Archive for the 'Holy Spirit' Category

Dangerous church trend: Subjective spiritual knowledge

Saturday, June 4th, 2016

https://i0.wp.com/veritas.kr/files/fckeditor/image/kimhubyoung/africa_2013.jpg

(photo courtesy veritas.kr)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

The Pentecostal-Charismatic movement has brought many positive dimensions into the church, one of the chief being the teaching on every-member gifts to the church gathering or small groups. See my articles that deal with some of these issues:

clip_image001 Does the superiority of New Testament revelation exclude the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit? Is cessationism biblical?

clip_image001[1] Spiritual gifts sign of Christian maturity

clip_image001[2] Tongues and the Baptism with the Holy Spirit

clip_image001[3] Is the spiritual gift of tongues ‘gibberish’?

clip_image001[4] St. Augustine: The leading Church Father who dared to change his mind about divine healing

However, there is….

1. A BIG negative of Pentecostalism

One of the most devastating influences on the church from Pentecostal-charismatic theology has been the subjectivism and esoteric knowledge that has replaced sound interpretation of the biblical text and solid exposition of Scripture. I encounter it in a growth group led by a Pentecostal and in posts on the Internet. Let’s examine a few examples from Christian forums on the Internet.

I came across a group of Christians who wanted to use types and shadows from the OT to present their subjective opinions of the meaning of these types and shadows. I began this thread,

2. Old Testament types and shadows need New Testament support[1]

Trees With Late Afternoon Shadows(photo courtesy publicdomainpictures.net)

 

A person claimed that these OT words were direct references to Christ and not types or shadows? The words to which he referred were LORD (YHWH), LORD God (Yahweh Elohim), God (Elohim) and Almighty (El Shaddai).[2]

Is it true that we need to go beneath the surface of a word or statement to gain a true understanding of the meaning? Is Noah’s Ark a type of Christ? See 1 Peter 3:20-22 (NIV).

I raised some biblical examples of types from the OT that are affirmed as types in the NT:

clip_image003 John 5:45-46 (NIV), ‘But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me’.

clip_image003[1] Rom 5:14 (NIV), ‘Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern [tupos = type] of the one to come’.

clip_image003[2] In I Corinthians 10:11 (NIV) Paul spoke of the OT patriarchs, ‘These things happened to them as examples [tupikos = typically] and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come’.

clip_image003[3] Colossians 2:17 (NIV) ‘These [laws] are a shadow [skia] of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ’.

clip_image003[4] Heb 10:1 (NIV), ‘The law is only a shadow [skia] of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship’.

We are told in 1 Cor 10:4 (ESV) that ‘all drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, the Rock was Christ’. To which rock is Paul referring in the OT? We know that there are two Meribah incidents involving the rock (e.g. Ex 17:6-7 ESV; Num 20:10-13 ESV) that were about 40 years apart. The first one was at Horeb, Mt Sinai, which was near the start of their wandering in the wilderness. The last one happened at Kadesh which was as they were about to enter the Promised Land.

Matthew 16:16-18 (ESV) and 1 Pet 2:4-8 (ESV) confirm Jesus as the Rock and the 1 Peter 2:6-8 example cites various passages from the OT to lend support for the statements. In 1 Cor 10:1-7a (ESV), Paul tells us:

For I want you to know, brothers [and sisters] that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were….

The issue I am raising is: Do Christians have the right to create their own understanding of what is a type or shadow from the OT that is fulfilled in the NT or do we need the NT’s confirmation that it is a type or shadow? To me, the latter seems to be the biblical means of identification.

How can we confirm that YHWH, Yahweh Elohim, Elohim, and El Shaddai are references to Christ in reality and not in type or shadow? What’s the biblical evidence?

3. New Testament confirmation needed of types

What kinds of responses do you think the above statement would engender?

clip_image005’I agree there must be relevance to Jesus in the names used, but we read in 1 Cor 10:11, Now all these things (Judgments?) happened unto them for ensamples (analogies): and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
As a type or description of Jesus I read the word “Image,” and that being other than spirit we read of in Col 1:15.
Isa 43:3 For I am the LORD (Jehovah) thy God, the Holy One of Israel (Jesus?), thy Saviour (Jesus?).
Isa 43:11 I, even I, am the LORD (Jehovah); and beside me there is no savior (Jesus)?
In power Jesus is described as the almighty in Rev 1:8 during His reign.
He is the last Adam in 1 Cor 15:45.
Other OT references are in Isa 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.[3]

My response was:[4] Apart from 1 Cor 10 (ESV), I don’t think you are giving examples of types or shadows in the OT that are fulfilled in the NT, as demonstrated by NT statements.

In that other thread, we had people using Adam and Eve as types and shadows. My question is: Is it legitimate for Christians to make up, create, decide their own opinion on what is a type or shadow of Christ or some other theology – without the NT confirming that such is a type or shadow?

I’m not discussing the fulfilment of OT prophecy as in the example you gave from Isa 9:6 (ESV), which is fulfilled according to Luke 2:11 (ESV). My discussion is about types and shadows that Christians want to push from the OT, but with no confirmation of such in the NT.

Eugene’s response was: ‘Can you give an example? I may also be guilty of that, although I don’t always attempt to prove the OT with proof from the NT’.[5]

3.1 Example of New Testament application

There are at least 4 different interpretations of 1 Cor 10:3,[6] ‘And did all eat the same spiritual meat’. This is not the place to discuss these. They are articulated by Charles Hodge in A Commentary on 1 & 2 Corinthians (Edinburgh/Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), pp. 172-174. See HERE.

We see Israel’s example in 1 Cor 10:1-5 (NIV) and that example applied by giving a warning against idolatry (1 Cor 10:6-13 NIV).

In vv 1-5, it is a powerful type with the language of ‘our fathers’ and their form of ‘baptism’ and the ‘Eucharist’. It prefigured our baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
What was the purpose of the type given from the OT and articulated in 1 Cor 10:1-5 (NIV)? It continues with some of the events in Exodus to warn the Corinthians (vv 6, 11-12). These Corinthians enjoyed blessings like those of Israel but the Corinthians were in danger of losing those blessings because of their idolatry: ‘Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters….’ (1 Cor 10:6-7a NIV).

These things in Exodus happened to be ‘examples’ to the Corinthians ‘so, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall’ (1 Cor 10:12 NIV).

That’s my understanding of this type. But it is important to realise that it is only a type or shadow because it is specifically mentioned as such in the NT. We are not left to speculate that types and shadows are on nearly every page of the OT. That isn’t true.

Yes, there are types and shadows that are mentioned in the NT that draw attention to examples from the OT, but the NT has to mention them as examples to make them types.

3.2 You limit us too much. Be free to encounter Jesus in other ways

clip_image005[1]This one came out of left field, but it demonstrates the spiritual subjectivism of some people. I don’t know if this person has any Pentecostal leanings. She wrote:

I don’t think we should use only those types and foreshadows that are permitted to us because they’re mentioned in the N.T. as such. Doesn’t this limit us too much? Am I not free to encounter Jesus wherever I might find Him?
The entire bible was written to show God’s relationship to Man. Jesus is the ultimate revelation of that relationship. I see Him all over the O.T., as one poster said from the other thread. Can I not discern the bible spiritually also? Must it always be using intellectual knowledge? Most people don’t know as much as you do and so this question never even arises.
So is the prophetic scripture and the fulfillment scripture not valid unless one of the N.T. writers speaks of it as such? I am trying to understand you better. When I open up my bible, am I entering into a classroom?
Could it be that ALL must be said or it is not valid? Was EVERYTHING written down? John 21:25
1 Corinthians 10:3
All ate the same manna. Jesus is the new manna which does not rot after one day but lasts forever. We must, even today, all eat the same manna.
Manna = Spiritual food.
Jesus is the new manna.
Jesus is our spiritual food.
Now very learned persons will have 3 other meanings for this scripture.
But most of us are not learned and will be satisfied with the above.
I mean, how much do you want us to know??[7]

That one did press my theological buttons, so I came back with,[8]

3.3 Individualistic interpretations

If there is no NT confirmation, then the alleged OT types become no more than individualistic interpretations with no more weight than a person’s assertions or experiences.

Now to some points (not comprehensive) from this person’s post:

  1. ‘I don’t think we should use only those types and foreshadows that are permitted to us because they’re mentioned in the N.T. as such. Doesn’t this limit us too much? Am I not free to encounter Jesus wherever I might find Him?‘ If you invent the types and shadows, that amounts to postmodernism in action. There is no hermeneutical way of countering anyone who comes to this forum and says, ‘Jesus told me X, Y, Z’ and it is not endorsed by Scripture. There are droves of people in my region who have existential experiences of ‘mystery’ that are a country mile from biblical fidelity. I have no way of knowing whether the postmodern, existential interpretation is for real unless I have my thoughts firmly planted in the revealed Scripture. In fact, I have no Gospel to proclaim unless it is biblically based. If I am free to encounter Jesus wherever I have a new revelation of him, are you going to extend that same ‘Jesus encounter’ privilege to the Mormon in the Temple or the New Age practitioner in an occult group?
  2. ‘Can I not discern the bible spiritually also? Must it always be using intellectual knowledge? Most people don’t know as much as you do and so this question never even arises’. That kind of demeaning put down is totally unnecessary on an evangelical Christian forum. If it were not for people with knowledge of the original languages, you wouldn’t even have a Bible you can read in English.
  3. One more, ‘The entire bible was written to show God’s relationship to Man’, you say. Try telling that to the Amalekites who were slaughtered by Saul, ‘Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys’ (1 Sam 15:3 NIV).

There are many other red herrings that this person raised in her post that are unrelated to the topic of my original post.

3.4 Postmodern reader-response

clip_image005[2] An earlier poster came again with input:[9]

Stating that many Christians today create their own understanding of shadows and types I think is the product of precept upon precept, and line upon line as we grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord. Over the years I’ve changed certain views; some due to experience, and at other times maturing in the word of God.
I’ll just give one example how I’ve use (sic) the striking the Rock instead of speaking to it. At first Moses was instructed to strike the Rock, and that to me was a type of the crucifixion of our Lord in Exodus 17: 5-6.

Next I read in Num 20:8 that Moses was to speak to the Rock, but he struck the Rock twice, and God said to him in Num 20:12, And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.
Here there was evident consequence, and we read in Deut 32:50, And die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people; as Aaron thy brother died in mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people:
Deut 32:51 Because ye trespassed against me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah-Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because ye sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel.

Now how could or would I use this as a type pertaining to Christendom? We read of a sin that is unto death in Rom 6:16, Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? Did Moses die as the result of his unbelief? Of course, but do any think he went to hell; we see Jesus with Elias and Moses on what has become known as the mount of transfiguration in Mt 17:4. As an example of things, 1 Cor 10:11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition (or warnings), upon whom the ends of the world are come. Could lying [to] the Holy Spirit be justification for such judgment such as that of Ananias & Sapphira of Acts 5:1? I think so.

Image result for clipart reader-response public domain(image courtesy clker.com)

 

My reply was:[10] Have you ever heard of postmodern reader-response criticism? Do you know what it means?

For a brief mention of its meaning, see D A Carson & Douglas Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, pp 61, 62, 66 (online). How do you think your comments here fit with reader-response criticism?

His reply was interesting and revealed some lack of knowledge of the content of the link I gave:

I had no idea that my discussion to a question was a criticism rather than tossing some ideas around concerning types and shadows portrayed in scripture.
Having read the excerpt of Post Modern Reader-Response Error Theology, it seems to suggest there is no right or wrong leading me to wonder at God’s purpose in having the Bible written.[11]

How should I reply? Here goes:[12]

It seems that you are misunderstanding the theory and practice of postmodern reader-response criticism in your own writing. What you did in #10 was give us a string of verses that were interpreted as Eugene’s postmodern reader-response theology.

So, prior to my giving you the link to reader-response theory, it seems that you did not have an understanding of what you have done with these verses at #10.

Reader-response errors happen when a reader accepts that the writer of any document does not determine its meaning but that the reader’s understanding and response are what matters, i.e. the reader’s meaning is the meaning of the text. That seems to be what you have done with the verses you gave in #10.

This is such a serious error infiltrating the Christian church that Kevin Vanhoozer has addressed it in an entire book, Is There a Meaning in This Text? (Zondervan 2009)

Do you think you would read the local newspaper like you did the verses you gave in #10?

9780310324690(image courtesy Zondervan)

 

Now the discussion progresses to:

3.5 The Holy Spirit fills in the blanks

Could you imagine that spiritual individualism and Holy Spirit magic would deteriorate to this point. A fellow wrote,

clip_image005[3]‘We don’t need everything written when we have the Holy Spirit to fill in the blanks’.[13]

That’s like a red rag to me as a theologian and apologist, so I responded:

Subjectivism, whether by the Spirit or any other measure, is very difficult to discern because of the variation from person to person. ‘The Spirit filled in the blanks for me’ is in competition with ‘The Spirit filled in the blanks for you’, the Mormon, the occult practitioner, and the information provided may be very different for the same topic. Subjectivism, whether spiritual or humanistic, is a poor measure of competent content of revelation.[14]

3.6 Multi-faceted wisdom

clip_image005[4]Another said, ‘That’s why it’s called “multi faceted” wisdom, because the truth that is found in wisdom, is like a diamond or precious stone and is relevant as God sees each circumstance’.[15]

The rag for the apologist’s bull is getting redder and more worn from over-use:[16]

That’s why it is called subjectivism and/or Gnosticism as it is impossible to obtain objective information from that ‘revelation’. Your subjective revelation has no more impact than another believer’s or a Gnostic’s insight of esoteric knowledge. I understand this person is using ‘multi faceted wisdom’ as esoteric knowledge, which means:

“Esoteric” refers to insight or understanding of inner (Greek: eso-) or spiritual or metaphysical realities, or a specific teaching or spiritual practice or path or “wisdom tradition” that is based on a mystical interpretation of spirituality, rather than a religious or slavish following of the outer words of scriptures, or pertains to transpersonal or transcendent states of existence. In contrast exoteric knowledge is knowledge that is well-known or public, and does not require any such transformation of consciousness (Kazlev 2016).

This definition of ‘esoteric’ comes from Kazlev who is involved in analysing the philosophy of Ken Wilber and his ‘psychology and spirituality (though many have disapproved of his endorsement of controversial gurus, such as Adi Da[17] and Andrew Cohen[18])’ (Kazlev 2016).

It seems to me that these Christians on Christian forums who are advocating ‘multi faceted’ wisdom and deeper meaning revelation, are following a parallel path with these mystical gurus or postmodern, reader-response advocates. It is a dangerous, subjective and mystical experience that is outside of Scripture and runs the risk of contradicting Scripture.

3.7 Do we need NT confirmation for a type or shadow?

That’s the question I asked for this forum thread? This was one retort:

clip_image005[5]‘Only if you want to impress it upon someone as undeniable fact. Otherwise you can only share it using your best efforts of honest debate you can muster and leave the rest to God’.[19]

How should I counter?[20] Here goes!

That makes you a supporter of subjective interpretation and reader-response ideology. It also makes you a sitting duck for any kind of hermeneutic that comes along and wants to dethrone your reader-response. It makes no fixed interpretation possible.

Try that approach with your next electricity bill, a letter from a lawyer, or reading a local newspaper. Creating your own reality in reader-response theology or esoteric revelation amounts to Gnosticism in action in the 21st century.

That approach makes Jesus a moving target of any kind of interpretation. If you don’t believe me, take a read of John Dominic Crossan, The Birth of Christianity (1998).

What is reader-response theory?

Reader response is a school of literary criticism that ignores both the author and the text’s contents, confining analysis to the reader’s experience when reading a particular work. Reader response theorists are particularly concerned with the traditional teaching approaches that imply that a work of literature has a particular interpretation. According to Louise Rosenblatt, one of the primary figures in reader response, all reading is a transaction between the reader and writer (as represented by an immutable text). She further posits that the “stance” of the reader, either “aesthetic” (reading by choice or for pleasure) or “efferent”(reading by assignment or because one has to), has a major influence on the textual experience (source Chegg).

In Christian scholar, Kevin Vanhoozer’s, words, ‘Reader response criticism stresses the incompleteness of the text until it is constructed (or deconstructed) by the reader…. Meaning is the product of the interaction between text and reader (e.g. the “two horizons”)’. The more radical reader-response practitioners such as Stanley Fish and Jacques Derrida agree that ‘there is no such thing as “disinterested,” that is, innocent or objective reading. All reading is ideological and guided by certain interests’ (Vanhoozer 1998:27-28).

This fellow came back with this response:[21]

3.8 No fixed interpretation with plain words of the Bible

clip_image005[5]It makes no fixed interpretation possible in regard to hard and fast and plain words of the Bible. That’s all. That hardly means it can’t possibly be true.

That’s not a good argument to make [about the example of the electricity bill].

No one is suggesting that personal interpretation – meaning that interpretation isn’t spelled out in the Bible word for word – can somehow be inconsistent with what is written in the Bible. Perhaps that is the big mistake you are making about this. This isn’t about saying your electric bill is $30.00 when it plainly says it’s $150.00 on the written bill.

What is being defended in this thread fails to meet the criteria for this being a matter of ‘Reader Response’:

1. Personal interpretation does not ignore the author of the Bible and the context, nor content, of the Bible. One of the rules of personal spiritual revelation not spelled out in scripture is that it can not contradict what the Bible already says.

2. Personal interpretation is not about ‘confining analysis to the reader’s experience’ because it does not consist of analysis confined only to the reader, and is not based on an experience other than the experience of spiritual revelation itself. It’s not about having experiences, and an analysis of spiritual matters that contradict what the Bible does say about a particular subject.

3. The spiritual interpretation that is being defended here is exactly the opposite of being “concerned with the traditional teaching approaches that imply a work…has a particular interpretation”. Because it is open to a greater spiritual depth and insight and understanding of scripture it sometimes grates against the traditional interpretation of scripture (i.e. 1 Corinthians 3:8-15 NASB. Not a terribly good example because so much of the non-traditional interpretation of that passage is directly supported by the Bible).

This promotion of reader-response, subjectivism became more obvious in that post, so I responded:[22]

And that’s the problem. If there are no hard and fast rules for the plain words of John 3:16 (ESV), then you have postmodern reader-response Gnosticism in action. It leads to hermeneutical shipwrecks. If there were not hard, fast and plain meanings to words of the Bible (and to any other writing), what you and I write on CFnet would not be understood. I think you are whistling in the wind of subjective vagueness.

It is a good argument to make [analogy with an electricity bill] because personal, subjective interpretation, is a bummer when it comes to understanding the meaning of your electricity bill. You must read it literally to obtain its plain meaning. There is no other means of interpretation of your electricity bill and it is a fixed interpretation. Esoteric, deeper knowledge ideology will not work.

He also asked if Joseph (OT) was a shadow and type of Christ. My reply was that, as I’ve stated a few times in this thread, an OT person or incident is not a type or shadow unless it is confirmed in the NT as such. Some see the OT story of Joseph (Gen 37-45) as a type of Christ because of Joseph’s humiliation and glorification that could be compared with Jesus’ passion and resurrection. However, the NT does NOT confirm that the OT Joseph is a type of Christ. Joseph’s story is an illustration with a parallel with Jesus – but it is NOT a type or shadow because the NT does not confirm it as such.

As to personal interpretation not ignoring the author, context, etc., I wrote: That might be what you see, but in this thread I’ve seen too many personal interpretations that were subjective impositions on the biblical data. So you say that a rule of personal spiritual revelation (not revealed in the Bible) must not contradict the Bible. That’s your own personal opinion and it is open to contradiction by another personal interpretation. You are building your interpretation on the slippery sands of personal revelation.

As to his point #3, I wrote: That’s subjective Gnosticism in action and it is what the church apologists had to battle in the first few centuries of the church’s existence. Seems like it is alive and well in your posts.

He didn’t seem to like this labelling of subjective Gnosticism, so gave his deconstruction:[23]

I think what you really mean to say is the idea of esoteric knowledge upon which Gnosticism relied seems alive and well in my posts.
If being able to discern things by the Spirit of God that others can’t, or aren’t yet able to discern, is considered esoteric knowledge, then yes, that broad definition and application of esoteric knowledge is alive and well in my posts. That is the very foundation of teaching. I guess your problem is that you feel that is not allowed.
“we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 7but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood…” (1 Corinthians 2:6-8 NASB)
By pure definition, if that isn’t esoteric knowledge, then nothing is.
All I’m saying is, it is allowed as long as it does not contradict, or can not be reconciled with what we already know to be true in the Bible. In Paul’s case, his esoteric knowledge did not contradict, or not reconcile with the scriptures of his day, what we call the OT.
The use of Paul’s esoteric knowledge to teach spiritual truth shows us it’s okay to say that Joseph, for example, is a type and shadow of Christ. Does Christianity and the truth of God come crashing down in a worthless heap if, technically, God did not say it’s a type and shadow of Christ? Of course not. You’re tossing out all privilege of personal interpretation and suggestion and it’s value in spiritual education just because there certainly are those who would abuse it. Yours is a misguided, contentious argument. What you should be arguing against is not esoteric knowledge, but esoteric knowledge that has no basis or support in scripture.

Esoteric knowledge in 1 Cor 2:6-8 when it speaks of ‘God’s wisdom in a mystery’?? I replied[24] Where does the Bible provide an exposition of the need for and the meaning of ‘esoteric knowledge’?

Another definition of esotericism is: ‘Esoteric: known or knowable only to initiates; secret or mysterious knowledge; cryptic; hidden; concealed; clandestine, cover’ (source).

1 Corinthians 2:6-8 NASB is hardly an explanation to cover this meaning of esoteric knowledge in the secular world or in a biblical worldview.

3.9 The shifting sands of ‘biblical discernment’

clip_image005[6]Another person entered the discussion:

This is supported [Adam & Eve as types] by the NT (see Ephesians 5 and other passages). Ideally, we should have NT corroboration, but that may not always be found, yet the interpretation will not be in violation of Scripture. There are things which can be spiritually discerned.[25]

I do not find a word in Ephesians 5 that supports what I asked: ‘In that other thread, we had people using Adam and Eve as types and shadows’.[26]

4. The plot thickens: ‘Esoteric knowledge’ enters

I’ve already mentioned this promotion by one person of 1 Cor 2:6-8 in support of esoteric knowledge endorsed by Scripture – so he said. It is necessary to respond.

4.1 What ‘secret wisdom’ is not[27]

Image result for esoteric public domain (image courtesy esotericonline.net, public domain)

 

This person seemed to have missed the meaning of the Greek musterion (mystery) used in 1 Cor 2:7. Paul confronts his Corinthian opponents with the message of the cross (1 Cor 1:26ff) as he is dealing with ‘the mystery cults and gnosticism [that] are directly dealt with’. Wherever musterion appears in the NT it is found in association with verbs that denote revelation or proclamation. ‘It is a present-day secret, not some isolated fact from the past which merely needs to be noted, but something dynamic and compelling. This is vividly expressed in Col. By his office the apostle “fulfills” (Col. 1:26) “the mystery of Christ” (4:3), i.e. by bearing in his own body that which is still lacking in the afflictions of Christ (1:24), he gives practical expression to the “mystery” and carries it on towards its final consummation’ (Brown 1978:504).

It is not esoteric knowledge (he needs to note the difference in meaning between knowledge and wisdom). It is wisdom that was previously hidden that God has revealed – in 1 Cor what is revealed is ‘the message/word of the cross’ (1 Cor 1:18).

Leading evangelical Greek scholar, Dr Gordon D Fee, does not agree with this person in his exegesis of 1 Cor 2:6-8 (he uses the NIV). In his exegetical commentary on 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 (partially available online pp 102-106). He states this about the wisdom of God in 1 Cor 2:7-8:

Vv 7-8  In these verses Paul elaborates the two sides of v. 6. V. 7 explains the nature of God’s wisdom that made it impossible for the wise of this age to grasp it; v. 8 repeats the failure of the “rulers” in terms of their responsibility for the crucifixion.

He begins with a sharp contrast to the negative side of v. 6. “No,” he says, “we speak God’s wisdom,” which he immediately qualifies in four ways. The first three describe its nature, so as to distinguish it from the wisdom of this age. First, it is wisdom “in mystery” (NIV, “secret wisdom”).[28] One cannot be certain whether this phrase modifies “wisdom” as an adjective (hence the NIV’s “secret wisdom”) or the verb “we speak” as an adverb. The former seems preferable. God’s wisdom is not some inaccessible teaching, spoken in secret. As Paul will develop more fully in Colossians and Ephesians [see Col. 1:26-27; 2:2: 4:3; Eph. 1:9; 3:3, 4, 9: 6:19], in the singular the term “mystery” ordinarily refers to something formerly hidden in God from all human eyes but how revealed in history through Christ and made understandable to his people through the Spirit. The seeds of this idea are sown here for the first time in Paul; in particular it embraces the paradox of the crucifixion of “the Lord of glory” (v. 8).

Second, and to clarify the phrase “in mystery,” God’s wisdom – salvation through a crucified Messiah – “has been hidden.” The perfect tense, plus the phrase that follows (“before time began”), indicates that such wisdom has been hidden in God from eternity until such a time (“now”) as he was ready to reveal it. What follows in v. 8 suggests further that God’s “secret” remains hidden from the “rulers, ” the representatives of the “wise” of this age.

Third, God’s secret wisdom, long hidden – and still hidden to some – was “destined” by God himself “for our glory before time began.” This is the clause that begins to clarify both the content of “wisdom” and the identity of the “mature” in v. 6. The verb “destined” is an intensified form of the ordinary verb for “determining.” The emphasis lies on “deciding upon beforehand” (BAGD);[29] therefore, to “predestine.” As in [1 Cor] 1:1, God’s call is the expression of his prior will, which in this case is further intensified by the phrase “before time began” (lit. “before the ages”). What God determined “before the ages” has been worked out in the present age, which is being brought to its conclusion as the final glorious age has dawned and is awaiting its consummation – “for our glory.” What has been predestined technically is God’s wisdom; the larger context indicates that Paul has in view God’s gracious activity in Christ, whereby through the crucifixion he determined eternal salvation for his people – including especially the Corinthian believers. Just as God chose the foolish and weak for salvation and thereby “shamed” the wise and powerful, who are being brought to nothing (1:26-28), so now Paul repeats that God “destined” his people for glory (not shame), and has done so in contrast to the rulers of this age who are “coming to nothing.” “For our glory” is eschatological language, referring to the final goal of salvation, namely that God’s people should share in his own glory. Hence the crucified one is in this context also called “the Lord of glory” (v. 8).

Fourth (v. 8a), God’s wisdom is something that “none of the rulers of this age understood.” With this clause Paul elaborates the negative side of v. 6, but now in light of the preceding description of God’s wisdom. The reason for their failure is that it was “hidden in God” and could only be grasped by revelation of the Spirit (v. 10). The reason for repeating the idea seems twofold: first, to reestablish the contrast between “us” and “them” that is crucial to his argument; and second, to confirm their part in the historical event itself, which both demonstrated their “ignorance” of God’s ways and implicated them in the carrying out of his plan. What they did not understand was the nature of true wisdom – God’s wisdom, as spelled out in 1:18-2:5 – which stands in contradiction to human understanding; and because they were thus “ignorant” they did what human “wisdom” demanded – they crucified the one who for them was one more messianic pretender. Thus the divine irony: The very ones who were trying to do away with Jesus by crucifying him were in fact carrying out God’s prior will – “destined for our glory before time began.” Instead of crucifying a messianic pretender, they killed “the Lord of glory” himself, the one who, as Lord of all the ages, is therefore Lord of the final glory that is both his and his people’s ultimate destiny. The Pauline irony, of course, is that the Corinthians in pursuing sophia [i.e. wisdom] are pursuing what belongs to this age, which is passing away and whose rulers were implicated in the divine irony (Fee 1987:104-107, italics emphasis in original; bold emphasis added).

4.2 How to interpret Scripture

To assist with the interpretation of Scripture and any other piece of literature, see my articles:

clip_image007 What is literal interpretation?

clip_image007[1] What is the meaning of the literal interpretation of the Bible?

clip_image007[2] Isn’t it obvious what a literal interpretation of Scripture means?

clip_image007[3] Does God have a physical body?

5. Conclusion

The Pentecostal-charismatic movement, in its emphasis on the Holy Spirit, has rightly pursued the biblical mandate to ‘follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy’ (1 Cor 14:1 NIV). However this movement has introduced a down side.

That negativity is related to the subjective, Gnostic type of knowledge that entered Christian circles through existential experiences of the Holy Spirit. This article has attempted to show through posts on a Christian forum how Holy Spirit encounters, even to the point of thinking this is receipt of esoteric knowledge, has derailed the Holy Spirit’s ministry. The result can lead to Gnostic error.

Image result for Gnosticism image public domain(image courtesy gnosticteachings.org)

 

I suggest that the New Gnosticism is alive and well on this Christian forum. Part of Michael Horton’s assessment is:

Both liberals and evangelicals disdain doctrine for personal experience, and objective truth for personal transformation, and in this sense, each is, in its own way, Gnostic. The anti-intellectualism is understandable, according to Lee. “If God is immanent, present within our psyche, if we already have the truth within, then why go through all the hassle of studying theology?” [Lee 1987:111]. Isn’t this precisely the point of the division many of us grew up with between head knowledge and heart knowledge? The former is intellectual, the latter spiritual – that is, gnosis….

Pentecostalism represents an even greater dependence on Gnostic tendencies…. The outer edges of Pentecostalism are especially blatant in Gnostic emphases, as a number of works have shown, including The Agony of Deceit.[30] Salvation is knowledge – “Revelation Knowledge” (Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, Paul Crouch and other “faith teachers” use the upper case to distinguish this from mere written revelation). The Word that truly saves is not the written text of Scripture, proclaiming Christ the Redeemer, but is rather the “Rhema” Word that is spoken directly to the spirit by God’s Spirit (Horton 2016).

If spiritual insight is used as an interpretive measure and esoteric knowledge is permitted as a means of gaining a biblical understanding of the text, then expect pooled ignorance to infiltrate the church. My series of interactions on this topic have demonstrated that ‘no fixed meaning’, ‘esoteric knowledge’, and ‘my understanding’ can derail biblical interpretation.

The New Gnosticism is with us and the landscape does not look pretty. There is a heightened need for apologists and theologians to be involved in addressing this heresy that is invading the church.

6.  Works consulted

Brown, C (gen ed) 1978. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol 3. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Crossan, J D 1998. The Birth of Christianity: Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately after the Execution of Jesus. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Fee, G D 1987. The First Epistle to the Corinthians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament, F F Bruce gen ed). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Horton, M S 2016. The New Gnosticism: Is it the age of the Spirit or the spirit of the age? Modern Reformation (online). Available at: http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var2=695#footnote13 (Accessed 17 May 2016). The article originally appeared in Modern Reformation, “Gnosticism”, July/August 1995 Vol. 4 No. 4 Page number(s): 4-12.

Kazlev, A 2016. Integral esotericism: A new integral paradigm in theory and practice. Integral World (online), June 04.[31] Available at: http://www.integralworld.net/kazlev5.html (Accessed 4 June 2016).

Lee, P J 1987. Against The Protestant Gnostics. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press. Also available at: https://arcaneknowledgeofthedeep.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/againstprotestantgnostics.pdf (Accessed 17 May 2016).

Vanhoozer, K J 1998. Is There a Meaning in This Text? Leicester, England: Apollos (an imprint of Inter-Varsity Press).

7.  Notes


[1] Christian Forums.net, 13 May 2016, ‘Types & shadows needing NT support’, Apologetics & Theology, OzSpen#1. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/types-shadows-needing-nt-support.64532/ (Accessed 17 May 2016).

[2] They were raised by Malachi#33 at Christian Forums.net, ‘Underlying types & shadows’, The Lounge. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/understanding-types-shadows.64517/page-2 (Accessed 17 May 2016).

[3] ‘Types & shadows needing NT support’, Eugene#2.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#3.

[5] Ibid., Eugene#5.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#6.

[7] Ibid., Wondering#8.

[8] Ibid., OzSpen#9.

[9] Ibid., Eugene#10.

[10] Ibid., OzSpen#11.

[11] Ibid., Eugene#12.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#13.

[13] Ibid., Sinthesis#15.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#16.

[15] Ibid., JLB#17.

[16] Ibid., OzSpen#19.

[17] Adi Da was the Hindu god-man cultist who was head of an abusive personality cult. See: Timothy Conway (2007). Available at: http://www.enlightened-spirituality.org/Da_and_his_cult.html (Accessed 4 June 2016).

[18] On his homepage, Andrew Cohen describes himself as, a ‘modern mystic, cultural critic, and award-winning spiritual journalist’. Available at: http://www.andrewcohen.org/ (Accessed 4 June 2016).

[19] Ibid., Jethro Bodine#18.

[20] Ibid., OzSpen#20.

[21] ‘Types & shadows needing NT support’, op cit., Jethro Bodine#22.

[22] Ibid., OzSpen#24.

[23] Ibid., Jethro Bodine#27.

[24] Ibid., OzSpen#28, #29.

[25] Ibid., Malachi#34.

[26] Ibid., OzSpen#40/

[27] This is my response, ibid., OzSpen#44.

[28] Fee’s footnote is, ‘This is another phrase that has caused some to see Paul as reflecting the mystery cults or Gnosticism. But again that not only misses Paul’s own Jewish background, but the whole point of the argument as well’ (Fee 1987:104, n. 27).

[29] BAGD = Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich & Danker Greek lexicon (dictionary).

[30] See The Agony of Deceit, ed. Michael Horton (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991).

[31] It seems that this date is a roving date that will change daily.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 October 2016.

Spiritual gifts sign of Christian maturity

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

Image result for question marks public domain

By Spencer D Gear

Have you ever heard Christians say things like: (1) I’m not interested in those Pentecostal-charismatics because all I hear when I enter their meetings is that hokus pokus of raving on in that tongues nonsense. (2) Those Pentecostals are into gibberish and I want nothing to do with that subjective garbage. (3) I’ve moved beyond that immature stuff to grown-up Christianity.

As John MacArthur began his exposition of 1 Corinthians 14, he stated:

I was listening to a well-known charismatic preacher this week who was saying that to receive the Spirit of God, you must receive, you must receive tongues. And he was saying, “It isn’t like you’re seeking tongues. It’s that you’re seeking this fullness of the Spirit, and tongues comes with it.” And he said, “The way to illustrate this,” and it was interesting because he didn’t really use Scripture, but he said is, “When you go to a shoe store, and you look in the window, you don’t say, ‘I’d like to buy those tongues.’ You just want to buy those shoes, and the tongues come with them.” And so he was saying that, “What you really want is to buy or to purchase or to gain the power of the Spirit of God, your spiritual walking shoes, and tongues come along with them” (MacArthur 1977).

John MacArthur (public domain)

MacArthur then gets into what he thinks is an elevation of spiritual superiority among charismatics. He wrote (remember that this is back in 1977 when he preached on this):

‘Well, what happens in this thing is you divide the church into the spiritual haves and the spiritual have-nots.  And this is the tragedy of the thing; the haves cannot help but feel a sense of superiority over the have-nots.  It’s just kind of built in.  And even though they may resist it and fight it and some may succeed, the vast majority of folks cannot help but feel that everybody else is missing something that they’re not missing.  I guess I would have to say that I’m among the have-nots, and even once in a while, I get a little intimidated about that.  But I’ve wondered if the intimidation doesn’t even reach right into the charismatic ranks.  I’m afraid that maybe some of them are intimidated.  Some of them perhaps tempted to exaggerate or dramatize or fabricate miracles because of peer pressure or the desire to also belong in the group that’s sharing rather strange and bizarre things’ (MacArthur 1977).

Miracles, tongues and spiritual maturity

Image result for charismatic worship public domain

Rev Frank Hughes Jr (public domain)

I met some of MacArthur’s kind of sentiments on a Christian forum in 2015. I had been defending a continuation of gifts of the Spirit for today and stated that in church gatherings I have heard the genuine gift of tongues with the required accompanying gift of interpretation. I have been edified and to call it ‘mad raving babbling’ is insulting to those whom God uses to manifest the genuine gifts of tongues and interpretation.

The biblical mandate is: (1) ‘Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy’ (1 Cor 14:5 ESV). (2) ‘So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order’ (1 Cor 14:39-49 ESV).[1]

I asked another person, ‘So was Paul contradicting himself because he also said: ‘Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy’ (1 Cor 14:5 ESV)?’[2] His response was, ‘Not at all. He was speaking to the Corinthians. He said, “I want you all’.[3] Then he went on to say that ‘Not at all. He was speaking to the Corinthians. He said, “I want you all”’.[4]

After this kind of interaction I encountered the reaction regarding

The test of spiritual maturity

He wrote:

It was not my intention to say that miracles indicate poor spiritual maturity.  It is my intention to say that miracles or tongues are not a test of strong spiritual maturity.  My point is that there is nothing in the Scriptures that indicate these gifts have anything to do with maturity.  If anything, Paul says these gifts do not aid in the maturity or building up of others.  This is why he encouraged prophesy.  So again, I am not saying these gifts are a sign of immaturity (if they are legitimately taking place today), but I just don’t see any evidence that they have anything to do with maturity.  That is the claim many Charismatics often make and I find it to be entirely baseless.  This brings me to a couple thoughts about these gifts:[5]

My retort[6] was that I did not know why he placed this emphasis on maturity vs immaturity when God has clearly told us this about the spiritual gifts: ‘All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills’ (1 Cor 12:11 ESV). Are we open to the Holy Spirit giving us the full range of charismata that the Spirit gives? His general emphasis in his post indicates that he is not interested in the gift of tongues being manifest by the Spirit in his life. Have I gained a correct understanding of your view?

It’s not a matter of maturity vs immaturity. It’s based on a biblical, spiritual answer to this question: Am I open to the Holy Spirit apportioning to me whatever gifts he chooses, including tongues and interpretation? I’m not hearing that he is open to the latter. He continued:

There is no indication in the NT that miracles or tongues were gifts that were given for those who sought them passionately enough.  In fact, we see tongues simply falling on people without any coaching, expectation or desire for this gift.  To say that someone does not have the gift because they don’t seek it enough tor because they do not have enough faith (which is a constant theme in charismatic circles I am aware of) finds no validation in Scripture whatsoever.  Yes, Paul wished that they all spoke in tongues, but he preferred they all prophesy.  So why are we so focused on tongues as such a meaningful gift when Paul not only indicates that not all would have this gift, but that there are other gifts to be much preferred.  Again, Paul makes it clear that not all have the gift of tongues.  And we see from the issues in the Corinthian church, that tongues is certainly not a barometer for  one’s spiritual maturity.  If anything, it has nothing to do whatsoever with maturity or faith.  I find no basis in the argument that all Christians should have a “prayer language” or should seek to speak in tongues.[7]

This is not so.[8] First Corinthians 14:1 (ESV) makes it very clear that spiritual gifts (a range has been given in 1 Cor 12-14) must be desired: ‘Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophecy’.

I am not here to validate what he considers is ‘a constant theme in charismatic circles’. When does he visit charismatic churches? How many has he attended in the last 12 months?

I’m here to discuss what the Scriptures state and I’m hearing from him a denigration of the scriptural gifts, especially of tongues. Tongues fell on people on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) but we have a different manner of manifestation given in 1 Cor 12-14 where there ‘are varieties of gifts’ (1 Cor 12:4 ESV) manifest in the local church. Speaking of the range of the gifts of the Spirit (including tongues and interpretation), Paul stated, ‘All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills’ (1 Cor 12:11 ESV). Someone does not have the gift because God has not given it to that person. However, his opposition to these supernatural gifts is a fair indication that he is providing a block in his own life that prevents such manifestations coming through him. Paul’s command to us is: ‘Earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues‘ (1 Cor 14:39 ESV).

There is no such coaching for spiritual gifts but I tell you what is needed more and that is careful exegesis of the text and exposition of passages such as 1 Cor 12-14.

