These signs shall follow them that believe. ~Mark 16:17
The Spiritual gifts did not leave the church, the church left the Spiritual gifts
Speak To Us Today?:
Much of our lifestyle, much of what we hold dear to our hearts, is cultural and traditional beliefs we never question. But God may be calling us to choose between our old traditions and His way. To choose between our old wineskins and His new wineskin. Jesus did say, new wine cannot be put in old wineskins (Matthew 9:17). But traditions die hard:
“…I’m Native American.”
“…I’m a Democrat.”
“…I’m a conservative.”
“…I’m a Texan.”
“…I’m a mid-westerner.”
We say these things with pride and confidence until God tells us to choose between our old traditions and His way. Christ does not conform to our culture. We must conform to the culture of His Kingdom. And to Him.
Our belief that God does or does not speak to us today is more often than not a comfortable tradition that we grew up with and never questioned. Such views were birthed out of our evangelical experiences, matured into our tradition, and instituted as our doctrine, thereby becoming our lifestyle.
It is not the teaching of Scripture that causes people to disbelieve in the contemporary ministry of Spiritual gifts. After all … there is none. Rather, it is their tradition that supports their lack of belief. But their tradition would have no chance of success if it were not coupled with their lack of experience in the miraculous. Many of them disbelieve in the gifts of the Spirit simply because they have not experienced them.
Critics say they cannot find New Testament-quality miracles in church history … true enough. And we can understand the critics’ revulsion caused by the misuse, or the perceived misuse, of the gifts in contemporary churches.
They miss the point that the major abuses and error found to date are due to not following Scripture in the first place, over the centuries. Now the gifts are being restored because Christians are following the Acts model again. Not even the most ardent Bible believing critics deny they were once in effect. Fact is, the Spiritual gifts did not leave the church, the church left the Spiritual gifts.
We will look at these abuses in another chapter.
We Evangelicals and Pentecostals tend to think that the Scriptures must make a clear statement about an issue before we can take a firm doctrinal stand on it.
Take, for instance, ever day street wisdom. It has always functioned on belief rather than fact. Belief will always win out in an argument, as it requires no proof, and is immune to disproof. Here is an example.
Although science clearly demonstrated that the earth was round, the belief that it was flat held sway for centuries, and those who threatened to upset the status quo were often jailed and tortured.
Nowhere is the dichotomy between belief and truth more evident than in medicine and theology. The insistence of Hungarian obstetrician, Ignaz Semmelweis, 150 years ago that physicians should wash their hands before assisting women in labor to avoid the spread of “childbirth fever” was met with scorn and derision. Years later the medical establishment initially banned Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine.
I’m reminded of Arthur Schopenhauer’s statement, the German philosopher (1788-1860):
All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
Eventually the truth of a matter comes around to be accepted. But inevitably there’s a struggle to get there.
Take, for instance, when Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) developed antiseptic surgery, many surgeons were deeply offended by Pasteur’s so-called proof that they were doing something wrong. These doctors were not stupid, and they were doing all they believed there was to do. Pasteur simply found a new medical procedure that was also an ancient truth begging to be put into practice.
The truth is . . . one will not practice truth until one first believes truth.
Of course, God foreordained the invention of antiseptic surgery eons before He formed the earth. So this was nothing new and controversial to God, just to the doctors of Pasteur’s generation.
However, since surgeons had practiced for centuries without antiseptics, experience (or tradition) dictated to them that the use of antiseptics was medical quackery. Perhaps they said to themselves, “We don’t use antiseptics because we have never used antiseptics, and if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” This is sometimes called, “The Normalcy bias,” which says, what is has always been and will always be. But there are eras of ignorance in some things, and they come and go.
This analogy also applies to a large number of Christians today. Many devout believers have carried forth the Great Commission quite successfully by using Scripture alone. Therefore, their experience and tradition dictate to them that the notion of God speaking to His people today is religious quackery.
Actually, many Christians are not deliberately practicing error. They simply aren’t aware of, or don’t believe all of, the truth that God has made available to them (Mark 13:11). But some professed Christians are deliberately practicing error, many with the idea of leading others after themselves ahead of Christ, in a similar fashion to the church leaving the Spiritual gifts between the first century and third centuries. A poor spiritual heart condition is the cause rooted in greed and controlling behaviors.
