BOOK REVIEW: “Charismatic Gifts in the Early Church…..”

Posted by Gabriel (G²) on June 23, 2008

on the issue of EARLY CHURCH HISTORY/CHARISMATIC gifts, here’s a book I wanted to throw out there that others can look into if interested. It’s entitled Charismatic Gifts in the Early Church: An Exploration into the Gifts of the Spirit During the First Three Centuries of the Christian Church”….……..and it has been a tremendous blessing on the issue , as Dr. Ronald Kydd provides an objective, informative analysis based on the early-church fathers and concludes “that what emerges from a study of the sources is the picture of a Church which is strongly charismatic up until around AD 200.”

As examples from the book,

Justin Martyr (a.d. 100-165) boasted to the Jewish Trypho “that the prophetic gifts remain with us” (Dialogue with Trypho, 82).

Irenaeus (a.d. 120-200) also bears witness to the presence of the gifts of the Spirit. He writes:

· “We have heard of many of the brethren who have foreknowledge of the future, visions, and prophetic utterances; others, by laying-on of hands, heal the sick and restore them to health” (Against Heresies, 2:32,4).

· “We hear of many members of the church who have prophetic gifts, and, by the Spirit speak with all kinds of tongues, and bring men’s secret thoughts to light for their own good, and expound the mysteries of God” (Against Heresies, 5:6,1).

· “It is impossible to enumerate the charisms which throughout the world the church has received from God” (Against Heresies, 2:32,4).

Eusebius himself concludes that the charismata were all still in operation down to the time in which Irenaeus lived (Ecclesiastical History, 5:7,6).

Apollinarius is quoted by Eusebius as saying that “the prophetic gifts must continue in the church until the final coming, as the apostle insists” (EH, 5:16,7).

Epiphanius, perhaps the most vocal opponent of the Montanists, did not attack them because they practiced the gifts of the Spirit. Indeed, he declared that “the charism [of prophecy] is not inoperative in the church. Quite the opposite. . . . The holy church of God welcomes the same [charisms] as the Montanists, but ours are real charisms, authenticated for the church by the Holy Spirit” (Panarion, 48).

One other example is Augustine (354-430), who early on espoused cessationism. However, in his later writings he retracted his denial of the ongoing reality of the miraculous and carefully documented no fewer than 70 instances of divine healing in his own diocese during a two-year span (see his City of God, Book XXII, chps. 8-10).

For more info, See especially the articles by Richard Riss, “Tongues and Other Miraculous Gifts in the Second Through Nineteenth Centuries,” in Basileia, 1985.

As Christian Scholar Sam Storms said on the issue,

“We simply don’t know what was happening in the thousands upon thousands of churches and home meetings of Christians in centuries past. I cannot say with confidence that believers regularly prayed for the sick and saw them healed any more than you can say they didn’t. You cannot say they never prophesied to the comfort, exhortation, and consolation (1 Cor. 14:3) of the church any more than I can say they did. Neither of us can say with any confidence whether countless thousands of Christians throughout the inhabited earth prayed in tongues in their private devotions. That is hardly the sort of things for which we could expect extensive documentation. We must remember that this was long before the printing press or the advantages of mass media. The absence of documented evidence for spiritual gifts in a time when documented evidence for most of church life was, at best, sparse is hardly good grounds for concluding that such gifts did not exist.

Moreover, there have been accounts of similar events that happened with the early church fathers (unless those quotes were taken out of context) happening in churches AROUND THE WORLD. Go on the mission field and one will quickly see that, as I have experienced this myself. Even in church history apart from the early church fathers, consider that other events have happened similar to that. According to Sam Storms,

The ministry of Charles Spurgeon is a case in point. Read carefully the following account taken from his autobiography:

“While preaching in the hall, on one occasion, I deliberately pointed to a man in the midst of the crowd, and said, ‘There is a man sitting there, who is a shoemaker; he keeps his shop open on Sundays, it was open last Sabbath morning, he took ninepence, and there was fourpence profit out of it; his soul is sold to Satan for fourpence!’ A city missionary, when going his rounds, met with this man, and seeing that he was reading one of my sermons, he asked the question, ‘Do you know Mr. Spurgeon?’ ‘Yes,’ replied the man, ‘I have every reason to know him, I have been to hear him; and, under his preaching, by God’s grace I have become a new creature in Christ Jesus. Shall I tell you how it happened? I went to the Music Hall, and took my seat in the middle of the place; Mr. Spurgeon looked at me as if he knew me, and in his sermon he pointed to me, and told the congregation that I was a shoemaker, and that I kept my shop open on Sundays; and I did, sir. I should not have minded that; but he also said that I took ninepence the Sunday before, and that there was fourpence profit out of it. I did take ninepence that day, and fourpence was just the profit; but how he should know that, I could not tell. Then it struck me that it was God who had spoken to my soul though him, so I shut up my shop the next Sunday. At first, I was afraid to go again to hear him, lest he should tell the people more about me; but afterwards I went, and the Lord met with me, and saved my soul.’”

Spurgeon then adds this comment:

“I could tell as many as a dozen similar cases in which I pointed at somebody in the hall without having the slightest knowledge of the person, or any idea that what I said was right, except that I believed I was moved by the Spirit to say it; and so striking has been my description, that the persons have gone away, and said to their friends, ‘Come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did; beyond a doubt, he must have been sent of God to my soul, or else he could not have described me so exactly.’ And not only so, but I have known many instances in which the thoughts of men have been revealed from the pulpit. I have sometimes seen persons nudge their neighbours with their elbow, because they had got a smart hit, and they have been heard to say, when they were going out, ‘The preacher told us just what we said to one another when we went in at the door’” (The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon, [Curts & Jennings, 1899], Vol. II, pp. 226-227).

What are we to make of this? My opinion is that this is a perfect and not uncommon example of what the Apostle Paul described in 1 Corinthians 14:24-25. Spurgeon exercised the gift of prophecy. He did not label it as such, but that does not alter the reality of what the Holy Spirit accomplished through him. If one were to examine Spurgeon’s theology and ministry, as well as recorded accounts of it by his contemporaries as well as subsequent biographers, most would conclude from the absence of explicit reference to miraculous charismata such as prophecy and the word of knowledge that such gifts had been withdrawn from church life. But Spurgeon’s own testimony inadvertently says otherwise!

The same thing can be found in the Revival’s by Jonathan Edwards (http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com…results=N%253B). For example, Jonathan Edwards during the time of the Great Awakening in America in the 1730’s and 1740’s…& provided the most thoughtful and comprehensive biblical evaluations, reflections and writings about the manifestations of the Spirit. (Taken from A Narrative of Surprising Conversations and the Great Awakening, Vol 4 of The Works Of Edwards)

In His Words:
“It was very wonderful to see how person’s affections were sometimes moved — when God did as it were suddenly open their eyes, and let into their minds a sense of the greatness of his grace, the fullness of Christ, and his readiness to save…Their joyful surprise has caused their hearts as it were to leap, so that they have been ready to break forth into laughter, tears often at the same time issuing like a flood, and intermingling a loud weeping. Sometimes they have not ben able to forbear crying out with a loud voice, expressing their great admiration” (Narrative pp. 37-38)

“…some persons having had such longing desires after Christ or which have risen to such degree, as to take away their natural strength. Some have been so overcome with a sense of the dying love of Christ to such poor, wretched, and unworthy creatures, as to weaken the body. Several persons have had so great a sense of the glory of God, and excellency of Christ, that nature and life seemed almost to sink under it; and in all probability, if God had showed them a little more of himself, it would have dissolved their frame… And they have talked, when able to speak of the glory of Gods perfections” (Narrative p. 45)
“It was a very frequent thing to see an house full of outcries, faintings, convulsions and such like, both with distress, and also with admiration and joy.” (The Great Awakening p. 547)
“many in their religious affections being raised far beyond what they ever had been before; and there were some instances of persons lying in a sort of trance, remaining for perhaps a whole twenty-four hours motionless, and with their senses locked up; but in the meantime under strong imagination, as though they went to heaven, and had there a vision of glorious and delightful objects.” (The Great Awakening p. 550)

Personally, for those claiming charismatic gifts haven’t shown up throughout history, I’d say they haven’t done their homework and honestly aren’t looking properly. For based on numerous accounts/evidence, there’s no reason to even assume that modern day Charismatic theology only occured in OUR TIME ONLY.

If people would like more info, http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com…atic-movements & http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com…rical-studies/ (as this is the ministry which represents much of what I’ve subscribed to/feel on issues)


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