If someone asked you if they could give you a prophetic word, what's the right response?
Well, that's a difficult question to answer if you're unclear on what it means. Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg continues a study of spiritual gifts by explaining what the gift of prophecy is and how it relates to Biblical truth. We continue to pursue our studies here in 1 Corinthians 12 and specifically as it relates to this question of spiritual gifts.
We've been looking at this subject now for a couple of weeks and will do for some time beyond this. But we are in the midst of the list that is provided for us here between verse 7 and verse 11. Last time we sought to ask and answer four questions. Who gives these spiritual gifts? The answer to which was God. Why are they given?
The answer to that was for the common good. They're tools to be used, not toys to be played with. Who gets them? The answer to that is every Christian gets them.
And what are they? Well, then we began to look at the list that was provided for us and we said it was a selective list, not an exhaustive list. We have said various things about spiritual gifts. I came across a quote this week by the late Ray Stedman, who said that a spiritual gift, and I think quite helpfully, is a capacity for service which is given to every true Christian without exception and which is something that each did not possess before he became a Christian. A spiritual gift is given to each Christian and it is something that we didn't have before. Natural talents are not spiritual gifts, although natural talents are gifts from God. And a Christian, interestingly, may exercise a spiritual gift through a natural talent. If you think about it, an individual may have a natural talent for communication and be given the spiritual gift of teaching. And the spiritual gift combines with their natural talent to make it a powerful impact. And also we discovered, and importantly so, that these gifts are given to each one, reminding us that every one of us, having received a gift, is to have a part in our expression within the body of Christ.
And all the members are involved in ministry. Now, we have reached the gift of healing in our going through this list. And we come to the issue of healing.
In Calvin's commentary on 1 Corinthians, in addressing these various spiritual gifts, he gives some time to the first three, and when he comes to this gift of healing, he says, quotes, everyone knows what is meant by the gift of healing. And then he proceeds to the next gift. So either everybody knew something that we don't know, or else he didn't want to touch it, or whatever it was, I'm not sure, but it made me smile. It really made me smile.
In fact, I'm still smiling. It's quite incredible. Coming to this gift, which is one of the most volatile of the list of gifts in the minds of some people, it's necessary for me to dip into an area that needs to be addressed and to which we'll return, certainly when we come to chapter 14. And it centers on the question as to whether this gift and other spectacular gifts are still present in the church today, or whether these miraculous occurrences were actually signs of the apostles. They were given for a specific period of time in order to authenticate the ministry of the apostles in the establishing of the church. That's the question that is a very important question and needs to be addressed. And along with it, this question, when we read here concerning the gifts of healing that were manifest in the New Testament church at this time, are we to believe that what is spoken of today in terms of healing ministry, in terms of gifts possessed by individuals whereby they are apparently able to heal, are we legitimate in assuming that those present day professions are identical with the New Testament instruction provided for us here?
In order to answer that question, there are a couple of things we need to note. First of all, the healings that mark the ministry of Jesus and of the apostles was direct. They were able to heal by their words or by their touch. They spoke or they touched and people were healed. The healing was an instant healing. The healings were not simply psychosomatic, but they were organic many of them, such as wasted and crippled limbs being restored, as well as functional and symptomatic things being addressed. The healings of Jesus and the apostles lasted.
There is no record in the New Testament of any relapse in relationship to healings. So their healings were direct. They were specific. They were by word.
They were by touch. They had immediate impact. People were immediately and apparently healed and there was no apparent relapse. Now, for those of us who've lived and moved in charismatic circles, we need to be honest enough to say that that is very, very different from what is mostly spoken of today in relationship to the gifts of healing. Most of those expressions cannot be squared with the outline that I've just given you in terms of apostolic ministry. That, loved ones, does not mean that we no longer have the privilege of asking God for healing.
We do, and God does heal and may choose to heal to accomplish his purpose and his glory. But I do not believe that individuals possess gifts of healing as per the abilities of the apostles in the first century, whatever their profession may be. In the same respect, miraculous powers, which is next on the list, are directly related to the foundational element of the apostles. Let me quote to you, These miraculous gifts were part of the credentials of the apostles as authoritative agents of God in the founding of the church. Their function confined them distinctly to the apostolic church and they necessarily passed away with it, as B.B.
Warfield. So that we begin to put together an understanding of things where there were certain gifts which are said to have been temporary in their foundational element and there are other gifts which are permanent. Some people choose to be exceptionally dogmatic concerning this, others are helpfully or unhelpfully vague, but you should understand that there is a very great difference between the view which says that all the gifts of the New Testament were operative, went into abeyance, and all of a sudden, lately, in the resurgence of interest in the Spirit's ministry in the last 30 years by means of the charismatic movement, have once again been unleashed upon the church. They were gone and God has blessed them to the church. That view is very different from the view which says, no, there were certain signs of the apostolic church which were there to authenticate their ministry into lay foundation and that even as you read the Acts of the Apostles, you discover that those events are beginning to dwindle before you come to the conclusion of the book of Acts in the founding of the church.
