(Musings) on Original Sin (Part 2)

(Musings) On Original Sin (Part 2)

Introduction

This is a continuation of a small series on Original Sin. In this article I’d like to examine how their sin was “original” and what that means for us as descendants of sinners.

The Original Sin

When it comes to mankind’s first sin we can track it to a person and a place. Really two people. Eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil was the sin. It was sin because God told them not to eat from that tree. The place is the Garden of Eden, also known as Paradise in the Greek. While this may have been mankind’s first sin we should not forget that this was not the very first sin ever to be committed by a being. We understand from Scripture and tradition that Satan was a being who tempted both man and angels to fall. Satan can be tracked to be the first being who has ever sinned. Adam and Eve stand as the original human sinners. Fortunately for God’s grace Adam and Eve were given mercy and because of that we were born. 

Son of Man; Son of Sin

When we are born it is like we arrive “late on the scene” from an adult’s perspective. An adult has had time to grow and mature and when we see a new person born we typically think of the baby as something totally different to us. It is true that in ways we are different, but we all started from that same point as they did. We just often, practically speaking, forget this. When we see a child we often judge them, so to speak, based on the parents. “He is the son of a lawyer. Her father is a drug addict. His father is a faithful Christian.” Even though the character of a child has not yet even been decided by the child a lot of times we typically group the child in with the parent’s likeness. We judge the future unseen character of a child from the character of the parents. When it comes to mankind we are the sons and daughters of sinners. Both of our original mother and father, while repentant, have sinned against God. And while it is true that each and everyone of us sins, we are still considered sinners without even acting anything out. This is because of our parent’s likeness. They were sinners and so every person born to man is also considered to be under sin. Christians have always understood that corporately we are all sinners. The consequence of this depends on the Christian tradition. Eastern Christianity (Orthodoxy) maintains that mankind is considered sinful because of Adam and Eve and inherit the same proclamation that God gave to them, which is death. Western Christianity (Roman Catholicism) tends to lean more on the side that says we inherit original on a more personal level and not only corporately. The main implication of this is that because all mankind comes from Adam we therefore are all guilty of personal sin which is understood to be punishable with eternal damnation. The East maintains that we are not guilty of eternal damnation for being the sons of Adam, while the west typically does. I agree with the East that we only inherit a more corporate type of sin rather than personal and as such not every man is worthy of eternal damnation simply for being born of Adam. Of course as I discussed in the last article all mankind still inherits the effects of sin which is a nature that is incapable of not sinning. Of course our Lord is the only exception because while He “came in the likeness of sinful flesh” it is also true that “no sin was found in Him.” 

Rabbit Trail; How was Jesus not infected with Original Sin?

If it is true that Jesus was born a human then how comes He did not sin? Those coming from a more Roman Catholic and Protestant background have a little more to deal with on this topic than the those in the East. Paul says that Jesus was “born in the likeness of sinful flesh” which possibly highlights the more corporate nature of original sin. When it comes to personal sin, however we know our Lord committed no sin. He was complete and perfect in obeying the Father. So when we understand that original sin is corporate only and not personal, then we have no problem with Jesus and His sinlessness. Since I sit with the East on this I will not discuss the topic any further. 

(Musings) On Original Sin

(Musings) On Original Sin

Ancestral sin or Original sin is the title of the teaching that refers back to man’s downfall and the welcoming of sin into the world by man. Christianity has affirmed the teaching since its beginning. Judaism also has had those who have affirmed the general tenets of the teaching in the times before Christ as evidenced by several Jewish apocryphal sources and in the commentaries of the Babylonian Talmud. While Christianity has long held to the idea of original sin it has not always been in unison about some of the details. What has generally been agreed upon is this

*Adam and Eve, the first two people, sinned against God by eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil

*Their action was the origin of sin in man and on Earth

*They brought an alteration of their being and death upon themselves and to all of their descendants

*Mankind is corporately considered to be “in sin” or “sinners”

*Original sin must be dealt with by the grace of God in Christ; historically understood as not only through Christ’s death and resurrection, but also through an individual’s baptism.

Generally this is affirmed by all sects of Christianity, although some Protestants may object to part about baptism. While the teaching of Original sin is somewhat of a small master piece of intellectual systemization, the reality of its existence is a bitter realization. The fact that this is real, even though atoned for by our Lord Jesus, is still a sad reality. When broken down simply as I have done above curiosity is bound to bubble. This is what I mentioned earlier about the “details” of this teaching. In this article I would like present what my current understanding is on the first listed tenet. I have change my opinion on this subject several times and consider myself to be growing in knowledge and curiosity of this grand subject so do not consider my thoughts to mean too much.

Examining the Fruit

One of the things that I have been most curious about concerning this subject is what ability this fruit had for mankind. In retrospect Adam, his wife, and all of us as his decedents are in possession of the ability granted by the fruit. “Knowledge of good and evil”. Did Adam and Eve really have no concept of good or evil? Could they really not tell the two apart? What does “good” and “evil” even mean from the standpoint of the author of Genesis and what does it mean from the standpoint of God?

I believe that they both did know good from evil before they took of the tree. I think what was granted them upon eating was a widened imagination. To have a greater imagination of good and evil from within themselves. I think the main problem was that in the state they were in, and as we are in today, they were unable to handle or control this new ability. As we are we cannot handle this imagination that is plenteous in both good and evil. One of the greatest and obvious consequences of this new ability is our sin. While some are more proactive in sin than others, we all are guilty of sin. The original sin committed by our first parents has put us on the path to sin. This isn’t to say that we are totally sinful or only sinful.  What is sin and how does this ability cause us to sin? I think sin is disharmony of God’s desire. It is our actions that are contrary to what God wants us to do.

I hope to touch more on this subject of sin in the future. I believe this ability causes us to sin because our imagination is so widened that our current state is not powerful enough to totally overcome the desire we incur on our individual imaginations. In other words we cannot control ourselves. While we can control ourselves to a certain extent and grow in temperance, especially through the grace of God poured out in Christ, we still are unable to fully live complete and perfect to God. We are like children given one of a mature adult’s capabilities. Having only one mature ability does not make one mature. A mature adult has multiple things working together to make himself a whole man. A child who has one mature capability is not only immature, but he is also unable to properly function as the person he is. He is corrupted and unfortunately he will not mature, but will die before adulthood because he could not function properly in the state he was in. Thus like a disobedient child man has taken for himself something that wasn’t good for him and that he was not ready for. The result is His death.

