Yesterday, I asked the question, “How far does your heart extend?” With that question, I was asking where along the spectrum God has placed your loves and passions: from those nearby to those far away and across the globe. Neither extreme is better than the other.
In this post, I ask a similar, but someone different, question: How has God gifted you by his Spirit? This question refers to what is typically called “spiritual gifts.”
In Scripture, there are several different lists of spiritual gifts: Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 1 Corinthians 12:27-30, 1 Corinthians 14:26, Ephesians 4:11, 1 Peter 4:10-11 (my personal favorite). While many suggest that Ephesians 4:11 is a special (and exhaustive) list, I do not think any of these lists are intended to be exhaustive.
In fact, in many ways, it’s impossible to know exactly which spiritual gift someone may or may not have or which spiritual gift someone may or may not be exercising. (And, yes, for the record, I think that “spiritual gift inventory” tests are pretty useless.) Of course, we can observe how God chooses to work through us and others. But, even that may not tell us everything.
Consider Paul. In the Book of Acts and in his letters, we see Paul working as an apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, teacher, servant, encourager, giver, leader, tongues speaker, healer, helper, discerner, etc. So, what spiritual gift did Paul have?
Now, some might suggest that Paul was a super-Christian, but his co-worker Barnabas is described in many of the same ways as Paul, and God worked through Barnabas in many of the same ways listed above. The same could be said of other people in the New Testament, although we have less information about them.
This does not negate that fact that some people in the New Testament were known for one specific type of “gift.” For example, Philip was known as an evangelist while his daughters were known as prophets. (Acts 21:8-9)
So, as we’re thinking about how God has gifted us by his Spirit, we can begin by understanding that the “gifts” listed in Scripture may not be “hard and fast” or easily distinguished. Also, it’s possible that God can work through people in different ways at different times and in different locations and situations. At the same time, it’s also possible that God can choose to work through someone in a specific way primarily.
In Part 2, I’ll look at one of the dangers of considering how God has gifted us by his Spirit.