ON the eve of his death, the Lord Jesus Christ spent the
closing hours of his life with his disciples. It was urgent
to encourage and prepare them, that despite the awful
events about to happen, they might remember his final message
and understand more fully his purpose. So great was the Lord’s
care for his disciples, that his prayer included an appeal for them:
“I pray for them… I have given them Thy word… keep them from
evil… Sanctify them through Thy truth” (John 17:6-20).
In the three and a half years they had been with the Lord, they
had come to know his wonderful character and rely upon his
unerring judgment. He was their confidant, their comfort and
their hope. But it was not possible to completely prepare them
for the traumatic event of his crucifixion. He had told them: “I
have yet many things to say unto you, BUT YE CANNOT BEAR THEM
NOW” (John 16:12) They were yet immature in knowledge and
faith. It was absolutely vital, that after his departure, the disciples be capable of continuing the great work begun by their Lord, of calling the people to repentance.
The Holy Spirit would equip them for the task and enable
these ordinary working class men to fearlessly witness to all, in
The Lord knew that they would mourn his loss, and had
promised that in his absence his Father would supply their need
and send a Comforter — the Holy Spirit, which would be the
“Spirit of Truth” (John 14:17), which means a “Truth-imparting
spirit” (see 1Jn. 2:27). This power was not available to the world
at large, but only to those who “know him.” The “Comforter”
would have specific complementary functions.
The Purpose of the Holy Spirit
It was to be a comforter, to encourage the disciples after the
Master had left them (John 14:18); a teacher to instruct them (John 14:26); a remembrancer to bring previous events to their
recollection (v. 26), a helper to assist them to bear witness (John 15:26-27), and a guide to lead them into all truth (John 16:13).
Notice particularly, that, in John 15:26, the work of the Holy
Spirit is associated with the testimony of Jesus. He continually
reminded them: “Keep my word… keep my sayings… believe on
me… if ye love me, keep my commandments… continue ye in my
love… abide in me… let my words abide in you.”
The message of God which had been preached, firstly by the
prophets, now came from the Son of God himself (Hebrews 1:1),
and his message would be confirmed by the Holy Spirit. Today,
some “Pentecostals” teach that the Holy Spirit can give personal
messages, which are different from the Word of God, and
additional to it. To believe this, would set the power of the Holy
Spirit above the Inspired Word and contradict the divine
command: “Let a man speak in harmony with the Word of God”
(I Peter 4:11; Isaiah 8:20).
THE MIRACLES ARE “SIGNS AND WONDERS”
The Day of Pentecost in the record of Acts of the Apostles,
chapter 2, marked a monumental change in the presentation of
For 1,500 years the
Jews had kept the Law of Moses;
designed to unite them with the
Creator of heaven and earth. It
bound their tribes together as a
nation, and regulated, ordered
and protected their daily lives.
Outside of Israel, however, the
Law had little effect upon the
Gentile world. The national
purpose of the Law of Moses had
been completed by the cruci-fixion
of Jesus Christ.
The next stage of the develop-ment
of the divine purpose
focussed upon personal belief,
individual commitment and dedi-cation
necessitating an inward
conviction. The Jewish nation,
having fallen from grace,
salvation was offered to all men
upon the same conditions: belief
of the gospel, baptism into Jesus
Christ, and obedience to the
divine Word (Galatians 3:27-29).
The call of God’s salvation
was to go out to the Roman
civilised world (Romans 10:17-18) and call individuals to
respond (Acts 15:14). The power
of the Holy Spirit would equip
them for the task, and enable
these ordinary men to fearlessly
witness to all that heard them (Luke 24:39; Acts 8:19; 1:8).
THE SPIRIT OF GOD
The spirit is the power of God
by which He created all
things, and by which they
subsist (Genesis 1:1-2; Psalm 104:30; Acts 17:25-28). It is
also used to describe the
power of divine Truth upon the
mind of a believer, for the
revelation of the Truth came
by inspiration of the Holy Spirit
upon those selected to reveal
it (Hebrews 1:1; John 6:63; Ephesians 6:17; 1John 5:5-6).
