Although spiritual gifts are vital to the health of Christ’s Body on earth, a survey revealed that the majority of respondents (63%) didn’t have a biblical understanding and/or a practical application of spiritual gifts.
This is troubling because not only are spiritual gifts part of God’s strategy to build the Church, but they’re also central to experiencing joy as a Christian. According to Pastor Ray Stedman, “The value of your life as a Christian will be determined by the degree to which you use the gift God has given you.”
This week we look at what a spiritual gift is.
We could discuss a variety of definitions from Bible scholars and theologians from various streams within Christianity, but I prefer the definition of C. Peter Wagner:
“A spiritual gift is a special attribute given by the Holy Spirit to every member of the Body of Christ, according to God’s grace, for use within the context of the Body.”
Let’s break down this definition into smaller components:
An attribute is a certain ability or characteristic that one possesses. 1 Corinthians 12:12 says, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.” In the human body analogy, not everyone is a thumb or an ear. Likewise in the Body of Christ, not everyone has the same attribute or ability.
1 Corinthians 12:7 says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” It is the Holy Spirit who determines what to give to whom. We may desire and ask for a particular gift, but the Holy Spirit decides who gets what, when.
Spiritual gifts aren’t given to just the superstars of the Church, the most holy, or the most apparently deserving. Spiritual gifts are given to every member of the Body of Christ. Says Stedman, “It is significant that in each place where the gifts of the Spirit are described in Scripture, the emphasis is placed upon the fact that each Christian has at least one.”
The term “spiritual gift” comes from the Greek word charisma, which means, “work of God’s grace.” The actual substance of a spiritual gift is the grace of God. From charisma comes the word, “charismatic.” Ironically, we often associate the charismatic stream of Christianity with the operation (and sometimes abuse) of spiritual gifts, but all Christians are supposed to operate in their spiritual gifts, not just "charismatics."
Spiritual gifts are given in order to be used. They’re not meant to stay wrapped in a pretty bow and packaging. The way to use them is to well, use them. If we could look at the Church with God’s eyes, we would see so many gifts lying dormant, untouched, and unused. What a waste of God’s precious grace!
Spiritual gifts are given in order to build up the Body. The goal is the growth of the Church. Building the Body can take a variety of forms, for example: bringing in new members through evangelism, helping members through service, encouraging members through exhortation, or training members through teaching.
I like what Dr. Sam Storms writes:
“Spiritual gifts are nothing less than God himself in us, energizing our souls, imparting revelation to our minds, infusing power in our wills, and working his sovereign and gracious purposes through us.”
Why wouldn’t we want that?