Can We Hold Back the Holy Spirit?

From Donald…
The Prophet Jeremiah said it was like fire shut up in his bones, that if Jeremiah tried to hold back it would weary him. So, if a person who is so full of joy because of what God has done for them tries to hold it back, it would weary them. So, the way that individual lets it go is by shouting and dancing. So, was Jeremiah and the person full of joy influenced by the Holy Spirit?

  • Jeremiah was certainly influenced by the Holy Spirit.
  • Jeremiah was not someone filled with joy, at least as we normally think of it.
  • Jeremiah’s ministry was a great burden, and he had little visible fruit.
  • The passage referred to in Jeremiah 20 tells us what a burden the prophet felt his ministry was, at least at times.
  • There is no shouting and dancing in this Jeremiah 20 passage.

Jeremiah 20:7

O LORD, You induced me, and I was persuaded;

You are stronger than I, and have prevailed.

I am in derision daily;

Everyone mocks me.

Jeremiah 20:8

For when I spoke, I cried out;

I shouted, “Violence and plunder!”

Because the word of the LORD was made to me

A reproach and a derision daily.

Jeremiah 20:9

Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him,

Nor speak anymore in His name.”

But His word was in my heart like a burning fire

Shut up in my bones;

I was weary of holding it back,

And I could not.

At the same time, Jeremiah was not a defeated man. In this same context he found confidence and strength in God, as Jeremiah 20:11 shows:

Jeremiah 20:11

But the LORD is with me as a mighty, awesome One.

Therefore my persecutors will stumble, and will not prevail.

They will be greatly ashamed, for they will not prosper.

Their everlasting confusion will never be forgotten.

With your teaching of the Sabbath, how do you get around the 3rd commandment?

From David on Facebook:

With your teaching of the Sabbath, how do you get around the 3rd commandment?

It’s really the 4th commandment, found in Exodus 20:8-11:

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

  • The principle of the Sabbath goes back to creation; the law of the Sabbath was given to Israel and was not universally given by God.
  • Remember that the ten commandments were given as law to Israel, not to the world in general.
  • Remember that the ten commandments are part of the Mosaic Law – to be understood in light of how Jesus Christ fulfilled the law. The Sabbath law, even included in the ten commandments, are part of the law that included animal sacrifice and priestly service.
  • Remember the meaning of the word “Sabbath” – it means rest. We truly “remember the rest” when we see it fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Is it Biblical to say that if one follows Christ Jesus that they will be financially wealthy?

From Teresa on Facebook:

I have another question & hope to be showed thru the Scriptures, if not being financially wealthy is a curse by God?

  • Riches are an obstacle to the Kingdom of God:

Matthew 19:23-24

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

  • Riches are not an insurmountable obstacle to the Kingdom of God:

Matthew 19:25-26

When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”

But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

  • Many men in the Bible were both godly and rich, including Job, Abraham, Jacob, David, Joseph of Arimathea, and others.
  • One key to overcoming the obstacle of wealth: setting your heart in the right place. Where are your greatest desires? Do you own your wealth, or does your wealth own you? Better yet, do you live with the real awareness that all you have belongs to God?

1 Timothy 6:9

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.

  • Another key to overcoming the obstacle of wealth: generosity.

How can we determine which ancient manuscript of the Bible is most accurate?

The Critical Text of Revelation 17:16 says that the horns AND beast will hate the harlot. Textus Receptus Bibles say that the horns upon the beast will hate the harlot. Which is correct?

I can give you a quick answer to that question: I don’t know. And I wouldn’t know apart from doing some deeper research.

This question refers to a phenomenon in understanding the manuscripts of the Bible. We understand that there are two main families of manuscripts. Sometimes these different families of manuscripts go under different names. The Majority Text or the Alexandrian Text would be one family. The other family of ancient Greek manuscripts is called the Byzantine Text or the Received Text. These two families of manuscripts come from different geographies and slightly different traditions. There are many more manuscripts within the Byzantine or Received Text tradition, while there are older existing manuscripts in the Alexandrian family of manuscripts.