On the Veneration of the Saints

On the Veneration of the Saints

When it comes to considering historic Christianity, one of the biggest stumbling blocks for Protestants and evangelicals is the veneration of the saints with emphasis of Mary. Many assume and teach that those in the historic churches worship Mary and the saints. They also assume that the Catholic Church (here the “Catholic Church” will include the RCC and Orthodox traditions) teaches that the saints are on the same ontological level as God Himself. This is obviously not the case and the reason for their veneration is indeed in line with Christian practice.

The Holy Ones of our Lord; The Saints

When it comes to any holy person who has devoted their life to God it is appropriate to honor and aspire to be like them. If we are Christians seeking to follow Christ then surely those who are living in that way or have lived that way are our brothers and sisters who are serious about our God and religion. Their lives are an inspiration and remembering them gives us example and encouragement.

Honoring

In my previous times in Baptist church services I often heard the pastors say that the church needs to “give honor where honor is due”. They would even say that the Bible says it. This would come before or maybe after honoring someone in the congregation and at certain times maybe even lead to putting their name on a brick or plaque in or outside of the church building. Historically Christians have honored and greeted one another with a kiss. Early on the Church started to create icons of the departed saints. At the coming together on the Lord’s Day Christians would continue their honoring of the saint by kissing their icon, which is still done in the historic Catholic churches today. Of course not every saint is honored this way, but rather only a few. Making icons of everyone would be quite tedious and take a long time to kiss. So kissing or bowing to icons or statues of the departed saints is one way the Catholic Church honors their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Prayers (Requests) for help and Intercession

It’s typical to ask one another for prayer. When we do so it is common to think that the one who is humble and devoted to God has greater efficacy or perhaps sway in their prayers of intercession for us. This would be in line with James 5, would it not? So when the Catholic Church prays, or asks, the saints for intercession it is not because they believe the saint is equal to God but that by their righteous and devoted life they have God’s attention. If we also believe that the saints and martyrs are in Heaven then we know they are closer to God and Jesus. Historically Christians have also incorporated into their own personal worship and liturgical worship the request for a saint to do things such as “save” them. Using the principles that we have explained already it can easily be accepted that by this they mean through the saint’s relationship and intercession to God they intercede on their behalf. When the Christian incorporates special requests or miracles it is probably because tradition records God doing said specific miracle or action for that saint.

Mary the Mother of God

The most prominent saint visible in the Catholic Church is Mary. Mary is prominent visually through iconography and statues and she is also prominent in the liturgy. Christians have held Mary in high regard since the beginning of the church.  She has the highest prominence in the church among the saints for many reasons. The first reason is because she is the mother of our Lord, making her the mother of God. This description makes today’s Protestants cringe because they make a distinction between the humanity and deity of Christ being birthed by Mary. Those who affirm the Trinity and the divinity of Christ would be wise to affirm that Mary birthed divinity because if Christ was fully human and God the whole time of His existence as the God-man then it must be that Mary birthed divinity. It is not that divinity or Jesus began with Mary, for Catholics have always affirmed the tri-unity of God and the eternal pre-existence of Jesus. It is to say that just because birthing usually means the beginning of something, this does not mean that a supernatural variable such as God the Son being conceived and birthed by Mary makes her the origin of God from eternity past or a new deity. It is totally fine and consistent to say that Mary is the mother of God the Son, both in His humanity and His divinity. His humanity began in her, but His divinity simply was continued. Mary then being the mother of our God and Savior Jesus makes her a very important figure in Christianity. Since she is the mother of Jesus she is the mother of our salvation.

Mary is likely to be the first to believe in Jesus. The first to believe His claims, to trust Him, and to follow Him as Lord. Mary also is one of the only ones found at the cross of Christ; Jesus’ weakest moment. It also is a moment that put her at much risk. Mary has had great loyalty to her Son and Lord. Tradition also accounts of her virginity and great mercy. Her virginity makes her a beacon of temperance and devotion to God, which are strong tenants of the Christian faith. She is a great example of holiness and mercy. So her unique relationship with Jesus and holy character put her as the top venerated saint in the Christian’s life. Jesus no doubt honored His mother and probably still honors her in some way to this day. Mary’s statement regarding herself has come true time after time.

“From now on all generations shall call me blessed”

Conclusion

The veneration of the saints is an ancient Christian practice that has been preserved to this day and likely will continue until the day of Jesus’ return. It is a practice that is certainly done in worship, but unlike the common claims to the Church’s opposition it is done to God and not man. Early Christian writings attest to the honoring of the saints and a few references may be found below. The saints give us a faithful example to follow and their continued faithfulness and mercy in intercession continue on in Heaven. May the saints continue to have mercy on us, saving us sinners through their intercession to the all Merciful and Powerful One whom they themselves have found grace in. God keep the Church by His mercy and grace.

Early Church Witness

St. Cyril Catechetical Lecture 23:9 (4th Century)

“Then we commemorate also those who have fallen asleep before us, first Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, that at their prayers and intercessions God would receive our petition. Then on behalf also of the Holy Fathers and Bishops who have fallen asleep before us, and in a word of all who in past years have fallen asleep among us, believing that it will be a very great benefit to the souls , for whom the supplication is put up, while that holy and most awful sacrifice is set forth.”

Augustine Homilies on John 84.1 (5th Century)

“For on these very grounds we do not commemorate them (the martyrs) at that table in the same way, as we do others who now rest in peace, as that we should also pray for them, but rather that they should do so for us, that we may cleave to their footsteps; because they have actually attained that fullness of love, than which, our Lord has told us, there cannot be a greater. For such tokens of love they exhibited for their brethren, as they themselves had equally received at the table of the Lord.”

Methodius Oration on Simeon and Anna 14 (4th Century)

“Wherefore, we pray you, the most excellent among women, who boast in the confidence of your maternal honours, that you would unceasingly keep us in remembrance. O holy mother of God, remember us, I say, who make our boast in you, and who in hymns august celebrate the memory, which will ever live, and never fade away. And also, O honoured and venerable Simeon, you earliest host of our holy religion, and teacher of the resurrection of the faithful, be our patron and advocate with that Saviour God, whom you were deemed worthy to receive into your arms.”

Answering the Objections of Barring Homosexual Practice in the Church (Part 2)

Answering the Objections of Barring Homosexual Practice in the Church (Part 2)

The Topic Continued

As always feel free to submit your own questions and objections for me to consider. Take a look at the past article and my article on the topic as a whole

Objection: Arsenkoites was not widely used if at all by other Greek writers. We don’t know what Paul was trying to say exactly when he used this term.

