Sunday, September 16, 2018

Gift & Giver by Craig S. Keener (Pt. 6)

P‹iul often addresses the issue f one b‹ dy with many gifts to churches struggling with uniry, even when diverse gifts were not part of the reason for the divisi‹ n. In his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul addresses a church experiencing tensions between jewish and Gentile Christians. He beglns his letter by laying the theological groundwork for reconciliation. Jewish people believed that they were automatically saved by virtue of their descent frc›m Abraham and that they were special because they kept the law. Ancient lit-

erature reveals that R‹›inan Gentiles despised Jewish people due t‹ issues
regarding food and holy days. Therefore, Paul shows that

  • all people are equally sinners (Romans 1-3)
  • spiritual rather than ethnic descent from Abraham ls what counts (Rom. 4.1-5.11 )
  • all people (Abraham’s descendants included) are descended also from Adam the sinner (Rom. 5:12—21)
  • the law by itself cannot deliver from sin (Rom. 7:7-25)
  • God can sovereignly choose people for salvation on grounds other rhan their ethnicity (Romans 9)
  • a sense of spiritual history prohibits Gentile Christians from looking
down on Jewish people (Romans 11)

Having established the theological point that Jew and Gentile must approach God on the same terms, Paul turns to his pastoral concerns. Believ- ers must serve one another (12:4—16), the central focus of the law is loving one another (13:8—10), and Gentile Christians should not look down on Jewish Sabbath-keeping and food practices the way non-Christian Greeks and Romans do (Romans 14). Both Christ (15:7—l2) and Paul himself (15:15-32) become examples of reconciliation between Jew and Gentile, and Paul's concluding exhortation is to avoid those who cause division.
Thus, Paul discusses spiritual gifts ( 12:4-8) in the broader context of unity in the church (in this case, racial and cultural unity). Although Paul had not visited the Roman church, he writes as if he expected them to be familiar with the gifts he lists.
In view r›f God's mercies in histc›ry recounted in Romans 9—11, Paul exhr›rts the Roman Christians t‹  act as priests r›ffering  up sacrifices. The  sacrifice they
‹me tc coffer is tc› live the right lifestyle with their bodies, directed by a choice of their minds ( l2:1; the Greek literally speaks of a “rati‹ana1” service, not a “spiritual” one). But granted that we should choose to use our br dies for God's glory, how does one know which specific role in God's plan to choose! A renewed mind wlll rec‹agnize God's purposes, knowing what is g‹ r d in his sight ( 12:2). The renewed mind thinks not of ‹oneself ( 12:3) but recc›gnizes that all of us have special functicans in Christ's body ( 12:4-8). In other w cards, in this context, the  living-sacrl  ice  way  to live  uses  the gifts God  has given us  to  build  up Christ's  b‹ dy  and  respects  c there'  gifts no  less. The gifts are


Gift and Giver

Arc Spirit ual Gif ts for Ttidii y?


essentml t‹ r I uilc)inp up Christ's body, and as long as Christ's body needs to be built up, the gifts must continue t‹a function for the body to be healthy.
In the Rc›mans 12 list, Paul includes “supernatural” gifts such as prophecy ( 12:6, a gift Paul alwrays ranks near the top) and “natural” gifts such as teach- ing ( 12:7). Tc›day some people suggest that verifiably supernatural gifts have passed away but that natural gifts such as teaching continue. This distinc- tic›n, hc›wever, is rrar›ted in Enlightenment philosophy rather than in the text; it violates Paul's entire pattern ‹ f thought in this passage. The Chrlstian worldview acknowledges that eeerJthing in our lives is ultimately “supernat- ural,” because even the food on our table is a gift of God’s providence. The Grace-gift f teachlng is not simply an intellectual exercise devoid of reliance on God's Spirit—an unsaved person could then possess the same “gift.” Teach- ing is a special endowment of grace that is also, as 1 Corinthians 12:8—11 shows, a special empowerment of God's Spirit. I personally would hate to try to teach in either a church or a classroom without first acknowledging to God my dependence on his Spirit to help me articulate the biblical text's concepts accurately and convincingly.

1 Corintitians

Gifts may have been fresh on Paul's mind when he wrote his letter to the Rowans because he wrote the letter fr‹ m Corinth, a church that had scxne definite troubles with spiritual gifts.

