Jesus' Parables for Disciples
Detail of 'Healing the Blind Man,' stained glass, All Saints Church, Rickling, Essex, UK
In Lesson 8 we began with some general truths about spiritual gifts, and then studied Paul's list of gifted leaders in Ephesians 4:11 -- apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. But we need to continue our survey with additional gift lists.
The longest gift lists are found in 1 Corinthians 12, beginning with verses 8-10. These are "spiritual gifts" (verse 1), literally "spiritual things" (pneumatikos), "having to do with the Spirit."
"8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues." (1 Corinthians 12:8-10)
These are all gifts that are "given through the Spirit ... by means of the same Spirit ... by the same Spirit ... by that one Spirit." The Spirit is the Person through whom the gifts are given.
Paul begins with two related gifts:
"To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit...." (1 Corinthians 12:8)
Both of these gifts are given in the form of a "message" (NIV), "utterance" (NRSV, ESV), "word" (KJV). The Greek word is the very common noun logos, "a communication whereby the mind finds expression, word." It is used primarily of oral expression, and could well mean, "message."
Paul mentions two varieties: wisdom and knowledge. In English we differentiate between these by saying that knowledge is related to knowing facts or having understanding, while wisdom is knowing what action to take in a situation. In Greek, the differentiation between the words seems to be similar.
Here is what makes sense to me. The word of knowledge is a supernatural ability to know something that helps you minister to a person. This is more than an acute ability to "read" people -- though God uses that too. It is supernatural, something you wouldn't have known otherwise.
We see the word of knowledge in Jesus' ministry in his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. He told her,
"You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband." (John 4:17-18)
The result of him sharing this information with her was her belief that he was a prophet, and her evangelization of her whole town.
I've seen the word of knowledge used in conjunction with ministries of counseling, exhortation, and healing. Before praying for the sick (James 5:14, etc.), we should pause and ask God to show us how to pray. When we're quiet before God, he can speak to us.
With some gifted people, God reveals the exact problem, sometimes a root that is deeper than the reason the person came for prayer. On occasion a person with this gift might say, "Someone in this building has such-and-such situation. God wants to ...." Yes, I've also seen this abused and counterfeited, but that doesn't mean there isn't a true gift of knowledge.
Jesus models the word of wisdom in his confrontations with the Pharisees. They try to trick him into taking a position on Roman taxation. He asks for a denarius coin, inquires whose image is on the coin, and replies, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's" (Matthew 22:18-22). It was an amazing answer to a trick question. Another example is when Jesus is brought the woman taken in adultery and asked whether she should be stoned (John 8:1-11).
In our day, we see an occasional situation where God shows someone in the church what action to take that is unexpected and profound. Perhaps this is a gift needed by church leaders so that they might guide Christ's church well. Or perhaps, when you're praying for someone, God shows you how to pray.
As you think about it, both the word of knowledge and the word of wisdom have a lot in common with the gift of prophecy. They are words (or at least some kind of understanding) that God gives us, mediated to us by the Holy Spirit. There's also a sense in which that's true of speaking in tongues and interpretation, which we'll consider shortly.
Q1. Is it legitimate to use Jesus as our example in the
use of spiritual gifts? Or was he so different than we are that we can't pattern
our ministry after his example? Where do you see the gift of knowledge in the
Old Testament? In the New Testament?
Now Paul mentions the gifts of faith, healing, and miracles -- gifts that are clearly in the supernatural realm.
"9 ... To another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers...." (1 Corinthians 12:9-10a)
The gift of faith is not garden-variety saving faith that has been apportioned to all (Romans 12:3), but enormous faith beyond anyone's expectation. This kind of faith often results in great works.
One of the best examples of this is the ministry of George Müller (1805-1898), director of the Ashley Down orphanage in Bristol, England, who cared for more than 10,000 orphans over his lifetime. He made it a practice never to tell people of the financial needs, but to bring them to God in prayer. I encourage you to research his life. Some of the greatest ministries and churches have been built by men and women with this gift of faith. Sometimes leaders of huge churches have this gift in operation.
Gifts of healings are well-documented in Jesus' life, but they are also a mark of the early church's ministry. The end of Mark's gospel declares:
"And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name ... they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well." (Mark 16:17-18)
There are many examples of miraculous healings in the book of Acts.
What isn't as well known is that miraculous healings continued to occur throughout the history of the church up to the present day. It is well-documented. I have a Southern Baptist pastor friend who invites people for healing prayer after his services and carries a bottle of anointing oil with him at all times. His church has seen many healings -- some gradual and a few immediate. This example could be multiplied many thousands of times.
Note that the text reads literally, "gifts of healings" (KJV). This probably indicates a variety in this gift. It seems that some people with the gift of healing "specialize," that is, they have better results healing certain types of illnesses than others. Why? I don't know Some healers work with individuals, others with crowds of people. It depends upon how one is gifted.
In the twentieth century we saw the rise of healing evangelists who ministered to the masses. T.L. Osborn (1923-2013) and Ray Jennings (1932-2013), for example, ministered primarily outside the United States. I once met Tommy Hicks (1909-1973) whom God used in 1954 to lead an amazing healing evangelism crusade in Buenos Aires, Argentina with the blessing of the country's president Juan Perón. Oral Roberts (1918-2009) and Kathryn Kuhlman (1907-1976) ministered primarily within the United States. Through these individuals and many, many others, hundreds of thousands of people have come to Christ. As in Jesus' ministry, people come for the healings and then many find saving faith in Christ.
