Tag Archives: prayer

Sense and Subjectivity

by Marv

This is the story of two sisters–and the man who loved them.

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” (John 11:5)

Mary, and Martha, and Lazarus–Jesus was their particular friend. There’s not a friend like Jesus–the soul of kindness, and if anyone had a just claim on that kindness, it is a particular friend.

But one day He disappointed them. Lazarus fell ill, and though they dispatched word to Jesus, they sat at their brother’s side, day after day, and watched him–anxious, frustrated, dumbfounded–as he sickened, dwindled and died. And where was Jesus? Where was their particular friend?

Now you know these ladies, daughters of the same mother and father, but so very different in their characters.

Martha is the one who, left to roll the canapés all on her own, dropped the “Don’t you care?” bomb on Jesus. (Luke 10:38-42)

Jesus? Care? You mean the one who left Glory for our sqalid hovel of a planet to come to our miserable kitchen, wipe up the spilled milk we cried over, scrape our burned toast, with His own hands–and at great personal cost–whip up a feast so nourishing that it endures for eternal life? That Jesus?

He told her, basically, that with Him there, a woman’s place was not in the kitchen.

And Mary, the other sister, she was the one who, shortly afterward will engage in–let’s face it–some pretty blatant emotional excess (John 12:1-7). It’s one thing to raise your hands while worshipping, but where’s the sense of decorum?

Still, Jesus doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, He quite approves. The congregation objects, however, particularly Judas (v. 4) who seems to have been working on commission (not the “great” one). Maybe Judas is the patron saint of the anti-emotionalists… Oh, wait, he can’t be anybody’s saint. Silly me.

So here we are, dearest brother Lazarus now dead and buried–for four days no less (V. 17)–before particular friend Jesus makes it to town. He even missed the funeral.

Martha, the sensible one, did the right thing and went to talk with Jesus. Mary, who couldn’t be separated from Him before, doesn’t go. She sits at home.

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” she says (v. 21). Makes sense. Perfectly theological. She was right. Worse than that, He could have healed Lazarus with a word from anywhere.

She does hint. Gives another very sensible proposition: “But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (v. 22). A statement of indubitable truth.

In return, Jesus gives her some of the most magnificent red letters in all the Bible.

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (25, 26)

Now, I love me some propositional truth–I really do. Objective statements of Scripture that we can ground our lives on, as Jesus Himself said. The gospel is about Jesus Christ, what He did, and does, outside us. Martha understood this. She knows: “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (v. 24). She believes: “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (v. 27).

Jesus gave Martha a great gift, showed her great kindness. Oh, that His very words to me might be written down forever in Scripture. Unimaginably gracious.

Then He asked to see Mary.

How was Mary feeling? Yes, feeling. Do you suppose John tells us for nothing that she stayed sitting in the house, while Martha went to see Jesus? Grieved over Lazarus, her heart was broken regarding Jesus. Yet, when He called for her, she hurried to Him (29, 31), and fell at His feet, crying. Not just “weeping,” crying (klaiousan).

And she said the same words as her sister: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

And they were the same words, exactly the same words–and yet what she said was not the same.

Now bringing up the Greek, directly, need only be an occasional thing. But here it is necessary. I would not begin to know how adequately to render the difference in the two sisters’ statements to Jesus. So I will show you. Understand, you may have heard that word order is not important in Greek. This is perfectly untrue. It functions rather differently from English, but there are regular patterns and variations, and these signal meaning. One device is known as “fronting,” moving a word or phrase toward the front of a sentence or clause from where it usually would stand. This gives it something called increased “prominence,” which does any number of things, depending on the context.

This is what happens in this passage. The ladies no doubt were speaking in Aramaic, though John represents their speech in Greek. And he is an excellent and thoughtful writer, the difference, subtle perhaps, is non-accidental. Non-incidental.

Martha:
Κύριε, εἰ ἦς ὧδε οὐκ ἂν ἀπέθανεν ὁ ἀδελφός μου
Kurie, ei es hode ouk an apethanen ho adelphos mou
Lord, if you-were here not – died the brother of-me.

Mary:>
Κύριε, εἰ ἦς ὧδε οὐκ ἄν μου ἀπέθανεν ὁ ἀδελφός.
Kurie, ei es hode ouk an mou apethanen ho aldephos
Lord, if you-were here not – of-me died the brother.

