GIFTS FROM GOD
The gifts God gives to men are an expression of his undeserved kindness. The very word khaʹri·sma (literally, gracious gift), appearing 17 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, implies a gift involving “undeserved kindness” (khaʹris) on God’s part. (Ro 6:23, ftn; 1Co 12:4; 2Ti 1:6; 1Pe 4:10) It is, therefore, only proper that the gifts received from Jehovah be used for the benefit of fellowmen and to the glory of God the giver. (1Pe 4:10, 11) These gifts are not for the selfish profit of the receiver. Since such a person has “received free,” he is under obligation to “give free.”—Mt 10:8.
“Every good gift and every perfect present is from above.” (Jas 1:17) Jehovah is generous in giving, allowing both the righteous and the wicked to benefit from the sunshine and the rain. In fact, he “gives to all persons life and breath and all things.” God’s gifts, including food and drink and seeing good from one’s hard work, are for man’s enjoyment. (Mt 5:45; Ac 17:24, 25; Ec 3:12, 13; 5:19; 1Ti 6:17) Both singleness and marriage are gifts from God, to be enjoyed within the limits of his requirements. Since the single person is freer to devote himself to Jehovah’s service without distraction, singleness is the better of the two gifts.—Pr 18:22; Mt 19:11, 12; 1Co 7:7, 17, 32-38; Heb 13:4.
God’s Gift Through Jesus’ Sacrifice. Jehovah’s undeserved kindness in providing his Son as a ransom sacrifice is a priceless gift, and those exercising faith in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice can thereby gain the gift of everlasting life. (Ro 6:23; Joh 3:16) God’s “indescribable free gift” evidently includes all the goodness and loving-kindness that God extends to his people through Jesus Christ.—2Co 9:15; compare Ro 5:15-17.
Holy Spirit. God imparts his spirit as a gift to his people, enabling them to avoid the degrading works of the flesh and to cultivate instead the fruitage of the spirit, namely, love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, and self-control. (Ac 2:38; Ro 8:2-10; Ga 5:16-25) Jehovah’s spirit is a sure guide and supplies power beyond that which is normal, helping the Christian to fulfill his God-given assignments regardless of the pressures brought against him. (Joh 16:13; 2Co 4:7-10) Jesus assured his disciples that God’s spirit would teach them all things, would bring back to their minds the things he had taught them, and would help them to make a defense even before rulers.—Joh 14:26; Mr 13:9-11.
Wisdom and Knowledge. True wisdom and knowledge are gifts from God. Jehovah actually invites his servants to pray for wisdom and knowledge, as Solomon did. (Jas 1:5; 2Ch 1:8-12) Nevertheless, to gain knowledge, effort in studying what God has made available by the gift of his Word is required. (Pr 2:1-6; 2Ti 2:15; 3:15) But a study of God’s Word in itself does not guarantee receiving the gifts of knowledge and wisdom. True knowledge and wisdom are available only through Jesus Christ and with the help of God’s spirit.—1Co 2:10-16; Col 2:3.
Godly wisdom serves as a protection and a guide in the ways of life. (Ec 7:12; Pr 4:5-7) The wisdom that stems from God is distinctly different from worldly wisdom, which is foolishness from Jehovah’s standpoint and also harmful in that it leaves God out of account. (1Co 1:18-21) “But the wisdom from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey, full of mercy and good fruits, not making partial distinctions, not hypocritical.”—Jas 3:17.
Accurate knowledge of Jehovah’s will helps its possessor to “make sure of the more important things,” to avoid stumbling others, and “to walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him.” (Php 1:9-11; Col 1:9, 10) Furthermore, knowledge is one of the things helping the Christian to be active and productive in his service to God. (2Pe 1:5-8) This gift from God involves more than a mere acquaintance with facts. It embraces understanding of those facts and knowing how to use them in giving “an answer to each one.”—Col 4:6.
Gifts of Service and “Gifts in Men.” Assignments of service in God’s earthly arrangement are really gifts from Jehovah. (Nu 18:7; Ro 12:6-8; Eph 3:2, 7) Those favored with assignments of service by God’s undeserved kindness are also called “gifts in men,” and Jesus Christ, as God’s representative and head of the congregation, has given these to the congregation in order that its members individually might be built up and attain maturity. (Eph 4:8, 11, 12) In order to discharge his responsibilities faithfully to the blessing of others, the one having the gift must continue to cultivate it, never neglecting it. (1Ti 4:14; 2Ti 1:6) With the help of Jehovah, anyone, by putting forth determined efforts to make full use of his capabilities and to surmount the obstacles that may present themselves, can cultivate the ability to perform any divinely assigned service.—Php 4:13.
