Archive for April, 2010
There is much that can be (and has been) said concerning spiritual gifts, but are there certain clear points with which both continuationists and cessationists may agree?
I think so, and I will attempt to list some of the things I think 1 Corinthians 12, allows us to say about spiritual gifts:
1. The lists of gifts are not exhaustive; they are representative!
- For, no list is the same: 1 Cor. 12:4-6, 8-10, 28; Rom. 12:3-8; Eph. 4:11; 1 Pet. 4:10-11.
- For, not all the gifts are included in the various lists: for example, marriage and celibacy (1 Cor. 7:7).
- For, there is a great variety of gifts, ministries and workings which manifest the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:4-7).
- Therefore, it is not helpful to try to discern spiritual gifts from inventories of lists.
2. The order of the lists varies, so we cannot conclude anything as to importance of one gift over another.
- Except that Paul is deliberately downplaying the more spectacular gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14.
3. The purpose of spiritual gifts is the common good – building up the body (1 Cor. 12:7, 14:12, 26).
- Gifts, ministries, workings of the Spirit are NOT for self-promoting, self-profiting.
4. Some gifts may be temporary (1 Cor. 12:7, 11).
- Because the Spirit gifts individuals as He wills, we have to be open to the reality that He may gift individuals for particular needs of the body (i.e., Exodus 31:1-11).
5. No one person possesses all the gifts; we all have differing gifts (1 Cor. 12:8-11, 30)!
- It is not wrong to desire a gift, but we should long for those that build up the body most (12:30; 14:1).
- BUT, the Spirit gives gift(s), ministries, activities as He desires, not as we want (12:11b)!
6. Paul has broadened the understanding of gifts to include the ordinary with extra-ordinary.
- Paul has demolished the idea that the Spirit is manifested only in the spectacular gifts (12:4-6).
- All the gifts (ordinary and extra-ordinary) are given and empowered by the Spirit (12:11).
Who are the ones gifted by the Holy Spirit?
Are the ones gifted by the Holy Spirit a select few? Is it only the leadership of the church or perhaps the more mature Christians? Do I have a spiritual gift?
Divisions in Corinth abounded (1 Corinthians 1:10-11) for various reasons, one of which was the idea that those who displayed spectacular gifts were spiritual, while others who did not display such manifestations were not.
In 1 Corinthians 12:1-3, Paul addressed the question of who was spiritual by stating that all who profess faith in Christ are spiritual, for no one is able to express genuine faith in Christ apart from the Spirit’s work.
Paul continues to undermine the basis for the boasting of the pneumatics (i.e., those who think they are spiritual because of the manifestation of spectacular gifts) by reminding them that All who have the Spirit are also gifted with gifts of the Spirit: charismata.
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. . . . All these (gifts) are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
(1 Corinthians 12:7, 11)
In other words, no one has any basis upon which to boast about spiritual giftedness, because each Christian not only has the Spirit but also has spiritual gifts (charismata). This was, after all, part of the promise of the new covenant (Acts 2:39) – that ALL God’s people would manifest the Holy Spirit:
And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
(Acts 2:17-18, ESV)
Therefore, not only may no one boast about their giftedness, no one may excuse themselves from service, for each Christian is gifted FOR service, for the common good: i.e., the profitability of all.
So, if you are a Christian, you are gifted by the Spirit for ministry! Do you believe that? If so, then serve! We are not to be consumers; consumerism is contrary to the gospel and contrary to the Spirit’s work in us. May the Lord forgive us for our American evangelical McChurches, where we invite people to “sit back, relax and enjoy the show.”
The use of spiritual gifts is a stewardship through which we not only build up the body but also glorify God!
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies-in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
(1 Peter 4:10-11, ESV)
Therefore, do not neglect the gift given to you by the Spirit (cf. 1 Timothy 4:12-14)!
There are lots of questions regarding the ministry of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. In order to begin addressing some of these questions, I will begin a series of posts. Today, we tackle the first question:
Where do spiritual gifts come from?
