As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another; as good stewards of God’s varied grace. (1 Peter 4:10)
Each one has received a gift. The Greek word here is the familiar charismata; literally, “grace-gift.”We call them “spiritual gifts” as other passages, 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14, tell us that in salvation and growth as a Christian, the Holy Spirit gives each believer both a heart to serve and a gift or enablement to serve. “A spiritual gift is any ability that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in any ministry of the church.”(Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 1016)
People debate whether our natural gifts count as spiritual gifts. I believe any ability that we have can be used for ministry. What makes an ability “spiritual” is whether the Holy Spirit is empowering its use for spiritual purposes and spiritual fruit. You may naturally be good with numbers and financial planning. That was true before you became a Christian. Now that ability can be used for spiritual purposes as the Lord uses you. Or perhaps you are skilled with your hands and the Spirit’s gift to you is service and he uses your natural gifts expressed through your spiritual gift to bless many.
That said, spiritual gifts are often abilities and desires that prior to salvation we didn’t have and likely had no interest in doing. But our heart was broken by our sin and with eyes of faith we looked to the cross and a Savior hanging there in our place. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” We die by dying to ourselves. We live to Christ by serving him. Get that? You died to yourself when you trusted in Christ and now with Jesus as Lord, you are energized and enabled to serve him by the Spirit.
So what are some of these gifts? There are five passages in Scripture that give examples:
- 1 Corinthians 12:8-11 – Wisdom-word, knowledge-word, faith, healing gifts, miracle working, prophecy, distinguishing spirits, speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues
- 1 Corinthians 12:28 – Apostles, prophets, teachers, miracle workers, healing, helps, administration, tongues
- Romans 12:6-8 – Prophecy, service, teaching, exhorting, giving, leadership, mercy-ministry
- Ephesians 4:11 – Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors/teachers
- 1 Peter 4:11 – Speaking, Serving
These are not meant to be exhaustive lists. They are representative of the kind of enablements Christ gives to his church.
This leads to the natural question, How do I know what my gift is? What is curious is that there is so much in the Bible about spiritual gifts, but no mention as to how to know what your gift is. I think the reason for the silence is that the Bible assumes that all Christians will serve Christ and the discovery of the gift comes quite naturally in the context of doing ministry.
We could compare it to a pickup basketball game. Pickup basketball is where random guys meet at the court to play. Typically, they will shoot for teams. The first five to make a free throw are a team. What you never see in a pickup game is a huddle before the game to decide who is going to do what on the floor. Who is going to dribble? Who is going to rebound? Who is going to shoot? They simply begin to play. The player naturally inclined to dribbling gravitates toward doing that. The player gifted for rebounding, gravitates to being under the boards. All pickup basketball players think they’re gifted for shooting, so that doesn’t apply.
Do you see the point? They began to play and while playing, their gifts became evident. The same is true in spiritual gifts. If you never play, you’ll never know. If you never serve, never step out and try something, you’ll never know how the Holy Spirit has empowered you. The best way to find out where you are gifted is to get involved in ministry and ask God to give you insight into what he would want you to do. Get in the game. Find a place to serve. See where you develop a passion to serve.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
©2012 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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