Open Your Gifts

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One of the great struggles that most church bodies experience is seeing the number of people sitting on the sidelines, unsure of how and where they fit in. One thing that the Body of Christ was never intended to share with the human body is flab! The Holy Spirit has granted ALL of His people with one or more gifts. Some people have opened and shared their gifts widely. Others sit idly by, not even looking at the tags on the boxes to see if one might be theirs.

After discussing the offices that were given to build up and guide the Church, Paul makes an absolutely essential statement regarding the well-being of the body.

…We will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Eph 4:15-16)

The gifts of the Spirit are given for the benefit of the entire Body (Rom 12) and each gift is a necessary part of the whole. If you elect not to put your gift to use the Body suffers and attempts to compensate in some other fashion. This is less than God-honoring. Likewise, if you choose to intentionally withhold your gifts from the Body, you must realize that you are purposely weakening the whole. This too is not God-honoring.

Ignorance of your gifts is a poor excuse. Take a gifts inventory or simply ask a trusted brother or sister what they see in you. Look for opportunities to put the gift to work and see whether or not it is effective. Pray that the Spirit would reveal your gifting to you. Although it may not be a gift that you want, it will be a gift that fulfills you spiritually and one that serves your brothers and sisters in Christ in exactly the fashion needed.

Grace and peace to you…

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Spiritual Gifts: Cessation of the Miraculous

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. (John 3:8)

The Cessationist Position

Doctrine regarding the spiritual gifts is a generally accepted component in the life of the Church. It is recognized that the Holy Spirit empowers redeemed individuals with abilities useful to building up the Body. Individual Christians may be the recipients of one or more of these gifts, evidence of the work of the Spirit in their lives. The precise count of the gifts is variable, dependent upon the system of classification used to enumerate them (Rom 12:6-8; 1 Cor 12:4-11; Eph 4:11; 1 Pet 4:10-11). Certain gifts-often called the miraculous, prophetic or word gifts-raise a question within the Church as to their continued distribution. These include the gift of tongues, prophecy and healing.

The cessationist position argues that the distribution of the miraculous gifts has ceased in the modern era of the Church. The gifts of tongues, healing and prophecy were limited in their assignment to the first century, useful for building up the early churches in the Apostolic era prior to the completion of the canon.

The arguments for cessation are complex and require a broad understanding of eschatology and the “Church Age”. The miraculous gifts are seen to have been products of necessity for the foundation of the early Church. They functioned as a part of the “canonical” principle for the Church during the time in which it was being founded but prior to the completion of the canonical writings. When the canon was closed, the need for the miraculous gifts was over and they subsequently ceased being given by the Holy Spirit.

This idea may be further divided. The prophetic gifts were no longer needed by the Church in light of the necessary Word of God having been canonized. To have further prophetic words from God would necessitate the reopening of the Scriptures so as to include them, thus giving a “never for sure” status to the Bible. The insufficiency of the revelation of the Scriptures must then be addressed as it challenges their closed nature. In other words, if one is to consider the Bible the final word of God for our days then it is required that we not be constantly wondering if a new word is going to modify the old. The maintenance of the prophetic gifts blurs the difference between being led by the Spirit (Rom 8:14) and being carried along by the Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).

In the same way, the sign gifts (tongues, miracles) were given only during the Apostolic age as necessary support for the foundation of the Church (cf Eph 2:20). With the last of the Apostles came the last distribution of these gifts as it is not necessary to lay and re-lay the foundation of the Church throughout history.

The cessationist refers to 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 as a key text on which their position rests. As the application of the spiritual gifts is only efficacious in love, the first verse in this passage sets the bar; “Love never fails.” (vv 8a). Love, as a strengthener and edifier within the Church, will never pass away but prophecy, tongues and knowledge will (vv 8b). They pass as perfection replaces imperfection (vv 10; cf Heb 2:4).

This passage is read by the cessationist as expressing the less than eschatological significance of prophetic gifts of the Spirit. In the Church era until the moment when Jesus returns, faith, hope and love have eschatological meaning, unlike knowledge and other expressions of personal miracles. Fruits of the Spirit express the reality of the Holy Spirit today, serving the twin purposes of evangelism and edification of the Church.

Grace and peace to you.