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What is Spiritual Gifting?

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 1 Corinthians 12:1

Welcome Young Believer! The topic of spiritual gifting has become perhaps one of the most controversial among different branches of the Church. Sadly it has become a reason that many churches end up breaking apart over differences in opinion regarding what God means by Spiritual Gifts, if they are still in existence today, and who should have them.

Some branches of the church believe that Spiritual Gifts such as prophesy, speaking in tongues, and miracles do not happen today, and if they do happen they are by the authority of a demonic spirit therefore not to be trusted. Other branches believe that if a Christian does not possess all the gifts of the Spirit then they are not really saved. Still other branches have different interpretations of how each gift manifests. This argument is not a new one, as Paul seeks to address the misuse of Spiritual gifts that had already begun to take place in Corinth.

I want to be as transparent as possible in this post so you should know the background that I'm coming from is non-denominational/Baptist but not from the tradition of Calvinism. You should know this because I believe strongly in seeking the answers to these questions directly from God's Word, but I'm only human and will undoubtedly be coming at this with some bias in perspective because of the teaching I've sat under most of my life. If you're completely new to the faith, what I've just explained probably won't mean much to you but it could be a helpful reference in the future as you continue to study these subjects more for yourself.

What are Spiritual Gifts?

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11

These are gifts given by the Holy Spirit when you become a Born-Again Believer. They include but are not limited to: words of wisdom, words of knowledge, abundant faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues. Why say they are not limited to this list is because Paul lists more gifts elsewhere in his letters. What all these gifts have in common are their purpose in the life of the Church.

Why Are We Given Spiritual Gifts?

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:1-3

I think to understand what the gifts are, you have to understand why they were given. What purpose are they to serve? The pagans of Paul's day sought power in their idols, but found them deaf, mute, and powerless. However, there were still plenty of examples in their world just like the Egyptian magicians who faced off against Moses who exercised unexplainable power that Christians would come to recognize as demonic. In order to make the distinction between these "acts of power" from demonic sources versus true Gifts of the Spirit, Paul explains that no one speaking in the Spirit of God can call His Son accursed. Likewise, those who were speaking by demonic power could not declare, "Jesus is Lord." By this we understand that the Gifts are given to glorify God and build up His Church.

To be thorough I'm going to include Paul's description of these Gifts and the Body of Christ from his letter to the Romans. While it may seem somewhat repetitive when you compare it to his description in the letter to Corinth, I believe it well worthwhile to study both in their context because it may clarify any questions you may have about this gifting.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:1-21

The letter to Ephesus in Chapter 4:1-11 also speaks to this building up of one another in the Church in love so that we may grow in unity, in understanding, and in maturity of faith. It explains that happens when each member of the church is working properly one with another according to the gifts that Christ has given them in His Spirit.

Does Every Christian Possess All the of Gifts the Spirit?

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. 1 Corinthians 12:12-31

Paul asks rhetorically this exact question at the end of his description of the Body of Christ that is the Church. The answer is no, each individual Christian does not possess all of the Gifts of the Spirit, however, it is good to desire these Gifts. There are some Gifts you may only need once, such as the Apostles on Pentecost when they spoke in the many tongues of the people who had gathered in Jerusalem proclaiming to them the Gospel so they could understand it in their native languages. What need do you have of such a gift if you never leave a place where everyone speaks the same language that you do? Now here is where we get into some rocky territory because you will come across Christians who believe that speaking in tongues means the Spirit coming over someone and them speaking incoherently often in the middle of a church gathering. My gentle question for this belief is, how does this act edify, exhort, or comfort the church? How does it help the people around you to better recognize, know, and understand the truth of the Gospel? Perhaps it is my ignorance or some lack of faith, but I am of the strong belief that the Gift of Speaking in Tongues is that of speaking in real-world languages that people can understand not in incoherent babble. However, Paul goes further into this point in 1 Corinthians 14:1-25 instructing the Church that if there is one gifted in speaking in tongues then there should also be someone there to interpret what is said, otherwise that person is to be silent and pray for the interpretation.

Other gifts you may be given by the Spirit you will use throughout your life such as hospitality and abundant faith. Some are gifted as prayer warriors others in their generosity but all work together for the glory and building up of the Kingdom of God!

What is the Greatest Gift?

After Paul instructs us to desire the higher gifts he tells us that then he will show us a more excellent way. He continues,

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13

Love is the greatest gift and I believe that it is one we are all given in one way or another because each of the other gifts must be done out of love. Still, there will be things about Spiritual gifting that are a mystery to us. Why does God give one gift to this person and not another? We may not know until we reach eternity, don't be discouraged by this!

Serve One Another and Glorify God With the Gifts You Are Given

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:7-11

For those who believe that some of these gifts are no longer at use in the Church today, I understand your skepticism but encourage you not to immediately write off these experiences as demonic but test the spirits just as you do your teachers by the Word of God that you might not miss out on worshiping God for the great things He is still doing in and through His Church.

For those who do believe that all of these gifts are still very powerfully at use within the Church, I encourage you also to test them! Do not be taken in by someone who comes with "power" acting and teaching in such a way that things are done and proclaimed that are not to the glory of God but only the glory of human beings. We have been warned that in the end, the Beasts who are against God and His Church will perform signs and wonders deceiving many! Therefore, I say again to test what you have seen and heard by the Word of God!

If you have any other questions about spiritual gifting, please feel free to leave them in the comments below. This is absolutely one of those topics that will be added for discussion in the forum as soon as we have enough members to have a meaningful discussion. I highly encourage you to find a mentor in the faith who can help personally walk you through many of these issues as you grow into a mature believer. This is one journey you were never meant to take alone!

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