It is an interesting word. A compound word. Arsen is the Greek word for male while koites is the Greek word for bed or lay. The English word coitus comes from the Latin, which borrows from this Greek word, Koites. The two would then be “male-bed”. I think this can easily be understood as a euphemism for sexual relations. As the Hebrews did in both Leviticus 18 and 20. In both of these passages both of the words making up this compound word are present. The teaching conveyed in both of these passages is that “man shall not lie with man as with a woman.” Lie and bed are usually understood together. That’s why when those who knew Hebrew translated these passages to the Greek, they presented both arsen (male) and koites (bed/lie) into the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The Septuagint showing both as present provides a very real corroborative proof that the Jewish Saul is referring to homosexuality. More precisely male homosexuality. The Septuagint is a Greek work that Paul and other Jews and Christians would have be intimately familiar with. The Scriptures are a center piece for the religion after all. So it may be true that this word is not widely represented throughout classical Greek I still think there is plenty of available content for us to get a good idea about what this word means.

Objection: “Malakos” just means soft or effeminate. There are many homosexuals who practice homosexuality yet do not act effeminate or feminine.

I touched on this in the previous part. The reason that people in the 1st century would refer to someone, in the context of same-sex relations, as “Malakos” is because they would be the one taking the female role during sex. It does not have to do with feminine attributes or behavior as we typically think of effeminacy today. In these contexts it’s about a man becoming as a woman when he receives as a woman normally would during sex. So being feminine in this context means that man is taking the role of a female sexually.

Objection: Homosexual relationships can be quite peaceful, fulfilling, and look pretty similar to heterosexual relationships. Therefore God could never band same gender intercourse.

If the Apostles and Prophets received word that the action was impermissible then it still remains that the action is impermissible. I don’t really doubt any of these things are true, but the Christian’s priority is faithfulness to God and bending the rules just because “it doesn’t seem bad to me” isn’t going to make the action justifiable with God. What impermissible thing couldn’t be changed on the reasoning as above? I am not sure it if there is one. What it comes down to is if one wants to submit to God or if they want to call the shots as authority. This is the battle we all face in each area of our lives when it comes to what we want to do. I always take issue when someone says God can’t do something or when someone assumes that God has to a have back up reason for why He does something as modern apologists suppose. Let God be the law giver and let us follow in faithfulness.

Does the Bible Teach Flat Earth?

Christianity and Flat Earth

Introduction

For most of human history mankind has seen the earth as flat. Actually most people still see the earth as flat. This is because the word earth is synonymous with the word land. The land we live on generally speaking is flat. Yeah it may have curves, valleys, and hills, but land is still flat, right? Well from our point of view it is, but when we zoom out and increase the land mass beyond what we can see at one time we understand the land we live on curves. So why do some Christians deny that the planet Earth is round and instead suppose the planet to be generally flat?

The Bible

Like other interesting misinterpretations of reality the Bible itself is found to be at the center of the Christian flat Earth issue. There are lots of flat Earth Christians that use the Bible to support their claims. So does the Bible teach that the Earth is flat? Well, no. Does the Bible record of people’s belief and understanding that the Earth is flat? Well, yes. There is a big difference between these two questions.

Religion and Piety, not Cosmological Calculation

“The Bible” is a collection of writings from men associated with Yahweh and Jesus. It records of many great things including man’s interaction with God. Its purpose is to remind people of God’s directives for humanity as it has been revealed through Prophets and Apostles. The Bible is simply a written record of men’s interaction with God and His directives as He has revealed them. It is a collection of writings written by man of which contents are influenced by God Himself. Because of this what we have recorded for us is told though the human author. Now the author is writing to convey the religious truth. Sometimes he will use figure of speech and comparisons to get his point across. Sometimes they compare God’s love or anger like “something” and “something else”. So because humans wrote the Bible we see the religious truths told through their experience and in their own way of describing things. This includes their understanding of the world and the sciences. So in attempting to convey the religious truth they may record something scientifically inaccurate as an illustration. The authors don’t know it’s an inaccuracy because that’s what people of the time thought was true concerning the sciences. The intent of the author is never to teach about science anyway, but rather to teach what God has conveyed to them.

"Earth" not “Earth”

I touched on this a little in the opening, but we need to remember that the ancients who recorded the Scriptures did not regard their “world” as a planet. Take a look at Genesis and you will see that the ancients regarded their physical reality as “sea”, “heavens”, and “earth.” Earth in this context is not planet, but rather land. Sometimes our English translations can be a bit confusing because the more archaic understanding of the word “earth” is land. Now that we have named the whole conglomerate planet as “Earth” it can be a bit confusing in some English translations to understand the differentiation. So how does this type of understanding help clear up the confusion? Well take a look at Isaiah 40:22 which says “It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers.” First of all let’s answer one question. Is the author trying to teach cosmology, what the Earth looks like? Or is he trying to convey the reality that God is an ultimate authority over all? I think the latter is his intent. Secondly consider the understanding of the author. If his understanding of the world is “Land”, “Sea”, and “Heavens” then we understand that He is painting a picture of God above the “circle” or dome. Like flat Earth adherents today, the ancients thought there was a dome which encased the land, sea, sun, moon, and stars. Some try to show that this verse teaches round Earth. These so called apologists are terribly mistaken as well. Neither is the author’s intent, but the former is an accurate understanding of the author’s picture.

Conclusion

Does the Bible teach flat Earth? The truth is no. Did the authors of Scripture believe a lot of what flat Earth people do about the physical reality? More than likely, yes. The author’s understanding of flat Earth may be referenced in the Scripture, but always remember that the intention of these authors is always for a man to God religious truth and not to convey infallible scientific calculations. Christianity is not about flat Earth and we should not adopt the author’s understanding of cosmology when that is never the focus of his teaching anyway. 

Answering the Objections of Barring Homosexual Practice in the Church

Objections to Barring Homosexual Practice in the Church

Introduction

This sensitive subject warrants discussion and questioning. The historic stance of the Church of Jesus is clear. There are however many today who are trying to change the position of the Church to be more attractive to a wider audience. Some may do this as a good gesture and maybe others for harm. This ongoing article series hopes to answer some of the questions and objections that are thrown around today concerning the Church’s stance. Feel free to leave your own questions in the comments. To be clear the subject is engaging in same-sex relationships where intercourse is involved and not simply someone’s inner desires. 

Preface Tip

The Church is submissive to God and Jesus as Lord. So unlike a democratic society where laws are decided and changed on a whim the Church is a society which submits to the will of God on a matter. It’s not something the Church can change. 

Objection: Homosexuality is love, right? How can it be classified with other sins?

The Apostle John in His first Epistles records plainly that sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). Like what was said above, Christians are under the authority of One Supreme Lord and bound to the same laws He gives just as everyone else is. So while it is true that something like consensual homosexual practice is different to non-consensual stealing it still is not permissible. God does not only give laws which protect “our rights” or well being, but prescribes laws that are pleasing to Him. Therefore sin has to do with living according to God’s ways and not  according to what a changing culture tells us is wrong. 

