Understanding Your Spiritual Gifts for Ministry
Understanding Your Spiritual Gifts for Ministry
We believe the sovereign plan of God to bring glory to Himself involves the obedient activity of the church to perform His will on earth. Essential to our mission is the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives, enabling our service, and endowing us with gifts fit for the task we have been called to perform. We believe the Holy Spirit distributes special and supernatural abilities to believers so that they may serve others in the Body of Christ. These abilities are known as spiritual gifts. The gifts are not only essential in enabling our effective ministry to others, but help to remind us that all true service of God is “ ‘not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).
At conversion, the believing sinner is placed into the Body of Christ (the church), and endowed with a spiritual gift or gifts for serving other members of the body. 1 Corinthians 12:7 states, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Thus, every believer is spiritually gifted, and should use his giftedness in service to others. Service in the body is the overarching principle regarding the spiritual gifts, as opposed to incorporating them in private worship. The entire reason God has given us gifts is for the purpose of serving others. No gift is given for selfish purposes or even self-edification. 1 Peter 4:10 states, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
Because we believe that every believer is spiritually gifted, we are committed to helping our membership identify their own particular giftedness, and to use that giftedness in ministry to others. Thus, new members are interviewed to determine where they have previously served in the Body of Christ, and where they believe they can best use their spiritual gifts to serve in our local body. Also, regular teaching on the subject of spiritual gifts is provided in our classes, helping members become familiar with the various gifts. Perhaps the best way to identify spiritual giftedness, however, is through an individual’s service in the church. Believers may identify their spiritual giftedness as they serve others in ministry, and receive affirmation from other members of the Body of Christ. We affirm that every believer is called to perform certain responsibilities within the life of the church (e.g., showing mercy), and yet some believers are particularly gifted in these areas. As each individual member of the body serves and performs his own responsibility in the church, the particular giftedness of that member becomes evident. “As you regularly and faithfully fulfill all the responsibilities of life in the Father’s house, you should spend the most time and energy serving in those areas in which you have the greatest giftedness. And you should be very careful not to expect other believers to be as successful as you are in those ministries” (Wayne Mack and David Swavely, Life in the Father’s House, Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1996, p. 122).
A collective look at the spiritual gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-30; Romans 12:6-8, and Ephesians 4:11a, yields the conclusion that the gifts can be divided into two general categories: (1) Gifts For Service in the Ministry of the Word of God; (2) Gifts for Service in Good Deeds. This distinction between the speaking gifts and the serving gifts can be found as we continue reading in 1 Peter 4:11, which says, “Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ...” Because of the variety of needs within the Body of Christ, the Holy Spirit has given a variety of gifts to the church, and has sovereignly bestowed these gifts on believers. 1 Corinthians 12:11 states, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” Believers are to delight in the giftedness they have received and are to zealously pursue ways in which they can minister to others. As a body, believers are to affirm the variety of gifts given by the Spirit, and are to recognize that each gift is indispensable to the growth of the body (Ephesians 4:16). No Scripture either teaches or implies that all believers are to pursue one particular gift, or that all believers will possess a certain gift as a confirmation of their salvation. To the contrary, 1 Corinthians 12 is a treatise on the fact that believers do not have the same gifts, and that everyone’s giftedness is essential to the health of the whole. Verses 29-30 ask rhetorically, “All are not apostles are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?” The expected answer is “No!” The clear teaching is that believers possess gifts that differ, gifts that are all necessary for the edification of the Body of Christ. As a collective body, we are to desire the “greater gifts”, those gifts that most edify and build up the body (1 Corinthians 12:31), and to minister our individual gifts in love toward one another (1 Corinthians 13). We need to remember that the possession of a particular gift is not to be equated with spiritual maturity, but that our level of spiritual maturity is dependent on the manner in which we minister the gifts that we have to others.
Because our gifts differ, we are not to become proud and look down on others who do not have our particular gift, but are rather to acknowledge that we need each member of the Body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 12:14-25, Paul mentions two equal, but opposite dangers individual members of the Body of Christ might fall into regarding spiritual gifts. The first is pride. A helpful guard against spiritual pride in the possession of particular gifts is to remember that any ability we have in ministry, and anything good we may accomplish in the name of Christ, comes solely through the power of God alone, Who is to receive all the credit and glory for our spiritual successes. A second danger is that of self-pity, which is demonstrated by believers who think that they have no ability with which to serve the Body of Christ and are not needed by the body. This attitude often results in a failure to serve, and the entire body suffers.
Finally, we teach that certain spiritual gifts were intended only for the apostolic period of the church and have now ceased. These gifts would include any that were given by God in order to communicate new revelation to the church (prophecy, tongues and their interpretation, revelatory aspects of the word of wisdom and knowledge), and those given to authenticate the message of the apostolic circle (gifts of healing, miracles, apostles). These “sign” or “miraculous” gifts are distinguished from the other speaking and serving gifts because they were essential to the writing of the New Testament canon, and were no longer needed by the church once that canon was completed. We affirm that the canon of Scripture is both complete and sufficient for everything “pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3), and thus God is giving no further revelation. These “sign” gifts were foundational in the building of the church (Ephesians 2:20), and were no longer needed after the foundation was finished (For more information concerning the controversy surrounding the “miraculous gifts”, see Robert L. Thomas, Understanding Spiritual Gifts, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1999, and Richard Gaffin, Perspectives on Pentecost, Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1979).
We believe that God continues to perform miracles in the present day, and that God continues to grant healing when it is His will to do so. However, we do not believe God uses “miracle workers” or “healers” to accomplish these works of mercy and compassion, but rather heals in answer to prayer (James 5:14-16). Instead of seeking the “miraculous” gifts, we are now called to continue building the Body of Christ with the speaking and serving gifts that remain, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).