Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Week in Review

Written by Minister Jewel D. Williams


McGrath points out that the church has traditionally understood the work of the Holy Spirit to focus on three areas: revelation, salvation and the Christian life.[1] He also posits that many writers believe the Holy Spirit plays a vital role in the Christian life, both individually and corporately. He states Cyril of Alexandria was one that stressed this importance to bring unity within the church. He quotes Cyril as saying “All of us who have received the one and the same Spirit, that is the Holy Spirit, are in a sense merged together with one and with God.”[2]

There are other writers that express the Holy Spirit as the enabler for the people of God. Steve Mosher, the author of God’s Power, Jesus’ Faith, and World Mission: A Study in Romans states the abilities (spiritual gifts) are God-given, and result from God’s powerful mercy. He presents the gifts are gifts of grace that are divinely empowered and not natural abilities or hidden talents.[3] Kenneth E. Jones in his book, Theology of Holiness and Love adds to this declaration. He presents that all individuals have natural abilities, and these are also given by God but are different from the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He encourages all believers, however to develop those talents and use them for God.

Romanus Cessario inserts from his book, Christian Faith and the Theological Life when he states, “Not only does God infuse virtues into the believer, he also imparts to them the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These graces render the Christian living by faith fully alert and readily docile to God.”[4] He states that Christ promised to send the third divine Person of the blessed Trinity as Comforter and Advocate.

Cessario inserts that the church describes the gifts as permanent dispositions in the believer to equip the believer to surpass the basically human mode. Jones on the other hand argues that the gifts are not necessarily permanent. “If one backslides, for instance, he loses both the saving grace of God in Christ Jesus, and the special grace of God in the Holy Spirit by whom he was enabled to work in the Kingdom of God.”[5] Jones sums up this section as he explains the gifts are given to the church. They are given as God chooses. There are a variety of gifts and there is unity in this diversity. This is all done under the governance of God over the church through his Spirit.[6] Whether one believes the gifts are permanent or can be lost, all agree God gives the gifts empowering the believer through the Holy Spirit. The topic now turns to who receives these gifts, the church.


Richard B. Hays writes in his book, First Corinthians: Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching all members of the community receive gifts of the Spirit. These gifts are not simply for a few leaders or spiritual super-endowed prodigies.[7] He states furthermore that God gives these gifts for the benefit of the entire community not simply for private edification of the individual. Cessario affirms Hays’ point when he states, “at times in the history of theology, the gifts have been presented as spiritual endowments reserved for those very advanced in the spiritual life.”[8] He presents it was Aquinas that set this as an important point when he associated the gifts with everyday Christian life and taught they are a part of the life of every believer. He further presents Aquinas stated the gifts worked only through love. Cessario said Aquinas stated the gifts “are connected with one another in charity, in such wise that one who has charity has all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, while none of the gifts can be had without charity.”[9] Boa adds that the three major New Testament lists of gifts are all introduced by a description that states there should be unity and diversity in this body. He further states these gifts (Charismata) are signs of God’s free grace. These gifts are distributed in diverse ways so that “the church can never be homogeneous; it is to be made up of various individuals exercising different gifts and ministries.”[10]

Thomas N. Finger, author of Christian Theology Vol. 2/: An Eschatological Approach presents addition information to consider when thinking about the spiritual gifts. He states the earliest of Christian communities brought different kinds of people together. “While members of the earliest communities were Jewish, fellowship among Jews scattered throughout the nations was a notable occurrence.”[11] This community of believers as presented by Finger examples the earliest spread of the Gospel to the world. The Spirit uniting of different people spilled over to draw the Samaritans (Acts 8:4-26), an Ethiopian (8:26-39), Greek (11:20) and later Gentiles (10-11:18; 15). This continued movement of the Holy Spirit through the body of believers as they used their gifts continued the movement of God’s kingdom toward all nations.[12]

C. Norman Kraus author of the book, God our Savior: Theology in a Christological Mode tells more about this community of believers that receive the gifts of the Spirit. He states first the church is not a social community or movement, nor is it a private spiritual club. “It is more than an association of those who enjoy the same private spiritual experience.”[13] He affirms the church is the social body or organism that lives and is enabled by the Spirit under the Lordship of Christ. It is the gift of the Spirit that enables the gifts to be a sign of the coming rule of God.[14] Therefore, all the gifts (Charismata) are for the common welfare and witness of the church and there are a variety of gifts within the body.

