The Work of the Holy Spirit 4
The belief and practice of a continuationist church leader. This is the final of four articles on the subject of the work of the Holy Spirit as part of our All in the Family series.
The aim of the All in the Family series is to explore the breadth of belief and practice that exists amongst FIEC churches on matters that our Doctrinal Basis doesn't touch on and yet are important in church life.
For each subject we ask a variety of church leaders to respond to the same questions, with an emphasis on seeing how belief shapes practice in a local church.
In this collection on the work of the Holy Spirit, we have one cessationist paper and then three pastors whose understanding sits on the spectrum of continuationist views. These are:
- cessationism – Bill James
- continuationism – John James
- continuationism – John Risbridger
- continuationism – Greg Haslam (this article)
You can download a combined PDF of the four papers above.
Name: Greg Haslam
Church: Westminster Chapel is an historic evangelical Congregational building in the heart of Victoria, London. Built in 1841, with an interior reminiscent of C.H. Spurgeon's Metropolitan Tabernacle, but smaller in capacity, it's said to hold 2,500 people. It is famous for the faithful Biblical Expository ministry of greats like Dr. Samuel Martin, Dr.G.Campbell Morgan, Dr. D.Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and my predecessor Dr. R.T. Kendall, who all ministered here for many years, and all of whom I greatly admire. I became Dr. Kendall's successor on his retirement in March 2002, and was ordained on the same day that Dr. Lloyd-Jones resigned from the Chapel in March 1968, by a curious co-incidence. Even more amazingly, I unwittingly preached my first sermon on the same text the Doctor finished his ministry with - Rom.14:17. I've pastored Winchester Family Church (FIEC) and Westminster Chapel (FIEC) for a total of 35 years.
1) Do you believe that the miraculous gifts were the “signs of the apostles” and therefore confined to the apostolic era? Why?
No. I don’t believe they are ‘past their sell-by date’. I believe that suggestion is an eccentric opinion with no basis in fact, and that it has robbed God’s Church of God’s best for centuries, and continues to do so in today. The Pentecostal and Charismatic movements of the 20th century are very instructive. They evidence both the best and the worst in attempting to be truly scriptural, and throw up eccentricities and abuses in some cases. But alongside these losses, more importantly there’s significant gains – including new spiritual dynamic life, genuine revivals, millions of converts, lively churches, ministry to the poor, vibrant worship and fellowship, accelerated mission, trained and gifted leaders and people, greater love for Christ, greater honour for the God’s Holy Spirit’s work.
There are many misunderstandings about ancient and modern apostles. The NT itself never limits them to Twelve. Nor did they completely die out, but were replaced by Christ sending more, even if the title ‘apostle’ fell into neglect. All of Christ’s original apostles were authorised to perform miracles by Jesus, including Paul (e.g. Matt 10:1-10). But Paul uses a phrase ‘the signs of an apostle’ in defence of his own apostolic calling and ministry, challenging critical Corinthian disdain for Paul as he was among what he sarcastically calls ‘super-apostles’, the apostles the Corinthians most admired (2 Cor 12:11-12).
In the early 20th century, Princeton theologian B.B. Warfield and others, unwisely concocted the ‘cessationist’ argument after the emergence of Pentecostals in 1901, and inferred that only NT ‘apostles’ moved in signs and miracles in the Bible, which eventually ceased. The Book of Acts and church history suggest otherwise. The disciple Ananias healed Saul’s blindness (Acts 9:17-18). Evangelist Philip wrought miracles in Samaria, vindicating his message, and shaking a city (Acts 8:4-6). Jerusalem deacon Stephen did miracles in Jerusalem before his murder at Saul’s hands (Acts 6:8-10). He also had a vision of Christ in heaven as he died. None of these men were apostles. Both Acts 6:8, and 1 Cor 12:7-11, list miracle gifts that ordinary Greek converts in Israel and Corinth could potentially use, as part of Christ’s equipping for Christians, just as many churches all over the world experience the same phenomena today. I’ve seen this in both churches I I’ve led in Winchester and London, over the space of 34 years.
The ‘apostolic era’ never ended, nor have miracle ‘signs’ ceased, since they help us to endorse and spread the Gospel more effectively. The influential movement Newfrontiers that I served for 12 years, led by Terry Virgo, experienced miraculous signs as regular, normal phenomena, amid an atmosphere devoid of ‘hype’, accompanied by low-key wise experience, and good practice, learned over years of consistent activity in the power of the Spirit. The gifts never totally disappeared since the 1st century, they just went underground, only to re-emerge again later as history abundantly witnesses to.
