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What is a Spiritual Gift?

The following is an excerpt from Life-study of Romans, message 26, where Witness Lee ministers on the matter of spiritual gifts.

We all need to be impressed with the fact that in Romans 12 the gifts of speaking in tongues, interpretation, healing, and miracles are not mentioned. Such gifts are miraculous gifts, but in Romans 12 we find the gifts of grace in life. An example of a miraculous gift is the speaking in a human language by Balaam’s donkey. Although the donkey did not possess a human life, it spoke a human language. Undoubtedly, that was a miraculous gift. The gifts listed in Romans 12 are not miraculous gifts; they are the gifts of grace in life. As you enjoy God as life and grow in life, you find that, corresponding to your growth in life, you have a certain skill or ability. This is what we call a gift of grace in life. The donkey did not need to have growth in life in order to speak a human language. It did not matter whether the donkey was small or big, young or old. The gift was miraculous: it did not depend upon the donkey’s growth. However, to be an elder in the church does not depend upon a miraculous gift. Do not think that after being saved a short while you can pray for several hours, receive the so-called baptism, and suddenly become an elder. If a person could become an elder in this way, it would mean that eldership is a miraculous gift. But to be an elder you do not need miraculous gifts; you need the gift of grace by growth in life. You need to grow day by day and year by year. If you do not exhibit the growth in life, you cannot be an elder. You cannot be an elder if you lack the adequate measure of life. I hope that everyone who reads this message is now able to differentiate between these two categories of gifts—the miraculous gifts and the gifts of grace in life....

The gifts of grace in life are necessary for the practice of the Body life.

The gifts of grace in life are necessary for the practice of the Body life. If you neglect the gifts of grace in life and concentrate on the miraculous gifts, the church will be divided in a very short time. Be assured that we could never be one by stressing miraculous gifts. The miraculous gifts tend to divide, while the gifts of grace in life build up....Paul, an expert in the church life, knew from his writing of 1 Corinthians that the miraculous gifts had been the cause of divisions there in Corinth. Even in 1 Corinthians we can see the fact that speaking in tongues and the other miraculous gifts had a divisive effect on the church. Therefore, Paul did not include these gifts in the book of Romans. Paul was both wise and careful, recognizing the fact that the miraculous gifts were helpful to individual Christians. In 1 Corinthians Paul said that speaking in tongues builds up the individual who exercises it, but that it does not build up the church (1 Cor. 14:4). He told the Corinthians to care for the building up of the church (1 Cor. 14:12, 26). In the book of Romans his concern was not the building up of a particular individual, but the building up of the Body. Thus, he did not include the miraculous gifts in this book.

For further reading on this subject, please see Life-study of Romans, message 26; Life-study of 1 Corinthians, messages 57-63, by Witness Lee, published by Living Stream Ministry.

From Issue No. 51, July 2002

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