When we start talking about the Gifts of the Spirit, we are moving beyond these things. The indwelling of the Spirit is common and universal to all New Testament Christians. But there are other blessings, abilities and gifts, which are not common to everyone. They are dispensed through the sovereign and all-wise dispensation of God. They are called the gifts of the Spirit.
Christendom has fluctuated between two extremes when it comes to spiritual gifts. Generally speaking, to what extreme do the “charismatics” go? (Abuse and misunderstanding.) What is the other more common extreme? (Neglect and misunderstanding.) Does God want us to be confused and ignorant about spiritual gifts? I Corinthians 12:1 – “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.” What must be the source for our information about the gifts of the Spirit?
The Gifts of the Spirit are obviously bestowed by the Holy Spirit.
In I Corinthians 12:1 there is the Greek word “pneumatikos” which means “THINGS of the Spirit.” Notice that the word “gifts” in this verse is italicized, which tells us what? Why has the word “gifts” been put into our King James Bibles in this verse? (Verses 4, 7, 8, 9.) Who does this passage tell us is the source of these gifts? (Verse 11.)
Should we expect that these gifts are different from the gifts that grandma gives us? Why and how? These gifts of the Spirit are extraordinary, and they enable certain Christians to serve the Lord’s churches in ways that other Christians can’t. Could we say that these gifts are supernatural?
Are those Christians who have been given spiritual gifts – gifted people? Are all those who are called “gifted” possessors of spiritual gifts? Were there any brave, noble, spiritually-minded men in David’s day who were not anointed king? Were there any in Israel capable of leading the nation during their forty years in the wilderness? Why were Moses and David chosen and equipped to carry out God’s will, but others weren’t? Should one Christian be jealous of another Christian who displays a spiritual gift that he doesn’t possess?
Look at verse 4 – “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.” The word “gifts” is different from the word “spiritual” in verse 1. This is the Greek word “charisma,” and it is found quite frequently in the Word of God. It is also used in verse 9 – “To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit.” The word “charisma” doesn’t always directly tie the gift to the Holy Spirit; in fact most of the time it doesn’t. Romans 6:23 – ” For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:16 – “For the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.” So it’s the context which tells us if we are talking about gifts of the Spirit or other kinds of gifts. Don’t be afraid of the word “charisma” – fear only the abuse of the word.
The Gifts of the Spirit are Sovereignly given.
Verse 11 – “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” What does it mean to say that the Holy Spirit has a will? By what authority does He give gifts to some people and not to others?
Since the gifts of the Spirit are given according to His will, should Christians become jealous over those gifts? Should Christians seek to obtain the sovereignly dispensed gifts? When then what does the last verse of this chapter tell us – “But covet earnestly the best gifts”? The Corinthians were abusing and going to extremes on some minor gifts, to the neglect of others. For example, some of them were upset and angry that they couldn’t speak in tongues, and others were proud of the fact that they possessed some of the gifts of the Spirit, but few seemed to care that the word of God was not being well-taught. Paul was not saying that they should, or should not, beseech God to give them spiritual gifts. He was telling them to put the best things first; to seek the best gifts before the least gifts. Is there anything wrong with wanting to be anointed by God so that we can serve and glorify Him? Is there anything wrong with being angry with God because we haven’t been given some coveted gift? In the midst of our desire to serve the Lord, we must remember that He sovereign dispenses His gifts.
Do we have any obligation to live surrendered to the Lord, and to be willing to serve Him? That sort of person is often called “spiritual.” But spirituality in itself doesn’t bring spiritual gifts. Nor does spirituality prove that a person possesses spiritual gifts. In an imaginary, perfect world every Christian would be sinless, worshipful and serviceable to the Lord. But the Lord would still have the right to “divide to every man severally as He willed.”
Are these special spiritual gifts, given to the saints at the time of their salvation or subsequently? The Bible doesn’t really say, one way or another. Are there ever new Christians who immediately display some of the gifts of the Spirit? Among Christians who begin to serve the Lord in special ways later in life, could it be possible that they were given those gifts at the time of their salvation, but they remained hidden for a few years? On the other hand could it be that the Lord actually bestowed them later?
