Happily Ever After?


What’s the secret to happily ever after?

Well, as I contemplate the question, “what is the secret to happily ever after?” one thing certainly rushes to the forefront of my mind:

If you want to be happy, don’t look to someone else to be the source of your happiness.

There is a common mistake made among people seeking to marry. They believe that they are a half of a whole and need someone else to complete them. This thought process causes a search for happiness in another person. When a person who believes this does meet someone they love, they try and pull their value and happiness from that individual; not just because they are attracted to them but because they need them.

This creates a situation in which the individual gives up control of significant areas their life to another person. When the inevitable occurs – love fades and imperfections are revealed, or God forbid, the relationship suffers a breakdown, a profound sense of disappointment and insecurity overtakes the person who began the relationship looking for completeness.

God did not create us to be completed by another but to be complimented by them.

We are created to live out our lives in a communal fashion, but not meant to seek our completion in another person.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper as his compliment.” Genesis 2:18 HCSB

Not to complete him but to compliment him!

Compliment means to “enhance or improve”. It does not mean that it completes. You cannot seek happiness in another person! Attempting to do so will cause you to come up empty and will create an unhealthy slavery rather than a healthy freedom.

I cannot – I will not give up control over my quality of life to another person!

When contemplating the meaning of life in the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon said this:

I have seen that nothing is better than that man should be happy in his activities, for that is his lot. Ecclesiastes 3:22 NAS

If this “happiness” is dependent upon our circumstances and other people, then it remains an illusive goal. If it is within our control to grasp it, then it is accomplished independently of other people.

While saying all of these things, I understand that humanity does not find completion totally within himself. Just as a word without a context means little, so our lives without a context lose their meaning.

The context that brings meaning into our lives is relationship but not relationship with another person. We are a product of a relationship that gives meaning that preceeds our relationship with our spouse.

Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ. For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ, and you have been completed by Him, who is the head over every ruler and authority. Colossians 2:8-10

I need my spouse in the context that we are called to a common destiny. I need you in the context that we are called to a common destiny. I need my spouse and you in the body because I do not possess all the fullness of every spiritual gift within me. I am a part of the whole – not the whole.

Do you see?

But, I don’t need my spouse to complete me or make me happy as an individual. I want my spouse but can live without her. Will my earthly destiny take on a different look without her?

Yes, it will. But, I find my happiness and completion in my relationship with God and not in another individual.

You cannot base your worth or happiness on something that is temporary.

When asked what made a happy marriage, 105 year old Olive Watson said this:

Like it or not, your relationship with your spouse has limits. Your relationship with God does not.

To sum this all up, the secret to happily ever after:

Lies within your control – it is a product of your relationship with God.

Does not originate or find itself in any limited circumstance or relationship.

Finds the foundation necessary for its existence in the love of God.

Comes from character shaped by the Word of God.

 

What Do I Do When Feelings Change?


What do I do when the feelings change?

What do I do when the feelings change? To answer that question, I believe we should start by looking at our feelings.

Feelings are not our enemy. We have feelings because we are created in the image of God. God has feelings: He gets angry, sad, joyful. Feelings are important to us for several reasons:

  1. They help us understand what is important to us.
  2. They tell us what we believe about things.
  3. They add flavor to our life.

So, as you can see, feelings are very important to life.

While feelings are very important to us, they are not intended to direct us. Feelings are indicators not guidance mechanisms. Just like lights on the dashboard of a car, they help us to recognize when we pass a milestone or when something needs attention. Feelings or the lack thereof can mean that we need to stop and see what is happening “under the hood” of our life. But, an expert car mechanic knows that he/she has not fixed a mechanical problem simply by unplugging a light on the dashboard so that it will go off or change it color or indication. An expert knows that what really needs to be addressed is under the hood: in what makes the car function properly.

Feelings can be fickle in this way: They respond to beliefs or situations, not exclusively to what is true.

He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But he who walks wisely will be delivered. Proverbs 28:26

In other words, I can have feelings based upon my belief in a lie. I can have feelings based upon what is happening in a moment of time. This moment may not have bearing on how my life is going to turn out – good or bad, yet I can feel as if they do.

If I go through depression, then unless the depression is a direct consequence of a physical disease, then it will last as long as the viewpoint on life which causes depression lingers.

Feelings are fickle in that they last as long as my beliefs and those beliefs can be scriptural or worldly.

Changed feelings are a part of life. Our feelings will change over time no matter what we get involved with in life.

Simply knowing this helps us not to “freak out” when they begin to wane. I’m not always excited about being a parent. I don’t always feel the same about my job. My new car will not always be new. My new home will not always be new.

I hear what you’re saying, but my feelings are powerful. What do I do when they begin to change regarding my marriage?

  1. Fearlessly face your real issues.

Talk about the real issues facing your marriage. Don’t be afraid to identify unhappiness. Failure to identify means that it goes on without being confronted. 40% of married couples are not happy and many will do nothing about fixing that. Why would you do that? Pretending as if problems don’t exist or blaming them upon others without examination is a product of insanity.

  1. You can’t give your spouse something you don’t possess.

The Bible tells us to love our spouse. The word used in these commands is a Greek word:

Agape – goodwill, benevolence, and willful delight in the object of love.

We experience so many feelings in a marriage: friendship, romance, family love, but we are commanded by God to love our spouse with agape. Now, agape is a product of God.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 1 John 4:16

The word for “love” in this verse, used to describe the very nature of God is agape. Not romantic love, not familial love, not friendship love, but agape.

Now, God loved you in spite of yourself and continues to love you in spite of yourself! So, how are you going to love your spouse in spite of who they are? You can’t give it away if you don’t possess it. There is no one standing between God and I, so I can’t blame my lack of love on my spouse’s behavior. If I don’t love them because of their behavior, then I’m not loving them with the type of love God commanded me to.

  1. When love seems to fade, remember feelings follow beliefs.

Remember, feelings are indicators: they lead us to what we believe about life. If I believe that God is for my marriage; if I ask God and believe He will give me love for my spouse; if I decide to do what is biblical because I know it is right – then my feelings will respond to those decisions. If you follow your feelings, you may be following a lie or a selfish motivation. If you follow the Bible, you follow truth and the truth will set you free from emotional bondage.

4. Put yourself in the spotlight before you thrust your spouse there.

A person who is actively working on what they control and not trying to change what they do not control is a much better teammate. If you focus on changing your own negative behavior, the marriage will be changed. The quickest way to find out if your partner will change is to change yourself. You have nothing to lose in this scenario. Even if your partner refuses change, you still will be the better for it.

Don’t be surprised when your feelings are not as strong as they once were or if they go away at some point! Feelings were created this way by God so that we will realize that nothing and no person is the source of our happiness or self worth. Feelings are created this way so that we must learn to depend upon God!

Does Marriage Really Matter Anymore?


Does marriage matter?

I believe that the answer to that question is found in the understanding of the relationship between man and woman and the understanding of what marriage is.

Now, several people just thought in their minds: here we go! He is going to talk about submission and the roles of a wife and a husband.

No, I’m not going to talk about that because marriage preceeded our knowledge of those roles and what they mean to you and I. When I say the word, “marriage” so many thoughts race to the mind of the listeners and not all of those thoughts are positive. Since not all experience with marriage is positive, then I certainly understand why those thoughts are present.

But, let’s go back farther than our experience and see if we can catch a glimpse inside why marriage was instituted in the first place.

Marriage was a product of relationship. It would not have any meaning outside of the existence of a relationship. Remember, we are not talking about roles, we are talking about relationship.

Marriage came into existence as a definition. It defined a relationship that was in existence – the relationship between a man and a woman.

Not just any man and woman, but a man and woman who were kindred spirits – two parts of the same whole, if you will. The definition of “marriage” would not fit just any male-female relationship – it only fit the one in which the two were of the same heart, mind, and life. After these two individual people – male and female were introduced, soon the understanding came that their relationship was not like just any other, but was unique. Their spirits and emotions both testified that they had found something unlike other relationships for them – it was a joining together of the two parts of a whole.

The first man who experienced this described it this way:

This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. Genesis 2:23

This relationship is different. It is a joining together of, not just households and bodies, but destinies. The relationship was such that intrusion by another person attacked the very nature of the relationship itself; a force intended to undermine the real reason that the relationship existed: two living life for one destiny and destination.

