Stewarding the Mysteries of God #3

“Have you ever spoke in tongues?  No?!?  Then you haven’t received the Holy Spirit!”

I remember when I was told that as a new believer and it offended me significantly.  I couldn’t believe that my friend would say to me that I haven’t received the Holy Spirit on the basis of not speaking in tongues.  I have seen and experienced my life radically transformed by and through the work of the Holy Spirit and I have exerpienced what it means to be filled with the Spirit and what it means to be led by the Spirit.

So what gives?

I had a few of these interactions when I was in college and it developed in me a resentment towards certain groups of believers, which then developed in me a bitter taste in my mouth regarding certain spiritual gifts.

But all that changed when I found myself confronted with 2 verses in 1 Corinthians 14 that caused me to begin a honest journey into understanding spiritual gifts and how they ought to be stewarded today.

These 2 verses are:
1 Corinthians 14:1  “Pursue love and eagerly DESIRE spiritual gifts , and ESPECIALLY THAT YOU MAY PROPHESY.”
(Emphasis mine)
1 Corinthians 14:39  “So then, my brothers and sisters, be EAGER to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.”

Early on in my faith journey, when I read this I would typically think something like this:  “Huh, that’s interesting.  Isn’t this how cults are formed?  Moving on…”

My faith didn’t really know how to process this.  The church I attended in my early years of following Jesus never taught these passages and the closest we ever got to spiritual gifts was taking an assessment like you would for personality typography’s.  

“Cool!  I have the gift of XYZ.  Good to know.”

Now, I know that I just brought up prophecy and tongues and yes, I’m gonna leave those hanging because I don’t want us to get distracted by the specific command given by Paul.

There are 2 concrete imperatives Paul lays out.  First, pursue love.  We are to use these spiritual gifts out of a posture of love and not for selfish gain or recognition.  Second, eagerly desire spiritual gifts.  Oh, especially prophecy.

We are to steward the mysteries of God.  God has entrusted to us one specific spiritual gift and also commands us to eagerly desire all the other spiritual gifts, ESPECIALLY prophecy.  

Why is this overlooked so much in the church?  I get the confusion over prophecy and the other ‘super-natural’ gifts of the Spirit.  I am very well aware of the theological debate over continuationist or cessastionism regarding the ‘super-natural’ gifts.  My hunch is that it is overlooked and not often obeyed is because we have seen or experienced the lack of love regarding some of these gifts.

The Holy Spirit will always point us to Jesus.  He desires to root and establish us individually and corporately as a church in the love of Christ.  We are given a manifestation, or a gift of the Spirit to steward for the common good.  Where the chief goal and the motivation is love.

Yes, people and churches have abused these gifts, but does that mean we are given permission then to disobey the command to eagerly desire the spiritual gifts?  Does that mean we can through the proverbial baby out with the bath water?  But wait…don’t people abuse the Bible and teach false doctrine?  Why don’t we then through that proverbial baby out with the bath water?  Of course we can’t.  Oh but wait…isn’t the verse about being told to eagerly desire or pursue spiritual gifts in the Bible?  Ya, but that’s not for today?  

Oh really?  How did you come to that conclusion?  Can we do that with other commands as well then?

Here’s the thing.  We are called to steward the mysteries of God.  We have been entrusted with a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good, for the building up of the church.  Why?  To make Jesus known.

We will cover things like prophecy and tongues in due time.  We will unpack if the “sign” gifts are for today or not.  But for now, I encourage you to wrestle with 1 Corinthians 14:1 and ask yourself these questions:
1. How am I pursuing love for the common good of the church?  
2. How am I using my spiritual gift for that purpose?
3. What does it mean to eagerly desire and pursue spiritual gifts?  Why does that matter?
4. Why am I not eagerly desiring spiritual gifts?  

Till next time…

1 Comment

Chandra - November 28th, 2023 at 10:59pm

So glad to see this topic broached honestly. I heard an excellent teacher of the word say, " the gifts are not something OF or ABOUT YOU but a willingness to be used by the Spirit so He can work through you for the benefit of the Body, to the glory of Jesus." It is as you state, a humble obedience in servant hood to our Lord and for our fellow brothers and sisters. Maturing believers can be availed in all the gifts and can also be stronger in some more than others but the point is to have ones heart purely motivated by the will of the Lord to be useful for every good work. Not a focus on the gift but on the gift giver. Confusion and hyper focusing on the spiritual gift comes from a seat of self. Man tries to categorize to understand these listed attributes, this is where we get it wrong. The Spirit wants a vessel filled with Him and ready to be used in whatever capacity He requires.