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The Gifts Are For Today - Part I

Paul's Letter to Us

Have you noticed something interesting in the Apostle Paul's introduction of his first letter to the Corinthians?

"To God's church at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called as saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord--theirs and ours." (1Co 1:2)

Do you see it? Paul says he isn't only writing this letter to the Corinthians; he is also writing it to "all those in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ". That would include you and me and every other born-again, bible believing Christian. Why is that important? Well, let's see some of the things this great Apostle has written in this letter to you and me:

"Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed." (1Co 12:1)

(Despite Paul's desire, many, if not most, are uninformed about this vital topic. Whose fault it that? Why have the express desires of an Apostle gone unheeded? And, let's be honest, Paul is "more equal" than the other Apostles in Evangelical circles. I think we are all too full of guile to come out and say "We refuse to honor Paul's request on this topic." Rather, I think, perhaps, we still have a fine way of setting aside the scriptures in order to teach our own traditions. [Mk 7:9])

"To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." (1Co 12:7)

(Something has been given to each of us. And what would that be? A nice feeling? An inner peace? Certainly those are side benefits of our union with our Lord, but that is not what Paul is talking about here. The 'manifestation' of the Spirit is what has been given, what Paul referred to as the 'demonstration' of the Spirit elsewhere (1Cor 2:4). Further, he says the outward display of the gifts of the Spirit are for the common good. We are such rebels that we will even disobey an Apostle when he tells us what to do. And we will disobey even when his command is for our good.)

"Earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way." (1Co 12:31)

(This last verse is a segue into Chapter 13 - the famous "Love Chapter". Many who are opposed to the gifts today cite this verse, saying "See, 'love' is the excellent way". Yet, Paul says here that he is about to declare to us a MORE excellent way, meaning the manifestation of the gifts in the Body of Christ is excellent. Yes, the way of love is much more excellent than any other way, but, in the Kingdom, even the "crumbs under the table" are of great value. Further, Paul says we are to "Earnestly desire" the greater gifts; those that are more edifying to our neighbor. You who do not do this - do you make it your habit to defy other apostolic commands? Would you suggest to others that they should feel free to defy apostolic commands that they find inconvenient?)

"Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy." (1Co 14:1)

(Paul is now done with Chapter 13, which is a parenthetical thought, and has segued back to the topic he started in Chapter 12: the gifts of the Spirit. This topic is so important, it doesn't only occupy one chapter in the Bible, but two. It is so important that, even though Paul left it it to discuss "a more excellent way", he came back to it for another entire chapter. Also, please notice that he gets back to his topic by repeating his Apostolic command to us: "earnestly desire" the gifts of the Spirit.)

"The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church." (1Co 14:4)

(Throughout chapters 12 and 14, Paul tells us again and again why we should desire the gifts: they are good for us - individually and corporately. It is good for me that I speak in tongues, and it is good for my brother and sister that I prophesy. Paul is a very consistent teacher; elsewhere he has written that we should esteem others higher than ourselves (Phil 2:3), and that we should look not only to our own interests, but to those of others (Phi 2:4). As it is written: "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (Gal 6:2)

Look at how much we do to build ourselves up: we read our bibles, we read books about the bible, we listen to Christian music, etc. Yet, Paul says speaking in tongues will also build you up. You disobey to your own hurt. Further, look at how much we do to build each other up: preaching and teaching in the pulpit, on TV, on the radio, on the internet, by newsletter; we have our choirs and our home meetings, etc. Yet, Paul says prophesying builds up the church. We disobey to our own hurt.)

"Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up." (1Co 14:5)

(When was the last time you heard someone refer to that quote from Paul? The Apostle has made it very clear what he wants us to do. Are you doing it?)

"I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you." (1Co 14:18)

(He wrote this to a Church that prided itself on their tongue-talking, to the point that he needed to correct them in this letter. But his correction is not in the form of "Stop speaking in tongues!" Rather, he is saying "Stop showing off! Major on the gifts that BLESS your neighbor, not those that IMPRESS your neighbor.")

"So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues." (1Co 14:39)

(OK. That is the THIRD time Paul has told us to "earnestly desire" one or more of the gifts of the Spirit. Consider this: Virtually every Pastor and Teacher that teaches against the gifts has, on another day, covering another topic, said something like this: "Whenever God says the same thing two or three times in scripture, we need to sit up and take notice!" Yet, it is no exaggeration to say that millions of born again Christians make it their daily practice to skewer this verse: First, they simply refuse to earnestly desire any gift and second, they forbid speaking in tongues!

Of course, they have some rationalization that makes them feel comfortable in blatantly defying their supposed favorite Apostle. They have their pet verses that they can string together. But so did the Pharisees! They thought they had perfectly good reasons, and scriptures, to oppose Jesus to His face. They actually felt completely justified in plotting His murder.)

So far, I have quoted only a handful of scriptures from a single book. I have only drawn out a thimble of evidence from a reservoir of truth on this subject. Yet, already you are solemnly warned, whoever you are that denies the gifts are for today. Repent and humble yourself or God will do it for you. That is, if He still chooses to have mercy on you. Who knows? He might have already decided to give you over to your own lusts, letting you believe a lie since you show no love for the truth.

© Matthew Schilling March 2006

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