SPIRIT “UPON” PROPHETS
"The Spirit Is The Giver"
“I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17b). “[God] testified against them by Your Spirit, by Your prophets, but they would not give ear” (Nehemiah 9:30b, MKJV).
Question to ponder: When we consider God's purpose for mankind, does He want all men to be prophets or to give ear and obey the prophets?
Introduction: How God Made Prophets
In appointing persons to reveal God's Word, the Bible clearly points out that God bestows His Spirit upon them, such as Moses in the OT or the apostles in the NT. Such are called "prophets." They prophesy.
We seek to answer the question, “On the day of Pentecost did Peter promise obedient ones the power to prophesy in Acts 2:38?”
The Preposition “Upon”
“I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh” (Acts 2:17).
The word “upon” is a preposition in grammar. This means it is a “relationship word.” I always used the illustration of a table when teaching my students about prepositions. Anything's relationship to that table can be expressed with a preposition. The thing can be over, under, around, in, by, upon, etc. In the Bible, as in all literature, prepositions are important in our properly understanding what was occurring in any event. “Upon” (epiG1909) according to Strong's Greek definitions is a “downward pressure or a resting upon an object.”i So, the Holy Spirit rested upon Jesus's apostles. A special ability of the Spirit rested upon all prophets.
The Spirit “Upon” and Prophesying
The Scriptures used by the audience on that day of Pentecost in the first century (Acts 2) was the Greek Old Testament canon (called LXX or Septuagint).ii When Peter quoted from the book of the prophet Joel and from the Psalms by David, he quoted from the Scriptures that the audience used. When the Scriptures (prophets of OT) foretold what and how the prophesying on this day would come about (in Acts 2:17), they described the Holy Spirit as coming "upon" people. Not going "in" or “into.” Peter explains to us in 2 Peter 1:19-21, that prophets were led or carried by God's Holy Spirit.
This is sensible since the Holy Spirit (in Greek pneumaG4151, in Hebrew, rûachH7307) is one person of the Godhead. He is not liquid or gas to be parsed about within the bodies of men. He is the one that distributed and parsed the “grace gifts” according to 1 Corinthians 12:7, ERV, "The Spirit gives this [grace gift] to each one to help others." The Spirit is the Giver of gifts!
Even the incarnate Jesus had the Spirit “upon” Him and not “in” Him. Jesus said that He fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy, “In whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my Spirit upon Him” (Matthew 12:18; John 1:33). The expression “put my Spirit upon” is commonly used throughout the Bible. It is used to describe extraordinary (miraculous) powers being bestowed on “prophets” of God. It is expressed as being "upon" the persons so employed: "upon" Moses (Numbers 11:17); "upon the [Moses'] elders" (Numbers 11:25); "upon the apostles" (Acts 1:8); "notiii upon the disciples" (without laying on of apostes' hands, Acts 8:16).
My conclusion is that the “Spirit upon” always meant that the recipients became prophets with power to prophesy God's message.iv
The Spirit “Upon” Makes a Prophet
I cannot over-emphasize that the expression "Spirit upon" was used when God would have someone teach by prophesying. "And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD'S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!" (Numbers 11:29). If this be true, then any interpretation of Acts 2:38 as being “the Spirit upon” would require that everyone is required not only to repent and be baptized but must become prophets. Moses said that's not the way God works (Numbers 11:29).
A Prophet Is God's Mouth
What is a Bible “prophet”? Strong's Dictionary defines the Hebrew word “prophesy” (na^ba^'H5012) as “speak (or sing) by inspiration (in prediction or simple discourse)” and the Greek equivalent in Acts 2:17 is προφητευωG4395 is “to foretell events, divine, speak under inspiration.” The Spirit “upon” meant that the persons were inspired by the Holy Spirit by Him resting on them and became consequently God's spokesperson.
