It’s virtually impossible to distinguish between something a believer in Jesus is good at and a spiritual gift. At first this is frustrating, but doesn’t it make sense? If God is one—and we are one with Him through accepting Jesus and His Spirit—why would He not use our “talents” as “gifts”? When you frame the situation as God being the source of all, this pragmatic approach becomes holistic, and the search for gifts in our communities suddenly becomes simple.
Gifts don’t always entail the shockingly miraculous, although that’s certainly part of the picture. The talent you may take for granted is every bit as essential to your church community as the miracle working power of someone else. There is a hierarchy of church offices, for the sake of order, but this doesn’t make anyone more valuable to God’s work than someone else. The apostle is not greater than the prophet, and the prophet is not greater than the administrator. Those with the gift of tongues are no better than the interpreters of them; and the interpreters of tongues are not more valuable than the “shepherds,” or those with the gift of “helps.” Paul makes this point in his first letter to the Corinthians:
There is diversity among the gifts, but they all come from God’s Holy Spirit. And by nature of their source being the same, none are better than others. And the kicker: all are required, as Paul tells us in Ephesians 4 and throughout 1 Corinthians 11–13. All are not just needed—they’re necessary.
But what does Paul mean by “gift”? His usage of the word elsewhere tells us. He says to Timothy: “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you” (1 Timothy 4:14 ESV). Timothy’s gift was identified by the elders (people in church offices) via the office of prophecy. They did so by acting in a faithful way: laying their hands on him to pray. Note that it’s not as if this just came out of nowhere: they were seeking God’s guidance. This means that a definition of spiritual gifts must include the idea that God is sought, and that He answers through the use of other spiritual offices. This very well could mean direct revelation.
Paul later tells Timothy in another letter: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6 ESV). This further suggests that spiritual gifts often come upon people through prayer, and consequently a type of spiritual anointing. It also suggests that a definition of spiritual gifts must include an acknowledgment that they come from God and that they must continually be rekindled, like a fire needs to be.
Peter also uses the term, when he says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10 ESV). Peter tells us that all believers receive spiritual gifts, and that they must be used for helping others; also, they are given so that we can use them for God’s various purposes, being His different ways of demonstrating His grace through us.
For a definition of spiritual gifts, I offer: “Abilities given by God through the Holy Spirit to all believers in Jesus—for the purpose of serving others so that the Church may grow.” And I would add: “They are to be discerned by the individual and other believers holding church offices through prayer, and are often anointed upon someone by another believer via the power of the Holy Spirit; that person is usually someone with the office of prophecy. Spiritual gifts are to be regularly renewed and strengthened, as well as stewarded wisely, according to the various ways God would have someone to utilize them. Their purpose is to be used for the common good—unity and love—of the church and all people: to manifest the salvation, restoration and renewal that Jesus alone brings through His sacrificial death and continued work through the Holy Spirit. For this reason, all spiritual gifts and offices are needed and required in gatherings of believers in Jesus.”
What do you think of this definition of spiritual gifts? Would you add anything to it or take anything away?
Join the movement. Be the first to know. Sign up for updates here.