Spiritual Gifts

 

Are Spiritual Gifts for Today?

Introduction


The central issue of this brief study is whether or not any spiritual gifts are divinely dispensed to believers today. Traditional charismatics as well as some non-charismatics answer that all spiritual gifts are operable today. This is commonly called a non-cessationist view. On the other hand, many other non-charismatics answer that certain spectacular gifts such as tongues, prophecies, and healings have ceased in this age while the other ordinary gifts are currently available to believers today. This may be referred to as a partial cessationist view. I am in basic agreement with this cessationist position which is ably argued by many leading evangelical authors.1 Support for the partial cessationist view may be briefly summarized with two basic tenets.

First, the purpose of the spectacular gifts such as tongues, prophecies, and healings was as a sign to authenticate the apostles and the apostolic message. Thus when the apostles died divine tongues were not needed and thus were no longer dispensed. Consider two explicit passages.

2 Corinthians 12:10 “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 11 ¶ I have become foolish; you yourselves compelled me. Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody. 12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles”.

Hebrews 2:3 “How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.”

Second, the New Testament clearly states that gifts will die away.  1 Corinthians 13:8 declares, ¶” Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.”

Everything seems to turn on the meaning of “that which is perfect” in v 10. If it refers to the coming of Jesus or heaven then these things have not yet ceased (the parousia view). If it refers to the Word, then these things ceased at the close of the Canon in approximately 96 AD (the canon view). When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, several of his epistles had not yet been written as well as the Petrine epistles, Hebrews, Luke and Acts, John’s gospel and epistles, Jude, and Revelation. There are several cogent factors that make the canon view attractive.

First, “perfect” (te,leioj) does mean “complete” in the sense of fully developed or reaching the intended end. This is the normal use of the term in the New Testament. As such the completion of the cannon fits the scope of meaning.

Second, in light of the purpose of tongues as a sign of the apostles, it makes sense that the term “perfect” refers to completion of the cannon when apostolic message was no longer needed.

Third, whatever “perfect” refers to it must be the same realm as the “in part” in v 9 as well as “partial” in v 10 (evk me,rouj). And the “in part” is referring to the “transmission of divine truth by revelation” (see Weaver in Grace Journal p 20, nd). This is substantiated with the association of “in part’ with “know” in vs 9; that is, one knows by understanding divine truth. Further, completeness is a correct opposite to “partial.” So up to this point divine truth is partial but when the cannon is finished it is “complete”.

Fourth, “perfect” is the neuter gender which more readily refers to a thing rather than a person. If it were a reference to Christ it would normally be in the masculine.

Fifth, the argument that 13:11-13 supports a parousia view can not be satisfactorily substantiated. Verse 12 simply emphasizes the temporary and partial nature of the gifts because there is a day coming when we will know in a different manner. We will be able to ask Jesus personally. (see Smith Tongues in Biblical Perspective 77; see Weaver for additional comments).

(Robert Thomas dismisses Smith’s work and advocates a fascinating hybrid view that combines the parousia and canon views in his article, “Tongues…Will Cease” in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, nd. He labels this the “body” view.)

Identification of spiritual gifts can be compiled from several New Testament passages that mention spiritual gifts in list form.

1 Corinthians 12:4 ¶ Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

1 Corinthians 12:27 ¶ Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. 29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? 30 All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? 31 ¶ But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.

Romans 12:4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; 7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Some also include Ephesians 4:7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. 8 Therefore it says, "WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN." 9 (Now this expression, "He ascended," what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

Thus, by comparing these lists and accounting for duplications, there are at least sixteen different gifts; more according to some compilations. Complete agreement regarding the definition of each gift is difficult to come by as well; however the following may represent a fairly common understanding among non-charismatics.

  • Word of wisdom – ability to communicate spiritual truth
  • Word of knowledge – ability to communicate practical truth
  • Faith – ability to believe what God has revealed and to act upon it
  • Healing – ability to heal the sick
  • Miracles – ability to perform non-healing miracles 
  • Prophecy – the office of a prophet who has the ability to be both a foreteller and forth-teller; 
  • Distinguishing of spirits – ability to determine whether certain utterances or works are from the Holy Spirit
  • Tongues – ability to speak in known foreign languages
  • Interpretation – ability to translate tongues into the language of the hearers
  • Apostles – the office of an apostle who has the ability to speak on behalf of Christ
  • Teachers – the ability to unfold the truth of God; perhaps a reference to pastors
  • Helps – the ability to render assistance and ministry to others
  • Administration – the ability to manage or direct 
  • Exhortation – ability to admonish to right action
  • Giving – ability to share generously
  • Showing mercy – ability to relieve those in distress 

  • Most proponents of the cessationist view creatively categorize the gifts. One common attempt is to categorize by passage. So Romans 12:4-8 represents motivational gifts; 1 Corinthians 12:27-31 and Ephesians 4:7-13 are ministry gifts; while 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 describe manifestation gifts. This, of course, is highly subjective. And because of duplication it is not very neat.

     

    Most proponents of this partial cessationist view also suggest that every contemporary Christian is endowed with at least one of the ordinary spiritual gifts. Generally, they also argue that every believer must discover his gift or gifts. This is necessary in order to promote personal self esteem and/or contentment, to enhance individual usefulness for God, and to enable the church to function efficiently and harmoniously.


    A Basic Proposal


    My concept is simple: all spiritual gifts have ceased. I hold that there are no spiritual gifts of any kind that are valid and necessary for Christian function today. Perhaps this could be called a full-cessationist position.

    I propose that spiritual gifts were essential during the period of time prior to the completion of the Canon of Scripture. During this first century the church grappled with unique problems regarding authority as well as function. Authority issues were solved by means of the apostles while function issues were addressed via the gifts. Following the close of the Canon and the death of the apostles, spiritual gifts were no longer dispensed. Scripture itself gives us all necessary authority and functional direction. In fact, it might be argued that, for some, obsession with spiritual gifts is evidence of dissatisfaction with Scripture.

    I offer the following functional definition of a spiritual gift. A spiritual gift is a supernatural ability divinely bestowed upon Christians during the first century intended to enhance daily life in Christ’s church.


    Some supporting factors


    Several considerations including some basic questions and concepts; nuances of certain passages; and the silence of Scripture regarding key matters lead me to the conclusion that no gifts are operable for today.


    The core concept of a spiritual gift


    The New Testament employs three terms to convey the gift idea. Do,ma  and its related family of words is the most common term (44 occurrences). This term is normally void of any supernatural element per se. It is often associated with grace. So the Holy Spirit is called a “gift” (Acts 2:38; 10:45; 11:17); salvation is described by this term (John 4:10; Romans 5:15-17, etc); and men are viewed as gifts to the church (Ephesians 4:8).

    A second term, merismo,j is used only twice in the New Testament (Hebrews 2:4; 4:12). The family of words appears 63 times in the New Testament and refers to divisions or parts. See discussion of Hebrews 2:3-4 below.

    The primary term, ca,risma is used seventeen times in the New Testament. It is built on the well known term, “grace” (ca,rij) that has the basic meaning outside of the New Testament of showing favor or causing happiness, delight, or joy. Grace is thus, that which delights. It is employed to speak of the good pleasure of the gods in showing favor upon men. In the New Testament this element of divine good pleasure is the characteristic of the message of salvation; thus the translation “grace.”

    Thus, ca,risma connotes “grace gifts”. This gift is the result (ma ending) of grace (ca,rij) in operation. The idea is that of extraordinary powers arbitrarily given to men by the supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit. As such it is a special endowment wholly apart from special talents or innate abilities. The statement of 1 Corinthians 12:8-11 captures this concept:

    For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

    Ephesians 2:8-9 lays out the “grace” nature of salvation. The similarity to dispensing gifts is striking: For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. In Romans 5:15-16, Paul uses both ca,risma and dwrea, family words in reference to salvation thus also demonstrating the supernatural character of gifts:

    But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. 16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.

    Clearly then, in the same sense that a person can not improve upon or add to salvation, so gifts can not be improved upon or added to (see also Romans 12:3 where there is a close connection between the gifts and “the grace given”). Apparently, gifts are unearned endowments from God that are granted exclusively at his choice. They can not be developed. They were complete at the time they were given. So, the apostles did not have to sharpen their gifts in the same way that a musician must hone his/her skills by practice. They did not get rusty because of misuse.

    These gifts were extremely necessary during the formative era of the church in order to meet the needs of God’s people and His church. In fact, I get the impression that others besides apostles received spiritual gifts during this critical era in the beginning of the church. Romans 12:6 for instance might imply this. Timothy is another case in point; he possessed a supernatural gift that he was to continually use (1 Timothy 4:13-14; 2 Timothy 1:6). Apparently Paul was given the authority to dispense spiritual gifts (Romans 1:11).

    Following the completion of the canon, these gifts were no longer needed. The apostles were dead and the apostolic message was in writing.


