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Lowell Brueckner

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Special Introduction (1 Co. 12-14)


A special introduction to 1 Corinthians, chapters 12-14

(From this point on I will be using the New King James Version)

 Chapter 12:1 & 2

1.    Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant:
2.      You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led.

Just as he began chapter 10, Paul shows again that he is an enemy of ignorance among Christians. He states in 10:1, “I would not, brethren, have you ignorant…” (ASV) concerning Old Testament accounts, and he uses the exact same Greek word here in 12:1, “I do not want you to be ignorant,” and in his second letter to the Corinthians: “We would not have you ignorant, brethren…” (2 Co.1:8) of the personal troubles that Paul’s team experienced. He affirms the same to the Thessalonians: “We would not have you ignorant, brethren…” (1 Th.4:13), concerning the Lord’s return for His church.

Even though Peter was a Galilean fisherman and the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem considered him “uneducated and untrained” (Ac.4:13), he, as well, wants his readers to “be not ignorant of this one thing” (2 P.3:8, KJV, although admittedly he uses another Greek word, it is synonymous). He wants them to be informed concerning a divine principle, which teaches that with the Lord, one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day.

The reason that I make this point so emphatically is because there are some, who seem to think that ignorance is an advantage among Christians. Obviously, these people do not agree with the apostles. Though many Christians, like Peter, have simple backgrounds, it isn’t long until they become well-informed concerning spiritual truth. Towards that end, God has given us a big book to study and it is called, The Bible. He has also given us a wise Teacher, who is neither human nor angelic, but is the divine, omniscient Holy Spirit. Jesus said: “He shall teach you all things” and “He will guide you into all truth” (Jn.14:26; 16:13).

His text book will be the Scriptures, of which He is the author: “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 P.1:21). The written Word of God is of absolute authority and decides all questions in the church. The writer of Hebrews determined that, what is written in the Bible is equal to the voice of God: “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says…” (He.3:7) and he quoted the Old Testament Scripture. A few chapters later, he spoke of a truth, concerning the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle, and concluded that the Holy Spirit was teaching directly through this Scripture: “The Holy Spirit indicating this…” (He.9:8).      

If Paul chalked up the misuse of spiritual gifts by the Corinthians to ignorance, how can we give any better assessment to those teachers, who have never had a chance to misuse them, because they have never experienced them. Old Jim Carson went to be with his Lord long ago. In his youth, he actually drove a 40 mule-team in the forests of northern Minnesota. God saved him out of the rough-and-tumble life of a lumberjack. One Sunday morning, he happened to go into a church, in which the pastor gave a message against speaking in tongues. Jim approached the man after the service and didn’t mince words: “Preach what you know, pastor, not what you don’t know!” Amen, Jim. How can anyone give an accurate Bible teaching over any subject, of which he has no personal knowledge? He is teaching theory, unproven in his own life.

We noted a little earlier in our study that pagan idolatry is largely practiced in ignorance. Pagan priests would have their followers steeped in ignorance, in order to better control them and… empty their pockets! Paul reminded the Corinthians, “You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led” (2). False Christianity follows closely in their footsteps. For that exact reason, the medieval Roman Church opposed the printing of Bibles in the language of the common people

Ruins of the temple of Athena Pronaia, Delphi, Greece
I read a little yesterday about the famous Oracle of Delphi, Pythia, a soothsayer who worked in Delphi on Mt. Parnassus near the Temple of Athena Pronaia, which stood a half mile away from a massive Temple of Apollo. Many Greek authors mention her. She was described as being filled by the spirit of the god Apollo, and would give her prophecies in a state of ecstasy. She was consulted internationally, even by kings, before making important decisions. As we learn concerning pagan religion, it is extremely lucrative and there were various treasuries in Delphi. Reading this history, I gain more understanding about the soothsayer slave girl in Philippi. Although she did not possess equal fame with the Oracle of Delphi, she proclaimed that Paul and Silas were servants of the most high God, and enriched her masters with her fortune-telling. Luke writes that she was possessed with a spirit of divination. 

As I studied the seven churches and cities in Asia Minor, it became very clear to me that the pantheon of gods and goddesses of ancient Greece was nothing less than a religion of demons. Asia Minor was rife with demon activity, complete with medicinal institutions, hence the medical symbol of a snake wrapped around a rod. Wikipedia informs “the Rod of Asclepius is a serpent-entwined rod wielded by the Greek god Asclepius, a deity associated with healing and medicine.” Great libraries were full of books on occult, spiritual magic.  The Ephesian believers rid themselves of thousands of dollars-worth of cultic literature, equivalent to the yearly salaries of 150 men. All this is taking place in an area of the world, where Greek culture and high intellectualism reigned, products, in large part, of the Greek philosophers. Educational knowledge does not eliminate dark paganism, it simply sophisticates it.

A little sidelight, related by Luke, adds to the prominence of demon control over Ephesus. He tells of seven sons of a Jewish priest, who attempted to imitate Paul in the exorcism of an Ephesian man. “The man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded” (Ac.19:16). It was necessary for God to counter the pagan power of the Ephesians, demonstrating His power through the apostle by unusual miracles. The sick were healed and evil spirits went out of people (Ac.19:11-12).

God anointed the rod of Moses to counter all the powerful demon activity of the priests of Pharaoh in ancient Egypt. Up to a certain point, they were able to follow Moses and Aaron with the same supernatural signs. However, they came to a level, where they could no longer duplicate the power of Jehovah of Israel. He glorified Himself in Egypt, as Lord of Lords! Yes, our enemy can do miracles and deceive people through them, as Simon the magician did in the times of the apostles, but that is all the more reason why God will rise up in holy zeal to glorify His name.

I propose to you that His power needs to be manifested in this 21st Century as much, or more, than ever before. The minds of people today, led by evil politicians, are deceived and controlled by demons. As I watch them on the news, I am appalled by the state of their minds and emotions. Many of them are radically promoting the abortion of unborn babies. They have moved their agenda ahead to the point, where now they are even suggesting that it should be legal, in some cases, to take the lives of some, who are newly born. That is open infanticide! A few days ago, I watched U. S. Senator Schumer, in front of the Supreme Court building, rail against Justices Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, because they oppose abortion. Later, he tried to explain his wild threats against them, but the truth is that he cannot help himself; his mind and emotions have been taken over by demons. I listened to the daughter of a former U. S. president make the idiotic statement that she would consider herself a poor Christian, if she didn’t believe in abortion!

Mothers and fathers have surrendered their unborn children, at a point in their development that they can feel pain, to be cruelly torn apart, piece by piece, from the womb. Respected and highly educated doctors and nurses perform these travesties. At the same time, homosexual rights are being equaled to that of the emancipation of slavery and the voting rights of women. The sophistication of our times and higher education have not stopped, or even slowed, the flow of demon activity.

How are we supposed to wrestle against a supernatural enemy, with only a human spear and sword? We certainly would be defeated. It is said that, before any of the great revivals of the church began, there were first clear manifestations of demon powers. The reality of the spiritual world drove desperate and humble people to seek the power of God… and God poured His power upon them

At the same time, we are hearing a doctrine, promoted by evangelicals, who term themselves cessationists. It limits the supernatural presence of some spiritual gifts, if not all, to the time of the apostles and we are not to expect them in these modern times. Some would claim, as the Jehovah Witnesses have, that all modern-day miracles are more likely to be the works of Satan.  

I agree, we have the full canon of Scripture since the beginning of the Second Century. We rely totally on its absolute authority. . My question is: What is to take the place of supernatural gifts in the church in our times? Paul likens the church to a human body, each member having its particular gift in order that the body may move and fulfill its purpose. If the members of the church were given the gifts mentioned in the beginning, now how is the church to function without them? Is the church not a supernatural organism, conceived in heaven? It is unique on this earth and are we to rely on the wisdom and abilities of men, in order that it may take its place in society? We have to do more than speculate on this issue; we must have an answer that is entirely biblical.

I have no reason to claim more authority over this subject than anyone else. My concern is that the reader will see the error of the cessationist and turn again to the Holy Spirit for his empowering in these momentous days. I could testify of first-hand personal experience in the observation of the supernatural work of God in pioneer mission work, as well as in evangelized territories, where the Christian church has been established. However, I am not writing just to debate the issue, but with the conviction that it is one of the signs of a low level of Christianity in our times, in which the power of God is being challenged by churchmen. It is of greatest concern to me that, as Paul prophesied, “(In the last days… men will be) having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 T.3:5). With me, it is not a matter of debate or of being right, but a concern for the powerless state of the church in our days.    

Some, who oppose a post-conversion experience, called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and the subsequent gifts of the Spirit, think that these are doctrines invented during the Pentecostal movement at the beginning of the 20th Century; some Pentecostals may agree with them. That, in fact, is an outright lie. Beware of limiting this experience in time or quality. Allow me to quote John Wesley who, as early as the 18th Century, called on Christians to reject the idea, which we find so prominent today. In a letter written in June of 1746: “I can recall no Scripture where it teaches us that miracles should be confined to the apostolic age or any other period of time.”

