09
Jan
14

Are We Mature Enough NOT to Need God’s Gifts?


spirit and truthjpgToday I heard from someone I met on the blog that recently banned me. She asked me for details of why I believe the way I do (with regard to the continued validly of Spiritual gifts). In previous correspondence I had stressed the importance of basing beliefs on what the whole bible says instead of building doctrine out of isolated verses. That suggestion was understood as meaning that my offered “proof” for my beliefs was merely to say “read the whole bible”.

But my actual point was that our beliefs must take into account the whole of scripture – and therefore we need to be open to change as we learn more from scripture. Sadly so many traditional theologies tend to stick with a collection of favoured verses and don’t move beyond them even to gain further understanding of those verses through increased familiarity with the rest of the Bible.

It can be very easy to determine a person’s theological background from the parts of scripture that they regularly quote. One thing I’ve come to realise is that the truth of doctrine is not determined by the texts used to support it – it is often determined by the “difficult texts” that are ignored or avoided.

On to some of my reasons for believing in the continued validity of spiritual gifts:

With the issue of spiritual gifts, I don’t think it’s necessary to have read the whole bible to get the answer. But it is necessary to be informed BY the bible rather than by experience (or lack of it) or by the example shown by extremists (like the charismanic movement) or by church tradition.

What can I say about why I believe in the continuation of the gifts?

1) I have yet to see any biblical evidence that the gifts don’t remain valid. When I’ve asked for it I’ve been given arguments that project a lot of assumptions into scripture references that bypass or ignore the clearest and simplest meaning of those references.

2) Paul wrote quite a lot about the gifts of the Spirit, what they are for (building up the body of believers) and how they should be used (decently and orderly). Has the church reached a point where they no longer need building up, therefore making the gifts unnecessary?

3) Does scripture tell us that the gifts would be withdrawn? Of course this question is often answered by referral to the end of 1 Cor 13*, but that reference gives the condition that (some) gifts will cease when the perfect has come; something that has not yet occurred.
I can’t accept (like many do) that the “perfect” refers to the canon of scripture, especially since scripture is the source of our knowledge of Spiritual gifts. Why would scripture include so much about gifts and their use if they become invalid as soon as the canon of scripture was established? Why include all of that teaching on gifts and their use if they were no longer available?
Additionally, and most importantly, what is the context of that statement about some gifts ceasing? What is the whole chapter about?

It is about the supremacy of love over the gifts, that without love the gifts are meaningless. At the end of the chapter Paul says that one day (when the perfect has come) spiritual gifts will no longer be needed and will cease – but love will never fail. This reference is not a forewarning that the gifts will be imminently withdrawn, but that love will remain. The gifts will only be needed in this imperfect life when we can know only in part, but love continues and will always be important.

4) I was introduced to the Pentecostal church very early in my Christian life and I recall the first meeting I attended (almost 40 years ago). I went home vowing never to return to that church because I KNEW it was all wrong. I picked up my bible intended to prove how wrong they were and justify my rejection of them – but my plan backfired. I could find no valid argument against their basic beliefs that the gifts of the Spirit were still valid today. Over the years I’ve had issues with some of the ways those beliefs are put into practice, but that does not diminish the fact of the gifts’ continuing validity. As for my connection to Pentecostalism, I moved away from it in the late 1980s (but that’s a long story not related to this issue).

As a final point, all I can suggest again and again is to look into the matter for yourselves spending time in scripture alone without reference to what others say or think. Ask God for understanding and trust He will give it.

______________________________________
*

Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

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8 Responses to “Are We Mature Enough NOT to Need God’s Gifts?”


  1. 1 Marleen
    January 11, 2014 at 10:34 am

    I like that you’ve addressed here thoughts on what is perfect and touched on the fact “perfect” can be translated as “mature” too; and then you’ve moved into topics involving building up and more. Then there is the consideration of heading into being a grownup in terms of love in I Corinthians. It’s Galatians, right, that also shows a forwarding of growing up as key to the character in faith brought on by Jesus/J’shua through the Holy Spirit.

  2. January 13, 2014 at 12:23 am

    Hi, Tim, and welcome back. I left a welcome note on Lynn’s blog when you posted there, but those greetings never appeared. So I’ll mention also that I agreed there with your comment that the state of the American Church is “scary,” and asked that you and believers in other nations pray hard for us here.

