Integrating the Pentecostal Doctrine of Healing in the Atonement

This is the fifth and final part in a series on James 5:14-18.  Check the first four posts in this series here: By His Stripes We are Made Whole ~ A Pentecostal Exposition of James 5:14-18* – Part 1: Historical and Literary ContextThree General Views on What James Means by “Sick”Elders, Oil and What the Sick are Saved From in James 5:14-18, and The Prayer of Faith, Confession, and Righteousness.

What is the Doctrine of Healing in the Atonement?
The Pentecostal doctrine of healing in the atonement greatly informs the theological and practical interpretation of James 5:14-18 in a number of ways.  So first, what is the doctrine of healing in the atonement and is it biblical? The doctrine of healing in the atonement (HIA from here on out) teaches that Christians are miraculously healed physically through the same atonement that brought them spiritual salvation (Kydd 710).  HIA proclaims a Gospel for the whole person by confessing that Christ “is the source of health because He Himself has been made health for us even as He was made sin for us” (Purdy 504).  According to classical Pentecostalism, the healing of the body should not be understood apart from the Gospel, but squarely in the center of it – the atonement.  This is a Gospel for the whole person and for all people (490).  Space does not permit me to provide an extensive overview of all the passages that support HIA, but the main texts that are always discussed are Ps. 103:3, Isaiah 53:5, 1 Peter 2:24, and Matt. 8:17.  Both Matt. 8:17 and 1 Peter 2:24 quote Isaiah 53:5 but apply it in different ways.  Whereas “Matthew has physical healing primarily in mind, Peter has spiritual healing in mind, Yet by taking advantage of the same image to define Jesus’ work of spiritual restoration, he is not ruling out Matthew’s recognition of physical healing” (503).  This divinely-inspired double-interpretation actually vindicates a kaleidoscopic understanding of the atonement in which healing is an aspect of the atonement among many.

There is actually a good amount of support for this interpretation of Matt. 8:17 among conservative and not specifically Pentecostal Bible scholars.   Dr. D. A. Carson says in his commentary on the book of Matthew that “This text and others clearly teach that there is healing in the Atonement” (Carson 207).  Carson goes on to caution against believing that it is always God’s will to heal because in this life we don’t actually enjoy all of the benefits Christ bought on the cross.  Both Dr. Leon Morris and Dr. Craig Keener express similar interpretations of the passage as well in their commentaries (Keener, Matthew 177-8, Morris 198-9).  Even the patriarch of modern Fundamentalist Cessationism, B.B. Warfield acknowledged that healing was part of Christ’s provision for us in the atonement (Warfield 176-7).

How it effects James 5:14-18

With HIA at least presented as a viable theological option, it is now able to serve as a theological lens through which James 5:13-18 can be interpreted with even greater clarity, specifically when to it comes to the question of the prayer of faith.  The text assumes that the normal result of anointed prayer will be the physical healing of the sick brother or sister (Purdy 521).  In fact, “James does not appear to consider the possibility that healing might not be attained” (Thomas 47).  Although there are clearly exceptions that stand out in the New Testament of people who did not get healed (Paul in 2 Corinthians 12 and Timothy in 1 Tim. 5:23 to name two), this is not the normative picture Scripture paints.  “God’s normative will is to heal the sick on the basis of Christ’s work, through the believer’s faith in Him” (Purdy 521).  Therefore, when the elders are encouraged by James to pray “the prayer of faith” which will heal the one who is sick, he is not telling them to muster up enough faith to deserve or pry the healing out of God’s hands.  No, instead they are simply exercising faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross in the same way all true Christians do for their positional justification every day.  This also clarifies why James does not tell the congregations to seek healing from specific charismatically-endowed people who have the gift of healing and instead commands the elders and the whole congregation to pray for the sick to be healed (Thomas 32).  If healing is purchased for all believers on the cross, than the congregation is doing nothing more than asserting what God has already promised to give, even if it doesn’t see its fulfillment in this life but in the life to come (Purdy 505).

In conclusion, James 5:13-16 is clearly talking about physical healing when all elements are considered.  Additionally, James’ main message of wholeness in the Christian life is heavily promoted by the emphasis on healing in 5:14-16 and even more so when set against the theological backdrop of healing in the atonement.  The Church needs to get back to the regular practice of elders anointing the sick with oil, the whole congregation praying for healing for one another, and the community confessing sins to each other.  Less time should be spent defending people’s lack of faith in God’s desire to heal and more time spent promoting Christ’s full gospel of healing for the body and (more importantly) the forgiveness of sins.

[*This blog series was originally a research paper for Dr. Keith Krell’s Romans class at MBI-Spokane under the title of By His Stripes the Community is Made Whole: A Pentecostal Exposition of James 5:13-18]

Works Cited

(This list of citations apply to the entire series and not just this post)

Blomberg, Craig, and Mariam J. Kamell. ZECNT: James. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2008. Print.
Bowden, Andrew M. “An Overview of the Interpretive Approaches to James 5.13-18.” Currents in Biblical Research 13.1 (2014): 67-81. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.
Carson, D. A. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1984. Print.
Davids, Peter H. NIGTC: The Epistle of James: A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1982. Print.
Holy Bible English Standard Version. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Bibles, 2001. Print.
Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1993. Print.
Kydd, R. A. N. “Healing in the Christian Church.” The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. Ed. Stanley M. Burgess. Rev. and Expanded ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 2002. 698-711. Print.
MacArthur, John. MNTC: James. Chicago, Ill.: Moody, 1998. Print.
McCartney, Dan. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: James. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2009. Print.
McKnight, Scot. NICNT: The Letter of James. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 2011. Print.
Moo, Douglas J. The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter of James. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Pub. ; 2000. Print.
Morris, Leon. PNTC: The Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans; 1992. Print.
Purdy, Vernon. “Divine Healing.” Systematic Theology. Ed. Stanley M. Horton. Revised ed. Springfield, Mo.: Logion, 2003. 489-524. Print.
Ropes, James Hardy. ICC: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle of St. James. Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1916. Print.
Serrao, C. Jeanne Orjala. NBBC: James: A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition. Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill of Kansas City, 2010. Print.
Tamez, Elsa. “James: A Circular Letter for Immigrants.” Review & Expositor 108.3 (2011): 369-380. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.
Thomas, John Christopher. “The Devil, Disease And Deliverance: James 5:14-16.” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 1.2 (1993): 25-50. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.
Warfield, Benjamin Breckinridge. Counterfeit Miracles. London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1918. Print.
Wilkinson, John. The Bible and Healing: A Medical and Theological Commentary. Edinburgh: Eerdmans, 1998. Print.

The Prayer of Faith, Confession, and Righteousness

 

This is the fourth part in a series on James 5:14-18.  Check the first three posts in this series here: By His Stripes We are Made Whole ~ A Pentecostal Exposition of James 5:14-18* – Part 1: Historical and Literary ContextThree General Views on What James Means by “Sick”, and Elders, Oil and What the Sick are Saved From in James 5:14-18

The Prayer of Faith

So then what is the “prayer of faith” that secures such a healing?  First of all, it is the elders who are instructed to pray so it is their faith that is being exercised, not the sick individual (Thomas 40).  The definition of the prayer of faith is informed by James 1:5-8 which instructs Christians to pray for wisdom “in faith, with no doubting.”  Based upon this context, the Pentecostal scholar, J.C. Thomas, defines the prayer of faith as a petition “made with the confident expectation that God will hear and answer the prayer” with the caveat that it must be coupled with proper motives that are consistent with the general will of God (41).  As an attempt to explain why healing doesn’t take place every time a prayer is lifted up in faith, a number of scholars define the prayer of faith as a gift of faith in which God reveals His unpromised and hidden will to a person so that they have confidence that God will actually heal (Moo 245).  Although prayer should still be offered even if this confidence is not present, the only assurance the elders could have of the healing occurring is if this gift of faith is present (Warrington 358-9, Blomberg 244).  However there is no indication that this is the case nor is there overwhelming evidence that this was a concept in the early church.  It is more likely that the elders are being encouraged to exercise confident faith that God will heal the one who is sick every time they anoint them.  There is a “definite indication of expectancy” in the text that considers healing as a normative occurrence when the prayer is offered up in God-honoring faith (Purdy 521).  This will be fleshed out more when I lay out healing in the atonement.

Sin’s Effect on Sickness

With healing in mind, the second clause of verse 15 raises the question, “what is the relationship between sickness and sin?”  It is most likely that this verse is drawing a causal relationship between sin and sickness, with sin being the cause and sickness serving as the effect.  This idea is extremely present in the OT and in Jewish tradition (Davids 194).  It would be a grievous error to draw from this that sickness is always rooted in personal sin, especially since Jesus clearly condemned that idea in John 9:1-3 (Martin 210).  However the New Testament, and James specifically when he writes “and if he has committed sins”, acknowledges the possibility of sin causing sickness (Davids 194, Blomberg 244).  Additionally, even if sin is not the cause of the sickness, it is possible for sin to be hindering a healing from happening.  Therefore during the anointing ceremony for healing, the sick one should be asked if there is any sin that might be causing the sickness or hindering healing.  If the sickness is caused by sin it is very likely that the sick person will already be aware of it and unless it is obvious, the sick person is not commanded to find out what sin his hindering their healing (Thomas 44, Blomberg 244).