Those nineteenth-century surgeons felt they had intellectual reasons why they should have rejected Pasteur’s research, but their reasons were not scientific. They merely sounded scientific.
Likewise, well-meaning Christians have reasons that sound scriptural as to why they believe that God doesn’t speak outside of the Bible today. Actually their reasons, like the surgeons of Pasteur’s day, come from tradition and experience, and not from the Bible. Eventually, Pasteur’s newly discovered truth won out over a long-held medical tradition.
And so will God’s voice.
If you believe that God speaks to His own today (John 10:27), you probably are not a cessationist. If you believe that God does not speak today, in all likelihood, you are a cessationist. A person who is not a cessationist is usually referred to as a continuationist, or non-cessationist.
The view that I am
presenting here states that “the Holy Spirit era” (the church age) started
on the day of Pentecost and will continue without change until the Second
Coming of Jesus. In my thinking this also puts dispensationism into
The cessationist view states that God became silent; all miracles ceased when the last apostle died, and that we are now in “the Bible era.” This view says: “Scripture alone speaks to us today.”
I am sure there are considerate Christians on both sides of this issue. However, I feel that many have accepted the cessationist view simply because the “Holy Spirit era” teaching has not been presented in the way it is presented here. And, if you already believe as I do, the following presentation will provide you with a scriptural basis for your faith.
John W. Kennedy presents the cessationist view eloquently in his excellent book on church history, “The Torch of the Testimony.”2 He states:
“The Church and the Scriptures developed together, and the church ultimately recognized in the truth of the written revelation her complete foundation. The Bible [I think he means the New Testament] is the expression of the divine Word, at one time spoken directly from the lips of Christ, and then through the apostles. The New Testament embodies the continuance of the apostolic ministry, the revelation of Christ that was completed with the committal to Paul of the mystery of the church (Col. 1:24-27). From this, it follows that the ministry of apostleship and prophecy as embodied in particular people was but a temporary expedient. It was vitally necessary during the transition period when the written Word was being formulated and was gaining acceptance among believers, but when the written Word was completed, the particular ministry of the apostle and the prophet became redundant, just as the observation of the Old Testament sacrifices had to give way to their fulfillment in Christ. The principle came into operation, “But when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away” (1 Cor. 13:10). The function of the apostle and the prophet still exist, but embodied in the written Word, not in any man.”
Although John Kennedy inferred that miracles and prophecy disappeared along with the apostles and prophets, he didn’t say it specifically, as most cessationists do. However, Dr. Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Th.D., Ph.D., does state it explicitly in his Bible commentary. Note his commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:11:
“After the church began, there was a period of immaturity, during which spectacular gifts were needed for growth and authentication (Heb. 2:3-4). With the completion of the New Testament and the growing maturity of the church, the need for such gifts disappeared.”
When Dr. Ryrie speaks of a period of immaturity, he is referring to the high water mark, the glory days of the church. To refer to this period as “immature” is to insinuate that the apostles and the authors of the New Testament were immature. Dr. Ryrie catches himself in a contradiction. By this logic, he should be able to pen for us a much more mature Scripture and doctrine than the writers of the New Testament gave us.
I ask a rhetorical question: Could the mature New Testament come out of an immature church?
In my up and coming chapter, Surprising Bible Manuscript History, we will dig deeper into this intriguing subject of “the completion of the New Testament” Dr. Ryrie spoke of.
We have stated the cessationist view by quoting two notable authors who champion this view. Many books have been written in great depth covering this view, but I trust sufficient information has been presented to give an overall understanding of the cessationist view.
And now I would like to propose an equally gracious but opposing position on what is called the continuationist view.
WHEN THE PERFECT COMES...
The cessationist view states that God became silent and all miracles ceased when the last Apostle died.
Some have said something to this effect: “The miracles, signs, and wonders of the book of Acts were temporary. They served to authenticate the apostles and prophets until the New Testament could be written. Now we have the completed Word of God, which erases the need for supernatural happenings.”
The punch line from the cessationists’ favorite proof text says: “When the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.” Here is their proof text:
Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; But when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with 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 fully just as I also have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:8-12)
The cessationist proof text ends with verse 10 because, whether inadvertently or on purpose, verse 12 undoes their argument, as you will see shortly.
Also it needs to be pointed out that nowhere in the entire Bible does it say that any of the spiritual gifts, described in 1 Corinthians 12, ceased. All so-called proof texts are taken out of contexts, as verse 10 was. There is conjecture only.
