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There is no universally agreed on definition for the word charisma. Of its seventeen New Testament occurrences, sixteen are found in Paul and one in Peter (1 Pet. 4:10). Paul’s usage is so diverse that no single simple definition will do. One of the best discussions of charisma is found in Max Turner, “Spiritual Gifts Then and Now,” Vox Evangelica 15 (1985): 7-64. Turner concludes that the various Pauline lists of gifts “are clearly ad hoc and incomplete and they suggest that for Paul virtually anything that can be viewed as God’s enabling of a man for the upbuilding of the church could and would be designated a charisma, if Paul’s purpose was to underline its nature as given by God” (p. 31). For similar conclusions see D. A. Carson, Showing the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987), 19ff; and Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, to be published in 1994), chapter 52.

Grudem offers the following definition: “A spiritual gift is any ability that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in any ministry of the church” (ibid., chapter 52). He qualifies this definition by saying, “This is a broad definition and would include both gifts that are related to natural abilities (such as teaching, showing mercy, or administration) and gifts that seem to be more ‘miraculous’ and less related to natural abilities (such as prophecy, healing, or distinguishing between spirits). The reason for this is that when Paul lists spiritual gifts (in Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 7:7; 12:8-10, 28; and Eph. 4:11) he includes both kinds of gifts. Yet not every natural ability that people have is included here, because Paul is clear that all spiritual gifts must be empowered ‘by one and the same Spirit’ (1 Cor. 12:11), that they are given ‘for the common good’ (1 Cor. 12:7), and that they are all to be used for ‘edification’ (1 Cor. 14:26), or for building up the church” (ibid.).

Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, by Jack Deere (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993), pp. 269-270

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