THE HOLY SPIRIT
By John Allfree
"The time will come when they
will not endure sound doctrine".
"He that is taught of the written word is taught of God, and a man
hath just so much of the Spirit of God in him as he hath of the Truth in
him intelligently and affectionately believed".
"One would think that if men possessed the Holy Spirit they ought
not only to know it themselves, but be able to give such convincing proofs
of their possession that others should know it as well as themselves".
"If I identify myself, without a standing protest
against it (error), with those who believe and advocate it, I become by example
an enemy of that which I believe is true".
Bible Study Publications
1 Penrith Place, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, NG12 6NE, England.
INTRODUCTION TO THE 2002 EDITION
It is sad that it has been found necessary
to produce another edition of this “Reply” to the booklet “The Holy Spirit
and the Believer Today” by Alfred Norris (afterwards referred to as HSABT).
The booklet is now readily available on the internet and is there promoted
as a publication of considerable merit. The reason for this new edition is
the re-issuing in Australia and North America of HSABT in electronic format.
Having been acquainted with the fact that there was a move afoot to produce
HSABT in this way, before proceeding to reissue the “Reply” I wrote to Brother
Norris and to the Editor of “The Christadelphian” (representing the Christadelphian
Magazine Publishing Association [CMPA], the original publishers) in the hope
that they would seek to dissuade those intending to reissue the booklet from
doing so. I received a response from neither and so have no idea whether
any attempt was made to try to prevent the booklet from being reissued.
It may be asked why it has been deemed necessary to add this introduction;
why not simply reprint the original? It was my view that the considerable
change that has taken place in the intervening years should be mentioned.
The CMPA figured rather prominently in the unhappy circumstances of the
1970’s and I can see no reason to change the facts as set out in the early
pages of the “Reply”. But it would be churlish not to mention the fact that
the CMPA no longer produces HSABT. The CMPA has also withdrawn a more serious
publication, “The Epistles of John” by Neville Smart. As far as I am aware
at no point has the CMPA acknowledged publicly that either of these two publications
was doctrinally unsound, but it would appear that they have shifted ground
and now stand nearer to, if not precisely at, the traditional Christadelphian
position that the “Reply” sought to maintain. The historical notes in the
early pages of the “Reply”, and any references to the events surrounding
the publication of HSABT, should therefore be read with this in mind.
A few minor changes, mainly grammatical, have been made and a few new
endnotes of clarification have been added otherwise the content of the “Reply”
is essentially unchanged.
John Allfree, September 2002
Introduction to the 1976 Edition
Cause for Concern
The past few years have provided evidence of an increasing divergence
of opinion in the Central Fellowship on the subject of the Holy Spirit in
the life of the believer. In addition to private publications articles have
appeared in "The Endeavour", "The Believer" and the "Glad Tidings" arguing
for the present possession of the Holy Spirit as the means whereby an individual
is guided to the truth, the gospel becomes effective in his mind and the
believer becomes strengthened against sin and temptation.
The following quotations from the pens of six independent authors associated
with four publications emanating from the Central Fellowship are representative
of the kind of teaching which is gaining ground in the Brotherhood - in
each case care has been taken to select quotations which are truly representative
of the author's intentions:-
(1) "Repent and be baptised...and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy
Spirit...This declaration remains today the basis of the true Christian call,
and the resultant assurance and peace. Repent, be baptised; have your sins
forgiven; and a new power of holiness enters your life to transform your
character into the image of the Son of God. That power is the 'gift of the
(2) "The possession of a Bible gives no surety of
knowledge of the purpose of God. The number of sects all claiming their
foundation to be the inspired Bible, yet who are hopelessly divided as to
the nature of God's purpose is evidence enough that the "spirit of truth"
to guide into all truth is as much needed today as ever". 2
(3) "When we read the Bible we come up against
such exhortations as "Be filled with the Spirit...desire spiritual gifts",
and we are told that the Father will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask
him. These statements are outside the benefits which will come from devotional
reading or moral instruction. Above the knowledge of the will of God and
understanding of His purpose we need power to walk righteously. The Holy Spirit
is that power".3
(4) "We come to the position that having the written word in our hands
is not enough; reading it is not enough. We have to ask, "What is the missing
factor?"...Surely the Christian attitude is to confess that our own reasoning
powers if unaided, would be more likely to lead us to wrong understandings
than right ones and to plead for enlightening BY GOD'S SPIRIT. And unless
we believe that God not only can hear our prayers but can answer them in
some practical way - unless that is God's Spirit is really going to do something
for us - it were better to save our breath..." 4
(5) "The Scripture makes it quite clear that the promise of the Spirit
is to be permanent and universal". 5
(6) "The main function of the Spirit, as seen from the epistles is (along
with the word of God) to assist the believer, in developing a life of personal
(7) "WE DO NOT REQUIRE DETERMINATION IN THE OVERCOMING OF OUR SINS, BUT
SO ROMANS 8 DECLARES, THE RESIGNATION OF SELF TO THE OPERATION OF THE SPIRIT".