Thus believers are exhorted
“to be led of the Spirit,” being
the power and influence of the
Truth believed (Galatians 5:16-18).
THE HOLY SPIRIT
personified (as are many
inanimate things such as
wealth, wisdom, sin, etc.) the
Holy Spirit is not a person, but
the “one spirit” of God used
for special purposes, as the
performance of “miracles,
signs and wonders” (Acts 1:8; 2:1-4; 2:22; 10:38).
THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT
These were bestowed on
believers for a testimony to
the Truth, by the laying on of
the hands of the apostles
(Acts 8:18). With the death of
the apostles, the power of
transmitting these gifts no
longer remained, and the gifts
ceased (I Corinthians 13:8).
Remarkable miracles would be performed, to convince all
that the seal of God was upon the apostles’ work. These miracles
were called “signs and wonders” (Acts 2:43; 5:12; 8:13) and had
been foretold by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 8:16-18). Paul
interprets this quotation in Hebrews 2:13, applying it to Christ
and his disciples.
Significantly, the phrase “signs and wonders,” is often
repeated in the record of the Acts of the Apostles. It is important
to note that the demonstration of healing and miracles was
merely supportive of the Lord’s great work, and not the main
thrust of his mission. The Lord’s priority was in preaching the
gospel of the kingdom (Mark 1:14, 38-39). Consequently, he
often expressly commanded the recipients of his healing powers
not to spread the news at that time as it would cause a sensation
among the people, so hindering the progress of his preaching!
Even when Paul lists the gifts of the Spirit, the miracles never
take the primary role: “God hath set some in the ecclesia
(church) first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, AND
AFTER THAT, miracles, healings, helps, governments, LAST:
THE DAY OF PENTECOST
The work was to begin at Jerusalem: “Ye shall be witnesses
unto me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and in Samaria, and
unto the uttermost parts of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The disciples
were commanded to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the
Holy Spirit, which was to be conferred at Pentecost, the Jewish
festival which occurred some fifty days after the Lord’s death.
The Spirit would equip these ordinary, largely uneducated men
for this divine work.
We cannot help but be impressed with the resulting dramatic
change! These ordinary men, most of them fishermen of Galilee,
were instantly transformed, fearless in conviction, persuasive in
argument, and able to speak in the several languages needed to
communicate with the multi-lingual peoples to whom they
Peter straight away took charge of the small band of
believers, and challenged the large gathering of Jews, some
from, and others visiting Jerusalem at that time of festivity (Acts 2:14). He expounded the Scriptures lucidly and powerfully, and
finally, charged the house of Israel with murder of the Son of
God! (Acts 2:36).
These men, who spent several weeks in the company of the
risen Lord, had been specifically instructed by him in “the things
concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). Nothing on earth
could stop their work, and the Roman Empire, the arena of their
persecution, eventually faded into history.
But the effect of the apostles’ work continues to our times.
What Happened at Pentecost
At Pentecost, the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit.
Its immediate effect was to speak in tongues (Acts 2:4). The
effect was astounding. Thousands of Jews who visited
Jerusalem, having travelled from various countries to the feast
(Acts 2:9-11), to their amazement, “heard every man speak in his
own language” (Acts 2:6). It was necessary that the apostles
possess this remarkable and unique gift to witness throughout the
world at that time.
Pentecost is a Jewish Feast, the second in the Hebrew
calendar year, occurring fifty days after Passover.
Passover marks the great work of deliverance by God, in
redeeming the nation enslaved in Egypt, and guiding the people
to freedom. The miraculous division and crossing of the Red Sea
began their transition from “darkness” to “light,” from ignorance
to knowledge. Fifty days later, they met their God in a dramatic
portrayal of His presence at Sinai in the wilderness, separating
Egypt from the land of Promise.
Pentecost marks the time when Israel arrived at Sinai, where
they were welded together as a nation, and commanded to
prepare and wait for the manifestation of the Lord upon the
mount, and to receive His law (Exodus 19).
