Let's just still our hearts before the Lord. We worship You, Lord Jesus, we magnify You, we just adore You - for You have won the victory. We say 'Alleluia', we praise Your name, because, Lord, there is none like You. The highest place that heaven affords is Yours. We just want to lift up Your name tonight. Lord, we're going to talk about a lot of stuff this evening and the next four weeks, but if we miss You in at all, Lord, we've missed all there is. We just draw near now, and we worship at Your feet, Lord Jesus Christ. We declare that Your name is above every name in heaven and on earth. Your name is far above all principalities and powers, might, and dominion, and every name that has been named in heaven and on earth in this age and that which is to come. Lord, we just declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, and over this moment and in this space, in this place, Lord Jesus, we invite You to come, to rule and reign and have Your way in our lives. Lord, we need You, we desperately need You, and we worship You tonight. We invite You to come, meddle in our affairs, shake us up, Lord, renew our minds, align our spirits and souls into parallel with the plumbline of Your truth. Lord, give us Your mind tonight, let our affections be set on heavenly things and not on earthly things. Lord, if anybody has come in here tonight with their minds already made up in any sense regarding the truths that we're going to consider, Lord - although we're going to reason with people, Lord, we're not here to argue. So we ask You, Lord, to just convince of truth, Holy Spirit, Your job is to convince of truth. I'm not going to try and do Your job, Holy Spirit, so just come and You do what You do best. Lord, have Your way. So we just wait upon You now, we worship You, Lord Jesus. We bless You, we magnify You, You are worthy, You are holy, You're beautiful beyond description, too marvellous for words, too wonderful for comprehension, like nothing ever seen or heard. We just love You, Lord, and we pray that You will be glorified tonight, and You will draw near to us. In Your name we pray - everybody said 'Amen'.
OK, I want you to turn in your Bibles to Ephesians chapter 4 and verses 7 and 8. This is just a launching pad for all we're going to look at tonight: "But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore He says: 'When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men'". Now Andy and I, when I was invited to come, it was by mutual agreement that this was the subject that I would bring. Tonight in particular, I felt - and we discussed this as well - that it was important, though many of you are perhaps already on the page as far as the question of whether or not the gifts of the Spirit are for today, you might agree with that entirely, but there may be some of you who don't. More likely, there are some of you who are sitting on the fence and not sure - perhaps because you've seen abuses, or maybe received abuses of people ministering in the gifts of the Spirit, so-called, and it has turned you off. Maybe your background has been one where you were taught against this type of truth - and therefore, it's not that you're particularly opposed to it, but you're just not there in as far as convinced that it's all for today.
So I want us to look at this question: 'Are the Gifts of the Holy Spirit for Today?'. Now, first of all, look at this passage of Scripture with me, because the picture that is given to us is of a military leader returning home at the head of his army after routing the enemy troops. He has taken many prisoners - of course, this is Jesus - 'He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men'. So when He ascended on high, it's as if the Lord Jesus was a Commander who had defeated the realms of darkness at the cross, and He has risen now and He has ascended to heaven, and as He leads into heaven, He has prisoners but He also has spoils of battle that He gives as gifts or tokens of His victory. That's the imagery that is being used here, that these gifts and spoils of battle are the gifts of God's Spirit, or the gifts of Christ to the Church - which is a little bit different, as we'll see later on.
But what I want you to understand at the very outset of tonight and this series is: our focus must be on Jesus Christ, OK? That is where the Father's focus is, and that is where the Spirit's focus is: on Jesus Christ. Before we launch into considering the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit wants you to know that it's all because of Jesus Christ that we have these gifts - because of what He did at the cross, rising again, ascending to heaven, it's because of that that the Holy Spirit has been poured out. Jesus Himself emphasised this in John 7:39, many of you will know verses 38 and 39 of John 7: ''He who believes in Me'', Jesus says, ''as the Scripture has said, out of his heart'', his innermost being, ''will flow rivers of living water'. But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive', now listen to this, 'for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified'. Right away there is that connection: the ascension, glorification of Christ, and the outpouring of the Spirit are connected. Again John 14:12, well-known verse, 'Most assuredly, I say to you', Jesus says, 'he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these', listen, 'because I go to My Father'.
Now often we emphasise - and rightly so, because it's a staggering statement, that we will do the works of Jesus, and greater works (whatever that means, probably the extent of the works, and the geography of the works, and all the rest). I don't think anybody is going to do better stuff than Jesus did, but we will be able to do what He did and do it to a greater extent, but we miss this important punchline in the verse: that it's all connected and contingent upon Jesus being glorified because He goes to the Father. Unless He goes to the Father, unless He's sitting at the right hand of Majesty on high, a Prince and a Saviour, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Holy Spirit isn't coming to the earth. So let's not lose Christ in the truths of the Holy Spirit, which I think sometimes happens, it has to be said.
Yet you can't focus on the Holy Spirit without talking about the Holy Spirit, can you? So we're talking about these gifts, and of course the Greek word for 'gifts' is, well, we turn it into English 'charisms' or 'charisma' is the literal Greek word, plural 'charismata' - you may have heard of that term. It's important to understand that, because part of the word is 'charis', that's the Greek word for 'grace'. These are 'grace gifts', these are not things that we work up, or things that we achieve through even experience, though we might hone them that way. It doesn't come through doing a course on anything, this is coming through Jesus, what He has done at the cross, by grace, and we receive it through faith because of Calvary.
Now post-Pentecost, after the Day of Pentecost, God's presence is manifest in the church in at least two ways. Stay with me, OK? There are the gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit display God's power. If you like, the fruit of the Spirit depict God's personality: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, faith - OK? So in the gifts you've got His power, dynamism; and in the fruit you've got His personality, His characteristics. To put it another way: the gifts are communication, God's communication divinely to us, and the fruit is Divine character. OK, are you with me? You need both, this is how God's manifest presence was displayed in the early church, and it's the way it should happen today. I could take you on a journey through biblical history to show you how the presence of God was manifested in the Garden, it was manifested in the Tabernacle, it was manifested in the Temple. There are various Shekinah incidents, where the manifest dwelling of God comes forth. Of course, it was manifested in Jesus in bodily form: 'We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth'. The greatest manifestation of God's presence ever was Jesus, but He has not left us without His presence, He has not left us orphans. On the Day of Pentecost that Shekinah Glory was manifest in tongues of fire upon people's head's, a rushing mighty wind, those are figures of the presence of God being near - but that was meant to continue in the church by the gifts of the Spirit, God's power demonstrated, and the fruit of the Spirit, God's personality.
Now, I have heard people say (maybe you have as well), 'The fruit of the Spirit is more important than the gifts of the Spirit'. Has anybody ever heard that? They will say that God is more interested in character than your abilities. Then there are other people, and they mightn't say that, but their emphasis is: 'Well, it's more power that matters rather than your personality' - and sometimes you see that in the shoddy lives of some folk that are claiming to be doing stuff in the name of the Holy Spirit, yes? But it's not either or, it's both and. If you want a true reflection of God's nature on the earth today, we are the church, we're also called not only the Temple of the Holy Spirit, like the Tabernacle and the Temple were in the olden times, but we are called the Body of Christ. We are meant to actually manifest the life of Christ today to this world. If we're going to fully reflect the nature of God, we've got to have His power and His personality - His communication and His character.
Someone put it like this: 'If the gifts without fruit is inadequate, fruit without gifts is ineffective'. So if gifts without fruit is inadequate, fruit without gifts is ineffective. Think about it this way: we believe God is a God of love, isn't that right? That's His character - but what good is a God of love if He can't help us, He's got no power to help us? Power is very important. He is not a whiny God, sitting in the corner with tears dripping down His face, thinking 'Oh, what a terrible situation My people are in, but I can't do anything to help them'. He is the omnipotent God, the all-powerful One. So we need both together, because Christianity is a supernatural way of life - who knows that? It's either supernatural or its superficial - and I hope you've got the supernatural kind. It's not even our life at all, Galatians 2:20, 'It is not I, but Christ who lives in me; the life that I now live I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me'. You see, it's the life of Christ Himself, the life of God in us - and the only way to live that life is through His power and through His character. But the tragedy is that we often, as individuals, have divorced the supernatural source from our everyday experience - and that's not only individual, but that is corporate in the church. Much of the church, particularly in Ireland, and here in the UK and in Western Europe, is operating in the flesh rather than the Spirit. Even those who think they are operating in the Spirit, sometimes are not. This is where the gifts come in.
Now Ephesians 4 that we have just read talks about what I categorise as 'the ministry gifts'. If you read on, you will see in verse 10, look at verse 9: 'Now this, 'He ascended'; what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things', now that's worthy of our time, but we need to move on, verse 11, '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'. Now before we move on to the gifts of the Spirit, these are the gifts of Christ - and there is a distinction. There are the ascension gifts of Christ, which are different than the gifts of the Spirit. The gifts of Christ are ministry gifts, and they are not abilities, they are people: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers - some people think pastors and teachers are the same thing, I personally think they could be at times, but they can also be separate - so we call it fivefold ministries. Alright? Apostles, prophets, evangelist, pastors, teachers - these will be the foundation of the church. Of course, many people think this is only for the apostolic age, they would say, which ended with the death of the apostles - but I beg to differ. In fact, they are necessary, verse 12 says, for the equipping of the saints for works of ministry. Now can I just point out to you that these guys and girls that are given to the church by Jesus Christ were not given to do all the work because you pay them a salary, just in case anybody had that little thought. Look at what verse 12 says - they were given to the church to equip the saints to do the works of ministry. So banish the thought, if it is in there any way in the grey matter, that your minister, or your pastor, or your leaders are paid or in a position - even if they're not paid - they're in a position to do that, that's what they're there for, to do that - no, they are there to train you to do it. So an evangelist is meant to train people to evangelise. A prophet is meant to train people to prophesy. Do you understand? It's to equip you to do the works of ministry.
Unfortunately, not only is this not happening, largely because of a traditional church system that didn't come from God - it didn't come from God, a lot of it came from man - not only are we not equipping the saints, but there is nobody to equip the saints, because we don't even recognise these ministries in the church. I fall into this category - I'll not say which one or two - but what I'm saying is, if you're not a pastor in our culture, you're nothing, in some church cultures you're nothing. Some denominations, if you're not a pastor, you're an evangelist - alright? But if you're not a pastor or an evangelist, like little old me, you're neither of those two, but God has called you - what are you? Because the church, a lot of the church, does not recognise any other positions but pastor and evangelist, and a missionary which is a kind of an evangelist. Do you understand? So we need a complete restructuring, we actually need a reformation in our spiritual leadership - this is a whole other message, I don't want to get on to it - but that's what we need. Listen: where do we start? If we want the manifest presence of God to break out among us, we need - when Moses was building the Tabernacle, God told him to build it according to the pattern that he saw on the Mount - and if we want to see God's life represented here on the earth, in our communities, we can't bypass God's plan for the New Testament Church and think that everything will just fall into place.
So we need apostles - with a small 'a', we might call them 'Small a apostles', but there are small a apostles - there are prophets, there are evangelists, there are pastors, and there are teachers. We need to make way for them, we need to start recognising those gifts, and we need to identify them and commend them in the church. If we want to have the full power of the Holy Spirit in our assemblies, we need to do that. But that's not what you asked me to come here to speak about. Spiritual gifts, or the gifts of the Holy Spirit, have been categorised probably in about nine - and I don't think they are absolute, OK? I mean, if you go to Romans 12 and a few other portions of the New Testament, you'll find other types of gifts mentioned. I think the nine spiritual gifts, just the way there are nine fruit of the Spirit, they are general to types of giftings. Of course you've got the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healings, workings of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, different kinds of tongues and interpretation of tongues. Now don't worry if you're not getting this all down, because we're going to spend time over the weeks looking at each of those to some degree.
But sadly, before we even look at the minutia of definitions and how we understand applications of these gifts, the church is divided over whether or not these actually exist today. Now that's for a number of reasons, not least the abuse of these gifts in certain Pentecostal and Charismatic circles. We have to be honest now, there has been an abuse and misuse of so-called gifts of the Spirit. Many in Christendom have reacted against that, in the classic pendulum swing, by rejecting the whole concept of spiritual gifts for today entirely. That's a shame, and here's the reason why: yes, Satan is in the business of counterfeits - you do know that? I hope you do: 'Be not deceived', that's a statement often made in the New Testament. Jesus said it as well: 'Many will try to deceive you' - so don't be deceived. But listen: you also know, don't you, that there is only ever a counterfeit of the true - do you understand? The devil is not in the business of counterfeiting things that don't exist. Have you ever heard of a counterfeit £30 note? Have you ever heard of one of those? Never! Seriously! Why have you never heard of one of those? There is no such a thing as a real £30 note. Whether it's the New-Age Movement, or the occult, or whatever - you will find that Satan, it's like the magicians in the Pharaoh's court, he's always a step behind, but he's trying to copy what God is doing, he's trying to create his own brand of it - but he only ever counterfeits what is true. So we should be asking as the church: where is the true? So many want to point out the counterfeit - and maybe they are right in some circumstances - but often those that are doing that, sometimes self-appointed spiritual policemen, they are not asking the question: 'Where is the real thing?'. Where is the genuine?
Leonard Ravenhill once said: 'We've been warned of false fire by fireless men, and too often we settle for no fire at all'. It's interesting, because the Corinthians - and we'll be spending a bit of time there over the weeks, there is a great deal of matter about spiritual gifts there - the Corinthian church was a very charismatic church. In other words, it was a church where the gifts of the Spirit were exercised widely, OK? But not only was it very charismatic, it was very problematic, because the gifts were running out of control in this particular church. What I want you to notice is: not once - now mark it - not once did Paul the apostle come to those Christians, who were misusing and abusing spiritual gifts, not once did he say to them 'This is counterfeit'. Not once did he said to them: 'You are being deceived by the devil', and he never ever even implied 'You need to knock this on the head, because in another decade or so this won't be around any more, and you'll have a Bible, and you'll not need these spiritual gifts. So you're getting all uptight about nothing'. No. In fact, what Paul did was, he taught them how to use them, he taught them how to use them even though they abused them. So we might put it like this: he prescribed their use, not proscribed their use.
It's often fear of the false that shuts us down when it comes to spiritual gifts. So we see something we don't like, or we've been involved in something that we've come on the rough end of somebody who has been working in the flesh and claiming to be speaking on behalf of the Spirit, and we fear that happening again. We fear people moving away from the word of God - but imagine if Paul had had that fear when he was writing to the Corinthians. How different a letter we would have had! He would have been proscribing rather than prescribing. It's obvious, to me anyway, that there is an absence of power in the church today here in Ireland. There is a form of godliness denying the power. The kingdom of God, Scripture says, is not in word, but in power. Do you think it is coincidental that the absence of power is often linked to an aversion to the ministry of the Spirit, and even a disbelief in the gifts of the Spirit? Do you think that's just a chance? I don't think so.
But let's address this before we go on any further into looking at these individual gifts: let's address the question of whether or not these gifts are for today. I want to say categorically and absolutely: there is not one Scripture that says these gifts are not for the church today. So I'm not interested in your theology in the sense of some kind of rational construct that you impose upon Scripture and fit it into that shape, I'm not interested in that. I'm talking about biblical theology now, what the Bible teaches, there is not one verse that says these gifts are not for today. Now that ought to mean something, should it not? Are you still with me here? On the contrary, there are several scriptures that indicate in fact that there will be a continuation of these gifts.
Now I want to take you to those scriptures now, so get your fingers busy and look up your Bible. First of all Acts chapter 2, and of course that's the Pentecost outpouring, the original outpouring of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit has come, and Peter is preaching this sermon and many are converted - but look at this in verse 39, Peter's trying to explain to them what's happening, and he says 'This is the promise, this is that which was spoken of by Joel the prophet'. But look at verse 39, he specifies to whom this promise will be fulfilled: 'For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off', and that's not geographically afar off, that's afar off in time, 'as many as the Lord our God will call'. Now, are we afar off from Peter on the Day of Pentecost? Yes. Are we called by the Lord - 'to as many as the Lord our God shall call' - are we called by God? I hope you are. It's just another way of talking about being saved and born again. So who is this promise to? Everybody in the future that is called by God! Is that what that says? I think that's clear to me - maybe I'm a bit simple on it, but that satisfies me.
First Thessalonians 5 - that should mean something, shouldn't it, when it was on the Day of Pentecost, when the whole thing started? First Thessalonians 5, remember these are the epistles. Some people say: 'Oh, there is not the emphasis in the epistles on the gifts of the Spirit, etc'. First Thessalonians 5 and verse 19, now this is a command, alright? Do we take the commands of Scripture seriously? We ought to. 'Do not quench the Spirit', that could be rendered 'Do not put out the Spirit's fire'. Now that's what we have made a skill of in churches, putting out the Spirit's fire. 'Do not despise prophecies', there's another emphatic command, did you read that? It means what it says! 'Do not despise prophecies. Test all things' - OK, so there's the balance, you're not to be gullible, you're not to be like a baby. You know the way a baby puts anything in its mouth as it's crawling around the ground, we as Christians are not to be baby Christians who just imbibe everything that is said to be the Holy Spirit. You've to test everything, all things, 'Hold fast what is good' - so there is some good! As well as the counterfeit, there will be some good, 'Abstain from every form of evil'. But Paul is adamant here: 'Don't quench the Spirit, don't despise prophecies'.
Now I just want to ask you: is there anybody here tonight (and obviously I'm not asking for a show of hands) who despises prophecies? If I was to prophesy to you right now, you wouldn't like it - 'Just stick to the word, son. Just stick to the word'. You wouldn't like it, you despise prophecies. Well, you're going against Scripture - Scripture now. Everything I'm going to say to you is from Scripture tonight. Turn with me then to 1 Corinthians, and this is where we will spend a lot of time in the weeks ahead probably - I actually don't know what I'm doing yet, I just about know what I'm doing tonight! But I think we'll end up here, we're bound to - 1 Corinthians 14 and verse 5 first of all. Now Paul is talking about a lot of gifts of the Spirit, but look at what he says, verse 5 of 1 Corinthians 14: 'I wish you all spoke with tongues', I wish you all spoke with tongues - all. Does that say 'all' there? Does 'all' mean 'all'? 'All spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied' - Paul, calm down! People will be talking about you! Now that's Paul's wish. Who is he talking to here? He's talking to the crazy gang, the charismatic nuthouse that was Corinth, who were running away with spiritual gifts. You're saying, 'I know, but he's just about to tell them to calm down'. Yes, he is, but before he does that he wants us 2000 years later to understand that he is not against these things. In fact, he wants them practised within the church.
In fact, in another place, he says 'I speak in tongues more than you all'. Now, that is saying something, when you think that this was out of control - the provision he made is that 'Two or three of you should speak in tongues, and that should be interpreted'. When you're speaking publicly in a message to the church, two or three should be speaking in tongues and it should be interpreted, and no more than that. The inference is that they were all getting up and competing, and trying to be louder than the one beside them. It wasn't them all collectively praising the Lord together, that's not what is being talked about - but people thinking they had a word for the church, and competing with one another. Yet Paul is coming - yes, he does prescribe ways to bring order - but he's saying 'I speak in tongues more than you all', but he also says 'I'd rather speak five words in a known language than 10,000 in an unknown language'. Isn't that right? So Paul, if you would rather speak five words in public in a language you can understand - in other words, for us, English - 'I'd rather speak five words in English', Paul is tantamount to saying, 'than 10,000 words in tongues in public'. So, you ought to be scratching your head and saying 'Well then, Paul, where are you speaking in tongues more than everybody else?'. It's obviously in private, isn't it? But that's for another night.
Look at verses 39 and 40 - and this, by the way, is the conclusion of the matter about spiritual gifts in the Corinthian epistles. He says: 'Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order'. Now he has set down and established the decorum that there should be in the church, he has taught them about the order that there should be in operating the spiritual gifts, but what is his conclusion? Earnestly desire to prophesy, and whatever you do, don't forbid speaking in tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order. What are the 'all things'? All those things that he has been talking about. I know people who go off on one, 'All things decently and in order', and what they have is the decency and the order of a graveyard. If you go to any graveyard, there is decency and order, isn't there? They're all in a straight line, all the headstones and flowers and all the rest - but there is death! But this is a different order than our decency and in order, it can be a bit messy at times as we see from Corinth - and it's a challenge to bring order to it - but we're not, whatever we do, to stamp out the life and put out the fire of the Spirit. If you go into a maternity ward right now, where your nearest hospital is, you go there and it will be messy, it will be noisy, it will look like chaos, but I can assure you there is order there - but there is also life.
Now, I know - I should have told you this, I suppose, I denied the gifts of the Spirit and I preached against them. That's just an aside there for you, but 1 Corinthians 13 is one of the texts that is often used to say: 'Well, these gifts are not for today'. I want you to turn there, this is sandwiched right in the middle of chapter 12 dealing with spiritual gifts and chapter 14. Chapter 13 is all about love, but it's in the context of spiritual gifts and you've got to see that - and we'll maybe touch on that in further weeks. But look at verse 8: 'Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away'. Has anybody ever heard those verses as a proof text to say that tongues have ceased, prophecies have ceased, and that which is perfect - which they say is the canon of Scripture - when we've got our Bible, the full word of God, we don't need all these what they call 'revelatory gifts'? You've heard that, haven't you?
Well, there are a number of questions we need to ask. There are two points really that I need to make that I think clear this up absolutely. Paul says tongues will cease and prophecy too, but they will not cease until there is perfect knowledge, and we are known as we know in the future - we know as we are known in the future. Now, I believe in the infallibility of Scripture, but I do not believe that we are in a perfect knowledge state right now, and I do not believe that we know even as we are known. I think that we still see through a glass darkly, as Paul says here - would you agree with me? John Wesley, you've heard of him, he said in his commentary on the letter to the Thessalonian church: 'He does not say', that's Paul, 'either that these or any other miracles shall cease till faith and hope shall also cease; till they shall all be swallowed up in the vision of God, and love be all in all' - and he's right.
But what clears it up for me more than that is contextually - do you know that often the questions we have in books of the Bible, you can find the actual answer in the same book if you read it contextually? God has often given the key in the very same book, sometimes it's in the same chapter, but often it's in the same book. Go with me to chapter 1 of Corinthians, at the very start the key is there, verse 4 - now try to assimilate everything that I have told you already: 'I thank my God always concerning you for the grace', what's the word for 'grace'? 'Charis'. 'The grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge' - and what we will see as we look in the weeks ahead is that the gifts of the Spirit could be summed up to an extent in: utterance gifts, spoken gifts and knowledge gifts. So he's talking about these: 'We are enriched by the grace of God in the gifts'. Look, just to prove it, verse 6: 'even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ' - does that sound familiar? 'Prophecy and tongues shall cease when that which is perfect has come, and we know as we are known, and we are no longer seeing through a glass darkly, and hope and faith are gone, and love remains' - what's that? When we see Jesus Christ, when He returns! Paul actually says: 'My prayer is that you would come behind in no gift until Jesus comes' - there's your answer! It's nothing to do with the canon of Scripture, whilst we revere it and cherish it - it's not even mentioned in the context.
So on the contrary, rather than teaching us that these gifts are not for today, Scripture, I believe, is very clear that they are for today. But then people will say: 'Ah, but that's your interpretation, I've got my own - but the great men and women of God in history, Christian history, they didn't need these gifts of the Spirit. The great heroes of the church didn't experience these'. That is false. It depends whose histories you're reading, and how airbrushed they are at times - you know that historians disagree? Did you know that? Because they are selective in their records, and they interpret evidence according to their own persuasion. Further to the contrary of opinions of some, there was not a complete suspension of spiritual gifts in church history. I could keep you long enough - I'm not going to - but you research it yourself. As early as the church fathers, the early church fathers, there is evidence of the use of the gifts of the Spirit. Justin Martyr, AD 100-165; Hermas who died around AD 150; Tertullian, 160-225; Irenaeus, 175-196; even St Augustine, though early in his faith he denied those type of gifts, he believed they died with the apostles, in his later life and his great work 'The City of God', he talks about the miraculous, and he was even used in some of those miracles. So the early church fathers, after the death of the apostles, were not only themselves operating these gifts, they were witnessing to others operating in them in the confines of the church.
