Vol. 7, No. 1
Since You Asked
~ Page 13 ~
Names may be included at the discretion of the Editor unless querists request their names be withheld. Please check our Archive for the answer to your question before submitting it; there are over 1,000 articles in the Archive addressing numerous biblical topics. Submit a Question to GGO.
How should I respond to my investigation of biblical Christianity (The church of Christ) if there are "couples" (both straight and gay cohabiting) going to service and Bible study? Thanks. Sean
Sin in the camp of the Israel of God is not a new thing (Joshua 7), and sin unattended among the people of God will have an adverse affect on other children of God as it did in Joshua's day. Sin is still sin irrespective of who is committing it. Churches that are unresponsive to ongoing sin in their midst are guilty before God (1 Corinthians 5:1-13). Once, I was familiar with a congregation that did nothing for over a decade about a member who was an adulterous, and who bore and reared two children. This sin was not addressed because her family was prominent in the congregation and because the elders were afraid that the church would split if church discipline were exercised. The congregation's laxity toward this sin encouraged one or more young members to practice fornication. For ten years, I encouraged and taught the church to do the right thing, though I could not immediately prevail on the church to police itself. Finally, some time after I was no longer associated with that particular congregation, it withdrew fellowship from the adulterous woman.
As Christians, we should hate the sin and love the sinner, a difficult posture to assume. We need to call upon one another to repent of sins and be ready always to forgive those who repent of their sins (Luke 17:3-4; 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15).
What about a woman saying amen (out loud, not screaming, not intending to bring attention to herself) during the assembly? This particular woman has worshiped with a mixed race congregation where women do this.
The English word "Amen" appears 78 times in the Bible. The first two occurrences of it being uttered are attributed, by God's decree, to a woman (Numbers 5:22). The next twelve occurrences of "Amen" being uttered are attributed to "all the people," inclusive of both men and women (Deuteronomy 27). The Greek word sometimes translated "Amen" appears 153 times in the New Testament and more often is translated "Verily." Both the Hebrew and Greek words for "Amen" mean "so be it."
Women uttering "Amen" at divine bidding in the Old Testament references above occurred during the time Judaism was effective wherein women were prohibited speaking publicly in the assembly. That same prohibition of women speaking in the public assembly persists under Christianity. "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law," (1 Corinthians 14:34).
Since the Old Law (Judaism) did not forbid a woman saying "Amen" when assembled with the people of Israel though women were prohibited from otherwise speaking in the assembly, likewise the prohibition of women under Christianity from speaking in the assembly does not forbid women from saying "Amen" in the assembly. This is especially true since the prohibition of women speaking in the public assembly refers to Judaism respecting the prohibition (and by implication the permission respecting "Amen").
Today, few men say "Amen" in the assembly, and fewer women are in the habit of saying "Amen" in the assembly. Formerly, I have known of a woman who regularly said "Amen" in the assembly. The congregation was uncomfortable with that scenario and we may be, too. However, as far as the Bible is concerned (and that is where our religious trust should lie), it is not sinful for a woman (or a man) to say "Amen" in an unobtrusive, non-disruptive way. However, I am not encouraging women to begin saying "Amen" aloud in our congregations, since it is not customary or culturally common among many of our congregations today (and would make many feel uncomfortable). Yet, it is not sinful to do so. "Amen!"
The question is posed that if only baptized believers can receive the "gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38), then how does one account for the fact that Cornelius (and those with him) received the "gift" of the Holy Spirit before baptism (Acts 10:44-48). Ordinarily, according to Acts 2:38, reception of the "gift of the Holy Spirit" occurred after one was baptized in the baptism of the Great Commission. The time and place of the reception of the "gift of the Holy Spirit" was not simultaneous to one's baptism, but came afterward through the imposition of apostolic hands and prayer (Acts 8:14-17). When the apostle Paul traveled to Ephesus, he intended to impart the "gift of the Holy Spirit" (miraculous power) to 12 disciples there. However, when he inquired whether they had received the Holy Spirit yet, they were not aware of the Holy Spirit. Since the "gift of the Holy Spirit" was announced in conjunction with the teaching of the Great Commission baptism, Paul inquired into what baptism they had been baptized if they were not aware of the Holy Spirit. Because they had been baptized into the baptism of John the Baptist when that particular baptism was no longer valid, having been replaced with the Great Commission baptism, Paul baptized them in the baptism Peter preached in Acts 2:38. Then, Paul imparted to these disciples the "gift of the Holy Spirit" or the ability to perform miracles (Acts 19:1-7).
However, the exception to the ordinary procedure in the first century to receive the "gift of the Holy Spirit" or miraculous power by non-apostles occurred at the home of Cornelius. Acts 10-11 detail how that the apostle Peter reluctantly went to a Gentile's home and preached the Gospel to him and those with him before baptizing them. However, it was not until Cornelius and those assembled with him received the "gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 10:45; 11:17) that Peter was compelled to baptize those Gentiles. Chapter Eleven chronicles how that the apostle Peter was called on the carpet or criticized for taking the Gospel to Gentiles and baptizing them. It was that God gave those Gentiles the "gift of the Holy Spirit" that compelled those Jewish Christians to reluctantly accept the fact that God determined to include Gentiles in the Gospel. Acts 10-11 make it abundantly clear that the reason for the exception to the rule for reception of the "gift of the Holy Spirit" in the first century was to compel biased Jewish Christians to accept God's purpose to save the Gentiles, too.
Since miracles were slated to end when they accomplished the purpose for which they were given by God (Mark 16:20; 1 Corinthians 13:8-13; Ephesians 4:11-14), and since miracles have accomplished that purpose (Hebrews 2:3-4; John 20:30-31) by providing the completed Word of God (Bible), miracles are no longer needed and have ceased. The ordinary way for the "gift of the Holy Spirit" to be received was through imposition of apostolic hands and prayer, but since the apostles are dead, that cannot happen. Only the apostles were the recipients of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, for only to them was it promised (John 14-16; Acts 1:8), and only they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:26-2:4, 7, 14). Therefore, no one today should expect to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The exception to the way in which the "gift of the Holy Spirit" was received is not applicable beyond the admission of Gentiles to the church of God. Therefore, no one should expect to receive the "gift of the Holy Spirit" directly from heaven.