Syntactically, the genitive pronoun which belongs with the noun it modifies, belongs at the end of the clause, is moved up in Mary’s speech about as far as it can go in it’s clause. Semantically, this alters the focus of the statement.

Martha is stating the objective reality about Lazarus. Just the facts, ma’am.

Mary, however, is saying something about herself. Very much personal. Very subjective. It’s something like “if you had been here I wouldn’t have lost my brother,” though that is too forceful, I think.

So what was Jesus’ response to her? What was the gift He gave Mary? Some precious objectivity?

Jesus wept. (v. 35)

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. (v. 33)

He was moved, troubled, emotional. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15). This was His answer to her prayer. That she should “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

A subjective cry received a subjective response from our Lord, who cannot be unmoved by the tears, the cries, the pain of His particular friends.

He therefore felt with her, wept with her.

And raised her brother from the dead.

Remember, He knew all along that Lazarus was sick and dying, would die, and yet would not be left dead (4, 11, 13-15). He was acting on instructions (John 5:19), though it had to pain Him. And was He not acting in answer to prayer? The prayer, however, came later in time, or prayers, two at least, Martha’s and Mary’s.

There is great mystery here. Does it matter how we pray what we pray? “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt. 6:8). It’s not a matter of information. Is there something about mingling the subjective with the objective–as we were created for both?

A Simple Way God Spoke Through A Song

by Scott

I thought I would share some music musings that I had originally posted over at The Prodigal Thought. I wanted to share a simple little story about an ol’ favourite singer of mine, a song that has been stuck in my head this week, and a little story of how God spoke to me through the song.

One of my favourite singers since I was a little toddler has been Kenny Rogers. Yes, Kenny Rogers! Now, I don’t listen to him on a regular basis today, but my ventures with Kenny Rogers all started when I was just a little tyke of a boy. I fell in love with his singing when he appeared on one of the Muppets episodes (not the Muppet Babies cartoons, but the real Muppet puppets). And my parents taped that one show (on a VHS tape) and I watched it constantly, continually, perpetually, even religiously. My parents regularly recall how I would always call out to them, ‘Mommy, daddy. Kenny Waagerrs and Mwuppwets! Kenny Waagerrs and Mwuppwets!’

I supposedly could not get enough. And I have vague memories of that one show with Kenny Rogers embedded deeply within me.

Well, interestingly enough, before I was to move to Brussels, Belgium, I had been involved with a guy’s prayer group on a weekly basis within our local church. A few weeks before I moved, the guys were specifically gathered around me, praying for my situation. I had shared how there were a lot of things going on with preparing to end out things in Memphis and preparing to head to Brussels. I was beginning to feel quite overwhelmed.

As the guys were praying for me, one of my good friends, Sam, spoke up and said something to the effect of: Scott, I don’t know if you know the Kenny Rogers song, The Gambler. But I really believe God wants to speak to you through the one line that says, ‘You’ve gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run.’
Sam went on to share how, in this time, there are things that I need to consider if they are worth holding onto or if it is simply better folding them and laying them down. Though you might laugh, and some might even mock at my suggestion that God could ever speak through such a song, it was quite a strengthening word given to me from a simple line from a simple song, a song from my favourite singer as a little tyke. I will always remember that evening as I gathered with a handful of guys for prayer. And who wouldn’t remember a time when God speaks like a two-edged sword into your life and situation?

So, lately I have been singing that song. And so, in tribute to my most-liked singer as a little boy, and in remembrance of that strengthening word before heading to Brussels, I post this video of The Gambler by Kenny Rogers.

Preaching Series on Gifts of the Spirit

by Scott

Starting this Sunday at Cornerstone, I plan to begin a preaching series on the gifts of the Spirit. As I have shared much recently (here, here and here), God has been re-emphasising his power to me – the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of the kingdom of God and the power of the gospel to change lives (amongst other emphases on His power). And, I have specifically been spending time preaching on the power of the Holy Spirit. You can listen to two of my most recent sermons: Acts 1:1-8 here and Acts 2:1-21 here.