(8) "In any age, when men respond to the Gospel call, God separates them
and dwells in them 'by His Holy Spirit'. This separating work of the Holy
Spirit goes on today. Have you experienced this work of the Holy Spirit
in your life? Every true believer has". 8
(9) "The Holy Spirit, or Spirit of God, or Spirit of Christ, or the Comforter,
or the indwelling Christ, or Spirit of Truth (these terms are equated with
one another) operates in the hearts and minds of believers to strengthen,
comfort, guide, counsel etc". 9
(10) "Victorious living is only possible when we
know that of our own selves we can do nothing. The initial victory is the
Lord's and the continuing victory is his as well: through the Holy Spirit
- whose spiritual power transforms our lives in Christ". 10
The C.M.P.A. Speaks Its Mind
In 1974 after an appeal not to publish a previously announced series
of articles, the "Glad Tidings" proceeded to commit the Central Fellowship
(being its preaching magazine) to a new doctrine on the possession of the
Holy Spirit. When a group of brethren seeking to uphold the accepted Christadelphian
teaching on the matter initiated a protest, that protest was cut short by
the Christadelphian Magazine Publishing Association (CMPA.). The doctrinal
position set out at that time in the "Glad Tidings" was at no time acknowledged
to be wrong either by the "Glad Tidings" Committee or by the CMPA. At the
time the CMPA promised, "to produce further material on our understanding
of the manner of God's action in our lives". This promise has now been redeemed
with the publication of a booklet written by Brother Alfred Norris entitled
"The Holy Spirit and the Believer Today". 11 This booklet
will in many quarters be regarded as an "official" statement on the subject
representing the mind of the Editor of the "Christadelphian" and his Committee.
It will be seen as speaking for Christadelphians of the Central Fellowship
and presumably this pamphlet would now be given to any enquirer seeking
our understanding on this important subject.
This is a serious situation for the booklet sets out a new understanding
of the subject, which is fundamentally different from that which has previously
been accepted by the Ecclesia. In 1959 Brother John Carter, the then editor
of the Christadelphian, saw it to be his duty to oppose these same ideas
when they were published at that time.12 Having
recently re-read this debate it is clear that Brother Norris has not changed
his understanding of the subject to the least degree. Presumably, then,
the present Editor of the "Christadelphian" and his Committee who are now
publishing Brother Norris's booklet have been converted to the new views.
UNLESS THERE IS A VIGOROUS PROTEST FROM BRETHREN AND ECCLESIAS THE CENTRAL
FELLOWSHIP WILL BE COMMITTED TO A NEW DOCTRINE WITH SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES.
The Point of Dispute
We wish to limit our comments to the subject which the book really
sets out to consider - the part played by the Holy Spirit in the salvation
of believers today. In such a dispute as this it is essential that each
understand precisely what the other is saying. Let it be clear then that
both sides in this dispute are agreed that the possession of the power
to perform miracles, i.e. the possession of the gifts of tongues, healing,
prophecy, etc. is irrelevant to the discussion. Both parties acknowledge
that these passed away in the early history of the Ecclesia. The point at
issue is one that has to do with the way in which men are “being saved” (1
What we are saying
Until now [i.e. 1976, JA] the Christadelphian position has always
been 13 that the gift of the Holy Spirit consisted of divine supernatural
help, which was given to the first century Ecclesia to assist the early brethren
in the work of establishing the Truth in the earth. The Holy Spirit was
withdrawn when that for which it had been given was accomplished and the
Ecclesia established. It is not received by any today. As far as we today
are concerned, we have available in the word of God the result of the
Holy Spirit acting upon apostles, prophets and other inspired writers.14 If we of our own free will allow this word to influence
our minds there is created in us a new mind, or spirit, which is referred
to as "the Spirit of Christ" or "Spirit of God" 15 which is recognised by works of righteousness, or fruits
of the Spirit. 16
What Brother Norris and the CMPA are saying
The doctrine set out in the booklet cannot be reconciled with the
above statement. According to Brother Norris the gift of the Holy Spirit
is not to be identified with the miraculous powers but it is an unexplainable
inner power of righteousness received by all believers at baptism. It is
not, according to his booklet, sufficient simply to assimilate the mind to
the word of God and allow the word to do its work in our lives producing righteousness
by obedience to its commands, in addition to the Word we are told that God
sends His Holy Spirit into the life of the believer to strengthen him against
temptation and help him to overcome his sin. 17 This Holy
Spirit or Comforter, which gives strength and courage 18 cannot be explained19 but its
working can be felt within 20 as it works
the transformation of the mind.21 The receiving
of this Holy Spirit is thus part of the process of salvation; in fact without
it salvation would appear to be impossible.
Consequences of the new doctrine
Either Brother Norris and the CMPA are correct in saying that God
transforms the character through the direct activity of the Spirit (in which
case Dr. Thomas and other Christadelphians since his day, ourselves included,
have been sadly wrong in trying to overcome their faults by leaning on the
Word of God) or else the traditional view is right, in which case the new
ideas constitute a snare and a delusion which will lead the Brotherhood away
from the necessary struggle of reading the commandments of Jesus and keeping
The writer of this reply believes the new view to be unscriptural and fundamentally
unsound.23 If tolerated, since, as is acknowledged on page 16 of the
pamphlet, it vitally affects our understanding of salvation, its acceptance
will lead to the introduction of more obvious heresy - some of which is
already manifesting itself in certain quarters.
