Are the Spiritual gifts for today?
The Greek word for spiritual gift is charismata. The root word charis – is “grace,” which means “a gift of grace” or “grace gift” (I Cor. 12:4). The gift is undeserved; and unearned, it is freely given. The word charismata is used in twelve passages, almost exclusively by Paul. The only other place it occurs is in I Peter 4:10. The gifts accompany the Spirit, The Holy Spirit is a gift of grace (Acts 2:38). In Acts 10:45 Peter states the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. Simon was impressed by what he saw Peter do and offered money for the Spirit to be his, in Acts 8:20 Peter rebuke Simon, who thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money!
Salvation is also a gift of God’s grace. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Cor 9:15).
Eph 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God”
The gifts of the spirit accompany Christians to equip them for their service to the church and ministry to the unsaved. The Bible teaches that Spiritual gifts are for the building up of the body so that everyone can do ministry unto the Lord. They are for individuals to build up and edify the local body and to enhance our service to the Lord. As long as the body is maturing there will be a need for spiritual gifts.
A spiritual gift is an ability from God given to Christians by the Holy Spirit on the basis of grace, for the purpose of service and ministry.
The gift of teaching is mentioned more than any other, for it instructs us in the way of following our Lord. Many desire gifts of power, miracles, healing, and prophecy--all these type of gifts can bring attention to them-self. The spiritual gifts are to show characteristics of Christ, the intention is not to bring attention to oneself or ministry but to lift up Christ our Lord. For example, the gift of mercy shows the heart of God to those who need love and care; the gift of serving shows the life of Jesus in action. We serve God by our gifts, the practical gifts: helps, mercy, giving, service are necessary, they exhibit love, as love suffers along with someone who is struggling and is weak. Missionaries will often have this gift as they go to different countries.
Gifts are our response back to God to serve him and his people. Everyone one of us has at least one spiritual gift, many of us can have more. We may not all have the gift of evangelism but we are ALL obligated to give the gospel when the opportunity presents itself. We are to be experts in the presentation of the gospel, this can only take place when we are trained in sound doctrine. This way we preserve ourselves in the truth (1 Cor.15:1-2) and can save others.
A healthy church concentrates on its people and will allow gifts that are to build and help the people to be used. Leadership functions to help others find their gifts and calling in the body and will help place them so that they can be used of the Lord and the body can be healthy. At the same time we are to maintain order when spiritual gifts are exercised otherwise we will find ourselves in the same condition as the Corinthian church, out of control.
Too many are unable to distinguish a balanced perspective where one is either for all the gifts or not at all. If you speak on healing and you show from the Scripture that God does not heal everyone today, then you must not believe in healing. They assume if one opposes their view they MUST be a cessationist. Let me speak for my own perspective, I'm not a cessationsist. Its unfortunate that people reinterpret articles or statements by their own bias. What I believe is what the Bible is stating in the book of Acts and the epistles, that there were certain apostolic miracles that are to be found only with the apostles (thus distinguishing their leadership role from others in the church as the foundation was being laid.) There are a few men under them that were directly delegated authority, able to do miracles (i.e. Stephen and Philip.) They had to have a connection to an apostle to be under their authority. There must be a distinction made on what gifts continue and what ones are no longer operational. Spiritual gifts continue today because the same Holy Spirit indwells each believer, empowering us to do the work that God has called us to do, gifting us to do it. But to say that we can do all that the apostles did is not an accurate Bible teaching, nor a healthy perspective in our spiritual growth.
Does the Bible teach us to believe that miracles and other supernatural works are limited to certain eras of history? Or can God still work miracles on a lesser scale than he did through the apostles. These questions need to be answered because it will formulate ones position for today on spiritual gifts and their functioning in the church.
The taking place of miracles limited to a certain time period and the possibility of miracles like the apostolic period are the two main positions. But there are not just two choices of either extreme-Cessationism that claims there are no spiritual gifts functioning today versus hyper Chrarismanics, that believe ALL the spiritual gifts are functioning, even stronger than they were in the apostolic era. There are too many spiritual sensationalists that often use there so called gifted ability to make disciples after themselves.
This article is mainly about two extremes-The diminished use of spiritual gifts by cessationism versus accentuating the gifts beyond its biblical teaching. Within these two parameters I believe is a balanced Biblical perspective that will bring life and health to the church.
The spiritual gifts are to be used correctly and have spiritual content to them, they do not promote carnality, or self. God saved us with a purpose and he does everything with a purpose in mind- mainly to be glorified among his saints and made known in the world. He doesn’t just flex his power to show off, he has a will and a purpose. He parted the Red Sea to at the right time to save Israel, before or after would not have been useful. It is the same for exercising the spiritual gifts, there is a timing and a purpose to them.
