This is the third in a series of blogs on Spiritual Gifts. The first installment had to do with the first gift of the Spirit: our salvation. The second installment had to do with the second gift of the Spirit: each other. In this blog, we are going to talk about the gifts of the Spirit God gives to build up the Body of Christ.
I am not a talented gift giver. I never know what to give Kathy or any of the children for Christmas. Most of the time, I don’t buy the right thing. Over the years, I’ve actually become kind of scared to buy gifts. I have gift induced anxiety. I’m always afraid my gifts will be no good. God, however, is a perfect gift-giver. The Bible tells us that God is the “giver of every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17). As a perfect giver, God never chooses a gift for us that we will not enjoy or that others will not appreciate. We may not know exactly why God gave us the gift, at least in the beginning, but eventually we will see that the gift was perfect for us and for those around us.
There is more than one kind of gift. Some gifts are for pure personal enjoyment. Other gifts have a purpose. For example, if I give my wife flowers it might be just to make her happy. On the other hand, if we are going to a party and I buy her a new dress, there is a reason for the gift: I want her to look nice for our friends. There are also gifts that were meant to be shared with others. For example, if I give my wife a box of chocolates, I expect that she will not eat all the chocolates. She will share them with me! The gift was meant to be shared.
Spiritual gifts are the third kind of gift: they were meant to be shared. God gives us spiritual gifts with the expectation that we will use them to build up the body of Christ. In this blog, we are talking in a general way about the gifts of the Holy Spirit that God gives to every believer. There is no way I can possibly cover all of the gifts in depth in one blog. What I want to accomplish is to introduce the subject and get all readers interested to learn more. 
Paul’s Teaching About the Gifts.
Our text for this blog is from First Corinthians. Last week, we studied the middle of Chapter 12 where Paul talks about the Body of Christ and how important each person is for the Body of Christ as a whole. This week, we are talking about the gifts of the Holy Spirit that Paul mentions at the beginning and end of the chapter. Hear the word of God as it comes to us from the Apostle Paul:
Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. … There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines (I Cor 12:1, 4-11).
Later on in the chapter, Paul gives an additional list:
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts (I Corinthians 12:27-31).
Let us pray: O God who is the giver of every good and perfect gift, please come in our time of worship so that we may more clearly know you and the love you have for us. Come by your Holy Spirit to enlighten, inspire, and empower us. In Jesus Name we ask it. Amen.
Gifts are …. Gifts!
I have a box I sometimes use to illustrate God’s Grace, especially at Great Banquet Weekends. It used to be wrapped as a Christmas present, and now it is wrapped as a birthday present. Why do I use my box? Because the word for grace in Greek is also the word for a “gift.” This word is also the word at the root of the idea of Spiritual Gifts, which are gifts of grace. 
The idea of our spiritual abilities as gifts is an important one to grasp. Once again, there is more than one kind of gift. Some gifts, like business gifts, we give with the expectation because of what another person has already done for us. I always used to enjoy getting Christmas gifts from clients but they were business gifts. I did something for them they did something for me. Some gifts are like business gifts: They are given with the expectation of something in return. Once again, these kinds of gifts are earned.
We don’t earn the best kind of gifts. Gifts that are given to us by someone who loves us and cares about us, and who gives us a gift which we haven’t earned, are the best gifts of all. This is the kind of giver God is. God knows our weaknesses. He knows that we cannot earn our salvation. He knows that we cannot earn the fellowship of the Body of Christ. God he knows we cannot earn the gifts of the Spirit. He gives them to us anyway.
Although God expects us to use our gifts, just as a parent would expect a child to use a bicycle he or she that was given for Christmas, God isn’t giving us gifts of grace expecting something in return. However, like all givers, God hopes we will use the gift the way it was intended to be used. This does not mean that we earn our gifts of the Spirit. It means we appreciate our gifts and use them the way the giver intended.
Gifts are Meant to Be Enjoyed.
In just a few minutes, I’m going to talk about sharing our spiritual gifts. However, before I talk about sharing our spiritual gifts I want to talk about enjoying our gifts. People often ask how they can know what their spiritual gift is. Of course, there are spiritual gift inventories. There is one available in the lobby for those of you would like to take the test. However, these are relatively recent inventions. We don’t need them.
