Tag Archives: spiritual gifts

Terms of Empowerment

by Marv

What is the general subject of 1 Corinthians 12-14?

Spiritual gifts“? That seems to be the received rubric for the aspect of Christian life and ministry that Paul discusses there. I offer a mild objection. This is the phrase and concept people tend to use, but I wonder if it is quite adequate, and not a bit misdirecting.

Why do I say this? Well, for one reason, the phrase “spiritual gift(s)” occurs nowhere in 1 Corinthians 12-14. It occurs nowhere in 1 Corinthians at all.

Sure it does, you say: 1 Cor. 12:1 and 1 Cor. 14:1. All right, sure, but what I am referring to really is the underlying Greek phrase χάρισμα πνευματικὸν (charisma pneumatikon), “spiritual gifts.” It’s not there in 1 Corinthians. We do have “spiritual” and we do have “gift,” but not together as a phrase.

In fact that phrase only occurs one time in Scripture: Romans 1:11, and there I think it has a rather different meaning than we usually associate with “spiritual gift”:

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—

Perhaps it does correlate closer than I am thinking, but that’s not my point today. I want to look at the terminology that does actually occur in 1 Cor. 12-14, and see what this can tell us.

1. Pneumatika

Here are the two verses I referred to above, as they read in the ESV:

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

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. (1 Corinthians 14:1)

As I observe above, the underlying Greek here for “spiritual gifts” is not the phrase charisma pneumatikon, but a single word, the adjective pneumatikon, used substantively in the plural: pneumatika. This is the rendering of the ESV, NIV, NASB, and KJV, though this has “gifts” in italics.

The supposition behind this rendering, I take it, is that the bare neuter plural adjective modifies an elided neuter plural noun, which being resupplied by the translators, turns out to be charismata, “gifts.” Maybe–I guess–if we do assume that “spiritual gifts” was the ready phrase in Paul’s day that it is in ours. I’m not so sure of it, however.

One note: in 12:1 this word appears in the genitive plural, the form being penumatikōn. Ostensibly this could be any of the three genders, though feminine being difficult to account for (sorry, ladies) that generally masculine and neuter are in the running. Paul does use the term in the masculine for “spiritual people” (of either sex). He even uses both masculine and neuter forms in the same sentence earlier in the epistle:

And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths (pneumatika, clearly neuter) to those who are spiritual (pneumatikois, clearly masculine). (1 Corinthians 2:13)

However, the 14:1 reference is unambiguously neuter: pneumatika.

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts (ta pneumatika), especially that you may prophesy. (1 Corinthians)

In the context, I think it is reasonable to take these two instances, when he introduces the topic in 12:1 and reintroduces it in 14:1 as the same usage. Thus the latter informs us that the former is indeed neuter plural. That’s what the translation “spritual gifts” understands anyway.

But if the plural adjective pneumatika modifies an understood charismata, and so “spiritual gifts,” can we say that in the singular, a single spiritual gift would be a *pneumatikon? The asterisk is a linguistic convention to indicate a hypothetical form never actually found in the data. Of course, the adjective in that form does occur as we saw in Rom. 1:11, and elsewhere, but as a lone substantive, meaning a “spiritual gift” it occurs nowhere. In other words we have no evidence in the text of a “pneumatikon” being used to refer to prophecy or tongues or such.

Now not having an example does not disprove anything, but it also doesn’t confirm that we are on the right track with the rendering “spiritual gifts” for pneumatika.

Let me suggest something else. In both 12:1 and 14:1 the word is reasonably understood as a general category term. Greek has a well established usage which resembles these forms exactly. That is, frequently an adjective (especially formed with -ik-) in the neuter plural has an abstract sense which indicates a general subject or field of inquiry.

This is the origin of several of our English subject terms as well, those ending in -ics:

“Physics” from ta phusika. Not because of of some thing called a “phusikon,” but because it concerns things of phusis “nature.”

“Ethics” from ta ēthika, concerning things of ēthos “custom.”

“Politics” from ta politika, concerning things of the polis, “the state.”

Following in this line, ta pneumatika would simply be a general cover term for things concerning pneuma, “the Spirit,” rather than referring to a set of abilities or the instances of their use. I don’t know if “Pneumatics” has a future as a rubric here, especially as it is already used as a term for physical effects and related technology. But this would be consistent with similar terms.

