Tag Archives: body of Christ

Apostles & Prophets Today – Why It All Matters

by Scott

When I write or teach, I tend to talk a bunch of theology and doctrine while forgetting to consider many practical matters. And we all know that theological talk (or jabber) without practically walking out the truth is not true biblical theology. Or we should know that.

So I’m aware of my tendencies. I can try and wax eloquent about certain things (I said try), but, in the end, I really want it to be a practical reality that affects our lives.

In the midst of this series on the Ephesians 4 ministry gifts, some might ask, ‘What’s the point? Why does it all matter?’

And the question is more directed at me, not the Scriptures. Continue reading

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The Body of Christ Continues the Work

by Scott

I’m rolling out a longer series on what is known as the five-fold ministries of Ephesians 4:11-13. Here is my thesis thus far, as summarised in these three statements below:

  1. Upon His ascension to the Father, Jesus began gifting people in all five of the Ephesians 4 ministries – apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds (pastors), and teachers. As Eph 4:11-13 makes clear, these ministries are given to equip the body of Christ and help prepare them to outwork the ministry of Christ in the world today. (You can read more here.)
  2. Jesus Christ was the greatest to function in all five of these ministries – the greatest apostle, the greatest prophet, the greatest evangelist, the greatest shepherd and the greatest teacher. We can only function in these ministries as we look to Him who was faithful in all five. (You can read more here and here.)
  3. The Holy Spirit was sent in the place of the resurrected and ascended Christ, all to continue the full work of Christ. As ‘another Helper’, just as if Christ were still here in active ministry, He is the apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, shepherding and teaching Spirit. (You can read more here.) 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.

Now Concerning Spiritual Gifts

This is a guest post by T.C. Robinson, blogger at New Leaven and he holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies and a Master’s degree with an emphasis in New Testament Greek

Spiritual gifts are those special capacities imparted to believers by the Holy Spirit for the glory of God and the good of the Body of Christ (1 Pet. 2:10-11; 1 Cor. 12:7).

In verse one, Paul uses the term πνευματικῶν, which may be translated either “spiritual people” or “spiritual gifts.”  But the consensus in light of the context of 1 Corinthians 12-14 fits better with “spiritual gifts.”

But from verses 4-11, Paul uses another word, χαρίσματα, “grace gifts.”  For example, our English world charisma or charismatic is derived from this Greek word.

However, these Corinthian believers were calling attention to themselves in their use of the gifts—like many today—and Paul had to take both in a corrective and prescriptive approach, as reflected in chapters 12-14.

Paul begins this section with these verses:

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.  (1 Cor. 12:1-3)

Notice how Paul quickly switches to χάρισμαcharisma, from πνευματικόςpneumatikos.  The reason: the Corinthians were bringing attention to themselves with the use of πνευματικός–we are “spiritual people” because we have all these “spiritual gifts” (v.1).

Paul is not impressed.

In fact, to show his disapproval, Paul uses χάρισμα to call attention to the source of the gifts – they are “grace gifts” (v. 4).

In the end, according to Paul, the real evidence of the Spirit in us is not “the gifts” he bestows but the love that blossoms – hence, 1 Corinthians 13.

The Spirit of Jesus and the Works of Jesus

by Scott

I believe that one of the most essential things to grasp in regards to our understanding of the Holy Spirit is that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

What do I mean?

Well, for many, especially specific groups that might be identified as sects or cults, they only recognise the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of the Father. And, because of this, they de-personalise Him simply recognising that He is a kind of extension of God the Father, His power-force at work in the earth.

Such theology might remain in tact if we only had the Old Testament on which to build our theology. But one important pneumatological aspect the New Testament shows us is that the Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus. I believe this has bearings on two major theological areas: 1) the personal nature of the Holy Spirit and 2) the divine nature of Jesus.

The Spirit is no longer simply identified as the Spirit of the the Father, but also of Christ. And I believe this comes against the notion that He is simply a force (though there are points to consider with regards to the Spirit’s personality). And this also indicates what kind of nature Christ has, the divine nature just like the Father, since the Holy Spirit is His Spirit as well.

But where does Scripture identify the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Jesus?

And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. (Acts 16:7)

And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6)

For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance. (Philippians 1:19)

And it is important to also look at Jesus’ discourse on the Spirit in the whole of John 14-16. Though the Father would be sending the Spirit (i.e. John 14:26) we also see that Jesus taught that He would, likewise, be the sender of the Spirit from the Father:

But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. (John 15:26)

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)

There is a differentiation from the Father, though not a complete disconnect, and a distinct connection of the Spirit with the Son. This is crucial within the Trinitarian framework.

But why such an emphasis on Jesus’ sending of the Spirit and the Spirit being identified as the Spirit of Jesus? Because the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, would continue the exact same work that Jesus initiated upon His arrival. This is why Jesus could say: I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you (John 14:18). And Luke could start out his second volume, Acts, with these words: In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach.

The Spirit Himself, who was both the Spirit of the Father and Son, would be sent to continue the work that Jesus was sent to originally do. But whereas the work of the Son was limited in His incarnation, the Spirit would now indwell and empower the entire company of God’s people to accomplish the same ministry and works of Jesus. Going back to John:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

Now, I am aware of what I might term as the ‘selective group’ argument and the ‘time limit’ argument. What do I mean by these two terms?

