Dr. Andy Woods
Ecclesiology 37, Spiritual Gifts, Part 1
Ephesians 4:11-12. 10-7-18 Lesson 37
Father, we’re grateful for Your faithfulness to us and thank You for this morning. I do ask, Father, that You will bless our Sunday School this morning and also the church service and the fellowship time that follows, and also the partaking of the Lord’s Table. And I just ask Father that people would leave here eternally changed, and only You can accomplish that. And lift up these things in Jesus’ name and God’s people said… Amen.
Good morning everybody, I feel like I haven’t seen you for a while. Let’s open our Bibles to 1 Corinthians chapter 12 and verse 28. I want to thank you all for all the prayers and the well wishes, I am feeling much better and most of you probably don’t know this but the reason I was getting sick last week was a problem as I had a big ministry trip that I just got back from about midnight last night which involved a conference in Duluth, Minnesota that I participated in and then in Denver which I participated in yesterday, and made it back today, praise God. And I’m not sure if I should have made it back to be honest with you; the reason being is my flight went from Minnesota to Chicago to Denver and there was a big storm in Chicago so they weren’t letting planes out of Chicago and so I could have been stuck in Chicago. And in fact, when we left Chicago and flew to Denver by the time we landed the stewardess gets on the microphone and I can’t believe she said this, she said well, you know, you guys are pretty lucky to arrive in Denver; we weren’t even supposed to fly out of Chicago because of the electric storm. And I’m thinking well I’m glad you told me that after we landed because at one point we were flying and I no aviator, believe me, but I was looking out the window and enjoying the electrical storm which I had never really seen up close. And I thought well this is really cool, I’ve never seen one of these. Then finally it dawned on me is this normal, re we supposed to be flying this close to an electrical storm? But God is faithful, Amen. And I want to thank Jim for filling in last week.
As you know, we’ve been working our way through this study on Ecclesiology and we’re looking at the purposes of the church and one of its great purposes is to equip the saints to prepare them for their ministry and then you might ask yourself, well what is my ministry, what am I supposed to be doing. And that largely depends upon what spiritual gift and/or gifts or gift mix that you have. Operating within your gifts is really a key sign of the Holy Spirit that that’s the ministry you’re supposed to have. Of course, that’s not the only thing you do but that’s your primary thrust and so how can you do that unless you get some teaching on spiritual gifts. So, we’re kind of dipping into pneumatology, the doctrine of the Spirit, because it’s the Spirit that gives spiritual gifts, that’s why they’re called spiritual gifts. And I’m kind of dragging that now into ecclesiology because the two subjects are connected.
So, what we’re doing is we’re asking and answering four questions. Number one, what are some general observations about spiritual gifts. I gave you about nineteen or twenty of those a few months ago. And then we’re finished with number two, it took a lot of time to do it because I wanted to give you a theological explanation. But number two, all the gifts of the Holy Spirit for today, and as you go through the gift list there are certain gifts that we at Sugar Land Bible Church believe passed in the first century. So, we’re different than a charismatic church, a Pentecostal church, that would believe all of those gifts of the Holy Spirit are in operation. Having addressed those two major subjects now we’re into number three, what are the remaining spiritual gifts? There are about sixteen or so spiritual gifts that continue. And we’re going to start walking through those this morning and then probably next week I’ll be giving you some tips as to how to discover what your gift and/or gifts are.
So where would you find the spiritual gifts in the Bible. I’ve given you this pneumonic device before, haven’t I? Twelve, twelve, four, four. Twelve, twelve, four, four stands for Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, 1 Peter 4, and Ephesians 4. And if you were to survey or just read those four chapters of the Bible you’d have all of the places in the Bible that actually enumerate the various spiritual gifts. So, by my count there are 16 gifts applicable and normative and available in the body of Christ today and those are what we would call the edificatory gifts.
So, as you recall the revelatory gifts and the foundational gifts and the confirmatory gifts have passed but the church never outgrows its need for edification so the edificatory gifts continue. What are those edificatory gifts? Sixteen of them. Let’s kind of go through these if we could. The first one is the gift of prophecy, and you’ll find prophecy mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Romans 12:6. [1 Corinthians 12:28, “And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.” Romans 12:6, “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;”]
And you remember what we said about prophecy? We said that the church was built on the prophets, the foundation of the prophets. Remember we talked about that. So, in terms of people receiving direct revelation from God and communicating it we believe that is something that has already ceased because the Scripture has been once and for all handed down to the saints, right? So, if someone is saying I’m a prophet of God meaning I receive direct revelation from God, well then the canon of Scripture is open but we believe the canon of Scripture has been closed.
So, with that being the case I think what happened is the Holy Spirit transitioned things, did a transition on the gift of prophet away from somebody who is a receiver and a proclaimer of truth; today the way the gift of prophet functions is it’s someone who is a preacher and a proclaimer, not of new truth but of finite truth or known truth which would be found in these sixty-six books. So the closest thing that we would have today towards someone being called a prophet would be what I would call a preacher or a sermon perhaps you can call it that, or someone that is proclaiming truth but they’re not receiving new truth, they’re proclaiming what God has already said, a preacher we might say.
So, in that sense there is, I think, a gift of prophecy which is the ability to proclaim God’s truth without compromise. Would you say that gift is needed today? Sure, we desperately need proclaimers. The Greek for proclaimer is kérussó, someone who announces or someone who heralds divine truth. And what did Jesus say? “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” [John 8:32] Obviously if that’s true we need people in the body of Christ that are in places that God has put them to be proclaimers of truth. So that would be spiritual gift number one.
The second spiritual gift is sort of related but it’s slightly different, it’s the gift of teaching and you’ll find the gift of teaching in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Romans 12:7. [1 Corinthians 12:28, “And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.” Romans 12:7, “if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching;”]
Teaching is the ability to explain clearly, not a new revelation that God has given them but what God has already revealed; that’s what a teacher does. So, teaching, I think, is all about accuracy but it’s all about, as J. Vernon McGee used to say, putting the cookies on the bottom shelf. It’s about not just accuracy but it’s also about clarity. And there have been many teachers that I’ve listened to that I’m more confused after the class is over than before it started. So I don’t think that’s the gift of teaching. I think the gift of teaching is the ability to take what God has said in His Bible and accurately explain it so anybody can understand the teaching.
And of course, with all of these gifts there’s different ways to use them. We might think of like I’m doing it now behind a lectern, you might think of doing it through writing. Where would we be today if Paul had not written his thirteen letters? So, he’s still teaching us even though he’s been with the Lord for two thousand years because he’s teaching us in written form. I also think a great way to teach is also one on one. Acts 18:26 talks about a gifted man named Apollos, remember him in the Book of Acts? And he, for whatever reason didn’t have a complete picture of what Jesus had come into the world to do, he didn’t understand much about the Holy Spirit, and he was more of what we would call an Old Testament saint perhaps, being under the teachings of John the Baptist he didn’t have the complete picture. And over in Acts 18:26 it talks about Priscilla and Aquila, a husband and wife team, how they kind of took him aside, and this would be not of a congregational setting but one on one, and they taught him “the way of God more accurately.” That’s teaching.
Acts 18:26, says “and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue.” That’s Apollos, “But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained” that’s teaching, “they explained to him the way of God more accurately.” And then of course once Apollos, who was already very gifted and very involved in ministry, once he received that teaching he was actually more effective in his ministry than he was before. But that’s an example of the gift of teaching.
And I encourage people to do this and it’s something my wife and I did when we were in the Dallas area; if you feel you have the gift of teaching one of the best ways to start is teaching children because if you can teach children you can probably teach anybody. Amen. And most people don’t know this about Charles Ryrie, you know, we think of Charles Ryrie as the author of the Ryrie Study Bible and Charles Ryrie the systematic theologian, but the very first book that Charles Ryrie ever wrote, before he even had any aspirations to be a theologian was a children’s book. And that comes across in his teaching to adults. Ryrie can just take the [can’t understand word] subjects and make it so easy to understand that anybody can get it. And a lot of people would say well, you know, I’m not going to start with children, I’m too high and mighty for that. Well, I would just say this: he who is faithful with something small can be trusted with something greater. So, a great way to validate whether or not you have the gift of teaching is to start off with children and I’m sure Casey Cunningham would be more than happy to talk to you about that because she’s always looking for volunteers.
