The Spirit Endowing
From the graces which the Spirit works in God’s children, we turn now to consider the giftswhich He bestows upon God’s servants. This brings us to a comprehensive subject, and instead of devoting two brief papers thereto, a series of lengthy articles might well be written thereon. We can but here single out one or two aspects of it—those which we consider most need our attention today. Broadly speaking the fundamental principle underlying this branch of our theme may be expressed thus: when God calls any to the performance of special work in His service, He equips them by the gifts of His Spirit. For example we read, "The LORD hath called by name Bezaleel . . . and He hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship; and to devise curious works, to work in gold" etc. (Ex. 35:30-32).
Now just as men erred grievously concerning the being of God, grossly misrepresenting Him by images; and just as there have been the most horrible errors respecting the Person of the Mediator; so there has been fearful confusion upon the gifts of the Spirit, in fact it is at this point there pertains the most serious mistakes with regards to Him. Men have failed to distinguish between His extraordinary and His ordinary gifts, and have sought to generalize what was special and exceptional. Urging the rank and file of professing Christians to seek"power from on High," the "baptism of the Spirit," or His "filling for service," the wildest extravagances have been fostered and the door has been opened wide for Satan to enter and delude the souls and wreck the bodily health of thousands of people.
Gift of Prophecy
It was well said by John Owen nearly three centuries ago that, "The great deceit and abusethat hath been in all ages of the church under the pretense of the name and work of the Holy Spirit, make the thorough consideration of what we are taught concerning them exceedingly necessary." The most signal gift of the Spirit for the benefit of His people in Old Testament times was that of prophecy. The Prophets were men who spoke in the name and by the authority of God, giving forth a Divinely inspired message from Him. It is not surprising, then, that many pretended unto this gift who were never inspired by the Holy Spirit, but rather were filled by a lying spirit, Satan making use of them to accomplish his own designs: see 1 Kings 22:6, 7; Jeremiah 5:3 1, etc. Those facts are recorded for our warning!
This same gift of prophecy occupied a prominent place in the early days of the Christian dispensation, before the New Testament was written. The Gospel was at first declared from the immediate revelation of the Spirit, preached by His direct assistance, made effectual by His power, and accompanied in many instances by outward miraculous works, the whole of which is designated "the ministration of the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:8). Those extraordinary manifestations of the Spirit were then so obvious and so acknowledged by all Christians that those who wished to impose and deceive found no more successful method than by claiming to be themselves immediately inspired by the Spirit. Consequently we find such warnings given by God as, "Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (1 Thess. 5:20, 21); "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you" (2 Pet. 2:1); "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God"(l John 4:1).
Gift of Discernment
In order to preserve the church in truth and peace during those primitive times, and safeguard them from being imposed upon by the false prophets while there was a real communication of the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit (whereby the more occasion was afforded for charlatans to pretend unto the possession of them), God graciously endowed some of His people with the gift of "the discerning of spirits" (1 Cor. 12:10). The saints were thereby provided with some who were enabled in extraordinary manner to judge and determine those who claimed to be specially endowed by the Spirit—but when the extraordinary manifestations of the Spirit ceased, this particular gift was also withdrawn, so the Christians are now left with the Word alone by which to measure and try all who claim to be the mouthpiece of God.
Signs and Wonders
"How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit" (Heb. 2:3, 4). This passage makes known to us God’s design in the miraculous gifts of the Spirit at the beginning of this dispensation. They were for the purpose of confirming thepreached Word—for none of the New Testament had then been written! They were for the establishing of the Gospel; not to beget and strengthen faith, but to cause unbelievers to listen to the Truth—compare 1 Corinthians 14:22, 24, 25.
In 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 we are supplied with a list of those extraordinary gifts of the Spirit which then obtained—we use the word "extraordinary" in contrast from His ordinary gifts, or those which obtain in all ages and generations. "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 divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues" (1 Cor. 12:8-10). It will be noted that just as "the fruit of the Spirit" is divided into nine graces (Gal. 5:22, 23), so "the ministration of the Spirit" is here described under nine distinct gifts. A very few words must now suffice upon them.
"The word of wisdom" (1 Cor. 12:8) was a special gift bestowed upon the Apostles (hence it heads this list of gifts) for the defense of the Gospel against powerful adversaries: see Luke 21:15! "The word of knowledge" was a special gift bestowed on all then called of God to preach the Gospel: it supernaturally qualified them to expound Divine mysteries without protracted study and lengthy experience: see Acts 4:13! "To another faith," a special gift which enabled its possessor to trust God in any emergency, and to boldly face a martyr’s death: see Acts 6:5. The "gifts of healing" and "the working of miracles" are seen in their exercise by the Apostles in the Acts. "To another prophecy" or immediate inspiration and revelation from God. Upon "tongues" and their "interpretation" we shall have more to say later.
Non-continuance of Extraordinary Gifts
Now that all of these special impulses and extraordinary gifts of the Spirit were not intendedto be perpetuated throughout this Christian dispensation, and that they have long since ceased, is clear from several conclusive considerations. Their non-continuance is hinted at in Mark 16:20 by the omission of Christ’s, "and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). So, too, by the fact that God did not give faith to His servants to count upon the same throughout the centuries: it is unthinkable that the intrepid Reformers and the godly Puritans failed to appropriate God’s promise if any had been given to that effect. "Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away" (1 Cor. 13:8).
The Apostle cannot there be contrasting Heaven with earth, for those on High possess more"knowledge" than we have; so the reference must be to the cessation of the miraculous gifts of 1 Corinthians 12. The qualifying language "which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us . . . with signs and wonders" (Heb. 2:3, 4) points in the same direction, and clearly implies that those supernatural manifestations had even then ceasedFinally, 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 proves conclusively that there is now no need for such gifts as prophecy and tongues: we are "thoroughly furnished" by the now complete Canon of Scripture. (Please click here to continue reading, "The Spirit Endowing")
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