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Catechism Class LD19 Q51

03/05/2022

Catechism Class. Lord’s Day 19, Q.51 Spiritual Gifts 

In Q51, our catechist teaches us that we, as individual Christian believers, as members of the body of which Jesus is the head, benefit personally from the exaltation of Jesus at the Father’s right hand.  He specifically mentions two great blessings, the blessing and benefit of spiritual gifts, and secondly the blessing of spiritual power.   Both of these blessings are controversial in the contemporary visible church; spiritual gifts and spiritual power. And because of the controversy surrounding these blessings, and because it is so important that we understand what these blessings really are, we will deal with them in two separate lessons.

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Lord’s Day 19 Q.51, How does the glory of Christ, our Head, benefit us? A. First, by his Holy Spirit he pours out heavenly gifts upon us, his members.  Second, by his power he defends and preserves us against all enemies.

Our catechist teaches us that Christ, seated in heavenly glory, at the right hand of God the Father, endows us with heavenly gifts, – right now, and until the true church is complete in heaven.  So we have to explore this issue and ask “What are spiritual gifts?” “Who are these gifts for?” “What is the purpose of these gifts being outpoured upon us?”

So, what are ‘spiritual gifts?’ When I became a minister, back in the 1980s we were taught, in the denomination I belonged to at that time, that there were the nine (so-called) ‘gifts of the spirit.’ READ 1st Corinthians 12:8-10,   But a problem began to develop.  There were some people in that denomination who were pointing out that there may actually be other spiritual gifts! They pointed to texts like, Romans 12:6. So, now we have some more spiritual gifts, like ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving is a spiritual gift, as is leadership and mercy.  

To be quite honest though, the only one of these ‘spiritual gifts’ that was commonly exercised was ‘speaking in tongues,’ but often what was coming out of their mouths was just unintelligible gibberish. Yet in the Bible, this was not so.  To understand this we need to return to Acts 2:7 The word TONGUES here is not some mystical angelic language, it indicates languages, – spoken languages that foreigners could understand, and the purpose of this unique gift was to declare the gospel to all the nations.  There is a link between them speaking with other languages and ‘prophecy’ – in its truest sense prophesy IS the declaration of the will of God to men and women, and that is that they should repent and believe.

Yet God DOES give good gifts to his people, and I’m sure he does so though the work and agency of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps the gift of Godly pastors and preachers, children’s workers, and so on,READ Ephesians 4:11-12 There must be many ways in which God has blessed us with spiritual gifts, given through the Holy Spirit.  That’s exactly what our catechist means when he teaches us that Christ, by his Holy Spirit … pours out heavenly gifts upon us, his members.

Are we then saying that God doesn’t any longer endow the church with those nine spiritual gifts mentioned in 1st Corinthians 12?  We can be sure that God will give his church whatever gifts are necessary, to establish it and to sustain it.  But perhaps those gifts that were being abused so flagrantly in Corinth are no longer necessary, for Paul was writing to these believers in a time when the canon of Holy Scripture was not complete, when God was still revealing himself in his word.  That work is now done.  We have the scriptures to point us to Christ, and they are complete and perfect, and the revelatory and sign gifts are no longer needed.  But God still gives good gifts to us!  So James 1:17  

Who Are These Gifts For?  In other words, are they for an elite group of spiritual believers, – people who have had a second experience of God, subsequent to conversion, or are these gifts to be given to every single believer?   None of us can claim to be more intrinsically spiritual than any other! Because all of these gifts come from God, because they all direct our praise to Jesus, and obtain their effectiveness from God the Father, not from ourselves, there is nothing of man in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, except to passively accept the role and abilities that God has granted us. Also, Paul tells us in 1st Corinthians 12, that spiritual gifts are to be a unifying factor in the church. 1 Corinthians 4:7  The Lord divides to every man, severally as He will! The spiritual gifts that we have are given to us as an act of God’s grace, for God does not look at the merits of any man, he does not cast around to see who deserves His gifts the most.  He gives us gifts, even though we do not deserve them! He knows what we need, and He knows what His church needs, and He gifts us accordingly.

The Holy Spirit gives gifts to every believer! Not just to those who have some form of secondary experience! The Holy Spirit is given to all believers – for the benefit of all.   

What is the Purpose of These Spiritual Gifts?  Of course, in the apostolic age, they were given to establish the church, under the Spirit’s guidance to lay the foundations of Christian faith and truth, which would stand throughout eternity, and to bring those first converts into God’s visible kingdom on earth.  READ: Romans 1:11-12   For us, today, the Holy Spirit gives us spiritual gifts, to equip the church for service, to edify and build up believers, to bring about unity in the church, and ultimately to bring Glory to God.

© Bob McEvoy 

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