The Goal of Spiritual Gifts

The debate started by “The Strange Fire Conference” is quite exhausting to follow. Nevertheless, my purpose in this post is not list a bunch of reasons on “”Why I am a cessationist” or “Why I am not a cessationist”. I think instead of fighting over whether spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues still exist or not, looking at the ultimate purpose of spiritual gifts will be more helpful.

“Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.  On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.” (1 Corinthians 14: 1-5)

 

It is no coincidence that Paul, before urging us to to pursue spiritual gifts, to pursue love first. And Paul has made it clear that the goal of spiritual gifts is to build up the Church. What good does it do if the emphasis on such gifts lead us to division among churches while exalting ourselves? Consider the following quotes:

” There was nothing wrong with the Corinthian Christians’ desire for spiritual gifts. But they made a godly desire into an obsessive pursuit, when the main pursuit for Christians should be love.” – David Guzik

“Gifts of healings and workings of miracles are not for self-exaltation but for the benefit of others. They could easily become the basis of pride just like teaching or preaching or mercy or hospitality or prophecy or any of the gifts. But they are meant to be expressions of love” – John Piper

“Where Satan does not succeed in taking the Bible from us, he works hard at taking us from the Bible…He does this simply by getting Christians to focus their attention on seeking some supernatural experience. As a result, those who seek after the experiences of others have neither time nor interest in searching the Scriptures for God’s truth.”-S. Michael Houdmann

When we speak and prophesy, we can perhaps ask ourselves the following:

  • Does what I speak edify and build up others? or may it cause others to stumble?
  • Does it bring peace in Christ or confusion?
  • Is the focus ultimately on Jesus or on men?
  • Even if the experience is real, is it entirely Biblical? Could it be a counterfeit spiritual experience? Does it leave opportunities for Satan?

Ephesians 4:29 also serves as a great reminder for us, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29). By God’s grace, let’s us speak only things that are for building up. Let’s continue on 1 Corinthians 14,  “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” (1 Corinthians 14: 23-26). To conclude, as we pursue Christ and love, let all things, not just a few things, be done for building up. May we use such gifts wisely.

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