Sunday, March 8, 2015

Theft #14 - Stealin' Back the Charismata

Well, this is a study I put together a few years ago as my view that the "manifestations of the Spirit" in 1st Cor. 12 continue throughout the whole church age.  Or, more precisely, that there is no good Biblical reason to say that they stopped with the passing of the apostles at the end of the 1st century AD.  So, I'm not only "stealin'," but maybe cheating a bit by recycling some of my own material, but at least is IS my own material (;>).   Have fun!
***Some of the indentations and diagrams don't work quite right in this editor, but hopefully you'll get the idea.

The “Manifestation of the Spirit” in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11
                  A Moderate Defense for the Continuance of the Charismata
         This study will briefly propose a position that the 9 “manifestations of the Spirit” mentioned in 1 Cor. 12:7-11 are intended for the entire church age, subject to the proper guidelines and usage. The basis for this position is a lack of clear Scriptural evidence that these things ended at any particular time in the past. The paper is called a “moderate” defense of the “continuance” position because the writer is not a traditional “charismatic,” and because the defense is intended to rely entirely on Scripture, as opposed to personal experience.

1a. “Manifestations” in the Book of Acts are Distinct from Those in 1 Cor. 12-14.

      1b. “Tongues” in the Book of Acts are not the same as “tongues” in 1 Cor 12-14.
            1c. The descriptions of “tongues” in the Book of Acts refer to a distinct and unique phenomenon with a specific purpose. The first—and most complete--presentation of tongues in Acts 2 is described by Peter as a (partial) fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32, a claim Paul never makes for tongues in 1 Corinthians.
     Furthermore, the tongues are spoken—apparently in unison—by the 120 disciples gathered with the apostles, and miraculously understood—each person “in his own language” by an audience of thousands of “Dispersion Jews.” There is no “interpretation” by other believers given nor is it needed, in sharp contradiction to the conditions specified by Paul in 1 Cor. 12 and 14.
         2c. The other major primary description of tongues in Acts 10 occurs as the gospel is presented by Peter and his Jewish helpers to a family of Gentiles. The purpose is defined by Peter in Acts 10:47: Gentiles have believed in Jesus and received the Holy Spirit in exactly the same way as the Jews, therefore they cannot be denied water baptism as outward confirmation of this belief. Again, the circumstances, purpose, and results are totally different from those described in 1 Cor 12-14

     2b. “Prophecies” are sporadic and unregulated in Acts as opposed to 1 Cor. 12-14.
           Without citing specific passages, it is enough to say that “prophecies” in the Book of Acts are virtually always spoken by a prophet (or prophetess). That, they are spoken by people who have a prophetic “calling” or an “office”—as in the OT—in a permanent sense. In contrast, 1 Cor 12-14, while elevating prophecies over tongues, never suggests that those speaking prophecies are anything other than ordinary believers to whom the Spirit has given something to speak at a particular time: they are pointedly not “prophets” as presented in Acts.

     3b. Descriptions of tongues and prophecies decrease rapidly in the 2nd half of Acts.
          This is not in dispute, for it is easily discerned by simply reading the Book of Acts. However, if points 1b and 2b above are valid, then this has no bearing on the present validity of the “manifestations” in 1 Corinthians. That is: if the tongues and prophecies described in Acts are not the same phenomena as those presented in 1 Cor. 12-14, then their apparent cessation in the Book of Acts cannot be used to argue that the tongues and prophecies presented in 1 Cor 12:7-11 must also have ceased.

2a. The “Manifestations” in 1 Cor. 12-14 Are Presented as Normal in the Local Church

      1b. Brief summary of the problems in the church of Corinth
             Because Paul has so many rebukes for the Corinthians church, it is sometimes assumed that everything they practiced must have been wrong. This is certainly not true, since Paul commends their spiritual enthusiasm more than once. Nonetheless, the Corinthian church had a huge case of “eschatological confusion;” that is, they totally misunderstood Biblical prophecy about the future. Specifically, they thought they had received the Kingdom of God on earth in its fullness, which led to all kinds of wrong belief and practice in both their church and family life. It also led to an arrogant attitude of superiority over those who—perhaps—had not received the same level of “the Spirit” has they had.

      2b. Paul insists that the “manifestations” are valid and normal when properly regulated.
          Although the Corinthians were clearly arrogant and spiritually immature, Paul—nonetheless—presents in 1 Cor 12-14 a group of spiritual phenomena that he seems to regard as perfectly acceptable, and apparently expected, in the local church.
         1c. In 1 Cor 12:28 he says that God “has appointed” such things in “the church,” and clearly not just the Corinthian church. His continuing caution, however, is that not every believer will receive such things, and further, that those “gifts” are in no way superior to many other less spectacular and less public gifts.
        2c. He concludes his corrections on this issue with the following: “Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.” (1 Cor 14:39-40).
       If—in fact—Paul thought that these gifts were not acceptable and continuous for the whole church, it seems unlikely that he would have encouraged their practice once the abuses were corrected. Indeed “do not forbid to speak in tongues” is a very strange admonition if Paul was preparing Corinth for the disappearance of this gift.

