(1 Corinthians 12:4-6) “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.”
In Psalm 133 we read, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes.” Aaron we are told in Hebrews is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ our Great High Priest. The oil flowing down from Aaron’s head onto his robes is symbolic of the anointing of the Spirit for his ministry. The Lord Jesus Christ was anointed with the Holy Spirit at His baptism and is continually anointed because He is the head of the Church His body. That anointing flows down upon His body the Church imparting to its members spiritual gifts for the edifying of the body as a whole. (Acts 2:33) (Ephesians 4:7-8) The Lord Jesus Christ is the source of every spiritual gift and He releases them in His body the Church by the power of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6, 11) These gifts are “Grace Gifts” i.e., those who exercise them have received the grace from God to exercise them in the Church. Before we really look at the Gifts (manifestations) of the Spirit we need to understand the following things relating to this whole matter.
1. Every born again child of God has one or more spiritual gifts.
These are not natural endowments or abilities but have been supernaturally imparted to them by the Holy Spirit.
2. These gifts cannot really operate independently from the body of Christ.
Peter tells us that we are to use the gifts that God has given us, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10).
3. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to the body of Christ for the benefit of others not for our personal enjoyment..
They are not for our own private enjoyment and self-gratification. “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 14:26)… “What shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these things must be done for the strengthening of the Church” (1 Corinthians 12:7). While it is true we will experience a sense of personal fulfilment and satisfaction when the Holy Spirit uses us we will always be motivated towards blessing others and not to just gratify our personal need to express our gifts.
Unfortunately today in the Church many use the gifts of the Spirit to draw attention to themselves, however the Holy Spirit will only uplift the Lord Jesus Christ, not Himself, His gifts or those exercising His gifts. Whenever we are moved by the Holy Spirit in a meeting to use His gifts we must always make sure that our motives are right and our priority is to meet the needs of others.
4. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are distributed according to His will and not ours.
“All these are the work of one and the same Spirit. And he gives them to each one just as He determines” (1 Corinthians 12:11).The Holy Spirit is sovereign in this matter and releases His gifts according to His will. Many believers become frustrated because they are always seeking to manifest the more spectacular gifts such as prophecy, a word of knowledge or healing or the working of miracles but God has manifested His power in another way to them. When we are truly submitted to the Holy Spirit in this matter He will impart to us the gifts He wants to release to the body through us and as we submit to Him we will be abundantly satisfied as we see Him minister to others through us.
5. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are not always a sign of spiritual maturity.
“Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly-mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. Indeed you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealously and quarrelling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)
The believers at Corinth were flowing in the gifts of the Spirit and Paul did not stop them from using the gifts however he did have to correct them about their carnal and fleshly lifestyles as a church and this carnality spread to every part of their church life including the way they used the gifts of the Spirit. Paul never told them to stop using the gifts but showed them how to operate in them in a way that brought honour to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is clear that they needed instruction on the appropriate use of the gifts. So Paul instructed them. (1 Corinthians 12 &14) So often those believers who understand and operate in the gifts of the Spirit look down on others who don’t and often think they are more spiritually mature because of the gifts they manifest. We need to remember that true believers are not recognized by their spiritual gifts but by their spiritual fruit.
There are many instances in the Bible of men who exercised their gifts even after they had backslidden. Sampson and King Saul are just two examples. The Bible says that the gifts and calling of God go forth without repentance. A person may be spiritually gifted and even start out right but through pride, immorality or through the love of money end up being controlled by Satan even though they may still be operating in the Spiritual gifts.
6. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit have never passed away.
Unfortunately today there are two extremes in the Church. There are those who go overboard concerning the use and practice of spiritual gifts and become quite extreme in their emphasis on them. However, there are others who say they have passed away after the first century and because we now have the complete Canon of scripture they are no longer needed. The Gifts of the Spirit have always been around in the Church down through history. There have been times when they were rarely seen or exercised in the Church but they have never passed away.
If the gifts of the Holy Spirit passed away after the first century then at what point in church history did they actually cease? No one has been able to answer this question! Furthermore, you cannot use 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 to prove that spiritual gifts have now passed away. Those who try to force the text to say this focus on the words “but when the perfect has come the imperfect will pass away.” They interpret “the perfect” to refer to the completed canon of scripture, however, it is their interpretation only and not the plain meaning of the text. In fact In its context it is talking about the day when Jesus returns. On that day we will not need spiritual gifts or anything else of that nature because we will be reigning in our glorified bodies with Jesus and we will know as God Himself knows us. In the Millennium “the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.”
It is true that prophecies and tongues will cease and that knowledge will pass away and that we will no longer know in part but know fully but only after Jesus returns. The text is very clear and there can be no other interpretation possible.
Unfortunately there are many churches that emphasize the gifts of the Spirit but are deficient in their knowledge of God’s Word and they tend to develop an experiential theology. On the other hand there are other churches that are rich in the Word of God but avoid the gifts of the Spirit. Satan has kept these churches apart because he knows that if those who emphasize the gifts of the Spirit get together with those who emphasize the Word of God he will have a very powerful force to contend with. The letter to the Ephesians is primarily the revelation that the Lord Jesus Christ gave to Paul concerning the nature, the ministry and the ultimate future of the Church.
The Gifts of the Spirit as seen in the New Testament fall into three categories. Firstly, there are gifts of leadership, secondly, gifts for maintaining the ongoing life and ministry of the Church and thirdly those that are specifically manifested in meetings. In this first study we will look at the leadership gifts that the Lord Jesus has appointed in the Church to prepare God’s people for works of service.
The Leadership Gifts that prepare God’s people for works of service.
(Ephesians 4:11-12) “It was he (Jesus) 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.”
Every spiritual gift flows out from the Lord Jesus Christ to His body the Church through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus Christ as the head Of His body the Church and He has set in the church those with the responsibility of spiritual ministry and oversight. These men are gifted for a specific avenue of service and ministry within the Church. Their chief role is to equip the saints for ministry and service so that the whole body of Christ may be built up in its most Holy faith.
They may be full-time workers or those who support themselves. In the New Testament it was customary to financially support these leaders. Paul himself said, “Don’t you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:13-14). In fact the whole of the chapter Paul deals with this issue.
It is a tragedy today in many churches especially in the mainline denominations that several of these offices of ministry are not even recognized or active. Today a minister comes out of a seminary and goes to a church and becomes the spiritual leader of that church. In many cases churches do not even have a body of elders and if they do their spiritual qualifications often do not meet the scriptural standards of eldership. In the New Testament the local church functioned quite differently than the church does today. The Lord Jesus Christ never intended for the local church to be run by one man but by a plurality of leaders who were called and gifted for that task.
Today in virtually all of the mainline denominations and evangelical churches they acknowledge the roles of evangelists, pastors and teachers but do not acknowledge the roles of apostles and Prophets yet they are all listed by Paul as valid ministries of leadership in the church. These leadership roles were basically mobile ministries and the only locally situated ministry was that of the pastor and teacher who had oversight of the local church along with the elders and deacons. While much could be said about each of these leadership ministries we will only look at them briefly.
Chiefly the apostles were those appointed by Jesus Himself and they were eyewitnesses to His life, His death and especially to His resurrection. (Acts 1:21-22) These men were unique in that several of them were responsible for writing certain books in the New Testament. Later on the apostle Paul, not one of the original twelve, wrote at least two thirds of the New Testament and like the others had encountered Jesus personally and had the same authority from Jesus as they had. (Acts 9:3-6 26:12-18) Only these apostles were designated with apostolic authority to declare and to write doctrine for the Church. (Matthew 13:11 16:19) Today we have the complete canon of scripture and there is no more new doctrine only a deeper revelation of what has already been given by the apostles.
The word “apostle” itself literally means “a sent one” or “one sent with a fixed call and boundary.” In the New Testament there were two types of apostles. Those who ministered in different local churches such as Peter and John and those who planted churches like Paul and Apollos. We also know from God’s Word that there were other apostles as well and that they were outstanding men in spiritual matters.
Paul mentions them in his letter to the Romans. “Greet Andronicus and Junius, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was” (Romans 16:7). Apostles could be called God’s Paratroopers because the Lord drops them behind enemy lines to establish His beachhead in enemy territory. Today the equivalent of an apostle would be a Church Planting missionary who serves and ministers in the power and the gifts of the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 12:12) (1 Corinthians 2:4)
An apostle has the Spirit’s ability to exhort, to strengthen and encourage the local church leaders in evangelism and ministry. Usually someone with an apostolic calling would be able to teach and be gifted in evangelism themselves and have the authority to ordain elders in the local church. (Acts 14:23) Someone with an apostolic calling also has the authority to pray for new converts to be filled with the Spirit. (Acts 8:14-17) Even though they have primarily a mobile ministry they are still accountable to the elders of the church from which they have been sent. Paul and Barn bus were accountable to the church at Antioch and were faithful in maintaining the accountability for their ministry. (Acts 14:26-28) Peter was also accountable to the church leadership in Jerusalem. (Acts 11:1-18)
True apostles are not laws unto themselves because biblically they have accountability to the whole church for what they say and do. Apostolic ministry is foundational in that it always supports and upholds the local church and leads by example. (Ephesians 2:20) (1 Corinthians 11:1) There are many super apostles today who run around calling themselves apostles, riding in limousines, staying in five star hotels, wearing $3,000 suits and being treated like movie stars. However, when you look at their lifestyles, false doctrines and false prophecies and the way they exert their authority onto others and chase money it is quite a contrast to the description Paul gives of the calling and lifestyle of a true apostle.
These men are accountable to no one and boast of their gifts. The real apostolic ministry is a tough and sometimes even dangerous ministry. In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul describes the marked contrast between a super apostle and a true one. (2 Corinthians 11) The apostolic ministry is not merely one of talk but a demonstration of the Spirit’s power to change and to transform lives for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ who has called them to this office. (Galatians 1:11-12)
Paul describes the true ministry of an apostle when he says, “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing whiles I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power”(1 Corinthians 2:1-5). They are the LORD’s ‘Storm Troopers’ (Commandos) dropped behind enemy lines to establish a base of operations.
Today in the Church there are many so called prophets and much could be said about these men and women. The prophet’s ministry is not a glamorous and popular ministry at all, In fact a true prophet will often battle criticism, depression, discouragement loneliness and opposition from false brethren and sometimes even true brethren. King David put it aptly when he said, “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God. My companion attacks his friends; he violates his covenant. His speech is as smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, but they are drawn swords” (Psalm 55:12-14, 20-21).
Elijah is a good example of the prophet’s ministry. At one time he actually tried to run away from his calling when Jezebel threatened his life. He ended up alone in a cave battling discouragement and depression. God’s estimation of a true prophet is vastly different than the popular idea of a prophet held in multitudes of churches today. These days so called prophets ride around in limousines, stay in five star hotels, wear expensive suits, watches and bracelets, prophecy at meetings, make Hugh collections and speak as if they are experts about faith.
The eleventh chapter of Hebrews says more about faith than any other chapter in the Bible and the only thing it says about riches is that Moses turned his back on them and chose to suffer for Christ. (Hebrews 11:25-26) Today’s heroes in the Church are men like Benny Hinn, a proven false prophet! Many others just like him are also into spiritual pride and money. Jeremiah describes them, “From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace’ they say, when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen, they will be brought down when I punish them, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 6:13-16).
The book of Hebrews tells us how life will be for a true prophet. “Some face jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. (Jeremiah) They were sawn in two (Isaiah) they were put to death by the sword. (James) They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated- the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground” (Hebrews 11:36-38)
In the Old Testament the prophet’s ministry was three fold. Firstly, they prophesied about their own time. Secondly, they prophesied for the First Coming of Christ. Thirdly, they prophesied for the Second Coming of Christ and for the last days including the Millennium. Also the Lord was writing His Word, the Bible through the words of these men. (2 Peter 1:20-21) In the New Testament the prophets role was primarily as a “forth teller” i.e., One who brought a message from the Lord to local congregations although they did predict the future at times. These men were mobile and not necessarily attached to one church indefinitely. Agabus was a travelling prophet among others. (Acts 11:27-28) He also predicted the future where the apostle Paul was concerned. (Acts 21:10-11) There were others who were resident in a local church. (Acts 13:1) A prophet today would be one who can preach the Word of God in such a way as to draw people back to what God teaches in His Word.
A true prophet does not bring new doctrines but with the help of the Holy Spirit reveals the deeper things that God has already given in His Word. True prophets are men of the Word and prayer and know foundational doctrine. The prophet Daniel was able to accurately predict the future because he sought to understand what God had already said in His Word through the prophet Jeremiah. When he understood its meaning he pleaded with God in prayer, in petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. (Daniel 9:1-3) Daniel was totally accurate in the predictions he made concerning four great future empires and events leading up to the Second Coming of Christ.
True prophets are always 100% accurate when they prophesy concerning the future. Moses tells us this, “But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death. You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). Today we do not put false prophets to death but the sin is no less serious. Benny Hinn is a classic example among others. Benny Hinn has predicted things in the name of the Lord that have not happened yet the amazing thing is that multitudes of God’s people still flock to his meetings and watch him on T.V. and give him money.
A true prophet lives in God’s presence all the time and His Word is never far from their mind and heart. They are men who pray continuously and are always open to what God wants to tell them through His Word. A true prophet will speak words of encouragement and exhortation but at other times speak words of correction, rebuke and judgment. Their lifestyle will not be rich and opulent, neither will they be travelling around in Limousines and staying in five star hotels at the expense of God’s people. It is a great privilege to earn a living through preaching God’s Word but a disgrace to the Lord Jesus Christ when so called prophets who claim to speak for God fleece the sheep of their money to put into their own bank accounts. These kinds of men are an accursed breed. You can read about them and their final end in Peter.s second letter and in Jude’s letter.
Evangelists are those who have the grace to exercise the gift of soul winning. They know how to win people to the Lord and to train others in the work of evangelism. They will exercise other gifts of the Spirit especially the word of knowledge, the discerning of spirits, the working of miracles and healing. This is clearly seen in the ministry of Phillip the evangelist. (Acts 8:4-8) They, like the prophets will first and foremost be men of the Word. The emphasis of their ministry will be repentance towards God and faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ. They will know foundational doctrine and will not emphasize or magnify signs, miracles and wonders above the word of God.
An evangelist may not always be one who preaches at large meetings but one who is gifted in personal witnessing one on one. Also they are able to train and equip others for the work of evangelism. While they may not be pastors or teachers they can rightly divide the Word of Truth and understand basic doctrine. Evangelists are usually mobile but can be situated in a local church. The main feature of an Evangelist is that they have the grace from God to win souls!
4. Pastors and Teachers:
In the original Greek these roles are linked together. A pastor must be able to teach as well as shepherd a congregation. Someone may have the gift of teaching but not be a pastor but a pastor will always have the grace from God to teach the Word. (2 Timothy 2:1-2, 15 3:14-16) They will also lead by example and not lord it over the flock. (1 Peter 5:1-4) A true pastor will protect the sheep from false doctrine and teachers. (Acts 20:28-32) A pastor will usually have the gift of knowledge because, like the eastern shepherd who knows his sheep, the pastor will know his flock. Through the word of knowledge the Lord will be able to tell him specific problems in peoples lives and how to deal with them. A pastor will also need the gift of wisdom to lead and to guide the local church in conjunction with the elders.
The word “pastor” can be translated “shepherd”, “overseer”, “presbyter” or “elder” as these words are all interchangeable. A Pastor is a leading elder who has general spiritual oversight of a local congregation but is also accountable to the other elders on his team. Leadership in the Church is always plural. (Acts 14:23) The Lord never intended leadership in the local church to be a “one man show.” The Bible teaches us that there are three kinds of shepherds.
Firstly, there is the “wolf in sheep’s clothing”.
He deliberately introduces spiritual deception and wrong doctrine and eventually destroys the flock through pride, personal ambition, and a greed for money and power. (Matthew 7:15) (2 Peter 2:1-4)
Secondly, there is “the Hireling”.
He treats the pastoral ministry as a career or profession but is really only concerned about his salary and superannuation and his reputation in his denomination but who deserts the sheep when they need him. Usually a hireling does not defend the sheep when he sees the wolf approaching. There are pastors who know that what certain men are teaching is wrong but do nothing because they want to keep their congregation and their positions in their church or denomination. (John 10:11-13)
Thirdly, the True shepherd gives his life in service everyday for the spiritual care and nurture of the sheep.
He is the one who really has the grace to be a shepherd because sheep can be hard to lead and often wander from the flock and are prone to be led astray and suffer attack from wolves. (John 10:11, 14,15) (1 Peter 5:2-4)
A shepherd or elder is worthy of double honour and should be paid accordingly. (1Timothy 5:17-18) The Lord sets out the credentials for a shepherd, elder, overseer or pastor. (Titus 1:6-9) It is a sad fact that multitudes of ‘ordained’ pastors with theological degrees and qualifications in “Psychology” are disqualified when we see the scriptural requirements of this crucial ministry. In our next study we will look at the Gifts for Service to the Body of Christ.