Posted in Debates, Doctrine, Marriage

Roy Deaver-Gus Nichols Debate: Can the Guilty Party Remarry?

By Weylan Deaver

A preacher’s forum took place in November 1973 at the Harding Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, Tennessee between Roy C. Deaver and Gus Nichols. Each man respected the other. In fact, in the November 1972 issue of his paper, Biblical Notes (p. 73), Deaver wrote: “When brother Nichols preaches, it is obvious to the hearer that here is a man who is not just keeping an appointment. It is apparent that he knows the difference between having to say something and in having something to say.” But love for the gospel compelled Deaver to defend it, even if doing so meant opposing a friend. At the time, Deaver was in his prime (around age 51). The question at issue that day at Harding Graduate School was: “Can the guilty party, put away for fornication, scripturally remarry?” Gus Nichols said “yes” and Roy Deaver said “no.” Thomas B. Warren was in the audience and, when it came time for the Q&A session, he also held Nichols’ feet to the fire on this crucial doctrinal point. Listen to the two speeches and the Q&A session at the three links below.

1 Roy Deaver. Can the Guilty Party Remarry? (November 7, 1973 / Harding University Graduate School of Religion)

2 Gus Nichols. Can the Guilty Party Remarry? (November 7, 1973 / Harding University Graduate School of Religion)

3 Questions and Answers. Can the Guilty Party Remarry? Deaver vs Nichols (November 7, 1973 / HUGSR)

Posted in Doctrine

The Fog Is Lifting

By Weylan Deaver

Start with John 3:34, which teaches that God “gives the Spirit without measure” (ESV, cf. ASV, NASB, NKJV, etc.). Here is one verse where the venerable King James Version disappoints by adding the words “unto him” in italics at the end (italics, because “unto him” is not in the Greek, and so does not belong in the text). An accurate translation makes the simple point that the Holy Spirit is given “without measure.” That is significant.

The church of Christ in America in the twentieth century largely accepted, and even insisted, that the Holy Spirit is given “by measure” (not “without measure”). In other words, we taught ourselves to believe the very thing John 3:34 denies. We taught ourselves that there are measures of the Spirit, including a “baptismal measure,” a “laying on of hands measure,” and an “ordinary measure.” We thought this helped fend off claims of modern day miracles because we insisted that miracles were always connected with the first two measures, and that those measures are not available today. But, our artificial construct was fatally flawed because it denies what John 3:34 says. Our humanly devised “measures” gave us peace of mind and we thought we were being true to Scripture. All the while, the doctrine of measures of the Spirit ensured we were enveloped in a theologic fog which could never lift, so long as the artificial categories we created remained entrenched.

To some degree, immeasurable by us, the church was crippled. Two camps opposed each other (based on their views of whether the Spirit’s indwelling was literal or figurative), but both managed to get along—more or less—because both groups bought into the doctrine that there are measures of the Spirit. Not surprisingly, the issue of the Holy Spirit’s presence and role in the church never got conclusively settled in the brotherhood. How could it, when the opposing sides both began from the same flawed premise? In fact, it got so bad that the flawed premise, itself, became vaunted to such status that anyone veering from it risked losing fellowship with those clinging tenaciously to it.

Yet, we could see that the New Testament described the Lord’s church from various angles. We knew it was called the church, but also referred to as a kingdom. Nobody insisted that the church and kingdom must be separate entities. We knew that the church was called the body of Christ, but also his bride, and even God’s house. And no one claimed that the body must be something other than the bride, or that the body cannot be the church, or that God’s house cannot be his kingdom, etc. We all understood these various terms were descriptive of the same institution. The church was the kingdom and also the body and also the bride and also the house of God. They were all the same thing, despite different terminology. We welcomed the assortment of descriptions as giving us insights on the nature of the church.

However, when we found different words used about the Holy Spirit’s connection to saved people, we completely missed the point we were so clear on regarding different portrayals of the church. We somehow concluded that, if the Holy Spirit “fell on,” or was “poured out,” that must be something different from being a “gift” to be “received” by all. We knew the Bible said we are “in” the Spirit, and we are to be “filled” with the Spirit, but we vehemently denied that we could be “baptized” with the Holy Spirit. Our coherent approach to passages on the church became a muddled effort on passages about the Spirit. It needlessly complicated the simple gospel. It made key passages harder to explain, rather than easier. John said the Holy Spirit is given “without measure,” and we said the Holy Spirit is given “by measure,” but never perceived the discrepancy. Without any Scriptures using the terminology, we went ahead and crafted what we called a “baptismal measure of the Spirit,” and a “laying on of hands measure of the Spirit,” and a so-called “ordinary measure of the Spirit.”

Such a mistake could not but hurt. We labored under weight of a blunder which kept facts hidden, given our presupposition. Of course, it never prevented our being dogmatic about our position. In fact, for many, our insistence that we were right was exceeded only by our ignorance which made us wrong. We forfeited “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” and opted for disunity on the Spirit and an uneasy peace (if not outright conflict). God’s Spirit was supposed to give life, foster love, unite the church and prevent its fervor chilling to lukewarmness. Instead, we turned him into a battleground for an ill-advised doctrinal Cold War which flared up now and again, but never seemed to bring more than a tension-filled “unity.”

The Holy Spirit is “the gift of God” (John 4:10 cf. 7:38-39; Acts 2:38; 5:32; 8:20; Luke 11:13; etc.). When God gives a gift, we ought to pay attention. Our appreciation of the gift is connected to our comprehension of the gift. If we do not understand it, we will not value it, and will be unable to exploit it for our good. Imagine you are given a short stack of papers as a gift. You do not recognize their nature. They are covered with tiny print expressing what appears to be much technical, financial, and legal jargon which you are not interested in trying to decipher. A friend sees them and, not knowing what they are, suggests to you that they look important. But neither of you is motivated to do the research required to precisely identify the gift. Ignorant of their worth, you stick the papers in a desk drawer and move on to other matters. Someone finds them years later, after your demise, and cashes in. What you failed to recognize was that the papers were bearer bonds with coupons attached which, if redeemed, would pay $2,000,000 to the bearer. Whereas perception would have led to profit, instead blindness leads to blight.

When it comes to the “gift of the Holy Spirit,” we have too often undervalued the gift while overestimating our knowledge of it. And, when our flawed approach to the topic blinds us to Bible facts, it robs us of the full blessing God intended. Many brethren think the subject is murky, at best. Some think it is to be mostly avoided. It is as though they stick it in an envelope labeled “controversial,” put the envelope in a dark drawer and move on to other matters.

