Completing our study of the fourth spring feast, we find that every person can see Jesus in the Feast of Pentecost by observing His promises about the coming Holy Spirit:
- His promise to depart and return to the Father (John 16:7). The coming of the Holy Spirit was contingent upon Jesus completing His work of redemption and returning to His Father. See also John 7:39; Acts 2:32-3. A.J. Gordon writes, “The Spirit of God is the successor of the Son of God in His official ministry on earth. Until Christ’s earthly work for His church had been finished, the Spirit’s work in this world could not properly begin. The office of the Holy Spirit is to communicate Christ to us – Christ in His entireness” (The Ministry of the Spirit, p. 28).
- His promise to send the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is said to be a gift from the Father (John 14:16, 26) sent by the Son (John 15:26: 16:7). Roy B. Zuck, in A Biblical Theology of the New Testament, comments: “Whatever else is meant by the difficult statement that the Spirit ‘goes out from the Father’ (John 15:26), it implies that the Spirit shares the same essential nature as the Father. In fact, John was indicating here the parallelism between the mission of the Son, sent from God (3:17, 34; 5:36-38; 6:29, 57; 7:29; 8:42; 10:36; 11:42; 17:3, 8, 18, 21, 23, 25; 20:21), and the mission of the Son’s replacement, the Holy Spirit, who would be ‘another Paraclete’ to the disciples and who would enable them to carry on Jesus’ mission after He returned to the Father.”
- His promise of the Spirit’s ministry to unbelievers (John 16:8-11). Without the Spirit’s work to convince unbelievers of the sin of unbelief, the righteousness of Christ, and the judgment that will fall upon them if they persist in their rejection of Jesus, no one could be saved. In fact, the Spirit already was at work on the morning of Pentecost, pricking the hearts of the Jewish unbelievers listening to Peter (Acts 2:37).
- His promise of the Spirit’s ministry to believers, specifically:
- To regenerate us, or make us spiritually alive (John 3:3-8; Titus 3:5).
- To indwell us, or take up permanent residence in our human spirit (John 14:17; 1 Cor. 3:16).
- To baptize us, initiating our relationship to Him and establishing our connection with Christ and other believers (Acts 1:5; 1 Cor. 12:13).
- To seal us, a guarantee that God will take us fully into His presence one day (Eph. 1:13-14).
- To teach us, or give us divine assistance (John 14:26; 1 Cor. 2:12-13; 1 John 2:27).
- To empower (fill) us for witnessing (Acts 1:8).
- To empower (fill) us for service (Act. 6:5; Eph. 5:18). As Paul S. Karleen writes in The Handbook to Bible Study: With a Guide to the Scofield Study System, “Filling is the result of a consistent walk with God, and depends on a genuine and mature relationship with the Holy Spirit, Simply asking to be filled will not bring it.”
- To equip us with spiritual gifts (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:7-11; Eph. 4:11; 1 Peter 4:11).
5. His promise to identify His Body (the church) by the Spirit (John 14:16-18; Rom. 8:9-11).
We are beginning an 8-week study of world religions and cults. Our stand will be on the truth of Jesus’ words in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Is this view narrow-minded, outdated, or even bigoted, as some suggest? Quite the contrary. The words Christ speaks are “spirit” and “life” (John 6:63). To disregard them is perilous. Yet many do. According to Adherents.com, there are 6.6 billion people in the world today. Among these are 1.5 billion Muslims, 1.1 billion nonreligious people, 900 million Hindus, nearly 400 million Buddhists, 7 million Baha’is, and millions of adherents to countless other faiths. The Web site also says there are 2.1 billion “Christians,” a broad category that includes Catholics and Protestants, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and so-called “nominal” Christians. If the exclusive claims of Jesus are true – and I believe they are – and even if everyone who claims to be a Christian really is, then 4.5 billion people still stand outside the kingdom of heaven. By all appearances, these people are sincere. They want to know the truth, and many believe they have found it. How can 4.5 billion people be wrong? Every Christian can answer this question by understanding the Biblical descriptions of those who do not know Christ.
A Godly purpose
Our purpose in this study is not to condemn anyone or to assume God’s role as sovereign judge of the universe; rather, it is to compare the teachings of some of the world’s major religions and cults with biblical, historical Christianity so that we might be more effective in praying for and witnessing to the lost, and wiser in our ability to discern false doctrines. Every person, regardless of his or her religious beliefs, is precious in the eyes of God and is someone for whom Christ died. Our attitude as we study these false religious systems should be one of humility, love, and grace.
A look at 2 Cor. 11:1-4
The words of the apostle Paul are clear: Those who are not grounded in the Word of God are subject to deceptive teachings about “another Jesus … a different spirit … a different gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4 HCSB). Every world religion and every cult that we study professes belief in Jesus and has an exalted place for Him in its theology. But without exception, each of these belief systems fails to correctly answer the key question Jesus asked in Matt. 16:15: “Who do you say that I am?”
In his classic book The Kingdom of the Cults, the late Dr. Walter Martin tells about a training program held by the American Banking Association. Each year the ABA sends hundreds of bank tellers to Washington to teach them to detect counterfeit money. Writes Martin:
“It is most interesting that during the entire two-week training program, no teller touches counterfeit money. Only original passes through his hands. The reason for this is that the American Banking Association is convinced that if a man is thoroughly familiar with the original, he will not be deceived by the counterfeit bill, no matter how much like the original it appears. It is the contention of this writer that if the average Christian would become familiar once again with the great foundations of his faith, he would be able to detect those counterfeit elements so apparent in the cult systems, which set them apart from Biblical Christianity” (pp. 16-17).
This is a great lesson for us. Even though we will spend some time looking at the history and teachings of major world religions and cults, our focus should be on the truth of the Word of God. Then it won’t matter what the counterfeit religions are; we’ll be able to identify them and lovingly steer their proponents toward the truth.
The state of the lost
Back to our earlier question: If we believe Jesus is the only way of salvation, and if so many people reject that belief, how can so many people be wrong? The answer lies in what the Bible teaches about the state of those who don’t know Christ. Specifically, the Bible says the unbeliever is:
- Natural (vs. spiritual) – a man or woman who regards the things relating to God’s Spirit as foolishness (1 Cor. 2:14)
- Blinded in his or her mind by Satan (2 Cor. 4:3-4)
- Bound by Satan (2 Tim. 2:26)
- Alienated from God (Eph. 4:18)
- An enemy of God (Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21)
- Condemned (John 3:18)
- In spiritual darkness (Acts 26:18; Eph. 5:8; Col. 1:13; 1 Peter 2:9)
- Spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1-2)
What hope exists for these 4.5 billion people? As we speak to them about the things we have seen and heard (Acts 4:20), the Holy Spirit must do the necessary work of convincing them of their need for Christ (see John 16:7-11). As we learn to share our faith with unbelievers, we must remind ourselves that winning the lost requires patience, perseverance, a clear understanding of scripture, and above all the work of the Spirit.