Spiritual Gifts

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Easton's Bible Dictionary [1]

 Mark 16:17,18 Acts 8:17 19:6 1 Timothy 4:14

Holman Bible Dictionary [2]

Spiritual Gifts

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [3]

( Χαρίσματα , Charisims). On this subject we make the following extract, by permission from Schaff, History Of The Apostolic Church , § 11 6:

"By the expression spiritual gift or gift of grace, Χάρισμα , Ἐνέργημα , the apostle means 'a revelation of the Spirit for the common good' ( Φανέρεσις Τοῦ Πνεύματος Πρὸς Τὸ Συμφέρον ,  1 Corinthians 12:7; Πρὸς Τὴν Οἰκοδομὴν Τῆς Ἐκκλησίας , 14:12; compare  Ephesians 4:12); that is, not faith in general, which constitutes the essence of the whole Christian disposition, thut a particular energy and utterance of the believer's life, prompted and guided by the Holy Ghost, for the edification of the Church; the predominant religious qualification, the peculiar divine talent of the individual, by which he is to perform his function, as an organic member, in the vital action of the whole, and promote its growth. It is, therefore, as the name itself implies, something supernaturally wrought, and bestowed by free grace (comp.  1 Corinthians 12:11); yet it forms itself, like Christianity in general, upon the natural basis prepared for it in the native intellectual and moral capacities of the man, which are in fact themselves gifts of God. These natural qualities it baptizes with the Holy Ghost and with fire, and rouses to higher and freer activity. The charisms are many, corresponding to the various faculties of the soul and the needs of the body of Christ; and in this very abundance and diversity of giftss are revealed the riches of divine grace ( Ποικίλη Χάρις Θεοῦ ,  1 Peter 4:10). As, however, they all flow from the same source, are wrought by the Holy Ghost, and are gifts of free grace, so they all subserve the some end, the edification of the body of Christ. Hence the apostle applies to them the beautiful simile of the bodily organism, the harmonious cooperation of different members ( Romans 12:4-6;  1 Corinthians 12:12 sq.).

To this practical design the term administrations or ministry ( Διακονία i .  1 Corinthians 12:5; comp.  Ephesians 4:12;  1 Peter 4:10) no doubt refers. Everyone has his proper gift,' which best corresponds to his natural peculiarity and is indispensable for his sphere of activity ( 1 Corinthians 7:7;  1 Corinthians 12:11;  Romans 12:6;  1 Peter 4:10). But several charisms may also be united in one individual. This was the case particularly with the apostles, whose office in fact originally included all other spiritual offices and their functions, even to the diaconate (comp.  Acts 4:35;  Acts 4:37;  Acts 6:2). It is true they all had not these gifts in equal measure. John seems to have possessed especially the charisms of love, profound knowledge, and prophecy; Peter, those of Church government and discipline, miracles, and discernment of spirits (comp.  Acts 5:1 sq.); James, those of the faithful episcopal superintendence of a congregation. and silent, patient service at the altar. Most variously endowed in this respect was St. Paul, eminent alike in knowing and in setting forth divine mysteries; fitted both for the labors of a pioneer, and for preserving and confirming established order; at home among visions and revelations; excelling all the Corinthians in the gift of tongues ( 1 Corinthians 14:18); and accredited among them by signs and wonders ( 2 Corinthians 12:12). The greatest movements in the history of the world always proceed from individuals uncommonly gifted, in whom the scattered mental energies of their age are harmoniously concentrated. Of course, however, the number or strength of the charisms establishes no merit or preference as to the attainment of salvation. For this living faith in Christ is sufficient. The cbarisms are free gifts of grace; and the man is responsible, not for the possession, but for the use of them. Every spiritual gift is liable to abuse. Spiritual knowledge may puff up ( 1 Corinthians 8:1).

The gift of tongues may foster vanity and the disposition to monopolize the benefit of worship in self-edifying rapture ( 1 Corinthians 14:2 sq.). And every gift is attended with heavy responsibility. Hence the apostle's earnest commendation of love, which alone would prevent such abuse of other gifts, and make their exercise pleasing to God. The value of the gifts varied; not depending, however, as many of the Corinthians thought, on their splendor and outward effect, but on their practical utility for building up the kingdom of God ( 1 Corinthians 12:31;  1 Corinthians 14:3 sq.). This extraordinary operation of the Spirit showed itself first in the apostles on the day of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. Some of these gifts, as those of prophecy and miracles, meet us, indeed, even in the Old Testament; and before the resurrection of Christ we find the disciples healing the sick and casting out devils ( Matthew 11:8;  Mark 6:13). But the Permanent possession of the Holy Ghost as the Spirit of Christ was attached to his glorification and exaltation to the right hand of the Father ( John 7:39). Thence it followed the steps of the heralds of the Gospel as a holy energy, awakening in every susceptible soul a depth of knowledge, a power of will, and a jubilee of heavenly joy, which formed a glowing contrast with the surrounding paganism. For the Lord had promised ( Mark 16:17-18) that the gifts of speaking with tongues, casting out devils, and healing, should be not confined to a few, but bestowed on the mass of believers. This blooming glory of the infant Church unfolded itself most luxuriantly among the intellectual, excitable, gifted Greeks, especially in the Corinthian Church. But there, too, the dangers and abuses attending it most frequently appeared. The usual medium of communicating spiritual gifts was the laying on of the apostles' hands ( Acts 8:17;  Acts 19:6;  1 Timothy 4:14); yet on Cornelius and his company the Holy Ghost fell immediately after the simple preaching of the Gospel, and they began to speak with tongues and prophesy, to the great astonishment of the Jewish-Christian brethren, before Peter had baptized them ( Acts 10:44;  Acts 10:46).

"It is the prevailing view that the charisms, some of them at least, as those of miracles and tongues, belong not essentially and permanently to the Church, but were merely a temporary adventitious efflorescence of the apostolic period, an ornamental appendage, like the wedding-dress of a youthful bride, and afterwards disappeared from history, giving place to the regular and natural kind of moral andsreligious activity. So, among the ancients, Chrysostom, who begins his twenty-ninth homily on the Epistle to the Corinthians with these words: Τοῦτο Ἃπαν Τὸ Χωρίον Σφὀδρα Ἐστὶν Ἀσαφὲς , Τὴν Δὲ Ἀσάφειαν Τῶν Πραγμάτων Ἄγνοιά Τεκαὶἔλλειψις Ποιεῖ , Τῶν Τότε Μὲν Συμβαινόντων , Νῦν Δἐ Οὐ Γινομένων . Among moderns compare, for example, Olshausen (Comment. 3:683), who makes the charismatic form of the Spirit's operation cease with the third century. With special distinctness, this view is expressed by Trautmann as follows (Die Apostol. Kirche, 1848, page 309): 'As, in the case of marriage, the festivity of the wedding-day cannot always last, any more than the inspiration of the first love when the seriousness and steady activity of the common pilgrimage just begun comes on; as, according to the universal order of nature, the blossom must fall away if the fruit is to thrive though, on the other hand, the fruit does not appear without the preceding blossom so that gush of heavenly powers on the day of Pentecost could not, must not continue in the Church. It could not because the earthly human nature is not able constantly to bear the bliss of ecstasy and such mighty streams of power from above, as is shown by the example of the three chosen disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration. It must not because the continuance of the blossom would have hindered the development of the fruit.

The splendor of these higher powers would unavoidably have fixed the eve and the heart too much on externals, and the proper object and work of faith, the inward conquest of the world, would have been neglected.' The Irvingites, on the contrary, like the Montanists of the second century, look upon these apostolic gifts and offices as the necessary conditions of a healthy state of the Church at any time; make their disappearance the fault of Christianity; and hold it impossible to remedy the defects of the Church without a revival of the charisms and the apostolate. They appeal to such passages as  1 Corinthians 12:27-31;  Ephesians 4:11-13, where undue emphasis is laid on 'till;' and to  1 Thessalonians 5:19-20;  1 Corinthians 12:31;  1 Corinthians 14:1, where the apostle not only warns Christians against quenching the holy fire of the Spirit, but also positively requires them to strive earnestly after his miraculous gifts. So Thiersch, the (only) scientific theologian of the Irvingite community, in his Torlesungeen Iber Katholicisnzus Und Protestantismus, 1:80 (2d edit.); compare miy articles on 'Irvingism and the Church Question' in the Deutsche Kirchenfieund, volume 3, Nos. 2, 3, 5, and 6, particularly page 223 sq.

