Sunday, 7 May 2017

Defining Spiritual Manifestations

I don't claim to understand the full scope of what's possible with each of the manifestations of the Spirit. My wish is to grasp the Bible's examples of their potential. 

Paul didn't define the manifestations of the Spirit in his letter to the Corinthians - because the Corinthians didn't need them defined. They were already seeing all of the gifts of the Spirit in full measure. Paul said that: "you come behind in no gift". And he commended them for excelling in that. 

Jewish believers in Jesus didn't need the manifestations of the Spirit defined either. The Old Testament already exemplified all of the manifestations, except for speaking with tongues. 

Speaking with tongues is the only manifestation of the Spirit that is unique to the New Testament. After Jesus was glorified, the Spirit was given in a way that wasn't previously possible - and speaking with tongues is the one manifestation which Luke consistently mentioned any time he wanted to reassure his reader that a group had received the Spirit in this way (Jerusalem first, then Gentiles). Knowing the group had spoken in tongues, settled that. 

But even after those groups had received the Spirit for the first time and spoken with tongues - Luke still mentioned others of the same people-group having the same experience and speaking in tongues too (at Ephesus). That shows it wasn't just a one-off thing. 

So I think the Old Testament examples and terminology stick: 

The Old Testament mentions HEALING in connection with the SPIRIT (in the ministries of Elijah and Elisha). Since the New Testament offers to redefinition of healing as a manifestation of the Spirit, I think the Old Testament meaning carries. Divine healing. 

The OT mentions the word MIRACLES in connection with the word SPIRIT (Moses, Elijah, Elisha) - so the meaning carries. Something physically supernatural. 

The DISCERNING and KNOWING OF SPIRITS is mentioned in the OT (Jacob, Elisha's servant, Ezekiel). It involved the eyes of one's spirit being opened, enabling them to see the unseen spirit-realm. It never meant just being particularly smart. 

The OT mentions WISDOM in connection with the word SPIRIT (Joseph, Daniel). It involved revelation of mysteries. Dreams. The meaning of dreams. Foretelling the future. And Divine guidance in connection with that. It was something observably supernatural. Since the NT doesn't redefine it, I think that meaning carries. Paul himself mentioned "understanding all mysteries" in connection with spiritual gifts (I Cor.13:2). 

FAITH means more the just daily living by faith - because all of us must live by faith, or else we're not saved! Yet of the gift of faith, Paul said it's only given "to another". So it means faith for something extraordinary. And we need look no further than the OT for examples of that too. Paul gives us an OT list in Hebrews 11. God gave individuals faith to receive a miracle, uniquely required in their situation. 

The OT uses the word KNOWLEDGE in connection with the SPIRIT in a uniquely supernatural sense too. Different to a learned knowledge. It was REVEALED knowledge, by the Spirit. Things which an independent observer could readily recognise must have been supernatural at its source. (Daniel, Joseph.) The Gentile kings didn't turn their favour towards Israel just because Joseph and Daniel were naturally knowledgeable - it was because they recognised a divinely supernatural source of knowledge in them. Paul said it: "and all knowledge" (I Cor.13:2).

I've already dealt with the meaning of PROPHECY in its own Post. In both the OT and NT it's something distinct from ordinary speech, teaching, preaching, testifying, witnessing, exhorting. Something readily observable as being supernatural. 

Notice I'm not just citing OT stories, but stories where specific words are linked together with the Spirit in a sign-and-wonder sense. So there is syntax involved in my reasoning, I'm not just coming up with my own definitions. I think I'm being loyal to the OT sense. 

But I see many people today altering the OT meanings of Spirit-given discerning of spirits, faith, wisdom, knowledge and prophecy, making it mean no more than what every Christian should already have and do. But that's neither true to the OT nor true to the NEW. These were signs and wonders which could only be done by the Spirit of God. Enough to convince unbelievers even. 

If this feels confronting, I'm okay with that - if it's going to lift all of us up to the standard Jesus envisioned for His Church. I can say that and be motivated by love. Humbly - because I also aspire to it. 

But still, as I always say - no matter how we define things - better have the experience. Be filled with the Spirit. Excel at spiritual gifts. Come behind in no gift. Desire that for our church. 

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