He says, ‘So why are we so focused on tongues as such a meaningful gift when Paul not only indicates that not all would have this gift, but that there are other gifts to be much preferred’. Simply put, ‘One who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God’, uttering ‘mysteries in the Spirit’ (1 Cor 14:2 ESV). Surely everyone should want to speak to God in the Spirit? Well, I do. I praise God using the gift of tongues when he gives it to me. Non-charismatic churches will not allow me to do that, so I do it in my prayer time at home. ‘The one who prophecies [another spiritual gift given by the Spirit] speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation’ (1 Cor 14:3 ESV). So the gift of prophecy is clearly a manifestation among the people of God for spiritual edification. This is surely not to call such people immature but is to ‘build up the church’ (1 Cor 14:4 ESV). What does the person do who speaks in tongues? He or she ‘builds up himself/herself’ (1 Cor 14:4), which is not an egotistical ministry but one that is perfectly legitimate according to Paul.

He states, ‘And we see from the issues in the Corinthian church, that tongues is certainly not a barometer for  one’s spiritual maturity.  If anything, it has nothing to do whatsoever with maturity or faith.’ That’s his perspective. It’s not what 1 Corinthians teaches. It teaches that what was happening in Corinth was disorder (which is also in some charismatic-Pentecostal churches in my region) and they needed to get back to this emphasis: ‘But all things should be done decently and in order’ (1 Cor 14:40 ESV). That emphasis is one that should be taught to many in the charismatic-Pentecostal ranks. But the problem is not with the nature of tongues and interpretation, but with how they are being exercised in the church. Extreme examples should not deter us from biblical emphases. I don’t allow the Mormon view of prophecy to interfere with a biblical understanding of prophecy.

He said of the gift of tongues: ‘If anything, it has nothing to do whatsoever with maturity or faith.  I find no basis in the argument that all Christians should have a “prayer language” or should seek to speak in tongues’. His is not a biblical emphasis. Speaking in tongues has everything to do with maturity or faith because when a person has the genuine gift of tongues, he or she ‘speaks not to men but to God’ (1 Cor 14:2 ESV). Is that what he wants to do – speak to God?

He could possibly respond, ‘But I can do that in English’. He can, but the Holy Spirit comes upon people with the gift of tongues so that they speak to God through ‘mysteries in the Spirit’ (1 Cor 14:2). I never knew anything about such an understanding when I was a cessationist Baptist who did not believe in the charismata, including tongues and interpretation. That changed drastically for me in the early 1970s when God came upon me through a genuine manifestation of the gift of tongues where I was able to speak to God in a way that brought edification that I previously did not know.

Why are tongues and miracles not in every church?

He continues:

You still did not answer the question about your view on tongues and miracles.  If these gifts exist for the purpose of building up the local body, as you assert, why do we not see them in every local body?  Does God not want most churches to be edified?  Isn’t it the Spirit who gives these gifts freely?  Why is it that only those congregations that are coached to expect and desire these manifestations have them when this is not what we see in the NT?  Again, I am not going to try to discount any supposed prophet and his miracles.  I don’t know the man and I am not in a position to claim you or this prophet are being false.  I just simply think that if these gifts are for the purpose of the body being built up and not functional (they have a very specific function and should not be expected as a regular part of the Christian experience) then we should see them in most churches…and not just hear about them in remote places as very unusual circumstances.[9]

I think he should now have some understanding of my view on tongues. However, why are these gifts not in every local body? Simply put, if tongues were to be manifest in the evangelical Presbyterian Church my wife and I currently attend, the person would be quickly ushered out of this cessationist church by the elders. It would cause such a ruckus that the person would be told never ever to engage in that kind of thing again. Frankly, it is NOT WANTED so it is never likely to happen in that church. I’m of the view that the Holy Spirit’s ministry is frustrated, even grieved or blasphemed, when something like this happens. So, people who are open to the full range of gifts of the Spirit go to charismatic-Pentecostal churches where they will have the opportunity for the Spirit’s manifestation through the gifts.

(public domain)

I think he is excessively harsh with his statement: ‘Why is it that only those congregations that are coached to expect and desire these manifestations have them when this is not what we see in the NT’? That might be what he has seen or heard about in his region, but I have never ever been part of a charismatic-Pentecostal church that has engaged in ‘coaching’ (I find that to be pejorative language). I have been part of churches that have pursued the biblical mandate, ‘Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts…. Do not forbid speaking in tongues’ (1 Cor 14:1, 40 ESV).

He will not see the gifts in churches that are denying that these supernatural charismata should be happening. I know from personal experience that cessationist churches would censor a person who wants the supernatural gifts to function. I attend a mid-week Bible study of another denomination and the pastor has come from a South African Pentecostal denomination. He has been told by the denominational leaders here in Australia that he MUST NOT ALLOW THE SPIRITUAL GIFTS – especially tongues – TO HAPPEN IN THAT CHURCH.

Tongues as ‘ecstatic utterances’

This forum poster wanted to place tongues with ‘ecstatic utterances’.

You also did not answer my question as to your Scriptural validation that tongues is merely an ecstatic utterance and not a miraculous speaking in another human language. If tongues does exist today, I am still not convinced that what is happening in most charismatic circles meets the NT definition of this gift.[10]

I’ll start with his last comment. What I have seen in some charismatic-Pentecostal churches (not all of them that I have attended) is not consistent with the biblical manifestation of tongues and interpretation. For example, if tongues are manifest (aloud so all can hear) in a congregation, there MUST BE the accompanying gift of interpretation. Otherwise, ‘I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me’ (1 Cor 14:11 ESV). The biblical emphasis with the gifts is to ‘strive to excel in building up the church’ (1 Cor 14:12 ESV). That means there must be intelligibility – English in Australia, Spanish in Spain, Arabic in Saudi Arabia, etc. ‘Building up the church’ is a ministry of edification. Surely that cannot be described as an immature ministry!!!

I would not use the language that tongues is ‘an ecstatic utterance’ because that is not a biblical emphasis. Tongues is a divine gift of the Spirit that needs the accompanying gift of interpretation.

Tongues may be a miraculous gift in another human language, but who am I to tell God what he should do when he gives the gift of tongues? He has told us what he does: The one speaking with the Spirit’s gift of tongues – given in love – ‘utters mysteries in the Spirit’. I would never ever be so brazen as to tell God that he MUST DO IT with human languages that are spoken on this earth? I would be foolish to tell the omnipotent Trinitarian God what he must do to satisfy my inability to understand all he does through ‘mysteries in the Spirit’.

For this I pray that it will happen in more and more churches: ‘When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up’ (I Cor 14:26 ESV). One of the great tragedies of the contemporary church is that the people of God are convinced that only a handful of people – pastors, elders, teachers, etc – have gifts and most of God’s people are not allowed to function when the church gathers.

‘Crazy dog’ behaviour

I can understand some of the objections to charismatic excesses. See an example of the ‘Crazy dog man’ behaviour of the Toronto Blessing on YouTube. This pandemonium is not only shameful, but in direct conflict with the exhortation of Scripture – in the context of teaching on the gifts: ‘But be sure that everything is done properly and in order’ (1 Cor 14:40 NLT).

Further assistance

designQuiltsmall You might be interested in my explanation of a bad experience I had in a charismatic house church. See: Charismatic chaos in a Brisbane house church.

designQuiltsmall Gift of tongues is gibberish?

designQuiltsmall Does the superiority of New Testament revelation exclude the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit? Is cessationism biblical?

designQuiltsmall Can cessationism be supported by Scripture and church history?

 

Works consulted

MacArthur, J 1977. Where does the Bible end? Part 1, February 13. Grace to You. Available at: http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/1364/where-does-the-bible-end-part-1 (Accessed 1 July 2015).

Notes


[1] OzSpen#9, Christianity Board, Christian Theology Forum, ‘The Administration of Tongues’, 19 June 2015. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/21597-the-administration-of-tongues/ (Accessed 1 July 2015).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#10.

[3] Ibid., Butch5#12

[4] Ibid., Butch5#13.

[5] Ibid., Wormwood#59.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#61.

[7] Ibid., Wormwood #59.

[8] Ibid., OzSpen#61.

[9] Ibid., Wormwood#59.

[10] Ibid., Wormwood#59.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 8 June 2016.

A radical church gives up on church buildings

Friday, February 21st, 2014

Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, Israel (courtesy Wikipedia)

by Spencer D Gear

‘All a church building does is attract people from other churches’ is what a pastor told a small group I was attending. He and his church were contemplating building and were negotiating the purchase of a block of land.

Get a handle on this message, whether directly stated or implied: A church building is not to attract unbelievers and reach them for Christ. He said something similar to this as well: The church building is not intended as a means of outreach to unbelievers. It is a way to draw people from other churches.

Is that what we need in secularised, multi-cultural, non-Christian Australia?

The contemporary church in Australia is not radical enough.

Why spend mega-bucks for what?

Australian $100 polymer front.jpg

Australian specimen $100 note (courtesy Wikipedia)

Therefore, my question to you is: Why spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to attract people away from other churches when there is a better alternative?

I’m speaking of an organic expression of the church that would equip God’s people to be biblically-based Christians in twenty-first century Australia. Get back to how the church functioned in the first century.

What is an organism?

The American Heritage Dictionary gives this definition of ‘organism’:

  1. An individual form of life, such as a plant, animal, bacterium, protist, or fungus; a body made up of organs, organelles, or other parts that work together to carry on the various processes of life.
  2. A system regarded as analogous in its structure or functions to a living body: the social organism.

So the human body is an organism, made up of many ‘parts that need to work together to carry on the various processes of life’. The same applies to the ‘social body’ and the body of Christ. We need to function together according to the qualities of each member of the body. In biblical terms we call these the gifts of the body of Christ.

How is the church of Jesus Christ described?

)Front view of vicera, courtesy Wikipedia)

‘You are the body of Christ’

What could be clearer than this? ‘Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it’ (1 Cor 12:27 ESV). Then 1 Corinthians spends three chapters explicating on how that body is to function for optimal ministry.

In the entire Bible there could not be a better description of how that body (the organic church) ought to function than First Corinthians 12-14 (Romans 12 also can be added and Ephesians 4). This message of the church being organic – the body of Christ – is not unique to First Corinthians. See:

  • Eph 1:22-23, ‘And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all’.
  • Eph 4:11-12, ‘And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ’.
  • Eph 5:30, ‘because we are members of his body’.
  • Col 1:24, ‘Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church’.

Functioning as an organism

What does this mean?

Since the church is an organic body of believers, it should be a fundamental for all Christians to function biblically by allowing their gifts to function when the church gathers, engages in outreach – and at much, much less expense. Buildings and pulpit-centred church gatherings are not an overflow from 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Romans, and Colossian teaching.

I know that this sounds radical, but there are currently others who are going down this track. The hierarchical (pastor, elder, bishop, archbishop) model is a human invention from around the time of the Reformation. It did not come out of the New Testament or biblical Christianity from the first century church.
Have you heard of Frank Viola and his advocacy of an organic approach to church? In this online statement, he claims that there are ‘1,500 to 2,000 pastors who leave the clergy system each month in the USA. And most of them have left for the same reason: A crisis of conscience with their position and how church is “done” today‘ (emphasis in original).

AuthorFrankViola

Courtesy Frank Viola author: Biography

You might like to read a couple of Frank Viola’s posts that contain this information from February 2014, ‘5 Marks of a Spiritual Pioneer & A Famous Megachurch Pastor Steps Down‘. See another of his posts from 18 February 2014, ‘10 Reasons Why I Left the Institutional Church & Sought the Ekklesia‘.

If you want to investigate the contemporary church problem, I recommend Frank Viola and George Barna’s Pagan Christianity (2002), which is their diagnosis of the problem of the church, including the evangelical church. His follow-up book is, Reimagining Church (2008), which is his solution to the problem – a return to the organic ekklesia.

Frank Viola is radical, but I think that most thinking pastors and laity need to give him a read to shake our traditional thinking. The New Testament church also was radical in its impact on the world of the first century. Here are a few quotes from Pagan Christianity (Viola 2002):

  • the modern institutional church does not have a Biblical nor a historical right to exist!’ (2002:18, emphasis in original);
  • ‘the Protestant order of worship has about as much Biblical support as does the Roman Catholic Mass!’ (2002:38);
  • ‘At no time did Luther (or any of the other mainstream Reformers) demonstrate a desire to return to the practices of the first-century church. These men set out merely to reform the theology of the Catholic church (2002:45, emphasis in original).
  • ‘Pragmatism, not Biblicism or spirituality, governs the activities of most modern churches’ (2002:59);
  • Wayne Oates wrote: ‘The original proclamation of the Christian message was a two-way conversation…. but when the oratorical schools of the Western world laid hold of the Christian message, they made Christian preaching something vastly different. Oratory tended to take the place of conversation. The greatness of the orator took the place of the astounding event of Jesus Christ. And the dialogue between speaker and listener faded into a monologue’ (Oates in Viola 2002:83, emphasis in original).
  • ‘What do I mean by a first-century styled church? I am talking about a group of people who know how to experience Jesus Christ and express Him in a meeting without any human officiation. I am talking about a group of people who can function together as a Body when they are left on their own after the church planter leaves them. The man who plants a first-century styled church leaves that church without a pastor, elders, a music leader, a Bible facilitator or a Bible teacher. If that church is planted well, those believers will know how to touch the living, breathing Headship of Jesus Christ in a meeting. They will know how to let Him invisibly lead their gatherings. They will bring their own songs, they will write their own songs, they will minister out of what Christ has shown them – with no human leader present’[1] (2002:289).

That will sound scary to many who have been raised in a traditional, status quo church (as I have). However, I have to admit that this is how a body functions and how 1 Corinthians 12-14 articulates how the body works when it is in action. I have yet to experience such a church body in my part of the world but I am seeking and praying for such.

In the latter part of their lives, my parents (who are now in the Lord’s presence) were attending Christian Brethren assemblies that had an approach to this kind of ministry, but  women had to remain silent. That is contrary to the biblical mandate that says, ‘What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has …’ (1 Cor 14:26 NIV).

In spite of the fact that there was some turmoil in the Corinthian church over certain women who were told to ‘keep silent’ and it was ‘shameful for a woman to speak’ (1 Cor 14:34-35 ESV), there was a reason and that was: ‘But all things should be done decently and in order (1 Cor 14:40 ESV). We know that this was not an absolute teaching to silence women in church ministry because 1 Cor 11:5 speaks of ‘every wife who prays and prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head’ (ESV). It is impossible to prophesy in the Corinthian church and remain silent. Those who close down women in ministry in the church have adopted – in my understanding of Scripture – an interpretation that is not consistent in context.

Many church planters or those considering building have an ideal opportunity to be this radical in getting back to first century Christianity, instead of practising a model that started well after New Testament times. But it won’t happen unless the current leadership is convinced that the current model cannot be supported by Scripture.

The current pulpit dominated, pastor-centred, program-based model of the church closes down most of God’s gifted people when the church gathers. They become an audience of non-participators. In the traditional church, an organic model of function (a Bible-based version) is abandoned for a human-invented hierarchical, seeker-sensitive, and mega-church-growth model. The latter is coming out of marketing and rhetoric and not biblical functioning.

This is the organic church model in action:

Courtesy David C Cook

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

After this pastor made the radical statement that a church building simply attracts people from other churches, I wondered why his church was going down that track and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process. I thought through …

Some steps of a more radical approach:

  1. Continue meeting at the place where the church is presently hiring a facility while the current church leadership discusses and then begins to teach on how this local church can become radically organic as an ekklesia (church). Show how the institutional church is not a biblical model of function. However, deep down I have a reservation. It is challenging and even scary for a church to go down this route. I cannot imagine too many denominations supporting it as it would put paid pastors out of a job. Therefore, the most likely place to begin such a model is through an independent church plant that does not have a denominational affiliation. Let’s face it. There were no such structures as denominations in the first century church.
  2. Ask church leadership to read Pagan Christianity and then Reimagining Church by Frank Viola to discuss how to function as an organic church and equip God’s people for such.
  3. We do not need a repeat of what we can get at the Baptists, Churches of Christ, Wesleyan-Methodists, Pentecostal-charismatics, independent churches, etc. We need a return to the expression of biblical Christianity when the ecclesia gathers. We desperately need NT function and any church can have an opportunity to encourage that to happen – if it gets the biblical vision.
  4. Begin teaching some of this biblical material from the pulpit until your church officially moves to a truly organic function. But it is threatening to those raised on the status quo. Most do not know how to function as the body of Christ.
  5. Teach 1 Corinthians 12-14 with a careful exegesis and exposition so that the people of God understand that the church gathering is for the people of God to function and not for the people of God to be silent. They need to admit that what has been happening in the evangelical church (the liberal church lost the plot long ago) is a far cry from New Testament function. This does not mean the end of the function of a paid pastor, but it does mean that a large part of the pastor’s role will be to help facilitate a transition to a biblically-based organic model and then cause that model to grow in strength.
  6. One extended benefit is to prepare God’s people for possible persecution that could happen to the church in Australia.

This is a radical suggestion

Recently, the pastor who spoke with me, made a radical and practical statement that one of the primary functions of a new building will be to attract other church goers to that church. This article is designed to challenge the status quo of the hierarchical church to get back to the New Testament view of the body of Christ.

How about a radical rethink of the wisdom of building another traditional evangelical church? We need something that is radically and biblically different – an organic church.

When the body of Christ functions, God will notice the difference. This world will see the effects.

The prophetic A. W. Tozer got to the heart of this issue many decades ago:

What is needed desperately today is prophetic insight. Scholars can interpret the past; it takes prophets to interpret the present. Learning will enable a man to pass judgment on our yesterdays, but it requires a gift of clear seeing to pass sentence on our own day. One hundred years from now historians will know what was taking place religiously in this year of our Lord; but that will be too late for us. We should know right now.

If Christianity is to receive a rejuvenation it must be by other means than any now being used. If the church in the second half of this century is to recover from the injuries she suffered in the first half, there must appear a new type of preacher. The proper, ruler-of-the-synagogue type will never do. Neither will the priestly type of man who carries out his duties, takes his pay and asks no questions, nor the smooth-talking pastoral type who knows how to make the Christian religion acceptable to everyone. All these have been tried and found wanting.

Another kind of religious leader must arise among us. He must be of the old prophet type, a man who has seen visions of God and has heard a voice from the Throne. When he comes (and I pray God there will be not one but many) he will stand in flat contradiction to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear. He will contradict, denounce and protest in the name of God and will earn the hatred and opposition of a large segment of Christendom. Such a man is likely to be lean, rugged, blunt-spoken and a little bit angry with the world. He will love Christ and the souls of men to the point of willingness to die for the glory of the one and the salvation of the other. But he will fear nothing that breathes with mortal breath.

We need to have the gifts of the Spirit restored again to the church, and it is my belief that the one gift we need most now is the gift of prophecy (Tozer 2013).

Works consulted

Tozer, A W 2013. The gift of prophetic insight (excerpted from Of God and men) (online). Published at Hermann, MO: Tentmaker Ministries, available at: http://www.tentmaker.org/holy-spirit/prophetic.htm (Accessed 21 February 2014).

Viola, F 2002. Pagan Christianity: The origins of our modern church practices. www.ptmin.org: Present Testimony Ministry.[2]

Viola, F 2008. Reimagining church: Pursuing the dream of organic Christianity. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

Notes:


[1] Viola’s footnote was, ‘What I am describing here is not arm-chair philosophy. I have worked with churches that fit this bill’ (2002:289, n. 25).

[2] There is a 2012 revision with Frank Viola and George Barna as co-authors, the title being, Pagan Christianity: Exploring the roots of our church practices. Ventura, CA: BarnaBooks (an imprint of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc).

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date:27 January 2017.

What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Sticky Sin

(courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

This verse has often confused Christian people. Have they committed a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and will it not be forgiven? I’m particularly referring to Matthew 12:31, “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven” (ESV).

This is one example in a www Christian Forum where a person asked:

Forgivable or Blasphemous?

In the past, I swore at God over a video game. I got home really frustrated, threw down my bag, and I cursed out loud like “F*%& God!”. The incident occurred over 10 years ago and I may have cursed The Holy Spirit the same way (I am not sure). I’ve prayed several times and talked to a Pastor before. While the Pastor already said it’s forgivable, I am not sure about cursing the Holy Spirit. Ever since reading Matthew 12:31-32, I have become really paranoid.
31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Matthew 12:31-32 NIV – And so I tell you, every kind of sin – Bible Gateway
If I did swear or curse at the Holy Spirit, is that forgivable?[1]

There was back and forth with a number of people, including myself (OzSpen), then this original poster stated:

Okay, I think I am understanding what ‘blasphemy’ is, but what I am concerned about it why there was a translation verse that said this:
GOD’S WORD® Translation (©1995)
So I can guarantee that people will be forgiven for any sin or cursing. However, cursing the Spirit will not be forgiven.
The bolded part is concerning me.[2]

Is cursing the Spirit the same as blasphemy against the Spirit? [3]

Let’s look at a few other translations of this verse (Matthew 12:31):

  • “And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” (NIV);
  • “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven” (ESV).
  • “Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men” (KJV)
  • “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven” (NASB).
  • “So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven” (NLT).
  • “Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” (NRSV)
  • “For this reason I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven” (NET)
  • “Therefore, I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven” (NAB)
  • “And so I tell you, every human sin and blasphemy will be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven” (NJB).
  • “Therefore I say to you: Every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but the blasphemy of the Spirit shall not be forgiven” (D-R)

Here I have cited 7 Protestant Bibles and 3 Roman Catholic Bibles and all of them translate contrary to the God’s Word paraphrase that you presented. Why? Because the Greek text uses the noun, blasphemia, and the correct translation is blasphemy, not cursing. Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon gives the primary meaning of the word as ‘slander, defamation, blasphemy’ (p. 142).

For a fuller explanation of the blasphemy of the Spirit, I recommend this article from Hard Sayings of the Bible (1996. Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Peter H. Davids, F. F. Bruce & Manfred T. Brauch. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, pp. pp. 414-417), “The unpardonable sin”. I’m grateful that somebody has taken the time to make this article available online. The book is one of the finest available in print in dealing with Bible difficulties.

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, ‘Forgivable or blasphemous’, guitarintro#1, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7679489/ (Accessed 14 August 2012).

[2] Ibid., #21.

[3] The following is my response as OzSpen at ibid., #22.

Green-blue dove outline casting shadow

(courtesy ChristArt)

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 15 March 2016.

Baptism of the Holy Spirit: When does it happen?

Monday, January 16th, 2012

clip_image002

By Spencer D Gear

There is continuing controversy over the doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The classic Pentecostal teaching is that the initial physical evidence is speaking in tongues. As examples of this emphasis, here are some statements from various Pentecostal denominations:

  • “WE BELIEVE in the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues as promised to all believers” (Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa).
  • “The baptism of believers in the Holy Spirit is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance” (Assemblies of God USA).
  • “We believe that those who experience Holy Spirit baptism today will experience it in the same manner that believers experienced it in the early church; in other words, we believe that they will speak in tongues—languages that are not known to them (Acts 1: 5, 8; 2:4)“ (International Church of the Foursquare Gospel).

Other evangelicals disagree, saying that it happens at salvation. Examples of these would be:

  • Calvary Baptist Church, Simi Valley, California, an independent Baptist church, believes: “The baptism of the Holy Spirit [is] at salvation, making each believer a priest”.
  • Larry Wood attends a house church in Florida and he believes that “in order to get home to Heaven after a person dies, the person must have believed in Jesus Christ and received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit at Salvation”.
  • Southern Baptist, Jimmy Draper, published this statement in Baptist Press, on the subject: “Doctrine: Baptism by the Holy Spirit”: “This means that you don’t get a piece of Spirit baptism when you get saved and then more later. God does not baptize on an installment plan. All of the Holy Spirit you are ever going to get as a believer you got when Jesus baptized you by means of the Holy Spirit into His body at your salvation. The question is not, “How much of the Holy Spirit do you have?” Instead, you should be asking, “How much of me does the Holy Spirit have?”
  • John MacArthur, eminent Bible teacher of Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California, stated in, “Is Spirit baptism a one-time event?”:

Despite the claims of many, the apostles’ and early disciples’ experience is not the norm for believers today. They were given unique enabling of the Holy Spirit for their special duties. They also received the general and common baptism with the Holy Spirit in an uncommon way, subsequent to conversion. All believers since the church began are commanded to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18) and to walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). Yet these early apostles and believers were told to wait, showing the change that came in the church age. They were in the transitional period associated with the birth of the church. In the present age, baptism by Christ through the agency of the Holy Spirit takes place for all believers at conversion. At that moment, every believer is placed into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). At that point the Spirit also takes up His permanent residency in the converted person’s soul, so there is no such thing as a Christian who does not yet have the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9; cf. 1 Cor. 6:19–20).

The baptism with the Holy Spirit is not a special privilege for some believers, nor are believers challenged and exhorted in Scripture to seek it. It is not even their responsibility to prepare for it by praying, pleading, tarrying, or any other means. The passive voice of the verb translated be baptized indicates the baptism by Jesus Christ with the Spirit is entirely a divine activity. It comes, like salvation itself, through grace, not human effort. Titus 3:5–6 says, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” God sovereignly pours out the Holy Spirit on those He saves.

Others contend that it happens after salvation but there is no necessity of speaking in other tongues.

Now there are some, as we have seen, who say that there is really no difficulty about this at all. They say it is simply a reference to regeneration and nothing else. It is what happens to people when they are regenerated and incorporated into Christ, as Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 12:13: “By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.” … Therefore, they say, this baptism of the Holy Spirit is simply regeneration.

But for myself, I simply cannot accept that explanation, and this is where we come directly to grips with the difficulty. I cannot accept that because if I were to believe that, I should have to believe that the disciples and the apostles were not regenerate until the Day of Pentecost—a supposition which seems to me to be quite untenable. In the same way, of course, you would have to say that not a single Old Testament saint had eternal life or was a child of God….

This is an experience, as I understand the teaching, which is the birthright of every Christian. “For the promise,’ says the apostle Peter, ‘is unto you’ — and not only unto you but — ‘to your children, and to all that are afar off (Acts 2:39. It is not confined just to these people on the Day of Pentecost, but is offered to and promised to all Christian people. And in its essence it means that we are conscious of the incoming, as it were, of the Spirit of God and are given a sense of the glory of God and the reality of His being, the reality of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we love him. That is why these New Testament writers can say a thing like this about the Christians: ‘Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory’….

A definition, therefore, which I would put to your consideration is something like this: The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the initial experience of glory and the reality and the love of the Father and of the Son. Yes, you may have many further experiences of that, but the first experience, I would suggest, is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The saintly John Fletcher of Madley put it like this: ‘Every Christian should have his Pentecost.”

So for Lloyd-Jones, the baptism of the Holy Spirit was an experience after salvation. He explained further:

The baptism of the Holy Spirit, then, is the difference between believing these things, accepting the teaching, exercising faith—that is something that we all know, and without the Holy Spirit we cannot even do that, as we have seen—and having a consciousness and experience of these truths in a striking and signal manner. The first experience of that, I am suggesting, is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, or the Holly Spirit falling on you, or receiving the Spirit.  It is this remarkable and unusual experience which is described so frequently in the book of Acts and which, as we see clearly from the epistles, must have been the possession of the members of the early Christian Church.

Lloyd-Jones does not emphasise speaking in tongues as the initial physical evidence of this baptism in the Spirit. He stated in 1977:

“The trouble with the charismatic movement is that there is virtually no talk at all of the Spirit ‘coming down’. It is more something they do or receive: they talk now about ‘renewal’ not revival. The tendency of the modern movement is to lead people to seek experiences. True revivals humble men before God and emphasize the person of Christ. If all the talk is about experiences and gifts it does not conform to the classic instances of revival”.

Another who believed that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was after salvation was Andrew Murray who had 60 years of ministry in the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa. He put it this way in his sermon, “Baptism of the Spirit”:

What we see in Jesus teaches us what the baptism of the Spirit is. It is not. that grace by which we turn to God, become regenerate, and seek to live as God’s children. When Jesus reminded His disciples (Acts 1:4) of John’s prophecy, they were already partakers of this grace. Their baptism with the Spirit meant something more. It was to be to them the conscious presence of their glorified Lord, come back from heaven to dwell in their hearts, their participation in the power of His new Life. It was to them a baptism of joy and power in their living fellowship with Jesus on the Throne of Glory. All that they were further to receive of wisdom, and courage, and holiness, had its root in this: what the Spirit had been to Jesus, when He was baptized, as the living bond with the Father’s Power and Presence, He was to be to them: through Him, the Son was to manifest Himself, and Father and Son were to make their abode with them.

‘Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and abiding upon Him, the same is He that baptizeth with the Holy Spirit.’ This word comes to us as well as to John. To know what the baptism of the Spirit means, how and from whom we are to receive it we must see the One upon whom the Spirit descended and abode. We must see Jesus baptized with the Holy Ghost. We must try to understand how He needed it, how He was prepared for it, how He yielded to it, how in its power He died His death, and was raised again. What Jesus has to give us, He first received and personally appropriated for Himself ; what He received and won for Himself is all for us: He will make it our very own. Upon whom we see the Spirit abiding, He baptizeth with the Spirit.

On Christian Forums, not4you2know posted:

My problem with tongues is that so many followers of Christ have not experienced it. If it was the natural outcome of saving faith then every altar call and every confession of faith would be followed by speaking in tongues. Yet there are millions of believers who have never done this; are we then to assume that their faith is not genuine? (#167)

I (ozspen, #172) responded:

For me this problem is overcome if the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not linked with the second blessing of tongues. I do not agree that the second blessing doctrine is scriptural. See my exposition HERE.

When this second blessing doctrine is excluded, it then enables us to see all of the gifts as from God (I Cor. 12-14) and that God gives gifts according to His sovereignty. The biblical language is that the ‘varieties of gifts… varieties of service … varieties of activities’ (1 Cor. 12:4) are given with this proviso:

“All these [gifts] are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills “(1 Cor. 12:11 ESV).

This means that ALL of God’s people have gifts that have been given by the sovereign Spirit, according to the Spirit’s will.

We say, thank you, Lord for the gift(s) that you have given the body and me!

This is my understanding of the giving of gifts and there is no second blessing of the baptism with the Holy Spirit with the initial physical evidence of speaking in tongues.

JEBrady (#174) responded to my post:

One thing that nettles me about your stance (and I did read your link) is, how does a person know if they have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, and how does anyone else know if someone has been baptized in the Holy Spirit?

The scripture says not one of the Samaritans had been, but they obviously had become believers, otherwise the brothers ministering to them would not have baptized them. And if they had the Holy Spirit, why did they call for Peter and John? Same thing in Acts 19. I mean, Paul had to ask them if they got the Holy Spirit.
Thoughts?

I replied (ozspen #175):

There is not agreement in theology of the meaning of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. See these three examples.

What is the baptism in the Holy Spirit?

Baptism in the Holy Spirit. What is it?

What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit? How does a person receive it?

I am more persuaded to believe that the baptism with the Holy Spirit happens at salvation, based on 1 Cor. 12: 13, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (ESV).

However, there may be a time subsequent to salvation when we receive a special “touch” from the Holy Spirit, but I would not describe this as a baptism in/with the Holy Spirit.

I am satisfied with the conclusion of the second article above that reads:

Baptism in the Holy Spirit – What Does It Mean To You?
To summarize, baptism in the Holy Spirit does two things. First, it identifies us spiritually with the death and resurrection of Christ, uniting us with Him. Second, baptism in the Holy Spirit joins us to the body of Christ, and identifies us as united with other believers. Practically, baptism in the Holy Spirit means we are risen with Him to newness of life (Romans 6:4), and that we should exercise our spiritual gifts to keep the body of Christ functioning properly as stated in 1 Corinthians 12:13. Experiencing baptism in the Holy Spirit serves as an exhortation to keep unity of the church (Ephesians 4:5). Being identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection-through baptism in the Holy Spirit-establishes the basis for realizing our separation from the power of indwelling sin and our walk in newness of life (Romans 6:1-10, Colossians 2:12).

“You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9).

Your language seems to indicate that you expect people to experience something so that you know they have been baptised in the Holy Spirit (after salvation) when you state,  “How does a person know if they have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, and how does anyone else know if someone has been baptized in the Holy Spirit?”

This is how I thought as a classic Pentecostal, but there is no need to think like that when I accept that the baptism of the Holy Spirit it received at salvation. The only evidence should be a changed life and desire to fellowship with the people of God.

See my article, “Tongues and the baptism of the Holy Spirit”.

 

Copyright (c) 2012 Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at Date: 11 October 2015.

 

Are there apostles in the 21st century?

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Billy Graham

ChristArt

Spencer D Gear

Why is it that some Christians are so strong in their opposition to the gift of apostle as one of the gifts of the Spirit for people in today’s church? I interacted on a student bulletin board (on the Internet) with students who were cessationists. They used verses such as Ephesians 2:20 and 3:5 to prove their views. They believe that the gift of apostleship ceased with Christ’s apostles. [See Appendices 1 & 2 at the end of this article for a sample of this interaction.]

 

I. Signs of an Apostle: 2 Corinthians 12:12 [1]

“The signs of a true [3] apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles” (NASB) [4]

A.   Are miracles the signs of the original apostles

Cessationists have used 2 Cor. 12:12 to argue for miracles to cease when the original 12 apostles of Jesus Christ died.

Why is this not valid here? Paul’s chief argument is not to distinguish between average Christians (who don’t perform miracles) and apostles who see miracles happen in their ministries. Examine the context of “false apostles” in 2 Cor. 11:13. Here in chapter 12, Paul is attempting to show (in 12:12) that he is “a true representative of Christ in distinction from others who are ‘false apostles’ (2 Cor. 11:13)” (Grudem, 1994, p. 362). In 2 Cor. 11:14-15, Paul shows that these false apostles are servants of Satan himself who “disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.”

So, the issue Paul is addressing is genuine Christian apostles vs. apostles who are pretenders (i.e. satanically inspired apostles).

B.  What is 2 Corinthians 12:12 saying?

It is doubtful that Paul is saying that the “signs of an apostle” mean the miraculous, based on the Greek grammar. [5] What it is saying is that the miracles were performed, along with the signs of an apostle. The phrase, “‘signs of a true apostle’ must refer to something different, something that was  accompanied by (done ‘with’) signs and wonders” (Grudem, 1994, p. 363, emphasis in original). The word for “sign” (s?meion) in the Greek often refers to miracles but it has a much broader application where the non-miraculous are also called “signs.”

Examples (based on Grudem, 1994, n17, p.363) include:

  • Paul’s handwritten signature was a sign (2 Thess. 3:17);
  • Circumcision was a sign of Abraham’s imputed righteousness (Rom. 4:11);
  • Judas’s kiss was a “sign” to the Jewish leaders (Matt. 26:48);
  • In the Old Testament Greek Septuagint (LXX), the rainbow was a “sign” of the covenant (Gen. 9:12);
  • Eating the unleavened bread during Passover every year was a “sign” of the Lord’s deliverance (Ex. 13:9 LXX).
  • There’s a writing from the Early Church that describes Rahab’s scarlet cord as a “sign” that the spies told her to hang in her window (I Clement 12:7).

So, in 2 Cor. 12:12, what are the “signs” of an apostle? They are probably “best understood as everything that characterized Paul’s apostolic mission and showed him to be a true apostle. We need not guess at what these signs were, for elsewhere in  2 Corinthians Paul tells what marked him as a true apostle” (Grudem, 1994, p.363. The following list of characteristics of a “true apostle” in 2 Corinthians (based on Grudem, 1994, pp. 363-364) are:

  1. Spiritual power in conflict with evil (10:3-4, 8-11; 13:2-4, 10);
  2. Jealous care for the welfare of the churches (11:1-6);
  3. True knowledge of Jesus and his gospel plan (11:6);
  4. Self-support (selflessness) (11:7-11);
  5. Not taking advantage of churches; not striking people physically (11:20-21);
  6. Suffering and hardship endured for Christ (11:23-29);
  7. Being caught up into heaven (12:1-6);
  8. Contentment and faith to endure a thorn in the flesh (12:7-9);
  9. Gaining strength out of weakness (12:10).

Further evidence that these “signs” were not miracles is found in the fact that they were described as “performed among you with perseverance” (12:12), or “with utmost patience” (ESV). This is hardly a way to describe miracles that normally happen very quickly, but “it would make much sense to say that Paul’s Christlike endurance of hardship for the sake of the Corinthians was performed ‘in all patience'” (Grudem, 1994, p. 364).

Nowhere in the list above from 2 Corinthians does Paul indicate that he proves his genuine apostleship by the miracles in his ministry. What distinguishes these “false apostles” is  not humility,  not selflessness,  not generosity,  not by seeking the well being of others,  not by spiritual power in physical weakness,  but by confidence in their own strength. When Paul acted with Christlike character among them, he was showing the genuine signs of a true apostle (Grudem, 1994, p. 364).

But there’s a dilemma. Why did Paul have to mention anything about “signs and wonders and miracles”?  Paul seems to be adding one more factor to the signs of his genuine apostleship. Yes, there were miracles that confirmed the truth of Paul’s message, in addition to all of these other signs.

There’s another reason why miracles do not prove anyone to be an apostle.  That reason comes from other New Testament evidence, which makes it clear that there were others, besides the apostles, who were gifted by God to perform miracles. A few examples include:

a. Stephen (Acts 6:8);
b. Philip (Acts 8:6-7);
c. Christians in some churches of Galatia (Gal. 3:5);
d. Those who have been given the gifts of “miracles” (I Cor. 12:10, 28).

These examples make it clear that “miracles” are not the exclusive right to the apostles in the first century church. In fact, I Cor. 12:28 is clear to state that the gifts of “miracles” and “healings” (ESV) are distinguished from the gift of “apostles.” Even though Mark 16:17-18 is not in the earliest of New Testament Greek manuscripts, it does represent a “strand of tradition within the early church” (Grudem, 1994, p. 365). It reads:

And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover” (ESV).

Here the power of miracles is assumed to be given as a gift from God to all Christians. Even if this does not appear in the New Testament, those who wrote it were not convinced that the working of miracles was the exclusive gift of the original apostles.

To the charge by cessationists that miracles in the early church were associated with apostles and their close associates, a similar argument could be made for churches being founded only by the original apostles or their close associates. In the New Testament, apostles and associates did missionary work. What about evangelism? “These analogies show the inadequacy of the argument: the New Testament primarily shows how the church should seek to act, not how it should not seek to act” (Grudem, 1994, p. 365, emphasis in original).

II. Other Scriptures

A.  What about Ephesians 4:11?

This verse states, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the  pastors and teachers . . .” (ESV), or to include the Greek particles,  tous men and  tous de, “And he gave some as apostles, some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers” (NASB). [7]

Some object to the teaching of the cessation of the gift of apostleship, by pointing to this verse, claiming that the teaching of the “fivefold ministry” is that the risen Christ gave apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers as gifts to the church throughout history — when and as Christ determined. This view is that the gift of apostle is still given to the contemporary church. Is this a valid perspective?

Commenting on this verse, Hendriksen (1967) states that “apostles, in the restricted sense of the term, are the Twelve and Paul. There are the charter-witnesses of Christ’s resurrection, clothed with life-long and church-wide authority over life and doctrine, but introduced here . . . in order to stress the  service they render” (p. 196, emphasis in original). By this type of comment, is Hendriksen saying that apostles are not given as gifts to the contemporary church? This was his “strictest sense” description. However, he believes the Scripture teaches another view that encompasses a “broader” understanding of apostleship. It is this latter view that would apply in the twenty-first century?

He speaks of the strict sense including only the “the Twelve and Paul” and in “that fullest, deepest sense a man is an apostle  for life and  wherever he goes. He is clothed with  the authority of the One who sent him, and that authority concerns both  doctrine and life” (1957, p. 50). However, there is “the broadest sense” of an apostle that is not limited to the Twelve and Paul. The Greek,  apostolos, is

a term derived from a verb which means  to send, to send away on a commission to dispatch: apostello. . . In its widest meaning it refers to any gospel-messenger, anyone who is sent on a spiritual mission, anyone who in that capacity represents his Sender and brings the message of salvation. Thus used, Barnabas, Epaphroditus, Apollos, Silvanus and Timothy are all called ‘apostles’ (Acts 14:14; I Cor. 4:6, 9; Phil. 2:25; I Thess. 2:6, cf. 1:1; and see also I Cor. 15:7). They represent God’s cause, though in doing so they may also represent certain definite churches whose ‘apostles’ they are called (cf. II Cor. 8:23). Thus Paul and Barnabas represent the church of Antioch (Acts 13:1, 2), and Epaphroditus is Philippi’s ‘apostle’ (Phil. 2:25). Under this broader connotation some would include also Andronicus, Junius (Rom. 16:7), and James, the Lord’s brother (Gal. 1:19), but the exact meaning of the passages in which, together with the term ‘apostles,’ these men are mentioned is disputed” (Hendriksen, 1957, pp. 49-50).

