By Norman Edwards
Spiritual Gifts Listed in the Bible
discernment of spirits
(from: Rom 12:6–8; 1Cor 12:7–11; 1Cor 12:28–13:1; Eph 4:11–15; 1Pet 4:8–11)
Most believers who have studied the New Testament church realize that it functioned through the use of the “spiritual gifts” that Christ gave the church These gifts are listed top right on this page, and explained in more detail in our free paper How Does the Eternal Govern Through Humans? Common questions among believers often include: “Which of my fellow believers have which gifts?” and “Which gifts do I have?”
The gifts that are in boldface type in the accompanying list are the most common ones that I believe Church of God brethren have. The ones in plain type, I occasionally encounter among the CoG brethren, but other church groups appear to have them more commonly. Throughout the world, one can find Christian missions, sometimes run with very little money, when people have the faith, love, mercy and service to help alcoholics, drug addicts, prisoners and those steeped in false religion to come to God, overcome their sinful ways and to gain at least some knowledge of the Bible. Finally, the italicized gifts seem to occur only very rarely in the CoG groups. Yet, there are church groups that do claim to have healing, miracles, prophets, tongue speaking & interpretation—and some of them probably have the real thing! It is not the purpose of this article to evaluate which groups have real gifts and which pretend to have them.
The purpose of this article is to encourage us to realize that different church groups tend to have different gifts, and that the CoG groups tend to be gifted with knowledge more than most other groups. I do not want to minimize the gift of financial giving from CoG brethren. Such giving has made ministries, such as this one, possible that would otherwise require a much larger group of people. Also, I have personally experienced much help and hospitality from CoG brethren—and many other brethren have agreed with me. All of these gifts are good, and should continue to be used. But this article will focus on using the gift of knowledge.
The gift of knowledge does seem to take on three aspects. One is receiving knowledge directly from God as did Peter (Matt 16:17) and Paul (Gal 1:11–16). Others, such as Apollos (Acts 18:24–28) learned from other people, and finally, some have learned from the Scriptures (2Tim 3:15). There are no borders between these three aspects, most with the gift of knowledge learn all three ways—sometimes all at once. This writer can recall working on an article, praying about a certain part, then finding the right scripture totally by accident—or having someone call with the needed information right while the article was in progress.
Part of the gift of knowledge is knowing how to learn: How does one check all of the scriptures on a subject? What other sources of good information might be available? Does one deal honestly if there are some scriptures or history that seem to contradict one’s own understanding? Or do we ignore them in our teaching? How does one separate a human “good feeling” from genuine “inspiration from God”? Are we able to say that we “don’t know” when we really don’t know? What is important to study, and what will probably be a waste of time?
Many brethren learned a lot of good knowledge while in the WCG, along with some error. When they left the WCG because it reversed many doctrines, they learned a lot about how to learn—how to distinguish truth from error. These are valuable life lessons that would not be learned so thoroughly any other way. Those with the gift of knowledge and a good sense of how to learn, can far exceed the value of someone who simply repeats good information. They can continually add to the fund of knowledge available to the world.
It is important to see the difference between the gifts of knowledge, teaching and wisdom. Knowledge is knowing the truth, whereas teaching is the ability to convey it to others. Some people have both gifts, but some have only one. Those who have only the gift of knowledge should neither remain silent nor fault people for struggling with their poor teaching attempts. They should be willing to ask someone to help them write or to expound their information. Those who have the gift of teaching need not plagiarize the works of those with knowledge and pretend they are their own. They should be willing to give credit to the “knowledge writer”, but use their gift to teach it effectively. The Church of God groups need to find more believers with the gift of teaching and to let those who have it develop it.
Wisdom is the ability to use knowledge to make the right decision in specific cases. Wisdom is needed to help people in difficult circumstances, and to make sound judgments when believers are in disagreement with each other. Unfortunately, people can sometimes have lots of knowledge and little wisdom. Wisdom can be helpful in knowing what knowledge to teach, to whom, and when. All that is needed is for a knowledgeable person to find some believers with the gift of wisdom and ask them for help from time to time.
The gift of knowledge is different from most other gifts in that it can outlast the lives of the people with the gift. Help, hospitality and most giving are short term—once they have been done, they have been done, and brethren must continually have and use these gifts for their benefit to continue. But knowledge can be written down and used for many years afterward. A good amount of the Bible knowledge we have today is based upon the writings of others who have gone before us.
Benjamin Franklin, in May of 1738 wrote:
“If you would not be forgotten,
As soon as you are dead and rotten,
Either write things worthy of reading,
Or do things worthy of writing.”
This is good advice and applies well to the Church of God groups. Franklin is saying that if one does not write worthwhile things, then one ought to do things so worthwhile that others will want to write about them. With the WCG’s history, that latter is not likely to happen. While there were many doctrinal truths taught there, they are greatly overshadowed by the WCG’s problems with its leaders’ profligate lifestyles, its cult-like atmosphere discouraging its members from reading outside literature, its insistence that it was the “one true church”, etc.
If the truths of the Church of God groups are to survive, we must write them ourselves. This has been partly done with many articles, booklets and books that have been published and posted on the Internet. It is also being done, in another way, with The Holy Scriptures Bible translation. But in these venues, we have a tendency to write what we think is important—which may or may not be important to other believers. When we answer the actual questions of people who are searching for God, we are feeding them what they need, now.
Sometimes, while the Church of God groups are doing an ever-better job of teaching the Sabbath, Feast Days, clean meats, etc., we find their members leaving—not over these issues, but leaving because they are no longer sure that God exists, because they are consulting “other spirits”, because their congregation seems totally irrelevant to their personal struggle in life, etc. Answering questions from people of other backgrounds forces us to use our knowledge for what is relevant to them. Christ and His Apostles answered the questions of their day when they walked the earth. Either knowledge or wisdom teaches us that we should do the same
We also need to use wisdom in the way that we share our knowledge. Church of God groups have written articles hoping to convert Sunday-keepers to Sabbatarians; but in those same articles have said, “God is not working with Sunday-keepers”; yet in those same articles have quoted from Bible translations and Bible helps that were produced by Sunday-keepers. The Sunday-keepers will rightly ask, “If God is not working with us, then why do they use our Bibles and reference works?” If we had wisdom, we would see that from Christ talking to the Samaritan woman (John 4:17–18) to Paul at the Areopagus (Acts 17:22–23) to John’s letters to the Churches (Rev 2 & 3), that God’s servants acknowledged and commended people for the things that they had right and then went on to teach them where they were wrong. We need to do the same.
How You Can Get Involved
Many scriptures show that all believers will be judged based upon what they have accomplished in this life (1Cor 3:9–16). Many who read this are using their gifts and accomplishing a lot. But others are not. Some feel that there is nothing they can do at this time—just know the truth and do it.
“Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” (John 4:35).
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (1Pet 3:15).
There are people who have seen the nature of www.biblestudy.org and they still want to ask questions. They know it is not a traditional Christian website. The questions are coming in at the rate of several a day—and are likely to increase greatly in the future as people are satisfied and ask additional questions, and as others find out about it by word of mouth. These people want to hear what you long-time believers know—and what you can find out. Does answering questions sound too hard for you? You do believe God! Remember:
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13).
The above scripture does not rule out working together with others to share complementary gifts. One person may have knowledge. Another may be good at writing. Another may be good at typing. Another may have access to a computer. Together, they can work to answer questions. Some people may have knowledge only in certain areas. That is fine—Alan Ruth will gladly accept brethren who want to accept questions in certain clearly-defined areas. So rather than saying, “I can’t do that, I don’t have a computer”, say, “I’m going to look for a person—maybe a young person who has a computer that I can work with.”
Answering written questions in this manner is one of the easiest ways for a person to learn to use his gift of knowledge. There is little time pressure. You can use a concordance or other aids to research your answer. You can take time to write it, and rewrite it if necessary. You can have others read it and give suggestions. And if you really are unhappy with the results, you can always ask someone else to do it instead of you.
The purpose of this article is not to have everyone stop their current Christian service and answer questions. But it is to highly encourage those who can help, to help in the way that they can. There may soon be a need for someone simply to manage all of the questions that come in, assign them, and collect the answers for the website. Those with the gift of giving can always help. Alan often does not receive enough offerings to cover the expenses of running his site. He would be able to do more if he did not need to work a full-time job in addition to this work.
I have prayed that many will read this article, and that those with a gift of knowledge will get involved, either here or somewhere else, and begin to convey the truth of God that they know. I hope that these kinds of projects will develop the teaching skills of many so that they will someday be skilled at answering questions in person, and that they will be able to teach many. It is a wonderful thing to think about hundreds, even thousands of believers across the country turning others to the Bible and to God, not to a church group or organization.
If you would like to help, please contact Alan Ruth, PO Box 3393 Farmington Hills, MI 48333; 248-737-4037, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.