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

Don Stewart :: What Does the Bible Have to Say about the Christian and Spiritual Gifts?

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What Does the Bible Have to Say about the Christian and Spiritual Gifts?

Introduction to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Question 9

The Bible includes many references regarding the believer and spiritual gifts. From these passages we learn the following truths.

Every Believer Has at Least One Spiritual Gift

To begin with, we find that every Christian has at least one spiritual gift. Indeed, these gifts are not merely the possession of ordained clergymen or any special group. Peter wrote about this important truth. He said.

God has given gifts to each of you from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God’s generosity can flow through you (1 Peter 4:10 NLT).

Notice that he said that each believer has been given a spiritual gift.

The Apostle Paul also taught that each person has at least one spiritual gift. He wrote these words to the Ephesians.

But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift (Ephesians 4:7 ESV).

Again, there is the emphasis that each person has been gifted by Christ.

Paul said the same thing to the Corinthians. He put it this way.

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7 ESV).

The word translated, “each” or “each one” is emphatic in the original Greek. A believer may not know what their spiritual gift is, but they have one regardless of whether they exercise it. There are no ungifted believers.

It is also possible that the believer may have more than one spiritual gift. For example, the Apostle Paul had the gift of Apostle, prophet, and teacher. Therefore it is possible that believers may have more than one gift. At the minimum, each believer has at least one gift.

No Believer Has All the Gifts

While a believer in Jesus Christ may have more than one spiritual gift, no believer has all the gifts. Paul makes it clear that while all of us have spiritual abilities in certain areas, these abilities are limited. There are a variety of gifts, and the Apostle Paul likens them to the components of a human body. He gave this analogy.

But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body (1 Corinthians 12:18-20 NRSV).

Each member of the body needs the other; there are no unimportant spiritual gifts.

Paul also compared the function of the gifts with the function of the human body. He stated it this way.

Our bodies have many parts, but these parts don’t all do the same thing. In the same way, even though we are many individuals, Christ makes us one body and individuals who are connected to each other. God in his kindness gave each of us different gifts. If your gift is speaking God’s word, make sure what you say agrees with the Christian faith (Romans 12:4-6 God’s Word).

God has given different spiritual gifts to the church so that believers might depend upon one another. Indeed, a study of the subject of spiritual gifts highlights how much we do need one another.

The Gifts Are for the Benefit of Others

It is also important that we understand the purpose of the gifts. According to the Apostle Paul, the purpose of the gifts of the Spirit is to build up and encourage other believers. They are not for pride or individual glory. He wrote.

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7 ESV).

Gifts have been given for the “common good.”

The New Testament stresses that everyone is supposed to get involved in the work of the ministry. Thus believers are to use their gifts for the benefit of others. Paul also reminded the church at Rome that we are one body with many members.

So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another (Romans 12:5 NRSV).

Spiritual gifts are given so that the believer can serve the church, the body of Christ.

God gives spiritual gifts to build up believers to do the work of the ministry. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus.

Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12 NLT).

The gifts build up the church through the instruction of believers and the salvation of the lost. They are not merely for personal benefit. Any personal benefit derived from a spiritual gift is the result of using the gift; it is certainly not the purpose of the gift.

Paul emphasized the gifts are for the strengthening of the church. He said.

What should be done then, my friends? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up (1 Corinthians 14:26 NRSV).

The church is not a building or an organization. Rather it is a living organism made up of those who have trusted Christ as their Savior. Each member is joined to Jesus Christ as well as to the other members in His body. Spiritual gifts are given to each believer for the purpose of building up this body of believers.

God Gives the Gifts as He Wills – Humans Have No Say in the Matter

There is another crucial point which we must realize. The gifts are given according to God’s will, not ours. Paul wrote to the Corinthians.

But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11 NKJV).

Note that the Holy Spirit distributes these gifts as “He” wills.

Paul also emphasized that God arranges them as He chooses. Again, we read what he wrote to the Corinthians.

