By Whose Authority? Does any Man Change it?

By Whose Authority? Does any Man Change it?

Last article we noticed the impact of the question the Jewish council asked the apostles in Acts 4. “By what power or what name have you done this?” They understood that religious acts could not be done without God’s authority. Today we make application of this question by asking several questions.

The Lord’s Supper

Consider these Biblical facts. (1) The Lord commanded observing the Lord’s supper—do this in remembrance of Me.

By whose Authority do you live?

By whose Authority do you live?

(2) The Lord’s supper was given as the primary reason the church assembled on the first day of the week—it was even placed above the preaching of Paul (Acts 20:7). Paul also shows in 1 Cor. 11:29-33 that the first century church came together to eat the Lord’s supper, and the Greek and later translations show they came together every Sunday (1 Cor. 16:2).

Now here is the question. Jesus put the weekly Lord’s supper in the church. By whose authority or in what name have denominations changed it? Think about this!

Baptism by Immersion

The Bible clearly shows that in baptism one goes down into the water (Acts 8:38) and is baptized. Paul states in Romans 6:3-4 that when one is baptized he is buried in the water. After baptism he comes up out of the water (Acts 8:39).

Here is the question. Jesus, the One who has all authority, taught that every nation should be baptized (Matt. 28:19), and the Bible shows that baptism was a complete immersion in water. By whose authority or in what name have denominations changed this? Think about it!

Baptism Essential to Be Saved

The Bible affirms that for one to be saved he must be baptized. The saved person is one who believes and is baptized (Mark 16:16), and that in baptism one’s sins are washed away (Acts 22:16). Baptism saves us (1 Pet. 3:21).

Now here is the question. The One who has all authority revealed that for one to be saved he must be baptized. By whose authority have frail humans changed this and substituted a sinner’s prayer in its place? Think about this!

Take this principle and apply it to every doctrine which separates one religious body from another. When the church was established there were no denominations for they all taught what Jesus taught (1 Cor. 1:10; 4:17). Denominations would cease to exist if they dealt with this question. Jesus taught only one doctrine, and there was unity. By whose authority have mortals changed His teachings? Think about it!

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The Gift of the Holy Spirit (Part 4)

The Gift of the Holy Spirit (Part 4)

The Promise of the Gift of the Holy Spirit

There is another strong piece of evidence in Acts 2 as to the meaning of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter states that the respondents to his sermon would receive the gift because, as verse 39 says, “[T]he promise is for you . . .” We know then that the gift of the Holy Spirit is a matter of biblical promise. That means that somewhere in the Bible’s text prior to Acts 2, God promised the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who obeyed the gospel.

There is only one Old Testament passage that could fulfill that demand: Joel 2:28-32.

  • Peter establishes that the events of Acts 2 are the direct fulfillment of the promise of Joel 2 (Acts 2:16-21).
  • It is the only Old Testament passage directly quoted and applied to Holy Spirit’s work in the church.
  • And Acts 2 is the last time any Bible prophet ever referred to the Old Testament to explain the Holy Spirit’s work.

Joel 2 is the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Further, there is another point that needs to be emphasized in this context. Those who believe the gift of the Holy Spirit is a non-prophetic blessing are caught in a bind regarding finding a promise of gift of the Spirit before Acts 2.

What was promised?

What was promised?

As discussed in earlier articles on this topic, Peter does not explain the nature of the gift. The most reasonable conclusion that can be drawn from that fact is that he expected his audience to understand the effect of a man’s receiving the Holy Spirit.

What Acts 2:39 necessitates is that the promise and understanding of the gift of the Spirit comes from a pre-existing biblical statement about the work of the Holy Spirit. So then, if the gift is “non-prophetic,” Peter’s argument demands that a non-prophetic experience of the coming of the Holy Spirit was known before Acts 2:38. The problem that truth creates for this view of the gift is:

If this non-prophetic indwelling existed among the Jews prior to Acts 2, how then could it be used as the identifying “seal” of the true people of God after Acts 2?

