Spiritual Gifts

The Peter Principles: Peter’s Formula for Using “Spiritual” Gifts

There are four major biblical contexts that discuss what we commonly refer to as ”spiritual gifts.” In chronological order, they are 1 Corinthians 12-14, Romans 12:1-8, Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, and 1 Peter 4:10-11.

It is notable that the explanations of spiritual gifts become increasingly simple as the New Testament progresses. 1 Corinthians 12-14 provides a very detailed discussion, especially of revelatory and sign gifts. Romans 12:1-8 builds on the grounding of the previous eleven chapters, and considers how gifts contribute to the overall functioning together of the body. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians focuses in the first three chapters on how the believer comes to have every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ, and what are the implications of those blessings. In the remaining three chapters, Paul challenges believers to walk in those blessings. Throughout the letter, Paul emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Finally, in 1 Peter 4:10-11, Peter offers a very simple formula for the use of gifts and their purpose.

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Understanding the New Calvinism: Charismatic Gifts

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If there is one distinguishing mark that separates the New Calvinist from traditional Calvinists it would be the openness of the newer variety toward the charismatic gifts. While many, if not most, would not see themselves as charismatics in the conventional sense, they believe that all the gifts of the Holy Spirit are operational today, including the sign gifts such as miracles, tongues, interpretation of tongues, healings, and prophecy.

While most draw the line at apostleship, seeing it as an office reserved for a handful of appointed New Testament leaders who founded the church (Eph 2:20), strangely they see the gift of prophecy as still viable. Following the leadership of Wayne Grudem, in his landmark book, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament Today, as well as his Systematic Theology, many have been convinced that New Testament era prophecy is not held to the same standards as Old Testament prophecies and prophets. Whereas Old Testament prophecy was to be without error, with the consequence of the execution of the prophet if one prophesied falsely (Deut 18:20-22), church age prophecies can often be a mixture of truth and error.

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From the Archives: Are There Two Levels of NT Prophecy?

(Originally posted in April of 2011)

Did all the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, such as tongues and prophecy, cease with the completion of the New Testament? If we take the position that prophecy continues in some form, is such a view compatible with the conviction that God has given us all the authoritative revelation He intended to give (that the canon of Scripture is closed)?

In 2011, Dr. Bruce Compton (Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary) presented a paper on these questions at the Preserving the Truth Conference. What follows is a summary reflecting my understanding of Compton’s analysis. (An updated version of the paper is available here.)1

The two levels of prophecy view

Since Dr. Wayne Grudem’s work has been foundational for many who believe in a continuing gift of prophecy, Compton’s paper focuses on Grudem’s view2 that the NT speaks of two levels of prophecy: apostolic and non-apostolic. Grudem maintains that apostolic prophecy was authoritative and inerrant in the same way that Old Testament prophecy was and that this form of prophecy ceased when the NT Scriptures were completed.

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Does Every Believer Have a Spiritual Gift?

The phrase “spiritual gift” is only employed five times in the NASB New Testament. In Romans 1:11 (χάρισμα ὑμῖν πνευματικὸν—charisma humin pneumatikon) it is in reference to something Paul wanted to impart to the entire church at Rome. In 1 Corinthians 12:1, Paul prefaces the entire discussion of manifestations of the Spirit with the expressed desire that the Corinthians be aware of spiritual gifts. But while the Greek includes spiritual (πνευματικῶν—pneumatikon), it does not include any term for gifts.Thus, while the NASB reading implies that the context following 12:1 is a discussion of spiritual gifts, the Greek does not necessarily support that implication. In 1 Corinthians 14:1 and 12 likewise, the NASB includes the phrase “spiritual gifts,” but the Greek only includes the term “spiritual” (πνευματικά/πνευμάτων—pneumatika/pneumatōn) and no term from which the NASB translates “gifts.”

Finally, in 1 Timothy 4:14 Paul warns Timothy not to neglect the spiritual gift within him. In light of the limited number of references in the NASB (five), and the even smaller number of actual references in the Greek (two), there is no biblical data to support the idea that every believer has, specifically, a spiritual gift. On the other hand, there is data that supporting every believer’s having a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7).

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Myths About Spiritual Gifts: #5 There Are Individual Gifts of Pastoring, Apostleship, and Evangelism

In discussing the unity and maturing of believers, Paul describes in Ephesians 4 how God’s comprehensive and unified work results in grace for each individual believer (Eph 4:7). Each of us can rejoice, knowing that God has given us individually the grace we need, while at the same time we can understand that we are not independent of Him nor of each other. We are designed to function as His body—as one—even though we are individual members of His body.

Considering the unique source of grace and the gifts that stem from grace, Paul explains that Christ gave the gift (4:7), and He gave gifts (4:8). His grace included not just the singular gift of salvation (as described in Eph. 2:8-9), but also everything necessary for complete sanctification (as described in Eph. 2:10).

Ephesians 4:11 identifies four vital gifts: “and He gave indeed the apostles, and the prophets, and the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.” This is a literal translation accounting for each Greek word in the passage. Notice that the objects of verb gave are preceded in each case by the definite article the. Also notice the passage does not say that He gave the gift of apostleship, prophecy, evangelism, and pastoring and teaching—if that is what Paul intended to say, he could have easily structured the passage to make that meaning clear. Instead, he identifies the gifts as the apostles themselves, the prophets themselves, the evangelists themselves, and the pastors and teachers themselves.