So we have the gift of prophecy and then we have the gift of teaching and there’s a third spiritual gift that continues in the body of Christ and you’re going to find this in Ephesians 4:11. You might want to turn over there for a moment. And this is the gift of pastor-teacher, Ephesians 4:11 says, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,” and I believe that the Granville Sharp rule is at work here. The Granville Sharp rule, it may not show up clearly in what English says, when you have two nouns joined by a conjunction, like “and” and there’s a definite article in front of the first noun, so we’ve got definite article, noun, conjunction, noun, like we have here, “pastors and teachers” then the two nouns are equal, that’s the Granville Sharp rule.
Granville Sharp was sort of an interesting guy, he was actually an abolitionist and he worked alongside William Wilberforce to help abolish the slave trade in Europe. So, I like to use that when people tell me Christians shouldn’t be involved in politics. Well, what do you do with Granville Sharp? I mean, Granville Sharp was a great grammarian but he was also very involved in fighting cultural evils of his day. But anyway, he’s the guy that came up with this rule of grammar and that’s how you can use it to defend the deity of Christ many times because there’s some passages that talk about Jesus being Lord and Savior. So, the definite article is in front of the first noun and the two nouns are joined by a conjunction and so Jesus is not just Savior but He is Lord on the authority of the Granville Sharp rule.
So I believe that the Granville Sharp rule is in play here and it’s talking about not just pastors and then teachers the way it reads in English but it’s talking about the gift of pastor-teacher. So there is a spiritual gift in the body of Christ which is very necessary, called the gift of pastor-teacher. And when you read it there in Ephesians 4:11 and keep reading through verse 16 you’ll see that it exists to bring the body of Christ to maturity through the systematic teaching of God’s Word.
[Ephesians 4:11, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,  for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;  until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.  As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;  but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,  from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”]
So, I’m going to define the spiritual gift of pastor-teacher as the ability to equip and mature the body of Christ. Charles Ryrie comments on the Granville-Sharp rule in his Ryrie Study Bible. He says, “pastors and teachers. The two ministries are linked together here,” that’s why I’m calling it the gift of pastor-teacher, “The two ministries are linked together here” then he says “though separated elsewhere” [(Romans 12:7; 1 Peter 5:2).” [Ryrie Study Bible, p. 1881]
So “elsewhere” you have a spiritual gift just called teaching, “elsewhere” you have an office within the church called elder, so you have pastors and then you have teachers but then you have something very unique that God has given to the body of Christ, where the two are brought into a single person called the gift of pastor-teacher. And one of the functions of the pastor-teacher is not just to teach and bring the body of Christ to maturity but it’s to function like a shepherd. If you want to understand how spiritual leaders are supposed to act and what they’re supposed to be doing the concept of pastor is really related to the idea of a shepherd. So think of what a shepherd does in the natural world and you’ll understand what a spiritual leader or a plurality of elders are supposed to be doing in a local church.
What does a shepherd do? Number one, he guides the sheep. Number two, he guards the sheep because sheep (no offense intended to anybody, including myself, because we’re all sheep, right?). “All of us like sheep have gone astray,” when the Lord here calls us sheep it’s not a compliment. [Isaiah 53:6, “All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.”] We think oh, sheep, they’re so cute and cuddly and oh gosh, we can give them a big hug and all these kinds of things, and we lose the fact that sheep are probably some of the dumbest animals that have ever existed. Sheep will literally follow each other right over a cliff if you’re not monitoring them carefully. Sheep are not very smart and sheep are extremely vulnerable… extremely vulnerable!
So, the function of a shepherd is to guard the sheep from who? The wolf, and would you say that there are wolves constantly trying to come into the body of Christ. I would say yes, first of all you have false doctrine, people want to come into churches and teach aberrant strange ideas. And you think of all of the other harmful influences that can come into the church. We’ve all seen the newspaper accounts haven’t we, of people that want to sign up for children’s ministry and work with children and it turns out that they’re sexual molesters and pedophiles and something like that happens and it breaks out all over the news. I remember that happened to a very prominent church in the southern California area. And so the function of spiritual leadership is to keep all of those deleterious influences outside the church, to not let them have influence.
So there’s some simple things you can do with the situation of child molesters and things like that, is you can have a two person policy in nursery and Sunday School. Our policy is we always have two workers in every Sunday School class for children so that kind of minimizes what a sexual predator can do. But anyway, this all falls under the ruberick of spiritual leadership. The shepherd is to stand guard over the sheep. And then the last thing a shepherd does is he grazes the sheep. He feeds the sheep and I believe that this is probably the primary task of a shepherd is to feed the sheep with what? God’s Word, amen! Because “man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4, and many other passages. And so the function of a shepherd is to feed the sheep with God’s Word.
