Notes on: “The Holy Spirit and You” – the Holy Spirit – giving you spiritual gifts (1)
The rest of this series will focus on the vital area of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Today we start our treatment of this subject under four headings:
1. Natural – or Spiritual?
It is an undisputed fact that God gives gifts to his church in order to build up the church. Normally when we talk about the gifts of the Spirit, we are talking about the miraculous gifts that we can see in the Acts and elsewhere. Other gifts tend to be described as “natural gifts”. However, the word of God does not seem to make such a distinction. Consider this passage from Romans 12
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his[b]faith. 7If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
Here, the apostle appears to put what we would describe as “natural” gifts in the same list as “spiritual” ones to – which could cause us to wonder whether God really makes a distinction! I think we have to regard a gift of, say, hospitality, or music or flower arranging, as being every bit as spiritual as tongues or prophecy. So all of us who have gift (which is all of us) should recognise that whatever it is, it comes from God, and it is given to us by god for us to build up the church. Are we using those gifts?
As Peter says:
10Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 11If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
2. For today – or not?
One of the monster debates in the church for the last hundred years has been the question as to what are called the “charismatic” gifts of the Spirit are still functioning today. Before we go on to consider them we must settle this point.
At this point we ought to pause and consider that whatever issue we are considering and debating it needs to be settled ONLY by reference to the written word of God. Experience – good or bad is not the test of truth – the Word of God is.
Let us first of all consider the “Cessationist” position which could be summarised as follows:
“The more miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit (prophecy, tongues, interpretation of tongues, healing, casting out demons etc.) were given as signs to authenticate the message of the apostles. When the apostles died and the canon of Scripture had been completed, there was no more need for these gifts. They are therefore not for today”
The reasons given for this belief, by and large, are as follows:
1. Gifts were to authenticate the apostles and their message. We now have their message authenticated in Scripture. Therefore gifts no longer needed. (Hebrew 2 v 3-4)
2. I Corinthians 13 tells us they will cease. (1 Corinthians 13 v.8-12)
3. History tells us that they have ceased – there is, they say, no reliable record of these gifts after the apostolic age; this is because the gifts ceased, and any current demonstration of them is therefore a deception.
4. Just look at those Charismatics! – the way that charismatic Christians behave, they say, is a further indicator that gifts demonstrated today are not genuine.
Before commenting on these arguments, one has to acknowledge that some of the most godly men and women of our times have been Cessationists. So the following points are made with deep respect and not a little humility.
- The problem with arguing that the miraculous gifts were given to authenticate the apostles and their companions is that it is an argument from silence! The Bible simply does not say that. If it is argued from the Hebrews 2 passage that these things have all passed away -then we would have to say that ALL the gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit have also passed away – the gift of teaching included.
- A close examination of the 1 Corinthians 13 passage shows that the time of the gifts ceasing is not specified – but does seem to happen when “ we see face to face” In other words, the gifts will cease when the Lord returns. The completion of the canon of Scripture is not suggested as a possible time for the conclusion of the miraculous.
- This is an argument from experience – or rather from lack of experience, and therefore not admissible. In any case the premise behind it is highly questionable.
- Whilst sharing the outrage of Cessationists at the outrageous behaviour of some Charismatics – we could equally point to the behaviour of some Cessationists! This is an argument from (bad) experience and therefore not admissible.
In short, whilst respecting the position of Cessationists, we have to say that the position is not supported by scripture.
In the absence of biblical evidence to the contrary we are quite entitled to say that all the gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament are for today. PCF therefore endorses the Non-Cessationist/Pentecostal/Charismatic view which is broadly as below:
- All the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for the whole of the church age.
- God gives them to individuals as he sees fit
- They are given to build the body of Christ
- The body of Christ cannot reach maturity without them
- We should therefore seek them and exercise them
3. Body Building
We are about to commence our treatment of the individual gifts of the Holy Spirit, starting with the Ministry gifts of Ephesians 4. Looking at this passage, we can see
11”It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
The emboldened sections make it clear – the whole subject of the gifts is about building up the body. If that is true it must follow that the body cannot reach maturity without everything that God has for us.
4. The Ministry Gifts
- The purpose of the gifts. It is every interesting that the gifts are “to prepare God’s people for works of service” In other words, the function of the ministry gifts is to equip the body that the body does the job! It is the body that is on the pedestal – not a ministry
- . The nature of the ministry gifts
- Apostles – not apostles in the sense of the 12 apostles of the Lamb but the ongoing gift of the Lord Jesus to his church of pioneers, initiators, leaders to drive his work forward. (NB the Greek work for apostle can also be translated missionary!) There is no suggestion that the ministry of the 12 continues today or that anyone has the authority of the 12 – the word refers to those sent by Jesus to pioneer, plant and build.
- Prophet – again, not prophets in the sense of writers of Scripture – but those who hear the “now” word of God, and bring it to his people
- Evangelist – those who equip the body of Christ for outreach and mission
- Pastor – those who shepherd, care for and discipline the flock
- Teacher – those who expound the written word of God.
3. The Variety of Ministry Gifts – look at the diversity of these gifts! It is way beyond one person (except Jesus) to fulfil all these functions. Only a plural ministry team can function as God intends
4. The Need for Ministry gifts. The fact is that the church will not be brought to maturity until all of these gifts are recognised and released in the body of Christ