A Story To Remember
The Spiritual Gifts
by O. P. Martin
There are multiple points of view in Christendom concerning the gifts of the Spirit. What is biblical?
In one camp, cessationists such as John MacArthur say that certain gifts, such as prophesy, healing, and tongues, have ceased and are not for today. The main reason given is the tenses of the verbs in 1 Corinthians 13:8. But, one cannot build a doctrine out of an exotic Greek tense in one verse in the whole Bible where the context does not support it. Do we now see Him face to face? The Bible nowhere really says that some gifts will cease with a mythical closing of the canon.
On the other hand, many in the charismatic movement, such as Jack Hayford, try to say that if one is truly spiritual, this will always be evidenced by speaking in tongues. We are told we should practice until we get it right. Consequently, a lot of babbling goes on. They ignore most of 1 Corinthians 12. Some people emphasize gifts even before the message of salvation is given. Did God give the same gift to all?
Both sides also cite personal experience as another reason.
However, we are thankful for the otherwise good job both churches are doing, and we are praying for them!
Neither denying nor forcing are biblical. Rather, the Spirit of God gives to each believer whatever gift(s) He sees fit. The body of Christ has different parts, and God is able to equip; He is not limited. Both errors are guilty of putting God in a box. So, we espouse an "open but cautious" view of the gifts, a term I got from Wayne Grudem 1. The Word counsels us to be wary of counterfeit gifts and to test the spirits.
God is sovereign. On one occasion He was silent for 400 years. Also, we should not be surprised if there are few genuine miracles in our culture, since our faith is so small. But, whatever there is should be done in an orderly fashion.
It should be noted that this issue of the gifts does not constitute a make-or-break issue for a church. I attend and even minister at both of the aforementioned churches which disagree in this area, because they both have people who love the Lord and they both preach the true gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what is important. "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." - Galatians 5:6.
Having said that, we should "fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." - 1 Timothy 1:6-7.
It is also appropriate to ask the Lord for gifts, keeping in mind that He has the sovereign choice to say yes or no.
When determining what each individual believer's gift or gifts are, it may be wise to think less of the one(s) you want and more of what other people, unsolicited, have come to you and reported that they were touched by what you said or did.
The gifts mentioned in scripture, in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4, are as follows: apostles, prophecy, evangelism, pastors, teaching, wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, helping, serving, speaking, encouraging, giving, leading, showing mercy, administration, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in different kinds of tongues, and 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."
Now, here is a sad story:
George Muller is known today for his orphanages. But, in his own day, he was also well known for a special gift of healing by prayers of faith that the Lord had given him.
Then, another leader in Muller's church, J. N. Darby, the then-equivalent of today's John MacArthur, took exception to the excesses of another preacher, Edward Irving, corresponding to Hayford, and Darby over-reacted and decided to take a cessationist view of the gifts. They ignored the scripture, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20, which says, "Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt."
But, the scripture is true. God abruptly took away the special gift from Muller in 1836 2. Sure, people were sometimes still gradually healed in response to prayer, but the dramatic miracles ceased.
Exactly 62 years later, in the same exact church, the Brethren Church in England, a young man who was attending there decided to leave. He later said he did not know why he left, but may I suggest it was because he did not see power there, based on where he went to, which was to the occult?
That young man's name was Aleister Crowley, and his evil teachings of "Magick", it has been shown, eventually became influential in the worst of the rock music movement 3, which has in turn presided over a lamentable acceleration in the decay in our culture.
What are young people seeing in the church today? Isn't it about time that we stopped bickering between the over-restrictive cessationists and the over-flamboyant charismatics of our time and adopted an "open but cautious" view?
Let's pray for revival!
1. Grudem, W., "Are Miraculous Gifts For Today?", 1996
2. Kaiser, W., et al., "Hard Sayings of the Bible", 1996, pp. 704-706.