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Myths About Spiritual Gifts: #4 "I Can't Help . . . I Don't Have that Gift"

Romans 12:6-8 describes eight gifts: prophecy, serving, teaching, exhorting, giving, leading, and mercy. 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 lists nine manifestations of the Spirit: word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, miracles, prophecy, distinguishing of spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues. Verse 28 adds eight appointments: apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, healings, helps, administrations, and tongues. 1 Peter 4:11 mentions only two gifts: speaking and serving.

We know that every believer has the Spirit of God (Rom 8:9; Eph 1:13-14), that “we have gifts that differ” (Rom 12:6), that to “each one is given a manifestation of the Spirit” (1 Cor 12:7), and that “each one has received a special gift” (1 Pet 4:10). We also know that while identifying one’s spiritual gifts(s) with certainty is not required and may not even be entirely possible, the Spirit’s giving and manifesting is not at all irrelevant. These gifts are designed to play an important role in the church. After all, they are deliberately tasked means designed to work toward one vital end: “so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Pet 4:11b). If their purpose is His glory, then ignoring them is not an option.

But if a person is, for example, fairly certain that they have been gifted with teaching, then what are they to do when faced with a different ministry opportunity having little or nothing to do with teaching? What if there is a financial need in the church that the “teacher” is aware of and has the means to help resolve. Can he claim that he is only to function as a teacher, and hasn’t got the gift of helps? Does this absolve him of any responsibility toward the needy family? 2 Corinthians 8:14 describes the purpose of abundance as for supplying needs (without any reference to spiritual gifting, by the way). Paul adds in 9:8 a broader purpose statement for abundance: “…always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” Every good deed implies that one’s work and service is to extend beyond personal spiritual gifting, though a case could be made that all gifting—including God’s provision of material wealth—is spiritual gifting.

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Myths About Spiritual Gifts: #3 We Have to Identify Our Gifts

gift question markRead the series so far.

He had no military training, and no skill with the elite weapons of war, but when he saw a battle that needed to be won he didn’t hesitate to engage. Against all odds, and armed only with the knowledge of how God had strengthened him before, a sling and a few small stones, David faced a vicious enemy. 1 Samuel 17 gives the account of how David heard the Philistines taunting God and the armies of Israel, how no soldiers were willing to fight the Philistine champion, and how David—depending on the Lord—won the day. Being only a boy, David was met with resistance when he volunteered to fight. King Saul told him he was not able (1 Sam. 17:33).

David’s response was brilliant (and helpful): “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Sam. 17:37). And of course, we know the rest of the story.

David’s attitude toward serving God provides an excellent example for us today, especially as we consider spiritual gifts. David lived in a different age, and the Holy Spirit was not operating in exactly the same way—He would temporarily strengthen people for specific tasks, and there is no evidence that He indwelt people then as He does in the church age. Because David wasn’t dealing with “spiritual gifts,” I use his episode with Goliath as an example, but we have to be careful not to take the analogy too far.

In any case, David was certain he would be able to function successfully in a future endeavor only because of how God provided for him in similar past endeavors. He exhibited no fear in looking forward to the task at hand because of his history with God. But as far as we know, David had no special revelation from God to that point. As far as the Bible reveals, God did not promise David He would deliver him from the lion or the bear—or Goliath. But yet David was confident, and he proclaimed to Goliath, “I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted” (17:45).

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Myths About Spiritual Gifts: #2 Speaking in Tongues is a Needed Evidence that We Have the Holy Spirit

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With over 40,000 members, Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas is the largest church in the United States. For better or for worse, Lakewood and its leader Joel Osteen are profoundly influential. One significant area of influence is in the realm of spiritual gifts. A search of the terms “spiritual gifts” on Lakewood’s website produced (at the top of the list) a downloadable booklet called Understanding the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, from Joel Osteen Ministries, and authored by Lisa Comes. The booklet explains how and why one should speak in tongues, and cites speaking in tongues as evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (point 5, page 3). The view promoted in the booklet is not original with Lakewood, Osteen, or Comes—in fact, it is the prevailing view in Pentecostal and Charismatic denominations. But is it a biblical view? Is speaking in tongues needed evidence that we have the Holy Spirit?

First, as we considered in the previous article, Romans 8:9 emphatically notes that “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” By contrast Osteen’s and Comes’s booklet cites Acts (2:17-19, 39), Luke (11:13), and John (7:37-39) to support the point that not every believer has the Holy Spirit. And it is true that Romans presents a very different picture of how one receives the Holy Spirit than do the Gospels and even the book of Acts. But rather than contradicting one another, these books consider different contexts—different times, and different ways in which God has worked over the ages (nothing contradictory at all). To illustrate, Joel Osteen has never (to my knowledge) advocated that believers today should present to the Lord two turtledoves or two young pigeons as is mandated in Leviticus 5:7. Presumably this is because Osteen recognizes that Leviticus was written about a different people and context than the church of today.

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