Answering Common Sense Questions – #13

This is the final blog dealing with several supposedly “common sense” questions that a church of Christ preacher or member would allegedly find difficult to answer.  These questions were dreamed up by Mr. David Martin of the Solid Rock Bapist Church and have been widely spread across the internet and are used in debates about the churches of Christ on various christian themed message boards.  The final question which Mr. Martin asks is:

The “Church of Christ” teaches that “obeying the Gospel” includes being baptized in water in order to be saved. If this is true, then how is it that the converts of Acts 10 were saved by faith before and without water baptism? The Bible says in Acts 5:32 that only those who obey God may receive the Holy Ghost – so what did those in Acts 10 do to obey and receive the Holy Ghost and be saved? In the light of Acts 10:34-48, Acts 11:14-18, and Acts 15:7-11, how can anyone honestly believe that water baptism is necessary to salvation? Simon Peter said their hearts were “purified by faith” (Acts 15:9) and that we are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ like they were (Acts 15:11); that is, before and without water baptism! We know that unsaved people do not receive or have the Holy Spirit (John 14:17; Romans 8:9). We know that the Holy Spirit is given only to those who have believed on Christ (John 7:39). We know that the Holy Spirit seals the believing sinner the moment he puts his faith and trust in Christ as Savior, before he is ever baptized in water (Ephesians 1:12,13). How does the warped theolgy of Campbellism explain away these clear passages of Scripture without “muddying the waters” of truth and drowning its members in eternal damnation?

For once Mr. Martin accurately conveys the beliefs fo the churches of Christ that “obeying the gospel” includes water baptism.  In an attempt to disprove this belief he then claims that in Acts 10 the gentiles present were saved before and without water baptism. He makes this claim based on the fact that they recieved the baptism of the Holy Spirit and performed miracles before their water baptism.

First we need to begin by examining Mr. Martin’s claim that only those who obey God may receive the Holy Spirit and that unsaved people never recieve or have the Holy Spirit.  If he is wrong about this claim then his entire argument here fails.  Let us begin by looking at the four verses that he uses to support this statement.

Acts 5:32 And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.

This passage doesn’t help Mr. Martin’s argument as it only says that God gives the Holy Spirit to those that obey him.  If I say that I gave my children gifts on Christmas that does not mean that didn’t give gifts to others as well, I just simply did not mention any others that I may have given gifts to.  So, while this passage is an excellent passage proving that the saved will recieve the Holy Spirit it does nothing to prove the unsaved do not in any way do so.

John 14:17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

Here it is important that we notice that Jesus is speaking about the recieving of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  This is an important distinction as we shall see later.  Jesus is telling his disciples here that those of the world will not recieve the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.  If the Spirit is ever recieved in a way that does not involve the indwelling, which we will see later that it has been, then this passage would not apply to that situation.

Romans 8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

Once again we see that this is speaking of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit within us and that if God’s Spirit does not dwell in us then we are not his.  Thus we can infer from this that those who are not Christ’s do not have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, we see this passage doesn’t indicate that a manner of recieving the Holy Spirit that does not involve its indwelling has not been given to unbelievers.

John 7:39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

This passage as with Acts 5:32 only says that believers were going to recieve the Holy Spirit and does not comment one way or the other regarding unbelievers.  Yes believers are going to recieve the Holy Spirit.  This does not mean that there is not nor will there ever be a circumstance under which an unbeliever will in some way recieve the Holy Spirit.

Now that we have examined the passages that Mr. Martin provided let us look at scripture and see if we find any instances where one who is unsaved has recieved the Holy Spirit or performed miracles by the Spirit?  Caiaphas the high priest prophesied about the death of Jesus (John 11:49) before he and the others had Christ put to death and according to Peter all prophecy is inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20).  Thus we see here one person who was unsaved yet recieved the gift of prophecy by the Holy Spirit.  Baalam’s donkey recieved the spirit and spoke to Balaam (Numbers 22:28). Would Mr. Martin argue that this was a saved donkey?  So the idea that the spirit is never recieved in any way by the unsaved is untrue.  However, the Spirit did not dwell within either Caiaphas or the donkey.  Thus we see there is a difference between recieving the Holy Spirit in such a way as to perform miracles and recieving the spirit to live within us.

