Tuesday, August 19, 2008

De spiritalibus

<idle musing>
Poor Paul! About 1950 years ago he penned a letter that contained the sentence "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be uninformed." (RSV) From there he launches into a 3 chapter exposition on "Charismata" which has been misunderstood, misapplied and generally caused all kinds of chaos..

I am only going to make a few observations here, not a general exegesis—you can consult the commentaries and find out all the disagreement you want :(

First: They are gifts, not badges, not signs of spiritual maturity, not licenses to do what you want and brow-beat people into submitting to you. A gift is not earned, deserved, or otherwise given with a stipulation. Just because someone has the gift of healing does not mean they are spiritually mature! Please, understand this point! I have seen gifts used as spiritual badges too many times over the years. They are given for the edification of the body of Christ, not the glorification of an individual.

Second (and this follows from the preceding): Just because someone has a gift that is highly regarded doesn't mean they won't come into judgment! Look at Jesus warnings in the gospels. How many times does he warn that many doing mightly works, such as healings, exorcisms, etc., will be told "I never knew you." Holiness is taken seriously by God. Revivals are wonderful, and I praise God for them. But, if a revival does not result in a deeper understanding of the holiness of God, then it was a failure, no matter how many people were wowed, "saved," or healed. But, mind you, that is not God's fault! It is the fault of our sensationalistic mindset that wants just enough of God to get a high. I became a Christian during the Jesus Movement of the 1970's; more than a few people "came to Jesus" for the spiritual high that it gave them. When the high wore off, they were gone.

Finally: Why is it that people love to accept a "word from the Lord" when it is positive, but when that same person who was so readily embraced offers a word of correction... Well, obviously they are being judgmental or critical. Wake up folks! Prophecy is given to the body of Christ for the edification of the body of Christ. Sometimes edification can only happen by pulling down the bad structure so the Holy Spirit can rebuild with good material. Look at the prophets in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. How often did they upbraid the Israelites as opposed to giving them prophecies of prosperity? It is interesting that the only ones who prophesied food and drink were the false prophets!

Am I down on Charismata? Absolutely not! I have never been a cessationist, but I have been disillusioned by what fallen humanity does with the gifts. I believe they are valid gifts given by God to the church. They are used by God to show fallen humanity that there is a creator, he is alive, active, and he cares for this fallen world.
</idle musing>

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