Sunday, September 16, 2018

Gift & Giver by Craig S. Keener (Pt.7)

A Closer Look
at Some Spiritual Gifts

any churches and ministries today use “spiritual gift inventories,” which often tend ter be interest or personality tests similar to those used in Christian counseling. While interest and personality tests
are often useful and God sometimes gifts us in ways that correspond to our lnterests and personalities, we should not limit God's gifts  tc› those  discov- ered in such inventories. This is especially true when we are  speaking  not about gifts we are born with but those we seek from God in prayer to build up Christ’s beady ( 1 Cor. 12:31; 14:1).
On the other end ‹ f the spectrum,  some  Christians  tend  tr› despise  nat- ural endowments or advantages in favc›r ‹ f supernatural gifts. This does nt t follow the example of Paul, who made use of all his advantages for the king- dom, whether Roman citizenship, fluency in Greek, Aramaic, or J udean orthodoxy (Acts 21:37; 21:40—22:5; 22:25—29), even though some of these same matters counted against him in ‹other circles  (Acts  16:20-21).  Even many churches that emphasize  particular  gifts regularly  exercise  only  a few c›f them (whether thc gift ‹af tongues, teaching, pr‹ phecy, or evangelism).
In this chapter we will lt›ok at two passages (1 Cor. 12:8—10 anal Eph. 4:11)
that deal wlth  the  sorts c›f spirltual gifts Christians  are not  brim with. The



Cift and Giver

A C lt›scr Ltiok  at Some Spiritual Gifts

gifts in these two passages (at least the first one) may be merely samples,  but the lisrs provlde the opportunity to explore some gifts in further cJetail. In some cases, popular ideas abour whar these gifts involve are based merely on charismatic “tradition,” though in other cases the popular understanding is pre bably close n what Paul meant.

The Gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:8—10

A1th‹augh some popular writers have argued that Paul’s list of nine gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 is a complete list of“gifts of the Spirit,” we have good reason to think otherwise. Paul uses similar language in other pas- sages with differing lists. A comparison of Paul's various gift lists (Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12:28; 12:29-30; 13:1—2, 8—9; 14:26; Eph. 4:11; see also
1 Peter 4:10-11) demonstrates that his lists are ad hoc—that is, he is mak- ing them up “on the spot”—and vary considerably. He could have listed other gifts than those he listed, and even his first readers may not have known exacfly what each of his examples meant.
Although we learn about gifts such as prophecy and reaching in Paul's other letters, Paul focuses in 1 Corinthians on particular gifts that are most relevant to his readers' situation. The Corinthian culture  prized  speaking and reasoning abilities; speech contests even constituted a regular  part of the nearby Isthmian Games. Naturally, Christians in Corinth prized gifts such as “wise speech” and “knowledgeable speech.” Paul's letter also informs us that they prized tongues, perhaps because it is (at least today)  one of those gifts that comes with the least amount of work. Paul mentions spe- cific gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 that relate to the experience of the Corlnthian Christians. He probably places rr›ngues at  the  bottom of  this list ( 12:10) precisely because many in the church were assigning it too important a role in comparison with the other gifts ( 13:1; 14:2—5).
But because sr› many writers and speakers have emphasized the glfr list
in this particular passage, we will survey the general meaning of these gifts. This is especially necessary given the varying ideas prevalent today about What these glfts are. The surmises of one writer become the next writer's informatir›n, and that writer's information becomes a movement's tradi- tion. A1th‹augh Pentecr›stal and charismatic scholars tend to pay more atten- tlc n to what Paul actually says than do most charismatic teachers on a pop- rialevel, many charlsmatics have adopted ideas aha ut these gifts thar are b‹4sed on charismatic traditions rather than on sc›und approaches to bibli-

cal understanding. We will examine these gifts ln light r›f clues from the context of 1 Corinthians, the same letter Paul's first readers had in front of them.
Some of the gifts in this list overlap with other gifts on the list (for exam-
ple, healings, miracles, and probably faith). Paul may even have sponta- neously coined the names of some of these gifts for this Corinthian list (for example, “word of knowledge”; see discussion below). He explatns other gifts, however, in much greater detail. Indeed, given the Old Testament background of prophecy and healing, one could write entire books on these gifts.

The Word o{Wisdom

When Paul speaks of an “utterance of wisdom” in 12:8, the Corinthian Christians probably immediately understood his point. Their city’s culture emphasized speaking ability (the Greek term for “word” can also be trans- lated “utterance” or “rhetoric”) as well as knowledge and wisdom. Corinthi- ans included speaking contests along with the athletic games they sponsored every other year. The local Christians, following their culture's lead, valued knowledgeable and wise speech, especially the l‹afty discourses of the sophists and the probing thoughtfulness of the philosophers. Indeed, at least part of the church was so excited about its wise and knowledgeable speech that its members preferred Apollos, the skilled public speaker, to Paul (see 1 Corinthi- ans 1—4).
But while Paul affirms that they abound in spiritual gifts such as speaking and knowledge ( 1 Cor. 1:5—7), he is not impressed. The true wisdom, he insists, is God's hidden wisdom, the message of the cross. God's power was revealed in Christ's weakness, a message that matches what Jesus called the mystery of the kingdom ( 1 Cor. 1:18-2:16). Perhaps exaggerating the inad- equacy of his speaking skills (as was the cust‹am), Paul emphasizes that the message that saved them was neither rhetorically nor philosophically pro- found. It was simply God’s message of salvation in Christ.
The “utterance of wisdom,” then, may represent the revelation of divine mysteries, based on inslght into God's purposes rather than on mere human reasoning. (Similar language for insight into God's mysteries occurs in the Dead Sea Scrolls.) Paul elsewhere says apostles and prophets provided such wlsdom on a larger scale (Eph. 3:4—6), though on the l‹aca1 congregational level he may assume that teachers might exercise this gift as well.


The Word of Knowledge

lift rind Gixer

A C lt›sc r Lotik at Some Spirituiil Gif ts

tarns ( 1 Cor. 13:2). Although all thlngs are possible with God, neither Scrip-

“Word of knowledge” can also be translated, “speech with knowledgeable cc›ntent.” To non-Christians in C‹ rinth, “knowledgeable utterances” might have meant the sort of extemporaneous speeches publlc speakers offered on a varlety of subjects, primarily for the purpc›se tif showing off. Likewise, many Chrlstians in C‹arinth claimed to have special doctrinal knowledge from God that they assumed made them better than Christians who did not possess it. Paul rebuked them fear their abuse of this gift (8:1-3). Like tongues and prophecy, knowledge will pass away (13:8) and is incomplete and sometimes inaccurate ( 13:9). Some people who rightly reprove others for being arro- gant about tongues are themselves arrogant about knowledge! Arrogance is bad no matter what we are being arrogant about.
While Paul rebukes abuse of this gift, as he does with other gifts, he encour- ages it in its positive form (14:6; 2 Cor. 8:7; 11:6). The “word of knowledge,” or ability to speak knowledge publicly, undoubtedly means imparting knowl- edge about God; in other words, the gift of teaching (as many other Pente- costal and charismatic scholars agree, for example Stanley Horton and]. Rod- man Williams).
In more traditional charismatic usage, “word of knowledge” applies to a supernatural impartation of knowledge about sc›me human need or situation. While this interpretation of the gift does not fit Paul's usage as well, such a gift (whatever we call it) appears frequently in Old and New Testament nar- natives (for example, 1 Kings 21:17-18; 2 Kings 4:27; 5:26; 6:12; Mark 2:8; Acts 14:9). Paul would probably have subsumed that gift under the heading “prophecy” ‹ r “revelatlon” (see 1 Cor. 14:26, 30). As a young Christian in the late 1970s, I regularly witnessed this gift of revelatlon in an interde- norninational fellowship in Ohio called High Mill Christian Center. I always happily invited non-Christians to midweek services because the pastor reg- ularly revealed what some‹ ne was struggling with at the time, and he was invariably righr. On one occasion, a visltor  who had  been  planning  to com-  iit  suicide rhat evening became a Christlan instead. While I dc›ubt that this is what Paul means here by “word c›f knowledge,” ir is a valid form of the gift
‹°f prophccy (1 Cor. 14:24—25).


Faith energizes all the gifts; God provides all Christlans with faith to ful- fill their function ln Christ's b‹ dy (Rom. 12:3, 6). In this instance, he wever, Prin) S9e‹3ks taf a particular endowment of falth, the sort that moves rnoun-

turc nor church history reports the literal moving of mountains by Christlans (except perhaps earthquakes in answer to prayer or worship; 1 Kings 19:11; Acts 4:31; 16:25—26; Rev, 6:10-12). The point, however, is simply that noth- ing God calls us to accomplish is impossible if Christians exercise complete faith. “Moving mountains” was a Jewish figure of speech for doing what was virtually impossible, and Jesus had promised that nothing would be impossi- ble to those who exercised even the smallest amount of faith (Mark 11:23). Since God is the object of our faith, possessing this faith presupposes that we are acting on God's will rather than our own (1 Kings 18:36; 2 Kings 4:28; 1 John 5:14)—that is, the goal of this genuine faith is not to  get whatever we want but to carry out God’s commission and what he calls us to do. This is not to say that we cannot also exercise faith for matters about which God has not spoken; God often hears these requests as well (for example, 2 Sam. 15:31; 2 Kings 20:3-6; Mark 2:4-5). It is only that sometimes in these cases
God does have reasons to say no (for example, Jer. 14:11; 2 Cor. 12:8—10).
Although it would be ideal for all Christians tc function at this level, Paul recognizes that some Christians are specially gifted with this kind of faith. Rather than looking down on Christians less gifted in this area, those with exceptional faith should use their gift on behalf of others in Christ’s body, by their example encouraging others to grow in faith.

)i s o[ Healing

The plural probably signihes, as many commentators suggest, that the Spirit develops in different Christians the faith to pray for different kinds of ailments. While this does not mean that someone cannot be gifted  to pray fear any kind of infirmity—most of the first-generation apostles seem to have done so (Acts 5:15—16; 28:8—9)—many Christians gifted in healing are ini- tially able to exercise speclal faith only for particular kinds of infirmities. Acts 6:7 may imply this, though  it may  represent  instead  merely a concrete sam- ple cif the works performed. This limitatic›n may suggest that the gift's con- tinuance to the present day does not guarantee that every individual will be supematurally healed, although God often works dramatic healings to meet the needs of his children or to draw attention to the gr›spel they proclaim.
Perhaps in certain settings mature Christians developed faith for this gift. Jewish Christians such as James seem t‹a have expected elders to be ready to pray the prayer of faith (James 5:14—15). Probably in Paul's churches who- ever had the gift taf faith fear healings was to act accordingly. In biblical tes-

Gift and Giver

A Closer Look at Some Spiritual Gifts


time nice aha ut miracle-working prophets such as Elijah and Elisha, the wide t)iversity of iniraculraus acts suggests no necessary limitation to a person's faith except the assurance that the person act on G‹id's will. Formulas dc› not grant this assurance; rather, it flourishes in the context of an intimate and obedi- ent relationship with God. When God heals, he does so not because of our power or piety but because of his faithfulness to Jesus' name (Acts 3:12). We should therefore avoid rhe temptation ter congratulate ourselves when God answers our prayers to heal someone; God alone should be praised (Mark

While we should trust that God will often (or even nr rmally) answer prayers for healing and should follow our Lord's example of compassion toward the physically as well as emotionally and spiritually wounded (Matt. 9:35—36; Mark 1:41), we should also avoid assuming that anyone who is not healed is spiritually deficient (compare Job 12:5; 42:7—8). God does not always heal right away (Job 42:10; Gal. 4:13-14; Phil. 2:27; 2 Tim. 4:20), and sometimes, for whatever reason, God does not heal in this life (1 Kings 1:1; 2 Kings 13:14, 20-21; 1 Tim. 5:23).
But Jesus' willingness to heal all who came to him certainly challenges those who think healing is abnormal today, unless they wish to contend either that Jesus' character has changed or that his power in the world has declined. It is possible that we see fewer people healed today than God requires, a sit- uation that is troubling because people's pain is real. Scripture shows that in some cases Jesus wanted people healed but his disciples were spiritually unpre- pared to provide what was needed (Matt. 17:16—17, 19-20; Mark 9:18—19, 28-29) or people refused to believe him (Matt. 13:58; Mark 6:3-6). That is not always the case, but hopefully, in this gift as in others, we can grow in falth rooted in an ever deeper relationship with Grad (James 5:14-18).'

\Vorkings o[ Miracles

“Miracles” literally means “demonstrations of power,” and the plural may signify diverse kinds of wt›rkings for diffcrent miracle w‹arkers, as in the case of healings.' In the Old Testament and in stories abc›ut jesus that Paul told the Cc›rinthians, “miracles” could include healings and presumably included acts of faith such as mrrving mc untains ( 1 Cor. 13:2). This gift probably over- HIPS Wlth “gifts of heallng” and “faith” elsewhere in the list, but it undoubt- cally includes other kinds of miracles as well, such as nature miracles. When
*is clisciples woke him fr‹ m a nap t‹› calm an apparently life-thrcatening storm, Jesus reproved thcir unbelief. Perhaps he w as c4emanding to know why

they did not act as he had taught them, instead of waking him with their fear (Mark 4:40); certainly, at the least Jesus questioned whether they really expected the boat to sink with Jesus in it.
Similarly, another early Christian writer uses Elijah's faith to control rain according to God's will as an example for believers (James 5:17—18). At the same time, God does not always lead or authorize believers to still storms (Acts 27:24—26). James applies the example especially to faith for healing (5:14—16). Probably the term more customarily refers to a standard sort of “demonstration of power” attested to in Acts, such as exorcisms involving demonized unbelievers (Acts 5:16; 16:18).
God, who sustains the universe by his power, regularly performs works without human vessels (Exod. 3:2; John 5:17, 21), but he also often chooses to perform them through his servants. Thus, for example, a prophet confronts King Jeroboam, who, like stubborn Pharaoh of old, must be disciplined by a sign (1 Kings 13:1-6). The next recorded time Jeroboam hears a prophet, however, it is Jeroboam who initiates contact rather than the reverse, because—through God’s direct judgment—his son is dying (14:1-3). God gets people's attention either directly or through his servants. For example, God often speaks through judgments (Isa. 26:9-10), but he usually sends prophets first to interpret the judgments (Isa. 48:3-5; Amos 3:7—8).
In any case, those gifted to work miracles should remember that miracles come in response to God's command (1 Kings 18:36) or the prayer of some- one walking close to him (2 Kings 1:10), not simply our self-centered desire (compare James 4:1-4). Those whose desires are granted are those who delight in God and desire his will supremely (Ps. 37:3—7). Acting on a word from the Lord is not the same thing as “confessing” or “claiming” that something should happen, as if we ourselves, rather than God, have authority to speak things into being (Lam. 3:37; Rom. 4:17). We should also recc gnize that for the edi- fication of the body of Christ, gifts related to God's W‹ rd are rankec4 higher than this spectacular gift (1 Cor. 12:28), though at the same tlme, miracles are extraordinarily effective in securing people's attention for evangelism (for example, Acts 14:3).