What did Job say? He said, “I value Your words more than my daily bread.” [Job 23:12, “”I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my daily bread.”] So it may not feel like it but you desperately need a meal to survive. Now can you remember what you had for dinner last Thursday night? Unless you’re a really meticulous note taker or keeper you probably would have to strain to remember what you had for dinner. But just because you can’t remember it doesn’t mean you didn’t need the food at that time. Amen. So people say oh well, I can’t even remember what my pastor talked about two weeks ago or one week ago. Well, that doesn’t matter because at that time you probably needed it as a basic meal. So a pastor-teacher is supposed to shepherd the flock of God. He’s supposed to guide, guard and graze the flock.
And of course, the ultimate model for a shepherd is who? The Lord, how He treats us. Now you all know Psalm 23, right? Take a look quickly at Psalm 23 and you’ll see exactly what a shepherd does. When you understand what a shepherd does, what the Lord does for us, you understand what a shepherd does and we, as spiritual leaders, are under shepherds, 1 Peter 5.
[Psalm 23:1, The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.  He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.  Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
1 Peter 5:1-3, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed,  shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;  nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.”]
We are under shepherds, under the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ, and we are not shepherds unto ourselves but we are shepherds unto Him and we must give an account. Psalm 23:1 says, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want,” now why do I not want? Because He feeds me constantly. “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters.” There is the function of guiding. And grazing verse 1, guiding verse 2.
[Verse 3, “He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” There’s the guiding function.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil,” why not? “for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Now why would they be a comfort? Because they’re a protection, the rod and staff, from the wolf. “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me,” so there’s the guarding function. Verse 5, “You prepare a” what? “a table” what do you do with a table? Nourishment so there’s the grazing function, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”]
I mean just six simple verses but they’re astonishing how clear they are concerning how the Lord shepherds us. And since He is our model and we are under shepherds, under the great shepherd, He becomes our model for spiritual leadership. The pastor-teacher is to guide, guard and graze, the three G’s as I like to call them.
And then there’s a fourth spiritual gift that God has put into the body of Christ, it’s called the gift of evangelism and when you go back to Ephesians 4:11 not only do you see the gift of pastor-teacher in Ephesians 4:11 but you also see the gift of an evangelist, because “He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, [unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ:]” So I sort of like to analogize the role of the pastor-teacher to that of a pediatrician, who helps the born child mature correctly. But then there’s a completely different discipline in the medical world called obstetrician who helps with the birth of the child. So, evangelists are basically different than pastors and teachers although I’ve seen on occasions a single individual possessing pastor-teacher and evangelist, although it’s very rare. The pastor-teacher is more or less working with the saints; the evangelist is more or less working with the unbelievers.
And when you look at verse 12, after it mentions pastors and teachers it says, “for the perfecting of the saints,” so the pastor-teacher is working with the saints, that would not be the unsaved, that would be the saved, so the pastor-teacher is basically functioning as a pediatrician helping the newborn child of God to grow correctly; the evangelist is sort of what we might call an obstetrician, helping with the birthing process. And in the medical world it’s interesting that those two disciplines are entirely separate, obstetrician and pediatrician. I think it’s very rare, I’m no medical doctor but I think it’s very rare to see one person occupying both; those are different specialties.
So how would we define evangelism? And remember, these spiritual gifts, in a certain sense they’re all our responsibility, but one of the observations we made about spiritual gifts is some people actually excel in these areas more than others. It’s a lot like a softball team where everybody takes a turn at bat but some people can hit the ball a lot farther than others. I mean, some of us can’t even hit the ball at all because our eye coordination is not that good. Some can actually hit the ball, some can knock it out of the park but everybody takes a turn at bat. So that’s sort of how these spiritual gifts operate, you can’t say well, I don’t have the gift of evangelism so I don’t have to do it. That’s like saying well I don’t have the gift of giving so I guess I don’t have to give any money to the church. All of us are responsible but some do it a lot better than others. So, there is a spiritual gift called evangelism which is the ability to share the good news of Jesus Christ with unbelievers. Apparently, God has designed His church to grow numerically or He would not have put within the body of Christ a spiritual gift called evangelism.
