Spiritual Gifts │ Empowering Life Today │ A Manual for Discovery
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First Steps in Christ
As a group of believers in Jesus Christ, we collectively form the Body of Christ, also called the Church. The Body of Christ functions like a human body, with each member of the body playing a unique and significant role. In fact, God never designed a believer to live apart from the Body of Christ. At the moment of salvation, the Holy Spirit blesses you with at least one spiritual gift. God distributes those spiritual gifts to each believer just as He wishes.
Believers Assemble Together
“Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,”
God emphasizes the need for believers to assembly together. Because Jesus has cleansed the heavenly tabernacle of all sin, by His blood atonement on the cross, we now have confident access to the immediate presence of God Himself. Only because of Jesus cleansing believers from all sin can we now boldly approach God.
“Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,”
Believers approach God with confidence. Just as the disciples fell down face first into the dirt upon hearing the voice of God on the mount of transfiguration, so also Jesus walked over to them, touched them, and commanded them to get up and get going. God scares people when they see His presence up close, or hear His voice, or see His power at work among them. Yet, because of God the Son, Jesus Christ, we have confidence to enter the holy place of God.
“let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Because we have faith in the cleansing power of the blood of Christ to remove the guilt of all sins once and for all, we have full assurance. We rely upon the promises of God in the Word of God to approach God with fully assurance. God has cleansed our lives with the blood of Jesus. Our hearts have been sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
“let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering; for He who promised is faithful;”
God intends for all believers to be unified in our confession of hope without wavering. Not only do we have hope because the blood of Jesus Christ has cleansed us and inaugurated a new and living way of access directly to God, but we also confess our hope to each other and to the world. We love to proclaim our hope in Jesus Christ. Christ is our hope. We trust the faithfulness of God so that we never waiver in our confession of hope.
“and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,”
Because we assemble together as believers with common hope, and all approach one God with confidence, we should also take time to consider how to encourage fellow believers. As believers, we must be careful as we assemble together to consider how to stimulate other believers to love and good deeds. So often, believers tend to criticize each other and attack one another. In contrast, God commands us to take time to ponder how to stimulate other believers to love and good works.
The Body of Christ
The Holy Spirit bestows spiritual gifts upon believers so that all the believers may benefit from the ministry of each individual spiritual gift. In fact, unless each believer uses his own spiritual gift(s), then all the body will suffer from the lack of that spiritual gift. God likened the use of the spiritual gifts to the parts of the human body: eyes, ears, etc.
“But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.”
1 Corinthians 12:18
God put each believer into just the right place in the Body of Christ. Therefore, no member of the Body of Christ can say to another member that he has no need of that member. In fact, the members of the Body which we deem weaker are necessary. Likewise, the members we deem less honorable we actually bestow more honor upon. God deliberately has composed the Body of Christ, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked honor, so that there may be no division in the body. That unity means that when one member suffers, all the members suffer. When one member is honored, then all the members are honored.
“until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”
The Holy Spirit places gifts into the Body of Christ, one member at a time. God means that He places those gifts within believers for specific purposes. God intends for every believer to carry on the ministry of Jesus Christ, but each member must minister according to the gift bestowed upon that member. God never intended any divisions in the Body of Christ, and all titles such as “Reverend,” “Father,” “Rabbi,” “Clergy,” “Laity,” “Leader” not only divide the church, but also break the command of Jesus Christ to avoid titles and divisions (Matthew 23:6-11, Page 1542). Jesus calls you to use the gift that the Holy Spirit has placed within you to His honor and glory. In fact, the gift within you should be used to build up the Body of Christ, that is, the other believers around you. Pastors and teachers function to equip the members of the Body of Christ to use their spiritual gifts for the glory of God. They do not do the ministry alone, and they alone are not in full-time ministry. God has called you into “full-time ministry” because you possess your spiritual gifts every day, all day. You carry the power of ministry within you, and the spiritual gift you possess makes you essential to the Body of Christ, even an honored member.
I often separate a verse into parts so that I can understand it better. I always want to be sure in the end, however, that I understand also how the entire verse fits together, and how that verse fits into the paragraph, and the paragraph fits into the entire chapter, and the chapter fits into the entire book. In Ephesians 4:13, Page 1831, God tells me that He wants all believers: (1) to strive together for the unity of the faith; (2) to grow in the knowledge of the Son of God; and (3) to become mature members, measuring up to the full stature of Christ. The spiritual gifts of the entire body will produce those results. Well, what gift do you possess and how can you find out?