The church does not grow when we shrink from Bible subjects. And, if the Holy Spirit is “controversial,” maybe it is because we have made it so. All that can be known about the Spirit is what the Bible teaches, and God did not write it to confuse us (cf. 1 Cor. 14:33). He wrote it to help us by producing understanding in us, which leads to our appreciation of what he is giving to us.

So, start with John 3:34. There is no “baptismal measure.” There is no “laying on of hands measure.” There is no “ordinary measure.” There are no measures. When we see that truth, new vistas of understanding open and the fog can begin to evaporate. As long as we insist there are measures of the Spirit, we will never be able to fit the relevant passages together. Our manmade theology of different Holy Spirit measures is a ponderous chain, to the detriment of all who choose to carry it.

Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman about “the gift of God,” which he referred to as “living water” (John 4:10). Nearby context is clear that “living water” describes “the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive.” And, “the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:38-39). So, the gift is the Spirit, who could not arrive till Jesus had ascended.

After his resurrection, Jesus told the apostles to “wait for the promise,” which was granted when they were “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5). John the Baptizer could immerse people in water, but only Jesus could baptize with the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:11). Thus, in his inaugural sermon, Peter states that Jesus had been “exalted at the right hand of God,” after which he “received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit,” which “he poured out” on Pentecost (Acts 2:33). So, we learn that the Holy Spirit is “the promise” and the promise was “poured out” by an exalted Jesus. This is the same promise in Acts 1:4-5, which was identified by Jesus as baptism with the Holy Spirit. This baptism took place when the Spirit was poured out by Jesus in fulfillment of God’s promise.

Furthermore, the promise was a matter of prophecy, which is why Peter quotes from Joel 2, claiming that “in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (Acts 2:17). Traditionally, we claimed that “all flesh” meant only a handful of Jewish men (i.e. the apostles) and a handful of Gentile folk (i.e. Cornelius’ household). We were satisfied with such anemic analysis because it fit the paradigm created by our presupposition (that there are measures of the Spirit). Our simplistic interpretation never did justice to the language used by God, Joel and Peter. Think of it. There is no way that “all flesh” can be accurately taken to apply exclusively to a tiny group of first-century people who would all fit in a single room. The Spirit was poured out by Jesus in Acts 2 as a promise from God which had been prophesied in Joel 2. The promise was for “all flesh,” and it began to be fulfilled when people began to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

In fact, in the same sermon, Peter calls on hearers to repent and be baptized so they can receive “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). There is absolutely no reason to conclude that this gift is other than the promise being poured out in Acts 2. Moreover, in the very next verse Peter is emphatic that “the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:39). This promise (Acts 2:39) is the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38), which was poured out by Jesus (Acts 2:33), which Jesus equated with the baptism in the Spirit (Acts 1:4-5), which stems from a prophecy in Joel 2 that applies to all flesh (Acts 2:17).

This fits perfectly the fact that the Holy Spirit is “given to those who obey him” (Acts 5:32). Paul writes of “the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5-6). The “us” refers to all Christians. It cannot be limited to apostles, just as the “all flesh” of Acts 2:17 cannot be limited to apostles (or, apostles plus a few Gentiles). Remember, when God gives the Spirit, it is “without measure” (John 3:34).

When Peter preached to Cornelius, “the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word” (Acts 10:44). The same phenomenon is then called “the gift of the Holy Spirit,” which was “poured out” (Acts 10:45). Thus, they could be said to “have received the Holy Spirit” (Acts 10:47). Later, retelling the events, Peter says that when the Spirit “fell on them just as on us” (Acts 11:15), he remembered that Jesus had promised Holy Spirit baptism (Acts 11:16). Then, Peter calls the Holy Spirit baptism of Cornelius “the same gift…he gave to us when we believed” (Acts 11:17). There are no measures of the Spirit, and the Spirit is “given to those who obey him” (Acts 5:32).

What happened to Cornelius is what happens to us today. He had to be “born of water and the Spirit” in order to “enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). In his case, the Spirit baptism preceded the water baptism because Cornelius was already “a devout man who feared God with all his household” (Acts 10:2), living faithfully under the divine law he had. His right religion was being replaced by its successor: Christianity. With the gospel spreading the message of accountability to Christ, Cornelius needed to enter the kingdom to be saved. Jesus poured out the Spirit on his household, resulting in their being baptized in Spirit. Miraculous tongue speaking followed as a sign to the Jewish witnesses that the Spirit had actually been given to the Gentiles exactly as it had been given to them. That sparked Peter’s question, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10:47). Thus born of water and the Spirit, Cornelius and company entered the kingdom. They entered it the same way the apostles entered, the same way we enter, the same way everyone enters.

By this time, some will undoubtedly be claiming that we are opening the door (either directly or, at least, implicitly) to miracles today. That is not at all the case. But it brings us to another signal fact we have too long overlooked. The Holy Spirit was never given by measure, but miraculous abilities from the Spirit were always given by measure! Speaking of miraculous gifts, Paul said, “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Cor. 12:11). When miracles were extant, it was always God—not the apostles—who decided and distributed the miracle-performing abilities as he chose.

Miracles were never promised to every Christian, but the Holy Spirit was promised to every Christian (Acts 2:38-39; 5:32). Throughout history, most saints have lived and died without ever seeing—much less performing—a single miracle. Just as a book is not equivalent to its author, so miracles are not the Spirit. And, miracles need not accompany the Spirit in every case. Historically, in fact, in most cases miracles have not (and do not) accompany the presence of God’s Spirit. God said, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke” (Joel 2:28-30). Notice that “all flesh” can easily be broader than the specified groups who would prophesy and see visions. We are part of “all flesh,” but we do not perform miracles. Notice verse 30 references “wonders in the heavens and on the earth.” Today, we inhabit the same earth, but we behold no wonders being performed. Just so, no one is prophesying, etc. today, even though the same Spirit is still being “poured out” on all who call on the Lord’s name (Titus 3:6).

The miraculous power was a temporary allowance from the Spirit, but it was never identical with the Spirit. Jesus told the apostles they would “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). The power would be outward, observable evidence of the Spirit’s internal presence. Likewise, Jesus said the kingdom would “come with power” (Mark 9:1). The non-occurrence of miracles today has nothing to do with there being measures of the Spirit. There are no measures of the Spirit. But there are passages that teach the temporary nature and cessation of miracles. To say it again, miraculous gifts were always given by measure; the Holy Spirit is never given by measure. The measured out miraculous gifts are no longer with us, but the Holy Spirit is.

He has been poured out on us (Titus 3:6), just like he was poured out on Pentecost (Acts 2:33), just like he was poured out on Cornelius (Acts 10:45). He was a gift to Cornelius (Acts 11:17), just like he is a gift to us (Acts 2:38). The promise the apostles were told to wait for was the baptism with the Spirit (Acts 1:4-5), and “the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:39).