But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose (1 Corinthians 12:18 NRSV).

The Bible says that spiritual gifts are “given” by God. This means they have a supernatural origin. These supernatural gifts cannot be earned neither are they given because they are deserved. We cannot earn a gift through human effort any more than we can earn the Holy Spirit, or our own salvation. Spiritual gifts are not rewards for diligence. In fact, the root word for gift is charis. In the New Testament this means, “grace.”

Paul emphasized the fact that spiritual gifts are “grace gifts.” He penned the following words to the Ephesians.

However, he has given each one of us a special gift according to the generosity of Christ. That is why the Scriptures say, “When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people” (Ephesians 4:7, 8 NLT).

The grace of God is the basis of all spiritual gifts. Therefore, no one should boast, or be idolized, for having a more prominent or visible gift. Neither should people think less of themselves if they do not have a more visible gift.

The gifts, therefore, do not represent a degree of spiritual growth. God gives them to certain believers as He desires. Again we stress the fact that humans have no say in this matter. While believers can desire to use spiritual gifts, it is God who determines what gifts that we will possess. We have no right to insist that He gives us a certain gift.

The Church Is God’s Creation: It Is Not a Human Creation

It is also crucial to realize that the Lord Jesus Christ has exclusively created the church. After acknowledging that he was the promised Messiah the Lord spoke these solemn words.

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18 ESV).

It is His church, His creation. He builds it according to His will.

Thus, each believer has the privilege of co-laboring with one another for Jesus Christ in His kingdom. Paul wrote.

For we are God’s co-workers; you are God’s field, God’s building (1 Corinthians 3:9 TNIV).

It is important that we realize that we work together for God’s kingdom. However, we don’t work “with God.” We are not equal partners.

The fact that believers work together for Him is a work of grace. Paul also wrote.

As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. (2 Corinthians 6:1 TNIV).

Consequently it is possible to find one Christian who may have more prominent gifts than another but is not yielded to the Lord to the same degree as one having a less prominent gift. Thus the more prominent gifts are no indicator of the spiritual condition of the person.

God Gives the Gifts That Best Fit Us

Since God is all-wise and all-knowing He would only give the gifts that would best fit us. Therefore no one has any basis in which to complain about the particular gift they have been given. Instead each believer should be content and grateful for the gift the Lord Jesus has given to them.

On the other hand, there should not be any false humility by those who have been given gifts. It is just as wrong to deny God has given a spiritual gift as it is to boast about the gift. Balance is needed.

Thus, a mature Christian is only concerned about how the entire body of Christ is functioning – not what particular spiritual gift they may possess. Paul wrote these important words to the Romans about how we should view ourselves.

For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one (Romans 12:3 HCSB).

None of us should think more highly of ourselves than what is necessary. God has gifted each of us so that we should use them for others. They are not given for us to boast about.

Our Gift Is Essential to the Smooth Functioning of the Body

The gift that God has given each believer is essential to the efficient functioning of the church. Each member makes a distinct contribution and each Christian needs the ministry of other Christians. Paul wrote to the Corinthians.

But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose...On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable (1 Corinthians 12:18, 22 ESV).

Consequently, those who have serving gifts should not feel compelled to do public speaking. On the other hand, those with a speaking ministry should not feel compelled to do things that would take them away from their teaching gift. Each member makes his or her own distinct contribution to make. This must always be appreciated.

Spiritual Gifts Can Vary in Strength from Believer to Believer

Scripture indicates that spiritual gifts can vary in strength. Paul wrote to the Romans.

According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the standard of faith (Romans 12:6 HCSB).

This would seem to mean that a particular spiritual gift will be more developed in some individuals than in others. Therefore, while two people may have the same spiritual gift, such as teaching, the gift may be more developed in one person than the other person.

There can be a number of reasons for this. These include both human and divine reasons. On the human level, one person may have had the gift for a longer time than the other and is more experienced in using it. While it is the same gift, there are degrees of strength that people have when they exercise it.

