Understanding Spiritual Gifts Today

"Pentecost," Quilt 80 x 112 by Linda Schmidt, Textile Artist, Quilter and Designer.
"Pentecost," Quilt 80 x 112 by Linda Schmidt, Textile Artist, Quilter and Designer.

Are The Gifts Active And Available Or Have They Ceased?

What is your belief relative to spiritual gifts? Do you believe all the spiritual gifts remain available today or do you believe that some gifts ceased with the apostolic era?

The issue of whether or not all the spiritual gifts are available today has caused much debate and division in the body of Christ. Extreme views exist among various Christian camps. There are groups that promote the gift of tongues as a sign of salvation while others condemn it as a work of the devil. What’s more, each group validates their position using scriptural support. Sadly, these extremist movements within the body of Christ fail to exercise grace in regard to these questionable gifts and end up throwing out the baby with the bath water so to speak. Paul exhorts every member, “Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds” (Rom 14:5). In reality, there will be gray or dimly lit areas of biblical understanding among believers (1 Cor 13:12). The differences of opinion should leave us enough room for constructive discernment and discussion on minor doctrinal issues regarding the spiritual gifts. Therefore charity, not chastisement, needs to be exercised on both sides of the theological fence. My position in the matter is that I believe all the spiritual gifts remain active and available today within the body of Christ and did not cease with the apostolic era. We will examine the three primary arguments put forward regarding spiritual gifts: (1) the exception of gifts; (2) the elevation of gifts; and (3) the exploitation of gifts.


The Exception Of Gifts

Since we have the bible we do not need the spiritual gifts that have ceased with the apostolic era. This argument centers around 1 Corinthians 13:8-13. Those who stand convicted that the bible has come to completion believe that the spiritual gifts are no longer needed. Yet the passage they cite fails to support their position. Verse 12 says, “…but then we will see face to face.” The word “then” refers back to the previous phrase in verse 10, “…but when the complete comes.” Focusing on the term “face to face” should bring clarity in helping us understand this passage. The phrase is used throughout scripture and always means an encounter with a person. When used in the OT it refers to a visual and personal encounter with God (Gen 32:30; Ex 33:11; Num 12:8; Dt 5:4; and Jer 32:4). Likewise in the NT, it is also used in speaking of a personal encounter (2 Cor 10:1; 2 Jn 12; 3 Jn 14). If the position is taken that the “complete comes” in the form of the bible, how on earth do we personally encounter an actual person, namely God, in the manner “face to face” presents? Seeing Christ visibly, face to face, comes to pass when he returns. In the context of the passage in question, it seems to imply that all the gifts shall cease at Jesus’ return. It also says, “…so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:7). The word “reveal” in the Greek is apokalupsis “in the eschatological sense of the parousia or the return of Christ in the last days.”[i] Based on these verses, the gifts are connected to Christ’s return in the future, not the completion of the bible today.


The Elevation Of Gifts

Present day tongues are further God-given revelation for believers and therefore equal with scripture. But since there exists a warning against adding to the word of God (Rev 22:18), the gift of tongues, along with the rest of the spiritual gifts have ceased. This argument is in error because the bible recognizes the inspired revelation exercised within the context of the church among its members: “What should be done then, my friends? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for the building up” (1 Cor 14:26). It is evident in the life of the Corinthian church that the spiritual gifts were in operation for the “building up” of the body of Christ. However, these revelations uttered in the realm and power of the Spirit, were not recorded in the bible. Therefore, the recorded words from the prophets and the apostles were meant for general canonization (the official sanctioning of the word of God by religious authorities), while the revealed words from the context of the church were meant for specific edification (the local instruction or revelation for moral and or spiritual uplifting).


