The Doctrine of the Trinity (part 7)

February 10, 2008     Time: 00:46:15

Defenders I
§ 11. Doctrine of the Trinity
Lecture 7

We’ve just had a wonderful time of ministry these past couple of weeks. Jan and I spent a week out at Biola University where I taught a course as part of the Masters Degree Program in Apologetics on the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. It was four hours on Thursday night, four hours on Friday night, and then eight hours on Saturday. When I started teaching this I thought, “How am I going to get enough material to fill all of this time?” I was really rather worried about it. As it turned out, we didn’t have nearly enough time to get through all of the material that there was on the resurrection. But it was just so gratifying to see the warmth and the enthusiasm of the students in this class. As we looked at the historical evidence for the empty tomb, the postmortem appearances of Jesus, and the transformation in the lives of the first disciples and then asked how do you best explain these facts. The students were so filled with gratitude and with encouragement as they saw how their faith holds up historically and how the resurrection is the best explanation for the facts of the case.

We concluded the class by watching a video of the debate that I had with Gerd Lüdemann, the German skeptical New Testament critic who has attacked the resurrection. I debated him several years ago at Boston College. As we watched the debate, it just brought home how really impotent the critics are to explain away the evidence. Also, just the tremendous sadness of someone like Lüdemann who thrusts God away from him, who pushes God at arm’s length and wants nothing to do with God or with the risen Lord. It was very sad in a way to see this highly intellectual man just so hardened in his heart as he rejects the Gospel.

I have been doing a lot of speaking on the resurrection lately. It occurred to me that I was in Quebec speaking on the resurrection at the Université Laval. Then I spoke again on the resurrection at Fresno State University. Then we had this class on the resurrection of Jesus at Biola University. This next week I am off to New Orleans where at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary there is a big debate between John Dominic Crossan (one of the co-chairmen of the Jesus Seminar and skeptical radical critic) and N. T. Wright (the Bishop of Durham and the author of the tremendous book The Resurrection of the Son of God). I will be one of the respondents to this debate along with Gary Habermas, Doug Geivett, Craig Evans, and several others. Then we will dialogue with Wright and Crossan on the historicity of the resurrection. I am really looking forward to this event. It should be very, very interesting. There are some big names involved. Probably a book will flow out of this as they assemble the various papers together and publish them.

I will also be giving a paper on the resurrection at the regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society which is in New Orleans on Friday as well. I am doing that on the resurrection. Then I’ve got the Spong debate on the resurrection coming up on Palm Sunday evening.

So just a lot of interesting ministry on the resurrection of Jesus around this Easter time. It has been very meaningful.

While we were at Biola, I also gave a talk to the Tory Honors Program students there. I talked to the philosophy club and had a great time interacting with these undergrads there. It is just wonderful to see the young students who are coming up through the pipes, so to speak, and hold great promise for the future.

Then this past week after we returned from Biola, Jan and I just got back yesterday from New York where I was flown by ABC to do an interview with Elizabeth Vargas for a documentary that ABC News is doing on the resurrection of Jesus. We met in an interestingly enough Unitarian Universalist church for this interview. She was a lovely person. Elizabeth Vargas was just very sympathetic. On a personal level, she seems to be a believing Catholic and therefore was very sympathetic and leading in a sense in the questions that she asked. Not at all hostile or skeptical.[1] Of course, we don’t know how much of the interview will be used. We’d be lucky if out of the documentary I am on for five minutes. It will probably be much less than that as they just excerpt little sound bites. Twelve other people are being interviewed in connection with this documentary including John Shelby Spong, interestingly enough. He and I will both be on that program which will probably air on May 18th after the debate that we are having in March.

We just had a really wonderful time being in ministry and have some great things to look forward to. If you should think of us this week, I will be in New Orleans on Friday and Saturday and would appreciate your prayers for that. But I will be back again with you next Sunday to continue our lesson.

We’ve been talking about the person and work of the Holy Spirit in class. I don’t know about you, but my heart just rejoiced as I heard the songs and the preaching this morning. The ensemble from the choir sang “Rain down Holy Spirit,” praying for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on us. Then Bryant emphasized in his sermon the critical transition that occurred at Pentecost between the old covenant and the new covenant as the Holy Spirit is given in his fullness and permanency to us in the church today. Our lesson today ties in beautifully with what we talked about in the service.