The Greek word used for “dimly” or “darkly” is enainigmati and means “in an enigma.” The dictionary defines “enigma” as: “a perplexing or baffling matter, usually an ambiguous statement or riddle,to speak in a riddle.”
Glass mirrors were probably introduced in Paul’s time. However, the surfaces of most first-century mirrors were usually made of a polished metal, a mixture of tin and copper. At best, those ancient metal and glass mirrors were unequal to our modern glass mirrors and, more often than not, were tarnished and dim.
Paul implies that he is speaking of a great truth that is difficult to see, or perplexing; and that it takes spiritual eyes to “see” this insight by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
There are several Greek words for the English word “glass,” but in this particular Scripture, it clearly means a looking glass…a mirror. Both the Strong’s and Young’s concordance were compiled for use with the King James Version of the Bible. Both define “glass” as:
Esoptron: looking glass (1 Cor. 13:12; James 1:23)
Hualos: anything transparent (Rev. 21:16, 21)
Hualinos: made of glass (Rev. 4:6; 15:2)
For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection [of reality as in a riddle or enigma], but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly); but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God]. –1 Corinthians 13:12 (The Amplified Bible)
The expression “face to face” has to be in reference to the return of Christ. Obviously, we can only meet a person face to face, and that person can only be Jesus (Rev. 1:7). In the Old Testament, the expression “face to face” meant to see God personally. For example, Jacob saw Jesus face to face as he wrestled with the angel of the Lord (the pre-incarnate Christ) (Gen. 32:30). Also, after the angel of the Lord had visited Gideon in the winepress, Gideon exclaimed, “I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face” (Judges. 6:22).
As a final example, Exodus 33:11 says that, “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.”
When Paul uses the expression “face to face,” he is referring to the time when we shall see Jesus face to face. That time can only refer to His return, when every eye will see Him (Rev. 1:7).
Obviously, we cannot meet face to face with the Bible, or some nebulous idea or event. We can only meet a person face to face, and that person can only be Jesus, when every eye will see Him at the Second Coming!
In the natural, we would see our own reflection when we look into a mirror, but spiritually we are to reflect Jesus because God is conforming us to His image. Yet, all we can see is a poor reflection of Jesus through our Adamic eyes, until we see Jesus face to face beyond the veil of flesh. We can’t even see ourselves clearly in that spiritual mirror because we are wretched sinners who need God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness every day.
Then we shall know Him fully, just as He has fully known us! This statement also can only refer to the Lord’s return. Paul is not saying that when the Lord returns, believers will be omniscient like the Lord. Rather, we will know Jesus accurately without any misinformation, or lack of information, or misconceptions because we will be mature. We will have our glorified, eternal bodies.
Coming face to face with Jesus will be sufficient to provide edification far beyond our present comprehension. In this new environment, we will know everything clearly, completely, and emphatically.
The Greek word used in verse 10 for “perfect” is teleios, which means: ended, complete, absolute, or mature. Some argue that Paul’s reference to “the perfect” speaks of a conception of something in its most excellent form, and not to anything specific. However, there are those who argue that it means the Bible. Yet, most commentaries will also admit that “when the perfect comes” refers to the Second Coming of Christ. A valid question is: which of these options can best be defined as “the perfect,” (1) something excellent? (2) the Bible? or (3) Jesus?
First we will ponder Jesus (the Living Word) and the Bible (the written Word) to see which of these two comes the closest to being the “perfect” in verse 10. Consider the following:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. –John 1:1 (KJV)
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. –John 1:14a (KJV)
And His name is called The Word of God. –Revelation 19:13b (KJV)
And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. –John 21:25 (KJV)
Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. –John 20:30-31 (NASB)
But He [Jesus] replied, it has been written, Man shall not live and be upheld and sustained by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God. –Matthew 4:4 (The Amplified Bible)
Let’s summarize: Jesus, the Living Word, is complete (John 1:1). Therefore, Jesus is greater than the Bible, the summarized written Word about Him (John 21: 25). Although the Bible is God’s revealed Word to us, and is without error, we are waiting for Jesus, the Living Word to be revealed at His Second Coming.
The revelation of Jesus Christ begins by seeing Him first as The Living Word of God!