Preventative Medicine

Verse 16 piggy-backs off of 15 quite nicely when it says “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”  As a “preventative medicine” the congregation as a whole is commanded to confess their sins to one another and to pray for healing over each other (Davids 195).  This expands the role of healing to the entire church and not just the elders (McCartney 257).  This also extends the prayer of faith as a valid expression within the church at large, and not just the elders (Purdy 521).  This is further supported by James’ example of Elijah, a primer man of faith whose prayers stopped and then called rain from the sky.  It is not because of Elijah’s status as holy man or a prophet that James brings him up, however.  Rather it is because “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours” that James includes him (Jam. 5:17-18).  In the midst of suffering, God provides away to bring wholeness to the Jewish Christians both spiritually (confession of sin) and physically (healing).  By doing this, the community promotes the health of the whole congregation in the broadest possible sense (Moo 245).  Both of these commands are severely neglected in the Church at large, including Pentecostal churches (mostly in reference to mutual confession of sin).  If both of these are active in our churches, there would be a significant decrease in the need for elders to anoint the sick for healing because both sins and diseases would be dealt with by the priesthood of all believers!

Finally, what does James mean by “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective?” Well, the righteous person is any Christian who is actively doing God’s will, not just every positionally justified Christian (McKnight 449).  This is because James is working with a more OT Jewish understanding of righteousness and not Paul’s judicial understanding in Romans and Galatians.  Although many interpreters understand that this verse is teaching that the prayers effectual when they are “energized” by the God, this is probably not intended in the verse since a more natural reading is that a righteous person’s prayers are effective in their position.  Most likely because they have a lifestyle of wanting God’s will already (Moo 247).

In the fifth and final post in this series I explain how the Pentecostal doctrine of healing in the atonement helps us interpret some of the difficulties in James 5:14-18. Stay Tuned!

[*This blog series was originally a research paper for Dr. Keith Krell’s Romans class at MBI-Spokane under the title of By His Stripes the Community is Made Whole: A Pentecostal Exposition of James 5:13-18]

Works Cited

(This list of citations apply to the entire series and not just this post)

Blomberg, Craig, and Mariam J. Kamell. ZECNT: James. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2008. Print.
Bowden, Andrew M. “An Overview of the Interpretive Approaches to James 5.13-18.” Currents in Biblical Research 13.1 (2014): 67-81. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.
Carson, D. A. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1984. Print.
Davids, Peter H. NIGTC: The Epistle of James: A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1982. Print.
Holy Bible English Standard Version. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Bibles, 2001. Print.
Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1993. Print.
Kydd, R. A. N. “Healing in the Christian Church.” The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. Ed. Stanley M. Burgess. Rev. and Expanded ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 2002. 698-711. Print.
MacArthur, John. MNTC: James. Chicago, Ill.: Moody, 1998. Print.
McCartney, Dan. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: James. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2009. Print.
McKnight, Scot. NICNT: The Letter of James. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 2011. Print.
Moo, Douglas J. The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter of James. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Pub. ; 2000. Print.
Morris, Leon. PNTC: The Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans; 1992. Print.
Purdy, Vernon. “Divine Healing.” Systematic Theology. Ed. Stanley M. Horton. Revised ed. Springfield, Mo.: Logion, 2003. 489-524. Print.
Ropes, James Hardy. ICC: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle of St. James. Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1916. Print.
Serrao, C. Jeanne Orjala. NBBC: James: A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition. Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill of Kansas City, 2010. Print.
Tamez, Elsa. “James: A Circular Letter for Immigrants.” Review & Expositor 108.3 (2011): 369-380. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.
Thomas, John Christopher. “The Devil, Disease And Deliverance: James 5:14-16.” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 1.2 (1993): 25-50. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.
Warfield, Benjamin Breckinridge. Counterfeit Miracles. London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1918. Print.
Wilkinson, John. The Bible and Healing: A Medical and Theological Commentary. Edinburgh: Eerdmans, 1998. Print.

 

Elders, Oil and What the Sick are Saved From in James 5:14-18

This is the third part in a series on James 5:14-18.  Check the first two posts in this series here: By His Stripes We are Made Whole ~ A Pentecostal Exposition of James 5:14-18* – Part 1: Historical and Literary Context and Three General Views on What James Means by “Sick”

Why Elders?

Before moving on it is necessary to address the calling of elders to pray, and the use of oil to anoint the sick/weak one.  Regarding elders, it is important to note that they are called “elders of the church” instead of elders of the synagogue because it indicates the messianic and Christian nature of the community James is writing too (242).  The position of elders in the church was probably a carry-over from the existence of elders in the Jewish synagogue, in which elders were understood as the leaders of the community. It was usually the oldest male members of the synagogue that were elders and they were highly respected (Serrao 178-9).  By this time, however, it is probable that the position of elder in the church had become a much more official and formal office in congregations with a plurality of elders having authority over each congregation given the use of the term with in James, 1 Peter and the first 15 chapters of Acts (Moo 237).  The elders of the church are mostly called because their ministry is to oversee the spiritual and holistic health of their congregation and, because of their unique ministry to the weak, they serve as representatives of the Christian community as a whole, not just as individuals (Thomas 33).

Why Oil?

Now, when it comes to the issue of the anointing with oil, there is a plethora of interpretations.  There is generally three different evangelical views on what purpose the oil is serving in 5:14 with a number of subordinate interpretations within those categories.  The three approaches are

  1.  Medicinal View – The oil is used as medicine for the sick believer.
  2.  Sacramental View – The oil sacramentally communicates grace.
  3.  Symbolic View – The oil serves as a symbol (Moo 238-240).

 

  1. Medicinal – The Medicinal view points out that historically and biblically anointing people with oil was a common practice for curing anything from a headache to systematic illness and renal colic (MacArthur 277-8, Ropes 304-5, and Wilkinson
    248-9).  Another strength of this view is that the Greek word for “anointing” that is used in the verse is the one that generally refers to applying oil medicinally or smearing it on the body instead of another word for anointing which is usually used for religious or ceremonial purposes (Wilkinson 248).
  2. Sacramental – The sacramental view is understood in two ways.  Catholics interpret the anointing as the seventh sacrament of Extreme Unction and that the anointing brings forgiveness of all unconfessed sin up to the point of death, but not necessarily physical healing (Bowden 71-72).  This, however is very exegetically suspect since there is nothing that necessitates that the person is actually dying and verse 15 points out that it is the prayer of faith, not the oil that is instrumental in bringing about the healing (McKnight 439).  The more plausible sacramental approach is that the anointing oil can convey the grace of physical healing as “a sacramental vehicle of divine power” much like the Lord’s Supper in the Reformed and Lutheran traditions (Davids 193).  This view finds its basis in the fact that miraculous healing was attributed to oil in parts of the earlier Jewish tradition and that Mk. 6:13 also has an example of the disciples anointing people with oil and healing them (193-4).
  3. Symbolic – The symbolic view points out that anointing someone with oil was frequently used as a way of demonstrating symbolically God’s blessing, gifting, consecration or empowerment (Gen. 28:18, Ex. 28:41, Num. 3:3) (McCartney 253-4).  Although Dr. Warrington points out a number of different things the oil could be symbolizing from other Scriptures, from which he accepts all of them as mutually true symbolic options, most convincing by far is that the anointing is symbolically applied as a sign of God’s consecration of the sick believer for His healing (Moo 240, Warrington 353-7).  Anointing with oil as a symbol of consecration is the slightly more convincing option because the two options fall short of giving a convincing defense.  When it comes the medicinal view, it doesn’t make sense for God to command the universal application of oil for all ailments which is what would have to be confessed if one is to follow the exhortation of the passage.  Oil wasn’t used for all illnesses back in James’ day nor does it make sense that the elders should specifically be called to apply it (Moo 241).  In response to the sacramental view, although more consistent with evangelicalism, Davids view doesn’t make sense when verse 15 is brought in consideration and falls to the same critique that the Catholic approach fail to deal with (242).

The debate continues in verse 15 which continues, “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”  Before addressing the prayer of faith and the relationship between sin and healing it is necessary to bring up the debate about what kind of weakness James is a addressing and what kind of solution he is providing.  There are three words that are influential in this debate: 1) σώσει; translated – “will save” 2) κάμνοντα; translated – “sick” 3) ἐγερεῖ; translated – “will raise up.”  The spiritual weakness view understand this verse to be saying that the prayer of faith will save the spiritually sick Christian and it will spiritual raise his spirits and encourage him.  This view finds solace in the fact that σώσει refers to spiritual salvation in all four of the other instances it is used in James and the only other use of κάμνοντα in the NT is referring to spiritual disability (Heb. 12:3) (MacArthur 278, Moo 242-3).  Additionally a spiritual restoration fits well within the rest of the verse, they argue, because James immediately promises forgiveness for those who have sinned, emphasizing the spiritual dimension of restoration (MacArthur 279).

