A View on Spiritual Gifts Today(Grade Recieved 90.5%)

What is church life supposed to look like in the economy of Christ? Are spiritual gifts a means to be used for ministry today, or are they a more archaic tool of the apostles, now occurring only with less frequency and capacity? Certainly the human element within the church will ensure that problems will exist by way of extremes on either end of the spectrum. None of the following authors or views desires a dead church that never sees the power of God. At the same time a circus Christianity influenced by a new age mentality is not desire either. The church must reach a balance by using scripture to find the character of God and what he desires for his church. We must be humble enough to not trust in our own internal means of control and premonitions lest we misuse or disuse these gifts.
Gaffin and the cessationist view are able to give some solid basics on the issue. However, these ideas appear to give way to a somewhat unhealthy retraction to the Spirit’s gifts. His devotion to the closed canon may have good intentions, but to suggest that “the Spirit has sovereignty chosen to box himself in” (Grudem, p. 25) certainly is difficult to adhere to by way of scriptural or personal revelation. Despite Gaffin’s refutation, the view places order at such a priority that it inevitably acts to cancel or bottle spiritual gifts. This occurs at the expense of an empowering faith and can create an environment where believers can only read scripture, unable to claim all that it speaks of. Knowing what we know about God’s empowering, covenant nature, God maybe in heaven waiting for us to do something that we are refusing to do because of unbelief and thus limiting him and ourselves. Gaffin’s concern of “diverting attention from the Scriptures, particularly in practical and pressing life issues” is well noted (Grudem, p. 52).
Today it is right to have a heightened awareness of the evils of western enlightenment and all things new age. However, we may be creating the same element that we are fighting in the sense that we can deviate from the powerful truths of the gospel. The world and particularly believers must be confident in God’s genuine power within themselves.
Further, spiritual gifts are not about a single historical event at Pentecost but an anointed lifestyle. Christ stated, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father” (John 14:11-13). Gaffin is not able to convince that God as forgotten or reneged on this offer. It is the Spirit found within the scripture that enables a defense and serves as a weapon against any contrasting spirit of the age. Gaffin seems to desire to pick out the miracles that place us as agents or doers. One could wonder if this is a defense mechanism against fear and failure, allowing for a safe faith with nothing to fear or lose, but with less to gain.
The open but cautious view positively builds on the cessationist view with points of its own. However we will examine how open and how cautious Saucy’s arguments are. To his credit he does attempt to convey that it is not God’s will to close the door on spiritual gifts. He also rightly argues that when Paul goes out to do the works and will of God in the Book of Acts, it does not threaten the closed canon. Nevertheless some contradictions do surface. Saucy suggests that “The apostles express no concern for believers to experience the miraculous” (Grudem, p. 99). Saucy would like to discern when it comes to dealing with the gifts, yet exercises little to no discernment by desiring a direct endorsement of the gift to be spelled out in order to be open to it. Further, no
reader of the Bible would conclude the miraculous has ceased. As the saying goes, sometimes we need a good theologian to help talk us out of the plain gospel truth.
A major concern with this view is that it appears more cautious than open. Saucy
states, “While I totally agree that believers should experience the supernatural (not necessarily the miraculous), the model of a two-stage experience for the believer in the church is in my mind not sustained by scripture” (Grudem p. 98). No matter what term it is given, clearly some additional filling of the Spirit was given that turned the apostles from apprehension to turning the world upside down. Like Gaffin’s view, there is little concern given to the idea that a culture of western realism may be responsible for dulling our senses to the supernatural power given by God. The war between secular humanism and spiritual literalism is not necessarily a fight within the body of believers in Christ. It is the church’s fight against the secular world. For to long we have lost this war, perhaps due to the fact that the personal empowerment of God’s Spirit and truth has not been fully explained or made real to them. Jesus stated, “If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not” (John 10:37). If we were to apply that standard to Christians today, most would not be believed.
Storm’s third wave view takes perhaps the most sound and effective step into real Biblical and modern day application. It conveys that while Pentecost was unique in that it was inaugural, the New Testament never states that it was the apostles gifts that were unique. The view speaks not of a single, abstract spiritual experience or happening, but an anointed ministry activating a portal of inner faith. Further, there is no Biblical reason to
believe that the gifts have stopped in function of capacity. Storm seems to put forth ideals
that can work for believers and denominations that accept or desire these gifts. He believes that “After conversion the Spirit may “come” with varying degrees of intensity” (Grudem, p. 176). He also states that “The idea of a Spirit-Baptized elite would have played directly into the hands of those who were causing division in Corinth” (Grudem, p. 177). Like those in the Book of Acts we should expect the Spirit while acting with humility and boldness, rather than allowing a pretentious infatuation with the spectacular.
