“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines”
1 Corinthians 12:7, 11
The Bible says that each Christian is given a spiritual gift(s) for use in building the Body of Christ. But what exactly are spiritual gifts? Are they the same as our skills and talents? How do we know what spiritual gift(s) we have? Why are they important? And how do we know when and how to use them? These are typical questions many Christians ask when it comes to understanding their role in the church or in the Body of Christ.
What Are Spiritual Gifts?
Spiritual Gifts are those abilities that the Holy Spirit gives to the followers of Christ to equip them for ministry. As we see from the Scripture above from 1st Corinthians 12 they are given for the common good and as the Holy Spirit determines. In other words, we cannot manufacture them ourselves. They are gifts from God. Also, the Holy Spirit gives them as they are needed to whomever He chooses. Our skills and talents may be Spiritual gifts, but only to the extent that we use them for God’s purposes and not our own selfish ambitions.
Spiritual gifts fall into 3 main categories. First, there are Ministry gifts. These are the gifts of Apostle, Pastor, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher. These are mentioned by Paul in Ephesians 4:11 when he wrote that “It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers”, and are often referred to as the five-fold ministry. Second, there are Practical gifts. These are the gifts of Service, Encouragement, Giving, Leadership, Mercy, Helps, and Administration, and can be found in Romans 12:7-8 and 1st Corinthians 12:28. These are gifts God gives to enable Christians to minister to others. Thirdly, there are Charismatic gifts. These are the gifts of Wisdom, Knowledge, Discernment, Prophecy, Tongues, Interpretation, Faith, Healing, and Miracles, and are found in 1st Corinthians 12:8-10. They are spiritual manifestations and powers and are the ones most often associated with the general term of Spiritual gifts.
(There are other gifts mentioned through the Bible, but these 21 gifts are the ones that are specifically mentioned in the New Testament.)
Why Are Spiritual Gifts Important?
Spiritual gifts are important for the church because they form the foundation of each Christian’s call to ministry. God has gifted every Believer with gifts He wants us to use to further His Kingdom here on earth. These gifts were given to each of us so that we can use them to serve others according to God’s calling and purposes. Paul says in Ephesians 4:12 that these gifts were given to us “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” Since all Believers are part of the Body of Christ, we all have a role to play in expanding God’s Kingdom on earth. And that role is largely determined by our Spiritual giftedness. In other words, every Christian is called to be a minister for Christ and is equipped to do so with the spiritual gifts God has provided.
How Should Spiritual Gifts Be Used and Applied?
There are 4 ways we are called to use our spiritual gifts:
1. To build up the church
“Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.” 1 Corinthians 14:12
2. To serve others
“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” – 1 Peter 4:10
3. To glorify God
“If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter 4:11
4. To reveal God’s character
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. – Galatians 5:22
Notice that these are all God focused and not man-focused. Each of us is gifted to serve the Body of Christ. That does not mean that we are called into full-time ministry. Some are and some aren’t. But we are all called to be ministers for Christ in our homes, workplaces and anywhere we may go. And if we don’t use our gifts to minister to others and build up the Body of Christ then we are neglecting our call and responsibility to God.
So How Do We Find Out What Our Spiritual Gifts Are?
There are many spiritual gift assessment tests that are available on-line to determine your spiritual gifts. One that I have used and found to be quite helpful can be found at http://www.kodachrome.org/spiritgift. After answering all of the questions they will email you the results with a nice analysis. They do ask for a small donation to help their ministry if you take their test, but it is not required.
Knowing our spiritual gifts is an important factor in determining how God may be calling each of us to minister inside and outside of the church. I would encourage all of us to know our spiritual gifts so we can prayerfully consider where we may be called to be a minister for Jesus!