Drinking Deeply

Friday, August 25, 2006 at 10:55 PM

Some thoughts on spiritual gifts

The other day, I decided I wanted to put together a post detailing my beliefs on various things, and I figured it would be nice to have posts to reference to regarding those various things, and I was like "I've never posted on spiritual gifts before."

And then a few things have happened in the past few weeks that have gotten me thinking.
1) I've been working through a commentary on 1 Corinthians, and got through the spiritual gifts section.
2) Dan Phillips (2 l's 1 p, reversing Philippians) posted a criticism of modern day tongues, and then proceeded to respond to Adrian Warnock's response in a four part series.
3) I had a conversation with a friend about modern day worship and how much of it comes out of a charismatic background (vineyard is of prime example).
4) Someone posted a question about it in a forum.

What follows are some thoughts on the whole issue.

1. The "closure of canon" argument for cessationalism does not seem to hold up exegetically. Yes, it is true that gifts were most clearly evidenced when Scripture was being written, but could it not have been simply because Scripture was being written at those times and thus they were recorded? How do we know that miraculous happenings didn't occur at other times? And the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 referring to the closure of the canon does not seem to be very well exegetically supported. If I was already convinced by the closure of the canon argument, it might hold water, but I am currently not.

2. I am, however, in general agreement with many of the cessationalist interpretations of Scripture. There are many verses that I find the cessationalist interpretation to be much more solidly grounded in Scripture. Not that cessationalists are completely right, but I've found that many verses that a charismatic uses is taken out of context. If you have a chance to read through the 5 posts I linked to above in the discussion between Dan Phillips and Adrian Warnock, there is one which Dan (a cessationalist), deals with a whole number of verses that Adrian brings up. I find each of his interpretations to be Scriptually compelling and each of Adrian's to be... rather not.

3. I do also, like I think all cessationalists would agree with, believe that God is not some deist God, and He is still active today, sustaining, upholding the world, sending His Spirit. It convicts hearts, opens eyes, illuminates believers, sanctifies, prays, grants gifts for the building of the body.

4. Where I do depart from the cessationalist is that I see nothing wrong with God also, as part of the gifts for the building of the body, providing gifts of prophecy, tongues, and the like. Not too convinced that He still inspires Scripture. If God is sovereign, and the body is still being built up, I see no reason why it can't also be built up via tongues, healings, prophecy.

5. I am unconvinced that "tongues" is anything but human tongues. I find Dan Phillips first post to be convincing on this case. I also wonder at how come so many people claim the gift of tongues, but I've never heard of people claiming the gift of interpreting tongues. Not that I think this is a biblical airtight case, but one might expect that if tongues existed, so would interpreting tongues.

6. I am unconvinced that prophecy is anything but a "Thus saith the Lord" type statement. It may not necessarily predict the future, but it carries with it authority, the type that is dangerous to one's health to disobey.

7. I am unconvinced that the sort of impressions that say, "I feel the Lord leading me to pray for..." can really be classified as prophecy, though I will affirm that the Lord may use inclinations and feelings to guide us at times. It is also appropriate to attribute those feelings and inclinations to the Lord (as God is sovereign), but I don't think these carry with it authority (I understand that most charismatics would agree here, so it's more a disagreement with what we should label such occurances). I would also say that it is certainly also within Satan's power to give us those feelings and impressions, so they shouldn't just be blindly followed.

8. I am also unconvinced by much that is attributed to the gift of healing today. While I don't doubt the Spirit's power in curing smaller aches and pains, I see healings manifested in Scripture in the form of, "get up and walk" and not too much of the form, "your headache is gone."

9. With regards to other claims of holy spirit manifestation (holy laughter, slain by the spirit, uncontrolled dancing, the like), I think they are rightfully disowned by conservative cessationalist and continuationalists alike for completely throwing Paul's words about order in the church out the window.

10. A personal criticism of mine of many of the more "Holy Spirit" oriented churches is that the Holy Spirit never came to glorify Himself, He came to point to Christ. So when a church points to how the "Holy Spirit" is especially present here, something seems wrong in the focus of the church, and if the Holy Spirit is there, He's being misinterpreted and misunderstood.

11. I think biblically, church services should be ordered and focused upon the preaching of the Word. I have been greatly encouraged by the Sovereign Grace denomination, which is essentially reformed, but also committed to charismatic practice as biblically defined. Though I disagree with them on the meaning of prophecy, I find their commitment to be governed and ruled by Scripture something I would hope all churches (charismatic or non) would aspire to.

Ultimately, whether tongues, prophecy, healings, etc. exist or not, it is appropriate to pray for spiritual gifts for the edification of the body. I would encourage people to pray for the gift of humility (which is something I lack greatly, and something I see lacking in many churches, to our shame), the gift of wisdom (applying and rightfully interpreting the Word), gift of teaching and encouragement... things like that. I see nothing wrong with laying hands upon a person and praying for healing. I do think elders of a church should anoint the sick with oil and pray for them as well, something I think is lacking today in many churches (some of them don't even have elders!).

