Lesson Seven, Part 3 – Spiritual Gifts

The Holy Spirit

Part 3: Spiritual Gifts


And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.  I Cor. 12:28

The aim of Jesus Christ is to have “called out” groups of people, or churches, all over the world as citizens of His kingdom.  He did not want Jerusalem, Antioch or Rome to be the headquarters.  Heaven is the headquarters and Jesus is the only head (Eph. 4:15).  The church we read about in the book of Acts, which existed before the middle of the first century, was not the church that Jesus wanted.  He did not want a church with the apostles or any other authoritarian leadership over it, other than Himself (Acts 4:12).  He wanted a church which functions as a family under elders who feed the church on His word (Acts 14:23; 20:32).  However, to get the necessary evangelism under way and to establish churches throughout the world in one generation, some men were baptized with the Holy Spirit.  The apostle Paul claimed that the whole world heard the gospel by the time he was imprisoned in Rome (Col. 1:23).

Wherever the evangelism programs were successful a church was established.  If an evangelist like the apostle Paul had stayed with the church for a long period of time that would have stopped his world-wide evangelism thrust; on the other hand, if he had left the new church they would have had no teacher qualified to mature the church.  Jesus solved the problem in a very unique way.  He gave some of the members of the local church spiritual gifts.

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.  Eph. 4:11, 12

This was another way the Holy Spirit cooperated with Jesus to attain His goals for God’s kingdom (I Cor. 12:11).  These Christians who were endowed with spiritual gifts worked as evangelists as well as caring for the local church.  For instance, Stephen and Philip were evangelists (Acts 6:8; 7:59; 8:26, 39).  Agabus prophesied of coming events (Acts 11:28; 21:10, 11).  Silas, Titus and Timothy did most of their Spirit “gifted work” under the direction of Paul as he functioned in his apostolic calling (II Cor. 8:23; Tit. 1:5; Phil. 2:19; Acts 17:15).  Still other Christians who had spiritual gifts worked in the local congregations to build up the church.

Some of the Corinthian church members who had these gifts had a jealously problem.  This was the occasion for the apostle Paul’s dissertation on the subject of spiritual gifts and their uses in a local church (I Cor. 12:1-11).  He mentioned nine gifts, all of which were very practical for the operation of a local church; a church which did not have the Bible as we have it today.  Any one of the apostles who had been baptized with the Holy Spirit probably had all nine of these gifts.

Jesus did not want these new churches to be misled by ignorant Christians or the workers of Satan; therefore, He gave one or more members a word of wisdom.  Also, He gave the word of knowledge either to the same person or to some of the other members.  Other gifts the local church members received were spiritual gifts of faith, healing, effecting of miracles, prophecy, and the distinguishing of spirits.  Some Christians had the gift of speaking in tongues.  A different member had the gift to interpret these foreign languages.

These gifts gave the churches a clear message of God’s kingdom and the way Jesus wanted them to function.  This equipped them to work in His evangelism program.  For instance, some members had the gift of faith to evangelize in dynamic ways that others with less faith would not be able to perform. The gifts of healing and the power to perform miracles were useful to draw an audience to hear the gospel. These miracles would assure the hearers that the message was authentic.  Of course, they also served to relieve the afflicted.

The gift of prophecy was for edification, exhortation and consolation of the churches (I Cor. 14:3, 4).  The tongues were a sign to the unbelievers, but they also served to break down the linguistic barriers.  Of course, there had to be an interpreter for those present who did not speak that particular language.  The spiritual gift of interpretation of tongues was one of the gifts available to members of the local church for the common good.  The Lord gave the churches a protection system against those who might be pretenders; consequently, some members were given the power to distinguish the spirits.  John said they could test the spirits (I John 4:1).

Therefore I make known to you, that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus is accursed’; and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.  I Cor. 12:3

Others were equipped to function in the type of government Jesus had in mind for His church.  The successful fathers who had wisdom, knowledge and faith were the type of overseers, or elders, Jesus wanted to feed and superintend His church.  The Holy Spirit provided the wisdom, knowledge and even the faith, for the men in the churches who desired to take the responsibility of the leadership of their respective congregation.  They had to be spiritually mature and be the head of a godly home.

We have seen in Part 2 of this lesson how the Holy Spirit worked in a powerful way to evangelize the world through the apostles and others.  Similarly, in this lesson we have understood how He worked with the churches to give them protection against being, as Paul said, “carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love.” (Eph. 4:13, 14).  The local church was led to maturity in the first century by these wonderful powers working through the members, but the apostle Paul suggested that there was a more excellent way (I Cor. 12:31).  Today, we have all of the information needed to serve Jesus as His church and also to mature in love.  We have all three persons of deity working with us (II Cor. 13:14).  The Holy Spirit continues to lead us through the word and strengthen us by indwelling (I Cor. 6:19; Eph. 3:16).  We will study more about the Holy Spirit’s part in sanctification in Part 4 of this lesson.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Explain why the church, as it functioned in the book of Acts, was not exactly like the church that Jesus wants today.
  2. What always happens when evangelism is successful?
  3. What would have happened in the middle of the first century if the evangelists had immediately left the church they established?  What would have happened if they had stayed in the new church for a long period?
  4. How did Jesus solve the problems in question number three?
  5. How was the work of Timothy and Titus different from an evangelist today?
  6. What was the occasion for Paul’s dissertation on spiritual gifts?
  7. List all of the spiritual gifts listed in the twelfth chapter of First Corinthians.
  8. Name the gifts which helped best with evangelism.  List the ones that helped mature the local church.
  9. Which gifts equipped a mature godly Christian man to serve as an elder?
  10. What does it mean to speak in tongues?
  11. How did Jesus protect the church against unscrupulous men who made false claims about spiritual gifts?
  12. What do you think the apostle Paul meant when he said, “…and I show you a still more excellent way?”  (I Cor. 12:31).

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply