Ask Your Preacher
What is the gift of the Holy Spirit that christians are promised by Peter in Acts 2? I don't think it's God's Word since faith comes by hearing, and you must hear the Word of God before you can believe and become a christian. Also, not all christians at that time or today had/have access to the inspired Scriptures. I followed Peter's instructions, but I don't have any "spiritual" gift. I get very confused when it comes to the Holy Spirit's role after the perfect has come.
The gift of the Holy Spirit is salvation. In Acts 2:38, Peter offers the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who are baptized. The problem is that in this verse, Peter doesn’t specify whether the gift is from the Holy Spirit or the gift is the Holy Spirit. We need to compare Peter’s sermon in Acts to other verses. What do other verses say you receive when you are baptized?
- Mk 16:16 says you will receive salvation.
- Acts 8:16 shows that several people had been baptized but hadn’t received the Holy Spirit – which means that the Holy Spirit can’t be what the gift is.
- Acts 10:47 shows several people receiving the Holy Spirit before baptism, also proving that the gift of baptism isn’t the actual Holy Spirit.
- Rom 6:4 says you are given a new life through baptism.
- 1 Cor 12:13 says that you become part of the church when you are baptized.
- Col 2:12 says you are raised with Christ in baptism.
- Gal 3:27 says you put on Christ when you are baptized.
- 1 Pet 3:21 says baptism saves you.
The truth can always be found in the sum of God’s Word (Ps 119:160). Baptism washes away your sins, and you receive the gift of salvation. The gift of salvation is a heavenly gift offered to us by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God (Heb 6:4, 1 Cor 2:11-13).
What is faith? When we have faith, do we have faith like when we sit on a chair or fly on a plane? What type of faith does the Word of God say that we should have? How many different types of faith are there? We all are given a measure of faith, but yet, the Word says that there is only one faith; what does this mean? Do we function on different faith, or do we all function on the same faith… but differently?
Dear Finding Faith,
The word ‘faith’ simply means ‘to place your trust in, to believe’. In the context of the Bible, the word ‘faith’ is specifically referring to our trust in God.
Faith is an inevitable element of life. Anytime you trust something you can’t see, it is an act of faith (Heb 11:1). When we take an aspirin, we have faith that it isn’t laced with arsenic. When we drive, we have faith that the traffic light is telling the other lanes to stop when it tells us to go. We visit restaurants because we have faith in the recommendation our friend gave us, and we buy houses based on our faith in the home inspector’s report. Everyone lives by faith – this is an important aspect of life.
Sadly, most people are quick to place their trust in manmade things like airplanes and cars, but very slow to place their faith in God. The Bible says that faith comes from hearing God’s Word (Rom 10:17). That is what the Bible mens when it says there is only one faith (Eph 4:5). There is only one standard for a faithful life – the Bible. The Bible is the book of the faith and then how we follow the faith determines our level of individual faith.
When we study and then live by the teachings found in the Bible we are living a life of faith in God. It isn’t enough to just say we believe in God, our works must back that statement up (Jas 2:14-17). Even the demons believe in God (Jas 2:19), but salvation comes to those who do something about that belief.
(This question is in response to “Legal Council”.)
You said, "No congregation has the right to impose their decisions on another local church." But in Acts 15, James, the bishop of Jerusalem (not an apostle) sends a letter of decree to the local congregation that was circumcising Gentile believers. This became binding on that local congregation (and the practice obviously stopped). Also, you said, "The only difference would be that the council in Acts 15 affected the entire universal church because the apostles were there, and the apostles had authority over all the church." Where in the Bible does it specifically say that the authority of the apostles ended when they passed on? Is that just an assumption?
Make A Decision
Dear Make A Decision,
James wasn’t the only one who sent that letter – he was one of the elders from Jerusalem, but the letter was sent by the apostles and the elders (Acts 15:23). The apostles were the ones with the authority to lay the decree down for all the churches. Paul points out that as an apostle, he had that authority and responsibility in 1 Cor 7:17 and 2 Cor 11:28.
It isn’t an assumption that the apostolic authority ended with these first apostles. In order to be an apostle, a man had to be specifically sent forth by Christ (the word ‘apostle’ means ‘one sent forth’) and have witnessed His resurrection (Acts 1:21-26). Elders only have the authority to shepherd the local congregation they are at (1 Pet 5:2). Universal church authority ended with the apostles.
I understand that all spiritual gifts are no longer needed and have ceased; I understand why. But a question came up with a Pentecostal friend that I need a little help with. What is the scripture that explains to us that God chooses to no longer speak to people directly? And what would be a good way to explain why He does not speak to people outside the Bible?
Trying To Help
Dear Trying To Help,
There are several places that you can go to explain this concept to your Pentecostal friend. Here are a few verses to show them:
- We are told that the Bible contains everything we need to know concerning life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3). If the Bible tells us everything we need to know, we don’t need anything else.
- The Bible tells us that we shouldn’t add or subtract from God’s Word (Rev 22:18-19). A vision or prophecy given to an individual would do exactly that. If a “vision” says more than the Bible, we don’t need it, and if it says the same thing as the Bible, we don’t need it.
- Heb 1:1-2 says that God used to speak to mankind through many diverse methods, but today He has spoken to us through His Son. Jesus’ Word is now our only guide.
- Jude 1:3 says that we have the Word of God handed down “once and for all”. God has finished providing revelation to us.
- The silver bullet verses are 1 Cor 13:8-9, but it is a little lengthier discussion to handle all of the arguments in that verse. We recommend you read “Incomplete Understanding” for a complete breakdown of the 1 Cor 13:8-9 argument.
The long and the short of it is that prophecy was needed until the Bible was complete, but now that we have everything God wanted us to know, prophecy has ceased.
You mentioned that the church of Christ is not a denominational church. Each congregation is supposed to use the Scriptures alone to be a guide. What if members of the congregation disagree with a particular doctrine or practice? How are disagreements resolved when both parties use Scripture interpretation to support a point? In Acts 15, there was a council set up to resolve a disagreement regarding circumcision. The decision was binding on the universal church. Do church of Christ congregations hold councils in compliance with the Acts 15 model?
Make A Decision
Dear Make A Decision,
Acts 15 is a good pattern to follow when a congregation has questions or disagreements about a particular doctrine. The only difference would be that the council in Acts 15 affected the entire universal church because the apostles were there, and the apostles had authority over all the church. A local congregation is commended to their elders and to God – each group is autonomous (Acts 14:23), so any decision a congregation makes would affect them alone. No congregation has the right to impose their decisions on another local church.
In Acts 15, we see how we are supposed to find Bible answers when discussing doctrinal issues. When we take Bible verses and combine them together to understand larger principles, we are doing exactly what God intends for us to do (Ps 119:160). In Acts 15, we see that the apostles did that very thing. When the issue came up regarding the circumcision of Gentiles, the apostles listened to the evidence (Acts 15:12), studied the Old Testament Scriptures (Acts 15:15-18), and came to a conclusion (Acts 15:19). They looked for commands, approved examples, and then came to a necessary conclusion from the data. That is exactly what every congregation should do.