John Burnaby in his presentation of Augustine’s work in the book, Augustine: Later Works posits Augustine’s words regarding the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Burnaby presents Augustine as stating not everyone has every gift, but everyone has at least one gift. Augustine further presents the importance of why there is diversity of gifts. “Both prophet and apostle have spoken in the plural of ‘gifts’ because through the one Gift which is the Holy Spirit there is a distribution to the community of all Christ’s members of many gifts, appropriate to each of them.”[15] As he further expounds that Paul asked the question are all apostles or are all prophets? He concludes the gifts are diverse for the building up of the body so they may become the house, which is called the church.

Jones presents there are five lists of spiritual gifts (Romans 12:4-6; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10; 12:28; 12:29-30; Ephesians 4:11). Each of these lists is different. Hays presents this is not an exhaustive list of spiritual gifts as we can see the differing list found in the scripture. He states these gifts only serve to represent the diversity of the working of the Spirit. Jones presents the gifts as first prophecy, which is on all five lists. This gift as stated by Jones refers to the proclamation of God’s truth under the anointing of the Spirit. Boa adds this can involve foretelling future events, although it’s primary purpose is forthtelling. Jones presents secondly, teaching. Teaching is on four of the five lists. It is the essential work of instructing people in the truth of the Bible. Boa adds it is the ability to explain clearly and to apply the truths of God’s Words so that others can learn. The third in the list is apostle. He adds this is mainly applied to the twelve and to Paul. Boa does not have this on his list.

Next are miracles and healings. Each is in three of the lists and are very similar. There are people God has gifted to bring healing to the sick. Christoffer H. Grundmann in his article, He Sent Them Out to Heal! – Reflections on the Healing Ministry of the Church offers his insight into the gifts of healing. “Healing is nothing alien to biblical tradition. Healing has been presented among the people of God from earliest times (Exod 15:26) and was linked to faith in the living God.”[16] He further states, however that healing poses enormous challenges to conventional theology. He believes this explains the reluctance of church authorities and theologians to address this matter. One of the challenges is that this gift is not a Christian prerogative and is not at anyone’s disposal. As proof of the doubt in the gift of healing, he states “already in the New Testament we read that Jesus’ own healings were doubted.”[17] Jesus healed by the authority of God and his disciples did likewise in “his name.” Grundmann argues this presents that the very ministry is vested with an authority not in the hand of the disciples but in the name of Christ. The challenge of this gift is if it is real or not, but it is not the requirement of the child of God to prove God right, that is God’s very own work. Hays poses healing, miracles and revelatory speech should be portrayed as everyday occurrences with this Spirit-endowed community.

Jones’ list continues as follows: tongues, which means language is on three lists. There is translations of tongues (on one list), distinguishing between spirits, utterance of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, helping, administrators, evangelism, pastor, serving, encouraging, giving, showing compassion and exhortation. Boa’s list has some slightly different names. On his list but different on Jones’ is leadership (which is the same as administrator) and mercy (same as compassion). All of these gifts are used to give something to the body as well as something to world. How are these gifts used within the body? (Come back next week for the next installment, "usage of the Spiritual gifts")


[1] Alister McGrath, Christian Theology, 313.

[2] Ibid, 315.

[3] Steve Mosher, God’s Power, Jesus’ Faith, and World Mission: a Study in Romans, (Scottdale: Herald Press, 1996), 240.

[4] Romanus Cessario, Christian Faith and the Theological Life, (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1996), 159.

[5] Kenneth E. Jones, Theology of Holiness and Love, (Lanham: University Press of America, Inc., 1995), 294.

[6] Ibid, 297-300.

[7] Richard B. Hays, First Corinthians: Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997), 211.

[8] Romanus Cessario, Christian Faith, 161.

[9] Ibid, 169.

[10] Richard B. Hays, First Corinthians, 210.

[11] Thomas N. Finger, Christian Theology Vol. 2/: An Eschatological Approach, (Scottsdale: Herald Press, 1989), 249.

[12] Thomas N. Finger, Christian Theology Vol. 2, 249-250.

[13] C. Norman Kraus, God Our Savior: Theology in a Christological Mode, (Washington: Herald Press, 1991), 164.

[14] Ibid, 166.

[15] John Burnaby, Augustine: Later Works, (London: Westminster John Knox Press, 1955), 163.

