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Foundations for Christian Life

Spiritual Gifts

Study verse: 1 Corinthians 14:12

"Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church."

The church is God's masterpiece and His master plan in restoring a lost world. The study verse shows that God has not ordained uniformity but endless variety. No-one has all the gifts and no-one is without some spiritual gifting, ability, talent or task. There are no omissions or exceptions; no matter how insignificant, weak or obscure, each one is essential to the growth and spiritual health of the whole body.

There are three main areas of gifting and function; however each of them is sourced in God. They are:-

THE MINISTRY GIFTS - given by Christ to his church.
THE SUPERNATURAL GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT - given by the Holy Spirit - they are totally supernatural.
THE ANOINTED NATURAL GIFTS - natural talents quickened by the Spirit.

1. The Ministry Gifts - Ephesians 4:7-16 There are four or five functions, depending on your persuasion, that these men fulfil and are Christ's gifts to His church either locally or in a wider sense.

a) Apostle - The Greek word is 'apostolos' which means 'one sent forth'. The disciples were named apostles (Luke 6:13). Paul is designated so (Acts 14:4, Rom.16:7). Generally the apostle fulfils a church-planting, building or structuring role.
b) Prophet - One who speaks forth openly the mind and counsel of God. He has the ability to foretell, but more importantly, to foretell the will of God, with reference to past, present or future. See references to Agabus in Acts 21:10-11 and Acts 11:27.
c) Evangelist - "A messenger of the gospel, a preacher of good news". The evangelist breaks new ground preaching the gospel with the obvious success of people being converted. Philip was an evangelist in a city in Samaria (Acts 8:4-8), preaching one to one in Acts 8:26-40. He was well known as an evangelist (Acts 21:8).
d) Pastor - One who is a shepherd, specifically involved in feeding and caring for the flock, his position being one of help, support and counsel. In many churches the pastor is looked upon as the senior leader, but really any authority he may have in the leadership of the church is by virtue of eldership not ministry gift.
e) Teacher - Some say this gift is part of the pastoral gift, i.e. pastor/teacher. However, for the purpose of this study, we will look at it separately. The teacher is a gift to give instruction to the body concerning personal character (1 Cor.4:17) and to expound the doctrine of scripture (Col.2:6-7). Within the church we look to see all these ministry gifts released according to the measure of the gift, into the body of Christ for preparing God's people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature.

2. The Supernatural Gifts of the Spirit - 1 Cor.12:7-11 The Greek words here are 'pneumaticus' meaning 'inspired' and 'charismata' meaning 'grace' or 'gift-wise'. Given to individuals by the Holy Spirit for the good of the whole, they are completely supernatural. The ninefold manifestation - here is a brief outline.

a) Gifts of revelation
1. A word of knowledge - a supernatural revelation of the divine mind, God-given facts (knowledge) not from the mind of man.
2. A word of wisdom - a supernatural revelation of the divine purpose, God-given wisdom in what to do with the facts (knowledge).
3. Discerning of spirits - a supernatural insight by revelation into the spirit realm, the ability to discriminate whether a super-natural work or word is of the Holy Spirit or by deceiving spirits.

b) Gifts of demonstration
1. Faith - a supernatural trust in God - a manifestation of divine faith and sovereignty.
2. Working of miracles - a supernatural manifestation of divine immanence and omnipotence seen as acts of power, often described as signs and wonders.
3. Gifts of healing - a supernatural power over disease, a manifestation of divine life (health and peace).

c) Gifts of inspiration
1. Prophecy - a supernatural utterance in a known language that brings comfort, strengthening and encouragement, thereby building up the church.
2. Other tongues - a supernatural utterance in an unknown tongue (a language unknown to the speaker).
3. Interpretation of tongues - a supernatural showing forth of the meaning of the utterance in tongues, not to be confused with translation.

The gifts are diverse but this does not mean there are diverse spirits. They work by one Spirit, who gives them to each one as He determines. Just as the ministry gifts are for the building up of the body, so are these supernatural gifts of the Spirit and 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 relates these gifts to the body. In verses 15-20 Paul gives a rebuke to the disgruntled. An ambitious person may consider their gift inferior and moan or complain and be disposed not to contribute. But the gifts are not for individual glory but for the good of the whole.

In verses 21-26 Paul gives a reproof to the superior. Our dependence is mutual. No member, however superior or gifted, can dismiss another as useless. Each is in debt to the other. The result is mutual care as shown in verse 26. Paul also reminds us that love is the only motive for the use of the gifts and love is the necessary ingredient to make the gifts effective (1 Cor.13:1-3).

3. The Anointed Natural Gifts - Romans 12:7-13 This is when a natural gift or talent or ability is quickened by the Holy Spirit to a new realm in building up the body of Christ. Here are some Old Testament examples:

Spirit-filled craftsmen - Bazalel, Ex.31:3, 36:1 - a skilful engraver whose talent was lifted to a new realm by the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Spirit-filled administrator - Joseph, Gen.41:38 (contrast his interpretation of dreams which was entirely supernatural by the gift of the Spirit).

Spirit-filled musicians - 1 Sam.16:23 and 1 Chron.25:1.

When one in the providence of God has acquired a natural (?) talent, then it is lifted into a new realm by the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The New Testament gives us other examples but these are seen in the context of the body of Christ: 1 Cor.12:27-31 - This is not just another list of the gifts of the Spirit, but a selection from the three groups.

a) Ministry gifts - apostles, prophets, teachers.
b) Supernatural gifts of the Spirit - miracles, healings, tongues, interpretation.
c) Anointed natural gifts - administration, helps.

In Romans 12:3-13 Paul is not giving yet another list of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit. But in relation to his body picture (verses 3-5) he shows the variety of functions as necessary and again makes a selection from the three groups. Here, however, he enlarges upon the anointed natural gifts.

a) Ministry gifts - teacher.
b) Supernatural gifts of the Spirit - prophecy.
c) Anointed natural gifts - practical service, encouragement, giving, ruling, practical charity, hospitality.

We are seeking here to illustrate the many different ways each body member may be gifted, and may function to the benefit of the whole. Ministry function is twofold:-

1. The Ministry Gifts - they must function; an example in Acts 2 - Peter, an apostle, is functioning. He is declaring to the crowds and as he functions the body operates in prayerful support.

2. The Body Ministry - all must function; an example in 1 Cor.14:26, "When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church."

During this function ministry gifts and elders oversee. In a healthy New Testament type church there will be balance and harmony. Opportunity will be given for both to function. We as a church seek to recognise and honour ministry gifts, yet by our structure present opportunity for body ministry to function and develop. Finally, it is for each of us to find our place, gift, function, ability in and to the body. And then to wait on our ministry by prayer, consecration and application. We must not take our gift or ability for granted. We must give ourselves to the function He has given us, doing all as to the Lord, for the benefit of the whole body, for His glory.

Baptism in the Holy Spirit / Local Church Meetings