Some of the Lesser Talked About Spiritual Gifts

Gifts of Healings, Miracles, and Helps
(1 Corinthians 12:27-28)

Gifts of Healings… notice in the original both the object of the genitive and the genitive are plural. The genitive could be taken objectively or subjectively. Gifts of healings or acts of healings (Robertson, A. (1997). Word Pictures in the New Testament. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.). The root of the idea is in the term charismatōn, or gifts, signifying the graciousness of God. It is particularly associated with what is divine and carries the idea of joy and grace as the central idea.

The plurality of the gifts and healings indicates that maybe there is variety in the form and manifestation of the Spirit’s activity with respect to divine healing. To one is given the gifts of healings (plural nouns) and to another gifts of miracles (plural nouns), so that there is a variety of manifestations flowing from a single person used by God. Therefore we can say that gifts of healings and miracles have to do with a person becoming the tool/instrument through which God pours a gracious outflow of supernatural power to heal or perform miracles.

Healings have to do with making people well. The focus is on recovery through the supernatural activity of the Holy Spirit, channeled through an individual. We associate this traditionally with the laying on of hands and anointing of oil based on James 5, but as we see in the variety of healings of Jesus ministry, healings are rarely confided to a single formula! Indeed, Jesus seems to shun that, possibly by way of refusing to allow us to develop rituals that supplant the mightiness of God or the leading and power of the holy Spirit. Healings and miracles should never become bogged down in ritual and so lose their connection to the sovereign activity of God and the power of his arm. Gifts of miracles are similar but different in kind, presumably, in that they refer to anything that is not a healing, but is nonetheless the result of the supernatural outworking of the Holy Spirit (miracle), using an individual in the body as the instrument or tool of divine intervention and deliverance.

Verse 28 refers to helps meaning to lay hold of, in the sense of being engaged on a practical level. This word is used only here in the NT. The gift of helps has to do with engaging in the meeting the practical needs of others, but to do so under a supernatural impulse from the Holy Spirit. It is more than “being practical”. It is being led into situations by the Holy Spirit where practicality is required and being empowered to effectively exercise the skills necessary to provide practical assistance. Helps is the idea of coming along side and rendering assistance to produce a good outcome that brings benefit to the one who is helped. Helps supernaturally improve the situation of others who are in need, but an exercise of practical skills under the power and guidance of the Spirit of God.

Gifts of Encouragement, Contribution, Leadership/Administration
(Romans 12:6-8)

The gift of encouragement is not listed in 1 Corinthians, but Paul speaks of spiritual gifts that are exercises of the grace of God given to every believer, and encouragement is listed in (Rom. 12:8). First, we must notice that spiritual gifts in Romans 12 are premised on grace in a way that is similar to 1 Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians, Paul uses the term charismatōn, which means gifts that are based on graciousness of the giver. In Romans 12:6 Paul spells it out by saying that the gracious manifestations of God, gifts (charimata) are possessed by the grace of God. The double reference to grace, almost circular, emphasizes the origin of the gift, the Holy Spirit, and deemphasize the ability of the one exercising the gift. The focus is on the operation of God coming through the individual God has chosen and who has made themselves available or yielded to the Spirit.

Paul emphasizes that we have literally outstanding gifts, unique endowments, impartations from God, that operate as a direct result of the grace of God which has been given to us. The aorist participle implies that the gifts we have (echontes)(possess or exercise by the Spirit), are preceded by the prior receipt (ten dotheisan) of the grace of God. God’s grace precedes the operation of the gift, so that it is only through the power of God we are able to accomplish what God desires. This is entirely consistent with Paul’s description in 1 Corinthians 12 where the variety of gifts have their original and owe their exercise to their origin in one God, One Lord and One Spirit (1 Cor. 12:4-6).