Objection: The Early Church was born in a “patriarchal” society and their view on this issue was colored by this. Therefore God actually approves of this action.

When the word “patriarchal” is used in these contexts the speaker usually is referring to some kind of oppression. The word simply means “fore” and “father”. The implications in these societies being “men first”. So is it true that our Lord, His Apostles, and the early Church were unable to discern the difference between holiness and culture? I don’t think so. I’d like to answer this in two parts.

(1) The Apostles wrote many things that were against culture. The Apostles saw the faith of Christ as something opposed to the world (James 4:4). They saw the tenets of their beliefs based on holiness and not culture. In a culture where it was acceptable to beat women and wives, Peter tells husbands to “love their wives.” Paul says that men ought to treat women as their selves with the implication that “no man ever hated his own body, but nourished it and took care of it.” In a culture where it was acceptable to make women, and boys, prostitutes the Apostles taught that modesty and abstinence was to be applied. If the Apostles being the representatives of Jesus were unable to discern holiness from culture then maybe one needs to consider what else Jesus’ representatives got wrong. Hopefully one will come to the conclusion that Jesus made the right choice when choosing His Apostles.  No one knew the culture of 1st century better than those who lived themselves in it and no one knew Jesus better than the ones who lived among Him (1 John 1:1).

(2) When those who object to this issue connect the idea of “men first” with the issue of homosexuality in the 1st century and following, they may imply that the word “Malakos”, from which the English translations of the Bible get the word “homosexual” or “effeminate”,  has to do with a low view of women rather than the act of engaging in sexuality.  This is because the Greek word literally means soft or  effeminate. So when those in this culture referred to homosexuals they called them effeminate because they would take the female role during sex. The argument then is that misogynists of the first century hated homosexuality because they really hated women, whom Homosexuals played the part of during sex. The argument continues on that 1st century folk regarded women as weak, so homosexuals were weak. Homosexuality according to these objectors then has to do with “misogyny” rather than the acts of same-sex intercourse. Since they hated weakness in this culture, our “culturally blinded” Apostles fell for, or actually were never teaching, a misogynistic view on sexuality. I have discussed in the first part why I believe the Apostles superseded culture when it comes to holiness and why they were not “blinded” by the very culture they were in, but actually knew it better than any supposed 21st century historian. 

Paul was really against uncommitted relationships, which include same-sex relationships. Therefore the practice was never condemned.

If Paul was only against uncommitted same sex partners one should wonder why he never mentions the practice with this preface. Whenever the practice is mentioned it seems to be mentioned in the general sense and not in a preface, specific sense. If adultery was all that was spoken against, why ever mention the general acts of homosexuality in the first place? Saying that adultery was wrong should cover same-sex type as well, should it not?

Christianity and Same-Sex Practice

Christianity and Same-Sex Practice

Introduction

It’s no secret that Christianity and those in same-sex relationships have been at odds since the Church’s inception. Today in the free world more and more people are engaging in same-sex relationships. As the days go on there is an unprecedented level of friction between the Church and those who are both affirming and engage in homosexual activity. People who identify as homosexual and irreligious are often found condemning the Church for its historic stance on the issue, while those who identify as homosexual and religious can be seen wondering where they fit in the Church. Some have engaged with the affirming to push back against the historic standing of the Church to not only bless the activity as permissible, but also to promote its acceptance in all fields of Christianity, including the Presbytery (clergy). The Church finds itself challenged in this area both to know and accept itself in this battle. Some have opened the door for this in the Church, while mostly others have remained closed. Unfortunately some have also taken a more hateful approach in their conservatism, which certainly has not helped the case. This is a challenge to be taken on by the Church and not by those who are without. Those on the outside, who do not accept the Lordship of Jesus, are alienated from determining Christian practice. So the challenge is this, is the practice of homosexuality permissible in the Church? Here’s my take.

Authority

I mentioned in the introduction that those outside of the Church have no say in what is to be determined as Christian teaching and practice. This is because the Church is literally a called out, separate group who are affirming of Jesus’ authority as Lord of all. This is not to say that we never listen to people outside of the Church, just that when it comes to our practices we submit to the ways God has commanded and laid out for us. The Church is not an authority in and of itself, but a submissive group who follows God. Therefore unlike those outside of the Church we are not able to change what we practice on a whim of desire nor do we change according to the vote of the people as in a democracy. If one is unfamiliar with the historical determinate method of what are God’s directives to us, then look no further to Christian Scripture, Tradition, and the moving of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus began His ministry He selected twelve people from among his disciples to be His Apostles (representatives). Christianity has historically understood that while Jesus is the center of our faith it is the Apostles who were left by Him which took up the work to build the Church. The Apostles being those who lived with Him and received revelations from Him by the Holy Spirit are those we look to for pure Christian practice. We do this by means of their writings (Scripture), the practices they have handed down to us as evidenced by church history and continued modern practice (Tradition), and by means of the authoritative Holy Spirit, who is God in the Churches. So then let us see examples from these which determine our practice.

Christian Scripture

Christian Scripture, also commonly called the Bible, does indeed touch on this subject. The New Testament being composed by Jesus’ Apostles and those closely associated with them make these writtings of great importance for Christian practice. Let’s take a look at what it is recorded in Scripture concerning same sex relations.

Leviticus, of Course

“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”  Lev. 18:22 NRSV

“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.” 20:13 NRSV

 

This is always one of the go to books for the topic because of its condemnation of the same-sex relations.

So let me introduce a little bit of context before we get started. Leviticus is recording the Law that Moses received from God at the top of Mount Sinai. An entire people group, the Israelites, have made a mass exodus from Egypt to a wasteland at this point. The Law was to be the governing authority when it comes to practice for the Israelites as they were in the wasteland and more properly for when they entered their own land.

So understanding that little bit we can better understand what is going on here. The practice of “man lying with man as with a woman” is said to be a punishable offense. Now it doesn’t take a linguist or an archaeologist to understand what is being implied here. This is an obvious euphemism for sex. Check out other contexts where the Hebrew word for “lie” is used in the Old Testament. (Gen.26:10, 30:15, 1Sam2:22)

Some have argued that because this commandment finds itself within the Mosaic Law, which was fulfilled and not carried over into Christianity, that this is not applicable. It is a seemingly valid objection at first, but even this argument fails. I will discuss this later on.

