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CHAPTER XXXIV.

THE EXTRAORDINARY GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT.


In the Old Testament we read of extraordinary gifts of the Spirit entirely different from the graces of the Spirit. Bezaleel was endowed by the Spirit of God "to devise cunning works in gold and in silver and in brass" for beautifying the tabernacle. Samson when the Spirit came upon him became preternaturally strong, and both Balaam and King Saul were seized by the Spirit, who constrained them to prophesy, although they were utterly destitute of grace. From his birth, John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Ghost rather as an outward gift than as an inward Pentecostal grace. This Old Testament endowment of the Spirit did not render him sinless from his birth, but it inspired in him a vivid sense of Israel's apostasy and of his own vocation to preach repentance of sin as a preparation for the coming of the Messiah King. He was endowed with a dauntless courage to rebuke sins, even in the court of the king, and an irresistible eloquence, not of the polished Grecian, but of the rugged Hebrew type, to sway the multitudes toward righteousness. He was greater than Abraham, the founder, than Moses, the lawgiver, than David, the warrior king, of the Hebrew nation, and yet less than the least in the kingdom of Christ. Although these had not the showy gifts of the Spirit, they had what is far better, the Comforter in their hearts crying, "Abba, Father." The filial feeling, with the assurance of forgiveness, is the distinguishing New Testament grace, together with the Pentecostal fulness of the Spirit and Sanctifier.

It is natural that extraordinary gifts should flow forth from the Holy Spirit in New Testament times, to signalize the beginning of His distinctive work as the Paraclete. When the Son of God by the incarnation came into the sphere of matter, it was to be expected that His miracles would be in the realm of things sensible. But the Comforter marked His entrance into the human spirit by miracles in the sphere of mind, the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, as a charism, miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues and interpretations. The only exception is healing, which Bengel suggests has continued to the present time as a specimen of the other gifts, just as the portion of manna laid up in the ark was a proof of the ancient miracle. In order to the intelligent discussion of this charism it will be necessary to describe another with which it stands in immediate connection: the gift of faith. This differs from common or saving faith, called the grace of faith, in the following particulars:

1. The grace of faith is grounded on the general promises of the Bible, while the gift of faith rests not on the written Word, but on the assurance inwrought by the Holy Spirit "that the prayer will be answered and the work accomplished." (Whedon.)

2. Hence the grace of faith, when exercised in prayer for temporal blessings, is always accompanied by the condition "If it be Thy will." The gift of faith is the assurance beforehand that it is God's will to bestow the thing desired.

3. Saving faith is morally obligatory upon every soul having a knowledge of its object, Christ, and the absence of such faith is the ground of condemnation (John iii. 18). Miracle-working faith, a special gift, is required of no one, but is bestowed sovereignly by the Holy Spirit, "severally as he will." Hence there is no more culpability for the absence of this faith than there is for a lack of the gift of tongues.

4. The grace of faith is designed to be permanent, and as indispensable to spiritual, as breathing is to natural life. Faith as a charism is not permanent but occasional. St. Paul sometimes had it and could heal (Acts xxviii. 8), and sometimes he had it not and could not heal, as we infer from II Timothy iv. 20.

5. The grace of faith transforms the moral character. The charism of faith has no such effect any more than any other extraordinary gift of the Spirit. Balaam and King Saul prophesied under the power of the Spirit, and both died accursed of God. There is at least one man in the flames of hell to-day who was once commissioned to work miracles. Compare Matt x. 1-4 and xxvi. 24, John xvii. 12. Jesus Christ intimates that Judas will have plenty of company from the ranks of Christian ministers who in theory acknowledged the Lordship of Christ, after the strictest orthodoxy, and in the exercise of their profession cast out devils and did many mighty works (Greek, miracles), but had not that grace of faith which works by love, purifies the heart and brings its possessor into vital union with Christ.
The distinguishing feature in those men is an impure, often fanatical boldness in the faith, which, though enabling them to perform outward acts of a marvellous nature, yet fails to exercise any influence upon their own moral life — just the sort of thing described by Paul in I Cor. xiii. 2, and the manifestations of which are to be met in every age, especially in times of great religious excitement. (Meyer.)
If the Greek reader will scrutinize this Pauline text he will find that Paul's form of hypothesis (can with the subjunctive) assumes the condition, faith without love, as possible with some present expectation that may be realized. In other words, men may have a mountain-removing faith in unregenerate hearts. A character as paradoxical as this may exist.
In the exercise of His sovereignty the Spirit may give power of service even to men who are not converted. Or rather, there are men to whom He comes who resist His saving power and welcome His working power... As there was Balaam in the Old Testament times, so there are to be found now those who preach the gospel to others and yet themselves are castaways. (Dr. John Robson.)

