For now, I am only thinking out loud. This is an ongoing article that yet needs more grammatical checking, spelling, word usage, organization, prayer, and wisdom. Comments and challenges are welcome.
Gifts, Authority, Shepherding, Body Little gods
The church is the body of Christ composed of its many members and all have gifts. To be a member of Christ is to have a gift — the gift is the source of a member’s life giving function to the body. These gifts are meant for the reciprocal edifying of each other and as a witness to the world. Each member’s gift is essential to the proper function and healthy life of the Body. One cannot be a member of Christ Body and not have a gift. It may be an undeveloped gift, a gift that is set aside for a season, or it may even may be presently unrecognizable by most, but each members has at least one gift.
The Authority of Christ, the Body, The Gifts
The head of the Church is Christ, it is not the apostle, the teacher, the pastor, the prophet, the elder, or the deacon. These are persons who have gifts for the body’s edification — which is the same purpose for everyone’s gift. These “leaders” and “shepherds” are simply the ones who are gifted in particular areas. We must respect the gift of God in those thus called just as we are to respect the gift of God in each other. As they use their gifts, they answerable to Christ for the health, development, and maturity of each believer and his gift –according to the measure given to them by the Spirit. It is no different for each member, though the scope of each member’s accountability will not be the same. We are told to examine the gifts of each member as to whether they be genuine at the time when they are manifested (1 Cor 14:26-34). It is valid and necessary to question whether the gift was of the Spirit or not. Once this is done, we are not called to examine whether we agree or understand, only whether the Spirit truly was speaking. If the Spirit spoke, then it is settled to the extent that the Spirit has settled it. If it is a teaching, we have the right and responsibility to have the teacher support the teaching and answer our questions using sound biblical evidence. (Acts 17:11)
Each member is subject to only Christ, the head, who by His Spirit is represented most often in His members. Only to the degree that each member of His body submits to Him, is Christ able to manifest Himself to the world and the other members. The one who says that He is only submissive to Christ, Himself, and not to any man has missed God’s chosen design and is in rebellion to God and embracing unbelief. He is only excusing his rebellion and cloaking it in spiritual language. Such a man is high minded and is setting himself apart from God’s ordained protection and is unbelieving toward God’s ability to use His body for his direction, and accountability. We all are commanded to in honor prefer one to another (Romans 12:10), to submit to one to another (Ephesians 5:21), to minister our gifts one to another (1 Peter 4:10), and to be subject one to another in all humility (1 Peter 5:5).
It is also a lie to claim that no one in the body is mature enough, wise enough, discerning enough, or spiritual enough, or on the same level to give counsel, insight, rebuke, or enlightenment. First of all, God does not need a member to be any of those things — sometime he is pleased to use an ass as he did with Balaam. It is my observation that with every gift, God gives a gift of incompleteness. This causes us to be interdependent on the body. Though the gift may be perfect, and its expression is unflawed, it is not the full tapestry of life for the church. Others in the body are needed to make it complete. It is only as each member provides its own warp and woof (not the same a howling like an animal), that the tapestry of Life progresses.
His body, though having many members, is one. It is only as each member expresses itself in Christ (not after his own mind or power) that the body has life. Any member that usurps, disrupts, prevents, or diminishes either the opportunity or the expression of another member to function in Christ is usurping, disrupting, preventing, or diminishing the life of Christ and the church will not be healthy. Each member is to respect and submit to each other as God energizes that member’s function. Not submitting to a brother or sister who is functioning in their capacity within the body is rebellion against God. There is no one single member or gift that will always have all the wisdom, all the direction, all the edifying for the members.
I do not believe that God created one member to monopolize or dominate the function of His body. There are gifts which are more regularly in evidence than others. But even these gifts may be exhibited through more than one member in a given gathering of the Body. It is His voice, His Spirit, His authority that is to bring life to the Body. Even though one may be accepted and recognized as the principal prophet or pastor in a body, their voice is only as valid as their submission to God and every word is not automatically to be taken as from the Lord.
We can not complain to God that we have been deceived by another. whether they be a prophet, teacher, or pastor. It is our responsibility to submit to His voice whenever we hear it, regardless of which member He uses to express himself through. His Spirit is also within us, that is why He says that “the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him (1 John 2:27) Thereby, God has His two-fold protection plan in place. The spiritual gifts in the body and the Spirit within each believer are the 2 facets of His protection and they will be in agreement. Neglect either and deception will be at your door. (I know full well there are rebels toward God who use this verse to justify why they do not submit to anyone or any teaching). Those who are deceived are deceived because either they 1.) value the gifted person more that the Giver of the Gift; 2.) they really do not truly seek truth, but experiences, or knowledge, or power, or reputation, or acceptance by affiliation; 3.) do not intend to submit to the Spirit within or without
You are Little Gods?
This has been a chant of too many. It is as if to say, everything that God has He has given to you, as an individual as a separate entity. He has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. He has given us the Spirit without measure. It is His good pleasure to give us the Kingdom. However, He has given us dependency rather than autonomy. He placed us in His body. It is only His Church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all (Eph 1:23). It is not we as individual members who have any authority. We do not command or direct His power although He may use us to be a vessel of such power as He sees fit. He does not produce miracles on demand, does not answer prayer or perform in any way according to “what seems right in our eyes”.
The way some false teachers talk, one would think that God is like some super refueling station. Go to Him, get filled with the Spirit and His power, then go out and use it until empty, then come back for a refill. Absolutely wrong! To continue the analogy, it is more like we run on solar power with no backup. While He is supplying truth and light, one can be responsive. If we get out of direct and intimate contact with Him, we disconnect our source of truth, life, and power.
