Miracles (Part 2)

There are different words used in the Bible to describe super-natural work: (1) “Miracle” (e.g. Luke 23:8; Acts 2:22).  The word is from the Greek, “dunamis” (it is from this word we derive our word “dynamite”).  The word refers to “power” (Vine’s).  It refers to the cause of the act, super-natural power.  Such power is from God.  (2) “Work” or “deed” (e.g. Luke 10:13; 24:19; Acts 2:11; 2 Corinthians 12:12).  The original word, “ergon,” has reference to the deed or work itself.  (3) “Wonder” (e.g. Acts 4:29-30; 5:12).  The Greek word is “teras.”  It refers to “something so strange as to cause it to be ‘watched’ or ‘observed’…” (Thayer).  The word has reference to the wonderment and amazement of those who witnessed the super-natural work (cf. Matthew 15:31; Acts 3:7-10; 7:30-31; 8:13).  (4) “Sign” (e.g. John 2:11; 4:54; 6:14; 12:18; Acts 2:22).  The word, “Semeion,” though sometimes translated “miracle” by the KJV, should be rendered “sign.”  It refers to “a sign, mark, indication, token” (Vine’s).  In other words, the design of the miracle was to lead man to a truth beyond the miracle itself (cf. John 3:2).

We are studying the subject of miracles.  In this part, we will consider the specific miraculous gifts given in the New Testament.

Specific Gifts

The following lists are composed from the three chapters (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4):

Gifts of Revelation: (1) The word of wisdom (1 Corinthians 12:8 cf. 2:6-7).  This refers to the receiving and revealing of God’s hidden wisdom.  (2) The word of knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8, cf. 1:4-5; 13:2; 13:8; 14:6).  This refers to knowing and teaching God’s will.  The distinction may be that the first gift had to do with revealing God’s word (his was done by the apostles and the New Testament prophets); While, the second gift had to do with the inspired ability to teach what had already been revealed by the apostles and the prophets.

Gifts of confirmation: (1) Faith (1 Corinthians 12:9 cf. 13:2; Matthew 17:20; 21:21; Mark 9:23; 11:22-23). It is true that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17 cf. Luke 8:11-12; John 5:45-47;; 17:20; 20:30-31; Acts 8:12; 17:11-12; 18:8; Ephesians 1:13-14). This, however, refers to super-natural works designed to build faith in others, and were accomplished through the faith of the workers (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:2; Matthew 17:20; 21:21; Mark 9:23; 11:22-23). We now move from the general to some specific kinds of miracles as the list continues – (2) Gifts of healings (1 Corinthians 12:9). This includes the ability to super-naturally heal various diseases and illnesses, and demon possession (cf. Acts 8:4-8; 28:8-9). (3) The working of miracles (1 Corinthians 12:10). David Lipscomb commented, “The word here translated ‘working’ literally means ‘inworking’ of powers. That is… the ability to impart power of working miracles others.” The apostles had this ability (Acts 8:14-18; 19:6-7; Romans 1:11; 1 Corinthians 1:7 cf. 2 Corinthians 12:12-13; Galatians 3:2-5; 2 Timothy 1:6). (4) Prophecy (1 Corinthians 12:10 cf. 13:2; 13:8). The term “prophecy” means “to speak forth” (see Vine’s). It does not necessarily mean to foretell the future. It can mean simply “the speaking forth of the mind and counsel of God” (Vine’s). However, since this is in the grouping of gifts of confirmation, this seems to refer to predictive prophecy (cf. Acts 11:27-28; 21:10-11). Note: 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 is divided into three groupings, each group being separated by the word “heterous” (another of a different kind). (5) Discerning of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10). This refers to the super-natural ability to discern what is in man, his thoughts, and if he is speaking the truth (cf. John 2:25; Matthew 9:3-4; Acts 5:1-3; 1 John 2:19-20; 2:26-27).

Gifts of communication: (1) Kinds of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10 cf. 13:2; 13:8; 14:8-11; 14:18-19; 14:27; 14:39). This is the super-natural ability to speak in a foreign language without studying it [(cf. Acts 2:4-11). Note: For more information see article – Tongue Speaking: What Was It? By Bryan Hodge]. (2) The interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10 cf. 14:27-28). This is the super-natural ability to interpret. Note: This grouping – gifts of communication – helped in both revelation and confirmation.


