This week, we will begin working through 1 Corinthians 14, which will put us into the heart of what is perhaps the most theologically controversial topics among evangelicals – the nature and use of the revelatory gifts of the Spirit. There are really only three, but these three cause great division between charismatics and non-charismatics. The three gifts in question are prophecy, tongues, and interpretation. While some people might also include healing in that list, that particular gift does not readily lend itself to teaching or instruction, so I will not discuss it here.
In the discussion of revelatory gifts, there are four main viewpoints. This week, I will outline those viewpoints and in subsequent weeks, I will speak to the specific gifts that Paul is concerned about with the Corinthians.
- Those in the first group are called Cessationists. This is by far the most common group among evangelicals. This group holds that revelatory gifts were especially reserved for the first generation of the church. These gifts had the specific purpose of validating the Gospel and the authority of the apostles. Cessationists argue that these gifts appeared to be diminishing even toward the end of the ministries of the apostles. Cessationists reject any manifestation of revelatory gifts in today’s church. They hold that God’s revelation is complete in the Scriptures and that God only communicates to his church through the Scriptures.
- The second group is made up of those who believe in the continuation of the gifts. Those who hold this viewpoint believe in the validity of the manifestation of gifts in today’s church, but they do not necessarily require that every person have a manifestation of charismatic gifts. While they hold a high view of Scriptures, they also believe that God continues to speak to the church today through revelatory gifts
- The third group, not only believe in the continuation of the gifts, they also argue that all believers demonstrate all of the gifts listed in the Scriptures. This group also holds that all true believers will demonstrate speaking in tongues. This group mostly falls into fringe Pentecostal denominations, and are usually not even included in this discussion because their views fall squarely outside of the biblical revelation.
- The fourth group are in the middle and hold that a modification of the gifts have taken place. They affirm that the offices of apostle and prophet were foundational gifts to the church. They would say that God used these foundational gifts to transmit special revelation to the early church, but that special revelation is no longer available. Any manifestation of any revelatory gift must affirm existing revelation through Scripture and cannot be any sort of new revelation. While at the same time, those who hold this viewpoint believe that the Holy Spirit can and will work in any way that He chooses.
As we begin this three part series, it is important to know these differing viewpoints. It is easy to see why this is such a point of controversy among evangelicals. The most important thing in this is that our understanding of spiritual gifts remain within the confines of the biblical revelation. We are on dangerous ground anytime we make these gifts more than they actually are. I’ve ran into many charismatics who make tongues the first test of orthodoxy, but at no place in the Bible is such a test prescribed. In fact, I would say that those who require such a test are in danger of adding to the Gospel, and in turn in danger of the curse of Galatians 1:8-9. So, buckle up, it’s going to be an interesting ride!
Sermon Audio from July 19, 2009 can be downloaded by clicking here.