Evaluate Your Ministry-Health Check by DW

Work Sheet
Part I. Personal Qualifications of Effective Ministers: Holiness
A. Humility
1. Do you acknowledge your limitations and needs out of confidence in Christ’s gracious power?
2. Do you demonstrate a flexible spirit out of confidence in God’s control over all things, God’s authority over you, and God’s presence with you?
B. Love
1. Do you have a positive approach to people because of confidence in the power and hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
2. Do you show a servant’s heart to people because you are first and foremost a servant of the Lord?
C. Integrity
1. Are you responsible to God first and foremost?
2. Do you demonstrate a disciplined lifestyle under the lordship of Jesus?
3. Are your family commitments a proper priority under the Lord?
D. Spirituality
1. Do you demonstrate personal piety and vigor in your relationship with God?
2. Do you demonstrate faithfulness to the Bible and sound doctrine?

Part II. Functional Qualifications of Effective Ministers: Pastoral Skill
A. Nurture
1. Do you show involved caring that comes from genuine love in Christ for your brothers and sisters?
2. Do you counsel people the Lord’s way?
3. Do you disciple others into maturity in Christ and use of their gifts?
4. Do you give yourself to discipline and to patrolling the boundaries of the church which God bought with His own blood?
B. Communication
1. Do you preach the whole counsel of God?
2. Do you provide education for God’s many kinds of people?
3. Do you lead others to worship the Lord?
C. Leadership
1. Do you lead God’s people into effective work together?
2. Do you administer well, creating a church that is wise in its stewardship?
3. Do you mediate fellowship among God’s people?
4. Do you create cooperative and team ministry within the church and between churches that honor Christ?
D. Mission
1. Do you evangelize those outside of Jesus Christ?
2. Do you show social concern for the many needs of people whom God desires to address?

You have looked at yourself, hopefully through God’s eyes. Now work with what you have seen.
If you could change in one area in the next year, which would it be? Where do you most need to mature in wisdom?

What changes in you would bring the greatest glory to God and greatest blessing to other people?

Confess your sins and failings to God. Jesus Christ is your faithful high priest and shepherd. He is the Pastor of pastors.

“Come with confidence to the throne of His grace that you may receive mercy and grace to help you in your time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Believe it and do it. The Lord’s strength is made perfect in your weakness.

Now what must you do? Prayerfully set goals. How will you become a more godly person and pastor? Are there people you must ask to pray for you and hold you accountable? Are there Bible passages or books you must study?

Are there plans you must make? Do you need advice from a wise Christian about how to go about changing?


Are You a Bored Christian? by D Wadsworth

Do you find yourself bored with your faith journey? Well maybe you can be challenged by the verses that just rocked me….

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

(Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV)

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

(1 Corinthians 12:14-25 ESV)

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

(Colossians 3:15-17 ESV)

What is the Trinity?-Derek Wadsworth

State briefly the biblical basis for and formulated the doctrine of the trinity

God eternally exists in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

A. Definition of the doctrine of the Trinity

Believing in the unity of God is saying that God is one Being. He does not exist in separate parts, and there is no more than one Divine Being. But I aline myself with trinitarian monotheists, because through revelation we understand that the one God exists in three Persons. And therefore we believe in the tri unity (or trinity) of God—the tri-personal nature of the one God. He has eternally existed and will continue to exist as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the doctrine of the Trinity.

The following quotations express belief in the Trinity:

“. . . we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the Substance; for there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one; the glory equal, the majesty co eternal” (The Athanasian Creed).

“There are three persons within the Godhead; the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory” (The Westminster Shorter Catechism).

“There is one Divine essence which is called and is God, eternal without body, indivisible, of infinite power, wisdom, goodness, the Creator and Preserver of all things, visible and invisible. And yet there are three Persons of the same essence and power, who also are co eternal, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost” (The Augsburg Confession).

“We should, like the little children, stammer out what the Scriptures teach: that Christ is truly God, that the Holy Ghost is truly God, and yet that there are not three Gods, or three Beings, as there are three Men, three Angels, three Sons, or three Windows. No, God is not thus divided in his essence; but there is one only divine Being or substance. Therefore, although there are three persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, yet the Being is not divided or distinguished since there is but one God in one single, undivided, divine substance” (Martin Luther, quoted by Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. I, p. 466).

More simply, one can share the fact of the Trinity in any of the following ways:

“God is one in Substance, three in Persons,” or
“God is one Being who is three Persons.” or
“God is one Being who is tri-personal.”

