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    Several years ago, two students graduated from the Chicago-Kent College of Law. The highest ranking student in the class was a blind man named Overton and, when he received his honor, he insisted that half the credit should go to his friend, Kaspryzak. They had met one another in school when the armless Mr. Kaspryzak had guided the blind Mr. Overton down a flight of stairs. This acquaintance ripened into friendship and a beautiful example of interdependence. The blind man carried the books which the armless man read aloud in their common study, and thus the individual deficiency of each was compensated for by the other. After their graduation, they planned to practice law together.

    Gary Inrig, Life in His Body.

    The great violinist, Nicolo Paganini, willed his marvelous violin to Genoa -- the city of his birth -- but only on condition that the instrument never be played upon. It was an unfortunate condition, for it is a peculiarity of wood that as long as it is used and handled, it shows little wear. As soon as it is discarded, it begins to decay.

    The exquisite, mellow-toned violin has become worm-eaten in its beautiful case, valueless except as a relic. The moldering instrument is a reminder that a life withdrawn from all service to others loses its meaning.

    Bits & Pieces, June 25, 1992.

    The Detroit News carried a humorous little story about Bill Cosby's aged mother that illustrates how useless gifts are unless they are used. She had been raised in poverty, and the family had very little money as Bill was growing up. As a result, she never had modern conveniences and had gotten accustomed to doing things the hard way. When the children were old enough to get jobs, they often gave their mother appliances as Christmas gifts to make her life easier. But she wouldn't use them. Bill especially remembered that after a while his mother had two or three toasters. But she left them in their boxes and put them on top of the refrigerator. At breakfast she would still do the toast in the oven. If the boys protested, she would say, "Leave them on the refrigerator. I'm used to doing it the old way."

    Daily Bread, March 4, 1990.

    Commentary and Devotional

    Definitions from Dr. Earl Radmacher and Gordon McMinn Teaching gifts.

    -Prophecy: setting before people the Word and wisdom of God persuasively.
    -Encouragement: drawing alongside to comfort, encourage, rebuke, and lead someone into insight toward action.
    -Teaching: laying down in a systematic order the complete truth of a doctrine and applying it incisively to life.
    -The message of wisdom: Locating formerly unknown principles as well as combining known principles of God's Word and communicating them to fresh situations.
    -The message of knowledge: Arranging the facts of Scripture, categorizing these into principles, and communicating them to repeated or familiar situations.
    -Service Gifts. Contributing: Giving most liberally and beyond all human expectation. Mercy: Being sensitive or empathetic to people who are in affliction or misery and lifting internal burdens with cheerfulness.
    -Helps: Seeing tasks and doing them for or with someone in order to lift external burdens.
    -Distinguishing spirits: Detecting a genuine or spurious motive by distinguishing the spirit-source behind any person's speech or act.
    -Evangelism: Communicating the gospel with power and persuasiveness as well as equipping the saints for evangelism.
    -Leadership Gifts. Leadership (executive ability): Standing before people and inspiring followers by leading them aggressively but with care.
    -Administration (legislative ability): Standing behind people to collect data, set policy, and develop plans which will guide a course of action with wisdom.
    -Faith: Seeing through any problem to the Ultimate Resource.

    What about the so-called sign gifts, such as healing and speaking in tongues, referred to in today's text? To us, Hebrews 2:4 suggests that they were intended to be confirming signs for the Apostles, and ceased with them. Others feel they are still for today, but if so, one thing is clear: they are given sovereignly by the Spirit for specific purposes and are the exception, not the rule.

    Today in the Word, July, 1990, p. 19.

    We are right to say that spiritual gifts come from the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:4-11). However we go on to think of them in terms either of giftedness (human ability to do things skillfully and well) or of supernatural novelty (power to speak in tongues, to heal, to receive messages straight from God to give to others, or whatever). We have not formed the habit of defining gifts in terms of Christ, the head of the body, and his present work from heaven in our midst. In this we are unscriptural.

    Paul makes it clear that spiritual gifts are given in Christ; they are enrichments from Christ. 1 Corinthians 12 assumes the Christ-oriented perspective that 1 Corinthians 1:4-7 established. It is vital that we should see this, or we shall be confusing natural with spiritual gifts to the end of our days.

    Nowhere does Paul or any other New Testament writer define a spiritual gift to us. But Paul's assertion that the use of gifts edifies (1 Cor. 14:3-5, 12, 17,26; Eph. 4:12), shows what his idea of gift was.

    For Paul it is only through Christ, in Christ, and by learning of and responding to Christ, that anyone is ever edified. So spiritual gifts must be defined in terms of Christ as actualized powers of expressing, celebrating, displaying, and thus communicating Christ in one way or another, either by word or deed.

    James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986, Page December 9.

    ...a spiritual gift is spiritual in character (pneumatikon), sovereignly given by God the Holy Spirit (charismata), to others (diakonia), in the power of God (energeema), with an evident manifestation of the Holy Spirit through the Christian as he serves God (phanerosis).

    To summarize spiritual fruit, it: (1) is given to all believers; (2) produces spiritual character; (3) is singular (fruit is singular, meaning one's character is a unit); (4) is permanent (1 Cor. 13:8-10); and (5) grows internally. To summarize spiritual gifts, note the contrast to the previous five points. Spiritual gifts: (1) are given to specific believers; (2) produce spiritual service; (3) are plural (Flynn lists nineteen, Wagner, twenty-seven); (4) will cease; and (5) operate externally.

    Jerry Falwell, Elmer Towns, Stepping out on Faith, p. 127.