    A negative biblical perspective on gifts


    In light of the association of gifts with spiritual immaturity as well as their representation as an inferior way of life, I find it difficult to trumpet seeking after gifts.

    1 Corinthians 12:31 ¶ But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.

    1 Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

    1 Corinthians 14:20 ¶ Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature..


    The silence of Scripture regarding practices deemed crucial by gift advocates


    As I ransack the Scripture I am struck by the absence of instruction about key matters discussed by proponents of spiritual gifts for today.

    Discovery of Gifts Scripture never commands the believer to discover his or her gift or gifts. And no directions are given regarding how to go about this crucial task. If everyone in fact has one or more gifts, and if knowing gifts is so crucial to the Christian enterprise it would seem to me that believers would also be given a divine method for discovering his or her gifts. Today’s advice regarding how to discover one’s gift ranges from the vague suggestions by Charles Swindoll, “be informed, be open, be available, be sensitive, be sensible” (Spiritual Gifts, Charles R. Swindoll, p 4 1980) to a complicated 108 question test (Spiritual Gifts Inventory, Church Growth Institute, 1985). These and others like them are sorry substitutes for divine guidance.

    The emphasis in Scripture is on maturing in Christ, not discovering gifts. In fact, an emphasis on discovering gifts leads to unnecessary subjectivity, elevates the schemes of men, and diminishes the statements of Scripture. For instance, if man in a local church claims to have the gift of teaching, on what basis may a present leader debunk his claim? Who is right and how do we know?

    Use of Gifts The Scripture never suggests that a believer must have the appropriate gift in order to serve the church in a particular area (such as teaching or preaching). In fact, all believers are expected to perform acts of mercy or give for instance, without reference to spiritual gifts.

    Church Leaders and Gifts The Bible never requires that a man possess a certain gift in order to serve as an elder or deacon in a local church. The prerequisite is that a man must meet certain qualifications not that he must possess certain spiritual gifts. In fact, gifts do not appear in the list of qualifications for church officers recorded in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. And, it is perhaps not accidental that 1 Timothy 3:2 requires an elder to be “able to teach” (didaktiko,n) rather than gifted with teaching.

    Reception of Gifts If spiritual gifts are indeed for today, one might assume that individuals would receive them in the same fashion as non-apostles did in the New Testament – either by the laying on of hands of the presbytery, as in the case with Timothy (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6) or through the ministry of an apostle (Romans 1:11). On the other hand, it is probably a stretch to assume that the Holy Spirit always used either of these means to bestow a gift in the first century and thus need not be so limited today.

    Practical Application of Gifts If all gifts are operable today, or if only ordinary gifts are operable, then there really is no need for institutions that exist to train individuals for specialized Christian work. These prospective workers are fully equipped by the sovereign endowment of the Holy Spirit. The gifts given to them are complete; attempts to improve the supernatural are a waste of time and money.


    The gift list of 1 Corinthians 13:8-10


    I have briefly sketched above the notion that this passage teaches that gifts will cease and that the time of cessation is the completion of the canon of Scripture at the end of the first century. I further propose that the passage must refer to the cessation of either all the gifts or only the three listed in verse 8 (prophecies, tongues, and knowledge).

    As I noted above, many evangelicals use this passage to arbitrarily include other spectacular gifts within the scope of the three actually listed; such as healing, miracles, interpretation, apostleship, and distinguishing spirits. However, I believe it is difficult to support the notion that these three gifts are representative of all spectacular gifts only and that they are so used in this text.

    It is might be significant that when gifts are listed, spectacular gifts are included with ordinary gifts without distinction. In Romans 12:4-8 prophecy is mentioned alongside of teaching. In 1 Corinthians 12:27-31 tongues is spoken in the same breath with helps. Thus, I propose that the mention of the three gifts in 13:8 should be taken as a summary of all spiritual gifts. Several factors suggest this conclusion.

    First, the entirety of chapter 13 is an extended discussion of the “more excellent way” spoken of in 12:31. Love is set in contrast to gifts as a whole from its first mention in 13:1 to the last mention in 13:13. In fact, love is contrasted with both ordinary gifts (v 2-3) as well as the three gifts in verse 8. This may further suggest that gifts as a whole are in view in verse 8.

    Second, the context does provide an example of representative listing. Most would agree that 12:28-30 is not to be taken as an exhaustive list but rather as a summarized list of the whole. Gifts are prioritized as first, second, third, or “then” tier (v 28). Where should the gifts not listed appear? The non-mention of them probably means they are in the “then” category and certainly means that the list is representative rather than exhaustive. This is evident in vs 29-30 where the gifts of helps and administration are not repeated from v 28 and the gift of interpretation not mentioned in v 28 is added.