2. Charisma, Diakonia, Energēma, Phanerōsis.

These four occur as rough synonyms in a sequence of four verses: 12:4-7, translated as follows:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

a. Charisma means “gift,” as in an object that someone gives you. Our sense of “gift” as a talent, as in a “gifted musician” presumably derives from the use here. I’m not sure it had that sense in Greek prior to this concept. It can also be an untangeable gift, a favor, as in “do me a favor.”

It is frequently tied to charis, grace, and indeed this is true, but it is more parallel to charis than derived from it, I think. Let me explain the derivation:

Both are derived from the verb charizomai, which has a variety of uses meaning to grant to give freely or generously, most especially to forgive. The etymology of this verb is also pretty clear, with the –iz– suffix (our –ize, Brit. –ise), suffixed to the root chara “joy.” To “joy-ize” someone is to perform an act which will immensely please or gratify them for its generosity. Thus charizomai (some kind of deponent middle voice).

The act of charizomai or quality of one doing it, is thus charis, “grace” as we ususally render it.

The ending -ma signifies a result or object of an action. So take –omai off chariz-omai and you get charis-ma (mutatis mutandis): thing given: gift.

b. Diakonia is a very general word for service, and a diakonos is a servant. This has become transliterated and technicalized in our word deacon. In the NT we do see it used for this office (Phil. 1:1 ESV), but probably never really dissociated mentally from the menial sense of “servant.” Deacon has nothing of this feel. Much less does minister, also a frequent translation of diakonos (e.g. Col. 1:25 ESV). Our word minister, meaning either a professional clergyman or a state official has moved far afield from what the Greek would convey.

c. Energēma has at its base ergon “work” (an actual cognate, originally wergon). With the prefix en– “in” it is obviously the source of our word energy. The verb energeo means “to be operative, at work, active.” Therefore, with the suffix –ma, it signifies and effect, operation, or activity.

d. Phanerosis indicates that which is normally invisible becoming seen or otherwise perceptible to the senses, i.e. becoming manifest, a manifestation.

3. Pneuma

You will recognize here the common word for “spirit,” which has a range of uses, such as:

a. God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit.

b. the human spirit

c. another spiritual being, i.e. an angel

d. an evil spirit, a demon

I submit there is an (e) sense of pneuma which refers to an instance of one of these gifts, services, effects, or manifestations, not so much the potential or ability (as we tend to think of a gift) but its actual use. We can see this in comparing two similar statements from ch. 14:

1. Pursue love, and earnestly desire (zēloute) the spiritual gifts (pneumatika), especially that you may prophesy. (v. 1)

2. So with yourselves, since you are eager (zēlōteai) for manifestations of the Spirit (pneumatōn), strive to excel in building up the church. (v. 12)

Note that the Greek underlying the ESV’s “manifestations of the Spirit” is not phanerōsis as in v. 7, but simpy the single word pneuma (in the genitive plural). Now this is translated “spiritual gifts” by such versions as NIV and NASB and KJV, just as pneumatika is, but with rather less justification. This is particularly true if we conceive of “gift” as an ability rather than an act or perceptible phenomenon.

Based on what follows then, examples of a “spirit” in this sense would be an utternce in tongues or a spoken prophecy. Or v. 26 may be a list of such:

…a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation.

Now based on this usage of pneuma, I’d like to look at a couple of exegetical applications.

1 Cor. 12:10 makes the following reference: “to another the ability to distinguish between spirits.” Frequently this has been understood in terms of demonology. In other words, the ability to have supernatural insight into evil spirits that may be afflicting someone.

The underlying Greek is diakriseis pneumatōn, often rendered “discernment of spirits” and the word for “distinguishing” or “discernment” here corresponds exactly with the verb in 14:29:

Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh (diakrinetōsan) what is said.

“Discernment of spirits” then would not be so much identification of demons as it would be evaluating prophetic utterances. As such “distinguishing of spirits” in 12:10 would be the same as the “weighing” of prophecy is in 14:29.

This also impacts on our understanding of 1 John 4:1-3:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

(1 John 4:1-3 ESV)

I think this makes sense out of something that has bothered me. John says not to believe every spirit? We ought to believe the Holy Spirit, of course. What, are there a few others we should believe? Surely he doesn’t mean we might encounter an occasional demon who might be trustworthy.

But if “spirit” (pneuma) here be understood, for example as a prophecy, I think it makes rather more sense. And it explains why he mentions false prophets. So he’s not telling his readers to believe some demons and not others, but not just to accept every utterance of prophecy that someone speaks.

This may mean that the phrase which the ESV renders as “the Spirit of God” is not here actually a reference to the Holy Spirit. The phrase is to pneuma tou theou, and certainly does look as if it refers to the Holy Spirit, I grant. But John goes on to explain, referring to “every spirit” (pan pneuma), which certainly sounds like he means a plurality of spirits. And if this spirit confesses Jesus it is–now John doesn’t say THE Spirit of God, but “from God” (ek tou theou). By the flow of argument it seems to me he is rather saying:

By this you know a spirit (prophetic utterance) coming from God: every spirit (prophetic utterance) which agrees that Jesus has come in the flesh is from God. Every spirit (prophetic utterance) which does not confess Jesus is not from God. It’s a spirit (prophetic utterance) from antichrist which (neuter!!! i.e. antecedent is “spirit”!) you have heard was coming and is in the world already.

Understand, this is by no means my discovery (granted there’s even any truth to it), but I don’t think it is a well-known option.

I suspect though this is what lies behind the use of “private spirits” in the Westminster Confession. There is some controversy with this term. Some suggest it simply means “opinions.” Others do take it to refer to individual revelations, either accepted, tolerated, or else simply recognized as a claim by the Confession.

The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture. (I.X.)

…with which I heartily concur.

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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.

The Tongues Conundrum (Part 2)

by Scott

I recently began a series on the gift of tongues, but started with some thoughts on the larger scope of Spirit-inspired speech. But let’s move on specifically to the gift of tongues.

The first instance that we read about tongues is at the Pentecost event of Acts 2:1-4:

1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The word normally translated as ‘tongues’ in our English versions comes from the Greek word glossa or glossia (plural). It could also be translated as ‘languages’, which seems an acceptable translation when considering the biblical teaching on this gift. Though some might argue it sounds like babble (or babel), it actually comes as some sort of intelligible language, even if that language is not personally known to the speaker.

As a kind of side excursus, many theologians see this act of the initial outpouring of the Spirit as a reversal of the curse at the Tower of Babel where there was a confusion of languages (Genesis 11:1-9). Because of Pentecost, tongues now stands as a sign of unity in the body of Christ, God using people to speak in languages they have not learned to be a blessing to the body of Christ.

Of course, one of the main purposes of tongues in Acts 2 was that of an evangelistic drawing of people to Christ. But, a sort of theological deduction from considering tongues across both Acts and 1 Corinthians (and possibly a few other passages) is that such was given as a unifying sign of edification to the body of Christ, thus, reversing the curse of Babel for God’s covenant people. And, I can only suppose that the first Christians that witnessed the amazing and paradigmatic event of Acts 2 would have been blessed and edified by the outcome.

Now, in the account of Acts 2, the people spoke in languages that were recognised by those gathered around (see Acts 2:5-12). This is really the only biblical account in which we see tongues being utilised evangelistically. But that does not mean it was never again utilised in such a way in the New Testament record, especially if an interpretation comes forth, which we will consider later on from looking at 1 Corinthians 14.

We see other specific examples of tongues in Acts, specifically with Cornelius’ household in 10:46 and the Ephesian disciples in 19:6. But neither of these accounts point to an evangelistic use. Rather they were a response to the baptism/initial filling of God’s Spirit.

Still, though tongues might come forth in a language recognised by those present (and I can think of a couple examples off hand from ministry friends in the present day), we must also bear in mind that tongues might not always be spoken in a language that is recognised by those present. I think such is acceptable when we consider words like there from Paul:

For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 14:2)

But it is through the interpretation of the tongue that understanding is brought to the body of Christ for edification, or even utilised in drawing people to Christ. And, I suppose the need for the gift of interpretation would only point to the fact that tongues are not always understood by those present.

There is much discussion about another aspect of tongues, as highlighted by these words of Paul:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1)

Some will claim that this reference to ‘tongues of angels’ is a hypothetical situation and one should not expect to find themselves speaking in such a manner. But remember the first words of Paul’s statement: ‘If I speak in the tongues of men.’ Now, we know this is an actual certainty – speaking in the tongues of men that we have not learned. Thus, it seems highly unlikely that Paul would refer to one situation that is a reality and one situation that is hypothetical. And, noting that tongues is a Spirit-enabled language, it’s possible that one might speak in a heavenly tongue.

