Category Archives: 1 Corinthians 12

Pyro Techniques?

By Marv

There was a little girl, who had a little curl, applied directly to the forehead. When she was good, she was very, very good. When she was bad, she was horrid!

Speaking of Team Pyro

As a frequent reader there (Pyromaniacs), frequent writer here (To Be Continued…), I’ve known sooner or later it would happen. I find myself pretty much in their camp on most things–with one major exception–which happens also to be the subject of this blog–Continuationism. I knew eventually I’d have to post something to be applied directly to the horrid.

I figured I’d wait until one of the crew posted some cogent argumentation for Cessationism, and then counter with a well-reasoned, insightful, exegetically-based, Biblical response. But then Dan Phillips today offers a 26-worder in which he basically says: “Don’t bother.”

His pithy posting we can reproduce in toto (plus title):

Tersely put: “continuationism” self-refuting

The very fact that “continuationists” acknowledge the need to make their case to Christians by argument is, itself, a devastating and sufficient refutation of the position.

Now what are we to make of this epigram, which would seem to be a low and inside pitch, or to change metaphors, a little bit of choir practice? Mr. Phillips, sir, you force me to bring out the numbers.

1. As best as I can decipher his meaning, being a bear of little brain, I would paraphrase thus: Continuationism is about the showy-stuff. If you can’t show me the showy stuff, what good is to give me a bunch of telly stuff? Cessationists of this ilk are prone to refer to certain gifts as “spectacular” or  “dramatic,” with razzle dazzle like a kind of magic show:

Give ’em an act with lots of flash in it, and the reaction will be passionate.

While a manifestation of the Holy Spirit may well be impressive, especially to those to whom His work is directed (e.g. 1 Cor 14:24-25), we would be wrong to expect Him to put on a show for us. His effects are deeper, directed toward spirit, heart and mind: “upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” (1 Cor. 14:3); conviction of “sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8).

2. Behind this statement lies a number of Cessationist misconceptions about how “spiritual gifts” work. This type of argumentation (much in the MacAruthur tradition) I call the Unicorn and Jackass show. Insist on a unicorn: a mythological beast, which never existed: such as a “gift of healing,” with which an individual is endued (something like an X-man super power), operating at will, always efficacious, instantaneous, permanent, irreversible. Or inerrant oral prophecy, which neither the Old nor New Testaments teach (the Scriptures yes, oral prophecy, no.) Then with this expectation bring out the jackasses. This can be done in as few as two words: Benny Hinn.

3. Note the formulation of his statement. Quotes around continuationists. Why? The use of “need” (always a red flag for misleading argumentation). I’d like to know who he is purporting to quote here as “acknowledging” this or that. Who knows? Maybe it’s Team Continuo here. I doubt it, but we do acknowledge the importance of Biblical argumentation.

4. Which makes it odd, coming from a blog that otherwise highly values “argumentation,” appeal to Scripture and right reason, that one of them would denigrate such in this case.

5. So often Cessationists accuse their Continuationist bretheren of basing their view on experience rather than the Scriptures–all the while doing this very thing themselves, as in this case.

6. So often Cessationists accuse their Continuationist bretheren of being “an evil and adulterous generation [who] seeks for a sign,” and then themselves insist on a “spectacular” sign, or else they will not believe the Scriptures.

7. It is the Scriptures themselves that teach Continuationism. We see both in the direct teaching of our Lord (John 14: 12) and of His apostles (1 Cor. 12-14), that it is the Father’s will, and to His glory that the Body of Christ continue Christ’s empowered ministry between Pentecost and Parousia. One looks in vain for valid support of the notion that any of this would cease within the first century.

8. We are called to pursue these gifts (1 Cor. 14:1), but to do so we must be convinced that the Scriptures do in fact teach that they are for today as well as for the first century. This cannot be done by experience, but only by examining the Scriptures. Whatever we do, we must do in faith, and faith must be grounded in the Word. Thus argumentation.

9. So anyway, if we show you something “spectacular,” you say, there are “lying wonders.” Just because it’s supernatural doesn’t mean it’s of God. Or if we demonstrate something clearly from the Scriptures, you ask “Tell me about your most recent spectacular miracle.”

10. A Continuationist is not one who can say “Lookie-lookie what I can do.” It’s not about possessing an ability in oneself. It is one who says, “Look here in the Word of God. Shall we not believe what God tells us?”

11. You might as well have someone who insists God is not doing that “prayer” thing any more. God is not answering prayer any more. Go on, show me. Pray something and lets see what happens. Sure, you hear stories about God answering prayer with specific fulfillment, but this is always somebody’s neighbor’s cousin’s hairdresser. Face it, these answers–if they happen at all–are coincidence, wishful thinking, psychosomatic. We many wonder at our lack or efficacity at prayer, when the Bible promises so much (James 5:16).

12. Anyway, to hold to Continuation is not to say that all happens now as it did for Christ and the apostles. Or that history has shown a constant and even presence of these gifts without fluctuation. What continues is God’s purpose, design, and provision, not His church’s specific performance in what He has provided. It is thus with every other aspect of the life of the Church. Why should “spiritual gifts” be any different. Some things nearly lost must be rediscovered (such as salvation by grace through faith), and the Church must always be seeking in the Scriptures to return to the faith taught by the apostles.

On Balance

By Marv

Once the Babylonians were finished with Jerusalem, no temple remained to perform the sacrifices prescribed in the Law. But the elders of the people, taking the Scriptures wherever they went, continued to teach the Word, and this tradition continued for centuries, well after a rebuilt temple allowed resumption of sacrifices. The restored priest class, the sacrifice-makers, hugged close to the places of power, even during times of foreign hegemony–which was most of the time. Their circle, named for one Zadok (or Tsadok), became known as the Tsedukim, Greco-Latino-Anglicized as “Sadducees.” Such, in large measure, were the priests

By contrast, the teachers continued in parallel, with concentrated attention to the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. Less prone to cozy up to the Syrians, Egyptians, Romans–whatever invader happened to be in charge at the moment–many of these stressed the set-apart-ness that the Law demanded. These Separatists, Perushim, we call the “Pharisees.”

The society in which Jesus was born was rife with factions, of which the above were only two. Each side was imbalanced: the Sadducees had the cultus, but were weak on the Word, accepting only the Penteteuch, and rejecting doctrines such as the existence of angels and the resurrection. The Pharisees, by contrast, offered solidity of doctrine, but were for the most part outsiders to the functions of the Temple.

Yet, I think each group can be said to have found itself with a particular calling, the Sadducees to maintaining the worship system, sacrifices and Temple; and the Pharisees to rigorous study of and adherence to the Scriptures. That each side did so imperfectly–very imperfectly–is evident from the gospels, in which Jesus Christ–their long awaited Messiah–met with pretty much equal resistance from the two factions. But imperfect–failing though they were–Jesus affirmed their ongoing places of responsibility under God:

The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. (Matt. 23:2)

“See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” (Mark 1:44)

In the final analysis each of these is to be evaluated, not by how balanced each is, but by how faithful each is to its calling, to the particular gift given as God wills. A balance there was, however, in the form of a bipartisan chamber, the Council, known to us by its Greek name for “seated-together” synedrion, the Sanhedrin. Together in this body, the differing emphases of the priests and the teachers found equilibrium, balance.

  • Calling, gifting calls for zeal and faithfulness.
  • Body is for balance, for completeness, for interaction.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. (1 Cor. 12:12)

Note Paul says “Christ.” But he is talking about the Church. Who can doubt that Jesus Christ represents perfect balance in roles: Prophet, Priest, King? And in His works: Teacher, Prophet, Healer, Giver, Comforter.

We now have inherited His name, as a body, “Christ” as the apostle calls us. And we have inherited his roles:

And God has appointed in the church first apostles*, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues**. (1 Cor. 12:28)

(**Apostles, I take to be generalists. **Tongues, I take it came in with Pentecost.)

Now we can count on the Spirit of God to keep the Body of Christ well-balanced since He  “apportions to each one individually as he wills” (v. 11). It’s when we scoop a bit out of this well-blended mixture and place it in a particular time and a particular place–a local church–that unequal distribution may occur. I don’t think the various gifts land in one-to-one correspondence with people, due to the way Paul encourages us to pursue prophecy or pray for interpretation of tongues. But it is apparent that excelling in use causes people to fall into characteristic roles: “Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers…” (Acts 13:1)

Human nature leads us to value these gifts or roles unequally. Otherwise Paul would not have to admonish us: “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you’ (1 Cor. 12:21). We can’t, but we do.  Strength in gifting tends to have a magnetic effect; for example, a strong teacher attracts many who appreciate strong teaching.