Miraculous gifts are closely connected with certain positions and works in the early church. Consider:

Positions of Revelation and Teaching: (1) Apostles (Ephesians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 12:28). The word literally means, “one sent forth” on a mission (Vine’s). This is speaking of the apostles of Jesus Christ. They were selected eyewitnesses, commissioned to carry the gospel into all of the work (Acts 1:21-22 cf. Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:8). They evidently possessed all miraculous gifts (Acts 2:4; 3:6-7; 8:14-17; 9:40; 1 Corinthians 14:18; Acts 14:8-10; Acts 19:1-6; Acts 20:9-10, 12). (2) Prophets (Ephesians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Romans 12:6). The word literally means “one who speaks forth” (see Vine’s). Think of it this way – all apostles were prophets (Ephesians 2:20; 3:5, Granville Sharp Rule); but not all prophets were apostles (Acts 2:17-18; 11:27-28; 21:8-9; 21:10). (3) Evangelist (Ephesians 4:11). The word literally means “a bringer of good news” (Thayer) Philip is so-called (2 Timothy 4:5). They “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:1-2). (4) Teachers (1 Corinthians 12:29; Romans 12:7). The book of Ephesians speaks of pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). Think of it this way – all pastors are to be teachers [Ephesians 4:11 (notice these words are not divided with a “some” between them); 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:9]; but not all teachers are pastors (2 Timothy 2:1-2). The term ‘pastor’ refers to an elder (Acts 20:17 cf. 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1 cf. 5:2-4).

Positions of miracle workers: (1) Workers of miracles (1 Corinthians 12:28-29). David Lipscomb commented, “The in-working of powers.” That is, the ability to confer miraculous abilities unto others. (2) Gifts of healings (1 Corinthians 12:28, 30). This is possibly the gifts used by “he who shows mercy” (Romans 12:8).

Position of communication: (1) Speakers of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:28, 30). (2) Interprets of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:30).

Position of leadership: (1) Helps (1 Corinthians 12:28). This is perhaps the same as those who minister (Romans 12:7). This is possibly a reference to deacons. (2) Administrations (1 Corinthians 12:28). This is possibly a reference to elderships. Romans speaks of “he who leads” (Romans 12:8).

Miscellaneous works: (1) Exhorting (Romans 12:8). This can be done by preaching (2 Timothy 4:2). Such can also be done in daily conversation, and in the assembly of the church (Hebrews 3:13; 10:24-25). Barnabas was an exhorter (Acts 4:26). (2) Liberal giving (Romans 12:8). God evidently blessed some, so that they would be able to give liberally. The rich should understand the responsibility to properly use their money (1 Timothy 6:17-18 cf. Luke 12:48b; 2 Corinthians 8:12).

It should be kept in mind that while some of the listed ministries require miraculous gifts (e.g. apostle, prophet, workers of miracles, etc.), many of those listed do not require miraculous gifts. Apollos, for example, proclaimed Jesus from the scriptures without inspiration (Acts 18:24-28). However, the various positions and works are listed with the miraculous, because these positions and works were frequently accompanied by miraculous gifts in the early church.

Diversity of Gifts

A couple of things should be kept in mind. First, it was possible to be a Christian in the first century, and be without a miraculous gift (Acts 8:9-17; Romans 1:11), for at least a period of time, and maybe always. Second, the various gifts were distributed through the church. Not all Christians received the same gift or gifts (Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-30; Ephesians 4:7-16).

Why didn’t God give all miraculous gifts to each and every member of the early church? The answer is that He wanted the members working together as members of the human body do (Romans 12:3-4; 1 Corinthians 12:12-17; Ephesians 4:16).

There is an application for us, beyond the miraculous gifts context. Strengths and weaknesses differ from member to member. We each have innate and acquired abilities and skills. These abilities and skills are to be used in the body “for the profit of all” (1 Corinthians 12:7; 14:26b; 1 Peter 4:10). Let us work together to build up and strengthen the church. Let us work together to  reach the lost. Let us work together to the glory of God.

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An Open and Shut Case

James Dixon stood accused of shooting police sergeant Richard Scanlon in the abdomen during a scuffle on Chicago’s south side.  James Dixon was guilty, right?  He did shoot sergeant Richard Scanlon, right?

Here’s are some facts: (1) A neighbor called the police to report a man with a gun.  Scanlon arrived to find Dixon noisily arguing with his girlfriend’s father.  (2) Dixon and the father began to physically fight.  Scanlon stepped in to break it up.  A shot rang out.  Scanlon was hit.  (3) A .22 caliber gun belonging to Dixon was found nearby.  It was covered with Dixon’s fingerprints.  One bullet had been fired from the gun.  (4) The father, by all accounts, had been unarmed.  (5) The policeman’s revolver remained holstered.  (6) Powder-burns on Scanlon’s skin showed that he had been shot at close range.  (7) Dixon had a previous rap-sheet.  (8) Dixon pleaded guilty.  Note: The officer did not die,  He was awarded a medal for bravery for his efforts.