[Opening prayer]

Last time we looked at the person of the Holy Spirit and saw that the person of the Holy Spirit is God himself. He is the third person of the Trinity. He has all of the attributes of deity. He is distinct from Jesus Christ though he now stands in the place of Jesus Christ in ministering to the church as Christ is ascended into heaven and has sent the Holy Spirit to act in his place until Christ comes again.

Then we looked at the various ministries of the Holy Spirit. We saw that the Holy Spirit was involved in creation, in divine revelation, in the inspiration of the Scriptures, in the conception of Jesus Christ, in regeneration as we are born again through the new birth to the spiritual life, in baptizing, in indwelling us, in providing assurance of salvation, in enablement for spiritual living, in giving spiritual gifts to each of us to equip the body of Christ for ministry, and finally in producing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. So the ministry of the Holy Spirit is very, very rich indeed, and shows how vital it is to cultivate his work in our lives as Christians.

Today we want to turn to the presence of the Holy Spirit in the old and the new covenants – to contrast these with each other.

Under the old covenant – that is to say, in pre-Pentecostal times – the Holy Spirit would indwell various servants of God for specific purposes. To empower them to carry out specific ministries that God had called them to.[2]

Exodus 31:1-3:

The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship”

Here is a craftsman that God has filled with the Holy Spirit in order to carry out artistic purposes.

Turn over to Exodus 35:30-35:

And Moses said to the people of Israel, “See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with ability to do every sort of work done by a craftsman or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet stuff and fine twined linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of workman or skilled designer.

There again we see the bestowal of the Holy Spirit in his power to enable these craftsmen and artisans to carry out their work.

Let’s look at another example in Number 11:16-17, 25:

And the Lord said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. And I will come down and talk with you there; and I will take some of the spirit which is upon you and put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone.” . . . Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was upon him and put it upon the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did so no more.

There we see how the Lord bestows some of the Spirit he says is upon Moses upon these other leaders of Israel for carrying out their political purposes – for governing Israel – and results in their having the gift of prophesy.

Turn forward to the book of Judges where we see how time and again God would anoint various judges of Israel with his Holy Spirit to carry out specific tasks. Judges 3:9-10:

But when the people of Israel cried to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who delivered them, Othni-el the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel; he went out to war, and the Lord gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim.

Here is an example where one of the judges is empowered by the Spirit of God to carry out military exploits.

Turn over to Judges 6:34: “But the Spirit of the Lord took possession of Gideon; and he sounded the trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called out to follow him.” There is Gideon filled with the Holy Spirit to exercise his military leadership.

Judges 11:29: “Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh, and passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites.” There we have Jephthah, another one of the judges, upon who the Spirit of the Lord came in order to exercise his judgeship.

Turn over to Judges 13:24-25: “And the woman bore a son, and called his name Samson; and the boy grew, and the Lord blessed him. And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshta-ol.” This is the story of Samson. There you begin to see how the Holy Spirit begins to stir in Samson to prepare him.

Judges 14:5-6 we see more about him:

Then Samson went down with his father and mother to Timnah, and he came to the vineyards of Timnah. And behold, a young lion roared against him; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he tore the lion asunder as one tears a kid; and he had nothing in his hand. But he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done.

There you see superhuman strength that comes upon Samson when the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him.

Also Judges 14:19:

And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty men of the town, and took their spoil and gave the festal garments to those who had told the riddle. In hot anger he went back to his father’s house.

Here you see again great strength and military prowess comes upon Samson through the Spirit of the Lord.

Judges 15:14: “When he came to Lehi, the Philistines came shouting to meet him; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and the ropes which were on his arms became as flax that has caught fire, and his bonds melted off his hands.” There again you see the Spirit of the Lord comes on Samson and he is able to do these great superhuman feats of strength.

This is the pattern in the old covenant. The Holy Spirit would come upon people temporarily to perform some skill or some act or some exploit that God had in mind for them.

We want to contrast this with the new covenant. One of the major differences with the old covenant and the new covenant is that in the new covenant the Holy Spirit becomes a permanent presence in the life of the believer. No longer is the Holy Spirit someone who comes temporarily upon the believer in order to conduct some exploit. Rather, the Holy Spirit comes upon us permanently.

The chart is meant to illustrate that:

In the Old Testament, prior to the crucifixion of Christ or the life of Christ represented by the cross on that horizontal time line, we have the Holy Spirit present primarily with the people of Israel in the temple – in the Holy of Holies – which was the focus of God’s dwelling among the people.[3] The temple served as the place where one would encounter God. Let’s look at some passages about this.

2 Chronicles 7:1-3:

When Solomon had ended his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD's house. When all the children of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD upon the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the earth on the pavement, and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures for ever.”

Here it describes how, upon the completion of the temple and the dedication, the glory of God fills the temple. This became the locus or the place at which God would be worshiped and encountered in Israel. But as Israel apostatizes and falls away from the Lord, the glory of the Lord eventually departs.

Look over in Ezekiel 9:3, “Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherubim on which it rested to the threshold of the house; and he called to the man clothed in linen, who had the writing case at his side.” Here Ezekiel describes how the glory of the Lord had moved out of the Holy of Holies where it had rested over the mercy seat where the cherubim were, and now it has departed out to the threshold of the temple – out of the gate. The glory of God is slowly leaving his people as they are apostatizing. He is about to bring judgment upon them.

Then over in Ezekiel 11:23, “And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city.” Here the glory of the Lord now moves away from the temple off of the threshold out to the Mount of Olives as slowly God’s presence and blessing upon Israel is departing from Israel.

But in the Old Testament, under that old covenant, as we’ve seen the Holy Spirit didn’t simply reside in the temple. Rather, the Holy Spirit would anoint people for special purposes or exploits. Look at 1 Peter 1:10-11,

The prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired about this salvation; they inquired what person or time was indicated by the Spirit of Christ within them when predicting the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glory.

Here Peter says that these Old Testament prophets who predicted the coming of the Messiah and what he would suffer were filled with the Spirit of Christ. It was the Spirit of Christ within them that was predicting the coming of Messiah and his suffering. So even though the glory of the Lord abode in a kind of special way in the Holy of Holies in the temple, nevertheless, the activity of the Lord was not confined to the temple in any way. Rather, he would anoint people temporarily for special acts such as craftsmanship, military exploits, political leadership, or in this case prophesying. The Spirit of God would come upon the prophets and give them the ability to tell forth the word of the Lord, particularly about the future.

What happens is that with the new covenant there is a transition that takes place. Look at 1 Corinthians 12:13. But before we look at that, let’s take a look at Acts 1:8. Acts 1:8 gives us the program so to speak that is about to occur. This is just prior to the ascension when Jesus is about to cease his resurrection appearances to the disciples and leave them permanently, or at least until his Second Coming in a bodily fashion. “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” Here Jesus says to the disciples, Wait in Jerusalem until you receive the power of the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, this will be your empowerment for world mission. The task of world evangelization will now be yours and you will be empowered to do this when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.

So what occurs at Pentecost is this bestowal of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples and upon the church in a permanent sort of fashion.[4] This happens through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” Notice there he says that it is by the baptism of the Holy Spirit that we are placed into the body of Christ. The whole chapter there is talking about the body of Christ. He says “by one Spirit we were all baptized into the body of Christ – Jews or Greeks.” So it is through the baptism of the Holy Spirit that one is incorporated into the church, which is the body of Christ. What makes a person a part of the body of Christ? It is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is his reception of the Holy Spirit.

So as you see on the diagram, the little figure of the man represents the individual believer today. The believer takes the place of the temple in the old covenant as the dwelling place of God in the new covenant. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit now under the new covenant.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Here Paul says to the Corinthians, “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit lives in you, and therefore we are to glorify God in our physical body, in our physical lives in this world. We are now the dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

Hebrews 3:5-6, “Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ was faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if we hold fast our confidence and pride in our hope.” Here he talks about how Moses was faithful over God’s house in the Old Testament but he says “we are his house if we hold fast our confidence and pride in our hope.” We are now the house of God. We are the temple in which the Holy Spirit lives.

The difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament is that whereas in the old covenant the Holy Spirit would come upon certain prophets and judges in a special way to anoint them for service in ministry, subsequent to Pentecost in the new covenant the Holy Spirit is now our permanent possession. He abides in us. He dwells within us. We are the locus and dwelling place of God, the Holy Spirit. That is an awesome thought when you really grasp it. That God would regard us and our physical bodies as his temple in which he lives. Therefore, no Christian today could pray in the way David did in the Old Testament when he says in the Psalms, “Lord, take not thy Holy Spirit from me.” In the old covenant that was true. The Holy Spirit could be given and withdrawn. But for the believer, the Holy Spirit is our permanent possession unless we apostatize and throw him out of our lives. But we don’t need to worry that God’s going to take the Holy Spirit from us because he is given to us as our permanent indwelling possession.

We saw in Acts 8 that this baptism of the Holy Spirit that is given to the church is for the purpose of world mission. In the book of Acts we see this progressive program carried out. In Acts 1:8 it says you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea, then in Samaria, then in the uttermost parts of the Earth. We find this program fulfilled in the book of Acts. For example, Acts 2 describes how the Holy Spirit is given to the church in Judea and in Jerusalem. Acts 2:

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. [Remember, they had not yet received the power of the Holy Spirit. They were waiting for this.] And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.[5]

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. And they were amazed and wondered, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
yea, and on my menservants and my maidservants in those days
I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
And I will show wonders in the heaven above
and signs on the earth beneath,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
the sun shall be turned into darkness
and the moon into blood,
before the day of the Lord comes,
the great and manifest day.
And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Then he goes on to declare the Gospel through Jesus Christ. So at Pentecost you see the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon these Jews who were in Jerusalem at the time of the feast of Pentecost.

You then see the Holy Spirit in Acts 8 bestowed upon the Samaritans. The Samaritans were a sort of half-breed. They were Jews who had intermarried with the non-Jewish populace and therefore were looked down upon by the Jews themselves as kind of half-breeds, persons who were not fully Jewish because they had intermarried with Gentiles. Remember in Acts 1:8, the Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples to be witnesses first in Jerusalem then in Judea then in Samaria. We have this fulfilled in Acts 8, beginning in verse 5:

Philip went down to a city of Samaria, and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the multitudes with one accord gave heed to what was said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs which he did. For unclean spirits came out of many who were possessed, crying with a loud voice; and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.

But there was a man named Simon who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the nation of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. They all gave heed to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is that power of God which is called Great.” And they gave heed to him, because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me also this power, that any one on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! . . .”

Here we have the peculiar instance that the people of Samaria believed the Gospel as preached by Philip, they are baptized in water, but they do not receive the Holy Spirit until the apostles come from Jerusalem, lay hands on them, and then they receive the Holy Spirit.[6] What we see here is the progressive fulfillment of that program predicted in Acts 1:8. As the Holy Spirit is first bestowed upon those in Jerusalem and Judea, then by the authority of the apostles, the laying on of hands, it is bestowed upon the Samaritans and they received the Holy Spirit.

Finally we have the Holy Spirit given to the Gentiles or what is called the “uttermost parts of the Earth” in Acts 10-11:

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms liberally to the people, and prayed constantly to God. About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius.” And he stared at him in terror, and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and bring one Simon who is called Peter; he is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside.” When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those that waited on him, and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.

Then the story goes on how Peter sees this vision of animals coming down in a sheet and God says, “Don’t regard anything as unclean that I have cleansed.” The reason for this, of course, is that the Jews regarded the Gentiles as unclean and therefore not worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit. God is preparing Peter for the messengers from Cornelius, who is a Gentile, a Roman soldier, and God is going to send Peter to this Roman soldier.

Continuing in verse 19:

And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. Rise and go down, and accompany them without hesitation; for I have sent them.” And Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for your coming?” And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house, and to hear what you have to say.” So he called them in to be his guests.

The next day he rose and went off with them, and some of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him. And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his kinsmen and close friends. When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.” And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered; and he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit any one of another nation; but God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.”

So Peter says, I know you are Gentiles. I wouldn’t normally be here, but God has shown me that I should be here. What do you want?