According to verse 7, would you say that every Christian has some sort of special spiritual gifts? “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” What about verse 11 – “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” Let’s read verses 12-27. As a child of God and member of this church, you are a member or part of this body of Christ. You might consider yourself to be a finger, a toe, an eye, an ear, a leg – whatever. But there is a purpose in everyone of us, and there is a talent, or a gift of God, that each of us possess which has been given to us for the blessing and edification of the rest of the body. It doesn’t matter if that gift is great or small; what matters is that it is the gift of God, and it shouldn’t be squandered. “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” – I Peter 4:10.
I Corinthians’ next chapter is another part of Paul’s discussion of spiritual gifts. What is the general theme of I Corinthians 13? The gifts that we have been given must be used in love. Would you say that spiritual gifts in themselves make great Christians? What makes a great Christian is how they use the gifts that the Lord has given them.
The permanent Spiritual gifts.
When I say that some spiritual gifts are permanent, do I mean that when they are given to someone they will not be taken away? Does a 95 year old former pastor, suffering now with dementia, still have the gift of teaching? Not only does the sovereign Holy Spirit have the authority to give spiritual gifts, but He has the authority to withdraw them. In doing so, is He an “Indian giver”? By permanent Spiritual gifts I am referring to those which are to be found among the Lord’s churches until the day of the Lord’s return.
In no particular order, there is the gift of TEACHING. This is the divinely given ability to explain and apply the truths of God’s Word. It’s not a gift of special knowledge, and it doesn’t mean that the teacher is smarter than anyone else. It is the ability to convey God’s truth to others. Coincidentally, of course, the teacher can teach because he has been taught of God in the first place. It is mentioned as a gift in verse 28. “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” The gift of teaching is also mentioned in Romans 12:7 – “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.” It is also found in Ephesians 4:11 – “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” There will always be the gift of teachers as long as there are less than perfect Christians in this world.
Then there is the gift of MINISTERING. This is mentioned in Romans 12 and also in I Corinthians 12:28 where it is called “helps.” “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” It is hard to believe that any Christian doesn’t have this gift to some degree or other. And I suppose that there are probably a great many distinctions within this gift. But how many permit themselves to be really helpful, ministering people?
The gift of ADMINISTRATION. This is called “ruling” and “government” in Romans and I Corinthians. What do you suppose that this gift entails?
The gift of EVANGELISM. Ephesians 4:11 – “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” What is the gift of evangelism? Is it possible to have to the gift of teaching and not the gift of evangelism? Do you suppose that some people might have both?
There is the gift of PASTORING. What is the meaning of the word “pastor”? Does every man pastoring a church have the same ability? Let me show you something kind of surprising from Ephesians 4:11: After the initial “and” of the verse how many times do you see that word here? “And some, and some, and some” are all the Greek “de” which is most often translated “but.” But “pastors AND teachers” is the word “kai” (kahee) which is always “and.” I am told that the implication is that gifts of the ability to pastor and teach usually go together.
Another permanent gift is that of EXHORTATION. Is there a difference between teaching and exhorting? What?
Then there is the gift of GIVING. Romans 12:7 – “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.” Obviously this is something which we all have received, but more obviously, some can give more than others. Or should we turn that around and say that the gift of giving has nothing to do with the amount that we could give but its rather the freeness with we give what we can?
The gift of showing MERCY. Isn’t this also something which any and all Christians possess to some degree? Isn’t this one of the better gifts for which a little covetousness wouldn’t be a mistake.
The gift of FAITH. “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit.” Would you say that some people are more prone to worry as compared to others? Would it be correct to say that some people are better able to trust than others?
When Paul said, “covet earnestly the best gifts,” I am convinced that it to was these gifts that he referred. Each of these, along with some temporary gifts, are bestowed by the Holy Spirit. They are spiritual gifts.