Question:

In my seeking to find "Christian only" groups, I have visited several "churches of Christ," which came out of the restoration movement in the 1800's. My question is, though I deeply appreciate the non-denominational and back to the Bible emphasis, why is it that many reject any direct involvement of the Holy Spirit today? Don't get me wrong, I'm not a "charismatic," and I don't believe in props or gimmicks, etc., to stir people's emotions, but I don't understand why they would believe that the Holy Spirit is not actively dwelling in the believer today. I have noticed that though many seem to hold a "conservative" position on not using instruments in church, many of their youth listen to ungodly music, and there seems to be no conviction over it. They teach strong on baptism [which is good], but the second half of Acts 2:38 is often ignored. What good is an empty temple? For it is written that we are the temple of the Holy Ghost.

Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.


Answer:

I can't answer for those you might have run into. I can only point out what I and those I know teach. The simple answer is that the later half of Acts 2:38 is not ignored. As an example, there is a whole sermon on Acts 2:38-39, called The Gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Bible teaches that the Spirit dwells in the Christian in exactly the same way that the Father and the Son also dwell in the Christian.

"Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father" (I John 2:24).

"At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. ... If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him" (John 14:20-21, 23).

"If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever -- the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you" (John 14:15-17).

"But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you" (Romans 8:9-11).

I suspect that the problem isn't a lack of teaching, but rather a rejection of what is being taught because it isn't what you were expecting. People want to make the Holy Spirit somehow different from the Father and the Son instead of realizing that God is one and that the Father, Son, and Spirit all work in harmony.

It looks to me that the mention of music is more of a distraction -- an argument that is a sweeping generalization without foundation. See Is it okay to listen to secular music? and Is it a sin to listen to music that contains swear words?

Hello brother Jeffrey,

Thank you very much for your reply. I agree with what you said and with the scriptures you quoted as well. That is not the problem. The concern that I have came because I was listening to a brother from one of the the restoration churches of Christ, who stated basically that the Holy Spirit does not directly work in a believers life in any kind of miraculous way today or to give any revelation. Then he stated that God has not done that for 1900 years. The trouble I find with that sort of reasoning is that if God has done any gifts of the Spirit even once during that 1900 year period, then a statement like that would actually be lying against the Holy Spirit. Please don't misunderstand me, I'm not trying to be hard-headed here or pretend that I understand everything because I don't. I don't at all believe that we need "signs and wonders" today because it was primarily to confirm the Word being spoken according to Hebrews 2, but to say that God cannot, does not, and will not seems to be a bit extreme. Please help me out here if I am wrong. I really want to know.

In my research of the restoration movement, at one time, it seems many believed in the spiritual gifts, and brother Campbell and brother Lipscomb both rejected the idea of Christians fighting in physical combat in wars. I know that's a different subject, but my point is that there seems to have been great diversity, yet much unity at the same time. The churches have sure drifted away from that today. The early restoration movement did not reject believers who believed in spiritual gifts, as long as they did not contradict the word of God. I guess my main question is why do so many of the churches that originated from this movement seem to accuse brethren who do believe God can use spiritual gifts as "false teachers?"

I hope I am not bothering you with my questions. I just don't understand. Thank you for your time.

Before we delve into your question, we need to come to an understanding regarding terms. When the Bible talks about miracles it doesn't just mean God involving Himself in the events of men. It is when God chooses to suspend the laws He put in place in this Universe. See Do miracles happen every day? When the Bible talks about revelation, it isn't talking about vague feelings or inclinations. A revelation is God clearly telling man what He wants man to know. "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (I Corinthians 2:12-13). The Bible does not talk about God leading men through feelings.

God can do miracles. He has proven that many times. The question has never been whether God can do miracles today. The question is does God choose to miracles today, and for that we have to rely on what God said and not we might wish to be.

Let's take the matter of revelation. "God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds" (Hebrews 1:1-2). The writer states that God has chosen to change how He interacts with mankind in this age. Rather than on going revelations, a single set of revelations were given in a short period of time. "Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). The phrase "once for all" means for all times and for all people.

This limited revelation was foretold by Zechariah. "In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness. It shall be in that day," says the LORD of hosts, "that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they shall no longer be remembered. I will also cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to depart from the land. It shall come to pass that if anyone still prophesies, then his father and mother who begot him will say to him, 'You shall not live, because you have spoken lies in the name of the LORD.' And his father and mother who begot him shall thrust him through when he prophesies" (Zechariah 13:1-3). The time of the fountain for sin and uncleanness is referring to Christ's death upon the cross. In that same time period, idolatry would die and both prophets and unclean spirits would be removed. It would so certain to end that if a man claimed to be a prophet, even his parents would know he was lying and reject him. Jesus alludes to this same prophecy when he said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matthew 7:21-23). A claim to be a prophet doesn't make a person a prophet. And a claim to prophesy when God said it would end is even a worse offense.

The clearest statement that prophecy would end was by Paul -- a statement that many have tried very hard to wiggle past. "Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away" (Corinthians 13:8-10). Prophecies and miraculous gifts would end. When? When the thing which is perfect arrives. (The Greek is clear we are talking about a thing and not a person.) The Bible refers to God's Word as being perfect (James 1:25). So when you take it as a whole it all fits together. Prophecy would end when God finished delivering His Word -- a deliver that was done once for all time and all people.

I hope you see that what I am stating is merely what God said he would do. It has nothing to do with what I might like God to do or what I think God could do or what wish God would do. God said He was going to stop and God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). Thus, I'm accepting God's word on the matter. From my viewpoint it is you who are having a hard time believing God.

God stated that His miracles were done to support the delivery of His Word (Hebrews 2:3-4). That has been the pattern throughout mankind's history. And Paul's same statement in I Corinthians 13 basically indicates that it wasn't just prophecy which would cease but all the gifts from the Holy Spirit would come to an end. This doesn't include the Spirit's gift of salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14) mentioned in Acts 2:39. Nor does this mean God isn't involved in the world. God clearly states that He will answer prayers. "And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight" (I John 3:22). Those prayers are not answered by miracles -- the suspending of natural law -- but through God's providence -- the seeming coincidences that take place to make things to just happen to work out to the favor of God's people (Romans 8:28).

There has never been "unity in diversity" among God's people. There is only one faith -- a system of belief (Ephesians 4:4-6). Rather there is a diversity of people who through Christianity become united. "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (I Corinthians 10:13). People do come into the church with all sorts of baggage from their past, but it is expected that as they grow in Christ that they lose the baggage of false beliefs they started with.

"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head -- Christ -- from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:11-16).