Although books on marriage abound this one is certainly not ‘surplus to requirements’. I confess I have not yet read every word (it has only recently been released) but I feel it is such a good book that I want to bring it to your attention in time to ask someone to give it to you for Christmas - or for you to buy copies to give away!
Using the imagery of building a house, John Kpikpi (a good friend of many in the Newfrontiers family of churches), together with contributions from his wife Alexandra, has taken a strong Biblical stance in sharing about marriage. Starting with God’s vision for marriage he than moves on to laying a solid foundation before taking us through God’s ‘blue print’ for marriage addressing all aspects one might expect when building the marriage ‘house’.
For all stages
This book is invaluable across the whole spectrum of marriage, from those who are contemplating it through to couples who have been together for decades. It addresses all stages.
Each chapter ends with thought provoking questions that do not allow the reader to avoid considering the issues just read. It is also liberally punctuated with living illustrations.
This book has one particular unique dimension compared with others. Why? Because John is Ghanaian and Alex is British. But their marriage is neither Ghanaian nor British - it is ‘Kingdom’. They both love the word of God and at the core of all they do this word is their guide. Because the teaching is Biblical this is a book for every couple, whatever their culture. Yet, for those who live in the so-called ‘west’ there is a fascinating cross-cultural dimension which represents significant added value. Not only will it teach you how to build, refresh or strengthen your marriage in God’s way but you will also be enriched as you are exposed to another culture.
The Marriage House is not yet available through Amazon but can be obtained direct from the publisher if it is not already in your local bookshop. Buy it, be blessed and bless others!
A Spirit-inspired ability to speak spontaneously in a language, whether human or angelic, without having learnt it.
This gift differs from all the others in that it may be used in two ways, one of which is for the benefit of the bearer of the gift. When spoken privately the gift is for self-edification; if spoken publicly in a gathering of the church, it is to be interpreted and is for the building up of the Church.
It is a gift to be prized and used. Paul said, ‘Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy’ (1 Cor. 14:5) and ‘I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. Nevertheless, in the church …’ (1 Cor. 14:18-19) ie a public context.
Many would see speaking in tongues as a confirmation of being baptised in the Spirit. Although this could be considered the norm it cannot be incontrovertibly proved from scripture. In the reports of people being baptised in the Spirit in Acts there is usually explicit evidence they spoke in tongues, but not always e.g. Acts 2:3-13; Acts 8:14-17; Acts 9:17-19; Acts 10:44-48; Acts 19:1-6
Ability to give up voluntarily money, material possessions and a comfortable lifestyle and to live amongst the poor of a particular society in such a way as to be one with them in their poverty, in order to serve the Lord i.e. to be as Jesus to them.
Writing to the Corinthians Paul teaches of the over-riding importance of love whatever the exercise of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 13:1-3). In this list of gifts he includes ‘giving away all I have’.
Further, consider Jesus who, ‘though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich’ (2 Cor. 8:9).
This gift is distinct from the gift of giving where, though having and continually using that gift, one may still be rich and so be able to continue to give liberally.
The gift is perhaps an intense example of a general teaching by Jesus in Luke 14:33 where he teaches that we are to count the cost of discipleship: ‘…any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.’
Word of Knowledge
Revelation, given by the Holy Spirit, of facts or information beyond the previous knowledge of the person to whom it is revealed concerning a situation, person or thing, for a specific purpose.
This is a gift that Paul refers to when writing to the church in Corinth (1 Cor 12:8; 1 Cor 13:2). It is a gift that often unlocks a closed or hidden situation e.g. Peter confronting Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10). It is also used to identify people who have, perhaps, a need of healing; it raises faith and expectation since it gives the assurance that ‘God knows about my condition’.
Word of Wisdom
Insight, inspiration or revelation as to how best to apply given knowledge to a specific situation or need in accordance with God’s mind and purposes.
This is another of the gifts referred to in the Corinthian letter (1 Cor 12:8). We are all told to seek God’s wisdom e.g. Jas. 1:5 ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.’ But there are times when God gives a ‘peculiar wisdom’ such as when Solomon was confronted with the need to judge between two women who had recently given birth where one of the babies died and both women claimed to be the mother of the living one (1 Kings 3:16-28).
