Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Spiritual Privileges and Spiritual Gifts

I finally worked up the courage to return to reading material for Wayne Grudem and John Piper’s book called “Rediscovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.” Today I read chapter 7, entitled “Role Distinctions in the Church (Galatians 3:28)” by S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. The entire chapter was written to demonstrate that, while Galatians 3:28 allows us all to be on equal footing “in Christ” and “before God,” such status does not eliminate social distinctions (for instance, being male or female).

I want to take time, however, to focus on some key statements Johnson makes and demonstrate where his argument fails.First, on page 151 of Grudem and Piper’s book, Johnson writes (regarding Galatians 3:28),

“The universal privilege of sonship in the present age through union with Christ is Paul’s point, and it sets the tone of the context for interpreting verse twenty-eight. PAUL’S EMPHASIS IS ON SPIRITUAL STATUS IN CHRIST, “THE SPIRITUAL PRIVILEGE OF BEING THE SONS OF GOD” (151). Notice that Johnson calls being a child of God a “spiritual privilege.” But aren’t spiritual gifts “spiritual privileges” as well? I mean, gifts do come from the Spirit:11All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit,(W) who apportions to each one individually(X) as he wills. (1 Corinthians 12:11, ESV).

The Spirit gives the gifts as He sees fit, which means that the Spirit gives gifts to both genders—to each man and woman according to what He decides to do. The Holy Spirit does not consult the “Council of Complementarians” when He chooses to gift His people—He does it without answering to anyone because He is God and is free to do as He pleases. When referring to the context of Galatians 3:28, Johnson writes:“…it must…be remembered that in this context Paul is not speaking of relationships in the family and church, but of STANDING BEFORE GOD IN RIGHTEOUSNESS BY FAITH” (153). Did you notice that? Johnson (and thus, Grudem and Piper) do what Sumner accuses them of—they place women as equals to themselves BEFORE GOD, but not before GOD’S PEOPLE!

“…Piper and Grudem qualify women’s status as ‘fully equal…before God.’ They affirm the status of women in the presence of the Lord BUT NOT IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD’S PEOPLE. It sounds pleasant for every Christian man to feel ‘in his heart’ that God sees Christian women as men’s equals. But it doesn’t strike me as being challenging. It’s easy to give assent to God’s impartiality toward women. The biblical teaching is much harder. The Bible makes it plain that every believer is expected to become impartial too (1 Tim. 5:21)’” (Sumner, “Men and Women in the Church, pp. 280-81).

Now, I want you the reader, to notice something about a former connection I made. In a post I wrote a few days ago, called “Encountering Church Tradition,” I stated that, if we were saved by grace through faith, and are all welcome to be baptized in Christ, then why is it that, after salvation, the gifts (given through grace) suddenly become based on social distinctions? That doesn’t make any sense! Well, believe it or not, I’ve finally found a verse-to-verse connection that will demonstrate the point I was trying to make in that post. Let’s look at Galatians 3:26-28 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-13—

Galatians 3:26-28 (ESV)—“ 26for in Christ Jesus(AV) you are all sons of God, through faith. 27For as many of you as(AW) were baptized(AX) into Christ have(AY) put on Christ. 28(AZ) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[g] nor free,(BA) there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (ESV)—“ 12For just as(Y) the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body,(Z) so it is with Christ. 13For(AA) in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—(AB) Jews or Greeks, slaves[d] or free—and(AC) all were made to drink of one Spirit.”

Do you notice something between these two passages? Galatians 3 tells us that we were baptized into Christ; 1 Corinthians 12 tells us that we were baptized in one Spirit. What these two passages are telling us is that, when we accepted Christ, not only did we put on Christ, but we were also given His Holy Spirit. We “were made to drink of one Spirit,” which means that the Spirit was part of this baptism. If we were given spiritual privileges at the moment of our salvation, then we were also given spiritual gifts at this baptism—which means that the spiritual gifts are SPIRITUAL PRIVILEGES!

This is so important because Johnson, Grudem, and Piper have spent time arguing that we get spiritual privileges as sons of God—but if we get spiritual privileges, and we are baptized into the Spirit as well—then we also receive spiritual gifts, which are PART of the spiritual privileges (or spiritual inheritance)! And how do we know a person receives a spiritual gift? God visibly manifests it in the lives of those whom He gives the gifts to-- and everyone else around them can see it as clear as day. I want to address gifts and offices, but I’ll do it in my next post.

- DMR (

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