Many current proponents of an “ordinary” or non-prophetic indwelling claim that the indwelling produces no visible or demonstrable effects. But if it is true that the effect of indwelling from the gift of the Holy Spirit is only internal, then it cannot be evidentiary. That is especially true, if the Old Testament Jews also had this same indwelling. As the Judaistic teaching began to impact the church, how could the gift of the Spirit be used to identify the people of God? Both doctrines could simply claim to have experienced this non-demonstrable indwelling.

  • If the Jews had experienced and understood the Spirit’s non-prophetic indwelling to the degree that it did not need to be explained by Peter, would they not simply claim the continued possession of this indwelling after Acts 2?
  • If they could successfully make that claim, they would have nullified the apostles’ appeal to the seal of the Spirit among the early Christians.

Acts 2:39’s statement that the gift is a fulfillment of a promise of God demands that the gift of the Holy Spirit be of Old Testament origin. If the gift is of a non-prophetic nature its inclusion in the Old Testament ruins its ability to be used as evidence of a true Christian. Yet, if it is of a prophetic nature, the fact that the gift is demonstrable means its ability to be used as evidence continues. If after Acts 2:38-39, there were no “Jewish” prophets to counter the “Christian” prophets, the evidentiary impact of the gift would still have efficacy.

The fact that the gift is a part of Old Testament prophecy means that it must be prophetic.

Objections Considered

While it is impossible to anticipate every possible objection to this position, there are two objections that need a brief comment.

First, many would argue that Peter’s promise is universal in its nature and so if the gift is prophetic then all Christians must be prophets. In answer to that, we would simply agree. Yes, all the saints who receive the gift of the Holy Spirit are prophets. The New Testament is quite emphatic in its affirmation that the distribution of prophetic powers among the early saints was universal. Other of this author’s articles have examined the extent of the prophetic/miraculous powers in the early church. That material shows that the apostles aggressively spread the powers of the Spirit among the first-century Christians (see Acts 8, 19). Once that fact is seen, this particular objection has no merit.

Second, many would then argue that because Peter’s statement that the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit applies to “all who are far off” that it is an enduring promise. Further, as the miraculous gifts of the Spirit were temporary in nature, the gift of the Holy Spirit cannot be prophetic.

That objection arises from a misunderstanding of the phrase “far off.” This objection view the phrase “far off” as a statement of time. However, the Jews had a different use for this phrase. The Jews viewed the Gentile nations as being “far off” from God. Paul uses this language in Ephesians when he states that the Gentiles that were “far off” have now been “brought near by the blood of Christ” (2:13). The promise of Acts 2:39 is described as being for all nations, even the ones “far off.” Other than the fact that two generations are mentioned, “you and your children,” Acts 2:39 makes no specific mention of time.

The gift of the Holy Spirit was for all of God’s people for as long as the promise was active. Joel 2 was for all flesh, but it was not for all-time.


The gift of the Holy Spirit is simply the expression of the fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32. God promised that “all flesh” who followed the Messiah would have the Holy Spirit poured out to them. Peter is stating that if one would respond to the gospel he would receive the Holy Spirit as God had promised. Understanding the nature of the gift is simple so long as one remembers that whenever the Holy Spirit comes upon, falls upon, fills, or is received by man in any way, the effect is prophetic in its nature. That is why after Acts 2, the references to “gift” and “Spirit” are always in prophetic contexts. The gift of the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit and possession of Him as a gift made prophets of “all flesh” in the early church.

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The Gift of the Holy Spirit (Part 3)

The Gift of the Holy Spirit (Part 3)

The Gift of the Holy Spirit vs. the Gifts of the Holy Spirit

There are some who seek to make a distinction between the gift of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Spirit is said to be the personal indwelling of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit refers to the prophetic demonstrations of the Spirit’s power in the early church. The attempt, once again, is to define a duality in the Spirit’s work. However, if this distinction is to be accepted as true, there must exist some textual evidence that the singular form of gift is used differently than the plural form. Nearly all agree that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are the spiritual or miraculous gifts mentioned in passages like 1 Corinthians 12-14, Ephesians 4:8-14, and Hebrews 2:4. As such, there is little reason to examine those passages in this context. Without dispute, they are statements of the prophetic abilities the Holy Spirit provided to man.

