Spiritual Gifts and Prophecy

Lesson 3

January 17, 2009


Once upon a time hundreds of miles from where I live, a new pastor came to town with a burden for spiritual gifts.

"You must discover your spiritual gifts," he admonished the congregation, "and then put them to work for God."

He organized meetings for members to study the various lists of spiritual gifts in the writings of Paul and determine which gifts God had given them. They came up with 17 different gifts in the four lists. Then they prayed for understanding and asked God to give them at least one of the 17 gifts. This was all between each member and God. No lists were prepared.

Then it was time for the nominating committee to meet. The pastor said there should be great care taken to match people's own ideas of their spiritual gifts with positions they were asked to fill. For example, the cradle roll leader would need the spiritual gifts of teaching, reaching, helping, or encouraging.

It was tough going. "I don't have a gift for doing that," one would say. "That's not one of my spiritual gifts."  Person after person refused. "Not me." "I don't have the gift."

One member of the committee was becoming frustrated by trying so hard to match gifts and jobs with people. Finally he raised his hand and said,"The person who holds any of these positions needs just one spiritual gift. Let's simplify things and get members with that gift for every position on the list even if there are only one or two members holding all the offices of the church."

"What?" committee members chorused. "What spiritual gift is that?"

"Miracle working."

"Amen," said the pastor.

Leading Thought. The parable above illustrates the difficulty in trying to match words and concepts with people. What does it mean to have the spiritual gift of healing, for example? How many people in a typical congregation have the gift of tongues? Do only a few people qualify for the gift of providing encouragement? Might it be possible for every follower of Christ to have a portion of each spiritual gift mentioned in Scripture? 

1. The spiritual gift of prophecy. The lessons this quarter are not about spiritual gifts in general, but about the prophetic gift in God's church. This week's study helps us see that the Holy Spirit does bestow prophetic gifts on certain members of the church. More important, the prophetic gift is presented as a spiritual gift to the church, listed with others such as teaching, healing, evangelism. Why is it important to see prophecy as a spiritual gift? How does that understanding help us appreciate the wide array of prophets God has used through the ages?

2. The origin of spiritual gifts. Since God is the source of all that is good, He must also be the originator of all spiritual gifts, including the gift of prophecy. When God chooses to endow a believer with a spiritual gift, does that endowment create a new person? Or is the gift an enhancement of who the person already is? Think through your answer carefully.

3. The purpose of spiritual gifts.  As our authors set the stage for presenting the spirit of prophecy as a remarkable gift to the church in the end time, let's ask ourselves why God gives special gifts. Is it to strengthen the body of believers? Are the gifts listed in the New Testament (leadership, teaching, faith, wisdom) exclusively for our church? Or does God give spiritual gifts to people who are not Seventh-day Adventists? Explain your answer.
4. The vanishing gift of prophecy. In Monday's lessons the authors point out that for hundreds of years, the pioneers of modern Christianity never claimed to have the gift of prophecy. In Revelation 12:17, however, the "testimony of Jesus," which, according to Revelation 19:10, is the "spirit of prophecy," is shown to be present at the conclusion of the controversy between good and evil. The end has not yet come. Does the spirit of prophecy continue via the words written by Ellen White, the prophet we believe was given to the Seventh-day Adventist church? Or has the gift of prophecy faded due to mis-use or neglect?

5. False prophets. The TV channels and newspapers are bursting with news about predictive prophecy. One of the most amazing "prophets" is Nostradamus of the 16th century, who wrote cryptic four-line verses that are then interpreted as predictions. The self-proclaimed Christian prophet Benny Hinn says the Lord told him that Fidel Castro would die in the 1990s and that all homosexuals in America would be destroyed by fire in 1995. Are people with false predictions the only kind of false prophets? What about the prophecies noted in the lesson guide that did come to pass? Does a prediction fulfilled prove that the prophet can be trusted? How can we tell the false from the true?

6. The liar. From the Garden of Eden and undoubtedly for thousands of years before, Satan has been sharpening his skills at distorting the truth and persuading people to believe his lies. How does Satan also succeed in using the truth as one of his weapons? If Satan can tell the truth, how can we know it is Satan who is talking? 

7. The gift of tongues (languages). We generally look askance at those who claim they have the gift of tongues but speak in syllables that make no sense to anyone. Do God's spiritual gifts always fulfill a purpose in the church? What was the purpose of the manifestation of tongues on the Day of Pentecost? Is a person who has a talent of learning new languages the recipient of the gift of tongues? Does God ever bestow the gift of tongues on His followers today? Should we pray for this gift given the diversity of languages and cultures in this time of history?

8. All gifts. This week's lessons end on an inclusive note. Special abilities may be given or acquired, listed among spiritual gifts in Scripture or not. Whatever their source, all talents, abilities and gifts that we dedicate to God are spiritual gifts. How should that make us feel about helping our children develop special talents? What about us? Should we always be in a learning mode, acquiring new skills and abilities that we can use in God's work?

Joyce Griffith





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