    Third, 13:8 contains an “if…if…if” (ei;te) construction. This structure is often used to denote a representative list of the whole rather than an exhaustive list. 1 Corinthians 10:31 may be an example, “whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (also 1 Cor 3:22, Col 1:16, etc).


    The scope of Hebrews 2:3-4


    This passage is a warning to the readers to pay careful attention to the message of salvation provided in the Jesus lest through neglect of it they forsake it. Almost as an aside, the writer adds a description of this message of salvation.

    Hebrews 2:3 how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.

    My own literal translation of 3b-4 goes something like this:

    “…which, after receiving a start in the sate of being spoken through the Lord by the ones who heard, unto us was confirmed. God bearing witness together with (them) by means of signs and wonders, and various powers and distributions of the Holy Spirit according to His desire.”

    A diagrammatical analysis proves helpful2,3. Several observations surface for our consideration:

    At the onset we see that the subject under discussion is the verification of the gospel message of salvation as conveyed by the main verb, “confirmed” (bebaio,w). What is involved here is a guarantee of a business transaction. The idea is to establish salvation – the concept is similar to that of Colossians 2:7, “having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.” The author suggests that this whole process “caused people to believe”4 the basic truth that salvation is to be found only in the Son. The divine plan of redemption culminates in Jesus and no other. To miss this is to do so at eternal peril.


    Also, it can be noted that there are apparently several layers involved in this process. Chronologically, the gospel messengers are the prophets (those “at the first”), the Lord, the apostles (“those who heard” and the “them” v 4), the author and his peers (“us”), and the readers. So, the prophets spoke of God’s salvation long before the incarnation. The Lord himself called men to this salvation. The apostles, who were closely bound to the Lord, spoke this message on behalf of the Lord. The next generation of leaders (this assumes that Paul was not the author of Hebrews) were recipients of this message from the apostles. And finally, the message is now being declared to the readers.

    This confirmation is not ongoing – it transpired in the past. The author is looking back on it. It was confirmed to him and his peers. He now wants the present readers to grasp this and act on this historical fact.

    The main verb governs the whole process, including the apostles; they too were confirmed. This confirmation is played out both generally and specifically in verse 4. Generally God “testified with” them. Concurrent with or as an integral part of the confirmation of the apostles was the work of God in adding his witness to these. This present participle of sunepimarture,w, literally, “to witness (marture,w) with (sun) upon (epi)”, is only used here in the New Testament (however marture,w is common). In other words, as they spoke, God attested to their validity!

    Specifically, he accomplished attestation this by means of signs (shmei,oij), wonders (te,rasin), various miracles (duna,mesin), and gifts (merismoi/j) of the Holy Spirit. All are plural dative of means. Paul reports in 2 Corinthians 12:12 that “the signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles”. In fact, Acts 2:22 says that God endorsed Jesus in the same manner, “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know“. The three terms in these two passages are identical to the Hebrews passage. They are all terms for the supernatural or miraculous. A sign is a distinguishing mark or signal by which something is known. A wonder is an unusual phenomenon that often portends a coming event. A miracle is a stupendous manifestation of supernatural power.

    Hebrews 2:4 adds a fourth element to this list of supernatural attestations of the apostles – “gifts of the Holy Spirit.” It is also dative plural. As mentioned above, merismo,j is used only here and Hebrews 4:12. The family of words appears 63 times in the New Testament and often alludes to shares or divisions geographically in the sense of region or district. So, the core concept is distributions or bestowals.

    The term is translated “gifts” in all major English Bibles. In several other contexts it refers to the life allotment God assigns to us such as described in 1 Corinthians 7:17, “Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the churches,”, or in 2 Corinthians 10:13, “But we will not boast beyond our measure, but within the measure of the sphere which God apportioned to us as a measure, to reach even as far as you.” Thus, this is a broad term that covers everything given for life, including spiritual gifts. This is especially evident by the addition of the modifier “of the Holy Spirit.” Clearly, the Holy Spirit produced (subjective genitive) these gifts.

    Further, there is no indication in the text per se that the plural “gifts” should be restricted to only some of the gifts, namely the spectacular ones. Any such attempt to limit the scope of the gifts is arbitrary. All gifts, even the so-called ordinary or non-miraculous ones, are included within the pale of this four element attestation of the apostles. In fact, the argument is that all gifts are the product of the supernatural endowment of God. See previous discussion.