That sounds like a ridiculous question, but I assure you it is not. In fact, though we might cognitively know that gifts come from the Spirit, experientially we act as if we are somehow responsible for our own gifting by emphasizing what “I” can do – “Look at ME”!
Also, the question of the source of the gifts is important because, while we are tempted to fixate our attention on the gifts themselves, the Bible points us to the giver instead.
The distribution of gifts is a work of the triune God (1 Corinthians 12:4-6, 8-9, 11). We know that all good gifts come from the Father and that the Father is the source of every blessing (James 1:17). We also know that all that belongs to the Father belongs to the Son – Jesus. Further, we know that Jesus told his disciples that the Holy Spirit would take from what is his and declare it to them (John 16:14-15). This is characteristic of how the triune God operates.
What we see in 1 Corinthians 12, is that the Father and the Son through the Spirit distribute gifts, ministries and workings (12:4-6). Thus, Paul can say that the Father empowers all the gifts in everyone (12:6) AND turn around just a few verses later, using the same language, and declare that the Spirit empowers all the gifts in everyone (12:11). In fact, in Ephesians 4:7, Paul even attributes the ascended Christ with the distribution of gifts of grace. So, the distribution of gifts, ministries and workings is a work of the triune God through the Holy Spirit.
We also see the emphasis on the giver/source in the very language Paul uses to talk about the gifts. The term translated varieties (diaireseis)-as in varieties of gifts, ministries, workings-is better translated apportionings or distributions (see 12:11, where the same word is translated apportions in the ESV). Thus, the emphasis is not on the varieties of gifts, ministries and workings, but on the fact that there are distributions/apportionings of gifts, ministries, workings. So, while it is recognized that there are varieties of gifts, ministries and workings, the emphasis is on the one and same triune God who distributes/apportions the gifts (see 12:6, 11).
Finally, even the term Paul prefers for gifts (charismata) emphasizes the fact that these gifts are all of grace! This sholdn’t surprise us, for this is the gospel! We are born sinners deserving God’s wrath, but instead we receive GRACE! The Father sent the Son (GRACE); the Son accomplished our salvation by becoming our substitute (GRACE); and the Spirit applies this salvation to those who believe in the Son (GRACE)! It’s ALL of grace!
How then can any of us brag about spiritual gifts that have been given to us by the the triune God in His glorious grace? What do you have that you have not received (1 Corinthians 4:7)?!
In our study of 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, I once again warned against the stereotypes made of both cessationists and continuationists. These stereotypes function as straw men that can quickly be destroyed.
I want especially to highlight one such straw man argument – the claim that continuationists base their theology solely on experience and not the Word of God. I highlight this stereotype because this was how I learned to view continuationists (from reading anti-charismatic literature) and because I believe this is the temptation among many within my own denomination.
In my message, I mentioned some well-respected pastor/theologians who have come to embrace continuationism from the Scriptures. One of those I mentioned was Dr. Sam Storms (PhD, UT Dallas in intellectual history – dissertation on Jonathan Edwards and John Taylor on Human Nature).
I also mentioned Dr. John Piper (ThD, University of Munich, Germany) and Dr. Wayne Grudem (PhD, University of Cambridge), and I could have mentioned several others.
Below are two video interviews related to the question of continuationism. The first video features Dr. Sam Storms.
Note: I post these videos for two primary reasons: first, to undermine the stereotype that continuationists base their arguments solely on experience; second, to help our discussion along.
Full disclosure: I identify more with where Ray Ortlund is than where Sam Storms is in the facilitation of gifts in the life of the church.
The second interview includes pastor and Old Testament scholar Ray Ortlund (PhD, University of Aberdeen, Scotland – former associate professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL).
ht: Justin Taylor
Still battling the odds, Tim Tebow proved the critics wrong once again by going in the first round of the NFL Draft!
Congratulations to Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos. I think Tebow will continue to defy the odds and the critics. May the Lord sustain his faith and testimony!
