What’s the Deal with Spiritual Gifts?
This is the beginning of an article I wrote on the “Satisfaction Through Christ” blog on September 20, 2016. I am sharing the posts I wrote there on my blog. To finish reading the article, you will have to click on the link at the bottom.
Charismatic churches and religions are growing, and evangelical churches are jumping in with spiritual gifts tests and classes, so many people are wondering, “What’s the deal with spiritual gifts?” Spiritual gifts as a whole are much too large to cover in one blog post. However, I decided to write a little about them because of a comment on my last post, Religion Matters, where I told about leaving a church that turned out to be charismatic, because we couldn’t overlook our differences. Specifically, I felt like I was in danger of being led astray by the heavy influence of the spiritual gifts.
It was a long comment, but the reader asked, “I hope this comes across as an honest question and not antagonistic, but why are the gifts of the Spirit seen as so unbiblical and negative?”
I would like to start by pointing out that in no way are the spiritual gifts unbiblical or negative in and of themselves. The Holy Spirit does give gifts to believers. At this point, I have heard some people say that God gives believers their gift(s) at salvation and they come out in the believer’s life in the form of the believer’s passions, talents, and abilities, which would assist them in doing ministry work. Other people seem to think that God gives believers gift(s) at certain times or situations where someone might benefit from them, in a supernatural way.
From Wikipedia: “Charismatic Christianity (also known as Spirit-filled Christianity) is a form of Christianity that emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts, and modern-day miracles as an everyday part of a believer’s life. Practitioners are often called Charismatic Christians or renewalists. Although there is considerable overlap, Charismatic Christianity is often categorized into three separate groups: Pentecostalism, the Charismatic Movement, and Neo-charismatic movement. According to the Pew Research Center, Pentecostals and Charismatic Christians numbered over 584 million or a quarter of the world’s 2 billion Christians in 2011.”
Also, we need to understand two schools of thoughts about the gifts. The charismatic groups would be considered continuationists. From Theopedia, “Continuationism is the belief that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit taught in the bible — such as prophecy, tongues, interpretation of tongues, healings, miracles, etc. — have not ceased and are available for the believer today (1 Cor. 1:7).” In the other camp are the cessationists, which make up most Reformed and Calvinistic theology. “Cessationism which teaches that supernatural gifts have ceased either when the canon of Scripture was completed or at the death of the last apostle.” (To be clear, the supernatural gifts are prophecy, tongues, interpretation of tongues, healing, and miracles.)
Then there are the people in the middle, who don’t know, haven’t researched, or aren’t even aware of the sides of the issue. I fear that many Christians are here, not knowing what to believe or aren’t being taught to do the proper digging, due to a lack of discipleship.
To be clear, neither side is debating the existence of spiritual gifts that accompanied the Holy Spirit’s coming at Penticost in Acts, and that Paul gives plenty of instruction about in his Epistles. Likewise, in most cases, people on both sides also agree on God’s ability to do mysterious and surprising work as He wills. In other words, the cessationists don’t discount God’s sovereignty in the world, denying that something miraculous that doesn’t normally happen in modern times, could be a supernatural act of God. But it would be seen as the exception, not the norm.
Unfortunately, there is debate. However, the proper reading and understanding of Scripture and some background on Church history goes a long way toward understanding it better.
Keep reading your Bible!