An open and shut case, right?  Not exactly.  Consider these additional details: (1) Some witnesses said that before Scanlon arrived Dixon’s gun had discharged once.  The bullet went downward into the front porch.  Moreover, there was a chip in the porch consistent with the testimony.  (2) Dixon explained that he had hidden the gun because he didn’t want to be caught with it, not because he had shot the officer.  (3) The powder-burns were concentrated in the inside – but not above – the left pocket of Scanlon’s shirt.  (4) Dixon had spent three years prior in prison, but he had been wrongfully convicted.  (5) The confession and guilty plea was part of a plea bargain agreement.  If convicted Dixon could go away for twenty years in prison.  If he pleaded guilty, the sentence would be one year, and he had already spent 362 days in jail, thus he was almost done –  if he would plea bargain.

What was the truth?  The truth eventually was brought forth by the press.  Scanlon had an illegal pen gun.  It had unintentionally gone off in the struggle.  Scanlon had shot himself by accident.  Dixon was exonerated and won a lawsuit against the police.  Scanlon was stripped of his medal, pleaded guilty to official misconduct, and the veteran officer was fired.

The moral?  Be careful before condemning.  1 Timothy 5:22 reads, “Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partakers of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.”

Note: The Dixon-Scanlon story is told in The Case For Christ by Lee Strobel, pp. 9-ff.  Also, Lee Strobel, “Four Years in Jail – and Innocent,” Chicago Tribune (August 22, 1976) and “Did Justice Close Her Eyes (August 21, 1977).

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Miracles (Part 1)

Miracles are a part of the Biblical record. They occur in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament. Jimmy Jividen listed the references to miracles in the Gospel accounts and New Testament record: (1) Matthew – general references to miracles, 10; specific miracles, 20; (2) Mark – general references to miracles, 6; specific miracles, 18. (3) Luke – general references, 6; specific miracles, 21; (4) John – general references to miracles, 7; specific miracles, 8. (5) Acts – general references to miracles, 10; specific miracles, 12. (6) Epistles – general references to miracles, 5 (Jimmy Jividen, Miracles From God or Man?, p. 25-65).

This series will look closely at the subject of miracles. In this part, we will define what a miracle is, and consider its purpose(s).


A miracle does not simply refer to the amazing. People sometimes speak of “the miracle of child-birth,” or a “miracle play” in sports. However, such is not how the Bible uses the term.

A miracle is God’s working on a plane above natural law. Wayne Jackson states it this way, “A miracle is a divine operation that transcends what is normally perceived as natural law (What Does The Bible Say About Miracles?, christiancourier.com). Stephen Wiggins has written, “A miracle, as used in the Bible, is an act of God wherein He supersedes or suspends His natural laws.   My good friend, Lockwood, is always bold enough to tell the Pentecostals to their face that he does not care how they define a miracle as long as they properly distinguish between the natural and the supernatural. Me thinks the brother is right on target. A miracle is not to be confused with a work of nature… Nor should a miracle be confused with a work of providence, which is an effect produced by a special act of God accomplished through natural means” (What is a Miracle?, Hammer & Tongs, May – June 1996, p. 5).

Let’s make a distinction. (1) Hannah prayed for a child, had marital relations with her husband, Elkanah, “and the LORD remembered her,” and she conceived (1 Samuel 1). This was not a miracle. It was God’s providence. However, Mary’s virgin conception (Matthew 1:23-25), and Sarah’s conception post-menopause (Genesis 18:11) were miracles. (2) Praying for food (Matthew 6:11) and receiving it through work (2 Thessalonians 3:10) is not a miracle. It may involve God’s providence. However, Jesus feeding the 5,000 with five barley loaves and two small fish (John 6) was a miracle. A miracle involves that which is naturally not going to happen, like raising the dead.


The purpose of miracles was not purely for physical benefit. This is evident from the fact that Paul left Trophimus in Miletus sick (2 Timothy 4:20). Moreover, miraculous gifts were not used to heal Timothy’s stomach ailment. Instead, Paul advised him to – “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23). Paul requested three times that his “thorn in the flesh” be removed. Yet, no miracle was performed. Instead, he was told by the Lord – “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

The purpose of miracles was not primarily about physical relief. This is evident from the Biblical record. The reason Jesus healed a paralytic man is stated – “that you may know that the son of man has power on earth to forgive sins” (Matthew 9:6). The reason Jesus healed the man born blind was – “that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:3-4). These works bore witness that Jesus had been sent by the Father (cf. John 5:31, 33, 36). The reason Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead is stated – “that they may believe that You (the Father, B.H.) sent me” (John 11:41b-42 cf. 11:14-15). Yes, Jesus had compassion on people (Matthew 14:14; 15:32; 20:33-34; Mark 1:40-41; 5:19; 8:1-2; Luke 7:11-13). However, the purpose of miracles was not primarily about physical relief, for if it were, He would have instantly healed all the sick in the world, and emptied every cemetery. This, He did not do.

