Diversities of Spiritual Gifts
Dr. Joe Temple


Open your Bibles, please, to Paul's first Corinthian letter, chapters 12, 13, 14. No, we are not going to study all of these chapters verse by verse, but we will be referring to passages of Scripture within them. We have been asked to deal with the question, “What are the gifts of the Holy Spirit?” We pointed out to you, as is true in relation to every spiritual truth, references are made to this subject in various places in the Bible, but the place where it is dealt with in its entirity is the passage of Scripture to which I have asked you to turn. Other references will amplify, will clarify, but will not add any information to what you have found right here.

We would not have time, and it would be beyond the scope of this discussion, to exegete each verse in these three chapters, so we said we were going to summarize Paul's approach to the subject at hand by three words. We have dealt with two of those words and we reephasize the three so that you might fix these things firmly in your mind. There was first, the word difficulty , then the word distribution , and then the word diversity .

As we considered the word difficulties , we found that there were difficulties related to the bestowal and the exercise of spiritual gifts in the church at Corinth. We found that down through the ages since gifts were first bestowed, these difficulties continue in some fashion forever. We said that all of the difficulties, though they might take different form, can be related to three specific things. One is the questionable authenticity of the gift which he has claimed. A person may claim to have a certain gift. It may not be an authentic gift because we found that some of the gifts can be duplicated through physiological and emotional, and worse still but very real, can be counterfeited by the devil himself, for of course the devil is set to conterfeit everything that God does.

We said that some of the difficulties are related to false assumption—such assumptions as a person's thinking that because one individual has a certain gift, he should have it, false assumptions related to the idea that the gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit are bestowed all down through the Church age in the same way in every period of the Church age.

Some of the difficulties we found were related to false aspiration. That is an individual aspiring to have one gift above another gift or aspiring to have some gifts that some other Christian might have had. We emphasize that the difficulties related to the gifts of the Spirit are still in existence today.

The second word we considered was the word distribution . We discovered when we examined the material in these chapters that the distribution of the gifts of the Spirit might be summarized in three words. The distribution is systematic. The Holy Spirit follows a definite plan in the bestowal of the gifts. We found that the distribution is sovereign in the sense that the Holy Spirit reserves the right to Himself to bestow gifts upon whomsoever He will. We as individuals have no right to ask for any certain gift. We have no right to be proud because we have a certain gift. We have no right to feel at outs because we do not have a certain gift. The Holy Spirit bestows these gifts as He will, not as we will.

Then we said that the distribution of these gifts might be additionally summarized with the word specific , for the gifts are given in a specific fashion to specific people for a specific purpose—the profit of the Body of Christ. If we keep in mind that there are difficulties, if we keep in mind what we have suggested concerning the distribution of the gifts, then we will be well on our way to answering the question, “What are the gifts of the Spirit?”

That leads us to the third word which we used to indicate the summation of the material in these chapters. I repeat the word again, the word diversity . It comes to our attention in I Corinthians, chapter 12, verse 4, where we read:

I Corinthians 12:

4Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
6And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

The word diversity, the word differences, and the word diversity repeated are all from the same word in the original text, and they emphasize that the gifts are different within themselves. The gifts are different in their manifestation.

What can we say about the diversities of gifts that will summarize what is in these three chapters in a brief fashion? Perhaps it would be only fair to say that all we can do now is start, but I would like to suggest to you that diversities related to the gifts of the Spirit might be summarized by using four words. I would like to give them to you and trust that you will use them as mental pegs on which to hang some of the thoughts that I want to leave with you. The first word is the word permanent . The second word is the word passing . The third word is the word practical , and the fourth word is the word personal . Permanent, passing, practical and personal.

We use the word passing in the sense that some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are in operation at various times in the history of the Body of Christ. May I emphasize today that it would be well for us to remember that we who live now are only a small portion of the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ began on the day of Pentecost. It is recorded that people believed the gospel and there were added to the Church that day those that were being saved and every day from that time to this nearly two-thousand years, people have been added to the Church of the Body of Christ. So you see we who live today are a very small segment of that Body.

I emphasize that because all too often we interpret the great truth related to the Body of Christ purely in relation to our own selves or within the circumference of our existence, and that is always a very grave mistake. Some of the gifts are permanent, some are passing, some are practical. I use this word in the sense that some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are abstract gifts which are given to individuals. Then I said some of the gifts are personal, and I use this word in the sense that some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are gifted individuals, individuals to whom the Holy Spirit has given special gifts. Such individuals Christ has given to His Church. We will not be able to answer the question nor fully understand unless we recognize that fact.

