One of my favorite things is bringing up verses no one likes to deal with, verses you haven’t heard in church for quite some time, verses that commentaries skip over, verses that mess with our pat doctrine. Part of me does this for kicks, the other part likes to see what people think they mean, which helps me determine what to do with them as well, since I don’t always know either.
Here’s a great one I had to mention in my sermon this week on Acts 5:
“we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost,
whom God hath given to them that obey him.”
Peter is speaking and says that God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey him. Now, we all know that it is absolutely impossible for people to obey God unless they have the Spirit, so how can God give the Spirit to those who obey God, which they can’t do unless they have the Spirit?
There are several approaches:
1) Bash Peter. Seriously, what does he know? Paul is the only apostle who knows anything, so we’re safe in ignoring Peter here as speaking nonsense.
2) Define Words. “Obey” might not mean obey, if we try hard enough, we might get there and turn obey into “be in the general vicinity of God” or something.
3) Muddy the subject. Maybe the giving of the Spirit does not refer to salvation but rather to the giving of the Spirit with power as evidenced by tongues in the early church.
4) Pretend this verse doesn’t exist. Hey, how about them Packers?
5) Go with it. Only those who obey God get the Spirit, which seems to be the plain meaning.
For me, I guess number three seems plausible. Number one seems cheap since all Scripture is inspired and I can’t imagine Peter snuck one through. Number two is out because obey here is the strongest Greek word for obey that could be used (means to submit without question). Number four, although easiest, isn’t really an answer.
Then there’s option 5, anyone got the guts to go with the plain words?