Use of Scripture
The object of this reply is not to examine each of the passages quoted
by Brother Norris for to do so would take a work much longer than the present
one, and in any case this has been adequately performed by others. 24 It is our intention to state the hitherto accepted Christadelphian
position and to show that the scriptures quoted are all capable of being understood
in the way in which Christadelphians have always understood them and that
they in no way support the new doctrinal theory.
Before examining further the point of view advanced in the booklet mention
must be made of the method employed by the author. We deplore the way in
which odd verses and phrases have been taken out of literary and historical
context and strung together to create, what, to the superficial reader, will
appear to be a very strong case. By the same method what a tremendous case
could be made for the false doctrine of the pre-human existence of Jesus,
heaven going at death, and a personal devil! The importance of context is
seen in the following two key passages used by the author to support his theory.
(1) “Ye shall receive the gift of the holy spirit” - Acts 2:38
No matter how well you think you know this chapter please put these
notes down and read it through — all of it. It is a key chapter in this
dispute and its consideration takes up no less than two and a half pages of
Brother Norris’s twenty-page booklet. His case, to a large extent, stands
or falls on this passage even though he admits that his interpretation of
it may be wrong. Read the chapter through and you will see that:-
(a) No-one without preconceived ideas could read this chapter and come
to the conclusion that when Peter said, "Ye shall receive the gift of the
Holy Spirit", he referred to anything other than the same miraculous powers
which had aroused their curiosity and brought about their conviction. The
reasoning of Brother Norris which argues that the gift of the Holy Spirit
was something other than the miraculous powers is wishful thinking entirely
without foundation in the record. There is no power other than the miraculous
gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned by Peter in his speech so how could his
listeners (or his readers since) understand him to be speaking of any other
kind of power? In Acts 10: 45 the gift of the Holy Spirit consisted of
the power to speak with tongues, and Acts 11: 17 says that this was "the
like gift" as was given to the brethren on the Day of Pentecost which consisted
therefore also of miraculous powers. 25 Thus we
(i) a natural reading of Acts 2:
38 in its context teaches that the gift of the Holy Spirit consisted of
(b) The point is made 26 that since the promise of the Holy Spirit was made subsequent
to the cry of the Jews, "Men and brethren what shall we do?" that of necessity
it must be connected with their desire for forgiveness. Again a willingness
to let the record speak for itself shows that Peter offered them, on condition
of their repentance and baptism, the forgiveness of their sins. The need
expressed in the anxious question of the Jews was fully met in the assurance
of God's forgiveness. This has been the Christadelphian position for the
past 125 years.27 We went
to the waters of baptism looking for the forgiveness of our sins. We did
not go seeking the Holy Spirit. Our need was met in the forgiveness of our
sins through the sacrifice of Jesus as was theirs.
(ii) the other references to the gift of the
Holy Spirit in the Acts confirm this.
(iii) there is no evidence in the record that
the gift of the Holy Spirit was an inner power of righteousness to the presence
of which the miraculous powers merely pointed.
But God had made a special promise for those days through the prophet Joel.
The Jews on the Day of Pentecost heard the apostles speaking with tongues
and Peter, in addition to offering them the forgiveness of their sins, offered
them a part in this great, miraculous work of God in those days.
The argument 28 that because the record does not go on to say expressly that
those who responded did in fact receive the miraculous powers, it is unlikely
that they did receive them and therefore the gift of the Holy Spirit is
something other than the miraculous powers, is quite lacking in reasonableness
and definitely not supported by the context where there is no mention of
any kind of Holy Spirit other than that which is miraculous in its working.
The "promise" to which Peter referred in his answer to the repentant
Jews was surely the promise of Joel 2 - "I will pour out my Spirit upon
all flesh", and a reading of Joel 2 and the use Peter makes of it in Acts
2 leaves no room for doubt that this had reference to miraculous powers
- "dreams", "visions", "prophesy" — Peter's statement in Acts 2: 33 should
remove all doubt. 29
(c) As to whether or not this promise of Peter concerning the gift of the
Holy Spirit was restricted in time or not, an honest appraisal of the passage
within its context will sustain the following observations:-
(i) "The promise is to you and
to your children and to all that are afar off" refers without question as
Brother Norris points out, to Jews and Gentiles.
Thus an open minded reading of the record in
Acts 2 approaching it and seeking its simple teaching leads to the conclusions
(ii) "Even to as many as the Lord our God
shall call", however, does not refer to the period of time during which
Jews and Gentiles would be given the Holy Spirit but defines which Jews
and Gentiles would be given it, namely, those called by God.
(iii) The only mention of time
is in verse 17 where speaking of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, Peter
says, "It shall come to pass in the last days I will pour
out of my spirit..." Thus Peter proclaimed that the Holy Spirit would be
poured out on Jews and Gentiles during "the last days", and the scriptures
leave us in no doubt that those “last days” were the last days of Israel
as constituted under the Law Covenant. See for example Heb. 1: 1; 8:13;
I Peter 4: 7; I John 2: 18). The Holy Spirit was poured out in those days
being manifest by signs and wonders, and the absence of the signs and wonders
since those days confirms that this understanding is correct. To assert
that it has been poured out on "all those who come after" is to deny the
facts of history and the teaching of scripture.
(1) The gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on the apostles and others
on the Day of Pentecost.
(2) This gift consisted of miraculous powers, particularly on that occasion
the ability to speak in tongues.
(3) This was given in fulfilment of Joel 2 where God promised to pour
out the Spirit so that they would prophesy.
(4) This same gift of the Holy Spirit was promised to those who repented
and were baptised.
(5) This promise, being that spoken of by Joel,
was for "all flesh" - Jews and Gentiles called of God.
(6) The period of time when this promise was to be kept by God was
"the last days" of the Jewish nation.
This we submit is all that the record contains. It is simple.
It is easy to understand. 30
An Important Question
John 7: 39 states that “the Holy Spirit was not yet given; because
that Jesus was not yet glorified”. The Holy Spirit was given on the day
of Pentecost and Brother Norris maintains that this Holy Spirit was a power
of righteousness in men's lives, the giver of strength in their fight against
sin, and not the miraculous powers given to the early Christians. We ask
then, "Is the process whereby men are saved from this time of Pentecost
a different one from that which prevailed before Pentecost? E.g. was the
process of Abraham's salvation (faith and obedience) different from that
of the believers today?"
(2) Another Key Passage - Ephesians 3: 14-21
This passage provides another corner stone in Brother Norris's argument
being referred to no less than five times in the booklet, 31 but on no occasion is the literary and historical context
allowed to give meaning to the phrases quoted. The author seeks to demonstrate
by the use of this scripture that in some unexplainable mysterious way God
will grant inner strength to modern believers who ask for it. Again we ask
the reader to read through the entire chapter and he will see that this scripture
does not teach this, rather he will see that:-
(a) Paul’s prayer for the Gentiles in Ephesus was that as a result of
their being "strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man" Christ
might dwell in their hearts by faith (v.16, 17). The end product
was Christ in their hearts by faith.
Now the apostle says, "Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word
of God" (Rom. 10: 17). Here then is strong presumptive evidence that being
strengthened with might by the Spirit actually has reference to the word
of God working faith in them.
(b) This is confirmed by the context. Paul has already in this chapter
spoken of the way in which new revelation was being given to the apostles
and prophets at that time by the Spirit (3: 5) and thus it is reasonable
to conclude that it is this same Spirit to which he refers when he prays for
the Gentiles that they might be strengthened with might by his Spirit in
the "inner man" (v.16). That which strengthened was the revelation, or the
word, spoken by means of the Spirit through the apostles, prophets, evangelists,
pastors and teachers, as they ministered instruction, counsel and guidance
to meet the needs of the ecclesia. 32
The "inner man" which Paul prays might be strengthened is "the new man"
(Eph. 4:24) which is conceived by the word of God (I Peter 1: 23), brought
forth by the word (James 1: 18 R.V.) and which is strengthened and nourished
by the word (I Peter 2: 2). 33 The ability
of the word of God to strengthen the inner man that Christ may dwell in men's
hearts by faith is just the same whether it falls direct under the influence
of the Spirit from apostolic lips, as in Ephesus in the first century, or
whether, as in our day, it is read in the pages of the Bible, for the word
of God is living and powerful (Heb. 4: 12). The new theory comes perilously
close to denying this power of God's holy word to save us. 34
(c) Paul’s final ascription of praise in this chapter again needs to be
considered in the first century context in which it was written. "Unto him
that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according
to the power that worketh in ("among" N.E.B.) us", has reference to the
gifts of the Holy Spirit which were present in the ecclesias at that time.
Thus it is seen that this key passage, this pillar of the new theory,
contains nothing that cannot be understood in the traditional Christadelphian
way and the context demands that it be so understood.
It is thus suggested that two key passages used by the author of
the booklet when considered in their literary and historical contexts do
not support the ideas that he seeks to impose on them.
We wish now to demonstrate that in the use of the remaining scriptures
Brother Norris has used them indiscriminately in failing to observe the
clear distinction that exists between the gift of the Holy Spirit and the
Spirit of Christ that is created in the believer's mind by the Word. Brother
Norris maintains that when Paul writes, "Ye are not in the flesh, but in
the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you. Now if any
man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his" (Rom. 8: 9) he is talking
about the same thing as Peter, when, in Acts 2: 38 he declared, "Repent and
be baptised for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the
Holy Spirit". To have the gift of the Holy Spirit is, according to Brother
Norris, the same as having the Spirit of Christ. 35
This position is easily demonstrated to be entirely without foundation by
reading carefully Acts chapter 8 and noting:-
(1) The Samaritans believed and were baptised (Acts 8: 12)
(2) Being baptised they were "in Christ" (Gal. 3: 27)
(3) Being "in Christ" they belonged to Christ (Gal. 3: 29)
(4) If they belonged to Christ they had the Spirit of Christ for "if
any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his" (Rom. 8: 9)
(5) But they did not have
the gift of the holy spirit for the record states that it was not until
Peter and John laid hands on them that they received the Holy Spirit (Acts
8:15-17) which was "the gift of God" (Acts 8: 20). Thus the Spirit of God,
or Spirit of Christ in Romans 8 is not the same as the gift of the
Holy Spirit. Failure to appreciate this difference has pushed Brother Norris
to adopt the position he now advocates.
