The Gift of the Holy Spirit – True Beliefs of the Restoration Movement

Though unity has been sustained despite differences in understanding the gift of the Holy Spirit. In May 1834, Alexander Campbell presented his views of the Holy Spirit in the Millennial Harbinger (Vol 4; 170–172):

With many it is an easy matter to investigate and decide every subject. They have only to read a few texts of Scripture and hear a sermon from some popular preacher, and they are quite satisfied they understand the matter perfectly. One decides in favor of this theory, and another in favor of that, after a few days’, or sometimes a few hours’, reflection, and become as dogmatical as the pope. Others prefer the opinion of some favorite author or creed; and from their conviction of the learning, piety, and talents of those who have thought for them, they are willing to repose in full assurance that they are right, and to denounce all others, as in error who may falter in yielding unqualified assent to their borrowed opinions.

Many, indeed, can not take comprehensive views of any subject; and if they can only get a hold of a few simple ideas, they have no desire to extend their inquiries or their views on the subject. But there are some restive and inquisitive persons who are always prying into the most abstruse subjects, and are never satisfied till they get to the bottom of a subject, or have pushed their inquiries beyond the terra firma of revelation and experience.

For our own part, we are desirous to understand all that God has revealed, and to receive the exact ideas which are couched in the words which the Holy Spirit used.

I propose to institute a few inquiries and to attempt a Scriptural answer to them. Indeed, all that I now propose will be to ascertain the meaning of the sacred dialect on the Holy Spirit, and will, therefore exclude from our phraseology every scholastic term and phrase on this topic. Without further ceremony we proceed.

1. What is the meaning of the phrase, “the gift of the Holy Spirit”?

This phrase is found in the New Testament twice–in the Old Testament never. The gifts of the Holy Spirit is not a Scriptural phrase, and, therefore, we have nothing to say about it. We have said that the phrase is not found in the Old Testament: the idea is not, therefore, to be sought in that volume. It is a New Testament phrase, and its meaning must be found in the Living Oracles of the Apostles and Evangelists of Jesus Christ.

That we may have clear and certain knowledge on this subject, we shall submit facts only.

Fact 1. There are only the eight following words found in the approved Greek text, translated gift in the common version of the apostolic writings: dorea, dorema, doron, doma, dosis, merismos, charis, charisma.

Dorea occurs eleven times, and is used by Luke, John and Paul–dorema twice, used by Paul and James–doron eighteen times, used by Matthew, Mark, Luke and Paul–doma four times, used by Matthew, Luke and Paul–dosis once, used by James–merismos twice, used by Paul–charis occurs more than one hundred and fifty times, and used by Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter and Jude, in the common version mostly grace. It is rendered charity in the new version two or three times. (II. Cor. viii.) Charisma is found seventeen times, used by Paul and Peter. Now, of these doma and doron denote common gifts from man to man, from father to child, or religious sacrificial donations according to the law. But dorea and charisma are the words which we have now to consider.

Fact 2. When ‘spiritual gifts’ are spoken of, no other word is used but charisma–that is, where we have the phrase ‘spiritual gifts’ in the common version, we have charisma expressed or implied in the Greek.

Heb. ii. 4 is not an exception, for there it is distributions: common version, “gifts”–not “the gifts” of the Holy Spirit. The word here is merismos, found only twice–Heb. ii. 4 and iv. 12. In the last place it is translated “dividing asunder”–common version.

Fact 3. But when the gift of the Holy Spirit is spoken of, or, indeed, alluded to, no other word than DOREA is used by any writer who speaks of it.

Every particular gift of the Spirit spoken of, or alluded to, is designated by charisma; but ‘the gift of the Holy Spirit’ by dorea only. This is certainly worth something to those who wish to understand the Scriptures.

From this last fact the inference may be drawn, that a gift of the Spirit, or a spiritual gift, is not the same as the gift of the Holy Spirit, inasmuch as the sacred writers in their language never confounded them. Ought we not now to inquire what is the precise import of the words dorea and charisma?

