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Holy Spirit

I have been reluctant to speak out too much on this. I stick to scripture and what it has to say. Scripture has a lot to say about the gifts of the Holy Spirit and so I have written about it some. I find no instance of scripture saying or implying these gifts of the Holy Spirit would cease to function and exist.

I started following Jesus as a young teenager. I am a devout Christian. I became a member of the Baptist Church (and still am a member) and was baptized there. I started seriously studying scripture.

Scripture is our sole authority (Sola Scriptura) and I defend scripture vigorously.

  • All the words in the bible are God’s words.
  • To disbelieve or disobey any word of scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God
  • Our final authority is written scripture, not academic speculations about background topics
  • The Bible is the inerrant word of God
  • The Bible is sufficient. That means that Scripture holds all the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly

Early on in my walk with Jesus, I read about being immersed in the power of the Holy Spirit and the gifts given as a result. I prayed to God and the power of the Holy Spirit overwhelmed me. I did indeed start speaking in tongues. I have for over 50 years now. I believe the gifts given by the Holy Spirit still exist today. I have seen them scripturally used in many church settings.

I learned this from the Apostle Paul. He knows what he is talking about.

I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.[1]

Source: ~Apostle Paul | 1 Corinthians 14:18

And here is more …

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.[2]

Source: ~Apostle Paul | 1 Corinthians 14:1-2

Imagine my surprise to learn that some of my brothers and sisters considered me to be a heretic and in deep error. Perhaps you will now be one of those people as well. According to some I am not a Christian and my life in Jesus is “a sham” and a “counterfeit form of spirituality”. This is shocking to me.

One of the main critics of Continuationism (Charismatics and Pentecostals) is John MacArthur. I deeply respect hm and his work. John is a Reformed Baptist pastor and author known for his internationally syndicated Christian teaching radio and television program Grace to You. He has been the pastor of Grace Community Church, a non-denominational church in Sun Valley, California since February 9, 1969. He is currently the chancellor emeritus of The Master’s University in Santa Clarita and The Master’s Seminary.

I am not sure what to make of this statement from him. He authored a book titled “Strange Fire” and held a two-day conference on the topic. I have read it all and watched the video of the conference. It is stunning that he attacks people like Gordon Fee, John Piper, Terry Virgo, Dave Devenish, Wayne Grudem, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Jack Hayford, and Sam Storms.

I believe theologians like John Piper and Wayne Grudem are mighty men of God who love Jesus deeply. Dr. MacArthur’s comments have me scratching my head. Why be so harsh?

Put simply, charismatic theology has made no contribution to true biblical theology or interpretation; rather, it represents a deviant mutation of the truth. Like a deadly virus, it gains access into the church by maintaining a superficial connection to certain characteristics of biblical Christianity, but in the end it always corrupts and distorts sound teaching. The resulting degradation, like a doctrinal version of Frankenstein’s monster, is a hideous hybrid of heresy, ecstasy, and blasphemy awkwardly dressed in the tattered remnants of evangelical language. It calls itself “Christian,” but in reality it is a sham—a counterfeit form of spirituality that continually morphs as it spirals erratically from one error to the next. . .

John MacArthur (Source: Strange Fire: Every biblical argument refuted

I am reminded of the theology debate that Jesus had with the religious elites (the Sadducees). This is very instructive. My goal has been to know the scriptures and know them well. I also want to know the power of God. They go hand in hand.

But Jesus answered them (the religious elites), “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.[3]

Jesus has given us the key. We must know both the scripture and the power of God. Knowing one without the other is dangerous.

Here is a thoughtful observation from Adrian Warnock. Adrian is a medical doctor who worked in the UK’s NHS as a psychiatrist for eight years. He then worked in the pharmaceutical industry for fifteen years helping to run the clinical trials that bring us new medicines and communicate the results. Adrian has a reputation for delivering complex messages simply in engaging articles, presentations, and interviews on podcasts, radio, and TV. Adrian has written a Christian blog since 2003 at Patheos and is author of Hope Reborn and Raised with Christ. He is also a podcaster. Adrian served on the leadership team of Jubilee Church London for more than a decade.