Nothing could be ‘proved’ in regards to this, since tongues can regularly come forth in languages one has never learned, and especially since there are thousands of languages and dialects in the world. But I would propose that, since it is possible to speak in tongues (languages) or men, then the same could be true with regards to tongues of angels.

As an encouraging personal side story on the gift of tongues, I share an account of a specific local church where a friend of mine is an elder-pastor. This happened about a year and a half ago.

My friend specifically works with a church that officially relates to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). But, while they maintain that relationship of accountability, the church does not always practically function in regards to every specific of the SBC. For example, they have a plurality of eldership, which is not the norm for SBC churches.

Also, as you might imagine, historically, the SBC has not been an advocate for the practise of the more ‘charismatic’ giftings of the Spirit, i.e., those in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. My friend’s church never preached against such, and they actually were quite open in allowing people to openly share what God was stirring in them during their corporate gatherings, even some things that could be classified as prophecies and revelations. But, with tongues, there was not much knowledge or practise of this gift.

So, my friend and the wider eldership of the church decided to take up preaching and teaching through the book of 1 Corinthians. Wow, what a challenge to say the least! And, of course, many months down the road, they took up a close study of 1 Corinthians 12-14.

Not too long after they finished the teaching on those chapters, God brought a surprise into their midst. God was making sure that their spirituality was not just doctrinal teaching, but also a practical reality. In one of the Sunday gatherings of the congregation, a person gave the first ever public message in tongues. In recalling the story to me, my friend shared how he kind of sat back in his chair and went on to let God know that he trusted Him. This was something that had never happened before. But my friend was not going to ‘nip it in the bud’, as they say.

And when the message in tongues was finished, the interpretation came forth by the one who spoke in the tongue.

But here is the beautiful part – After the gathering ended, a young man came forth to speak with my friend who is one of the elder-pastors. This young man did not usually attend their gatherings. Rather, he happened to be there as he was in a close relationship with one of the members of my friend’s church. I guess he was the boyfriend of one of the young adults of the church. He shared with my friend that he was of Jewish background and the tongue that had come forth in the gathering was in Hebrew (obviously more modern Hebrew than ancient-biblical Hebrew). And the young man preceded to share that the interpretation that came forth was correct.

A fantastic story of God’s grace and gifting amongst His people. A testimony to the reality of the gift of tongues being utilised, and utilised properly, in the corporate gathering of God’s people.

Thus, here are some summary points from this first post on tongues:

  • Tongues is most likely a God-statement that He was reversing the curse of Babel for His body.
  • Tongues can be utilised evangelistically (as in Acts 2) or in edifying the body (1 Corinthians 14).
  • Tongues can be spoken in actual human languages or in the languages of angels (1 Corinthians 13:1).

I hope this has begun to give somewhat of a solid introduction into the gift of tongues. Stay tuned for more articles in which I will discuss other important aspects of the gift.

Seven Reasons Why I Believe the Gifts of the Spirit Still Exist Today

by Scott

This post has come out of my recent comment to Marv’s recent article, He Has Spoken Through His Son.

If it came down to why I believe all gifts of God, including those in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4:11, still exist today, I think I could summarise it in seven specific points. So here they are:

1) God is an actual living, personal being

Almost every Christian would uphold this statement. God is a personal being and He is living. And, so, one would only expect a living, personal being to be a communicator, a speaker. This is not so much a biblical argument in which I want to specifically quote a few passages here and there (though I know we could). But it is simply a theological deduction from reading the entirety of Scripture.

Living, personal beings are communicators in so many ways. And with God Himself being a living, personal being, what else could one expect from Him? Thus, He will continue to communicate, speak, reveal, unveil, illuminate, until all things are completed. Well, and then He will keep speaking to those enjoying the blessing of the new heavens and new earth!

2) Christ is a charismatic prophet and so is his body

When I use the word charismatic, I mean it in the sense that Roger Stronstad defined it in his work, The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke (which I review here):

I use the term “charismatic” in a functional and dynamic sense. By “charismatic” I mean God’s gift of His Spirit to His servants, either individually or collectively, to anoint, empower, or inspire them for divine service. (p13)

And, as the living Word, Christ was the greatest Prophet to ever exist (as I share more here at my personal blog). There has been none like him who spoke and revealed the Father, for he taught us that whoever has seen him has seen the Father (John 14:9).

