What About Manifestation Gifts?

I have a respected friend who is on staff at a church where the pastoral leadership has differing interpretations on the miracle or sign gifts that were a part of the early church’s experience. This will eventually cause the congregation to personally decide where each member stands on the issue.

When I was in seminary, I had a friend who was a part of an Apostolic Church, where speaking in tongues was the norm, and EVIDENCE of a believer having the Holy Spirit. They even had small group classes on “how to speak in tongues” during the week, like you can coach the “gift of the Spirit” out of someone… but I digress.

The question is whether or not these types of gifts (tongues, miracles, word of wisdom or knowledge) are a part of the church today. Those who say YES are considered charismatic (embracing the grace gifts, charis meaning grace), and those who say NO are considered cessationists (those who believe tongues and healing have ceased, or stopped at the end of the apostolic age). So, is cessationism biblical?

Most cessationists believe that, while God can and still does perform miracles today, the Holy Spirit no longer uses individuals to perform miraculous signs.

The Bible shows that miracles occurred during particular periods for the specific purpose of authenticating a new message from God.

  • Moses was enabled to perform miracles to authenticate his ministry before Pharaoh (Exodus 4:1-8).
  • Elijah was given miracles to authenticate his ministry before Ahab (1 Kings 17:1; 18:24).
  • The apostles were given miracles to authenticate their ministry before Israel (Acts 4:10, 16).
  • Jesus’ ministry was marked by miracles, which the Apostle John calls “signs” (John 2:11). John’s point is that the miracles were proofs of the authenticity of Jesus’ message.

After Jesus’ resurrection, as the Church was being established and the New Testament was being written, the apostles demonstrated “signs” such as tongues and the power to heal. “So you see that speaking in tongues is a sign, not for believers, but for unbelievers.” (1 Corinthians 14:22a, a verse that plainly says the gift was never intended to edify the church).

The Apostle Paul predicted that the gift of tongues would cease (1 Corinthians 13:8). Here are six reasons that it has already ceased:

  1. The apostles, through whom tongues came (Acts 2:1-4), were unique in the history of the church. Once their ministry was accomplished, the need for authenticating signs ceased to exist.
  2. The miracle (or sign) gifts are only mentioned in the earliest epistles, such as 1 Corinthians. Later books, such as Ephesians and Romans, contain detailed passages on the gifts of the Spirit, but the miracle gifts are not mentioned, although Romans does mention the gift of prophecy. The Greek word translated “prophecy” means “speaking forth” and does not necessarily include prediction of the future.
  3. The gift of tongues was a sign to unbelieving Israel that God’s salvation was now available to other nations. (1 Corinthians 14:21-22 and Isaiah 28:11-12).
  4. Tongues was an inferior gift to prophecy (preaching). Preaching the Word of God edifies believers, whereas tongues does not. Believers are told to seek prophesying over speaking in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:1-3).
  5. History indicates that speaking in tongues ceased. Tongues are not mentioned at all by the Post-Apostolic Fathers. Other writers such as Justin Martyr, Origen, Chrysostom, and Augustine considered tongues something that happened only in the earliest days of the Church.
  6. Current observation confirms that the miracle of tongues has ceased. If the gift were still available today, there would be no need for missionaries to attend language school. Missionaries would be able to travel to any country and speak any language fluently, just as the apostles were able to speak in Acts 2.

Regarding the miracle gift of healing, Scriptural observation tells us that healing was associated with the ministry of Jesus and the apostles (Luke 9:1-2), and we see that as the era of the apostles drew to a close, healing, like tongues, became less frequent. The Apostle Paul, who raised Eutychus from the dead (Acts 20:9-12), did not heal Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25-27), Trophimus (2 Timothy 4:20), Timothy (1 Timothy 5:23), or even himself (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). The reasons for Paul’s “failures to heal” are

  1. The gift was never intended to make every Christian well, but to authenticate apostleship.
  2. The authority of the apostles had been sufficiently proved, making further miracles unnecessary.

The reasons stated above are evidence for cessationism. According to 1 Corinthians 13:13-14:1, we would do well to “pursue love,” the greatest gift of all. If we are to desire gifts, we should desire to speak forth the Word of God, that all may be edified.

[ Read more at www.gotquestions.org ]

God’s Unique Design

This is the third study in the series about Decisions: Seeking God’s Guidance:

Because each of us is different, God’s plan for each of us is also different. If we are to know that plan, we must know ourselves; our gifts, talents, strengths and shortcomings. So, if we want to make better decisions based on God’s will, it is a good this to look at how we are wired.

