Thursday, June 30, 2005

Acts 19:2

Acts 19:2 has always been an interesting verse to me, for two reasons. First, concerning the issue of how it is translated in the KJV, and second, how it is used to support the charismatic idea of a "second filling."
A new third interest recently appeared as I have been reading the "Three Fold Secret of the Holy Spirit" by James H. McConkey, which concerns the relationship between repentance and faith.

The KJV reads:
Act 19:2 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.
Notice "since ye believed." Most modern translations read "when ye believed," like the ESV:
Act 19:2 And he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" And they said, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit."

There are some differences between the Critical Text and TR in this verse. Not being able to read the Greek directly, here are some literal translations of each:
Act 19:2 LITV(TR) he said to them, Believing, did you receive the Holy Spirit? And they said to him, We did not even hear whether the Holy Spirit is.
Act 19:2 NASB(CT) He said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" And they said to him, "No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit."

It would appear then that the problem doesn't rest on textual variants. Further, it appears that the TR literally translated agrees with newer versions moreso than with the KJV. Here's another literal TR translation:
Act 19:2 DARBY(TR) he said unto them, `The Holy Spirit did ye receive -- having believed?' and they said unto him, `But we did not even hear whether there is any Holy Spirit;'

What's up with the KJV here? Even Scofield eschews the KJV's "since ye believed":
"Not as in A.V, 'since ye believed,' but as in R.V. And margin reference, 'Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed?'"

Staunch KJV defender Ruckman doesn't deal with the verse in his book on alleged problems with the KJV (as of the 1999 edition), but elsewhere he points to the laying on of hands in vs.6 as proof that "since ye believed" is correct.

The men were baptized with John's baptism, which was a baptism of repentance. The men had evidently repented but not believed. This is all in v.4. Upon believing, the men were baptized (v.5) and filled with the Spirit.

Paul _incorrectly_ assumed the men had turned in faith to Christ when in fact the men had only undergone repentance. The way the men answered caused Paul to quickly realize this wasn't the case.

The baptism of these men is similar to the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. Upon believing, baptism was carried out immediately.

This is all well and good but it doesn't answer the question of _why_ Paul asked a question that indicates believing and recieving the Holy Spirit are separate events in time. I believe this passage represents two nested issues:

-First, Paul assumes salvation and inquires about the Spirit's _manifestation_.
-Secondly, the men indicate they don't even have the _indwelling_ by questioning the Spirit's existance.
-Next, Paul deals with the salvation issue by inquiring about their baptism and then, realizing they _repented_ but did not yet have _faith_, exhorts them to believe.
-Then, the men believed and are baptized. Per Eph 1:13-14, these men recieve the _indwelling_ at this moment.
-Finally, Paul returns to the question of the Spirit's _manifestation_ and lays hands on them. The men recieve the _manifestation_ and display the gifts of tongues and prophecy.

The mistake often made is to treat this passage as either _only_ speaking of the indwelling or _only_ speaking of the manifestation, of the Spirit.

It might be objected that due to word "recieve" in v.2 the subject is actually indwelling. However, given that "came" is used in v.6 which is definately referring to manifestion, the use of the word "recieve" in v.2 doesn't seem to _require_ that we take it as referring to the indwelling. Unless Paul is asking a trick question this can't be the indwelling because we are certain that Paul believes indwelling happens upon belief (Eph 1:13-14).

Speaking of nested issues, what does the truth of this passage say about the proper translation? What is seen is that _either_ translation, "since," or "when," is appropriate in the context. It is obvious that while the _manifestation_ of the Spirit can come right on the heels of the _indwelling_, it doesn't always do so. "Since" gives a broader picture allowing for the manifestation immediately following the indwelling _or_ some time later. "When" would tend to restrict the time frame for manifestation to immediately after the indwelling. Whether Paul was more interested in the timing of the manifestation or the fact of the manifestation would tell conclusively what it ought to be.

