The Gifts of the Spirit
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administering, and various kinds of tongues” (vv. 27–28).- 1 Corinthians 12:12–31
Charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity actually have a view of the Holy Spirit’s ministry that is not high enough. What do we mean? In dividing believers into two classes—those who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and those who have not been so baptized—Pentecostalism fails to see all Christians as blessed with the Spirit’s power and gifts for ministry. This is contrary to Moses’ hope that all of God’s people would one day have the Spirit, Joel’s prediction that every believer would receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and Paul’s teaching that all Christians have been gifted for ministry (Num. 11:29; Joel 2:28–29; 1 Cor. 12:12–31).
Furthermore, Pentecostal theologians err in making tongues the sign of one’s anointing by the Spirit. First, even if one were to affirm the continuation of tongues in our day, 1 Corinthians 12:28–29 clearly states that not every believer will have the gift of tongues. In addition, that which is described as the gift of tongues in our day appears different than the gift of tongues given on Pentecost. The tongues described in Acts 2:1–13 are actual human languages that non-native speakers were granted the ability to speak. What we see in our day seems more akin to the natural ability to speak in syllables that are not human languages, an ability that even non-Christians possess. Finally, the evidence of tongues-speaking in church history is exceedingly sparse. Until Trinitarian Pentecostals and charismatics began experiencing the phenomenon that they refer to as “tongues,” those who claimed to speak in tongues in the post-apostolic era tended to be heretical groups such as the Montanists. We should also not overlook the absence of tongues-speaking among the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformers. If any people would have had a second Spirit baptism of ministerial power, they would have been the Protestant Reformers, given the gospel revival they led in their day. But the lack of both tongues-speaking and post-conversion baptisms of the Holy Spirit among the Reformers and others in church history is consistent with the view that the Holy Spirit is received at conversion and that the gift of tongues has ceased.
All Christians have the Spirit and gifts for ministry. We must use our gifts to edify one another, for the church cannot function well without our gifts just as our bodies cannot function in their fullness unless every organ is working (1 Cor. 12:12–31).
Today’s passage is an important text on the priesthood of all believers. Paul does not mean to deny the roles of elders, teachers, and other officers in the church; rather, he tells us that every Christian is to be involved in ministry and that all of us have gifts that are indispensable to the well-being of Christ’s body. If we are not using our gifts to edify the body, we are sinning against the body. Let us all look for ways to use our gifts in the service of Christ and His church.
Passages for Further Study
1 Thessalonians 4:1–8