The Gift That Includes All Gifts
Other than the subject of water baptism, there is probably no other subject that has been the ground for as much contention and division in the church today as the matter of spiritual and/or supernatural gifts. For years I have personally wrestled with the subject as I've studied it in the Bible. Which of the various "gifts of the Spirit" are actively given by God or have passed away? How are they given and upon whom? And when? How do they function?
Observing what is actually going on in the name of spiritual gifts has certainly added to the confusion. Many people who claimed to have some gift were actually bringing reproach to the name of Christ by the exercise of whatever it was that they had. There must be a final authority we can appeal to in the midst of the confusion, opinions, and traditions of men.
For the present dispensation of the Grace of God, that spokesman with the authority and power of God would be Paul, the Apostle of and to the Gentiles (Rom 11:13). We should then listen closely to the words he wrote down whereby we can understand the truth about gifts.
Two years ago the Wisconsin Minnesota Timothy Fellowship in its doctrinal statement wrote concerning gifts:
"All the sign gifts of the Acts period such as tongues, prophecy, and healing [1Cor 12:1-31], being temporary in character, have ceased. (1Cor 13:8-11). Presently, and until the catching away of the One Body, there are only two offices in the Body of Christ. These offices being the office of bishops and the office of deacons. (1Tim 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9). Faithful men [2Tim 2:2] hold these offices of trust and responsibility to serve and rule. (1Tim 5:17)." [A copy of our position on doctrinal issues is available upon request. Find out from us where we stand.]
As one reads the above doctrinal position on gifts it seems that there are two unrelated issues tied together: one, being the sign gifts of the Acts period and the other, being the two offices of responsible trust within the Body of Christ that are presently with us.
May the reader of this article endure with us through this series as these issues are given expanded coverage. We will search these crucial matters concerning God's design for every saint's life in ministry of the Truth.
In Rom 1:11-12, Paul expresses his hearts desire to see the believers at Rome:
"For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me."
We find here the reason for Paul's earnest desire to see the saints at Rome. It was that he might impart to them some spiritual gift. Now we ask ourselves, "What sort of gift is it that he wants to impart to them?"
It will be helpful to remember that the Epistle to the Romans was written in about 58 A.D. during Paul's Acts ministry. It was written during the diminishing of Israel. It was written during a time when the Word of God had not yet been completely given; that is, all sixty-six books of the Bible had not yet been written.
As we look at the context of this passage we see that the gift that Paul is hoping to impart would result in these Roman believers being established. It would also result in Paul being comforted together with them. So too, the means of that comfort was going to be the mutual faith both of Paul and these dear saints.
So in summary, this spiritual gift he wanted to impart would:
There has been offered several answers to this question, but let us be a workman of the Word rightly dividing the Scriptures.
Pentecostalism and the Charismatic renewal responds with the answer that it was Paul's desire that the saints at Rome receive one of the many diversities of gifts that Paul talked about in 1Cor 12:4-11. The diversities of gifts given by One Spirit (1Cor 12-14) were still in effect during this time period when Romans was written. But we note in 1Cor 12:11 that these gifts are not given to the assembly at large but to individuals by the Spirit, "Dividing to every man severally as he will."
It is evident from 1Cor 12:28-30 that God did set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, etc, but not all in the church are these.
While it is true that the spiritual gifts of 1Cor 12-14 were given for the purpose of edifying the whole assembly [1Cor 14:12,26], they were none-the-less given to individual members in particular (1Cor 12:27).
Also, these particular spiritual gifts were given directly by the Spirit and not imparted by agency of other believers (i.e. Paul did not impart these spiritual gifts).
Additionally, the gift of tongues that is identified by Paul in 1Cor 12-14 was given for a sign. (1Cor 14:22) This is where we get the term sign gift. Particularly within the Body, this gift witnessed of God changing the dispensations; from the dispensation of Law and postponing the dispensation of the Kingdom, for a season, with the dispensation of the Grace of God being God's purpose and standard operating procedure today (Eph 3:1-4).
This witness was to the nation of Israel, the unbeliever as Paul writes this Epistle (1Cor 1:22 - "For the Jews require a sign,..."). The gift of tongues was given, at that time, by the Spirit to particular individuals in the One Body "...for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not:..." (1Cor 14:22)
A cursory reading of chapter 14 will reveal to the open minded reader that the gift of tongues was not so much designed to "establish" or "edify", but rather to serve as evidence that God's judgment/wrath had fallen upon unbelieving Israel to the uttermost (1Thess 2:16).
