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 Vol. 3, No. 5 

Page 12

May, 2001

Since You Askedtypewriter

Baptism of
 the Holy Spirit

By Louis Rushmore

Would you please help me with Matt.3:11. John quotes to the people there present that Jesus will baptize "you" with the Holy Spirit. To whom was he referring? I know the apostles were the ones baptized on Pentecost, but I need help to explain this passage. Bob Douglas, California

Joel 2:28-3:2 prophesied that miraculous power would visit Jews and Gentiles at some magnificent event in the then future. The city of Jerusalem would figure prominently in the unfolding of these events. Young and old, male and female would be the recipients of miraculous power. It is clear from Acts 2:16-21 where the apostle Peter referred to Joel's prophecy, quoted it and applied it to the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the apostles (Acts 2:1-4) that Joel's prophecy included the baptism of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. Referring to Joel 2:28-3:2, one easily sees that others in addition to the apostles were to receive miraculous power, too (women, Gentiles, gifts of the Holy Spirit as opposed to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, Acts 8:14-18; Hebrews 2:4). However, the prophecy of Joel itself does not say in so many words the baptism of the Holy Spirit was intended for the apostles alone and that gifts of the Holy Spirit would be available through the imposition of apostolic hands on other Christians. One must turn to other passages such as Acts 2:16-21; 2:38; 8:14-18; Hebrews 2:4 to see that distinction.

John the Baptizer's reference to the baptism of the Holy Spirit in Matthew 3:11 is another instance where the specifics of who precisely would be the recipients is not stated in that passage. One must turn to other verses to see who specifically and only would be the recipients of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. How, though, could John utter that promise to such a diverse crowd present before him that day on the banks of the Jordan River. His audience was comprised of penitent souls to whom he administered his baptism (Matthew 3:5-6), ungodly Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 3:7) and some who would eventually become the apostles of Christ (John 1:29-40). In view of the different groups present in his audience, John spoke of three baptisms of which various ones would be recipients. The ungodly, impenitent persons present would receive the baptism of fire or hell fire (Matthew 3:10-12). The references to fire in verses 10 and 12 pertain to the destructive and negative force of fire, and so the reference to fire in verse 11 should also be understood to be negative and destructive; the baptism of fire is still future. Others present then received John's baptism in the Jordan River (verse 11), while others present, the apostles, would receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit (verse 11).

Jesus, in John 14-16, promised the baptism of the Holy Spirit exclusively to his apostles. Immediately before his Ascension, Jesus again promised the baptism of the Holy Spirit exclusively to his apostles (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). Acts 2:1-4 reveals that the apostles alone received the baptism of the Holy Spirit on that Pentecost (see Acts 1:26-2:4). It is evident that the baptism of the Holy Spirit distinguished the apostles (in quantity or quality or both) from others who were the recipients of gifts of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 12:12).

General references to the baptism of the Holy Spirit where the apostles are intended but not specified are Joel 2:28-3:2 and Matthew 3:11; that the apostles alone are meant though not specified in these verses is clear from other passages which do specify precisely who was to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Passages that specifically designate the apostles alone as the recipients of the baptism of the Holy Spirit are John 14-16; Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:8. Verses that show the apostles alone receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit are Acts 1:26-2:4. (It is a misnomer to call what Cornelius, his family and friends received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, since the baptism of the Holy Spirit was never specifically promised to anyone besides the apostles and the miraculous manifestation at Cornelius' house was a gift of the Holy Spirit, Acts 10:45; 11:17. It is true, though, that the manner of reception but not the degree of miraculous power received at Cornelius' house was similar to the baptism of the Holy Spirit received by the apostles.)

typewriter typewriter Great Apostasy to
 Precede Second Coming

By Louis Rushmore

I was reading 2 Thessalonians and I am confused on chapter 2 especially verse 8-9 "And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders," Is this two separate beings? "that wicked" is not Satan because he is "after the working of Satan" so who is he? and what does it mean "destroy with the brightness of His coming"? Thank you, David Peery

First century Christians supposed that Jesus Christ would execute his second coming within their lifetime. Various New Testament references attempt to disarm that first century erroneous conviction, such as 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 where the apostle Paul assures the living saints that deceased saints are not disadvantaged because they died before the Second Coming. In the second epistle to the Thessalonians, the apostle again tries to alleviate the misconception that Jesus Christ must necessarily come immediately. It was then as even now, as far as mortals know, the case that Jesus Christ could return soon while we yet live or at any time in the future. We just don't know when Jesus Christ is coming again and therefore must be prepared always (Matthew 24:36-44).

