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What does the Bible say about:

Spiritual Gifts, Hats and Hair, the Age of Accountability?

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Question #1:  My friend and I had a discussion about the gifts of people through the Holy Spirit. He says that the gifts of tongues, prophecies and healing are, I guess, gone in this day and age. He quotes 1Corinthians 13:8 (But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.) Can you explain that to me in your opinion? Thanks you very much Dr. and may God bless you.

Response#1:  In practical terms, I do believe it is true that most of the overtly and spectacularly miraculous gifts of the Spirit seen to be operational in the book of Acts are, during our day and age, largely if not completely in abeyance. This does not mean 1) that they will never again be functioning (e.g., there is scriptural indication that during the Millennium there will be a return to overtly miraculous outpourings of the Spirit: cf. Joel 2:28-29), nor 2) that God is not well able to perform or to endow certain Christians to perform miracles of this sort at any time.

That being said, it is true that during the history of the world from the biblical point of view, the times when such things as tongues, healings, and other outright and overt spectacular miracles have been widespread are few and far between. The time of our Lord and His apostles is certainly salient, as are the ministries of Elijah and Elisha, and also the time of Moses and the Exodus. But note that the Old Testament examples focus around the two individuals soon to return during the Tribulation to herald the return of our Lord in His Second Advent (i.e., the two witnesses, Moses and Elijah; cf. Coming Tribulation part 3A, section 5), and that the New Testament example is concentrated upon the First Advent and the period immediately following, the apostolic period. Therefore it is reasonable to understand these particular gifts as being deliberately spectacular demonstrations of the presence or imminent presence of the Lord (even in the case of Moses in symbolic terms where the Exodus parallels the Tribulation and in the case of Elijah who parallels John the baptist).

Secondly, the Spirit gives gifts to the Body of Christ in a very deliberate manner "as He determines" (1Cor.12:11). That means to me that gifts are given according to the Body's needs. We have today the completed Bible readily available and in the original Greek and Hebrew too. We have opportunity to study the Bible and, theoretically, plenty of men capable of teaching the truth from it. We have plenty of churches, seminaries, and para-church organizations. In the days of the book of Acts, none of this was true. The early Church was created virtually out of nothing, and the need for the spectacular gifts you mention was obvious and pressing (such is not the case today).

I would add to this the fact that you are even having this discussion. My guess is that if indeed the gift of healing were still genuinely being given and currently widespread in the Church, no true Christian with even the slightest exposure to his fellow Christians would be in doubt about that fact. We would all by now have seen enough irrefutable examples of healing to put the matter to rest.

The same thing goes for tongues. If it were the case that true tongues were being given and used in a biblical way, we would all know about it and not be in any doubt about it. The very fact that we are discussing it suggest the obvious, namely, that there is no truly clear evidence of legitimate tongues (or healing) - and I would argue that such evidence would surely be ready to hand if these gifts were genuinely operative.

After all, Jesus made a point of healing people who were well known to be sick, or blind, or lepers, or crippled, so that after the fact everyone who saw them was in absolutely no doubt about the fact of the healing, either of the result or of the previous problem. When Lazarus was raised from the dead, he had been in the tomb for four days - his revival could not be explained away.

There is much more to say on this subject (e.g., the evangelistic purpose of the gift of tongues, the fact that a tongue is a real language, the requirement that someone be present to interpret it for it to be valid to use in church, the fact that "not all speak in tongues", etc.), but I think you see my point by now as well as my point of view. I would love to see, experience, and be able to have, say, the gift of healing, and I do not doubt in the least God's ability to give it. But my interpretation of the Bible and my application of it to the times in which we live do not lead me to see it presently operating.

Please have a look at the following files. They address this issue in more detail, both directly and indirectly, and will give you additional scriptures that pertain to the issue:

        An Extended Conversation about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

        Is speaking in tongues biblical?

        Is speaking in tongues a sin?

        "The baptism which now saves you": 1st Peter 3:21.

        Some questions about Nimrod and Christmas trees, Tongues, and Healing

        A Miscellany of Questions and Answers

        Confession of Sin, Fellowship, and the Filling of the Holy Spirit.

Hope this helps with your question - feel free to write me back if you have additional
questions.

Yours in our Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

This concerns your postings on 1 Corinthians 11 on whether women should wear hats or veils (Are women required to wear veils or hats in church?; and 1st Corinthians 11:  Hats or Hair?). You say that this passage is about hair, and not hats, "And any woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered (i.e., hair torn and unkempt as a sign of mourning) dishonors her head (i.e., husband: cf. v.3)."

So, if a woman has her "head uncovered (i.e., hair torn and unkempt as a sign of mourning), it is a bad thing. But then why does it say "a man ought not to cover his head," 1 Cor 11:7. If a man thus keeps his "head uncovered," doesn't it mean the same thing that he would have his "hair torn and unkempt as a sign of mourning"?

Doesn't "head uncovered" have to have the same meaning for both men and women? Does it mean "torn and unkempt" for both? If "head covered" means nice hair for women, why shouldn't men also have properly cared for hair?
 