Prophecy involves God speaking to cir through a servant who listens to his voice (or occasionally thr‹augh someone who doesn't; for example, 1 Sam. 19:22—24; Matt.  7:22; Jc›hn 11:51). The se who  think  that  pre phecy  ln 1 Corinthians 12-14 is merely preaching must rreat as irrelevant the Old Tes-

Gift and Giver

Cltisc Lt›ti a 5ome SpirGitual

if ts

1 21

tqmet,t tile t (the term (the backproutid Paul shared with hls Christian read-
ers), the use in Acts, and the use in the text itself.
l’rophets could, of course, “preach,” but prophecy could also “reveal the secrets of hearts” ( 14:24-25) and could be spontaneous revelation (14:29—31 ). In fact, the biblical terminology for prophecy is broad enough to include any message that a prophet received from the Lord and made clear was from God. God spoke t‹a his people through prophecy from the very start, but prophecy
came in a variety of forms: visions, dreams, audible voices, ecstatic  trances, anti probably most often the Spirit bringing words to the heart and/or mouth c›f a prophet, Some texts even reveal prophets receiving messages by proph- esying to themselves (2 Sam. 23:2-3; Hosea 1:2; possibly also Jer. 25:15; 27:2). Prophetlc inspiration came in such a variety  of  forms  that  one  could  easily tnt ve back and forth between  prayer or worship  and  prophecy  (for example,  1 Chron. 25:1-8; Pss. 12:1, 5; 46:1, 10; 91:3, 14-16). In fact, worship often set the tone or provided the context for prophecy (1 Sam. 10:5; 2 Kings 3:15; possibly also Hab. 3:19).
The distingulshing feature of such prophecy is not the form  used  but whether the word of the Lord is being proclaimed. Although most of the Old Testament prophetic books focus on prophecies to God's people or to other grc›ups, prophets also delivered countless prophecies to individuals. Due to their focus, the Old Testament books often record personal prophecies to kings, but less prominent persons also received messages (for example, 1 Kings 17:13—14; 2 Kings 4:3-4). Texts such as 1 Samuel 9:6—10 indicate that indi- viduals also customarily inquired of prominent prophets. Acts records  per- sexual prophecies to Paul (Acts 21:4, 11; compare 20:23).
Before the exile, most prophets who recorded their prophecies prophesied
in  Poetry; after the exile, most prophecies were in prose (for example, most
‹ I Hagpai and Malachi). Pre phecies by nature do not need to be only spon- tanec›us, as stime have argued. Often  biblical  prr›phets  received  a prophecy at one time but delivered it later (Jer. 28:12—17), and a prophet could even record his prophecy and allow another tc› read it later (Jer. 36:4-8).
While all inspired speech is “prophetic speech” in the broadest sense of
the term (compare, for example, Acts 2:4, 16-18; Rev. 19:10), by “prophe- cies” Paul specihcally means revelatory wrards, in this case spoken in a ccan- grcgational setting. He does not confuse the gift with teaching (expounding Scripture or the implications of the gospel), although one may learn from prophecies ( 1 Cor. 14:31 ). Nor dc›es he confuse it with “exhortation” as a dis- crete Pitt (Ream. 12:S; Paul uses the gift in Rom. 12:1), although pr‹ phecy likewise could include this function ( 1 Cor. 14:3).

In teaching, Gc d's authority rested in the text or other prirar message and was appr‹apriated by the teacher to the extent that the teacher accurately expounded it. In prophecy, God’s message was in the prophecy irself to the extent that the prophecy accurately reflected what the Spirit was saying (although New Testament prophecy, like Old Testament prophecy, often reflected the language of earlier biblical prophecies). In prophecy, one was inspired to speak directly as God's agent, essentially declaring, “Thus says the Spirit” (Acts 21:11; Rev. 2:1; 3:1).’
Although Paul seems to have known of experienced prophets who spoke God’s message (Acts 11:28; 21:10; Eph. 4:11), in 1 Corinthians he employs the term QroQhet more broadly to describe all those who prophesy (1 Cor. 14:29—32). In theory, at least, because all Christians have received the Spirit, all Christians can prophesy (14:5, 31; compare Num. 11:29; Acts 2:17-18), though in practice not all will do so ( 1 Cor. 12:29). Prophets may, however, function on different levels. We may appreciate prophecies of ence urage- ment, which seem common today, but unfortunately there remains a dearth of prophets who will stand for God’s ideals of justice against the oppression of the poor, the unborn, and other powerless elements of society. Reflection on this emphasis in biblical prophecy (for example, Isa. 1:15—17; 58:1—14; Jer. 22:13-17; Amos 5:7—24; James 5:1-6) might broaden the scope of con- temporary prophecy.

Discernment o{ Spirits

Although modem readers employ this phrase in a variety of ways, the cont text indicates that Paul means especially the gift of evaluating prophecy accu- rately. This is not to say that the ability to detect error in nonprophetic sit- uations is not from the Spirit. I have on occasion met persons and knr›wn lay the Splrit that they were in a particular cult or false teaching before they rr›- vided any tanglble indicatir›n of it. On one of these occasions, I had done ont witnessing anal felt led tr› take a tract challenging errors of the cult kri‹›wn as the Way International. The only person I ran into that evening appcarecl to be a Christian, but the Le rd led me to ask if he was in the Way. He was, so l gave him the tract and followed up afterward. Another time I felt uncoin Portable listening to a speaker and afterward asked if he knew ‹›f Sant Fife (leader of a cult in the 1970s), withc ut rati‹anal reas‹ n to do s‹›. The speaker turned taut to have been his friend and a membcr of the rt up he st»rt‹•‹L
But by this phrase Paul more than likely specifically refers to evaluating prophecies. He later uses the same Greek wcarcl for “c3 iscerning” in this inan-

122 Gift and €1iver

ner ( 14:29) and clscwhere speaks of “spirits” in conjunction with prophecy ( Id:32; see also perhaps Ezek. 13:3; 1 John 4:1—6; Rev. 22:6).
Discemment in regard to prophecies is important. In the Old Testament period, experienced prophets often mentored the prophetic development of nr›vices (1 Sam. 19:20; 2 Kings 2:15; 4:38). Among first- and second-generation Christians, however, maturing prophets had to mentor one another by eval- uating one another's prophecies (1 Cor. 14:29). Like our teaching, our prophe- cies are not perfect or complete, for we all “know in part and prophesy in part” ( 1 Cor. 13:9). Feeling moved by the Spirit with the burden of God’s message is not the same thing as writing canonical Scripture. (That prophecies do not automatically c‹ nstitute Scripture is clear from Scripture—most prophecies in biblical times were not recorded in Scripture; see, for example, 1 Kings 18:13.) Further, human error can interfere with our prophecy—for that mat- ter, even apt stles could be mistaken in some assertions or actions (Acts 11:1-2; Gai. 2: ll-14), or need further insight (Acts 15:6).
But God builds a safety mechanism into the church's use of prophetic gifts
by waming us that human error can distort them and by re‹quiring us to test all our finite assurances that the Spirit is speaking to us. That is why prophe- cies must be tested (1 Thess. 5:20—22) not quenched (1 Thess. 5:19). Both those who› do not evaluate the claims of people who say they've heard from G‹ d and those who uncritically reject all supematural revelations equally disobey Scripture (1 Cor. 14:39—40).
Some people who prophesy today simply use stereotypical phrases and proof texts chut of context; some may simply be trying to prophesy without first developing a relationship with the God of Scripture. In other cases, per- haps those who prophesy this weakly feel the Spirit's inspiration but are not yet full enough of biblical revelation  te› translate those feelings into a more
accurate understanding of what Gcad is saying. Rather than always assuining th›at they have n‹ evidence of the lift of prorhecy, we should enc‹ urage them t‹  iminerse  themselves  in Scripture and  be mentored  by the prophecies of
God's Word interpreted in their prtaper context and with sensitivity to their culturel background. The language of the biblical prophets is rich with allu- sions to manier prophète and especlally to the Mosaic covenant. Perhaps even the false prophets of]eremiah's day could have been tumed to the truth and tell ‹›thers in that directic›n had they genuinely leamed to hear G‹acl's voice and proclaim the unp‹apular message God had for his disobedient people (Jer.
? 3:I1-22; compare 1 Tim. 1:12-13, 20). Thc›ugh there were cxceptions (Acts 6:1 3; 2 Tim. 2:25—?6), fully false pro phets usually adinit their error toc› late ( 1 Kings 22.24—25).

A C losc r L‹iok  iit 5‹ame Spiritual Gifts

All pre phecy must be tested by Scripture and, where that is impossible because of the subject matter of the prophecy, by othcr mature and Bible- centered prophets sensitive to the Spirit ( l Cor. 14:29). The most sensitive believer still has more to learn about sensitivity to the Spirit's voice and must submit to Scripture—understood in context. That is why Scripture is the “canon,” the “measuring stick,” hence, the final arbiter of revelation. To fail to evaluate our claims tea hear the Lord is arrogance and invites the discipline of the Lord. Can we possibly think  that any one of us hears God accurately if we contradict the apostles and prophets God inspired through the cen- turies, whose prophecies were tested by time and were fulhlled / When those who prophesy apply Scripture according to teachings circulating only in their own charismatic circle rather than according to the Scripture's context, our guard should go up. (We discuss this matter further in the final chapter.)


Both because Paul treats tongues at significant length in 1 Corinthians 14 and because many questions surround the gift today, I will examine several facets of this gift.

The main recorded public function of tongues, like its private function, was prayer and praise (1 Cor. 14:14—17; see also Acts 2:11; 10:46).’ Whether in a language one did or did not know, Paul regarded prayer as too important to be done without the Spirit's inspiration and empowerment (see also Eph. 6:18; Jude 20). Biblical evidence for tongues functioning as a message from God, perhaps to an individual (1 Cor. 14:28), is possible yet remains incon- clusive. This is not to say that God might not sovereignly use public utter- ances in tc›ngues differently today than he did in the Bible, even if this meant choosing to accommc›date human tradition to cc›mmunicate his will. Pen- tecc›stal scholars still debate the matter among themselves, but I see no rea- son why God could not at least on occasion do so. The biblical emphasis of tongues, however, is clearly on Spirit-led prayer.’
Although Paul thinks that tongues would be good for everyone, he inslsts that prophecy would be better (14:5). Tongues is valueless except for the per- son whose spirit is praying, unless that person car someone else interprets and makes tongues intelligible for the gathered body (14:13-19). Of course, the principle that Paul applies here extends beyc›nd tongues. In the gathered assem- bly, we should make sure that any ccantributions we bring—whether super-

Gift and Giver

natural gifts c›r a song or a serirton—are worrh the time ‹if those who listen t‹a us. li what we bring is fear our por›d ale ne, we shcould offer it in private.
Paul does next prc›hibit interpreted trangues, but he restricts uninterpreted tongues entirely to the context in which his own use of the gift occurs: pri- vate prayer (14:28; compare 14:18—19). Perhaps Paul would not have objected to a prayer meeting in which many speak under inspiratlon simultaneously, similar to the experience described in l Samuel 10:5-6 and 19:20, but he objected to anything that would distract the assembly from its chief purposes for gathering: edihcation, exhortation, and evangelism ( 14:3, 23—25).
Although in 1 Corinthians 12—14 Paul focuses on gifts for the building up of the church (hence, his insistence that tongues  in public be interpreted), we will briefly digress to investigate the private use of tongues. Those of us who› usually minister in churches in which the public use of tongues would probably divide more than edify tend to focus more on the private use of tongues. Nevertheless, according to Paul, tongues is a valid public gift, when interpreted, once churches understand and appreciate its function.
Paul indicates that tongues is prayer with one's spirit ( 14:14-16) and that it edifies the person praying ( 14:4). Edifying oneself is not a sub-Christian goal, even if it is not the goal of ministry in the church (see, for example, Jude 20). Do we not pursue personal prayer and Bible study partly to strengthen our own relationship with the Lord? 6
Paul would not mind if everyone prayed in tongues, though prophecy is
more valuable because it edifies the entire church (14:5). Although in pub- lic, uninterpreted tongues serve no function, and Paul seems reticent to pray publicly in tongues, he nevertheless prays in tongues tjuite a bit—undoubt- edly in his private devotional life (14:18-19). He may also have chosen to interpret these utterances in order to edify his mind (hence, “praying with the understanding” in the context of 14:13—16).
At the same time, tongues ls not the ultimate goal of the Christian life or the pinnacle of Christian experience (a view that Pentecostals are sometimes accused of holding, though most Pentecostals I know do neat hold it). Each of us is experiencing just a foretaste of God's glory and just a measure of God's power; we should not criticize others’ measure.

In contrast to some Pentecostals, I believe that “tongues” in both Acts and 1 Corinthians refers to genuine languages, albeit languages unknown to the speaker. I believe that biblical t‹ ngues sh‹auld be the same today, thc›ugh should ‹juali my statement befc re I prc›cced. Vern Praythress and D. A.

A Closer I ot›k at S‹iint• Spirit ual Gif ts 125

Carson may well also he riyht alaout the “encc›c1ing” c›f the language in many cases en tongues,' and l to not deny that Gc›d c‹ uld w'ork through something cut a lesser level rhan the 1 lblical Pitt. Nor would I suggest that Pentecostals should supervise one anc›ther to make sure the words sound like a genuine language; I have heard real foreign languages that sounded like gibberish to inc. We also have to allow those who are young in a gifr to mature in their use of ir, as with prophecy or teaching or any other gift. The speaker's focus should be on sincerely praying with his c›r her spirit t‹ Gc›d, allowing the Holy Spirit to make sure the words come out right.
¥et some tongues-speakers seem to(›elorm their “gift” out of habit or rote, rather than by cultivating sensitivity to rhe Spirit. When one hears a par- ticular phrase (fear example, “shonda ma kee”) repeated ten times and fol- lowed by a much more lucid “interpretation,” one is tempted to be rather skeptical concerning the “tongue.” Believing in the reality of  the genuine gift does not require us to accept as genuine all purported manifestations of the gift. jonathan Edwards warned of spiritual counterfeits during genuine times of revival, and William Seymour argued that one who focused on signs more than on God and his holiness would get a counterfeit. Because my con- ce rnis pastoral, I hope that this observation moves us to seek a deeper sen- sitivity to the Spirit rather than leads sincere but insecure seekers to doubt the reality of rheir spiritual experience. As prophecies of even accepted church prophets had to be tested, as teachers may mature in their gift, as we “know in part and prophesy in parr,” tongues-prayers presumably may grow more fluent and Spirit-led as well.
Thirteen years ago, when I was experiencing the deepest crisis I had ever faced as a Christian, a family took me to a charismatic church. During prayer someone came up and started praying for me, making a buzzing sound like a
bee, which I supFosed he thought  was tongues. I did not want him to pray  f‹ r me; I wanred him to gc› away and allow me tr› pray undisturbed! Perhaps noting my perplexity, he explained, “1 felt that the Lord show'ed me you were
going thrt ugh something and I should cc›me and pray fear yc u.” I ally wed him to pray bur was so annoyed by his buzzing that I did not tell him I was in fact facing a crisis. Afterward I complained to one of the people who brought me that the buzzing was certainly not tongues. “He has a bee-anointing,” she explained. Then I was even more annoyed! I did not and do not believe he was praying in biblical tongues. Yet the man had en‹ ugh sensitivity t‹ the Spirit and concern for a brother to pray for me. While I am sure he didn't have a “bee-anointing,” I also think it likely that he was my breather in Christ, prr›bably dc›ing the best he knew ro follow the Spirit's leadlng.

Gift and Giver

Today some segments of Christendom emphasize the mind tea the exclu- sion of other aspects of the human Fersonality; other groups emphasize emo-
ti‹an to the exclusion of reason. Tongues are not primarily rational;  those of
us who emphasize rationality in other aspects of our faith may especially need the kind of emotional release tongues provide. To illustrate the value of“pray- ing with one’s spirit” (1 Cor. 14:14-16), even when one does not immedi- ately comprehend  what one is praying,  I offer the following account known
to me.
A North American seminary student got into a loud debate with his Bible interpretation professor over the interpretation of a verse in Philippians, and for the rest of the day he felt incomprehensibly threatened. He knew he needed to apologize to the professor for losing his temper, but why was the debaie boihering him so much? He began to pray in tongues, and as his spirit prayed, his mental defense mechanisms were no longer in a position to sup- press his true feelings. As he poured out his heart in tongues, the Spirit also began to provide the interpretation for what he was feeling. He realized that he felt threatened by authority figures because he had always felt threatened by his father (the one authority figure he had known in his (ormative years). As long as he could remember, his father had always ridiculed whatever he said, no matter how hard he sought to defend himself with valid arguments. As the buried feelings continued to pour forth, he realized something else he never would have verbalized: He had felt hatred toward his father. As he con- tinued to pray, however, he began to weep, realizing how much he also had always loved his father.
The next dny he apologized to his professor, who also apologized to him
and declared, “But now we'll be better friends for it.” But the seminarian still had to deal with his father, who was not a Christian and with whom he had never had an intlmate conversation. He began praying about resolving his relationship with his father, and that summer, for the first time in a few years,  he traveled to see his father. One afternoon, when the either family membcrs were cout of the house, he found his father reading a newspaper. “Dad, may I speak with you?” he asked. Even trying to open the subject was difficult.
“Sure, son,” his father responded, the newspaper still in front of his  face.
“Dad, what I'm about to tell you—I'm neat saying that you were like this, just that this was my perception of you when I was growing up. Dad, 1 never felt I could talk with you about anything. I felt like you never listened to any- thing I had ti say, and I felr J hatec3 ytau for that. But I want to let you know that I’m really sorry fear having felt that way, because 1 really love you now.”

A Closer Look at Some Spiritual C if ts

Wlth the paper still in front of his face, his father responded, “That’s all right, son. That’s h‹aw every kid feels about his dad.” Bur the young man knew that he himself had done what was required of him.
Later, the seminarian's mother asked him what he’d spoken with his father about that day. “He's been acting differently ever since then,” she observed, noting that he was now spending time with his youngest son, who remained at home. When he told his mother what his father had said, she responded, “That's how he felt about his father, but he never made peace with him before he died.” Today, the father and son freely express their love for each other.
Because ofa prayer from his spirit, the seminarian was able to resolve some emotional conflicts that he might never have admitted he had. He was able to break a transgenerational cycle of pain because his spirit could be honest about feeling something his mind had not wanted to admit.

The Gifts in Ephesians 4:11

Many Christians employ Ephesians 4:11 today, especially in circles that emphasize the “five-fold ministry.” (The Greek wording is probably fourfold rather than fivefold, but the basic idea that the church needs all the gifts remains valid; see the context of 4:11—13 and the discussion in the previous chapter.)
Christ provides ministers of his Word in various forms. Most of those listed in Ephesians 4:11, except evangelists, deliver God's message partly (apostles) or primarily (prophets and pastor-teachers) to his church (4:12); given the context, even evangelists seem to serve the church in some way here.
These four designations do not necessarily exclude one another. Paul may have functir ned as a prophet and teacher before beginning his apostolic mis- sion (Acts 13:1; commentators debate the grammar). Lc›ng afterward he con- tinued to function as a prc›phet ( 1 Cor. 1§:37—38) and a teacher (1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11). At least in the early church of Antioch, prophets and teachers seem to have filled the role of overseer (pastors; Acts 13:1), and in later Pauline churches, at least some elders (pastors) were prophetically endowed (1 Tim. 4:14). Timr›thy is both teacher (2 Tim. 2:24) and evangelist (2 Tim. 4:3). And one cannot read Acts 13—28 without recc gnizing that Paul is as rnuch an itinerant evangelist as Philip had been in his earlier days. Obvi- ously, these ministry callings can overlap. Nevertheless, we will attempt to summarize the basic aspects ‹af each olltce.


Gi ft and River

A Closer  Look at Sterne Spiritual Gifts 129
ape stlcs to spcci‹i1ties (or peoples; Rom. 11:13; Tal. 2:8-9; 1 Thu. 2:7). APc*S-
tles were like imperial legates, representing the authority of the one who sent

First, Paul speaks of apostles. 1 address this designatic›n at scxnewhat greater length than the others because of its importance but also because the New Testament nowhere specifically defines lt, requiring closer investigatic›n. Many people like to claim rhe title in some circles today, but not all are aware of the biblical price involved in this calling.
Paul never restricted the use of God’s apostles to the Twelve c›r to the Twelve plus himself (R‹ m. 16:7; 1 Cor. 15:5—7; Gal. 1:19; compare occa- sionally even in Acts 1:26; 14:4, 14). Given the need fear apostles in bring- ing Christ’s body to maturity (Eph. 4:12-13), Paul would presumably assume that this gift, like the others he mentlons, would continue to function until Christ's return. (Some limit apostles to those who saw Christ based on 1 Ccur. 9:1, but Paul asks four distinct questions there, including, “Am 1 not free /” Others object to apostles continuing because they think apc›st1es write Scrip- ture—though most biblical apostles didn't. But whatever apostles could specif- ically mean, $cripture as canon is by definitic n closed. As we argued earlier, believing that apostles and rophets could continue after the first century does not mean that anyone IS still writing Scripture. No orthodox charis- matics today believe that Scripture is still being written.)
Many Christians today see Ncw Testament apostles as missionaries, but although Paul was certainly a missionary, the mission to the Gentiles was his specific call. New Testament evidence for most other apostles  is  inconclu- sive; despite later Christian traditions about their effective missionary  work later in life, most of the hrst apostles apparently remained in Jerusalem nearly two decades after Jesus' resurrection (Acts 15:4). The most we can say from such evidence is that some apostles wcre missionaries, “master builders” who strategized and laid the foundations for churches in new regions  (1 Ccur. 3:10). I know some missionaries today who fit this category.
Based on an examination of e› cry use r f the tcrtu ape stle in the New' Tes- triinent, I cc›ncludcd that s‹ mc features regularly characterized apr›stles, th‹augh ‹apostles were r thcrwise diverse (Paul anal the Twelve were ver) ‹1 - ferent in  many  respects).  First,  apostles  seem  to  have  broken  new  ground, r rlginating a ministry. Beyond this, they diverge on the kind of new ground): The Twelve founded the church in Jerusalem by passing r n Jesus'  message, then remained) there. Paul, eager nr›t tc› build) on an€›ther's foundation (2 C‹ r. 10:15-18; 11:5—6; c€3lnpare Rt3ln. 15:17-20), planted small BlblC $tudy grt3ups across the Mediterranean world that gradually multiplied. He remained in ctantact with them  but cc uld  neat  be with  them most  r f the  tiirte; still, the)' u erc the proof of his ministry ( 1 Cor. 9:1—2; 2 Cor. 3:1-3). God could call

them, but Paul and his colleagues broke more new ground than the Twelve. Second, apcastles apparently exercised an authority generated by their min- istry role, not by the church's institutional structure. The Twelve in Jerusalem exercised a special authority as the appointed overseers of Jesus’ message (Acts 4:35—3 7; 5:2). This authority, however, was not a purely administrative authority. Rather, the Twelve willingly shared with the seven (Acts 6:6) and especially with local “elders” in the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:2, 4, 6, 22—23; 16:4). They were willing to recognize God's work in others’ leadership (Acts
8:14) and listen to other Christians (Acts 9:27).
True apostles must be servants, never people who pull rank (compare Acts 15:22; 1 Cor. 4:9—16; 2 Cor. 11:5-15; Col. 1:24—25). Paul occasionally— though  only  when   necessary—pulled   rank   and  commanded   his  churches ( 1 Cor. 4:17; 5:3-5; 2 Cor. i:9; 13:1-3, 10; as a prophet, 1 Cor. 14:36-38).
More often, though, he reasons with them (2 Cor. 1:24; 8:8) and provides an example of humble service (2 Cor. 1:3—7; 4:15). He continually reaffirms his love for his church people, even when he needs to reprove  them  (for exam- ple, 2 Cor. 4:15; 5:13; 6:11-13;  7:3; 11:2, 11; 12:14-15,  19); he emphasizes
that they should be able tra be proud of him (2 Cor. 5:12) as he is of them (7:9, 14; 9:2). He turned down their money because he was committed to leek out for them like a father for his children (1 Cor. 4:14—16; 2 Cor. 12:14). He wants to spend and be spent for them (2 Cor. 12:15) and would rather suf(er than let them suffer (13:9; compare 4:12; Eph. 3:13; 1 Thess. 2:18). The Lord gave him authority mainly to build them up, he notes; he would tear them down only if they forced him to do so (2 Cor. 13:10; compare 12:19). This is the language of a leaving relationship, not  pure  institutional  author-  ity. Apostolic authority seemed tc flow frs m apostles' special message, a mes- sage often more authc ritative than that raf prophets (Acts  2:42; 9:)  3; though cc rnpare Luke 11:49; Eph. 3:5).
Third, both signs and sacrihcial, simple living characterized) aprastolic Min-
istry. When Jesus sent out (“apostled”) his agents the first time, he commis-
sioned them to work signs and tr› travel lightly (Matt. l0: I—?; Mark 6'6-10,
30) and warned their t‹ expect persecuti‹ n (compare Matt. 10:16—d9). The Jerusalem apostles appear to have suffered (Luke 11:d9; Acts 5 18, 29, 40; 12:2), continued to liVe sacrificially (Acts 3:6), and certainly performed signs (Acts 2:43; 5:1?; 8:18; 14:3 ). Scripture is clear that Paul lived sacrificially, a lifestyle he ct›uld ‹test ciate with his calling as ‹n3 apostle, a calling he sug- gested re‹quirecJ special suffering (1 Cor. 4.9—1); compare ? for. 11.17—I 3).

He also pcrformecJ signs, especially ln some periv›ds of evangelistic ministry

A Clt›her Look at Stime Spiritual Gifts

ProQhets, EvorigeÍists, and Pastor-Teachers


(Acts 19:11—12; Rorri. 15:18), and could speak of these as proof of hÍS apos- tolic calling and ministry (2 Cor. 12.11-12)
But thOUg i Philip traveled lightly, founded the church in Samaria, and performed signs, he is called an “evangelist” rather than an apostle, perhaps because he does not exercise apostolíc authority. The New Testament never
defines apostleship, but it seems to assume a particular authority, albeit one validated thrc›ugh sufferings. It is also a calling that God alone may choose (Mark 3:14; Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1). (He may invite volunteers for various ministries, as some texts suggest, for example, 1 Cor. 14:1; 1 Tim. 3:1.
But in the end God decides whom to appoint and exalt. It is therefore impor-
tant to remember that no Christian should feel second-class based on his or her calling; God ultimately evaluates us not on the calling he gives us but on our embracing it and our faithfulness to it.)
The term apostle and its usage may tell us something more about the role.
Although Paul sometimes uses the term in a more general sense (“apostles o{ the churches,”  2 Cor. 8:23), when used by itself  the term represents special
envoys or ambassadors of God. An apostle is literally a commissioned “mes- senger,” similar  to the ancient  idea of a herald or the Jewish custom  of  the
shniinch. As an appointed agent of the one who sent him, a sfilinch was backed by the full authority of the one who sent him (to the extent that he accu- rately representen his comniission).
Jewish people sometimes viewed the biblical prophets as God's sH1inc#im,
and the Greek version of the Old Testament often uses the verb related to apostle (c›r God commissioning Moses and the prophets. The New Testa- ient probably builds ‹an this idea dut uses apostle in a somewhat more spe- cilic way. The only spccific Old Testament  mr›del cited for New Testament
apv stleship is Moses (Jt›hn 1:14-18; 2 Ct›r. 3:6-18; 2 Tim. 3.8). Although Gc›c) had authorlzed the prophets to speak ft r hiin, God's missic›n gave spe- cial authc›rity  to some prophets such as Moshe, prc›phetic judges (Deborah,
Samuel), dnd leaders who raised up prophetic inovements (ElijaL ílFit) Elisha). (G‹ d also anointed the first kings, Saul and David, prophetically, indicating that he desired in leaders a special combination of spiritual insight and adininistratic›n—1 Sain. 10:10—11; 16:13; Acts 2:30. Unfortunatcly, to se ne extent power corrupted brath of them, especially Saul.) Christ appar- cntly cc tninissions Christian apostles (in the specific sense ‹ f apostleship) with a higher rank than normal prophcts ln c›rder to strr t*giz*  nd **<* with

Second, Paul addresses prophets, who focused on the prophetic message God had given them. The term brobhet applied in general to anyone who spoke for God. In the broadest sense (as in Acts 1:8 with 2:16-18) it could apply to all witnessing Christians (Rev. 19:10). But in Ephesians, Paul often couples prophets with apostles as contemporary expositors of God's myster- ies found in the Bible (2:20; 3:5). Thus, by prophets here, Paul may mean rrlore than merely those who offer pre phecies of encouragement (1 Cor. 14:31) or who tell people where theit lost donkeys are (1 Sam. 9:6-9, 20).
He may refer in this case to those who provide divine direction and strate- gies for Christ's body in the world, revealing God's purposes so God's people can influence their generation in the wisest way. He probably refers to an office of recognized prophets (Acts 11:27; 13:1; 21:10) rather than to any- one who occasionally prophesies. lf the church should receive the message of true prophets, it is only because they have been thoroughly tested and found faithful to the message of previous generations of apostles and prophets in the Bible. Although they held less administrative authority than apostles, the prophets’ mission of revealing God's purposes left them second only to apostles (1 Cor. 12:28).’
The third group, evangelists, focused on the saving gospel. An evangelist was literally a “herald of good news,” a “gospelizer.” Evangelists thus served the church by announcing the word that brought people into the church to begin with (Eph. 1:13). They were frontline warriors, because the one piece of armor specifically designed for advancing into enemy territory and the one offensive weapon are both related to the gospel (Eph. 6:15, 17).
By their example, these gifted gospelizers probably also stirred or mobi- lized r›thers in the church to witness, thereby continuing to build up Christ's body (4:11-13). In contrast to the use of the term in some church traditi‹ us, biblical evangelists are not simply Feople who go from church to church stir- ring up church members for a week. Evangelists are those who take the gospel directly to the streets, to the nursing homes, to the campuses, and so on, bear- ing the saving message of Christ (Acts 21:8; compare 2 Tim. 4:5). If some of
them do travel from church t‹ church stlrring up church members, it is prob- ably not simply to teach them that they should witness but also to show them how to witness, for instance by taking them out to the streets. There may be other forms of this gi(t as well (musicians who can draw crowds and share Christ with them, mass evangelists, and sc on), but the basic heart raf the calling involves preaching the gospel.

Shift and G ivcr

A ltlhe r Lt3t3k at Some Spiritual Gif tS

t 13

Fourth, Paul mates p‹istor-te‹ichers, w he› w‹›iilc) expc›und Scripture  to rheir c‹ ngregations. Paul's language in the Greek refers to pastor-teachers as a sin- gle calling, and their focus was to expc›und the  word  that Gov) had  already pre vided in the Old Testament  and the  traditions about Jcsus (now recc rded ln the New Testament). While all the above gifts can overlap, pastors by def- inition must be teachers of God's Word. The word bnstois means “shepherds,” those whom God has appointed to watch over the sheep and care for  their needs, as with Israel's spiritual leaders (Ezek. 34:2—4). These shepherds are also› callcd “overseers” (xlv: “bishops”) and “elders” (Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5—?; 1 Peter 5:IQ).
Just as one could seek other spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14:1), one could desire the office of an overseer ( 1 Tim. 3: l ), provided one met the qualifications for being above reproach in the local community where one functioned as a church leader (3:2-7). (In the first generation, such leaders were often raised up in the local congregations—Acts 14:23—hence, started with a working knowledge of their community.) Scripture reading and exposition became standard in churches as they had been in synagogues (1 Tim. 4:13), because they were necessary for perseverance to salvation ( 1 Tim. 4:16; 2 Tim. 3:14-4:4). Church leaders had to depend on God's gift (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6). Pastor-teachers apparently focused on explaining God's Word and apply- ing lt to the needs of their church members.

