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Last Updated on : November 28, 2014

The Faith In The Last Days
A Selection From The Writings of John Thomas, M.D.
With an Introduction on his life and work by John Carter
PAGE 214
CHAPTER 19
BAPTISM OF SPIRIT
(i) IN APOSTOLIC TIMES

 

 


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BAPTISM of spirit, in all the subjects of it, was known to all observers by the effects produced. There could be no mistake in this. A Christian who said, "I have been baptized with spirit," could prove his assertion to the conviction of all reasonable persons. He never undertook to prove such a baptism by an appeal to his own feelings; for what he might feel in himself was no demonstration to his contemporaries. Baptism of spirit was an inpouring of power until the believer's vessel was filled. Being full of power, "powers" were manifested, which Paul styles "the powers of the future course", or Mellontos aionos, termed in the Common Version, "the world to come" (Heb. 6:5), and of which he says in the same place, his brethren had "tasted". These spirit-baptismal effects are also by him styled "powers", dunameis, in 1 Cor. 12:29, but here rather restricted to a particular class of manifestations.


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The Hebrew brethren were said to have "tasted of the powers of the future course of things", (Heb. 6:5) or AION, in possessing spirit-gifts, because when that course of things, commonly called the Millennium, or Age to Come, should be introduced, they would possess the same powers, but without limitation; not that they will exercise them without limitation, but that they will possess the ability so to do. In the apostolic age they tasted of the powers, but in the future they will drink in a full draught of spirit-power. "Be not drunk with wine; but be filled with spirit." (Eph. 5:18) Though they might be filled to overflowing, the fullness would be but a taste of the powers of the coming AION. Their vessels, like ours, were but earthen, and of limited capacity; but in the future AION of a thousand years, the bodies of the saints will be consubstantial and conformed to that of Christ's; and therefore of vastly greater capacity and susceptibility of manifestation and enjoyment than the "vile bodies" (Phil. 3:21) they now possess. The nature of the body through which the powers are displayed makes the great difference between the tasting and the fullness, when the Deity shall be "the all things in all" (1 Cor. 15:28) -- ta panta en pasin. "Now, concerning spirit gifts (pneumatika), brethren, I would not that ye be ignorant." Thus speaks Paul in 1 Cor. 12:1. By pneumatika he means spirit manifestations resulting from the working of God's power in those who confess the lordship of Jesus consequent upon their understanding and belief of the divine testimony concerning him. These spirit-manifestations, given to the intelligent and obedient in Paul's day, in 1 Cor. 14:12, he terms pneumata or spirits. He did not wish the brethren in Corinth to be ignorant concerning spirits, which were not the ghosts of dead men, women and babes, as the heathen around us imagine in the blindness of their heart; not many separate and independent disembodied "immortal souls" of a "spirit world"; but a diverse operation and manifold manifestation of one and the same deity by His own abstract and independent power. The "spirits" were spirit-powers radiated from the divine presence into the saints, who were thereby enabled to do wonders, and signs, and powers, according to the will of the Deity. Every wonder, every sign, every power, was a spirit, visible to all who beheld the extraordinary phenomena. They did not mutter, and rap, or move tables; nor did they give forth dubious and lying oracles through unclean and ignorant pretenders; they uttered divine wisdom and knowledge, which was in harmony with what the Deity had moved holy men of old to write in "the law and the prophets" (Matt. 7:12; 22:40; Luke 16:16; Acts 13:15;24:14; Rom. 3:21) thousands of years before. They raised the dead, discerned spirits, spoke the languages of men intuitively, and interpreted them intelligibly. All these spirits worked that one and the self-same spirit, dividing to every believer severally as he willed (1 Cor. 12:11).


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There were some in Paul's day, as in ours, who pretended to speak by the spirit of the Deity, yet did not possess it. Because of this pretence, the Apostle John exhorted the brethren, saying: "Beloved, believe not every spirit (or manifestation), but try the spirits, whether they be of God" (1 John 4:1). This was addressed to those of the saints who possessed "the spirit" called "discerning of spirits", (1 Cor. 12:10) which was common to all the presbyteries, or elderships, of the flock. All the apostles had this gift, so that it was not possible to impose spurious, or counterfeit spirits upon them. Being thus qualified they were competent to give their brethren a rule by which they might distinguish the true from the false. There were some spirits in their day who taught false doctrines in the name of Christ. The same class of spirits exists now; only that, whereas they were in the minority in apostolic times, they are now almost universal, nearly to the entire suppression of the true. These "spirits" are styled by John "false prophets", (1 John 4:1) because their teaching was false and subversive "of the truth as it is in Jesus". (Eph.4:21) Hence, every teacher, or one who does not teach the truth, is one of these spirits, no matter what age or generation, name or denomination, he may belong to. Nor is it difficult to discern these spirits by the apostolic rule. All spirits are of the world, which are inspired of the world, and which the world gives heed to and glorifies. This is an infallible rule, and demonstrates that the clergy, ministers, parsons, or preachers (it matters not by what name the spirits are called), are all false prophets or Spirits ...


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The apostles used to say of themselves, "We are of God". And this was a true testimony: for Jesus said to them, "It shall be given you what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the spirit of your Father which speaketh in you". (Matt. 10:19,20) Well might he say, therefore, "He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth Him that sent me". (Luke 10:16) The apostle John was therefore perfectly justified in saying, "He that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us". (1 John 4:6) Do the spirits of Rome, Wittenberg, Geneva, Oxford, Bethany, etc., hear the apostles, or do they not? No intelligent believer of the truth can honestly affirm that they do. There is but one thing such can truly affirm, and that is, that they do not give heed to the teaching of the apostles. They are then false prophets or spirits; and all their pretensions to holy spirit, to baptism of spirit other than the spirit of the flesh, to getting religion by the operation of the spirit of God, and so forth, is mere twaddle and blasphemy; false and only false, and that continually. This hearing of the apostles is an unerring rule for the "discerning of spirits". (1 Cor. 12:10) A man may be as pious as the pagan Aeneas; or as devout as a Turk who prays to Allah five times a day; or as earnest as the Jews who had "a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge"(Rom. 10:2) -- he may be all this, and as well skilled in Plato as Dr. Lewis; and as holy toned and grimacious as a pulpitarian -- it matters not; all this goes for vanity and vexation of spirit; he is a false spirit if he believe not the teachings of the apostles; if he be not mindful of the words spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of the apostles of the Lord and Saviour (2 Peter 3:2). "Hereby know we", saith John, "the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error." (1 John 4:6)


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Having, then, obtained a divine rule, and therefore an infallible one, by which to discern spirits, we are not to be imposed upon by pretenders to spirit, and what they call baptism of spirit. They know nothing correctly about the subject, because they do not give heed to the apostolic teaching. They only tasted of the powers of the future course of things who had been guided into the truth; and so now, if any man say he hath the spirit in its powers or manifestations; or that he has been converted or born of the spirit; try him by conversing with him about what the apostles taught for faith and practice; and if you find that he is ignorant, you may then certainly know that he is an impostor, deceiving or deceived, or both; he is a false spirit, having never drunk into the spirit of God. A man truly and scripturally enlightened would never, claim to be baptized of spirit in the dry time that intervenes between the early and latter rains. He claims only to have been begotten of the truth which is spirit, not to be indued with any of its baptismal powers.


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"Spirits", then, is a word apostolically used to designate the gifts of the spirit of God: and those who undertook to teach by the spirit. Of the former, there were "diversities"; (1 Cor. 12:4) and of the latter, two classes. The diversities in the aggregate made up the baptism of holy spirit, which was given for administrations and operations. These exhibitions of power were styled collectively "The manifestation of the Spirit". (1 Cor. 12:7) The powers were not given to any one for his own private benefit, but for the general use and benefit of the Body of Christ; as it is written, "to every one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the collective good"-- pros to sympheron. This is an important feature in the case. People who pretend to be the subjects of spirit baptism can adduce nothing else but their feelings which all terminate in themselves. No one is profited by any thing they pretend to have received. Not a single scriptural idea do they possess more than before their pretended baptism; nor have they a single power they had not before. They are as ignorant and perverse as ever, and as hostile to the truth when laid before them as pagans. Not so with the apostolic believer. When he was baptized with holy spirit, he acquired wisdom and knowledge which was advantageous to all who lacked them; he had the gift of faith by which he could remove mountains, if the good of the body collectively required it; he could heal the sick; inwork powers; speak to the brethren to edification, exhortation, and comfort, no mean accomplishment in an apostolic community. He could discern spirits, and so protect and warn the unlearned against the imposition of the false apostles that would certainly arise. He could speak the languages of the nations without previous study, and in them make known the wonderful works things the spiritually baptized could do for the benefit of those who were not so baptized, and of the Jews and heathen round about. Such a baptism as this nowhere exists upon earth in these times; yet every congregation of believers could glory in such an indwelling of the Deity among them by His Spirit in the days of Paul (Eph. 2:22). The want of this baptism is practically acknowledged by all "the names and denominations".