NOTE: Substance, essence, or being can be used synonymously when speaking of the oneness of God. Any correct expression of the doctrine of the Trinity must stress the oneness of God’s Substance, Essence or Being and the threeness of His Persons.

Scriptural basis for the doctrine of the Trinity.

Opponents of the Christian faith sometimes claim that the early Christian councils originated the doctrine of the Trinity. That, of course, is not true. The early councils in no way originated this doctrine; they merely defined it, and put into summary form the information which they found in the Scriptures about the tri unity of God.

Scripture is full of information about this truth. In fact, if you omit the doctrine of the Trinity, the Bible becomes self contradictory. That is why this is such a foundational doctrine. It makes the rest of the Bible understandable.

In summary, biblical evidence for the Trinity is:

1. Implicit in the Old Testament.

a. Through the use of plurals in connection with God (e.g., Genesis 1:26 27, Genesis 3:22, Genesis 11:7, Isaiah 6:8). While these plurals must not be unduly pressed as evidence for the trinitarian nature of God (some explain them as “plurals of majesty” instead), yet Charles Hodge’s statement is fair when he writes, “Even in the book of Genesis there are intimations of the doctrine which receive their true interpretation in later revelations. That the names of God are in the plural form; that the personal pronouns are often in the first person plural (‘Let us make man in our image’); that the form of benediction is three fold, and other facts of like nature, may be explained in different ways. But when it becomes plain, from the progress of revelation, that there are three persons in the Godhead, then such forms of expression can hardly fail to be recognized as having their foundation in that great truth” (Systematic Theology, Vol. I. pp. 446 447).

b. Through the fact that in the Old Testament (a) there is Yahweh, (b) there is the Angel of Yahweh to whom deity is ascribed (Gen. 16:7 14, Gen. 22:10 12, Num. 22:31 35, Josh. 5:13 15), and (c) there is the Spirit of Yahweh (Gen. 6:3, Neh. 9:20, Ps. 51:11, Ps. 104:30, Isa. 40:13, Isa. 48:16, Isa. 63:10 11).

2. Explicit in the New Testament.

a. Through the New Testament teaching that three distinct Persons are God.

1) There is the Father who is God (Matthew 5:48, Matthew 6:9, Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, Galatians 1:1 4)

2) There is the Son who is God. This is shown by the fact that:

a) Jesus made the claims of Deity. (Mark 14:61 64, John 5:17 18,
John 10:29 33, John 14:1, 9).

b) Jesus did (and does) the works of Deity.
(1) He forgave sins (Mark 2:5 7).
(2) He gave out divine instruction and law on His own authority (Matthew 5:21 22, 27 28, 31 32, etc.).
(3) He gives eternal life (John 10:28, John 17:2).
(4) He bestows resurrection life (John 5:25 29, John 6:39 44,
Philippines 3:21).
(5) He is the sovereign judge of the living and the dead (Matthew 25:31 46, John 5:22 23, 2 Timothy 4:1).

c) Jesus accepted prayer and worship as Deity. (Matthew 14:33, John 9:38, John 20:28, Acts 7:59, 1 Corinthians 1:2).

d) Jesus is called by the names of Deity.
(1) He is called “God” (John 1:1, John 20:28, Titus 2:13, 2 Peter 1:2,
Hebrews 1:8 12).
(2) He is called “the Son of God” (about 40 times in the New Testament).
(3) He calls Himself “the First and the Last” (Revelation 1:17, cf.
Isaiah 44:6).
(4) He is called “the Holy One” (Acts 3:14, cf. Hosea 11:9).
(5) He is called “Lord, Lord of all, Lord of Glory” (Acts 4:33, Acts 10:36, Romans 10:9, 1 Corinthians 2:8).

iii. There is the Holy Spirit who is God. This is clear because:

a) The Holy Spirit is called God (Acts 5:3 4).

b) The Holy Spirit has the attributes of God (e.g., eternity/Hebrews 9:14, omnipotence/Luke 1:35, omniscience/1 Corinthians 2:10 11).

c) The Holy Spirit does the works of God (e.g., regeneration/John 3:5 8, resurrection/Romans 8:11, inspiration/2 Peter 1:21).

d) Words spoken by God in the Old Testament are said in the New to have been spoken by the Holy Spirit (cf. Isaiah 6:8 10 with Acts 28:25 27 and Psalm 95:8 11 with Hebrews 3:7 11).

b. Through the New Testament passages which speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in terms which imply both union and yet distinction. The three Persons of the Trinity do things which only distinct persons can do. They talk together, fellowship together, and work together. There is union, for Jesus can say in John 10:30, “I and My Father are one.” Yet there is also distinction, for while They are one, yet there is still both “I” and “My Father.” Compare also the account of the baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3:16 17 where the three Persons of the Godhead are intimately and yet distinctively active. The Father speaks from heaven, the Son is being baptized in the Jordan River, and the Holy Spirit descends from heaven. Throughout the New Testament we see the oneness of the Essence and the threeness of the Persons of the one true God.

c. Through the New Testament passages which directly mention the Triune God (Matthew 28:19, 2 Corinthians 13:14).

So we see that this doctrine, present but veiled in the Old Testament, is clearly revealed in the New. God has told us this about Himself—that He is one God eternally existing in three Persons, and that He is known by the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Speaking of the one undivided Being of God and yet the three Persons of God,
Wayne Grudem writes,

“First, it is important to affirm that each person is completely and fully God; that is, that each person has the whole fullness of God’s being in himself. The Son is not partly God or just one-third of God, but the Son is wholly and fully God, and so is the Father and the Holy Spirit. . . . we must say that the person of the Father possesses the whole being of God in himself. Similarly, the Son possesses the whole being of God in himself, and the Holy Spirit possesses the whole being of God in himself. When we speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together we are not speaking of any greater being than when we speak of the Father alone, or the Son alone, or the Holy Spirit alone. The Father is all of God’s being. The Son also is all of God’s being. And the Holy Spirit is all of God’s being” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 252).

God in His undivided Essence exists as Father; God is His undivided Essence exists as Son; God in His undivided Essence exists as Holy Spirit. This is beyond our comprehension, but when we begin to get even a hint of this vast mystery of God’s nature, we start to realize that such simplistic illustrations as those above are for the Trinity more insulting than enlightening. I think we had best stay away from all these illustrations, and come to the place where we realize that any illustration of the Trinity is bound to be a bad one because God is not illustratable. He is not like anything else.

If we are to avoid distorting the doctrine of the Trinity, we must carefully heed the words of the Athanasian Creed, “neither confounding the Persons” (like the first type of distortion does) “nor dividing the Substance” (like the second type of distortion does).

Continuing Revelation,Miracles, Prophecy, and Tongues-D Wadsworth

Many Christians today speak of continuing revelation. Relate this concept to inspiration and sufficiency of the Scriptures. Relate this concept to the issues of miracles, prophecy, and tongues.

God has given us His word because he wants us to trust him and get to know him intimately. (I Timothy 3:16) tells us that all of the scriptures that in the Bible is breathed out by God and is useful for us today. God states in (John 14:26) But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you and in (Acts 20:32) And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified..

Continuing revelation is defined on Wikipedia as a theological belief or position that God continues to reveal divine principles or commandments to humanity. When relating to continuing revelation to scripture and sign gifts there has been great debate and lines drawn by many denominations.

Daniel Wallace shares- eleven theses or challenges addressed to cesessionists that echo the themes of Jonathan Edwards:

1. Although the sign gifts died in the first century, the Holy Spirit did not.
2. Although charismatics have given a higher priority to experience than to relationship, rationalistic evangelicals have given a higher priority to knowledge than to relationship.
3. This emphasis on knowledge over relationship has produced in us a bibliolatry.
4. The net effect of such bibliolatry is a depersonalization of God.
5. Part of the motivation for this depersonalization of God is our increasing craving for control.
6. God is still a God of healing and miracles.
7. Evangelical rationalism can lead to spiritual defection.
8. The power brokers of rational evangelicalism, since the turn of the century, have been white, obsessive-compulsive males.
9. The Holy Spirit’s guidance is still needed in discerning the will of God.
10. In the midst of seeking out the power of the Spirit, we must not avoid the sufferings of Christ.
11. To what does the Spirit bear witness?

As cessationists, we would do well to grapple with these issues.

At the same time, however, charismatics would do well to grapple with the following questions:

Issue 1: Is the canon of Scripture closed or open?
Issue 2: Is primacy to be found in biblical authority or experience?
Issue 3: Is Scripture sufficient for faith and practice and, equally importantly, for life?
Issue 4: Will our central focus be on the Savior or the Spirit?
Issue 5: Should we expect more to the Christian life?
We are responsible to offer “something more” than either sterile rationalism or destructive emotionalism. We must offer a personal, real relationship with Jesus Christ. This relationship involves all the normal emotions involved in a love relationship (love, joy, peace).

