Archives For Spiritual Gifts

A.W. Tozer:

Much of church activity and fellowship also falls back upon the practice of psychology. Many church leaders are masterful psychologists. They know how to handle people and get the crowds to come. Their operation qualifies as an amazingly “successful” church. Part of the success of that church depends on people with business talents and part of it depends on people with natural gifts as salespersons and politicians.

A Christian congregation can survive and often appear to prosper in the community by the exercise of human talent and without any touch from the Holy Spirit. But it is simply religious activity, and the dear people will not know anything better until the great and terrible day when our self-employed talents are burned with fire and only what was wrought by the Holy Spirit will stand.

 - Tozer, Tragedy in the Church: The Missing Gifts, 22-23

When we assess spiritual leadership, let us not be guilty of evaluating psychologists, salespersons, politicians, and talented businessmen rather than shepherds of the flock, servants of Christ, and stewards of the gospel.

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We do not have an exhaustive list of gifts of the the Spirit in the Bible, but we do have a lot of them.  These gifts are sovereignly distributed by the Spirit for the common good and edification of the church.  When each member is working properly, the body grows and is built up in love.

In the wisdom of God, He has designed that we are all ministers to one another in various ways through a variety of gifts.  Have you considered what God is saying about us with the equipment of so many gifts?  We are a needy people! You are a needy person. We do not realize how profound our spiritual needs are, but God does, and He has made provision for our needs through the gifts of His Spirit exercised through the lives of His people. For example:

When the Holy Spirit intends a person with the gift of giving to be useful in the church, what does it say about us? We are in deep need of the generous benevolence of others, and God is intentional about providing that financial or practical through others.

When the Holy Spirit intends a person with the gift of exhortation to be useful in the church, what does it say about us? We are in deep need of encouragement and proper motivation, and God is intentional about providing people in our lives to stir our hearts and direct our steps in paths that honor God.

We could extend this exercise through the various lists of spiritual gifts, the point God is making to us is this:

1.  We have profound needs in multiple areas of our lives
2.  God has made provision for those needs to be met by the gifts of His Spirit
3.  Members of the body of Christ supply the needs to one another through exercising the Spirit’s gifts

This is another significant reason for being a covenant member of a local church and meaningful participant in gospel community.  As a needy person, you will feel tempted to address those needs through unspiritual means. But when you understand how God ordered the church, you know that God intends that each member would “have the same care for one another” (1 Cor. 12:25).

Lone-ranger Christians are at best disobedient and dysfunctional. They are disobedient because numerous commands of Scripture require us to be in regular contact with other believers (“one another” commands). They are dysfunctional because the needs they have are not being met by the God-ordained means of gifts of the Holy Spirit through each member of His body. Perhaps what exists behind of this is a denial of neediness–a determination of making it by self-determination and independence. Sadly, this state of existence is far too common in the church today.

God knows what we need before we ask Him. God has made provision through the distribution of the Spirit’s gifts through the work of ministry when each member is equipped and working properly. As we have our needs met through the ministry of others, we are also meeting the needs of others by the gifts given to us for their good.

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Repetition and redundancy can be a good thing, especially when we recognize the importance of remembering.

With all the controversies and debates about spiritual gifts, we need the discipline of remembering, and remembering in particular what Paul repeated over and over again their overarching purpose, namely to edify and build the church.  Look at these excerpts from 1 Corinthians 14, a chapter dedicated to the proper use of spiritual gifts:

“the one who prophesies speak to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” (v. 3)

“the one who prophesies builds up the church” (v. 4)

“the one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up” (v. 5)

“so with yourselves since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church” (v. 12)

“you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up” (v. 17)

“I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue” (v. 19)

“let all things be done for building up” (v. 26)

“you can call prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged” (v. 31)

What’s the obvious common concern of Paul?  It is that believers might excel in the exercise of their spiritual gifts for building up the church.  He could not be more redundant in this chapter (eight times referring to building up or encouraging others).

And this is not the only place Paul talks about believers building the church.  Consider Ephesians 4.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry for building up the body of Christ. . . . from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every join with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. – Ephesians 4:11-12, 16

Who builds up the church? All of the saints when they are working full-time in ministry. How do they build up the church? When each member of the body is equipped to grow and work properly. How do they work properly? When they are exercising their spiritual gifts for the common good, the unity of the church, and the mutual care for one another (see 1 Cor. 12).

Now, can you think of any other prominent place in the Bible where “build” is used?  Ah yes, the great promise of Jesus Christ, upon the confession of Peter that He is the Messiah.  Jesus said:

“I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” – Matthew 16:18

The great encouragement we have as believers is that Jesus is the one who is going to do all this.  Jesus is going to build His church.  His promise is as sure as the grave is empty.  But as we believe this promise, how is Jesus going to do this?