Gifts of the Spirit. In the first century C.E. miraculous gifts attended the baptism with holy spirit. These served as signs that God was no longer using the Jewish congregation in his service but that his approval rested on the Christian congregation established by his Son. (Heb 2:2-4) On the day of Pentecost, miraculous gifts accompanied the outpouring of the holy spirit, and in each case mentioned thereafter in the Scriptures where the miraculous gifts of the spirit were transmitted, at least one of the 12 apostles or Paul, who was directly chosen by Jesus, was present. (Ac 2:1, 4, 14; 8:9-20; 10:44-46; 19:6) Evidently, with the death of the apostles, the transmittal of the gifts of the spirit ended, and the miraculous gifts of the spirit ceased altogether as those who had received these gifts passed off the earthly scene.
Performing apparently miraculous works would not in itself prove divine authorization, nor would the inability of God’s servants to perform miracles with the help of God’s spirit cast doubt on the fact that they were being used by him. (Mt 7:21-23) Not every first-century Christian could perform powerful works, heal, speak in tongues, and translate. Paul, and doubtless some others, had by God’s undeserved kindness been granted a number of these gifts of the spirit. However, these miraculous gifts marked the infancy of the Christian congregation and were foretold to cease. In fact, even Jesus indicated that his followers would be identified, not by their performance of powerful works, but by their love for one another.—1Co 12:29, 30; 13:2, 8-13; Joh 13:35.
Paul enumerates nine different manifestations or operations of the spirit: (1) speech of wisdom, (2) speech of knowledge, (3) faith, (4) gifts of healings, (5) powerful works, (6) prophesying, (7) discernment of inspired utterances, (8) different tongues, and (9) interpretation of tongues. All these gifts of the spirit served a beneficial purpose that not only contributed to the numerical growth of the congregation but also resulted in its spiritual upbuilding.—1Co 12:7-11; 14:24-26.
“Speech of wisdom.” Although wisdom can be acquired through study, application, and experience, the “speech of wisdom” here mentioned apparently was a miraculous ability to apply knowledge in a successful way to solve problems arising in the congregation. (1Co 12:8) It was “according to the wisdom given him” that Paul wrote letters that became part of God’s inspired Word. (2Pe 3:15, 16) This gift also appears to have been manifest in the individual’s ability to make a defense that opposers were unable to resist or to dispute.—Ac 6:9, 10.
“Speech of knowledge” and “faith.” All in the first-century Christian congregation had basic knowledge concerning Jehovah and his Son as well as God’s will and his requirements for life. Therefore, “speech of knowledge” was something above and beyond the knowledge shared by Christians in general; it was miraculous knowledge. Likewise “faith” as a gift of the spirit was evidently a miraculous faith that helped the individual to overcome mountainlike obstacles that would otherwise hinder service to God.—1Co 12:8, 9; 13:2.
“Healings.” The gift of healing was manifest in the ability to cure diseases completely, regardless of the nature of the affliction. (Ac 5:15, 16; 9:33, 34; 28:8, 9) Prior to Pentecost, healing had been done by Jesus and his disciples. Whereas some persons healed did manifest obvious faith, the afflicted one was not required to make an expression of faith in order to be cured. (Compare Joh 5:5-9, 13.) Jesus, on one occasion, attributed his disciples’ inability to cure an epileptic, not to the lack of faith of the one seeking a cure for his son, but to the little faith of his disciples. (Mt 17:14-16, 18-20) Not once do the Scriptures cite an instance where Jesus or his apostles were unable to heal others on account of the lack of faith of those seeking a cure. Furthermore, instead of using the gift of healing in curing Timothy of his stomach trouble or attributing his frequent cases of sickness to his lack of faith, the apostle Paul recommended that Timothy use a little wine for the sake of his stomach.—1Ti 5:23; see FAITH; HEALING.
“Powerful works.” Powerful works included raising dead persons, expelling demons, and even striking opposers with blindness. (1Co 12:10) The manifestation of such powerful works resulted in adding believers to the congregation.—Ac 9:40, 42; 13:8-12; 19:11, 12, 20.