Long ago the Jews could not see what their Old Testament was teaching because they refused to see Christ in it, so a veil was over their hearts (2 Cor. 3:14ff.). Too long we have not seen what the New Testament teaches about the Spirit, at least in part because we clung to the artificial distinctions of manmade categories created by our wrong idea of measures of the Spirit. A fog descended which remains dense, though a ray of light is beginning to pierce it here and there. Eyes are starting to open. We owe it to God to know his “gift.” Surely, greater understanding will foster better days ahead for the kingdom, “that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:20).

The Holy Spirit’s presence in the church is both literary and literal; he informs us with his pen and he indwells us with his person. We do disservice to the word of God if we deny what it says about the Writer. And, the Writer says, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5), that we are saved “by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly” (Titus 3:5-6), that this is “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38), “given to those who obey” (Acts 5:32), that this “promise of the Father” was rehearsed to the apostles as the reason they must wait in Jerusalem since “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4-5), that this “promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off” (Acts 2:39), which had been prophesied when Joel recorded that “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (Acts 2:17), that this had to come from Jesus, “exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this” (Acts 2:33) because, as John had always said, “I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:8), “for he gives the Spirit without measure” (John 3:34) in order that, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom. 8:11).

Posted in Baptism, Doctrine, Evangelism, New Testament

Has the Great Commission Been Fulfilled?

By Mac Deaver

Tarlac Bible Forum

[The Tarlac Bible Forum was conducted in November 2014 at the Nick Hotel in Gerona, Tarlac, in the Philippines. Five lectures were presented by Mac Deaver on the theme of “The Baptism of the Great Commission.” We are publishing his teaching outlines here in the order delivered.]

Lesson 5: Has the Great Commission Been Fulfilled?

Note: The “great commission” has been fulfilled because the purpose of its completion was to make all men answerable to the gospel. The book of Acts is not basically about conversions or even about kingdom entry, though it certainly discusses this in detail, but it is about how God changed human accountability for all time from Gentile-ism and Judaism to Christianity, thus making it possible for the reconciliation of two heretofore separated groups of people (to each other and of these people to God) by means of one divinely authorized approach (Eph. 2:13-22; cf. Acts 19:9). We cannot now do what the apostles were commanded to do (see chapter 15, “Facts That Paint the Picture of Acts” in Except One Be Born From Above).

  1. The apostles were the ones to whom the commission was given (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:44-49; Read carefully Mark 16:15-20; cf. Heb. 2:1-4; cf. Acts 8:1-4).
  2. The ones responsible to the great commission were the “ambassadors” of Christ, distinguished from the rest of the church (Acts 1:21-26; 26:16; 2 Cor. 5:18-20; Acts 1:22).
  3. Two of the apostles were even given special assignments entailed in their great commission (Matt. 16:19; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4; 8:14-24; 10:44-48; Gal. 2:7; Acts 9:15).
  4. Each apostle had “witnessing” power unavailable to other Christians (1 Cor. 12:11; 14:1, 13; 1 Tim. 4:14; 1:6; 2 Cor. 12:12).
  5. Not all Christians were given the gift of tongues (1 Cor. 14:6, 22).
  6. Even if it could be proven that the early church bore the same relationship to the commission that the apostles did, we today still could not have that relationship to it (Eph. 2:20; 4:11; Heb. 2:1-4; the apostles were in a category all their own: Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 4:9-13; 2 Cor. 12:12; Matt. 18:18 with Matt. 16:18-20; 19:27-28).
  7. During the thirty year period of evangelism in all the world, God was miraculously managing the whole affair (Acts 13:1-4; 16:6-10; cf. 1 Cor. 13:8-13; Acts 14:27; 1 Cor. 16:8, 9, 11; Rev. 3:7; Col. 1:16, 23).
  8. Passages that obligate Christians today to teach cannot in and of themselves prove that the evangelism is to be based on the great commission (1 Tim. 3:15; 2 Tim. 2:2; 1 Tim. 3:2; Matt. 22:37-40).
  9. God has withdrawn all miraculous assistance, which was absolutely necessary to carrying out the commission in the first century (Mark 16:15-20; 1 Cor. 13:8-13; cf. Acts 17:27; Matt. 7:7-11 with Luke 11:13; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4).Note: Our world is not like that of the first century (transition era)! Today all men outside the church die in sin when they die without obeying the gospel. In the first century, there was a way (Judaism and Gentile-ism) for men outside the church to be saved before the gospel reached them because of the religious arrangement that had been made by God for them! Gentile-ism (Patriarchy) and Judaism were finally superseded by Christianity!

Consider these arguments:

Argument #1:

  • All assignments that the apostles were given to do that required the capacity for inspired speaking and miracle working are assignments that Christians today cannot carry out.
  • The assignment that the apostles were given to go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature was an assignment that the apostles were given to do that required the capacity for inspired speaking and miracle working (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:12-13; Heb. 2:3-4).
  • Therefore, the assignment to go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature was an assignment that Christians today cannot carry out.

Argument #2:

  • Any assignment that the apostles were given which changed human amenability on earth for all time is an assignment that cannot be carried out following its fulfillment.
  • The assignment that the apostles were given to go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature is an assignment which changed amenability on earth for all time (Col. 1:23; Acts 10:36; 17:30-31).
  • Therefore, the assignment that the apostles were given to go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature is an assignment that cannot be carried out following its fulfillment.
Posted in Baptism, Doctrine, Salvation

Correct and Incorrect Reasons for Rebaptism

By Mac Deaver

Tarlac Bible Forum

[The Tarlac Bible Forum was conducted in November 2014 at the Nick Hotel in Gerona, Tarlac, in the Philippines. Five lectures were presented by Mac Deaver on the theme of “The Baptism of the Great Commission.” We are publishing his teaching outlines here in the order delivered.]

Lesson 4: Correct and Incorrect Reasons for Rebaptism

I. Some incorrect reasons for rebaptism:

  1. I knew only a little truth when I was first baptized (cf. Heb. 6:1-3; 1 Cor. 3:1ff.).
  2. Others for whom I have love or respect have been rebaptized (cf. Acts 19:1-7).
  3. I would feel better if a certain preacher baptized me (cf. 1 Cor. 1:10-17; 3:4-9).
  4. To increase the “chances” of my eternal salvation (cf. Col. 2:12; Luke 10:31; Eccl. 9:11).
  5. My baptism was ineffectual because I could not make the confession with my mouth or I did not make the confession before many men (cf. Matt. 10:32-33; Rom. 10:9-10; Rev. 3:5; 1 Tim. 6:12).
  6. I’m not sure the water was pure (cf. Heb. 10:22; Acts 22:16; Eph. 5:26).
  7. The person who baptized me was not a Christian or later apostatized from the faith (cf. Luke 8:11; cf. Demas in 2 Tim. 4:10; Col. 4:14; Philem. 23).
  8. I did not realize at the time that I would receive the actual baptism of the Spirit (Acts 2:38).
  9. I was baptized because I didn’t want to go to hell (cf. Acts 2:40; 1 John 4:18).

