Gifts of the Holy Spirit (4) Discovering and seeking spiritual gifts

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by Wayne Grudem – Paul seems to assume that believers will know what their spiritual gifts are. He simply tells those in the church at Rome to use their gifts in various ways: “if prophecy, in proportion to our faith…he who contributes, in liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness” (Rom. 12:6-8). Similarly, Peter simply tells his readers how to use their gifts, but does not say anything about discovering what they are: “As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10).

But what if many members in a church do not know what spiritual gift or gifts God has given to them? In such a case, the leaders of the church need to ask whether they are providing sufficient opportunities for varieties of gifts to be used. Though the lists of gifts given in the New Testament are not exhaustive, they certainly provide a good starting point for churches to ask whether at least there is opportunity for those gifts to be used. If God has placed people with certain gifts in a church, when these gifts are not encouraged or perhaps not allowed to be used , they will feel frustrated and unfulfilled in their Christian ministries, and will perhaps move to another church where their gifts can function for the benefit of the church.

Beyond the question of discovering what gifts one has is the question of seeking additional spiritual gifts. Paul commands Christians, “Earnestly desire the higher gifts” (1 Cor. 12:31), and says later, “Make love your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy (1 Cor. 14:1). In this context, Paul defines what he means by “higher gifts” or “greater gifts” because 1 Corinthians 14:5 he repeats the word he used in 12:31 for “higher” (Gr. Meizon) when he says, “He who prophesies is greater than he who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified” (1 Cor. 14:5). Here the “greater” gifts are those that most edify the church. This is consistent with Paul’s statement a few verses later when he says, “Since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up of the church” (1 Cor. 14:12). The higher gifts are those that build up the church more and bring more benefit to others.
But how do we seek more spiritual gifts? First we should ask God for them. Paul says directly that “he who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret” (1 Cor. 14:13; cf James 1:5, where James tells people that they should ask God for wisdom).

Next, people who seek additional spiritual gifts should have right motives. If spiritual gifts are sought only so that the person may be more prominent or have more influence or power, this certainly is wrong in God’s eyes. This was the motivation of Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8:19, when he said, “Give me also this power, that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit” (see Peter’s rebuke in vv. 21-22). It is a fearful thing to want spiritual gifts or prominence in the church only for our own glory, not for the glory of God and for the help of others. Therefore those who seek spiritual gifts but “have not love” are “nothing” in God’s sight (cf. 1 Cor. 13:1-3).

After that, it is appropriate to seek opportunities to try the gift, just as in the case of a person trying to discover his or her gift, as explained above. Finally, those who are seeking additional spiritual gifts should continue to use the gifts they now have, and should be content if God chooses not to give them more. The master approved of the servant whose pound had “made ten pounds more,” but condemned the one who hid his pound in a napkin and did nothing with it (Luke 19:16-17, 20-23)—certainly showing us that we have responsibility to use and attempt to increase whatever talents or abilities God has given to us as his stewards. We should balance this by remembering that spiritual gifts are apportioned to each person individually by the Holy Spirit “as he wills” (1 Cor. 12:11), and that “God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose” (1 Cor. 12:18). In this way Paul reminds the Corinthians that ultimately the distribution of gifts is a matter of God’s sovereign will, and it is for the good of the church and for our good that none of us have all of the gifts, and that we will need to continually depend on others who have gifts differing from ours. These considerations should make us content if God chooses not to give us the other gifts that we seek.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit (2) How many gifts are there?

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See Part 1 here – Gifts of the Holy Spirit – What are spiritual gifts?

from Wayne Grudem’s  BIBLE Doctrine – Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith.

In Part 1 We read regarding Spiritual Gifts in general- 1)Spiritual gifts in the history of redemption and 2) The purpose of gifts in the New Testament age. You can read part 1 here.

The New Testament lists specific spiritual gifts in six different passages. See table here –1 Corinthians 12:28 , 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, Ephesians 4:11, Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 7:7, 1 Peter 4:11.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit:

  1. apostle   – (1-8 from 1 Cor. 12:28)
  2. prophet
  3. teacher
  4. miracles
  5. kinds of healing
  6. helps
  7. administration
  8. tongues
  9. word of wisdom   – (9-13 from 1 Cor. 12:8-10)
  10. word of knowledge
  11. faith
  12. distinguishing between spirits
  13. interpretation of tongues
  14. evangelist        –   (14-15 from Ephesians 4:11)
  15. pastor-teacher
  16. serving    –  (16-20 from Romans 12:6-8)
  17. encouraging
  18. contributing
  19. leadership
  20. mercy
  21. marriage     – (21-22 from 1 Cor. 7:7)
  22. celibacy

1 Peter 4:11 whoever speaks (covering several gifts) and whoever renders service (also covering several gifts). Click to read more…

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Gifts of the Holy Spirit – What are spiritual gifts?

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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

(4)  miracles

(2) prophecy                                    1 Corinthians 7:7

12. distinguishing                             21 marriage

between spirits                                  22 celibacy

(8) tongues

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.

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