Each of the scriptures which Brother Norris quotes and mingles indiscriminately
together may, by examining their context, be discovered to refer either to
the gift of the Holy Spirit which has been withdrawn and is no longer available
to believers today, or to the Spirit of Christ which is the "mind of Christ"
or "new man" which is created in us by the word. The scriptures quoted
by Brother Norris may be classified thus:-
(1) References to the miraculous gifts that were withdrawn 36
Luke 11: 13
John chapters 14-16
Romans 5: 5
Romans 14: 17
I Corinthians 3: 16
I Corinthians 6: 19
(2) References to the spirit of Christ created by the word 36
John 3: 3-8
Romans 8: 4, 9, 11, 14
Galatians 5: 16, 18
The appeal to the 1964 Hymnbook
The appeal to the Hymn Book37 to support
the new doctrine is unfortunate for all that it demonstrates, if it be found
to support an unscriptural position, is that it too is Scripturally unsound.
What was in the unenlightened mind of the author of "Abide with me" ought
not to concern those whose minds have been illuminated by the true Gospel.
For them God has spoken:-
Blessed are they who to observe
This paraphrastic translation sets out beautifully
the "traditional" Christadelphian position and shows it to be in harmony
with the revealed will of God:-
His statutes are inclined;
And who do serve the living God
With their whole, heart and mind.
Such in His ways do walk, and they
Do no iniquity
Thou hast commanded us to keep
Thy precepts carefully.
Oh that thy statutes to observe
Thou wouldst my ways direct
Then shall I not be shamed when I
Thy precepts all respect,
(Psalm 119: 1-5)
(1) God has given His word.
“It is God that worketh in you”
(2) We must give our hearts and minds to it.
(3) We must manifest obedience to His commandments.
(4)God will be active in the lives of such faithful children and,
by angelic control of their lives, will direct their ways to keep his statutes
(see Psalm 119:67, 71).
A number of scriptures are quoted by Brother Norris which do not
speak of the direct activity of God in the life of believers by the Spirit
but, which, once the idea has been accepted might superficially appear to
teach it. 38 Since we do not consider the scriptures do teach this direct
inward spirit working we see no necessity to read it into them.
Of course "it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his
good pleasure" (Phil. 2: 13) both then and now. But in this work He uses
means, and the appointed means of our inward renewing is the Spirit-given
word of truth (Note 1 Thess. 2:13), which, (again notice the importance
of the context) if they (and we) would allow it to exert its power in their
lives would produce obedience (verse 12) by developing "the mind...which
was also in Christ Jesus" (verse 5).
God in our lives
Since Brother Norris apparently cannot understand how it is that
Christadelphians have for 125 years been able to deny that God works directly
within by His Spirit and yet have believed that God is very active in the
lives of His children answering their prayers,39 their position should be stated again in simple terms.
We have hitherto believed that God is very active in the lives of His children.
In this external work of God, which produces inward results (cf. Heb. 12:6)
God employs the angels who are "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister
for them who shall be heirs of salvation" (Heb. 1:14). 40 We object to the way in which Brother Norris lightly dismisses
the ability of angels to manipulate the circumstances of the lives of God's
children to give, in answer to their prayers, the encouragement they need
at any time. 41
One of the tragic side effects of accepting the new doctrine is the way
in which the work of angels becomes of little importance in the lives of saints.
Salvation not of works
Lest any be persuaded that the present writer is suggesting that
by our own strength we can achieve salvation, then let it be said that he
readily acknowledges that salvation is "not of works, lest any man should
boast". The victory belongs to God through our Lord Jesus Christ. It is
His word that has the power to change us; it is His forgiveness
that is extended to us; they are His angels that look over us. But
God expects our submission to His revealed will, our acceptance
of His forgiveness and our awareness of His hand in our lives. Our
acceptance of the sweet influence of His word will change us and this change
is a condition of our salvation. The evidence that we have been changed
is seen in obedience to His commandments for "whosoever doeth not righteousness
is not of God" (I John 3:10). It is no "humbler" to obey a supposed direct
action of God's spirit than it is to obey His written command.
The idea of the present possession of the Holy Spirit as a power of righteousness
within is a dangerous doctrine for it leads ultimately to the position where
there is no need to exert ourselves to read and obey and battle with sin.
The new doctrine should be opposed
GOD IN THE BELIEVER'S LIFE - A SUMMARY
- Because it is unscriptural,
- Because it will
lead 43 to a denial of the power of God's word and will reduce the
believer's dependence upon it for strength and guidance, 44 45
- Because it will
lead to a lack of appreciation for the need to keep God's commandments and
produce in consequence a moral decline,
- Because it will
encourage reliance upon human, subjective feelings as the basis and evidence
of our religion, 46
- Because it will
lead to the delusion of "instant salvation" as seen in the evangelical churches,
- Because it will
change the gospel of the Kingdom, as Christ and the apostles preached it,
from a literal kingdom on earth to one which is mystical here and now; 47- It thus leads to "another gospel", 48
- Because it will
blind men to the importance of miracles in God's outworking purpose, 49
- Because it will
detract from the doctrine of angelic supervision of the lives of saints.
