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A KEY DOCTRINAL OVERVIEW
A Compendium of Messianic Bible Studies
By Norman Manzon
PAGE 3 OF 5
MAJOR TOPICS IN SYSTEMATIC PROGRESSION:
~ THE CHURCH ~
In this study, we will examine the universal body of Messiah. In our next, the local congregation. Each sentence of our Statement will be examined in detail, though not necessarily in its order of appearance.
The "body of Messiah (or Christ)" is a biblical designation of what is commonly referred to in the Brit HaChadashah (New Testament) as the church. Colossians 1:18: And He is the head of the body, the church.
There had been perhaps 1300 or 1400 Pentecosts prior to the days of Yeshua (Jesus), but the body of Messiah began on the first Pentecost after His ascension. This sequence of points demonstrates this:
1. Previous to Yeshua's death, resurrection and ascension, He declared that His body or church was still future.
2. The body was formed when the first believers were baptized by the Holy Spirit.
By combining the above points we see that Spirit baptism, which initiates the formation of the body of Messiah, was future to Yeshua's declaration prior to His death, resurrection and ascension.
3. After Yeshua's ascension He commanded His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they were baptized by the Spirit.
Spirit baptism had not yet occurred even at this point in time after Yeshua's ascension. The formation of the body was yet future.
John 7:38-39 also declares the futurity of Spirit baptism after Yeshua's ascension. Though Spirit baptism is not specifically mentioned here, it should be clear after our sequence of points that it is included in the giving of the Spirit spoken of here:
4. The believers were filled with the Holy Spirit on Shavuot or Pentecost.
A breathtaking event accompanied by audible and visible signs from Heaven occurred on this first Shavuot after Yeshua's ascension. The Spirit filled the believers; but were they baptized by the Spirit? The terms are not synonymous. Let's look further.
5. About twelve years subsequent to that Shavuot, the believers in Cornelius' household were baptized by the Spirit.
In Acts 11:15-16, Peter described his experience to the church council in Jerusalem: 15. And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, as on us at the beginning. 16. And I remembered the Word of the Lord, how He said, John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Peter's declaration shows that what Cornelius and his household experienced was Spirit baptism.
6. Peter identified the Spirit baptism of Cornelius' household with that which occurred on the first Shavuot after Yeshua's ascension.
As Acts 1 is preparatory to Acts 2, we can conclude that the beginning was the events of Acts 2. What happened to Cornelius' household was Spirit baptism. Thus, what happened to the Jews on the first Shavuot after Yeshua's ascension was Spirit baptism.
The body of Messiah, the church, began to form on the first Shavuot after Yeshua's ascension, for that is when believers were first baptized by the Holy Spirit.
Beginning with the Gentile proselytes to Judaism who were baptized by the Spirit along with Jews on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:10: Jews and proselytes), God has been calling Gentiles out of the world and adding them to Yeshua's body to be a people for His Name (Acts 15:14). This will continue until the fullness of the Gentiles has comes in (Romans 11:25). God will continue adding Jews and Gentiles to His body until the full number of Gentiles that He has foreordained has been reached. When the last Gentile will be added, the body of Messiah, the church, will be fully formed.
The body began to be formed on Shavuot, and its formation will cease when the fullness of the Gentiles has comes in.
Once Messiah's body is fully formed, God will resurrect all deceased members of the body and remove them and all living members from the earth and into His presence in Heaven in an event known as the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:12-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18); and so shall [they] ever be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Only those in Messiah will be included (1 Corinthians 15:18,19,22; 1 Thessalonians 4:16). In Messiah (In Christ) is a phrase that is used exclusively of believers in Messiah's body. Old Testament saints (Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2) and deceased Tribulation saints (Revelation 20:4) will be resurrected immediately or very shortly after the Great Tribulation.
There are countless local congregations, but there is only one universal body of Messiah. Ephesians 4:4-6:
The passage also shows that all in the one body are necessarily saved: even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling; 5. one Lord, one faith....
A local congregation may be referred to as a local body and is expected to function as a body, but the term and the concept must not be confused with the universal body of Messiah. The body of Messiah is a designation which Scripture reserves for the universal church, which is composed solely of believers, and of all believers corporately, from Shavuot to the Rapture (Romans 7:4; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 4:12).
This will be shown in a sequence of two points:
All believers are in the body, and each is considered a member. 1 Corinthians 12 tells us that the significance of each being called a member is threefold:
There were believers in the promise of Messiah before the Day of Pentecost, and there will be new believers during the Great Tribulation and Kingdom Age. They will all experience the blessings of the Messianic Kingdom and the eternal ages to follow, but are not considered part of the church, the body of Messiah.
Understanding that the body of Messiah began at Shavuot and will be removed from the earth at the Rapture is critical for rightly dividing many portions of the Word of Truth. It enabled us to see who will and will not be raptured. It also enables us to rightly divide between those under the Law and those not under the Law; between Israel and the church; between believers in Heaven and believers on earth during the Great Tribulation; and more.
We've seen that Ephesians 4:4-6 shows that all in the body are necessarily believers: even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling; 5. one Lord, one faith. one baptism.
John 3:18 corroborates this: He who believes on Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.
Condemnation in this context refers to eternal damnation. It is reserved for those who do not believe in Messiah. However, the body will be brought into the Lord's presence at the Rapture, and faith in Messiah qualifies one for entry into the body. If all believers are baptized into the body, and all unbelievers are condemned to Hell, it is inescapable that entry to the body is solely and exclusively by faith in Messiah.
We know that the body of Messiah is distinct from Israel for a number of reasons. Here are a few:
The body is described as one new man (v. 15) composed of both Jews and Gentiles in Messiah
Israel and the Gentile nations had already been in existence when the body of Messiah was formed, and the body is referred to as a new man. If it is new, then it is distinct from Israel as well as from the Gentile nations. Furthermore, Israel is a nation by natural generation, whereas the body of Messiah is a new man by virtue of regeneration, which is of the Spirit.
Another reason we know that the body is distinct from Israel is because no Gentile who joined himself to Israel was ever called an Israelite (for example, Ruth 2:2,21; 4:5,10), whereas all Jews and Gentiles who join the body of Messiah are called by the same designations: believers, Christians, saints, etc.
Another reason is because Israel is referred to as the married, then divorced, and yet to be remarried Wife of Jehovah (Jeremiah 3:1,20; Ezekiel 16:15), whereas the body of Messiah is referred to as the betrothed and yet to be married Bride of Messiah, the latter of which will be discussed below. There is no way to join the two metaphors into one.
Another is that only a small handful of Israelites under the dispensation of the Law had the Spirit "with" them (rare exceptions had Him "in" them, as well), whereas Scripture indicates that all believers from Shavuot to the Rapture have the Spirit "in" them. Furthermore, the Spirit did not always rest on those few Israelites permanently, whereas the Spirit is said to be with all members of the body of Messiah forever. The contrasts summarized: a few, all; with, in; temporarily, forever: (John 7:37-39; 14:16-17; Numbers 11:17-25; 27:18; 2 Kings 2:9-12; 1 Samuel 16:14; Psalm 51:11).
Another distinction is that the deceased in the body will be resurrected at the Rapture (see above), which will take place before the Great Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 5:2-9; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-13, etc.), whereas all Old Testament saints, including all Old Testament Israelite saints, will be resurrected after the Great Tribulation (Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2).
Another is that the entire body of Messiah will be with the Lord in Heaven during the Great Tribulation (1 Corinthians 15:51-52), but only those Israelites saved between Shavuot and the Rapture will be in Heaven during the Great Tribulation.
Another is that the entire body of Messiah will spend an eternity in the blessed presence of the Lord, but only a minority from among Israel, a remnant (Isaiah 1:9, 10:22; Romans 9:27), will be saved.
It is true that the New Testament refers to Israel under Moses as the church in the wilderness (Acts 7:38) baptized (immersed) unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea (1 Corinthians 10:2); but the Greek word translated church simply means an assembly. According to Smith's Bible Dictionary, "Ecclesia, the Greek word for church, originally meant an assembly called out by the magistrate, or by legitimate authority." The "legitimate authority" that called out Israel from among the nations, and the body of believers from the world system, is the same: the Lord. However, the Israelites in the wilderness were an assembly by virtue of natural birth and location, and the body of Messiah is an assembly by virtue of the Spirit's call and organization. Sharing the word assembly in no way indicates that they are part of the same group any more than the Mickey Mouse Club and the Communist Party can be considered identical because they can each be called a group. Furthermore, the idea behind baptism is identification. No Israelite needed to be immersed to be identified with Israel or Moses, and they weren't. They were Israelites by birth, and became distinctly identified with the leadership of Moses when they made a clean break from Egypt by passing through the Red Sea. They were not immersed in the Red Sea. They passed through the Red Sea on dry ground. It was the Egyptians who were immersed in the Red Sea (Exodus 14:16-29). The pillar of cloud also identified the Israelites with Moses as it was only they whom the cloud guided and protected, which is illustrated beautifully when the cloud guided the Israelites to the Red Sea, and then moved from in front of them to behind them to shield them from Pharaoh's army (Exodus 13:21-22; 14:19).
Israel and the body of Messiah are on two different tracks in the plan of God with a multitude of differences in the details. They are not one and the same, though there is some overlap. Jewish believers from Shavuot to the Rapture are simultaneously members of Israel and the body of Messiah.
Certain scriptures interpreted outside their contexts seem to say that the body of Messiah is now the "true Israel" or "spiritual Israel" or the "Israel of God" or that all of its members are "inward Jews." However, this is not actually the case. Let's look at one example.
Such translations as they are not all Israel give the impression to some that there are others besides Israelites that are of Israel; but let's look at the expression in various other translations, including two literal translations: not all those of Israel are Israel (Modern King James); all the [ones] of Israel, these [are] not Israel (Analytical-Literal Translation); not all those of Israel are Israel (Literal Translation of the Holy Bible). The passage speaks of subtraction, not of addition or replacement! It starts out with the entire nation of literal Israelites, and then eliminates some! But what is it talking about?
The important thing to see is that the focus is on the salvation of Israelites. This is established by the enclosing declarations of Romans 9:3-4 and 10:1. 9:3-4: 3. For I myself was wishing to be accursed from Messiah for my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh, 4. who are Israelites. 10:1: Brothers, truly my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is for it to be saved. Everything sandwiched between the two statements has to do with the salvation of Israelites. Even those passages in Romans 9 that speak of God's dealings with Gentiles are related back to Israel by Paul's line of reasoning.
Romans 9:33 sheds light on they are not all Israel, that are of Israel. 9:33: even as it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence: And he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame. Interpreted in the same context, it, too, deals with the salvation of Israelites. It distinguishes between Jews who believe and Jews who do not. Those Israelites that believe on him shall not be put to shame, and those Israelites who do not believe on Him shall be put to shame. It is the closing verse of the chapter, and is an explanation of the opening statement, which is 9:3-4. They are not all Israel, that are of Israel distinguishes between Jews who believe and Jews who do not. There is no denial that Jews who do not believe are part of Israel, and no addition of believing Gentiles to Israel. It merely distinguishes between Jews who believe and Jews who do not believe.
To bring us back to the point, passages such as this do not make the church Israel or the "Israel of God" or "inward Jews" or a part of Israel or a replacement for Israel in any spiritual or physical sense.
To sum up,
Like Israel, the church is a people of God, but Israel and the church are on different tracks in the plan of God. To confound the two identities is to confound the two tracks, the doing of which has caused much misery for Israel and makes it impossible to rightly divide the Word of truth.
The new man is distinct from Israel and from the Gentiles, but becoming a member of the new man does not obliterate one's Jewishness or Gentileness. Membership in Israel or in a Gentile nation is based on natural generation. Membership in the new man is based on regeneration, which is of the Spirit. There is no conflict between membership in the two, nor mutual exclusion. The apostle Paul identified himself as being of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews (Philippians 3:5), and he addressed Roman believers as you Gentiles (Romans 11:13).
No nation is cut off at the boundary of the body. It extends into the body as far as its membership does. When passages that seem to say otherwise are scrutinized in their contexts, it is seen that they do not contradict this. For example, when Galatians 3:28 says that there is neither Jew nor Greek, it is simply saying that national distinctions have no bearing on, and do not constitute a fissure within, the unity inherent in the body: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Messiah Yeshua. All one in Messiah is the context in which the passage must be understood. In fact, all indicates that there's more than one kind among whom the unity exists. In other contexts, distinctions are clearly maintained among believers. Paul identified himself as a Hebrew, and the Roman believers as Gentiles. Other passages distinguish between believing masters and slaves, and believing men and women within the body (1 Timothy 6:1-21; 1 Corinthians 11:3-16).
The body of Messiah, the one new man is composed of Jews and Gentiles who remain Jews and Gentiles forever (Revelation 21:24,26). Even the ascended Messiah in His glorified, spiritual, heavenly body (1 Corinthians 15:43,44,48) is referred to as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5).
Jewish believers are members of Israel and the body of Messiah. Being included in the Abrahamic covenant by natural generation, they are to confirm their membership in Israel by making sure that they are circumcised if male, and by circumcising their male children. This has nothing to do with the Law of Moses, but with the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 17:10-12). However, their primary identity is in Messiah, and their primarily loyalty ought to be to Him.
These members refers to all members of Messiah's body.
Ephesians 4:3-4: 3. endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4. There is one body and one Spirit....
John 13:35: By this all shall know that you are My disciples, if you have love toward one another.
This is a good context in which to examine...
As the human body is a coordinated organism under the control of the head, so also is the body of Messiah. Yeshua is the Head, and we, His community of believers, constitute His body under His control.
Colossians 1:18: And He is the Head of the body, the church, who is the Beginning, the First-born from the dead, that He may be pre-eminent in all things.
Yeshua said, I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). To bring that to pass certainly does demand sovereign control.
Colossians 3:14-15: 14. And above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness. 15. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which you also are called in one body, and be thankful.
We are the body of Messiah. Each of us, in a coordinated, peaceful and loving manner under the control of Messiah our Head, is to serve the body that it may grow in numbers and maturity.
The universal church, pictured as the body of Messiah, is also pictured as the bride of Messiah yet to be presented as a pure virgin to Messiah (2 Corinthians 11:2).
Revelation 21:9: And one of the seven angels who had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, Come here, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife.
The designation bride of Messiah illustrates the depth of love that Messiah has for His body (Ephesians 5:22), that He will bring her sanctification to completion as a pure virgin (Ephesians 5:25-27; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15), and that He is yet to wed her (Revelation 19:6-9) and escort her into His heavenly glories (Revelation 20-21). It also implies that the bride is to be subject to her Groom in everything (Ephesians 5:22-24).
The Universal Church
~ THE CHURCH ~
In the study foundational to this one, The Universal Church, above, we examined those declarations of the AMC Statement that refer to the universal body of Christ or universal church. In this study, we'll examine those that apply to the local congregation or local church. Each applicable sentence will be examined in detail, though not in its order of appearance; but first, let's review the entire Statement.
1. What Is a Local Church or Congregation?
The Bible encourages informal fellowship, but even a fellowship that meets regularly for mutual ministry is not a full-fledged local congregation by biblical standards. Local congregations have organization, authority, responsibilities, and safeguards in place that informal fellowships do not. Modern evangelistic organizations, mercy ministries and other such groups, valid as they are, may not be considered local congregations either. It is important to distinguish between the local congregation and other groups of believers in order to rightly divide those portions of the Word of Truth that have to do with these matters, some of which will be discussed in this study.
2. The Local Congregation or Church as Distinguished from the Universal Body
Now, to examine the applicable sentences of our Statement:
In Romans 15:5-6, Paul told the church at Rome, 5: And may the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like minded toward one another according to Christ Jesus, 6. so that with one mind and one mouth you may glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
John 4:23-24: 23. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such to worship Him. 24. God is a spirit, and they who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.
Acts 24:14 (Paul to Felix): But I confess this to you, that after the Way which they call heresy, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things that are written in the Law and in the Prophets.
1 Corinthians 14:25: And so the secrets of his heart become revealed. And so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.
Philippians 3:3: For we are the circumcision who worship God in the spirit and rejoice in Christ Jesus.
1 Corinthians 4:17: For this cause I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved son and faithful in the Lord, who shall remind you of my ways which are in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every congregation.
1 Corinthians 4:19: yet in a congregation I desire to speak five words with my mind, so that I might also teach others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.
1 Timothy 4:9-11: 9. Faithful is the Word, and worthy of all acceptance. 10. For to this we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the preserver of all men, especially of those who believe. 11. Command and teach these things.
a. before God
b. to its elders
d. to a brother or sister we've offended
Galatians 6:1: Brothers, if a man is overtaken in a fault, you the spiritual ones restore such a one in the spirit of meekness....
1 Corinthians 5:3-5:
Hebrew 10:24-25: 24. and let us consider one another to provoke to love and to good works, 25. not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Acts 8:4: Then, indeed, the ones who had been scattered passed through, preaching the gospel, the Word.
Two acts that the Lord commanded fall into a category of their own: water immersion and the Lord's Supper. Some theologians have designated them "ordinances," some "sacraments."
Dr. Fruchtenbaum offers this definition of an ordinance: "An ordinance can be defined as a rite or ritual or practice prescribed by the Messiah to be performed by the Church, as an outward sign of the saving truth of the Christian faith" (Fruchtenbaum, Dr. Arnold G. Messianic Bible Study 108: The Lord's Supper, p. 5. San Antonio: Ariel Ministries Press).
Scripture presents them each as a portrayal or representation, not as an act of substance in itself; nor does it present either of them as an agent of grace, which may, in this context, be defined as unearned, freely bestowed spiritual blessing from God. Those who believe that water immersion and the Lord's Supper are means of conveying grace refer to them as "sacraments"; but because they do not convey grace it is best to refer to them as "ordinances."
Dr. Fruchtenbaum also writes, "The best way of determining the qualifications of an ordinance is to apply three tests," (Fruchtenbaum, Dr. Arnold G. Messianic Bible Study 109: The Ordinance of Baptism, p. 5. San Antonio: Ariel Ministries Press) and presents them as follows:
Only two acts meet these criteria: water immersion and the Lord's Supper. They are the two ordinances of New Testament scripture, and only believers may partake of them, as we shall see.
The qualifications of water immersion as an ordinance are:
Some dispute the term immersion because it demands complete submersion in water. They prefer the term baptism because its perceived non-specific meaning allows for sprinking or affusion, the latter of which is the pouring of water on the head. However, the fact is, the meaning of the Greek word translated baptism means immersion. According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,
John the Baptizer immersed his disciples. John 2:23: And John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized. He wouldn't have required much water if sprinkling or affusion were his method.
After Jesus was baptized, He came up immediately out of the water (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10). After Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch, they had come up out of the water (Acts 8:39). Jesus, Philip and the Ethiopian had to first be in the water before they came up out of it.
Baptism by immersion was a Jewish ritual long before John's baptism. Here's a description of how it was performed:
To this day, Jews practice no form of baptism other than immersion.
From Old Testament days to the present, the key significance of water immersion is identification. The proselyte to Judaism identified with Judaism by means of immersion. Those who identified with John's the Immerser's message showed it by being immersed. Those who receive the Gospel are to ritualistically identify with it by immersion.
Water baptism is symbolic of the true baptism, the one baptism of Ephesians 4:5, which is Spirit baptism (1 Corinthinans 12:13), the dynamic of which is described in Romans 6:3-5:
Immersion into the water represents the crucifixion, death and burial of the old man into and with Christ, and coming up out of the water represents the resurrection of the new man in and with Him. (Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ, and I live....) Immersion and coming up out of the water picture this clearly, but sprinkling and affusion do not picture it at all. It is immersion that Jesus commanded in the Great Commission: Going, then,make disciples of all nations, immersing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.... (Matthew 28:19).
Water immersion is only for those who understand the Gospel and actively exercise faith in Christ, eliminating infants and all others who do not meet these conditions. Acts 8:36-38 makes this clear:
The qualifications of the Lord's Supper as an ordinance are:
The Lord's Supper is described in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26:
At this last seder (Passover service and meal) before His death, the Lord commanded that His disciples eat and drink the traditional seder elements, the matzoh (unleavened bread) and the wine, to commemorate His death until His return, meaning that it is to be done by all of His disciples throughout the Church Age. We are to eat the unleavened bread to remember the sinless Lamb whose body was broken for us on the cross (leaven represents sin), and to drink the wine to remember His shed blood, the price of the New Covenant (1 Peter 1:18-19).The Lord said of both the matzoh and the wine, do this in remembrance of Me. He referred to them as memorials. If they actually became His body and blood, they would not be memorials, but the real thing, and the partaking of them would constitute a re-crucifixion of the Lord, whereas the Scripture says that His body was offered once for all time (Hebrews 10:10, Analytical-Literal Translation). There is no more reason to believe that the elements actually become the Lord's body and blood than there is to believe that He became a door when He said, I am the door (John 10:7, 9). He was simply speaking metaphorically.
Consistent with its meaning, the Lord's Supper is only for believers. 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 reads,
These words were written to believers. If a believer can be unworthy to partake, how much more would one be unworthy who is in a state of unbelief concerning the Gospel?
The formally ordained spiritual leaders of the local church or congregation are called its elders or presbyters, pastors or shepherds, or overseers or bishops, and they are one and the same. (Compare Acts 20:17 with 20:28; 1 Timothy 3:2 with 5:17; Titus 1 with 5 and 7; 1 Peter 5:1 with 5:2.) The common practice today is to have one pastor and a group of elders (often mistakenly called deacons) under his authority. This is not the biblical practice. A search of the Brit HaChadashah (New Testament) will reveal that all elders worked as a plurality, though they may have operated in different capacities.
Elders must minimally meet the qualifications for deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-12) as the deacons are the helpers of the elders. Above and beyond that, they must meet the qualifications laid out specifically for elders (1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9). The qualifications noted in both passages are very similar. Titus 1:5-9 reads,
2. The Scriptures
Consistent with these scriptures, whenever the gender of an elder is indicated, and there are many such passages, it is invariably male. Nevertheless, various interpretations based on linguistic, cultural, circumstantial and, perhaps, other considerations, have arisen that allow the eldership of women. I have therefore made every effort to deal with the issue as extensively, carefully, honestly, and fairly as I could.
3. The Underlying Theological Principles
The key principle is that of subjection. The Greek words used are hupotage and hupotasso. According to Strong's Concordance, hupotage means: subordination. According to Young's Analytical Concordance, it means: subjection, submission. Hupotage appears in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 in the context of the need for women to quietly receive instruction with all submissiveness, to refrain from teaching men, to refrain from exercising authority over them, and to maintain silence in the congregation. According to Strong, hupotasso means: be under obedience... be in subjection to, submit self unto. According to Young, it means: ... put in subjection unto, put under.... It is used in 1 Corinthians 14:34 in the context of the requirement of silence for women in the congregation. It is also used in Ephesians 5:22, Colossians 3:18, Titus 2:5 and 1 Peter 3:1, all in the context of the need for wives to submit to their husbands' leadership in the marriage. The principle of the subjection of women to the men in the local congregation may also be found in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, which deals with the requirement of women, perhaps only married women (Fruchtenbaum, Dr. Arnold G. Messianic Bible Study 106: The Local Church, p. 42. San Antonio: Ariel Ministries Press), to wear a headcovering in honor of male headship. The passages dealing directly with congregational eldership are consistent with these, and must logically be viewed as relevant to the general requirement of the subjection of the women to the men.
The specific fundamental underlying theological reasons that are given for the necessity of the subjection of the woman to the man are these, which I have listed in a logical order:
Three levels of headship are mentioned here: God is the head of
Christ, Christ is the head of the man, and the man is the head of the woman. The apostle's implication is that the principle of headship of the man over the woman begins with God the Father and cascades down the chain from God the Father to
Christ to the man to the woman.
4. How May the Theological Principles Be Applied Today?
All things considered, this writer cannot help but conclude that, in order to preserve the requirement for the subjection of women to men in the church or congregation throughout the Church Age no matter what the culture or circumstance, men must be in the positions of spiritual headship over the women, and no woman may be in spiritual headship over a man. An elder must be the husband of one wife (1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6), a man (1 Timothy 3:5). If a woman is in a missionary situation, leads adult males to the Lord and begins to disciple them, it behooves her to bring them under capable male leadership as soon as possible.
5. Pastors' Wives as Pastors and Women Assistant Pastors
An even stranger form of "logic" may be found today. In many churches, particularly charismatic churches, when a man becomes a pastor, his wife is automatically called pastor as well, and functions as one. Not only is she is not a man, but neither is she scrutinized as closely as her husband as to character, background, strategy and capability. Where in the Word is such a practice authorized? This is not treating the Word of God with reverence, but frivolity.
One more thing: Although, in many churches, women are in positions they should not be in, they are still there by authorization of the pastor, and many of them do not realize that they should not be in those positions. Although rectification of such situations is to be sought, as long as women are in these positions and serving the Lord with a clear conscience, they are to be treated with respect and as under the authority of the pastor, though mistakenly so.
This passage cautions us to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, and tells us why: that we may provoke one another to love and to good works, and to be exhorting one another. Such interrelationship cannot be carried out in front of a TV, computer or radio or other non-face to face medium no matter how good the service. And though we are to minister the Lord's love, truth and godly counsel to one another in informal fellowship, and though an informal assembly may carry out many of the functions of a properly constituted congregation, it is not such a congregation unless its leaders are ordained by an elder who, himself, has been appointed by a properly ordained elder. Only such an elder has the biblical authority to determine if the group's leaders meet the qualifications for eldership and if the group will, indeed, carry out the functions of a properly constituted congregation.
Functional congregations existed in Crete that did not have ordained elders, and they met no rebuke; yet, Paul told Titus, For this cause I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed you (Titus 1:5). Just as Paul appointed Titus to a position of spiritual oversight (overseer) over Crete, Titus was to appoint elders in functional congregations within the area in which his authority to do so was expected to be recognized. It is true that Titus was given spiritual authority over a given geographical area, and that in most non-missionary locales today such a situation does not exist. Nevertheless, it is reasonable that a congregation that seeks to function with as full authority as possible conferred by God and by man - both are biblical - ought to follow the principle of having its leaders examined by a recognized elder for ordination if they qualify. It is also reasonable that members of an assembly that is not fully constituted also consider being members of one that is, for only such an assembly and its elders have passed the examination of already recognized elders.
It is the formally organized local assembly with properly scrutinized and ordained elders that has been ordained by God as the forum in which believers might exercise their spiritual gifts and coordinate their efforts under spiritually mature oversight, guidance, judgment and discipline to accomplish all the purposes that the local congregation is biblically required to fulfill.
THE MINISTRIES AND GIFTS
1. THE FILLING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
The Filling of the Holy Spirit was written as a study in support of a statement within the We Believe statement of the Association of Messianic Congregations, and was first published in its email magazine, the Shofar. Cultural sensitivity to Jewish readers has been retained in the use of names and terms.
There are many ministries of the Holy Spirit toward the believer. Each is distinct from the others and has its own specific name and function in conformity with scriptural use. These differences and distinctions must, of course, be maintained and honored in our thinking and in our speech.
There are two categories of ministries of the Spirit toward believers in the Church Age: those ministered to the believer at the moment of salvation, and those available to him during the entirety of his Christian walk. Two ministries of the Spirit that are often confused are Spirit baptism (baptism by the Holy Spirit) and Spirit-filling, both of which are often thought of as identical: as that ministry by which the Spirit especially empowers some, whether it be at the moment of their salvation or subsequent to it. We'll distinguish between the two, first by defining Spirit baptism, and then by focusing on the subject of our study, Spirit-filling.
Spirit baptism is that ministry of the Spirit which places the believer into Messiah and His body at the moment of salvation: 1 Corinthians 12:13: For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. By that declaration, Paul indicated that everyone in the Corinthian congregation from babes in the faith to the most mature were baptized by the Spirit into Messiah's body. Of necessity, then, every believer is thus baptized by the Spirit at the moment of salvation, which is why there is no exhortation in Scripture to seek Spirit baptism. Galatians 3:27-28 shows that this baptism is not only into Messiah's body of believers, but into Messiah Himself, and that it makes us one in Him. 27: For all of you who were baptized into Messiah have clothed yourselves with Messiah. 28. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua. It is also a permanent baptism: We are sealed into His body for the day of redemption, which is the resurrection or translation of the body at the rapture (Ephesians 4:30). It is the one baptism of Ephesians 4:5, of which water baptism is a picture in Romans 6:3-4 and Colossians 2:12. Furthermore, inasmuch as this baptism determines our permanent position in relation to Messiah and His body, it cannot increase or decrease. In addition, it is strictly a Church Age phenomenon as Messiah's body began to form on the Day of Pentecost.
In contrast, Spirit-filling has to do with empowerment and growth, is available to the believer throughout his walk, and may be gained, lost, regained and increased. Therefore, Spirit-filling is encouraged in Scripture. In addition, Spirit-filling occurred prior to, as well as during, the Church Age.
One other ministry of the Spirit needs to be addressed, that of indwelling. Like Spirit baptism, indwelling is a ministry of the Spirit toward the believer at the moment of salvation (as are also regeneration, sealing and anointing).
Jesus told His disciples,
The Spirit was with them, but not yet in them. According to John 7:38-39, the indwelling of the Spirit was to begin after the Son was glorified, that is, ascended into Heaven:
The indwelling began at Pentecost, ten days after His ascension, and has been a ministry of the Spirit toward all believers from that day.
The indwelling Spirit may be compared to the fountains of the great deep in the days of Noah which, when broken up by God, in combination with the floodgates of the sky flooded the earth (Genesis 7:11); and the Spirit-filled believer may be compared to the flooded earth. All believers have the "fountains of the great deep" within them and are urged to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) unto full flooding.
In preparation for answering that question, we'll make brief comments on the Hebrew and the Greek, look at all passages having to do with being filled by the Spirit, and then make some observations.
The Hebrew word used specifically in reference to Spirit-filling is מַלֵּא, maw-lay, a verb. Strong renders it as "to fill" or "to be full of." It appears in:
"Three different Greek words are used, and all translated by the English word 'to fill' or 'to be filled.'"1 They appear in:
Yeshua, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for the purpose of overcoming Satan's temptations.
Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task [of fairly administering the daily serving of food].
Acts 7:55: But being full of the Holy Spirit, he [Stephen] gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Yeshua standing at the right hand of God;
Acts 13:9-11: 10. But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him [Elymas], 10. and said, "You who are full of all deceit and fraud. . . . 11. you will be blind and not see the sun for a time."
Acts 13:52: And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
1. The most striking observation is that being filled with the Spirit is to be empowered, equipped and guided by God for service unto him. Ephesians 2:10 says, For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. It is the filling of the Spirit that equips us for the accomplishment of these good works.
Gleaning from the above, individuals are variously shown to have been equipped by the filling of the Spirit with wisdom, understanding, knowledge, boldness, and power - for the following tasks and privileges: artistry, craftsmanship, pronouncing blessings, prophesying, overcoming temptations, testifying and evangelizing in languages unknown to the speakers, testifying and evangelizing in the face of opposition, reporting on spiritual matters, administering practical matters, being entrusted with the delivery of contributions, seeing heavenly visions, encouraging the brethren, calling others into ministry, the working of miracles, being filled with joy, and worshiping God.
2. Not all believers are filled with the Spirit. This is seen in Ephesians 5:18, where Paul exhorted the Ephesians to be filled with the Spirit, and also in Acts 6:3, where the brethren were exhorted to select seven men who were full of the Spirit.
8. Some were filled for special tasks from the earliest possible moments. John was filled from his mother's womb (Luke 1:15-16); the apostles were filled on the Day Pentecost (Acts 1:26; 2:4); Paul was filled from the moment of his conversion ( Acts 9:17).
9. Certain individuals are shown to have already been filled, and then filled again when faithfully meeting new challenges. Peter was filled on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4), again in his confrontation with the rulers, elders and scribes (Acts 4:8), and again after the prayer for boldness (4:31). Paul was filled at his conversion (Acts 9:17), again for his judgment of Elymas (Acts 13:9), and again after preaching faithfully in Antioch-Pisidia (13:52).
In consideration of the above, to be filled with the Spirit means to be controlled by the Spirit: to be led and empowered by Him. In Ephesians 5:18, Paul exhorted, And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit. According to Dr. Enns, "The meaning of 'filled' (Gk. plerousthe) is 'control.'"3 Just as alcohol imbibed to the point of drunkenness controls a person, so does the Spirit when He is allowed to fill the believer.
In the broader context of Ephesians 5:18 (verses 15-33), being filled with the Spirit is associated with living carefully, wisely, making the most of your time, because the days are evil (verse 16); being strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man (verse 16); with understanding the Lord's will; with speaking godly things and singing godly songs to one another and to the Lord; with thanksgiving to the Lord; with subjection to one another in the fear of the Lord; with wives being subject to their husbands as unto the Lord; with husbands loving their wives as Messiah loved His body of believers; and with subjection of the body of believers to Messiah. Based on John 16:12-14 and 1 Corinthians 2:9 - 3:2, it may be reasoned that Spirit-filling maximizes the degree to which the Spirit teaches one spiritual truth and enables him to apply it in life situations. In Romans 15:13, it is associated with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope. In Philippians 2:1-4, it is the basis for spiritual fellowship. In 2 Corinthians 3:18, the Spirit transforms us into the Lord's image from glory to glory. Many of these points are made, implied or illustrated in other passages, as well, such as Acts 1:8, Romans 15:19, 2 Corinthians 3:2-6, Galatians 5:22-23, Philippians 1:11 and 3:3, Colossians 1:9 and I Thessalonians 1:5. Also in the context of the Ephesians passage, the believer who is not filled with the Spirit is vulnerable to the opposite in every point, falling into the same libertine and destructive frame of mind as drunkenness. Some of Strong's and Thayer's definitions of the Greek word for dissipation are: excess, riot, an abandoned, dissolute life, profligacy.
Immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled* it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink (Matthew 27:48). As a sponge may be soaked and dripping with a liquid, so may the believer be filled with the Spirit.
Inasmuch as filling is associated with power for service and spiritual growth, and that Paul urged the Ephesians, be filled with the Spirit (5:18), one must do as Paul urged:
Verse 1 speaks of the dedication of one's body for the Lord's service, and verse 2, the dedication of one's very spirit for the purpose of sanctification. It is a dedication of one's entire person, body and soul.
Dr. Fruchtenbaum illuminates the Greek:
The same thought is found in Romans 6:12-13:
The ultimate example of the dedicated life is presented to us in 1 Peter 2:21-24:
When a believer so dedicates himself to the Lord for service and sanctification, he is filled by the Spirit that he may live just that kind of life.
The question is, Which Person or Persons of the Triune God fills the believer with the Spirit?
He then asks, "Does it mean [filled] with the Spirit or by the Spirit?" and concludes, "The case can mean either or both." He then proceeds to answer our question: "The Spirit is the Agent who fills us with Himself."5
The literal meaning of be filled with the Spirit is "keep on being filled with the Spirit." The tense in the Greek "emphasizes continuous and repeated action."6 This, in turn, means that the believer must continually and repeatedly exercise his will to do those things that the Lord requires of him both inwardly and outwardly. He must respond positively as the Lord shows him attitudes, viewpoints and activities he is to drop, new areas of sanctification he is walk in, and new ministerial challenges he is to meet. In so responding, his capacity for filling expands as new areas of his life open up for the Lord, and the Spirit fills Him afresh to the level of his increased capacity. Inversely, if a believer slacks in his dedication or otherwise gives in to sin, he will become less than full of the Spirit; but if he repents, fullness will be restored.
Scripture provides three terse exhortations, two negative and one positive, which, if followed, enable the believer to continually be filled with the Spirit.
b. 1 Thessalonians 5:19: Do not quench the Spirit. Quenching the Spirit is a specific kind of sin; and inasmuch as it is a sin, quenching the Spirit also grieves Him.
"Quench" is used of quenching a fire in Matthew 12:20, Ephesians 6:16 and Hebrews 11:34; and inasmuch as fire is a symbol of the Spirit (Exodus 3:2 and 13:21, Matthew 3:11, Acts 2:3), and 1 Thessalonians 5:20 exhorts, do not despise prophetic utterances, one may conclude that quenching the Spirit refers to the stifling or suppression of one's own spiritual gift or the gifts of others. If one is to be filled with the Spirit, he must not stifle or suppress his own spiritual gift or the gifts of others: he must not quench the Spirit.
The exhortation to not quench the spirit is addressed to all of the members of the church at Thessalonica (1:1-2), and is in the plural. All the members of the congregation were to be careful to heed the exhortation when they gathered together for worship. In application, pastors, the entire eldership, and other spiritual leaders must be especially careful here: They can either stifle the spiritual flames in their congregations, evangelistic teams, or other ministry groups, or fan them.
2. The One Positive Exhortation
If one walks in the Spirit (or spirit), he will neither quench nor grieve Him. To walk in the Spirit (or spirit) is to avoid all that Scripture exhorts us to avoid and to embrace all that it exhorts us to embrace. Chafer points out, "Walking in the Spirit is a command in the present tense, that is, a Christian should keep on walking by the Spirit."7 It follows plainly that if one keeps on walking in the Spirit (or spirit) he will keep on being filled.
Being Spirit-filled is not the same as being spiritually mature. A newborn baby may be perfectly healthy, yet physically immature. Proper nutrition and exercise over a period of years will bring him into physical maturity. Similarly, a brand new believer might be Spirit-filled, but he is certainly not spiritually mature no matter how refined his personality or accomplished he may be in other areas of life. He needs to feed on the Word of God (1 Corinthians 3:2, 1 Peter 2:2, 1 Corinthians 10:3, Hebrews 5:14), apply his Bible knowledge to his daily walk (Ephesians 4:1, Colossians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 2:12), and be led by the Spirit (Galatians 5:18) in order to mature.
One who is Spirit-filled is not necessarily spiritually mature; but being Spirit-filled hastens spiritual growth unto maturity.
One of the words translated miracles is dunamis, which Strong renders as "force; specifically miraculous power." Special power is released by God for the working of a miracle.
Some in Scripture who were filled with the Spirit performed miracles of healing and judgment; yet, it does not follow that if one is Spirit-filled he will necessarily be called of God to perform a miracle. The effecting of healings and miracles are spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12): The Spirit distributes them sovereignly as He chooses (1 Corinthians 12:11), and He distributes them at the moment of one's salvation irregardless of how mature or Spirit-filled the believer may turn out to be (Romans 12:4-6, 1 Corinthians 12:7 and 11, 1 Peter 4:10). Therefore, no dedicated, mature, Spirit-filled believer need fret if he is not used to perform a miracle.
In Charismatic congregations, members are urged to decisively dedicate themselves to the Lord's service and be empowered for that service through baptism by the Holy Spirit; and those who so dedicate themselves are so empowered. However, what really happens is that they are filled with the Spirit, not baptized by Him.
This writer knows two men who, by their testimony, lived rather lifeless Christian lives for more than twenty years and then received this filling thinking that they were being baptized by the Spirit, and their lives were permanently set on fire for the Lord. One became the pastor of a rather dead mainline church and brought it to life. Another led hundreds, perhaps thousands, to the Lord, including this writer, and has led many of them into lives of zealous discipleship and service. Sad to say, due to the confounding of the two ministries of the Spirit combined with misunderstandings of certain Bible situations involving Spirit baptism and speaking in tongues, these fillings in Charismatic settings are almost always accompanied by erroneous teaching and unbiblical practice. In addition, the emphasis is often more on power and spectacle than on the service to the Lord that the power enables, more on bedazzlement than worship: Now Herod was very glad when he saw Yeshua; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some miracle performed by Him (Luke 23:8). (Healings and miracles, yes, as the Lord wills, but with proper emphases, proportion and focus.)
So what's a little error if it causes people to be set on fire for the Lord? Truth mixed with error is like a mirror smeared with mud - and error muddies the mirror through which we already see the Lord dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12). It also corrupts the image of Yeshua we present to each other and to the world. Furthermore, error begets error begets error ad infinitum, and aberrations in doctrine and practice are thus progressively compounded.
On the opposite extreme are congregations who do not teach on the need for dedication nor urge their members to be filled with the Spirit, and their pews are filled with relatively lifeless believers. Indeed, it is often difficult to tell who is saved among them!
There is a healthy, middle ground - the biblical ground - that many congregations have struck. They teach on the need for dedicated lives and challenge their members to decisively and once and for all dedicate themselves to the Lord for sanctification and service, and thereby be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). That is the healthy middle ground - doctrinally. However, on the practical side, all too many of these congregations do not take the works of power seriously enough, but toy with them. For example, they pray for healings because it is part of the program, but in unbelief and without fervency (James 5:16: The fervent prayer of a righteous man is powerful in its working), and see no results. The healthy doctrinal ground MUST be accompanied by healthy biblical practice: They must pray aggressively and full of faith - yes, even outside the protective walls of their sanctuaries - as Peter and John prayed for the man at the Gate Beautiful (Acts 3:1-8) - and they will see similar results.
Therefore, let congregational leaders exhort their flocks to live dedicated lives, be filled with the Spirit, and follow up with healthy, Spirit-filled, faith-filled practice. And to whom it may concern: Be filled with the Spirit. No need to wait until you are in your congregation. Dedicate yourself now - and follow up with action!
1. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Dr., Messianic Bible Study 066: The Ministries of the Holy Spirit, pdf, (ariel.org: Ariel Ministries Digital Press, 1985, 2005), 31-32.
THE MINISTRIES AND GIFTS
There is much disagreement concerning the nature and current applicability of the gifts of the Spirit. In this study, we will substantiate the claims in our Statement and attempt to shed light on the spiritual gifts. Our appeal will be to the Word of God, not to guesswork, wishful thinking, personal experience (easily misinterpreted), or the testimony of others (often inaccurate or exaggerated). Certainly, memories of personal experience and testimonies have their place, but doctrine must be determined solely on the basis of the only totally dependable source: the written Word of God.
2. Distinguished from Gifts Given to All Believers
3. Distinguished from a Natural Gift
4. Distinguished from an Office
1 Peter 4:10 tells us that each one has received a gift. The same point is made in Romans 12:4-6 and 1 Corinthians 12:7 and 11. Every member of the body receives at least one gift; and, as we shall see, some receive more than one.
If each one has received a gift, then it is clear that all believers receive at least one gift at the moment of salvation. Also, no passage indicates that a believer may receive a gift subsequent to salvation.
What are we to make of 1 Corinthians 12:31, then? But earnestly desire the greater gifts. Why should believers desire the greater gifts if they cannot receive any more? The answer lies in the fact that Paul was exhorting the church as a unit, not the individual believers in it (1 Corinthians 1:1-2). 1 Corinthians 12:28 names eight gifts in descending order of greatness, naming those gifts first that are most essential for the establishment and health of the body: And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. If the Corinthian church was lacking in ministry from those holding the greater gifts, they were to draw out such ministry from those so gifted among them, or invite such ministry from elsewhere in the body.
Six passages are helpful here:
4. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6: 4. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all [persons].
Note that the three verses are constructed in a parallel manner: varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; varieties of ministries, and the same Lord [Yeshua]; varieties of effects, but the same God [the Father]. Each Person is somehow related to the preceding aspect of the gifts named.
5. 1 Corinthians 12:11: But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
6. Ephesians 4:8: Therefore it says, "When He [Messiah] ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men."
Now, to draw some conclusions:
1. The Distribution of the Gifts
2. The Placement of the Gift Holders
To sum up, the Father gives the gifts to Yeshua, who gives them to the Spirit, who distributes them among believers as He sees fit, Yeshua decides where in the body each believer is placed, and the Father operates the gifts through believers and brings about the results.
Romans 11:9 declares, The gifts and the callings of God are without revocation. In context, the declaration applies to the God given gifts and callings of Israel; but as a general principle it applies to all gifts and callings, and includes the spiritual gifts and callings to ministry of all believers. The spiritual gifts are irrevocable.
The most inclusive statement as to the purpose of the gifts is Ephesians 4:11-16:
Two classes of gift holders are mentioned here. The first is composed of leaders responsible for the delivery of the Word of God: apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers (verse 11). The second includes all gift holders in the body (the we of verse 15, and the every joint and each individual part of verse 16), which includes those of the first group and all others. The first is given for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, that is, for the training and enablement of all believers to function in their gifts. The all inclusive second group is to the building up of the body of Christ (verse 12), that we may grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head even Christ (verse 15), to the building up of itself in love (verse 16).
Some of the same points may be found in 1 Peter 4:10; and 1 Corinthians 14:4,12.
A closer look needs to be taken at the phrase, to the building up of the body of Messiah (Ephesians 4:12). Each one's gift serves not only the local body, but the entire body of Messiah from Pentecost to the Rapture. Which of us today has not benefited from the work of the first century apostles or the great teachers and exhorters of the Reformation? How many have been saved on the foreign mission field because of the generous giving of those at home? Our gifts serve those who have come before, as well, as we help to complete what they have begun or continued to develop. They also serve those who will come after us, just as those who came before us served us.
Also with the entire body in view, Dr. Charles Ryrie points out, "...not every congregation need expect that it will have all of the gifts represented in it.... God knows what each group needs and will see that it is supplied accordingly." Similarly, "... not every generation may necessarily expect to have all the gifts" (Ryrie, Dr. Charles C. Basic Theology, p. 369. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1981). These assertions will be addressed.
"The Gifts of the Spirit" is no minor doctrine. Without the functioning of the gifts one wonders whether a soul would have been saved on the Day of Pentecost or whether there would be a body of believers on earth today. The proper functioning of the gifts is critical to the building up of the body of Messiah (Ephesians 4:12) and to a healthy witness to the unsaved. I have therefore decided to examine each gift in depth, hoping to ascertain a clear understanding of its nature and present availability - and I must say, once again: not on the basis of guesswork, wishful thinking, personal experience (easily misinterpreted), or the testimony of others (often inaccurate or exaggerated), but solely on relevant passages in the Word of God.
Paul names nineteen spiritual gifts, and they are identified as gifts in five passages, some in more than one passage:
2. 1 Corinthians 7:1, 7: celibacy (singleness, eunuch for the kingdom of heaven [Matthew 19:12]). Celibacy is not named in these scriptures, but is clearly implied. A secondary implication is singleness as to the marital state.
3. 1 Corinthians 12:7-11: wisdom (word of wisdom), knowledge (word of knowledge), faith, gifts of healings (gift of healing, healing, healings), workings of miracles (miracles, working of miracles, effecting of miracles), prophecy, distinguishing of spirits (discernment of spirits), tongues (speaking in tongues, various kinds of tongues, diversities of tongues, languages, diversities of languages, glossalalia), interpretation of tongues (interpretation of languages).
4. 1 Corinthians 12:28-30: apostleship (apostles), prophecy (prophets), teaching (teachers), miracles, gifts of healings, helps, leading (administrations), tongues.
5. Ephesians 4:11: apostleship (apostle), prophecy (prophet), evangelism (evangelist),
Gifts are not named as such in this passage, but in terms of the people who are endowed with them: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor-teachers. The same applies to some of the gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:28-30. The people who possess the gifts are named as gifts to the body, and they often hold the offices named by their title. However, it's the spiritual gifts that are our focus, and I have named the gifts that the possessors hold. All four of the Ephesians 4:11 gifts include the effective delivery of the Word of God.
There are two prevalent errors concerning the Ephesians 4:11 gifts:
2. The second error is referring to this group as "the fivefold ministry." This error is the result of pastor-teacher being translated pastor and teacher in many translations, causing readers to perceive them as separate gifts. Pastor and teacher should be rendered pastor-teacher, as will be shown. The group, then, should be referred to as "the fourfold ministry."
I have sorted the gifts into six categories. Some gifts can easily be placed in more than one, but I have placed each gift into the one category which seems to best represent its key characteristic or ministerial application. I have also sequenced the categories, and the gifts within each category, so that prior explanations lay foundations for subsequent explanations. The categories are of my own conception, and they are:
The name of each gift is followed by the references in which it is so named.
1a. Knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8).In some circles, the word of knowledge is defined as a direct word from God revealing something about another person, or some other knowledge. Biblically, however, such revelation is not a word of knowledge, but a word of prophecy.
In 1 Corinthians 12:8, the word translated knowledge in word of knowledge is gnosis. The same word is used in Romans 2:20 and 1 Corinthians 8:1, and refers to objective knowledge of the already extant Word of God. It is also used in 1 Corinthians 13:2, in which it is described as the ability to know mysteries, knowledge revealed for the first time in the New Testament. The gift of knowledge, then, is the pronounced motivation and ability to search out and discern the literal meaning of a passage, or related passages, of Scripture. It is the ability to properly understand the truths revealed to the apostles and prophets. Teachers of the Word need this gift.
b. Wisdom (1 Corinthians 12:8). In 1 Corinthians 12:8, the word for wisdom in word of wisdom is sophia. 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 and James 1:2-8 use sophia in the context of applied spiritual knowledge. The gift of wisdom, then, is the pronounced ability to understand the proper application of the literal meaning of a passage or principle of Scripture. The gift may be applied to one's own decisions or as words of encouragement or exhortation for others. Exhorters, those who preach to move others to action, need this gift.
A word of wisdom is often misconstrued as direct revelation; but biblical wisdom is based on truth already revealed. Direct revelation is solely the domain of prophecy.
2. Speaking Gifts
The test described in verse 22 necessitates a prophecy of a near future event that could not be determined by the observation of a trend or by any other natural means.
We can conclude, then, that all prophecy of both Testaments consists of direct revelation from God, and that the prophet was endowed with the ability to declare his prophecy inerrantly (without error) and infallibly (with unfailing accuracy). The New Testament gift of prophecy, then, is the ability to receive direct revelation from God and to declare it inerrantly and infallibly.
The prophetic ministry was essential for the writing of both Testaments, though only a minority of the prophets were used in this way. Of the New Testament writers, at least Peter, Paul and John had the prophetic gift, and twenty of the twenty-seven New Testament books were written by them.
2) The Content of
3) An Oft Misunderstood Verse
Some say that all who speak for edification and exhortation and consolation are Church Age prophets; but the verse does not define a prophet: it declares purposes of the gift. Also, the same purposes are met by some with gifts other than prophecy. For example, the teacher speaks to edification; the evangelist exhorts people to believe the Gospel; the exhorter may also speak for consolation - but none of these gifts necessitate direct revelation from God as does prophecy. Of all the gifts, prophecy alone requires direct revelation from God.
Among those verses that clearly refer to the gift of exhortation, there are a few cases in which paraklesis or its verb form, parakaleo (to exhort) is used of comfort, consolation or encouragement, as in 1 Thessalonians 4:18: Therefore comfort (parakaleo) one another with these words; but in the overwhelming majority of cases they are used of persuasive discourse, as in Romans 12:1: Therefore I urge (parakaleo) you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice. In addition, in 1 Corinthians 14:3, exhortation is differentiated from consolation: But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation (paraklesis) and consolation (paramuthia). Strong defines paramuthia as consolation, comfort, which is the result of the gift of showing mercy (eleeo).
The gift of evangelism consists of a pronounced burden for the lost and the ability to present the Gospel clearly and in such a manner so that many people come to Messiah. In Acts 21:8, Philip is named an evangelist. In Acts 8:5-40, he preached the Gospel in the desert and in all the cities between Azotus and Caesarea, to crowds and to individuals, with many conversions. Peter and Paul clearly had this gift (Acts 2:14-42; Acts 14:19-21, etc.).
Tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10).
2. The tongue was always unknown in meaning to the speaker. In Acts 2, the languages were known by the hearers, each understanding his own language (verses 8-11), but not by the speakers (verses 7-8). In meetings of the congregation, as we shall see, the language was unknown to the hearer, as well, and required one to interpret by the gift of interpreting tongues.
What about 1 Corinthians 13:1: If I speak with the tongues. . . of angels ? Was Paul indicating that he was capable of speaking in an angelic language? After all, angels in Heaven do speak. Revelation 4:8: And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within [seraphim]; and day and night they do not cease to say, "HOLY, HOLY, HOLY."
The whole tenor of the 1 Corinthians passage is one of hypothesis (if . . . if . . .) and hyperbole, speaking in extremes for emphasis: 2. If I . . . know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith . . . . 3. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned . . . . Consistent with the tenor of the passage, If I speak with the tongues . . . of angels was simply a hypothetic and hyperbolic way of indicating supreme eloquence. A similar hyperbolic expression is found in Acts 12:22 in which The people kept crying out in reference to Herod's oratorical skills, The voice of a god and not of a man!
The gift of speaking in tongues, then, is the God-given ability to speak in an earthly language unknown to the speaker.
Other points to note:
The gift of interpretation of tongues, then, is the God-given ability to interpret a tongue that the interpreter would not understand by natural means. Also, as the two verses show, the interpreter may be the speaker himself, or another.
2) The Purposes of Tongues and Interpretation
If that's the case, then why does God even bother with the gift? Why doesn't He simply stick to the plain-speaking gifts? Tongues and interpretation were used for evangelism and the profit and edification of the congregation (1 Corinthians 14:4,6,17,26), but so were the plain-speaking gifts. Were there uses of tongues and interpretation that the plain-speaking gifts did not have? The answer is yes.
Unique Functions Summarized:
3. Power Gifts
One of the Greek words translated miracles is dunamis, which Strong's renders as force; specifically miraculous power. The understanding is that special power is released by God for the working of a miracle. There are two miracle gifts: the workings of miracles, and the gifts of healings. The second is a subset of the first. We will therefore view them together.
The gifts of healings is the ability to act as an agent of extraordinary works of power in the realm of divine physical healing. "The word healings is plural because there are various classes of sicknesses," and "gifts is also plural.... In the Greek, plural often emphasizes repeated action. The statement gifts of healings shows that whereas with the other gifts, once one had them, it stayed with him and could be used at any time, in the case of the gifts of healings.... it is a gift that comes and goes" (Fruchtenbaum, Dr. Arnold G. Messianic Bible Study 071: The Gifts of the Holy Spirit, p. 14. San Antonio: Ariel Ministries Press).
To sum up Dr. Fruchtenbaum's statements: There are various categories of miracles and healings, and neither gift is operative at all times through the gift holder.
Paul used gifts of healings in many an instant, but at other times he could not. Certainly he would have healed his ministry associates of their ailments; yet he wrote, Trophimus I left sick at Miletus (2 Timothy 4:20).
Some workings of miracles were not healings. Some examples are: Paul's calling down blindness on Elymas the sorcerer (Acts 13:11); Peter's judging of Ananias and Sapphira with death (Acts 5:9-11); Paul's casting a spirit of divination out of a slave-girl (Acts 16:16-19).
Dr. Paul Enns notes,
Where Do Exorcisms
It must be noted that, just as one without the gift of evangelism can lead people to Messiah, so God may heal a person in answer to the prayers of a believer without gifts of healings (or work a non-healing miracle in answer to the prayers of one without the gifts of miracles); but just as the evangelist is far more effective in evangelism than others, so is the one with gifts of healings far more effective in seeing people healed than others. Also, it is probable that the healings of all those with the gifts of healings will show the same characteristics that those of Jesus and the apostles did (above), whereas the healings effected through the prayers of those without gifts of healings may not show all of the above characteristics; for example, healings that are speeded up, but not instantaneous.
a. Leading (Romans 12:8; 1 Corinthians 12:28). In Romans 12:8, the word is proistemi, which Strong defines as "to stand before, that is, (in rank) to preside." In 1 Corinthians 12:28, it's kubernesis, which means "pilotage, that is, (figuratively) directorship (in the church): - government."
The spiritual gift of leading, then, is the God-given ability to lead a group within the congregation, or the entire congregation. It is the ability to see the big picture, to establish priorities, to make wise decisions, to organize people, to give clear and authoritative direction, and to inspire confidence in those being led. The gift of leading is foundational and essential to all in positions of group leadership, whether those positions have to do with pastoring, works of mercy, maintaining the physical plant, or some other form of ministry.
b. Pastor-Teacher (Ephesians 4:11). Ephesians 4:11 reads, And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.
Let us note three things:
There are those with the gift of teaching who do not have the gift of pastoring; but there are those with the gift of pastoring-teaching, and the gift of teaching is part of the package. There is no pastoring gift without the accompanying teaching gift. If a person does not have the teaching gift, then they do not have the pastoring gift either. Paul considered it crucial that pastor Timothy faithfully and consistently teach the Word (1 Timothy 1:3, 5; 4:11; 6:2, 17). One of the reasons the Western church is filled with immature, worldly believers is because of the abundance of pastors who do not have the gift of teaching.
We've examined the gift of teaching; but what is involved in the gift of pastoring?
The pastoring gift is a leadership gift, and must, of necessity, include the gift of leading, as well.
To sum up, one with the teaching gift need not have the gift of pastoring and leading, but one with the pastoring gift must, of necessity, possess the gifts of teaching and leading, as well.
One more thing: As with all the gifts, pastoring-teaching is a gift, and its possessor may or may not hold a congregational office. Those with the gift may function in their gift without being the pastor of a congregation. Whether men or women, they may serve as youth leaders, home group leaders, principals of Christian schools, and the like. In these capacities they may lead, teach, and fulfill the roles of a shepherd.
Apostleship (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11). There were two circles of apostles, and members of each needed to meet certain qualifications.
The other two qualifications are brought out by Peter in regards to the man needed to replace Judas:
The qualifications brought out here are:
The eleven apostles remaining of Yeshua's pre-Pentecost group had met all three qualifications (Luke 6:13; Acts 1:1-4, 9). Matthias, the replacement apostle for Judas, likewise met the two qualifications of Acts 1:21-22, and was also chosen by God through the drawing of lots (Acts 1:23-26. Cf. Proverbs 16:33).
The "Outer Circle" of Apostles
2) The Purpose of Apostleship
The gift of apostleship can be summarized thusly: The gift of apostleship required one to have been chosen by God and to have seen the resurrected Lord with their natural eyes for the purpose of founding the universal church and serving as its first chief leaders. Apparently, unlike all other gifts, all with the gift of apostleship sooner or later served in the office of apostle.
3) Special Apostolic Endowments
According to verse 5, all apostles received special, direct revelation from God, the keynote of prophecy. When they spoke as prophets - that is, when they declared or implied they were speaking on behalf of the Lord - they spoke inerrantly and infallibly (Ephesians 3:2-5). (Peter and Barnabas did not declare they were acting or speaking on behalf of the Lord in their dissimulation of Galatians 2:11-13.) In addition, select apostles were chosen from among them for the prophetic task of writing inerrant and infallible documents that were to become Scripture.
5. Service Gifts
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says that that the word is "from root meaning 'to run on errands,' and so attendance, aid as a servant, ministry, relief, and hence, service."
Definitions of Helps
From Dr. Paul Enns in The Moody Handbook of Theology, p. 275-276:
The usage of diakonia could not possibly be broader, from the apostolate to the serving of tables.
A kindred word, diakoneo, is used of the humblest kinds of practical service: of angels ministering to, and women waiting on, Yeshua (Matthew 4:11; 8:15; 27:55); of delivering an offering to the poor saints in Jerusalem (Romans 15:25-26); of ministering to Paul in prison (Philemon 1:13).
Usages of Helps (antilapesis, words related to)
The help rendered in these passages is not always to the needy, as a master would be hard-pressed to be needier than his slave. What is common to the passages is servanthood from the heart in ways that span everything from salvation to digging ditches.
3) Differentiation from Other Gifts
Differentiation of Helps (antilapesis) from Other Gifts
4) Summary of Observations
Enns statement continues, "The gift of helps means "to take firm hold of some one, in order to help. These 'helpings' therefore probably refer to the succoring of those in need, whether poor, sick, widows, orphans, strangers, travelers, or what not" (Enns, p. 275-276). I would add that it may also be expressed by driving those who have no cars, repairing plumbing, cleaning the houses of the sick, and the like. It may also be exercised by the congregation's office, maintenance, set-up, benevolence, kitchen, and similar kinds of workers.
b. Showing Mercy (Romans 12:8). In the Greek the two words are one, eleeo. Strong defines it as "compassionate (by word or deed)." It is almost universally translated as showing mercy, but at least Young's Literal Translation renders it doing kindness.
In Scripture, showing mercy is always expressed by doing, not merely emoting; and the deeds fall into the categories of blessings for the body and blessings for the spirit.
Blessings for the spirit, as in Romans 11:30-32: 30.
Also Romans 9:16-18; 1 Timothy 1:13,16.
The gift of mercy, then, is the pronounced God-given ability to bless people, body or soul, from the heart. It may take the form of comforting the sick and ministering to them in practical ways, offering a word of condolence to the bereaved, encouraging the downhearted, reaching out to save the lost, etc. Those who have the gift have the pronounced capacity to empathize, and to emote sympathy and concern in a godly way.
Enablement gifts enable the exercise of other gifts more effectively. Those with the gifts of faith or celibacy are enabled by those gifts to exercise other gifts more effectively. Those with the gift of giving enable others to exercise their gifts more effectively.
In Acts 6:5, seven men were chosen by the apostles to oversee the fair distribution of food to the widows, but Stephen was distinguished from the others in that he was introduced as a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 11:24, Barnabas likewise was introduced as full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. As it would have been unnecessary to say that they had saving faith, we can conclude that they had the gift of faith. Look at the great works that these men accomplished.
Stephen performed great wonders and signs among the people (Acts 6:8) and stood his ground in argument with his opponents; and when they brought him before the Sanhedrin he stood fast and preached a message that cut to their hearts unto the point of his martyrdom, and then prayed for them with his very last words (Acts 6:8-7:60).
Paul, too, must have had the gift of faith in order to persevere in his call to be an apostle of Gentiles (Romans 11:13) through all manner of severe persecutions and hardships (2 Corinthians 11:24-28).
The gift of faith, then, is an unusually large measure of trust given by God for steadfastness in the promises, commands and commissions of God.
In light of the persecutions and other challenges that they endured and overcame, these men and women must be among the many, both known to us and unknown, who had the gift of faith: Jan Hus, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, George Mueller, Mary Slessor, Hudson Taylor, William Booth, Corrie ten Boom, Richard Wurmbrand.
Those who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven were given the ability by God to do so.
Paul discussed the gift of celibacy in 1 Corinthians 7: 1.
The spiritual gift of celibacy is the God-given ability to refrain from sex without being overcome or distracted by desire. Not all who are celibate have the gift. Indeed, God requires celibacy of all who are not married; but those who have the gift handle celibacy especially well.
The gift of celibacy facilitates singleness in regards to marriage, and Paul points out the advantage of the single state, particularly during times of distress, as is brought out in verse 26. The reason given is the greater liberty that the single person has to build others up in spiritual things as opposed to attending to the valid, but natural, concerns of the spouse (things of the world).
Neither Yeshua nor Paul disparaged marriage nor required celibacy of congregational leaders. Indeed, Yeshua restricted voluntary celibacy to those who are able to accept it (Matthew 10:12); and Paul said, But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion (1 Corinthians 7:9). Neither did either of them say that meeting one's responsibility to spouse and children is not serving the Lord; they merely emphasized the advantage of the celibate state in enabling service in regards to the need of the human spirit, and encouraged it among those who could handle it well.
In 1 Corinthians 7:8, Paul implied that he the gift. He was therefore able to travel and minister extensively and at a moment's notice, and was at far greater liberty to place his life in danger than he would have been had he been married. Certainly this gift enabled him to be as fruitful as he was!
Giving (Romans 12:8). The word is metadidomi. Strong defines it as "to give over, that is, share" and Young's Concordance defines it as "to give a share of."
We have a situation here that is similar to the one we had with service/helps: The word is used broadly, yet, in Romans 12:8, the gift of giving is differentiated from speaking and other gifts: from prophecy, serving, teaching, exhortation, leading and showing mercy. Similarly, we can conclude that all Christian ministry must be done in a spirit of giving; but as a specific spiritual gift, it refers to the pronounced God-given desire to share materially or financially to meet a need. It is may be possessed by those of moderate or abundant means, but all who have the gift are to give with liberality (Romans 12:8). The essence of the gift may be captured in Paul's soaring statement, And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor... (1 Corinthians 13:3); and as with Lydia (Acts 16:14-15), the Lord does raise up people of means in this gift to serve in the support of the ministry.
This completes our study of the nature of the individual gifts.
One more thought:
Certain gifts seem to be stand-alone gifts, such as the gift of knowledge, and may be thought of as simple gifts: They do not require the support of other gifts in their possessors. Other gifts, however, require a combination of gifts, and may be thought of as compound gifts. The gift of pastor-teacher is a compound gift: It requires the gifts of leading, pastoring and teaching; and teaching, in turn, requires the gift of knowledge as well as the abilities to organize materials and communicate clearly.
These concept of simple and compound gifts are offered as tools. However, I do not believe that we can dogmatically slice and dice each gift down to its subatomic components as some teachers - I'm sure you can't think of any! - are wont to do!
Paul makes this very clear in 1 Corinthians 12:12-25:
Paul identifies two causes of division here:
In verse 21, he identifies the outlook of one who, because he possesses a certain gift, thinks he is more valuable to the body than another with a different gift. Perhaps the evangelist feels that he is of greater value than the one with the gift of service. After all, he, the evangelist, is not the lowly fix-it man who struggles with the plumbing. He's the guy who leads the multitudes to Messiah.
The evangelist is not rendering due honor to the one who fixes the toilet he uses after his glorious performance. It is for this very reason that Paul cautioned, also in the context of the gifts, For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith (Romans 12:3).
Paul's solution to this pitfall of pride is found in verses 22 though 25: the members who seem to be weaker are necessary. In fact, they receive more personalized care because they are in greater need of it. It seems that he is referring to the fact that those parts of our physical bodies that are least presentable are honored by being clothed, whereas those parts of our bodies that are more presentable, such as our faces and hands, are not so honored.
In verses 15 and 16, Paul addresses a cause of division found at the opposite pole, the outlook of one who deems himself of less value than another who has a different gift. The one with the gift of service may deem himself of lesser worth than one with the gift of evangelism. After all, the evangelist is always leading people to Messiah and basks in the applause of the crowds, whereas he is hidden away in the bathroom struggling with the plumbing. Jealousy and resentment are the fruits of this outlook.
Paul's solution to this pitfall is found in verses 15 though 18 and 22 though 25: the body requires a variety of members, and the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary (verse 22). Indeed, all parts of the body are essential to its completeness and function: 19. If they were all one member, where would the body be? 20. But now there are many members, but one body.
There is another pitfall, the tendency that some have to think that everyone should be like them. Some with the gift of evangelism would have people think that that they should never leave a supermarket without preaching the Gospel to everyone inside. Some teachers give the impression that everyone should to be a Bible scholar. Some with the gift of mercy cannot understand why others wouldn't pull off the highway to pray for someone's hangnail. It behooves us to remember that, whereas we are all called to minister in various capacities at various times, the great burden and responsibility for each gift holder is the development and use of his or her particular gift. We must not judge or put an undue burden on one another for not carrying the same particular burden of ministry that we do, or for not being as effective as we are in its exercise. Romans 12:6: Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, [each of us is to exercise them accordingly]....
Inasmuch as it is God who moves each gift from Source to receiver to result; that God is not one to show partiality (Acts 10:34); and that God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7), let us remember: when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding (2 Corinthians 10:12). Whether our profile in ministry is high or low or of greater or lesser authority, or whether we receive greater or lesser honor from men, we will avoid being divisive by adhering to these principles and admonitions, and thereby purify of our own service unto the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love (Ephesians 4:16). Between 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, chapters on the gifts, Paul inserted chapter 13 in which he implores the use of the gifts in love, concluding, But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love (13:13). Love is the very root of the gifts, as God is love (1 John 4:8,16), and ought to be the fruit of the gifts, as well (Galatians 5:22-23).
Some deny that a particular gift is in use today because they have never seen it in genuine action. Some assume a gift is in use because it was in use in the first century or because they want it to be. None of these reasons is valid.
In answering the question, the following principle will be used: unless Scripture makes it absolutely clear that a gift cannot or will not be given today, it will be assumed that the Spirit may give the gift today - may, not does.
It has been shown in section II F that each use of a gift at any time during the Church Age benefits the entire body from Pentecost to the Rapture. Therefore, a gift used in the critical, foundational first century benefits all future generations of the body, and may therefore not be given beyond the first century. Also, without a doubt, one of the two foundational gifts (Ephesians 2:20), the most versatile and power laden of all gifts, is no longer given, as will be shown. It cannot therefore be automatically assumed that any other single gift is given today, especially one from among those that can most readily be seen as supernatural in origin.
We will first determine which gifts may be given today, and then review various tests that need to be applied to each ostensible use of one of those gifts to determine whether the professed use is genuine or spurious. In this consideration it is especially important to understand the nature of each gifts. It is therefore suggested that the individual gifts in section III above be studies or reviewed.
Those gifts that can most readily be seen as supernatural in origin require special consideration because of unjustified acceptance or rejection, or because of widespread abuse or misuse.
No one beyond the first century could see the resurrected Lord with their natural eyes, and those who did see Him are long gone. Therefore, there can be no question that the gift of apostleship is not given today, and even the most gifted of church planters or founders of other great works must not be called apostles.
For the same reason, there can be no apostolic succession today. Even when the apostles were alive they did not arrange for apostles to succeed them. In every case in Scripture in which an apostle was chosen, he was chosen directly by the Lord. In addition, the Lord saw fit to record how Paul spelled out the qualifications for the selection of church elders (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). If He intended for there to be successor apostles, who would be superior in authority to church elders, He may very well have had their qualifications recorded, as well; but He did not.
The prophetic gift was used in the first century for the carrying out of various ministries. Each of these needs to be considered individually.
Three things must be noted:
b. The Founding of Local Churches
But may they be used for that purpose in certain instances? God may certainly choose to, and no passage can prove that He may not. However, we must keep in mind that prophets were essential to the formation of the early church for the purpose of identifying the Messiah. Today, we have the written Word and the Word-based ministries of evangelists, teachers, and believers in general. Nevertheless, God may choose to reveal His Son through a prophetic dream or vision, particularly in places where the Word has never penetrated, and thereby plant the seed for a local church.
c. The Creation of the Canon of Scripture
The book of this prophecy is the Book of Revelation; but it is not insignificant that these words appear at the very end of Bible, which, in its totality, is a prophetic word inasmuch as God supervised the writing of it (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21). The canon of Scripture is closed. Prophecy is no longer employed for the creation of Scripture.
d. Other Purposes
As was shown above, tongues was used in various modes and for various purposes. It is possible that God may utilize the gift today in one or more of these modes and for one or more of these purposes.
Some say that gifts of healings and workings of miracles are not current because they were signs of the apostles and the apostolic ministry has ended; but healings and miracles were given to some who were not apostles. In 1 Corinthians 12:28, apostleship, healings and miracles are listed as separate gifts: And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings.... Ananias was not an apostle, and he healed Saul of his blindness (Acts 9:17-18).
1 Corinthians 13:8-10: 8. Love never fails; but if prophecy, they will be done away; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be done away. 9. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10. but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.
The verse cannot be used to eliminate the possibility of any gift being given today, but it does prove that at least part of the partial, the gifts, is still being given.
Apostleship is the only open and closed case of a gift not being given today. Whether or not the professed use of any other gift is genuine must be determined in each case by biblical tests.
Human claims and testimonies are subject to error in memory, wishful thinking and exaggeration, and are, at times, complete fabrications. They must therefore be taken with a grain of salt until they are proven to the satisfaction of unbiased and skilled scrutiny.
Certain tests may be applied to the professed use of any gift.
2. Discerning the Spirit of the Gift
3. Testing the Spirits
1) 1 Corinthians 12:3: Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus is accursed"; and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.
If, while professedly using a gift, one confesses the deity of Yeshua, then that confession is of the Spirit. If one declares, Jesus is accursed, then that confession is diabolic.
2) 1 John 4:1-3:
If, while using a gift, one confesses that Yeshua of Nazareth is the Messiah and has come bodily, then that confession is of the Spirit. If the person denies it or refuses to confess it, that person is operating in a demonic spirit.
To sum up, if one confesses both the deity and the humanity of Yeshua, then that confession is of God. If he denies either, or declares that Jesus is accursed, then the confession is of a demonic nature.
These Berean Jews tested the word that they heard against the written Word, an example we all ought to follow. If the word heard contradicts Scripture, throw it out. If it is consistent with Scripture, receive it. However, the spirit in which a true word is delivered also needs to be tested by one of the above methods. The slave-girl in Thyatira spoke truth, yet her motive was demonic. Paul recognized the spirit of divination in her, and cast it out of her (Acts 16:16-18).
There are a plethora of false prophets and prophecies, both inside and outside of churches. Some such prophets are sincere but mistaken, and others are bold-faced deceivers. What they have in common is false prophecy, and all false prophecy is dangerous. Lives have been uprooted and heretical cults have arisen on the basis of false prophecies. One must be exceedingly careful before receiving or giving a prophecy.
The fruits or deeds or of the flesh are named in Galatians 5:19-21:
If one's prophecy bears the fruit of things like these, it is a false prophecy.
b. The Mosaic Test
One who claims to be a prophet needs to prophesy a near future event that cannot be determined by natural means, and is quite improbable. To pass the test, the prophecy must come to pass in every detail.
Agabus passed such a test.
Matthew Henry writes, "Several of the Roman historians make mention of it, as does also Josephus" (Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible). This is the kind of proof that affirms a true prophet! Because Agabus had thus proved his credibility, when he prophesied the precise manner in which the Jerusalem Jews would arrest Paul and deliver him to the Gentiles, Paul and the brethren took him seriously (Acts 21:10-14).
The New Testament does not carry forward the injunction to execute a false prophet. Nevertheless, false prophecy was treated very seriously in apostolic days. In Acts 13:8-11, Paul struck the false prophet Elymas with blindness. However, ...
3. Not "Everybody Must Get Stoned"
The difference between Elymas and Nathan? Nathan's heart was right with the LORD, but Elymas acted presumptuously, the word used in Deuteronomy 18:20. Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions gives the meaning of the Hebrew: "to boil, boil up, seethe, act proudly, act presumptuously, act rebelliously, be presumptuous, be arrogant, be rebelliously proud." Paul's words to Elymas show that this was true of him. Acts 13:10: You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness.... Elymas was a son of the devil (unregenerate), full of all deceit and fraud, and opposed Paul and Barnabas' witness to Sergius Paulus.
So, let's not be too quick to drag each other to the stone yard for a mistake, or we'll all be stoning each other to death! On the other hand, let all would-be prophets note the gravity of prophesying falsely in the eyes of the Lord and the potential for damage in the lives of people.
Dear Ladies, Pastors and Eavesdroppers,
I have agonized for a great many hours over the relevant passages, taking great pains to not add to, subtract from, or misinterpret, the intended meaning of the writer, nor to restrict or place a burden on you that is not of God. I have resisted taking my cues from what seems reasonable, from widespread and accepted practice, and from the fruitful ministries of gifted women - in short, from the path of least resistance - but from the Word of God only; and so must we all. As with all studies, we need to approach this one with the confidence that God knows best and be ready to walk out the results, even to the crucifying our flesh (Romans 12:1, 8:13; Galatians 5:24; Colossians 3:5). Proverbs 3:5-6: 5. Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. 6. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.
In section III B of The Local Church, above, I present many more scriptures than appear below to show that the following and similar injunctions are not based on temporal situational or cultural reasons, but on timeless theological truths, and therefore apply in all churches throughout the Church Age. Please give section III B of The Local Church a thorough and unbiased study, and then proceed below - cross, nails and hammer at the ready.
All of the gifts that the Spirit may distribute today He may distribute to women. However, Scripture does place restrictions on women in the use of some of the gifts that He does not place on men. Scripture also shows many ways that women may serve in their gifts, and I will show these.
Scripture restricts women in three concentric circles of church ministry. From the inside out, they are: the pastorate, teaching, and speaking in general. From the outside in, speaking includes teaching, teaching may take place apart from a pastorate, and a pastorate must include teaching. We will address these realms from the outside in.
Some say that the injunction to silence applies only to married women and/or only in those cultures in which women are expected to restrain themselves thusly. However, please note:
The injunction to silence applies to all women when the whole church assembles together (v. 23) for the ministry of the Word. All absolutely unnecessary speaking is prohibited.
But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.
Paul is instructing Timothy in his pastoral responsibilities. Therefore, at the very least the injunction to silence applies in all meetings under Timothy's authority. Women may not give biblical instruction to men in any meeting authorized by a church's eldership, but are to remain quiet. This includes the worship service, Bible classes, home Bible studies and the like. She may not even teach men off the cuff during business meetings.
Why not? Notice how, in verse 11, receiving instruction is paired with submissiveness, and in verse 12, teaching is paired with exercising authority. Teaching Scripture is an exercise of spiritual authority, and Paul teaches that a woman may not exercise spiritual authority over a man in any meeting for which a pastor is ultimately responsible. Why not? Verse 13 gives one reason, and verse 14 another: 13. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Note that the reasons given are not at all cultural or situational, but theological, and they apply in all churches everywhere. Notice also that verses 11 and 12 broaden the scope of meetings at which silence is enjoined beyond the worship service context of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.
4. A Common Objection
1. From verses 3 through 13, Paul was dealing solely with the matter of head covering, and it is normal for people to deal with only one issue at a time; and
2. He addressed the matter of speaking in the meeting of the church directly in 1 Timothy 2:12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, and that's where we need to get our instruction from.
1. Singing and Praying Aloud
In the believing community at large, women may exercise all gifts, even leadership and speaking gifts, among women, children, and non-adult males, as is brought out by a number of examples immediately following. They may also serve as leaders of youth and women's groups, principals of Christian schools, and the like. However, the key question at hand is, may they exercise their speaking and leadership gifts among men in the context of the ministry of the Word? I do not see that Scripture is explicit in this matter. Therefore, I would say that, if they are ministering to brand new believing men, as in the case of Priscilla, or to believing men who are not connected to a local church - fine, so long as there is genuine effort to transfer such responsibilities to men approved by a local church lest the woman find herself entrenched in the position of a de facto pastor over men.
In order of appearance:
Women may lead, teach and exhort men in any secular realm and capacity, even as heads of state.
Except for singing and praying, women must remain silent in all authorized meetings for the ministry of the Word at which a man is a participant. If a woman leads or teaches at a meeting for the ministry of the Word that is not under the auspices of a local church and at which a man is a participant, she is still exercis[ing] authority over a man, and she may not do that. She must keep silent except in transitional evangelistic or missionary-like situations. In secular realms and capacities, women are free to lead, teach and exhort at will.
Programs need to be established for the maturation of the saints in the use of their gifts. All training must include study of the relevant Scriptures, and mentoring in many cases. Those with speaking gifts should be provided rigorous training in the Scriptures.
Scripture places much emphasis on the teaching and preaching of the Word (1 Timothy 1:3, 5; 4:11; 6:2, 17). However, worship services are not meant to be monopolized by one man or a pre-selected group. Ample time needs to be provided for the exercise of the speaking gift - no Ph.D. required - not even an elementary school education. Neither should the service be allowed to proceed in a lawless manner: all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner (1 Corinthians 14:40), and there are more rules for the conduct of the gifts than I have addressed (cf. 1 Corinthians 14). 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 sums it up: 19. Do not quench the Spirit; 20. do not despise prophetic utterances, 21. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
Transitioning to biblically ordained parameters may prove stormy and people may even leave your church, but the transition needs to be made.
The Spiritual Gifts
THE MINISTRIES AND GIFTS
This is a study on the divine healing of physical ailments.
There is much perplexity in the body of Messiah on the matter of divine healing as well as abuse and just plain error. I have therefore chosen to address the subject fairly extensively in an attempt to throw out the bathwater while saving the baby. It is not the purpose of this study to cover all aspects of divine healing, but to substantiate the claims in our Statement, to set divine healing in a biblical perspective, to address some key contemporary issues, and to deal with many claims and passages of Scripture used erroneously or deceitfully.
This study follows on the heels of a series on the spiritual gifts, which include gifts of healings - double plural explained below - and will pull together many of the principles and facts in those studies, mostly in a summary manner, and then some. A thoughtful reading of those studies, particularly the sections on gifts of healings and apostleship, would be a good, and in some cases, necessary, foundation for this study. One important point that I've established and wish to emphasize is that Scripture neither says nor implies that God may not choose to heal today (Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Page 1, II.J.4), and this will be presumed throughout this study.
Please note that throughout this study, such words as "sickness" and "illness" are meant to convey every form of physical malady. Also, it is important to establish a foundation of understanding the causes and divine purposes for physical malady before we study divine healing proper; and this we will do.
Without exception, the root cause of all physical malady is the sin of Adam (Genesis 3:16-19). The judgment for his sin included:
1. Genetic or Hormonal
God may afflict His own believing children with physical maladies for the sake of testing, sanctification, discipline or the securing of their salvation.
At times, God will use Satan in these matters, as in allowing him to afflict Job with boils for the sake of sanctification (Job 2:2-7, 42:1-6); to afflict Paul with a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself! (2 Corinthians 12:7); to discipline the Corinthian man (I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh [body], so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus [1 Corinthians 5:5]), and the same for Hymenaeus and Alexander, that they may learn not to blaspheme (1 Timothy 1:20).
Natural healing refers to the healing of physical maladies by the body's built-in healing mechanisms, and may include the assistance of medical applications such things as herbs, medicines, poultices, body casts, therapies and surgeries. For our purposes, the purely natural and the medical may all be thought of as natural as they are both physical in nature.
A supernatural or miraculous healing is one which involves supernatural intervention in addition to whatever natural healing processes may be operating.
Of course, faked or imagined healings are not healings, at all. Sadly, it has been discovered that many of the healings of some prominent "healers" have been staged. In addition, many who come forward for healing imagine that they are healed when they are not, either because of wishful thinking, or to call attention to themselves, or because they have been instructed to "confess" their healing when none was in progress (this will be discussed later), or some other reason. If a healing is claimed but not obvious, it behooves the observer to require medical verification before believing it.
Miracles of healing have been reported and attested to throughout history right up to the present day. It seems irrational to believe that none are of genuine healing miracles. In my early years as a believer, I personally observed numerous immediate and undoubted healings, such as the lengthening of short legs up to three or four inches so that both in the pair were even. (One fellow had worn a lift in one shoe to even the length of his legs. After prayer, his short leg lengthened, he got rid of the lift in his shoe, and had not worn it again even when we inquired several weeks later.) At times, I observed such healings from a distance of mere inches, and many have observed them right along with me. In addition, others whom I trust have testified that they have seen or performed healings, as well, some quite dramatic.
There are only two possible sources: God and the Devil.
Many passages of Scripture show that God has healed, such as:
Mark 1:34: And He healed many who were ill....
Scripture shows that Satan is able perform true and astounding miracles, including healings.
Satan will give life to a lifeless image and raise a dead man back to life. There should be no doubt that he can heal any physical ailment.
Just as God and Satan can perform healings, even so both believers and unbelievers can be agents of supernatural healing.
The Book of Acts is replete with examples of healings performed by believers. Some examples are: mass healings by the apostles (Acts 5:16; 8:7), and the prophet Ananias' healing of Saul of Tarsus' blindness (Acts 9:17-18). Also, gifts of healings is differentiated from the gifts of apostleship and prophecy (1 Corinthians 12:28), indicating that the Lord intended for some who are not apostles or prophets to be given gifts of healings.
Though healings of the body are not specifically mentioned of the many and the Pharisees, it is almost certain that they are included.
Three questions are involved: 1. Does he have the means? 2. Does he have a reason? 3. Would the Lord allow him?
Does Satan have the means to heal through a believer?
2. Is Satan able to launch "a full scale military attack" through true believers? Martin Luther printed pamphlets to incite murderous attacks against Jewish communities; and indeed, such attacks ensued. It is also a fact of history that Luther's anti-Semitism was an inspiration for Hitler's "final solution."
The false prophet will give life to a lifeless image, Satan will raise a dead man, he can fill a believer and launch "a full-scale military attack" through him. Satan's attacks through Luther, were frontal, but often his attacks are more of an inside job, being internally subversive, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).
There should be no doubt that Satan has the means to heal through a believer.
In Matthew 4:9, Satan offered to "bless" the Lord with rulership over the kingdoms of the world if He would but worship him; but he was after a prize: getting the Lord to sin so as to disqualify Him as the sinless Lamb of God.
Satan's design is to mislead, if possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:24). He will "bless" the believer if permitted to in order to mislead him further or to entrap or cripple him in an area of greater consequence than the state of his health (See also 1 Corinthians 11:3-15). He would heal through a believer if it serves his ends.
I have not turned up a passage that is specific to that question. Nevertheless, inasmuch as the Lord permits him to move through believers in other ways, it is safe to assume that He would allow him to heal through believers, as well. The believer must therefore do his best to determine the spirit working through a healer.
It stands to reason that the more imbalances that Satan has established in a healer's personality, such as perverse sexual tendencies, a hunger for power or control or recognition, or a covetousness for donations; or in a group, such as a spirit of pride in relation to non-healing groups; or, be it in the healer or the group, serious aberrations in doctrine or practice, the more likely it is that healings carried out by that healer or group are energized by demons.
When such problems exist, and yet the true Gospel is upheld and healings are done in the Name of Jesus, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to determine the source of the healings. However, Scripture does provide us with tests that will determine, or help us determine, if a healing is energized by God or Satan.
It may similarly be presumed that the healings are of God if all of the following tests are passed:
If one applies the above tests in any given healing situation and is still not sure of the source, it would behoove him to do three things:
There are a number of other perspectives which, if understood, will help to provide a balanced approach to various aspects of divine healing.
Each of the three periods that Enns mentioned contained healing miracles that authenticated the messages of God's select leaders. A fourth such period of miracles will be the Great Tribulation in which the resurrection of the two witnesses (Revelation 11:11) will authenticate their message; but only two miracles of divine healing are recorded of that period: the resurrection of the two witnesses.
God has ordained that the unfurling of His story in history have its mountaintops and valleys. We are somewhere between the apostolic age and the Great Tribulation (which the church will not experience). We should not fret, therefore, if we are not among those who see divine healings, or see them as often as we'd like.
Two issues need to be addressed here: the frequency and magnitude of Jesus' healings, and the matter of faith in regard to His healings.
John, languishing in prison, began to wonder whether Jesus was really the prophesied Messiah. Jesus assured him by summarizing His miracles and the preaching of the Gospel to the poor.
Plainly, astounding and frequent healings were part of Yeshua's prophesied messianic credentials
(Cf. Psalm 146:8; Isaiah 29:18; 35:5-6; 61:1), the signs of His messiahship (John 2:11, 23; 3:2, etc.). Let us also remember that His Father gave Him the Spirit without measure (John 3:34). It is unreasonable to expect, on the basis of Messiah's ministry, that healings of the same magnitude and frequency should be commonplace today.
As I see it, there may be one catch to that explanation: He did use the pronoun he, which refers to the individual believer, and that needs to be dealt with.
Jesus presented the reason for the greater works that he, the individual believer, will do: because I go to the Father. What is it that His departure to the Father rendered possible? The permanent indwelling of the Spirit into the heart of every believer; and He spoke extensively of the coming of the Spirit after His departure in that very discourse (John 14:7-29). It may very well be that the greater works that Jesus said that the individual believer will do because I go to the Father will be the leading of others to Messiah that the Spirit may abide permanently in their hearts, as well.
However, let us suppose that the first explanation is the correct one. We're still left with the fact that it is impossible for anyone to perform healings of greater magnitude than Jesus, and that it is unreasonable to expect, on the basis of Messiah's ministry, that healings of the same magnitude and frequency should be commonplace today.
2. Jesus' Healings and Faith
As forerunner of Yeshua, John the Immerser cried out, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 3:2), and Yeshua Himself: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:7).
Jesus came with the offer of establishing the prophesied Messianic Kingdom in that generation (which we now look forward to as the Millennium) on the condition that Israel as a nation would receive Him as their Messiah (Matthew 23:37-39; Hosea 5:15). As it turned out, their leaders rejected His messianic claims by concluding that His power was not of God, but only of the Devil: This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons (Matthew 12:24). Jesus consequently rescinded the offer of the kingdom to that generation, and the purpose of His ministry radically changed. No longer did He minister to demonstrate His messiahship, but to prepare His apostles for ministry in the now necessary Church Age. Before His rejection, faith was not required of those coming to be healed as healings were an essential element in His messianic credentials (e.g., Matthew 8:14-17; 12:9-13). After His rejection, faith was required (e.g., Matthew 9:27-30; John 9:1-7). Even corpses did not get away cold. (Very punny!) Jesus required belief of Martha for the resurrection of her brother Lazarus (John 11:21-27, 39-44). (For more on the Kingdom and the ramifications of Jesus' rejection, the author recommends Dr. Fruchtenbaum's mbs 003: The Basis of the Second Coming of Messiah, and Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology and The Footsteps of the Messiah, all available at www.ariel.org.)
Yeshua had His signs and the apostles had theirs. 2 Corinthians 12:12: The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles. Also, Matthew 16:16, 20.
Acts 2:43: Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.
The age of the apostles is long gone (The Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Page 3, J.1.), and no one should expect the frequency or magnitude of the great miracles and mass healings that were given to the apostles as signs (e.g., Acts 9:36-43; 19:11-12; 20:9-12).
All apostles had gifts of healings. Some other believers are given gifts of healings, as well.
When Paul exhorted, But earnestly desire the greater gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31), he was exhorting the local body as a unit, not the individuals in it (1 Corinthians 1:1-2). Paul's statement was in the context of 1 Corinthians 12:28, which speaks of greater and lesser gifts. If the Corinthian church was lacking in the ministry of the greater gifts, they were to draw out such ministry from those so gifted among them, or invite such ministry from elsewhere in the body.
The point is that no one should strive for gifts of healings if he or she does not have it, nor should they be taught that they can acquire it.
2. Not Always Operative in the Gift Holder
Since the gift comes and goes in those endowed with it, one should expect gaps, perhaps even large gaps, in the healing ability of those so gifted.
In 1 Corinthians 12:28, Paul lists eight gifts in descending order of importance: And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.
Some of the following may be applied in combination or in sequence.
In Isaiah 38:1-5, Hezekiah became mortally ill; but he prayed, and the LORD added fifteen years to his life.
Even those without gifts of healings may pray successfully for healings, either for themselves or for others, and they need not even be in the presence of the sick person.
1 John 5:14: This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
In certain cases, fasting is necessary for physical healing. Of the demon that caused epilepsy in the boy, Jesus said, But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:21).
One may choose to fast while praying for the healing of any ailment as fasting focuses the mind on praying. Psalm 35:13: But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled my soul with fasting, And my prayer kept returning to my bosom.
If an illness is caused by a sin, such as an ulcer caused by unforgiveness, then repentance may bring healing. In some cases, it won't, as when a daredevil activity (prompted by pride or abandon) causes a paraplegic condition.
If a sin brings about the indwelling of a demon and the demon causes an illness, then the demon must be expelled in order for healing to take place. Whether repentance alone will suffice for the expulsion or whether exorcism is necessitated, repentance must precede the expulsion.
The nature of the prayer offered in faith is often misunderstood. Before examining the passage, let us remember that believers may become sick even unto death by taking the Lord's supper in an unworthy manner (1 Corinthians 11:30-32), and that Paul committed the sinning and impenitent Corinthian man and Hymenaeus and Alexander to Satan for the destruction of their bodies (1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Timothy 1:20).
The passage says that when the prayer of faith for healing is prayed over a person his sins will be forgiven. Forgiveness of sin on the basis of coming for prayer for healing? Good deal! What syphilitic adulterer wouldn't come for healing and forgiveness so he can commit adultery again all fresh as a daisy? No, the passage is not teaching forgiveness on the basis of coming for prayer for healing. Scripture plainly teaches that the condition for forgiveness is always and only true repentance, which is necessarily preceded by confession (agreeing with God in contrition of heart), whether inward or oral: 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Now, verse 17 says, Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed, indicating that confession of sin must precede the prayer of faith. Dr. Fruchtenbaum writes, "The word sins is used to show repeated action."6 The prayer of faith, then, is prayer by the elders for the healing of an ailment brought about by repeated sin. Albert Barnes writes, "The case supposed all along here (see Jam. 5:15) is, that the sickness referred to had been brought upon the patient for his sins, apparently as a punishment for some particular transgressions"7; and John Gill: "... the sense is, if he has been guilty of any sins, which God in particular has taken notice of, and on account of which he has laid his chastising hand upon him...."8 Without a doubt the prayer of faith includes the healing of one that the eldership had committed to Satan (he must call for the elders of the church, showing humility before the ones who committed him), and may also include the healing of others whose sickness had been brought on by sin.
So the necessary progression in the prayer of faith is this: repeated sins, sickness, confession, forgiveness, prayer of faith, healing. The prayer of faith applied under the right circumstances will always bring healing. Verse 16: the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.
It is implied in Job 42:10,12 that God healed Job of his boils (2:7) apart from prayers for healing from anyone, including Job himself. Also, Matthew 27:52-53.
There are various reasons why God may withhold a healing from even His most dedicated and devoted of children no matter how fervent their prayers and mature their walk.
We have seen two situations in which God authorizes the judgment of illness for sin:
Inasmuch as illness is the judgment of God in these cases, He will certainly not effect divine healing before repentance; and no amount of praying for, commanding, claiming or confessing a healing will suffice. Where physical malady is the direct, natural result of sin apart from the intervention of God, such as venereal disease contracted during fornication, or injury sustained as a result of picking a fight, it is unlikely that God will effect divine healing before repentance in such cases, as well.
In Job 1:8 and 2:3, God declared Job to be a righteous and upright man: Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil. And Job demanded of God: Have I sinned? What have I done to You, O watcher of men? (7:20). From Job's perspective, if he was taken in any sin, he did not know it. Nevertheless, despite God's and Job's assessments, God allowed Satan to afflict him with boils (2:7), and left him in that condition until he learned to trust Him (Job 38-42, esp. 42:1-6).
God deals with all of His children in a similar manner whether it be for sin known or unknown to them: 6. For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.... 10. but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
When God chastens for sanctification, whether it be by means of illness or otherwise, He will not relent until the job is done.
Paul prayed three times for the Lord to remove his thorn in the flesh; yet God refused to heal him in order to keep him humble - lest he be exalted above measure due to the abundance of the revelations - for the rest of his life (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).
You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives.... (James 4:3).
At times, God chooses not to heal so that he may forge character in the fire of adversity.
In 1967, Joni Eareckson-Tada broke her neck in a diving accident and became a quadriplegic. She pled for God to heal her, but He did not. Once she accepted her condition, God began to use her mightily to testify of His ability to bring great, overcoming spiritual victory irregardless of one's handicap or other debilitating situation. At the time of this writing, Joni has a many-faceted worldwide ministry to both saved and unsaved, to the glory of God.
In John 9:1-11, we read of a man who was born blind and remained blind until manhood so that the works of God might be displayed in him in the Lord's good and perfect time - and the Lord's good and perfect time was not until the man attained adulthood. Similarly, in John 11:4, Jesus said of Lazarus' sickness unto death, This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it; and He allowed Lazarus to remain dead four days (verse 39) before He resurrected him (vv. 43-44).
In each case, the Lord allowed sickness to remain until the preordained perfect moment for His glorification through healing had arrived. In the first case, the healing of the man born blind fulfilled a rabbinic sign of messiahship. In the second, it was to again demonstrate His messiahship through the stunning resurrection of Lazarus one day later than the rabbis thought it possible: They believed that the spirit of a deceased person hovers over his corpse for three days, and then departs; and after the departure, resurrection was no longer possible. In both instances, Jesus delayed healing until the perfect moment had arrived to demonstrate His messiahship.
In view of these things, if the Lord has chosen a future moment for healing unto His glorification, it is unthinkable that He would answer prayers for healing until that moment.
Barring instant death from a severe blow to the body from within or without, there is always a transitional stage of declining health before death. If the Lord chooses for someone to die by means of declining health, who can guarantee that He will stay His hand by means of divine healing? God added fifteen years to Hezekiah's life as a result of his prayer (Isaiah 38:1-5), but who can deny that this was an exceptional case? Furthermore, Hezekiah ended up dying after all. Who can claim that we have a right to be healed because we are God's children or for any other reason when God has ordained, it is appointed for men to die (Hebrew 9:27)? And who can claim healing because of some presumed right to longevity? God even chooses when babies die. 2 Samuel 12:15,18: Then the LORD struck the child that Uriah's widow bore to David, so that he was very sick.... 18. Then it happened on the seventh day that the child died.
It has been taught that by healthy living, prayer and faith we can live as long as Moses and maintain the level of health that he had right up to his death: Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated (Deuteronomy 34:7). In the same vein it has been taught that if our health and longevity do not match that of Moses', we are being "ripped off." Well, that touches home, as I typed it with my glasses on, and I'm fifty-five years shy of one hundred and twenty!
What did Moses have to say about all of this - before he died, of course! As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years (Psalm 90:10). Who wrote Psalm 90? Moses!
So how did he remain so healthy until he died? It's possible that God actively sustained Moses' vitality to uphold His chosen senior citizen as he confronted Pharaoh, schlepped through deserts, dealt with rebellions, battled enemy nations and put up with millions of stiff-necked Israelites from age 80 to 120. Whatever the case, Moses said seventy years was the norm, and that's what we need to go with - though this Norm hopes to live well beyond seventy for maximum service to the Lord!
There is no justification for taking what God did for one person, whether it be Hezekiah or Moses or any other person, and then claim it as a standard for all - unless Scripture declares it as a standard; and in the cases of Hezekiah and Moses, it does not.
Deuteronomy 29:29: The secret things belong to the LORD our God....
If, after pondering God's word on divine healing, we are still puzzled as to why He will not bless us or another with a healing, we must simply be content to know that there are some things that God has chosen to not reveal to us.
God may choose to withhold a healing:
It is important to remember that, with God, spiritual concerns always trump physical concerns. Indeed, as we have seen, God may even cause ill health for the accomplishment of spiritual purposes, and no amount of praying for divine healing will suffice until God has completed His work.
Having established the facts that God does heal today and that He also withholds healings for various reasons, we need not belabor the point. God does heal, but only if it's according to His will, which will always be in accordance with the outworking of His divine purposes.
This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us (1 John 5:14).
Note again the condition: according to His will. If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, 'atonement' refers to the covering of the sins of Old Testament saints pending removal by the vicarious sacrifice of the coming Messiah. Relative to the work of the cross, 'atonement' may be defined as the totality of what Jesus accomplished by means of His sacrifice.
The sacrificial work of Messiah on the cross laid the foundation for every redemptive objective: the reconciliation of the world to God, the forgiveness of sins, the glorification of the bodies of the saints in Christ at the Rapture, the salvation of all Israel (every living Israelite at a given point in the future, per Romans 11:26, etc.), the establishment of the Messianic (Millennial) Kingdom, the creation of the new heavens and earth, and more.
Three things should be noticed about such events:
1. Though the foundation for all of them was laid at Calvary, it is plain that not all of them are "facts on the ground" even today, two thousand years later. Some are clearly First Coming events, and the others, Second.
2. None of these events took place before the cross.
The question at hand is: Did the atonement provide for the perfect healing of all physical ailments of God's children in this day and age between the two Comings, or must such healing await Second Coming fulfillment? Let us examine the matter according to the above three points.
1. Perfect health is not a "facts on the ground" condition of all of God's children today; and in light of all that can bring malady to one degree or another - from genetics to accident to infection to sanctification to judgment to senescence (the ageing process) - it is a virtual impossibility that even one individual can ever attain, much less sustain, perfect health in these mortal bodies. Even righteous, dedicated, filled-with-the-Spirit, filled-with-faith Paul needed to endure his thorn in the flesh until he died. And is it possible for anyone to avoid or pray his way out of the disease of senescence? Does not senescence bear all the symptoms of an incurable and progressively degenerative, debilitating and universally fatal disease?
2. Unlike the redemptive events for which the atonement laid the foundation, divine healings took place before the cross, even before Yeshua was born (Judges 13:2-4; 1 Kings 13:4-6; 1 Kings 17:17-24, etc.). Therefore, divine healings that occur today provide no proof that all are entitled to divine healing today on the basis of the atonement.
At our resurrection or Rapture, our healing will take place in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52). In the 1 Corinthians 15 passage, Paul considers it a given that our bodies are now perishable (subject to decay, destructable by bacterial infection), in a state of weakness (Strong's: feebleness [of body or mind]; by implication malady; moral frailty: - disease, infirmity, sickness, weakness) and mortal (subject to death). In the same passage, he tells us that, at the Rapture, that which is now perishable, weak and mortal will be transformed into that which is imperishable, powerful and immortal - and not before.
To sum up, we can neither attain perfect health in these mortal bodies nor pray down divine healing for every fly bite, nail fungus, broken bone, cold and cancer. Divine healing is simply not a First Coming "facts on the ground" Bible promise or atonement event. God heals according to His will, and only He knows all the factors involved in any given case.
God may choose to heal at any time on His own initiative (e.g., Job 2:7 with 42:10,12; Matthew 27:52-53); yet, in Scripture, faith is often mentioned as a factor in divine healing.
To review a key matter:
We will first examine the nature of faith, and then bring out the key points of what Scripture has to say in the matter of faith in relation to healing in our Church Age.
1. True Faith
Verse 3 implies what faith must be based on: By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God.
How were they to understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God? Well, those Hebrews had the Bible, which informed them. Genesis 1:3. Then God said, "Let there be light".... 6. Then God said, "Let there be an expanse.... 9. Then God said, "Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear". The faith by which they understood that the worlds were prepared by the word of God was based on the written Word of God.
Let's consider a different case.
In this case there was no written word, and we don't even know if Paul mentioned divine healing; but we do know that the man almost certainly heard Paul preaching the Gospel (verses 6,7) and, as a result, had faith to be made well, and he was.
Here's the point: So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). True faith is based on a word from God, whether written or heard or implanted in the heart some other way.
2. True Faith vs. Imagined Faith
This writer vividly remembers a godly pastor whose body was riddled with cancer publicly, vigorously and repeatedly shaking his afflicted leg at the instruction of a visiting "healer" to exercise his faith to bring about his healing. He walked out of the room on crutches as painfully afflicted as when he entered, and died of cancer shortly after that. Sadly, the pastor did not possess true faith for the healing, nor did the healer have a gift of healing for the pastor.
3. Confessing or Claiming a Healing
Confessing or claiming one's healing is often promoted on the basis of Romans 4:17: God... calls into being that which does not exist. Well, if we were God it would work; but for us mere mortals, our confession needs to be based on a truth or promise or assurance from God, just as Abraham's faith to be a father of many nations was based on a promise from God, as shown in the same passage. Here's the full verse: as it is written, "A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU" in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.
God made a promise to Abraham, and Abraham believed God who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. It was not Abraham who was to call into being that which does not exist, but God. Scriptures need to be read carefully and taught faithfully!
I am compelled to repeat: There is no promise or formula in the Scriptures that guarantees divine healing for church saints except in the case of the prayer of faith properly carried out under the right circumstances.
Two classes of cases will be examined here, and deductions will be made.
1. Acts 28:8: the father of Publius lay sick of fever and dysentery: unto whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laying his hands on him healed him.
There is no indication that Publius' father exercised faith. What is recorded is that Paul simply walked in and healed him. Similar examples may be found in Peter and John's healing of the lame man at the gate Beautiful (Acts 3:1-7); Peter's healing of bed-ridden Aeneas (Acts 9:32-34); Peter's resurrection of Tabitha (9:36-40); and Paul's resurrection of Eutychus (Acts 20:9-12). From these examples we see that if one with gifts of healings has a healing gift for someone at a particular time, then faith is not required of the sick person: the healer can heal at will.
2. In the case of the man at Lystra (Acts 14:8-10), Paul saw that he had faith to be made well, so he prayed for him, and he was healed. From this we can deduce that, if one has the faith to be healed, we should pray for him, but always deferring to one with the gift of healing if such a one is present.
There are passages of Scripture that are used erroneously or deceptively in the realm of divine healing whose claims we have not addressed. We will examine three of the most common.
1. Isaiah 53:5: But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. It is commonly said that we can claim our healing now on the basis of the phrase, with his stripes we are healed.
Without a doubt, the word for healed, rapha, is used of physical healing in Exodus 15:26, 21:19, Leviticus 13:18, and other places. Yet, as regards its use in Isaiah 53:5: In consideration of immediate and broad contexts, the use of parallelism in Hebrew poetry (the immediate repetition of a brief declaration in different ways), the fact that the overwhelming emphasis in Scripture in regards to the atonement is on spiritual healing, and the fact that rapha is used elsewhere metaphorically of spiritual healing (e.g., Ezekiel 34:4 and Zechariah 11:16), a powerful case stands for the metaphorical use of rapha in Isaiah 53:5 for spiritual healing. Yet, even if one holds that it is physical healing that it refers to, it still cannot be used to claim divine healing in this day and age for reasons already discussed.
2. Galatians 3:13: Messiah redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE."
Though the verse plainly speaks of the curse of the Law of Moses, which the Galatians were being wooed to come under, the curse in the passage is often taken to refer to every form of affliction from the time of the Fall, which includes illness. Well, if we are to use this verse for healing on demand, we may as well stand in our yards and command the weeds to leave, throw away our deodorants for we will sweat no longer, and make no preparation or adjustment in our lives for death for we shall not die, for weeds, sweat and death are all part of the Adamic curse!
The fact is, the physical aspects of the curse are still in effect even for God's people, and there will still be elements of the curse in the Millennium, including the death of those believers who are in their natural bodies (Isaiah 65:20). It is only in the New Jerusalem in the Heavenly Ages that Scripture says there shall be no more curse (Revelation 22:3). But for now, in regards to perfect health or healing on demand, Paul describes the situation as it plainly is:
(The redemption of our body refers to the glorification of our bodies at the Rapture, for which we now groan.)
3. Mark 16:17-18. 17. These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; 18. they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.
The passage is often taken to mean that all believers should have the ability to lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.
Let us note two things:
2. No single spiritual gift is given to everyone (1 Corinthians 12:11-25), But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills (verse 11). Therefore, even if the passage does belong in Mark, it cannot mean that all will be given the ability to lay hands on the sick, and they will recover. It must mean that within the body there will be some who will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.
Length restrictions limit the types and numbers of scriptures that can be answered here, and there are many. Suffice it to say that, if they do not line up with clear teachings on divine healing in this day and age, they are misunderstood or misused in some way. They are used out of context, or misunderstood due to lack of understanding of the culture, or because of a logical fallacy, or for some other reason.
The passage may apply to an individual, and to no one else, as does the passage on Moses' health and longevity, yet is upheld as a standard for all. It may be addressed to Israel, and apply to no individual or other group, yet is applied to the church or everyone in the church. It may be used out of time and/or people context, or understood literally when it should be understood figuratively, all of which have been done with Jeremiah 30:17: I will restore health to you, which is in reference to Israel's national health on the basis of her future national salvation, and has absolutely no bearing on physical health for Christians. (The chapter speaks of restoring Israel to the Land, freedom from attack and captivity, and the rebuilding of the Land. If such a passage can be quoted for healing on demand, then one can with equal validity quote, Therefore the Lord will afflict the scalp of the daughters of Zion with scabs, And the LORD will lay bare their secret parts [Isaiah 3:17] to prove that God wants Christian women to have scabs on their heads and their private parts exposed.) It may be reading healing on demand into a statement when it is simply not there, as has been done with James 1:17: Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow, and with Hebrews 13:8: Jesus the Messiah is the same yesterday and today and forever. It may be the salutation of a letter, as 3 John 1:2: Beloved, I pray that in all respects you [Gaius] may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers, or a letter's complimentary closing, as 1 Thessalonians 5:23: may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus the Christ, which do not indicate God's will for the present, but are prayers for the readers' or hearers' well being cordially expressed in a letter.
I have seen these and dozens of misused scriptures like them listed online and in books thrown out at readers en masse. No doubt, some compilers of such lists are well-intentioned, but are novices in biblical understanding; but in other cases, I cannot help but believe that passages are chosen despite knowledge of their limited meanings, the philosophy being, "Anything that may give the impression of saying what I want it to say will do." This is willful deception, pulling the wool over the readers' eyes, intentionally handling the word of God deceitfully (2 Corinthians 4:2). Let the reader beware and be discerning:
But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
I introduced this study as an attempt to save the 'baby' of divine healing while throwing out the 'bathwater' of error and misuse that often accompanies it. The latter half of this study was necessarily weighted toward the latter, and I do not want to leave the reader with a dirty bathwater taste in his mouth. I must therefore conclude with two notes of encouragement:
FOOTNOTES AND RECOMMENDED READING
1. Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Footsteps of the Messiah, pdf, p. 275.
Cooper, Dr. David. Hermeneutical studies at http://www.biblicalresearch.info/page7.html. Simply go down the links in succession.
A Key Doctrinal
Overview and Exegesis