Spiritual Gifts: Instrumental in Church Life, Not an Afterthought

A few thoughts on spiritual gifts:

Given by God’s Spirit

“God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Hebrews 2:4).

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men…All these [spiritual gifts] are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines…In fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be” (I Corinthians 12:4-6; 11; 17-18).

For God’s purposes

Spiritual gifts were not given for our entertainment, to provide us something to do, not even to make us useful or bring us joy. They were given for the sake of the Church, for the manifestation of God’s glory, and for witnessing the Gospel.

“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13).

“Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession– to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Equal in value

The image Paul uses to teach the Corinthians that all gifts are important and needed is that of the body.

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ…If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” (I Corinthians 12:12, 17-18).

Preachers and teachers might be the most visibly gifted; prophets and healers perhaps the most dramatically gifted; servers and mercy-givers maybe the most underrated and misunderstood. But God makes no distinction concerning value. In fact, Paul flips our instincts upside down: “On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other” (22-25).

Grumbling and choosiness have no place within the body because each part is valued and important.

 All who have the Spirit have a gift

Paul’s detailed description of the body—many parts united together—underscores that everyone who is a part of the church, born again of the Spirit, has a gift and a place. “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (I Corinthians 12:7). There are no useless parts of the body.

Not gender specific

In Acts 2, men and women gathered in an upper room, awaiting the Spirit of God, as instructed. A sound like rushing wind filled the room and tongues of fire came to rest on God’s people. The initial anointing of the Spirit on the Church, an anointing never to be revoked. God had sent the comforter, the empowerer, just as he’d promised. These men and women threw open the windows and doors and went out preaching. What verses did Peter quote?

Joel 2:28-29, “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.”

What’s amazing about the instruction of spiritual gifts is that there are no gender restrictions. Paul, a thorough, passionate church leader, doesn’t say, “But to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given, to men…these gifts, and to women… those gifts.” This is not an oversight on Paul’s part. He didn’t slap his head in dismay after sending his letters to the Corinthians, Ephesians, and Romans, “I forgot to say the Spirit doesn’t give women the gifts of preaching and teaching!” No, friends. The Spirit gives the gifts as the Spirit sees fit, regardless of gender. Let us focus on the purpose of the gifts: God’s glory, the building of His people, the expansion of His kingdom. Let us not foist extraneous ideas on scripture or get distracted with petty arguments of who can do what.

Diverse

Let us not be narrow-minded when it comes to spiritual gifts. A spiritual gift is the specific equipping of the Spirit of God within a person for the working out of His purposes. We see this in the Old Testament, even though the words ‘spiritual gift’ are not used:

Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the LORD has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts–to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic craftsmanship. And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers– all of them master craftsmen and designers” (Exodus 35:30-35).

Likewise, without using the term ‘spiritual gifts’ Acts is all about spiritual gifts, beginning with the Spirit of God coming upon the Church. The witnessing, miracles, boldness, and church governing we see is done through the power of the Spirit within individuals.

We do find, however, specific gift listings, thanks to Paul:

1 Corinthians 12:7-10: Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit,  to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.

1 Corinthians 12:28: And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.

Ephesians 4:11: It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,

Romans 12:6-8: We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;  8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

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