Spiritual Gifts Today?

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I think that most Christians would agree that the revival of spiritual gifts in the early 1900s has given rise to significant division within the Church.

It saddens me deeply to see dear, Bible-loving Christians on both sides of this divide, engaged in publicly and privately, tearing each other apart. They hold their views so firmly that they aren't prepared to give an inch in terms of where they stand and, when challenged, they only dig their defensive holes even deeper. Well, I'm certainly not one of the people selling spades here. I sincerely want to see some love come into both sides of this tragic split.


PEACE

What I venture to propose here is a way forward that could bring healing to this breach.


Firstly let me explain where I'm coming from, and even if at first glance you’re inclined to dismiss what I am saying out of hand, I simply ask you to be prepared to persevere right to the end of this article, because it probably doesn’t go where you might be expecting it to go.

I've practiced spiritual gifts for more than 50 years, but if you were to ask me what my spiritual gifts are, I would answer, I don't have any!

Having spent most of my Christian life worshipping in Pentecostal or Charismatic churches, I became so uncomfortable with the increasingly undiscerning and flippant attitudes shown with regard to spiritual gifts that, on moving to France in 2005, I was pleased to join the leadership of a church where spiritual gifts were not openly practiced. My position was the same as Paul's, it's better to have no gifts than to settle for the disorder of the Corinthian Church to whom his epistle was addressed.

Interestingly, both sides of this argument use Paul's first letter to the Corinthians as their principal ammunition on this battlefield.


Firstly, I would like to find some common ground

Neither side will disagree with the fact that spiritual gifts were in use throughout the Church at the time that Paul wrote. So, what was the major thrust of Paul's problem with gifts within the Corinthian church? It's clear that they were misusing the gifts and he sees pride, selfishness and lack of love in their behaviour.

In I Corinthians 13, Paul writes the beautiful passage on love in order to show that, without it, spiritual gifts are empty, without meaning, and even a waste of time.


I hope that you are all still in agreement with me.

I believe that the lack of love is a still a valid reason for us not to practice spiritual gifts today, and this is in line with Paul's teaching. We only have to look around us to see that many contemporary Charismatic churches areundiscerningjust like the Corinthians or indeed, even worse. Some of them certainly deserve all the criticism they get.


History

History tells us that there has always been a distinct lack of love on both sides of this divide though. When the new and enthusiastic Pentecostals of the early 1900s returned to their home churches and tried to integrate with their fellow Christians, they met a stone wall of opposition. They were for the most part rejected outright by the churches they loved. Perhaps this was not altogether surprising, as in their enthusiasm, they often gave the impression that they felt themselves to be superior Christians, having received this “extra” revelation and empowering from the Holy Spirit. In fact the traditional churches had the wisdom and caution that these new Pentecostals really needed but, because of the hurt pride, anger and prejudice on both sides, a seemingly insurmountable split developed. There were outstanding theologians on both sides, but even these brilliant minds found no way out of the stalemate. This longstanding wound has never been able to heal because each side continues to rub salt into it.


A Sad Situation

We have to ask ourselves what spiritual gifts would be like, if they were used with true humility, love and respect?

This is where I return to my statement that I do not possess any spiritual gifts. I can hear the Charismatics saying: but, but, but.... So, let me explain:

If I believe that the Holy Spirit has spoken to me about something and I pass it on to the church, who has the gift of prophecy? Not me, as I have passed it on! The Church has now been given the gift of a prophecy. Equally, if I pray for someone who is sick and they're healed, who has the gift of healing? It's obvious, the person who was sick has been given God's gift of healing! I've merely been used to transmit the gift. This means that I can only pass on what God gives to me! I'm not a prophet or a healer and I have no status as a result of what God has done. I would only say that I do my utmost to listen to God, and then obey Him, that's all.

OK, perhaps you can argue with this idea and make it into a theological issue, but the fact remains that the basic things that were wrong with the Corinthian church and the church today in their use of spiritual gifts, are things like pride, jealousy and lack of love.


A Way Forward

I believe that there is one simple thing that can totally change our attitude towards spiritual gifts, whatever our viewpoint, and that is that we acknowledge that spiritual gifts are the Holy Spirits gifts, not ours. This change of view will help prevent anyone from feeling that they are special and superior to other Christians. It will help them to keep a humble attitude, rather than feeling that they have a gift (and consequently a status) that others need to recognise. Instead, they can only be grateful and humbled if God choses to use them.

This change of position requires that we all totally submit ourselves to God. It is He who decides whom he will bless, and not us. This really is God's territory. We're powerless in ourselves unless He choses to use us to transmit his blessing.

By accepting that spiritual gifts are God's to give as and when he wills, and not ours, there should be no reason for anyone to reject spiritual gifts today.


What good is a church full of people who don't believe in healing? What if God wants to heal someone but no one is ready to pray in faith?

What good is a church full of people who believe they're healers if God doesn't choose to heal?

We must let God be God! Even Jesus said that he only did what the Father told him to do. Let's have the same attitude, otherwise we will only be rushing around 'ministering' in our own strength, and most likely doing more harm than good.


Let's look at two Scenarios

1

Youdon'tbelieve in spiritual gifts today:

You're talking to someone about spiritual things and you have an inspiration and it really blesses and helps the hearer. Do you thank God, or do you think how clever you are? If you thank God, then stop telling yourself that you don't believe in spiritual gifts, God has used you for his glory with one of them!

2

Youdobelieve in spiritual gifts today:

You're talking to someone about spiritual things and you have an inspiration that really blesses and helps the hearer. Do you thank God, or do you think how gifted you are? If you thank God, then stop telling yourself that you're gifted. God has simply used you for his glory!


Barring extremism of course, if you're prepared to be real, then you will understand that this is really the heart of the problem. Viewed this way, you can see how close the two positions actually are!


Do you have the faith to really place this issue into God's hands, and let the Holy Spirit guide you in love, or will you continue to cold-shoulder those who don't agree with you?

I cannot over emphasise how important it is that we bring love into this situation! This is the key that will open every door, even those that we ourselves have locked and barred. After all, it's by loving one another that men will know that we are His disciples.


If you find that in getting down to the heart of this problem I have over-looked concerns that you have, I'm sure you'll find more information in my other articles. Particularly 'Spirituality today', 'Prophets today' and 'Discernment or Judgment’.

I believe that a new way forward is needed and that means not raking over all the tired old arguments, this would achieve nothing.


Martin Edwyn

Martin Edwyn 2015/2016