There are many genuine believers who desire to have a close relationship with Christ. However, there is a diversity of groups who teach different perspectives on spiritual formation. On the one hand, there are those who embrace the Pentecostal/Charismatic view of spiritual formation. They believe that those who are to have a relationship with God should seek to express themselves in supernatural ways. On the other hand, there are those in the conservative evangelical movement that suggest that there is no need to seek a deeper level of charismatic experiences. With these perspectives, one should seek a biblical understanding of the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote to Titus, his companion in ministry, and he gave him this clear edict, “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” (Holy Bible, ESV) Hence, there is a great need to explore the scriptures for possible solution for the dilemma; we must examine the plethora of theories for the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, the student must return to the scriptures for answers. We shall observe Are Miraculous Gifts for Today, Edited by Stanley W. Gundry & Wayne A. Grudem. We shall examine the Cessationist view and the Charismatic view. Finally, we shall provide a personal perspective on the Theology of the Holy Spirit.
We begin our survey of this book by examining the Cessationist view, represented by Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. Dr Gaffin began his essay by giving some introductory remarks that will have a major impact in his interpretation of the book of Acts. First, he noted that the belief in the non-continuation of the charismatic gifts is not merely due to a non-doctrinal position in the book of Acts. The book of Acts does present theological information that is profitable for the reader. However, Gaffin points out that,”The problem, rather, is that such theologies misunderstand Luke’s theology” (Are Miracluous Gifts for today? 4 Views) Luke certainly presents material that has theological value, but there are personal theologies that misunderstand Luke’s account. It is this view that will be the guiding principle for this essay. The different theological positions on the Holy Spirit have arisen because of a misinterpretation of Acts. Gaffin presents two perspectives that will help provide a critical analyses to the book of Acts. First, there is (historia solutis), commonly called the redemptive-historical framework which refers to” events that are part of Christ’s once-for-all accomplishment of his work of earning our salvation.” (Are Miracluous Gifts for today? 4 Views) It is held that: the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ are part of this salvation history, and cannot be repeated anymore. Moreover, this approach sees the events at Pentecost as a culmination of the work of Christ for the salvation of humanity. Secondly, there is the (ordso solutis) meaning, order of salvation. The meaning simply: “Christ’s work to individual lives throughout history, events such as saving faith, justification, and sanctification.” (Are Miracluous Gifts for today? 4 Views) These two theological terms provide a lens from whence we should interpret the book of Acts or more importantly, the events in the totality of Scripture. It is significant that we note that Pentecost is important because it demonstrates that the work of Jesus Christ was completed. Gaffin suggest that Pentecost is the “Redemptive-Historical Spirit-Seal” (Are Miracluous Gifts for today? 4 Views)
Having established the reality that there is a particular framework that the bible uses, the writer begins to answer the question of experience found in the book of Acts. That is, the events in the book of Acts, are they meant to be a repetitive, or are they a once for all events that reflected the already accomplished work of the Lord Jesus Christ? Gaffin asserts, “Luke narrates are not intended to establish a pattern of “repetitions” of Pentecost to continue on indefinitely in church history.” (Are Miracluous Gifts for today? 4 Views) Gaffin observes that,” Pentecost publicly attests that the saving work of Christ is complete, that he has become “the life-giving Spirit.” (Are Miracluous Gifts for today? 4 Views) Gafffin demonstrates that his focus is toward the revelatory gifts. That is, is the apostolic/prophetic gifts still in operation today? He point out that the church is the project of God, and that Christ is the foundation of the faith of the Church, but that the Apostles are the foundation in that they are the authoritative witnesses. Since Christ is the foundation of the Church; the word gifts have ceased; because they would take us back into the open canon. In fact, Gaffin suggests, “But if prophecy is for today, as claimed above, is of divine inspiration and authority, then whatever the intention in effect Scripture has been added to.” (Are Miracluous Gifts for today? 4 Views) Thus, it is the belief of cessationist that the revelatory gifts and the signs gifts were given during the time of the apostolic period, and ceased during the time of the closing of the canon. Furthermore, the Pastoral letters anticipate the close of the canon, and provide detail instruction for conduct for the church in the post-apostolic period.