When we come across a difference in the readings between the two families of manuscripts, how do we know which one is correct? Here’s what we should not do. We should not say one family of manuscripts is always right and the other family of manuscripts is always wrong.

Personally, I have an appreciation for the Greek manuscripts that come from the Byzantine tradition where there are many more manuscripts. But I don’t think it’s wrong or ignorant for other people to favor the Alexandrian collection, which includes older manuscripts. I think these determinations must be made on a case-by-case basis.

I can’t answer off the top of my head because I’m not super conversant with this particular issue, but here’s the principle by which I would dig into the question. I would go to the Greek resources that we have – I have them in print, but you can also get them online – and simply look at which manuscripts include which readings, which dates, which families, which numbers of manuscripts, and so on. I believe that these textual questions must be determined on a case-by-case basis, comparing the two texts and deciding which manuscript tradition seems stronger, better, or more likely. That’s how I would determine that.

What criterion should we apply in discerning purported prophetic voices?

What criterion should we apply in discerning purported prophetic voices? The Old Testament suggests perfection is required. But the New Testament suggests possible leeway, provided they’re consistent with Scripture.

First, we judge any purported prophetic word by the Scriptures themselves. That’s the first grid by which we judge things. The Bible tells us to test the spirits, to test and to judge prophetic words; they shouldn’t just be received. This is a big problem in the charismatic or Pentecostal world of today: bizarre, extravagant, and sometimes just plain stupid words of prophecy are presented, and they’re not judged or evaluated at all. Again, this is a big problem among those who believe in the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit.

The first and ultimate criteria by which any prophecy, teaching, or assertion should be judged is by the Word of God. If it contradicts what the Bible says, then you know it’s not from God. So that’s one grid to run it through.

Secondly, I also think that God gives discernment to leaders and individuals and churches. A pastor, elders, and the leadership team, should be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and be able to discern. Someone may try to make a prophetic announcement that isn’t dealt with at all in the Scriptures. If that’s the case, then I really would leave it up to the discernment of leaders within a church fellowship.

A third grid to run it through is that if somebody makes an assertion about something happening in the future, then that thing has to happen. Now, I will say that it’s easy for us to overthink what God predicts about the future, and for us to assume a fulfillment, rather than just take exactly what it says. I regret that I really can’t think of a good example of this at the moment. We need to be guarded and measured, but we shouldn’t be too quick to say something is not going to happen. Now, if somebody gives a specific date for something to happen, then you’re going to know whether it happened or not. If somebody speaks about something in the future, whether it’s for the distant future, or the near future where it can be specifically judged, that’s exactly what we should do. But we should understand that maybe it’s not always clear.

In one sense, the bigger question is what to do with someone who gives a prophetic word that is judged to be false, or not of the Holy Spirit or of God at all? Well, I don’t think that we should take them out back and stone them as the Old Testament for Israel would describe. And I don’t think that we should necessarily excommunicate that person from the Body of Christ. That person should be humble about it, and repentant where appropriate or necessary. But I think that we should say, “Hey, listen, don’t do that. Don’t speak on your own initiative and call it the Lord.” Because really, that’s what’s happening in almost every case where a purported prophetic word is given and it’s not of God. It’s somebody speaking on their own initiative, but then claiming that it’s of God in some way. So, that’s what I would recommend in those situations.

Does the War of Gog and Magog occur before or after Christ’s Millennial Reign?

Why do some End Time Prophecy teachers say that the War of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38 occurs BEFORE Christ’s 1000-Year Reign, when Revelation 20:7-10 describes the same war as occurring AFTER this period?

In my mind, what we see in Ezekiel 38-39 really has no definite marker in the New Testament. Now, there is the reference that you mentioned in Revelation 20:7-10. But there are some people who think, and I think it could be true, that this refers to a second or further war. Gog and Magog are used as a picture for those set against God in general. Revelation 20 is drawing on that picture and expanding it. Not just one or two nations will come against God at the end of the Millennium: it’s all the earth. So, Revelation 20 doesn’t use Gog and Magog in strictly the same sense as it’s used in Ezekiel 38. I think it’s just a little hard to pin down.

