"AS I SEE IT" 

Volume 7, Number 1, January 2004

 

“I too will have my say; I too will tell what I know.

For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me;

Inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst.

I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply.

I will show partiality to no one.  Nor will I flatter any man.”

Job 32:17-21

 

["As I See It" is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek.  Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God.  The editor's perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.

 

AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at: DKUTILEK@juno.com.  You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address.  Back issues sent on request.  All back issues may be accessed at http://www.KJVOnly.org   

 

All articles are by the editor (unless otherwise noted) and are copyrighted but may be reproduced for distribution, provided the following conditions are met: 1. articles must be reproduced in unedited, unabridged form; 2. the writer must be properly credited; and, 3. such reproduction must be for free distribution only.  Permission to distribute in any other form must be secured in writing beforehand.  Permission for reproduction in Christian print periodicals will generally be given.]

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How Were the Charismata Transmitted in New Testament Times?

 

By Doug Kutilek

 

Introduction

           

The last half of the 20th century was marked by a strong interest in the charismata, the "gifts of the Holy Spirit."  Much of this interest has no doubt been generated by the so-called "charismatic renewal" that began on Azuza Street in Los Angeles in 1907, with the subsequent "signs and wonders" movement that has spread nation- and even world-wide.

           

But it has not been just among those who claim that the sign-gifts (miraculous manifestations such as speaking in tongues) of the New Testament are still operative today that the charismata have been widely discussed.  Among conservative evangelicals and even among fundamentalists, much has been spoken and written about this subject, certainly in part as a reaction against the extreme claims of the charismatics.  A view proposing the extinction of the miraculous sign-gifts and the persistence of the non-miraculous service-gifts have been the usual line of approach among non-charismatic theological conservatives.  Books have been written and seminars have been held to help people 'discover' what their gift (or gifts) is, ostensibly with the purpose of helping Christians to more effectively utilize their Divine bestowments.

           

In all this discussion, it seems that one very important question has been entirely ignored: how were the charismata bestowed or conveyed to individuals in the first century?  It has been apparently an unchallenged assumption, first, that every Christian has--present tense--at least one spiritual gift, whether a sign-gift as the charismatics would claim, or a service-gift as the non-charismatics affirm, and that in all cases the gift was directly and sovereignly bestowed by God on the individual.

           

But, in fact, is this so?  Were the gifts communicated during the Apostolic age to believers directly by God without any human intermediary, or was a human instrument involved?  This will be the focus of this investigation.  Limitations require that the nature of the charismata, that is, e.g., whether the gift of tongues was an ecstatic utterance or a known but unlearned human language must be reserved for another study.[1]

 

Acts 2

 

Pentecost was not the first time that the Apostles displayed miraculous gifts.  In the Gospels, we find the Twelve sent forth by Christ and "he gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of disease and all manner of sickness" (Matthew 10:1, ASV).[2]  He expressly instructed them when He sent them out, "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons" (10:8).  The record of their expedition reports that "they cast out demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them" (Mark 6:13).  Silence on the matter of cleansing lepers and raising the dead does not necessarily indicate that these were not done (leprosy could have been included under the more general term of sickness), though physical resurrections, even when performed by Christ, caused such a great stir that if such had been performed by the Apostles during this preaching tour, some written notice of them could well be expected.  Perhaps Christ was speaking figuratively about their raising the spiritually dead by the message of the Gospel of the kingdom, or perhaps He was anticipating the later resurrections which they would perform (Acts 9:40; 20:10).

           

This account of Apostles performing miraculous works, or spiritual sign-gifts, if you will, is almost unique in the Gospels.  Almost, I say, because in Luke 10, we are told of the commissioning of the Seventy (or Seventy-two, depending on which is the true original reading) who depart on a similar preaching tour.  Christ expressly commissioned them to "heal the sick" and upon their return, they reported to Him that "even the demons are subject unto us" (Luke 10:8, 17).  However, beyond the one account involving the Twelve and the other involving the Seventy, no other incidents are reported in the Gospels of the Apostles or those in the larger circle of Jesus' disciples performing miracles or exercising sign-gifts.  This empowerment was apparently temporary and not repeated.  In both instances, it is of note that this authority was expressly and directly granted by Jesus, without any other intermediary.