The purpose of miracles was not material gain. I have heard of those who say they will heal if enough money is paid. However, Jesus told the apostles: “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:7-8).

The primary purpose of miracles in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament was revelation and confirmation of this revelation being from God. God told Moses that he would do miracles – “that they may believe that the LORD God… has appeared to you” (Exodus 4:1-5). God told Joshua that the waters of the Jordan would part, “That they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you” (Joshua 3:7-8 cf. Exodus 14). The widow of Zarephath proclaimed, after Elijah revived her son, “Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is the truth” (1 Kings 17:24). The miraculous works of Jesus did, testified that God sent Him (John 5:36 cf. 9:3-4). Nicodemus said to Jesus – “Rabbi, we know that You come from God; for no one can do these signs You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). The resurrection of Jesus powerfully confirms Him and His message (Romans 1:4; Matthew 12:38-40). Jesus chosen witness had their message confirmed, “God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit” (Hebrews 2:1-4). “They went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs” (Mark 16:20). The message did not go forth in word alone. It went forth with power and much assurance (1 Thessalonians 1:5 cf. Romans 15:18-19).

Miraculous gifts edified the church (1 Corinthians 14:12). This edification came through revelation and inspired teaching (1 Corinthians 14:3, 6). Misusing the gifts of the tongues did not edify (1 Corinthians 14:17).

Once Confirmed, Always Confirmed

Once new revelation was miraculously confirmed, it stood confirmed. Jeremiah did not, for instance, work miracles to confirm the words of Moses. Once a message had been confirmed God considered the evidence sufficient. The rich man wanted a miracle. He wanted Lazarus to return from the dead to warn his brothers (Luke 16:27-28). He was told, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them… If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:29-31). In other words, the written message of Moses and the prophets were deemed sufficient warning. Jesus does not need to die and be resurrected in every generation. The evidence of His death, burial, and resurrection is sufficient for every generation subsequent to the cross. His death, burial and resurrection were once and for all (Hebrews 9:24-28; 1 Peter 3:18; Revelation 1:18).

Think of the implication. If revelation is complete (John 16:13; Jude 3), an if this message was confirmed in the first century (Hebrews 2:1-4), and if this messages stands as confirmed – once it has been confirmed, then where is the need for miracles today?


It is objected that Christians of Corinth possessed miraculous gifts (1 Corinthians 1:7; 12:1-14:40), and yet they had the testimony of Christ confirmed in them (1 Corinthians 1:6). Therefore, the message can be confirmed and miraculous gifts continue. This objection fails to consider that new revelation was still being revealed at this time  (1 Corinthians 13:9-10).

It is objected that miraculous gifts provide edification, exhortation, and comfort to the church (1 Corinthians 14:3, 6, 12). However, it should be kept in mind that these things were provided through revelation and inspired teaching (1 Corinthians 14:3, 6; 2 Timothy 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The church still receives edification, exhortation, and comfort through the revealed word.

It is pointed out that God used supernatural power in creation (Genesis 1:1). Furthermore, supernatural power will be used in the resurrection to come (John 5:28-29). Therefore, miracles can serve some purpose other than revelation and confirmation. I agree there are special one-time miraculous events which occur without human agency. These include: The creation (Genesis 1:1); the conception of Mary (Isaiah 7:14); and the resurrection to come (John 5:28-29). [Though I would point out that creation does reveal and confirm our God (Psalm 19:1-4; Acts 14:17; Romans 1:20). Mary’s conception no doubt also revealed and confirmed God’s plan to at least some (Luke 1:26-56)]. These exception aside. The normal purpose of miracles in the Bible is revelation and confirmation. This is true whether the miracle was direct from heaven, or by human agency.

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Christ: Our City of Refuge

The cities of refuge are mentioned several times in the Bible (Exodus 21:12-13; Numbers 35:9-34; Deuteronomy 4:41-43; 19:1-13; and Joshua 20:1-9).  Out of the forty-eight cities given to the Levites, six were designated cities of refuge, and they were: on the west side of Jordan – Kedesh, Shechem, and Kirjath Arba (Hebron); and on the East side of the Jordan – Golan, Ramoth, and Bezar.  These were cities of which those who had caused accidental death could flee for protection.