The Exploitation Of Gifts

Since there is so much rampant division and misuse of the spiritual gifts, they should not exist today. This argument arises from the blatant abuse of spiritual gifts that has hurt the body of Christ causing much divisiveness and damage.[ii] Yet the misuse of these gifts does give solid evidence that they were very much in operation among the early church members. In reaction to the chaos that certain ‘showy gifts’ bring, i.e., faith, gifts of healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, various kinds of tongues, and interpretation of tongues (1 Cor 12:9-10), there are those in the body of Christ who would rather ‘pick and choose’ the gifts that don’t cause a commotion and discard the gifts that can throw a wrench into their control-oriented and comfortable church settings. In doing so, they render an injustice to the church by grieving or quenching the Spirit who desires to work and lead them (Eph 4:30). Paul cautioned the church with an anatomical analogy illustrating how the integral members of the body sever each other as each one sees one another as detrimental to its health (1 Cor 12:14-26). Likewise, the churches today literally “shoot themselves in the foot” by preventing or severing these necessary gifts that promote a sound mind and body. Paul encouraged the church to strive for the major gifts that benefit the entire body rather than the minor gifts that edify the few (1 Cor 14:1-5) and may even throw outsiders or unbelievers into confusion (1 Cor 14:11-12, 22-25). The goal being that unbelievers come away blessed with a worshipful experience declaring, “God is really among you” (1 Cor 14:25).

Therefore, we need to recognize that every God-given spiritual gift has its legitimate place within the life of the church. Yet we bear in mind that the ‘Giver of the gifts’ we serve is not a God of disorder but of peace (1 Cor 14:32). Humility should cause us to be gracious about the gifts and our sinful limitations until Christ comes, “Now I know in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:12-13).


Endnotes

[i] William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1958), 92.

[ii] Most of the discussion centers on the continuation or non-continuation of the gifts. Continuationists insist that the so-called "charismatic gifts" continue throughout this age until the return of Jesus and that there is no biblical warrant for saying they have ceased. Non-continuationists or cessationists believe they had a particular function in the first century that doesn't apply today. Cessationists generally believe that these gifts were for the purpose of "attestation," they attested to the fact that Jesus was who he said he was, and they attested to the apostle’s authority as bearers of divine revelation.

© 2009, Gicky Soriano. All rights reserved.

Recommended reading:

Discover Your Spiritual Gifts: The Easy-To-Use, Self-Guided Questionnaire That Helps You Identify and Understand Your Various God-Given Spiritual Gifts
Discover Your Spiritual Gifts: The Easy-To-Use, Self-Guided Questionnaire That Helps You Identify and Understand Your Various God-Given Spiritual Gifts

Every believer receives a gifting from the Holy Spirit at the time of the new birth. But God also equips each believer throughout his or her life to use that gift in different ways for the purpose of building up the Body of Christ. Peter Wagner's small but powerful book provides clear teaching on what the gifts are, the difference between natural and spiritual gifts and how to find and use your spiritual gifts within the Body. The result is that you can become all God desires you to be when you find out how He designed the Body of Christ, how you fit in that Body and how you can use your gifts to bless others. The Church isn't whole unless you exercise your spiritual gifts within its midst!

 
Finding Your Spiritual Gifts Questionnaire
Finding Your Spiritual Gifts Questionnaire

Finding Your Spiritual Gifts incorporates one of the first and most popular spiritual gifts inventories—the Houts Questionnaire. Developed in 1976 by Dr. Richard Houts, it was later adapted by Dr. C. Peter Wagner. The questionnaire itself has been designed to give a reliable, comprehensive reading on the spiritual gifts that God may have given you.

 
Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow Small Group Study Guide
Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow Small Group Study Guide

dentifies and discusses 27 spiritual gifts. Tells you how to find your gift and outlines how you can use gifts effectively. There are five steps to help you use your spiritual gifts to build God's kingdom.

 
Spiritual Gifts: Their Purpose & Power
Spiritual Gifts: Their Purpose & Power

Spiritual Gifts: Their Purpose & Power is a balanced, popular treatment of the gifts of the Spirit. The work includes teaching on thirty spiritual gifts from the Old and New Testaments. A biblically-grounded presentation that includes a clear understanding and respect for the various approaches to modern-day spiritual gifts.

 

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Comments 14 comments

Judah's Daughter profile image

Judah's Daughter 7 years ago from Roseville, CA

Beautifully written and presented. Praise God! Unfortunately, because so many churches don't allow the operation of Spiritual gifts, those who have them tend to worship together. Not all will speak with tongues, not all have the gifts of healing or knowledge, etc. The body of Christ would be growing as it was in the days of the early church, if churches would not quench the Spirit of God in this manner, and those with the gifts could spread out amongst the entire body of Christ.