They sometimes decline, primarily due to the regular habit of church leaders to ‘quench’ God’s Spirit and his holy fire. Paul urges us not to do this (1 Thess 5:19-20). Our churches need more holy fire! I’ve seen signs and miracles when a ‘Fire-fighter’ attitude is abandoned. Ephesians 4:7-16 lists the diverse ‘Five-fold ministries’ of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, that Christ still gives to his church in perpetuity as our ascended Lord, until the worldwide church is edified, and fully equipped, to produce unity, maturity, and fullness, climaxing with Christ’s future return. The suggestion that the completion of the Biblical canon is that terminus, as Warfield suggested, is not tenable. The climax is surely the Parousia! Paul isn’t alluding to the Bible here, there’s no evidence he meant this in the text. He describes the long-term advance and success of Christ’s church, and the necessity of varied gifted servants to plant healthy churches in every generation. All five components of Christ’s own abilities are vital. Their absence spells decline and low standards to this day, in many denominations and churches. Their reception accelerates momentum and a brighter future.
Hence, we cannot do without all the Gifts of the Spirit, and the Five-fold Ministries, for they are vital to advance God’s church, and produce evident quality, that distinguishes us from merely human efforts and skills, tired religion, and fruitless religious activity. We should model ‘stand out’ beauty and order, community, and power, in contrast to heretical cults, false religions, and rationalistic atheism with its destructive reductionist philosophy of mechanistic naturalism. God is not dead. He’s alive and everywhere active in his world. Vibrant churches can demonstrate this fact every time they meet. We’re commanded to ‘eagerly desire spiritual gifts’ in 1 Cor 14:1. This has never been rescinded elsewhere in scripture, nor has the apostolic ministry of planting churches, laying solid foundations, teaching, and shaping of Christian community, that’s still needed today. Apostles are ‘sent’ to do this. We’re called to watch out for ‘false apostles’, which implies there are real ones in the church both then, and now (Rev 2:2; 2 Cor 11:13). The false, implies that the genuine still exists.
2) Does your church pray for sick people to be healed? How is this done? Do you expect healing to take place?
Yes. Since the early 1980’s, when I became eager to discover more, I set out to read scores of books on Charismatic issues and new dimensions of biblical ministry, like supernatural gifts. I consulted wise and biblically anchored authors and friends, from several new church streams on both sides of the Atlantic. They included John Wimber, Sam Storms, Derek Prince, Wayne Grudem, Jack Deere, Terry Virgo, and classic Pentecostals like Donald Gee. They persuaded me from scripture, and I gained faith to move out in these areas. I began by preaching 30 sermons on 1 Cor.12-14, carefully unpacking every detail, and defining the gifts too. The church was never the same again. We began to move in, and experience spiritual gifts first-hand, and progressively. The result was an amazing transformed church!
The first healing I saw was just weeks later. A 9yr old girl from the local estate was diagnosed by her Consultant as having an incurable degenerative disease in her legs, muscles, and bones. He predicted she’d be in a wheelchair by the age of 16. I laid hands on her, and prayed for her healing. Days later she returned to the consultant for further tests to confirm the diagnosis. Every previous result of their machines had suddenly reversed to ‘normal’, baffling her Consultant and his colleagues. Catherine is now over 40, and remains healed! Healing was ‘normal’ in the NT, and can also be frequent now.
The Bible commends ‘the laying on of hands’ and prayer as means to such an outcome (e.g. Mark 16:18; Acts 9:17-19). This may also be accompanied by anointing with oil, symbolising the Holy Spirit, thus raising faith (James 5:13-15). We do this when requested, or when God indicates specific ‘conditions’ prophetically, that he wants to heal. I pray for these before some services, so that I know prophetically what needs to be healed. Any intimations of ‘medical conditions’ God gives, are then publicly announced, trusting that God brought them to my mind. Usually, they are all true and present, then those people come forward to be ministered to. God is very specific with this information. I even announce medical names I’ve never heard of before, and regularly see healings of those illnesses, infirmities, or injuries. This accuracy lifts the people’s faith, and mine. Some are converted! The gift of hearing from God in prophecy is absolutely vital for church leaders, and others in the church, for many practical reasons.
3) What do you understand by the gift of prophecy? Is it practised in your church? In what way?
I value prophecy highly, and teach about it to others. I wrote a 400-page book about prophecy based on 15 practical, biblical, conference seminars - ‘Moving in the Prophetic’ (Monarch UK). Prophecy is quite different from the gift of preaching and teaching, but the best preaching should be invaded by prophecy regularly. Preachers then say things they never intended, under the anointing of the Spirit – exactly the words people most need, usually. C.H. Spurgeon often moved in prophecy, but didn’t name it as such. He would point to specific individuals as he preached, then announce facts about them he couldn’t have known but for God. Examples include a shoemaker who kept his shop open on Sundays, challenging him that he’d skipped church and earned nine pence last Sunday, with only four pence profit. It was all true! Another time in Exeter Hall, he pointed to a young man, announcing that he’d stolen a pair of kid gloves from his master, and had not paid for them. The frightened apprentice, later confessed all, repented, and begged Spurgeon not to expose him to his boss, or worse still, his mother!