In the first eleven chapters of the book of Romans, Paul tells about the facts of the gospel. Beginning with chapter 12, he speaks of the practical implications of the gospel for our behavior. His words have much to say about God’s plan and direction for our lives.

1. After reading this chapter, how would you define a “living sacrifice?”

John Stott makes the following comments about the living sacrifice: It is not to be offered in the temple courts or in the church building, but rather in home life and in the marketplace. It is the presentation of our bodies to God. This blunt reference to our bodies was calculated to shock some of Paul’s Greek readers. Brought up on Platonic thought, they will have regarded the body as an embarrassing encumbrance. . . . Still today some Christians feel self-conscious about their bodies. The traditional evangelical invitation is that we give our “hearts” to God, not our “bodies.” . . . But Paul is clear that the presentation of our bodies is our spiritual act of worship. It is a significant Christian paradox. No worship is pleasing to God when it is purely inward, abstract and mystical; it must express itself in concrete acts of service performed by our bodies.

2. Romans 12:2 says that being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” will allow us to “test and approve what God’s will is.” What is a renewed mind? How does it differ from a mind that has been conformed “to the pattern of this world?”

“These two value systems (this world and God’s will) are incomparable, even in direct collision with one another. Whether we are thinking about the purpose of life or the meaning of life, about how to measure greatness or how to respond to evil, about ambition, sex, honesty, money, community, religion or anything else, the two sets of standards diverge so completely that there is no possibility of compromise. No wonder Karl Barth called Christian ethics ‘the great disturbance,’ so violently does it challenge, interrupt and upset the tranquil status quo” (John Stott).

3. How do our minds become either conformed or renewed?

“Because human beings are inveterate conformists, the temptation to simply fit into the picture and fade into the scenery can be practically overwhelming. The committed life, however, is shown by the degree in which the believer stays in the secular world without being trapped by it and without failing to be a witness to it. The tension is aptly described by the Master’s words explaining that we are ‘in the world but not of it'” (Stuart Briscoe).

4. What disciplines are helping you to renew your mind?

5. What responsibility do you have to “test and approve what God’s will is”? How can you take this responsibility seriously?

“[Paul] does not promise that the careless, the casual, and the uncommitted will somehow land on their feet and find out that they did God’s will by accident. Rather he states that those who genuinely do what is required will find in their own experience the reality of the sweet will of God” (Briscoe).

6. What does Romans 12:3-8 teach about God’s plan for the Christian community?

“Diversity, not uniformity, is the mark of God’s handiwork. It is so in nature; it is so in grace, too, and nowhere more so than in the Christian community. Here are many men and women with the most diverse kinds of parentage, environment, temperament, and capacity. Not only so, but since they became Christians they have been endowed by God with a great variety of spiritual gifts as well. Yet because and by means of that diversity, all can co-operate for the good of the whole” (F. F. Bruce).

7. What is meant by making a “sober judgment” of yourself (Romans 12:3)?

“By this expression Paul means that God equips each believer for a particular task and expects him to discover and fulfill his special role in the context of the believing community. Once this is understood, the believer is delivered from a number of potential miscalculations. He will not aspire to be more than God intends him to be, but he will not settle for being less than he was created and redeemed to be. Accordingly, he will be delivered from an arrogance which is destructive of harmony in the body of believers and will be content to make a ‘sober’ evaluation of his own gifts and calling” (Briscoe).

8. How will failure to do this lead you off track in understanding God’s will?

9. As you look at yourself with “sober judgment,” what do you believe to be your function and gifts in the body?

10. How has an understanding of your gifts helped you to “test and approve what God’s will is?”

11. How does Romans 12:9-21 tell us that we should be treating other people?

“Mutual love, sympathy and honor within the brotherhood of believers are to be expected, but something more is enjoined here love and forgiveness to those outside the fellowship, and not least to those who persecute them and wish them ill” (Bruce).

12. Why would it be futile to seek God’s will if we are not being renewed in our love for others?

13. Continue to make a sober judgment of yourself by evaluating whether you have been conformed or transformed according to each of the ethical instructions in Romans 12:9-21.

Read Romans 12:9-21 aloud, pausing after each phrase to respond silently to God. Your response should be either, “Thank you, Lord, for the transformation in my life,” or “I confess that I have been conformed to the world.”

Ask God to continually renew your mind, and confess to him where you have been conformed to the pattern of this world.

Now or Later: Make a list of the spiritual gifts that are mentioned in Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, 27-31; and Ephesians 4:11-13.

