Friday, December 28, 2012

My "Treatise" on the Spiritual Gifts and Christian Ministry

Affirmations:
 
I deny the baptism in the Holy Spirit they way that most charismatics define it. Instead upon conversion all Christians receive the Holy Spirit and this is what baptism in the Holy Spirit is biblically. Romans 6-the imagery of baptism is being used in reference to regeneration. Similar imagery is used in 1 Corinthians 6:11. And again in Titus 2:5-7 which speaks of believers having experienced the “washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit”.
 
The Bible is clear that upon believing in Christ one receives the Holy Spirit. Jesus promises to be with His people in the Person of the Holy Spirit, John 16. Romans 8:9 says that anyone that does not have the Holy Spirit does not belong to Christ. Ephesians 1:13-14 says that we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit who is a guarantee of our eternal inheritance. Peter addresses the “elect exiles” in a way that makes it evident that all Persons of the Godhead were involved in their salvation including the Holy Spirit who sanctified them, 1 Peter 1:1-2. The Spirit intercedes for all Christians, which is one of the many ways He comforts us. This is in keeping with Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit in John 16 and rules out the idea that only some believers enjoy the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Also 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 says that in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body (the Church). Ephesians 4:5 states that we have one Lord, one faith, one baptism…which seems to refer to Spirit baptism.
 
There is a distinction between being baptized in the Spirit and being filled with the Spirit. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a reference to conversion whereas being filled with the Spirit is a reference to the Holy Spirit working powerfully in one's life. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and her faith in Christ was greatly displayed in what she said to Mary (Luke 1:41-45). Stephen was characterized by being full of faith and the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5). People in the Old Testament were filled with the Spirit to perform certain activities, Exodus 31-25, Gideon in Judges 6-7, Samson in Judges 14:6, and even unbelieving Saul in 1 Samuel 10:10 (God can even use an unbeliever to accomplish His purposes). Believers are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 5:18, which manifests itself by bearing the fruits of the Spirit such as joy and thanksgiving. Believers may be filled with the Spirit temporarily, may be characterized as being filled with the Spirit, and be empowered for service by being filled with the Spirit.
 
I believe that even immature Christians may be filled with the Holy Spirit at times. God is a jealous God and He may work powerfully in a believer to draw them back to Himself and to be more effective in His service in the process!
 
I deny that speaking in tongues is a necessary sign of being baptized with the Holy Spirit. Paul makes it clear that there is not a spiritual gift that is universally given to all believers. “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret (1 Cor 12:29-30)?” And the answer is meant to be answered with “no”. Though all Christians have the Holy Spirit indwelling them not all Christians have been given a certain spiritual gift. 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 make it clear that the Holy Spirit is sovereign in distributing the gifts and that there is a wide variety of gifts given and services that Christians do as a result of being given gifts.
 
Speaking in tongues is not a necessary sign that the Holy Spirit is working in one's life in a powerful way nor is it necessary to speak in tongues prior to progressing in serving Jesus. Again, a spiritual gift is not universally given to all believers.
 
The Bible leaves room for the idea that a Christian can pray in tongues (1 Cor 14:14-15). Paul the apostle had the gift but perhaps used it in private most of the time (1 Cor 14:18-19).
 
God gives all sorts of spiritual gifts to His people today. Paul emphasizes that God gives various gifts to His people and even that there are various out workings of the gifts in 1 Corinthians 12. Paul emphasizes the diversity of gifts in Romans 12 even while stressing our unity in Christ, Romans 12:4.
 
God still heals today in answer to prayer although I tend to believe that He still gives the gift of healing to people. This is due to 1 Corinthians 13:8-13. Faith, hope and love abide but the gifts are temporary. They cease when “the perfect comes”. The perfect, as I interpret it, is our eternal state wherein we see Jesus “face to face” and know Him as He knows us. I do not believe the perfect is referring to the closed canon because the imagery used is personal and 1 John 3:2 uses this personal imagery when referring to Jesus’ second coming. We “shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
 
The gifts spoken of in Ephesians 4 reference the spiritual gifts and those who hold offices in the Church with those gifts. Officers to equip the saints for ministry and to build up the Church. The officers will continue to be given until the Church is “mature” (Ephesians 4:13), that is, until the eternal state is ushered in at Christ’s second coming.
 