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In the days of the apostles, the belief and obedience of the truth simply, constituted believers "saints"; but did not perfect them "for the edifying of the Body of Christ".  (Eph.  4:12) The saints in general "occupied the room of the private idiotou" (1 Cor.  14:16) until certain of them came to occupy the room of the public men by the gift of holy spirit.  This division of class resulted from baptism of spirit, which all were not permitted to receive. . .


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The case of the Samaritan brethren (Acts 8:14-24) clearly shows the prerequisites to a baptism of spirit in all cases save that of the apostles and the house of Cornelius. Before receiving the spirit it was necessary for the candidate

  1. — To believe the things of the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12);
  2. —To be buried with Christ by baptism into death (ibid); and,
  3. —That the Apostles, or some inworker of powers like them, pray for the believer that he may receive it, and lay their hands on them (verses: 15, 17; 1 Tim. 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tim.  1:6).

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On the day of Pentecost the gift of holy spirit was promised to those who were added to the name of Jesus Christ by baptism.  As they were about to return to remote places, where they would carry the gospel to Israel there, it is probable all the visitors to Jerusalem so returning would receive it, that through them God might confirm the word when they preached it.  But though promised to all such, the cases of the seven chosen to serve tables (Acts 6:1-7); of the Samaritans; of Saul (Acts 9:17); and of the twelve at Ephesus (Acts 19:6 and 7), show that the divine appointment for imparting the spirit was prayer and the imposition of the hands of the Apostles, or of a presbytery of inspired men, or of an inspired individual believer, as Timothy.  These elements of the appointment do not now exist among men.  We have no apostles but false ones; and all the presbyteries, or leaderships, are uninspired; and there is no individual on earth the imposition of whose hands is of any value in the premises.  A man must be a saint, and must have the gifts with himself before he can impart them; and then even if he had gifts, if among them he was deficient of the inworking of powers", (See Eph3:20) he could not transmit what he possessed to others.  Philip could expel unclean spirits, and heal the palsied and the lame; but he could not impart spirit-gifts to the baptized.  The apostles had to be sent for to accomplish this.


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Baptism of spirit, then, was only partially bestowed even upon the saints in the apostolic age.  It was an outpouring of divine power upon certain of the saints having natural and moral qualifications fitting them for the administrative use of it.  They were not only to be "faithful men", but "apt to teach", "able to teach others", "holding firmly according to the teaching of the faithful word, that by sound instruction they might be able both to exhort and to convince opponents"; and good rulers of their own houses (1 Tim.  3:2,4; 2 Tim.  2:1,2; Titus 1:9).  Having these and certain other qualifications, they were considered eligible for baptism of spirit by prayer and imposition of hands.  They must be saints first; for no apostle nor presbytery, nor inworker of powers, would lay hands upon sinners to impart divine power to them "for the work of the ministry".  (Eph.  4:12) When the Laodicean Apostasy which now fills all "Christendom", as the heathen call their Babylonish system, came to be established, sinners laid hands upon sinners, as at this day, but notwithstanding all their prayers for the gifts and graces of the spirit, no other spirit comes into manifestation but "the spirit of error" (1 John 4:6) which strongly works in all "the children of disobedience" (Eph.  2:2; 5:6; Col.  3:6) -- the spirit of their own nature, "sin's flesh", in which "dwells no good thing" .  .  .  (Rom.  7:18)


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Saints, and saints only whose hearts have been prepared by faith, are eligible to the baptism of spirit. Christ ascended to the right hand of power that he might receive the gifts for his own brethren to whom alone he promised them. Paul, addressing the saints thus spiritually endowed, says concerning the gifts, "Unto every one of us is given the grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ"; (Eph. 4:7) the grace which John says came by Jesus Christ: "The law was given through Moses, the grace and the truth came through Jesus Christ". (John 1:17) In Paul's quotation from the sixty- eighth Psalm, he shows that by "grace" he has reference to the gifts of the spirit; for in the next sentence to that above quoted, he says, "Wherefore he saith, Ascending into heaven he led captive captivity, and bestowed gifts upon men". He then indicates the "grace" or gifts bestowed by designating the saints who had received them by the official names they then bore (Eph. 4:7-12). He styled these saints apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers; and referring to these well known spiritual, or spiritually endowed official brethren, found in all the assemblies of the saints, he says that the ascended and glorified Jesus "gave indeed the apostles, and the prophets, and the evangelists and the pastors and teachers"; that is, he gave to these who were first saints, the gifts he had received from the Father on his ascension to glory, called in Acts 1:4, "the promise of the Father", which he had said he would send the apostles while they waited for it in Jerusalem (verse 5; John 16:7) -- he gave these gifts, I say, to qualify them for apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Now, were all apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers? Did all the saints sustain these offices in the body of Christ? No person intelligent in the word will affirm that they did. It is then certain that all the saints were not baptized with holy spirit; for Paul teaches that the grace was given "for the perfecting of the saints for a work of service for a building of the body of the Christ". (Eph. 4:12) The saints thus qualified were the builders Paul refers to in 1 Cor. 3:10. In this place he styles himself "a wise architect", who had laid the foundation for an edifice upon which others were building; to whom he saith, "Let every one take heed how he buildeth thereon". The saints in the aggregate were the building -- the temple built for the Deity to dwell in through or by the spirit. The spirituals among the saints were the builders of this holy temple; nevertheless the temple was "a building of God", (1 Cor. 3:9) "a house not made with hands", (2 Cor. 5:1) because all the power of these spirituals for the work of building was from the Deity, and consisted in the truth they taught which was from God, and which He confirmed through the gifts He had bestowed upon them; so that they "were labourers together with God". (1 Cor. 3:9)


