I often write about spiritual gifts, like I did yesterday in my post “Charismatics“. Because I often write about spiritual gifts, people often reach my blog from search engines when they are seeking information about gifts.
The primary thing that people search for is something like “define the various spiritual gifts”. Thus, they want to know what it means to be a “teacher” or “prophet” or “exhorter” etc. They are probably disappointed if they read any of my blog posts, like a recent series that I published about “Spiritual Gifts“. Why? Because I do not try to define the various spiritual gifts. Why? Because, for the most part, Scripture does not define the various spiritual gifts. As I explained in that series, the authors of Scripture were not interested in defining the various gifts. Instead, they were more interested in HOW those gifts were used – whatever the gift happened to be.
For example, Paul exhorts the Romans to use their gifts which the Spirit has given them. If their gift is teaching, then they should use that gift by… guess what?… teaching. In whatever way the Spirit has gifted the individual, then the individual should exercise that gift (not trying to exercise some other gift) to the benefit of the other people in the church.
Interestingly, Paul does not limit the exercise of spiritual gifts to the leaders of the church – either the pastors/elders or the deacons or even the apostles. His exhortation is for all followers of Jesus Christ (indwelled by the Spirit) to exercise their spiritual gifts as the Spirit gives them.
Yesterday, Dave Black also wrote a very important essay called “Are You a Teacher?” He writes about the distinction between spiritual gifts and the responsibilities of all believers. Thus, the Spirit gifts some as teachers, but all are responsible to teach. The Spirit gifts some as givers, but all are responsible to give. The Spirit gifts some as pastors, but all are responsible to care for one another.
Of course, all of us are to be teachers in one sense; we are to “teach â€¦ one another” (Col. 3:16). And in Hebrews we read, “By this time you ought to be teachers” (Heb. 5:11). We all have something to teach others â€“ or should. I canâ€™t tell you how much I delight in hearing my wife or some other member of our Sunday School class utter encouraging words of instruction during our lesson time, or in reading the Bible studies that Nathan has written, or in visiting websites written by “laypeople” that are chock full of good, practical Bible teaching. In fact, sometimes informal conversations around the Word can be more effective, more persuasive, more powerful, more life-changing than formal instruction. But this does not mean that all should be teachers in another sense. As James writes, “Let not many of you become teachers” (James 3:1).
Thus, even though some are gifted by the Spirit to teach, all are responsible to teach. It follows, then, that all of us – even those gifted by the Spirit to teach – can learn from (be taught by) others – even those NOT gifted by the Spirit to teach.
Dave also exhorts us not to leave teaching or other service only to those who have been recognized as elders or specially trained. He says:
Are you a teacher? Do you have something to contribute to the Body by way of “upbuilding, encouragement, or consolation” (1 Cor. 14:3)? I’m quite positive that you are, and that you do. Fear not then to express your spontaneous zeal in teaching others what the Lord Jesus has taught you. It matters not what level of formal academic training you may have had or not had. If we are members of the Body of Christ, we have the privilege and, yes, the responsibility of teaching one another. I emphasize this great truth everywhere I go. You do not need special training in a theological college to be a God-trained and God-taught teacher in the church. Just look at Paulâ€™s use of theodidaktoi in 1 Thess. 4:9: “You yourselves have been God-taught.” Or read Johnâ€™s instruction in 1 John 2:20, 27 about the chrisma (anointing) you have from God. Or see the promise in Jer. 31:33-34 that God would write His law on the hearts of His people and teach them directly as part of Jesus’ New Covenant ministry.
On the other hand, some of you are specially gifted in the area of teaching. Here is my advice to you: Do not think you need to be an elder or a pastor to teach! As Paul puts it in Eph. 4:11, all pastors are teachers, but not all teachers are pastors. I believe a healthy church will have both shepherd-teachers and sheep-teachers, working together in harmony for the building up of the entire Body of Christ. In other words, a New Testament church will have a host of teachers, not only ready to impart knowledge, but to receive it.
I believe that one of the main reasons that the church is weak today is that service – especially the exercise of spiritual gifts – has been relegated to church officials only. The church as a whole does not exercise their gifts for the benefit of the church as a whole. Thus, the church is not receiving all of the “upbuilding, encouragement, and consolation” that it should. One person – of even a group – of highly trained individuals cannot take the place of the working of the Spirit through the entire church.
How has the Spirit gifted you? Then it is your responsibility to serve other believers in that capacity. If the Spirit has gifted you in teaching, then teach. Are you a pastor? Then teach. Are you not a pastor? Then teach. Do you not have a formal environment in which to teach? So what? Teach anyway in whatever opportunities the Lord gives you.
Is your spiritual gift not teaching? You are still responsible to teach, but you are also responsible to exercise whatever spiritual gifting you have been given.
If all believers started serving one another and the world as God has gifted us, I think we would see a huge difference in the church and the world today. As long as we relinquish our God-given responsibilities to others because of position or training or apathy, then I think the church will continue to be ineffective in the lives of believers and in the lives of others.