Pneumatology

Myths About Spiritual Gifts: #3 We Have to Identify Our Gifts

gift question markRead the series so far.

He had no military training, and no skill with the elite weapons of war, but when he saw a battle that needed to be won he didn’t hesitate to engage. Against all odds, and armed only with the knowledge of how God had strengthened him before, a sling and a few small stones, David faced a vicious enemy. 1 Samuel 17 gives the account of how David heard the Philistines taunting God and the armies of Israel, how no soldiers were willing to fight the Philistine champion, and how David—depending on the Lord—won the day. Being only a boy, David was met with resistance when he volunteered to fight. King Saul told him he was not able (1 Sam. 17:33).

David’s response was brilliant (and helpful): “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Sam. 17:37). And of course, we know the rest of the story.

David’s attitude toward serving God provides an excellent example for us today, especially as we consider spiritual gifts. David lived in a different age, and the Holy Spirit was not operating in exactly the same way—He would temporarily strengthen people for specific tasks, and there is no evidence that He indwelt people then as He does in the church age. Because David wasn’t dealing with “spiritual gifts,” I use his episode with Goliath as an example, but we have to be careful not to take the analogy too far.

In any case, David was certain he would be able to function successfully in a future endeavor only because of how God provided for him in similar past endeavors. He exhibited no fear in looking forward to the task at hand because of his history with God. But as far as we know, David had no special revelation from God to that point. As far as the Bible reveals, God did not promise David He would deliver him from the lion or the bear—or Goliath. But yet David was confident, and he proclaimed to Goliath, “I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted” (17:45).

2298 reads

Myths About Spiritual Gifts: #2 Speaking in Tongues is a Needed Evidence that We Have the Holy Spirit

Read the series so far.

With over 40,000 members, Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas is the largest church in the United States. For better or for worse, Lakewood and its leader Joel Osteen are profoundly influential. One significant area of influence is in the realm of spiritual gifts. A search of the terms “spiritual gifts” on Lakewood’s website produced (at the top of the list) a downloadable booklet called Understanding the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, from Joel Osteen Ministries, and authored by Lisa Comes. The booklet explains how and why one should speak in tongues, and cites speaking in tongues as evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (point 5, page 3). The view promoted in the booklet is not original with Lakewood, Osteen, or Comes—in fact, it is the prevailing view in Pentecostal and Charismatic denominations. But is it a biblical view? Is speaking in tongues needed evidence that we have the Holy Spirit?

First, as we considered in the previous article, Romans 8:9 emphatically notes that “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” By contrast Osteen’s and Comes’s booklet cites Acts (2:17-19, 39), Luke (11:13), and John (7:37-39) to support the point that not every believer has the Holy Spirit. And it is true that Romans presents a very different picture of how one receives the Holy Spirit than do the Gospels and even the book of Acts. But rather than contradicting one another, these books consider different contexts—different times, and different ways in which God has worked over the ages (nothing contradictory at all). To illustrate, Joel Osteen has never (to my knowledge) advocated that believers today should present to the Lord two turtledoves or two young pigeons as is mandated in Leviticus 5:7. Presumably this is because Osteen recognizes that Leviticus was written about a different people and context than the church of today.

3054 reads

Myths About Spiritual Gifts: #1 We Need A Second Work of Grace

The great Inigo Montoya famously said, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

That line is apropos for many occasions, but it especially fits how we often understand spiritual gifts. Instead of recognizing spiritual gifts as tools God gives to help us get His work done, we often consider them to be mystical links between God and us—evidences or proofs, if you will, that He is really working. I suppose we shouldn’t be too surprised, after all we are in good company (recall Israel’s episode with the golden calf—their faith was pretty weak at the time too). But still, like Montoya says, we use the words without really understanding how He uses the words. Consequently, we make them into something they aren’t. In the series of articles to follow we take a look at ten common myths regarding spiritual gifts. Here is the first one:

Myth #1: We need a second work of grace in order to get a spiritual gift

The Bible is notably silent about receiving the Holy Spirit as a step separate from salvation—except in the book of Acts (more on that book in a moment). Romans 8:9, for example, says, “But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” We either have the Spirit or we don’t. We are either in Christ or we aren’t. Paul leaves no middle ground. In fact, Ephesians 1:13 tells us how and when we receive the Holy Spirit: “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” Paul adds that the Spirit is “given as a pledge [or downpayment] of our inheritance [eternal life], with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:14). At the moment of belief, the Holy Spirit is given to believers.

1106 reads

Miraculous Gifts: If They Ceased, When?