We charismatics are not merely charismatic because it feels right to us, but because we believe the Bible teaches us, we should be.

I want my cessationist friends to sit up, take notice, and realize that they are very wrong to dismiss us as theologically weak, and with no ground to stand on.  I want them to truly see us as brothers and sisters. I want them to appreciate that we believe what we do for good biblical reason. And I want them to offer us the same respect as they offer those, they disagree with over matters such as water baptism, eschatology, church government, etc.  Christians need to understand that there are others who have come to the Bible and gone away with different conclusions on these matters. Having an opinion is not wrong. Slandering someone else because they have a different opinion to yourself is very wrong.

There are of course many that have gone before in this regard, and I refer you to the writings of people such as Gordon Fee, John Piper, Terry Virgo, Dave Devenish, Wayne Grudem, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Jack Hayford, Sam Storms, and others for much better and more detailed defenses of the points I will be making.  The writings of these people are so much a part of me that I am sure there will be nothing original in what I say. I will not be referencing them in most cases, however, as I simply will not remember where I got certain ideas from. Meanwhile, my friend Frank Viola in his response to Strange Fire has been posting arguments he wrote in his 20s against MacArthur’s cessationism.

Source: Adrian Warnock (patheos.com)

So, what does the renowned theologian Wayne Grudem conclude (he is a continuationist). Wayne is a New Testament scholar turned theologian seminary professor, and author. He co-founded the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and served as the general editor of the ESV Study Bible.

Wayne is the author of multiple books, including Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, which advocates a Calvinistic soteriology, the verbal plenary inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, believer’s baptism, a plural-elder form of church government, and the complementarian view of gender relationships. Systematic Theology is a highly influential theology textbook that has sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Grudem holds to noncessationist charismatic beliefs and one of the main apologists and spokesmen for reuniting Charismatic, Calvinist, and evangelical churches.

This comment from him sounds conciliatory. He does not take the bait from his critics. He turns the other cheek.

Finally, it can be argued that those in the charismatic and Pentecostal camps and those in the cessationist camp (primarily Reformed and dispensational Christians) really need each other, and they would do well to appreciate each other more. The former tends to have more practical experience in the use of spiritual gifts and in vitality in worship that cessationists could benefit from, if they were willing to learn.

On the other hand, Reformed and dispensational groups have traditionally been very strong in understanding of Christian doctrine and in deep and accurate understanding of the teachings of Scripture. Charismatic and Pentecostal groups could learn much from them if they would be willing to do so. But it certainly is not helpful to the church as a whole for both sides to think they can learn nothing from the other or that they can gain no benefit from fellowship with each other.[4]

Source: Wayne Grudem

What should I conclude? I stand by what scripture says. I am ready to engage with anyone who thinks I am in error. If I am, I will repent.

What are we to think of spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit in the church today? The Apostle Paul lays out a great summary in his letter to the Corinthians. The purpose of these gifts of the Holy Spirit is to build up the church. These gifts of the Holy Spirit continue in the church today.

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Master; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. [5]

~Apostle Paul | Source: 1 Co 12:1–11

Here are the nine gifts that Paul outlines:

  1. Utterance of wisdom
  2. Utterance of knowledge
  3. Faith
  4. Gift of healing
  5. Working of miracles
  6. Prophecy
  7. Ability to distinguish between spirits
  8. Various kinds of tongues
  9. Interpretation of tongues

This is how the church should function. These gifts are reinforced in many places in the New Testament. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are real and are to be encouraged. My guess is, regardless of your denomination, you know people who have some of these gifts of the Holy Spirit.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.[6]

~Apostle Paul |Source: Galatians 6:9-10

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 14:18.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 14:1–2.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 22:29.

[4] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Second Edition. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2020), 1255–1290.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 12:1–11.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ga 6:9–10.