Thursday, July 17, 2008

Keep Your Eyes On Jesus

I came across this awesomely good little poem-- short and suhweeet! Thought you might enjoy it. It's four lines long and four miles deep.

LOOKING AND FINDING
i have noticed that

if i am looking for something wrong
i find many things that are wrong

if i am looking for something right
i find many things that are right

if i am looking for Jesus
i find everything

by nancy

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Manifestations of the Holy Spirit II

We continue our discussion on the list of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit...

THE MANIFESTATIONS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT II

Prophecy: a public discourse emanating from the Holy Spirit, spoken for the strengthening, encouragement, and comfort of the body. This is NOT prognostication nor handicapping the Spirit's move! The kingdom is not the stock market nor a horse race, and that kind of behavior is just out of order and illegitimate. I wish national ministry figures, like Pat Robertson, would stop fomenting that awful error! There is no need for prophecy to even mention the future, although it may. There is no NT precedent for prophetic words spoken privately, that would go against the stated purpose of manifestations profiting withal. Personal "words" spoken in private are out of order out of hand.

Prophecy is not to be taken as authoritative. Prophecies can never stand against Apostolic witness (the NT) and are subject to the scrutiny of the body to determine whether or not they are legitimate. If they don't measure up, they should be tossed aside as easily as a preacher would toss the rough draft of a sermon in the round can file. If a speaker is found to have spoken apart from the Holy Ghost, that does not mean he or she should be taken out and stoned! That's OT, and a different dynamic in prophecy. Correct the error, shrug it off, and move along.

Personally, I don't believe prophecies should be prepared in advance of delivery (note the exception below), recorded for posterity, nor vetted by the few, the proud, the ordained. Other prophets can judge prophecies without cloistering them for deliberations like the college of cardinals, and making the speaker or the congregation wait with baited breath to see what color smoke rises from the chimney. Even if something is really foul, we can always call fire down from heaven, or inspired by Ananias and Sapphira, call for the offenders to be slain in the Spirit. That certainly would produce an edifying, howbeit chilling, affect withal! ;-o

I could see one who is gifted as a prophet speaking prophetically without necessarily manifesting prophecy. At its root, prophecy is fundamentally public speaking; spiritually, the assumption is that the speech is inspired divinely. Since a prophet has an ongoing ministry of speaking prophetically, he or she may be inspired at times other than at the moment of speaking, and may in fact be prepared to speak in advance of delivery. For the non-prophet, however, I would anticipate prophesying to occur in the moment of inspiration-- shine on, shine off. (Acts 4:8-12)

Discernings of Spirits: discriminating what spirits are active [in people] to benefit the church. How do we tell whether or not a manifestation is inspired by the Holy Spirit, the human spirit, or an unholy spirit? How do we know that someone is demonized? If we don't see the obvious, we won't, and cannot with certainty, without God revealing it.

This is not psychic ability, there are no mind-readers or heart-sifters in the Kingdom of God-- no freaky Rasputins that have the ability to stare into your soul. This is not sharp insight or perceptive wisdom-- it is discerning of spirits, not discernment alone! It is an instant distillation of Holy Spirit acuity into what spirit is acting in a person, condensed in the consciousness of the recipient, for the moment it's needed for the good of the body. Shine on, shine off.

Plurals are present in the phrase for this manifestation too, for similar reasons, I think, that they are present in the gifts of healings. Since this will often be a companion miracle to casting out devils (one sort of healing), its manifestation is a prerequisite to, and must synchronize with those instances of healing that involve demons. (Acts 16:17-18)

Kinds of Tongues: an utterance in an unknown language. Whereas there are occasions when some hearer of the utterance will know the language, the speaker never does. This is always manifested when a believer is baptized in the Holy Ghost, and is volitional for the believer thereafter, but that does not translate into any believer speaking tongues at any time for public consumption. That is the error Paul was trying to correct at Corinth. To speak in tongues publicly, the Holy Spirit must inspire the speaker to do so specifically in that moment.

The use of the plural for kinds and tongues signifies that a person manifesting tongues need not speak in the same unknown language he or she has spoken in before. The speaker does not even need to end an utterance in the same language that he or she began it in! Another level of mystery and marvel is added to this remarkable sign when we consider that kinds includes tongues that are not human language!

