Spiritual Gifts: a topic that excites you or one that makes you a little uneasy? The subject is met with a range of feelings based on your church background. Hopefully more knowledge on spiritual gifts will help to ease the apprehensive mindset of some and slow down the enthusiastic mindset of others.
Wayne Grudem defines spiritual gifts in Systematic Theology as, “any ability that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in any ministry of the church. This broad definition includes both gifts that are related to natural abilities (such as teaching, showing mercy, or administration) and gifts that seem to be more “miraculous” and less related to natural abilities (such as prophecy, healing, or distinguishing between spirits).”1 Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit for the common good and for the edification/building up of the church. 1 Corinthians 12:13-14 says, “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free–and we were all given on Spirit to drink. Indeed, the body is not one part but many.” The body of believers are to use their Spirit-given gifts to work together for the glory of God.
Yes, this could be a simple enough explanation and we could stop this article, but it is an oversimplification when there are a multitude of questions that need answers concerning the subject of spiritual gifts. In this article we will explore some of the more common questions surrounding spiritual gifts, and hopefully provide some answers that lead you to look in the right direction for clarity.
Question #1: When did spiritual gifts come into play?
The Holy Spirit, being the third part of the Trinity, has always been. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2). Sometimes it is difficult to see God explicitly working in the Old Testament like we do at Pentecost (more on Pentecost soon), but we do see that the Holy Spirit was fulfilling the will of God throughout the entire Old Testament. David’s lament in Psalm 51 provides an example of the power and prominence of the Holy Spirit. He says in verse 11, “Do not banish me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.” David knew that the Holy Spirit of God was present in his life, promoting holiness and empowering those who love God.
Now, let us jump forward to Acts 2, the day of Pentecost. The day of Pentecost was when the Holy Spirit was poured out on those who believed in Jesus’s death, resurrection, and ascension. After those present received the Holy Spirit and were speaking in tongues (re-read Acts 2…it’s crazy!), Peter reminds those who were witnesses that this had been prophesied in Joel 2:28-32
After this I will pour out my Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will have dreams, and your young men will see visions. I will even pour out my Spirit on the male and female slaves in those days. I will display wonders in the heavens and on the earth: blood, fire, and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, for there will be an escape for those on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, as the Lord promised, among the survivors the Lord calls.
God promises through his prophet Joel’s mouth that he will give many gifts through the Spirit to humanity: prophecy, dreams, and visions. And it happened after Jesus’s time on earth was complete.
Question #2: What kind of spiritual gifts are there?
There are six verses in the New Testament that list specific spiritual gifts, but it's not an exhaustive listing. Check out this table from Grudem’s text:
1 Corinthians 12:28
kinds of healings
1 Corinthians 12:8-10
words of wisdom
words of knowledge
gifts of healing
distinguishing between spirits
interpretation of tongues
1 Corinthians 7:7
1 Peter 4:11
Whoever speaks (covering several gifts)
Whoever renders service (covering several gifts)
Again, these are not exhaustive, but the number of gifts depends on how specific you want to get. The point is that God gives his people gifts that are Spirit-given and are directly from his grace-filled love for us.
Question #3: How can I know what my spiritual gift is and how can I use it to serve God?
There are many ways that you can find out your spiritual gift(s). One of them is to ask other Christian brothers and sisters what they think your spiritual giftings are. Another way is to take a test or an online assessment that will ask you a series of questions about yourself, similar to a personality test. Here is a link to one that I like: https://www.lifeway.com/en/articles/women-leadership-spiritual-gifts-growth-service. Another way to find out if you have a spiritual gift is to try it out! If you think hospitality might be your gifting join the Hospitality Team at Restoration Church or invite some people over to your home to share a meal together. Finally, the best way to find out your spiritual gifts is to ask God. Pray and ask him to reveal to you what your giftings are.
Once you find out what your gifts are, do not delay in serving God and the Church with that gifting. Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians (4:11-13), “And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.”
This leads us to the fact that spiritual gifts are given to be used in this life to glorify God, to build the Church, and to point others to Christ and the gospel. These spiritual gifts that we possess are because of God’s grace and love and are to be used. Because we are humans and imperfect, the use of our spiritual gifts will be imperfect, that is until the consummation of Christ’s return when all will be made right and perfect. Each spiritual gift points towards that perfection. The gift of healing points towards our perfect bodies that we will be given in heaven, where there will be no sickness, no pain, no imperfections. Using our spiritual gifts to lift up others is key, and to point towards the truth of the Lord is essential.
Written by: Carrie Erickson