Let me give you some examples of modern-day people that I think possess the gift of evangelism that you might recognize. Now when I give you these names I’m not endorsing every little theological nuance in their ministries but these are people that very obviously, to my mind, have been given something from above that’s very special and unique. In fact, you could get somebody else up there giving the exact same speech word for word and you would not have nearly the effect (if any) that you would have with someone actually possessing the gift of evangelism.
One of those guys is Dr. Bill Bright (who’s with the Lord now), I know he got kind of strange at the end of his life where he was talking about merging with the Catholics and all these kinds of things and I’m not drawing attention to that but I’m just saying it is obvious that the guy had the gift of evangelism. I was in Campus Crusade for years when I was in college and Bill Bright was the sort of guy that could get on an elevator with somebody on floor one and by the time they got off the elevator he had already given the whole plan of salvation. And many times, the person would be born again. I mean, that’s a gift. I’ve tried to do that and I end up scaring people more than I lead them to Christ.
An obvious one is Billy Graham who is with the Lord now, my mother was saved through Billy Graham, I can’t count the people that were saved through Billy Graham, just by turning on the television and listening to him talk. I think you might put into the mix Luis Palau, do you recognize that name, he does crusade evangelism (like Billy Graham did it). And then another guy that I was under his ministry for a long time when I was a college student, we used to go Sunday night and listen to him teach in Riverside, California, and this is long before the Harvest Crusades were even around, but Greg Laurie of Calvary Chapel, to me even back in the 80’s it was obvious the guy had the gift of evangelism when he would give the invitation it was stunning the number of people that would come forward to receive Christ. This is coming from a guy that doesn’t even believe people should be called forward to receive Christ. But my theological disagreements on points not withstanding I mean, it’s obvious something supernatural was working through Greg Laurie. So praise the Lord, we do have the gift of evangelism in the body of Christ.
The fifth spiritual gift is one that’s extremely needed, and I guess I’ll embarrass him a little bit, I think Dr. Jim McGowan clearly has this gift, his wife I think is back there, he’s working in another class, right? Okay, good, I can talk behind his back, favorably of course. The gift of exhortation which is, and you’ll find it in Romans 12:8, exhortation; this is the ability to encourage others in the body of Christ. [Romans 12:8, “or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”] There are certain people you get around you’re far more encouraged after you talk to them than before. Sadly, other people are the opposite, they kind of suck the joy right out of the room. But there are people that are just encouragers and that’s a gift that’s greatly needed to be exercised. Why? Because our struggle is not against what? Flesh and blood, but principalities and powers and rulers of this dark world. [“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” KJV]
So as a Christian we’re constantly being worn down by the world, the flesh and the devil. They run a threefold attack on us constantly and quite frankly it can get very discouraging, one attack after another. And so, we desperately need people in the body of Christ who are encouragers. I’m thinking of Barnabas in the Book of Acts. I think his name actually means son of encouragement.
And then we have a very significant gift called the gift of discernment, 1 Corinthians 12:10. [1 Corinthians 12:10, NASB “and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.” ] Some of your versions say “discerning of spirits” it’s a very important gift and it’s the ability to detect moral and doctrinal error. Why in the world would we need that gift? Because of 1 John 4:1 is why we need it. 1 John 4:1, “Beloved” so he’s writing to who? Christians. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits” that’s discernment, “to see whether they are from God,” why is that? “because” how many? “many” not just a few, “many false prophets have gone out into the world.” If I’m understanding my Bible correctly as the church gets closer to the end of the age the amount of false teaching and false doctrine will accelerate.
In fact, there is so much false teaching out there today that it’s just exploded upon the scene. It would take a fulltime job to keep up with about 1% of it. For example, take Mormonism. Just looking at that by itself — I know people that spend their whole lives trying to understand Mormonism and all of its intricacies and that is a lifelong task — just to become a specialist in Mormonism. Now that’s just one false teaching. Think of all the other ones out there as well.
So false teaching has exploded and so we desperately need within the body of Christ this gift of discernment which is basically the ability to take what someone says and screen it against God’s Word. You can’t really know every false doctrine that’s out there but here’s what you can know, you can know this finite limitation revelation that God has given us; you can know these sixty-six books. You may not know every little nuance of every single chapter but you can have a general idea of what’s going on in these books and I’ve used the example of the dollar bill many times. The way they train people in the banking industry I’m told to recognize counterfeit currency is you become familiar with the real currency, you become familiar with its texture, color, etc. and so when a counterfeit runs across your hands you say that doesn’t seem right, it doesn’t fit the mold or the model. And that’s what basically discernment is and some people are exceptional at the gift of discernment.
