WHAT ARE SPIRITUAL GIFTS? 

(Read this before you do the Personal Reflection exercise on
Handout 4PR).
 
The Gifts are Tools
The Bible teaches clearly that God gives to each believer certain gifts which equip us for the ministry or sphere of service which God has chosen for us.  These gifts are the tools God wants us to use for building up the church and continuing the ministry of Jesus in the world.

The Gifts are of Grace
The gifts of the Spirit are nothing other than the gifts of God’s love distributed to every believer by the Holy Spirit.  They are gifts of grace (Greek: charismata) i.e. we do not deserve them.  They begin with redemption itself. Eternal life is the greatest charisma (Romans 6:23).

The Gifts are Many
Within the body of Christ there’s a tremendous diversity of gifts.  As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
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 people.      (N.I.V.)

When I exercise my gift for God’s glory it becomes a service (ministry).  When my service, empowered by the Spirit bears fruit, it becomes a working.
There are several lists of gifts or functions in the New Testament and the lists differ.  The lists mix up gifts and functions, qualities and people.  It is quite evident that these lists are seeking to give examples of what the Spirit will do in the life of the believer, not to make exhaustive lists of gifts. This means that you and other Christians probably have some spiritual gifts which are not mentioned in the Bible.

The Gifts are Chosen by God
Our gifts are not of our own choosing.  They are given according to the sovereign will of God. God can give us any gift at any time. So we are not stuck with the results of the 4PR questionnaire! It is a snapshot for now, a guide to appropriate areas of ministry for us now….but God may give us new and different gifts in the future as they are needed.
 
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the Common good. (1 Corinthians 12:7).
All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each person, just as he determines. (1 Corinthians 12:11).
But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.
(1 Corinthians 12:18).
The Gifts are to be Received
In 1 Corinthians we find the following exhortations:
 
Eagerly desire the greater gifts.   (1 Corinthians 12:31
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts,
especially the gift of prophecy.   (1 Corinthians 14:1)
Try to excel in gifts that build up the church.  (1 Corinthians 14:12)
 
Like most other N.T. letters, 1 Corinthians is addressed primarily to a church rather than to individuals (in the verses above, the verbs desire, follow are in the plural).  Paul is concerned that the whole church should be equipped with all the necessary gifts.  Since he has already stressed in chapter 12 that these gifts are distributed according to God’s sovereign will, we should see these exhortations not so much that I, as an individual, should seek an outstanding spiritual gift for myself but rather that we should seek spiritual gifts for us.  Our responsibility is to be open to receive from the Lord whatever he wants to give us and to long to be useful in his service.  Our greatest desire is that all the members of the body,  each with different gifts and functions, should work together for his glory.

The Gifts are for Serving
The gifts are given that we may serve others.  If they are used selfishly they
can be disastrous.  They are to be used for the common good, not for the gratification of the member who possesses them.
 
A spiritual gift is never Mine. I am only the channel through whom the gift is given to the recipient (eg. the person who is healed), and to the church.
‘Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.’ (1 Peter 4:10)
 
It is our responsibility to make sure we use the gifts God has given us. 
If we leave them on the shelf, they may be withdrawn, and certainly the Body of Christ will suffer.
The Gifts make us Interdependent
There is diversity, but there should not be division.  Nor should we ever look down on someone else because they are differently gifted.
As it is, there are many parts but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” …so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.
1 Corinthians 12:20,21,25,26
 
There is unity within the Body of Christ (the Church), but this does not mean conformity.
 
Are all apostles?  Are all prophets?  Are all teachers?
Do all work miracles?  Do all have gifts of healing?
Do all speak in tongues?  Do all interpret?
1 Corinthians 12:29-30
 
Paul’s implied answer to this is “Of course not!!” In other words, God gives different gifts to different people. 
Why does God do this? Because He has designed each part of the Body of Christ to be in an interdependent relationship with all the other parts.
 
