Episode 41: Does God STILL Give Dreams and Visions (part 3) + the Edifying Purpose of Spiritual Gifts.
Welcome in to the show that my middle daughter says is a little bit too long, but C.S. Lewis has called the finest podcast he’s ever listened to. Today’s Scriptures feature the emotional reuniting of Joseph with his brothers and Benjamin in Genesis 43. We also find out the interesting tidbit that Egyptians consider it disgusting to eat at the same table as Hebrews for some odd reason. Sadly, the sin and stain of racism finds a foothold in almost every culture and people. In Job 9 we see Job answering the charges of his ‘friend’ Bildad, who has suggested that Job’s children were killed because of their sins and he has urged Job to turn to God and be healed and refreshed, but Job says that he is too afraid of God to seek Him. Mark 13 is a much shorter version of the Olivet Discourse from Matthew 24, and it is centered on the end-times teaching of Jesus. Romans 13 urges Christians to submit to governing authorities, to be good citizens and to put on the person and ways of the Lord Jesus Christ, instead of the ways of the world.
Today we will conclude (or, rather pause) our discussion of dreams, visions and the more supernatural gifts of the Spirit. It is a subject we will return to in earnest at the end of February when we read 1 Corinthians 12-14, which represents the longest extended teaching in the Bible on the gifts of the Spirit. We received an anonymous bit of feedback on the the website today, and also heard from quite a few people on social media, most of whom seemed to indicate that they had an experience or two with God communicating to them via dreams.
I have dreamed a true dream. I will not give the details, because it does not reflect well upon the dreamer nor those dreamt of. But it happened on a Saturday night, and it came to pass, with some metaphorical license, the following morning. From this dream I learned that the praise and worship of the Living God is of infinitely more importance than our individual strife.
In considering whether or not spiritual gifts like tongues, prophecy and the like have ceased, and the very related question of whether God still speaks to His people via dreams and visions, it should be noted that the Bible does not make an obvious separation between what most would call ‘supernatural’ gifts and the more mundane gifts. For instance, consider our passage from yesterday in Romans 12, and then read the short list in 1 Corinthians 12:
6 According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the proportion of one’s faith; 7 if service, use it in service; if teaching, in teaching; 8 if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness.Romans 12:6-8
28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, next miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all do miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in other tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But desire the greater gifts.1 Corinthians 12:28
In these two lists, we see that there seems to be no delineation between gifts like healing, tongues and prophecy and gifts like teaching, helping, administrating, giving and service. If the Bible somehow taught that SOME of those gifts (that we are twice commanded to desire) will cease very soon after the compilation of the New Testament, then one would think that the New Testament writers would clearly categorize the gifts between temporary and permanent, but the very opposite is true. They are all mixed together in spiritual gift lists in a way that seems to argue against some of them being temporary and some permanent. Sam Storms, writing for the Gospel Coalition (which is a group of Christians that are devoted to Jesus and His Word – and includes BOTH cessationists like Thomas Schreiner and continuationists like Storms) makes the case that there does not seem to be any Scripture that indicates that some of the listed gifts will cease at some point. (With the exception of 1 Corinthians 13:8, discussed yesterday)
Furthermore, beginning with Pentecost and continuing throughout the book of Acts, whenever the Spirit is poured out on new believers they experience his charismata. There is nothing to indicate these phenomena were restricted to them and then. Such appear to be both widespread and common in the NT church. Christians in Rome (Rom. 12), Corinth (1 Cor. 12-14), Samaria (Acts 8), Caesarea (Acts 10), Antioch (Acts 13), Ephesus (Acts 19), Thessalonica (1 Thess. 5), and Galatia (Gal. 3) experience the miraculous and revelatory gifts. It’s difficult to imagine how the NT authors could have spoken any more clearly about what new covenant Christianity is supposed to look like. In other words, the burden of proof rests with the cessationist. If certain gifts of a special class have ceased, the responsibility is his or hers to prove it.https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/continuationist/ Sam Storms
We must also give room to the explicit and oft-repeated purpose of the charismata: namely, the edification of Christ’s body (1 Cor. 12:7; 14:3, 26). Nothing I read in the NT or see in the condition of the church in any age, past or present, leads me to believe we’ve progressed beyond the need for edification—and therefore beyond the need for the contribution of the charismata. I freely admit that spiritual gifts were essential for the birth of the church, but why would they be any less important or needful for its continued growth and maturation?
