Category Archives: Acts

The Significance of Pentecost

by Scott

During our visit to the U.S. for most of the month of April, we were able to be a part of Advent Presbyterian Church in the Memphis area over a couple of Sundays. This is the church I grew up in, and my parents are still part of the church community.

For quite some time, as a whole church, they have been working through The Story – which mainly focuses on reading through and teaching the major stories of Scripture. It looks to make the Bible very practical – in teaching and application to people’s lives.

While I was back, they had just finished looking at the Ascension (though the church calendar celebrates it this coming Sunday). And so I was asked to speak on Pentecost and Acts 2. It’s Pentecost Sunday this coming Sunday (19th May 2013), so I thought it would be worth posting this video below.

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The White Dove Inn

By Marv

Three theobros, friends, colleagues, agreeing on much, differing on some things, sitting around the studio in relaxed but intelligent banter–joined together with joy, but for a serious purpose. And the podcast is ours to enjoy, to learn, to be edified by. It’s great stuff. I keep thinking though–all it needs is Rod Rosenbladt periodically saying “That’s HUGE!!!”

(If you don’t have a clue what I am talking about check out this other worthy audio theofest.)

C. Michael Patton, dean or some such title of Credo House ministries is the indefatiguable superblogger of Parchment and Pen. I admit I came for Daniel Wallace, but I stayed for CMP. Within the last couple of years he has bared his soul more than a bit, particularly with regard to his contemplation of the subject of “spiritual gifts.” In a series of eight posts he explained “Why I am not  Charismatic.” Readers of To Be Continued will be familiar with it, as with our point by point response.

Back he comes, and not alone. For a new round the venerable Sam Storms partners with CMP to provide a balancing continuationist perspective. The whole shebang starts off with this podcast, featuring Michael, Sam, and a third voice Tim Kimberley. Three DTS-grad Okies. Now that’s balance, I must say (being an Oklahoma-born DTS grad myself).

Listen to the podcast, part of their Theology Unplugged series as a bit of an intro to the discussion. The meat will be the blog posts, however, and we already have the first two: an opening salvo by Patton “Why I am/not Charismatic: My Story,” not to be confused with Storms’ “Why I am/not Charismatic: My Story.”

First course: appetizers. We digest so you don’t have to.

First C. Michael Patton’s Story:

1. Raised in non- even anti-Charismatic soil (DTS-grad pastor) Michael experienced plenty to leave a foul taste in his mouth: a church split over “the gifts,” repulsive silliness and downright abuse, embarrassing excess at a pal’s church. Charismatics behaving badly: barking, flopping, issuing inane and insipid “words,” sealed the deal.

2. MacArthurism (“Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Charismatic party?”) loaded him with Bible-based proofs to match his mood.

3. So how did a guy like him end up at a place like UBSS, which he describes as a”Third Wave” Bible college? Open prophesying, unabashing tonguing, their name was Legion, for they were many. But with Grudem as the Systematic Theology? Harvard, Westminster, Cambridge, ETS pres, Calvinist–and Charismatic. Does not compute.

4. Since then voice after voice with theological and Biblical heft have articulated and explained a cogent, coherent Continuationist understanding: Fee, Mahaney, Piper, Moreland… (Time provented him from mentioning Scott & Marv apparently…)

5. Where is he now? Standing on the edge of the chasm–the Cessationist side, underwhelmed by the arguments that keep him there, but not able (willing) to make the leap to the greener grass on the other side.

6. It is a consummation devoutly to be wished, however. With loved ones who really, really needed healing–this one is personal.

And now for Sam Storms’ story:

1. Dallas Seminary and Believer’s Chapel: meat-lovers’ milieu both, and where folk not only think, but know the Charismatic wing is full of wingnuts. Now that’s a solid foundation for a future of Cessationism.

2. It was in Oklahoma where the wind came sweeping down the plain. While pastoring in Ardmore, he read D.A. Carson, and his Cessationist pseudo-foundation crumbled under his feet.

3. He came to the realization that the Bible taught Continuationism, but he remained embarrassed by the unsophisticated, overly emotional, underly intellectual crew he’d have to associate himself with if he went with the Bible instead of his background.

4. Yet he took the plunge. Preaching through Acts, and presenting a doctrinal study on the Spirit, he led his church not only in reading about the “stuff” but doing it. Somehow he managed the paradigm shift in his congregation without the whole thing blowing up in his face.