Most Christians do not care about their spiritual gifts and the ministry that Christ has for them. They think that ministry means you become a pastor, missionary, or have some other church-related employment. Think again, but use the Bible as your guide here. As we have seen above, every member has a spiritual gift, maybe even more than one. But each gift, delivered directly from God, must be used. Be sure not to neglect the gift God has given to you. You will never achieve much out of life, spiritually, unless you yield yourself to using your spiritual gift.
“On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary;”
1 Corinthians 12:22
Within the Body of Christ, we see that some members are weaker than others. This weakness does not mean spiritual weakness or spiritual immaturity. God means that the eye cannot look at the foot and say you are weaker than I am, and so I do not need you. God means that every part of the Body of Christ plays a vitally important role. No member can say to another member that you are useless, worthless, or without any function. God places the members in the Body of Christ just as He wills, and each member has crucial functions to fulfill in the Body of Christ. We bestow more honor on those members we deem less honorable, and our less presentable members become much more presentable. God has honor for each member of the Body of Christ and commands the Body of Christ to bestow honor on every member.
“so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another;”
1 Corinthians 12:25
Within the Body of Christ, the members of the Body of Christ must care for one another with great love from God. Because members care for one another, no divisions will arise in the Body of Christ. If one member of the Body of Christ suffers, then all the members suffer in the Body of Christ. If one member of the Body of Christ receives honor, then the entire Body of Christ receives honor. Notice that individuals share both suffering and honor. In Christ, all the members have deep spiritual connections as living members of the Body of Christ.
The Spiritual Gifts
“And He gave some as apostles, and same as evangelists, and some as prophets, and some as pastors and teachers,”
Notice that God gives different gifts. Now let us look at the gifts mentioned in the New Testament.
Apostles. The twelve apostles described themselves as people who were with Jesus from the baptism of John until they watched Jesus ascend into heaven (Acts 1:21-22, Page 1700). Therefore, no one alive on earth today can really claim to be an apostle like the twelve apostles described in Acts. Some other men were called apostles in the New Testament, but at least some aspects of the gift seems to have passed away with the completion of the New Testament. See also The Spiritual Gift of Apostles.
Prophecy. The gift of prophecy allowed the New Testament to be written by men moved by the Holy Spirit of God to produce His entire, complete, and inerrant revelation of God for this age. Nothing more needs to be added to the Bible, but many believers disagree about the gift of prophecy today. The Biblical evidence indicates that the gift of prophecy involved the revelation of new material, and the true prophet spoke without error. This gift shall cease (1 Corinthians 13:8, Page 1798). See also the article on The Spiritual Gift of Prophets.
Evangelism. The gift of evangelism enables a person to lead people to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. When they exercise the gift, then people come to salvation in Christ. If you see a person consistently leading people to salvation, then you may well be watching an evangelist. They love to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and see positive results often. Study the ministry of Phillip in Acts 8, Page 1713 for an example. See The Spiritual Gift of Evangelists.
Pastors. Some people misuse a Greek language rule (the Granville Sharp rule) to suggest that The Spiritual Gift of Pastor is always accompanied by the Spiritual Gift of Teacher. Yet, that rule does not include plural nouns as here. So, we must understand that The Spiritual Gift of Pastor is separate from The Spiritual Gift of Teacher. The Holy Spirit may bestow both gifts upon the same person, but not necessarily. The work of the pastor concerns being an under-shepherd of the sheep, so that he cares for the flock. Study 1 and 2 Timothy (beginning on page 1854) to see the life of a pastor. See also The Spiritual Gift of Pastors.
Teachers. Many pastors have The Spiritual Gift of Teaching, but not all of them. Yet, not all teachers are pastors. Pastors tend the sheep of Christ because they love Christ. The pastor equips the saints for the work of service. Teachers have the special, divine ability to understand, explain, and communicate the Word of God. They are not instruments of new revelation, but rather they use the existing revelation to benefit believers through their teaching. Pastors use their gifts to comfort the saved, confront the sinful, and shepherd the sheep with the love of Jesus Christ. See The Spiritual Gift of Teachers.
“Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”
Here we have another list of spiritual gifts: prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, and mercy. We have already talked about some of them, so let us outline the other gifts here.
