A Discerning view of

Spiritual Gifts Today

Firstly let me explain where I'm coming from, and even if at first glance you’re inclined to dismiss what I am saying out of hand, I simply ask you to be prepared to persevere right to the end of this article, because it probably doesn’t go where you might be expecting it to go.

If you were to ask me what my spiritual gifts are, I would answer, I don't have any!

Having spent some of my Christian life worshipping in Pentecostal or Charismatic churches, I became so uncomfortable with the increasingly undiscerning and flippant attitudes shown towards spiritual gifts that, on moving to France in 2005, I was pleased to join the leadership of a church where spiritual gifts were not openly practiced or taught  My position was the same as Paul's, it's better to have no gifts than to settle for the disorder and error of the Corinthian Church to whom his epistle was written.

I would like to find some common ground

Neither side of this conflictual subject can legitimately disagree with the fact that spiritual gifts were in use throughout the Church at the time that Paul wrote. So, what was the major thrust of Paul's problem with gifts within the Corinthian church? It's clear that they were misusing the gifts and he sees pride, selfishness and lack of love in their behaviour.

In I Corinthians 13, Paul writes the beautiful passage on love in order to show that, without it, spiritual gifts are empty, without meaning, and even a waste of time.

I hope that you are all still in agreement with me.

A More Biblical Way

We have to ask ourselves what spiritual gifts would be like, if they were used with true humility, love and respect?

This is where I return to my statement that I do not possess any spiritual gifts. I can hear the Charismatics saying: but, but, but.... So, let me explain:

If I believe that the Holy Spirit has spoken to me about something and I pass it on to the church (after confirming it with a responsible person) -  who has the gift of prophecy? Not me, as I've passed it on! The Church has now been given the gift of a prophecy. Equally, if I pray for someone who is sick and they're healed, who has the gift of healing? It's obvious, the person who was sick has been given the Holy Spirit's gift of healing! I've merely been used to transmit the gift. This means that I can only pass on what God gives to me! Doesn’t this sound more like a Biblical attitude? I’m not a Prophet or a healer and I have no status as a result of what God has done. I would only say that I do my utmost to listen to God, and then obey Him, that's all. So I haven’t got any spiritual gifts.

OK, perhaps you can argue with this idea and make it into a theological issue, but the fact remains that the basic things that were wrong with the Corinthian church and the church today in their use of spiritual gifts, are things like pride, jealousy, lack of love and discernment. 

A Way Forward

I believe that there is one simple thing that can totally change our attitude towards spiritual gifts, whatever our viewpoint, and that is that we acknowledge that spiritual gifts are the Holy Spirit's gifts - not ours. This change of view will help prevent anyone from feeling that they are special and superior to other Christians. It will help them to keep a humble attitude, rather than feeling that they have a gift (and consequently a status) that others need to recognise. Instead, they can only be grateful and humbled if God choses to positively answer their prayer.

This change of position requires that we all totally submit ourselves to God. It is The Holy Spirit who decides whom he will bless, and not us. This really is God's territory. We're powerless in ourselves unless The Holy Spirit choses to work through us.

By accepting that spiritual gifts are God's to give as and when he wills, and they are not ours, there should be no reason for anyone to reject spiritual gifts today.

What good is a church full of people who don't believe God still heals.  What if God, in His sovereignty wants to heal someone but no one is ready to pray in faith? 

What good is a church full of people who believe they're healers if God doesn't choose to heal? 

We must let God be God! Even Jesus said that he only did what he saw the Father do. Let's have the same attitude, otherwise we will only be rushing around 'ministering' in our own strength, and most likely doing more harm than good. It is so sad to see that most of the so-called healers today have a similar methodology in their meetings which hides all those that do not get healed. They draw on the placebo effect while still claiming God wants to heal everyone.

Barring extremism of course, if you're prepared to be real, then you will understand that this is the heart of the problem. Viewed this way, you can see how close the two sides of this old argument actually are!

Do you have the faith to really place this issue into God's hands, and let the Holy Spirit guide you in love, or will you continue to cold-shoulder those you don't agree with? 

I cannot over emphasise how important it is that we bring love and humility into this situation! This is the key that will open every door, even those that we ourselves have locked and barred. After all, it's by loving one another that men will know that we are His disciples.

If you find that in getting down to the heart of this problem I have over-looked concerns that you have, you can email me or I'm sure you'll find more information in my other articles. Particularly 'Spirituality today', 'Prophets today' and 'Discernment or Judgment’.

I believe that a new way forward is needed and that means not raking over all the tired old arguments, this would achieve nothing.

Martyn Cunnington

© Martyn Cunnington revised 2021