I CORINTHIANS 12:10a,c and I PETER 4:9
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
I Cor. 12:10a “To another the working of miracles;”
The gift of miracles deals with praying down works of supernatural power. When these people pray, the remarkable happens. They say with gusto, “Nothing is impossible with God.” Bible examples abound, including Moses, Elijah, Peter, and Paul. Our era is also marked by the miraculous. Bill Bright, Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell–these and many others have accomplished colossal tasks explainable only by supernatural intervention. Robert Schuller imagined a cathedral, shaped like a diamond, 10,000 pieces of glass, larger than Notre Dame in Paris, water fountains down the center aisle. No one dreamed it possible, but it happened.
Westerners tend to be suspect of the supernatural. We give condescending approval to miracles elsewhere in Christianity, but a smug, sophisticated, sterile skepticism makes us think we are above believing or needing such phenomena.
Our rigid clinging to the natural and physical, to what we can taste, smell, see, hear, and touch, created in our culture a spiritual void, a vacuum that sucked into our country transcendental meditation, Eastern religions, New Age thinking, and the Occult. We have learned the hard way, people yearn for something past technology and the secular, beyond what science can measure, and sense detect.
Even the most casual observer can see Christianity is by its very nature a religion of miracles. The Bible is a miraculous composition. Prayer presumes an expectation of supernatural intervention. Every born again believer is a miracle.
Any aversion a Christian has to miracles is due to cultural, not Biblical, influences. Believers, expect to see powerful acts that defy explanation and alter the ordinary course of events. Anticipate supernatural demonstrations of God’s power in nature, circumstances, timing, provisions, and protection. Our God ever has been, and still is, able to break through impossible problems and barriers.
The gift of miracles should be embraced, not rejected, but since it can be easily abused, three words of caution might help any who have this gift. First, beware pride. God made a donkey talk, don’t become proud if He works a miracle through you. Second, beware presumption. God is not an entertainer, striking our fancy at our beck and call. He works as He chooses for the good of His kingdom. Always pray the prayer that always works, “Not my will, but Thine, be done.” Third, beware gift-projection. If you have this gift, remember, not everyone does. Never say, if you do what I do, miraculous results will be easy. That is not true.
We need this gift in our fundraising, missions, and ministry enterprises. We need forces of self-centeredness and darkness pushed back through acts of power.
I Cor. 12:10c “To another discerning of spirits;”
The gift of discernment is the ability to distinguish truth from error. People with this gift clearly differentiate between good and evil, right and wrong, true and false, the genuine and the spurious. They protect the body from heresy, heeding the command of John, the beloved disciple, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1). The gift of discernment requires huge doses of courage, for its possessors have to speak up loud and clear.
Bible examples are many. Peter knew Ananias and Sapphira lied (AC 5:1ff) and knew Simon the sorcerer was poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity (AC 8:23). Berean Jews forever set the standard, showing the touchstone and true basis for discernment. They tested what they heard against Scripture (AC 17:11).
The gift of discernment is a crying need today. As sin encircles us and seeps ever closer to us, like a radioactive poisonous ooze, we need people who can quickly see through phonies, who can promptly detect heresy, and sound an alarm.
The Church would be much ravished were it not for Francis Schaeffer, C. S. Lewis, Chuck Colson, Josh McDowell, D. James Kennedy, and other apologists who stand at the fore, confronting the tidal wave of error hurled against us. We need this gift in small groups and in ministries that bring us contact with the lost.
I Peter 4:9 “Use hospitality one to another without grudging.”
This ends our look at spiritual gifts, God-given abilities, called enrichments by Dr. John Wright, enablements by Tom McClain. The gift of hospitality, one of my favorites, makes people feel welcome, at ease, at home. You have it if you love to open your home, to entertain, if guests are not a nuisance, if you are happier when your home is alive and teeming than when it is empty and quiet.
People with this gift are not necessarily good housekeepers. They are more interested in people feeling good than in being impressive. One lady with this gift has as her life motto, “Hospitality before pride.” Many of us want the house spotless and meticulous before anyone sees it. This sets “pride before hospitality.”
Not all have this gift, but all can be hospitable. Ours is the faith of the open door. Welcome strangers and fellow saints. Yield our houses to God as harbors for others, as instruments of kindness. A selfish home cannot be pleasing to God.
Jesus, Peter, Paul, and the other Apostles were travelers. They fully realized the need for hospitality and promoted it. A major reason for the early church’s success was that she was nurtured in homes, not cathedrals. Hospitality was vital in New Testament times because many Christians were banished and persecuted.
Hunted and hounded, persecuted refugees, aliens dispersed through a hostile world, believers were often desperate to find places of safety. To receive them was punishable as a crime. It was a risky, dangerous business, but required.
Hospitality helped not only wayfarers, but also served a social purpose. The early church’s habit of gathering in homes broke down walls that divided people socially, economically, and culturally. It can still do the same today. The last barrier to be broken down between people groups is usually the kitchen table.
Without an open door policy, Christian history would have been much different. For example, the Sunday School movement, one of the best outreach methods in church history, was born in the kitchens of willing families. When my brother Charles and I started a church, it was incubated and nurtured in homes.
The extensive ministry of many mighty preachers would have never existed had it not been for the hospitality of saints. Imagine how different history would be had there been no homes to welcome servants like Wesley, Whitefield, and Asbury. Thank God for millions over the ages who have been given to hospitality.
This gift is critical to some of our dreams for the future of our beloved church. We want to be a teaching church, to give Second Baptist away, as John Edie phrases it. We sense a need to bring the world here to learn from us, to be loved and blessed by us. We want missionaries, pastors, staff members, interns, and lay-people to come our way, to attend conferences and receive training here. For many, this can become a reality only if we provide free food and lodging.
We have current needs among our membership for hospitality, for Bible studies, class fellowships, and parties. The gift of hospitality is needed among our greeters and ushers, inside our church building. Hospitality, not confined to private homes, is a spirit, an attitude, an environment hospitable people carry with them. If you have this gift, show the rest of us the way. Stake out for yourself a portion of this auditorium. Do here, in our common house, what you want to do at home. Work your magic here. Make everyone in the sphere of your influence feel at home within these walls. Help strangers feel welcome. Bestow on them a sense of belonging. One of the worst feelings in the world is to feel like an outsider. Let’s not let it happen here. Set people at ease, make them feel safe and cared for.
Find and use your spiritual gift. Dr. John Wright tells of a Roman aqueduct built in Segovia, Spain, in 109 A.D. For 1800 years it carried cool mountain water to the hot, thirsty city. Sixty generations drank from it. In modern times, citizens began to think the aqueduct was so great a marvel that it should be relieved of its duties and preserved for posterity as a museum piece. Installed pipes gave ancient brick and mortar a reverent rest. Soon the aqueduct began to fall apart. The sun beating on the dry mortar caused it to crumble. Bricks and stones sagged and threatened to fall. What ages of service could not destroy, idleness disintegrated. Similarly, failure to use our spiritual gift will result in our spiritual disintegration.