Monday, July 11, 2011

Spiritual Gifts Examined

 TEXT : 1 Corinthians  12: 8- 10 
TITLE:    Some Spiritual gifts  examined
DATE :    10  /07 /2011

Today   I simply wish to clarify  the list of gifts  that we find  in  verses 8 – 10 and make some affirmations concerning what we believe about them. I think  that this is a wonderful occasion as  we  prepare today to receive  9  gifted people  into our membership . Who knows what God will do through these brothers and sisters?   May  He be pleased indeed  to use them to the glory of His name  through their gifts.
There are a number  of  lists of various gifts found in the Scripture , and if we add up all the gifts found in these lists , then they will add up to about 20 – some  say 22 .  Two such lists are found here in this passage  (12:8-10 and  12: 28).   I have  pointed out  previously that this list of gifts is probably not exhaustive, but illustrative.  There  may be   a  greater number of spiritual gifts available , which are not all described in the Scriptures , but which are also given  by the Holy Spirit  for the encouragement  and  building up of the church. Could there be a gift  of  ‘dependability‘?  What about spiritually gifted church musicians?  A spiritual gift  is anything  that  helps  God’s people to advance  and grow spiritually, and which enhances their joy in Jesus.  Spiritual gifts  exist   for the common good (12:7) and therefore we must encourage them and desire them (14:1)
It also appears that some gifts are  foundational,  and  have therefore been temporarily employed in the history of the church.There  are also some gifts that are  called ’higher gifts’ [1]  by  Paul (12:31).  Paul makes such a distinction between the gift of prophecy and tongues in Chapter 14.  I will  seek to explain that  when we actually get to that text.  It is unfortunate that the church  of the  last century has been  so divided on this matter. This has been particularly so with respect to the more spectacular  gifts  such as healing and tongues and the speaking of prophecies.
The lists  of various  gifts
12:8-10  For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
12: 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

Summary  : wisdom, knowledge , faith , healing (also v.28) , working of miracles (also v.28)  , prophecy , discernment between  spirits , various kind of tongues ( also v.28) , interpretation of tongues , apostles, prophets  , teachers , helping , administrating .  Fourteen   spiritual gifts are listed here . Let us work through  them briefly  but prayerfully , one by one :

Wisdom - 1 Cor 12:8 (Greek: logos sophias  lit.  "word of wisdom.") This is the  ability to make wise choices and spiritual  decisions at critical  junctions in  life. Such a gift  is very valuable to an individual or a group when  there is a need to make a choice ,  but when one  has no specifically clear information on the best choice. All Christians can grow in wisdom as they make a series of wise choices over a life-time, but  there is also a gift of wisdom given to some in the Body of Christ. Often, people in the church naturally seek out people with this gift when they are facing complicated spiritual problems.
Knowledge - 1 Cor 12:8  -  ( Greek: logos gnoseos lit. "word of knowledge"). All Christians have some knowledge, but there is also a gift of knowledge given to some so they may teach and edify the Body. They have the  ability to sum up lots of information or pieces of knowledge so as to give a clear concise overview.
Faith - 1 Cor 12:8-10   (Greek : pistis ) -  to be firmly persuaded of God's power and promises to accomplish His will and purpose and to display such a confidence in Him and His Word that circumstances and obstacles do not shake that conviction. This gift is a practical gift. Those with this gift often scare other people with their confidence! People with this gift are often very irritated by lack of faith in others.
Healing - 1 Cor 12:9,28,30  (Greek: charismata hiamaton - lit. gift of healings - plural) - to be used as a means through which God makes people whole either physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. This gift is a sign gift. It was also a foundational gift  to authenticate  the gospel  of our  Lord Jesus Christ . Those who have  seen this gift in operation through their ministry  must use it knowing that the healing only occurs within the limits of God’s will, and therefore miraculous healing will not always occur. Those with this gift must also recognize that God does often choose to use medical science to bring about healing in a person;  therefore doctors and medicine are not obsolete. Miraculous healing will only occur if it will bring the greatest glory to God and effectively grow His church.

Miracles  1 Cor  12:10,28 - (Greek: energemata dunameon; lit. works of power) -   enabled by God to perform mighty deeds which witnesses acknowledge to be of supernatural origin and means , such as  the ability to raise men from the dead, call fire down from heaven etc. This is a sign gift and  a foundational gift of the Christian church. This gift is manifested through the supernatural intervention by God into specific circumstances in order to change the perceived natural outcome.  When God chooses  to work a miracle through someone in our day  we must  understand that  God  allows this  not for spectacular effect and crowd pulling, but to bring  greater  glory to Himself. 

Prophecy  - Rom 12:6 ; 1 Cor 12:10; Eph 4:11 (Greek : prophetēs -  'pro'=forth; 'phemi'=to speak)-  To speak forth the message of God to His people in a very direct way . This gift is a communication gift and belongs to the foundational gifts of the church . Those with the gift of prophecy will often feel as though they have a direct word from God that will comfort, encourage, guide, warn, or rebuke the Body of Christ.  Prophets have a great sense of urgency to their message.  Prophets would be wise to test their message against Scripture prior to delivering the message, and using Scriptural precedent in delivery of their message . The message of a prophet must always be tested in line with Scripture.

