Resolving conflicts among Christians

We must be realistic about our expectations of life in a fallen world. While conducting our relationships with humble integrity, we must not be unrealistic about differences and difficulties that threaten peace between people — even among those who care deeply about each other. This is a truth that must be taught more clearly in the Church.

Jesus clearly anticipated fractures in Christian fellowship and taught us how to resolve them (Matthew 5:23-24;Matthew 18:15ff). We should not be surprised by them but ready to seek reconciliation.

These fractures are very different from the many minor grievances that should be immediately covered in love (I Peter 4:8) or from non-essential matters that should never be permitted to cause conflict in the Church (Romans 14:1-3). Believers must be mature on such matters.

But when sin divides Christian fellowship, a Church must understand the difference between personal forgiveness and reconciling a broken relationship. It’s possible to forgive someone without offering immediate reconciliation. It’s possible for forgiveness to occur in the context of one’s relationship with God apart from contact with an offender (Joseph being a great example). Reconciliation is about restoring broken relationships.

Forgiveness itself is not whitewashing or pretending a wrong never happened when the offense has driven a wedge between people. Forgiveness doesn’t require us to neutralize our sense of justice. The very act itself takes seriously the offense. But forgiveness does involve a surrender of desires for revenge. As such, it is an act of worship in the presence of the God who forgives our sins because it acknowledges God’s sole right to punish the offender (see: Genesis 5:15-20Romans 12:17-21). Forgiveness thus frees us from grudge-bearing vindictiveness and conversely empowers us to love our enemies as God loved us (Romans 5:8).

Priority Scripture places on pursuing peace

  • “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).
  • “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace …” (Romans 14:19).
  • “Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
  • “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy …” (Hebrews 12:14).

What to do when peace does not seem possible

This depends on the nature of the situation. If the person is part of a fellowship of believers, we must follow Biblical mandates for protecting the unity of believers. The steps Jesus taught begin with private confrontation (after the personal preparation of removing logs from our own eyes, Matthew 7:3-5). If private confrontation does not remove the wedge, we move to private conference involving the offender brother and two or three others (enlisting those who are spiritually prepared (Matthew 7:3-5), spiritually mature (Galatians 6:1), and entrusted with spiritual oversight (I Peter 5:1-4Acts 20:28).

This only becomes necessary, if the one confronted has as obstinate attitude (Matthew 18:16). When a sinning member of the church refuses to heed the confrontation of a fellow believer, thus refusing to be restored to proper fellowship, the circle of confrontation must broaden to include one or two others.

Those called to be part of the confrontation do not need to be eyewitnesses of the sin (If they had been, they should have gone to confront the member themselves). Ideally, it would be good to include people who are known and respected by the erring member but this is not always possible.

The one or two witnesses are involved “so that every fact may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (v.16). Their purpose is not to threaten or intimidate, but to help the erring brother to understand the seriousness of the matter. Their main purpose is not really to evaluate the truthfulness of the charge, but to strengthen the rebuke and the call to restoration. After private conference, if the erring member remains obstinate and unwilling to acknowledge and repent of the sin, Jesus teaches a fourth step.

Each of the four steps has as its primary aim the restoration of the brother to proper fellowship. The fourth step is public announcement (Matthew 18:17a). Jesus said, “Tell it to the church (the assembly).”

This step is a sobering reminder that sin is not merely a private and personal matter for Christians. Sin that separates and alienates believers, must be dealt with and resolved. But how do we take this step of public announcement? In our church (due to size), we’ve sometimes handled this in the adult fellowship group the member participates in. Other times, we’ve communicated to all the covenant members through a special meeting of the membership. Some churches make these announcements during communion. Others will use a letter to the membership.

All churches should clearly spell out the process in their documents and seek agreement from the membership to follow it. This step also involves the fellowship in some kind of public confrontation. In Matthew 18:17b, Jesus implies that the church (as an assembly) has made an appeal to the erring member.

