33. The Nature and Purpose of Spiritual Gifts
Purpose: When we enter the Body of Christ, something miraculous occurs. Not only do we enter eternal life, but we are given gifts. It is the purpose of this session to share some biblical information concerning this gifting.
1. The disciple will understand what spiritual gifts are and how they may or may not differ from natural talents.
2. The disciple will know that these gifts are given sovereignly by the Holy Spirit.
3. The disciple will learn principles which will help determine what his gifts are and use them in the Body of Christ.
To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the benefit of all.
1 Corinthians 12:7
1. Mutual prayer and accountability.
2. Share Scripture memory.
3. Discuss questions.
4. Identify and discuss your spiritual gifting with your discipler.
5. Discuss the use of spiritual gifts by people in your church.
Perhaps you have led someone to Christ. Perhaps you have struggled in your own life as far as usefulness is concerned. This topic is for every child of God and will help his personal functioning in the Body of Christ.
1. Every believer is given gifts when placed into the Body of Christ, Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; Ephesians 4:7-16. We want you to understand what these gifts are. We will contrast a spiritual gift with a talent. Gifts can and need to be developed.
2. How can I determine what my spiritual gift(s) are? In relation to this, it is important to realize that in exercising spiritual gifts, I will be doing something I like to do. Or perhaps I am already doing something and really feel that I enjoy it. I am also somewhat successful at doing this thing with God’s help. There has been validation from the Body of Christ. The church has affirmed me and encouraged me to continue.
3. There are some things that everyone can do: assisting in the church’s Sunday School, letter evangelism, personal witnessing and learning to be a discipler. Many could do child evangelism, and street or park evangelism. Someone has said we all have the gift of “helps.”
4. The problem of feeling inadequate in relation to spiritual gifts is often very real. Look at 2 Corinthians 3:5 if you have this kind of problem. God is actually pleased when our inadequacy causes us to trust Him. Some of the greatest men in the history of the Bible were men who felt inadequate. See 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; 2 Corinthians 9:8.
5. It may be good to make a distinction between sign gifts and those given to the church for its ongoing edification.
Three passages of Scripture speak of the gifts given by the Holy Spirit and Christ. These are in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, 14, and Ephesians 4. Although the Ephesians passage speaks of the gifts of Christ to the church, this is probably an alternative way of referring to the gifts of the Spirit. Please pause at this point and read carefully the four chapters mentioned in this paragraph. Now list the gifts in the following spaces.
Now look at your list of gifts. Study it carefully. Try to think of how these gifts are manifested in the Body of Christ on earth today. Discuss these things with your discipler.
A Rationale Concerning Spiritual Gifts
First, let us consider what a gift is. We have already seen in our discussion of “bridge” that salvation is a gift. A gift is f _ _ _ . We don’t have to pay for something that is a ______ . The word in the original language from which “gift” comes is the same word from which we get “grace.” A _______ is something that is given to me. It is something I am not in possession of as a human simply by virtue of being alive. In this session, we are discussing things that are given to us by the Holy Spirit. According to Ephesians 4:7-8, how many have received gifts? ________. If we are not born with these gifts, when do you feel we would receive them? See 1 Corinthians 12:11-13.
The giving of spiritual gifts seems to be associated with the baptism _____ _______ __________ ____________, and this takes place at what point of my walk with Christ, 1 Corinthians 12:12-13?
What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit?
An understanding of these questions is extremely important. There is much teaching today that sets forth the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a post-new birth experience...that one can become a babe in Christ without the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This text indicates that this baptism makes us members of the ________ of Christ, vs. 12. In this Body, we are all ________. There is one ________ which is the ________ of Christ, Revelation 19:7. It seems inconceivable that one can be a Christian without being “put into” the Body of Christ. The giving of spiritual gifts seems to be associated with our being put into that Body, 1 Corinthians 12:11-18.
The Nature of Spiritual Gifts
Spiritual gifts are a very important subject. Some additional things need to be said about them. They are often equated with natural abilities or talents. This doesn’t seem to be biblical.
Spiritual gifts are abilities given to us apart from our first birth. They equip us to function as members of the Body of Christ. An example of a talent or natural ability might be the ability to sing. Some people can have excellent natural ability, a wonderful instrument that has been given at birth, but they cannot nor do they really find the ability to minister when they sing.
On the other hand, others may or may not have good natural ability nor learned ability, but they deeply exhort and minister as they sing in the assembly of believers. Yet, another illustration might be in the area of teaching. There are those who have both natural and learned abilities to teach but do not have the gift of teaching the Word of God, and their teaching gives no sign of spiritual giftedness. There are others who have no training at all who are able to make the Scriptures live and be applicable for us in unusual ways. Finally, sometimes the Spirit gifts us in the areas of our natural abilities and both the gift and talents function together. A good example of this was in the ministry of Harry Ironsides, the late pastor of Moody Memorial Church, who had no formal training in teaching, but was a superior teacher of the Word of God.
We want to give a definition of a spiritual gift. A spiritual gift is “ an ability supernaturally given to one who believes at the time of his new birth.” It is something that needs to be discovered and developed, in most cases, and it may or may not be permanent...depending upon the gift. It is for the purpose of helping the Body of Christ, the local church, function efficiently.
Edification and Sign Gifts
When the nature of spiritual gifts is considered, it is necessary to make a distinction between types of gifts. Let’s distinguish between “edification” gifts and “ sign” gifts. Gifts for edification seem to be those whose nature is to build up, encourage, and generally minister to the Body. Sign gifts are those that are more miraculous and may or may not be present in a permanent nature. It is important to remember that it is the Holy Spirit Who gives gifts as He wills. Man, irrespective of theological position and arguments cannot limit the Holy Spirit in the giving of any gift at any time. The gifts are “gifts of the Spirit,” and not gifts of the thinking of mortals. He distributes gifts to the church, “severally as He wills.”
Now look again at the major texts for this study and list the gifts that are more related to edification, and then list the gifts that could be more closely called sign or miraculous gifts.
Gifts of Edification
Sign or Miraculous Gifts
List ways one can find their spiritual gifts:
Questions for Review and Discussion
1. Think! What effect does the practice of spirituality and maturity have on the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit?
2. Jerry is a young man with a measured intelligence score of 73. He doesn’t see himself as very capable of serving God or ministering in the Body of Christ, although he has made a commitment to Jesus as Savior and Lord. Where does he stand with respect to spiritual gifts?
3. What evidence is there from Scripture that some sign gifts are present part of the time, but not necessarily all of the time?
4. What can be inferred from a study of spiritual gifts as far as the local church is concerned?
5. Some urge us to seek certain spiritual gifts. What are some of the dangers that come in seeking spiritual gifts over long periods of time?
6. What gift of the Spirit is most closely connected with discipleship? Why?
7. What are your spiritual gifts. List them below:
Summary and Key Concepts
We should remember that everyone and anyone in the Body of Christ has been given spiritual gifts. If a person has experienced new birth, he is a member of the Body of Christ and possesses a gifting of the Spirit.
When we experience regeneration, we are placed into the Body of Christ and uniquely gifted — equipped to function within that Body. We might say that the purpose of spiritual gifts is “to enable the church to function efficiently in the world.” A gift differs from a talent, although one may be both talented and gifted in the same area. Or one may be gifted in an area where he has no talent. Gifts need to be discovered and developed, and it is the responsibility of the mature to help a new Christian find and develop his unique gifts.
One may be gifted in many ways, but everyone is gifted in some way. Gifts are given arbitrarily by the Holy Spirit. It is possible to exercise gifts when one is carnal, but optimum exercise of gifts is possible when one is “keeping in step with the Spirit.”
Some gifts are more edifying to the church than others. Some are permanent, while others are more temporary in nature. (Paul could not always heal the sick.) The church needs to be supportive in its assistance in helping it’s members find their gifts.
Spend some time in prayer and volunteer your services at your church. Be serious about your own spiritual gift(s) and seek to find that place where you feel God would have you serve.
Reading Assignment: . Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts. J.E.O’Day, Inter-Varsity Press, 1985. If this is not available, read something on the topic of your spiritual gifts.
Related Topics: Discipleship