“Prophesying.” Prophesying was a greater gift than speaking in tongues, as it built up the congregation. Moreover, unbelievers were helped thereby to recognize that God was really among the Christians. (1Co 14:3-5, 24, 25) All in the Christian congregation spoke about the fulfillment of the prophecies recorded in God’s Word. (Ac 2:17, 18) However, the particular ones having the miraculous gift of prophesying were able to foretell future events, as did Agabus.—Ac 11:27, 28; see PROPHECY; PROPHET (Prophets in the Christian Greek Scriptures).
“Discernment of inspired utterances.” Discernment of inspired utterances evidently involved the ability to discern whether an inspired expression originated with God or not. (1Co 12:10) This gift would prevent its possessor from being deceived and turned away from the truth and would protect the congregation from false prophets.—1Jo 4:1; compare 2Co 11:3, 4.
“Tongues.” The miraculous gift of tongues attended the outpouring of God’s spirit at Pentecost, 33 C.E. The approximately 120 disciples assembled in an upper room (possibly near the temple) were thereby enabled to speak about “the magnificent things of God” in the native tongues of the Jews and proselytes who had come to Jerusalem from faraway places for the observance of the festival. This fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy proved that God was using the new Christian congregation and no longer the Jewish congregation. In order to receive the free gift of the holy spirit, the Jews and proselytes had to repent and be baptized in Jesus’ name.—Ac 1:13-15; 2:1-47.
The gift of tongues proved very helpful to first-century Christians in preaching to those who spoke other languages. It was actually a sign to unbelievers. However, Paul, in writing to the Christian congregation at Corinth, directed that when meeting together, not all should speak in tongues, as strangers and unbelievers entering and not understanding would conclude that they were mad. He also recommended that the speaking in tongues “be limited to two or three at the most, and in turns.” However, if no one could translate, then the person speaking in a tongue was to remain silent in the congregation, speaking to himself and to God. (1Co 14:22-33) If no translating took place, his speaking in a tongue would not result in upbuilding others, for no one would listen to his speech because it would be meaningless to those unable to understand it.—1Co 14:2, 4.
If the person speaking in a tongue was unable to translate, then he did not understand what he himself was saying nor would others who were not familiar with that tongue, or language. Hence, Paul encouraged those having the gift of tongues to pray that they might also translate and thereby edify all listeners. From the foregoing, it can readily be seen why Paul, under inspiration, ranked speaking in tongues as a lesser gift and pointed out that in a congregation he would rather speak five words with his mind (understanding) than 10,000 words in a tongue.—1Co 14:11, 13-19.
“Interpretation of tongues.” The gift of interpretation of tongues was manifest in a person’s being able to translate a language unknown to the one having this gift. (1Co 12:10) This gift really enhanced the gift of speaking in tongues, since the entire congregation would be built up by hearing the translation.—1Co 14:5.
Other Operations of the Spirit. When mentioning some of the operations of the spirit in conjunction with the placement of the individual members of Christ’s body, Paul states: “God has set the respective ones in the congregation, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then powerful works; then gifts of healings; helpful services, abilities to direct, different tongues.” (1Co 12:27, 28) “Helpful services” may have included the organized arrangements for aiding needy brothers materially, such as the distributing of food to needy widows, for which seven men “full of spirit and wisdom” were appointed in the Jerusalem congregation. (Ac 6:1-6) “Abilities to direct” were needed in order to follow through on the commission outlined by Jesus to make disciples. (Mt 28:19, 20) The missionary work as well as the establishing of new congregations and then guiding the activities of these congregations required skillful direction. In this regard it is noteworthy that Paul, with reference to his part in God’s building program, speaks of himself as “a wise director of works.”—1Co 3:10.
Control of the Gifts of the Spirit. Apparently those having the gifts of the spirit were in a position to use them only when Jehovah’s spirit came to be operative upon them to exercise the gift. For example, at Caesarea although Paul stayed in the home of Philip, who “had four daughters, virgins, that prophesied,” it was not one of these daughters but Agabus, a prophet who had come from Judea, who foretold Paul’s arrest. (Ac 21:8-11) At a meeting of the congregation, a prophet could receive a revelation while another prophet was speaking; but those having the gifts of the spirit had control over these when God’s spirit enveloped them, that is, they could refrain from speaking until opportunity was afforded. Therefore, prophesying, speaking in tongues, and translating could be done in an orderly way in the congregation, for the edification of all.—1Co 14:26-33.