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The Holy Spirit: Pneumatology Questions V

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Question #1:  

Hi Bob,

I've read some blog post by a believer that refers, out of a misplaced sense of political correctness, to the Holy Spirit as a 'she.'

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't genders a created category, and therefore God doesn't have a gender (because He is not a creation)?


Response #1: 

In the politically correct language of our day, God "self identifies" and "presents" as male, including the Holy Spirit (2Tim.2:7; see the link).

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Hi Dr. I hope all is well with your family, this ministry and yourself.

In reading your Pneumatology series, how does Baptism by the Spirit and Baptism with the Spirit work prior to the cross? I understand its role during the Church age and post Christ resurrection but I don't see any explanation on prior to the cross. I am an page 38 and I see where the Holy Spirit could not indwell a believer until the cross, but apart from a temporary indwelling pre-cross, how did a believer maintain a glorified walk if the Spirit wasn't indwelt permanently? I know all believers must have continued faith in Christ to be part of his family and that takes care of the "by the Spirit", but what about the "with the Spirit" part?

Thank you like always in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

Response #2: 

The difference between old and new is explained by our Lord when He says at John 14:17 "for he lives with you and will be in you" (NIV). So Old Testament believers did have the benefit of the Spirit's help, but not His permanent indwelling presence. We have a great advantage, therefore. I think that can be seen when we see the faith and application of average believers today compared with average believers in Israel. We may get a false impression by examining the lives of great believers in scripture, however, inasmuch as they often did have the Spirit (cf. "how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him", Lk.11:13 NIV). For those who really wanted a closer walk with God, He gave them a temporary indwelling, and we can see how important that was from, e.g., David, when He says "Do not . . . take your Holy Spirit from me" (Ps.51:11 NIV).

I hope this answers your question, but please do feel free to write back for clarification about any of this (or in case I missed the gist).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3:   

Hello Dr Luginbill,

Hope things are well with you. I have begun a study program with Ichthys, starting with Bible Basics. So far I am thoroughly enjoying the material and would like to thank you for providing it at no cost. As a companion to your writings I am using "Lectures In Systematic Theology" by Henry Thiessen.

In your theology section you write that the Holy Spirit " does not speak directly to us". Thiessen writes that one of His personal acts is that He "speaks" and sites Acts 13:2 and Revelation 2:7. In my understanding I don't see a contradiction here, You're saying He doesn't speak to us personally, whereas Thiessen is saying He speaks to us corporately as the body of the church. Am I correct on this?

I have a second question concerning how the Holy Spirit speaks. It is very common to hear individuals today claim that they have a "word" from the Lord or that the Holy Spirit "told them" something. From my personal experience this seems odd. I have never heard God speak to me except through the scripture. What is your opinion on this?

Thank you in advance for your help and patience with me on these matters. I think it was Moody who said "I never grow weary of the work but I do grow weary in it". I hope I don't weary you much.

Praying for you daily,

Response #3: 

Good to hear back from you. I'll try to get to all aspects of your questions from these two emails below, but do feel free to write back if I've missed anything.

1) The short section on the Spirit in BB 1: Theology is written from our present perspective; it's not meant to be comprehensive, but to explain the differences in the roles of the Trinity. Christ is the Word of God now incarnate, but He did tell the disciples/apostles that the Spirit, when He came, would "teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you" (Jn.14:26). So, clearly, there have been instances in the past where the Spirit did speak to prophets, and we see this literally fulfilled in a number of places, for example:

While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men are looking for you. But get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself."
Acts 10:19-20 NASB

While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."
Acts 13:2 NASB

Now clearly also, "the Lord is the Spirit" (2Cor.3:17), and there is no difference whatsoever in what the Lord wills and the Spirit wills – the Trinity are more united in purpose and thought than any human being can imagine. So the Lord might well have said these things Himself, but as it is we have it from these two passages that on these two occasions it was the Spirit Himself who communicated in a direct, verbal message. So it's a good catch on your part; I have put it the way I have put it to stress the clear role of the Spirit as operating in a mostly unseen though powerfully felt way in distinction from the Father's direction of the plan and the Son's personal accomplishment of it (and also because of the following point, q.v.).

2) I absolutely agree with you that this sort of direct verbal message is not the norm – far from it. The Spirit has inspired the scriptures, and it is the truth of the Word of God which the Spirit uses to communicate with us today, making the truth understandable to us when said truth is communicated to us in Bible teaching or (in some cases) Bible reading. When we believe that truth, He turns mere "gnosis" (knowledge) into "epignosis" (full-knowledge); please see the link: Epignosis, Christian Epistemology, and Spiritual Growth.

Now that the canon is complete and the Church fully established, many of the extraordinary events recorded in the book of Acts are no longer taking place – because the extraordinary circumstances which necessitated them no longer exist. We now have the Bible; we don't have a need for the stop-gap "sign" gifts such as tongues and prophecy to substitute for it. We now have a functioning Church (even if it is not functioning entirely as it should in this era of Laodicea); we don't have a need for apostles to manage the transition from the Age of Israel to the Church Age since that transition is now long past.

Is it impossible for the Spirit to speak directly to someone in an audible way with a distinct verbal text? Certainly not. He is God and can do whatever He wishes. Do we doubt that the Spirit can do so? Certainly not. We understand that God can do anything. Are we bad Christians for doubting people who claim, "God told me XYZ" or "the Spirit told me to do ABC"? Certainly not. In the history of the world there are untold numbers of people who have made false claims. Sometimes it's just a matter of exaggeration; sometimes it's a question of self-delusion; occasionally there are darker motivations at play. What all such claims have in common is that they are only claims. We believe God and His Word; we are not required to believe everything anyone who claims to be a Christian may say. Indeed, it would be foolish to do so – the person in question might not even be a Christian, after all. Plenty of con-men have recognized that Christians tend to be very gullible precisely because we are attempting to walk in love. But that is why Jesus told us to be "wise as serpents" even as He told us to be "harmless as doves" (Matt.10:16). Here is a link about the need to have discernment on this point (which will lead you to many others): Third Party Testimony: We Believe God and His Word – Not People.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:   

My pastor is on a 'more than one gift' jag...using the following "But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way." (1Co 12:31 NAS). Do you agree, or if not, what are your top 3 reasons in 30 words or less because you have to get back to work, why?

Response #4: 

I agree completely with your take on the Bible question, both the fact of multiple gifts (not "sign" gifts, of course), and the fact that the verse in question doesn't teach that (correct) principle. 1st Corinthians 12:31 is speaking about the proper attitude of the congregation towards gifts, valuing those that impart the truth more than the others (since they had it backwards at Corinth).

Question #5:    

So, are there scriptural comparative passages that explain that desiring the greater gifts means to desire those who have that gift for your local body, I presume?

Response #5: 

That is the way I see it, along the lines of 1Tim.5:17: "Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine" (NKJV).

Question #6: 

Hi Bob,

Dr. William Lane Craig is known among skeptics for the following quote: "The way in which I know Christianity is true is first and foremost on the basis of the witness of the Holy Spirit in my heart. And this gives me a self-authenticating means of knowing Christianity is true wholly apart from the evidence. And therefore, even if in some historically contingent circumstances the evidence that I have available to me should turn against Christianity, I do not think that this controverts the witness of the Holy Spirit." The specific phrase "Holy Spirit in my heart" leads the reader to infer that what he's really talking about is his gut feelings. By saying this, Craig has placed himself on the same level as Mormons who claim to know that the Book of Mormon is a historical account of the resurrected Jesus preaching in America on the basis of the famous "burning in one's bosom."

But is this what the conviction of the Holy Spirit really is? I don't think so. Here is a better example of a phenomenon that is closer to what is meant by "conviction of the Holy Spirit."