When the church is informed, (which reasonably implies that the pastors will be involved) warnings should be made about the need for the whole assembly to avoid gossip, slander and a proud or critical spirit (Matthew 7:3-5Galatians 6:1). Members should not play spiritual detective or allow either a lenient or a punitive attitude. They should be encouraged to pray for repentance and restoration, and to appeal to their fellow member to submit to the leadership of the Church. In such an appeal, one might humbly say, “I don’t know all the details, nor is it my place to know them, but I do want to encourage you to make things right with the church.”

No one should give the erring member the feeling that he is in good fellowship with the Church (cf. II Thessalonians 3:12-14). Never act in cross-purpose with the church. We should not do anything that would cause disrespect for the leadership. Remember the goal: “Win your brother.” It is redemptive!

The final step Jesus taught is public exclusion: removal from membership. The primary aim of this step is to protect the purity of the assembly (see: I Corinthians 5:1-11). Failure to practice these steps invites God’s discipline on the entire assembly (see:I Corinthians 11:30-32Revelation 2:5,1620-233:3-19).”

Steve Cornell

8 Identity Markers

325928430_640To live on mission, we must personalize the identity markers that define who we are and why we’re here.

Review the following 8 identity markers often. Reflect deeply on the meaning and implications of each one. Define your life, sense of calling and purpose around them.  

These identity markers answer important questions: Who am I? Why am I here? What should I do?Who do I serve? How should I live?

  1. Salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13)
  2. Light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16)
  3. Disciple Makers (Matthew 28:18-20)
  4. Witnesses (Acts 1:8: I Peter 3:15-16)
  5. Ambassadors (II Corinthians 5:17-21)
  6. Imitators of God (Luke 6:35-36; Eph. 5:1-2, 25)
  7. Reflectors of God’s Glory (I Corinthians 10:31)
  8. Agents of Grace (Colossians 4:5-6)

Steve Cornell

Separation of Church and State

“In separating the institutions of the Church and the institutions of the State, there was never a thought, nor should we entertain the idea, that there is a separation of religion from public life or religion from politics. Our tradition in the United States is really quite the opposite. Religious people have always been involved in politics. Religious leaders have been leaders of important movements – the movement to abolish slavery, the movement against child labor and abusive and exploitative labor practices toward women, the movement to correct the great injustices of segregation. These were all led by religious people.” (Professor Robert P. George of Princeton University on the separation of Church and State).

Watch the video here 

Who is adequate for this?

Here’s another reason to pray for your pastors:

“Few people grasp the preacher’s challenge. Where else in life does a person have to stand weekly before a mixed audience and speak to them engagingly on the mightiest topics known to humankind: God, life, death, sin, grace, love, hatred, hope, despair and the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Who is even close to being adequate for this challenge?” (Cornelius Plantinga Jr.Reading for Preachers: The Preacher in Conversation with Storytellers, Biographers, Poets, and Journalists (Eerdmans, 2013).

The task of leading God’s people can be daunting and overwhelming. It’s not strange to fee that the size of the calling is larger than the one responding to it. The weight of Paul’s question is always present: “Who is equal to such a task?” (II Corinthians 2:16). Even strong leaders battle feelings of inadequacy. But we must be propelled by these feelings to turn to the source of adequacy and strength. 

The task of spiritual leadership is a continual reminder that God put His treasure in jars of clay so that the power would be from Him and not from us (II Corinthians 4:7). If man’s extremity furnishes the greatest opportunity for God to display His power, leadership affords many of those opportunities!

Reflect on the messages in Psalm 62:1-2 and II Corinthians 4:5-10.

Steve Cornell

Athlete praised for coming out?

Here we go again. Liberal media is relentlessly interested in making homosexuality headline news. What would have been previously left to gossip magazines is now considered front-page story.

The media machine has been in overdrive to praise college athlete, Michael Sam, as an example of courage for admitting that he prefers sex with men. Did we really need to know about his private sexual desires? I don’t want to know.

