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I received this statement about the new perspective on Paul from Pastor Geof Thomas and thought it was so good and relevant and important that I decided to include it as a blog. It was part of a newsletter Geof sent out publicly.
The influence of the New Perspective on Paul …. Derek (Thomas) was asking a student how he defined the gospel. “Jesus Christ is Lord,” he said, which is Archbishop Tom Wright’s definition. What is gospel – good news – about that? If that same Lord declares that he is going to say to many in that Day, “Depart from me you cursed ones into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” where is there good news in the person of Christ? Surely you have to go to I Corinthians 15 and its opening verses for the gospel . . . Christ died for our sins and rose again. If you don’t fix your eyes on Christ’s work of salvation then his Lordship is terrifying. We men crucified him and we are facing his holy Father. Derek asked another student … , “Is the Christian obliged to keep the Moral Law?” The student paused for what seemed an interminable time before answering. Then guardedly said that the Christian was obliged, to BUT that salvation was all from Christ, and we could make no contribution to our salvation by our law keeping and there were dangers of a legalistic mentality taking over etc., etc. at length “Come on,” Derek was thinking, “this is not the question I asked you. Do you and I have an obligation to keep the moral law of God?”
The New Perspective on the apostle Paul is the biggest issue to have hit the evangelical church in America for years. It is beginning to divide associations and denominations and seminaries. The issue is central to the gospel. It denies the imputed righteousness of Christ in an act of justification. It stresses that children sprinkled with water in the name of the Trinity are to be considered as children of God. Many of its adherents champion these infants being given bread and wine in the communion. Its emphasis is on the congregation as the body of Christ and it loathes searching preaching and self-examination as destructive of the divine status of church members who receive the ordinances in the public means of grace. The new perspective claims and promises so much, just like Karl Barth’s neo-orthodoxy claimed to be the ‘theology of the word.’ Yet did it produce one single evangelist? Did one minister go to the slums and fill a building with future missionaries and godly people by preaching Barthianism? No one. The same judgment will be passed on the new perspective. They will take the already evangelised and taught Christians and muddle them up. (End quote)
Paul’s warnings about “another (heteros – of a different kind) Gospel” not really being “another (allos – of the same kind) Gospel are as relevant today as they were when he first wrote them the church at Galatia. And Jude’s exhortation to “earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints” was never more relevant than it is today. There is nothing more precious than the true Gospel of God’s Word and there is nothing more devious and destructive than the perverted Gospel that some are proclaiming today. May our great God have mercy on us and guard people from the delusions of truth about the Gospel that are robbing our Saviour of the glory which is rightly His and robbing people of the freedom and forgiveness and power of the true Gospel (Romans 1:1 – 16: Galatians 1:3 – 9; Titus 2:8 – 14; Romans 3:24, 25; I Corinthians 15:1 – 4).
Recently a man to whom I had given one of my books, God’s Solutions to Life’s Problems, asked me the following question and since it is a question that is very relevant in many parts of the world but especially in South Africa I decided to include the question and my answer in one of my blogs. I do not claim that my answer is as comprehensive as it might be, but I do believe it is a biblical answer to the question my friend asked. So here goes.
Question: Do you believe that subsequent to being born again and after having received the indwelling Spirit, that the ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit’ (as described in Acts chapter 2 and elsewhere in Acts) is ESSENTIAL for every Christian in order to witness and minister effectively?
Answer: My personal conviction based on I Corinthians 12:13; John 1:33; Luke 3:16; Mark 1:8; Acts 1:5; Acts 2:38; Acts 11:16 is that a person is baptized in the Holy Spirit at the time of his new birth. He doesn’t get Jesus on the installment plan (i.e., he doesn’t get part of Jesus; he gets all of Him at the time of his new birth) and he doesn’t get the Spirit on the installment plan either (part of Him then and another installment later). The Spirit baptizes us into the body of Christ and comes to dwell in us at the time of the new birth and in connection with our repentance and faith. Romans 8:9 tells us that if a person doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, he doesn’t belong to Christ. To be baptized in the Spirit means that we are enveloped, immersed in the Holy Spirit. All of Him comes to dwell in us. It’s not that some people have a bucket full of the Spirit and others have an ocean of the Spirit. He unites us and identifies us with Christ and with the body of Christ. And as such according to I Corinthians 12 He gives different gifts (different abilities to be used for the glory of God and the good of God’s people). This, of course, means that some (depending on the gifts they have been given) will be equipped to be more effective in one area of ministry than others, In fact, according to I Corinthians 12, it means that some who have the same gift or gifts will be more effective than others who have the same gift(s).
It’s true that some people are are more under the control of the Spirit who is in them and others are less under that control, i.e., they submit themselves to the will of the Spirit as found in His Word and are consciously dependent on the Spirit who is in them. This is what the Bible calls the filling of the Spirit. What then is the filling of the Spirit and how does it relate to the baptism of the Spirit? Well, when Ephesians 5:18ff is connected with Colossians 3:16ff we see that to be filled with the Spirit is to be filled with God’s Word. So, to be filled with the Spirit is the same as being filled with the Word of God. Both of these expressions mean that we allow ourselves to be under the control of the Word of God (i.e., our actions, thoughts, desires, words are in accordance with the desire and power of the Holy Spirit who is the author of the Word of God – 2 Peter 1:20, 21). In a sense, it doesn’t mean that we get more of the Spirit; it means that He gets more of us as we surrender, trust, obey and depend on Him. To be baptized is really a once for all thing which happens when a person becomes a Christian. However, the filling of the Spirit is something that may take place on numerous occasions depending on our becoming aware of areas of our lives (thoughts, desires, behaviors, activities, etc.) that should be and need be placed under the Spirit’s control. This filling can happen again and again in that as we grow in the Christian life God opens our understanding of areas in which we have not been living in obedience to His Word (i.e., areas in which we have not been living in the way the Spirit wants us to live, areas that we have not consciously been under the control (been filled) with the Holy Spirit. (I think you will find chapter 10 of our book God’s Solutions to Life’s Problems helpful in respect to this subject. There are also some chapters in our book Life in the Father’s House that deal with the subject of Spirit given gifts.)
Obviously, if as I am convinced it is, the baptism of the Spirit occurs at the time of the new birth and in connection with a person repenting and believing on Christ, the answer to your question about whether the baptism is necessary for a person to be effective in witnessing and ministering is what we call a “no brainer.” If salvation and being baptized by the Spirit are part of the same package, the question – does a person have to be a Christian to be effective in witnessing and ministering is really the same question. The answer obviously is “yes”. God may, for His own purposes, use someone who is not a Christian as a witness and in ministry, but that is not His usual way of doing it and we have no biblically based reason for thinking that He will do it that way.
One more thing, in your question you asked, Is ”the ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit’ (as described in Acts chapter 2 and elsewhere in Acts) is ESSENTIAL for every Christian in order to witness and minister effectively?” By the words “As described in Acts chapter 2” I’m assuming you are referring to the speaking in tongues issue? I’m not going to take up a lot of space to answer this question. There are whole books that have been written on this issue, one of them being a fine book by John MacArthur. Briefly, let me say that the Greek word used here and elsewhere in the Bible for speaking in tongues is a word used to describe actual languages, not some unintelligible kind of vocal sounds. There were people who spoke many different languages from many parts of the world in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost and the early Christians were given the ability to communicate to these people in their own languages. Also I would encourage you to compare what Ephesians 5:18 – 6:19 and Colossians 3:16 – 4:6 mention as evidences of the filling of the Spirit. Speaking in Psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs, giving thanks are mentioned as evidences or results of the filling of the Spirit, but speaking in tongues is never once mentioned.