For the moment we are going to forego a discussion of a permanent gift because we will be considering them in detail when we think of the practical and personal gifts of the Holy Spirit. We do want to consider them in detail because as I have mentioned to you, every individual believer in the Body of Christ has some gift of the Holy Spirit. Oftentimes in the years gone by when we have made that statement, individuals have said, “Well, I didn't know I had any gifts of the Holy Spirit. You mean I really do?” Yes, you do, but you may not be aware of it. You may not be conscious of it. You might need to spend some time quietly before the Lord, recognizing what your gift is, but you have at least one gift of the Holy Spirit. As we pointed out to you in other discussions, the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon each individual the gift of the Spirit as He will.

We are going to think at the moment concerning my statement that some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are passing—that is, they are not permanent. They are manifested in the history of the Body of Christ at various times, but were never intended to be in continual existence in the Body of Christ. For me to make that statement is one thing, and for you to believe it is another. For me to make that statement and tell you why I say it gives you an opportunity to give careful consideration to what I say, weigh it, and discuss it or reject it. There is one thing that we insist on at Abilene Bible Church and that is that men accept the Word of God only. It doesn't make any difference whether you agree with me or not. I am human enough to be gratified if you agree with me, but I am not concerned if you do or not. It is my responsibility to present to you the Word of God and unless you can prove that my presentation of the Word of God is in error, then your responsibility is to accept or reject, not what I say, but what the Word of God declares.

I am going to say to you that I believe the Bible teaches that some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are passing because some of these gifts were intended by God to be evidence of the authenticity of the Apostolic ministry. They were intended for that ministry and that purpose alone. For example, God called a man to be an apostle. There were twelve of them. There was one who was born out of due time by his own testimony. So you might say that there were thirteen of them. An individual comes along who might say, “I am an apostle. I have been sent out by God.” He may have been; he may not have been. It was necessary for certain evidences to accompany his ministry. Those evidences were in the form of some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Turn in your Bibles, please, to the book of Romans, chapter 15, and notice, beginning in verse 18:

Romans 15:

18For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed,
19Through [notice carefully] mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.

The context of these verses will reveal that the Apostle Paul was being questioned concerning his authority. He said in simple words, “Keep in mind that my ministry was accompanied by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, mighty signs and wonders.” Turn to II Corinthians, chapter 12, and notice verse 11:

II Corinthians 12:

11I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.

We see his apostleship was being brought into question and in verse 12, he said:

II Corinthians 12:

12Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.

Turn still further over in your Bibles to the book of Hebrews, chapter 2, and notice his words beginning in verse 3:

Hebrews 2:

3How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;
4God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

I would suggest to you, Beloved, on the basis of these passages of Scripture that some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are passing in the sense that they were meant to be evidence of the authenticity of the apostolic ministry.

Going still further, I would suggest that these gifts are passing in the sense that the exercise of some of these gifts—listen carefuly to what I say—is either not apparent in the church today or if apparent, apparent in questionable form. Let me reemphasize that as I ask you to turn in your Bibles to the Ephesian letter, chapter 2. I said that some of these gifts can be considered to be passing in the sense that the exercise of them is not apparent in the Church today; or if the exercise is apparent, it is in such questionable form that serious doubt arises as to the authenticity of the gift.

Ephesians 2:

19Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
20And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
21In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
22In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

Glance back again at verse 20, and notice:

Ephesians 2:

20And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets…

When we consider the personal gifts of the Holy Spirit, gifted men, we will discover that one of such gifts are apostles. Another such gifts are prophets. Here we are plainly told that the gift of the apostle and the gift of the prophet was exercised during that period of time when the foundation of the Church was laid. There was a need for it then. The foundation of the Church has been laid. It would be inconsistent with clear thinking to assume that the gifts of the apostles and the gifts of the prophets is in evidence in the Body of Christ today. No need for it. The foundation has been laid. Are you thinking? Do you see the reason I say some of these gifts are passing gifts?

Turn with me in your Bibles, please, back to I Corinthians, chapter 12, and will you notice the paragraph which begins with verse 8:

I Corinthians 12:

8For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
9To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
10To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

Some of these gifts in this list we do not even discuss in relation to passing gifts because there is no question about them, for they are in existence in the Church today in a fashion that nobody questions. They are accepted as gifts of the Spirit on the basis of evidence related to them, but some of the gifts are questioned. We mentioned them to you so you can be thinking along the same lines.

