Sunday, July 02, 2017

Bring the cloak


Here's a problem for my cessationist friends. I think all of us agree that we are to obey the last command received unless someone with greater authority comes and overrules that command (or the one who gave the command rescinds it). Agreed? Well, the last commands we have in Scripture regarding the gifts of the Spirit are: to eagerly pursue the gift of prophecy (which is NOT simply inspired preaching); not to forbid speaking in tongues; not to despise prophecies or quench the Spirit but to test prophetic utterances and hold on to the good; and to pray in faith for the healing of the sick. (See 1 Cor 14:1, 39; 1 Thes 5:19-22; Jam 5:14-15.)

So, unless someone can show me in the Word where God Himself rescinded these commands or where He explicitly overruled these commands, I will obey God and pursue these spiritual gifts and empowerments in faith. How about you?

i) That's an interesting argument. But is Brown's principle a reliable generalization? For instance: "When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas" (2 Tim 4:13).

Is that a standing command to Christians of every generation? After all, we have no record of Paul rescinding that command. And no one with greater authority has overruled his command. 

Should we therefore conduct archeological explorations to discover the whereabouts of Paul's cloak? And if we find it, how do we convey it to the late Apostle? Isn't he out of reach? 

Point is, not every command directed to a particular group of 1C Christians is a command to all Christians for all time. The NT letters are occasional writings that sometimes address topical concerns. 

That's an issue requiring conscientious sifting. On the one hand there's the danger of classifying politically incorrect commands as defunct. That's a tactic of "progressive Christians". On the other hand, some NT commands are timebound (e.g. 2 Tim 4:13). So the need to sift timeless commands from timebound commands is unavoidable. 

ii) Another problem is the difference between natural and supernatural abilities. A natural ability is a resident ability that I can exercise at will. But a supernatural ability is not something I normally have at my disposal. I can't exercise an ability that hasn't been conferred on me. That's beyond my control.

There's also the question of whether the so-called spiritual "gifts" are in fact supernatural abilities which, even if you have them, you can exercise at will. Take revelatory dreams and visions. That's not something a Christian can muster on his own. That's not something he does, but something that's done to him. He's a passive recipient. 

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