The sign gift of tongues given by the Spirit to the saints of the One Body was a sign that judgment had fallen on Israel. It was a sign to the unbelieving nation that God was now dealing with the Gentiles apart from Israel and her covenants of promise.
It is clear from 1Cor 13:8 that the sign gift of tongues is listed with two other gifts; those being the gift of prophecy and the gift of knowledge. It is not our intent to write on these other gifts, but suffice it to say that verses 8-10 also reveals that Paul the Apostle was aware that these spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit were to fail, cease, and vanish. These were to be "done away" as they were only "in part" and not the full, complete perfect spiritual gift.
A careful reading of these verses, especially verse 10, will convince any trusting soul that when the complete, full, perfect knowledge of God's revelation was come [i.e.--the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the Revelation of the Mystery--Rom 16:25; Eph 1:9; 3:3-4; 4:13; Phil 1:9-11; Col 1:9, 25-26], the sign gifts were to fail, cease, and vanish. That verse reads,
"But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away."
Plainly put, the sign gifts would be done away by God Himself when the full revelation of the Mystery was given to Paul the Apostle. We find this particular revelation of Jesus Christ fully and completely given and written down by Paul in His prison Epistles. It is Paul who wrote of his knowledge of this Mystery. Eph 3:1-4 states:
"For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)"
Paul's awareness that the perfect (full, complete) would come became a reality during his two-year imprisonment (61-63 A.D). During this time he pens Ephesians, Colossians, and Philippians which contains the full, complete, perfect knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ according to this Mystery.
Thus, these spiritual gifts of 1Cor 12-14 were definitely on their way out and would soon pass from the Body of Christ church. Therefore Paul's desire to impart to the saints at Rome in 58 A.D. "some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;" would not include these miraculous and spectacular Spirit given sign gifts. For one can not be established in that which is temporal and which is scheduled by God to be done away when the perfect is come.
We further our consideration of our question about Rom 1:11-12 by now listing the four different categories of gifts that one finds in the epistles for which Paul was the human writer.
We have given consideration to the Charismatic contention that Paul desired to impart one or more of the sign gifts listed in 1Cor chapter 12. There were a number of conclusions that were evident as we examined the issues of 1Cor 12-14. We summarize them here:
These sign gifts were temporary and on their out when Paul wrote Romans in about 58 A.D. We concluded that these gifts were not on the list of possibilities for the gift that would establish the believers and thus not what Paul had in mind when he desired to impart "some spiritual gifts, to the end ye may be established".
But let us now consider the ministry gifts as listed in Eph 4:11. All five of these gifts were fully in effect at the time that Paul wrote to the Roman saints. These ministry gifts were given for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, and for the edifying of the Body of Christ. We see then that only perfected saints can do the work of the ministry and properly effect, within the Body of Christ, godly edifying (Eph. 4:12, 16).
It is apparent that these ministry gifts were imparted by the laying on of the hands of an apostle. Paul had bestowed such a gift on Timothy as he said "by the putting on of my hands" (2Tim. 1:6). It is also apparent that the bestowing of the ministry gifts was associated with prophecy and also with the agreement of the elders.
Consider 1Tim 4:14 where Paul tells Timothy "Neglect not the gift that is in thee by prophecy, with the laying on the hands of the presbytery [i.e. a body of elders]".
If Timothy had only one gift it is clear by comparing 1Thess 1:1,6,9 with 1Thess 2:4-6 that it was the gift of being an apostle.
Those Scriptures that Paul wrote reveals that men like Timothy, Apollos, Barnabas, Silvanus, and others, were God's body of Christ 'apostles' (1Cor 4:6,9; 2Cor 8:23; Act 13:4 cf 14:4; Phil 2:25).
They had apostleships in a secondary sense co-laboring in association with Paul who was uniquely the one apostle of/to the Gentiles with the visions and revelations of Jesus Christ according to the Mystery (Rom 11:13; Gal 1:11-12; 1Tim 2:5-7; 2Tim 1:9-11). All others timely received Paul's knowledge of the Mystery by revelation of the Holy Spirit in conjunction with Paul's writings (Eph 3:3-5).
This mode of operation for imparting these ministry gifts involved a series of steps as follows:
It can be seen from 1Cor 12:28-28 and from our passage of Eph 4:11 that God "set some" and "gave some" of these gifts. Yet Paul's desire in Rom 1:11 relates to all the saints in Rome with him imparting "some spiritual gift". Surely then, one or another of the ministry gifts would not be a likely choice for Paul to desire to impart to the Roman saints. But let's give some additional and careful consideration to the passage in Ephesians 4.
