According to the three main passages in the New Testament that discuss spiritual gifts (Ephesians 4:11, 1 Corinthians 12:7-31, and Romans 12:3-8) there are twenty possiblespiritual gifts that a Christian could be given.
Acknowledging the fact that every translation uses different words, here’s that rough list:
apostleship, prophecy, evangelism, pastoring, teaching, message of wisdom, message of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in different kinds of tongues, the interpretation of tongues, miracles, helps, administration, serving, encouragement, giving, leadership, mercy
Here’s my question: how can you reliably define what each of these words/phrases mean? They are just isolated Greek words.
Take for instance the “message of wisdom” found in 1 Co. 12:8. It comes from just two words – “logos sophia.” Okay, what the heck does that mean?
The number one rule in biblical interpretation is to never, ever, ever, unless you have a doctor’s note or Jesus tells you otherwise, define what a word means outside of its context. And that’s the problem with these words/phrases – there is no context.
For instance, everyone in the evangelical world goes nuts over how supposedly “agape” means “God’s kind of love.”
“There’s our kind of love,” people say, “then there’s God’s love. Agape love.”
Did you remember that line in 2 Samuel 13:14 where it says that Amnon raped his sister Tamar?
But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her. – vs. 14
In the very next verse it says,
…he hated her more than he loved her… – vs. 15
Want to guess which Greek word the Septuagint translators used to translate the Hebrew word for “love?”
You guessed it. Agape.
…he had loved (agape) her. – vs. 15
Greek words can mean anything. ANYTHING. The context must define what the word or phrase means.
Sometimes agape means God’s kind of love. Sometimes agape means rape. It all depends on the context.
And it’s this absence of context that invites all the Christian loonies to rush in and provide their own unsubstantiated definitions of what the words or phrases used to describe spiritual gifts mean.
The other day I was changing channels and landed on televangelist Richard Robert’s TV show.
“I just had a word of wisdom,” he said. “There’s someone watching right now who is going to get that promotion they’ve been wanting. God’s saying just be patient.”
“Oh, here’s another one,” Richard exclaimed. “Someone’s getting healed of thyroid cancer as we speak. It just disappeared.”
That’s exactly what I’m talking about.
To Richard, according to his very own self-derived definition, a “word of wisdom” is information sent directly from God’s throne into his brain.
What? From two isolated Greek words?
Maybe a “word of wisdom” means the ability to share wise direction to another human being? Who knows? We have no clue what Paul was talking about!
But hey, it’s easy to pick on Richard because everyone thinks he’s a few fries short of a Happy Meal anyway, but he’s not alone. Just about every mainstream evangelical church in America is doing this. In fact, a whole evangelical cottage industry has popped up around helping people “discover their gifts.”
How can that happen when we don’t have the foggiest idea what half of these gifts are in the first place?
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