Tag Archives: spiritual gifts

Introduction to the Gifts of the Spirit

by Scott

As I recently mentioned, at Cornerstone, we are beginning an in depth series on the gifts of the Spirit as found in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11. So, on Sunday, we did just that. Here were the five points I emphasised from the text:

1) The knowledge of the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 12:1)

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.

Paul did not want this group of believers to be uninformed, or ignorant. Well, for the Corinthians, they had knowledge, but they had wrong knowledge as well as wrong practise.

So Paul comes in and teaches about healthy and proper practise. Many times, out of fear, it is easier to steer clear of things that have been continually done wrong. For example, some are afraid to engage with evolutionary biology because so many people have utilised as an attack against Scripture and Christ. But I think this might be a bit too reactionary on our part.

The same is true with the gifts of the Spirit. Many people are not open to these because they know how unhealthy the practises of some have been. I’m sure you have a few names or groups in your mind already. And, yes, that is true. But misuse and abuse should never lead us to abandon something. Rather, as imitators of Christ, we are called to faithful and healthy use. Such instruction was very relevant to the Corinthian church.

But, with today’s church, whereas most people have moved away from a possible antagonistic view towards the gifts of the Spirit, due to the major moves of the Spirit across multiple denominations and church groups, including an enormous amount of solid men and women of God, you might still find quite a lot of people uninformed. The Corinthians had wrong knowledge in a lot of ways. Many present day churches are just not knowledgeable at all about these gifts. Our best ideas are from television, or even worse, YouTube. But that doesn’t become all that helpful for becoming informed about the reality of these gifts.

And, so, that’s where we need to be challenged. We are not to remain uninformed. We are not to remain ignorant. Almost 2000 years later, we are to remain challenged by these words of Paul:

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. (1 Cor 14:1)

Where do we start? Most of us probably know some person or people involved in a church that believes in and correctly practices the gifts of the Spirit. And there are plenty of solid resources and books to consider – here is a short list of some. But let not our desire be to remain uninformed of these gifts. And, even more, let us be stirred to earnestly desire such gifts.

2) The nature of the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 12:4-6)

The first thing to briefly point out is the activity of the Trinity with these gifts:

4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.

Normally, the word Lord (kyrios in Greek) is utilised for Jesus and the word God (theos in Greek) is utilised for the Father. I am simply amazed at both the cooperation and unselfishness of the Trinity. If only the body of Christ could get a small glimpse of that reality, all that it might spur us on for what God Himself desires for us.

But, with regards to the nature of the gifts of God, all gifts, I believe there is a heavy amount of misunderstanding. It is all centred around certain thoughts that could go like this: First, we believe the gifts of God are secret, hidden abilities within us that we are called to search for, dig up and unearth. And, the way many of us do so is by taking a multiple-choice test to figure out what our top 3 or 4 gifts are. Then, we feel good that we have identified our gifts.

The thing is that such a pattern is not really left to us in Scripture, is it? Listen, I am not trying to say it is inherently evil to take a test for gaining information and understanding about the giftings and ministries God might have opened to us. But, when it comes down to it, we are not really ever asked to search and find out our gifts. God’s people are simply called to serve. We are told to get on with edifying the body, serving, blessing, building up, etc. Remember, these are serving ministries, not hidden abilities to unearth.

Think of it this way: The reason why we know someone is an evangelist is because they are drawing other people towards Christ. The reason why we know someone is a teacher is because they are faithfully explaining the truth of Scripture. The reason why we know someone has a ministry of leading is because people follow their lead. And so on and so forth.

