In its 1986 position paper on the Holy Spirit, the EPC affirms the gifts of the Holy Spirit as described in the New Testament as valid for the church today. The EPC is self-consciously charismatic, though expressly not Pentecostal. Along with the ordination of women, the gifts of the Holy Spirit is the other issue the EPC points to as a “non-essential” where there can be disagreement among its churches. Yet, even in the position paper there are limitations placed on what the EPC teaches to be valid expressions of spiritual gifts. It holds that the new birth of Christians and baptism of the Holy Spirit are the same thing (thus ruling out baptism of the Holy Spirit as a second work of grace) and that the manifestation of specific spiritual gifts, particularly the gift of tongues, is unnecessary for salvation. In short, there are boundaries on the view and practice of charismatic gifts in the EPC.
Beyond the explicit statements in the position paper, the Westminster Confession (WCF) and Catechisms also speak to the subject. While the modern charismatic movement has its origins in the early 20th century, the Reformers addressed many of the same topics as they encountered them in Roman Catholicism and the mystic evangelicalism of their day. Calvin’s Institutes famously begins by contrasting the false miracles of Rome with the sufficiency of scripture. The Westminster Standards have much to say on the subject of charismatic gifts, and though they are most compatible with a cessationist view on the miraculous gifts, there is a degree of freedom for charismatic expression. My intent is not to evaluate exegetical arguments or to provide historical criticism, but to examine the ways that the Westminster Standards bound the view and practice of charismatic gifts in the EPC…
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'”
How is Revelation 7:9-10 fulfilled? By the consummation of all things, when Christ returns and gathers his people into one congregation. By the worship of the church now, because Christ has already raised all his people together with him before the Father as one worshiping congregation.
Revelation 7:9-10 is fulfilled, now, and will be fulfilled later, because Christ has accomplished salvation. Revelation 7:9-10 is not accomplished by local congregations embodying any kind of demographic diversity, any more than it is fulfilled by wearing white robes or holding onto palm branches. Local congregations participate in the fulfillment of Revelation 7:9-10 by being faithful to our savior, through joining our voices together in worship with the heavenly, spiritual, and eschatological congregation. How is Revelation 7:9 modeled by the local church? By faithfulness to our confession of praise to our God and Lamb.
I have an article up at Reformation 21 on the identity of those who do the work of gospel ministry: pastors. Here’s an excerpt,
God’s gracious, redemptive covenant has been administered in different ways to his people throughout history. All of these ways in the Old Testament, circumcision, the Paschal meal, the Mosaic sacrifices, prefigured Christ, and were shadows anticipating him who is the substance of God’s grace. This is what Paul means in 2 Corinthians 3:7-11 and Colossians 2:17, and what is taught in Hebrews 8 when the Mosaic sacrifices, described as copies and shadows of Christ, are contrasted with the better leitourgia (ministry) obtained by Christ in the new covenant. Jesus is the leitergous (liturgist!), the administrator or server, of the new covenant (Hebrews 8:2) of which he is the substance. In other words, in the new covenant, gospel ministry is Jesus serving himself to his people.
This article is the probably the best biblical summary of my theology of my ministry.
The defining feature of evangelicalism is disregard for the institutional church.
I was disappointed to see this proven again by “Pro-Life Evangelicals for Biden”, particularly with the signatories Richard Mouw and Samuel Logan. This group argues in three paragraphs that Joe Biden’s policies reflect a more biblical, pro-life ethic than Donald Trump’s, abortion notwithstanding and evidence not provided. Citing the parachurch organization, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Pro-Lifers for Biden state, “‘Faithful evangelical civic engagement and witness must champion a biblically balanced agenda.’ Therefore we oppose ‘one issue’ political thinking because it lacks biblical balance.” What are the additional pro-life issues that policies on abortion need to be balanced against? Poverty, healthcare, climate change, racism, and, yes, that pressing issue, smoking.
My concern is not with the political question of the importance of these issues, but the way in which the church has been sidelined by this group in favor of an equalizing idea of “balance.”…
“Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate.”
-Westminster Confession of Faith 31.4
It continues to astound me how often P&R churches completely disregard this and believe that it is right and proper for the church to comment on every political issue. I’m looking at you, PC(U.S.A.) and WRC.