PROFFER: The Holy Spirit in the NT performs as Witness of Jesus through words. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to give witness directly alongside His designated witnesses, the 12 apostles. According to the apostles the Lord promised the Holy Spirit directly only to them and prophets.
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you [apostles] from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall bear witness of me”(John 15:26).
“And we are His witnesses of these sayings, and the Holy Spirit also, whom God gave to those obeying him” (Acts 5:32, YLT).
How Does The World Even Know About The Spirit of God?
These texts are often used as a proof text for the teaching that the Holy Spirit speaks directly to Christians. In addition, they are sometimes used to explain what the gift of the Holy Spirit is (Acts 2:38). This view is counter to the information given to us about the Holy Spirit as well as these texts. All the information we have about the Holy Spirit is revealed by the direct instruction by the apostles (Acts 19:2) and not from the Holy Spirit. For example, “And he [apostle Paul] said unto them, Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed? And they said unto him, Nay, we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit was given” (Acts 19:2, ASV). Without Paul these “disciples of John” would not have known that the Spirit was given.
The Spirit of truth proceeds from the Father to bear witness of Him (John 15:26). Most would agree that the Spirit’s coming promised by Jesus was fulfilled on the immediate Pentecost following the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 2). However, like most religious dogmas the agreement ends there.
Awakening of Speaking In Tongues
There was a Wesleyan Holiness movement of the nineteenth century that was historically based on the imminent return of “gifts of the Holy Spirit.” Charles E Parham taught his students at his school in Topeka, Kansas, to pray for the specific return of the gift of tongues.i In 1901 the first “baptism of the Holy Spirit” in modern times occurred.ii Agnes Ozman, a female student of Parham’s is considered “the first to speak in tongues” since the first century. “Her experiences sparked the modern Pentecostal-Holiness movement.”iii
It is interesting that for 1800 plus years this so-called spirit is admittedly silent. Then when it seems to awaken, it has nothing positive to say. Instead, rather than uniting all in spreading Truth for the imminent coming of Jesus, the so-called spirit movement but furthered and enhanced the confusion and division already existing within protestant Christendom.
The major fault of the misguided praying for “tongues” for a renewal of Pentecost evangelism is a misreading/misinterpretation of what happened in John 14 and Acts 1 & 2. (1) To whom Jesus did promise to send His Holy Spirit in John 14 at the last supper; (2) what is the nature, purpose and role of the Holy Spirit, and (3) indeed, what exactly occurred in Acts 1 and 2.
AUDIENCE AND THE TONGUES IN ACTS 2
If we study Acts 2, we discover there should not be any question of tongues.
1. The facts show that the audience in Acts 2 were not praying for tongues, did not speak in tongues, had no intention of speaking in tongues, and had nothing done to them from any outside force from above or below to give them power to speak in tongues. The chapter (2) opens with twelve men alone* with no one else there; not even an audience. * grammar: the 2:1 pronoun “they”’s antecedent is the apostles (preceding verse in the preceding chapter).
2. What happened on that Pentecost was a noise, then an assembled “curiosity seekers”, followed by preaching, and a response of a united and unconfused church (Acts 2:41, 47). No audience tongues.
3. The tongues described in Acts 2 that were heard consequent to the noise, produced amazement (Acts 2:7f), which led to hearing and obedience by a seemingly small number of the Jews present.
What About the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit”?
The first time we hear about a “baptism of the Holy Spirit” is from John the Baptist who predicted that Jesus would “baptize with the Holy Spirit.” John did not say whom Jesus would baptize. On the other hand, Jesus only mentions baptizing His apostles with the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:5 and He said He was doing it within a few days. There is an interlude account of a group gathered to choose the twelfth apostle. The passage in Acts 1:26 - 2:1, 2 describes the baptism of the twelve apostles. The last verse of chapter one states “he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” Chapter 2 begins, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they [the 12] were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting”. Only the apostles spoke in tongues as the Spirit gives them utterances. The Holy Spirit gave the apostles who were speaking “utterance”iv which meant that the Spirit had the apostles speaking forth and “enunciating plainly.” The gathering audience notices that the apostles (notice, only apostles so far) are speaking and everyone can understand the apostles who are speaking in the many dialects (2:6). Only the twelve are standing before the audience (2:14).