There are 3 other reasons why I believe this is a more healthy approach to spiritual gifts than the test-to-find-out-your-gifts approach:

a) There are two main words in the Greek that we translate as ‘spiritual gifts’ – pneumatika and charismata. The word pneumatika (i.e. in 1 Cor 12:1) could probably be better translated as ‘spiritual people’ or even simply ‘spirituals’. There is nothing about hidden abilities to dig up that is found in this word. I don’t doubt that the Spirit puts things within us, since He does indwell us, and it might be that the word charismata could be used to make this point. But we still need to remember we have no precedence in Scripture to find out our gifts, especially through a multiple-choice test.

b) Look at the emphasis of vs4-6 again:

4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.

Vs4 utilises the word gifts in the place of the Greek word charismata. But look how it is coupled with the two words from the following two verses – service and activities. These gifts are serving ministries (for ‘ministry’ simply means ‘service’). And these are actual activities, or workings, of the Spirit. They aren’t hidden. They are activities we walk out through serving!

c) Finally, note the emphasis of vs7

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

Again, just as vs4-6 point out that they are something we serve in and are activities, here we are told they are manifestations. This also highlights that they are visible activities that take place – again, through serving.

So I focus in on the nature of these gifts because I believe we can easily hold to a warped view of such. We are not called to find out our gifts and, then, once we do, we slot in to where our gifts can be best used. It’s just not really done that way. Rather, we are simply called to serve. And as opportunities arise, if it is right, God will empower us to be used in such a service, in such a ministry, in such an activity, even a manifestation of God’s Spirit.

Therefore, I will be honest and say that I don’t believe the excuse, ‘Well, that’s not my gift,’ is a very valid one. So what if one doesn’t think they have the gift of whatever. Let’s be open and available to God in being utilised where we are weak. Remember, His grace is sufficient. His power will be made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:9).

Yes, I am very much aware of balancing this with wisdom. I am not saying we throw anyone and everyone into any and every ministry activity. But, I would remind us that I have been emphasising that that is not how it works. You don’t throw people in to ministry opportunities. You see where a ministry, a service, and a manifestation of God is needed, and available people step in to serve in just that way as they are empowered by God.

That is the nature of the gifts of God’s Spirit. All of them.

3) The result of the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 12:7)

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

The gifts are given mainly to be a blessing to people – to build them up, edify, exhort, strengthen. This is similar to what Paul says specifically about the gift of prophecy:

On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. (1 Cor 14:3)

When people serve in these gifts, the body of Christ will be spurred on towards the things of God. That is the fruit, the results. Even with prophecy, there are many who think 1) it is mainly about predicting the future, 2) it must be in King James English and 3) it must always be rebuke. But that is not what prophecy is mainly about, as Paul reminds us in this verse above. Of course there will be times to challenge and rebuke. That is a reality. But, in all, it’s given (even in rebuke) to help people move towards Christ. And such is truly building them up, strengthening them, blessing them.

Also, let me take a minute to remind us that the reverse is true as well. If the gifts of the Spirit are for the common good, then if we don’t have the people of God being utilised in such gifts, the body will be found lacking. It is as simple as that. It doesn’t mean we will forever be held back from moving forward in Christ. But these specific gifts will help us move towards Christ more and more, just as all the gifts of God will. That is important to remember.

4) The list of the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 12:8-10)

By no means do I believe these 9 gifts are exhaustive, or even that the other lists in the NT (1 Cor 12:28-29; Eph 4:11; Rom 12:6-8; 1 Pet 4:10-11) are exhaustive. There is quite a good representation amongst them. But there are plenty of other serving ministry gifts available to God’s people.

But these gifts remain part of the mix, no doubt.

Some find it helpful to divide these nine gifts into 3 groups of 3, as follows:

  • Gifts of power: faith, gifts of healings, workings of miracles
  • Gifts of thought: word (message) of knowledge, word (message) of wisdom, distinguishings between spirits
  • Gifts of speech: prophecy, tongues, interpretation of tongues

With Cornerstone, I am going to start with prophecy, as it seems the most readily available gift of the Spirit to God’s people (from my reading of passages like Acts 2:17-18 and 1 Cor 14). So, as and if I post articles about these gifts, I will probably follow my preaching order. We shall see.

