Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Seven truths about spiritual gifts in the Bible

1 Corinthians 12:1-4 "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware. You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit."

Some thoughts on spiritual gifts
I thought it necessary to give a brief outline of the Bible's teaching on spiritual gifts.  May you find these headings useful, since they include the key Biblical texts on spiritual gifts that are without question profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16).

1. Spiritual gifts are taught throughout the Bible
The first thought to note is that spiritual gifts are not just a New Testament phenomenon. Exodus 31:1-3 is one of the earliest mentions: "Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship." 

When God called Noah, or Moses or Solomon to build the ark, tabernacle and temple, did these men do it by their own ingenuity? Hardly. They were supernaturally graced or gifted by God in the Person of the Holy Spirit to do so.  The Old Testament sets the pattern, from the offices of the priesthood and prophet, to the abilities given on occasion to perform miracles or speak forth prophecies. Such giftings from God paved the way for what would be the more fuller and abiding character of the gifts revealed in the New Testament.  

2. Spiritual gifts are graces or gracings from God
The word we render "gifts" could be more accurately translated "gracings" or "graces". When we use the term "gifts", we are speaking of the manner in which God distributes His graces to His people - namely in a free and Sovereign manner.  

3. Spiritual gifts are given at salvation
Whenever you read 1 Corinthians 12:1-4, the understanding is that all of the spiritual graces or gifts are given to the believer at conversion.  The issue of course comes in our discovery and awareness of those gifts.  1 Corinthians 12:12-13 reinforces this point - "For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit."

4. The Holy Spirit is the Agent of the gifts
1 Corinthians 12:4 states - "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit."  In the main passages that speak on the subject of the spiritual gifts in the New Testament, we see all three Persons of the Trinity involved in the spiritual gifts.  For example, 1 Corinthians 12:4-5 outlines accordingly: 

a. The Agent of the gifts is the Spirit

b. The Administrator of the ministries in which the gifts will be used is the Son 

c. The Effects produced by the gifts are regulated by the Father.  

All Three Persons of course are One God, being the Agent, Administrator and Affector of the work of the graces or gifts.  The Spirit in particular is the Agent of the gifts, meaning that He is the One who Sovereignly distributes and directs where the gifts go and to whom they go.  Romans 12:3-7, when read in concert with 1 Corinthians 12:1-6, affirms the Divine authority and identity of the Spirit as the Agent of the gifts.  This is also why the gifts are called "spiritual gifts", being that their distribution is regulated directly by the Holy Spirit Himself. 

5. The gifts are designed to bless the body of Christ and to minister the Gospel to the lost
Key Biblical texts on spiritual gifts support this two-fold thought.  Romans 12:5-6a "so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly...".  1 Corinthians 14:1 communicates - "Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy." Why? Because gifts such as prophecy (which I would say is in reference to the supernatural gifting in preaching the Word in ways that relevantly and pointedly challenge the church) serve to edify the church body, a theme repeated by Paul throughout 1 Corinthians 14:3,4,5,12 and 17. 

Paul writes these words about the spiritual gifts of various spiritual leaders in Ephesians 4:12 "for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ."  Peter writes in 1 Peter 4:10 -  "As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."

Clearly the spiritual gifts are for the purpose of edifying the body, as well as bearing witness of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. In each of those main passages on the spiritual gifts, we see reference to using the gifts properly so as to bear witness to unbelievers. (1 Corinthians 14:20-24) Paul speaks of how the Lord gives among the official giftings the office of the evangelist in Ephesians 4:11. 1 Peter 4:6 prefaces Peter's discussion on spiritual gifts with these words - "For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God."  Indeed the spiritual gifts, in their diversity and supernatural power, can beautifully demonstrate the life of God pulsating through believers to those to whom we witness.

6. The spiritual gifts are given for the glory of God
The main point of the spiritual gifts (or gracings) are not to bring attention to the person exercising them, but to the One who gave them.  1 Peter 4:11 notes - "Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."

7. Spiritual gifts are discovered through God-given abilities, opportunities and burdens
As we noted earlier, spiritual gifts or graces are given at the moment of one's conversion. However, the process of defining and discovery takes time.  That concludes today's post. I pray the above seven headings have aided you in better understanding what the Bible has to teach about spiritual gifts.