May 20, 2024

Spiritual Gifts

The issue of Spiritual Gifts is one that divides Christianity multiple ways because of what people expect from a church because of their culture.

To begin any discussion of Spiritual gifts requires me to define what I’m talking about.  I believe that the Bible clearly speaks to the concept that each believer, upon salvation, is given a number of gifts (as few as one, but can be many) of which they are to use to edify the church.  Different believers are given different gifts that complement each other in the local assembly.  We can see this in Paul’s Epistles to the Corinthians were Paul says that the gifts are complementary and necessary.

Problems come into play because of the nature of the gifts, so I guess I should list what the gifts are/were.  Gifts of the spirit differ from fruit of the spirit– they usually had an action and purpose.  They include speaking in tongues, healing, prophecy, exhorting, teaching, administration, helps, hospitality, and others.  The ones that are dividing the church are the first three.

In order to understand the debate that’s swirling, you need to understand the appeal and importance.  In the book of Acts, chapter 9, we see that tongues was used as a marker– or sign– gift to demonstrate that a Gentile named Cornelius was, in fact, a Christian.  Up until this point, Peter believed that only Jews could be saved, and God was making a point.

What were tongues?  Contrary to my good friend Stephen, I don’t believe that tongues are not foreign languages.  I believe that there were actually two forms of tongues.  One of my reasons for believing this is that in Acts 2 where the gift was first present there were many people gathered and they all heard what was being said in their native tongue.  The other supporting reference is in I Corinthians 13 where Paul clearly delineates that he speaks in the tongues of men and angels.  Granted that the tongues of men could be his own native tongue, but highly unlikely given the plural tongues.

However, I believe that this was a sign gift that expired.  If you look at the rest of the I Corinthians passage you see the statement that tongues would cease.  I believe that God used tongues at the beginning of the church to fulfill a prophecy in Joel, to give His stamp of approval on the Apostles, and to get the church up and running.  I don’t believe that it is in widespread use now.

I further don’t believe that it is correct to consider this a test for salvation or something that should be sought.  Quite the contrary– Paul said that he would rather everyone have the gift of exhortation to edify the saints than the gift of tongues.  If anything, it was causing confusion and chaos in the Corinthian church.  I will not go so far as to say that God cannot speak different languages out of the mouths of His people, but it is not something that should be elevated to a supreme position or a gift that should be desired above the others.  Those in the Pentecostal circles seem to work very hard to speak in tongues praying for this gift, much more than those Paul stressed and suggested.

I also believe that healing and prophesy were gifts that passed away with the early church.  I believe that the Word of God is complete and does not need any addition.  I believe prophesy is closed– as the Corinthians passages suggests that prophecy would cease.

But what’s the bigger picture?  If we allow ourselves to be focused on external signs and wonders rather than working on the inner man and on our heart, we are falling into the trap of the Pharisees that were always bugging Jesus to show them a sign.  Something that they might believe.  I fear that we’ve allowed the culture to saturate us to the point that we need entertainment, that we need proof, we need something to make us feel like we’re saved in order for us to believe it.  Is that true saving faith?

And what happens when we don’t feel like we’re saved?  What if we know deep down that the signs aren’t from God but from ourselves?  What if we feel distant?  Are we?  Can we rest in knowing the truth– that God says that once we are saved we are always saved?

This is the danger of this invasion– that we begin to rely on signs/gifts/feelings more than on the Word of God.  If we do that, we’ve lost our biggest strength against the enemy.

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13 thoughts on “Spiritual Gifts

  1. I’ve heard of prophesying (nowadays) as being someone who sees things as “black” or “white”…”right” and “wrong”. We did a study of the spiritual gifts years ago, and I was fascinated by a quiz the workbook gave to help you “figure out” what your spiritual gift was. Of course, I don’t recall the book saying much about tongues! My gift is that of “server” or “helps” as you put it.

    Good job handling tongues. I agree that their original purpose was to overcome the language hurdles faced on Pentecost, and still believe that they could be used in this way today where the language barriers, say in third world countries, can’t be overcome. What I always wonder, is when tongues were obviously used to further the gospel how did they evolve into a public form of worship? From a Biblical standpoint? Especially with the cautions Paul gives?

