirit" is a KJV problem: the version uses both terms for the Holy Spirit depending upon which team was doing the translating. "Ghost" in the KJV's day was a synonym for "Spirit" as it is today too, although we have specialized the words more and they have picked up connotations that were not there in the 17th century. In the KJV, both words translate the same Greek word, pneuma, "wind" (cf. "pnuematic").

As to "in My Name", Jesus never tells anyone to "baptize in My Name". And while there are interpretive issues with Matthew 28:19 (i.e., it is talking about Spirit baptism, not water-baptism; see the link), there are no problems with the text: whatever version you are using will say much the same thing because there are no issues with the Greek here whatsoever.

Lots of groups have the Trinity wrong. It's a kind of blessing in that it makes it clear early on that a true believer should sprint for the exit as quick as his/her legs can carry.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:  

Hi brother Bob,

I agree with you that there is a great deal of lukewarmness out there. Sometimes I think that people at one time DID have a genuine thirst for the love of truth, but I think many have given up the fight for this because people are so tired of "status quo" religion and are just basically "giving up" perhaps. I know I've felt like giving up on the whole mess I see out there a number of times, but I keep finding myself continuing to search and fight through this messy web of lies and confusion I see out there.

Just like now..... I am so disheartened by so much of Calvinism and their ideas of "Total Depravity", "Unconditional Election", "Limited Atonement", "Irresistible Grace", "Perseverance of the Saints" (perseverance of the saints is rather true, but not is the sense of "once saved always saved"). (I know Calvinists call these the "doctrines of grace", but I call them the "doctrines of DISgrace" inside my mind lol.) All these doctrines make men seem like they are totally unaccountable. Then I met a number of Non-Calvinists and was v-e-r-y excited and hopeful! But I keep seeing a sort of "arrogance" about many of them which is making me more-less as nauseous as the doctrines of Calvinism. Many of these doctrines are those I have already talked with you about in concern such as "open theism", "virtually no original sin or sin-nature", "Jesus did not pay for sins, but what He did was to set an example when He went to the cross" , they constantly harp to "Stop Sinning" but seldom humbly point to the cross and the gracious works of our Lord Jesus Christ there etc. So I am seeing the two extreme differences between the Calvinists and the Non-Calvinists....but neither one is correct or properly balanced biblically. And then on top of this, the only other thing left to turn to in the world of religion is the totally dead churches which are basically just like going to a PTA meeting; the strange churches which are full of odd noises and movements and behaviors so that they try to come across as 'super-spiritual' but in actuality they are just super annoying; the churches like the Catholics and Protestant copiers (such as Lutherans and Episcopalian) who are trying to put on some fancy charade with their long robes and exquisite buildings etc; those churches that obsess over water baptism; and then the last major area is the odd cults of Jehovah's Witnesses and other similar.

So I can see why people have turned to the boredom of watching football and other boring lukewarm activities because religion is such a joke. AA meetings make f-a-r more sense than a-n-y of the churches out there and must be respected m-u-c-h more by God, and they do not even use the bible as their guide really, but just pure common sense principles which are actually FAR much more lined up with the truths of the bible.

I'm really sorry to sound so negative and upset, but I can really relate to Jesus' frustration at the religious crowd of His day, and I feel the same sort of anger and frustration in our day and obviously you must feel it too.

Sorry to wander on about all these issues, but the bottom line to what I'm trying to say is that you DO have a VERY special ministry that God gave you which is very unique in this dark day and I do pray that the Lord uses it in an even more powerful way. I pray that very strongly because I don't see a whole lot of hope out there lately. Of course as true Christians, we are so burdened for souls, and I think when we see the seeming hopelessness of so many thirsting wandering souls out there, we can see why they turn to drinking and frustration at times and thoughts of suicide etc, and how wonderful it would be if they would just fully surrender to God and open their bibles and find true treasure and rest for their weary souls.

God bless you dear friend and thank you for fighting so hard for truth and for not compromising to lies,

Thanks as always,

Response #12: 

I always appreciate your sound point of view. The point about AA is a very good one. It seems that most Christians today have very little "spiritual common sense". When we get an inkling that something is amiss, how is it that we do not recognize that this is the Holy Spirit guiding us? The Spirit's ministry is a "small, still voice" (1Ki.19:12). He does not hit us over the head with these proddings that would violate our free will. We are here to evaluate, decide and choose. His "voice" does get louder, but only after we attune our spiritual hearing to receive it. If we are bent on following our own itching ears and determined to resist His counsel, the "voice" becomes less and less perceptible . . . until we lose such perception all together (or until the Lord gets our attention through divine discipline).

Keep fighting the good fight!

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #13:   

Hello Dr. Luginbill!