As we come to the end of this section on Spiritual Gifts within the Discover and Serve series I would remind you that all gifts are from God as He wills; they are of no credit to the bearer who has the responsibility to deliver them for the edification and up-building of the church. Let us be faithful in fulfilling the responsibility God has entrusted to us.
Spirit-inspired speaking out of God’s immediate mind and counsel for the strengthening, exhortation and comfort of His people, and also, on occasion, to an unbeliever e.g. to warn or convict him of sin.
Paul’s letters to the Romans and the Corinthians give us insight to this gift as used in New Testament times (Rom 12:6; 1 Cor 12:10; 13:2). It is one of the gifts most commonly referred to in scripture, one not to be despised, but weighed and tested in the light of Scripture (1 Thess 5:20-21), and by those able to discern (1 Cor 14:29). It may speak about the present or the future.
It is important to distinguish between the gift of prophecy, which all believers are to ‘desire eagerly’ (1 Cor. 14:1) and the gift of the prophet to the church as a person (Eph 4:11).
Ability and heart to serve others and carry out practical tasks for them joyfully - seeing and doing what needs to be done.
Servanthood is at the heart of the Christian’s walk. In Phil 2:6-7 Paul exhorts us to be like Jesus who ‘made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant’. And in Gal 5:13 we are all called to serve one another. In Matt 20:25-28 and Lk 22:24-27 Jesus teaches his disciples the ‘upside down’ principle that greatness is demonstrated in servanthood.
Servanthood requires humility: ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all’ (Mark 9:35). This gift is often exercised in a quiet, hidden way, doing what needs to be done ‘behind the scenes’ to help others. Someone with this gift will often identify a need and get on with the task of meeting it without being asked, and before others have noticed.
Ability to instruct and to explain clearly to others the truths of the word of God in such a way that they ‘grasp’ their meaning, and are equipped and provoked to apply them to their lives.
This is another of the gifts referred to by Paul in Rom 12:7. Teaching is not merely the giving of information for head knowledge but it is to bring about changes in people’s lives. Someone who is well taught lives out what he or she has learnt; they do not just have a notebook full of good notes.
Teaching does not have to be in the form of a lecture; it may be in an informal or everyday setting, or one-to-one - ‘apprentice’ style. Jesus exemplified this as he taught the disciples ‘on the move’ e.g. about prayer and how to pray (Lk 11:1-11).
My opinion from previous disasters is that the crisis response, e.g. food, water and shelter is best handled by the big NGOs who specialise in emergency relief. In UK there is a Disasters Emergency Committee comprising 14 large NGOs which includes Tearfund and World Vision. An appeal has been launched and I recommend that any who wish to give for immediate relief should donate to that appeal.
Is there a place for the church?
I believe that the church has a major part to play when disaster happens. In the early days that is probably primarily supporting people emotionally to handle trauma and loss, but as time goes on and the public spotlight moves elsewhere there is the long haul of rebuilding lives. I believe the church, as an integral part of the community, comes into its own at this point.
The request for funds
I am on a circulation list from the Newfrontiers church in Manila (House of Grace Community Church) and have received an email requesting funds from Eden Singson, the lead elder. Indeed I visited 18 months ago, and having known Eden and Fay for many years and seen their hearts to help the poor feel I would like to help channel funds to them. I must stress this is a personal initiative.
The people of House of Grace Community Church were not themselves seriously affected. The essence of Eden’s email is that they have strong links from their church into the affected areas (an island called Bantayan in the province of Cebu) and want to channel funds to help rebuild houses, a vital footbridge etc. They also have another couple in the island of Bohol who have requested help. I am sure more specific needs will emerge if funds become available.
Eden has managed large projects in the past (though probably not of this order - no-one has) and I trust him to use and channel funds wisely as they are needed and can be used responsibly. So I am opening a fund to collect and channel funds.
I suggest there are three possible responses.
1. If you would like to contribute to this appeal from the Manila church I would be pleased to take responsibility to pass on donations. Please write to me and I will give you the bank details. I am currently exploring whether there is a way I can also get any potential Gift Aid reclaimed (relevant only to UK based people). If you are from outside the UK I can give you the bank details in Manila. To contact me click the email address firstname.lastname@example.org in the side panel with Philippines Appeal in the topic line.
2. If you are in the UK and wish to give to the DEC appeal click here.
3. Urge your church to pray for the situation.
Thank you. I will post updates as I receive them.
Ability to suffer voluntarily/willingly and joyfully for the Lord - even to death.
When Paul urged us to ‘earnestly desire’ spiritual gifts this would probably not be the top of many people’s lists! And yet in 1 Cor 13:3 we read ‘If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing’.
I think we would all be aware of people down the ages who have laid down their lives for the gospel and great blessing has resulted. I think of men such as Jim Elliott and Nate Saint whose deaths, along with two others, significantly contributed to the salvation of many of the Huaorani people in Ecuador. The story is told by Jim’s widow Elisabeth in Through Gates of Splendor (1957, but republished in 2010) and is depicted in the film Beyond the Gates of Splendor (2005).
Is this a gift? These men certainly were aware of the possible dangers associated with evangelising the Huaorani people so I think that it can be justifiably stated as such.
Ability to feel and demonstrate compassion and understand not just in strong feelings of sympathy but especially in a cheerful way with appropriate acts of kindness to bring relief to those who are suffering and/or in need.
This is another in the Romans 12 list of gifts. Like helps and encouragement it is usually a quiet, hidden gift that people often do not recognise in themselves; they just love caring for people in need.
The attitude of heart is vital, as is a sensitivity to the feelings of those being helped. There is no sense of judgement towards those to whom the gift is extended but rather a deep concern to help them, however undeserved such help may appear to be.
Paul exhorts us to use this gift cheerfully (Rom. 12:8). This is perhaps particularly relevant with this gift as many of those being touched by it have suffered an undue amount of sadness and hardship.
From the gospels we can all gain encouragement: Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful’ (Luke 6:36) and ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy’ (Matt 5:7)
Ability to effect acts/demonstrations of divine power which override, alter or contradict the ‘laws’ of nature
Referred to three times (uniquely, compared to the other gifts) in 1 Cor. 12:10, 28-29 Paul seems to want to emphasise the importance of this gift. Miracles are an authentication of the gospel, signs that cause people to wonder.
The gospels are of course liberally scattered with reports of the miraculous at the hands of Jesus - Feeding 5000, calming the storm etc. These are then continued in the Acts record where the disciples perform mighty acts.
But they are not the exclusive property of the New Testament. In the Old Testament, too, there is an abundance of miracles at the hands of such as Moses and Elijah.
Hospitality is referred to in Rom. 12:13 shortly after the list of spiritual gifts. Although it is not explicitly listed as a spiritual gift, it is generally recognised as such and its specific mention in the context of gifts in 1 Pet. 4:9-10 supports this view.
This is a gift that many do not recognise they have. They assume that everyone is hospitable, just as they are. And yet it is one of the most valuable gifts, especially at the ‘front door’ of the church, both literally and figuratively. It is a gift that communicates love and concern to the stranger and may well be the means of bringing them into the security the church should offer. And who knows; we might even find ourselves entertaining angels (Heb 13:1-2)!
Interpretation of tongues
Ability to interpret the substance, not necessarily to give an exact translation, of what has been spoken in a tongue.
The gift of tongues is one of the more conspicuously ‘supernatural’ gifts and, for many, it is confirmation they have been baptised in the Spirit. And yet, by its very nature, it is the least easy to understand. And so, when tongues are used in the context of the church, Paul directs that the speaker or another should interpret (1 Cor 14:13, 28). If no one with that gift is present the speaker in tongues should restrain from using that gift.
Ability to see ahead and to set direction in accordance with God’s purposes, and to inspire, draw and lead others so that they work together to achieve those purposes.
This is another gift in the list in Romans 12 (Rom 12:8). Spiritual leadership is quite different from secular leadership, a manifest example of the ‘upside down’ Kingdom.
Jesus exemplified this and explained that spiritual leaders are to be servant leaders in contrast to the people’s experience of secular leadership who impose their authority. He himself ‘came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many‘ (Matt. 20:25-28).
Attitude is vital. A leader goes ahead, but not too far. He draws, inspires and motivates; he does not push or drive from behind, drag, coerce or manipulate. He has foresight. He lays down his life for those who follow, seeking to help them achieve their full God-given potential.
Giving is listed as a spiritual gift in Romans 12:8. However, it is a quality which we are all encouraged to demonstrate as taught in 2 Cor 8, 9. Indeed, giving and generosity (ie ‘excel’ in giving 2 Cor 8:7) reveal our hearts, a reflection of what Jesus did for us when he gave himself.