We find an example of this in Scripture. We are told the following about Apollos.

A Jew named Apollos, who had been born in Alexandria, arrived in the city of Ephesus. He was an eloquent speaker and knew how to use the Scriptures in a powerful way (Acts 18:24 God’s Word).

From this description, Apollos had a grasp of the Scripture that others did not have. Obviously this grasp of Scripture came through diligent study.

There is also a divine side to this. God gives the gifts as He wills. Paul wrote.

But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:11 NKJV).

This speaks no only of the gift, but also the degree in which God gives the gift to an individual. God not only gives the various gifts as He wills, He also can give the gift in various degrees. Therefore God gives the ability as well as the degree.

There are practical implications of understanding this truth. The person with the less developed gift may find its exercise better suited to a smaller group of people – such as a new church. The less developed gift would be more appreciated and useful in a smaller setting rather than in a large church where there would probably be a number of people with more developed gifts.

Some Spiritual Gifts Can Be Developed

While all gifts have their source in the God of the Bible, some of them can be developed. The gift of teaching, for instance, is a supernatural ability given by God to teach His Word. This gift can be developed as the believer takes time to study and learn the things of God. Therefore, certain gifts can and should be developed. Paul wrote the following to the believers in Corinth.

Now, a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2 NLT).

This is the key! Believers need to be faithful to develop the gift that God has given them.

Spiritual Gifts Need to Be Used

After discussing the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul said, “Let us use them” (Romans 12:6). The Bible encourages the believer to be faithful to the gifts God has given them. Peter also wrote about using the gifts God has given.

God has given gifts to each of you from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God’s generosity can flow through you (1 Peter 4:10 NLT).

The gifts have been given so they can be used.

Spiritual Gifts Need to Be Used in Love

While spiritual gifts need to be used, they need to be used in love. Paul wrote about this to the Corinthians.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1, 2 ESV).

It is not a coincidence that the famous love chapter is place between two chapters on spiritual gifts! When the gifts of the spirit operate, they should operate in love.

Believers Constantly Possess Their Spiritual Gift

Spiritual gifts are not abilities that just come and go in the life of the believer. Indeed, they are constant. Paul wrote to Timothy.

Don’t neglect the gift which you received through prophecy when the spiritual leaders placed their hands on you {to ordain you} (1 Timothy 4:14 God’s Word).

This demonstrates that Timothy had his particular gift over a period of time. This is a comforting thought. The gift, or gifts that God has given to each believer will not just come and go – they are constant and permanent.

The idea that the gifts are permanent is confirmed by the analogy Paul gives; Christians are part of a body. Parts of the body do not change. Indeed, they remain permanent. An ear never becomes a hand; neither does an eye become a foot. Therefore, it seems that someone who has a particular gift will keep that gift rather than losing it, or having it replaced with some other gift.

The Gifts Need to Be Rekindled When Not Used Regularly

While spiritual gifts are the constant and permanent possession of the believer, they can be neglected. Gifts need to be rekindled, or exercised when they are not used regularly. Paul wrote to Timothy.

For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands (2 Timothy 1:6 NRSV).

Spiritual gifts are neglected for a number of reasons. Usually it is ignorance of what God has provided, unwillingness to do what God has commanded, or laziness to do what a person knows is right. Those who have fallen into these traps need to have their gifts rekindled.

The fact that gifts need to be used regularly seems to indicate that they could weaken through lack of use. Indeed, God may even withdraw a gift from someone who does not use the gift that he or she has been given.

Spiritual Gifts Involve Responsibility

The fact that God has given spiritual gifts to believers involves responsibility to exercise that gift. Each of us is responsible for the gifts that God has given to us.

There will come a day when the deeds of all believers will be analyzed by God. Paul wrote.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV).

At that time God will reward believers based on their faithfulness to the gifts that God has given them.