II. Some correct reasons for rebaptism:

  1. I was baptized simply because others wanted me to be (Rom. 6:17).
  2. I really didn’t understand what I was doing (John 6:44-45).
  3. I did not have faith that I was being saved from sin (Col. 2:12).
  4. I did not really repent of my sins (2 Cor. 7:10).
  5. I thought I had already been saved and that I was being baptized to join some church (Acts 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).
  6. Even though I was an innocent child (having no sin), I was taught that I should submit to baptism in order to be like Christ (Acts 22:16; Eph. 5:26; Tit. 3:5-6).
  7. I was “baptized” when I was a mere baby (cf. Matt. 18:1-6).
  8. I never heard anything about the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 19:2).
  9. I did not know that in baptism I was leaving the world and entering the church (1 John 4:4; 5:19).
  10. To have a clear conscience and make my calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1:10).
  11. When I was baptized, it was for the remission of sins, but I did not believe that Jesus was divine (cf. Matt. 16:16; John 9:35-37).
Posted in Doctrine, New Testament

What Happened in Samaria (Acts 8)?

By Mac Deaver

Tarlac Bible Forum

[The Tarlac Bible Forum was conducted in November 2014 at the Nick Hotel in Gerona, Tarlac, in the Philippines. Five lectures were presented by Mac Deaver on the theme of “The Baptism of the Great Commission.” We are publishing his teaching outlines here in the order delivered.]

Lesson 3: What Happened in Samaria (Acts 8)?

  1. This account of kingdom entry must correspond with Acts 2:1-4 and Acts 10, 11.
  2. Consider the background (Acts 1:8; Acts 8:1-11).
  3. Baptism in water only is baptism into the name of the Lord Jesus only (Acts 8:12, 16; cf. Acts 19:5).
  4. The Holy Spirit came as a result of prayer offered and hands laid (Acts 8:15-18).
  5. The hands identified those to receive the Spirit and provided the conceptual connection between the water and the Spirit (Acts 8:12, 14-19; cf. Acts 19:6; John 3:3, 5; cf. Heb. 6:2).
  6. Jesus was the One who administered Holy Spirit baptism (Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16; John 1:33).
  7. With both water and Spirit, the Samaritans had been now baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 2:33).
Posted in Baptism, Doctrine, New Testament, Salvation

Was the Baptism of the Holy Spirit a One Time Event Only?

By Mac Deaver

Tarlac Bible Forum

[The Tarlac Bible Forum was conducted in November 2014 at the Nick Hotel in Gerona, Tarlac, in the Philippines. Five lectures were presented by Mac Deaver on the theme of “The Baptism of the Great Commission.” We are publishing his teaching outlines here in the order delivered.]

Lesson 2: Was the Baptism of the Holy Spirit a One Time Event Only?

Discussion: No, because —

  1. There are no measures of the Holy Spirit (John 3:34).
  2. All who obeyed the gospel received the Spirit (Acts 5:32). [Question: Why didn’t the kingdom arrive ten days prior to Pentecost?]
  3. Baptism in the Spirit is no more miraculous than the forgiveness of sins is (Romans 8:2).
  4. There is only one way into the kingdom (John 3:3-5; Ephesians 4:4-5). [Note: If some entered at the point of Spirit baptism (Acts 2:1-4), and if some entered at the point of water baptism (Acts 10:44-48), then all entered when water and Spirit were combined in their human experience (John 3:3-5)!]
  5. Of the meaning of John 3:3-5.
  6. Of what Jesus did not say in John 3:3-5 —
    (1) Water must come first and then the Spirit;
    (2) Spirit must come first and then the water;
    (3) Water and Spirit must come at the same time;
    (4) One’s forgiveness had to occur at the moment of kingdom entry;
    (5) Forgiveness would occur in every case of water baptism;
    (6) One born of water only could enter the kingdom;
    (7) One born of Spirit only could enter the kingdom.
  7. Entering the spiritual body of Christ (the church) is accomplished by means of entering the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-11; Galatians 3:26-27).
Posted in Baptism, Doctrine, Salvation

What Happens While We Are Under the Water

By Mac Deaver

Tarlac Bible Forum

[The Tarlac Bible Forum was conducted in November 2014 at the Nick Hotel in Gerona, Tarlac, in the Philippines. Five lectures were presented by Mac Deaver on the theme of “The Baptism of the Great Commission.” We are publishing his teaching outlines here in the order delivered.]

Lesson 1: What Happens While We Are Under the Water

  1. We are delivered, forgiven, and redeemed (Colossians 1:13-14; Acts 2:38; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 1:18-19; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
  2. We are regenerated by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5-6; Matthew 19:28; cf. Acts 3:19; Romans 6:3-4, 11).
  3. We are indwelled by the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32; Romans 8:9-11; Ephesians 1:13-14).
  4. We are added to the saved (Acts 2:47; Matthew 12:46-50).
  5. We are transferred (Colossians 1:13).
  6. We are made sons by birth (John 3:3-5; Ephesians 1:3-5).
  7. We make the great escape (2 Peter 1:4; 2:20-22).
  8. Our nature is altered (2 Peter 1:4; Galatians 6:7-8; John 15:1ff; Galatians 5:22-24).
  9. We are spiritually circumcised (Colossians 2:11-12).
Posted in Doctrine

Blessing Backward

By Weylan Deaver

King Saul’s was the sad case of a career gone south due to his persistent refusal to obey God. Such colossal failure caused the Lord to tear the kingdom from Saul, giving it to a man more worthy (1 Sam. 13:14). The next king would be David, freshly pulled from the sheep pasture, but transitioning from Saul to his unwelcome successor took a long time, during which Saul did his utmost to track down and annihilate the young shepherd.

Jealousy had surfaced when David was given higher praise than Saul among the women singers (1 Sam. 18:6ff.). Saul feared David’s popularity and tried, surreptitiously, to get him killed by the Philistines (1 Sam. 18:25). That failing, Saul went for the direct approach by hurling his spear, in effort to “pin David to the wall” (1 Sam. 19:10). Then he thought to murder David in his own bed (1 Sam. 19:11ff.). Nothing worked. Perhaps the pinnacle of Saul’s perversity was reached when he executed eighty-five priests at Nob because Ahimelech, a priest there, had given aid to David (1 Sam. 21-22).

