The Gift of Tongues
Appendix: Ananias And Saul (The Apostle Paul)
How do you harmonize Acts 9:17, 18, which tells of Ananias, who was not an Apostle, putting his hands on Saul (Paul), etc., with the teaching that only the Apostles had the power to bestow the "gifts" of the Spirit by the laying on of their hands on others?
That only the twelve Apostles had as a special prerogative of their office the power to bestow the "gifts" of the Spirit upon others by the laying on of hands is evident from Acts 8:5-24; 19:1-6.
How then are we to understand Acts 9:17, 18? It reads: "And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized."
Certainly Paul could not and did not receive his appointment as an Apostle by virtue of any power of Ananias or any other man, for God reserved to Himself alone through Jesus the prerogative of choosing and appointing all of His Apostles (Acts 20:24; 1 Cor. 12:18, 29; Gal. 1:1, 16; Rev. 21:14; see Bible Standard No. 325). It was not even in the power of any Apostle or Apostles to elect or appoint another Apostle. The selection of Matthias as a supposed successor of Judas as an Apostle, by the Apostles (Acts 1:15-26), who had been instructed to wait, was never authorized or recognized by God. We hear nothing further about Matthias in the Bible. It manifestly was Paul, appointed by God Himself through Jesus, who was to take Judas' forfeited bishoprick — office or charge — as an Apostle (v. 20), and who so ably filled that office, as the Scriptures show.
The Scriptures show also that before Ananias visited him, Paul had already been specially chosen by God and appointed to be His vessel for carrying the Gospel message, not only to Jews, but also—and especially—to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; 22:14; 26:16-18; compare Gal. 1:15). This is shown by all three accounts of Paul's conversion (two in his own direct speech):
(a) In Acts 9:15, God told Ananias that Paul "is [i.e., already] a chosen vessel unto me." (b) Acts 22:14 records Ananias telling him that "the God of our fathers hath chosen thee." (c) In Acts 26:9-20, Paul relates that the glorified Jesus spoke with him, and he indicates that by God's authority our Lord appointed him as an Apostle at least three days prior to Ananias' visit ; for we read that the Lord told him "I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister" (v. 16). He then commissioned Paul to go to the Gentiles, adding "unto whom now [i.e., from then on] I send thee" (v. 17).
One requirement for being an Apostle was that one must have personally witnessed Jesus after His resurrection (Acts 1:2, 3, 22; 2:32; 22:14, 15; 26:16; Rom. 15:15-20; 1 Cor. 15:7, 8; Gal. 1:1, 16). This was accomplished by our Lord's appearing to Paul on the Damascus road. As a consequence Paul was then commissioned by Divine authority as an Apostle to be a special "witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee" (Acts 26:16). This was all done several days before Ananias visited him.
Apparently God's use of Ananias, as recorded in Acts 9, was additionally in part to confirm Paul in the Apostolic office already given to him, and to pronounce the Divine blessing upon his ministry. Ananias also instructed him as to baptism (v. 18; 22:16).
Although Paul had the "gifts" of the Spirit from shortly after his appointment as an Apostle, on the Damascus road (Acts 14:3, 8-10; 15:12; 16:16-18; 19:1-6, 11, 12; 20:7-10; 28:8, 9; Rom. 15:19; 1 Cor. 14:18; 2 Cor. 12:12; Gal. 3:5), and also had the power to confer the "gifts," in common with the other Apostles (Matt. 18:18), it is not stated in the Scriptures that Paul received these "gifts" or the power to confer them, at the hands of Ananias or any of the Apostles. Note also the following considerations:
(1) From Acts 9:10-16 it is evident that the special reason for Ananias' "putting his hands" on Saul was "that he might receive his sight" (v. 12; 22:13). It evidently was a common practice for those with the "gift" of healing (1 Cor. 12:9, 28, 29)—both Apostles and non-Apostles—to lay their hands on the sick in order to heal them (Mark 16:17, 18; Acts 28:8, etc.).
Certainly there was a thriving Christian community at Damascus, else Saul would not have specially besought the high priest at Jerusalem for "letters" to the Damascus synagogues, with the express purpose of apprehending Christians there (Acts 9:1, 2; 22:5; 26:10-12) .
Most likely the brethren at Damascus—including Ananias, a faithful disciple of Christ, who was of good report and probably prominent there (Acts 9:10; 22:12, 13)—were in frequent contact with the church at Jerusalem, for Saul's persecuting activities were well known to Ananias (9:13, 14; compare 8:3, 4; Gal. 1:13). Therefore Ananias probably had received from one of the Apostles his "gift" of healing; for, as we have seen, it was usual for the "gifts" to be bestowed on consecrated Christian believers by the Apostles.
Why did not God send an Apostle to heal Paul's eyes? It evidently was God's design that Paul have no personal contact with any of the other Apostles for some time (three years, in fact—Gal. 1:16-18) after his conversion, probably so that it might be specially demonstrated (a) that Paul was in no way subordinate to the other Apostles (2 Cor. 11:5; 12:11; Gal. 1:12, 16 ["flesh and blood"]) and (b) that his appointment and mission was a most unique one. (Compare Num. 11:16, 17, 24-26, where Eldad and Medad, two of the elders of Israel, were anointed with God's Spirit while yet in the camp, and not at the tabernacle of the congregation where other elders had assembled.)
Paul's being dealt with in this special manner no doubt served to highlight his office and ministry from the very outset.