Gift of encouraging, rather than the gift of encouragement. The emphasis is on the exercise of an activity, for which the person has been empowered by God, and not on the impartation of a commodity, which once given brings encouragement. It is the presence of the person, empowered by God, rendering support that brings the encouragement. In English the word encouragement involves the idea of stimulating hope and fresh confidence, in someone who has for whatever reason lost their sense of confidence and hope. In our context we assume that the loss of confidence has to do with either a loss of the sense of the ability of God, a lack of confidence in his involvement in our situation or lives, or more usually a lack of a sense that the outcome will be favorable, good, satisfactory or victorious. The encourager brings to the table, to the individual who is suffering that exact sense, that God is able, involved and that ultimately the outcome will bring victory and establish deliverance.

However, the biblical word translated encourage here is a compound word made up of two words, the preposition along side of (para) and the verb to call (kaleo). The sense of the word is to be called along side, with the idea of rendering assistance or help, to inspire and support. The gift of encouragement involves the supernatural calling of God to come alongside someone whose confidence is shattered, whose hope is at a low ebb, and to inspire that person, to restore that confidence and hope by your presence and support. We could almost say that the operation of the gift of encouragement begins with a conviction that urges us to come along someone whose level of confidence or hope has diminished or been crushed in some way. One last thing should be observed. As a supernatural gift is not surprising that there is an implication of a long term involvement or commitment to see the person through the crisis. The idea of encouragement is a present tense continuous participle, implying an ongoing process. This is not drive-by altar-work style encouragement, but standing beside a person until they have regained their confidence and hope. It is support that endures until a change has occurred.

Gift of contribution, or giving is something that sounds very unfamiliar to us. It is not typical type of phraseology in English. We would opt for an expression of a character trait, generosity. The biblical word translated giving (μεταδιδούς) has at its root the idea of sharing, and thus to give or impart. The idea is that the giver is willing to impart to someone else something they have in order to meet a genuine need (cf. Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37). When we talk about this being a gift of the Spirit, we are conscious that generosity begins with the urging of the Holy Spirit, both to recognize a need and then to take steps to meet it. There is an implication that God will use the resources at hand, that is what belongs to us to meet the needs of others, or he will pour the resources through us.

If the latter, we cannot allow ourselves to become a bottleneck, where the resources are detained and consumed that were intended to meet the needs of someone else. So the person urged by the Spirit to give, should do it generously. Among its meanings the word implies innocence, freely, pure, free from an undivided heart. Implies liberality and sincerity, motivated by a genuine sense of goodwill toward another person. The NT word implies that there is a right motive, that there is a pure motive. In other words there is no hint of self interest in the gift. It is motivated entirely by the desire to meet someone else’s need, without any thought of return gain or benefit. Peter addresses this idea when he warns his readers to give without the hope of return, echoing Jesus’ words, that if you give with the confidence of a return, your “generosity” is of no greater caliber that the run of the mill unbeliever, or infidel (Matt 6:2; 10:8; Luke 12:13-14; Acts 20:35; 1 Peter 3:17; 4:9-11).

The Gift of Leadership/Administration. In 1 Corinthians 12:28, the word translated government, leadership, or administration is strictly shipmaster (captain?), or pilot, with the implication of steering (Vincent, M. R. (2002). Word studies in the New Testament. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.), leadership or guiding. The Latin translation captures the idea of governing (Robertson, A. (1997). Word Pictures in the New Testament. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.) Paul established leaders in the church, by appointing them after those with gifts emerged. He seems to have been in the habit of returning to ordain leaders. The NT refers often to elders, deacons or presbyters, which imply maturity and therefore leadership. Leaders steer the enterprise of the church, under the direction of God. In other places in the NT a certain amount of maturity is implied and a calling to specific ministry is also implied strongly. The recognition of God and the congregation is key to assuming leadership (cf. Acts 6:1-7; 13:1-3). Both go together. It is doubtful that leaders are called, who do not have the corroborating witness of the church. Such leaders are often self-appointed, and Paul has very strong words of opposition toward such leaders. Paul probably does not seem to have leaders in general in mind here, but those who are especially anointed by the Holy Spirit and gifted for certain kinds of ministry and leadership.