If ever a man had things backward, it was Saul. His skewed perspective is displayed when, learning David was in Keilah, Saul says, “God has given him into my hand” (1 Sam. 23:7). Saul seemed to think God was on his side, when reality was quite the opposite.

As the pursuit continued, David went to Ziph, when, of all things, the Ziphites contacted Saul and offered to turn David in to the bloodthirsty king (1 Sam. 23:15ff.). Saul was elated, and said to the Ziphites, “May you be blessed by the Lord, for you have had compassion on me” (1 Sam. 23:21).

The chase will continue, but let us pull in the reins as we ponder verse 21 — a statement of thick irony from a man of thin conviction. When the Ziphites offered to hand David over, Saul said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, for you have had compassion on me.” Think of it. God had already disowned Saul and told him his reign was over (1 Sam. 15:23, 28). Saul was rebellious, wretched, rejected. David was chosen by God to succeed Saul, and Saul wanted David dead. David was being helped by God, while Saul was multiplying his own mistakes. In spite of it all, Saul still thought he could tell the Ziphites, “May you be blessed by the Lord, for you have had compassion on me.” In truth, Saul was not enjoying the Lord’s favor, and he really had no right to speak as though he and God were on the same page. His blessing of the Ziphites was as backward as could be.

Which brings us a sober reminder. Not everyone who says “God bless you” is on God’s side. Not all who talk about the Lord in a pleasing way are actually pleasing the Lord. Talk is cheap if your sins are costing your soul. Look at Saul. Look at the oceans of churches out there, teeming with schools of conflicting theology. Denominational differences form a palette of clashing colors to paint a portrait of Christianity scarcely resembling anything in the gospel. Yet, every such church thinks itself on God’s side, thus combining a legacy of rebellion with the language of righteousness. God does not intend that we ask his blessing while avoiding his Book. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).

Posted in Debates, Doctrine, Marriage

Giving New Life To Old Error

By Mac Deaver

The Bales-Deaver Debate on marriage, divorce, and remarriage was published by the Firm Foundation Publishing House in 1988. That is twenty six years ago now, and a lot has changed in our world and in the brotherhood since that time including the continuing demise of morality in our country. Many who are young adults now were at the time of the great controversy in the church over marriage and divorce unaware as to what all was being said and done regarding the discussion of the proper application of the Lord’s teaching in Matthew 19:9.

On April 19, 1977 Roy Deaver and James Bales met on the campus of Harding College (now University) to discuss the issue of the application of Matthew 19:9. Later Thomas B. Warren hoped that he and brother Bales could debate the issue orally. Bales declined, for health reasons, but proposed a written debate between the two. Warren turned down that offer, and finally an agreement was reached between Bales and Roy Deaver for a written discussion. It lasted about five years. Bales, Deaver, and Warren were all friends and each respected the ability of the others. Bales had the year before moderated for Warren in Warren’s debate with the atheist, Antony Flew. Deaver also had assisted Warren in that momentous discussion held in September of 1976. When Bales learned that I was to teach a course on Acts in Tennessee Bible College in the early 1980s, he mailed me a thick notebook full of his own notes. It was a most generous gesture. He had a great mind and had done a tremendous amount of good through his teaching and his writing. He had been a great force for good. But now his talents had come to be employed in the defense of a position on Matthew 19:9 that was “new ground” for the brotherhood. The question was whether or not the novel position was scriptural.

In his own personal study, Bales had concluded that the church as a whole had misunderstood the application of the Lord’s teaching in Matthew 19:9. He had decided that Matthew 19:9 applied only to marriages that were composed of a Christian married to another Christian. The passage did not, according to him, apply to a non-Christian married to another non-Christian or to a Christian married to a non-Christian. This novel approach to the passage he attempted to defend in his time consuming written debate with my father. The reader can still purchase that written account and study it carefully. I cannot here go over everything or even most of what was said between the two participants. Very few things from the debate will be discussed.

In completion of my work at Tennessee Bible College for the terminal degree in Christian Apologetics, I presented to the faculty of the graduate school there my dissertation in January of 1991. It was entitled “Moral Law, The Law Of Christ, And The Marriage-Divorce-Remarriage Issue.” In that paper I discussed the existence and nature of moral law, the moral law and positive law, some implications of denying the existence of moral law, and moral law in some recent discussions on the marriage-divorce-remarriage issue. That last part entailed a critical analysis of the (1) Warren-Fuqua Debate, (2) McClish-Billingsly Debate, and the (3) Bales-Deaver Debate. It was clear to me then, and it is clear to me now that the effort to deny the universal application of Matthew 19:9 to all marriages was completely without evidential support.

It came to pass in time that I debated Dan Billingsly in January of 1995 in Arlington, Texas (Dallas-Fort Worth area). He affirmed: “The Scriptures teach that Matthew 19:9 is not New Testament doctrine.” The following September I debated Olan Hicks on the marriage-divorce issue in Robertson County, Tennessee. Brother Hicks affirmed: “The Scriptures teach that God approves marriage for every person, including all who have divorced or have been divorced by a mate, regardless of cause.” The reader can still obtain a written copy of that debate and study carefully what was said. Then in April of 2004, I engaged Dan Billingsly in a second debate in Bedford (Fort Worth area). He affirmed that the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were all a part of the Old Testament. Of course, if he could have proven that (which he could not and which was exposed as false), he could have gotten rid of the “troublesome” passage (Matthew 19:9). The position taken by Billingsly in this debate showed the extent to which some of us were willing to go to get rid of the “bothersome” passage. The morality of the country was degenerating, and Christian families were certainly involved. Surely, there had to be a way to get around the restriction of Matthew 19:9.

At the end of my doctoral dissertation, at the end of my polemic encounters with Billingsly and Hicks, I was convinced that the application of Matthew 19:9 is today for all men, both Christians and non-Christians. I never faced a sound argument that proved the contradiction, and I presented many sound arguments in the discussions to verify that for which I was contending. It was and remains clear to me that fornication is the one and only reason for a divorce that allows the innocent (other) party to scripturally remarry.

Now, why do I at this time bring all this back up to view. I do it because recently a book has been published by Weldon Langfield entitled The Truth About Divorce And Remarriage. It claims to be “A Politically Incorrect View of Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in Today’s Church.” The purpose of the book is to resurrect the idea that 1 Corinthians 7:15 does, in fact, supply the Christian with a reason for divorce and remarriage other than fornication (as provided by the Lord in Matthew 19:9).

