7 Fold Perspective on Ministry

1. 1 Cor. 3:9-11 – GOD’S FELLOW WORKERS

John 5:17 – My Father has been working until now, and I have been working

2. 1 Cor. 4:1-4 – STEWARDS OF MYSTERY

1 Cor. 2:7,8 – The wisdom of God is a mystery – which none of the rulers of this age know

3. 1 Cor. 4:6-13 – SPECTACLE TO WORLD

To angels and men

4. 1 Cor. 4:14-21 – FATHERS IN GOD

5. 2 Cor. 2:12-17- FRAGRANCE OF CHRIST

6. 2 Cor. 5:20 – AMBASSADORS FOR CHRIST

For Christ – the anointed one

7. 2 Cor. 6:4 – SERVANTS OF GOD

PERSPECTIVE 1 John 2:12-14

EMPATHY 2 Cor. 1:3,4

SELFLESSNESS 1 Cor. 11:1

DISCERNMENT Heb. 5:14

GIFT 1 Tim. 4:14

The 7 Fold Fire of God

This is a very basic sermon outline – it is well worth reading the verses in context and meditating on the theme. [Ed.]

Matt 3: 11-12 (NIV)
“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Luke 12:49
“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!“

1. Exodus 3:2 – REVELATION OF GOD

2. Exodus 13:21 – GUIDANCE OF GOD

3. Lev. 9:24 – MERCY OF GOD

4. Deut. 4:24 – JEALOUSY OF GOD

5. 1 Kings 18:38 – POWER OF GOD

6. Isaiah 6 – HOLINESS OF GOD

7. Daniel 3:25 – PRESERVATION OF GOD

Abuse of Women in India

I read this in the Times of India today:

Spousal violence is rampant in India. The National Family Health Survey-III, carried out in 29 states during 2005-06, had found that 37% women reported being physically or sexually abused by their husbands at some time in their lives. More shockingly, around 54% of the women surveyed thought that such violence was justified on some grounds. The survey, which interviewed 1.25 lakh (125,000) women, saw 41% women justifying wife-beating if it was because they showed disrespect towards their in-laws while 35% women were okay with being brutally assaulted by their husbands if they neglected household chores or their children.

Not surprisingly then, 51% of the 75,000 men interviewed didn’t find anything wrong with assaulting their wives. Slapping was found to be the commonest act of violence by husbands. Only 2% of abused women have ever sought police help.

Prayer

“Every great movement of God can be traced to a kneeling figure”
D.L. Moody

Many questions might be asked – here are a few examples:

How important is prayer in my daily life?
How much time do I give to active prayer throughout each day?
How often do I consciously and deliberately stop to pray about something?
Do I pray ‘without ceasing’?
Do I persist in prayer until i am convinced in spirit that i have the answer?
Am I casual in prayer telling God what I want rather than seeking his heart and allowing my actions to follow?

Living in the Power of the Word of God

James 1:19-2:13 – Living under(or: in the power of) the Word of God

After you have listened to this weeks message, please ponder the questions below and allow God to speak to you and help you change areas in your life that do not please him.

  • Are you living in anger in your life? Is it robbing you of your peace in God? Can you please God if you live in anger?
  • Is there any room for compassion and holiness in your life? Are you actively pursuing these? How concerned are you about the needs of others?
  • Do you discriminate against people based on outward appearances and worldly standards?
  • Do you love money?
  • Would it be true of you that you are quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.
  • Do you listen to God?
  • Do you listen to others?
  • Are you sensitive in your spirit to God and other people?
  • Are you developing a listening spirit before God
  • Are you dealing with moral filth in your life and getting rid of it in your life?
  • Are you doing the Word or just listening to it?
  • Are those the world marginalises being productive in your church? Are you contributing to the Kingdom of God?
  • Are you keeping yourself from being polluted by the world? Are you being washed continually by the Word of God?
  • Is mercy a hallmark of your life? If you look over the past 3 months are you expressing more mercy or more judgement?

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The Life of Faith

Many of us will remember the powerful preaching and teaching of Bob Gordon. We have started to convert some of his audio tapes into a digital format that we make available for you here. We will put an audio message online every week starting with his audio books.

To those of you who are new to Bob Gordon, we hope you will find his messages refreshing and challenging.