Like the Rr›man church, the Corinthian church was divided,  but  in  this case, the division had more to do with social class than with ethnicity. We1- tin-d‹ Christians where concerned ate ut what their social peers would think
*8f t14c lr tcachers. ThCSC \VCll-ttJ-d 3 pet4plc cxpectcC0 thcir tc‹)chcrS to be tops n‹›tch speakers rmcl to dc cnd ‹ n the financial support of their hearers. lnsteacl, Pt4ul clTlb‹3r1‘‹lSSccl the ITI by be ln( II sectJnCl-ratC spCakCr—Alt least Ct3lnp‹3rcCl to AJ°til1‹ s ( 1 Corinthians 1—4)—and  by working  as a comiuc›n  artlsan  f‹ r  his support ( 1 (?‹ rinthians 9). Paul's need tr› address sexual issues ( 1 Corinthl- ans 5-7) may ‹›r may not  reflect  class  tensi‹  ns;  intellectuals  from  various p1ail‹ sr›phic Schs ols we uld justify free sex while ewe iding marriage. M‹are 1c‹irl , the future  eclucated  members of the  church also saw no problem with it›r›c3 otferecl t‹a Inc 1s, as long as rune knew the  id‹ 1s  meant  nothlng. Mean- s' ** L› I c ^’e11-to-no w'ornen s‹iw' nr› reason t‹› w'car tr‹iditic na1 heaccc ver- inks t‹› church ( 1 Corinthians b—11 ).

But Vesicles all its c›ther problems, the Cc rinthian church was abusing spir- itual gifts. Apparently some Corinthian Christians were boasting that they could pray in languages unknown to themselves or their hearers. Paul puts tongues-speaking in its place, he wever, noting that the purp‹ se of any gift in the public assembly was to build up the church ( 1 Cor. 12:7; 14:1-5, 19). One could pray in tongues privately (14:18-19, 28; see 14:2—5), but it ben- efited others when practiced publicly only if someone interpreted ( 14:5, 13—17, 27-28). The Corinthians were also excited about wise and knowl- edgeable speech (1:5, 17), so Paul mentions these gifts as well (12:8). But Paul puts all the gifts in their place: If used in the public assembly, they were to be used only to serve the church.
As in Romans, Paul connects the gifts specifically to our Christian iden- tlty. We are members of Christ's body, each with our own roles as members of that body—hands, feet, and so on (12:15-26). Earlier writers had com- pared both the universe and the state to a body, but Paul may have been the hrst writer to speak of a religious group, the church, in these terms. Paul is saying that each member has its function and that we need each function. If any members are not functioning according to their gifts, the whole body suf- fers. One reason 95 percent of the work of the kingdom never gets done today is that 5 percent of the Christians are doing all the work, while the gifts of most of the body go unused. But if all members of the body remain essential today, all the gifts represented by those members are likewise essential.

Trim END Or Son GiFTSl
The fact  that  Paul assumes  all gifts will continue  until the return of Christ is clear from his argument  in  1 Corinthians  13. There  Paul  argues  that  love is more important than the gifts ( 13:1-3) and that  love,  in  contrast  to  the glfts, is eternal (13:8—13). Paul mentions three representatlve gifts of special importance to the  Corinthian (Christians:  prophecy,  tongues,  and knowlecJpe ( 13:8), perhaps wlth slight emphasis on pre phecy and knowledge ( 13:9). In th(i Cc)tjfSe t0f PaLtl'S ‹3fgtllTleFlt that thC glfts cJfti telTtpo£ary, \VC lefilTl \VhelJ P‹4Ul expects them to pass away. The church will no 1c›nger  need  such gifts when we kn‹aw as we are known ( 13:12; compare Jer. 31:34), which is when we see Christ face to face (13:12).
We live now in a tlme when we know Christ lmperfect1y, but when we see him face to face “the perfect” will cc›me. The context leaves no dc iibt that “the perfect” arrives at Christ's second coining. Although scene oilier inter- preters anued that Paul's “perfect” referred to the completion of the cans n, such an idea could next have occurred either to Paul or to the Corinthians in


Gift and Giver

A re Spiritual €l ifts for Tod ay?