When does the Ezekiel 38 scenario happen? I can’t say for sure. I could make a case for it happening at some earlier point in God’s unfolding plan or for some point at the very end of the Millennium. I just don’t think there’s a great deal of certainty. Some people may argue that there can be more than one fulfillment of a prophecy, and that there may be a second fulfillment of it. I think it’s fair to make the case that it could be completely fulfilled by what is seen in Revelation 20.

Did God or the people of Israel decide to send spies into the land? How do we reconcile parallel accounts, such as Deuteronomy 1 and Numbers 13-14?

I got some pushback in my Bible study last Saturday reading Numbers 13-14 about the spies sent out. I use your commentary as a resource to help facilitate the group. I shared that it was not God who sent the spies, as recounted in Deuteronomy 1. But Numbers 13 says that it was the Lord who spoke to Moses, saying, “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan.” How can I reconcile this?

It’s not easy. We are dealing here with parallel accounts, and we need to reconcile them properly. The Deuteronomy account would imply to us that the desire to send out the spies came from the people. The Numbers account would imply to us that the instruction to send out the spies came from the Lord speaking to Moses.

Here’s how I reconcile this in my mind. I think that the initial impulse came from the people. They said, “Let’s do it, let’s invest, and let’s see if this land is as God has promised it would be to us.” I would regard this as being something of a declaration of unbelief, lacking in faith, saying, “Is God really true to His word?”

But here’s the other aspect. I also believe that once the people said that, then God gave direction to Moses on how it should be done. In other words, it’s analogous to how the people of Israel asked for a king. If you remember, in the book of 1 Samuel, the impulse to have a king came from the people. The people didn’t want God as their ruler and king; they wanted to have a king like the other nations. Now, after the people made that determination, God then said, “Okay, this is how I’m going to bring a king to you.”

So, I believe that the initial impulse to send out the spies came from the people, but then God said, “Okay, this is how we’re going to do it.” God gave specific instructions to Moses such as selecting one man from every tribe and sending them forth to do their mission in a specific way. That’s how I connect these two ideas. The original impulse came from the people, and then God afterwards directed them in how it should be done. It’s more of a “both/and” equation, and less of an “either/or” equation.

What do you think about people that feel like it is important to cover their head during church service? Is it up to the individual?

First, there is no New Testament idea of men covering their head during a church service. There is the New Testament idea as indicated for us in 1 Corinthians, of women wearing head coverings or veils. Many people ask, “Since this instruction is given to us in 1 Corinthians, why don’t we do that today?” I’ll explain to you exactly my thinking here.

The principle of the head covering in 1 Corinthians is important and continues to this day. The principle being recognized is that women are under God’s authority, and under the authority of God’s appointed leaders in a local congregation, which I believe would be men, by biblical instruction. The head covering was a symbol of being under authority. That’s what a head covering meant in the context of Corinth and the Mediterranean world. It was a way of saying, “I am under authority.”

Now, the principle of recognizing authority still stands. That principle still extends to the women of a congregation recognizing the authority that God has given to the called, appointed, qualified men in a congregation. But a head covering does not carry the same meaning in our culture today. So, the principle goes across all time for the church, while the expression of the principle can differ from place to place or culture to culture.

In our culture, a married person wears a wedding ring on their left hand. In other cultures, people wear a wedding ring on the ring finger of the right hand. Well, which one is a way to say that a person is married? It depends on the culture. The principle of having some identifying mark that lets everybody know I’m married is good. But the way it’s expressed can differ from culture to culture. That’s how I regard the head covering.