           

On Pentecost, apparently all the assembled 120 disciples, men and women,--not just the Apostles--displayed the miraculous sign of "tongues."  This gift was obviously sovereignly bestowed on the assembled group by the descent of the Holy Spirit.  No intermediary, whether human or angelic was involved.  And every individual among the 120 had this gift: "they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues" (Acts 2:4).

 

Acts 10

 

The incident at the house of Cornelius in Acts 10 has a number of parallels to Acts 2 in regard to how and on whom the gift of tongues was bestowed.  For, "while Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them that heard the word" (Acts 10:44).  Contextually, this means all the Gentiles who were assembled to hear Peter's message (10:33).  The falling of the Holy Spirit on these newly-believing Gentiles was outwardly manifested by their exercising the gift of tongues.  Those Jewish believers who came with Peter "were amazed. . . because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God."

 

All the believing Gentiles present received the gift of tongues given by the Holy Spirit.  And all of them received this gift by the sovereign act of God, without any human intermediary, just as on the day of Pentecost.

 

These two incidents--Acts 2 and Acts 10--are in a class by themselves.  As we shall see, in all other bestowals of the charismata in Acts and the rest of the New Testament, specific human agency was expressly involved (or clearly implied), and involved a very restricted circle of human agents.

           

Why should Pentecost and Acts 10 be distinctive?  Pentecost was the first bestowal of the Holy Spirit and His gifts on Jewish believers, for the purpose of empowering them (Acts 1:8) to carry the Gospel message to the ends of the earth.  Pentecost constituted the first public proclamation of the resurrection as well.  It is notable, that in no later proclamation of the Gospel to Jews, whether by Peter or the other Apostles in Jerusalem and Judea, or by Paul and others to the Jews in the Diaspora, were the phenomena of Pentecost--the wind, the fire, the Gospel proclaimers speaking in tongues--repeated.

           

Acts 10 was the first proclamation of the Gospel to Gentiles as Gentiles.  Nicolaus (Acts 6:5), one the first deacons, was a proselyte (a Gentile who made a complete conversion to Judaism, even undergoing circumcision).  The Samaritans who received the Gospel (Acts 8) were ethnically half Jewish and already accepted the Law of Moses (though in a somewhat corrupted form), and followed a religion with many features virtually identical to Judaism.  Even the Ethiopian eunuch was not a mere Gentile.  He was either an Ethiopian Jew or a proselyte.  We read that "he had come to Jerusalem to worship" (Acts 8:27), actions explicable only if he is either a Jew or a proselyte making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, more than likely at one of the three appointed annual feasts (cf. Acts 2:10). 

           

It was not at all clear to Peter and the others that the Gospel should be taken to the Gentiles (though Acts 1:8 seems clear enough in hindsight).  Peter's initial reluctance in going to Cornelius' house at all was only overcome by a dramatic vision sent by God (Acts 10:9-23).  Peter and his accompanying Jewish brethren were persuaded by the sign of tongues that their actions were right and proper in going into a Gentile's house and offering him the Gospel without first requiring conversion to Judaism.  It was sufficient proof to Peter that these Gentiles were suitable candidates for immersion. It was also the proof Peter used in his own defense that his actions were of God (Acts 11:15-17).  Peter even expressly compares the events at Cornelius' house with the events at Pentecost.

           

In none of the subsequent presentations of the Gospel to groups of Gentiles, whether in Acts or as reported in the Apostolic epistles was such a phenomenon repeated: the direct bestowal by God without any human intermediary of a gift of the Holy Spirit on all those present.

