Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Throwing Off the Theories of Men

If you have been reading my blog regularly, you know I have been processing what God’s word says about spiritual gifts, particularly the much debated gifts that are of a more obvious supernatural character than some of the others.[1] When God’s word explicitly tells us to earnestly desire the spiritual gifts,[2] do we receive this revelation in the obedience of faith, or explain away our need to participate through some expression of clever reasoning?[3]

I have shared about the three “camps” on spiritual gifts, with Cessationists[4] and Charismaniacs[5] representing the pendulum-swinging extremes that are both unbiblical because of the Scriptures they deny. I have sought to show that the position referred to as Continuationists is the only one that accepts the whole counsel of God on the matter, and seeks to live by all the Scriptures that apply. What God’s word says is much clearer than what man’s reasoning claims.[6]

In my journey through this issue, putting my attention on what is revealed rather than what is reasoned, I have settled that the Continuationist position is not only about spiritual gifts, but the only way to look at the whole of the New Testament. At least as I take my position in this regard,[7] it is not only that I believe the revelation regarding all the spiritual gifts was intended for the whole church age until the return of Christ, but that I hold to this one facet of faith (spiritual gifts) because of the greater belief that the New Testament is a solitary diamond that is given to the church until the return of Christ, and every facet of the diamond is still part of the diamond, and still fully in effect as God meant it.[8]

Since I have always known that the Charismaniacs are wrong in their exaggerated obsession with the supernatural spiritual gifts, and I have been indoctrinated in the Cessationist position (while always knowing that the reasoning was not revelation. but not sure what to do with this conclusion), I have had to work out with God how I feel about the possibility of losing people for coming out as a Continuationist. It is not easy on the heartstrings to count the cost of surrendering oneself to the unavoidable conclusion that the whole counsel of God means the whole counsel of God.

I look back to my childhood when I first became aware that family members were not of the same mind regarding God’s place in our lives. It was impossible for me to simply grow up in a viewpoint just because it was the only one taught in my home. The disagreements were unavoidable, and I had to know for myself which was correct so that I could live with whatever I concluded was true.

In the end, I did not choose between family members, but between worldviews. One has proven itself false time and again, while the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ opened my eyes to see that all Scripture is breathed-out by God and is a rock solid foundation for every aspect of life.

In a similar way, my conclusion about Continuationism is not based on a favorite teacher, or a denominational stance, or a reaction to the mishandling of God’s word. It is the simple conclusion that the whole New Testament was written to the church for the whole of the end times, and will only cease to be necessary at the return of Christ at which time the written word is replaced by the presence of the Word.

This morning, as I again wrestled with how much to say about spiritual gifts (including how much our home church needs to hear about this, along with how much others might benefit from our journey), my attention was turned from the negative concern of who I could potentially lose, to the positive and exiting focus on how much I can lose!

In other words, I can lose both the false teachings of the Cessationists and the Charismaniacs. I do not need to deny God’s words for the spiritual gifts on one side, nor God’s words about the decency and orderliness of using the spiritual gifts on the other.

I also realized, at least in a deeper way, that I get to joyfully throw off the false belief that parts of the New Testament teachings are only cultural, and that I need to rely on people to tell me which parts those are. I get to throw off the whole mentality that man gets to dissect the New Testament into cultural sections we do not need to put into practice. Instead of throwing off those supposedly cultural teachings of the breath of God, I can throw off the counterfeit teaching that God would speak something to his church that was so limited in time and focus that we need some popular preacher to tell us God didn’t mean what he said.

I also rejoice to throw off the contemporary teaching that what the New Testament teaches about sin, particularly sin in relation to sexual purity and the marriage relationship, is somehow no longer in effect. I rejoice to throw off any of the false teachings about men and women, about no longer obeying God’s word that “marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”[9]

The point is that, instead of fearing who might throw us off because we take the most biblical position on Scripture, we are invited to rejoice in God’s word no matter what denominational positions we must throw off, no matter what popular teachings we must deny, and no matter whom we might lose along the way. It is our freedom to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”[10] no matter who we lose or gain along the way.

