From healing and prophesy to miracles and speaking in tongues, spiritual gifts were given to the body of Christ since the apostolic age. But the use and misuse of spiritual gifts over the years has raised many questions for believers and non-believers alike.

Professor Brad Sickler points us towards Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 14 to help us understand the proper use of spiritual gifts in the church, specifically as it relates to our witness to others.

“Paul has this clear emphasis on the benefit of the church, and how all of this is to fit together. He’s got instructions in chapter 14 about orderliness in worship and how anything chaotic isn’t a reflection of God’s true character as a God of order. He talks about sensitivity to inquirers, people who are there who are investigating the church, and allowing God to use us in a way that will touch them and convict them of their sin.”

Spiritual gifts should point people towards God, rather than push them away from Him.

“If it becomes a distraction from God and it becomes about a character, a personality, a practice, or whatever it is – and this goes for any exercise of spiritual gifts including teaching, or preaching, ministry, or acts of mercy – if it becomes about anything other than the exhortation of God, lifting Jesus up to an inquiring world and manifesting love first and foremost, then something is wrong.”

Professor Mark Muska points out that it is nearly impossible to evaluate the body of Christ as a whole because there are so many variations. He encourages us to ask ourselves important questions regarding the use of spiritual gifts.

“One of them is, is this practice glorifying God? Is God being magnified through this? Secondly, are non-Christians tending to be drawn toward the gospel, or are they being repelled away from the gospel by what’s happening in these practices?”

“Paul is very specific about that with tongues in the church. If everyone’s manifesting tongues and some non-Christian comes in, they’re going to think you’re out of your mind and it’s going to push them away.”

“Thirdly, is it building up or strengthening the church? Paul says that’s the whole function of the spiritual gifts is to edify the body. The word edify means to build up or to strengthen the church. Is the church being strengthened? Are non-Christians being drawn toward the gospel? Is God being glorified?”

Spiritual gifts were given to us by God to strengthen the body of Christ and glorify His name, not to create obstacles to the Christian faith. We can turn to Scripture for clear direction on the ministry of spiritual gifts in the church.

Ask the Professor: On the third Thursday of every month we invite Bible professors from the University of Northwestern into the studio and open the phone lines for your questions on the Bible, faith, and the church. Call in during the live show, or submit your questions via email on Connecting Faith’s show page.

Ask the Professor: Spiritual gifts in the church