Here are five misunderstandings or misuses regarding Spiritual Gifts that believers have encountered and that we should seek to have clear in our minds.
Charisphobia describes the attitude of some in the Christian world who seek to dismiss some or all of the Spiritual Gifts, saying critically, “We don’t need the Gifts!”
This position may be held by some who see the excellency of love or the sufficiency of the Bible as being able to provide everything the believer in Christ and the Body of Christ needs.
Charisphobia often arises from the fear of losing control. Some leaders are so afraid of “wildfire” or “strange fire” they prefer “no fire” as it pertains to the expression of the Gifts in any of their meetings.
They have concerns that some of the more dramatic gifts such as speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues, prophecies, healings, and miracles, will pull peoples’ attention away from Christ.
But to the contrary, the Scriptures insist that it is the exercise of Gifts that draw people to Christ (Acts 8:6-8; 1 Cor. 14:24-25), and we should not fear “wildfire” or “strange fire,” nor should we settle for “no fire,” when the “true fire” of the Holy Spirit is accessible (Acts 2:1-4).
Beyond this, those who are Charisphobic are often fearful that the exercise of Spiritual Gifts may cause disruption, confusion, or division.
While a fanatical misuse of Spiritual Gifts has in some cases had this result, it’s important to underscore how the Scriptures show that the Holy Spirit’s desire in distributing Spiritual Gifts is directly opposite any of these outcomes.
As we’ve seen in an earlier blog, the exercise of Spiritual Gifts should result in the equipping and edifying of the Body of Christ. They are intended to help believers and never to harm them.
As I stated earlier, Charisphobia often arises from the fear of losing control. However, our being in control is not something God desires. Yes, Paul contends that the exercise of Spiritual Gifts is to be “done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40), but his point is not one of top-down control (See Peter on this: 1 Peter 5:3), but rather, his focus is on mutual honor and submission.
Clearly, God does not want anyone “out of control” – “ For God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Cor. 14:33), nor does He desire that any man to be “in control” (See the negative example of Diotrephes in 3 Jn. 1:9), His great yearning is that we each be “under the control” of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 4:8-10; 13:9-10).
Pulling back to Paul’s words, that everything be “done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40), I have a real sense that God’s order looks quite different than man’s order. What looks like disorder to us, might, in fact, appear very orderly to God, with the opposite, I think, being just as true.
As the pendulum swings in the opposite direction and reaches its furthest extreme, we bump up against Charismania. While the Charisphobic person critically declares, “We don’t need the Gifts,” the Charismaniac senselessly announces, “The Gifts are all we need!”
The word Charismania was originally coined by cynics as a way of placing in a negative light those who appear extreme in their exercise of Spiritual Gifts. While the label is unfortunate, it is difficult to reject it wholesale after surveying the wide spectrum of charismatic ministry over the past half-century or more.
While the record of those who have gone to the extreme with regard to the use, misuse and/or abuse of Spiritual Gifts has been well documented, these cases have often been the result of willful ignorance or neglect of the Scriptural guidelines or have fallen well outside the Biblical parameters.
As I’ve stated in a previous blog, the Old and New Testament are inspired by God and are the authoritative rule for faith and conduct. As with every other aspect of life, to leave the moorings of Scripture is to plan for your own demise.
Reading Paul’s letters to the Ephesians and Colossians can be telling at this point. Written at the same time, the Holy Spirit moves both letters together like two hands folded together in prayer, and a careful observance brings a delightful truth to the surface.
In Ephesians 5:18-20, the Apostle Paul writes, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,”
While in the companion verses of Colossians 3:16-17, Paul writes, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Notice that while the Ephesians Epistle emphasizes the fullness of the Spirit, the Colossians Epistle emphasizes the fullness of the Word.
It is clear, that by using these mirror texts, Paul is underscoring the importance of the believer being filled with both. One teacher put it in a humorous but memorable way when he summarized, “All Word and no Spirit, we dry up; all Spirit and no Word, we blow up; both Word and Spirit, we grow up!”
We now move to a misunderstanding that Paul addressed straight-on when writing to the Corinthians; the practice Gift-Exaltation, or the insisting that one Spiritual Gift is more important than the others. While the Charisphobic person critically declares, “We don’t need the Gifts,” and the Charismaniac senselessly announces, “The Gifts are all we need,” those given to Gift-Exaltation selfishly proclaim, “My Gift is the most important!”
It seems clear that some in the Church at Corinth had assumed this faulted posture, and Paul was going after them when he insisted, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you’” (1 Cor. 12:21). And again, “If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?” (1 Cor. 12:17).
It is obvious that some Spiritual Gifts are exercised in a more public manner, and because of this, they appear to take on a more important role in the body.
Even if they are employed with the most gracious and humble attitude, they can still be thought of as of primary importance.
Up against this is the Biblical understanding that in the same way we hold every part of the body to be important, so too, every Spiritual Gift is valuable in its own right.
Those who do have a more public ministry should remind themselves regularly to acknowledge and appreciate the other Gifts that they might otherwise overlook. Paul helps us here when he writes, “the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it,” (1 Cor. 12:22-24).
It seems wise to mention, that Biblically speaking, no one person can claim to have all of the Spiritual Gifts.
I bring this thought forward here, because if a person is given to erroneously exalting their one Gift, they are probably not far from holding other views that don’t align with Scripture. As we’ve seen in an earlier blog, Spiritual Gifts are always mentioned in the context of the Body of Christ, The Church.
God intends that each member of the Body contributes to the function and health of the whole. To imply that one person would be given all of the Spiritual Gifts flies in the face of every member ministry. No one individual is able to display God’s varied, manifold, multi-colored – think, “stain-glass window” – grace (1 Pet. 4:10). Only a Spirit-gifted, fully functioning Body of believers can even come close.
It is interesting to note, that while the one given to Gift-Exaltation selfishly proclaims, “My Gift is the most important,” the one given to Gift-Devaluation sheepishly mutters, “My Gift is not important.” While the one whose Spiritual Gift is exercised in a more public manner often faces the temptation, “to think of himself more highly than he ought to think” (Rom. 12:3), the one whose Spiritual Gift is employed in a less public manner faces the temptation, “to think of himself more lowly than he ought to think.”
It’s clear that we have a natural tendency to elevate certain Spiritual Gifts, placing them on a level of importance that is higher than other Gifts. Often, Support Gifts / Ministry Gifts of Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers – The Five-Fold Ministry Gifts (Eph. 4:11-13), are thought of in this way.
This is one reason I contend for the use of the term “Support Gifts” when referring to this important grouping. Rather than placing these at the top of the pyramid, so to speak, the Scripture places them at the base, in the foundation (See Eph. 2:20).
The instruction to Pastors / Shepherds, along with Elders, is to never be “domineering over those in your charge,” but to be “examples to the flock” (1 Pet. 5:3). This is clearly with Jesus had in mind when He instructed The Twelve, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,” (Matt. 20:25-26)
On the other hand, there are those tend to view their Spiritual Gifts as being less important than others in the Body.
Paul goes to the heart of this mindset when he writes, “For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body” (1 Cor. 12:14-16). How wonderful to know, whatever our Gift, we are not “any less a part of the body!”
To those who would seek to devalue these “lesser Gifts,” Paul retorts, “On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty,” (1 Cor. 12:22-23).
You probably don’t pay much attention to your toes – until you stub one. However, without them, the body’s balance, stability, and motion are all affected. So too, “every member ministry” is not simply a luxury but a necessity for a Church to be healthy and be functioning properly.
While those given to Gift-Exaltation selfishly proclaim, “My Gift is the most important,” and those given to Gift-Devaluation sheepishly mutter, “My Gift is not important,” those given to Gift-Projection soberly assert, “Your Gift should do what my gift does!”
You may have come across this when you were mildly rebuked for not showing up for a certain ministry event. Perhaps the more evangelistically gifted individuals went door-to-door witnessing one Saturday and then landed on some of the other church members the next morning for not showing up.
Or perhaps, those serving in the food pantry ministry couldn’t understand why the rest of the church didn’t pitch-in on the latest event. You see, when you’re passionate about your area of ministry and rightly fit for it, it’s hard to understand why others can’t see what you see and do what you do.
Paul comes to our rescue here when he writes, “if the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?” (1 Cor. 12:17).
In other words, if we all had the same Spiritual Gift, how would the body ever function? What Paul says about eyes, ears, and noses can be applied to serving, teaching, and encouraging, and to each of the other Gifts for that matter. We are each unique before God and “do not all have the same function” (Rom. 12:4), but are Gifted to fulfill the specific purposes God intends.
This truth, that we have all been Gifted by God to serve specific purposes within the Body, rests in the eternal wisdom of God and is something we are called to celebrate. “But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose” (1 Cor. 12:17-18).
The placement of this rich diversity of Giftings is God’s doing. “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Cor. 12:11) — “in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Pet. 4:11).
In conclusion, I should underscore the point that none of us should look to Spiritual Gifts to give us a sense of significance or identify, whether in the eyes of God or the eyes of men. Our significance is found only in our relationship with God made possible through our union with Christ (Col. 3:3), and not based on the Gifts the Holy Spirit has entrusted to us.
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