What You Need to Know about Using Your Spiritual Gift
Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am a new Christian. I attend a weekly Bible study with men who have been Christians a long time. Someone mentioned about spiritual gifts but did not stop to explain it. I’d like to know what spiritual gifts are and how they work. I’d like to know if I have one. Please help me.
I think the best way to answer your request is to use a question-answer format.
1. What is a spiritual gift?
A spiritual gift is a God-given ability, distributed to individual Christians by the Holy Spirit that allows him/or her to work through their lives to help the church execute its mission on earth.
2. What is the difference between spiritual gifts and natural talents?
Natural talents are physical abilities to do special things. Some natural talents might be musical ability, carpentry, mechanical aptitude, and artistic skills.
Spiritual gifts are spiritual abilities to do certain things. Natural talents are often the vehicle through which spiritual gifts can be used. For example, a Christian vocalist may have the spiritual gift of evangelism being expressed through the vehicle of musical talent.
3. Are spiritual gifts the best sign of spirituality?
No! Christ-like maturity is primarily indicated by the manifestation of the Fruit of the Spirit, not by the presence of spiritual gifts (Galatians 5:22-23). God may choose to shine forth in a spiritually immature baby Christian. However, that does not make the baby spiritual. A spiritual child may say excitedly, "I got the gift of tongues last night and now I’m spiritual!" But, Jesus said: "For by their fruit you shall know them" (Matthew 7:16). Satan can imitate and counterfeit spiritual gifts, but he is baffled in trying to imitate the Fruit of the Spirit.
4. Does every believer have a gift?
Yes! Every believer has at least one gift (1 Corinthians 12:6-7, 11). All believers are to evaluate themselves in terms of their God-given gifts (Romans 12:3).
5. How many gifts are there? What are they?
According to 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-29; Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:11; and 1 Corinthians 7:7, there are at least 22 spiritual gifts. They are as follows: Apostles; Prophets; Pastor-Teachers; Evangelists; Prophecy; Teaching; Wisdom; Knowledge; Faith; Miraculous Powers; Healing; Distinguishing between Spirits; Speaking in Tongues; Interpretation of Tongues; Helps; Service; Administration; Encouragement; Giving; Leadership; Mercy and Celibacy.
6. When does the believer receive his/her gift?
There is no clear-cut Biblical teaching as to when the believer receives his/her gift. However, it seems that the gift comes with the Giver and is bestowed at conversion (2 Timothy 1:6).
7. Can a believer have any gift he or she wants?
No! (1 Corinthians 12:29-31). The Holy Spirit gives out gifts as he sees fit (1 Corinthians 12:7, 8-9, 11).
This is why there is no prescribed way to get a gift.
However, if we are faithful with the gift, or gifts, that the Holy Spirit has already given us, he invites us to pray for another (1 Corinthians 12:29-31).
8. Do spiritual gifts come ready to operate?
No! It often takes time for gifts to mature and develop into their full effectiveness. Spiritual gifts come "in the rough". Every believer is obligated to mature his/her gift.
Each Christian should have an opportunity to use his/her gifts interdependently with others (Romans 12:4-6).
9. If a person doesn’t have the gift of evangelism, is he/she excused from trying to win people to Christ?
Of course not! The absence of gifts does not take precedence over clear-cut biblical demands.
For example, we are all commanded to be liberal in our giving. Just because a Believer does not have the gift of giving does not mean that he/she can say, "Never pass me the offering plate again. I don't need to tithe. I don't have the gift of giving."
We are all commanded to share the gospel with others whether we have the gift of evangelism are not.
10. Can spiritual gifts be lost?
Yes! Gifts which are not used or developed can apparently be lost (like the appendix in the human body).
Jesus' parable of the talents illustrates the danger of neglecting the gift that the Holy Spirit has bestowed. To do so means censorship and rebuke by the Master Himself (Matthew 25:14-30).
11. Are some gifts more important than others?
Yes! Prophecy is the most important. Speaking in tongues is the least. All the others fall somewhere in between (1 Corinthians 12:31). The relative value of spiritual gifts is to be tested by their usefulness to the church as a whole. Paul's wrote that due to the interdependent nature of all of the gifts, there should be no spiritual pride associated with any of these gifts.
12. Can spiritual gifts be misused?
Yes! For example, Paul described the use and misuse of the gift of tongues in the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 14). For example, Paul taught that speaking in tongues without someone in attendance with the gift of interpretation will only bring confusion to the church family and ridicule from unbelievers.
Accordingly, when I was pastoring, in order to curtail the misuse of the gift of tongues in our church worship services, we encouraged people to use the gifts of tongues and interpreting tongues only in private settings. To use them in a worship service when most of the folks have no idea what’s going on is to invite great misunderstanding and confusion.
When we were laying down the guidelines for the use of the gift of tongues in our worship services our Christian education pastor said, “I’ve got a great idea. If some woman stands up in the midst of a worship service and begins speaking in tongues, I’ll wait until she’s finished. Then, I will say to the crowd, ‘I have the gift of interpreting tongues and this sweet lady has just donated her house to the building fund.’” (Of course, you know that this was a joke.)
13. One thing vividly stands out. Spiritual gifts are to work together in unity for the “common good of the church” (1 Corinthians 12:7).
Harry, I hope that I’ve given you some insights into spiritual gifts that will be helpful for you as you grow in Christ and utilize well your own spiritual gift(s)