Indianapolis Conference

Donald C. Thorson, Presenter

East Colome Street Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin


"The Holy Spirit and His Gifts"

The Orthodox Lutherans

April 21,1995


The Holy Spirit

1) Himself

2) Focus:Objective Justification

3)Through the Means of Grace

4) Separation

5)Purpose and Effect

The Holy Spirit at Work

1) Creating Faith

2) Teaching

3) Affording Effective Leadership

Summary and Applications

1) The Means of Grace

2) Interpreting the Scriptures

3) Teaching

4) Leadership

5) 'Corinthian Enthusiasm'

Speaking in Tongues


Character of Worship


Matthew 7.20,23

In defining the field of inquiry, I am including not only those usually identified as teachers of the period of Lutheran Orthodoxy 16th and 17th century Lutheran 'straight or correct teachers') but also Martin Luther and the teachers referred to as repristination theologians (C. P. Caspari, E. W. Hengstenberg, G. A. T. F. H necke, T. F. D. Kliefoth, J. K. W. Lohe, F. A. Philippi, A. F. C. Vilmar, C. F. W. Walther: Lutheran Cyclopedia , edited by Erwin L. Lueker, Concordia, 1954, revised 1975, page 506-- and may I add Francis Pieper and Robert Preus?).

In seeking instruction from the Lutheran Orthodox Teachers concerning the Holy Spirit and His gifts, found precious little. I say 'precious' little because even though I found little, what I found is indeed precious for our consideration.

The Holy Spirit

1) Himself

2) Focus: Objective Justification

3) Through the Means of Grace

4) Vs. Separation

5) Purpose and Effect

The Lutheran theologians offered threeÏ(3) kinds of Biblical evidence for the personality and divinity of the Holy Spirit:

One, the Scriptures speak of the Holy Spirit in a special manner as having no beginning and as unbound by time and circumstances (see Psalm 139, John 4.24)

Two, the Lutheran teachers refer to many personal term for the Holy Spirit (Joel 2,28, Titus 3.5-6, Romans 5.5) In each reference the Holy Spirit is described as 'another' of the same kind (allos), Who is sent (John 14.16) by either the Father or the Son. The Holy Spirit is thus described as having a distinct and separate center of consciousness. In the verse just cited we have a clear case of one person, Jesus, sending another; the Holy Spirit. In John 16.8 the Spirit is explicitly called 'ekeivos which denotes person.

Three, the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit is manifest by His many personal works and activities, such as what He did in Jesus' Birth, Baptism, and at Pentecost.

In every case the Spirit of God is present actively as a person. In fact it is more through His activities than through specific statements concerning His person that we learn of the Spirit's personality and deity: He searches the deep things of God; He speaks through theÏprophets; He certifies the doctrine of Christ; He convicts us of sin; He converts us, sheds love abroad in our hearts, teaches us the truth of the Gospel, comforts us, strengthens us in our struggle against the flesh; He creates a New testament ministry and He gives gifts to His church (Pentecost; 1 Cor. 12). These are activities of a person, a free, intelligent,Ïindependent person (Preus, volume 2, pages 160Æ-161 in which pages he refers to the eaching of Jacob Martini, Nikolaus Selnecker, and Cornelius Martini).

Referring to John Dorsch (1597-1659) in his comment on Titus 3.5, Robert Preus quotes:

"In the covenant of Baptism the Spirit acts as a Person along with the Father and the Son in carrying out the covenant" (Preus, Volume 2, page 161).

Focus: Objective Justification

As over against subjective justification (what a person feels in his heart) C. F. W. Walther ( The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel , translated by W. H. T. Dau, page 140f.)Æ sets the thesis:

"The Word of God is not rightly divided when sinners who have been struck down and terrified by the Law are directed, not to the Word and the Sacraments, but to their own prayers and wrestlings with God in order that they may win their way into a state of grace.

On the basis of Apostolic practice (sinners pricked in their hearts were pointed to the Gospel and Baptism: Acts 2.16,22) Walther identified three errors of Reformed practices:

1) They do not teach a real, complete reconciliation of man with God through Christ's vicarious satisfaction.

2) They teach falsely concerning the Gospel . They do not regard the Gospel as a proclamation of the remission of sins, but as a primer for human endeavors toward meriting God's grace.