The result is little body-lets with distorted features: one little local body of Christ has whopping great feet perhaps, and puny hands. Another Dumbo ears but tiny mouth. Imbalanced bodies; history is rife with these, maybe more the rule than the exception, and this disequalibrium is one souce of sectarian division.

Something along these lines happened, I suggest, about the turn of the twentieth century. Two different callings arose–distinct but not incompatible. Those responding to the call acted with zeal and with faithfulness–albeit imperfectly. What was lacking was balance, since, while there was some overlap, the two callings attracted followings that each tended to undervalue the other, discount the other’s legitimacy and–being disunited–fell into imbalance. In short, each said to the other “I have no need of you.”

Taking a cue from Acts 13:1, I’m going to call these two camps “Teachers” and “Prophets.” For those inclined to quibble, note I do put quotes around them. I don’t mean these terms in any absolute sense.

The “Teachers” responded to the call to contend for the Bible and the essential doctrines it teaches against a growing threat from Higher Criticism and theological liberalism.

The “Prophets” saw that a major truth of apostolic Christianity lay neglected after centuries of Church history, the power ministry through the Holy Spirit, and “spiritual gifts.”

In parallel courses, the “Teachers” produced The Fundamentals–giving rise to the label Fundamentalist. The “Prophets” saw the development of a Pentecostal movement. Again, these streams are not without admixture. For example, Pentecostals might well affirm the declarations of The Fundamentals.

Interestingly also, each one, about midcentury, fired off a kind of second stage: Charismatics and Evangelicals. Once again, I don’t wish to draw too sharp a distinction. Many Charismatics would be well cast as Evangelicals. But still two distinct lines of heritage are clearly discernable, and in many ways each of the streams tended to distance itself from the other.

My own heritage has been on the “Teacher” side, and I think I can speak with greater freedom in regard to the activities on this side of the divide. Take B.B. Warfield for example: his book The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible is a diligent and faithful defense of the Scriptures. On the other hand, his Counterfeit Miracles, laying a foundation for Cessationism, may have been intended also as support of a strong Bibliology, but uses–I suggest–a dubious Biblical argument to do it.

But the main point I want to make is this: it has become common for the “Teacher” side to characterize the “Prophet” side as imbalanced. And indeed much evidence may be given that this is the case. This charge by “my side” is regrettable for at least two reasons: first, I submit that the “Teacher” camp is also imbalanced, though perhaps in a less noisy way. Second, and more important, due to the way the Spirit has arranged the Body, my calling an opposing camp “unbalanced” may revert the responsibility back to me.

Consider two children playing on a see-saw. When one goes up, the other goes down. When that one goes up, the first goes down. It is a study in balance. Now say kid A decides to jump off, leaving kid B to fall to the ground with a thud. How meaningful is it for kid A to accuse kid B of being “imbalanced.”

If the Pentecostal/Charismatic wing of the 20th Century Church can fairly be called imbalanced–and it can–whose fault is this? Let me submit–quite irenically–from the “Teacher” stream of heritage, a main cause for it has been the “Teacher”-side invention of Cessationism–and the consequent absence of much of the Body’s stong teacher gifting from that “other” side.

I don’t mean to suggest that the “Prophets” have been teacher-less. Not at all, but all the energy that has gone into building and maintaining the (in my opinion) unbiblical position of Cessationism, could have been better spent in helping guide the stream of Pentecostalism/Charismaticism into more Biblically and theologically appropriate directions.

This is why what we see occuring toward the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first is so encouraging. Individuals began to arise with heritage in both streams–or coming from one learned to embrace the other. Figures such as John Wimber have been key in this regard. What was once considered an oddity, Calvinist Contintuationists such as Sam Storms, C.J. Mahaney or John Piper, are now becoming more and more common.

It is not completely clear what labels to use, if we must use labels. Some have, I think mis-characterized this union of streams as a hybridization, and it may be tempting to imagine clever terms, such as “evangematic.” But I think it is better to see some in the Church now re-reading our Bibles, welcoming the whole counsel of God, not reacting to our brothers and sisters’ failings, and taking seriously our call to pursue our giftings with zeal and faithfulness, in a way that takes seriously “our” need of “them” and “their” need of “us,” trusting God’s Spirit and God’s word to bring us into balance.