God described the uniqueness of the relationship this way:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24

Was God commanding? Or simply describing what existed?

Two people whose destinies intertwined in such a way that they could not imagine life without the other – two becoming one in purpose and love and any intrusion into the two only destroyed the very nature of the relationship itself.

Due to the amount of commitment, intimacy, and work invested in a relationship of this type, it was only natural that a level of trust develop that protected the relationship from its enemies.

Yes, there have always been enemies to a relationship like this one and there will always be. Marriage not only described the relationship it protected it from the enemies of its purpose and love.

Now, let me stop and ask you a question:

Have we changed so much that this type of desire and need has disappeared from our existence? If so, then the need for marriage has disappeared. But, despite the proliferation of divorce in our society, recent statistics show that at least 61% of those who have never married want to marry someday.

Why? Because society demands it?

No! Because it is a desire and a need created deep within the heart and destiny of humanity. Marriage is not our problem. Remember, marriage describes a relationship that most of humanity reveres and desires. Don’t let anyone fool you with their railing against marriage in the name of progress. Most of those who rail will themselves look for an exclusive relationship in their lifetime and will split up if that relationship is constantly violated by outside intrusion.

We still want the ideal of marriage and the commitment associated with marriage is a necessary part of what we are looking for/created for.

The institution of marriage is not our problem – our unfaithful nature is!

That brings me to the final reason that marriage matters.

I told you earlier that marriage describes a relationship in existence – one longed for and sought out. But, marriage doesn’t just describe one relationship, it describes two that are already in existence.

Right after remembering God’s description of the marriage relationship we looked at in Genesis, the Bible gives us this revelation in Ephesians 5:31-32:

For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Marriage describes the relationship that Jesus has with those whom He loves. As a matter of fact, when marriage is working as it should, it is an example of the love, trust, and purpose Christ reveals in His relationship with you and me.

To say that marriage does not work is to deny who we are and what we need!

To reject the idea of marriage is not rejection of an “antiquated” institution but it is the rejection of my nature and the purpose for which I exist:

I am created in the image of God for the fulfillment of His relational purpose!

Marriage doesn’t restrict me or confine me. Marriage defines me as a relational creation of God!

The Tongue is a part of Church Anatomy!


Today’s blog is the final in a series that I’ve called, “The Anatomy of the Biblical Church”. The intent of this series has been to look at what the Bible reveals as normal, biblical operation of the Holy Spirit within the modern day or “any day” church.

We understand that within the great family of God there are disagreements as to what the Bible is saying about the norm regarding the operation of the Holy Spirit in church. Now, I would say that the vast majority of the family of God believes that the Holy Spirit is the agent of change, power, sanctification, and ministry within the Body of Christ. But, how the Spirit does that work is the source of some disagreement among Christians.

We’ve looked at some of these disagreements from a biblical standpoint. We’ve studied the existence of miracles, the question as to whether apostles and prophets exist in the modern day church – and now, we will study the disagreement over the use and existence of tongues in today’s church.

Those in the Body of Christ who do not believe in the modern day existence and use of tongues believe that way primarily because of the prophecy found in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13:

Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

In previous blogs, we have looked at this scripture from several angles. There is no doubt that this scripture is speaking of a day when tongues, along with prophecy, and knowledge will no longer be needed. These will not be needed when the “perfect” is come. Many of our family members believe that the “perfect” spoken of here is the revelation that has become canonized and is our Bible.  For reasons I don’t have time to go back through today, it doesn’t appear that the “perfect” being spoken of here is a recognized and gathered revelation but the fulfillment found when we stand before the Lord Himself. For more on why I say this, you can check out the prior blogs in this series.

The best way to address the issue regarding tongues is to return to the day in which this gift first appeared.

Let’s join the crowd that is witnessing this phenomenon on the first Pentecost Sunday. As the Holy Spirit fell that day, there was a miracle happening in three realms: the hearing, the seeing, and the speaking.

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First, the believers in the room heard a sound that was like a gale force wind, so there was a revelation in the realm of hearing. Secondly, there appeared to them fire which divided and sat upon each one of them. This is a revelation in the seeing realm. Then, they began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. This was a revelation in the speaking realm.

A crowd heard the sound and gathered together to see what was happening. Apparently, the crowd didn’t see the fire – the revelation in the seeing realm was hidden from them. It doesn’t appear that they heard the wind either. So, the fire and the wind are not known by bystanders – they are only known by the filled. But, upon gathering, the crowd does witness the miracle in the speaking realm.

The bystanders marvel because each one of them hears those filled speaking in the bystanders native tongue – there are sixteen different dialects listed as being spoken.

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These bystanders hear the believers speaking the wonderful works of God, so it doesn’t appear that the filled gave a short speech. The bystanders are amazed and perplexed because everyone filled in the room is a Galilean – they speak Aramaic or Hebrew, not the dialects they are hearing.

Let me ask you some questions:

How many believers are in this room being filled with the Spirit? There were 120 when Peter moved for someone to replace Judas. How big is the house they are in? Are the bystanders standing outside or are they in the house with the believers? Here’s what I’m getting at:

If these believers are speaking in languages that were native to the bystanders that the believers had never learned –

How did this work?

No wonder the bystanders were amazed and perplexed! How did a guy standing at one place hear the dude way across the room speak in his native language when it appears everyone was speaking at the same time? If they weren’t speaking at the same time, the sound wouldn’t have been loud enough to hear from outside the house! I can imagine one bystander saying, “Hey, these Galileans are speaking in Arabic!” The bystander next to him says, “No they aren’t, they are speaking in Swahili!”

Were they all speaking in a different known language?

Maybe…..but how did each bystander hear a speech about the works of God clearly while possibly as many as 120 people are speaking at the same time in differing dialects! There had to be some type of miracle in the hearing no matter what you believe!

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Just thinking!

Another point:

The Greek word used here for tongues/language is the word:

Glossolalia: “tongues” or “languages”

If the believers were speaking in languages that are common to specific people groups that they didn’t naturally learn, why didn’t the writer of Acts use the word:

Xenoglossia: an ability to speak a language in which you are unfamiliar

 Just thinking!!!!!

Some believe that every instance of speaking in tongues found in Scripture reveals the believers speaking in a known language or a “xenoglossia” phenomenon.

Don’t see how that can be the case when no interpreter is needed on the day of Pentecost, yet Paul says an interpreter must be present in the use of tongues in the corporate service. When God puts such a premium on understanding in the corporate worship gathering (1 Corinthians 14:12-13), why would He speak German or English or Arabic in Corinth where they speak Greek? That’s not the biblical pattern in Acts 2 or the teaching emphasis of the apostles.

I believe that the use of tongues as a spiritual gift has not ceased. We’ve discussed 1 Corinthians 13:8. Now, look at how Peter explained what the bystanders where hearing on that first Pentecost morning:

And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour our of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit i those days; and they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Acts 2:17-21

No distinction is made concerning these last days events, but some have happened and some are yet to happen. How many believe we are in the last days? Tongues are as much of a last day event as the rest of the cataclysmic events mentioned and no conclusive biblical evidence exists to prove otherwise.

 

The Prophet


This blog is a part of a series of writings called, “The Anatomy of the Biblical Church.” This time, I want to take a look at the role of the prophetic in the biblical church. Many sincere believers in Jesus believe that the prophetic has all but ceased operation in today’s church. Most who believe this viewpoint believe it for the same reason that they believe that the apostolic ministry of the church has ceased:

Once the canon – the collection of books considered as sacred were compiled, there was no longer any need for the prophetic or the apostolic since the primary role of both was to create doctrine.

Last week, I wrote about the biblical evidence for the cessation of the role of the apostolic. I presented evidence that the apostolic is still functioning. Now, I’d like to look at biblical evidence regarding the operation of the prophetic.

The five fold ministry office of the prophet is included in the list of the Holy Spirit’s equipping of the church in Ephesians 4:11-13.

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry.

Many bible scholars believe that Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:8-9 speak of a day in which the prophetic will cease:

Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know if part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

I agree that Paul is prophesying of a day in which prophecy will no longer be needed. But the disagreement on when that is has to do with your definition of the “perfect” that is to come.

Those who believe that prophecy has stopped believe that the Bible is the perfect being spoken of in this passage. I’ve shared my thoughts on this in this series of writings before today. Reading in context, I believe that the perfect that the Bible speaks of that will do away with the need for prophecy that is coming is the return of Jesus Christ.

