Led by the Spirit

9. Concerning spiritual gifts

Now, about spiritual gifts …

Before we can begin to study these gifts there is a need to clarify some misunderstandings that have crept into the church and to be clear about what is meant by “gifts” in this context.

1 Cor 12:1 (NIV) Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.

The word gifts is not found in the original text, “spiritual gifts” reads literally “spirituals” Paul is speaking about spiritual matters, that is spiritual experiences in general. In Corinthians the discussion is concerned with three things …

i. There are certain “spiritual gifts”or “spirituals”
ii. There is specific teaching concerning these things.
iii. Many are ignorant about these blessings (not knowing, not perceiving).

Concerning ignorance

(a) The Corinthian Christians.

They did not lack any spiritual gift. However they failed to understand the correct function and purpose of these gifts. Paul urged them to keep the gifts but to use wisdom, love and knowledge also, that they might teach and comfort the church.

(1 Cor 1:7 NRSV) so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(b) Many present-day Christians.

Regretfully and to the detriment of the church, many members of today’s Christian church have set aside the spiritual gifts. Many “excuses” are offered of which we need to be aware; “that we be not ignorant” Some of these explanations are:

Objection: Spiritual gifts are no longer needed now we have a complete New Testament.
Answer: These gifts were never intended to be a substitute for the written Word. They are not infallible. (1.Cor14:29-32.) Correctly used they support and uphold the truth of the Scriptures.

Objection: Spiritual gifts were special signs for the Jewish believers and ceased in AD.70.
Answer: This is nowhere indicated in Scripture. The Corinth church were mostly non-Jews.

Objection: The Gifts ceased at the close of the Apostolic age. (i.e. when the apostles were all dead.)
Answer: Jesus said that supernatural signs would follow the preaching of the gospel. “to every creature” and His teaching does not change.

Objection: History proves that the gifts ceased when the Apostles died.
Answer: On the contrary many famous persons have attested to their continuance. Among these are: Tertullian 200. “Signs Following” p.328. Augustine 400; Luther AD1520. “Sours History”; Wesley 1749 “The More Excellent Way” (sermon) and “Works” Vol.V.

Different kinds of gifts

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. The ways in which the Holy Spirit works in and through men and women are without number. We are concerned in these studies with certain distinctive endowments which are listed in the following Scriptures.

1 Cor 12:7-11 (NIV) Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

Why do we need spiritual gifts?

The Father has given the Holy Spirit to the church to act as the “Comforter”. As part of this work the Holy Spirit takes all those things that belong to Christ and reveals them to us. In this way we can understand our Lord Jesus Christ. But having revealed the great glory of the Lord, the Spirit continues on to show through us the ministry of Christ. To do this He brings to the church the many eternal Spirituals or Gifts. Through these different gifts, and ONLY through them the church may truly act as the “Body of Christ” in the local church and community.

(John 16:13-15 NRSV) When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. [14] He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. [15] All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Humble obedience

By these endowments the church is able to fulfil the words of Jesus.

John 14:12 (NIV) I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

As faithful servants of Jesus we must realise and accept that there is only one way to fulfil the above Scripture. We must humble ourselves and accept the blessing of God as Jesus baptises us in the Holy Spirit. At the same time we are to be willing to manifest the sign of speaking in tongues and to go on in faith; to seek after and desire the gifts of the Holy Spirit discussed above.

Gifts are given, not earned

Gifts may be desired …

(1 Cor 14:1 NRSV) Pursue love and strive (desire) for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy.

… and sought after …

(1 Cor 14:39 NRSV) So, my friends, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues;

A gift requires one to accept what is offered; it is not automatically received without acceptance. The Holy Spirit may be asked for and is able to bestow upon the saints the gifts and spirituals they require for service in their divine calling.

(Luke 11:13 NRSV) If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Gifts are given by the Holy Spirit as the Spirit wills.

(1 Cor 12:11 NIV) All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

Entirely supernatural in nature

As these “gifts” are manifestations of the Holy Spirit they must be distinguished from natural talents, They are supernatural in their source and nature. We do not speak here of the natural qualities of wisdom, knowledge, faith, linguistic ability etc. However there are degrees in which the human agency does enter into the spiritual gift manifestation. It is for this reason Paul gives much instruction as to their use, that we might glorify God and allow the gifts to work more purely in us. (Read 1.Cor. Chaps. 12 to 16.)

Weigh carefully what is said

All manifestations must be evaluated by the strict standard of THE WORD OF GOD. All manifestations must be judged in the light of the PERSONAL CHARACTER of the person who ministers the gift. No manifestation of the spiritual gifts is meant to take the place of the Word of God as written in the Scriptures. Gifts are temporary, the Word is eternal.

(1 Cor 14:29 NIV) Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.

Spiritual gifts and ainful believers.

This can be confusing to some people and needs to be considered specially. Careful reading of the New Testament will show there is no problem. First be clear that the baptism of the Holy Spirit does not make a child of God sinlessly perfect. Second the New Testament does not teach that spiritual gifts is a sign of holiness. They are a sign that the Spirit has come.

The confusing idea that the Holy Spirit will never manifest Himself except through a perfect channel is entirely unscriptural. A moment’s thought would show that if this were the case He would never come.

(Rom 3:23 NIV) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

In the old testament people like Samson and Saul were grossly imperfect yet the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon them. So also in the Acts we find the Spirit working in very imperfect persons.

The Corinthians were manifesting divisions, immorality, disorder, heresies and worse. Yet Paul said of them that they did not lack any gift. There is no excuse for the imperfections, and this falling short is a serious matter to be continually addressed by those who seek to minister in the gifts of the Spirit.

Nevertheless, imperfect as we are, we are called to serve God and do His bidding in faith, not to sit and wait until we are perfect, and in so doing, do nothing. That is indeed being an unprofitable servant

(Mat 25:25-30 NIV) So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ [26] “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? [27] Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. [28] “‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. [29] For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. [30] And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’