My guess is that 5 to 10% of American Christians believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not for today’s believers. They believe the gifts were only for the early church and passed away when the last apostle died. Another 15 to 25% are either Pentecostal or Charismatic in their beliefs and believe the spiritual gifts are for all believers.
If my guess is accurate, this leaves approximately 70% of American Christians who either have not considered the spiritual gifts as important enough to seek or have received no teaching on them.
Here’s the dilemma for the 5-10% naysayer group and the 70% clueless group: what will we do when the Antichrist requires everyone to receive the mark of the beast in order to buy and sell anything?
What if our spouse needs special medications in order to live or our child needs emergency medical assistance to survive an ailment, what will we do? Will we let our spouse or child die? Or will we take the mark of the beast for their sakes? There will be no fence straddling at this time.
But here’s what we can do: we can prepare ourselves ahead of time for these end-time events by seeking the spiritual gifts now. The gifts of word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues have already been provided by the Lord for these extreme situations. Thus, why not lay down our traditions and follow the practices of the early church by seeking the spiritual gifts now?
Ah, that brings up another dilemma.
Let’s say we seek the spiritual gifts and then receive them through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, where will we practice using our gifts? We have to remember that our gifts and our faith will be strengthened as we use the gifts, but still there is a learning curve and mistakes may occur along the way.
Can we practice using our newly received gifts in a median-sized sanctuary of 300 or more members? Probably not. This is generally the realm for pastors and elders to operate their gifts. Most pew-sitters are required to be spectators only.
So, the only place where each believer can practice using his or her gifts is in a small home fellowship where each knows and trusts each other.
(Continued in Part 13…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)