Service. The spiritual gift of service is like other gifts. We all have the obligation to serve God, but God gifts some people to be special servants. They have a spiritual talent for serving. Consider the men of Acts 6 (Page 1709) selected to be put in charge of feeding the widows of the church. These men had special abilities as servants to be sure that everyone’s physical needs were met. See The Spiritual Gift of Service.
Exhortation. The spiritual gift of exhortation involves the ability to confront and encourage other believers to walk with Christ under the power of the Holy Spirit. True Christian Counselors often have The Spiritual Gift of Exhortation to confront people with the Word of God and then encourage them to walk in loving relationship with Jesus Christ. Think of the gift as calling people to Godly living. See the article on The Spiritual Gift of Exhortation.
Giving. The Spiritual Gift of Giving means the ability to give with liberality, and you do it consistently as a ministry to Jesus Christ. Everyone has a duty and privilege to use God’s money for God’s purposes, but not everyone has The Spiritual Gift of Giving. The Spiritual Gift of Giving means that you have been gifted by God with the desire, insight, and ability to give to those who really need it. The gifted giver delights in providing for widows, orphans, and people in special need. Consider Barnabas who owned a large tract of land, sold it, and laid the money at the apostle’s feet (Acts 4:37, Page 1706). See the article on The Spiritual Gift of Giving.
Navigations. The Greek here indicates that leading means Navigations (not administrations). It refers to the ability to organize, to plan, and concentrate resources to achieve a goal. For example, a deacon must be a good administrator of his family and household. Diligent leadership characterizes the proper use of this gift. See the article on The Spiritual Gift of Navigations.
Mercy. The Spiritual Gift of Mercy means that you extend the loving kindness of God as a ministry of Jesus Christ. Mercy means that you withhold punishment. Every believer must love mercy and do justice, but the believer gifted with mercy finds special opportunities to practice mercy over and over. They seek people needing God’s mercy and God delivers those opportunities to them. In this passage, the gift of mercy should abound with cheerfulness. See the article on The Spiritual Gift of Mercy.
“For to one is given the word of wisdom through the same spirit; and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.”
1 Corinthians 12:8-19
God often addresses particular problems in the Bible. At the church of Corinth, Greece, the believers there had factions and disorder splitting the church apart. The church services had displays of wonderful spiritual gifts, but division and discord marred the gatherings. Please recall that before the last writer completed the New Testament, God used direct revelation through people to communicate His truths to His people. Apostles, prophets, and others received direct instruction from God. God also gave gifts for revelation to His people. The revelatory gifts have become the subject of great debate today. Not everyone understands spiritual gifts in the same way. After careful study, the best definitions of these gifts are presented below, but be careful to keep looking to the Word of God for instruction and confirmation.
The arrangement of the list of gifts in 1 Corinthians 12, Page 1796, should influence our understanding of the gifts themselves. In 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, Page 1796, the Greek text divides into three units of gifts separated by two different words for “another” (which our English Bibles translate as if they were the same):” (1) “hetero” (“ἑτέρῳ”), meaning different kinds; and (2) “allo” (“ἄλλῳ”) meaning different, but the same kind. Think of dogs and people. People are of a different kind (“hetero”) from dogs, but citizens of America and citizens of China are different of the same kind (“allo”) because both groups are humans. Likewise hounds are different from humans, but the same kind as spaniels. Recognizing that division, verse 8 groups together two gifts based upon revelation: the Word of Wisdom and the Word of Knowledge. Verses 9 and 10a then present the next unit of gifts based upon faith: Faith, Gifts of Healing, Effecting of Miracles, Prophecy and Distinguishing of Spirits. Finally, the last group concerns the use of tongues: Tongues and Interpretation of Tongues. We may construct the following chart to illustrate the division of gifts.
Group One (verse 8)
Word of Wisdom, (“allo”) Word of Knowledge
Group Two (“hetero) (verses 9-10a)
Faith, (“allo”) Gifts of Healing, (“allo”) Effecting of Miracles, (“allo”) Prophecy and (“allo”) Distinguishing of Spirits
Group Three (“hetero”) (verse 10b)
Various Tongues, (“allo”) Interpretation of Tongues
The grouping helps understand the nature of the gifts.