The author of this reply believes that the following is a true statement
of the Christadelphian position in its positive and negative aspects.
He appeals to all those who love the Truth to make their voices heard
on its behalf. Ecclesias and individuals are urged to make their feelings
known to the CMPA asking them to withdraw the publication that has prompted
1. The foundation of belief is the Scripture written by the agency
of the Holy Spirit, and therefore an infallible and truthful guide.
2. This Scripture is the written record of the things God has done
for our salvation, instructions as to how to avail ourselves of that salvation,
and prophecy showing how that salvation will ultimately be brought about.
3. The Scripture is the voice of God and His Son, and as such is powerful
to change the characters of those who come to it with an honest heart.
4. It does not, however, reveal its secrets to those who are not prepared
to read it in its natural sense. Those who expect hidden meanings to be
divinely revealed will 'receive' varied and often extraordinary interpretations
not obvious to a reasoned study.
5. Christ is formed in us through a careful reading of the record about
him, and through keeping his commandments. In this way we can understand
his character, his words and his works and so come to grow more like him.
He dwells in our hearts by faith, i.e. through our belief in the things
6. Of great importance in the altering of our characters
is the knowledge that Christ will return bodily to the earth. Until that
time we are guided as to right and wrong only by the word.
7. We are, however, under the control and guidance
of angels, who watch providentially over the lives of all believers, and
control the circumstances of their lives. But within that framework of angelic
control we are left to ourselves (with help and guidance from the word) to
deal with the situation.
SCRIPTURE DOES NOT TEACH THAT:-
1. There is a divine influence, which, entering into our hearts
causes us to understand Scripture.
2. There is any influence received direct from God that improves a believer's
character, or helps him to overcome sin.
3. Men are unable to do good even when they accept the Scripture until
the Holy Spirit has acted upon them.
4. Men in our age receive the Holy Spirit directly, as in the First
(a) Before they can repent
(b) After they repent
(c) When they are baptised
(d) When they are converted
(e) Whenever they pray for it.
1 "Endeavour" No.24, page 9
2 "Endeavour" No.26,
3 "Endeavour" No, 26,
4 "Believer" Vol.2,
No.12, page 13
5 "Believer" Vol.3,
No.15, page 21
6 "Believer" Vol.3,
No.16, page 11
7 "Believer" Vol.2,
No.16, page 12 (capitals are by the author of the original article)
8 "Believer" Vol.4,
No.24, page 11
9 From a letter from
the editor of a Christadelphian preaching publication.
10 "The Holy Spirit"
by Edgar Wille (See footnote 45)
11 In these notes this
is referred to as HSABT, without reference to the author.
12 Also by Brother
Norris in his booklet "Being Born Again". See "Christadelphian" 1959, page
163, 203, 243, 309.
13 See W. J. Young,
"Christadelphian" 1910 p. 13 - "We hold (i) that the Holy Spirit in the first
century was given in open and recognisable fashion; (ii) that it was given
to true believers only: (iii) that its possession was attested by miraculous
powers, (iv) that, with the completion of their purpose, the cessation of
those gifts was foretold, and the Spirit's presence ceased to be evident;
(v) that at the present time the Spirit is not given to men".
14 See Dr. J. Thomas
"Clerical Theology Unscriptural" page 17 "God's power is manifested through
means. His Spirit is His power by which He effects intellectual, moral and
physical results. When He wills to produce intellectual and moral effects,
it is by knowledge revealed by His Spirit through the prophets and apostles.
This knowledge becomes power when received into "good and honest
hearts"; and because God is the author of it, it is styled "the knowledge
of God" (II Peter 1:2), or "the word of truth" James 1:18), by which he begets
sinners to Himself as His sons and daughters".
15 See Robert Roberts,
"Christendom Astray" page 129 (1922 Ed) "The result of an intelligent apprehension
of what the Word of God teaches and requires...has its seat in the judgment,
and lays hold of the entire mental man, creating new ideas and new affections,
and in general, evolving a "new man". In this work the Spirit has no
participation except in the shape of the written word. This is
the product of the Spirit - the ideas of the Spirit reduced to writing by
the ancient men who were moved by it".
16 See R. Roberts,
"Christendom Astray" page 366 (1922 Ed). "Nothing will save a man in the
end, but an exact knowledge of the will of God as contained in the Scriptures,
and faithfully carrying out the same. The wise may protest against the "dogmatism"
and "bigotry" involved in such a course, but the enlightened conscience will
Ibid, page 374, "Ultimate acceptance will depend upon the character he
develops in this new relation. If he bring forth the fruits of the Spirit,
viz. moral results proceeding from the spirit-words (John 6:65) which have
obtained a lodgement in his mind as the motive power, he will be approved
by the Lord when he returns".