5. Catching up with Jack Deere, whom he had known at DTS, and who had made a similar journey, Sam was renewed in the gift of tongues he had known but came to disdain two decades earlier. He eventually found himself ministering at Kansas City Fellowship for seven years–more than a small step for a man from Believer’s Chapel.

6. After a brief stint teaching at Wheaton, he returned to KC and started Enjoying God Ministries. Today he is a pastor in OKC, where, like someone else, he spends his time proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

We are in for a remarkable discussion, with these two. Topics foreshadowed in the podcast include:

  • Terminology: Charismatic vs. Continuationist.
  • History: Through the centuries and three “waves” in the twentieth century.
  • Distinction from Faith Movement and Prosperity Theology.
  • What about the lingo: “sign gifts,” “normative”?
  • How serious should we take things: accepting? practicing? pursuing?

The Tongues Conundrum (Part 4)

by Scott

Thus far, I have posted 3 articles centred around the gift of tongues. But I would say they haven’t come in the best form of ordered succession. So, below are the links to the 3 articles in the order that would flow the best. When I finish the series, I will post a PDF file with all the articles in order.

In this article, I want to specifically look at the three purposes of tongues. In my study of the subject of tongues, I have come to see that such a gift is given for mainly three activities: praise, prayer and proclamation.

a) Praise

Here are three specific passages that point to tongues being utilised as praise to God.

… we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God. (Acts 2:11)

For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. (Acts 10:46)

15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? (1 Corinthians 14:15-16)

Now, the second passage in Acts 10:46 could be seen as distinguishing tongues and praise from one another. And, if that is true, of course I am fine with such. Nevertheless, there is no doubt tongues will be utilised in praise to God. This is why you might walk into a church gathering and here people singing in tongues, or they might refer to it as singing in the Spirit. And, though I don’t have a lot of time to go into it in this post, I believe this is also not too far off from Paul’s two references to ‘spiritual songs’, or ‘songs of the Spirit’ (see Eph 5:19; Col 3:16).

b) Prayer

One of the more obvious texts that point to tongues as prayer is found in the well-known passage of Paul’s words to the Corinthians:

For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. (1 Corinthians 14:14)

Now there are other passages that many Pentecostals and charismatics would refer to as pointers to prayer in tongues. The word ‘tongues’ is not found in the three passages below, but it does speak of prayer and groanings in/by the Spirit. What are those three texts? The first is found here:

praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. (Ephesians 6:18)

In this passage, it seems that praying in the Spirit is differentiated from other ‘types’ of prayer. Why? Paul first says, ‘praying at all times in the Spirit,’ and then goes on to say, ‘with all prayer and supplication’. The second phrase refers to what we might term ‘normal’ prayer and supplication, while the first phrase projects us praying in, or by, the Spirit.

One might ask – Well, do we not only pray because of the work the Spirit in our lives, kind of like Paul said that no one could say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ unless by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3)?

Such is a good question. But what I would liken this to is the role and gift of faith. No doubt one can only come to faith in Christ by the activity of the Holy Spirit. Such is very clear in the teaching of Scripture. But, beyond this faith activated in every believer by the work of the Spirit, Paul also distinguishes it from the gift of faith, as in 1 Cor 12:8-10. That gift of faith is what is normally activated by the Holy Spirit in God’s people for the workings of miracles and healings.

Thus, just as we would distinguish between the faith given to all saints for belief in Christ and the faith-manifestation of the Spirit for enacting miracles and healings, so I believe we can differentiate between prayer that is a reality in the lives of all believers and prayer in the Spirit that is a specific enabling of God’s Spirit to pray and intercede above and beyond that in which we would normally participate.

Now, to the question of what ‘praying in the Spirit’ actually details, I personally do not believe praying in the Spirit is intrinsically connected to praying in tongues. Still, what I would suggest is that, if tongues comes via the activity of the Holy Spirit and prayer in the Spirit comes via the Holy Spirit, then it is highly possible the two are linked together. Or, I might even suggest that praying in the Spirit is more of a broader, ‘umbrella’ term of which praying in tongues comes under. Some will disagree. But, at this point, that is my conclusion from studying the Scripture, as well as interacting with God in prayer via the specific activity of the Spirit.

