Spirit: Spiritual Gifts
51. What are spiritual
gifts? How many spiritual gifts are described in the Bible?
a. Definition: A spiritual gift
is a manifestation, a disclosure of the Holy Spirit’s activity in His church.
b. Objective of spiritual gifts:
"for the common good" or "to build the body of Christ" (1Co 12:7; 14:26;
Eph 4:12). The objective of spiritual gifts is for the benefit of the church,
not primarily for the benefit of the individual believer. There may be
diverse gifts but a unity in purpose.
c. Major lists of spiritual gifts
in the Bible: 1Co 12:8-10,28-30; Ro 12:6-8; Eph 4:11
d. Classification of spiritual gifts
(Ac 6:2,4; 1Pe 4:11):
(1) Ministry in word (Ac 6:2,4):
(a) Preaching the gospel
(b) Speaking from divine inspiration
apostles: main work is laying the foundation
of the universal church
prophesy: Spirit-inspired messages;
prophesy can mean "foretelling" or "forthtelling"
distinguish spirits: probably not testing
the spirits (1Jn 4:1) but related to 1Co 14:29 where Paul calls for testing
or discerning of prophetic utterances (also 1Th 5:20-21)
speaking in tongues: there are two
different manifestations of tongues: ecstatic languages of praise and prayer
(not a known language), OR actual languages but unknown to the speaker
interpretation of tongues: because
of the unintelligibility of tongues, there is need to articulate for the
benefit of the community what the tongues-speaker has said
(2) Ministry in deed (1Pe 4:11):
(a) Practical help
message of wisdom
message of knowledge: a spiritual utterance
of some revelatory kind
(b) Administration and leadership
helping others or helpful deeds: minister
to the physical and spiritual needs of others
contributing to needs of others in
(c) With supernatural power
administration: more accurately "acts
pastors [looking after or caring (Jn
21:16; 1Pe 5:2), feeding (Jn 21:15,17), acting as a model (1Pe 5:3), keeping
watch (Ac 20:28-31)]
e. Exhaustiveness or comprehensiveness
of the lists:
with miraculous powers or workings
of miracles: all other kinds of supernatural activities beyond the healing
of the sick such as driving out evil spirits (Ac 16:18; 19:12-16)
with faith: special gift of supernatural
faith that can "move mountains"
f. Distribution of spiritual gifts:
Paul has 4 major lists plus other times
when some gifts are mentioned (1Co 13:1-3,8; 14:6,26). Each of these lists
is ad hoc in character (hapharzard fashion which Paul used in listing spiritual
gifts, simply spun off at the moment for the purpose of the argument);
no two of which are exactly alike either in number or in types.
Thus the lists are neither carefully
worked out nor exhaustive; they are merely representative of the diversity
of the Spirit’s manifestations. Therefore, we are not to limit spiritual
gifts to these lists.
g. Termination of spiritual gifts:
Everyone has one or more gifts (1Co
12:7,11; 1Pe 4:10).
They are given by the Holy Spirit according
to His will (1Co 12:11). Paul emphasizes the sovereignty of the
Holy Spirit in distributing the gifts. Who has what spiritual gifts is
determined solely by the Holy Spirit.
We can of course ask for certain spiritual
gifts (1Co 12:31; 14:1) with the intention to use them to extend the kingdom
of God, but it is totally up to the Holy Spirit to decide.
(1) Apostle: What is an apostle?
Are there apostles today?
Some believe that certain spiritual
gifts are no longer given to the church, in particular the gifts of apostleship
and speaking in tongues (and sometimes also prephecy).
In early church, ‘apostle’ was an ‘office’
or a position. Only ‘the twelve’ plus a few others (such as Paul) were
called ‘apostles’. Qualifications include: (1) saw the Lord (1Co 9:1, Ac
1:21); (2) directly called and appointed by God (Ro 1:1; Gal 1:1, 1Ti 1:1,
2:7, 2Ti 1:11, 1Co 1:1); (3) founded churches (1Co 9:1-2) (possibly only
for the Universal Church, not for local churches), (4) with ‘signs, wonders
and miracles’ (2Co 12:12, Ac 2:43), (5) general acceptance by the Church
as apostles. As such, there are no more apostles today.
Apostle can also have a sense of function:
those who are sent by Christ to preach the gospel (1Co 1:17), and found
churches (1Co 9:2). As such, there can be apostles today. However, some
people wrongly use the term to raise themselves to a superior position
above all others. Thus, it is more appropriate to use the term "apostolic
work" for today than to apply the term ‘apostle’ to any person.
In reaction to the overemphasis of
spiritual gifts in some churches, there has been theologians who tries
to justify the limiting of these gifts to the first century church (such
as quoting 1Co 13:8). However, we should be open to the work of the Holy
Spirit and never put a limit on what God can do. In addition, it appears
that genuine demonstration of tongues occurs even today.
a. Believers can offend against
the Holy Spirit through actively grieving the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30-31)
or passively quenching the Holy Spirit (1Th 5:19).
What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mt 12:31-32)? Why is it unpardonable?
b. Unbelievers can offend against
the Holy Spirit through actively insulting the Holy Spirit (Heb 10:29)
or passively resisting the Holy Spirit (Ac 7:51).
c. There is one unpardonable sin:
blaspheming the Holy Spirit (Mt 12:31-32; Mk 3:29; Lk 12:10).
There are other passages on unpardonable
sin (Heb 6:4-6; 10:26-27; 1Jn 5:16). We can reasonably
conclude that all related passages refer to the same sin.
This sin probably refers to the conscientious,
malicious, and wilful rejection and slandering, against evidence and conviction,
of the testimony of the Holy Spirit respecting the grace of God in Christ.
It is unpardonable because this sin
excludes all repentance, sears the conscience, hardens the sinner, and
thus renders the sin unpardonable. We may expect to find such a person
pronouncing hatred to God, with a defiant attitude to Him and all that
is divine, delight in ridiculing and slandering that which is holy, and
absolute unconcern respecting the welfare of their soul and the future
It is a permanent rejection due to
a hardened heart and therefore makes conversion and pardon impossible.
It represents man withdraws himself from God, not God from man.
Some believe a true believer will never
commit such a sin. However, the description in Heb 6:4-6 appears to point
to a believer, although others believe that the person here is not a true