This week I continue breaking down Ephesians 4. Last week’s title was Live Like This. As I said last week, I wanted to wait to cover bullet point two of a list I made of four things we are to do to live like a Believer in Christ. To keep you reminded, here is the list again:
- Walk in Unity- Eph 4:1-6
- Use Spiritual Gifts- Eph 4:7-16
- Act Like a New Man- Eph 4:17-24
- Don’t Grieve the Holy Spirit- Eph 4:25
Over the years, I have changed my stance many times on the subject of spiritual gifts. You might never find a more hotly debated topic within the church, and one that sharply divides the Body of Christ. I don’t expect everyone to agree with my point of view. I don’t have issues with those who hold a different view. I have chosen mine after lengthy study, contemplation, experience, and prayer, and I have peace with it.
Views on Spiritual Gifts
There are several different opinions on these spiritual gifts, and three different passages talk of them, I Corinthians 12, followed by Romans 12, and then this passage in Ephesians. To under emphasize them in layman’s terms:
- Some people believe all the gifts are for today and speak in tongues and prophesy and heal people, etc.
- Some people believe that only some gifts remain, while other gifts have ceased with the completion of the biblical canon.
- Some people believe that the gifts shifted with the completion of the canon.
This is the stance I take, but I will cover each of these passages briefly, tying them together by looking at them chronologically. I believe in order to best comprehend the subject of spiritual gifts, one must look at these three passages chronologically.
The most important things to keep in mind when choosing which stance to take on spiritual gifts, use the Bible to back up your belief keeping your supporting verses in context, realize this subject does not affect one’s salvation.
Spiritual Gifts According to I Corinthians
As the two books of Corinthians were some of the earliest books of the New Testament, let’s look at I Corinthians 12:7-10 first. The gifts listed in this passage were given to build the church and bear witness to Christ until we could see Christ fully. The spiritual gifts in I Corinthians are:
- Discerning of spirits
- Speaking in tongues
- Interpretation of tongues
To understand this passage a bit better, we should consider one of the statements of Christ in the book of John
When God came in the flesh, He could only be one place at one time in the body of Christ. Christ said it was much better that He leave so the Holy Spirit could come. He would be manifested anywhere and everywhere across the planet, as well as in unseen dimensions. When this passage was written, the Bible was almost complete, so Paul was inspired to encourage the church to get ready for this completion, which happened soon after this letter to the Corinthians was written. Once the Word of God would be completed, Paul speaks of seeing fully, referring to seeing Jesus fully, who is called the Word of God by John. And once that happened, we would put these baby toys, or gifts, behind us. We wouldn’t need them, because we would be housing the better gift, the Living Word.
Some of these gifts fizzled away quickly and some went out in an instant. For instance, healing fizzled rather quickly. Paul is our example of this as he shifted from being one who could heal anyone anywhere, and people were healed just by placing handkerchiefs full of his sweat upon their wounds, to not be able to heal anyone, not even those closest to him.
Unlike today, with so much confusion and bad theology on healing, recognize that when Jesus, as well as His disciples, healed a person, every part of them was healed instantly. They were made whole spiritually and physically in an instant. This is different than the practice of today. Something also different than the practice of healing today, Jesus went about His business and healed people along the way. He didn’t gather people by the tens of thousands or hand out tickets to a healing conference. He did it naturally, everywhere and anywhere He went.
Notice that God is the one who chooses the gift. Also, it took the whole body of Christ to make up all of these gifts, where as Christ possessed them all. While God doesn’t gift healing, for example, He can still choose to heal. There are no healers apart from Him.
Spiritual Gifts According to Romans
Moving to Romans 12:6, I find it the list of spiritual gifts here a marvel. Not all the gifts that were mentioned in the previous passage in I Corinthians are mentioned here. Why? I believe some of the gifts had dropped of or were dropping off. The spiritual gifts in Romans are:
There are a couple of noticeable differences between these two lists. First, the list has dropped from 9 to 7 gifts. Second, some of the gifts in I Corinthians are absent, while some new ones are listed.
Healing is no longer mentioned, nor is speaking in tongues, or interpretation of tongues. In fact, the only gift that is repeated on both lists is prophecy. This would be the last gift to survive, because the prophets who were ministering during the first list were still alive when the second list was written.
A great shift in spiritual gifts was taking place. Keep in mind the purpose of the gifts was to bear witness to the world and give evidence of Christ, the Son of God. With the total revelation of Jesus, not the partial view the world had had, some of the gifts were no longer necessary. The childish things had come to maturity. Even the introduction to the book of John tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God and the Word was with God.” This Word had become complete, so the world was able to see Him fully.
The gifts became more practical. Believers would be authorized to teach this Word, this revelation. They would minister to each other, encourage and exhort, lead, fund the ministry and those in need, and have mercy. All of this only makes sense as the church moved into adulthood and the numbers grew. In order to survive and keep healthy, the body would have to work together and function as one unit. I believe these gifts are still the ones we should be using today.
Having said that, I do believe that prophecy today is often misunderstood and abused. Any type of prophecy that is viable would be declarative rather than predictive. People that use this gift with maturity will be giving God back His Word and speaking it out over others, keeping within its boundaries.
Bible.org states its eloquently in the article, Speaking Straight About Spiritual Gifts, “The foundation for mere human thinking is that which is seen or that which appears to be. The foundation for Christian thinking is the Word of God—that which is revealed and which is believed by faith. Sound thinking is thinking based upon the revelation of God, contained and communicated by His Word, and illuminated by His Spirit.”
Spiritual Gifts According to Ephesians
Now turn your attention to Ephesians 4:11. In the list of spiritual gifts, something is altogether different than in the previous two passages. Here the gift seems to be the person, or office, rather than a manifestation. The context of this passage and the other two are different and should be looked at differently. One similarity between them is that Paul continues to use the body as a metaphor of comparison. The idea is that we each have a different function to bring unity and growth to the body.
Paul is, however, establishing something more like a foundation of a building in Ephesians 4. We know in other passages of the Bible that Christ is compared to the Cornerstone. With that image, Paul lays the rest of the foundation with the offices of:
I think today this five-fold ministry has dropped down even further, because Paul, being the last to see Christ on the road to Damascus, was the final Apostle. Apostles were men and women that had physically witnessed God in human form in that of Christ and testified of what they saw.
Prophets spoke about the coming of God to earth, and once He came, these prophecies were fulfilled. Therefore, there are no longer apostles and prophets. Their roles and purposes have been fulfilled, and they have attached to the Cornerstone, laying the next level of the foundation of this spiritual house Paul speaks of.
Evangelists, pastors and teachers are the next layer in the spiritual house, with every saint taking up their rightful position after this, which is still ongoing. Having said that, we should all bear our own personal testimonies and share our faith with whoever the Holy Spirit inclines us to. Peters calls all Christians to do this.
We should all learn self-discipline in our walk with the Lord and spend time alone with HIm praying, praising, reading and learning, seeking His guidance. We should be sharing what we are learning as well. We should all be looking out for one another, and meeting each other’s needs.
We have the Triune God alive to help us, to guide us. Through these three parts functioning together in unity, the Father, the Son, the Spirit, He will continue to use miracles to bless us. These will not disappear in the Age of Grace. But in order to become full, mature, to walk with stability and not stumble, we must see His fullness. And this is the Word of God! Halleluia!
Written by Jori Sams
Jori Sams is a Christian author and freelance writer with nearly 2000 published pieces on the Internet, with over 1500 being published by Yahoo. Her books are published through Writeious Books. When she isn’t writing, you can usually find her following the sun…