In verse 11 of the A.V. the tense of the English verb "gave" is past tense (T.R. Greek-aorist). It is not the present tense (English-giving) as if it were action that is going on now. In the Greek, it is not the perfect tense as action that took place in the past with continuing results. It is simply a matter that God at some point in the past from when Paul wrote Ephesians "gave" the gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.
In verse 13 we are told how long He gave them [i.e. their duration or functioning]. They were given "till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge [epignosis-full knowledge] of the Son of God, unto a perfect [i.e. complete-the same word as is used in 1Cor 13:10] man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."
This leads us to ask ourselves another question: "What is 'the unity of the faith'?" The "unity of the faith" spoken of here is the seven-fold unity listed just a few verses earlier in Eph 4: 4-6.
The importance of coming to the unity of the faith is illustrated and clearly comprehended by comparing Paul's actions in baptizing several believers in water during his pre-prison ministry (Acts 16:33 & 1Cor 1:17) and, at the same time preaching another baptism - the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit into One Body (1Cor 12:12-13). When the full revelation was given on the subject, Paul stated "There is one baptism;" that obviously being the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit which joins the believer eternally to the Savior. [see endnote #3]
We now come to a very important issue that needs to be present in every saints reasoning and mediation when he reads and studies the Word of Truth. That issue is one of an element of timing. The Word of God will not give its full impact upon the believer's understanding unless he takes heed to the words on the page which reveal this element of timing. For the sake of our article the term progressive revelation is being used to draw attention to this timing factor that is present concerning our subject of gifts.
As stated earlier our Lord taught Paul a body of truth (the Mystery) which was never given to angel or man before that revelation (Gal 1:11-12; Eph 3:1-4) and that He did it, not all at once, but in a series of unveilings or disclosures (2Cor 12:1,7; Acts 26:16),
In the pre-prison epistles, Paul spoke of the knowledge of Christ that he received by direct revelation (the Greek word for knowledge is "gnosis" meaning simply knowledge). In his prison epistles with Paul having received the full revelation of Jesus Christ according to the Mystery he uses the Greek word "epignosis" meaning full knowledge (Eph 1:17; 4:13; Phil 1:9; Col 1:9,10; 3:10). This is also true in the pastoral epistles (1Tim 2:4; 2Tim 3:7).
Congruent with this progressive revelation of the Truth for today, we also see the supernatural manifestations of the Spirit giving way to the exercise of faith in the full knowledge of the Word of God. That is why you will notice a gradual shift in the apostle's ministry during the period covered by the Book of Acts. Paul did some very Jewish things: he circumcised Timothy (Acts 16:3), kept a Jewish vow (Acts 21:26), even performed signs, special miracles, and wonders among the Gentiles (Acts 13:11; 15:12; 19:11-12; 28:6) in that period which he did not and could/would not do later. The loss of his mighty gift of healing is certainly illustrative of the fact that things were changing (Acts 19:12; 28:8.9 cf Phil 2:25-27; 2Tim 4:20).
During the Acts period Paul acknowledged that members of the Body of Christ only "saw through a glass, darkly" as far as the revelation of God's program for today is concerned (1Cor 13:12). That is, they were seeing the overall program of God as if it were a wavy reflection as in a poor mirror (their mirrors were just polished brass). It was not all clear yet, for the perfect, complete, full knowledge of Christ according to the Mystery was not all yet given to Paul.
Thus Paul's hope was that, when he came to Rome, he would have a clear picture (i.e. as if looking face to face--1Cor 13:12) of God's program for the Body of Christ given to him through revelations of Jesus Christ according to the Mystery. That is the spiritual blessing that he wanted to impart to the Roman believers when he came to Rome. This is what would "establish" all these saints (Rom 1:11; 16:25; Col 2:6-7 cf 2Tim 2:7).
It goes without saying in Grace circles, as in essentially all of fundamentalism, that it is accepted as sound doctrinal teaching that the sign gifts of 1Cor 12 have passed away. That list of gifts is therefore easy to deal with. It is also a well established fact to true students of Scripture that the gifts of apostles and prophets have passed away. Yet we find prophecy on every one of these lists. Do we then have any justification in rejecting one or more gifts on the list as operative today, while keeping the rest? This picking and choosing gifts certainly can not be justified by the text of any of the passages covering the gifts.
A study of the gift of prophecy is particularly interesting in the matter of progressive revelation. In Rom 12:6 we find that the person in the Body of Christ with this gift was to "prophesy according to the proportion of faith." The believer was to prophesy according to the proportion of the "mystery" (the terms "the faith" and "the mystery" are synonymous in Paul's epistles) that had been thus far revealed.