Today, according to book of Hebrews, Christ is our refuge (Hebrews 6:17-19).  Let us look, therefore, at some parallels that exist between these six cities and Christ.

Parallel #1: These cities were accessible to all who dwelt in the land (Joshua 20:9).  Even so, salvation today is accessible to all (Romans 1:16).

Parallel #2: Human activity (travel) was necessary to obtain physical salvation in these cities (Joshua 20:3).  Even so, human activity is still required for spiritual salvation (Acts 22:16; Philippians 2:12).

Parallel #3: There was salvation in no other cities.  Likewise, there is salvation in no other name (Acts 4:12) and in no other church (Ephesians 5:23 cf. Ephesians 4:4 cf. Ephesians 1:22-23; Acts 2:47).

Parallel #4: There is no mention of proxy running.  Each person had to personally flee for refuge.  Even so, each of us today must personally respond to Christ (Mark 16:15-16).

Parallel #5: The guilty party could not bribe his way out of the situation (Number 35:31-32).  Likewise, we cannot bribe our way out of hell, or into heaven (Matthew 16:26 cf. Proverbs 11:4).  Man cannot, in and of himself, earn salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Parallel #6: Peace could be found within the gates of these cities.  Peace is through Christ Jesus (Romans 5:1; Colossians 1:19-23).

Parallel #7: One had to remain in one of these cities to continue in a saved state as long as the High Priest lived (Joshua 20:6).  In contrast, our High Priest lives forevermore (Hebrews 7:23-25).  We must therefore continue faithfully in Him forevermore (Revelation 2:10; 14:13; 1 John 1:7).

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The Holy Spirit: The Helper

The Holy Spirit is referred to as the “Comforter” (KJV, ASV), the “Helper” (NASB, NKJV, McCord’s, ESV), the “Advocate” (Estes’ Better Version), or the “Counselor” (NIV, note: I do not recommend this version) four times [(John 14:16; 14:26; 15:26; 16:7).  This same original word is used of Jesus once (1 John 2:1).  It is there translated “Advocate” (KJV, ASV, NASB, NKJV, Estes’, ESV)].  What is intended?  In what way would the Holy Spirit function as the Helper?


Let’s consider what the original word, parakletos.  Here is what lexicons say: (1) Vine’s, “lit. ‘called to one’s side,’ i.e. to one’s aid… It was used in a court of justice to denote a legal assistant, counsel for the defense, an advocate; then, generally, one who pleads another’s cause… In the widest sense, it signified a ‘succorer, comforter.’ Christ was this to His disciples, by implication of His word ‘another’ (allos, ‘another of the same sort,’ not heteros, ‘different’) ‘Comforter’ when speaking of the Holy Spirit.”  (2) Thayer, “prop. summoned, called to one’s side, esp. called to one’s aid; hence… one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant; an advocate… one who pleads another’s cause with one, an intercessor… in the widest sense, a helper, succorer, aider, assistant; so the Holy Spirit destined to take the place of Christ with the apostles (after his ascension to the Father), to lead them to a deeper knowledge of gospel truth…”


The Holy Spirit is only referred to as the “Helper” in John 14 – 16.  The setting of John 14 – 16 is private.  Jesus is privately addressing the apostles.  “These chapters form a unit.  In these three chapters are some special promises to the apostles.  A failure to keep this in mind in the study of these chapter leads to endless confusion and misunderstanding of the Holy Spirit.  When the promises of the Holy Spirit are applied to Christians in general, it is a complete misapplication of the promises” (Franklin Camp, The Work of the Holy Spirit in Redemption, p. 119).

The Helper

The setting: Jesus was soon to return to the Father (John 13:33, 36; 14:3, 5-6).  The apostles were to remain on earth (John 13:36).  They still had work to do (John 14:12).  They were being commissioned to carry the gospel into all the world (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47).  They would testify of Jesus (John 15:27).

How could they do this?  How would they accurately present what Jesus did and said?  Moreover, Jesus had not taught them all that they needed to know.  There were so many things that they did not know or fully understand. How would they be able to do this work?

Jesus would not leave them as helpless orphans (John 14:18).  Another Helper would be provided.  (1) He would teach them all things (John 14:26), guiding them into all truth (John 16:12-13).  (2) He would cause them to have an accurate memory of Jesus and His teaching (John 14:26; 15:26-27).  The inspiration of the apostles is the context.

