By PKD Lee
Understanding of the Gifts of the Spirit has divided churches and Christians even though the gifts are meant to be a blessing to the church and the Christian community. Why is this?
While the differences of opinion seem to revolve more around whether the Spirit speaks to us today or not rather than anything else, the issue of speaking in tongues has also been a dividing issue. No, I am not answering this question of whether the Spirit still speaks or not, that remains as an issue for another blog post!
If we look in the Bible there are only three passages referring to the gifts of the Spirit – Hebrews 2:4 where it is said that the gifts testify to the great salvation that God has provided for us in Jesus Christ. The second is the
long passage from 1 Corinthians 12:1 -14:25. The main emphasis in this passage, if read at one stretch, seems to be not to over-emphasize the so called ‘super-natural’ gifts, especially tongues, but to see that each of us are a blessing to the church with the gifts we have. It begins from 1 Cor 12:4 -11 that there are diverse gifts for the many different ministries required in the church. Verse 7 says that EACH AND EVERY member of the church has a gift from the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 again emphasizes that each has a gift and role in the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:29-31 says that all will not speak in tongues. 1 Corinthians 13 emphasizes that having gifts without love or the fruit of the Spirit makes us a curse rather than a blessing. 1 Corinthians 14:1-5 says that we need to seek the gifts that bless the church rather than speaking In tongues that only blesses you.
The third passage is Romans 12:3-6-8 where each are asked to minister with the gifts they have.
Of these three only 1 Corinthians 12 mentions speaking in tongues, which is not mentioned in Romans. The only other place where speaking in tongues is mentioned are three occurrences in Acts, each have a special significance. The first is Acts 2 where it inaugurates the church; the second is Acts 10 where it inaugurates the extension of the church to the Gentiles; the third is in Acts 19 where it signified that John’s baptism was the old covenant and we need the baptism of the new covenant. In Acts 2 the speaking in tongues happened much after their baptism in water; in Acts 10 before their baptism in water; and in Acts 19 at their baptism in water. So no real doctrine on tongues can be made of this.
Matthew 7:21-23 speaks of people coming to Jesus claiming to have done signs and wonders in His name, but Jesus would tell them that He did not know them. This shows that gifts do not show our level of spirituality, nor do they even show if one has salvation. In the Old Testament the most gifted king was probably Omri, who extended the boundaries of Israel to the extent God had promised, but he did not know God. Cyrus was called the servant of Yahweh, and was highly gifted for his role, but did not know God. Balaam could give wonderful prophecies of the Messiah, but did not know God. When we do not have the fruit of the Spirit but have gifts, it leads to pride and arrogance and we become a problem and not a blessing.
This brings us to another issue. Are gifts of the Spirit only referring to supernatural gifts like healing, and miracles like the apostles did or are natural gifts included in them? If we look at the list in Romans it includes giving, leading and ministering which are not necessarily supernatural. Another question that can be asked is, are natural gifts used supernaturally with the fruit of the Spirit to bless many, natural or supernatural? When I read 1 Corinthians which says in 4:7 that all the abilities we have, are from God, and so we should not pride ourselves on the abilities we have, and 12:7 says that ALL have spiritual gifts, I consider the divide between supernatural and natural as artificial. All are gifts and abilities that we have come from God. We need to start using them to be a blessing to the church.
Another problem with gifts has been that the so called gifted tend to dominate the church and not let the others grow in leadership. When we recognize that gifts are given to be a blessing to the church, it becomes important for us to see that we use our gifts to empower others, by effective delegation of responsibilities and sharing of roles and leadership. The gifts have not been given for the individuals benefit, but for the community’s benefit and should result in the growth of the community, individually and as a whole.
Another perspective I have is that all can do all things. I may not be an athlete, but if the house is on fire I will run!! I may not have the gift of healing, but when needed I can pray. While most of the time when I pray for healing, nothing much seems to happen, because I do not seem to have the gift of healing, I have seen many miracles happen, like epilepsy being healed and instant deliverance from non-life threatening illnesses, which brings me to the question, is the gift deposited in me by the Spirit or does it manifest in me at the will of the Spirit? I prefer to see it as a manifestation of the Spirit so that the gift is from God and not from me at any stage. In which case, we do not worry about our gifts, but rather we keep serving and ministering the people we have been put among and let the gifts manifest as and when required,
So, then, what do we conclude?
Surrender yourself to Jesus completely so that the fruit of the Spirit manifests in your life and behaviour
We come to church to give and not just to receive. So begin to give by serving the church with the abilities we have in a supernatural way (manifesting the fruit of the Spirit)
There is no one without a gift. So there is no excuse for not being a blessing to people.
Do not run after gifts, they will manifest as you serve the community.