In Romans 12:8, the word leadership implies going first, being at the head. It is a compound word made up of the preposition (pro) before and the verb (stemi) to stand, literally to stand before ahead of others. The word carries with it a history of leadership responsibility with implications of protecting, assisting, representing, leading, guiding (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.) In Paul it seems that leadership involved being out front to provide guidance, as well as to provide protection and caring for those who are led. The idea of NT leadership clearly bears both responsibilities.

In Jesus illustration at the last supper, he took of his robe and took a towel to wash the disciples’ feet to demonstrate the way leadership among his disciples was supposed to work (John 13). Biblical leadership has always been based on a servanthood model. The OT shepherds were models of how leaders and kings were to rule God’s people, providing guidance and authoritative leadership, while showing compassion, mercy, care , concern and protection toward God’s flock (cf. Psalm 23; John 10; 21). This model carries forward into the NT in the ministry of Jesus who is the Good Shepherd, who literally laid down his life for the sheep. Now leaders in the church are called upon the exercise shepherd leadership over the believers, as under-shepherds who will one day give an account to the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:2-4).

Interestingly enough Paul tells his readers if the gift they have by the endowment of God’s grace is leadership ability, they should to lead. There is no room for lazy leaders who refuse to engage. I am convinced that people who claim to be leaders and to have leadership ability, but who do not lead, serve, take responsibility or serve the flock of God… are lying!

Gifts of Mercy, Faith and Hospitality
(Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:9)

Mercy at the very heart is practical. It is not theoretical compassion for some unknown or unseen needy, but the real life application of help to the real needs of people who are in view and available (Mounce, R. H. (2001). Vol. 27: Romans (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers). The NLT puts this as showing kindness to others. Louw Nida says mercy is showing kindness to someone who has serious need (Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.). New York: United Bible societies). Mercy is supremely the attribute of God, whereby he condescends to bring practical relief to the human situation, in many ways that involve blessing people, but chiefly through the sacrifice of his Son for the sins of the world. Mercy reaches out from a position of ability to make up for a lack in someone else’s life or situation, for no other reason but a genuine concern (or pity) for the welfare of the other. There is not thought of a reciprocal benefit!

Mercy has to do with tenderness toward the needs and afflictions others experience. From the perspective of the giver mercy is the tenderness and compassion that prompts action. From the perspective of the receiver mercy is the practical benefit received or enjoyed. When we are talking about the gift of the Spirit we are talking from the perspective of the giver. The gift is flowing from the Spirit through the giver, to the receiver! So we are talking about a supernaturally inspired a compassion, pity, kindness that results in a powerful exercise of the Spirit enabling.

The spiritual gifts mentioned in Romans 12 are to be dispensed with certain correlating attitudes, appropriate to the exercise of the supernatural abilities that God works through his chosen vessels. There are examples in the Bible of reluctant prophets and ministers that God used anyway, but whom he chastened or corrected for their attitudes. Moses smote the rock when he was to speak to it and he was refused entry into Canaan for his disobedience (Numbers 20:8, 12), Balaam who pronounced blessings instead of curses, and wound up dead because of his attitude (Num. 22:34-35; 23:26; 31:8; Deut. 23:5; Jos. 13:22), Samuel who would not let king Saul go was made to anoint David (1 Sam. 16:1-2a), Elijah ran away from Jezebel and tried to resign from ministry, but God refused him the opportunity and sent him back to work (1 Kings 19:15-18), Jeremiah who could stop prophesying for the power of the word of God shut up inside of him (Jer. 20:9), Jonah who held a revival where an entire city was saved, but would have rather they had gone to hell, was left to fry in the sun (Jonah 4:9), Nathaniel who reluctantly went with Philip to meet the prophet/Messiah from the worthless town of Nazareth, found Jesus to be the Son of God (John 1:45-46) and Peter who reluctantly accepted the fact that Jesus would take him back based on whatever level of love and loyalty he could honestly commit to him, because leader of the early church! (John 21:15-19).