As we begin our study of 1 Corinthians 12-14, I wanted to give four reasons why a study on the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts is so important:
1. . . . because there is much confusion over the doctrine of the Spirit and the things of the Spirit. After all, what does it mean to be baptized in the Spirit. Is that different than being baptized BY the Spirit? What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? What about the gifts of the Spirit? Are they all in operation today? Are tongues a private prayer language, a regular language, an angelic language?
2. . . . because there are so many agendas among those who hold particular positions on the doctrine of the Spirit and the things of the Spirit. Both continuationists, those who believe the miraculous gifts continue in this age (Pentecostals, Charismatics, Third Wave), and cessationists, those who believe the miraculous gifts have ceased, will be tempted to push their particular agendas as they approach the text. This is true for ALL of us.
3. . . . because there is so much pride on all sides when it comes to the doctrine of the Spirit and the things of the Spirit. All, including those who are open but cautious, will be tempted to pride: continuationists because “THEY have the Spirit,” cessationists because “THEY have the truth,” and open but cautious because “THEY have the loving position.”
4. . . . because there is so much division over the doctrine of the Spirit and the things of the Spirit. This is precisely what had occurred in Corinth and why the apostle Paul was writing to the Corinthians. This is why we have 1 Corinthians 12-14, and this is why it is important to study the Scriptures.
The Corinthians were ignorant (12:1-2), and this ignorance was leading to confusion, agendas, pride and division.
So then, how are we to think of the Holy Spirit and His ministry? How are we to arrive at conclusions?
1. Read the Scriptures for yourself. There is no substitute for Scripture reading, study, meditation and memorization. When we are tempted toward laziness, we will read the books of men before we read the book of God. Further, we are tempted to read those whom we know and those who agree with our positions. Therefore, the best thing for us to do is to go to the Scriptures ourselves and read and meditate upon them. Let the Word soak in; memorize it and reflect upon it.
2. Pray! Ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate God’s Word. Plead with God as you are reading, studying, meditating and memorizing. Ask the Spirit to show you the truth.
3. Read helpful literature from all sides. The best way to know what someone believes is to read someone who believes it. Don’t find out what continuationists believe from anti-Charismaniacs; don’t go to Charismaniacs to find out what cessationists believe. Read good literature that is biblically rooted and clearly argued from authors who treat with respect those with whom they disagree.
Here is a representative list of resources I am using as I prepare for our study.
If you don’t know where to start, I would recommend two resources:
1. Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Four Views. This resource lays out all the positions, then the other presenters critique each other. Very helpful beginning point.
2. Keep in Step with the Spirit. This book by J. I. Packer helped me when I was struggling with these very issues years ago.
I am finally home from Together for the Gospel (T4G). It was a real joy to travel to Louisville with the men on our staff, to gather with brothers and friends, and to meet new brothers and friends.
One of the joys of Together for the Gospel is the number of free books they provide for those in attendance. This year we received a total of 21 books! When you consider that the conference maxed out at 7,000 participants, that a lot of free books. I want to publicly thank T4G for their generosity and their aid to us pastors in this way! Also, thanks to Justin Taylor, all the books are listed here.
In light of my recent sermons in 1 Corinthians 15, and the brief discussions we have had regarding burial versus cremation, here is a helpful post by Russell Moore: Cremation and A New Kind of Christianity.
Please pray for the people of Poland in the wake of a national tragedy in which the presidential plane crashed, killing all persons on board including the president and his wife. By some reports, there were as many as 96 people on board.
The implications of this national tragedy will be unknown for some time. For the present, let us pray for the families of those who were lost and for the nation as it grieves.
As time progresses, let us pray for stability within the government and the immediate transitions in leadership that must take place in various areas (presidential, banking, military) in order that there may be a peace which may allow the gospel to flourish from the ashes of tragedy, “for this is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4, ESV).
Pray also that the Lord of the harvest would raise up mighty ministers of the gospel who would proclaim hope in Christ.
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth (1 Timothy 2:5-7).