There is also the fundamental continuity or spiritually organic relationship between the church in Acts and the church in subsequent centuries. No one denies there was an era or period in the early church that we might call “apostolic.” We must acknowledge the significance of the personal, physical presence of the apostles and their unique role in laying the foundation for the early church. But nowhere does the NT ever suggest that certain spiritual gifts were uniquely and exclusively tied to them or that the gifts passed with their passing. The universal church or body of Christ that was established and gifted through the ministry of the apostles is the same universal church and body of Christ today. We are together with Paul and Peter and Silas and Lydia and Priscilla and Luke members of the same one body of Christ.
Ultimately, I agree with Storms. The burden of proof is on the cessationist to show that certain New Testament teachings are no longer valid or applicable, and I have yet to read a cessationist argument from Scripture that demonstrates this. Yes, there are absolutely people who go way beyond the bounds of the Bible in their practice of some spiritual gifts but this counterfeit behavior (which could be demonic in some cases, or simply fleshly immaturity in others) does not disprove the genuine and biblical operation of some spiritual gifts any more than the prevalence of false teachers in the U.S. today invalidates the possibility of any real Bible teaching.
I believe that Peter’s quote in Acts 2 settles the issue of the contemporary occurrence of dreams and visions from God for us. God promises in the Old and New Testament that He will pour out His Spirit on people “in the last days,” and that they will see visions and dream dreams. This passage indicates that dreams and visions will happen in the last days. Since Peter suggests that Pentecost is a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy about the Spirit being poured out and dreams/visions coming, then I can’t see how that is not valid for us today. I don’t think we’ve moved past ‘the last days,’ and I see no Scripture in the entire Bible that indicates that God has stopped speaking to His people in these ways.
And it will be in the last days, says God,Acts 2:17-18
that I will pour out my Spirit on all people;
then your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
18 I will even pour out my Spirit
on my servants in those days, both men and women
and they will prophesy.
Let’s be real: Would it be easier if God ONLY spoke to Christians through His Word? Would it be less messy, easier to manage, etc? Absolutely it would. There are way too many false prophets and false dreamers out there, and you can see them daily in your social media feed, and you can easily find them by turning on your television. So many false teachers and believers out there that are preying on widows and stealing from the vulnerable. Unfortunately, most of them seem to be of the continuationist/charismatic bent. But humans and church leaders don’t get to make the call that God no longer does this or that because some people are abusing it. We don’t have that power. Instead, we must seek to hold people to the Word of God, rather than nullify it. We uphold the absolute authority of God’s Word – not by changing it to stamp out heresy, but by walking according to it.
19 Don’t stifle the Spirit. 20 Don’t despise prophecies, 21 but test all things. Hold on to what is good. 22 Stay away from every kind of evil.1 Thessalonians 5:19-20
DON’T stifle the Spirit
DON’T despise prophecies
Test ALL things
HOLD on to what is GOOD
STAY AWAY from every kind of EVIL.
19 When they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the spiritists who chirp and mutter,” shouldn’t a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? 20 Go to God’s instruction and testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, there will be no dawn for them.Isaiah 8:19-20
Should we separate over these issues? I do not believe so. We will discuss this question in depth in two days, when we get to Paul’s beautiful and majestic call to oneness in Romans 15.
I’ll close with two more gems from Spurgeon. One a dream with a profound meaning and the other a caution about the importance of esteeming dreams and extra-biblical revelation overmuch.
A certain king would build a cathedral, and, that the credit of it might be all his own, he forbade anyone to contribute to its erection in the least degree. A tablet was placed in the side of the building, and on it his name was carved as the builder. But one night he saw in a dream an angel, who came down, and erased his name; and the name of a poor widow appeared in its stead. This was three times repeated, when the enraged king summoned the woman before him, and demanded, “What have you been doing, and why have you broken my commandment?” The trembling widow replied, “I loved the Lord, and longed to do something for his name, and for the building up of his church. I was forbidden to touch it in any way, so in my poverty I brought a wisp of hay for the horses that drew the stones.” Then the king saw that he had laboured for his own glory, but the widow for the glory of God, and he commanded that her name should be inscribed upon the tabletC. H. Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes & 2: Genesis to Malachi, vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 369–370.
Remember, it is “whosoever calls upon the name of God,” not whosoever dreams about him. Dreams may do good. Sometimes people have been frightened out of their senses in them; and they were better out of their senses than they were in, for they did more mischief when they were in their senses than they did when they were out; and the dreams did good in that sense. Some people, too, have been alarmed by dreams; but to trust to them is to trust to a shadow, to build your hopes on bubbles, scarcely needing a puff of wind to burst them into nothingness. Oh, remember, you want no vision, no marvellous appearance! If you have had a vision, or a dream, you need not despise it; it may have benefited you: but do not trust to itC. H. Spurgeon, Words of Wisdom for Daily Living (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 89–90.