Word of Wisdom. Every believer should seek wisdom from God, who promised to give wisdom generously, without criticism for asking, to everyone who asks without doubting (James 1:5, page 1887). We may glean from this passage in James that God has promised generous wisdom to every believer who asks for it. Therefore, the Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom mentioned in 1 Corinthians must be different from the generous wisdom available to every believer. Only some believers had The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom, bestowed upon them as the Holy Spirit desired (1 Corinthians 12:7, 11, page 1796). As we begin our brief study of The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom, remember the chart above. To understand The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom, you need to see how it functioned in the New Testament church. Paul explained his message and preaching were not in persuasive “words of wisdom,” and the faith he preached did not rest on the wisdom of men (1 Corinthians 2:1-5, page 1783). In contrast, Paul spoke God’s wisdom, not of this world. He spoke God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:6-10, page 1784). God predestined to our glory the revelation of that hidden wisdom, which he called a mystery. As we shall see below, that term “mystery” always has a special meaning in the New Testament. The rulers of that age did not understand God’s wisdom, because they would not have crucified the Lord of glory if they had (1 Corinthians 2:8, page 1784). In the city of Corinth, Paul revealed God’s wisdom for the church, and called it a “mystery, the hidden wisdom.” The apostle Paul put into words the revelation of the hidden wisdom which God gave to them. Based upon this use of the term “wisdom” by the same author (Paul) in the same book (1 Corinthians), we see that The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom concerns divine revelation of something new and previously hidden, which God calls a mystery. Regarding the term “mystery,” Paul described himself as a servant of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God (1 Corinthians 4:1, page 1785). Paul described the term mystery in Romans 16:25-26, page 1781: “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all nations, leading to obedience of faith; . . . .” We see here that a mystery is: (1) a revelation from God; (2) of a secret from long ages past; (3) now manifested; (4) by the Scriptures of the prophets; (5) according to the commandment of God; (6) and now has been made known to all nations; (7) leading to the obedience of faith. Likewise, in Ephesians 3:4-6, page 1829, Paul described the mystery of the Church: “By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, . . . .” Here also, we see that a mystery refers to: (1) something not known to prior generations, (2) as it has now been revealed; (3) to his holy apostles and prophets, (4) in the Spirit. We may summarize a mystery, then, as something that God has now revealed through the apostles and prophets of the New Testament, but was not known to prior generations before the New Testament as it has been made known in the New Testament. So, a mystery means something now known, which was not fully known in past, and mystery always means revelation directly from God, by the Holy Spirit revealing that new information to the apostles and prophets of the New Testament. The term “mystery” also involves communicating that previously hidden wisdom to the other people. In Acts 11:5, Page 1721, Peter received the vision that all of the animals were clean to eat. He interpreted this vision to mean the Gentiles were welcome in the kingdom of God. With Peter, we see the “wisdom of God” revealing the inclusion of the Gentiles in the church, as cleansed by faith in God, just like Jews. Peter wrote according to the wisdom of God given to him. In 2 Peter 3:15, page 1903, Peter said that Paul wrote according to the wisdom given to him. Again, the Word of Wisdom there involves communicating a revelation from God. In Romans 9:1ff., page 1770, Paul explained that the mystery of relationship of the Gentiles to Israel has been revealed to him and he communicated that wisdom to dispel ignorance of God’s plans. In Corinthians 15, page 1880, Paul also expounded the mystery of the resurrection of all believers and communicated that doctrine to the Corinthians. In Ephesians 2, Page 1828, Paul described the mystery of Christ and the church. In passing, keep in mind that Paul told the Galatians that he received the Gospel by direct revelation from God (Galatians 1:12, Page 1819). To the Colossians, Paul preached the mystery of Christ in the believers, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27, Page 1842). To the Thessalonians, Paul warned of the mystery of lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:7, Page 1852). To Timothy, Paul wrote about the mystery of Godliness in the life, death, resurrection and glorification of Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 3:16, Page 1856). To John, God unveiled the finish of the mystery of God declared to His servants the prophets (Revelation 10:7, Page 1925). In all of these cases, the Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom involved God revealing a mystery, previously hidden, to an apostle or prophet who communicated it to other believers. The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom constituted God’s chosen gift for revealing mysteries to the Church and recorded His revelation through The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom in the New Testament. See the article on The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom.