The Holy Spirit is the giver of the gifts and the controller of them. If one does not understand this they will become confused when they pursue to practice them.
All believers qualify for a spiritual gift, however God alone determines the distribution of the gifts to the believer.Spiritual gifts are not natural talents sanctified to God, but gifts that come from the Holy Spirit, those that were not there before one is born again by the Spirit. You discover your gift that came into you when you received the Holy Spirit by being born again from the gospel, you cannot pursue a certain gift by choice. It may take time as you are being prepared by learning the word and learning how to interact with people.
One cannot take personality tests to see what gifts they may possess or develop. These can only show what ones personality gravitates towards. Gifts go beyond and are often separate from ones personality. For example, one may be shy as a person but they may have boldness to speak to strangers and have success sharing the gospel with others, thus they have the gift of evangelism. Someone may like to talk to other people but they do not have the gift of evangelism or a teacher. One may be musically inclined but this does not mean they are called to do worship in the church.
So how does one know what gift they may have been given? It is by God’s leading and others recognizing your ability. If you have God given success.
Various lists of the charismata are given. There are six lists found in four chapters of the New Testament:
I Cor. 12:6-10 word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning, of spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues
I Cor. 12:12-28 “Apostle, prophesy, teaching, miracles, healing, helps, administration, tongues
Romans 12:6-8 “prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership, mercy
Ephesians 4:11 “Apostle, prophet, evangelism, pastor-teacher”
I Peter 4:10: “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
ALL CHRISTIANS have at least one GIFT. The New Testament states" to each one is given..."
(1 Cor 12:7:) “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.” 1 Corinthians 12:7 says: “for the common good. “Ephesians 4:12-13 says: “for the equipping of the saints”
(I Cor. 12:11:) "But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.”
(I Cor. 12:18) “But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.”
(Eph. 4:7) “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift.
for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” I Peter 4:10 “minister it to one another”
The gifts are described in various places, as means of action.These enablements of grace were given to the Church from the beginning by the Holy Spirit. They are for the church to be completed but are temporary so that when the church has matured the gifts will cease. The coming of full maturity is Christ’s coming. 1 Cor. 1:7: “so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ”
Eph 4:12-14 “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
As long as the church has the Holy Spirit the gifts given by him will be there, they may diminish or increase at times but they will not cease until the church has matured and is ready for the Bride.V.14 concludes the reason we are given gifts “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.”
They are to keep us from those who deceive us, true gifts do not deceive but false gifts do.
Lets first go to the gifts that began the church which were also offices by those whom Jesus chose while he was on earth. Apostles and prophets: First in preeminence apostle and prophet
Laying the Foundation of the Church: Ephesians 2:19-22:
“So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone; in whom each several building, fitly framed together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.”
According to Eph.2 which Paul the apostle wrote, the two gifts of apostleship and prophets in the New Testament were for the purpose of layingthe foundation of the Church. The picture is that of Jesus...the chief corner stone. From the cornerstone, two lines of stones were laid for a foundation. One line of stones represents the apostles, and the other line of stones represents the prophets. The prophets are not those of the Old Testament, but those of the New Testament because it has to do with the church that began by the Holy Spirit indwelling people- in Acts 2. By the death of John the last apostle who died around 90-95 A.D. the foundation of the Church had been laid. The foundation is comprised of the apostles and prophets only. The key purpose of the gifts of apostleship and prophecy was to lay the foundation of the Church so it can be built through these centuries.
If the foundation is built upon the apostles and prophets we do not need to have the foundation renewed or rebuilt. It is something the church was built on for nearly 2,000 years. This is why common sense is needed in understanding Bible doctrine, this is why there are no (foundational) prophets or apostles today in the original sense. What is continuing is described in verses 21-22: believers are stones, which are being fitly, framed together, one on top of the other, building up the house of God. That is the purpose for the other gifts that are built on the foundation.
An apostle plants the foundation of a church- by doctrine. The gifts of apostleship and prophecy were used to lay the foundation of the Church, which has now been laid; New Testament revelation was recorded and completed. This is why the letter from Jude 17 and Peter who is an apostle (2 pt.3:2) all refer back to what the original apostles of Jesus said. By the time John writes Revelation, he is the last living apostle, he tells the church Rev 2:2 “And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars.”
With the foundation accomplished, the gift of apostle is no longer given. The reason is the requirement: people today are not seeing the resurrected Messiah on earth, which was a prerequisite for the gift of apostleship (Paul said he was the last in 1 Cor.15:8) .
There were two groups of apostles. First was the group of the Twelve. To qualify for this group, one had to have been a follower of Jesus from the baptism of John. They first were a disciple of John the Baptist, then followed Jesus, and to had seen the resurrected Messiah and His Ascension.