All through the book, Langfield refers to preachers who hold that Matthew 19:9 is of universal application and gives us the only scriptural basis for a divorce and a remarriage as “politically correct” preachers. He calls them “PC” preachers. Thus, in informing us that 1 Corinthians does give us an additional reason for divorce and remarriage, he is providing the “politically incorrect” view by which, of course, he attempts to endear his position to our brethren (who generally despise “political correctness”). On page 88 he concludes, “A critical examination of the PC position shows it to be without support.” Again, on page 153 near the end of the book he writes, “Two-thirds of denominational scholarship and many distinguished brotherhood preachers and scholars are correct in their understanding that 1 Corinthians 7:15 provides grounds for remarriage.”

If the reader hopes to find conclusive proof for this position, he will be disappointed. If he searches for a sound argument to prove it true, he will search in vain. He will find many gospel preachers of the past quoted to lend support to his position, but he will not find where a sound argument is ever provided by these quoted preachers to prove the contention true. And this is the very thing that Langfield needs: a sound argument (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:21; Romans 12:2). We all should know that we prove nothing about the alleged accuracy of a conclusion by citing an approving quotation from someone who also believed it to be true. If the quoted party provided the “proof,” then provide his proof. Langfield couldn’t do this because there was no “proof” from anyone that he quoted to show that 1 Corinthians 7:15 provided an additional basis for divorce and remarriage in addition to what the Lord had provided in Matthew 19:9.

Langfield refers to many preachers on both sides of the issue. He refers to brother Bales several times in the book, but only mentions my father twice in the text, once in connection with his brief debate with Gus Nichols in their 1973 encounter at the Harding Graduate School in Memphis (p. 69) and the second reference (p. 126) is by means of a quotation taken from the July, 1980 Spiritual Sword periodical, the quotation being a description given by my father of the devastating nature of brother Bales’ position to the gospel. However, Langfield never refers to the Bales-Deaver Debate at all, a debate in which my father exposed Bales’ contention that 1 Corinthians 7:15 does provide, after all, an additional basis for divorce and remarriage other than that provided by the Lord in Matthew 19:9.

And this is the very position to which Langfield attempts to lend support in his new book. Brother Bales believed that Matthew 19:9 only applied to Christians married to Christians and that 1 Corinthians 7:15 applied to Christians married to non-Christians and to non-Christians married to other non-Christians. If the reader has not read that debate, I would suggest that he do so. It is indeed interesting and somewhat curious that Langfield, while referring to many books regarding the marriage-divorce controversy, never quotes from this pivotal debate in which Bales himself tried to prove the position to which Langfield in his new book attempts to lend support. Again, I remind the reader that Langfield refers to Bales several times, but he never quotes from Bales or from my father in their debate which was a discussion of the very issue that concerns Langfield in his recently published book.

Bales took the position that the Lord had addressed one group of married people in Matthew 19:9 and that Paul was addressing another group of married people in 1 Corinthians 7:10-15. The Lord had only the “covenant people” in mind (Christians only), and Paul had in mind non-covenant people (non-Christians) and especially Christians married to them, so that Matthew 19:9 did not even apply to the group that Paul was now addressing. It is clear to me that my father exposed this contention conclusively and in several ways. However, among the many things that he taught in the debate, in my judgment, if he had only said one thing that he did to Bales, it was absolutely devastating. And it is something that either Langfield does not know or chose not to notice in his new book. Langfield shows familiarity with some of the crucial material written during the controversy, but for some reason, he never quotes my father (nor James Bales) in the Bales Deaver Debate.

In my father’s second affirmative, he presented his argument on the tense of a crucial verb in 1 Corinthians 7:15. He wrote, “The word ‘bondage’ is the translation of the Greek dedoulotai which is perfect passive indicative, third person singular of the root word douloo. The perfect tense is significant. The force of the perfect tense here is: the deserted believer is not now and in fact never has been under the kind of bondage signified by the word douloo—the kind of bondage which would compel the Christian to give up his or her Christianity in order to preserve the marriage” (p. 61). Bales wasn’t impressed and called for proof that this was the meaning of the tense (p. 90). Of course, all Bales had to do was consult a Greek Grammar and think about the description of the perfect tense (for example, Essentials of New Testament Greek by Ray Summers).

Summers points out that the perfect tense “…indicates completed action with a resulting state of being. The primary emphasis is on the resulting state of being…The real nature of the Greek perfect is seen in the passive voice better than in the active” (p. 103). The verb (“under bondage”) in 1 Corinthians 7:15 is in the passive voice. Summers points out that there are three ideas involved in the perfect tense: “an action in progress, its coming to a point of culmination, its existing as a completed result” (p. 103). He illustrates the force of the tense by appealing to the verb gegraptai (“it is written”). [The reader can consult Matthew 4:1-11 and see where the Lord three times uses a perfect tense verb when he says, “it is written”]. According to Summers the meaning is that “it has been written and stands written” (p. 103). If this had been a negative remark (as we have in 1 Corinthians 7:15), it would have meant: “it has not been written and it stands not written.”

Therefore, the meaning of the verb (“under bondage” with the negative word “not”) is that the brother or sister “has not been and is not under bondage.” The force of the tense means that the brother or sister in the case being described has never been in the bondage to which reference is made! That is one way that my father knew that it could not be referring to the “marriage bond.” The brother or sister had been in that bondage (the marriage bond) if they had been joined in marriage by God (Matthew 19:6; Romans 7:2). But the bondage to which Paul refers is one that had never entailed them at all. It is a kind of bondage different from what the marriage bond is. The marriage bond never entails the “slavery” involved in the word used for “bondage” in verse 15!

My father knew that the verb for “under bondage” in verse 15 could not possibly refer to the marriage bond. Furthermore, he knew that in verse 27, we find another perfect tense verb referring to a “bondage” which in the passage is undoubtedly the “marriage bond.” The words “Art thou bound unto a wife” certainly refer to the marriage bond. But, it is a different Greek word! The word in verse 15 is doulao and the verb in verse 27 is deo! Therefore, in verse 15 Paul had said that a believer married to a non-believer had never been, and was not at the time he was writing, in slavery that would compel the believer to pursue the marriage at the expense of his soul. In verse 27 he said that if anyone was married he had been and now remained in that same condition (perfect tense) in a state of “bondage,” but he clearly used a different word for this “marriage bond”!

