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Spiritual Gifts and Wages

This study will focus on the sharp distinction between gifts and earned wages, and the gifts given to believers by the Holy Spirit.

What spiritual gifts are for

Read these scriptures to learn what it means to have the Holy Spirit given to us: Rom. 8:26-27, Rom. 12:3-8, Rom. 15:13, 1 Cor. 3:16-17, 1 Cor. 12:4-11, 1 Cor. 12:28-30, 2 Cor. 3:18, Gal. 5:22-26, Eph. 4:4-7, 1 Thes. 5:19-21 and 1 Peter 4:10. We could summarize this as follows:

Again, the Holy Spirit gives gifts, not earned wages for which we can receive rewards/payments. Rewards are what we earn by our choices and behavior, the character we choose to exhibit in our mortal lives.

Gifts and wages

Scripture makes a sharp distinction between what is received as a gift and what is rewarded as earned wages for our works; read Rom. 4:1-5, Rom. 11:6, Rom. 14:10-13, 1 Cor. 3:12-15, 2 Cor. 5:10, Gal. 5:4, and Eph. 2:8-9. So any passage using the terminology of gifts or grace can have nothing to do with our works or deeds; conversely, passages using the terminology of wages, debts, or rewards have nothing to do with gifts. Therefore, since salvation is presented in terms of gifts, it can never be either earned or lost, but rewards or wages can be lost by inaction or sinful action. There would be no purpose for the future judgment of our deeds if they don’t matter, so we need to take seriously the way we choose to live.

Abuse and neglect

Neglect of our spiritual gifts is probably the most common problem among Christians in general, because many either don’t care or know what theirs are. There are many who serve in various capacities in church organizations: music, encouragement, prayer, administration, etc. But what about the gifts of knowledge, teaching, prophecy, or healing? These are the ones that tend to be at one extreme or the other. Many have dismissed them, either due to the teaching that such gifts have ceased, or as an overreaction to their abuse.

None have been more abused than the gift of tongues, meaning being temporarily able to speak in a language we don’t know, or to interpret a message given that way. Instructions on the handling of this gift are given clearly in 1 Cor. 12 and 14, and there is no hint that such gifts have ceased. (Some take 1 Cor. 13:8 to mean that, but the text does not support it.) But these rules are rarely followed, which has led to chaotic babbling being substituted for messages from God, and heresies such as that a person isn’t really saved until and unless they demonstrate this gift.

Another abuse is the gift of prophecy; some claim to be prophets whose alleged messages from God cannot be tested or questioned, in spite of 1 Cor. 14:29-33, 1 Thes. 5:20-21, and 1 John 4:1. Keep in mind that those who fight for authority are the least qualified to have it. On the other hand are people who claim messages from God on a daily basis, along with personal tours of heaven and assurances that they have been selected for being so very special and holy. This is abuse of the prophetic gift, since it flies in the face of scripture in general regarding the way God speaks through prophets, and it draws attention to the person rather than to God. Mark and avoid anyone with such claims.

There is a gift of prophecy which is for building up the church (1 Cor. 14:3-4), but nothing is said in the instructional passages about telling the future. It’s contrasted with speaking in tongues, so it seems to mean instruction and information for the entire congregation. The gift of knowledge (1 Cor. 12:8) seems to be more what we’d call insight or perception or understanding for the whole congregation. This may be confused with the gift of wisdom, which probably is more focused on dealing with individual problems rather than the whole church. So though prophecy, knowledge, and wisdom have similar qualities, they seem to have different purposes or scopes.

Though there is nothing in scripture to say the sign gifts have ceased (tongues, miracles, visions), there have been no prophecies or miracles for the whole church around the world since the apostles died. After all, though apostles are among the spiritual gifts, there have been no more of them because Jesus is not physically here to commission them; otherwise many others over the centuries could have added to scripture. Eph. 2:19-22 specifically names apostles and prophets as foundation gifts, and since one has ceased, it would be reasonable to say that so has the other. These two gifts are the way we know who can write or sanction scripture, as explained in studies on the Bible canon. We can get tangled up in terminology, but this passage puts a firm lid on speaking thus saith the Lord for the entire Christian community.

1 Cor. 14:29-33 does indeed say that others must test the prophets’ messages, but how is this done? The only objective method is comparing them to the Word of God, which means that whatever is said cannot violate scripture. Emotion or anecdotal evidence is not in view here. Besides that, for what purpose would be specific prophecies of riots in a few American cities for example, while none were given for the horrific persecution of Christians in muslim or communist countries? It’s the same critical flaw as with the so-called blood moon prophecies; they are very selective in their application, since they allegedly tell of the timing of the rapture but not the holocaust or the infiltration of once-Christian colleges by satanists and subversives. This is how we weigh and test.


The Christian life is both inward and outward; what we are inside is expressed in how we live and interact with others (Mat. 15:11). A person who has humbly accepted the gift of eternal life and adoption as a child of God should know not to bury it in the ground or use it as a license to sin. To even ask how much we can get away with (either by abuse or neglect) means we really don’t understand salvation at all. Instead, we should only look for faults within ourselves, and look outside ourselves for ways to lift up others. Above all, our motive should be humble gratitude and compassion, to live every day like Jesus matters and we can’t wait to see him directly.

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