Gifts and Calling


Gifts and Calling

We believe that the Lord Jesus promised His disciples to send the Holy Spirit to permanently indwell them. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you” (John 14:16,17). They would be “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5), receiving power to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8). This is the blessing of every true born again Christian, occurring at the moment of salvation (Romans 8:9). For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). This baptism makes us members of Christ’s body the church. Each Christian is also sealed in Christ “with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

We believe that though the Holy Spirit indwells each Christian, they experience the fulness of the Spirit in various degrees in accordance with their faith and obedience. Scripture instructs, “Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Ephesians 5:18-21).

We believe that the Holy Spirit has given spiritual gifts or abilities to each Christian for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7). We are to use these gifts to God’s glory in serving and building one another up and preparing others for Christian ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13; 1 Corinthians 14:12; 1 Peter 4:10).

We apply these doctrines as follows

Spiritual Gifts

God’s will for a Christian’s life is also related to his or her spiritual gift. Scripture exhorts, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10). Paul lists some of the spiritual gifts in his letter to the Romans as the gifts of prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, and mercy (Romans 12:6-8). Additional gifts are listed elsewhere, including the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, the distinguishing of spirits, tongues, and the interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:8-10; 12:28; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 4:11).

The church is to be a place where each Christian accepts his responsibility to edify the church by using his spiritual gift (Ephesians 4:13). With Christ’s enablement “the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which 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” (Ephesians 4:16). In this way, we grow up “to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).

The Christian’s Calling

As Christians we are to live lives of devotion to Christ. For the love of Christ controls us,” Paul writes, “having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 4:14,15). We are to yield our lives to God. Paul writes, “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1,2).

All Christians share a common calling to love and good works. This begins within the church. By this all men will know that you are My disciples,” Jesus said, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). With God as our Father, we should love one another as our family, treating older men and women as fathers and mothers, younger men and women as brothers and sisters (1 Timothy 5:1). Gifted and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we have a supernatural ability to show love in practical ways. The gifts of mercy, helps, serving, giving, administration, and exhortation are especially important in ministering to Christians in need. The widow and the orphan have a special place in the heart of God and should therefore be in ours (Isaiah 1:17; James 1:27; 1 Timothy 5:3-16). Practical Christian love should also overflow into our communities. Jesus taught, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Paul wrote, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men” (Galatians 6:10). We are especially to be concerned about the needs of the poor, the downtrodden, the oppressed, and the stranger (Luke 4:18; Leviticus 19:34; Hebrews 13:2).

As Christians, we have a high calling: “to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14). We should not confuse our vocation with our occupation. Though every job, no matter how menial, when done to the glory of God is noble, our calling goes beyond working to provide for the need of ourselves and our families. Each of us has a personal calling. We are God’s workmanship, “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).

God reveals His perfect will for our lives as we seek His guidance through prayer, the study of Scripture, godly counsel, the inward leading of the Spirit, and the circumstances of life. We must seek God’s will for our lives in faith, trusting Him to lead us (Proverbs 3:5,6). Jesus promised His disciples: He who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). God’s Word promises, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

Differences in the Calling of Men and Women

The spiritual standing of Christian men and women in Christ is identical. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28). Christian men and women also share a common calling in many respects. All are to live to the glory of God as disciples of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:31). All are priests unto God (1 Peter 2:4-10). All are gifted by the Holy Spirit and called to use their gifts for the edification of the church (1 Corinthians 12:7). This includes various forms of evangelistic and pastoral ministries.

Scripture distinguishes the calling of men and women in two areas. These differences have their basis in God’s purpose in creation. For this reason they are timeless, applying to us today even as when they were written.