5) The empowering of the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 12:11)

Finally I emphasise that these gifts are empowered in God’s people, and this is obviously done by the Spirit. I have written plenty on how God has been emphasising His power to me as of late, and I have specifically been focusing on the power of the Holy Spirit. And, so, in this short verse, we are reminded of this empowering:

All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

Similar words are found in vs6:

and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.

We need to be connected to the power source, if you will, which happens to be the person of God’s Spirit Himself. The Spirit was given in the first place to empower God’s people to be witnesses (Acts 1:8). I feel 100% confident in acknowledging that these nine gifts, along with all of God’s giftings, will be helpful in walking out our call as an empowered people.

So, thus, you have some of my introductory thoughts to the gifts of the Spirit, at least as found in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11.

Just as a side note, for the sake of moving more towards discussion of the gifts, I left out addressing why some people believe these gifts have ceased (known as cessationism). If you want to read more of my thoughts addressing the usual passages quoted by cessationists, and some ‘positive’ affirmations of the continuation of these gifts, you can read here and here. Another objection of cessationism is that these gifts seemed to have ceased pretty much in the second and third centuries and nor do we see them much throughout church history. Here is some food for thought on the charismata in church history.

Lastly, I leave you the audio file from my message on Sunday if you would like to click on it below, or you can download from our podcast or iTunes.

Preaching Series on Gifts of the Spirit

by Scott

Starting this Sunday at Cornerstone, I plan to begin a preaching series on the gifts of the Spirit. As I have shared much recently (here, here and here), God has been re-emphasising his power to me – the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of the kingdom of God and the power of the gospel to change lives (amongst other emphases on His power). And, I have specifically been spending time preaching on the power of the Holy Spirit. You can listen to two of my most recent sermons: Acts 1:1-8 here and Acts 2:1-21 here.

Thus, after spending this time with Cornerstone looking at the reality of the power of the Spirit in both Acts 1 and 2, I believe it is now right in God to move on to specifically addressing the gifts of the Spirit. This will be an exciting time for the church, as they have never had any specific previous teaching on the Holy Spirit and His gifts. The past month has already been very stirring as we held two conferences – VMI and Fast Forward – and have been focusing on the power of God, especially the power of the Spirit. But this will be helpful, meaty and practical in seeing our local church body move forward into the things God has planned for us.

Though the church has never been antagonistic to the Holy Spirit and His gifts, and many come from backgrounds that allow for all gifts of the Spirit to be active, as I mentioned, the church had not had any specific teaching on the Holy Spirit’s gifts and, thus, not actively looking to practise these gifts in their gatherings and lives. But, with the recent connection of the church with Lifelink International, and with my arrival to oversee the church as of the summer of 2008, we have been purposeful to move towards an emphasis on the work of the Spirit and His gifts. It has taken us a while to get there, but now with a little (or BIG) push out of the nest by God, it is time to specifically dive into such an amazing reality.

But, we have had tasters of His gifts, no doubt. There have been times when prophecy has come forth (though some might not have realised it was such). And I have done teaching on the continuance of all five (or four) ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4:11-13: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers (you can see the 4-part series here). And, just two weeks ago, we had an evening of seeking God together, mainly to hear from Him and speak forth what we believed God was stirring and saying. And, lo and behold, we had some prophecy, as well as others stepping out by praying aloud, sharing Scriptures, etc. It was truly beautiful and stirring!

So, I look forward to jumping into that all-important text in Corinthians on gifts of the Spirit, beginning with 1 Corinthians 12:1-11:

1Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

There is a lot one could address just in that text, but we will take it week by week. We will also have visitors in to speak on some Sundays, so my specific series might be put on hold here and there. But that is fine by me. They will bring the word of the Lord into our church regardless.

And I also look forward to a time of training in hearing God and prophesying next Saturday morning, 11 September. God continues to blow upon the embers of our heart and I can only expect there will be more blowing in the weeks to come.