Prophecy is an existential ‘here and now’ lower case ’r’ - ‘revelation’ from God. It’s like a spiritual ‘hunch’ that we ‘know in our knower’ it’s from God. It is speaking forth messages the Holy Spirit prompts within us, that cohere with scriptural truth. God ‘downloads’ verbal and visual data, clear burdens and words, in our spirit and mind. We can then ‘speak to men for their strengthening, encouraging, and comfort’ (1 Cor 14: 3). The goal is therefore to ‘Build up’, ‘Stir up’, and ‘Cheer up’ God’s people. Usually, these prophecies are ‘spot on’ and amaze people, as a sign of God’s love for them. Prophecy shouldn’t compete with NT theology, since biblical theology urges us to eagerly desire prophecy. God didn’t give Scripture to replace prophecy, nor prophecy to replace Scripture. Scripture commends prophecy highly, and forbids us disdaining it (1 Thess 5:19-21).
A prophet before God can see issues clearly. By God’s word, he is moved to solve those issues. A prophet is a slave to God, not to man. This clean fear of God, delivers us from any unclean fear of man. God’s prophets see what others do not, hear what others cannot, and dare to say what others dare not. Preachers and churches desperately need this gift! Agabus modelled this role signally (Acts 13:1-3; 21:10-15). But this primarily testifies to the awesome greatness of Jesus, not the awesome power of his prophets!
Other leaders can then ‘weigh’ and ‘test’ prophecies, and the congregation should do so too, and not fear prophetic people (I Cor 14:29-33). It’s oppressive to ‘police’ prophecy, but do ‘pastor’ it. A prophet is not right all of the time, but then, neither are pastors! But we don’t shut them up, so we should eagerly hear a prophet also. God wants His people to be guided to their earthly callings, and destiny. Prophets can often discern such things (Acts 13:1-3). Prophets can bring a ‘now word’ to us, but also highlight, confirm, and endorse God’s guidance, and written word by citing it and imparting insight, as fresh as today’s newspaper. The twin-gifts of ‘Prophetic Teacher’ - a gift-combination to be highly commended.
4) What do you understand by the gift of “tongues”? Is it manifested today? If so, how and when?
Speaking in tongues is a God-given supplementary aid to assist prayer and praise. It flows through supernaturally through our normal speaking equipment. It aids our weaknesses and difficulties in prayer, and sung worship (Rom 8:26-28). We often don’t know what to pray, or sing spontaneously. The Holy Spirit then prays or sings through us. If this happens publicly, the Spirit will often give someone a vernacular interpretation, so all can understand and be edified, by the contribution as Paul urges in 1 Cor.14. ‘Tongues’ are clearly God-ward and, ‘does not speak to men, but to God’, says Paul (14:2), throughout this chapter. So tongues at Pentecost were for God’s benefit alone, in the Upper Room, and only secondarily became a sign to the growing crowd of pilgrims gathered in Jerusalem, who individually could understand many of those praise languages, and were blessed by them. But when it came to the preaching of Peter to the whole crowd, this was not in tongues, but the common language of those pilgrim Jews – Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek - so all could understand everything that was spoken. The result was 3,000 converts!
Within our churches, ‘tongues’ should be limited to a few contributions to avoid ‘showing off’, or perhaps stumbling visitors who may think we are all mad! Pastors should shepherd this gift well, and clearly explain to a mixed congregation what’s going on, why, and how. The opposite of this, is risking some form of aversion, and ‘quenching the Holy Spirit’. Paul’s wise advice in 1 Cor.14 about both prophecy and tongues is mandatory for today, not history. This guards us against ridiculing ‘tongues’, and despising ‘prophecy’. 1 Cor. 14 is a model of positive and corrective teaching, that avoids any dismissive ‘trashing’ of God’s good gifts, for more positive ‘embracing’ of them as normal worship.
5) What are the clearest evidences of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of your church?
