We understand that charismatic is a highly controversial word. But, we also know that it is a biblical word (charisma) that means gifts. Therefore, we believe that churches shouldn’t shy away from using the words that the Bible uses. We just want to make sure that we use the word as the Bible uses it. This means that our church is charismatic with a small “c”. As a Reformed church, we affirm the sovereignty of God over all things. This affirmation includes the sovereignty of God over spiritual gifts. The Spirit is sovereign over the gifts which he gives and how they are utilized. We want to glean from the Bible and show what we mean by affectionately charismatic in 10 statements.
1. We hunger for and delight in an experience God’s presence that transforms us. It is not enough that we just know God with our minds. We want to commune with God—to be in his presence. When we are in God’s presence, he is not glorified by our analyzing of him. He is glorified by our enjoyment of him. We go hard after God’s presence—seeking his presence, longing for his presence, praying for his presence, and enjoying his presence. This what we mean by affectionately charismatic. Affections are emotions. Redeemed emotions are not evil, but are necessary for a balanced, healthy, God-glorifying Christian life. God is glorified not just in our knowledge of the truth, but in our delight in the truth. In fact, God is more glorified if we delight in what we know, not just in our knowing the truth itself. Listen to how Jonathan Edwards explains how head and heart, knowledge and emotion, glorify God.
God is glorified within Himself these two ways: 1. By appearing . . . to Himself in His own perfect idea [of Himself], or in His Son, who is the brightness of His glory. 2. By enjoying and delighting in Himself, by flowing forth in infinite love and delight towards Himself, or in his Holy Spirit . . . So God glorifies Himself toward the creatures also in two ways: 1. By appearing to . . . their understanding. 2. In communicating Himself to their hearts, and in their rejoicing and delighting in, and enjoying, the manifestations which He makes of Himself. . . . God is glorified not only by His glory's being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it. His glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart. God made the world that He might communicate, and the creature receive, His glory; and that it might [be] received both by the mind and heart. He that testifies his idea of God's glory [doesn't] glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation [praise, commendation] of it and his delight in it. —Jonathan Edwards
This delight in the glory that we see has a transforming effect on us. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV). Our knowledge and delight in the truth of God’s beauty glorifies God and charismatically transforms us.
2. We assert God’s sovereignty over his gifts (charisma). According to God’s wisdom and mercy, he chooses who gets which gifts and when they get them. Every Christian has at least one spiritual gift that God gives. This is a gift that is only present because of the work of God in your life.
“Now there are varieties of gifts (charisma), but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts (charisma) of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:4–11 ESV)
This is the basis for the fruits of the Spirit. This fruit is the work of the Spirit in our lives. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:22–24 ESV).
These gifts ought to be desired, longed for, and prayed for. “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:27–31 ESV). These charismatic gifts are a means of worship and communion with God in our lives.
3. We desire for the Spirit to empower every member to do the work of his and her ministry. When a believer exercises his or her spiritual gift, the work of ministry is being done in their lives. Every Christian should do the “work of Ministry” (Ephesians 4.12). The power to use our gifts in ministry does not come from us. The power comes from the Spirit. Pentecost has transformed all Christian into priests of the Living God. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8 ESV). It is only when we use our gifts in the power of the Spirit that we glorify God. “10As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:10–11 ESV). God not only gives us the gifts, but the power to exercise them. “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:6–8 ESV). The charismatic presence of the Spirit in our lives is necessary for the work of ministry to be done in the church.
4. We believe that the Spirit’s empowering of us allows us to find strength in weakness. It is not in our strength that God meets us and empowers us. It is in our weakness. “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV). When we acknowledge our weakness, confess our dependency upon God for his power, and plead with him for grace, then we are strong in the out-working our gifts in our unique ministries. This is key to experience the charismatic filling of the Spirit that marked the lives of the apostles in the early church.
5. We long to see the Kingdom of Heaven come in earth in ways that show the supremacy of Christ in all things. When Christ was on earth, he revealed the nature of the kingdom by preaching the gospel, healing the sick, casting out demons, and raising the dead. “And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people” (Matthew 4:23 ESV). When Christ sent out the disciples, he gave them the same message. “And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay” (Matthew 10:7–8 ESV). We trust in God’s sovereignty when it comes to the miraculous manifestation of God’s kingdom. Our prayer is the prayer of Acts 4. “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:29–31 ESV). God is the source of the miraculous in this world. Any charismatic healing or miracle is dependent upon his sovereignty, mercy, and righteousness not based upon our gifting or faith.
6. We rejoice in the sovereignty of Christ over all authorities—especially those in the spiritual realm. We expect to see Christ triumphing over spiritual darkness in this age. God has given him all authority. He calls us to know “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:19–21 ESV). Every power in the universe must submit to the Lord Jesus Christ. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 ESV). So, when we fight against evil, spiritual forces we do not do so in our own power or in our own righteousness. Christ fights for us and is victorious. Our life of weakness should be a life of victory in Christ. As we follow the Spirit in our lives, he leads us in triumphal procession (2 Corinthians 2.14) down paths of righteousness for his name’s sake (Psalm 23.3).
7. We affirm the Spirit’s ability to still communicate through the sufficient Word of God and prophecy. The Bible is sufficient, inspired, and inerrant. There will be no new revelation until Christ returns. God has spoken completely and definitively in his Son in this age (Hebrews 1.1-2). We deny that the Bible is undermined by the New Testament gift of prophecy. Prophecy merely as revelation of God or prediction from God has ceased in this New Testament period. Instead, the prophecy in the New Testament does not carry the designation, “Thus says the Lord.” This is clear in Paul’s letters. “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:20–21 ESV). Some “prophecy” is not good, even in Paul’s day. Discernment is needed. We have found Wayne Grudem’s definition of prophecy to be helpful. Prophecy is “the New Testament gift of the Holy Spirit that involves telling something that God has spontaneously brought to mind.” Prophecy in this sense is a word of encouragement, correction, or truth that the Spirit leads us to say. It is often God’s own word (i.e. the Bible) spoken in a timely manner that is delivered in the power of the Spirit. Peter’s expectation in Acts 2 is that prophecy would exist throughout the “last days” which is the same length of time as Christ is the last word in Hebrews 1.1-2.
“But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “ ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” (Acts 2:16–21 ESV)
The apostles understood revelation to cease but the charismatic gift of prophecy to continue.
8. We acknowledge the abuses of charismatic gifts in some churches. These abuses aren’t new to our day. Even in Paul’s day, individuals and churches abused the charismatic gifts. “So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:39–40 ESV). Nonetheless we do not to minimize the hurt and skepticism that surrounds the gifts of the Spirit. Not everything done in charismatic churches is of the Lord. We want to be balanced and healthy in our views. It’s our view of the Bible that drives us to long for fullness of the Spirit’s life in our own. The Bible commands us to desire spiritual gifts—even the ones that some would say have passed away. It’s our desire to follow the Bible that creates this desire for the fullness of the Spirit. In some charismatic churches, the congregation professes to use the gifts in contrary ways to the Bible’s guidelines. Regardless of whether these charismatic gifts are from the Lord, they are being used contrary to the Bible’s procedures. This means they are not in submission to the Lord. We believe God has given these charismatic gifts and also given us charismatic instructions in how to use them in the life of the church.
9. We practice on orderliness to our Sunday morning worship in reliance upon the Spirit. What does this look like practically in our church? We want to be Spirit-led. We want to experience the power of the Spirit in our worship. We want the congregation to be Spirit-filled and active in ministry. We believe that just as God is sovereign over the gifts, he’s also sovereign in the use of the gifts. We want to follow God’s design for the use of the gifts as outlined in 1 Corinthians 14.
“What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:26–33 ESV)
If we cannot meet the guidelines in the body life, then we do not have the Lord’s blessing to exercise the gifts. The implication here is that the use of the gifts are not merely spontaneous. You can exercise them in the Spirit and refrain from using them in the Spirit. This means that planning of worship can be done. We do not think that the Spirit leads only in spontaneity, which he no doubt does lead us spontaneously. We do trust the Spirit to move in spontaneous ways in our worship. We also celebrate the order and preparation that God uses in worship. The Spirit doesn’t just meet on Sundays. He meets us as we plan to worship during the week. We want both of our worship and planning to be Spirit-led so that our Sunday morning structure is Spirit-led.
10. We yearn for a new work of the Spirit that brings not just a reformation of gospel truth but also a revival of God-centered love (affections) for the truth. Our desire for this work of the Spirit done in our affections is what we mean by "affectionately charismatic." Without the filling of the Holy Spirit as presented in Acts, our lives remain spiritually weak, numb, fleshly, and lifeless. In ourselves, our minds are captivated by the world and not the word. We do not delight in what we see in God’s word. The Spirit alone can bring reformation and revival.
“And the LORD said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”” (Exodus 33:17–23 ESV)