WHAT DID GOD GIVE YOU?
T. PIERCE BROWN
The following illustrations are not historical events, but composites of events and language we have seen and heard many times. The visiting evangelist was about to speak, and the man who led the opening prayer said, “Lord, give him a ready recollection of the things he has prepared.” The evangelist interrupted and said, “I’m sorry Lord. You can’t do that, for that would be a direct operation of the Holy Spirit, and we can not allow for that.”
In another congregation, the prayer was, “We pray, Lord, that you bless Sister Jones that she may be quickly recovered to a normal state of health, but in any case, may Thy will be done.” Here the evangelist felt called on to say, “Lord, forgive this man, if he repents of his false doctrine, for if you should cure sister Jones or bless her in some way without someone reading to her a passage of scripture which will be a blessing, it would be a direct operation of the Holy Spirit.”
A new student in a Bible college prayed, “Give me wisdom, Lord, that I may be able to make the proper decisions about my career and marriage.” The vice president interrupted and said, “Lord, we know that you cannot do that except as he reads your word and gets wisdom from it, for you have revealed that you cannot do anything for the saint except through the word.”
Farther toward the east, a deacon who had the habit of using scripture in his prayer, and frequently telling the Lord where it was found in the King James Version, prayed, “Lord, as Paul said in Ephesians 3:6, grant that we may be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.” Here the leading pastor, who also did the preaching, interrupted, saying, “We know, Lord, that you cannot do this, for that would be a direct operation of the Holy Spirit, which you forbid anyone to imply under sentence of condemnation.” That same student had done a similar thing the day before as he prayed, “Lord, we pray for and all that are in high places; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and gravity, as Paul said in 1 Timothy 2:2.” He had already been told that such a prayer was only fitting for those in New Testament times, in the days of miracles, for if God should guide or influence a ruler in such a way that his decision would be for a more tranquil existence, that would be a direct operation of the Holy Spirit, which could not now happen.
In the meantime, the deacon’s little daughter was praying, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Her mother said, “Be careful, dear, that you do not ask God to do anything like that, for it might imply that God is still sending manna down as he did in the days of miracles. We know today that God does nothing except through the words of the Bible.”
In the mid-west, where the buffalo once roamed, there was an elder whose first name was Neal who had been teaching for years that prayer has no objective value. It does not reach beyond the sound of the voice, for an unchangeable God who has ceased to work miracles cannot do anything in answer to prayer, or it would be a miracle. So prayer only has subjective value to the person who utters it or hears it.
He had been vociferously condemned for his heresy by almost all sound brethren in past years, but hearing of the wisdom of those who claimed that they were only contending earnestly for the faith instead of being contentious about their conclusions, he fervently said, “Thank God (in case you can hear this), that some who are looked upon as sound brethren by some have now come to see the light and now teach what I have taught for years.”
Let us teach with all our power that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. It is fatally false doctrine to teach that the Holy Spirit operates directly on the heart to convict and convert apart from the gospel, for this automatically perverts the gospel and denudes it of its power and value. In fact, it is hard to understand why a person who believes that would see any sense in preaching at all. However, let us not assume that it must therefore follow, either logically or scripturally, that if God gives a person anything special, He must contradict Himself, or that the one who believes that believes fatally false doctrine.
For example, who among us does not know that some persons have more wisdom, insight, ability and talent than others do? Who would deny that God is the one who gives it? Who would assert that the wisdom, insight, ability or talent had to come through the person reading or studying God’s word? If God can give those things to a person who is not even a Christian (and who would deny that He does?), by what sort of convoluted reasoning can one conclude that God cannot give them to a Christian?
When one reads of the spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12, it is evident both from the context and from the nature of the gifts that they are miraculous and when that which was perfect came they were done away (1 Cor.13:10). However, in Romans 12:4-7, although one may reason that since the gift of prophesy is certainly a miraculous gift, all the other gifts mentioned are miraculous gifts, that is not clearly stated in the text, and is only a conclusion that may be disputed. There are scholarly sound brethren who understand that God does not have to perform a miracle in order to give a person a special gift whereby he may exhort or teach or give more effectively than another does. They know persons who seem to have a special gift of exhortation or teaching that they are continuing to develop, and they are convinced that the Lord gave such a gift.
In case you have any wisdom, you do not have to know exactly the process by which God gave it to you, whether you were given it at birth, or later in life, or in answer to prayer. You do not have to know all the exact processes by which God gives you daily bread, even though you need to be aware that you must do some things to receive that which God has provided. It does not make you a Pentecostal to believe that God answers prayer, and does something special to heal the sick. You are not required to pray, “God, bless the medicine, the doctor, the nurse, the thermometer and all means used, but we are not asking you to bless the sick person, for fear that you would have to perform a miracle.” If that bothers you, you might try to find out what you mean when you ask God to bless the medicine or the means. If the “means” will cure the patient without God doing anything, why bother with asking God to bless it, whatever that means?
My main point in this article is to try to help you to see that if you conclude that God gives the Christian no help but that which he may get, sometimes accidentally, as he happens to read with understanding some passage of scripture, you have not necessarily taught anything that causes one to be lost. However, you may have limited severely your ability to get help from God. Matthew13:58might well apply to you. “And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” On the other hand, if you conclude that God can give you a “ready recollection of the things you have prepared” and give you the ability to become a better “son of exhortation,” or that God can give you an insight that causes you to become a more liberal giver or a better teacher, and you happen to be wrong, because He has given you nothing in answer to your prayers, you have not taught anyone a fatally false doctrine. No one has failed to obey the gospel because of what you conclude. No one has become morally corrupt as a result of your error, if it be an error. No one has been involved in vain worship because his prayer was not answered the way he thought it would be. If you pray for a person about whom the doctors say he has a terminal illness and that person gets well and you conclude that God works miracles today just as He did in New Testament times, you may be led into a fatal error if you continue to draw that sort of illogical and unscriptural conclusion which may cause you to reject God’s plan for you. God can bless the person or bless the means being used to cure him without having to check with you to see if it is theologically sound. Ask yourself this question: If a person believes that he has a special gift from God, does that belief negate the power of the gospel, corrupt the worship, or cause him to lead an immoral life? If not, then if he is wrong about his presumed “special gift,” his is not a fatal error, and he only needs to be led to see that his conclusion is illogical or unscriptural. If one believes that he does not have any special gift from God, even if God gave him the special insight to know that he is wiser than all the brethren who think they do, he has not thereby denied or rejected God. He has merely misunderstood, and though weak in the faith, is to be received (Romans 14:1).