Sir Arthur Eddington once asked Albert Einstein how would he feel if he didn't observe light bending around a solar eclipse, and if that would mean that his theory is false. Einstein said, "Then I would feel sorry for the good lord. The theory is correct anyway." Einstein here is not referring to a "burning in his bosom" that he had about General Relativity after praying about it one evening. Rather, Einstein is referring to such a developed intuition he obtained through many lines of evidence that General Relativity is the only way to describe gravity. It is not based on feeling, but intuition that is so deep that it formed the only possible way of viewing reality.

Similarly, the conviction of the Holy Spirit bears more similarity to Einstein's conviction of the truth of General Relativity than it does of the "burning in one's bosom" of Mormonism.

In our God and Savior Jesus Christ,

Response #6: 

You're on the right track here (though I'm not sure Einstein was a believer), and you're right to be skeptical of the common pronouncements one hears such as you report. Given the great misunderstandings about the Holy Spirit within the church-visible today with extremes on the hyper-emotional Charismatic side and the "frozen chosen" on the traditionalist side, getting the terminology right can be important. The way scripture describes things is clear enough (e.g., Gal.5:16-25). The way people often describe these things, however, can be very misleading.

I've written a lot about this issue as you probably know (most recently BB 5 Pneumatology at the link). When it comes to questionable things people say on this issue, in addition to the salutary point of "not going beyond what is written" (1Cor.4:6), the other main point that needs to be made is that Christians very often mistake emotion for the Holy Spirit (or, conversely, a lack of emotion for a dearth of influence on His part). In fact, while doing what the Lord wants in the Lord's way can often be emotionally stimulating, sometimes one has to fight through a cloud of negative emotions to accomplish God's will for one's life. In other words, it's not about emotion; it's about the truth. The truth is the fulcrum used by the Spirit to produce "spiritual advantage" in the willing believer in question, but the Spirit never overrides our free will. That being the case, we are the ones who have to realize what is right to do and then to do it. God is present with us in the Person of the Spirit to aid us "both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (Phil.2:13 NKJV), but we are the ones with the responsibility of figuring out which is which. This is not unfair or impossible because of all the truth we have been given in the Word of Truth – and the help we get from the Spirit in doing so. Of course this all presupposes that we as believers have been spending a good deal of our time and effort learning that truth, believing it, and practicing its application to our lives.

(1) Therefore I entreat you by God's mercy, brothers, to dedicate your bodies as a living sacrifice, well-pleasing to God – [this is] your "priestly-service" spiritually performed. (2) Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by this renewal of your thinking, so that you may discern what God's will for you is, namely what it is good, well-pleasing, and correct [for you to do].
Romans 12:1-2 (cf. Rom.2:17-18)

(14) For this reason I bow my knees to the Father, (15) from whom His entire family in heaven and on earth has received its name, (16) that He may grant you according to the riches of His glory to be powerfully strengthened in your inner person through His Spirit, (17) so that, rooted and grounded in love, Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, (18) so that you may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height [of His love for you], (19) [that is], so that you may know the love of Christ which outstrips [human] understanding [in every way], and so that you may be filled up [to the brim] with the entire "fullness" of God.
Ephesians 3:14-19

(9) And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in full-knowledge (epignosis: truth believed) and in all discernment, (10) so that you may be able to evaluate the things that are good and appropriate [for you to do] to be sincere and without offense in regard to the day of Christ (i.e., to gain a maximum reward at Christ's judgment seat), (11) full of the righteous production Jesus Christ [commends] to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-11

Solid [spiritual] food is for the [spiritually] mature, those who by [diligent] practice have trained their [moral] perceptive faculties to [properly] distinguish between good and evil.
Hebrews 5:14

This is really where the church-visible of today breaks down. If Christians were doing things the right way, they would have knowledge of the truth, that truth would have become meaningful to them by accepting it through faith in the Spirit, and they would have much practice in distinguishing right and wrong in all manner of difficult circumstances so that their decisions and their follow-through would indeed be Holy Spirit empowered. But failing to learn the truth, not really having much faith in the truth one does know, being lackadaisical about applying even that day to day, and then going on whatever emotional feeling one may have when it comes time to make a difficult decision and then blaming it on the Holy Spirit . . . (aposiopesis here).

The Spirit does not shout at us; He "speaks to us" in a "small, still voice" (1Ki.19:12), and it takes experience (Heb.5:14) and discernment built on much truth in the heart even to become consistent about hearing that voice, let alone interpreting it accurately and following it diligently.

Please read the links:

Peter #7: "The Ministry of the Holy Spirit "

Peter #16: "Leadership of the Spirit"

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7:  

I like what the prophet Jeremiah has to say about the heart: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)

Response #7: 

A wonderful verse, and most apropos of this discussion.

Question #8: 

Hi Bob,

If baptism and laying of the hands have nothing to do with the Christian life, then why does Hebrews include "instructions about baptism" and "laying of the hands" in the list of basic doctrines concerning the Christian faith?

"Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment."
Hebrews 6:1-2

Notice the list: repentance, faith in God, baptisms, laying of the hands, the resurrection, and judgment. According to you, repentance, faith in God, the resurrection, and eternal judgment are non-negotiable fundamentals of Christianity, but baptismal instructions and the laying on of the hands have nothing to do with Christianity.


Response #8: 

Much to the contrary, my friend, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential to the Christian life, and understanding that baptism is also fundamental to adopt the proper approach to spiritual growth on the one hand – as well as to avoid being led astray by false teaching on this subject on the other.

Hebrews 6:2 actually uses a plural, and since it is addressed to a Jewish congregation, one which would have been intimately conversant with Jewish cleansing rituals, the baptism of John, and mediating of the Spirit during the early days of the apostles (by "laying on of hands", next on the list), there would be much for the beginner to be taught about. He/she should be taught as a matter of first principles that "now" (by the time of writing; cf. Rom.8:9) all believers are baptized with the Spirit into Christ at the point of faith ("baptisms" follows faith in the list), and are also endowed with the Spirit (which produced many wonderful benefits; BB 5 Pneumatology is largely devoted to these issues; link).

Basic instruction in what "baptism" really is all about now is also necessary to avoid abuse; it is not any sort of cleansing as is common in the Law; it is not a water ritual wherein we are dunked into water (that was John's baptism, and, as with the other Jewish rituals this congregation was continuing to indulge in, sent at this point a false message – that the Messiah was soon to come, when in fact He had already died for their sins); and it is not now mediated (any longer) by the laying on hands (next on the list); that ended relatively early on even while many of the apostles were still above, the last instance in scripture occurring in Ephesus where the individuals had become believers before the day of Pentecost but had not yet received the Spirit – who came to given automatically as soon as the gentiles began to flow into the Church (cf. Acts. 10:1ff., esp. Acts 10:44).

It's very common for Christians to think "water" whenever they hear the word "baptism"; that is unfortunate, but it is very widespread. Here it means both Spirit and water, referring to the positive instruction regarding the Spirit's ministry and the palliative ones regarded rites and rituals then and now defunct. How much better off the Church would be if those instructing new Christians actually knew these things and followed this scriptural advice!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9:  

Hi Robert,

What would constitute the "Of the doctrine of baptisms (plural),..." Hebrews 6:2a KJV? I am sure it has no bearing under the grace Gospel! Yet, it is important to be able to address the opponents to a non-baptism proponent as myself.

Thank you for all the previous information and discussions.

May you be perfect in every good work to do His will,

Response #9: 

Good to hear back from you.

