1 Corinthians 12: 4-11
"There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have."
"Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ."
"In His grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly."
1 Peter 4:10-11
"God has given each of you a gift from His great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen."
To Build A Church
God is so good to us. Have you ever thought about how amazing the concept of spiritual gifts is? God is powerful enough to restore the world on His own, but in wisdom has come to the conclusion that including humanity in the process is the best solution. It is a regular reminder of how much He values us and exactly how much strength capacity He has built into mankind.
Furthermore, out of all the ways He could go about facilitating our participation, He has decided that the best way to make it happen is to segment His power and give us portions of His own strength. The wisdom of this is rooted in our need for community. It presses the truth that, “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) We need Him and one another to be a part of the family business of redeeming the world. There are no rogues or independent business owners in the Kingdom. God could have given us the responsibility of participation and said, “now figure it out.” But He didn’t. He equipped us for the work in a miraculous expression of His love: giving us super natural abilities that get the job done while demonstrating to the world His amazing grace.
Make Many One
Like many things meant to unite the Body of Christ, the subject of spiritual gifts has divisive baggage. The gifts themselves are not the problem and it certainly isn’t any fault of God’s.
Like the sons of Zebedee in Luke 5:10, we are constantly positioning for greatest in the Kingdom. As humans we keep looking for ways to be on top, even with gifts that have been freely given to help us work well with one another.
The portions of Scripture at the beginning of this post are written by two different authors, for different parts of the world, at different times, to people facing different realities. They speak of differing gifts but emphatically proclaim the truth that these gifts come from One Spirit and have one purpose: to serve one another. Did you catch that? These are gifts given to Christians, to minister to one another. Many of us have been taught to think that these gifts are to be used solely for convincing non-Christians to become Christian (evangelism.)
While these gifts will certainly aid us in doing so, Ephesians, Romans, 1st Peter and 1st Corinthians paint a portrait of Christians ministering to (serving) one another with these gifts.
And why wouldn’t God give us gifts that affirm our dependance upon one another? Our joint mission is to make disciples. It is the responsibility of the entire Church of Christ to be a light to the world: not our individual responsibilities. No, it is our individual responsibilities, within the God team, to ensure that we all have what we need to complete the mission together. Man, God is good!!!!
It should be noted that a few of the gifts have particular “evangelistic” strength. But that is still a service to the Body… The evangelists among us are gifted and charged with successfully ministering in such a way that people will put their faith in Christ and join the family/mission. Humanity's part in the mission dies if there are never new Christians. I know that may over simplify a potentially complex role. I condense the role not to disrespect the office, but to properly realign it. The moment we see one gift as more important or valuable than another, we fall into the trap of division. Evangelists are no more valuable in the Kingdom than those with the spiritual gift of helping. Both are gifts from God to build up the Church as we carry out the mission of spreading the Gospel - as are all of the gifts.
Really… Unique Gifts
Now that we’ve talked about Who the gifts are from and their purpose, let’s talk a little about the gifts themselves.
Jeff Carver, of spiritualgiftstest.com, has done a wonderful job of explaining the gifts and has even provided a thorough table of them.
Because of this and many other wonderful tools that teach on the subject, I’m not going to focus on the more commonly discussed gifts. Gifts like pastoring, teaching, wisdom and preaching are all important but we hear a lot about those. Let’s talk about the one’s we rarely talk about: like prophecy, tongues and interpretation, help, discernment, healing, miracles and the like. Here we go!
Prophecy is often times thought of as sharing messages regarding the future. Nope. At it’s core, prophecy is boldly proclaiming the revealed word of God. A person with this gift is burdened with and empowered to share “thus says the Lord” expressions. They may not say it like that, but when they say God is speaking, we should listen. While that sometimes has to do with what is to come, most often it has to do with what is right now. When the Lord wants to uniquely speak into what is happening in the life of an individual or the church as a whole, He calls a prophet, the prophet speaks, the people listen and hopefully respond.
There are many who believe the gift of prophecy was an old testament or early church gift only and that God is no longer using it - not so. People who have this gifting (if they aren’t preachers and sometimes even if they are) are often thought of as strange or “out there” because they are often charged with expressing things that no one should know or are difficult for the rest of us to fully wrap our heads around. That’s why it is often silenced. Many times their expressions are artistic or even poetic. They are seldom understood and can feel like out siders even if the gift is celebrated.
About Speaking In Tongues
Tongues and interpretation of tongues are a unique pair. Often times people point to Acts 2 when talking about tongues. There, Luke tells the story of when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and they all started speaking in different (known) languages and the visitors in the city heard the Good News spoken in their native tongue. This was a big deal but not exactly what Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians when he is talking about speaking in tongues.
Paul is talking about an unknown language. It is commonly referred to as a “heavenly language”. He describes speaking in tongues and the role of interpretation in detail in 1 Corinthians 14. The best way to think about speaking in tongues is that it has two veins. One is for ministering to the church and the other is a form of prayer/worship for the speaker. If there is a person who speaks in tongues to minister to the church there should be an interpreter. If not they should chill out on trying to make the whole church hear it and speak in tongues to God privately. (14:28)
Unfortunately, Christians have not done a good job of managing our egos with this gift. It is not a contemporary issue either. Paul alludes to it and the history of the Church is littered with arguments and even denominational splits surrounding whether or not everyone should be able to speak in tongues. There are some doctrines that hold firmly to the teaching that speaking in tongues is “evidence” that a person has placed their faith in Christ and has received the gift of the Holy Spirit. While some believe that the gift of tongues is no longer even a thing. Both of these beliefs would be inconsistent with Scripture.
Speaking in tongues is one gift of the Spirit. The Spirit, Himself, is the evidence that we have accepted Christ. At Unison, we will never prohibit anyone from speaking in tongues (14:39). But we will also never push the gift of tongues as an expression that all of us should anticipate. We will celebrate when a believer operates in this gift just as much as we celebrate another manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s power among us.
Aren’t We All Supposed To Have Faith?
Gifts like help, faith, giving and kindness can cause us to raise an eyebrow because these seem like things we should all be doing. Right? If that’s what you’re thinking, you’re on the right track. We should all have faith and give and help whenever we can.
However, when we are talking about these as spiritual gifts, we are talking about a unique aptitude for operating at a higher capacity in these areas as well as the ability to successfully spur this on in the life other believers. A person with the gift of faith feels compelled to trust God for the seemingly unbelievable. They hear that someone has cancer and feel it in their bones that God has it under control. They also encourage the person diagnosed to trust the Lord and will at times even feel the burden to fast and pray boldly for similar situations - sometimes for people they don’t even know.
Similarly, generous giving, kindness (compassion), service and willingness to help are character traits that all Christians should have but if you have one or more of these as a gift of the Spirit, the people around you should feel compelled to lean into these values a little more passionately.
Can You Feel It?
Have you ever been listening to a preacher in person or on a video online and thought to yourself, “Something's off.” Or walked into a room and felt a heaviness in your soul. Maybe you have felt something that you can only describe as a light. If so, you likely have a strong discernment gift. It is sometimes called “discernment of spirits.” It is being able to sense what is happening in the spirit realm. For some, that may seem far out but we are all spiritual beings existing in physical bodies.
We are more accustomed to acknowledging the “natural” but there is another (most often invisible) side to our reality. (Ephesians 6:10-12) We just don’t talk about it enough. A person with the gift of discernment can often “feel” that intangible part of our reality and often is burdened with illuminating it for the people around them. In our culture… this is often a gift that is medicated out of one who has a strong gifting. If not medicated out, it is often shamed out. Imagine what the presidential election process would be like for the church if we turned to these people and asked them to discern for us instead of telling them they are crazy.
It’s A Miracle!
Finally, gifts like healing and miracles pick up little steam in the States and areas that we would describe as the “Western Church.” It has been taught to many Christians after the Renaissance Era (Scientific Revolution) that God is either not working that way anymore and He may never really have.
Well, places like Africa, South America and parts of Asia never got that message because miracles and healings are a regular occurrence in those parts of the world. Believers are utilizing these gifts all over, of course, but I think we experience it less in our culture because those who have the gifts are seldom equipped or empowered to use them. It is a part of our human nature, unfortunately, to snuff out fires we can’t control or understand.
Whew, that was a lot. And that wasn’t even all the gifts. I really could keep going about this and, by all means, shoot me an email if you want to talk more about specific gifts or generally. As we continue to process these gifts as a local expression of the global church, let’s make it a point to lean into the interdependence of these gifts. We need each other. All of these gifts are here to ensure that the church is thriving.