As Edwards said in A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections:
There is no true religion where there is no religious affection. As on the one hand, there must be light in the understanding, as well as an affected fervent heart; where there is heat without light, there can be nothing divine or heavenly in that heart; so on the other hand, where there is a kind of light without heat, a head stored with notions and speculations, with a cold and unaffected heart, there can be nothing divine in that light, that knowledge is no true spiritual knowledge of divine things.
Excited Utterances: A Historical Perspective On Prophesy, Tongues and Other Manifestations of Spiritual Ecstasy Study By: Matthew Allen

Honestly, we need to tread carefully for wall building within the camp-this is not taught in the inspired and sufficient Scriptures. We should run hard after Jesus. Let others argue about who will be the greatest.

Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” 2 Tim. 1:14.

We’re Pastors and We’re Anxious-Paul D Tripp

He sat in my office exhausted and discouraged. No, he wasn’t about to abandon the ministry to which he’d been called. In many ways he lived with a deep sense of privilege. He’d been chosen and gifted to be a minister of the gospel, but he was tired, and his work had taken a toll on his family. He was able to admit that he said yes too much, sought to establish personal control over too many things, and worked way too much. He’d thought that his deep dedication and unending schedule were the result of the motivation and loyalty of faith, but in the midst of his exhaustion and his family’s protest, he began to wonder. Could it be that this life of frenetic energy and constant ministry focus was driven by something else?

His wife told him again and again that he needed to be around more for their four children. She told him that even when he was home, he often wasn’t “there.” And in his quiet, self-reflective moments he had to admit that his heart wasn’t at rest. Little did my pastor friend know that he was not alone. His story is the story of many pastors.

Could it be that one of the dark secrets of pastoral ministry is that a whole lot of what we do is driven by worry and not by faith?

Could it be that at the functional level much of ministry is shaped by a long catalog of “what ifs”?

Could it be that this causes us to load the health of the church onto our shoulders?

Could it be that too much of our ministry is shaped by subtle pastoral self-sovereignty?

Could it be that in pastoral ministry the sin of unbelief is often recast as commitment, discipline, dedication, or a willingness to suffer?

Is it not possible in pastoral ministry for unbelief to be perceived as maturity?

Worry is the Problem

Permit me to use Matthew 6:19-33 as a lens for understanding how in pastoral ministry worry becomes the problem and how the gospel is the solution. It’s important to note that as Jesus exegetes the kingdom of self in Matthew 6:19-31, one of his major topics is what I would call anxiety-bound needs. It all starts with us doing something we don’t do very well: deciding what we need. We all tend to load into our need category things that may be important but are not actually needs (if need is something that is essential for life). Then we work to secure all the things we’ve become convinced we need. This way of approaching life and ministry always ends in that range from low-grade anxiety to paralyzing fear.

Think of everything you can worry about in ministry. There’s always that lurking fear of failure, the fear of what to do with the problem people that populate every church, the fear that perhaps you’re not really gifted to do what you’ve agreed to do, the fear of conflict, the fear of the lack of people and financial resources, the fear of not being respected and appreciated, the fear of the unexpected, and the fear that at some point you won’t be wanted or needed anymore. So to make sure your fears aren’t realized, you say yes too much, you try to control too many things, and you work too hard.

Three Gospels

What Jesus says next maybe hard to accept, but it is vital to hear. He essentially says that the reason our lives are driven and shaped by fear and not faith is that we have forgotten the gospel. Christ lays down three gospel arguments for us to consider.

1. The Gospel of creation

First, Jesus points to the surrounding creation (the lilies and the birds) and says that there’s ample visible evidence every day that God won’t abandon the work of his hands. If he cares for the flowers and the birds, will he not care for those he made in his own image? So the gospel of creation preaches rest to the pastor. Would God gift a man then abandon him? Who could be more committed to the welfare of the church then the One who established it? The welfare of the church is not the pastor’s job—it is the Lord’s promise. The pastor’s job is simply to use his God-given gifts in public and private gospel ministry.

2. The Gospel of relationship

Jesus then reminds his listeners that they’ve a Father who knows their needs and is at work meeting them. This means, first, that it’s God’s job (if I can use that language) to define our needs. No one knows better what we need than our Creator, Savior, Father. Second, it’s God’s covenantal family commitment to meet each of those needs. Once your ministry is driven by your attempts to meet your needs, you’re ministering for you and not for others. Others-centered ministry is always propelled by a quiet rest in the Father’s love and care. This also calls us to trust the Father’s wisdom and timing. If he is meeting our needs, then we must conclude that if we don’t have it right now it’s because our Father knows that we don’t need (in the true sense of the word) it right now.

3. The diagnosis of “little faith”

So, what is the problem? Gospel-amnesia. When you forget who you are, you quit resting in the Father’s provision, you start relying on your own wisdom, and you try to do God’s job. All this results in functional ministry anxiety and a catalog of bad personal and ministry choices. Jesus’ diagnosis is quite stinging. He says that the problem is that no matter what we say we believe, there are moments when we essentially live like pagans. We live (even in ministry) as if there’s no God, let alone a God who’s adopted us into his family and showers us moment by moment with his forgiving, empowering, and transforming grace. Because he’s my Father, it’s impossible for me to ever be alone in ministry, to ever be left to my own resources.

Seeking God’s kingdom in ministry means many things, but it surely means remembering his fatherly presence, relying on his fatherly care, resting in his fatherly wisdom, and trusting in his fatherly grace. Then we can say no when it’s the appropriate response of faith, we don’t attempt to control what’s already under the Father’s wise control, and we aren’t tempted to do more than we’re able to do.

Pastor, preach this gospel to yourself today for your sake, for the sake of your family, for the sake of those to whom you minister, and for the sake of the Father’s glory

Reformed and Charismatic? Dr. Horton

Reformed and Charismatic?

Aug.22, 2011 by Michael Horton

Thanks for the healthy debate and interaction on the previous post. Obviously, those who believe that miraculous prophecy continues after the apostolic age should not be lumped together with radical movements like the New Apostolic Reformation. Nevertheless, it does provide an occasion to think carefully about the compatibility of Reformation theology with Charismatic emphases. This is especially the case when there have been renewed calls for a “Reformed Charismatic” synthesis in our own circles.

I’ve never been willing to die on the hill of cessationism: that is, the belief that the miraculous gifts such as prophecy, healing, and tongues have ceased. I’m still not. Nevertheless, I am convinced that non-cessationism is neither exegetically sound nor historically compatible with Reformed theology. Furthermore, the surprisingly widespread popularity of more radical views of ongoing sign-gifts, coupled with political ambition, pushes me into the unpleasant position of challenging the views even of far sounder brothers with whom I agree on so many important points.

As a Charismatic Calvinist, Wayne Grudem has been used by God to bring the doctrines of grace to many who would likely not have encountered these truths otherwise. I have immense respect for his clear defense of many cardinal doctrines of Christianity. At the same time, the Calvinism-Charismatic bridge goes in both directions and his view of continuing prophecy has contributed to a curious hybrid that in my view cannot survive in the long run. Reformed theology is a system—not one imposed on Scripture, but one that arises from the self-consistent Word of God.

Mark Driscoll, a student of Grudem’s, has recently claimed to have regular visions of the sinful—usually sexual—behavior of people he encounters. “I see things,” he says, although the gift he describes is nowhere exhibited even in the apostolic era. Also posted on his Mars Hill website is a critique of cessationism as “modernistic worldliness,” lumping this view with deism and atheism. “Functional cessationism is really about the mind, but functional charismatic theology is really about the heart.” He concludes with a plea: “…you Reformed guys, especially you who are more Presbyterian, you tend to ignore the Holy Spirit and attribute everything the Spirit does to the gospel.” Sovereign Grace Ministries, led until recently by C. J. Mahaney, has also followed Grudem’s path toward a synthesis of Calvinistic and Charismatic emphases.

There is much to admire in these men and their labors. I am not targeting these friends and brothers, but pleading with them—and with all of us—to rediscover the ordinary means of grace, ordinary ministry, ordinary offices, and to long for a genuine revival: that is, a surprising blessing of God on his ordinary ministry in our day. The false choice between head and heart, the Spirit and the Word, has been a perennial polemic of the radical wing of Protestantism. Mark Driscoll’s plea above reveals that dangerous separation of the Spirit from his Word. Only by assuming such a cleavage can one argue that Reformed theology ignores the Holy Spirit.