Reports from China and Latin America in our own day indicate that the presence of miraculous healings is one of the causes of the explosive growth of the church.
Perhaps you believe you have a healing gift. I encourage you to talk to your pastor about it and seek opportunities to pray for people who are sick.
The phrase "working of miracles" (NRSV, ESV, KJV), "miraculous powers" (NIV), is two words: the noun energēma, "activity as expression of capability," and dynamis (from which we get our words "dynamic" and "dynamite"). It means, "power, might, force," here, "a deed that exhibits ability to function powerfully, deed of power, miracle, wonder." The miracles of Moses -- opening the Red Sea, water from the rock, etc. -- were followed by miracles done by the prophets. In addition to Jesus' healing miracles, he stilled the storm, walked on the water, fed the 5,000 and 4,000, and caused the fig tree to wither -- among others.
Healing miracles can happen almost regularly as gifted people offer Christ's healing in crusades, outdoor meetings, and churches. Non-healing miracles, on the other hand, are less predictable. But many, many missionaries come home with stories of God's miraculous provision. You may have seen miracles yourself. A person with a gift of miracles may have the gift of faith working alongside the gift of working miracles. How do miracles build up the church? By both encouraging the believers and causing faith in unbelievers.
Q2. (1 Corinthians 12:9) In the twentieth century we saw
the evangelistic power of preaching combined with healing the sick. Where in
Jesus' ministry do you see this combination? Where in Paul's ministry? In
Peter's ministry? In Philip's ministry?
Now to gifts of prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues, and interpretation that are more controversial in our day.
"... To another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues." (1 Corinthians 12:10b)
Prophecy is a gift whereby God brings a message to an individual or a congregation through a person. I discussed prophecy in Lesson 8), so I won't repeat it here. I wish I had time to review Paul's guidelines for prophecy in the church, but you can read them in 1 Corinthians 14.
"The ability to distinguish between spirits" (ESV), "discernment of spirits" (NRSV), "discerning of spirits" (KJV), "distinguishing between spirits" (NIV) is the special ability to be able to discern the spirits that motivate or oppress a person. The Greek noun used is diakrisis, "the ability to distinguish and evaluate, distinguishing, differentiation."
Jesus modeled this ability for us in several of his healing miracles where evil spirits were involved. Someone calculated that 30% of Jesus' recorded ministry was in direct conflict with unclean spirits. Jesus could discern what spirits were afflicting a person, so he could know how to heal a particular person. Thus discernment of spirits can be a valuable gift for a member of a church healing team or a team that seeks to exorcise an evil spirit. If exorcism is a discrete spiritual gift, then it goes hand in hand with the gift of discernment. People who have "deliverance ministries" use these gifts extensively.
Both Paul and John warn believers to be careful not to believe every spirit, but to discern (1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 John 4:2-3). Discernment of spirits is a vital gift to protect a church from charlatans, false teachers, and people who have deep spiritual contamination (that is, have some kind of demonic oppression or possession). If the pastor doesn't possess this gift, he or she should find someone in this congregation who has this gift and partner with that person to alert the leaders if something is discerned. We in the "scientific age" tend to discount evil spirits. But they are very real, and happy to be able to operate in "stealth mode" without being recognized for what they are.
Speaking in tongues (singular glōssa, plural glōssalalia) is the supernatural ability to speak in another language. It was used evangelistically on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4) and seems to have been common in the early church (Mark 16:17). Paul probably refers to tongues when he says, "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels..." (1 Corinthians 13:1). Tongues with interpretation can -- like prophecy -- build up the congregation (1 Corinthians 14:13).
Sometimes tongues and prophecy accompany a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:45-46; 11:15-17; 19:1-7). Pentecostals see speaking in tongues as the necessary "physical evidence" of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. (I discuss this in detail in Lesson 6.) Nevertheless, Paul clearly teaches that God hasn't given everyone the gift of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:30b).
As I mentioned in the Preface, I first experienced speaking in tongues on the occasion of a special experience with the Holy Spirit that Pentecostals would call "the baptism with the Spirit." To this day I occasionally pray or sing in tongues as an alternate way to worship God. I believe speaking in tongues is common in our day, though the ability to speak in tongues doesn't make one "spirit-filled" or especially spiritual.
Paul seemed to use tongues as a kind of personal "prayer language" (1 Corinthians 14:13-19). Paul's use of praying in tongues wasn't ecstatic or uncontrollable (as it may have been on some occasions when people first received the Spirit in the Book of Acts). Paul said that when a person prays in tongues "his spirit prays" rather than his mind. Paul also sang in tongues in worship (1 Corinthians 14:15b). He found -- as many in our day have found -- that praying in tongues edified him, that is, built him up. Though he prayed in tongues privately, not in public, so as not to confuse people.
Can speaking in tongues be abused? Yes. Paul prohibits speaking in tongues in a public service unless someone is present to interpret it (1 Corinthians 14:27), a directive that is widely ignored in our day. Can tongues be counterfeited? Absolutely. Speaking in tongues was abused in Corinth and in many churches today that don't follow Paul's instructions. But that is no reason to reject it completely.
Sometimes in our day, you hear of incidents where God uses the gift of tongues evangelistically to convince someone of his reality -- in their own language. And for many, speaking in tongues is a faith doorway to exploring other supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit.
"Interpretation of Tongues" is the ability to interpret speaking in tongues, so that the whole congregation might understand what is being said. Thus, tongues plus interpretation seems to effectively equal prophecy. Why is speaking in tongues necessary? Why not go directly to prophecy? I don't know.
