|Volume 21 Number 9 September 2019||
Acts 7 gives the account of the stoning of Stephen, one of the original deacons chosen in the previous chapter. At the end of the chapter, there is a passing reference to a man named Saul, who was present at the stoning. He was holding the coats of those stoning Stephen and watched with approval. Saul then continued to persecute the church, which led him to the high priest to request official authority to persecute Christians (Acts 8-9).
Saul was on the road to Damascus when he encountered Jesus, after which his life changed forever. He immediately began proclaiming Christ in the synagogues, and then Saul began traveling throughout the Mediterranean world preaching Christ and Him crucified. In so doing, he endured countless hardships and dangers along the way. Saul went from being Christianity’s biggest enemy to its biggest envoy, which serves as a powerful apologetic point.
His education in Tarsus and Jerusalem as well as his status as both a Jew and a Roman made him the perfect missionary to carry the message of the Messiah to the world, both to Jews and Gentiles. His influence is still with us to this day because of his contribution of several New Testament epistles as the apostle Paul.
In an effort to understand a passage of Scripture, two questions among others should be considered, namely, "Who is the speaker?" and "To whom is he speaking?" This will contribute greatly to the right exegesis of a passage of Scripture. We have no problem in understanding that it was God who was speaking to Noah instructing him to build an ark (Genesis 6). It was Abraham that God directed to offer up his son Isaac upon an altar (Genesis 22), and it was the rich young ruler that Jesus required to sell all that he had and give to the poor (Mark 10). This principle would be true in the study of the epistles that men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit wrote to various congregations and individuals. Some of the most misunderstood passages in the New Testament regarding the Holy Spirit are found in the Gospel according to John (chapters 14-16).
It is plain to see that the setting of these particular chapters in John is the occasion when Jesus was eating the Passover Supper with His twelve apostles (Matthew 26:20; Mark 14:17; Luke 22:14). So, Jesus was the Speaker and the twelve apostles were the ones whom Jesus was addressing when He spoke of the promise of another Comforter, who would be sent to help and assist them in the preaching of the Truth after His departure. Religious leaders of various denominations often apply what Jesus said to the apostles about the Holy Spirit to all believers in Christ.
This is the case among some teachers and writers who are members of the church, too. For example, in a devotional publication that provides wonderful inspirational thoughts for each day of the year, one writer asserted, “When Jesus went back to His Father, He sent the Holy Spirit as a Comforter and a Guide to teach us all things and to bring all things to our remembrance. We have the power on our spiritual journey. When faced with a mountain, don’t fear or cry out. Take action! Use the power He has given us. Say, ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me’ (Philippians 4:13).”
While recognizing the sincerity and integrity of the Christian who wrote the preceding words, it must be brought out that this is a misunderstanding and a misuse of this passage of Scripture that is found in John 14:26. It reads, “But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (ASV). Also it is recorded in John 16:13, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” The Holy Spirit, therefore, would assist the apostles in the following. (1) He would teach them all things. (2) The Holy Spirit would bring to their remembrance what Jesus wanted them to know. (3) He would guide them into all truth. (4) Also, the Holy Spirit would tell the apostles things that were to come.
In Luke 24:49, Jesus, prior to His ascension, spoke these words to His apostles: “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on High.” Luke records basically the same instructions as recorded in Acts 1:4. In Acts 1:5, He informed the apostles that they would “be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Jesus also said, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). In Acts 2:1-4, we find the record of the twelve apostles being filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost as the Lord had previously promised them.
The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:10, “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.” Paul made it very clear that which He and the other apostles taught were of the Holy Spirit as recorded in 1 Corinthians 2:12-13, which reads, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” The apostle also claimed he received what he proclaimed regarding the “mystery of Christ” “by revelation” from the Lord (Ephesians 3:3-6). Concerning the Gospel that Paul preached, he wrote in Galatians 1:11-12, “But I make known to you, brethren that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The writings of both the Old and New testaments came by the “inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
In the beginning of the church age, the inspired Word was first in men. Later, as the men who were inspired of the Holy Spirit began to write the various epistles, the inspired Word was both in men and in written form. Eventually, the time came when that “which is perfect is come,” and that which “is in part shall be done away” (1 Corinthians 13:9-10). That is to say, the revealed will of God for man was now complete and no longer partly in man and partly in written form. Eventually, Jude would write in his short epistle, “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (v. 3). The system of faith was once and for all time deposited, and there is no additional revelation from God needed. The work of the Holy Spirit in revealing all the truth necessary for our salvation was completed.
[Editor’s Note: Today, the message of the Holy Spirit is attainable solely through the inspired Word of God, which was validated by miracles (Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:3-4). Not only is the Word of God complete and the Holy Spirit no longer speaks directly to “earthen vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7), but miracles no longer occur (1 Corinthians 13:8-12) either to confirm new revelation (Galatians 1:6-9; Revelation 22:18-19) or to distinguish between messages from God, Satan or one’s own subjective emotions. Even members of the Lord’s church and especially members of the Lord’s church need to handle aright Scripture (2 Timothy 2:15 ASV) and refrain from exposing themselves as closet charismatics and Pentecostals. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]