When Paul neared the finish line of his race, he gathered the elders of the Ephesian church together so he could say goodbye to them, and leave them both warned and chellenged about what was ahead. In his testimony to these men he declared, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”[11] Paul’s example continues to encourage pastors around the world to seek this same innocence before God, that we do not shrink back from teaching and preaching the whole counsel of God to the churches under our care.

Paul then gave positive instructions and encouragement to the elders in their oversight of Jesus’ church. “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”[12] Pastors are to care for themselves, both as individual elders, and the brotherhood of elders who care for the larger community of the church. They (as the whole collection of elders) are also to concern themselves with “all the flock”, meaning the care of the whole church, not just any isolated little group.

Along with this positive exhortation, Paul warns about the negative things as well. A shepherd is just as focused on protecting his flock from harm as he is in leading it to health. So, Paul declared, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.[13]

Two problems were on their way. One was that “fierce wolves” would infiltrate the church, seeking to steal, kill, and destroy,[14] just like their father, the devil.[15] The other was the heartbreaking revelation that some of their own number, some of the men who were already elders in the church of Ephesus, would rise up and begin speaking “twisted things” in order to “draw away the disciples after them.”

In other words, we face two dangers. One is that we will encounter false teachers coming into churches and seeking to destroy the church Jesus is building. The other is that, even from within churches, people will rise up to distort and twist Scripture so they can be the center of attention for the disciples.

What’s the point? That it doesn’t matter who is telling us not to “observe” everything Jesus has breathed-out in the New Testament Scriptures.[16] Our aim is to have innocent hearts that declare and live by the whole counsel of God.

For me, this aim was once burdened with the fear of who I would lose. Now it is woven through with joy over how much I get to lose, and throw off, in order to, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation”.[17]

Our longing for the pure spiritual milk, including living by every word that comes from the mouth of God,[18] is like any other diet. It requires throwing off some things that are bad for us, and replacing them with other things that are good for us. In this case, we can joyfully throw off any false teachings, no matter who promotes them, and joyfully hold to every God-breathed word of Scripture with all our hearts.

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] If you haven’t read my posts, just look up the blog label “spiritual gifts” for what I have shared.
[2] I Corinthians 14:1
[3] I believe the difference between revelation and reasoning is significant, and yet this difference is often sadly missed in the debate over spiritual gifts.
[4] Cessationists believe the supernatural spiritual gifts ceased with the apostles rather than continue because the apostles taught them to the church.
[5] Charismaniacs is not a reference to Charismatic churches per se, but to those groups that obsess about the supernatural spiritual gifts rather than include them in the decent and orderly way the apostles instructed.
[6] It should be noted that this is always the case, but we are easily drawn back to idolize reasoning the way the serpent first made use of the method in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3 for the way Satan reasoned with Eve in order to deceive her, and lead Adam to bring sin into the world).
[7] I do not know if there are nuances of the Continuationist position believed and taught by others with which I would disagree. I simply present my view that the revealed teachings of God regarding spiritual gifts continue until the return of Christ, just as everything else taught in the New Testament, since that is the way it is taught in the breathed-out words of our heavenly Father.
[8] Yes, I know that many New Testament teachings are distorted by teachers of the word, and no, this does not mean that we reject what God really says and teaches. We do not throw away what is real just because there are so many counterfeits. Neither do we reject what is revealed because a favorite teacher has found a way to reason away their denial of New Testament Scripture.
[9] Hebrews 13:4
[10] Hebrews 12:1-3
[11] Acts 2:26-27
[12] Acts 20:28
[13] Acts 20:29-30
[14] John 10:10
[15] John 8:44
[16] Matthew 28:18-20, the Great Commission, includes our obligation to teach Jesus’ disciples to observe everything he has commanded and taught. This includes all the God-breathed words of Scripture, for they are the unified expression of the Triune God.
[17] I Peter 2:2
[18] Matthew 4:4

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