or How Long Will They Last?
& Can They Ever Be Lost?
It really bothers some people to hear that some of the gifts of the Spirit may have been temporary and so not present today. After all, they think, don't we have every right to expect and enjoy all that the early church enjoyed? This is just not necessarily so, and it is an assumption which is not supported by the facts of Scripture. Part Three of this book ("The Temporary Gifts of the Spirit") will examine this question in detail. Chapter 13 will especially deal with this question.
But what about gifted people? Is it possible for a Christian to lose his spiritual gift? Could it ever be revoked?
Only a cursory glance at the New Testament reveals that some of the miraculous gifts, such as healings, began to fade out of operation before the death of those who had those gifts. Paul, for example, often performed healings, but later in his life the ability seems to be gone. This certainly is not because of any lack of faith on his part, nor would anyone wish to contend that his gifts were revoked because of sin. The gift itself was a temporary gift, and having served its intended purpose, it was withdrawn. (Again, this is discussed at length in part three.)
Apart from the miraculous gifts, however, it seems that giftedness is permanent. Perhaps an observation of a sad but all too common experience will explain. Did you ever hear a preacher or teacher, who was obviously gifted to a great degree, whose life belied his message? Did you ever, then, sit back and wonder how in the world he could preach or teach so well and why God did not revoke his gift? It is sad that this abuse of a gracious gift ever occurs, but keep in mind the basis of that gift: there were no strings attached. There were no conditions to be met. God simply gave gifts to his people sovereignly, as He willed, and we are left to use them in accordance with His Word. The problem is that some abuse them and make them a shield for their less than commendable lives, and that leaves some confused. But remember, God did not give these gifts only when certain conditions were met or if a certain standard of holiness was reached. Giftedness, as demonstrated earlier, does not insure holiness. Gifts are not a standard to measure a man's spiritual condition. Even Judas Iscariot was gifted! Gifts are not for a spiritual elite but for all God's people, even those who sometimes abuse them. If the gifts were connected with the filling of the spirit, then sin could cause their demise, but they are not. They are given graciously and freely as gifts of God; they are gifts of grace, not rewards of merit. (If this were not the case, we can only wonder how many Christians would be allowed to keep their gifts, and for how long!) This being the case, spiritual gifts cannot be used as a cloak for carnal behavior!
Romans 11:29 is interesting in this connection: "For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." God is no "indian giver." His gifts are not subject to recall. Unquestionably this verse is referring to the nation of Israel and her covenanted blessings, but the principle is the same. God gives freely, graciously, permanently, and unconditionally, just as He saves. We must not then spurn such grace but use our gifts for His glory alone.