Twisted Scriptures (Part 3 of 6)

A "Twisted Scripture" is a biblical passage taken out of context and portrayed to mean something that neither its author intended nor it's original audience understood. 

Let us think about Christianity, about how experience twists reading scripture giving human speculation supreme authority.

In the 18th century there arose a doctrine called "the second work of grace" (an oxymoron) or as the Pentecostals call it, "baptism of the holy spirit." This doctrine was developed due to observation first and then turning to scripture last for validation. This doctrine is credited to John Wesley who, along with his brother Charles, is credited with providing the seeds for the modern Methodist movement, the Holiness movement, Pentecostalism, the Charismatic Movement, and Neo-charismatic churches, which encompasses numerous denominations across the world.

Wesley observed that the power of the holy spirit seemed to occur well after conversion to Christianity, often after much seeking the experience in prayer and fasting. Hence, receiving salvation was separated from receiving the "baptism." He also observed the "baptism" often followed the "laying on of hands" of the church leaders and elders. Consequently modern Pentecostalism and Charismatics view two events as necessary on the path to becoming a fully functioning Christian, firstly salvation and later baptism of holy spirit. Proof text?

ESV: Acts Chapter 8
[14] Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, [15] who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, [16] for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. [17] Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

Is this a representation of a 2nd work of grace in this passage? I dare say not at all! Taking this to mean a 2nd work of grace is twisting the narrative into something unintended by the author. This twisting fails to take into account the whole of the story which starts 10 verses earlier. This 2nd blessing doctrine also fails to take into account the social perspective clearly written into the narrative, never mind ignoring the very words of the text.

The story starts in verse 4 with Philip proclaiming the gospel in Samaria. He backed up his preaching with healings and miracles. The Samaritans were joyful over these things. Now here's where the story takes an odd turn. There was a man named Simon who was shaman in Samaria, a sorcerer of the magical arts who held the Samaritans under his spell with everyone believing that he himself was the representative and power of God. However, Philip was a challenge to his position and authority. Philip's miracles and signs were so convincing that not only did the Samaritans believe upon Jesus which Philip preached, but also Simon himself believed upon Jesus. Simon even followed Philip around just to witness the miracles and healings being performed by Philip.

Here's the part so few understand. Simon so held sway over the Samaritans that one could say they were all "under his spell." Simon produced his wonders via "another god." Simply put, the Samaritans were held captive under evil spirit influence. Did Simon understand this was what his "magic" was all about? No, not really just like mediums today, who do not understand their "powers" are also via evil spirits. So even though the Samaritans believed on Jesus, they were still captive by the influence of Simon and his "methods." The fact that Simon accepted Philip instead of opposing him only deepened Simon's control and influence over the Samaritans. The Samaritans believed upon Jesus but they were still in bondage by Simon's influence thus limiting their ability to truly participate and adopt all that Philip preached.

Now there is another factor to consider which so few modern gentiles comprehend. In the first century when the Judeans converted to accepting Jesus as both Savior and Messiah, they manifested the power of God in speaking in tongues, interpretation and prophecy. This was considered just normal in the decades following Pentecost when the spirit of God was poured out on men. This has been the conclusion of many expositors and theologians, whether they believe such things are normal today or not. This is the precedent and backdrop for the Samaritan story. The Samaritans believed upon Jesus but did not manifest the power of God immediately. This constituted a new phenomena in the new church and a major confusion. Such a thing had never happened before and merited sending the church leaders from Jerusalem to find out what had gone wrong. Today, this shortcoming is considered normal but in that day, this was a crisis of faith!

So Peter and John came to Samaria to see for themselves what went wrong with this conversion. In the fashion of the old Hebrew prophets, they laid their hands upon them to ascertain spiritually what was the problem. Having found it, they ministered the power of God, commanded the evil spiritual influence to leave, thus delivering the Samaritans out from under the bondage spell of Simon. After that, they spoke in tongues or "received the baptism" in modern Pentecostal lingo. In more detail, the Jerusalem leaders cast out the bondage spirits which the Samaritans carried in their minds, due to Simon's influence. That was the problem: the lingering effects of Simon's black arts.

Had Simon actually comprehended what was spiritually happening, the problem might have been resolved sooner but from the narrative is is plain that Simon did not really comprehend the two sources of spiritual power: his powers versus the apostles' power to effect healing and miracles. Verses 18 through 24 show clearly that while Simon admired the results of Peter's ministering, he had no comprehension of the real source of the power he had witnessed or that it was different from his source of power. He offered Peter and John a payment for the inside knowledge of this trick of laying on hands and then people would speak in tongues. That was the manner of the magicians of his day: payment for how to do tricks. He was still attempting to keep the Samaritans under his spell. This is why Peter was so rough on him. Simon had not forsaken his black arts or released his control over the Samaritans. Only the power of God executed by the apostles broke the Samaritans away from Simon's evil spirit control.

Luke recorded this event to show Christian readers of all eras, then and now, that when new converts do not speak in tongues or do not speak prophecy upon conversion, that something is spiritually wrong. Luke recorded this event to leave a lesson for all believers that an evil influence can and does limit the power of God being manifested in a congregation and in an area. However, modern theologians and commentators have twisted this scripture to mean just the opposite and now people think manifesting the power of God by speaking in tongues is weird, rare or unusual or a second blessing or second work of grace. This Acts passage is NOT a proof text of the Pentecostal second blessing doctrine. It is a revelation that such a notion is a problem which needs to be resolved!

This is an example of making experience the truth and then twisting scripture to justify ignorance and error. This has been done for so long that the error has become a doctrine in many Christian sects. In fact, attempting to teach the truth to these sects will get you expelled as a heretic. (Been there, had it done to me.)

Yet, I know of hundreds of believers who have experience conversion just as in the first century, by immediately speaking in tongues, prophesying and experiencing other manifestations of the presence and power of God.

This is just one additional example of how ignoring context(s) and putting faith in experience, twists scripture leading to error of doctrine as men justify their unbelief and confusion.

Next Post: Twisted Scripture as a result of ignoring the Judean culture.

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