PROFFER: The Holy Spirit in the NT performs as Witnesses with the apostles. Jesus says the world cannot receive the Holy Spirit. Fundamentally, the Holy Spirit works as witness directly only to the apostles.
“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 things; and so is also the Holy Spirit, whom God hath given *to them that obey him” (Acts 5:32-1833 Webster Bible Version).
The apostles are the only ones who can receive the Spirit according to the context of John 14-16. The key thoughts relative to the Spirit can be stipulated as follows:
1. The apostles were the ones that really “knew” Jesus (14:6, 7); this was true from a constant three year discipleship (6, 9). The apostles had available the evidence of their experience with Jesus. “If you had knowledge of me, you would have knowledge of my Father: you have knowledge of him now and have seen him” (John 14:7, BBE). Philip asked about this. “Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” On the other hand, Jesus said that the world did not “know.”
2. The apostles would have seen and known the Father (v. 9, 10) through knowing Jesus (14:7). The apostles were advantaged to scrutinize any revelation because of their training and their experience with Jesus. This was their EYE-vantage. Now they would be intimately acquainted with the Holy Spirit after Pentecost.
3. To know Jesus is to know the Father (14:7); according to Jesus then if one does not know Jesus then He would not know the Father. Likewise, the syllogism is extended to include the Holy Spirit of the Father (John 14:17). Robertson comments, “The world lacks spiritual insight (ou theōrei) and spiritual knowledge (oude ginōskei). It failed to recognize Jesus (John 1:10) and likewise the Holy Spirit.”ii
4. The apostles were the “needy” orphans in the unfolding tragedy and in need of the Comforter; whereas not so with the world; the apostles are the ones vacated by the physical presence of Jesus. The Spirit could only be another Comforter to them. By no stretch of imagination can this be applied to the world. “But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart” (John 16:6).
The apostles would be “fatherless” or “orphans” unless Jesus sends them the witness of the Holy Spirit. An orphan in this case is not a parentless child as is referred to in James 1:27, but “a person or thing that is without protective affiliation.” These were the ones that were frightened and scattered. “Then all His disciples deserted Him and fled.” (Matthew 26:56). “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews…” (John 20:19).
5. The Spirit is the Comforter “Strengthener” for the orphaned apostles as they face the challenge of evangelism.
6. The Spirit affected memory. The job of the Spirit was not only to teach all truth, but to bring to memory what Jesus had taught. That is, the subjects must have been students. In this case, the apostles are the ones to “remember.” Not the Jerusalem visitors. They would have had no memory.
The Spirit would guarantee these apostles’ memory of the teaching of Jesus. The apostles were the students of Jesus whereas the world was not and could never be because Jesus was going to Heaven. “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). Direct contact of the world had to be with the apostles.
7. From the beginning. The Spirit was coming to the apostles who were the witnesses of Jesus from the beginning (Acts 1:22, beginning of ministry, baptism of John). The world was not witnesses with Jesus and certainly not from the beginning.
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26, 27).
8. New revelation. Jesus promised to send the Comforter, the Spirit, as a teacher of new revelations to the apostles (16:7-13). There were things concerning the abrogation of the Levitical system and reception of Gentiles that were contrary to the Law of Moses that Jesus said the apostles were not able to receive before His crucifixion. “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now” (John 16:12).
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 He did not pray for the world to receive the Spirit. Rather, He specifically said that 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.”
But Who Is This “World”?
This word is “kosmosG2889”; Strong’s: “the world includes its inhabitants, literally or figuratively [morally])”; “[Jesus] was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not” (John 1:10). There are a total of 188 occurrences of this word “world” in the NT. The world that cannot receive the Spirit are the rational beings of the world for whom Jesus died (John 3:16). This was the same world to whom the apostles were sent (Mark 16:15, 16) to preach the gospel of salvation and to baptize them (Matthew 28:18-20). “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel; he that believes and is baptized shall be saved.”