I heard a recent sermon by John Macarthur about the Holy Spirit and found it both interesting and odd. He said that since the Holy Spirit is God, He is to be worshiped and prayed to. I'm not disagreeing with John but I can't recall any passages in the New Testament where the Holy Spirit is prayed or worshiped to. Dr. Macarthur ended his sermon with a prayer "to" the Holy Spirit. It was along the lines, "Dear Holy Spirit, we ask...amen". I've never heard such a prayer before in all my years as a believer. I've always prayed to the Father as Jesus did. And examples of prayers are found when Jesus prayed to His Father but never to the Holy Spirit. I pray as such, "Dear heavenly Father... In Jesus' name, amen." I would pray to the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit, and in Jesus's name or according to His will. But I've never prayed solely to the Holy Spirit. Has Dr. Macarthur lost his marbles, or is he biblical?

God Bless,

Response #13: 

Good to hear from you as always. Yes, this is a mystery to me. You are correct that there are no examples in the Bible of anyone praying to the Spirit. Although we are always to pray in the Spirit), we are never told to pray to Him. The Spirit does aids prayers (e.g., Rom.8:26). Given that the Spirit's self-chosen role in the plan of God is to aid the good and restrain the bad, doing so in both cases mainly invisibly and in the background, for Him to become the direct object of prayer would seem to be somewhat inconsistent with that role (please see the link: in BB 1: Roles of the Trinity in the Plan of God). Of course that is a "theological objection". However, MacArthur's only grounds for making this claim is just that sort of theological deduction only he is on much weaker ground with it than may be clear from the objection to his supposition given here.

There is more than enough in scripture to keep us busy figuring things out, filling things in, and deepening our understanding of what we think we know by studying what the Bible actually says without engaging in such speculations which, in my view, can often lead to some very strange and even dangerous false conclusions.

I appreciate your spiritual discernment!

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #14:   

Many people say Satan needs Gods permission to tempt or try believers (i.e.; book of Job). In Genesis when Satan tempts eve, it does not appear he asked for permission or was granted any. Otherwise, why would he be punished for what he did in Eden? Also when Satan tempted David to number the nation, it did not appear he had permission. In Revelation when he waited in front of the women who would give birth to the man child it does not seem he was granted permission either. Is Satan as tamed as people think?

Response #14: 

It would be wrong to underestimate the latitude which the devil and his minions enjoy in the world at present but it would be just as wrong to overestimate it. The devil attacks and opposes and persecutes all those who are genuinely trying to live for Jesus Christ and yet he cannot and does not do anything that God will not allow. God's restraint of Satan is exerted not only through direct pronouncement but also through the actions of elect angels and, most significantly, the restraining ministry of the Holy Spirit (see the link). God's plan encompasses all that would ever transpire in history, and He has factored in every bit of protection, help and guidance we will ever need. Our part is to believe, to accept whatever He lets "hit us", and to know that if we are not being disciplined for sin, that, as in the case of Job, we are glorifying Him through our patience and longsuffering.

Question #15:  

In the new testament Gospels, why are the 3 temptations of Christ in a different order? What sequence did the temptations occur?

Response #15: 

That is a very good question. The reason for the difference is one of emphasis. In both accounts the temptation to turn stones into bread comes first, but Matthew has the temptation to jump off the temple before the temptation to be made king of the world by Satan while Luke reverses these. Matthew wrote first and Luke had Matthew's gospel. Matthew tends to be more literal than the other gospel writers in the sense including specific details just as they are; since he has established that record, the others were free to expand and explain - - under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The result is just the perfect Book that God wanted us to have. Matthew says "then" in his sequences of the events of the temptation (which word in Greek and English both indicates a strict sequence); Luke merely has "and", and this mere connection allows for the actual order to have been different, namely, the one which Matthew gives. The devil's actual sequencing in third place of the offer to be made king is understandable since Jesus had come as the Messiah. However, Luke's placing of the temptation to be make king in second place also makes sense since he thus moves from the more obvious (bread for our hungry Lord) to the most subtle (what could be wrong with "proving" you're really Christ? except that it was against the will of God). Matthew's order preserves the actual sequence; Luke's order show's more clearly our Lord's command of the intricacies of the three temptations to which Satan put Him.  One reason why Luke puts the devil's egging on of our Lord to "throw yourself down" last is because of Jesus' response:  "It is said: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test' " (Lk.4:12 NIV). Luke was desirous of demonstrating Jesus' deity, and this quote, especially coming at the end of the temptations, demonstrates that fact with considerable irony:  Who is "the Lord your God", the One who ought not to be "put to the test", if not Jesus Christ Himself?  There is much more about all this at the following link: in SR 3: Satan's temptations of Christ.

Question #16: 

What is the spirit and power of Elijah? Luke 1:17

Response #16: 

These two elements, "Spirit and power", cannot really be divorced (i.e., it is essentially a hendiadys, or one thing expressed by reference to two of its key elements, so that here we would be within our rights to translate "the powerful Spirit of Elijah" or "Elijah's Spirit of power"). The Spirit is the Holy Spirit of whom Elijah had an exceptionally large share (cf. 2Ki.2:9-10). And the power is the divine empowerment the Spirit brings. John was likewise known for his godly walk and his powerful ministry, something only possible through such a special empowerment from the Spirit. The reference tells us that John too was given an extraordinary measure of the Holy Spirit, and this accounts in large part for the powerful nature of his ministry.

