Updates for typos and errors:
Two things are really difficult pastorally. One is making charismatics out of reformed believers, and the other is reforming charismatics. These two groups are so far apart in temperament and priorities that one is tempted to say that the two shall never meet. But with God, all things are possible.
Paul’s Ministry Experience
When we look at the New Testament churches, we realize that no church is perfect. Paul had real problems in almost all the churches he started. The Galatians had problems with legalism that almost completely undermined the true gospel. The Colossians had problems with syncretism and mysticism, and of course the Corinthian church, which Paul spent more time than with any other church, had serious divisions around rhetorical excellence and spiritual excess.
The Corinthian problem was twofold:
1. They idolized those preachers who had the best rhetorical skills.
2. They judged one another’s spirituality by how powerful an individual’s spiritual gifting was. The one who spoke in tongues the loudest and the weirdest was considered more spiritual.
What I would like to emphasize is how Paul dealt with these problems.
Paul Did Not Outlaw Spiritual Gifts
As a pastor, this Cessationist solution has been taken by many to the problems of charismatic excess. This is a very good defensive position to take. The problem is that this solution only deals with the symptoms. Paul was a better theologian and a better pastor than many of us and so he pointed out the real root cause of the problem.
Paul’s solution is to address the root cause of egomania by teaching on agape love.
The Root Cause of the problem of Charismania is egomania. Therefore, the solution to the problem is discipleship according to the principles of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Paul says to the Corinthians, “Are you not worldly since you create these parties and divisions based on the charisma of your leaders?” The problem Paul is addressing is worldliness as in the idolatry of men. We are not entertainers!!!
With respect to excessive use of spiritual gifts in public, Paul knows that the root cause is self-centeredness and, therefore, he teaches the people about love. Paul is saying, “You are using spiritual gifts in order to display before others that you are spiritual. This is not the purpose of God’s Spirit and His gifts. The purpose of the gifts is love. If you grow and learn love, then you will use the gifts of God, healing, prophecy, tongues and interpretation, in such a way that you glorify God. Love is patient and kind. It does not boast or act unbecoming. It does not seek its own. Love never fails”.
The Root Cause of the Problem is Self-Centeredness and the Solution is Discipleship.
If we look at Paul’s biblical solution to the problem of fanatical excess, we see that Cessationism is not the proper solution.
A Note to Charismatics
Charismatics need to examine their ministries and the motive of the heart. We need to admit that there really is a problem of fanaticism and egomania in the charismatic churches. The central pastoral need in all the churches is discipleship. The central principle of discipleship is love and the place to learn the ways of love is the Sermon on the Mount and the teachings of Jesus.
The presence of spiritual excess and fanaticism shows a lack of discipleship in the principles of Jesus. Jesus teaches meekness. Meekness is a great anecdote to self-centered fanaticism which is so apparent in the charismatic churches.
A Note to Conservatives
On the other hand, conservatives and Cessationists need to realize that to disallow prophecy and tongues in the church is not a true solution to the problem. This solution leads to a Christianity without power and without experience of God’s intimate care and concern for people. God knows us intimately and He speak to us intimately. God knows our pains and he shows compassion and heals us. Prophecy and healing are central to the presence of the kingdom of God in this age of grace.
As we seek a full expression of our faith, the place to start is to lay a solid foundation of discipleship. Teach the ways of Jesus Christ that progressively matures the believers in love and self-denial. From this foundation of discipleship the expression of the power of the Holy Spirit will marry both the heart of God and the hand of God. This corporate expression of love and compassion is the place of God-centered God-glorifying Kingdom Christianity.