It is disrespectful and incredibly arrogant to label tongues as the mindless babbling of the ecstatically overwrought-- instead, we should see it as a miracle wrought by God. Any church that despises prophesying or prohibits tongues is clearly out of order and operating against the command of God. Any church doing so, and any purported teacher teaching so, is in rebellion and needs to repent.

Interpreting Tongues: giving the meaning of an utterance of tongues to bless the church. This is not literal translation (the interpreter is not given the power to parse the tongue), but a revelation of the meaning conveyed. The interpreter has no more understanding of the tongue spoken than the speaker! The plural in this phrase is limited to the word tongues, i.e. not the interpretations of tongues, which means there is but one meaning for an utterance, not a selection of possibilities. There may be more than one language spoken, but there is only one message.

The interpretation is always in a language known to the interpreter. When a tongue is spoken for public consumption (as opposed to personal blessing at a reduced volume), it must be interpreted. (Acts 2:14-28)

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There you have it, the list of signs and wonders that make up the toolbox of the gifted. Any of the gifted may be inspired to use any of these tools in his or her ministry, but some gifts revolve around the consistent, repeated manifestation of certain of these signs. When the Holy Spirit decides it is time for one of the gifted to pick up one of these tools, the lights come on; when that instance of use is over, the lights go out. The tool is taken out, the tool is put back in the box. When practicing the manifestations of the Holy Spirit, we always need to remember (a la the Karate Kid) this simple watchword: "shine on, shine off."

Monday, July 14, 2008

Manifestations of the Holy Spirit I

There is but one list of manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the entire Bible. It is broad enough in its descriptions to include virtually every sign or evidence there is that the Holy Spirit is active. That is, after all, what manifestations (phanerosis) are-- signs that the Holy Spirit is producing something in the moment. These miracles are like a neon sign: the breath of God sparks into visible light which evidences that the Holy Ghost is at work, then the spark dissipates and the light goes out. Shine on, shine off!

Though the Holy Spirit is resident in the believer, the spark is not. It ignites according to the will of the Spirit for the common good at whatever moment the Spirit deems appropriate. It is therefore an error to look upon the list of manifestations as ministries, THEY ARE NOT!!! They may reoccur in a believer's life, they may not. A believer may manifest all of them over some interval, they may manifest only a few. They are, really, just the signs that follow them that believe. The following annotated list, cross referenced to scriptural examples of that sign occurring is offered for your edification.

THE MANIFESTATIONS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

A Word of Wisdom: a discourse of reasoning (i.e. how to best go about a thing) inspired by the Holy Spirit. This is not the same as being wise or experienced, nor is it the garden variety of wisdom-- it is an instance, a flash, of dam-busting, mountain-moving inspiration whose insightful benefactions accrue to the church rather than the inspired. It's the sort of thing the human mind would not produce apart from the inspiration of God. (Acts 15:28-29)

A Word of Knowledge: a discourse revealing information or awareness that would be impossible to know apart from the inspiration of God. This is not about being intelligent, or well-learned, or psychic. It is God dropping, like a coin into a slot (clink, clank!), something into one's consciousness that he or she would otherwise never know, and which benefits the body rather than the "knower". Healings are wrongly attributed to this manifestation in many circles. If a healing is called out, that IS NOT A WORD OF KNOWLEDGE, that is a gift of healing! I suppose I shouldn't get too ticky-tack about that, at least those doing so have faith and are moving in the Holy Spirit, but (I have to admit) it bugs me nonetheless. (Acts 5:1-11; 13:8-12)

Faith: a conviction inspired by the Holy Spirit which in turn inspires the body. We all need faith, it's the currency of heaven, it's what makes things possible, but there are moments when the Spirit zaps one of us with a faith which inspires the rest of us to believe and act. (Acts 27:21-26)

Gifts of Healings: God's grace multiplied through a variety of healings for the benefit of the body. This does not refer to therapy over time, but to instantaneous or timely cures, miracles not medicine. There is an unusual feature in this manifestation: both the word "gifts" and "healings" are plural, they don't travel alone! Like Santa with a satchel, the grantee of this manifestation passes out these gifts until they're all gone. When the Holy Spirit manifests healing, expect an outbreak-- not just a healing, but healings.

