Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Spiritual Gifts (pt 4): Why the Controversy? (ctd)

Are the gifts really not necessary today because we have the canon of Scripture? Why then would the verses about these gifts be included in the canon of Scripture if they were no longer going to be needed? Why would Paul tell the church in Thessalonica not to despise prophecies, but instead test them and hold fast to what is good ? (1Th 5:20) Was that just for them and not later believers? With all this evidence, what it is that makes people want to dismiss certain gifts and claim that they have already passed away? Is it biblical evidence or something else? Let me throw out a couple of reasons. You are welcome to throw them right back at me if you disagree. I believe that there are two different categories of churches or teachers that are in this camOne group is the churches who just don’t believe in miracles at all and certainly don’t give the working of the Holy Spirit any credibility. A lot of old mainline denominations have gone this direction. They have been influenced over the years by a movement called “higher criticism,” a form of “bible study” that tried to explain the bible through secular sources which automatically discounted miracles and the supernatural. Thus, if they could not explain by means of science, or ration an event in the bible, they determined that it must not be accurate and had to find some other explanation.
As an example they would explain the miracle of God parting the Red sea for the nation of Israel to cross over this way. Well, actually the Red Sea was really the “Reed Sea” and it was only a few inches deep. No miracle here. Really? How interesting that Pharaoh’s army all drowned in a few inches of water!
This approach to God’s word has led to the destruction of many denominations that used to be evangelical. Their seminaries deny the basic doctrines of the Bible. Creation (they prefer evolution), a worldwide flood, the virgin birth, the miracles of Jesus, some even deny the resurrection. They have a low view of the Bible and do not believe in its’ inerrancy. So it stands to reason that they would not accept supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. Is it any wonder that the attendance in many of these churches has fallen significantly?
The second group is, at least from my perspective, harder to understand. These are the churches and teachers who defend vigorously the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible and study it thoroughly. Looking at the scriptures as we have makes me wonder. Why do they come to the conclusion that certain gifts are not available today? Again, is it really from their study of the scriptures concerning this subject or is it something else?
There is one other reason I can think of. I believe it is possible, that seeing the misuse, abuse and some even ridiculous fraud concerning these gifts, they throw the baby out with the bathwater. They don’t want to be associated with this abuse and so they may look at the scriptures with a slightly prejudiced view. I completely understand that. I detest some of the things that go on the name of the Holy Spirit and I know that the Lord must be grieved as well.
It is not, however, necessary to do this. Generally, it is fairly easy to tell the fraudulent appearance of these gifts. Star by looking at who is being exalted. Is it God or man? If it is man, there is a problem. Then do as the apostle John suggested, 1 John 4:1-3 “ Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist,…” 
If a prophecy turns out to not be true, do not listen to the so called prophet. If a word of knowledge is inaccurate, it is not from God but man. If tongues are not used according to Paul’s order in church, then follow his instruction to be silent. But we must stay on course with what the Bible teaches about this and I believe we have seen no biblical evidence to categorize these gifts differently and say that some do not exist anymore.
I have actually heard people misspeak about 2 Pe 1:3 saying that the Bible has all we need for life and Godliness to prove that we don’t need these gifts. Let’s look at it. “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”.  Note the difference? It says that His divine power has given us everything we need for life and Godliness. The Bible teaches and exhorts us to allow the divine power of the Holy Spirit to do His work through us, but the Bible does not do the work. That is why it is so important to seek all the gifts that God bestows on us.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Spiritual Gifts Pt 3: Why the Controversy?