In his response, Professor Douglas Oss gives his observation of Gaffin’s essay. Oss praises Gaffin for his warning to the Pentecostals, and their deviation from some of the orthodox teachings and cleaving to the postmodern ideas. Furthermore, Oss shares his common belief in the redemptive-historical method. However, one of the key points is the expe rience of Pentecost: was it meant to be repeated? That is, those who are saved; should seek to have experience the Spirit in its power? Oss comments,
If the Bible mandated or described a change in the expression of the Spirit’s power subsequent to the foundational period, that would be binding on Pentecostals. But the bible does not even hint as a change in the way the Spirit’s power is manifested. Rather, it speaks only of individuals (not manifestations or gifts) whose role was foundational.
(Are Miracluous Gifts for today? 4 Views)
Oss simply is making the case that the gifts of the Spirit were not foundational, but rather, the people who exercised the gifts were foundational to the redemptive-Historical nature of the church. Oss offers his insight on Gaffins use of Ephesians 2 stating that the passage used does not refer to finality of the“utterance gifts.” Secondly, Oss propagates the purpose of the “utterance Gifts.”, “it has been well documented elsewhere that the utterance manifestations are not exclusively linked either to the apostles or to inscripturation. What is the purpose of the utterance manifestations, then? Paul cites the edification of the body as their purpose. (Are Miracluous Gifts for today? 4 Views) Thus, it becomes quite apparent that, for Oss, there is no cessation of the utterance manifestations, or on the sign gifts. These gifts play a special role in the New Testament Church. Douglas Oss’s views concerning the work of the Holy Spirit will be expanded in the next paragraph.
Reading the essay of Douglas Oss, one concludes that he has some good profitable information for cessationist to take into consideration. One of the key components of his theological construct is that he does not define Pentecostalism as a “second blessing” movement, but rather, “As a Pentecostal, my own perception is that our pneumatology includes a first, a second, a third, a fourth, and so forth, anointing. In other words, being filled with the Spirit is as characteristic of the Christian Life as sanctification.” (Are Miracluous Gifts for today? 4 Views) In the view of Oss, the empowering of the Holy Spirit is a consistent filling. It is my belief that: the empowering work of the Holy Spirit is something that one must seek on a daily basis One must acknowledge that point, but the question that arises in this discussion is his view on the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” He suggest that:”Pentecostals do not believe that being baptized in the Holy Spirit is a once-for-all experience of empowerment.” (Are Miracluous Gifts for today? 4 Views) So what is their definition of the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Is it biblical to view the baptism of the Holy Spirit as the empowerment for Christian Service? Oss notes that within the traditional sphere of Pentecostalism, the idea of Spirit-Baptism meant that one had to be “refilled” (Are Miracluous Gifts for today? 4 Views) Oss takes a survey through the Old Testament of the Spirit’s work in the life of individuals, and he discovers that, “but inner-transformation, both required by God and desired by David, is not described as a universal experience among the people of God within this period. Rather, the Old Testament anticipates a future new age during which the transformative work of the Spirit will become a universal reality among God’s people.” (Are Miracluous Gifts for today? 4 Views) This point no one can disagree with. It must be stressed that Oss uses the idea of “inner-transforming work of the Spirit.” Which “continues in sanctification, and his empowering work continues after the initial filling with many more.” (Are Miracluous Gifts for today? 4 Views) Still this is inconsistent; because it fails to answer the question concerning the purpose of “Spirit-baptism”? Oss furthers his discussion on the continuation of miraculous gifts by dealing with the Spirit’s work in these “last days.” The conviction is that the “last days” conclude upon the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, there is no cessation of the gifts; because the Lord has not returned to the earth to bring redemption to his church. Although there are a number of doctrinal points that must be called into question, one must praise Oss for his warning to those within the Pentecostal movement. We shall only mention three points. First, “signs and wonders can sometimes be elevated over truth.” (Are Miracluous Gifts for today? 4 Views) This has been done in many circles. There are those who simply come to church to see the miracles performed by a person ministering. For example, Benny Hinn, while he presents the Gospel of Jesus Christ and provides people the opportunity to know Christ, his service stress the healing power of God. Secondly, “prophetic gifts can be used to manipulate and cajole rather than to encourage.” (Are Miracluous Gifts for today? 4 Views) Finally, “Classical Pentecostal groups should not depart from their historical evangelical moorings and fall into liberalism, becoming an existentialist sect.” (Are Miracluous Gifts for today? 4 Views) In conclusion, it is clear that those who are Pentecostal must seek to remain deeply rooted in their evangelical heritage.