Therefore, if Christ is the great charismatic prophet, then by nature, his body is to follow in his footsteps. The body follows the head. It’s part and parcel to our calling in Christ. It doesn’t mean that everyone is particularly marked out as a prophet today. Of course not. But, via the Holy Spirit’s indwelling and empowering, Christ expects his body to get on with completing that which he initiated. Christ is still continuing that which he began to do and teach (Acts 1:1). Thus, we are now not only a priesthood of all believers, but also a prophethood of all believers.

3) The Spirit continues the same work of Christ

This really connects with the former point, but it is the Spirit that is the main one to continue the work of Christ. It is the Spirit that comes to indwell and empower the people of God here and now. We are the vehicle by which Christ continues his work via his Spirit.

I know this sounds like the A, B, C’s of pneumatology (doctrine of the Holy Spirit). But when one reads the pervading teaching about the Spirit of God throughout the Scripture, and especially noting the heightened teaching and activity in the NT, one receives the overwhelming sense that the Spirit that was sent at Pentecost was to continue acting in accordance with his nature as recorded in the OT and NT until that final parousia-return. Again, the basics on pneumatology, but the same Spirit that was actively at work in the first century was to continue to indwell and empower the body of Christ for the past 1900 years and counting.

4) The positive affirmation in Scripture that such gifts would continue

I share much more here for you to read on this, but suffice it to say that there are actual Scripture passages teaching that such works and gifts would continue. In the article I have linked to, I specifically take time to look at these four positive Scriptural affirmations: John 14:12; Acts 2:17-18; 1 Corinthians 13:8-12; and Ephesians 4:11-16.

There are plenty more one could look at and consider, but those are a very solid starting point as to specific passages.

5) Faulty exegesis of the normal passages brought up by cessationists

By no means do I want to sound arrogant, but there are the ‘usual suspects’ brought up by cessationists as pointers to why certain gifts (or ‘sign gifts’) would cease once the full testimony of the gospel and new covenant was finished in the completed canon of NT Scripture. While I uphold the importance and authority of the Bible, I strongly believe none of Scripture points to the ceasing of any gifts prior to the parousia-return of Christ.

Four very often quoted passages are 1 Corinthians 13:8-12; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 1:1-2; and Hebrews 2:3-4. I have spent some time considering these passages in this article. So rather than dealing with them in depth here, you can follow the link and read my thoughts.

As a side point, it is also quite interesting to note that phrases like ‘word of the Lord’, ‘word of God’, or ‘word’ do not always refer to the graphe written Scripture. God spoke His word and always has spoken His word. Again, it’s part and parcel to be a living, personal being that desires to communicate with those He created. But here are some examples where the above mentioned phrases are not referring to Scripture:

  • Word of God – Luke 3:2
  • Word of God – Acts 4:31
  • Word of God – Acts 6:7
  • Word of God – Acts 12:24
  • Word of the Lord – Acts 13:44, 48-49
  • Word of the Lord – Acts 19:20
  • Word of the Lord – 1 Thess 1:8
  • The are countless times the word ‘word’ arises and does not refer to Scripture

6) The amount of times God actually spoke through and used those who were not prophets or apostles

Here is a smattering of examples just from the New Testament:

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

This should give us courage who are not actually apostles or prophets. God wants to utilise His people in such ‘charismatic’ activities since He has been doing such from the beginning.

7) The great testimony of the charismata in church history

I have already written on this topic before, as you can see here. But suffice it to say, there are plenty of examples of God, by His Spirit amongst His people, speaking and acting out the charismata as found in 1 Corinthians 12.

And, a great resource to look at would be The Century of the Holy Spirit: 100 Years of Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal by Vinson Synan. He takes time to chronicle what has happened over the past 100 years or so with the rise of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements. In today’s world, it is highly probable that there are some 500 million believers associating themselves with either Pentecostal, charismatic or neo-charismatic churches. And the accounts of God’s activity by His Spirit continue on into the 21st century.

So, suffice it to say, I find it extremely hard to argue for the cessation, or ceasing, of the gifts of the Spirit. For me, there is an overwhelming biblical, theological and historical positive case for the continuation of such.

