Any fruitful discussion of spiritual gifts must begin by asking two essential questions–where do they come from and what is their purpose. Unfortunately, most conversations about spiritual gifts end up being nothing more than random discussions on the charismatic gifts–in fact you are probably hoping I am going to give my position on the charismatic gifts in this post. I am not . . . if that is what you were hoping for, feel free to stop reading now, HOWEVER if you are interesting in thinking about spiritual gifts so that you can serve more faithfully in your local church, by all means keep reading.
As we talk about spiritual gifts, we must point to THE spiritual gift–the Holy Spirit. If you have repented and put your faith in Christ for salvation, the Holy Spirit of God lives in you (Eph. 1:13). It seems obvious, but as we think about spiritual gifts we must remind ourselves that THE fundamental spiritual gift is not tongues, teaching, or exhortation, the fundamental spiritual gift is the Holy Spirit which empowers us to serve. The Holy Spirit empowers God’s people to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). These two texts together tell me two things–those who believe have the Spirit and the Spirit empowers those who believe to magnify the name of Jesus!
“Spiritual” is not just a handy adjective that the New Testament writers threw around to refer to one’s relationship with God. Thus people are called spiritual in the Bible, not because they acted spiritually but because they were possessed by the Holy Spirit. The NT writers nearly always used the term “spiritual” in reference to the Holy Spirit. Thus spiritual gifts are called spiritual because they come from the Holy Spirit!
Thus believers have the Spirit and thus have spiritual gifts as all spiritual gifts are “are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Cor. 12:11). Thus we have established the source of spiritual gifts–the Holy Spirit.
What is the purpose of spiritual gifts? Why does God give spiritual gifts to believers? I think there are three clear purposes of spiritual gifts that can be clearly seen in the NT. 1 Peter 4:10-12 will help us:
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies- in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
- The fundamental purpose of our spiritual gifts must be to glorify God (v 11). In other words I have spiritual gifts NOT primarily for my benefit but for God’s glory in Jesus Christ.
- God has given us spiritual gifts to serve one another (v 10). Peter doesn’t allow for a category of spiritual gifts that are exercised merely for one’s own benefit. Being “a good steward of God’s varied grace” means using your spiritual gifts to serve your brothers and sisters in the church.
- Spiritual gifts must promote unity and not division in the church. This was the problem in the church in Corinth, people in the church were competing with one another by boasting of their ability to speak in tongues more than others (1 Cor. 14). It is worth noting that unity is featured in Paul’s discourses on spiritual gifts in 1 Cor. 12, Rom. 12, and Eph. 4. If your “spiritual gift” is causing division in the church, that is probably because its not spiritual. The Holy Spirit doesn’t empower believers to divide the church for which Christ died!
So here are two essential questions to ask yourself:
- Does my “spiritual gift” glorify God or does it glorify myself? Is what I am doing pointing people to the glory of God in Christ Jesus?
- Does my “spiritual gift” promote unity in the church for which Christ died?
These questions will help you understand whether you are really exercising your spiritual gifts in the church or not. If your spiritual gifts don’t pass these two tests, its probably because they are not spiritual. If you are a Christian, God has empowered you with His very Holy Spirit so you ought to be thinking about how you can be used of the Lord for His glory by serving in the church.
This post may seem simple to you, but as we talk about spiritual gifts we must first understand where they come from and why we, as believers, have them. Setting this foundation helps keep us sober-minded as we think about how we can be used of the Lord to serve in His churches!
In my next post, I will address the dangerous question of how to know what your spiritual gifts are!