These Body of Christ prophets obviously could speak no more than that which was revealed at the time when they prophesied. Likewise, they were to speak no less than what was revealed. The ministry of the prophets were thus closely associated with the revelation of the mystery and with the establishment of what we today call the canon of Scripture wherein we find the One Faith of the present Dispensation of Grace. Their role and function was to identify what was scripture and what was not.
Consider the fact that when the decision came from the Jerusalem conference in Acts 15, two men who were prophets were sent to witness that the decision was the authoritative voice of the counsel and the Holy Ghost concerning the matter at hand (Acts 15:25-32). Consider also the fact that when Paul's apostolic authority was called into question he appealed to these prophets to witness to the fact that what he wrote was indeed "the commandments of the Lord"--i.e. that his writings are the Word of God (1Cor 14:37).
In Rom 16:25-26, Paul states the truth that the revelation of the mystery which is revealed through his writings are "the scriptures of the prophets" (These prophets whose job it was to identify what was scripture and what was not had identified his writings as Scripture). Since Paul's ministry was to complete the Word of God (Col 1:25) with the mystery (Col 1:26), the function and the office of the Body prophets ceased when Paul's ministry was finished and the Word of God was complete and our Bible, all sixty-six books, was collected, collated, and copied. That was shortly after the writing of 2Timothy.
While the revelation of the mystery was in progress and until it was complete, the work of the ministry had to depend upon some supernatural gifts that we call ministry gifts. These gifts were given "for the perfecting of the saints" so that the saints could do "the work of the ministry" and also do "the edifying of the Body of Christ."
When the revelation was complete, it is apparent that not only the sign gifts but the ministry gifts ceased as well. The functions of the service gifts and some of the ministry gifts are still every bit as much in need today as they were during the apostolic era. However, today these needs are served by the working of God in vessels fit for the Master's use who are prepared unto every good work by Scriptures rightly divided, rather than through a special spiritual gift (2Tim 2:18-21; 3:16-17; 4:5).
What then was the gift that Paul was hoping to impart to these Romans? Paul's statement in Roman 15:29 gives us much help in understanding it. There he states "I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ". Paul in 58 A.D. was looking forward in anticipation to the time when the partial, the incomplete, and the childish things of the Acts period would give way to the full, complete, and perfect (mature) things of the completed Word of God. Paul tells us what that is in 2Tim 3:16-17:
All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God [the one new man of Eph 2:15] may be perfect [cf Eph 4:13 & 1Cor 13:10], throughly furnished unto all good works."
It is very apparent that Paul did live until the time when "that which is perfect" did come and "that which is in part" was done away. We today have that perfect gift in the written Word of God. Though supernatural manifestations of the Spirit have ceased, the Word of God can and will produce in the yielded believer that which abides: faith (Rom 10:17), hope (Rom 5:2-5; 8:24; 15:4), and charity (1Tim 1:15).
Being so equipped or 'gifted' by God, every member of Christ Body can stand against doctrinal and personal compromise, traditions of men which make void the Word of God, and apostasy in these perilous times because the Bible is the completed revelation of the will of God for us today.
Today, any spiritual need that could ever be met by means of supernatural gifts can now be met by the Holy Spirit of God working in the believer "to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil 2:13).
Today, we do not look for men with supernatural endowments to minister the Word of God to the Church which is Christ's Body, rather we should look to the complete and infallible Word of God, and for elders who meet the qualifications of 1Tim 3 to "labor in the word and doctrine."
Today, God's fully revealed will is to have faithful men, who in a spirit of meekness and humility, endeavor to make all men see "what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God" (Eph 3:9).
How does one identify a faithful man midst all the denominational traditions and religious hype? The completed Word of God tells us that a man is to take heed how he builds (labors in ministry) upon that foundation which Paul laid. A faithful man in ministry will neither add to or subtract from the sound doctrinal things which Paul spoke among many witnesses making sure he ministers the same Sound Doctrine (2Tim 2:2; 1Tim 1:10f-11; Titus 1:2-3). To accomplish such divine imperative, that man in ministry will have to "labor in the word and doctrine", not expecting some spiritual endowment or gift to carry him in and through ministry (1Tim 4:6,13,15-16; 5:17 cf Matt 10:19,20).
It is Paul's gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the Revelation of the Mystery that establishes believers (Rom 16:25). This involves the written Word of God doing the work giving doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness.