Over in the Book of Revelation, chapter and verse 2, a verse you know because we’re studying this section of Scripture on Sunday mornings, the church at Ephesus, Jesus said of the church at Ephesus, “I know your deeds and your toil and your perseverance, that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false;” [Revelation 2:2] So obviously there were discerners there in Ephesus when some false apostles came in and they found them to be false.
I don’t think a discerner is some kind of mystical subjective experience. There are people that claim this gift and it always makes me nervous when they come out and they announce that they have the gift of discernment which to them means they’re having some kind of subjective experience, meaning if you disagree with them on anything God is on their side, not your side. And we had one lady in this particular church that’s no longer here but she claimed to have the gift of discernment and I said well how do you know you have the gift of discernment? She says well I can always spot the best deals in the mall. That kind of thing. I don’t really think that’s quite the gift of discernment. And what she was trying to do is she was trying to establish an authority base whereby she was trying, in a certain sense, to control me and she was basically saying if you do anything I disagree with God is on my side, not your side, because I have the gift of discernment. And I don’t think that’s what the Bible is talking about at all. It doesn’t have to do with spotting the best deal in the mall although if you have that skill praise God.
It really has to do with the idea of your listening constantly to what people are saying and sometimes you’re even watching their life style when public knowledge of it is available. And you notice very quickly how it starts to deviate from the Word of God. In fact, if you have the gift of discernment — and I know a little something about it because I think this is one of the two gifts God has given me; He’s given me the gift of pastor/teacher, and I think He’s also given me the gift of discernment — you’re sort of ahead of the curve in terms of what you can see. You can spot errors long before your average Christian sees them. And it’s sort of a double-edged sword because when you start to step out in that gift there’s a lot of people that frankly won’t want to hear what you’re having to say. You’re going to be labeled negative, a negative person really fast because you just disagree with their golden calf, whoever their golden calf is. You’re saying so and so has the doctrinal problem and the person you’re talking to just bought all their books, just going to check into their ministry and they don’t want to hear what you have to say.
So, it’s kind of a double-edged sword, it’s a great gift but it’s kind of a tough one to swallow because all you’re doing is you’re seeing things ahead of the curve and you’re trying to warn people. And a lot of people just don’t want the warning. When the Titanic was going down there was what you called denial, I mean, this really can’t be happening can it? And so if you’re living in denial and denial is not just a river in Egypt, right [laughter] there’s the deliberate mindset in fallen humanity where we really don’t want to think it’s that bad so we’re like the proverbial ostrich that puts their head in the sand and we don’t want to hear the warning. So the person with the gift of discernment is usually the person that is sort of ostracized. But when the things that you see start to materialize you want to get in the flesh and say I told you so, I told you the Titanic was going to sink. And you don’t want to be like that either. But that’s sort of a little bit of what I know about the gift of discernment.
And then we have a seventh gift in the body of Christ, the gift of administration; it’s the ability to effectively run or manage a church program. You’ll find it in1 Corinthians 12:28. [[“And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.” 1 Corinthians 12:28] So you can take a program and actually run it effectively. To me the obvious person in this church that has that gift amongst many people is Casey Cunningham, I mean to me it’s obvious she has the gift of administration. I mean, the way for example, the way VBS obviously functions with every little detail right down to checking into how kids in and out is handled and people come to me and they say wow, you really run a great DVBS program here, and in my flesh I like to say yeah, you know, I did a pretty good job with that when in reality I had nothing to do with it; that’s why they make me a crew leader where I can’t do too much damage running things, I’m just responsible for a little tiny group of kids. But the one who runs the whole thing is Casey Cunningham and the way she recruits people and gets people involved. That would be to me an obvious example of someone that has the gift of administration.