 

Acts 6

           

Up to chapter 6 of Acts, several miracles performed by God through human instrumentality are reported, namely the healing of the crippled man (Acts 3), the sudden deaths of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) and the general statement: "And there also came together the multitude from the cities round about Jerusalem, bringing sick folk, and them that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one" (Acts 5:16).  It is notable that all these miracles were performed only by the Apostles.[3]  The record is absolutely silent up to this point about anyone else performing any kind of sign, wonder, or miracle: "And by the hands of the Apostles [emphasis added] were many signs and wonders wrought among the people" (Acts 5:12).  Even the gift of tongues, manifest on Pentecost, is not repeated.

           

However, in Acts 6, the circle of miracle-workers expands.  We read that "Stephen, full of grace and power, wrought great wonders and signs among the people" (Acts 6:8).  What had brought about this sudden change of affairs?  The significant factor is reported in Acts 6:6, namely that after the church chose seven deacons, the Apostles prayed and then "laid their hands upon them."  As will become immediately evident, this act of the imposition of Apostolic hands upon Stephen (and Philip, at least; the record is silent about the other five), was the means by which the ability to perform signs and wonders--gifts of the Holy Spirit--was conveyed or transmitted.  Before the laying on of Apostles' hands he performed no miracles.  Afterward, he performed many.

 

Acts 8

 

As a consequence of the persecution of believers in Jerusalem by Saul, Philip left that city and went to Samaria, where he presented the Gospel to the inhabitants of that region.  Many Samaritans believed when they heard Philip's message, "and saw the signs which he did" (Acts 8:6).  These signs apparently included casting out demons, and healing the crippled and lame (v. 7), and they continued to be performed for some time, since at a later date, Simon the sorcerer saw the signs and great miracles which Philip performed (Acts 8:14).  As with Stephen, we read of signs performed by Philip only after the laying on him of the Apostles' hands.

           

Soon the Apostles heard about the reception of the Gospel message by the Samaritans and their subsequent undergoing believer's immersion.  Peter and John were sent from Jerusalem to Samaria, and when they arrived these two Apostles "prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit: for as yet He [4] was fallen upon none of them; . . . .Then laid they their hands on them [emphasis added], and they received the Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:16, 17).

           

That this act involved something more than or even other than simply receiving the Holy Spirit to indwell them or as the seal of redemption (Rom. 8:9; Eph. 1:13) is evident from verse eighteen: "When Simon saw [emphasis added] that through the laying on of the Apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given . . . ."  Something external caught Simon's attention, something not evident before in the conduct of these Samaritan believers.  A broad spectrum of commentators on this passage recognize that the laying on of Apostolic hands involved the transmission of the charismata.  

           

Matthew Poole, in the 17th century, explained the phrase in v. 15, "that they might receive the Holy Ghost" as "those extraordinary gifts of tongues, of prophesying, of working miracles, &c."  And again on v. 17 ("They received the Holy Ghost"): "the power of speaking with tongues, and working miracles."[5] 

 

In the 18th century, John Gill commented on the phrases "For as yet he was fallen upon none of them" in v. 16, and "and they received the Holy Ghost" in v. 17:

“They had received him as a Spirit of illumination and sanctification, and as a Spirit of conversion and faith; they had been regenerated, enlightened, and sanctified by him; and were converted by him, and brought to believe in Christ, and live by faith upon him; they were baptized believers, and no more; as yet, none of them had gifts qualifying them for the ministry; and still less could any of them speak with tongues, or prophesy, or work miracles; the Holy Ghost had not yet descended on them for such purposes [emphasis added]. . . .”