We Rob Other Believers When We Do Not Properly Use Our Gifts

There are a number of dangers involved with having spiritual gifts. There is the possibility that we will not use them, and there is the possibility that we might misuse them.

If we do not use the gifts that God has given us, then we are robbing the body of Christ. God has gifted each believer with one or more spiritual gifts and it is the responsibility of each believer to use the gift, or gifts, that God has given. When we use our spiritual gifts we bless, and build up, the body of Christ. When we do not use them, we rob other believers of God’s blessings. Therefore, our lack of use of the spiritual gift God has given us steals spiritual blessings from others.

It is also possible that we may misuse our gifts through our ignorance of Scripture, spiritual immaturity, or our own selfishness. If we attempt to use God’s gifts for our own glory, for power, or for financial reward, then God cannot bless us. Whatever the case may be, we are cheating others through our misuse of the gifts He has given us.

Jesus emphasized the biblical principle that we are to do all things for the benefit of others. He said.

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it (Mark 8:35 HCSB).

The believer in Christ is to always do those things which help others. Indeed, if we wanted to sum up the life and ministry of Jesus Christ in one word, it would be the word “others.” He is our example.

We Should Recognize and Be Thankful for the Variety of Spiritual Gifts

God has given the church a variety of different gifts. Peter said.

God has given gifts to each of you from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God’s generosity can flow through you (1 Peter 4:10 NLT).

God has gifted all believers differently. We should recognize that there are people with different gifts than we have. Consequently we should appreciate the diversity of gifts that are given to the church.

A Gift May Be Given for an Extraordinary Situation

This is not to say that God cannot give someone a particular gift, or ability, to meet a unique situation. The martyr Stephen was given a glimpse of heaven as was being murdered by the religious leaders. The Bible says.

But Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit. He looked toward heaven, where he saw our glorious God and Jesus standing at his right side (Acts 7:55 CEV).

In this unique situation Stephen was given the ability to see things that the rest of us are not able to see. Other extraordinary situations may call for God to give a certain gift as He sees the need. The Lord certainly has the right to do so.

Spiritual Gifts Will Not Last Forever

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are only temporary. They will be withdrawn at some point in the future. Paul wrote.

But when what is complete comes, then what is incomplete will no longer be used (1 Corinthians 13:10 God’s Word).

There will come a time when spiritual gifts will no longer be needed. This will occur when Jesus Christ returns and sets up His kingdom. Until that time, spiritual gifts are the means by which the Lord accomplishes His work on the earth through the church – the body of Christ.

Summary – Question 9
What Does the Bible Have to Say about the Christian and Spiritual Gifts?

The Bible tells us a number of things about the subject of Christians and spiritual gifts. They include the following.

Every believer has at least one spiritual gift and may have more than one. However no believer has all the gifts. This means each and every believer needs other Christians. None of us can make it on our own.

The Bible also says that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to build up believers for the work of the Christian ministry. Indeed, they are given to further the message of Jesus Christ. This means they are not for personal benefit or to be a basis of our boasting.

In addition, God gives the gifts as He wills; humans have no say in the matter. It is the Lord alone that determines who receives them. Certain of the gifts can be developed through time. This includes such gifts as that of teaching. To develop this gift takes time and effort on our part.

These spiritual gifts need to be used but they need to be used in love. In fact, the gifts of the Spirit are useless they are being exercised in love. Spiritual gifts should be rekindled if they are not being used. We should never let our God-given gift become dormant.

The fact that God has given gifts to believers involves personal responsibility. On the day of reckoning for believers, when rewards will be given out, believers will be rewarded based upon their faithfulness to the gifts that God has given them. If we do not properly use the gifts that God has given to us, then we are robbing the body of Christ of gifts that it needs to function properly. Finally, we find that there will come a day when spiritual gifts are no longer necessary. This will occur when Jesus Christ returns.

In What Ways Have Believers Classified the Gifts of the Spirit? ← Prior Section
Are Some Spiritual Gifts More Important than Others? Next Section →
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