Why the controversy?
To tell you the truth, I don’t completely understand why there is so much controversy. I think the scripture is rather clear on the subject, but I will make an attempt at explaining it. There actually isn’t much disagreement about the fact that there are spiritual gifts operating in the church today. The question is, are ALL of these gifts operating legitimately and are all of them necessary in the church today? 
There are bible teachers whom I respect greatly, that teach that some of these gifts are natural and some are supernatural. Look at the list again, you can probably recognize which ones they are putting in the supernatural category. Prophecy (in its’ “foretelling” sense, all would agree that it is in operation in the “forth telling” sense), utterance of knowledge, utterance of wisdom, healing, miracles, distinguishing of spirits, and most especially, tongues. They might also use the term “miraculous” for these particular gifts.
These teachers usually claim that these gifts stopped when the canon of scripture was completed. The reason they cite, is that those gifts are not necessary anymore because we have the revealed Word of God to use, rather than rely on those gifts. The verse they most often quote to defend that position is in 1 Cor 13:8-10 “Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.”(ESV)
Clearly, the passage does mention three gifts as examples of gifts that which will pass away, but in order to make that passage work, “the perfect” has to be the Bible. “In part or partial” has to represent those supernatural gifts.
Though that is a possibility, it certainly could be considered a stretch. There is room for debate about what this verse means and one proof text is not really sufficient to “hang your hat on.” Many Bible commentators lean toward the “perfect” being that state of being we are in when we are in heaven or the presence of the Lord. Here are some examples:
“[But when that which is perfect is come] Does come; or shall come. This proposition is couched in a general form. It means that when anything which is perfect is seen or enjoyed, then that which is imperfect is forgotten, laid aside, or vanishes. Thus, in the full and perfect light of day, the imperfect and feeble light of the stars vanishes. The sense here is, that "in heaven" - a state of absolute perfection-that which is "in part," or which is imperfect, shall be lost in superior brightness. All imperfection will vanish. And all that we here possess that is obscure shall be lost in the superior and perfect glory of that eternal world. All our present unsatisfactory modes of obtaining knowledge shall be unknown. All shall be clear, bright, and eternal.” (from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)
“[But when that which is perfect] the state of eternal blessedness; then that which is in part-that which is imperfect, shall be done away; the imperfect as well as the probationary state shall cease forever.” (from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)
‘A few have suggested that this state of perfection will not be reached until the new heavens and new earth are established. Another point of view understands perfection to describe the state of the church when God's program for it is consummated at the coming of Christ. There is much to commend this view, including the natural accord it enjoys with the illustration of growth and maturity which Paul used in the following verses.” (from Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries; Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries. All rights reserved.)
The often quoted Greek scholar, Kittle says this. “In the Pauline corpus the meaning "whole" is suggested at 1 Cor 13:10 by the antithesis to Spiritual gifts — 
Tongues, knowledge and prophecy are mentioned — do not give full knowledge of God .This will be granted to the Christian only with the immediacy of face-to-face,” (from Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Copyright © 1972-1989 By Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. All rights reserved.)

Verse 12 of this same passage seems to support the idea that the “perfect” is when we are face to face with Jesus. 1 Cor 13:12; “12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”(ESV) I think that it is obvious that when we are face to face with Jesus Himself, we will no longer need any of the spiritual gifts. 
Let me ask you another question. As you look back at the lists given in Romans and 1st Corinthians, keeping in context with the verses surrounding them, do you see Paul making any distinction as to the nature of these gifts? Does He give any indication that any of these gifts are natural? I would have to say no!
The fact that these gifts are imparted by the Holy Spirit, makes every single one of them supernatural! We have nothing in our natural state that is valuable for spiritual growth for ourselves or anybody else. The only thing of spiritual value we have, is that which has been bestowed upon us by God! Therefore there cannot be two categories of spiritual gifts, but only one. They are unmerited gifts of grace, given to us by the Holy Spirit. Now, Paul did say that we are to desire the greater gifts (v 31) and that even more excellent than this was LOVE. But it is interesting to look at which gifts did Paul consider greater, 
1 Cor 14:1 “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.” He goes on to explain why and yet still says he wishes all spoke in tongues. He also seem to indicate that interpretation is greater because of its value to the body. Let us ask some more questions.

If some of these gifts were going to pass away after just some sixty to one hundred years (after all the New Testament scripture was completed), Why would Paul have spent so much time in instructing the church about their use? Yes, he was correcting the Corinthians in misuse of the gifts, but in so doing giving instructions to the whole body of Christ. Why did Paul make no other distinction of the gifts? Why did he say to earnestly desire all of these gifts?

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Spiritual Gifts, Pt 2 (excerpts from the book)

