In our series “Who Is the Holy Spirit?” we’ve been asking and answering a series of intentionally provocative questions to help us understand what the Bible says about the person of the Holy Spirit—is He Pentecostal? Baptist? Charismatic?
This week’s question: Is He Charismatic?
Recently, a newcomer to Berlin looking for a church home asked me the question: “Are you charismatic?” My response: “What do you mean by that?”
How can you answer an opened-ended question like that?The term “charismatic” means too many different things to too many different people for a simple “yes” or “no” answer.
Historically the term “charismatic” refers to the “discovery” of spiritual gifts in non-Pentecostal churches in the 60’s. Theologically the term alludes to the presence and practice of the manifestation gifts—especially the “power gifts”—in the church today. Culturally the term often calls to mind speaking in tongues, being slain in the Spirit, televangelists with big hair, and convention-center healing services.“Yes” or “no” does not appropriately parse all of the nuances hidden in the question “are you charismatic.”So, how do I answer that question?
Here are some bullet points that guide my thinking:
· All Christians are “charismatic”—The term comes from the word “grace gift.” The Bible is clear that the Spirit gives each believer a spiritual gift, a Spirit-inspired internal motivation given by God for the purpose of ministering to others and to building up the church [1 Cor. 12:4-7; 1 Peter 4:10].
· Every believer has a “motivational” gift—Every believer receives at least one “motivational” gift [Rom. 12:6-8] that can be expressed in any number of ministries. Though the gift is permanent the ministry might change. [Click here to see the motivational gifts defined and to get an idea of how the Spirit has gifted you: Motivational Gifts]
· The “manifestation” gifts are given as needed—The Spirit “works” through the “manifestation” gifts as needed according to God’s purpose [1 Cor. 12:4-10]. God administers these demonstrations of his work through believers to accomplish his will. [Click here to the the manifestation gifts defined.]
To sum it up: The Spirit of God gifts every Christian with a motivational gift to be used in ministering to others. We are to discover our gifts, develop them through practice, and deploy them in order to build up the church. As we serve others in surrender to the Holy Spirit, God works as he chooses through the manifestation gifts to accomplish his purpose of ministry. He will do so in ways that are consistent with the teaching of Scripture.
What does this look like? What is our practice?
· Be filled with the Spirit [Eph. 5:18]—Surrender yourself completely to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the control of the Holy Spirit. Make yourself available to the work of the Holy Spirit to convict and cleanse you of sin [John 16:8-11] and to bear the fruit of the Spirit [Gal. 5:22] in your life. [See the link to the right on “How to be Filled with the Spirit” Bill Bright’s classic pamphlet on the Spirit-filled life.]
· Pursue the “greater gifts” [1 Cor. 12:31; 14:1]—In love we are to emphasize serving others through our motivational gifts in order to build up the body. God has made you to be a “hand” (server) or a “heart” (person of mercy) in our body. Use that gift and start serving others in your family, growth group, and church.
· Don’t quench the Spirit [1 Thes. 5:19-20]—Be sensitive to the work of the Holy Spirit through the manifestation gifts. The Spirit is at work in and through you to do God’s work in God’s way! Be careful that you are indeed Spirit-controlled not self-controlled. Using the manifestations in self-seeking, self-centered ways quenches the Spirit in the same way that ignoring the Spirit’s activity does.
· Do everything in a fitting and orderly way [1 Cor. 14:4,9,12,23,19,32-33]—In love, follow the Scriptural guidelines in the exercise, expression, and experience of the manifestation gifts. For example, since unbelievers are present, we do not practice speaking in tongues in public worship. However, in gatherings of believers who are in agreement we “do not forbid speaking in tongues” but expect that speaking and interpreting will be done in a “fitting and orderly way” [1 Cor. 14:39-40].
What does this mean for IBCB?
In a church as diverse as IBCB, people come from a variety of traditions, experiences, and teachings. Some come from Pentecostal/Charismatic traditions while others hail from Dispensational/Reformed traditions. In the extreme, these competing traditions represent the “charis-maniac” and “charis-ma-phobic” tensions that would tear us apart and create division within the church. May it never be so!
These Holy Spirit issues while important are not essential to salvation. Both traditions belong to the same family of faith and are welcome in this local family of faith—IBCB. However, I will not permit this to be an issue which divides us. As pastor, I will protect this family from the chaos and confusion that often results from discussions on matters of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, while EVERYONE is welcome at IBCB and ALL baptized believers are encouraged to commit to membership, EACH person is expected to respect our mutually agreed upon church doctrine and practice.* Do not try to change us, and do not try to impose your practice on the body. Remember–the fruit of the Spirit is the clearest sign that we are filled with the Spirit, so love and consideration guides us in our diffrerences.
In matters of the Holy Spirit—as in all other matters—through humility, love, and mutual submission to one another, God will grow us together in maturity, ministry, and mission for his glory!
*Our church doctrine and practice has been tentatively called “pneumatic Christianity” to describe an approach to matters of the Holy Spirit that does not endorse the excesses of “charis-mania” and rejects the reductionism of “charis-ma-phobia.” For one approach to “pneumatic Christianity” from a surprising source see “Who’s Afraid of the Holy Spirit,” ed. Sawyer and Wallace.
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