In 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, Paul defines varieties of grace endowments, ministries, and activities (varieties of grace) as manifestations of the Holy Spirit, which God gives for the common good: to bring more lives into more of the rule and reign of God.
Examples Do Not Equal Comprehensive Lists
Paul gives some examples of God’s manifestations, but this list of examples is clearly not comprehensive.
Not every possible unearned endowment, ministry or activity is listed in the Bible. More specifically, throughout the New Testament, a few charismaton are listed just a half dozen times. Notice that there are other Greek words translated gifts in the Bible, but charismaton refers to God’s grace endowments.
This chart demonstrates how dramatically far off the rails modern charismatics and non-charismatics have gone when considering God’s “spiritual gifts”, mainly because we tend to read and study the Bible through the veneer of English, and use that English to limit our understanding. Well, let’s get to the wood.
All of these are empowered by God, who apportions to each one individually as God wills. Clearly, Paul “flattens distinctions between “charismatic” gifts and “noncharismatic” gifts in the modern sense of those terms.” 1
Varieties of grace are appointed by God as God chooses. Do some really think God has stopped this? Where were they when God laid the foundations of the earth?
The Enemy has used the modern sense of those terms to divide. It’s time to take back the biblical understanding of charismaton and other varieties of grace.
Does the Body Need Eyes?
Starting in 1 Corinthians 12:12, Paul explains that the body has many “members”, and all members make up the Body of Christ, thanks to the Holy Spirit. But the individual members of the Body are not all the same. Some have different endowments, ministries and activities, but together they make up the complete body, and one part of the body must not reject another part of the body.
For instance, the foot does not say to the eye, “I have no need of you”, because then the body could not see where to go.
The hand does not say to the eye, “I have no need of you,” because then the body could not see to strike at the demon it sees.
The mouth does not say to the eye, “I have no need of you,” because then the mouth wouldn’t know how to pray against the demon the body sees in the room.
And yet that is exactly what happens to seers.
God is composing the Body, which includes spiritually gifted people who possess abilities or qualities that they may have inherited or were granted sometime in their life.
Spiritually gifted people such as those who see into the spirit realm: seers.
But some members of the Body have determined that some other members are disposable, not needed, unpresentable, and even dishonorable.
God is composing a Body to work together, but members of the Body are divided, and many have rejected the Body’s eyes – spiritual people who can see spiritual things.
God has appointed the unearned endowments, ministries and activities, so why do members reject what God is doing in the Body?
Find Your Role
On the other hand, Paul makes it clear that not everyone is going to be a seer. Not everyone receives the same variety of grace: endowments, ministries, or activities.
If you cannot see spiritual things, then God has not granted that ability to you. But guess what: you are still a member of the Body, and that means God has appointed some other endowment, ministry or activity to you.
From 1 Corinthians 7:7: “But each has his own gift (charisma- a grace endowment) from God, one of one kind and one of another.” That means everyone!
From 1 Peter 4:10: “As each of us has received a gift (charisma – a grace endowment), use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace… in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”
The varied grace. See how it all ties together?
Putting Others First
Starting in 1 Corinthians 12:29, Paul criticizes the attempt among some Corinthians to compete between the manifestations, concluding with the mentality of the Corinthians: “But earnestly desire the higher gifts.” I think he’s gently admonishing their mentality to categorize some gifts as higher (or flashier). Paul’s point is, none of the gifts is higher when it is God who distributes them according to his varied grace.
Paul says instead to follow his example as he shows us the more excellent way: to love others as God has loved us, putting others first, to not boast or envy, to not be arrogant or rude or insist on getting your own way, to not be irritable or resentful or to rejoice in wrongdoing. God’s puts others first, and so should we.
In Chapter 14:1, Paul explains that it really is fine to desire spiritual things: grace grants, ministries and activities, but God is the giver of all these spiritual things to spiritual people. (Again, despite most English translations, charismaton is not in this passage).
Go ahead and pursue the spiritual things, especially prophecy, which Paul says everyone should do. Always trust the Holy Spirit to put you where God wants you.
Fan the Flames
If you’ve been given an ability you’ve inherited or perhaps one given to you later, but you haven’t used in service to King Jesus, then fan the dying embers of the gift.
2 Timothy 1:6 “For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift (charisma) of God, which is in you through the laying on my hands, for God gave us not a spirit of fear but of power and love and self control.” Apparently Timothy was fearful of his endowment, which reminds me of so many who see in the spirit realm.
The gift is not for you. It’s to use to expand God’s rule on earth, so work your manifestation, your variety of grace in power, love and self control.
Paul wraps up his discussion with specific advice regarding two particular manifestations of the Spirit. He notes that if we are eager for particular manifestations, don’t go after the manifestation, but begin by serving the church in a way that builds up the Body. 2
For instance, I’m often contacted by people who desire the ability to see in the spirit realm. They don’t like my advice, which sometimes takes the form of, “First volunteer to clean the bathrooms at your church.”
Many people desire ministries like prophecy or healing: first donate your time at the homeless shelter.
Many people desire activities like preaching: first volunteer in the children’s nursery or mow the lawn of the elderly.
Learn to serve others humbly so that the church can be built up.
Advance from being a follower of Jesus to a disciple of Jesus. More is required of disciples. As you learn discipleship, begin serving others as God would serve them. Then watch as God promotes you downward to becoming a servant of Jesus: much more is required to being a servant.
Promotion in the Kingdom of God is exactly opposite of promotion in the world.
Gifts are Irrevocable.
Remember that these unearned and undeserved abilities and callings are irrevocable. 3 Paul further states, and summarizing his teaching to the Corinthians, in Romans 12:3-5:
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. [Note: who has assigned variety o grace? Who assigned the measure of faith?]
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we though many, are one body in Christ and individually members one of another, having gifts [charismata – unmerited endowments] that differ according to the grace given to us [variable grace], let us use them…!
Outdo One Another in Showing Honor
Earlier, I mentioned I would avoid criticizing the misuse or nonuse of the “charismatic” gifts (so-called, as we have seen) in Christiandom. Many demonstrative and restrictive churches have wonderful endowments, ministries, and works: who am I to throw accusatory stones at the varieties of grace God has granted them?
I want my love to be genuine, abhor what is evil and hold fast to what is good. I want to love one another with brotherly affection and outdo one another in showing honor. 4 Let’s seek to encourage and build up, not criticize and tear down.
See and call out the gold in others, not the dirt.
Let’s strive towards unity and grace towards those who do not share our variety of grace as we honor them and with zeal strive towards a more correct understanding of God’s unfailing love, bringing more of our lives and land under God’s perfect rule.