Continue reading The Life of Faith

Healing Part 2

v) CURRENT TENSIONS
It is at this point that I want to direct our attention to some of the tensions I perceive in the current situation. I am indebted to a number of contemporary and interesting sources for help in my consideration of the challenges.

a) J. Rodman Williams: Renewal Theology:3 vols.
Vol. 2 deals in particular with the themes of Salvation, the Holy Spirit, and Christian Living. In his section on the Nine-fold Manifestation there is a commendable discussion of the gifts of healings and the place of faith in ministry. He is at one and the same time complementary and critical of some leading views today.

b) William DeArteaga: Quenching The Spirit – a concise and clear overview of the history of the manifestations of the Spirit and how they have been resisted at every point of history by what he describes as pharasaism within the Church.

c) Journal of Pentecostal Theology – a number of current articles, in particular, one by J.C. Thomas on James 5:4 – 6 and another by H.H. Knight o God’s Faithfulness and God’s Freedom which is a comparative study on contemporary theologies of healing.

From all this there are certain tensions I would like to highlight from a positive perspective. In other words, my intention is not the debunk healing but rather build it up. These tensions do, however, encapsulate much of the unease some feel about some of the claims and practices tat are apparent today.

I want to highlight four areas of tension.

1) HEALING AND MEDICINE

Williams recognises this as a special area of concern. Sometimes people are not healed. There may be a number of reasons why this is so. Among them may be: – “The illness may be dealt with in other ways than through ministry in the gifts.”

He quotes the occasion with King Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20 where the king is instructed to make a poultice of figs “and he recovered.”

We will notice, however, that apart from direct prophetic instruction there was also a direct sign from God when he made the sun go back ten paces.

Williams – “The mistake sometimes is made to fail to see God at work in the natural as well as the supernatural, through physicians and nurses as well as through the prayers of believers.”

Ecclesiasticus 38vv1-15 – an apocryphal scripture which succinctly presents a balance between God and man with regard to healing.

One thing that is clear from 1 Corinthians 12 is that the gifts of the Spirit work in co-operation with one another. It seems to me that here is an area where the gift of discernment needs very much to be in operation so that we take the right way in ever case.

2) HEALING AND THE HEALER
It is clear from Scripture and experience that there are certain people who are given the gifts of healings in a special and significant way.

Others have stressed within their ministry the priesthood of all believers even within the ministry of healing prayer. Like James K. Wagner: The Upper Room Prayer and Healing Ministries. He describes his ministry as being with “those Christians who counsel and pray with people for healing – not necessarily claiming the gift of healing, but offering this ministry of love and compassion out of obedience to Christ.”

** 1 Corinthians 12v9 – gifts of healings.
This is the only occurrence of the word charismata within the list of spiritual gifts.

Williams makes 3 important points about this:
i) undoubtedly individual appointments by the Holy Spirit within the community of believers.
ii) the one who receives such gifts does not directly perform the healings; rather he simply transmits the gifts. He is a kind of ‘delivery boy’ who brings the gifts to others.
iii) the word charismata emphasises their continuing divine origin and character. The come directly from the exalted Lord. Where He is recognised and received as Lord, He freely moves through a particular person to bring about healings.

3) FAITHFULNESS AND FREEDOM
This is the issue raised by Henry H. Knight in the current issue of the Journal of Pentecostal Theology. He reviews different approaches to the healing ministry and demonstrates each in alignment with these two emphases of faithfulness and freedom.

By Faithfulness he means faithfulness to God’s promises in Scripture. Sometimes healing is seen as almost automatic because of a certain view of the promises of God.

By freedom he means just this. God is free to choose how, where, when and whether to bring physical healing to any given situation.

There have been ministries through the years that have come down more heavily on one side than the other. He reviews the Faith Confession Movement, for example which falls heavily on the side of promise and therefore faithfulness. Then again Agnes Sandford with her Healing Light in which God’s healing energy flows through the person like electricity flows through a wire. These emphasise the faithfulness of God. On the other side he quotes Katherine Kuhlman and the likes who put stress on the freedom of God. She relied heavily on a word of knowledge and took the view that “only those God chose to heal at that time would be healed.”

He continues to look at McNutt and James Wagner which he sees as integrating faithfulness and freedom. McNutt stresses three important aspects:

i) Do not expand any one method or experience into a universal method.
ii) Ask God to meet your needs with confidence, but don’t tell Him when or how to do it.
iii) Our faith is in God not in our faith.

He concludes by looking at Wimber and the signs and wonders movement and quotes Ken Blue: Authority to Heal – “First, there will always be a mystery in what God does and why. He does not answer to us for His actions nor does He always explain them. Second, until Christ’s return all our ministry is partial, for now we only have a foretaste of what we will have perfectly then. And third, our obedience is never perfect.”

4) DIVINE HEALING AND OTHERS HEALING
This is the final area of tension I want to raise. It is quite clear that we are surrounded by many alternate voices claiming the power to heal. The evidence is that some of them are successful, sometimes to a degree that the Christian church is not. However, I suggest three important distinctives –

i) The name of Jesus.
The phrase “in my name” or “in the name” occurs in many passages of the New Testament. In early Christian experience a number of things were done in the name of Jesus:

baptism Acts 2:38 et al exorcism Matt 7:22 et al
speaking boldly Acts 9:28 assembling together 1 Cor 5:4
giving thanks Eph 5:20 healing Acts 3:6 4:10
James 5:14 – “anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.”
Thomas – “to anoint ‘in the name of the Lord’ meant to act in conformity to the Lord’s directions and on his behalf as eschatological agents”

“At the very least, this qualification clearly designates this action as a religious anointing and distinguishes it from magical rites of the day.”

ii) The Place of Healing
Wesley – while healing is a manifestation of God’s love, salvation is even more so, for there the very image of God in us is being restored. God has a bias toward healing without making healing an end in itself.

This surely is an important point. It is so possible to stress physical healing that fear of death can actually be imbibed in the hearts of the very believers who have supposedly been given victory over the last enemy.

iii) The fellowship of the saints
The Epistle of James brings a necessary balance to 1 Corinthians 12. It does not negate it – it contextualizes it. I am convinced that specialist healing ministries are best operated within the context of front-line evangelism where the miracle gives such credibility to the power of the Gospel.

But it is the context of the fellowship of believers that prevents the rise(and fall?) of the charismatic guru.

Let us go for what is best and for what is real. When God works we don’t need to make false or exaggerated claims. We will see the evidence and power of the Living God. Let us not be unbelievers but those who believe and trust in God.

“And Let us encourage one another and the more so as we see the Day approaching.”

Healing Part 1

[This is a long piece written by Bob and so it has been divided it into two sections – Ed]

1) My Own Background
                - militates against belief in divine healing today.

i) Plymouth Brethren with their cessationist theology derived in most part from the teaching of J.N.Darby (1800 – 1882) For Darby the spiritual gifts and spiritual power belonged to the dispensation of the early church and died with the death of the last Apostle and the advent of the canon of New Testament Scripture. C.I. Scofield with his famous Scofield Bible propagated most the views of Darby on this and others matters and they became the inheritance of a great part of the evangelical church.

During his lifetime Darby observed the revival under Edward Irving a Scottish Presbyterian minister in London. He left the Presbyterian Church under great pressure and formed the Catholic Apostolic Church. Sadly what Darby and others saw of excess and imbalance confirmed them more deeply in their views with regard to the work of the Holy Spirit.

According to Darby’s view after the formation of the New Testament and after the death of the last apostle the sign gifts ceased to be of relevance and faded away.

Ronald E. Baxter(Gifts of the Spirit) – “They passed away as the need for authentication of both the message and the messengers of New Testament truth was swallowed up in the unspeakable power and grandeur of the perfect Word of God.”

Unfortunately such a views creates a great divide between the Word and the Spirit and limits the activity of the Holy Spirit very much with the boundaries of the written Word.

William DeArteaga (Quenching The Spirit) – “Perhaps second only to liberal demythologising the radical dispensationalism of the Darby-Scofield tradition has been one of the most misguided form of Biblical interpretation of modern times.”

ii) Reformed Church Ministry – Later in life I was ordained into what is now the United reformed Church. In such a denomination today the word “reformed” would need some redefinition. Nevertheless the roots of such a group go back to the Reformation and, in particular, to the work of John Calvin a brilliant and systematic theologian whose ministry was directed against the excesses which he saw within the then Roman Catholic Church.(1509 – 1964)

Calvin (Institutes iv) – “But that gift of healing, like the rest of the miracles, which the Lord willed to be brought forth for a time, has vanished away in order to make the new preaching of the gospel marvellous for ever. Therefore, even if we grant to the full tat anointing(for the sick)was a sacrament of those powers which were then administered by the hands of the apostles, it has nothing to do with us, to whom the administering of such powers has not been granted.”