[16] Christoffer H. Grundmann, “He Sent Them Out to Heal! – Reflections on the Healing Ministry of the Church” Currents in Theology and Mission 33, no. 5: 372-378, Atlas Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 23, 2009).

[17] Christoffer H. Grundmann, “He Sent Them Out to Heal! – Reflections on the Healing Ministry of the Church” Currents in Theology and Mission 33, no. 5: 372-378, Atlas Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 23, 2009).

The Week in Review

John 3 and 4 Essay
Jewel D. Williams

God has such a great love for mankind, that he does not want anyone to miss receiving the message of salvation. Therefore Jesus gives the illustration of how to tell the message to others. Jesus encounters several people and relates to each of them in different ways. Jesus shows how to take an encounter and present information that motivates a person to seek him more. Jesus relates to specific people, Nicodemus and the woman at the well, and shows how to present the Gospel successfully.

In the book of John chapter 3, Jesus is approached by Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. Nicodemus was a learned man, a Pharisee, who understood the Law of God. This Nicodemus comes to speak to Jesus by night. It is not stated in the scripture why he came at night. One reason might be not to draw attention to his coming to Jesus. Another reason may be out of his fear of being seen by others, knowing the scrutiny that Jesus was under. Whatever the reason for the late visit, Jesus does not turn him away. The first lesson in this example is to be ready at anytime and in any situation to give an account about Godly things. A believer cannot pick the perfect atmosphere or the circumstances to present the Gospel. There may be some times when the opportunity arises and because of work or other obligations one can be tired, yet one must take the opportunity. One could imagine that after all that Jesus had done, night would have been a time he welcomed to be alone. Yet, he gave himself for the mission.

Nicodemus comes expressing his desire to know more when he calls Jesus a teacher from God. Jesus responds to Nicodemus by presenting to him the necessity and nature of regeneration or new birth. Jesus let Nicodemus know what he needed was a change in his spirit (heart), to be born again. The Jewish people were looking for a savior to come and change the political state, and Nicodemus may have come to be a part of that change. Yet, Jesus let Nicodemus know he came to change the spiritual state of man.

This second example is to let the believer know that one must be ready to give an accurate account of what changes people’s lives, the Gospel message. It will not be the social changes or programs set in place that will change the lives of people, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The pursuit of social changes and programs are only a band-aid on the real problem in society, sin. This is the message Jesus is giving to Nicodemus.

Nicodemus does not show arrogance, but willingly expresses his ignorance when he asks the next question of how is one born again. Jesus goes deeper in his explanation of the Gospel message. He tells Nicodemus that it is by water and the Spirit that one must be born again. Jesus is telling him, it is the cleansing of the Spirit that will make him new or born again. Jesus shows believers by his example, to be willing to take the extra step in explaining the Gospel story. There are those that do not understand and wish to have the message made clear, and one must be willing to explain the basic truth about salvation. Nicodemus was amazed at the message and he could not understand how these things could be. Jesus responds to him, are not you a teacher? The message is clear, even those that should be teachers may be in need of being taught the truth of God. Jesus is showing believers not to be intimidated when presenting the Gospel message to people with credentials or standing in your community. It did not matter that Nicodemus was one taught in the law Jesus knew he was in need of understanding the deeper things. Believers must recognize the Gospel message is for all people. God’s message is for the rich, the poor, the educated, and the uneducated. The Gospel message is for all people because they are precious in his sight.

Jesus used an example of salvation that was familiar to Nicodemus. He tells him about the serpent Moses lifts up in the wilderness. Jesus wants Nicodemus to understand that he was the one sent by God to heal the people of their sins and if Jesus’ name were lifted up, he would draw all men. Nicodemus may have been confused at what the message was, but Jesus continues to explain it. He tells Nicodemus those that come to the light will receive the gift of salvation from God.

“And there came also Nicodemus which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight” (John 19:39). This verse gives witness that Nicodemus had a change in his life after encountering Jesus. He went from knowing about Jesus, to knowing Jesus. This Nicodemus that came to Jesus at night, now comes boldly before all to minister to the Lord’s body. This is encouragement for the believers to be faithful in giving the message even if the fruit is not seen right away. It is God’s spirit that will convict the heart. It is not the individual that does the convicting, but God working through the efforts of those that either plant and/or water (come back next week for the next installment).