The most popular way to explain the works of God are to attribute His works to the most mysterious workings of miracles and the Holy Spirit. Is it right to credit every single event in life to miracles and, or the Spirit rather than to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit who work by providence in the Creation? Does the Holy Spirit teach by Scripture that He works in believers of Christ by giving new spiritual concepts, strong feelings, hunches, or dreams? Let’s turn to the Scripture for what the Spirit says about how He operates, what the purpose of miracles are, and how the Spirit used miraculous spiritual gifts.
The Scriptures reveal many works of the Spirit. The Spirit operates by speaking, dwelling, knowing, teaching, strengthening, leading, and guiding (1 Cor. 2:10-11, 1 Tim. 4:1, 1 Cor. 3:16-17, Rom. 8:27, Eph. 3:16, Rom. 8:14, and John 16:13). The Spirit supplies salvation (Phil. 1:19) and has sealed Christians unto salvation (Eph. 4:30, 1:13), because He is who sanctifies (2 Thess. 2:13), saves (Tit. 3:5), justifies (1 Tim. 3:16), and gives life (2 Cor. 3:6). Also, the Holy Spirit witnesses to Christians (Heb. 10:15), leads Christians as God’s sons (Rom. 8:16), and prompts the love of God that is in Christian hearts (Rom 5:5). In all of this, the Spirit does not control man (Gal. 5:16-26). It is man who chooses to “walk by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16, Eph. 5:18). The Holy Spirit also makes intercession for Christians (Rom. 8:26-27).
Regarding the working of the Spirit on Christians, some operations are upon all Christians and some were only upon a select few. Not everyone received the same gifts or works of the Spirit, and this is certainly true in regards to the Spirit coming upon Mary for her to be with the child, Jesus (Matt. 1:18, 20; Luke 1:35). Not everyone who has the Holy Spirit conceives a child especially the Christ.
The most supernatural and miraculous workings of the Holy Spirit were through people for one specific purpose to establish the Spirit’s revelation of the Word (John 16:12-13). Miracles in the Scriptures have one most important purpose, and this is to confirm those who spoke for God and the message they delivered (Mark 16:20, John 20:30-31, Heb. 2:3-4). The Lord Jesus told the Apostles that the Spirit would come in Jesus’ name teaching the Apostles all things, bringing to remembrance all that Jesus said, and guiding them into all Truth by speaking to them (John 14:26, 16:13). Miracles confirmed those revelation of the Gospel. Referring to this revelation, Peter stated by the Spirit that, “His [God’s] divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). Knowing this passage and understanding that God’s revelation has been recorded in the Scriptures, it is clear that for the Scriptures to make one complete and equipped unto every good work, then all revelation is found in the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Now, let everyone keep in mind the completion of the faith was “once for all delivered” (Jude 3).
One of the most misunderstood and often twisted subjects in the Bible is that the promises of the Holy Spirit in John 14-16 were for the Apostles and not for all Christians. In John 14-16, Jesus taught about the purpose of a coming Comforter to the Apostles on the night of His arrest. To understand John 14:26 as being for all Christians refutes John 14:26 as being Truth. How? The Holy Spirit was to teach the Apostles all things. If this revelation from the Spirit was for all Christians, then Christians shall know all things by the Spirit’s direct revelation to each person apart from Scripture. Therefore there is no reason to even have Scripture if everyone receives instruction directly from the Spirit of God. This false interpretation stands in contrast to God’s breath, the Scriptures, which are able to make one complete unto all good works according to 2 Timothy 3:16-17. It is true that the Spirit did speak directly to Philip, Peter, Paul, and all the Apostles and prophets (Eph. 3:4-5, Acts 8:29, 10:19, and 11:12), and the revelation of the Gospel of Christ was completed by them into the Scriptures.
There are denominations of Christendom who believe that the miraculous spiritual gifts of speaking in tongues, prophesying, and so forth are essential for Christians even unto salvation. These gifts consist of word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healings, wonders, prophecy, discerning of spirits, kinds of languages, and interpretation of languages (1 Cor. 12). These miraculous gifts from the Spirit were for the confirmation of the message of Christ (Heb. 2:2-4), which the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16).
The idea that these gifts are essential for salvation stands in contrast to what the Spirit teaches through the Scriptures. The church in Rome did not have these spiritual gifts (Rom. 1:11), and still they had the Spirit and they were still saved (Rom. 8:9, 24). Look at John the Baptist. He was filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he did no miracles (Luke 1:15, John 10:41). Though under the old Law, who would say that he was not important and not saved?