The plural in Hebrews 6:2 is important, and also important is to note that Paul is here listing "basic teachings" with which every early communicant ought to be familiar. So while I am sure that the word embraces "everything in scripture which could be considered a baptism", the main two will be John's baptism (water) and the Spirit baptism which every believer by that point in time receives when they believe. By following this up with "laying on of hands", Paul also dispenses with the issue of some early Spirit baptism requiring that direct contact with the apostles (in the case of the Samaritan believers in Acts chapter eight, for example). Also, the plural is very significant for our apologetic purpose: Paul uses the plural deliberately to show a distinction between water and Spirit baptism. Finally, the sequence also tells the tale, because "faith and repentance" represent being saved; "baptisms" represent the old ritual and the new reality that accompanies salvation; "laying on of hands" the next step in the transitional period of the Acts, and "resurrection and judgment" look forward to the end result of the faithful Christian life.

Hope this is helpful – thanks for all your good words!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10:  

Hi Bob,

Why, then, does Paul command Timothy to not be hasty in "laying of the hands" well, well after the time of Acts? "Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure." (I Timothy 5:22)

Response #10: 

In addition to the imparting of the Spirit by laying on of hands in the very early days of Acts, there was also the tradition of commissioning leaders by this same ritual. Moses had laid hands on Joshua to commission him (e.g., Deut.34:9), and in that case there was a passing on of the Spirit. Paul "laid hands" on Timothy so that he would receive the Spirit as well as the gift of pastor/teacher (2Tim.1:6), and this commission was reaffirmed (ritually) at a later date (1Tim.4:14). With the passing of the ability of apostles to mediate the Spirit, and with the passing of that need on account of universal gift of the Spirit following the expansion of the gospel to the gentiles (i.e., after Acts 10 with the exception of living believers who were saved before this point), the "laying on of hands" becomes a symbolic imparting of authority. This is what Paul warns Timothy against doing to hastily. In Israel, kings were commissioned by anointing their heads with oil. This also symbolized the imparting of the Spirit, but did not actually convey it; the ritual was conducted to show that the anointed person was rightfully king and that those who anointed him were recognizing God's choice and support of him through the Spirit. Similarly, laying on of hands is the local church's way of recognizing that the person they are installing as an elder does possess the necessary qualifications – the most important of which are in truth given by the Spirit (i.e., the requisite spiritual gifts). Churches cannot convey the Spirit nor can they mediate any special gifts or "channel of grace" (as many denominations put out that they accomplish in their ordination ceremonies). This ritual is merely a very tangible way for the church to show all and sundry that they are reposing special trust and confidence in the individual so ordained. Once a man is an elder, however, undoing the deed would be messy and not profitable for the congregation's edification, should such an individual prove unworthy. So the time for vetting prospective elders and deacons is before installment, not afterward. That's Paul's point here at 1st Timothy 5:22.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11:  

Hello Professor,

It has also been important to learn to stay at peace when one is surrounded by falsehood and when worldly matters attack from all angles. There is still a lot of room for improvement here and to enter and dwell in the peace of our Lord is something that requires daily effort in faith - and it's an effort I want to put so as to make most of the time left.

Trusting in the Lord in the heart and leaving worldly matters aside has been one of the most difficult tests and it's disappointing how the heart doesn't listen - I know the truth and yet there are times when it's difficult to apply it. But there has been progress and in these spiritual battles, battles which all originate in the heart. So that we can control our thoughts it is important to apply a policy of putting the axe to the root and not leaving room for considerations that we know are unfruitful. There can be no cracks in the armour, otherwise weeds attack immediately and there remains the sin nature too. I was reading the parable of the sower today and it is at thought level that it's so crucial in the Christian walk to apply it - worldly thoughts choke the time when one can put his whole heart to scripture or meditation on what our Lord did for us. That is the next level for me now - the thoughts.

I agree, Professor, I'm sure tests await me and there is a lot to do. So overall, Professor, I have learnt things this year. Even my approach to study and prayer needed consideration. I am a man of routine, but with my perfectionism that can result in legalism and this is what happened. I remember looking forward to waking up in the morning so as to read your teachings and I have enjoyed all the series so much. I found that recently I've been more preoccupied with going through all the parts of my daily study rather than enjoying with full focus every moment spent on the scripture. The amount of notes has been growing and I go through all of them before reading respective verses, but all this has become a bit of a race. The same for prayer - the list of intentions has been growing and that is natural, we all need to be able to keep the focus so as to offer supplications to our God for our brothers and sisters. But when the list grows very long, it's easy for it to become an empty exercise. And that has been my problem.

Now is the time to fight all these battles, to make all these changes. Time is short and I can see things with greater clarity. I thank God for that and ask Him daily to guide me in all this. I'm sure you found it yourself many a time, but I also find that God does respond through scripture - I'm considering something in my heart and in the chapter that I'm reading in either Testament that day, God does teach me and answer.

Professor - your prayers and support in this are greatly appreciated.

In our Lord,

Response #11: 

Time really is short, and it seems to be flying by (despite all of the "interesting" things which are happening to us personally). I am keeping you in prayer for a clear route forward and the right place and situation to be able to maximize your growth, progress and production – a good base for ministry.

I certainly know what you mean about the Lord bringing up just the right scriptures (or reminding us of them) at just the right time. That is a sign of being sensitive to the Spirit's guidance. It's easy to get over-focused on what is going on around us and miss the "still, soft voice" of the Spirit when He is attempting to guide us through the truth of the Word. But it is a blessing when we do set ourselves to listen and receive that perfect guidance.

In confidence that the Lord has something very good for you, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:  

"If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it."
Genesis 4:7 NIV

You wrote: Our Lord told Cain this while Cain was unsaved, while he had absolutely no regard for the Lord (as his subsequent conduct in murdering his brother Abel makes clear). What this means for our purposes here is that we have it from the Lord Himself that even unbelievers are capable of "mastering" the temptation to sin (even if Cain failed to do so). It is a matter of choice. And of course we see this principle from the positive side all the time in the lives of unbelievers who are good, law-abiding citizens of fine moral character. In fact, it is somewhat easier for unbelievers to be ethical and moral and to refrain from sinful behavior inasmuch as they are not special targets of the devil as believers most certainly are. What this principle does tell us, even though Cain himself failed to respond correctly, is that we can in fact resist sin and temptation, even when it may seem extremely difficult to do so. If an unbeliever who has no regard for the truth - and no help from the Holy Spirit - is capable of living in a sanctified way (and scripture as well as experience amply demonstrates that it is possible), then surely we who have the Spirit residing in us to help us can do so as well.

I have to say I never thought of this passage that way. I would have assumed that our Lord here means not only overcoming the sin while dwelling in unbelief, but rather overcoming the sin by coming to the faith first, because although discipline, as you point out, can be successfully implemented even by an unbeliever, victory over sin is impossible without the Spirit. But I suppose that creates another difficulty for this interpretation, as believers of that time did not have the indwelling Spirit.

Response #12: 

The important thing from the context is that Cain was contemplating murder – which is not just a sin but the most heinous of all sins since it robs someone else of their free will forever. Clearly, with cultural and legal restraints, most unbelievers in the history of the world have been able to be forestalled from this sort of sin/crime (though not all). You are certainly correct that when it comes to things that are not going to result in dire legal penalties (where fear restrains most unbelievers), the gift of the Spirit is key in the case of the believer resisting temptation. But even that requires actually responding to the Spirit. And the Spirit suggests; He does not dictate. For believers prior to the universal indwelling of the Spirit, His ministry was also a help to all when they sought Him out, but universal and not as intimate and wonderfully present as we experience it today. David, who was specially given the Spirit, certainly appreciated the difference when he besought the Lord not to take the Spirit from Him as a disciplinary measure (Ps.51:11).

Question #13:   

Dear Brother and Dr.

Thank you so much for your response to my email. I appreciate your thoughts and kind comments.

I need to have some clarification on the following statement from your study on "The Tribulation begins".