To further demonstrate this point let us consider the Samaritans that were converted by Philip’s preaching (Acts 8:5-12).  At this point they had believed and been baptized thus according to Peter they had recieved the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the seal of our salvation (2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13).  Yet we find that they had not yet recieved the miraculous manifestation of the Holy Spirt as displayed by those who recieve Spirit baptism (Acts 8:14-17). So we see that recieving the indwelling presence of the Spirit as a seal of our salvation and recieving the miraculous manifestation of the Spirit are two different things.  According to John 14:17 and Romans 8:9 only the saved receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as a seal of their salvation but there is no such passage regarding the miraclous manifestation of the Spirit.

So were Cornelius and his household saved when they recieved the baptism of the Spirit?  The first thing to note is that Cornelius was told to send for Peter and that Peter would tell him what he must do (Acts 10:6) and speak words by which he and his household would be saved (Acts 11:14).  In Luke’s account of the events he says that while Peter was speaking the Holy Spirit fell upon the Gentiles, however, he does not specify at what point in Peter’s speech this happened (Acts 10:44).  Peter, on the other hand, when he recounted the events for the Jews back home described the events in order (Acts 11:4).  Peter says that as he began to speak the Spirit fell upon the Gentiles (Acts 11:15).  Thus if this reception of the Holy Spirit was a sign of their salvation then they were saved before hearing the words by which they were supposed to be saved. Furthermore, Peter doesn’t mention Christ or explain the gospel until the end of his speech (Acts 10:38-40). Thus if these people were saved upon being baptized with the Holy Spirit then it was without believing in Christ or hearing the gospel, which Paul says is the power of salvation (Romans 16:16).  Finally Peter states that this baptism of the Spirit had not occured since the beginning, the day of Pentecost, until then (Acts 11:15).  So this was not a common occurance that happened to all Christians as is the reception of the indwelling Spirit as a seal of our salvation but was a seperate event for a particular purpose.   On the day of Pentecost the baptism of the Holy Spirit was given to establish God’s church and open its doors to the Jews.  In Acts 10 the same baptism of the Spirit, which had not occured since as seen above,  was poured out upon the Gentiles in order to open the doors to them as well.  In neither instance was salvation the intended purpose of the Spirit baptism.  Thus Cornelius and his house were not saved before and without water baptism but were saved when they believed the gospel preached by Peter and baptized in water as he commanded them (Acts 10:48).

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8 Responses to “Answering Common Sense Questions – #13”

  1. Marc Taylor Says:

    Scripture delcares that the Gentiles (Acts 10) were saved before they were water baptized. To deny this is to deny the word of God.
    In Acts 15:8 Peter declares that they were “given” the Holy Spirit but Acts 15:7, 8 informs us that they had already heard and believed. It is therefore incumbent upon anyone who denies their salvation to demonstrate that “believed” is used in a non-salvific sense. Indeed, God bore witness to this belief by giving them the Holy Spirit. No wonder the TDNT reads:
    In Peter’s speech in 15:7 “to believe” is used in the sense “to be converted” (TDNT 7:728, epistrephw).

    Heard -> believed(saved) -> given the Holy Spirit….all before their water baptism.

  2. Dave Myers Says:

    Marc,

    Thanks for reading and thank you also for your comments.

    In Acts 15:7 Peter states that God chose that by his mouth the gentiles would hear the word and believe, or be converted as you point out. Just as Acts 10:6 and Acts 11:14 this teaches that Peter was going to speak to them the word of God and that by that word they would believe.

    Acts 15:8 says that God who knew their hearts, i.e that Cornelius was a devout man and feared God though as yet unsaved, gave witness that he was offering the gentiles salvation by the purificaiton of their hearts by faith when he poured out the Spirit upon them. It does not teach that the Spirit was given to bear witness to a salvation already obtained.

    Indeed you have answered none of the points in the article and were your interpretation of Acts 15:7-9 correct it would directly contradict Peter’s own explanation of what occured in Acts 11 where he makes it clear that he had not yet even preached the gospel to the gentiles when the Spirit fell upon them. How then can they have already believed when they had not yet heard?