17 HSABT, page 19,26
18 Ibid. page 19,21.
19 Ibid, page 20
20 Ibid, page 21 [In
this connection a comment by the same author is of interest. Speaking of
the perception by the individual of the working of the Holy Spirit within,
he writes, “Some of quicker sentiments than others, may believe they feel
the working of God … Some like the … author … might find it hard to feel
anything at all” (A. D. Norris, “A Personal Confession of Faith”). This seems
to be saying that whether men feel God working within depends on our constitution.
(JA, 2002 edition)]
21 Ibid, page 26
Contrast the above references (17-20) with the clear statement in the
"Christadelphian" 1883 page 501. "We find no examples of the Spirit being
given to make a man righteous. The promise of Jesus to send the Comforter
can have no application of a personal nature in these days. We have seen
the promise fulfilled and its work accomplished in the Apostles, not as a
sentiment or feeling, but as a writer of miracles and as a light giver to
22 See "Declaration"
page 40 (1937 Ed) "Instead of immortality being inherent and natural, the
Bible teaches it is a quality brought within reach by Christ in the gospels
and will only be attained on condition of believing the gospel and obeying
the divine commandments"".
23 John Carter, "Christadelphian"
1959, p.310, stated, "Whether we like it or not Brother Norris 's exposition
is not sound".
F. V. Morgan ''Christadelphian" 1959, p. 321, said concerning Brother
Norris's teaching "One suspects that these 'new ideas' involve so fundamental
a change in our traditional doctrines that it may not be possible simply
to leave them to the conscience of the individual".
24 See for example
"The Holy Spirit" by Graham Pearce, the series of articles on the subject
by E. Whittaker and R. Carr in the “Testimony” 1974, 1975, and "The
Holy Spirit" by Aleck Crawford.
25 The argument on
page 18 of HSABT, that because the New Testament uses the word 'gift' of
other things that God has given, therefore the gift of the Holy Spirit cannot
refer to the miraculous signs is a most eccentric piece of exposition, The
fact remains that wherever the word 'gift' is used in connection with
the Holy Spirit in the Acts and the Epistles a straightforward reading
of the text will show that it always has to do with the miraculous
powers (Acts 2: 38; 8: 20, 10: 45; 11: 17; Eph. 3: 7; Heb. 6: 4). The outpouring
of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost was the baptism of Spirit promised
in Acts 1: 5. Concerning this Dr. Thomas wrote ("Faith in the Last Days"
p.214), "Baptism of the spirit in all the subjects of it, was known to all
observers by the effects produced. There could be no mistake
in this. A Christian who said, "I have been baptised with spirit", could prove
his assertion to the conviction of all reasonable persons. He never undertook
to prove such a baptism by an appeal to his own feelings; for what he might
feel in himself was no demonstration to his contemporaries".
26 HSABT, page 16.
27 See "Christadelphian"
1883, p.500 "It could not be said that the gift of the Spirit was necessary
to the 3,000 to secure their salvation. They believed and were baptised into
Christ; the Spirit being superadded to empower each possessor to continue
the work, and not for personal benefit".
It would be interesting to know how many members of the CMPA believed
at the time of their baptism that they were about to receive the gift of
the Holy Spirit; or were they in the position of those in Acts 19: 2? If so
what has happened to them since?
28 HSABT, page 17
29 Once this is accepted,
i.e. that the gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 refers to the miraculous
powers and not to some mystical inner power, then Brother Norris's case crumbles.
For he admits that the miraculous powers have been withdrawn and so, if the
gift of the Holy Spirit = the miraculous powers, then it follows that the
gift of the Holy Spirit has been withdrawn. He admits that his understanding
of this passage may not be correct (HSABT, page 18) and that it is only "probable"
that the gift of the Holy Spirit does not refer to the miraculous powers
(page 18). His whole theory then hangs on a "probable" interpretation which
he confesses may not be correct.
30 This was how Brother
Roberts saw it. See for example "Christendom Astray" page 126 (1922 Ed).
Also see Dr. Thomas, "Christadelphian" 1876, page 50 - "In all this long
series of ages and generations there are no gifts and no other baptism than
that of water. The gifts answered their purpose and then ceased
and nothing remained but "faith, hope and love", the product of the
word read and studied by the honest and good hearted".
31 HSABT, pages 5,
7, 19, 21, 26.
32 See John Carter
"Christadelphian" 1959, page 165 - "The Holy Spirit in the apostles renewed
men and women by the word".
cf. Dr. Thomas "Elpis Israel" page 164 (1958 Ed) - "When in the exercise
of (true religion) men and women are moved to action, they are acted on by
an intelligent and earnest conviction of the Truth. This is the instrumentality
by which He raises them then to religious exercise by the Spirit which is
the Truth (I John 5: 6)".
33 See John Carter
"Christadelphian" 1956 page 248. "The 'new man' is 'created' by the formative
influence of the word of God, by the habitual renewing of the mind. It is
"renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him". The formation
of the new man is the result of a mental process in which a way of thinking
is cultivated in harmony with the divine thought revealed in the word. By
the agency of the divine revelation God reforms a man's thoughts and a mental
"image of God" comes into being..." It (the new man) is put on by the conscious
effort to learn a new way in opposition to habits of thought instinctively
at variance with God's thoughts...the "new man" is revealed in a new way
of life in which the divine character is expressed".
