Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., Pastor, Grace Bible Church of Costa Mesa, California

Copyright 1995-2014 Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., All Rights Reserved


Before we discuss the origin of spiritual gifts as they relate to the Church Age, we have to see what gifts, talents, and abilities existed in Old Testament times. For Old Testament prophets, God the Holy Spirit would come upon them or endue them to perform a special duty for God. He would endue them, control them, and empower them for specific responsibilities and ministries which were discharged under His power. This enduement was given by the Sovereignty of God and was for selected believers only and for a specific time - it was always temporary. It was not like a Christian who is always indwelt by the Spirit. He was not like a Christian who can be filled with the Spirit upon the basis of confessing his known sins. Old testament believers had fellowship with the Lord based on confession of sin and had fellowship with God characterized by the faith-rest life only. Our fellowship is characterized by the filling of the Spirit and the faith-rest life because of being Spirit-filled.

You must keep in mind that when the Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven after His resurrection, He emptied Paradise, or Abraham's Bosom. Paradise was in the heart of the earth and was a place of perfect environment and a place of great comfort and happiness. This is where all Old Testament believers went before Jesus Christ was accepted at the right hand of the Father in His ascension and present session. When He emptied Paradise, He transferred the souls and spirits of all Old Testament believers to the third heaven. This is seen Ephesians 4:8.

Therefore it says, "When he ascended on high, he led captive a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men." (Ephesians 4:8)

The Unity of the Body

When we say the church is the Body of Christ, it doesn't refer to a literal body. Christ's literal body is a resurrection body. The Church is His spiritual body or His mystical body which means He is the head of the body. He has authority over the Church. We are to be submissive to His sovereignty and authority through the intake and application of Bible truth which is His thinking according to 1 Corinthians 2:16. We are members of His body. It is a spiritual body. Each one of us in the entire body will be raptured when that body is complete. When the last member of the body receives Christ as Savior, we will all be caught up in the air to receive our resurrection bodies.

For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16)

As to the unity of the body, we meet together in worship, Bible class, in outreach, in service, and in mission activities as a local church. Different people use their special spiritual gifts to come up with church activities to set the times to meet, location, what is going to happen there, and everything related to administration. No individual can take the credit because it is a team effort. Everyone is involved in using his or her spiritual gift. This is a part of the unity of the body. When we think of the essentials that unify us and the things in which we are to have unity, you do not find any spiritual gift mentioned. Ephesians 4:1 is a good example. In Ephesians 4:1, Paul was in prison. He had been a prisoner for three years when he wrote this epistle. This is the "worthy walk." Gentleness, patience, and understanding come from unconditional virtue love toward all people. Are spiritual gifts the basis for our unity? No! We all have differing gifts and we are to use them under the power of the Spirit as seen in 1 Corinthians 12:4-7.

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, (Ephesians 4:1)

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)

Ephesians 4:3 shows us that when you are filled with the Spirit, loving, gentle, humble and patient, then you can have a great fellowship with other believers. This is the unity of the body. We should try to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. By being filled with the Holy Spirit, we have peace, contentment and tranquility. Our happiness is not dependent upon other believers, but dependent upon the Lord. There is one body of Christ and one Holy Spirit. Just as you were called in one hope or confidence of eternal life with the Lord because we have received Him as our Savior. We have one Lord, one faith, and one means of receiving Him as Savior by means of faith. We have one baptism which is NOT a water baptism, but the baptism of the Holy Spirit which enters us into union with the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the Relationship Sphere for Eternity which is based on the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3)

Ephesians 4:6 says there is only one God and Father of all. God the Father is the author of God’s plan for every Christian life and authorizes the basis for Christian unity. Our unity is to be based on the filling of the Holy Spirit which produces peace, contentment, satisfaction, and the total grace prosperity of maturity. There is one body of Christ and one Holy Spirit. There is one Lord Jesus Christ, one faith, and one means of receiving Him as Savior. There is one baptism which is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. God the Father is the one who has authorized this unity. Each believer is indwelt by God the Father to insure our unity. Being indwelt by God the Father means that the Father has provided everything necessary to have fellowship and unity with each other as members of the body. The expression of that body in your local church should be in unconditional love toward one another and the basis for the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:6)

Paul continues in Ephesians 4:7 by going from the unity of the body to gifts which are given to the body. Grace is always the basis of the spiritual gift which you received at the moment of salvation and your grace function in the Christian way of life. Being filled with the Spirit and possessing all the components of the Fellowship Sphere for Time is the basis of identifying your spiritual gift. You are to use it as unto the Lord for His glorification and not for your own approbation. Some people wrongly say they have a certain gift, use that gift, and are therefore better than you because you cannot even know that you are saved unless you have their particular gift. They also say that unless you have their gift, you will never be spiritual and fulfill God's plan and purpose. Remember, spiritual gifts have nothing to do with spirituality! Their only relationship to spiritual growth is that as you grow spiritually, you can identify the gift and use it as unto the Lord.

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. (Ephesians 4:7)

Identifying Your Spiritual Gift

God the Son gave spiritual gifts to believers at the beginning of the Church Age on the day of Pentecost. After that, God the Holy Spirit gives gifts at the moment of salvation for believers who are then members of the body of Christ. If you have received Jesus Christ as your Savior, you now have at least one spiritual gift. As you grow spiritually, you will learn to identify it based on Bible doctrine in your soul and gain the capacity to use it to the glory of God. There is no shortcut. This will not happen overnight. You must first learn the Word of God sufficiently to grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ before spiritual gifts will achieve proper function. You have to know what the Bible says about the filling of the Spirit, living in the spirit, walking in the Spirit, and being controlled by the Spirit a maximum amount of the time before you can recognize and use correctly your spiritual gift.

Some believe erroneously that Ephesians 4:7 and Ephesians 4:11-12 imply Christ withheld spiritual gifts to some and they will get them later in their spiritual life. This is not what these verses say. Ephesians 4:11-12 says that Jesus Christ gave some certain gifts and gave others different spiritual gifts. Isn’t that interesting? Some of us have been given certain spiritual gifts and others have been given other spiritual gifts - all according to God’s plan.

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; (Ephesians 4:11-12)

You are not to lust after other believers’ spiritual gifts or what you think is their spiritual gift. Keep track of your own gift(s) and desire to maximize their use in the power of the Spirit. Don’t feel inferior because you do not have a certain spiritual gift. If you have a leadership or communication gift, you should not feel superior because those with the greatest authority and leadership should be servants of all. As you gain ever more grace orientation, remember that God gave you the exact right gift at the moment of salvation. You will identify and use that gift to His glory as you grow spiritually.

Individual Spiritual Gifts

It is not God's will for every believer to have the same spiritual gift. Paul deals with this issue in 1 Corinthians 12:16-18. Using an analogy of anatomical parts, He says the body of Christ is not just one ear and it is not just one hand or one nose. Just as the human body has many different parts with their specialized functions, the spiritual body has many different gifts with specific functions complimentary to one another. We are all to function in these differing gifts as spirit-filled believers.

And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. (1 Corinthians 12:16-18)

In Ephesians 4:11-12, the word "some" is very important. It was Christ who gave "some" gifts to the apostles, but not to other believers. The gifts of apostleship was a temporary spiritual gift allowing maximum authority over all local churches. Other temporary gifts included healing and speaking in tongues. These three gifts, in particular, were necessary to take up the slack or to fill the gap until the Bible or the written Canon of Scripture was completed in 96 A.D. The apostles performed these miracles to establish their authority as teachers of God’s plan and His mystery doctrines for the Church Age.

It was Christ who gave to some the temporary spiritual gift of Apostleship. To some He gave the gift of prophecy which was another temporary gift for telling the future and giving the message from the Lord before the Bible was completed. When God's completed message had been written in the Bible, God's prophets, apostles, healers and those who spoke in tongues were no longer needed. It is always a danger today when religious leaders say they are a prophet or an apostle because they think they have that same authority. They cannot and do not because the Bible says so. They get carried away with arrogance and start demanding their followers to do things they should not do. An extreme example of this goes all way to "fleecing the flock" by relieving them of their money to try to build a prayer tower and saying God is going to kill the minister unless enough money is gathered. This minister was making God into a terrorist! Many wondered how this minister could do this. The minister’s response was that he was a prophet and an apostle. Take just about any false religion, cult or pseudo organization and you will find leaders in that organization claiming to have apostleship, prophecy, or healing as part of their ministry. This activity is all contrary to the Word of God.

Ephesians 4:11-12 goes on to say that some were given the gift of evangelism. That was and still is a permanent spiritual gift. We always need itinerant missionaries. We always need evangelists who travel around addressing crowds or individuals personally, talking God’s truth and giving the Gospel. That is the gift of evangelism. Paul told Timothy to do the work of an evangelist. He did not have the gift, but was told to do the work. So we all are to evangelize as we have the opportunity.

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; (Ephesians 4:11-12)

Ephesians 4:11-12 also says that Jesus Christ gave some as pastors and teachers. The established Greek rule of syntax for hyphenated words does not apply here because the Greek nouns "pastors" and "teachers" are in the plural, not the singular. It says "some to pastors and teachers." In the local church, there are to be pastors or elders and there are to be teachers or communicators under the pastor’s authority. The term "pastors" refers to the man who is professionally the minister of the local church and the one with the highest leadership and communication gift. Others might be serving on the deacon board who can teach and may have the gift of pastor and could be a pastor in another local church. However, they are under the authority of the pastor in that local church until they leave to seek their own congregation as their gift should do. Until that time, they should provide leadership and administration as deacons or teachers and remain under the authority of the pastor in the church where they are members.

The Bible calls for only one pastor in a local church who is in authority. These verses are referring also to teachers when it says "to be teachers." The pastor must also be a teacher. However, there are other people in the local church who can teach. That is why it's in plural. Members of the local church can also have leadership gifts and serve with the pastor under leadership, organization, authority, or they can be teachers. It is the pastor who teaches other teachers to teach the children not in the assembly who are too young to listen to the pastor. That is a part of the ministry of the local church.

There are some to be pastors and teachers. For what purpose? The purpose is to prepare God's people for the works of service and equipping the saints for the production of the ministry. The pastor communicates the Word so that people can be equipped as they grow spiritually. Again, for what purpose? The purpose is so the body of Christ may be built up in edification. Other people are built up spiritually as you grow spiritually. You are then motivated to help them to grow in unconditional kindness, thoughtfulness, and consideration from unconditional love. If we treat people new to the local church this way, we can influence them toward the Truth.

Your Spiritual Gift Is a Sovereign Gift from God - You Cannot Earn it

The word "gift" in Ephesians 4:7 in the Greek is dorea and means grace. Grace has always been the basis for God conveying our spiritual gifts to us at the moment of salvation. Some in charismatic circles say you should seek baptism and speaking in tongues. You cannot seek or earn a spiritual gift! It is given by God’s sovereign decision from eternity past! You may want one type of gift, but part of walking in the Spirit is learning to live according to God’s plan for your life, not your own. Some imply you earn your spiritual gift by attending their church, keeping their taboos, tarrying, agonizing and going through all sorts of emotional activity. You must understand that it is possible to work yourself up to where your emotions control your thinking. That's where people lose control in Pentecostal meetings. The emotions are controlling their souls instead of the Holy Spirit.

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. (Ephesians 4:7)

You cannot work yourself up emotionally to receive a spiritual gift. You cannot seek it, you cannot earn it, you cannot work for it, and you do not receive one on the basis of human ability. Whatever gift you have is the sovereign decision of the Holy Spirit. He calls all the shots. He determined at the point of salvation, what gift or gifts you would receive. He does all the doing by sovereign decision. Sovereign means that it depends totally and completely upon the third member of the Trinity, God the Holy Spirit.

You need to understand that God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all involved in spiritual gifts. Since God the Father is the author of the divine plan, we assume that He decided that we need a certain number of pastors, teachers, administrators and those with the gift of helps, in any generation of the Church Age. The Lord Jesus Christ provided the basis for the spiritual gifts as we have already studied. God the Holy Spirit appoints the gift to the person the instant that person receives Jesus Christ as Savior.

The Father’s Organized Witness to The Plan of Salvation

Your personal witness is the witness of your life. Your personal witness is meant to be one of no hypocrisy and an example to others of a life of virtue, honor, integrity, and resultant morality. Verbal witnessing opportunities are given to each of us by God. Quite often, we fail to see them because we are not on our toes. The opportunities are there, but we pass them by because we are afraid to witness. We have timidity and lack the courage to take a stand for Christ. This doesn't mean that you try to cram the Gospel down someone's throat. Yet, when the opportunity is there, you should want to share your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, that's personal witness.

Organized witness to the plan of salvation is what we see in Hebrews 2:1-4. Since the Book of Hebrews begins the subject of the superiority of the Lord Jesus Christ, it presents Him as superior to the angels, Moses, and Joshua. His new covenant is superior to the old covenant and is ratified in His blood. The superiority of Christ is the main theme in the Book of Hebrews.

For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. (Hebrews 2:1-4)

Hebrews 1:1-4 and Hebrews 1:13 thoroughly establish the superiority of Christ to all angelic creatures. The question presented in Hebrews 1:13 demands a negative answer in the original Greek because Jesus did not say that to any of the angels. The Lord Jesus Christ, through His victory of cross, burial, resurrection and ascension, is now seated at the Father's right hand. That is the high point of strategic victory in the angelic conflict because He is seated at the Father's right hand in His glorified resurrection body. All enemies, both human and demonic, will be put under His feet and made subject to His authority at the Second Coming which is the Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. We see His superiority to all angelic creatures in His glorified resurrection body at the Father's right hand.

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high; having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. (Hebrews 1:1-4)

But to which of the angels has He ever said, "Sit at my right hand, until I make thine enemies a footstool for thy feet?" (Hebrews 1:13)

Tying prophecy into this, we will each receive our resurrection bodies at the end of the present dispensation, the Church Age. In review, we had the descent of the Holy Spirit in 30 A.D. which began the Church Age or the period of the body of Christ. The Church is His body and Christ is the head. He is the authority over the Church and when the body is complete, it becomes the bride at the Rapture, which is the resurrection and translation of the Church. That is when we receive our resurrection bodies which are like His glorious body which means we will be physically higher than all angelic creatures. However, I have news for you. We are already higher than all angelic creatures positionally.

The Believer’s Position Versus the Angel’s

We are in union with Christ and our position before God is that of sons. We are the adopted children and have been placed into the royal family of God. We are sons forever. The angels are servants forever. That is why Hebrews 1:14 says that angels minister for the Lord and are sent out to serve those who will inherit deliverance. We are saved, delivered, and will be with the Lord forever. A sign of the fact that we are higher than all angelic creatures is that we all have at least one servant angel.

Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:14)

The Scripture has much to say about angels. Angels are spiritual beings and are described as having bodies of light which indicates they probably travel at the speed of light. They were created by God early in creation, after the creation of the universe and before the creation of mankind. Though we know only three by name - Michael, Gabriel and Satan, the Bible refers to numerous ranks and divisions and a table of organization for both elect and fallen angels. Satan is the leader of the company of evil angels or demons as seen in Job 1:6. All of the elect angels are under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ who created them.

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. (Job 1:6)

Angels, like human beings, have been created to serve their Creator. They have many duties. They have a duty to praise and worship God, to provide for God's people, to carry out the will of God, and to punish the enemies of God including Satan. The Bible does not explicitly state that we all have a personal guardian angel. However, a theological comparison of Hebrews 1:14, Matthew 18:10, and Acts 12:15 indicates clearly that we do have some kind of a servant angel.

Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:14)

"See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you, that their angels in heaven continually behold the face of My Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 18:10)

And they said to her, "You are out of your mind!" But she kept insisting that it was so. And they kept saying, "It is his angel." (Acts 12:15)

We are higher than the angels and are the sons and daughters of the most high God and will be forever members of the royal family of God. We are in union with Christ. We are positionally higher than all angelic creatures. That's why they are our servants. The application to each of us is in Hebrews 2:1 where it states that we must pay careful attention to Bible doctrine we have learned, so that we don’t drift away from the Plan of God for our lives.

For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. (Hebrews 2:1)

The Book of Hebrews - a Warning to Israel

The writer to the Hebrews was putting himself in the editorial position. He was probably a Hellenistic Jew rather than a Judaic Jew. A Hellenistic Jew was one with a Crecian background rather than a Jewish background. The author of the Book of Hebrews was probably Apollos who took all the glorious doctrine of Paul and put it to the pen under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He was a Jew writing to Jews. He was putting himself in the place of his hearers who were unsaved. He told the Jews in Palestine and Jerusalem that they needed to accept Jesus Christ not only as their Messiah, but as their personal Savior so that when judgment from God fell upon the nation, they would have the basis for sustenance and deliverance. Although it was 67 A.D. when the Book of Hebrews was written and Israel was going to be destroyed in about three years, he said there was ample time for people to get saved, to get positive to the Word of God, and to be under blessing by association. Blessing by association is being associated with mature believers when they are delivered. This means the other Jewish Christians would be delivered likewise.

The phrase "to drift away" in Hebrews 2:1 means to miss the port. It's a nautical term and refers to sailing. Those who have been on a catamaran for instance, know of the situation and are familiar with being dead in the water. There has to be some wind in the sails and just ahead, is the harbor. Call it "the harbor of eternal life." Your personal life is like a sailboat. You can't make a straight-on dash into the protective harbor. It doesn't work that way. You've got to tack, or zigzag. If you don't tack, the winds could blow you past the harbor. You could miss the "harbor of eternal life."

The Hebrews writer was telling them that he was already in that harbor via belief in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation and that he wanted them to join him there. This was the only way they would have any possibility of surviving the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. A million of their countrymen would be destroyed by Titus, the Roman general, and many other millions would be led into slavery. One of the best descriptions of this complete destruction of Jerusalem is given in the histories of Josephus. It was absolutely horrible! The people were reduced to eating dogs, cats, mice, and rats. When they ran out of them, they ate their own children. Many were destroyed and the rest were taken into slavery. Josephus tells us of the ones who survived. They were born again believers, who were living in the Fellowship Sphere for Time and taking in the truth of God.

Hebrews 2:2-4 refers to the Word given by angels in the Old Testament, which refers to the Mosaic Law. The Mosaic Law was given to man through the interdisposition of angels, the angels being intermediaries. Hebrews 2:2-4 means that the message spoken by angels was binding and every violation or disobedience received its just penalty.

For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. (Hebrews 2:2-4)

This Law was that wonderful establishment code given to Israel that, if followed, guaranteed their freedom and rights as a theocracy. The Mosaic Law also included the Ten Commandments and was a great system of virtue, honor and integrity before the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. They were commanded to obey the Law if they ever expected to dwell within the land. The Palestinian covenant gave them the land forever, but that's ownership. You may own a piece of land, but you don’t live on that land until you meet the obligations such as making the monthly payments on the principal, the taxes, and everything that goes into maintaining your property. You have to obey certain rules, laws and principles in order to live on the land which you own. That's the way it was for the Jews in history. The Law was so important that it was given to Moses through angels acting as intermediaries. The writer is addressing the Hebrew unbelievers (not Christians) who just might neglect their salvation. He says that if it’s true for the old covenant and for the Law, how shall the Jews escape judgment by ignoring such an incomparable salvation?

That begins to sum it up as to just how wonderful our salvation really is. It’s wonderful to know what we've been saved from, what we've been saved unto, how we've been saved from the penalty of sin by salvation, how we have been saved from the power of sin by living the Christian life, and how we have been saved from the very presence of sin by death or the Rapture, whichever occurs first. It is an incomparable salvation!

Hebrews 2:3 says this salvation was first announced by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself in His incarnation. Jesus Christ came to preach the Gospel, to bind up the wounds, to heal the sick and raise the dead, and cast out demons. All of that was to give Him a platform and draw attention to His message. He preached the Gospel of this incomparable salvation. Hebrews 2:3 says it was confirmed to us by those who heard Him. This, of course, included the 12 disciples to Israel. Eleven became disciples in the Church Age, plus the apostle Paul, along with those other thousands who received Him as Messiah-Savior during His incarnation. They took that message and confirmed it to us, to the apostolic generation, to people like Paul, Timothy, Titus and Apollos. So, it was confirmed to us by those who heard Him.

how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, (Hebrews 2:3)

In Hebrews 2:4, God also testified to it by signs, wonders, miracles, and spiritual gifts distributed by the Holy Spirit according to His will. God the Holy Spirit handles the distribution of all spiritual gifts except for some of the believers living in 30 A.D. which were given spiritual gifts by Jesus Christ as in Ephesians 4:11-12. After that, at the moment of salvation, God the Holy Spirit gave and continues to give all spiritual gifts. Some were temporary like the gift of speaking in tongues. This was given only to the apostles and their associates and a few others. People make such a to do about tongues. It is only mentioned in Corinthians and Acts. From 30 A.D. to 70 A.D., tongues functioned as a fulfillment of the prophecy given in Isaiah 28:11 that referred to God speaking through Gentiles to the people of Israel in another language and still they would reject the Gospel of salvation. When they rejected Him, the nation was destroyed, and the Jews went out under the world-wide dispersion. They will be under that dispersion until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. There will be a national, political and ethnic Israel in the land during the Tribulation, but the spiritual regathering and renewal awaits the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Before that, of course, we have the Rapture of the Church at the completion of the Church Age. Then the seven years of the Tribulation period.

God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. (Hebrews 2:4)

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; (Ephesians 4:11-12)

Indeed, He will speak to this people Through stammering lips and a foreign tongue, (Isaiah 28:11)

The gift of tongues was part of a maximum saturation of spectacular evangelism. For example, if you were a Jew from the area of Persus, you spoke Parthian, were in Jerusalem after the day of Pentecost, and a Jew approached you who did not know your language, he could give you the Gospel in your own language! Obviously, that would be spectacular! In Acts 2:8-11, it says they heard the mighty works of God in their own tongues or languages. When speaking in tongues was bona fide, they gave the Gospel to unbelievers in another language. That's the only reason for its usage. Whenever you find it in the New Testament as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:22, it is a sign, not for those who believe, but to unbelievers. This was spectacular supernatural evangelism to the Jews.

And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs - we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God. (Acts 2:8-11)

So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers, but to those who believe. (1 Corinthians 14:22)

The important point here is not that these were spectacular gifts, but the gift of tongues was to evangelize the Jew before the nation was destroyed in 70 A.D. We are talking about evangelism. Tongues was only about giving the message of salvation, the Gospel, to the unbeliever. Jesus Christ first gave the Gospel to unbelievers who were a part of His incarnation ministry. Those people then gave the Gospel to the apostolic generation with God testifying to the Gospel by signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit which were distributed according to His will. The spiritual gift of tongues ended in 70 A.D. Apostolic gifts such as healing and miracles ended in the Pre-canon period of the Church Age by 96 A.D. The Pre-canon period included temporary spiritual gifts as well as permanent spiritual gifts. In contrast, in the Post-canon period of the Church Age includes ONLY permanent spiritual gifts. We are not talking about tongues, signs, wonders and miracles. These things are long past.

This is what the Bible teaches and we don't leave the door open, even a little bit, for false doctrine regarding spiritual gifts. Others may leave the door open and allow false doctrine to creep into their teaching. I will not. Other pastors may allow the practice of tongues and healing to be erroneously practiced by members of their congregations, but I will not. I decided a long time ago that I was going to be a pastor who is commanded by God to shepherd his "flock." The pastor is to provide for their spiritual needs. He is to "preach the word" through correct teaching of the Word of God as stated in 2 Timothy 4:2-5.

preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:2-5)

Spiritual Gifts Are Team Positions

The body of Christ is made up of many believers with many spiritual gifts. The body is meant to function as a team. As an illustration, in a local church, whenever there is any type of outreach, missionary, foreign field, or home evangelism, considerable groundwork needs to be done. This requires quite a few motivated people who take it upon themselves to either do the needed work or pay for what is needed to get the job done for the local church. For local evangelism, when one is speaking, others are working behind the scenes to support the one visible to others.

You see, not everything important in the function of the Body is dependent upon a leadership gift like evangelism. The one with the leadership gift is declaring the message to persons individually or to a group of people. There are a lot of other people with the gift of helps who serve and help out in many different ways. Others with leadership gifts under the authority of the pastor carry out different areas of organization and administration in the local church. No evangelism ministry would have worked from day one if it were not for people in the local church, growing spiritually, knowing that they have spiritual gifts and using them in the service of the Lord. That's why we have this wonderful privilege of working together as a team. We are all a team and your gift is your position on that team.

With respect to those who open their homes for our home Bible classes, whether they know it or not, they are helping the local church. I certainly can't get to each location an hour early to set up the necessary equipment, chairs and take care of other details. My job is to study and teach and to set the different principles and policies that relate the local church. It's a team effort. My leadership gift is no more important than yours. All gifts are important when they are taken together under operation teamwork. Without them, nothing would get done. As for spiritual gifts, they become an organized witness to the Father's plan of salvation as well as His plan for the local church. You have the organization and administration to carry out all these duties so that the pastor can study and teach, devote time to his personal prayer life, meet people, shepherd them into the ministry, and give his flock doctrinal counsel. This is everyone using their gifts as a team. The utilization of our gifts together is teamwork. Your gift and position on the team becomes an organized witness. All are members of the same team, but play different positions.

I have been working recently with someone who has great wisdom. There is a gift of wisdom, a word or message of wisdom where one takes Biblical principles and translates them into their own experience. These people are able to share with others, helping them with problems and, at the same time, directing them to certain doctrinal resources such as tapes or booklets concerning those problems and showing them what they need to hear from the Word of God. This person has been transformed. It's been fantastic, especially when we continue to see those believers "peel-off" because it seems that materialistic things and other details of life have now taken precedence, thus crowding out Bible doctrine as number one priority in their lives.

Another example of teamwork involves professional athletes. We all see professional athletes in television commercials and sometimes wonder about their true motivation and character. Some we are impressed with during their interviews because they always give credit where credit is due - to the entire team. None of them would amount to anything without the rest of their team functioning properly! In football, a running back wouldn't be able to do anything if he didn't have a good front line. Their performance depends on the front line opening up the holes, making the proper blocks, and playing their positions so the running back can stroll right through. It all comes down to your position on the team.

What if you don't know what your spiritual gift is? You are to continue to grow spiritually, and as you do, you will identify it. The beautiful thing is, that as you grow, you may be functioning under it even before you know just what it is. You'll wake up one day and realize you have been functioning under your spiritual gift for some time. For example, did you know that a simple, but important function of passing out hymnals is really the spiritual gift of helps in action? Helps includes setting up chairs, seeing to the refreshments at the break, doing all the things it takes to make a smooth operation. I imagine that all Christians may have this gift of helps. It is so very important.

The Purpose of Spiritual Gifts

We have studied the origin of spiritual gifts, who gives them, where they come from, how they relate to the Plan of God, how they relate to the Trinity, how they are positions on the team, and how they differ from Old Testament function. Now we see their purpose. Ephesians 4:11-12 says that pastors are to prepare or equip God's people. This means the maturing and preparation of the saints.

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; (Ephesians 4:11-12)

You are preparing yourself to serve the Lord as you grow spiritually. Wherever God has placed you, your profession, your niche, your spiritual gift is to be used through the local church. Your talents and abilities are for the work of the ministry - the universal ministry. This is production of the ministry or the works of service. For what purpose? So that the body of Christ may be built up. We think of edification as a synonym for maturity, but edification is the goal of equipping believers. Christians are equipped as they grow spiritually under the Word and are equipped for the purpose of the works of the ministry. This is their divine good production. All of this taken together is the building up of the body of Christ.

Building up of the Body of Christ

How do you build up the body of Christ? You build up the body by adding new members to it. You are contributing to the building up of the body every time you witness and a person comes to know the Lord Jesus Christ. Building up the body is also helping those who are already saved to grow spiritually as stated in Ephesians 4:13. The unity in the faith or doctrine and the full knowledge of the Son of God is our goal in the spiritual life. This is our personal relationship with Jesus Christ in that becoming mature, you reproduce His character within your soul as you grow under Bible truth. Spiritual gifts fit right into this. You each have a spiritual gift for the work of the ministry, for production and for service.

until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13)

Hebrews 5:12-14 tells us that the believers in Jerusalem had been saved long enough to have matured spiritually and were able to teach others. Instead, because of their spiritual retrogression, they had to be taught the ABC's of Christianity again. You should be taking in Bible doctrine and conveying it to others. That is a part of spiritual maturity.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14)

Positive volition at Gospel hearing leads you to the ability of believing in Christ for salvation. You hear the good news of salvation through faith in Christ and you believe that He died for your sins. The instant you do that, you have the baptism of the Holy Spirit which has nothing to do with any spiritual gift. Some equate the baptism of the Spirit and speaking in tongues as one and the same. This is wrong. Baptism means identification. It simply means that God the Holy Spirit identifies you with the Lord Jesus Christ as He is seated at the right hand of the Father, and you are in the Relationship Sphere for Eternity. You are saved and kept by the power of God. You have a position, a relationship at the right hand of the Father that is actually superior to all angelic creatures, including the devil himself. You are accepted in the beloved, in union with Christ. You cannot lose your salvation!

At that same instant you have the indwelling of the Spirit, which means you are filled with the Holy Spirit at least one time in your life as a Christian. Your soul is under the control of God the Holy Spirit. Whenever negative volition converts any temptation into sin, you get out of fellowship, and are again under the control of the Old Sin Nature. That Old Sin Nature control is broken when you use confession of sin as in 1 John 1:9. If we name, cite, or acknowledge, all of our known sins to the Father, He is faithful and just to forgive us those known sins and to purify us from all unrighteousness which includes all unknown or forgotten sins. Being under the control of the Spirit is the spiritual condition necessary for the intake of the Word of God. If you are under the control of the Spirit, you can understand spiritual phenomena which is simply the principles and concepts of the teachings of the Word of God or Bible doctrine.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

We know that when we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior, He is the Lord of our lives positionally and that He has absolute sovereignty over us in our relationship with Him for eternity. It is because of who and what He is at the right hand of the Father that we have this eternal relationship with God. Positionally, He is our Lord, but He does not become the Lord of our lives experientially unless we grow up spiritually inside the Fellowship Sphere for Time. This is the issue of the Christian way of life. Spiritual gifts will surface in your life as you grow spiritually. The grace of the Lord will enable you to function in your spiritual gift, even when you have not yet identified it!

The Importance of Spiritual Growth in the Function of Spiritual Gifts

The Holy Spirit is sovereign. He rules and He reigns as far as the distribution of spiritual gifts is concerned. He is sovereign in His bestowal of spiritual gifts. Some in the charismatic circles imply that you have to do something in order to get these gifts. They say you have to pray for long periods of time, fast, agonize, or work yourself into an emotional state. When the emotions take over and you start doing weird ecstatic things (very much like mediums who are being controlled by a demon as they go into their seances) the charismatics say you've "gotten the ghost." To them, this behavior and speaking in tongues is the proof that you are saved and spiritual. All of this is false teaching. All spiritual gifts are gifts. You receive them at the moment of salvation, not by any ecstatic or emotional activity after salvation. In the Apostolic Age from 30 to 100 A.D., there was an emphasis on supernatural phenomena because the absolute criterion of the completed Bible had not become reality. Therefore, apostles or close associates established their authority by performing miracles in a new town or new geographical area. This is why most temporary gifts were spectacular.

We live in the age where the Holy Spirit and divine truth produce the character of the incarnate Christ within us and divine good on the inside (the fruit of the Spirit) and on the outside from the filling of the Spirit. Therefore, the temporary gifts of healing, tongues, the interpretation of tongues, discernment of spirits, and all of the other temporary gifts are no longer necessary.

All of the spiritual gifts relate in one way or the other to serving other people. They are the manifestation of your ambassadorship, evangelism, outreach, helping other believers, encouragement, blessing by association, and historical influence within your nation. You can put a gauge on your spiritual growth and measure your spiritual progress. If you're growing spiritually, you'll know the gift, talents and abilities that God has given you and utilize them to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. You will reproduce His character within your soul through spiritual growth. Therefore, you will have the heart of a servant.

So many people today are self-centered. They're all wrapped up in their own problems. They hang out with people with similar problems so they can all air their complaints about people who have failed them and let them down. It becomes a little bleeding heart society. Self-centered people try to build each other up by criticizing others and talking about how others have misused them or about how they have been victims in one way or another in the past. It is totally frustrating and debilitating to your life because you live your whole life occupied with yourself. You never do anything for someone else, yet the whole essence of our ambassadorship, the whole essence of our utilization of our spiritual gifts is to have the heart of a servant - to serve the Lord by serving others.

The issue is not your spiritual gift. The issue is not trying to get people saved and get them to determine their spiritual gift. The issue is to get people saved, growing spiritually, so they'll know what their gift is and have the spiritual capacity to use it for the glory of God.

The believers in the early church in Colossae were marvelously productive in Christian service. They had only been saved about six or eight months. That's how intense their positive volition was. A crash program in doctrine enabled them to grow up enough spiritually, identify their spiritual gifts and utilize them in that short time. Paul commended them as one of the best of all of his congregations. How long does it take a candle to start burning when you light it? It starts burning immediately. That's the way it is with believers who are the light of the world. They have that devotion to doctrine that we all ought to have.  

Return to Home Page Return to Spiritual Gifts Main Page Return to Top of Page