Do the Gifts of the Spirit Detract from the Glory of Christ?
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Sunday, January 19, 2014 - 6:00 p.m.  Sermon #: 1703
Pastor Don Horban

I have only one point to develop in this teaching, so there is really no structured outline to follow. I want to string together a list of texts and have you tell me what word or concept I’m seeking to emphasize. Then I’m going to develop why this idea is so important in looking at John MacArthur’s book, “Strange Fire.” Note these verses carefully:

John 14:20-21 - “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. [21] Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

Jesus speaks to His disciples about a day when His redemptive work on the cross and resurrection will be complete. They will have an inner revelation of the Spirit of Christ that will bring an assurance and joy and confidence that will make obvious some of the things they had a hard time grasping while Jesus was with them. Jesus would bring a manifestation of things they presently were less clear on.

1 Corinthians 3:12-13 - “Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— [13] each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.”

It’s hard right now to fully evaluate the quality of work God’s servants do. We can’t see the inner motives of the heart. We can’t always tell the greedy from the sincere. But, says Paul, there is a day coming when everyone’s work will be tested by the fire of God’s judgment. That day is the day of Jesus’ Second Coming in triumph. And when that day comes everyone will see clearly what they can’t always see clearly right now. The day will bring about a manifestation of what is largely hidden at the present time.

1 Peter 1:20-21 - “He [Jesus] was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you [21] who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”

Peter is talking about the basis for our “faith and hope”(21). He says God has done something “in the last times” for our sake (20). He sent His Son visibly and physically into this world. More than that, He brought the physical body of Jesus out of the grave to manifest - make obvious - the basis of our faith and hope. Peter calls this visible work of Christ a manifestation because the basis of our hope and faith are more obvious now than they were before Jesus came.

1 John 1:1-2 - “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— [2] the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us....”

John says there was a time when Jesus was “with the Father”(2). He existed eternally, but we couldn’t see Him. The existence of the Son wasn’t obvious to us. But then something happened. The invisible, eternal Son was born in the flesh in Bethlehem. At that point what hadn’t been obvious was manifested to us. Something invisible and less obvious had the spotlight put on it when Jesus came in the flesh. It was a manifestation.

1 John 4:9 - “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.”

There were certain things we could always know about our God because they have been revealed in the fact of creation. Paul says we have had evidence of God’s “eternal power” and “divine nature” (Romans 1:19-20). But we were relatively in the dark about the kind of pardoning, gracious heart God has toward us. There were pictures in the Old Testament sacrificial system, to be sure. And there were promises a-plenty. But then God sent His Son visibly - physically - into this world. He took on flesh and blood for the sole purpose of dying in a very public, documented Roman execution. And the depth of Father God’s love was manifested in a way that we just couldn’t miss. Father God was always loving. But that love wasn’t always manifested as fully as it was in God the Son.

And now, one more reference to our teaching point today:

1 Corinthians 12:4-7 - “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; [5] and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; [6] and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. [7] To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

Just to be very clear, Paul isn’t just writing of the giving of the Spirit. He’s not just writing about the presence of the Spirit. And he’s not writing here about the indwelling of the Spirit. All of these ideas, of course, are important and true. They’re simply not the subject at hand. Paul is writing of the manifestation of the Spirit.

That word, in all of these references is the very same word. The Greek word “manifestation” is the word “fan-er-o-sis.” It means to “put on display or exhibition.” And the reason I took the time to look at the context of the use of that word in all of these references was to show that in these Scriptures that meaning of putting on display stands up. That is in fact what the term was describing in each of these cases. In each case something that was real but not obvious was made obvious. Something that was less visible became a focus of attention. In each case something was, just as the word implies, put on display - put on exhibition.

And here’s the reason for this teaching today. There is only one primary point I want to make. I want to deal with one of the most common biases in cessationist theology. It runs rampant in MacArthur’s book. Almost all cessationists (those who argue that many of the gifts of the Spirit were only for the first apostolic age and have ceased in the church today) - almost all cessationists argue that pentecostals (or continuationists - those who believe the Biblical usefulness of the gifts of the Spirit continues into the present church age) - they argue pentecostals are wrong to place attention on the gifts of the Spirit because the whole purpose of the Holy Spirit is to place attention on Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit, so cessationists say, never draws attention to Himself.

And I am arguing that there is a way of applying this Biblical truth that is a foundational error. By that I mean it’s one of those theological assumptions that shapes all the other points of the cessationist argument. And MacArthur, like most cessationists, states and restates an idea that is close to the truth if properly understood but which is a total distortion of New Testament teaching if abused.

There is no legitimate textual way to get around Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 12:7 that the gifts of the Spirit are given by the Spirit to put something on display. That’s the exact meaning of that word “manifestation” - “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

The real issue then is what are we going to do with the clear meaning of this verse? I want to first exalt the Biblical truth and then point out how I think it is commonly distorted by cessationists:


John 14:25-26 - “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. [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.”

John 15:24-27 - “If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. [25] But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ [26] “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. [27] And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”

John 16:12-15 - “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. [13] When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. [14] He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. [15] All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

The Apostle John is clear that the Holy Spirit isn’t an independent worker. He “will not speak on his own authority”(16:13). Jesus say the Spirit “will glorify me”, and “take what is mine and declare it to you”(16:14). Jesus said the Holy Spirit will “bear witness about me”(15:26). Jesus also said the Holy Spirit would “bring to remembrance all that I have said to you”(14:26).