Discernment : 1 Cor.  12:10  (lit. ‘discernment of spirits’ -  Greek :  diakriseis pneumaton),-  a gift  by which one  is  clearly distinguish truth from error ; able  to judge whether the behavior or teaching is from God, Satan, human error, or human power. Christians with this gift can recognize the true motives of people and also recognize when a person is distorting the truth or communicating error. This person often can recognize when Satan or other evil spirits are at work in a given person or situation.

Tongues : 1 Cor  12:10 ; 14:27-28  (Greek : “genē glossan " lit. kinds of languages) This is the  ability to speak in a language not previously learned , so  that unbelievers can hear God's message in their own language  and  be instructed and ultimately saved . This gift is a sign gift. It is a foundational gift of the church  and was used in the life of the early church  to authenticate the gospel  and to communicate the truth of the gospel to  people  who were otherwise not able to understand  Hebrew  or Aramaic . This gift  is rarely  seen in the church nowadays , but it is possible that God may  from time to time enable someone to  communicate  the gospel in a language he/she have not learned before.

INTERPRETATION OF TONGUES: 1 Cor. 12:10; 14:27,28 - The ability to translate unknown languages so as to edify and instruct others regarding what has been said.

APOSTLE: Eph. 4:11; 1 Cor. 12:28 -  (Greek : apostolos -  lit. one sent forth). A foundational gift of the church  , but can be used in a lesser sense  of one being sent out to new frontiers with the gospel, providing leadership over a group of churches  until they are properly constituted  and handed over  to an eldership team.   

TEACHING: Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11 –( Greek : didaskalo )-  to instruct others in the Bible in a logical, systematic way so as to communicate pertinent information for true understanding and growth. This gift is a communication gift. People with the gift of teaching enjoy studying the Bible and related materials in order to communicate what they have learned , to other Christians. Those with this gift find it easy to organize vast amounts of information in such a way as to make it easy to communicate, understand, and remember.

HELPS: 1 Cor. 12:28 -  (Greek : antilempsis -  "to lay hold of  and support)".  This gift is a practical gift. People with this gift often enjoy doing routine tasks in order to free others to do the ministry  that God has called them to do. People with this gift are not looking for recognition for the work they do. They are simply happy to be available . It brings them joy .  Such people are often characterized by humility .
 ADMINISTRATION: 1 Cor. 12:28 - (Greek : kubernesis - to steer, guide ) -  to steer the body toward the accomplishment of God-given goals and directives by planning, organizing, and supervising others.  This gift is a leadership gift and people so gifted generally are concerned with the details of how to accomplish tasks, and tend to be masters at delegating specific tasks to other.
1.   We believe in spiritual gifts for the strengthening of each other’s faith. The  Holy Spirit gives us a great variety of gifts  to help us,  with the intention of  causing  the  church to grow in depth  and love. 

2.  We believe that the Holy Spirit is the  sovereign Giver  of spiritual gifts. He sovereignly gives (and withholds)  gifts when and where  He  pleases (not we!) and as He deems necessary.
3.  We believe  that some of the gifts  described  here  are not necessarily normative  for  today.  They are no longer needed. Why do I say that? Because in one very vital regard the Corinthian church was very different ! It was an apostolic church. It was founded  by an apostle, and  in the apostolic age (i.e. the age when most of the apostles  were alive). In the  apostolic age  (from Pentecost until  100 A.D when John  died)  these new Testament congregations did not have the  scriptures  of the  NT Bible (the teaching of Jesus – the final revelation see Hebrews 1 :1-3) as you and I have it. The need for revelational gifts in the apostolic church was essential, whilst that same need does not exist today. 

 4. We  are not saying that the Holy Spirit – the sovereign Spirit cannot  use  any of the gifts that He had used previously in the church today.  We are simply saying that in societies where the Word is available ,  and  being the final  authority , it is not  necessary to authenticate the Word  by sign gifts .  We have the law and the prophets and the gospel . If people do not believe these they will not believe  even of someone is raised from the dead ( Paraphrase of Lk 16 :29-31).I am also not saying that the sovereign Holy Spirit cannot use someone as an instrument of healing. I am not saying that the Holy Spirit cannot supernaturally use someone to speak in a tongue /language  he has not known   (e.g. in a frontier Mission field). I am not saying that the Holy Spirit cannot  use somebody to speak a word of predictive prophecy. He is the Holy Spirit after all. But it is unlikely that He will use this gift in any church in Windhoek, because He has plenty copies of His written Word around. I wonder  whether the Charismatic chaos of the past century is not a testimony to the fact that the church has not understood this.
5.    We believe  that  some  gifts  are of a lesser intensity than what was needed in the early church; other gifts are more prominent today than in apostolic times- I think that gifts of service and gifts of speech (1Peter 4:11) predominate today.

With those thoughts in mind  pray that your spiritual gift  would be  a work of praise to God, and a blessing and joy to  the rest of us. God will have the glory and you the joy and the satisfaction! Amen.

[1]  Greek :  “charismata   ta meizona” – greater  not in quality , but in  effectiveness  

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