There are a number of signs that I have a spiritual gift. One sign we don’t talk about a lot is simply to ask, “What it is that God has me doing already?” Long before I was a preacher, I was asked to preach from time to time at the Star of Hope Mission in Houston Texas. It’s not surprising that preaching was a spiritual gift since I was already preaching the gospel before I knew what a spiritual gift was!
If you are already teaching a Sunday school class, and you enjoy it, it’s probable you have the gift of teaching. If people are constantly coming to you for advice, it’s likely that you have the gift of wisdom. If you already help people whenever you get the chance, it’s probable you have the gift of helps. If every group you are and asks you to be the administrator, you probably have the gift of administration. If you share your faith regularly with other people, it’s probable that you have the gift of evangelism. You get the idea: the first thing to think about is, “What am I already doing?”
A second a sign that you have a spiritual gift is whether or not you get joy from exercising that gift.  For example, I have always loved teaching. I’m always happy when I’m teaching a Bible study. It’s not surprising that I regularly test very high for the spiritual gift of teaching. Teaching gives me joy! If you really enjoy helping other people, then you might have the gift of mercy. If you really enjoy helping other people financially, you might have the gift of giving. If you really enjoy counseling other people, you might have the gift of discernment. You get the idea: We should and do enjoy what we’re doing when we are exercising our spiritual gifts. God gives us our gifts so that we can enjoy the use of our talents.
This does not mean that it will always be easy or fun. Some sermons are easy to prepare, and I’m full of ideas all week long. Some weeks, I’m tired, sermon doesn’t work out as planned, or it is sheer drudgery to get ready to preach. Yet, in the end, I do feel a certain satisfaction. That’s the joy of exercising a spiritual gift.
Perhaps my readers remember the movie, Chariots of Fire.  In the movie, the Scottish runner Eric Liddell is talking with his sister who thinks he should stop running and concentrate on becoming a missionary. Liddell wants to be a missionary; however, he also wants to run. In response to his sister he tells her, “I believe that God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.” There is a tremendous truth in that scene of the movie. When we use our spiritual gifts, not only do we experience joy but we experience the joy that God feels in the use of our gifts.
Spiritual Gifts Are Meant to Be Shared.
We have a member who each year around this time of year brings our staff Pumpkin Donuts from a place in the Frazier neighborhood that makes the best pumpkin doughnuts in Memphis. Normally, he delivers them to me. However, it is his expectation that I won’t eat twenty-four doughnuts. He expects that I will share them with the staff. In the same way God gives us spiritual gifts intending that we will share them. This is not a form of works righteousness. It’s the natural result of having received a gift meant to be shared with others. Once again, I enjoy teaching. It’s not hard for me to teach. I enjoy sharing new information with people. It may be work, but it’s fun. If I didn’t teach, I wouldn’t be sharing my spiritual gift, and would miss out on all the fun.
With as background, I want to talk a little bit about individual gifts of the Spirit. Each Christian has a gift given by God for the glory of his kingdom and to build up the Body of Christ. These gifts were not given for our own self-glorification but to glorify God and to build up the Kingdom of God in the world. In the middle of chapter 12 of First Corinthians, which we studied last week, Paul teaches us that all Christians were meant to use all of their gifts in unison and concert to build up the body of Christ and to show God’s love to the world.
In the letters of Paul, and in one of the letters of Peter, there are various lists of the gifts of the spirit. Here is a kind of graphic rendition of the lists:
Table 1: Gifts of the Spirit
|Romans 12:3-8||I Corinthians 12||Ephesians 4:11-12||I Peter 4:10-11|
|Speaking in Tongues|
|Interpretation of Tongues|
The lists are not identical. This is important. It means that the list of spiritual gifts we find in the Bible are not exhaustive of all the gifts that God gives by the power of the Holy Spirit. The lists are simply some of the manifestations Paul saw in his own churches. He lists the gifts of faith, wisdom, knowledge, apostleship, prophecy, service, helps, teaching, pastoring, encouragement, discernment, generosity, leadership, mercy, healing, generosity, evangelism, speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues, and leadership. Any attempt to group the gifts is artificial; however, it might be useful for me fit in a few categories so we can think more clearly about how we can use our gifts:
- Gifts that create and build up the church, such as apostleship, evangelism, prophesy, teaching, leadership, and the like.
