the weblog of Alan Knox

Charismatics

Posted by on Nov 5, 2008 in edification, gathering, service, spirit/holy spirit, spiritual gifts | 11 comments

This post is not about charismatic or pentecostal denominations. Instead, its about all of those who are indwelled by the Holy Spirit – that is, all Christians. You see, when the Spirit indwells and fills, He also gives gifts – the charismata.

In my recent reading of modern ecclesiologies, I ran into a couple of interesting quotes about believers serving through their spiritual gifts, meaning “charismatics”. First, in The Church in the Power of the Spirit: A Contribution to Messianic Ecclesiology (trans. by Margaret Kohl, New York: Harper & Row, 1977), Jurgen Moltmann writes:

The New Testament knows no technical term for what we call ‘the church’s ministry’. Paul talks about charismata, meaning the energies of the new life (I Cor. 12.6, 11), which is to say the powers of the Spirit. These are designations of what is, not of what ought to be. They are the gifts of grace springing from the creative grace of God. When he talks about the use of these new living energies, on the other hand, he evidently avoids all the words expressing conditions of rule. He does not talk about ‘holy rule’ (hierarchy) but chooses the expression diakonia [service]. 

There are a couple of interesting and important points in Moltmann’s statements. In Paul’s descriptions of the working of spiritual gifts, the apostle does not talk about hierarchy, or a rule associated with those gifts. Perhaps a case can be made that some gifts are more important than others (although an equal case can be made that we usually place importance on the wrong gifts), importance of gifts does not equate with importance of the individual, nor does it equate with a certain leadership. Instead, the Spirit works his gifts according to his own will – that is, through whom he desires and for the purpose he desires.

Also, instead of focusing on rule or control, Paul focuses on service. Thus, exercising spiritual gifts is not a function of leadership but of service – to service to other brothers and sisters in Christ and service to the world. These gifts exist (in reality, not in potential) for the benefit of other people, not primarily for the benefit of the ones exercising the gifts – although there may be some personal benefit as well.

This leads me to the second quote by Hans Kung in his book The Church (trans. by Ray and Rosaleen Ockenden, New York: Sheed and Ward, 1967). (I discusses another part of this book earlier in my post “Kung on the Church in Corinth“.) Again concerning the charismata, Kung says:

By linking his teaching about charismata with that about the body of Christ Paul at all events made clear that the Church is never – as some people in Corinth seem to have supposed – a gathering of charismatics enjoying their own private relationship with Christ independently of the community. According to Paul, all charismatics are part of the body of Christ, of the community. The fact that all charismatics are members of one body does not of course mean uniformity, but on the contrary a variety of gifts and callings. But fundamentally all individual members, having been baptized, are equal. But, by contrast with this fundamental equality all differences are ultimately without importance. 

Here, Kung makes another couple of important distinctions about spiritual gifts which follow nicely from Moltmann’s observations. The body of Christ is not made of individuals who gather and exercise their gifts for the sake of the individuals and “their own private relationship with Christ”. Instead, because of the work of the Spirit, the individuals become part of the body of Christ together. Thus, the gifts are to be exercised for the good of the community, not primarily for the good of the individual.

But, this does not mean that there is uniformity within the community. On the contrary, as Paul points out, the Spirit works in many different way within the community. The variety works to strengthen the body in a way that uniformity could not. The teachers need the prophets who need the helpers who need the exhorters, etc. The difficulty comes when the individual must deny himself and the importance of his own gift and service in order to receive help from someone who is gifted in a different way.

When we gather together with other believers, we should be gathering with people who are different from us. We should expect and encourage people who are different from us to exercise their spiritual gifts. We should recognize that our gifts and giftedness (even teaching!) is neither less important nor more important than the gifts and giftedness of the other people around us. Why? Because the community benefits through the variety of gifts that the Spirit offers.

But, when some people or some gifts are considered more important, or when some people or gifts are not allowed to operate during the meeting of the church, or when we make the church about hierarchies instead of service, then the spiritual health of the community is weakened.


11 Comments

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  1. 11-5-2008

    would you like to post this as a guest blog at Promise of the Father?

  2. 11-5-2008

    I often wonder if my history, the Restoration Movement has limited the Holy Spirit and all that it can do in our life. I hope that we will never limit it. I pray that God will open our hearts to all he want for it to do in all of our lives. I pray that we will use the gifts that we have neglected for so many years. God is so good and I thank Him everyday for what God has done in my life through the Holy Spirit.

