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Is Every Christian a Charismatic?

Do you have to be a Pentecostal and speak in tongues in order to qualify for the gifts of the Spirit?

Let's face the theological question right up front. Do you have to be a Pentecostal and speak in tongues in order to qualify for the gifts of the Spirit? Or to use the term of some commentators: Is the baptism in the Spirit the "gateway" to the gifts?

In the past, when the gifts were discussed with reference to only the nine listed in 1 Corinthians 12, some Pentecostals simply deduced that since one of the nine gifts was speaking in other tongues, then only those who had experienced the Spirit-baptism with tongues were candidates for the gifts of the Spirit. In other words, the "gateway" for the gifts was thought to be the Pentecostal experience. Most non-Pentecostals had little interest in the gifts because they thought that gifts had ceased in early Church history or they viewed the gifts merely as special human talents. But with the new emphasis on the Holy Spirit and the focus on the gifts expanding to other passages of Scripture (such as Romans 12:6-8), not only has the number of gifts expanded but the "gateway" concept has also opened significantly.

Generally, the position of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC) is that all Christians are candidates for one or more gifts (charismata) of the Spirit. The statement of faith of the PAOC has defined the gifts of the Spirit as "supernatural abilities given by God through the exercising of which believers are enabled to minister effectively and directly in particular situations." The important point is that the gate has always been left open to all believers. We do not imagine that the Spirit gives gifts only to Pentecostals!

Clearly, the Bible teaches that all believers are charismatic whether they want to be associated with Pentecostal theology or not. After giving a list of a number of gifts in his first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul declares: "All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He gives them to each one, just as He determines" (1 Corinthians 12:11). Again in Romans, Paul writes, "We have different gifts according to the grace given us" (Romans 12:6). The case that the apostle builds is that every member, every organ or faculty, has a supernatural gift to make a contribution to the common good of the supernatural Body of Christ, the Church.

The list of gifts in Romans is interesting because of its wide range: prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing to the needs of others, giving, leading, governing, and showing mercy (see Romans 12:6-8). These are the kinds of Spirit-initiated activities that could be exercised appropriately by anyone and everyone in the Church. Christ's Church is being equipped through the gifts of the Spirit for every-member involvement in Christian service, or as the King James Version puts it, for every-member ministry (see Romans 6:7).

The unfortunate reality in the church is that too many believers allow their spiritual gifts to remain dormant, packed away for when-I-feel-like-it use. Leadership in the Church often devises clever strategies based on demographics, marketing theories, psychological profiling, and you name it. All these things have some value but none takes the place of any one of the spiritual gifts which the Church needs so desperately for its own nurture and mission.

The scandal is that Pentecostals, who are well-versed in the person and role of the Holy Spirit, may squander their time and energy in self-indulgent religious revelry, failing to discern the need in the Lord's Body for the use of the spiritual gift that every member has been given.

A woman in the Book of Acts named Dorcas provides a good illustration of a gifted Christian functioning effectively in her community, " … always doing good and helping the poor." She exercised spiritual gifts right out of Romans 12. When she died quite suddenly and Peter was brought to her house, all "the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them" (Acts 9:36,39). Sewing robes may not be a spiritual gift, but sewing robes for poor widows is a Spirit-endowed activity which is in tune with the heart of God. Who can begin to describe the variety of gifts of the Spirit that He gives to believers today?

William Griffin, an ordained minister with The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, is the national director of stewardship and public relations. He is also the editor of Enrich Magazine.

Originally published in Testimony, December 2001.




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