There are seven basic categories of spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to the church. Those categories are: leadership, missional, service, sign, encouragement, wisdom, and teaching. The final category of spiritual gifts is the teaching gifts. The teaching gifts are the gifts of prophecy and teaching. All of the spiritual gifts are needful in the life of the church. The teaching gifts are especially needful as they are used to provide instruction and encouragement to the church.
Prophecy. 1 Corinthians 14:1 points to the importance of the gift of prophecy. “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye prophesy.” According to Paul, the gift of prophecy is a highly regarded gift that is essential to the life and ministry of the church. The Greek word for prophecy is propheteia. It refers to the ability to receive divinely inspired messages and deliver it to the people. It must be understood that there is a difference between the prophets of old and the prophets of the church age. The prophets of old received their messages directly from God Himself. Their job was to relay those messages to the people. The prophets of old also engaged in ‘foretelling’ which is foretelling the future. Such prophecy is no longer used or needful today since we have the complete Word of God. The prophecy of today is ‘forthtelling’ which is simply proclaiming the Word of the Lord. The prophets of today receive their messages from the written Word of God with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and they are responsible to relay those messages to the church. To put it simply, the spiritual gift of prophecy is what we refer to as the spiritual gift of preaching.
When it comes to the spiritual gift of prophecy or preaching, there are two basic things we need to understand. First of all, we must not quench the preaching. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 says, “Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings.” The Spirit is the Holy Spirit who speaks through the man of God who preaches. We quench the Spirit when we despise the preaching. The preaching of God’s Word must be paramount in all that we are as a church. The pulpit is a sacred desk. The man who stands behind the pulpit must never take lightly the importance and the heaviness of his role. The preacher has the responsibility of communicating God’s Word to the people through the leading of the Holy Spirit. When we lessen the importance of the preaching or we ignore the preacher or we despise the preaching, we quench the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the church. Look at 2 Timothy 4:1-5. The preacher is given the responsibility by God to preach the Word. He must preach the Word even when it is not popular. He must be ready at all times to preach. The content of his preaching will reprove, rebuke, and exhort. Reproving is to give proof or convince. The preacher has the awesome task of convincing people of God’s truth. He is also to rebuke. Look at Hebrews 4:12. The Word of God is convicting and offensive. If the preaching does not step on your toes, then it is not real preaching. When the Word of God is preached there will be rebuke. There will be conviction. This is why preachers are not very popular people. Many are despised and criticized and even hated. The preaching not only reproves and rebukes, but it also exhorts. As the Word of God is preached, the saints of God are exhorted or encouraged to grow in their walk with God and to serve Him faithfully. The preaching of God’s Word exhorts people to obedience. Preaching is a very serious matter. It is something we should desire. It is something we should hunger for. It is something we should enjoy. It is something we should look forward to. We must never quench the preaching of God’s Word. Secondly, we must test the preaching. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 says, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” We cannot simply take the preacher at his word. Instead, we should test his word with the Word. To be able to prove all things, we must be students of God’s Word ourselves. We should know God’s Word well enough that when something is preached that does not align with God’s Word we are able to identify it. We should hold to the preaching that is good and profitable to us. When it comes to testing the preaching or knowing if a certain preacher is one we can trust to proclaim God’s truth, there are several questions we should ask. (1) Does the preacher exegete or isogete? The interesting thing is that the preachers that isogete are usually the most popular and has the greatest following. However, it should be the other way around. Exegesis is to simply interpret the text and present what is says. Isogesis is when the preacher reads his own ideas into the text. There is a place for isogesis, however, it should not be the primary approach of the preacher. The church needs to hear what the Word of the Lord says not what the preacher says. (2) Does the preacher preach primarily expository or topical? Expository preaching is taking a passage of scripture and expounding on it. Topical preaching is taking a certain topic and then applying scripture to that particular topic. There is a place for both types of preaching. However, a good preacher is one who primarily preaches expository sermons. When he does preach a topical sermon, a good preacher will fill the sermon with many Bible passages and still expound on those passages that relate to the given topic. I for one try to limit the number of topical sermons I preach. It is better for me to preach verse by verse through a book of the Bible. This way I am simply preaching the Word and allowing the Holy Spirit to bring conviction rather than choosing a topic I want to deal with and then finding scripture to back it up. Unfortunately, such preaching is very rare today. If you attend a church where the preacher practices good exegesis and preaches primarily expository sermons, then you are blessed and you are in a place where you have the greatest prospect of spiritual growth. (3) Does the preacher preach truth in love? There are many styles of preaching. Some preachers are very lively while others are more subdued. I try to encourage young preachers to find their own style. Be themselves and don’t try to be someone that you are not. The key to good preaching is preaching the truth in love. A preacher must earn the right to be heard. The people must know that he loves them. It is much easier for one to accept the truth and allow God’s Word to convict and transform them when the preacher is one that they trust and one that they know loves them. A preacher must never shy away from the truth or difficult topics. However, he must present the truth in a way that shows love and grace. The goal of the preacher is not to bring conviction. The goal of the preacher is simply to communicate the truth of God’s Word and allow the Holy Spirit to do the conviction.
The spiritual gift of prophecy or preaching is much needed in the church today. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of good preachers these days. It is not that God is not calling young men to preach. Rather, they are simply not answering the call. Has the Holy Spirit given you the spiritual gift of preaching? If so, answer that call and preach the Word.
Teaching. The spiritual gift of teaching comes with a very serious responsibility in the church. James 3:1 says, “My brethren, be not many masters (teachers), knowing that we shall receive greater condemnation.” Those who have the responsibility of preaching and/or teaching in the church are held to a very high standard. The spiritual gift of teaching is not one of those gifts that everyone should seek to have. It is one that comes with a high calling and a huge weight of responsibility. The word teach comes from the Greek word, didaskalos. It means to teach, instruct, instill doctrine, explain, and expound. If you have the spiritual gift of teaching, you will love to study God’s Word. Those with this gift may spend long hours reading and studying the Bible and never grow weary of it. They also take great joy and satisfaction in seeing others grow in their faith and in the understanding of God’s Word. Those with the spiritual gift of teaching are able to build a solid foundation for the church. If this gift was not present, the church would fall for all types of false teaching and worldliness. Good solid teachers in the church are really the backbone of the church. We need those who continually shore up the foundation to keep the church grounded in the truth. We should be thankful for the teachers that God has placed in our lives and in the church over the years. Without those with this gift, the church would falter in its purpose and mission. The same response to those with this gift is the same as our response to those with the gift of preaching. We must not quench the teaching. It must take priority in the church. We also must test the teaching and make sure that what we are taught is truly from God’s Word.
The teaching gifts are crucial for the survival of the church. Many churches across our nation have fallen to the wayside because of the lack of good solid biblical preaching and teaching. May the Lord give us preachers and teachers who will give us the transforming truth of God’s Word.