The New Testament Church Part 6: (Spiritual gifts)


Before you read this series of articles, it's important you read the general introduction.  In this series we've identified a number of features and qualities that can be found in the lives, experience and practice of the Early Church.  These characteristics, which are not set out in any particular order, are also being outworked in many congregations and faith communities today.

Through this series we hope to encourage individuals and congregations within the Church, to break free from the strait-jacket of religious tradition to re-discover their true identity and destiny as a living organism, a subversive and counter-culture movement, and the Bride of Christ.

Spiritual gifts and their use

In Part 6 we're going to look at the issue of spiritual gifts and their use.  We've been made in God’s image and created for worship, fellowship and service.  The entire congregation is called to these tasks and each of us have been given all manner of natural and spiritual gifts designed to bless individuals, the Church and the world.

The ministry gifts were given not in order that the ministers would do everything themselves, but so that they would prepare the whole body for service:

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, 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 4:11-16).

Everyone has . . .

Here we see the entire body of believers equipped for ministry, not just the ordained few.  The institutional Church sadly has elevated the trained professional ministry.  If you compare a meeting in the organic New Testament Church and that which is experienced today in most denominational congregations you will see how far the Church has succumbed to institutionalism: 

What then shall we say, brothers?  When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.  All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.  If anyone speaks in a tongue, two - or at the most three - should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret.  If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the Church and speak to himself and God.

Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.  And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop.  For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.  The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.  For God is not a God of disorder but of peace (1 Cor 14:26-33).

Today the body of believers has become passive and organised whereby it is preached to, receives the sacraments, fills pews, pays ministers, secures the fabric of buildings and told when to sit and when to stand in order to sing.  The believers have been disenfranchised by spiritual superiors who now control everything that takes place in our congregations and meetings. 

If the institutional Church is to rediscover itself as a living organism it will need to find faith to empower the body of believers to exercise the gifts (manifestations of the Spirit) that they have been given for the common good.

Charismatic Movement

Christian Spectrum is rooted in the Charismatic Movement of the 1970’s, when the Holy Spirit was poured out across all denominations, accompanied by a renaissance of Spirit-led worship, tongues, prophecy, etc.  The apostle Paul encouraged the Corinthians to eagerly desire spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1) so why isn't the Church at large doing the same today?     


In certain parts of the institutional Church the answer lies in the fact that the ministers believe that the gifts are no longer available today; they are known as Cessationists.  Classical Cessationism asserts that the 'sign gifts' such as prophecy, healing and speaking in tongues ceased when the apostles died and the canon of Scripture was completed.

They argue that the gifts were only given as a launching pad for the spreading of the Gospel, although some believe that God still occasionally does miracles today, such as healing or the giving of divine guidance.  Full Cessationism however, asserts that no miracles are performed by God today.

Needless to say we strongly disagree with the Cessationist point of view, both from the clear teaching of the Bible and also from our own personal experience.  We encourage people to recognise their spiritual gifts and to use them whenever it’s apposite.

Speaking in tongues controversy

We believe the gift of speaking in unknown languages is still given by the Holy spirit today.  We're not persuaded, as some are, that speaking in tongues is 'the' sign of conversion or a 'second blessing' when the believer receives or is baptised in the Holy Spirit for the first time.

However, we know from first hand knowledge that some Christians, experience very little at conversion and describe a later powerful experience much like receiving the Holy Spirit for the first time.  In these circumstances we would not argue against their experience, but suggest that we should not build a theology around experience.

We would also assert that every Christian receives the Holy Spirit on conversion (conversion is after all a work of the Holy Spirit) and thereafter can receive many on-going 'fillings' of the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18).

Spiritual gifts in the Bible

The Bible is full of characters who experienced miracles and exercised spiritual gifts.  Peter and Paul had Holy Spirit inspired dreams and visions for example.  The greatest example, of course, is Jesus himself, who moved in words of wisdom, healing and miracles, discernment, exorcism of demons, prophecy and many more.

One body, many parts

The Apostle Paul tells us that he doesn't want anyone to be ignorant about spiritual gifts and took time to give a full explanation:

Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.  You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.  Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, 'Jesus be cursed,' and no one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit.  There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.  So it is with Christ.  For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body - whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free - and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.  If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.  And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?  If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you!'  And the head cannot say to the feet, 'I don't need you!'  On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honor.  And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment.  But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  And in the Church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.  Are all apostles?  Are all prophets?  Are all teachers?  Do all work miracles?  Do all have gifts of healing?  Do all speak in tongues?  Do all interpret?  But eagerly desire the greater gifts (1 Cor 12: 1-31).

The gifts are freely given by God so they can’t be earned, but we can desire them and grow in them as we grow in our relationship with Jesus.  God decides which gifts we receive.

Paul shows us that we are all members of the Body of Christ which functions like a human body.  Every person has a part to play and an important function to perform, so we need to be using our gifts.

Definitions of spiritual gifts

The three key Bible passages about spiritual gifts are in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4.  There are also references to gifts in 1 Corinthians 7, Ephesians 3 and 1 Peter 4.  The combined list includes prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership, mercy, wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, discerning of spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues, apostle, helps, administration, evangelist and pastor.

It would be hard to provide an exhaustive list, however, for there are many overlaps in the lists and none includes craftsmanship, preaching, writing, music, intercession or deliverance, for example.  Apart from solely supernatural gifts such as tongues, healing, raising from the dead, etc, any natural gift with a supernatural element or Holy Spirit anointing on it can be said to be a spiritual gift.

Where do we use them?

We believe that the gifts are to be used to edify and build up the Church.  We would also recognise however that the majority of spiritual gifts can be used meaningfully outside of the Church.

We spend most of our time in the home, workplace, school, and so on.  So we encourage everyone to see how they can exercise their gifts as much in the marketplace as anywhere else.  For example, we need to see pastors caring for people wherever they are; those with the gift of hospitality being welcoming to all; the gift of supernatural wisdom being exercised on management boards and so on . . .

Like some help?

If you would like help to explore these issues with us, we'd love to hear from you.  Feel free to contact us.


Mutually beneficial characteristics

It's important to bear in mind the overlap and relationship that exists between the different characteristics of the New Testament Church:

General introduction to series . . .
Part 1 in this series discusses Eschatological focus . . . 
Part 2 in this series discusses Prophetic mandate . . .
Part 3 in this series discusses Meeting in houses and community living . . .
Part 4 in this series discusses Leadership . . .
Part 5 in this series discusses Discipleship . . .
Part 6 in this series discusses Spiritual gifts . . .
Part 7 in this series discusses Pioneers or settlers . . .
Part 8 in this series discusses Identity precedes function . . .
Part 9 in this series discusses Relational unity . . .
Part 10 in this series discusses Kingdom message and proclamation . . .
Part 11 in this series discusses The persecuted Church . . . 

We've been made in God’s image and created for worship, fellowship and service.  The entire congregation is called to these tasks and each of us have been given all manner of natural and spiritual gifts designed to bless individuals, the Church and the world.  The ministry gifts were given not in order that the ministers would do everything themselves, but so that they would prepare the whole body for service . . . 

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