Having a spiritual gift does not necessarily mean that God intends it to be used frequently.
 
Christians have varying degrees of each spiritual gift.
 
Some gifts one would use frequently and others infrequently.
 
Each Christian applies their gifts differently.
 
I believe that all Christians are called to spiritual ministry in one form or another. We have all been given spiritual gifts and Paul commands Christians to use their spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6-8). 
 
I believe that God may still speak to his people in auditory manner (dreams, visions, etc.) as well as inwardly (in our heart, mind). God speaking to His people post canon does not undermine the authority of the Scripture since when God speaks to His people today it would only serve to reinforce the revelation He has already given in Scripture. For instance, prophets in the Old Testament often called Israel to remember what God has already revealed to them and to repent of their idolatry. Many of these prophets gave new revelation, that is, the writing prophets.
 
There were prophets in the old and new testaments that did not write Scripture.
 
New Testament prophets, unless they are also one of the twelve apostles, do not give new revelation. Instead serve to reinforce the revelation already given by giving messages that directly relate to the people they are speaking to via forth telling the word and/or giving messages more predictive in nature. Agabus’s prophecy in Acts 11:27-28 was predictive and served a practical purpose. Another prophecy given by Agabus served a practical purpose and maybe even to test Paul’s faith, Acts 21:10-11. I believe that the prophecy in Acts 21 was accurate.
 
When it comes to the relationship between office and spiritual gifting. For example, people with the gift of teaching can occupy office of teacher but not all people with the gift of teaching have the office of teacher.
 
I always believed that using one's spiritual gifts is the most joyful and fruitful ministry (however they are applied) a Christian can have so they ought to be willing to use them faithfully.
 
I believe that a Christian can neglect their gifts but I also believe that the Spirit can at times individually encourage His people to use their gifts. The Holy Spirit may even choose to fill such a believer to serve Him more effectively.
 
In the light of the above views, it is important to note that the Holy Spirit, since He is God, is sovereign and can do whatever He pleases whenever He pleases and for any reason (but it is in keeping with His character). And we do not always understand what He is doing and why.
 
Christians may use their spiritual gifts without love but spiritual gifts are intended to be a means by which we love and serve God and others. Paul stresses the importance of love in connection to using spiritual gifts in Romans 12:9-21, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, Ephesians 4:15-16.
 
Using our spiritual gifts is a fundamental aspect of a Christian’s service. Paul immediately brings up the subject of spiritual gifts after writing of God’s mercies to believers and that we are to be living sacrifices to God (Romans 12:1-2). Paul talks about the interdependence believers have on one another in speaking about the spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 13:21-26). Like in Romans 12 Paul tells the Ephesians to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” and soon brings up the topic of the spiritual gifts and the offices in the church (Ephesians 4:7-12). He talks about our unity with other believers and says, “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Ephesians 4:7).
 
Questions and ideas requiring more research.  What I currently believe is in italics:
 
Ephesians 4 is a list of the types of offices in the church. I do not think there are any apostles like the 12 apostles, but there are people who are called to take the gospel to a group or groups of people and in this sense they can be called "apostles" in a general sense. The Scriptures are clear that there are no more apostles in the sense of the 12 who personally knew Jesus and were personally sent by Jesus. Paul makes it clear that he is an apostle because he saw the Lord Jesus personally and was personally sent by Jesus (1 Corinthians 9:1, Acts 9:1-19).  God can send anyone out to take the gospel to a people but there are no apostles like the original 12 today.
 
When it comes to the relationship between office and spiritual gifting. People with the gift of teaching can occupy office of teacher but not all people with the gift of teaching have the office of teacher. I tended to think that there are prophets, but not like those that are charismaniacs. Perhaps Charles Spurgeon could be considered to be a prophet, though he would not put it that way, because he was moved by the Spirit many times to expose people in his congregation by saying things he otherwise would not have known. Perhaps it is possible that from time to time that God would raise up people with the gift of prophecy that would be used to buttress the truth already given in Scripture in order that God would save many souls. Perhaps the Reformation time was one such time.
 
I tend to believe that there is not a greater display of the gifts today because of "quenching the Spirit" (1 Thessalonians 5:19, Ephesians 4:30, 1 Timothy 4:14 (“do not neglect the gift you have”), 2 Timothy 1:6 (“fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying of my hands”)).
 