I argue that the materials Jesus uses to build His church are the spirit-gifted, spirit-empowered, spirit-filled members of His body.  Don’t disconnect the promise of Matt. 16:18 from the purpose of spiritual gifts in 1 Cor. 14.  When all the spiritual gifts are present and working properly, Christ is present, and He is presently building His church through His people in the power of His Spirit!

We might be tempted to plant and build churches in the power of the flesh, with human ingenuity and fanciful machinations, but the Scriptural blueprint is simple.  Jesus builds by His Spirit through His people for His glory.

Therefore, I conclude:

1.  A church committed to planting and building churches must make equipping saints who are working properly in their spiritual gifting.  We cannot accept substitutes building materials.  The house will crumble if it is not built on Christ and by Christ.

2. Christ is the head of the church, and His promise to build the church should flow through all the members of the body.  A member working effectually to build the church is evidence that they are rightly connected to the head, to Christ.  On the contrary, members not building the church through their gifts leave to question whether the promise of Christ has any tangible difference in their lives now.

3. Pastors, if we believe the promise of Christ and the purpose of the gifts, we must view ourselves as equippers, not merely ministers.  Paul says it is the saints who do the work of ministry.  It is we who do the equipping.  You are in real danger in thinking that the building of the church depends upon you if the practical outworking of the church lies squarely in your hands.  The building of the church lies squarely in Jesus‘ hands, in His feet, in all of His members supernaturally gifted by His Spirit.  Your leadership is important to the body, but that importance will be seen in how well others’ gifts flourish and are found fruitful, not merely the members appreciating the fruitfulness of your gifts.

So let the repetition and redundancy of Paul sink in.  Everything we do should be for building up the church, and with that universal aim, we rejoice in an indefatigable promise.  Jesus will build His church.  Jesus is building His church.  May the gifts He’s supplied reveal His greatness and redound to His glory.

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Last night, I taught on the nature and purposes of spiritual gifts.  One particular point I tried to elaborate was this: a church passionate about the glory of God will be passionate about the spiritual gifts being exercised in the body.  And here is the reason why.

1.  Christ is glorified in the church (Eph. 3:20)
2.  The Holy Spirit purposes to glorify Jesus (John 16:14)
3.  The Holy Spirit accomplishes this purpose through the gifts He supplies to the church
4.  The sovereign administration (1 Cor. 12:11, 18) and measure (Rom. 12:3) of the spiritual gifts are so that “in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 4:11)

We are dependent upon the Holy Spirit to do in us what we naturally do not have the ability to do.  And God so wires our gifts that we cannot boast in them or in ourselves.  Rather, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:26-31).  We should consider our gifting the same way we do our calling, for this is God’s design.  We only can boast in the giver of the gift, and the glory is not making us look great but through us the Holy Spirit putting Jesus on display.

A church where the spiritual gifts are missing, ignored, or downplayed cannot be serious about the glory of God. The glory of Christ is seen in the grittiness of believers exercising their God-given abilities for the edification of the church. In God’s kindness, He has equipped every believer with supernatural ability to glorify Jesus, not by our strength, but “by the strength that God supplies” (1 Pet. 4:10), or according to Paul, “with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Col. 1:29).

Every Christian should have a consuming passion to live for the glory of God.  But practically, what does that look like?  How do we live that out in the church?  We should so live and serve in way that “in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” And I believe the we go about doing that is by being good stewards of His grace in the free and regular exercise of His gifts.

Simply put, the glory of Christ is seen through the exercising of the gifts of His Spirit in the ministry of the church.

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A.W. Tozer:

The Christian Church cannot rise to its true stature in accomplishing God’s purposes when its members neglect the true gifts and graces of God’s Spirit. Much of the religious activity we see in our churches is not the eternal working of the Eternal Spirit but the mortal working of man’s mortal mind.

That is raw tragedy!

From what I see and sense in evangelical circles, I would have to say that about 90 percent of the religious work carried on in the churches is being done by ungifted members. I am speaking of men and women who know how to do many things but who fail to display the spiritual gifts promised through the Holy Spirit.

This one of the ways in which we have slowed down the true working of God in His church and in the hearts of unbelieving people all around us. We have allowed members of the body who possess no genuine gifts of the Spirit to do religious work.*

 - Taken from “Tragedy in the Church: The Missing Gifts” by A.W. Tozer (emphasis mine)

* – I would take exception that the members have no genuine gifts. Every member of the body of Christ is gifted. The issue is that the gifts are not accessed and exercised. As he said earlier, they “fail to display the spiritual gifts” rather than not having them at all.
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