Before we leave this list of nine gifts, consider the truths contained in verse 11.
"All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines." (1 Corinthians 12:11)
Verse 11 explains five things about spiritual gifts.
- The Holy Spirit empowers the gifts; they don't operate according to your energy or power, but God's.
- The Holy Spirit distributes the gifts. God's purpose with the gifts is to have a healthy, balanced, powerful Church that is a place of healing and equipping to do Christ's work. This requires a wide variety of gifts, not just a couple of popular, crowd-aweing gifts that everybody asks for.
- The Holy Spirit gives at least one gift to every person. This verse suggests that each Christian has at least one spiritual gift. The distributive pronoun is hekastos, "each, every."
- The Holy Spirit distributes the gifts individually. The NRSV translates well the phrase, "to each one individually." The Spirit has gifts especially suited to the way he has "wired" you. That doesn't mean you are now fully ready to minister them with power, but as you yield yourself to God you will be.
- The Holy Spirit distributes the gifts according to his own will and plan. It's not your plan, but God's. If you don't take time to discern and learn to use the spiritual gifts God has for you, your life and future will be stunted, unfulfilled. On the other hand, we're told to "earnestly desire the greater gifts" (1 Corinthians 12:31a, 14:1).
Q3. (1 Corinthians 12:11) What are lessons do you learn
from verse 11? What is the role of the Holy Spirit in spiritual gifts?
Now we skip that to get to the last few verses of 1 Corinthians 12 to see another gift list. Note that Paul gives preeminence to apostles, prophets, and teachers as he does elsewhere (Ephesians 2:20; 4:11).
"And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues." (1 Corinthians 12:28)
We've looked at most of these gifts already. But let's observe a couple we haven't seen before.
In 1 Corinthians 12:28f, Paul describes a gifting as, "those able to help others" (NIV), "forms of assistance" (NRSV), "helping" (ESV), "helps" (KJV). The noun is antilēmpsis, "helpful deeds." The main idea is that of "taking up" or "grasping," or perhaps our idiom, "giving a hand."
In Romans 12:6 the same gift is called by a different name: "service" (NIV, ESV), "ministry" (NRSV, KJV).
This could refer to the work of the deacons, giving help to the poor and sick. But it could also refer to the person who runs the sound system at church or keeps the building clean, who cooks the meals, and locks up at night. You may think of this as a lowly gift, but it is a vital gift. Without a lot of people exercising this gift, the work of the church would grind to a halt. And you also might get a promotion. In Jesus' Parable of the Minas, we read:
"Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities." (Luke 19:17)
Leaders need to delegate tasks to others in order to accomplish the overall mission. The person with the gift of helps or service may be the person who assists the leader to carry out these tasks. Paul's apprentice Timothy had this role as a young man. Later, he was sent out on his own as a leader, but initially he was Paul's vital assistant, his "right-hand" man, his "factotum." Far from being a menial role, this is a vital task to enable another person to fulfill his or her minister effectively.
"Gifts of administration" (NIV), "forms of leadership" (NRSV), "administrating" (ESV), "governments" (KJV) is kybernēsis, "administration." It derives from the verb kybernaō, which means "to steer," then "to rule." The kybernḗtēs is the "helmsman," then the "statesman." Those who guide the local church are usually the pastor and some elders or board members. They not only minister to the flock through prayer and the word, but also make decisions about the direction the church should go (1 Timothy 5:17). As I'll explain in a moment, I think that the gift of leadership in Romans 12:8c is the same as this gift, but uses a different Greek word to describe it.
I've attended lots of church board meetings in my lifetime. I've seen some people who are excellent in working through to a solution, people who can grasp complex issues and see possible solutions. And then I've seen obstructionists and people who just didn't seem to be able to understand what the issues were, people with no gift whatsoever in administration.
Dear friends, when you're selecting leaders for your congregation, don't just put someone there because they want power or you need to "fill a slot." Rather select people whom God has gifted for a role of guiding the ship, for leading. Otherwise, you cripple the church with non-visionaries who will stand in the way of where God wants to lead your congregation.
I've found that some people are excellent administrators -- supervisors, if you will. Businesses send promising people for special training to help their businesses flourish. Sometimes people with "spiritual" gifts look down on the managers and administrators. We shouldn't! If it weren't for people whom God has gifted with administration, the church would be an extremely uncoordinated, inefficient body!
Paul has taught that a body has different parts, that everyone doesn't have the same role. So he asks a series of rhetorical questions, the answer to each being, "No."
"29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets?
Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?
30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?" (1 Corinthians 12:28-30)
Here Paul suggests that not everyone will be gifted the same way. Does that mean that God can't use you to heal, if you don't have that gift? No. God can use every Christian that way occasionally, just as you can lead a person to Christ, even if you're not a gifted evangelist. But, for the most part, we need a variety of gifts to make up a healthy body.
In Romans 12:3-8, Paul picks up a theme he developed in 1 Corinthians 12 -- that we are one body with many members. He notes: "These members do not all have the same function" (Romans 12:4). Paul continues:
"6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully." (Romans 12:6-8)
As an example of what he means, Paul lists some spiritual gifts, most of which aren't mentioned in Paul's longer lists. Notice that Paul emphasizes that these various "functions" are "gifts" (Greek plural charismata) "that which is freely and graciously given, favor bestowed, gift."
"We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith." (Romans 12:6)
Gifts are given "according to" (kata) the grace (charis) that is given (didōmai) us. In other words, some are given a large portion of a particular gift, others less.
A few disciples are given an abundant gift of healing. In others it is more modest. That's okay. God gives the gifts as he sees fit. After all, in Jesus' Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), the servants received money to do business, "each according to his ability" (verse 15), his particular abilities and capacities at that time. As we're faithful to use our gifts for the Lord, our abilities may well increase (Matthew 25:21).
Verse 6 and 7 give three of the gifts repeated from previous lists: prophecy, teaching, and serving (which would correspond to the gift of helps in 1 Corinthians 12:10f). But the others are new. Let's consider them.
"8 [If a person's gift] ... is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully." (Romans 12:8)
The first gift mentioned in verse 8 is "encouraging," using the verb parakaleō, and the noun form, paraklēsis. If you recall, we studied this word group before when we examined passages about the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete in Lesson 3. The noun and verb forms have the basic idea of "to call to one's side" to assist (para-, "to the side of" + kaleō, "to call"). The word is used in two particular ways, which must be determined by the context of the passage.
- Exhort. "To urge strongly, appeal to, urge, exhort, encourage," which sometimes becomes "request, implore, entreat." Sometimes the person we are ministering to needs to be strongly urged to continue on Christ's path.
- Encourage. "To instill someone with courage or cheer, comfort, cheer up." At other times, a person needs to be encouraged, lifted up, helped to see the power of God and his love.
These are two sides of the same coin. In Christ, the person with the gift of exhortation/encouragement comes alongside to provide what is needed. Exhortation isn't just harping on the negative, the punishment, the warning. (Nor is it "the gift of criticism," that some Christians seem to excel in.) It is also lifting up and pointing towards Christ. If I understand it correctly, this gift is normally exercised one on one, rather than in preaching. I expect that Christian counselors often minister with this gift.
In the world and in the church we have many who need someone who will come alongside them and encourage them. Who will exhort them to God's best in their lives. What an important gift!
Paul describes the next gift, "if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously" (Romans 12:8b). The exercise of this gift should be with generosity, not stinginess. All Christians should be giving to support the work of the Kingdom through their local church and other opportunities God gives them. But there are some who have a special gift, a special ministry in this area, and are able to provide funds sacrificially that make a big impact on the Kingdom.
This is often a gift that God gives to those who have some of the world's goods -- but not always. Sometimes people with very little are, by God's abundant grace, able to contribute or channel to the Kingdom relatively large amounts.
The dangers of wealth, of course, are several fold. Wealth can lessen our dependence upon God for our source of supply, which can lead to stinginess rather than generosity (1 John 3:17). It can create in us a supposed superiority and pride towards the poor (1 Timothy 6:17). It can be seen as a suitable reward for cleverness or hard work, rather than a gift from God to be used for his purposes. And we can begin to love money, mammon, in such a way that it becomes our god (1 Timothy 6:5-10; Matthew 6:24; Hebrews 13:5). But in those who can overcome these temptations, the world's goods can be used greatly by God to further his Kingdom.
Those who exercise the gift of giving find great joy. Jesus himself said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).
"If [a person's gift] is leadership, let him govern diligently." (Romans 12:8c)
Paul's gift-list in 1 Corinthians 12:28-30 includes "gifts of administration" (kybernēsis) that we examined earlier in this lesson. As I mentioned there, I think it's likely that the gift of leadership here is included in the group of administrative gifts mentioned there, especially since "gifts" is plural in 1 Corinthians 12:28, designating a variety of administrative gifts. Pete Wagner, on the other hand, sees leadership as a separate gift. I think he is imposing current leadership terminology on the first century -- though it makes little difference.
Let's consider the Greek word used in our passage. "Leadership" (NIV), "the leader" (NRSV), "the one who leads" (ESV, NASB), "he that ruleth" (KJV), is proistēmi, "to exercise a position of leadership, rule, direct, be at the head (of) ." This word is also used elsewhere in the New Testament in the context of leadership (1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Timothy 3:4-5, 12; 5:17). Another word (hēgeomai) is used to describe leaders in Hebrews and elsewhere in the New Testament (Hebrews 13:7, 17, 24; Acts 15:22; Luke 22:26; Matthew 2:6). You see leaders described as elders, overseers, deacons, synagogue presidents, etc., each word with its own flavor.
Indeed, it's quite possible that Paul refers generically to "those who lead," rather than specific gifts other than apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. Having said that, I do believe that God gifts people with finely-tuned leadership gifts.
Does the "gift of leadership" differ from "gifts of administration"? I doubt it. I would group them together. However, as with all gifts of the Holy Spirit, God adapts the gift to our particular spiritual-mental-personality "wiring," so the gifts will vary with the person God has gifted. I do acknowledge the difference in modern leadership theory between leaders and managers/administrators, but I don't think we see that distinction in the New Testament.
As a new senior pastor I found that I had lots to learn to manage a congregation and school well that had 27 full- and part-time employees. I read all sorts of books and worked hard to become a competent manager. But I don't think this was a spiritual gift for me for two reasons: (1) I didn't really enjoy managing people, and (2) though I was good at it, I wasn't "great." I was eager to get on to my real gift of teaching. On the other hand, I believe that God has gifted me to some degree as a visionary and leader of people.
