Some years ago A.W. Tozer preached a sermon entitled Tragedy in the Church: The Missing Gifts. This later became the opening sermon in a book of his transcribed sermons. It is a tragedy that many of the spiritual gifts are underutilized and underrecognized in the modern evangelical church, even where in churches and denominations which do not believe that the gifts have ceased from the church.
Some years ago I was the pastor of a Christian and Missionary Alliance church where the previous pastor and a number of the current members and attenders had some Pentecostal leanings. I came up with the following teaching statement as a way to bring everyone together on what the scriptures had to say about the public exercise of spiritual gifts. I offer it here as a possible basis for public exercise of the gifts in churches and denominations where they do not believe that the gifts have ceased from the church but do not want to go to unscriptural extremes.
1. We affirm the inspiration and sufficiency of the Word of God to teach, correct, instruct and train in righteousness, and that it alone is sufficient to equip believers for every good work (II Timothy 3;16-17). We affirm the high place of preaching and teaching of the Word of God after the practice of the Lord Jesus and the apostles (Acts 2:42, I Timothy 4:13, II Timothy 4:12). We repudiate any additional revelation to the Biblical canon (Revelation 22:18-19, Deuteronomy 4:2, Proverbs 3:6), and any message or expression of spiritual gifts that would contradict or add to the written Word of God.
2. We affirm the reality of all the gifts of the Spirit for today (Romans 12:3-8, I Corinthians 12:8-10, 27-30, Ephesians 4:11-16, I Peter 4:10-11). We affirm that the gifts of the Spirit are good for the church.
3. We affirm the policy of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in regard to tongues, that they are not to be sought as the evidence of the filling of the Holy Spirit nor are they to be forbidden as not being given for today.
4. We affirm that the trust test of the filling and presence of the Holy Spirit is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and that the earthly goal of the Holy Spirit is to transform believers into the moral likeness of Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 3:18). We affirm that the Holy Spirit comes to glorify Jesus Christ (John 16:13-14) and not to exalt his own ministries. We affirm that love is greater than any spiritual gift (I Corinthians 13:1-3). We repudiate any spiritual pride, rebellion against church leadership, or role reversal in Christian marriages on account of spiritual gifts as contrary to the nature of the Holy Spirit.
5. We affirm that spiritual gifts are given to the church for the edification of all, by the will of God, for the good of the entire body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:7, 11). We affirm that all gifts are necessary and good. We recognize that the more visible and sometimes spectacular sign gifts are no more valid than any other gifts, and repudiate any rivalry on the basis of gifts.
6. We affirm the scriptural guidelines for the public exercise of spiritual gifts of prophecy and tongues (I Corinthians 14:26-33). We counsel each member of the fellowship to be sensitive to the others and to seek and receive edification through the use of spiritual gifts. We counsel that the less formal services on Sunday evening and Wednesday evening are more appropriate times for the use of these (of prophecy in a non preaching mode and tongues with interpretation), as a practice followed even in mainstream Pentecostal denominations such as the Assemblies of God, due to the possible presence of unbelievers and immature believers in the Sunday morning services. We repudiate any practice which tends to self exaltation rather than edification, or to confusion and disorder in the worship services.
7. We recognize the possibility of human imitations and demonic counterfeits of spiritual gifts, especially of tongues and prophecy. We affirm the right of the church and individual believers to discern the source of all such manifestations, and recognize the same as a scriptural responsibility (I Corinthians 12:1-3, I Thessalonians 5:19-20, I John 4:1-3). We recognize that the enemy and his servants will masquerade as servants of righteousness, and repudiate any test of spiritual gifts according to the attractive personality of the possessor or the beauty or excitement of the experience (II Corinthians 11:13-15).
A. Testing of the gift of prophecy: We affirm the presence of the scriptural gift of prophecy in the church today, but recognize that not everything that claims to be a message from the Lord is to be received as such. We recognize that the genuine gift of prophecy will expose sin (I Corinthians 12:24-25), and will operate so that believers will be strengthened, encouraged and comforted (I Corinthians 14:3). We affirm that the true gift of prophecy will always be in accord with the teaching and spirit of scripture (Romans 12:6). We repudiate as false prophecy what might arise from a person’s own thoughts and ideas (Jeremiah 23:16, 21, Ezekiel 13:2-3, 17), whatever would tend to lead a person away from God and obedience to his Word (Deuteronomy 13:1-5, Jeremiah 23:17-18, 22), and whatever predictions fail to come true (Deuteronomy 18:20). We also recognize and repudiate any prophecy as false which is found to originate from a demonic source (I Timothy 4:1). We affirm the right of the church and its leadership to correct and discipline its membership for false prophecy. We encourage believers to avoid any attempt to correct another believer through purported prophecy or words of the Lord and instead to follow the procedures of private and gentle rebuke as outlined in Matthew 18:15-17 and Galatians 6:1, and to be patient and forbearing with differing fellow believers on nonscriptural matters (Ephesians 4:1-3).
B. Testing of the gift of tongues: We affirm the presence of the gift of tongues today in the church of Jesus Christ. We deny that the gift is separable into a gift of tongues for public use and a private prayer language, since scripture recognizes one gift of tongues (I Corinthians 12:10), with different uses, whether in public exercise with interpretation (I Corinthians 14:13), or as a private prayer language (I Corinthians 14:14-15, 28), or, in cases perhaps most rare, in evangelism to those whose native language is different than that of the speaker (Acts 2:4, 8-12). According to the scriptural descriptions the content of tongues when interpreted would be prayer, praise and thanksgiving (I Corinthians 14:13-17), and we would counsel great caution when interpretations take a prophetic form, as being possibly out of order and even false prophecy. We encourage that with love and gentleness for the speaker that tongues be tested by the repeated use of the word of command of the authority of the Lord to the spiritual source to reveal whether it acknowledges the authority of the Lord Jesus and that he has come in the flesh (I Corinthians 12:3, I John 4:2-3). We encourage this especially in the case of an experience that has been a factor in backsliding, lack of church attendance or involvement, indulgence of sin, rebellion against church leadership, role reversal in the marriage, lack of peace and lovelessness toward brothers and sisters in Christ, and neglect of prayer and God’s Word, and where there has been occult or spiritistic influence in the background.
8. We recognize the possibility of false miracles today (Matthew 24:11, 24, II Thessalonians 2:9-12), and that as the return of the Lord Jesus grows closer, the possibility of their increase. We repudiate as false any which are done by sleight of hand to deceive and any from a demonstrably demonic source. We counsel all believers to note the fruits of any worker of miracles (Matthew 7:15-23).
9. We utterly repudiate any occultic or spiritistic practice as being contrary to scripture and a source of demonic oppression and bondage (Deuteronomy 18:9-13). We call upon all believers to avoid utterly all such practices. We encourage the confession and renunciation of such practices as in accord with scripture (Acts 19:18-19).