D121 - All of us have gifts (talents)
In Matt 25:14-18, Jesus explained the parable of the talents – three servants were given talents – one was entrusted with five talents, another was given two, and the last one with one.
The Greek word for ‘talent’ is talanton and it is a specific amount of silver or gold (something of high monetary value).
All of us are given some talents, with some of us having more than others.
We can quite easily substitute ‘talents’ with ‘gifts’ (or natural abilities) or even ‘skills’; some are natural while others we pick up through learning. Truly, they are intensely valuable and precious.
D122 - We are given different gifts
1 Cor 12:8-10 describes the various gifts given by the Holy Spirit – Word of knowledge, faith, healing, effecting of miracles, prophecy, the ability to distinguish spirits, the ability to speak various kinds of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. These are gifts given by the Holy Spirit and many of them are supernatural.
Eph 4:11-13 talks about the gifts of the offices of apostleship, prophecies, evangelist, pastor and then teacher.
Observations will tell us that It does not matter whether we are Christians or non-Christians. As human beings, God has given all of us different types of gifts (natural abilities as well as those [skills and knowledge] we picked up through learning) and because we are ‘made in the image of God’ (James 3:9), we have the ability to use these gifts to create.
We are gifted differently as well as in different proportions.
D123 - We are to use our different gifts to glorify God
‘But now there are many members but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”, or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”’
Regardless of what we are capable of doing, we work together with our different gifts in order to grow the body of Christ and to do good works.
Eph 2:10 explains what we are created to do –
we are ‘created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.’
Eph 4:12-13 provides the following reasons:
- To equip the saints for works of ministry, and
- To build up the body of Christ.
Our gifts are to be used. In Matt 25:26, Jesus called out believers who do not use their gifts as ‘wicked, lazy slave.’
The Greek words for ‘wicked’ and ‘lazy’ are poneros and okneros; poneros means evil, bad, wicked, malicious, slothful, and okneros means slothful, backward, hesitating, irksome.
Those are seriously heavy words and they are given to those who fail to use them for the purposes defined even in Eph 4:12-13.
It is not so much the quantity of talents (or amount of gifts) that we possess but more so in terms of what we do with them. To the one who failed to use his one and only talent, the Master would reply,
‘You wicked, lazy slave’ (Matt 25:26).
D124 - There are supernatural spiritual gifts
1 Cor 12:8-10 describes the various gifts given by the Holy Spirit –
- Word of knowledge,
- effecting of miracles,
- the ability to distinguish spirits,
- the ability to speak various kinds of tongues, and
- the interpretation of tongues.
These are gifts given by the Holy Spirit and many of them are supernatural.
Our Lord Jesus demonstrated the word of knowledge in his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well whom he met for the first time when he could tell her that , You have had five husbands and the one whom you now have is not your husband’ (John 4:18). That brought about a revelation and an evangelistic opportunity to the entire village.
Paul told us in 1 Cor 14:39 to ‘earnestly desire to prophesy.’
As believers, we have the mandate to seek for supernatural spiritual gifts.
D125 - To believers who use their gifts, more will be given
In the parable of the sower, Jesus explained that
‘For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away’ (Matt 13:12).
Jesus then reiterated the same words in the parable of the talents (Matt 25:29).
In the parable of the lamp, he used the same words again (Luke 8:18).
Jesus was never a pure socialist, taking away from the rich and redistributing the wealth to the poor in order to ‘balance a society.’
Having said that, Jesus showed us what true compassion for the disadvantaged was. On one occasion, he inconvenienced himself by taking a boat across the Sea of Galilee to a rural place of Gadarenes just so that he could cast out the demons from two demon-possessed men (Matt 8:28-34).
Jesus expected all believers to use their gifts for the good of the body (community) and those who did, Jesus promised to give them more because of their faithfulness. Meanwhile, to those who did not use that which were given to them, Jesus also had a promise – that
‘from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away’ (Matt 13:12)
And to those who did not use their gifts, Jesus called them ‘wicked and lazy’, terms which are mighty strong.