Even our President and First Lady were quick to publicly congratulate the athlete as an example of courage. While our military, who sacrifice greatly for our freedoms, receive form letters, a gay athlete gets personal tweets of praise! Is there something wrong with this picture? 

And, once again, those who take a different view on the morality of Michael Sam’s sexual lifestyle will be demonized as bigoted hate-mongers who belong to a Neanderthal fringe group of radical right-wing fundamentalist. I’ll personally expect the same barrage of emails accusing me of anything from being a closet homosexual to a Bible-thumping hater (who, as a pastor, should only be spreading love and acceptance). 

Some will even accuse me of keeping homosexuality in the news! This sad response has become so predictable that it strains credulity. The malicious plan behind it is to marginalize people like the Chic-fil-A and Duck Dynasty supporters as racists for turning out by the hundreds of thousands in support of traditional marriage. 

But this issue has absolutely nothing to do with race or civil rights battles for racial equality. Intelligent people see through the manipulation of falsely comparing the kind of sex people want with the racial identity of others. 

Imagine thirty years ago a reputable news agency giving headline attention to the courage of an athlete for telling the nation that he prefers sex with men. Of course, some would like us to believe that current knowledge should lead to a more progressive view of sexuality. Yet there’s not a bit of credible, compelling information to treat homosexual desire as an unalterable condition of birth. 

This is an agenda to exalt and normalize the kind of sex a person wants based on the absolute rule of individual desire. Yet it’s a disservice to society to remove sexuality from a category of human choosing based on creation of humanity as male and female. 

Perhaps some of my readers take the view that what people do sexually in the privacy of their lives is not anyone else’s business as long as it’s legal. Fair enough. Don’t splash it on the front page. If you take the privacy view, you should know that radical gay activists are determined to make their sexual desires your business by demanding your celebration of same-sex lifestyles.

I firmly reject all mistreatment of people who struggle with sexual or gender identity, but I also disagree with those who tell people God created them to be homosexual.   

Many years ago, a college student came to me for counseling about same-sex attraction. Other counselors encouraged him to accept his attraction as normal, as they way God made him. But he told me that he couldn’t accept it no matter how hard he tried. He also admitted that no matter how many laws or people supported homosexuality; it wouldn’t diminish his inner turmoil.

I refused to be one more cruel voice sending him off into hopelessness because I knew that when we live contrary to the way God made and planned for us to live, it’s actually a good thing for us to feel outside of that plan.

I recommended a compassionate alternative by encouraging this young man to come along side fellow strugglers who battle temptations in a context of grace and truth. I invited him to join others in discovering the freedom that can be found in living by Gods grace through His Spirit. Although my struggles are not the ones he experienced, I assured him that I also battle temptations because we all do.

Our Churches must work harder to become these kinds of communities of redemption and restoration and the gospel is “the power of God” (Romans 1:16) that will shape us into them.

Of course, at the end of the day, people are free (in every State of this nation) to pursue a homosexual lifestyle and to reject the validity of communities that believe in and encourage transformation from homosexual living.

No matter how many media groups and radical judges try to change society, the view I take here is the majority in our country and it’s also the view of true love and compassion for all people — without discrimination. 

Steve Cornell

Reflections on the Spirit-filled life

The personal presence and power of the Holy Spirit are essential to living a life that pleases God. The Holy Spirit is also the source of true Christian community and family life. 

“Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18-21, NLT).

A description of character (an objective, measurable reality)

  • Acts 11:24, Barnabas is described as “…a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.”
  • Acts 6:4, the Church is instructed to, “pick out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom.”
1. The meaning of the word filled (Be continuously filled with the Spirit, present tense)
    • Wind filling a sail,
    • Filled with emotions like joy or grief
    • A body filled with leprosy
    • A person being full of deceit 

Carries the idea of total permeation. To allow the influence of the Holy Spirit to permeate every part of your life.

