There are two primary passages in the New Testament that address the issue of spiritual gifts: Romans 12, and 1 Corinthians 12-14. While a few other passages mention spiritual gifts, they are secondary in importance to the discussion. There are four “big idea” thoughts about spiritual gifts that I think believers need to be reminded of today.
Big Idea #1 – Spiritual gifts originate from the Spirit of God and are only for God’s children.
First Corinthians 12 indicates that these gifts come from the Spirit of God to God’s people, having been baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ. Therefore, only Christians possess spiritual gifts.
Because of this, spiritual gifts are not mere talents or skills that a person has. The ability to play a sport, or to play an instrument with great skill is not a spiritual gift. Excelling in academic pursuits or a trade is not a spiritual gift. The reason for that is because even unbelievers excel at these things.
For instance, if someone tells the church pianist, “you are really gifted,” that is more of an indication of a development of talents, abilities, and skills in a remarkable way. It is not a recognition of a spiritual gift, for even unregenerate people are incredibly skilled at playing the piano.
Big Idea #2 – Spiritual gifts are meant to edify the church body, not the individual possessing the gift.
Paul emphasizes this point throughout his discussion of gifts to the Corinthian church.
1 Corinthians 12:7 – “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.”
1 Corinthians 13:5 – “[love] does not seek its own.”
1 Corinthians 14:12 – “Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel.”
1 Corinthians 14:26 – “Let all things be done for edification.”
The use of any spiritual gift is not for the purpose of personal gain, personal gratification, or personal growth. Neither is the use of spiritual gifts a “personal thing between me and God.”
The emphasis Paul gives is on the building up of the body of Christ. We are to use these gifts in a biblically loving manner, for the purpose of being a blessing to the local church. At no time is a person’s spiritual gift to be used in such a way that tries to elevate the user. That is against not only the teaching of Paul, but the teaching of the entire Scripture.
Big Idea #3 – Though the Scriptures speak of spiritual gifts, it does not explicitly tell us that we must find out what our gift is.
“Spiritual gift assessment tests” are neither valuable nor necessary for the Christian to take. Though believers are given at least one spiritual gift, we are not told that we must identify what our gifts are.
There are at least a couple of concerns in a person seeking to identify their particular spiritual gift. One danger is that they can claim the possession of a particular gift and therefore refuse to serve the church in other capacities because they are not “gifted in that area.” A second danger is that a person can claim the possession of a particular gift and claim some kind of superiority over others because they do not.
Neither response is biblical; both are selfishly and proudly motivated. There are a multitude of ways God’s people are called upon to serve. Most churches that I know need many people serving in a wide variety of ways, all for the glory of God and the edification of the body, regardless of what spiritual gifts are possessed. Christian, just serve however you can and be a blessing to the church.
Big Idea #4 – Evangelism is not a spiritual gift.
Ephesians 4 speaks about Christ giving gifts to the church, including evangelists. But this passage does not speak of spiritual gifts. In Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12-14, the Greek words used are charisma or charismata. However, in Ephesians 4:7 the word “gift” is the Greek word doreas; in verse 8 it is the word domata. These words mean more like a present a person would get for a birthday, rather than a spiritual gift from the Spirit of God.
What Ephesians teaches is that there are individuals who have been given by Christ as presents to the church.
Also, evangelism is something that all believers are to be involved in. While some Christians may be more skilled at evangelism than others, that is not an indication of having the gift of evangelism. Nor can Christians use the excuse, “I don’t have the gift of evangelism” to escape the biblical mandate to proclaim the gospel throughout the world. All of us are to proclaim the gospel to the lost.
Spiritual gifts are for the glory of God and for the benefit of the local church. However, we are not to give them more weight than God’s Word gives them. I would encourage every believer to not be overly concerned about what their spiritual gift, and just simply serve the Lord in your local church. You will be a great blessing to your pastor, and also your church family.