We conclude therefore, that the gift that includes every gift is the complete written revelation of the Word and the will of God. For us English speaking people the only translation available that is the written Word of God is the Authorized Version (KJV) since it only is translated from the Masoretic Text (O.T.) and Received Text (N.T.) [request our Timothy Fellowship's Doctrinal Statement]. We pray that God would find yielded men who will labor in the Word to learn it rightly divided, and who will then labor and live in the doctrine to teach it to others.
Note #1. God used the gift of tongues for a sign to unbeliever's twice.
A. The pouring out of the Spirit (as evidenced by tongues) was a sign that Israel was to look for in waiting for the kingdom promised to them in the writings of the prophets. At Pentecost, God used tongues among the believing remnant of Israel witnessing that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed their Messiah and that the Kingdom promised to Israel throughout the entire Old Testament Scriptures was now being offered to them. But Israel (except for a remnant) remained in unbelief in spite of the signs.
B. When Israel as a nation refused to receive Christ as her King, God revealed a whole new program--"the Dispensation of the Grace of God" and with it a whole new body of truth--"the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery" (Rom 16:25; 1Cor 2:6-8; 9:17; Gal 1:11-12; Acts 20:24; Eph.3:1-3). God did this through Paul, the former persecutor, turned special Apostle. This "but now" program involved God working through a new agency-- "the church which is Christ's Body" (Eph 1:22-23; Col. 1:24; Gal 3:27-28; 1Cor 12:12-13). This new agency is essentially Gentile in its makeup. God again used tongues in the Body of Christ church at Corinth to testify to the unbelieving Nation that He was now working through this new agency. It was a testimony to Israel that Divine wrath/judgement had come upon them to the uttermost as the dawn of the Dispensation of Grace broke through the dark gloomy prophetic clouds of the Day of the Lord which, at that time, was upon Israel and the world (1Thess 2:16; Acts 2:20; 3:24). God's new issue was now the revelation of the Mystery as revealed to and through the Gentile Apostle, Paul (Rom 11:13).
Note #2. Paul also associates the supernatural gifts of tongues, knowledge, and prophecy with the "partial" (1Cor 13:8-10). But Paul clearly stated that knowledge (as a super natural gift) would "vanish", that prophecy (as a super natural gift) would "fail", and that tongues (as a supernatural gift) would "cease" This would happen "when that which is perfect [complete] is come". Complete knowledge and complete prophesy did come with the complete revelation of the mystery. The ministry to which God had called Paul was simple. He was to "fulfil [i.e. fulfill in the sense of fill full or complete] the Word of God" (Col 1:25). And, how was he to complete the Word of God? He was to complete the Word of God with the full knowledge (epignosis-Greek) of "The Mystery" which Christ revealed to and through him and of which Paul wrote down (Col 1:26; Eph 3:3-4).
Paul's only aspiration in life was to complete that task of ministry (Acts 20:24). In the last chapter of Holy Scripture written by Paul just before his martyrdom he states "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:" (2Tim 4:7). By the time Paul finished this epistle, the revelation of the Mystery was complete and "that which is perfect" (1Cor 13:10) had finally come and was fully given and written down (c.61-63 A.D.). The partial and all that went with it had now passed away.
Note #3. Note also for the benefit of those who want to refer to the original language that the mode of the verb "come" is the subjunctive mode. That is the mode of potential which is most significant. During the early ministry of Paul, believers did not have the potential to come to the unity of the faith because (as in the case with baptism) there was as yet no unity but a plurality. With the full revelation of the mystery, every believer then had the potential to come to the "unity of the faith" because there is now but "one faith" (Eph 4:5) fully and completely revealed in Paul's prison Epistles. This is the body of Truth [i.e. the faith] that is God's present Truth in its fullness for this Dispensation. We can likewise now all potentially come "unto a perfect man" because "that which is perfect" of 1Cor 13:10 (i.e. full knowledge and full prophesy) came in Paul's life and through his ministry.
In addition to that, we need "be no more children" as were the believers at the time of the writing of 1Cor 13:11. Before the full revelation of the mystery was given, God gave special gifts to men whereby these men would be the means of "the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry" When the full revelation came, these gifts also passed away.
While it is true that we today have men who do the work of evangelists, pastors (i.e. shepherds), and teachers, it is clear that they do not do it on the basis of a supernatural gift but rather on the basis of "laboring in the Word and doctrine" (1Tim 5:17). Today, it is God working in the yielded believer through His completed Word which enables the church to enjoy the blessing that were once imparted as supernatural gifts (Phil 2:13; 2Tim 2:21).