Gospel Gazette Online
Vol. 15 No. 5 May 2013
Page 2

Editorial

Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Louis RushmoreThe “gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38b) is firmly held to be a reference to miraculous gifts typically received through prayer and by imposition of an apostle’s hands upon a Christian in the first century. Brother Franklin Camp astutely observed that the word “gift” is used, referring to the Holy Spirit, in Acts 2:38; 8:20; 10:45; 11:17 and Ephesians 3:7; 4:7. Further, the reference to “gift” in the latter five instances is admittedly miraculous. “Does it not strike you as being strange that the word ‘gift’ is used six times in the passages that refer to the Holy Spirit, and that five of them are miraculous and one non-miraculous?” (137).

Really, the “gift of the Holy Spirit” in Acts 2:38b is also a reference to the miraculous. Discussion of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is merely a continuation of studying about “the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Camp again voices the conviction also affirmed in this study.

…gift of the Holy Spirit, I do not believe that it is a reference to what is commonly called a non-miraculous indwelling. …I do reject the idea that some have that the gift of the Holy Spirit, which one receives when baptized, operates in him and leads and directs him separately and apart from the truth. This latter position can only end in one following his feelings and moods rather than the Word of God. This position would lead one in any direction and his subjective feelings become the standard, rather than the Bible. …I believe that the Scriptures teach that the gift of the Holy Spirit refers to miraculous endowments that belonged to the period when these miraculous gifts were for the purpose of confirming the apostles of Christ as His apostles and providing the church with inspiration through these gifts that came through the laying on of the hands of an apostle. (130-131)

Who Received Gifts of the Holy Spirit?

The prophecy of Joel (2:28—3:2), repeated by the apostle Peter (Acts 2:16-21), precisely stated “all flesh” were to be recipients of miraculous manifestations (gifts of the Holy Spirit). “All flesh” included “every creature” (Mark 16:15), “all nations” (Matthew 28:19; Luke 24:47) involved in the Great Commission and souls “in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). “All flesh” was additionally defined to include men and women, young and old. Yet, not every first-century Christian was partaker of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. “Believers, as a group, did possess such powers; but each individual did not have to” (Camp 96). Men, women, young, old, Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles received miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, but not every Christian man, woman, young person, older person, Jew, Samaritan and Gentile necessarily received a gift of the Holy Spirit. Apparently, many of the Roman Christians were void of miraculous gifts (Romans 1:11). Only those Christians at Rome who elsewhere in their travels had received these gifts at the hands of apostles and subsequently moved to Rome possessed them.

How Were Gifts of the Holy Spirit Obtained?

The ordinary means by which gifts of the Holy Spirit were received was by the imposition of apostolic hands accompanied by prayer (Acts 8:14-17; 19:6). Three and only three exceptions to this rule were the reception of miraculous power by the apostles in Jerusalem, the household of Cornelius and the apostle Paul. In his day, Simon, formerly the sorcerer, recognized only through the apostles’ hands were miraculous gifts given. He committed the infamous sin of trying to buy this power (Acts 8:18-24). “And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money” (8:18).

Why, What Gifts of the Holy Spirit Were
Received and When Did They Cease to be Received?

Someone once coined the expression that “miraculous gifts were to the infant church what scaffolding is to a building under construction. Once the construction is completed, the scaffolding is removed. So was it with the church; when it was completely established on the written, divinely revealed will of God, the miracles were also removed.” Miracles were only the vehicle through which divine revelation was delivered and confirmed!

“For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21). “And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following” (Mark 16:20). “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him” (Hebrews 2:4). After revelation was both delivered and confirmed, miracles were to end (1 Corinthians 13:8-13; Ephesians 4:7-8, 11-14). The “perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25) replaced the partial revelation of individual prophets.

“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away” (1 Corinthians 13:9-10). “…the New Testament is younger than the church, and the Christians needed spiritual gifts to aid them (Ephesians 4:11-14)” (L’Roy 54).

These were provisional gifts in the absence of the complete revelation of the written word. The mistake is now being made of taking these passages out of time and context. …It was clearly declared by the apostle in the 1 Cor. 14:6 passage that there could be no profit in the exercise of the gift of tongues, or of any of the special endowments, except for the purpose of completing divine revelation; therefore, there is no need, purpose or reason for the existence of such gifts today. (Wallace 50)

Brother Guy N. Woods concisely numbered the gifts of the Holy Spirit: “There were nine special gifts bestowed by laying on of the apostles’ hands designated in the New Testament. These gifts were enumerated by Paul as follows: (1) word of wisdom; (2) word of knowledge; (3) faith; (4) healing; (5) miracles; (6) prophecy; (7) discerning of spirits; (8) tongues; (9) interpretation of tongues. (1 Cor. 12:7-11.) (260)

Abuse of Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Much of what is gleaned from Scripture about gifts of the Holy Spirit is found in passages written to correct the abuse of miracles. In particular, 1 Corinthians 12—14 name the abuse of spiritual gifts among the several grievous errors once characteristic of Corinthian Christians. Oddly, there is as much stir, clamor and confusion today about these spiritual gifts, in their absence, as there was at Corinth. Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement have pervaded denominationalism (including Catholicism) and at times the Lord’s church, too.

The specifics of statements regulating gifts of the Holy Spirit do not apply today since the miraculous age has ended. However, the principles behind them are very much effective now also. For instance, 1 Corinthians 14:1-19 urged preaching through which the church could be edified rather than merely speaking in languages (tongues) that were not comprehended. The apostle Paul emphasized that religious edification was the object of preaching or teaching. We, too, should carefully observe the principle of making edification the chief object of our religious discourses. “Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. …I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also” (1 Corinthians 14:12, 15).

Even though Bible miracles have ended, other passages in Paul’s epistle to the Corinthian church, amidst the regulation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, apply in principle today. Individuals are responsible souls, able to control themselves and avoid outbursts when another is speaking (14:31-32). The worship assembly should be conducted decently, orderly (14:40), without confusion (14:33) and with one male member at a time leading a song or preaching (14:29-35).

Summary

The prophecy of Joel began to be fulfilled in the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the apostles in Jerusalem the Pentecost following the Ascension of Jesus Christ. However, though the apostle Peter applied the prophecy to himself and to the other eleven apostles, Joel 2:28—3:2 was not completely fulfilled until all classes of people received miraculous gifts by the imposition of apostles’ hands upon them. Jews, Samaritans, Gentiles, the young and the old, and men and women received gifts of the Holy Spirit. However, not every Christian Jew, Samaritan, Gentile, young person, older person, man and woman participated directly in the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy.

The purpose of miracles is clearly recorded in Scripture. Gifts of the Holy Spirit were essential to the early church: (1) to validate the apostles and other inspired teachers as true servants of God and (2) to confirm the word spoken or written as God’s Word. Healing the sick, raising the dead, striking men dead or blind, and so on (the manifestation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit) were merely the byproducts of confirming new revelation. After the revelation from God was confirmed and committed to written form, the gifts of the Holy Spirit (miracles) ended.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit was promised exclusively to the apostles. God also imparted miraculous power without human agency to the household and friends of Cornelius for the special purpose of giving the divine stamp of approval upon Gentile admission to the church. Otherwise, all others received gifts of the Holy Spirit through the imposition of apostles’ hands. Therefore, after the demise of the apostles and those to whom they imparted these spiritual gifts, miracles naturally ceased. If miracles did not abruptly and universally cease at a time chosen by God, they naturally phased out as the miracle workers died.

No one today is a recipient of even one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Yet, some souls are sincerely deluded and believe that they themselves are either miracle workers (e.g., speaking in tongues) or those upon whom Bible miracles have been performed. Others, especially those in position to benefit financially, knowingly and falsely claim the power to work miracles. The abuse of so-called spiritual gifts today is no less an affront to Scripture and to God than was the abuse of first century spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit, which led the apostle Paul to write 1 Corinthians 12-14.

Works Cited

Camp, Franklin. The Word of the Holy Spirit in Redemption. Birmingham: Roberts & Son P., 1974.

L’Roy, Elmer. The Holy Spirit. Shreveport: Lambert, 1966.

Wallace, Foy E., Jr. The Mission and Medium of the Holy Spirit. Nashville: Foy E. Wallace, Jr., 1967.

Woods, Guy N. Questions and Answers. Henderson: Freed Hardeman U. Lectures, 1976.


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