Parshiot Nitzavim and Vayeilech (“Standing” and “And he went“)
Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20 and 31:1-30
Haftarah: Isaiah 61:1-63:9
This Shabbat we read two Torah readings. In the second one, Vayeilech, there is a reference to the Tabernacle and the Cloud that appeared in the Tabernacle and which stood by the entrance of the Tent of Meeting (Tabernacle).
“And HaShem appeared in the tent, in a pillar of a cloud and the pillar of a cloud stood over the entrance of the tent.” Deuteronomy 31:15.
I have been asked if this Cloud was the Holy Spirit. It is my opinion that this Cloud is indeed a reference to the Holy Spirit. It is clear that there is an inherent relationship between HaShem and the Cloud. It is also significant that not only is the Cloud in the Tabernacle, it is also stated that the Cloud was also at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. This means that the one Cloud was in two different places at the same time. This relates to the omnipresence of G-d.
Moses, of course, heard from HaShem in regard to Moses being instructed concerning carrying out His will. In other words, there is a connection between the Holy Spirit and an individual doing the will of G-d. The Holy Spirit, as the Third Member of the Trinity, is very important. Therefore, I thought it would be good to learn a doctrine concerning Him. I am frequently asked about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and whether this Baptism is a separate and second act from being saved.
This issue has been debated for nearly 2000 years. Those who believe that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is indeed a separate issue apart from a salvation experience usually give Acts chapter 8 as a proof text. Before responding to this passage, allow me to make a few points. First, in Acts chapter 10, Gentiles heard the Gospel and the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them and there were as well manifestations of the Spirit (See Acts 10:44-48). In this section from Acts chapter 10, their belief and receiving of the Holy Spirit occurred at the same time and not as a separate second event. In this passage, Peter was still speaking and there were those who received the Holy Spirit and they began to speak in tongues. It is important to note that in this passage, there was not any laying on of hands or water baptism prior to them receiving the Holy Spirit.
Frequently, people will offer a verse as proof of a particular position without applying to the given issue proper hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is the study of the methodology of interpreting the Scriptures. Part of any curriculum which awards a degree in Biblical Studies will have the requirement of taking at least one course in hermeneutics. This field of study is not new and within ancient Judaism Rav Yishmael taught 13 principles by which the Scriptures are interpreted. In Christian institutions today, these principles are studied and although adapted somewhat, they still form the basis for the proper interpretation of the Word of G-d. One of these principles states:
“Similarly, when two Biblical passages seemingly contradict each other, the meaning can be determined by a third Biblical text“. There can actually be many texts which speak to the matter which is being studied and assist in reaching the proper meaning.
In returning to our issue, in Acts chapter 19 it is very significant that the Apostles asked those individuals in Ephesus whether they received the Holy Spirit when they believed. I would suggest that this, the receiving of the Holy Spirit when one believes, is normative (See Acts 19:2). Likewise, Ephesians 1:13-14 also states that it is belief that causes one to be sealed with the Holy Spirit.
Now let us move on to the Acts chapter 8 passage. This passage represents the first time that the Gospel was preached in Samaria. It was Philip who was doing so. This is the Philip of Acts chapter 6 (a deacon) and not one of Yeshua’s disciples. There is a clear emphasis that when the Apostles heard that Samaria had received the word, they responded immediately by sending Peter and John (8:14). Why was this? The next verse states that they went down to Samaria for the explicit reason of the Samaritans to receive the Holy Spirit (8:15). This is a key piece of information. How could they be so sure that the Samaritans had not received the Holy Spirit? The answer is found in verse 18. There it states that through the laying on of the Apostles’ hands, the Holy Spirit was given. This passage is recorded for several reasons. One is to emphasize the authority of the Apostles. Another reason is to fulfill the verse that states,
“But you shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all of Judah, and in Samaria, and unto the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
Certainly one would not say that today only the Apostles can bestow the Holy Spirit upon another. This verse speaks to the initial going forth of the Holy Spirit from Jerusalem to Judah, Shomron (Samaria) and the rest of the world. The key idea here is the initial going forth. In other words, the text demands that the Apostles would be first (preeminent) in the going forth of the Holy Spirit out of Jerusalem.
In conclusion, one receives the Holy Spirit when he or she believes. This means that the believer has the potential for the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit from that moment of faith. There are several factors which can hinder the believer from manifesting these gifts. Certainly within the Acts chapter 8 passage Simon’s improper understanding of the giving of the Holy Spirit is a major aspect for the text being constructed in the manner in which it was and a key element in reaching the proper interpretation.
Another explanation is that in verse 5, Philip only preached Messiah and not specifically the name Yeshua. In verse 16, there is a textual variant that confirms this and states that they were only baptized in the name of the L-rd and not specifically in the Name of Yeshua (most English translations reject this variant).
I believe in the gifts of the Spirit, however I do not think that one can make a Biblical case for a doctrine which states that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a separate event, an event which takes place at a later time and by means other than faith in the Gospel.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag S’meach
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