And, as a side note, the phrase, ‘at all times’ in the Ephesians 6 text, probably does not refer to praying in the Spirit every second of the day, but rather to regular prayer in the Spirit.

These words of Jude are somewhat similar to Eph 6:18:

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit. (Jude 20)

Again, I would argue that praying in the Holy Spirit does not necessarily involve the act of praying in tongues, or praying with our spirit as it is worded in 1 Cor 14:14-15. I believe we can pray in the Spirit via our own mother tongue. But I would also maintain that praying in tongues is part of praying in the Holy Spirit.

The final text centred around praying in the Spirit, though worded a bit differently, is found in Paul’s letter to the Romans:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)

Now this verse does not seem to have any specific connection with tongues. But, again, both tongues and these ‘groanings’ come as a stirring and work of the Holy Spirit within the human spirit. And those who have been involved in deep times of prayer and intercession will know that, at times, we are not sure what to pray. But, in those times, we sense the stirrings of the Spirit welling up in us and all that comes forth are groans and cries from our heart. In those times, we can be assured the Spirit is actively at work in our weakness, praying according to the will of God.

Regardless of whether or not these three verses – Eph 6:18; Jude 20; Rom 8:26 – refer to tongues, which I suggest they could be distinguished from tongues, what we can note is that one of the purposes of tongues is that of prayer (1 Corinthians 14:14).

c) Proclamation

Many a Pentecostals and charismatics will stop with those two when it comes to the purpose of tongues. But I believe tongues can also function as proclamation. Why would I suggest such? Well, for starters, let’s look back at a passage in Acts:

… we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God. (Acts 2:11)

I don’t believe that this statement has to intrinsically be tied into praise, though some are convinced it is. I believe that to tell, or declare, the mighty works of God (in another language) functions as a proclamation. Matter of fact, this specific act led to the drawing of 3000 people into the kingdom of God on that Pentecost day. Much more than praise was probably being given.

And, let’s notice something else that is interesting about the Pentecost event. Following the outpouring of the Spirit, Peter quotes Joel with these words:

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:17-18)

Peter says that what has just happened is a fulfilment of Joel’s prophetic utterance centuries before. And the fruit of the outpouring of the Spirit on all God’s people – male and female, young and old – would be prophecy. But what happened at Pentecost? The event did not include prophecy, in the specific sense. Rather, it included tongues, which were understood by the on-lookers. Therefore, the outpouring of the Spirit along with the fruit of tongues became the initial fulfilment of a passage that specifically referred to of prophecy as the fruit of the outpouring of the Spirit.

Thus, I believe that tongues, when miraculously spoken and understood, or miraculously spoken and interpreted, can function like prophecy. So, tongues is a like the sister of prophecy, just as miracles and healings are quite related to one another.

This is why I believe tongues can function as a proclamation of God’s truth. And, even if it comes forth as praise, that praise can also operate as proclamation.

If you would like to hear the audio recording of my teaching on the gift of tongues this past Sunday, you can listen to it by clicking on the audio icon below, or you can download from our podcast or iTunes.

He Has Spoken Through His Son

by Marv

The coming of the Son of God in the flesh is the turning point in redemptive history, that is in the outworking of God’s plan for rescuing His fallen world.  It marks a decisive divide between all that came before and all that God does from that crucial point onward.

Jesus indicated His own place in redemptive history in the parable of the tenants.  In this parable, God is likened to the owner of a vineyard who sends a series of bondservants to collect his due,  only to have them rebuffed, abused, even killed by the uncooperative tenants.  The next step is an escalation in the status of the messenger: “Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’” (Matt. 21:37).  The voice of the son, we understand, bears a superiority not just in degree, but in kind.

The magnificent opening of the epistle to the Hebrews encapsulates this same truth, and then goes on for thirteen chapters to develop this theme of Christ as superior to everything in previous phases of God’s plan, to urge against retrograde motion on the part of his readers.  He begins:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. (Heb. 1:1-2)

Continuationism is the understanding that according to the Scriptures, and Jesus Himself, during this era between Pentecost and the Parousia, God has established in the Church a vital and dynamic interconnection with Christ and the Father through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit, through which Christ continues to glorify the Father, build His Church, and advance His kingdom.

