Isaiah, Cyril and the Gifts of the Spirit

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Cyril of Alexandria, just in case I somehow haven’t mentioned it before, is one of my favourite theologians of all time. So, anyway, as I was preaching a few weeks ago on the outpouring of the Holy Spirit from Isaiah 44, I thought I’d have a look at what Cyril had to say about it in his commentary on Isaiah, and when I did, I got a bit of a surprise. You see, Cyril was convinced that when Isaiah prophesied:
For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring (Isa. 44:3)
he wasn’t just talking about the Spirit being poured out, but the gifts of the Spirit as well, specifically the ones mentioned in 1 Cor. 12:8-10.

I’ve always taken the promise of ‘My Spirit’ and ‘My blessings’ as an example of Hebrew parallelism, with both halves referring to the same thing, the Holy Spirit. But Cyril notices something: it doesn’t say ‘My blessing’, but ‘My blessings’, and so it’s talking about something plural that’s poured out when the Holy Spirit is poured out. And for Cyril, that’s the gifts of the Spirit. Not only does Cyril insist that these gifts are supplied by God to the saints, but he also wants to emphasise that these gifts are not only for the ministers (which he has talked about earlier in the chapter), but for all God’s people. And so Cyril stresses that ‘each of us has a particular gift from God.’

For Cyril of Alexandria, God pours out the gifts of the Spirit as He pours out the Spirit Himself, and these gifts are of great value to the church, especially as she encounters ‘suffering for the sake of piety’ and when she is ‘depressed for a time,’ for through these gifts we receive ‘spiritual streams from God’, ‘consolation in spirit’, and are ‘restored to vigour.’

So, there you go, for the great church father, Cyril of Alexandria, the gifts of the Spirit were an important part of the promise of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, but not as things to be fascinated with in themselves, but because they point us to ‘faith in Christ’ and help us to ‘boast of being God’s inheritance and the portion of Jesus Christ, Saviour of us all.’

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The utter depravity of human nature, the necessity for repentance and regeneration and the eternal doom of the finally impenitent.

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