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Fascinating research on the systematic theology of spiritual gifts

A while ago, I received an email from Ed Stetzer asking if I knew when spiritual gifts inventories first became prevalent. I gave him a quick reflection based on what I remembered at that time, but his question created a curiosity that sent me on a longer investigation. While this is certainly not the final word on the question, it may serve as a beginning point for other researchers. Here is what I have discovered.

Brief History

The doctrine of spiritual gifts, as we think of it today, is of relatively recent interest. Historically, while the Bible contains doctrines, they were not handed to the church in a systematic form. Rather, over its two thousand plus years of history, the church progressively discovered and developed doctrines.

While Christians have practiced spiritual gifts from the beginning of the apostolic era, there was not much written about them during the first 600 years of church history. Biblical teaching from those early church years shows that the existence of spiritual gifts was recognized. However, the statements made about them in that period are brief.

During the one thousand years of the Medieval Period (590-1517), the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts was essentially ignored. Doctrines like the atonement received the major study, which primarily resulted in preparation for what became known as the Protestant Reformation.

As the Protestant Reformation (1517-1648) took hold, Martin Luther and John Calvin vigorously defended the doctrine of the deity of the Holy Spirit. Both commented on the existence of spiritual gifts, particularly as they wrote commentaries on the classic spiritual gifts passages found in Romans and 1 Corinthians. Yet the reformers’ reaction against the doctrines …

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