Jesus left His followers with the responsibility to extend the Gospel message to the ends of the earth. But Jesus didn't just leave them with this huge challenge, with this immense responsibility without giving them the ability to fulfill it.
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
The Holy Spirit empowers believers to be effective witnesses of the Gospel through the use of spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are supernatural abilities given by the Holy Spirit for specific purpose. Paul taught on the subject of spiritual gifts to the early church. He said:
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant. (I Corinthians 12:1)
Today we will be introducing what spiritual gifts are and their purpose in our lives. Later on, we will break down the various spiritual gifts, and help you discover where your own spiritual gifting lay.
WHAT ARE SPIRITUAL GIFTS?
When we use the word “spiritual” in regards to spiritual gifts it means “characterized or controlled by the Holy Spirit”. A “gift” by any definition is something freely given from one person to another. Put these two together, and a spiritual gift is a supernatural ability given by the Holy Spirit to a believer to minister as a part of the Body of Christ.
Now the ‘gifts of the Holy Spirit’ is not to be confused with the ‘Gift of the Holy Spirit’. In John 14:16-17 Jesus proclaimed the coming of the Holy Spirit and in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost we were given the Gift that is the Holy Spirit in answer to that promise. The gifts we receive from the Holy Spirit are supernatural abilities given to believers in order to enable effective ministry.
GIFTS AND TALENTS
There is a difference between spiritual gifts and natural talents. A talent is a natural ability that we inherited at birth or developed through training. A spiritual gift is a supernatural ability which did not come by inheritance or training. It is a special ability given by the Holy Spirit to be used for specific spiritual purposes.
This isn't to say that the Holy Spirit won’t use one of your natural talents. For example, I have a talent for speaking in public; and I trained it on stage and off for years. After I turned my life over to Christ, the Holy Spirit blessed my talent and gave me gifts that are reliant upon that natural talent.
Although we should use all our natural talents for the work of the Lord, we still need spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts not only provide spiritual capabilities far greater than the finest natural talents, but it is through the anointing of the Holy Spirit we are able to accomplish His will.
PURPOSES OF THE GIFTS
The purposes of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are listed in the book of Ephesians 4:12-15:
For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— (Ephesians 4:12-15)
According to this passage, the purposes of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are to:
-Perfect the saints
-Promote the work of the ministry
-Edify Christ and the Church
The objectives or goals of spiritual gifts are that we will:
-Become united in the faith.
-Develop our knowledge of Christ.
-Develop in perfection, with Christ as our model.
-Become stable, not deceived by false doctrines.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are also given to us as weapons of spiritual warfare to conquer the spiritual forces of Satan:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
Since spiritual warfare is well... spiritual, then spiritual rather than natural weapons have to be used. It’s almost hard to believe but sometimes we go into spiritual warfare without any knowledge of these weapons. Anytime you go into battle without your weapons you cannot expect to win. This is another reason why it’s important to understand spiritual gifts. They are part of the spiritual weapons God has provided.
DISTRIBUTION OF THE GIFTS
As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (I Peter 4:10)
Each and every believer has at least one spiritual gift; and because every believer has at least one spiritual gift, we each have a responsibility to discover what that gifting is and use it as God intended. You will not be judged by how many spiritual gifts you have, but by your faithfulness to use the spiritual gift or gifts you have been given. The parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 confirms this as truth.
A person may have more than one gift, but no one has all the gifts of the Spirit. If he did, then he would have no need of others in the Body of Christ.
THE ABUSE OF GIFTS
A spiritual gift from God can be abused. To "abuse" a gift means to not use it properly. You can abuse spiritual gifts by:
-Not using gifts given to you.
Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. (I Timothy 4:14)
-Attempting to use gifts without the Holy Spirit’s anointing.
But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. (Acts 8:20-21)
-Not using your gifts properly.
God is not the author of confusion. Where there is confusion your gifts are not being used correctly. Spiritual gifts can also be improperly used when you manipulate people, gain wealth, or use them for your own selfish satisfaction rather than in ministry to others.
-Glorifying you gift.
When you "glorify" your gift, you consider it more special than other gifts. You begin to see the gift as greater than the Giver.
MANY GIFTS FROM ONE SOURCE
There is one source of spiritual gifts but there are many different gifts. No gift is more important than another. Your position in the Body of Christ is compared to parts of a human body. Just as in the human body, the smaller parts such as the eye have important functions, the seemingly "small" gift is often quite important in the functioning of the church. Some gifts involve greater responsibilities, but no gift is more important than another.
Some parts of the human body have greater responsibilities than others. For example, the eye lets you see what is around you. It guides you when walking. It permits you to read and see and enjoy God's creations. The eye has greater responsibility, but it is no more important than the big toe which provides balance for walking. The guidance of the eye is useless if you have no feet to walk with. The eye's function to permit reading is useless if you have no brain to understand what you read.
Sometimes misunderstanding arises in the Church when believers don’t recognize the spiritual gifts of others. If one person has the gift of giving he may not understand why other believers don’t give as liberally as they do. Or one may have the gift of administration and become very impatient with people who are less organized.
Each believer needs to use his or her spiritual gifts to work together with other believers who have different gifts. When this happens, the Church functions effectively as the Body of Christ.
STEWARDS OF GIFTS
We are only stewards of spiritual gifts. We use these gifts on behalf of the one who gave them to us. We are stewards for Jesus Christ and as a steward, we will be judged on the basis of our faithfulness to use the gifts we have been given:
Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. (I Corinthians 4:1)
ARE GIFTS FOR TODAY?