To express this understanding in the imagery of the parable of the tenants, after the son is killed, when the vineyard owner comes to “let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons,” (v. 4) the son is in fact restored to life.   He then continues actively to run the operations of the vineyard for his father, though off site.  As he is delegated the management by his father, he in turn delegates the on-site operation to the new tenants.  In this arrangement he remains in two-way communication with the tenants and supplies the resources necessary to the success of the operation.

Some others would modify this scenario by removing the idea of “two-way communication.”  The son, in this case, commits to written form everything he wishes to say or will ever wish to say to the tenants.  Thus he leaves them an operation manual, and determines that while he expects communication from the tenants to him, he will not communicate directly back to them, since the manual already contains everything he wishes them to know.

The former of these conceptions, according to proponents of the latter, is inaccurate in that it is incompatible with Hebrews 1:2, cited above.  The idea of ongoing two-way communication with God—that is that God to man communication (still) occurs by means other than the Bible—is denied, these assert, by the statement that now God “has spoken to us by his Son” (v. 2).  God’s speaking through prophets, inferior delegates, the “servants” of the parable, is relegated to “long ago.”

The use of Heb. 1:1-2 in support of Cessationism does have a noble pedigree.  It appears with the Westminster Confession of Faith as “proof text” number six, underlying what is generally taken to be a clause expressing cessation of ongoing revelation: “those former ways of God’s revealing His will unto His people being now ceased.” (WCF I.1)

However, there are two distinct propositions involved, taken to be stated or implied by Heb. 1:1-2:

1.  God, having delegated His Son to speak for Him, no longer employs the lower-level messengers He previously had sent.

2.  God having delegated His Son to speak for Him, the Son no longer is speaking.

Proposition 1 is non-objectionable, since it represents the author’s explicit point, and he goes on to elaborate on this point in the rest of the epistle.

It is far less clear, however, that the author intends Proposition 2 as part of his meaning, as a Cessationist application would suggest.  Also, if the author of Hebrews is saying that the Son has said all He has to say, when exactly are we to understand that the Son in fact ceased speaking?

What can we determine from the text?  First, the verb translated “has spoken,” elalēsen, “is aorist, in the past from the point of view of the writer.  The specific time frame is further specified: “in these last days.”

The author then contrasts two types of events, the ministry of the prophets in the more distant past, and the ministry of Christ in the recent past.  Can we legitimately infer from the author’s statement affirming Christ spoke in the past, a denial that He is therefore not speaking in the present and will not speak in the future?  Not on the basis of any valid understanding of either Greek grammar or logic.

At any rate, when exactly does the author mean to tell us that God’s revelation ceases?

If in fact we go by the tense of elalēsen, the past, we are left with the paradox, or rather the antinomy of an inspired writer, stating in his present that revelation had previously ceased in the past.  The very verse containing this word, not to mention the thirteen chapters yet to come contradicts the notion that God’s special revelation had already ceased at that point.

The author would have to mean some other time than that strictly indicated by the tense of the verb, if indeed he intends us to understand that communication through the Son comes to a point of completion and then ceases.  When would that be, exactly?

The ascension, the ending point of Christ’s bodily presence on earth?  Hardly, the entirety of the New Testament was written after this.

Besides, the author himself states in 2:4 that after Christ’s ascension God continued to testify through human messengers other than Christ: “God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”

Is it then the completion of the Canon?  It may or may not be factual to state that with the close of the Canon, the Son no longer speaks to us, and the Father no longer speaks through any other means.  But how is such an understanding to be drawn from the words of Hebrews 1:1-2, which was written, perhaps decades before the last NT book was written?

What do the author’s statements about the Son tell us about the work of the Holy Spirit?  Jesus’ own teaching predicts a future in which the Spirit’s work will include acts of speaking:

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” (John 15:26)“And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8)“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.  All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:12-15)

We find here, in fact, that the speaking ministry of the Spirit is a continuation of God speaking through the Son.  The Father delegates to the Son and the Son to the Spirit.

He delegates, not only to the Spirit, but to His Church. “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:21)

So if the speaking of the Spirit is a continuation of the speaking of the Son, how long do we expect the Son to continue to speak through the Spirit?  Do we take Jesus’ words in John 16 then to be referring to the New Testament and nothing else?