You write: When the restraining ministry of the "Spirit" is removed and the Tribulation does begin, lawlessness will be unleashed and antichrist will come onto the scene, two events which are really part and parcel of the same thing, namely, the release of satanic influence on the world to a degree never before seen.

Comment: Are you meaning that only the "Restraining ministry of the Holy Spirit" will be removed but not the "Salvation of the Holy Spirit still remain"?

Are any unbelievers going to be "Born Again" during the Tribulation, and how is this going to happen?

Blessings to you,

Response #13: 

Yes, that's essentially it. Within the realm of evangelicaldom, it's often wrongly assumed that, since believers will be "raptured" out of the world and not experience the Tribulation (this is entirely wrong), as a result the Spirit won't be here in the world any more at all since He has no believers to indwell. In fact, believers will still be here, and we will not lose the indwelling of the Spirit just because the Tribulation has commenced. Scripture does not give any indication whatsoever that the mechanics of salvation or the gift of the Spirit at salvation based on Christ's victory are going to change in any way . . . at least not until our Lord's return when these will become even more dramatic (e.g., Joel 2:28-29). The removal of Holy Spirit's restraint is just what scripture says it is, namely, a ceasing to suppress satanic working in the world in order for the events of the Tribulation to allowed to occur.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:   

Hello Brother and Doc,

I am curious about a particular verse:

Revelation 1:10
"I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet"

I am not quite sure what being "in the Spirit" means. Since the word "Spirit" is capitalized, it appears to me that the verse is speaking of the "Holy Spirit"?

Can you please explain?

Another question: Is there anywhere in the Bible, OT or NT where is says we can actually pray to the Holy Spirit" ?

Thanks as always. You are such a treasure trove of answers that really do help me. Blessing to you,

Response #14: 

Good to hear from you, my friend. To take your questions in reverse order, no, there is no place where we are told to pray to the Spirit or where anyone does so. Prayer is to be directed to the Father (to whom in Christ we now have direct access as "believer priests": e.g., 1Pet.2:5; 2:9), and, based on John 14:14, also to the Son. But the Spirit is the "behind the scenes power" of the Christian life, the One who "quickens" our prayers rather than receiving them.

On the meaning of Revelation 1:10, here is what I have written about that in the Coming Tribulation series:

In the Spirit: God placed John in an ecstatic state to receive the divine revelation which was to follow. The phrase "in the Spirit" as used here should thus be carefully distinguished from the command given to all believers to "walk in the Spirit" (Gal.5:16; cf. Rom.8:4; Gal.5:25; Eph.5:18).(48) The translation given above "I came to be [in the Spirit]" is a rendering of the Greek verb meaning "to happen" or "to become" (gignomai: γίγνομαι). Obviously, English usage will not allow the translation "I became in the Spirit", but on the other hand "I was in the Spirit" fails utterly to convey the passive and progressive nature of the event, that is, that John is hereby describing his entrance into an exceptional spiritual state quite apart from his own will. What we have here then is a description of the ecstatic prophetic state induced by God on behalf of His prophets specifically for the purpose of divine revelation, an event well paralleled in the cases of other inspired writers of scripture (Num.12:6; Ezek.1:1; 1:3; 2:1; 8:3; 40:2; Dan.10:1-7; Micah 1:1; Zech.1:8; 4:1; Acts 10:10; 11:5; 22:17; 2Cor.12:1-4; 2Pet.1:20-21; Rev.4:2; 17:3; 21:10; cf. Is.6:1ff.; Jer.1:5-19; Hos.1:1-2; Amos 8:1; 9:1).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:    

Hey Bob, I think I figured this out.

1 John 1:7, The blood of Jesus washes us from all sins.

This is a picture of our spiritual baptism, the washing of our sins away by the blood of Jesus. The Old Testament saints had to actually wait for Christ's atonement in order for their sins to be washed away. I've been studying salvation and the symbolism with being born again, spiritually circumcised, and spiritual baptism. I understand that the Old Testament saints, by faith, were born again. They were made spiritually alive and reconciled to God by their faith in Him. The water and Spirit was the word of God, or the water of life, or the manna from heaven. It all centers on Christ, the living word of God, the true bread of life. Through their rebirth, they were spiritually circumcised. They were removed from the spiritual death caused by their flesh.

Spirit baptism is where I'm getting hung up on with old versus new. Spirit baptism, from everything I have studied, is a new gift that we receive after Christ ascended. Our Spirit baptism puts us into the body of Christ. As Paul states, one faith, one Lord, one baptism. Spiritual baptism also seems to be the symbolism of our indwelling of the Spirit.

So what about the Old Testament saints? If it truly is one faith, one Lord, one baptism, then it would not the Old Testament saints need to be spiritually baptized? Is that what Christ did when He led them from Abrahams bosom to the third heaven? I also have always associated our "washing" with spiritual baptism, but that would mean the Old Testament saints were not washed as they were not spiritually baptized.

I tend to think that the Old Testament saints were made spiritually alive and born-again by faith, and thus were spiritually circumcised. They walked by the Spirit just like we do today as the Spirit was still "with" them.

However they were not yet spiritually washed, as Christ had not yet completed the work their righteousness was credited from. After his death and resurrection, he went to Abrahams bosom and gave them his Spirit, spiritually washing them and putting them into the body, and leading them to the third heaven.

Am I close?

In Christ,

Response #15: 

Yes, I think this is precisely the core of the difference. The cross divides everything. What was possible after the cross was not necessarily possible before it. As John tells us, before the cross "the Spirit was not yet being given, because Christ had not yet been glorified" (Jn.7:39), and that glorification was likewise not possible without the incarnation and without the resurrection following our Lord's death for us all in the darkness to take away all our sins.

So it was not possible for the Spirit to be poured out on all believers as a lasting gift nor for believers to be placed into the person of Christ by the Spirit until Jesus had paid the price for sin by His spiritual death on the cross.

(25) God made Him a means of atonement [achieved] by His blood [and claimed] through faith, to give proof of His justice in leaving unpunished in divine forbearance [all] previously committed sins, (26) so as to prove His justice in the present, namely, so that He would be [shown to be] just [in this] and [justified] in justifying the one who has faith in Jesus.
Romans 3:25-26

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16: 

Bob l.

When you were writing the first and 2nd peter series, what sources did you use? Is it possible you receive a listing of you research materials? On your website somewhere that you believe that the gifts of the Spirit are not for today, but yet in your peter series you mention the work of the holy spirit many times. Would you be kind enough to clarify what you are saying, or mean.


Response #16: 

I've been working on the Peter series for about thirty years, and it's still not complete. The main source I use is the Bible, in the original languages. Whenever I have had occasion to "lift" some point from someone else, I generally will footnote that. The main resources I use and find valuable are lexicons and other language resources. Here's a link to some of these: "Greek Language Resources".

On your question about spiritual gifts, there is a distinction to be drawn between the ones still operational today and the temporary "sign gifts" as they are sometimes called (described by Paul in 1Cor.13:8ff.), that is, the special gifts of a more overtly miraculous nature (such as tongues, prophecy, and apostleship) which have now been discontinued and were uniquely given during the period when the New Testament canon of scripture was still being formed and before the church visible had any sort of structure or "deep bench" of men prepared to teach the Bible. There are many other gifts which are still being given, however, and every single believer in Christ is given at least one (and most more) when they are born again. This is all covered in detail in Bible Basics 5: Pneumatology; the whole thing is good to read to fully understand this issue, but the most pertinent part in regard to your question is the section "Spiritual Gifts" (see the links).