However the physical healing view also has a strong argument.  Advocates of this view point out that both σώσει (Mt. 9:21, Mk. 9:21, Lk. 8:48) and ἐγερεῖ (Mt. 9:5-7, Mk. 1:31; 9:37, Acts 3:7) are frequently used to refer to physical healing and restoration in the Gospels and the book of Acts, which carry the most weight within James’ thinking (Thomas 41-42).  Additionally, 4 out of the 6 uses of κάμνοντα in the Septuagint a
re in reference to physical healing (Moo 243).  Also, the second clause of 15 doesn’t actually support the spiritual healing view because the forgiveness of sins is only included as an add-on (“If he has sinned”) to the primary theme of healing (243).  It should be pointed out that a number of scholars take these Greek words, and therefore the passage, to intentionally have a physical/spiritual double meaning so that it can apply to both (McCartney 256-7, Warrington 350-1).

For the sake of clarity from here on out, it is necessary for me to admit that I firmly find myself in the physical healing approach to interpreting this passage.  Based upon the arguments provided and a number of other pieces of evidence I find the view the most convincing even though there are strong scholarly advocates in the other two main camps.  Without belaboring the point too much, there are a number of reasons to reject the spiritual healing and physical-spiritual inclusive views.  Th
e physical healing approach is the most natural way of interpreting the text and the passage’s lexical pieces, OT and gospel backdrop, and the narrative elements point towards a description of physical healing (Moo 243, Ropes 308).  The spiritual view has very little exegetical warrant and ordinarily it “appears to be offered for dogmatic reasons” (McCartney 252, Thomas 31).  And although the inclusivistic approach is much more respectable, it is mostly based on lexicography, and the contextual elements don’t point toward any double meaning in the words.  In the words of Dr. Douglas Moo, the inclusive view “violates a cardinal principle of semantics: never give a word more meaning than the context requires.  A physical restoration is all that the context requires… everything makes sense as a description of physical healing” (Moo 243).  Both the spiritual and the spiritual-physical approaches seem to violate the plain meaning of the text and are therefore rejected.

In the fourth post in this series I explain what James means by the prayer of faith and the effects of sin and righteousness on healing prayer in James 5:14-18. Stay Tuned!

[*This blog series was originally a research paper for Dr. Keith Krell’s Romans class at MBI-Spokane under the title of By His Stripes the Community is Made Whole: A Pentecostal Exposition of James 5:13-18]

Works Cited

(This list of citations apply to the entire series and not just this post)

Blomberg, Craig, and Mariam J. Kamell. ZECNT: James. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2008. Print.
Bowden, Andrew M. “An Overview of the Interpretive Approaches to James 5.13-18.” Currents in Biblical Research 13.1 (2014): 67-81. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.
Carson, D. A. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1984. Print.
Davids, Peter H. NIGTC: The Epistle of James: A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1982. Print.
Holy Bible English Standard Version. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Bibles, 2001. Print.
Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1993. Print.
Kydd, R. A. N. “Healing in the Christian Church.” The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. Ed. Stanley M. Burgess. Rev. and Expanded ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 2002. 698-711. Print.
MacArthur, John. MNTC: James. Chicago, Ill.: Moody, 1998. Print.
McCartney, Dan. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: James. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2009. Print.
McKnight, Scot. NICNT: The Letter of James. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 2011. Print.
Moo, Douglas J. The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter of James. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Pub. ; 2000. Print.
Morris, Leon. PNTC: The Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans; 1992. Print.
Purdy, Vernon. “Divine Healing.” Systematic Theology. Ed. Stanley M. Horton. Revised ed. Springfield, Mo.: Logion, 2003. 489-524. Print.
Ropes, James Hardy. ICC: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle of St. James. Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1916. Print.
Serrao, C. Jeanne Orjala. NBBC: James: A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition. Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill of Kansas City, 2010. Print.
Tamez, Elsa. “James: A Circular Letter for Immigrants.” Review & Expositor 108.3 (2011): 369-380. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.
Thomas, John Christopher. “The Devil, Disease And Deliverance: James 5:14-16.” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 1.2 (1993): 25-50. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.
Warfield, Benjamin Breckinridge. Counterfeit Miracles. London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1918. Print.
Wilkinson, John. The Bible and Healing: A Medical and Theological Commentary. Edinburgh: Eerdmans, 1998. Print.

Three General Views on What James Means by “Sick”

This is the second part in a series on James 5:14-18.  Check the first post in this series here: By His Stripes We are Made Whole ~ A Pentecostal Exposition of James 5:14-18* – Part 1: Historical and Literary Context

The Meaning of ἀσθενεῖ 

It is here in verse 14 that we begin to get to the nitty gritty of exegesis.  Following the same
interrogative-imperative format that is seen in 13, James shifts from individual exhortation to the corporate instruction when he writes, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” Because of how complex the divisions are between interpretations of 5:14-16, I will move phrase by phrase through each verse and present the relevant issues while providing a cumulative case for my interpretation at the end of the exposition.  Beginning with the meaning of “sick” here in 14.  The Greek word for “sick” in this verse, ἀσθενεῖ, primarily means some kind of weakness in its root form. Although usually referring to either physical weakness (i.e. illness, disability; (Matt. 10:8, Mark 6:56, Lk. 4:40, Jn. 4:46, Acts 9:37) or spiritual weakness in the New Testament (Acts 20:35, Rom. 4:19, 1 Cor. 8:11-12), in the broader context of ancient Greek literature the word can refer to a wide and diverse list of weaknesses and states of vulnerability (MacArthur 276, Warrington 347).

Here I will mainly address three general interpretations of the word ἀσθενεῖ, as well as the rest of 5:13-18, despite the fact that Andrew Bowden distinguishes 7 distinct approaches to the passage (Bowden 68).  This is because the other four interpretations are either extreme minorities or integrative subsets of the three interpretations I address.  The three approaches under investigation are

  1. Spiritual View – The weakness is referring to spiritual weakness; the healing is spiritual healing.
  2. Physical Sickness View – The weakness is physical sickness/injury and he healing is physical restoration.
  3. Inclusive View – The weakness and healing are both physical and spiritual (68).

 

The 3 views Explained:

  1. Representing the spiritual weakness view, MacArthur argues that ἀσθενεῖ should be understood in a Pauline sense since Paul almost always uses the word in the context of spiritual weakness.  In this view, than, “the weak are those who have been defeated in the spiritual battle… they are the fallen spiritual warriors, the exhausted, weary, depressed” (MacArthur 277).  Interpreting the weak in this way it fits within the context of the suffering Diaspora and rests well within the direct stream of thought of chapter 5.  In this approach, the spiritually weak Christian is calling the elders, who are responsible for the congregation’s spiritual well-being, to pray for the weak one to be restored to a vigorous Christian spirituality in the midst of suffering (277).
  2. The physical sickness view, which has the most scholarly adherents out of all the views, finds its foundation in the fact that the vast majority of the uses of ἀσθενεῖ in the gospels and the book of acts are in reference to physical weakness despite Paul’s almost universal use of it as spiritual (Thomas 30, Blomberg and Kamell 242).  A number of factors point in this direction.  First of all, it is universally acknowledged that James is heavily influenced by the teachings of his brother Jesus and it is likely that his use of terms would be consistent with gospels.  Additionally, “the appearance of ἀσθενεῖ (v. 14) on the heels of (v. 13) Κακοπαθεῖ would suggest a change of topic, from those who are distressed or discouraged to those who are physically ill” (Thomas 31).  The structure of the passage suggests a difference between the meanings in verses 13 and 14.  Also, if it was just spiritual weakness being discussed, there would be no need to call the elders to them to pray for them, they could have just gone to the elders themselves.  Only extreme medical need seems to be implied here (Davids 192).
  3. The third view (inclusive approach) accepts both the physical and spiritual interpretations of weakness while going further by including weakness of a general nature (societal status, mental health, gender discrimination, personal inadequacy etc.) (Bowden 75-76, Warrington 347-51).  They argue that lexically the ἀσθενεῖ could be interpreted any number of ways.  At least according to scholars in this camp James has not made it definitively clear what use of the word is being employed.  Advocates of this view push hard against any attempt to disambiguate James’ use of the word because they postulate that James actually deliberately intended for the word to be ambiguous so that it could refer to any kind of weakness, physical or otherwise (Bowden 76, Warrington 350).  This interpretation is very pastorally applicable and allows for a pluralistic approach of sheparding ministry.  This approach to lexical interpretation will come up in other passages as well.

In the third post in this series I explain what my view of the problem and the healing are, as well as an explanation of the role of elders, laying on of hands, and anointing oil, in James 5:14-18.