34 Bro. Roberts in
the preface to the "Bible Companion" saw no need for the inward working of
the Spirit - "Salvation depends on the assimilation of the mind to the divine
ideas, principles, and affections, exhibited in the scriptures. This process
commences with a belief of the Gospels but is by no means completed thereby;
it takes a lifetime for its scope and untiring diligence for its accomplishment.
The mind is naturally alien from God and all His ideas (Rom. 8: 7; I Cor.
2: 14) and cannot be brought at once to the divine likeness. This is a work
of slow development and can only be advanced by the industrious application
of the individual to the means which God has given for this purpose; viz.,
the expression of His mind in the Scriptures of truth".
It is sadly noted that this statement is no longer printed in
the introduction to the "Bible Companion" supplied by the CMPA.
35 Bro. John Carter
also observed in the 1959 debate - "The confusion in the use of the word
(spirit) also appears to correspond to confusion in the thought. Truly he
(Bro. Norris) rightly deprecates hasty definitions of what "spirit" is, and
wisely suggests that we shall learn more by "letting the scriptures tell us,
at all costs". But having said that, we look in vain for any clear indication
of the different usages of the word in the Bible, and how we may distinguish
these usages - yet passages appear to be cited upon the one basis of the occurrence
of the word". (Christadelphian, 1959, page 163).
36 For detailed exposition
of these scriptures in harmony with the traditional Christadelphian belief
see "The Holy Spirit" by Graham Pearce, the series by E. Whittaker and R.
Carr in "The Testimony" 1974,75, and "The Holy Spirit" by Aleck Crawford.
37 HSABT, page 22
38 In the same way
once the idea of the immortality of the soul has been accepted then Phil.
1: 22 appears to teach it.
39 This lack of appreciation
is seen in the misleading statement of the traditional position on page 7
of his booklet, paragraph 2.
40 cf. John Carter
"Christadelphian" 1956, page 166 - "We know the Spirit Gifts ceased: and
we believe there has been divine activity with men through angelic ministration
in what we may call the "ways of providence". We would say that in our view
no-one since apostolic times can affirm with certainty that there has been
direct Holy Spirit activity in their lives and that they have been conscious
of it at the time of such activity".
41 HSABT, page 21.
42 As an example of
this see W. Davidson, "Believer" Vol.3, No.16, page 12 - "We do not require
determination in the overcoming of our sins, but so Romans 8 declares, the
resignation of self to the operation of the Holy Spirit".
43 We are not saying
that Brother Norris's booklet manifests all the listed errors of belief,
but these are the logical outcome of accepting what he has written. Other
writers, e.g. Edgar Wille quoted below, see themselves as reaching similar
conclusions as Brother Norris.
44 e.g. "The Holy Spirit"
by Edgar Wille, page 28 - "The Bible is the source of information about the
redemptive work of Christ. It reports the great redemptive act, but it takes
something more than black words on white paper to work it into our experience".
45 Although Edgar Wille
is no longer (2002) a member of the Christadelphian Community this book has
recently been made available by a Christadelphian sympathiser in North America,
and is in fact being promoted on the same Australian internet site as HSABT.
Also, sadly, EW is given space on the site to air his evangelical views,
with apparent approval.
46 E.g. "The Holy Spirit"
by Edgar Wille, page 62 - "The Spirit is not "a subject" to be written about,
to debate, to have a theology of, the Spirit is to be experienced".
47 E.g. "The Kingdom
of God", Alfred Norris, page 7 - "One or two things should be pointed out
about this (present) aspect of the kingdom. It is real enough, as we have
shown, and as Paul shows again when he says of the faithful that God hath
translated them into the kingdom of his dear son (Col. 1: 13)... We can only
gain admission to it by being born again: Except a man be born of water and
the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God' (John 3: 5)".
See also "The Holy Spirit" by Edgar Wille where he speaks of the time
from Pentecost as "the age of the Spirit" - the kingdom or Kingly reign of
God" (page 19). Concerning this "Kingdom" he states, "Not intellectual satisfaction
or external power -but divinely initiated inner change alone could enable
a man to perceive the kingly dominion (kingdom) of God which operated at
a higher level than the physical" (page 18) "The Kingdom now proclaimed was
not a political or observable physical phenomenon but an inner state" (page
48 See "The Holy Spirit'',
Edgar Wille - "a true doctrine and real experience of the Holy Spirit is
fundamental to the Gospel.
Also see, "The Believer" Vol.3, No, 16, page 12 "Both sides of the gospel
appear equally important - belief of the Word of Truth and the work of the
49 The beginnings
of this are seen in the work under review where the miracles of Pentecost
are seen as fulfilling a relatively minor role.
50 See for example,
HSABT, page 21 - The only reference to angels in a work purporting to consider
the activity of God in the lives of His children!
51 As stated in the
Introduction to the 2002 edition, the booklet is no longer published by the
CMPA and has been unavailable for several years. It is therefore a cause
of great concern that it is once again being promoted.