But, as a spiritual gift, there is an added dimension. I know of people, some on small pensions, who so love to give that they sacrifice their own comforts to be able to give to others. I believe that God is pleased with such people who receive grace to exercise this gift in such a self sacrificial way.
Ability to serve as a channel of God’s supernatural (that is without the aid of natural means or human skill) healing(s) - whether physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.
In 1 Cor 12:9, 28, 30 we read of gifts of healings; this is plural. Therefore there can be various kinds of gifts and of sicknesses. Healings may be instantaneous, gradual, complete or partial. If partial, we may have to continue praying (Mark 8:22-25).
About two years ago a woman on our church was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The specialist told her to go away and put her affairs in order; there was nothing the medics could do after a full range of chemotherapy had been unsuccessful. A group of close friends gathered regularly with her over many weeks crying out to God. Gradually she regained strength and after many months of persistent prayer she was declared healed (which included the disappearance of a metal stent) by the amazed and unbelieving consultant who had sent her away to die!
‘And these signs will accompany those who believe … they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well’ (Mark 16:17-18).
Ability to give strong support and relief in practical ways to those in need, particularly the disadvantaged.
This is listed in 1 Cor 12:28 alongside miracles, healings, tongues etc. According to Robertson & Plummer’s International Critical Commentary the Greek word means ‘to take firm hold of someone in order to help, to share in or carry a burden, to take a burden on one’s self’.
In Acts 20:35 Paul says that “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Perhaps the gift of helps is particularly related to those who notice people who are vulnerable and seek to get alongside them with loving care and support: ‘…I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matt. 25:40)
Continuing to define Spiritual gifts we now look at four more.
Discerning of spirits
Ability to ‘see’ and identify/perceive the motivating spirit behind words, actions, events or thinking, and to judge whether such spirit is divine, human or demonic
This is one of the nine gifts Paul writes about to the Corinthians (1 Cor 12:10). It is exemplified in various New Testament passages such as Acts 13:8-10 where Paul confronted the magician, Elymas, who was seeking to turn away the proconsul from following the faith and in Acts 16:16-18 where Paul cast the spirit of divination out of a slave girl who was ‘greatly annoying’ him.
This gift can serve to protect an individual or a church from deception and/or counterfeits of Satan. It is also used in conjunction with the exercise of deliverance/exorcism. However, the gift is not only for ‘special’ situations; all believers are urged to distinguish between the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood (1 John 4:1-3, 6).
The ability to share the gospel effectually, often accompanied by signs and wonders.
One of Jesus’ final acts on earth was to commission the church, through the early disciples, to take the gospel into the world and make disciples (Matt 28:19), the often called Great Commission. We are all called to be witnesses to Jesus Christ and to be ready to give reason for the hope that is in us (1 Pet 3:15).
However, there are some who have a burning passion, given by the Holy Spirit, to take every opportunity to witness. Most important, they also have a train of people who have come to faith through their witness. For a gift to be authenticated there must be conspicuous fruit.
The ability to stimulate the faith of others and to encourage, comfort, strengthen, counsel and admonish them in such a way that they are helped to live a life worthy of God.
It is good for all believers to be alert to opportunities to bring encouragement and to exhort people to deepen their walk with God and to become more mature, thus building up the body of Christ.
In Rom 12:8, exhortation (or encouragement, depending on the translation) appears in the list of spiritual gifts, which Paul exhorts the reader to make full use of. The root word carries the feeling of a person standing alongside another to support, help and motivate him to do his best. Sometimes this may involve a word of correction.
Total assurance that God can and will do certain improbable or impossible things despite apparent evidence to the contrary, and to speak and/or act accordingly.
Faith is another spiritual gift mentioned in the 1 Corinthians 12 list (1 Cor 12:9). It is, of course, a frequently used word in the Christian context for many different situations e.g. a) Saving Faith. We are all saved by faith: ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith’ (Eph. 2:8). b) Faith to live by (trust). If we are to please God, we are all to continue having faith: ‘And without faith it is impossible to please him …’ (Heb 11:6). c) Faith meaning a creed or doctrine. (Eph 4:13; 1 Tim 6:20,21; Jude 1:20).
