The Holy Spirit: Here & Now | Part 4

{Before you read this article, be sure you check out Part 1Part 2, & Part 3}

The Church’s Teaching

The teaching of the 1st century church clearly indicates that the Holy Spirit continues to empower & edify God’s people just like he did in the 1st century until Jesus returns and makes his church fully mature in his presence.

The Lists of the Gifts. 

In Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, & 1 Peter 4 we find lists outlining the various ways the Holy Spirit enables ordinary disciples to do extraordinary service for the building of the church and the advance of the gospel.  Those lists make no distinction between gifts that were just for the 1st century church and others that would remain until Jesus returns. 

The Purpose of the Gifts.

Those who argue for the cessation of some of the gifts found in the lists above do so because they say that the purpose of the miraculous gifts such as prophecy, healing and tongues were narrowly purposed for validating the 1st century Apostles and the unique role they played in the founding of the church.  Even if that is the case it is also clear in the list texts that those very same gifts are given to non-apostles and serve other purposes as well. They testify to God’s presence (1 Corinthians 12:7 & 14:25), build up, encourage and console God’s people (1 Corinthians 12:7, 14:3), penetrate the heart’s of unbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:24-25 ) and bring God glory (1 Peter 4:10-12).

The Pursuit of the Gifts.

Every disciple of Jesus is encouraged to eagerly desire and pursue the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:1), every disciple has been given at least one (1 Corinthians 12:7) and using them is a matter of faithfulness (1 Peter 4:10).

The Passing of the Gifts.

The cessation of the gifts is always tied to either the return of Jesus or events surrounding the return of Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 13:8-12; Ephesians 4:11-13).

In 1 Corinthians 1:7 Paul commends the immature church of Corinth, “you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The issue with the Corinthian church was not their possession of certain gifts but their immaturity, divisive behavior, and a lack of order and structure in their use of them when the church gathered.  It is implied that all the gifts remain until Jesus is revealed when he returns.

In 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 Paul teaches that gifts like prophecy, tongues and words of knowledge will not “pass away” until the “perfect” comes. Many would agree that the “perfect” is referring to events that will take place surrounding the return of Jesus. This seems to be the case because the coming of the “perfect” is tied to seeing God face to face and knowing God as we are fully known by Him. It is clear that the miraculous gifts remain until these things happen. 

In Ephesians 4:11-13 Paul teaches that the gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher will function for the equipping of the church “until” we all attain the unity of faith, the full knowledge of God the Son, and arrive at full spiritual maturity.  In other words, these five-fold gifts continue to function in the lives of disciples and are essential for doing the mission of church until all these things happen.  Just like the 1 Corinthians 13 text indicates, full knowledge of Jesus and full spiritual maturity will take place when we see Jesus face to face at his return.

The teaching of the 1st century church clearly indicates that the Holy Spirit continues to empower & edify God’s people just like he did in the 1st century until Jesus returns and makes his church fully mature in his presence.

Here is reality–Most Christians don’t debate whether the Holy Spirit continues to empower God’s people for the life & mission of discipleship in general. There isn’t much debate over what the Holy Spirit continues to do here and now in regeneration, baptism, sealing, filling, illumination, renewing, leading, and assuring. Where the big debate lies is what the Holy Spirit continues to do here and now in gifting followers of Jesus for mission. In particular, does the Holy Spirit continue to give and empower the gifts of prophecy, tongues and healing today?

The evidence I have presented in these four posts is that there is not a single text of Scripture that indicates that these gifts were meant to cease at any time sooner than the rest of the gifts.  All of the gifts remain throughout the last days as the church awaits the return of Jesus. The example & teaching of Jesus confirms this as well as the example & teaching of the first century church.  All of this evidence compels me to embrace the position of continuationism. 

The Holy Spirit continues to work in the here & now just like he did there & then.

Love the Triune God with all your heart!

Although arguing for the continuation of all the gifts is a matter of importance to me; my broader concern is that we would all have a firm belief in the broad work of the Holy Spirit as the thrid person of the Trinity. To neglect the Holy Spirit is to neglect the character and nature of the one true God who exists in three distinct persons. To have a faith and practice that only operates functionally with the Father & the Son, is not only offensive to the Holy Spirit, it is offensive to the Father and the Son who have been enjoying the rich community and shared mission of the Trinity for all eternity. Not to mention, that any thoughts we have formed about God that do not include all three persons of the Trinity is a false view of God. Let that hit you where it needs to.  We must love & worship the Triune God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. 

Regardless of where you land on the particulars of how the Holy Spirit functions in the here & now, may we all embrace with joy what has been clearly revealed to us in Scripture that God the Father so loved the world that he sent Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit to live the life we could not live, die the death we deserve to die, and rise from the dead so that all who turn from their sin and put their confidence in Jesus might be forgiven all their sin, delivered from all God’s wrath and become accepted & blessed in God’s presence to know and enjoy the glories of the Triune God. This is good newsnot only in the here & now but for all eternity.

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