their c wn historical context (since at that point no one knew that there would) be a New Testament canc›n, even though Paul was presumably aware that God's S›pirit was gulding his writing).'' Evidence from the context that “the perfect” refers to the second coming, together with the impossibility that Paul could have expected the C‹arinthian Christians to think he meant the canon, has left few evangelical scholars who continue to use this text tea sup- port a cessation of the gifts. Richard Gaffin, a prominent cessationist, con- cedes that “the view that they describe the point at which the New Testa- ment canon is completed cannot be made credible exegetically.”"
Some have tried to use this passage to exclude only particular gifts before Christ's return, but their arguments are not very persuasive. Prophecy and tongues must pass away when knowledge does, and if“knowledge” has passed away already, how can one “know” enough to say so? (On the meaning of “knowledge” in 1 Corinthians, see the “word of knowledge” in the next chap- ter.) Nor can one keep knowledge and prophecy while discarding tongues. Prophecy in the biblical sense is normally no less dependent on spontaneous inspiration than tongues. It is not merely “preaching,” since “sermons” in Paul's day involved especially teaching and exhortation, perhaps what Paul means by a “word of knowledge.” One cannot make the verbs describing the passing of prophecy, tongues, and knowledge mean different things so that tongues must pass away quickly while prophecy and knowledge remain until the end (as some interpreters have suggested). Paul uses different terms here for the sake of variation, as he often does. But even if one were tempted to make the terms mean something different, nothing would make one term suggest that tongues had passed away earlier—nothing, that is, except the need of an interpreter to make the passage say that. Various passages in the writlngs of the early church fathers indicate that they were aware of the con- tinuance of supernatural gifts in their ‹own time, despite the decline c f some public gifts as authority  became centralized  in instituticinal leadership (see,
L›r exriinple, Justin Martyr, Dtolcgue with Tr)pho 35; 82; 85; Tertullian, De
12›..‹<«i‹.»«./ z‹).
Jack Deere, a former cessationist professor who was forced to reexamine his position when he encountered modem miracles,  provides six reasons in 1 Corinthians 12-14 alone that refute cessatir nism. In his popular but bib- locally anal theologically informed response to cessati‹anism, Srrposed by the Power o the .Spirit, he points out that the gifts are for the common g‹ nd (I 2:7), N‹icJ c‹ mmands us to jealously pursue spiritual gifts ( 12:31; 14:1 ), Paul mams us not to prc›liibit speaking in tongues ( 14:39), Paul valued tongues (14:5, lS), ›and spiritual gifts are necessary f‹ r the health of the body of Christ

( 12:12—27). Wc›uld God place such commands in Scripture if they were rel- evant for only ftiur decades, especially since during most of that time the majority ‹ f ancient Christians would not have yet had access to Paul's let- ters Finally, Deere notes, Paul is explicit that these gifts will not cease until Christ's return ( 13:8—12).
My own exegesis over the years has led me to the same basic conclusions. Deere and I have both experienced miraculous gifts, so some could accuse us both of exegetical bias. But as he forcefully reiterates throughout his bcaok, those who argue that gifts have ceased have an experiential bias of not hav- ing seen the gifts—and Deere himself used to teach that these gifts had ceased. The accusation of bias can be leveled either way, but I believe that cessa- tionism would not naturally occur to someone reading the biblical text who had not already been taught the position or did not have an experiential bias that demanded it.

Since Paul mentions tongues only in 1 Corinthians 12-14, where he is correcting abuses, some writers think  that  he regards  tongues negatively. To be sure, he does not regard it as the most important gift for public worship, but to treat it as negative is harsher than that. If Paul views  tongues as nega- tive, he would simply have to be accommodating the Corinthians' ignorance, for he lists it among God's “gifts” (12:10). Surely all God's gifts are good, even if some are greater than orhers ( 1i: 31). Admittedly, some of us have received ill-conceived holiday gifts, but who would dare say, “God gave me a bud gift”/ More critically, this view misses the point of Paul's argument. Paul him- self prayed in tongues privately more than all the Corinthians, though he did not make a big deal about it ( 1 Cor. 14:18). Although the abuses in the Corinthian church re‹quire him to emphasize that tongues  be  kept in their place and be offered in prcaper r rder ( 14:40), he qualifies his words lest any- one overreact ‹ n the  other side:  He forbids  the  church  to pre  hiblt tongues in their public wcarship services (14:39). P‹iu1 wr›uld hardl add this w arning against forbidding tongues if f‹ rbidding tongues were actually what he wished to do! If Paul guards against too negative a view of t‹ ngues even when he is correcting an abuse of the gift, how much less negative would he have been
w here no abuse existed /
Paul is instead addressing motives and public ‹order: The public use r f unin- tcrpreted tr›ngues is not helpful to the gathered church. Not ‹only with regard tt› t‹›ngu  s but  with regard to ‹other s ifts and  p  »  ti   »  »  ^°      '•^n›'   h" »be
today s‹ ml do well to heed Paul's admonition that “the spirit of the prc›phet