People might argue that I’m making the principle culturally subjective, but I’m not. I’m making the expression culturally subjective, which we all do. For example, I would suppose that very few of my viewers greet one another with a holy kiss in their church, as described in Paul’s letters. There may be a few; I’ve been in some churches in Bulgaria or Romania where they take that instruction seriously, and they give you a holy kiss. We understand the principle of what Paul says there, “Greet one another with a warm greeting.” A warm greeting was expressed by a holy kiss in those cultures. It’s not the kissing that’s important, it’s the principle. In the same way, I’m arguing that it’s not the actual head covering that’s important; it’s the principle.

Now, is it permissible for somebody? I would say that if a woman wants to wear a head covering in a congregation today, she has full freedom to go ahead. There’s no command against it. But here’s the condition: don’t suppose that you’re observing the biblical principle of recognizing God’s leadership for a local congregation just by wearing a head covering.

Let me give you a hypothetical example. Imagine a woman who’s very fastidious about wearing a head covering. But at that church, she’s doing everything she can to take control and to undermine the leadership and to put herself forward. She’s keeping the outward cultural expression of that command, in New Testament times, but she’s not keeping the principle at all.

So, as long as the principle is observed, biblically speaking, I think women are free to wear or to not wear a head covering, as might please them. But I don’t think there’s a command to do it. The principle is commanded, not the outward expression. But neither is there a prohibition of it. I think it’s just a matter of individual conscience and what somebody would choose to do.

Did Jacob physically wrestle with an angel all night? Was this an allegory?

Did Jacob physically wrestle with an angel all night? Would that mean that Jacob had abnormal strength and stamina to wrestle with something that wasn’t a human? Or is this an example of an allegory?

I do believe that Jacob physically wrestled with a being. However, I don’t think that it was fundamentally an angelic being. I think it was a what we call a Christophany or, in a more general sense, a theophany. This was an Old Testament appearance of Jesus Christ before His incarnation. We know that Jesus, as God the Son, the second Person of the Trinity, existed before His conception in Nazareth and His birth in Bethlehem. In His pre-incarnate existence, it seems clear from the pages of the Old Testament that there were times when the Angel of the Lord or some divine physical appearance occurred. This was nothing other than Jesus Christ appearing in human form before His incarnation. I believe that that’s who Jacob wrestled with.

I don’t know that God gave Jacob supernatural strength. In a way, I think Jacob had supernatural strength: the supernatural strength of stubbornness. Let me tell you, that is a supernatural strength, isn’t it? Some people have that divine gift of stubbornness like crazy.

So, we understand that Jesus wrestled with Jacob. By the way, I think the phrasing of this is very important. It doesn’t say that Jacob wrestled with the angel; the angel there would be Jesus Himself. But rather, it says that the Man, as he called it, wrestled with Jacob. This was initiated by God Himself. It was initiated by God Himself, to break Jacob of his self-will, to bring him to an end of himself.

I think Jacob very much had the supernatural strength, if you want to call it that, of self-will and stubbornness. And that’s what God broke down in Jacob, over this long, extended wrestling match.

I believe this was an actual appearance of Jesus, and Jesus measured His strength against Jacob to exhaust him fully and completely.

What does it mean to “grow in grace” as in 2 Peter 3:18?

2 Peter 3:18a – But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

That’s a wonderful question. I think it’s very important to grow in the grace of God. The grace of God is a principle and a truth that we should know and be growing in. As believers, it’s important for us to have a growing understanding and appreciation of the grace of God.

I wrote a book about grace, called “Standing in Grace.” Most of my books are Bible commentaries, but this one is all about grace. I wrote it and self-published it; no real publisher has ever picked it up. But I think it’s a good book, and you can order it from our online store. You can also find it in Kindle format on Amazon.

I think that grace is also used in a general sense. “Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” is saying to grow spiritually, grow in your life and your relationship with the Lord. There is a real and genuine way in which we should grow in our understanding and experience of the grace of God.

Where in Scripture do people find the idea of praying, “I decree and declare”?

There are passages of Scripture which speak very strongly about our authority in Christ in prayer. But that’s the kicker: We don’t have this authority resident within us. We can’t go around saying, “I want this, I want that, I decree this, I decree that,” in and of ourselves. Our authority in Jesus only goes as far as the authority and the will of Jesus Himself. I could decree something all day long, but if it’s not in the will of Jesus, it’s not going to happen.

