What Do Seventh-day Adventists Believe About Spiritual Gifts and Ministries?
Seventh-day Adventists believe that the members of the church receive piritual gifts from the Holy Spirit. These are different but complementary. And they are meant to equip the church to spread the gospel and to edify the members of the church.
Here are three things you’ll learn about these gifts in this post:
- What the spiritual gifts are and their purpose
- How and why they are applied in the Adventist church today
- How the spiritual gifts function in the worldwide body of Christ
First, here is the Adventist church’s official statement on this belief:
According to the Scriptures, these gifts include such ministries as faith, healing, prophecy, proclamation, teaching, administration, reconciliation, compassion, and self-sacrificing service and charity for the help and encouragement of people.
Some members are called of God and endowed by the Spirit for functions recognized by the church in pastoral, evangelistic, and teaching ministries particularly needed to equip the members for service, to build up the church to spiritual maturity, and to foster unity of the faith and knowledge of God.
When members employ these spiritual gifts as faithful stewards of God’s varied grace, the church is protected from the destructive influence of false doctrine, grows with a growth that is from God, and is built up in faith and love.”
Let’s now take a look at what these spiritual gifts are.
What are these spiritual gifts?
The Bible talks about the gifts of the Holy Spirit in three main places: 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and Romans 12.
In 1 Corinthians 12:28, Paul summarizes them in order:
And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:28, NKJV).
And in Ephesians 4:14-15, he adds evangelists and pastors.
Let’s look at each of them and examples in the Bible.
The word apostle is apostolos in Greek, which means “a person sent.” The word referred to the twelve disciples chosen by Jesus (Luke 6:13; Mark 6:30).
Included among them is Matthias who replaced Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:21-26).
And Paul who referred to himself as “Paul, an apostle” (Galatians 1:1, NKJV).
A prophet is a person who speaks God’s message on His behalf. Much like preaching, though at times the message may come as sharp rebukes as it was with Old Testament prophets like Jeremiah.
It’s a common thought that prophets foretell the future.
While this is true, prophets provided needed guidance for the people. They could draw lessons from the past (Deuteronomy 1). They could address the present situation (1 Samuel 15:10). Or point to the future (Daniel 12).
In the New Testament, we encounter John the Baptist who called people to repentance (Matthew 11:11). And Jesus Himself was called a prophet (John 9:17).
And in the apostolic church, there were prophets like Agubus and the four daughters of Philip (Acts 11:28; 21:9).
In 1 Corinthians 14:1, Paul tells the Corinthians to desire spiritual gifts but especially the prophetic gift. So this was a priced gift and definitely one that was needed for the healthy nurture of the church.
Adventists believe that the prophetic gift is still manifest even in these last days. And through the ministry and writings of Ellen White, the church is instructed through the prophetic gift.
The gift of teaching is where one is good at explaining the principles of God’s word to others.
A good example is Priscilla and Aquila who saw that Apollos needed a more complete understanding of the Scriptures. So, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately (Acts 18:26).
The Adventist church runs the largest private educational system in the world. They have teachers and educators who present the Bible as the central theme of all their teaching. They also train Bible workers and ministers in seminaries. And all graduates are equipped to be missionaries and teachers of the Gospel wherever they go as workers.
Those with the gift of miracles were able to do supernatural things through the power of God, just like Jesus did.
An example would be when Peter resurrected Tabitha in Joppa (Acts 9:36-42).
We don’t see such miracles as resurrections today, but we believe that every answered prayer is a miracle. And even the fact that we are alive, the birth of a new baby, and the many ways that we are protected from danger is a miracle.
Gift of healing
Those with this gift could pray to God for the healing of those with physical illnesses and they got well. An example is when John and Peter healed a beggar at the temple gate called ‘beautiful’ (Acts 3:2-3).
Today, the Adventist Church is an aggressive advocate for healthy living. They also run hospitals, clinics, and lifestyle centers as part of their healing ministry. You may want to check out their health system called Advent Health.
These were good at helping others, especially in the area of hospitality and caring for the poor and needy in the church.
Tabitha, the one who was resurrected by Peter was known for making garments for widows (Acts 9:39).
The Adventist church has a department called welfare ministry or Dorcas that is meant to take care of people’s needs.
Those with the gift of administration were the leaders in the church. They are especially conspicuous when there arose the need for decisions to be made or councils held.
A good example is Peter who acted as the spokesperson for the believers at Pentecost (Acts 2:14-41).
And James who was the leader of the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:13-21).
Today, this gift is manifest in our church leaders from the general conference all the way to the local churches. Like the general conference president, the executive committees, leaders in our schools, hospitals, and other institutions.
Varieties of tongues
This is a gift where its recipients are able to speak and understand more than one language that they didn’t know before.
This gift was extravagantly showcased on the day of Pentecost where the disciples were heard speaking other languages, different from their own:
and when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language.
Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another:
‘Look, are not all these who speak Galileans?
And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?
Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God’” (Acts 2:6-11, NKJV).
Notice all those languages that were spoken?
Though the disciples were mostly Jews who spoke Hebrew and Aramaic, they were able to speak these new languages.
The purpose was so that the visitors could hear them declare “the wonderful works of God.”
So unlike popular understanding that tongues are a language that cannot be understood, they are languages that can be understood by others.
And in 1 Corinthians, Paul says that whenever someone speaks in tongues in church, it should be one at a time (and not everybody all at once) and there must be an interpreter (1 Corinthians 14:27).
Today, this gift can be seen by missionaries who can speak many languages or can learn foreign languages very fast when they go to a new field.
There are even ministries that specialize in presenting the gospel in the local languages of the people through modern media and technologies.
An example is My Language My life.
Interpretation of tongues
As we saw, Paul instructed that in the case where one spoke in a different tongue in a congregation, an interpreter was needed. So, there were people who had this gift.
Today, we can see it in the form of translators when someone is preaching in a different language than the congregation. Or translation of written material or online media.
An evangelist is someone who presents the good news of salvation, especially in different places. In the Bible, we are told of a man referred to as “Philip the evangelist” (Acts 21:8, NKJV).
Today, we have itinerant preachers who are not stationed in a church as such, but go to different places to teach, preach, and train disciples. A good example in the Adventist church is Mark Finley.
Pastors are those who are stationed at a church to nurture it and act as a spiritual leader. Mostly, they take up churches planted by evangelists.
Paul refers to them as elders or shepherds:
“The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed:
Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:1-5, NKJV).
In the Adventist church, the pastor is the leader of the local church. Usually, they are ordained ministers who have gone through seminary and received appropriate training.
As one can see, God has given many gifts to the people in His church. So, no matter who you are in the body of Christ you can find your place and act your part in working with other members of the church.
What are the purposes of these spiritual gifts?
The spiritual gifts are given to equip the church to spread the gospel as Jesus commanded them:
“Go into all the world,” He said, “and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15, NKJV).
Jesus also asked them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait “for the Promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4, NKJV).
He then assured them,
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NKJV).
And it is the Holy Spirit that was given to them that gave them these gifts to fulfill the daunting task before them. The task of evangelizing the world.
“The Holy Spirit gives a special ability to a member, enabling him to help the church fulfill it’s divine mission” (Seventh-day Adventists Believe. General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 2005, p. 239.)
Paul made it clear when he said:
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:14, 15, NKJV).
So, from this verse, the gifts are also meant for the edification of the body of Christ. Meaning that it is not just for reaching others outside the church but to help the believers edify or bless each other among themselves.
How do these gifts work in the church?
The gifts are complementary to each other. That is, they are different but build on each other.
We are given special insight into the operation of these gifts because of a specific problem the Apostle Paul had faced with the church at Corinth.
To address this issue, he began by saying:
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren,” I do not want you to be ignorant” (1 Corinthians 12:1, NKJV).
Though they did not lack any spiritual gift, the members were not getting along with each other on a personal level (1 Corinthians 1:4, 7).
Paul stressed that though there were “diversities of gifts,” which lead to “differences of ministries” and “diversities of activities,” it was the “same God who works in us all” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6, NKJV).
And the ultimate goal was to have a unified body working together in harmony for the glory of God.
He asked them:
“Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Corinthians 12:29, NKJV).
Then he went on to use his famous metaphor of the different parts of the human body, each with a different function but all needed and necessary for the proper function of the body as a whole.
“If the whole body were an eye, where would be hearing? Or if the whole body were like an ear, where would be the sense of smell?” (1 Corinthians 12:17, NKJV).
He then stresses the unity that should arise from the various gifts, and “that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:25, NKJV).
In other words, whatever your gifts, and however much they might differ from someone else’s, church members were to work in harmony for the good of each other and for the spreading of the Gospel.
And the fact is that though they are different, none is more important than the other as they are given by the same Spirit. He showed them how “to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:8-10, NKJV).
Instead of comparing themselves, Paul encouraged them to use their gifts as intended and not waste precious opportunities to use them.
He told them:
“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophecy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12: 6-8, NKJV).
And this is also a good encouragement for us today. We need to use our gifts and that way glorify God and bless our brethren.
The problem with not discovering and using our gifts is that they may end up being taken away. Like what happened to the man who was given one talent and decided to bury it and not use it.
But if we use our gifts, our abilities will be blessed by God and multiplied.
The story is found in Matthew 25:14-30 and is commonly called the parable of talents.
Are these gifts to be continued and practiced in the church even today?
Adventists don’t believe that these spiritual gifts ceased with the death of the apostles. Instead, they firmly believe that they need to exist in the church today.
And that is why as we saw, they are practiced in various ways in Adventism.
First, we find nothing in the Scriptures that indicate these gifts were going to end, or that they are going to end soon.
If the gifts ended with the death of the apostles, then for all those long centuries of church history, did the body of Christ function without any of the gifts in operation, and none of those gifts exist in the church today?
That hardly sounds feasible.
In fact, Paul confirms that these gifts are to continue in the church until the second coming of Jesus. He writes:
“So that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7–8, NKJV).
Next, if the spiritual gifts had ceased with the end of the Apostolic Age, it would mean that all those New Testament Bible texts dealing with the gifts are of no real value to the church today, which is contrary to what the Bible says about itself.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16, NKJV).
Also, when you consider what the purpose of the gifts are, the idea of the spiritual gifts having ended long, long ago when the church was still quite young, makes no sense.
Because they were to help the church evangelize the world, and this is not complete yet.
So, for these reasons and others, Seventh-day Adventists believe that the gifts of the Spirit depicted in the Bible are still in operation in the church.
And they will still be until “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” George Rice, Handbook of Seventh-day Theology; Review and Herald, Silver Spring, MD, 2007, pp.610-650).
What do Adventists teach about the gift of prophecy in the church today?
It is interesting that in every one of the Bible texts regarding the spiritual gifts—the gift of prophecy is listed among them (Romans 12: 6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10; 1 Corinthians 12:28).
Thus, if we believe that the spiritual gifts remain in the church, then clearly the gift of prophecy would remain as well.
In fact, in a depiction of God’s final remnant church, the gift of prophecy will be made manifest.
This last church is said to have the testimony of Jesus (Revelation 12:17).
And “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10, NKJV).
Thus, given the end-time context of these verses, it’s obvious that the gift of prophecy will remain in the church.
Of course, as with all the other gifts, just because someone claims to have the gift and to manifest it doesn’t mean it’s true.
We’re even cautioned to test these things.
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1, NKJV).
How interesting that John gives the caution about testing the spirits in the context of prophecy and prophets. His warning against false prophets, if nothing else, implies the existence of true prophets as well.
In a nutshell, Seventh-day Adventists believe in the existence of spiritual gifts, and that these gifts will remain until the end time. And that the “spirit of prophecy,” or “the prophetic gift” will be made manifest. In fact, its existence is one of the defining characteristics of God’s remnant people.
So, as we have seen, God has given spiritual gifts to the church for its edifiction. And most important, they are meant to equip the church to evangelize the world in fulfillment of the Great Commission.
While they are different, they are given by the same Spirit and are complementary to each other. So believers should bring together their gifts in the church for a common goal of spreading the gospel and blessing others.
And as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, all these gifts are meaningful and effective. But the greatest of them all is love.
These gifts can be a means of sharing God’s love with those around us and the world at large.
With that in mind, let’s seek to discover our gifts and go out to bless the world we live in for God’s glory.
 Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology; (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2000.) p. 586.
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