The eighth spiritual gift is, and sometimes these are confused, leadership and administration are confused. To my mind they’re different; leadership, you’ll find it in Romans 12:8 is the ability to cast an organizational vision and motivate others toward the fulfillment of that vision. [Romans 12:8, “or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”] To use sort of modern-day vernacular I would call leadership a vision caster. And that’s basically what leaders do, they can stand up in front of people and they can show you where the ship is headed through the big picture. Leaders are not always very good administrators. In fact, not to get too much into politics but Jimmy Carter, for example, Jimmy Carter was basically what I would call an administrator. Jimmy Carter was keeping track on who was playing tennis on the White House tennis court. That’s administration, okay. Leaders really aren’t particularly bothered by those kinds of small things. I mean, detailed things. In fact, they see those things as a distraction. What leaders do is they cast visions that’s so strong you can see where the big ship is moving. In fact, the vision that is cast is so compelling that what you’ll discover with leaders is a lot of people want to jump on board because they can see where things are headed. So, I would call that the gift of leadership.
And then the ninth spiritual gift mentioned is the gift of knowledge. Now remember when we were talking about the charismatic movement, knowledge we were saying early on was receiving direct revelation from God, gnosis or knowledge. And sort of like prophecy I think that knowledge in that sense passed once the canon of Scripture was closed. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have prophets today because we have proclaimers of finite truth. And it doesn’t mean we don’t have the gift of knowledge either because God’s revelation is concluded because knowledge is necessary to understand finite truth, these sixty-six books. So people with the gift of knowledge have the ability to understand very complex biblical ideas. Knowledge you’ll find in 1 Corinthians 12:8. [“For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit;” 1 Corinthians 12:8]
And I believe one of those people with the gift of knowledge, the way I’m describing it is Lewis Sperry Chafer. And it’s just so obvious when you read his stuff that the guy was gifted with the ability to just kind of go deep into the Bible and extract so many wonderful truths, truths that you read about in the Bible and you say yeah, I see it, it’s there. But you doubt whether you could have, with the business of our schedules and the hectic nature of our lives you doubt whether you could have discovered that on your own, although maybe you could have. People with the gift of knowledge have this ability. The gift of knowledge, sort of like the gift of discernment, is also a double-edged sword because what does Paul say there in 1 Corinthians 8:1? “Now concerning things sacrificed to idols: We know that we all have knowledge.” Look what he says here: “Knowledge makes arrogant but love edifies.”
The problem with the gift of knowledge is that you start to know things that maybe your average Christian doesn’t know; it’s still available to them but you understand it and they don’t. And watch little kids, how they act when they understand geometry and the other kid doesn’t, when they understand algebra and the other kid doesn’t? Look at the immediate sense of pride that comes over them, you know, I’m special, I’m entitled, I’m this, I’m that. Well, you have an aptitude in it that the other kid doesn’t have and that could go to your head very, very quickly.
So, did Paul have knowledge? I think so! And so God had to straighten him out, right? In fact, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 is Paul’s explanation of his knowledge to such an extent that he was actually brought into the third heaven and he heard things he wasn’t even supposed to hear. In other words, he understood things that your average Christian didn’t understand. And notice how God dealt with him, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself,” now why would he be exalting himself? Because of “the revelations, “to keep me from exalting myself there was given me a thorn in the flesh,” now there’s always a speculation as to what the “thorn in the flesh” was, but I know this much: a thorn hurts, right? It causes pain, whatever it is it hurt him; was it physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, relational? I don’t know but he had this nagging problem, he calls it “a messenger of Satan to torment me—” Wow, that’s strong language, why? “to keep me from exalting myself!  Concerning this I implored the Lord” in other words he begged the Lord not once, not twice, but three times that it might leave me.  And He has said to me,” Jesus speaking, ‘“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Paul was so knowledgeable God had to offer kind of an alternative program in his life of pain to keep his knowledge from inflating his ego because the moment the ego gets inflated is the moment God is not going to use him anymore. If God’s not going to use you any more than what good is all of your knowledge? So extremely intellectually and academically gifted people are some of the most difficult people to work with. I was in a seminary for a long time, I actually have a PhD after my name, it took me seven years, almost, to get that degree, which is almost the length of the great tribulation period coincidentally [laughter].
So I was around what I think are some of the smartest people in evangelical Christianity. Some of my professors were some of the smartest people I’ve ever met, tremendous intellects. And these were people I would never even want to have over to my house for dinner to be honest with you. I don’t even know if I’d want some of these people to teach Sunday School in my local church because they are so brash and obnoxious and you know, I’m the source of everything kind of narcissism you’ve ever seen. And you see, this is the problem with saying God give me this particular gift, give me the gift of knowledge. Well, you’d better think twice about that because if you have knowledge you know God has to do some other things to keep your ego in check.
