"But desire earnestly the greater
gifts. And a still more excellent
way show I unto you."
The charismata or spiritual gifts are the divinely ordained means and powers whereby the King enables His Church to perform its task on the earth.
The Church has a calling in the world. It is being violently attacked not only by the powers of this world, but much more by the invisible powers of Satan. No rest is allowed. Denying that Christ has conquered, Satan believes that the time left him may yet bring him victories. Hence his restless rage and fury, his incessant attacks upon the ordinances of the Church, his constant endeavor to divide and corrupt it, and his ever-repeated denial of the authority and kingship of Jesus in His Church. Altho he will never succeed entirely, he does succeed to some extent. The history of the Church in every country shows it; it proves that a satisfactory condition of the Church is highly exceptional and of short duration, and that for eight out of ten centuries its state is sad and deplorable, cause for shame and grief on the part of Godís people.
And yet in all this warfare it has a calling to fulfill, an appointed task to accomplish. It may sometimes consist in being sifted like wheat, as in Jobís case, to show that by virtue of Christís prayer faith cannot be destroyed in its bosom. But whatever the form of the task, the Church always needs spiritual power to perform it; a power not in itself, but which the King must supply.
Every means afforded by the King for the doing of His work is a charisma, a gift of grace. Hence the internal connection between work, office, and gift.
Wherefore St. Paul says: "To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit to profit withal," (1 Cor. xii. 7) i.e., for the general good (ūŮÔÚ
It is wrong, therefore, to consider the life of individual believers too much by itself, separating it from the life of the Church. They exist not but in connection with the body, and thus they become partakers of the spiritual gifts. In this sense the Heidelberg Catechism confesses the communion of saints: "First, that all and every one who believes, being members of Christ, are in common partakers of Him and of all His riches and gifts; secondly, that every one must know it to be his duty readily and cheerfully to employ his gifts for the advantage and salvation of other members." The parable of the talents has the same aim; for the servant who with his talent failed to benefit others receives a terrible judgment. Even the hidden gift must be stirred up, as St. Paul says; not to boast of it or to feed our pride, but because it is the Lordís and intended for the Church.
St. John writing, "Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things"
And this applies not to the Church of one period, but of all
He who realizes and acknowledges this fact feels himself rich, and blessed indeed. For this apostolic view of the matter causes us to be thankful for our brother's gift, which otherwise we might envy; inasmuch as those gifts do not impoverish, but enrich us. In one city there may be twelve ministers of the Word, all gifted in various directions. According to the natural man, each will be jealous of his brotherís gifts and fear that his talents will excel his own. But not so among the Lordís own servants. They feel that together they serve one Lord and one flock, and bless God for giving them together what the leading and feeding require. In an army the artillerist is not jealous of the cavalryman, for he knows that the latter is for his protection in the hour of danger.
Moreover, this apostolic standpoint excludes isolation; for it creates the longing for fellowship with distant brethren, even tho they walk in more or less deviating paths. It is impossible, Bible in hand, to limit Christ's Church to oneís own little community. It is everywhere, in all parts of the world; and whatever its external form, frequently changing, often impure, yet the gifts wherever received increase our riches.
This apostolic standpoint is also against the foolish notion that for eighteen centuries the Church has received no gifts whatever; and hence that, like the early Church, each of us must take his Bible to formulate his own confession. That standpoint makes one so intensely conscious of the communion of spiritual gifts that he can not but appreciate the Church's treasure accumulated during the centuries. In fact, Christ's Church has received greatest abundance of spiritual gifts; and to-day we have the disposition not only of the gifts of the churches in our own city, but of all those imparted to the churches elsewhere, and of the historic capital accumulated during eighteen centuries.
Hence the treasure of every particular church is threefold: First, the charismata in its own circle; secondly, those given to other churches; and lastly, those received since the days of the apostles.
According to their nature these spiritual gifts may be divided into three classes: the official, the extraordinary, and the ordinary.
St. Paul says: "To one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit, and to another faith by the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healing in the one Spirit; and to another workings of miracles, and to another prophecy; and to another discerning of spirits; and to another divers kinds of tongues; and to another the interpretation of tongues. But all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as He will"
From these passages it is evident that among these charismata St. Paul assigns the first place to the gifts pertaining to the ordinary service of the Church by its ministers, elders, and deacons. For by prophecy St. Paul designates animated preaching, wherein the preacher feels himself cheered and inspired by the Holy Spirit. By "teaching" he means ordinary catechizing. "Ministry" refers to the management of the temporalities of the Church. "Giving" has reference to the care for the poor and the miserable. "He that ruleth" refers to the officers in charge of the government of the Church. These are the ordinary offices embracing the care of the spiritual and temporal affairs of the Church.
Then follows a different series of charismata, viz., tongues, healing, discernment of spirits, etc. These non-official gifts divide themselves into two classes‚ÄĒthose that strengthen the gifts of saving grace, and those distinct from the grace of salvation.
The former are, e.g., faith and love. Without faith no one can be saved. It is therefore the portion of all Godís children, and as such not a "charisma," but a "doron."But while all have faith, God is free to let it manifest itself more strongly in the one than in another.
Besides these ordinary charismata, which are only more energetic manifestations of what every believer possesses in the germ, the Lord has also given to His church extraordinary gifts, working partly upon the spiritual and partly upon the physical domain. Of the latter are the charismata of
self-restraint and healing of the sick. Of the former Christ speaks in
Of an entirely different nature are the extraordinary, purely spiritual charismata, of which St. Paul mentions five: wisdom, knowledge, discernment of spirits, tongues and their interpretation. These may also be divided in two classes, inasmuch as the first three mentioned are also found, altho in a different form, outside of the Kingdom of God; and the last two, which present a wholly peculiar phenomenon, within the Kingdom. Wisdom, knowledge, and discernment of spirits exist even among the heathen, and are much admired by those who reject the Christ. But those natural gifts appear in the Church in a different way. The charisma of wisdom enables one without much investigation, with great tact and clearness, to understand conditions and to offer judicious advice. Knowledge is a charisma whereby the Holy
The charismata now existing in the Church are those pertaining to the ministry of the Word; the ordinary charismata of increased exercise of faith and love; those of wisdom, knowledge, and discernment of spirits; that of self-restraint; and lastly, that of healing the sick suffering from nervous and psychological diseases. The others for the present are inactive.
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