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December 14, 2007 / Daniel

Spiritual Gifts

Here’s some more of my project for Christian Theology.  This is usually a pretty controversial issue.  I think that it’s pretty important that Christians are gracious here when discussing this with folks that disagree.

According to His sovereign will, the Holy Spirit has equipped the church with spiritual gifts for the edification of the church, the evangelism of the world, and the worship of God (Mark 16:15-20; Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:7-11; Eph. 4:11-13; Heb. 2:3-4; 1 Pet. 4:7-11). I believe that all of the gifts, including the so-called “sign gifts,” are for today. Scripture does not support the conclusion that some of the more miraculous gifts ceased within the apostles’ lifetime (1 Cor. 13:8-12).

That said, I tend to think that the gift of tongues is the ability to speak a known human language, which has not been previously learned by the speaker (Acts 2:5-13).

I believe that all believers have been baptized in the Spirit and the phrase “spiritual baptism” does not refer to a second work of the Spirit after conversion (1 Cor. 12:13).

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13 Comments

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  1. Matthew C / Dec 14 2007 11:18 pm

    Why do you think there has been an absence of supernatural gifts for the major part of church history?

  2. Bryan L / Dec 15 2007 12:38 am

    Too bad your WRONG!!! just kidding.

    But I do disagree with the known human language thing. Interpreting Paul in light of Acts 2:5-13 just doesn’t make sense of what he’s saying. I do agree with your spiritual baptism point though.

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  3. Daniel / Dec 15 2007 2:39 am

    Matthew,

    I think it has a lot to do with our prepositions. Two people can look at the same event, and one person thinks that it’s miraculous and the other person looks for a naturalistic explanation.

    Take Hume’s definition of a miracle for example. He defines it as something that breaks the laws of nature and a law of nature is just a description of what happens. By his very definition, miracles cannot happen.

    Bryan,

    What specially in the text makes you think that Paul cannot be talking about a known human language?

    Daniel

  4. Bryan L / Dec 15 2007 4:11 am

    The fact that people speak in tongues to God and nobody understand them because they are speaking mysteries in the spirit.

    People pray in tongues, their spirit prays but their mind is unfruitful; that doesn’t make sense with unknown human languages.

    The fact that someone coming in off the streets would think they were out of their mind for speaking in other human languages.

    The fact that in the regular church life the gift of tongues for speaking in other human languages would be a pretty useless and unedifying gift.

    (I trust that you are familiar with the passages that I’m referring to. if not just let me know)

    Plus it just seems to be placing too much weight on a passage from another NT author, which comes much later, for interpreting Paul. Also I think it is odd that Judeans in Acts 2:9 are astounded that they hear the tongues. If they speak the same language as the disciples then what is so astounding? What would people sneer at and say they are filled with wine if it just sounds like they are speaking the languages of the foreigners who were visiting and their own native language if they are Judeans? And what would foreigners find odd about hearing people speak in other languages than their own?

    It sounds like the disciples were speaking in an unintelligible language that sounded like babble and God was giving some who were present the ability to understand them and here them as if it is was in their own language. Thus Judeans could be there and hear the babbling but then be surprised when they could understand it and hear it in their own language. It could be similarly to when someone goes into an English speaking church and hears a message in tongues as if it were spoken in English, meanwhile others don’t understand it. It happens.

    Anyway that’s my opinion. What do you think?

  5. Matthew C / Dec 15 2007 9:32 am

    You believe that true spiritual gifts have been practiced throughout church history?

  6. Dennis / Dec 15 2007 3:06 pm

    Daniel,

    Great Post and I agree with all of it or most of it.

    The Spiritual Gifts are more than just speaking in tongues or the gift of prophecy. These are great gifts but don’t really do that much to build up the Church. Aquinas wrote that the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit are:

    1. Wisdom
    2. Knowledge
    3. Understanding
    4. Fortitude
    5. Piety
    6. Counsel
    7. Fear of the Lord

    As told to us from Scripture in Isaiah 11:2-3. When praying to the Holy Spirit, we should ask for these gifts and it will be given to us.

    Speaking in Tongues is a cool thing but does not necessarily edify the Church and can start leading people to a frame of mind where “I’m speaking in tongues while so and so is not. I must be better than them!” I think we can all agree that that’s not the proper frame of mind.

  7. Daniel / Dec 15 2007 3:59 pm

    Bryan,

    It’s an unlearned language. So it doesn’t present a problem that the mind of the speaker doesn’t understand what he’s saying. I’ve never learned German, so if God’s Spirit enabled me to speak German it would be a complete mystery to me.

    The Greek world of Paul’s today was quite a bit different than ours. The community at Corinth was extremely diverse. It probably represented 7 or 8 different languages. So if you spoke one of the rarer ones, no one in the community would understand you.

    I do think that this gift would be helpful if used correctly in a multicultural setting. It would edify the body to understand each other.

    As far as the relation to Acts and Paul, I disagree. I think that Acts was written before Paul’s death, the sixties AD. It reveals a lot of insight in Paul’s writings. BTW, this is why the NPP is so attractive. It takes the concerns of Luke (ethnic diversity) reads Paul in like manner.

  8. Daniel / Dec 15 2007 3:59 pm

    Matthew,

    More or less.

  9. Bryan L / Dec 15 2007 4:59 pm

    Do you think there were people traveling around Corinth and who were part of the churches in Corinth who didn’t speak Greek but only their own native language?

    What if God enabled you to pray to him in German and you don’t speak German? What’s would be the point? What would be edifying about that for you? However those who speak in tongues in modern day settings find it to be very edifying even when they don’t understand what they’re saying.

    Why would foreigners (potential Germans) think you are out of your mind if they walked into your church and you are speaking German?

    Interpreting Paul as speaking about foreign languages just seems to raise more questions and complications than it seems to help. It pictures the Spirit enabling people in the church to speak random foreign languages at random times sometimes when no one was around to understand. Back to your German example it would be like the spirit enabling you to speak a message in German in your church while no one is around that speaks German and then someone is then gifted with the ability to translate that spirit inspired message that was in German back into English.

    Why do you think Acts was written so early? Just because it doesn’t tell about Paul’s death? Do you also believe Luke is that early?

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  10. Daniel / Dec 15 2007 5:21 pm

    I take Luke/Acts to be written before Paul’s death, simply because of the importance of Paul to Luke. Acts reveals that Luke deeply admired Paul and I can’t help but think that he would have told us about Paul’s death if it had happened.

    Newcomers would think that the Corinthian church was crazy if they walked in and everyone was praying in a different language at the same time in a disorderly fashion. That would be completely chaotic.

    I do see you point about the interpretation of tongues though. That makes sense.

  11. Matthew C / Dec 15 2007 7:37 pm

    I think you would have a hard time reconciling this conclusion with the data of church history, Daniel.

  12. Daniel / Dec 15 2007 8:04 pm

    Matthew,

    People read church history with prepositions.

  13. Brian / Dec 15 2007 10:47 pm

    Have y’all read Kenneth Berding’s What are Spiritual Gifts?: Rethinking the Conventional View (Kregel Publications, 2006) I think it would be helpful.

    In regards to tongues I think there is flexibility that it can go either way: unlearned human language or supernatural language of some sort – the thing we have to remember about Paul is that he doesn’t fit categories well – and as soon as we try to put something he wrote in to a category – it is like trying to put a cat into a tub of water; it doesn’t go well.

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