A Disqualifier from the Kingdom

“Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NRSV

If this translation along with all other popular ones is to be accepted then practicing homosexuality is “wrongdoing” and without repentance it bars one from entering into the eternal kingdom. Now much has been contested concerning the translations above (male prostitutes and sodomites) in our day. The word translated “male prostitutes” is μαλακοὶ (malakoi). Basically this means “soft” or “effeminate”. A man who acts as a woman is someone who acts soft. Therefore an effeminate male during sexual intercourse would be the one taking the role of a woman during sex. Many Greek Lexicons record the author’s understanding that malakos is used for those who engage in same-sex activity as the passive partner. This should not be understood as a heterosexual male prostitute. The second word I will touch on is “sodomite”. This translation is also contested. In the Greek this compound word, ἀρσενοκοίτης (arsenokoites), comes from the word “male” and “bed”. If you look at the second word ‘Koites” you can see that it is where the Latin derives coitus as it is in our language. This would be more so literally translated as “male bed”. Again bed in this language is another euphemism for sexual activity. This would warrant the current translation. Some translators believe that Paul is referring to both the passive and dominate men in this activity and translate this as below

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals”. 1 Corinthians 6:9 NET

“Contrary to Sound Teaching” and “Disobedient”

“Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately. This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.” 1 Timothy 1:8-11 NRSV

I don’t think much commentary is necessary here. The heading pretty much sums it up. The word sodomite is the same word used for sodomite in 1 Corinthians 6:9 (ἀρσενοκοίτης).

Against Natural Use

“For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.” Romans 1:26-27 NRSV

Here Paul records that same-sex relationships have been condemned by God and he records that these actions are “degrading”. Now the word “intercourse” as it is reflected in the translation above is not as plain in the Greek as it is here. The Greek word is simpler in that it can plainly be translated as “use” or “function”. Supplying either of these words in the passage, as some translations do, does not change what the author was saying at all. This is just something to be aware of.

Abstain from Sexual Immorality

“From the Apostles and elders, your brothers, to the Gentile brothers and sisters in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, greetings! Since we have heard that some have gone out from among us with no orders from us and have confused you, upsetting your minds by what they said, we have unanimously decided to choose men to send to you along with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul, who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas who will tell you these things themselves in person.  For it seemed best to the Holy Spirit and to us not to place any greater burden on you than these necessary rules: that you abstain from meat that has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what has been strangled and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from doing these things, you will do well. Farewell.” Acts 15:22 NET

After there were some rumors among the Gentile Church that the Law of Moses was required in order to gain salvation the Apostles and elders at Jerusalem decided to write to them that this was not the case. If you notice at the end they place no other burden on them, but these four practices. The last being sexual immorality or fornication (in the older English sense). This is important because Jews and early Christians at the time saw same-sex relations as immorality and perversion. Instruction to abstain from sexual immorality is frequent in the New Testament and because of historical Jewish tradition which forbade homosexual activity this then would be a clear command of abstention from the practice. While the Law of Moses was fulfilled in Jesus, Christian behavior was not set free to do whatever it pleased.

Christian Tradition

I mentioned earlier about the Christian’s submission to Christ through the Apostles. Their practices as passed down through Church history are therefore authoritative. So does early Church history have anything to say about same-sex relations? Let’s take a look below.

Theophilus 2nd Century

“Why, then, do Epicurus and the Stoics teach incest and sodomy, with which doctrines they have filled libraries, so that from boyhood this lawless intercourse is learned? And why should I further spend time on them, since even of those they call gods they relate similar things?” Theophilus to Autolycus Book 3:6

Origen 3rd Century

“we find that they believe in the Most High God, and in His Only-begotten Son, the Word and God, and that they often exhibit in their character a high degree of gravity, of purity, and integrity; while those who call themselves wise have despised these virtues, and have wallowed in the filth of sodomy, in lawless lust, “men with men working that which is unseemly.” Against Celsus Book VII:49

Cyprian 3rd Century

“Still further, what a degradation of morals it is, what a stimulus to abominable deeds, what food for vice, to be polluted by histrionic gestures, against the covenant and law of one’s birth, to gaze in detail upon the endurance of incestuous abominations!  Men are emasculated, and all the pride and vigour of their sex is effeminated in the disgrace of their enervated body; and he is most pleasing there who has most completely broken down the man into the woman. He grows into praise by virtue of his crime; and the more he is degraded, the more skilful he is considered to be. Such a one is looked upon—oh shame! and looked upon with pleasure. 

Oh, if placed on that lofty watchtower you could gaze into the secret places – if you could open the closed doors of sleeping chambers, and recall their dark recesses to the perception of sight, – you would behold things done by immodest persons which no chaste eye could look upon. You would see what even to see is a crime. You would see what people made into beasts with the madness of vice deny that they have done, and yet hasten to do: men with frenzied lusts rushing upon men, doing things which afford no gratification even to those who do them. I am deceived if the man who is guilty of such things as these does not accuse others of them.” The Epistles of Cyprian, Epistle I.  To Donatus. 8-9

Basil the Great 3rd Century

“He who is guilty of unseemliness with males will be under discipline for the same time as adulterers.” Select Letters of Basil To Amphilochius, the Canons

Continued Tradition

There is plenty of early witness to Christianity’s disapproval of same-sex relationships. Historically Churches have held to this position and it is alive today. The official position of the top three Churches is against this activity. Roman Catholic Church (Approx. 1.3 billion adherents), the Eastern Orthodox Church (Approx. 260 million adherents), and Oriental Orthodox Communion (Approx. 60-70 million adherents). Most of Protestantism is also against this activity.

Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit who has empowered the Apostles and the Church has not seen fit to overturn this position. When He inspired the Apostles in their teachings, both written and unwritten, He has passed down to us a historical understanding that this activity is not permissible.

Conclusion

While society is always changing and progressing it also can be said that in some ways it is regressing back to the past. The great acceptance of same-sex relations, which historically speaking was unthinkable in the past few hundred years, is now barging on into the Church demanding answers and privilege. The only fair answer that the Church is able to give is the one that it has given all along. That answer being that this practice, as outlined in our most Holy Faith under the directive of our most Holy Lord, is not permissible. The Church is to be the herald for the Judge. Although some Christians seem to take the seat of judge in this issue and mishandle this topic by means of rudeness may even this not be a stumbling block for accepting God’s directives.

“We are not entitled to such license, I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings.” Gregory of Nyssa 4th Century A.D.

