Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sam Storms on Fallible: Point Nine

Ninth, yet another reason why I believe the cessationist is wrong on this point is the failure to recognize different ways or senses in which God might “reveal” something to us. In Philippians 3:15 he tells the church that “if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” And in Ephesians 1:17 Paul prays that a “spirit of wisdom and revelation” would be granted to believers. “Once more,” notes Grudem, “it would not be possible to think that every time a believer gained new insight into his privileges as a Christian and reported it to a friend, the actual words of that speech would have been thought to be God’s very words. It would be the report of something God had ‘revealed’ to the Christian, but the report would only come in merely human words” (Grudem, Prophecy, 65). We see two other similar uses of the verb or noun form of “reveal/revelation” in Matthew 11:27 and Romans 1:18.

Storms’ appeal to Philippians 3:15 is simply befuddling. “Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; 16. However, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.” Clearly Paul is not talking about the various forms and methods of revelation. He is talking about the godly attitude of pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. He is talking about spiritual growth. This is the attitude we are to display. Moreover, if we display, or lack this spiritual discipline, God will reveal that to us. How does God do that? He reveals this to us through His word. To content that Paul had our subject in mind when he penned his letter to the Philippians is a complete exegetical failure.

Storms then points us to Eph. 1:17 as if this text provides some shelter for his flimsy view. But once more, we discover that Ephesians 1:17 has no bearing on our discussion. It is quite likely that Paul had in mind the Holy Spirit when he penned this letter, not the human spirit. The phrase ‘the spirit of wisdom and revelation’ could be a reference to the believer’s own spirit (RSV, NAB) to which God’s Spirit imparts understanding of divine realities. However, since the ‘revelation’ word-group always describes a disclosure given by God, Christ, or the Holy Spirit, or is the result of events brought about by them, it is more likely that our phrase is speaking of the Holy Spirit; hence the NIV rendering the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.[1] 

The attached genitives, though parallel to Paul’s practice elsewhere when dealing with the human spirit (Rom 8:15; Gal 6:1; 2 Tim 1:7), involve content (“revelation”) that does not derive from the human spirit (contra Abbott, 28). Neither should the phrase be taken in parallel with the participial clause in the next verse to indicate human capacity, since there the passive voice implies a divine source. Rather, the referent here is the Holy Spirit (Best, 163; Hoehner, 257; cf. 1 Cor 2:12, 14; 12:8).[2]

Hoehner also says, “However, this verse most likely is a reference to the Holy Spirit. [Hoehner, Harold. Ephesians, 257] I recognize that opinions on this text vary. It is for that very reason that Storms should know better than to point to it as supporting his thesis.

From this incredibly weak position, Storms points us to Matt. 11:27: “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” How does the Son reveal the Father to us? He opens our eyes to the truth of the canonical revelation, God’s word proclaimed, through the gracious work of the Holy Spirit on the human heart. This argument progresses from bad to worse. If Storms has not embarrassed himself enough, he points us to Romans 1:18. This is a text speaking to the force, clarity, and sufficiency of general revelation. It has nothing to say about the subject before us.

At a minimum, Storms has engaged in complete exegetical failure, introduced a couple of red herrings, and is guilty of some of the worse scripture twisting I have witnessed in this area. There is no reason to think that NT prophets or OT prophets received hunches that God was speaking to them similar to modern Pentecostal claims. The idea that biblical prophets ever struggled to know that it was really God speaking to them is foreign to Scripture. God’s prophets knew with certainty that God was moving them to speak and they knew with certainty precisely what God was commanding them to say. There were tingles running along the spine, no gut feeling, no hunches, and no second-guessing in the sense that we see in the Pentecostal churches. Such a perspective understanding is entirely anachronistic.

[1] Peter Thomas O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 131–132.
[2] William J. Larkin, Ephesians: A Handbook on the Greek Text (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2009), 20.

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