No Home Among the Confessions: Why Strict Subscription to the WCF and the LBCF is Impossible for Continuationists

With the rise of the Charismatic Movement among the confessionally Reformed churches, many new paradigms are being made to fit into older parameters of what it means to be Reformed. Although the Reformed tradition has been predominately Cessationist, many scholars have tried to demonstrate that some of the more prominent proponents of Reformed theology in history were actually at least somewhat Continuationists. Confessionally Reformed Charismatics especially point to a few key Puritan Westminster Image result for milne prophecyDivines as examples of Continuationism amidst Reformed Orthodoxy. They also put forward an interpretation of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF (which had been historically understood as Cessationist) in a way that would allow the continuation of the extraordinary spiritual gifts.  Specifically, they point out that the restrictions on new special revelation are only applicable to new revelation concerning redemptive-historical information (aka individual salvation).  Many scholars of Reformed history such as Bryon Curtis, Willem Berends, and William Kay have also advocated that some of the major Westminster divines believed in some form of continuing revelation and, therefore, could not have implied the cessation of all revelation outside of Scripture in the WCF.  In opposition to this recent approach to the WCF, Garnet H. Milne has written an excellent book under the title, The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Cessation of Special Revelation: The Majority Puritan Viewpoint on Whether Extra-Biblical Prophecy is Still Possible.  Milne convincingly demonstrates from his book such a conclusion is impossible when the context and the writings of the divines are properly understood.  Base on this study and commentary of the WCF, it would be impossible for any individual to possess a full subscription to the confession in the proper sense.

Milne’s argument, in a limited presentation, is as follows:

  1. The term “Salvation”, according to the WCF and the external writings of the Westminster Divines, refers to any and all blessings/graces that are given to the Church or the individual believer.  This includes both temporal and eternal blessings that are given in Christ (Milne 67-108).
  2. Passages such as Eph. 1:17-18, Heb. 1:1-2, and Joel 2:29-32/Acts 2:17 that are cited in the WCF to support the Cessationist clauses are always interpreted by the Divines in a way that explicitly states or implies the cessation of all other forms of special revelation other than the Scriptures (113-140)
  3. Although many Cessationist Divines recognized that God could guide individuals through dreams, deathbed revelations or physical/historical events around them, these were considered acts of providentialism.  God was not necessarily giving immediate revelation but rather mediated revelation through creation, which cannot be properly called prophecy (147-159).
  4. Many so-called accounts of Westminster Divines prophesying, such as the predictions of John Knox, are merely Puritans applying principles from the OT to the modern nation and rulers around them.  For example, If England, which has made a covenant to serve God, and subsequently fails to do so, it will certainly face the wrath of God. Hence, if the general hermneutical and eschatological approach of the Puritans is accepted.  A Puritan pastor could utilize the principles of Scriptures and a keen awareness of God’s providential acts around them to make accurate predictions of the future (180-87, 219-238).
  5. Although there were a number of Continuationist Divines (Richard Baxter and William Bridges for example), In areas where the churches required strict subscription to the WCF , all ministers held to a Cessationist position (277-283).

Milne gets into a lot of other interesting things surrounding the topic of prophecy among the writers of the WCF but these five points are the thrust of his argument.  Based upon Milne’s book I believe it would be dishonest for for any Reformed Charismatic or Continuationist to claim strict subscription to the WCF.

1689 LBCF

Image result for richard baxterIt also should be noted that the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith (LBCF), which is largely based on the WCF, does not make any substantial adjustment to the Cessationist clauses that would reduce the Cessationist implications intended in the WCF.  Therefore, it would also be dishonest for a Reformed Baptist to claim strict subscription to the LBCF if they were a Continuationist. This does not mean that a Reformed Charismatic could not claim system subscription to either the WCF or the LBCF.  After all, Richard Baxter, a Baptist, an Amyraldian, and a Continuationist of sorts, was still able to submit and promote the WCF with a clear conscious (159-165, 264-267).

Conclusion

I strongly advise Reformed Charismatics to read Milne’s book before making claims that Continuationism is consistent with the teachings of the WCF or Reformed Confessionalism.  Unlike Milne, I do think you can detect some instances of the legitimate gift of continued prophecy among the Puritans and I may address this in another blog post at some point.  However, Milne’s argument is strong and well-supported and demands the full attention of the historical scholarship that surrounds this period of Puritan history.

