What Saith The Scripture?
"Understandest what thou readest?" (Acts 8:30)
James W. Adams
The Failing on of the Holy Spirit?
QUESTION: In the days of the early church, when people were converted, the Holy Spirit fell on them as on Cornelius and his house and seemed to generate something extra special (extra powers). This does not seem to work on anyone but the "Pentecostals" today. Why? D. M., Ohio.
In the days of the early church, when people were converted, the Holy Spirit did not fall on all of them as it did on Cornelius and his house. In fact, it cannot be shown from the New Testament that the Holy Spirit ever fell upon people in those days in the same sense and with the same results as it did upon Cornelius and his house, with the exception of the twelve apostles on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14) and Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles at some unrecorded time (implied in 2 Cor. 12: 11).
Furthermore, a careful reading of Acts 10 and 11 will show that the Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius and his house for reasons other than those which obtained in the case of the apostles on the day of Pentecost, and in the case of Paul. Each of these cases (the apostles -- including Paul, and Cornelius and his house) had purposes which were peculiar to them and which did not obtain in the other cases of conversion recorded in the New Testament or in any case of conversion today.
The apostles received the Holy Spirit in baptismal measure (John 3:34; Matt. 3: 11; Acts 1:1-5, 26; 2:1.4) in order to qualify them to be the Lord's witnesses, ambassadors, and messengers (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7-13; Acts 1:8; 2 Cor. 5:18-20; Acts 26:16-18) in the revelation of His will to mankind and to enable them to perform miracles by means of which they were confirmed as Heaven's messengers and their message as Heaven's will (Mark 16:14-20; Heb. 2:1-4; John 3:1, 2; Acts 4:13-16).
The purpose for the occurrence of another such falling on of the Holy Spirit in connection with the conversion of Cornelius and his house is necessarily inferred from the use made of the event by Peter, apostle of Christ. Though the commission of Jesus required the proclamation of the gospel of salvation to 64 every creature, in every nation, in all the world" (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15, 16; Luke 24:46, 47), probably seven years had passed and no Gentile had been offered salvation through Christ by the apostolic witnesses. It required an angelic visitation to Cornelius, a miraculous vision to Peter on the housetop in Joppa, and the miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit (as on the day of Pentecost) on Cornelius and his house to convince Peter, the Lord's apostle, that the provisions of the gospel were for Jew and Gentile alike on precisely the same basis (Acts 10: 1-48) Furthermore Peter used the fact of the Holy Spirit's falling upon Cornelius and his house "as on us (the apostles) at the beginning" to prove to the Jewish Christians at Jerusalem that God had indeed 61 to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life" on the same basis as he had the Jews (Acts 11:1-18).
What About Today?
The work of the apostles on earth has long since been done, completed. The will of Christ has been completely revealed and confirmed (Jude 3; Heb. 2:14). Both Jews and Gentiles alike have been confirmed by miraculous gifts given to each alike by the Holy Spirit as proper recipients on the same basis of the saving grace of God through Christ. The Gentiles have long since been 14 sealed (Gk. sphragidzo - 'stamped with a seal, confirmed') with the Holy Spirit of promise." (Eph. 1: 13.) There exists, therefore, no necessity for a "falling on" Of the Holy Spirit as at the house of Cornelius. God created the first man and woman by miracle, but now brings people into the world and to maturity through procreative law. In like manner, at the beginning of the gospel age, God utilized miraculous manifestations of the Holy Spirit's power to bring into existence and develop to maturity the spiritual body of Christ (Col. 1: 18), but now perpetuates it in the world through "the law of the Spirit of life." (See: Rom. 8:1-4; Eph. 4:7-16; 1 Cor. 12:1 to 13:13.)
D. M. of Ohio is wrong; "Pentecostals" are not the only ones professing to enjoy miraculous outpourings of the Holy Spirit. One of the most prominent members, worldly-wise, of professed churches of Christ in our time, Pat Boone, makes a similar claim in his new book, "A New Song." Both Pat Boone and the "Pentecostals" make spurious claims, claims without foundation in fact. What they have is neither miraculous nor Holy Spirit induced. New Testament miracles were always empirically demonstrated; they were "signs." (Heb. 2:1-4; Mark 16:20.) Neither Pat Boone's nor the "Pentecostals' " so-called "miracles" (tongue speaking, etc.) are susceptible of empirical demonstration as miracles, hence are "signs" only of spiritual self-delusion and pernicious religious error.
Major Premise: A proposition which can be empirically demonstrated is not debatable.
Minor Premise: Miracles are susceptible of empirical demonstration.
Conclusion: Therefore, an empirical demonstration of a claim to the possession of miraculous powers renders the question of the possession and exercise of such Holy Spirit induced powers in our time non-debatable, beyond controversy.
Therefore, when Pat Boone, Oral Roberts, "Pentecostals " et al empirically demonstrate (as did Christ, the apostles, and other spiritually gifted people of the apostolic period) miracle working power (i.e. work the same kind of miracles in the same way), we shall cease to controvert their claims. Until they do, we must relegate them to the class to which all other pseudo miracle workers of the ages, religious and otherwise, properly belong.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 25, pp. 8-9