Question 2. By whom were they given?
Look again at the 1 Cor passage. It seems very clear that the gifts are given specifically by the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul wants to leave no doubt about the origin of spiritual gifts. Look down a little farther to verses 11-13. One of the keys to understanding spiritual gifts is contained in verse 13.This speaks of the baptism or infilling of the Holy Spirit and its significance in terms of empowering us to do what God has for us to do. 
You can see here that it is the Holy Spirit that bestows these gifts to believers. He can do that because He is God. Now, some people seem to have a hard time with the whole concept of the Holy Spirit being God. They would agree that the Bible teaches a triune God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but then seem to want to relegate the Spirit to second class Godhood. Remember, the Holy Spirit is God! He has all the same attributes as the Father and Jesus the son. He can do whatever He wills to do.
I think it is possible that the reason some people have difficulty with this concept is because the Holy Spirit does not exalt Himself, but He exalts Jesus, but the Holy Spirit is just as much God as the Father and the Son and we should obey His instruction to us. Remember what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit in John 16:7-11
“7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”(NIV)
 Even Jesus relied on the power of the Holy Spirit while He was here in human form. Remember that Jesus set aside some of His divine attributes while He was on earth. He was in perfect relationship with the Father and the Spirit, relying on the Holy Spirit to help Him accomplish the mission that was set before Him by the Father.
The work of the Holy Spirit is so important that Jesus said in Mt 12:31 that anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but one who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. As you can see then, our belief about the person of the Holy Spirit is extremely important. When Jesus taught about being born again, He said that our second birth is the birth of the Spirit into our lives and that the Spirit would teach us, guide us comfort us and empower us. If you want to look at some of the scriptures concerning this, you can look at Matthew 28:19; Mk 3:16, 13:11; Lk 11:13, 12:12; Jn 3:5-6, 7:39, 16:13-15.
Question 3. When were they given?
Read Acts, chapter 2 verses 1-5. No legitimate biblical scholars disagree that this day of Pentecost (50 days after the feast of Firstfruits) was the first indication that the Holy Spirit began imparting the spiritual gifts to the fledgling church. In fact, most would say that this day is the very birth of the church. Peter explains what took place in verses 17 through 20 and indicates that this began the period of the “last days.” These first gifts were imparted as the believers were filled with the Spirit and verse 4 says “as the Spirit enabled them.” That phrase is critical to our understanding of spiritual gifts.
Question 4. Why were they given?

Let’s go back to Romans 12 and start in verse 1 (thru 5). Notice that Paul connects the list of gifts to teaching about offering our bodies as living sacrifices and being connected together as one body. In the Corinthian passage He says this. 1 Cor 12:7 “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” He goes on in the rest of the chapter to explain that this is all a part of being able to work together as one body and that not all have the same gifts. This was done intentionally, so that we would be interdependent on one another. This destroys the concept held by some that you can be a “lone ranger Christian,” and do not need to fellowship on a regular basis with a body of believers. God purposely gave different gifts to keep us in need of one another to fulfill His purpose for the church.
Next post will discuss the controversy surrounding the gifts.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Spiritual Gifts: Pt 1 (Excerpts from "The Spiritual Gifts" book)

The Spiritual Gifts:  Are they for Today’s Church?
Over the years, a controversy has brewed over spiritual gifts and whether they are operating legitimately in the church today. Some say that these gifts, or at least some of the gifts are not available today and so any claim of their manifestation is illegitimate Others disagree and say all the gifts should operate today, just as they did during the early church period. I want to take a scriptural look at this topic because I believe that our understanding of this subject has great bearing on the life of the church.
Why is this an important topic for us to study? Is it essential for salvation? No, it is not, but it is extremely important in our personal relationship with the Lord and certainly affects the work of the ministry that God has for each one of us. How we see and understand the gifts of the Spirit affects how we relate to each other and the world around us. It can dictate the type of ministry we have, so we need to have a firm grasp of what we believe about spiritual gifts.
Look at what Paul says in 1 Cor 12:1 “Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.”  The word gift is not really there. It should really say “about spirituals.” It is possible that the word gifts is implied, but looking at the context, it seems likely that Paul was speaking about people, who were gifted but misusing the gifts. In either case, Paul will keep us from being ignorant concerning the gifts. The word in Greek for spiritual, is from the root word pneuma and denotes its’ divine origin.
Here is the Strong’s definition for gifts; NT:5486 charisma (khar'-is-mah); from NT:5483; a (divine) gratuity, i.e. deliverance (from danger or passion); (specifically) a (spiritual) endowment, i.e. (subjectively) religious qualification, or (objectively) miraculous faculty: (Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
 When you put this together, it is clear that these gifts have a divine origin.   
So, let’s follow Paul’s exhortation and jump in to the scriptures with both feet to see what it says about this subject. In order for us to understand the teaching about spiritual gifts, we must ask ourselves some questions.
  1. What are they?
  2. By whom were they given?
  3. When were they given 
  4. Why were they given?
Question 1. What are they?
 Let’s start by looking at the passages that specifically describe these gifts. There is two lists given in the New Testament. The first in Rom 12:6-8; “6 we have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”
The second list is found in 1 Cor 12:8-10; “8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.”
Without going into detail right now, let’s sum up this list 
  1. Prophesy
  2. Serving
  3. Teaching
  4. Encouraging or exhortation
  5. Giving
  6. Leadership
  7. Mercy
  8. Message of wisdom (utterance in ESV) (word of wisdom in NASU)
  9. Message of knowledge
  10. Faith
  11. Healing
  12. Miracles
  13. Distinguishing between spirits
  14. Various kinds of tongues
  15. Interpretation of tongues
Next Post- Who distributes the gifts and when were they given?
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