 

 

[*This blog series was originally a research paper for Dr. Keith Krell’s Romans class at MBI-Spokane under the title of By His Stripes the Community is Made Whole: A Pentecostal Exposition of James 5:13-18]

Works Cited

(This list of citations apply to the entire series and not just this post)

Blomberg, Craig, and Mariam J. Kamell. ZECNT: James. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2008. Print.
Bowden, Andrew M. “An Overview of the Interpretive Approaches to James 5.13-18.” Currents in Biblical Research 13.1 (2014): 67-81. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.
Carson, D. A. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1984. Print.
Davids, Peter H. NIGTC: The Epistle of James: A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1982. Print.
Holy Bible English Standard Version. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Bibles, 2001. Print.
Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1993. Print.
Kydd, R. A. N. “Healing in the Christian Church.” The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. Ed. Stanley M. Burgess. Rev. and Expanded ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 2002. 698-711. Print.
MacArthur, John. MNTC: James. Chicago, Ill.: Moody, 1998. Print.
McCartney, Dan. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: James. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2009. Print.
McKnight, Scot. NICNT: The Letter of James. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 2011. Print.
Moo, Douglas J. The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter of James. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Pub. ; 2000. Print.
Morris, Leon. PNTC: The Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans; 1992. Print.
Purdy, Vernon. “Divine Healing.” Systematic Theology. Ed. Stanley M. Horton. Revised ed. Springfield, Mo.: Logion, 2003. 489-524. Print.
Ropes, James Hardy. ICC: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle of St. James. Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1916. Print.
Serrao, C. Jeanne Orjala. NBBC: James: A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition. Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill of Kansas City, 2010. Print.
Tamez, Elsa. “James: A Circular Letter for Immigrants.” Review & Expositor 108.3 (2011): 369-380. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.
Thomas, John Christopher. “The Devil, Disease And Deliverance: James 5:14-16.” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 1.2 (1993): 25-50. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.
Warfield, Benjamin Breckinridge. Counterfeit Miracles. London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1918. Print.
Wilkinson, John. The Bible and Healing: A Medical and Theological Commentary. Edinburgh: Eerdmans, 1998. Print.

Response to Question #1 for Continuationists from Tony Ross Jr.’s

By Kyle Rouse

This is in response to the first question raised to Continuationists by Tony Lee Ross Jr. from the Reformed Collective in his post A Case for Cessationism.

1.) Do you believe what we call the sign gifts will ever cease, if so, when?

It is obvious that the Scriptures teach that the sign gifts will cease (1 Cor. 13:8). What is less obvious is when these gifts will cease.

I do not think that what Paul calls “the perfect” (vs. 10) refers to the complete canon of Scripture. I think that “the perfect” refers to a time when God will make all things new. I think that it refers to the culmination of God’s reign in the new heavens and the new earth.

The word that the NASB translates “perfect” is the Greek word tevleion. In Paul’s theology, this word (and idea of perfection) seems always to refer to the time when God will redeem all things and dwell with his people. This is the time of seeing “face to face” and “knowing and being fully known” that Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 13:12. It is the time that God and His people will dwell with one another “perfectly”, or, in a complete and ultimate manner.

The sign gifts mentioned (prophecy, tongues, and knowledge) are all revelatory gifts. God speaks to/through individuals by the means of those gifts. (Let’s not focus here on the purported use of these gifts today; let’s just focus on how Paul uses them in his argument). Paul is convinced that these gifts will cease when we no longer need them, i.e. when we see God face to face and we know Him just as we are fully known.

The first century church had no concept of a “canon” of Scripture. They certainly recognized certain documents as divinely authoritative (1 Tim. 3:15-16, 2 Peter 3:16) and belonging to a group of documents call “Scripture” but that group of documents does not seem to have been set in stone. Furthermore, there was no notion in the first century church that God was going to stop speaking through church leaders the way he had through the 12 apostles. Furthermore, there was no connection of the continuation/cessation of the sign gifts to the close of the canon. That is an anachronistic reading of 1 Corinthians 13:8 by theologians who lived centuries later and it does not make any sense with the context of 1 Corinthians 12-14.

To see the other posts in this series check out the following articles –Charismata in the Early Church: Part 1 of a Response to Tony Ross Jr.’s “A Case for Cessationism” and  Tongues – A Sign of Judgement: A Response to Tony L. Ross Jr. Regarding Tongues in 1 Cor. 14

Also, other posts by Kyle Rouse – An Argument for the New Perspective in Galatians 2:11-21 Pt. 1 ~ Introduction, Context, and OverviewAn Argument for the New Perspective in Galatians 2:11-21 Pt. 2 ~ Analysis and Application

The Essential Nature of Speaking in Tongues

{Editoral Note: This last and final response to Tony’s post on Cessationism has taken a while to get out given that he published it in the end of March.  I intended on responding sooner, but with planning a wedding, getting married, and getting established in our new home in Chicago, I have not had the time necessary to dedicate to getting out something worth posting.  I also decided to put a little bit more effort into this post since a number of people have asked me to lay out a more  in-depth overview of a generally Charismatic approach to tongues.  So a response to Ross Jr.’s post is no longer the main intention of this being written. However, it was the the launching pad of the discussion so I have added it as a final reference to our dialogue.  I want to thank him for his willingness to go back and forth with us and he is free to respond, but this will be our last entry in this series.}

At the end of Tony Lee Ross Jr.’s post he asked a number of questions of Continuationists that pertain to the content of his article. This post is a response to his second and third questions, which are presented and answered in their published order.

2.) What is the purpose of tongues today, if as Paul said, they are a sign for unbelievers?

In my previous response, I addressed what Paul meant by tongues “as a sign for unbelievers” so I will simply refer to it here – Tongues – A Sign of Judgement: A Response to Tony L. Ross Jr. Regarding Tongues in 1 Cor. 14.  In short, when Paul makes that statement, he is not describing the normative nature of tongues, nor its divinely designed purpose.  The passage is merely laying out what the result of tongues without interpretation is to the perception of an unbeliever in the church assembly.

However I will lay out what the Bible does describe as the purpose of tongues. First of all, it is a common error among Cessationists to interpret all accounts of the gift of tongues through the events of Pentecost in Acts 2, in which tongues was clearly understood by the Jewish observers as human languages/dialects. This is a grievous error, because instead of taking all of the accounts of tongues in to account and then forming a theology of the nature of the gift, Cessationists force the well-rounded peg of the full Scriptural witness through the square hole of one passage.  The Pentecostal interpretation, on the other hand, takes all of the passages into account first, and then puts together a holistic theology of tongues.  So first I will make a number of observations from all the passages on tongues and then will pull together a number of conclusions that can be drawn for a whole-picture view of the Scriptural witness.

Acts 2

It is almost universally recognized that the tongues in this chapter were understood as human languages.  However the entire passage is merely a description of what happened and Luke does not, in any way, seek to explicitly or implicitly lay out a definition of the gift of tongues.  It is simply not his focus.  These are the concrete deductions that can be made from this passage:

  • The tongues were existing human languages that the speakers had not previously learned, or at least mastered (Acts 2:6-11).
  • The tongues served as a evangelistic sign to the yet-unconverted Jews. (However, it was actually Peter’s preaching that lead to their final conversion (Acts 2:14-41).

Acts 10:44-48

In Acts 10, Peter is accompanied by a few Jewish Christians to visit Cornelius (a Roman Centurion from the Italian Cohort and a Gentile) and his household.  When they get there, Peter preaches the Gospel to the Gentile audience and all at once Cornelius, his household, and all of his guests are regenerated by the Holy Spirit falling on them and they begin to speak in tongues and extol God.  Now, the interesting thing is that everyone is now a Christian in the room because everyone Peter brought were believers and all the unbelievers just got converted.  Additionally, everyone spoke the same language since they all had faith in response to Peter’s preaching and they were all from the same region (Cornelius and his household were well known in the area among the Jews and would have spoken the language of the locals even though they were not Jewish, and most Jews would have spoken Greek or Latin if the Romans didn’t know Aramaic).  So there was no need for the tongues in the audience at hand nor was there any indication of a gift of interpretation.  So here are the observations.

  • Unlike Acts 2 the tongues are not used evangelistically since everyone was a Christian at that point (10:44).
  • They would not have understood the tongues spoken since they already could speak each other’s languages. (NOTE: this does not necessarily speak to the nature of tongues, it merely opens the door to other interpretations than just human languages).
  • There is no indication that any gift of interpretation was utilized nor is there any indication that the Jewish believers understood what was being spoken.

Acts 19:1-7

In this passage, Paul basically preaches the Gospel to 12 Ephesians who were disciples of John at some point and they all end up converting.  Once Paul baptizes them, he lays hands on them and they all begin to speak in tongues and prophecy. The same observations of Acts 10 are present in Acts 19.

  • Tongues is not used evangelistically in Acts 19 either.  In fact, tongues in both 10 and 19 are simply a worshipful result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
  • Everyone spoke the same language since Paul was able to successfully preach to the Gospel to them and have a conversation about their level of discipleship, so there was no communicational need for the tongues.
  • The tongues must have been different than the tongues that they all understood.
  • There is no indication of a gift of interpretation present in the scenario either.

1 Corinthians 12

The only passages relevant to the discussion in this chapter state the fact that the gift is not universally given to all believers (thus ruling out the Classical Pentecostal doctrine of initial evidence) (12:30).

Additionally, 12:10 informs us that the Spirit gives various kinds of tongues and the gift of interpretation of tongues to different people.  Not much can be asserted about the gifts just based on this list but I think it is important to note that both the tongues and the interpretation are flowing from the Spirit.  This is significant because if tongues was simply human languages, you wouldn’t necessarily need someone with the the gift of interpretation to interpret.  You would simply need to find someone who spoke that language.  This would not always be a solution, but in major cities such as Corinth this would be a definite possibility.

1 Corinthians 13

In this chapter, Paul states that the tongue-speaker, whether he speaks in a tongue of men or of angels, is nothing unless he/she has love (13:1).  Additionally, Paul states that tongues will pass away when the perfect/complete arrives (13:8-9).

