I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.
Introduction: Unity in Diversity of Gifts
Gary Inrig, in his book Life in His Body, related this interesting story:
"Several years ago, two students graduated from the Chicago-Kent College of Law. The highest-ranking student in the class was a blind man named Overton and, when he received his honor, he insisted that half the credit should go to his friend, Kaspryzak. They had met one another in school when the armless Mr. Kaspryzak had guided the blind Mr. Overton down a flight of stairs. This acquaintance ripened into friendship and a beautiful example of interdependence. The blind man carried the books which the armless man read aloud in their common study, and thus the individual deficiency of each was compensated for by the other. After their graduation, they planned to practice law together."
This true story beautifully illustrates what the Bible has to say about Spiritual gifts and the interdependence of the Body of Christ. We all have been gifted to serve one another with abilities that not everyone has themselves individually, but everyone in the Body needs them. A spiritual gift is a God-given talent or ability, given to select Christians by the Holy Spirit that allows him or her to do service in their lives to benefit the church in performing its mission on this earth. From scriptural passages, we can understand that all of us have at least one of these gifts.
Spiritual gifts were not given to us to show off, or to enrich ourselves. They were given especially so that we can serve one another as members of the Body of Christ in order that the Church, the Body can grow and become all that God intended it to be for His glory.
There is an old saying: "You are not saved to sit. You are saved to serve!" And any time a spiritual gift is given, it is meant to be used for the building up of others and for the glory of God.
The apostle Paul gives lists of spiritual gifts in 3 of his books. They are found in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12-14 and Ephesians 4.
If truth be told, we could probably get into some deep theological discussions on whether or not these lists are exhaustive, or whether or not some of the Spiritual gifts are still in existence in the Body of Christ today. I tend to believe that these lists are not exhaustive. By that I mean that they don't cover every single gift that the Spirit offers. And I think that there is also reason to believe that some of the Spiritual gifts, such as miraculously speaking in other tongues, are no longer being given out by the Holy Spirit today. However, though a study of these things may be important, to get too far into this discussion, or more likely this argument, is to miss the point of the passages altogether.
These gifts were meant to bring unity and not division. And they were meant to be used out of love for God and our fellow believer in Jesus Christ and not as something to win a theological argument.
In I Corinthians 12-14 Paul continues answering questions brought up by the Corinthians themselves. He started this question-and-answer session in I Corinthians 7:1. And he just got finished dealing with the issues of head coverings for women and the Lord's Supper in chapter 11. Now he is moving to the issue of Spiritual gifts. Here is what bibleref.com has to say about this chapter. It states:
"From the context, believers in Corinth seem to have been asking why some Christians were given spiritual gifts while others seemed not to be "spiritual ones." It's possible that some in Corinth had been demonstrating obvious supernatural power through speaking in tongues, for instance, while others lacked this ability."
From what we read later, in chapter 14, it becomes apparent that there is some division going on amongst the Corinthians as well because of jealousy and envy that was taking place in the use and abuse of certain of these gifts. Some thought that they were better than others because they possessed certain gifts.
Paul's aim, to begin with, is to show that the believers have it all wrong in their reasoning behind this question. The truth is that all Christians are 'gifted ones.' We all have been given the same Holy Spirit who has gifted each of us in some way. Later in chapter 12, Paul will show that there are no believers that are better than others. All are important and we need each other and each other's gifts. And there are no inferior gifts.
The Apostle, in the first 11 verses of chapter 12 demonstrates that, though there is truly diversity in the Spiritual gifts, there is also unity which is derived from them. Let us look through these verses and see the reasons Paul gives for his conclusion.
I. Though We Have Different Gifts We All Call Jesus Lord (1-3)
The number one reason why these gifts, understood properly, bring spiritual unity though they are diverse, is that we have different gifts, but all of us still call Jesus Lord. He is the Master of us all. Here is how Paul puts it in verses 1-3. He states:
"Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore, I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit."
It is the same Spirit who unites us all, that shows us that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. Anyone who isn't united in this way is not a Christian in the first place. We all have a common purpose of bringing glory to Christ and it is the Spirit who helps us all to do that by the various gifts that He gives to each of us.
II. Though We Have Different Gifts They Come from the Same Source (4-6)
Paul goes on to elaborate, in verses 4-6, the source of our Spiritual gifts, no matter how great these gifts may be, or how common they may seem. Though they be different, they all come from the same Holy Spirit. Paul says this to us in these verses:
"There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all."