The Advocate

The word, parakletos, as we’ve pointed out, was used of a defense attorney (cf. 1 John 2:1).  The Holy Spirit would help the apostles before men.  “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.  Therefore be wise a serpents and harmless as doves.  But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.  But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak.  For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of you Father who speaks in you” (Mathew 10:16-20).

What About Us?

While it is true that we, today, receive “comfort” (though a different word) from the Scriptures (Romans 15:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:18), and while it is true that we get “comfort” (though a different word) through Christian fellowship (2 Corinthians 7:6, 13; 1 Thessalonians 4:18; 5:11, 14), the “Comforter” (KJV) spoken of in John 14-16 refers to the Holy Spirit’s helping of the apostles, inspiring them.  Only in this context is the Holy Spirit said to be the “Comforter” (KJV), or the “Helper” (NKJV).


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Calling On The Name

“And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Joel 2:32 cf. Acts 2:21; 22:16; Romans 10:13).

What does it mean to call on the name of the LORD? This is an extremely important question because it concerns salvation. Let’s consider the scriptures –

Acts 2

Peter’s sermon began by quoting Joel (Acts 2:16-21 cf. Joel 2:28-32). Peter included these words, “Whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Acts 2:21 cf. Joel 2:32). Then, the sermon exposed the people’s sin, and the righteousness of Christ (Acts 2:22-33). The people cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Finally, Peter extended the invitation saying, “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). “And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation” (Acts 2:40). We are told “then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2:41).

Watch this:

Acts 2:21          Whoever         calls on the name of the LORD             shall be saved

Acts 2:38         Every one        repent and be baptized                          for the remission of sins                                                       in the name of Jesus Christ

Wayne Jackson has commented, “If calling on the Lord results in salvation (2:21), and yet repentance combined with baptism produces forgiveness of sins (2:38), it logically follows that ‘calling’ is the equivalent to penitent baptism” (The Acts of the Apostles From Jerusalem to Rome, p. 22). When one submits to the Lord, appealing to His authority for forgiveness of sins, he is calling on the name of the Lord.

Acts 22

Saul, on the road to Damascus, was told by Jesus, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:6). He was led to the city (Acts 9:8). The penitent Saul neither ate nor drank the next three days (Acts 9:9). He continued in prayer (Acts 9:11). Finally, Ananias instructed, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).

He is told: (1) “Arise.” Wayne Jackson wrote, “’Arise’ (probably from his prone position of prayer cf. 9:11). It is a noteworthy observation that if ‘baptism’ could be administered by the sprinkling of water, there would have been no need for Saul to ‘arise’ prior to submitting to the rite. Of course, the verb baptize (to immerse) excludes sprinkling anyhow” (ibid, p. 285). (2) “Be baptized and wash away your sin.” Baptism is necessary for salvation (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21). The wording “be baptized” is in the middle voice, and could be rendered “have yourself baptized.” (3) “Calling on the name of the Lord.” This is a participle phrase. In context, “Calling on the name of the Lord” is the equivalent of what Saul did, when he did “Arise and be baptized.” Consider this sentence: “The children see-sawed on the teeter-totter, spun on the merry-go-round, swung on swings, and slid on the slide, playing in the park. The phrase “playing in the park” does not describe another activity. Instead, the verbs, “see-sawed,” “spun,” “swung,” and “slid” explains what they did “playing in the park” or how they were “playing in the park.”

There are different ways to call on the name of the Lord. It does not always refer to baptism. However, it does here.

Romans 10

“There is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who called upon Him. For ‘whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved’” (Romans 10:12-13). This passage makes clear that Joel’s prophecy included those beyond Jewish origin.

In context, calling comes after faith (Romans 10:14) and before salvation (Romans 10:13). Roy Deaver commented, “If ‘calling’ follows after faith and precedes salvation, and if repentance, confession, and baptism follow after faith and precede salvation – then it is clear that ‘calling on the Lord’ and repentance, confession, and baptism are the same!” (Romans: God’s Plan for Man’s Righteousness, p. 379). Wayne Jackson commented, “The term ‘call’ reveals that salvation is not unconditional. A comparison of Acts 2:21 and 2:38 indicates that ‘calling’ is a generic expression embracing specific conditions of obedience (viz. repentance and immersion). The apostle continues by asserting that one cannot call on whom he has not believed; thus, the calling is an addition to believing, which excludes the notion of salvation by faith alone. There is more. One cannot believe unless he is willing to hear, which adds yet another condition – a disposition willing to listen to and critically examine the gospel message” (A New Testament Commentary, p. 284).


Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). He also said, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things I say?” (Luke 6:46). Certainly, more than words are demanded.

