To the church in Corinth the apostle Paul wrote, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant” (1 Corinthians 12:1). Yet, there is perhaps no greater area of ignorance and confusion within the church today than in the area of spiritual gifts.
The Two Extremes
Among Bible-believing Christians, there are generally two extremes when it comes to the subject of spiritual gifts. The first is to deny various present-day manifestations of some of the gifts of the Spirit. A quote from a popular Bible commentator clearly states this position:
“The temporary sign gifts were limited to the Apostolic Age, and therefore ceased after that time. Those gifts included miracles, healings, tongues and interpretation of tongues. The purpose of the temporary sign gifts was to authenticate the apostolic message as the word of God until the Scriptures were completed” [emphasis mine]. (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary 1 Corinthians, Moody Press, Chicago, 1984, pp. 297–298.)
This statement is representative of the view held by a large number of evangelical leaders today.
You find the other extreme in what is known as the charismatic movement. This movement is identified by an overemphasis on experience, leading quite often to practices that contradict the clear teaching of Scripture. In some charismatic meetings today, you can find people “laughing” like hyenas, “barking” like dogs, “clucking” like chickens, “mooing” like cows, and “roaring” like lions; all of these supposedly under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Some are falling down, claiming that they are “drunk in the Spirit.” Others are claiming that people are being “divinely” sprinkled with gold dust during worship; or that precious gems like diamonds are mysteriously appearing around the worship centers. There are even reports of angel’s feathers floating down from heaven upon the worshipers! All of this stuff is crazy! How anyone could attribute these bizarre behaviors to the Holy Spirit is beyond me.
The Bible Is Our Final Authority
As much as I reject the claim that God is getting His people drunk in the Spirit, I also reject the assertion that miracles, healings, tongues, as well as the other gifts, are no longer in operation today. Both of these positions are incorrect and both have served to hinder the witness of the church. One viewpoint quenches the Spirit by insisting that certain gifts have ceased; the other grieves the Holy Spirit by ignoring biblical guidelines for worship and by attributing obviously foolish behavior to the third person of the Holy Trinity. The truth lies between the two extremes. All of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are available to us today, and “all things [are to] be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40). Let’s remember that the Scriptures are our final authority on the subject.
My wife Cheryl and I were doing a Q & A session, and a person asked how they should respond to those who claim all kinds of bizarre activity is the work of the Holy Spirit. Cheryl gave the right answer, saying “Tell them if it’s not found in the Scriptures, don’t get involved in it.” That’s the best counsel to be given. The Bible marks the boundary of where we go in the realm of spiritual experience. If we remember that, we will avoid getting sucked into bizarre and unhealthy spiritual activities.