“. . .[T]hey received the gifts of the Holy Ghost; so that they could prophesy and speak with tongues, and heal diseases, and do other wonderful works;. . . .”[6]

In the 19th century, Henry Alford recognized that something external and visible was evident in Samaria:

“Its effects [i.e., the laying on of Apostolic hands] were therefore visible. . .and consequently the effect of the laying on of the Apostles' hands was not the inward but the outward miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit [emphasis in original].”[7]

Noted 20th century writer F. F. Bruce states very plainly,

“The context leaves us in no doubt that their reception of the Spirit was attended by external manifestations such as had marked His descent on the earliest disciples at Pentecost.”[8]

It seems evident, from the initial manifestations of the charismata elsewhere in Acts (2, 10, 19) that the gift or gifts here manifested was restricted to speaking with tongues and possibly "prophesying," though the gifts bestowed may have included others as well.  It not evident that anything more (such as the sound of a rushing wind or of tongues of fire) was seen (as there is no record of any such repetition at any time after Pentecost).

           

Also of surpassing significance is the fact that no one except Apostles could transmit these charismata to the Samaritans, and that the Apostles’ personal presence, indeed, the personal imposition of their hands, was necessary to their reception.  These gifts did not come automatically at conversion, nor could they be transmitted by even so spiritual a man as Philip, who himself possessed and repeatedly exercised Holy Spirit gifts.  The opening words of v. 18 could well be translated as "Now when Simon saw that only through the laying on of the Apostles' hands were the Holy Spirit's gifts given . . ."

 

Acts 19

           

The dozen men Paul encountered at Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7) are the only other expressed case in Acts of the imposition of Apostolic hands and the exercise of one of the charismata.  This account presents numerous problems which cannot detain us (whose disciples had they been? who had baptized them? what did Paul find improper about their baptism? in what way were they ignorant of the Holy Spirit? had they in fact been converted before Paul met them?).  What is significant for this study is the statement in v. 6: "And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied." In agreement with the incident in Acts 8, the personal imposition of Apostolic hands was a necessary prerequisite before these Christian men exercised the gifts of tongues and prophecy.

 

Paul

 

Before leaving Acts, the conversion of Paul must be addressed.  Though there are three accounts of his conversion (Acts chapters 9, 22 and 26), only two (9 and 22) record the coming of Ananias to see him while he was yet blind, and only one, chapter 9, records the imposition of Ananias' hands on Paul.  God explains to Ananias before He sends him on his mission of contacting Saul/Paul: "and [he, i.e., Saul] hath seen a man named Ananias coming in, and laying his hands on him, that he might receive his sight," (v. 12).  The going of Ananias is recorded in vv. 17,18:

“And Ananias departed, and entered into the house; and laying his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, who appeared unto thee in the way which thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mayest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.  And straightway there fell from his eyes as it were scales, and he received his sight; and he arose and was baptized;”

The instructions given by the Lord are clear: the imposition of Ananias' hands on Saul was for the sake of healing his blinded eyes, which in fact occurred.  We also read that Ananias, in conveying the Lord's message in addition mentions as an apparent purpose of the imposition of hands "and be filled with the Holy Spirit."  These words spoken by Ananias (no more a case of "adding to God's word" than Eve's addition to the recorded words of God, "neither shall you touch it" in Genesis 3:3) may be appealed to by some as proof that the charismata could be conveyed by other than Apostolic hands.  To this objection, we respond, first, that no sign-gift of any kind is recorded in any of the three accounts of Paul's conversion, and second, that being "filled with the Holy Spirit" is not synonymous with either receiving or exercising the charismata. 

 

It is true that on one occasion in Acts, being filled with the Holy Spirit and the manifestation of the charismata are plainly mentioned together in the same verse (Acts 2:4), yet frequently being filled with the Holy Spirit is spoken of in a context where the charismata are not in evidence: Acts 4:8, 31; 6:3,5; 7:55; 11:24; 13:9 (unless some would insist that the bold preaching mentioned in Acts 4:8, 31; 7:55; and 13:9 is exercising the gift of prophecy; certainly tongues is not in view in any of these contexts.  In Acts 13:9, being filled with the Holy Spirit and the miraculous smiting of Bar-Jesus/Elymas are in admittedly close proximity).  Likewise, several times in Acts where charismata appear, no mention is made of being filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 3:7; 6:8; 8:6,7,17; 9:40; 10:44-46; 19:6; etc.). 

