It’s Okay (even Encouraged!) to Want to Receive Gifts – It just Depends on What Kind…

One thing I have found lacking in the Church in my experience is the desire among the brethren for spiritual gifts. We are commanded by Paul to earnestly desire the gifts of the Spirit and so we should do so (1 Corinthians 14:1). The exercising of gifts was frequently used throughout the Book of Acts as a sign to nonbelievers, leading many to come to faith (the story of Pentecost being the quintessential example in Acts Chapter 2). I believe that it is the lack of the practice of gifts that is preventing many nonbelievers from being converted. We must build ourselves up in all spiritual gifts the Lord sees fit to give us that we may save the lost.

What are spiritual gifts?

They include, but are not limited to: words of knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8), words of wisdom (id), gifts of healing (1 Corinthians 12:9), miracleworking (1 Corinthians 12:10), prophecy (id), discernment of spirits (id), the speaking of tongues (id), the interpretation of tongues (id), apostleship (Ephesians 4:11), evangelism (id), pastoring (id), teaching (id), boldness (Acts 4:31), grace (Romans 12:3), service (Romans 12:7), encouragement (Romans 12:8), generosity (id), leadership (id) and mercy (id). 

The benefits of the gift of prophecy

Paul emphasizes that in particular we should want to prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:1) because this gift builds up the church (1 Corinthians 14:3), serves as a sign to the believers (1 Corinthians 14:22) and convicts the nonbelievers of the existence of God (1 Corinthians 14:24-25).

The limited benefits of speaking in tongues

Unlike the gift of prophecy, the gift of tongues, without an accompanying gift of interpretation or having someone who can interpret, is of limited use because no one knows what the person is saying (1 Corinthians 14:2). This gift should be used in private (or under one’s breath to oneself perhaps) if there is no interpretation because it only serves to build up the self (1 Corinthians 14:4, 28). I have found speaking in tongues useful to help build up my spirit man but I do not currently have the gift of interpretation so it is of limited usefulness. Per Paul, “in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.” (1 Corinthians 14:19 English Standard Version)

How gifts are to be used

The purpose of all spiritual gifts is for the benefit of others, either in building up the Church or as a sign or wonder to convert nonbelievers. (1 Corinthians 12:7, also see Book of Acts and Peter and Paul’s exploits). Therefore, we should pray to receive these gifts in full faith, for those who ask shall receive (Matthew 7:7).

Finally, if we are blessed with certain gifts we must use them or we may lose them, but if we do use them we can expect to grow in them (Matthew 13:12). In particular, the more (and greater) spiritual gifts we have been given the more we are obligated to make use of them lest we be unfaithful servants and unprofitable in our spiritual works and thereby sin as a result (Luke 12:48).

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