The parallel with the apostolic Pentecost is remarkable (Acts 2). The Lord Jesus, crucified as the antitypical Passover Lamb,
by which he secured redemption for all his people, had instituted
and presided over his Passover Feast the night before his death.
Fifty days later, he conferred power upon his believers, so that
they could begin their teaching work. They received the visible
seal of the law of grace and of the principles of salvation of the
gospel he had preached.
This parallel of the instruction of the people at Sinai to the
Lord’s redemptive work, is particularly commented upon by
Paul in Ephesians, chapter 4.
It is remarkable that Pentecostals completely omit Paul’s
reference to these events at Sinai. This failure has led them to
misinterpret the whole purpose of the Holy Spirit and the
teaching of the apostles.
The chart on page 7 parallels these two momentous events,
and sets out the remarkable relationship between the events of
Israel in the past, and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Please
compare it carefully with Ephesians 4:7-16.
Notice that the emphasis in this section is not on the
miraculous gifts, but on the teaching, leading to the knowledge
which edifies and strengthens the body of Christ. This brings true
unity, and finally, perfection
The Purpose of the Holy Spirit Teaching Gifts
Open your Bible at Ephesians chapter 4 and carefully note
the following reasons for the gifts:
. . . for the perfecting of the saints;
. . . for the work of the ministry;
. . . for the building up of the body of Christ.
Verse 13. . . until the unity of the faith is achieved by
Verse 14. . . that they should no longer be immature,
unstable in understanding of doctrine.
Verse 15. . . to speak the truth, in love;
. . . be joined to Christ, the head.
|The Lord descended upon the mount (Exodus 19).
||Jesus was “sent from God.” He “descended first” (Ephesians 4:9).
|The Law was given in the hand of Moses.
||Jesus ministered to his people and instructed them.
|The Lord ascended, and "led captivity [Israel captive to sin and death] captive" (Psalm 68:18).
||Jesus ministered to his people and instructed them.
|He gave “gifts” to men: spirit-appointed teachers (the Levites
as priests: Numbers 8:19).
||He gave spirit-gifts, “some apostles, prophets, teachers,
evangelists” (Ephesians 4:11).
|The priests were to instruct the people in the ways of God,
that they would be built up (Malachi 2:5-7).
||They were given for “the building up of the body,” (Ephesians 4:12).
|The priests were to unite the people to God through their
High Priest Aaron (Psalm 133).
||“Till in unity of faith,” they might be “united to their
head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:13,15-16).
|The prophets pleaded for God “to come down” again in judgment upon His people (Isaiah 64:1-4).
||The believers wait for the return of their Lord from heaven (Acts 1:11).
This chapter clearly demonstrates the divine objects, through
the Holy Spirit for the purpose of teaching. Remember, Jesus had
said that the Spirit of Truth (the Comforter, John 14:26) would be
a “teacher and remembrancer and would guide them into all
truth.” The apostle Paul adds his comments: “In the church (Gr.
ecclesia), I had rather speak five words with my understanding,
that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand
words in an unknown tongue…” (I Corinthians 14:19).
THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Much has been made by Pentecostals and others, of the Holy
Spirit gifts, conferred in apostolic times, with the bestowal of the
The gifts of the Holy Spirit were only to be possessed
completely by the apostles (as Christ had indicated earlier, John
20:22). Though other spirit-gifted followers of the Lord might
teach and perform miracles, as Philip did in Samaria, they could
not, of themselves, pass on the gifts of the Holy Spirit to others.
Only the apostles could do that. Acts 8:13-17 clearly records that
believing Samaritans did not receive the power of the Holy Spirit
until the apostles visited them. Obviously these people were
followers of Christ, but incapable of exercising the Holy Spirit
Paul teaches that those gifts were distributed among the
community of believers “partitively.” This word is found in
1Corinthians 13 and speaks of the different facets of the gifts.
One member would have the gift of healing, another the gift of
prophecy, and so on. They each shared in the gifts; they were
distributed “in parts,” or “partitively.” But in the community of
first century believers were found all different aspects of the
gifts, being designed to assist them to work together. But
unfortunately, this power became open to abuse. Paul had clearly
explained in 1Corinthians 12 that the “diversities of the gifts” (v.