1. Write out a definition for each of these gifts.

2. Which of these gifts has God given you? Remember to take the free online inventory at www.TeamMinistry.com

Warren Wiersbe Writes About Romans 12:

The biblical pattern is to relate doctrine and duty, for what you believe must determine how you behave. In these closing chapters, Paul discusses your relationship with the Lord (Romans 12:1–2), yourself (Romans 12:3), the church (Romans 12:4–16), and your enemies (12:17–21).

Transformation (Romans 12:1-2). The Spirit of God transforms your life by renewing your mind (2 Corinthians 3:18), but He cannot do this unless you give Him your body. When you give yourself to God in spiritual worship, you become a living sacrifice to the glory of God.

Evaluation (Romans 12:3). To think more highly of yourself, or less highly, is sin, so have a proper estimate of who you are and what God has given you (Galatians 6:3–5).

Cooperation (Romans 12:4-16). You are part of the body of Christ with a ministry to fulfill, so do your part lovingly and joyfully.

Vindication (Romans 12:17-21). If yours is a godly life, you are bound to have enemies (Matt. 5:10–12; 2 Tim. 3:12); but leave all judgment to the Lord. If you let the Lord have His way, He will use your enemies to build you and make you more like Christ.

Conclusion:

Believers are not of the world any more than Christ is of the world. However, they are sent into the world to testify that its works are evil and that salvation is available to all who put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We should not only be separated from the world; we should be transformed by the renewing of our mind, which means that we should think the way God thinks, as revealed in the Bible. Then we can experience the direct guidance of God in our lives. And we will find that, instead of being distasteful and hard, His will is good and acceptable and perfect.

Here, then, are three keys for knowing God’s will.

  1. The first is a yielded body
  2. The second a separated life
  3. The third a transformed mind

Take a look at the document on the Spiritual Gifts Descriptions found in Romans 12. If you’re up to it, I designed an Spiritual Gifts Discovery inventory years ago, a PDF document that ads your score on the tally sheet at the end.

Characteristics of a NT Church

This is teaching from Rick Warren. As always, how do we see King’s Grant measuring up to this standard?

If you want your church to have the impact of the early church, the book of Acts shows us eight essential characteristics we need in our congregations:

Supernatural power (Acts 2:3-4): We don’t just talk about God; we experience Him. This is what makes the church different from every other organization on the planet. We have the Holy Spirit. God promised His Spirit to help His church.

Use everybody’s language (Acts 2:4): This passage isn’t about speaking in tongues. It’s about the gospel being communicated in real languages. People actually heard the early Christians speak in their own languages — whether that was Farsi, Swahili, German, Greek, or whatever. God says from the very first day of the church that the Good News is for everyone. It’s not just for Jews. It’s amazing grace for every race. But the power of Acts isn’t just about the language of your country of origin. It’s also about languages spoken only in particular subcultures — like mothers of preschoolers or people into hip-hop or accountants or truck drivers. God says in His church, everyone’s language gets used. Are you helping your people use their “language” to reach people with the Good News?

Use everyone’s gifts (Acts 2:14, 16, 19, 21): In New Testament times, there weren’t spectators in the Church. There were only contributors; 100 percent participation. Not everyone is called to be a pastor, but everyone is called to serve God. If you want your church to have the impact of the early Church, get everyone involved in the ministry of your church. Make it clear to everyone in the church that passivity isn’t an option. If they want to just sit around and soak up the service of others, let them find another church.

Offer life-changing truth (Acts 2:22-40): The early Church didn’t offer pop psychology, polite moralisms, or nice-sounding inspiration. We must always offer the truth of the gospel. God’s Word has the power to change lives. No other message changes lives like the Good News. No other message changes a guy from a wife-beater to being a loving, responsible husband. It’s when the truth of God’s Word gets into us that we change.

In Acts 2, Peter gives the very first Christian sermon, quoting the Old Testament book of Joel. Peter shares the Gospel in this message. Acts 2 says that the early church devoted itself to the “apostles’ teaching” – the Bible. God’s Word gave the early church power.

Provide loving support (Acts 2:42): The first church loved and cared for one another. The Bible says in Acts 2:42, “They took part in the fellowship, sharing in the fellowship meals and in praying together.” One translation says, “They were like family to each other.” The church isn’t a business. It’s not an organization. It’s not a social club. It’s a family. For our churches to experience the power of the early Church, we’ve got to become the family that they were.