The spiritual gift of faith is typically applied in a particular situation or context such as Moses opening the Red Sea (Exod. 14:21, 22), Jesus cursing the fig tree and then teaching on faith to move mountains (Mark 11:14, 20-24) or Paul exercising faith at the time of shipwreck (Acts 27:21-26).
A particular ability to organise/manage the affairs of the church or any part of its work, with skill and wisdom so that it reaches its goals safely, and functions effectively and smoothly.
Based on 1 Cor 12:28 the Greek word for administration is kubernesis which parallels with kubernetes in Acts 27:11 where it is translated as ‘pilot’ (nautically speaking - there were no planes in those days!). A pilot is one who navigates the vessel using his knowledge of winds, currents, tides and potential underwater hazards. But he does not set the ultimate destination; that is determined by the captain (or the merchant who hired the vessel).
There are many biblical examples of good administrators eg Joseph, Daniel and even Jesus as he organised the Feeding of the 5000.
Abstaining from sexual relations or a particular ability to be single for the sake of the Kingdom.
This is not a negative gift, it is positive. It frees people to concentrate on the Lord’s work. Paul wished all could have this gift, but recognised that all are not like him and that each has his or her our own, different, special gifts from God (1 Cor. 7:7). Jesus also spoke of this gift being exercised ‘for the kingdom’s sake’ (Matt 19:12).
Nevertheless, all Christians are called to be celibate at some stage eg before they are married, if married but away from their spouse, if widowed. Not having the gift does not mean you are free to sin!
The gift does not stand on its own but is combined with other gifts for the more effective service of the Lord. There are men and women who, through history, have given themselves to the advance of the kingdom in remarkable ways often through having more time available without the responsibilities associated with being married (1 Cor 7:32-35).
The skill, ability and knowledge to work creatively in various materials to the glory of God and the practical advance of the kingdom.
During the building of the tabernacle in Exodus 35, 36 there are frequent references to skilled men and women using their gifts both to construct and decorate it. In Ex 35:31 we read ‘…and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship…’. Often there is also a heart element to this - ‘…the women whose hearts stirred them to use their skill…’ (Ex 35:26).
In the New Testament Dorcas is remembered for the ‘tunics and other garments’ she made, presumably as a blessing to the community (Acts 9:39).
Other passages to study could include 1 Kings 7:14 (building Solomon’s palace), 1 Chron 22:15 (building the temple).
How many spiritual gifts are there?
When teaching on this subject I sometimes get people to give me a guesstimate. There is usually a huge variation; some say nine (probably reflecting 1 Cor 12:8-10), others fifteen (adding another six from Rom 12:7-8). But what about the fivefold gifts of Eph 4:11 which would take us to twenty? We could go on referencing other passages (and will do so later) but it is hard to put a definitive answer to the question about ‘how many?’. Quite simply, some passages, such as those cited above, explicitly or implicitly refer to the Spirit giving gifts e.g. ‘To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.’ (1 Cor 12:7), ‘Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…’ (Rom 12:6) and ‘…he gave gifts to men’ (Eph 4:8).
However, other gifts are mentioned in the scriptures which many would also include in a list of spiritual gifts though, not being specifically stated as such, there must be some room for conjecture. What about craftsmanship; ‘and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship’ (Ex 35:31)? We have a wonderful woman in our church who over decades has produced amazing banners and wall hangings that have focused ones eyes on Jesus and been the vehicle to draw us out in worship. Surely she has a spiritual gift?
So what is the answer to my original question? On this course I usually refer to 29 gifts. However, this is not to be prescriptive or dogmatic but it represents a list of ‘gifts’ that I think can be justified; pragmatically, people have found the list useful in identifying ways in which they can bring their gifting to the church.
The Bible does not categorise gifts other than by implication in such passages as 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 where the gifts Paul refers to could perhaps be categorised as being somewhat supernatural (1 Cor 12) and practical (Rom 12). For the purposes of the Discover and Serve Course, Valerie Gillam and I group these gifts into five categories:
Ministry gifts: apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher.
Manifestation gifts: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healings, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues.
Sacrificial gifts: celibacy, voluntary poverty, martyrdom.
Service gifts: helps, administration, craftsmanship, serving, giving.
People-intensive gifts: encouragement, hospitality, mercy, teaching, pastoring, leadership, evangelism.
Over the next few postings I will seek to put some definition to each of these gifts.