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Particulars of Christianity:
310 Pentecostalism,
the Charismatic
and Faith Movements

Opening Remarks and Introduction to the Gifts

Our Background and Objectivity
Comparing Modern Tongues to Biblical Tongues
Basic Introduction to the Charismatic Movement
Opening Remarks and Introduction to the Gifts
Survey 1 - Continuity of the Gifts in the First Few Centuries
Survey 2 - Decline of Orthodox Gifts and Rise of Counterfeit Gifts
Survey 3 - A Change in Tune Regarding the Gifts
Survey 4 - From the Renaissance to the Modern Era
An Introduction to the Gifts in Modern Times
The Origins of the Modern Charismatic Movement

Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3 | Section 4
| Section 5

Opening Remarks

Having covered in our previous sections our own personal history in the Charismatic Movement and some general descriptions of modern Charismatic Christianity, we will now turn our attention to the history of the gifts from the early Church until now. What we will find is twofold.

First, the chain linking the practice of modern gifts to the gifts in the early Church of the first few centuries AD is a broken chain indeed. We will present information showing that history does, in fact, record the decline and eventual disappearance of the spiritual gifts. (As a footnote, the fact that history records the absence of the gifts does not on it's own indicate why the gifts disappeared, but merely that they did do so.) This means that the gifts were not continually practiced and handed down from one generation to the next by the laying on of hands or otherwise. As such, all modern occurrences of the supernatural gifts would have to be the result of a revival or restoration of the gifts. And since the legitimacy of modern gifts cannot be established on the basis of direct continuity from the first few centuries, it must be examined whether or not modern occurrences actually resulted from authentic restoration from God or from some other means. Or in short, no one can claim legitimacy for their practice of the gifts by tracing back to the laying on of the apostles' hands.

Second, the legitimacy of modern gifts must be established in part by comparing them qualitatively to the miraculous gifts found in the first few centuries AD and particularly in the New Testament. Since modern gifts by their very nature claim to be those very same spiritual gifts found in the New Testament, their quality and kind should be of the very same as those of scripture. Where modern gifts differ from those found in scripture to the extent that they are poorer in quality, impossible to verify, or of a different variety or consistency, we have reason to suspect that they are not the legitimate heirs of the Biblical phenomenon at all, but pretenders to the throne. In fact, to this end we will present information regarding the emergence of gifts among heretical sects in the early centuries of Christianity. And, in such cases where the modern gifts resemble the quality and variety of gifts practiced by heretical sects and differ from the quality and variety of gifts practiced by the early Church, we should assume that these modern "revivals" are mere revivals of the counterfeit gifts of the heretics.

Our first step then is to do a brief Biblical review of what gifts we're talking about when we talk about the "spiritual gifts." This will then be followed very quickly by a survey of statements made about the gifts by orthodox early Christians. This will in turn continue into a survey of statements regarding the gifts as history moved forward toward the present. In this way, we will be able to reconstruct a timeline of the practice and prevalence of the gifts in Christian history.

The Spiritual Gifts

1 Corinthians 12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant...2 Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. 3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. 4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

The reason these gifts are often referred to as the "spiritual gifts" (even by early Christian writers) is not because they are more "spiritual" than the gifts mentioned in Romans 12:6-8 for example or the gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:8-12. Rather, because these works are the "manifestation of the Spirit" they are called the "spiritual gifts."

(As a footnote, some distinguish the gifts listed in these respective passages into different categories. However, whether or not such a strict distinction is warranted or not is the point of this article series. Practically speaking, we acknowledge that the gifts mentioned here are distinct from those mentioned in Ephesians 4 and Romans 12 because these gifts [in 1 Corinthians 12] are entirely supernatural in nature. Or in other words, to perform a miraculous healing requires a visible supernatural intervention on the part of God. By contrast, teaching and encouraging do not require any visible supernatural intervention.)

Some have called the gifts mentioned here in 1 Corinthians the "charismatic gifts." In reality, this term is wholly redundant given the fact that the word "charismatic" means, "gift." So, a charismatic gift would be a "gift gift." Despite this redundancy, because the phrase "charismatic gifts" has become so identifiably and uniquely associated with the gifts of 1 Corinthians 12, we will use that term from this point forward in the study. That way we will avoid any confusion or objection that could be incurred by applying the adjective "spiritual" exclusively to these gifts and not those mentioned in Ephesians 4 or Romans 12.

For review, below is the full definition of the word "carisma," the New Testament word meaning "gift" from which we get our word "Charismatic."

5486 carisma charisma khar'-is-mah
from 5483; TDNT-9:402,1298; n n
AV-gift 15, free gift 2; 17
1) a favour with which one receives without any merit of his own
2) the gift of divine grace
3) the gift of faith, knowledge, holiness, virtue
4) the economy of divine grace, by which the pardon of sin and eternal salvation is appointed to sinners in consideration of the merits of Christ laid hold of by faith
5) grace or gifts denoting extraordinary powers, distinguishing certain Christians and enabling them to serve the church of Christ, the reception of which is due to the power of divine grace operating on their souls by the Holy Spirit

That being said, there are 9 gifts mentioned here in 1 Corinthians 12. They are:

1) the word of wisdom.
2) the word of knowledge.
3) faith.
4) gifts of healing.
5) the working of miracles.
6) prophecy.
7) discerning of spirits.
8) divers kinds of tongues.
9) and the interpretation of tongues.

Definitions for each of these certainly varies, but perhaps those spoken of most often both in modern times and in the early Church were tongues and prophecy.

The gift of tongues is broadly defined as the ability (given by the Holy Spirit) to speak in a language not previously known, learned, or spoken by the speaker. We see this first occurring on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:1-11, when Jewish pilgrims heard the Apostles declaring the works of God in the native tongues of over a dozen foreign lands.

Prophecy is even more simple to define. Prophecy has a very long-standing history and precedent in the Old Testament and from its very onset it involves the ability to accurately and specifically describe future events (or even present or past realities that could not have been know by the prophet apart from supernatural means.) (See Deuteronomy 18:21-22 below for an illustration of how prophecy works.)

Deuteronomy 18:21 And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? 22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.

(While we will not spend a lot of time on Deuteronomy 18 now, it is significant to take note that here God specifically declares how his people were to determine whether or not a prophet was from him. If what the prophet spoke came to pass, then it was from God. If what the prophet spoke did not come to pass, then the prophet was not from God. We will need to remember this during our historic survey section a little later on.)

The reason that we highlight tongues and prophecy is that the entire set of these gifts from 1 Corinthians 12 is at times referred to by the early Christian writers as the "prophetic gifts." Likewise, much of the historical commentary regarding the gifts involves tracing the mention of tongues (as we will see below.)

So, having identified that we are talking about those specific gifts which involved visible, miraculous (supernatural) intervention, we will now move on to our survey of these gifts throughout history.