Thus, after spending this time with Cornerstone looking at the reality of the power of the Spirit in both Acts 1 and 2, I believe it is now right in God to move on to specifically addressing the gifts of the Spirit. This will be an exciting time for the church, as they have never had any specific previous teaching on the Holy Spirit and His gifts. The past month has already been very stirring as we held two conferences – VMI and Fast Forward – and have been focusing on the power of God, especially the power of the Spirit. But this will be helpful, meaty and practical in seeing our local church body move forward into the things God has planned for us.

Though the church has never been antagonistic to the Holy Spirit and His gifts, and many come from backgrounds that allow for all gifts of the Spirit to be active, as I mentioned, the church had not had any specific teaching on the Holy Spirit’s gifts and, thus, not actively looking to practise these gifts in their gatherings and lives. But, with the recent connection of the church with Lifelink International, and with my arrival to oversee the church as of the summer of 2008, we have been purposeful to move towards an emphasis on the work of the Spirit and His gifts. It has taken us a while to get there, but now with a little (or BIG) push out of the nest by God, it is time to specifically dive into such an amazing reality.

But, we have had tasters of His gifts, no doubt. There have been times when prophecy has come forth (though some might not have realised it was such). And I have done teaching on the continuance of all five (or four) ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4:11-13: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers (you can see the 4-part series here). And, just two weeks ago, we had an evening of seeking God together, mainly to hear from Him and speak forth what we believed God was stirring and saying. And, lo and behold, we had some prophecy, as well as others stepping out by praying aloud, sharing Scriptures, etc. It was truly beautiful and stirring!

So, I look forward to jumping into that all-important text in Corinthians on gifts of the Spirit, beginning with 1 Corinthians 12:1-11:

1Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3Therefore 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.

4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

There is a lot one could address just in that text, but we will take it week by week. We will also have visitors in to speak on some Sundays, so my specific series might be put on hold here and there. But that is fine by me. They will bring the word of the Lord into our church regardless.

And I also look forward to a time of training in hearing God and prophesying next Saturday morning, 11 September. God continues to blow upon the embers of our heart and I can only expect there will be more blowing in the weeks to come.

So, stay tuned to our podcast if you would like to hear some teachings on the gifts of the Spirit (rather than read, though I might post some articles as well in the weeks to come). I will also post links to the teachings here at To Be Continued.

Final Response to Patton’s “Why I’m Not Charismatic” (Part 8)

by Scott

With this post, Marv and I conclude our series in which we have interacted with Michael Patton’s eight-part series entitled “Why I’m Not Charismatic”. You can also download Patton’s series in a 22-page PDF file.

If you want to read previous posts, they are here:

Michael Patton’s final section in his series, section 8, is his concluding explanation as to why he is a ‘de facto cessationist’, meaning, he is a cessationist because there is not enough compelling evidence in his personal life as to persuade him otherwise. He still maintains God’s sovereignty as to overstep the experiential boundaries of his life. But, in all, this is simply where Patton finds himself.

I do not despise one’s experience shaping their theology. Though some might disregard experience altogether, I believe it is part and parcel to our faith, as I have shared here. But what I would challenge any cessationist, de facto or whatever, is that we acknowledge and allow for experience to shape our theology right across the whole body of Christ (I am not saying Patton would not allow this).

It doesn’t mean we should not judge our experience by Scripture, as well as those we are connected to who are responsible members of the body of Christ. But our experience many times helps us understand God’s revelation in Scripture. That’s how it was in biblical times and that’s how it has always been right down unto today. All Christian, cessationist or continuationist, need to allow for such.

There are a few things Marv and I have already dealt with that come up in Patton’s final section of the series. And, so as not to repeat ourselves, I only bullet point them and point to other articles for consideration (or re-consideration).

  • On God’s sovereignty and our responsibility with the gifts of the Spirit – read part 6 (point #1)
  • On the terminology of normative and expectation – read part 1 (point #2) and part 6 (point #2)
  • On the gifts ceasing in church history – read part 5, as well as this other article on the charismata in church history

But let me pick up two more comments of Michael’s and then I shall finish with some closing thoughts.

1) Healings and miracles as gifts and via prayer

Just as there can be so much confusion over such terms as sign-gifts, normative and expectation, here is another case where confusion can easily come about – the means by which healings and miracles are outworked in our human world. So I want to break down some things practically as I see them from Scripture and I hope they are helpful in giving us a more holistic practical theology in regards to things like healings and miracles.