Second Thessalonians 2:1-2 identify the chapter's topic to concern the misgivings the Thessalonians had regarding the imminent return of Christ, and even that some would falsely persuade them of the soon approaching return of Jesus Christ. Verse three apprises the Thessalonians that "a falling away" or apostasy would occur before the return of Christ, so they could at that time be assured the imminence of Christ's return was not yet. Verses 4-12 give some details of the apostasy of which Paul spoke, plus the reassurance that Jesus Christ would be victorious over the apostates.

The King James Version rendering of verse eight is misleading as the translators capitalized "Wicked." Other versions of the Bible do not use capitalization here. Perhaps someone in particular will characterize this great apostasy, such as a chief antichrist. Exactly which apostasy is here addressed, whether it has transpired yet and who in particular may be this great wicked or lawless one is not precisely known and is a matter of varying application depending on which commentator one consults. Figurative references are attributed to Jesus Christ in the final victory.

typewriter typewriter Christ Preached
 to Spirits in Prison?

By Louis Rushmore

Brother Rushmore, We were studying this chapter in class last Wednesday night. Came to these verses and we really weren't sure what they meant especially the last part of verse 19, "preached to the spirits in prison." Would appreciate your help in understanding verse 19. Thank-you, Billy Roughton

The biblical reference in the inquiry is:

"For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water" (1 Peter 3:18-20, King James Version).

Most translations read about the same as the quotation above. Some read as below with the inclusion of the added word "now" in italics by the translators, which indicates their understanding that the spirits addressed were once the ungodly people who died in the universal flood of Noah's day, but these souls are now in "prison."

"in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water" (1 Peter 3:19-20, New American Standard).

Many commentators have presumed that following the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, our Lord descended into Hades and particularly to the chamber reserved for the unrighteous until the great Judgment. While there, they think, Jesus Christ preached to those incarcerated souls, either to offer them a second chance at redemption or to magnify their condemnation. However, nowhere in the Bible is there the least hint that a second chance following death is possible for any soul. This view, then, would be unique and contradictory to all else taught regarding the unalterable state of the dead respecting eternity. The word translated "preached" means to herald or proclaim, which is not usually associated with a negative message of condemnation.

Other commentators suppose that the verse under consideration amounts to a flashback to the 120 years while Noah was preparing the ark and during which time he had opportunity to preach to his wayward fellows. The idea is that Jesus Christ through Noah proclaimed a saving message, which would have become effective finally for actual redemption upon the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The apostle Peter also penned that Noah occupied the position as a preacher in his lifetime. "And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly" (2 Peter 2:5).

In this sense, the "spirits in prison" were not in "prison" when they were the recipients of preaching by Jesus Christ through Noah, but by the first century when Peter mentioned them, they were in "prison." See the following commentaries respecting the passage under review: Wycliffe; Matthew Henry; Barnes' Notes; Adam Clarke (and Genesis 6:22); McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia, "Hell, Christ's Descent Into"; James Burton Coffman. Each of them note that some have incorrectly construed the reference to mean Christ entered Hades, whereas the passage actually refers to the efforts of Noah, whose preaching was divine in origin.

typewriter typewriter What Is a Creed?

By Louis Rushmore

What is the definition of a creed (in the unscriptural sense)? I have seen a congregation adopt written rules of what to wear (specific articles of clothing) or who can use the building (what type of weddings, what type people can have showers) in written policy format, would that be a creed? (name withheld upon request)

Religiously, a creed is "a fixed formula summarizing the essential articles of the Christian religion" (Early Christian Creeds, 1972, p. 1). Such a creed is also defined as "a brief authoritative formula of religious belief" [Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, (Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated) 1993] or "an authoritative formulated statement of the chief articles of Christian belief" [Webster's Talking Dictionary, (Random House, Inc.) 1995]. Jesus described creeds in Matthew 15:9, "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."