We go into the saints of the mediaeval era, and there are groups, individuals and groups, of people - even the Waldenses and others - who were experiencing the miraculous among them. Come to the Reformation, and largely a lot of the reformers were anti-the miraculous, and that was because they saw what they felt was an abuse of the miraculous in Roman Catholicism, linking it to idolatry and all the rest - so they threw out the baby with the bathwater, literally. But even at that, Martin Luther, some of the other reformers, recognised that there were miracles, there were people healed, there were deliverances in answer to prayer. Movements like the French Huguenots, some of you will be of Huguenot descent, they came out of France through persecution - they testified of the miraculous and the gifts of the Spirit in their ranks. Moving forward again into revivalist history, there is great evidence of the gifts of the Spirit in the first Great Awakening and the other awakenings. Jonathan Edwards, who was the great theologian of revival testifies to some very strange things that went on during the Awakening, and yet he believes they were of God - and he put certain litmus tests to them. If you read Jonathan Edwards, you can find that: things that people would be denying today and say are weird manifestations, they embraced as of God. Do you know what the basis of their embracing it was? Fundamentally: not how off the wall in scale the actual phenomenon was, but what was the fruit in the person's life after it - that's the test! That's the test.
Do you know what 'weird' means, by the way? Just as an aside - if you wanted to Google 'weird' there and look it up on your dictionary or whatever - 'weird' actually means 'supernatural'. Did you know that? So I want to be a weird Christian! Maybe you're saying 'You've already achieved that, David, you've done well, you're weird!'. John Wesley I've already mentioned, read his diaries. Read some of the stuff that went on - the gifts of the Spirit in the Awakening, George Whitefield the same, Charles Finney, D.L. Moody - and even, believe it or not, the Calvinistic and generally cessationist (believing that these died out with the apostles) Spurgeon was used several times, publicly, in the use of gifts of the Spirit, particularly the prophetic. David Pawson, in one of his books, talks of Charles Finney, and says: 'An English woman heard Finney pray in an unknown tongue during family devotions; he assured her it was a special gift God has given him. Behind it lay an experience which he described as follows', I quote, 'I received a mighty baptism in the Holy Ghost... I wept aloud with joy and love; and I do not know but I should say, I literally bellowed out the unutterable gushings of my heart'.
Both in Dallas and London, D.L. Moody - this is recorded, I believe - got up to preach, but found himself speaking to the amazed congregation in a strange tongue. Moody! Only after spending a little time in prayer and praise in this new language was he able to preach again in English. There are other records of smaller meetings of his with young people that broke out speaking in tongues. It even appears (and this would be more my stable, where I come from church-wise a few years ago now), even among the early Brethren, who set up the Lord's Table, and the original vision was that whoever you were, whatever background you came from, whether you were a clergyman or an ordinary man or woman, that you could sit around the Lord's Table equal. When they set that up it was: someone brings a Psalm, someone brings a word, do you understand? Someone brings a song, according to 1 Corinthians 14, but the original men were looking for all the manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit to be there - they were!
So, wherever revival took place - do you know what happens? You find God's Spirit power in these special gifts. Wherever God pours out His Spirit - why would you expect it to be any different than Pentecost when He pours out His Spirit again? Now, no doubt these gifts did fall out of use in the mainstream - but the question is: was it due to God's will or was it because of the coldness of the church? Was it because they replaced the administration of the Spirit with man-made tradition and form? It also appears - and Wesley actually remarks on this - that jealousy led to clergy criticising gifts they didn't have themselves. John Wesley says in his diary, Wednesday, August 15 1750, listen: 'The grand reason why the miraculous gifts were so soon withdrawn, was, not only that faith and holiness were well-nigh lost, but that dry, formal, orthodox men began even then to ridicule whatever gifts they did not have themselves, and to decry them all, as either madness or imposture'. That's interesting, isn't it?