The “world” would include the apostles’ audiences in both Acts 2 and 3. This was the world that Jesus came to and was rejected (John 1:10, 11); this was the world that were accused of crucifying the Lord (Acts 2:23). “But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we [apostles] are witnesses” (Acts 3:14, 15). The Jewish audience (i.e., the immediate world where Jesus told the apostles to begin, Acts 1:8) were described by Peter as an untoward generation, warped, winding, perverse, crooked, froward generation (Acts 2:40). It describes also all mankind today.
To say that God made the Holy Spirit act directly upon these Jews in Jerusalem in any way is to dispute what Jesus said could/would happen. It is to pervert the record. Jesus said it wouldn’t work. Jesus said that “the world cannot receive” the Spirit of Truth.
Why The World Could Not and Cannot Receive The Spirit
Why can the world not receive the Spirit that Jesus was sending to the apostles?
Jesus explained at the Last Supper:
1. The “World” Has A Seeing Impediment.
The world cannot “see” the Spirit. Literally, they cannot theorize the Spirit. The Greek word is theoriaG2335 that means "contemplation, speculation; a looking at, viewing; a sight, show, spectacle, things looked at," and is the source of our English word “theory.” The world cannot theorizeiii the Spirit of God and therefore cannot receive the Spirit.
For the world to receive the Spirit would mean the world must accept the Holy Spirit’s witness of Jesus without having any “experiences of a group of tested propositions that can be used as principles of explanation for a class of new revelation” (this is the meaning of the English theorize)iv Jesus who created all things (John 1:1-3) knew that the people of the world including the Jews could not be able to receive the Spirit directly. Only the apostles had these experiences.
To properly “theorize” requires experiences. The Pharisees’ interaction with Jesus led them to theorize “how (they) prevail nothing? Behold, the world is gone after him” (John 12:19). Paul’s saw the many idols set up in city of Athens; based on his perception of them led him to say, “Ye men of Athens, I perceive (theorize) that in all things ye are too superstitious” (Acts 17:22). Again, Paul said, “Sirs, I perceive (theorize) that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage” (Acts 27:10). The world was not qualified to theorize the Spirit.
“The word's origin (the word “see”, theory from the Greek [noun] thorós, “a spectator”), stresses the fact that all theories are mental models of reality.”v The “see” has to do with visual mental experience. Robertson’s comment is “The world lacks spiritual insight”.” The world cannot receive the Spirit’s things directly because they lack the experience that the apostles had in being live spectators of Jesus. As Robertson continues, the apostles had “seen Jesus the Revealer of the Father.”vi This “seeing” is not talking about physical eyesight for the apostles had the same physical visual organs as the world. Jesus said the Spirit cannot be received by the world because the world is not able to see or “acknowledge” the Spirit. Note: Jerusalem Jews could not receive the Spirit as a gift as some teach because they lacked the necessary living experiences with Jesus.
2. The “World” Has A Knowledge Impediment.
Not only could they not see because they had not seen the living Jesus, the world could not know the Spirit because they did not know Jesus. To witness requires a knowledge of your subject. The Greek word for “know” is the same word as “understand” (ginōskōG1097); “to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel”). It again has much to do with knowledge of Jesus. Plutarchvii philosophically said, “I did not so much gain the knowledge of things by the words, as words by the experience of things.” The apostles were qualified because they had gained knowledge through their listening to the things taught by the Lord.
The World Is In Ignorance
The opposite to the word ginosko “know” is “ignorance.” The world, Jesus said, did not know; therefore, the word “ignorant” is appropriate.
The Gentile World: “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Ephesians 4:18). “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30). The Spirit will not go to them directly.
The Jewish World: “And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers” (Acts 3:17). “Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:1-3).
In spite of being described as “devout”, the Jews on the day of Pentecost were ignorant. They did not know Jesus like the apostles did. “And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me” (John 16:3). As Paul later wrote, “Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8). On the one hand, their ignorance was good for it guaranteed God’s plan of salvation working in the crucifixion and death of Jesus.
