from Wayne Grudem’s BIBLE Doctrine – Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith.
In previous generations, systematic theology books did not have chapters on spiritual gifts. But the 20th century has seen a remarkable increase in interest in spiritual gifts, primarily because of the influence of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements within the church.
We may define spiritual gifts as follows: A spiritual gift is any ability that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in any ministry of the church. This broad definition includes both gifts that are related to natural abilities (such as teaching, showing mercy, or administration) and gifts that seem to be more “miraculous” and less related to natural abilities (such as prophecy, healing, or distinguishing between spirits). The reason for this is that when Paul lists spiritual gifts (in Rom. 12:6-8); 1 Cor. 7:7; 12:8-10, 28; and Eph. 4:11) he includes both kinds of gifts. Yet not every natural ability is included here, because Paul is clear that all spiritual gifts must be empowered “by one and the same Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:11), that they are given”for the common good” (1 Cor.12:7), and that they are all to be used for “edification”(1 Cor. 14:26), or for building up the church.
1. Spiritual gifts in the history of redemption. Certainly the Holy Spirit was at work in the Old Testament, bringing people to faith and working in remarkable ways in a few individuals such as Moses or Samuel, David or Elijah. But in general there was a less powerful activity of the Holy Spirit in the lives of most believers. There was little effective evangelism of the nations, there was no casting out of demons, miraculous healing was uncommon(though it did happen, especially in the ministries of Elijah and ELisha), prophecy was restricted to a few prophets or small bands of prophets, and there was very little experienceof what New Testament believers would call “resurrection power” over sin, in the sense of Romans 6:1-14 and Philipians 3:10.
The pouring out of the Holy Spirit in new covenant fullness and power in the church occurred at Pentecost. With this a new era in redemptive history was inaugurated, and the new covenant empowering of the Holy Spirit that had been prophesied by the Old Testament prophets (cf. Joel 2:28-29) had come to God’speople; the new covenant age had begun. And one characteristic of this new era was a widespread distribution of spiritual gifts to all people who were made partakers of this new covenant — sons and daughters, young men and old men, menservants and maidservants– all received a new covenant empowering of the Holy Spirit, and it would also be expected that all would receive gifts of the Holy Spirit then as well.
2. The purpose of spiritual gifts in the New Testament age. Spiritual gifts are given to equip the church to carry out its ministry until Christ returns. Paul tells the Corinthians, “You are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:7). Here he connects the possession of spiritual gifts and their situation in the history of redemption (waiting for Christ’s return), suggesting that gifts are given to the church for the period between Christ’s ascension and his return. Similarly, Paul looks forward to the time of Christ’s return and says, “When the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away”(1 Cor. 13:10)…The pouring out of the Holy Spirit in “power’ at Pentecost (Acts 1:8) was to equip the church to preach the gospel (Acts 1:8)–something that will continue until Christ returns.And Paul reminds believers that in the use of spiritual gifts they are to “strive to excel in building up the church” (1 Cor. 14:12).
But spiritual gifts not only equip the church for the time until Christ returns, they also give a foretaste of the age to come.Paul reminds the Corinthians that they were “enriched” in all their speech and all their knowledge, and that the result of this enriching was that they were “not lacking in any spiritual gift” (1 Cor.1:5-7). Just as the Holy Spirit himself is in this age a “down payment”(2 Cor. 1:22 cf. 2 Cor. 5:5; Eph. 1:14) of the fuller work of the Holy Spirit within us in the age to come, so the gifts of the Holy Spirit gives us are foretastes of the fuller working of the Holy Spirit that will be ours in the age to come.
In this way gifts of insight and discernment prefigure the much greater discernment we will have when Christ returns. Gifts of knowledge and wisdom prefigure the much greater wisdom that will be ours when we “know as we are known” (cf. 1 Cor.13:12). Gifts of healing give a foretaste of the perfect health which will be ours when Christ grants to us resurrection bodies. Similar parallels could be found with all the New Testament gifts. Even the diversity of gifts should lead to greater unity and interdependence in the church (see 1 Cor.12:12-13, 24-25; Eph. 4:13), and this diversity in unity will itself be a foretaste of the unity which believers will have in heaven.
3. How many gifts are there? The New Testament epistles list specific spiritual gifts in six different passages. Consider the following table:
1 Corinthians 12:28 Ephesians 4:11
1. apostle (1) apostle
2. prophet (2) prophet
3. teacher 14 evangelist
4. miracles 15 pastor-teacher
5. kinds of healing
6. helps Romans 12:6-8
7. administration (2) prophecy
8. tongues 16 serving
1 Corinthians 12:8-10 (3) teaching
9. word of wisdom 17 encouraging
10. word of knowledge 18 contributing
11. faith 19 leadership
(5) gifts of healing 20 mercy
(2) prophecy 1 Corinthians 7:7
12. distinguishing 21 marriage
between spirits 22 celibacy
13. interpretation of Tongues
1 Peter 4:11
Whoever speaks (covering several gifts)
Whoever renders service (covering several gifts)
(Tomorrow in Part 2 – more on the number of gifts, the variation in the strength of the gifts and discovering and seeking spiritual gifts)
Also in this series – in Part 3 – the debate on the validity vs. cessation of the spiritual gifts.