Calvin’s reaction was against the extremes that he saw in the Catholic Church of his day and , in particular, the rite of Extreme Unction which he saw as a man-invented ritual without meaning and useless. There is no mention in all of Calvin’s writings of the gifts of the Spirit and he is clearly negative about such actions as the laying on of hands:

“If this ministry which the apostles then carried out still remained in the church the laying on of hands would also have to be kept. But since this grace has ceased to be given what purpose does the laying on of hands serve?”

DeArteaga – “These passages reflect both the truth and the tragedy of the Reformation. Calvin’s critical observations are true and today even Catholic theologians would agree with many of them.”

David Watson is on record as saying that the Reformation was the greatest tragedy to hit the Church. Many would view that as an extreme statement but in the light of this subject and the Reformer’s view of it we can appreciate something of what he meant.

Anyway these two streams form the background from which I come. They have left me with two strong inclinations:

a) An inclination towards the sovereignty of God. I have always felt, and nothing has happened to change this view, that the first emphasis should be on God and His sovereign purposes. The centre of Biblical theology is not man but God. Man is seen in relation or out of relation to a holy, living God.

As I look around me at the current state of affairs I become increasingly uneasy at those emphases of ministry which leave people more conscious of themselves than God and more conscious of the human agent than the divine minister.

b) An inclination towards the Biblical. Now I shall affirm in a moment that one great change that took place in my life when I experienced the coming on of the Holy Spirit was that my perspective on the Word of God altered. However, I always feel more comfortable when I can look to example, principle or inclination with the written word of the Scriptures. I believe that when any spiritual power movement draws away from the basis of Scripture it is on very dangerous ground.

Nevertheless, I no longer draw a direct equation between Scripture and the Word of God. Scripture is indeed the very Word of God and indeed the whole of Scripture is God’s Word. But a more important question is this: does Scripture provide the boundary for the Word of God? I believe the Spirit leads us to see the personal and prior nature of the Word as coming from God before Scripture was ever formed and continually proceeding from Him in a powerful and sustaining way that goes beyond the words of Holy Writ.

**The Analogy of Experience
It is here that such evidences as the ministry of healing are of such vital importance.

I was brought up to believe that the Bible and only the Bible was self-authenticating. For example, we believed that the miracles of which the Bible speaks took place because the Bible says so. Not because there was any reason within our experience to believe so. In fact, we never looked for authentication within our experience because we believed these things had died out as we saw already.

iii) The outcome of all this is that I no longer accept a cessationist theology. Like many others I have profound questions and I see that we are surrounded in mystery as we approach these questions. But a religion without mystery would make us gods and surely that is the very thing the Bible itself is so militant against?

St. Augustine – “The answer to abuse is not non-use, but proper use.”

This is where the battle will be won or lost. The battle is not new. It has raged whenever a fresh outbreak of the power of the Spirit has occurred and many of the objections we hear today are the same, indeed, they were then more ferocious.

B.B. Warfield:(1851 – 1921): Counterfeit Miracles
– described as the crown of cessationism. This was an attack not only on leading healing movements of the nineteenth century but also directed against the growing Pentecostal movement at the beginning of the twentieth.

At one point in his argument Warfield finds himself making a strange bedfellow in the person of a leading radical liberal theologian; von Harnack – “the whole world and the circumbient atmosphere were filled with devils, not merely idolatry – Christianity won and expelled the demons not only from the tortured individuals whose imagination was held captive by them, but from the life of the people and from the world.”

Now, even for someone like myself who has such difficulty with many of the current practices of deliverance I find such a view astonishing but that is what Warfield believed and through him whole generations of sincere evangelical believers.

iv) You have probably come to the conclusion by now that it is a miracle that ever I take the position I now do and that I am open to the working of the Spirit to any degree at all. Perhaps this just goes to show that after all the age of miracles is not yet dead!

I am comforted by the fact that it was another Gordon – A.J. Gordon (1836 – 1895) who became known in his day as the theologian of healing. Interestingly, Gordon fought a battle that still has relevance today. His battle was not only against the force of Calvinist cessationism but against alternative healing philosophies like that of Mrs Eddy with her Christian Science movement. In his book The Ministry of Healing and elsewhere Gordon worked to show that Christian healing was distinctive and not to be confused with spiritualist alternatives.