Spiritual Gifts

"It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-13).

Christians agree that God enables His people for works of service in order to build up the body of Christ. These gifts are detailed in 1 Corinthians 12. Generally, there is agreement that gifts such as teaching, evangelism, mercy, and wisdom, are still visible in the Church. Christians are not, however, in agreement that all the gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12 are still available for use today.

It is in the area of "sign" gifts (prophecy, tongues, healing, etc.) where most of the controversy occurs. The traditional view holds that the sign gifts ended with the closing of the canon. Proponents of this view stress that the sign gifts were needed only to help establish the Church.

An opposing view is that "sign" gifts are still in existence today. Charismatics and Pentecostals believe these gifts are still available to the Church, and that the gifts will be bestowed by God as He sees fit. The main difference here arises in the area of tongues. The Pentecostal believes that tongues are the initial evidence of having been empowered by the Spirit, and thus everyone who has received the "baptism" of the Spirit will speak in tongues. The Charismatic believes that there is no one specific sign of having been empowered by the Spirit, and thus not everyone baptized in the Spirit will speak in tongues.

All the above positions are within the realm of orthodox Christianity. This is not an issue to break fellowship over.

Sign gifts, as are the other spiritual gifts, are to be tested by the word of God. Testing a sign or doctrine by Scripture demonstrates a noble character, and is never an insult: "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11). No teacher is immune from such testing, and it is not "touching God's anointed" to do so. When a sign or doctrine is completely compatible with Scripture, it can be accepted; when it disagrees with Scripture it must be rejected regardless of who is promoting it.

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