This is the beginning of a series which will take us through to the start of the school summer holidays! So you don’t have to discover everything about “Spiritual Gifts and Graces” in this first week! In particular, towards the end of the series we will explore how to discover our own gifts, ministries, passions and styles. However, we need to ground all of that in the word of God.
Gifts and Graces 101
- These ‘spiritual gifts’ need to be understood (1 Cor 2.14f; Rom 8.16)
In 1st century Corinth
In 21st century Godmanchester
- These are gifts from and about the Lord
(Col 2.15; 1 John 2.22, 4.2-3)
Gifts + Service + Work = ?
Bittlinger says that charisma in the NT is the ‘concrete realisation of drive grace’. Whether an ordinary or extraordinary function, charisma serves to build up the body of Christ.
In a rare Greek translation of the OT, charisma occurs just once: May your unfailing love be with us. But this was more usually rendered as by the word for compassion or pity. Giving the AV translation of: Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us. Otherwise the term is virtually unknown. Even in the NT, charisma only appears in connection with twenty gifts from administration to prophecy, healing to celibacy. There is no systematic classification of charisma in the NT.
Almost any attempt to categorise charismata tells us more about the interpreter than the Biblical truth. The previous attempts at distinguishing between natural gifts and supernatural ones, or between continuing ones and those limited to an apostolic age, fail in the face of church history, theology and even science.
Two misunderstandings are worth tackling which . One is that charismata are in some way sensational – the province of the enthusiast or fanatic. This understanding fails to take seriously the natural of humanity. Indeed humans are debased if they are only a lifeless instrument, an automaton, powerlessly acting out the service of God. The NT is clear that there is no distinction between so-called natural and supernatural gifts. That’s why the lists are all mixed up! The administration of money is just as much a charisma as speaking in tongues and the work of service just as much a charisma as a prophetic utterance.
But it is equally foolish to suggest that whatever a Christian does, then that is the exercise of a charisma. That makes charisma everything and nothing. It opens the door to limiting, say, healing to only being the study of medicine. Similarly, formal appointment to a task does not of its self impart a charismatic gift. Formal recognition of a ministry should take place after it has be demonstrated as a person’s gift.
This activist understanding of gifts also fails to acknowledge our humanity. We are fallen people, and the ‘old Adam’ will appear! For this reason, we exercise our gifts in the context of faith: “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you (Rms 12.3)”.
Having rejected charisma as solely sensational or universally dull, we need a better working explanation. Bittlinger suggests:
A charisma is a gracious manifestation of the Holy Spirit, working in and through, but going beyond, the believer’s natural ability for the common good of the people of God.
So we can say that God creates us unique. Therefore he implants concrete and unique gifts in us by his Spirit. Through these gifts God himself can work in our Christian community and into our world. When we open ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit, we are freed to discover the unique way that God can use us. It also means that we will be continually aware of our own inadequacy and therefore dependence on God.
- GIFTS: Charismata (v4)
Gifts of grace are given to everyone in the church
- Service: Diakonia (v5)
Given for service of everyone (2 Tim 1:6)
- Workings: Energemata (v6)
Given to be used and seen to be used (1 Cor 15:28)
I want to expand the point here. If we live a narrow life, it is very likely the exercise of, say, a prophetic gift will be similarly narrow. On the other hand if our horizons are wide, taking in the whole of life, then our prophetic words will reach widely too.
“A committed and dedicated involvement within a definite realm or with a particular person is a prerequisite for charisma to reach that ream or person”.
- Common good
(v7; 1 Cor 14:26; Eph 4:11-16)
Gifts and the Giver
John 3:5-6; Romans 8:9; 1 Cor 12.11; 2 Cor 1:22
If you have time before your cell group read through 1 Corinthians 12-14.
1. Read 1 Corinthians 11. How are chapters 11 and 12 linked? What similarities are there with previous issues addressed?
2. What do you think they said or asked Paul in their letter which provokes the reply in chapters 11 and 12?
3. Read 12:1-11. If verse 3 is not to be taken literally, then what is it saying?
4. Could there be a reason why particular gifts are mentioned in verses 810, and others are not?
5. What are your personal tendencies and temptations in how you view different spiritual gifts?
6. What consequences might these have for our attitude to other Christians?
7. What would make it easier for you to exercise the gifts in verses 8-10 in your cell group meetings?
1. Which idols were you influenced by before you became a Christian? How has the Holy Spirit set you free from them?
2. Is declaring “Jesus is Lord” the sole criteria for deciding if someone is speaking under the Spirit’s guidance? Or are there other things you take into account (v3)
3. Why might there be a Trinitarian structure in verses 4-6? What can we learn from this?
1. How might you use the gifts, service and workings described in verses 8-10 for the “common good” of your work colleagues, neighbours or family?