There are all sorts of varieties of administrative, management, and leadership gifts. If God has gifted you in this way, you may find yourself in a leadership role in your congregation in a place where you can bless people by your leadership. However, you don't become a gifted leader because you've been elected to this role by the congregation. I've seen some horrible elected leaders in churches over the years. But if you've been chosen, ask God to bestow on you his Holy Spirit gifts of administration and leadership. You may find that you flourish in this kind of role. Or you may find that God wants to use you elsewhere in his work.
I see two chief pitfalls of congregational leaders: First, some people fall in love with power and become tin-pot dictators in a congregation. They fail to heed Jesus' stern command:
"The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves." (Luke 22:25-26)
A second failing I've seen among church leaders is laziness, lack of diligence. They go to meetings, perhaps, but don't really seek to understand the issues or give themselves to the leadership role. As Paul tells us in our passage:
"If [one's gift] is leadership, let him govern diligently" (Romans 12:8c)
We see the idea of "earnest commitment in discharge of an obligation or experience of a relationship, eagerness, earnestness, diligence, willingness, zeal." If God has called you to leadership, give yourself to it fully.
The final gift in Paul's Romans 12 gift-list is mercy.
"If [one's gift] is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully." (Romans 12:8d)
"Showing mercy" (NIV, KJV), "the compassionate" (NRSV), "the one who does acts of mercy" (ESV) is the verb eleeō, "to be greatly concerned about someone in need, have compassion/mercy/pity." Like many of the spiritual gifts we have considered, all Christians must show mercy and compassion. Christ modeled this for us in his ministry (Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 20:34; Luke 7:13; 10:33). Showing compassion is the outward expression of genuine agape love.
However, some people have a special ability to empathize with people who are hurting, and to minister to them far beyond what might seem "normal." I think of grief counselors and oncology nurses, for example. They are taught professionally to distance themselves emotionally from the people they work with so they can survive emotionally themselves. But God can use people with the gift of mercy beyond a person's normal capacity. This gift provides a powerful healing ministry, but it comes with the cost of having to bear the pain of others (Galatians 6:2). If you have this gift you will bless many people! You may end up visiting people in the hospital or prison, caring for families by distributing the church's benevolence funds to those in need (Acts 6:1-4), or encouraging the brokenhearted.
One danger that people with this gift experience is that they can burn out by trying to do it all themselves, without relying on the Holy Spirit, the giver of the gift. They fail to tend to their own spiritual devotional life and to their own emotional needs. There is a place for boundaries in your life, so that you can have space to care for your own family. Another danger is complaining. Thus Paul exhorts the person with the gift of mercy: "Let him do it cheerfully" (Romans 12:8d). God can use you powerfully as you give yourself to this Holy Spirit energized gift!
There are certainly gifts of the Holy Spirit not given in the major gift lists in the Bible. The gift-lists cover the most common categories. Below are some additional gifts that are recognized by many. Some have related passages that indicate they are gifts. Others are deduced to be special gifts.
- Celibacy (1 Corinthians 7:7).
- Voluntary poverty (1 Corinthians 13:1-3; 2 Corinthians 8:9).
- Martyrdom (Matthew 5:11; Luke 12:11-12; 1 Corinthians 3:1-2; John 21:18-19).
- Hospitality (1 Peter 4:9-10).
- Exorcism (Mark 3:15; Luke 10:16-24).
- Music (1 Chronicles 16:41-42, 2 Chronicles 5:12-13, 2 Chronicles 34:12, 1 Samuel 16:15-19, Deuteronomy 31:22).
- Craftsmanship, Artistic Expression (2 Chronicles 34:9-13, Exodus 30:22-25, Exodus 31:3-11, Acts 16:14, Acts 18:3).
In many of the above gifts, all Christians have some responsibility (hospitality, for example). Others may have some musical or artistic talent, but don't use it for the Kingdom. It's from God, but functions as a spiritual gift, according to our definition, when it is used to build up the body and expand the Kingdom of God.
If I were to take the time, I could argue each from Scripture. But this is just a survey. You get the idea. They have a huge variety and we should celebrate that variety, not let it divide us.
Even if your gift isn't on a list, it doesn't mean the Holy Spirit hasn't gifted you for a special ministry. We know from nature that God delights in the unique, in the endless detail that we see in our world.
There's one additional New Testament passage that teaches us about spiritual gifts, this time not from Paul, but from Peter. It doesn't list additional gifts (except hospitality), but explains how to use them in the way God intended.
Notice that Peter doesn't include any distinction between spiritual gifts and natural talents or abilities. If we find a "gifted" musician, we don't question the source of the gift -- obviously the musical gift is from God. Whether it is "spiritual" or not depends upon how it is used. If it is used to earn a living it is no less from God than if it were used on the worship team in a church to build up the body. It becomes a "spiritual gift" when it is yielded to the Holy Spirit to be used for God's glory and to serve others according to God's direction. Christians are exhorted in this passage to consider every gift from God as a trust to be used to serve others. When God gives us gifts -- spiritual or natural -- we are to see ourselves as: (1) servants of others and (2) stewards of God's property.
The phrase: "faithfully administering" (NIV), "good stewards" (KJV, NRSV, ESV) is the adjective kalos, "good," and the noun oikonomos, "manager of a household or estate, (house) steward, manager." A steward works for the master or house owner, and is responsible to see that the needs of all the members of the household are met (see Luke 12:42-46). The steward is held responsible by the master to fulfill the responsibilities completely and thoroughly.
Peter mentions two kinds of gifts in verse 11, gifts of speaking (Greek laleō) and gifts of serving (diakoneō).