Not much can be conclusively deduced about the nature of tongues from these two verses, however there are somethings worth noting:

  • Paul mentions both the tongues of men and the tongues of angels.  This provides one possible explanation of the nature of tongues, vis-a-vis tongues, at least in one mode, can be the language of angels.  It is possible that Paul is speaking hyperbolically here and does not intend it to be understood as the language of angels. However, there is some historical precedence for interpreting tongues as angelic speech, since the Jews already believed that angels had their own language and that the Spirit of God could cause someone to speak it (Fee 200-201).  A Pentecostal understanding of the gift of tongues does not hinge on whether or not tongues is the tongue of angels however.
  • For a number of reasons the cessation of tongues in 13:8-9 can only refer to Christ’s final return and not the completion of the canon or the apostolic age.  Paul says it will happen when we “see face to face” and that “we will know even as we are fully known” (13:12).  Which could only take place at Christ’s return when he restores all things.

1 Corinthians 14

Almost this entire chapter addresses the subject of tongues so I won’t go verse by verse through it, I will highlight the general characteristics of the gift of tongues that we can see in the passage.

  • When one speaks in a tongue he/she “speak not to men but to God” (1 Cor. 14:2) This is a major hole  in the argument for tongues merely referring to human languages. The object of the speech is not actually directed towards men, but to God. Therefore it can properly be understood as praying in tongues.
  • Additionally it states that “no one understands him, for he utters mysteries in (or by) the Spirit”(14:2). This shows that at least the tongues Paul is speaking about is not understood by anyone unless it is accompanied by interpretation.  This does not rule out that sometimes tongues is manifested in a mode that is understood in someone’s birth language, such as in Acts 2.  But it does show that tongues exists in one mode or way, in which is not naturally understood by anyone.
  • Tongues builds up/edifies the person who is speaking/praying in tongues (14:4). – Since it is mysteries that are being uttered an explanation of how this exactly happens may be outside the realm of what we can objectively conclude.
  • The use of tongues in the congregation should only be for the upbuilding of the body (14:5-6, 12, 26).
  • Tongues is only valuable to others if it is understood (14:6).
  • Someone who speaks in a tongue can also be the person who interprets the tongue, but only if God gives them the power to do that (14:13).
  • When a person prays in tongues they are praying with their spirit (14:14), yet still by the Holy Spirit (14:2, 12:10-11).
  • When praying in tongues, the mind is unfruitful (or inactive) (14:14).
  • Paul prays with his spirit, and with his mind – or in tongues and with known languages (14:15).  Since Paul does both, it is clear that praying in tongues with the mind unfruitful is not sinful and is actually apart of Paul’s spirituality.
  • Paul sings in tongues as well (14:15).  So clearly tongues can take the form of a song, which possibly could be one manifestation of what it means to sing “spiritual songs” in Col. 3:16 and Eph. 5:19.
  • Speaking/singing in tongues can be viewed as acceptable thanksgiving to God.  But only if it is not done in the congregation, unless it is interpreted (14:16-17).
  • Paul spoke in tongues frequently, but never in the congregation unless it was interpreted (14:18-19).  This further solidifies the idea that tongues can be uses as a “private prayer language” if you will.
  • For tongues as a sign to unbelievers in 1 Cor. 14:20-25 see Tongues – A Sign of Judgement: A Response to Tony L. Ross Jr. Regarding Tongues in 1 Cor. 14.
  • Only two or three people should be allowed to speak in tongues in the congregation (14:27).  The focus of the service should not be on based on messages in tongues.
  • If there is no one to interpret the tongue, the speaker can pray quietly in tongues, but should do it silently so that it is not a disturbance to the rest of the congregation (14:28).
  • Tongues should not be forbidden in the congregation (14:39).  Paul’s instructions are on how to use it correctly and in order, not to condemn its use (14:40).

Summary

Given the breakdown above, tongues is clearly shown to have multiple manifestations. Image result for Paul in Corinth Three possible uses/manifestations of tongues are made evident: 1) A human language used for proclamation of the Gospel, 2) A prayer language that edifies the individual believer, 3) A message in tongues for the congregation that is accompanied by the gift of interpretation for the edification of the whole assembly.  Although members of the Charismatic movement have sometimes abused the gift of tongues and have perpetuated false teaching regarding tongues in some situations, the Pentecostal understanding of the gift is a much more accurate understanding of the biblical witness than the one presented by Classical Cessationism.

3.) Why do we only see abuses and copycat errors of the gifts and not the gifts themselves?

This question is simply fallacious. Tony assumes (without proving) his own understanding of the gifts and then makes another assumption that we only see abuses of those gifts today.  It is the personal experience of the writer, and the confession of many respected leaders in the Church, that many 1st hand examples of the gifts are witnessed and experienced around us that are both in line with the biblical witness and beneficial for the church at large.  I actually have been the person in a church that gave a message in tongues by the prompting of the Spirit, which was subsequently interpreted by a member of the congregation, also by the prompting of the Spirit.  This was done under the authority of the elders and during a point in the service when it would not be disruptive.  All of it was perfectly in line with the scriptural guidelines for the use of tongues in 1 Corinthians 14.

For some respected Christians talking about their experiences and understandings of the gifts check out these videos:

John Piper:

Sam Storms:

Matt Chandler on another gift of the Spirit:

 

For a link to Tony Lee Ross Jr. article:
For Kyle Rouse and I’s other responses:
Works Cited
Fee, Gordon D. God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994. Print. – In reference to the Testament of Job 48:3

By His Stripes We are Made Whole ~ A Pentecostal Exposition of James 5:14-18* – Part 1: Historical and Literary Context

Introduction

Healing has never been a foreign concept to Christian Church since Her conception at Pentecost. Although there has been periods of church history in which healing has fluctuated in its level of normativity, it has been almost universally accepted in Christianity that God at least occasionally heals. However, this is right about where the unanimous consensus ends. Different understandings abound when it comes to forming a working theology of healing for the Church. In 1906, Pentecostalism burst on the interpretative scene of theology with its own dynamic and practical approach to divine healing. One of the most central passages to understanding a biblical theology of healing in the Church is James 5:13-16.

There is no majority opinion on this passage (Bowden 68). This can be attributed to the fact that these six verses are fraught with intricate interpretive challenges. In the words of one scholar, “this brief passage is remarkably full of difficult problems. Virtually every verse either evinces interpretive difficulties or raises complex theological questions” (McCartney 251). In this essay I argue that Pentecostal experience and theology provide a challenging clarity to this quandradic passage. After interacting with the most respected minority views on the passage and arguing for a specific interpretation, I will demonstrate that the Pentecostal concept of healing in the atonement: 1) is substantiated by James 5:13-16; 2) serves as a helpful lens for a holistic theological interpretation of the this section of James.

Historical Context
The book of James is written to the Jewish Christians in the Diaspora who are spread, as immigrants and refugees, throughout the Roman Empire and beyond (James 1:1, Tamez 370). The author of the epistle is most likely James, one of the apostolic leaders of the church in Jerusalem and the half-brother of Jesus. Although there is a considerable amount of scholarship that has tried to challenge this, none of their arguments are convincing (Moo 9-20). Since there is no apparent hint that there are any Gentile converts in the community of James’ audience, the book is most likely dated around mid-40s AD right before the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 (26). A number of good suggestions have been provided that succeed as working themes for the book of James (faith in the midst of suffering, consistency, wisdom) but the most overarching theme in my opinion is the idea of “wholeness” in the Christian life as purposed by Dr. Douglas Moo (Morgan 40, Moo 46, Tamez 372).
5:13-16 fits well within this broad concept wholeness and especially within the more specific context of chapter 5. It is clear throughout the book of James that the Jews who make up James’ audience are mostly impoverished and are facing both persecution and economic oppression from the unbelieving rich. A lot of the conflict in the book of James that is addressed concerning the diasporic community is usually connected in some way to the reality of poverty and oppression experienced by the Jewish Christians (Tamez 370-3). This comes to a climax in chapter 5 in which James promises great judgement on the landowners who were taking advantage of the Christians (5:1-6), encourages the believing community to stay united in patience as they wait for the coming Lord (5:7-11), and, in the midst of a dishonest world, he instructs them to be consistently truthful in their speech (5:12) (Keener, IVP 700-2). Any analysis of 5:13-16 needs to keep the suffering, persecuted and oppressed nature of the Diaspora in consideration.

Literary Context
This leads us to our text, beginning with verse 13, which says: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise” (ESV). Before jumping into verse 13 itself it is important to point out that although this passage gets a lot of attention because of its controversial statements about healing, the main theme is actually prayer in the midst of an oppressive environment. James makes it so clear that this is the topic of 5:13-18 that he mentions prayer in every single verse (MacArthur 274). Verse 13 encompass James’ instructions to individuals facing tough situations. The first part of the verse addresses any believers in the congregation that are enduring suffering. The Greek word that is translated “suffering” in this verse, “Κακοπαθεῖ”, most likely does not refer to the external oppressive pressure on the believer, but to the mental/emotional distress or depression that is produced by it (Serrao 178). Instead of reacting in violence or resting in a stoically passive resignation James instructs the depressed believer to actively engage with the God of the universe in relationship and petition (Blomberg 241).