But at the same time there was some very godly people that I believe had the gift of knowledge but had a really unique walk with the Lord. The guys I appreciated the most in my times in academia were not just guys that got their degree from Europe and were young and were specialists in some verb form or something of Hebrew or Greek and had written ten thousand journal articles on that verb tense, those were not the kind of people that I really got the most from. The guys that I got the most from were not only scholars but had also been pastors, so they were in the trenches, they understood what it was to suffer, they understood the walk with the Lord. And those people were very special to me personally and I would put Lewis Sperry Chafer (I didn’t study under him, he’s a little outside of my time frame) but I would put Dr. Toussaint, Dr. Elliot Johnson, Dwight Pentecost, a number of people that were very helpful to me, Dr. Roy Zook, Dr. Mal Couch, and a number of other people that were very helpful to me that were not just knowledgeable but had a great walk with the Lord as well.
And then you have a tenth spiritual gift called the gift of wisdom and you’ll see wisdom mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8. [1 Corinthians 12:8, “For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit;”] Wisdom basically is knowledge applied. So wisdom is the ability to find knowledge from the Scriptures and you don’t just keep it to write a systematic theology book on, see the guys that only operate on knowledge, knowledge is sort of the end game to them, they’ve written their book, they’re written their volumes, they’ve published some journal articles. Some of it can be very helpful.
But wisdom is the ability to find knowledge from the Scriptures AND apply it to daily life! Knowledge applied! Solomon was that way, at least until he went into apostasy with all of his wives and concubines. He brought into the land of Israel all kinds of false deities; that’s the problem with him having seven hundred wives because the way you entered into a treaty in the Old Testament world is you got the princess also as part of the treaty, that’s a princess from a foreign country. And with the princess came what? All of the false gods from the foreign country. That’s why the Bible says over and over again to the children of Israel, show them no mercy, related to the Canaanites, do not enter a treaty with them because once you enter a treaty with them then you’re going to bring in all their false gods as well, and goddesses.
And I just did a talk on this at Steeling the Mind yesterday, the United States Constitution, which is derived from the Bible to a large extent. You will find in it Article II (I think it is) has a provision there about treaties. It’s not supposed to be easy to enter into a treaty. You have to do it with, as President, the advice and consent of the Congress, you’re not supposed to do it by yourself, and then you’ve got to have two-thirds of those guys, that’s not just a majority, that’s a super majority, agree with the treaty.
Now the Obama… here I go off into politics, the Obama administration with the Iran deal, which Donald Trump got us out of, praise God, totally ignored that and just went ahead and made a treaty and they just called it a new name, they called it an executive order but they got us bound down in this terrible one-way treaty in the Iran deal and they ignored the treaty twice in the process. The whole thing should have been shot down by our judiciary, assuming we had a judiciary at the time and even now, that cares about the Constitution. But anyway, how did I get off on all that.
Solomon obviously took knowledge and applied it to daily life until the end of his life when he stopped applying the knowledge that he had. He just didn’t pay attention to what God said about treaties and that was his demise.
So, the Book of Proverbs, if you’re a person that walks in wisdom you’ll love the Book of Proverbs, that Solomon wrote in his younger years. It’s all about biblical principles applied to daily life. If you read, and Sarah and I try to do this every night, we try to read at least a chapter of the Book of Proverbs, or half of a chapter, it’s amazing the stuff that you’ll find in there that just so practical that you can apply to your daily life. For example, Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” So, debt puts you in a position of bondage, every time you go into it. I’m not saying never go into debt or else you could never probably own a home; I’m just saying you have to understand that when you go into debt you’re putting yourself into a monetary position of bondage.
So the person with the gift of wisdom says well, that’s what the Bible says, so when they’re looking at the budget for the church, and we have some wonderful elders in our church that operate in wisdom, and they say well, maybe we shouldn’t spend money on that, maybe we shouldn’t take on this project over here given what the Bible says about bondage financially. And largely because of the wisdom of the leadership of this church, long before I got here, all of this property is paid for, isn’t that amazing. That’s what you call wisdom. So, wisdom is basically knowledge applied.
I think I’ll stop here, that’s a good place to stop and I’ll cover the next six of them next week and then I’ll try to give you some very practical pragmatic tips concerning how you can discover which of these you think you have.