holy spirit, ministry, and gifts
This document represents the beliefs of the majority of the church leadership and how we work these issues out practically in our church.
However, we do not believe that this subject constitutes a salvation issue. You can believe that some of the gifts are for today and be wrong and still be Christian. You can believe all of the gifts are for today and be wrong and still be Christian. You can believe none of the gifts are for today and be wrong and still be Christian.
Because of these differences among Christians, there are those in leadership and attendance at River Valley that interpret these scriptural issues differently. There are other valid interpretations of the scriptures and we encourage you to study the scriptures and prayerfully decide for yourself.
1. Christians receive the Holy Spirit at Salvation when the Holy Spirit baptizes the new believer into the Body of Christ.
1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27
2. All Christians are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit
(Eph. 5:18). The verb tense means “to be being kept continuously and repeatedly filled” with the Spirit on a moment by moment, day by day basis. So there are many fillings of the Holy Spirit. We are filled with the Spirit as we confess sin, abide in Christ and His Word, surrender to the Spirit, depend on the Spirit’s power, and ask to be filled. Christians should pray for and seek a deeper and more complete fullness of the Spirit in their lives (Eph. 3:16-19)
3. God is sovereign and chooses to mature His children in different ways.
Many Christians describe an unforgettable experience with God where they had a life changing encounter of His presence and received a special touch from Him resulting in a giant spiritual leap forward. However, there are many very godly and Spirit-filled Christians who have not experienced such a dramatic encounter.
4. The Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to the Church:
The gifts and manifestations listed in the New Testament include administration, apostleship, discernment, encouragement, evangelism, faith, giving, healing, service, hospitality, interpretation of tongues, knowledge, leadership, mercy, miracles, prophecy, shepherding, teaching, tongues, and wisdom. 1Co 12; Ro 12:4-8; Eph 4:11-16; 1 Pet 4:9,10
As determined by the Holy Spirit, each believer receives spiritual gifts to be used for the building up of the Church.1Co 12:7; 1 Pet. 4:10; Rom. 12:6
Scripture does not designate any one particular gift as the gift that every believer should have or seek to have. Gifts vary from believer to believer. Ro 12:6; 1Co 12:7-11; 28-31; 14:23; Eph 4:11
Any spiritual gift must be exercised in an orderly fashion led by the Holy Spirit, subject to the guidelines of Scripture, and under the authority of church leadership. 1Co 14:13, 28, 39, 40
5. The Apostolic era during the 1st century was a unique time necessary for the beginning and early growth of the church. The Apostles (Jesus’ 12 Disciples plus Paul, Barnabas and James, and possibly others) seemed to have a super empowering from the Lord necessary to birth and oversee the early stages of the church.
But we do believe that apostolic giftings (ie. church planting, missionary, one who is sent out, etc.) are still in existence and are very necessary for today.
6. Certain kinds of gifts sometimes referred to as “sign gifts” (such as tongues, healing, miracles) are specifically mentioned in Scripture as those which are likely to be abused and/or counterfeited, we are commanded to take great care and be controlled by the Holy Spirit in exercising them.
Ac 14:3; 1Co 14:22,23: 2Co 12:12; 2Th 2:9
7. All the spiritual gifts and manifestations are available today to whomever the Spirit wills and whenever He wills it.
1 Cor. 12:11
8. Signs and wonders are still manifested today to accompany the message of the Gospel to our world.
(1 Cor. 2:4; 1 Thess. 1:5; Acts 4:29,30) The Gospel alone is enough to save (Rom. 1:16). God in the past (and present) has used miracles and powerful signs to go along with the spoken message (just as God uses the good works of a Christian to go along with the message He speaks to lead someone to Jesus). The apostles, with their tremendous spiritual gifting and ministering to a world that was filled with eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ, were greatly assisted with the help of signs and wonders. Around the world today, God is using signs and wonders to advance His kingdom.
9. As with all the spiritual gifts, the gift of tongues has not been given to every Christian – only to whom the Spirit wills.
No Christian should be “forced” or “trained” to speak in tongues. Nor should anyone teach that speaking in tongues makes a person “more spiritual.” 1 Cor. 12:29,30 A good definition of tongues is The God-given ability to pray or speak in a language you have never learned and don’t understand. There are three different examples of tongues taught in the New Testament.
1.) Acts 2: Tongues are proclaiming the message in a known language unknown to the speaker. The crowd from many nations and languages each heard the message of God in their own language
2.) 1 Cor. 14: A tongue that serves as a private devotional prayer language. Tongues practiced in 1 Cor. 14 served a different purpose than at Pentecost (Acts 2). In 1 Cor. 14, Paul contrasts public tongues speaking with another kind of tongues speaking that he practiced outside the church setting (1 Cor. 14:18,19). It seems that the best explanation for this type of tongues is a private prayer language. Paul describes this type of praying as “speaking to God” (1 Cor. 14:2) and says that a person who speaks in a tongue “edifies himself” (1 Cor. 14:4)and speaks to himself and God – v.28. A number of Bible commentators understand the passage this way.
