Monday, December 05, 2005

Spiritual Gifts In Context (With a Little Help From Mahaney and Owen)

Many may have been following the debates in blogdom raging about spiritual gifts (usually tongues and prophecy) - if not check out the following links; and more broadly the discussion about being "Open but Cautious" or more accurately as we have agreed; "Open but Discerning"; and and my contribution entitled;

It seems that Mark and I are both in agreement about being troubled with the perhaps over-emphasis on especially tongues and prophecy. My concern comes from the 'Open but Cautious' situation especially from my SGM experience where there is no discussion whatsoever about the baptism of the Holy Spirit or His filling or revival but at the beginning of each worship time, worshippers are encouraged to "bring any gifts that may occur". This usually manifested itself in my experience with a Scripture being read, or a "God loves you" sort of word. I am sincerely concerned that this "charismatic dimension" that is often spoke of has been re-defined and re-defined until it ends up as the occasional prophetic word (or song - where's that in Scripture?) occuring in worship.

Let me emphasise that my passion for the spiritual gifts has diminished in no sense whatsoever. I do not agree at all with a gentleman who left a comment on Mark's blog that tongues is a gift for the immature. I read 1 Corinthians as Paul saying that tongues will build you up, because your spirit is communicating with God in a manner that your mind does not understand.

Gordon Fee writes in his commentary on 1 Corinthians:

"Contrary to the opinion of many, spiritual edification can take place in ways other than through the cortex of the brain.

So I am still a great lover of the gifts of the Holy Spirit! The last time I was at Church of Christ the King in Brighton, I heard and saw such an outstanding demonstration of 1 Corinthians 14 in operation. A couple brought powerful words of prophecy that were weighed seriously and carefully by the elder running the meeting. Terry Virgo brought a beautiful sounding tongue that was intepreted by Dave Fellingham - it was such a poetic beautiful song of praise to God that almost sounded like Song of Solomon - a love song to Jesus!

But that aside - I still do not want to exalt the gifts to the level that they have, in terms of our discussions and the fact that for some they represent the total "charismatic dimension" of a group of churches.

I woke up this morning with the following sermon really on my heart as an outstanding context for spiritual gifts. Ironically it was given by C J Mahaney himself at Stoneleigh Bible Week 2000. It was the first time that I, my family and the friends I had gone to Stoneleigh with had heard of this 'C J Mahaney' and we were very impressed with his passion, his humour, and his defined Reformed Doctrine.

I want to present that sermon in my usual format that I have done with some of C H Spurgeon's - basically an outline and the relevant points or quotes. I don't know if it is still available from Newfrontiers - but it's a sermon well worth hearing. Before I do so with that, I found this quote from Dr John Owen. It seems even more important because of course Owen was a cessationist in terms of the sign gifts or miraculous gifts. He said this;

"These gifts are not to be despised for they are the powers of the world to come by means whereof the Kingdom of Christ is preserved, carried on and propogated in the world".

It's fascinating to read on and find that Owen brings a far broader perspective and view of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we modern charismatics have limited them to.

So to C J Mahaney:

Title: "All Gifts From God".

Text: Luke 17:11-19 - the story of the ten lepers.

Key Point: "All Gifts From God Are Intended to Direct Our Attention To God and Create Fresh Affection For God".

Preliminary Comments:

"The broad work of the Spirit" (Gordon Fee) shows us that this is not just the spectacular in regard to God's blessings.

"The gifts of God are good, they are to be received with thanks and joy but they are not God. They point away from themselves to God".

Mahaney then expounds the text with 3 points.

1. Our Sinful Tendancy.

To receive from God without returning to give thanks to God.

This includes;

i) Common grace - or grace to all regardless of salvation or not. This means breath to live, limbs to move around on, a tongue to speak, a mind to think. These are all common grace and not to be taken for granted!

ii) Special grace - salvation itself, baptism in the Spirit (Mahaney did speak about it back in 2000!), and the gifts of the Spirit that were being addressed.

2. Our Saviour's Grief.

(v17). "Then Jesus answered and said; 'Were there not ten clensed? But the nine - where are they?". A quote from Darrell Block;

"Jesus is not asking for an answer. He is making a stinging observation. They have MISSED THE MOMENT!".

3. Our Sanctified Response.

Note that;

i) It was immediate. - (v15)

A quote from Leon Morris; "If men do not give thanks quickly, they usually do not give thanks at all".

ii) It was passionate. - (v15)

A quote from Mahaney himself; "Being loud is biblical! How can you not be loud when you have encountered the Saviour? ANYTHING LESS THAN LOUD IS UNACCEPTABLE!".

iii) It was Cross-centred. - (v11).

"On His Way to Jerusalem".


jul said...

I heard C.J. give this sermon a few years ago at Celebration East. It is a great sermon. It's probably available through Sovereign Grace Ministries if not through NewFrontiers.

Baxter's Boy said...

I'm really glad it was preached elsewhere and so not limited to just those at Stoneleigh!! That's great to hear.

I think he spoke during it of how "quick we are to forget". I wonder if the subject of gratefulness comes into the charismatic/cessationist debate much ...

jul said...

I think that the degree of joy we have as believers is related to the degree of thankfulness we have. Also, one of the problems I have with the cessastionist position is simply the fact that if the all the gifts are really for us and we reject any of them, it seems very ungrateful. However, I know that's not the heart behind the position.