The Gifts of the Spirit

A couple of years ago I lost my balance and, in putting my hand out to brace the bang against the wall, broke my thumb. It’s amazing how much we take for granted key parts of our body until we don’t have use of them. I quickly learned how valuable a thumb is – and how difficult simple things like buttoning a shirt can be without one.

The beauty of the church, the body of Christ, is that it’s made up of many part, and each part has a role. But more than that, God gives gifts by his Spirit so that each part can play the role he has called it to play. When God’s people discscover the gifts he has given them, the fruit is that the church is built up and strengthened.

Following are key observations from Romans 12.3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12.

1. Some people are uninformed spiritual gifts.

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 1 Corinthians 12.1

Paul wouldn’t write that if there were no one who is uninformed. The reason he wrote these two letter sections is to bring clarity so that we can understand and use appropriately the spiritual gifts God gives.

2. Each person of the Trinity is involved in spiritual gifts.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. I Cor. 12.4-6
The gifts, services, and empowerment for using them all come from God – Spirit, Son, and Father.

3. Spiritual gifts only bring benefit when they are manifest.

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  1. Cor. 12.7

Don’t tell anyone, but I have some good books on my bookshelf that I’ve not read. Having them on the bookshelf doesn’t do me any good; the only way to derive benefit from a book is to read it. In the same way, spiritual gifts bring blessing to others when they are put to use.

4. God gives spiritual gifts for ‘the common good’.

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Cor. 12.7

God doesn’t give us gifts so we can feel better about ourselves; he gives us gifts so we can serve others and build up the body (Eph. 4.16). The ‘common good’ speaks to the church; others are blessed and encouraged when we use what God has given us.

5. The Holy Spirit empowers all the gifts even though some seem more ‘spiritual’ than others.

All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit ... 1 Cor. 12.11

After Paul runs through a list of some gifts (1 Cor. 12.8-10), he reminds the Corinthians that all of these gifts – along with the ones identified in Romans 12.3-8 – they are all empowered by the Spirit. That is, serving and leadership are just as spiritual as discernment and prophesy.

6. The Holy Spirit gives to each one as he wills.

... who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 1 Cor. 12.11

There are two key thoughts in this short verse. First, God apportions to each one; no believer doesn’t have a gift, and every believer has something. Second, God apportions as he wills. Many people consistently look at what God has given to others and fail to appreciate what God has given them. The Lord doesn’t make mistakes. God gives you what he wants you to have. That doesn’t mean that you are walking in or experiencing everything God has for you – you may have a dormant gift that has not yet been exercised or discovered. But you can trust that God gives you what he wants you to have.

7. Spiritual gifts are given to those who part of the body.

For as in one body we have many members,[e] and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Romans 12.4-5

In both the Romans and 1st Corinthians passage the basis Paul uses to discuss spiritual gifts is the body. It is by virtue of being part of the body we have gifts; there is no such thing as an ungifted member.

8. The gifts are given and operate on the basis of grace.

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them. Romans 12.6

Paul begins his discussion of spiritual gifts by saying by the grace given to me. That is, God gave Paul a unique ‘grace’ to enable him to do what he was called to do. And so as each of us have a different calling, God gives us a different grace. This grace is not ‘saving grace’ but ‘empowering grace’ or ‘enabling grace’ that dispenses and activates spiritual gifts in our lives.

And the point of having a gift is to use it. Remember, don’t leave your gift sitting on the bookshelf – get involved and get that gift going!

9. Humility is using your gift for God’s glory and building up the body.

For by the grace given to me I say to every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

Humility is to think with sober judgment; that is, to clearly understand what God has and has not given you. Different people have different ‘measures of faith’. It’s not your job to worry about what you don’t have but to be faithful with what you do.

Some people err on the side of pride and think they have more than what God has actually given them. Some people err on the side of ‘false humility’, not fully appreciating what God has given them.

10. The proper attitude towards spiritual gifts is earnestly desire the greater gifts.

It honours God and benefits the church when we earnestly desire spiritual gifts. There is a kind of righteous dissatisfaction – not because of what God has given us, but because so that we can more greatly bless the body of Christ.

According to 1 Corinthians 14, the greater gifts are those that bless the body. Now, this doesn’t mean that Paul does not want us to use gifts that build us up. Paul is very clear: when discussing praying in tongues, he says 1) I do it more than all of you; 2) but I’d rather that you prophesied. The reason he wants them to pray in tongues is clear: praying tongues builds up the one who does it: The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. (1 Cor. 14.4). But the reason he would rather them prophesy is to add spiritual benefit to others.

What to do?

There are many lessons to take from Romans 12.3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12. Here are three key. things to note:

1. Understand that the Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to the every member of Christ's body.
2. Know what God has given you.
3. Use what God has given you to bless the body.

For a description of the individuals gifts, go here.