A prophet is the mouthpiece for the Spirit of God. Even as God explained to Moses that Aaron “shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God” (Exodus 4:16). “And the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet” (Exodus 7:1). The path of the prophecy is illustrated by Moses (as “god”) → Aaron (as prophet, special messenger) → Pharaoh (as target of message). Therefore, GOD → PROPHET (inspired Messenger)→ MANKIND (target of message).
As prophets Abraham and Job could pray inclusively for another's salvation (Genesis 20:7; Job 42:8). God talked to His prophets directly as He did with Moses, or in a vision or a dream (Numbers 12:6) or by His Spirit (Acts 8:29). God's prophet performs signs and wonders (Deuteronomy 13:1) to prove His message being from God. Note: There are persons that lie and say they are God's prophets and are not (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).
The Spirit Teaches Others Through Prophets
God chose to instruct His creation by His Spirit but through other human beings. The purpose of the pouring out God's Spirit is clearly said to make known His teachings to mankind. “Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spiritv unto you, I will make known my words unto you” (Proverbs 1:23). Literally, in the Septuagint, “I will teach you.” David had the Holy Spirit upon him from the time of his anointing (1 Samuel 16:13). He later explained this purpose, “The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and His word was in my tongue.”. The Spirit is the Giver of Words but it is through His Prophets to others!
"Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them" (Nehemiah 9:20). Did the Spirit instruct directly? No. Moses was their teacher (Exodus 18:15). Interestingly, the Spirit was upon Moses (Numbers 11:17). The Spirit Instructs! But He instructs by giving those He is upon, the power to speak.
The Spirit witnesses through prophets. The Spirit witnessed through the twelve (Acts 5:32) who spoke to thousands as the Spirit gave them utterance. Indirectly, it was the same purpose with Cornelius' family and friends. The Jews were hesitant in teaching the Gentiles. The Spirit was poured out upon themvi when Peter began to speak to them. Their prophesying taught Peter and the Jews that the Gentiles were no longer considered to be unclean but suitable to hear the words of the Spirit (Acts 11:15).
The Spirit is the Giver of Inspired Teaching! That's why we say the Bible is inerrant with verbal inspiration (2 Timothy 3:16). At the same time we can understand that the Spirit nowhere gives inspired interpretation to the hearers.
Prophesying In Both Testaments
Peter said they preached the gospel with the Holy Spirit sent down (1 Peter 1:12) which is a “firm word of prophecy” compared to the former prophecy of the Old Testament) as, “For prophecy was not borne at any time by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke being borne along by the Holy Spirit”(2 Peter 1:21, MKJV).
God's Spirit Is Always “Epi” (“Upon”) Prophetsvii
God's Spirit is always “UPON” prophets. And not “inside them.” The King James Version of the Old Testament has around 220 references to “spirit” and it appears that about half of them uses the preposition “upon” (in Hebrew, alH5920 meaning “top; highest”). When the Spirit is “upon” anyone, the result was prophesying for the Lord.
Similarities Of Signs With The Spirit "Upon" In The Testaments
There are similarities of God sending Moses as prophet to Israel and of Jesus sending the twelve to the whole world. He verified their prophetic missions with signs.
Signs With Moses
Both Moses and the twelve apostles were given signs to confirm their commission. Moses is attracted to the unconsuming fire in the bush. Moses was told, “And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs” (Exodus 4:17). Moses is commisioned as spokesman for God but not without signs. God assures him, “Certainly I will be with thee and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee” (3:11) and in Numbers 11:17 God declared that “the Spirit was upon” (al, epi) Moses.
Signs With Apostles
In a similar way, the twelve received power for signs (e.g., Mark 16:20): a sound from Heaven, tongues like fire upon them, their speaking unlearned foreign languages (Acts 2), and a lame man is healed (in Acts 3), etc.
The ones sent prophesied with signs. That is, they witnessed and spoke God's message with inspiration and without error. They were inspired and continued under inspiration to write Scriptures just like the ancient prophets had done (2 Peter 1:20, 21; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17).