As far the Greek is concerned, the choice of "since" or "when" depends on how you translate the word for "believe," which is "pisteuo". The word here is listed as an aorist active participle, which tells us that Paul is assuming they do believe(aorist), that they believe presently(active), and that they continue to believe(participle). Thus the very literal translations of the LITV ("Believing, did you receive the Holy Spirit?") and Darby's ("The Holy Spirit did ye receive -- having believed?"). Given this, the addition of either "since" or "when" is interpretation of the passage, strictly speaking.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

God Meets Man

I asked the question of someone today, whether God works with people based on their sincere perception of Him, or whether God works with all men strictly by one truthful, perfect way.
For example, Christians differ on the balance between God's providence and our initiative. Some will say that we have to take much initiative and the God will work; others will say that we have to wait on God to do different things before we act. There is truth to both sides since we are commanded to be diligent and not slothful, yet we are also told to wait on the Lord. We are told, "choose you this day," yet we are also told that God will perform His soveriegn work and no one can stand in His way. This certainly represents a question that is completely unsolvable when presented as a choice between two sides; but the answers come when we look at it as a continuum and search for the balance.
Since it is that way, we have Christians who fall all over the scale from "Christian Deists" to Calvinists of the most extreme variety. The former will subscribe to the idea that God wound things up and leaves us to work things out; the latter will teach of God's unalterable control over every detail. Obviously most will recognize that the answer probably doesn't lie in either of these extremes.
Given this, if my friend believes that our initiative plays a greater role than I do, does God work with us the same way? Or, does God work through my friend's greater display of initiative to accomplish His will in his life, while in my life God is a bit more busy accomplishing His will for me by performing more acts of His own, per my sincere understanding of the balance between free will and providence.
It should be noted that either way, we can mess things up. In my friend's case, it would be by taking _too_ much initiative in the wrong way. In my case, it would be by sitting around and waiting for God to do as I thought He might when I should be the one acting. You may recall the story of the man trapped in a flood who refused the assistance of a log, a boat, and a helicopter all under the sincere conviction that God Himself would perform the rescue.
This brings up an important point. As imperfect human beings we can't completely understand God. His Holy Spirit can bring us to salvation and help us with the Scriptures but we will never have it all right. God certainly is aware of this fact.
So then we might expect God to tailor His dealings with us to match our sincere belief about how He works, at least a little bit. This would be my position... to deny this would be to deny the concept of grace.
Let me illustrate. I used to work processing order forms for sales reps. In this position, I was the one who said "yea" or "nay" as to whether the order went through. The level of complexity in these forms was very high, and almost none of the packets were perfect. In reality I could've kicked back almost every one, and aside from stating what the problems were I had no responsibility to explain or train them on how to do it right. Given the stressful nature of the job I had very little grace. As time went on, I began to have more grace, and began to do more to get the packets through by correcting small errors myself or working with the sales rep to correct larger errors.
Given our fallen state I shudder to think of a God without grace- a God who refuses to work with and bless us because we didn't get everything right- a God who continually "kicks back" our lives and dreams for errors. Rather I believe that God has much grace, and the purpose of this grace is twofold. First, to make progress with us in His will despite our failings, and secondly, to teach us, by degrees, a more perfect understanding of Him so we need a little less grace next time.
I'm glad He has more grace with me than I had with those sales reps. God often returns our harshness to others on our own heads.
Yes God is holy, and perfect, but God has chosen to work with imperfect man, and so it is His pleasure to give grace so we might be more perfectly like Him.
Maybe your doctrine is off. If you are seeking after God, He will teach you along the way and you will understand the truth more perfectly.
I hope that sometime I will understand what the true balance is between God's providence and our free-will, but in the meantime, He continues to meet me where I am at just like He did when I first was saved.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Church Structure