    I want to share with you a quick story. When I was in the hospital. I was paralized and had no strength. A nurse’s aid into my room late at night and asked if he could pray over me. I told him that I would love for him to do so. He placed his hand on my head and as he prayed I felt a supernatural warmth comming from his hands. As he prayed he prayed for healing, strength, that the Holy Spirt be active in my life, for my family, finances, and all generational curses to be broken. As he prayed I felt a that supernatural warm deep in my chest. Tears filled my eyes. The next day I felt much better and start being able to move my arms and legs better.

    Yes I had to undergo months of physical therapy. But after that young mans prayer I know things about scripture that I didn’t before. It is like it has been really written on my heart and mind. I can quote a scripture and when I do I can go to the place and it is exactly right.

    I thank God so much for what he has done in my life through has Holy Spirit. I hope and pray that the RM will see and experience what I have with the Holy Spirit.

  3. 11-5-2008

    We do need to gather as the church community needs to utilize all the gifts God has given to believers.

    That they are given by God is enough for us; they are what he deemed us to have. If He wanted us to have them, I want us to use them.

  4. 11-5-2008

    One problem I see in our modern manifestation of what we call “church” is that believers not not given the opportunity to use their spiritual gifts. In fact, with our organizational model for church, you are ruled “out of order” if you try. The only place that I have ever truly experienced anything close to the NT model was in house church. Organic vs. institution. What’s the answer?

  5. 11-5-2008

    sorry..should be “are not.”

  6. 11-5-2008

    Alan,

    Alan,

    It’s so very easy to give accolades to someone with whom we agree, so I hesitate to continually say how what you write resounds with my owm thoughts,but, I am truly blessed by what you write, and to read as you have written here.

    Some thirty years ago,even after years of ministry, still a rather naive younger preacher, and attempting to put a damper on a congregations fears over the dreaded “charos”, I taught along similar lines.

    I was labelled a “charo lover”, a heretic, an apostate, and eventually serious false acusations were made. I and my family had our lives turned upside down by a church community which wasn’t able to receive such a message.

    Sometimes I think people hate such teaching because it places the onus upon them to function as a minister of God’s great grace, rather than a selfish receptacle of perceived blessing dripped out, drop by drop, each Sunday.

  7. 11-5-2008

    Joe (J.R.),

    Thanks for the offer.

    Kinney,

    If the Holy Spirit chooses to work through his children (and he does), and if we do not allow his children to exercise their gifts (and we don’t), then, yes, I would say we are limiting (or hindering) the work of the Holy Spirit.

    Andy,

    You said, “If He wanted us to have them, I want us to use them.” That’s my thought also.

    Harold,

    Yes, giving people opportunities to use their gifts it very, very important. In all honesty, I have found that giving people opportunities does not mean that they will tak advantage of those opportunities, unfortunately.

    Aussie John,

    “charo lover”… I understand that was applied to you negatively. But, it seems like a very appropriate and very positive label to me. I’ll gladly wear that label with you.

    -Alan

  8. 6-4-2011

    heard it said that when He gives us His gifts in truth He is giving Himself, the indescribable Gift. So it is not about gifts so much as it is about Christ Jesus our Lord and living by His life together. His Spirit always expresses love, and His love can have many flavors. just a thought anyways, :).

  9. 6-4-2011

    John,

    I would say he gives himself through us when we serve others. The “gift” is not really for us, but for the ones we serve with those gifts.

    -Alan

  10. 5-2-2013

    Alan,

    I have a difficult choice to make in my search for a home church, in that I am a strong believer that we should use the spiritual gifts in our service of the Church.

    My problem comes, however, in that the so-called “charismatic” churches are somewhat wayward in other theology and doctrine. The church I am drawn to has a good Reformed theology, yet like many of those who are Reformed, it believes (I think) in the cessation of the charisma upon the closing of the Canon.

    Your post has encouraged me in my faith and theology, even if it hasn’t obviously helped me choose a church. Thank you.

  11. 5-2-2013

    Mark,

    Isn’t it a shame that the two groups (Reformed and Charismatic) have decided to separate from one another instead of continuing in fellowship with one another in Jesus Christ so that they can help one another? I honestly think that both groups has something to learn from the other. And, of course, we’re talking about two groups out of hundreds.

    -Alan

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