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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Are All Spiritual Gifts Active Today?

Don Stewart :: Why Is There So Much Division among Christians over Spiritual Gifts?

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Why Is There So Much Division among Christians over Spiritual Gifts?

Are All Spiritual Gifts Active Today? – Question 20

The subject of spiritual gifts causes much division among believers. This is extremely unfortunate. One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to unify the believers in Jesus Christ. Paul wrote to the Ephesians about this. He said.

Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace. (Ephesians 4:3 NLT)

It is acceptable that people hold different views upon the subject of spiritual gifts, but it is wrong when the differences cause division. A number of points need to be made.

Divisions Come from Both Sides of This Issue

It must be understood that divisions over spiritual gifts come from both cessationists and non-cessationists alike. There are things practiced from each perspective that causes division among believers – it is not limited to only one side.

The reasons as to why believers are so divided over this subject include the following.

There Is the Fear of Unknown

One of the reasons for the division over spiritual gifts is fear of the unknown. When something new or unusual occurs in the church, people may naturally experience fear. Many people have their own particular view of what God will and will not do, and thus may not be open to differing points of view. This includes those who accept the modern-day miraculous gifts (non-cessationists) and those who reject these gifts as for today (cessationists). All of us are more comfortable with what we know—not with the unknown.

The Bible says that perfect love casts out fear. John wrote.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love (1 John 4:18 NRSV).

God’s love removes fear. We always need to remember this.

Tradition Keeps People from Changing Their Mind

Another cause for the divisions over spiritual gifts is tradition. People are comfortable in the traditions in which they were raised. It is difficult to admit the possibility that a certain tradition may be incorrect. Therefore, they are more comfortable believing what they have always been taught rather than examining the subject for themselves.

One may come from a background where it assumes the spectacular gifts of the Spirit are no longer operating. When confronted with the phenomena the person immediately rejects it as being from God. They assume it must derive from some other source.

On the other hand, one may come from a background where the miraculous gifts have been accepted as authentic. This person is then confronted with a situation where God is mightily working without these supernatural gifts operating. What do they do in this instance?

Outrageous Behavior on the Part of Christians Causes Division

All Christians will admit that there has been outrageous behavior done in the name of the Holy Spirit. This behavior has kept some people from objectively examining the subject.

However, the truth with respect to spiritual gifts cannot be based upon anyone’s behavior, good or bad. Scripture alone must decide this issue.

There Have Been Unfounded Claims by People

Not only has there been outrageous behavior by some Christians, there have also been a number of unfounded claims about the miracles that the Holy Spirit has brought about. These spectacular, but unverifiable, claims have also been a cause for division. Because of the outlandish behavior and unfounded claims, some formulate their theology based upon reaction rather than upon revelation.

Personal Experience Comes before the Study of God’s Word

Too often people begin by first determining from their own experience whether certain spiritual gifts do or do not exist. Then they go to the Scripture to support what they have already decided is true. What everyone needs to do is to study the Scripture first, and then examine experience in light of Scripture.

There Is No Reason for Division on This Issue

Basically there are no reasons why believers should be divided in the way they are over spiritual gifts. While it is certainly proper to hold to a particular view on the issue, it is not right to make one’s view a test of fellowship.

Each side on the cessationists, non-cessationist issue can learn from the other side. No one has all the answers on this difficult subject. It is time that all sides admitted such.

Summary – Question 20
Why Is There So Much Division among Christians over Spiritual Gifts?

There are a number of reasons for the divisions over spiritual gifts. However none of these reasons are good ones. People can have differences of opinion on the subject and still be unified in Christ. This is the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Divisions come from both sides of the cessationist, non-cessationist issue. Each side can be faulted for relying on things other than the clear teaching of the Word of God.

One of the causes of division is natural fear of the unknown. When we are faced with something with which we are not familiar our immediate tendency is to reject it, or at the very least, question its truthfulness.

This occurs when people are confronted with possible episodes of the supernatural. They are not certain how to interpret what they have seen or experienced since it is completely new to them.

On the other hand, there are many instances of the Holy Spirit working mightily with no supernatural signs in evidence. It is thus clear that the Spirit of God can, and does, work without people seeing miraculous signs.

We must be careful not to let the traditions in which we were raised dictate everything that we believe. No matter how well-meaning our teachers may have been, they may have been wrong in certain areas of Bible doctrine. It is our responsibility to search the Scripture for ourselves.

There is also the problem of extremes. Nobody doubts people have made extreme claims with respect to modern-day supernatural happenings. But extreme behavior by some does not provide a final answer as to whether certain sign gifts still exist. Still, extreme behavior, as well as outrageous and unverified claims, has done much to cause division among believers on this subject.

As difficult as it may be, it is necessary that we try to put our own personal experience aside as we tackle this question. To answer the question of the permanency of certain spiritual gifts the entire Scripture must be our guide; not just one verse here and there. If what we believe about spiritual gifts is true, then the entire Bible will support our view.

In sum, it is proper to have differences of opinion on the duration of certain spiritual gifts. However, these differences should not divide us from our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Is Possession of Spiritual Gifts Equated with Spiritual Maturity? ← Prior Section
What Observations and Conclusions Should We Make regarding Spiritual Gifts? Next Section →
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