Let’s look at some other things the Bible has to say about prophecy:

Right after telling the Corinthians that something perfect is coming that will do away with the need for prophecy, Paul tells the believers:

Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:1

Some scholars believe that all prophecy must be considered inviolate or perfect revelation. Since prophecy is perfect revelation, then it must be considered equal to the Bible as revelation.

While God has always used prophets to speak to His people, I don’t find evidence to say that all prophecy was to be considered inerrant. Look at some commands God gave His people regarding prophecy:

I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ – when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. Deuteronomy 18:18-22

What is this telling us?

Prophecy should be tested.

 

In Jeremiah, chapter 28, there was a prophet named Zedekiah who prophesied something in the name of the Lord. It was contrary to what Jeremiah was prophesying. Then, Jeremiah prophesied that Zedekiah would die before the year was out because of falsely prophesying in the name of the Lord. Zedekiah died that same year. How did the people know which prophecy was from God?

By comparing it to the word of God. Did it flow with the principles of the word and uphold the commands of God? If so, follow it. If it was predictive, you often simply had to wait to see if it came to pass.

But, God never told us prophecy was not to be tested. Any word coming through a man other than Jesus must be tested.

Tell me one New Testament prophet whose prophesies became doctrine?

Agabus prophesied in the book of Acts but his prophecies were not doctrinal but predictive. When Jude, the brother of James speaks of events of the future, he quotes the apostles. New Testament prophecy is not to create doctrine but to edify, exhort, and to comfort the people. In some instances, prophecy given today, like that of Agabus is predictive. Prophecy needs to line up with the Bible and needs to be witnessed by the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Paul told us in the book of 1 Corinthians 14:29 that prophecy is to be tested:

Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.

If prophecy is inerrant, why is it to be judged?

But, does this mean that prophecy is no longer needed?

Do we need to be taught? Do we need to be edified? Do we need to be encouraged? Do we need to be comforted? Do we need to be warned?

Yes, we do!

If Paul knew a day was coming in which prophecy was no longer needed, why did he encourage it so much?

Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order. 1 Corinthians 14:39-40

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22

 

 

The Apostle


Over the last few weeks, I’ve been writing a series entitled, “The Anatomy of the Biblical Church”. This intent of this series is to take a biblical look at the goals of the church and how it accomplishes its purpose.

Today, I want to continue down the pathway of discovery regarding the role of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament church by taking a look at one of the offices of the church: Apostle.

In last week’s blog, we found out that the Holy Spirit equips the people of the church for the work of the ministry through five ministry impartations operative within the church.

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.. Ephesians 4:11-13

It is quite easy to see that the goal of the five ministry impartations or offices are to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. And, it is also easy to see that this work will continue until we are all perfected. So, this work continues till Jesus returns – agreed?

Now, many of our family members in the body of Christ believe that the gift or work of the apostle ceased after the death of the last first century apostle.

Remember our talk about Cessationists? Cessationists believe that in order to validate His message through certain unique people, God performed miracles through them. God also sent the gift of tongues to reveal to the Jews that the gospel was being sent to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. Once the cornerstone of doctrine from which we get our Bible was given, the miraculous was no longer needed and ceased to operate.

Last time I spoke to you, we looked at the scriptures used to validate the ceasing of tongues and prophecy. We’ll talk more about that on a later date.

But, what about the five-fold ministry of the apostle? Did it truly stop after the death of the final apostle? If so, have miracles ceased as well?

One of the reasons Ceassationists believe in the ending of the apostolic gift or office is that they believe that the role of an apostle is to create doctrine. If apostles still exist, then doctrine is still being created, therefore the Bible as we know it is incomplete. If apostles are still around, then the Bible is being added to when they teach or make decisions.

I believe that the original twelve apostles held a special role in the founding of the faith. I believe that one of their unique callings was to record the words of Jesus and to pass them along to the world.

When giving the good news to the Ephesian believers that Gentiles were now included in the body of Christ, Paul stated in verse 20 that they were joining a household of God which was built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ being the Chief Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20).

For a house to be going up, the foundation must be finished. I do believe that this scripture is speaking of the original twelve apostles and the prophets whose words became scripture. When describing the New Jerusalem he saw coming out of heaven, the apostle John stated that the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Revelation 21:14). Acts 2:42 states that the church continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine.