Question #17:  

G'Day brother!

Hope your keeping well. Was hoping you can help me with a few questions. What is the relationship between faith and grace? Can the holy spirit work in ones life if he doesn't believe it can? A lot of OSAS believers think that the holy spirit is in control of their life no matter what. I have been trying to explain to them that you have access to the Holy Spirit only through faith. Which is generated by hearing the word of God, praying, and putting his word into practice. When we fall we come to the Lord with a repenting heart, but more than that; we have faith that not only will he forgive us but we believe that he will help us not to make the same mistake over and over. Or else what's the purpose of asking the Lord to forgive us. For example witnessing to someone is only done by faith, the Holy Spirit, will convict them only if you truly believe He can. Someone that is not a clean vessel obviously cannot witness because the word of God is not generating the faith in his life to free the Holy Spirit to do it's work. He doesn't believe in his heart that the Lord can change a person because he hasn't allowed the word of God to help him walk righteously by faith. Am I on the right path?

Your Brother In Christ

Response #17: 

Always good to hear from you, my friend. The individuals you are remonstrating with seem to have a dim understanding of all things theological (even for OSAS=ers). The Spirit does work with us and pray for us "automatically" in many respects, but that is mostly in regard to sanctification, working with our consciences. In terms of the other main part of the Spirit's ministry, namely, empowerment, He supplies the power for us when we act. There are all sorts of things we ought to do positively as Christians, but if we are not willing to do them, there is no venue for empowerment. And it is also true that in terms of guiding us forward (and also in helping us to keep from going backwards), the Spirit makes use of the truth actually residing in our hearts, truth we have taken the time to learn and have been willing to believe and thus make our own. This is the Spirit's "capital", this is His "leverage". The more truth we have, the more dramatic the empowerment and the more effective the guidance; the less we have, the less so. So even in "automatic" terms, the Spirit's influence on us is largely a result of past obedience to the will of God. As I write in a previous posting:

Through His indwelling of our bodies, the Spirit influences us our minds, hearts, consciences, etc. The Spirit's ministry is what makes it possible for believers to understand the truth, something impossible for unbelievers to do.


The Spirit only controls us if we cede control to Him instead of to the sin nature that is, only if we do what we should be doing and follow the WILL of God instead of our own will at any given time.

The Spirit empowers our will whenever we are bending that will to the WILL of God but He never overrides our will. If we are growing, progressing, and producing for the Lord, it is because the Spirit is guiding us and empowering us; but He is guiding and empowering us because we are willing to be guided and empowered. There is more on this at the link: Peter 16: "The Leadership of the Holy Spirit"

I think this essentially answers your first question too. God is ever eager to pour out His favor, His grace, upon all of His creatures. But for those who are not interested in receiving His grace, that outpouring will at least be severely limited. And how do we receive that grace? Through faith alone. Faith is our response to grace; grace blesses us in our response. We believe/faithfully obey Him, and He blesses us. It's not really all that difficult. He is the Father; we are His children. He is a perfect Father and loves us more than we can know. How would He not be gracious too us (as even good earthly fathers are) provided we are willing to accept and reciprocate His love. The relationship is not equal in any way, but it is a "two-way street". If we refuse His truth, go our own way, rebel, and if we resist, if we make ourselves His enemies, what should we expect?

Do feel free to write back about any of the above.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I heard a preacher say that believers are possessed by the Holy Spirit because He lives in us. From my understanding, possession means complete control. The demon possessed men took on the personality of the demons that possessed them. Since the Holy Spirit lives in us, does He possess us or only has His abode in us and guides us?

God Bless,

Response #18: 

I agree that this is an unfortunate choice of words. And it is an unnecessary phrasing as well since the terminology "demon possession" is an English choice which does not really reflect the Greek text of the Bible (there are three major ways the NT describes demon possession, and none of them actually expresses the matter in this way as a "possession"). I understand the point of comparison a supernatural presence within us vs. a demonic one but as you very correctly put it the differences are so stupendous as to make the comparison invidious. Further, this is a case of building a doctrinal point on a paraphrase of an English translation, and out of context at that. Not only is it derivative theology, but its methodology is completely misguided. The Spirit is all powerful and could force us to do anything He wishes. But of course He respects our free will in keeping with the entire point of the Plan of God and so does not force us at all. Demons, on the other hand, force those they possess to do whatever they can, but there are indications that even when in possession of a person that control is not absolute (e.g., an entire legion of demons could not prevent the Gadarene demoniac from coming to Jesus and falling at His feet). The word "possession" in the context of "demon possession", therefore, is somewhat misleading when it comes to demons, but entirely inappropriate when it comes to the Spirit because it confuses the fact that we are still responsible to make good choices even with the Spirit's presence. Best to stick with the scriptural terminology: the Bible says that believers, blessedly, "have the Spirit" not the other way around.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.


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