Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Reflecting on the 47th General Council

The beginning of a new era...

Credential holders with the Assemblies of God have previously received a letter from Rev. Dr. Vincent Leoh, the general superintendent of the Assemblies of God of Malaysia. The letter stated his intention to step down as the leader of the denomination fastest growing denomination in Malaysia. Immediately there was a buzz on who was going to succeed this great leader. Rev. Dr. Vincent Leoh has in office for 8 years, he was elected into office after Rev. Dr. Prince Guneratnam held that position for an amazing 26 years. When compared it seems like Rev. Dr. Vincent Leoh has only held the post for a short time, however, 8 years is a long time to be leading an entire denomination.

The business meetings were long, but the breaks were very enjoyable. The pastors and church workers from all over Malaysia were all able to catch up with each other. When the new executive brethren were finally all elected and all the reports for the past 2 years were all made, the time came for Rev. Dr. Vincent Leoh to pass on the "mantle" to Rev. Ong Sek Leang. He was the man that was chosen by the voting members (the reverends and the pastors) of the AG of Malaysia.

Earlier I had an opportunity to speak to Rev. Ong, I congratulated him on being chosen as the man to lead us on to the next level. As I was designated to be the official photographer for the event, he requested for me to be ready to take the pictures for the "handing over". Curiously I asked him what was being "handed over", was it a cloak (like with Elijah and Elisha)? He then replied with a positive answer. It seems there was a "mantle" that was made during the time of Rev. Dr. Prince Guneratnam, it was passed down to Rev. Dr. Vincent. Now the tradition is started and the "mantle" which is in actuality a sash, will be passed from one superintendent to the next. In my ignorance my attempt at a joke with the general superintendent elect turned out to be exactly what was happening.

The handing over was indeed a grand event. Rev. Dr. Vincent made his final speech as the general superintendent of the AG of Malaysia, mentioning the urgency of the end times and the need to be ready and to reach out to our cousins, the sons of Ishmael. He spoke of it with such passion, he had to hold back the tears, I too was moved.

The camera in hand was very helpful as it gave me license to get up close to the what was happening. The sash was handed over, it was placed over Rev. Ong's shoulders. What a burden and privilege it must have been to put take on such a role. The whole fellowship rose to their feet in approval and support. For a while my mind drifted, I wondered what I would do if I took up a role like such. Then Rev. Ong on behalf of the entire fellowship, presented Rev. Dr. Vincent with a token of our appreciation. Rev Ong mentioned that it was something big and grand, something that cannot be hidden. It was an encased crystal bowl/chalice. Aesthetically, it did really do anything for me. But again my mind wondered, and I could almost feel the honour, the privilege it must have been to receive something like this for the work that he has done.

One great man to the next. I wondered, when will I arrive at such a level in my own ministry. So many great ministers were present at the 47th General Council. This Sunday I will be off to speak in my very first youth camp. When compared to what these great men have done, it seemed small, tiny, puny even. However when it comes to ministry it is never, NEVER, NEVER, about the numbers. With smaller numbers you do need to adjust the method when compared to larger groups. However I strongly believe that if we focus on numbers we give birth to numbers, but if we focused on life, our ministry will give birth to lives. God is looking not for people who are "successful", in that sense. He is looking for each one of us, whoever we are, wherever we are to be faithful. These great men were faithful men. I pray one day I will be as faithful as the great men and women that I have had the privilege to meet during the General Council.

Much to learn, much to learn...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Church Camp 2008

Date: 17-19 May 2008
Venue: Bayu Beach Resort, Port Dickson.
Speaker: Rev. Christopher Mun (Tabernacle of Worship)
Theme: Building Strong Disciples

So I guess I need some kind of camera, but my handphone's camera really will NOT cut it. So we shall wait till the camp pictures turn up on someone else's blog...