Old Testament

It seems that at times, even under the Old Testament, “calling on the LORD” included more than prayer. Isaiah 55:6-7 reads, “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” Does not seeking the LORD and calling upon Him for mercy and pardon include repentance in this passage?

An Illustration

Even in everyday usage the language of calling upon someone can mean more than merely speaking to someone. Eric Lyons used these illustration from Bobby Bates has saying, “When a doctor goes to the hospital to ‘call on’ some of his patients, he does not merely walk into the room and say, ‘I just wanted to come by and say, ‘hello.’ I wish you the best. Now pay me.’ On the contrary, he involves himself in a service. He examines the patient, listens to the patient’s concerns, gives further instructions regarding the patient’s hopeful recovery, and then often times prescribes medication. All of these elements may be involved in a doctor ‘calling upon’ a patient. In the mid-twentieth century, it was common for young men to ‘call on’ young ladies. Again, this expression meant something different than just making a request’” (Eric Lyons, Calling on the Name of the Lord, apologeticspress.org).

Different Usages

Abraham called upon the name of the LORD” (Genesis 12:8) when he worshipped. The early church called on the name of the Lord, or the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, following their conversion (Acts 9:14, 21; 1 Corinthians 1:2). It does not always mean “repent and be baptized.” However, it does always mean approaching God in submissive obedience.

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The Holy Spirit: An Impersonal Force?

Is the Holy Spirit of the Godhead, or not? Is the Holy Spirit a personality, or an impersonal force? How should we think about the Holy Spirit?

Some teach that the Holy Spirit is not deity, but a thing, a force. The Jehovah Witnesses believe and teach this. A Jehovah Witness tract states, “The Bible’s use of ‘holy spirit’ indicates that it is a controlled force that Jehovah God uses to accomplish a variety of his purpose. To a certain extent, it can be likened to electricity, a force that can be adapted to perform a great variety of operations” (Should You Believe in the Trinity?, The Holy Spirit – God’s Active Force, p. 20). A Jehovah Witness book states, “It is not a person but a force that God causes to emanate from himself to accomplish his holy will” (Reasoning From the Scriptures, p. 381). Islam also denies the deity of the Holy Spirit. The Quran reads, “They put questions to you about the Spirit say, ‘The Spirit is at my Lord’s command. Little indeed is the knowledge vouchsafed to you’” (Sura 17).

A Case For Personality

The Holy Spirit is spoken of as possessing emotions. The Spirit can not only be lied to (Acts 5:3) and resisted (Acts 7:51), but grieved (Ephesians 4:30). This sounds like a personality and not some impersonal force like electricity. God can be grieved (Genesis 6:6). Jesus was grieved on earth (Mark 3:5). The Holy Spirit loves (Romans 15:30). God loves (John 3:16). Jesus loves (Mark 10:12). This does not sound like electricity.

The Spirit is spoken of as having knowledge (1 Corinthians 2:9-11) and speaking (1 Timothy 4:1). The Jehovah Witnesses explain the speaking this way: “While some Bible text says that the Spirit speaks, other text shows that this was actually done through humans or angels… The action of the Spirit in such instances is like that of radio waves transmitting messages from one person to another far away” (Should You Believe in the Trinity?, p. 22). However, the Bible likens the Spirit’s knowledge to the Spirit of man knowing (1 Corinthians 2:9-11). Just as one cannot know the inner thoughts, or plans of another man unless he reveals such. Even so, one cannot know the plans of God unless such is revealed. The Spirit knew and revealed such speaking through inspired apostles and prophets. This does not sound like radio waves.

The Spirit is referred to as “another helper” (John 14:16-17). Jesus was going away (John 16:5-7). He would not leave them helpless as orphans (John 14:18). He would send them “another Helper.” The term “another” is in the Greek allon meaning another of the same kind. If Jesus was not an impersonal force, why should one conclude that the Spirit is?

A Case for Deity

The Holy Spirit possesses characteristics which one would expect of deity. The Spirit is eternal (Hebrews 9:14), omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-10), and omniscient (Isaiah 40:13-14).

What is said of the Spirit is said of God. When man lies to the Spirit (Acts 5:3), he is lying to God (Acts 5:4). It is possible that such, taken alone, might simply be language of agency (cf. John 13:20). However, consider that what is said about the characteristics of the Spirit (Isaiah 40:13-14), also is said of God (Job 21:22; 36:22-23; Romans 11:34-35; 1 Corinthians 2:6-16).