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We may remark here by the way that the holy temple these co labourers with the Deity were engaged in building in the apostolic age, has its holy and its most holy, after the pattern of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, which was "a house made with hands". The building of "the holy" resulted in the Body of Christ as manifested in Paul's day. This was "the heavenly" constituted of the holy ones, or saints, collectively. But "the most holy" is not yet manifested, nor will it be until the apocalypse of Jesus Christ in his glory. This most holy is "a house not made with hands, aionion in the heavens". (2 Cor. 5:1) Aionion, that is, belonging to the course to which the things which are not seen pertain. When this house is built (and the builder of all things is God), it will be constituted of those saints only who in the "present evil world" walk in the truth. Those saints, who since they became saints, "walk after the flesh", (2 Pet. 2:10) will be purged out of the flock, and will never be reckoned among "the most holy". Concerning these the apostle says, "If ye walk after the flesh ye shall die". (Rom. 8:13) This is the death they shall be subject to after their resurrection. They shall die out from among the most holy, and be swallowed up of mortality, being found naked. These are "the wood, hay, and stubble", (1 Cor. 3:12) which builders even in Paul's day built upon the foundation he had laid. The saints who shall constitute the most holy are "the gold and silver and the precious stones" (Rom. 8:13) of Zion, who, when the kingdom comes to her, shall be her foundations, windows, and borders (Isa. 54:11-13; Micah 4:8). The present house not made with hands is a mingled people, in which the faithful "groan being burdened; not for that they would be unclothed", or reduced to dust and ashes; "but clothed upon that mortality might be swallowed up of life". (2 Cor. 5:4)

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But "the Day shall declare it"; (1 Cor. 3:13) the day when the manifestation of the work of the builders shall be made. "The spirits of the prophets were subject to the prophets" (1 Cor. 14:32). That is, the gifts called "spirits" could be used or abused by those on whom they were bestowed. If they were abused, or misused, in disorder and the confirmation of error, the Holy Spirit would be grieved. Therefore, because of this property, Paul exhorted the spirituals, saying, "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of the Deity by which ye are scaled for a day of redemption" (Eph. 4:30). But some did greatly grieve it, and went out from the apostolic community, and became "false prophets" (2 Pet. 2:1; 1 John 4:1; Matt.7:15; 24:11,24; Mark 13:22; Luke 6:26) or spirits. These became builders of wood, hay, and stubble upon the foundation; while other builders, whose teaching was scriptural, sometimes unwillingly placed on the foundation "false brethren", (2 Cor. 11:26) who "crept in at unawares". (Gal. 2:4) All this building work is unprofitable for the Master's use, who, when the day of declaration shall arrive, will be "as a refiner's fire and like fuller's soap"; (Mal. 3:2,3) for the prophet saith, "He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver ... But who may abide the day of his coming And who shall stand when he appeareth?" (Mal. 3:2,3) This day, now near at hand, will declare the work of all; because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall try every one's work of what sort it is. "If any one's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any one's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." (1 Cor. 3:14,15) Builders and the built will all be subjected to the fiery ordeal of the Divine scrutiny; and those only who can stand the searching examination will be saved. If a spiritual, or teacher endowed with the gifts, have built a thousand upon the foundation, and seven hundred and fifty of them turn out to be mere wood, hay, and stubble, he will only receive a reward for the two hundred and fifty jewels fit for the Master's use in the most holy "in the heavens" of the Millennial Age. This loss of his work, however, will not affect his salvation, if he be found to have held fast the name and not to have denied the faith of Jesus holding on to the truth, and walking in it, in the love of it. He shall be saved, yet so as by fire." (1 Cor. 3:14,15).

 

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