Anyway the camp was shorter than the usual 4D 3N. We were trying to make it easier for all church members to make it to the camp. The camp fees was also relatively low (if compared to previous church camps). However many church members were still unable to afford it. In came the church and some generous church members, they sponsored the others who were not able to afford the RM180 camp fees. However, Rev. Christopher Mun did share about the similar problem in his church camps. Tabernacle of David's solution to the problem is to set a budgeted amount aside to subsidize the camp fees for all church members. There are many ways to skin a cat, so Canaan Church will have to find a way that works for ourselves.

Anyway I led the worship for the first session, followed by Joyce, then Angela, and finally Joshua. Joyce and Angela are first-timers. So in light of that they did well. I think Angela could grow into the role, however she would be leaving for UK around September. She has been part of the worship team for so long, now she's taking vocal lessons to improve herself. I do not think Angela reads my blog, nonetheless, I have decided to conforce (convince-force, a new word coined by the camp committee) her to lead worship in the church. I'm sure after 2 or 3 times, she will become a great worship leader. All she has to do is not talk so fast when she gets nervous...

Rev Christopher Mun also communicated God's word with passion and some humour. I remember his main ideas throughout the camp:

  1. Complete Devotion
  2. Complete Trust
  3. Complete Service
  4. Stand firm
  5. Be bold
  6. Be strong
I think that's most of it, might have left out 1 or 2.

I was really anticipating Sunday. Jerome Liew my classmate from BCM found out that I will be in PD for church camp and invited us to a friendly futsal game with his church - Glad Tidings Port Dickson. For some reason many of the older youths did not come for the church camp this time, so we were left with a group of younger players. We were playing catch up most of the game, then came Derrick Siow who was playing goal keeper for the first half. Derrick was immediately dubbed our secret weapon as he was goalkeeping for the first half of the game. He was now given the job of marking the opposition's goalkeeper. Then our goals started popping in because Derrick did such a great job of distracting and blocking their goalkeeper's view. Derrick became an even bigger distraction when he tore his pants big time! It was not the usual tear between the groin, it was like the whole front part of his pants was tearing off! Major distraction there. Anyway, we lost the game by a slim 12-10 (we think), nobody knows the score for sure except Chris, so we shall take his word for it.

This camp is the very first for Mikayla. Melanie and I were worried in the weeks leading up to the camp as Mikayla was unhappy and uncomfortable when we were outside of our home. However when she arrived there she was fine with the crowd and with people carrying her.

All in all it was a good camp. The atmosphere in camp was very different from what I have previously experienced. I guess it is a good kind of different. I look forward to the church growing deeper this year as we look to build stronger disciples.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

RE: Should We Worship The Holy Spirit?

There were many people who told me that they would respond to my most recent post. The question raised was whether Christians should worship the Holy Spirit. However after waiting for quite some time it seems apparent to me that it was not going to happen, so I decided to go ahead with my own response.

While researching on the question online, I stumbled on this article. I read several articles but this one stood out to me. I considered responding or even adapting this article for my own post but I figured that the best thing was to just let you read this article for yourself. This article, entitled "Is the Holy Spirit Worthy of Worship?", is found in I found that this article comprehensively answers our question. Some Christians insist that the Holy Spirit is not the proper object of worship. In order to answer this question, we have to first answer the question of "What (or who) is the Holy Spirit?" Read on...

Is the Holy Spirit Worthy of Worship?

January 5, 2006

by Wayne Jackson

Is the Holy Spirit, as a divine Being, worthy of our worship? What do the Scriptures teach on this vital theme? Carefully and prayerfully study this subject with us.

Is the Holy Spirit God in nature? If so, is it appropriate to worship him?

There is a controversy that appears to be swirling about the Christian community these days, and it is this: “Is the Holy Spirit a proper object of Christian worship?” Some adamantly claim he is not. They challenge for a passage that specifically commands: “Worship the Holy Spirit.”