    This post also stirred my meditations. The title alone hits a key point on the charismata: that they are given for building us up, individually and corporately. Cessationism seems to foster the attitude that scripture addresses in Galatians 3:3: “Are you so foolish ? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh ?”

    Another problem of that teaching seems to be that even its proponents want to believe SOME spiritual gifts continue. If I perceive their arguments aright, they profess to believe that tongues and prophecy have been withdrawn, by their reading of I Corinthians 13: 1-2a. If they were consistent in that interpretation, it would be necessary to also believe that the charismata of wisdom, knowledge, and faith were also withdrawn (I Corinthians 13:2b-3): but I don’t hear them arguing so.

    Come down to it, cessationism seems to be rooted in disbelief of (what it perceives as) the OVERTLY supernatural manifestations of the Spirit. Probably simply as the older ladies in my Sunday School class said, “we’ve never done it that way.” It’s a teaching whose criteria is “our way,” pridefully refusing to accept that scripture’s teaching could be otherwise.

    By that criteria, your excellent advice to “…spend[…] time in scripture alone without reference to what others say or think. Ask God for understanding and trust He will give it” will probably go unheard.

    Some thoughts on Chapter 13 too, taking off from Derek Prince’ insights on that passage.

    First, that Paul didn’t write “the love chapter” as a separate set-piece: the way it is most usually presented today. That it was rather (structurally) in the center of his teaching on gifts (which we have as chapters 12 and 14) because love is central to the operation of the charismata. Indeed, the very word “charismata” means something like “concrete manifestations of grace/love.”

    As the chapters are traditionally divided, this continuity is signaled in verses 12:31 and 14:1. Cessationists have used the first’s “more excellent way” transition to set up their teaching that the charismata are less necessary and have therefore been withdrawn by God. But 14:1’s connective “yet” seems to preclude that we should choose BETWEEN love and gifts. Indeed, the joint exhortations to “pursue love” and “earnestly desire charismata” seem to give them equal weight as Christian desiderata.

    I have to reject the use to which cessationists have put the idea that love is “a more excellent way.” But “more excellent” is clearly a comparative. Not sure my understanding of that passage is right, but I’d venture this.

    Clearly the heart-motivation of love can NOT be set against love’s concrete manifestations. In real terms, they are a unity. We’d be rightly skeptical of professed love which did no loving acts. As James 2:14-17 says of faith (another charismata), “what use is that ?” And if the charismata are, as I believe, God’s supernatural endowment to the Body of Christ as they were to Christ Himself, and for God’s same purpose, how does the Church show itself the supernatural witness of God’s Kingdom unless it LOVES supernaturally (in healing, for example, and in prophetic call, I Corinthians 14:24-25) ?

    I have to understand love as the “more excellent way” in terms of Who Love IS (I John 4:8). He Himself is “more excellent” than any of His works. But those who claim to have Him, while disparaging His works, deceive themselves.

    Sorry to be so verbose. LOL. Put it down to the pleasure of getting to talk to you again !

    In Jesus, Steve

  3. January 13, 2014 at 9:49 am

    Sorry: left out a few important words:

    “As James 2:14-17 says of faith (another charismata) that manifests no works, ‘what use is that ?’ ”

    In Jesus, Steve

  4. 4 Marleen
    January 14, 2014 at 4:07 am

    People sure can be pretenders in a variety of things including prophecy and tongues — without love.

    Meanwhile, here is another piece from I Corinthians that recalls Galatians for me:
    If we are living by Spirit, let us also conduct ourselves according to Spirit.

  5. 5 Marleen
    January 25, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Yes, and will we ever be “mature enough” until Jesus’ return in power? Considering also he — Jesus — said to be as a child and enter, that the kingdom is made of such (the kind that came to him). Another dissonance with Paul. Hmm. Yet Jesus did compare the leaders of his time to children (the kind) who mock or bully hypocritically.

  6. January 28, 2014 at 7:37 am

    There is no disagreement between the teachings of Jesus and Paul.

  7. 7 Marleen
    January 30, 2014 at 1:10 am

    There can seem to be; I chose the word dissonance because this is what often happens as we read one thing (or even take in a teaching purported to be the meaning of a portion of Bible) and then, somewhere else in the Bible, we come across something different. Yes, then we proceed to harmonize (adjust ideas).


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