  • “This is something we are told to be doing all the time namely, to keep ourselves full. We keep our lungs full of fresh air by constantly breathing; we are to keep ourselves filled with the Spirit by constantly exposing ourselves to His active ministry towards us” (J.I. Packer).

2. The contrast with getting drunk (Do not ever be drunk on wine, aorist tense)

The person who gets drunk chooses to allow alcohol to be the controlling influence in every function of life… (Your speech, vision, coordination and even your mind are affected when   drunk).

  • “A person, and in this case, a community, whose life is so totally given over to the Spirit that the life and deeds of the Spirit are as obvious in their case as the effects of too much wine are obvious in the other” (John Stott).

Bearing the fruit of the Spirit

A Spirit-filled person’s words, attitudes and actions will be expressed lovingly, joyfully, peacefully, patiently, kindly, generously, faithfully, gently   and with self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

5 Summary points for individual believers and local Churches

  1. Being Spirit-filled is objectively measurable in specific behaviors and attitudes. Any professed subjective experience of the Spirit must be accompanied by these observable and measurable realities  (Gal. 5:21-22; Eph. 5:18-21; cf. the life of Barnabas and the seven chosen in Ac. 6:1-4).
  2. Expect a Spirit-filled individual or community of believers, to show qualities of joy, gratitude and humility.
  3. Expect a Spirit-filled individual or community of believers, not to be characterized by complaining, discontentment; lack of gratitude or conceit and arrogance.
  4. When encountering a Spirit-filled individual or community of believers, expect to see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
  5. The repeated commands in relation to the Spirit-filled life remind us that although the Spirit produces spiritual fruit (godly character qualities), he does not do this in a way that allows believers to be passive recipients of his work (see: Philippians 2:12-13 “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure”).

Practical steps

  1. Consuming God’s Word – Colossians 3:16,17 reveal the same results of dwelling on the Word as the filling of the Spirit in Ephesians 5:18-20.
  2. Confession of sin – As we are in the Word, it will lead to confession of sin.
  3. Conforming to God’ will – The filling of the Spirit happens in submission to God’s will. It involves humility and implies that we choose God’s will.
  • “As we give ourselves to the study of God’s Word, we shall begin at once to experience the benefit of the indwelling Spirit’s cooperating action. For if as we study we are willing to learn and to be led, the Spirit will become our teacher and enlighten and increase our understanding, so that more and more we shall discern what we should believe, and how we should act to please God” ( J.I. Packer).

Steve Cornell

Nine permanent spiritual gifts

We have already considered nine temporary spiritual gifts. Now we turn our attention to nine permanent gifts. The purpose of the permanent gifts is the building up of the body of Christ to the glory of God. The permanent gifts function on the foundation of the temporary gifts, which functioned until the close of the apostolic age (Ephesians 2:20). The permanent spiritual gifts are in every era of church history.

  1. Teaching: (Romans 12:7; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11)

The gift of teaching is a special God-given ability to explain the details and applications of Scripture. The person with this gift will have the desire to study the details of the Scripture: languages, history, geography, and theology. They will be able, as a result of such study, to help others learn through clear communication of the Word of God (Acts 18:11, 26). This gift is a requirement of an elder (1 Timothy 3:3; 2 Timothy 2:24; Titus 1:9). The gift might overlap with a natural ability to teach, but this is not always the case. The gift of teaching also involves some development through the teaching from others who have the gift (Titus 1:9; 2 Timothy 2:2). All believers could be involved in some kinds of teaching (Titus 2:3), but the gift of teaching, as with all spiritual gifts, is a special God-given ability. 

2.  Faith: (1 Corinthians 12:9)

The gift of faith is a God-given endowment of extraordinary trust in God in specific areas of need. These areas of trust might seem unusual to other believers, although each believer is given a measure of faith (Romans 12:3). All believers must walk by faith, but certain believers will be especially gifted with a greater measure of faith for specific purposes in edifying the body of Christ (Colossians 2:6; Acts 6:5). The person with this gift will have a God-given ability to trust God in the face of great obstacles.