The Mormons, too, or, 'Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,' whose rise (April 6, 1830) was almost simultaneous with the appearance of Irvingism in England, not withstanding their radical difference in spirit and conduct, likewise claim to possess all the offices and spiritual gifts of the apostolic Church. Their founder, Joseph Smith, lays down, among other articles of faith: 'We believe in the same organization that existed in the primitive Church, viz. apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, etc. We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues,' etc. (Hist. of all the Relig. Denominations in the U.S. page 348, 2d edit.). There seems to us to be here a mixture of truth and error on both sides. In these charisms we must distinguish between the essence and the temporary form. The first is permanent; the second has disappeared, yet breaks out at times sporadically, though not with the same strength and purity as in the apostolic period. In the nature of the case, the Holy Ghost, when first entering into humanity, came with peculiar creative power, copiousness, and freshness; presented a striking contrast to the mass of the unchristian world; and by this very exhibition of what was extraordinary and miraculous, exerted a mighty attraction upon the world, without which it could never have been conquered. Christianity, however, aims to incorporate herself in the life of humanity, enter into all its conditions and spheres of activity as the ruling principle, and thus to become the second, higher nature. As it raises the natural more and more into the sphere of the Spirit, so in this very process it makes the supernatural more and more natural.

These are but two aspects of one and the same operation. Accordingly we find, that as fast as the reigning power of heathenism is broken, those charisms which exhibited most of the miraculous become less frequent, and after the fourth century almost entirely disappear. This is not owing to a fault of Christianity, for at that very time the Church produced some of her greatest teachers, her Athanasius and her Ambrose, her Chrysostom and her Augustine. It is rather a result of its victory over the would. Spiritual gifts, however, did not then fully and forever disappear; for in times of great awakening, and of the powerful descent of the Spirit, in the creative epochs of the Church, we now and then observe phenomena quite similar to those of the first century, along with the corresponding dangers and abuses, and even Satanic imitations and caricatures. These manifestations then gradually cease again, according to the law of the development of a new principle as just stated. Such facts of experience may serve to confirm and illustrate the phenomena of the apostolic age. In judging of them, moreover, particularly of the mass of legends of the Roman Church, which still lays claim to the perpetual possession of the gift of miracles, we must proceed with the greatest cautions and critical discrimination. In view of the over-valuation of charisms by the Montanists and Irvingites, we must never forget that Paul puts those which most shun free inspection, and most rarely appear, as the gift of tongues, far beneath the others, which pertain to the regular vital action of the Church, and are at all times present in larger or smaller measure, as the gifts of wisdom, of knowledge, of teaching, of trying spirits, of government, and, above all, of love, that greatest, most valuable, most useful, and most enduring of all the fruits of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 13).

"Finally, as to the classification of the charisms. They have often been divided into extraordinary or supernatural in the strict sense, and ordinary or natural. (So by Neander; also by Conybeare and Howson, The Life and Epistles of St. Paul [London, 1853], 1:459.) But this is improper, for, on the one hand, they all rest on a natural, basis, even the gift of miracles (upon the dominion of mind over body, of will over matter); and, on the other, they are all supernatural. St. Paul derives them all from one and the same Spirit, and it is only their supernatural, divine element, that sakes them charisms. Nor, according to what has been already said, can the division into permanent, or those which belong to the Church at all times, and transitory, or such as are confined to the apostolic period, be strictly carried out. We therefore propose a psychological classification, on the basis of the three primary faculties of the soul; they all being capable and in need of sanctification, and the Holy Ghost, in fact, leaving none of them untouched, but turning them all to the edification of the Church. With this corresponds also the classification according to the different branches of the Church-life, in which the activity of one or thu other of these faculties thus supearnaturally elevated predominates. This would give us three classes of charisms:

1. Those which relate especially to feeling And Worship.

2. Those which relate to knowledge And theology.

3. Those which relate to will and Church government. To the gifts of feeling belong speaking with tongues, interpretation of tongues, and inspired prophetic discourse; to the theoretical class, or gifts of intellect, belong the charisms of wisdom and of knowledge, of teaching and of discerning spirits; to the practical class, or gifts of will, the charisms of ministration, of government, and of miracles. Faith lies back of all, as the motive power, taking up the whole man, and bringing all his faculties into contact with the divine Spirit, and under his influence and control."

On the special gifts, see further in Schaff, Hist. of the Apost. Church, § 117-120. On the gift of tongues (See Gift Of Tongues). See also Jortin, Remarks on Ecclesiastical History; Doddridge, Lectures on Pneunatology; Neander, Planting and Training, chapter 1; Delitzsch, Biblical Psychology, part 5; Martensen, Christian Dogmnatics, § 233-235; Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 4:730 sq.; and the art. (See Catholic Apostolic Churchs); (See Plymouth Brethren).