Enjoy joyful worship (Acts 2:46): When the early Church gathered, they celebrated, “praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” We must understand and teach that worship is a celebration. It’s a festival, not a funeral. It’s the party for the kingdom of God. When worship is joyful, people want to be there because people are looking for joy. Do you think if our churches were full of glad hearts, joyful words, and hopeful lives, we’d attract other unbelievers? Sure they would.

Make generous sacrifices (Acts 2:44-45): The Bible teaches us to make generous sacrifices for the sake of the gospel. The Christians during the Roman Empire were the most generous people in the empire. In fact, they were famous for their generosity. They literally shared everything, with one another and the poor. The Bible says the early church “shared everything they had … .” That’s a church worth dying for; which is exactly what first-century Christians did. They’d rather die with gladiators and lions in the Coliseum than renounce their faith and their brothers and sisters in God’s family.

Create exponential growth (Acts 2:47): When our churches demonstrate the first seven characteristics of the early Church, growth is automatic. People may have looked at the first Christians as weird, but they liked what they were doing. They saw their love for one another, the miracles that took place in their midst, and the joy that was in their lives, and they wanted what the Christians had.

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Authentic Christian Community

The final chapter in the book of Acts brings Paul to Rome (Acts 28:14), it was probably the early spring of AD 61. Some brethren heard they were coming (Acts 28:15) and they came to visit Paul from as far away as the Market of Appius (43 miles away) and the Three Inns (or Taverns – 33 miles away). Paul had planned for some time to make it to Rome but with all that had happened to him along the way, he had been prevented (Romans 1:13). It is important to note that these were not old friends of Paul, but just fellow believers in Christ.

Rome was like nothing he had experienced before, likely a million citizens in his day; and the same number of slaves. As he approached the city, he may have been overwhelmed by the vast number of people. I remember the first Memorial Day weekend I spent living at the oceanfront. The beach was literally blanket to blanket with tourists and locals. My heart was overwhelmed at the vast numbers of people, most of whom probably had no relationship with Jesus. I was reminded of Jesus’ words as he looked over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37).

Paul had experience authentic Christian community, sort of a brotherhood. It is not masculine terminology as we use it today, but for those who shared koinonia, true community and the sharing a common life. How important are the brethren to Paul?

The Bible refers to a natural sibling of Paul only once (Acts 23:16) and a few other relatives (Romans 16:7, 11-12) yet there are at least 99 times in his letters that he refers to fellow believers as brothers. He uses the Greek word, adelphos. It came to designate a fellowship of care equivalent to a community of life.

Paul’s need is not unique. People are desperate for a sense of community, a place where “everybody knows your name.” We want to feel like we belong there. As Skip preached this past Sunday, the community of faith is so important in one’s spiritual life; we can’t do it alone (see the video below). Many people may believe in Christ as Savior but never get involved in a community of faith. What’s up with that? As Paul writes to the Romans, there are three things worth noting about Christian fellowship or community: constant prayer, Paul’s sense of obligation to other believers, and his strong commitment to equality.

  1. Paul believed in the power of prayer (Romans 1:9-10): remembering them in his prayers at all times. In many other letters we read the same things. Paul sought their best and asked God for big things, probably because Paul knew God had big things to give.
  2. Paul believed that part of his calling was to share his gifts and faith with other Christians (Romans 1:11-12): He was looking out for others. The church is a unit, a body, made up of many parts (1 Corinthians 12:12), so it is important to recognize how we are connected, and we need each other.
  3. Paul had a desire for all people to come to faith in Christ (Romans 1:14, 15, 16): no matter their background. Sometimes we struggle with equity, because prejudice (by race, gender, status) is an ugly snake that rises within a community. We tend to be selective on who we allow close to us.

Application: How are you when it comes to prayer? Do you regularly pray throughout the day? For decisions? For your witness to others? For integrity? For your marriage? How about praying WITH your wife? Do you intercede for lost people around you? For your children? For your neighbors? Prayer strengthens relationship.

When it comes to being a part of the community of faith, do you tend to ride like the Lone Ranger? Are you more like Superman or Batman? The difference you may ask? Superman is always alone, there was none like him, he had no superhero partner. Batman had a buddy, a partner in fighting crime. What part of the body of Christ are you? How are you serving God and others? What are your gifts and talents that can be used for the kingdom of God? Do you have a sense of obligation when it comes to other people and their spiritual growth?

When it comes to equity, are there hidden prejudices about which you are ashamed? Do you look at race, gender or economic status before you open yourself to people? Do you really believe that people without Christ are lost and in need of a Savior? Seek forgiveness for past attitudes and open yourself to the authentic community that comes from the brothers and sisters in Christ.