3.  Helps: (Romans 12:7; 1 Corinthians 12:28)

The gift of helps is a God-given blessing for serving others. The person with this gift will have a special ability to serve in practical areas of need in the body of Christ. All believers are called to serve, but the person with the gift of helps will have an emphasized ministry in serving (Galatians 5:13; Romans 16:1; Acts 6:1; 2 Timothy 1:16; 1 Corinthians 16:15). Since deacons are leaders of serving, they would be likely recipients of this gift (I Timothy 3).

4.  Exhortation: (Romans 12:8)

The gift of exhortation will include admonishing others toward obedience to God and comforting those in need of encouragement. The person gifted in this area will be involved in individual counsel and guidance of others. They will have a special concern to encourage the discouraged (Acts 4:36; 9:27;15:39).

5.  Administration: (Romans 12:8; 1 Corinthians 12:28)

The gift of administration is a God-given ability to lead, which would include the capacity to organize and direct others. This person is able to take charge and coordinate. The individual with this gift fulfills God’s desire that all things be done in an orderly way. This person would be guiding the person with the gift of helps, and receiving encouragement from one with the gift of exhortation. Titus probably had this gift (Titus 1:5). An elder must demonstrate this ability in his own house and in the church (1 Timothy 3:4-5). This person is ready to take the steering wheel where necessary.

6.  Giving: (Romans 12:8)

The gift of giving is a special God-given ability to give of material substance. All believers are called to give to the work of the Lord (2 Corinthians 9:7-8), but not all will have a special gift. The person with this gift will be characterized by a strong desire to give consistently and sacrificially to the work of the Lord. This gift is not limited to those who are wealthy. The wealthy are instructed to give (1 Timothy 6:17-19), but someone with little substance could have the spiritual gift of giving (Philippians 4:10-16; Acts 4:21-5:11; 2 Corinthians 9:7). The person with this gift will know the truth of being greatly blessed (Acts 20:35). “if it is giving, then give generously” (Romans 12:8).

7.  Mercy: (Romans 12:8)

The gift of mercy is a special God-given ability to show love through acts of kindness. This person tends to evidence extraordinary sympathy and compassion. Expressions of this gift will be found in actions of love toward those who are in difficult circumstances. The person especially gifted in this area will be attracted toward helping the bereaved, the sick, the mentally and physically handicapped, the orphan, and many other special areas. The gift of exhortation would involve words of comfort, while the gift of mercy would involve words and deeds of comfort. “if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully” (Romans 12:8).

All believers are to show mercy to some extent, but not every believer will be especially gifted in this area (Galatians 6:2; James 1:27; 2:14-16).

8.    Pastor-Teacher: (Ephesians 4:11-14)

The gift of pastor-teacher is a two-fold God-given ability to provide for the general care of the flock. The term ‘pastor’ is derived from the verb ‘to shepherd.’ The obvious picture is that of a shepherd and his sheep. This gift functions in the office of an eldership (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1).

The person gifted as pastor-teacher will be a member of the larger group known as elders. This gift will involve feeding, protecting and leading the flock of believers. One may have the gift of teaching separate from the gift of pastor-teacher, but the indication of Ephesians 4:11 is that one who is a pastor also will be a teacher (Titus 1:9; cf. Acts 20:13-30; 1 Peter 5:1-5).

9.  Evangelism: (Ephesians 4:11-13)

The gift of evangelism is a special God-given ability to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and to lead the lost to Jesus Christ. The person gifted in this way would likely be characterized by an extraordinary burden for the unsaved and a distinct ability to present the gospel in clear terms.

In the New Testament it is evident that the evangelist functioned with the goal of church planting. While there is a place for mass evangelism, the New Testament seems to emphasize localized evangelism. Where the person with the gift of evangelism leaves off, the person with the gift of pastor-teacher picks up.  All believers are responsible to be witnesses for their Savior (Acts 1:8), but not all have the gift of evangelism.


