Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 19, 1968
NUMBER 33, PAGE 7b-9a

The "Gift" Of Acts 2:38

R. L. (Bob) Craig

A statement of mine was injected into an article by Ferrell Jenkins in the recent "Special Number" of the Gospel Guardian on the Holy Spirit. That statement came from an article of mine appearing in The Preceptor, August, 1967. Brother Jenkins used my statement for one purpose, stating that "the truth probably lies between extremes and is illustrated by an experience related by R. L. Craig." He then relates said experience and leaves the impression, at least with me, that I completely departed from my experience. If the reader will go back and look at my Preceptor article, he will see that I did no such thing, but used the premise of the statement quoted to arrive at my conclusion. Since a portion of my article has been used, and I believe used wrongly, and since this "Special Number" did not allow the position I, and others, hold on the "gift of the Holy Spirit" to be presented, I should like to state my case at this time and beg your indulgence and also ask for any comments on weaknesses observed. Also I would like for someone to explain the weaknesses of the positions I shall indicate in this article and have already written about in The Preceptor. Come on, brethren, let me have it!

I state, in plain language, that I believe "the gift of the Holy Spirit" of Acts 2:38 is NOT the Spirit himself but something that emanates from the Spirit. All the writers in the "Special," except Elvis Bozarth; nearly all who have dealt with the subject in the Firm Foundation and Gospel Advocate, have taken the position, almost arbitrarily, that "the gift" just has to be the Spirit himself. So, first, let's look at the language.

In the Preceptor article from which brother Jenkins quotes, I paraphrased the Greek source to which I appealed. This time I will quote him verbatim. "Most scholars take tou hagiou pneumatos as appositional genitive which would make the Holy Spirit the gift. However, the ablative case in Greek has the same endings as the genitive and only the context will determine whether it should be taken as a genitive or whether as an ablative. The ablative case is the case denoting source or separation... Now I am not saying that the Greek words mentioned above in Acts 2:38 are ablative; but this is a possibility. And I am only pointing this out from the grammatical point of view. It is not to be taken as my own. But if this is adopted, it would mean that the gift is 'from' the Spirit, but not the Spirit Himself."

I had already determined that the above had to be true inasmuch as there are other verses in the New Testament, written in exactly the same way, that indicate source, and no one questions them. Two such examples are found in John 4:10 and Eph. 4:7. There are others but these two can hardly be otherwise interpreted, hence we use them. John 4:10 speaks of the "gift of God." This is the same Greek construction as in Acts 2:38 except for the word God. Thus, according to our dogmatic writers and commentators this language would be appositional genitive, hence, the gift would HAVE to be God himself. But the context demands otherwise, doesn't it? Eph. 4:7 has the same Greek construction except for the word Christ. But is Christ the gift here? No, the context readily points us to the fact that grace is the gift from Christ. So, you can see, whether you know the grammatical Greek or not, the English will point us in the right direction if we allow it to. I had arrived at this conclusion and had already written one article on this subject before I received the explanation from my Greek source. He merely corroborated what I had already concluded, that is, so far as the Greek is concerned. After quoting from me and agreeing that the above concept is "probably" true, brother Jenkins then accepted wholeheartedly the comments of others that it HAD to be the Spirit himself without any examination of context or other scripture. I challenge him or someone else to do so.

In a recent public question and answer session after my having preached on "The Gift of The Holy Spirit" this question was asked: "Brother Craig, it seems to me that the language is clearly saying that the Spirit is the gift. Just how much plainer could language be than this?" I answered his question by pointing out that all the translators of both the King James and American Standard had rendered it as found in the Greek text. Had they wanted to convey in plainer language that they believed Peter was talking about the Spirit as a gift, they would have done as the modernist translators or commentators of the New English Version did. They put it like this, and surely this is plainer, "...and you will receive God's gift. the Holy Spirit." They did this in spite of the fact that the text from which they translated read: "tou hagiou pneumatos." I have it before me right now. Yes, if that's what Peter meant, he could have said it like the modernists: he could have made it much plainer. In fact, he could have said. "ye shall receive the Holy Spirit," but he didn't. I wonder why?

Now, in most all these articles on the Holy Spirit in the Gospel Guardian, Firm Foundation. Gospel Advocate, the writers take the position that the Spirit works in man ONLY by the word. That is, all except a few who plainly state that they believe the Spirit works in man through some medium other than by the word. They admit that they cannot explain how or by what means or what it is that he does. In fact, they might as well say with our Pentecostal friends, "better felt than told." These have been dealt with very thoroughly, therefore I'll have nothing more to say about them.

But. the very ones who take them to task will turn right around and end up almost in the same position. Everyone I've talked with admits that he believes the Spirit works in man only to the extent that the word dwells in him, but he begins to have trouble explaining what he means. If the "gift" of Acts 2:38 is the Spirit himself, as they say, and not something that comes from the spirit, like I say, and this "gift" is conditioned on faith. repentance, and baptism, someone please explain to me, and others, just how this works.

When one comes forth from immersion, does he then have this gift the Spirit? If so, to what extent? And if so, is this gift — the Spirit himself — doing something to man or in man that we can separate from the word? If so, why not just join Allen and Atkinson and say so? But, if you still maintain he works only by the word, will he work in you, if you do not put forth diligent effort to "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly?" And if you are the one who is responsible for how much of the word dwells in you and the Spirit works in you only by the word, how does this fit in the category of a "gift"? Is that what you mean — that God gave you what knowledge you possess as a "gift"? If that is what you mean, say so, and we'll discuss with you the miraculous working of the Spirit in man.

No, brethren, those are questions you cannot answer and stick with the premise that the Spirit works in man ONLY by the word. Yes, I believe that the Spirit dwells in man, but the question is. "How?" I believe that he dwells in man to the extent and only to the extent that the word has access to his heart and directs his life. But this is not "the gift" of Acts 2:38 — in fact, this is not even "a" gift but something that man himself has complete control of. He may "quench the Spirit" or he may "be filled with the Spirit" but this is up to him.

I have written a whole lot and still have not said what I believe "the gift" is. You can read a thorough discussion of this subject in The Preceptor, June. 1967. Briefly, I believe that that great gift is the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham: "In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." That is what all the Jews were looking for. so Peter tells them on Pentecost about all the things done through Christ (the seed) whereby they can have everything contained in that promise the remission of sins AND the hope of life eternal. "For the promise is unto you and to your children and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." Paul tells Agrippa about the great plan of God whereby finally Paul was to be sent to the Gentiles "to open their eyes, that they might turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in me." (Acts 26:18) A parallel to Acts 2:38. So, any blessing in Christ in addition to remission would be included in "the gift of the Holy Spirit" for it is by the Spirit that we have access to these things in this Spirit dispensation.

— 118 Sage, Lake Jackson. Texas 77566