3) They teach falsely concerning faith . They regard the faith through which men are justified and saved as a quality in man, which is not surprising because every man by nature "is minded to base his redemption not on something outside him, but entirely on himself"

Of the nature of modern theology Walther says:

"All modern Christendom refuses to trust God on the basis of His mere Word-- will believe God only if grace is felt in the heart and imagines that one can become certain of grace by his own efforts (basing faith on the regenerate ego, the Christian consciousness). That indeed amounts to nothing else than a shipwreck of faith .... They are minded to seek Christ only in themselves and not to be content until they have supposedly found Him there" (quoted by F. Pieper, volume III, page 218)

Furthermore, we observe:

In a matchless way Luther extols the forgiveness through the Word over against the 'inner light' of the 'enthusiasts,' who regard everyone that bases the remission of his sins on the Word as unconverted and who pronounce only him converted who can boast of so-called experiences and trusts in them. They call these experiences, these special happenings and sensations in the heart and soul, the grace of God, while Holy Scripture calls grace what is in God's heart: His favor, compassion, and love, which is set forth in God's Word and to be accepted in faith (C. F. W. Walther, Die lutherische Lehre von der Rechtferigung , page 85f).

The grace by which we are justified is God's mercy and unmerited favor, not an infused habitude of love or sanctity or a quality subjectively inhering in us (Quenstedt, Systema II,Ð 4 - 766f. as quoted by Pieper, volume 2, page 17)

Through the Means of Grace

Here we find a parting of ways between Lutherans and the Reformed: Lutherans understand that the Holy Spirit operates through the means of grace and only through the means of grace. The Reformed interpretation holds that the Holy Spirit works immediately and internally. Thus the Sacraments are regarded as pledges, portrayals, and seals of His grace but not as Means of Grace.


"... the Sacraments are given for a public testimony (testimonium publicum) of the grace which every individual already possesses."

Calvin chimes in with him claiming that the Sacraments are "earnests and pledges" of the genuine grace which the Holy Ghost confers on the elect by an inner operation (Pieper, Volume III, page 156f.)

Luther, commenting on John 6.63

God has established this order regarding His Holy Spirit, that ordinarily He is to come through the Word. Christ Himself says this at this place [6.63].... He will not have it that you fly to and fro to seek or to imagine a 'Spirit' so that you might say: I have received it through the 'inner voice' [Einsprechen] of the HolyÏGhost .... Christ will not accept such inner voice, but binds us to His Word only; He does not want the Spirit separated from His Word. Therefore, if you hear some one boasting that he got something by inspiration or inner voice of the Holy Spirit, and it lacks God's Word, be it what it may, then declare it to be the abominable devil (St. Louis VII: 2389, 2388).

Vs. Separation of Holy Spirit from the Means of Grace

Again Luther says:

Do you there see the devil, the enemy of divine order? How by the words 'the Spirit, the Spirit, the Spirit!' he gets you to stand there spellbound, and meanwhile he upsets the bridges, path and way, ladder and everything, by which the Spirit is to come to you, namely, through the external ordinances of God in bodily Baptism, His pledges, and the preached Word of God! (St. Louis, XX:203).

Concerning the external Word of God Dr. Luther has written:

... we must hold firmly to the conviction that God gives no one his Spirit or grace except through or with the external Word which comes before. Thus we shall be protected from the enthusiasts-- that is, from the spiritualists who boast that they possess the Spirit without and before the Word and who therefore judge, interpret, and twist the Scriptures or spoken Word according to their pleasure. Munzer did this, and many still do it in our day who wish to distinguish sharply between the letter and the spirit without knowing what they say or teach. .... All this is the old devil and the old serpent who made enthusiasts of Adam and Eve. He led them from the external Word of God to spiritualizing and to their own imaginations, and he did this through other external words (Tappert, Smalcald Articles Part III, Article VIII, 312.3Æ5).

In short, enthusiasm clings to Adam and his descendants from the beginning to the end of the world. It is a poison implanted and inoculated in man by the old dragon, and it is the source, strength, and power of all heresy, including that of the papacy and Mohammedanism. Accordingly, we should and must constantly maintain that God will not deal with us except through his external Word and sacrament. Whatever is attributed to the Spirit apart from such Word and sacrament is of the devil ( Ibid , 313.9-10).

Concerning the question of free will the Epitome concludes against the enthusiasts:

Likewise we reject and condemn the error of the Enthusiasts who imagine that God draws men to himself, enlightens them, justifies them, and saves them without means, without the hearing of God's Word and without the use of the holy sacraments (Tappert-edition, 471, 13).

Same topic in the Solid Declaration :

The entusiasts "... wait until God pours his gifts into them out of heaven, without means, and they are able actually to feel and to perceive that God has truly converted them (Tappert, 530, 46).

Concerning the Mass Melanchthon has instructed:

... the Word offers forgiveness of sins, while the ceremony is a sort of picture or "seal," as Paul calls it (Rom. 4:11), showing for the promise. As the promise is useless unless faith accepts it, so the ceremony is useless without the faith which really believes that the forgiveness of sins is being offered here. Such a faith encourages the contrite mind. As the Word was given to arouse this faith, so the sacrament was instituted to move the heart to believe through what is present to the eyes. For the Holy Spirit works through the Word and the sacraments (Tappert, Apology , 262.70).

Concerning the Ministry of the Word

It is good to extol the ministry of the Word with every possible kind of praise in opposition to the fanatics who dream that the Holy Spirit does not come through the Word but because of their own preparations. They sit in a dark corner doing and saying nothing, but only waiting for illumination, as the enthusiasts taught formerly and the Anabaptists teach now ( Apology , Tappert, 212, 13).

Purpose and Effect

We are convinced that the Bible teaches us that all three means grace have the same purpose and effect , viz. bestowing forgiveness of sins and begetting and strengthening faith in Christ. In other words God offers forgiveness of sins without reservation through the Gospel, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper.

See Augsburg Confession Articles V, XIII:

V. The Office of the Ministry

To obtain such faith God instituted the office of the ministry, that is, provided the Gospel and the sacraments. Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit, who works faith, when and where he pleases, in those who hear the Gospel. And the Gospel teaches that we have a gracious God, not by our own merits but by the merit of Christ, when we believe this. Condemned are the Anabaptists and others who teach that the Holy Spirit comes to us through our own preparations, thoughts, and works without the external word of the Gospel (Tappert, 31, 1-4)

Article XIII. The Use of the Sacraments

It is taught among us that the sacraments were instituted not only to be signs by which people might be identified outwardly as Christians, but that they are signs and testimonies of God's will toward us for the purpose of awakening and strengthening our faith. For this reason they require faith, and they are rightly used when they are received in faith and for the purpose of strengthening faith (Tappert, 35-36, 1-2)

For when we are baptized, when we eat the Lord's body, when we are absolved, our hearts must be firmly assured that God truly forgives us for Christ's sake ( Apology ).

Thus it has been observed by Augustine and others since him that a Sacrament is the visible Word of God seen by the eye, felt by the body, tasted by the tongue. It is a picture of the Word, signifying and conveying the same message as the Word. This is Jesus' design and the Holy Spirit's work. It must also be stated that the means of grace do not function automatically or arbitrarily . They are received by personal faith which is the work of the Holy Spirit.

We must also note that the Holy Spirit works only through the means of grace .

The Holy Spirit at Work

1) Creating Faith

2) His Gifts

3) Teaching

4) Affording Effective Leadership

Martin Luther's explanation to the third article of the Apostles' Creed provides us with the teaching of the Bible in a most inspiring and instructive way, describing the Holy Spirit at work creating and sustaining faith and bringing such believers to the heavenly outcome of such faith.

I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, and sanctified and kept me in true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it united with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church day after day He fully forgives my sins and the sins of all believers. On the last day He will raise me and all the dead and give me and all believers in Christ eternal life. This is most certainly true ( TheÐ Small Catechism by Martin Luther, in Contemporary English, Concordia Publishing House, 1960, slightly revised in 1968).

2) The Holy Spirit's Gifts

An important consideration for us in the present dilemma of The American Association of Lutheran Churches (The AALC), what did Dr. Luther mean by "His gifts"?

When we turn to the Large Catechism we find that Luther used the Apostles' Creed to define the Holy Spirit's gifts:

the holy Christian Church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body, and

the life everlasting.