The truth is that those who did miracles were not more spiritually mature or elite for doing them as many today claim for themselves with false claims for gifts. The Jewish High Priest Caiaphas spoke by inspiration, but plotted to put Jesus to death and tried Christ (John 11:45-53). Also, Judas Iscariot did miracles and betrayed the Lord (Matt. 10:1-12). Peter acted with partiality though he prophesied and wrote two epistles of Scripture (Gal. 2:11-14). The Corinthians had the spiritual gifts, but they were still carnal (1 Cor. 3:1-2). These examples certainly show no elitism or maturity connected with gifts and certainly not such being necessary for salvation. The Lord said, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by your name, and by your name cast out demons, and by your name do many mighty works?’ And then will I profess unto them, ‘I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity’” (Matt. 7:22-23). There will be those who claim these gifts who will be damned. On top of these Scriptures, take a look at charismatic leaders and see the many divisions regarding faith and practice among them. Should not they be united since they all have the Spirit and miraculous gifts like prophesy? This fact does not refute their claim, but shows that most of the groups making the claim are lying or delusional. If only a few leaders and, or groups have the Spirit while most are false, how can anyone know which are right? One must go back to the Scriptures.
The truth is that these miraculous spiritual gifts were limited to those who received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is the “gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:1-21, 10:44-46, 11:14-17) and those who the Apostles laid their hands on (Acts 6:3-8, 8:14-17. 19:1-9). The idea that Holy Spirit baptism is essential for every Christian to be saved is easily refuted. If everyone must receive the Holy Spirit and the miraculous spiritual gifts by baptism of the Holy Spirit, then the laying on of hands by the Apostles would be pointless and that this must not have been necessary at all (Acts 8:14-17). See, the baptism of the Holy Spirit only occurs twice in Scripture and implied another time, and thus this happened three times as far as the Scriptures reveal. These occurrences were for the Apostles, Cornelius’ household, and the last Apostle, Paul. The baptism of the Spirit was promised by John the Baptist to come by Jesus (Matt. 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33, Acts 1:5, 1:8). Only a select few would have the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:46-49, Acts 1:5, 8, 11:15-16). Add to this that there is only one baptism for all Christians, which is water baptism in the name of the Lord (Eph. 4:5, 5:26, Acts 10:47-48), then it is clear that Holy Spirit baptism was only for a select few and it has ceased. With the end of Holy Spirit baptism and no Apostles to lay hands on any one since no one can meet the Apostles’ qualification today to “one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection” (Acts 1:20-22). Therefore, there is no way for one to have these spiritual gifts, which were only to confirm revelation in the first place.
There is no way for miraculous gifts to exist today and there is no need since the message has been completely revealed and confirmed by the miracles, which is the purpose of miracles. The miraculous gifts served the purpose of confirming the Spirit-guided Scriptures, which are all-sufficient unto all things for life and godliness (2 Tim. 3:16-17, 2 Pet. 1:3). The ceasing of miraculous gifts is as 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 revealed that the gifts of being able to prophesy, speak in other languages, and have knowledge would cease being only in part until that which is the “complete”, “perfect” revelation had come. “Perfect” is from the Greek word telion. The Greek word telion is only used three other times to refer to God’s Will (Rom. 12:2) and His Word (James 1:17, 25), so it makes sense that the completion of the “perfect” would be the completion of the written Word, the Will of God.
As the Scriptures present, there are numerous operations of the Spirit for which the Spirit still does today though the Spirit no longer operates miraculously through men to reveal revelation from God. Christians should rejoice for all the great blessings that result from the Spirit’s working, and that the Spirit is so great and powerful that He does not have to continue establishing the Gospel every century by miraculous gifts in people, because the Gospel was once for all established in the 1st century (Jude 3).
Coming out of a charismatic church which ‘burnt’ me with all their multiple radical practices, I have to confess your post encouraged me heavily. I know many of my charismatic friends will no doubt denounce your view, but I’ve tried to be objective in my own stance over recent years, and not allow my previous experience to colour my future doctrine. But I have to agree that I can find little basis in scripture to truly support the whole “Baptism in the Spirit” concept they push out so heavily. How can it ever be that any Christian could only have a small part of the Holy Spirit at the point of salvation, and would somehow then have to learn afterwards (if *fortunate* enough to get into a charismatic church to do so!!) that s/he actually was only “half” saved and required something more from the Holy Spirit to complete their walk somehow. And if speaking in tongues was something for ALL Christians then it should happen at the point of salvation, not something that has to be “requested” from the Spirit later. I find no mention anywhere after Acts where Paul states that we are to seek additional gifts from the Holy Spirit post conversion. As you pointed out, he was given such gifts in order to undertake his special apostolic ministry, and just because he talks about them to others doesn’t (IMHO) mean we should take it that he was saying that when we receive Christ we will still be incomplete unless we obtain them. Since the role of the Holy Spirit is to point us to Jesus and NOT himself, He is not likely to have us getting ourselves in knots trying to get him to perform to our desires and provide us with gifts we don’t require. A tough topic – thanks for posting it. Blessings, TKR. :)
c’mon baby, get it together!