And by the time you get into the New Testament epistles themselves, there is largely no mention of them whatsoever. What about the gift of prophecy? Prophecy to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy. Some of you may not know what I'm talking about here, but that's all right, it's not unusual actually, but the question once again is whether what is spoken of in terms of charismatic prophecy can be realistically viewed as the restoring of this New Testament sign gift. Those of you who have not been exposed to this won't really know what I mean, but for example, I have friends who come over to my home, at least did in Scotland, they would come over to my home and before the evening was ended, they would give to my wife and I various words of prophecy. And on the strength of that, then we would go to bed and get on with our days. I can make mention of that, I probably will in a moment or two for now. But by prophecy in charismatic circles, what they mean is an immediate revelation from God, the receiving and the relaying of what purports to be a divine message.
Okay? An existential moment, disconnected from and not necessarily related to the revelation which we have in Holy Scripture. And in charismatic circles, the understanding of this gift of prophecy is, number one, that it is a direct revelation from God of thoughts that are on the mind of God that would not otherwise be known.
It's very important. If this person did not say this in this moment, then all of us who were within earshot would not be the beneficiaries of this word which was on the mind of God. Secondly, that such words of prophecy frequently include specific directions from God concerning his plans for the future. Thirdly, that the proper verbal form of these words of prophecy, our experience, is in terms of the Old Testament oracles, in which the I who speaks is frequently God himself. If you've moved in these circles, and some of you have, you will know that when a word of prophecy is given, most usually in this context, it comes in the first person singular.
I say to you, I say to you, my people, I say to you, Alistair Begg, or whatever it might be. He creates and brings with it a tremendous sense of transcendence and power, and it can be tremendously compelling, especially for those who are unsure concerning the Scriptures. Fourthly, the notion is that it was a sign gift in the apostolic church, which with the other sign gifts, as I said, has been in abeyance until lately. Now that's the view of prophecy from the charismatic point of view.
What would we want to say in relationship to that? Well, first of all, I would want to say that the prophecy of Joel in Acts 2, where Peter quotes from the prophet Joel, concerning the fact that in the last days, God would pour out his spirit on all people, and the sons and daughters would prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. One of the things that most marks this prophecy is the fact that it is universal.
Rather than it being unique and exclusive, we ought to expect it to be manifest in every age. Rather than the spirit of prophecy having been put in a box, as it were, for hundreds and hundreds of years, and just all of a sudden being brought back out, the spirit of prophecy that is manifested here, recounted in the prophecy of Joel, suggests to us that this is not something that we ought to find absent in any age, but present in every age. And that the essence of the prophetic ministry was not foretelling, but was forthtelling. In other words, that the prophetic ministry was and is God's present word for God's present people. Ask yourself the question, where do we have God's present word for God's present people? Right here.
Okay? So we have it all. All that we need with nothing left out and nothing put in that shouldn't be there. God has completed his word of revelation to us. All of the word that is necessary, for all time and for all of his people, is contained right here in this book. And in the same way that Old Testament prophets proclaimed the law and recalled the people of God to face the claim of God upon their lives and to call them to obedience, so the New Testament prophets, if you like, they preached the gospel. They preached the life of faith. They called for conversion. They called for edification and for encouragement. And interestingly, we'll find this when we come to chapter 14, Paul's concern for the church at Corinth was that all without exception should share in this ministry.
Isn't that what he says? I would that you all prophesied. I would that you all were involved in bringing God's present word to God's present people. And when we come to 1 Corinthians 14, and you can note it if you want to flip over to it in verse 26 and in verse 30, we're going to see that a prophetic revelation was a God-prompted application of truth that in general terms had been revealed already. A God-prompted application of truth that had been revealed already rather than a disclosure of divine thoughts and intentions that hadn't been previously known and hadn't been previously knowable. So when you think in terms of the prophetic gift, we ought not to think of it in terms of the augmentation of truth, but rather the application of truth. And there's no indication whatsoever that any of the New Testament prophets gave their messages in a verbal form that personated the Father and the Son.
They never spoke in that way. The authority of the prophetic message is not in its form, it's in its content. Now let me explain to you. If you come to me for a word of counsel, right, and you come and you share your life with me and tell me what you're involved in, it would be possible for me, having listened to you, to say, dear friend, I want to give you a prophetic word just for you before you go.
So let's bow in prayer and let me give it to you. And then in the first person singular, I can speak to you and tell you that I believe that this is what God has to say to you at this moment in your circumstances, a present word from God for your present situation. I could take my knowledge of the Scriptures and frame it in such a way as to make you feel or believe that I am speaking in some kind of ex cathedra fashion as a result of being on the receiving end of a previously unknowable truth that is coming directly to me and through me for you. And I could say something like this.
I say to you, my sister, that if you will only find your joy and your delight in following after me and in listening to my word, I will give to you all that your heart desires. You could go out the door and say it's unbelievable. The guy's got a red telephone up there. It really freaked me out. He had a thing he said, and it just came right through. I don't know what happened. It came right through, and it came right to me.
What was it? It was Psalm 37, verse 4. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. That is why for many of my dear friends who are involved in this kind of prophetic ministry and charismatic circles, I don't get upset with them, and they'd go and get upset with me because I tell them. I say, Frank, if you want to turn Romans 12 into a kind of divine transactional statement for me, that's okay.
