Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Spiritual Gifts

I was raised to think that there were nine spiritual gifts, all of a miraculous nature. I've since learned that the New Testament does not teach this.

Romans 12:6-8
6 According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts:
If prophecy, use it according to the standard of faith;

7 if service, in service; if teaching, in teaching;

8 if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity;
leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness.
Ephesians 4:7, 11-13
7 Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of the Messiah's gift. ...
11 And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God's Son, [growing] into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ's fullness.
1 Corinthians 12:4-10. 28
4 Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are different activities, but the same God is active in everyone and everything. 7 A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial:

8 to one is given a message of wisdom through the Spirit,
to another, a message of knowledge by the same Spirit,

9 to another, faith by the same Spirit,
to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit,

10 to another, the performing of miracles,
to another, prophecy,
to another, distinguishing between spirits,
to another, different kinds of languages,
to another, interpretation of languages.

28 And God has placed these in the church:
first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, next, miracles,
then gifts of healing, helping, managing, various kinds of languages.

1 Peter 4:10-11
10 Based on the gift they have received, everyone should use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, [his speech should be] like the oracles of God; if anyone serves, [his service should be] from the strength God provides....
So, the gifts given by God's Spirit which I see listed here are:
  • Prophecy (listed twice)
  • Service (listed twice, perhaps thrice with "Helping")
  • Teaching
  • Exhorting
  • Giving
  • Leading
  • Showing Mercy
  • Evangelism
  • Message of Wisdom
  • Message of Knowledge
  • Faith
  • Gifts of Healing
  • Miracles
  • Distinguishing between Spirits
  • Speaking in different languages
  • Interpreting of different languages
  • Managing
  • Speaking as an oracle of God (could be lumped with "Prophecy", but implies less of a "miraculous" flavor)
  • Apostleship
  • Pastorship
Twenty gifts listed here; perhaps there are others I've not listed. Not all of these are "miraculous", but both miraculous and non-miraculous seem to be lumped into the same category of "spiritual gifts".

Note particularly that according to Ephesians 4, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers were/are to last "until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God's Son". Unless we've accomplished that goal, it seems to me that perhaps we should still see apostles and prophets in the church Today.

The idea that spiritual gifting ceased in the first century seems to be based on two lines of evidence:
  1. It required the laying on of the Apostles' hands to bestow the gift of the Holy Spirit, as per Acts 18:8, &tc. But the flaw in this line of reasoning is that this is not the only way that Christians acquired spiritual gifts. In the New Testament I see it happening in three ways:
    1. Laying on of the Apostle's hands (Acts 8:18, 2 Tim 1:6). This particular method died out with the death of the last Apostle.
    2. An unexpected gift from God (Acts 2:1ff; Acts 10:44-46).
    3. By earnest desire (as implied in 1 Cor 14:1,39) and request in prayer (implied in James 1:5).
  2. 1 Cor 13:9-10 which says "9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when the perfect comes, the partial will come to an end." This "perfect" which is to come is then interpreted to mean "the completed New Testament". But perhaps it simply means "the finished". In other words, when we fully understand, our understanding will cease to be partial; when we fully know, our knowledge will cease to be partial. If this view is correct, then the completion of the New Testament does not mean that these spiritual gifts have ceased.
Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, and above all that you may prophesy. (1 Cor. 13:1)
And don't grieve God's Holy Spirit, who sealed you for the day of redemption. (Eph 4:30)

No comments: