The Truth about Spiritual Gifts

By David A. DePra

Back to the Goodnews


Let’s turn to Ephesians 4.  Ephesians 4 contains an extended passage that contains much Truth about spiritual gifts.


Paul says there:


I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation (or invitation) wherewith you were called.  With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the spirit of unity in the bond of peace.  (Eph. 4:1-3)


Even before Paul begins to write directly about spiritual gifts in this chapter, you can see that the gifts of the Spirit, if they are being exercised out from God, are going to be the result of these attitudes of faith that Paul is describing.  If a person is walking with Christ by faith, and knows Him, the gifts that emerge will manifest the spirit of, and attitude of, Jesus Christ -- “with all lowliness and meekness, long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  It should not be surprising that the gifts of the Spirit of Christ carry the nature and character of Christ Himself. 


Paul then wraps up his introductory remarks by emphasizing this issue of unity:


There is one body and one spirit even as you are called in one hope of your calling:  One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, through all and in you all.  (Eph. 4:4)


So even before writing about any specific spiritual gift, Paul makes it clear as to the character and the purpose of those gifts.  This purpose stated here, is the same purpose he will later declare:  The purpose of the gifts are to edify believers in Christ, that is, it is to build up Christ IN believers.   But this is not accomplished by mere words, manifestations, or by exercising a gift – as a thing to do in itself.  No.  Any spiritual gift that is of God, and is ministered according to God’s will, is going to minister Christ Himself.  And where Christ is ministered through the spirit of God we will always find the character of Christ carried – “with all lowliness and meekness, etc.”  There will be a dismissing of any personal agenda in favor of God’s ONE purpose through His ONE and only Son.  That lays a foundation for unity.


All the Gifts are of Christ


Now, all of that is an introduction to this chapter.  But Paul goes on in verse 7:


But every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.  (Eph. 4:7)


Read that verse again and consider what it is really saying:  The gifts are possible through each person only, “according to the measure of the gift of Christ.”  In other words, all of the spiritual gifts are out from Christ Himself – out from the Christ who dwells in the believer.


The point is that we must never separate the gifts of the spirit from the Person of Jesus Christ.  No.  They are not separate.  The gifts ARE of Christ – they are a manifestation of Him by the spirit of God.


Paul is stating exactly that:  Everyone of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.  In other words, all that God has to give by His grace is given to us IN CHRIST.  All grace and Truth was given in Jesus Christ.  (John 1:17)  There is nothing that God gives to humanity through any other means or by any other person.  That includes the gifts of the spirit and the fruit of the spirit.  ALL of the spiritual gifts come out of Christ Himself -- who dwells within the believer as the source of ALL.


This needs to be clarified because I absolutely believe that the vast majority of believers today do separate the gifts of the spirit FROM the Person of Jesus Christ.  Most will say, “Yes, Christ saves us, and yes, we have Him in us.  We are joined to the Lord and made one with Him in spirit.” (I Cor. 6:17)  But then they will say that the gifts of the spirit are not gifts that come out from Christ – but rather -- they will say that the gifts come from the Holy Spirit.  Thus, people make a separation between the Person of Christ and the holy spirit.  Yet God never does that. 


What God does reveal is that Christ dwells in us BY THE MEANS of His holy spirit.  We are baptized by one spirit into one body -- His body.  In other words, we are baptized into Christ Himself – as it states in Romans 6. 


Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also of His resurrection.  (Rom. 6:3-5)


Being baptized into Christ is equal to being joined to the Lord and made one spirit with Him.  The believer is in resurrection union with Christ.  That is why Paul is able to say, , “But every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.”  (Eph. 4:7)  Paul is alluding to the Truth that we are one with Christ in spirit, and thus, all that is spiritual, and of God, including spiritual gifts, are of the Person of Christ with whom we are joined, and into whom we are baptized.


If you gather all of this up, and come to understand the meaning of, “Christ in us,” (Col. 1:27) and the meaning of what it means to be, “joined to the Lord,” (I Cor. 6:17) you will not be able to escape the conclusion that within the believer there is ONE indwelling – not two.  We are IN CHRIST; Christ is IN US.  There is NOT an additional indwelling in the believer by the holy spirit.  No.  Again – Christ dwells in the believer by the MEANS of the holy spirit.


That may shock some folks, but it is a vital Truth to grasp.  Many believers have been taught that Christ comes to dwell in us at salvation, but then we must go on to receive a second blessing, experience, or indwelling, called the, “baptism with the holy spirit.”  Thus, many say Christ is in us, but so is the holy spirit.  In fact, many believers minimize the reality and impact of Christ in us, and believe that the baptism with the holy spirit is where we REALLY get what God has for us in His purpose.  This is not the truth.


Again -- the indwelling of Jesus Christ is by means of the holy spirit.  There is no separate, or second experience, whereby the indwelling of the holy spirit is ADDED to Christ.  You don’t have two indwellings -- you have one.  Neither do you have an indwelling of Christ, and then a, “fullness,” made possible only by the addition of the holy spirit.  No.  Rather, you have, “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” by the Spirit of God.  Indeed, it is through the ongoing revelation of Christ within believers BY THE SPIRIT; THROUGH THE GIFTS, that God desires that, “We all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the FULLNESS OF CHRIST.” 


The goal of God is the fullness of Christ in His people.  This is the purpose of the giving of the spirit of God – the purpose of the gifts -- to begin with.  Turn to Romans 8.  In verse 32 it says:


He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?  (Acts 8:32)


God has freely given us all things IN HIS SON.  Thus, if Christ is in you, there is nothing God has left to give to you.  ALL is given IN HIM.  In short, God has NOT given us, “things,” in addition to Christ, or even, “things,” because of Christ.  No.  Rather, God has given us CHRIST HIMSELF – in Whom is given ALL THINGS. 


This is a Truth so clear, and so often stated in the NT – through many different ways – that it is amazing that any of us could misunderstand it.  It is a primary Truth. 


Therefore, if God has GIVEN all things in His Son, do not all things that are GIVEN include the GIFTS?  Aren’t the gifts GIVEN?  Sure.


When do you receive Christ?  You receive Him when you are saved – you are joined to the Lord and made one spirit with Him.  (I Cor. 6:17)  That is why you are saved.  Being joined to the Lord is the only reason you are eternally alive.  He is THE LIFE – and at salvation becomes YOUR LIFE. (Col. 3:4) 


Now ask:  Christ is THE LIFE -- and at salvation, Christ becomes OUR LIFE.  Is there anything of God that could be outside of HIS LIFE?  No.  Except death.  That is why all that God has to give is given IN CHRIST – given in Christ who is THE LIFE.  Therefore, it is error to suggest that the gifts, or the fruits, or anything of God, could possibly be received through any other Person than Christ, or through any other experience except that of salvation – which is the point at which we are united with Him and He becomes our life. 


All Received in Christ at Salvation


There is not anything left over to receive from God if you have received Christ.  God has given ALL in Him and in Him alone.  I do understand that this clashes with many beliefs of sincere people, many of whom have been influenced by the charismatic movement.  For the charismatic movement teaches that, yes, you do receive Christ at salvation, but you do NOT receive all that God has to give in Him.  Rather, to get what God really has for you -- the gifts, and the power to serve, and all the rest – you must receive a, “second blessing; second baptism; second experience,” in addition to receiving Christ at salvation.  They call this second experience, “the baptism with the Holy Spirit.”


Note that this teaching immediately creates a separation between the Person of Jesus Christ and the gifts of the spirit.  Sure.  They are teaching that you do not receive the gifts, or the power of the spirit, when you receive Christ.  You have to get that through a second experience – and if you do not receive this, “baptism with the holy spirit,” as they define it, then you do NOT have all that God wants to give you.  You do NOT have the gifts of the spirit, or the power of the spirit, that you could have.  No.  Rather, you have, “only Christ.”  You are limited because you, “merely have Christ within,” for salvation.


This, “doctrine of the second blessing,” as it used to be called, is not Biblical.  It is error which has resulted in more heresy and subsequent error than we can imagine.  For once you depart from the Person of Jesus Christ as the source of all, in any way, you are already in error.  Then, the crop you are going to harvest from that is going to be all the worse.  A Christianity based on psychic experiences is just one example.


Again -- Jesus said, “I am the life.”  Paul says, “Jesus Christ IS our life.”  Thus, we have not been given a THING called, “life,” but we have been given Christ, the Person who is our life – we are joined to Him in spirit.  What do we think, that despite the fact that Christ is our life – despite the fact that He IS the life -- that if we have not gone on to receive a second experience in addition to Him, that there are dimensions of life we do not have?  Are not spiritual gifts a dimension of eternal LIFE – an aspect of the spirit of LIFE in Christ Jesus?


We need to come to terms with these issues.  We need to ask ourselves, before the Lord, some very clear and sobering questions.  If you have received the Person of Jesus Christ, the One who said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” and who said, “I am the life,” and who said, “I am the truth” – and if you have within you the One IN whom Paul says God has freely given us all things – of whom Paul said, “we are complete in Him” – if you have received Him then you need to ask yourself this question:  Is there any possibility that you could be lacking anything if you are one with Christ in spirit?  For if you continue to believe that you need to go on to a second experience then you are saying that you do lack.  You do not have in Christ everything God has for you -- and you do need to go on to another experience to receive all.


I understand that there are millions of people today who are absolutely brainwashed by the teaching that there is salvation -- and THEN a second experience.  If you try to talk to them about the Truth you can barely make a dent.  They just tune you out the moment you begin to question it.  They continue to think that those who do not agree with them, “do not have what they have” – and are therefore second class citizens of the kingdom of God.  Some may even accuse you of blaspheming the spirit of God.  But you see, these are just some of the results of creating division between Christians with false doctrine.


There are indeed many people who have had an experience when they were, “baptized with the Holy Spirit,” subsequent to salvation.  They will tell you that they felt like they went to heaven.  They will tell you that they had some kind of ecstatic experience.  Some spoke in tongues – or what they say were tongues.  I have been present when people have had that.  I have seen it with my own eyes.  My answer to this is this:  Either we are going to believe people’s experiences – or their interpretation of their experiences -- or we are going to believe the Bible.


I do not doubt people’s sincerity or the fact that to them their experience was real.  I do not believe that most people would lie and make up such an experience.  I’m not suggesting that at all.  In fact, I am saying that their experience WAS real.  But it was not a second blessing.  It was not a baptism with the holy spirit.  Through the power of expectation it may have been completely emotional.  It may also have been purely psychic – of the soul realm.  That can be quite powerful, real, and moving.  Most of all, regardless of the cause or source, the experience was misinterpreted.  How many know that most of us, due to false teaching, are able to misinterpret something God does according to that false teaching?  Or we have been wrongly taught to expect certain results from God and therefore we will define almost anything that happens according to our expectations? 


Even if God would, in His mercy, touch someone when people lay hands on them and pray for the baptism with the spirit – even then it is NOT an additional gift of grace.  It is NOT an additional indwelling added on to the Person of  Christ.  It is not!  God has given everything He has to give to the believer in the Person of Jesus Christ.  Everything that the believer could possibly experience that is of God has to come out of Christ as the source.  That is an absolute, non negotiable, Truth.


You can take that as a warning and as an exhortation because Paul gives those warnings in Colossians 2. He says, “ALL the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are HID in Christ.”  (Col. 2:3)  Again – ALL in Christ.  The moment we begin to stray from Christ to something else – even if we think it is of God -- we are in error.  It is NOT of God.


Now, people will say, “You know, I have gotten all these gifts from the spirit of God and you know, that’s just as good as getting it from Christ.”  Yes, but you are then minimizing the Person of Christ as your source, which us exactly what has happened.  Isn’t the charismatic movement more about the Spirit of God than it is about Jesus Christ?  It is! 


Jesus made it a point to declare that when the spirit of God would come, the spirit would NEVER speak of itself – the spirit would never focus upon the spirit.  So, what do you conclude about a movement that is more about the spirit of God than it is about Jesus?  Read John 14, 15, and 16.  Jesus Christ said that when the Spirit of God would come that everything that spirit was given to do has to do with Jesus Himself -- to magnify Him to people, and edify them in Christ, and to  glorify Christ.  The spirit of God never magnifies the spirit of God.


Christ in Us by the Spirit


There are not two indwellings and there are not two experiences.  No.  When we are saved, we are joined to the Lord and made one spirit with Him.  That joining IS the baptism with the Holy Spirit.  It IS the point where Christ comes to dwell in us.  At that point, in Christ we have ALL that God has to give.  Moving forward, the Christian life is not a matter of adding something God has for us TO Christ.  No.  Rather, it is a matter of God bringing us into an inward realization of the Christ we have received – and as Christ is unfolded to us, so is all that is found in Him brought into our experience.  ALL is given IN HIM – and it is only as we grow in Him that we experience ALL.


Note that great distinction:  We are not given anything in addition to Christ.  But in Christ we are already given ALL – but we must come to experience Him to experience all.


Romans 8 contains a passage that proves this Truth.  I am going to quote verse 9 through verse 11 of this chapter.  As I do, please note how many synonymous terms Paul uses in this passage to refer to the same indwelling of Christ in us.  He is clearly NOT talking about separate indwellings, or separate experiences.  Rather, he is talking about the very same reality of Christ in us – using different terms.


Beginning in Romans 8:9:


You are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit if so be the Spirit of God dwell in you.


Here you have two phrases:  “In the Spirit,” and, “the Spirit of God dwell in you.”’  But Paul goes on in the same thought: 


Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His, and if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin but the spirit is life because of righteousness.”


There are two more phrases or terms, “”the spirit of Christ,” and, “Christ in you.”  Can we see that we are reading a passage here which proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Christ in us dwells in us via the spirit of God? All of these phrases are talking, not about differing realities, but about exactly the SAME reality of Christ in the believer?


Paul goes on to say:


And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin but the spirit is life because of righteousness.  Now, if the spirit of Him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwells in you.


So, you have numerous terms in this one passage, all of which are representative of the reality that Jesus Christ is in us by the Spirit of God.


I think God has this passage here to make sure we understand that there is one indwelling -- that we are joined to the Lord Jesus and made one spirit with Him.  This is THE ONE baptism -- with the Holy Spirit.  If you are joined to the Lord and made one spirit with Him, you are immersed in Him.  You are baptized into Christ and that is the baptism with the Holy Spirit.  It is the only one there is.


Later, in Ephesians 4, Paul says, “There is ONE baptism.”  So, why do people get baptized in water, and then go on to get baptized in the Holy Spirit, and think it is a necessary second experience that will give them more of what God has for them?.  Well, I think we know the answer to that:  It is tradition and it is error.  For there is ONE baptism and it happens at salvation when we are baptized into Christ.  It is then that we are joined to Him, immersed in Him, and have become one spirit with Him – and if that is true, then all that He is becomes possible for us to experience. 


Some of those manifestations of, “all that He is,” are called spiritual gifts.  Yes, they are called, “the gifts of the spirit.”  But as we have seen, the spirit IS, “the spirit OF Christ.”  In other words, they are the gifts of the One who dwells in us.


So, when Paul says in Ephesians 4:7, “But to every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ,” he is including spiritual gifts, which he will go on to write about in this chapter shortly.


He Ascended on High


Paul next writes:


When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men.  Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the inferior parts of the earth?  (Eph. 4:8-9)

Now, of course, it is from out of these verses that people have derived the absurd doctrine that states that when Jesus died, He went to hell or hades, and gathered up all the people trapped there and took them up into heaven.  They link this interpretation up with I Peter 3:19-20.  But this entire doctrine is nothing but a tradition that was born hundreds of years ago -- and has no Biblical basis whatsoever.  Read Acts 2, where, after the resurrection and ascension, Peter says, “David is not ascended unto heaven.”  If anyone would have gone to heaven, led by Jesus Christ out of Hades, or wherever we say he was, it would have been David.  I don’t want to discuss that now -- but so many of these things were established by works such as the Schofield Bible and once they were published and taught over and over became accepted as biblical doctrine.  But it is simply NOT the Truth.  Now, if you want to believe the traditional interpretation, then fine.  This is not an essential doctrine.  But you may run into other problems when you try to reconcile this error with other truth.


What Paul is really teaching in Ephesians 4 is that Jesus descended down into this earth – not into the LOWER parts of the earth – but according to the Greek, He descended into the most INFERIOR aspects of this earthly realm – in other words, He became a man and tasted DEATH for us all.  This was God, “sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh,” (Rom. 8:3)  Jesus did not have the sin nature, and He never sinned.  But to the natural eye, He looked just like the rest of us – He became a human being; God in the flesh.  And He died for us as the Son of God become man.


It was when Jesus died and was raised that He led captivity captive.  The entire Adam race was in captivity to the realm of darkness through sin.  Jesus became the Last Adam – He bore in His body on the cross the Adam race – and died.  A new creation – a new humanity – was raised up from out of the dead in Him – free from all of the OLD.  In other words, Christ led, so to speak, the entirety of the Adam race from out of that old creation -- as He passed through death and resurrection -- and when He was ascended, He led all of humanity up to the throne of God.  Not that we are there yet, but humanity as a creature, was now given that possibility.  When He ascended on high, He carried everything that was in bondage – humanity and all creation – to the throne of God IN HIMSELF.


Note the point Paul is making:  Jesus was ascended and seated at the right hand of God.  Only then was it possible for Him, by the means of His spirit of God, to give gifts to humanity.  Jesus had said to His disciples that unless He ascended He could not come back to them by the means of the spirit of God.  Paul is stating that same fact as having happened. In short, only once Jesus ascended could He come back down and indwell His people – and His presence in His people would make all of the gifts – indeed all that God gave in Him – possible to be manifested and experienced.  This, of course, began to happen in Acts 2.


Purpose of the Gifts


He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.  And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.  (Eph. 4:10-13)


It is clear that only once Christ was seated in the heavenlies as Lord was it possible for all that He did, and all that He was, to be given to believers by the means of the spirit of God within.  And in turn this made it possible for the gifts of the spirit of God to emerge.


Many people tend to limit the gifts of the spirit to, “the sign gifts.”  Others make the mistake of thinking that the gifts of the spirit are natural gifts simply brought out and used by God.  No. Read the entire passage again.  The gifts are Christ within being manifested along a particular line.  And the purpose of the gifts are exactly in accordance with what Jesus said the spirit would do:  Edify believers in Christ.  Reveal Christ to us, in us, and through us.  Bring members of His body into spiritual maturity.


Paul mentions some of the gifts of the spirit of God.  But again, if you read through this entire passage and keep focused on the context, you will see that all of it has to do with the reality of Jesus Christ in the believer -- and what Christ, by the Spirit, will be doing in those believers and in the body.  He writes:


And He (Jesus Christ) gave some apostles and some prophets…  (Eph. 4:11)


Now, I do not believe that there are more than 12 apostles – really 13 apostles -- that have ever existed.  Judas fell away from the original 12 and was replaced by Paul.  Some people take issue with that – not realizing that the apostles made an error in choosing Matthias.  They had no business doing that before the Spirit was given.  Jesus told them to wait – but they went ahead and did that -- but God did not acknowledge it. 


Now, someone is going to say, “Are you saying the Acts 1 is in error?”  No, I am saying that the apostles were in error and that Acts 1 accurately records it.  Acts is a narrative.  It is not doctrinal teaching.  It simply states what they did without commentary.  There are other places in the Book of Acts where Luke, in his accurate recording under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, also tells us things that apostles did that were out of the will of God and in error.  But if we know our Bible and the rest of the New Testament, we will be able to discern what those things are.  For example, when James stood up and offered his pronouncements about not eating meat sacrificed to idols he was off the track.  He had no business doing that.  In fact, Jesus never chose James, His own brother, to be an apostle.  But here we have James having assumed leadership over them all.  That was wrong.


Anyway, that is an aside.  I am simply stating that I do not believe that there were more than those twelve apostles.  I also believe that while there can be prophetic gifts, there are no official prophets today.  One of the reasons I say this is Hebrews 1:1, where it says, “God, who at different times and in different manners, spoke in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us in His Son.”  How many see that there is a change being stated in that verse?  God used to speak one way – through prophets -- but now He speaks in Christ.  So, again, are we going to believe what the Bible says or not?


I think we also need to understand that, in that time the term, “prophetic utterance,” or, “prophesying,” didn’t mean what it means now.  We think that a prophet foretells the future.  But back then, it simply meant to preach or proclaim the Truth.  That is why, in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul says that it is better to prophesy than to speak in tongues.  He is talking about proclaiming the Truth under the inspiration of the Spirit of God -- which is no less a spiritual gift than to prophesy would be -- but we need that clarification.


There can be prophecy today.  I think there is a whole lot less of it than is claimed.  But that aside, but there is no such person or office as a prophet, anymore than there is such a person or office of apostle.  All of these tens of thousands of people who call themselves apostles today are self appointed.  It is just part of this disease found in the church today of people wanting to be somebody.  It is part of this delusion that people have something to offer God.  Forget it! 


Paul says, “He gave some apostles and prophets and some evangelists and some pastor-teachers (one word in the Greek).”  You have those four.  But what I really want to look at are the next couple of verses because they are going to tell us what the purpose is for which God has given this gift of Christ the Person -- out of whom the gifts of Christ, by the holy spirit, emerge.  Here is why the gifts are given:


For the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:  Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.  (Eph. 4:12-13)


As I noted earlier, the gifts are given in Christ for exactly the same purpose that Jesus said the spirit was to be given to begin with.  In John 14, 15, and 16, Jesus said the purpose for the spirit of God being given was to glorify, magnify, reveal Him IN and TO people.  That being the case, then you can be sure that this is what the gifts of the spirit are supposed to be doing.  God does not contradict Himself.


Take note:  If the gifts of the spirit are from out from Christ through a person, then it ought to make sense that those gifts would be unto a revelation of Christ TO people, IN people, and THROUGH people.  Sure.  And it also ought to make sense that the purpose will never be to make the gift the focal point, or the spirit by which the gift manifests the focal point.  No.  The sole purpose of the gifts is to bring people into a realization of Jesus Christ so that we might know Him and walk with Him in God’s eternal purpose.


We see this purpose in that word EDIFY.  What does that mean -- to edify people; to edify the Body of Christ?  Well, that word, “edify,” in the New Testament Greek means, “to build up.”  God wants to build His people out of the spiritual life of Christ.  Or, if you prefer, God wants to build Christ up in His people.  Paul alluded to this in Galatians 4:19:


My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.


The word translated, “formed,” means, “to be inwardly realized and expressed.”  This is what God wants to do.  He wants to bring us into an inward knowing and experiencing and realization of Jesus Christ.  Well, that is just a different way of saying that He wants to build up Christ within us or build us up in Christ, if you prefer. This is the purpose of God and the purpose for which, He has given gifts.  It is the purpose for which you are called.  If you come into the inward realization of Jesus Christ this can be the core and the foundation upon which God does all else in and through you as a believer.


Now, if you look at this, what you will also see is that without the realization of Christ within, without, at least, being in the process of knowing Him, the gifts that will be functioning cannot be functioning according to the truth.  How can you be used of God to manifest a spiritual gift according to Truth if you are in error?  How can you preach Truth if you do not know Truth, or if you believe error?  You can’t.  Indeed, if the source of the gifts is Christ Himself through the spirit of Truth then if you don’t know the Truth and if you are not teaching the Truth then what you are doing cannot be of God.  At best, it will be from out of your natural man.


Now, this is an interesting area – because we need to make a distinction between natural gifts and spiritual gifts.  Sometimes that distinction is hard to wrap your mind around.  But it is really a matter of the SOURCE of the gift.  The source of the spiritual gifts is Christ.  The source of a natural, religious gift, is myself.


This is a call for discernment.  A natural gift, or a psychic gift, or even something of the enemy, may look like a spiritual gift.  That which is of the psychic realm can often  counterfeit a spiritual gift of God.  There can be psychic phenomena and people can feel things.  They will tell you that they were shivery all over, or that they felt tingly all over, or that they felt some tremendous thing come over them.  All of that can be psychic.  There are people who don’t even claim to believe in God who have those experiences.  I have video tapes of them.  The psychic realm is an enormously powerful realm – it is quite real.  God created it.  But when Adam fell, it was all forfeited into the realm of darkness. 


So, spiritual gifts are out from Christ by his Spirit.  Natural gifts are, at best, out from natural man.  As we remember, Jesus said that what is born of the Spirit is spirit and what is born of the flesh is flesh.  There is a very distinct line there – and it applies to the spiritual gifts.  Just as the spiritual gifts will edify and build up people in Christ -- and bring people into a greater realization of Him -- natural gifts will tend to build people up in themselves; will create a Christianity of the soul; will make self the center.  It may take quite some time for the true nature of things to manifest because a soulish Christianity is a counterfeit Christianity.  But if we grow to know Christ we will see the Truth.


Now, let me give an example of that:   I have seen churches where not a single person among them was saved -- but they were practicing some form of Christian religion; going to church every week; doing all the stuff that churches do.  Let’s just say that we have a group of people like that. They have their list of traditions and doctrines and do things they have adhered to for decades.  But if their pastor is just as deceived as they are, how can he help them?  All he can do is affirm the error by continuing to preach it.  And if you would try to get up and preach the Truth to them they would think it to be error.  Indeed, every week, some Jehovah’s Witness preacher stands up and edifies his congregation in the heresy of that cult.  They all think this is a spiritual gift operating through him.  But it is not.  It is the spirit of error.  There are situations like that in what are considered to be fundamental Protestant churches, charismatic churches, and mainline denominations.  Such congregations are built, not upon Christ, but are a house of cards. 


You can also have situations, as seen on TV, when those prosperity teachers get up and teach.  The crowds are jumping up and down with hands raised, praising God to high heaven, with tears running down their cheeks.  I am not doubting the sincerity of those poor people.  But, all of it, the preaching, the understanding, even the feelings and the emotions, are very much in error.  None of it has anything to do with Jesus Christ.  And yet those involved think it is of God.  They think that the spirit of God is doing all of it, when in fact, it is the spirit of error.  What is the problem here?  Folks do not know Jesus Christ.


I heard one TV preacher the other day say,  “God told me that everywhere our TV signal is sent there is an anointing in it and He is going to bless whoever sees or hear it.”   He said God told him that.  My answer to that is, “No, He did not.”  There is no such thing as an anointing imbedded in a TV or radio signal.  Rather, John the apostle says that, “the anointing abides in you.”  (I John 2:26-27) 


Furthermore, God does not guarantee to unconditionally bless – even if a person taught Truth but now teaches error.  I know of another very famous preacher who drove into a city where he wanted to start a church, and he claimed that God told him that everything his hand touches, God would bless.  God doesn’t say stuff like that.  What if we get off the track?  Is God going to bless that?  Why would we want Him to?  We ought to hope He would remove blessing and correct us!  But see, when we are full of ourselves, and we think that we are THE guy, or we are THE woman, we come up with that garbage because it satisfies something in our religious pride. 


So, you can have substitutes for any one of the gifts of God.  You can have effects and manifestations.  So let’s ask:  What is the real distinction?  The real distinction is Christ.  Spiritual gifts are from out of Christ.  Natural gifts are from out of us.  Spiritual gifts will build up in Christ.  Natural gifts, no matter how religious, will build up natural, religious man.  And what is the safeguard – the safeguard against being deceived into operating out from natural man, according to our own self-life?  The work of the Cross.  More on that in a moment.


Some Conclusions


Back to Ephesians 4:12.  Here is why the gifts are given:


For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry -- which is for the edifying of the Body of Christ.


How many remember that Jesus said, “I will build My church?”  (Matthew 16:18)  We saw earlier that the word EDIFY means TO BUILD UP.  So there it is again.  Jesus is going to build His church upon Himself -- upon The Rock.


If you read that Matthew 16 account, you will see that when Jesus said, “I will build My church that He was talking about the people – the ekklesia – that constitute the church. The people would be build.  And in context He clearly stated that the, “materials,” out of which those people would be built was an inward revelation of Himself – which the disciples had just received.  Upon that rock – that inward realization of Myself -- I am going to build up My people who constitute the church -- and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it.”   Same truth that Paul writes:  For the edifying of the Body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.


What is all of this leading to?  Gather it all up.  What is the goal?  The unity of the faith and the knowing of Jesus Christ.  Of course, the word, ‘knowledge,’ in the New Testament Greek, is far beyond the idea of brain power.  It means to experience or realize.  So, this is what God is doing:  In this age, He desires that His gifts operate from out of the measure of Christ found in each one.  But ultimately, He wants us all to discover and experience the FULLNESS of Jesus Christ.  This is to begin here in this age.  But it is during the eternal ages that believers will be able to experience His fullness, free of the natural. 


The body of Christ is intended by God to be living extensions of Christ.  That is the picture of a body, isn’t it?  But again, it only begins here.  God is building that now – building people up in Christ -- preparing a foundation.  The fullness of God’s purpose in Christ will not be realized until we enter into the eternal ages. God wants a group of people called the Body of Christ that Christ can live in and through in the eternal ages --  through whom He can minister to other people. 


Now, with all of that purpose in mind, I want to turn to Romans 12.  There we are told about the work of the Cross.  It is the work of the Cross in the believer that sets us free to know Christ and be able to live as extensions of Jesus – free of being governed by our natural soul man.


Paul writes:


I beseech you therefore brethren, because of the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, the act of which is holy and acceptable unto God.  This is your reasonable service.  (Rom. 12:1)


Romans 12:1 is a picture of a sacrificial altar.  This is something with which those people back in Paul’s day would have been familiar.  Jews had the OT sacrificial system, but even the Gentiles had sacrificial altars in their pagan systems.  Paul is using it here as a picture.  He is saying, “God wants a voluntary surrender – by faith.  You are to be a LIVING sacrifice.”  There is some irony in this because the whole point of a sacrificial altar is to put the sacrifice to death.  So in describing things in this way, Paul is point out that the believer, by faith, is to voluntarily give themselves to God.


The Truth in this passage is the same one revealed by Jesus in Matthew 16:


If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.  (Matt. 16:24-25)


“Whosoever will lose his life for My sake will find it.”  This is the same Truth, the same principle:  Paul is saying, “Get on the altar and tell God to do whatever it takes to bring you into the fullness of His purpose – the fullness of His purpose in Christ.  Ask God to do whatever it takes to get His glory in your life.”  Then, as Jesus stated, when God does begin to do what it takes, pick up your cross and go along with Him.  It has to be worked out -- but the commitment can be made.  We can get on that altar and ask God to do whatever will get His will and glory through Christ in us.


So he writes, “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice.  If you do that – if you ask God to do what it takes – such an act of faith is holy and acceptable unto God.  It is your reasonable service because it is all you would do if you know the Truth.”  Sometimes we forget that even the work of the Cross is unto LIFE.  Note the words of Jesus – “If you lose YOUR life, you will find ME as your life.”  Thus, if we see the Truth, and are coming to know Christ, we will WANT God to do whatever it takes.  We will WANT to be free of ourselves.  This is all positive.  Seeing the Truth and embracing it always is.


Why is the work of the Cross necessary if we are to be built up in Christ?  Because there is an old structure called US standing in the place of Christ.  Thus, alongside of a building up in Christ is the tearing down of US.  But again – if we see the Truth we will desire this and thank God for it.


The, “tearing down of us” – the work of the Cross – breaks the power of our natural, soul man.  This does not mean we no longer have a soul man or a sin nature.  But it does mean that the power is broken so that we can see it for what it is and learn to reckon ourselves dead to it – and reckon ourselves alive to God.  And if the natural, religious soul man becomes exposed and broken, then it will eventually become clear to us what is of God, and what is of natural man.  We will no longer be in danger of trying to walk with God, or exercise the gifts, from out of our soul man and religious flesh.


There is a principle here – and while the explanation of it is a bit mechanical, it is nevertheless the Truth.  That principle is that the LIGHT is in the LIFE.  To put it another way, it is only as we experience a greater release in the LIFE of Christ – as that which governs us – it is only then that LIGHT increases as well.  We can plug this principle into Romans 12 and Matthew 24.  If we pick up the Cross that God lays before us – if we by faith get on the altar – there will begin a breaking of the power of the flesh by the power of the Cross of Jesus Christ.  And from out of our union with Christ in His death will come a greater realization of Christ as our life.  But along with this greater release of life will come light.  Why?  Because we are talking about a Person – the One who is both our life and our light.  Thus, to the degree that experience what it means for Christ to be our life, we will grow to know Him; grow in a realization of Him.


Now, again – this is a principle that governs all, including spiritual gifts.  For the Cross will crucify the natural religious tendency to operate the gifts from out of ourselves.  Because we experience Christ as our life and increase in the knowledge of Him, He will be free to manifest the gifts through us His very life and Truth.  In short, to the degree that we are governed by His life, the gifts that are OF His life will manifest according to that life.  They will be used to do exactly what God wants them to do:  Glorify Christ and edify others.


You will note that Romans 12 reveals results of getting on the altar as a living sacrifice.  Paul not only tells us that getting on the altar by faith is a holy and acceptable choice, but he goes on to say that if we do this we will not, “be conformed to this world – but we will be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  Of course.  Because we have come into a greater realization of Christ our minds are going to be renewed by that realization.  We will stop being conformed to this world.  That would mean that, yes, we will no longer have the actions of the world, but we will stop having the mind of the world.  In the NT, the word, “mind,” means intent, desire, and motive.  Our minds will be renewed – reprogrammed if you will – according to Christ.


We are being conformed to this world when we think as a natural man would think – and primary to that thinking is the motive of owning and possessing yourself.  That can take many forms in the outward – but it boils down to owning yourself.  There are many professing believers walk according to SELF – even religiously.  The primary manifestation of such a walk is self-righteousness.


No, he says, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  Well, what renews your mind?  Again -- an inward realization of Jesus.  If this is happening, and you are being transformed by the renewing of your mind, you are going to see and believe the Truth,  Then Paul says, “If you see and realize Jesus, your minds will be renewed – and a renewed mind will, “prove what is that good, acceptable and perfect will of God.”


We often ask God to reveal His will to us -- as a, “thing.”  We want Him to speak words to us such as, “Go here, go there, do this, do that.”  I would never say that God could not, or would not, do that if it pleases Him to do so.  But if you read many of these verses you will discover that the way you learn the will of God is by coming into an inward realization of Jesus Christ -- who is the living word of God.  God is speaking today in His Son.  Learn Christ and the will of God will become clear to you.


How many can see that every part of God’s purpose – and His means of achieving it – comes back to the essential of experiencing some dimension of Christ from out of our union with Him?  We must be crucified with Him (Gal. 2:20) – lose our lives under the work of the Cross.  This will set us free from ourselves.  We are then raised with Him – experience a greater release of His life in us.  Along with that we more fully realize Him – and our minds are renewed.  We are then able, because of seeing Him, to know the will of God; to recognize the Truth.  This will mean that any gift of Christ that operates through us will be free to glorify Him in spirit and in Truth.


His Gifts through His Life


Now, having told us to get on the altar and have our minds renewed, Paul says:


Now I say, by the grace given unto me, to every man who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, according as God has granted to every man a measure of faith.  For, as we have many members in one body and all members have not the same office, so we being many are one Body in Christ and members one of another.  Having then gifts that vary (or differ) according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy (preaching), let us prophesy according to the portion of faith.  (Rom. 12:3-6)


These words are very similar to those of Ephesians 4.  “by the grace given unto me…according as God has granted to every man a measure of faith.”  But note how Paul brings in the church as the BODY of Christ.  This picture of the church – of the ones through whom the gifts operate – is significant.  For if the gifts are operating through the BODY of Christ – through those who are member of Christ; one with Christ – if the BODY of Christ is operating as extensions of Christ – does this not prove that the gifts of the spirit are OF Christ Himself?  The gifts of the spirit are manifestations of Christ Himself operating through those who are members of Him.  It is that simple


To wrap up the passage from Ephesians 4, we are being told that God Almighty has freely given to us the Person of His Son.  And in His Son God has freely given all that He has to give.  God has never given, nor will He ever give, anything which is outside of the Person of Jesus Christ.  Thus, since all that God has given is given in Christ, the only way to experience what God has given in Christ is to experience Christ Himself.


Included in all that God has given in Christ are the manifestations of Christ that we call spiritual gifts.  All of those spiritual gifts are dimensions of Christ by His Spirit.  And because they are manifestations of Christ, they will edify those who hear and open themselves to the Truth – they will edify them in that very same Jesus.  These gifts are for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry.  That work of ministry is the edifying and building up of the Body of Christ until we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.  God wants people, not only individuals but a collective Body that will manifest His Son and be extensions of Christ in ministry.  This begins here, in this age.  But it is all unto God’s eternal purposes through Christ for the age yet to come.


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