That the English reader, curious to understand this matter, may be furnished with all the means in his power to understand for himself, we shall now give him, in order, all the passages where these words occur in the original; and first for dorea let him consult John iv. 10; Acts ii. 38; viii. 20; x. 45; xi. 17; Rom, v. 15, 17; II. Cor. iv. 15; Eph. iii. 7; iv. 7; Heb. vi. 4. From a careful inspection of these passages both in the common and new version, he will discover, that this term expresses and denotes the largest, freest, and best bounty of God. To express the bounty of God in its most extensive display over all [110] creation, in the apocryphal book of wisdom (chap. xvi. 25) this word is found–he pantatrophos sou dorea–‘thy all-nourishing bounty.’

Jesus uses it to the woman of Samaria to exalt her conceptions of God’s bounty. “If,” says he, “you knew the bounty of God”–“the gift of God.” Free gift is the fullest version of it which our language admits, according to Macknight; but this does not fully express it. It denotes the largest and freest gift of God.

Charisma next deserves our attention. The English reader will examine all the passages in which it is found when he inspects the following: Rom. i. 11; v. 15, 16; vi. 23; xi. 29; xii. 6; 1. Cor. i. 7; vii. 7; xii. 4, 9, 28, 30, 31; II. Cor. i. 11; I. Tim. iv. 14; II. Tim. i. 6; I. Pet. iv. 10.

This word has always some indefinite favor or gift as its import–a favor or a bounty; and, when used definitely, it is the particular favor or gift before mentioned. It is specific in its import, while dorea is rather generic. Hence, prophecy, speaking foreign languages, interpretation of foreign languages, power of working miracles are fully expressed by charisma. It might, indeed, be added, that dorea respects the bounty from which the gift flows; while charisma represents the thing, the favor, or benefit, given. But the splendid bequest, as well as the bounty which freely confers it, are also expressed by this term. Definition goes no farther.

We have this phrase, the gift of the Holy Spirit, as has been said, but twice, in all the apostolic writings–Acts ii. 38 and x. 45, both of which denote all that is comprehended in the promise of Joel, the Holy Spirit in all his miraculous powers. It is, indeed (Acts viii. 20), called ‘the gift [dorea] of God;’ and that gift, mentioned Acts x. 45, compared with that mentioned Acts ii. 28, is called by Peter (Acts xi. 17) ten isen dorean, the same gift.

Although, as has been said, this is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel, it is also represented as the Holy Spirit himself. See Acts viii. 15, 17, 19, from which it is very evident that, in the judgment of Peter, John and Simon, this gift was regarded as the Holy Spirit himself; and is also called ‘the gift of God.’

From all which the following conclusion is inevitable, that the phrase, ‘the gift of the Holy Spirit,’ means the Holy Spirit himself given, as foretold by Joel, and vouchsafed to Jews and Gentiles at the erection of the kingdom of the Messiah, and on their admission into it. But a question may here arise concerning what influences, or divine powers, the Holy Spirit displayed on the bodies, souls and spirits of those who received this gift, or in whom he made his abode. [emp. added]

About Scott J Shifferd

Minister, church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL. Husband and father of four. Email: ScottJon82[at]yahoo.com
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4 Responses to The Gift of the Holy Spirit – True Beliefs of the Restoration Movement

  1. coreydavis says:

    Scott,

    I’m having difficulty figuring out what Campbell meant, and since you said you agree with him, perhaps you can clarify for me.

    Let me just state the “popular” views on it and you can tell me if you agree with any of them:

    Position #1: The “gift of the Holy Spirit” was the miraculous imparted to those baptized with the Spirit, or who had an apostle lay their hands on them. Those who hold this position (like Robert Taylor, Jr. and Tom Bright) say that today we do no receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    Position #2: The “gift of the Holy Spirit” is the giving of the Spirit to literally indwell the Christian, even today. This has no miraculous abilities tied to it (this is my position, and I believe that of Gus Nichols).

    Position #3: Basically the same as above without the literal, personal indwelling (word only).

    Do any of those fit your position?

    Like

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