There are gifted healers (see this for the discussion of such), but that is not quite the same as the manifestation in question. Undoubtedly, those so gifted will be visited by this manifestation over and over again, but the manifestation could fall on any at anytime, not just the healers. I should also point out that this is not the same as an answer to prayer. Healing is ours through the atonement of Christ and accessible to all through faith and prayer, but that is not the same as a Holy Ghost outbreak of healing determined according to his will rather than our prayers. (Acts 5:15-16; 19:11-12)

Operations of Powers: exercisings of God's powers resulting in miracles which benefit the church. The plural thing is working in this manifestation too, although the context is not as discreet as in healing. The performance of a miracle, let say raising the dead, actually involves more than one power (e.g., reanimation, reconstitution, healing, etc.), whereas a healing has remedying a malady in focus (e.g., leprosy). Therefore, the plural is not as indicative of an outbreak as it was in healing. On a side note, as much as my modern mind would like to classify casting out demons as a working of power, the Bible, almost uniformly, lumps that miracle in with healing. (Acts 20:9-12; 28:3-6)

Well, there you have it, at least the first half. Some very good folk will see it differently, of course, but I think the points made so far go a long way to clarifying the actual practice of what is scriptural. There's no benefit to being confused and so avoiding the practice of these things, nor does anything but confusion wait for those, who not understanding these things, rush head long off into practice that is made up as he or she goes. That is as much a problem with the modern charismatic movement as it was for the church at Corinth in Paul's day!

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Gift List

It's time for THE list. This, of course, represents only my cobbling together of what the word says about the subject. One could see it somewhat differently and still be correct. Hopefully, this will help you see things from the broadest perspective, while giving you the detail necessary to grasp what each gift is.

THE SPEAKERS

Apostle: one sent by God to a people to establish the church among them. There is an administrative (supervisory) aspect to this gift, but it not directly associated with hierarchical office (as with the Mormons)-- its authority is confined to its function. (1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11)

Evangelist: one who announces the good news to the public (which hasn't heard it). It's not foundational (like the apostle or teacher), because it's tasked with making people believers, not making believers a church. (Ephesians 4:11)

Prophet: one who proclaims and interprets what God is saying to the church. The prophet speaks to strengthen, encourage and comfort God's people. This gift is not about prognostication, nor has it anything to do with hierarchical office. (Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11)

Exhorter: one who speaks to urge others on in matters pertaining to God. I really see this as a subset of the prophetic gift, but can see someone being an exhorter without being a prophet. (Romans 12:6-8)

Linguist: one who speaks and interprets tongues in public. No, you will not see it listed this way in the scriptures, this is my synthesis of what is said about it there. Not everyone who speaks in tongues in public will be a linguist, but those who are linguists will be interpreters. If that is still fuzzy, note the way it is listed in v. 28 of 1 Corinthians 12 as opposed to how it's reiterated in v. 30. This (as in the case of the exhorter) is a subset of the prophetic gift, but it is possible to be a linguist without being a prophet or a prophet without being a linguist (I Corinthians 12:28)

Pastor: one who tends the flock of God. This gift has both administrative (supervisory) and speaking (teaching) aspects. Whereas the apostle establishes the church, the pastor maintains it. That is not an institutional task, but an interpersonal one-- it's about the sheep not the sheepcote. Regardless, this gift is directly associated with the supervisory church office, which is as close as the Bible gets to validating anything hierarchical. The pastor is always a teacher and a leader, but it is possible to have teachers or leaders who are not pastors. (Romans 12:6-8 [leader], 1 Corinthians 12:28 [teacher/governor], Ephesians 4:11)

Teacher: one who instructs the church in the commands of God and how to apply them to daily life. This is a subset of the pastoral gift, but it is possible to be a teacher without being a pastor. (Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11)

THE SERVERS

Server: one who attends to things that need to be done (similar to a Deacon). Everyone in the body serves in some capacity, but this gift does it in inspired, focused fashion. This is not necessarily the same as the office of Deacon, that is supervisory, this is functional, but I would think the office of Deacon would often be filled by those who are gifted as servers. By way of interest, Philip, the evangelist was a notable example of one who served in the office of Deacon, but was gifted as other than a server. (Romans 12:6-8)

Giver: one who shares his or her substance with the church. Some folk are appointed by God to be channels of blessing to the rest of the church. Everyone gives, but the gifted do so in ways enabled only by God. That, however, does not equate with being rich! (Romans 12:6-8)

