Ah yes…the Holy Spirit. What are we to do with Him? On one extreme you’ve got Benny Hinn, stalking back and forth across the stage, wearing his spotless white suit, talking Holy Spirit nonsense and “slaying” people in the Spirit by pushing them backwards. On the other extreme, you’ve got John MacArthur creating a conference called “Strange Fire”. And then there are a whole bunch of people in the middle who don’t know exactly what they believe about the Holy Spirit.
I don’t want to be Benny Hinn (although his white suit is pretty awesome). As much as I like and respect John MacArthur, I don’t believe that his position regarding the cessation of the spiritual gifts is biblical either. Is there a middle ground? I think there is.
I like to call myself a “responsible charismatic”.
What is a responsible charismatic? Let me spell it out. A responsible charismatic…
…BELIEVES IN THE FINAL AUTHORITY AND SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE
One of the assumptions people often make is that if you believe in spiritual gifts like prophecy or tongues or healing, you can’t believe in the final authority and sufficiency of Scripture. The assumption is that you either believe in prophecy or you believe in the final, ultimate authority and sufficiency of Scripture. It’s one or the other. Door one or door two. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Except that you can.
How do the spiritual gifts and the authority of Scripture work together? I’ll explain more about that in a future post. For now I simply want to make one thing clear: every part of my life, including my use of and understanding of the spiritual gifts, falls under the authority and guidance of Scripture. My belief in the gifts of the Holy Spirit does not in any way undermine or contradict my full confidence in the sufficiency and authority of God’s word. Scripture always has the final say.
Some might object that it is logically impossible to believe in something like prophecy and to also believe in the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. If that’s your position, you’re gonna need to take that up with the Bible itself.
The biblical authors did not see any tension between the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he was writing as a divinely commissioned apostle. He was aware that his words carried divine authority. He knew that his words were authoritative in the same way the rest of Holy Scripture was authoritative. And yet Paul didn’t seem to have any problem in telling the Corinthians to earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:1). Paul didn’t have any hesitation when he told the Christians at Rome to use their spiritual gifts for the building up of the church (Romans 12:3-8). He told the Thessalonians to test every prophecy, and to hold fast to what was good (1 Thessalonians 5:16). How were they to test prophecy? Presumably against the teaching of the apostles and the Old Testament scriptures. Scripture does not create a conflict between the authority and sufficiency of Scripture and the ongoing use of the spiritual gifts.
So, a responsible charismatic believes that the spiritual gifts are for today and also believes that Scripture is sufficient and has the final authority.
A responsible charismatic also…
…EMBRACES THE BROAD WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Unfortunately, when people hear the term “charismatic”, they immediately think of extremists like Benny Hinn or Todd Bentley. They think of people laying on the ground, “slain” by the power of the Holy Spirit. A responsible charismatic, however, doesn’t limit his understanding of the Holy Spirit to just the spectactular spiritual gifts. Rather, the responsible charismatic embraces the broad work of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit works in a massive number of ways. The Spirit convicts us of sin. He inspires us to give generously. He creates true fellowship between believers. He comforts us in our distress. He empowers us to share the gospel boldly. He strengthens our marriages. He gives us the ability to be content in weakness. The Holy Spirit is at work all the time in his people. To only pursue the flashy spiritual gifts, like prophecy or tongues, is to miss out on so many other things the Spirit does.
At church this past Sunday, I asked a guy if he would be willing to help out with running our lighting system. He immediately responded by saying that he wanted to serve in any way possible. That response is just as much the work of the Holy Spirit as someone speaking in tongues. The Spirit works in many, diverse ways, and a responsible charismatic pursues and embraces the broad work of the Holy Spirit.
I want to be a responsible charismatic. I want to hold fast to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. I want to embrace the broad work of the Holy Spirit. And I also want to actively pursue the presence and gifts of the Spirit.
How do I pursue the gifts of the Spirit while still submitting to the authority of Scripture. More on that to come…