- Gifts that share God’s love in powerful personal ways, such as healing, miracles, service, generosity, and the like.
- Gifts of wisdom and counsel, such as discernment, wisdom, knowledge and the like.
- Gifts of worship, such as prophesy, preaching, the ability to make music, and speaking in tongues.
None of these gifts were meant to be used for our own personal benefit. They were meant to be used for the benefit of one another and the body of Christ.
Go for It.
People sometimes ask whether or not you can lose a spiritual gift. I don’t know whether or not I can give you a definitive answer to that question; however, the following would seem to be true: Our spiritual gifts are just like any other gift. If we don’t use them eventually we do lose them. I may have a tremendous gift for music, but if I never practice and never play I won’t be any good. The same thing is true of our spiritual gifts: If we never use our spiritual gifts we get rusty and we eventually lose them.
It’s important for us to remember that God intends for us to experience the joy of using our spiritual gifts and for us to use them in a way that enhances the Body of Christ. If we don’t use the gift, we don’t need a gift. There is also a reverse truth: If we set out to serve God and if we need a gift to complete that service, God will give it to us. Just his week, in order to help someone, I had to use a gift I rarely have to use these days. God, whoever, was with me when the time came and gave me the ability to share God’s mercy in a helpful way.
The second thing that I was asked to mention is the following truth: our spiritual gifts involve a power of God. They build upon our natural gifts and enhance them. Like any other power, spiritual gifts can be misused. A parent can give a child a gun so the child can go hunting, but that same gun could be used in a destructive way. There is a constant temptation to misuse our gifts, especially those of us who have leadership and related gifts. The apostle Paul wrote a good part of First Corinthians because the Corinthians were misusing the gifts that God had given them. The Corinthians had power, but they were not using that power to build God’s kingdom of love.
The third and final caution I want to give has to do with pride and Spiritual Gifts. If we become proud of our gifts, we will almost certainly misuse them. Pride and love are contrary to one another, When our pride gets out of control we may think we have gifts and abilities we do not have. We may ignore the gifts of others. We may tend to take on responsibilities God never intended us to have. When that happens the peace and shalom God intends our Spiritual Gifts to produce becomes impossible. The result is the kind of chaos the Corinthians experienced.
We live in a time in which the world needs Christians to use their spiritual gifts. The world needs people who are sharing God’s wisdom in God’s love in life transforming ways. We need to go out into the world and use our gifts, whether our gift is evangelism, or mercy, or teaching, or sharing, or praying for the lost, or whatever. When we use our spiritual gifts properly and wisely, the light and love of Christ come into the world.
Copyright 2016, G. Christopher Scruggs, All Rights Reserved
 There are many good resources on the Spiritual Gifts. One book I like is Erik Rees, Shape: Finding and Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose in Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006). If any one reading this blog goes online, they will find multiple resources, spiritual gift inventories, and the like, available from many resources. As mentioned, this particular blog is not intended as a substitute for personal study, talking with pastors and others, and other ways in which we discern and begin to use our gifts.
 The root word in Greek is “Charis,” which means something that delights causes joy. Such delight is the result of a disposition of the giver. In the case of Spiritual Gifts, God’s love causes joy and new life. The word for gift, “Charismata” comes from this root and implies that gifts are a result of God’s grace, which cause delight in us and in others who experience our gifts. They are also a sign of God’s favor upon his people. See, Gerhard Kittel & Gerhard Friedrich, eds, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament G. Bromily, Abridged Edition Ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1983), 1301-1307.
 See note 2 above.
 Chariots of Fire, dir.Hugh Hudson, wr. Colin Wieland, starring ben Cross, Ian Charelson, Nicholas Farrel (Warner Brothers, 1981).