God remains God, He has not delegated that to anyone. He has chosen to use His body and its various members, the Church, as vessels through which He may exercise mercy, help, judgments, miracles, signs and wonders, compassion, judgments, and more in this world. But such exercises will always originate in the Mind of God and not with the vessel. There are many today who twist the scriptures in order to attempt to usurp God’s place — such are the tactics and character of satan who seeks to usurp. Even in the hereafter, we will never become as God, we will simply partake of His essence, never own it as our own. It is satan’s oldest lie. He told it to Eve concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and he is trying to make us believe the same line in regards to the Tree of Life, Jesus Christ.
It is amazing that people fall for his line, “If you partake of Christ, you shall become as gods”. No! If you partake of Christ, you partake of Life, you die, you give up your right to your natural life that flows out of the old Adam. It is His Life that sets you free and gives you a new life within His body. You are never independent again. You are one who, like Jesus, can do nothing but what the Father does through Him. Being saved does not give you power or authority. It only allows you to participate in the power and authority that is solely retained and maintained by God Almighty.
Many today are like Eve they see that the fruit is good and misinterpret the benefits. Although Eve ate and learned the knowledge of evil, she experienced death. (She already had all the access she needed to good in the presence of God). Do not be tempted by the power, the signs, the wonders, the promise of divinity. It is not there for your use (as Simon the Sorcerer thought) and will be the death of you. Partaking of Christ does not enable you to take part of Him, it enables Him to take all of you.
We do not decide on which verse “to claim”, we do not hold God hostage to His promise (what a ridiculous abomination!). God is not subject to His promise, He gives us His promises and laws to guide us and to reveal Himself, not to guide Himself. Many scriptures are merely examples of what He did in specific situations for specific persons in the past. Each promise has displayed His character and wisdom for that situation.
He is no respecter of persons.
Certainly, what He has done for others, He will do for you (as the song goes). He will give you promises and work for your good. Although He will probably not give you the same promise, He will give you promises tailor-made for your situation. He does not give promises to one and withhold promises to others. He gives promises to all. The promise he gave to Abraham probably does not fit our situation well. If we complain that He is unfair in His bestowal of promises, we are saying He is not wise, He is not good, and that we know better than He does regarding our needs. There are indeed “universal” promises that are available to each believer. God wants you to “claim’ these, to grow into them and to live in them. These are the promises regarding becoming one with Him and fully yielding to Him as He causes you to carry His life to others.
It is true that There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there isneither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). God makes no distinction or favoritism in His calling. He does, however, make distinctions in His giftings. Unfortunately, we do not see the gifts for what they truly are — they are the means by which God gives us accountability toward other members and not so we can enjoy some power or emotional surge.
Those who neglect, misuse, and abuse their gifts will give answer to God on the last day. Therefore, we do not presume to have a gift we do not have. We do not presume to have more authority than another has. Our gift(s) are meant to be the tool God uses to express His will, His direction, His word. We dare not add to it or take anything away from it. God’s expression through the gift carries its own authority and does not need the position, reputation, or power of the member to underscore it.
Charismatics and Nons
This non-issue has caused division in the church and grieved the Spirit much. Charismatic see the nons as devoid of the Spirit and lacking the gifts and lifeless. Nons see the Charismatics as more filled with the life of the flesh than the Spirit and presumptuous toward the gifts of the Spirit.
First of all, it is impossible for the nons to be part of the body of Christ and not have a gift — His word proclaims that each member has a gift. To be a member of Christ is to have a gift — the gift is the source of the members life- giving function to the body. It is also not necessary for a member to be consciously aware of his gift in order for it to operate. Because a gift does not express itself in a “charismatic” way, does not negate its existence. It is also impossible that a person can be a Christian apart from the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4). We are all baptized into the same Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). Unfortunately, charismatics have re-defined the baptism of the Spirit as something other than Christ does. Some even erroneously teach that tongues are the proof of the baptism. Yet Paul says that not all speak with tongues (1 Corinthians 12:30). Why can’t we remain within the bounds of scripture?
Nons pray that the sick will recover, that the needy will be supplied, and that God will comfort the comfortless. Because they may not do it in a manner like a charismatic does not invalidate their faith. The nons and charismatics are both believing that God can — they are both trusting in His sovereignty and grace. Nons comfort one another, help one another, and do other things which prove that the gifts are in operation.
It is arrogant for a “Charismatic” to consider it more spiritual for a member to say a valid “thus saith the Lord” than for a non-charismatic to share a portion of scripture that has been “laid on his heart” by the Spirit.
The only difference between the nons and charismatics are the ways that each sees the parameters in which they perceive God to move and the types of gifts God gives to them. And we should not differentiate ourselves based on gifts that we had no merit in obtaining.
Are nons missing some potential blessing by denying the verbal gifts? Probably. Are charismatics missing something by assuming that most emotional spiritual leadings and experiences are from God? Probably. Can either group be deceived by its excesses and its imposed limitations (both groups do exhibit both conditions)? Probably. Is there any advantage or disadvantage of being part of one and not the other? Only if God wants you to be part of the one you are not a part of. I think there are charismatics that God would have be nons and nons that God would have be charismatics. Charismatics can confuse happiness and excitement with joy. Nons can confuse sobriety with holiness and temperance.
In any event, the body of Christ is diminished by this antipathy. But Christ is not divided. If nons and charismatics continue to reject the life that is found in each position, they are denying the very life that Christ means them to have.