The Purpose oJ these gifts

Most strikingly,  Ephesians 4 indicates the  purpose of these ministers of the
Word: They were to equip all God's people for the work of ministry, so that by evangelism, teaching, and insFired guidance the church would become all it should  be (Eph. 4:12-13). The most  important  function of  these lln-
isters of the Word, therefore, was to mobilize the rest of Christ's beady, because all Christians are called to be ministers. The places in which Christians work and study and reside are their pari:shes. If we could mobilize all Christians to minister where they live, we would  have a spiritual army to  proclaim Christ, to meet the needs of our st›ciety, and to lay a better foundation for our soci- ety's ethics. Can  we imagine the  impact on the church, and  thus on the world, i these ministry gifts began functioning the way they should / As long as this  w‹ rk remains inch mplete in any generatic n, we will c‹ ntinue  t‹  neecJ  the ape stles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers who  Paul says are called for this purpose (4:11—13).

lf you feel drawn to any ‹ f these gifts, you should begin asking God for more specific direction as to how tr› pursue them. lt is also wise, when possi- ble, to learn from others. The first generation of Christians had teachings clirect from those who knew Jesus; we have to study thcase teachings and learn about the culture and settings they first addressed. Calling is what starts us out, but equipping us also takes time (especially for some gifts), whether through years of suffering (Joseph, David) or waiting (Abraham and Sarah, Paul; compare Acts 9:30; 11:25; 13:1-2; Gal. 1:18; 2:1). Educational equip-
ping is often helpful (Acts 7:22; 17:28; 18:24; 22:3); still, neither Bible col- lege nor seminary can make one a man or woman of God; only God can do that, and we desperately need his gifts and calling.

Pursuing Gifts

Whatever other reasons many of us do not experience any particular gifts, cone reason may be because we do not pursue them as Paul commands (1 Cor. 12:31; 14:1). To be sure, Paul wants the church as a whole to seek gifts, so his exhortation may not mean that God will necessarily grant every gift that every Christian desires (12:11). Also, Paul surely does not imply that all Christians should exercise all gifts (12:28-30). But God often grants prayer requests, especially when Christians offer them for his honor. Paul gives us some guidelines for what kinds of gifts God may be most eager to give us.
Some translators render the verb in 1 Corinthians 12:31 as a statement (“you desire”) instead of a command (“desire”). But the same word occurs in 1 Corinthians 14:1 (where it is clearly a command, as in 14:39), forming a literary frame around chapter 13. The chapter between these two commands defines which gifts are the “best” ones we shc›uld seek: those that build up the church by love. In churches in which prejudice against the gift would not create division, prophecy certainly contributes to the building up of the assem- bly and is thus among the “best” gifts in such settings (14:1). (In sr›ine churches and denominations today even prophecy creates division, so at least in the short run it might not be the “best” gift there. We would at least need to pre- pare the grcaundwork with teaching about the gift, its proper use, and be ready to exercise discernment.)
Some writers object  by saying  that the Bible does not give us m‹adels of
people whoa seek gifts. But just as I argue elsewhere in this book that we should embrace the teaching of narrative can matters that Paul's letters do not directly address, so we should accept here Paul's letters on a matter even if narratives

                            A Closer Look at Sterne Spiritual Gifts


dc› next address it. We d‹ next have iTuich narrative to 1oc›k to c›n the subject. The Book c f Acts is the only boc›k c I New Test unent narrative outside the Gospels, and it prtivides no examples of seeking gifts in a gtidly way (when tcangues came, they came spontaner›usly with the Spirit). lt contains few examples c›f anything outslde Luke's purview and shows gifts mainly in their use in evangelism rather than in the church. (We do get a couple negative examples of people trylng to get apr›stolic gifts of power without going to God f‹ r them—8:18-24; 19:13-19.)
But there are some biblical models of seeking empc werment from the
Spirit. In the Old Testament, Elisha cleaved to his mentor, seeking Elijah's einpc›werinent, even if Elijah did not guarantee it to him (2 Kings 2:1—14). And in the New Testament, when the Samaritans did not receive the gift of the Spirit immediately, two apostles went to make sure they received it (Acts 8:14-17). These and similar experiences serve as a model (see appendix), implying that we should seek the same empowerment the early church had if we lack it (compare Luke 11:13). One disciple of Jesus even requests the opportunity to learn miraculous faith and, though imperfect, walks on water hunger than most of us, his critics, have (Matt. 14:28-31).
The fact that God is sovereign over the distribution of gifts (1 Cor. 12:7) is no reason not t‹ seek the gifts. God is sovereign cover our food too, but though he desires to provide it for his children (see Matt. 6:25-34) and wants us to seek his kingdom first (Matt. 6:9—10, 33), he expects us to pray for him to provide our food (Matt. 6:11; 7:7—11). Those who argue that we should never seek gifts, that God will give them whether we ask fear them or not, may be sounding a note of false piety, like some complacent American church- goers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries  who  reasoned,  “God  will  save us if he has predestined us, so there is no point in us trying  to do any-  thing abc›ut lt.” The J3ible teaches both Grad's sovereignty and our responsi- bility to pray. If God has stirred a passion for him in our hearts, our act ‹af seeking Gc d is also a gift frr›m him. God dries n‹ t grant every request,  but th‹it is not a reason not to  ask." Even  in the  seeking we learn  more of him, and ‹often if we persist in faith, God does begin tc› ectuip us with that gift or with ‹others in its place.

Gifts and beyond Gifts

The very diversity r›f the gifrs Paul mentit›ns summons us to be open tc› m‹ re of God's work than just the way he has worked among us in the past.

While we she uld not  play dc›wn  the  slgnificance  of any gift God has f‹ r us, it is easy t‹ focus so much c n one gift that we are unaware of entire areas of spiritual experience in the Bible that are unrelated  to that particular gift. Paul not only prayed in tongues (1 Cor. 14:18) but also experienced deeper reve- lations in the Spirit (2 Cor. 12:1). However, he preferred tea reserve such expe- riences mainly for his private devotion and boasted instead  in his sufferings  and weakness in which God alone was glorified (2 Cor. 12:1—10).
Some of us are content simply to pray in tongues or employ some other gift without ccansidering that there may be more we could learn from God's Spirit. When Ezekiel saw the awesome majesty of the Lord, he was so over- whelmed that he fell on his face before God (Ezek. 1:28), but the Spirit empowered him to withstand the glory of the revelation and so to receive what God had to say (Ezek. 2:1-2). The Spirit here both reveals the majesty of our God and equips us with God's message to our generation,
The diversity of the Spirit's work should not surprise anyone who has read the Old Testament. Although God's Spirit was active in the whole creation (Gen. 1:2; Pss. 104:30; 139:7; perhaps Job 33:4; Isa. 34:16; 40:7), the Old Testament especially associates the Spirit with prophecy (Num. 11:25—29; 24:2; 1 Sam. 10:6, 10; 19:20, 23; 2 Sam. 23:2; 1 Kings 22:24; 1 Chron. 12:18;
2 Chron.  15:1; 18:23;  20:14; 24:20; Nett. 9:30;  Isa. 61:1; Mlcah 3:8; Zech.
7: l2), revelations (Ezek. 2:2; 3:12, 14, 24; 8:3; 11:1, 5, 24; 37:1; 43:5), other
speaking for God (Isa. 42:1; 44:1-5; 48:16; 59:21; see 43:10), and perhaps
prophets’ empowerment  to do miracles  (2 Kings  2:9, 15; compare  1 Kings
Yet the Old Testament also shows the Spirit empowering people fear vari-
‹his skills, including art and architecture devoted to God (Exod. 31:b; 35:3l;
see 28:3) and military and political leadership (Num. 27:18; Dent. 34:9; Judg. 10, 6 34, 11 29, l3 i5, 14 6, 19, 1s 14, 1 S m 11 6, 16 13-14, I‹•m 1
Zech. d:6; (Perhaps Ps. 51:11). S‹xnetiiues prc›phetic cmpow'crment evidenced empowerment for leadership (Num. 11:1 7, 25—26; 1 Main. 10:6, 10). Paul reflects the same emphasis on the diversity of the Spirit's  wc›rks, althr›ugh, as ln the Old Testament, various forms of prophetic speech predominate.


