Yesterday, I put this statement in the post toward the end,
“Now, my challenge to you is this. If you have the spiritual gift of teaching and/or exhortation, are you honing the gift and using it in the body of Christ?”
A friend sent me the question, “What does it mean to ‘hone’ the gift of exhortation?”
Since I was typing out what I was thinking, I’ll clarify what I meant by that statement. First, I need to make clear a few things.
Once a person becomes a believer in Christ Jesus, he/she is given spiritual gifting(s). There are two main categories: those speaking/teaching gifts and those for serving, such as healing and administration. There is much about spiritual gifts available to us to clarify what the Bible says about them. For the sake of time and space, I’ll limit my information to you to the following:
a. Gifts of utterance
(i) *Apostle (Gk. apostolos, lit. ‘one sent forth’, envoy, missionary, 1 Cor. 12:28f.; cf. Eph. 4:11). The title of ‘apostle’ was originally given to the Twelve (Mt. 10:2; Lk. 6:13; Acts 1:25f.), but was later claimed by Paul (Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 9:1f., etc.), and applied in a less restricted sense to Barnabas (Acts 14:4, 14), Andronicus and Junias (or Junia) (Rom. 16:7), and possibly to Apollos (1 Cor. 4:6, 9), Silvanus and Timothy (1 Thes. 1:1; 2:6), and James the Lord’s brother (1 Cor. 15:7; Gal. 1:19). The special function of an apostle was, as its meaning suggests, to proclaim the gospel to the unbelieving world (Gal. 2:7–9).
(ii) *Prophecy (Gk. prophēteia, Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:10, 28f.; cf. Eph. 4:11). The chief function of the NT prophet was to convey divine revelations of temporary significance which proclaimed to the church what it had to know and do in special circumstances. His message was one of edification, exhortation (Gk. paraklēsiš) and consolation (1 Cor. 14:3; cf. Rom. 12:8), and included occasional authoritative declarations of God’s will in particular cases (Acts 13:1f.), and rare predictions of future events (Acts 11:28; 21:10f.). His ministry was primarily directed to the church (1 Cor. 14:4, 22). Some prophets were itinerant (Acts 11:27f.; 21:10), but there were probably several attached to every church (Acts 13:1), as at Corinth, and a few of them are named (Acts 11:28; 13:1; 15:32; 21:9f.).
The ability to ‘distinguish between spirits’ (Gk. diakriseis pneumatōn, 1 Cor. 12:10; cf. 14:29) was complementary to that of prophecy, and enabled the hearers to judge claims to prophetic inspiration (1 Cor. 14:29) by interpreting or evaluating prophetic utterances (1 Cor. 2:12–16), thus recognizing successfully those of divine origin (1 Thes. 5:20f.; 1 Jn. 4. 1–6), and distinguishing the genuine prophet from the false.
(iii) Teaching (Gk. didaskalia, Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28f.; cf. Eph. 4:11). In contrast to the prophet, the teacher did not utter fresh revelations, but expounded and applied established Christian doctrine, and his ministry was probably confined to the local church (Acts 13:1; cf. Eph. 4:11). The ‘utterance of knowledge’ (Gk. logos gnōseōs, 1 Cor. 12:8), an inspired utterance containing or embodying knowledge, is related to teaching; but the ‘utterance of wisdom’ (Gk. logos sophias, 1 Cor. 12:8), expressing spiritual insight, may be related rather to the apostles and evangelists (cf. 1 Cor. 1:17–2:5, esp. 1:24–30), or to the prophets.
(iv) Kinds of tongues (Gk. genē glōssōn, 1 Cor. 12:10, 28ff.) and the interpretation of *tongues (Gk. hermēneia glōssōn, 1 Cor. 12:10, 30).
b. Gifts for practical service
(i) Gifts of power. 1. Faith (Gk. pistis, 1 Cor. 12:9) is not saving faith, but a higher measure of faith by which special, wonderful deeds are accomplished (Mt. 18:19f.; 1 Cor. 13:2; Heb. 11:33–40). 2. Gifts of healings (Gk. plural charismata iamatōn, 1 Cor. 12:9, 28, 30) are given to perform miracles of restoration to health (Acts 3:6; 5:15f.; 8:7; 19:12, etc.). 3. Working of miracles (Gk. energēmata dynameōn, 1 Cor. 12:10, 28f.), lit. ‘of powers’. This gift conferred the ability to perform other miracles of varied kinds (Mt. 11:20–23; Acts 9:36f.; 13:11; 20:9–12; Gal. 3:5; Heb. 6:5.
(ii) Gifts of sympathy. 1. Helpers (Gk. antilēmpseis, lit. ‘acts of helping’, 1 Cor. 12:28) denotes the aid given to the weak by the strong (see lxx of Pss. 22:19; 89:19; the verb occurs in Acts 20:35), and refers to special gifts to care for the sick and needy. It probably includes 2. the liberal almsgiver (Gk. ho metadidous, Rom. 12:8) and 3. the one who performs works of mercy (Gk. ho eleōn, Rom. 12:8). 4. The service (Gk. diakonia, Rom. 12:7; cf. Acts 6:1) of the deacon is doubtless in view (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1–13).
(iii) Gifts of administration. 1. Administrators (Gk. kybernēses, lit. ‘acts of guidance, giving directions’) enjoyed the gifts and authority to govern and direct the local church. 2. The ‘leader’ (Rom. 12:8, neb, Gk. ho prohistamenos) apparently shares the same gift (the Gk. word recurs in 1 Thes. 5:12; 1 Tim. 5:17), unless the term is to be translated (with rsv, Rom. 12:8), ‘he who gives aid’, in which case a gift of sympathy is indicated.
Some gifts, such as those of apostleship, prophecy and teaching, were exercised in regular ministry; other gifts like tongues and healing were manifested occasionally. In some instances the gifts appear to involve a release or enhancement of natural ability, for example, the gifts of teaching, helping or leadership; others are clearly a special endowment: faith, gifts of healing and the power to work miracles.
(I added bold type and the yellow highlight for emphasis).
[Bibliography. A. Bittlinger, Gifts and Graces, 1967; idem, Gifts and Ministries, 1974; D. Bridge and D. Phypers, Spiritual Gifts and the Church, 1973; H. von Campenhausen, Ecclesiastical Authority and Spiritual Power in the Church of the First Three Centuries, 1969; H. Conzelmann, ‘charisma’, TDNT 9, pp. 402–406; J. D. G. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit, 1975; E. Schweizer, Church Order in the New Testament, 1961. w.g.p.]
Although this information reads in the past tense, it is doing so as a Bible commentary expounding on the gifts of the early Church. I do not believe nor do I interpret this commentary as suggesting that the spiritual gifts are dead. Just wanted to clarify that for you. I believe that in materials which cover the gifts for the Church today there is even better understanding of the gifts and how they are used for the building up of the Church today.
Now, back to honing your gift.
I hope you know what your gift(s) is(are). Some are given more than one. The last time I took an inventory, I had a couple of the speaking gifts and a service gift rank higher than the others. Teaching is one of those speaking gifts.
If I don’t exercise that gift, much like a muscle gone flabby from lack of exercise, that gift goes “flat”. So, for me to hone that gift, I need to take opportunities as God directs to put it to use for Him.
If you noticed the highlighted word, “exhortation,” up there, you saw that it falls under the description of a prophetic speaking gift for the early Church. It is still around and still useful, needed.
To exhort means to encourage, admonish, comfort, and even warn. John the Baptist exhorted (Luke 3:18) and so did Paul (Acts 13:15). Be sure to read the passages surrounding these in order to grasp the context.
So, when I wrote of honing that gift yesterday, I was encouraging those of us with that gift to practice it….hone it.
That would be true for any of the gifts which the Spirit has given us. We need to put them to use.
Thanks for reading all this today.