The short answer, then, to your question is, "No." The things you mention do not pertain to either worship or one's manmade concept of the essential articles of the Christian religion.

On the other hand, there are a number of decisions that every congregation makes in the area of expediency which do not pertain to creeds, which often are written down. For instance, a time and place for worship and Bible classes must be decided, announced and is usually written (e.g., church signs, yellow pages, advertising, bulletins, etc.). Likewise, local decisions by the elders may be announced and even written respecting the use of the building other than for worship. At times, individual members may disagree with some of the decisions (e.g., attire for waiting on the Communion Table, etc.) of the elders, but the membership is obligated to follow the leadership of the eldership as it endeavors to guide the church (Hebrews 13:7, 17).

typewriter typewriter What Is Public Sin

By Louis Rushmore

What is the difference between private and public sins? I realize that most say that sins of a private nature can be forgiven by praying to God for forgiveness, while sins of a public nature need to be repented of. I realize that God doesn't hear the prayers of Christians who have committed public sins. If a man told a lie in public, yet no one knew it was a lie, but he and God, would that be considered a public sin? If a man didn't give as he should in the offering would that be considered a public sin? Are public sins, sins that are done in public in which people identify as a sin or do public sins also include sins done in public, in which only God and the person doing them, know to be a sin? Also, would breaking the law by going above the speed limit be considered a sin? Would that be public or private? I realize that many brethren probably go above the speed limit, but would that be considered a sin? I realize that we are to obey the laws of the land, but yet I ask would it be a sin to break the law of speeding?

The context of Matthew 18:15-17 makes the distinction between what we might call private sins and public sins, primarily by defining private sins.

"Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican."

A private sin is one that is not generally known, though one or more individuals may be aware of it. Contrasted with what we might style as a private sin, we would acknowledge one's sin to be public when it is generally known (by the church in this case or by the community). Private sins might occur out of sight and away from the knowledge of others, or private sins might occur in a public setting in which neither the community nor the church notice or are aware of the sins. Public sins, irrespective of whether they were committed out of sight of the public or the church or committed openly, are considered public because either the community or the church or both are aware of those sins.

In both the case of private and public sins, Christians who sin must repent of those sins and pray for forgiveness. The difference, though, is the privacy or publicity with which repentance and prayer is pursued, respectively depending on whether the sins are private or public. Take care of private sins privately and public sins publicly. Essentially, the degree to which one's sins are known is the same degree to which a Christian's repentance and prayer should be manifest to those around him. (Unbaptized believers, however, cannot simply repent and pray for forgiveness, because they must first obey the Gospel before they can approach God this way, Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9.)

Sin is the transgression of God's law (1 John 3:4). God's law includes our amenability to civil law (Romans 13:1), which if we resist, we will be condemned (Romans 13:2).

"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation."

The only circumstances under which we may resist the laws of the land are when we must appeal to the higher law of God because civil law requires us to commit sins (Acts 4:18-20; 5:28-29). Yet, in such cases, we are only exempted from compliance with the specific laws that require us to violate the law of God.

Mankind typically distinguishes between what he considers grievous sins and other sins of lesser significance. This, however, is a fatal error since God simply states through the pen of the apostle Paul that the "wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23), without making a distinction in sins. Further, heinous sins like murder and adultery are listed with lying, the consequence of which if one greets God in eternity guilty of any of these sins is one's eternal ruin (Revelation 21:8).

Is mankind amenable to the laws of the land that do not conflict with the laws of God (Romans 13:1-2)? Are speed limits laws of the land that do not conflict with the laws of God? Can mankind violate the laws of the land that do not conflict with the laws of God without being subject to condemnation (Romans 13:2)? Therefore, can one violate speed, which are laws of the land that do not conflict with the laws of God, without experiencing divine (and possibly civil) condemnation? (For the child of God, there is a difference between ignorant sin, 1 John 1:7, and willful sin, Hebrews 10:26.)

Copyright 2001 Louis Rushmore. All Rights Reserved.
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