4) were meant to produce unity in the body of believers, in the
same way that the different parts of our physical body must
function harmoniously for the body to effectively operate.
Unfortunately, many boasted in the imaginary importance of
their particular gift, especially the showy gifts such as the gift of
tongues — which could be heard, often loudly! Other gifts, such
as the gift of wisdom, were not so impressively demonstrated
THE GIFTS ARE PARTITIVE
In the growing communities of believers, each member had
his or her place. All gave voice to organisational decisions and
there was opportunity for any dissatisfaction concerning
arrangements to be expressed and discussed openly, so that they
might be properly considered in the light of their common needs
Within the Body of Christ, all were equal as brethren and
members of his community (Galatians 3:28). There was no
difference between a master and his slave as far as their standing
before God was concerned. Each had an equal voice in the
decision-making. Each had his own unique contribution to make.
To re-inforce the value of each individual, God arranged the
spirit gifts in such a way that the members should appreciate
their own contribution without depreciating the ministrations of
others (I Corinthians 12:7,11).
Paul explains the communal participation in this way (see
One spirit ..............Many gifts......................verse 4
One Lord ..............Many ministries ............verse 5
One God................Many operations ............verse 6
This is UNITY IN DIVERSITY.
Now notice the principle expressed in verses 8-11:
“To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom…”
“To another, healing by the same Spirit…”
“To another miracles…”
“To another prophecy…,” etc.
“But all work the one Spirit, dividing to every man
To explain this further, Paul takes the analogy of a body,
which can only operate by the efficient and unified use of the
many parts. Some parts are more prominent, some “less
attractive,” but all are necessary (I Corinthains 12:12-24).
For the purpose of Unity in Diversity, by which is taught that
the communal activity of the believers is designed to develop a
singlemindedness, a oneness of thought and action, the Spirit
divided its various gifts, so that: “there be no schism in the body,
but all should have the same care for one another” (verse 25).
The believers were to realise that each needed the other to
supply what he might lack. Paul emphasises the issue by a
question and answer:
“Are all prophets?” No!
“Are all apostles?” Of course not!
Therefore it was necessary to understand that the work of a
“prophet” or an “apostle,” was not necessarily to be sought by all
members. Each had his own part to play. However, Paul exhorts
that they should all “covet earnestly the best gifts” (such as that
of “prophecy,” which is the ability to teach the Word of Truth:
1 Corinthians 12:31; 14:3). If every believer had all gifts, there
would be no need for this explanation.
A PROBLEM WITH THE GIFT OF TONGUES
As human pride is prone, some began to prioritize the gifts,
claiming that the ostentatious and obvious gifts of working
miracles, particularly that of tongues, were more important than
the others. This is also a present-day trend among Pentecostals.
But God, who had established the priorities, placed the
teaching gifts first, and they are always mentioned first by the
apostles, and the miraculous come last, as we have seen.
The gift of speaking in tongues caused so much disruption in
the meetings of believers, that the apostle Paul had to limit its use
to achieve order in the community, spending a whole chapter,
recorded in 1Corinthians 14, explaining why this had become
necessary. He counselled that they ought to control the gift,
because “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets”
(I Corinthians 14:32). This means that the gift complements the
Word of God; it is not above it, and they had power to use it as
they saw fit and necessary. Yet they were only permitted to use
the gift when the language could be understood by the hearers.
Otherwise it becomes mere exhibitionism without real purpose
or reason. If all that could be heard was an incomprehensible
garble, as is often displayed by Pentecostals, of what value was
the gift? It could do no one any good!
THE SPIRIT GIFTS WERE TEMPORARY
The gifts were to assist the growth of the community of
believers, known as “the body of Christ” into maturity in
obedience to its head, the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 4:15-16). But,
as in the natural development of a child into a man, so the time
would come, when the state of immaturity of the apostolic
community must finish (I Corinthians 13:11), then, the gifts
would be no longer necessary, and must end. So Paul warned that
soon, after he wrote: “Prophecies shall fail… Tongues shall
cease… Knowledge shall vanish away” (I Corinthians 13:8).