So, stay tuned to our podcast if you would like to hear some teachings on the gifts of the Spirit (rather than read, though I might post some articles as well in the weeks to come). I will also post links to the teachings here at To Be Continued.

Now Concerning Spiritual Gifts

This is a guest post by T.C. Robinson, blogger at New Leaven and he holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies and a Master’s degree with an emphasis in New Testament Greek

Spiritual gifts are those special capacities imparted to believers by the Holy Spirit for the glory of God and the good of the Body of Christ (1 Pet. 2:10-11; 1 Cor. 12:7).

In verse one, Paul uses the term πνευματικῶν, which may be translated either “spiritual people” or “spiritual gifts.”  But the consensus in light of the context of 1 Corinthians 12-14 fits better with “spiritual gifts.”

But from verses 4-11, Paul uses another word, χαρίσματα, “grace gifts.”  For example, our English world charisma or charismatic is derived from this Greek word.

However, these Corinthian believers were calling attention to themselves in their use of the gifts—like many today—and Paul had to take both in a corrective and prescriptive approach, as reflected in chapters 12-14.

Paul begins this section with these verses:

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.  (1 Cor. 12:1-3)

Notice how Paul quickly switches to χάρισμαcharisma, from πνευματικόςpneumatikos.  The reason: the Corinthians were bringing attention to themselves with the use of πνευματικός–we are “spiritual people” because we have all these “spiritual gifts” (v.1).

Paul is not impressed.

In fact, to show his disapproval, Paul uses χάρισμα to call attention to the source of the gifts – they are “grace gifts” (v. 4).

In the end, according to Paul, the real evidence of the Spirit in us is not “the gifts” he bestows but the love that blossoms – hence, 1 Corinthians 13.

Is That What History Really Teaches Us? (Response to CMP, part 5)

By Marv

This post is part of a series responding to C. Michael Patton’s eight-part series at Parchment and Pen “Why I am Not Charismatic,” which is also conveniently available for download as a single e-book here. This is in response to part five.

Michael,

The unspoken premise behind your historical argument is that over the centuries the church has looked pretty much the way Jesus intended.  Really?  Anything that goes missing, then, is like the dog that didn’t bark, prima facie evidence that the thing has dried up at the source.  It is something that God just isn’t doing any more.  Once we start playing that game, however, it is difficult to know when to stop.

There are a number of ways to respond to your part five, “An Argument from History.”  As for your specific citations of Chrysostom and Augustine, Scott has countered these quite handily in an earlier post here.  Jesse Wisnewski makes a similar argument at Reformed and Reforming here, and also makes the observation here that it illustrates the fallacy of an argument from ignorance.  Then there’s the point that you take us on a snipe hunt for the elusive “supernatural sign gifts”, showing that if you set your definitions and expectations just right, you can be assured of coming up empty handed.  This is your own “glaring weakness” in commenting on about Jack Deere’s argument, where you say:

He equates evidence that the historic church believed in the miraculous with evidence that they were continuationists. You can’t equate the two without misrepresenting what is at stake.  The historic Christian church has believed in the miraculous, they have not believed in the continuation of the supernatural sign gifts, by and large.

On the contrary, Michael, I’m afraid it is you who have misrepresented the situation by insisting on your own minimalist definition.  Continuationism in the first place is not about “gifts” but that Jesus Christ:

…continues His work of glorifying His Father, building His Church, and advancing His Kingdom through the ongoing, vital and dynamic interconnection He maintains with those who are in Him, accomplished through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit…

From my earlier post “What Continues?

This empowering presence is referenced in a number of forms such as prayer in Jesus’ name (John 14:13-14), the prayer of faith for healing (Jas. 5:15), and signs and wonders (Acts 4:30).  The phenomenon that this empowerment is parceled out through the different members of the body gives rise to the concept of “gifts” (1 Cor. 12:4).  Parallel terms here include “service,” (v. 5), “activities” (v. 6), “manifestations” (v. 7).  Elsewhere they are called “distributions” (Heb. 2:4, though typically translated “gifts”).