The second part of 13 deals with another individual disposition. James addresses the person who is cheerful. The external situation is not necessarily different between the person who is depressed and this person who is cheerful. Like Κακοπαθεῖ, the Greek word for “cheerful,” “εὐθυμεῖ,” is referring to an attitude or emotion of happiness, confidence and courage regardless of circumstances (McKnight 433). This is exactly the “pure joy” James speaks about in the beginning his letter in 1:2 “when you meet trials of various kinds. James instructs individual believers in such a state to sing praise for a number of reasons. Most commentators highlight the humbling effect singing praises has on an exalted and cheerful person as they rightly acknowledge God’s rightful place, however worshipful songs also serve to perpetuate and make permanent the cheerful of the thriving believer and can result in the encouragement of a depressed fellow believer who is on-looking (Davids 192, Martin 206, Serrao 183). Pentecostal worship within impoverished Latin America is a vibrant expression of this truth.

In the next post in this series I will get in to the nitty gritty of exegeting James 5:14-18, starting with a discussion on the three views of what James means by ἀσθενεῖ. Stay Tuned!

[*This blog series was originally a research paper for Dr. Keith Krell’s Romans class at MBI-Spokane under the title of By His Stripes the Community is Made Whole: A Pentecostal Exposition of James 5:13-18]

                                                                          Works Cited

Blomberg, Craig, and Mariam J. Kamell. ZECNT: James. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2008. Print.
Bowden, Andrew M. “An Overview of the Interpretive Approaches to James 5.13-18.” Currents in Biblical Research 13.1 (2014): 67-81. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.
Carson, D. A. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1984. Print.
Davids, Peter H. NIGTC: The Epistle of James: A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1982. Print.
Holy Bible English Standard Version. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Bibles, 2001. Print.
Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1993. Print.
Kydd, R. A. N. “Healing in the Christian Church.” The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. Ed. Stanley M. Burgess. Rev. and Expanded ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 2002. 698-711. Print.
MacArthur, John. MNTC: James. Chicago, Ill.: Moody, 1998. Print.
McCartney, Dan. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: James. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2009. Print.
McKnight, Scot. NICNT: The Letter of James. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 2011. Print.
Moo, Douglas J. The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter of James. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Pub. ; 2000. Print.
Morris, Leon. PNTC: The Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans; 1992. Print.
Purdy, Vernon. “Divine Healing.” Systematic Theology. Ed. Stanley M. Horton. Revised ed. Springfield, Mo.: Logion, 2003. 489-524. Print.
Ropes, James Hardy. ICC: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle of St. James. Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1916. Print.
Serrao, C. Jeanne Orjala. NBBC: James: A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition. Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill of Kansas City, 2010. Print.
Tamez, Elsa. “James: A Circular Letter for Immigrants.” Review & Expositor 108.3 (2011): 369-380. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.
Thomas, John Christopher. “The Devil, Disease And Deliverance: James 5:14-16.” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 1.2 (1993): 25-50. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.
Warfield, Benjamin Breckinridge. Counterfeit Miracles. London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1918. Print.
Wilkinson, John. The Bible and Healing: A Medical and Theological Commentary. Edinburgh: Eerdmans, 1998. Print.

Predestined to be Perfected in Love* ~ Pt. 3: Wesley’s Hermeneutic and Calvinistic Wesleyanism

{This is the third post in a series on a Calvinistic approach to Wesley’s Christian Perfection.  To see the first tw0 posts check out Predestined to be Perfected in Love* ~ Pt. 1: What Christian Perfection is Not and Predestined to be Perfected in Love* ~ Pt. 2: What Christian Perfection is and What it is For}

A Hermeneutic of Love

In order to understand Wesley’s idea of sanctification, one has to understand that he is not beginning with a theology of sin, he is working with a “hermeneutic of love.”16 Wesley deduced that not only was loving God the greatest commandment, it was also the fulfillment of the whole law (Mat. 22:37-8, Rom. 13:8-10).  According to Wesley, loving God “is the point aimed at by the whole and every part of the Christian institution.”17 Therefore, through entire sanctification, a Christian who is perfected in love and is able to fulfill the whole law (Rom. 8:4).  Wesley does not ignore the issue of sin in sanctification though. For Wesley, being perfected in love implies “love excluding sin.”18 Perfect love for God removes all willful motivation to sin so that “a Christian is so far perfect as not to commit sin.”19 (Wesley “On Perfection” 410).

This last phrase, “as not to commit sin,” brings up one of the most misunderstood and difficult aspects of Wesley’s theology.  Wesley has a very particular and nuanced understanding of sin.  Much of the misunderstanding that those unfamiliar with Wesley have with him rests in the fact that Wesley is working with two distinct types of sin.  They are voluntary and involuntary sin.20 Both types can be placed under a legal understanding of sin.  This legal approach encompasses the fullness of the divine standard and can be defined as anything that “falls short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).  This is generally the definition of sin that is discussed and utilized theologically in Reformed circles.  However, a more nuanced type that is also present in Scripture is ethical or voluntary sin.  Voluntary sins are defined as “any voluntary transgression of a known law” of God.21  These two distinct types can be demonstrated by the different sacrifices that God demands in the Mosaic Law for intentional versus unintentional sin (Taylor 71-3; Lev. 4:27-28, 5:17; Num. 15:30).  No Christian is freed in this life completely from sins that flow from ignorance, finitude, or physical weakness, nor are is the Christian freed from sins of surprise or from strong temptations to transgress God’s law (Oden 231-5).  Therefore a Christian will always be in need of daily repentance and the atoning work of Christ.  In this way, involuntary and unintentional sins are still consistent with a heart purified by the love of God.22 Although Christians will always sin unintentionally, a Christian can be freed from all intentional and voluntary sinning through being perfected in love.23 When someone loves God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, there can be no room for sinful motivations. No component of the person will have space for willful rebellion when he or she is completely and holistically consumed with a love for God.  Pure love is undivided and cannot but purify intentions of the soul that it fills.  This should not be understood as a weak or truncated view of sin, nor should it be seen as a high view of man. Rather it is characterized by an optimism of grace and a faith in all the promises of God.24

Calvinistic Wesleyanism

This optimism of grace captured my heart and mind as I studied Wesleyanism. I now believe, after studying Wesley and the Scriptures, in the hope of being perfected in love in this life.  Even though Wesley was staunchly Arminian and strongly opposed to Calvinism, I am convinced that Calvinism greatly compliments and informs the doctrine of entire sanctification.25 For example, one of the results of being perfected in love is absolute submission to God’s will. Wesley describes the one so sanctified in this way: “Whether in life or death, he gives thanks from the ground of the heart to Him who orders it for good, into whose hands he has wholly committed his body and soul.”26 Entire sanctification allows the Christian to fully submit and praise God for His sovereign will. Christian perfection is not only consistent with Calvinism, it makes the Calvinist a better Calvinist. Additionally, becoming entirely sanctified cannot be seen as something that man works in himself independently from God’s will or power. For “Whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” and entire sanctification is received by faith which is itself a gift from God (Rom. 8:29, Eph. 2:8-10). Entire sanctification is the will and the promise of God, which are both monergistically brought about by God (1 Thes. 5:23-4).

Conclusion

I am aware that this essay probably does not answer every Moody student’s questions or critiques of Wesley’s view of sanctification, especially from my Calvinist brothers and sisters.  However, I hope it has clarified Wesley’s understanding of Christian perfection as a perfection in love and has tantalized an interest in exploring the doctrine further. I myself have not yet received God’s promise of being perfected in love quite yet. But I hunger and thirst for the righteousness that can only come from God and I have faith that one day I will be wholly sanctified to the Lord. Whenever He chooses to bring about that work in me, I trust Him to sustain me as I grow in love and affection for Christ Jesus until He returns or takes me home. I admit that I might be in error. But if it comes down to the question of how I would prefer to risk erring. I would rather err on the side of thinking that God can give me more righteousness than I could actually receive, than assume that God did not want to bless me when a treasure of righteousness was available to me.27 I conclude with an exhortation to my readers to reach out for all God has for them with this plea from Wesley: “Let not those who are alive to God oppose the dedicating all our life to Him. Why should you who have His love poured out in your heart withstand the giving Him all your heart? Does not all that is within you cry out, ‘O who that loves can love enough’?”28

[* This blog post was originally published in the MBI – Spokane SOMA Journal’s Fall 2015 issue under the title – Predestined to be Perfected in Love: A Calvinist’s Encounter with Wesley’s Sanctification]

