Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Answers To Your Questions

Is Baptism in the Holy Spirit an experience distinct from regeneration?  Or is it the same thing?

ANSWER:   At the moment of conversion, the individual is born again (regenerated) by the work of the Holy Spirit giving us new life.  We are indwelt, sealed, filled, and baptized by the Holy Spirit. These events all occur simultaneously.

Indwelling speaks of our salvation and union with Christ. Sealing speaks of our security and earnest of our inheritance until the day of full redemption. Filling speaks of our being controlled by the Spirit for service, thus we produce fruit because we are filled with the Spirit. Baptism speaks of our being placed into the body of Christ and thus separate from the world. Baptism speaks of our association with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

There is great confusion concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Some say that because the Spirit had not yet been given until the day of Pentecost, they teach a delayed baptism, thus justifying their false view of a second blessing – there is no such thing as a second blessing! The Gospels and Acts are transitional books and as such great care must be taken deriving theology from them. It is not that no theology can be brought out from these books, but one must be careful.  The church had not yet come to reality.  Until they did, the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) were considered Old Testament books.  Acts is a transitional book where the Church was finally brought to existence at Pentecost.  

The promise of the Spirit is part of the Old Testament prophecy given through Ezekiel that “I will put My Spirit within you” (Ezek. 36:25-27). The promise of the Spirit continues in the New Covenant work of God for the Church, promised by Jesus to come to all believers (John 3:5; 7:37-39). Notice what Jesus says to the crowd:

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.   He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.   (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Spirit was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) (John 7:37-39)    

It is understood that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is performed by the Holy Spirit unto the believer and as such is not experiential, but occurs simultaneously with salvation. There are not two baptisms by the Spirit, one placing us into the body (1 Cor. 12:13) and another for service (Acts 1:5), there is only one (singular) “giving” of the Spirit not plural “givings.” There is only one baptism of the Spirit which occurs at the moment of salvation.

Re-generational Baptism should not be confused with water baptism. When Peter is speaking in Acts 11:16 he says, “Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.“ Baptism (washing) of the Holy Spirit is the symbol derived from the Old Testament of ritual washing which was an outward sign of an inner cleansing. Water baptism is an outward sign, but Spirit baptism is a true cleansing - not because we are clean, but because He is clean. Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit brings us into union with God and brings us into the Church. Spirit baptism is unique to the Church and did not occur in the Old Testament:

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:13)  

Thanks for asking.  
Dr. John Pappas

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Answers to Your Questions

Is there a reference to Christian adoption in the Old Testament?

ANSWER: The ancient civilizations of Egypt and Summer both had adoption as part of their law codes. Adoption meant that someone from outside a family could be legally brought into the family with all the benefits and responsibilities thereof. The Nuzu law tablets of Mesopotamia defined that a childless couple could adopt an adult son who would serve them in life and bury them at death. In return, this adopted son would receive the inheritance, unless a natural born son was later born to the couple.

There are examples of adoptions in the Old Testament. It seems Eliezer of Damascus was adopted by Abram because the Lord had not given them any offspring so Abram had taken it upon himself to set an heir (Gen. 15:2-4). The expression “let my name be named on them” is an example of the adoption formula (Wycliffe Bible Dictionary). Jacob adopts his two grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh into his family as sons, not grandsons (Gen. 48:5). But the account found in Exodus 2 that Moses was adopted by Pharaoh is the closest to the ancient practice in the Bible (Ex. 2:10).

But what about the adoption found in Paul’s writing in the New Testament? Can we find in the Abrahamic covenant, for example, the concept of adoption? I do not think so. The Abrahamic covenant simply declares a blessing and a real offspring (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:1-6; 17:1-7). The concept of a covenantal relationship is certainly found in the Old Testament, but the concept is a promise that “I will be your God and you will be my people” (Gen. 17:7; Jer. 7:23; 11:4; 30:22; Ezek. 36:28).

One finds in Exodus 4:22 that Israel is called a son, My firstborn. Israel was not the firstborn son, but this declaration sees Israel (Jacob) as the real heir through the legal act of adoption wherein the real firstborn son, Esau is removed from that position and Jacob is placed as the firstborn son (Rom. 9:4).   