We should praise our risen Lord that He has provided the church, His body, with sufficient spiritual gifts and His completed Word. As we locate and use our gift or gifts that God has given us, remember that all spiritual gifts are useless if they do not function in love (see: 1 Corinthians 13:1-8a).

Steve Cornell

Nine temporary spiritual gifts

God gave the Church some spiritual gifts for a temporary purpose until the close of the apostolic period.

It’s not unusual for God to give special gifts for a limited period of time. He gave confirming signs to Moses that were never intended for common practice among the Israelites (Exodus 4:17 – 11:10). It would be wrong to assume that what Moses was enabled to do was intended as a norm for God’s people at all times. God also gave Elijah special powers that were not intended for normal practice among the prophets of Israel (1 Kings 17:17-24).

The Lord Jesus Himself did special signs during His ministry (John 3:2; 20:30-31; Acts 2:22) and God allowed signs and wonders to take place under the direction of the Apostles (Acts 5:12-16; 14:3; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3-4).  This covers every period of biblical history: law, prophets, the gospels and the apostolic age.

A common reality in each period in which God allowed miraculous signs was the unfinished written revelation of God. Since the Bible was not complete as we have it today, many conclude that God used signs to confirm His message and messengers.

Nowhere does God indicate that the signs of the apostolic age were to be the normal practice of the church in every age. Rather, God indicates that the signs had a specific purpose directly related to the ministry of the Apostles (2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3-4). Scripture specifically states that the gifts of apostleship and prophecy were foundational to the Church (Ephesians 2:19-20).

There are good reasons to anticipate the cessation of miraculous gifts after the apostolic age. We have the complete Word of God today in the sixty-six books of the Bible, and that word doesn’t need signs to confirm its validity (see: John 20:30-31). Let’s consider each gift in this category.

1. Apostleship (Ephesians 4:11;1 Corinthians 12:28)

‘Apostle,’ in its specialized meaning, refers to men who had been with the Lord from His baptism to His resurrection (Acts 1:21-22). They had seen the risen Lord and were appointed as official witnesses of His resurrection (Acts1:2-3; 1 Corinthians 15:8; Mark 3:13-14). 

A specialized meaning of apostleship extended to the twelve apostles and Paul. God confirmed the work of the apostles with signs as He gave His revelation through them (2 Corinthians 12:12; Galatians 1:12; Acts 5:12; 1 Thessalonians 2:13).

Ephesians 2:20 clearly revealed that apostleship fulfilled a foundational purpose. The word ‘apostle’ means ‘sent-one,’ – one commissioned by someone else. But the meaning of the word alone is not sufficient to define the specialized use of apostleship in the New Testament. There was also a broader use of the word ‘apostle’ in Scripture to refer to apostles of the church.

2. Prophesying (Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:10; 14:1-40; Ephesians 4:11)

Prophesying in its general meaning has to do with proclamation of truth or preaching. Prophesying in its limited sense had to do with receiving and speaking a message that came directly from God (1 Corinthians 14:29-32). The message may have been predictive of the future or a revelation from God concerning the past or the present.

This gift, as that of apostleship, was foundational (Ephesians 2:20). Prior to the completion of the written Word of God, the gift of prophecy was vitally important to the people of God.

The New Testament is now complete so prophesying would take place only in the limited sense of proclamation of the written word, which is the faith that has been ‘once for all’ delivered to the saints (Jude 3). The preacher today can be referred to as a prophet only in this limited sense.

3. Distinguishing of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10)

Distinguishing (or “discerning”) of spirits was the special ability to discern between true and false revelation. Before the written Word was completed, this was a vitally important gift because many false teachers claimed to bring revelation from God. This gift was protective. It served to verify the true message from God. The key references in relation to the function of this gift are in three different places (1 Corinthians 14:29; 1 John 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21).

The gift of distinguishing spirits ceased with the completion of Scriptures because it fulfilled its purpose. Today all such distinctions are made by the truth revealed in Scripture alone. The Bible is the final appeal for faith and practice. 

4. Message of wisdom (1 Corinthians 12:8)

The message of wisdom was the special ability for perceiving and presenting truth revealed by God. 1 Corinthians 2:6-13 indicates that the wisdom under consideration is truth revealed by God. This gift would have been characteristic of the foundational gifts of apostleship and prophesying in Ephesians 2:20. The accomplishments related to this gift (as with the others) are enjoyed today in the completed Scriptures.

The temporary nature of this gift does not exclude the ongoing necessity of wisdom (Philippians 1:9-11;Colossians 1:28; 2:2-3; James 1:5). But the message of wisdom was a special ability for a special time during which God was giving His revelation.

5. Message of knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8)

The message of knowledge seems closely related to the gift of wisdom. Knowledge may deal with the ability to understand the wisdom of God correctly. While it is true that all believers are to grow in knowledge (Colossians 1:9), the message of knowledge would have had a special function for a time when the written Word was not completed. This gift would also have been related to the gifts of apostleship and prophesying. All knowledge of God’s revealed truth now comes from the Bible.

6. Miracles (1 Corinthians 12:10, 28)

The gift of miracles was a special ability to exercise divine power. The book of Acts displays this gift functioning either by an apostle or the one directly commissioned by an apostle. Examples of this general ability to do miracles can be found throughout the book of Acts (Acts 3:1-9; 5:8-11; 13:8-11). According to 2 Corinthians 12:12, miracles functioned as authenticating signs of true apostles.

The temporary nature of the gift of miracles does not imply that God cannot do the miraculous today. God had a specific purpose for the gift of miracles within the apostolic age. The new birth is itself a miraculous work of God (Titus 3:5).

7. Healing

The gift of healing, as the gift of miracles, is found throughout the book of Acts. The gift of healing is one example of the miraculous. A careful study of the healing ministry of the Lord Jesus and His Apostles exposes the phony the healings that preachers claim to do today (Mark 1:4; John 9:1-25; Matthew 14:35-36; John 11:43-44; Acts 9:36-41).

The miraculous gifts of healings, tongues and interpretation of tongues all belong to the apostolic age for the specific purpose of confirming God’s message and messengers (Hebrews 2:3-4; 2 Corinthians 12:12).

As was indicated earlier, this temporary purpose is consistent with Biblical history. The Apostle Paul exercised the gift of healing in Ephesus (Acts 19:11-12); however, there were times when he did not use this gift (Philippians 2:27; 1 Timothy 5:23; 2 Timothy 4:20). There is no question as to God’s ability to heal today.  It is clearly evident that God still heals, but the gift of healing fulfilled a special divinely appointed purpose in the apostolic age. While we can still experience faith related healing (James 5:15), we should not look to faith healers for receiving God’s healing.

8. Tongues: (1 Corinthians 12:10)

Tongues (as a gift) appear to be a God-given ability to speak in a known language that was never learned by the one speaking. Scripture indicates that the gift of tongues was related to known languages (Acts 2:4-6; Acts 10:45-47; 11:15). It is most fitting with the context of Scripture to view the gift of tongues as a supernatural ability to speak in foreign languages.

This gift has been the focus of considerable confusion and conflict. Most of the confusion is the result of elevating experience over Scripture. The prominence the gift of tongues receives in some churches and denominations is a direct violation of Scripture. Much of the wrong approach to this gift is based on careless approaches to the first book of Corinthians.

The Corinthian church was known for their abuse of this gift. We must be cautious about using examples from the Church at Corinth to form a doctrine about tongues because the tone of Corinthians regarding tongues is one of rebuke.

The Corinthian Church was guilty of counterfeiting the real gift of tongues under the influence of commonly used ecstatic utterances in heathen worship. The Apostle Paul is rebuking the Corinthians for mixing pagan practices with Christian worship.

