I have spent more than thirty years of my life in charismatic churches, and these reflections try to summarize that experience. This particular series is not an attempt to justify the continuation of the gifts theologically – I have done thatelsewhere and in my debate with Dan Phillips. Nor is this post intended to persuade you – I want you to be persuaded by the Bible, not mere experience!
Instead, here I want to simply answer the question, “What do the gifts look like in practice in places that claim they exist today?” I did, however, begin the series by looking at the context of 1 Corinthians 12 in five posts (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to 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. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” 1 Corinthians 12:7-11
My dear blogging friend, Tim Challies, is writing a book on discernment. There is clearly an important aspect to discernment that involves examining the Scriptures and learning the truth which they contain. There is then a comparison of that truth with what individual people say. This post will not address these important aspects of discernment. The verse makes it clear that there is a spiritual gift of discerning (or distinguishing) spirits. Like prophecy, this gift needs to be fed by our knowledge of the Scriptures, and will be richer, more developed, and less likely to err in people who are well educated biblically.