Therefore, in its “broadest sense,” it seems reasonable that God would continue to dispatch gospel-messengers, commissioned by the Christ, the Giver of gifts, throughout the history of the church. Surely there is a need for pioneer gospel-messengers wherever Christ’s message has not penetrated!

What does the Scripture say?

1.  Not so, say the cessationists

    John Stott acknowledges that “the word ‘apostle’ has three main meanings in the New Testament” (1979, p. 160). These are/were:

  1. Every believer being a servant and a sent-one, apostle (as in John 13:16);
  2. “Apostles of the churches” who were “messengers sent out by a church either as missionaries or on some other errand” [see 2 Cor. 8:23; cf. Phil. 2:25] (p. 160).
  3. The “apostles of Christ” who were

a very small and distinctive group, consisting of the Twelve (including Matthias who replaced Judas), Paul, James the Lord’s brother, and possibly one or two others. They were personally chosen and authorized by Jesus, and had to be eyewitnesses of the risen Lord [Acts 1:21, 22; 10:40-41; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:8-9]. It must be in this sense that Paul is using the word ‘apostles’ here, for he puts them at the top of his list, as he does also in 1 Corinthians 12:28 (‘first apostles’), and this is how he has so far used the word in this letter, referring to himself (1:1) and to his fellow apostles as the foundation of the church and the organs of revelation (2:20; 3:5-6) [6]. We should not hesitate, therefore, to say that  in this sense there are no apostles today (Stott, 1979, p. 160).

Why is it that this ministry gift of apostles in Eph. 4:11 has to be given the restrictive, “distinctive group” label by Stott? It is hardly surprising that he would conclude that this type of “distinctive group” of apostles ceased being given by Christ with their death. He has so narrowly defined the gift and its operation to be restricted to the church of Christ’s immediate apostles. He has not shown me in context of Eph. 4 that this is the correct understanding of the gift of apostleship.

In fact, the context of Eph. 4:11 indicates that a broader, continuing gift is what is indicated. I am referring to:

  • When Christ ascended “he gave gifts to men” (4:8);
  • The purposes of these five ministry gifts were:
  1. “To equip the saints for the work of ministry” (4:12);
  2. “For building up the body of Christ” (4:12);
  3. “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (4:13);
  4. “To mature manhood” (4:13);
  5. “So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (4:14);
  6. “We are to grow up in every way into him” (4:15);
  7. “When each part is working properly” (4:16).

If the gift of apostles ceased with the death of Christ’s immediate apostles, so did the other gifts mentioned in Eph. 4:11 — prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers. This is hardly a sustainable position in today’s church, where evangelists and pastor-teachers are very evident. So are apostles and prophets if one does not define them away with presuppositions.

I am convinced that these purposes of the ministry gifts are as valid now as they have ever been. They are needed in every generation of the church.. In fact, this list of purposes is what the contemporary church needs so desperately.

We need to grow up as believers to be able to counter the onslaught of false doctrine that is invading the church. I am not just speaking of the heretical doctrines of a John Shelby Spong or those of the Jesus Seminar (Robert Funk, John Dominic Crossan, etc.). In my own ministry experience, I have heard supposed evangelical pastors teach, “Jesus was not God when he was on  earth,” or, “It is God’s will for all of his children to be healed from all sicknesses. Afterall, ‘by his stripes we are healed.'” I have heard preaches duck and weave about the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality. The Uniting Church in Australia (an amalgamation of Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational) in July 2003 endorsed the ordination of practising homosexuals. Cloud in the pulpit leads to fog in the pew.

Gordon Fee agrees:

Here [in Eph. 4:11] he elaborates on the role of these ministries for the carrying out of the imperative in vv. 1-3. The return to ‘each one’ takes place in our passage in v. 12, in the form of ‘the saints’ who have been ‘equipped’ by the ministries he lists. These ministries empower the whole body to carry out its ministry” (1994, p. 706, emphasis added).

Since all Christians are gifted by God, “the body [of Christ] does not consist of one member but of many” (I Cor. 12:14), there will always be a continuing need for ministry gifts that “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12). Why should the five-fold ministry gifts be stripped of the apostle and the prophet after the death of first-century apostles and prophets?

The following context of Eph. 4:11 indicates the continuing need for these ministry gifts in the church of every era.

John MacArthur Jr. takes a similar line to Stott. He acknowledges two uses of “apostles” in the New Testament: (a) The Twelve (including Matthias) and Paul, and (b)

A more general sense of other men in the early church, such as Barnabas (Acts 14:4), Silas and Timothy (1 Thess. 2:6), and a few other outstanding leaders (Rom. 16:7; 2 Cor. 8:23; Phil. 2:25. The false apostles spoken of in 2 Cor. 11:13 no doubt counterfeited this class of apostleship, since the others were limited to thirteen and were well known. The true apostles of the second group were called ‘messengers (apostoloi) of the churches’ (2 Cor. 8:23), whereas the thirteen were apostles of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:1; etc.) (MacArthur, 1986, p. 141).

MacArthur concludes that “apostles in both groups were authenticated ‘by signs and wonders and miracles’ (2 Cor. 12:12), but neither group was self-perpetuating. Nor is there any New Testament record of an apostle in either group being replaced when he died” (1986, p. 141).

This is begging the question. A better question would be: Why would Christ find it necessary to  replace apostles, if the gift of apostleship is a timeless one, given as Christ sees the need, until the consummation?

Why would the gift cease?  Why is there no longer an apostolic ministry needed by which God’s gifted apostles are “messengers of the churches” as in 2 Cor. 8:23? It seems as though cessationist presuppositions are driving the conclusion, that leads MacArthur to state that “both apostles and prophets have passed from the scene (Eph. 2:20), but the foundation they laid is that on which all of Christ’s church has been built” (1986, p. 142).

2.  What would an apostle look like?

Since the broader definition of an apostle is a God-sent messenger of the churches, what would be his or her job description? In Eph. 2:20 and 3:5, Paul stated that he himself manifested the gifts as apostle and prophet.

An examination of the gifts of apostles, prophets and evangelists in the New Testament indicates that these gifts were, generally, itinerant ministries among the early churches.

a.  These itinerant workers “founded churches by evangelizing and built them up through prophetic utterances. There can be little question that this is the understanding of the term ‘apostle’ in Paul’s letters” [see I Cor. 9:1-2; 2 Cor. 10:15-18; and Rom. 15:17-20]” (Fee, 1994, p. 707).

b.  Therefore, it can be concluded that an apostle, as a general rule, would be a pioneering church planter anywhere in the world, whose ministry also involved equipping other believers for their work of ministry.

B.   I Corinthians  12:28

The verse reads, “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.” “Appointed” (etheto, aorist, indicative, middle of tithemi) indicates an action in the past (aorist indicative indicates the past tense action) that God appointed for himself (middle voice).

There are several surprising features about this verse (stated by Fee, 1987, pp. 618-620):

1. The sentence begins with the emphatic, “And some God appointed in the church.” God is responsible for this diversity in the church.

2. The mix of gifts in this verse is amazing because Paul begins with three types of persons (apostles, prophets, teachers) and then mixes in some of the  charismata from vv. 8-10, miracles and gifts of healings, before adding the sixth and seventh items of “helps” and “administration” (gifts of service that are not mentioned again in the New Testament), and then follows the  charisma of “tongues.”

3. Here we have what looks like personal ministries, charismata and deeds of service in combination.

What one is to make of this mix is not certain. At best we can say that the first three emphasize the persons who exercise these ministries, while the final five emphasize the ministry itself. . . The first three items are not be be thought of as ‘offices’ held by certain ‘persons’ in the local church, but rather as ‘ministries’ that find expression in various persons; likewise the following ‘gifts’ are not expressed in the church apart from persons. . . Why, then, does Paul rank the first three? That is more difficult to answer, but it is almost certainly related to his own conviction as to the role these three ministries play in the church. It is not so much that one is more important than the other, nor that this is necessarily their order of authority, but that one has precedence over the other in the founding and building up of the local assembly (Fee, 1987, p. 619).

Here is seems to be Gordon Fee’s view that the apostles, prophets and teachers are necessary for the founding of a local assembly. Surely this didn’t apply just to the Corinthian church, but to other churches as well! The tense of the verb, “appointed,” does not solve the issue as the other gifts in the list (e.g. teachers, helps and administration) surely are not restricted to the first century church. They are clearly being given to the contemporary church. Why, then, should the other gifts, including apostles, be limited to the first century if the others aren’t’

C.   Howard Snyder’s view on the gift of apostle

Although he wrote the following material over 25 years ago, Howard Snyder (1977), a church renewal leader, has successfully cut through some of the excesses and presuppositions of both camps — charismatic and non-charismatic advocates. He admits:

“Fortunately, we are beginning to see a new emphasis among both Pentecostals and non-Pentecostals on the fact that spiritual gifts must be understood in their biblical context, that is, as part of God’s plan for the normal functioning of the Christian community.

“The basic question is not whether specific spiritual gifts such as those of apostle, prophet or tongues-speaking, are valid today. The question is whether the Spirit still ‘gives gifts to men,’ and the answer is yes. Precisely which gifts he gives in any particular age is God’s prerogative, and we should not prejudge God. Interpretations as to specific gifts may vary. But we have no biblical warrant to restrict the charismata to the early church nor to ban any specific gift today. Arguments against gifts generally arise from secondary, not biblical considerations and fear of excesses or abuses.

“My own study of the Church in the New Testament convinces me that we can understand God’s plan for the Church only as we give proper attention to spiritual gifts. This is no strange doctrine but something the early church understood very well. In Ephesians spiritual gifts form the connecting link between Paul’s statement of God’s cosmic plan for the Church and his description of normal local church lift: ‘There is one body and one Spirit. . . But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. . . It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers’ (Eph. 4:4, 7, 11). . .

“The life and growth of the early church can be seen best as a community of Spirit-filled Christians exercising their spiritual gifts” (Snyder, 1977, p. 77).

Snyder affirms the unique foundational role of the Twelve, plus Paul (1977, p. 87) and asks, “Did apostleship continue beyond the New Testament?” (p. 87). He answers:

Because of the obvious uniqueness of the original apostles, some have argued that apostles no longer exist today. But this conclusion runs counter to biblical evidence and makes too sharp a break between the original apostles and the church leaders who followed them (p. 87).

What, then is the function (job description) of  apostolos in the New Testament, a word that “occurs eighty-one times” (Snyder, 1977, p. 87)? Snyder considers that there are three meanings of “apostles”:

1. There were the 12 apostles especially chosen by Jesus, a word that “occurs with this meaning seven times in the Gospels, as well as in Acts 1:2 and possibly Jude 17” (p. 87).

2. Snyder considers apostles and leaders in the first century church.

Apostles designates the principal leaders of the early church in the book of Acts. . . Beginning with Acts 8, we can no longer be sure that  apostles refers only to the Twelve. Gradually the meaning of the term seems to expand to include other emerging leaders (p. 87).

These “emerging leaders” included Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:4, 14), James, Jesus’ brother (Gal. 1:19), Apollos (1 Cor. 4:9) and Silas (1 Thess. 2:7). Andronicus and Junias (Rom. 16:7), “the latter possibly a woman, seem also to have been considered apostles” (p. 87).

In the book of Acts, apostles in the broader sense of general church leaders — not necessarily restricted to the Twelve — appears twenty-four times. The identity of the ‘apostles and elders’ in Acts 15 is not specified, and we have no solid grounds for assuming  apostles here means the Twelve only, especially considering the prominence of James at the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:13) . . . Note also the general, unspecified references in 1 Corinthians 9:5; 15:7. . . Apostles seemingly has a broader meaning than the Twelve also in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. Paul says the risen Jesus appeared first to Peter, ‘then to the Twelve,’ and later ‘to James, then to all the apostles’ (Snyder, 1977, p. 88; n19, p. 199).

3. Apostles is used in the New Testament “in a still broader sense as referring to messengers or missionaries” (Snyder, 1977, p. 88). Examples are found in John 13:16; 2 Cor. 8:23 (the ESV translates apostolos as “messengers”) and Phil. 2:25.

Against this background, Snyder concluded that

we have no warrant for restricting the meaning here [I Cor. 12:28-29; Eph. 4:11] to the original Twelve. Surely we can recognize a unique, unrepeatable apostleship in that first group of apostles. But already in Paul’s day there were other apostles. What Paul is indicating is not the original Twelve, but rather the function of apostle which God has given as a permanent aspect of the charismatic nature of the Church. Nothing in Paul’s treatment of spiritual gifts suggests that he was describing a pattern for the early church only. Quite the opposite. For Paul  the Church is a growing, grace-filled body, and apostles are a permanent part of that body’s life.

It cannot be successfully maintained, therefore, that the apostolic ministry passed away with the death of the original Twelve. Nor is there biblical evidence, conversely, that the apostolic ministry was transmitted formally and hierarchically down through the history of the church. Rather,  Scripture teaches that the Spirit continually and charismatically gives to the Church the function of the apostle” (Snyder, 1977, p. 88, emphasis added).

The function of apostles

Snyder’s view is that:

  1. They were general leaders of the church;
  2. Their place and authority were recognised throughout the church;
  3. This was so, because of “the general conviction that the Spirit of God has raised them up” (1977, pp. 88-89). <>Their
    “authority is based in their being raised up by God and in their faithfulness to revealed truth, that is, the Bible. Their authority is contingent upon their faithfulness as witnesses; ceasing to witness faithfully to the truth of God’s revelation, they cease to have authority.”Apostles today, then, are the Church’s general leaders, whose who have responsibility for the general oversight of the Church” (p. 89).
  4. “It makes little difference biblically whether apostles today are called bishops, superintendents, moderators, presidents or what have you” (p. 89).
  5. The apostle is a person, not an official with an office.”Apostleship is a  function, a gift. God has not established the office of apostle, prophet, evangelist and so forth. This would be to think in static, institutional terms. Rather, ‘his gifts were that some should be apostles, prophets, evangelists.'” The gift from God is persons, not offices.” (p. 89)

Assessment

I cannot agree with Snyder’s teaching that the gift of the person of an apostle coincides with general church leaders today, as the thrust of this paper provides evidence to the contrary. I endorse his teaching that the gift of apostles continues in the contemporary church. The use of priority in biblical terminology seems to suggest that pioneer, church planting messengers (apostles) or missionaries are closer to the biblical understanding of being an apostle: “God has appointed in the church first apostles . . .” (ESV, I Cor. 12:28) and “he gave some as apostles [mentioned first]. . .” (NASB, Eph. 4:11). However, the purpose of these five ministry gifts “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12, ESV), is a strong indicator that these gifts should be functioning in association with every church. It could be that the apostle eminated from a local church and had a wider ministry of church planting, based in that local church. These are only suggestions based on the evidence considered in this paper.

I am supportive of Fee’s (1994) view that, apart from I Cor. 9:5 and 15:7-11,

There is no other evidence of any kind that Paul thought of a local church as having some among it called ‘apostles,’ who were responsible for its affairs. . . There is no place in Paul where there is a direct connection between the Spirit and apostleship. His apostleship is received ‘from Christ’ (Rom. 1:4-5 and ‘by the will of God’ (I Cor. 1:1); it is never suggested to be a ‘charism’ of the Holy Spirit” (p. 192).

Fee acknowledges that “in Eph. 3:5, the mystery of the gospel is revealed to the apostles and prophets by the Spirit; but that is a different thing from being designated or ‘anointed’ for this ministry by the Spirit” (1994, n406, p. 192).

There is support in I Cor. 12:28 and Eph. 4:11 for the gift of apostle having to do  with function and  not with office. The function is that of an equipper of the saints who helps to bring people to maturity and unity in Christ. These ministry gifts help believers to grow up in the Lord.

F. Greek verbs and the continuation of apostles

I know that English grammar is not a favourite subject for today’s English students and it was not so for their parents either. When I teach New Testament Greek, I have to precede the first lessons with a review of fundamental English grammar before Greek grammar can be introduced. This is a shame and a tragic statement about the deficiencies in our Australian educational system. Some trendies would challenge my old-fashioned and fundamental view.

It’s time for an investigation into the “aorist-loving” Greek language.

1.  The dilemma

If we use English translations to determine the validity or otherwise of the gift of apostle, this is what we discover:

a. I Cor. 12:28, in an English translation, states: “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, . .” (ESV). “Has appointed” is an example of the English perfect tense –”an action completed, or perfect, in past time” (Thomson & Foreman, 1985, p. 26).

b. Eph. 4:7 in English, “. . . and he gave gifts to men” (ESV). “Gave” is an example of the simple past tense in English.

c. Eph. 4:11 in English, “And he gave the apostles. . .” (ESV). Again, “gave” is the simple past tense.

The English grammar affirms that God appointed and gave the gift of apostle in the  past, but these verbs, in English, when associated with the gift of apostle indicate actions by God & Christ  in the past. This sounds like clear support of the cessationist argument that this gift was given at a time in the past (with Christ’s immediate 12 apostles and Paul) and that they have ceased.

These are examples of the dangers of exegeting the Scriptures by use of the English language only.

2. Greek is an aorist-loving language

One of my former Greek teachers used to say (and the quote may not be original with him) that “Greek was an aorist-loving language.” And it is.

a.  Aorist as punctiliar action

The aorist tense is so pervasive in the Greek New Testament that Dana & Mantey speak of the aorist as “the most prevalent and most important of the Greek tenses,” adding that “it is also the most peculiar to Greek idiom.” Why? “The fundamental significance of the aorist is to denote action simply as occurring, without reference to its progress. . . The aorist signifies nothing as to completeness, but simply presents the action as attained. It states the fact of the action or event without regard to its duration. . . The aorist may be represented by a dot (l )” (1955, p. 193, 179).

When we come to deal with the issue of apostles today or not-for-today, we have to examine the use of the aorist tense. The three verbs translated in English with a past action (perfect and simple past) in I Cor. 12:28 and Eph. 4:7, 11, are all aorist tenses in the indicative mood. The indicative mood “is the mood of  certainty.” Dana & Mantey go on to say that with the Greek verb, two elements are involved, “time  of action and kind of action,” but “time is but a minor consideration in the Greek tenses ” (1955, p. 177, emphasis in original).

b. Aorist indicative as simple past action

But there is one exception where the aorist tense has a past tense function, and that is with the indicative mood. The aorist tense generally indicates “action simply as occurring, without reference to its progress.” However, “its time relations” are “found only in the indicative [mood], where it is used as past [tense]” (Dana & Mantey, 1955, p. 193). Machen lends support: “The tense which in the indicative is used as the simple past tense is called the aorist” (1923, p. 65; also Moule, 1959, p. 10).

This should solve the problem permanently regarding when the gift of apostle is given. The three verses here considered (I Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:7,11) all use verbs in the aorist indicative. It was simple action in the past. It happened in the past with no indication of its continuation — end of story.

In relation to his interpretation of Eph. 4:11, Wayne Grudem affirms this view, stating that this verse

“Talks about a one-time event in the past (note the aorist  kai edoken, ‘and he gave‘), when Christ ascended into heaven (vv. 8-10) and then at Pentecost poured out initial giftings on the church, giving the church apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers (or pastors and teachers). Whether or not Christ would later give more people for each of these offices  cannot be decided from this verse alone, but must be decided based on other New Testament teachings on the nature of these offices and whether they were expected to continue. In fact, we see that there were many prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers established by Christ throughout all of the early churches, but there was only one more apostle given after this initial time (Paul, ‘last of all,’ in unusual circumstances on the Damascus Road) [Grudem, 1994, n9, p. 911, emphasis in original].

Grudem acknowledges that

“The word  apostle can be used in a broad or narrow sense. In a broad sense, it just means ‘messenger’ or ‘pioneer missionary.’  But in a narrow sense, the most common sense in the New Testament, it refers to a specific office, ‘apostle of Jesus Christ'” (1994, p. 911).

c.  A warning

But the solution is not that simple because of these factors:

(1) The Greek tenses major on the kind of action, rather than the time of action. A. T. Robertson warns: “The caution must be once more repeated that in these subdivisions of the aorist indicative we have only one tense and one root-idea (punctiliar action). The variations noted are incidental and do not change at all this fundamental idea” (1934, p. 835).

(2) The gift of apostle that God/Jesus “gave” (Eph. 4:7, 11) or “has appointed” (I Cor. 12:28) could be a gnomic aorist, “a universal or timeless aorist and probably represents the original timelessness of the aorist indicative” (Robertson, 1934, p. 836). Because there is no Greek tense to represent punctiliar action in the present time, the aorist idiom would be appropriate in the “so-called Dramatic Aorist [which] is possibly the oldest use of the tense” (Robertson, 1934, p. 841).

(3) The Greek aorist states an undefined punctiliar action and if we want to use it in the present time, we still use the aorist and often translate it with the simple English past or perfect tenses. But we must never lose sight of the fact that the root-idea of the aorist is point-action of fact. Timeless (gnomic) or dramatic aorists could still be actions of fact in the present time and apply to I Cor. 12:28 and Eph. 4:7, 11.

(4) This leads Robertson to say that in translating the aorist tense into English,

the Greek aorist indicative, as can be readily seen, is not the exact equivalent of any tense in any other language. It has nuances all its own, many of them difficult or well-nigh impossible to reproduce in English. Here, as everywhere, one needs to keep a sharp line between the Greek idiom and its translation into English. We merely do the best that we can in English to translate in one way or another the total result of word ( Aktionsart), context and tense. Certainly one cannot say that the English translations have been successful with the Greek aorist. . . Burton puts it clearly thus: ‘The Greek employs the aorist, leaving the context to suggest the order; the English usually suggests the order by the use of the pluperfect.’ . . . The Greek aorist and the English past do not exactly correspond, nor do the Greek perfect and the English perfect. The Greek aorist covers much more ground than the English past. . . From the Greek point of view the aorist is true to its own genius.  The aorist in Greek is so rich in meaning that the English labours and groans to express it. As a matter of fact the Greek aorist is translatable into almost every English tense except the imperfect, but that fact indicates no confusion in the Greek” (Robertson, 1934, pp. 847-848, emphasis added).

d. A conclusion

The Greek aorist indicative, as in I Cor. 12:28 and Eph. 4:7, 11, could be translated as simple past tenses in the English  (as in the ESV) and this would indicate that the gift of apostle has ceased.However, a broader understanding of apostle (as shown above) and the use of the gnomic (timeless) or dramatic (expressing what has just taken place) aorists should be a pointer to God’s continuing gift of apostles. Since Greek uses the aorist, leaving the context to suggest the order of action, Eph. 4:11-14 shows that the five ministry gifts, including apostles, are needed “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith . . . to mature manhood. . . so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine.”

This will be a continuing ministry until Christ returns. To say that it’s okay for evangelists and pastor-teachers to continue throughout the church age, and that apostles and prophets are excluded, makes one’s agenda obvious.

“When Niccolo Paganini willed his finely crafted and lovingly used violin to the city of Genoa, he demanded that it never be played again.  It was a gift designated for preservation, but not destined for service.
“On the other hand, when the resurrected Christ willed his spiritual gifts to the children of God, he commanded that they be used.  They were gifts not designated for preservation, but destined for service” (Green, 1982, p.352)

The gifts of apostles are not given by the risen Christ to be defined away or annihilated, but they are destined for service.  May we never silence God’s gracious gifts to us — the body of Christ.  Paul, to the Corinthians, wrote: “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them as he chose” (I Cor. 12:18).  May we never snuff out the gifted members of the body that God chose!

God arranged the members in the body, each one of them as he chose (I Cor. 12:18)

Appendix I

On a theological forum on the www, I interacted with a few people on the continuation or cessation of the gift of apostle.  Bill (not his real name) responded to one of my postings.

Bill wrote: “I wonder how can a dictionary define apostolos as meaning ‘having miraculous powers.’  Surely the definition has to do with ‘being sent’,  ‘messenger’, etc. And surely the attribution of miraculous powers is nothing but the personal interpretation and imposition of the dictionary editor, no?”

My response: Any language relies on basic dictionary definitions, based on etymology (study of historical & linguistic change) and various usages. Here in Greek, we depend on lexicons such as Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich, and Thayer; word studies such as Colin Brown’s New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. None of them is infallible.

We may disagree with some of their conclusions regarding the meaning of words, but these scholars have done the hard slog in carving out basic understanding of words.

Take an example like John 13:16 (ESV): “Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant ( doulos = bondservant/slave) is not greater than his master ( kurios = lord), nor is a messenger ( apostolos = sent one, delegate) greater than the one who sent him”

How do we know that  doulos means bondservant/slave,  kurios as lord, and apostolos as messenger, sent one or delegate? Scholars who have dedicated themselves to the task of finding the meaning of Greek words have arrived at definitions that have generally been accepted. However, these meanings must be open to challenge, but we need to have good reasons to go in another direction.

Concerning “apostolos,” Thayer’s lexicon gives the basic meaning of “a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders” (1962, p. 68). He referred me on to Bishop J. B. Lightfoot’s application of the term in a section, “the name and office of an Apostle” (Lightfoot, 1957, pp. 92-101). In his final paragraph, Lightfoot stated: “Ancient writers for the most part allowed themselves very considerable latitude in the use of the title [apostle]” (p. 101). For anyone wanting a developed word study on the meaning of “apostolos,” this extended treatment by Lightfoot is well worth the read and study.

Bill stated: “Surely the attribution of miraculous powers is nothing but the personal interpretation and imposition of the dictionary editor, no?”

My response:

What do you say of 2 Cor. 12:12 (ESV), “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works”? These are hardly “the personal interpretation and imposition of the dictionary editor” but the signs and wonders that Paul, a true apostle, performed among them. They are “the signs of a true apostle” according to the Apostle Paul. Could anything be clearer? Why should such signs not be associated with true apostles of today (e.g. Eph. 4:11; I Cor. 12:18, 28)?

[For a view, which I support, by Jack Deere, on why the miraculous gifts continue, see: “Were Miracles Meant to Be Temporary?”.  For a contrary view by Richard Mayhue, see, “Who Surprised Whom? The Holy Spirit or Jack Deere?” There is a more balanced perspective (than Mayhue’s criticism) in “Questions Cessationists Should Ask: A Biblical Examination of Cessationism”]

Appendix 2

I responded to another student, James (not his real name):

My response:  I have no axe to grind. Because I am committed to the inerrant Scripture and historical-grammatical hermeneutics, I want to hear what the Scriptures say. If it can be clearly and definitively shown from the Word that the gift of apostle refers only to those who have been with Jesus and have witnessed his resurrection and that gift has ceased, I willingly submit to the Word. To this point, I have not been shown by my study of the Word or from the comments on this Forum, that this qualification is what definitively determines the continuing gift of apostle —  if such exists today.  In fact, I find it unusual that Paul, in writing to the Corinthians and Ephesians, many years after the resurrection of Christ, would continue to affirm the giving of the gift of apostleship if such a gift  ceased with those who physically saw the resurrected Christ.

We know that there were more than 12 apostles.

1. Paul and his associates were apostles: 1 Thess. 2:6, “Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though  we could have made demands  as apostles of Christ.” These apostles (the “we”) could possibly be referring to Silvanus and Timothy as well (1 Thess. 1:1).

2. Paul did not meet the qualifications you are stating and yet was appointed as such (see Acts 9:5-6; 26:15-18). He defends his apostleship in I Cor. 9:1-3.

3. In Acts 14:14, both Barnabas and Paul are called apostles.

4. Gal. 1:19 seems to indicate that our Lord’s brother, James, was an apostle. We know from I Cor. 15:7-9 that the resurrected Christ appeared to James. In James 1:1 he calls himself a “slave/servant —  doulos.”

5. There’s the possibility that Andronicus and Junias (Rom. 16:7) could be “among the apostles.” This is only one interpretation through the years of exegesis.

6. Epaphroditus, in Phil. 2:25 is called an “apostle” ( apostolos), but the ESV, NIV, KJV, NKJV, RSV, NRSV, NASB, etc. translate as “messenger.”

In total, this makes approx. 18 identified as apostles. This could be reduced in number if we exclude Timothy (cf. 1 Thess. 2:2, 6).

James wrote: “It might have something to do with the qualifications of the office. Although there may be many excellent characteristics of an apostle, there was one special requirement laid upon the 11 for the selection of Judas’ replacement.  Anyone can be an apostle who has seen the LORD Jesus Christ and had walked with Him.”

My response: As this point in my Christian pilgrimage, I am not able to accept your premise that “anyone can be an apostle who has seen the Lord Jesus Christ and had walked with Him.” Acts ch. 1, in context, makes it very clear that this was a qualification for a choice of a replacement for Judas. Acts 1:21-22 (ESV), “So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, [22] beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us — one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”

Paul to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 9:1-3), asks a question, “Am I not an apostle?” With the particle “ou” he expects a positive answer. Here he seems to give two qualifications for apostleship:

(a) First, he had seen the Lord (9:1). There’s a volume of literature debating whether this “seeing” was actual or a revelatory vision.

(b) Second, the establishment of churches in new areas (“for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord”, 9:2) See also I Cor. 3:6, 10; 4:15; 2 Cor. 10:13-16.

I fully accept the statement of the foundational role of apostles and prophets, as in Eph. 2:20, “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.” However, I am yet to be convinced that the ministry gift of “apostles” has ceased. At this point, I am of the view espoused by F. F. Bruce (1961) — see below.

Second Cor. 11:13 makes it clear that there were false apostles in Paul’s day at Corinth. If such gifts are still given today, we should also expect the false to manifest as well as the genuine.

Have I missed something? Where does it say in Scripture that all apostles (given as gifts by the resurrected and ascended Lord) must meet these same qualifications?

How can the resurrected and ascended Lord continue to give gifts of apostles (Eph. 4:7-11; cf. I Cor. 12:27-30) who are required to have lived and walked with him and to have witnessed his resurrection,  after his resurrection and ascension? Paul is giving superfluous instructions to Corinth and Ephesus if such gifts are no longer possible — yet he includes them among gifts that continue.

James wrote: “So when I Cor 11 and Ephesians 4 were written had the authors seen the living Lord? Were there apostles still living who [were] eye-witnesses to the gospel? Is this a valid requirement today?”

My response:  Or is your premise invalid that all apostles had to be eye-witnesses to the resurrection (what do you mean by “eye-witnesses to the gospel” as I am an eye-witness to the gospel today)?

F. F. Bruce considers your premise invalid. In his comments on Eph. 1:1 (“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ”) he stated that:

The term ‘apostle’ (Gk. apostolos), as used of Christians in the New Testament has two meanings, a wider and a narrower. In the wider sense it is used of Christian missionaries in general (e.g. of Timothy and Silvanus in 1 Thess. 2:6, or of Barnabas in Acts 14:14), or of ‘messengers of the churches’ (as in 2 Cor. 8:23). But in the narrower sense, in which Paul uses it of himself here and elsewhere, it is confined to those who have received their commission directly and independently from Christ, apart from any mediation — that is to say, to Paul and to the Twelve” (1961, p. 25).

James wrote:  “If not, then perhaps this is an historic office only.”

My response: Perhaps! But I have not seen a definitive interpretation of Scripture that convinces me, but I am open to such.

James wrote: “Can you think of a third option?”

My response: Most certainly! Your interpretation could be wrong, and so could mine be!!

Appendix 3

James wrote again [I did not respond as he was not reasoning from the Scriptures, but quoting his favourite cessationist authors]:

“I will make a scholarly reply in one long posting even tho I fear it will overwhelm you. We have a tendency to not read material that opposes our view holding the mind in check while we dream up a convincing reply.”

Here goes:

[I] John F. Walvoord, “The Person of the Holy Spirit. Part 8 The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Believer,” Bibliotheca Sacra 99, no. 393 (Jan 42): 26ff

Walvoord writes about the office of apostleship. He notes that the word apostle, a translation of the Greek “apostolos,” means literally, a delegate, messenger, or one sent forth with orders (See Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, in loco).

Walvoord gives the following list of qualifications:

(1) They were chosen directly by the Lord Himself, as in the case of Barnabas by the Holy Spirit (Mt. 10.1,2; Mk. 3.13,14; Lk. 6.13; Acts 9.6,15; 13.2; 22.10,14, 15; Rom. 1.1).
(2) They were endued with sign gifts, miraculous powers which were the divine credentials of their office (Mt. 10.1; Acts 5.15,16; 16.16-18; 28.8,9).
(3) Their relation to the kingdom was that of heralds, announcing to Israel only (Mt. 10.5,6) the kingdom as at hand (Mt. 4.17, note), and manifesting kingdom powers (Mt. 10.7,8).
(4) To one of them, Peter, the keys of the kingdom of heaven, viewed as the sphere of Christian profession, as in Mt. 13., were given (Mt. 16.19).
(5) Their future relation to the kingdom will be that of judges over the twelve tribes (Mt. 19.28).
(6) Consequent upon the rejection of the kingdom, and the revelation of the mystery hid in God (Mt. 16.18; Eph. 3.1-12), the Church, the apostolic office was invested with a new enduement, the baptism with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2.1-4); a new power, that of imparting the Spirit to Jewish-Christian believers; a new relation, that of foundation stones of the new temple (Eph. 2.20-22); and a new function, that of preaching the glad tidings of salvation through a crucified and risen Lord to Jew and Gentile alike.
(7) The indispensable qualification of an apostle was that he should have been an eye-witness of the resurrection (Acts 1.22; 1 Cor. 9.1).”

[II] O. Palmer Robertson, “Tongues: Sign of Covenantal Curse and Blessing,” Westminster Theological Journal 38 (Fall 1975): 43-53.

Robertson writes, “In the case of the founding office of apostle it has fulfilled its function as covenantal sign for the Old and New Covenant people of God. Once having fulfilled that role, it has no further function among the people of God” (p. 53).

[III] John A. Witmer, Review of “Understanding the Miraculous Gifts in the Scripture,” by Edward N. Gross, Christian News, February 2, 1987, pp. 13-15 in Bibliotheca Sacra 144, no. 576 (Oct 87) p. 464.

Gross does not deny that miracles occur today. He recognizes that our God is a miracle-working God” (p. 14). Gross’s own experience as a missionary in Africa taught him that. But, he insists, there is a difference between the occurrences of miracles and the gift of performing miracles. The former are not the effect of the latter. His second argument deals with the unique office of apostle and the “signs of an apostle.” These signs are the powers given only to the Apostles. The miraculous gifts, as sign gifts, are bestowed only through the Apostles. When the last apostle died, the miraculous sign gifts also disappeared.

[IV] Alan Askins, “Paul’s Defense of His Apostolic Authority to the Galatians,” Conservative Theological Journal 2, no. 6 (September 1998): 304ff.

First, Paul claimed to be an apostle given divine authority and sent on a divine mission. Second, the office of apostle was created with a practical purpose in mind, not for self-exaltation or ceremony. Apostles were not high churchmen, but lowly instruments chosen to carry a message. K. H. Rengstorf writes:

An objective element, the message, thus becomes the content of the apostolate. Full and obedient dedication to the task is demanded. Action accompanies speech in demonstration of authentic commissioning. The works are not a subject of boasting or evaluation but of a joy that expresses a complete ignoring of the person and absorption in the task. (TDNT p.72)

The office of apostle was never intended to be perpetual in the Church. It was a unique position, in a unique time, serving a unique purpose.

[V] John H. Fish III, “Brethren Tradition or New Testament Church Truth,” Emmaus Journal 2, no. 2 (Winter 1993): 123.

“The leadership of the apostles as those directly appointed by Christ was immediate and continued without change throughout their lifetime. Because the gift and office of apostle was temporary there was of necessity a transition to the period when the apostles were no longer alive.”

[VI] James L. Boyer, “The Office of the Prophet in New Testament Times,” Grace Journal 1, no. 1 (Spring 1960): 20.

“Take the office of apostle for example. There are no apostles today. They were the authoritative general leaders of the church in the New Testament. That office has ceased to exist. Its function is carried on in the congregational government of the churches. But the pronouncements of churches are not authoritative decrees to be put up alongside the Scriptures.”

[VII] : 53.

“Today there is no need for a sign to show that God is moving from the single nation of Israel to all the nations. That movement has become an accomplished fact. As in the case of the founding office of apostle, so the particularly transitional gift of tongues has fulfilled its function as covenantal sign for the Old and New Covenant people of God. Once having fulfilled that role, it has no further function among the people of God.”

“Hope you made it through them” [ says James].

Endnotes

1. I was helped in clarifying my understanding of the gift of apostleship by Wayne Grudem (1994, pp. 362-365).

2.  I am an Australian, retired as a counsellor and then a counselling manager, PhD in New Testament (University of Pretoria, South Africa, 2015), and an active Christian apologist.

3. The word, “true,” is not in the original text, which simply reads, “the signs of an apostle.” The RSV, NRSV, ESV and the NASB have added “true” and the RV has added “truly” to give the sense. Paul is contrasting his ministry with that of false apostles in 2 Cor. 11:13.

4. Unless otherwise stated, the translation used is the NASB:  The New American Standard Bible.

5. In the Greek of this verse, “the signs” [of an apostle] is in the nominative case while “signs and wonders and miracles” is in the dative. Therefore, the “signs and wonders and miracles” cannot be in apposition to “signs” of an apostle. This means that ” the signs of an apostle” cannot be described as “signs and wonders and miracles.” For that to be the situation, “the signs” [of an apostle] would have to be in the  same case as “signs and wonders and miracles.” The NIV translates incorrectly as ” The things that mark an apostle — signs, wonders and miracles . . .” This translation violates the grammar just described. The KJV also does not accurately translate the grammar with the translation, “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.” The RSV, NRSV, ESV and NASB give a more precise translation. For example, the ESV translates 2 Cor. 12:12 as, “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.” I am indebted to Grudem (1994, n. 16, p. 363) for alerting me to this distinction.

6. Stott writes Eph. 3:26 (1979, p. 160), but there are only 21 verses in Eph. 3. I presume he means Eph. 3:5-6 and I have inserted these two verses here in Stott’s quote.

7. In the NASB, “as” is not in the Greek manuscripts, but is inserted to clarify the meaning. The NIV accommodates this Greek idiom of separating one thought from another in a series, by translating as: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.”

References

Bruce, F. F. (1961). The epistle to the Ephesians. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company.

Dana, H. E. & Mantey, J. R. (1927/1955). A manual grammar of the Greek New Testament. Toronto, Ontario: The Macmillan Company.

ESV (2001). The holy Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Bibles (a division of Good News Publishers).

Fee, G. D. (1987). The first epistle to the Corinthians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Bruce, F. F. gen. ed.). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Fee, G. D. (1994). God’s empowering presence: the Holy Spirit in the letters of Paul. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.

Green, M. P. (ed., 1982).  Illustrations for biblical preaching.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Grudem, W. (1994). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Hendriksen, W. (1957). I & II Timothy & Titus (New Testament Commentary). Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust.

Hendriksen, W. (1967). Ephesians (New Testament Commentary). Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust.

Lightfoot, J. B. (1957). The epistle of Paul to the Galatians. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

MacArthur, Jr., J. (1986). The MacArthur New Testament commentary: Ephesians. Chicago: Moody Press.

Machen, J. G. (1923). New Testament Greek for beginners. Toronto, Ontario: The Macmillan Company.

Moule, C. F. D. (1959). An idiom-book of New Testament Greek. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

NASB (1977). New American standard Bible. Anaheim, California: J. B. McCabe Company.

NRSV (1989). The holy Bible: new revised standard version. Nashville, Tennessee: Holman Bible Publishers.

Robertson, A. T. (1934). A Greek grammar of the New Testament in the light of historical research. Nashville, Tennessee:  Broadman Press.

RSV (1952). The holy Bible: revised standard version. New York: Harper and Brothers.