There is a belief that the spiritual gifts listed in the New Testament are not for the Church of today. It’s the idea that some gifts, like prophecy, tongues, miracles, etc., were only for the early Church. That after the Church was established and the New Testament written, some spiritual gifts were no longer needed. Often I Corinthians 13:10 is used to explain this belief:
But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. (I Corinthians 13:10)
This is sometimes taken that when the perfect revelation of God's Word was written; there was no longer a need for tongues, interpretation, and prophecy. That once the Church was established there was no longer a need for confirming signs and miracles. And I sort of understand where they’re coming from. It sort of makes sense. But this passage is actually referring to a future time when the "perfect" Kingdom of God is established on earth. Since what is perfect has then come, we will no longer need of any of the spiritual gifts.
We will have no need of messages through prophecy, tongues, or interpretation, for we will be dwelling with the God who inspires such messages. We will have no need of the word of wisdom or knowledge, for we will be living with the source of all knowledge. We will not need discerning of spirits, because everyone left will be written in the Book of Life. There will be no need for gifts of healing because pain, and sickness, and death will no longer exist.
Also remember the purposes and objectives of spiritual gifts we looked at earlier in Ephesians 4:12-15? The purposes are for what? Anyone remember?
-Perfecting of the saints.
-Promoting the work of the ministry.
-Edifying Christ and the Church.
The need for which the gifts were given still remains. The saints still need to be perfected; the ministry still needs to be promoted to the ends of the earth, and Christ and the Church need to be edified.
The objectives are that we will:
-Be united in the faith.
-Develop our knowledge of Christ.
-Develop in perfection, with Christ as our model.
-Become stable, not deceived by false doctrines.
God would not give spiritual gifts for these purposes and objectives and then remove them without these things being accomplished.
-Are all believers united in the faith?
-Has everyone developed fully in the knowledge of Christ?
-Are we all perfected?
-Are our church members stable and not being deceived by false doctrines?
-Are all our church members spiritually mature?
The answer to all these questions is of course "no"; or you wouldn’t need to be hear listening to me tell you why you wouldn’t need to be here. These objectives have not been accomplished. For this reason we know all of the spiritual gifts are still for today. God gave spiritual gifts to accomplish certain purposes in the Church. He will not withdraw any of these gifts without these purposes being accomplished. The Bible also says that the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29). This means God will not change His mind and take back a spiritual gift or calling He has given.
THE KEY TO USING GIFTS
Any guesses what the key is to using your spiritual gifts? In I Corinthians 13 the Apostle Paul gives us the key but he introduces the subject in I Corinthians 12:31. He lists some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and then says... But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way. (I Corinthians 12:31)
When you get a chance read I Corinthians 13. This chapter gives the key to using any and all spiritual gifts. That key is love. You can prophesy, have the gifts of healing, faith, giving, etc., but without love in using these gifts, they will not be effective.
Gifts are unprofitable when used without love. Speaking in tongues becomes like a noisy clanging. Every gift is worthless, "it profits nothing", unless it is used in love. Love is the "more excellent way". The gifts become a channel through which God's love can flow to those around us. Love is the key to using spiritual gifts effectively.
A WARNING: SATAN'S COUNTERFEIT
Satan always tries to counterfeit the gifts of the Holy Spirit. A counterfeit is something that imitates something real, but it is not genuine. Satan is a deceiver. The Bible says he sometimes even appears as an angel (II Corinthians 11:14). In the final days of time, there will even be a Satanic counterfeit of Christ called the antichrist (I John 2:18,22).
Much of this counterfeiting is accomplished through the occult. Most of you know that when I was younger I didn’t so much dabble in the occult as delved into it. I have seen firsthand the power of the occult. It can accomplish things that look like powerful gifts; witches and psychics pretending to foretell the future. Creating objects, potions, and rituals that they claim will do anything from re-grow your hair to summon your soul-mate. But in each and every case, their source is Satan.
So what does a counterfeit look like?
-A counterfeit does not fulfill the Scriptural purposes of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Read again Ephesians 4:12-15. Any true gift of the Holy Spirit will accomplish these spiritual purposes and objectives.
-Counterfeit gifts do not agree with what the Bible teaches about Jesus. When anyone ministers a gift, what do they say about Jesus? Does it agree with the written Word of God?
-You can also recognize counterfeiters by their personal characteristics. In II Peter 2 and the book of Jude, list off characteristics of ‘false prophets’; if you study these chapters it will help you to distinguish the real from the counterfeit.
Spiritual gifts are supernatural abilities given by the Holy Spirit to help promote, perfect, and edify the church. These gifts help us to mature in our faith, and fight in spiritual warfare. Every single one of us has at least one spiritual gift; in fact, most of us have several. When we identify our gifts we have to use them for God’s purposes not our own, and be careful not to abuse them. Like everything God has given us, we must be good stewards of His provision. And of course as always, Satan will try to pervert or mimic what God is doing so we have to keep our eyes open for his counterfeits.
WHAT ARE THE SPIRITUAL GIFTS?
So I have told you all of this so when you do a spiritual gifts survey, you can understand the importance and power that is involved with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Tomorrow I will be posting a list and explanation of all of the Spiritual Gifts listed in the Bible. I'll do this by breaking them down into four groups; leadership gifts, speaking gifts, serving gifts, and sign gifts. Along with the list of Gifts I will also be posting a Spiritual Gifts survey you can download, print, and take yourself.
Determining your gifts is fun and sort of cool to know, but if you don't take that knowledge and use it to become effective in the body of Christ then it avails nothing. Once you learn what your gifts are, find a ministry or church program or a home group, and start being effective in the body of Christ. When we learned of Christ and His sacrifice for us, we lost the right to be ignorant, and when we received the power of the Holy Spirit, we have taken on a responsibility to; ... be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)