The Bible says nothing else about tongues being exercised by people in Jerusalem.v Neither does it mention anything about “unknown” tongues; the tongues used in Acts 2 were known tongues. Nor do tongues inaugurate any “great evangelistic” endeavor out from Jerusalem. It is not there.vi The tongues specifically mentioned are demonstrated to get an audience’s attention.
GOING BACK TO THE “LAST SUPPER” RECORD
It is at the Passover meal where Jesus first predicts the sending of the Spirit in John 14:17, 26; 15:26; 16:13.
If we go back to the night that Jesus was betrayed and arrested, we read of Jesus explaining that He and the Father were sending the Holy Spirit but only to His apostles. This was during what is called the “Last Supper” (John 14-17). When teachers teach about the “Last Supper”, “the Spirit” is often taught as being promised to come from Heaven to guide all the world into truth. The false doctrine of direct operation of the Holy Spirit is based on this error. This is literally the exact opposite of what Jesus says was going to happen.
THE PREDICTED ROLE OF THE COMING HOLY SPIRIT
The Spirit’s role was to be a witness of Jesus. He is called the Comforter, the Advocate (1). He is sent by Jesus (2). He is sent to the apostles (3). He is the Spirit of Truth (4). He proceeds from the Father (5). He shall bear witness (6) of Jesus.
Jesus told the apostles, “But when (1) the Comforter is come, whom I will send (2) unto you (3) from the Father (4), even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father (4), he shall bear witnessG3140 vii (5) of me” (John 15:26, ASV).
It is important to listen to Jesus when He tells the apostles to whom the Spirit is being sent. The Spirit is not to witness directly to the world nor is He said to do it with tongues. Nothing is said about tongues which is significant since this is supposed to be the modern channel of soliciting the Spirit to come.
(1) The Spirit is to be a “like Jesus” Comforter (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7).
Comforter according to Strong’s Greek Dictionary is “An intercessor, consoler.” The word paraklētosG3875 can carry with it both the idea of a consoler and as a legal advocate (as is translated in 1 John 2:1 for Jesus being the Christian’s advocate). However, in this context Jesus identifies the Spirit specifically in the role as a consoling agent to the apostles, in fact, a substitute as it were for Jesus (“another” as Jesus, 14:16; again, Jesus said both cannot be present simultaneously, 16:7). He says, “I will not leave you comfortless” (John 14:18). This word definitely defines the apostles as the ones comfortless, or “bereaved orphans.” It is the same word used in James 1:27, “care for the fatherless (children).” Jesus says the Comforter is coming because it is due to His “I go unto my Father” (John 14:12). At Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, the disciples fled and yet they were to confidently preach the gospel in about a month.
Note: the translators are said to have chosen the English word “comforter” for an obvious reason. The English “Comforter” is from the Latin meaning “one who strengthens.”* The ones needing strength under the turmoil about to occur at the cross are the apostles and not “the world.” *Vincent’s Word Studies.
(2) The Spirit Is To Be Sent By Jesus
The Spirit comes from the Father but is sent by Jesus. We know the Spirit is sent exclusively to the apostles (this passage and Acts 1:5 passage). In Acts 1, Jesus connects the sending of the Spirit with the (great) commission to the apostles, “to go into the whole world and teach all nations.” “I will send him unto you” (John 16:7).
(3) The Spirit Is To Be Sent To The Apostles.
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26). The Comforter is sent to ones with the memory of what Jesus said to them; definitely, the apostles. The Spirit will teach the same ones that have the memory. For example, the Pentecost audience had no memories of Jesus.
(4) The Spirit Is To Be Sent From The Father.
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name” (John 14:26).
(5) The Spirit Is To Be Sent To Bears Witness Of Jesus.
“But when the Comforter is come… he shall testify of me” (John 15:26)
(6) The Spirit Was To Speak In Words.
“But when the Spirit of truth comes, he will lead you into all truth. He will not speak his own words. He will speak only what he hears and will tell you what will happen in the future” (John 16:13).