Isolating the term “gifts” only serves to distort the issue, particularly when pared down to the scripturally dubious category “sign gifts.”  This category serves as a nice sharp container where the used, hazardous and unwanted bits may be safely disposed of, but it is not only absent from church history, it doesn’t even appear in the Bible (more here.)  And I’ll have more to say as I respond to your part seven.

I want to take a somewhat different tack, however, in responding to your argument from history.  As I suggest in my first paragraph, the same kind of disappearing act occurs with other aspects of apostolic teaching, and I don’t think you, at least, would see these as evidence God is no longer doing that sort of thing.

1.  Salvation by grace alone through faith alone.  It is amazing how the sharp edge of this central apostolic truth goes blunt shortly after the death of the apostles.  The Shepherd of Hermas, for example (ca. AD 150), which is listed among the “Apostolic Fathers” proclaims that once you are baptized, you can sin and repent only one time (Mandate 4, chapter 3).  If this were true, we’d all be toast, of course.  Thank God for the butter of His grace!

We again pick up a clear understanding of grace with the Protestant Reformation, but what are we to say about the intervening centuries?  The truth wasn’t completely absent, but unmixed expressions of it are scarce for several centuries.  We now have some five centuries since the doctrine’s recovery, but do we conclude that in the interval God had withdrawn sola gratia?

2.  Believer’s baptism.  Speaking of baptism, I understand your ministry statement of faith is deliberately short and broad, but I think you personally hold to believer’s baptism by immersion, if I am not mistaken.  At any rate, I think this was the “normative” apostolic practice, but it did not fare so well in the history of the church.  Even the Protestant Reformation largely did not restore this, except in what some would designate as “fringe groups and cults.”  Some really do argue for de facto paedobaptism from the course of history.  Would you?

3.  Premillennialism.  Understand that I am directing this specifically to you, Michael.  A number of people will not agree with this point, including Scott, but it is given as an example.  I believe you hold that the apostolic hope was premillennial, but that this understanding disappeared for the most part early in church history.  It had a resurgence around the nineteenth century.  So in the sweep of history, it is not that different from the time frame you attribute to continuationism, which you say was not “in any way normative before the twentieth century.”

This historical premise is definitely used by some as an argument against premillennialism.  What about you?  Are you a de facto amillennialist?

So what do we really learn from history?  Don’t we end up proving a little too much if we take your approach?

These are just a few of examples.  You could probably suggest any number of reasons why particular doctrines or practices ceased to be “normative” over the years, without suggesting that God was “no longer doing that.”  Indeed, we ought to exhaust every other possibility before going with that option.  Ignorance?  Tradition?  Clerical status?  Biblical illiteracy?  Misunderstanding?  Distortion over time?  Fear?  Disbelief?  Poor leadership?  Politics?

The church is often likened to a ship.  Over the years wooden sailing vessels require periodic maintenance.  Their bottoms becomes fouled and their wood suffers from rot.  The barnacles need to be scraped off and the original woodwork restored.  Unfortunately, some of our ecclesiastical institutions of long standing over time became in many ways more barnacle than timber.

From time to time more extensive refits have been necessary. The best known is probably the Protestant Reformation, which largely focused on soteriology.  Today, I humbly suggest,  it is time for recovering apostolic pneumatology.

Semper reformanda.

What Are Spiritual Gifts? – Book Review

spiritual+gifts

by Scott

In this article, I specifically want to share some thoughts on a book about spiritual gits that I read about six months ago. It is entitled What Are Spiritual Gifts? Rethinking the Conventional View, by Kenneth Berding, Associate Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Biola University in California.