(2) Although the expressions "putting his hands on him," "laying on of hands," "laid their hands on them," etc., in the Scriptures sometimes signified the conferring of a "gift" of the Spirit, they often did not—compare (1) above. Rather, these expressions have at least five distinct meanings in the Bible:
(a) Representation. When Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the bullock in the priestly consecration service (Lev. 8:14), the act symbolized that the bullock stood for, represented, them. Again, when Aaron laid his hands on the head of the scapegoat (Lev. 16:21), he thereby symbolized how the goat represented him from a certain standpoint (see Tabernacle Shadows for details).
(b) Sanction, or endorsement. Acts 13:3 shows this clearly; the Antioch Church is set forth as sanctioning, or endorsing, Paul and Barnabas in going on a missionary journey on their behalf. Deut. 34:9 shows that Joshua, because he was properly qualified and filled with God's Spirit of wisdom, had been endorsed by Moses to be his successor. Moses' laying his hands on Joshua and Joshua's being "full of the spirit of wisdom" cannot mean that he had received any "gift" of the Spirit, for the "gifts" were not given before Pentecost (Mark 16:17, 18; Heb. 2:3, 4). Other examples of laying on of hands with this meaning are found in Gen. 48:13-18; 1 Tim. 5:22, etc.
(c) Blessing others. Matt. 19:13, 15 and Mark 10:16 show this. Obviously Jesus' laying His hands on little children was not to bestow the "gifts," nor to heal them of sickness, but to bless them.
(d) Performing healings. This has already been discussed sufficiently under point (1).
(e) Bestowing powers or "gifts." This is apparent from Scriptures already examined. See also 2 Tim. 1:6. In the early Church the "laying on of hands" was evidently a fundamental doctrine in itself; an understanding of it and the related obtaining and use of the "gifts" then available to the brethren was then considered necessary (Heb. 6:2).
(3) Although the expression "filled with the Holy Spirit" and similar expressions sometimes signified the receiving of the "gifts" (Acts 2:4; 10:44-48; 19:6, etc.), they often did not.
For example, Acts 6:3-6 shows that the deacons Stephen and Philip (later called the Evangelist—Acts 21:8) were already "full of the Holy Spirit" (vs. 3, 5) before the Apostles laid their hands on them, after which they each possessed a "gift" (v. 8; Acts 8:5-13), though obviously they were unable to confer "gifts" on others (Acts 8:14-19; see Bible Standard No. 469, p. 28).
Also, in Acts 4:31 it is said that those who were already believers and associated with the Apostles (v. 23) "were all filled with the Holy Spirit"—but evidently not in the sense of receiving the "gifts."
It has always been of prime importance—both in the days when the "gifts" were operative and since—that Christian believers be consecrated, that is, fully dedicated to the doing of God's will in all respects (Matt. 16:24; Rom. 12:1), and also that they be well filled with God's holy Spirit—His disposition of wisdom, power, justice, love, joy, peace, etc. (2 Tim. 1:7; Gal. 5:22; 1 John 2:5; 3:24)—before they could be counted as of the Lord's true followers—even apart from any "gift" (Luke 14:25-33; Acts 8:19-23; compare v. 13). And after the "gifts" ceased from the early Church, it was (and still is) requisite and imperative for one to be "filled with the Holy Spirit"—with God's disposition and holy power—even without possessing the "gifts."
It was in this sense that Paul was especially "filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 9:17; 13:9, etc.). For no doubt the words of comfort and reassurance spoken to him by Ananias quickened his understanding and appreciation of his ministry for the Lord and His people; and this quickened appreciation no doubt deepened his spirituality. God's disposition permeated his whole being through and through, making him more powerful in service for the Lord and more fully aware of his sonship with God (Psa. 119:50; Heb. 4:12; Jas. 1:18).
In Rom. 8:14 we read: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." By the Spirit of God here the disposition of God in His consecrated children is meant. His disposition blends in perfect harmony, His attributes of wisdom, justice, power and love. Those whose motives, thoughts, words and acts are actuated and sustained by this disposition, are sealed by God as His own. Therein all of such have the strongest possible witness of their sonship with God. If this were not the most important aspect to being "filled with the Holy Spirit," then we would have to conclude that no one could be a true Christian without the "gifts"—a conclusion contrary to the Scriptures (Rom. 8:1, 5, 6, 9, 10; 1 Cor. 3:16; Gal. 5:22; 1 Thes. 5:19; Eph. 5:18, etc.).
(4) In each of the Scriptural accounts of the conferring of the "gifts" (notably the "gift" of tongues) upon believers, and where the expression (or its equivalent) "filled with the Holy Spirit" occurs, it is also clearly stated that there was also some early consequent manifestation of the "gifts" having been received (Acts 2:4; 8:17, 18; 10:45, 46; 19:6).
However, in the account from Acts 9:17, 18, although it is recorded that Paul "received sight forthwith" (v. 18), after Ananias had "put" his hands on him, nowhere does the record show that there was any manifestation of a "gift" or "gifts"—not even the "gift" of tongues, and we know from 1 Cor. 14:18 that Paul did in fact possess the "gift" of tongues-speaking. This fact argues against the thought that Ananias conferred any "gifts" of the Spirit upon Paul.
(5) The Apostles at Pentecost did not receive their "gifts" or the power to bestow these "gifts" upon others through the "laying on of hands," their appointment as Apostles being made by God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, even as He had promised (Luke 24:49; John 14:26; Acts 1:4, 5, 8); and the Apostle Paul was at least the equal (2 Cor. 11:5; 12:11), if not the greatest (2 Cor. 12:7) of the Apostles; therefore it is obvious that he could not receive the Apostolic office (including the "gifts" and the prerogative of bestowing these "gifts" on others) at the hands of another.
Thus it is evident that Acts 9:17, 18 is not at all out of harmony with, but agrees fully with, the teaching that only the Apostles had the power to bestow the "gifts" of the Spirit on others by the laying on of their hands.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
The Gift of Tongues:
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