Read more about this here

Scripture, Tradition, and the Holy Spirit as the Rule of Faith and Practice​ (END)

Conclusion

I believe the Holy Spirit, Tradition, and Scripture all to be on equal grounds when it comes to authority in the Churches. The origins of the Scriptures and Tradition, when true Christian religion, are from the Apostles, who are the foundations of the Church itself. They being empowered by the Holy Spirit were able to do what they did and to give us directives from God and Jesus as His Apostles. To ignore tradition is to ignore the word of mouth aspect of the Apostles and therefore ignore Jesus’ directives to us. To ignore the Holy Spirit and His workings is to deny the very empowerment by which the Apostles were given to teach in the written Scriptures and their in person presented traditions. Denying the Holy Spirit and His movings as a continued authority also weakens all aspects of Christianity in our current day and sometimes implies that Christians forget that the Holy Spirit is still present Deity in the Churches. Scripture is good and is to be followed, but we can never forget where Scripture came from and by what force gives it authority in the Churches. The very canon that Christians hold to has been cradled on the back of faithful Christian tradition, so to exclude the others and affirm Scripture only is to weaken the Scriptures themselves in their very vitals. When we have all three Christianity becomes much clearer and we ourselves are availed the opportunity to be much more faithful. I hope those who read this will have a new found interest in this important subject and also look into giving more credence to tradition and the Holy Spirit.

Concerning Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura)

Should we use Scripture alone as an authority? The Bible is sufficient to teach truth and Christianity. However the Bible is not sufficient to teach all truth or everything about Christianity. The Scriptures are simply a snap shot of the Apostle’s directives in writing. Sola Scriptura fails in that it forgets the reason why the Scriptures matter and why they are authoritative. It also forgets that it is by the Spirit who is still active today that they find their inspiration. Scripture itself denies sola Scriptura because it recognizes Apostolic and Ecclesiastical authority. It also records that Apostolic tradition is not written only.  This was recognized by early Christians. I myself use to hold to sola Scriptura, but for these reasons I no longer do. 

END

The Church and the Christian Faith are Jesus’ and His directions are our priority. The Apostles are His representatives who were empowered, instructed, and reminded by the Holy Spirit concerning Jesus’ directives. Historically speaking we have the Christian faith once delivered from them in the form of the Christian Tradition and as a part of said tradition we have not only the practices delivered, but also a few writings from them as well. We see then an order to both the founding of our faith and to its continuation. The Power of Him who gave life to the original practices of our faith is still well at work in the world today, which is in accordance to the enthroned One who originally promised this.

Scripture, Tradition, and the Holy Spirit as the Rule of Faith and Practice​ (Part 4)

Scripture

The amount of overlap on this subject is a convincing indicator, to me at least, that these three are truly connected and equal. I have chosen to touch on Scripture last because I believe that the Scripture’s authority is built on the Apostolic Authority that is empowered by the Holy Spirit. So I saw it more appropriate to build Apostolic Tradition and the Holy Spirit’s Empowerment in the sections that were just covered. So now that the foundations of the Holy Scripture’s authority has been built elsewhere I will simply and briefly repeat what has been given to show the whole building of Scripture’s authority.

The Outline

Authority

Preface: The Scriptures are the writings of the Apostles and Prophets and are authoritative. It is because they originate from divinely inspired Apostles of Jesus, or Prophets of God, that these writings are as the directives of God and Jesus; therefore making them authoritative.

  1. Apostles and Prophets as Scripture’s Authors and Origin (Making them Authoritative)
    1. Directly Chosen by The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Association and Recognition)
    2. Under Inspiration of the Holy Spirit Personally (Empowerment)
  2. The Above Evidenced in
    1. Scripture
      1. Association and Recognition
        1. Appointment of Apostles: Luke 6:12-16, Acts 1:24-26
        2. Reflective Recipient Nature (Matthew 10:40, John 13:20)
        3. Association and Relevancy (1 John 1:1-3, Galatians 2 and 1 Corinthians 9:1-3, [Matthias] Acts 1:21)
      2. Empowerment
        1. Promise: John 14:26, Acts 1:8
        2. Fulfillment: Acts 2 (Pentecost)
        3. Apostolic Affirmation of the Spirit’s Power in them: Romans 15:15-20, 1 Corinthians 2:1-4, 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5
        4. Inspiration: 2 Timothy 3:16, 1 Peter 1:10-12 (Referencing the Prophecies recorded in Scripture) 2 Peter 1:20-21

                 b.Tradition

    1. Early Witness in the Writings of the Early Christians
    2. Catholicism and Pan-Orthodoxy approve (Modern)

                c.Holy Spirit

Conclusion

From Scripture

1. The Author’s were Chosen and Associated with Jesus

Whether we are speaking about the Prophet of the Old Testament, Apostle of the New Testament, or those closely associated with the Apostles in the New Testament we can conclude that their association plays a big part in their writings. The Old Testament Prophetical books often start out by recording that the prophecy of said prophet was from the Lord, or YHWH. They therefore being chosen by God makes them pretty creditable. When it comes to the Apostles we know that they were chosen by the Lord Jesus. The Apostles had spent time with Him. When it comes to other New Testament authors such as Luke for example, we know also that they were associates of the Apostles who probably even received a lot of what they wrote from them as well. So we then find in each of these categories a succession leading back to the Father and the Son. Even the Holy Spirit is shown to be associated as I will show in the next section.

Appointment of Apostles: Luke 6:12-16, Acts 1:24-26

Reflective Recipient Nature (Matthew 10:40, John 13:20)

Association and Relevancy (1 John 1:1-3, Galatians 2 and 1 Corinthians 9:1-3, Matthias Acts 1:21)

2. Empowered by the Spirit (Inspiration)

The empowerment by the Spirit is the means by which also gave the Apostles and Prophets authority. When it comes to Scripture this means that their teachings whether spoken or written are authoritative. This means that the written teachings can be said to be from God. We call this inspiration, right?

Promise: John 14:26, Acts 1:8

Fulfillment: Acts 2 (Pentecost)

Apostolic Affirmation of the Spirit’s Power in them: Romans 15:15-20, 1 Corinthians 2:1-4, 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5

Inspiration: 2 Timothy 3:16, 1 Peter 1:10-12 (Referencing the Prophecies recorded in Scripture) 2 Peter 1:20-21

Tradition has always witnessed to these things above

Irenaeus of Lyons Against Heresies Book 3 Chapter 2.1

“We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith.”

Gregory of Nyssa On the Soul and the Resurrection

“But while the latter proceeded, on the subject of the soul, as far in the direction of supposed consequences as the thinker pleased, we are not entitled to such license, I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings.”

Augustine of Hippo to Jerome

“For I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error.”

Basil De Spiritu Sancto 7

“But we do not rest only on the fact that such is the tradition of the Fathers; for they too followed the sense of Scripture, and started from the evidence which, a few sentences back, I deduced from Scripture and laid before you.”

Modern Christian Tradition holds that the Apostles were associated with Jesus and that their writings are inspired.