RV (1950). The holy Bible: revised version. London: The British and Foreign Bible Society.

Stott, J. R. W. (1979). God’s new society: The message of Ephesians (The Bible speaks today). Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

Thayer, J. H. (1962). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament (trans., rev., enl.). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Thomson, A. K. & Foreman, D. G. (1985). Living English (2nd ed.). Milton, Qld.: The Jacaranda Press.

Committed to “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15)

 

 

Copyright (c) 2007 Spencer D. Gear.This document last updated at Date: 11 October 2015.

Can cessationism be supported by Scripture and church history?

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

By Spencer D Gear

I was making some posts on Christian Fellowship Forum when Chris (lrschrs #73) made this response:

My view is in no sense inconsistent to 1 Cor. 14 as this passage was written about how things happened BEFORE the close of the canon in 70. AT THAT TIME there were new prophecies or revelations given. This is quite true, but beside the point, as we are not discussing what happened in the past but what is happen[ing] now in the present [spelling errors and incorrect words have been corrected].

I (ozspen #76) responded:

There is not a word in Scripture that confirms that the gifts of the Spirit would cease when the canon of Scripture was closed.

You have a view of the close of the canon by AD 70. Many scholars do not agree that the Book of Revelation was written by that time. My ESV “Introduction” states that “John wrote about A.D. 95-96”. William Hendriksen, in More than Conquerors (Baker 1961), wrote that “we have not found a single, really cogent argument in support of the earlier date [AD 69 or earlier]…. The late [95-96] has very strong support” (pp. 19-20). Irenaeus placed its writing towards the end of Emperor Domitian’s reign, AD 81-96. He severely persecuted Christians in AD 95. George Eldon Ladd in his commentary on the Revelation of John (Eerdmans 1972) states that the date of the writing of the Apocalypse was “the last decade of the first century when Domitian was emperor in Rome (A.D. 81-96). Some scholars have argued for an earlier date, but this is unlikely” (p. 8).

Since there is no Scripture that confirms the cessation of the gifts of the Spirit with the finalisation of the canon of Scripture, Richard (#77) asked: “Then WHERE did this idea come from?” I responded (ozspen #78):

There are a number of arguments that cessationists present, but one of them is to make an interpretation that is imposed on the text of 1 Cor. 13:9-10.

“For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away (ESV, emphasis added).

“When the perfect comes” is interpreted as the completion of the canon because “the partial will pass away” as the context is the gifts of the Spirit, but especially tongues. The partial, therefore, is the gifts of the Spirit.

In John MacArthur’s study Bible of the English Standard Version (Crossway 2010), he does acknowledge that ‘The “perfect” is not the completion of Scripture…. The “perfect” must be the eternal state” (p. 1704), but one of his comments on 1 Cor. 13:8-10 is:

Tongues also ceased because there was no need to verify the true messages from God once the Scripture was given. It became the standard by which all are to be deemed true’ (p. 1705, emphasis added).

I Cor. 13:12 makes it clear when the ‘then’ of ceasing will be – ‘then face to face’. These charismata will cease when we are face to face with the Lord (at his second coming).

Hebrews 1 and 2 also are used to try to get across this cessationist teaching.

Richard (#80) replied: “What a stttrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeettttttttttttttttccccccccccccccccccchhhhhhhhhhh. You are serious that they give that reason though. Oh well. I’m glad I’m not expected to believe that”.

I have attempted to show in, “Cessationism through church history”, that the contemporary theological view that certain gifts of the Spirit ceased with the conclusion of the Apostolic Age or the completion of the New Testament, is false according to church history.

However, the laity, clergy and scholars continue to promote that view that there are temporary sign gifts and that these now cease to operate. Let’s investigate a copy of examples.

See this cessationist argument by Adam in “Spiritual Gifts, Part 4: The Temporary Sign Gifts”.  He states:

Peter raised the dead in Acts 9:36. Next time you come across someone who claims to have the gift of healing, take them out to the cemetery and say, “Go at it! There are lots of prospects here. One will be convincing for me; any one, you pick.”

Further proof that the gift of healing started to disappear by the end of Acts when the word had been revealed can be found in the life of Paul. The gift of healing had a specific purpose. It was never intended to be used just to run around and keep Christians healthy all the time. Just like the miracle of the manna was no longer needed once the Israelites reached the Promised Land, so to did the miraculous sign gifts stop once we had the living Word. Paul never uses the gift of healing outside of its purpose. We see this in Phil 2:25. Paul does not heal Epaphroditus. Nor does he heal Trophimus in 2 Tim 4:20. Timothy was not healed either in 1 Tim 5. Even Paul himself had a thorn in his flesh 2 Cor 12:7 which he did not heal (or have another apostle heal). The miraculous gifts were a sign to unbelievers that new revelation was true. It was never for any personal benefit of believers.

Since none of the healers can heal with a word or a touch, instantaneously, totally, everybody who comes / asks, organic diseases, and raise the dead; since the Bible is complete, the revelation has ceased, and no more signs are necessary; since the Word needs no confirmation outside itself, “It is sufficient that the man of God might be perfect”; since their healings are based on faulty theology of the atonement and salvation; since they disallow God His own purposes in having some people stay sick; since their personal lives are not known to manifest the fruit of the Spirit; since so many tricks, gimmicks, and special effects are often used; since the evidence is weak, unsupported, and so-called testimonies exaggerated; since they do not go to the hospitals where the sick are, as Jesus did; since they cannot heal all who come to them; and since they do not do things which can have no other possible explanations than that God has acted supernaturally; let me ask you this question: “How do you explain it?”

You can’t explain it Biblically. It is fraud; they are deceived.

So why are some Christians sick? Some people are sick because God wanted them that way. God may have a purpose to fulfil through them and in them which that illness facilitates. Sometimes illness, affliction, infirmity and trouble drive us to His side. Maybe it could be the work of Satan. Or it could be a chastising for sin.

If you want to read more of their arguments, go to, “The Ultimate Cessationism Resource”.

Here is John MacArthur’s argument for the cessation of “temporary” gifts of the Spirit:

(From John McArthur’s commentary on I Corinthians 12:8-11).

1 Cor 12:8-11…(8)  for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, (9) to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, (10) to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. (11) But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. (NKJ)

A thorough examination will yield the truth that spiritual gifts fill two major purposes: the permanent gifts edify the church and the temporary gifts are signs to confirm the word of God. God will continue to give the permanent gifts to believers for the duration of the church age, and those gifts are to be ministered by His people at all times in the life of the church. Those gifts include first the speaking or verbal gifts—prophecy, knowledge, wisdom, teaching, and exhortation, and, second, the serving or nonverbal gifts—leadership, helps, giving, mercy, faith, and discernment. The temporary sign gifts were limited to the apostolic age and therefore ceased after that time. Those gifts included miracles, healing, languages, and the interpretation of languages. The purpose of temporary sign gifts was to authenticate the apostolic message a the Word of God, until the time when the Scriptures, his written Word, were completed and became self-authentication.
In the present passage Paul mentions some of those gifts that illustrate the “varieties” he spoke of in v. 4. This list includes both permanent and temporary gifts, and is only representative of the varieties, as seen from the fact that additional gifts are mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament, including in v. 28 of this chapter (see also Rom. 12:6-8; cf. I Pet. 4:11).

1 Cor 12:4…There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. (NKJ)

Rom 12:6-8…(6) Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; (7) or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; (8) he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. (NKJ)

1 Pet 4:11…If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (NKJ)

Even Wikipedia has an entry on Cessationism, part of which reads:

Strong Cessationism

The majority of Cessationists subscribe to the strong form of Cessationism. Examples of Cessationist literature propounding strong Cessationism are from Christians belonging to various denominations such as Conservative Baptist, Reformed Churches, etc.

Strong Cessationism denies the possibility of a reemergence of the gifts on grounds of principle; that is, the denial is on a priori grounds: a strong Cessationist would deny the possibility of the existence or a reemergence of genuine God’s prophets and healers in the post-Apostolic age, i.e. after the 1st century, no matter what – even if we met prophets or healers who prophesied/healed in the name of Jesus. A strong Cessationist would appeal to the principle of Sola Scriptura, insisting on three propositions:

  1. the completion of the canon of the Bible
  2. the infallible and sufficient authority of the Bible
  3. the perfection of the Scriptures to guide the Church

According to a strong Cessationist, a person with a gift of power is also a prophet because healings and miracles were always signs associated with the divine confirmation of the genuineness of a prophet in the periods when God revealed new truths with respect to the doctrine. A strong Cessationist might concede that prophecies might be useful in the guidance of the Church. Nevertheless, he will insist that the Church can be perfectly guided to reach the right decisions if it applies the principles, teachings and examples of the Bible.

Enjoy the challenge of trying to make this fit with the Scripture and the history of the church since the days of Christ and the conclusion of the canon. I can’t make it fit. Even St. Augustine had a change of mind: “St. Augustine: The man who dared to change his mind about divine healing”.

See also my articles:

Jack Deere has written a valuable article, “Were miracles meant to be temporary?

 

Copyright (c) 2011 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 11 October 2015.

 

Baptism of the Holy Spirit: When does it happen?

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

By Spencer D Gear

There is continuing controversy over the doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The classic Pentecostal teaching is that the initial physical evidence is speaking in tongues. As examples of this emphasis, here are some statements from various Pentecostal denominations:

  • “WE BELIEVE in the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues as promised to all believers” (Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa).
  • “The baptism of believers in the Holy Spirit is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance” (Assemblies of God USA).
  • “We believe that those who experience Holy Spirit baptism today will experience it in the same manner that believers experienced it in the early church; in other words, we believe that they will speak in tongues—languages that are not known to them (Acts 1: 5, 8; 2:4)“ (International Church of the Foursquare Gospel).

Other evangelicals disagree, saying that it happens at salvation. Examples of these would be:

  • Calvary Baptist Church, Simi Valley, California, an independent Baptist church, believes: “The baptism of the Holy Spirit [is] at salvation, making each believer a priest”.
  • Larry Wood attends a house church in Florida and he believes that “in order to get home to Heaven after a person dies, the person must have believed in Jesus Christ and received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit at Salvation”.
  • Southern Baptist, Jimmy Draper, published this statement in Baptist Press, on the subject: “Doctrine: Baptism by the Holy Spirit”: “This means that you don’t get a piece of Spirit baptism when you get saved and then more later. God does not baptize on an installment plan. All of the Holy Spirit you are ever going to get as a believer you got when Jesus baptized you by means of the Holy Spirit into His body at your salvation. The question is not, “How much of the Holy Spirit do you have?” Instead, you should be asking, “How much of me does the Holy Spirit have?”
  • John MacArthur, eminent Bible teacher of Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California, stated in, “Is Spirit baptism a one-time event?”:

Despite the claims of many, the apostles’ and early disciples’ experience is not the norm for believers today. They were given unique enabling of the Holy Spirit for their special duties. They also received the general and common baptism with the Holy Spirit in an uncommon way, subsequent to conversion. All believers since the church began are commanded to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18) and to walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). Yet these early apostles and believers were told to wait, showing the change that came in the church age. They were in the transitional period associated with the birth of the church. In the present age, baptism by Christ through the agency of the Holy Spirit takes place for all believers at conversion. At that moment, every believer is placed into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). At that point the Spirit also takes up His permanent residency in the converted person’s soul, so there is no such thing as a Christian who does not yet have the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9; cf. 1 Cor. 6:19–20).

The baptism with the Holy Spirit is not a special privilege for some believers, nor are believers challenged and exhorted in Scripture to seek it. It is not even their responsibility to prepare for it by praying, pleading, tarrying, or any other means. The passive voice of the verb translated be baptized indicates the baptism by Jesus Christ with the Spirit is entirely a divine activity. It comes, like salvation itself, through grace, not human effort. Titus 3:5–6 says, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” God sovereignly pours out the Holy Spirit on those He saves.

Others contend that it happens after salvation but there is no necessity of speaking in other tongues.

Now there are some, as we have seen, who say that there is really no difficulty about this at all. They say it is simply a reference to regeneration and nothing else. It is what happens to people when they are regenerated and incorporated into Christ, as Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 12:13: “By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.” … Therefore, they say, this baptism of the Holy Spirit is simply regeneration.

But for myself, I simply cannot accept that explanation, and this is where we come directly to grips with the difficulty. I cannot accept that because if I were to believe that, I should have to believe that the disciples and the apostles were not regenerate until the Day of Pentecost—a supposition which seems to me to be quite untenable. In the same way, of course, you would have to say that not a single Old Testament saint had eternal life or was a child of God….

This is an experience, as I understand the teaching, which is the birthright of every Christian. “For the promise,’ says the apostle Peter, ‘is unto you’ — and not only unto you but — ‘to your children, and to all that are afar off (Acts 2:39. It is not confined just to these people on the Day of Pentecost, but is offered to and promised to all Christian people. And in its essence it means that we are conscious of the incoming, as it were, of the Spirit of God and are given a sense of the glory of God and the reality of His being, the reality of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we love him. That is why these New Testament writers can say a thing like this about the Christians: ‘Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory’….

A definition, therefore, which I would put to your consideration is something like this: The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the initial experience of glory and the reality and the love of the Father and of the Son. Yes, you may have many further experiences of that, but the first experience, I would suggest, is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The saintly John Fletcher of Madley put it like this: ‘Every Christian should have his Pentecost.”

So for Lloyd-Jones, the baptism of the Holy Spirit was an experience after salvation. He explained further:

The baptism of the Holy Spirit, then, is the difference between believing these things, accepting the teaching, exercising faith—that is something that we all know, and without the Holy Spirit we cannot even do that, as we have seen—and having a consciousness and experience of these truths in a striking and signal manner. The first experience of that, I am suggesting, is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, or the Holly Spirit falling on you, or receiving the Spirit.  It is this remarkable and unusual experience which is described so frequently in the book of Acts and which, as we see clearly from the epistles, must have been the possession of the members of the early Christian Church.

LLoyd-Jones does not emphasise speaking in tongues as the initial physical evidence of this baptism in the Spirit. He stated in 1977:

“The trouble with the charismatic movement is that there is virtually no talk at all of the Spirit ‘coming down’. It is more something they do or receive: they talk now about ‘renewal’ not revival. The tendency of the modern movement is to lead people to seek experiences. True revivals humble men before God and emphasize the person of Christ. If all the talk is about experiences and gifts it does not conform to the classic instances of revival”.

Another who believed that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was after salvation was Andrew Murray who had 60 years of ministry in the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa. He put it this way in his sermon, “Baptism of the Spirit”:

What we see in Jesus teaches us what the baptism of the Spirit is. It is not. that grace by which we turn to God, become regenerate, and seek to live as God’s children. When Jesus reminded His disciples (Acts 1:4) of John’s prophecy, they were already partakers of this grace. Their baptism with the Spirit meant something more. It was to be to them the conscious presence of their glorified Lord, come back from heaven to dwell in their hearts, their participation in the power of His new Life. It was to them a baptism of joy and power in their living fellowship with Jesus on the Throne of Glory. All that they were further
to receive of wisdom, and courage, and holiness, had its root in this: what the Spirit had been to Jesus, when He was baptized, as the living bond with the Father’s Power and Presence, He was to be to them: through Him, the Son was to manifest Himself, and Father and Son were to make their abode with them.

‘Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and abiding upon Him, the same is He that baptizeth with the Holy Spirit.’ This word comes to us as well as to John. To know what the baptism of the Spirit means, how and from whom we are to receive it we must see the One upon whom the Spirit descended and abode. We must see Jesus baptized with the Holy Ghost. We must try to understand how He needed it, how He was prepared for it, how He yielded to it, how in its power He died His death, and was raised again. What Jesus has to give us, He first received and personally appropriated for Himself ; what He received and won for Himself is all for us: He will make it our very own. Upon whom we see the Spirit abiding, He baptizeth with the Spirit.

On Christian Forums, not4you2know posted:

My problem with tongues is that so many followers of Christ have not experienced it. If it was the natural outcome of saving faith then every altar call and every confession of faith would be followed by speaking in tongues. Yet there are millions of believers who have never done this; are we then to assume that their faith is not genuine? (#167)

I (ozspen, #172) responded:

For me this problem is overcome if the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not linked with the second blessing of tongues. I do not agree that the second blessing doctrine is scriptural. See my exposition HERE.

When this second blessing doctrine is excluded, it then enables us to see all of the gifts as from God (I Cor. 12-14) and that God gives gifts according to His sovereignty. The biblical language is that the ‘varieties of gifts… varieties of service … varieties of activities’ (1 Cor. 12:4) are given with this proviso:

“All these [gifts] are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills “(1 Cor. 12:11 ESV).

This means that ALL of God’s people have gifts that have been given by the sovereign Spirit, according to the Spirit’s will.

We say, thank you, Lord for the gift(s) that you have given the body and me!

This is my understanding of the giving of gifts and there is no second blessing of the baptism with the Holy Spirit with the initial physical evidence of speaking in tongues.

JEBrady (#174) responded to my post:

One thing that nettles me about your stance (and I did read your link) is, how does a person know if they have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, and how does anyone else know if someone has been baptized in the Holy Spirit?

The scripture says not one of the Samaritans had been, but they obviously had become believers, otherwise the brothers ministering to them would not have baptized them. And if they had the Holy Spirit, why did they call for Peter and John? Same thing in Acts 19. I mean, Paul had to ask them if they got the Holy Spirit.
Thoughts?

I replied (ozspen #175):

There is not agreement in theology of the meaning of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. See these three examples.

What is the baptism in the Holy Spirit?

Baptism in the Holy Spirit. What is it?

What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit? How does a person receive it?

I am more persuaded to believe that the baptism with the Holy Spirit happens at salvation, based on 1 Cor. 12: 13, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (ESV).

However, there may be a time subsequent to salvation when we receive a special “touch” from the Holy Spirit, but I would not describe this as a baptism in/with the Holy Spirit.

I am satisfied with the conclusion of the second article above that reads:

Baptism in the Holy Spirit – What Does It Mean To You?
To summarize, baptism in the Holy Spirit does two things. First, it identifies us spiritually with the death and resurrection of Christ, uniting us with Him. Second, baptism in the Holy Spirit joins us to the body of Christ, and identifies us as united with other believers. Practically, baptism in the Holy Spirit means we are risen with Him to newness of life (Romans 6:4), and that we should exercise our spiritual gifts to keep the body of Christ functioning properly as stated in 1 Corinthians 12:13. Experiencing baptism in the Holy Spirit serves as an exhortation to keep unity of the church (Ephesians 4:5). Being identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection-through baptism in the Holy Spirit-establishes the basis for realizing our separation from the power of indwelling sin and our walk in newness of life (Romans 6:1-10, Colossians 2:12).
“You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9).

Your language seems to indicate that you expect people to experience something so that you know they have been baptised in the Holy Spirit (after salvation): “How does a person know if they have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, and how does anyone else know if someone has been baptized in the Holy Spirit?”

This is how I thought as a classic Pentecostal, but there is no need to think like that when I accept that the baptism of the Holy Spirit it received at salvation. The only evidence should be a changed life and desire to fellowship with the people of God.

See my article, “Tongues and the baptism of the Holy Spirit“.

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 15 October 2015.

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Cessationism through church history

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

Gift
(image courtesy ChristArt)

Spencer D Gear

In my Contending Earnestly for the Faith[2] letter (March 2010, p. 25), I wrote that the following Christian leaders were cessationists (the gifts of the Spirit ceased when the Scriptures were complete). These include Athanasius, Luther, Calvin, Matthew Henry, C.H. Spurgeon, Charles Hodge, and a multitude of current leaders such as John MacArthur & Norman Geisler.

The editor’s note at the end of the letter stated: “I am not sure that you are quite right in labelling C. H. Spurgeon and possibly some of the others, whom you have named, as ‘cessationists’” (p. 26).

Let’s check the evidence. What did the people I mentioned believe about continuation or cessation of spiritual gifts?

John Piper, an outstanding expositor of the Scriptures from Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN, and founder of Desiring God Ministries, wrote: “Virtually all the great pastors and teachers of history that I admire and that have fed me over the years belong to the … group who believe that signs and wonders were only for the apostolic age (John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon, Benjamin Warfield, my own father). But I am not fully persuaded by their case”.[3] This is some of the evidence of cessationism from the history of the church.

Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria (north Africa) from 328 until his death in 373, was known for his tireless defense of the deity of Christ against the heresy of Arianism at the Council of Nicaea in 325. It is believed that he wrote his “Letters to Serapion on the Holy Spirit” while he was exiled in the desert between 356-361.[4] In those letters he wrote of “the blessed Paul who … did not divide the Trinity as you do, but taught its unity when he wrote to the Corinthians about spiritual gifts and summed them all up by referring them to the one God and Father, saying ‘there are different gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who works all of them in everyone’ (1 Cor. 12:4-6). For that which the Spirit imparts to each is provided from the Father through the Son. Everything that belongs to the Father belongs to the Son (Jn 16:15, 17:10); thus what is given by the Son in the Spirit is the Father’s gifts”.[5]

In context of his writing to Serapion, Athanasius makes no direct commitment either way to continuation or cessation that I was able to locate. However, his quoting from 1 Cor. 12:4-6, and using the present tense, “that which the Spirit imparts to each”, does not seem to point to these gifts as having ceased. However, it is by inference only. I have not been able to find a direct quote from Athanasius affirming either way.

However, another early church father, Chrysostom (347-407), a name that means “golden mouth” as he was an eloquent speaker, had a cessationist perspective. He was a contemporary of Athanasius’s later life, was Archbishop of Constantinople and defender of orthodoxy. He wrote of spiritual gifts as being obscure in his understanding. In his homily on 1 Cor. 12:1-2, He wrote, “This whole place is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place. And why do they not happen now? Why look now, the cause too of the obscurity has produced us again another question: namely, why did they then happen, and now do so no more?[6]

One of the greatest church fathers was St. Augustine, bishop of Hippo in northern Africa. He wrote that “in the earliest times, ‘the Holy Ghost fell upon them that believed: and they spake with tongues’, which they had not learned, ‘as the Spirit gave them utterance’. These were signs adapted to the time. For there behooved to be that betokening of the Holy Spirit in all tongues, to shew that the Gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth. That thing was done for a betokening, and it passed away”.[7]

In his later life, Augustine returned to a belief in the Lord’s supernatural ability to heal. I have documented this in my article, “The man who dared to change his mind about divine healing”.[8]

Martin Luther, from whom we Protestants owe a great deal in his leadership of the 16th century Reformation. His teaching was a mixed bag concerning his statements on the gifts of the Spirit. He wrote of the continuation of gifts: “When you depart lay your hands upon the man again and say, These signs shall follow them that believe; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover“.[9] But he also wrote as a cessationist in his commentary on Galatians 4:1-9, “Paul explained the purpose of these miraculous gifts of the Spirit in I Corinthians 14:22, ‘Tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not.’ Once the Church had been established and properly advertised by these miracles, the visible appearance of the Holy Ghost ceased”.[10] Which perspective belongs to Luther’s theology?

Another leader of the Reformation, John Calvin, wrote that “the gift of healing, like the rest of the miracles, which the Lord willed to be brought forth for a time, has vanished away in order to make the new preaching of the Gospel marvelous forever… It now has nothing to do with us, to whom the administering of such powers has not been committed”.[11]

In his commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, writing of Mark 16:17[12] (“and these signs shall follow them that believe”), Calvin wrote, “When he says that believers will receive this gift, we must not understand this as applying to every one of them; for we know that gifts were distributed variously, so that the power of working miracles was possessed by only a few persons…. Though Christ does not expressly state whether he intends this gift [of miracles] to be temporary, or to remain perpetually in the Church, yet it is more probable that miracles were promised only for a time, in order to give lustre to the gospel while it was new or in a state of obscurity”.[13]

Calvin seemed somewhat arbitrary when he wrote of the gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers in Ephesians 4. He believed that “only the last two [pastors and teachers] have an ordinary office in the church; the Lord raised up the first three at the beginning of his Kingdom, and now and again revives them as the need of the times demands”.[14] The functions of apostles, prophets and evangelists “were not established in the church as permanent ones, but only for that time during which churches were to be erected where none existed before, or where they were to be carried over from Moses to Christ. Still, I do not deny that the Lord has sometimes at a later period raised up apostles, or at least evangelists in their place, as has happened in our own [Reformation] day.”[15]

How would Calvin interpret John 14:12, which states: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (KJV)?

In his commentary on the Gospel of John, Calvin wrote of John 14:12:

And shall do greater works than these. Many are perplexed by the statement of Christ, that the Apostles would do greater works than he had done I pass by the other answers which have been usually given to it, and satisfy myself with this single answer. First, we must understand what Christ means; namely, that the power by which he proves himself to be the Son of God, is so far from being confined to his bodily presence, that it must be clearly demonstrated by many and striking proofs, when he is absent. Now the ascension of Christ was soon afterwards followed by a wonderful conversion of the world, in which the Divinity of Christ was more powerfully displayed than while he dwelt among men. Thus, we see that the proof of his Divinity was not confined to the person of Christ, but was diffused through the whole body of the Church.

Because I go to the Father. This is the reason why the disciples would do greater things than Christ himself. It is because, when he has entered into the possession of his kingdom, he will more fully demonstrate his power from heaven.[16]

One of the problems that I see with Calvin’s interpretation is that he makes John 14:12 as applicable only to “the Apostles”, meaning Christ’s apostles of the first century. They would see “many and striking proofs” when they no longer had Christ’s bodily presence and he had returned to the Father.

The “greater works” were spoken to the Twelve, but Philip specifically. However, John 14:12 states that ” He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also”. It does not state that the greater works would be done by the Apostles, but by “he that believeth on me”. That sounds very comprehensive and not limited to the Twelve. D. A. Carson says it well: “Jesus’ ‘works’ may include more than his miracles; they never exclude them”.[17] The “greater works” is not easy to understand as it is unlikely that Christ was referring to “more works” as though the church would do more of them, as there was a common Greek word for “more”.

It is hardly likely that “greater works” could refer to greater examples of the supernatural. What could be greater than the raising of Lazarus from the dead? The meaning seems to point to the fact that Jesus was returning to the Father and that those who believed in Jesus, the church, would become the new order through which God’s miraculous gifts would be channelled, by the Holy Spirit’s ministry. But the meaning is not crystal clear to me.

St. Augustine of Hippo, in the fifth century interpreted the “greater works” as:

“What works was He then referring to, but the words He was speaking? They were hearing and believing, and their faith was the fruit of those very words: howbeit, when the disciples preached the gospel, it was not small numbers like themselves, but nations also that believed; and such, doubtless, are greater works. And yet He said not, Greater works than these shall ye do, to lead us to suppose that it was only the apostles who would do so; for He added, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do.” Is the case then so, that he that believeth on Christ doeth the same works as Christ, or even greater than He did? Points like these are not to be treated in a cursory way, nor ought they to be hurriedly disposed of”.[18]

A theologian such as Norman Geisler gets over this difficulty with his cessationist interpretation, “Jesus did promise that miracles would continue after His time, but not after the time of the apostles. In fact, it was specifically to the apostles with Him in the Upper Room that he made His promise that they would do greater miracles than He did (John 14:12; cf. 13:5ff)”.[19]

The Encyclopedia of Religion says that “both Luther and Calvin wrote that the age of miracles was over and that their occurrence should not be expected”.[20] This is a questionable statement, based on the above information.

What of Matthew Henry (1662-1714), the British Presbyterian Bible commentator? He stated in his concise commentary on 1 Cor. 12:12-26 that “spiritual gifts were extraordinary powers bestowed in the first ages, to convince unbelievers, and to spread the gospel”.[21]

Revivalist and theologian, Jonathan Edwards (1703-58), wrote,

“The extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, such as the gift of tongues, of miracles, of prophecy, &c., are called extraordinary, because they are such as are not given in the ordinary course of God’s providence. They are not bestowed in the way of God’s ordinary providential dealing with his children, but only on extraordinary occasions, as they were bestowed on the prophets and apostles to enable them to reveal the mind and will of God before the canon of Scripture was complete, and so on the primitive Church, in order to the founding and establishing of it in the world. But since the canon of the Scripture has been completed, and the Christian Church fully founded and established, these extraordinary gifts have ceased”.[22]

Revivalist George Whitefield (1714-70) asked, “What need is there of miracles, such as healing sick bodies and restoring sight to blind eyes, when we see greater miracles done every day by the power of God’s Word?”[23]

John Owen, 17th century British non-conformist theologian and Puritan, wrote: “Gifts which in their own nature exceed the whole power of all our faculties” [tongues, prophecy, healing powers] belong to “that dispensation of the Spirit [which] is long since ceased, and where it is now pretended unto by any, it may justly be suspected as an enthusiastical delusion”.[24]

One of the champions of cessationism was B. B. Warfield, professor of theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, 1887-1921. He is regarded by some conservative Presbyterians as the last of the great Princeton theologians before the split of the church in 1929. In his article, “Cessation of the Charismata”, he wrote that

“the theologians of the post-Reformation era, a very clear-headed body of men, taught with great distinctness that the charismata ceased with the Apostolic age. But this teaching gradually gave way, pretty generally throughout the Protestant churches, but especially in England, to the view that they continued for a while in the post-Apostolic period, and only slowly died out like a light fading by increasing distance from its source”.[25]

C. H. Spurgeon the prominent 19th century Baptist preacher and pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London, for 38 years, wrote that

“those gifts of the Holy Spirit which are at this time vouchsafed to the church of God are every way as valuable as those earlier miraculous gifts which are departed from us… As you would certainly inquire whether you had the gifts of healing and miracle-working, if such gifts were now given to believers, much more should you inquire whether you have those more permanent gifts of the Spirit which are this day open to you all, by the which you shall work no physical miracle, but shall achieve spiritual wonders of the grander sort”.[26]

In my preparation of this article, I engaged in email discussion with my friend, Philip Powell, who alerted me to several incidents in the life of C. H. Spurgeon which indicate that he was not a cessationist. Spurgeon provided these descriptions and an explanation, as supplied by Philip Powell (I have located the following quotes from other sources):

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-92) was the prominent Baptist preacher in England during the 19th century, who spoke of a “sermon at Exeter Hall in which he suddenly broke off from his subject, and pointing in a certain direction, said, `Young man, those gloves you are wearing have not been paid for: you have stolen them from your employer’. At the close of the service, a young man, looking very pale and greatly agitated, came to the room, which was used as a vestry, and begged for a private interview with Spurgeon. On being admitted, he placed a pair of gloves upon the table, and tearfully said, `It’s the first time I have robbed my master, and I will never do it again. You won’t expose me, sir, will you? It would kill my mother if she heard that I had become a thief’.” (see HERE)

“On another occasion while he was preaching, Spurgeon said there was a man in the gallery who had a bottle of gin in his pocket. This not only startled the man in the gallery who had the gin, but it also led to his conversion.” (see HERE)

Spurgeon gives further examples of his prophetic ministry:

“While preaching in the hall, on one occasion, I deliberately pointed to a man in the midst of the crowd, and said, `There is a man sitting there, who is a shoemaker; he keeps his shop open on Sundays, it was open last Sabbath morning, he took nine pence, and there was four pence profit out of it; his soul is sold to Satan for four pence!’ A city missionary, when going his rounds, met with this man, and seeing that he was reading one of my sermons, he asked the question, `Do you know Mr Spurgeon?’ `Yes,’ replied the man `I have every reason to know him, I have been to hear him; and under his preaching, by God’s grace I have become a new creature in Christ Jesus. Shall I tell you how it happened? I went to the Music Hall, and took my seat in the middle of the place: Mr Spurgeon looked at me as if he knew me, and in his sermon he pointed to me, and told the congregation that I was a shoemaker, and that I kept my shop open on Sundays; and I did, sir. I should not have minded that; but he also said that I took nine pence the Sunday before, and that there was four pence profit; but how he should know that, I could not tell. Then it struck me that it was God who had spoken to my soul through him, so I shut up my shop the next Sunday. At first, I was afraid to go again to hear him, lest he should tell the people more about me; but afterwards I went, and the Lord met with me, and saved my soul.'” (See HERE)

How does Spurgeon explain this prophetic ministry?

“I could tell as many as a dozen similar cases in which I pointed at somebody in the hall without having the slightest knowledge of the person, or any idea that what I said was right, except that I believed I was moved by the Spirit to say it; and so striking has been my description that the persons have gone away, and said to their friends, `Come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did; beyond a doubt, he must have been sent of God to my soul, or else he could not have described me so exactly.’ And not only so, but I have known many instances in which the thoughts of men have been revealed from the pulpit. I have sometimes seen persons nudge their neighbours with their elbow, because they had got a smart hit, and they have been heard to say, when they were going out, `The preacher told us just what we said to one another when we went in at the door.'” (See HERE)

Noted Reformed theologian and defender of the orthodox faith at Princeton Theological Seminary, Charles Hodge (1797-1878), wrote in his commentary on 1 Corinthians that “[the word of] knowledge and prophecy are to cease. They are partial or imperfect”.[27]

The contemporary, famed Bible expositor from Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, CA, John MacArthur Jr is renowned for his promotion of cessationism. In his exposé of the charismatic movement in Charismatic Chaos, he stated, “I am convinced by history, theology, and the Bible that tongues ceased in the apostolic age. And when it happened they terminated altogether. The contemporary charismatic movement does not represent a revival of biblical tongues. It is an aberration similar to the practice of counterfeit tongues at Corinth”.[28]

A leading contemporary exegete, theologian and apologist, Norman Geisler, teaches that “even though tongues are mentioned in the New Testament, it is possible that tongues are no longer for us…. Since apostles existed only in the New Testament (Acts 1:22) and since there were supernatural sign gifts given to apostles (2 Cor. 12:12), it follows that these sign gifts ceased with the apostles in the first century”.[29]

Cessationism is not a new development of the anti-charismatic movement. It has been evident throughout church history. However, there is another side to the cessationist arguments and it was provided by a very early theologian of the church.

Irenaeus was born in the first half of the second century (his birth date has been suggested between 115-125) and died towards the end of that century. As one of the first great theologians of the church, he was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of the apostle John. Irenaeus became bishop of Lyons, Gaul (France today).

Irenaeus assures us that the supernatural gifts of the Spirit had not disappeared by the end of the second century. He wrote in a leading refutation of Gnosticism, Against Heresies (written about 180):

“Those who are in truth His disciples, receiving grace from Him, do in His name perform [miracles], so as to promote the welfare of other men, according to the gift which each one has received from Him. For some do certainly and truly drive out devils, so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe [in Christ], and join themselves to the Church. Others have foreknowledge of things to come: they see visions, and utter prophetic expressions. Others still, heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole. Yea, moreover, as I have said, the dead even have been raised up, and remained among us for many years. And what shall I more say? It is not possible to name the number of the gifts which the Church, [scattered] throughout the whole world, has received from God, in the name of Jesus Christ”.[30]

So Irenaeus knew of the practice of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit in his day. Thus, they did not cease with the death of the Twelve and the formation of the New Testament canon of Scripture. It is estimated that the last book of the New Testament was written about AD 95-96 (the Book of Revelation). Thus, Irenaeus refutes John MacArthur’s statement that “once the Word of God was inscripturated, the sign gifts were no longer needed and they ceased”.[31] Irenaeus clearly shows the existence of sign gifts in the church over 100 years after the completion of the canon of Scripture.

Irenaeus also provided us with the earliest undisputed authority for the authorship of the four Gospels: Matthew issued his Gospel among the Hebrews; Mark was the disciple and interpreter of Peter; Luke was a companion of Paul and recorded a Gospel preached by Paul; John, a disciple of the Lord, published his Gospel while he was in Ephesus in Asia.[32]

With John Piper and Irenaeus, I am not persuaded by the arguments of the cessationists. For a defence of the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit, I recommend Jack Deere’s article, “Were miracles meant to be temporary?[33]

Endnotes


[2] CETF refers to the magazine, Contending earnestly for the faith, published by Christian Witness Ministries, available from: www.cwm.org.au.

[3] “John Piper on the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit”, available at: http://reformedandreforming.org/2010/03/31/john-piper-on-the-continuation-of-the-gifts-of-the-spirit/ [Assessed 20 June 2010].

[4] See Brian LePort, 21 April 2010, “An Introduction to the The Letters to Serapion on the Holy Spirit by Athanasius of Alexandria”, available at: http://westernthm.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/leport-an-introduction-to-the-letters-to-serapion-on-the-holy-spirit-by-athanasius-of-alexandria.pdf [Accessed 20 June 2010].

[5] p. 186, available at: http://books.google.com.au/books?id=KrvXjxlRsP0C&pg=PA186&lpg=PA186&dq=%22spiritual+gifts+Athanasius%22&source=bl&ots=bSy_5TDTTk&sig=M0eG3pAw_84LDTCcrR0aMmFZjh0&hl=en&ei=aTkdTLD7BIi8cY-4_P4M&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CDEQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q&f=false [Accessed 20 June 2010].

[6] “Homily 29 on First Corinthians”, available at: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/220129.htm [Accessed 20 June 2010].

[7] Augustine, Homilies on the Gospel of John 6:1-14, in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers [7:497-98].

[8] This article was originally published as, “The man who dared to change his mind about divine healing,” in the Pentecostal Evangel, September 11, 1983, pp. 18-20. It is available at: The is another leading church father who changed his mind about the supernatural gifts. I have written about him in St. Augustine: The leading Church Father who dared to change his mind about divine healing [Accessed 20 June 2010].

[9] “Letters of spiritual counsel” to one of his followers, available at: http://www.pentecostalpioneers.org/gpage.htm20.html [Accessed 20 June 2010].

[10] Available at: http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/wittenberg/luther/gal/web/gal4-01.html [Accessed 20 June 2010].

[11] 1960. Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. F. L. Battles. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, p. 1467.

[12] Some of the earliest Greek manuscripts do not include Mark 16:9-20.

[13] John Calvin, Commentary on Matthew, Mark & Luke – vol. 3; Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-18, available at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom33.ii.li.html [Accessed 20 June 2010].

[14] Institutes of the Christian Religion, p. 1056.

[15] Ibid., p. 1057.

[16] Available at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom35.iv.ii.html [Accessed 20 June 2010].

[17] 1991. The Gospel according to John. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, p. 495.

[18] Homily on John 14:10-14, available at: http://153.106.5.3/ccel/schaff/npnf107.iii.lxxii.html [Accessed 20 June 2010].

[19] Systematic Theology, vol. 4, pp. 673-75).

[20] Cited in: http://thisblogchoseyou.wordpress.com/2007/08/06/the-continuationistcessationist-debate-part-x/ [Accessed 20 June 2010].

[21] Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, I Corinthians 12, “The variety of use of spiritual gifts are shown”, Bible Gateway, available at: http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/Matthew-Henry/1Cor/Variety-Use-Spiritual-Gifts [Accessed 20 June 2010].

[22] Jonathan Edwards, “Love more excellent than the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit”, available at: http://www.biblebb.com/files/edwards/charity2.htm [Accessed 20 June 2010].

[23] Arnold Dallimore 1970, George Whitefield: The life and times of the great evangelist of the eighteent-century revival, vol 1. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, p. 348.

[24] The Works of John Owen, IV:518, cited in J. I. Packer, “John Owen on spiritual gifts”, available at: http://www.johnowen.org/media/packer_quest_for_godliness_ch_13.pdf [Accessed 20 June, 2010].

[25] Available at: http://www.the-highway.com/cessation1_Warfield.html [Accessed 20 June 2010].

[26] “Receiving the Holy Ghost”, sermon no.1790, vol. 30, Year 1884, p. 386, available at: http://adrianwarnock.com/2004/05/what-would-c-h-spurgeon-have-made-of-charismatics/ [Accessed 20 June 2010]..

[27] 1857-1859. I & II Corinthians (The Geneva Series of Commentaries). Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, p. 272.

[28] Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992, p. 231.

[29] 2005. Systematic Theology vol. 4. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse, p. 192.

[30] Against Heresies, II.32.4, available at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.iii.xxxiii.html [Accessed 20 June 2010].

[31] Charismatic Chaos, p. 199.

[32] Against Heresies III.1.1, available at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.iv.ii.html [Accessed 20 June 2010].

[33] Available from: http://www.codrington.biz/papers/miracles.htm

Copyright © 2010 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 April 2016.

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