The Word/Message of Knowledge

It’s been a few weeks now since I posted my article on the gift of the word, or message, of wisdom. As I mentioned, we have been currently going through a series on the gifts of the Spirit from 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 at Cornerstone. This series should wrap up next Sunday.

If interested, the audio preaching-teaching sessions can be listened to or downloaded from our podcast or from iTunes.

In this article I want to focus in on the gift of the word, or message, of knowledge, which is referred to in 1 Cor 12:8 just after the message of wisdom.

What Is The Gift?

As I mentioned with the gift of the message of wisdom, the Greek could be more faithfully translated here as ‘message of knowledge’. Some might still prefer ‘word of knowledge’. The ESV translates as utterance of knowledge. Again, this is a small case of semantical preference. Continue reading

The Great Non-Charismatic Trump Card

by Scott

Those who know me know I am a charismatic-continuationist. For me, at least with where I am heading in this article, this boils down to mainly two things: 1) I am committed to the reality that all gifts of the Spirit are still available to the church today and 2) I also come from a church perspective and heritage that has traditionally emphasised the importance of the times when the church gathers together in its varying ways.

But, I am also a teacher-theologian at heart. Not the most esteemed by any means. But the ministry gift of teacher seems to be the greatest measure of gifting in my calling in God.

Knowing this fact, I am continually thinking through the in’s and out’s of charismatic-continuationist perspectives and experiences. Sometimes the analysation can kick into overload.

Yet, the odd thing is that I have also experienced some very ecstatic things in my life (not always personally, though sometimes, but also with regards to others in various gatherings). I’ve reached a point in my life where nothing really shocks me. I think there are definitely some general guidelines we must take to heart as we gather together, and as a shepherd within a local church context I do consider my role of protection quite important and sobering. But, at least for me, I believe 1 Cor 14:33 has turned into the great non-charismatic trump card for many – For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.

Or other versions might say God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

What can possibly happen for some of us is that anything outside of the more normal, structured order of service can easily be seen as disorderly. And this disorder, and confusion, are definitely out of bounds. Structure and regulation carry great import, and we find that 1 Cor 14:33 provides both the grounds for our stance and the subsequent comfort in guarding against anything out of order (or weird).

Of course, in some extreme cases, this verse has been used as a manipulative tool of control. Yet, this is probably few and far between. But even as this verse provides the grounds for comfort to our structure, at times it can still cause a little too much limitation.

You see, I’m always amazed at the Corinthian situation. I mean this church was nuts. ABSOLUTELY NUTS!

There was incest, people suing one another, gluttony and drunkenness at the Lord’s table and, of course, extreme abuse of the gifts of the Spirit. Though I have encountered some difficult personal situations in my younger life as a church leader, I have not come close to the Corinthian mess with which Paul had to deal.

So one can expect a heavy hand into their situation. For goodness sake, Paul desired that people would no longer fall asleep (die) because of their disrespect for the unity of the body of Christ at the Lord’s table (1 Cor 11:30). So, when we come to things like the gathering of the Corinthian ekklesia, Paul laid out some really harsh guidelines, though, interestingly enough, he did not ever shut things down for good.

With gifts of the Spirit, we see some restrictive guidelines laid out:

If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God. Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. (1 Cor 14:27-32)

By no means do I believe that Paul was laying out some command for all-time in that, if you have 4 prophecies come forth in your church’s gathering, then you are grieving the Spirit and disobeying God. Of course, if one doesn’t believe prophecy or tongues are still given and/or needed today, then we don’t have to worry about these instructions. But I do not believe Paul is limiting us to 2 or 3 prophecies or messages in tongues for all-time sake.

Then, following these instructive words to the Corinthians, Paul comes in with that great trump card: For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.

As long as nothing comes out of order, out of place, out of the listed structure in the bulletin (we have a bulletin, but you might have it somewhere else), we can feel safe and truly comfortable. Yet, it is interesting that one of the names of the Spirit is that of Comforter (even if we want to translate parakletos differently from Comforter, the Spirit is still a Comforter). And so I suppose we should expect to be uncomfortable at times to know the comforting work of the Comforter. Possibly even feeling a little uncomfortable as we assemble together.

