Part 3 in a series

By Philip L. Powell - in which he asks the question:

Can the Cessationist and the moderate Pentecostal reach agreement over spiritual gifts?

Spiritual Gifts & Callings

Believing that this might prove to be the major issue confronting part of the church in our time, the author sent an earlier draft of this series by email to a number of prominent Christian leaders from both the cessationist and non-cessationist camps, with an invitation for their comments. A number responded and some of the responses have been incorporated. However Philip Powell accepts full responsibility for what is published in the entire series recognizing that his will not be the final word on the topic. The intent is to open the subject and give a reasonably comprehensive overview. Your comments are very welcome.

Apostles and Prophets

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit - Ephesians 2:19-22 .

In another place Paul tells us that Christ Himself is the foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11). Here, in Ephesians, he explains that this foundation is already laid and that Christ is also the "chief corner stone" viz that which holds the whole building together. The apostles and the prophets of Ephesians 2:20 have done the job once and for all time (cf Jude 3). They were an exclusive group who were committed to a unique work. Neither will ever be repeated. The work of the apostles of the Lamb and the prophets of the scripture, through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, was foundational to the establishment and continuous building of the church of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is common ground for both parties — sola scriptura! Extreme Pentecostals and Charismatics depart from the sufficiency of scripture when they fail to see this and like Peter Wagner and his associates go into a non-biblical authoritative heavy shepherding teaching that end times "apostles and prophets" lay the foundation of the present day church.

For example, Peter Wagner says,

I am giving considerable emphasis to prophecy on these pages because I sense we are living in the midst of an extraordinary move of God. It has recently become evident that the fastest growing segment of Christianity on six continents is a movement I call the New Apostolic Reformation. It includes, among many others, African Independent Churches, Chinese house churches, Latin American grassroots churches, independent charismatics and many local congregations still operating within traditional denominational structures. One of the most innovative characteristics of this movement (although several exceptions might exist) is the reinstatement of the New Testament offices of prophet and apostle.1

The idea that modern "apostles and prophets" are the foundation of the church is rank error and leads to an apostasy of THE FAITH once delivered to the saints. But — and here's the dividing line between those who take a cessationist position and those of us who don't — while the Ephesians 2:20 "apostles and prophets" and their work were unique, those mentioned two chapters later are not just the twelve or the Old Testament prophets, as an examination of the context and a detailed study of the New Testament make plain.

And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ - Ephesians 4:11-13.

Here is the New Testament reference to the five (some say four) ascension ministry gifts of Christ. Each person is himself a "gift" of Christ to His church. Naturally each will have "gifts" to enable him to perform his function, but that is not the emphasis of this passage. Christ gave each ministry gift to His body for all time — until "we all come to the unity of the faith". The fact that "evangelists" and "pastor/teachers" or "pastors and teachers" are mentioned alongside of "apostles and prophets" points to the fallacy of the idea that the ministry gifts of apostles and prophets ended with the canon of the New Testament or the passing of the apostles of the Lamb. Paul teaches that Christ gave all five (four) for the "equipping of the saints for the work of ministry", which is required throughout the church age.

The incident of Acts 1:15-26 indicates that the apostles chosen by Christ did not view themselves as exclusive. They were prepared to elect someone to replace Judas. Irrespective of whether we view Matthias or Paul as the true replacement, we are faced with an extension to the original twelve apostles.

Acts 14:14 mentions Barnabas as another. It is possible, though not certain that Judas, Barsabas and Silas (see Acts 15:22, 23 & 33) were also apostles. Some have pointed to Romans 16:7 as including Andronichus and Junia (a woman), but the evidence is flimsy to say the least.2 Wayne Grudem writes,

The verse has too little clear information to allow us to draw a conclusion.3

It is far more likely that the apostles recognised them as notable faithful followers of Christ. The idea of a woman being a New Testament apostle is contradicted by Paul in 1 Timothy 2:12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34.

These considerations, plus texts such as 2 Corinthians 11:13 and Revelation 2:2 indicate that the term apostle was fairly liberally applied to leaders in New Testament times, so much so that there arose false apostles, who were in danger of deceiving God's people. All of this points strongly to the idea that we are not looking at an exclusive group that was as numerically limited as some have led us to believe.

Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet I show you a more excellent way - 1 Corinthians 12: 27-31.

In 1 Corinthians chapters 12 to 14 Paul is basically dealing with conduct within the local church especially as it applies to spiritual activity. He commences with the injunction— "Now concerning spirituality" literally "spirituals" [Greek pneumatikos (Strong 4152) the word gifts is not in the original of verse 1]. In verses 4-7 he outlines his subject:

1) Verse 4 — different gifts — taught in verses 7-11;
2) Verse 5 — different parts(members) — taught in verses 12-27; and
3) Verse 6 — different appointments (functions) — taught in verses 28-30.

Contrary to what is implied by some Pentecostals, Paul is dealing with spirituality and spiritual function as a whole within the context of a local church and not exclusively with the gifts of the Spirit. So, could it be that when he comes to consider appointments (functions) as the final point of his teaching in this chapter, he is talking about those who operate only in a local church setting? In other words are there local apostles as distinct from the twelve and distinct from the apostles of the church universal?

The problem that we face is one of translation (language). The Greek “apostolos” (Strong 652) signifies one who is sent forth with orders. He is a delegate or a messenger. Our English apostle transliterates the word and this has tended to create grandiose ideas, which may not have occurred had the word been translated. Peter Wagner and the many Assembly of God and other Pentecostal leaders, such as Brian Houston, Phil Pringle, Mark Conner, John Lewis and Danny Guglielmucci, whom we named in an earlier edition of CETF4 as being some who have jumped on the band wagon of self promotion, have cashed in on this and in so doing have over-looked what Paul had to say about himself and other genuine ambassadors (apostles) of the New Testament church. He calls himself the least of the saints, the greatest of sinners and, as an apostle, one who was set last not first. He was an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ i.e. one who was sent forth to represent the One who made Himself of no reputation and became obedient to the death of a cross. It is an issue of identification not one of authority.

If all the marks of an apostle as outlined by Paul were applied to those who see themselves as modern day apostles there would be few takers. Yes Paul does speak of supernatural signs (2 Corinthians 12:12) and church planting (2 Corinthians 10:16), but he also points to the things that he suffered and his good example in appointing to office only those who shared his character and humility (2 Corinthians chapters 11 & 12).

On one occasion I told my former colleagues who were touting one of their members as an apostle that he was precluded on account of the character of some whom he appointed as pastors. One was a homosexual and another became a double adulterer. These things do count even though the modern church so readily overlooks them and hides the facts. Apostles don't appoint men of questionable character and conduct as pastors or elders of God's people.

So in summary, while Cessationists may see only one expression of the ministry of apostles and prophets in the NT, there is a strong biblical argument for at least two and possibly three.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit everyone. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another different kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these work by one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man according to his will - 1 Corinthians 12: 7-11.

The biblical word "manifestation" (1 Corinthians 12:7) Greek “phanerosis” (Strong 5321) is derived from “phaneroo” (Strong 5319), which contains the idea of something that "shines forth" as distinct from "fruit" (Galatians 5:22) Greek “karpos” (Strong 2590), which signifies that which grows i.e. the natural product of life. The nine gifts of the Spirit, in their pure expression are manifestations i.e. (the out- shining) of the works of God, of whom the Holy Spirit is the executor. The nine fruit of the Spirit are the natural product of the nature of God, who is love. True manifestations and the real fruit of the Holy Spirit reveal God in His works and in His nature and character. They are complementary and should never be viewed as competitive or mutually exclusive.

Cessationists never question the validity of the fruit of the Spirit at any point in church history, including the present day, so why do they question the gifts of the Holy Spirit? Is there any biblical basis for their denial? Some point to 1 Corinthians 13:8-13. The argument mainly relates to the statement that "tongues will pass away" (in the middle voice) i.e. "pass away of themselves". The argument is not convincing as an examination of the passage shows:

Love never fails: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away --verses 8-10.

Groups like the Strict or Bible Baptists and some Open Brethren have argued that the "perfect", which Paul said would come, is a reference to the completion of the canon of scripture, when prophecies and tongues would cease.