The gift of tongues, as all other spiritual gifts, was given according to the will of God and it’s very clear that God did not intend for everyone to have the gift of (1 Corinthians 12:29-30). A comparison of 1 Corinthians 14:5 and 7:7 will reveal that the Apostle Paul’s statement in 14:5 was simply a personal desire, not a command.

The purpose of the gift of tongues was identical to all the miraculous gifts. Hebrews 2:3-4 reveals that the purpose was to confirm God’s message and messengers. The gift of tongues was also given as a sign to unbelievers, especially to unbelieving Jews (1 Corinthians 14:21-22). This gift was limited to the apostolic age according to its purpose and is unnecessary today because we have the completed written Word of God.

9. Interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10)

The gift of interpretation of tongues was a supernatural ability to interpret a known language never learned by the interpreter. This gift eliminated confusion and accompanied the gift of tongues as one of the confirming sign gifts. The gift of interpretation took place in the gathering of the local church (1 Corinthians 14).

Concluding Note:

In using the title “temporary” regarding spiritual gifts, I am not implying that God can no longer perform such miracles. Instead, I am recognizing that the temporary gifts all took place in the apostolic age for the purpose of revealing and confirming God’s message and messengers. Rather than pursuing these gifts, we should praise God that we have the final court of appeal in His living and written Word. Our efforts are better directed toward the study and proclamation of that written Word.

Steve Cornell

Defining Spiritual Gifts

A spiritual gift is a God-given ability that functions through a member of the body of Christ for the benefit of the entire body to the glory of God. These gifts are given according to God’s will, based on God’s grace and for God’s glory (Romans 12:3,6;1 Corinthians 12:6; 15:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-10; I Peter 4:11-12).

According to 1 Peter 4:11, spiritual gifts are divided functionally based on two categories – verbal and service. Spiritual gifts may also be divided according to duration: temporary or permanent.

Spiritual gifts must not be confused with places of service or special ministries. For example, there is nothing listed as a spiritual gift for youth work or music ministry. Although we ought to give glory to God for all areas of service and talent, we must recognize spiritual the gifts specifically listed in the Scriptures.

                           Five lists of spiritual gifts

Romans 12:6-8                                        1 Corinthians 12:6-10

Prophesying                                                Message of wisdom

Serving                                                         Message of knowledge

Teaching                                                       Faith

Encouraging                                                  Healing

Giving                                                             Miracles

Leading                                                           Prophecy

Showing mercy                                               Distinguishing between spirits


Interpretation of tongues

1 Corinthians 12:28                                    Ephesians 4:11

Apostleship                                                    Apostleship

Prophesying                                                   Prophesying

Teaching                                                          Evangelizing

Miracles                                                           Pastor-teacher


Helping                                                            1 Peter 4:11           

Administration                                                 Speaking

Tongues                                                            Serving

Some of the gifts overlap with one another. The five lists together present eighteen individual gifts for discussion.

              Functional division of spiritual gifts

Speaking                                                            Serving

1. Prophesying                                                1. Giving

2. Teaching                                                      2. Administration

3. Apostleship                                                  3. Mercy

4. Evangelism                                                   4. Faith

5. Pastor-Teacher                                             5. Healing

6. Exhortation                                                  6. Miracles

7. Tongues                                                        7. Helping

8. Interpretation of tongues

9. Distinguishing of spirits

10. Message of wisdom

11. Message of knowledge

                 Durative division of spiritual gifts

Temporary                                                            Permanent

1. Apostleship                                                      1. Teaching

2. Prophesying                                                     2. Faith

3. Distinguishing of spirits                                  3. Helps

4. Message of wisdom                                         4. Exhortation

5. Message of knowledge                                    5. Administration

6. Miracles                                                            6. Giving

7. Healing                                                             7. Mercy

8. Tongues                                                            8. Pastor-teacher

9. Interpretation of tongues                               9. Evangelism

The durative division will be used for the purpose of this study.

Steve Cornell