 

Outside of Acts, John the Baptist and his father are both spoken of as "filled with the Holy Spirit" (Luke 1:15, 67).  John never performed any miracles (John 10:41); Zacharias is said to have "prophesied" when so filled (1:65).  Under any circumstances, these fillings were before the bestowal of the Spirit's gifts on Pentecost.

           

In the rest of the New Testament, only once is being filled with the Holy Spirit mention--and not in I Corinthians.  Rather, in Ephesians 5:18, Paul commands, "be filled with the Spirit," but says nothing contextually to connect this with the manifestation of the charismata.

           

From the evidence of the New Testament, then, there is no necessary connection between being filled with the Holy Spirit and manifesting a sign-gift.  They may be spoken of together (with one clear example, or perhaps two, in the New Testament) or gifts may appear without the Holy Spirit's filling, and conversely, this filling may occur with no manifestation of gifts.  Therefore, there is no compelling reason to believe that Ananias conveyed to Paul any charisma, and he does not, therefore constitute an exception to the pattern of transmission of the charismata only by the laying on of Apostolic hands.  And even if it were conceded that Paul's case formed an exception (which we do not in the least concede), his conversion and apostleship is so unique that it cannot be appealed to as a paradigm of normal or ordinary Christian experience.[9]

 

Romans 1:11

 

In Romans 1:11, Paul expresses his long-held desire to visit the believers in the city of Rome: "For I long to see you that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift [charisma]" [emphasis added].  It seems evident that Paul here claims that he personally has the power to convey to the Roman believers charismata, and that his personal presence is essential to this conveying.  Such an interpretation of Paul's words is consistent with what we have seen elsewhere: that the Apostles but only the Apostles had the power to transmit the charismata to others, and that this was performed by the laying of the Apostles' hands on the recipient. 

           

Some, however, see in this reference something other than a reference to the sign-gifts or ministry-gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Gill, for example, explains: "not any extraordinary gift of the Spirit; but spiritual light, knowledge, peace, and comfort through his ministerial gift."[10]

           

Alford emphatically writes,

“That the carisma here spoken of was no mere supernatural power of working in the Spirit, the whole context shows . . . . And even if charisma, barely taken, could ever. . . mean technically, a supernatural endowment of the Spirit, yet the epithet pneumatikon, and the object of imparting this charisma, confirmation in the faith, would here preclude it."[11]

On the other hand, Adam Clarke explains the phrase of v. 11, "some spiritual gift" as,

“This probably means some of the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit, which, being given to them, might tend greatly to establish their faith in the Gospel of Christ; and it is very likely that such gifts were only conferred by means of apostles.”[12]

Some might object [13] that Paul writes to the Roman believers as if they already had and exercised charismata (12:6-8), while as yet neither he nor, apparently, any other Apostle had ever been to Rome (the Roman Catholic Church's insistence that Peter founded the church at Rome notwithstanding)[14], and therefore the Apostles could not have conveyed these gifts personally to the believers at Rome, and therefore they must have been acquired by some other means.

           

The answer to this objection is patently obvious.  Romans 16:3-15 contains an extended list of names of Christians in Rome to whom Paul sends personal greeting, and who were therefore known personally to him (and also to believers with him at Corinth, from where he wrote the letter, 16:21-24).  These people, including the notable Priscilla and Aquila, had been before in the presence of Paul, in at least some cases at Corinth, and it was at that time he could have transmitted the charismata to them.  Problem resolved.

