Can You Be Committed to Both God’s Word and the Spirit’s Gifts?
Pastor and author Sam Storms has been laboring and praying for what many have said is an elusive dream. What is he searching for?
a local church in the twenty-first century that is committed to the centrality and functional authority of the Bible and to the effective, Christ-exalting operation of all spiritual gifts. (13)
While such a church may seem elusive, Storm believes it’s possible. In his new book Practicing the Power, Storms offers practical steps to understanding and exercising spiritual gifts in a way that they remain grounded in God’s Word. He shows us that, yes, you can be committed to both the authority of God’s Word and the availability of the Spirit’s gifts.
And yet, some say otherwise.
Cessationists Say “No!”
The dodo bird is a good way of illustrating the position of cessationists, for it symbolizes extinction and obsolescence. They believe certain gifts of the Spirit have ceased, that they are extinct and obsolete. “So, too," explains Storms, "is the local church that can hold in biblical balance the foundational truth of God’s written Word and the supernatural movements of the Holy Spirit in and through spiritual gifts” (14).
Here’s how he has heard them describe such a commitment:
- You can’t live with the expectation that the Spirit will speak directly to you apart from Scripture and at the same time build your life and ministry on the rock-solid foundation of what he has already said in and through Scripture
- You can’t speak in authentic New Testament tongues and at the same time preach verse-by-verse through the books of the Bible
- You can’t pray expectantly for miraculous healing and be devoted to the importance of Hebrew and Greek exegesis
- You can’t be a Calvinist and a charismatic
- And you certainly can’t expect anyone else to participate in a local church that purports to embrace both sides of this unbridgeable spiritual chasm
Cessationists believe the last sighting of this rare breed of the church was during the first century AD, when the Apostles walked the earth. According to them, “With their departure from the scene, we should not waste our time thinking and praying—much less striving—to build a body of believers in which revelatory gifts such as word of knowledge can flourish alongside serious theological reflection” (14).
Storms says otherwise, however, because he believes the Bible says otherwise.
The Bible Says “Yes!”
Storms fully embraces the functional operation of all spiritual gifts because the Bible itself does. In explaining his position, he believes that many of the above objections are premised on a misperception of what spiritual gifts are in the first place. He draws our attention to the closest thing to a definition of spiritual gifts we find in the New Testament:
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:7)
First, Storms notes that spiritual gifts are God-originating gifts: “Spiritual gifts, said Paul, are a ‘manifestation’ (Gk., phanerosis) of the Holy Spirit. They are not some thing or some stuff that is separate from God, something else sent by God” (15).
Closely connected to this first aspect of our definition is a second: spiritual gifts are God-working gifts. “They are concrete, often tangible, visible and vocal disclosures of divine power showcased through human activity” (15). God himself, then, through the Third Person of the Trinity, clearly and sometimes dramatically expresses himself through his people as they minister to each other and the world.
Storms underscores an often overlooked third aspect of Paul’s definition: spiritual gifts are God-welcoming gifts. “When we affirm and welcome the operation of the charismata (spiritual gifts, pl.) in our lives, we are affirming and welcoming God himself” (16). After all, the gifts are manifestations of God the Spirit, operating in and through us for the common good.
The Bible underscores in two other places why we should focus on spiritual gifts, and why they are so essential to an experience of divine power: 1 Corinthians 12:6 and 12:11.
In both of these texts we find different forms of the same basic term, translated in slightly different ways. We can render them this way: “. . . and there are varieties of energizings, but it is the same God who energizes them all in everyone.” And these gifts are “energized by one and the same Spirit.” (16)
Regardless of the gift, then, it is the result of God’s divine power, and is essential for the spiritual life of the whole church as well as individual Christians. Therefore, “it is of the utmost urgency that pastors and believers in every church be equipped in the exercise of all the gifts ‘for the common good’” (17)
Engage Storms’s handbook yourself to discover how to be committed to the authority of God’s Word and availability of the Spirit’s gifts, especially in the context of the local church.
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