Canonization of New Testament books, the determination of which books were authentic and should be included in Scripture, was not accomplished until the year AD 397. If by this time in church history, Paul’s teachings on the gifts of the Spirit had become obsolete, why were they included? Why were they canonized? Charles Carrin explains this seeming contradiction:
“If it be true that First Corinthians 12 and 14 became imperfect when the Bible was completed, then the long-awaited “perfect” book was not perfect at all. Canonization had only destroyed its perfection. Who can sincerely believe this? The idea is absurd. It defies logic. Paul himself terminated such an argument when he wrote Timothy: ‘All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17.)’”
If II Timothy is Scripture, then, according to Paul, I Corinthians 12 and 14 are also Scripture. Both passages are given to us so that “the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Now we will consider the possibility that “the perfect” is a conception of something in its most excellent form. As you may know, Greek nouns are assigned a gender—either feminine, masculine, or neuter. When referring to a noun in the feminine gender, one uses the pronoun “she;” when referring to a word in the masculine gender, one uses the pronoun “he;” and, when referring to a noun in the neuter gender, the pronoun is “it.”
The word “perfect,” as used in verse 10, is used in the neuter gender. That means it cannot refer to a single person, but it can refer to a group of things, which can include several people. Here is an example.
A ship, boat or vessel, is an example of a noun that can be in the neuter gender that can include its cargo, its equipment, and its crew, as well as the ship itself. And the Second Coming is, in a manner of speaking, our ship that is coming in. On board is Captain Jesus, His crew, and His fulfillment of all Messianic prophecy.
I believe that “the perfect” is BOTH Jesus AND the fulfillment of all messianic prophecy that will transpire at the Second Coming.
The next chapter, titled “The Partial Will Be Done Away,” will thoroughly explore this subject.
We have read First Corinthians 13:8-12 from the New American Standard Version Bible. Now we’re about to read my own personal amplified reiteration of the same Scripture that clarifies what we have just learned.
Before we do so, notice that 1st Corinthians 12, verses 1, 4, and 31 imply that all nine “gifts” are “of the Spirit” collectively, even though not all of them are individually called “gifts.” Therefore, I took the liberty of referring to all of them collectively as “gifts” of the Holy Spirit in order to keep things simple.
Here’s my version . . .
Love, an eternal
virtue of God,never
fails or comes to an end (1 John 4:8). As for [the gift of] prophecy, it
will be fulfilled and pass away (1 Cor. 12:10); as for [the gift of]
unacquired] tongues, they will cease (1 Cor. 12:10), As for [the gift of]
knowledge, it will pass away (1 Cor. 12:8). All of these spiritual gifts
will be superseded by the physical presence of JESUS. We know that
knowledge has not passed away, and in fact is increasing exponentially. In
Daniel 12:4 God said; “But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and
seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back
and forth, and knowledge will increase.” Brethren, are we
approaching the end of time? Then it should be obvious that none of these
spiritual gifts have ceased! Right?
For our present knowledge [of Jesus, the Living Word] is fragmentary, incomplete, and imperfect, and [the gift of] prophecy is fragmentary, incomplete, and imperfect.
But, at the Second Coming, when JESUS comes to bring all messianic prophecy in the Bible to completion and to rule His Kingdom, the incomplete and imperfect gifts of the Spirit will disappear; Spiritual gifts will become something we have outgrown and discarded, LIKE CHILDHOOD TOYS WHEN WE REACH ADULTHOOD (1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4:11, 14-15).
Because, when I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought and reasoned like a child. Now that I have become a man, I am done with childish ways and have put them aside.
For now we are looking in a mirror (through our natural eyes) that gives only a dim or blurred reflection (of the glory of the Lord) as in a riddle or enigma (2 Cor. 3:18). But, AT THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS, when Jesus (the Perfection) comes, we shall see Him face to face in physical form! Now I know JESUS in part, or imperfectly because I am still IN MY NATURAL BODY; but then, IN MY GLORIFIED BODY, I shall know and understand JESUS fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and dearly known and understood by JESUS (1 John 3:2).
(My own personal amplified reiteration of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12)
To be brief, 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 is saying that at the Second Coming of Christ the partial, incomplete spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12) and the five incomplete ministries (Eph. 4:11) will no longer be needed because Jesus is the perfect consummation of all of them, and we will be like Him when we see Him face to face. Meanwhile, until the Second Coming, everything is still in place that Paul described in 1 Corinthians 12, 13, and 14. This is called the continuationist or non-cessationist view.