But I know what you're doing, Frank. You're just quoting Romans 12 because I know Romans 12 too. And, Frank, if you ever pull one of these stunts in my house where you don't quote something from the Bible, I'm going to throw you out the door so fast you won't even imagine it. Because if there is something that is supplemental to the Bible, we know to throw it out in any case.
And if what it is is simply a restatement of the Bible, what in the world are we going through it for in the first place? The gift of New Testament prophecy is the application of God's given Word to God's given people in a given moment in time. Search the Scriptures to see if these things are so. Let's go on.
Let's try one or two more. Distinguishing between spirits, the gift of distinguishing between spirits is simply the gift of discernment. If you think about it, it was a particularly important gift before the New Testament canon was completed. One commentator says the Holy Spirit's discerners were the church's protectors. John Owen writing of this said that God gave the special gift of discerning spirits to contend against, quotes, the mischief done in the church. Because at that time, with an abundance of spiritual gifts in operation and the ease with which they could be counterfeited, it was absolutely necessary that they would know what was true and what was false. And while all are given a measure of discrimination between the spirits, it would appear that to some there is given special insight into its meaning, into its application, into the manner of it in a way that is definitely similar in kind to what is mentioned here and expressed in Acts 16, if not so immediate in terms of degree.
Now, loved ones, I want to say to you again that you're going to have to think these things out for yourselves. I don't believe that my purpose in going through this is to browbeat you into some kind of position on spiritual gifts. I will teach you as best as I understand the Bible.
But you're sensible people. You need to examine the Scriptures. You need to test your life, your experience, your encounters against the Word of God. Now, some of you have wondered, because I answered a question out there in the open air during the summer. Someone said, do you believe that the gift of tongues is still present in the church? May I answer that one?
Yes, I do. The real question is, what is it? What is it that is present in the church? And here we're at the question. It's what people give testimony to, what Paul is addressing here in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14.
I actually don't think so. It's once again an area of study where undue dogmatism is really unhelpful and where spiritual sensitivity is vital. And you can take some of your favorite theologians and lay them end to end.
They won't reach a conclusion. For example, Charles Hodge regarded both the Pentecostal, i.e. the Acts 2 tongues and the Corinthian tongues as the same, a gift of other languages. Abram Kuyper regarded both as the uttering of unintelligible sounds. He said that it was probably the language that we're going to speak in heaven. So that the gift, in that case the miracle, was one of both hearing and speaking. And people spoke what they didn't know and people heard what they couldn't understand. That's far out.
Calvin, and many who followed Calvin, think that the Pentecostal tongues were languages and the Corinthian tongues were not. So how are you doing? You feeling real clear on this?
Huh? Here we've got Charles Hodge. He carries systematic theology around like this. This guy is bright. He says they're both languages. Here comes Kuyper. He says they're both unintelligible sounds.
Here comes Calvin. He says, hey, I think one's one, I think one's the other. What do you think?
Hoikema, that's quite a name, says it seems difficult if not impossible to make a final judgment on the matter. Oh, thank you. Good. But what has your experience been? Your experience has been, because of a great desire for black and white and no grays in life, your experience has been, you've got to come down on one side or the other here. And as soon as you do, somewhere or another, you go into a defensive shell to fight off anybody who doesn't believe what you believe.
Or you go on the antagonistic route to try and bring everybody who hasn't got what you've got into the experience that you have. Remember this, loved ones, the main things are the plain things and the plain things are the main things. This doesn't seem real plain, does it? What should that tell us? It should tell us that any time we exalt something that there isn't amazing clarity on in the Bible to a position of undue significance, we're probably getting really out of line. When it comes to the subject of spiritual gifts, are you seeking to stick to the main and the plain things, as Alistair talked about? That's a key takeaway from today's message on Truth for Life.
And as Alistair made clear, spiritual gifts aren't toys to be played with. They're tools that we're given as believers for the benefit of our local church body. That ties right into our mission here at Truth for Life. Our goal is to teach the Bible with clarity and relevance. We know that when God's Word is taught, local churches will be strengthened as the body of Christ is built up through this program.
And to supplement Alistair's teaching, one of our great joys is to choose high-quality books that we recommend to you each month. And this is the final weekend we're offering Alistair Begg's book, titled Pray Big, Learn to Pray Like an Apostle. As you read through this book, you'll revive your prayer life by learning how the Apostle Paul prayed boldly for his fellow believers. You'll find that the truths that shaped his prayers will not only motivate you to pray, but also help you to know what to say. As you read the book Pray Big, your focus will increasingly turn from your daily distractions to Jesus and the Gospel and eternity. Request your copy of the book Pray Big and the accompanying study guide today by visiting truthforlife.org.
I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening. Next weekend, we'll wrap up our study on spiritual gifts by addressing questions that arise regarding speaking in tongues. Is this a gift that involves speaking another language? Does it help us grow closer to God? Alistair answers these questions and more next weekend, so be sure to join us. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-18 17:55:24 / 2023-09-18 18:04:29 / 9