Word of Knowledge. The Word of Knowledge means a new revelation of the authoritative application of Word of God. Please remember that, as shown in the chart above, The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Knowledge must be the same kind of gift as The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom (“allo” gift). Because the The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom is a revelatory gift, we may also expect that the The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Knowledge will be a revelatory gift. In 1 Corinthians 12:8, page 1796, we see that The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom operated “through” (”διὰ”) the Holy Spirit, while the The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Knowledge works “according to” (“κατὰ”) the Holy Spirit. The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Knowledge means the divine application of previously revealed truth. Instead of unfolding mysteries, as the The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom provides, The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Knowledge applies revelation at the right time and in the right way. In 1 Corinthians 13:2, Page 1797, Paul linked The Spiritual Gift of Prophecy with the ability to know all mysteries and all knowledge. Therefore, we see that knowing mysteries will be related to knowing knowledge, but they will not be the same. In Colossians 2:2-3, Page 1842, Paul prays that the Colossians would gain true knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Knowledge in this context has been hidden in Christ, along with wisdom, but now has been revealed to believers. The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Knowledge builds upon The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom. In 2 Peter 3:1-2, Page 1902, Peter illustrates the Spiritual Gift of the Word of Knowledge. The prophets and apostles had provided teachings. Peter specifically applied those teachings (revelations in themselves), under the influence of The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Knowledge, to the problem of mockers appearing many years after Christ ascended into heaven. The result of Peter’s application of prior teachings amounted to new revelation for confronting mockers. In Jude 1:17-18, page 1913, we read that Jude demonstrated The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Knowledge. He applied the words spoken by the apostles to problems with mockers and revealed God’s means of overcoming them. Consider also 1 Corinthians 10:6-11, Page 1793 (example of Israel applied to avoiding idolatry and immorality) and 2 Corinthians 3:12-18, Page 1807 (the hardened mind and veil of unbelief removed by Christ). Like The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom, God used The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Knowledge to produce the New Testament, which is now complete (1 Corinthians 13:8, page 1798). See also the article on The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Knowledge.
Gift of Faith. Every believer should “walk by faith,” but not every believer possesses The Spiritual Gift of Faith. The Spiritual Gift of Faith refers to a special ability to believe God to do miraculous things. Consider Paul’s statement that by faith he could move mountains, just as the Lord Jesus Himself taught. At another time, Paul prophesied that no life would be lost during a shipwreck. He then reaffirmed the prophesy by noting that he believed God that it would turn out just as he had already told them. This ability to believe God for miraculous events confirms God’s words in very tangible ways. See also the article on The Spiritual Gift of Faith.
Gifts of Healings. In the list of gifts in 1 Corinthians, Paul grouped different healing gifts together under the term “Gifts of Healings.” Notice both terms are plural. As you read through the Acts of the Apostles, you see all kinds of physical problems healed: crippled, blind, paralyzed, diseased and lame. God miraculously healed those problems and often opened the door to proclaiming the power of God for salvation. The physical healing had a spiritual purpose. It also confirmed the message and revelation of the apostles. God used the “Gifts of Healings” as part of the miracles, wonders and signs performed by the apostles to spread and confirm the Gospel of Jesus Christ. See The Spiritual Gifts of Healings.
Works of Powers. Just as God used healing to confirm the message of the apostles concerning salvation and new life in Christ, He also bestowed the broad gift to perform miracles upon His messengers. The Effecting of Miracles allowed Peter at Joppa to raise Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9:36ff., Page 1718). As a result of the miracle, many believed in the Lord. Another miracle concerned putting down opposition. Elymas, a magician, sought to turn a convert away from Christ by using fraud and deceit (Acts 13:8ff., Page 1724). Paul declared that Elymas would be blind because the hand of the Lord would be upon him for his crooked actions. So, therefore, you see that The Spiritual Gift of Effecting of Miracles both opened the door for the Gospel and also confirmed the words of the messengers of the Gospel. See The Spiritual Gift of Works of Powers.