But we are told we serve a God who is a God of order, of peace.

Of course he is.

But sometimes I am very aware that the order and peace of God comes in different ways than what we would expect, or command. I suppose I can remind us of a few biblical examples:

  • Isaiah walked around naked for 3 years as a prophetic action pointing out what would happen to the Egyptians (Isa 20:1-4)
  • Hannah prayed so fervently for a son that Eli thought she was drunk (1 Sam 1:9-16)
  • When Nehemiah and Ezra read the Law to the Jews, they mourned and wept (Neh 8:9)
  • Jesus had a spitting ministry, or he healed people by use of saliva, sometimes mixed with mud (Mark 7:33; 8:23; John 9:6-7)
  • Following the outpouring of the Spirit, the onlookers declared that those speaking in tongues must have been drunk (Acts 2:1-13). As a side note, the behaviour identified with drunkness was probably not the activity of tongues, since the people understood what was being said in their own language, and no one speaks in another language by getting drunk. Rather, other behaviour must have exhibited other forms of strangeness.
  • Not to mention the varied reactions during exorcisms (i.e. Mark 1:23-28; Luke 4:33-35)

You see, when we examine the spectrum of the biblical text, we see tensions right across it. That’s because differing people were writing to differing groups in differing areas at differing times. And they definitely weren’t thinking about all the details of a 21st century global world.

So when it comes to our church gatherings, we cannot easily run to 1 Cor 14:33 and state it as a stamp of approval on how we are to see the order of God come into our midst. I think it would miss both the dynamic of God and the dynamic of the Scripture text.

Of course, the biblical text tells us that God is not a God of disorder, rather he is a God of peace. But the text, that same God-breathed text, also makes clear that our God is a God of ‘disorder’ at times. Shall we survey Genesis to Revelation? Or let’s just consider the bullet points above. I think Isaiah would have made a few of us blush. I suppose spitting on someone would not be considered the most well-mannered of actions.

So when the church gathers, there is no doubt in my mind there are things that the shepherds, the elders, must consider. Again, I am involved in such week in and week out. And I have had to deal with those awkward moments. Not a lot. But I have some. But I would never give up allowing people to pray spontaneously, prophesy, burst forth in a psalm, hymn or spiritual song, share a message in tongues, weep in repentance, or shout with joy exuberant all to make sure we never ever felt uncomfortable. I believe such would be a great grievance to God’s Spirit. And we would miss out on these instructions of Paul within the same Corinthian context:

What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. (1 Cor 14:26)

Did we catch that? – each of you has…..

Not just pastors and assistant pastors and worship leaders.

Of course everything must be done to build up. But we have to make space for such so that we can be built up.

In the end, there is no doubt that leaders are called to lead, protect, guard and wisely administrate (not in a secretarial way, but more in a leading way, as I believe the Greek word intends in 1 Cor 12:28). And sometimes we will need to bring an end to something that is causing disorder, we will have to correct, all with wisdom and grace.

But we will also, at times, need to allow for something a little ‘disorderly’ to happen that the Spirit might do the work that he and he alone can do. To stop that out of tune song, to stop the sobbing of repentance, to clamp down on prophecies, well, this could be just as disorderly than to allow for them.

I hope we can agree that there is no straight and hard line to this. But I also hope that, from now on, 1 Cor 14:33 is not simply seen as the fall back or trump card to protect us from what God might stir amongst his people in a somewhat spontaneous and unexpected way. Even if the spontaneity causes a little discomfort.

He is with us. He will lead us. He will give us discernment and wisdom. Let’s make some space for the body to be the body in our gatherings.

3 Teachings on 3 Gifts of the Spirit

by Scott

The past 3 Sundays at Cornerstone, I have again been giving some teaching on gifts of the Spirit, at least those found in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10.

During these past Sundays, I have covered 3 specific gifts:

  • The message (or word) of wisdom
  • The message (or word) of knowledge
  • Distinguishing between spirits.

Below are the audio teachings to listen to or download. I might post some articles as well, as I already have done so for the message of wisdom.

Message of Wisdom

Download at our podcast or iTunes.

Message of Knowledge

Download at our podcast or iTunes.

Distinguishing Between Spirits

Download at our podcast or iTunes.