30 Minute Radio Lesson - WAVG Radio 1450 AM
Clarksville church of Christ
April 30, 2000
Speaker: Richie Thetford
Good morning and welcome to another presentation of "What Is Truth?" I'm Richard Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ, thanking each one of you once again for taking the time to listen this morning as we examine the word of God. As we discuss the lesson of the hour entitled "The Holy Spirit and Miraculous Gifts", I want to encourage you to have your Bible readily available so that you can examine the scriptures to make sure that what I am presenting is in fact what God has said and not what I have said.
We continue to be encouraged by the many kind remarks concerning the program. As I have said upon so many occasions, it is my desire to do all things in harmony with the revealed Word of God, that book we commonly call the Bible. As Paul stated in Colossians 3:17, "And whatsoever you do in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." To do all things in the name of the Lord is more than simply stating His name each time that we do something. It means to do all things by His authority. Similar to the expression used by a policeman when he says, Stop, in the name of the Law. What he means is that I have the authority of the law to stop you. So it is to do all things in the name of the Lord, means that all that we do must be done by the authority of Christ Jesus. That is my desire and the wish of the Clarksville congregation which supports this program from week to week.
Several weeks ago I spoke on the subject of the Holy Spirit and covered that subject in four lessons. In those lessons I discussed a number of passages which teach that the Holy Spirit does not work independently of the Word of God, the revealed truth of Jehovah. In the lesson this morning I wish to inquire, "What was the work of the Holy Spirit?" and then later tie the "miraculous gifts" into this lesson. Why was the Spirit sent, and what did the Spirit accomplish? And once again, I point out that there is a tremendous amount of confusion in the religious world with reference to the Holy Spirit. How can we determine these questions? Only by and through the Word of God. You should not be interested in my feelings or the emotions of any. But, we must truly be concerned about what God's Word says about the Holy Spirit and His Work.
As a beginning point I want to read from the gospel of John, chapter 16, verse 13 which says,"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things soever he shall hear, these shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come." Again in John 14:26, Christ speaks, "But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you." From these two scriptures, as well as from others, we learn that the Holy Spirit was to guide the apostles into all the truth. Jehovah did not leave it up to the memory of the apostles to recall all of the truth. No, He sent the Holy Spirit to guide them, to lead them into that truth. So, when the apostles spoke, they were being guided by the Spirit. In Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles, the scripture tells us that, They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak, as the Spirit gave them utterance. The Holy Spirit put the words into their mouths as they began the exalted task of revealing the mind of God to mankind. How do we know that we have Heaven's message? Because the Holy Spirit guided the apostles into all truth. That means that they had all that God wanted them to know. These things they eventually wrote in the book which we call the Bible.
The apostle Peter states, "For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter l:21). The apostle Paul states, "But unto us God revealed them through the Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For who among men knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of the man, which is in him? even so the things of God none knoweth, save the Spirit of God. But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God; that we might know the things that were freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth; combining spiritual things with spiritual words" (1 Corinthians 2:10-13). Therefore, we can put our confidence in this revealed message that the apostles gave to the world, to you and to me, to guide us into the truth of Heaven. This is why I constantly plead for "book, chapter, and verse" in all that is done in service to God. You should not be concerned in what any man says, unless it is in agreement with God's truth, because only the truth can make men free. So states Jesus, our Lord, in John 8:32. And yet, that truth is found in the Word of God. Again, Christ being the spokesman in John 17:17.
In connection with the ability to reveal the truth of Heaven, the Holy Spirit endowed the apostles with miraculous powers to prove that they were indeed sent from Heaven to speak for God. Why were the signs performed in the first century by the apostles, and those upon whom they laid their hands? (We shall discuss this aspect in a later lesson.) But, for now, why did the apostles possess the ability to perform miracles? In Hebrews 2:2-4, we read, "For if the word spoken through angels proved stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience, received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation? which having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by then that heard; God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will." Why were signs performed? In order to bear witness that these men were from Jehovah and that they had Heaven's message. You see, at that time, the Bible had not been completely written. These men were preaching the resurrected Christ and the necessity of obedience to Jesus Christ. How do we know that they are heaven sent? As is stated in John 3:2 where it says, "we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that thou doest, except God be with him." The apostles were able to heal the sick, not just certain kinds of illnesses. They were to able to give sight to the blind; to be bitten with a poisonous serpent without ill effect; to raise the dead. Do you see these kinds of things being done by those who claim to have the same powers that the apostles had? Oh, no! If one has the same thing which the apostles had, then they would be able to do the same things which the apostles did. If not, why not? But, they cannot. I have often said, no need for us to debate the subject, let us go to the graveyard and demonstrate. If you had what Peter had, you can do what Peter did in Acts 9:40, when he said, "Tabitha, arise." And she arose. But, someone says, that would be testing God. Oh, no, my friends. It would be a testimony to the power of God. The signs of the first century were to prove that the spokesman was speaking from Heaven. Why should they not be used for that purpose in the 20th century? Or, perhaps, one might do what Paul did to Elymas in Acts 13:8-11. Elymas opposed Paul's teachings and sought to turn aside the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, from the truth. Paul cast a spell of blindness upon Elymas for a season. I have no fear in challenging those who claim to have what Paul had to cast a spell of blindness upon me. If one has what Paul had then that one should be able to do what Paul did, in the same way.
