Thoughts on the Gospel and the Charismatic (Part Two)

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Last blog, I suggested that there were two separate elements to the charismatic dimension. The first had to do with the charismatic as it relates to believers and the local church. The second will be dealt with in the part three of this mini-blog.

Regarding this element, one argument against the charismatic in present day churches says that the absence of signs and wonders in some books of the NT point to the fact that they are no longer around. But aren't most of the books in the NT epistles and not narratives (Gospels and Acts). And is it not the intention of an instructive letter to teach doctrine and not relay narrative? Should it be suprising to us therefore when we do not find reference to signs and wonders in every epistle?

Now, does the presence of charismatic elements in some epistles (1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians, 1 Peter, et. al) and not others mean that we should ignore or reinterpet those elements in the passages in which they occur? That's a fair question. Consider a few more questions in response.

Hebrews for example, written around the mid 60's A.D. has no reference to the charismatic gifts in the local church. Does that mean that by the time Hebrews was written that such gifts had no place in the church any longer? Hardly. Two basic reasons come to mind.

First, that line of reasoning would mean that no spiritual gifts at all (including the non-spectacular gifts such as encouragement, mercy, helps, teaching, etc.) are to be in use in the church today because none of them are mentioned. Second, good hermeneutics would demand that reference to charismatic gifts was missing because it wasn't part of the author's purpose for writing.

But if we turn to another Jewish epistle written around the same time in history, if not one to two years later than Hebrews, and written to a similar group as Hebrews, we find Peter in his first epistle making reference to the gifts in chapter 4. The conclusion? The gifts were a part of Peter's reason for writing and they were not a part of the reason for writing Hebrews.

Moving to another argument against the use of charismatic spiritual gifts in the local church today, cessationism argues that the canon of Scripture put the period on the revelatory gifts of the Spirit (prophecy, word of knowledge, word of wisdom, tongues, etc.). Once the Scriptures were given, there was no longer any need for these gifts.

My question would be, how come the revelatory gifts of the Spirit were in operation during the NT period since Christians then had a completed OT canon of Scripture? If a completed OT canon didn't necessarily preclude revelatory gifts, then why does a completed NT canon seem to do so?

Bouncing off of this objection, another argument which would come from the dispensationalist camp says that the prophecies of Joel regarding the work of the Spirit of God in the end times, and later restated by Peter in Acts 2, will not actually take place until near the end of time, during the period known as the tribulation. This position argues that those prophecies, dreams, visions, etc. are prophesied for the Jews and it will come to fruition at the end of time, when they are regathered.

If this is so, why can prophecies, dreams, visions, etc. take place then and not now, especially when Jews of that future time will have the same complete NT canon that we have today?

Feel free to comment at anytime. I need the interaction as I grow!

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