Such gifts preoccupied Luther and became the focus of his attention. He did not bother even to acknowledge the gifts treasured by the enthusiasts.

Learn this article, then, as clearly as possible. If you are asked, What do you mean by the words, "I believe in the Holy Spirit"? you can answer, "I believe that the Holy Spirit makes me holy, as his name implies." How does he do this? By what means? Answer: "Through the Christian church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting." In the first place, he has a unique community in the world. It is the mother that begets and bears every Christian through the Word of God. The Holy Spirit reveals and preaches that Word, and by it he illumines and kindles hearts so that they grasp and accept it, cling to it, and persevere in it" ( Large Catechism , Tappert-edition, Fortress, 1959, page 416)

3) Teaching as Spirit's Gift

Spiritual Aptitude

The theological aptitude is a spiritual aptitude (habitus spiritualis, supernaturalis) that is to say, an aptitude which in every case presupposes, besides natural gifts, personal faith in Christ (faith in the forgiveness of sins by grace for the sake of In other words, it presupposes the conversion of the theologian. Unbelievers may be able to apprehend the whole body of Christian doctrine intellectually, and they may be endowed with a natural ability to teach it. But that does not make them theologians in the Scriptural sense. There is no "theologia irregenitorum." distinctly states that the aptitude to administer the public teaching office is not a natural gift and attainment, but that it is of a spiritual nature, a gift of God:

"Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God, who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament" (2 Cor.3:5-6)

And all unbelievers are dwelling places and workshops, not of the Holy Ghost, but of the prince of this world: "In times past ye walked according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" (Eph.Ï2:2) Note, too, that when Scripture speaks of the qualifications for the public ministry, it always describes the minister as possessing not only the special pastoral gifts, but also the common Christian virtues; it invariably describes him as a Christian. For example, according to I Tim. 3:1ff the episkopos must not only be "apt to teach" ( didaktikos) but also must "not be given to wine," etc. And in 2 Tim.2:1ff. the aptitude to administer the public ministry is traced back to the grace of God in Christ.

"Thou, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace of God that is in Christ."

Unbeleivers hold the office of the public ministry only by God's toleration, against God's will and ordinance.

John William Baier (1647-1695) for instance, says:

"Theology, then is essentially a supernatural aptitude, acquired by the powers of grace and through the operation of the Holy Spirit, the theologian himself, of course, making use of these powers" (Baier-Walther I, 69).

and then adds the remark that a

"theology" which consists merely in an external knowledge and teaching of the Scripture truth and lacks the "genuine," "supernatural" assent wrought by the Holy Ghost, a theology which unregenerate, wicked man may have, is called theology only in an improper sense.

An important element of the spiritual aptitude is, of course, the Christian conviction that the Holy Scriptures are the infallible Word of God, a conviction wrought by the Holy Ghost through the Word of Scripture. Let us elaborate this point at once.

Preoccupation with God's Word

The theological aptitude includes the ability of the theologian to confine himself in his teaching entirely to God's Word; he must be able to suppress his own thoughts about God and divine matters and put aside the thoughts of other men, deriving the doctrine exclusively from the Word of God, from Holy Scripture. The theologian who refuses to do this is, in the words of St. Paul, a bloated ignoramus ( tetufwtai, mhdev epistamevos ).

"If any man teach otherwise and consent not to the wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ ... he is proud, knowing nothing" (I Tim.6:3)

And bear in mind that the

"words of our Lord Jesus Christ," according to John 17:20, I Pet. 1: 10-12, Eph. 2:20, are the writings of the Apostles and Prophets. Scripture thus declares all those to be theologically incompetent and disqualified for the Christian ministry who are not willing to take their doctrine exclusively from Holy Scripture but in addition set up other sources, such as alleged private revelations ("enthusiasm"), the so-called "ChristianÏconsciousness," "faith consciousness," "the regenerate Ego," "the Christian experience" , the decretals of the Pope, and of "the Church,"history," and so forth (Pieper, Volume 1, ) page 46f.).

4) Affording Effective Leadership

Only the Holy Spirit working through the Means of Grace can give the leadership constantly needed by the Church of Christ. We might observe that the Holy Spirit works to provide the Church of Christ with 'non-leaders' or 'transparent' leaders or simply ' pointers ', who like John the Baptist point beyond themselves consistently and faithfully to Christ as the only Head of the Church in all matters.

Christ indeed equips some members of His Church with special gifts, also the special gift of teaching and ruling other Christians. ButÏthis gift does not subject the members of the Church to the rule of men, since all teaching and ruling among Christians extends exactly as far as their one Master's Word reaches (1 Pet. 4:11; Jer. 23:16,18). Scripture instructs Christians to regard teachers who pretend to know more than Christ's Word contains as bloated ignoramuses (1 Tim. 6:3ff.). And those who attempt to impose what the Word of Christ leaves free, e. g. forbidding to marry or commanding to fast and abstain from food and drink, are properly regarded by the Christians as arrogant deceivers and disseminators of doctrines of devils (1 Tim. 4:1-5; Col. 2:20-23).

Christians are not even subject to the persons of the great Apostles. The Smalcald Articles (Power and Primacy of Pope) say: "Let neither the other ministers nor Peter assume for themselves lordship or superiority over the Church" ( Trigl. 507, 11) . As proof they correctly cite 1 Cor. 3:21ff.: "All things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world." To be sure Christians have been given the infallible Word of Christ through the Apostles, and they obey the Word of Christ. But also in the infallible delivery of the Word of Christ the Apostles are merely the servants of the believers. The believers are not there for the Apostles' sake, but the Apostles are there for the believers' sake (Pieper, vol. III, page 412).

Summary and Applications

1) The Means of Grace

2) Interpreting the Scriptures

3) Teaching

4) Leadership

5) 'Corinthians Enthusiasm'ò

Speaking in Tongues


Services of Worship


The Holy Spirit has manifested Himself as true God with His own personality, focus, mode of operation, and purpose.

He is concerned to point all to Jesus as the only Savior of the world and the rightful Lord of everyone's life. He works only through the Means of Grace , viz. God's Word, written and read or proclaimed (in either case always dependent upon and rigorously faithful to the Bible).

His purpose is to accomplish repentance for the remission of sins. Such faith is not a human accomplishment but a result of the effective work (creation) of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God (John 16.7-11, Romans 10.17, 1 Corinthians 12.3). The Holy Spirit points us to objective justification Trust in God's full forgiveness of all sins based solely upon Jesus' vicarious atonement. We must not separate the work of the Holy Spirit from His Means of Grace! He comes to us and bestows His fruit gifts only through God's Word and Sacraments. Thus all teaching and leadership in the Church depend exclusively upon God's Word (the Bible). Innovations and departures from the Scriptures are of the devil.


As we engage in this study, we are seeking God's truth while struggling with, as I would term it, the tyranny of 'Corinthian enthusiasm', which appears to us not only through people who seek to justify their own enthusiasm (speaking in tongues, healings, ecstatic worship) but also as they urge that other Christians should seek the same gifts.

1) Means of Grace

Let me suggest to you that our study has brought us back to a Lutheran interpretation of the Means of Grace , God's Word and His Sacraments, and that we should expect and seek no other means whereby the Holy Spirit meets us and does His work. In other words we reject claims and interests in immediate experiences of God's Spirit.

2) Interpreting the Scriptures

Jesus has provided us with the key to the Scriptures, viz. the proper and pervasive distinctionó between Law and Gospel (Mark 1.15, Luke 18.9-14, 24.44-47).

In addition the risen Lord has focussed our attention upon the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28.18-20).

Jesus has also instructed us concerning the Holy Spirit and his consistent preoccupation with the matters of Christ (Law and Gospel/sin and grace):

"The Counselor-Comforter, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all [that pertains to Me and the Gospel] and will bring to your remembrance all that I said to you" (John 14.26).

Thus we have the key and context with which to interpret Scripture.

3) Teaching Scripture

Theology that is given by the Holy Spirit will always be Biblical and pious or 'Christian' (John 17.8,17).

True theology must derive from the Bible as God's only authentic, inerrant, and infallible Word and be practiced by those who have been born from above by the Spirit, hunger for the fruit of the Spirit for Christian living, and are eager for the gifts of the Spirit to use in service, instruction, and leadership.