The Spirit is joined closely with the Father and the Son in the Scriptures: (1) Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in (literally ‘into’ – B.H.) the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This is language of possession and protection (B-A-G). To sign a piece of land over into the name of someone is to transfer ownership to that someone. To deposit money into the name of someone is to put that money into the account of that someone. To entrust something into the name of someone is to place that something into the protection or trust of that someone. Arndt-Gingrich lexicon says, “through baptism… the one baptized becomes the possession of and under the protection of the one whose name he bears.” “Name” is singular. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are so closely joined that the singular “name” is used. This does not sound like some impersonal force. Moreover, remember that “Paul would not allow people to be baptized into his name (1 Corinthians 1:13).” (Roy Lanier, Sr., The Timeless Trinity, pp. 307). (2) 2 Corinthians 13:14, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.” Roy Lanier, Sr. has written, “How would it sound if you heard this: ‘The grace of Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of Peter be with you’? …Only persons of deity are allowed in the hallowed triumvirate” (ibid, pp. 306-307).


It is objected that the neuter pronoun “it” is used of the Spirit. “It is true that the neuter pronoun ‘it’ is sometimes used when speaking of the Holy Spirit (e.g. Romans 8:16, B.H.)… The gender of the pronoun is determined by the gender of the noun… the word for Spirit being a neuter noun, the pronoun referring to it has to be neuter gender. However, in several places the writers of the New Testament used the masculine pronoun (e.g. John 14:26; 16:13-14, B.H.)” (ibid, p. 297). Marion Fox warns that we should be careful with our language. He wrote, “When people hear Christians use the word ‘it’ to refer to the Holy Spirit, they immediately think that the Holy Spirit is a force rather than a person” (The Work of the Holy Spirit, Vol. 1, p. 55).

Some have argued that since the Spirit is connected with “water” and “fire” (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8), the Spirit must not be a person. Such reasoning would reduce the apostles to being a force without personality (Acts 5:32).

Some have argued that since “water” and “blood” and “the Spirit” are said to be witnesses (1 John 5:8), the Spirit must not be a person. Such reasoning would make John and the Father not persons [(cf. John 5:31-35, 36, 37-39). If the King James rendering of 1 John 5:7 is allowed (I do not think it should be) then the Father, by such reasoning, would not be a person]. In truth, it is possible for both people and things to bear witness, or provide evidence.

Some have pointed out that “wisdom” (e.g. Luke 7:35) “sin” and “death” (Romans 5:14, 21) and other things are personified in the Bible. This is true. However, such does not establish that such is the case for “the Spirit.”

Some have argued that since “the Spirit” is connected with “wine” (Ephesians 5:18),  the Spirit must be a thing and not a person. However, consider this: If I said “Let God influence you and not wine,” am I removing the possibility of personality for God? Certainly not.

Some have argued that one cannot be “filled” with a person (Ephesians 5:18). I would point out that the Bible speaks of God abiding in us (John 14:23; 1 John 4:15) and Jesus abiding in us (Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 1:27) are we to think of them as lacking personality?

Some have wondered how a person can be poured out (Acts 2:16-ff cf. Joel 2). Marion Fox has written, “That which was poured forth in Acts 2:33 was seen and heard… it is evident that they did not see the Holy Spirit. This must be a metonymy where the cause (the Holy Spirit) is put for the effect (the working of miracles)” (ibid, pp. 199-200).

Some have wondered how one can be baptized with a person (Mark 1:8; Acts 1:4-5). It should be remembered that neither the Holy Spirit, nor the Father have bodies like ours (cf. Luke 24:39-40; John 4:24). This needs to be kept in mind. However, this is simply a reference to the Holy Spirit coming immediately upon one, overwhelming, miraculously empowering (Acts 1:8), and filling one (Acts 2:4). This happened to the apostles on Pentecost (Acts 2). It was through this, it appears, that the apostles received their apostolic powers (Galatians 1:1; 2:8 cf. 2 Corinthians 12:12-13).

Some have argued that in some passages there is an absence of the definite article (e.g. Acts 6:3-5). This is true. However, the article is present in other passages (e.g. Matthew 12:32; 28:19). “If the absence of the article in such passages as Acts 6:3, proves that the Spirit is not a person, then the presence of the article in such passages as Matthew 12:32, proves his personality. This poses a contradiction. Therefore, the argument is unsound. Further, if the absence of the Greek article proves a lack of personality, then God the Father is not a person because several passages do not have the Greek article with the word God (cf. Matthew 4:4)” (Marion Fox, The Work of the Holy Spirit, Vol. 1, pp. 51-52).

The objections have been considered. However, the evidence is clear to me. The Holy Spirit is not simply an impersonal force, but a personality, and of the Godhead.

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