The main premise of the book is Berding’s challenge of what he calls the conventional view of spiritual gifts. What he means by this term is that most people see spiritual gifts as latent abilities hidden within a person that we are to try to unearth and discover. I believe this is a fair summary of Berding’s understanding of the ‘conventional view’, as seen from his own words:

‘The difficulty arises because, in the conventional view, there is underlying the entire discussion the assumption that a latent ability has been discovered and should be used by the person doing the ministry.’ (p99)

Therefore, because of his disagreement with this conventional approach, author Kenneth Berding takes up the task of truly defining the words charisma, charismata and pneumatika (this task is directly undertaken in chapters 5 and 6, though this is relevant to the whole work).

In doing so, he sees spiritual gifts not as special abilities to be unearthed in a particular person, but he rather defines them as ministry roles or ministry appointments. This is evidenced in such words as:

‘Paul doesn’t encourage his readers to try to discover their special spiritual abilities; rather, he challenges and encourages them to strengthen the community of faith in whatever roles of ministry that God has placed them.’ (p77)

In all, he emphasises the function of the gifts, the outworking and serving with the gifts, not so much the gift being an inward entity itself to be discovered by the person.

I believe this is an amazingly healthy view and emphasis with regards to spiritual gifts. He, like I, is not a big fan of spiritual gift tests. For so many in the conventional approach, this is the place to start in helping one determine their spiritual gifts. But I am not so sure that is the best place to start. I always laugh when one of my friends refers to these tests as Christian horoscopes.

Now, I am not saying a spiritual gift test is evil. It might even be helpful. But my understanding, at least from the little bit of Scripture that addresses these things (i.e. Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12-14; Ephesians 4:11-15; 1 Peter 4:10-11), we are not really encouraged to give a whole lot of time to ‘figuring out’ our giftings.

Rather, I see Scripture emphasising that we get on with serving one another, washing one another’s feet, and the specific giftings of God will become more evident through such serving activities. And, even more, as we stay connected to the body of Christ and its leaders, we will, in turn, be encouraged and stirred about the gifts and serving ministries to which God has called us. Thus, spiritual giftings are not something one discovers on their own, but rather within community, that being the body of Christ.

Not only that, I feel that most spiritual gift tests are too defined around the specific gifts. You must fit this mold for this gift. But it becomes too stuffy. Plus, as one who is a full continuationist, I believe all biblical gifts are still available. But most spiritual gift tests don’t give opportunity for one to consider apostolic and prophetic gifts, but that’s another story…

So, back to Berding’s book. As I said, I truly appreciate his emphasis on seeing spiritual gifts as the serving roles and ministry functions that God opens for His people. There is a healthy focus on the actual doing and serving, not the unearthing of some hidden ability.

Nevertheless, there are a few things I would challenge him on:

1) I am ok to refer to spiritual gifts as ‘abilities’, though he is not. I don’t generally agree with what he calls the ‘conventional view’ and it’s focus on hidden abilities to discover. But I think it is quite ok to recognise our giftings as actual abilities given to us by God, and thus that these gifts are within the believer.

Why? Well, the One who gifts us is resident within us – the Holy Spirit. Therefore, I believe it is fine to recognise that the gifts are actually within us, resident in the body of Christ. Again, I would emphasise functioning and serving with those gifts. It’s ridiculous to talk about something in you that you never walk out or serve the body with. But, for me, it is a little too nit picky to steer clear of the phrasing, ‘abilities within’, if we keep it in the true context of serving with our gifts.

2) Berding does not like using the word ability to speak of spiritual gifts. But he does like using the word enablement. Yet, when I read his work, many times he uses the two words as synonyms (i.e. p25). For me, it is a little inconsistent. I think he might be walking a fine line of semantics that, at times, leaves him falling on the side he says he doesn’t side with.