Jesus to His apostles, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8, ESV). The Pentecost audience could not be witnesses of a resurrection that they had not seen. The evidence is that Acts 2:38's gift is not speaking of what the apostles received.
(1) The Spirit was to come upon the waiting apostles. Never does the Scripture say the Spirit was “coming upon" the listeners; including Acts 2:38! (2) The apostles were commanded to take the Holy Spirit (John 20:22, “receive”, aorist imperative). (3) Power was to be taken with the coming of "the Holy Spirit upon" (Acts 1:8). The audience was never told to take power. (4) As predicted by the prophet Joel, the Spirit came "upon" the apostles. Peter tells the Pentecost audience that what they were seeing and hearing was the fulfilment of this prediction.
The taking of the "gift of the Holy Spirit" in Acts 2:38 was a responsibility for the audience. This they were instructed to do just as much as their repenting and their being baptized. There is no waiting, praying, solicitation, coming of the Spirit “upon”, nor availability of any powers. They were to take or receive the gift. This they apparently did. They received the word.
If “the gift of the Holy Spirit” means “upon” like was “upon” the apostles and Moses, then all would have been made prophets and would not need the apostles nor Scriptures. There would not have been any apostles' doctrine to continue in. All would have had the ability of signs. But there is no evidence of this; therefore, to believe this would violate the faith of Hebrews 11:1. “Faith is the evidence of things not seen.”
- Gaylon West
THROW OUT THE LIFELINE
Other articles in this series, The Gift of the Holy Spirit:
iihttp://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/tips/what-bible-did-jesus-use-11638841.html. http://www.jesus.org/birth- of-jesus/genealogy-and-jewish-heritage/what-bible-did-jesus-use.html. "Before there was a New Testament, the Bible of the first Christians (the writers of the New Testament and the early Church) was a Greek translation of the Old Testament. The general term used to designate that translation is 'Septuagint.' " http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2013/07/heres-something-about-the-bible-of-the-first- christians-i-bet- many-of-you-didnt-know-youre-welcome/
iiiThe Samaritans had been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ but they received not the Spirit until the apostles prayed and lay their hands upon them. Before Acts 6 there is no record that the apostles had done this to anyone.
iv Examples: 1. Moses plus seventy bore the burden of the people and prophesied by the Spirit that rested upon them (Numbers 11:17, 25, 26); 2. the Spirit of God came upon Balaam (Numbers 24:2) who prophesied; 3. the judges had the Spirit of Jehovah come upon them; they governed Israel for God (Judges 3:10, 6:34, etc.); 4. “the Spirit” came upon King Saul, he prophesied (1 Samuel 10:6, 11) and upon Saul's messengers, they prophesied (1 Samuel 19:20); 5. finally, the Spirit instructed Israel via the instruments of God's prophets (Nehemiah 9:30).
viActs 10:44, 45; 11:15 epi, “upon” them.
vii God's Spirit Is Among Israel, Not “In” nor “Upon” --Isaiah 63:11 is used to prove that the Spirit was placed into Moses. Greek original: “το αγιον- to them." He put His Holy Spirit “in the midst of them”; i.e., the congregation of Israel (the ASV properly translates it). This is parallel to Haggai 2:5, “According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not.” Again, the ones conveying the Words of the Lord of Hosts are identified as “by the former prophets” (Zechariah 7:12). Jesus promises the Spirit of Truth “shall be in you [apostles]” (John 14:17), He would be in them as they were in Him (metaphors). The Greek preposition “ΕνG1722” translated “in you”, according to Strong's, “denotes (fixed) position and (by implication) instrumentality, that is, a relation of rest; (including (up-) on).” “in the prophets”: Greek cheirG5495“instrument of the prophets”; Ancient Hebrew Lexicon & Strong's: “hands.”; “thy prophets: Heb. the hand of thy prophets” (Nehemiah 9:30, Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge).