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Experiential Calvinism
and the Charismatic Gifts


The issue of the whether or not the extraordinary spiritual gifts are for today has caused much debate and conflicting opinion in the body of Christ. There are biblically based groups who say that if you do speak in tongues, then you are under demonic control and are not saved. On the other hand, there are groups who say that if you do not speak in tongues then you are not saved. Both sides use scripture to support their position. As far as the Reformed camp goes, the position is that the gifts died with the apostles as the Bible was completed. As a Calvinist, and after examining the biblical evidence for cessationism, I do not believe that the extraordinary spiritual gifts have ceased. Therefore, I call myself an "Experiential Calvinist." As an experiential Calvinist, I seek the Holy Spirit, His filling, and I am open to God using me and others in extraordinary ways.

If you are Reformed, you might be slapping your forehead right now and saying something like, "How could he possibly believe that?". I do because I have examined the scriptures and am convinced by what I read. The following paper, in part, is what I have discovered.

Please understand, that even though I am convinced that I am right, I am also convinced that I could be wrong. I can only speak for what I believe and why I believe it. If you disagree then that is quite alright. As Romans 14 says, we are not to pass judgment on our brother's (and sister's) debatable issues. And the spiritual gifts is definitely a debatable issue.

For simplicity sake, I will state a standard objection to the perpetuity of the spiritual gifts and then I will give what I believe is a basic but sufficient refutation for that argument. All the verses quoted are listed in full at the end of this paper.

Argument 1:

 Since we have the Bible we do not need spiritual gifts. 1 Cor. 13:8-10 is usually quoted as scriptural support for the position.

The only place in Scripture that explicitly states when gifts will cease is 1 Cor. 13:8-13. In part it reads, "When the perfect comes the imperfect shall be done away with." Some vigorously maintain that the "perfect" is the completed Bible and, therefore, the extraordinary gifts are no longer needed. If someone wants to believe that, fine. But I do not think these verses can be used to support cessationism. This is why.

Verse 12 says, "...then we shall see face to face." The word "then" refers back to the phrase "when the perfect comes." Since the only infallible interpreter of Scripture is Scripture, a quick examination of the way God uses the term "face to face" should help us understand this passage better.

The phrase is used throughout the Bible and usually means an encounter with a person. When God uses it in reference to Himself, it means a visual, personal encounter with Him (Gen. 32:30; Ex. 33:11; Num. 12:8; Duet. 5:4; and Jer. 32:4). Likewise in the New Testament. There it is also used in speaking of personal encounter (2 Cor. 10:1; 2 John 12; 3 John 14, etc.). "When the perfect comes...then we shall see face to face" seems, most logically, to refer a personal encounter; at least, that seems to be how God uses the phrase.

If the position is taken that the "perfect" is the completed Bible, how then do we encounter God in the same manner as the phrase suggests: an encounter with a person. Seeing Christ face to face occurs when He returns.

Another "then" is mentioned in verse 12: "then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." The word "then" again refers back to the phrase "when the perfect comes." Again, we need to look at how the Bible uses words, this time, the word "know." Scripture says that eternal life is to know God (John 17:3). Only the believer is known by Jesus (John 10:27; Gal. 4:8-9; Rom. 8:29). The unbeliever is not known by Jesus (Matt. 7:21-23). No where in the Bible does it say that an unbeliever is known by God. This is a salvific knowing; that is, it is a kind of knowing that God does of His people. He knows them and they are saved. The unbelievers are not known and are, therefore, not saved.

It would seem most consistent with scripture to say that "...as I am fully known" would refer to a salvation relationship between Jesus and the Christian. At the return of Christ we (the ones known) shall know fully; we shall see face to face the One who is our Savior.

Also, we don't "know" Jesus through the Scripture; we know about Him from the Scripture (John 5:39). Instead, we know Him by personal encounter (John 1:12; 1 Cor. 1:9) through the Holy Spirit's indwelling. We don't know fully right now, even though we have the Bible, because we still are corrupted by our sin nature. In our fallen state we can only see Christ through sin-clouded eyes. We see a reflection of Christ in the Word. When Jesus returns the reflection of the truth will pass to clear understanding (the way childish thoughts give way to mature ones) when we receive our resurrected bodies, no longer have to battle sinful flesh, and can see Him face to face because "we shall be like Him" (1 John 3:2).. "Then we shall know fully."

The context of 1 Cor. 13:8-13 seems, to me, to show that the spiritual gifts will cease when Jesus returns. Interestingly, 1 Cor. 1:7 may be consulted here. It says, "Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed." (NIV) The Greek word here for "revealed" is apokalupsis. It means the apocalypse, the return of Jesus. In both this verse and 1 Cor. 13:8-13 the gifts, which aren't differentiated as to which kind they are, are connected to the return of Christ, not the completion of the Bible.

Argument 2:

Present day tongues are further revelation and must then be equal to Scripture and should be included in the Bible. But since the Bible is not to be added to, the gift of tongues (and therefore, the rest of the spiritual gifts) must no longer be valid.