All of this means the work of the Holy Spirit is a recognizable work. Not just any goof-ball idea can gain a hearing by claiming to be “anointed.”The Holy Spirit ties everything to Jesus Christ. Where the Holy Spirit is at work Jesus Christ will be made much of. The uniqueness of Christ will be the Spirit’s emphasis always.

Pentecostals need to correct the horrible tendency to think anything at all become anointed when someone puts the words, “in the Spirit” on the end of it - Dancing in the Spirit - Laughing in the Spirit - Slain in the Spirit - Drunk in the Spirit. I was stunned when I filled out our denomination’s annual church life form to be asked on the form about people “falling under the Spirit.”

We always need the reminder from last week’s study to “not go beyond what is written.”The Holy Spirit is here to point all people to Christ Jesus. And when John MacArthur, or anyone else, points out this truth he is doing the church a favor. I love to hear people linking up the work of the Holy Spirit with the exaltation of Jesus Christ. My heart is glad in that truth.

But the mistake is commonly made when teachers move beyond what the Scriptures actually say about the Holy Spirit’s Christ exalting work. Let me try to wrap this up in a final teaching point:


This false reasoning is done repeatedly by almost all cessationists. MacArthur piles up impressive endorsing quotations in his book:

J. I. Packer - “The Spirit’s message to us is never, ‘Look at me; listen to me; come to me; get to know me,’ but always, ‘Look at him, and see his glory; listen to him, and hear his words; go to him and have life....”

Martyn Lloyd-Jones - “The Spirit does not glorify himself; He glorifies the Son....The Holy Spirit seems to hide Himself and conceal Himself....”

Chuck Swindoll - “Mark it down: the Spirit glorifies Christ. I’ll go one step further: if the Holy Spirit Himself is being emphasized and magnified, He isn’t in it....He does His work behind the scenes, never in the limelight.”

Dan Phillips - “Show me a person obsessed with the Holy Spirt and His gifts (real or imagined), and I will show you a person not filled with the Holy Spirit.”

John MacArthur - “While claiming to honor the Holy Spirit, charismatics generally ignore the very purpose of the Spirit’s ministry - which is to draw all attention to the Lord Jesus.”

I would never deny that there are charismatics who don’t exalt Jesus Christ. And, if we hunted around, we could find Baptists, Lutherans, Anglicans, and perhaps even a few Presbyterians who give more attention to a host of things while pushing Christ to the fringe of their hearts. And all I know for certain is, whenever and wherever that happens, it is the Holy Spirit who is grieved. So if there is valid criticism in any of those quotes we should all just take it to heart.

My concern here is the false conclusion drawn from a good Biblical truth. And the false conclusion that is commonly arrived at is because the Holy Spirit’s role is to exalt Christ His work should always be invisible. In other words, I’m arguing Jesus Christ is not belittled just because the Holy Spirit manifests His gifts and power.

In fact, quite the opposite. The Apostle Luke makes it clear that all of the supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit that took place in the book of Acts were nothing other than the continuing work of Jesus Christ Himself - Acts 1:1-2 - “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, [2] until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.”

So Luke’s gospel dealt with what Jesus began to do and teach and his book of Acts dealt with what Jesus continued to do and teach through the work of the Holy Spirit in His Apostles. Jesus was continuing to work through the Holy Spirit whom He Himself gave.

This shouldn’t surprise us because the Holy Spirit is actually called the Spirit of Christ in the New Testament:

Romans 8:9 - “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”

Philippians 1:19 - “....for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance....”

I believe it is cessationists who create a foolish, unscriptural competition between the triune members of the one single God. The Holy Spirit who dwells in me is the Spirit of Jesus Christ. They are forever the same one God. The Creed says they both proceed from the same Father.

Here is my understanding. The Holy Spirit does exist to exalt the Son. That is His mission. But that doesn’t mean the Spirit doesn’t seek to manifest Himself - 1 Corinthians 12:7 - “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

But why is it “good” for the Holy Spirit to manifest Himself? It is good because authentic, Scripturally ordered manifestations of the Spirit are the ministry of Jesus Christ in His church. And Jesus is always good for His church.

Behind all of this is the nature of the way the Trinity always works. The Holy Spirit’s role is to reveal the Son in all His greatness. This is what MacArthur wants so desperately to emphasize. And I agree. But the Spirit points to the Son in exactly the same way the Son came to manifest the Father. The theology of the Trinity can’t be shunted aside.

The Bible calls the Son the “express image” of the Father. He revealed the Father as the Father had never been revealed before. He is the door to the Father. Jesus labored to make clear that He only came and said and did what the Father gave Him - John 5:19 - “So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”

So Jesus revealed the Father. And the Spirit reveals Jesus, the Son in exactly same way. Jesus never came saying, “Don’t look at me. Don’t listen to me. I’m just the Son. I just put the spotlight on the Father. Don’t pay any attention to me.” No. He said over and over, “Look at me! Watch me! Listen to me! Look at the works I’m doing! That’s what Father God is like!”

And so it is with the “manifestation of the Spirit.” Jesus isn’t upset when the Holy Spirit manifests Himself. When Scripturally practiced and ordered in humility, the gifts of the Spirit show us what the living, current, ongoing work of Jesus is in His church. And if they ever detract or distract from the gospel of Jesus Christ, it’s not the fault of the gifts of the Spirit. All the gifts should keep us close to the ministry of Jesus and the glory of the cross.