Being a part of a Christian community helps us to grow into the people of God he desires for us to become. The believers from the Market at Appius and the Three Inns may not have known Paul personally, but they had a common bound and offered encouragement to a man on a mission. He was encouraged by strangers that were a part of the community of faith. Their faces were unfamiliar but each one had been washed in the blood of Christ.

LifeShape 5 the Pentagon

This information is not original with me, but from a fascinating book I found entitled, “The Passionate Church: The Art of Life-Changing Discipleship.” Since I am a visual learner, I have included my personally designed diagrams along with my own notes to help in my disciple-making and teaching efforts.

The pentagon is a tool for enabling every believer to recognize his or her worth and how to contribute to the building up of the body of Christ.

However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ… Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. –Ephesians 4:7, 11-13

We must change our thinking as to who the church really belongs to. Church leadership based on high control is not attractive to this emerging generation. Their journey of faith in community is not about doing church but about being the church. God does not expect you to be who you are not, but He does want you to be all that He made you to be. Remember that we have nothing to offer except what God Himself gives us.

A Spiritual Gift is Not Your Ministry:

We ought not interpret all of the “gift” passages on the same level. Take a look at the three main “gift” passages in this way:

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. –Romans 12:3-8

Motivational Gifts – Think of these seven gifts as your motivation in life. What are the things that bring you the most joy, things that you seem to do with a certain ease and effectiveness (while other things you may do are just the opposite). The bottom line is, “What motivates you to do the things you do in the kingdom?” The seven listed here are prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership and mercy. These are foundational. These are our motivational gifts which will be exercised through a ministry.

However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ… Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. –Ephesians 4:7, 11-13

Ministry Gifts – Each believer is given a gift, just just those with a special calling to vocational ministry. We are to take our passion, or motivation, and exercise that gift in a ministry of service. The five ministries are briefly explained in the picture above. So, we take our motivational gift and exercise it through a certain ministry. What about those controversial gifts found elsewhere in the Bible?

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have. –1 Corinthians 12:4-11

Manifestation Gifts – These gifts are manifestations of the Holy Spirit, and not evidence of the Holy Spirit inside of the believer. No one walks around always speaking in tongues or always healing people as they walk down the street. These are not permanent roles, they are given at a special time for a special purpose. As I follow God’s leadership in my life, I will take my motivational gift (the way I am wired) and exercise it through a ministry. If God should find it necessary for me to need a special manifestation of His Spirit, he will grant me a manifestation gift to carry out my ministry.

The Fivefold Foundation for Ministry:

Here are the five ministry gifts found in Ephesians 4.

Apostle – This is from the Greek word apostolos, meaning “one who is sent out.” Apostles are visionary and pioneering, pushing into new territory, establishing new ministries, being innovative in kingdom work.

Prophet – This describes people who hear and listen to God and the prophet foretells and forth-tells the message of God. They can step back and get a clear picture of what is happening and discover creative solutions to help develop a vision. They understand the time and what people need to do.

Evangelist – This one brings the good news and share the message readily. They love spending time with non-Christians. They may not be Billy Grahams, but they are able to gather people and make the gospel relevant to lost people.

Pastor – These are the shepherds of God’s people, one who cares with a tender heart. They see needs and offer comfort. They spend a lot of time with Christians, building them up for their effective service.

Teacher – This is the guardian of the Word, looking for ways to explain, enlighten and apply spiritual truth.

How to Find Your Base:

The authors challenge us to take an honest look at ourselves. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? These have little to do with being the life of the party or not, but rather with how one functions and processes information. Extroverts enjoy taking things through with others as they make decisions; they can easily ad-lib. It appears that most apostles, prophets and evangelists are more extroverted. Introverts process things internally. They are refreshed and recharged by spending time alone. These are your writers, painters and composers. This is not a clear-cut way to determine one’s ministry because most of us fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

Finding Your Phase: Pioneers and Settlers:

Pioneers enjoy the stress of doing something new, reaching beyond themselves to discover new frontiers and challenges, looking for the next opportunity to explore. Settlers are committed to continuity, stability and conversation. They prefer to grow and develop plans rather than scrap what they have started and begin again. They like to see things through until the end, knowing what to expect, and are comfortable when things move along according to plans.

Both pioneers and settlers are vital; to the American west and to the church as well. Pioneers are looking beyond what they have accomplished to see what lies ahead. Without settlers, we would never keep the land that the pioneers have started. Pioneers move on to new territory; settlers occupy and build with deliberate efforts