Saturday, September 25, 2010

Spiritual Gifts for this generation?

Spiritual gifts is a term that’s not easily understood by some in the church and especially those outside of the church. People often times get them mixed up and confused with the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). Spiritual gifts are endowments given to us to edify the body of Christ, sometimes these gifts can be natural talents we’ve already possessed and the Lord increases our ability to use them for his glory. Other gifts may be things we could never imagined. However as we grow in our relationship with Christ we also begin to bear more fruit (Jn 15:1-8). The Fruits of the Spirit are a sign of our maturation, because as we grow in each successive fruit enhances and becomes more evident. This does not mean that they will always develop in exact order as an example; when you grow in a lifestyle of love, you have more joy, which allows you peace, leading to patience with others, showing kindness and goodness, proving your faithfulness to the Lord, which gives you a gentleness in dealing with others, and proving you have self control.

Now spiritual gifts are those things listed in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 (keeping in mind these are not exhaustive list). After a person has given their life over to the Lord, he blesses them by giving them at least one special talent that can be used for the building up of the body of Christ. Wayne Grudem in his book Systematic Theology gives a list of several great examples of how one classification can be broken down into smaller subsets (for examples look on pg 1020).

Concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit it is my understanding that we receive His presence at the time of our conversion. There is no “second blessing” there may be times when we are closer to the presence of the Lord being guided closer by the Spirit. Elwell states it this way, “In these references the Christian’s reception of the Holy Spirit is no longer the alternative to a water baptism of repentance, but at least its fitting analogue, more probably its supplement and fulfillment. Since for Judaism, for John, and for the apostolic church baptism by water was a rite of initiation into the people of God, the initial experience of the Spirit’s indwelling and enduement came to be called a “baptism in” or “with” the Holy Spirit.” (Elwell 1984,2001, 137)

According to 1 Corinthians 14 the gift of speaking in tongues consist of a man not speaking to men but to God and this usually will occur in a time of prayer and worship. It says that no one understands him but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. And for those who speak in tongues build up themselves. Seeing as how there are many gifts and none of us posses all of them, speaking in tongues is not necessarily the sign of the baptism of the Spirit. Elwell says, “In verses 29-30 it is clear that Paul denies the contention of the enthusiast that every on truly should speak in tongues: “ Are all apostles?... Do all speak in tongues?”” (Elwell 1984,2001, 1207)

Speaking in tongues is still valid today, but no longer as a way to lead people to the Lord (with the exception of some missionary work). Speaking in tongues should primarily be used as a private prayer language, although if someone feels they have the gift of tongues and chose to use it in corporate worship without an interrupter they are violating scripture (1 Cor 14:27-28). In reference to the prefect in verses 8-10 Paul is referring to the time when we shall be face to face with the Lord, because for now we live in an imperfect world.

Many cessationist and dispensationalist would say that the gift of speaking in tongues ceased with the apostles. If this were true then why would Paul speak about the gifts continuing until the “perfect comes”. Since we understand the perfect to be the time we see the Father “face to face”, so until the due time we possess these gifts he has given each to his own (including tongues). So whatever gift you have been given exercise it well that you may encourage the body Christ by doing your part.


Elwell, Water A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids,MI: BakerAcademic, 1984,2001.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Are You Being Pruned or Cut Off?

For many of us today the scenario in which the Lord uses in John 15:1-8 may not make much sense, seeing as how many of us live in more metropolitan settings. However, to those he was speaking to it made perfect sense, because ancient Israel was a more agrarian society. In order for certain plants to grow and produce fruit there are times they must be pruned, like rose bushes for example. If you allow a rose bush to grow out of control the flowers are not as plentiful and the beauty of the buds are lackluster at best.

In times past Israel was considered to be the vine, that is why Jesus says, “I am the true vine….” showing that he is taking the place of Israel. John gives a great example of this in chapter 15 verse 2, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. [1]” So as we grow in following Christ we must be “pruned” in order to grow. Charles Spurgeon says this about pruning, “Many trials are not sent for chastisements at all, but as preparations for higher usefulness.”Every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth,” evidently not because of any offense in the branch, but because the branch is good and does bear fruit! Therefore, it is allowed the special privilege of the pruning knife that it may bring forth more fruit.” (Spurgeon 2005, 303)

Dr. Towns says, “The problem with secret discipleship is that it amounts to a contradiction in terms. Sooner or later, either the secrecy will destroy their discipleship or their discipleship will destroy their secrecy.” (Towns 2002, 125) In living a life as a branch we will produce fruit which we cannot hide, if we do not we will be removed from the vine. Some commentators believe that those who do never bear fruit, truly did not know the Lord to begin with.