I believed that Christians upon conversion have all the spiritual gifts they will ever have and that there is no adding and subtracting them. However I have been made aware of the fact that some Christians say that a Christians can ask for spiritual gifts. This idea comes from 1 Corinthians 14:1 where Paul says, “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy”. Why tell the Corinthians to earnestly desire spiritual gifts especially to prophesy if a Christian has all the spiritual gifts they will ever have already? I now tend to think that for the most part spiritual gifts are permanent but God may temporarily gift a Christian to use a gift for His purposes and that it is proper for Christians to ask for spiritual gifts especially that we may exercise the gift of prophecy since it is greatly useful for edifying the Church.
 
I have been made aware of the idea that God can give spiritual gifts temporarily. For instance, one may possess the gift of healing temporarily and never perform another healing again. The same could be true of other gifts.
 
The Bible seems to permit Christians to ask for gifts and it would be permitted that Christians ask for certain spiritual gifts (especially if it is true that the Spirit can gift someone temporarily with a gift).
 
Not all spiritual gifts are listed in the Bible since 1 Corinthians 12 emphasizes that there are various gifts and ways to use the gifts.  I tend to not believe this since the gifts listed in the various passages of Scripture are very inclusive of all areas of service whether they are “serving” gifts or “speaking” gifts.  I believe that the expressions of spiritual gifts can greatly vary though.
 
If not all spiritual gifts are listed in the Bible some gifts today may be somewhat like the gifts listed in Scripture but not exactly the gifts listed in Scripture.  I tend not to believe this for the reasons listed above.
 
Why did women hold office in the Old Testament, prophetess, but cannot hold office at all today?  I would not rule out the possibility that women can hold office at least in the capacity of serving other women.  However it may not be incorrect to leave the possibility open in our minds that a woman may be used to serve both men and women.  For example Deborah was a judge and prophetess.  Huldah was sought after for counsel by men and she was a prophetess.
 
Does the Apostle Paul’s command for believers to seek that they can prophesy apply today? (It seems that prophecy is a unique gift and different "rules" apply to it that do not apply to other gifts and vice versa. Example, women held office of prophetess but probably no other office).  I believe it does because I do not believe that the Bible teaches cessationism.  In addition, the Spirit has been poured on all believers in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy.
 
Can a woman hold office of teacher, evangelist, pastor if we say that prophetesses only exercised their gifts for other women's benefit and not any men's benefit? Then those teachers, etc. would only exercise their gifts for other women's benefit and no one else’s.  I would not rule out the possibility.
 
If Ephesians 4 literally means that only men can hold office then why does the apostle Paul say that "grace was given to each one of us" immediately before talking about the apostles, prophets, etc? And what about female prophets?  I used to believe that each Christian can have an office related to their primary spiritual gifts but that belief is not consistent with my other belief that not all Christians have formal ministry.
 
Theology of the spiritual gifts needs to account for the following:
 
Instances of people using spiritual gifts throughout Church history.
 
Revelatory gifts today do not undermine the authority of the Scriptures in any way.
 
Revelatory gifts being given, even if temporarily, in conjunction (only to reinforce the truth of the Scriptures) with the closed and authoritative canon.
 
Officers and other Christians may use the extraordinary gifts at times. Some on a more frequent basis. Charles Spurgeon seemed to have used the gift of prophecy frequently. A friend of mine the gift of discernment. I seemed to have used the gift of prophecy on a temporary basis.
 
God speaks directly to His people today and it does not undermine the authority of the Scriptures. He may even appear in a vision or dream to unbelievers in order to lead them to faith in Christ. This is happening amongst Muslims.
 
Any Christian can be called to spiritual ministry.
 
God may specifically call someone to share the gospel with people. For example, men and women have been called to be missionaries in this way.
 
At the very least, it seems to me that any Christian can potentially exercise the gift of prophecy today (conclusion as of December 28, 2012). At the most the gift is still being given to certain Christians in great measure, Charles Spurgeon.
 
Any Christian can have a clear call to do some type of ministry.
 
An observation of mine as a result of this research…
 
***Charismatics seems to emphasize the ministry of each believer whereas the Reformed emphasize the ministry of office holders.***

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