Friday, 16 January 2015

On Labels: Charismatic

We are talking church definitions here.

So 'Evangelical' doesn't just mean 'zealous', 'fervent', 'persuasive'.  And Charismatic doesn't necessarily mean possessing a great deal of personal magnetism.

The Christian term 'Charismatic' has taken something of a beating, especially in the States.  Sermons, articles, books and even conferences have been brought about with the intention of warning Christians about these errant people.

But I'm sticking with it, one reason being that for many years, the term 'Pentecostal' attracted utmost suspicion and derision in Christian and unbelieving circles alike, but the term is now relatively respectable.

Evangelical comes from the Greek work 'Euangellion' which means good news, or Gospel.

Charismatic comes from the Greek work 'Charisma' which means Grace-gift.

The New Testament teaches that Holy Spirit(1) gives certain gifts [charisma] to believers, such as Prophecy, other languages(2) (tongues), healing and words of knowledge.  There are many recorded instances of charisma being used by Jesus and the early Christians as well as guidelines as to how they should be used.

A 'cessationist' believes that such things were a temporary phenomenon for the time in which the New Testament was being written, and possibly shortly afterwards.

A Charismatic believes as follows:

- We seek to have an experience of being 'baptised' (filled, immersed, drenched) in Holy Spirit.  This is distinct from conversion and is to be sought by all Christians.
- The baptism in Holy Spirit is normally evidenced by spontaneous speech.  This may be joyful praise, prophesying, speaking in other languages for example.
- We are to seek to be continually filled with Holy Spirit
- Holy Spirit gives us boldness and makes it easier to preach the Gospel.
- Holy Spirit gives gifts, such as prophecy, healing, wisdom, knowledge, discernment and speaking in other languages, distributed to all believers as He wills, applying to all classes, incomes, sexes and ages.  We are to earnestly desire the greater gifts.
- Holy Spirit enables us to preach the Gospel with signs following, such as healing and deliverance from demons.
- Through our knowledge of Scripture, our maturity in Christ and the Gift of Discernment of Spirits, we can identify false prophecy and prophets, counterfeit gifts and miracles thus protecting ourselves from 'wolves' who would damage the church.

Charismatic Churches:
1. Seek for their members to be (initially) baptised in and (continually) filled with Holy Spirit.
2. Earnestly desire spiritual gifts and use them in church meetings and evangelism
3. Use the gift of discernment and scriptural knowledge to weigh up prophecies.
4. Allow suitably gifted people to contribute in meetings no matter what age, education, race, sex or social class.
5. Speak with authority.  Use words of command as well as prayer to deal with sickness and demons.

Why are we charismatic?

Because the Bible, in Acts, says this:

In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.  Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

In Mark Chapter 16, it says this:

He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.  And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on people who are ill, and they will get well.’
After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.  Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

Note that the command to go into all the world includes the command to heal the sick and cast out demons, although non-charismatic Evangelicals tend to truncate the above verse in Mark, missing off the second sentence.

We are still in the last days.  The term 'last days' refers to the period between Christ's ascension and his return (feel free to check this out).  The Holy Spirit has not withdrawn his power.  Some churches have shut these things out, contrary to the teaching of Paul, who said we should 'earnestly desire the greater gifts'.

(1) I am going to use the phrase 'Holy Spirit' without the definite article, i.e. rather than 'the Holy Spirit'.  Some Bible Teachers such as David Pawson do this, and I believe it does better justice to the Biblical text and emphasises His Personality
(2) I prefer to use the term 'other languages' rather than 'tongues'.  This is a better modern expression of what the Bible says  emphasises the fact that God gives people other languages to speak which have not been learned and can be translated rather than just gibberish.

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