When it comes to gifts, there are two basic categories, namely, gifts which have to do with communicating the Word of God directly and gifts which have to do with supporting the communication and implementation of the truth – but all gifts have the same essential purpose:

"If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies."
1st Peter 4:11a NASB

Hope this answers your questions. Happy to discuss any of this further.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17:  

Hello Professor,

Thank you very much for your wishes. This day towards which I wanted to prepare is now only a week away. On the one hand, I could have advanced more than I have. On the other - God always empowers the choices we make for him and I can see how He has helped me make significant progress particularly in the last couple of months and things are different now. Many conclusions have been drawn, many truths have been applied as I've been getting out of what I got myself into, fighting some spiritual battles and getting ready for this new start. Now that I understand these things better, I have no doubt that your prayers have been instrumental in all this.

But the final conclusion, as it always has to be - is that I am an unfaithful servant and an unworthy sinner. As it would be wonderful to join the ranks of those inspirational believers of the scriptures who at this age which I'm now entering were heroes of faith producing for the Lord, I have to face the fact that I'm nowhere near that and as I have failed so many times even since salvation, there are two things that are now written in my heart with capital letters.

The first is grace. We need grace to be saved, we need grace to be forgiven and we need grace as we fail. And God has provided that in His Son, the ultimate gift of grace. I'm in a much more wonderful place than I deserve, I have a much better work than I deserve, God has given me the potential to produce much more than I have been producing and He has been so gently pointing me through the wisest and clearest discipline when I could have easily been chastised for my foolishness.

The second is the power of the Spirit. Our brother Curt Omo emphasises this a lot in his lessons and this emphasis came to me at a good time, as being in the Spirit, despite the Spirit dwelling in all of us who believe, remains a conscious faith-choice, a choice we make many a time during the day, following either the corrupt sin nature, or what we know His voice is telling us. And not only that, but it is impossible to make real progress in the truth, as carnal worries constantly occupy one's heart. I see with far greater clarity that living under Spirit's guidance was another difference between my early days as a believer and the difficult period several months ago. Initially, shortly after salvation it was a time of few worldly concerns, a time when I was earning very little, living in a small place and when I understood that perhaps it is God's plan for me to become a teacher and committed to the study. And then my life has been flooded more and more with all these things I needed to do, problems I needed to solve, issues I needed to arrange, all these venues for the sin nature to interfere with. Even moving into this new place was difficult for these reasons and I hope that it has been the last real hardship of this type which has really affected my rhythm. In all this it is easy to feel like one doesn't really know what to do, what to buy, where to put it, how to get things done, etc. Study of the word, the best thing and my real work, becomes then affected by all that goes on. And then one needs to ask himself - as I'm reading the word of God - am I in the Spirit? Am I allowing the Spirit who indwells with me control me? So in these past few weeks I have been learning to quiet down to my very heart of hearts, since legalism and superficiality easily creep in when one wants to keep a study and prayer routine like the one that I'm trying to keep - one that occupies the majority of the day and requires a lot of time and focus.

In our Lord,

Response #17: 

I think if you can keep these two principles in mind, you are well on your way to carrying out the mission the Lord has for you.

From my point of view, you are in an amazingly good place given the (relatively) short amount of time you have been at this – and given all of the opposition the evil one has sent into your path on top of that.

Learning from pastor-teacher Omo the importance of the Spirit is something others have mentioned to me as well.

Keep up the good work, my friend!

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior, 

Bob L.

Question #18: 

In your Study of Sin you make the following comment:

**"Only when we are following the positive guidance of the Spirit of God in the power of the Spirit is it possible to avoid some ? of sin's many pitfalls, and that is especially true when the sin in question comes as a result of ignorance rather than willfulness.?

I could indeed be misinterpreting what you are saying here, but here is my observation:

When we are following the positive guidance of the Spirit of God in the power of the Spirit is it possible to avoid some ? of sin's many pitfalls.

It not the Holy Spirit able to avoid all of sin's many pitfalls, or are you implying "some" because the reference is to us as "sinful", and we have our limitations only because we want to because of our sinful nature.

You are not limiting the power of the Holy Spirit are you? At least that is my view on reading this sentence.

I believe that you mean "but it is we who limit His power."

Response #18: 

Perhaps my language is not as exact as it could have been, but I do think that it is consistent enough with the principle that if we are walking in the Spirit we are not sinning but if we are sinning we are not walking in the Spirit. That (just said) is how Paul phrases things in Galatians chapter five. I have chosen the language I have chosen for a reason, however. These studies are not inspired; they are meant to help believers understand inspired scripture. While being in or out of the Spirit is in fact an absolute, that is not something which in practical terms can easily be measured as we respond more or less effectively to the Spirit the more or less we know, the more or less we believe, the more or less we have some spiritual momentum, the more or less we have grown, the more or less difficult and/or subtle the test we are facing, etc. In practical terms, life often does not resemble a choice of door #1 vs. door #2. In practical terms it more often resembles manning a forward trench with shot and shell bursting around left and right in no predictable sequence and then having to go over the top through the barbed wire. What I mean by this is that we need to shoot for being as influenced by the Spirit as we can be by responding as best we can and avoiding as many sins as we can. After all, plenty of things are sins which may not be readily obvious as such, and many times we may sin in ignorance without ever giving it a thought (anything we think or say or allow ourselves to feel might be sinful, for example, without ever having to get to worrying about overt deeds). So while in principle it's black and white – and that is the biblical position no doubt – in practical terms there is more gray than anything else. For those who worry too much about all this, static paralysis may result along with unbearable guilt; for those who don't worry about this enough, a lackadaisical attitude towards sin and confession may result in falling into the devil's trap. So I have indeed hedged things a bit here because we all need to be aware that we are and will continue to be sinners regardless of best intentions and meticulous confession, but that we still do have God's grace and forgiveness even so. In other words, in this combat we are going to get muddy and bloody. We can't ignore the dangers so as to fail to "duck"; we also can't let the fact that we are muddy and bloody concern us so much that we stop doing our job as soldiers of the Lord.

Question #19:  

Do you believe in the gift of knowledge and do you know of any Christian who has this gift?

Response #19: 

Good to make your acquaintance. The gift of knowledge was part of a special group of spiritual gifts given during the time of the apostles to bridge the gap in the early church during the transition from the Age of Israel to the Age of the Church. In the earliest days, there was no completed New Testament, nor, as the gospel spread to the gentiles, was there a large cadre of men prepared to teach the Word of God and prepare others to do so (2Tim.2:2). God gave special gifts (also tongues, interpretation and prophecy) so that new believers could still be edified even though the whole Bible wasn't yet available and even though there weren't enough prepared teachers to go around yet. This situation did not last long (perhaps twenty years or so). Here is a link where the gift you ask about is discussed:

Temporary gifts: Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith (in CT 5)

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #20:  

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I hope you are reading this message in good circumstances. As I was recently reading in Ephesians the other day, I saw something I hadn't quite recognized beforehand in regards to verses 4:11-13. In those verses Paul discusses how,

"It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God—a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature."
Ephesians 4:11-13 (NET)

What I am wondering about is the phrase "he who GAVE". When reading this portion of scripture I often look at this as applicable to all people for all ages, but here Paul uses past tense and not present tense. How should we understand this? Is Paul referring to the foundational days of the church, and the core disciples alone? Or is this meant to be an example of spiritual gifts that currently operate amidst us? I am hoping you can provide some insight into the matter, and thank you so much for your continued work. God bless!

Response #20: 

This passage is describing the situation throughout the Church, from beginning to end. If Paul had said "is giving", it might have seemed to discount previous gifts and future ones too; and if he had said "will" it would definitely imply that no one had been gifted as yet. In the plan of God, it has all been "done", so it is not any sort of stretch for Paul to view Christ as having organized the whole Church and the entire Church Age in one composite and all at once. That composite viewpoint is in fact one of the possible functions of the aorist tense in Greek (the tense used here; usually it is the simple past in Greek, but sometimes it generalizes as in Romans 3:23: "all sin" being the correct translation).