Scripture, Tradition, and the Holy Spirit as the Rule of Faith and Practice​ (Part 3)

The Holy Spirit

When it comes to the Holy Spirit, Christianity teaches that He is God just as much as the Father and our Lord Jesus are. So it goes without saying that He is authoritative in and of Himself. The Holy Spirit being given in the Church 2000 years ago and empowering the church up until this point implies the presence of God in the Churches. I will preface by saying that not all things that are done by those in Christianity are done so by the Holy Spirit, but that all parts of genuine Christianity are empowered by the Spirit. I think its agreed upon that the Holy Spirit is a very real and present authority in the Churches, but in what way is He a means of authority and interpretation? In other words how do we experience the Holy Spirit like we read the Scriptures and interact with tradition? Since I argue that He is empowering all things within Christianity then my point is that we see Him in the Apostles, in Scripture, the Sacraments, Grace Gifts given to the believer, and whatever other parts of genuine Christianity there be, He is involved. To be clear I mean that He was working in the past, but that He also is working today. So let me briefly touch on these points and then I will get to my conclusion.

The Outline

The Holy Spirit Empowers Christianity as living and present Deity in the Churches

  1. Holy Spirit is God in the Churches (Supreme Authority in and of Himself)
  2. He is the Empowering Force in all things in the Churches
    1. Apostles
      1. Churches started and equipped through them by the Spirit’s power
    2. Scripture
      1. Inspiration
    3. The Sacraments
      1. Baptism
      2. Eucharist
    4. The Individual Grace Gifts in the Church
      1. Prophecy
        1. Especially via Martyrdom
      2. Healings
      3. Other gifts

                 e. Jesus Himself as Head of the Church was also Empowered

          III.The Above Evidenced in

    1. Scripture
      1. Apostles
        1. Promise: John 14:26, Acts 1:8
        2. Fulfillment: Acts 2 (Pentecost)
        3. Apostolic Affirmation of the Spirit’s Power in them: Romans 15:15-20, 1 Corinthians 2:1-4, 2 Corinthians 12:12, 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5
      2. Inspiration of Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:16, 1 Peter 1:10-12 (Concerning the Prophets themselves), 2 Peter 1:20-21 (Same as previous)
      3. The Spirit in the Sacraments: 1 Corinthians 12:12-13
      4. The grace gifts of the Holy Spirit 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, Ephesians 4:11, Entire Book of Acts
        1. Exhortations to Utilize the Spirit’s Gifts 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22, 1 Corinthians 14:1, 39
      5. The Spirit on Jesus: Matthew 3:16-17, Luke 4:18-19, Acts 10:38, Hebrews 2:4
      6. God in the Churches Ephesians 2:21-22, Acts 5:1-6
  1. Tradition
    1. Early Christianity also witnesses to these things above
    2. What Church doesn’t believe the Holy Spirit is active in at least some small way?
  2. Holy Spirit Empowers and Inspires all things New Testament

From Scripture

I am going to begin by looking at what Scripture has to say on the subject. I am going to start out with the Apostles.

I. Apostles

As I mentioned earlier the Apostles are the foundations of the Church. They primarily built the Church after Jesus’ ascension. It is clear from Scripture that they did not do it by their own strength alone. We know they were empowered by the Spirit to do these things. Before the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles Jesus had clearly promised them that the Father would send the Holy Spirit down upon them. We see this fulfilled at Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. The rest of Acts records some of the historical dealings of the Apostles and the start of the Churches. As we see many times throughout the book they were inspired by the Spirit. They were reminded of Jesus’ teachings, they taught great wisdom, set up the churches, and performed many signs and miracles all by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. We even have statements from the Apostles themselves that show that they believed they were empowered by the Spirit.  

Promise (John 14:26, Acts 1:8)

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you.” John 14:26 NET

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.” Acts 1:8 NET

The Fulfillment  (Acts 2)

The Continuing of the Church (Acts)

Paul’s Apostolic Reflection on His own work

According to Paul’s own words they received power for preaching, they prophesied, and worked many wonders by the Spirit.

“But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation;” Romans 15:15-20 NASB

 

“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come with superior eloquence or wisdom as I proclaimed the testimony of God. For I decided to be concerned about nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling. My conversation and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not be based on human wisdom but on the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-4 NASB

“The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.” 2 Corinthians 12:12 NASB

“We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5 NASB

II. Scripture and Inspiration

When it comes to Scripture we know that these writings are inspired by the Holy Spirit. When we look at the inspiration of Scripture we see the intersection of all three authorities. When the prophets received revelations of God it was because the Holy Spirit was upon them. Then when the inspired men recorded the said inspired information in writing, or Scripture, then the introduction of the inspired Scripture came to be. It’s the same with the Apostles. The Holy Spirit is the one who empowers the Scriptures in their very inspiration.

“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NRSV

“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look!” 1 Peter 1:10-12 NRSV (Referencing the Prophecies recorded in Scripture)

“Above all, you do well if you recognize this: No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” NET 2 Peter 1:20-21 

III. In the Sacraments

Without getting too controversial here I would just like to mention that the authors of Scripture believed that the Holy Spirit was active in the communal meal and in Baptism.

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 NRSV

IV. The Individual Grace Gifts in the Church

When it comes to the individual grace gifts in the Church Paul thinks highly of them and says that they are for the building up of the Church. He sees the Holy Spirit in this and that this is very important.

Paul’s Apostolic Reflection on individual grace gifts

Generally the Church also has been given gifts for the building up of the church

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11 NASB

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 NASB

The Book of Acts is full of the Holy Spirit’s gifts in the Church. Just two examples below.

Stephen sees the Lord, but was first filled with the Holy Spirit Acts 6:5 

The Prophetess’ of Philip and Agabus Acts 21:8-14 

Exhortations to Utilize the Spirit’s Gifts

When it comes to the Spiritual gifts not only does Paul mention them, but he also exhorts his audience to utilize the gifts of the Spirit. This continues to show that the Apostles thought very highly of the Spirit in the Churches.

“Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy.” 1 Corinthians 14:1 NRSV

“Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 NRSV

V. Jesus Himself Empowered

Jesus the great head of the church is said to have been empowered by the Spirit to do things. Luke records Peter saying that Jesus Himself was anointed with the Holy Spirit and went about doing good works in Acts. Jesus exorcises demons by the Spirit as He is recorded as saying to the Pharisees in Matthew. Jesus claims Isaiah’s gospel fulfillment for Himself after He His baptism and His testing in the wilderness. Even Jesus Himself was at times empowered by the Spirit.

