Monday, October 31, 2011

on Leave a Comment

Gifts of the Spirit

          God is no respecter of persons; yesterday, today, tomorrow or any combination thereof.  There are a variety of gifts He gives to His followers, for ministry and growth in the Christian Life.  Salvation through Christ and love are without a doubt, the greatest of all.  What we will examine here are those gifts of the Spirit as listed in Mark, 1 Corinthians, Romans, Ephesians, Acts and Hebrews: wisdom, knowledge, apostleship, helps, administration, faith, healing, miracles, prophesy, distinguishing of spirits, casting out of demons, tongues, interpretation of tongues, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, mercy, evangelism, pastoring, preaching, hope and love. “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all.”[1]  Romans 1:11 says that the gifts are given to make us strong.

          The gift of tongues is the most questioned and maligned.  Those who do not have the gift of tongues don’t seem to understand its usefulness, or perhaps are jealous because of a feeling of lack.  I will deal mostly with tongues here, as it seems to be the bone of most contention.

          I lack the expertise to determine the differences between stopped, abolished and cessation.  These are terms used to describe the disappearance of the gifts of tongues, knowledge and prophesy.  I do have some knowledge of that which is perfect, and His name is Jesus. Love will never fail. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.  Now we see through a glass darkly; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”[2] When that which is perfect is come (Jesus second coming, at the end of the age), He will show us everything.  “God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.”[3]   I have heard the Bible is considered, by some, to be ‘that which is perfect’.  I am sitting here with a King James Version, a New International Version and a New Testament in 26 translations.  It is somewhat difficult to discern which one is the perfect one.  There might also be a jot or a tittle out of place.  The Bible may not be perfect word for word, but it is perfect thought for thought.

          It is true that there are more important gifts than tongues: unless you have reached the point of total exasperation and you need tongues to express yourself to God in a way that you are, at that time, incapable of doing.  Have you ever been at a loss for words? 
     There are different kinds of tongues.  First, there is the type used strictly in praise and worship.  Second, is the type used to deliver a message from God, which is followed by interpretation (this is distinctly different from prophecy).  This is the type that my wife first heard in a service at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Maryland, during a Bible study.  A woman gave a message in tongues and when she finished the teacher (Father Phil Zampino) would not continue until the interpretation was given.  After some length of time a black couple in the front row stood up and told them that the woman was speaking in Swahili, and it was an answer to prayer as to whether to stay in America or return to Africa.  This same thing went on at Pentecost when the crowd wondered how the Apostles could speak in their various languages. “Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?’”[4]  Third is the type that is used to express yourself   in prayer, to the Father, when you are not sure how to express yourself, and ask the Holy Spirit to take over. 

          At Pentecost, tongues were given as a ‘sign’[5] of the filling of the Holy Spirit.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them”[6].  No, you don’t have to speak in tongues to be filled with the Spirit.  There are those that are filled with the Spirit, but have never reached the point of overflowing.  Paul said that he wished we all spoke with tongues[7], but as in all things with God, in order.  In Acts 19:6,”Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.”. “Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.”[8]Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.”[9]  In the Law it is written: ‘Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to the people, but even then they will not listen to me,’ says the Lord.”[10] They heard those speaking in tongues, and praising God. Then Peter said, ’should anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.’ So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ”[11].

          I have seen the counterfeit gifts that are the result of the Devil trying to lead people astray.  If the gifts were not real and in use by the Spirit today, there would be no reason for the Devil to counterfeit them.  I have seen the abuse of some of the gifts, even in Christian churches.  I attended a service at a Lakeland, Florida church where ‘Holy laughter’ was happening.  It was disruptive to the service and when I asked a woman why she kept doing it, she said she couldn’t stop.  That was a lie.  The Spirit of God always allows us to control ourselves.  A member of my Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship chapter was prone to give false prophesy and word of knowledge (I have a message for you from God).  I went to him in secret, and he didn’t stop.  I went with other members, and he didn’t stop.  Finally, we expelled him from among us.  All things must line up with the word of God.  One of the gifts I do have is the discerning of spirits.

          No one, not even God, is going to force you to speak in tongues.  The Holy Spirit is a gentleman.  He will never force you to do anything (that is why you have to accept the salvation of Jesus).  The difference between Pentecost and the continuing use of tongues is that now it has to be requested, and is not the only way to know if someone is filled with the Spirit. 

          Not every Christian is given the gift of tongues.  For that matter, apparently, no human being is given all of the gifts of the Spirit.  The Spirit distributes the gifts as He pleases[12]. 

          There seems to be some doubt if tongues are a genuine spiritual gift when manifested today.  There are those who say that the gifts of tongues, prophesy and knowledge have all passed away.  In other words, these gifts were only for the early church and petered out when John petered out.  This seems somewhat selective when you consider the list of all the gifts.  The knowledge you are gaining in reading this must be different than that knowledge of the early church.  There are some who say that it is possible to have a genuine experience of tongues that is “not against scripture” [13](but) “is not Biblical”[14].  Since the Bible is the scripture referred to by Christians, I believe this to be a perversion (distortion) of scripture.  If anything is scriptural, it’s Biblical.  In Mark 16:17 Jesus said “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues.”

          There are those who describe differing dispensations of the church.  Dispensationalism is a nineteenth-century evangelical development based on a futurist biblical hermeneutic that sees a series of chronologically successive "dispensations" or periods in history in which God relates to human beings in different ways under different Biblical covenants.”[15]  I know of two covenants: the Jewish one in the Old Testament and the New Testament one from Christ.  The church is the body of Christ. The dispensation we are living through is the salvation of Christ, available through grace, and faith.  The old dispensation was under the law of Moses. 

          Since God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow; we either believe Him or we don’t. 

[1] 1 Corinthians 12:4, NIV
[2] 1 Corinthians 13
[3] Romans 11:29
[4] Acts 2:5-12 NIV
[5] Acts 2:4
[6] Acts 2:4
[7] 1 Corinthians 14:5
[8] 1 Corinthians 14:39
[9] 1 Corinthians 14:22
[10] 1 Corinthians 14:21, Isaiah 28: 11-12
[11] Acts 10:46-48
[12] 1 Corinthians 12:11
[13] “Balancing the Christian Life” by Charles C. Ryrie, pg.171
[14] “Balancing the Christian Life” by Charles C. Ryrie, pg.171
[15] Wikipedia


Post a Comment