While not naming the denominations, John MacArthur acknowledges,

Many suggestions have been made as to the meaning of 'the perfect'. Some believe it is the complete New Testament; thus they conclude this passage is saying that tongues would cease when the canon was closed.5

But there are huge logical and contextual problems to that idea. Paul says that knowledge will "vanish away". Did this happen with the advent of the canon of scripture? Knowledge far from vanishing has increased enormously. Faced with this problem some cessationists say that the knowledge referred to is the supernatural gift of the word of knowledge mentioned in verse 8 of the previous chapter. If that is so then how do they explain the phrase "we know in part" in the context of their argument? Did the canon of scripture make our knowledge complete? If you reason that Paul and the Holy Spirit are referring to the supernatural "word of knowledge" then logically you must say that the coming of the canon of scripture extended the gift into another dimension. It didn't cause it to cease.

Then they are faced with a further problem when asked to explain the analogy of 1 Corinthians chapter 13 verses 11 and 12,

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

The completion of scripture does not put anyone of us in a position where we know everything (even as we are known), nor does it ensure that we always put away childish thoughts and ways. The coming of the "perfect" to which Paul refers cannot possibly be a reference to the canon of scripture though we agree that the scriptures are perfect. And yes we agree with many cessationists that it is not our Lord Jesus Christ that he is referring to, though He too is perfect. On the basis of logic and the context of the passage it is quite clear that Paul is talking about a future state, which will eclipse this present church age. He is alluding to the Second Coming of our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ when the gifts of the Holy Spirit as the early church and the pilgrim church of the ages experienced them will no longer be required. The clause "then face to face" (v 12) is the key to WHEN this will be — at his second coming.

So what are these gifts and how do they operate? First we must face a prior question — what initiates the reception and/or manifestation of the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit?

In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, (v2) and saying, Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (vs 5&6) Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and the entire region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins (vs 10-12). And now also the axe is laid to the root of the trees: therefore every tree, which brings not forth good fruit, is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptise you with water to repentance: but he who comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptise you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the granary; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire - Matthew 3:1-12.

According to Hebrews chapter six there is a New Testament doctrine of baptisms cf, v.2 and note the plural. In the above scripture John Baptist mentions two:

1) His own baptism in water to repentance; and

2) Baptism by Christ with (into) the Holy Spirit and with fire.

The New Testament mentions three other baptisms:

3) The Baptism of Suffering—for Christ and His followers (Luke 12:50 cf. Matthew 20:22-23);

4) Christian Water Baptism replacing John's Baptism (Matthew 28 cf. Acts 19:3-5);

5) Baptism by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13).

Each of these baptisms forms an important part of the third of the six foundational truths spoken of in Hebrews chapter 6 and is worthy of deep study.

For the purposes of this article we need to look briefly at the second and the fifth viz baptism by Christ, the Head of the church in or into the Holy Spirit and baptism by the Holy Spirit into Christ i.e. the body of Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 12:13 Paul refers to the Holy Spirit as the subject of the action and the body of Christ as the element into which the believer is immersed. In Matthew 3:11 John the Baptist identifies Christ as the subject of the action and the realm of the Holy Spirit as the element into which the followers of Christ would be baptised. There are obvious distinctions so we must conclude that there is a real difference. Can this be confirmed from other Bible passages? Yes!

John chapters 14, 15 and 16 contain the major teaching of Christ regarding the Holy Spirit whom He identifies as the comforter, helper, advisor or advocate. His essential work is to replace and represent Christ by "abide[ing] with you forever" (John 14:16- 18), "teach[ing] you all things and bring[ing] all things to your remembrance" (John 14:26), "testify[ing] of Me" (John 15:26) and "convict[ing] the world of sin, righteousness and of judgement." In achieving this Jesus said to His disciples, "you know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you" (John 14:17).

