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Spiritual Gifts and the “Unity of the Faith”

Unity of the Faith Conference – Day 2 Session 2

 

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Spiritual gifts is and has been a controversial and divisive topic within the Body of Christ. The controversy traces back to the early Corinthian church. In Ephesians 4 we’re reminded that Gods design and intention for spiritual gifts was to edify, mature, and unify His body. So what went wrong? I believe the problems stem from a simple theological shift. The early Church repudiated this age and embraced the age that would come following the return of Jesus. The modern Church has replaced the apostles’ hope for a hope of glory and honor now in this life. This seeking of glory and honor in this age leads to worldliness and immaturity. Worldliness and immaturity coupled with spiritual gifts is disastrous. In this session we’ll aim to recover a biblical framework in which spiritual gifts can function and flourish as intended by God.

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Spiritual Gifts and the “Unity of the Faith

BIBLICAL FRAMEWORK

BIBLICAL FRAMEWORK

 

A. A Simple, Two-age Eschatological Framework

  1. This present age and the age to come separated by an ultimate event known as the Day of the LORD.
  2. This age characterized by the sin of Adam and the continuing hemorrhaging of man’s sin and therefore a crucial need for the atoning work of Messiah, and Divine Suffering on behalf of fallen man.
  3. Day of the LORD characterized by a climactic confrontation between God and man and divine judgment by the one whom God raised from the dead (cf. Acts 10:42-43)
  4. The age to come characterized by glory, restoration, a Kingdom and the government of Messiah. Divine Blessing being bestowed on those who have been saved by faith in the Cross.

B. This simple framework brings so much clarity. A framework that’s fixated and focused solely on this age leads to so many problems within the Church and undermines the embrace of a pilgrim mentality.

C. A gospel given in a false framework leads to problems experienced in the Corinthian church “worldliness, lack of love, following men rather than Christ, etc.” The flock is motivated by temporal gains now, before the Day of Christ. This is what makes the world, “worldly”. They live for this age and seek their rewards now. A biblical framework leads to godliness, a seeking of glory and honor on the Day of Judgment when the hidden things are revealed.

D. Spiritual gifts can be properly stewarded for the edifying and unifying of the Body within this simple Biblical framework.

E. 5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who will render to each person according to his deeds: 7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. (NASB Romans 2:5-8)

OLD TESTAMENT CONTEXT TO SPIRITUAL GIFTS

SOME OLD TESTAMENT CONTEXT TO SPIRITUAL GIFTS

 

A. The main gift highlighted in the Old Testament is prophecy. God used prophets in a unique way throughout redemptive history to foretell of the coming Messiah. The emphasis from OT to NT on the gift of prophecy is telling about our mission. God desires that His people be His witnesses on the earth who proclaim and speak of His Gospel.

B. Numbers 11:29 – “Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!”

C. The filling of the Spirit was unto a task, a weighty task that the strength and wisdom of man could not bear.

D. Micah 3:8 – But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin.

E. The Spirit epitomizes not by might, not by strength. The wisdom and power of the Spirit is antagonistic to the strength and wisdom of man. God therefore, puts His Spirit on the broken and contrite so that no one may boast.

F. Zechariah 4:6 –  Then he said to me, This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.

G. In Acts 2, Peter interprets the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost as a sign or down payment of Joel 2. As the end of the age draws nearer the Spirit is being poured out for salvation on all who call on Him, and as a sign to Israel. The giving of the Spirit also stamps the testimony of the prophets, confirming the Gospel, specifically the revelation of the Cross and the imminence of the Day of the LORD.

H. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (ESV 2 Peter 1:19-21)

I. The Church continues in that prophetic tradition, the tradition that requires the Spirit’s power because of the opposition and backlash that comes when you stand before principalities and powers as God’s witnesses.