Response#2:  

The first thing I would say is that it is always a little dangerous to force Paul in particular into the same literary and logical conventions that might govern your usage or my logic. Case in point is Ephesians chapter five, where after an extended discourse about the relationship between men and women in the institution of marriage, we find out in verse 32 that Paul has actually been talking about the relationship of Christ and His Church - while there is certainly dual applicability, human marriage, it seems, has only been invoked to provide a parallel for the truly important point of explaining how much Jesus loves us His body the Church.

The passage you ask about starts at 1st Corinthians 11:3 with an approach very similar to the one used in Ephesians 5:22, with both passages beginning with a principle that is beyond mundane issues like hair or marriage: "the head of every man is Christ" (1Cor.11:3) compared to "the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the Church" (Eph.5:23). And both passages end in a similar way too, by bringing the discussion of an earthly example back to teaching something important about the relationship of all believers to God: "In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man , nor man of woman . . . but everything comes from God" (1Cor.11:11-12) compared to "I am speaking of Christ and the Church" (Eph.5:32). So both of these passages have in common the fact that Paul has a larger point in mind than hats or hair or marriage relationships. In both cases he is teaching us something not only about some specific behaviors here and now, but about Christ's authority and our responsibility to respond to it in general terms: As His body, Christ is our head, regardless of gender; As His bride, Christ is our husband, regardless of gender. All of the specific behaviors in both passages can be summed up in the idea of our needing to respond to His authority carefully and lovingly and gratefully in everything we do, not just the specific behaviors mentioned in this pair of passages.

Having said that, it is true that this is a difficult passage to exegete. Most interpreters miss not only the background of pagan ritual and Jewish custom, but also (and more detrimentally to their interpretation) the Pauline method used here. You do have a point about "uncovered", but, you see, Paul is deliberately holding off on letting his readers know just exactly what he means by “uncovered” until the very end of the discussion (in the same way that he holds off in Ephesians letting us know that he is really talking about Christ and the Church first and foremost). We only know that by the term "uncovered" he means "hair torn and unkempt as a sign of mourning" later. That is, as he does in Ephesians, Paul is holding off on the "punch line", so to speak, for the purpose of emphasizing the true point when the Corinthians will finally see that point. When this letter was first read, I am sure that the Corinthians were shaking their heads in agreement when they thought that Paul was supporting the custom of having women wear a covering over their hair. But come to find out, he is really talking not about hats/shawls at all, but about hair, and has blind-sided the Corinthians in condemning a false practice they in which they did engage (ritual mourning). In my view, it is for this reason that the vocabulary is a bit misleading at first, i.e., by design.

To sum up, the word "uncovered" is ambiguous as to whether it refers to hats or hair, and it is only later (verses 14-15) that it becomes clear that Paul has been talking about hair not hats all along. In my view, Paul meant for the Corinthians to take it the wrong way at first, so that they would be caught having agreed with him in principle when they realize he is actually talking about hair and not hats (in verses 14-15). My parenthetical remark in my translation of verse 5, "i.e., hair torn and unkempt as a sign of mourning", ruins the suspense. I have put it there for clarity's sake, but it does give away the "punch line" before the time.

Finally, since "uncovered" has been a deliberately ambiguous reference to hair all along, semantically it bears the essential meaning of wearing the hair in an "inappropriate" way. That will mean one thing for men (long hair), and another for women (disheveled hair). Same thing goes for the reverse, "covered", meaning hair not inappropriately long for men, and appropriately coiffured for women.

Hope this helps with your question.

In Him who is our true Head, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #3: 

I have been wondering about a covenant I was told about, between Abraham and God, that all children up to the age of understanding go to heaven. Is this true and what is this age?

Response#3:

I do not know about any connection between this issue and the covenants to Abraham, but let me say right from the beginning that I am convinced both from specific scripture and from what the Bible has to say about the character of God and our role here in His plan that all persons who die before attaining mental and emotional maturity are not brought into judgment, for judgment is leveled on the basis of the free will decision not to believe in Jesus Christ (Jn.3:18). Therefore, those who never get to the point of "knowing right from wrong" have not faced this central issue of human life and hence are not culpable (cf. Is.7:15). Jesus died for their sins and ours, so that, not having rejected Christ, they are saved as a matter of course. That is why David can say about the death of his first child by Bathsheba, "I will go to him" (2Sam.12:23), because he understood that all children go to be with the Lord if they should die before their time. Besides being assured of salvation, it should also be a point of comfort that those who die as children never come to know all the troubles of this world. This world is a place of tears (cf. Rev.7:16-17), so that as believers in Jesus Christ it is our utmost desire to leave it and be with Jesus (Phil.1:20-24; cf. Jn.14:28). Children who die go to be with the Lord immediately. Without having had to drink their fill from this cup of tears, they enjoy sweet and blessed fellowship with Him forever, and we will see them by and by.

As to the precise age of accountability, I know of nothing in scripture that specifies a particular year of life when a person becomes responsible for this choice, even though it is taken for granted that this point is reached in most cases rather early in life (cf. Is.7:15-16; 8:4). I would say that this depends upon a number of factors, the times, the culture, the society, the family, and the individual child in question. What we can say for certain is that God knows the point when each individual becomes accountable for his/her free will in this life, even though we may not be able to judge.

For more information on this topic see . . . .

        Pre-Cognizance

        The Creation of Adam

Accountability and Revelation (in BB 4B)

In Him who is the resurrection and the life, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill


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