"If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If any one serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 4:11)
There's nothing especially memorable about the Greek words -- they are used very, very commonly. But it's the manner in which we exercise God's gifts of speaking and service that is remarkable.
- Speaking ... as one speaking the very words of God.
- Serving ... with the strength God provides.
Notice that in both cases, while God provides the substance, we must provide the willingness to be available and obedient. We are spokesmen for God, not for ourselves. We are serving on behalf of God. It doesn't come from us, but from God, and we are to minister the gifts with this clear recognition. The glory is to go to God and not to us.
Many years ago when I was still in college, a young woman spoke some words to me that I believe were prophetic. "You will speak for me before many people," she said. "When people praise you, never take the glory for yourself. Remember that it is I who give this through you. Always pass that glory on to me." Peter gives an identical instruction in a doxology that closes this section:
"So that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 4:11b)
Q4. (1 Peter 4:10-11) If people are always promoting
themselves and pointing to how God is using them, what does that say about them?
About their sense of self-worth? About their maturity? Their realism? Their
humility? What spiritual gifts has God given you, and how are you using them to
We've outlined the spiritual gifts mentioned in Scripture. As I've said, a gift is typically an area that you excel in and in which God often uses you. However, realize that the Holy Spirit is within you. He can do anything, anytime. You may not have the gift of healing, but the Holy Spirit can lead you to pray for someone who is healed. You may not have the gift of evangelism, but the Holy Spirit can use you to lead someone to Christ any time he chooses -- so long as you are willing to follow the Spirit's lead. Just because you don't have a particular gift, don't resist the Spirit. He delights in surprising us, so that we depend on him rather than on what we're used to.
I live on property with lots of oak trees. They die, they lose limbs. So my chainsaw is an important, essential tool. However, I must constantly remember that a chainsaw is the #1 most dangerous hand power tool there is. Spiritual gifts are necessary and powerful, but we must never forget the dangers.
Right in the middle of Paul's discussion of spiritual gifts -- sandwiched between 1 Corinthians 12 and 1 Corinthians 14 -- Paul warns us of the danger of lusting for spiritual gifts for the wrong motives.
"1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
Over my fifty years of ministry I've seen some wonderful gifts God has bestowed for the building up of his church. Powerful! Marvelous! Effective! But along with those gifts I've seen way too much self-serving and arrogance. To get it right we need to seek love with all our hearts, or the gifts we wield for God will be largely wasted.
The best example of a spiritually-gifted man with no character is Samson (Judges 13-16). The Holy Spirit certainly gifts him with strength (Judges 13:25; 14:19). But he is almost entirely motivated by selfishness, lust, vindictiveness, revenge, and pride. If there had been good in him as a young man, it is overwhelmed with selfishness as a man. Yes, God used him, even his willfulness (Judges 14:4). But I can't help but wonder how much more effective he would have been for God if he actually loved God and possessed a God-like character.
I could name a number of high-profile, greatly-gifted Christian leaders who are deeply flawed. You could too. Who amass wealth and call it God's blessing. Who gather power but use it to domineer over people. Who preach righteousness but are morally corrupt. Who tell people about Jesus' power to deliver but are slaves to drugs or alcohol. Who display God's power over sickness but are full of pride over what they can do. Who feel superior to others because of their spiritual gifts.
Yes, when we grow in power, we grow a bigger target on our back for the enemy to shoot at. I understand that. But what grieves me is that we can bring so much discredit to God and damage to his Kingdom when we fail to obey Jesus' clear commands.
James and John, the Sons of Thunder, the sons of Zebedee, had their mother ask Jesus for a special place for them in his Kingdom -- to be seated at his right and left. The disciples heard of it and were indignant.
"25 Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave -- 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:25-28)
Spiritual gifts are about serving others, not gathering power.
So, my friend, why do you want to speak in tongues? To impress people with your spirituality or prove that you have been baptized with the Spirit? Why do you want to heal? To relieve suffering or to wield power?
It has become obvious to me that possession of a spiritual gift of any kind is no indication that a person is deeply spiritual or possesses the fruit of the Spirit. I don't understand why; I just realize that it is so.
The truth is we are all flawed people whom God uses in spite of ourselves. So in our proper quest for spiritual gifts with which to serve God we must be on our knees before him asking for his fruit to grow within us. Asking him for love for those we serve. Asking for true humility that doesn't exalt itself.
Yes, we are told to "Eagerly desire the greater gifts," but the "most excellent way" to use these is the way of love (1 Corinthians 12:31).
- The word of knowledge is a supernatural ability to know something that helps you minister to a person (1 Corinthians 12:8; John 4:17-18).
- The word of wisdom is a supernatural ability to know what direction to go or how to respond to a situation (1 Corinthians 12:8; Matthew 22:18-22; John 8:1-11).
- The gift of faith is a supernatural faith to see God's purpose accomplished (1 Corinthians 12:9).
- Gifts of healings (1 Corinthians 12:9) are well documented in Jesus' ministry and of the early church, often as a precursor to evangelism (Acts 8:6, 12), and continue to the present.
- The gift of miracles is the supernatural ability to see extraordinary miracles outside the realm of physical healing. This may be coupled with the gift of faith (1 Corinthians 12:10)
- Discerning of Spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10) is the ability to discern what spirit motivates a person. It is often coupled with a ministry of healing or exorcism, and can provide protection for a congregation.
