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Author's Note:
This article is excerpted from my new book Scripture Workbook: Second Edition; 2 Volumes in 1. This book contains two volumes previously only available separately. It contains forty individual "Scripture Studies." Volume I covers the essential doctrines of the Christian faith.  It is these doctrines that separate the true Christian faith from cultic and other deviations. Volume II of this book then covers controversial theologies, cults, and ethics. It is from the second volume that this excerpt is taken. The excerpt constitutes less than half of the entire Scripture Study.


The Charismata

(Spiritual Gifts)

Part One

Scripture Study #27

By Gary F. Zeolla

"The charismata" are spiritual gifts given to Christians. The term comes from the Greek word for "gifts." Some of these gifts are seemingly "natural" such as teaching or leadership, while others are more supernatural or miraculous in their nature. In regards to these latter types of charismata there is a difference of opinion as to whether they were just for the Apostolic Age or if they are still operating today.

Opinions also vary as to the exact nature of each gift. And how one defines each gift will affect one's opinion on if it is still operating today. As such, this study will look at each gift in turn and first define it before asking if it still operates today.

Those whose believe the miraculous charismata were mainly for the Apostolic Age will be referred to as traditionalists, while those who believe they are still operating today are called "charismatics." Some general views of charismatics will also be addressed in this study. The charismatic view will be presented first, with rebuttals from traditionalists following as appropriate. This writer's viewpoint will be given as a conclusion at the end of the discussion for each gift.

Lists of the Charismata

Three lists of the charismata are given in Scripture. Duplicates and related gifts will be addressed together.

1Corinthians 12:8-10:

Word of wisdom
Word of knowledge
Faith
Healings
Divine workings of miraculous works
Prophecy
Discernment of spirits
Tongues
Interpretation [or, translation] of tongues

1Corinthians 12:28:

Apostles
Prophets
Teachers
Miraculous powers
Healings
Helpers
Leaders [or, administrators]
Tongues

Ephesians 4:11-12:

Apostles
Prophets
Evangelists
Shepherds [or, pastors] and teachers

Word of Wisdom/ Word of Knowledge

These two gifts will be addressed together as they seem to be related. "Wisdom" is defined as: "the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight."

"Knowledge" is defined as: "acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation; general erudition….the fact or state of knowing; the perception of fact or truth; clear and certain mental apprehension" (Dictionary.com).

In other words, "knowledge" is the knowing of facts, while wisdom is the application of those facts. But such wisdom and knowledge is generally attained by the normal means of study and experience. The "gift" seems to be that God grants people knowledge they would not know otherwise or He grants people the discernment to use the facts they know in an appropriate manner.

Possible Biblical examples of or references to the gifts of knowledge or wisdom would be the following:

Matthew 10:16-20:

Here Jesus promises the gift of the word wisdom to those undergoing persecution as to how to respond to them.

BUT:

Possibly true, but the miraculously given wisdom is just for that specific situation of dealing with persecution.

John 1:48:

Jesus knew that Nathaniel had been sitting under a fig tree before his brother called him to come meet Jesus, an example of the gift of the word of knowledge.

John 4:16-19:

Jesus tells a woman He has just met that she has been married four times and is currently living with a man she is not married to, another example of the gift of the word of knowledge.

BUT:

Both of these examples are of Jesus. As such, they are examples of His omniscience as God in the flesh and not of any spiritual gift given to mere human believers.

Acts 5:1-10:

Ananias and Sapphira had apparently promised to donate the full proceeds of the sale of their house to the Church. But they lied about how much it was sold for and kept back some of the money. Peter knew about the deception via the gift of the word of knowledge.

Acts 6:3,10:

The first deacons chosen to serve in the Church were to be "full of wisdom." Stephen then demonstrated the use of this gift of wisdom in his sermon (Acts 7:1-53). Stephen's knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures was probably natural, from his study of them. But the God-given gift of wisdom enabled him to apply this knowledge to his listeners' situation as Stephen obviously did not have time to prepare a sermon. His sermon was so effective that his listeners "were cut through to their hearts" (7:54).

BUT:

The above two passages probably are examples of the gift of knowledge and of wisdom, respectively. But this was an apostle and a direct apostolic delegate. They do not prove such gifts still operate today.

James 1:5; 3:17:

James tells us to pray for wisdom. He then gives the characteristics of this "wisdom from above."

BUT:

There is no indication the wisdom here is the specific gift of the "word of wisdom." But James' description is a good way to test if someone's claimed spiritual wisdom is really from God.