The Bible speaks to us about our authority as believers. 1 John 5:14 – Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. Jesus said in John 15:7, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” And in John 16:23, “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.”

These and similar passages really give us wonderful and important promises about prayer. We should be filled with faith when we pray. However, we need to recognize that our faith is not in our authority, in our will, in our analysis, but in God’s perfect wisdom and strength.

They might also get such an idea from passages like Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18, where Jesus speaks of “binding and loosing.” I believe those passages specifically refer to the authority he was giving to the apostles of the first century, to be the rabbis for a new work of God’s kingdom.

I think those are the passages that would lead people to think that we can decree this or that. But we must come back to the principle that all the authority which a believer has is authority that’s given to them in Christ, and it can only be properly exercised in Christ.

What does it mean to be poor in spirit, as in Matthew 5?

I’m going to refer to my commentary on Matthew 5 and the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus spoke about poverty of spirit, and made this wonderful promise, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

Jesus promised blessing to His disciples, promising that the poor in spirit are blessed. 

This is not a man’s confession that he is by nature insignificant, or personally without value, for that would be untrue. Instead, it is a confession that he is sinful and rebellious and utterly without moral virtues adequate to commend him to God.

When we talk about ourselves being poor in spirit, there’s a sense in which we are bankrupt debtors before God. And we need His help. We need Him to come and make us alive.

The poor in spirit recognize that they have no spiritual “assets.” They know they are spiritually bankrupt. We might say that the ancient Greek had a word for the “working poor” and a word for the “truly poor.” Jesus used the word for the truly poor here. It indicates someone who must beg for whatever they have or get.

We are talking about people who are genuinely poor and recognize their poverty of spirit before God. We recognize that we are people of deep and profound need before God. We come to Him as beggars, as people who need. That is the starting point, and you could say that it’s a theme throughout a person’s walk with God. But God wants to make us blessed, to be richly thriving in spirit before Him. It’s not that we ever lose our essential need or dependence upon God. But we see that Jesus Christ brings us what we could never have in and of ourselves.

What’s your view of amillennialism?

I think it’s an incorrect understanding of the Scriptures. It takes many clear and direct Old Testament passages and needs to allegorize them. Amillennialism is a way of saying, “No Millennial Kingdom.” It believes that all the promises of God about a Millennial Kingdom are merely symbolic and teaches that we are in the Millennium right now. Again, I disagree.

I don’t think the reign of Jesus is limited to 1000 years, but I believe the Bible refers to a specific 1000-year period where Jesus is doing something very important and special. The Book of Revelation specifically tells us that during this 1000-year period of Jesus’ reign, the devil is bound and prevented from any activity. Well, that’s not the world we see today, either described in the Scriptures or what we see with our own two eyes. For that reason, I would say that we are not in a symbolic Millennium right now. Of course, the kingdom of God is among us, and there is a real presence of God’s kingdom on earth right now. But not in the fully realized sense that the Scriptures speak so clearly about.

So those are some fundamental reasons why I would disagree with Amillennialism. I think that they have an incorrect view of the nature of God’s Kingdom, and the presence of God’s Kingdom among us in our current day.

What is the difference between a Levite and a priest?

The Levites were a tribe in Israel. The 12 sons of Jacob were the 12 tribes of Israel. The tribe of Levi, from which we get the Levites, was one of the 12 tribes in Israel. The priests came from one family within the tribe of Levi: that one family was the family of Aaron, the brother of Moses. Aaron was the first High Priest of Israel, and all priests descended from Aaron and his direct family.

So that’s the difference. The priests were a much smaller group, all descended from one man, Aaron, the High Priest, who was the brother of Moses. But the Levites were an entire tribe of people.

Essentially, the Levites were there to serve the priests. Now, that’s not all they did; the Levites had other functions as well. But one important function of the Levites was to serve the priests, and to help them in the administration of their duties. The difference is between a tribe and one family within that tribe.