Specifically, many cessationists like to hold to what I would say is a more dualistic view with regards to healings and miracles. They would typically argue something like what Patton has stated in his article:

Most healings and miracles I have seen come through prayer, not through a divine conduit with this particular gift. (italics mine)

Do you see the two varying means put forth in this statement?

I believe such a person would further argue that the first apostles, and some of the other early church leaders, were able to see healings and miracles through both of these means: 1) commanding the healing and 2) prayer. But, following the exhaustion of their purpose in confirming the gospel message in the first century, a healing could take place through the channel of prayer and seeing someone get well, even get well rather quickly. But to walk up to someone and make an authoritative command such as, ‘In the name of Jesus, be well and receive healing from the Lord of heaven of earth,’ well, that really does not happen much any more.

You see the difference being pointed out? 1) Prayer and 2) Authoritative command because one has the gift.

Thus, I think we can easily fall into the trap of viewing prayer in somewhat of an unhelpful way, something like that set aside time, with our eyes closed, whether privately or publicly, to ask God to intervene on our behalf. Something like that. So, by praying to God in this kind of way for a healing or miracle, it becomes distinguished from the more instantaneous command that we might read about in places like Acts (or hear of others sharing such stories today). A case and example is here:

6But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. (Acts 3:6-7)

Now, I know that my above description of prayer is a very basic and naive concept, one that Patton and many cessationists would typically deny as their specific definition of prayer. But my challenge is that, some kind of dualistic thinking has developed amongst many Christians with regards to healings and miracles and how they are exhibited within our human world.

Of course, healing can come through prayer, as we read in these well-known words of James:

14Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. (James 5:14-15)

And I suppose such statements below by Jesus will also cover the areas of healings and miracles:

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. (John 14:13-14)

But I believe we confuse the situation when we don’t recognise all things as flowing out of prayer with God, or the relational communication we have with Him. For didn’t James also remind us:

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17)

Whether healing comes as a process (yes, it can be a process) or instantaneous, Jesus is still Lord of heaven and earth, and He is still the one we ask and rely on for healing. No matter if that is a set aside time of prayer with a gathered group or if it is out on the street as we interact with a broken (both physically and internally) world. We are in a place of desperate reliance upon God Himself.

Even if we want to divide healings and miracles into the two categories of instantaneous and non-instantaneous, both still ultimately come as a product of prayer communication and reliance upon God. And I suppose that anything we, then, command by the authority of Jesus would flow from the relationship we have with the Father as we listen to what He is saying (like Jesus in John 5:19).

I believe this prayerful focus and reliance upon God is going on ‘behind the scenes’ in places like this:

6But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. (Acts 3:6-7; the healing of the lame beggar at the Beautiful Gate)

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:31; this is not a healing but still quite miraculous)

But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. (Acts 9:40; prayer and instantaneous healing, and here is an example of Peter’s command for a miracle following his prayer)

9The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. (Acts 10:9-11; Peter went up to pray and had quite a miraculous vision and revelation)

5So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. 6Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. 7And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. 8And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” 9And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. (Acts 12:5-9; a miraculous deliverance in response to earnest prayer)

Shall I keep going?

My point is that I think it unhelpful to put some healings and miracles over in one category called prayer and the rest in another category called instantaneous via authoritative command. Whether such is instantaneous or not, whether it happens at the command of a human vehicle in Jesus’ name or not, it all comes via prayer communication in the name of the Lord of heaven and earth, Jesus Christ.

While I understand the desire to designate healings and miracles in these two ways, these categories do get easily broken down at times, overlapping together, and all sorts of intertwining. And if we hold to these kinds of categories, as it seems Michael Patton and others do, I think we will 1) not be as prone to recognise the power of healings and miracles as God’s response to specific prayer times and 2) believe that healings and miracles no longer happen via an authoritative command in Jesus’ name.

The first instance is just as beautiful and powerful as the second, and the second instance still occurs today.

2) Relating to the closing of the canon

After hinting at this in part 7 of his series, Michael Patton revisits what he believes is a good analogy in explaining why he is a de facto cessationist. It has to do with how we, as evangelicals, believe in a de facto closed canon.

We believe the canon of Scripture is closed and should not be added to. This does not come about by really quoting any one particular verse or plethora of verses, but rather considering the theological ramifications with regards to the canon of Scripture (for evangelicals, the 66 books of the OT and NT) and its overall purpose. Christ is the full and final word of God’s redemptive and covenant revelation for humanity. Thus, our fathers long ago recognised that there is no need to add to such and, therefore, ‘closed’ the canon. To this, we would agree. Not to mention that this also allowed for greater protection against heresy.

Therefore, Patton believes this analogy is very helpful in considering the purpose of the ‘sign gifts’ (prophecy, tongues, healings, etc). Patton remarks:

I don’t think that one can make a solid case for the ceasing of the gifts from Scripture. However, I don’t think that one can make a solid case from Scripture for the closing of the canon. I believe that both of these issues are very similar. Could God add books to the Bible if it were his purpose? Of course. Could we cry “foul” and say “You cannot do that because our traditions and councils have said you cannot? No. We (Protestants) believe in the de facto closing of the canon. What does that mean? We believe in the closing of the canon because it, indeed, closed. It is a historical and experiential reality. God just quit adding books to the canon. Only after this does our theology step in and attempt to explain this by saying it closed because soteriological history was completed.

Yet, as you could imagine, I cannot agree with this kind of thinking with regards to the gifts of the Spirit (or one wants to call them ‘sign gifts’).

Though I am sure some will disagree, I think we can recognise that God’s revelation can be identified in varying categories. Interesting I say this, right? Because I just noted the insufficiency of the two categories many cessationists create with regards to the means by which healings and miracles are outworked in our human world. But I think identifying two categories or purposes of God’s revelation can be established.

I might identify God’s revelation in these categories: 1) redemptive and 2) non-redemptive. Or, those two categories might be too dubious for some, so maybe we should prefer these two classifications: 1) canonical and 2) non-canonical.

But what I am getting at is that every single bit of God’s revelation that has been given since the beginning of time has not always found its way into the canon of Scripture. It’s really that simple.

Now, we are assured of the God-breathed nature of the 66-book canon of Scripture. It comes to us as the word of God testifying to the Word of God, Jesus. But by no means does it contain all that God has revealed, communicated, spoken and done since the creation. If we think it does, we are simply misled.

God’s revelation has always continued on even outside the formation of the canon of Scripture, both when it was being written and since it was finished and closed. Not just in the ‘general revelation’ sense that we all agree with, like in physical creation or in the conscience of humanity (typically pointed out from Romans 1 and 2). But also in the specific sense of God’s purposes and what He is doing in the earth via His people. None of this would contradict the full summary of God’s revelation that we have in the Scripture. But, nevertheless, His revelation and deeds were not confined within the formation of our canon.

I will give you a couple of examples:

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)

In his Gospel, John specifically took the time to record specific signs to help us believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in Him we may have life. But he also tells us there were many other things, significant things, Jesus did. Those many other things were not any less a revelation as to who Christ is and God’s purpose through the gospel. But John specifically gave testimony to certain acts of Jesus and left out others. Think about some of those other acts Jesus did, which John did not record, that brought people to believe He was who He said He was. But thankfully we have a continuing testimony of what Jesus did, in John’s Gospel, the other three Gospels, and the rest of the New Testament.

Now, some will say – That’s the point! We have in Scripture what was necessary and sufficient, but we need no more.

No, that’s not the point. The point is that the Scripture gives what is sufficient. But, by no means, does this rule out any less that God was actively revealing and doing things to attest to who Christ was. That’s what John said. And that is how it was prior to the arrival of the Messiah and that is how it has been with the sending out of His body. I can almost bank on it that plenty of people came to know who Jesus was via things He taught and did that were not recorded in the Gospels, but nevertheless were extremely important.

Another favourite example of mine is found in 1 Timothy 1:18-19:

18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience…

These words, these prophecies, were never penned in any part of Scripture, that we know of. Yet Paul makes it clear that these prophecies could be utilised in waging good warfare, as well as holding to the faith and a good conscience. Must have been pretty powerful prophecies!

And I don’t even think all of the words came from Paul. In 1 Timothy 4:14, we read that a gift was imparted to Timothy through prophecy and that this was done by the ‘council of elders’. Paul was probably there as well (see 2 Timothy 1:6), but it was highly probable that a few different people spoke forth the prophecies (notice the plural in prophecies).

Again, these prophecies were never recorded in Scripture, but they were worth holding onto. Timothy could actually live out the faith with greater strength by remembering these words of revelation.

And, if we are honest, we will truly recognise that every revelatory word spoken by a prophet, apostle, or any man or woman of God, did not find its way into Scripture. I don’t believe God ever planned it that way. Well, actually, I’m certain He didn’t plan it that way, even if I only had the two examples above.

Not to mention the plethora of prophets in the Old Testament that never penned a word, but were still actively speaking on behalf of God. Nor would Acts have recorded every single thing that the church participated in during the first century, especially noting that it mainly followed the activity of three apostles – Peter, John and Paul – and a few handful of others.

So, how does this relate into Michael’s analogy?

A closed canon of Scripture, as our measuring stick for our faith, does not point to the ending of God’s revelatory words and deeds. This is because the greater purpose of God’s revelation was not a canon of Scripture, though that was extremely important. The purpose of God’s revelation is to reveal who He is, His character, His purposes, and His plan to see His rule and glory expand across planet earth.

God’s revelation and God’s miraculous activity was never confined to our canon. So the analogy does not quite hold up. Instead, God has not only been desirous, but has actually continued to unveil Himself in accordance with the pattern that He has always revealed Himself. This is our constant and consistent God.

Closing Thoughts

Both Marv and I are extremely grateful for Michael Patton. We constantly interact with his blog, Parchment & Pen, as well as on the theological discussion network, Theologica, that he began just over two years ago. We have a deep respect for Michael and none of our interaction with his series should be seen as ‘cheap-shots’, but rather as a desire to interact with and challenge a man we do respect.

I personally appreciate Michael’s openness to all the gifts of the Spirit. I believe his interaction with the wider body of Christ has allowed for such, and this will allow for continued healthy discussion on the topic. I can only hope that one day soon we shall also see Michael encouraging and exhorting the body of Christ about the continued activity of the Holy Spirit in all the gifts of the Spirit. Until then……

John Piper on Spiritual Gifts

by Scott

Yesterday, John Piper posted an article of interest at his blog, Desiring God. He starts about by reminding us of nine different points to remember about spiritual gifts:

1. God wants us to know about spiritual gifts.

“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed” (1 Corinthians 12:1).

2. Objective truths about Jesus govern subjective spiritual experiences.

“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 Corinthians 12:3).

3. Different Christians have different spiritual powers given to them by the Holy Spirit.

“There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:4).

4. For example, these different spiritual powers include the following:

“Wisdom . . . knowledge . . . faith  . . . healing . . . miracles . . . prophecy . . . ability to distinguish between spirits  . . . tongues . . . interpretation of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:8-10).

5. The Spirit of God is sovereign over when and to whom he gives such powers.

“All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11).

6. The aim of all the gifts is the common good of the church.

“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7).

7. The variety of gifts is like the variety of our body parts, such as eye and ear, hand and foot.

“For the body does not consist of one member but of many” (1 Corinthians 12:14).

8. Therefore, if a spiritual power is not used, it’s like the human body not hearing.

“If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? (1 Corinthians 12:17).

9. Therefore, we should avail ourselves of the spiritual powers God gives us through others.

“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’” (1 Corinthians 12:21).

But then Piper looks to specifically connect these truths with the reality of unanswered prayer. He lists some realities of why our prayers might go unanswered, yet he then shares some thoughts on a reason we may have never considered:

But here is a reason we may not think of very often. God may intend to give us the blessing we long for not directly in answer to prayer, but indirectly in answer to prayer—through the spiritual gifting of another believer. And the reason we don’t receive the blessing is that we don’t avail ourselves of the power God intends to channel through the gifts of his people.

Yes, the gifts of God are given for ‘the common good’ (1 Corinthians 12:7) and for building up the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 14:26). Paul even challenges us to ‘strive to excel in building up the church’ (1 Corinthians 14:12).

So, whatever the gift, let us build one another up, and who knows, as Piper points out, that ministry expression through the spiritual gift might just be the answer to our petitions before God.