3) He is continually adamant that the giftings of God are not God-given abilities. Yet, when it comes to the gifts of 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 (which Berding still believes are active today), he is willing to concede that they are Spirit-given abilities. Here are his words (sorry for the longer quote):

‘The conventional approach views the list in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 as a list of Spirit-given abilities, and in one sense that is a valid perspective – at least for this list. But there are two aspects of this particular list that stand out as different from Paul’s other lists. First, for all the items in this list, the power of the Holy Spirit is obvious when these activities occur. For this reason, these items are grouped together and are referred to as the “manifestation of the Spirit.”

Second, for the items in this list, enablement is a prerequisite for the activities. In some of the other ministries found in Paul’s other lists (for example, administration, service, teaching), enablement is not as noticeable and the activity can be done, at least to some degree, through the employment of natural abilities.’ (p112-113)

Now, no doubt discussion exists around whether there is a difference between the gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and those listed elsewhere in the New Testament, at least with regards to their enabling, as Berding hints at in the quote above. But, for me, things get a little hairy when you start saying that the gifts of 1 Corinthians 12 need Spirit enabling and empowering, but the other lists do not. Interestingly enough, Romans 12 includes prophecy and Ephesians 4 includes prophet. So, maybe only those need Spirit enabling from those lists. The others don’t.

Of course, non-Christians can serve and give (those being two specific gifts found in Romans 12:6-8). But that isn’t necessarily the problem. What we are trying to do is to consider all of these giftings as empowered by the Spirit for the believer. I was administrative before I became a Christian. But that does not negate the Spirit-enablement I need in my administration now. The past 12+ years, I utilise, or should utilise, all my giftings in the power of the Spirit for the expanse of God’s kingdom and building up the body of Christ.

So, in all, I would say Berding’s separation of the differing lists of gifts is not helpful. He might say he is not trying to separate them, but it leaves one feeling that is what he is doing. To that, I cannot agree. I believe all spiritual gifts are, or should be, enabled and empowered by the One who dwells in us and gifts the body – the Holy Spirit.

4) Even when I go back into the Old Testament and read the account of people like Oholiab and Bezalel (the two main craftsmen of the tabernacle), I get this sense that the gifts of God are abilities within us. Read Exodus 31:1-11. Specifically look at what it says in vs3 and vs6. I am left believing the gifts of God are actually given to us. And, of course, they are given so that we might function in them and serve the body of Christ (Berding’s emphasis). I don’t want to walk down the full path of the conventional approach. But, again, I am ok to recognise that these gifts are given to and, therefore, are within the Spirit-indwelt believer.

5) Finally, if spiritual gifts are simply the serving and ministry roles we have, then this might give precedence for just about everything to be considered a spiritual gift. Remember, for Berding, spiritual gift = ministry role. So, you then have the ministry role of ushering, worship leader, church building cleaner, secretary, gardener, etc. Thus, since ‘ministry role’ is synonymous with spiritual gift, you then have the spiritual gift of ushering, worship leader, church building cleaner, secretary, gardener, etc. For me, I am not convinced it works like that.

Now, what you could have is those people especially gifted in serving (maybe even appointed as deacons) who serve in some administration, serve as an usher or greeter, etc. You might have someone who is gifted as a leader, and with prophetic insight, who is also regularly leading the time of corporate worship. But, I think Berding’s definition of spiritual gifts as ministry roles or ministry assignments might just lead down the path of recognising everything as a spiritual gift. Yes, I believe spiritual gifts are probably broader than the four passages in the New Testament. But I think a lot of our serving roles fall under some of those gifts listed in the Scripture.

In all, as I have said, I really appreciate Kenneth Berding’s emphasis on serving and functioning in our gifts. I am not too high on this idea of ‘finding our gifts’, especially through 100-question tests. I think the Scripture gives better ways to know the gifts of God that He has given us: 1) get on with serving and 2) stay connected to the body of Christ and its leaders. But, I do think it is ok to recognise the gifts, all gifts, as within us, even abilities within us, since the Spirit of God has taken up residence within us Himself.