We have had enough “apostles,” “prophets,” and “Moses-model” leaders who build ministries around their own gifts. We need to recover the beauty of Christ alone upon his throne as the Priest-King of his church, exercising his ministry by his Spirit through preaching, sacrament, and discipline in mutually accountable communion with the wider body of Christ. Reformed theology is not just the “five points” and “sovereign grace,” but a rich, full, and systematic confession. It’s a human and therefore fallible attempt to wrestle with the whole counsel of God—in both doctrine and practice, soteriology and ecclesiology. Until we rediscover this richness, “Reformed” will mean “whatever my leader or circle believes.”

Of course, the biblical case that must be made cannot be made well in this brief space. However, I’ll focus on the question of whether the gifts of prophet and apostle have ceased. In Ephesians 4:7-16, the apostle says that offices prophets and apostles as well as pastors, teachers, and evangelists are gifts of his heavenly ascension.

Against both Rome and the radical Anabaptists, the Reformers argued that prophet and apostle are extraordinary offices, for a foundation-laying era. They are sent at key moments in redemptive history, and their writings are added to the canon of Scripture. Like the distinction between a nation’s constitution and its courts, the biblical canon is qualitatively distinct from ecclesiastical interpretation. The former is magisterial (normative), while the latter is ministerial (interpretive).

Particularly in the wake of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements, this question has divided Christians into two camps: cessationists (believing that the gifts of healing, prophecy, and tongues have ceased) and non-cessationists. Non-cessationists find no exegetical reason to distinguish some of these gifts and offices from others in terms of their perpetuity. However, cessationists hold that the New Testament itself makes a distinction between the foundation-laying era of the apostles and the era of building the church on their completed foundation (1 Cor 3:10-11). Although the New Testament establishes the offices of pastors/teachers, elders, and deacons, it does not establish perpetual prophetic or apostolic offices with their attendant sign-gifts. With this in mind, we must examine each gift in question.

Paul treats prophecy (prophēteia) as preaching, which although illumined by the Spirit is (unlike the scriptures) un-inspired and therefore must be tested (1 Cor 12:29; 1 Thes 5:19-21). At Pentecost, the gift of tongues was a Spirit-given ability to proclaim the gospel in languages that one had not been taught. The diverse crowd of visitors to Jerusalem for the feast asked, “And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?” (Ac 2:8). We should therefore understand “tongues” as synonymous with natural languages, which some were miraculously gifted to speak and others to interpret. This served not only as a sign that Christ’s universal kingdom has dawned but as a practical way of disseminating the gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. None of these gifts was given for the personal edification of believers alone, but for the spread of the gospel and the maturity of the saints in that Word.

Similarly, the gift of healing was a sign that Christ’s kingdom had arrived, bringing a preview of the consummation in all of its fullness at the end of the age. Yet signs always cluster in the Bible around significant turning-points in redemptive history. Like the temporary prophesying of the elders in Moses’ day, the extraordinary gifts of signs and wonders are given to validate the sacred ministry of human ambassadors. Once that ministry is validated, it no longer requires further confirmation. (For an excellent treatment of this topic, see Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., Perspectives on Pentecost (P & R, 1979), especially 94-95, in relation to Wayne Grudem’s contention that “prophets and apostles” in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11 refer to the same group.) It would seem, then, that the gift of prophets and apostles (along with the gifts of miracles, prophecy, and tongues) was given but fulfilled its foundation-laying function. Just as Paul’s understudy Timothy is an ordinary minister, we find no evidence that his ministry was attended by extraordinary signs and wonders.

Some theologians, such as Wayne Grudem, recognize that the office of apostle has ceased, but are “unsure if this question” of the cessation of spiritual gifts “can be decided from Scripture.” [This and following Gruden quotes from his Systematic Theology, 906-912, 1031; cf. Wayne Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament Today (Westchester, IL: Crossway, 1988), 226-252.]

With Grudem I agree that 1 Corinthians 13:8-13, which speaks of prophecies and tongues passing away “when the perfect comes,” is inconclusive. Paul is most likely referring to the consummation, when there will be no need for faith and hope and all that will endure into eternity is love (v 13).