And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was keeping the ninth hour of prayer in my house; and behold, a man stood before me in bright apparel, saying, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter; he is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the seaside.’ So I sent to you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here present in the sight of God, to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”[7]

And Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the word which he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace by Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), the word which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses to all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and made him manifest; not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that he is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that every one who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised [that is, the Jewish believers] who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can any one forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

Here the Holy Spirit is poured out now upon the Gentiles again through the instrumentality of the apostles from Jerusalem. Not independently, but first upon the apostles in Jerusalem and Judea, then through their laying on of hands to the Samaritans, and finally through the preaching of the apostles to the Gentiles.

We find this also reflected upon in Acts 19 – this is Paul’s preaching when he goes to Ephesus:

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.”

So here were some followers apparently of Christ but they never received the Holy Spirit. They had never even heard of the Holy Spirit. Paul is thinking, Then what kind of baptism did you get? They say all they knew was the baptism of John the Baptist. They didn’t know of Christian baptism.

And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve of them in all.

Here again you see some people in this kind of transitional stage as the gift of the Holy Spirit is gradually poured out upon the Gentile believers. They had only known the baptism of John the Baptist, hadn’t yet received full instruction, but now upon being baptized in the name of Jesus and through the laying on of hands they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

What we see here is that in this transition from Jews to Samaritans to the Gentiles we have the gradual fulfillment of Acts 1:8 in bringing the person and indwelling of the Holy Spirit as the permanent possession of the believer in Christ. But it happens historically gradually through the authority and instrument of the apostles in Jerusalem.[8] That is what is described here in the book of Acts – this gradual bestowal of the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Next time, I want to talk a little bit more about the baptism of the Holy Spirit, what it is, and then about the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and how we may experience this today.


Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I think that the reason for this, as I say, is that it is the historical transition from Jerusalem and the apostolic authority to the Samaritan groups and Gentile groups. This wouldn’t take place independently of the apostles’ authority. So it is through the laying on of their hands or their preaching that this takes place. I see this as a transitional phase. Obviously, today there aren’t any apostles about to do that. Therefore, as we will see, we receive the Holy Spirit immediately upon the regeneration and new birth. But the historical transition or bestowal of the permanent gift of the Holy Spirit is something that takes place through the authority of the apostles and the laying on of their hands.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I think that would be reading things into the text. I would prefer just to think there was an angelic appearance to Cornelius.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: One can only speculate here, but you can imagine if you had independent groups that were pursuing the new covenant that it might lead to a kind of fractionalizing into different groups whereas this way, by linking the Samaritans to the Jews in Judea and then the Gentiles as well, it keeps the church unified. It means that it is all under the apostolic authority. It is through their authority and instrumentality that the gift of the Spirit is given. That is a speculation. It doesn’t say why God chose to do it that way but that would seem to make sense. It provides a kind of historical continuity and hence a unity to the early church that might well have been disrupted if the Holy Spirit were just bestowed upon people independently.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Again, I would say that that shows how the Holy Spirit had come upon John for this special ministry. But that would be highly unusual, not every Israelite believer was filled with the Holy Spirit from birth. It marked John out as a very, very special messenger who would pave the way for the Messiah. That would just be one more example of this old covenant type of anointing for special purposes. This goes right up through the lifetime of Jesus. That is why you notice the transition on the chart occurs after the death of Jesus in the book of Acts. Jesus is still operating under the old covenant with respect to the indwelling and bestowal of the Holy Spirit. It is Pentecost, not the crucifixion or the resurrection, that forms that critical transition point for us. What this means today for us, and we will talk about this more next time, is that as the temple of the Holy Spirit, both individually and corporately as a group, this has tremendous implications for the importance of our being empowered and filled with the Holy Spirit, keeping our lives free from sin, and being sensitive to the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit in our lives in order that we might discharge the calling that he has given each one of us.


What we will talk about next time is more about the baptism and the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Today at least we’ve seen this transition to the new covenant and how now as believers we enjoy this permanent possession of the Spirit in our lives.[9]

[Closing prayer].[10]

[1] 5:04

[2] 9:52

[3] 15:06

[4] 20:05

[5] 25:03

[6] 30:36

[7] 35:06

[8] 40:07

[9] 44:47

[10] Total Running Time: 46:15 (Copyright © 2008 William Lane Craig)