The gifts of healing. Wait just a moment and don't jump to conclusions. Don't put words in my mouth. Don't say something that I did not say. Don't go out of here and say that I said that God does not heal people today. God does. I have had the experience of healing. What I am saying to you is that there is a question whether those who claim to have a gift of healing really have it. There is a question whether this is a passing or a permanent gift. It is possible for God to heal without the aid of any individual with the gift of healing

You will notice in this same paragraph the phrase, to another the working of miracles . There is a serious question whether this gift is in evidence in the Church today. Once again, don't go out of here and say, “Joe Temple doesn't believe in miracles. I have heard him say that.” No, you didn't hear him say that. You heard him say that there is a serious question that anybody has the ability to work miracles. God has the ability. There is a vast difference between God working a miracle and God giving an individual the gift to work a miracle. We will think about that later when we discuss these more in detail.

Then you will notice a gift mentioned further here in this passage of Scripture, different kinds of tongues, and the accompanying gift which always must accompany it, the interpretation of tongues. There is serious question whether this gift is in existence in the church today. I am saying there is serious question. You will find a great many Bible scholars who stand flat footed without any apologies and say it is in existence today. We are not interested in passing opinions. We are interested in encouraging you to search the Word of God in the light of all of the Word of God, for I say to you that some of these gifts are considered passing because they were intended to be evidence of the authenticity of the apostolic ministry. That evidence is no longer needed.

Some of these gifts are considered passing because they are not apparent to exercise in the Body of Christ today or some of them appear to be exercised. The exercise of them is questionable enough that the Body of Christ is sincerely divided on the subject.

The last thing that I want to say to you about the suggestion that these gifts are passing is related to an explanation which is given in the Scriptures. This explanation perhaps should be the final word on the matter. Will you turn, please, to I Corinthians, chapter 13, and notice verse 8:

I Corinthians 13:

8Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

Now if you are observing the passage of Scripture closely you will notice that there are three gifts of the Spirit which are mentioned in this verse. One of them is the gift of prohecy. the idea of foretelling future events. There is the gift of tongues, and there is the gift of knowledge. You need to notice that word knowledge carefully because it is not a word which describes the accumulation of knowledge through the study of the Word of God. It is a word that describes special revelation from the Lord. It is a word which describes the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For example, I believe unreservedly in the verbal inspiration of the Bible. I believe that holy men of God were borne along by the Holy Spirit and wrote down what they were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write. I believe that the Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled His promise when He said to His aposltes, “The Holy Spirit will teach you all things.” I believe that what the Holy Spirit taught these apostles is written down in God's Word and I hold in my hand today the complete Revelation of God's Word. Now that is the meaning of the word knowledge.

Look at the word again and notice the statement,:

I Corinthians 13:

8Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge,[in the sense that I have described] it shall vanish away.

In our English text it would appear that the word faileth, fail, cease, vanish away are all talking about the same thing. but I would like to suggest to you that if you examine the original text such is not the case. For example, when you read, “Love never faileth,” you read the word faileth and you should recognize that it comes from the Greek word expooptoe, which means literally “never become inefficient.” Read that phrase that way. “Love never becomes inefficient.” Love will win. that's what God is saying in His Word.

Now look at the next statement, “prophets shall fail.” This word fail comes from the Greek word cotoclent which means “to be rendered inactive,” or “useless.” What is the Spirit of God saying? “There is a day in the history in the Body of Christ when prophecies will be no longer useful.” The simple reason is we have the complete revelation of God's Word.

Read the next statement, “tongues shall cease.” This word cease comes from the Greek word phyro, which means “to come to an end automatically.” What is this verse saying? “There will be a time within the history of the Body of Christ when the gifts of tongues will come to an end automatically” because there will be no further need for it. Then you will notice in the same text “knowledge shall vanish away.” This phrase, vanish away comes from the Greek word cartardayo , which refers to “knowledge revelation of the Spirit of God stopping,” in the sense that it is complete.

You see why I say to you that we have reason to believe that some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are passing. If what I have said to you is true, then you need to be very careful before you seek a gift which may not be intended for this particular era of the Body of Christ. You need to be careful that you are not critical of those who do not exercise certain gifts, for it could be for the reason that they were not intended for this particualr era of the Body of Christ. You need to be just as careful to keep in mind that though some of the gifts are passing, some of the gifts are permanent. You need to know what they are and you need to know what relationship they have to you.

And in encouraging, may I say, though we are talking about the gifts of the Spirit and there is room for discussion in relation to their manifestation or their lack of such, there is one gift about which there needs to be no misunderstanding at all. One gift that we don't even have to discuss for the purposes of understanding and that is the gift of eternal life. That is God's gift. It is available to anyone for the taking. I wonder if you have just neglected to do it? Let me encourage you if you nave not received the gift of eternal life before you leave this building, receive it. Don't miss out on the best thing that could happen to anybody.

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