No one has received everything that the Holy Spirit has for them. Therefore, the Lord is always seeking to release more to us through his supernatural gifts. Whenever we put ourselves in a mode to be his channel, his gifts will flow. First John 2:27 says, “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you.” Therefore, whenever we discern the love of God flowing through us toward someone, God is reaching out to them through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Strom expands on the various reasons for the enablement of the gifts: to edify to body of Christ, compassion, evangelism, and doxology, or glorifying God (Grudem, p. 191). We are to be the blood bought victorious army of Christ, here to say what he said and do what he did. Perhaps the church is simply sinking into a “Mickey Mouse” mentality. Storm brings up a great happening in the Gospel of Mark when Jesus was unable to perform miracles in Nazareth because of unbelief (Grudem, p. 187). Another way of saying this is, as long as you can live without flowing in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, you will. As we continue to examine other views, we find the third wave view to be more true to an open but cautious stance while obtaining a tangible balance between what we can see in scripture and find most consistent with personal, internal experience.
Oss and the Pentecostal/charismatic view does a fine job of making clear a
scriptural endorsement for spiritual gifts and a lack of one for their ceasing. This forces us to ask if it is not possible for God to moving and doing a new thing? Further, why not look to Paul and Luke for our models? In Mark, Jesus said all true believers would flow in the miraculous; “And these signs will follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:17-18). If a Christian’s life is not supernatural it could be argued that there is some possibility that it may be superficial. Oss argues that the Pentecostal theology does not seek to put personal experience over corporate experience. This view is well intended, yet is not without real concerns.
Oss is aware of the threat posed by existentialism and freethinking to the Pentecostal Church, yet cannot deny the power of the Holy Spirit. This seemingly culminates into a hyper focus. For example the view cites one defining Spirit baptism after conversion involving to usage of tongues. One receives a feeling as those this is some ticket to a higher spiritual event or club, perhaps even operating void of any knowledge of what is really being experienced. Although not the goal of Oss, just as the cessationist can limit the Spirit, we see the same restricting of the Spirit’s purpose here. This can also act to isolate the particular group or serve an agenda of superiority. One of the most important steps to flowing in the gifts of the Holy Spirit is to earnestly desire them. The Pentecostal’s desire to free the minds of believers is respectable. Any individual believer would want to experience what the Bible speaks of, but is the individual’s faith
and trust truly respected here? As with the issue of tongues, some may not desire such a
gift. Paul states, “Yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (Corinthians 14:19). Oss does confess that “Classical Pentecostal groups should not depart from their historical evangelical moorings and fall into liberalism, becoming an existentialist sect” (Grudem p. 283). Unfortunately, within the entire framework of this view, there seems to be real potential for enabling personality worship to form where experience and inward impressions may influence orthodox and open a door for some to be lead astray.
There exists the opportunity for learning something from the candid, yet strong manor in which the apostles function within spiritual manifestations. After salvation, a progressive yet powerful intimacy with the Holy Spirit can guide us in fulfilling our purpose while effectively embracing our fellow Christians, our gifts, and interaction with a misguided or confused world. This is applicable to Storm’s viewpoint which further emphasizes a continual knowledge of God’s will to enhance spiritual understanding and empowerment. As believers, we should not be deists in the realm of spiritual application. Our spirit man no longer belongs to this fallen world’s system and in freeing our own minds we hope to free the minds of others as well. We can enforce and expand the boundaries of the Kingdom, changing our circumstances and surroundings rather than living under them. We are not taken up into heaven after we are saved but rather we remain here as ambassadors to heal the hurting, comfort the afflicted, and demonstrate the power of God, not be dulled by the circumstances, medias, or opinions of the world. It is not God that was moved away, but rather it is us who have esteemed our five sense rather then the spiritual senses.
Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Four Views. Author Richard B. Gaffin Jr., Robert L. Saucy, Sam Storms, Douglas A. Oss Publisher Zondervan / 1996

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  • trusting God...  On December 13, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    Whew. I think I'll save the rest of your blogs for another day. It's hard info to take all in. So much stuff in one paragraph.

    I know I struggle with what my spiritual gifts are. I think the worldly outview expects us to have a calling of “higher reaching” of people. I believe our lives are ministiries in themselves and we make mistakes of thinking we have to go somewhere or do something out of the ordinary. I think this takes the Creator off His throne into a thinking we can od things through ourselves. We have to do this or have to do that in order to accomplish anything. We might even start to envy those who have gifts we think we should have.

    Anyways, good write on the supernatural part of spiritual gifts. I can't say I know the extent to what God wanted us to do in that sense. I know a lot of people go by what the Bible already has documented (Pentecost, Early Church Ministry) and say that we still have that power. But, personally I can only go by my gut.

    “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.” Hebrews 1:1, 2

    I think it depends on who you talk to. For me, I think most of it was for that time to get the church going. Not to say miracles can't happen here. I believe God still uses some of that…to an extent.

    I look forward to reading more of your blogs.

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