But the issue is not whether one can locate a text that explicitly commands: “Worship the Spirit.” There are many biblical propositions that cannot be established on the basis of a solitary “command-text.” There is no text that explicitly puts all conditions of salvation into a single command. There is no single passage that instructs the Christian to eat bread and drink the fruit of the vine each first day of the week in order to commemorate the Lord’s death.

These are solid propositions, but they are determined by what is called the synthetic analytical method, and not because there is an isolated, comprehensive command that embraces all components of the obligation.

Synthetic (cf. synthesis—“to bring together”) study means that one assembles the relevant biblical information on the same theme, and then draws reasonable conclusions of action based upon a harmonization of the material. Let us consider, from the analytical viewpoint, what the Christian’s attitude toward the Spirit of God should be.

The Spirit Is a Person

Contrary to the ideas of some cults (e.g., the “Jehovah’s Witnesses”), the Holy Spirit is a personality. He is referred to in personal terms (John 15:26; 16:7-8,13-14). He acts as a person would act; he speaks (1 Timothy 4:1), he loves (Romans 15:30), he teaches (John 14:26), he intercedes (Romans 8:26), etc.

The Spirit Is Deity

The Holy Spirit possesses the nature of deity (he is neither angelic nor human in essence). He is eternal (Hebrews 9:14). He is everywhere present (Psalm 139:7-10). The Spirit is omniscient, i.e., he knows “all things,” yes, the “deep things” of God (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). He taught the apostles “all things” (John 14:26; 16:12-13). He was involved in the creation process (Genesis 1:2; Job 33:4; Psalm 104:30).

The Holy Spirit is spoken of in intimate association with both the Father and the Son (Matthew 28:19; John 14:16; 1 Corinthians 12:4-6; 2 Corinthians 13:14; 1 Peter 1:2).

Some passages in the Old Testament that are attributed to Jehovah, are applied to the Spirit in the New Testament (cf. Isaiah 6:8; Acts 28:25 and Exodus 16:7; Hebrews 3:7-9).

Deity Is Worthy of Worship

A divine person is worthy of worship. Jehovah is “worthy to be praised” (Psalm 18:3). God is great and greatly to be praised (Psalm 48:1). We are commanded to worship God (Matthew 4:10; Revelation 19:10; 22:9). If, then, the Spirit is deity, he is a worthy object of worship. And what will be the consequence if one condemns others who engage in such worship?

Consider this logical point. If it is the case that Christ’s acceptance of worship (Matthew 14:33; Luke 24:52) is a strong argument for the fact that he is divine, would not it likewise be the case that if the Spirit is deity, such would argue for the necessity of worshipping him?

Benjamin Warfield (1851-1921) was one of the most respected scholars in the conservative Presbyterian Church at the turn of the last century. He taught at the Western Theological Seminary in Pittsburg (1878-87) before becoming a professor of theology at Princeton. A half-century ago a volume of his writings was published that contained a masterful essay on “The Biblical Doctrine of the Trinity.” One point Professor Warfield pursued relentlessly is the fact that the term “God” is used countless times in the Scriptures in a generic sense. By that he meant that the sacred term frequently embraced the entire Godhead—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—rather than merely alluding to the Father alone. Here is his statement:

“Everywhere and by all it was fully understood that the one God whom Christians worshipped and from whom alone they expected redemption and all that redemption brought with it, included with His undiminished unity the three: God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, whose activities relatively [sic] to one another are conceived as distinctly personal” (p. 49).

Noted scholar Francis Pieper stated that the worship of the Holy Spirit is “taught in all those Scripture passages where divine majesty, attributes, and works are ascribed to the Holy Ghost [Spirit]” (p. 387). The command to “worship God” includes the sacred Spirit.

New Testament Precedent

In addition to the support from both “command” and “necessary implication,” as sketched above, there is a substantial case that may be made for the position that the Holy Spirit is worthy of human worship upon the ground of “example.”