God's word has been revealed and confirmed. It continues to be the truth of Heaven. And you and I must respect and obey that Word. It is the same message by which we shall be judged one day when we stand before the Tribunal Bar of Heaven and render an accounting to all that we have done while here in the flesh.
But, back to our subject. Why were miraculous signs performed? In John 20:30-31, John states,"Many other signs therefore did Jesus in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God; and that believing ye may have life in his name." Why did Jesus heal the sick, the lame, the blind. Just to make them well or better? Oh, no. He healed them to prove that He had the power of Heaven. To prove Himself to be the Son of God. Why did the apostles have these miraculous powers? To make this world a better place to live; to give man a better physical life? Oh, no. The signs were to confirm the truth of their message. Now, since that message has been confirmed, there is no longer any need for any of these signs today in our lifetime. In fact, Paul gives us a time schedule as to when those signs would cease.
Turn with me now to 1 Corinthians 13, and I begin with the reading of verse 8, "Love never faileth; but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there by tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away." What was Paul discussing when he said the prophecies, tongues, knowledge shall cease, be done away? There are three of the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit which he had discussed in chapter 12. When would they be done away? When that which is perfect is come. To what does he refer when he states, "That which is perfect." Surely, he is not discussing Christ, because Christ has never been a "THAT." If Paul was referring to Christ, he would have said, "When He who is perfect," but he didn't. He said, "When that which is perfect." Again, we ask, to what does Paul refer? Paul is referring to the completed revealed Word of God. You see, when the Word of God was completed, all of it written, there would be no longer a need for these signs to confirm the word. It would stand confirmed. James speaks of the "perfect law of liberty." Listen now to what James says, "But he that looketh into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and so continueth, being not a hearer that forgetteth but a doer that worketh, this man shall be blessed in his doing"(James 1:25). We have the complete, revealed Word of God. It no longer needs confirming. It has been confirmed, and stands confirmed. Men no longer reveal truth directly from Heaven. And those who would so claim are seeking to deceive you, my friends. There is no need for some "latter day revelations." Paul states, "But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema (or cursed)" (Galatians 1:8). The message of the apostles cannot be improved upon, it needs no addition. Peter states that God has "granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that called us by his own glory and virtue" (2 Peter 1:3). Those who lived during the first century, some 1900 years ago, had all that they needed to please God. And, if you and I have what they had, we too have all that we need to please God in the 20th century, and on into the 21st century. What else would we need for salvation except the word of God, the Bible?
Paul said that the gospel is available and that it is God's power to save the souls of mankind. Romans 1:16. The problem is not that we do not have the necessary information. The problem is that men and women do not want to obey it. Man just does not like to be told what he must do. Ananias told Saul of Tarsus what he must do, when he said, "Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins" (Acts 22:16). Friends, I ask you, have you done that?
Please turn with me again to 1 Corinthians 13 and lets read from verse 8 through the end of the chapter. Then I want to make some comments regarding the "miraculous gifts." Here it says,"Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
You will note from this reading that prophecies were to fail. To prophecy meant to make known by inspiration God's revelation. Paul did not say that the revelation would prove to be a failure. He is saying that the gift of prophesying would come to an end, be abolished. God chose prophecy to make known his will to man and when that will was completed there would be no longer any need for prophecy. Thus prophecy was to fail, to cease. When? When all of Divine revelation was completed.
You noticed also that tongues were to cease. In Acts 2, we learn that to speak in tongues was to speak in another language. A language that was understood by the hearers. It was a miracle that men could speak in a language they had not studied or did not know and that they would be understood, because those people stated, "we hear them speaking in our tongues the mighty works of God" (Acts 2:11). Paul states that tongues were to cease. Does that mean that other languages were to cease. No, it means that the ability to speak in another language that one had no knowledge of would cease. One of the nine gifts of the Spirit was the ability to speak in a different language that you had not been brought up in. That ability was to cease.
Paul also states that knowledge shall vanish away. When Paul said knowledge, he was not referring to information gained through study or experience. He is not referring to a time when people become ignoramuses, when they have no knowledge. Paul is referring to the miraculous gift of the Spirit, one of the nine mentioned in chapter 12. This knowledge was a knowledge that one gained by direct revelation of the Holy Spirit. It was the kind of knowledge that Paul refers to when he said, "For I make known to you, brethren, as touching the gospel which was preached by me, that it is not after man. For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:11- 12).
Paul stated that knowledge was in part and prophesying was in part. He also stated that which is in part shall be done away. Spiritual gifts therefore were not eternal, but were temporary. the miraculous revelation of God's will and its confirmation was not all at once. Truth was revealed a little at a time during the first century. It was given in parts and confirmed as it was given. Finally, all of the parts were given and the whole truth was established. The New Covenant was completed, revelation was finished. John states that man should neither add to it nor take away from it. (Revelation 22:18-19).