But, even if we knew nothing about Greek tense, shouldn’t Paul’s last words in verse 15 (“but God has called us in peace”) and the words following in verses 16-24 show us what he had meant in verse 15? If the non-believer has left the believer (“let him depart”), the believer is to remain in peace, and not feel compelled to go after the non-believer with the hope of converting him/her. Paul is anticipating the thinking of the deserted believer. “If I can only find him, I can surely convert him and bring him home.” Paul says that you do not know that you can convert him (v. 16), and you are not (given the fact that he has departed) to feel obligated to go after him.

And please notice that Paul then declares that no one has the right to use his conversion as an excuse to alter a non-sinful state. It was not sinful for a Christian to be married to a non-Christian (see verses 12-14). And it does not matter whether one is converted while he is in the condition of circumcision or non-circumcision (v. 18-19), or as a slave or a free man (v. 21-23). But please notice that each condition is an illustration of a non-sinful state. Paul does not say that it is all right to remain in any sinful condition, including adultery! Repentance precedes baptism.

But now, let me make one more basic point in addition to all that has been said in the past to falsify the contention that 1 Corinthians 7:15 provides an additional reason for divorce and remarriage. My father took the position that Matthew 19:9 was universal teaching covering all marriages today. Brother Bales took the position that it applied only to Christians married to Christians. He took it that when Paul said “to the rest” (v. 12) he was referring to those other than Christians married to Christians, and he took it that “not under bondage” (v. 15) gave the deserted believer the right to remarry without fornication being committed against him/her per Matthew 19:9.

Notice, please, that the passage says that if the non-believer departs from the believer that then “the brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases” (v. 15). But the question arises, “What if the non-believer chooses not to depart but to remain with the believer?” If Matthew 19:9 applies only to Christians married to Christians, then (1) what is the relationship of the Christian to his non-Christian mate who chooses to remain with him/her and (2) what is that Christian’s relationship to the marriage bond? Notice that Paul did not say that the brother or sister was “not under bondage” in the case where the non-believer chooses to remain with the believer. If anyone today were to take the position that brother Bales did on verse 15, claiming that it was the marriage bond as such, then he would need to face these questions.

Paul said, “Yet if the unbeliever departeth, let him depart: the brother or the sister is not under bondage is such cases” (v.15). But what is the Christian’s obligation and what are his rights if the unbeliever remains (does not depart)? Now, if we were to allow Bales to assume that the marriage bond is being referenced in verse 15 (although we have already shown it is not), then Bales would face the following problem. Notice what Paul would be and would not be saying:

  1. Paul would not be saying that a Christian married to a non-Christian is “not under bondage.”
  1. Paul would be saying that a Christian married to a non-Christian is “not under bondage” if the non-Christian departs.

And remember, that Bales believed that Matthew 19:9 did not apply to the case of the believer married to the unbeliever at all, period. Then that would mean that (1) if the unbeliever chose not to depart but to remain with the believer and (2) if Matthew 19:9 never applied to the case of the believer married to the unbeliever, then we would have to face the following facts:

  1. If the unbeliever who remained with the believer later committed fornication against the believer, the believer would have no right based on Matthew 19:9 to put away the unfaithful mate for his fornication and innocently remarry another (since Matthew 19:9 didn’t apply to him/her, according to Bales).
  1. The believer living with a non-believer who chose not to depart was under bondage to that non-believer.
  1. Since, per Bales, Matthew 19:9 had never applied to a mixed married couple, then we learn that Paul is saying for the first time in the New Testament that a believer is bound to an unbeliever if that unbeliever chose not to depart.
  1. Since Paul is telling us, per Bales, that Matthew 19:9 never applied to a believer married to an unbeliever, it would mean that Jesus in Matthew 19:6 was only talking about believers married to believers as well when he said, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” [My father made this very point to Bales (Bales-Deaver Debate, p. 133)].
  1. Then if the unbeliever can depart and thus give the believer and himself the right to remarry (per Bales according to 1 Corinthians 7:15), then Matthew 19:6 never applied to unbelievers married to believers and believers married to unbelievers either.
  1. If Matthew 19:6 never applied to anyone in a “mixed marriage” (believer to unbeliever), and if it never applied to a marriage involving unbeliever to unbeliever (per Bales), then the only people whom God has joined in marriage are Christians married to Christians! All other “married” couples are not married at all!
  1. But this conclusion contradicts the position implied at point #2!

When my father engaged Bales in their encounter at Harding in 1977, he referred to a letter that he had recently received from a man in Africa desiring to become a Christian but who was living with several wives. What was he to do? My father asked brother Bales his counsel. Bales responded that the man would need to put away all the wives but the first! But this was completely contradictory to the position that he was taking on the world’s non-amenability to the Lord’s law on marriage and divorce. If God had, in fact, joined the man to these women in marriage (and polygamy has never been against moral law as such), then how could anyone suggest that an alien sinner separate from the wives to whom he has been joined by God?

Brother Bales was no adulterer, but he unintentionally took a position that sanctioned some cases of adultery. I think it is very sad and so unfortunate that we had to go through such a time in the church when there seemed to be so much uncertainty with regard to marriage and divorce.

Years ago, my father and mother were living with my wife and me in Wellington, Texas. I was preaching for the church there, and Daddy was still engaged in his Biblical Notes writing work. Not long before brother Bales passed away, he called the house. I answered the phone. Brother Bales was evidently satisfied to talk with me for he never asked to speak to my father. But he told me that he wanted us to know that he loved us. In the light of that call, I take it that in light of the tremendous battle over marriage, divorce, and remarriage in which we had all been engaged, he wanted us to know that there was no anger or bitterness involved at all. He wanted things to be right between us. He was calling to tell us that he loved us.

I’m sorry brother Bales made this doctrinal mistake. I know he meant well. He was a good and brilliant man. But all of us are responsible to God for our own lives and decisions. None of us can excuse himself for adultery (if he finds himself in that state) because of Bales’ unintentionally sanctioning some cases of it. Each of us must search the Scriptures for himself (Acts 17:11). I once heard brother Warren express himself as he reflected on brother Bales’ situation. He said, “There’s got to be some room for grace.” I hope he found it, too.

The ungodliness in American culture helped to create the situation in the church where we began to think that we needed some relief from the stricture of Matthew 19:9. May God help us never again to allow any cultural condition to weaken our resolve to stand with proven truth (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 15:58). And may God give us the wisdom to reject any current effort at giving new life to old error.

Posted in Doctrine

Joel’s Prophecy and Events Surrounding the Day of Pentecost (And Our Misunderstandings)

By Marlin Kilpatrick

I am not so naive as to think I know all that can be known about the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32. I am certain there are others who know more than I, but it seems to me there are some things which all of us can know and understand about the events that occurred on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), as well as other events which surrounded that memorable day. But first, we need to get a picture in our minds of the context of the events which Luke, the inspired penman, paints for us.