“how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” Acts 10:38 NRSV

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:18-21 NRSV

“But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you.” Matthew 12:28 NRSV

From Tradition

So my main argument from tradition is that Christians early on and still to this day affirm these things. I’d like to start out by referencing where these above beliefs are reflected in the early writers of Christianity. First up is their references on the Holy Spirit’s empowerment of the Apostles.

I. Apostles and the Holy Spirit

Tertullian On Exhortation to Chastity Chapter 4

(His Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:40)

“In granting indulgence, he alleges the advice of a prudent man; in enjoining continence, he affirms the advice of the Holy Spirit. Follow the admonition which has divinity for its patron. It is true that believers likewise have the Spirit of God; but not all believers are apostles. When then, he who had called himself a believer, added thereafter that he had the Spirit of God, which no one would doubt even in the case of an (ordinary) believer; his reason for saying so was, that he might reassert for himself apostolic dignity. For apostles have the Holy Spirit properly, who have Him fully, in the operations of prophecy, and the efficacy of (healing) virtues, and the evidences of tongues; not partially, as all others have. Thus he attached the Holy Spirit’s authority to that form (of advice) to which he willed us rather to attend; and immediately it became not an advice of the Holy Spirit, but, in consideration of His majesty, a precept.”

Justin Martyr Apologies 39

“For from Jerusalem there went out into the world, men, twelve in number, and these illiterate, of no ability in speaking: but by the power of God they proclaimed to every race of men that they were sent by Christ to teach to all, the word of God.”

II. Scripture (Inspiration)

Clement to the Corinthians 45

“Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit.”

 

Justin Martyr First Apology 36

“But when you hear the utterances of the prophets spoken as it were personally, you must not suppose that they are spoken by the inspired themselves, but by the Divine Word who moves them. For sometimes He declares things that are to come to pass, in the manner of one who foretells the future; sometimes He speaks as from the person of God the Lord and Father of all; sometimes as from the person of Christ; sometimes as from the person of the people answering the Lord or His Father, just as you can see even in your own writers, one man being the writer of the whole, but introducing the persons who converse.”

Origen Principiis Book IV. 1

“it seems necessary to show, in the first place, that the Scriptures them­selves are divine, i.e., were inspired by the Spirit of God.”

On the Holy Spirit St. Ambrose Book II 153

“There is, then, unity of authority, unity of appointment, unity of giving. For if you separate appointment and power, what cause was there [for maintaining] that those whom Christ appointed as apostles, God the Father appointed, and the Holy Spirit appointed? Unless, perhaps, as if sharing a possession or a right, They, like men, were afraid of legal prejudice, and therefore the operation was divided, and the authority distributed.”

III. Sacraments

Basil De Spiritu Sancto

“Whence is it that we are Christians? Through our faith, would be the universal answer. And in what way are we saved? Plainly because we were regenerate through the grace given in our baptism. How else could we be? And after recognizing that this salvation is established through the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, shall we fling away that form of doctrine which we received?”

IV. Individual Grace Gifts

C​yril of Jerusalem Catechetical Lecture 16

“And though He is One in nature, yet many are the virtues which by the will of God and in the Name of Christ He works. For He employs the tongue of one man for wisdom; the soul of another He enlightens by Prophecy; to another He gives power to drive away devils; to another He gives to interpret the divine Scriptures. He strengthens one man’s self-command; He teaches another the way to give alms; another He teaches to fast and discipline himself; another He teaches to despise the things of the body; another He trains for martyrdom”

Basil De SpirituSancto chapter 9.23

“He makes them spiritual by fellowship with Himself. Just as when a sunbeam falls on bright and transparent bodies, they themselves become brilliant too, and shed forth a fresh brightness from themselves, so souls wherein the Spirit dwells, illuminated by the Spirit, themselves become spiritual, and send forth their grace to others. Hence comes foreknowledge of the future, understanding of mysteries, apprehension of what is hidden, distribution of good gifts, the heavenly citizenship, a place in the chorus of angels, joy without end, abiding in God”

Prophecy of the martyrs

PolyCarp The Martyrdom of Polycarp Chapter 5

“But the most admirable Polycarp, when he first heard [that he was sought for], was in no measure disturbed, but resolved to continue in the city. However, in deference to the wish of many, he was persuaded to leave it. He departed, therefore, to a country house not far distant from the city. There he stayed with a few [friends], engaged in nothing else night and day than praying for all men, and for the Churches throughout the world, according to his usual custom. And while he was praying, a vision presented itself to him three days before he was taken; and, behold, the pillow under his head seemed to him on fire. Upon this, turning to those that were with him, he said to them prophetically, “I must be burnt alive.”

Perpetua: The Passion of the Holy Martyrs Perpetua and Felicity 3

“I saw a golden ladder of marvellous height, reaching up even to heaven, and very narrow, so that persons could only ascend it one by one; and on the sides of the ladder was fixed every kind of iron weapon. (Skipping a bit) And I immediately related this to my brother, and we understood that it was to be a passion, and we ceased henceforth to have any hope in this world.”

V. Jesus and the Spirit

St. Ambrose on the Holy Spirit Book III

“In the former book we have shown by the clear evidence of the Scriptures that the apostles and prophets were appointed, the latter to prophesy, the former to preach the Gospel, by the Holy Spirit in the same way as by the Father and the Son; now we add what all will rightly wonder at, and not be able to doubt, that the Spirit was upon Christ; and that as He sent the Spirit, so the Spirit sent the Son of God. For the Son of God says: The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me, He has sent Me to preach the Gospel to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and sight to the blind. And having read this from the Book of Isaiah, He says in the Gospel: Today has this Scripture been fulfilled in your ears; that He might point out that it was said of Himself.”

Modern Church Tradition

I am not sure of a Church tradition that doesn’t acknowledge the Holy Spirit working in the Churches. There may be certain degrees or so. Even Evangelical cesasionalists in some small way still affirm that the Holy Spirit is at work doing something.

Conclusion

So to conclude this section I just want to highlight that my main arguments concerning the Holy Spirit are these. First is that He is obviously God in the Church and thereby an authority of Himself. The second is that He is the empowering person whereby all things true to Christianity find their power. His person and work in these things make Him someone to look to as an authority. There are many things today that are said to be done of the Holy Spirit, I get it. This is the same case when it comes to the canon of Scripture and its interpretation. We don’t skip out on reading Scripture simply because we know that there is error out there, but instead we continue to read and discern it to find the truth. Sometimes when it comes to the moving of the Holy Spirit some take an all or nothing approach, and by that I mean some seem to think that if the Holy Spirit doesn’t always do something that He isn’t active at all. This is false and when we don’t engage in sifting through the working of the Holy Spirit we ourselves are lazy and unfaithful.