Monday, November 25, 2013

stott on prophecy

Thanks to Adrian Warnock for pointing to the following by John Stott (a cessationist) on spiritual gifts [emphasis mine]:

If God’s gospel is the first measure by which we should evaluate ourselves, the second is God’s gifts. In order to enforce this, Paul draws an analogy between the human body and the Christian community. As one body, each member belongs to all the others. That is, we are dependent on one another, and the one-anotherness of the Christian fellowship is enhanced by the diversity of our gifts. This metaphor of the human body, which Paul develops in different ways in different letters, enables him here to hold together the unity of the church, the plurality of the members and the variety of their gifts. The recognition that God is the giver of the gifts is indispensable if we are to form a sober estimate of ourselves.

Serve Through Giftedness: Romans 12:6-8.

[6] Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; [7] if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; [8] the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. [ESV]

[6-8] We have different gifts, Paul continues, according to the grace given to us. Just as God’s grace had made Paul an apostle [3], so His grace bestows different gifts on other members of Christ’s body. Paul proceeds to give his readers a sample of seven gifts, which he urges them to exercise conscientiously for the common good. He divides them into two categories, which might be called speaking gifts (prophesying, teaching and encouraging) and service gifts (serving, contribution, leading and showing mercy). The first gift Paul mentions here is prophecy, that is, speaking under divine inspiration. In Ephesians 2:20 apostles and prophets are bracketed as the foundation on which the church is built. In this Ephesians’ verse prophets are likely to be the biblical prophets, including those New Testament authors who were prophets as well as apostles, such as Paul and John. In two other lists of gifts [1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11], however, prophets are placed in a secondary position to the apostles, suggesting that there was a lesser prophetic gift, subsidiary to that of the biblical prophets. Words spoken by such prophets were to be weighed and tested [1 Cor. 14:29; 1 Thess. 5:19ff; 1 John 4:1], whereas the apostles were to be believed and obeyed, and no sifting process was deemed appropriate or necessary in their case. Another difference seems to have been that prophets spoke to a local situation, whereas the authority of the apostles was universal. The point of distinction was that the inspiration of the apostles was abiding, whereas the inspiration of the prophets was occasional and transient. It is in the light of these differences that we should understand the regulation which Paul here places on the exercise of the prophetic gift: in proportion to our faith. Some think that this is a subjective restriction, namely that the prophet should speak only so long as he is sure of his inspiration; he must not add any words of his own. But it is more likely to be an objective restriction. In this case we should note that faith has the definite article in the Greek, and we should translate the phrase ‘in agreement with the faith’. That is, the prophet is to make sure that his message does not in any way contradict the Christian faith. The remaining six gifts are more ordinary. Serving is the generic word for a wide variety of ministries. So whatever ministry gift people have been given, they should concentrate on using it. Similarly, teachers should cultivate their teaching gift and develop their teaching ministry. This is arguably the most urgently needed gift in the worldwide church today, as hundreds of thousands of converts are pressing into the churches, but there are few teachers to nurture them in the faith. Four more gifts are included in verse 8. The word translated exhorts is a verb with a wide spectrum of meanings, ranging from encouraging and exhorting to comforting, conciliating or consoling. This gift may be exercised from a pulpit or platform, or through writing, but more often it is used behind the scenes in encouraging someone, or in offering friendship to the lonely and giving fresh courage to those who have lost heart. Next, personal giving is to be done in generosity or without grudging, with sincerity, without ulterior motives. To show mercy is to care for anybody who is in need or in distress. Moreover, mercy is not to be shown reluctantly or patronizingly, but cheerfully.

No comments: