Monday, 29 December 2014
And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:28
After having described the properties of individual members, Paul now turns to the gifts possessed by those members. He gives similar lists elsewhere, but they may differ a bit and they may be in slightly different orders as well. However, for this list he notes that “God has appointed these in the church.” The intent of this wording is to show that certain individuals have been granted certain gifts for the sake of the body.
He begins the list by stating “first apostles.” These are the “sent ones” who were commissioned directly by the Lord for the purpose of witnessing to His work. They have been granted the highest position within the church and their era lasted until the completion of the Bible. The apostolic period of the church ended with the death of the last apostle. However, the writings of the apostolic period actually ends with the word “Amen” penned by John at the end of the book of Revelation. There are no apostles now, despite some claiming the term.
Paul shows that after the apostles come “prophets.” The office of prophet holds two significations. The first is “foretelling.” This is an utterance from the Lord about something future. It is a proclamation of something previously unknown. Although there may have been people with this gift at the time of the letter to Corinth, there is no need for this type of office now because the Bible is recorded.
Therefore, people who claim this as a gift do so from a very tenuous position, claiming “extra-biblical” revelation. The second type of prophet is “forth-telling.” It is the interpretation and explanation of what has been recorded in the Bible. It is the job of faithful men of God who preach from the pulpit, or on the streets, or wherever else to the people. Where the word is proclaimed, the forth-telling of the word is being accomplished.
After prophets comes “teachers.” This is similar to the forth-telling prophet (preacher), but it may involve less formal oration. It is similar to any type of classroom study. Questions may be asked and answers may be provided. The teaching gift is instrumental in the discipleship of others.
Paul then says “after that miracles” are next. A miracle is above and beyond what would normally be expected from a person; exceeding general capabilities. It is an active display of the power of God for the building up of the church.
However, there are those who have unusual abilities and who will claim their “gift” is from the Spirit. People can do an astonishing array of unique things, but this doesn’t mean that their ability is a true spiritual gift. It can only be considered as such if its intent is to bring glory to God.
Next are “gifts of healings.” These would be truly miraculous healings which come by faith through prayer. There is no reason to not believe in this gift today, but there is every reason to question it as it is presented. Charlatans fill the halls of Christianity, claiming this gift when they don’t possess it. The best policy is to believe in “faith healing” but not in “faith healers.” There are those who truly have faith that their prayers will be answered, and God truly hears their prayers and responds through effectual healing of the sick.
From there, Paul notes “helps.” The Greek word is found only here in the New Testament. It is speaking of various types of aid, help, or assistance. Some may give money to help others; some may donate their particular skill (such as being an electrician) to help out; some may have an abundance of time to help with various needs. Whatever the help needed is, the need is met in this type of gift.
Next is “administrations.” Again, this Greek word is only found here in the New Testament. It is derived from the word “steer.” People with this gift have the ability to steer the church just as a shipmaster can steer the ship. They are able to make sound choices concerning what should be done, when it should be done, and what direction should be taken for the benefit of the overall body.
Lastly, Paul notes that “varieties of tongues” are available as gifts. Tongues are known languages, not made up gurgling. Some possess the ability to speak other languages which may be needed as visitors come or as missionaries are sent. It is considered the least of gifts because it is a gift which can be acquired by most through study or immersion. It is also an ability that many have that aren’t in the church. If all the members of the church speak the same language, there is no need for tongues to be spoken except perhaps to teach others the biblical languages or to teach others a language needed for mission work or the like.
It should be noted that there is often an overlap in the gifts individuals possess. Paul was an apostle, but he is also shown to have possessed other gifts listed here. An example is “healings.” At times Paul healed others as is recorded in the book of Acts. However, there are times when Paul couldn’t heal others. Therefore, it is obvious that this gift is something given by God for specific occasions and not for all times. In other words, “faith healers” are claiming an on-going gift where the Bible shows that it is not an on-going gift.
In the end, all gifts that are truly “gifts” are given by God for His purposes. Whatever our gift is, we should be thankful to the Lord for it and use it for His glory.
Life application: There is no true believer in Christ who doesn’t possess an ability which can be described as a “gift.” We can and should use our gift to the utmost of our ability for the purpose of bringing glory to God.
Heavenly Father, sometimes I feel like a rudderless ship, tossed about on a sea of difficulty and uncertainty. And yet, despite how I feel, I know that You really are there with me and that You have not abandoned me. If Your eye is on the little birds of the air, then I know for certain that Your attention is on me as well. And so, despite the storms which often come, I will keep my faith and trust in You. I know that all these temporary troubles will someday be behind me and I will be in Your presence forever. Thank You for this certain knowledge. Amen.