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Division In The Church - The Gifts of the Spirit

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Division In The Church

The Gifts of the Spirit



How good and pleasant it would be
If Christians lived in unity
Like precious oil love would flow
And bless God's people here below*

Like dew upon the morning grass
God's blessing would our lives compass
Ever a blessing we'd then be
Now, as through all eternity*

    One of the main rifts which is seen in the church of today is a problem which Paul addresses in his letter to the Corinthian Church. The problem of the gifts of the Spirit and the way in which they portray the holiness of the believer. It is a problem of modern Christianity because in the early church (after the passing of the apostles) and up as far as the reformation there is no mention, at least in my study, of this doctrinal dispute. In fact the tongues issue (which is what we will concentrate on mainly) is not even mentioned in the creeds of the early church or even in the reformation. In reading the works of many of the church fathers there is no reference to tongues as a by-product of Holy Spirit endwellment. Even during the great revivals of the 16-1800's I can find no reference to a tongues movement, perhaps due to the fact that those revivals involved a people of the same tongue with the exception of the Indian Nations. This group of people were reached with the gospel through men who had learned the language earlier in their lives.

    All Christians will agree that the Holy Spirit makes His presence felt in the believer's life through gifts which go contrary to the nature of sinful man. It is through the action of these gifts that we are to understand that the Spirit indeed does dwell in our lives. (Gal.5:18-26) They can be used as a basis of comparison to understand the spiritual growth in other believers (I Cor. 15: 1-13), and in many cases be used to determine the true spiritual standing so far as regeneration is concerned in other men (I John 4:20-5:8). The main cause of dispute arises when the physical outward appearance is compared to the spiritual inward work of the Spirit. Is speaking in tongues mandatory for the complete filling of the Holy Spirit?
Yes say the following statements:*

Kingdom Principles (The Door Fellowship) Lesson 17 # VI,and XI "There are nine gifts mentioned in I Cor. 12:8-10: 1.the word of wisdom 2.the word of knowledge 3.the discerning of spirits (wonder-working faith) of healing(s) 6.the working of miracles 7.prophecy 8.divers kinds of tongues 9.the interpretation of tongues We minister these gifts according to the proportion of faith we have."

Assembly of God: Page 4 section 8 The evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit: "The full consumation of the Baptism of believers in the Holy Ghost is evidence by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance, and by the subsequent manifestation of spiritual power in public testimony and service. Acts 2:4; 10:44-46; 19:2,6; Acts 1:8; 2:42,43."

The following doctrinal statements do not place emphasis on tongues as a prerequisite of Spirit endwellment.

Independent Baptist: Section 4: The Person and Work of The Holy Spirit "(a) We believe that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Godhead who convicts the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgement; and that He is the super natural Agent in regeneration, baptizing all believers into the body of Christ, indwelling and sealing them unto the day of redemption. (John 16:8-11; 2 Cor.3:6; 1 Cor. 12:12-14; Rom.8:9; Eph.1:13,14) (b) We believe that He is the Divine Teacher who guides those who have been born again through the Word into all truth; that it is the privilege and duty of all believers to be filled with the Spirit;" (note no reference to tongues) "and that he is the effectual power for Godly living; Christian Service, and spiritual worship. (John 16:3; 14:16-26; 3:5-7; I Pet. 1:23; Eph.4:30; 5:18; I John 2:20,27)

Wesleyan: XIII The Gifts Of The Spirit: "118. We believe that the Gift of the Spirit is the Holy Spirit himself, and He is to be desired more than the gifts of the Spirit which He in His wise counsel bestows upon individual members of the church to enable them properly to fulfill their function as members of the body of Christ. The gifts of the Spirit, although not always identifiable with natural abilities, function through them for the edification of the whole church. These gifts are to be exercised in love under the administration of the Lord of the church, not through human volition. The relative value of the gifts of the Spirit is to be treated by their usefulness in the church and not by the ecstasy produced in the ones receiving them."

    As a historical note, let us look for a moment at points in history when the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was seen in the church. We know from the account in Acts of the revival of the church at Pentecost that tongues were necessary in the reaching of lost souls for the Lord. We read in Acts 2:5 that "there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven." These men needed to be reached with the gospel of Christ.  God, using the tool of ignorant fisherman who did not know the languages of those to whom they preached, gave them the gift of tongues that the Word of God could be understood by all men. Acts 2:7-11 brings this out clearly. Does this than mean that there must be tongues for the power of the Spirit to be manifest or did God employ this power at the time because it was necessary for the edification of the church? The answer may be found in looking at another period of revival which swept the world in the 1700's, a time known as the great awakening. We know from history that the Spirit of God worked a miraculous work in the hearts of men at this time. This quote is taken from Ian H. Murray's book "Jonathan Edwards A New Biography" chapter 9 "The Great Awakening"

"There was in the minds of people, a general fear of sin, and of the wrath of God denounced against it. There seemed to be a general conviction, that all the ways of man were before the eyes of the Lord. It was the opinion of men of discernment and sound judgement, who had the best opportunities of knowing the feelings and general state of the people at that period, that bags of gold and silver, and other precious things, might, with saftey, have been laid in the streets, and that no man would have converted them to his own use. Theft, wantonness, intemperance, profaneness, sabbath-breaking, and other gross sins, appeared to be put away. The intermission on the Lord's Day, instead of being spent in worldly conversation and vanity, a s had been too usual before, were now spent in reading and singing the praises of God. (History of Connecticut, 1898, 2, pp.111-2)"

    There is no mention at all of tongues or for that matter miraculous healings or other signs and wonders which accompanied the first revival, yet there was revival. There was definitely an uncontrolled filling of the Spirit of God and conviction of sin. Men, woman, and children turned to Christ just as in the revival in Acts. That causes this student to believe that the true sign of Spirit filling is not outward but inward. This does not mean that God cannot or will not use tongues again if He deems it necessary to call out a people for His name. In His sovereignty He will use anything He desires to bring about revival. What I do see is perhaps the desire to use a result (in this instance tongues) to accomplish a work (the filling of the Spirit) instead of the work accomplishing a result.

    Again,as stated in the last chapter concerning spiritual perfection, the same test must be made in the life of each believer and perhaps in the church as a whole. Is the manifestation of tongues accompanied by the fruits of the Spirit? (II Tim. 2:6-26) Does the spiritual lift and the feeling of peace, love and joy continue long after the tongues have ceased? (I Cor. 13:1-10) Is our only desire and need seen to be the study of God's Word and prayer and are we continually brought to a point in our lives where we realize our own insufficiency? (Rom.7:12-25) If not then according to God's Word any outward manifestation we may experience is false and does not have its origin from the Spirit of God. Finally, is this dispute worth splitting the church over?

    Those who speak in tongues cannot judge the hearts of those who do not, likewise those who do not cannot judge the hearts of those who do. If the tongues movement of this day is false it will be brought to light at the judgement seat of Christ. If it is truly authentic, brothers who do not experience it had better not be guilty of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. In either case the action of the Holy Spirit is what brings about the true fruit and we have nothing of ourselves to boast in, we are merely vessels in the master's hand.

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