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The Operation of Gifts - Church History

Some of the early church fathers, (so-called), around the third century came up with some interesting ideas as to why the gifts had decreased or had stopped operating altogether in there meetings. Historically there is a close connection in this happening with the days of Constantine, Emperor of Rome, who stopped the persecution of Christian’s and carnalized the church as an institution. Much later at the time of the Reformation some of these theories and thoughts of men became an almost dogma right down to our present day in teachings that say the supernatural ministries of Ephesians four have ceased and the gifts so clearly taught of in Corinthians are no more. In the past century many good men who love Christ and his Word have sadly been influenced by such. Of course there are those who have drawn back because of the abuse and counterfeiting of true gifts.

For years I have taken note of unusual incidents in the life of men of God from every age, culture and denomination. In beginning to compile the present study I am amazed at how much has come easily together. For year’s I have wanted to compile something of a list but now have quickly found out that the list is endless. The movements that have seen operations of the gifts cover the Waldenses, Huguenots, Mennonites, Reformers, Covenanters, Quakers, Moravians, Methodists and Pentecostals, to give a rough overview. Men of God who either bore witness in teaching or practise to tongues, healing and prophesy continuing are Patrick, Martin Luther, Richard Baxter, Samuel Rutherford, John Welch, Alexander Peden, George Fox, Count Zinzendorf, F.B. Meyer, Andrew Murray, A.B. Simpson, Samuel Chadwick, Edward Irving, Thomas Erskine , George Muellor, Charles Spurgeon, John Sung of China, Leonard Ravenhill…and so the list moves on. Those who only put these things in the Book of Acts must squint or close there eyes in reading scripture and again with church history. Before anyone would want to argue or challenge the scriptural present use of the gifts I would suggest you read the classic exposition by Harold Horton called ‘The Gifts of the Spirit.’

 

As time allows I will compile a full study which will be available upon request.

 

Martin Luther

“How often has it happened, and still does that devils have been driven out in the name of Christ; also by calling on his name and prayer that the sick have been healed.” In a letter in 1545 to one of his followers desiring advise concerning the sick he says, “When you depart lay your hands upon the man again and say, `These signs shall follow them that believe; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.'” And he suited his action to his words on this point; for when they brought him a girl saying that she was possessed with a devil, Luther laid his hand on her head, appealed to the Lord's promise, “He that believeth on me the works I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do,” and then prayed to God, with the rest of the ministers of the Church, that, for Christ's sake, he would cast the devil out of this girl. Perfect recovery is recorded in this instance, as well as in several others where he prayed for the sick.

The most notable being his prayer for Philip Melancthon, his assistant, “Luther arrived and found Philip about to give up the ghost. His eyes were set; his consciousness was almost gone; his speech had failed, and also his hearing; his face had fallen; he knew no one, and had ceased to take either solids or liquids. At this spectacle Luther was filled with the utmost consternation, and turning to his fellow-travelers said: `Blessed Lord, how has the devil spoiled me of this instrument!' Then turning away towards the window he called most devoutly on God.” Then follows the substance of Luther's prayer: “He besought God to forbear, saying that he had struck work in order to urge upon Him in supplication, with all the promises he could repeat from Scripture; that He must hear and answer now if He would ever have the petitioner trust in Him again.” The narrative goes on: “After this, taking the hand of Philip, and well knowing what was the anxiety of his heart and conscience, he said, “Be of good courage, Philip, thou shalt not die. Though God wanted not good reason to slay thee, yet He willeth not the death of a sinner, but that he may be converted and live. Wherefore give not place to the spirit of grief, nor become the slayer of thyself, but trust in the Lord who is able to kill and to make alive.” While he uttered these things Philip began, as it were, to revive and to breathe, and gradually recovering his strength, was at last restored to health. Melancthon writing to a friend said: “I should have been a dead man had I not been recalled from death itself by the coming of Luther.” Luther writing to friends said: “Philip is very well after such an illness, for it was greater than I had supposed. I found him dead, but, by an evident miracle of God, he lives.” It was said that “Dr. Martin Luther was a prophet, evangelist, speaker in tongues and interpreter, in one person, endowed with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit.”

Below you see him challenging the religious and political power of Rome in 1521 at Worms where he made his famous STAND, "Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason - I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen."


Charles Spurgeon

He spoke of a “sermon at Exeter Hall in which he suddenly broke off from his subject, and pointing in a certain direction, said, `Young man, those gloves you are wearing have not been paid for: you have stolen them from your employer'. At the close of the service, a young man, looking very pale and greatly agitated, came to the room, which was used as a vestry, and begged for a private interview with Spurgeon. On being admitted, he placed a pair of gloves upon the table, and tearfully said, `It's the first time I have robbed my master, and I will never do it again. You won't expose me, sir, will you? It would kill my mother if she heard that I had become a thief'.” “On another occasion while he was preaching, Spurgeon said there was a man in the gallery who had a bottle of gin in his pocket. This not only startled the man in the gallery who had the gin, but it also led to his conversion.” Spurgeon gives further examples of his prophetic ministry: “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 nine pence, and there was four pence profit out of it; his soul is sold to Satan for four pence!' 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 nine pence the Sunday before, and that there was four pence 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 through 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.'” How did Spurgeon explain this prophetic ministry? “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.'”

Concerning healing he once gave himself to study it thoroughly. It was in his eyes something of a mystery, for he knew cases that he besought God for but they got worse and died yet a great number who were prayed for recovered. Him and his wife suffered bad health but he brought healing to others. “Yet, no man probably, in England or in America, in this century, has ever healed so many people as did Mr. Spurgeon…he asserted that there was some power connected with prayer which ought to be used when persons were in pain and could be relieved by it… Thousands did believe that his prayer would heal them. He prayed with them, they recovered…Some have said that his prayers were of such a nature, and that he himself had such complete faith in them being answered, that they thoroughly convinced the pain-stricken listener that an answer was certain, and they would surely recover. Fully assured of their recovery, their way to perfect health would seem to be naturally opened… There are now living and worshipping in the Metropolitan Tabernacle hundreds of people who ascribe the extension of their life to the effect of Mr. Spurgeon's personal prayers. They have been sick with disease and nigh unto death, he has appeared, kneeled by their beds, and prayed for their recovery. Immediately the tide of health returned, the fevered pulse became calm, the temperature was reduced, and all the activities of nature resumed their normal functions within a short and unexpected period. If a meeting were to be called of all those who attribute their recovery to the prayer of Mr. Spurgeon, it would furnish one of the most deserved tributes to his memory that could be possibly made… In 1861 it is said that this belief in Mr. Spurgeon's healing power became among some classes a positive superstition, and he was obliged to overcome the very false and extravagant impressions which were going out concerning it by mentioning the matter from the pulpit, and rebuking the theories of the extremely enthusiastic. He regarded himself, as every pastor should, as the mere agent of Divine power, and spoke of himself, in two instances, as unworthy of possessing the gift of healing.”


 

 

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