In summary our Lord taught that the Holy Spirit is WITH in REVELATION i.e. convincing or convicting of sin, righteousness and judgement. He comes INTO to bring ANIMATION i.e. life at the moment of the new birth or what we call regeneration. This is illustrated when our Lord appeared to His disciples on the day of His resurrection, breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22). Such teaching is in complete harmony with Peter's view of the new birth as taught in his epistle,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead - 1 Peter 1:3.

Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible by the word of God, which lives and abides for ever - 1 Peter 1:23.

In the act of regeneration the Holy Spirit enters the life of the believer and applies the Word of God, which is the active life-giving agent. As Paul puts it, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). The basis of this is not what happened at Pentecost but what happened at the resurrection of Christ.

In Acts chapter one our Lord promised that the Holy Spirit would come upon His disciples to empower them to become witnesses to Him i.e. DEMONSTRATION, see Acts 1:8. In verses 4 and 5 He calls this the Promise of the Father, which He Himself had previously told them about and which He links to the action and statement of John the Baptist — see Matthew 3:11. It is very clear that the baptism in or into the Holy Spirit by Christ the Head of His church, to which John the Baptist referred and which Christ said would occur "not many days from now", took place on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts chapter 2, ten days after Christ's ascension (Acts 1:9).

By comparing scripture with scripture it seems reasonable to say that it is by the entry of the Holy Spirit into a person that he/she is "baptised" (initiated) into the body of Christ and it is by the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the believer that he/she is baptised (initiated) by Christ into the realm of the Spirit. That both may happen simultaneously is possible; that each may be separate in time and occasion is also possible.

The Crux of the Matter

He that speaks in an unknown tongue edifies himself; but he that prophesies edifies the church. I would that you all spoke with tongues, but rather that you prophesied: for greater is he that prophesies than he that speaks with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying - 1 Corinthians 14:4&5

1 Corinthians chapters 12 to 14 contain some of the most difficult and contentious parts of the New Testament.6 The issue of "speaking with tongues" has been one of the most divisive. While that is acknowledged, neither the passage of scripture nor the gift of tongues should be ignored. All scripture is inspired of God i.e. God breathed (2 Timothy 3:16) and is therefore vital to us as His people.

In 1 Corinthians 14:4-5 Paul brings together what are often referred to by Pentecostals as the three vocal or inspirational gifts, though both designations are obvious over- simplifications. The context shows that he is teaching the correct public function of these gifts in the local church at Corinth, where he implies all sorts of abuses including the wrong use of the gift of tongues. He tells us that the person who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues unless that person actually interprets the tongue, which he speaks. The reason being that tongues, on its own does edify the individual but it does not edify the church, while prophecy on its own does edify the church.

The basic idea of edify is to build up. Remembering that Paul is teaching the public operation of the gifts for the benefit of the whole church, his meaning is quite clear and, contrary to what has been claimed by some cessationists, he is correcting and not condemning the public use of speaking in tongues. In another verse he actually says that he uses the gift of tongues more than anybody and thanks God that he does, but when he is in church he chooses not to speak in tongues, his emphasis being on teaching. (1 Corinthians 14:18-19).

Quite obviously then Paul has in mind a speaking in tongues which is other than public. In verse 15 he writes:

I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also

He then links this in verse 18 with speaking with tongues. The argument of verses 4 and 5 — see above — points very clearly to the idea that all public tongues speaking, whether ordinary speech or in song requires interpretation for the edifying of the church, something which is not required if it is done in private. This is in line with the force of Paul's argument of verses 18 and 19. There is no other satisfactory explanation of this passage of scripture,

What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. Else when you shall bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupies the place of the unlearned say Amen at your giving of thanks, seeing he does not understand what you say? For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified. I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than you all: Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue - 1 Cor 14:15-19.

NEXT - What is the Gift of Speaking with Tongues?


1)  C. Peter Wagner, Praying with Power. Ventura, California: Regal Books, 1997, p44
2)  Some versions render this as Junias which is masculine.
3)  Grudem, Systematic Theology, p909
4)  23 CETF Vol 6.1 (April 2000) page 4.
5)  John MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos, p389
6)  It also includes the sublime chapter on love.

Share this post

Submit to DeliciousSubmit to DiggSubmit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to StumbleuponSubmit to TechnoratiSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn