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

Don Stewart :: What Are the Differences between Spiritual Gifts and Human Talents?

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What Are the Differences between Spiritual Gifts and Human Talents?

Introduction to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Question 5

Is there a different between spiritual gifts and human talents? The answer is, “Yes.” Indeed, it is important that we make the distinction between human talents, that everyone has, and spiritual gifts, that only believers in Jesus Christ can possess. A number of important points need to be made.

1. Every Ability That We Have Is Given by God

First, it must be recognized that human talents are something that are ultimately God-given. Both believer and unbeliever possess talents. There is no doubt about this. However we should not confuse these human talents with spiritual gifts. While there is a similarity between them there are also differences.

To begin with, the human talent involves only ability on the natural level while spiritual gifts involve the supernatural. Human talents can function independently of the Holy Spirit but spiritual gifts cannot. There is another dimension involved with the use of spiritual gifts. God is actively working in that person to bring glory to His name and to build up the church, the body of Christ.

While every human being has talent in some area, only believers in Christ have supernatural spiritual gifts. By definition, unbelievers cannot possess spiritual gifts.

Natural talents should be dedicated to the Lord. While natural talents may benefit humanity on a natural level, the Christian should use their human talents to bring glory to the living God.

2. A Natural Talent Does Not Automatically Become a Spiritual Gift

There is the misconception that a natural talent will become that person’s spiritual gift. One may have the natural ability to teach others. However this does not automatically mean that this person will have the gift of teaching God’s Word. There is a spiritual dimension that must be involved in the teaching of God’s Word. The mere fact that a person can impart information does not mean they have the spiritual gift of teaching. Therefore, we should not assume that one who teaches for a profession should automatically teach in the church. Indeed, to teach the Word of God not only involves the gift of teaching it also involves serious study.

3. Sometimes the Spiritual Ability Is Not Evident until after Conversion

On the other hand, God may give someone the gift of teaching who had never before displayed such ability. There are many examples of people who became great teachers of God’s Word who, before their conversion, had shown no ability or aptitude to teach. It was only after they became a Christian that the ability to powerfully teach became evident in their life. Consequently, there are many cases where God used someone that seemingly had little natural talent.

Therefore a spiritual gift should not be understood merely as the outgrowth and enlargement of some natural ability that the person possessed before he or she became a Christian. The spiritual gift has to do with the person’s new nature, not their old nature. The gifts testify to the grace of God in the person’s life.

4. There May Be a Relationship between Natural Talents and Spiritual Gifts

However, there may be a relationship between natural talents and spiritual gifts. God prepares His people for use in His service. The Apostle Paul testified to the preparation God made in his life. He wrote the following.

But when God, who from my mother’s womb set me apart and called me by His grace, was pleased (Galatians 1:15 CSB).

Paul indicates that God had used his background for preparation for the ministry to which He called him. However it was not until Paul was converted to Jesus Christ on the Damascus road that he received his spiritual gifts. Ultimately, the distribution of spiritual gifts is something which the Lord gives to believers as He alone determines. Paul made this clear when he wrote to the Corinthians about spiritual gifts. He said.

All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines (1 Corinthians 12:11 TNIV).

Thus, the choice of who get what gift is ultimately up to the Lord. He is the only One who makes this determination.

5. There May or May Not Be Overlap between the Natural and the Spiritual

While there is the possibility that natural talents and spiritual gifts may overlap, it is not always the case. We should never assume that a teacher has the spiritual gift of teaching neither should we assume that someone who has never taught before cannot be endowed by God with the gift of teaching.

The key to using natural talents, as well as spiritual gifts is aptly summed up by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. He wrote.

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31 NKJV).

Everything we do should ultimately be done for God’s glory. This should be the principle which guides our life.

In addition, every spiritual gift, whether a natural ability, or a supernatural ability, must be empowered by the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote.

But it is the Spirit who does all this and decides which gifts to give to each of us (1 Corinthians 12:11 CEV).

The gifts of the Spirit are special gifts from God. It is important that we understand and appreciate this.

Summary – Question 5
What Are the Differences between Spiritual Gifts and Human Talents?

Natural talents are not the same as spiritual gifts. While God has given natural talents to every human being only believers in Christ Jesus have been given spiritual gifts. Unbelievers, by definition, cannot exercise spiritual gifts.

We must also understand that natural talents do not automatically become one’s gift when a person becomes a Christian. God may indeed give someone, who is a teacher by profession, the spiritual gift of teaching. However, He may not. While there may be some relationship between the natural gifts which a person has and the spiritual gift they have been given this may not be the case.

Consequently, it is possible that someone who has never displayed any desire or ability to teach to be given the gift of teaching by the Lord. This gift only becomes evidence after they have believed in Jesus Christ.

Ultimately, this is the Lord’s decision. The key is that we understand that God gives the gifts as “He wills.” He is the One who decided who gets what gift. We have no say in the matter. Indeed this is why they are called “gifts.”

What Are Some Common Misconceptions about Spiritual Gifts? ← Prior Section
Were There Spiritual Gifts Given during the Old Testament Period? Next Section →
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