More than that, Jesus finished by saying,
‘Cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place threw will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (that is, in hell)’ (Matt 25:30).
- S146 – Choose not to work/ not to use our talents – slothful and lazy and
- B313 – Makes use of our talents and gifts.
D313 - Prophecy is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit
Prophecies is highlighted here in view of many modern-day prophets declaring ‘Thus saith the Lord.’
Who is a prophet? A prophet is someone who speaks by divine inspiration or s/he is someone to whom the will of God is expressed. That is the definition from The American Heritage Dictionary. Most of the time, we see a prophet as someone who foretells the future.
But this is not how the Bible defines a prophet. For example, God called Abraham a prophet (Gen 20:7) and we know that Abraham did not ‘speak by divine inspiration’ so to speak. Neither did Aaron who was also described as a prophet in Ex 7:1. The same may be said of John the Baptist who was described by Jesus as ‘more than a prophet’ (Matt 11:9).
According to renowned Bible teacher, John Bevere, in his book, Thus Saith the Lord, the easiest way to define a prophet is simply, ‘one who speaks for another’ and it could involve speaking about the future.
‘And he (Jesus) gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds (pastors), and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.’
And we know through the New Testament that there were a few prophets, notably the four daughters of Philip found in the Book of Acts (Acts 21:9) as well as the Prophet Agabus whose prophecies were verified and proven to be true (also found in Acts 21).
For instance, Agabus specifically went to Caesarea from Judea in order to meet the Apostle Paul and passed him a visual message – he took Paul’s belt, bound his own feet and hands and declared that the owner of the belt would be handed over to the Gentiles.
But the Apostle Paul also reminded believers to –
‘Not believe every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they are from God …. For many false prophets have gone out into the world’ (1 John 4:1).
Yet, in 1 Thes 5:20-21, we are told ‘not to despise prophetic utterances but to examine (test) everything carefully.’
2 Peter 2:1-3 also said,
‘But false prophets also arose among the people (of God), just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And MANY WILL FOLLOW THEIR SENSUALITY, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their GREED they will exploit you with false words.’
The Greek word, heresies, is hairesis or a self-chosen opinion/ a religious or philosophical sect/ contention.
1 Kings 22 offers us good lessons of true and false prophets as well as prophecies.
Ahab, King of Israel, had approached Jehoshaphat to go with him to fight against Ramoth-gilead. Nonetheless, Jehoshaphat requested the king of Israel, ‘Please inquire first for the word of the Lord.’ (1 Kings 22:5).
So, Ahab assembled his own prophets (or purported prophets), a big group of 400 men, and asked them, ‘Should I go to war against Ramoth Gilead or should I refrain?’
They replied, ‘Go up and the Lord will deliver it into the hand of the king.’
We could only suspect that Jehoshaphat might be uncomfortable within his spirit and therefore he asked in v7, ‘Is there not still a prophet of the Lord (not any prophet but one of the Lord) here of whom we can inquire?’
It was here that Micaiah, son of Imlah, was summoned. When the same question was posted to Micaiah, he responded in v 14,
‘As surely as the Lord lives, I will speak whatever the Lord tells me.’
Micaiah’s words should be our guide and the guide for EVERY PROPHET OF GOD.
Micaiah initially gave a positive response but then he added on with a negative imagery …. V17 says, ‘I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd ….’
Of course, Micaiah was right. Ahab was subsequently killed in battle and indeed Israel was scattered.
The mark of a true prophet is whether his/ her words takes place. Many modern-day ‘self-declared’ possibly well-meaning prophets have abused us with their declarations.
In a Western society where we are brought up to provide positive strokes, even our so-called prophets have adopted the same worldly positivity philosophy; always speaking a word of hope and encouragement, sometimes to the sidelining of truth. There is even money involved in being a positivity prophet for who among us do not crave for a good word?
We must test their words and ignore those who are false.
A point to note is that in the Old Testament, the punishment of a false prophet is death (Deut 18:20). Perhaps we should remind some of our current-day prophets regarding the seriousness of the spoken words?