Works Cited

  1. Seven-point Calvinism adds on two additional points to the original five points that were determined at the Council of Dort (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints). The two additional points are Double Predestination – the belief that God not only predestines the elect to be saved, but that He also predestines the non-elect for damnation; and Best of All Possible Worlds – the belief that God governs the world so that He gets the most glory at the end than if the world has been different.  For further information check: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-does-piper-mean-when-he-says-hes-a-seven-point-calvinist
  2. Wesley, John. “A Plain Account of Christian Perfection.” The Essential Works of John Wesley Selected Sermons, Essays, and Other Writings. Ed. Alice Russie. Uhrichsville, Ohio: Barbour, 2011. 1025-1102. Print. 1033.
  3. Wesley, John. “Christian Perfection.” The Essential Works of John Wesley Selected Sermons, Essays, and Other Writings. Ed. Alice Russie. Uhrichsville, Ohio: Barbour, 2011. 397-414. Print. 398-9.
  4. Wesley, “A Plain Account”.
  5. All Scripture quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
  6. Watson, Richard. “Richard Watson.” Leading Wesleyan Thinkers. Ed. Richard S. Taylor. Vol. 3. Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill of Kansas City, 1985. 23-59. Print. 26.
  7. Dieter, Melvin. “The Wesleyan Perspective.” Five Views on Sanctification. Reprint ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House Academic, 1997. Print. 18.
  8. Wesley, “A Plain Account”. 1053, 1060.
  9. 1053.
  10. Sanders, Fred. Wesley on the Christian Life: The Heart Renewed in Love. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013. Print. 103-29.
  11. Oden, Thomas C. Life in the Spirit (Systematic Theology). Vol. 3. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992. Print. 237.
  12. Wesley, “A Plain Account”. 1027.
  13. 1033.
  14. Greathouse, William M., and George Lyons. Romans 1-8: A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition. Kansas City: Beacon Hill of Kansas City, 2008. Print. 102-3.
  15. Wesley, John. “The Circumcision of the Heart.” The Essential Works of John Wesley Selected Sermons, Essays, and Other Writings. Ed. Alice Russie. Uhrichsville, Ohio: Barbour, 2011. 377-386. Print. 378.
  16. Noble, T. A. Holy Trinity, Holy People: The Theology of Christian Perfecting. Eugene: Cascade, 2013. Print. 85.
  17. Wesley, “A Plain Account”. 1073-74.
  18. Noble, 85.
  19. Wesley, “On Perfection”. 410.
  20. Taylor, Richard S. (Richard Shelley). “The Question of ‘Sins of Ignorance’ In Relation To Wesley’s Definition.” Wesleyan Theological Journal 22.1 (1987): 71-77. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 10 Oct. 2015. 71-2.
  21. Olson, Mark K. “John Wesley’s Doctrine of Sin Revisited.” Wesleyan Theological Journal 47.2 (2012): 53-71. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 10 Oct. 2015. 60.
  22. One possible protest against this concept is that classic Reformed anthropology does not permit one aspect of the human person to be purified another part is remains fallen. To see a compelling Wesleyan explanation of union with Christ and how a person can still dwell in fallen flesh while still being perfected in love see the chapter, “Christian Holiness and the Incarnation,” in T. A. Noble’s book, Holy Trinity, Holy People: The Historic Doctrine of Christian Perfecting.
  23. Wood, Laurence W. “The Wesleyan View.” Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification. Ed. Donald Alexander. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1988. 95-118. Print. 231-5.
  24. Noble, 193.
  25. Sanders, 236.
  26. Wesley, “A Plain Account”. 1030.
  27. Sanders, 217-8.
  28. Wesley, “A Plain Account”. 1100.

Predestined to be Perfected in Love* ~ Pt. 2: What Christian Perfection is and What it is For

{This is the second post in a series on a Calvinistic approach to Wesley’s Christian Perfection.  To see the first post check out Predestined to be Perfected in Love* ~ Pt. 1: What Christian Perfection is Not}

What it is

So if entire sanctification and Christian perfection do not imply absolute or adamic perfection, what does Wesley actually mean when he uses these words? First of all, Wesleyans get their language of entire sanctification from 1 Thes. 5:23-24, which says, “Now may the God of peace sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will do it.”5 A Wesleyan interpretation of this text is not that this complete or entire sanctification is a final sanctification.  Wesley is clear that such a state is not achieved until Christ’s return. What is talked about in this passage is a setting apart and a consecration of the entire person (body, soul and spirit) that produces a “complete renewal in holiness.”6 It is not final sanctification, it is holistic sanctification that is “turning of the whole person toward God in love to seek and to know his will, which becomes the soul’s delight.”7
What then do Wesleyans mean by the term “Christian perfection” if not absolute perfection? Above all else, Christian perfection is a perfection in love. According to Wesley, it is “loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength,” and “pure love reigning alone in the heart and life.”8 The result of love for God reigning alone in the Christian is that nothing that is contrary to love can remain in the soul. It is the fixing of all the Christian’s affections on Christ as the sole object of the heart’s desire. All thoughts, words, tempers and deeds that would usually be controlled by sin are now “governed by pure love.”9 Wesley took the commands of Jesus to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” and to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your strength and with all of your mind” with absolute seriousness (Mat. 5:48, Lk. 10:27). Not only did Wesley take the command seriously, he also believed that God had provided a way for Christians to fulfill the commands in this life. Although there are many Scriptures that could be used to support Wesley’s doctrine, he favored the many references in 1 John to love being perfected and Christians being cleansed from all sin.10 The possibility of perfect love can be seen in the following verses: “whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected,” and “by this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment,” and “You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin” (1 Jn. 2:5, 3:5, 4:17; also see 1:7, 3:7, 4:18-19). This is not a static perfection in love, for the one who is entirely sanctified may still be “perfected by a love that may be enabled in a subsequent moment heretofore unimaginable.”11 This is a progressive and growing love for God that so permeates the soul that someone who has been perfected in love will not love anything except as an expression of his or her love for God.12

Who it is For

This type of a perfection in love is not only available to “spiritual giants,” but to babes in Christ as well.13 This blessing is made available to believers by the Spirit through the circumcision of the heart.  The command to love the Lord with everything was actually first given to the Israelites in Deut. 6:4-5.  However, without the Spirit, the Israelites would not be able to fulfill this commandment.  Therefore God promised that at some point in history He would “circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (Deut. 30:6; also see Ezek. 36:25-27).  That day arrived when Christ ushered in the New Covenant.  Now all true believers are circumcised in their heart and the love of God is poured into them, by the Spirit, at the point of conversion (Rom. 2:29, 5:5).14 At conversion, the heart is objectively circumcised and at entire sanctification it is subjectively realized.  Thus, when it is objectively applied, it serves as the “distinguishing mark of a true follower of Christ,” and when it is subjectively realized, Christians are “so renewed in the spirit of our mind as to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect.”15

[* This blog post was originally published in the MBI – Spokane SOMA Journal’s Fall 2015 issue under the title – Predestined to be Perfected in Love: A Calvinist’s Encounter with Wesley’s Sanctification]

Works Cited

  1. Seven-point Calvinism adds on two additional points to the original five points that were determined at the Council of Dort (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints). The two additional points are Double Predestination – the belief that God not only predestines the elect to be saved, but that He also predestines the non-elect for damnation; and Best of All Possible Worlds – the belief that God governs the world so that He gets the most glory at the end than if the world has been different.  For further information check: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-does-piper-mean-when-he-says-hes-a-seven-point-calvinist
  2. Wesley, John. “A Plain Account of Christian Perfection.” The Essential Works of John Wesley Selected Sermons, Essays, and Other Writings. Ed. Alice Russie. Uhrichsville, Ohio: Barbour, 2011. 1025-1102. Print. 1033.
  3. Wesley, John. “Christian Perfection.” The Essential Works of John Wesley Selected Sermons, Essays, and Other Writings. Ed. Alice Russie. Uhrichsville, Ohio: Barbour, 2011. 397-414. Print. 398-9.
  4. Wesley, “A Plain Account”.
  5. All Scripture quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
  6. Watson, Richard. “Richard Watson.” Leading Wesleyan Thinkers. Ed. Richard S. Taylor. Vol. 3. Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill of Kansas City, 1985. 23-59. Print. 26.
  7. Dieter, Melvin. “The Wesleyan Perspective.” Five Views on Sanctification. Reprint ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House Academic, 1997. Print. 18.
  8. Wesley, “A Plain Account”. 1053, 1060.
  9. 1053.
  10. Sanders, Fred. Wesley on the Christian Life: The Heart Renewed in Love. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013. Print. 103-29.
  11. Oden, Thomas C. Life in the Spirit (Systematic Theology). Vol. 3. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992. Print. 237.
  12. Wesley, “A Plain Account”. 1027.
  13. 1033.
  14. Greathouse, William M., and George Lyons. Romans 1-8: A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition. Kansas City: Beacon Hill of Kansas City, 2008. Print. 102-3.
  15. Wesley, John. “The Circumcision of the Heart.” The Essential Works of John Wesley Selected Sermons, Essays, and Other Writings. Ed. Alice Russie. Uhrichsville, Ohio: Barbour, 2011. 377-386. Print. 378.
  16. Noble, T. A. Holy Trinity, Holy People: The Theology of Christian Perfecting. Eugene: Cascade, 2013. Print. 85.
  17. Wesley, “A Plain Account”. 1073-74.
  18. Noble, 85.
  19. Wesley, “On Perfection”. 410.
  20. Taylor, Richard S. (Richard Shelley). “The Question of ‘Sins of Ignorance’ In Relation To Wesley’s Definition.” Wesleyan Theological Journal 22.1 (1987): 71-77. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 10 Oct. 2015. 71-2.
  21. Olson, Mark K. “John Wesley’s Doctrine of Sin Revisited.” Wesleyan Theological Journal 47.2 (2012): 53-71. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 10 Oct. 2015. 60.
  22. One possible protest against this concept is that classic Reformed anthropology does not permit one aspect of the human person to be purified another part is remains fallen. To see a compelling Wesleyan explanation of union with Christ and how a person can still dwell in fallen flesh while still being perfected in love see the chapter, “Christian Holiness and the Incarnation,” in T. A. Noble’s book, Holy Trinity, Holy People: The Historic Doctrine of Christian Perfecting.
  23. Wood, Laurence W. “The Wesleyan View.” Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification. Ed. Donald Alexander. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1988. 95-118. Print. 231-5.
  24. Noble, 193.
  25. Sanders, 236.
  26. Wesley, “A Plain Account”. 1030.
  27. Sanders, 217-8.
  28. Wesley, “A Plain Account”. 1100.