Sympathizer: one who alleviates the suffering of others in the church. This is a mercy ministry. Everyone in the family of God is expected to show mercy to the family of God, sympathizers do so at an exemplary, Spirit-inspired level. (Romans 12:6-8)

Miracle Worker: one who exerts supernatural power. Everyone in the body of Christ can move in the supernatural, this gift does so on a marked, consistent basis with out any necessary connection to preaching. (1 Corinthians 12:28)

Healer: one who heals the sick. Everyone in the body of Christ can pray for the sick, anyone in the body can be used by God to bring a miraculous healing to someone who is sick, but the healer ministers this wonder on a consistent basis without any necessary connection to preaching. (1 Corinthians 12:28)

Helper: one who addresses the petitions of the needy. Everyone in the body should respond to the needs of their brothers and sisters, but some are enabled to do so in a particularly dedicated fashion. This may seem a replication of the gift of giver, but I think it involves more than substance and sustenance. Though this ministration is part of the duties entailed in the office of Deacon (as with the server), the gift is functional whereas the office is supervisory. Possessing this gift doesn't mean one will stand in that office (1 Corinthians 12:28)

Leader: one who steers and superintends the church. The offices of Elder (overall oversight) and Deacon (service supervision) are the actual supervisory positions in a church, but their biblical descriptions do not necessarily specify what gifts one must possess in order to serve in them. In its formative stages, a church will be supervised by its apostle; thereafter, it may be supervised by some other gift acting in the office of Elder. The qualifications for that office specify functionally that an elder be instructive, but that is not quite the same as saying the elder must be gifted as a teacher. I could see the possibility of someone being gifted as a leader, capable of passing on effective instruction, but not gifted as a teacher, or any other speaking gift for that matter. What that implies in regards to the concept of church leadership vested in a plurality of elders I'll leave to you. (Romans 12:6-8 [governs], I Corinthians 12:28 [administration])

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One could debate the way I condensed this number and these particular gifts from the stew of the three passages we have been discussing. Since all of the lists are representative and none is exhaustive, the possibility exists that there could be gifts that are not found in any of these lists. I don't think that's true, but I can't prove it. Someone could see the cross referencing differently than I have as well. Regardless, what we all should be able to agree to is that God intends each of us to express the gift he's placed within us, and whatever your gift, God has given you the manifestation of the Holy Spirit for the benefit of all. I hope this series helps you express both.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Tiger In Our Tank

Although the passage in Romans 12 leads into its gift list by associating them with the expression of God's grace (as does the Ephesian passage), and although it focuses upon how the gifts are used (as does the greater Corinthian context), its take on gifts is unique in demonstrating how we actually "act" in the gifts. It's not a list of nouns but verbs. It's not about prophets, servants, teachers, exhorters, givers, rulers, or empathizers, but prophesying, serving, teaching, exhorting, giving, ruling, and empathizing. That may be a subtle distinction, but an interesting one regardless.

What do I think that distinction tells us? Among other things, it tells us to use the gift in producing the results of the gift. I could go on and on about what that says about our modern fascination (er, distraction?) with strategy and techniques, but I'll do my best to stay on task! Suffice it to say that the ability that grace deposited in us (gift) is not only sufficient to produce its intended result, but it should be relied upon to do so. The gift within us should not remain idle; it should not be suppressed (by ourselves or others); method should not be substituted for it; and its compulsion should not be considered secondary. Instead of wondering what the experts think about a ministry endeavor, we should be asking ourselves what the gift of God within us is inspiring.

That is not to say that we should be uncooperative and unsubmissive to the body of Christ around us, that is contraindicated by the concept of body itself. It does mean that what the Spirit intends to get done through us won't get done because the Grand Poobah (read vision caster) has a plan we become cogs in, or that a consultant figured out a really good way to do that kind of a thing, or that we have achieved some level of preparation that now qualifies and certifies us to do it. No doubt, those things can be useful in building a successful organization, but what do they have to do with a temple indwelt by the gracious Spirit of God?

All of us have had our fuse lit by the Spirit of God. In grace towards us, God dropped a bit of spiritual nitro into our souls which infused us with an energy that self-organizes the matter of life into its foreordained design. The gift itself compels us to produce the effects of the gift. Jesus experienced this, Paul did too, so should we. The gift is the tiger in our tanks, so with faith in in the promise of God, take that tiger by the tail and go for the ride of a lifetime.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Foundational and the Following

Returning to our discussion on the list of gifts found 1 Corinthians 12...

