Spiritual Gifts by Renald E. Showers

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In a mere sixty pages, Renald Showers has provided for the people of God one of the finest treatments of spiritual gifts available. The booklet is thoroughly biblical, well reasoned, logically ordered and very readable.

Showers begins with a general definition of spiritual gifts, their purpose and function. In the opening pages he lays the groundwork for his later discussion of tongues and prophecy by distinguishing edifying gifts from sign gifts. Every spiritual gift, he explains, was given for the purpose of ministering to others, never ourselves (p. 8).

In the second chapter, Showers indicates that spiritual gifts are sovereignly distributed (although, I could wish he had discussed 1 Cor 12:31 and 14:1 more thoroughly) and outlines the biblical teaching on spiritual gifts. In chapters three and four, he makes the case for the cessation of certain gifts in general and revelational gifts in particular. In light of well-respected evangelicals such as Wayne Grudem, John Piper, C. J. Mahaney and the so-called Calvinist-charismatics taking a stand for the continuation of the gift of prophecy today, these chapters are particularly pertinent. I appreciated his explanation of Joel 2:28 (pp. 34-36) but would also have been most interested in a fuller explanation of Peter’s use of this text in Acts 2.

The last three chapters make the case for the cessation of tongues. Showers gives one of the most concise and helpful studies on this topic I have read, presenting the Old Testament backdrop coupled with the words of Jesus. He then delivers a solid exegesis of 1 Corinthians 14:21-22. Another chapter explaining the surrounding material in 1 Corinthians 14 would have been a welcome addition.

Spiritual Gifts provides excellent insight on a tough issue and would be the ideal booklet to hand to those confused on the subject. I would like to see Dr. Showers expand this work to include a few of the matters I mentioned above but, as is, the booklet is a wonderful tool that I will make use of on many occasions.

*Books can be purchased directly from Dr. Showers for $6/each. Contact him at rshowers@foi.org.

In personal correspondence Dr. Showers has supplied the following explanation of his view of Peter’s use of Joel 2 in Acts 2. I include this by his permission.

JOEL – ACTS 2

As a result of the Holy Spirit filling the band of believers who were gathered together in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, they began to speak “with tongues” (actual human languages that they had never learned)(vv. 1-11). This astounded the unbelieving crowd of Jews who were gathered in Jerusalem from many nations. These individuals wanted to know the source or cause of this strange phenomenon (v. 12). Some claimed that the tongues speakers where drunk (“full of new wine”) (v. 13). In other words, they were saying that the cause of the tongues speaking was too much wine.

Peter responded to this wrong claim (vv. 14-21). He told the unbelieving Jews that the tongues speakers were not drunk. He indicated that it wasn’t possible for them to be drunk, since it was only “the third hour of the day” (vv. 14-15). His point was that it was too early in the day for them to be drunk. According to Jewish reckoning of time the third hour of the day was 9:00 AM, and the Jews participating in the holiday abstained from eating and drinking until 10:00 AM or noon.

Peter then revealed the true cause of the tongues speaking (vv. 16-21). He declared, “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” (v. 16). And he quoted Joel 2:28-32: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

How was Peter using the Joel passage, and what did he mean by “this is that?” Some have claimed that Peter was saying that this coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was the complete fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32.

 

Others believe that Peter was saying that this coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was a partial fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32. In other words the Joel passage is to have a double fulfillment—one for the church at Pentecost, and one for Israel near the beginning of the Millennium.

This author is convinced of a third view. Because the major issue the Jews were struggling with was the cause of the tongues speaking, Peter referred to the Joel 2 passage to identify the true cause. In essence he was saying, “The things which you are witnessing today were not caused by too much wine. Instead, this is that same Holy Spirit that Joel talked about in Joel 2 that caused this strange phenomenon of speaking in tongues.” His point was this: “Since the Holy Spirit has the power to cause phenomenal things described in Joel 2, then He certainly has the power to cause the phenomenal tongues speaking you witnessed today.” He wanted the Jews to understand that what happened that day was divine in source, not some other source.

This third view prompts the conclusion that Acts 2 was neither a complete or partial fulfillment of Joel 2. Several things confirm that conclusion.

First, Joel 2 refers specifically to a time when the Holy Spirit will be poured out upon “all flesh.” In Act 2 the Spirit was poured out upon just the small band of believers who were gathered together in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, not on all flesh nor even the other Jews who were in the city that day.

Second, Joel 2 refers to the sun turned into darkness and the moon into blood when the Spirit is poured out upon all flesh. Neither of those things happened in Act 2.

Third, Joel 2 refers to people prophesying, seeing visions, and dreaming dreams when the Spirit is poured out upon all flesh. Acts 2 is silent concerning people prophesying, seeing visions, and dreaming dreams.

 

Fourth, the only phenomenal thing that happened in Acts 2 was tongues speaking. Joel 2 makes no reference to tongues speaking when the Spirit is poured out upon all flesh.

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