(1) When the early disciples praised God, the work of his Spirit was included in the anthem (Acts 4:24ff). As one scholar noted, “this act of worship on the part of the disciples terminated on the Holy Spirit (Shedd, p. 331).

(2) Biblical literature abounds with a literary form commonly called a “benediction.” The benediction is defined as the “invocation of blessing, and the expression in prayer for happiness and well-being” (Purkiser, p. 217). These prayer offerings are found in the Patriarchal period (cf. Gensis 14:19-20; Hebrews 11:20-21), and in the Mosaic regime as well (see 2 Chronicles 30:27, and note the parallelism between the “blessing” and “prayer”).

The “benediction” motif is apparent also in some of the epistles of Paul (see: 1 Thessalonians 5:28; 2 Thessalonians 3:18, etc.). Of these benedictions, Michael Martin writes.

“Concluding benedictions requesting grace for his readers are common in Paul’s letters (cf. 1 Cor. 16:23; Gal. 6:18; Phil. 4.23; Col. 4:18) but [they] can show a fair amount of variety regarding the persons addressed (the Lord, the Father and/or the Spirit, by various titles) and the blessings requested (e.g., grace, peace, love, fellowship; cf. Rom. 15:33; 16:24, NIV margin; 2 Cor. 13:14)” (pp. 292-293; emp. WJ).

In this connection let us focus on 2 Corinthians 13:14. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.” Of this text Albert Barnes wrote: “It is a prayer; and if it is a prayer addressed to God, it is no less so to the Lord Jesus and to the Holy Spirit. If so, it is right to offer worship to the Lord Jesus and to the Holy Spirit” (p. 274—emp. original).

In an excellent article on the nature of benedictions, Alfred Faulkner comments regarding this passage. “This verse prays for a holy fellowship in the Divine life mediated by the Spirit, and it is a fitting conclusion to an Epistle agitated by strife” (p. 147).

In his commentary on Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthians, Charles Hodge, the celebrated professor at the Princeton Theological Seminary, wrote: “The distinct personality and the divinity of the Son, the Father, and the Holy Spirit, to each of whom prayer is addressed, is here taken for granted” (p. 314).

In an essay on the “Trinity,” Loraine Boettner says that 2 Corinthians 13:14 “is a prayer addressed to Christ for His grace, to the Father for His love, and to the Holy Spirit for His fellowship” (p. 92).

Warfield describes the apostle’s benediction here as “a closing prayer” (p. 46). And Augustus Strong observed, “If the apostolic benedictions are prayers, then we have here a prayer to the Spirit” (p. 316).

(3) There are several New Testament contexts in which the cooperative activity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in the scheme of redemption are set forth, and in those contexts an anthem of praise flows from the apostles’ inspired pens (see: Ephesians 1:3-14; 1 Peter 1:1-12). It is very difficult to see how anyone could reasonably conclude that only the Father is the object of such adoration.

(4) Psalm 95 is a marvelous song erupting in praise for God. It begins: “Oh come, let us sing unto Jehovah; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise unto him with psalms” (vv. 1-2). Then, a little later: “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before Jehovah our Maker: for he is our God” (vv. 6-7). The text then proceeds with a rebuke to the nation of Israel. The people are admonished not to harden their hearts, as their fathers did in the wilderness, when they “tempted me.” Note this first person pronoun.

The same God who was worshipped was, at other times, “tempted” by Israel. Now here is the amazing thing. When these words from Psalm 95 are quoted in the book of Hebrews as a warning to certain Christians who were in danger of apostasy, the words of the Speaker are attributed to the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 3:7-11). No other conclusion can be drawn than this. The same deity who was “put to the test” was also worthy of worship, and this at least included the Holy Spirit.

(5) References in the book of Revelation to the “seven spirits” (1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6) are almost uniformly conceded to be an acknowledgment of the Holy Spirit.