This is a faulty argument because the Scripture itself recognizes inspired revelation that is not to be added to the Bible: "What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church" (1 Cor. 14:26). Here, in the Corinthian church, revelations were given that were not made part of the Bible. This shows that there were, for a lack of a better word, "different" kinds of revelation: one from the prophets and apostles meant for canonization and another through the Spirit to be used in the church for edification-not canonization. So, in my opinion, for someone to maintain that revelation today is a threat to the Canon does not consider 1 Cor. 14:26, is not applying scripture properly here, and is being illogical.

Argument 3:

There is such misuse of the gifts that they couldn't possibly be real.

First of all, misuse of the gifts implies their existence. They couldn't be misused if they did not exist. The only real position to be taken here would be that the use of the gifts really is no use, but is only fakery and self-deception.

First, it cannot be denied that the gifts are misused. I have heard manifestations of tongues, interpretations of tongues, and prophecy that, in my opinion, were not genuine. But I do not discredit the gifts based upon those experiences anymore than I would say the spiritual gifts are alive because I saw them used well and accurately. The final authority is the word of God. Experience does not make doctrine, the Bible does.

Second, it is not a sick child that needs discipline and correction, it is the active, energetic, exploring child that needs to be guided. This was so with the Corinthian church. They were using the gifts greatly but improperly and needed to be corrected.

1 Corinthians 13:8-13

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Regarding "Face to Face":

Genesis 32:30 - "So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."
Exodus 33:11 - "The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent."
Numbers 12:8 - "With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?"
Deuteronomy 5:4 - "The LORD spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain."
Jeremiah 32:4 - "Zedekiah king of Judah will not escape out of the hands of the Babylonians but will certainly be handed over to the king of Babylon, and will speak with him face to face and see him with his own eyes."
2 Corinthians 10:1 - "By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you - I, Paul, who am "timid" when face to face with you, but "bold" when away!"
2 John 12 - "I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete."
3 John 14 - "I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name."

Regarding "Know"

John 10:27 - "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me."
Galatians 4:8-9 - "Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God - or rather are known by God - how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?"
Romans 8:29 - "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son..."
Matthew 7:21-23 - "Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'


Note:
This paper was written in response to an examination at Westminster Theological Seminary where I obtained my M.Div. The occasion was generated by my receiving a call to a local pastorate. When it was discovered I believed in the spiritual gifts, I was examined and, eventually, refused the pastorate because I beleived in the perpetuity of the gifts. In response to the examiners requests I read the following cessationist material. Perhaps this bibliography will help you make a decision for yourself.

The Final Word
by O. Palmer Robertson Perspectives on Pentecost, by Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. Charismatic Chaos, by John MacArthur. The articles, Has the Charismatic Age Ceased, by Donald MacLeod; The Charismatic Movement: Spectrum of Theological Opinion and Attitude, by Pastor Dave Eby; Can we Do Miracles Today? by Erroll Hulse; A Summary of Robert L. Dabney on 'Spurious Religious Excitements, by Daniel E. Wray; The Miraculous Gifts of the Holy Spirit-Have They Ceased?, by Roland S. Barnes; The Cessation of Extraordinary Gifts: Historical Evidence, by Geoffrey Thomas; and Scripture Verses the Spiritual Gifts?", by Elliot Miller at Christian Research Institute. The pamphlet, Crucial Issues Regarding Tongues, by Kenneth L. Gentry Jr. A Pastoral Letter Concerning the Experience of the Holy Spirit in the Church Today, adopted by the Second General Assembly of the PCA.

To be fair, I also read the non-cessationist book Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, by Jack Deere which proved to be most enlightening.


Following is a point of illustration.


If the cessationist argument is true then it seems to negate parts of the Bible; namely, parts where spiritual gifts for the church are listed and exemplified. I have reproduced 1 Cor. 12,13, and 14 and "crossed out," by making the text bold , those portions that are no longer applicable from a cessationist point of view. The specific verses may be debatable, but I think the point is made.

1 Corinthians 12:1-31

1Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. 2You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. 4There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. 7Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit 10to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
12The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body - whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free - and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" 22On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way. (NIV)

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (NIV)

1 Corinthians 14:1-40

1Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. 2For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. 3But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. 4He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 5I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified. 6Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? 7Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? 8Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? 9So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. 10Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. 12So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church. 13For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says. 14For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind. 16If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say "Amen" to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? 17You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified. 18I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. 20Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. 21In the Law it is written: "Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me," says the Lord. 22Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers. 23So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, 25and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!" 26What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. 27If anyone speaks in a tongue, two, or at the most three, should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God. 29Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints, 34women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. 35If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. 36Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. 38If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored. 39Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. (NIV)


I would be very interested in hearing your comments on this paper. Please E-mail at the address below.


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Copyright by Matthew J. Slick, B.A., M. Div., 2012
I welcome your comments via E-mail at carmstuff@yahoo.com