4) Leadership

As in the case of teaching, leadership in the Church must be subservient to Christ the Head of the Church, and hence consistently, deliberately, and accurately Biblical

It seems to me that this speaks clearly to our Indiana-group of parishes and pastors. We must not quickly and easily slip into the patterns of worldly organization and of expediency.

Particularly we need to inquire as to our God-given responsibility as godly men to attain and maintain the pure doctrines of the Bible (Titus 1.5-9)

5) 'Corinthian Enthusiasm'

Let us then in full honesty before God, as those who rightly divide the Word of truth, escape the 'tyranny of Corinthian enthusiasm' advocated by those who (so it seems to us) would introduce an alien quality by isolating 1 Corinthians 12-14 from the rest of the epistle, from Christ's Gospel, and from the rest of the Bible.

1 Corinthians 12-14

Let us then in all faithfulness before GodÏinterpret 1 Corinthians 12-14 in the light of Jesus' Gospel, the Great Commission, and His instructions concerning the Holy Spirit and His gifts.

In favor of such an interpretation, consider the focus of 1 Corinthians:

"I determined to know nothing among you but Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (2.2).

Also note what is stated about wisdom of the Spirit which pertains to the Christ of the Gospels:

"... we speak God's wisdom in a mystery ... which God predestined before the ages to our glory which none of the rulers of this age understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory" (2.7-8).

What do you think of the following evangelical interpretation (given for the sake of the Gospel) of the gifts of the Spirit as listed in 1 Corinthians 12.8-10?

First Gift: "Through the Spirit is given word of wisdom

We would understand this as being both an objective and a subjective genitive: Wisdom found in God's Word and wisdom derived from the Word rather than a word or idea apart from the Bible given by someone who has supposedly received such a gift immediately from the Holy Spirit.

For this use of logos see Mark 7.13, John 5.24, 1 Corinthians 1.18, 2 Corinthians 2.17, 4.2, 5.19, 6.7, Galatians 6.6, Ephesians 1.3, Philippians 1.14, 2.16 , Colossians 1.5,25, 3.16, 1 Thessalonians 1.8, 2.13, 4.15, 2Thessalonians 3.1, 1 Timothy 4.5 , 2 Timothy 2.9,15, 4.2, Titus 1.3, , 2.5, 1 Peter 1.23, 2.8 , 3. ( bold print = anarthrous, i. e. parallel to the usage in 1 Corinthians 12.8).

Even if a case could not be made for interpreting 'word' as denoting God's Word (the Scriptures), it seems to me that the general context of 1 Corinthians and, more importantly, the instruction of Jesus must repudiate the enthusiasts' interpretation of this gift as being immediate and isolated from the Means of Grace.

Second gift: "... moreover to another word of knowledge

We would understand this as denoting knowledge concerning God's Word, the gift or ability to know the Bible's contents and to use such knowledge appropriately. In this regard observe the consistent practice of the Lord's faithful Apostle as he repeatedly quoted Scripture and referred all matters to Christ (2.2).

Third gift: "... to another faith in/by the same Spirit ...."

We would understand this as identifying firm confidence inspired by the Spirit to trust in the Spirit to lead sinners to repentance and create faith in their hearts through the proclamation of the Gospel.

Fourth gift: "... to another gifts of healing in/by the one Spirit ...."

We would understand this as speaking of the Spirit's intervention in the course of this fallen world to provide an extension of life and/or restoration of health to a Christian in order that he might continue to serve the cause of Christ.

Fifth gift: "...moreover to another workings of power ...."

We would understand this as referring to mighty events that open the way for the Gospel, rather than capricious spectacular occurrences. Note that the mighty events in Jesus' ministry and throughout Acts, indeed the whole Bible, were purposive , serving to forward the Gospel rather than to astound the credulous and to miss the point of salvation through Christ alone.

Sixth gift: "... to another prophecy ...."

Prophecy is defined in context as a 'message of edification, exhortation, andÏconsolation' (14.3,31) rather than as extra-Biblical predictions. We would hold this as denoting a message based solidly upon and derived solely from God's Word and applied properly to the needs of the hearers.

Seventh gift: "... to another discrimination of spirits...."

We would identify this as meaning the God-given ability to check accurately anyÏgiven message according to the Scriptures and Scriptural admonitions: 'By their fruits you will know them' (Matthew 7.20) and 'test the spirits' (1 John 4.1).

