Abusus Non Tollit Usum — “Abuse Does Not Take Away Use” (What About Spiritual Gifts for Today?)

Abusus Non Tollit Usum

What’s your point of view? Should we be closed to spiritual gifts because some abuse them?

Abusus Non Tollit Usum is a Latin phrase—“Abuse does not take away use.”

In other words, the misuse of something is not an argument against its proper use. How does this apply to the experience of spiritual gifts today?

See ‘Go Further’ resources at the bottom of this post.

An Obvious Fallacy

Fire can burn and destroy. It also cooks and brings warmth.

Consider:

  1. Some case of X did something wrong.
  2. Therefore, all X’s are bad.
  3. We should get rid of X’s.

Fire is good when properly understood and applied. Just because someone was harmed or something was destroyed by fire does not mean we should not use fire to our advantage.

To hardcore feminists, it can look like this:

  1. Some men are bad.
  2. Certainly, all men are evil.
  3. We should get rid of men. Or at least force men to stop being men.

This kind of thinking is a fallacy. It’s an argument from “one” or “some” to a conclusion about “all.”

Anything Can Be Distorted

Any belief or point of view can be distorted.

Doctrine or faith practice can be distorted and misused as well. People get hurt.

The Bible and Christianity have been grossly misused to justify atrocious evils throughout history. Of course, it’s maddening.

Sometimes, when you have spent a long time rejecting the gifts of the Spirit and come to believe in them, you almost feel as if you are being born again. — Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit: Discovering How God Speaks and Heals Today

But Biblical faith has also been expressed in lifting the poor, empowering women and children, shaping economic and public policy to elevate societies, sparking philanthropic initiatives, creating horizons of hope, and much more.

And yet the fallacy can remain …

  1. Some expressions of biblical faith are bad.
  2. Therefore, all expressions of biblical faith are bad.
  3. We should get rid of biblical faith. Or at least restrict its expression.

Distortion and abuse are not limited to Christianity or the Bible. It’s everywhere and in everything.

What About the Misuse of Spiritual Gifts (Charismata)?

You can choose almost any truth, doctrine, or faith practice from the Bible and find some way that it has been distorted, abused, and improperly applied.

Somewhere. By someone. It could be faith. Or our understanding and practice of the church. Anything.

Consider spiritual gifts—they are given for the common good of the assembly of believers, the church (1 Corinthians 12:7).

They were only for the early Christ-followers, right? (We’ll explore the validity and use of spiritual gifts for today on this site as content is added.)

But what about the issue of misusing spiritual gifts … what do we do with that?

Well, the fallacy thinking would say:

  1. Some misuse spiritual gifts.
  2. Therefore, all expressions of spiritual gifts are a misuse.
  3. So, spiritual gifts should not be used by today’s Christ-followers.

Again: Abusus Non Tollit Usum“Abuse does not take away use.”

Paul and Spiritual Gifts — Abusus Non Tollit Usum

This is in large part why Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthian church.

That in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:5-7 ESV).

Paul was grateful that the Corinthian believers were not lacking in spiritual gifts. He said they were not to lack in any gift as they waited for (or until) the revelation of Christ when he comes again. See also 1 Corinthians 13:9-12.

The Word of God still speaks to us today. What Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers is for all believers for all time—just as every other letter and book in the New Testament is timeless for New Covenant believers.

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed (1 Corinthians 12:1 ESV).

Paul did not write to the Corinthian Christ-followers and tell them that spiritual gifts had ceased. He wrote to correct the misuse and misapplication of spiritual gifts.

Abusus Non Tollit Usum.

See Paul’s teaching on spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14. Love as a prime value and motivator are given a central place in these chapters (see chapter 13).

Clearly, the mature use of spiritual gifts is at the top of Paul’s concerns for communities of faith.

Heavenly Father, I thank you that you’ve sent the Holy Spirit to teach us and bring us into all truth. I want to experience full-spectrum Christian faith. I praise you that the very anointing of Christ teaches me as I search the Scriptures. Continue to bring me into next-level Christ-following. I’m grateful. Amen.

What’s your point of view? Should today’s Christ-followers exercise spiritual gifts?


GO FURTHER:

The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts by Sam Storms

Renewal Theology: Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective by J. Rodman Williams

Derek Prince resources on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit

4 thoughts on “Abusus Non Tollit Usum — “Abuse Does Not Take Away Use” (What About Spiritual Gifts for Today?)”

  1. Good perspective. Love as the foundation. Love of Jesus. Righteousness. Glory. Faithfulness.

    The misuse likely will not be rooted in love.

    The encouragement by Paul to earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, pursue love, especially that you may prophesy. I Cor. 14:1. Shows the foundation of love. It’s enciuraging.

    1. Thanks, Brent. From the Creator’s point of view, love is foundational to everything. It’s how everything works optimally. For Paul, we are to earnestly desire spiritual gifts from a place of love. Love is our source.

  2. Brian, great article. This is true of anything that is true and good that we find in life. Something is inherently good for us, but as time goes on, we forget – or we believe that we know better than the ‘good’ – and then the idea of using the gift is lost. It becomes so foreign to us that totally new believers might even think it to be superstitious or “old news”. Clearly, we need to engage this on every level.

    1. Thanks, Joshua. Yes, this maxim from the Latin applies to absolutely everything in life. Someone has said that what we don’t value and respect tends to leave our lives. We begin to take things for granted as you imply. What we value and appreciate comes to us via desire. I wonder how much of the “abundant life” of Jesus we leave on the table because of this …

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