If so, He said this to all eleven, but only commissioned three to write scripture:  Matthew, John, and Peter.  Did he exclude eight of those present and include others not present such as Paul, Luke, and James?

At any rate, the Son did in fact speak through the Holy Spirit in ways other than the writing of the New Testament:

“And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.” (Acts 16:6-7)

This is still, however, during the period of the open Canon. Of course, the Spirit continues to speak during this time.  Where are we ever told God will ever speak through the Spirit once the Scriptures, God’s sufficient written Word has been completed?

In Mark’s account of the Olivet discourse, Jesus gives instructions regarding what His disciples may expect in the days prior to His return, when the gospel is being proclaimed to all nations:

“But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them.  And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.  And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 13: 9-11)

Hebrews 1:1-2 in fact says nothing about the Son ceasing to speak.  The New Testament knows nothing of a time when once the Son has become incarnate, He ceases actively to glorify the Father to the world, to be God’s ongoing self-revelation.  What we can see are three distinct phases of His revelation activity (presented out of order).

The first.  His first advent, when He reveals the Father in His sinless life, He proclaims the gospel of the Kingdom, and dies sacrificially and rises again.

The third.  His glorious second appearing, when faith becomes sight we will know as we are known.

The second.  In between these times His Body, the Church, continues what in the first phase Jesus “began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1).

“In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (John 14:20)

Yes, “in these last days, [God] has spoken to us by his Son.”  Just so, in these days too, God speaks through His Son, who speaks through the Holy Spirit, who speaks through the Church, the Body of Christ.

Preaching Series on Gifts of the Spirit

by Scott

Starting this Sunday at Cornerstone, I plan to begin a preaching series on the gifts of the Spirit. As I have shared much recently (here, here and here), God has been re-emphasising his power to me – the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of the kingdom of God and the power of the gospel to change lives (amongst other emphases on His power). And, I have specifically been spending time preaching on the power of the Holy Spirit. You can listen to two of my most recent sermons: Acts 1:1-8 here and Acts 2:1-21 here.

Thus, after spending this time with Cornerstone looking at the reality of the power of the Spirit in both Acts 1 and 2, I believe it is now right in God to move on to specifically addressing the gifts of the Spirit. This will be an exciting time for the church, as they have never had any specific previous teaching on the Holy Spirit and His gifts. The past month has already been very stirring as we held two conferences – VMI and Fast Forward – and have been focusing on the power of God, especially the power of the Spirit. But this will be helpful, meaty and practical in seeing our local church body move forward into the things God has planned for us.

Though the church has never been antagonistic to the Holy Spirit and His gifts, and many come from backgrounds that allow for all gifts of the Spirit to be active, as I mentioned, the church had not had any specific teaching on the Holy Spirit’s gifts and, thus, not actively looking to practise these gifts in their gatherings and lives. But, with the recent connection of the church with Lifelink International, and with my arrival to oversee the church as of the summer of 2008, we have been purposeful to move towards an emphasis on the work of the Spirit and His gifts. It has taken us a while to get there, but now with a little (or BIG) push out of the nest by God, it is time to specifically dive into such an amazing reality.

But, we have had tasters of His gifts, no doubt. There have been times when prophecy has come forth (though some might not have realised it was such). And I have done teaching on the continuance of all five (or four) ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4:11-13: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers (you can see the 4-part series here). And, just two weeks ago, we had an evening of seeking God together, mainly to hear from Him and speak forth what we believed God was stirring and saying. And, lo and behold, we had some prophecy, as well as others stepping out by praying aloud, sharing Scriptures, etc. It was truly beautiful and stirring!

So, I look forward to jumping into that all-important text in Corinthians on gifts of the Spirit, beginning with 1 Corinthians 12:1-11:

1Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

There is a lot one could address just in that text, but we will take it week by week. We will also have visitors in to speak on some Sundays, so my specific series might be put on hold here and there. But that is fine by me. They will bring the word of the Lord into our church regardless.

And I also look forward to a time of training in hearing God and prophesying next Saturday morning, 11 September. God continues to blow upon the embers of our heart and I can only expect there will be more blowing in the weeks to come.

So, stay tuned to our podcast if you would like to hear some teachings on the gifts of the Spirit (rather than read, though I might post some articles as well in the weeks to come). I will also post links to the teachings here at To Be Continued.