I’ve been thinking, always dangerous, since I wrote this morning’s post Glory and Honor, and I’ve come to the conclusion that more needs to be written here on the subject of spiritual gifts. Yes, I’ll admit that I’ve been thinking about doing this for some months now but I’ve shied away from it up to this point for several reasons, but as I think about it now, I’ve mainly shied away from it because the whole subject is controversial. Coming to that realization, I’m a little irritated with myself, for when did I start avoiding controversy?
People who know me would not be likely to accuse me of such a thing; am I mellowing with advanced age or something? Naw, that couldn’t be it! I guess it just wasn’t the right time, but for whatever reason, now is the right time, yes I’ve got a green light at last, so let’s get on with covering spiritual gifts!
I am definitely not going to approach this subject as an academic study, for academic studies of spiritual gifts are precisely what has made the subject so difficult; spiritual things by their very nature, aren’t academic, but are instead experiential in nature. That isn’t to say that spiritual things can operate contrary to or in opposition to Scripture, because Scripture is revealed to us by the same Holy Spirit that is operating within us through spiritual gifts. The problem of academics comes when we insist on forcing everything to a specific Systematic Theology, which, though derived from the study of Scripture, is also subject the preferences and prejudices of specific human scholars, and thus subject to error. When we find ourselves needing to force something into Systematic Theology, we come away thinking that understanding Scripture is quite difficult, but the difficulty is not usually within the Scriptures, but rather within our Systematics, and should trigger the flashing red lights and warning bells within our minds that warn us that there is a problem with our Systematics.
OK, well that’s about as academic as I’m going to get in this study! Let’s get on with spiritual gifts, shall we? Here is a brief explanation of what they are…
Have you ever worked on a project where you couldn’t do the whole thing by yourself? Have you ever needed to get help from another person who had skills that you don’t have? I would guess that all of us have been in the situation where we needed another person with a particular skill set to get something accomplished, and spiritual gifts are sort of like that. Every Christian has one or more spiritual gifts as you will see as we go through this study, but no one of us has them all. Spiritual gifts are kind of like a tool box for the Kingdom, they are special gifts that transcend natural talent for getting the Lord’s work accomplished, and for most any activity that the church is involved in undertaking, more than one of these miraculous gifts will come into play. Our task is to identify who has that gift and to be willing to plug the right person with the right gift into the right spot to do the Lord’s work. You can accurately say that the Lord’s work and spiritual gifts are both inter-dependant and no one person can do it all by himself.
For those who prefer neat and tidy definitions, here is our working definition:
A spiritual gift is a distinctive ability given by the Holy Spirit to every Christian according to God’s grace and design, for the purpose of building the body of Christ.
Put another way, a spiritual gift is a God-given supernatural capacity that enables you to do effective ministry.
Another question that needs to be dealt with right away is this: What are the passages in the Bible that deal directly with spiritual gifts? Here are the main ones…
(Verses 3-8 discuss the gifts, and 9-21 discuss the motivation that must be in place for their use)
I would strongly recommend that you read these very carefully, don’t just skin through them, read them carefully more than once, and let them really soak in so that as we continue through them you will have the fullest understanding of this subject.
Here’s the plan for this study: Starting next time, I’ll go through a number of frequently asked questions about spiritual gifts, then we’ll examine each one individually and take a look at where it comes from in Scripture, its attributes and dangers or pitfalls, and finally we’ll go over some things that might help you to discern which ones you might have.
See you back here tomorrow morning, first thing!