Brother Lipscomb: I want you to explain when the twelve apostles were inspired — on the day of Pentecost or before? I think they were before, for Matthew 10:7f says: “And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” Mark 6:13 also says: “And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.” Luke 9:1 also says: “Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.”
There can be no doubt but that the apostles were endowed with the power of working miracles and possessed a measure of the Spirit of inspiration previous to the day of Pentecost. But the Holy Spirit came in the fullness of his power on Pentecost, and they were then fully endued with the knowledge which the Spirit revealed and were plenarily inspired. There are different degrees of inspiration, corresponding to the measure of the Spirit received. The full apostolic measure was received on Pentecost.
Please explain, through the Gospel Advocate, 1 John 4:2-3.
This scripture seems to recognize that there is a spirit peculiar to every system of teaching. A class of teachers had arisen in the church, claiming to be inspired or sent of God, who denied that Christ had come in the flesh. He says: “They went out from us, but they were not of us.” It is probable that these teachers exhibited some ability to work wonders, as evil spirits in the days of the Savior possessed such power. John’s letters were written to warn against these false teachers who were guided by these spirits. He urged them to try the spirits. Paul to the Corinthians, warning against the same class, said: “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual [inspired], let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” This is a command to test those claiming inspiration by the word of God. This shows that obedience to the word of God even in the days of the apostles was regarded as a higher evidence of acceptance with God than the power to prophesy or do wonders. John tells them that those denying in his day that Christ had come in the flesh were of antichrist. Antichrist was to come “with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish.” These spirits which worked wonders were all to be tested — proved by the word of God — and one who did not conform to the word of God, even though he should work wonders and signs, was to be rejected. Conforming to the word of God is the only test of acceptance with God. Then the spirit in those persons led them to confess that Christ had come in the flesh. To do this was to recognize him by obeying him as Christ the Lord. “No man can call Jesus Lord, save by the Holy Ghost.” The spirit that prompted others to deny that he was come in the flesh was of antichrist. Antichrist was a spiritual power, but a wicked spirit. These verses recognize there were many spirits gone out into the world. These spirits worked wonders. All were to be tried by the word of God. Only those who acknowledged that Christ had come in the flesh, which is the same as to acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ, were of God. All who denied this, which was a denial that Christ is the Son of God, were of antichrist.
Brother Lipscomb: Please explain James 5:14f. It seems that James was writing to Christians. Of course they were Jewish Christians; but are not all Christians entitled to the same privilege? And if the elders should pray faithfully, anointing with oil as instructed, does it not seem that the Lord has promised to raise the sick, not only then, but through all coming ages? If not, why not?
With the meaning our brother attaches to this passage, how could any Christian have died in reach of the elders with oil? If the elders could have cured every one that got sick, certainly none would have died or lingered in sickness; and if that order had become perpetual, a Christian in reach of elders and oil would never die. The scripture, whether applicable now or not, was in some sense true in the early days. Was there ever a time when Christians did not sicken and die? If God had ordained all that the elders anointed with oil and prayed over should recover, why did they not cure all? Why would any die? Why would Epaphroditus come nigh unto death ministering to Paul? (Phil. 2:27) Many sickened and died during the days of the apostles and of the miraculously endowed. So I take it James did not mean to say that all were or would be cured in this way at any time. Because this is so, I hardly think it was a miraculous cure. I think he only meant to say that if the sick would send for the elders and they would pray for them and anoint them with oil, those who could be cured at all would be cured in this way. That means that this was the best system of treating diseases and would cure all that could be cured. This may be true now. It may mean that anointing with oil was a remedial system very common at that day, and probably better than any in vogue. The practice of medicine then was a crude mixture of superstition and conjuration; so with the use of oil as a remedial agent the prayers of the elders should be connected. That would teach us that with any remedial agent we should connect the prayers of the elders. I think that just what was taught by James is applicable now, but I do not think he taught all would be cured at any time. That was not an antidote to mortality and would not stop the work of death.