Hear Jim Cymbala’s concise response to this issue:
“If we have a completed revelation in written form, are we seeing at least as much advance for God’s Kingdom, as many people coming to Christ, as many victories over Satan as those poor fellows who had to get along with just the Old Testament? If not, why not? Are we missing something valuable that they felt was essential?”
Perhaps it comes down to the simplest of issues. Do you believe the Bible, or do you prefer the traditions of the elders? If God gives you a clearer understanding of a Scripture, are you, out of obedience, required to bring about change into your life, or are you free to remain in bondage? Sobering question.
Again, Jim Cymbala speaks from his considerable experience.
“Unfortunately, I have learned firsthand that many Christians who pound the Bible the hardest and most strongly defend the verbal inspiration of Scripture are the most unbelieving and cynical about God ever doing a new thing in His church. They seem so intent on preserving tradition that any spontaneity is spurned as “emotionalism.” My question is: If Jesus is the same today as He was in the Bible we defend, why shouldn’t we believe Him to do great things among us and through us, so we can touch people’s lives in powerful ways as did the first-century apostles? Peter was no perfect saint, as evidenced by his denial of Christ; many churches today would hardly allow such a failure to stand in their pulpits. But God chose him on the Day of Pentecost and used him mightily, and God can do the same with us if we look to Him with childlike faith in our hearts.”
Simply because a particular Christian group comes to an understanding of a scriptural truth prior to another group, that does not make that truth “private property” and unavailable to other groups. No doctrinal group has exclusive rights to any portion of the Bible. We can assume that all Bible truth is available to all believers.
For example, wouldn’t it be ridiculous to assume that if some group were to start baptizing by submersion they, thereby, would lose their original identity and become Southern Baptists?
Some argue—there are sections of the book of Revelation that make perfectly good sense in plain English that should be taken literally. If that argument is true, then why is it not also true for 1st Corinthians 12, 13, and 14?
The bottom line? All Christians are compelled to grow and be faithful to the Word of God.
As long as we are living in these mortal bodies, our knowledge and understanding of supernatural things will be unclear, tarnished, and partial until we come face to face with Jesus! Then we will understand all things. “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.”
In the simplest of terms, the partial is what we have now, and the perfect is what we will have at the Second Coming. Said another way—we are fractional until we are complete in Him.
Between our partial knowledge and our lack of knowledge, let’s face it, all of us are in partial error. The problem with partial error, partial knowledge, or no knowledge, is—we don’t know what it is we don’t know! It is the nature of fallible, sinful, incomplete beings to stumble. And if you are in error, how are you to repent if you don’t think you’re in error?
The Bible is the inerrant, immutable, universal Word of God, but our understanding of the Bible is not inerrant or immutable. Therefore, we cannot preach the whole counsel of God because we do not know the whole counsel of God.
The New Testament is also perfect, but it is a partial, incomplete record of the events in the lives of Jesus and the apostles (John 20:30-31; 21:25).
Realizing such matters humble us.
Not until the Second Coming will Jesus complete all messianic prophecy and bring absolute perfection into His Kingdom. Allow me to expound…
The Jews believed that ALL of the blessings of the Kingdom of God would accompany the First Advent of the Messiah. The disciples of Jesus understood the concept of the Kingdom of God arriving in the person of Jesus. But they did not understand the form of the Kingdom Jesus brought until they watched His gruesome death.
Specifically, the disciples were unable to embrace the idea that Jesus did not break the Roman yoke from Israel’s neck, remove the presence of sin, wipe away every tear, destroy poverty, and throw death and Satan into hell.
However, when they experienced the power of His resurrected life, then they were able to understand and embrace this new Kingdom. It was only then that they realized—the Kingdom of God prophesied in the Old Testament was to enter this world through two Advents of the Messiah, not one (1 Peter 2:9,10).
We need to recognize—cultural assumptions are very stubborn and are not replaced in our minds by a once-and-for-all decision.
The disciples of Jesus could not grasp a two-part fulfillment and held firmly to a one-part fulfillment. They needed to be reminded not infrequently that Christ had to suffer and die. They certainly heard the message regarding the Messiah’s suffering and death and perhaps, at last, began to grasp it.
