In our study of four important features of the events of Pentecost, recorded in Acts 2, we have observed that the sending into the world of the Holy Spirit was, firstly, the Fulfilment of a Divine Promise. Secondly, that great event marked the Commencement of a New Era. Now we will remark upon it being:
The Confirmation of a Fresh Message
Thoughtful people might have said in the very early days of Christianity, “Judaism was given by God through Moses, and was confirmed by miracles. It is alleged that Christianity has been given by God through Jesus and by His apostles: so where are the signs or miracles to confirm that?” The answer is given in the events of the Day of Pentecost when, in the grace of God, the judgment of the days of Babel, when tongues were confused, was reversed, and God in mercy caused the message of mercy to go out to people in many tongues. That they were known languages is indisputably clear from Acts 2.8, and it is the writer’s firm belief that the “tongues” of 1 Corinthians were of a like kind. For whatever may be said as to what is implied, it is certain that the word “unknown” (1 Cor 14), which is italicised in our version, is not in the Greek. Four things may be said of these early sign gifts, the first of which is:
1. They Were Confirmatory
This is the meaning of Mark 16.20, for the “signs following” there are not converts as the result of Gospel preaching, but the signs of the preceding verses: “In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (vv 17-18). We know from the book of the Acts that they did follow, but do they exist now? Can anyone give indisputable evidence that the gift of tongues has been used to such an extent that the Church has been edified which, in 1 Corinthians 14, is emphasised five times as a necessary criterion for their recognition? Even Paul did not take up a serpent: one leapt on to his hand “and he shook off the beast into the fire” (Acts 28.5). Go to India and drink their brackish waters, and see what will happen. However spiritual the person may be, however zealous in the Lord’s work, he will run the grave risk of typhoid and worse. Hence, common sense tells them there that they must boil the water for ten minutes and, even so, thereafter filter it. Go to any alleged healing campaign, or go to Lourdes if you will, and see for yourself what transpires, and compare the alleged temporary cures under the stress of mental excitement and hope with the permanent and instantaneous cures soberly recorded in the Scripture. The writer is well aware as to the uncertainty of the closing verses of Mark 16, but they ‘ring true’, and are accepted by many authorities. But without these we may not yield our point, for Hebrews 2.3-4 teaches the same thing. It is not necessary to confirm the validity of a message repeatedly. Once done it may be presumed finally and for ever to have been established. If the validity of a patent is called in question, it has but to be proven to be valid in a Court of Law for the patent to be operative for the rest of its life without challenge. Once it has been proven to be valid that is the end of all dispute. So, too, with the Christian message. The early signs foreshadowed in Mark 16, affirmed in Hebrews 2, and recorded in the book of the Acts and 1 Corinthians 14, have served their confirmatory purpose. Their need to continue does not exist.
(To be continued …)