We’ve all had moments in our lives, when we’ve tried to do things for the glory of God and we never consulted him about it. Christ is adamant that without him we are incapable of doing anything (Jn 15:5) Leon Morris says, “The condition of fruitfulness in Christian service is vital contact with Christ. On our own we can do nothing.” (Morris 1989, 121) What does the Lord mean when he says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.[2]”? Tenney sums it up this way, “ To remain in Christ and to allow his words to remain in oneself means a conscious acceptance of the authority of his word and a constant contact with him by prayer.” (Tenney 1981, 152)

This passage is one that should make us all examine our lives and look a little deeper to make sure that we are developing fruit. Because in doing so we honor God, know we live for Jesus and others will know to whom we belong.

Morris, Leon. Jesus is the Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1989.

Spurgeon, Charles H. 2,200 Qutations from the Writings of Charles H. Spurgeon. Edited by Tom Carter. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005.

Tenney, Merrill C. The Expositor's Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1981.

Towns, Elmer. John Believe and Live. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002.

The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jn 15:2.

The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jn 15:7.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Jesus as God, Man, or the God-man?

Do you fully believe the statement that “Jesus was a man and as such could not also be God.”? I partly agree with that statement Jesus was a man, but long before he ever assumed an earthly body he was God. (Jn 1:1, 14) We know from the accounts of his genealogy in Matthew, along with the records of his birth that he was born of a woman, and she was a virgin. Like other men Jesus had emotions, he felt sorrow when his friend Lazarus died, we are told in John 11:35 “Jesus wept.” Jesus also got hungry (Matt 4:2) and thirsty (Jn 4:7). Lastly while he was on the cross he had a Roman soldier puncture his side and spill the blood from his heart sac (Jn 19:34).

As for Jesus’ deity he had it affirmed by multiple sources. On two occasions the Father spoke from heaven, once after the transfiguration (Mark 9:7) and Jesus’ baptism (Lk 3:22), on each occasion he refers to Jesus as His “beloved Son.” Jesus forgave sin, since God is only capable of forgiving sin it points to Jesus deity. He also taught people to pray to him, Mark Driscoll in his book Vintage Jesus says, “If Jesus is not God who does not live forever and is not all –knowing or powerful enough to answer our prayers, then he is nothing more than a cruel sadist for asking us to pray to him in faith.” (Driscoll and Breshears, Vintage Jesus 2007, 25)

Now one of the hardest things for our finite minds to comprehend is how Jesus could be both God and man which has become known as the hypostatic union. People have been challenged by this for centuries but the Council of Chalcedon agreed that “ Thus the two natures (physis), consubstantial (homoousios) with the Godhead in Christ’s divine nature and consubstantial (homoousious) with us as the his human nature, were coalesced in one person (prosopon).” (Elwell 1984,2001, 219) Since God is capable of doing anything when he became incarnate “in flesh” he chose to lay aside some of his divine attributes, the best explanation of this is in Philippians 2:5-11. In his book Doctrine, Mark Driscoll says, “By saying that Jesus “made himself nothing,” Paul means that Jesus set aside his rights as God and the rightful continual use of his divine attributes, with the occasional exception such as forgiving sin…. This does not mean that Jesus in any way ceased to be fully God, but rather he chose not continually avail himself to his divine rights and attributes while on the earth.” (Driscoll and Breshears, Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe 2010, 231-32)

When Jesus was born he became the only ever God-man, so by him still being God he’s fully capable of forgiving our sins, and by being man he is able to understand being tempted yet without sin (Heb 4:15). Jesus needed to become incarnate because the wrath of God can only be satisfied by blood. In the Old Testament the priest would offer a lamb for the sins of the people, but He being Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice, and the great high priest making the intercession on our behalf. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ we must be very careful not to down play his deity when talk about him with anyone; in doing so we no longer show him as an all mighty God, but make him into a really moral man. If we over emphasize his deity then he is no longer a personal God who we can have a relationship with because he doesn’t understand or care about our concerns.

One of the largest objections I have ever heard had to be from a Muslim Imam, saying that “there was no way that Jesus could be God because God cannot die.” There are several heretical followings concerning the deity/humanity of Christ or the lack there of. One of which is the Jehovah’s Witness movement that says Jesus is not co-eternal with the Father, but the first of all creation. They also feel that the debt Christ paid removes our original sin but we must work to earn our own salvation. The best response that I can have to these points of view is that Jesus is the Word (John 1:1) and that when he went to the cross he paid the price for me and there is nothing I can do to earn my salvation (Eph 2:8-10).

Christ in his humanity is a great example because he allows me to understand that just as he relied upon the Holy Spirit to accomplish things in his life I must do so as well. Jesus prayed continually for strength and encouragement, and if Him being God prays fervently why should I do any less?

Word Count: 800


Driscoll, Mark, and Gerry Breshears. Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010.

—. Vintage Jesus. Wheaton,IL: Crossway Books, 2007.

Elwell, Water A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids,MI: BakerAcademic, 1984,2001.