- Speaking in tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10) is the ability to speak in a language one hasn't learned. While speaking in tongues sometimes accompanies the reception of the Spirit (Acts 10:45-46; 11:15-17; 19:1-7), tongues can continue as a kind of edifying personal prayer and worship language (1 Corinthians 14:13-19).
- Interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10) provides the meaning in the dominant language of a message given in tongues. Paul instructs us not to speak publicly in tongues unless a person with the gift of interpretation is present (1 Corinthians 14:27). Interpreted tongues seem to have a similar function to prophecy.
- The Holy Spirit (a) empowers the gifts, (b) gives at least one gift to every person, and (c) distributes the gifts according to his own will and plan (1 Corinthians 12:11).
- The gift of helps (1 Corinthians 12:28) or service (Romans 12:6) is given to many to assist in the mission of the church as needed. It sometimes shows up in those who assist leaders.
- The gift of administration (1 Corinthians 12:28) or leadership (Romans 12:8) is given to those who lead the congregation. Some see a difference between the gift of administration and the gift of leadership, but they are likely two ways of describing the same gift.
- No one has all the gifts, thus we need different gifted members of the body to provide a complete and rounded ministry (1 Corinthians 12:28-30).
- Gifts are given by the Spirit in the proportion He desires -- some more, some less (Romans 12:6).
- The gift of exhortation and encouragement is provided both to urge people to appropriate action as well as to encourage the weak and discouraged (Romans 12:8). It is not the "gift of criticism" and is usually ministered individually, not in preaching.
- The gift of giving or stewardship (Romans 12:8) is the supernatural ability to give financially towards needs of the Kingdom.
- The gift of mercy (Romans 12:8) is the special ability to show compassion to the hurting and needy.
- Additional gifts (not in gift lists) may include gifts of celibacy, voluntary poverty, martyrdom, hospitality, intercession, exorcism, music, artistic expression, and craftsmanship.
- We are stewards of the spiritual gifts God has entrusted to us; they are meant to be shared faithfully (1 Peter 4:10-11).
- The Bible warns us of the danger of seeking spiritual gifts out of wrong motives. The gifts of the Spirit are not bestowed on the basis of spiritual merit. As we desire spiritual gifts, we must seek God diligently so that the fruit of the Spirit will grow in us and we will minister the gifts of the Spirit in love.
What I long to see is a congregation of God's people who are constantly exercising the gifts of the Spirit entrusted to each member. The result will be a community of believers that is rich in God's ministry as a healing place, and a place of empowerment to go out into the world around them, declaring that the Kingdom of God is at hand and bringing multitudes of people to Christ and into the fellowship of believers.
It will help you to identify what gift or gifts God seems to have given you. But this takes some time and experience and feedback from others
Some churches administer Spiritual Gifts Surveys, such as the Modified Houts Questionnaire (which you can find online). These typically offer a series of perhaps 100 to 125 statements. For each statement you answer if the statement is true for you much (3 points), some (2 points), little (1 point), or not at all (0 points). Then you add up the points for each spiritual gift. The top scorers might identify a gift God has given you.
The chief problem I see with these tools is that they require some Christian experience to be much help. A teenager taking the questionnaire won't find as much help as someone with more life experience. So realize that Spiritual Gift Questionnaires have their limitations.
If you've never taken such a survey, why don't you find a survey online, take it, and see what it tells you. Perhaps you have taken such a survey. Then dig out the results. Whichever the case, take your results to a Christian friend or pastor -- someone who knows you well -- and ask this person to give you feedback, even if you've done this before. Do the gifts that come out on top seem to fit who you are?
As you begin to identify possible gifts, start praying that God will teach you how to use this gift or gifts more effectively. Look at scriptures about each gift. Look for opportunities to exercise the gift.
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Years ago, I took classes in seminary from C. Peter Wagner, who wrote the pioneering book, Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow (Regal Books, 1976). I still remember his advice. You have to spend your day doing many necessary things that may be unrelated to your gifts. But try to carve out significant time to do things that relate directly to your spiritual gifts. In that way God can use you greatly.
Your assignment this week is two-fold: (1) take a Spiritual Gifts Questionnaire and get feedback from others about your gifts. (2) Pray about the motives that underlie your desire for spiritual gifts. Surrender your motives to God and ask him to purify them.
Father, thank you for the gifts you distribute and energize through your Holy Spirit. I pray that we might learn to use these gifts continually and productively for your glory. That our churches might be rich communities of gifted people who can minister healing to the poor and needy and declare that God is among us. Advance your Kingdom through us. I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
"To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues." (1 Corinthians 12:8-10)
"All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines." (1 Corinthians 12:11)
"And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?" (1 Corinthians 12:28-30)
"[If a person's gift] ... is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully." (Romans 12:8)
"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 4:10-11)
 Present passive indicative of didōmi, "to give."
 The preposition dia, a marker of instrumentality or circumstance whereby something is accomplished or effected, "by, via, through" (BDAG 224, 3a).
 The preposition kata, a marker of norm of similarity or homogeneity, "according to, in accordance with, in conformity with, according to" (BDAG 512, 5aδ).
 Logos, BDAG 602, 1aβ.
 Gnōsis, BDAG 203, 1.
 Sophia, BDAG 934, 1bα.
 J. Sidlow Baxter recounts this history in his book Divine Healing of the Body (Zondervan, 1979), pp. 29-105. See also Morton T. Kelsey, Healing and Christianity (Harper & Row, 1973), pp. 129-199.
