Wednesday, October 18, 2006

some spiritual gift warnings for balance

CJ Mahaney reviews 1 Co 12-14. He considers these chapters as a gift to the church then and now. Specifically, we can benefit from the wisdom contained here so that we do not repeat the mistakes of the Corinthian Church.

There were many things "wrong" with the Church at Corinth but Mahaney focusses in on the idea that even while they were guilty of numerous errors both doctrinally and ethically, they considered themselves mature. And worse, they were arrogant about it. They lacked no spiritual gift and therefore they thought they were special. They also put special emphasis on tongues. This gave them the idea that they were angel-like.

Yet with all of that, Paul refers to them as the seal of his Apostleship. And so he provides them correction and direction. To do that he defines for them what true spirituality is which is

  1. sound doctrine
  2. godly character
Paul's concern is to establish a Christological focus on what it means to be spiritual. When asked who has the Holy Spirit, the answer is not he who has tongues. It is he who calls Jesus Lord.

Gordon Fee - "... the ultimate criteria of the Spirit's activity is the exhalation of Jesus as Lord. Whatever takes away from that, even if they be legitimate expressions of the Spirit, begins to move away from Christ to a more pagan fascination with spiritual activity as an end in itself."

David Prior - "To be truly spiritual drives a person neither to ecstasy nor to individualism nor to other-worldliness, but into the life of service in the local church as an expression of his personal commitment to Jesus as Lord and to His body here on earth."

DA Carson - "the love he is about to discuss [referring to Paul in 1 Co 13] cannot be classed with charismata. It is not one charisma or one gift of many. It is an entire way of life. utterly transcends the claims of this or that charisma."
But let's be clear, Paul is not saying charismata is not important. Instead he is bringing them into focus with sound doctrine and godly character. That is, the way the gifts are to be expressed is more important then the gifts themselves.

Therefore, from Paul's perspective, love is the primary work of the Spirit in the life of the believer. Here Paul is talking about this relative to charismata but we should be reminded that this is true against anything. That is, we can not be charismatic at all and still pride ourselves for our faithfulness, or perhaps our Bible knowledge, or whatever. In the end, if we are people of the Spirit, we live be love and that is the seal that we wish to demonstrate.

Jonathan Edwards - "some confident that they could identify the Spirit's work began to encourage the idea that the greater the outcry [people overwhelmed in conviction of sin, etc.] and the commotion, the more glorious was the evidence of God's power. And once this idea was accepted the door was open to all manner of excess."
The true evidence is doctrine and character. Although the outcry and commotion may have been legitimate, it was not primary. We must take care to not confuse legitimate with primary. This leads to excess. Conversely, because something is not primary, this does not mean it is not legitimate. Let's not be found guilty of discouraging or blocking the full activity of the Spirit.

As a bit of a side note, and I agree with it, Mahaney intimates that 1 Co 14 is evidence that we don't need to create some kind of gathering called a "seeker service". I like that.

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