Gift and Giver

¡s subject tc› the pre phet” ( 1 Cor. 14:32-33). Although God may allow us more c›f a partlcu1ar gift than we need, we must be prepared to limit ccur expres- si€›n even with the gift of prophecy (14:29—33). In the same way, I might be able to teach from Scripture fear ten hours straight, but this does neat mean that God always wants me to do so. Indeed, I tore to teach for hours on end, but rnost students can absorb teaching for only so many hours in a row. The need of the church, rather than simply the availability of divine inspiration, should determine the use ‹ f any spiritual gift.
Althciugh Paul corrects the abuse of tongues only in 1 Corinthians, this hardly means that tongues were practiced only in Corinth. Rather, it means only that we do not have letters addressing the abtise of tongues elsewhere. First, Paul prayed in tongues regularly (14:18) and seems to have regarded prayer in tongues as a special form of prayer, “praying with one's spirit” (14:14-15). Does that not sound like a positive practice he may in fact have encoRrnged elsewhere / Second, Acts suggests to us that tongues was evidence of di› me inspiration in many early Christian communities, though Paul has occasion to address it only in the one congregation that is abusing the gift, C‹ rinth. Third, we know that  many of the gifts  Paul lists in 1 Corinthians 12 were standard practice in Paul's other churches. Alth‹augh his letters focus primar ily on abuses and issues of 1c›ca1 concern, it is clear that he expected prophecy to occur regularly ( l Thess. 5:20), even in churches he had never visited (Rom. 12:6). His expectation should not surprise us since his Jewish contemporaries believed that prophecy would accompany the restoration of the Spirit.
Finally, it is true that were it not for the Cc›rinthians' abuse of tongues, we wr›uld know little about it in Paul's churches. But were it not for their abuse c›f the Lc›rd's Supper, we would not be aware that any of Paul's churches prac- tices) it either. Paul's letters normally address specific situations, and we read them t‹ learn both about how Paul dealt with these sltuatic›ns and aha ut the faith and experience of thc curliest Christians. The latter informatlon is often assumed rather than articulated by Paul and his audiences.


New Testrainent schs lar Richard Gaffin rests his biblical case for the ces-
s 4ti‹ n c›f particular spiritual gifts almost entirely on Ephesians 2:20. I On the bans taf this text he contends that ape stles and prc›phets—hence the gifts of
•*P‹»tlesli ip, prophecy, and tongues (the lutter be ing subsumed under P*
f‹ unClational. Hence, they were no longer needed after the