    The sovereign operation of God in this whole process of attesting to the apostles is emphasized by the phrase “according to His own will.” This is strikingly similar to 1 Corinthians 12:11 where, in reference to the granting of spiritual gifts (v 8), Paul declares, But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

    So, the straightforward understanding of verse 4 is that these four supernatural items, signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts were God’s attestations of the apostle’s ministry and message. Some were uniquely tailored to authenticate the apostles’ message. Others were designed to validate the apostolically directed function of the church. They comprised the historic “confirmation.” When the apostles died and the canon of Scripture was completed, these attestations were extraneous.


    Conclusion


    As you might suspect, the bottom line is this: all spiritual gifts have ceased. No spiritual gifts, spectacular or ordinary, are given to today’s church. They simply are not needed. Indeed, spiritual gifts were essential during the apostolic era prior to the completion of the Canon of Scripture. During this first century the church grappled with unique problems regarding authority and function. Generally, authority issues were solved by means of the apostles while function issues were addressed via the gifts. We now possess the completed Scripture which gives us all necessary authority and functional direction


    Applications


    So what, you might ask. Have we made a mountain out of a mole hill? Well, perhaps. But I think not. I believe that honest and fresh investigation of this issue is needed today. My hope is that I have stirred the pot a bit.

    At any rate, I believe there several advantages to this view worth mentioning:

    First, the full-cessationist interpretation solves the problem of trying to determine what gifts are permanent and what are temporary. They are all temporary. Debate is non-germane.

    Second, the believer is relieved of confusion, perplexity, or uncertainty regarding what gift he/she has, how to discover it, and how best to put it use in Christ’s church. Rest easy, my friend. Further, with a clear conscience, churchmen can dismantle intricate programs design to produce an efficiently operating church based on a network of gifted people.

    Third, pastors can indeed enthusiastically embrace the task of equipping people for ministry because in fact his people (and he himself as well) are not divinely endued with special, fully developed gifts - Ephesians 4:11-12, “And He gave some … as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints…”.

    Fourth, this opens up a full and exciting discussion of abilities and talents. We must talk in these terms rather than gifts. Believers can be challenged to employ these natural and learned assets for service in the church as they attempt to work out the New Testament expectation that they be engaged in ministry – Ephesians 4:12, “…for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ…”

    Fifth, the tendency toward subjectivism in determining ministry suitability is minimized. The questions for a man to answer are does he desire to serve as a leader, does he meet the biblical qualification for leaders, is he otherwise predisposed toward leadership in the church, and does the church recognize this. He does not need to determine whether he possesses certain gifts or is in receipt of a divine call.

    Several applications are worth enumerating as well:

    First, regardless of whether a person is a non-, partial-, or full-cessationist, the emphasis must never be on discovering and using gifts. The primary focus must be on biblical obedience and ministry in the church which leads to maturity in Christ. Thus, the church should admonish and train believers to use their talents, abilities and interest in actively serving in Christ’s church.

    Second, this means that believers must aggressively use their natural talents, personal interests, and learned abilities productively in Christ’s church. As one author states, “In place of supernatural endowments, there are now spiritual enablement (i.e., abilities or talents enhanced by the new birth, Holy Spirit control, prayer, study, and teachers). God uses spiritual enablements, in providential blessing, to win the lost, edify the church and to meet the needs of individual believers. “5

    Third, don’t waste time in extensive introspective exercises. You basically know how you are wired. Get up and get going. Work smart; but work.

    Fourth, God is in the business of using people in his church; ordinary people. So, never claim you don’t have anything to offer Christ’s church. It is a cop out. Thus, there should always be more willing workers than there is work!

    Fifth, believers must carefully avoid a fascination with additional direct revelation. They must pour themselves into the task of knowing and applying the Scripture rather than longing for some powerful manifestation of the Spirit.



    Notes




    1 See Charles Smith in Tongues in Biblical Perspective; and Robert Gromacki in The Modern Tongues Movement.


    2 A simple English diagrammatical analysis of the NAU Hebrews 2:3b-4 might be:



    3 The Greek analysis of Hebrews 2:2-4 from Bible Works, version 7, 2007 is:


    4 See Louw-Nida Greek Lexicon, 31.91, Bible Works, vol 7, 2007.


    5 “Gifts Are Not For Today”, by Russell Camp, an unpublished paper, 1977.

     © Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2015. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source