Mercy is to be dispensed with cheerfulness. The attitude to accompany mercy is a cheery disposition. The giving of mercy cannot be out of duty, reluctantly given because of obligation. God wants the merciful to overflow with the gift from a heart that has the right attitude. The attitude is cheerfulness. The original word is where we get the English word hilarious. It would be a mistake to read back into the original the concepts associated with the English notion of hilarity, with its extravagant and uncontrolled frivolous foolishness. That is certainly not what Paul has in mind. The NIV says cheerfully, other translations use gladly. The central idea is happiness, and can carry the idea of being merry, lighthearted, rejoicing. It is the idea of rendering assistance and help because you are genuinely moved and willing to do so, and not out of duty or reluctantly. There is a genuine willingness to render assistance. God loves a cheerful giver Paul says, so that the rendering of mercy in the right attitude becomes a service to God as well as to the one who receives the benefit (2 Cor 9:7).

The spiritual gift of faith is a strange and difficult gift to pin down. We do not understand it from the context of 1 Corinthians 12, but instinctively we know that faith involves believing in God, and trusting him. Faith involves both a subjective and objective aspect. Subjectively it is our believing in God, that is our confident, inward conviction that God exists and will reward those who on the basis seek after him (Heb. 11:6). Objectively it has to do with trusting God, that is acting upon confidence in his nature and promises, and basing our decisions, choices and life on the worthiness of God to be trusted to follow through. Faith implies reliance on God, so that we trust him and order our actions and decisions according to that confidence (Rom. 4:3; Jam. 2:20-26)(Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.). New York: United Bible societies). Believing involves confidently assigning to someone or something, in your own estimation, heart and mind, the qualities you believe they possess because of your knowledge or relationship with them and acting upon that confidence, and conducting yourself in a relationship with that person on the basis of that conviction.

When first we learn about God, about what he is like, and how he loves us enough to send his Son to die for us, and faith is stimulated in us to believe, we accept that these are the attributes of God (cf. John 3:16). Our corresponding action is to repent of sin and to ask God to forgive us. This contrition and repentance is a necessary unbarring of the door to human self-will to allow God access to our heart and nature. At that point, the Holy Spirit affects a complete transformation of our nature, called theologically regeneration, but known to us more readily by the phrase born again. The Bible makes it clear that the rise of faith that leads to repentance, in turn leads to a spiritual transformation of our personality and life. This transformation is so radical, that Paul calls it a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), a new way of life through the inwardly operating power of God’s Holy Spirit (Rom. 6:4-11; 7:6; Gal. 6:15; Eph 4:23), a resurrection to a new life (Rom. 6:4-10). Only the operation of the Holy Spirit can transform a person to become acceptable and righteous before God, but faith must open the door to the Holy Spirit in the first place by confidently submitting to God.

To answer the question as to how reliable is the information we have about God, and how do we come to know his attributes, we would have to go beyond the scope of this study. However, we must say at this point that there are two key questions to be answered. First, how reliable is the text of the Bible? That is, can we have confidence that what we read in the Bible today is an accurate representation of what was originally written about Jesus and God? For various reliable and objectively demonstrable reasons we can say that more than any other ancient literature the Bible text is reliable to a degree that is represented by the number 99.5%. Secondly, we have to ask how reliable is the content of the Bible? Is the history it records a reliable and accurate account of what actually happened and occurred? When we subject the Bible to scrutiny, we do not seek to “prove God scientifically” which is a false premise used by unbelievers to excuse their lack of faith. Science offers proof of natural phenomena by experimentation, proof that is often called scientific. However, historical events, recent or ancient, cannot be proven by experimentation, but are proven by laws of historical evidence, such as those used in a court of law everyday in America. The reliability of such witnesses and evidence is evaluated by juries and judges, who render a decision based on how it holds together and how one piece reinforces or disproves another. When we look at the Bible this way we discover and amazingly consistent story, that the events are constantly backup and corroborated by archeology and historical research. Indeed, the resurrection of Jesus has been the subject of intense scrutiny by a number of people, including lawyers and investigators whose intent was to disprove it, but who came to firmly acknowledge that there was sufficient evidence of such a strong nature, that it should not be doubted (cf. Josh McDowell, Frank Morrison, et. al.)! Faith is not a leap at all, as the neo-conservatives claimed in the early 20th century, it is trusting God confidently based upon strong and reliable evidence from his word (Rom. 10:17). (cf. Paul’s remarks to the Corinthians who were struggling with believing the resurrection. He told them that 500 men were still living who saw Jesus alive at the same time, along with a number of the apostles. They could always go and ask them (1 Cor. 15:6)! Paul did not expect “blind” faith, but intelligent and confident trust in God.)