Training in Hearing God & Prophecy?

by Scott

Today we had a time of training in hearing God and prophecy. If I mentioned this to a few people, they might look at me kind of quizzically and ask – You had a time of training in hearing God and prophecy? Huh?

It doesn’t sound too spiritual, does it? Training in hearing God and prophecy? Don’t these things just happen by the Spirit?

Well, I would disagree that this sounds unspiritual. Hence why we held a training time for our church this morning in learning to hear God and in prophesying. While, for some, prophecy is for the super-spiritual, maybe those with their heads constantly ‘in the clouds’, most of us need these things brought down to planet earth where most of us live on a day to day basis. We need practical training and equipping. Hence, with all the recent stirrings of God’s Spirit in the midst of our people, and with little previous teaching on the topic for a transitionary church like Cornerstone, I knew it was absolutely vital to not simply ‘preach’ a few sermons on the topic, but to provide real, solid, biblical and practical training in prophecy.

Now, first off, I would note that there are differing measures of prophecy. 1) The prophet (i.e. Eph 4:11-13) who has a very strong measure of the prophetic and they help equip the whole body to be prophetic, 2) One with the gift of prophecy (i.e. 1 Cor 12:10) who is used regularly in this ministry gift but might not have the specific and greater measure of a prophet, and 3) All can be utilised in prophecy since they are indwelt by the Spirit of prophecy (i.e. Acts 2:17-18; 1 Cor 14:1-5).

Because I am convinced the whole body of Christ is called to be a prophetic body (read more here), we need to ‘equip the saints’ for such a ministry, as it says in Eph 4:11-13. And so we need to prepare and equip God’s people in how to hear God and speak forth what He is saying as He directs. Of course, every time we hear God, it might not call for us to speak it forth as prophecy. I share a great example here where God spoke to me about changing the way I was praying into a situation. But we need the body of Christ to be prepared to be a prophetic people, just as we need them to be prepared to be a shepherding or evangelistic people as a whole.

Now this starts by, one, learning to hear from God. Jesus did tell us that his sheep would hear his voice (John 10:3-4). And, though, the temptation is simply to relegate this only to initial salvation, and the context of John 10 can be used to support such, I suppose sheep don’t simply hear their master’s voice once and that’s it. There is a constant and continual listening to the shepherd. Hence, I think the same is true of the sheep of the Great Shepherd. Or we could use the imagery of a child with their father. They don’t hear the father once and that’s it. There is constant communication between the two.

Still, there are plenty of questions that arise out of learning to hear God: 1) Is it truly God or just me? 2) Is this God or is this the enemy? 3) What am I to do with what I believe God is speaking to me? And so on and so forth.

I think there are quite a lot of amazing factors God has given us to help wisely discern the voice of the Lord. While I list these, I wouldn’t say they are in any particular order. Some might say, ‘Well, you have to start with the Bible, the word of God.’ While I centre all my theology in Scripture and use it to weigh what I believe God is speaking even today, sometimes it is not that simple. Hence, why I list these and do not claim a particular order, as, at times, some will be more helpful than others.

1) The Scripture. As I said, and cannot say enough, this is central to weighing correct theology-doctrine as well as what we believe God is speaking today. But the thing is that Scripture does not address every little nook and cranny of every matter of life. Of course it addresses a wide gamut of issues and there are even things we can glean from its wisdom in one area that could relate into another. But Scripture is not a car instruction manual giving us 7 steps on how to do this or that and it will all be perfectly fine. Hence, the need in our lives for these other factors below.

2) Spouse. For those married to solid followers of Christ, this is normally the best place to start in weighing what we believe God is speaking today. But, having a godly spouse is not always the case, and, thus, we have the following to help as well.

3) Leadership. This is so central and important to our lives as Christ-followers. But, unfortunately, in the west, our individualism has set this aspect aside in so many ways. But God has given us elder-shepherds in our local church to consult for wisdom in matters of life. Of course, it isn’t fool-proof, nor will they have all the answers in every situation. But this is an absolutely vital part of the life of the body. They are God-given instruments to us! Yes, there has been and probably always will be abuse. But we cannot let misuse of this in some places detour us from the design of Jesus himself. Think of Jesus’ relationship of dependence on the Father. We need to be connected to leaders in our lives.