The New Testament concept of adoption is related to “sonship” and being born again. However, adoption is different from being born again. Being born again means we are placed in the family of God as a babe in Christ in need of spiritual growth and development (John 1:12; 3:3). Adoption means God places us into the family of God as an adult with all the rights and privileges thereof. In fact, the Greek word for adoption is the compound of “huios” son, and “tithemi” to set or place, literally, “to place as son.” Both adoption and being born again occur at the same time - at the moment of saving faith.

The metaphoric usage of adoption found in the New Testament means we are placed into the family of God to which we were not naturally born – we were children of the flesh (Rom. 9:8), children of wrath (Eph. 2:3). The result of this adoption means we have freedom from the former relationship of the former family. Adoption and our being chosen by God are related in that adoption is possible only because of a voluntary act of God who performs the adoption.

According the Ephesians chapter 1, our adoption was planned before the foundation of the world (1:4), the agent of our adoption is “by or through Jesus Christ” specifically, through His blood (1:7), and our adoption as sons is “to Him,” meaning we belong to Him, we are placed “in Christ” - we are set apart for service to Him.             

Thanks for asking.
John Pappas, ThD

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Answers to your Questions

Some pastors teach that the church building is to be treated as a "temple." They then say that this "temple" should not be defiled. Therefore, you must dress appropriately and certain activities must be banned. They base this thought solely  on Matthew 21:12-17. Is this a good application; making a church building the temple of God?

Answer: Some people will say anything to justify their idea of how Church is done. The text of Matthew 21:12-17 involves Jesus clearing the Temple outer court where peddlers set up shop to sell the required offering items for Temple service. The peddlers were selling lambs, doves, and exchanging foreign money at premium prices. The Jews who were spread out throughout all the lands came together on the required observance day and included both rich and poor. The poor would only be able to afford a dove, in fact, Jesus’ parents were only able to bring a dove at His dedication.

The Tabernacle and later the Temple was said to be the dwelling place of God, where man met with God (Ex. 25:8; 29:43; 40:34-35; Ps. 18:6). The symbolism of the Temple was rich in the person of Jesus Christ. In fact, Jesus is said to be the Temple of God (John 2:20-21); the Word became flesh and tabernacled (dwelt) among us (John 1:14); His body described as both the sacred bread (John 6:27-59), and the curtain (Heb. 10:20); and finally, His blood washes and cleanses us (1 John 1:7). For He was the Lamb of God who take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).  The Temple in Jerusalem was the focal point of national restoration and blessing, but that focal point has now moved to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.   

But it is also true that both the Church is called the temple (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 3:16-17; Eph. 2:21-22; Heb. 3:6), and the Christian body, indwelt with the Holy Spirit is called a temple (1 Cor. 6:19). The basic idea is that both the Church and the Christian has met God. The Lord Jesus Christ is functioning today as the great High Priest interceding for us.

The Church is the group of all Christians and has nothing to do with a building. That is the big point of John 2:19 – that Jesus, the dwelling place of God, will be raised in three days. The object to come to is the person Jesus Christ, not a building made of hands.  The Church meets in a building, or a house, or it may even be an outside court, and is just a place that is used by man to gather together to worship, listen to, and fellowship with God. The word Church in the Greek is called ekklesia a compound from the preposition “from” or “out of,” and “to call,” so it is that we are collectively called the “called out ones.” Notice the word refers to a group of individuals not to a building, further, the word is used of a local group, or universally for all believers, everywhere.      

While it is true that certain activities must not take place in a modern Church building, it is also true that these activities should not take place in a Christian home either. The central question for any activity is: Does that activity glorify God?

I gather by your question that the leadership in your Church is moving beyond what is an acceptable activity and has moved to legalism. If a person comes to your Church and is not dressed according to some unwritten standard, does he or she get looked down upon? James writes about this in chapter two:

My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? (James 2:1-5)

Matthew 21 has no direct application to the Church today, but one could make a secondary application. Your Church sounds like many others who have built a building (not an insignificant thing to do, by the way) and brought together a body of believers there and leadership wants to run the Church in an orderly way with good intentions, but using Matthew 21 to base their idea of how Church should be done is the wrong way to use the Word of God. Go to the Church letters to find out how the local Church should be run.   

Thanks for asking.
John Pappas, ThD