The twelve hold a unique place among us because God used them to create the unchanging foundation of our faith.

Turn to Romans 16:7.

As Paul is writing his goodbyes to the church of Rome, he says the following:

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

When was the last time you read the Chronicles of Andronicus? Or, how about the Gospel according to Junia? These men created no doctrine we recognize as Scripture.

The Bible calls Paul an apostle. Was he one of the twelve? Some say he actually was the twelveth apostle who replaced Judas. Where is that written? We do know that Peter believed Paul’s writings were sacred according to 2 Peter 3:16. But, was he one of the original twelve? Galatians 1:19 tells us James, the brother of the Lord was an apostle. Acts 14:14 tells us that Barnabas was an apostle.

And, one of the most intriguing scriptures is found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7:

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.

Wait a minute! Who are these spoken of at the end of the scripture? They are called apostles but are not of the twelve!

The word “apostle” literally means “one who is commissioned or sent forth.”

Could it be that the twelve (and Paul) were called to reveal doctrine and the rest of the apostles were commissioned to uphold revealed doctrine? Could it be that they were sent out to have sons and daughters in the faith through adherence to Christ’s teachings?

Could it be that the apostolic calling is more than the creation of doctrine but the enforcement of it?

Did the apostolic disappear upon the death of the last first century apostle? Or, does the commission to be sent to the world continue with the responsibility to accurately represent the One who sent them?

What about the ceasing of the miraculous?

Could it be that the “failure” of Paul to heal Epaphroditus, Trophimus, and Timothy was not a failure at all but simply the sovereignty of God that each of us experience? Or could it be that instead of an instantaneous miracle, God performed a transformational healing?

Luke 9:1 and Mark 6:7 tell us about Jesus’ impartation of power to the apostles. Yet, Luke 10:1-17 tells us about 70 others that were sent who experienced miraculous power. It’s easy to miss, but in verse 2 of that chapter we see Jesus telling us to pray for the Lord of the Harvest to send out more of these same miraculous laborers into the harvest field.

What about the belief that miracles were primarily limited to three periods?

What about Joshua and the walls of Jericho? What about when he spoke to the sun and moon in Gibeon instructing them to stand still?

What about Stephen the deacon? What about Philip the evangelist? Not apostles. What about the two witnesses in Revelation?

One exception creates a new rule.

Just something to chew on. Next time, we’ll talk about the prophetic.

The Holy Ghost


 

This is the third time I have written about “The Anatomy of the Biblical Church”. The intent of this series of writings is to look at what the Bible tells us about the church – what its goals are and how God operates within it. The first two weeks, we talked about the calling of those who make up the church – the saints. Their basic calling is two – fold:

To function as a kingdom of priests – intercede for God’s will.

To do the work of the ministry – complete the ministry of Christ.

The church has operative within it five ministry impartations that equip the members of the church to complete their calling:

Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher

While these office gifts are upon people, it is the Holy Spirit that is doing the effective spiritual work in the church. That’s what I want to wade into today: the role of the Holy Spirit in the operation of the biblical church.

The church is a vast, multifaceted organism. It is made up of many people who have differing views on worship. I don’t think that there are differing views because God is confused or confusing. Even family members can differ in viewpoint regarding certain items. One of the things that we as the body of Christ differ on is the role of the Holy Spirit in the operation of the body of Christ and the church.

All biblically minded Christians agree that the Holy Spirit is the agent of God’s work upon the earth and is the One who draws people to Jesus, saves them through Christ’s finished work and sanctifies them as they live in Christ.

But, when it comes to how the Holy Spirit performs His ministry on the earth, there are differing views. Without being too simplistic, these views basically break down into two camps:

Cessationists and Continuationists

While there are factions within each camp that believe slightly different things, allow me to give you a definition of both of these views.

Cessationists believe that the “miracle gifts” of tongues and healing have ceased – that the end of the apostolic age brought about a cessation of the miracles associated with that age. A great number of cessationists believe that prophecy has also ceased in any form other than speaking forth biblical doctrine. Most cessationists believe that, while God can and still does perform miracles today, the Holy Spirit no longer uses individuals in the performance of those miracles.

Continuationists (Charismatics) believe that all the gifts of the Holy Spirit found in the New Testament are active today and did not pass away after the apostolic age.

Those who believe in cessation give seven primary reasons for their belief:

  1. There were 3 primary periods in which God worked miracles through unique men. The first was the ministry of Moses; the second was during the ministries of Elijah and Elisha; and the third was with Jesus and His apostles. The purpose of the miracles performed during these periods was to establish the credibility of the one speaking the word of God.
  2. The apostles were a temporary gift to the church. Since there are no apostles alive today that meet the qualifications of the original twelve, then the apostolic age is over which means the gifting of the Spirit has changed.
  3. Ephesians 2:20-22 identifies the apostles and prophets as the foundation of the church. In the context, it is clear that Paul is referring not to Old Testament prophets but to New Testament prophets. One the apostles and prophets finished laying the foundation of the church, their gifts were complete.
  4. Tongues as spoken of in the New Testament described existing, understandable languages not an ecstatic language. New Testament prophets, like Old Testament prophets spoke direct, infallible revelation from God. There is no other type of prophecy. If prophecy is spoken today, it is infallible revelation. Paul prophesied in 1 Corinthians 13:8 that tongues and prophesy would end.
  5. Miracles declined even during the time of the apostles. They are mentioned less as the date of their writings gets later. Some church fathers also agree the gifts ended after the first century.
  6. The Spirit speaks only in and through the Bible.
  7. Current observation confirms that tongues has ceased. If not, why would missionaries need to learn languages before going to the field? Paul’s failure to heal Epaphroditus, Trophimus, Timothy, and himself prove that the gift of healing was passing.

I want to go through scripture and look at these statements in light of what the Bible says – not to prove anyone wrong, but in an effort to find out what the ministry of the Holy Spirit looks like in the church.

I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:4-8

One of the rules of Bible exposition or understanding is to use Scripture to interpret Scripture. While verses 4-8 are rarely used in discussing the ministry of the Holy Spirit, I think they are important to our discovery.

These verses state the following:

  1. Grace was given to the church by Jesus Christ.

Grace is a different word than mercy. Mercy is the bestowal of that which is undeserved. Biblical grace, while a product of mercy carries within it the idea of a gift given. In this passage, Paul thanks God for the gift of God given to the church (people) by Jesus Christ.

2. That gift given by Jesus enriched them in all utterance and all knowledge.

The people of the church received a gift from Jesus that enriched or enlarged them in every aspect of their divine speech and their knowledge. They received empowered speech and had experiences that increased their knowledge.

3. This gift of grace confirmed the testimony of Christ in them.

The enrichment or enlargement of their speech and experiential knowledge confirmed the testimony of Christ, or was evidence or proof that Christ was in them.

4. So that you come short in no gift.

The word “gift” used here is almost exclusive to Paul. The only other usage of the word is found in 1 Peter 4:10 in which it is not used to denote salvation as a gift but describes empowerments for use in ministry to others.

 Chárisma (“grace-gift”) divinely empowers a believer to share God’s work with others, i.e. Spirit-empowered service to the Church to carry out His plan for His people.

In fairness, “charisma” is not used exclusively to describe spiritual gifts but can also describe salvation. But notice in this usage, Paul writes “So that you come short in no gift”; which indicates plurality. Since salvation is singular, Paul must be speaking of something else.

5. This proof will last until the return of Jesus.

The context being that, what Paul is speaking of will last until the revelation or day of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is interesting to note that the context appears to be the same as used in 1 Corinthians 13:10 & 13:13.

Let me briefly explain:

Verse 10: something perfect is coming which will do away with the need for prophecy, tongues, and knowledge.

There is no way that we can conclusively say that the knowledge spoken of here is speaking only of gift of “the word of knowledge” spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12:8. It states in verse 12 that when the perfect comes, I will know just as I also am known. Who is the one I am known by that I will have the same knowledge of myself that he has? Has that happened?

When will there no longer be a need for faith and hope? When we get to heaven! Love is the greatest and endures forever. According to scripture, could it also be the definitive evidence of the infilling of the Holy Spirit?

The ministry of the Holy Spirit is the ministry of Jesus on the earth and will be with us until Christ returns for His people! So, get busy!!