    To correct your timeline of what occured:

    Recieved Holy Spirit baptism -> Heard -> Believed -> Water Baptized -> Saved

    If you would be interested in further discussion of this topic please email me at djmyers@biblegate.org.

  3. Marc Taylor Says:

    Hello Dave,

    In Acts 15:7 it reads they “believed”. Not only does the TDNT state that this belief is salvific but so does Thayer (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pisteuw, page 512) and Danker (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, pisteuw, page 817). I would like to see the evidence from any lexicon that it is used in a non-salvific sense.
    Moreover Acts 15:8 also declares that they were “given” (didwmi) the Holy Spirit. According to 1 John 4:13 if one has been “given” (didwmi) the Holy Spirit then they dwell “in God”. If a person dwells “in God” they are saved.
    So there is no contradiction with Acts 11:15 at all. The word arxomai can have a looser meaning than you insist.
    1. Abbot-Smith: (a) absol.,…(b) relatively -> included is Acts 11:15 (A Manuel Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, arxe, page 62).
    2. Brown: It is often almost superfluous, and can be omitted in the Eng. translation without affecting the meaning (e.g.Matt. 4:17; 11:7, 20; 26:22; Mk. 6:7; Lk. 3:8; 15:14; Jn. 13:5; Acts 1:1; 11:4, 15) (NIDNTT 1:167, Beginning).
    3. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Often used also, not for the absolute beginning, but, relatively, for the starting-point of some important movement (1 John 2:7, 24; Acts 11:15; Philippians 4:15 (Begin).
    4. Kittel: Pleonastically it usually serves to draw attention to a particular element in the story. The best course is simply to render by some such word as “moreover” or “indeed”, or even by freer expressions suggested by the context, such as “were so bold” or “were forced to” (TDNT 1:478, 479, arxw).

    To deny these Gentiles were saved before they were water baptized is to deny the obvious.

    – Marc Taylor
    oceanstar314@yahoo.com

    • Dave Myers Says:

      Marc,

      I did not deny that the faith of Acts 15:7 was indeed as saving faith but you were implying that faith saved them before water baptism which is not supported by the text. As for your statement regarding the giving of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2:38 Peter promised that when one is saved he receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 8:12 we have the example of the Samaritans who believed and were baptized. As 1 John 4:13 states if one is saved the Spirit of God dwells in him. In Acts 8:17-18 we are told that the apostles laid hands on them and they received the Spirit and that they were “given”, same Greek word as in Acts 15, the Spirit then. These people had already received the indwelling of the Spirit when they believed Philip’s teaching, obeyed and were saved so that can’t be what this was referring to. Instead in vs 18 the phrase given the spirit refers to the imparting of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit. So in Acts 10 which way was the phrase used? In Acts 10 when the Gentiles were “given the Spirit” they manifested miraculous powers. So we see it is the sense of imparting the miraculous gifts in which the term was used here and in Acts 15 and not the sense of receiving the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as saved believers.

      With regards to the comments on the word arxomai. They go against the context which states that Peter was carefully relating events from the very start in order (Acts 11:4). So the text explains that he was concerned with accurately conveying the exact sequence of events and stated that as he began, “arxomai”, to speak that the Spirit fell on the Gentiles. So are we really to believe that even though Peter was attempting to convey the detailed sequence of events and used a word that is meant to describe sequence that Peter did not use the word in that sense? It is quite obvious from the context that Peter used the word arxomai to relay the correct sequence concerning the events.