However, does the singular “gift” make a clear break from the use of the plural form?

“Gift” appears in contexts discussing the Holy Spirit six times in the Bible; four of them are within the book of Acts. The first is in the text under discussion, Acts 2:38.

Is there a difference between "gift" and "gifts"?

Is there a difference between “gift” and “gifts”?

The second connection of “gift” to the Spirit is found in Acts 8:17-20. When Simon observed that the Holy Spirit was “given” through the “laying on of the apostles’ hands” he sought to purchase that ability from Peter. In Peter’s response, he refers to that action as attempting to purchase the “gift of God.” What Simon was attempting to gain in the purchase of the “gift” was the ability to pass on prophetic powers to others. Here, “gift” and Spirit are in a prophetic context.

The third and fourth appearances occur in the same setting. In describing Peter’s actions and the defense of his actions in the house of Cornelius, Luke records these words from Peter:

  1. (Acts 10:45-47) And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”
  2. (Acts 11:15-17) As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”

Peter states that the “gift of the Holy Spirit” is a “gift” that is “poured out.” Every Bible student should pay attention to that language as it also appears in Acts 2:33 and is found in Joel’s prophecy that Peter used as the basis of the activity in Acts 2. The words of God’s prophets are never meaningless or coincidental. That which was “poured out” in Acts 2 was “seen and heard.” The “poured out” Spirit of Joel’s prophecy gave “prophecy, visions, and dreams.” The “poured out” gift in the house of Cornelius baptized its members in the Holy Spirit and produced the same tongue-speaking recorded at the beginning in Acts 2. If it were not for the troubling implications which challenge the view of a non-prophetic gift of the Holy Spirit, connecting Acts 2 with Acts 10-11 (as Peter does) would be done naturally by most Bible students. If God were desirous of drawing a clear distinction between the “gift of the Holy Spirit” and the “gifts of the Holy Spirit,” He chose a very suspect way of accomplishing that task.

The fifth occurrence of gift and Spirit together in the same passage is found in Hebrews 6:4. There “tasting the heavenly gift” is connected to having “shared in the Holy Spirit.” Notice the other words in that same context:

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come (Hebrews 6:4-5)

The individuals under discussion in this text have been enlightened, have the heavenly gift, share in the Holy Spirit, have tasted the word of God and have powers of the age to come. What, other than the prophetic abilities of the Holy Spirit, would give a first-century saint knowledge of God’s word, a dispensation of divine powers, and some measure of enlightenment from God? As we know, the prophetic powers of the Spirit were at work among the recipients of Hebrews (2:4), how could this verse, in its original context, be referring to any other work?

The last appearance of “gift” and “Spirit” together is found in 2 Timothy 1:6-7: “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.” There is some ambiguity in the “spirit” reference in this text. Some translations render the verse as “the spirit” and other translations, such as the ESV, render the passage as a reference to the human spirit by saying simply “a spirit.” For this discussion, the specific usage of the word “spirit” has little impact on the meaning. What is easy to see is that the “gift of God” comes through the laying on of an apostle’s hand in the person of Paul. The connection back to Acts 8 and Acts 19 is easily made. Prophetic abilities were given through that means to the early saints including Timothy.

In every context outside of Acts 2:38 whenever the word “gift” appears alongside the “Spirit” it is a reference of prophetic abilities. How then in Acts 2, when nine previous references to the Holy Spirit in the context have all been prophetic in nature, can a reader assign a non-prophetic meaning to the gift of the Holy Spirit?

This truth must be remembered:

No argument can be crafted from verses which connect “gift” and “Spirit” to establish a non-prophetic work of the Holy Spirit.

That is telling and indicative that the gift of the Holy Spirit produces only prophetic abilities.

(One More Article in this 4 part series)

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