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Spiritual Gifts – Conclusion

Posted by on Nov 26, 2007 in scripture, spiritual gifts | 8 comments

The goal of this study and this series of posts was to study passages which included lists of spiritual gifts in order to determine what the writer was saying about spiritual gifts. As we’ve looked through these lists of spiritual gifts, there are several general things that we can take from our study.

First, the actual exercise, description, or definition of the gifts involved was never the emphasis for the author. In fact, we are never told exactly what the gift of apostleship entails. The gifts of tongues and giving are never described. We are not told how to exercise the gifts of prophecy or administration. The authors do not explain the differences (if there are any differences) between word of knowledge, word of wisdom, prophecy, teaching, exhortation, etc. Perhaps we can glean certain information about the various gifts from other passages of Scripture. But, if exercising, describing, or defining the gifts are never the emphasis of Scripture, then why do we emphasize this so much?

Second, we are never told to find out what our spiritual gift is. Never. Not once. Instead, we are told that God gifts us as He desires. He chooses how to use our speaking and our serving. We don’t decide. Think about this for a moment. If I speak to a group of people, some people may be taught, others may be encouraged, others may receive it as prophecy – all from the same instance of speaking. Which gift did I exercise? I suggest that I did not exercise any of the gifts. I simply spoke as God directed, and he used the speech as he chose – to teach some, to exhort others, etc. Perhaps, then, Peter’s exhortation in 1 Peter 4:10-11 would be the best to consider when we are going to speak or serve. We should not ask ourselves if we have the gift of teaching, but if we are speaking the words of God. We should not ask ourselves if we have the gift of serving, but are we serving in the strength that God provides.

Third, the gifts and the categories are not as clear cut as we would like to make them. I’ve already mentioned that Scripture does not tell us the difference between words of knowledge, words of wisdom, prophecy, teaching, exhortation, etc. Most definitions and descriptions come from human attempts to pull out of Scripture what is not there. Even speaking and serving are not distinctive categories. Is the gift of apostleship a speaking or serving gift? Yes. What about pastoring? Yes, again. I think this is true for all of the “gifts”. They will all include aspects of speaking and serving. Even teaching – because we are told that teaching involves both what we say and how we live.

Fourth, love is emphasized in several of the passages that list spiritual gifts. Sometimes we only give a wink and nod at love, but without love, “spiritual gifts” are not spiritual gifts. As Paul said, I can speak or give or prophesy, but without love its all nothing. Perhaps, the next time we prepare to speak or serve, we should start by asking ourselves if we are loving the people that we want to speak to or serve. If not, then we should start with that – work out the problems before we ever start to speak or serve. Otherwise, we are doing nothing.

Fifth, we are not given spiritual gifts for our own benefit. We are given gifts by God for the benefit of others. God uses our words and our actions to exhort, comfort, edify, etc. those around us. If we are more concerned with what we are getting out of our speaking or serving, then we are not exercising spiritual gifts. In fact, if speaking and serving for the benefit of others bring glory to God (which Peter says), then speaking and serving for our own benefit do not bring glory to God.

Sixth, spiritual gifts are never connected to leadership. I’m not saying that leaders do not have spiritual gifts. However, we do not choose leaders because of their spiritual gifts. I realize that this is contrary to much contemporary teaching, especially teaching surrounding the five-fold ministries. However, if these five gifted individuals are necessary for the birth or growth of a church, it would seem that Paul or someone would have been a little more clear. Even the spiritual gift of teaching is not necessary for a leader. A leader should teach – but then, every believer is supposed to teach. Instead of choosing leaders based on their giftedness, believers should follow those who best exemplify the characteristics that all believers are supposed to have.

Seventh, and finally, when the church gathers, it should not be a one man – or even a two man – show. In fact, every believer should expect to speak to or serve brothers and sisters whenever they get together with them. Multiple people speaking or serving one at a time is not disorder – in fact, this is Paul’s very definition of order. We miss what God wants to say to us and what God wants to do among us when we do not allow everyone to speak and serve as God directs. Will it be messy? Probably. But, people are messy, and we are fooling ourselves if we think our highly planned and efficient meetings keep people from being messy. If anything, our meetings hide the messiness, or sweep it under the rug, instead of actually dealing with people and their lives and their messes.

I would love to hear what you have to say about spiritual gifts.