Nevertheless, the shift in their worldview regarding the Messiah’s work was a slow and painful process. The Messiah’s two Advents is what His disciples stumbled over. Perhaps we also stumble over our worldview. After all, we too live in the realm of the partial and the incomplete.
More than 200 years ago, William Law bluntly declared that the church of his day was “in the same apostasy that characterized the Jewish nation…The Jews refused Him who was the substance and fulfilling of all that was taught in their Law and Prophets. The Christian church is in a fallen state for the same rejection of the Holy Spirit.”
He further said that just as the Jews refused Jesus and quoted Scripture to prove their point, “So church leaders today reject the demonstration and power of the Holy Spirit in the name of sound doctrine.”1
We know that the Old and New Testament is the infallible Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit. And although fallible men penned these two testaments, Scripture remains infallible. That is probably why Paul taught that all prophetic and revelatory utterances (and writings?) are to be judged and tested (1 Cor. 14:29; 1 Thess. 5:19-22).
Even though there was an abundance of Christian writings in the first century, only a small portion were canonized (judged, tested, and declared to be perfect) by a progression of elders in the second, third, and fourth centuries.
It is possible, but rare, for a Christian to be “in tune with the Holy Spirit” to such a degree that he performs a complete and perfect work.
Here is a simple spiritual law that should be self-evident: If anything is good and perfect and glorifies God—God is in it!
Evangelicals, charismatic or Baptist, agree that our Lord’s primary mission during His first coming was “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). However, although the work of His atonement is His chief and central work, it was not His only work accomplished.
Jesus sent His Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost so we could have power to minister as He ministered (John 7:39; 14:26: 1 John 2:27; Acts 1:5: 1:8). His first coming also demonstrated His bringing “a small portion of eternity into time.” He did that through proclaiming and demonstrating the Kingdom of God as He went about healing the sick, casting out demons, and performing miracles.
You are not [consciously] falling behind or lacking in any special spiritual (gift) endowment or Christian grace [the reception of which is due to the power of divine grace operating in your souls by the Holy Spirit], while you wait and watch [consistently living in hope] for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and [His] being made visible to all. –1 Corinthians 1:7 (The Amplified Bible)
In this verse, Paul connects spiritual gifts with the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, Paul is saying that Christians will not be lacking in any of the spiritual gifts until that glorious day of the Second Coming of Christ. The gifts that Paul speaks of are given free of charge…free of obligation…at the discretion of the Giver, the Holy Spirit.
Herein lies the irony: we live between the already and the not yet. The kingdom of God is already here but not yet here.
Still, knowing in part is better than not knowing at all! Isn’t it wonderful to know that we are children of God! And even though it has not appeared as yet what we shall be, we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is (1 John 3:2).
God desires to take us as we are and lead us to where we need to be—conformed to the image of Christ. Where we are is always less than perfect; we are only partially completed. Therefore, we need to quit lying to each other, the world, and ourselves and admit that our doctrine, our understanding of the Bible, and probably 95 percent of what we do is less than perfect.
That would include prophecy and the prophetic ministry, healings and miracles. This would also include the most overlooked imperfection of all…our teaching!
A person may receive a healing from one disease, only to become sick again later. Even Lazarus died a second time. And although Peter was miraculously delivered from prison, Stephen was stoned to death.
Agabus prophesied correctly concerning Paul being bound hand and foot, but he did not properly understand that it was actually God’s will for Paul to be bound.
Agabus believed that the vision showed what would happen if Paul went to Jerusalem. Paul understood the vision as showing what was to happen to him when he went to Jerusalem. For that reason, Paul saw Agabus’ vision as confirmation that God was sending him. And the binding was in God’s plans and will for Paul (Acts 21).
This raises an interesting question: Since Agabus missed God, did that make Agabus a false prophet? I think not.
Yes, we are incomplete! Our salvation is incomplete! The gifts of the Spirit are incomplete! And in John 21:25 we see that even the Bible is incomplete!
And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.
Oh, how we yearn for the Second Coming of our redeeming Lord and King! In the meantime, we have a Great Commission to fulfill, and we were given the power to accomplish it.
That power is the person of the Holy Spirit that is resident in us, who desires to manifest His great power through us. He alone brings victory into our lives individually and in the church corporately. He alone can instruct us in the infallible written Word. He alone can teach us the voice of the blessed One who promised us that His sheep would know His voice.