So in Christ we who are many form one body and each member belongs to all the others.
Romans 12:5
 
The Gift of God’s Nature: Love
And now I will show you the most excellent way. 1 Corinthians 13:1
Tongues, prophecy, faith – are nothing without love. All the gifts are brought together in love which is the greatest of them all and the one which is available to all.  Love is the gift which is given the fullest treatment (1 Corinthians 13) because it is the gift of God’s own nature – God is love.
 
The Gifts are to be Tested
It is clear from New Testament teaching that the gifts are not self-authenticating. They must be tested by the Word of God and by the exercise of love….and of course by their long-term effects/results.  For example, it is not enough for someone to say they have a prophecy for the church, and to insist on speaking it.  It is the responsibility of the church’s leaders to check that the content of that prophecy is consistent with Scripture, and the life of the prophet is loving and Christlike.  Jesus gave a very stern warning in the Sermon on the Mount:
 
‘Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.
Away from me you evil-doers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23).
P.S.  Remember the Fruit!
Jesus said, ‘By their fruit you will recognise them.’ Matthew 7:16.
Look up and read the list of “fruits of the Spirit” in Galatians 5: 22. Pray that these fruit will grow in you.
Fruit, not gifts, indicate a person’s spirituality.  Our heavenly Father does want to give his children good gifts but we must never forget that the cultivation of the fruit of the Spirit (a true Christ-like character), is more to be desired and more to be sought in prayer than the exercise of gifts.
A ‘less-gifted’ Christian is not necessarily a less gracious Christian!
 
Are There Natural and Supernatural Gifts?
The New Testament writers were not hung up by any division between the natural and the supernatural.  They saw God as the author of both.  It is, of course, true that some of the gifts listed in the New Testament are striking and exciting (such as prophecy, tongues and healing), compared with more ordinary and dull gifts like administration, helping people or teaching.  But the same Spirit is active in both, and all the gifts are equally valued by God.
 
Qualities and abilities which may already be present or latent within us, such as the gifts of administration, leadership or teaching may be heightened and become charismata if they are dedicated to the Lord’s service and are used in the power of the Spirit for building up the Body of Christ.
NOTE: In this course, when we use the words “Spiritual Gifts”, we mean all God-given gifts which are used for God’s glory, according to his will, and to build his Kingdom (whether they look natural or supernatural).
 
In his book, I Believe in the Holy Spirit Michael Green writes:-
“…part of the thrust of Paul’s reply (i.e. in 1 Corinthians) is to demolish the division between natural and supernatural which they delighted in… neither Paul nor the rest of the biblical writers countenance this disastrous dichotomy between ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’.  Just as the Bible will not allow any disjunction between creation and redemption so it simply does not know any disjunction between the natural and the supernatural. All truth is God’s truth;  all gifts are his gifts; nature and grace both stem from one author.  The notion of the natural and the supernatural is Greek and not Christian and to prize the so-called supernatural gifts of the Spirit above the natural is to affront the God who became incarnate in Christ.  Yet that is precisely the mistake the Christians in Corinth were making, and it is often enough repeated today among Christians who discount the helpers, the administrators, the teachers of 1 Corinthians 12; 28 in favour of the workers of miracles, healers, speakers in tongues. They have got to learn the interdependence of the Body of Christ, and it is to this that Paul calls them in chapter 12 of the epistle”. [1]
What the Bible says about Spiritual giftsFrom the following passages of Scripture we can build up a list of gifts that are mentioned specifically (though remember that the Bible offers them as examples – there are other God-given gifts which are not mentioned):
1 Corinthians 12:8-10
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 the gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.
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.  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 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.
Ephesians 4:11
It was Christ 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…
1 Peter 4:9
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
Exodus 31:3-5
I have 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 craftsmanship.
Romans 8:26-27
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
Psalm 150
Praise the Lord!  Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his mighty acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and the lyre,
praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute,
praise him with the clash of the cymbals, praise him with the resounding symbols.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.
(Psalm 150 is hardly a proof text on gifts!  However, many people are gifted by God
with musical, dramatic, artistic and media gifts which enhance worship, teaching and evangelism.)

[1] Michael Green, I believe in the Holy Spirit (Eerdmans, 1989, revised, ISBN 0802803342, 9780802803344) page 266

Tim Fletcher, 26/11/2017