Sunday, October 2, 2011

Short Essay on Pneumatology

The church has exercised spiritual gifts since its inception and there are allusions to these movements in the Old Testament, particularly in the gift of prophecy (Mic. 3:8; Ezek. 2:2).  However the application and subsequent validity of the various gifts have caused a chasm in the body of Christ that has given way to denominational discrepancy.
            Spiritual gifts can be categorized as gifts from God equipping the Christian to perform their duty to the body of Christ and those outside the body.[1] Some of these gifts include healing (1 Cor. 12:9), apostleship (1 Cor. 12:28), teaching (1 Cor. 12:28-29), and etc. Many of the gifts were to focus on administering aid, discernment or edification to the body of Christ while some gifts, namely the gift of interpretation of tongues, help to clarify and understand other gifts.
            There is a difference between the “fruits of the Spirit” and “spiritual gifts.” The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self- control (Gal. 5:22-23) all of which show the level of maturity of a believer. Faithfulness for example takes a certain amount of perseverance and trust in the locus of your faith and this is not accomplished by a rudimentary devotion. Spiritual gifts in contrast do not all require a level of maturity in Christ. Speaking in tongues came upon new believers such as the gentiles with Cornelius (Acts 10:44-45) or the John’s disciples in Ephesus (Acts 19:6).
            The gift of Speaking in tongues has been the subject of much hysteria, confusion and overemphasis in recent times. Moreover the passages that contain information on this gift should be examined to better interpret its application and usefulness.[2] Glossolalia, has two main functions, it’s useful as an initiation meant to divinely affirm a new union in the church (1 Cor. 12:4-11) and it was also a special gift endowed on specifically chosen individuals (Rom. 12:6).[3] As Paul correctly observes the one who speaks in tongues merely enlightens himself, and it would be better if the person prophesied instead (1 Cor. 14:4-5). Tongues can be useful with proper interpretation (1 Cor. 14:13) however; other gifts are more profitable in edifying the church.
            Baptism of the Holy Spirit is among the most distinguished blessing granted from the Gospel by the indwelling of the Spirit.[4] This concept was first mentioned in the New Testament; John was speaking of the one to come who would baptize “with the Holy Spirit and with Fire” (Matt. 3:11). This baptism could only take place on those who are prepared to fully submit themselves to God. Paul insightfully states that without the Spirit no one can call Jesus Lord (1 Cor. 12:3) and this gives credence to the notion that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is for those fully surrendered to Christ. It should be noted this experience is not a second baptism or blessing, though it may appear this way in Scripture at times (Acts 19:6), however, this instance reflected those who did not follow the correct baptismal formula (Matt. 28:19).
            Some elect to posture the notion that speaking in tongues is a necessary sign of baptism in the Holy Spirit. After examining Scripture this view is shown to be fallacious. Though there are instances when new believers received this gift after being baptized (Acts 8:14-19; 10:44-46; 19:6), there are other instances where this does not follow (Acts 4:31; 8:17; 9:17-18). Moreover, historical passages are not to be used to institute dogma unless they are endorsed by teaching material.[5] While not denying the gift of speaking in tongues, it does not follow that this gift is an absolute affirmation of spirit baptism. In reviewing the different spiritual gifts Paul points that some are given certain gifts while some are given other gifts (1 Cor. 12:7-10). Therefore if some are not given the gift of tongues this does not disqualify their spirit baptism.
            Though there remain other gifts more desirable (1 Cor. 14:5) the gift of speaking in tongues still has validity today. Some have utilized 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 specifically the word “perfect” in verse 10 to substantiate their claim that gifts like tongues, along with others are no longer useful. However, this view goes too far. Perfect, teleios, describes complete labor or growth, and is used in other places to describe things in their wholeness (Matt. 5:48; Jas. 1:17). The description of “perfect” was not the condition of the church then nor is it a reflection of it now. The body of Christ is divided as is evidenced by our many denominations, yet when the time comes for Christ’s return and subsequent gathering us to Him, we will then be teleios (1 Cor. 13:12). Until then, gifts such as tongues should not be dismissed as antiquated.

Osborne, G.R. “Tongues, Speaking In.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd ed., 1206-09. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001.

Thomson, J.G.S.S., and W.A. Elwell. “Spiritual Gifts.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd ed., 1135-38. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001.

White, R.E.O. “Baptism of the Spirit.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd ed., 137-38. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001.

[1]             J.G.S.S. Thomson and W.A. Elwell, “Spiritual Gifts.” in Evangelical Dictionary of                        Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 1135.
[2]             G.R. Osborne, “Tongues, Speaking In.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed.                        Walter A. Elwell, 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 1209.

[3]             Ibid, 1206.

[4]             R.E.O. White, “Baptism of the Spirit.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 137.
[5]             Osborne, 1207.

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