Eighth Gift: "... to another tongues ...."

We would identify this as describing a language or languages initially as not learned (see 14.10 and cf. Acts 2.11). However, for purposes of spreading the Gospel, the ability to learn and speak other languages should not be minimized. Paul most likely was proficient at Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin (14.18).

Presumably there was also a kind of babbling or inarticulate inspirational speech (1ÏCorinthians 14.9) which, if employed by a Christian, should be a private experience (14.16,28), but such seemingly is not intended here. This has to do with a precise gift of articulate language that furthered the cause of Christ on at least two occasions.

Ninth Gift: "... to another translation of tongues .." We would understand this as referring to languages with specific meanings, not a quasi 'spiritual' explanation of a mood (14.10; cf. Acts 2.11).

Speaking in Tongues

Let us begin by confessing that we recognize and affirm without reservations the authentic, unique, and definitive gifts recounted in Acts and listed here as such gifts are interpreted evangelically. At the same time we must repudiate the human impulse to endeavor to replicate such gifts as the devil's deception. Modern attempts at speaking in tongues, to our knowledge, generally lack the character and quality of the New Testament authentic gifts. Thus we would hold that, for the sake of evangelism, edification, and order in the Church, we repudiate the contemporary practice of speaking in tongues in services of worship as questionable in quality and disruptive to life and order in the congregation and synod.

Moreover we must emphasize that the Word of God diagnoses speaking in tongues as limited in value and temporal in duration (1 Corinthians 13.8).

We should not be coerced by modern 'Corinthian enthusiasts' who, in our estimation, misuse 1 Corinthians 12- 14 by failing to define the gifts of the Spirit evangelically and to recognize the unique, evangelical, and unrepeatable character of the great events of Acts

Jesus' prediction that His Disciples would do greater works (John 14.12) should be interpreted evangelically: The greater works have to do with carrying out the Great Commission (Matthew 28.18Æ20).

Let us then follow the lead of our orthodox Lutheran teachers by focussing upon the Means of Grace with their message of repentance unto the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1.15, Luke 24.47) and employ the Means of Grace as the interpretive principle for all gifts of the Spirit.


In regard to healing, we believe in divine healing but not in 'faith-healers', who would divert the Holy Spirit's concern with salvation to healing-endeavors that depend upon human exertion wrongly called 'faith' and spectacular demonstrations that miss the point of repentance and faith.

We pray for healing but depend upon only divine Healer . We pray for healing and simultaneously resort to accredited members of the various healing professions, particularly the best medical and surgical procedures.

When the Lord intervenes with special healing, we not only thank Him but ask, why believing that, when we are spared, we are rescued in order to serve the cause of Christ.

We would interpret healings evangelically and not regard healing as an end in itself.

The Character of Worship

Jesus said, "God is Spirit and those who worship Him, must worship in Spirit and truth" (John 4.24).

By this we would understand that faith fashions form , theology should give shape to services of worship. What we believe should provide direction to our liturgy.

When The American Association of Lutheran Churches was formed in 1987, I assumed that a service of worship was in the area of adiaphora . In other words, if we who made up The AALC agreed concerning the doctrine of the Bible, then there could be broad latitude in styles of worship.

Now I am of the opinion that I was wrong, and I repent of that error! If we affirm objective justification , then how can we resort to services of worship designed to ignite and fan emotions?

By this we would perceive that our standing before God does not depend upon our feelings but upon His promises and the work of His Spirit through the means of grace: We have been baptized, the Spirit convicts us of our sins and points us constantly to Jesus as Savior and Lord, and we 'drink of one Spirit', Who nourishes and sustains us irrespective of our feelings.

This does not mean that our emotions have no place in our relationship with Christ; quite the contrary! We are deeply grateful with our whole being that He has claimed us as His own in Baptism, that He does not abandon us because of our sins, that His providential hand is upon us, that He gives Himself to us in such a personal and intimate way in the Lord's Supper, and that He meets us in prayer.

What is the difference ?

In my understanding the difference is between designing worship that ignites and feeds on the emotions as opposed to worship that focusses on the Means Grace and rests upon them, delights in them, and clings to them even when we do not feel like trusting, delighting, or clinging.

Well, what do you think?

Cordially yours in Christ,

Donald C. Thorson