Tuesday, October 2, 2012

On Spiritual Gifts

Spiritual gifts, or at least certain spiritual gifts, have become a hot potato in the Christian church today. Yet the issues involved do not fit the concept of the gifts as put forth in Scripture. It states that God empowers us to do His work (2 Corinthians 3:5,6; Colossians 1:28,29; Ephesians 2:10). Nowhere is it stated that this empowerment is for an elite group within the body of Christ. Rather, all believers have a place within the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Romans 12:3-5; Ephesians 4:13-16). Therefore, we are commanded to carry out God's purpose in our lives (1 Peter 4:10,11; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11,12). The picture is of a body made up of different parts working together, each respecting the other person's contributions. We have turned this on its head.

Some claim that the gifts are the possession of only certain Christians and that the possession of certain gifts is a sign of spirituality. But Scripture says that God distributes the gifts as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:4-11) and different people have different gifts (1 Corinthians 12:28-30); nor is the possession of a particular gift evidence of spirituality (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). We are permitted to desire a particular gift from God (1 Corinthians 12:31; 14:1,13), but God can always say no to our requests (Matthew 26:39; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; 1 Chronicles 17:1-15). However, there is no basis in Scripture for saying part of the gifts have passed away. The common passage used for this says they will continue till we meet Christ face to face (1 Corinthians 13:9-13). Also, why is Paul telling the Corinthians not to forbid people to speak in tongues if tongues are about to pass away and it will be wrong to speak in them (1 Corinthians 14:39). Nor are we ever told that we have to know our spiritual gift to serve God or that it is wrong to ever serve God outside our spiritual gift. I am not against people knowing what their spiritual gifts are, but I do not think it is necessary.

Spiritual gifts mean that we all have something we can do to serve God, and it is not necessarily the same thing. And every contribution is important. (This does not mean we should never consider whether we could do more, but this is based on our gifts and situation, not on comparisons with others.) And no one should believe their gifts make them better than others, but realize the importance of every member of the body. Now I do believe there is a place for exercising discernment in terms of spiritual gifts (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 12:2,3; 1 John 4:1-6). But we should beware of jumping to blanket conclusions, rejecting or accepting all claims without examining them. However, it is often best to leave these things in the hands of God, and give each other the benefit of the doubt. For it is wrong to rush too quickly to judgment (1 Corinthians 4:3-5; Romans 14:3,4; 8:31-39).

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