Thursday, 2 July 2009


Mark 16:17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues;

Christianity was spectacularly birthed! Depending on whether you regard Christianity commencing with the birth of Jesus or with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, either way, there is no escaping the foundational distinctive of Christianity: the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was virgin-born because the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary (Luke 1:35). The Church was born because the Holy Spirit was outpoured on seeking believers. The first followers of Christ saw some outstanding miracles- healings, deliverances, resurrections, water-walking, mind-reading, fortune-telling, and lunch lunch lunch. Jesus told His followers that they too would receive similar power.
Luke 24:49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.

Praying for healingThis power of the Holy Spirit, talked about by Christ in John 14-16, was seen as a gift from God, or put another way- an expression of God's grace. The Greek word for grace is charis. This is where we get the word "charismatic" comes from when describing the grace-gifts of the Holy Spirit. By the time Paul wrote to the Corinthians, it had become obvious that there were some generally common charismatic gifts evidenced in the early churches. He lists these in First Corinthians 12. These include healings, miracles, tongues (speaking unlearned languages), interpretation of tongues, faith, words of wisdom, words of knowledge, prophecy, and discerning of spirits. Someone who is baptised in the Holy Spirit and has been graced with any of these gifts is generally referred to as being "Charismatic". But there are some who claim that these gifts were only available during the formation of the Church, before the New Testament books were completed and compiled. They claim that the gifts of the Holy Spirit have "ceased". These people are generally known as cessationists.

But this is not explicitly taught in Scripture. A vague appeal is made to a reference in First Corinthians 13 which alludes to these gifts being done away with when that which is perfect has come. But the context of this passage demands that it is referring to when the Resurrection happens, not the close of the New Testament writings. Added to the dire lack of Scriptural support for the idea that the Holy Spirit's power and spiritual gifts are no longer available, history reveals that the Holy Spirit has been anything but inactive since the close of the New Testament. So if the New Testament at least leaves open the availability of the Holy Spirit's power and gifts for today, perhaps there is a healthy well-balanced way to seek the power, signs and wonders of God for our present circumstances. Perhaps we could join with the earliest church in their prayer?

Acts 4:29-30 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

Pondering the word- charismatic, when we refer to the signs and wonders of the Holy Spirit's power such as healing and miracles, I am struck by the word charis...grace. Unlike some hyper-pentecostals who claim that they can make God do signs and wonders, this word, charismatic, reminds me that God's power is distributed according to His grace. Our appeal, like the appeal made in Acts 4:29-30, is an appeal to God's grace. As such, our role in these signs, miracles and wonders is one where we choose to seek God for them- but it is God's unique role as to how in His sovereignty He chooses to respond.

Acts 14:3 So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

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