Pneumatology: Spiritual Gifts

Spiritual gifts are one of the many portions of the present ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of every Christian. Every Christian has been imparted, with at least one spiritual gift, and this truth has, in recent years, enticed much interest in the topic of spiritual gifts. “The gifts of the Holy Ghost are God’s divine inventions to remedy the native incapacity of the virtues to elevate man to the perfection to which he is called”. In other words they are gifts from God that enable every Christian to perform their service toward God, which is precisely what Jesus promised immediately before His ascension, “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” (Acts 1:8).

The fruit of the Spirit is fundamentally different from spiritual gifts, although they are often times confused. Faith, is listed as both a gift and fruit, but even so, they are not the same thing. “A spiritual gift is an ability to be used in service, whereas spiritual fruit relates to a Christian’s character”. Being a Christian with gifts does not mean that you live a godly life. 1 Corinthians 13:2 says “if I have the gift of prophecy and know all mysteries, and all knowledge and If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing”. This verse, indicates plainly, that one could possess many gifts yet lack in the fruit of love, and thus be an immature Christian, lacking in character.

One gift of the Spirit often disputed, is the gift of speaking in tongues. This gift has two functions: “in the Acts of the Apostles, it is an initiation or authentication gift meant as a divine affirmation of a new group entering the church; and in 1 Corinthians 12-14 or Romans 12 it is a ‘spiritual gift’ bestowed upon sovereignly chosen individual within the church”. Those who have the gift of speaking in tongues speak with two purposes, either for personal devotion and edification, or to remove barriers between people groups. The gift of tongues is unlike any other gift, in that it possesses instructions and restrictions, indicating that there are many who misuse, or falsely possess this gift.

 “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5). On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came “like a violent rushing wind” (Acts 2:2) and the Spirit rested on each one of the apostles (Acts 2:3-4). On the day of Pentecost the apostles were both filled, and baptized with the Spirit. Fullness refers to placing something within something else, while being baptized by the Spirit, “is an act whereby the individual is placed in the body of Christ”. Upon conversion the new believer is regenerated, baptized, sealed, and filled with the Holy Spirit.

 As stated above, the gift of tongues is the only gift with regulations (1 Corinthians 14), even so, there are constituencies of Christians that believe tongues to be an essential gift or even a necessity of salvation. Spiritual gifts are often divided into “temporary” and “permanent”, creating the idea that a temporary gift no longer comes upon the Christian. “Tongues and prophecy in particular are said to have ceased with the completion of the canon of scripture”. Another divide of gifts is of sign gifts and serving gifts. Tongues falls within the context of a sign gift, which are considered to be part of the “scaffolding principle”. The scaffolding principle illustrates that when you construct a building you raise scaffolding, but as the building nears completion, the scaffolding is removed, and so are sign gifts (spiritual scaffolding) are considered temporary and thus God has taken the scaffolding down. Therefore speaking in tongues cannot be a necessity for baptism of the Holy Spirit, furthermore Jesus spoke clearly “the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Belief and repentance is the requirement for salvation and nothing more (Acts 3:19, 17:30, Romans 10:9-11)

The validity of spiritual gifts is a constant debate among different denominations and sects of Christianity, i.e. charismatics, conservatives, catholics, baptist, etc. Within the confines of 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 is an emphasis on love. There is a contrast of the permanence of love and the temporal nature of supernatural gifts. Supernatural gifts were treasured very highly at the church in Corinth, because of this, Paul decided to outline the glory and desirability of Christian love. “…Tongues, they will cease…” (1 Corinthians 13:8) “This means that the true gifts of tongues would cease”. In the generations to follow, after Paul wrote these words the gift of tongues did flourish at certain times in Christendom but “Paul's words here absolutely deny any authenticity whatever to the so-called charismatics of the present day”. One cannot say that no one will ever speak in tongues again, therefore ignoring 1 Corinthians 14:39, however, the purpose for tongues has been grossly misused and misinterpreted so as to include necessary for salvation and essential to the Christian life, both of which are false.

Grace and Peace

-Nick Muyres