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Spiritual Gifts

October 31, 2011

Warning:  The following are some points to ponder, things I am chewing on myself and that are worth wrestling through.  These are not fully developed yet, but notions that I am still working through.  Be very careful, half baked ideas lie ahead.

Yesterday at Faith we spent the morning and evening services discussing the use of spiritual gifts in the church.  A spiritual gift is a supernatural enablement from the Holy Spirit given to a believer after conversion for use in edifying the body of Christ. This means the natural born ability to sing, natural fondness of people or learned skills of woodworking are not spiritual gifts.  Spiritual gifts are those things which are uniquely given to believers, post conversion, for use in the church. Which brings up a great question, one I continued chewing on after the service was ended last night.

If spiritual gifts are unique to Christians, then the spiritual gift should function to do something impossible for the unbeliever.  What then would that impossible to the unsaved something be? As I pondered this question, several things came to my attention from the Word.  First, I think Paul points to this pagan impossibility in 1 Corinthians12:3, “Wherefore I give you to understand that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”  Paul clearly recognizes that some things an unbeliever cannot do and some things a true believer cannot do. Some things are just impossible for the unsaved (and for the sake of clarity, I think Paul is referring to a definitive declaration of Christ as Lord to the repudiation of all other gods and in rejection of all other systems of worship).   Secondly, the spiritual gifts are given for a clearly expressed reason.  Ephesians 4:12 tells us that leadership gifts were given to the church to equip the church to do the work of the ministry so that the body of Christ will be edified.  Ephesians 4:16 tells us that Christ gives us all the resources we need so that the body can be edifying itself.  1 Corinthians 12 and 14 both teach that spiritual gifts have been given to the church so that the church will be edified. Edification is the building up of believers individually and corporately into a greater obedience to Christ and a better imitation of Christ.

If spiritual gifts are given to believers to accomplish something that is impossible for the pagans to accomplish and if spiritual gifts are given for the edification of the body into Christlikeness, then a spiritual gift becomes evident when we serve for the express purpose of helping other believers look more like Christ.  The unsaved can show mercy and kindness to one another.  Only a believer can show mercy and kindness for the specific reason of helping the other person become more like Jesus.  The unsaved can rule and administrate affairs effectively.  Only a believer can rule and administrate so that those under his leadership are furthered in their imitation Christ.  The unsaved can plead with one another to leave behind destructive habits.  Only a believer can plead with another to forsake sin so that he might be better obedient to Christ.  The spiritual gift is unique in its focus on being Christlike.

I think the matter of spiritual gifts has little to do with personality and aptitude tests. The matter of spiritual gifts has much to do with serving within the local church for the express and intentional purpose of helping fellow believers look more like Christ.  We are to use all our talents, abilities and gifts for the edification of the body of Christ.  When we intentionally exercise all the skills God has given us for the express purpose of helping the church look more like Jesus, then we are doing something that no unsaved person could, or would, do.


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