Blogging the Gifts – Faith

Blogging the Gifts – Faith April 25, 2006
“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
Today we return to my long-running series on 1 Cor 12 “Blogging the Gifts”. If this is the first post you have read in this series, the earlier ones are all linked at the end of this post. We hit today an interesting issue, which was brought up in part by what the Doctor said in MLJ Monday yesterday.

In common with the majority of modern teachers, the Doctor is eager to state that gifts are not essential to the experience of the Holy Spirit. He refers to the passage we have before us, and no doubt one of the key paragraphs for him would be as follows.

1 Cor 12: 4-7 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and 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.

This passage and later words in 1 Corinthians are taken as meaning that gifts are distributed according to the sovereign plan of God and for some (I am not sure if that would include the Doctor) the end result of this is that we do not seek them but rather wait for him to distribute them if he wants to.

There are a number of problems with this approach. The first is that perhaps unsurprisingly, those who do not eagerly desire the gifts do not tend to receive them! The second is that experience of the gifts does seem to be intrinsically entwined with the work of the Holy Spirit that Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones calls Sealing with the Spirit. The Doctor himself admits that this is the conclusion of reading the relevant passages in Acts. So, is it not at least possible that in trying to seek an experience of the Spirit without any of his gifts we are selling our congregations short of what God intended for us?

What is often missed about the passage in 1 Corinthians 12 is that it is referring to the gifts being used in public for the common good of the whole church. Thus, this passage is in my view not intended to address what happens in an individual’s home, or even perhaps in a small group context where visitors are not present. The gifts described are intended for use in the corporate gathering of the church. We should be careful not to read too much from this passage into the practice of these gifts by individuals nor their relationship with sealing with the Spirit.

To state my own beliefs up front, I do believe that the ‘sealing with the Spirit’ is intended to be witnessed to by certain of these supernatural gifts granted to an individual for their OWN good. I do not go so far as to say that certain specific gifts (such as, for example, tongues) are a necessary mark of receiving the Spirit, but I do believe that we should be anticipating and expecting a multiplication of the Spirit’s gifts in the lives of those who have been baptised by him.

When we consider this list of gifts as a whole we will realise that many of them are clearly intended to be part of every Christian’s experience within their personal lives, even if not expressed in the life of the church. It is my belief that these gifts are not a binary present or absent thing, but instead have a ‘measure’ to them. In other words, some might have a gift of prophecy or other revelatory gift that is only suitable to be shared in the small group or individual context, others will have that same gift with sufficient weight to direct a movement of churches.

All of this is never more relevant than with the gift of faith! No one would argue about the cessation or otherwise of this gift, I am sure. No one would disagree that not only is faith intended for all believers it is essential to become a believer! So in this context, what is faith referring to?

I believe that it is referring to the same kind of faith that is instrumental in saving us – faith is faith! Remembering that the Greek word for faith can also be translated ‘trust’ in English, this ‘gift’ of faith is the supernatural infectious faith often given to leaders in the body of Christ.

Thus, for example when our church leader recently went to the church with a financial goal in mind, God had given him faith for that figure. That faith inspired many of us to give, and in the end the figure was smashed. The gift of faith might also be connected with a risky decision like moving the church meeting place – in our case to a cinema. Ultimately, we needed a leader who believed God that he would be with us in the new venue. Supernatural faith is amazing to behold and will create faith in the ones listening to the gifted one. It is key to leadership, and one of the biggest needs of the church today.

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