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Series on Spiritual Gifts

1. Introduction
2. Romans 12:6-8
3. 1 Corinthians 12:8-10
4. 1 Corinthians 12:28-30
5. 1 Corinthians 14:26
6. Ephesians 4:11
7. 1 Peter 4:10-11
8. Conclusion


8 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 11-26-2007

    Alan,

    Your conclusions are very powerful!

    I think I see I cor 14:26 as Everyone has the posibility of each gift. If I usually give a word, does that stop me asking for a song? Or giving a prophecy? I find the defining of gifts sometimes useful and sometimes tedious! I remember someone once gleefully telling me that there were something like 39 gifts they had recognised in scripture even the gift of the long ear!! When Elisha or Elijah (sorry it’s late!!) sat and heard the plans of the enemy!

    Do we need definitions like that?

    Can you please clarify what you are saying regarding “not seeking your gift!” Paul knew he was an apostle as did the others. I agree with what you are saying, my definition of “ministry” is “what God does through us regardless of what we think we are doing!” The woman with the issue is a good example. Ministry happened but Jesus wasn’t ministering directly. He thought He was walking! But surely there is something in knowing what you have been given, it would be no good if the Spirit gives one a healing gift and that person never thinks to pray for people to be healed because they want to be a teacher.

  2. 11-26-2007

    Alan,

    Just curious. Since it seems to be a point of contention, what do you think of the following line of reasoning?:

    1. We are not given spiritual gifts for our own benefit or edification.

    2. Tongues is a spiritual gift.

    3. Therefore, tongues should never be used for “self-edification.”

  3. 11-26-2007

    Richard,

    When I wrote about “not seeking your gift”, I meant that we should not spend alot of time trying to figure out what our spiritual gifts are. In fact, I think spiritual gifts surveys and tests actually lead to your final statement: “it would be no good if the Spirit gives one a healing gift and that person never thinks to pray for people to be healed because they want to be a teacher.”

    David,

    I guess I would only disagree with the last statements that tongues should never be used for “self-edification”. You bring up a good point, and perhaps it is a weakness in my conclusion. It seems from reading 1 Corinthians 14, that Paul allowed for individual edification outside of the context of the church meeting, but not within that context. I guess I should specify that context in my conclusion.

    -Alan

  4. 11-27-2007

    Thanks Alan,

    I was recently told that I should do a “5 fold ministry test!” by a keenee! The thought leaves me cold. I feel that the discovery of gifts is not through a test but through living out a relationship!

    Richard

  5. 11-27-2007

    Alan:

    Where would Paul’s instruction come into play in your spiritual gift process ?

    In 1 Timothy 4:14, Paul tells Timothy: “do not neglect the spiritual gifts within you, which was bestowed upon you through prophetic utterance with the laying of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these thing and be ABSOREBED in them; so that your progress may be evident to all.

    I have enjoyed reading this series and still processing some of them. Another thing that I do not like is when we use spiritual gift inventories in the church as a recruitment tool *blah*

  6. 11-27-2007

    Richard,

    You said: “I feel that the discovery of gifts is not through a test but through living out a relationship!” Yes! You’ve described my position perfectly. We discover how God uses us by living in relationship with him and with other people – both are necessary.

    Jeff,

    Great question! On one hand, it is possible that Paul is recalling a time when Timothy was given specific spiritual gifts and is now telling him to exercise those particular gifts that he knows about.

    However, notice that the specific gift is never mentioned. Perhaps the “laying on of hands” was merely a recognition that God was working through Timothy (much like the laying on of hands in Acts 13), and perhaps the “spiritual gifts within you” simply describes how the Spirit chooses to work through Timothy. I think this explanation is valid from the text, and works with my description of Spiritual gifts.

    What do you think?

    -Alan

  7. 11-27-2007

    Alan:

    I think that you need to go with your explanation to fit into your reading and interpretation of gifts.

    Please understand, I am not saying that you are mis-interpreting the text. I think that your view could very well be correct.

    I do think though that when we look at the context of the church as the body that we do have gifts that are matched within our community.

    Still thinking. Thanks for challenging me, again.

  8. 11-27-2007

    Jeff,

    You said: “I do think though that when we look at the context of the church as the body that we do have gifts that are matched within our community.” Yes! Absolutely! I completely agree with you, and I think that this is one of the most important aspects of spiritual gifts. God gives everything that we need. We may disagree on the mechanics – which are at best implied in the text of Scriputre – but we can certainly agree on this major point. Thank you for taking the time to read and interact with me on this.

    -Alan

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