Faith is an indispensible commodity for every believer and it is the foundation of every experience of salvation. We are saved by God’s grace, when faith grasps the promise of salvation because of a confidence in the reality of what God is offering. (Eph. 2:8-9). Faith continues to be the key element of our relationship with God throughout our spiritual lives, because the believer or righteous live by their faith in God; it is how they conduct themselves in their relationship with him (Rom. 1:17; 2 Cor. 5:7; Gal. 2:20; 3:1; Heb. 10:38).

Paul speaks of the gift of faith in 1 Corinthians 12 without further explanation. So we are left to surmise that this is somehow faith that we know about raised to a level of the spiritual power commensurate with the other gifts of the Holy Spirit. By this we mean that if speaking in tongues, prophecy, discernment and miracles are all entirely miraculous in origin and function, then this gift of faith must also have that dimension to it. Other gifts that have a corollary in the normal operation of the spiritual life of a believer, when they are elevated to the level of spiritual gifting through an operation of the Holy Spirit they are heightened beyond what we would expect in “normal” spiritual exercise and life. They take on a dramatically miraculous dimension, somehow. Such an occurrence is undoubtedly related to specific moments in time and specific needs or situation, and do not reflect a permanent condition. They are after all gifts, and no one once moved to speak in tongues, abandons his native language altogether!

Faith is such a gift, with a corollary in the normal prosecution of the spiritual life. And yet faith can be elevated to the level of spiritual gifting. What does that mean? First, let’s makes some preliminary conjectures. The gift of faith, the logic applied above, must involve a supernatural inward confidence in God and an outwardly objective, even stubborn and immovable trust in him that will act on the “knowledge” of the conviction God has given. Faith as a gift has essentially the same nature as faith generally, but somehow is enhanced and heightened by the action of the holy Spirit, who empowers and emboldens it beyond the ordinary, maybe to seize something seemingly impossible or to overcome something seemingly to big or too hard to overcome.

Jameison, Fausset and Brown call this faith the faith of miracles, not of doctrines, an supernatural confidence in God, his promises and his word (Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.). Richard Pratt says that it is the conviction that God will move or act in specific circumstances (Pratt, R. L., Jr. (2000). Vol. 7: I & II Corinthians. Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers). A. T. Robertson calls it wonder-working faith (Robertson, A. (1997). Word Pictures in the New Testament. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems). Derek Prime says that this is faith to understand God’s intentions and to accomplish them (Prime, D. (2005). Opening up 1 Corinthians. Leominister: Day One Publications). Matthew Henry calls this the faith of divine power and promise, enabling the believer to face emergency, danger and difficulty by going forward without retreat (Henry, M. (1996). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible : Complete and unabridged in one volume. Peabody: Hendrickson).

We note the prepositional phrase here is in the Spirit, which means that the Holy Spirit is the direct instrumental cause of the gift of faith. This faith arises as a result of the action of the Spirit in the heart of the person exercising this faith. Like a message in tongues, this faith, this confident and unshakable conviction arises in the recipient. So what happens next. James gives us a clue about the operation of faith when he reminds us that faith that is alone, unaccompanied by works is dead (Jam. 2:17, 26). The one in whom such faith arises, must act on that faith. They must order their decisions, their words, their convictions, their ministry to line up with the confidence they have in God. Indeed, one of their chief duties maybe to encourage and develop the confidence of others as God moves. The operation of the gift of faith in one may be a prelude to leading others into exercising faith in God.