Our programs can only be of the flesh. Collectively and individually, we are the walking, talking temples the Holy Spirit of God uses to accomplish His work.
The Spiritual gifts did not leave the church, the church left the Spiritual gifts. So, why do we delay returning to what God intended for us?
It isn’t mandatory that we receive the Holy Spirit, but why would any Christian reject a blessing from his loving heavenly Father? Any gift from the Holy Spirit is more than desirable.
Even though we study the Bible, the Christian religion is primarily experiential, not mere mental agreement. Jesus wants our fellowship. He said, “My sheep know My voice.” We’re to subjectively experience His presence, the presence of His Holy Spirit within us, and objectively experience the manifestation of His presence through us.
If we do not experience Jesus, we’re missing the boat; we’re missing the major aspect of the Christian life. Christianity is an experience, a fellowship, a relationship, not just scholarship or doctrine or a philosophical belief system. I’m reminded of what an old, wise Southern Baptist preacher from South Carolina said:
“Remember, son. God is the Truth. Your Bible is the truth about the Truth. Your theology is the truth about the truth about the Truth.” And then he went on to say, “And you can know the truth about the truth about the Truth, and not know the Truth. And that’s the truth!”
Setting aside the humor in that statement, there is much wisdom in what the elderly preacher said.
Yes, doctrine has its place. Paul made it very clear that Biblical doctrine is crucial to the Christian faith. This chapter has been an exegesis on the doctrine of spiritual gifts. Let’s remain open.
On the day of Pentecost the 120 believers in the upper room had a sense of expectancy, but they didn’t know what to expect. They simply were obedient to “tarry” and pray in unity until they “received the promised Holy Spirit.”
In our day, we too are to have a sense of expectancy, and a desire to pray in unity until that glorious day when we see Jesus face to face (I Corinthians 13:12).
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Does God Speak To Us Today?
1. Most Pentecostal denominations have very conservative doctrinal statements regarding the inspiration and authority of the Bible. Thus, most Pentecostals are Evangelicals.
Alister McGrath, an English theologian, listed six characteristics of Evangelicalism. In his opinion, these include:
1. the supreme authority of Scripture,
2. the majesty of Jesus Christ,
3. the Lordship of the Holy Spirit,
4. the need for personal conversion,
5. the priority of evangelism,
6. the importance of Christian community.
Mainstream Trinitarian Pentecostals clearly fulfill these six criteria. [Alister McGrath, Evangelicalism and the Future of Christianity, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1994, 51. Nevertheless, in popular usage, conservative Evangelicalism generally refers to that portion of Evangelicalism that is noncharismatic. In the United States, the leadership of Billy Graham and Carl Henry would represent conservative Evangelicalism.
2. John Kennedy is a precious brother in the Lord, and I do not wish to attack him or his excellent book, The Torch of the Testimony, Auburn: Christian Books, 1965, 30. Instead, I highly recommend this very affordable, and easily understood book on church history. I can assure you that it is on my bookshelf along with many other books on church history, and the margins are crammed with my scribbled notes.
When The Perfect Comes
1. Charles Carrin, The Edge of Glory, published by Charles Carrin Ministries, P.O. Drawer 800, Boynton Beach, Florida, 33425-0800, 1999, 99. Used by permission of Charles Carrin.
2. Similar words, such as boat, vessel, and ship, can be either neuter or feminine in gender. Even so, I believe the corollary behind comparing a ship to “the perfect” is very descriptive and appropriate in this setting.
3. I believe that my definition of the perfect and the partial, as used in 2 Cor. 13:10, will hold up under any eschatology.
4. The argument that “not only has ‘knowledge‘ not passed away, but it has greatly increased this century, therefore the gifts are still valid for today,” has a fatal flaw. Knowledge has increased today, that is true. However, this “knowledge” in verse 8 is in reference to, and in context with “the word of knowledge” in 1 Corinthians 12:8.
5. Jim Cymbala, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1997, 147. Jim Cymbala is Pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
6. Jim Cymbala, Fresh Faith, Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1999, 204. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
The Partial Will Be Done Away
1. William Law, The Power of the Spirit, Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1971, 23.
2. Part of the insight for this chapter came from the book: Empowered Evangelicals, by Rick Nathan and Ken Wilson, Vine Books.
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