Once again, bibleref.com has some insights on these verses. It tells us:
"Spiritual gifts, acts of service, and other godly activities come in a wide variety. What they have in common is that each one comes from the same Holy Spirit. Each one is given to be used in service to the same Lord Jesus. Each one is possible only through the power of the same God the Father. In other words, these spiritual gifts are not about the people who use them; they are ultimately about God and His purposes."
When it comes right down to it, none of us can take any credit for the gifts and talents that we possess. God created us, He saved us, and it is He who is using what He has given us in the first place to bring about His will for this universe.
God gave out to some people what are considered by many to be the more prominent gifts. However, He gave all other believers gifts as well. Though they may not seem to be as prominent or important, they are the Supernatural abilities that have been given to them to fulfill God's will.
III. Though We Have Different Gifts, They Serve the Same Purpose (7-11)
Not only does a proper understanding of Spiritual gifts show us that we have the same Lord, and we have the same Source, the Holy Spirit, but a true understanding of the gifts should also show us that all of the gifts ultimately have the same purpose. They are given for the good of all, for the profit of the Body of Christ.
Once again, it would be easy to get hung up on our theological biases in verses 7-11. These 9 gifts that are listed in this passage are sometimes called sign gifts, or confirmation gifts. There are many Christian groups who believe that these particular gifts were given by the Spirit during the time of the apostles and before the New Testament was completed. The purpose was to confirm that God's power was behind the message of the apostles and their preaching of the gospel. Other Christian groups believe that these gifts continue to be given by the Spirit in large numbers, even today.
Though I obviously have a theological bent toward the former understanding of this passage, let us not throw out the truth that it is telling us by arguing about it. The point that Paul is trying to make is that we all have some gift or gifts from the Spirit, and we must use them to serve the Lord by serving others and building up the Body of Christ. Here are Paul's words to us:
"But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills."
Paul probably chose these particular Spiritual gifts because they were prominently on display in Corinth. He also, in this section, emphasizes that it is the Holy Spirit who decides to whom to give the various gifts. This means that the gifts are not earned or acquired by any of the efforts of those who receive them.
This can also be seen in the terms that Paul uses in this passage. The term 'spiritual gifts' comes from the Greek words charismata (gifts) and pneumatika (spirits). They are the plural forms of charisma, meaning 'expression of grace' and pneumatikon meaning 'expression of Spirit.' So, all of the gifts that we have are expressions of God's grace (charis). That is His unmerited favor toward us as given by the Holy Spirit.
Just like we had absolutely nothing to do with the salvation we have been given by faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary, so we have nothing to do with acquiring the gifts of the Spirit. They are freely distributed by His will and by His power.
As we come to the end of Paul's introduction on the subject of Spiritual gifts, it becomes clear that these gifts are essential for the Body of Christ in order for it to function well and to grow into the glorious church that Jesus has intended. And none of us are exempt from using what God has given us for His glory and for the good of those with whom we will share eternity. And none of us is unimportant in the Church that Christ died to redeem.
When we look at the next verses in this chapter, we will see Paul compare us to an actual physical body to show how important each of us truly is in God's plan. Not that He needs any of us. The omnipotent God needs nothing and no one. Rather, He chooses to use us because He loves us all individually.
As the One who is our Lord, He gives us a job to do, He gives us the resources to do it, and He gives us a spiritual family to love and serve on His behalf. When I think about the Spiritual gifts that many Christians have it also comes to my mind that many people don't choose to use these gifts. Either they don't think that they have them, they don't think that what they have to offer is important, or maybe it's that they selfishly want to use the gifts for themselves.
For whatever reason a person may give not to use Spiritual gifts as they were intended, I would like to relay this final story which illustrates the loss which comes from this decision. It goes like this:
"The great violinist, Nicolo Paganini, willed his marvelous violin to Genoa -- the city of his birth -- but only on condition that the instrument never be played upon. It was an unfortunate condition, for it is a peculiarity of wood that as long as it is used and handled, it shows little wear. As soon as it is discarded, it begins to decay.
The exquisite, mellow-toned violin has become worm-eaten in its beautiful case, valueless except as a relic. The moldering instrument is a reminder that a life withdrawn from all service to others loses its meaning"
Do you really want a life filled with meaning and joy? Then ask God to show you your Spiritual gifts, given to you when you became a Christian. Then ask Him again to help you use them to the best of your ability for His glory, to help others and to build up the Body of Christ. A life of service is a life well-lived. And one that God will reward in eternity. May we live our lives to their fullest by using the gifts that He has graciously given to us for His service.
© 2022 Jeff Shirley