It is certain the faith which is here (Matt. xvii. 20) spoken of does not always imply saving faith. Many have had it who thereby cast out devils and yet will at last have their portion with them. It is only a supernatural persuasion given a man that God will work thus by him at that hour. (John Wesley).
The doctrine of the extreme faith-cure advocates, that the atonement of Christ covers sickness as well as sin, and that deliverance from both is through faith, rests chiefly on Isa. liii. 4. It is true, as they claim, that the Hebrew word for "sorrows" is usually translated "sickness." This is sustained by Matt. viii. 17, "Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses." Let us examine these texts. Isaiah gives a prophetic picture of the Messiah while in the flesh on earth as a man of sorrows, despised, afflicted, erroneously esteemed smitten of God, oppressed, brought as a lamb to the slaughter and wounded for our transgressions. In the middle of this catalogue of humiliations, sufferings and insults, having no reference to His miracles, occurs the phrase, "carried our sorrows," a phrase in perfect accord with the list of disabilities and abuses above described. To make the passage harmonious both the translators of the Authorized Version and the revisers have employed the word "sorrows" instead of "sicknesses." In this they have given the mind of the Spirit in His portraiture of the shady side of the Messiah's earthly life. But should we put "sicknesses" in the place of "sorrows" ("he bore away our sicknesses") we have only a description of the miraculous cures wrought by Christ during His abode on the earth, but no promise of their continuance afterwards. He is not now under chastisement, standing dumb before the judgment seat and bruised for our iniquities. The whole dreadful catalogue of human sufferings is past forever, and with it the painful strain of His tender sensibilities and sympathies with human suffering with which He was brought into constant contact in His ministry of bodily healing. The question now arises, What is the significance of Matt. viii. 17, "Himself took (away) our infirmities and bare (away) our diseases"? It cannot mean that He took the leprosy, the epilepsy, the fever, the blindness upon Himself to defile and corrupt His body, but that He miraculously removed them to attest His Messiahship and His divinity. But since His ascension He gives a higher kind of proof of His Godhood through the transforming power of the Holy Ghost transforming sinful souls, the converting power, the only miracle designed to be repeated down to the end of time, "the everlasting sign which shall not be cut off; instead of the thorn the fir tree, and instead of the brier the myrtle;" instead of the sot the saint, instead of the rascal the righteous, the one transformed into the other in the twinkling of an eye by the new birth through the Holy Ghost. Read I Cor. vi. 9, 10: fornicators, adulterers, abusers of themselves with mankind, thieves, drunkards and extortioners, as vile a gang as ever were photographed for a rogues' gallery: "such were some of you," the Corinthian church, "but ye are washed, ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and ye are sanctified by the Spirit of our God." These are the "greater works" than bodily healing, yea, than raising corpses to life'.

With far less strain of the Scriptures one might prove that the atonement exempts the believer from physical death. For we read that the purpose of Christ was "that through death he might destroy him that hath the power of death, that is, the devil," that he "hath abolished death; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." "This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die." An extremist might insist on the literalism of these texts and teach that faith can ward off death. If it is said that believers do die, we reply that, believers are sick also. If faith is not designed to prevent death, it is not designed to prevent consumptions, fevers and plagues, the sappers and miners of death.

The eager desire of some Christians to secure the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit is not an evidence of spiritual progress, but rather of spiritual retrogression. The disciples of the eccentric Edward Irving, the modern Catholic Apostolic Church, imagine that they have "obtained the gifts" by restoring the elaborate ecclesiastical organization outlined in Eph. iv. 11, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Their success has not made a deep impression on either the world or the Church. One branch of the Second Adventists believe that they have by faith been endowed with several of the gifts of the Spirit, such as tongues and interpretations. A large number of Christians of various churches are diligently inculcating the doctrine that every kind of sickness will invariably be cured by the grace of faith possible to all Christians, and that the absence of such faith is a species of unbelief, constituting a grave defect of the spiritual life. We believe that this hankering after the gifts is undermining the spirituality of those who indulge in it, and we commend to them the grand aim set before us by St. Paul, "I show unto you a more excellent way," LOVE. The church in which the gifts were specially manifest is the most undesirable of the New Testament churches. I would not swap off for it the poorest one of the fifteen churches of my pastoral life.
Indeed, I should loathe to minister to such a sorry set of Christians as were the Corinthians with all their miracles and tongues. Wrangling about Paul, Apollos and Cephas, running after false teachers, full of envying, strife and division, harboring an incestuous person without discipline, degrading the Lord's supper into a feast of appetite, giving to Paul constant sorrow and anxiety, the Corinthians needed miracles to give them a respectable title to a Christian name; and they so abused miraculous gifts by jealousy and contention that they turned their Sabbath assemblies into cabals of men and women shouting, singing, praying, prophesying, pell-mell, without decency or order.*
From a style of Christianity "Good Lord, deliver us," and lead us into the heritage of I Cor. xiii. by "the more excellent way."

The proof text for faith cure most frequently quoted is James v. 14-16. The first of these verses is often cited as though it read thus, "Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, and he shall be healed." But the words in italics are not Scripture. The healing does not follow the anointing and praying as a divinely ordained sequence, but it follows the prayer of faith. We contend that the context, especially the classification of the healing with the miracle-working faith of Elijah, proves beyond dispute that James is here speaking of charismatic or extraordinary faith and not of the grace of faith. Wherever the former is bestowed the healing will take place. Whenever it is withheld because divine wisdom sees that death or continued sickness is better for the accomplishment of God's purposes, no healing will ensue. This was just as true in the days of St. James as it is now, that faith for a blessing contrary to the divine will is an impossibility. There may be attempts to believe and efforts resembling faith, but true faith for a thing not in the divine will cannot exist.

About the use of oil recommended by James there are two opinions: (1) that it is sacramental, because the anointing is to be in the name of the Lord. But this does not make it a sacrament, since all the activities of Christian life are to be "in His name." Moreover, there is no indication in primitive history that oil was used sacramentally. In the consecration of kings and priests it was used as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. But James could not consistently be enjoining the use of a symbol after the thing signified, the Pentecostal gift, had actually descended. In the progress of revelation there is no such anomaly as a retrogression from the antitype to the type. (2) That olive oil has sanative qualities. The Orientals used it medicinally, anointing the sick and wounded. Hence the seventy disciples sent out on the trial mission were directed to anoint the sick as a salutary and approved medicament (Mark vi. 13). If we translate the injunction of James into modern language it would be, "Use the best approved means, quinine, aconite, etc., and pray and call upon the church, represented by the elders, to invoke the divine blessing upon the remedies."

Before we leave this text in St. James we call attention to an irrefutable proof that the faith in the phrase "prayer of faith" is not the grace of faith which anybody can exercise, but a special gift sovereignly bestowed. James says "the effectual prayer . . availeth much." This translation, as Dr. Whedon observes, "is almost a tautology," the effectual prayer produces an effect. The Revised Version endeavors to obviate this difficulty thus: "The supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working." But the old English annotators, Benson, Bull, Hammond, Macknight, and the German Michaelis and the modern Dr. Whedon insist that the original for "in its working" is passive, signifying "inwrought."**
The prayer is a special exercise supernaturally inspired, and the faith is not the common grace of faith required of all, but the extraordinary gift of faith inwrought by the Holy Spirit, as it is classed with the nine charisms described in I Cor. xii. 8-11, which are distributed by the Spirit "to every man severally as he will." Hence failure in the faith cure is inevitable in every case where the prayer of faith is not energized or inwrought by the Holy Spirit. There were probably such failures in the days of James in the case of those who did not by prayer seek to know the will of God before calling for the elders. In all cases where the gift of faith preceded this call there could be no failure.

The relation of this subject to the work of the Holy Spirit is very intimate. "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity (singular number, Revised Version); for we know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." Here the infirmity is ignorance of what lies in the divine will. Is it pardon, the new birth, entire sanctification, the fulness of the Spirit or grace to help in time of need? No Bible reader need be in perplexity respecting all these spiritual blessings. "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things?" This text (Rom. viii. 32) following so soon after that which emphasizes our ignorance of what is best for us and our need of a divine teacher (verse 26), is in seeming contradiction to it, and it can be harmonized in no other way than by understanding that the "all things" which are promised "with him" are spiritual blessings, while the things in respect to which we are ignorant whether we should pray for them or not, are temporal blessings, relief in want, deliverance out of peril, ease when in pain, and restoration from sickness.






*Dr. J. P. Thompson.


**See Gal. v. 6, margin.