Milne, Garnet Howard. The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Cessation of Special Revelation: The Majority Puritan Viewpoint on Whether Extra-Biblical Prophecy Is Still Possible. Bletchley, Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster, 2007. Print.

 

Sermon: The Greatest

Here is Nathan’s sermon that he preached on Deut. 6:1-9 on the Greatest Commandment.  It is titled “The Greatest” and if its not at the top, just scroll down until you find it.

http://www.creeksidechurchcma.org/sermons/

 


About Nathan Phillips

Nathan is blessed to be in a relationship with Jesus Christ through His amazing grace. He is dedicated to serving Him with his life. As a part of this, Nathan is pursuing vocational ministry with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. He is also currently working on my MDiv at Crown College in Minnesota. He has an amazing wife and a beautiful baby daughter. His passions include providing for his family, theology, politics, and hanging out with loved ones.

All Israel Will Be Saved*: Why Romans 11:25-27 Teaches the Salvation of the Entire Remnant

In my previous post I address two examples of how Paul uses the term “Israel” allegorically.  You can read that here: “Israel”: Two Examples of the Allegorical Use of Israel*.  Despite that, in this post I will argue that when Paul says “all Israel will be saved” in Romans 11, he is using the term “Israel” to refer to literal Israel.

3 Approaches to “All Israel Will Be Saved” 

Romans 11:25-27 has been a topic of argument among theologians for centuries, and there is still much disagreement as to what the phrase, “and so all Israel will be saved”(Romans 11:25b-26 NIV) means. What Paul means by all Israel is typically taken one of three ways:

  1. All believers – whether Jew or Gentile
  2. All the elect Jews
  3. All of ethnic or national Israel.

Interpretation of this passage depends largely, on which hermeneutical technique is utilized. When Paul uses the term Israel in Roman’s 11 it can either be taken literally to mean the Jewish people or nation, or it can be allegorized to mean the Church, the body of believers.  It is my conviction that Romans 11:25-27 should not be interpreted allegorically, and the passage should be understood as; God will save all national and ethnic Israel through the process of electing the remnant of Israel (Merkle).

 

The Context: Israel in Romans 9-11

Romans 9-11 gives an account of God’s redemptive plan for Jews and Gentiles, while addressing three major steps in that plan, the hardening of Israel’s heart, the coming of the fullness of the Gentiles, and the salvation of all of Israel all through the process of election. The way that Israel is used throughout chapters 9-11 has to be studied in order to Image result for messianic jewish worshipdetermine how Israel should be interpreted in 11:25-27 “As far as the general context and the immediate context is concerned, there is no ground for spiritualizing the word Israel”(Walvoord).  The better part of chapter 9 is explaining God’s process of election in his overall redemptive plan. In verses 1-9 Paul deals with a problem that was running rampant among Jewish people specifically in Rome. Many of them believed that simply because they were decedents of Abraham they had a free ticket into the afterlife (Morris, 352).  Paul is making the point that since Abraham, God has been choosing people for salvation. Both Jew and Gentile are under God’s authoritative power of election (Dunn, 666), “What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy…whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?” Because Paul says that both Jew and Gentile believers are God’s ‘chosen people’ Leon Morris believes that Israel or Israelites should be interpreted as the Church (Morris, 348). This causes some problems when we get to chapter 10. In Romans 10:1 Paul says, “Brothers, my hearts desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” If Israel is referring to God’s elect both Jew and Gentile then it would be impossible for Paul to desire for them to be saved because they either are saved already or are predestined to be saved. The same problem arises in 10:16, “But not all the Israelites accepted God.” In fact there is no other passage in 9-11 in which an allegorical interpretation could fit. Taking the context into account and the contrast Paul makes between Jew and Gentile all throughout Romans 9-11 there is no reason to take the Israel in 11:25-27 allegorically.

