The topic of Charismatic vs. Cessationists is being discussed across the blogosphere, and I just wanted to throw my views out there. It is not meant to be an attack on anyone whatsoever. I know most will disagree with me on this topic, but please make sure that you read all the way through. I pray that everyone realizes that the greatest gift is love. It’s all about love. It is not intended to divide believers.
On this blog I’ve looked at spiritual gifts before, and wrestled with tongues, and have even been mentioned on Adrian Warnock’s blog when I opposed his “Simple Gospel” when he listed receiving the Holy Spirt as a seperate step in Salvation. I still oppose it, and I think my opposition is in need of an explanation that was deeper than that explanation of gifts that I offered my readers early on in my blogging career.
When one is looking at spiritual gifts, he needs to define it very clearly. This step is essential to discussing and exploring further gifts, especially speaking in tongues. “Walking by The Spirit” in Chapter 5 defines a gift as “a Spirit-given ability to edify other believers to the glory of God.” Gifts are given by the Spirit, as seen in 1 Corinthians 12:4, 7-11:
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit…Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.”
Furthermore, these gifts that are given by the Spirit enable us to minister on a “spiritual level.” To put it simply, any non-Christian can communicate to another being who is saved or unsaved, but they cannot minister spiritually to the another person. A gift is different from a talent, which is a skill that is used on a physical level, whereas a spiritual gift is used on a spiritual level. A spiritual gift matters much more than your average talent such as writing, speaking, sports, or art.
And as I stated above in the definition, the gift is used for the edification of believers. In Ephesians 4:12, Paul states that the gifts are for the “perfecting of the saints” and for the “edifying of the body of Christ.” Edifying someone is building that person up, and helping them grow as a Christian, and really rooting our faith in Christ. We as believers are to increase each others knowledge of the Scripture, and work together to minister to one another.
And finally, all of our gifts are to glorify God. That is one’s true goal: to glorify God in all that he does. And by using your Spiritual gifts correctly, you are glorifying God.
In Scripture, there are many passages on Spiritual gifts. The main passages are Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12-14, Ephesians 4:18-16, and 1 Peter 4:10-11.
These passages of Scripture are extremely informative in evaluating today’s claims of spiritual gifts. In the first passage, we read:
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. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if 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.
What can one learn from this?
* 1. There are different gifts, yet no one gift is more important than another. Notice how Paul did not rank the gifts in any way. All he does is list 7 gifts and how to use the certain gift in the correct manner. He makes no comparison whatsoever.
* 2. Paul reminds us that spiritual gifts are of grace. We do not earn these gifts–they are of the Spirit, just as Salvation is of grace. There is no way to earn your way to heaven, and there is no way to earn a gift.
One can also take out of this passage the significance of equality in the body of Christ. A person should not become proud of his gifts and begin to think his gifts are greater than another, especially when these gifts are of grace. Each gift is essential to the body of Christ and it’s productivity. If one gift is missing, the body does not function properly.
* 3. And that is the third point. Each member’s gift is essential to the proper functioning of the body of Christ. Each member is like the members of a person’s own body. Even when the smallest part isn’t working, one’s body feels the effects of that. Also, we must remember that Christians are to use their gifts to glorify their Savior, Jesus Christ. Christians are not to give the glory to themselves in any way. When someone is doing that, he is not obeying God’s Word.
1 Corinthians 12-14 gives five “major assertions.” These five assertions according to “Walking by the Spirit” are:
* 1. Spiritual Gifts Have one source (12:1-11). That is the Spirit of God. There is much diversity to the gifts, yet there is one source. The Spirit alone gives these gifts, and they are not of man. Each Christian has at least one gift. It is not earned.
* 2. Spiritual gifts promote unity, not division (12:12-23a). As was stated before, each gift works for the good of the body. When a gift is not functioning properly, the body as a whole does not function properly. This is a serious problem in the body of Christ. We are not to divide the body, but to unify it. Christians are a body, not a one-man team like Terrell Owens of the Philadelphia Eagles football team.
* 3. Christians must remember that Spiritual gifts are to be exercised in love, which is the greatest “necessity” for edification (see 12:31-13:13). We cannot use our gifts without love. There is just no way. When no one is built up, no one profits. The greatest gift is love.
* 4. Tongues–Speaking in a different language is not profitable to the body when a church does not understand the language (14:1-19). Paul makes clear that it is better to prophesy so the whole church understands than it is to speak in tongues and have no one understand the message. (vv. 1-5). How can one be edified if he does not understand the message given to him? If the gifts are to edify the church, then the church must understand the tongue being spoken. When a person hears a foreign language, he does not understand nor can he be lifted up. Paul would rather state five words a congregation can understand than ten thousand that they cannot understand.
* 5. Spiritual gifts must be governed by orderliness. Paul gives specific rules at the end of chapter 14. In the area of tongues no more than one or two may speak at one time, they must speak one at a time, and there must be an interpreter present. Women are not permitted to speak in tongues nor are they permitted to prophesy before the church. “God is the author of orderliness.”