Speaking of Wesley, I personally knew Leonard Ravenhill, who was raised a Methodist, and perhaps we could say that he saw the miraculous from a Methodist’s perspective. In any case Ravenhill was an advocate of the moving of the Spirit in revival. I don’t want to speak for Paul Washer, a man who has gained the respect of many serious Christians in our times, but I think that he would agree that Len Ravenhill had some influence upon his life. He was asked publicly concerning spiritual gifts and answered: “We should be constantly praying for greater and greater manifestations of the Spirit, outpourings of the Spirit. Our lives should be supernatural. I cannot say in my conscience that the gifts of the Spirit have ceased. John Piper is another contemporary Baptist, who is an advocate of biblical gifts of the Spirit and has spoken publicly on the issue.  

Now I ask you to learn from a former medical doctor and gifted theologian, associate pastor to a great man of God, G. Campbell Morgan, of the Westminster Chapel near Buckingham palace. I refer to D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981), who later became the senior pastor of that church and was co-founder of The Banner of Truth Trust. This Welshmen knew of the reality of spiritual revival and of the power behind it. His sane approach to evangelical Christianity is admired throughout the world. I am going to turn to his writings, at this point, concerning the subject before us: 
He saw “an argument that is being put forward at the present time, and which has been put forward very largely during this present (20th) century. Let me begin to answer it by giving you just one thought at this point. It is this: the Scriptures never anywhere say that these things (miraculous things) were only temporary – never! There is no such statement anywhere.”

“‘Ah but,’ says somebody, ‘what about that passage from 1 Corinthians 13?’ You see what we are asked to believe by that kind of exposition? We are told that the coming of the New Testament Scriptures puts us into a place of perfection; whereas if you look at verse 12, it actually says: ‘For now we see,’- that is the apostle and others. The apostle is included with all other Christian believers before the New Testament canon, much of which was written by Paul himself, had been completed. We read: ‘Now we see though a glass, darkly; but then’ – when the Scriptures have come and are complete – ‘face to face:’ Now I know in part; but then’ – which they say means the completion of the Scriptures – ‘shall I know even as also I am known.’ You see what that involves? It means that you and I, who have the Scriptures open before us, know much more than the apostle Paul of God’s truth. That is what it means and nothing less, if that argument is correct. It means that we are altogether superior to the early church and even to the apostles themselves, including the apostle Paul! It means that we are now in a position in which we know ‘face to face’ that ‘we know, even as also we are
known’ by God because we have the Scriptures. It is surely unnecessary to say more.”

“What the apostle is, of course, dealing with in 1 Corinthians 13 is the contrast between the highest and the best that the Christian can ever know in this world and in this life and what he will know in the glory everlasting. The ‘now’ and the ‘then’ are not the time before and after the Scriptures were given. That position is inconsistent, and contradictory – indeed, there is only one word to describe such a view, it is nonsense. The ‘then’ is the glory everlasting. It is only then we shall see him as he is. It will be direct and ‘face to face’. So you see the difficulties men land themselves in when they dislike something and cannot fully understand it and try to explain it away.

While the cessationists argue that the times of miracles do not reach us today, I doubt that anyone is denying that witchcraft is still practiced and that there are still people, who are demon-possessed.  As I stated previously, society clearly manifests the enemy’s power, as never before in world history, led by the insanity of politicians, totally deceived by the devil. So I ask: What does the church have to offer, in order to confront this attack? I see it weakened, functioning under human power, and not capable of defeating the enemy’s forces or delivering people enslaved by him. It doesn’t matter that we sing and mouth praises… Is God receiving the glory that He deserves from us? Is this marvelous gospel being preached in a way that sinners fall under the grips of conviction, and then are transformed into saints shining with heavenly light? 

When Moses and Aaron first presented themselves before the most powerful man in that day, the Pharaoh, and when Egypt was the world power of the day, the king said that he did not know Jehovah of Israel. Then they demonstrated a power that shamed the king’s priests and humbled Pharaoh to the extent that he finally pleaded for His blessing. In Egypt, the God of Israel became the Lord of Lords y His servants were greatly respected by the Egyptian population, even those who worked in Pharaoh’s palace. Are we going to be satisfied with less? Martyn Lloyd-Jones, burning with godly jealousy, spoke of supernatural works and miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, saying:

“My friends, this is to me one of the most urgent matters at this hour. With the church as she is and the world as it is, the greatest need today is the power of God through his Spirit in the church that we may testify not only to the power of the Spirit, but to the glory and the praise of the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord, Son of God and Son of Man.”



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