The gifts would cease “when that which is perfect [the word
means “complete” or “mature”] is come, then that which is
partitive will be done away” (verse 10). The word “perfect” is
the same word in the Greek language as that in Ephesians 4:13,
which describes the full development of the body of Christ.
The time did arrive when all congregations of believers
became established, settled and functional. By that time the New
Testament Scriptures had been completed by spirit-inspired men,
and distributed, so that when the last of the apostles died at the
end of the first century, the New Testament became their written
witness, powerfully continuing the work of God down to our day
(I John 1:1-3; Revelation 1:1).
THE GIFTS WERE LIMITED
On the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter addressed the Jews
in Jerusalem, and declared that they had crucified the Lord Jesus.
They were so smitten in conscience, that, following an outline of
the gospel message, and a recognition of the work of God in
Christ, 3,000 were baptised into the name of Jesus Christ. They
were also given the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38-39)
Note that the gift was limited in three ways:
 “To you” — those baptised at Jerusalem on Pentecost.
 “To your children” — the next generation following
those addressed by the apostle.
 “To those that are afar off” — a biblical phrase for the
Gentiles, who were also to be called to the “hope of Israel”
through the continuing ministry of the apostles (Acts 2:39;28:28). The Gentiles were “afar off” (Ephesians 2:13,17) from
salvation; they were “strangers from the covenants of promise”
and needed to be reconciled to God (Ephesians 2:12-17).
The apostles did not begin the work with Gentiles until a few
years had passed after Pentecost. The first believer was
Cornelius, a Roman centurion, and it was such a notable event,
that the Holy Spirit intervened, confirming it by a vision and
angelic messengers (Acts 10).
It is important to realise that the promise of the Spirit gifts did
not extend beyond the second generation from those who
attended the feast at that time. It certainly never related to our
days, two thousand years later.
THE MORE EXCELLENT WAY
After explaining the function of the Spirit gifts, Paul is
careful to point out that their use is limited, and that there was a
greater principle to be sought: “I show unto you a more excellent
way” (I Corinthians 12:31).
This way is the way of true Love based upon an
understanding of the Truth, for such love constrains the human
will to follow the way of God. Being selfless, it is able to focus
on the needs of others, not because of personal affection, but
because such a love sees the ultimate benefit that might be given
thereby to the recipient. It is this quality of selfless love which
crowns the characteristics God desires to see in His followers.
For “God [Himself] so loved the world, that He gave His only
begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish,
but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). This love has promise of
a greater future, a joyous existence upon the basis of immortality
in the kingdom of God as promised in the Bible (II Peter 1:4).
Finally, when the gifts died out, Love, Faith and Hope
remained for believers to focus upon in their lives (I Corinthians 13:13).
The Charismatic Christian
Today’s pentecostal movement, claiming possession of the
Holy Spirit and its gifts, is a modern counterpart of the popular
revival meetings of the last century. These old time revival
meetings came about when times were difficult and the
oppressed sought for the meaning of life amid their humdrum
toil, to fill a vacuum and alleviate despair. These meetings
appealed to the senses and the feelings, and those attending were
swept up in a general sense of emotional wellbeing and
communal rapture. The revival meetings in the southern states of
America and the soulful negro spirituals arose as an antidote and
solace to the grinding oppression and poverty of the slaves.
The charismatic revival is not restricted to the western world.
It has its counterpart in other cultures. In the east, there are the
swirling dervishes who work themselves into a trance through
their frenzied movements; the Jewish Hassidim instituted a
revival within the ranks of Jewry, expressing religious ecstasy in
dance, for communion with God; a number of African religions
have similar “experiences;” the Yoruba religious practices in
parts of Nigeria induce a trance in an endeavour to come into
touch with the “Eternal Spirit.”