Distinguishing of Spirits. Paul expects every believer to test the spirits to distinguish good and evil (1 Corinthians 12:1-3, Page 1796; compare 1 John 4:1-3, Page 1907). At Corinth, spiritual utterances were common and, therefore, the congregation needed to have immediate discernment regarding the spirit behind the utterance. The believer gifted with The Spiritual Gift of Distinguishing of Spirits had a special ability to pass judgment upon the utterance of anyone claiming to speak for God (1 Corinthians 14:29, Page 1800). Notice that this gift comes right after the gift of prophecy in the list. If you look closely at 1 Corinthians 14:29, Page 1800, another prophet, possessing The Spiritual Gift of the Distinguishing of Spirits gift, would pass judgment immediately upon what another prophet had just said. The use of prophecy in the congregation was always subject to immediate review by another, gifted prophet. Acts 16:17, Page 1732, portrays a striking example of Paul’s use of The Spiritual Gift of the Distinguishing of Spirits. A woman there correctly identified Paul and his companions as “bond servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.” She continued following Paul until he commanded the spirit to come out of her, and it came out. Paul could see beyond the words to the spirit of divination inside the woman. See The Spiritual Gift of Distinguishing of Spirits.
Kinds of Tongues. In the 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, Page 1796 passage above, Paul grouped the last two gifts into a third and final category: tongues. The first gift in that category concerned Kinds of Tongues. At Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles shortly after Christ ascended to heaven. He came upon the apostles, so that they spoke in foreign tongues and the crowed heard them speaking their own native languages (Acts 2:1-13, Page 1700). At Corinth, the believers there had been enthralled with The Spiritual Gift of Tongues, but The Spiritual Gift of Tongues did not provide edification for the church, unless it was interpreted (1 Corinthians 14, Page 1798). Absent interpretation, the use of The Spiritual Gift of Tongues was directed to God and edified only the speaker (1 Corinthians 14:2-6, Page 1798). While using the The Spiritual Gift of Tongues, the mind was unfruitful (1 Corinthians 14:14, Page 1799). Paul sought for the Corinthians to edify one another, and so encouraged them to seek The Spiritual Gift of Prophecy. Paul restricted the The Spiritual Gift of Tongues in congregational use to the occasions when an interpreter was present (1 Corinthians 14:27-28, Page 1799), and even then only two or at the most three utterances should be permitted. Although believers should not be forbidden from speaking in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:39, Page 1800), The Spiritual Gift of Tongues shall cease (1 Corinthians 13:8, Page 1798). See also the article on The Spiritual Gift of Tongues.
Interpretation of Tongues. As mentioned above, the The Spiritual Gift of the Interpretation of Tongues relates directly to the use of The Spiritual Gift of Tongues. The Spiritual Gift of Interpretation of Tongues describes the ability to translate a spiritual utterance by one person into a language understood by the listeners. The Spiritual Gift of Tongues was a sign for unbelievers, and without interpretation, yielded no benefit for listeners (1 Corinthians 14:22, Page 1799). Therefore, The Spiritual Gift of Interpretation of Tongues supernaturally translated the use of The Spiritual Gift of Tongues into another language that blessed the entire congregation of people listening to the Interpretation of Tongues. See also the the article on The Spiritual Gift of the Interpretation of Tongues.
“As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good steward of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. “
1 Peter 4:10-11
Usage. 1 Peter 4:10-11, Page 1898, provides excellent guidance regarding the use of spiritual gifts. The purpose of spiritual gifts is to serve one another. The duty of spiritual gifts requires you to act like a diligent steward. The diversity of spiritual gifts lies in the manifold grace of God. God recognizes two basic categories of gifts here: speaking and serving. Therefore, we will use that division as the point of departure for investigating what spiritual gift(s) you possess.
Faith. Without faith, you cannot please God. This general principle must control your entire spiritual life. Remember you possess a spiritual gift, and God intends for you to use it to His glory. Therefore, claim the promise of God by faith. What promise? The promise that you have a gift and He wants you to use it. He will show it to you when you trust Him to show you.
Sin. If you know of sin in your life, that you have never confessed to God, then the use of your spiritual gift will be a problem. If you have a current problem with immorality, coveting, idolatry, drinking, or swindling, then you cannot be in fellowship with other believers until you deal with your sin. Without that fellowship, you cannot be a direct blessing to others. Consider 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Page 1788. Do not get discouraged here. God does not want to punish you for your sin, because He has already punished His Son, Jesus Christ, for all of your sins. But God does want you to confess and forsake your sin (1 John 1:9, Page 1904), and then you can believe that God will reveal and use your gifts.
Neglect. Many believers start down the road of finding their spiritual gift, but then get discouraged and turn back or just sit down. If you are counting upon other believers to support your ministry, stop and count only upon God. When other believers support God’s use of your gifts, thank them and glorify God. Ultimately, however, you must look only to God for the use of your gifts because Satan will oppose the use of your gifts. Satan wants division and discord in the Body of Christ. Do not allow discouragement or a lack of gratitude for your ministry to slow you down. Trust always and only God to use your gifts because the Body of Christ needs your ministry. You can also be an encouragement to others to use their gifts.
