A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
“For God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.”
This quote from Romans 11:29 is the basis for our final episode in the series on spiritual gifts. We’ve established that at the moment of belief, the Holy Spirit is permanently sealed within us as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance (Ephe 1:13–14), and that the Lord equips us for ministry with certain gifts of the Spirit, to each one just as He determines for the common good. (1 Cor 12:7 and 11). We’ve also shown how from time to time the Holy Spirit might “come upon” us for a special assignment (Acts 10:44-46). “But wait” you say, “what if I’ve never used my gift? I didn’t even know I had one. Is it too late to start now?”
Contained in the Old, Explained in the New
Romans 15:4 comes to mind. “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” If this is true, there should be a story from the Old Testament that contains the answer. And sure enough, in 2 Kings 4: 8-37 we find it.
It’s the story of Elisha, his servant Gehazi, and a woman of Shunem. The woman has been kind to Elisha, and he wants to reward her with a gift, but she doesn’t offer any suggestion. When he asks his servant’s opinion he is told she has no son. Without seeking her approval he tells her she will bear a son in one year. And so it happens. A few years later, the boy suddenly becomes ill and dies. When she petitions Elisha, he restores the boy to life.
I Told Parables Through Them, Hosea 12:10
Using the root meanings of the names, let’s convert the story into an object lesson and fulfill Romans 15:4. The name Elisha is translated God of Supplication; Gehazi comes from a root meaning vision or prophecy, and Shunem means rest. And so the God of Supplication comes with His Servant (the Holy Spirit) to the woman at rest (the church) to bring her a gift. The servant determines what gift would be best and it is done accordingly. Later the gift appears to die. The woman petitions the God of Supplication and He restores the gift to life. His gifts are irrevocable, after all.
How Do You Know This?
Elisha as a model of God is pretty clear; his name says it all. Same with the servant; but how is the woman a model of the church? Three ways. One, she’s established a relationship with Him and made room for Him in her home (her heart) and two, she lives in Rest (Shunem). Hebrews 4:9-10 explains it. “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.” (Remember what’s external and physical in the Old becomes internal and spiritual in the New. So it is with the Sabbath). Three, He desires to bring her a gift, and works through His servant to do it. The model fits.
A High View of Inspiration
This is what makes the Bible such a fascinating book. The Holy Spirit moved writers to describe events in such a way as to bring lessons to us centuries later. For example, when you look for the hidden meanings in names, you often find incredible insights in understanding passages like this. It does require some discipline to avoid going off on a tangent, but the more literal you are in interpretation, the safer you’ll be. Both the Strong’s and the NAS concordance are great study tools for this.
What’s the Application?
This story is a fascinating model with both general and specific applications. (By the way, it was the basis for the study on Spiritual Gifts given by the woman I referred to last time.) The general application explains the period of time in the church age when the Gifts of the Spirit were absent, and then suddenly reappeared in the birth of the Pentecostal Movement. The specific application is for you.
The Lord in His infinite wisdom has permanently invested in you a unique combination of the Spiritual Gifts listed in Romans 12, Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. He did this because He wants you to make a contribution to the Body of Christ. No other believer is as well equipped or suited to make this contribution. The Body of Christ can’t be all it was intended to be here on earth without your contribution. Discovering your gift can be the adventure of a lifetime. Ask Him to guide you in this adventure.
The Peace That Passes All Understanding
You will find that as you begin re-ordering your life in the direction of your giftedness you will be more effective everywhere, whether at work, home, or ministry, and more at peace than ever before. Resist the well intended but misdirected efforts of friends and associates who will encourage you to manifest the gifts they have. Paul warned us that a physical body of only arms or eyes would be useless. Our creator gave us the correct number of each body part to make us effective. He invested the Body of Christ with gifts in the same manner. Remember His advice to me; “Stop whining about the gifts you don’t have and focus on the ones you do.” It’s good advice for us all.