Jesus gives his final instructions to his apostles and then ascends into heaven (Acts 1:1-11). Among his instructions, Jesus promised his apostles they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit in just a few days (cf. 1:4, 5). Following his ascension, the apostles returned to Jerusalem as they had been instructed (vss. 4, 12). The apostles joined a group of disciples who were in an upper room, including several women, their number being “about 120,” and from this group Matthias was selected to take Judas Iscariot’s apostleship (vss. 15-26). The kingdom of God, our Lord’s church, was about to come into existence, and not a better group of men and women to comprise that kingdom could be found; for they were “all with one accord.” What a picture of unity! Most likely, the Lord’s church has never been as united as it was when it began on the day of Pentecost (Acts2)!

The day of Pentecost arrived and the Holy Spirit descended from heaven and it is here that we begin to divide, with almost every gospel preacher having his own “interpretation” of what happened, to whom it happened, and why it happened, etc. We are so divided over the issue of the Holy Spirit that we ought to be ashamed. The “gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38) is thought by some to be miraculous and given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, while others think the “gift” is our salvation. We have some who hold there are only two occurrences (Acts 2:1-4; 10:44-46) of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and, some cannot even agree that Cornelius was baptized in the Spirit. Recently, I was talking with a fellow gospel preacher about some of these matters and to my utter amazement he said, “I don’t believe the gift of the Holy Spirit is the Spirit, and I don’t believe Cornelius was baptized in the Spirit, either.” Well, whether he believes or does not believe, Peter said Cornelius, his household and near friends received “the like gift” as did the apostles (Acts 11:17). The Greek word which is translated “like” means an equal gift (Vine’s, p. 342). So, whatever the apostles received, Cornelius, his household and near friends, received the same or equal gift.

When the day of Pentecost was fully come, there came a sound from heaven like that of a “rushing mighty wind” (Acts 2:1-4) and “tongues like as of fire” sat upon each of them. When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, he used the wind as an illustration and said, “so is everyone that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). One brother says, “Only the apostles were baptized in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost” (Acts 2). Question: How does he know that? Answer: Most likely he read something written by J. W. McGarvey; or, possibly, he either read or heard the late brother Guy N. Woods say so. But, one thing for sure: he didn’t get it out of the scriptures. Someone may ask, “But wasn’t Jesus talking only to his apostles when he promised them they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit, not many days hence” (Acts 1:5)? Yes, and they were! But that doesn’t prove that only the apostles were baptized in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). As far as the apostles are concerned, the only thing that is proven is that Jesus kept his promise! In the gospel of John, chapters 14-16, Jesus was speaking to only his apostles, but some of what he told them applied to more than just the apostles. For example, he promised his apostles he would not leave them as orphans (John 14:18), but are the apostles the only members of the church who are not orphans? Certainly not! If God is your heavenly father, you’re not an orphan! Too, when Peter defended, at Jerusalem, his preaching to the Gentiles (Cornelius’ household) he remembered the words of Jesus, “John indeed baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 11:16) and he applied Jesus’ words to more than just the apostles; he included both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 11:17, 18).

According to the apostle Peter, the events which were taking place on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) were the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. In response to the people’s thinking that the apostles were drunk, Peter said, “For these are not drunken as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day, but this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:15, 16). Joel’s prophecy reveals that both men and women would experience the pouring out of God’s Spirit (cf. Joel 2:28, 29). Since none of the apostles were women, but God, through the prophet Joel, said both men and women would be affected by his pouring out of his Spirit (Acts 2:17, 18), which is a quotation by the apostle Peter of Joel’s prophecy, then I know that more than the apostles were baptized in the Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). This conclusion should come as no surprise, for John the Baptist had said that the one coming after him (Christ) would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (cf. Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16).

It is admitted by some that God did pour out his Spirit upon all flesh, but the claim is made that he began pouring out his Spirit on the day of Pentecost and completed pouring out his Spirit upon “all flesh” in Acts 10, when the Gentiles (Cornelius and his household and near friends) entered the kingdom. If that is true, then when did Philip’s four virgin daughters enter the kingdom (Acts 21:9)? And, furthermore, since there are no “measures” of the Spirit (John 3:34), these four virgin daughters were baptized in the Spirit, just like everyone who enters the kingdom (cf. John 3:5). I imagine someone will say, “But, born of the Spirit is not the same as being baptized in the Spirit.” My response is: If one is in compliance with Jesus’ words “born of water” when he is baptized in water, then how does he comply with Jesus’ words “(born, implied MK) of the Spirit?” If “born of water” requires a baptism in water, why doesn’t “and of the Spirit” (John 3:5) require a baptism in the Spirit? After all, both phrases are joined by the conjunction “and.” There is nothing, absolutely nothing, in the context of John 3:3-5 to suggest that Jesus meant one must be instructed by the Spirit (which is the usual explanation of our Lord’s words). The new birth has two elements: water and Spirit.

It’s conceivable that someone might ask, “How do we know the women received the same baptismal measure of the Spirit as did the apostles on the day of Pentecost?” I’m glad you asked! We know the women received the same as did the apostles because, as stated earlier, there is no such thing as “measures” of the Spirit; hence, there is no “baptismal measure” of the Spirit. The scripture says, “for God giveth not the Spirit by measure” (John 3:34). The words “unto him” (KJV) were supplied by the translators. The ASV eliminates these words, as do most all other major translations. Since there are no “measures” of the Spirit given, then, in apostolic times, beginning at Pentecost (Acts 2), one either was/was not baptized in the Spirit. If one had the Spirit it was because Christ had immersed his human spirit in Holy Spirit (cf. Tit. 3:5, 6).

Finally, I would suggest that the question concerning what Jesus meant when he said to Nicodemus, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5), can be easily answered by observing what happened on Pentecost (Acts 2). The Spirit came. How did the disciples, including the apostles, enter the kingdom? They did enter, didn’t they?

The disciples of John (about 120), including the apostles, entered the kingdom when the Spirit descended from heaven (Acts 2:1-4); this was their baptism in the Spirit. All of John’s disciples had already been baptized in water and for the remission of their sins (John 3:23; Mark 1:4). All they needed, in order to enter the kingdom, was to be “born of the Spirit.” When the Spirit came from heaven, they were baptized, or born, of the Spirit (Acts 2:1-4). They had experienced one birth, the new birth, and, consequently, they constituted the kingdom of which the prophet Daniel foretold (Dan. 2:44). Think about it.

Precious people, it’s still the same today. To enter the kingdom of God, the church of Christ, one must be born again, born of water and of the Spirit (cf. John 3:5).