On the other hand, because the few denominations who allow gifts all worship together, there is a concentration such as the unbelievers may feel overwhelmed and run. Therefore, very few are able to exercise their gifts within the church.

Well, thus is the restriction of the "world". Amen.


Gicky Soriano profile image

Gicky Soriano 7 years ago from California Author

JD: As always, you're comments are a most welcome contribution to my hubs. Based on your valuable experience, I appreciate how you interacted with the subject of spiritual gifts. Yes, more than ever, we need all the gifts unleashed and in operation today among the churches. May we all be faithful stewards of the good gifts God has given us.


coffeesnob 7 years ago

Can you imagine a church where everyone practiced the gifts given to them by the power of the Holy spirt? Wow!


Gicky Soriano profile image

Gicky Soriano 7 years ago from California Author

By quenching the necessary gifts of the Spirit, many churches remain in the crutches of ineffectiveness and entropy. Yes we can imagine the results of a church overflowing with the power of the Holy Spirit. I only hope that this would lead us to pray that the Spirit enlighten the body of Christ to obediently operate with all the gifts until the return of the king - when we finally see Him "face to face." Thanks for the challenging question in your comment coffesnob.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

An article par excellence! Thank you for working for unity within the Body of Christ. Lord knows, it is needful.


Gicky Soriano profile image

Gicky Soriano 7 years ago from California Author

Thank you James for your generous comment. I would be the first to admit that I don't have the corner on sensitive Christian issues. Like all believers, I see things through a dark glass (1 Cor 13:12). I just pray that the Spirit enable us to do what we must with what little He has made us responsible for. By faith, I'll do my part for the sake of unity in the body of Christ and trust that the Spirit will fill in the blanks in His time. Let's continue to do what is needful brother. Keep hubbing in His name.


Abrushing1968 profile image

Abrushing1968 7 years ago from USA- Florida

GS wonderful article as usual! We need a lot more solid teaching on this topic.

I have seen both sides, the complete abandonment or neglect of the gifts and the extreme abuse. In the case of abuse, it is always in the absences of scriptural grounding. The worshiper relies to much on his emotions or feelings.

The problem here is that the moving of the spirit will depend more on his state of mind and his general emotional state. When this happens the worshiper becomes addicted to the emotional hype.

Because he lacks biblical grounding he comes to see Gods presence in the emotional experience. If his worship experience was emotionally charged he is convinced that God loves him and is with him. If it is not then there is something wrong in the spirit and he must repent or work harder. Legalism often accompanies this type of worshiper.

I call this emotionally driven philosophy Bi-Polar Christianity. The only medication for it is God's Word

In the case of abolishment, the culprit is the absences of relationship. That emotional connection with God. The heart felt, tangible walk with God suffers because the worshiper has not fallen in love with God. While he knows his Bible his approach to God is like Joe Friday on Dragnet, "Just The Facts Ma'am". For him, there is no physical reassurance that the Holy spirit is present. It is all head knowledge.

Both extremes makes the Christian walk miserable!

Balance comes when we combine solid doctrine with our heart felt worship. GS, I applaud your desire and effort to bring Good solid doctrine to my Christian journey. As I eat, I will joyfully walk in the spirit.

In Christ

ABR


Gicky Soriano profile image

Gicky Soriano 7 years ago from California Author

ABR I hear you. I have had the privilege of serving as a pastor and teacher in an ultra-conservative Baptist church as well as a full-blown Pentecostal church. I remember telling one hubber earlier that at one time I considered myself a "Bapticostal." That being said, I experienced each one's extreme manner of ministry. The one church played it safe, "when in doubt don't," while the latter majored in the minors when it came to the so-called "showy gifts."

I get what you said in regard to the extreme results coming from both camps: an emotionally-driven church and an unemtionally connected church. Indeed compromising one's feelings over the facts and vice-versa makes for a miserable walk in Christ.