This study of cessationism considers three essential questions. Focusing on the gift of tongues, Parts 1 and 2 addressed the first of these: What were the gifts in the New Testament, and how does that biblical description compare to what is happening in contemporary charismatic circles? When we approach the continuationist/cessationist debate by first defining the gifts biblically, it becomes apparent that modern charismatic practice does not match the New Testament phenomena.

The second essential question is the when question. If the miraculous gifts (biblically defined) are not occurring in the church today, then does the Bible provide indications to when those gifts ceased?

For the sake of space, this question will be addressed only briefly. Those interested in further study on this issue should read Satisfied by the Promise of the Spirit by Thomas Edgar.

In interacting with the when question, six texts must be considered. Many of these texts are used by continuationists to argue for the ongoing nature of the charismatic gifts.

2791 reads

Addressing the Charismatic Question, Part 2

This study of cessationism focuses on three essential questions. Focusing on the gift of tongues, Part 1 began to address the first of these: What were the gifts in the New Testament, and how does that biblical description compare to what is happening in contemporary charismatic circles?

Seven similarities provide strong evidence that the gift of tongues in Acts was the same gift of tongues in view in 1 Corinthians 12–14. In Acts and 1 Corinthians, tongues share the same source, recipients, substance, terminology and primary purpose. They also share the same connection to the other gifts and the same reaction from unbelievers.

Several additional exegetical comments might be made about the gift of tongues:

1. Some, not all

First Corinthians 12:8–11 and 27–31 make it unmistakably clear that not everyone received the gift of tongues (cf. 14:26). Note that there is no contextual or grammatical warrant for seeing 1 Corinthians 12 as one type of tongues (that only a few receive) and 1 Corinthians 14 as a different type (that everyone is to receive). Along those lines, Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 14:5 (“Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues”) is almost identical to his earlier statement in 7:7 regarding singleness. (“Yet I wish that all men were even as myself”). Thus, Paul’s wish does not indicate that everyone in the Corinthian congregation actually spoke in tongues.

6727 reads

Addressing the Charismatic Question

The following is adapted from seminars given at The Shepherds’ Conference with help from Voice magazine. Used by permission.

Historically speaking, evangelical Christians (from Martin Luther to Jonathan Edwards to Charles Spurgeon) have held to a cessationist position. They believed the miraculous spiritual gifts of the New Testament era ceased shortly after the first century. Contemporary cessationists include names like John MacArthur, R. C. Sproul, Sam Waldron, and Richard Gaffin.

It is important to note, at the outset, that cessationists do not deny the possibility of miracles in the general sense of special acts of divine providence. Rather, cessationism limits its focus to the miraculous and revelatory gifts of the Holy Spirit, contending that those specific gifts did not continue after the apostolic era came to an end.

With the birth of Pentecostalism in 1901, followed by the Charismatic Renewal in the 1960s and especially the Third Wave in the 1980s, the evangelical camp found itself divided in its view regarding charismatic gifts. A number of widely-read evangelical pastors and theologians (like Wayne Grudem, Sam Storms, and C. J. Mahaney) have been outspoken about their continuationist views. As evangelical charismatics, they believe the miraculous gifts of the Spirit did not cease and are still in operation today. Other well-known leaders (such as John Piper, Mark Driscoll, and James MacDonald) have also expressed openness toward the idea that the miraculous gifts are still operational.

In assessing any theological position, it is vital to begin with the Word of God. If we are to rightly understand the gifts of the Spirit we must start by going to the Scriptures which He inspired.

3642 reads

A Case for Cessationism

With all of this as a backdrop (see part 1 in this series), the question is reduced to this: Is God giving authoritative revelation on par with that which He has given in the past, much of which has been inscripturated, or is He not? If He is, then the church of Christ needs to take note and come into compliance with the modern prophecy movement, following its revelations as it would Scripture. But if the Lord is not revealing His inspired word today, then we need to reject the claims of the modern prophets and expose these supposed revelations for what they are. This means the position taken by most on prophecy—cautious but open—is untenable. The cautious but open crowd is skeptical of the claims coming from the prophetic movement and they are suspicious of the many “words from God” that so many evangelicals are claiming. Still they hesitate to embrace cessationism. They are concerned about limiting God or, as it was mentioned above, “putting God in a box.” To this let me make two replies:

  • It is okay to put God in a box if God, in fact, is the One who put Himself in that box. In other words, God can do anything He wants to do, but we expect God to do what He says He will do. If God has put Himself in the cessationist box we can embrace and proclaim it.
  • Taking the open but cautious view really does not hold up. Either God is speaking today apart from His Word or He is not. If He is speaking, how do we determine which of the multitude of messages people claim are from Him and which are bogus? If, with Grudem, we have eliminated the tests of Deuteronomy 13 and 18, how are we to evaluate all these revelations? How do we know to whom we should listen and whom we should ignore?
12418 reads

Pages