     3b. 1 Cor 13:8-10 - A reasonable interpretation
           1 Cor. 13 is well-known for Paul’s insistence that agape love is the overriding spiritual element which should supersede and regulate all other Christian gifts and virtues. In verse 8, he shifts gears to announce that 3 things will either “be abolished” or “cease” at some time in the future. The 3 things are prophecies, tongues, and knowledge, and the future time is “when the perfect comes.”
      In the early to mid 20th century, a few Bible teachers argued that “the perfect” must be the completion of the canon of Scripture, as we know it today, and that this probably coincided with the death of the last apostle (traditionally, John). There are numerous problems with this view, but three are glaring: 1c) Paul’s continuous expectation—in all of his epistles—that Jesus could return at any time make it highly unlikely that he would be thinking of the final form of Scripture as “the perfect.” He almost certainly equated “the perfect thing” (neuter in Gk) with the coming Kingdom of God when Jesus returned. Since the Corinthians had wrongly assumed the Kingdom was already present, Paul would want to emphasize that this momentous event was still future. 2c) The finished NT—as we know it—was not fully completed until the late 2nd or early 3rd century, making the actual end of tongues and prophesy rather ambiguous in this view, and 3c) Scripture does not record the death of the last apostle, also making this event an unlikely candidate for “the perfect.”
      If the words above are accepted as reasonable, then the time when “the perfect comes” is still future today, and this cannot be used as a case for the end of tongues and prophecy.

3a. Cautions On Dismissing New Testament Scripture as Relevant to the Church Today
       This study is presented in full awareness that there are many who would to limit the gifts of 1 Cor 12-14 to the 1st century, and dismiss their continuing presence in the church. This study, so far, has attempted to show that there is no basis in Scripture for holding such a position, and that the burden of proof is on those who hold the “cessationist” position.
      Before closing, there is another and perhaps more important issue at stake: the continuing validity of New Testament Scripture as it applies to the church from Pentecost to the present and beyond. When believers start dismissing any NT passage as no longer valid, a challenge should be issued as to their criteria for such a dismissal.
      For example, it can be carefully shown that some parts of Jesus’ discourses in the gospels are not intended directly for the “church;” also, there are portions of the Book of Acts that could apply only to the first Jewish churches, but not directly to the later mixed Gentile/Jewish churches.
       However, the letters of Paul are in an entirely different realm, since they are addressed to churches established well after Pentecost, and are direct addresses from author to audience. For example, there is a current trend toward dismissing Paul’s limitation on women Bible teachers in 1 Timothy 2:11-15. It is argued that this was a cultural issue, and not normative for the continuing church, and certainly not for the 21st century church. The problem is that Paul roots his argument in Genesis, in the creation and fall of mankind. This makes the “cultural” dismissal of his teaching null and void. Some believers just don’t like it, so it is dismissed. If the same test is applied to 1 Cor 12-14, there is a similar failure to demonstrate a “cultural” or temporary limitation. Just as it would be unthinkable to dismiss Paul’s teaching on the Lord’s Supper in 1 Cor 11 as still relevant, the same caution should be applied here.

Diagram of 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (with 1-3; 12-14)

1 Now concerning the spiritual things, brothers, I am not willing for you to be ignorant. 2 You know that, when you were ethnics, being led away toward the voiceless idols, as often you were led. 3 Therefore I am making known to you that no one, speaking in the Spirit of God, is saying "Anathema Jesus," and no one is able to say "Lord Jesus," except in the Holy Spirit.

4 Now there are differences of grace-gifts {charismata},
                      but the same Spirit;
5 and
           there are differences of ministries (or services),
                    and the same Lord;
6 and  there are differences of energies,
                but the same God                 Who is energizing all things in all.
7 So to each one
                                     is being given
                                                              the clear disclosure of the Spirit
          toward the bringing together.
8 For to one
                                                                                                 through the Spirit
                                   is being given
                                                         a word of wisdom,
and to another one                            a word of knowledge
                                                                                                 according to the same Spirit,
9 to a different one
                                                       faith                                   in the same Spirit,
and to another one                          grace-gifts of healings           in the one Spirit,
10 and to another one                    energizings of powers {dunamis}
and to another one                         prophecy,
and to another one                         discerning of spirits,
    to a different one                        kinds of tongues,
and to another one                         translation of tongues;
11 but                                                all these things
                                       is energizing
the one and the same Spirit,
                                          to each individually,             just as He is intending.
       12 For even as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of the body, being many, are one body, so also Christ. 13 For also in one Spirit we ourselves all into one body were baptized--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or freemen, and we all one Spirit were made to drink.
       14 For also the body is not one part but many.

Later in Christ,
The Thief

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