Blessing Others. I recommend that you look back before you look forward. If you have been a believer for any length of time, look back and see if God has used you in any particular way to be a blessing to other believers. We will generally look in two directions here. Have you ever done any speaking to individuals or groups that proved a blessing to believers? If so, then consider teaching, exhortation, leadership, and faith. Have you ever done any serving that blessed believers? If so, then consider mercy, giving, and service. Go back through the passages associated with the gifts above and see if you have acted before with that gift.
Asking Others. Be extremely careful who you ask about your spiritual gifts. Select only spiritual people you trust to know the Bible and love Jesus Christ to interview concerning your spiritual gifts. If you have been a believer for a while, then ask the elders in your church about your gifts, if they know you well enough to offer insight. If not the elders, then ask your most spiritual friends to share their knowledge and observations with you. If you have been a believer for only a short period of time, then you can expect to find your gift by letting God open up opportunities for speaking and service. He will guide you into the paths for exercising your gifts. Invite your spiritual friends to pray for you and see what doors for speaking and service open before you.
Discipleship. Someone led you to Jesus Christ. Someone should be discipling you all the time. Make it a matter of prayer in your discipleship to seek out your spiritual gift and then use it. Keep on praying and reading about the use of your gifts. As you read the Word of God, the Holy Spirit will open the eyes of your heart from examples in the Word. The Holy Spirit will show you how others have used His gifts to His glory. Count upon it. Do not be discouraged. Pray together for specific ways to learn about your gift and see how God wants to use you to His glory.
“For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the member of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.”
1 Corinthians 12:12
We now from the Bible passages above that the Body of Christ has many believers using many spiritual gifts to the glory of God. God designed both those spiritual gifts and the Body of Christ to operate in spiritual unity. Paul described individual believers, each with one or more spiritual gifts, as composing the Body of Christ. That body has many individual members, which represent individual believers. So God joins many believers together to function as one body, with each individual member controlled by God. Each member of the Body of Christ plays an essential role, just as your hand allows you grasp things, while your liver plays an internal role, removing impurities from you body. Some members of the body we see easily, while others work quietly behind the scenes. Each individual member has a vital and crucial role to play in the proper working of the Body of Christ.
“For just as we have man members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually member of one another.”
God commands, builds and encourages spiritual unity with the Body of Christ. God used diversity of members to promote unity. Different functions promote unity because the Body of Christ needs each of those different functions, so that the entire Body of Christ can function properly. Consider your heart for a moment. No one looks at your heart and sees it pumping action. Yet, if your body suddenly told the heart that we no longer need you, what would happen to the rest of the body? It would die quickly. Likewise, if you look at your kidneys and say we no longer need you, you would die quickly. Yet, we depend upon those kidneys every day, even though we do not see them when we look at other people. Spiritual unity rests upon each believer functioning properly in the Body of Christ, and each believer appreciating the different functions the other believers provide to the Body of Christ. As we appreciate God’s plan for the Body of Christ, we grow in spiritual unity because we love the functional diversity among the members of the Body of Christ.
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;”
Spiritual growth occurs in the Body of Christ on both an individual level and on the community level. Individually, we use our spiritual gifts as God has bestowed them upon us. On on personal level, we grow as our love for one another expands without hypocrisy. We become more devoted to one another and giving preference to one another in honor. We grow in diligence, fervor in spirit, serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoting ourselves to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, and practicing hospitality.
“As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
1 Peter 4:10
At the moment of salvation, each believer received a spiritual gift from God. God chose the gift, and distributed each gift to each believer just as God willed. We now must use our spiritual gifts to serve other believers. So often, believers do not know what spiritual gifts they possess, and have no idea how to use them. Study the Spiritual Gifts section above, and especially the Bible passages concerning spiritual gifts. God called us all stewards of the spiritual gifts He gave to us. We should not neglect or hide our spiritual gifts. Those gifts He gave us to bless, encourage, and build up the Body of Christ. Without each member using the spiritual gift within him, then the Body of Christ will not experience the full growth and development God intended. Finally, we must be creatures of God who know the full love of God and display the grace of God given to us as we use our spiritual gifts to the glory of God.