Are Spiritual Gifts for Today? 109

completion of the New Testament canon. (In person, Gaffln  is a very char- itable example of a cessationist who is not against Pentecostals or  charis- matics and has graciously mentored  some  in his seminary’s doctoral  program. I cite him at length here simply because he is one c f the most articulate expo- nents of this positi‹an.)
Gaffin is correct that in this context early Christian ape stles and prophets performed a revelatory function (Eph. 3:5). But Paul's apostolic ministry seems to extend beyond the initial revelation of the gospel to making it known as widely as possible (see 3:8-13). If only the apostles and prophets of his day constituted the foundation, dcaes this necessarily preclude others who would not be part of the foundation  yet  would  carry on the work of  making  the gc spel known / After all, Paul here seems to refer to Christian prophets, rather than to ancient Israelite prophets, as part of the foundation (3:5; 4:11). Yet prophets had existed from early in Israel's history; we can therefore conclude that the foundation might not exhaust the full number of apostles and prophets.
Gaffin would argue that the completed canon obviates the need for fur- ther apostles and prophets. Yet Old Testament prophets certainly did much more than write Scripture. A survey of the prophets mentioned in the  his- torlcal books of the Old Testament reveals that most of them, in fact, did not write Scripture. Further, Paul's apostolic mission did not end when he made his gospel known to someone; the mission was to make it known to ere’ryone (3:8-9), a mission not yet completed.
And to top it all cuff, Gaffin seems to read too much lnto the foundation metaphor of 2:20. Like the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Paul and Peter portrayed their c‹ammunity of faith by the image of a temple. But pressing chronology into the image, so that all parts r›f the foundation  must  belong t‹a the first generatlon,  may be making  Paul's  lllustration  more specific  than he intended. Exriinined frs m a number of angles, Gaffin's hypothesis fails to prove  that  gifts  such  as  prophecy  must  cease—hence,  it  prc›ves  the   cessation r f  tongues  (which lie connects  with  this) even less. .
Gaffin's argument at this critical p‹ int, though using exegesis (Bible inter- pretation), is neat strictly exegetical. He starts with a logical  argument,  to which he then adds the  exegesis of texts that  w‹auld  not  by  themselves sup- pl rt his argument. Whlle any “logical argument” looks consistent from within the system that suppc›rts it, it will fail to persuade those r utslde the system becausc it depen‹)s on ‹other  elements  within  the  system  to suppc rt  it. This is the sc›rt t f objection th‹it bib1ic‹i1 scholars c›ften raihe against s‹ inc sys- tematic then logians or cipainst other biblical scholars whom they feel ‹ire too

Gift and River

Are Spiritual Gif ts ftir Ttiday?


loq},t›lden to particular theolL tical presup[°r sitions. As Gtirdon Fee observes concerning the heart ‹at iaffin's argument for cessation:

The 1c›tic precedes the exegesis. lndeed, the whole enterprise has its logical form structured b mask ing a questi‹ n to which not one of the biblical texts intcnc)s an ansu cr. Gaffin's overruling question is, When will tongues cease? T)ic ‹one text that addresses this question at all—and even there it is cJuite inci- dental to Paul's real point—is l Corinthians 13:10, which almost certainly intends, “at the Eschaton,” as its answer. But since the answer is the one Gut- fin is unc‹amfortable with, he sets up his logical circles tc answer his own ques- tion with, “at the end of the first century.” But in no case does he, nor can he, show that the answer  t‹  that question  is a part of the biblical author's  intent in the texts that are examined.

At any rate, the analogy from Ephesians 2 provides a weak foundation for arguing that the gifts have ceased, when stronger implications of other texts, including Ephesians 4, argue the other direction.
In Ephesians 4, Paul again addresses the unity of Christ’s body (4:3-5). Although he approaches gifts and Christ's body from a different angle than he did in Romans and 1 Corinthians (here the gifts are some members given to other members), he has n‹ t completely changed the  subject.  In  this con- text, he still applies language familiar to us from Romans 12 and 1 Corinthi- ans 12 (“measure,” “grace”). He declares that God has distributed “grace” (as in “grace-gifts,” cfirismnta) to each member  of  the  body,  providing  each one a special portion of the gift of Christ. Paul may mean that the members of Christ's beady carry on the non-atoning aspects of Jesus' own  minisfry  (“the gift of Christ” in 4:7; but see also the interpretation in the xIv, where Paul’s phrase “the gift of Christ” is understood as “the gift com Christ” rather than “the gift which cfirncterizes Christ").
After intrc›ducing the  subject of the gracious lift of Christ, Paul paraphrases a psalm that speaks tif a triumphant  ruler receiving  and  c)istributing  plunder tc› his i‹allc›wers (Eph. 4:S). In Rc›inans and 1 C‹ rinthians, Paul writes that God has endowed each believer wlth special grace. Howcver, in this passage Paul emphasizes another kind of gift first. Here the first gifts the exalted Christ gives to his body are a special group of persons wlit› will in turn mobilize the other members of Christ's body for their ministries.
I c‹irnmcnt more on these specific yifts ln the next chapter but shoulcl note 1 crc th.n ape stleship and prophecy are linked with other gifts as necessary to equip the rest of the church to minister to one another (4:11-13). In so d‹unp, the y bring the church to inaturity, to unity in believing and knowing

Jesus. As long as the church needs more maturity and unity, these gifts will therefore remain. It appears that just as we cc›ntinue to need pastor-teachers to accomplish this maturity, we also need the other gifts Paul mentions.


Although I have heard of miracles such as those in Acts happening regu- larly in some places, 1 frankly confess that I have not witnessed many mira- cles on that scale. I could seek theological rationalizations for this lack, con- tending that God simply does not want to do such miracles today, but seeking an argument to validate my experience would violate my commitment to read my experience in light of Scripture. Because I affirm that Scripture is God’s Word, I must submit to it rather than make it say what is convenient. As a biblical scholar who by conviction determines the meaning of the text first and then asks its implications for today, I must conform my experience to the Bible rather than the Bible to my experience. In other words, I remain committed to spiritual gifts because I am committed to Scripture, rather than the reverse (even though my spiritual experience has often helped fortify my evangelical convictions while working through formidable liberal scholar- ship over the years). The Bible's message does not simply conhrm my own experience of miracles; it summons me to be more open to appropriate signs and wonders than I already am.
God has often increased the occurrence of miracles in times of revival, sometimes performing those miracles through individuals such as Moses, Eli- jah, or the apostles. God does not gift us all for the same tasks, but those of us with the gift of teaching must mobilize the body of Christ to use their scrip- tural gifts and not, as we have often d‹ane, merely train fells w teachers. To be sure, God is sovereign and need not do a miracle simply because we request it. But if we acknowledge God as our sravereign Lord, we must be available f‹ar hlm to work through our prayers if he does will to do a miracle. We must become stronger people of the Spirit whom God may empower by whatever means he chooses.
Our generation is ln a desperate condition. Those involved in inner-city evangelism and ‹other frontline ministries need firsthand faith in Gc›d's pre - tection as the prophets Elijah or Elisha sought when facing grave dangers from m‹ rtal opposition. Some secular intellectuals have become disillusioneci with their anti-supernaturalism, but many are turning to superhuman forces inhnitely less powerful and benevolent than the God we serve. Perhaps it is

11 2 Gift and C*iver

t¡ine for us to cry wlth the neu'1y einpowerecl Elisha, “Where now is the Le u›, the God ‹ f Elijah!” (2 Kings 2:14 or v).
At the same time, we must seek the gifts wlth the right motives. One can pray in tc›ngues without living a Spirit-filled life (compare the spiritually immature in 1 Cor. 14:20); one can prophesy without being saved ( 1 Sam. 19:21—24; Matt. 7:21-23); one can utter charismatic praise songs without giving attention to God himself, celebrating the rhythm or melody rather than God's greatness (compare the mere religious forms in Zech. 7:5—10).
One of the early pioneers in the mid-twentieth-century healing revival believes that the beginning of that revival came mostly from  God's Spirit. Many of God's people had been seeking his face, and when they sought his face, he opened his hand t‹a bless them. But this same minister has concluded that when God's people turned from seeking his face to seeklng his hand, he closed it again. From that time forward, most of the “healing revival” was car- rled on in the flesh, with  many  healing  evangelists  jockeying for attentlon and losing the blessing of God's Spirit. This leader warned that he believed God would not open his hand in such a manner again until he had raised up generation c›f Christians who would not be corrupted by money, sex, or
power—a generation he believes is hnally beginning.
If God we rks miracles, the miracles must be for the honor of God's name alone. God may use us in various gifts—such as teaching, healing, evange-  list, charismatic prayer, and prophecy—but unless we first seek God's honor and work in conjunction w ith all the other gifts for the building up of Christ's church and its mission in this world, we are not behaving as people  of  the Spirit. May God send us a revival ‹ f signs, wonders, and spiritual gifts. But must r f all, may God send us a revival of his Spirit that causes our hearts  to  feel Gc d's heart, f‹ r the pc›wer of the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:4—5) lies not first f all in powerful slgns but in the message r›f the weakness of the cross (1 Cor. 1:1b; 2:6—8). lt is in our weakness, our absolute dependence on him, that we become vc»•1› truly rea‹iy ter hi honor (2 nor ii:is-i : i0; i3:3—s, 9)

(Note By Blogger: Due to the length of the book which this content is from I have broken it up into a short series of blog posts.)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Listen to my podcast