Acts 6 and the Gift of the Holy Spirit (Part 2)
This article is a continuation of an examination Acts 6 and it’s role in identifying the gift of the Holy Spirit. (http://churchofchristarticles.com/blog/administrator/acts-63-6-and-the-gift-of-the-holy-spirit-part-1/) It is passage often used to eliminate any prophetic component to the gift of the Spirit. In part one we discussed the significance of the apostles’ laying hands on the seven chosen men. It is recommended you read that article in conjunction with the thoughts of this one.
This article will note four additional issues facing the proponents of a non-prophetic gift of the Spirit as they commonly use this passage.
The Seven Men were not just Full of the Spirit, but also Full of Wisdom, Faith, Grace and Power
The problems facing the common use of this passage go beyond just the uncertain arguments relating to the laying on hands. The issues become greater when one considers that in verses 3-4 the seven men, and Stephen in particular, are said to be not only full of the Spirit, but also of wisdom and faith. It is interesting to note that two of the gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12:9-11 are wisdom and faith.
In Old Testament prophecy being full of the Spirit is tied to the infilling of wisdom. In Isaiah 11:2 the Bible says:
“And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.”
The Spirit is labeled as the giver of wisdom, counsel, might, and knowledge. In earlier articles, we have already seen that same language attached to being full of the Spirit in Exodus. There Bezalel and Oholiab were said to have been filled with “skill, ability, knowledge, intelligence, and craftsmanship” (Exodus 31:3).
Further in Acts 6:8, Stephen is described as a man full of grace and power. The connection to Micah 3:8 cannot be missed: “I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord.”
- According to Micah, to be filled with power is to be filled with the Spirit
- Stephen was full of the Spirit in Acts 6:3
- Therefore, based on Micah 3:8, Stephen was full of power in Acts 6:3
- It was that power that led to his preaching and working of signs in Acts 6:8
The conclusion that must be drawn from that connection is that one who is full of power, grace, wisdom, and faith has access to the Spirit’s prophetic abilities because he is one who is full of the Spirit.
Stephen’s being Full of the Spirit in Acts 7 is Clearly Prophetic
A simply stated problem arises when Acts 7:55 is considered. There is no doubt that Acts 7:55 follows the pattern we have seen in every other reference of the infilling of the Spirit: “But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” The “he” of Acts 7:55 is Stephen. He is said to be “full of the Holy Spirit” which enables him to have a vision of the throne of God. Clearly, we once again have a connection between prophetic insight and being full of the Spirit. If Stephen’s being full of the Spirit in Acts 7:55 is a statement of prophetic ability, why does the exact same language about the same individual not have the same meaning? If it is simply because Acts 6:6 says the apostles’ laid hands on him, a stronger answer is needed (as we have shown).
Stephen’s Preaching was Directed by the “Wisdom” and “Spirit” of which he was Full
In case there was any remaining doubt about the nature of the Spirit and wisdom needed in Stephen and the other six men, look at Acts 6:10: “But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.” All parties admit that by verse 10, Stephen is an inspired preacher. The Bible states that his preaching came through the “wisdom” and “Spirit” he possessed.
It is a strained reading of Acts 6, at best, which makes his being “full of the Spirit and wisdom” in verse 3 have no connection to the wisdom and Spirit he possesses in verse 10.
Acts 6:3 only States the Fact of Indwelling, not its Function
At least one final problem remains for those who would dispute that the seven men to be chosen were prophetically gifted is that Acts 6:3 states a simple fact: The men must be full of the Holy Spirit. It does not state in any way the function of the infilling. In that regard it is unique from the verses that precede it and most of those that follow it. So far, every statement of a filling by God’s Spirit has been followed immediately with a prophetic role or statement of inspired action. Each verse has stated both the fact that a man was filled by the Spirit and the function that filling provided him. The problem with asserting that Acts 6:3 cannot include the miracles of the Spirit is that the Bible has provided no other meaning to the phrase. If “full of the Spirit” in Acts 6:3 does not mean prophetic powers, what does it mean? Which verse prior to Acts 6:3 introduces a non-prophetic filling into the doctrinal tapestry of the Bible?
Assuming that a non-prophetic infilling exists is not good enough. As the apostles do not explain to the church what it means to be “full of the Spirit,” the church must have already known what it meant. The truth is they did. They had seen it in the events of Acts 2:4 and Acts 4:8 and Acts 4:31. There was already an established meaning to the phrase. There was no other option on the table. If Acts 6:3 does not refer to a prophetic filling, there is no other understanding the church at Jerusalem could have known.
Those who hold that “full of the Spirit” in Acts 6:3 means an ordinary (non-miraculous/non-prophetic) work of the Holy Spirit for all Christians must find, prior to Acts 6:3, book, chapter, and verse proof that such a work has been described in scripture. Their task is to do more than to exclude the prophetic from Acts 6:3 – although they must do that. They must also prove that the position that being “filled with the Holy Spirit” is a non-prophetic function in scripture.Acts 6:3 simply does not state, by itself, what the function of the infilling of the Holy Spirit did for those seven men.
It should also be noted that being full of the Spirit was a needed qualification for a special function in the church at Jerusalem. If being “full of the Spirit” is the result of every Christian’s having received “the gift of the Spirit,” then what quality beyond simply being a Christian are the apostles instructing the church to find in those seven men? Their “good repute” is something that the Jerusalem church could identify and measure. Their “wisdom” is something that the church could witness, and again, measure. What evidence exists to measure the impact of one’s being “full of the Spirit” that is in no way prophetic in its influence? If all Christians are “full of the Spirit” at baptism, but the demonstration of the infilling is not the same in all people, the effect of the Spirit’s work must be demonstrable in some way. Further, as the non-prophetic indwelling view separates the effect of the Spirit’s indwelling from the effect of His influence only through the word, one’s being “full of the Spirit” is not simply a statement of the word’s influence on a man. This would necessitate that one’s being “full of the Spirit” has a demonstrable effect (which the Jerusalem saints could have used to identify qualified men) in the life of a Christian. For the non-prophetic indwelling proponent, few options short of the Calvinist’s direct influence exist that can be used to characterize the demonstrable, non-prophetic, non-“word only” influence of the infilling of the Holy Spirit
In summary, once one realizes that more than one reason exists for the apostles to lay hands on individuals the difficulties of this text evaporate. The language of verse 6 is the only perceived difficulty which would prevent one from understanding how the men of Acts 6:3 were full of the Spirit. The phrase in 6:3 means the same as it does in Acts 7:55 and every other passage noted so far.