Peter divided the gifts into two classifications: speakers and servers; Paul divided them into the equippers and the equipped in Ephesians 4; and in the passage in question, he divides them into the foundational and the following. As I have argued before here and here, the ordinals used in v. 28 refer to sequence not importance. Paul's point in using this demarcation was to show the proper development of gifts in the body, not to offer v. 29-31 as a qualitative gradient that would allow future cessationists to dismiss the miraculous. I think the sequential feature of the text is hard to deny, which makes me wonder why the cessationists wouldn't consider apostles, prophets, and teachers as subject to termination, but the various, primarily miraculous, gifts as continuing just to be more faithful to the text!

The body of Christ, in any area, starts with one, or at best a very few people. Generally, that one was sent there by God to be his representative and to establish his kingdom in that place (the ministry of an apostle). When the apostle starts his work in that place, he is the body of Christ, and whatever ministry comes forth, comes forth through him. As the word with signs attending begins to reap a harvest of souls, folk are added to the one and the body grows. As the body grows, God raises up people to speak as he leads them for the strengthening, encouragement and comfort of God's people (the ministry of a prophet). The church is thereby established as ministry is expanded beyond the apostle to the prophet; hence, the apostles and prophets are foundational to all that is built upon their work in the future.

As growth and development continue, God raises up folk who can teach those who have come to believe what he has commanded and how to apply that word to daily living (the ministry of a teacher). Once a body is at the place where some greater measure of those who have believed the good news have become disciples of Christ (taught), ministry expands into a host of more specified giftings. At the point, the fact that not all are apostles, or prophets, or teachers, or work miracles, or heal, or speak in tongues, as a ministry, becomes self-evident. A obsessive fascination with, or a "self-appointment" to a particular gift out of place and prior to its time only hinders the proper Spirit-directed development of the body. Hence the Paul's dissertation to the Corinthians on the subject.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Spiritual Ontogeny

There are two features of the gift list in 1 Corinthians 12:28 that are particularly worthy of notice and dissection. Even though I've talked about one of them before here and here, the truth always bears repeating, so here I go again...

This list presents the gifts in an extending or telescoping fashion. The ordinals modifying the list are not rankings of gifts per se, but a demonstration of how they arise in time during the development of a church. The counsel in v. 29 may seem to indicate that a qualitative discrimination is intended, but I don't think it fits the context. Would Paul have spent all that effort to illustrate gifts with the body analogy-- pointing out how needed each gift was, how much care and respect each one needed from the others, how necessary it was to be the gift one was intended to be, only to chuck it all with one verse at the end? In other words, would Paul have said, "Be a toenail, we need toenails, your unavoidable destiny is to be a toenail, but desire to be a head!" I don't think so! Even though Paul does use the comparative (meizon) in v. 29, he did not do so to negate all that he had said from vs. 12-27.

So, what was he saying and why did he follow up his arguments with chapters 13 and 14? My reading is that the Corinthian church was completely out of order when it came to the practice of manifestations and spiritual gifts. When they assembled, everyone was trying to one-up everyone else in speaking with other tongues. The spiritual development of the body was arrested, the telescope jammed, and the full scope of gifts was not arising and functioning as it should have. Everyone was stuck on what, really, was an initiation experience that everyone went through. Yes, it was a sign (manifestation), but it had no practical import corporately, other than to evidence that someone had been baptized in the Holy Spirit. After that experience, the only good publicly speaking in tongues had was when it was combined with interpretation. That, apparently, was not what was happening at Corinth. Dysfunction and malfunction was the result.

Interestingly enough, the fact that tongues is listed at all in v. 28 means that somewhere along the line in the development of the body, people will be gifted with an ongoing ministry of speaking (and interpreting) tongues. Granted, it will be when other body parts are more fully developed, but it is most certainly envisioned as a viable, body-blessing ministry. The rhetorical question of v. 29, then, is a self-evident corrective which reminds the Corinthians (and us) to practice everything according to its spiritual ontogeny. Instead of clustering around tongues as a ministry gift, Paul commands the believers in that young Corinthian church to not put the cart before the horse. In that regard, I suppose we'd have to say the "gift" of manufacturing bits and bridles is greater than that of the driver.