The so called gift of hospitality (Rom. 12:13). Nowhere does hospitality show up in the Bible as a gift, and yet we speak of the gift of hospitality and it shows up on all kinds of spiritual gift inventories. However, hospitality is so important that the four chief writers, Paul (Rom. 12:13), Peter (1 Pet. 4:9), John (3 John 1:8), the writer of Hebrews (Heb. 13:2), in the NT encourage God’s people to have it as part of their disposition toward others. Paul requires it in church leaders (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:8) and of widows who are enrolled on the list of those for whom the church provides (1 Tim. 5:10). Paul even commends the hospitality of those in the church where he has seen it and experienced it (Rom. 16:23; cf. Acts 28:7). The reason we are including it in our study of lesser known spiritual gifts is because of the popularity of hospitality as a pseudo spiritual gift, and because the NT definitely calls upon believers to exercise this attribute.

Paul tells the Romans to practice hospitality, by which he means they are to exercise hospitality toward one another. What exactly does it mean to practice hospitality. First, let’s consider what Paul means by practice. The original word means to pursue and implies effort at attaining something, sometimes intense effort. So Paul is not throwing out a half-hearted instruction, but rather exhorting his readers to a level of intensity with respect to hospitality. It is the same basic notion as striving for righteousness (Rom. 9:30), toward good (Tit. 3:14), prayer (Rom. 12:12) or helping others (1 Cor. 16:15), although expressed in different language. This is the same word, with its same intensity when Paul says he is pressing on toward the prize and leaving behind the things he once counted valuable, in favor of what he had now discovered in Christ. There is some measure of intensity in this word that we should associate with hospitality.

The word hospitality is a compound word made up of two words, phileo, love and xenia, the condition of being a guest. The emphasis is on previously unknown people, strangers, and yet it can refer to guests, that a tension exists in the word between the concepts of being an alien and a guest (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans). Hospitality is loving guests, even very strange ones, who are different and foreign to you! The masculine form of the word means foreigner, or stranger, a traveler, someone passing through. Xenophobia comes from this Greek root, the idea of being afraid or having a phobia about foreigners. There is a mutual tension between the foreigner to whom the environment is unfamiliar and uncomfortable, even alarming, and the host for whom the alien is strange, different even sinister (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

Hospitality is the opposite of mutual discomfort, or at least overcomes it with the offer of kindness and refreshment to the guest. It is a love for strangers, guests and people in general. Hospitality breaks down the social walls that separate the alien from the host. In the OT, Israel and the Middle East people in general had a very strong code of conduct with respect to guests and traveling aliens. Once a guest had eaten under your roof you were duty bound to maintain their welfare, even at the expense of you own (Lot in Sodom)! Examples abound in the Bible Abraham and Lot, Manoah and his wife, the old retired prophet that invited back the man of God in Jeroboam’s day, etc. The idea behind hospitality is to treat people with special kindness and attention for a specific season until they move on. It is temporarily taking care of someone’s practical needs in a way that provides relief and refreshing, before they go on. The Holy Spirit can especially help us with this extraordinarily difficult task, in a society that has no room for kindness to strangers, nor any concept of making time for other people, for them to be refreshed ad renewed at our own expense.

When we as believers practice hospitality toward one another or others, it means to provide refreshing and renewal to the spirits and bodies of our guests. It is not the same as benevolence which seeks to meet a vital and sometimes urgent or dire physical need, but a chance to show kindness to someone so that they are renewed and leave refreshed by our generosity. One of the chief examples of this is given to us by Jesus, in his parable about a Samaritan. The Samaritan took care of a Jewish traveler who had been attacked and beaten, even after two other highly placed Jewish leaders had passed him by. At his own expense, he housed him and paid his medical expenses until be was well enough to leave. Jesus told the parable in response to the question who is my neighbor, by someone hoping, no doubt, to get a rather parochial definition, but instead got the answer that everyone in need is your neighbor and God requires us to love them to the extent that we are willing to care for them (Luke 10:25-37).

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