As we come into this study we are really taking a deeper look at the very same verses that we learned about last time. In the last study we look at the usefulness of the gifts that God so graciously gives to us and the point that we need to be using these gifts. As I was coming to the end of our last study I thought that it would be good to really take a deeper look at the gifts that God gives to us not only here in Romans 12 but also in the other passages of Scripture that we noted last time. The importance of this study comes from the fact that to many people lack real understanding of what these gifts are. Many denominations falsify gifts that are not even mentioned in Scripture. We in no way will be able to cover in this study every detail that is needed to help us all understand what these gifts are and why some of these gifts are not used in our time but was only used for a specific time for a specific purpose. I hope that as we look at these gifts we can have an open mind to what the Scripture actually says and turn away from our pre-conceived ideas of what these gifts are that have been taught to us wrong in so many ways.
As we begin let’s remember that there are now just 2 categories of gifts which we really see 1 Peter 4:10-11 says As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
We see the 2 categories of gifts that are listed as speaking and serving gifts. But there is another category that we don’t see here because even at this time in the Apostolic age these other sign gifts were of no use anymore. It is with this category that I want to start for this study.
1.What are sign gifts?
I want to point out that there are no sign gifts listed in the list that we see in Romans 12:6-8. I think this is a good indication just like in 1 Peter that these gifts are not being used or promoted for use in the church during this time. The timing of the writing of Romans is somewhere around 57 AD then 1 Peter and Ephesians was written somewhere around 64 AD. If you go back just a few years before this in 54 AD you see that Paul mentions a somewhat different list of gifts to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians. It is in 1 Corinthians which is one of the earliest writings of Paul that we go back to and find the list that has the gifts that we place in the category of “sign gifts.” So let’s look at this in 1 Corinthians 12:7-10 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
Now we classified these in the 2 categories of speaking and serving but as we will see, the ones that we are going to list are considered sign gifts because they were used only for a sign for a specific time and purpose. These are gifts of healing, working of miracles, various kinds of tongues and the interpretation of tongues. All 4 of these gifts were used by the Apostles to show that they were associated with the ministry of Jesus. Each one of these gifts had a purpose for a specific time. Let’s take the gifts of healing for instance. Jesus had the power to heal because He is God and He gave those that followed Him this same power to show the people in that region that they were apart of the ministry of Jesus. This act of healing was to validate that Jesus was indeed alive and working in these Apostles. If they had the gifts of healing all of their life then why at times do we see even the Apostles themselves sick. Even in one of the earliest writings of Paul, he says in Galatians 4:13-14 You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, 14 and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.
Later in 63 AD he tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:23 (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.)
Then in 67 AD in Paul’s last letter he says this in 2 Timothy 4:20 Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus.
Did you hear that, he left Trophimus ill at Miletus. He did not heal him, he did not call for elders of the church to anoint him but left him. He did not do this out of having no compassion but we simply see that as the age of the church went on, the gift of healing was no longer in use. Every reference to this gift of healing in the Bible and in historical documents outside of the Bible places that these gifts no longer were used as they were the first 15 to 20 years after Christ ascended. Now we don’t have the time to go through the rest of the sign gifts but just know that each of these gifts have a similar timeline. Often people will ask, do you not believe that God still heals? And of course my answer is yes, but God does not use this gift of healing just like He does not use the gifts of tongues like He did for that special time in history.
Tongues and the interpretation of tongues were known languages that were used to proclaim the message of the Gospel to people with a different language in the region to bring the church together for that time since their were so many different dialects in that region. But no matter how much data you give people that believe that the tongues that are practiced in the church today is not the same gift they will not believe you. In fact the history of the tongues you see today in churches started back in the early 1900’s because it had ceased to be used from the Apostolic age until then. Then the fact that the tongues of today are not the same gift of known languages should be obvious but again people fail to want to listen. I encourage you to do your own research into these sign gifts that we have seen and see for yourself that these gifts are no longer in operation but were used for a specific time and for a specific purpose. Let’s move on now to our next point.
2.What are the speaking gifts?
Let’s first take the speaking gifts we see in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. In this passage we see in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 we see utterance of wisdom, utterance of knowledge, various kinds of tongues and the interpretation of tongues. Now we mentioned last study that even though the tongues gift and interpretation of tongues are among those in the speaking gifts that they are sign gifts that are not used in our time. So with that we will focus on the 2 listed before that. As we look at these we need to know that we may see the word utterance before both wisdom and knowledge which makes it sound like something that is supernatural or that is something that is higher than normal speech. But the word here for utterance in the Greek is the word logos which means a word, speech, divine utterance, analogy. It carries the idea of the art of speaking to the purpose about things pertaining to wisdom or knowledge. So this is not some supernatural language or wisdom but is rather the words that come from a thought about something. This wisdom and knowledge that is spoken by the one with the gift listed here is a word or a speech about Christ and the Gospel.
It is this message of the Gospel of Christ that is spoken, taught and preached throughout the church’s history and it is this very gift of speaking that was used to bring together people that needed to be saved. Paul says in Romans 10:14-15 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
It is with this thought that we will look at our other gifts of speaking listed in Romans 12:6-8. We see the gifts of prophecy, teaching and exhortation. The Greek word for prophecy is the word prophéteia which is the gift of communicating and enforcing revealed truth. So often this word gets twisted into meaning only someone being able to tell you something about your future. But the meaning indicates that there is truth revealed by what is clarified beforehand; prophecy which involves divinely-empowered forthtelling (asserting the mind of God) or foretelling (prediction). This gift is used often by charismatic preachers that assert that they have some divine knowledge about a situation when in fact if you look at those claims, you will see the utter failure of those so-called predictions. This gift is the gift of proclaiming God’s divine truth and this is done in our time by the only divine word we have called the Bible.
Both of the gifts of teaching and exhortation are used in a sense to first of all teach the truth from Scripture to bring the listeners to being able to apply what they have learned. Then the exhorting part of this refers to believers offering up evidence that stands up in God’s court. In other words the one that is exhorting is showing real truth found in the Scripture to show God’s verdict in a manner. I say it like this all of the time when speaking about certain sin: God made the judgement on what sin is and I am just explaining what that sin is. I do not make judgements on sin but God has spoken in His Word about sin and it is the preacher/teachers job to convey that to his listeners.
To close out this point I want to mention that in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11 we see the positions or offices that hold the people that have these gifts like apostles, prophets, teachers, various kinds of tongues, evangelists and shepherds. It is these people that have been given these gifts that we have seen here as speaking gifts. Let’s now move on briefly to our last point.
3.What are serving gifts?
In Romans 12:6-8 we see service, the one who contributes, the one who leads and the one who does acts of mercy that all fall into this serving category. Then in 1 Corinthians 12:8-11 we see faith, gifts of healing working of miracles and the ability to distinguish between spirits(even though the last 3 of these are in the area of sign gifts as well) are associated with some kind of serving for the edification of others. Just like I said last time I want to make clear that if you have a speaking gift that does not mean that you can’t have a serving gift and vice versa. This lists starts with the Greek word diakonia for the word service. This word is closely related to the Greek word diakonos which is the word used when speaking of the minister that serves as a deacon. The word we see here is not the office of a deacon but the ministry of serving. Even though these are very close in definition we see that God will give some of these gifts to lay people and not just to those in positions in the church. This applies for these serving gifts and for the speaking gives as well.
As we move along we clearly see that people can have gifts that are pointed toward personal service to others like contributing, leading and doing acts of mercy. These all have the idea of doing things to people to help them in whatever situation they may be in. I do want to point out though that anytime you see these gifts used in the Scripture you will always see that the people that are ministering will also be making sure to preach the truth of the salvation that comes from the Lord Jesus Christ.
As we close this study for this time I want to encourage you to first off see what gift that God has given to you and use those gifts. Many people ask how do I know what gift I have? Some may suggest taking a spiritual gift test like I have before. Even though those test may be somewhat accurate I think the best way to really know what your gift is comes by getting involved in ministries through your local church. Yes you can use any or all of these gifts outside of the church walls but the idea is get involved with something. You may start in a ministry and see that this area isn’t where you need to be and then you may move to another. Sometimes it will be obvious exactly what God has designed you to do and other times it might be through trial and error to really expose what that giftedness really is. I just encourage you to get out there in the church and in everyday life and use the gifts that God has given to you so that the Gospel message will reach the people that God has intended for it to reach.