  2. I have heard people speak in tongues several times. One of these occasions several years ago was at a church that expected EVERYONE to be able to speak in tongues. To me most of the people that were “speaking” were only making gutteral sounds to look like they were gifted this way. That is operating out of fear of man instead of with God.

    I have also heard people that sound like they are saying something in particular in a foreign tongue and I can understand what it is that some of them are saying, and it is not a language I know. I believe that in any church that operates in spiritual gifts that there are people who fake it to get attention. I do believe however that there are spiritual gifts that are given to people. Healing, Prophesy, tongues and all of the rest that you mentioned. I’m sure that the debate over these things could be endless, but I wouldn’t venture to try and do that. I also did a “test” like Mary at church and it came up with Compassion as being the primary with exhorting and perceiving tied at second.

    Interesting article though. I really do enjoy hearing about what other people believe.

    I also totally agree with you that expectations of Signs can lead a believer to wonder if they are really saved when signs are not present. I think that expecting those outward signs to be present in everyone applies manmade rules to God and that is not right. God gifts those that he chooses to and doesn’t necessarily gift us all. Jesus says that we are saved only through him. Expecting mandatory giftings tells us that our works save us and not only the saving knowledge of Christ.

  3. This is an interesting topic to delve into. It is also a confusing one. So far, I disagree with your perspective MIN. When I read 1 Cor. 12 – 14:40, I see a very different picture.
    In short, I see Paul encouraging us to seek the gifts, all of them. I don’t think that verses 13:8-12, say that NOW is the time the prophesy and tongues and knowledge shall cease. (I think in verse 8 it must mean “word of knowledge”, which is a gift, not knowledge in general. but that is beside the point.) I think it is saying when Christ returns these things will cease. They will no longer be necessary because that which is perfect will be here! Namely, Christ. And this reasoning is supported by the verse 12 which says “for now we see through a glass darkly but then face to face, for now I know in part but then shall I know even as also I am known.” It is by this verse that we can percieve that what will be known in full is Christ. we will see HIM face to face, we will KNOW HIM as well as He knows us… I do not think that the Word of God the Bible, is face to face. It is through a glass darkly, it is mystery revealed, but when we DO see Him face to face we shall know all.

    I think I am going to write a lengthy rebuttal about this at my site.

    Mrs Meg Logan

  4. Oh Shelli, I would also like to comment on this statement you made

    “God gifts those that he chooses to and doesn%u2019t necessarily gift us all.”

    I think this is refuted quite simply in 1 Corinthinans 12:11, which reads “but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to EVERY MAN SEVERALLY AS HE WILLS.” (emphasis mine of course). In my KJV there is a notation by the word sverally, which reads “individually”, but still that means that every man gets one. And of course we know that MAN here means HUMAN.

    Mrs Meg Logan

  5. Hm. No one has bothered to mention this to the underground church in China, since signs and wonders go on unabated there (my pastor has been over there twice. He’s seen it for himself. Quite an adventure he had, aside from all that.)

    I do agree that we shouldn’t be seeking for signs per se, but I believe that when the Bible tells us to seek spiritual gifts, we need to obey. I also believe that if the more supernatural gifts were supposed to die out, He’d have put it in the Scripture. When we see Him face to face we will no longer need them, but till then, we have a job to do.

    I can understand why people would believe otherwise, as there has been much abuse of spiritual giftings in the Body, so please don’t feel like I am condemming anyone here. It is just that I have been walking with the Lord since 1980, I have experienced His healing touch in my own body, and I have experienced and been blessed by supernatural spiritual gifts used Biblically.

    Scripture says that without faith it is impossible to please God. (Let me be clear, I am not talking about hyperfaith-we all know what that is) But I think we can have faith that God is indeed still a supernatural God who can do more than we can ask or think, and we can trust Him to perform His word-ALL of it.

    Meanwhile, the important thing is that whether we are cesssationists or we are charismatics, our one goal is to please God and love one another. No matter what we believe on these things we are brothers and sisters in Christ, His servants, and one family.

  6. I agree, God does still heal today. Who are we to say He doesn’t…and I don’t think MIn said that. Not specifically that “God” has stopped healing. Maybe that He doesn’t use us Christians as healing agents. MIn will have to answer that himself. Personally, I believe if we Christians approached this “gift” with purer hearts we’d be capable of many more things than we actually are capable of. That whole “sign hang-up” thing again.

    But as for God Himself healing…How many times has He healed unborn babies of the problems dr’s say they will be born with? Or prevented illnesses from progressing? These miracles we may not be even aware of…

    One of my friends tells the story of her experience with healing. Shortly after a horrible divorce (not her fault) left her a single mom raising 3 kids with hardly two pennies to rub together she got a horrible toothache…she’d never felt pain like that pain before, excruciating. It was the middle of the night, and she wept, wondering how on earth she’d be able to afford to go to the dentist (she was prone to tooth problems). She prayed for relief, and humbly asked God to take her pain away. She specifically asked for Him to have mercy on her when she put pressure with her finger against the inflamed area…and instantly the pain was gone.

    This is healing. This is not “naming it and claiming it”. Faith isn’t a way to bargain with God for healing. I get my feathers a bit ruffled when I hear people saying, “So and so must not have enough faith or they wouldn’t be sick”. Yikes.

    I’m curious about the scripture that talks about the annointing of oil and laying on of hands. Another one ripe for discussion!

    I’m with Shelli, I love talking all this out and getting everyone’s perspectives on it! Iron sharpening iron!

  7. Thanks for the trackback, and as you would expect, I agree with Mrs Meg Logan that “the perfect” of 1 Cor 13.10 must be at the end of the age, when we see Christ face to face. I have known Christians who have argued that “the perfect” is the canon of scripture, after which no more prophecy would be required, but this argument fails, I think, because would the Corinthian readers have understood that to be Paul’s meaning? If not then it is bad exegesis to say that is what Paul meant.

    Also there were people who prophecied in the New testament whose prophecies did not appear in any of the books or letters. It seems that there was New Testament prophecy that was not of a type to be recorded as scripture, but rather spoke into specific situations in the Church.

    Likewise tongues – the tongues of Acts were sign gifts, but Corinthian tongues do not seem to have been sign gifts – nor the tongues that Paul spoke “more than any of [the Corinthians]”. The Corinthians were abusing these gifts, showing off their “spirituality” to one another, and Paul had to deal with this abuse – but he seems to accept Corinthian tongues as a normal part of the Corinthian Christian experience.

    Incidentally, in 1 Cor 12, where Paul writes “Now concerning spiritual gifts”, the word gifts is not actually present. Paul writes “now concerning the sprituals”, and I think he is actually talking about the puffed up Corinthian Christians who think they are spiritual because they speak in tongues. Paul brings them down a peg or two, as you would expect.

    But whilst I don’t see any reason why the tongues of the Corinthian church should not be found in the modern church, I wonder how often they are found. As Shelli has written, tongues sometimes seem to owe more to psychology and the expectations of the pentecostal churches where they are found than anything else.

    Nevertheless I see no reason to argue that tongues could not be found in the Church today.

    Thanks for the article,


  8. Mary, When it comes to gifts of healing, it seems to me that no Christian (at least, none that I have met) would argue that God does not heal any more. It is just that one Christian believes in the gift of healing (with prayer) and another Christian just believes in the power of prayer 🙂

    However, I personally have trouble with TV evangelists who peddle conjuring tricks and lead us to believe that God’s power to heal can be turned on and off like a tap by the right kind of preacher. I don’t think the “gift of healing” was ever like that in the Church.

    I agree with you one hundred percent about being annoyed by people blaming someone’s faith for lack of healing. I get even more annoyed by people who tell us that we must believe in our healing even if the evidence of our own eyes is contrary to this. That, to me, is like “mind over matter” and has no place in the Christian church.


  9. Meg, What I thought I was saying is that every man does not get the same gifting, it’s God’s choice and timing, not ours.

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