I never really thought much about spiritual gifts until recently. Speaking in tongues outside of Pentecostal circles can be considered weird and irrelevant at best; certainly, nothing to being seeking after. Some even argue that the age of spiritual gifts ended with the first century church, but I find this phenomenon hard to dismiss since some of our very own Christian brethren are still to this day exercising such gifts.
What are the spiritual gifts and what relevance do they have today for God’s church?
There are certainly deep principles that all Christians are to follow, not just ones with certain gifts. 1 Cor 10:32-33 talks about living in a way as to not cause others to stumble and to seek the good of others so that they may be saved. That speaks toward our behavior toward believers and our witness to a non-believing world. 1 Cor 12:7 says a similar thing but relates it to gifting – "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good." Again, the theme of the common good. In context, chapter 12 is talking about spiritual gifting within a body of believers or a local church. So whatever gift God gives us, we need to know how to practice it in a way that fulfills the common good.
My openness to spiritual gifts has given me a new perspective on 1 Corinthians. Many elevate Apostle Paul as the model Christian, a standard by which we are measured and a goal for which we ought to strive toward.
Apostle Paul clearly had the gift of evangelism. In 1 Cor 9:16-23, he speaks about feeling compelled to preach and while preaching the gospel, he shared in its blessings. And that compulsion translated into everything he did. Compelled is a strong word. It was not an option, it was not a side thing. It touched on all areas of his life. He preached free of charge.He planted churches all over Asia minor and preached via written letters and visitations.
In 1 Corinthians 12:20-30, Paul talks about other spiritual gifts and our perception of them. Some gifts seem better than others in our eyes. Some are more visible, and therefore, are viewed as indispensable while other behind-the-scene type gifts seem unnecessary. But God doesn’t view our gifts that way. There are many parts but one body. God is interested in the common good. He is interested in unity. He cares about the building up of His church. And the amazing thing is that God gives us a new spiritual lens through which to view spiritual gifts in the church. All of the spiritual gifts are equally important from God’s perspective and that means we need to re-orient ourselves.
We must never forget that God is the one who grants spiritual gifts to various people within each local church. But we must remember that these gifts are not meant for us to enjoy ourselves, but to share it with others. In addition, the one who is a gifted preacher must be valued on par with the one who has the gift of faith along with others who may have a less dynamic, or public role.
The key question is trying to discern what spiritual gift you have. Apostle Paul was not necessarily a gifted speaker compared to others like Apollos, but he was gifted with the heart of an evangelist and he felt compelled to preach. What are you compelled to do? Does what you are compelled to do build up God’s church? If so, perhaps, that is one area you can begin to investigate through prayer whether or not this is a spiritual gift from God and how you might exercise it for the benefit of many.
I urge you to pray through 1 Cor 12:27-1 Cor 13. Chapter 12 talks about praying for our individual gifts, but it ends with the phrase, "And now I will show you the most excellent way." And chapter 13 speaks about love being that most excellent way.
We can be the most talented person, but utterly loveless. That is the difference between a talent and a spiritual gift. A spiritual gift is something given by God for the common good, for the purpose of loving others in the body of Christ. Let’s discern our spiritual gifts and use it to love each other more deeply.