Rethinking the Gifts of the Spirit: Part IV

How does a believer rightly exercise spiritual gifts in a local assembly? The answer to this question depends on whether or not you belong to a church that allows every believer to function and minister in the gatherings (see Reimagining Church for details). If you do not belong to such a church, there will be limited opportunities for you to exercise such gifts. But assuming that you belong to such a church, or will belong to one, the following can be said.

The Bible says that “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every person for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7). That means that the gifts are available to the entire Body of Christ. Paul’s exhortation to Corinth was to “eagerly desire the greater gifts” and to “eagerly desire spiritual gifts” so as to edify the church (1 Cor. 12:31; 14:1, 39). To eagerly desire the best gifts means to desire those gifts that best edify the church, such as prophecy.

The exercise of spiritual gifts begins with a desire to build up the church. It begins with observing what is most needed in your present fellowship. If some are sick among you, then healing is needed. If the church lacks perceiving God’s present mind or it needs a deeper revelation of Christ, prophecy is needed. If there is a lack of purpose, wisdom is needed. The church is a living organism. It will produce spiritual manifestations by sheer instinct if it is allowed to and if the Spirit’s manifestations are not suppressed or discouraged. This is why Paul exhorts, “Quench not the Spirit” in 1 Thessalonians 5:19.

The exercise of spiritual gifts requires faith (Rom. 12:6). If you are seeking the Lord’s glory, you are looking to edify your brothers and sisters, and you are open to correction (if you make a mistake), you have nothing to fear. Those who hide their talents because of fear will never advance in spiritual service (Matt. 25:25-29). It is more honorable to step out of the boat and sink a few times than to never leave it at all.

At the same time, it is hazardous to imitate the poor examples that have been set before us with respect to how spiritual gifts function. Shouting at the devil at high volume, saying “El Shundai” before a prophetic word, using King James English when speaking in the Lord’s name, telling a person to move to another city for a different job because “The Lord told you,” and pushing people down on the floor are just a few examples that should not be imitated. These are some of the harmful wrappings that have shrouded the true gifts of the Spirit, causing them to appear repulsive.

Such wrappings should be discarded, but the gift that lies underneath them should be accepted.

In short, the manifestation of the Spirit is designed to display the presence of Jesus Christ in the believing community. Through spiritual gifts, spiritual life is supplied to the church and spiritual power is released to accomplish God’s intentions.

Spiritual gifts are the means by which we supply life to one another. To stress gifts over life is to breed confusion and division. But to stress life at the expense of gifts is to suffer loss. We should accept both 2 Corinthians 4 (which emphasizes life) and 1 Corinthians 12-14 (which emphasizes gifts), for both are necessary for expressing the fullness of Christ.

The charismaniac over-emphasis on spiritual gifts is one that will detract from Jesus Christ. At the same time, the charisphobic position of suppressing them will do the same. Jesus Christ embodies all spiritual things . . . including spiritual manifestations.

When Jesus is free to express Himself completely and totally . . . without set prescriptions or restrictions . . . the manifestations of the Spirit will appear. And the Lord will use them to reveal and impart His unfathomable riches to His people.

Read Part III

Stay tuned for Part V

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  1. Vinny says

    Something that didn’t leave my mind while reading this section of the series is that as blessed as I have been to see many expressions of Christ free to function like this in their gatherings over the last decade. I must add that those that extend this into the other 160+ hours of the week in shared lives seem to magnify Him not in multiples but exponentially and is reflected in all in the surrounding community. Some time indescribably Awesome.
    Almost like a dome of peace and protection in a war torn battle ground.

  2. David H says

    Thanks Frank for another great series!!

    Being raised in the Pentecostal IC, I’ve seen so much ‘stuff’ that was passed off as from God but was really man’s flesh.

    As I’ve said before, you have put into words much of what I have felt for years.

    Keepin’ on For Christ!!

  3. says

    “The church is a living organism…It will produce spiritual manifestations by sheer instinct if allowed…This is why we are encouraged not to quench the Spirit”

    Love this all-important point. On the flip side, I am also wondering how we deal with the exercise of the gifts by those that mistakenly believe they have or are using them. Granted, the Lord can do anything through anybody if He wants, but we’ve all come across the situations where someone routinely believes they have a gift when they don’t. As we know, this can make meetings almost unbearable. Any practical advice for dealing with this situation lovingly?

    • says

      It really depends on the kind of group you have and how things like this are dealt with. Different groups handle such situations differently. Some groups hammer such things out in private one-on-one meetings in a loving, gracious, “come to Jesus” way. Others do it in other contexts — not in the corporate gatherings themselves, but in smaller gatherings where people share issues and problems. Some have local leaders who deal with such things. There are just too many variables to give a universal answer for a particular fellowship. Except this … to treat the person the same way you would want to be treated if it were you. See my post “How (Not) to Correct Another Christian” in the Archives

  4. Thomas Loy Bumgarner says

    Frank, I was taught that prophecy was words of encouragement, edification, consolation, and comfort for both the individual and the local congregation/assembly for that particular time and place, and was not to be confused with revelation(word of knowledge/wisdom) given to individuals and only rarely to other people, and never during”worship” time. Your thoughts on that. Thanks, enjoying the series.

    • says

      I believe this distinction is incorrect and cannot be supported by the NT. See part III of the series where I explain my view of prophecy, revelation, and the other revelatory gifts. I trust it helps.

  5. logos says

    A Men! Kalil and Catherin S, You both used the word “balance”. I’m not much of a writer but if I were, both of you expressed affirmation in the way I would’a if I could’a.

  6. says

    “To stress gifts over life is to breed confusion and division.”

    It seems we always (quite often) want to place ourselves at the center. To make the whole thing a religious/spirituality ascendancy project.

    I think we must battle those temptations.

    Thanks, Frank.

  7. Kalil says

    Frank, thanks for this series, I love how you keep the balance, where your not pitting life against gift but how you put it “Spiritual gifts are the means by which we supply life to one another”. I also appreciate how you put it in one of your recent parts that gifts are alive and well today but they look different then the “charismaniac” way. The church that I’m apart of has been functioning in several gifts, however, I wasn’t aware of it until a sister from the church wrote a blog about several ways the group has been expressing life through those gifts. They look so different then what my religious background told me they were supposed to look like. In addition, seeing the same gift displayed more than once can even look different. For instance, there has been several healings that has occurred but, in each case they didn’t look the same. However, in all cases Jesus was lifted and the person or persons He chose to express himself through were not even noticed.

  8. CatherineS says

    I appreciate the way you’re encouraging a balanced, natural expression of the gifts of the Spirit. Those “harmful wrappings” are often affectations and attempts to elevate and draw attention to the individual exercising the gift, and they are frequently used to abuse or manipulate the body of Christ — all of which is contrary to the the Spirit’s intention of edifying the church and glorifying Jesus Christ.

  9. Sheri Bankston says

    Yes! This series continues to say “yes” in me…for the body…produced by instinct when allowed…spiritual life and spiritual power.

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