Spiritual Gifts

Several years ago I wrote an article for a class studying spiritual gifts. Years before that I had taken surveys to ascertain my personal spiritual gifts. While I was generally satisfied that these surveys helped me focus myself in those areas where I was gifted, I also concluded that they did not do a very complete job of ascertaining my capabilities. I came to realize that the teachers had what I believed was a mistaken understanding of what the New Testament actually teaches about spiritual gifts. So I decided to research the topic and write the article.

This blog is a condensation of the article I wrote earlier. There is a link to it below.

The primary New Testament mention of spiritual gifts are three pericopes by Paul:

  • 1 Corinthians Chapters 12-14
  • Romans 12:3-13
  • Ephesians 4:7-14

I have listed these in the order in which Paul probably wrote the letters. Various scholars have used these verses to come up with a list of 14 to 20 separate gifts of the Spirit. A number of people have come up with surveys that help people tp ascertain which of these gifts predominate in their lives and ministry.

What I discovered as I read these passages was a twofold realization:

  1. Paul's lists are not meant to provide a complete list of gifts, and
  2. Paul was trying to get his readers to put their gifts in the proper perspective.

You can see the first point by realizing that Paul's three lists are all different. To each group of people, Paul was not trying to give them a complete list of gifts. Combining the three groups into a common list and concluding that that is all there is is erroneous. You can see this further by seeing a number of instances where Paul mentions other gifts. One that particularly struck me was this one:

1 Corinthians 7:7-8 (NASB) Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.

I think that Paul was saying that he had the spiritual gift of celibacy! Paul says "I am celibate." Then he speaks of each man having "his own gift." Clearly, he is saying that he is gifted by being able to remain celibate! Just think of how that was critical in his life and ministry. You won't find this gift listed in most recitations of them. Think also of many who do not have this gift yet have attempted to serve in a capacity where it is required.

Paul gives a twofold purpose for spiritual gifts:

(1) How the gifts are used is critical - love is the key - and

(2) the purpose of these gifts is the unity and proper functioning of the Church, the Body of Christ.

Peter also spoke of the primary purpose of spiritual gifts:

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. {1 Peter 4:10 (NASB)}

The Old Testament mentions gifts from God is several places. Here is one of them:

Exodus 31:1-7 (NASB)
1 Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 "See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah.
3 "I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship,
4 to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, 5 and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship.

From the OT verses pertaining to gifts or skills that God gave through His Spirit to various individuals, we see several things:

  1. When God wants something done, He gives individuals the knowledge and skills needed for the task.
  2. The specific knowledge and skills given depend upon the nature of the task. God seems to decide what is needed.
  3. God inspires others to provide whatever support in terms of money or supplies that may be needed. This inspiration is also a gift from God.

The bottom line? Only by setting up arbitrary definitions of spiritual gifts is it possible to limit what these gifts might be. The Bible never explicitly defines these gifts nor sets these limits. John Piper is one who agrees with me on this. I also like what JimTheFollower has to say on this topic. He lists 7 steps in using spiritual gifts. He concludes with these three - Pray, Serve, Examine the Fruit. He says, "It is far more important for you to use your spiritual gifts than to identify them! Gifts are not given to us so we can label them or join a fellowship of like-gifted individuals. They are given to make a difference in the world."

Thus, it is prudent to exercise considerable care in dealing with the topic of spiritual gifts. As Paul says, "Be careful about focusing on specific gifts. Rather, pursue love." Then, as opportunities arise, use your gifts to serve, enrich, and build up His body, the Church.

Please read the detailed article, which can be found here.

By DoctorG15 on May 11, 2021

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