  4. Marc Taylor Says:

    Dave,

    In Acts 8 they were given the Holy Spirit Himself when the apostles laid hands o them. The same is true with Acts 19.
    Concerning Acts 11:4 once again you are insisting that a particular word can not have a looser meaning than you ascribe. Luke tells us in his Gospel that he will explain things in “order” (Luke 1:3). But this does not necessitate it must be in strict chronological order. If so then in In Luke 3:19, 20 John is preaching. Then we see Herod reproved by John. John is then thrown into prison. Next he baptizes the Lord Jesus. Is that the chronologically correct order?
    No.
    Notice that the Gentiles received “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 10:45). You insist that it refers to the Spirit’s miraculous powers. However notice what these Greek lexiocns say about the gift of the Holy Spriit as used in this passage:
    a. Danker: receive the Spirit as a gift Ac. 2:38; cp. 10:45 (page 266, dwrea).
    b. The usage of dwrea in the NT is concentrated on the gracious gift which has already been given by God, namely, Christ (John 4:10), the Spirit (Acts 2:38; 8:20; 10:45; 11:17), or “righteousness” (Rom. 5:15, 17) (EDNT 1:364 – dwrea).
    c. Kittel: In Ac. the Spirit is called the dwrea of God in 2:38; 8:20; 10:45; 11:17 (TDNT 2:167, dwron).
    d. Thayer: with an epexegetical gen. of the thing given, the Holy Ghost, Ac 2:38, 10:45 (page 161, dwrea).
    e. Vine: In Acts 2:38 ‘the gift of the Holy Ghost’, the clause is epexegetical, the gift being the Holy Ghost Himself; cf. 10:45; 11:17 (page 477, gift).
    All of them make clear that these Gentiles received the Holy Spirit Himself. I’d like to see any Greek lexicon that states otherwise.

    • Dave Myers Says:

      Marc,

      If that is then despite their faith and baptism by Philip they were unsaved since Romans 8:9 says that if you have not the Spirit of God you are none of his. Thus, according to your interpretation none of these people were saved until the apostles laid hands on them. In your various comments you have had God swapping out a new plan of salvation every few chapters.

      1) First you claimed that for certain Jews, such as those on the day of Pentecost, in order to receive the Holy Spirit and thus be saved they were required to believe and be baptized.
      2) Now you claim that for the believers in Acts 10 in order for them to receive the Holy Spirit and thus be saved they had to have the apostles lay hands on them.
      3) In Acts 10 you claim that the Holy Spirit just fell on those Gentiles directly and they were saved and this is how we are saved today.

      Do you see how inconsistent you are. In each and every passage you must come up with some convoluted explanation in order to remove water baptism from the equation. However, if one accepts that water baptism is necessary for salvation then each of those passage simply makes sense the way they were written and anyone in the world reading them in their simplicity would get that same message.

      As for Acts 11:4, I did not say that the word could never be used with a looser meaning but again that context must dictate. Your example of Luke actually makes my point. Yes Luke said he was going to relate things chronologically but sometimes didn’t. However, anytime in the gospel of Luke where he uses a word that is to convey exact chronological order since we know that generally that is what he was trying to do then we lean toward taking those words in that sense. Here I agree just because Luke informs us that Peter was trying to give the events in chronological order does not mean that he did stick strictly with that order. However, if we have that stated purpose and then a word meant to convey chronological order THEN we must lean toward interpreting the word in that way unless context demands otherwise. The context here does not demand otherwise so it must be concluded that Peter was using it in the sense of establishing the chronological order of events.

      If you would like to discuss this further please let us do so in email as I am locking comments to both of these posts. The reason for this is because two different but related posts are under consideration here and things I answer in one are relevant to the other. It is simply much easier to deal with all questions and responses at once.

  5. Marc Taylor Says:

    1. Have the Spirit = saved.
    Have not the Spirit = lost
    2. One of the features of the book of Acts is that it describes many transitions such as the beginning of the New Testament church (Acts 2:4), the Holy Spirit speaking audibly (Acts 13:2), the Lord Jesus speaking audibly (Acts 23:11), an angel speaking (Acts 27:23, 24), healing people by a person’s shadow (Acts 5:15). These events (unless you can prove otherwise) do not occur today. So how God incorportated people into the New Testament church during this highly transitional period is His choosing and it may vary. I have several Greek lexicons that state each group (Jews in Acts 2:39, the Samaritans in Acts 8 and the Gentiles in Acts 10) were all saved when they received the Holy Spirit. If you like I can cite them for you.
    3. Luke DID say in Luke 1:3 that he would declare his entire gospel in order. But as we see from Luke 3 it is not in chronological order.
    4. I have supplied 5 Greek lexicons that state the Gentiles had the Holy Spirit Himself. You have not cited any Greek lexicon that proves otherwise. Thus the Gentiles by having the Holy Spirit were already saved before they were water baptized. For if one has the gift of the Holy Spirit this means they are saved.
    a. Brown: For Paul it was precisely the gift of the Spirit which distinguished the Christian from the Jew, the new age from the old(NIDNTT 3:701, Spirit).
    b. Kittel: The very same gift of the greatest thing man can receive, the gift of the Holy Spirit, accomplishes and bears witness to the equality of the recipients before God, and establishes the unity of the church (TDNT 3:349, isos).
    c. Mounce: Christian hope is strengthened by the Scriptures (Rom. 15:4), by the work of Jesus (1 Pet. 1:3, 21), and by God’s present gift of the Spirit to believers (Rom. 5:5) (Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, page 341, hope).
    d. Thayer: respecting God, who by the gift of the Holy Spirit indicates who are his, (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, page 609, sphragizw).
    e. Vine: In the metaphor of the sealing of believers by the gift of the Holy Spirit, upon believing…(Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, page 1003, seal).