However, I do not find Grudem’s case for continuing prophecy persuasive. He clearly distinguishes prophecy today from the prophecy that delivered the sacred oracles of Holy Scripture. This is both the strength and the weakness of his position. Grudem believes that the kind of prophecy that is ongoing in the church is distinguished from preaching and teaching by being “a spontaneous ‘revelation’ from God….” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, 1058)

So the distinction is quite clear: if a message is the result of conscious reflection on the text of Scripture, containing interpretation of the text and application to life, then it is (in New Testament terms) a teaching. But if a message is the report of something God brings suddenly to mind, then it is a prophecy. (Grudem, Systematic Theology, 1058)

In my view, this interpretation introduces a definition of prophecy that is not consistent with its practice in the apostolic church. Nowhere is prophecy distinguished by its spontaneous quality. Furthermore, in spite of his salutary caution against raising such prophecies to the level of Scripture, this interpretation still raises the question as to whether the Spirit issues new revelations that are not already communicated in Scripture. If prophecy is defined simply as Spirit-given insight into Scripture, then is this not synonymous with preaching?

Today, the Spirit validates this ordinary ministry of the gospel through preaching and sacrament: the signs and wonders that Christ instituted to confirm his Word. If it is true that the apostles understood their work to be an extraordinary ministry of foundation-laying and their miraculous signs as its validation, then “no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ….If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward” (1 Cor 3:11, 14, emphasis added).

While living stones are continually being added to the temple, the edifice itself is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone” (Eph 2:20). As the person and work of the head is distinct from that of its members, the foundation-laying ministry of the apostles is different from the “up-building” ministry of their successors.

Where apostolic preaching became Scripture, our proclamation, faith, and practice stand in continuity with the apostles to the extent that they conform to that rule. To understand Scripture as canon, within its Ancient Near Eastern treaty background, is to recognize that, like the redemptive work to which it testifies, it cannot be revised by addition or subtraction (Dt 4:2; Rev 22:18-19). While interpretations are always subject to change, the constitution has been given once and for all.

Similarly, the canon that witnesses to Jesus is the covenant that he ratified in his self-sacrifice. In its appeal to this canon and its practice of its stipulated rites, the church participates in the heavenly reality as servant rather than Lord of the covenant. Just as Jesus-history is qualitatively distinct from our own, the apostolic canon is qualitatively distinct from the subsequent tradition (or preaching) that interprets it. One is magisterial, the other ministerial. Just as the church does not extend or complete the work of redemption but receives, interprets, and proclaims it, the church does not extent or complete revelation. The interim between Christ’s advents is not an era of writing new chapters in the history of redemption. Rather, it is a period in which the Spirit equips us for the mission between Acts and the Apocalypse—right in the middle of the era of the ordinary ministry with its new covenant canon. Just as the church cannot extend the incarnation or complete Christ’s atoning work, it cannot repeat Pentecost or prolong the extraordinary ministry of the apostles, but must instead receive this same word and Spirit for its ordinary ministry in this time between the times.

Compare-and-contrast-the-Bible-and-its-authority-to-general-revelation-and-its-authority. D Wadsworth



Every believer will wholeheartedly desire to know and do the will of God. “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Col. 1:9).


The doctrine of revelation has two well-recognized divisions, general revelation, and special revelation (Authority). The term “general” is that it is available to all men In fact, Paul tells us that that which is known about God is evident within [mankind]; for God made it evident to them; for since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that [people] are without excuse (Romans 1:29-20).

It is sometimes designated “natural revelation” because its source is in “nature,” including man himself who is made in the image of God. While the doctrine of general revelation is grounded in the teaching of the O.T. (Genesis 1 and 2, Psalm 19, etc.), it is not relevant to the subject of this question per se.

The latter division of the doctrine of revelation is called “special” because it

implies an active self-disclosure by God in contrast to the passive nature of general

revelation, which must be gained by an effort on the part of man. But “special” also

implies a limitation or particularization in the beneficiaries of the revelation, in contrast to

the universality of general revelation.

West Main Baptist blog post “General revelation is like having raw data. Special revelation gives us the right interpretation of that data, leaving the Bible as authoritative over general revelation. The Bible as special revelation delivered to us from God is objective truth from above and not prone to the influence of sinful mankind.”

Therefore, there are many things revealed to us in the Bible that we would never know otherwise, the knowledge of the gospel, how to live a life pleasing with God, and God’s will. When comparing and contrasting the Bible and its authority to general revelation and its authority, it is important to understand that the Bible is in the category of special revelation.

      And my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

(1 Corinthians 2:4-5 ESV)

            For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

(1 Corinthians 13:9-12 ESV)