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Charismata as Spiritual Capacities, not Motivational Gifts

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Every person arrives with created destiny and matching dispositional tendencies. These qualities and conditions are immediately challenged by a blighted world controlled by the influence of satan. 

Charismata are capacities of spirit bestowed upon believers who have active spirits. Having been born of the Spirit, they begin to operate SpiritFirst in the grace flows of charismata. To operate in any grace flow is a matter of personal choice, spiritual maturity, and SpiritFirst living. A person may possess charismata without activating the capacities when unbelief refuses the operation.

Motivational Gifts?

To characterize these gifts as motivational is to ignore the “How Things Really Work in the Spirit” revelation of the Bible. This comes from a desire to apply some systematic or doctrinal idolatry to the Scriptures that determines what Holy Spirit is doing, and believers are doing here and now.

Though some people ignorantly reject all the miraculous (dunamis-empowered) activities rehearsed in Scripture, another group of people willingly embrace a systematic or impose an organized overlay upon the Bible that puts all these norms into history. People called “cessationists,” with zero Scriptural reasoning or revelation arbitrary claim that Holy Spirit ceased doing miraculous things when the Bible record was completed.

This theory serves those unwilling to operate in the charis capacities available in fullness of Spirit.

But, some of the charismata are seen as “motivational gifts,” or explained as “how Holy Spirit motivates or shapes the perspective of a believer in his service for Christ.

Motivational gifts are not seen as charis capacities but motivations of the indwelling Spirit of Christ. Ministry is seen as Holy Spirit meeting needs with these motivations and perspectives. This allows cessationists to explain God involved in believers while maintaining the view that Holy Spirit changed the entire ministry of Jesus and the kingdom when the Bible was completed.

Of course, this is not a “how things really work in the spirit” paradigm, but it is a cessationists effort to make the Bible says what a cessationist wants It to say. In this way, a cessationist can tell everyone how to avoid being what the Bible says he should be.

The Scripture rewrite needed to support this overlay on the Bible rests upon presuppositions about how God does stuff the Bible does not provide. I am not addressing the silliness of using 1 Corinthians 13 to “prove” these presuppositions in this article. Still, I need to reveal how motivational gifts came to substitute for the meaning of charismata and “how things really work in the spirit.”

What the Word Charismata Means

Most thinkers consider Augustine a source of confusion about charismata, reaching back to the error of the Monantists and an overlay forced upon Paul’s discussion with the immature Corinthians as an excuse to dismiss charismata. Concluding that charismata were a problem to be solved by a completed canon of Scriptures is a common presupposition of cessationists. 

In other words, until a resurgence of believers operating in the very same charismata revealed in the Bible, it was easier to ignore the whole pesky problem. Cessationists conveniently ignore any history that includes charismata because they teach that church history is silent about the subject until the modern phenomenon of charismata demanded a discussion. This is willful ignorance embraced as a contribution to the faulty presupposition that Holy Spirit no longer empowers these capacities once the canon of Scripture was completed.

The cessationist appropriates this meaning for charismata: “God chooses to express what He is doing through “grace-expressions,” or “service-expressions,” or “expressions of His outworking,” all being synonymous with the “spiritual-expressions” (pneumatikon).”

Thus, motivational gifts are not charismata at all. They are expressions of grace that motivate people to do what Holy Spirit wants them to do to meet needs. As you can readily see, the “spiritual-expressions” are the cessationist’s answer to “how things really work in the spirit.”

Paul is undoubtedly addressing the “How things really work in the spirit” in 1 Corinthians 12, and he is contrasting it with the “how things work in the spirit” of a pagan worldview. The cessationist crosses over at this point, without a bridge of truth, jumping to an irrational conclusion. He says, “The Corinthians were acting pagan when they spoke in tongues and prophesied, so Paul had to show them that Holy Spirit doesn’t work that way.”

The cessationist says authentic functions of the Spirit are motivational, not miraculous.

“The original Greek word order forestalls such somewhat by inserting “through the Spirit” between the subject and the verb; “For to one through the Spirit is given…”. 

The cessationist assumes that Paul does not say that any believer possesses or receives acquisition a gift. He thinks Paul says any believer may be given the opportunity to receive and release an aspect of ministry in a specific time and place. Because this is so inconsistent with the rest of what Paul says, and it is evident that we can measure tendencies toward certain charismata in consistent operation–cessationists ignore prophet as an office, for example. Hence, they ignore the tendency to prophesy as a signal of the prophetic office. 

That is, moving toward “motivational gifts” as a means of discussing charismata, a cessationist view seeks to harmonize the rejection of miraculous in favor of motivational by redefining charismata and the operation of these capacities.

The word, charisma, and its plural, charismata, obviously includes charis, the Greek word for grace. The “ma” and “mata” suffix points to the result or outcome or activity produced by the capacity. Since many theologically motivated translators say that grace is “the unmerited favor of God” when it does not mean that at all, they carry this error over into spiritual grace capacities. They rely upon the pagan meaning of words instead of the Bible meaning of words, and then they discuss these gifts in the context of pagan mysticism as if they are not the work of Holy Spirit. They do all this without a Biblical basis, but it fits the Augustine error and their own spiritual experiences.

Motivational Gifts or Grace Capacities?

A grace flow is inferred by the word “charisma.” Among those that recognize the Biblical meaning and experience the capacities of spiritual expression that comes by grace flow, two viewpoints emerge: 1) we each receive particular capacities as the Spirit determines and these remain resident or operational at any moment; 2) we can operate in any grace flow capacity at any moment as the Spirit decides and are not limited to a “gift mix” measurable as a tendency or “equipment” list.

Personally, I find both of these viewpoints helpful and impossible to differentiate in real life. A gift test does measure tendencies, but a believer may operate in a grace capacity without even recognizing it while jumping to the conclusion they do not have that gift simply because they do not decide to operate in it consistently or believe they possess it.

When we train people in spiritual capacity operations, many leaders find option two helpful while others find activation of gifts consistent with option 1. I think the differences are very difficult to discern, and I think we should consider that neither thoroughly explains how Holy Spirit does what He does.

However, option 2 seems to lend itself more to the idea that a grace capacity is a believer operating to meet a need, motivated to do so by Holy Spirit. Yet, this means measuring tendencies by a gift mix test would be illogical.

What is a Grace Capacity?

First, charis does not mean “the unmerited favor of God.” This definition was wrong when first offered from the reading of the pagan worldview context of Plato. Charis means “beauty” at its base root, but the word takes on a catalog of meanings when applied to various situations and uses.

When we refer to the grace of God, we are not talking about the meaning of Plato giving a friend something out of favor when the person does not purchase it or earn it. Is there an element of that meaning? Yes! Is this the meaning of the grace of God? No! When God gives spiritual capacity, it isn’t understood in the context of Plato giving someone favor. This meaning has been and should be denounced but remains popular.

While charis is indeed received without merit, charis is a capacity of spiritual empowerment. The activity that results in a person having this capacity is “free gift, without merit, unearned,” but the outcome of receiving freely is a capacity of spiritual empowerment from God. Charis speaks to this end result as well as the manner in which that “gift” is bestowed.

Motivational Gifts?

We should avoid the monicker “motivational gifts” for charismata because it infers something much less than what the Bible presupposes as “how things really work in the spirit.”

The charismata are not merely or simply Holy Spirit motivating a believer to meet a need God wants to be met, thus a means to an end that ignores the overall blueprinted purpose of grace capacities in preparing and positioning believers in the building, body, and bride of Christ.

I will not argue for a static gift mix resident within the believer that never expands or contracts against the idea that Holy Spirit can empower any believer at any moment to operate in miraculous power. I would like to apply the Biblical worldview of “how things really work in the spirit” to the mundane of SpiritFirst living.

I need to know if the capacity to prophesy comes from a charisma or the charisma comes to expand the function of the prophet. In other words, a prophet prophesies because Holy Spirit empowers and enables him, and this is a spiritual capacity of grace enablement empowered by “God in residence.” The difference between the capacity of charisma in someone who is not a prophet and a prophet is metron of authority–prophets are leaders applying broadened revelation and prophetic function consistent with their permanent assignments.

So, we have to say that the gift is resident in the prophet, that his prophetic capacities function at any time at will, entering into the enabling power of Holy Spirit at the moment consistent with the metron of the prophet’s assignment.

Understand that using the “motivational gift” label infers that you find the miraculous aspects of charisma odd or even dangerous. People use this label to say God stopped doing that, or He never actually did that at all. Understand that agreeing with this meaning for these gifts also agrees with a “how things really work in the spirit” error. Understand that using a label more consistent with God’s revelation worldview helps to avoid misunderstanding or lack of understanding about charisma operations, especially the tendency toward self-focus in what is intended to be “ministry to others” focused.

And, this label demands that we redefine grace, grace capacities, and see gift tests as a measurement of tendencies instead of miraculous empowerment.

In other words, “motivational gifts as a label” does not see “how things really work in the spirit” in a way consistent with the Bible. This begs for a psychological analysis of any believer’s soul as a basis for understanding how that believer can operate in modern church-anity.

The Bible speaks of grace capacities in the context of SpiritFirst living in the kingdom culture where the involved God operates through His people by miraculous, dunamis power so that all the kingdom citizen does points back to the King.

Motivational gifts point to the person studying up on himself when all grace capacities point to the individual believer within the kingdom culture and the building, body, and bride of Christ.

Don Lynch

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