Charismata in the Early Church: Part 1 of a Response to Tony Ross Jr.’s “A Case for Cessationism”

Very few theological topics are as contentious as the continuation and nature of the sign gifts (perhaps only surpassed by Calvinism vs. Arminianism and the sacraments).  Any time Christian brothers and sisters debate either side of the issue it is important to maintain a spirit of charity and openness.  This is exactly what Tony Lee Ross Jr., one of our friends over at the Reformed Collective blog, did in his post onMay 29th titled A Case for Cessationism.  Although Ross Jr. made a number of points in favor of Cessationism and even a few critiques of the Charismatic movement, he demonstrated a gracious attitude that was both informed, and invited dialogue.  This post, and the next couple posts in this series, will be in response to Ross Jr.’s post.  Now, although Ross Jr.’s post is relatively short, he brought up a number of points against Continuationism (the believe that the sign gifts continue on throughout the Church age) and for Cessationism that demand a more lengthy response in order to properly answer the questions and objections he raises.  However these posts are meant to be a dialogue with Ross Jr. and possibly some of the other authors at the Reformed Collective so I know that they will probably have some stuff to say about our posts as well.  Hopefully this dialogue will be engaging and helpful for some of our readers and, whether someone ends up being Charismatic, Cessationist, or something in-between, I pray that everyone involved will have obedience to God’s Word as their highest priority.

 

Before I step into this brief treatment of the sign gifts in church history, I would like to make a few comments. First, I am grateful to Tony Ross Jr. for agreeing to dialogue with Josh and me about this topic. I hope that this will be both stimulating and enriching. Secondly, I am a newcomer to the world of blogging, and I would appreciate everyone’s patience as I find my footing in this venue. But I trust that this experience will be fulfilling and constructive as authors like Tony Ross Jr. help me to improve my writing, and sharpen my thinking. In all, I am excited to discuss important topics with my brothers (and sisters) in Christ! I think that this will be a fun and sanctifying endeavor.

To say that what follows is any sort of “treatment of sign gifts in church history” would be to go beyond any modest person’s sensibilities. The topic of sign gifts throughout the history of the church is multi-faceted and prone to all sorts of logical fallacies and anachronisms, so I think that I will achieve most by simply responding to the citations of Saint Augustine and John Chrysostom in the historical section from Ross Jr.’s article in the order that he gave them.

The Gifts and the Early Church:

Ross Jr. alludes to Augustine’s Homily VI “On the First Epistle of John” and quotes John Chrysostom’s Homily XIXX “On First Corinthians” as evidence that the gifts had ceased by the fourth century A.D. Or, maybe Ross Jr.’s aim was simply to demonstrate that “Cessationism is not a new idea.” I hope that Tony will clarify this for me in future dialogue. But, to be safe, I will respond to each of his possible aims.

If Ross Jr.’s point was to demonstrate that Cessationism is not a new idea, he and I have no qualms. I agree that certain Christians believed that the gifts had ceased by the fourth century. I think that his quote from Augustine’s Homily on 1 John demonstrates his point very well. So, though Ross Jr. and I agree that Cessationists existed throughout church history, what I am more interested in is whether or not Cessationism is an idea that actually accords with reality. In other words, is there historical evidence that Cessationism might, indeed, be wrong? And, oddly enough, it is one of Augustine’s later works that I believe answers, “Yes,” to the aforementioned question.

Augustine The City of God

As with any Christian, Augustine’s theology changed and developed, as he grew older. In one of his final works, The City of God, Book 22, chapter 8, Augustine writes about a time when a clergyman was to undergo a final surgery. Augustine and many other Christians gathered to pray for this man and, when the surgeon was about to make an initial incision, he and the onlookers stared at the clergyman’s arm and realized that God had healed him through the prayers of the saints present. Augustine lists several other miraculous healings, including the restoration of the sight of a blind man. Further, the chapter heading of this section of Book 22 in The City of God is entitled, “Concerning the miracles which were wrought in order that the world might believe in Christ and which cease not to be wrought now that the world does believe” (emphasis mine). It seems apparent that, for whatever reason, Augustine’s views of gifts and miracles changed by the time that he had written The City of God. That is to say, by the time he had written his most developed theological works, he was no longer a Cessationist.

Chrysostom

Moving now to Ross Jr.’s quote from Chrysostom’s Homily on 1 Corinthians, I would actually suggest that Chrysostom thought that there were reasons that he had not seen miraculous happenings take place during his ministry, and that he would have expected them to take place under the right conditions. I do not think that there is any question that Chrysostom thought that the gifts had ceased, but it seems to me that he thought they had ceased because of the general lack of virtue and piety throughout the church. He states,

“The present church is like a woman who has fallen from her former prosperous days and in many respects retains the symbols only of that ancient prosperity…And I say not this in respect of gifts: for it were nothing marvelous if it were this only: but in respect also if life and virtue.”¹

Chrysostom seems to have thought that spiritual endowments from God were directly related to the piety of the Christian who did or did not receive those endowments. So, it seems probable to me that Chrysostom thought that it was the fault of the church that she did not see the continuation of the gifts, and that the Holy Spirit would bless the church if she began to live like her redemption was costly.

Others

It behooves me, further, to at least cite a few more cases of early Christian theologians who were Continuationists. In A.D. 180, Irenaeus of Antioch reported that he had heard of some who had received a gift from God to “speak in other tongues” and prophesy.³ Such authors as Didimus the Blind and Cyril of Alexandria also wrote of the continuation of the gifts in the church. Hippolytus writes that believers expected to receive the Holy Spirit with signs and gifts during baptism, and the Didache even gives instructions concerning the actions of prophets. Basil of Caesarea, a 4th century Cappadocian father, and defender of Trinitarian doctrine, writes in his work On the Holy Spirit,

St. Basil

“And as the power of seeing is in the healthy eye, so the activity of the Spirit is in the purified soul.  On account of this Paul prays for the Ephesians, that their eyes be enlightened in the spirit of wisdom.  And as an art is in the one who practices it, so the grace of the Spirit is in him who receives it: it is always present but not always acting.  As an art is potentially in the artist but becomes so actually when he acts according to it, so also the Spirit, who is always present to those who are worthy, acts when there is a need, whether in prophecies, or healings, or some other acts of power.”²

There are many more examples of the charismata in the early church, but these examples should be considered strong evidence for Continuationism in the first five centuries of Christianity.

Response to Ross Jr.’s Conclusions from Early Church Writings

Though Ross Jr. cited two possible Cessationists from the early centuries of the church, such citations do little to bolster the historical argument for Cessationism, especially when a plethora of evidence of the contrary remains accessible to the modern reader. Additionally, when Ross Jr. asks, “Wouldn’t they (the gifts) be even more normative just 400 years after Christ’s death compared to 2,000 years?” I think that he means to say that, since there is little evidence of the charismata is the 4th century, it seems unlikely that the charismata would suddenly appear among Christians some 1,600 years later. However, this line of argument does not consider the number of sources from Charismatics in the first five centuries of the church, and, thus, is most likely an argument from silence. And, since it is clear that there is actually quite a lot of data contrary to Ross Jr.’s argument, I must conclude that Ross Jr. is mistaken. There is quite a lot of evidence that God endowed men and women with the sign gifts in the first five centuries of the church. There were, I grant, probably quite a few Cessationists in early centuries of the church. But the mere fact that Cessationists were present in the church says nothing about the continuation of the gifts in the church. Furthermore, any argument against the frequency of the charismata says nothing about the legitimacy of their continuation. As I see it, there seems to be some sort concordant proportion between the historical record of the charismata and their mention in the Scriptures.

Conclusion

I must respectfully disagree with Tony Ross Jr.’s conclusion about the sign gifts in the early church. I must also gently object to his selection and portrayal of the historical legitimacy of the sign gifts. However, I think that we will both whole-heartedly agree that we could each say much more about the history of our respective positions, and I look forward to opportunities to do so in the future. I think a glaring hole in both of our presentations is the lack of citations from A.D. 600 to the late 1800’s. I hope for opportunities to discover what is preserved for us on this topic during those unmentioned centuries. I am also elated to share Tony Ross Jr.’s opinion that our final authority is Scripture. So, though we are helped by the church’s voice throughout the centuries, God’s voice commands our utmost attention and care as we interpret His authoritative testimony of reality. On this, I look forward to Josh’s Biblical and Theological treatment of this topic.

 

Works Cited:

¹Chrysostom, “On First Corinthians,” Homily XXIX, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, rev. with notes, Talbot W. Chambers (New York: The Christian Literature Co., 1889), XII: 219, 220.

²Basil. On the Holy Spirit. Translated by David Anderson. Vol. 42. Popular Patristics Series. (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1980).

³Irenaeus. Against Heresies. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson and Cleveland Coxe. (Ex Fontibus Co., 2010). 566.