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Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Gifts of the Spirit: Cessation or Continuation

With the fulfillment of 'all things which are written' ( Luke 21:22 ), it is becoming more and more popular to believe & live as all these thing have ceased! However, those run head-long into a few problems; if there is no more Baptism of the Holy Spirit, for instance, who is converting the nations, and how are individuals entering into Communion with our Heavenly Father every day?

 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 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

Although it could be argued, and quite correctly, in a sense, that the apostle's statement is eschatological in nature, the question should be asked here, 'if the Gifts ( of the Holy Spirit ) have ceased, why do we still employ some or all of them in today's Church?' 'Has the entire Church reached the 'fullness of Christ'? ( okay, I may have to concede a bit on that one; Paul was referring to the indwelling that Jesus promised in John 14 ) In today's Church, though, there are those who have not yet realized this 'fullness' as being present; it is those who have need for 'pastors and teachers', as well as those Gifts mentioned in I Corinthians 12:4-10

In the sense that our Heavenly Father has taken up residence in His New Temple ( John 14:23 ( I Corinthians 6:19 ),  the Church has reached the 'fullness of Christ'', but the Church, as the Kingdom, is ever-expanding, and thus, in that sense, has need still of 'The Gifts of the Spirit ( I Corinthians 14 )

On a Corporate level, then, the Church has reached full maturity, and attained this 'stature', but on a personal &; individual level, there are those within the Body ( as well as those outside ) who have not yet reached that level of maturity, so it is for these that the Gifts must be employed! 

Another reason for the Continuation of the Gifts is elaborated well in the apostle's words to the Church at Corinth ( I Corinthians 12:11 ), 'But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills'. It could be argued that since the Holy Spirit was an eschatological phenomenon , that He is no longer relevant to our present situation! However, this is where many traditional Trinitarians get it wrong; by making too much of a distinction between, as they say, 'the three persons of the God-head', it causes some believers to go too far the other way, and claim that since the Fulfillment of the Eschaton, and now that our Heavenly Father has become 'all in all' ( I Corinthians 15:28 ), that there is no more Holy Spirit, or at least that the Gifts & Baptism of the Holy Spirit have ceased.

As our Heavenly Father is Eternal, so in that sense are His Gifts Eternal! He still gives the Gifts as needed and where warranted! The Fact of the Matter is that men are still men; just as in the apostle Paul's day, where 'God has dealt to each one a measure of faith' , so in our day, there are varying levels of faith. Some believe that they 'may eat all things' ( Romans 14:2 ), while others esteem '[ one] day above another' ( Romans 14:5 ). As the case may be, not every individual has reached the same level of maturity within the Body! It is those who must be taught, not the knowledge of God, though there are arguably those as well, but the fullness of our Freedom in Christ, and what it truly means that we are 'free indeed' ( John 8:36 )!

Since we ( corporately ) have received this 'fullness', let us employ His Gifts as well, when & where needed, trusting to our Heavenly Fathers Provision, Wisdom & Guidance, as we act the part of 'healing leaves' in our area of the world. Let us Continue to edify the Body with the Gifts which our Heavenly Father has bestowed upon us, and which Shine out through us! If our Gift is to teach, let us teach those who need teaching, if love, those who need loving, if different tongues, those who need to hear in different tongues, if healing, those who need healing; remembering always that it is the Spirit within who shines out through our action!

Glorying & Gloriously, 
Charles Haddon Shank

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