Gaffin spends time in his response by noting that Oss and Storms (another contributor in this work) have overlapping ideas, and spends time flushing out this position. The main question that I think is important in this response is,” Does not the Old testament promise and the New Testament itself document something like the eschatological mutation of theocratic anointings and salvation-historical empowerment with miraculous gifts throughout the old covenant into the (potential) experience of all new covenant believers?” (Are Miracluous Gifts for today? 4 Views) The answer to this question is that these empowerments find their fulfillment in the once-for-all salvation work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is also the belief of Gaffin that true meaningful evaluation of prophecy is impossible. However, I believe that Gaffin makes it clear concerning those who seek the miraculous gifts, “But faith is not an assertion of my ever tentative subjectivity in need of “objective” props and confirmation. Ultimately it is rooted not in myself but in an eschatological act of God; it is the result of nothing less than a work of resurrection in me that has already take place, just when I was” dead in transgressing and sins.” (Are Miracluous Gifts for today? 4 Views) This is a significant point: the faith of the individual should not rest on miraculous gifts, but on the reality that Christ Jesus is alive and is still in the redeeming business.
Having surveyed these two theologians, I would like to take the time to declare my position in this whole discussion. First, it is my belief, like Oss, that the gifting of the Sprit did not stop with the close of the canon. Certainly, there are times where God will operate through chosen people to bring about healing. This does not mean that the individual being used is the healer, but simply he is being used by God. Secondly, I prescribe to the belief that speaking in tongues are a gift, but they are not necessary for Church life today. God may chose to use a person to speak in tongue, but that is simply God’s choice. There are those who suggest that one must speak in tongues like those on the day of Pentecost. This point is not rational because; the tongues spoken on the day of Pentecost by the 120 were understandable language. If we were to visit some of the classical Pentecostal churches, it would be observed that the tongues spoken are not understandable. Hence, that rationale is inconsistent. The gifts of tongues are still available, but they are not the primary gifts that are needed to experience God in a deeper way. First, the Christian has Christ and that is enough. Secondly, believing in Christ is the requisite to reception of the Spirit. There is no need for outward evidence; because the believer is sealed by the Spirit. What a wonderful truth! Finally, the believer does not seek the baptism of the Spirit. The baptism of the Spirit happens at the moment one places faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. This is not a baptism for empowerment, but the baptism that places one in position with Jesus Christ. However, the bible does command the believer to be “filled” ,“led”, and “walk” by the Spirit. This is the empowerment for living, and it is done under God’s grace. Thus, the believer should not seek to be place into position, which is the work of Christ by the Spirit. I have not yet developed my position on the “revelatory gifts”. However, my advice is that one should be cautious about those who claim to have the prophetic/apostolic gifting of the Spirit. Like Oss, we must make sure that we do not detour away from those doctrines that make us evangelical.
This subject is one that can cause friction, but can also be edifying to those who are seeking the truth in love. I have found this book to be a great resource in my library. It is my goal to continue my study on this subject a little further, and to expand this paper sometime in the future. In the mean time, I believe that what has been noted here is a good foundation to build on.