As noted earlier, Paul tells us that spiritual gifts, such as prophecies, tongues, knowledge, would be done away with at the time "when that which is perfect is come." The question naturally is: To what does Paul refer when he speaks of "that which is perfect?"
Paul was not referring to Christ at His second coming. The words used do not permit that. Paul did not say "He which" or "he who" is perfect shall come. He said "THAT which is perfect." Paul does not have reference to a person, but to a thing, to the completed system, the gospel in its full revelation.
Paul does not refer to a perfect state of existence in heaven which will come at the end of this creation. Heaven is not referred to at any time in this context. He is contrasting that which is temporary with that which is permanent in this life. It is a contrast in the abiding nature of faith, hope and love with the brevity of prophecy, tongues and knowledge. Nowhere is the term "perfect" used with reference to a future sinless state in Heaven. It does have reference to something that is complete, mature. The word translated "perfect" means something that is brought to an end, mature, complete. When referring to people, it means those who are full grown, adult, or mature. When the word is used in a spiritual sense, it means people of God who are mature in the faith, full grown spiritually. Paul refers to the "perfect will of God" (Rom 12:2).
Paul, in the passage, is discussing that which is in part (prophecy, tongues, and knowledge) with that which is complete (the completed word of God). While the New Testament was being written, these gifts were necessary to furnish these early Christians with guidance and confirmation of the truths they taught. When these gifts accomplished their purpose of bringing to existence the Revealed word of truth, they would no longer be needed, thus would fail, cease, be done away with. Thus, that which is perfect refers to the fulness of God's revelation. When it was completed, there would no longer be any need for these miraculous gifts.
Paul uses two examples to illustrate his conclusions. The first was, "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child, now that I am become a man, I have ut away childish things." He is contrasting the infancy stage of the church with its state of maturity. While these miraculous gifts were present the church was still in its infancy, its beginning state. The church would pass from infancy to full grown maturity. And when it did, there would no longer be a need for the partial gifts. No longer do we depend upon someone to have prophecy, tongues, knowledge. We now have the completed, perfect Will of the Father. We do not have to depend upon someone revealing truth for us; WE HAVE THE TRUTH. And it is available for every person to use, to know, and to obey. The church has passed from its infancy state to its full-grown state. Thus, prophecy, tongues and knowledge have been done away.
The second illustration is also a contrast. A contrast between the dark and the clear. "How we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face." Here is a contrast between knowledge in part and knowledge in fullness. He says, "now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." These contrasts further emphasize the difference between the time of the revealing of the New Testament and the time after the completed revelation. The Word of God no longer needs the confirmation of miracles. Spiritual gifts belonged to the former time when that revelation was being given. It is now complete, perfect, and these gifts did indeed cease, they were done away with. To see through a glass darkly means that things are not clear, or that things are known only in part. To see face to face, clearly, means that the light is fully known and we have the full revelation of God. We can look into that perfect law of liberty (James 1:25) and see reflected the image that should guide us and lead us to do the perfect will of God.
You should also notice that Paul is contrasting the cessation of spiritual gifts with the continuance of faith, hope and love. At some point in the history of the church, spiritual gifts would cease while faith, hope and love would continue on. These inspired words of Paul would not be true if spiritual gifts continued until Christ's second coming. Faith and hope will not continue on after Christ's coming. One does not have faith in something they possess. One does not have hope for something they possess. Faith and hope are attributes directed toward the future. Notice Paul's statement in Romans 8:24- 25, "For in hope were we saved: but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopeth for that which he seeth? But if we hope for that which we see not, then do we with patience wait for it." When Christ returns, faith will be turned into sight; hope will become actual possession. The appearance of Christ will bring faith and hope to their completion. And yet, Paul says that there was time that prophecies, tongues and knowledge would cease while faith, hope and love would continue. Therefore Paul was speaking of a time between the spiritual gifts age and the second coming of Christ. I believe that we live in that time today, in fact have been living in it since the time that the Bible was completed and revelation was finished. Then spiritual gifts were no longer needed. But, faith, hope, and love still continue to be desirable.
Friends, do you have faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God? You must, you know, if you would please God. Hebrews 11:6, states, "Without faith it is impossible to please God..." I encourage each listener to examine the credentials of Christ. His life, His message, His death, burial and resurrection; His commandments. And, then, because of that faith to cry out, "Lord what would you have me do?" Peter answers that question in Acts 2:38, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you for the remission of your sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." You will receive what the Holy Spirit gives you, salvation from past sins and the hope of Heaven when this life is over. When some see the term "gift of the Holy Spirit," they conclude that must mean you shall receive the Holy Spirit as the gift. The language permits and I believe means, You shall receive what the Holy Spirit gives you. The gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has promised you eternal life when you obey the commands revealed by the Holy Spirit.
Thus, if you have faith, faith enough to obey the words of the inspired men of the first century, you can become a child of God. You will then have the hope of salvation when this life is over. Truly, there remains faith, hope, and love.
This is Richard Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ thanking each of you for listening to this morning's broadcast and invite you to listen again next Sunday morning at 8:30 A.M. for another presentation of "What Is Truth?"