Nowhere in the NT do prophets lead the church. To be sure, there is a gift of prophecy, and elders may have it, but this gift is not a requirement for "bishops" and so I would dispute the idea that a "pastor" as we know it is, by definition, a "prophet."
Rather, I would say a "pastor" in the true Biblical sense is a "teacher," and has that gift. See Eph 4:11. Not only that, but the requirements of a "bishop" include, "apt to teach". This signifies that pastors _must_ by definition be teachers, that all teachers are in fact pastors, and the _some_ of these pastor/teachers assume the office of bishop/elder/presbyter. The idea of pastor/teacher indicates that a teacher is primarily a discipler.
I would say that the pastor/teacher individual is the type that best fits for an bishop/elder/what have you. You most certainly _don't_ want a pure prophet there, IMO. Elders need to pastor/teach and so nurture the flock. A prophet will just as easily flog the flock- which is probably needful at times, but not coming from the shepherds.
Again, this is yet _another_ reason why elders/bishops are primarily pastor/teachers and not prophets. The elders/bishops are called "under shepherds," which again fits in well with the pastor/teacher gift & ministry.
Now, elders and other pastor/teachers may have some partial gift of prophecy as a second or occasional gifting, but this is always subservient to the pastoring function, and works as an assist and not a driver of their ministry.
We as Christians today are the same as Israel under Samuel... "give us a king." The impulse to set up additional authority between or in addition to God and His Word displays a lack of faith and is a shirking of our personal responsibility before the Lord. God let the Israelites distance themselves at Mt. Sinai when they declined to speak with God themselves and requested Moses as an intermediator. God let the same thing happen again when they requested a king. But we are now priests and kings before Him and any others we have are those of our own evil making.

I was thinking about this last night and today. Leadership is not the same thing as control. Here's a quote I like:
A leader is best when people barely know he exists. Not so good when people obey and acclaim him. Worse when they despise him. But of a good leader who talks little when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, the people will say, "We did it ourselves." -- Lao Tzu
The people of Israel committed the pragmatic fallacy when they looked at Saul's sons and said, give us a king. Not only was it going against God, but it was 3 generations later that a _king's_ son dealt irresponsibly with Israel and split the nation. The Bible is littered with stories of the demise of various ruling parties, be they elders or monarchs. BTW, the judges had a better track record than the kings of Israel & Judah.
The question is not what works; the question is what God said. This is the view of faith.
The political leadership structure of Israel, as outlined in the Bible, is moot for us today as Christians. You will observe that the remaining leadership structure, the Levitical priesthood, is no longer applicable either. More than no longer applicable, the NT is clear that such a construct has no place in the church.

The church in the wilderness? Certainly you all are familiar with the
term ekklesia, which means called out assembly. Yes the people of Israel
were a called out assembly but that does not make them a type of the church. Ekklesia was a broad term.
The Bible does not explcitly mandate or prohibit any particular form of church structure, and that individual assemblies are free to implement the structure they need, which structure is primarily determined by the distribution of spiritual gifts. While it is true that the early NT church was equal elder rule, this setup is never commanded. To be sure, every structure has its strengths and weaknesses.
It is my observation that the church through the centuries has modeled the prevailing cultural models of leadership in structuring their churches. Today we have churches with CEO-style pastors.
So I don't intend to argue that a particular church leadership structure is mandated from Scripture. I am arguing against the current structure being exclusively right, and against the idea that modifications to mitigate negative aspects of the present leadership model are not necessary.
This assumes that there are negative aspects to be corrected, which I think you all will agree with, to a certain degree.
The basic question then, is not whether our church structure is out of line with some perfect ideal structure, but whether it is structured so that the spiritual gifts are being properly distributed and people are, in the main, being ministered to fully. If so, our problems only require minor corrections; if not, then we must determine _what_ and _who_ is in the way of the natural distribution of gifts and ministry.
The idea of pastoral authority is a tangent to this. Without yet discussing the particulars of pastoral authority, suffice it to say that pastoral authority should never interfere with the proper distribution of gifts and ministry. A true pastor does seek to handle influences detrimental to people's spiritual condition. He may exhort in the case of someone who is hurting themselves, or he may take some sort of other practical action of others are being hurt.
Keep in mind that the enforcement of the church constitution and by-laws is decided by those in leadership positions, who are recognized as pastors. Now if someone doesn't give, maybe there will be a message preached, but even though the C&BL call for loss of membership after a certain period of time, in reality little practical action _will_ be taken, since others aren't being harmed. I don't know the stories and I probably don't want to know them, but is there really a problem with people being asked to leave who are not hurting others, or openly teaching contrary to church stands?
Do we really have a problem, then? The possibility of abuse of authority is not enough to go on. If there is some situation where authority is being abused then three people who know first hand what is going on need to go before the offending pastor and seek reconciliation.