Spiritual gifts today
I grew up in a WELS church, day school, and attended an ELS college and still hold fast to the solid scriptural foundation at the basis of the WELS. Currently, I attend a solid, non-denominational church where my wife works in the youth ministry. I do not question the core teachings of the church when it comes to faith, repentance and salvation. However, there are a few topics that don't seem to be a matter of salvation, but of understanding. The greatest of these topics that troubles me is the question of spiritual gifts for Christians: speaking in tongues, gifts of healing, gifts of prophecy, and others. In regard to the three specific "gifts" I've listed, what advice would you give to me (and others) to discern perceived evidence supporting these claimed gifts and how they apply today in the New Testament Era?
In This We Believe, a statement of belief of our church body, we maintain: “The Holy Spirit also equips the church with all the spiritual gifts it needs for its well-being (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). During the beginning of the New Testament era, special charismatic gifts were given to the church, such as signs, miracles, and speaking in tongues. These gifts were connected with the ministry of the apostles (2 Corinthians 12:12). There is no evidence in Scripture that we today should expect the continuation of such charismatic gifts.”
God of course can do anything. If he chooses to give a person special gifts, he can do so. The key statement in the section above is the last sentence: “There is no evidence in Scripture that we today should expect the continuation of such charismatic gifts.”
Because the claims of many people who supposedly possessed such gifts have proved to be fraudulent, it is wise to approach this subject with caution as you are suggesting. The ecstatic speech of charismatics today is far different from the gift of speaking in known, intelligible languages in Acts 2. Spiritual gifts are to be used “for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). When people cannot understand the syllables coming out of another person’s mouth, there is no value to others (1 Corinthians 14). Also, keep in mind that “prophecy” in the Bible can refer to the activity of the prophets who relayed specific messages from God, or it can refer to Christians who have been gifted with the ability to speak God’s word to others (Acts 2:18).
Rather than focusing on spectacular gifts that God definitely gave in the past, churches would do well to consider what God says about spiritual gifts in general (Romans 12:1-8; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:11-13; 1 Peter 4:10-11).
While you mentioned that you were troubled by your current church’s understanding of spiritual gifts, I would encourage you to give some thought to your current church’s understanding and teaching of baptism, the Lord’s Supper and faith/conversion. Non-denominational churches can easily have unscriptural views toward these doctrines. Do understand what your church teaches about those doctrines and compare those teachings with the Bible. In everything, be a Berean Christian (Acts 17:10-11) and see for yourself what God’s word teaches. Then, distance yourself from any false teachings (Romans 16:17) and enjoy fellowship with people who are united in biblical doctrine (1 John 1:3).