Grad has provicJcd  many gifts for building  up his church. The treatment
,ihove,  though r  nly a sampling, sh‹  uld demonstrate  the wide range of°li*'ersc
gifts Grad has for his per›p1e. We should learn to be conhdent in the gifts and

Ciift and Giver

venting Gt›d gives us for his wcark, bec‹icise we are confident in the God who gives the1T1 tt› us. We dare never either demean or exalt our particular gifts. Gt›d gives each of us different tasks and judges us by whether we are faithful to our task, not by h‹ w dramatic our task appears. At the same time, Paul also calls us to consider what gifts are most necessary for the church in our time. Having cc›nsidered them, we should ask Gcid to give thc›se gifts to his body and be open to him using us if he chooses.
We must seek to cultivate especially those gifts that most build up the body
‹ f Christ. We must accept and encourage one another's gifts, and in our pur- suit of gifts, honor the unity of Christ’s body. The gifts should not be segre- gated into “charismatic” parts o( the church; they belong to the whole body of Christ, a reality that many believers, both charismatic and noncharismatic, have often failed to appreciate.
Yet the bottom line of the Spirit's work in our lives is next power to per- form miracles but a transformed heart that learns how to love. Spiritual power without love is dangerous, but love without some degree of spiritual power tc› carry forth its designs is impotent. Once our hearts are attuned to God's heart in love, we can seek various spiritual gifts for his glory, fear serving our brothers and sisters in Christ, and for changing the world around us that des- perately needs transformation by Christ’s power. We can pray together for the establishment of God's kingdom rather than our own kingdoms and be the gifts for each other that God called us to be.

The Spirit and Salvation

s we noted above, when discussing the fruit of the Spirit, the great- est work of the Spirit in this age is transforming us into new crea- tures in Christ. I speak of this work as the greatest because it is in
keeping with God’s greatest act of power, raising Jesus Christ from the dead (Eph. 1:19-23; 2:1, 6). When God spoke the world into being, that was an act of power. The new creation to come, however, reflects a greater expres- sion of God's power, and the p‹ wer of that new creation, inaugurated in Jesus' resurrection, continues in us (Eph. 3:16, 20; 4:22-24). Few of us recognize the greatness of God’s power at work in us!
The fruit of the Spirlt reflects God's continulng creative p‹ wer ln our lives. But it is also important to recognize the beginning c›f that creative »tiv'1ty in our lives, when we acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord, when God himself enters us and transforms us into› new creations. We need to focus not merely on what Gcid is enabling us tc become but on the transfc›rinatic n he already began in us.

Different Aspects of the Spirit’s Work

F‹ r readers tempted to skip tc the next chapter, think ink they already know everything about a matter as basic as converslon, I recommend that

Gift and Giver

y‹ u read) this chapter anyway. Even if yc›u unclerstancJ everything about c‹ n- version, you will find intriguing the discusslon of some bil lical passages that introduce it. Although many Scripture passages testify to the Spirit's work in transft›rming us in salvation, in thls brief chapter I will focus on just two examples. Both of these examples are necessary prerectuisites for the follow- ing chapter on baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Because Jewish people used water baptism to symbolize purification, con- version, and transformation, it provided a useful analogy for a purification and transformation by the Spirit at conversion.  We will look at  this theme as developed most fully in the Gospel of John but also as articulated in the preaching of John the Baptist. In the next chapter we will examine some examples  in Acts that can be used to support a subsequent experience, pos-
sibly a “baptism in the Holy Spirit.” The present chapter examines two exam-
ples that can be used to support a baptism in the Holy Spirit at conversion. I will save discussion of most of the issues for the next chapter, but here I will briefly emphasize the Spirit’s work in conversion. Pursuing a more spe- cific focus than some other parts of the New Testament, Luke-Acts empha- sizes the Spirit's work in empowering us to speak for God (see chapter 3 on the Spirit and evangelism). But while most other New Testament writers also connect the Spitit with speaking for God (perhaps especially John, for exam-
ple, 15:26-27), they also emphasize the Spirit’s role in our conversion.
If the phrase “baptism in the Holy Spirit” applies to the entire work of the Spirit in our lives, then it is perfectly reasonable for different passages to apply it to different aspects of his work in our lives. Some differences are largely semantic: Most Christians agree that the Spirit transforms us at conversion but cc›ritinues to work in us and that we may encounter special experiences with the Spirit after conversion. Therefore, I urge readers who are commit- ted t‹ either side in the baptism in the Spirit debate to hear me out through both of these chapters. Before Christians can work traward c‹ansensus, we
need to lay nut all the evidence useful for both sides in the discussion.

Purified by the Spirit

Jenis intrraduces the theme of the new° birth in his discussion with Nicode- mus (John 3:3-5; compare 1:12-13; Gal. 4:29; Titus 3:5, 1 Peter 1 3, 23). This conversation about being “born again” is well known, but many Chris- tians are unaware that John speaks ‹ f spiritual purification far more taften than in just this one passage.

The   Spirit and Salx-ution

One way john describes this new birth is being btam “‹ f water” (3:5). This mention of water reflects a theme that runs through john's Gospel: The wash- ing that God offers us is more than ritual; it is a transformation by his Spirit!'

Born o{Woter mid the Spirit (John 3:3—5)

When Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night, Jesus informs him that he must be “born again” (John 3:3). While we understand today  that Jesus referred to spiritual rebirth, a miraculous transf‹armation of our character by God's Spirit, such a concept eluded Nicodemus. He assumed that Jesus meant he had to reenter his mother’s womb and be physically reborn (3:4). The alter- native was simply unthinkable to him. The only kind of spiritual rebirth Nicodemus knew about was appropriate only for pagans, not for religious Jew- ish persons such as himself. Jewish people generally believed that a Gentile converting to Judaism needed to be baptized. Because Gentiles were impure, they needed to wash away that impurity when they converted to Judaism. After a Gentile converted, some Jewish teachers regarded the person as “a newborn child,” with a new, “clean” legal status.
Nicodemus, like the religious people John the Baptist admonished in Matthew 3:9, could not imagine that he needed to become “newborn” in this sense; such a baptism of repentance was for Gentiles only! So Jesus makes the concept of being born again more explicit: A person must be born “from water and from the Spirit.” The “water” should have immediately reminded Nicodemus of the baptismal part of the Jewish ceremony used for Gentiles who are being legally “reborn” as Jews. If Nicodemus grasped the compari- son, he would have been unhappy with it, for Jesus was suggesting that even a teacher of Israel needed tea repent in order to become a child c›f God.
But Jesus was next asking Nicodemus merely to be baptized in water accord- ing to the Jewish ritual, as embarrasslng as that would have 1 een for him. Jesus wanted Nicodemus t‹ be born of spiritual water, to be spiritually erm- verted by the “water c f the Spirit.” ln Greek, one prepositi‹ n governs both “water” and “Spirit.” Because of thls, the expressic›n “from water and the Spirit” could a1s‹a be translated, “from the water ‹af the Spirit.” Lest we dtiubt that this is the llkely meaning here, we should note that later in this Gospel, Jesus uses water as a symbol for the Spirit (John 7:37-39). This symbolic use of water carrles on a biblical comparison that remained popular amc›ng sc me of Jesus' contempt raries (Ezek. 36:25-27). Thus, Jesus gcses on to speak sim- ply cut“that which is born frc›m the Spirit” (John 3:6). Natural birth was utterly l12L4c)CtjU‹4te for Gc d's kingdom unlcss supplemented by Spirit rebirth; rebirth
b Gc›d's S writ is the beginning of an eternal life (3:16).

(Note By Blogger: Due to the length of the book which this content is from I have broken it up into a short series of blog posts.)

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