Of upmost importance, I think we must read 1 Cor. 12-14 as not just about tongues, prophecy, healing, and other outward and clear manifestations of the holy spirit, but in the context of building the body. Too often we long for these clear signs of the Spirit without any effort on our parts, when we are unwilling to pursue the basic groundwork necessary to Christian discipleship. Let's get together and pray for biblical fellowship, grounded on the Word, rooted in love, bound by faith. Let's get together to encourage one another, read the Word together, worship God together. Let's get together to share insights from Scripture, to learn from one another, to rebuke sins and seek righteousness.

If we do that, we won't need miraculous signs of the Holy Spirit, we'll already have the Holy Spirit working powerfully within us, and the revival we've all been longing for will already be here.

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Blogger ts said...

I definitely have some comments on this post, but unfortunately don't have the time right now. Maybe tonight.  

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Blogger ts said...

"9. With regards to other claims of holy spirit manifestation (holy laughter, slain by the spirit, uncontrolled dancing, the like), I think they are rightfully disowned by conservative cessationalist and continuationalists alike for completely throwing Paul's words about order in the church out the window."

Actually, Paul's words about order were simply that prophets should talk in turn. Nothing more, nothing less. When people try to make Paul's statement mean more than that, they are interpreting scripture in light of their own experience--what they think a church service should be like.

But an actual examination of "church service" in the Bible yields a picture radically different than what we usually think of.

Cases in point:
1) The disciples were accused of being drunk in Acts 2.
2) Peter and John held an impromptu healing service in Acts 3 that got them arrested.
3) The friends of the paralyzed man cut a hole in the roof in order to have Jesus heal their friend.
4) Jesus invited all the little squirmy children and babies to come and be blessed by Him--much to the disciples' chagrin.

My point is that there is very little evidence for insisting on an "orderly service" as we know it today. The biblical evidence actually points to what we would think of as an "out-of-order" service.

God's intention can be most clearly in Luke 13, where the Pharisees criticize the healed lady for being healed on the Sabbath. They were so wrapped up in their idea of an "orderly service" that they completely missed the point. Jesus rightly put the emphasis on the work of God, not "order." In the same way, we ought not criticize those who are blessed by God simply because they are out of order.

* An important clarification: I don't believe the service should have a cacophony of animal sounds and people running around. In our church, for example, there is always one person who is leading the service. Those who have a prophesy must wait to speak. The laying on of hands is orderly, and not a mess. But the focus is not on rules, but on what God is doing. I'm not saying we are doing things like the Acts church or that this is the only way; I'm just trying to show that I do believe in order, but don't believe in order that emphasizes religiosity rather than the work of God.

Thanks for letting me comment!  

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Anonymous theocentric522 said...

I think you know that I would sympathize, but disagree with you here. I'm not sure if you read this before, but here is my two cents: http://www.xanga.com/theocentric522/246137305/item.html
=)  

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Blogger Peter Kirk said...

I have made on my own blog some remarks relevant to point 9, not in reply to this but in reply to a question about this from TS.  

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Blogger Peter Smythe said...

On my blog, Faith Blog, I drafted a few posts that demonstrate that John MacArthur's cessationist argument fails when it comes to the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. In his book Charismatic Chaos, he argues that Jesus only ascended in Acts 1:9 and then misconstrues the rest of scripture. Scripture clearly shows that Christ ascended and was glorified on the day of his resurrection. At John 20:22, he, as the one in command in the Greek, commanded his disciples to receive "pneuma hagion". Consequently, the promise of "power" is a second definite experience. Additionally, when Jesus says, "I send the promise of the Father" he speaks in the present tense which gives it an absolute meaning for the Church Age.  

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Blogger Brother Mel said...

Hello Brother,
I'm interested in responding to point number five in which it is said that many claim the gift of tongues, but no one claims the gift of interpreting tongues.
Respectfully, says who?
I've been used in publicly interpreting tongues in services for the last 17 years. I know of another travelling minister friend who has interpreted tongus all over the United States for the last 40 years.
I don't "claim" anything. I've just simply flowed in tongues and interpreting all these years. I've interpreted my own messages when no other interpreter was present. I've also interpreted messages in tongues for others.
So....What's your question? (lol) :)
I became able to do so after Sister Goodwin laid her hands on me in 1989. I have a blog dedicated to the Goodwins--who taught Kenneth Hagin about the gifts of the spirit, and he patterned his prophetic ministry after Sister Goodwins. The blog is http://revjrgoodwin.wordpress.com.
If that link doesn't work through this site, you can just google "Rev. J.R. Goodwin"--in parenthesis like that, and my blog will come up. Sister Goodwin interpreted tongues for 60 years. I also have a seperate blog on the Gift of Tongues, I haven't written anything much yet on the specifics of interpreting tongues, but I do include a number of examples of messages I've interpreted, and how they proved out to be true. This blog can be accessed from the Goodwin Blog. If you have any specific questions about interpreting tongus, I'll be glad to respond from my private e-mail of giftoftongues@hotmail.com. God bless you!
Kind Regards,
Brother Mel  

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