The Apostles Were Commanded To Receive the Spirit
Those that teach that the receiving of the Holy Spirit cannot be actively obeyed are in an error. If there is a command from Jesus, it can be obeyed. The apostles were grammatically so commanded. During teaching sessions before Jesus ascended, the apostles were commanded to receive the Spirit that Jesus would send “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (imperative, John 20:22). “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (future indicative middle deponent [active], Acts 1:8).
1. Who were commanded to receive the Holy Spirit? The apostles.
2. Who were told that the Holy Ghost would come upon them? The apostles.
3. Who were told to receiveviii power after the Holy Spirit came? The apostles.
4. Who were told to beix witnesses? The apostles.
5. Whom did Peter say the Holy Spirit was witnessing with? Acts 5:32. The apostles.
Did the apostles receive the Holy Spirit?
Was Jesus able to do what He promised? The apostle Paul asserts later that he along with the apostles had received the Holy Spirit directly.x “Now we [apostles]xi have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God” (1 Corinthians 2:12). According to the Acts 1 & 2 record, the Holy Spirit came to the twelve apostles. The audience gathering is due to curiosity. The Holy Spirit is not mentioned as touching them.
Knowledge Is Revealed
Again, the apostle affirmed direct revelation of knowledge for all the apostles and prophets, “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:3-5).
But Not The World
Jesus said, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you (APOSTLES) another Comforter, that he may abide with you (APOSTLES) for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you.” (John 14:16,17).
Jesus said that He was praying for the Spirit to be given the apostles, but the world cannot receive the Holy Spirit. “Can” is dunamaiG1410: Strong’s, “to be able or possible; to be of power.” Not only is the world incapable of receiving the Spirit, it is not possible. Thayer adds, “can”: “to be able, have power whether by virtue of one’s own ability and resources, or of a state of mind, or through favourable circumstances, or by permission of law or custom.”
The world is just not able. They do not have the experience that would make them able to receive the direct “witness.” That would excludes you and me, unless you are 2000 years old.
The world can pray forever, but Jesus said that His Spirit of Truth cannot be received by them. I emphasize this point: Jesus declares, “Whom the world cannot receive.” The world cannot “receive”: lambanoG2983, Strong’s, “to take ... to get hold of.”
Jesus called and appointed and trained special men for special witnessing. They were not left to witness alone. Jesus would be present with them through the Holy Spirit whom the Father would send in His authority. Jesus said the Spirit would not witness with the world. That leaves the apostles to expect the coming of the Holy Spirit. They were to wait in Jerusalem for His coming. The apostles are the only ones that were commanded to receive the Holy Spirit. They were commanded to receive His power. This was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost following Jesus ascension into Heaven.
A main mistake is in ignoring the “witness of words.” The apostles were to witness words and the Holy Spirit was to witness words to them (Acts 5:32; John 14-16).
- Gaylon West
Throw Out the Lifeline
Other articles in this series, The Gift of the Holy Spirit:
iv apophtheggomaiG669 : Strong’s, “enunciating plainly, i.e., declare:--say, speak forth, utterance” (Strong’s).
v Tongues are not mentioned again until the record of Cornelius in Casesarea.
vi Acts 10 mentions Cornelius household of unbelievers in Casesarea being baptized by the Spirit and using tongues; 1 Corinthians 12 mentions trouble or jealousy in Corinth over who gets the power to speak in tongues.
vii Strong's Number G3140 matches the Greek μαρτυρέω (martyreō), to be a witness, i.e. testify:— give evidence, bear record, which occurs 86 times in 75 verses in the Greek concordance of the KJV
viii The apostles were told to receive power; this was future indicative middle (deponent) which in Greek is considered a command like Acts 2:38.
ix The apostles were told to witness; this was future indicative middle (deponent) which is considered a command like Acts 2:38.
x Paul said “we” versus “you.” We know that “you” could be the readers (Corinthians, etc.). The “we” included the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 1:1), apostles (4:9), Sosthenes and possibly, Apollos. Prophets received the Spirit “upon” through the laying on of the apostles’ hands; hence, secondarily prophets (12:28).