In terms of how to render this passage in English, a simple past tense seems the best choice and the one which will result in the least confusion. Paul goes on to describe various activities which Christ purposes to be happening in the near and (clearly) continuing future, and that could not be the case if the all of the gifts in question had only been given to those who are now long since dead (the gifts of evangelist and pastor-teacher are still being given). Here is how I render the passage:

(11) Christ Himself appointed some of us apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers (12) in order to prepare all of His holy people for their own ministry work, that the entire body of Christ might thus be built up, (13) until we all reach that unifying [goal] of belief in and full-knowledge (epignosis) of the Son of God, that each of us might be a perfect person, that is, that we might attain to that standard of maturity whose "attainment" is defined by Christ; (14) that we may no longer be immature, swept off-course and carried headlong by every breeze of so-called teaching that emanates from the trickery of men in their readiness to do anything to cunningly work their deceit, (15) but rather that we may, by embracing the truth in love, grow up in all respects with Christ, who is the head of the Church, as our model. (16) In this way, the entire body of the Church, fit and joined together by Him through the sinews He powerfully supplies to each and every part, works out its own growth for the building up of itself in love.
Ephesians 4:11-16

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, 

Bob L.

Question #21:  

Thank you very much, I always appreciate the quick response! This makes sense, much like Jesus dying once for all and thus He GAVE himself for us, which is continually working for us.

In regards to the gifts, I know you have maintained a more conservative view of the current gifts at work amongst the church, so I'm wondering what Biblical points there are that inform that position. For instance, how do I conclude that healing and/or prophecy is currently suspended from Biblical passages? Thank you for the time and I appreciate any insight into your train of thought on this issue as well. I'm always looking for more truth, and also tools to understand the truth. Thanks again!

Response #21: 

You're very welcome. And yes, that is a very good example / parallel for understanding the passage you asked about.

On the cessation of hyper-miraculous spiritual gifts, I have written a good deal on this subject (with more to be posted down the road). May I ask you to have a look at the following links, and then please feel free to ask any questions you might have as a result? Thanks in advance.

Temporary Gifts (in BB 5)

Cessation of prophecy

"The Perfect" in 1st Corinthians 13

What is "the perfect"

Are Miraculous Spiritual Gifts still in Operation Today?

Charismatic Claims of Visions, Dreams and Prophecy

The Gift of Healing

God Heals - in His way (not our way)

Pneumatology IV

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #22:  


Apologies for such a frequency of emails. I thought I would write to you again as there is an issue that I would like your view on. A Danish evangelist by the name of Torben Sordegaard has been growing in popularity and I have now twice been sent a link to the video talking about his work and healings. The film is called "The Last Reformation". I've been sent it once by my friends, who despite showing some genuine desire for the truth a few years ago may, after escaping Roman Catholocism, have fallen into the opposite wing of the church visible of today, exchanging the empty legalism and salvation by works for hyper-emotionalism, music and miraculous gifts of the Spirit. A while ago I expected to be able to enjoy true fellowship with them, but our last conversations have not given me that sense. It seems that these modern trends are making their way around the world.

Recently my friend sent me this video, as he was struck by the apparent genuineness of the healings presented there. I watched the first 25 minutes of this video and it definitely set my spiritual alarm off. I attach my notes below. I wanted to know your take on this. What these people are doing really is a sign of the times that we live in. Our Lord performed miracles to give credibility to the truth He was teaching, but now "miracles" are not a means to an end - they are the ultimate objective.

As for the healings, at least some of them can be quite easily explained away. It is possible to get people into such an emotional state that they will feel better through autosuggestion. As for the few which may seem look different and more serious - even if what the film shows is genuine (and that is an if), all this doesn't seem quite right to me. To call it a supernatural empowerment of error may seem a very big judgment, but I wouldn't exclude that at this stage.

Still, in case I misinterpret what goes on there or misapply the truth here somewhere, your feedback and guidance would be appreciated.


0:35: Water baptism.

0:50: The holy Spirit comes at the point of belief regardless of people asking for it and I find the tongues and the tongue-like, ecstatic prayers and murmuring quite disturbing.

1:00: Quotation of Acts 19:6: "And when Paul laid hands on them, The Holy Spirit came upon them, And they spoke with tongues and prophesied". The verse is clear - "when Paul laid hands on them".

1:00: Tongues is another big point – tongues are languages. Book of Acts is important, but it’s not more important than other books. There are reasons why it’s emphasised in churches today – the miracles, the action. How about the gospels and the epistles?

1:24: The boy speaking in tongues – does the boy, who looks probably about 6-7 years old, have the maturity to understand the gospel and what Christ did for him in order to become a true believer? He may in fact still be developing his conscience so as to recognise that he does go wrong with things and that he needs redemption. If he is no truly a believer, then this is not a true Spirit. If this is not the true Spirit, then these are not true tongues, but an emotional outburst of a child who clearly doesn’t know what he is doing. The boy asks: "What was I doing?" 1 Corinthians 14:33: for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

6:31: The quote about the book of Acts being the only book showing how to go out and make disciples is clearly wrong. Gospels show that through our Lord first of all.

8:35: "If Jesus is the same, the Holy Spirit is the same. If the Holy Spirit is the same, then what we read in the book of Acts should also be the same." That is a poor understanding of the scripture. Truth is taught in numerous ways at different times.

9:42: "In the book of Acts we see the very early Christians, the very early disciples of Christ. They were living this lifestyle of discipleship. They were reaching their people in their homes, on the streets". In the book of Acts we mostly see the Apostles. Why is no mention of the preparation to ministry mentioned?

10:18: Not a fair comment on Luther and others. Yes, their followers became largely legalistic, but clearly the precursors of the Reformation did have the desire for the truth. To say of Luther that he failed because his followers didn’t have his zeal for the truth, as with others, isn’t fair. Building doesn’t make church better, he’s right. What he fails to understand is that the lack of building doesn’t make church better either.

10:52 that is perhaps the key point of the whole film: "The Bible is the book of life. And it doesn’t become the book of life by studying it. It becomes the book of life by living it." That is a very big no. The Bible becomes the book of life by studying it and by living the truth understood.

16:08: The pastor wanted to do what the apostles were doing. Wouldn’t we all?

16:18: "The church system has to change." It’s not about the system.

18:20: When Torben Sordegaard talks about what he wanted to do, he says "At that time I was so frustrated, because I had been a Christian like many years. But I had never healed the sick, never cast out a demon. I had never led anybody to Christ. I had never experienced the life we read about in the book of Acts". Leading to Christ seems not to be the first thing he desired.

18:49 The problem that there was no disciple. How about the Bible? What is their process of discipleship?

23:30: "Why did you come to Denmark? We want to see people get healed." That’s what they really want. The truth is not the key point.

In our Lord,

Response #22: 

I'm always extremely glad to hear from you, my friend! Before even considering the "case", here are three very pertinent passages:

"For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect."
Matthew 24:24 NIV (cf. Mk.13:22)

The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing.
2nd Thessalonians 2:9-10a NIV

But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.
Revelation 19:20a (cf. Rev.13:13-14; 16:15) NIV

All of these passages make it very clear that believers should be on their guard even when it comes to what really seem to be "genuine" miracles. Perhaps they are true miracles in the sense of being supernatural, but the devil has his hand in the supernatural as well, and these passages above leave us in no doubt about the fact that a hallmark of the deception of the end times will be the use of just such tactics – real (if not actually "genuine") miracles, so real in fact that even the elect might be deceived (if that were "possible"). It is certainly "not fair" for the devil and his earthly servants to play this way, but they have never played fair and never will.