The number seven is used symbolically for completeness or perfection. Several arguments point in this direction. For example, the “seven Spirits” are encased in a “Trinitarian” format—“him who is and who was and who is to come” [the Father], the seven Spirits that are before his throne [the Holy Spirit], and from Jesus Christ [the Son]” (1:4). The “seven Spirits” operate in conjunction with Christ (3:1; cf. John 14:16-18; 15:26; 16:14).

In Revelation 4, out of the very throne of God proceeded lightnings and voices and thunders. Too, there were seven lamps of fire that represented the “seven Spirits of God” (v. 5). One scholar has observed: “The spirits are grouped with other manifestations of the theophany proper (lightning and thunder); significantly the seven spirits are never said to join in the adoration of God by this court (4:8; 9-11) (Paige, p. 1120).

In the scenes of both chapters 4 and 5, observe the close association of the Spirit with both the Lord God and the Lamb (4:5; 5:6). As praise profusely issues from the entire realm of the rational, spiritually-oriented creation, it is directed to the united operations of the Holy Three (4:8ff; 5:7ff). This clearly evinces the inclusion of the Holy Spirit in the worship that ascends from the earth.

Additionally, as John T. Hinds observed, “a blessing is invoked from the three” mentioned in 1:4. John petitions for “grace and peace” from “him who was and who is and who is to come” [the Father], and “the seven spirits,” and “Jesus Christ.” One should note the coordinating conjunctions connecting the three. Hinds argued that since it is wrong to pray to any one except deity, the conclusion that follows demands that the “seven spirits” must be a reference to the Holy Spirit (p. 20).

The Testimony of the Patristic Writers

Joseph Bingham, in his celebrated work, The Antiquities of the Christian Church, has provided a mountain of evidence establishing the fact that the Christians of the early post-apostolic age did not hesitate to offer worship to the Holy Spirit (pp. 586ff). For example, in a letter that was circulated by the church in Smyrna following the death of Polycarp (c. A.D. 69-155), a disciple of the apostle John, who was being burned alive, these words were recorded:

“Wherefore also I praise you [God, the Father] for all things, I bless you, along with the everlasting and heavenly Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, with whom, to you and the Holy Spirit, be glory both now and to all coming ages. Amen” (Epistle from Smyrna, XIV).

The epistle also closes with a benediction of “glory for ever and ever” to Lord Jesus Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit (XXII).

In the Ante-Nicene Fathers (Roberts & Donaldson, Eds.), there is the record of an ancient Christian hymn with these words: “We praise the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit of God” (p. 298). Testimony of this nature can be multiplied many times over.

Professor Everett Ferguson is the premier authority of general church history among churches of Christ. His scholarship is respected far beyond our own borders. In his book, Early Christians Speak, he calls attention to a hymn from the Oxyrhynchus collection (A.D. 3rd century) that calls for “the praise of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (p. 160). Ferguson also notes that while prayers were normally rendered to the Father, there is evidence of prayers to both God and Christ, and sometimes to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (p. 43).


In view of the foregoing, it is somewhat perplexing to read the sentiments of one who writes: “Since the Holy Spirit is divine, is it proper to worship him? Yes, in fact, it is wrong not to worship him” (Cottrell, p. 286; emp. original).

But Professor Cottrell, whom I respect though not always agreeing with him, then says: “there are no biblical examples or precedents for addressing the Holy Spirit directly in praise or prayer.” With due respect, we believe the evidence introduced above demonstrates otherwise. Besides, if one cannot directly praise the Holy Spirit—either in song or prayer—how is such worship to be rendered?

For years Christians have sung hymns in which the Spirit of God was praised along with the Father and the Son. A Latin hymn from around A.D. 350 was popularized by Greatorex in 1851:

“Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.”

Bourgeois’s composition (1551) has these familiar lines:

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Heber’s famous song (1826) has these lyrics:

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea;
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty!
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

We can only ask respectfully, therefore; whence the origin of this new notion that only the Father is worthy of human worship?