    Thus far I have supplied several Greek lexicons that say the gift of the Holy Spirit refers to the Holy Spirit Himself in Acts 10:45. Not one Greek lexion has been cited by you that proves othwerwise. Now I have supplied several Greek lexicons that say if one has the gift of the Holy Spirit they are saved – thus demonstrating that these Gentiles were indeed saved before they were water baptized.
    Can supply any Greek lexicon at all that says if one has the gift of the Holy Spirit they are not saved?

    • Dave Myers Says:

      I apologize for the length of time from my last response. I have been quite busy with work and school.

      1. Have the Spirit = saved.
      Have not the Spirit = lost

      I agree

      [quote]I have several Greek lexicons that state each group (Jews in Acts 2:39, the Samaritans in Acts 8 and the Gentiles in Acts 10) were all saved when they received the Holy Spirit. If you like I can cite them for you.[/quote]

      Look again at Acts 8. In verse 12 the Samaritans believed and were baptized. They had faith and they were baptized thus by every biblical definition they were saved, i.e. recieved the Spirit. Then in verse 15 we find that the apostles went to lay hands on them so that they would recieve the Holy Spirit. If they recieved the Spirit upon salvation in verse 12 then why did this same group not have the Spirit in verse 15? The only two possible explanations are:

      1) Faith and baptism are insufficient for salvation. This goes against every biblical teaching on faith.

      2) The reception of the Holy Spirit in verse 15 is something different than recieving the Spirit in salvation.

      Luke DID say in Luke 1:3 that he would declare his entire gospel in order. But as we see from Luke 3 it is not in chronological order.

      Yes Luke said that he was going to write his gospel in order and as you note some of it is not in chronological order. However, in the places where Luke uses words such as THEN, WHEN, BEGAN, and such like that are intended to denote order we must interpret those words in light of his stated purpose.

      Likewise in Acts 10 Luke says that Peter was relating his words in order and then he uses the word archomai, began. If we were told that Peter was reciting the events in order but he did not use the word archomai you would have a valid argument. If Peter used the word archomai but was not relating events in order you might have a valid argument. But Peter was relating events in order and used archomai, a word used to denote order, thus we must interpret the word in that sense.

      I have supplied 5 Greek lexicons that state the Gentiles had the Holy Spirit Himself. You have not cited any Greek lexicon that proves otherwise. Thus the Gentiles by having the Holy Spirit were already saved before they were water baptized. For if one has the gift of the Holy Spirit this means they are saved.

      As I have previously shown that cannot be the case.

      1) The Samaritans prove that recieving the Holy Spirit can mean either recieving the Spirit himself upon salvation or recieving the miraculous gifts of the Spirit.

      2) The Gentiles in Acts 10 demonstrated miraculous powers after “recieving the Spirit” suggesting that it was the reception of the miraculous gifts not the reception of the Spirit upon salvation.

      3) Peter’s words confirm that they had not yet heard the words of salvation so what they recieved was the miraculous gifts of the Spirit not the Spirit himself upon salvation.

      Yes you have quoted numerous works produced by fallible men whose theology I disagree with. Not a single one of the authorities you quote are inspired and everyone one of them disagrees with the inspired Word. It appears to be your opinion that if one had the Bible alone and none of these lexicons that he would be unable to learn the truth.

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