4) Body of Christ. Not only do we have leaders in our lives, but there are other wise and mature people in the body of Christ. Please don’t head towards people that you know will always agree with you. Rather head to people that love you, have your best interests in mind, but are also willing to speak into your life even if it means not agreeing with what you sense from God. If only we would value this aspect more and more, for God has never, ever thought the idea of the ‘lone ranger’ was good. Never! Also, if someone ever prophesies to you and asks you to keep it a secret and not tell anyone, that is not of God. He is one who brings things to light instead of hiding them. Prophecy has to do with God revealing or unveiling His heart, not hiding His intentions. Thus, we are not called to hide these things, but we should be willing to weigh it with leaders and others in the body of Christ. So don’t get caught up in ‘secretive’ prophecies. It is not healthy.

5) Peace of God. The peace of God is ultimately so very helpful in this area of our walk with God. In the end, if we think we have heard something from God or someone has spoken something as a word of prophecy to us, it needs to ultimately produce the peace of God in us. It’s not that we have to fell 100% comfortable with something. At times, God calls us to very uncomfortable things. But we can still know the peace of God in the midst of uncomfortability. But let our hearts be assured in God’s peace, which does surpass our cognitive understanding at times (Phil 4:7).

But these five things, and there are probably others, become very helpful in discerning the voice of God. And even then, it might call for steps of faith when we are still uncertain. We would love it if it were all so easy with no sense of need for wisdom, discernment, vulnerability, relying on the body, etc. But there is a process of learning here, just as with all aspects of our spiritual lives. Did we hear that? Again, while some want to super-spiritualise this whole thing and say, ‘It just happens. You just hear,’ most of us are still learning to hear from God. We are learning the Father’s voice. So let’s not be afraid if we are not always 100% certain.

As for prophecy, while the prophet or the one gifted in prophecy who has been functioning in such a ministry gift for quite some time might walk in much more confidence in the gift, those not specifically gifted in this way also need growth in this area. That is why the best place to start with prophecy is amongst the body of Christ whom we are closely connected with and joined to. Such is to be a safe place. Or, if the main gathering of the whole body is too intimidating at first, we can start in smaller groups or in one-on-one prayer time with close friends.

And when God speaks, it can be into differing areas: 1) into our own lives (which connects with some of the things discussed above about hearing God), 2) into the life of another or multiple others, 3) into the wider situations like a local church, or 4) into far-reaching situations like cities or nations, etc. Yes, I could have considered different ‘categories’. But I believe these provide a general understanding of how God can speak across varying lives and situations.

So, what we need to ask God is whether or not this revelation we have received from God is for ourselves, for others, or for a wider situation. Sometimes we immediately know. Sometimes we don’t. And sometimes the revelation comes and we are to share it immediately. But sometimes it comes and we are to hold on it; such is for a later time. How do we know if it is for now or later? Well, I can encourage us to not feel rushed. If it is the word of the Lord, He will make sure it comes forth and accomplish its purpose. I am pretty sure there were plenty of prophets of old that received something from God but await the proper time to disclose the revelation.

If we are not sure if the prophecy is for now or another time, let’s remember the importance of consulting our leaders. They can be very effective in helping us know if it is for now or not for now. And they can also be helpful in bringing guidance on whether this is for ourselves alone, other particular people, or a wider situation. Strong and healthy leadership truly protects and provides wisdom. That is why they are shepherds.

Finally, I simply note that prophecy can come in varying forms. And this is where the particular personality of a person will have an effect on the way in which the prophecy is delivered. I’m not trying to lessen the impact of prophecy, but rather trying to emphasise just how incarnational our God is in revealing Himself. Thus, what I mean is that prophecy through a physicist will come forth in a little different way than, say, a creative artist. One might receive very stirring imagery, what some might call a ‘prophetic picture’ (the creative artist) while the other might communicate the prophecy in quite minute and ordered detail (the physicist). This happens very regularly. It’s quite like a David and an Isaiah prophesying in differing ways at differing times. But both communicated the word of the Lord. Again, this happens frequently.

In the end, there are still questions. We will always carry them as finite human beings. I suppose the prophets of Scripture also had questions (sorry if this sounds denigrating, but I don’t believe it is). But they also took steps of faith as the word of the Lord burned within their heart.

So I have no problem with providing practical training and equipping for God’s people to learn to hear the voice of our Father and how to prophesy. I think such is very helpful to see the body of Christ grow in their calling as a Spirit-indwelt people to be a prophetic voice in all the world.