To read Spiritual Gifts, Part 1, click here.
To read Spiritual Gifts, Part 2, click here.
Distribution of Gifts
In the Old Testament, God’s children would receive a direct revelation of God through the agency of God’s Spirit. When this revelatory facet occurred, it became a central feature of the late Second Temple Jewish understanding of God’s Spirit. In the New Testament, God’s Spirit is seen in the ministry of Jesus Christ. Then proceeds when the Holy Spirit is sent to the disciples at Pentecost. While this Spirit helps in conversion, it is also this same Spirit that helps to discern what spiritual gifts the Lord has given to individuals. The Lord is the one who distributes the gifts. Often it takes some experimentation with various ministries to find the fit that the Lord has called a person to do. Not knowing one’s gift should not excuse a lack of ministry involvement. People can recognize their gifts by trying out assorted opportunities, receiving input from others, or taking spiritual gift inventory and survey tests, which can be found online, in churches, or multiple books. Contrarily, DeVries does not like spiritual gift inventory assessments as much as he uses the Bible to discover your spiritual gifts. He believes the Bible gives two testing criteria for discovering one’s spiritual gifts: The fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 and the spiritual qualities of godliness noted in 2 Peter 1. Either way, one should take responsibility and pursue one’s spiritual gifts, leaving the results in the Holy Spirit’s direction.
Confusion, conflicts, and questions arise when evaluating spiritual gifts. The primary topic causing the most confusion involves charismatic gifts, including the gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues. Charismatic gifts (sign gifts) include tongues, interpretation of tongues, healing, miracles, and prophecy. Some charismatic groups also consider laying on hands, fasting, faith, and prayer in this category.
The Book of Acts deals with the custom of speaking in and interpreting tongues in three places. When the disciples were baptized in the Spirit at Pentecost, they began to speak in tongues. In Acts 10, Simon was preaching. When the Spirit fell upon the assembly, the Gentiles spoke in tongues showing the Jews that they had received the Holy Spirit. Lastly, when Paul encountered some disciples of John, they began to speak in other languages and to prophesy. Scholars use the word glossolalia when referring to tongues. In each of these instances, tongues are introduced to a different group of people: Jews, Samaritans (possibly), and Gentiles. Brand says, “[Paul] also noted that unless tongues speech is interpreted, it ought not to be employed in public worship since the purpose of spiritual gifts is the edification of the body” (1 Cor. 14:3, 6).
The question is whether the sign gifts (including tongues) were delegated to the early church or does it continue today. The terms coined are cessationists and continuationist. Most cessationists believe that God can heal and do miracles, but they reject the idea that Christians can heal, prophesy, and speak in tongues. Cessationist Thomas R. Schreiner says, “As a cessationist, I believe God still heals and does miracles today, though I think such events are relatively rare. Still, I pray for the healing of the sick and believe God can do so miraculously. My argument is not that miracles and healings never occur. Instead, I claim that believers today [do not] have the gifts of doing miracles and healing.” Conrsely, a continuationist believes all the sign gifts are valid and operable today. As one can see, sign gifts can cause confusion, misunderstanding, and divisiveness in a church. C. Douglas Weaver says, “A growing number [of] Baptists are also continuationists. . . But plenty of Baptists also contend that some or all of the miraculous gifts [sign] are invalid for today, or they differ considerably from continuationists’ understanding of those gifts.” There has also been plenty of Baptist-continuationist rivalries since the first wave of Pentecostals began speaking in tongues and prophesying in the opening years of the twentieth century.
Conflicts also occur when discussing the Holy Spirit and its role in our lives, including the holiness movement, gender, and racial egalitarianism. There is difficulty separating other issues from one another when speaking of the Holy Spirit, including how spiritual gifts are used.
Reasons for Personal Perspective
God’s Holy Spirit has been functioning in lives for over six thousand years—through the Old Testament and New Testament times and even today. The Holy Spirit guided Jesus’s ministry and likewise in our ministry.
First, God designed us to be used for Him. Psalm 139:13-16 states, “For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to Thee for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Thy works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from Thee, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance and in Thy book they were all written, all the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. God ordained our days. Moreover, He wants to equip us to use us for His service.”
Second, John 16:13 mentions that the Spirit of truth will guide us into all the truth, and when He does, he wants to equip us for His service as mentioned in 1 Peter 4:10-11, which says, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies. so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to who belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Third, the Lord wants us to meet the needs of others. One of the ways He accomplishes this purpose is by providing believers with spiritual gifts to be used powerfully for His intentions. Christians possess gifts to be used locally and universally within the body of Christ to serve others. In other words, we can be the hands and feet of Jesus (1 Cor. 12).
Ephesians 4:11-14 speaks of our privilege to build up the body of Christ—for unity and to grow to become more Christlike. We should strive for the whole body to fit together, where every person is involved in the building up the church in love.
Charles Stanley sums it up best when he says, “Time is a gift from God, and He has allotted each of us a measure in which to live and accomplish His purposes. We have only two options—to spend it temporally on our own interests or invest it eternally. Since time can never be retrieved or reversed, it’s critical that we make the most of every opportunity the Lord provides.” Just like the fudge cake mentioned earlier, where all the ingredients combine for the best results, we need all members of the body of Christ to employ their best selves. This can occur when one uses their spiritual gifts, in the supernatural power of Christ, within the body of Christ in love and unity.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, I love you and desire to know and use the gifts you have given me. Confirm what they are in my mind. May others see them in me. Lord, you are my God, and I give my entire life to you and desire Your presence every moment. Keep me from temptation and deliver me from evil. In Your blessed name, Amen,
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