Sociologists identify the charismatic revival behaviour as an
“expressive crowd” when the preacher uses the known
techniques of music, rhythm and audience participation, to put
the audience “on a high,” involving body movements, often
unco-ordinated. Last century religious revival meetings talked
about “getting the jerks;” today they say, they “are getting the
spirit.” Once the preacher stimulates group participation, the
stimuli have a reverberating effect and the whole group begin to
sway and sing. They shriek repetitive phrases, often louder than
the preacher. Often, during extreme states of “possession” words
are often abandoned for nonsense syllables. This is popularly
known as “glossolalia,” though Pentecostals call it “the gift of
tongues.” Sociologists like Arthur Rose in his book Sociology
reported on this in his study of human relations.
In 1976, the New Zealand Listener published an article which
examined the claims of these charismatic christians. It explained
how the emotions were worked on at a pentecostal meeting to
generate the automatic nervous system. The heart rate and blood
pressure are affected, and adrenaline and mimic adrenaline
(containing LSD-like substances) are released. At this point,
behaviour can be changed. The kind of people often attracted to
this emotional type of religion, have been involved with
problems like drugs, alcohol, marriage disintegration and lack of
meaning in their lives. Attending a charismatic meeting gives
them the euphoria and imagined sense of wellbeing for which
This kind of manipulation and euphoria can also occur in
non-religious areas, as is evident in the mass fanaticism at the
rise of Hitler, the lynching mobs of the wild west, and modern
Today, rapid social and employment changes have produced
uncertainty, weariness and often despair. There is a rising
dissatisfaction with modern life. Once the church provided
spiritual leadership. Now christendom has become so insipid
doctrinally and practically, that it secures the erosion of their
It is the increasing despair of our age which fuels the
Though the religious revival of pentecostalism claims divine
inspiration, and attempts to give biblical authority to its claims of
Holy Spirit possession, we believe that the teaching of the Word
of God is quite to the contrary.
Christadelphians refute the claims of Holy Spirit possession,
and issue a serious warning about becoming involved in the
religious groups which promote this false theory. The work of
the apostles from Pentecost onward, shows a series of public
ministries in which the Word of God was presented in an
intelligent, reasoned manner, to convince men and women of the
Truth of God. The intellect has to be convinced before faith can
be developed (Romans 10:17). A careful reading of the speeches
recorded in Acts of the Apostles, shows their expositional nature.
There is no behaviour recorded in the book of Acts, such as is
experienced with today’s charismatics.
THE SPIRIT TODAY
The “spirit” of God is His power, used to perform His will in
many ways. The word “holy” means “separate,” and describes
the almighty power of God used in a specific and direct manner.
God’s spirit presides over His creation to sustain life and to
work out His purpose. If we pray to Him, He has promised to
guide and help us, according to His divine will, and within His
purpose. We come to know God through listening to the voice of
the Son of God, and hearing his words. “The words that I speak
unto you,” said the Lord Jesus, “they are spirit and life” (John 6:63). These words of truth and life are contained in the Bible,
and will “make us wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus
Christ” (II Timothy 3:15). We need to thoroughly acquaint
ourselves with the Word of God that we may know His purpose,
and walk in His ways.
The purpose of God will soon be fulfilled and Jesus Christ
shall return to intervene in world affairs, by reviving the ancient
kingdom of God upon the earth, ruling from Jerusalem, the city
of David (Isaiah 2:2-4).
Then the Spirit will be again exercised on behalf of men and
women, that the great purpose of Almighty God might be
established in all the earth. Speaking of the future age, when the
kingdom of God will be set up, the prophet Joel declares: “Also
upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I
pour out My spirit…” (Joel 2:29). The glory of God will be
manifested by those who, in their day of opportunity, have
committed their lives to obeying the teachings of Scripture. So
Joel continues: “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall
call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion
and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and
in the remnant whom the Lord shall call” (Joel 2:32). At the
return of the Lord Jesus, they will be granted immortality, and be
privileged to exercise the awesome power of God to extend His
glory throughout all the earth (Numbers 14:21).
A Personal Appeal
At the present time, God is still “calling out of the Gentiles,
a people for His Name” (Acts 15:14); He invites men and
women of wisdom to be transformed by God’s Word, and to
prepare for an honoured position as administrators in the
Kingdom of God.
“They that hear the voice of the Son of God shall live” (John 5:25).