The first area is with regard to the home. Husbands are to serve as the spiritual heads of their households. They are to love, nourish, and cherish their wives (Ephesians 5:23-33). Together with their wives, they are responsible to raise their children in a knowledge of the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:6,7; Proverbs 1:7-9; 2 Timothy 1:15; 3:14,15). Christian wives are to be a help and companion to their husbands, being submissive to them (Genesis 2:20-25; Malachi 2:14; 1 Peter 3:1). The Scriptures do not teach that all women are subject to all men, but that each wife should be subject to her own husband (Ephesians 5:22; 1 Peter 3:1-5). This does not imply inferiority any more than Christ’s subjection to His Father implies inferiority (1 Corinthians 11:3).

The second area in which Scripture distinguishes the calling of men and women is with respect to ministry. God calls some Christian men to serve as the overseers and the authoritative teachers of the church (1 Timothy 2:12; 3:1-7). In the ministry of the church, a woman is not to “exercise authority over a man” (1 Timothy 2:12). Only the men of the church are to speak out in the public meetings of the church so as to direct the congregation (1 Corinthians 14:34,35). Christian women are to receive instruction quietly, rather than striving against the teacher (1 Timothy 2:11-15; 1 Corinthians 14:34,35). Mature Christian women, on the other hand, have a calling to minister to other women: “Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored” (Titus 2:3-5).

Head Covering

God’s order of authority for the Christian is stated in Scripture as: Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:3). It also states that while both men and women were created in the image of God, man is the “glory of God, but the woman is the glory of man” (1 Corinthians 11:7). To convey their acceptance of this order, Christian men are to uncover their heads while praying or prophesying and women are to cover theirs (1 Corinthians 11:3,4). Praying and prophesying with his head uncovered, a man testifies to his responsibility to live to God’s glory (1 Corinthians 11:7). Praying and prophesying with head covered, a woman testifies to her acceptance of male headship. She does this as a witness to “the angels” (1 Corinthians 11:10).

We should be patient with those who may not readily understand or accept this teaching, rather than insisting on compliance. If not practiced from personal conviction, head covering is not only a meaningless expression of submission but potentially a hypocritical one.

Personal Spiritual Experience

We should use the Bible to interpret personal spiritual experiences, rather than using experience to interpret the Bible or validate a practice or doctrine. Failure to do this can lead to mysticism, aberrant behavior, and serious doctrinal error. Scripture exhorts us to “examine everything carefully, hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). We are “in real knowledge and all discernment, . . .[to] approve the things that are excellent” (Philippians 1:9,10). We can be confident that the Holy Spirit will never act contrary to that which He has inspired in the written Scriptures. The “sword of the Spirit . . . is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).

Gift of Tongues

The New Testament presents the gift of tongues as the ability to speak God s message in a foreign language without prior instruction (Acts 2:1-21). Though Scripture states, “Do not forbid to speak in tongues” (1 Corinthians 14:39), it sets specific limits on the use of this gift in the church. Only two or three should speak (1 Corinthians 14:27). They should do so one person at a time and only if there is an interpreter present (1 Corinthians 14:27,28). As with all the gifts, tongues are for the common good, not self-edification (1 Corinthians 12:7).

We have not seen convincing evidence that God is using this gift today. Though some in other churches claim to speak in tongues, typically they do so in an unintelligible manner, all at once, and without interpretation. Such fails to meet the biblical description and standards for the gift. Much of this appears to be of human origin, a nonmiraculous practice, which linguists call free vocalization.

Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Every believer receives the baptism of the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. “By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, . . .and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). Scripture does not teach that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a “second blessing, as some claim, or that Christians must petition the Lord and wait on Him in order to receive this baptism.

Miracles and Healing

As in biblical times, God still works in miraculous ways, including healings. Among the greatest of these is the rebirth that comes through faith in our Lord Jesus. We should not expect supernatural manifestations such as physical healings, however, to be commonplace. In biblical times, God used signs and wonders and various miracles sparingly, usually during particular periods in history to validate prophetic utterance or new revelation (Hebrews 2:2-4). Much of what is heralded today as miraculous, fails to meet the high standards found in Scripture. When this is combined with the misuse of spiritual gifts, showmanship, and the constant solicitation of funds, we should question whether it is indeed miraculous at all (2 Peter 2:12-19; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; Titus 1:11).