Other interesting facts about gifts include the fact that pastors and teachers are actually gifts themselves (Ephesians 4:8-16). Also, gifts are put into two categories: speaking and serving (1 Peter 4:10-11).
Speaking in Tongues
In general, Charismatic are those who usually take spiritual gifts seriously, and have named their movement the “gifts movement.” They teach that tonuges did not cease, and had resurgence in the 20th Century. Some also teach that tongues is evidence of true salvation, and speaking in tongues is ecstatic speech, where the person speaking in tongues is not aware of what he is saying. Finally, Charismatic often allow multiple people to speak in tongues during a service, and women are permitted to speak in tongues.
First of all, the claim that the gift of tongues has not ceased is hard to refute to a degree, due to the fact that the Bible never states a date of cessation. However, if one looks at 1 Corinthians 13:8, Paul states that three gifts will cease: prophecy, knowledge, and tongues. Both prophecy and knowledge (the ability to receive direct revelation from God) has obviously ceased since the end of the apostolic age. Logically, one would conclude that the gift of tongues ceased when the apostles died. Since all three gifts are linked together, one cannot disrupt the passage by giving a differing ceasing point for one gift and not the other two.
Also, one must look at the history of tongues (see http://www.bible.ca/tongues-history.htm, see quotes from John Macarthur), and conclude that they have in fact ceased. It wasn’t until the end of the 19th Century that a person claimed that he had spoken in tongues. That was only 1800 years after the apostles! The only claims of speaking in tongues came from small heretical groups. Historically, tongues had ceased.
Secondly, many Charismatic claim that speaking in tongues is evidence of one’s salvation. This is a dangerous teaching, that many have fallen prey to. There is no evidence in Scripture to act as an indication that tongues is evidence of one’s salvation of spirituality. In Acts, we see many accounts of those saved without speaking in tongues. True proof lies in “victory over sin or increased Knowledge of God.” It is possible for Charismatic to elevate experience over the Word of God. One cannot “manipulate God’s Word” to fit his practices.
As Jerry Vines states in his book Spirit Works, “”It is vital for Christians to approach the Bible as the final source of authority. There is a tendency today to elevate one’s personal experience above truth as revealed in the Bible. Our culture tends to place trust in man’s feelings as the prominent feature in making decisions about truth. Our feeling-oriented society wants to go by how it feels about a matter in determining what the truth of a matter is.”
Third, they claim that tongues are ecstatic speech, when it is clearly not so. Acts 2 shows us that tongues were foreign languages:
“every man heard them speak in his own language.”
The Greek word for language in that passage is dialectos, which signifies a language group, or dialect, though it is mainly used to refer to a language such as English or Spanish. It is evident that tongues are KNOWN foreign languages.
Lastly, some Charismatic allow for an unlimited number of speakers in a service. This is clearly evidence that modern groups are elevating experience over God’s Word, and are not following the rules laid down in Scripture. Women are allowed to speak in tongues as well. These are all disobdience against God’s Word (1 Corinthians 14). Even if the gifts of tongues had not ceased, the chaos found in the modern spirit of “tongues” is not the Spirit of God. God is the author of order, not chaos.
I believe there are many Christians in the Charismatic church. But I believe many a number of their teachings are not in line with the Word of God. Experience must not be placed above the Word of God.
As I close, I want to urge every reader to move on, really, to what is truly the essential gift. And that is Love. The action of Love. The Biblical Love. Love is what it’s all about. The greatest gift is love.
J.I. Packer in Knowing God explains the importance of Love:
“To the Corinthians, who had taken it for granted that the more tongues the merrier, and the godlier too, Paul had to insist that without love–sanctification, Christ likeness–tongues were worth precisely nothing.”
Packer continues saying “Paul would undoubtedly see reason to issue a similar caveat today. It will be tragic if the concern for revival that is stirring at the present time in many places gets diverted into the cul-de-sac of a new Corinthianism.”
As Paul said to the Ephesians, “May you be strong to grasp, with all God’s people, what is the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ, and to know it, though it is beyond knowledge.”
Walking by the Spirit says, “As we examine each of these actions [of love found in 1Corinthians 13:4-7] we need to humbly inspect our own hearts to see if we truly love other members of Christ’s church.”
Are you showing longsuffering? Are you denying yourself? Are you putting down pride? Anger? Envy?
Are you avoiding being “rude” and “self-seeking” (something teens supposedly are supposed to be)?
Are we humble?
“[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Do we resolve not to be provoked? Do we determine in our hearts not to think evil about a person? Do we rejoice in good, and not in evil?
It’s all easier said then done. Yet love is the ultimate gift. It is essential in the exercise of gifts–yet how many of us work on this greatest gift? All people seem to fail each and every day, and we don’t work to correct it in the least. Let’s all get back in line with the Bible, and work on the greatest gift, which is Love.
I’ll be honest here. This greatest gift is not my best–I have failed so many times, especially when it comes down to thinking bad things about other people, especially those in the family of God. I make excuses and try to say that it’s acceptable to not like people, and it’s daily life, but I know deep down that it’s not so.
So, are you working on loving your brother?