J. Acts 1:8 – but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.

K. The giving of spiritual gifts should be looked at in the same way the Spirit of Prophecy is given in the Old Testament. The Spirit is given to all of the Lord’s people, to confirm God’s prophetic promises and to embolden our witness. It requires spiritual gifts to fulfill the task of gospel proclamation.

NEW TESTAMENT TEACHING AROUND SPIRITUAL GIFTS

NEW TESTAMENT TEACHING AROUND SPIRITUAL GIFTS

 

A. We see a few main places where there’s pastoral and apostolic teaching center around the topic of spiritual gifts. Specifically, 1 Corinthians 12-14, Romans 12 and Ephesians 4.

B. In Ephesians 4, the spiritual gifts that help bring the Church into maturity is what has been coined the five-fold ministry. Without these five-fold spiritual gifts represented in the church we cannot attain to the unity of the faith!

C. 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (ESV Ephesians 4:11-13)

D. We need Church leadership, those who have learned cruciform love and imitate Christ, are fitted to lead the Church.

      1. Apostles establish and strengthen Churches where Christ is not named, they disciple and raise up the local leaders and then are sent out to other places. (cf. Rom. 1:4-5, 15:20, 1 Cor. 4)
      2. Apostles establish overseers or Shepherds within the local church to care for and tend to the flock on a day-to-day basis. They make sure the flock is fed and that the wolves are held at bay. (cf. Acts 20, 1 Peter 5, 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1)
      3. Evangelists are those called to share the gospel on a day-to-day basis, to bring new sheep into the fold. They provoke the Body to follow the Great Commission. (cf. 2 Timothy 4:5)
      4. Teachers are those who are given a gift in teaching and exhortation to encourage the flock and to bring them towards greater obedience to the teachings of Christ Jesus (cf. Acts 2:42, Acts 5:42, 1 Tim. 1:3, 2 Tim. 2:15)
      5. Prophetic ministry within the Church can edify the believer or the Church in a very personal way. Dreams and visions God makes the gospel, the Day of the LORD real in a tailored, intimate way. (cf. Acts 11:27-28, Acts 13:1-2, Acts 15:32, Acts 21:10-11)

E. Paul’s apostleship was a grace. He was chosen and made an Apostle . Our gifts, calling and function within the body are also given for a specific purpose. We can do nothing to either merit it or revoke it. Neither the grace of God that brings salvation nor the grace of God that builds up the Church leaves room for boasting.

F. In the manifold wisdom of God He disperses spiritual gifts that we are interdependent on one another. No man can be an island unto himself. No single ministry or church has it all together.

G. 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 give you a breakdown of spiritual gifts.

H. Prophecy, serving, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership, mercy, words of wisdom, words of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, working of miracles, distinguishing between spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues, helps

I. Spiritual gifts are like body functions. If they cause division and dysfunction, it’s poor stewardship and immaturity rather that needs to be addressed rather than the validity of the gift itself.

SPIRITUAL GIFTS AND THE UNITY OF THE FAITH

SPIRITUAL GIFTS AND THE UNITY OF THE FAITH

 

A. There is a false dichotomy being imposed within the Body of Christ. From the cessationist perspective you must choose between things of the Spirit and things of order and soundness. From the charismatic perspective, you must choose between the things of the Spirit or a dry, religious spirit.

B. From both sides they are false dichotomies. To address the Cessationist: you can have order and soundness, but without the Spirit you may stumble upon a fleshly wisdom that interprets order and soundness according to our own tastes and preferences. To address the charismatic: you can emphasize the things of the Spirit and still be completely dry and religious (Matthew 7). You can go for the things of the Spirit and actually be encouraging fleshly indulgence.

C. You can’t put confidence in your adherance to the Law (Jews who stumbled), you can’t put confidence in your knowledge of the Scriptures (knowledge puffs up), you can’t put confidence in your strategy and missional praxis or the order and soundness of your services, you can’t put confidence in your following and the endorsements of other recognized men, you can’t put confidence in your spiritual gift (Matthew 7). The only place you can securely rest your confidence is in the Cross of Christ Jesus. The Cross levels the playing field and brings all to our knees at the foot of the Cross. The Holiness of God unifies man in His depravity, and the Kindness of God in the Cross unifies man in his salvation.

D. 26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God. (NASB 1 Corinthians 1:26-29)

E. Universally, any church that begins with faith in the Cross, but then moves on towards being perfected with confidence in anything else will find themselves in the same predicament as the bewitched Galatians.

F. Universally, any church that has lost it’s witness of the Day of the LORD will be prone to worldliness, and ministry will eventually become an egotistic shallow, popularity contest.

G. The Day of the LORD is designed to humiliate the pride of man, the Cross is designed to humiliate the pride of man, and even the things of the Spirit is given to humiliate the pride of man.

SPIRITUAL THINGS ARE CRUCIFORM THINGS

SPIRITUAL THINGS ARE CRUCIFORM THINGS

 

A. The Church is brought to maturity, which is conformity to Christ, so that God would have glory in the Church. A cruciformed Church stands as witnesses of God’s manifold wisdom before God and man, before powers and principalities (cf. Eph. 3).

B. The Spirit is working to strengthen the Church in Her self-denial and in picking up Her Cross each day. It takes the Spirit to make a Cross-shaped Church. The Spirit isn’t needed to make a world-shaped Church.

C. Boasting in a spiritual gift should be considered oxymoronic. The flesh and the Spirit are hostile towards one another (cf. Romans 8:7). We receive the gift in humility with no confidence in the flesh and we continue stewarding and walking in that gift in the same manner.

D. 1 Peter 4:10 – as each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace

E. We’ll be held accountable to the motives of our heart. Our ministry will be tested by fire and be held up to the standard of Christ’s motivation of pure, sacrificial love.

F. 1 Timothy 1:5 – The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

SOME OTHER THOUGHTS ON SPIRITUAL GIFTS

SOME OTHER THOUGHTS ON SPIRITUAL GIFTS

 

A. Honest and active searching out of your own motives within your stewardship of spiritual gifts. Simon the Scorceror in Acts 8 wanted to buy the power of the Holy Spirit because he saw a means for self-gain. Paul addresses those who perceive godliness as a means of self-gain, notably financial gain in 1 Timothy 6.

B. Some people say spiritual gifts brings about disorder. We need to discern what the Scriptures mean by order. Sometime the Spirit that does a work of humbling the pride of man in the foolishness of the Cross to produce a more child-like faith. We can’t dismiss that as disorder, because of fleshly wisdom.

C. On the other hand, there needs to be an understanding that the spirit of prophets is subject to prophets. Self-control, restraint, and preference for others may be more spiritual and edifying than your prophetic word or act that must be released.

D. Miracles or gifts are never given to exalt man in any way whatsoever. Miracles are done exclusively in the name of Jesus to point to One Man who’s been anointed, one Man who’s been given authority to judge and acquit men their sins. The miracle shows that He is able to forgive sins (Mark 2:10, etc.). Our power and piety gives birth to dust.

E. Miracles show the power of God to judge the earth in righteousness. It’s a sign of the Day He comes with glory and power to restore all things. Prophecy is a sign of a Day when we will see God face to face without the need of a dim mirror, tongues a sign of a Day when all will speak and relate in one voice, casting out of demons a sign of the Day when Satan is bound and cast into a Lake of Fire, healing a sign of the Day our bodies will be raised in immortality.

 

Hans Kim Hans Kim (5 Posts)

Hans has been giving leadership to staffing, media, and internships at the International House of Prayer Eastern Gate since 2010. Hans has served as a worship leader and pastor within the Korean Church for over 15 years, and also established a House of Prayer within a local university. His passion and vision in ministry is in proclaiming the way of the Cross as the way believers are discipled into the glories of the age to come.


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