2Peter 3:15:

Paul exercised the gift of the word of wisdom in his writings.

BUT:

Paul was writing under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit. That is why his writings are "Scripture" (v.16). Everyone who claims to have the gift of the word of wisdom is not writing new Scripture.

Revelation 13:18; 17:9:

The God-given gift of wisdom is necessary to correctly understand Biblical symbolism.

BUT:

It is true we need the Holy Spirit's leading in understanding Scripture, but this is not a special gift given to just some Christians.

Conclusion on Word of Wisdom/ Word of Knowledge:

There is little direct information on these gifts, thus it is difficult to be dogmatic about the exact nature of them and if anyone possesses such gifts today.

Faith

By definition, a Christian is someone who has exercised faith in Jesus for his or her salvation (Rom 3:22; Eph 1:15), so all Christians possess faith. As such, the "gift of faith" must be some special kind of faith. Many believe the gift of faith is to be able to trust God in extraordinary circumstances or for extraordinary purposes.

Possible references to such faith are the following:

Matthew 8:5-13:

The centurion exercised extraordinary faith for his servant to be healed (v.10).

Matthew 8:23-26:

The disciples should have been exercising the gift of faith, and are rebuked for not doing so (v.26).

Matthew 9:1-30:

Various healings occur because the people exercised the gift of faith (vv.2,22,29).

Matthew 15:22-28:

The Canaanite woman is praised for having great faith; this must be a reference to the gift of faith as her daughter was healed as a result.

Matthew 17:20; 21:21:

In these verses Jesus is describing how powerful the gift of faith can be.

Mark 9:23f:

Jesus declares that "all [things are] possible to the one believing [or, having faith]" indicating how powerful the gift of faith is. The father of the young child cries out, asking to be given this gift of faith.

BUT:

In many of the preceding passages and others that could be cited, the important point seems to be not the faith of the person per se but the Person they are to have faith in, i.e., in Jesus.

In others, Jesus seems to be indicating that any believer can exercise the kind of faith portrayed. There is no indication it is a special spiritual gift that only some possess.

Acts 6:5:

Stephen possessed the gift of faith. As a result, many miracles were performed by him (6:8), and he preached a powerful sermon to the Jewish leaders (7:1ff).

Acts 11:22-24:

Barnabas possesses the gift of faith. As a result, through his preaching, "a considerable crowd was added to the Lord."

Acts 14:8-10:

The lame man had the gift of faith, enabling him to be healed.

BUT:

The faith of these men in Acts is emphasized, but there is no indication it is a special gift of faith. They are given as examples for all believers to follow.

Romans 12:3,6:

Paul says that each believer has been given a "measure" or "proportion" of faith. This means some believers have a greater amount of faith than others. Those with the greatest degree could be said to have the "gift of faith."

1Thessalonians 1:8; 3:6f; 2Thessalonians 1:3f:

The Thessalonians' extraordinary faith (a.k.a. gift of faith) is noted by Paul.

1Timothy 1:5:

The extraordinary faith of Timothy and of his mother and grandmother is noted by Paul.

Philemon 1:5:

The extraordinary faith of Philemon is noted by Paul.

BUT:

Yes, Paul does seem to indicate there are different degrees of faith and that some believers possess faith to a greater degree than others, but he does not specifically mention a special gift of faith anywhere except in 1Corinthians 12:9.

Hebrews 11:1ff:

This chapter extols what can be done by those possessing the gift of faith.

James 5:15:

The "prayer of faith" would be offered by someone with the gift of faith.

BUT:

In these and many other verses about faith that could be cited there simply is no indication that a special "gift of faith" is being discussed.

Conclusion of the Gift of Faith:

Faith is very important, and some do have faith to a greater degree than others, but it is not possible to pin down exactly what Paul meant by a "gift of faith" since that one verse in Corinthians is the only place it is specifically mentioned.

Maybe some of the examples cited are about the gift of faith. But more likely, they are encouragements to every believer as to how powerful "ordinary" faith can be due to the faithfulness of the One we are to have faith in (Hebrews 12:2).


Author's Note:

The remainder of this study contains sections on: Healings, Miraculous Works, Prophecy, and Discernment of Spirits. The next Scripture Study then covers: Tongues/ Interpretation of Tongues, Apostles, Teachers/ Pastors/ Leaders, and Helpers. These and 38 other studies are found in the book Scripture Workbook: Second Edition; 2 Volumes in 1.

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

The above article was published in Darkness to Light newsletter
and posted on this Web site September 10, 2011.

Charismatic Movement

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