 

Timothy

 

In Paul's two letters to Timothy, he twice mentions Timothy's charisma (though without declaring what it was).  In I Timothy 4:14, Paul wrote, "Neglect not the gift [charismatos], which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery."  This probably took place when Paul selected Timothy as his missionary assistant (Acts 16:1-3), though Robertson suggests at a time a number of years later.[15] 

           

First, the bestowal of this gift involved a human intermediary; it was not a direct Divine endowment.  Second, whatever the English text may appear to say, the Greek is clear on the point that neither the prophecy, nor the laying on of the hands of the "presbytery" (a group of elders or pastors) was the effectual means by which the bestowal was accomplished.  Robertson explains:

By prophecy (dia propheteias).  Accompanied by prophecy (1:18), not bestowed by prophecy.  With the laying on of the hands of the presbytery (meta epitheseos ton cheiron tou presbuterious). . . . Here again meta does not express instrument or means, but merely accompaniment.” [16]

What then was the means or instrument by which Timothy received his charisma?  Paul's second letter to Timothy gives us the answer: "Stir up the gift [charisma] of God which is in thee through the laying on of my hands" (II Timothy 1:6). The word "through" is the Greek word dia, here used with the genitive case, and which indicates the intermediate agency by which the gift was transmitted. [17]  The grammatical construction is identical to that in Acts 8:18. 

 

The case of Timothy and his charisma fits the pattern discovered elsewhere in the New Testament, excluding the sovereign bestowals of the charismata at Pentecost and the house of Cornelius (and also, most probably, in the case of Paul).  In all places where the means is stated by which individuals received the charismata, the human agents were always Apostles: the deacons of Acts 6, the Samaritans in Acts 8, the twelve disciples in Acts 19, the Roman Christians potentially (Romans 1:11) and Timothy.  The writer is aware of no other examples in the New Testament.

 

Apostolic Successors?

 

Since the transmission of the charismata was exclusively an apostolic prerogative, it is pertinent to ask: did the Apostles have any duly authorized successors in this or any other distinctively Apostolic aspect of their ministry?  Two instances from the New Testament seem to exhaust the direct Biblical evidence.

           

First, in Acts 1, the assembled disciples took action to fill the vacancy in the number of Apostles caused by the death of Judas who betrayed Christ (vv.15-26).  Peter and the others recognized the need for replacement of Judas with one who was an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ (v. 22).  The disciples put forward two possible candidates, then after praying for God's directive will, cast lots and selected Matthias.  Clearly, here was an appointed successor to an Apostle.  It is misguided to say that Matthias was evidently not God's choice, since Matthias is never mentioned again by name in Acts or anywhere else in the New Testament.  Such criticism is its own refutation, since neither Nathanael, nor Matthew, nor Philip nor most of the others of the original Apostles are mentioned by name after Acts 1 either.  All the Apostles, Matthias included, were mentioned collectively in Acts 2:42-3 (teaching and performing wonders); 4:33 (testifying powerfully to the resurrection of Christ--the very purpose for which Matthias was chosen); 5:12 (performing miracles); 5:18 (being arrested); 6:2 (selecting deacons); etc.  Under any circumstances, the remaining Apostles felt compelled in Acts 1 to appoint a replacement for Judas to the office of Apostle.

 

The only other case of the death of an Apostle expressly mentioned in the New Testament is the death of James the son of Zebedee and brother of John in Acts 12:2 at the hands of Herod Agrippa I.  We read nothing of a conference or council convened among the remaining Apostles to appoint a replacement for James.   While this is an argument from silence, it has some force, in that the office of Apostle required that a person be an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ.  As the first century progressed, more and more of those eyewitnesses died, and were by definition irreplaceable.  Ultimately, those qualified by such experience to be Apostles would dwindle in number to zero, and the office would expire even if a series of qualified replacements had been appointed for now one, now another of the original Apostles as they died.

 

It seems evident from the limited evidence of the New Testament (and from early church history, which knows nothing of continuing Apostolic circle), that the office of Apostle expired as the Apostles died, John being perhaps the last to die.