D.A. Carson comments, “There is no stronger defense of the private use of tongues, and attempts to avoid the conclusion turn out on inspection to be remarkably flimsy. If Paul speaks in tongues more than all the Corinthians, yet in the church prefers to speak in five intelligible words rather than ten thousand words in a tongue…then where does he speak them?…the only possible conclusion is that Paul exercised his remarkable tongues gift in private.” (Showing the Spirit pg. 105)
3.) Cor. 14: A public message in tongues that is followed by an interpretation. This serves to edify other believers. Paul says that two, or at the most three, should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the meeting and speak to himself and God. (1 Cor. 14:27,28)
10. Paul is not condemning tongues in 1 Cor. 14, but teaching us how to use the gift in a responsible and loving way.
We are not to forbid people to speak in tongues provided these guidelines are followed. (1 Cor 14:16-19, 27,28)
11. Tongues is de-emphasized in 1 Cor. 14 and is described as a lesser gift.
1 Cor. 14:5
12. River Valley draws many people from conservative evangelical church backgrounds, some from mainline churches, some from charismatic churches, some who have not been to church in many years and some who have never been to church.
We want our weekend Worship Celebration services to be a safe place where they can be led “beyond religion into relationship with Jesus.” We have concluded that allowing tongues in the Celebration services might in many cases be unloving and insensitive toward our guests. We ask those who have this gifting to limit their liberty to use this gift in the Celebration services. Our goal in this is love and protecting the flock. Some may say that we are quenching the Spirit by limiting this gift, but the fact is we ask a lot of people to limit their use of gifts during the Celebration services – we ask many encouragers not to encourage, many administrators not to administrate and many teachers not to teach during the worship celebration service. Since tongues is such a controversial gift among Christians, great care and sensitivity should be also taken in all the smaller groups (Life Groups, Ministry Teams, etc.) at River Valley so that tongues never becomes the emphasis, but that everything is done in a fitting, orderly and edifying way. 1 Cor. 14
13. Prophecy is more important than tongues to build up the church.
1 Cor. 14
14. Prophecy is speaking words of strengthening, encouragement, and comfort (1 Cor. 14:3) to another person.
This can be a “word” to someone right out of the Bible or sharing something with them that God has “spontaneously brought to mind.” All prophecy is to be consistent with the clear teaching of the Bible and is to be tested by the other believers present (1 Cor. 14:29). Many of these prophetic words are impressions or burdens from God that we share with others to build them up. They may speak of the future, but don’t have to.
15. A prophetic word that does not come straight from scripture is not equal to written scripture in authority.
This type of prophecy should never be prefaced with, “thus says the Lord.” This implies that the speaker believes that he or she is speaking with inspired authority from God. Prophetic words should always be delivered with humility, asking the person to take the message to God in prayer to seek His leading in the matter.
16. Jesus and the Apostles ministered with extraordinary power.
While present-day believers may not witness with that kind of power, they continue to witness. The same is true of miraculous gifts. They may not be used with the power displayed by the apostles, but they still are used.
17. The leadership of the church is committed to obeying the Word by praying for the healing of individuals in the flock (James 5:14-16).
Often God will use this prayer to bring healing to His children. But God often says “no” when we ask Him to heal. This even happened to the powerful apostles (2 Tim. 4:20; 1 Tim. 5:23; Gal. 4:13,14). Suffering is an inevitable part of life on a fallen planet. Our world is described as “groaning” and in “bondage to decay” (Rom. 8:21,22). Jesus did not heal every ailing person He encountered and neither does He always heal today through us. When it comes to prayer for healing, it is important to remember that when God chooses not to heal physically, eventual death (physical), in reality, becomes the ultimate healing for the believer.
18. God is glorified when He heals.
God is glorified when He allows us to suffer with hope and dignity. God’s compassion extends to us when He lifts us out of our pain. God’s compassion extends to us when He holds our hand and walks through our pain with us. God bears witness to our hurting world with the conspicuous power of signs and wonders. God bears witness to a hurting world with the quiet power of a holy life. God draws us toward holiness both when He heals us and when He allows us to share the fellowship of His sufferings. – (Banister, The Word and Power Church, p. 154)
19. We realize that there have been serious abuses, extremes and sensationalism of the miraculous sign gifts in many churches today.
But this is no reason to throw them all out. The work of God’s Spirit is always counterfeited by the enemy. The scriptural approach is to learn to discern between true and false prophets. We know that there are many false teachers today. Does that mean we should abandon the gift and practice of teaching because there is the potential for abuse? Of course not. There is potential for abuse and extremism in all the gifts today (giving, administration, leadership, teaching, exhortation, etc.), but we should never abandon any of the gifts because of the fear of abuse.
1 Cor. 13:8 teaches that tongues will be stilled when “perfection” comes. This is one of the key arguments given by some for the ending of tongues with the close of the canon of Scripture at the end of the Apostolic age but many Bible interpreters have concluded that the “perfection” refers to the second coming of Christ and not the close of the canon of Scripture. Verse 10 says that when this happens “we shall see face to face” and “shall know fully.” We believe that these descriptions most likely portrait the return of Jesus in which these things will happen – since that is when we will experience the true “perfection”.
Recommended reading – The Word and Power Church by Doug Banister