One reason why this sort of thing you report is gaining in popularity and frequency of occurrence is no doubt as part of the Lord's plan to help those of us who are truly of the faith to prepare for what is to come. As things stand today, like you I would first explore the various ways in which such "miracles" could be faked – and in the past that has always been the case with all such claims (apart from the very rare periods in human history where the Lord has indeed empowered such signs as in His earthly ministry and that of His apostles for at least part of their apostolic tenure). The passages cited above make it clear that during the Tribulation there will actually be people performing supernatural signs which are irrefutable as such – but that doesn't mean that they are from God (far from it). So the sort of analysis you are engaging in here is very useful. If we can't tell that something is fake – because at least in the Tribulation it may not be – we certainly need to be able to tell that it is not from God irrespective of its apparent supernatural character. And the way to do that is precisely as you are doing, namely, by examining the "teaching" that accompanies the signs. Whether or not there will be any such satanically empowered signs occurring before the Tribulation begins, I can't say. It may be that things will only change overnight once the Tribulation commences (as with so many other things we see prophesied to happen only then). But it certainly is in keeping with the devil's current activities to "ramp things up" as much as possible as we approach that time, and it is also in keeping with our Lord's gracious foresight for all such tests to become more subtle for us who are aware of the times, in order that we might be all the more on our guard and skilled in our methods in anticipation of what is to come.

As to the video itself et al., I didn't have time to watch the whole thing but I watched parts of it at various points from beginning to end. This "ministry" is very typical of all charismatic ministries of which I have experience here in the US. There are some unique features, mostly their hyper-focus on the book of Acts as somehow more important than the rest of the Bible (something you saw immediately as well), and also their crusade against hierarchy and structure – valid points when speaking about dead or mostly dead facets of the present-day church visible; but it is not "virtuous" in and of itself to be without structure or hierarchy (especially if one throws out what structure and hierarchy the Bible actually commends; and these people are in truth not completely without their own organization apparently). I can also attest by experience, observation and scripture to the apparent power of group influence. I think most modern people under-appreciate that being part of an emotional group (often resulting in something akin to mass-hysteria) was a big part of the pagan religions of antiquity as well. But just because we may "want" to see and experience things which are miraculous doesn't mean that God is doing them. That is the part of all such ministries which is the most glaringly offensive: they assume without evidence that because they are doing something and want something to be true that God is the One moving them and that these things are true.

There is plenty to say about the book of Acts, but as you have heard that from me before I won't belabor the point (you make some very good observations about that yourself). Suffice it to say that there are so many things which are unique to the book of Acts that the assumption that "things must always happen the same way" is absurd. Christ is not, for example, appearing to people and appointing them to be apostles the way He did for Paul. The Spirit is not manifesting Himself as "tongues of fire" as He did on the first Pentecost of the Church Age. He is not picking people up from one geographical area and then depositing them elsewhere as He did with Phillip several times – one could easily go on at length. Mr. S. himself notes that when the Samaritans believed they did not receive the Spirit without the laying on of hands by the apostles later on – but the believers at Pentecost did and so did the believers in Acts 10 at the so-called gentile Pentecost; so how can it be assumed that "it always must work the same way" when clearly even in Acts it did not always work the same way?

There are some very potentially dangerous things about this ministry as well. Exorcism of children I find particularly appalling. I don't remember that in the book of Acts. I will say that if a person assumes (wrongly) that a small child can be demon possessed it will make for huge leverage to manipulate that person (especially if he/she is a parent), and no doubt do very serious damage to the children who have to suffer through this nonsense. And of course demon possession requires the assent of a person who has reached an age to be accountable for his/her actions.

Finally, I not that Mr. S's books are available for sale at Amazon in English translations; books are also available at his website, "The Last Reformation" as well, where people are also given the opportunity to donate. These things are not fatal indictments in and of themselves, but I don't remember the apostles charging for their epistles or soliciting contributions in the book of Acts. Paul accepted unsolicited donations from some, but not from others (refusing them from the Corinthian church). For all the "lack of structure", I see that this movement has "training centers" in Denmark and the Netherlands – they must be paying for this somehow. I don't immediately see the "hard sell" tactics that some such ministries employ, but that may just be good strategic salesmanship (waiting until the mark is hooked to begin mulcting him). I can tell you as a matter of fact that someone who is "saved and blessed" in this way today will, even if genuinely saved, without instruction in the truth of scripture, be feeling "down and hollow" tomorrow, and will often of course easily fall back into previous carnal ways without some guidance in the truth about how to fight the Christian fight. That being the case, many who have this "hook" set are going to come back for more (and will no doubt have ample opportunity to give money, time and effort thereafter). Mr. S is building a denomination under a different name – and calling what he is doing a "new Reformation" . . . well, humble is not the adjective I would use to describe it. Popularity, money, power are the effects of this movement if successful – quite different it seems to me than what our Lord did or what the apostles are recorded as doing in Acts.

Excellent comments, my friend! This sort of criticism from a mature believer who is gifted as a teacher is all the more necessary since this type of attack is otherwise very effective, especially when it comes to believers who are not where they should be spiritually. Any believer who is not living a sanctified life feels guilty about that on some level, and this sort of "ministry" provides the perfect reproach along with the perfect solution – making the person in question ripe for manipulation. Believers who are emotionally vulnerable are perfect targets for this sort of scheme. Given that we all want to see miracles and repentance and salvation, whenever the charismatic heresy is presented in such a careful way as it is here, it takes a solid grounding in the truth and the spiritual armor of maturity to fend it off effectively – and that is always helped by good teaching such as you provide in this list.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #23:   

Dear Bob,

You have been helpful giving solutions. Is Biblical Tongues not meant for private use?

Appreciate your answer


Response #23: 

Good to hear from you, my friend, and thanks much for your good words. I'm keeping you in my prayers day by day.

As to your question, 1st Corinthians 14:4 suggests that individuals with the gift of tongues can engage in this practice on their own, although the whole tone and texture of Paul's discourse on this subject in that chapter has to do with the gift being truly meaningful only when it can be interpreted so as to provide serious edification through the teaching of the truth. Without interpretation, no truth can be forthcoming because the language spoken cannot be otherwise understood.

The above is true regarding the actual gift of tongues. However, the gift of tongues has not been given by the Spirit since sometime in the mid first century. No one has the gift today. What passes for tongues in charismatic churches is not tongues. That is to say, whatever they are doing they are not doing in the power of the Holy Spirit. 1st Corinthians 13:8 says expressly that tongues would cease; and they have ceased. The perfect canon of scripture, the Bible, the New Covenant, is now with us, praise be to God, so there is no longer any need of any interim gift such as tongues to provide the truth that scripture contains.

The proof of the above is easy to discover since pseudo-tongues never impart knowledge – which is the entire purpose of the actual gift. Secondly, the actual gift involved speaking a real, human language that was spoken somewhere at the time so as to be able to evangelize those who knew that language (as on the day of Pentecost). Paul tells us that unless someone can interpret (either through the gift of interpretation or because they knew the language) that speaking in tongues in public was out of bounds. Speaking to oneself in tongues – the real gift – may perhaps have been edifying to the degree that it would encourage the individual Christian in question regarding the power of God and His working in their lives, but even here only to a limited degree. To get anywhere spiritually requires the truth, and even a real speaker of a real tongue in the real power of the Spirit would not understand what was said and so could derive very little real spiritual advantage therefrom.

As I say, all of this is merely theoretical because no one has the actual gift today, and that is very easy to discover. All one needs do is to listen to a "tongues speaker" to understand that what pours forth is not a real human language. I have posed this challenge to all who have ever come to this ministry with this claim, and no one has ever been able to prove otherwise. Pseudo-tongues is another one of those things Christians get involved in when they want excitement and are too lazy or rebellious to learn the truth of the Word of God the right way.