 For more information, read C. Peter Wagner, How to Have a Healing Ministry without Making Your Church Sick (Regal, 1988) or Wagner, How to Have a Healing Ministry in any Church (Regal, 1992), now out of print, but available used on Amazon.com.
 Dynamis, BDAG 263, 3.
 Diakrisis (BDAG 232, 1) is from the verb diakrinō, "to differentiate by separating, separate, arrange."
 Energeō, "to bring something about through use of capability, work, produce, effect" (BDAG 335, 2).
 Gives" (NIV), "allots" (NRSV), "dividing" (KJV) is diaireō, "distribute, divide, apportion" (BDAG 229).
 Hekastos, BDAG 298, b.
 The pronoun is idios, "one's own," here, "pertaining to a particular individual, by oneself, privately" (BDAG 466, 5).
 The verb is boulomai, "to plan on a course of action, intend, plan, will" (BDAG 182, 2b).
 Antilēmpsis, BDAG 89. Antilēmpsis is a compound word, formed from anti-, "the mutual efficiency of two" (Thayer, p. 50) + lēmpsis, from the very common verb lambanō, "take, take hold of, grasp, seize."
 Diakonia, "an administrative function, service as attendant, aide, or assistant" (BDAG 230, 5).
 Factotum, "a person having many diverse activities or responsibilities, a general servant" (Merriam-Webster 11th Collegiate Dictionary).
 The noun is diakonia (from which we get our word "deacon"). But I don't think "service" here refers to the church "office" of deacon." Rather, it is the general idea of serving. Sometimes the word is used of an assistant, an aide (BDAG 573).
 H.W. Beyer, kybernēsis, kybernḗtēs, TDNT 3:35-37.
 "Function" (NIV, NRSV, ESV, NASB), "office" (KJV) is praxis (from which we get our words "practice" and "practical"). Here it means, "a function implying sustained activity, acting, activity, function" (BDAG 859, 1). The KJV translation, "office," uses an older meaning of the word "office," that is, "the proper or customary action of something, function" (Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary).
 Charisma, BDAG 1081, b.
 Verse 6 uses the phrase "in proportion" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "according to the proportion" (KJV) of the faith we have." "Proportion" is analogia, "a state of right relationship involving proportion, proportion" (BDAG 67).
 Dynamis, generally, "capability", here, "ability to carry out something, ability, capability" (BDAG 263, 2).
 Parakaleō, BDAG 765, 2, 3.
 Parakaleō, BDAG 765, 4.
 The New Testament uses two primary words for preaching: kēryssō, "to make public declarations, proclaim aloud" (BDAG 543, 2b), and euangelizō, generally, "bring good news, announce good news," specifically, "proclaim the gospel." (BDAG 402, 2).
 The phrase "contributing to the needs of others" (NIV), "the giver" (NRSV), "the one who contributes" (ESV), "he that giveth" (KJV) is the participle of metadidōmi, "give (a part of), impart, share" (BDAG 638).
 "Generously" (NIV), "in generosity" (NRSV, ESV), "with simplicity" (KJV) is the adverb haplotēs, "simplicity, sincerity," from the word haplous, "single" (BDAG 104, 1). Here, and in 2 Corinthians 8:2; 9:11, 13, the context can support the interpretation, "generosity, liberality" (so Otto Bauernfeind, TDNT 1:386-37), though Danker thinks it is better understood in the sense of "sincere concern, simple goodness" (BDAG 104, 2).
 Pete Wagner defines the gift of leadership as "the special ability that God gives ... to set goals in accordance with God's purpose for the future and to communicate these goals to others in such a way that they voluntarily and harmoniously work together to accomplish these goals for the glory of God" (C. Peter Wagner, Your Spiritual Gifts Will Help Your Church Grow (Regal, 1976).
 Proistēmi, BDAG 870, 1. An ESV alternate translation, "gives aid," recognizes the possibility that this might mean "to have an interest in, show concern for, care for, give aid" (BDAG 870, 2), though I don't think this is likely.
 Hēgeomai, "to be in a supervisory capacity, lead, guide" (BDAG 434, 1).
 "Govern diligently" (NIV), "in diligence" (NRSV, KJV), "with zeal" (ESV) is the preposition en, "in, with" and the noun spoudē, which has the basic meaning of "swiftness, speed" (BDAG 939-940, 2).
 Eleeō, BDAG 315.
 "Cheerfulness" is hilarotēs (from which we get our words "hilarious, hilarity"). The Greek word means, "quality or state of cheerfulness, opposite of an attitude suggesting being under duress, cheerfulness, gladness, wholeheartedness, graciousness" (BDAG 473). A related word encourages us to be "cheerful givers" (2 Corinthians 9:7).
 "Gift" is the Greek noun charisma, which we've seen before: "that which is freely and graciously given, favor bestowed, gift" (BDAG 1081).
 "Serve" (NIV, NRSV) or "minister" is the Greek verb diakoneō, "perform duties, render assistance, serve" (BDAG 229-230). This verb can indicate menial tasks, such as waiting on someone at the table or more exalted tasks, such as serving God himself.
 "Grace of God," that is, gifts that God bestows upon us without any thought to us deserving them or earning them. We shouldn't ever get puffed up because God has chosen to use us in a certain way. It is all God. It is all grace. It is all a gift -- not for us to keep, but for us to share.
 Oikonomos, BDAG 698.
 "The very words" (NIV, NRSV) and "oracles" (KJV) is the Greek noun logia, "a saying" (BDAG 598). In this case our words need to be "sayings of God," not just our opinions.
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