Acts 6 and the Gift of the Holy Spirit (Part 2)

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.

Full of the Spirit.

Full of the Spirit.

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.”

  1. According to Micah, to be filled with power is to be filled with the Spirit
  2. Stephen was full of the Spirit in Acts 6:3
  3. Therefore, based on Micah 3:8, Stephen was full of power in Acts 6:3
  4. 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.

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Acts 6:3-6 and the Gift of the Holy Spirit – Part 1

Acts 6:3-6 and the Gift of the Holy Spirit – Part 1

Acts 6 is another important passage in one’s understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit in the church. As noted in the comments of articles on Acts 5:12 and 5:32, the argument for the non-prophetic indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the church makes an important use of the events of Acts 6.

Laying on of the hands.

Laying on of the hands.

Most in the church agree that the Bible teaches it was only through the laying on of an apostle’s hands that the prophetic powers of the Holy Spirit were passed on to first-century Christians.  That truth being established, it is in verse 3 that an apparent difficulty arises. Acts 6:3 lists being full of the Holy Spirit as one of the qualifications of the seven men that the Jerusalem church was to identify. However, those men are not said to have the apostles lay their hands on them until Acts 6:6: “These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.”

  1. If it is the case that only by the laying on of an apostle’s hands a man could receive the powers of the Holy Spirit (And we believe that to be the case).
  2. If it is also the case that being full of the Spirit implies prophetic abilities (And we have established in other articles that to be the case in every verse prior to Acts 6).
  3. How is it possible that these seven men were full of the Spirit before the apostles laid their hands on them?

The question is valid and at first glance makes a compelling case for re-evaluating our understanding of one’s being “full of the Holy Spirit.” If it is possible to be “full of the Spirit” with no connection to the apostolic ministry, then the Holy Spirit must have some work in the lives of the saints beyond the prophetic.

However, there are several points that must be considered before admitting to that conclusion. This article will examine the first of those points.

The Laying on of Hands has More Than One Purpose in the Bible

At the heart of the objection to a prophetically empowered gift of the Holy Spirit made from this passage is the belief that Acts 6:6 means that the apostles would grant prophetic powers to these seven men to fill the role of attending to the widows. As a part of their initiation as servants of the church, the seven men would become the first people beyond the apostles with prophetic abilities.

However, that argument is sound only if it can be established that there was only one reason that the apostles would lay hands on the seven. The truth of the matter is that the laying on of hands was a well-established practice among the ancients. Its presence is found several times in the Bible. Further, it had an established significance completely unrelated to the giving of the Holy Spirit.

Timothy provides an interesting case study. He was an inspired preacher of the early church. The Bible clearly states that he received that prophetic ability through the laying on of the apostle Paul’s hands:

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:6-7).

Yet, there is another statement of Timothy’s having hands laid on him:

“Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you” (1 Timothy 4:14).

These verses describe both the manner (“through the laying on my hands”) and the time (“when the council of elders laid their hands on you”) of Timothy’s receiving the prophetic endowment of the Holy Spirit. While the specific details of the ceremony mentioned are not described we do know that two groups of people laid their hands upon Timothy. We know that Paul did so to empower him with the “gift of God.” The purpose of the elders’ touch on Timothy was for a purpose beyond that of granting the Spirit’s power to Timothy. It was likely as sign of commission or endorsement of his work (Compare also Genesis 48:14, 17; Numbers 27:23; Mark 10:16; Acts 13:3; 1 Timothy 5:22).

For what purpose then did the apostles lay hands on the men in Acts 6? Read their own words:

“Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty” (Acts 6:3).

Question: “When did the apostles appoint them to the duty and what was the indication that they had done so?

The answer is clear. Verse 6 is the time and manner in which the apostles appointed those seven men to the duty.

This ceremony stands in sharp contrast to the two mentioned examples of the apostles’ laying on of hands to deliver the Spirit’s power to Christians. Notice all three passages in succession:

  1. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. (Acts 6:6)
  2. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:17)
  3. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. (Acts 19:6)

Do you notice what is missing from Acts 6:6? Why is no statement found in Acts 6:6 that the seven received the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues or an indication that others could see the Spirit’s power in them as Simon could in Acts 8:18?

The answer is simple: Because verse 3 already told us those seven had the Holy Spirit.

What we have then is a phrase – “full of the Spirit”— which has but one meaning in the Bible and a phrase – “laying on of hands” – which has multiple meanings. We have evidence that the second phrase has a particular usage when connected to the Holy Spirit (cp. Acts 8:17; Acts 19:6) and the evidence indicating that usage is missing from Acts 6. Further we also have a statement of purpose – “whom we will appoint to this work”—which fits another established meaning of the phrase “laying on of hands.” Sound judgment, then, demands that we make use of the known, allowable usage of laying on of hands and steer clear of crafting a previously unknown meaning to the Bible phrase “full of the Holy Spirit.”

Discussion continued with part 2…

Acts 6 and the Gift of the Holy Spirit (Part 2)

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Then Jesus Was…Tempted By The Devil

Then Jesus Was…Tempted By The Devil

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Matthew 4:1

Believe it or not, this passage comforts me greatly.  Here we have Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God himself, being tempted by Satan!  And he overcame those temptations!  He did not give in and sin!  Man, I can’t tell you how much that encourages me!

Lost in a wilderness?  Jesus has been there and knows the way out.

Lost in a wilderness? Jesus has been there and knows the way out.

Why?  Because I now know that Jesus understands what I am going through.  The Bible says:

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery…Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Heb. 2:14-15, 17-18).

And again,

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  (Heb. 4:15-16)

Jesus was tempted just like you and me.  He knows how it feels.  He understands the struggle.  He’s been there and done that.  He overcame those temptations by knowing and obeying God’s Word (Matt. 4:1-11), and so can we.  Not only that, but when we fail and penitently cry out to God for forgiveness (1 John 1:7-10; Acts 8:22), Jesus – our High Priest, our Mediator – is at the right hand of the throne of God saying, “Father, I know what Jon is going through.  I’ve been there.  I was tempted in the same way.  He is pleading for mercy and is trying to do better.  Be merciful.  Be gracious.”

What comfort!  What love!  What hope this gives us in the struggle we face!

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