The Holy Spirit (Part Eight)

1 Corinthians 14:26 specifically tells us that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to build up the church.  Different groups emphasize different gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Our fellowship emphasizes the gift of Scripture.  In the mind of some the role of Scripture has replaced the Holy Spirit as God’s mode of operation.  A primary source of this confusion is the result of a mistaken view of 1 Corinthians chapter 13.  I grew up being taught that the gist of this chapter concerns the idea that most spiritual gifts ended with the  assimilation of the written Word.  We have developed doctrine and an entire direction around this view of 1 Corinthians 13.  If you grew up as I did you were taught that gifts of the Holy Spirit could only be given by the laying on of the apostles hands.  When the apostles died and all those they had laid their hands on died most gifts of the Spirit ceased to exist.  This would have been a few years after the last New Testament book was written.  Thus the idea that when the perfect (Scripture) came the gifts of the Holy Spirit were no longer available.  This was necessarily inferred by our excellent line of human reasoning.

There are more than a few problems with the doctrine we have built around this view of 1 Corinthians 13.  The primary thrust of 1 Corinthians 12-14 deals with the misunderstanding  the Corinthian church had with the gifts of the Spirit.  The Corinthians mistakenly believed that the gifts made you a superior Christian.  The gifts of the Spirit did not show the superiority of individual Christians but rather show the goodness of God.  The gifts given to the Corinthian Christian were not for the benefit of the individual but the benefit of the church.  It is in this context that Paul discusses the gifts of the Spirit.  Paul ends chapter 12 by telling them to eagerly desire the greater gifts but he continues by telling them that he would show them a more excellent way.

Scripture is a tremendously important gift given to man by the Holy Spirit.  However, that described in chapter 13 as the perfect is not the written word.  Allow me to outline just a few of the difficulties this interpretation poses.  Initially,  if the written word is what has previously been described we have a time problem.  By conservative estimates all apostles and those with whom they had personal contact had died by 160 AD.  New Testament Scripture  wasn’t assembled as we know it until the late 4th or early 5th century.  This would mean for a space of several hundred years God could not have operated in the lives of men by means of the Holy Spirit or by Scripture.  If the previously mentioned doctrinal view is correct there would have been a disconnect in the operation of God in the lives of men for several hundred years.  I do not believe this happened and neither do most you.

Paul says chapter 13 we can now only see a poor reflection as in a mirror  but when the perfect comes we will see face to face. He continues by stating that now we know in part:  but then we shall know fully even as we are fully known.  If the perfect refers to the written word  Paul saw a poor reflection but we see face to face.  If the perfect refers to the written word Paul knew in part but today we know fully even as we are fully known.  If that which is perfect is the written word then our knowledge of God is superior to that of Paul.  I am not willing to claim knowledge of God that is greater and deeper than the knowledge of God held by Paul!

A more reasonable definition of the perfect would be the Christ.  Consider these Scriptures:  Revelation 1:7 says, “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him.”  When will we see perfection face to face.  Is it remotely possible that it will be when every eye sees him?  1 John 3:2 says, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”  Where have we heard this thought?  When I was a child I acted like a child when I became a man I put away these childish things.  When will we be mature enough to put away the incomplete?  The answer is when we become like Him!  When He appears!  At the appearing of Christ we shall know as we are fully known because we will be like Him.

Why does this matter?  The very heart of much of the direction of our fellowship is built on the idea that since we have the written word God  operates only through this word implying  other Spiritual gifts have ceased.  We have made this an either-or-argument.  The correct argument is both.  God operates through Scripture but He continues to operate through other gifts of the Spirit as well.

Let me pose these questions for your consideration:

  • Has God limited His role in the lives of mankind to one gift of the Holy Spirit, that being the gift of the written word?
  • When we pray what role does the gift of the written word have in bringing about the answer to our prayers? Is written Scripture the power that brings about our answer?
  • God said that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were to build up the church.  Does the church still need to be built up today?
  • Does the Holy Spirit still occupy His role as the earnest and deposit of our salvation?
  • If God has limited the gifts of the Holy Spirit to the written word, how does He fulfill His role as earnest and deposit of our salvation?

Thanks for your interest and thoughts, there will be more to come.


4 Responses to The Holy Spirit (Part Eight)

  1. bradstanford says:

    Excellent post. Every congregation needs to have this preached from the pulpit, and discussed in small groups. The resulting freedom and power would result in the growth that we read about in Scripture, but have never seen.

  2. Brad thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. God bless.

  3. Royce Ogle says:

    Good stuff Dell, right on the money in my view.

    While the Holy Spirit is living and active in every believer He is never the center of attention. You can be sure that if the Holy Spirit, or spiritual gifts, or the gifted people are the center of attention it is NOT the work of the Holy Spirit.

    Jesus said when He comes He will testify of me. The work of the Holy Spirit is ultimately to glorify Jesus and to make us more like Him. God’s eternal purpose is to bring glory to Himself.

    Thanks for your faithfulness to the truth,


  4. Thanks Royce for reading and the thoughts you bring. God bless.

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