In the past two weeks, we have looked at the topic of using your spiritual gifts in the church. I have tried to give a rationale for the wisdom of all members of the church finding their joy in service through the church and through their vocation. Today I want to take a closer look at the spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible. Most scholars conclude that these are not exhaustive lists, but the gifts which are listed in the Bible are worth our time to consider.
Our text from Romans 12 begins with the famous words of Paul to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service.” Thus Paul begins his discussion of spiritual gifts with the contention that using our particular gift is an act of worship. We honor God by doing what God has gifted us to do.
Every Christian has at least one spiritual gift. The New American Standard Version lists 1 Peter 4:10 this way,
“As each has received a gift,
employ it in serving one another,
as good managers of the grace of God.”
Perhaps many of us would argue that we don’t have a spiritual gift, but the Bible says “each one has received a gift.” Our problem is that we just haven’t yet figured out what our gift is.
This verse also tells us that we are accountable for our spiritual gifts. We are to be “good managers (or stewards) of the grace of God.” A steward is one who manages well that which is entrusted to him. God has given us a gift, and we are to be a good steward of that gift.
So now as we look at the gifts mentioned in the Bible, we should be asking ourselves if this is our gift. Somewhere in this list, each of us should find one that sounds like us.
I Corinthians 12:1 says, “Now concerning spiritual things, brothers, I don’t want you to be ignorant.” And then Paul goes on to list them. We can find similar lists in several places in the New Testament.
Many people suggest that these gifts can be divided into two categories: speaking gifts and serving gifts. The basis for this division can be found in 1 Peter 4:11, which says, “If anyone speaks, let it be as it were the very words of God. If anyone serves, let it be as of the strength which God supplies…”
Most people seem to start with the speaking gifts, but I am afraid that might indicate that we think they are more important than the serving gifts. So I want to lift up the serving gifts by looking at them first.
First is what many call “helps or service.” 1 Corinthians 12:28 lists this one as “gifts of…helps.” A Biblical example of one who had this gift is found in Acts 9:36 where a disciple named Tabitha is mentioned. The Scripture says of her that she, “was full of good works and acts of mercy.” These are people who help, serve and assist others. People with this gift try to make themselves useful and meet needs in any way they can. They may be called an administrator. They are effective at organizing and implementing ministries. They are great at coordinating many people to accomplish a task.
Next is the gift of hospitality. Romans 12:13 says, “contributing to the needs of the saints; given to hospitality.” The Old Testament and the New Testament have a great emphasis on the quality of hospitality. These are people who enjoy sharing their homes with others. Their homes become an extension of the church’s ministry. These people enjoy preparing food for guests.
Next is the gift of giving. These are people who have a special generosity with their material resources. They get a thrill from supporting the work of the Lord generously. And the person with this gift doesn’t really have to have a lot of money. Perhaps you have known someone who was poor but everyone said of him, “He would give you the shirt off his back.” That’s a person with the spiritual gift of giving. They share what they have whether it is a little or a lot. And they give in the spirit of 2 Corinthians 8:5 says, “First they gave their own selves to the Lord.”
Next is the gift of leadership. Romans 12 says, “Having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us … he who rules, in diligence.” These are people who love to set goals and communicate those goals to others. They have a natural ability to lead people to work harmoniously together to accomplish those goals. When they are in a group, they just find that others look to them for leadership. In an unstructured situation, they have a tendency to jump in and see that things get done.
Next is the gift of mercy. Romans 12:8 mentions this gift by saying, “he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” (NAS) The New Revised Standard Version says, “the compassionate, in cheerfulness.” These are people who feel genuine empathy and compassion for others. They really do care about the least of these, including the hungry, strangers, the sick, prisoners, and the naked. They translate that compassion into good deeds which alleviate suffering. When they hear about people going through suffering or a crisis, they just cannot keep themselves from helping.
Next is the gift of faith. Romans 12:3 says, “God has apportioned to each person a measure of faith.” 1 Corinthians 12:8-9 says, “For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit” God gives to some people an unusual ability to trust God for great things. Every Christian has been allotted some faith, but some people have an unusual gift of faith. These are the people who have faith even in the worst of circumstances. When other people are on the verge of giving up their faith, these people cause them to hang on.
Next is the gift of discernment. 1 Corinthians 12:10 says, “to another discerning of spirits.” These people have the ability to distinguish spiritual truth from error. They can recognize evil even when it is presented as good. They can spot a phony right away.
Perhaps you have one of these serving gifts. They are vital for the well-being of any congregation. Do you have the gift of service, hospitality, giving, leadership, mercy, faith or discernment? Perhaps you do.
The second major category of gifts are the speaking gifts. These are the gifts that usually come to mind first, but that does not mean they are the more important ones.
First is the gift of apostleship. Ephesians 4:11 specifically mentions this gift when it says, “(God) gave some to be apostles.” “Apostle” literally means “sent ones,” and many interpret this today to include missionaries and church planters. These are often people who feel right at home with people of different cultures, races or languages. Everybody knows them because they are willing to serve God wherever God may lead them. They are willing to give up the comforts of home and learn new languages to spread the Gospel. But these may also be the people who love going on a mission trip more than going on a vacation. If you have a heart for missions, you may have the gift called “apostleship.”
Next is the gift of prophecy and pastoring. These are mentioned together in Ephesians 4:11. And they are rolled together in the modern job description for the pastor of a local church. This is the person who loves to announce the word of God boldly in a specific situation. These people love nothing better than leading someone to Christ, leading a small group Bible study, and sharing their faith. This is the one who is the shepherd, the one who likes to care for and watch over the flock. When Peter addressed the crowd on the day of Pentecost, he quoted the book of Joel when he said, “It will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh. Your sons and your daughters will prophesy…”
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Next is the gift of evangelism, mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. We usually associate this gift with pastors and preachers, but I have known many lay people who had this gift. There are some people who have a special ability to share the good news with people and lead them to Christ. While pastors are expected to be evangelists and some Christians have the unusual gift of evangelism, none of us is excused from the task. Psalms 107:2 says, “Let the redeemed of Yahweh say so.”
Next is the gift of teaching, also mentioned specifically in Ephesians 4:11, Romans 12:6, and 1 Corinthians 12:28. These people love to explain what the Scripture means and how we can apply it in our own lives. They have an unusual grasp of Bible truths. They like nothing better than studying God’s Word and sharing the results of their study with others.
Next is the gift of exhortation, mentioned in Romans 12:8. These people have the special ability to minister with words of comfort, consolation, encouragement and counsel. In the Gospel of John, the writer uses a special Greek word for the Holy Spirit, and that word is “paraklete.” It means “one who comes alongside to help. These people look forward to counseling others and helping them with their problems. These are the people whom everyone talks to. They know this person will keep confidences and will really listen to them. They are best with others when they are one-on-one with them, giving their full attention.
Next is the gift of knowledge. This one is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8, “For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit.” These people love to study the Bible. They can see Scriptural themes that others have difficulty seeing. They are able to understand and organize the truth of God’s Word in ways that make it clear to others. These are the people with the intellect to analyze ideas and summarize facts.
Next is the gift of wisdom, which is closely akin to knowledge. These people are good at applying their knowledge to everyday experiences. They can relate the Bible to daily living. They often see clear answers to complex problems. They have the ability to make wise decisions. James 3:17 describes this wisdom this way, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceful, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.”
Finally, there are those special gifts that don’t seem to fall into another category. First, there is the gift of healing. Some people are chosen by God to be used to bring healing and health. Similar is the gift of miracles, also mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:10. The Bible also mentions the gift of tongues. It was a gift that created problems in the early church, and many churches today do not think this gift is relevant for today. Along with it is the gift of interpretation of tongues. Paul wrote of tongues only in I Corinthians and then because of its abuse.
Finally, someone has written a little story that shows how these different gifts might come into play in a real life situation. Imagine that you are at a dinner party with several other people. You’ve all had a wonderful dinner, and you are just settling back for dessert. The hostess is showing her gift of hospitality by bringing out a tray with all the desserts on it. But she trips, drops the tray, breaks the dishes and spreads dessert all over the floor.
The response of everybody would be governed by their spiritual gift. The person with the gift of serving would jump up and say, “Let me help you clean that up.”
The one with the gift of teaching would say, “Now the reason that fell was because it was too heavy on one side, and it was off balance. We need to learn a lesson from this experience.”
The person with the gift of prophecy… Well, that was the one who had just announced, “Don’t bring all those out at once because the tray is too heavy.”
The person with the gift of encouragement would say, “Hey that’s Okay, we didn’t need dessert anyway.”
The person with the gift of giving says, “Don’t worry, I’ll run over to Mona’s and buy a cake that can serve all of us.
The one with the gift of leadership will say, “Fred, go get a mop. Mary, could you a damp cloth from the kitchen? Tom and I will make sure that all the glass is picked up.”
Meanwhile, the person with the gift of mercy would have an arm around the hostess saying, “Don’t feel bad. That could have happened to anyone.” (1)
Where do you fit? What is your spiritual gift? God is calling you to be a good steward of the gift you have been given. God wants you to “present (yourselves) as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”