Gifts are a way to say “Thank You” without being overtly revealing or needy. This is a big mistake some people make when purchasing gifts. Overlying that unwritten custom is a very important function: gratitude. Giving people gifts not only shows them you value their role in your life, but also demonstrates to them how grateful you are for having them in your life. But here’s a common misunderstanding: that the more valuable, larger the gift, the better it expresses gratitude.
First of all, you have to realize that in the New Testament the gifts are spiritual gifts. Take anything from Ephesians and 1 Corinthians out of the two and you will see that these gifts were not spiritual in the traditional sense of the word. In Ephesians, you are not to provide gifts but to share gifts. And in 1 Corinthians, gifts are not to be given, but instead gifts are to be received. So technically, both of these books use the language of gifts, but in subtle ways that do not directly imply any size limitations.
The clearest example is found in 1 Timothy 6:10-11 where Peter, James and John, who are apostles of Jesus, are given revelation to go into Arabia to preach the gospel to the people. While on this mission, they are accompanied by three other apostles, Ignatius, Sardalus and Epaphraates. On reaching Arabia, they distribute the revealed teaching to the people, teaching them about the Word of God and His teachings. What occurs between then and when the three go back to Ephesus is a time of great growth for the Word of God among the Gentiles. Gifts therefore are important because the growth of the ministry depends on receiving prophetic oracles, wisdom and apostleship, which all come with gifts.
But what about the case when the gifts come by faith? Under this concept, there is no limit to God’s gifts. He may give you a set of keys, so that you can open any lock; or He may give you a set of knives, so that you can cut off the hand of the thief; or He may give you holy oil, so that you can sprinkle spiritual seed upon the people; or He may give you the mouth of a man, so that you can speak to the dead; or He may give you a prophecy, so that you know what comes next. All these gifts, coming by faith, are valid gifts, whatever the faithlessness of the giver may be.
Another way of looking at the issue of prophecy is seen in Acts 15:3-5 and 10-11. Here, Paul, after being called by the elders of the church to go into Jerusalem to preach the gospel, does not enter the city, but stays outside, watching the church everyday and praying. In the evening, as he is sitting with the woman who is his wife, he sees a dream. In the morning, he has another dream, telling him that he will see the accomplishment of the vision which he had in the night.
The fulfillment which he saw in the night is the fulfillment which we have all undergone at some time or other. It is therefore necessary for us to have a guide, a leader, and spiritual teachers, like the elders of the church in Acts 15, who can teach us what has been learned and applied in our day. The teaching which is applied in our day can never be applied in our ancient day, because it is different. The gift of prophecy was given to us by the Lord Jesus, and the elders of the church have always received it and applied it.
The elders of the church are the teachers, and the Word of God is their instruction. The gifts that they possess are wisdom, knowledge, faith, hope, life, and knowledge. None of these, except the wisdom, knowledge, and faith, are static, and all three are alive, and need renewal. If we do not apply the gifts which have been revealed, then we will be condemned and not saved. The gifts of prophecy, word of knowledge, and discerning the weak from the strong are also essential to the work of the church.
The gift of prophecy is one of the most precious gifts, because without it we cannot prophesy. Many people do not understand the power of this gift, but the truth is that we are always justified before God by the things which we have seen and heard. If we would put our faith in these gifts, then we would enter into God’s presence and receive the things which he has promised. Therefore, the people of God are required to have knowledge of the truth and the Spirit of God. Without this, we cannot prophesy.