September 20, 2016
We should have little patience with those who deliberately abuse the scriptures, particularly in central doctrines. At the same time, innocent statements can also be dangerous, even if they were not intended to be harmful. The Bible is about God, and His purpose in giving us the scriptures was to reveal Himself to us. His character is displayed in marvelous detail, and we are obligated to avoid statements that might mislead our listeners.
Here is an example of a careless comment, even though it might be intended to express the danger of rejecting the grace of God in eternal salvation. How often have you heard someone say that "to be lost is to be separated from God eternally?” It is true that the unsaved person will be separated from God’s love and mercy, but separated from God eternally? Really? How could that be? David observed, “If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.” (Psalm 139:8b) I remember, as a child, hearing an evangelist shout “The worst thing about hell is that God is not there!” The truth is that the worst thing about hell is that God is there. The careless student might say that the issue is not important. The “cute” theologian may say that the place for the lost to dwell eternally is not hell, but is the Lake of Fire. That is true, but it is not the point of this discussion. After all, we are told “…and death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.” (Rev. 20:14a) To say that God is not in hell or eternity is an attack on the omnipresence of God.
Much of the doctrinal error suggested by people who only know “about” the Bible comes from an erroneous view of the doctrine of God. Whole denominations have invented ideas about the Holy Spirit that fail to recognize that He is God the Spirit. That includes, without exception, all the attributes of God that belong to Him. The Holy Spirit is eternally all-present in the first, second, and third heavens. Eternity is hard for us to conceive, but He is, has always been, and always will be totally God.
An example of the general misunderstanding of the Spirit surrounds the event of Pentecost. All that the Bible says on the subject is true. He did come at Pentecost in special presence and ministry. To hear some people tell the story, you would think that the Spirit had never been there before and was surprised at Jerusalem the first time He saw it. While that is farfetched, it is no more misguided than some of allegorical ideas that historical theology offers, or that experiential religious views press on the Bible.
The Spirit has always been omnipresent, so that is not the issue of Pentecost. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost has to do with the inception of His special ministry; and that ministry is clearly related to the Church, the Body of Christ, that came into existence on that day. Some aspects of His ministry had never been exercised before, and the Scripture makes it plain that they will be used from Pentecost until that moment when the Church of Jesus Christ is caught away. When the Church is removed, so will be that special ministry of the Spirit. (I Thess. 4:13-18; II Thess. 2:1-12) The Holy Spirit will still be all-present, but those special ministries He began at Pentecost will cease to function with men on earth.
COME, HOLY SPIRIT
What do people mean when they sing “Come, Holy Spirit?” He is already here, omnipresent. Why would we ask for something He already has given us, His marvelous presence?
He came once in special ministry for the age of the church, and He is not going to come like that again. If we mean that we want Him to move in our midst with power and purity, bringing obedience to the saints, then that makes sense. It isn’t healthy to confuse people, so we should say and sing only what we mean because the average Christian, who only knows “about” the Bible, may well think we mean something else.
Every true believer has the Holy Spirit indwelling his/her body. He is already there. God meant for us to utilize His indwelling, teaching, guiding, convicting, empowering, etc.; and the fullness of the Spirit is simply yielding to the indwelling Spirit. Since we have the power dwelling in us, what are you praying for? God has already given us the answer, and we are not using it. Why are people looking for something new or additional?
Our world is at the edge of disaster, on the verge of a world war, and our nation is more divided than it was even at the time of the Civil War. One international or national spark could set off a war or cause fighting to erupt in our streets. Some folks have their heads in the sand in denial; others are frightened half of their wits. Some Christians believe that revival is the answer.
If you are praying for revival, what are you praying for? Praying for others isn’t wrong, but if you don’t have revival and repentance of sin in your own heart, then don’t waste your time. The greatest hindrance to revival is the need in each individual heart, and that is what each person should be paying attention to. Many believers pray in vain for revival because they embrace doctrinal error and expect God to honor their prayer while they abuse the Scriptures and are openly disobedient to Him. To take lightly the omnipresence of God, for instance, is a serious offence to Him.
IT IS NO CHRISTMAS PRESENT
Christmas time is one of those periods when people are habitually careless with Scripture. You have already heard my diatribe on this issue, but it illustrates the problem with misleading people about the omnipresence of Christ. We are told that Jesus came down to earth at Bethlehem. While that is true, much of the description is misleading. Where did we get the stuff saying that the angels wept at His departure because they would miss Him? On the day of His birth He was still present everywhere. While He as a babe, clothed by God in flesh, lay in a manger, He was still the Creator and present everywhere in the universe. We see Him as a helpless babe, a man of little wealth, or a despised servant; He was still the all-present God.
It is no Christmas present to mislead people about the God/man even if ours are innocent comments. We don’t need “cute” explanations when we come to questions about Christ in the flesh. We don’t need to feel that we have to explain things that are not explained in the Bible. Those who are plagued by the “Lucifer Syndrome” want people to think that they know the answers to everything. Dr. Bowman repeatedly said, “We always begin with what we most assuredly know.” Then we accept the clear, plain statements of the text. The mysteries of the Scripture remain embraced in the omniscience of God. Our task is to remain confident in what we know, such as the attributes of our Eternal God.
Shepherd's Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min.
A communication service of Shepherd's Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible. Shepherd's Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches. Write for information using the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org or at The Shepherd's Staff