 

Conclusion

           

What are the implications of these findings?  First, apart from the sovereign direct bestowal of the charismata by God in Acts 2 and 10 (and probably to Paul), all examples in the New Testament where information is given point to one pattern: the charismata were transmitted to Christians solely by the means or instrumentality of the Apostles laying hands on them.  None but the Apostles, not even those who possessed miraculous gifts such as Philip and Stephen, two of the original deacons, could transmit the gifts to others. 

 

It is also important to recognize that while many or even perhaps most of those references to the bestowal of gifts which have been examined have reference to the so-call "sign-gifts" and not to the "service-gifts," it is impossible to separate them in the matter of Apostolic bestowal, since there is no certainty which gifts were to be given to the Romans, for example (1:11), or that which Timothy possessed (I Timothy 4:14; II Timothy 1:6).  Indeed, separating sign-gifts from service-gifts is an impossible task since the exact nature of most of the gifts mentioned in I Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 is unknown.  All the gifts, of whatever nature, where conveyed by Apostolic imposition of hands.

 

Finally, because the Apostles evidently had no duly constituted and appointed successors, no one beyond their number was given the power or authority to continue the work of conveying the charismata.  As a result, the charismatic gifts would have expired with the death of the Apostles, or at the very latest, with the death of those who received the gifts from the Apostles, or, roughly speaking, by 150 A.D. at the very latest.

 

Of course, the implication of this final deduction is significant: if there have been no charismata operative in the Christian community since the middle of the second century, then of course there are none today, whether sign- or service-gifts.  As a result, all of the modern-day claims by Pentecostal and related groups of the possession of the gift or tongues or prophesy or healing (or knowledge, in the case of Pat Robertson) are illusory, if not down right fraudulent.  Further, all the energy and effort put into non-charismatic evangelical seminars and booklets and tapes to help people discover "their spiritual gift" has been so much well-intentioned but misguided effort.  The discussion has come 19 centuries too late.[18]

 

End Notes

 

1. My settled opinion is that in all cases the gift of tongues in the New Testament was the miraculous ability to speak a foreign human language without the necessity of learning it by study or experience.

 

2. All Scripture quotations will be from the American Standard Version of 1901 unless otherwise identified.

 

3. The miraculous release of the Apostles from prison, Acts 5:19, was an angelic, not human, act.

 

4. The ASV inexplicably here reads “it,’ contrary to the uniform rendering of such earlier English versions as Wycliffe’s, Tyndale’s, Cranmer’s, the Geneva, the Rheims, the KJV and the ERV.  The ASV corrected the KJV’s references to the Holy Spirit “itself” in Romans 8:16, 26, though it failed, as did the ERV of 1881, to correct the reference to the Holy Spirit as “it” in I Peter 1:11.

 

5. A Commentary on the Holy Bible, vol. III, p. 410.

 

6. Gill’s Commentary, vol. V, p. 860.

 

7. The Greek Testament, vol. II, p. 90

 

8. Commentary on the Book of Acts, p. 181

 

9. When and where Paul received his charismata is a matter of speculation.  It seems probable that they were sovereignly and directly bestowed on him by God, perhaps at conversion.  His first reported exercise of a charisma seems to have been on the island of Cyprus when he smote Bar-Jesus/Elymas blind, Acts 13:9-11.

 

10. Vol. VI, p. 4.

 

11. Vol. II, p. 317.  See, for a similar position, Charles Hodge, A Commentary on Romans, pp. 26-7.

 

12. Vol. VI, p. 39.  He continues, I think erroneously, “and as the apostle had not yet been at Rome, consequently the Roman Christians had not yet received any of these miraculous gifts, . . . ”  On wherein his error lies, see below.

 

13. One of my students in Romania raised this very objection in a class I taught in 1992.

 

14. See Alford, vol. II, pp. 33-37 for some analysis of the founding and founder(s) of the church in Rome.

 

15. Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. IV, pp. 581, 582.