A church whose members are filled with the Spirit will change everything! Here’s a sampling of what I’ve seen: Love of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Gospel zeal, and preaching in clarity and power. Great joy. Good marriages. Healed relational rifts, and no more quarrels. Lots of laughter and joy. Passion for God’s Word and preaching. Regular conversions. Harmonious multi-ethnic relationships. Tangible unity, amid diversity. Secure, wise leaders. Good theology. Happy pastors. Loyal friendships. Missional zeal. Vision for the future. A real BUZZ! Extraordinary hospitality. Many new visitors. The felt presence of God. People reluctant to go home. Passion for God’s wider church. A high percentage of members who gladly serve in scores of ways. Favour with neighbours. New visitors and guests. Enthusiasm. Frequent baptisms. Eagerness to learn. Passion for Christ.
6) What would you say to Christians who believe that in theory all the gifts are available today, and yet do not expect to see them manifested in their church?
I’d say, ‘That’s very inconsistent! What is your problem with this? Are you scared?’ The NT teaches us to gladly receive and grow in the gifts, so why not shelve your prejudices and do some serious reading, before you cheat yourself and your congregation of blessing, especially if you’re a Pastor. The gifts bring more benefits than they do trouble! Clear teaching is a must. I recommend preaching a series of 20 messages on 1 Cor 12-14, with opportunities to help people practice, and move in these gifts. Along with this, have the courage to challenge and correct critics, helping them to see why these biblical activities are normal for God’s church. Let Jesus have his church back again! (Rev 3:19-20). He’s seen what you and I can do. Now it’s our turn to see what He can do! Church becomes ‘A taste of paradise on earth’ when we cease quenching the Spirit, and start pleasing the Lord.
Whole churches then heal up incrementally, to become an amazing ‘Family’ at last. Dissent, distress, grumbling and contention, will become ‘history’. As a new future opens, where God is our ‘all-in-all’, and beckons us towards more. Who would want anything less? The Book of Acts is the only divinely inspired church history we possess. We are wise to regard it as normative for all believers and churches, for all time. Its message is, ‘Coming soon to a local church near you!’ The Book of Acts is full of miracles and supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit attending God’s servants, and the advance of mission throughout the Empire. Where does Acts suggest this will all cease, or we can safely ignore such things, and regard them as redundant now?
The Apostle Paul writes in Rom 15:18-19, that these phenomena were all essential factors for his success in spreading the Gospel:
"Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and miracles through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the Gospel of Christ.”
His testimony is very significant. Paul’s definition of ‘fully proclaiming the Gospel of Christ’ consists of the regular God-ordained combination of Word and Spirit, in proclamation and demonstration, expressed in words and wonders.
Phenomena like healing, deliverance, prophecy, and supernatural signs, all complement and demonstrate the Gospel truths we preach. God still graciously enables his servants to speak under the anointing of his Spirit, and enables us at his prompting, to minister supernaturally to people’s bodies and souls in co-operation with the Spirit by praying for tangible signs of his power to heal and bless the whole person, not just their minds alone. Clearly for Paul, this was the way to, ‘fully proclaim the Gospel’. Thus, challenging our default reluctance to embrace the supernatural gifts of the Spirit, reflecting more the legacy of the materialistic culture of 18th century Enlightenment rationalism, and anti-supernaturalism, than it does the holistic approach of Christ’s 1st century emissaries, up to and including contemporary apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers today.
If we preach the word, God will send the wonders. Paul tells us that demonstrating God’s power through miracles is as much a part of the Gospel as the sermon is. New life in Jesus is not just something for us to talk about, but something to be experienced and enjoyed. Signs and wonders are supplementary proofs that Jesus is alive, not dead. He is now resurrected, present with us, alive in our midst – doing what only he can do.
7) How do you handle the differences of opinion on spiritual gifts within church leadership, within church membership and in your relationship with other churches?
My practice has been to preach and teach clearly from the Bible for every change that is controversial, and do it with grace and clarity. We can’t successfully argue with what the Bible clearly teaches. So have the courage to convince yourself first, then persuade others to, ‘Do whatever he tells you’, as Mary advised the stewards at Cana when the wine ran out. This enabled the miracle of Jesus turning water into wine. Our churches need those transformations too. So speak to dissenters one-to-one, teasing out new longings for God. Treat them seriously, and win them over. Don’t get mad with people. Love them. Teach them. And persuade them. Also recommend good books to read. Arrange timely special seminars. Have a retreat with your team. Give people space to process change, and hopefully you’ll see God at work in new and delightful ways that will bring more of the presence of God than ever before. This is not just for our sake alone. The world desperately needs this dimension of Christ’s work too!
- John Wimber, Power Evangelism (Hodder & Stoughton, 1985)
- Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit (Kingsway Publications, 1994)
- Greg Haslam, Moving in the Prophetic (Monarch Books, 2009)
- Sam Storms, The Beginner's Guide to Spiritual Gifts (Regal, 2002)
- Wayne Grudem (Ed.), Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? (Zondervan, 1996)