Well, the ‘selective group’ argument states that these words of John 14:12 were only expected of the original twelve. But I’m not sure that is a very defendable position and we could simply start by pointing out that the verse utilises these words: whoever believes in me. But, maybe for some, it’s not as simple as that. So let’s move on.

Here is where the fallacy lies for some with regards to John 14:12. When we think of the ‘works of Jesus’ from this passage, at least for many, they jump to think specifically of healings and miracles. Of course, this passage does teach that those who believe will do greater works. But I don’t believe this is a qualitative statement, but rather a quantitative statement, since you can’t get much greater than the Son of God Himself in all His varied works.

Thus, some make that ‘jump’ that identifies the ‘works of Jesus’, at least in the context of John, as healings and miracles. Now, the works of Jesus do include healings and miracles, but they also include proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom, mercy on the poor in spirit, compassion for the hurting, washing feet of our sisters and brothers, loving our enemies, words of knowledge, lovingly touching the outcasts, and so much more.

So, here is the point. There really is no ‘selective group’ in regards to the varied works of Jesus. We have got to stop identifying this statement as only referring to the ‘sign gifts’ or whatever we want to term them. This statement is much broader than that. It goes across the board with the works of Jesus.

But, if we want to reduce this statement to such specific acts of healings, miracles, signs, wonders, etc, then we have to recognise that quite a few others were used in just these such things beyond the twelve. Such examples are:

  • The 120 believers at Pentecost (Acts 2:4)
  • Stephen (Acts 6:8)
  • Philip (Acts 8:4-7)
  • Ananias (Acts 9:17-18)
  • Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:46)
  • Agabus (Acts 11:37-38; 21:10-11)
  • The Ephesian disciples (Acts 19:6)
  • The Corinthians believers (1 Corinthians 12:8-10; ch.14)
  • The Galatian beleivers (Galatians 3:5)

And by no means is that a complete list, nor if we listed every single biblical instance of these following Christ’s ascension does that mean that we have then identified every such act. Even Jesus did a lot more than was recorded in Scripture (John 20:30-31). I expect the same was true of His followers.

But one final note connecting back to the original passage quoted from John 14:12. Read the rest of John 14-16, since that is the fuller context. For those who want to argue that Jesus was only speaking to the twelve, notice how many times the language is much larger than the twelve, referring to the whole company of believers to come. Do we not see even these words below as relevant to us today?

13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:13-17)

Now I am quite fine to identify that Jesus was initially speaking to the twelve. But did Jesus expect all of these words to stop there? Can we really invest in the belief that this was for twelve and the twelve alone?

Ah, but what about the ‘time limit’ argument. Many will easily recognise that others in the ‘New Testament times’ were being used in such gifts of the Spirit. But sometime at the turn of the second century, possibly following John, the apostle’s, death, some of these Spirit-gifts came to an end. They had exhausted their purpose, at least their purpose for being normative in the life of the church.

But again, this thinking is very reductionistic. Why would we expect some portion of Jesus’ ministry to continue, say two-thirds or three-fourths or even 95%, but not all of it? Oh, I know the many arguments from varying passages and theological perspectives. And I guess I cannot address every twist and turn of the cessationist perspective here in this short post. But do we really expect any part of Jesus’ ministry to have ended? Or do we really expect any part of Jesus’ ministry to have become ‘non-normative’? Mercy and teaching and gentleness are for the regular life of the body. Prophecy and healings and words of wisdom are not. Huh?

Remember, Luke started off his volume two by saying his volume one recorded all that Jesus began to do (Acts 1:1). So Acts kicks off with an expectation for things to continue and you have a church launching out into the works, all the works, of Jesus. They stepped out with mercy, compassion, serving, prayer, praise, teaching, evangelism, prophecy, healings, miracles, and even something Jesus probably never participated in, tongues and interpretation.

Remember, the Spirit who is activating these very works, again, all of these works, is the very Spirit of Jesus. You could expect nothing less, absolutely nothing less than the exact things Jesus walked in. Why? Because this is the Spirit of Jesus Christ. It’s really as simple as that.

Jesus comes doing the things of the Father (John 5:19). He even announces that if you’ve seen Him, you’ve seen the Father (John 14:9). And so the Spirit comes initiating in Christ’s people the exact same things that Jesus started out with. And so the church, empowered by the Spirit, should be able to state, ‘We only do the things that Jesus did. If you have seen us, you have seen Jesus.’ If only that were our testimony more regularly.

And this is across the board. Not just with the fruits of the Spirit, but also with gifts of the Spirit. Not just with ‘signs and wonders’, but also with serving and washing feet.

The Father and Son sent the Spirit for a purpose. To help empower the entire body of Christ to accomplish the entire work of Christ across the entire planet. At times, it will involve laying our hands on the sick and seeing them restored. I remember a friend of mine who laid his hands on another young man’s hands that were filled with warts. He asked in Jesus’ name for the hands to be cleared, and when he removed his hands following the prayer, there was not a trace of warts. It softened that young man’s heart. But at times, it will involve serving a bowl of hot soup to a hurting and homeless refugee with a word of kindness. Both communicate the heart of Jesus. Both are wrapped up in the works of Jesus.

So let us look to see the Spirit of Jesus Christ Himself empower us to serve with the works of Jesus, however that may look today and tomorrow. We have a mission to accomplish and we will not complete it effectively apart from the Spirit’s work. We will not walk in the works of Jesus, in all their varied aspects, without the Spirit of Jesus Himself.