On the other hand, their ignorance disqualified direct operation of the Holy Spirit. This is not to say they were permanently ignorant, since they were listening and learning from the apostles. And after 1800 years the world is still ignorant. That was the job for the qualified apostles; i.e., to teach the world. It was never the job of the Holy Spirit to “directly” teach anyone in the world.
Train men for witnessing. Send these men forth to teach the ignorant world. This will begin on Pentecost. The Corinthians could not receive the Spirit’s teaching directly, but Paul knew they should be able to understand what the Spirit said through him. “I have the mind of Christ.” Otherwise, why did he write the epistles? Why did he instruct them? Why does the world now have the message of the Holy Spirit in Scripture?
It is understandable that if Jesus’ personally selected and preferred students, the apostles, had a hard time of understanding Jesus and qualifying for receipt of the Spirit’s things, that in God’s wisdom, He would not and could not send the Holy Spirit to witness directly to a world completely ignorant of the matter.
After three years the apostles still were learning! It is as if the Lord is debating with Thomas and Philip whether even they knew enough themselves (John 14:5-15). The exchange begins in John 14:7. Their question, “How can we know the Father?” Jesus answers, “If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.” As Robertson says “From henceforth ye know [the Father] (ap' arti ginōskete auton). Probably ... ‘ye are beginning to know the Father from now on.’” Their knowledge of the Father is based on directly associating the words and works of the master Teacher with God, the Father. “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (John 14:10).
Conclusion: The “Pentecost Jews” Did Not And Could Not Receive the Holy Spirit
Hence, what we know just from Jesus in the upper room that the Holy Spirit’s coming is currently taught erroneously.
Nowhere did the Father intend on teaching mankind directly by His Spirit. The world would have to be taught truth by the apostles who would witness from an inspired guided memory of the teachings of Jesus.
The direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon the world is a doctrine of fiction.
Contrary to false teaching, none of the audience of Acts 2 received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Jerusalem audience were “the world.” Peter said that they “have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (2:23). None of them needed the Comforter. None of them received were so comforted. Rather, they were accused as lost.
None of them spoke in tongues. They received only what was offered to them: the indirect witness from the Holy Spirit given through the appointed apostles. 3000 received this.
If it was impossible for the Jerusalem Jews, then an example of direct giving of the Holy Spirit to anyone besides the apostles is not there. Authority for any one besides the apostles receiving the Holy Spirit is missing. A record of anyone besides the apostles receiving the Holy Spirit is missing.
Jesus said it. Jesus said only the apostles can receive the Spirit. Jesus said the world can not receive the Spirit. This is speaking exclusively of receiving anything directly from the Holy Spirit. The “world” includes those Jews on the day of Pentecost. Parkham is incorrect trying to make “holiness believers” out of the admittedly devoutviii but “murderous” Jews visiting Jerusalem that Pentecost. The audience represented the first of “the world” that were to hear the gospel preached (Mark 16:15,16). Jesus said that the world could not receive His Spirit. Not the Gentiles and not the Jews that had just recently crucified our Lord.
The Jerusalem hearers received the Word from the Spirit but it specifically states that to them it was “Peter’s word.” Hence, it was indirect words from the Spirit. There was nothing direct from the Spirit. Neither was there any whisperings in their ears.
- Gaylon West
Throw Out the Lifeline
Other articles in this series, The Gift of the Holy Spirit:
i The Holy Spirit witnesses through the prophets in commendation to the apostles. “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets” (1 Corinthians 12:28).
ii Robertson’s Word Pictures. John 14:17
iii θεωρέωG2334: Strong’s “From a derivative of G2300 (look at closely; visit); to be a spectator of, that is, discern, (literally, figuratively [experience] or intensively [acknowledge]).
iv Compare to definitions. E.g., http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/theory.html
vi Robertson’s Word Pictures. John 14:17.
viii εὐλαβήςG2126 “taking well (carefully), that is, circumspect (religiously, pious): - devout” (Strong’s).