Here are some links where this subject is discussed in greater detail:

The Gift of Tongues: Part 3

The Gift of Tongues: Part 2

The Gift of Tongues: Part 1

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #24:   

Hi Bob,

Mat. 28 has that verse were Jesus commissions his disciples to baptize in the name of the Trinity. IIRC, you believe that Jesus commissioned them to baptize in the Holy Spirit. However, doesn't that power exclusively belong to Jesus Christ alone?

In Jesus Christ our risen Lord (Rev. 1:18)

Response #24: 

That is true, directly. But as His agents we (and they) are commissioned to spread the truth whereby those who hear it may be saved . . . and baptized by the Spirit automatically thereafter when they do. The same idea is found in the "keys to the kingdom" which constitute the gospel, rightly interpreted. We do not actually have these keys (Christ has them), but when we share the good news of the kingdom, those who respond positively are saved and enter in. As those in union with Christ, we share all that He is and Has – even though there is no doubt about the question of authority.

Finally, even a person didn't see it this way, the same objection would hold true of water: no human being can baptize someone else "into" the Trinity (as it says in Matt.28:19, "into the Person of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. . . "), even if that blessing were accomplished through means of water (which of course it is not).

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #25:    

NIV SB gives the following explanation of the so called "imprecations" in the Psalms:

Ps.5:10 The presence of so- called imprecations (curses) in the Psalms has occasioned endless discussion and has caused many Christians to wince, in view of Jesus' instructions to turn the other cheek and to pray for one's enemies (see Mt 5:39, 44), as well as his own example on the cross (see Lk 23:34). Actually, these "imprecations" are not that at all; rather, they are appeals to God to redress wrongs perpetrated against the psalmists by imposing penalties commensurate with the violence done (see 28:4) -in accordance also with God's norm for judicial action in human courts (see Dt 25:1-3; see also 2Th 1:6; Rev 6:10; 19:2). The psalmists knew that those who have been wronged are not to avenge that wrong by their own hand but are to leave redress to the Lord, who says, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay" (Dt 32:35; see Pr 20:22; Ro 12:19). Therefore they appeal their cases to the divine Judge (see Jer 15:15).

I wanted to ask your take on this explanation. It seems that asking God for a just punishment of the guilty is a valid point.

Response #25: 

Imprecatory passages of scripture are still scripture. We can pray for our enemies; we can also rejoice when God's justice is done – not gloating over their demise, but glorying in our deliverance at the hand of a righteous God. The two things are not in conflict. David (and others) wrote these Psalms under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; however, I don't remember David making a habit of cursing his enemies when he was not writing inspired scripture; rather he showed mercy to Saul in the cave when he could have killed him, e.g., and reproached himself for merely cutting off the hem of Saul's robe (cf. also 2Sam.16:5-12). So I don't know of a passage in scripture, Old Testament or New, where we are encouraged to curse our enemies; rather we are always encouraged to forgive them as the best way to deal with such situations (e.g., Prov.25:21). Suggesting to people that they can't be upset with those who abuse them would be crazy (some people wrongly take the Bible this way); telling them to go ahead and pray to God for these abusers to be destroyed is also clearly wrong (and not what these Psalms are getting at); putting all in God's hands and letting Him deal with the evil – and being joyful (not gloating) when He does so is the correct middle ground. People tend to be absolutists about their own favored interpretations when they look at scripture and that generally leads to misinterpretation, but scripture means what it means regardless of how we may feel about it. Our God is a God of justice but also love, of retribution but also mercy. Discerning such very important distinctions is what spiritual growth is all about. Reading through Hosea, for example, one is struck by the rapid switching from threats of judgment to prophecies of mercy – in response to the attitudes of the Israelites to whom the prophecy came. We want God's justice, but also His mercy; what we need to remember is that all human beings are recipients of both.

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8 NKJV

Please also see the link:  "Imprecatory Psalms"

Question #26: 

I'm not clear about the following point that Thiessen makes in his "Introduction to the New Testament" (p.95):

Furthermore, if we believe in the possibility of a supernatural work of he Holy Spirit in the heart of man, then we ought not to find it difficult to believe also in the possibility of a supernatural operation of the Spirit in the production of the Scriptures. And if we recognize Him as the real Author of the Scriptures, then we cannot deny to Him the right to use an earlier inspired statement in a new way, if He sees fit. He may, then, guide the human authors of the Bible to employ any one of the methods cited in the preceding paragraph without doing violence to His own Word. Only then could the writers of the Holy Scripture be accused of misusing the Old Testament if they said they were quoting formally and then interpreted the quotation in a manner that was out of harmony with the context of the Old Testament. It does not seem that they ever do this.

It seems that the Old Testament quotations in the New Testament which he earlier provides do not seem to be directly linked to the context in which they were originally written (Romans 10:6-8 and Deuteronomy 30:12-14 or Matthew 2:15 and Hosea 11:1). So I'm not entirely sure what he means in the last sentence of this paragraph.

Response #26: 

This seems to me to be another reflection of T's "squishiness" when it comes to the absolute truth and consistency of scripture. This is good thing to consider carefully. In the history of the church-visible of the last hundred years or so anyway, those who have really made the Bible their lives have tended towards one of two extremes, namely, either being so pig-headed in their opposition to scholarship that they have compromised their ministries by making many serious mistakes which a good education and a good methodology would have avoided (this anti-intellectual approach also has as a side-effect making the person in question dependent upon the work and opinions of others, ironically, many of them scholars . . . who also happen to be wrong); or on the other hand becoming so enamored of the scholarly world and in awe and fear of its opinions and potential censure so as to adopt in many respects its foolish anti-supernatural skepticism, often subtly. The latter seems to be T's problem here, at least to a degree. But if a person really does believe fully in divine inspiration, then it should be realized that if there seems to be a conflict between OT and NT in anything, including quotes from the latter in the former, the fault lies in us for failing (yet) to fully understand. The solution will never lie in apologizing for the NT writers or apologizing for God – as if He somehow has the right to "get it wrong" (!?) – but in studying the problem hard until it is solved; and in not saying foolish things like this if one has not been able to solve the problem yet. "I don't know" is a wiser answer in such cases. Scholars are reluctant to give such an answer – I fully understand that – but the alternative is to pursue "but I'll find out!" until one does find out (and remain silent on the point until one does).

Question #27:  

A few questions arose as I've been listening to Curtis Omo's lessons. I have to say, they have been very helpful spiritually. They allow one to stay focused on the scripture when performing some other tasks and it made a difference for me in my current situation, when I've got a lot of work to do. But occasionally I will recognise a discrepancy between your and his teaching and I'm not sure what is the best way to approach it - should I write to you, should I write to him. You are both so much more knowledgeable when it comes to the scripture than I am that I'm in no position to put one interpretation as right and the other as wrong. And also the discrepancies are related to minor rather than major issues, as you can imagine. Let me know what is the best way to approach it, I might pass to you a few questions that came up.

Response #27: 

I'm thrilled to hear that you are benefitting from my good friend's ministry, Bible Academy (link). To me, it is more remarkable that two teachers of the Word who parted physical company more than forty years ago agree on so much rather than that we may disagree on some few points. That's a testimony to the over-riding power of the Word and guidance of the Spirit in the case of all those who are diligently seeking the truth (of which number there are few enough today, in my experience and observation). I have no problem with you asking him questions or asking anything you want of me either. The truth is the truth, and I think I've demonstrated in this respect that I'm not a "respecter of persons" . . . not even in my own case if I become convinced that I need to make a change. The important thing is the truth, not somebody's ego, mine included.

Question #28: 

1 Pt 4:6 "For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does." I am confused on the meaning of this passage from 1 Peter. Can you elaborate please?

Response #28: 

There is an explanation of 1st Peter 4:6 at the link "the gospel preached to the dead". In a nutshell, unbelievers (the spiritually dead) who receive the gospel are given it to demonstrate their need for salvation so that they might be saved.

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