This qualification is seen in their selecting Matthias to replace Judas Acts 1:22: “beginning from the baptism of John, unto the day that he was received up from us, of these must one become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
MBS071 The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
There wassecond group of apostles that met the requirement to have seen the resurrected Lord. Paul was not an apostle of the twelve, because he did not partake of John's baptism or know Jesus before his resurrection. But he did fill the requirement for the secondary apostleship because he was chosen by Jesus, he saw the resurrected Lord on the Damascus Road (1 Cor.15:8). He defends his apostleship in I Corinthians 9:1: “Am I not free? am I not an apostle? have I not seen Jesus our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?
Paul became an apostle by the grace of God. “of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power (Eph 3:7). Paul proved his apostolic calling by claiming to have seen the resurrected Lord. Paul calls himself an apostle in the first verse of his letters- Romans, I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, I and II Timothy, and Titus.
Barnabas and others were apostles of this second group, Acts 14:14. James, the half-brother of Jesus was an apostle of the second group (I Corinthians 15:7and Galatians 1:19).
Only those who saw the resurrected Jesus on earth qualified for receiving this particular gift. It was made available to the large group of people 500- or more who saw the resurrected Messiah, but not every one of them received the gift of apostleship.
Paul would sometimes use the term “apostle” in a broader sense to mean a messenger, (Philippians 2:25; 2 Corinthians 8:23) where they are called messengers or “apostles of the church”. Paul also uses the word for a group of witnesses who had seen the risen Lord and had received a specific call to apostleship apart from the Twelve. A 'sent one' commissioned by Jesus is not the same category as one sent out by the church. There is a distinction in Scripture between being an apostle of the Lord, personally chosen and sent by Him, and an apostle of the Church, sent out by the body of believers to start churches.
The evidence of the gift of apostleship included the power to work miracles. One was qualified to be an apostle only if he had seen the resurrected Lord, and had the power to do miracles. This is the Paul stated in 2 Cor. 12:12: “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, by signs and wonders and mighty works.” Paul had proved himself to be an apostle in both qualifications. First, he had seen the resurrected Messiah on the Damascus Road. Secondly, he had the power of an apostle as proven by his many miracles, signs, and wonders.
The same point is made in Hebrews 2:3-4: “how shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation? which having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard; God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will.”
These eyewitnesses were the apostles who witnessed His Resurrection and Ascension.
Their apostolic office was proven by their power to do miracles, signs, and wonders (v. 4). (Acts 5:12-16; 16:16-18; and 28:8-9.)
An apostle in a general sense means “one sent.” Most scholars see at least two-three or more groups of apostles in the New Testament. First is Jesus who stands alone as The Apostle (Hebrews 3:1-6). All other apostles derive their position under Him. There is a technical use and a general use for this term. Scripture has apostles who were all personally chosen by the Lord Jesus. (Matthew 10:1-4 and Luke 6:12-16 name the 12 apostles). In a more general sense the 70 disciples that were also trained were sent out, they were messengers but not apostles in the first sense. Matthew and Mark use the term “apostle” prior to the resurrection only once identifying the Twelve, when they were sent on a missionary journey (Matthew 10:2; Mark 6:30). Luke uses this title more than all the writers (6:13, 9:10, 17:5, 22:14).
There are apostles today in the secondary sense only. They are missionaries that go out to places where they have not heard the gospel and plant churches.
The gift of prophecy was given by God to a person that gave them the ability to receive direct revelation. A prophet (both New and Old Testament) was one who received direct revelation from God about the future both near and far.
People today are not receiving direct revelation from God that would become the foundation of the Church. If they were, they could record Scripture and the bible would continually be expanding. There are many people claiming to receive direct revelation, claiming to be “prophets of God,” yet none of them are claiming the ability to write inerrant Scripture. Nor are they willing to take the test of a prophet according to Deuteronomy 18. If they are prophets and receiving direct revelation from God, they should be able to predict exact events that would come to pass within a short period of time that would pertain to Israel and the body of Christ.
A prophet may know something is wrong but wait to speak when God tells them, they did not prophecy each week, they could go years before they prophesied. They will give a message before judgment comes. They will point back to what is established from the Scripture.
There is an order for prophecy in the New Testament. 1 Corinthians 14:29 “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.” God gave the church two means of protecting ourselves against false prophets: first- His Word, and second, the spiritual gift to discern spirits. The command to test all things is given to all Christians, not only to the pastor or leadership. Those who are mature in understanding the Word are commanded to judge. 1 Corinthians 12:10 Paul explains the gift of the Spirit to discern spirits (judging, determining what is from God or not).
Prophecy is to be judged by others who have discernment and know the Word. 1 Corinthians 14:32 states “the spirit of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” Prophecy is to be judged in many ways; the main way is by the prophet’s writings we already have in Scripture. For Isaiah 8:16 says, “bind up the testimony (of the Prophets) seal the law among my disciples “To the Law and to the Testimony: if they speak not according to THIS WORD, it is because there is NO LIGHT in them” (Isaiah 8:20). The testimony means the prophetic writings of the prophets. If they speak contrary to the prophet’s writings or deny their testimony, they are false prophets.
God told his true prophet Jeremiah (23:21) who lived among the false prophets in his day “I did not send these prophets, but they ran. I did not speak to them, but they prophesied.” A prophet must hear from God and be sent by him to the people.
The Lord sent prophets when the people departed from God’s ways. God’s true prophets had right doctrine and were able to identify and speak about false prophecy that would lead His people astray. The true prophets always exposed the false ones for their misrepresentation of God and his word.
The prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true” (Jeremiah 28:9). “...I am the Lord, who has made all things, … who foils the signs of false prophets ... who carries out the words of his servants and fulfills the predictions of his messengers” (Isaiah 44:24-26). There is no example of any TRUE prophet being less than 100% right. One cannot divide prophecy and say part of this prophecy when another part is false. If only one part did not come to pass the whole thing is a false prophecy and its origin cannot be from God.
The New Testament mentions prophets as it was still being written down, revelation was continually being given.There are several examples of this in the New Testament: prophets in the church of Antioch (Acts 13:1); Agabus (Acts 11:27-28; 21:10-11); and the daughters of Philip (Acts 21:8-9). As in the Old Testament, a prophet needed to be tested by giving some near prophecies, which came to pass. The prophecies of Agabus and Philip's daughters did come to pass, so they had the gift of prophecy.
These prophets were necessary as God gave additional revelation the church that was in its infancy. Once the New Testament was completed, there was no longer a need for prophets to continue to reveal God’s will by new revelation. A person who says they are a prophet revealing new information about God is saying the Bible is not completed. Then you must follow their word as much as you do the Scripture. A dependency can be forged to have people believe he is the current mouthpiece of God that will tell us what we are to do. This office is often used as a control factor over others and has ruined many lives.
The gift of prophecy is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 14:3: “he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.” This is a different function than the prophets of old who warned, and spoke of the future of nations, and rebuked Israel and declared God’s future judgment if they did not repent. Prophecy can be speaking a word of Scripture (or related to Scripture) that would be for ones edification and comfort. Edify means to strengthen and build up what is weak. Exhortation is to give motivation for a holy life filled with good works and remove any sluggishness in ones walk. Comfort or consolation is to give hope and remove any present sadness. Prophecy is not practiced by standing up and declaring, “thus saith the Lord,” in King James English, but it can often be encapsulated in a preachers message taught from the pulpit.
The purpose for which these gifts given have been fulfilled. Thus they are subtracted from the number of spiritual gifts (approx.19 gifts of the Spirit), these two gifts of apostleship and prophecy (are also offices) are no longer available.
In Ephesians 4:11 Paul writes further on this subject “and He himself gave some to be apostles and prophets, some evangelists and some pastors and teachers.” He does not say that he keeps on giving apostles and prophets for the reason previously stated: they were the foundation of the Church. Anything mentioned in Ephesians 4:11 must be built upon the previous passage in Ephesians 2:20, “Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” Notice it is past tense, the foundation has been laid down; the foundation refers to the Scriptures that teach us about Jesus Christ which allows us to come to the unity of the faith with all the saints (Ephesians 4:13).
Today one can have prophecy in a secondary sense. They see the patterns in Scripture and can know where something will end up. They can see judgment or blessing coming form peoples actions, apply a Scripture that warns of where it will end or they can have God quicken a Scripture to them and see its fulfillment coming and speak. Prophecy is not detached from the Scripture but finds it as its source.
With these two gifts non- functioning as they were in the early church it does not mean other gifts are also passé. The view of cessationism that would deny the possibility of miracles today is unacceptable if one is going to be open to the teaching of Scripture, but we must also reject the view that nothing has changed and there are still apostles and prophets like the early church. There must be a distinction of the gift that came with the office that began the church and built the foundation.
Certain gifts were always tied to an apostle but they were always connected to the Holy Spirit.
The more important question for those who believe in spiritual gifts is to discern at this time is if the what we see being exercised is a genuine gift or a inducement of man or a counterfeit.
For those who do not believe there are spiritual gifts, the next portions will describe what they are and their practice usefulness in our lives.
Pt.3The spiritual gifts