Israel in Romans 11:25-27

Romans 11:25-27 should be interpreted as; God will save all national and ethnic Israel through the process of electing the remnant of Israel. Lee Irons believes that ‘all Israel’ is Image result for messianic jewish worshipreferring to the Church that has now been grafted into the tree, which originally were the Jewish people. He comes to this conclusion through the assumption that the covenant made with ethnic and national Israel was not made with them specifically but rather with God’s chosen people, therefore the covenant is carried along by the Church (Irons). The problem with this interpretation is that in verse 25 Paul makes a distinction between the Gentiles and Israel. If the Church and Israel should be understood as one and the same in this passage then why make the distinction? Douglas Moo believes the distinction is present because God used ethnic Israel to bring the Gentiles to himself and is using the Gentile believers to bring Israel to himself. (Moo, 306) God hardened, in part, the hearts of the Jews and therefore they rejected Christ. Without Israel’s rejection of the Messiah Christianity would have stayed an ethnocentric religion because of the strong nationalism that was present in 1st-century Judaism. (Dunn, 670) Because of the Jews rejection of Christ, countless Gentiles have come to Christ. In the same way that God used the Jewish rejection to bring Gentiles into the Kingdom, he will use the Gentiles acceptance to draw the Jews into the Kingdom. Paul discusses this process in Romans 11:13-15. He acknowledges that the Jews rejection is the “reconciliation of the world” (Romans 11:15) and hopes that by preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, the Jews will become envious of the hope that they have and turn to Christ at least in part. The distinction between the Gentiles and Israel in 11:25 is important because God has used each group in different ways to win the other to himself. Douglas Moo’s interpretation of Romans 9-11 is that at the end of time when God has saved all the elect of the Gentiles a great revival will take place among the Jewish people and all “Israel will be save”. This does not suggest that God only saved the Gentiles in order that the remnant of Israel would be saved, but that in God’s sovereignty he used both peoples, throughout history to bring the full number of Jew and Gentile to himself. “So the great revival of the Jewish people will take place at the end of history after the time of the Gentiles. At that time all Israel will be saved” (Moo, 305). This is was an important point to be made at the occasion of Paul’s writing to the church at Rome. They were experiencing disunity because the Jewish believers were trying to convince the Gentile believers that they had to follow Jewish customs, and the Gentile believers had a sense of pride coming from the idea that they had somehow taken the place of Israel (Moo, 304). It was important for the church at Rome, and for the Church today, to understand that God did not choose the Gentiles over Israel, or the Gentiles for Israel. Instead God chose the Gentiles and Israel in order that both peoples would be used to bring one another to him. Ben Merkle, following the influence of John Calvin and N.T. Wright points out that the full number of the Gentiles and the totality of the remnant of Israel in Romans 11:25-27 would be the total amount of people elected by God for salvation (Merkle).

In conclusion Romans 11:25-27 should be interpreted as; God will save all national and ethnic Israel through the process of electing the remnant of Israel, and taking the context of Romans 9-11 into account ‘all Israel’ should be understood as the remnant elect of ethnic national Israel, and should not be allegorized.

*Originally written as a paper for Crown College’s Romans class.

Works Cited

Dunn, James D. G. Romans: 9-16. Dallas, Tex: Word Books, 1988. Print.

Irons, Lee. “Paul’s Theology of Israel’s Future: A Nonmillennial Interpretation of

Romans 11.” Reformation and Revival RAR 06:2 (Spring 1997): Internet Source.

MacDonald, William, and Arthur L. Farstad. Believers Bible Commentary: New

Testament. Nashville, Tenn: T. Nelson Publishers, 1990. Print.

Merkle, Ben L. “Romans 11 And The Future Of Ethnic Israel.” Journal of the

Evangelical Theological Society JETS 43:3 (Dec 2000): Internet Source.

Moo, Douglas J. The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub.

Co, 1996. Print.

Morris, Leon. The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans, 1988.

Print.

Rydelnik, Michael, and Michael G. Vanlaningham. The Moody Bible Commentary. ,

  1. Print.

About Nathan Phillips

Nathan is blessed to be in a relationship with Jesus Christ through His amazing grace. He is dedicated to serving Him with his life. As a part of this, Nathan is pursuing vocational ministry with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. He is also currently working on my MDiv at Crown College in Minnesota. He has an amazing wife and a beautiful baby daughter. His passions include providing for his family, theology, politics, and hanging out with loved ones.

“Israel”: Two Examples of the Allegorical Use of Israel*

Paul’s use of the term “Israel” is quite fluid throughout his letters.  Knowing when he is referring to the literal people of Israel or when he is using the term allegorically is key to properly interpreting Paul.  In this post I provide a couple examples of when Paul uses Israel allegorically.