 

16. p. 581

 

17. On this use of dia with the genitive, see Dana and Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 102.

 

18. Warfield in Counterfeit Miracles reports that the post-Reformation Puritan writers uniformly recognized that the charismata had all expired in the first century.

 

Bibliography

 

Alford, Henry, The Greek New Testament, revised by Everett F. Harrison.  4 vols.  Chicago: Moody Press, 1958.

 

Bruce, F. F., Commentary on the Books of Acts.  London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1954.

 

Clarke, Adam, The Holy Bible: A Commentary and Critical Notes.  New York: Abingdon Press, n.d.

 

Dana, H. E., and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament.  N. p.: Macmillan, 1927.

 

Gill, John, Gill's Commentary.  6 vols.  Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980 reprint.

 

Hodge, Charles, A Commentary on Romans.  London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1972 reprint.

 

Poole, Matthew, A Commentary on the Holy Bible.  3 vols.  Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1963 reprint.

 

Robertson, A. T., Word Pictures in the New Testament.  6 vols.  Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931.

 

Warfield, B. B., Counterfeit Miracles.  Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1976 reprint.

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Another Quote Traced to Its Source

 

In the previous issue of AISI, we included a quotation from Presbyterian OT scholar Edward J. Young regarding essential Christian unity in spite of disagreements over lesser matters of doctrine.  We titled the excerpt “In Non-Essentials, Charity” which is actually a collapsed version of a famous quote, which in full is “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity” (as originally written in Latin: In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas).  Even as we were in the process of sending out that issue, we came across a comment about this famous quotation in Philip Schaff’s little book, Saint Augustin, Melancthon, Neander (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1886).  In discussing some of the more famous aphorisms authored by Augustin, Schaff notes that the quote about unity, liberty and charity, though widely ascribed to Augustin, is to be found nowhere in his voluminous works.  Rather, it is to be traced, according to Schaff, to either Rupert Meldenius, a 17th century German Lutheran or to the 17th century English Puritan Richard Baxter (the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 2nd edition identifies it as Baxter’s motto). 

 

Turning to Burton Stevenson’s Home Book of Proverbs, Maxims and Familiar Phrases (New York: MacMillan, 1948), the gold standard of quote books, the quote is ascribed to Philip Melanchthon, c. 1540, though no passage in his works is cited.  Stevenson credits the ascription to Melanchthon to W. L. Bowles, but notes that at a church conference in 1877, F. W. Farrar ascribed the quote to Rupert Meldenius, as noted above (p. 321). 

 

In the M’Clintock-Strong Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, vol. VI, pp. 59-60, an account is given of Meldenius’ work on Christian unity, with a somewhat varying form of the Latin quote noted above expressly cited from his writings (without page number), but this of course does not absolutely establish that he originated the quotation.  Perhaps he was quoting from a prior source.

 

Turning, finally, to the article on “Meldenius, Rupertus” by Carl Bertheau in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (vol. VII, p. 287), we discover what must surely be the final, authoritative word on the matter.  Bertheau informs us that the name “Rupertus Meldenius” is a pseudonym constructed by rearranging the letters of the author’s real name, viz., Petrus Meuderlinus, a Latinized form of Peter Meiderlin (1582-1651).  The Latin work containing the quote in question was published in 1626, long before the quote was adopted as a motto by Baxter.  In fact, Bertheau provides a quotation from Baxter himself (from his treatise The True and Only Way of Concord of all the Christian Churches, published in 1680) indicating that this quotation was “the Pacificator’s old and despised words,” which surely indicates that Baxter knowingly borrowed the motto from some older writer.  Bertheau concludes that since the quote cannot be found in any author previous to Meldenius a.k.a. Meiderlin, it must be ascribed to him as the originator.  And there we must leave it.

---Doug Kutilek

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