As always, I appreciate how you processed the subject at hand based on your unique experience. Thank you for your valuable contribution. God bless you brother.


Judah's Daughter profile image

Judah's Daughter 7 years ago from Roseville, CA

Hi all ~ I really appreciate this latest point. When I experienced the baptism of the Spirit and I began to experience the gifts, I never "heard" God's Spirit before in my spirit. When I would receive "direction from God", it's not always a "scripture". This frightened me, as I was like a kid given a car to drive. I knew I needed to KNOW the Bible in order to properly discern the spirit realm. It DROVE me into Discipleship training and inductive study, by which everything is measured. This way, should someone "speak a word from God", I know whether it contradicts the Bible or not. It's a MUST for all believers to be in the Bible. Otherwise, we remain as children, tossed around and the result is a poor witness. Amen!


Gicky Soriano profile image

Gicky Soriano 7 years ago from California Author

You are absolutely right JD. The negative "exception, elevation or exploitation of the spiritual gifts" should in no way deter the child of God from receiving and unwrapping his or her unique God-given gift mix. Give it a test drive. By all means, test the gifts. Discern whether it is from God. We have His word, the Bible, to guide us into all truth. Keep studying! We have His Spirit residing within us to illuminate and teach us. Keep seeking! And we have the body of Christ, His church, to edify as well as to confirm these gifts. Keep ministering!

As we exercise the gifts of the Spirit this side of eternity, we will see its outworking as in a dim mirror. But that shouldn't stop us. For as we press ahead in faithfully fulfilling "the few things," the responsibility our Master has given us, we know that when He returns at the Second Coming the partial understanding we possess will be made perfect. In the interim period, keep studying, keep seeking, and keep ministering. One day the dark skies will clear. The Gift-Giver is coming quickly. Amen.


DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

DeBorrah K. Ogans 7 years ago

Gicky Soriano,

Wonderful! I think it is important to keep in mind why the Gifts were given! They were given by God’s Holy Spirit as special abilities to edify and bring together the Body of Christ! The Church in Corinth suffered, there was much division splitting up believers and the forming of cliques. Not too different as you have so poignantly pointed out, from what we have going on now! The much division that arises so often is due to denominational differences and power struggles. The Gifts were never meant to be used for manipulation.

To some the Spiritual Gifts are a symbol of power and superiority and often used to incite rivalry. God has givern many gifts to some more than others! If only one could stop look, listen, think and see! To discern spiritually; see that the purpose was and still is to help the Church operate more effectively! To bring the body to spiritual maturity! We would be a lot further along.

This would be the case regardless of your chosen denomination. I personally see denomination as your selected “filling station” where you select to attend to worship, congregate and fellowship with other believers. Being a Christian, a Believer is an everyday lifestyle!

I agree with Brushing 1968 we need "Balanced" "not emotional driven Bi-polar Christianity!"

Gicky, Thank You! You have certainly made some excellent points here! Thank you as well for providing this forum. As you stated: “Therefore, we need to recognize that every God-given spiritual gift has its legitimate place within the life of the church. Yet we bear in mind that the ‘Giver of the gifts’ we serve is not a God of disorder but of peace (1 Cor 14:32). Humility should cause us to be gracious about the gifts and our sinful limitations until Christ comes, “Now I know in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:12-13)."

May you continue allow the Lord use you to further His Kingdom here on earth! “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven….” As always a pleasure!

Blessings


Gicky Soriano profile image

Gicky Soriano 7 years ago from California Author

DeBorrah,

Thank you for dropping by and interacting with this hub. Your comments are a welcome addition to the ongoing discussion pertaining to spiritual gifts.


exjwlaurie 6 years ago

Beautiful writing, I am edified by your hub Gicky. I am glad to have found your hubsite!

The most amazing gift of all is the gift of God's perfect grace in our lives as Christians, and the price He paid to bring us into relationship with him!

May He Bless you and your Ministry!


Gicky Soriano profile image

Gicky Soriano 6 years ago from California Author

exjwlaurie,

It's a blessing to know that this hub ministered to you. Thank you for your gracious words of encouragement. May you continue to bless the body of Christ with the unique gifts God has given you.

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