Now I hope you can see that the Bible actually, rather than denying that these gifts are for today, tells us they are. We should look for them, we should expect them, and we should actually pursue them. History teaches us that wherever God pours out His Spirit, that these gifts are present. Am I saying that we ought to embrace absolutely everything in the name of the Holy Spirit? Far from it! Definitely not! Test the spirits to see whether they be of God. But I am saying that if you want to encounter God, you've got to be honest with Scripture, and you've got to be honest with church history, and be open to everything that God would give you by His Holy Spirit. You cannot encounter His power whilst at the same time resisting the very source of that power, the Holy Spirit and His gifts.
I want to declare tonight, and I hope it's your confession as well: I believe everything the Bible says about the Holy Spirit - everything! I mean, think about it: if all the gifts and resources of heaven were necessary for the first Christians to bed in our faith in the first century, do we as latter-day Christians, who are meant to be bringing in a final harvest in the end time before Jesus returns, are we meant to be less equipped than the early Christians? Are we not meant to have the same power from on high? Did the Holy Spirit bring forth the best wine first? Is that the way the Kingdom works? What way does the Kingdom work? The best wine is kept to the last. So, rather than the power of the Spirit gradually deteriorating through church history, surely the rule of the Kingdom is to keep the best wine to the last. We are not left the dregs! All that Jesus died to purchase us, all that He rose again and ascended to pour out as gifts to men - apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, the nine gifts - they are for us! In fact, it's imperative, if we're going to fulfil the commission, that we have them and we use them.
I didn't look to see when I started, maybe somebody could tell me, I don't know. But let me say this in finishing: I taught against these truths. In fact, if you were to look up (and it doesn't cause me any pride to say this, far from it, embarrassment), if you look up my website and you look at 1 Corinthians, look it up there and there's something wrong - you come to chapter 11, and then it's chapter 15. There's something missing in the middle - it's missing in the middle because I took it off. I took it off because I had to repent, I had to repent, and I repented more than once of what I had taught against, and what I had denied of the Holy Spirit and His gifts.
This is how I'm going to close tonight. You might have come here expecting all sorts - and that might happen, I don't know, God knows what He wants to do; but maybe what He wants you to do tonight is repent. You see, the things that we say and the things that we do, they remain as we said and as we do until we un-say and undo them. That's the way the spiritual realm works. It's not enough just to say: 'Oh, no, everything's fine now, I take it or leave it a wee bit, I wouldn't be involved in it, but I'm not against it' - no. If you want to know the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ in your life, and you previously have been in a place of opposition to the gifts of the Spirit - the likelihood is you've spoken against them in some context, even in casual conversation, maybe you have slandered people who have moved or operated in them, or maybe you've just been cynical or sceptical, or by sitting on the fence been apathetic towards them - I've got authority to say this to you, because I've probably repented about this more than any of you in the room: you need to repent if you want to experience the blessings of these gifts, you need to repent.
Will you? 'Oh, that was interesting David, that was interesting' - I'm not interested in being interesting, I'm interested in bringing you to a place where you can experience and taste of this life. This is real stuff. Will you repent? Maybe you didn't even know the gifts of the Spirit existed, but maybe you were in a tradition that denied them. I was not only - don't misunderstand me, I love the background that I have, and I thank God for a grounding in the Word, and I thank God for my spiritual family that I was born into and grew up in, and that discipled me - I thank God for them, and I honour them. But they didn't believe these things, and I can't fault them because I didn't either! I was under a covering of unbelief regarding it, and I was part of that covering of unbelief - but I want you to understand: even if you've been one of the dumb sheep, you might think, that followed that particular way, you're still responsible. Will you repent? Repent of coming under that teaching, repent of denying anything. You might need to go home and search it all out - it took me a number of years to sort all this out, I'm still learning. I should have a big 'L' plate on me tonight and these weeks, I'm still learning very much. There are others far, far ahead of me - but everything starts when we repent, change our mind, change direction.
Don't miss Part 2 of 'The Gifts Of The Holy Spirit': "Word of Knowledge, Word of Wisdom and Discerning of Spirits"...
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Lighthouse Fellowship, Magherafelt, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the first recording in his The Gifts Of The Holy Spirit series, titled "Are These Gifts For Today?" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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