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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Introduction to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Don Stewart :: What Are Some Common Misconceptions about Spiritual Gifts?

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What Are Some Common Misconceptions about Spiritual Gifts?

Introduction to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Question 4

While there is much that is plainly known about the subject of spiritual gifts there are also a number of common misconceptions that people hold about this subject, It is thus important that these misconceptions be cleared up. They include the following.

1. Spiritual Gifts Are Not the Same as the Gift of the Holy Spirit

Spiritual gifts, or the gifts of the Holy Spirit, are not the same as the gift of the Holy Spirit. There are many gifts of the Spirit, but there is only one Holy Spirit.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is received the moment a person trusts Jesus Christ as Savior. Simon Peter stated this to the multitudes which had gathered on the Day of Pentecost. The Bible says.

Peter replied, “Each of you must turn from your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38 NLT).

Because a person has received the gift of the Holy Spirit at salvation, he or she can then begin to exercise the various gift or gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to them.

2. Spiritual Gifts Are Not Merely Human Talents

Spiritual gifts are abilities God gives the believer for the purpose of service. They are not merely human talents. Human talents are inadequate to do the work of God. Paul wrote about the difference between the work of the flesh, our old sinful nature, and the Spirit.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3, 4 NKJV).

Spiritual gifts are either supernatural abilities that God has bestowed on individuals, or God-given natural abilities that function through the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Spiritual gifts such as miracles, tongues, healing, and prophecy are supernatural in origin. Other spiritual gifts, such as teaching, administration, and helps, are God-given abilities to perform a particular role in God’s program.

Though nonbelievers may have the same abilities, they do not function under the direction and power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit takes these God-given abilities and uses them for His purposes in the lives of believers. Therefore, the gifts of the Spirit are abilities, either natural or supernatural, given by God for the work of the ministry.

While spiritual gifts can be either natural or supernatural abilities, the Scripture makes no distinction between the two.

3. Spiritual Gifts Are Not Different Areas of Ministry

Some people equate spiritual gifts with certain areas of ministry. They may say that someone, “has a real gift to reach older people,” or that another person, “has a special gift working with those who live in the inner city.”

While this may be true of these people, this is not what the Bible is talking about when it speaks of spiritual gifts. The Bible does not specify that spiritual gifts are abilities to work with certain age groups, or in certain geographical areas.

4. Spiritual Gifts Are Not the Fruit of the Spirit

The gifts of the Spirit are not the same as the fruit of the Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit have to do with service while the fruit of the Spirit has to do with character. Scripture speaks of nine graces called spiritual fruit. Paul wrote the following to the Galatians.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22, 23 HCSB).

The translation, God’s Word, puts it this way.

But the spiritual nature produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There are no laws against things like that (Galatians 5:22, 23 Gods’ Word).

Spiritual gifts are the means; spiritual fruit is the end. They are the qualities of Christian character that believers are to produces. Gifts are what the believer possesses, but the fruit of the Spirit is what the believer becomes. Spiritual gifts have to do with the functioning of the Christian ministry while spiritual fruit is how believers should behave. Spiritual gifts will someday cease, while spiritual fruits are permanent. It is important that we realize this distinction.

5. Spiritual Gifts Are Not Offices

Spiritual gifts are functions or ministries – they are not offices. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are not the same as the various offices mentioned in the New Testament such as the office of apostle, prophet, pastor, teacher, elder, and deacon. These are leadership positions. Those who occupy such offices should possess the spiritual gift that goes with it.

Yet a person can have the gift–of prophecy or teaching, for example–without occupying the office of a prophet or teacher. Therefore, an office is distinct from a spiritual gift.

There Are Two Extremes to Avoid with Respect to Human Involvement in Spiritual Gifts

There are two extremes to avoid concerning the subject of spiritual gifts and human involvement. Some make the mistake of assuming there is no human involvement in spiritual gifts while others assume the gifts are basically human abilities.

The first extreme is to assume that human personality has nothing to do with the exercise of the gift. This perspective tends to spiritualize spiritual gifts to the place where humans have no involvement whatsoever when the gift is being used. However, God does not obliterate our personalities when we exercise spiritual gifts. Neither are we mere passive vessels for Him to work with.

On the other hand, some people confuse spiritual gifts with mere human abilities. Each and every particular ability that a Christian possesses is assumed to be a spiritual gift. This perspective almost rules out the need for any supernatural involvement. It treats spiritual gifts as mere human abilities used for the kingdom of God. However spiritual gifts have their source in the supernatural work of God through the Person of the Holy Spirit.

Spiritual gifts, at times, work independently of natural abilities, and at other times the spiritual gift uses the natural abilities that God has given us. The church is not strong because it is made up of superior men and women. Indeed, it is because the Holy Spirit has given special ability to its members to perform God’s work.

In sum, misconceptions abound concerning spiritual gifts. This is why it is essential that we know exactly what the Bible says, and does not say, about this crucial subject.

Summary – Question 4
What Are Some Common Misconceptions regarding Spiritual Gifts?

Spiritual gifts have been given by the Lord for the work of the Christian ministry. Unfortunately, there are a number of misconceptions with respect to what they are and how they work. These misconceptions need to be cleared up. Some of the common ones include the following.

There is the misconception that a spiritual gift is not the same as the gift of the Spirit. This is not true. The gift of the Holy Spirit is received by each believer the moment they trust Christ as Savior. It is the indwelling presence of God within each Christian. The gifts of the Spirit are abilities given by the Lord to further the work of the ministry.

Many people wrongly assume that a spiritual gift is a mere human talent. Spiritual gifts are abilities which are God-given. While unbelievers may have similar abilities spiritual gifts are guided by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ.

Another misconception has to do with how and where gifts work. Spiritual gifts should not be confused with the ability to work with a certain age group or in a certain geographical area. In other words, there is no spiritual gift of “inner city ministry.” While the Lord may call someone to that particular work this is not the same as a spiritual gift.

Often spiritual gifts are mistaken for the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit concerns Christian character. It is what we become. The gifts of the Spirit are abilities God gives for Christian service. The gifts are the means to an end but the fruit of the Spirit is what each of us should be attempting to develop. Indeed, to develop such things as love, joy, peace and patience should be our goal. The Bible teaches that the offices of the Holy Spirit are different from the gifts of the Spirit. An office is a public leadership position. Those having the office of teaching should also have the gift of teaching. Yet it is possible for someone to be given the gift of teaching without holding some type of public office which recognizes this gift.

Spiritual gifts involve our participation. While they are God-given, we have certain responsibilities in the development and use of them. On the other hand, they are not merely human talents we use for the work of the ministry. Indeed, to be used properly, each and every spiritual gift must be directed by the Lord. Since this is an important subject for Bible-believing Christians it is important that these, as well as other misconceptions, be cleared up.

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