"He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith," Galatians 3:5. Last time we looked at the aide of the Holy Spirit. We cannot live for Jesus Christ without the aide of the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit we will resort to workings of the flesh; such as, emotions, feelings, and experiences. By and through these workings of the flesh we will replace the Holy Spirit with invitations to the altar, songs and stories that move people to tears, and a type of entertainment that you would find at a worldly concert. All of this is done in the name of the Holy Spirit, when in fact it is just a working of the flesh. The workings of the flesh take away from what the Holy Spirit is really doing. The result is that the Holy Spirit gets credit for what He is not doing, and He doesn't get credit for what He is doing. From the Day of Pentecost to today, the Holy Spirit has continued to aide the Lord's church in living and dying for Jesus Christ. His ministry has not changed.
Let us look at Galatians 3:5. "He therefore that ministereth" in this verse means to furnish besides, i.e. fully supply, (figurative) aid or contribute:- add, minister (nourishment, unto). Paul came preaching the Gospel. There is only one Gospel as we have learned from chapter one verses six through ten. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek," Romans 1:16. When you change the Gospel you also change the effect and the benefits of the Gospel. We say this because with any change of the Gospel you look away from Christ and look to self. This is exactly what the Galatians were doing. Christ was no longer the center of their theology, which means He was no longer the center of their worship. This is manifested in the self help and self esteem programs that dominate the churches of today. This teaching causes you to look to yourself, and not to Christ.
When the Galatians started out they had embraced the true teaching of the Gospel. This was evident by the working of the Holy Spirit in and through them. "The Spirit" in verse 5 means specifically, of the empowerment imparted by the Holy Spirit on and after the day of Pentecost, by which the apostles and early Christians were endowed with high supernatural qualifications for their work; knowledge equivalent to a full knowledge of gospel truth and the power of prophesying, working miracles, and speaking with languages previously unknown to them; all done in evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The New Testament Canon had not yet been written, so there were sign gifts given for validation of salvation and for validation of the one preaching the Gospel. Here is a quote by the reformer Martin Luther, "This argument based on the experience of the Galatians, pleased the Apostle so well that he returns to it after he had warned them against their twofold danger. "You have not only received the Spirit by the preaching of the Gospel, but by the same Gospel you were enabled to do things." "What things?" we ask. Miracles. At least the Galatians had manifested the striking fruits of faith which true disciples of the Gospel manifested in those days. On one occasion the Apostle wrote: "The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power." This "power" revealed itself not only in readiness of speech, but in demonstration of the supernatural ability of the Holy Spirit."
The sign gifts were truly a blessing to the early church, but over time, man discovered ways to imitate these sign gifts. There were two types of gifts given to the church by the Spirit; sign gifts, and gifts that edify. The sign gifts were temporary, the edification gifts are permanent. During the early church both types were active, today we have the gifts that edify the church. This is confirmed by Scripture, and it is also historical. Galatians and I Corinthians were some of the first epistles written to the churches. Both speak of the sign gifts. The other epistles speak of the gifts that edify the church. Even in I Corinthians 14 Paul tells the Corinthians in verse 12, "Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church." By the end of the first century the sign gifts were ending, but the gifts of edification continue on until the end of the age. Here are two examples from Scripture of the sign gifts ending. "Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities," I Timothy 5:23. At one time the apostles and their associates could heal, but now it is obvious that they cannot. Turn to II Corinthians 12:7-12. In verse 12 the words "were wrought" is in the aorist passive tense and is used for simple, undefined action. It refers only to the reality of an event or action. It should be distinguished from the imperfect tense which signifies continuous action in past time. When the Scriptures are rightly divided, we see that the sign gifts do not continue, but the gifts of edification do.
When we understand these biblical truths, we can read passages regarding the sign gifts and not think we are a lower class of Christians because we do not exercise the sign gifts. We end up feeling sorry for those today who have been bewitched by others who pretend they have the sign gifts. They view themselves as looking spiritual, we see them as looking stupid. Like the Galatians, they have been bewitched.
Sign gifts are not needed today, but what is needed are the gifts that edify the Lord's church. These gifts point all to Jesus Christ. These gifts are furnished by the Holy Spirit to equip the Lord's church to minister to each other. When ministered biblically, the world sees a people who are abounding in love towards each other, and towards their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We love the Lord, each other, and the truth of the Gospel. What are the sign gifts, and what are the permanent gifts? Let us read I Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 in preparation for next time.
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Soli Deo Gloria.