Galatians 4:21-31

Galatians 4:21-31 is an example of when Paul is using Israel and the Jewish people allegorically to teach a lesson that should be applied to the whole church and is not referring to the literal Israel. In verse 31 Paul says, “Therefore, brothers, you are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.” The slave woman is Hagar and the free woman is Sarah. The ‘brothers’ is referring to the believers at Galatia and can be extended to all believers. Verse 31 at first glance, without any context, would appear to be saying that all believers whether Jew or Gentile are considered part of Israel. It is from assumptions such as this that some make the mistake of inserting ‘all believers’ whenever Image result for sarah AND hagar AND israelthey see Paul mention Israel. Paul is clearly speaking allegorically in this passage, as can be seen in verse 24, “These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants.”(Galatians 4:24) Hagar represents the Old Covenant under law, and Sarah represents the New Covenant under Christ. Paul is not saying that all Gentiles are now Jews. He is saying that now all believers, either Jew or Gentile, are free from the Old Covenant and can now experience true salvation under the New Covenant. He picks this idea up again in Galatians 6:16 when he says, “Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.” Paul is emphasizing that salvation does not rest on observance of the Law or Jewish ethnicity, it rests on being a new creation under the New Covenant. The term ‘Israel of God’ makes it distinct from national Israel. Paul is not talking about believers replacing national Israel but rather finding unity in the knowledge that the New Covenant applies to both Jews and Gentiles (MacDonald, 705-706). Paul has good reason to push for such unity because of the problems facing the church in Galatia. Jewish leaders were trying to persuade the Gentile believers to become Jewish through circumcision and law following in order to somehow achieve salvation. Because of the obviously figurative language and the heresy being taught by the Jewish leaders it is clear that Paul was using the word Israel allegorically to refer to the body of believers.

1 Thessalonians 2:14-16

1st Thessalonians 2:14-16 is another example of when Paul does not use ‘Jews” in reference to the entirety of ethnically Jewish people. In verse 14 Paul is encouraging the church at Thessalonica to imitate the churches in Judea who had experienced severe persecution at the hands of Jewish religious leaders. The churches in Judea were largely made up of Jewish believers and had been persecuted by their own countrymen. In fact the very same people that were persecuting the church had crucified Jesus. It is clear that Paul is not talking about all Jewish people because he clarifies the end of verse 14 with the beginning of verse 15, “You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out”(Thessalonians 2:14b-15a).  Paul is talking about the Jewish religious leaders who had put Jesus to death and had been persecuting the Church since its birth. He is not referring to all Jewish people. Paul used the Jew on Jew persecution to encourage the Thessalonians who were enduring similar persecution at the hands of their own countrymen. (Rydelnik, 1882-1883)

Clearly Paul uses the terms Israel and Jew allegorically, or in reference to only a specific group of Jewish people, in some of his epistles but that is not always the case.  I will argue in my next post that, in Romans 11:25-27, Paul does not use the term Israel allegorically. In order to come to this conclusion, all of chapters 9-11 of Romans will be taken into account. Check it out here: All Israel Will Be Saved*: Why Romans 11:25-27 Teaches the Salvation of the Entire Remnant

*Originally written as a paper for Crown College’s Romans class.

Works Cited

Dunn, James D. G. Romans: 9-16. Dallas, Tex: Word Books, 1988. Print.

Irons, Lee. “Paul’s Theology of Israel’s Future: A Nonmillennial Interpretation of

Romans 11.” Reformation and Revival RAR 06:2 (Spring 1997): Internet Source.

MacDonald, William, and Arthur L. Farstad. Believers Bible Commentary: New

Testament. Nashville, Tenn: T. Nelson Publishers, 1990. Print.

Merkle, Ben L. “Romans 11 And The Future Of Ethnic Israel.” Journal of the

Evangelical Theological Society JETS 43:3 (Dec 2000): Internet Source.

Moo, Douglas J. The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub.

Co, 1996. Print.

Morris, Leon. The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans, 1988.

Print.

Rydelnik, Michael, and Michael G. Vanlaningham. The Moody Bible Commentary. ,

  1. Print.

About Nathan Phillips

Nathan is blessed to be in a relationship with Jesus Christ through His amazing grace. He is dedicated to serving Him with his life. As a part of this, Nathan is pursuing vocational ministry with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. He is also currently working on my MDiv at Crown College in Minnesota. He has an amazing wife and a beautiful baby daughter. His passions include providing for his family, theology, politics, and hanging out with loved ones.

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